Ok as a HUGE fan of the first two Karate Kid movies and fan of the third installment for all the wrong reasons, I’ll admit that up until recently I’d never given ‘The Next Karate Kid’ from 1994 a watch or for that matter a fair chance. I’d always wrote it off as some irrelevant, unrelated knock off of the franchise. However, as I’d rewatched some of the first season of Cobra Kai, once again I’d realized just how much I missed Mr. Miagi and how even more awesome the show would have been if he was still with us. I thought what I’d give for just one last adventure with the character.
Then I’d read in an interview with the creators of Cobra Kai that they’d addressed the 1994 sequel as cannon in the series and slightly teased how all of those movies characters are on the table for possible appearances in future seasons of the show. It dawned up me quickly, after all these years there was indeed one last adventure out there with Pat Morita in his legendary role that as a Karate Kid fanatic I’d ignored for all these years. It was finally time to put my snobby Karate Kid purist attitude aside, to see a movie 27 years in waiting!
So I’m here to report that not only is ‘The Next Karate Kid’ a way better film than ‘Karate Kid 3’ but I think it’s imperative that Hillary Swank return to her role as Julie Pierce in Cobra Kai. Clearly she has a story to tell Daniel with her history with Miagi and she also shares his karate style, something that would make for a great plot element in the series. As far as the fourth installment of the Karate Kid franchise goes, it really was so sweet to see Mr. Miagi in this role, in a movie I’d put off for some reason for so long. It felt like a rare treat to see it when I finally did as I was also surprised at how wrong I’d been, the movie was by no means the flimsy carbon copy sequel I’d guessed it was. Nope quite the contrary, Hillary Swank and Pat Morita both kick ass here in a movie that has a true heart of it’s own and explore more into the history of the Miagi character.
We delve into his past as he heads off to Massachusetts to accept a prestigious award for Japanese American soldiers of WWII & also meets back up with an old friend, Louisa Pierce, the widow of his commanding officer. At Pierce’s home, they catch up on old times, war stories and there he meets his next student, Julie Pierce. The troubled teen is taken under Miagi’s wing and she even finds time to care for an injured hawk at her school. Miagi sees quite early on that she, like Daniel has got some true karate potential and also anger management issues of her own to take care of. She’s also got some problems with some weirdo violent militant Frat boys that need taking care of, something Miagi is happy to help with! The great thing here is that it goes a lot of different directions, we don’t have Daniel’s story for Hillary Swank retold like a “Force Awakens” Karate Kid sequel. Instead she nurses a bird of prey, visits a Buddhist monastery where she befriends a group of charming monks, learns karate and also finds time to fight an elite group of assholes not in a tournament either but in a real damn bare knuckle brawl!
So yeah, I was wrong The Next Karate Kid is a cool movie that not only adds to the Karate Kid legacy but it also expands the story of the late great Miagi. It’s a sweet 90’s sequel that seriously deserves a second chance from Karate Kid purists and fans of Cobra Kai alike. Let’s face it, if the Netflix show can snag Hillary Swank, who’s an incredible actor to come back as Julie Pierce, they’re going to be utilizing the secret weapon of the franchise. I’m sure we’ll be seeing her in the near future on Cobra Kai but in the meantime I think the fans need to give this little 90’s gem a re-watch. There’s so much fun to be had in The Next Karate Kid and I’m glad I finally saw it almost three decades later for my first viewing! A welcome slice of epic lore that makes the Cobra Kai series missing character, Pat “Mr. Miagi” Morita that much more special and severely missed by all the fans….
Here’s a sweet little Hong Kong horror/action/comedy hybrid from 1985 that really put a BIG smile on my face, ‘Those Merry Souls’. Yeah this all but forgotten flick has some serious star power, featuring the likes of martial arts legends like the charming Yuen Biao & the late horror icon “Mr. Vampire” himself Lam Ching Ying (RIP) together for one spooky comedic action packed romper.
