Tagged: Movies

VHS Verdict: 1980’s Japanese Robot Craziness – CYBER NINJA & MIKADROID!!!

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. 

Lockdown Movie Mayhem: What Should YOU & I Be Watching?!

Hello everyone from the land of self quarantine! Damn!! I really hope all of you out there are staying safe safe, staying home and keeping your damn sanity. With all that being said, I guess some good can indeed come out of all this isolation?  On the bright side there’s now plenty of time to watch as many movies, tv shows & read as many comic books as humanly imaginable. But let’s face it, the hard part is finding the quality entertainment to pass the time. So my question to you all: what should I be watching to take my mind off of all of this damn craziness? One can only watch so much of the depressing anxiety inducing news! So please let me know in the comments what the hell I might be missing out on!        

                                                                                                                                                                   

 I’d say the best thing that I’ve seen since this stinkin’ self quarantine began was a movie called “Good Boys” from 2019. It’s easily one of the best damn comedies of the last 5 years, no doubt about that. It follows the adventures of three tween boys as they go on a “desperate” mission to recover a lost drone they used to spy on their teenage neighbor in hopes of learning how to kiss for an upcoming “kissing party”. Of course along the way they get into a shitload o’ mischief and meet more than their fair share of ridiculously shady characters. It kind of reminds me of ‘Superbad’ with 12 year olds. Make no mistake, this by no means is a kids movie though, but the kids in it are full on comic geniuses. One of my new faves for sure. So check it out if you’re looking for something that’s likely to put a smile on your face in the times of pandemic. It won’t disappoint!    

                                                                        

Otherwise the movie pickins have been pretty slim to be honest. I checked out a couple horror movies from the 80s that were filmed in my home state of Wisconsin, both of which ended up being interesting for that reason to me but easily could cause drowsiness to the average movie fanatic. Oddly, both I believe were released by Troma films at some point in time. First was ‘Blood Hook’, a semi-promising 80’s fishing slasher flick and second was the super snoozer ‘The Capture of Bigfoot.’ 

Both appeared, from their cool VHS covers to be epic horror flicks, but I quickly found myself nearly nodding off or having those wicked thoughts of god damn Corona weaseling it’s way back into my mind. Not a good sign. I am though, very intrigued with movies that were filmed in Wisconsin, especially horror movies which there really aren’t many of in the land of cheese.

The Midwest was not exactly the epicenter of groundbreaking filmmaking especially in the 80s. But if you’re from “America’s Dairyland” both of these are definitely worth a peek for that fact at least I suppose?                                                                                                           

I did though check out a cool movie from 1989 called ‘Vampire Buster'(AKA Ninja Vampire Busters), a sweet Hong Kong horror comedy. It follows an haunted urn containing a wicked demon that mysteriously ends up in Hong Kong after being auctioned off to a rich Tycoon. Of course things go off the rails when the evil is accidentally released from it and wastes no time to begin possessing innocent people. Luckily the owner of the urn, “The Vampire Buster” is hot on its tracks, arriving in Hong Kong with his supernatural abilities and smooth ass martial arts moves in full effect.

Lots of cool 80s visual-effects going on here and some genuinely creepy moments, along with a hefty dose of well landing comedy make ‘Vampire Buster’ one of the standouts in my recent binge of Hong Kong horror viewing. Much of how entertaining it is largely relies on Kent Cheung’s (who stars as the magical demon buster) charisma and highly impressive martial arts skills. For a man of his stature he surely has some truly impressive feats of agility, bringing to mind the legendary Sammo Hung. Track down ‘Vampire Buster’ and I even advise watching it with the English dub track as it’s pretty well done and the voices for once I feel actually enhance the movie’s charm. That being said there was not one damn vampire to be seen in ‘Vampire Buster’….Ok now what have YOU seen that’s worth a watch during the pandemic?

Badass Seniors vs Mutant Punks: Who Dares Enter The VFW?!!

I’m pretty damn excited about the upcoming horror survival flick VFW from Joe Begos, who’s already got some pretty sweet modern horror movies under his belt like ‘Almost Human’ & ‘The Mind’s Eye’. VFW shows the same promise but this time with a stellar cast, the likes of Martin Kove, Fred Williamson, Stephen Lang & Cheer’s own barstool regular George Wendt. A lazy crew of old codger war veterans have their usual evening of drinkin’ abruptly interrupted when their beloved VFW hall comes under attack by a vicious gang of punks, who’re fully jacked up on a powerful new drug called ‘the hype’.

