Tagged: practical effects

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.  

Movie Review: ‘The Head Hunter’, a Dark Fairy Tale of Monster Revenge!

Here’s a pretty interesting little tale of midieval monster revenge, 2019’s ‘The Head Hunter’, a short & sweet little film that clocks in just a hair over 70 minutes in length. We follow a lonely barbarian who’s daughter is snatched up and killed by a monster that roams the nearby wilderness. We see clearly from the inside of his crude living quarters that he revels in killing monsters by his collection of their heads and this time it appears that the conflict is deeply personal. What’s most intriguing is just how simple the plot here is, there’s really only one actor in the whole film if I remember correctly, aside from a brief appearance of his daughter (and maybe a monster or two).

It gives it’s majority of run time featuring the barbarian all by his lonesome and really for the most part ignores his beast hunting almost entirely, only to reveal the aftermath prize of monster heads he brings home every now and again. Though light on the action, it still remains quite an effective slow burn. It takes a brief moment to reveal a world that’s much more fantastic and magical than what we’re mostly shown in a great scene where the barbarian quietly observes a giant troll (who looks pulled straight out of ‘Trollhunter’) towering past a mountain range.

Luckily the film wisely chose a short run time, as it does indeed skimp a bit on showing us any real action at least for most of it’s duration. It instead focuses more on a depressed warrior in solitude, who’s haunted by his daughters death and then late at night, creatures who lurk near his secluded forest home. Whatever budget the movie did have was used wisely with great locations, costuming and effective but subtle monster fx. We really feel the depression, heartbreak and loneliness of the barbarian and all of that set up makes the film’s simple but stunning finale all the more worth the wait. Add to that, a great twist to the whole story that wraps this tale up in a nice nasty bow. When the final confrontation occurs it goes some truly dark places with a creature that at first glance appears as if it’s barely a match for rough and tumble “Conan” style brawler.

For such a short and simple movie it was a real treat, as I’ve never seen a sword and sorcery style flick take this approach to monster slaying. Pretty impressive coming from the guy who directed “Thankskilling & Thankskilling 3” as well as the short film “Critters: Bounty Hunter” from 2014, none of which I’ve seen. After seeing The Head Hunter though I just might give ’em a shot. Check this one out if you dig stuff like Conan the Barbarian, don’t expect a grand spectacle and you’re probably going to enjoy this sweet little tale of revenge quite a bit.

Movie Review: Richard Stanley Returns with ‘Color Out of Space’!!!

We all know that H.P. Lovecraft stories can be hard to translate to the big screen, but when I heard Richard Stanley was making his cinematic return with ‘Color Out of Space’ I was pretty damn excited to say the least. Stanley may not have the longest resume when it come to feature film but what he has done is pretty damn amazing. Both Hardware (1990) & DustDevil (1992) are lesser known horror gems & with ‘Color Out of Space’ it’s a complete and total return to form. Stanley also brings Nicolas Cage along for the ride, which after his fan fave performance in ‘Mandy’ has kinda given Cage his second coming as an even more beloved cinematic presence. Much like ‘Mandy’ there’s plenty of bizarre psychedelic imagery here to go around and a ton of visceral horror sequences that I guarantee will shock you.

Stanley seems to love a slow burn horror story and brings that approach once again, leaving us all with a twisted but beautiful spectacle to behold by the film’s final act. The story here is simple, one quiet evening an eerie glowing meteorite lands in the front yard of Nathan Gardner and his family’s Alpaca farm. They soon find themselves baffled by it’s effect on the plants & wildlife on property as well as their own suddenly strange behaviors. Soon it’s clear, a mutant extraterrestrial organism that infects their minds and bodies is roaming the woods at night & transforms their quiet rural life into the ultimate technicolor nightmare. Continue reading

Movie Reviews: Shatner Kills Demons with a Bazooka?! Killer Clowns from Wisconsin?!

I headed out to the local video store the other night (yeah in Portland we still got an amazing one called Movie Madness) to rent some movies, just like we used to do back in the good ol’ days. Let’s face it folks, sometimes it’s nice to take a break from the bland streaming services like Netflix and physically roam around a video store in hopes of stumbling across something entertaining. I decided this time I’d check out some new stuff I haven’t seen streaming out there.

First up was ‘Gags The Clown’ a movie I’d wanted to check out for quite some time now, being a Wisconsin native for much of my life & knowing this horror flick takes place in Green Bay (a place I’d personally hung out so many times in my teens & twenties) made this a no brainer rental. The cover art alone is pretty awesome and would look lovely gracing an old VHS.