Now as you can see the poster here. makes it look maybe like a full on comedy, and in many ways ‘Those Merry Souls’ plays out like one. However it also has a serious supernatural aspect and threat that slowly rears it’s head to the final genuinely creepy action packed finale. This one tells the story of two stuntmen one a wildly talented martial artist and his bumbling whiny cousin who’s obsessed with a beautiful local club singer. Oh yeah and their uncle has recently developed a rare creepy ability to astral project and has been helping people who die find their way to the other side. He helps those merry souls but during his waking life doesn’t remember a lick of it ever happening.
The two bosom buddy stuntmen spend most of their time trying to ridiculously find romance and getting into trouble while doing so, one of the best scenes takes place on a beach where Yuen Biao shines showing his kick ass martial arts skills taking on a gang beach bullies in only his skimpy little swim suit. Biao really should have been an international star, he’s got the skills and a similar raw charisma of Jackie Chan. Things do get a bit dark and scary here though and what starts off like the perfect 80’s Hong Kong buddy comedy morphs into a pretty thrilling little supernatural tale.
This happens when their uncle, while in his astral form is instructed to take the soul of his own nephew when he’s injured doing a wild stunt on a movie set. At the moment of truth though he decides to let him live & spare his soul a mistake that costs him his own life and sets forth an evil entity upon them. In a way it’s a tiny bit Final Destination and when they employ the help of their other uncle, played by Lam Ching Ying, who’s of course got some secret magic skills of his own to ward off evil, things get really interesting.
The film’s finale is joyous as the whole gang along with their girlfriends all face off the evil entity along with their taoist priest uncle in an action packed final showdown. The stakes get high and the action is off the rails bonkers in true Hong Kong fashion as the entity possesses members of the group and soon things erupt into a crazy supernatural kung fu battle.
We even get to see Lam Ching Ying and Yuen Biao go at it full force, which is treat to behold. Bottom line here, ‘Those Merry Souls’ is a damn good time balancing out the comedy, kung fu & supernatural elements in all the right ways, something I’ve noticed many Hong Kong films of this era seem to fail at in my opinion more often than succeeding. If you’re looking to get in 80’s Hong Kong Horror I highly recommend ‘Those Merry Souls’ as the perfect party movie to share with a hungry gang of movie maniacs!
And for fans of Yuen and LamChing Ying check this out too..
So if you thought Tommy Wiseau’s ‘The Room’ was the most ridiculous modern cinematic experience, then I’ve got new for you! You ain’t seen nothin’ yet until you’ve seen Shuny Bee’s outrageous 2020’s vanity project ‘Fight of Fury’! Universal Dork returned to the Movie Melt podcast to get into the nitty gritty of it all!
Check this episode out as we get the full details on ‘Fight of Fury’ director Shuny Bee’s epic unintentionally hilarious action flick that in my opinion ups the ante on some of the most ridiculous filmmaking/acting I’ve ever seen. It’s been quite a while since I’ve laughed this hard during a movie with characters, dialogue and action sequences that really just need to be seen to be fucking believed. You think I’m joking? Well check this out and tell me what you think!
Listen to the full MOVIE MELT podcast HERE where we cover this modern cult classic and so much more in the world of bizarre cinema!! This one needs way more eyes on it!
Now this was welcome surprise to brighten up the dark days here, a recently unearthed Cynthia Rothrock KFC Commercial from the 1980s! I just saw this today and just having watch the ultra weird 1990 Hong Kong adventure fantasy flick “Prince of the Sun” she starred in made my day!
Anyway if you don’t know who Cynthia is and you’re a fan of 80’s & 90’s action movies or someone who thinks the “strong female lead” in movies is some new phenomenon, you’d better track down some of her movies. You’ll get a heavy dose of wild martial arts action and plenty of bone breaking stunts! She did some sweet lesser know Hong Kong productions early on in her career that are also a blast. Anyway check her out as she sells her soul to Colonel Sanders!!!
