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.
So people seem quite up in arms about the latest season of Game of Thrones to put it lightly, it’s been pretty much everywhere online, more drama online than this season of the show could churn out! I’ve been thinking about it all for a few days now since watching Episode 5 and I think there’s really is something to all the anger towards the show writers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. Now that they’ve got no more writing from George R. R. Martin’s final book (which he still hasn’t finished) to base this season on, we get to finally see the writing chops of these two dudes in action. I’ve got a few major problems with what went down so far in the final season, most it being the execution of plot points by these guys, but some it of it indeed revolves around some shoddy ass writing.
One thing that now makes perfect sense is that David Benioff was actually a writer of easily one of the WORST movies in recent Hollywood history, 2009’s ‘X-men Origins: Wolverine’. If you’ve seen it, most unanimously agree, it’s one of the most pathetic movies to reach the major cinemas in recent times. Single handedly ruining Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, Deadpool and Sabretooth all in one horribly executed, terribly written mess of a movie. It makes ‘X-Men 3’ feel like a god damn cinematic masterpiece. His buddy D.B. Weiss hasn’t written or directed much outside of GOT either. So it’s not all that surprising that this season feels a bit like a shit-storm to many today. SPOILERS AHEAD!
So I wanna point out a few things I think totally sucked about this final season so far, I realize that the internet is filled with GOT opinions right now so I’ll keep it all short. One of the BIGGEST problems for me is the handling the The Night King & the whitewalkers, seven damn seasons of fantastic mystery brewing around this incredibly intriguing and terrifying villain, then in one episode mid season it’s all over and nearly forgotten by the next episode. One of the things so many were most invested in was his true motivations. Would we see things from their perspective? Learn what fuels their rage towards the living? Find out what they really wanted from Bran? Actually hear The Night King speak his case with some real dialogue? Nope! The major supernatural threat of seven seasons was wiped from the plot in one murky battle and by the next episode everyone was back to acting like a bunch of spoiled babies after just surviving a possibly world ending event. Cersei wasn’t even affected by them in the least, but how awesome would it have been if The Night King and the Whitewalkers had shown up on her doorstep first and she had to flee to Jon Snow & Daenerys for help? Imagine the drama…Whatever the case the whitewalkers turned out to be a big ass nothing burger to say the least, a huge missed opportunity in my opinion. It actually felt as if the writers just wanted to quickly erase them from the last season for some reason.
The largely controversial Daenerys “mad queen” plot would have been fine with me, but the execution of it was seriously lacking the character development needed to add any real believability to her actions. She was majorly bummed off that most people seemed to love Jon Snow so much, but she’d just arrived on the scene, so I don’t know, maybe try and socialize a bit with everyone after the damn battle against the walkers?!! Geezus!! I’m sure this all must have been what George R. R. Martin had in mind ultimately (?) but if the writers expect me to believe Daenerys is then gonna go completely bonkers, exterminating a whole population of innocent, poor villagers, many of them children (who’ve already suffered under the rule of Sersei) you better have a lot more character development to occur to sell it. It all felt rushed & carelessly forced. I think it’d made a hell of a lot more sense if she’d went for Sersei directly in the battle with her rage, killed her personally or even better, captured her and viciously tortured her among the rest of her current crew. Reigning dragon’s fire upon the poor villagers who’ve already been punished for most of their existence was just not believable at this point. It felt like shock for pure shock value. The end of Sersei also felt anti-climactic, she never even shared any real dialogue with Daenerys & it felt for the most part like she was trying to commit certain suicide by her horrific slaying of Missandei. Whatever the case, this whole debacle mades perfect sense when I discovered that one tidbit of info that’d slipped through the cracks for me, David Benioff wrote the cinematic turd, ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’…nuff said.
Dammit! This was a weak ass summer for movies wasn’t it? Well at least “IT” is now in theaters!! Well I’ve been thinking about some cool movies that look like they’ll be redemption for a rather underwhelming summer of Hollywood Sludge! Here’s five new upcoming movies to be excited about!
5. Dave Made a Maze (Out Now)
Here’s a truly unique looking movie about a dude named Dave who decides to build a maze in his living room out of cardboard as an art project. The maze ends up having magical properties to it and soon Dave ends up totally lost within. Good thing his friends come to the rescue only to find an insane world inside filled with pitfalls, magic & monsters all made out of cardboard!! Looks like damn good time…
4. Insidious: The Last Key (January 5th, 2018)
Insidious is one of my favorite modern horror franchises, I dig all three previous movies and Lin Shaye’s character has become the centerpiece for them. I especailly love her in the role of master ‘astral projector’ Elise as she’s off again on another ‘out of body journey’ into the mysterious dimension called ‘the further’ to battle another evil spirit. I’ve been waiting for this one for a while!