Anyway I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not a giant fan of “found footage” horror movies and it’s been pretty played out these days in my opinion at least. But in this case I was lured in mainly because I’m just downright intrigued by movies made in ‘The Dairy state’. So the idea of ‘Gags’ was inspired by the whole creepy clown roaming the streets in real life viral video phenomenon a few years or so back. The interesting thing here is that creator of ‘Gags’ actually took advantage of this using his character to supposedly fool local Green Bay residents and the local news to report on it, eventually gathering up some worldwide interest in the creepy clown. A pretty brilliant marketing move to say the least. Continue reading

Will The Original Ghostbusters Actually do some Ghostbustin’ in Ghostbusters: Afterlife?!!

So some interesting plot info finally dropped about the upcoming “Ghostbusters 3” now officially known as ‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’. If you missed it here’s what was recently released:

“The Third installment centers on Callie (Carrie Coon) and her kids Phoebe (McKenna Grace) and Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) as the move to Oklahoma into a haunted house that reveals their family connection to one of the original Ghostbusters – though which of the four is Phoebe and Trevor’s grandfather remains unrevealed. The Ghostbusters’ 1984 stand against Gozer and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man has all but faded from the memory of modern day teens (as tends to happen), so Trevor and Phoebe will need to get some contextual help from an older guide: enter Paul Rudd’s summer school teacher character, Mr. Grooberson. Grooberson was a kid during the events of the Ghostbusters original adventure, and has been an obsessed fanboy ever since. It will be Grooberson who helps guide Phoebe and Trevor toward dusting off the Ghostbusters mantle – hopefully in time to save the town from whatever is in that haunted mine.

 

 

Ghostbusters: Afterlife a direct sequel to Ghostbusters 2, following up on the events of what is now called the “Manhattan Crossrip,” in which ghosts and other apparitions (including the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man) materialized in New York City. “

 

So this all sounds great right? There’s been some images released showing the younger cast of kids, who are assumed to become the new Ghostbusters. I’m hoping this one’s not going to try and give us a yet another “Stranger Things” type of scenario, as much as I was thrilled with the Netflix show I’ve been feeling like there’s been a bit of an overflow of movies and tv shows trying to do the same thing due to the it’s success. What worries me the most here is the lack of mention of the original cast, even in the photos released. Sure we all know they are going to be in the movie, but they also made appearances in Ghostbusters 2016. So for as a fan of the originals, I’m pretty damn interested in seeing just what the hell our favorite characters are up to these days. Am I alone here on that? I think the movie needs to give the original cast ample screen time and a decent part of the plot should be dedicated to them. I’m growing tired of these “sequels” sidelining the original characters, they’d better no pull a  “Luke Skywalker” on old crew.

So my one desire for this new movie is that we see the original Ghostbusters actually bust some damn ghosts just one last time! Please don’t give them all just the obligatory cameo. I wanna see the old crew actually have something important to do before they pass the torch for good. Otherwise I feel this sequel is going to end up pissing off fans once again in the way ‘Terminator: Dark Fate’ blew it’s second chance opportunity to be something fans would never forget as a direct sequeL to T2 . I’m hoping that in the trailer (which drops Monday) they indeed show the original cast too, if not I’ll be guessing they’ll likely have very small roles. What do you think? Wouldn’t you love to see the original cast actually be a real part of this film? What do you think their role will be? 

It’s directed by Jason Reitman, the son of Ivan Reitman who directed both Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters 2.  So I’m cautiously keeping my fingers crossed he’s going to give us the sequel we always wanted…

‘Terminator: Dark Fate’ Brings back Edward Furlong as John Connor!!

One of more popular posts this year here at Universal Dork was one where I ask the question of the upcoming Terminator: Dark Fate, where the HELL is Edward Furlong?! The movie hyped as a direct sequel to T2 had two of the key players locked down with the return of Linda Hamilton and of course Arnold. However Eddy was NO where in sight. Yesterday at San Diego Comic Con though James Cameron confirmed some HUGE news for Terminator fans-Edward Furlong will be returning as John Connor!! The original John Connor, is the one missing piece to the nostalgic puzzle and now Edward will possibly get a second chance to shine. As most know, Furlong has had a LOT of troubles with drug addiction and has spent a lot of time recently in treatment. News lately though shows him looking a lot more more trim and in a much better frame of mind. Go Eddie!! It appears he’s cleaned up his act and just might get his ‘Robert Downey Jr’ moment this year. 