Well the quarantine rages one! So naturally I’m taking advantage of the situation by watching as many cool movies as I can get my hands on! I checked out some pretty excellent Japanese movies from the late 80’s/early 90’s the other night and I won the jackpot as somehow BOTH movies delivered the damn goods! I mean that rarely ever happens when blindly grabbing two oddball movies I’ve never heard anything about.
First up was was 1988’s “Cyber Ninja”, which obviously by the title showed some true promise! This wild sci-fi action film tells the story of a cyborg ninja who’s battling an evil empire that uses giant dinosaur like robots along with a gang of robotic ninja’s of their own to wreak havoc upon a kingdom of samurai warriors. Yeah basically that’s the story, nothing fancy here just a bunch of wild action and robot ass kicking for a lean 80 minutes. There’s some cool martial arts as well and really sweet robot designs at play here that mix feudal japanese elements into their look. There’s these giants mechs in particular that have a sort of Japanese tree house melded as the control center, kinda of like a play on a Star Wars ATST walker. There’s also a ton of that ultra colorful hand painted laser/electricity/energy blasts fx that accompany the martial arts mayhem. It’s a ton of fun and it seems this was perhaps an inspiration for the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers? The movie was release by Namco, which later merged with Bandai, both famous for their video games. Cyber Ninja is must watch if you dig weird, 80’s action and fantasy stuff & was great little viewing surprise that doesn’t require your attention span to be in full swing either.
Next was 1991’s Mikadroid, also known as “Mikadroid: Robokill Beneath Disoclub Layla”. With a title like that you know you’re at the least in for something quite unusual and yeah it brings quite an intriguing little tale of terror to the screen. It’s super lean run time of 73 minutes also makes it much less of a commitment and the perfect companion to Cyber Ninja in more than one way. I’d say at it’s core, it’s really more of a horror movie, and go as far to even call it a “proto-slasher”. It follows a World War II soldier who was experimented on along with two others for a super soldier program.
However they went a step further in a secret underground bunker to transform him into a cyborg/droid and ends up looking like something straight out of a Hellboy comic. We flash forward to 1991 to a discoclub that was built on top the hidden bunker where some electrical issues awaken the WWII super solder robot from his long slumber (I guess a real Captain America kind of thing going on here more than I originally realized). The droid heads up into the parking garage where he conducts his killing spree on the oh so stylin’ Japanese party animals after their wild nights of drinkin’ and dancing the night away.
This movie’s certainly a unique slice early 90’s cinema. It’s quite beautifully shot as well as having a pretty kick ass looking robot and some really stunning underground locations. I was hoping for a bit more from some of the kills but the strange story is the true highlight. Enough so that this little oddity by it’s end unfolds into something truly unique for it’s time and relative obscurity. Released by Toho, it was originally intended to be a full on horror film for the straight to video Japanese Market. Originally set to be a a zombie horror film having the WWII soldier an undead killer instead of a robot . The day before filming began a child murderer was arrested, who had an open passion for horror films, and it resulted in almost all horror movies being essentially blacklisted from production at the time. The film’s plot was frantically reworked into a “sci-fi” film while still keeping the basic premise intact. That all being said, the changes made I think likely added to the movie’s bizarre but ambitious plot. If you go into the movie with few expectations you’ll find a truly charming little feature that firmly lands it in a league of it’s own for the time.
I’m not real familiar with with Indonesian cinema, but last night I watched a dvd (yeah a DVD folks!!!!) I got in the mail from Netflix that’s been in my queue for well over a year. The 1984 Swords and Sorcery fantasy martial arts adventure, ‘The Devil’s Sword’ from director Ratno Timoer. I really didn’t have any expectations, in fact I was fully prepared to turn this one off after 10 minutes, however that was most definitely not the case. Nope! Instead The Devil’s Sword immediately won me over with some impressive joyfully bad choreographed magical martial arts battles taking place in a truly stunning exotic jungle location. If you’re a fan of cheezy fantasy movies from the 1980’s then this one’s gonna be right up your damn alley. It’s also alerted me to the Indonesian action star Barry Prima, maybe I’m late to the Prima party, but a quick look on Letterboxd at his filmography revealed what appears to be an overload of action, fantasy, horror hybrid gems just waiting to be leaped into.