3. Early Man (January 26th, 2018)
I’m stoked for this new one from ‘Wallace and Gromit’ creator Nick Park! His movies pretty much always hit a surefire home run and this one looks to be on the same path. It looks like some crazy cave men will doing battle against the lords of the bronze age as they fight to save their city from an evil lord. Always a fan of the incredible stop motion adventures of Park and crew this one is sure to continue the the laugh & charms of his previous movies-sign me up!
2. Cult of Chucky (Oct. 3rd, 2017)
October just can’t come quick enough! That last ‘Chucky’ flick proved Don Mancini has still totally got the chops and then some. Fuck the whole Child’s Play remake idea, Mancini is showing all these classic horror franchises being remade lately that you can continue an original story and give the fans EXACTLY what they want! Picking up where ‘Curse of Chucky’ left off this one boasts the return of Andy Barclay (the little kid from the first two movies), played by original actor Alex Vincent who’s looking to end Chucky’s evil reign once and for all! Bring it on!!
1. The Terror of Hallow’s Eve (2017)
Here’s a cool spooky looking horror movie that looks like it’s workin’ with all the right ingredients. This follows a special fx obsessed teenager who’s brutally beaten up by bullies at his high school and makes a wish to get revenge upon them all while carving some sort of freaky magic pumpkin. It releases some sort of evil genie who gladly promises to do it for him! Set back in the 80’s I’ve heard this movie is a ton of fun filled with cool practical fx and a boatload o’ monsters!
Joining or starting a new Dungeons & Dragons or table top RPG? Wanna make sure you have a great time? Here are 10 things to seriously consider as a player character (PC) or Dungeon Master before committing to the grand adventure. Some of them you might think are common sense but you’d be surprised how many people overlook these important guidelines. I’ve been playing for years on both sides of the table and have found from my experience in the dungeon that a recipe for a successful RPG adventure isn’t quite as simple to achieve as some might be lead to believe. There are a lot of factors that seriously enhance or hinder the experience from becoming the ultimate form of escapism many of us role playing nerds deeply desire. So let’s get started!!
10. Like Minded Adventurers:
Ok, over the years I’ve learned this is easily one of the most important factors for having a truly amazing experience playing table top RPGs. It’s extremely important to really think about just who it is that you’ll be spending hours of your time with trying to trudge through the dangerous and magical realms of the dungeon. I’m not talking about whether or not someone is going to be a wizard or a paladin. I’m talking about the real people you choose to add to the group or the group you join. Make sure everyone who’s joining wants the same thing from the experience.
It’s totally cool to have a group of people who’re getting together to party, hang out and casually roll some dice BUT if you’ve got a mixture of people, some who’re looking to pay attention to the details and really immerse themselves into the story you’re likely to have some unhappy campers among the group. This can also be extremely frustrating for the DM when preparing specific details & important plot points to have a crew of people partying too damn hard to remember what happened the prior week. Make sure everyone in the group is looking for a similar experience. Whether it’s a lighter party style game or a more serious role playing session. Talk this over before starting and maybe keep the first adventure short with a new crew to make sure everyone is on the same page. If you don’t address this it could make for some awkward moments later down the line and likely some seriously frustrated gamers.
9. A Bad Ass Dungeon Master:
I saw a couple really cool animated music videos this week and it really got me wondering – what are the greatest cartoon / animated music videos of all time?! There’s a few that come to mind immediately and I know there are a ton that likely have fallen under the radar over the years.
The videos I’ve chosen are official ones by the actual artist, mainly more of an old school traditional animated or hand drawn style & I’ve steered away this time of the modern CG style stuff. Maybe some day I’ll investigate that further in the mean time check this out and most definitely let me know if I have left something off of the list – so let’s get crackin’ here as we figure out exactly what the coolest animated videos of all time are!!
Descendents – No Fat Burger (2016)
Here’s a brand spankin’ new video from one of my personal favorite bands of all time. The Descendents have been around since 1978 and packing the pop into punk like no other band can. This cool frantic animated video finally finds it’s cartoon mascot (and lead singer) “Milo” growing older and trying to resist eating everything unhealthy in sight. The band now in their fifties still has the energy but let’s face the facts, they just can’t eat the way they used to as teenagers. This is a call back to their classic song ‘I Like Food’. I always wanted to see the Milo character come to life in animation and the wait is finally over.
