Tagged: blu-ray

VHS Verdict: ‘Saga of the Phoenix’ Brings the Monsters & 80’s Mayhem!!

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.  

Forgotten 80’s Cyborg Mayhem: Step Aside Robocop Here Comes MARIA!

So way back in 1988 Hong Kong had their own awesome version of Robocop, an ass kickin’ lady cyborg named Maria! Yes, the action/sci-fi flick ‘I Love Maria’ aka ‘Roboforce’ is easily one of the best 80’s movies I’ve seen coming from that region of the world since I started going down the rabbit hole of odd ball Hong Kong cinema a while ago. I must admit, a lot of Hong Kong films during that era are usually pretty hit or miss, many with confusing, nonsensical plots & often weird slapstick potty humor that likely loses something in the often rudimentary english translation provided. However ‘I Love Maria’ definitely hits the right beats on the humor, action & plot to make it stand out as not merely a foreign remake of Robocop but a uniquely charming little sci-fi adventure all of it’s own. The plot’s indeed pretty outrageous, but to a large degree that’s what makes it a so much damn fun. It’s also filled with some memorable characters that at the end of the day, leave you with some warm fuzzy feelings about friendship & the importance of true camaraderie. So what’s it all about you ask?

 

So the vicious “Hero Gang”, is a downright nasty criminal terrorist organization (I know odd name for the gang then huh?), hell bent on wreaking all out havoc upon the streets of Hong Kong with their unstoppable killer robots: Pioneers 1 and 2! While Pioneer 1’s a giant hulking armored unit, Pioneer 2’s been modeled after “Maria“, the Hero Gang’s devious second in command. When Pioneer 2 gets damaged during a secret assassination mission, it’s taken into the custody of a curious hi-tech weapons inventor employed by the police force named “Curly”. He secretly repairs & reprograms her with new coding that triggers changes to her logic center. Pioneer 2 begins to develop her own unique heroic personality and soon Curly finds himself caught in the middle of a deadly battle against The Hero Gang. Banding together with a drunken ex-gang member named “Whisky” & “T.Q.”, a bumbling news camera man, the four of them embark on a dangerous mission with the fate of Hong Kong in the palm of their hands! 

‘I Love Maria’ is a must see for fans of odd 80’s sci fi, the three main human characters have some great chemistry together, one of which is cult director Tsui Hark (Detective Dee, Double Team, Once Upon a Time In China), who hams it up thoroughly as the heroic alcoholic ‘Whisky’. The special effects work is pretty stunning as well, especially when it comes to Maria battling the ‘Pioneer 1’ robot. They bash though walls, fire rocket launchers for their arms and fling eachother around like rag dolls on the streets of Hong Kong. They never skimp on spectacle here either as there’s a plethora of explosions, Hi-tech weaponry, martial arts battles, car chases & of course awesome robot beat downs to behold here. There’s also a pretty interesting duo of villains, the brother & sister leaders of The Hero Gang who also happen to be in love. Throw in “Mr. Vampire” himself, Lam Ching Ying in the mix to showcase his always amazing kung fu and you’ve got yourself a frenetic sci-fi action flick here that never lets up.

That all being said the real star of the show is clearly the charismatic cyborg Maria, who not only lights up the screen with her robotic butt kicking but also with her curious charm. A largely forgotten rad 1980s female action hero that more people need to discover. Hunt this one down, especially if you dig over the top, 80’s, sci-fi action stuff that really fires on all cylinders: unique characters, stunning practical fx, sets, locations and just pure cybernetic mayhem a’ plenty . Stick around all the way through the end credits as well, where you’ll some of the sweetest scenes of the movie. Someone needs to jump on releasing and cleaning up some of the amazing Hong Kong horror/sci-fi stuff out there from the 80’s & 90’s, there’s so many forgotten, rarely seen gems for fans of cult cinema in the USA. Until then this one’s actually pretty hard to find, but definitely worth the effort!

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!!

 

The Last Jedi: Long Awaited FULL Movie Re-Edit Drops! Watch It Now!!

To say that ‘The Last Jedi’ was a divisive film amongst Star Wars Fans would be an understatement. The franchise will likely never be quite the same because of it, to some it’s a good thing, but to most the movie was seen as a huge disappointment. A lot now rides on the shoulders of JJ’s upcoming Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker and many think the damage to the franchise simply just can’t be repaired.  The treatment of beloved classic characters like Luke Skywalker, Chewbacca, Leia & Admiral Ackbar disappointed longtime fans & the basic disjointed storytelling paired with jarring attempts at comedy sunk Episode 8 to new depths most haven’t seen since the days of the prequels.

Luckily someone has stepped up to the plate to entirely re-edit the movie, Ivan Ortega (who edits movies for a living), whom I’ve been following since the start of his Youtube channel ‘Film Fix’ has been working hard on this full movie re-edit for the better part of 2018. Well today is the day, Ivan’s finally released a new edit of the movie which adds many surprising changes that drastically alter the movie’s main narrative in many ways. If you felt let down by Rian Johnson’s Episode 8 then I suggest you give THIS version of the movie a watch!! It’s pretty amazing what this guy did & it’s truly a love letter to all of the fans old and new alike, who felt let down, check out the new full movie version of The Last Jedi right here!!