 

So far this looks like a modern cult classic and it’s so cool when a newer director showcases some of the genre’s older largely forgotten heros in inventive new ways. VFW also features Bego’s regular Graham Skipper who always does a stellar job. It looks like it’s going for a John Carpenter ‘Assault on Precinct 13’ type of vibe here, except with more over the top gore and with each movie this director does, his chops improve greatly, I’ve still yet to see his 2019 release ‘Bliss” but it’s definitely on my radar as well. VFW is set for release on Feb 14th 2020, can’t wait to check this out as it’s definitely one of my most anticipated!     

VHS Verdict: 1985’s Lost Mexican Horror Gem ‘Cemetery of Terror’!!

I’ve been on the hunt lately for lost movie gems from the 1980’s and I’ve found that there’s really some pretty amazing films out there that most here in the USA never knew existed. One such is ‘Cemetery of Terror’ or as it’s known in Mexico ‘Cementerio del Terror’ that captures that perfect charm of classic 80’s B-movie horror. I think it’s so good, I’d put it up against some of the best the genre had to offer. Director Ruben Galindo Jr. crafted a sweet atmospheric horror flick that plays out like ‘The Goonies’ meets Carpenter’s ‘Halloween’ in a spooky Mexican cemetery. This supernatural slasher/zombie mash up’s got literally everything I love about 1980’s horror flicks. Cool characters, sweet 80’s fashion, a pretty impressive soundtrack, good gore and excellent sets! For a low budget horror movie Galindo truly shines with what he had to work with and it’s clear to see it as an unseen influence to current hits like ‘Stranger Things’. That classic 1980’s “Amblin kids in danger vibe” is definitely in full effect here.

 

The story goes something like this: 

Dr. Cardan (Hugo Stiglitz) is haunted by violent nightmares & suspects that a psychotic serial killer has figured out a way to cheat death, returning from the grave to continue his vicious spree of carnage. Local law enforcement refuses to accept his claims, but his hunch is taken more seriously when they find that a group of reckless teenagers pulled a Halloween prank, stealing the killer’s body from the morgue. When the teens recite an incantation from a mysterious book they discover in an abandoned mansion, it reanimates the corpse, along with all of the bodies from the nearby cemetery. All out undead mayhem ensues as a group of trick or treaters also wander into the deadly cemetery where the supernatural slasher roams looking for his next victim!

The graveyard itself looks like it was pulled out of Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ video (watch for the MJ tour jacket one of the kids sport) full of creepy trees, fog a plenty, spider webs galore and the look of the zombies are actually pretty amazing as well. The younger gang of kids who get involved in the mix are pretty awesome as well, they bring a sorta  “Monster Squad” type of feel to it and you’re never quite sure if they’re going to survive the night. Though it does have that lighter 80’s “kids in danger vibe” don’t mistake it for kiddie horror, it’s actually got some decent gore and the revived psycho is mean as hell.

More people here in the US need to check this one out, it appeared on a double feature dvd over a decade ago called ‘Crypt of Terror: Horror from South of the Border’ that’s now long out of print. You can still find copies on ebay & it even comes with one of Galindo’s later horror movies from 1989 called ‘Grave Robbers’ which is also awesome. You might also find it on youtube but I’m not sure it’s subtitled. Anyway Cemetery of Terror has put 80’s Mexican horror fully on my radar and I’m excited to track down more of Ruben Galindo Jr’s movies!!

Tarantino’s ‘Star Trek’: What True Trekkies Have Actually Been Longing For?!

I’ve had this discussion several times over the past year with fellow Star Trek fans, what most seem to fear is Quentin Tarantino getting his dirty mitts on the franchise! But like it or not, it seems Tarantino might actually be taking the reigns on the next movie, which has also been rumored to be his last film ever in the director’s chair. Most seem to fear he’s going to totally ruin Star Trek, planting over the top violence & F-bombs around every damn corner of the movie & if it’s ‘Rated R’ like he’s proposing, there’ll surely be some of that. It makes me wonder does Star Trek need to be rated R? Probably not, but if it is I’m pretty curious just what that would look like exactly. That all being said, I really don’t think he’d turn Star Trek suddenly into ‘Kill Bill’. I feel like Quentin just might actually be the right person for the job, especially if you’re longing for a classic Trek adventure ala The Original Series, The Next Generation or classic movies like ‘The Wrath of Khan’.