A-ha – Take On Me (1985)
Here’s one of the most popular videos of all time and it’s animated! Aside from this song being one of the best pop tunes of the 1980’s it also featured this incredible video filled with adventure & pure heart. The song was released several times but failed to chart, however when they produced this amazing video the whole thing exploded. One of the best things about it is that it tells a short action packed story that really sticks with you long after the video is over. The cool rotoscoping animation also gives it a hyper realistic quality no one had ever seen before in a music video. A true classic.
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!
This is pretty ridiculously awesome-Van Damme vs. Freddy Krueger?! Yep! In all of it’s cheezy fan made glory!
Let’s face it, puppets totally rule. Period. They are making a big time comeback too. So now that we’ve got that out of the way take a minute to check out this awesome upcoming all puppet horror movie “The Mill at Calder’s End”! Pulling inspiration from HP Lovecraft & Edgar Allen Poe we get something truly unique to feast our eyes upon. This one was funded on Kickstarter and made twice it’s projected goal. Knowing that stuff like this is getting made without the help of major movie studios really make me happy and thankful that Kickstarter exists and has changed the game for film makers and fans alike.
Here’s a brief synopsis of film:
“The Mill at Calder’s End is a gothic ghost story in the spirit of Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft that will be told with 30 inch tall bunraku puppets and old fashioned in-camera special effects.Featuring the voices of Jason Flemyng (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,X-Men:First Class) and horror legend Barbara Steele (Black Sunday,The Pit and the Pendulum) , this film celebrates two of my great loves: the art of puppetry and gothic horror.”
“From my experience working as a special effects artist in Hollywood for over twenty years and now collaborating with some of the most talented creature effects artists,concept artists, and puppeteers in the industry, The Mill at Calder’s End will be unlike any puppet film you have ever seen before.”
Check out this epic gothic puppet trailer! Hopefully the full movie will drop soon!
A little behind the scenes too:
It’s pretty much common fact this day and age that ‘Big Trouble in Little China’ is one of the coolest movies ever made. Anyone wanna disagree with me here? It pretty much stands alone as one of the best, most original movies that John Carpenter has ever done and defies any real genre. Carpenter must be a genius right?!
Most likely that’s true, but even genius minds get inspired to create awesome things often from some other source. Sometimes though these brilliant minds can unintentionally take full credit for something great. So I wanted to take a quick minute to address just what movie was indeed the inspiration behind ‘Big Trouble’. Ever heard of “Zu Warriors from the Magic Mountain“? I didn’t think so!
This rad Hong Kong flick from from 1983 was indeed the inspiration for Carpenter’s masterpiece! John Carpenter has gone on record several times citing this movie as his inspiration for his 1986 feature film. Yep this little known special effects driven flick was what got Carpenter’s mind reelin’ to eventually compose “Big Trouble in Little China”. This one is an unknown gem, at least here in the United States where it’s extremely hard to find. Director Tsui Hark, who was attempting to break out a s a superstar, attempted to mix the kind of mythological adventures that were popular at the time, with a more Hollywood approach and more western stylized special effects work.
Even more impressive was that he brought in the people behind Star Wars for technical special effects assistance. Add in my favorite chinese actor Sammo Hung and you’ve got quite a stellar movie! So go check it for yourself but keep in mind that there was a remake (which wasn’t nearly as enjoyable as the original) and if you loved ‘Big Trouble’ eat your heart out with this one! Hong Kong cinema in the 1980’s was a ton of fun!
Here is the FULL movie uploaded to Youtube!!
Word on the street today is that Arnold finally used some of his barbaric wisdom and decided to return to the screen as one of his best roles of well…all time. Deadline reports that he’s indeed reprising his role as Conan the Barbarian. I blogged here that it was the one role that would truly make sense for him at his age in his career. The first film ended with an older King Conan sitting on his throne in a pondering position remember? Well it seems that he’s going to put on the crown for another adventure! I am a big fan of the first two films…yeah I even like the second one-so what?! So to me this is exciting news!
Also I might add that just one night ago I finally decided to give the new reboot of Conan a watch. Yeah it totally blew, but honestly not quite quite as bad as I was expecting. It was however just plain bad and not quite painfully bad. Momoa was though was a pretty god awful Conan and I can see why it was panned so hard by critics. So it’s nice to know I can erase it from my mind! Now Arnold will really need to hit the Gym because we all know we can’t have a flabby ass Conan!
The movie will be called The Legend of Conan and this is what Deadline reported from the films producer: “The original ended with Arnold on the throne as a seasoned warrior, and this is the take of the film we will make,” Malmberg siad. “It’s that Nordic Viking mythic guy who has played the role of king, warrior, soldier and mercenary, and who has bedded more women than anyone, nearing the last cycle of his life. He knows he’ll be going to Valhalla, and wants to go out with a good battle.”