Or Get the Link from Ivan here on his youtube channel!!

 

VHS Verdict: 1983’s ‘The Keep’ is Surreal Horror at it’s Best!

I recently found a copy of the rare horror movie ‘The Keep’ from 1983 and finally checked it out for the first time last night. I’ve wanted to see this one for a long time, mainly because of how damn awesome the movie’s cover/poster artwork is, the it’s VHS cover always stuck with from when I was a kid hanging around in the horror sections of the videos stores while my parents were distracted.

The Keep was directed by Michael Mann, who I’ve always loved for his 1986 movie Manhunter, which was the first big screen appearance of Hannibal Lecter. So it seems this particular movie has been kinda shoved under the rug as Mann has admitted that he’s not a big fan of it. At least not a fan of the cut that was theatrically released. Apparently his version of the movie was originally 210 minutes long! Whoah! Supposedly Paramount told him to edit it down to just two hours, that version still didn’t sit well with test audiences so they edited the movie down even further to a mere 96 minutes. Of course that’s one of the main reasons why the movie is admittedly pretty hard to make any real sense of. It’s a slow burn, but I knew that from the start, and knew it wasn’t really your typical horror movie. Instead I viewed it for what it really is, a surreal, dream like horror fantasy and it really works well as exactly that.

It’s based around a group of Nazis who are sent to guard an huge, old, mysterious fortress in a Romanian mountain pass. One of them releases an powerful force trapped within the walls while thinking they’ll discover some sort of treasure behind them. A weird stranger senses this from his home back in Greece and travels to the keep to try and destroy the sinister force. As Nazi soldiers are eliminated, a Jewish father / daughter duo who both have information on the secrets of the bizarre stronghold arrive on the scene to make sense of the ghostly happenings. It’s a cool set up, but it’s a bit hard to comprehend as it’s filled with plot holes and many unanswered questions, likely that’d been explored in the mega extended version.

It’s also more of an art film really than a horror flick at the end of the day. It’s filled with ripe, hazy dream like atmosphere from start to finish, it’s a visual treat with a mostly quiet pace to it. When the creature though arrives on the scene from the walls of the keep it does get pretty intense and the finale is filled with a ton of great sequences that surely must’ve influenced a modern film maker like Panos Cosmatos (Mandy, Beyond the Black Rainbow). There are some amazing set pieces here, most filled with creepy fog, a pretty impressive hulk of a monster and some really excellent special fx work to behold as well. It certainly excels in it’s creation of a portal from another dimension spilling into our reality. 

The cast also is pretty awesome as well, Scott Glenn, Gabriel Byrne and a much younger Ian Mckellan make this whole experience that much more enjoyable. Byrne plays a crazy Nazi and Mckellan shines as a sort of hero of the movie, being forced to work alongside the Nazis. Yeah folks, Ian was at one time “young” even though he’s still oddly kinda old even way back in 1983! I also have to mention the totally epic score from soundtrack legends Tangerine Dream, I gotta track the soundtrack down. The Keep was a delight to finally see after all these years, this movie desperately needs a re-release on blu-ray/dvd this time with the full 210 minutes of Mann’s vision!!

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?   

The Wolverine Movie Gets a Second Chance?!

It appears us Wolverine fans might just get exactly what we were hoping for with the upcoming release of “The Wolverine: Unleashed Extended Edition” come November 19th digitally and December 3rd for Blu-Ray Dvd. So what the hell does this really mean? Well the new version of the film boasts an extended, unrated cut that’s “more violent and hardcore than ever before”.

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I was mostly a fan of the theatrical cut and was actually hoping for something like this to be announced. Could it be we may actually see blood in a Wolverine movie? A few severed limbs thrown about? Perhaps a glimpse into what an R-Rated Wolverine flick might look like? Could the unrated cut be the holy grail of the onscreen movie Wolverine? My guess is probably not. But it still intrigues me. now what is even more exciting is the addition of the “Alternate Ending” added. I have already read fans betting that they’ll drop the final inner fortress battle sequence and instead have something that fits more with the rest of the movies tone.

silver-samurai-fights-wolverine

The ending/final battle was really my only problem with the movie, aside from say the last 10-15 minutes I loved the movie. It made it hard for me review it, because 90% of the movie was a home run. So what is this alternate ending really all about? I’m willing to bet that we won’t be getting a rid of the giant Silver Samurai robot battle thingy. We’re most likely going to get a sequence after that, where Wolverine stays in Japan with Mariko rather than getting on the plane with Yukio. One that leaves Wolverine more at peace with life for once. I think replacing an expensive final battle sequence would just too much wishful thinking. Either way I’m on board to see if Wolverine is really “unleashed” in this new cut of the film!