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,
VHS Verdict: ‘Riki-Oh’ Director’s ‘THE CAT’ from 1991 is Equally Bonkers!
I finally after years of searching, got a copy of the highly elusive, lost Hong Kong Horror / Sci-fi flick from 1991! If you’ve ever seen the director’s previous movie ‘Riki-Oh: The Story of Riki’ then you’ve got a decent idea of what you’re in for here. Lam Ngai Kai, the cult director at the helm here ended his wild and truly weird film making run with this crazy gem and then completely disappeared, likely completely satisfied with the truly bonkers back catalog of films he left behind.
‘The Cat’ is the perfect finale to his cult legacy as well, the only problem is, it’s a damn hard one to track down unless you search it down on Youtube and can find decent a version with subtitles, I’m not a big fan of the film quality that turns up there for many of these “lost” movies. But sometimes it’s the only way to check these rare flicks out. Filmed back to back with ‘Riki-Oh’, this one again is a short, sweet briskly paced, frenetic adventure with a runtime just under 80 minutes.
The story of course is yet another truly weird one: an amorphous blob of tentacled evil, is set loose from somewhere in deep space down to the streets of Hong Kong. Meanwhile mild mannered adventure novelist Wisely, is given an odd tip from a friend who suspects something strange afoot at his normally quiet apartment complex, discovering his next door neighbors are a trio aliens from another planet being lead by their “pet” cat named ‘The General’. Stranded on Earth they’re intent on completing a mysterious secret mission. Soon Wisley’s stuck in a mind bending web of utter mayhem when he tracks down & befriends the alien trio, embarking on a horror drenched adventure to stop the evil alien blob from continuing it’s path of destruction.
The Cat’s got a lot going for it, especially if you’re a fan of gooey, fast moving horror movies like Evil Dead II & stuff like The Terminator and The Thing. It’s got sweet 80’s style special FX galore, “Cat vs Dog” fist fights, over the top gun play & a down right bizarre train wreck of a plot. I mean that in the best way possible and some of the way it comes off is likely do to the crude translation of the dialogue via subtitles. It’s got a few scenes that kinda just have to be seen to be believed, not nearly anywhere as gory as Riki-Oh, but surely a unlike anything I’ve ever seen in a movie before. Particularly a sequence where the intelligent alien cat “General” is pursued by Hong Kong’s most dangerous canine, a hulking mastiff, who’s been sent by Wisely to hunt him down. Dog & cat duke it out in a creepy junkyard while the ‘General’ the cat displays some incredible human fighting techniques and even sports an unbelievable wresting move right out of the WWF to end the whole damn confrontation!
There’s tons of colorful, gooey practical fx to marvel over as well, puppets, gore, stunts & that classic 80’s electricity used to pure perfection. Director Lam Ngai Kai truly revels in the absurdity of it all and clearly used his stunning fx spectacles as the center pieces for his films. Turning your mind off and simply enjoying the eye candy is the best approach to his movies. I’m stunned most only know his movie Riki-Oh, which is now a bonafide cult classic, when he’s got a trove of incredible movies that all rival it. Do yourself a favor and check out ‘The Seventh Curse’ & ‘The Ghost Snatchers’ from 1986, ‘The Peacock King’ from 1989 as well as ‘The Cat’ & ‘Riki Oh’ 9if you haven’t seen that one yet). All of these movies deserve a remastered official blu ray release dammit!! Until then I’ve got some extra boot VHS copies of the movie If you’re interested!!
Mini Movie Round Up: Sam Elliot Kills BigFoot, Evil 80’s Genies and More!
Hey! I’ve been watching a TON a movies this last week, some old and some new some good, some great, some well…anyway here’s my reviews of some of my most recent gambles! Have you seen any of these?
The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot (2019)
This movie has all the ingredients sprinkled just within it’s title alone to be possibly the greatest movie of all time! Add in the awesome Sam Elliot as “the man” who does the killing and you pretty much can’t lose right?! Well going into this you just might think it’s supposed to be some sorta’ over the top exploitation style action flick, luckily I watched the trailer and did a bit of poking around beforehand, cuz’ this one is pretty much the opposite of what you’d be lead to believe from it’s wild and crazy title. Knowing this already, I felt prepared for a good heartfelt drama, but instead was delivered a jumbled mess of a movie. A mash up of flashbacks to WW2, romanctic interludes from the past and back to the modern times of Sam Elliot’s now lonely existence should have held more much more weight. I was left wondering why even have these insane all too brief plot lines with Hitler and Bigfoot at all? None of them are very memorable and neither have much real time dedicated to them. In fact I’d have preferred the movie more if they’d have skipped all the ‘Bigfoot and Hitler’ stuff altogether. It’s well acted and looks great but it’s weak meandering storyline for a movie with a title like this leaves me quite perplexed. I was really looking forward to this one, but man towards the middle I was starting to feel like nodding off, while my mind began wandering, finding myself checking the clock and runtime. It fails a drama & an adventure flick and it leaves me pretty disappointed with what it could have been ultimately.