Let’s face the facts folks, the JJ Abrams ‘Star Trek’ stuff was fun (at least the first and third movies in the trilogy), but it felt way more like ‘The Fast & The Furious’ than an actual Trek adventure. The classic Star Trek/Next Generation stuff had a much different vibe than these fluffy, bloated CGI spectacles we’ve been recently served up. The classic stuff most often explored a more cerebral side of science fiction story telling. Sure even in ‘The Original Series’ there was great humor and a certain degree of spectacle, but the stories almost always had something interesting to say and often times left you thinking. This side of the Star Trek storytelling, in my opinion, has been seriously missing in these modern attempts. So hear me out, think of what era of film Tarantino truly loves beyond anything else, it’s all of the stuff from the 60’s & 70s. I’m certain he spent some serious time neck deep in those original Star Trek episodes and absolutely adored the banter between Kirk, Spock, Bones and the crew. Their witty conversations on the original series actually remind me in many ways of the dialogue Tarantino serves up in his own films. I can easily picture his influence on Chris Pine’s Kirk, Zachary Quinto’s Spock & Karl Urban’s McCoy fitting perfectly in spirit with the original series in a way we’ve yet to see for this latest cast.

Tarantino thrives in the vintage era of filmmaking that Star Trek was first introduced in, he gets it and it’s obvious that it’s all a huge influence on pretty much everything he’s ever done. Almost all of his movies are a callback to that exact era when Star Trek was first originally thriving. The grindhouse movies and tv of the 60’s and 70’s is exactly what fuels Quentin’s entire soul. It’s why I think just maybe people are wrong to fear Tarantino taking on Star Trek. If you’re a fan of the classic stuff, then there’s honestly probably not a better person to be grabbing the ‘Trek’ bull by the horns and putting it back on course to it’s true roots. Quentin would likely serve us up a more compelling, thought provoking science fiction story to digest as well. He never delivers the predictable Hollywood fare. I don’t see his film making style at all being just a giant CGI spectacle. He’s never been into that. I trust he’s not going to work with a flimsy script either, especially if it is indeed planned to be his final movie. His films have always had more dimensions to them than the average generic summer blockbuster.

I think he’s got the wit, the understanding of what made the original material great & the vision to blend it all into a package that feels classic while at the same time something Trekkies have never quite seen before in a Star Trek film. To me “Tarantino Star Trek” really makes sense. I’m just not interested in seeing another mindless, bloated blockbuster of a Star Trek film again. Let’s go back to what made the series stand out from the herd. In order to do that it really needs someone who understands the franchise and isn’t just trying to make a boat load of quick cash off the masses. Star Trek needs a different style of film maker this time around, that’s certainly clear and I think taking a chance on Quentin is as good a bet as any to give the franchise a bold boost into new territory…  

VHS Verdict: Total Cheez 80’s Horror Roundup!!

I’ve been flying through a ton of VHS tapes lately which can be a ton of fun and also a total drag sometimes! A lot of these old 80’s horror movies have pretty impressive VHS cover art, they look like they’re gonna be a lost fucking gem, however you truly just can’t judge a book by it’s cover, or in these particular cases, a movie. Anyway it’s always a gamble and sometimes you do indeed end up with a hidden gem or at least something that’s so damn stupid that it’s a thoroughly entertaining shiny cinematic terd. So here’s the verdict on some VHS tapes I’ve scored recently! CHECK IT!!

Nightmare at Bitter Creek (1988):

Here’s a little movie that turned out to be a ton of fun, we get a psycho killer/survival flick with instead of annoying teenagers, we’re treated to a group of middle age ladies on a camping excursion with a middle aged Tom Skerritt as their hard drinkin’ tuff guy guide. Oh and he also has this rad dog named “Buster” that everyone seems to be a bit too obsessed with. Anyway, they all head of into the woods of the Sierra Mountains, sounds like fun huh? Well there’s also a crazed group of Neo-nazi killers who’re hellbent on shooting everyone in sight roaming around the woods. This one’s got some pretty decent characters (Buster included), super breathtaking locations, creepy atmosphere and for a PG-13 flick a good amount of action & violence especially in it’s final act. Not entirely a horror movie, it’s still got enough going for it to please fans of the genre, I dug it for sure! Here’s the whole damn movie via Youtube:

 

Iced (1988):

Here’s another one that was a pretty fun time as well, especially if you like cheezy 80’s ski movies and also idiotic horror. I know I do! So yeah, this one is 80’s as hell, totally over the top fashion, big hair, bad ski moves on the slopes, bad editing, idiotic characters and even a wannabe “mystery” at it’s core. It’s also basically one quarter soft core porno as well, there’s a bunch of “steamy” sex scenes strewn about Iced’s messy story. It’s all in all a really stupidly entertaining watch, directed by Jeff Kwitney who also directed “Amok Train” aka “Beyond the Door III” from 1989 which I love. ‘Iced’ turned out to be a good ridiculous party movie filled to the brim with stupid shit and an opening credits scene that looks like it was put together by a high school AV club. In this case though instead of being a total bore this one delivered enough schlocky fun to make it a fully worth while view. If you like dumb movies, this one surely delivers – and that final scene is a total treat!