To be honest the first ‘Terminator: Date Fate’ trailer didn’t impress me, even though it seemed to be trying to pull hard on nostalgic heartstrings. It was full of sloppy CGI and had some oddly placed music that surely didn’t help to make it stand out from recent ‘phoned in’ blockbuster sequels. With the news of Furlong’s return however it just upped the ante for old school Terminator fans and given me a reason to get interested again. Now we can only speculate just what his role will be and how big. My guess, maybe he appears in the end of the movie, perhaps like Luke Skywalker in The Force Awakens?

Hopefully he’s utilized in a real way, there’s been rumors that John Connor will be dead in this new installment to make room for strong female characters to shine. I hope that’s not the reason why he might not have a larger role. I love strong female characters, but first and foremost let’s not make the same mistake the Star Wars sequel trilogy has made so far. Pushing the classic characters into the back ground so early on has been a major bummer for fans. People want the original characters to shine again because they still resonate with us and if they’re going to pass the torch to a younger or female generation do it the right way. Let’s see the originals get good quality screen time and work the new characters in slowly. I’m not holding my breath though because more often than not Hollywood has shown time and time again that when it comes to modern sequels to beloved movies they simply just don’t understand what the fans really want to see.

Anyway I’ve totally got my fingers crossed for Edward Furlong to make a big return to cinema and really hope they utilize the real John Connor in a truly memorable way. The original trio united! The news of Edward’s return has now put ‘Terminator: Dark Fate’ fully back on my radar. My interest is peaking!! Here’s some new footage as well that was released at Comic Con! What do you think about it all?

Movie Review: Indie Creature Feature ‘Book of Monsters’!

Here’s a pretty neat little modern throwback horror movie I took a chance on recently that turned out be quite a bit of fun. ‘Book of Monsters‘ is a low budget British creature feature that clearly makes it’s best attempt to harken back to the gory glory days of 80’s horror flicks like ‘Evil Dead 2’ &Night of the Creeps’. It takes place on the main character, Sophie’s 18th birthday, when she reluctantly decides to throw a birthday party at her house. Her and her two friends are hardly the cool kids in school and aren’t even sure anyone will actually show up. To their surprise the birthday bash attracts a whole crew of unruly teens and even a few of the school bullies. Well it doesn’t take long before some weird supernatural shit goes down due to meddling with a necronomicon type of book. A full on bloodbath occurs when some creatures emerge from another dimension, invade her house and begin to slaughter the rowdy party guests. Sophie and her pals must band together to fend off the attack and protect their classmates from monster carnage.

It’s a simple story to follow and with a short run time of 84 minutes it’s a perfect party movie (literally) to watch on a Saturday nite with a gang of old school horror fans. One of it’s strongest parts is the protagonist Sophie, who’s a totally likable heroine who struggles with self esteem, teenage sexuality and the strange events of her past which tie into the supernatural events that occur. She’s also one of the only gay horror hero’s I can really recall seeing and they present this aspect of her character in a way that doesn’t feel fully forced into the narrative. Sure we got some bigoted bullies and typical teen jerks but those were always prevalent in the 80’s teen horror movies that likely inspired this one.

Now onto the horror aspect of things, though I liked the movie, I’ve got to admit I’m a bit tired of the ‘evil book/necronomicon’ angle of things, it feels pretty played out and I kind of wish they’d have used a different reasoning for the summoning of the monsters. Hardly a complaint really as once things get going here it’s pretty fun & action packed. The monster & gore effects are pretty ambitious for the most part. For the budget they had to work with they deliver a fair share of cool practical fx work avoiding for the most part cgi entirely (if my memory serves me correctly). The monster designs are pretty good too, one looks a bit like it was ripped out of M. Knight Shyamalan’s the village, one’s like a standard slasher dude and the other is kind of like a “Natasha Henstridge” Species/cenobite type-o creature. They all do a decent amount of gory, goopy damage too & it’s all executed in a fairly cartoonish way so it could easily be digested by the light weight horror fans. Oh yeah some evil garden gnomes are thrown in as well, that with a little more budget could have been far more crowd pleasing- but still an “A” for effort. There’s lots of chainsaws and general ass kicking done by the three female leads and even though most Hollywood blockbusters are trying to currently shoehorn girl power into movies ‘Book of Monsters’ does it in a tasteful way that doesn’t feel like it’s blatantly pushing some agenda for brownie points.

If ‘Book of Monsters‘ had been released in 1987 it’d have been a bonafide cult classic, it’s a nice switch from all the shoddy CGI & digital blood of modern horror movies. It leaves the door open for a sequel and I think if it gets one with more cash behind it, there’s a possibility the second installment could very well end up as a modern day cult classic. For the meantime though I think the best crowd for ‘Book of Monsters’ are those who miss the glory days of 1980’s schlock, goofy gore & teen horror flicks!