This one has pretty much got it all, wildly stupid martial arts, sword battles, magic, monsters, babes & hunks galore! All of it 100% ridiculous, macho man Barry Prima stars as “Mandola”, basically “Rambo the barbarian” looking remarkably similar to Sly Stallone (with a smooth fully stupid dub track that seems like it might even enhance viewing pleasures). He’s also got a radical bad ass female co star, who right out of the gates lays a smackdown on a gang o’ goons & who aids the mighty Mandola in his epic quest to destroy a wicked witch, the sultry and seductive Crocodile queen! She’s indeed quite a woman and has tons of male sex servants one of them the kidnapped husband of Mandola’s female ally! She’s also got a gang of some of the worst, most idiotic looking, crocodile/human minions that really just have to be seen to be believed. Some of these fights too go on for way, way too long but in that sort of “They Live” sorta way. I mean check this out if you think I’m full of shit!
Mandola ends up on this epic quest when some of The Crocodile Queen’s assassins injure his master’s legs and he himself is forced to saw them off! The Devil’s Sword definitely doesn’t skimp on some wild gore either, limbs and heads are chopped off, accompanied by sprays of blood. There’s also a dab of indiana Jones thrown in as Mandola explores caverns filled with hordes of bats and one supremely stupid looking giant cyclops! I guess they were lucky that Indonesia is such a beautiful place, because some of the locales add a solid a layer of legitimacy to the whole experience, suddenly I’m eyeing Indonesia as a future dream vacation.
The Devil’s Sword has really energized an interest in not only the country but also in some of the wild cinema it had to offer back in the 70’s & 80’s as well as a strong curiosity in it’s main man, Barry Prima! Check this flick out, it’s the perfect watch with a case of beer and some friends to enjoy all the unintentional wackiness strewn about the screen. There’s a dvd out there that Mondo Macabro put out years ago I think you can still snatch, or hey if you’re like me just put it on the dvd by mail list from Netflix!
I’ve been hearing lately that the ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ movie franchise is going to again be rebooted after the shit show of the Michael Bay era of the reptilian heroes in a half shell. So it sparked me to revisit the original 1990 movie the other night which I hadn’t seen in probably 20 years or so. I was amazed at how well that movie has aged, seeing it in theaters back in the day I’d enjoyed it but kind of dismissed it as “kid stuff” at the time as my older brother in the 1980’s collected the original indie comic series and I’d had the chance to read them as a kid. If you’re aware of the TMNT early beginnings you’ll remember that it started off as a dark, gritty & violent comic series. I was blown away back then at the sheer oddity of the characters and the equally bizarre story lines of the originals. When I decided to revisit the 1990 TMNT film I’d forgotten just how dark that original movie actually is, especially considering today’s climate of safe moviemaking. The movie is almost closer to an R-rating than it’s original rating of PG. There’s kids smoking & drinking alcohol, robbing people, the foot beating up April O’neil, Raphael beaten into a near coma by The Foot and a badly beaten and bloodied up Splinter strung to a fence. It’s actually a pretty dark and gritty movie with the addition of the comedic surfer dude Turtles to lighten things up.
So currently we’ve got these new “TMNT” flicks, a big bloated Michael Bay produced, soul-less mess of CGI, uninspired storytelling and poor character development. The current franchise just hasn’t been connecting with fans the way they’d hoped, mainly with the amount of money that the films have made. Now they’ve got plans for a brand new reboot and it’s never been more clear just what this franchise needs to do: go old school.
So first off let’s address the obvious big issue, imo the latest Michael Bay era CGI Turtles look terrible. They’re massive 8 foot tall green hulking humanoid turtles with creepy ass faces and not in a good way. Compare the newest incarnations with the very original designs. They couldn’t be more opposite. Even the Turtles of the 1990 movie do essentially look pretty much like what you’d hope for, sure they’ve been made much cuter but they stay fairly true to the original vision. So let’s face the facts, the original designs of the 80’s weren’t broken so why try and modernize them by making them the opposite of what they were intended to look like? Bring back the smaller classic versions of these characters, go simpler with their general design. It’s a lot easier to digest and most definitely not rocket science folks.