 

Specters (1987):

I was pretty excited to check this “horror” flick out when I ran across it, basically it’s about some mysterious tombs that are discovered in the catacombs beneath Rome that release an evil force and also stars Donald Pleasance! Sounds like a damn good time huh? Unfortunately this one is a total bore, lots of character development and bland dialogue for uninteresting characters and lots of roaming around in dim caverns. Like lots of it. At one point I decided to watch the movie on fast forward until FINALLY something happened at the end that seemed somewhat interesting, however I’ve already forgotten what it was. This ones a real winner, if you’re having a hard time falling asleep it’ll bore you into a serious slumber. Here’s the trailer, trust me it’s not as cool as they make it out to be..

 

Invader (1992):

Here’s a sweet little movie that’s a ton of fun if you’re not expecting a heck of a lot! Invader features a dude who works at an over the top tabloid paper reporting on weird stories who gets involved in a ‘wicked’ mysterious Alien conspiracy. The dude sneaks onto an air force base and witnesses some ultra secret super powered jet being tested and ends up paired with a bad ass military Captain when he’s caught there snoopin’ around. From this point on the movie features a pretty rad “buddy style” team up with the two and really from the start it’s totally entertaining albeit dumb sci-fi romp full of pretty ridiculous action sequences as well as some pretty surprising well timed comedy. I had zero expectations so perhaps that’s why this one seemed like such a fun time? Still there totally were some impressive yet cheezy fx work at hand and the “final boss” battle features some radical old school stop motion animation to look forward to as well! Gotta love it, check this out sometime if you’re looking for a entertaining cheez-filled early 90’s sci fi adventure!

VHS Verdict: 1991’s Nordic Creature Feature ‘The Runestone’!!

Here’s another pretty neat little creature feature from 1991 I’ve been wanting to see for a while now, well luckily I scored a cool VHS copy of the movie at thrift shop. As I’ve said before my favorite type of horror flick’s a monster movie and that’s exactly what this here is nothing more nothing less. Though released in ’91 it feels like a full on ’80’s movie, with tons of neon, cheezy dialogue and a big savage man in suit Bigfoot type of creature running around the city offing people. Yeah and it also features one of the bad guy henchmen from ‘Die Hard’, Alexander Godunov, who’s the heroic handsome Nordic godly clockmaker monster hunter.

Anyway we’ve got a bunch of fun plot points as a mystic runestone is found in a coal mine in Pennsylvania and transported to NYC, where we all know, the excitement always seems to happen. Soon the runestone displays it’s magic powers and an archeologist becomes possessed by an evil ancient Norse spirit. Of course the dude transforms into a crazed sasquatch called Fenrir that goes on killing spree throughout New York and ends up frequenting art exhibits where over the top yuppies seem to think he’s someone’s hip new art installment. Of course he gets pissed off and wreaks “havoc” in the art community. The creature actually looks kinda cool (some decent animatronics/make up) all things considered and that’s clearly the main draw here with this one. He’s got a sweet no BS attitude and does his best to fuck shit up as much as he can. Way to rep the monsters in the 90’s dude!

That being said, there’s relatively little gore splattered about and the movie spends probably an extra 20 minutes or so too long trying to create “compelling” character development. Most of the while I just was wondering what the goddamn cranky ass creature was doing? Let’s get back to what he’s up to cuz he’s likely pissed off and freaking people out somewhere in the city! I’d have also loved a bit more of the “Die Hard” dude as well, but sadly he’s not given as much screen time as he deserves until the finale, but damn if the guy doesn’t look like a bad ass when he shows up. I dig the final act as well as the characters face off against the creature briefly entering a different dimension. This one’s often confused with Julian Sands movie ‘Warlock’ from 1989 and feeling surprisingly similar at times it’s understandable why.

 There’s plenty of fun to be had here if you’re not expecting a helluva lot from ‘The Runestone’ and you dig low budget late 80’s early 90’s creature cheez. This one’s a prime example of an old school horror movie that if edited down to about 85 minutes would be a total crowd pleaser/cult fave. There’s a ton of total gems out there from the 80’s & 90’s that tried to fill their run time to a more “respectable length” adding too much filler, this one for example at 105 minutes does indeed have areas that drag somewhat, some day perhaps I’ll try and edit a few of these down. Either way there’s definitely some fun to be had regardless and it’s most definitely worth a watch if you’re down for some early 90’s monster business!