I just checked out VFW, the latest from director Joe Begos (Almost Human, The Mind’s Eye) who returns with, in my opinion his best film yet! This sweet little gritty love letter to John Carpenter, which calls back to his classic ‘Assault on Precinct 13’ in big way, is also a blood soaked love letter to some older actors/action stars of yesteryear. We’ve got icons Fred Williamson, William Sadler, Stephen Lang, Martin Kove & even George Wendt from ‘Cheers’ to make this bar room brawl even more authentic!
The story kicks off on a special birthday night for VFW bar owner “Fred” and his tight knit gang of bad ass war veterans. The evening quickly turns into wild all-out battle for their lives when a teen punk rock girl crashes their party with a sack full of ‘hype’. This new drug basically turns people into demented maniacs, with a hunger for more hype at any cost. The evil punk drug dealer, desperate to get his valuable stash back, sends his gang of gnarly addicts on a rampage to get it back. When these mutant punks on a rampage storm the bar looking for the teen, the old vets along with a younger soldier get to relive the gory glory years of war one more time. They unleash their pent of rage and fury using every weapon they can get their hands on to protect the girl and try annihilate the horde of drug addled maniacs. However these messed up punks have hype running through their veins and want more, risking anything to their grimy paws on it.
If you’re a fan of old school action flicks from the 70’s & 80’s you’re going to really get a kick out of VFW. The gore is pretty over the top, done in a such a cartoony way that people literally explode on screen. As a fan of practical fx Begos always delivers the goods with some wild splatter, he also keeps the vibe placed firmly in the golden days of the action era, with not a cell phone in sight. It also feels like an 80’s flick, with stunning neon lit sets within the walls of the cool old dank dive bar.
The real highlight of this is the cast of old codgers who do the majority of the ass kickin’. It’s absolutely delightful to see the likes of Fred Williamson & The Karate Kid’s Martin “Sensei” Kove in full on action mode as well as Stephen Lang, William Sadler and the younger soldier played by Tom Williamson. They’re all great here and give this film the cred it deserves proving age is just a number when it comes to cinematic butt kicking. I really enjoyed VFW, it’s the perfect modern midnite movie and gets so much praise for bringing in some old icons into the mix of onscreen mayhem. Check this out if you’re a fan of 70’s/80’s cult action horror flicks- And here’s to hoping VFW gets a sequel bringing even more of the bar’s patrons into the fold, hand picking some more old nearly forgotten bad asses to do some damage one last time!
‘Mystics in Bali’ from 1981 is truly one one wild and crazy Indonesian horror flick and just what I was craving during lockdown! My first viewing of this gem would have admittedly been better had I not known a damn thing about the plot, so if you’re reading this and are interested, I’d suggest checking it out blindly to get maximum enjoyment! So you’ve been warned…
Anyway I’m kinda new to the whole Indonesian cult cinema scene, but I can say so far everything I’ve checked out has been pretty top notch. Mystics in Bali is 100% weird and wild. It follows an American named Cathy who travels to Bali to do extensive research for her book on the mystic ways of the mysterious black magic cult of the Leyak. She meets the handsome Mahendra a local man with knowledge of the dark local magic who also happens to have connections to a woodland witch. He takes her out to the forest to her lair and the bizarre woman vows to expose the secrets of the dark arts and their rituals to Cathy. Excited to get this exclusive info for her book she continues to meet the witch, who in turn tricks her into becoming her evil minion, transforming her into a Penanggalan, a horrific flying head with internal organs hanging from her neck!! GAAAHHHH!
Things go from bad to worse, as Mahendra has fallen in love with Cathy by this point and has no other choice than to ask his uncle Machessea practitioner of magic himself, to help him stop the witch and save Cathy from the curse of the sinister Leyak. This leads to a pretty epic battle towards the end making the whole thing a such a bizarre slice of foreign 80’s horror, it’s most definitely essential viewing for genre fans! There’s a pretty intriguing story here to fuel the horror as well along with the sets and general locale of the film make this a special treat by just that alone. There’s also some low budget but fully ambitious special effects at play here that really amp up the general madness of this movie. Also prevalent are a few relatively shocking moments here that are unlike anything I’ve personally ever seen before in a horror flick.
Some “must see” sequences that will stick with fans of the genre and leave you scratching your head in disbelief! The creature Cathy becomes is clearly the main attraction here and surely is one of the freakiest movie monsters I’ve seen in some time. The final showdown is a pretty great time as well, sure it’s a clunky battle, but it’s a ton of fun to behold. It’s no wonder that this movie was done by the same director, H. Tjut Djalil who also brought us the mega bonkers ‘Lady terminator’ which is def worth tracking down! I’ve also heard that his movie ‘Dangerous Seductress’ is quite a wild gem as well. So..Mystics in Bali is a true oddball, one of a kind horror flick and leads me further down the path of an era of movies other countries were producing during the 80’s that rival some of the best the USA had to offer-Check it out!