The Final Terror (1983)
This little largely forgotten slasher flick is officially my first blu ray disc I’ve ever purchased. It’s 20 steps up in film quality from it’s previous VHS release, much of what was shrouded in darkness by the terrible transfer, making many of the scenes so damn hard to watch. Well this cleaned up version is truly stunning, being a horror movie that takes place in the forests of the Pacific NW most of it’s appeal comes from the lush vast foliage captured here. It’s a sweet little survival flick that features both Daryl Hannah and Rachel Ward in early roles as part of a camping crew that heads off into the woods only to be pursued by an evil psycho backwoods stalker. The problem for some may be the extremely low body count and high survivor rate of the group of twenty somethings. I think it’s a pretty cool different take on the genre, the whole movie has a genuinely spooky atmosphere, creepy foreshadowing campfire tales, cool raft scenes and a pretty likable cast. We even get an over the top super duper young Joe Pantoliano. It’s also got a great slasher villain, who unfortunately gets far too little screen time. But If you’re looking for a beautiful looking 80’s survival flick with some slasher elements sprinkled about, The Final Terror will likely quench your thirst! Continue reading
‘The Predator’ Trailer Drops & Boy Does It Look Kinda, Sorta OK-ish!
Well, well, well, finally the day has arrived! The first look at the upcoming mega event blockbuster sequel to 1987’s Predator in the way of Shane Black’s ‘The Predator’. Slated for release in September 2018, I’ve had my eyes peeled for any info on this one, written by Fred (Monster Squad/Night of the Creeps) Dekker & Shane Black & directed by Black who also starred in the original 1987 creature feature masterpiece. Black has been boasting that this sequel is going to reignite The Predator franchise in a big way, being an event style movie that ramps up the vibes akin to to the original!
Well it’s been a long wait and we finally get a look at the movie via the first official trailer today. What we’ve known so far is that this one takes place mainly in the suburbs, features an autistic child who can communicate with the alien hunters, pits the Predator up against a team of “deadly” assassins & will feature Jake Busey as the son of Predator 2’s crazy cop played by his dad Gary. We also have been told sadly that Arnold Schwarzenegger won’t be reprising his role as Dutch. However still, many have speculated he may have indeed been included in the recent reshoots. From what we’ve been told they reshot the last third of the movie recently after early test screenings revealed lackluster responses from audiences. I hope that’s the case, as Arnold is like the Predator’s Luke Skywalker & this is likely the last chance we’ll have to include him as the iconic Dutch character, I mean let’s face it Arnie IS getting old and recently even had open heart surgery. Regardless, here it is finally, the trailer for the sequel Predator fanatics have all been patiently waiting for:
So…….what did you think? I guess I was hoping for so much more from this first trailer. I mean, it seemed ok for the most part, however nothing really got my blood a pumpin’. Let me remind everyone ‘AVP: Requiem’ took place largely in suburbia so it feels already a bit familiar already in maybe not the greatest way, as the AVP movies weren’t exactly cinematic gold. Perhaps we’ll all be surprised by the actual movie when it’s released, but in my opinion, at this point though I’d say the previous movie ‘Predators’ from 2010 had a much more interesting sounding premise and trailer. I’ve got a bad feeling about this installment as it doesn’t seem so far like it’s going to peak a helluva lot of interest from movie goers from this first trailer. At least if “Dutch” or even Danny Glover at this point was hinted at returning it might have garnered some interest from long time fans but as far as first trailers go this one feels a bit dead on arrival. I’m not sure ‘The Predator’ has got an intriguing enough story going for it to really fill seats in the theater. I hope I’m wrong, but god dammit if Hollywood is notorious for striking out when trying prey upon our nostalgia….
VHS Verdict 1987: ‘The Caller’ & The Art of the Twist Ending!
I checked out a perplexing VHS tape last night, ‘The Caller’, a “thriller” from 1987 starring Malcolm Mcdowell & Madolyn Smith. Now even though I’d been told this flick had a twist ending and even on the cover it boasts “a surprise ending”, somehow I’d just had no way of predicting what was gonna go down no matter how hard I tried during. That’s a pretty difficult task especially in this day and age. M Night Shyamalan eat your heart out. Warning, this one’s got a ton o’ dialogue and then some, oh boy and then some. At it’s beginning something is most definitely off with our two main characters and immediately my mind began racing to try to figure out just what the hell it could be. Basically it’s just two actors the entire movie and is a simple story about a woman who resides in an cabin out in the woods, who one dark night has a strange creeping man, Mcdowell, appear at her front door, claiming his car broke down and needs to use a phone.