Next I’d say you could go the similar route that many movies are taking by making the next movie a direct sequel to the original or at least setting the movie in the late 80s’ or early 90’s, it’s clear people love that era of film today (Stranger Things, IT anyone?). That being said bring back the suits!! Put real actors in real costumes with modern day animatronics the Turtles could look absoluterly mind blowing. The 1990 movie Turtles STILL look great and that was with a micro budget of 13.5 million dollars for the whole damn film. What they could do now would be incredible, we all want to believe that the TMNT are actually living breathing creatures and the latest movies sadly look like fakey cgi rendered cartoon characters inserted into the “real world”.
Lets get real here and let’s keep the budget low, we don’t need a TMNT movie to be on the scale of an Avengers film, we need a smaller more personal, more heartfelt movie with high stakes like the original. Next let’s get some real martial arts, real choreography and some real stunts again. One thing that blew me away revisting the 1990 movie was the actual real on screen martial arts that were displayed, it was pretty amazing actually and I’d love to see something in that vein in a brand new Turtles movie. It’d be like nothing out there in the mainstream that’s for sure. Lastly I’d love to see a darker more serious storyline, of course an “R-rated Turtles” movie would be my first choice, one that evokes the original comics would be absolutely insane. However, I know that’ll never happen so I think at the very least going as dark as the original movie would be more than good enough. Let’s see the Turtles roaming the city streets at night, jumping from rooftop to rooftop and roaming the dank sewers. Bring on the amazing real life set pieces, puppets and crazy creatures once again, I think fans would go bonkers for a throwback style TMNT. However I doubt Hollywood has the courage to try something as unique and inspired as the original movie. What do you think?!
I’m super duper pumped about the recent addition to the “Phase 4” of Marvel’s cinematic universe, they’ll indeed be introducing none other than Shang Chi: The Master of Kung Fu to audiences around the globe! This really did kinda catch me by surprise, I mean who’d have ever thought Shang-Chi would get his own blockbuster film? I understand the Black Panther, as he’s easily in my opinion, one of Marvel’s most iconic, at least to any real collector of superhero comics. He’s a legend. However Shang-Chi (who as a kid I was a collector of his titles) is a pretty obscure character whom I never thought got enough credit. He’s been around though since the early 70’s and was Marvel’s direct reaction to the popularity of Bruce Lee.
Now in 2018 Shang-Chi once again has an advantage, as Marvel searches for it’s next big hit, cashing in at the box office on diversity in their movies, they’re aiming at lightning striking again with a movie that features an all Asian cast & director in a similar fashion as the Black Panther. I’d have been more impressed honestly if Marvel had introduced The Black Panther movie years before it’s release in 2018, but it seemed like they waited until the right time though to make as much money as possible with diversity being a hot topic. That being said better late than never for The Black Panther and now Shang-Chi I guess.
