New Vintage 35mm Practical FX Horror Fantasy: Moon Garden!
I’ve been thinking lately while watching lots of movies from the 1980s about how much I really miss the feel of movies using practical effects, shot on real film, at real locations & on real sets. Let’s face it, even if you just love, say, Marvel movies, you’ve got to be able to admit that they can feel a bit soulless, jam packed with an overabundance of CGI, green screening & basically are void of any real life stunt work. I mean they even CG costumes on people. I’ve been thinking about how interesting it’d be if modern filmmakers would set out to make a fantastical film either in the horror, sci-fi, superhero genre and choose to not use ANY technology past 1990. A real bonafide, old school, hands on MOVIE.
Well I’ve probably gotten my wish, or at least something very close to it. The upcoming horror fantasy ‘Moon Garden’ appears to be going for the gold here, first being shot on expired 35mm film, which apparently can create some interesting and unexpected results. A bold move I think, secondly utilizing practical effects like puppetry, animatronics and stop motion animation. The trailer looks pretty incredible!
The premise is simple, a little girl has quite a troubling family life. One evening we find her running away from her arguing parents, she trips, falls down hard and as a result descends into a deep, dark coma. She awakens in a strange new place, more akin to a waking nightmare. She begins a journey through a sinister world where bizarre creatures are lurking around every corner.
The little girl goes on an adventure to carefully make her way back to consciousness armed only with a radio. This brought to mind an underrated Australian film from 1988 called ‘Paperhouse’, ‘The City of Lost Children’ and obviously the more popular ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’. All have a surreal, dreamlike quality to them and Moon Garden at first look appears to be in the same realm. This looks like something special and it’s Coming sometime this year- Check this out!
Comic Cover of the Week: Alpha Flight & CRYSTAR!
Oh how I miss being an 80’s kid and here’s a comic book that brings back some memories: The Saga of Crystar the Crystal Warrior! It’s been a while since I thought about this title but it was BIG on my radar back in the day, mostly because of the awesome action figures I owned from the Crystar toyline. Here however, is one of my fave covers of the series, beautifully illustrated by Michael Golden, featuring unlikely guest stars: Alpha Flight! One of my all time favorite super-teams of Marvel.
Most of the short lived series, only eleven issues long (this being the final one) had consistently quite impressive art work on their covers. So as a kid all it took was one look to reel me into the Crystal Universe and BEG my mom to let get a few of their truly unique action figures!
Bizzaro Lost 90’s Christmas Flick: FANTASTIC GAMES is a Holiday Fever Dream!
Are you looking for something truly bizarre to watch this holiday season? Well you’ve definitely come to the right damn place, as I recently ran across a movie from 1998 that takes place on Christmas Eve and is just about as wildly perplexing and insane as they come!
‘Fantastic Games’ is a movie that’s passed through the years almost completely unwatched by anyone, save for a few die hards of weird-o cinema on Letterboxd! Director Alvaro Passeri crafted a cool little practical effects heavy monster flick from 1994 called ‘Creatures from the Abyss‘ AKA ‘Plankton’ that much like ‘Fantastic Games’ has also gone many years oddly without a cult following, it’s a pretty fun stupid little practical fx heavy creature feature that deserves a much wider audience in my opinion.
Fantastic Games (which is only available to watch on YouTube for some reason) revolves around a family during a snowy Christmas Eve trying to take care of their sick daughter. Her father on top of it all is missing, trapped out in the cold winter night somewhere and a weird family “friend” pops in during the snow storm with some clearly ulterior motives.
Her brother insists on reading her a crazy colorfully cosmic adventure story from a strange book that materializes on screen in all of it’s wacky epic glory & barely makes a lick of freakin’ sense. About 15 Minutes into this movie I didn’t know what the flying fuck was going on! However it’s such a delicious visual treat to lay your eyes upon it really doesn’t matter. Basically it involves a teenage girl who flies on a surfboard through space with her dog companion Toby. Sort of mirroring a “Dorothy and Toto” type a trope.
She gets mixed up in some sort of “live action” video game I guess you could refer to it as a “fantastic game” set forth by some weird ornery horned alien villain with a shiny plate glass face who loves to yell at people any chance he gets.
I’m guessing it’s trying to replicate the magic of ‘The Neverending Story’, to intensely up the ante with its cadre of creatures, satanic skeleton filled caverns, creepy puppet faced space wizards and just about any reason to display some sort of fever-dreamlike special fx sequence.
The amount of effort the director must have put in to this truly inventive yet incredibly incoherent little visual feast is really quite ambitious. Viewing this for the 1st time left me scratching my head on just how this strange psychotronic nineties oddity has passed everyone by for so many years without a peep from genre fanatics.
I’d say this one’s in desperate need of a blu ray restoration and a big modern day cult following. It’s the type of movie you wanna watch with a gang of cinema junkies & plenty of merry drinks during the holidays! It features more than enough Christmas visuals too to qualify as a bonafide holiday gem.
However it’s easily one of the most perplexing and confusing pieces of cinema I viewed in some time. Get ready to behold some weird shit, like the meek little dog companion Tony extinguish a raging fire in the pits of hell with his own pee! All bets are off on how these two are gonna survive and further to the finish line of the sinister “Fantastic” game. The events that happen in this creepy world also seem to be mirroring the fever of the sick girl and troubling family events on Christmas Eve.
It’s a pretty interesting to watch how this all unfolds- even though it doesn’t make really sense. Imagine a sort of D-list Terry Gilliam style wacko cinescape that thrives to be bigger and more boisterous visually but plotwise more incohesive while not giving a damn. Director Alvaro Passeri is either a madman or a incredibly underrated visionary waiting for a legion of fans who salivate for something straight out of a nightmare.
Check out his website and you tell me that this guy isn’t perhaps a secret genius: He’s clearly a master of practical effects and an inventor of some of the weirdest shit I’ve seen in a long time, check this out if you doubt me:
Clearly a Renaissance man of bizarre proportions, I see good things on the horizon for Paserri once word finally gets out about his unique secret cinematic achievements and oddball inventions. So this Christmas season why don’t you take a trippy trip into his strange holiday nightmare world of Fantastic Games. You can watch the whole movie right here!
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.
Game Of Thrones Season 8: From the Writer of ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’!
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.
5 Upcoming Movies You Gotta Be Pumped For!!
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!
The 10 Most Important Ingredients for an Epic D&D Adventure!
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:
The Top 10 Best Animated Music Videos of ALL Time!!
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.
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!
A Nightmare on Jean Claude Van Damme’s Street?! You Bet!!
This is pretty ridiculously awesome-Van Damme vs. Freddy Krueger?! Yep! In all of it’s cheezy fan made glory!