From that point on both of these characters act in truly bizarre ways, they talk to each other about how they’d get away with murdering one another and at times actually get quite physical while doing so. There’s a ton of tense talk here and overacting a ‘plenty to behold from them both. The premise though startlingly simplistic and a bit absurd does a decent enough job of keeping you curious about where the fuck this one’s going to end up. It’s not the average “stalker” movie that the cover makes it out to be either, think more of an extended episode of The Twilight Zone instead. I’ve gotta admit the interesting thing about this one is that about an hour in I was getting a bit frustrated and had some serious doubts that things were going anywhere remotely interesting. There’s a lot of weird motive flip flopping amongst the two leads & at one point it almost seemed as if it might sharply go the erotic thriller route.
The odd banter at times can become quite tiresome but as the movie ended, I appreciated it and actually consider the lengthy chatty-ness of it all to make the finale that much more effective. Being a bit of a sleuth at the movie’s beginning I’d noticed a couple things that reinforced my will to stick it through to the end the first being the legendary horror b-movie bandit Charles Band was an executive producer, Richard Band did the music and also fx wizard John Carl Beuchler who’s know for his work on Friday The 13th Part 7: The New Blood (which is one of my faves), Nightmare on Elm St. 4: The Dream Master & Re-Animator was behind the fx work. These three things should give you enough of a reason to check this one out, if in fact the names mean anything to you. Definitely a hidden gem, that most definitely worth one solid viewing!! It also may deserve a quick re-watch to see if there perhaps are some clues amidst all the dialogue that may have really foreshadowed the movies bizarre ending. A neat-o 80’s low budget mind bender~
I couldn’t find a trailer for this one but here’s the whole damn movie if you’re feeling frisky!
Comic Cover of the Week: Remembering ROACHMILL!
Back in the 1980’s there were some pretty awesome indie books out there. If you were looking for something different than what the “big two” had to offer there were some unique ones out there, one I was quite intrigued with was ‘Roachmill’! What? You say you never heard of Roachmill? Well this ultra oddball superhero came on the scene in 1986. He was a professional futuristic exterminator, a killer for hire and he was bad to the bone.
He also had two bizarre cockroach arms that extended from his body making it easier for him to kick the living tar outta people and shoot guns a’ plenty . The series was set in New York City during a time when there were hoards of aliens from other planets moving to Earth. Apparently this caused a lot of crime and chaos in the city and they needed badasses like Roachmill to keep humans and aliens alike in line.
This rad indie series was written and drawn by Rich Hedden & Tom McWeeney and had a heroic dose of grit & comedy evenly bound within it’s pages. I’d really like to revisit it soon to see how it holds up in 2017 and being part of my comic book cover of the week posts Roachmill stuck with me all these years as having some totally excellent cover art. In the late 80’s it got picked up by Dark Horse Comics. I totally dig these weird offbeat 80’s series, hey who knows maybe Roachmill will make a return?!
Cool Comic Debut: Paper Girls #1 Brings us an ‘Amblin’ Style 80’s Mystery!
I just finished ‘Paper Girls’ #1 by hotshot writer Brian K. Vaughan and it’s one of best debut issues I’ve read in a long time. What’s even better is at it’s $2.99 cover price it’s a double sized issue filled with a great little story just waiting to burst into a retro ‘Amblin’ style adventure set way back in 1988. Not only do we get an intriguing story here but also some great artwork by Cliff Chiang. We follow twelve year old Erin as she heads out onto the streets to do her paper route in wee hours of the A.M. after a extremely peculiar dream, involving apples, aliens, winged astronauts and classroom demons speaking what seems to be gibberish. I love the way the dream sequence is played out in the pages here, with a ton of strange symbolism, conversations that seemingly make no sense and some frightening creatures, it really feels like an actual dream which is quite nice.
The setting in the morning is the night after Halloween, so as Erin hits the streets with her sack of papers she encounters some neighborhood bullies still roaming. Luckily three other paper girls arrive on rad bmx bikes to the scene to her defense. From this point Erin decides to ride with the girls on her route and discovers that the three of them too had been jumped by some strange “people” dressed as ghosts who stole one of their walkie talkies.
I don’t want to spoil any of the story as there are some cool surprises that develop along the way. But what I will say is this has the perfect setting for a lost 80’s flick and puts some cool supernatural elements in the mix that leave you longing for issue #2. A super solid debut and just the kind of comic book story that I love even if for some reason we get a bit of prominent product placement by the way of Apple computers. Check this one out, this issue gives you more bang for your buck too as it’s twice the normal size. A great scheme to get people to drop their hard earned cash these days on a comic book!
The Outer Space Men: Those Groovy 60’s Aliens!