So being a fan of the greatest martial artist in the MCU I’m hoping they do indeed pull this one off and pull the character into the A-List category! What do we want from a “Master of Kung Fu” movie? Well how about the exact opposite of what we got from the Iron Fist series? This movie needs to bring on a superhuman kung fu spectacle unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. Iron Fist was a giant disappointment, it’s terrible fight sequences/choreography, mixed with it’s ultra bland plot & unappealing lead character made for a truly tough series to sit that many hours through. Shang-Chi should be a full on action adventure movie, something like a mix up of Indiana Jones & Enter The Dragon but with the most insane martial arts battles put to screen, To pull this off they need someone who’s a true veteran to do the choreography/directing duties like Wilson Yip of the ‘Ip Man’ franchise or the legendary Sammo Hung. Continue reading
There are certain comic book covers that just pop right off the page at you when you see ’em & Master of Kung Fu #75 is one ’em! This cool cover way back from 1979 shows again just how damn good of an artist the master Mike Zeck is! This one shows Shang-Chi doing battle with a giant fish man that looks straight out of an H.P. Lovecraft story. I love the simplicity of some covers and this one gets straight to the point with an amazing underwater struggle facing the Master of Kung Fu. There are some truly jaw dropping covers in the Master of Kung Fu comic book back catalogue & Zeck’s done a great deal of them, ah those good ol’ days…
Ok so I wanted to take a minute to briefly comment on Netflix’s ‘Iron Fist’ as I FINALLY finished the whole damn thing. So at first I admit I thought the series wasn’t too bad but as I completed the finale it was clear that this show just didn’t deliver much of anything interesting. Now I’m not saying it deserves a 19% rating on Rotten Tomatoes but hey let’s be honest it kinda sucked. The show was pretty damn boring and I admit EVERY one of the Marvel Netflix shows reach a point where this becomes the case. There’s simply way too many episodes, way too much exposition and it just gets to be a bit of a LOOOONG ass process trying to get to the end of these shows. Some of these Iron Fist episodes felt like they were hours long. Combine that with the terrible meandering plot of ‘villains’ Harold and The Hand and the corporate board room BS and it just drags on and on.
I really wanted to like this one but god damn am I glad it’s just over with. One thing this series excelled at was being totally consistently mediocre. Even the finale was a bonafide snoozefest. He barely ever even used the ‘iron fist’ at all throughout this damn show but damn was he hyped on telling everyone he was “the Iron Fist” every damn chance he could. I even kinda liked Finn Jones as the clueless, largely directionless, tantrum throwing rich brat superhero. And to be clear Danny Rand was most definitely not a “white savior” in any respect in this series. He actually was more of a “white screwup” – so to all of the people who had their undies in a bundle I suggest watching the show before you throw your online tantrums. Iron Fist could and should have have been great, pushing the kung fu action to crazy new levels, sadly I give this one a solid D+. Oh well let’s hope they get it right in The Defenders!
On the brighter and more exciting side of things I did start a relatively new series on Netflix last night called “Hap & Leonard” it hooked me right away and I ended up watching three of the six episodes last night. SIX episodes thankfully NOT thirteen!!! I had to mention this one because it’s got some damn good things going for it & here’s a few reasons why you should check it out. First it’s based on the Joe R. Lansdale book series based on these characters. He’s responsible for writing some incredibly cool stories that have been adapted to film like ‘Bubba Ho-tep’, ‘Incident On and Off a Mountain Road’, ‘Cold in July’ & ‘Christmas with the Dead’ to name a few.
Next the directors Jim Mickle & Nick Damici have done some cool flicks like ‘Stakeland’, ‘Mulberry Street’ & ‘We are What We Are’. There’s a big horror connection to this series but so far it really doesn’t quite fit into any genre really. Instead I see aspects of horror, mystery & adventure all crammed nicely into this series. Another plus for me is that it takes place in 1988 and damn do I love the eighties. It’s got some real interesting characters as well, Hap’s a poor rugged private investigator and his best friend Leonard is a gay, black, conservative cowboy who finds more in common with Elvis than Martin Luther King. Both guys are also martial artists and into getting into all sorts of mayhem in the backwoods of east Texas.
It also stars Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks (who’s a total babe and a great actor) as Hap’s ex wife who’s sent them on a wild goose chase to find a sunken getaway car supposedly filled with a million bucks somewhere on the bottom of a alligator infested river. There’s also a weird ass serial killer duo on the loose, one of them is Pollyanna MacIntosh who’s known for her intense role in Lucky McKee’s horror flick “The Woman”. She’s just as wild n’ crazy in ‘Hap & Leonard’.
Yeah it’s a breath of fresh air after Iron Fist that’s for sure. Check it out, it’s a thrill so far and full of surprises!! I’m thrilled this one’s got a second season as it appears there’s plenty o’ crazy source material for out there already from Mr. Lansdale!