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’ve seen some heated arguments out there lately about the upcoming SHE-HULK “Disney+” series, something I’d never have expected to be an issue a few years ago even. However it’s now 2020 and everything seems to quickly escalate into some sort of major online argument or politicized debate, yes even She-Hulk has become a goddamn hot-topic! The big issue at hand is what version if the character we’ll see in MCU?! For most of her existence in the Marvel comics, She-Hulk was known for being well, let’s not beat around the bush…NOT particularly ugly. She was, for me as a kid growing up in the 1980’s one of my very first crushes. The Hulk was and still is my favorite superhero and when I saw She-Hulk for the first time I was admittedly an instant fan! Yeah slightly embarrassing…I guess? Or what the hell, maybe not!
She-Hulk in the 1980’s was also one of the most fun loving characters in all of the Marvel Universe, seeming fully confident in her green skin. Jennifer Walters really embraced her inner “Hulk”, unlike her cousin Bruce. She dealt with plenty of sexism in the pages of the classic comics, but many today are accusing the many of the male writers/artists of the past for blatantly exploiting and sexualizing her character. She-Hulk in the 1980’s was indeed a bit of sex symbol in the comics as were plenty of the ultra sculpted male characters but let’s be fair here, She-Hulk was indeed through the years given some of the most ridiculously cringeworthy scantily clad moments by artists. That being said, the classic third wall breaking John Byrne run of She-Hulk in 1989, was a truly unique approach even though it obvious he was truly delighted drawing her every curve.
I need to re-read those to see how it holds up today and see just how offensive it might be in 2020? Up until recently, I’d thought 80’s She-Hulk would be a great basis for a new series but times have changed right? Now She-Hulk, in the current comics is basically a female version of The Incredible Hulk, she’s essentially rejected her more feminine, “sexy” side & has serious regrets about her past looks and behavior. So an MCU Disney Plus She-Hulk series faces the issue, should She-Hulk be a more serious crime drama in the age of #metoo or a comedic, third wall breaking courtroom comedy?
Should the show be a more politicized statement on current affairs in the age of a sexist chump like Donald Trump? A wild female Jekyl & Hyde monster thriller? Or a sort of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” self aware NYC comedy? My idea is how about we combine ALL the approaches into one. The best of all worlds? Start the show off as Jennifer Walters navigates through the current landscape of things, as ridiculous as things are in the Trump era combined with how over the top PC things have sometimes become at the same time? Perhaps Jennifer’s Hulk out starts off as more of a comedic creature feature, and she quickly figures out how to tame her inner Hulk thanks to Ruffalo’s Banner Hulk.
Whatever they decide the real issue remains, should She-Hulk reject her “sexy” side and go full monster? How should she appear? In 2020 it might be frowned upon for her to keep that 1980s, 90s & 2000s look and instead embrace the more ultra muscular modern “Hulk” look. I think I’d be happy with either, but my final thought is a blend of the two is what would work best. They way I’ve seen her depicted at times has bothered me a bit, like when she essentially looks like a ridiculous green skinned porn star with no muscle tone. Here’s the best look in my opinion of what the MCU She-Hulk should probably look like, the more powerful amazonian look:
What do you think?!
Hello everyone out there, I hope you’re all doing your best during these unprecedented times, staying inside and staying SAFE! Being essentially trapped indoors leaves plenty of time to watch movies, well the other evening I’d found myself thinking about the colossal failure of the Disney Star Wars “Sequel Trilogy”. If only they’d have given us fans what they’d always dreamed of, a cohesive compelling story that gave us a truly unforgettable send off to the characters we’d been waiting 30 plus years to see again AND brand new fleshed out characters who we could continue to follow on cosmic adventures for years to come. In many hardcore fan’s opinions we got neither and I was thinking of how awesome it would have been to watch this “sequel trilogy” over and over if it’d had been done with care and not flat out wasted classic characters like Leia & Luke Skywalker.
Mark Hamill in particular really got the short end of the stick and many fans of arguably the most iconic pop culture character, Luke Skywalker left ‘Episode 8’ feeling incredibly underwhelmed. Well many fans might appreciate an alternative to ‘The Last Jedi’ in the form of a largely forgotten sequel to ‘The Watchers’ (the totally 80’s super fun Corey Haim Creature Feature), ‘Watchers Reborn’. The star of the whole show? You guessed it Mark Hamill! Technically the 4th film in The Watchers franchise, it’s the only sequel that’s really worth tracking down and technically more of a sequel to the first movie anyway. Keep in mind this one’s a fully b-level monster flick, it’s cheezy, it’s low budget but it’s got a lot more heart than The Last Jedi! You’ll get a great does of 90’s Hamill front and center in a pretty damn fun little horror thriller. Another plus is that it’s directed by John Carl Buechler (RIP), practical fx wizard behind New World Pictures, who’s done some stellar work right up until his death in 2019 (Hatchet, Nightmare on Elm St 4, Troll, Friday the 13th part 7) .
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.
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.