Let’s take a second to look at some cool action figures way back from the 1960’s! The Outer Space Men by Colorforms!! You may know Colorforms better as those little plastic stickers of your fav cartoon characters you’d stick on and peel off the backgrounds way back when. But Colorforms also put out these totally radical bendy alien action figures as well!
They had kick ass names too like Commander Comet, Xodiac, Colossus Rex, Electron+, Astro-Nautilus, Alpha 7 & Orbitron. They wasn’t much to their backstory just a gang of groovy aliens you could collect and play with all day, unfortunately I wasn’t born yet when the hit the stands and the chances of finding one in good shape of the original series is pretty slim. Also the bendy figures with the wire inside them had a limit to their lives normally, you’d often break the wires and get a bunch of limp wristed bad asses- not a good combo!
JJ Abrams Universe ‘Star Trek 3’: Who’s Really Got The Cred To Direct?!
A couple nights ago I finally got to see Chris Nolan’s “Interstellar” and it was an incredibly thought provoking science fiction flick, one I’d love to sit an analyze for hours with friends on it’s meaning and scientific relevance. Movies like this are what often times I truly love about Sci-Fi, a great mind bender. Don’t get me wrong I’m totally down for the laser battling, space adventuring of Star Wars but a part of me hopes NOT to get too much of that in my next Star Trek movie. The reboot/sequel JJ Abrams did was a downright awesome movie, filled with action, great fx, the perfect amount of nostalgia but by the time the second movie came around, trying to recreate the Khan storyline I’d somehow began to realize that JJ was better suited for Star Wars than Trek. Let’s face it the two franchises are indeed very different beasts and for a moment during Interstellar I delightfully pictured a Christopher Nolan helmed Star Trek film in my mind.
So today as I think about entering the theater to see a new Star Trek movie I hope for something a little different, something perhaps a little more challenging to the mind. I think back to some of the classic original series episodes which the crew face threats or situations that truly perplexed them all (The City on the Edge of Forever, The Changeling, Amok Time, Obsession, The Corbomite Manuever). I’m talking classic plot driven science fiction. That’s exactly where I’d love to see Kirk & Spock head of to. Sure giant aliens are rad, and who doesn’t love a good space battle with two opposing ships blasting the shit out of each other?! Well sometimes I like my Trek with a little more mind and that’s why of the directors being considered to helm the next movie I’m really hoping they give Duncan Jones(who is indeed in the running) for the job.
Yes, David Bowie’s son has already given us a couple great, more mind bending science fiction movies. ‘Moon’ being one of my favorite modern Sci Fi flicks and ‘Source Code’ being a totally solid twisting puzzle of movie. I feel Jones could really deliver us a great classic/modern space adventure with nods to The Twilight Zone which also had it’s influence in some of the best original Trek episodes. “Into Darkness” felt a little like Star Trek for people with ADD and the last thing I want to see is someone like Justin Lin (The Fast and the Furious movies) taking the reigns, who is indeed a contender. So I’m putting it out there, endorsing Duncan Jones as the perfect man for the job, heck I’d say he could even write the thing. However even if he didn’t write it knowing he was at the reigns would give me hope for a good script to be approved and to get a truly unique science fiction adventure beyond the stars with the USS Enterprise!
The Signal: Totally Tense Cerebral Sci-Fi!
If anyone out there likes their sci-fi with a side of brains and heart like I do then look no further! “The Signal” delivers and then some! Not to be mistaken for the zombie type “The Signal” flick from 2007, which was actually pretty decent. This is a completely different movie that only recently came out on dvd, Itunes ect. I’ve seen quite a bit of dumb ass sci-fi making it’s way to the masses over the years, so it’s great to see movies that actually challenge the brain like “Moon”, “Looper” or “The Europa Report” to name a few. The Signal, starring Brenton Thwaites and Laurence Fishburne is quite an adventure that will have you scratching your head in confusion and wonder all the way to the films incredibly tense climax.
The films premise starts out simple enough,On a road trip, Nic and two friends are drawn to an isolated area by a computer hacker, who’s been toying with them online all school year. Upon investigating an old seemingly abandoned house where the traced the hacker’s signal, one of them disappears. When everything suddenly goes dark, Nic regains consciousness – only to find himself alone & confused, in an odd medical facility. To give away anything would be a crime, but this one is indeed filled with some great twists and turns that will have you guessing all the way.
The Signal has top notch acting, incredible special effects and a ton of thrills that will have you on the edge of your seat. I’m excited to check out what else the film’s director William Eubank has done and what he’s got planned next. He’s certainly a director to watch in the future. I’m hoping that we can get more serious sci-fi elements into the next installments of something like Star Trek on the big screen, as even with the old episodes from the 1960’s they often had some really great plots that really made you think. An element that is often missing from modern sci-fi, instead we often end up with sci-fi for people with A.D.D.! So I say waste no time and check this one out right away if you want something truly unique, original and totally exciting!!