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.
So for a while there was a lot of talk about the anthology “A Star Wars Story” movies that were potentially in the works, that was until ‘SOLO’ bombed at the box office. An Obi Wan movie, a Boba Fett and even talk of a Lando solo adventure. However the one that interested me the most was the idea of a Yoda movie, where we follow the adventures of a younger Yoda. This for a while seemed like an actual possibility but besides Solo’s failure in theaters, Frank Oz had stated a Yoda movie would simply be too difficult to articulate the puppet for a feature length movie and would likely need to be fully CGI. I think it could be done, utilizing both old school puppetry blended with CGI. The more I’ve thought about it all the better the idea seems to me, that Yoda should indeed get his own movie though.
So in response to Frank Oz, I think doing incredible puppetry in 2018 with the Disney budget doesn’t seem all that impossible, especially with green screens, CGI being able to erase wires, strings & actors who’re controlling it’s actions. I think utilizing CGI as well to bring Yoda to life in full body shots / lightsaber duels is indeed a must but using puppetry for close ups is also a must. It would be the perfect mixture of both to make everyone’s green Jedi really come to life in an epic full length adventure. Doing it the way they did back in 70’s though? Yeah, I’m certain that’d be quite a headache, though in the 80’s they pulled it off beautifully in the ambitious Dark Crystal.
Which leads me to the next point, imagine a Yoda movie that was more of a modern mix of The Dark Crystal and Star Wars. A spin-off Star Wars Story that maximized the use of real Puppets, exotic locations/sets and a stronger blend of old school fx blended with todays modern tech. It’d definitely be something different for a Star Wars movie especially in this day and age of total overuse of CG in blockbusters. I imagine someone like Guillermo del Toro at the helm, or at least someone who truly loves practical fx work, epic fantasy and incredible monsters. Just the hype of the movie featuring heavy puppetry alone I think would bring something truly unique to the table for today’s young and old fans of the franchise. They could even add some animatronic modifications to the Yoda puppet, giving him more complex facial expressions & get help from The Jim Henson Company to bring it all to life. I bet you’d have a hit on your hands at the box office. Continue reading
If you love puppets as much as I do then this is most definitely for YOU! Have you ever imagined what horror movie would look like if everyone one in it was a puppet? Well imagine no more because someone is indeed wrapping up an ALL puppet horror flick called ‘Frank & Zed’! Holy Moly!!
Yeah this one looks like a total blast and it was recently fully funded off of a Kickstarter. It’s also comes straight outta my base of operations here in Portland, Oregon from mastermind Jesse Blanchard. Damn! It looks like a demented version of the muppet show, but with even better looking puppets. It’s gonna be a full on puppet slaughter by the looks of the footage out there. We’ll see if a puppet themed movie can really dish out the goods check this shit out! I’m stoked to see this thing is a go and is a full on feature film!
Frank & Zed is the 100% puppet horror monster movie that lives up to that premise. Done with the attention to detail and world building of the Dark Crystal and the mad mayhem and glee of Meet the Feebles (the only other two features done with this method).
It stars two classic monsters, Frank & Zed whose powerful master is long defeated. Since his death, they have survived the wrath of the mob by hiding in the ruins of an old castle. But they are soon discovered and their fates, along with those of the village below, will be decided in the prophesied ‘Orgy of Blood.’
Let’s face it, puppets totally rule. Period. They are making a big time comeback too. So now that we’ve got that out of the way take a minute to check out this awesome upcoming all puppet horror movie “The Mill at Calder’s End”! Pulling inspiration from HP Lovecraft & Edgar Allen Poe we get something truly unique to feast our eyes upon. This one was funded on Kickstarter and made twice it’s projected goal. Knowing that stuff like this is getting made without the help of major movie studios really make me happy and thankful that Kickstarter exists and has changed the game for film makers and fans alike.
Here’s a brief synopsis of film:
“The Mill at Calder’s End is a gothic ghost story in the spirit of Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft that will be told with 30 inch tall bunraku puppets and old fashioned in-camera special effects.Featuring the voices of Jason Flemyng (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,X-Men:First Class) and horror legend Barbara Steele (Black Sunday,The Pit and the Pendulum) , this film celebrates two of my great loves: the art of puppetry and gothic horror.”
“From my experience working as a special effects artist in Hollywood for over twenty years and now collaborating with some of the most talented creature effects artists,concept artists, and puppeteers in the industry, The Mill at Calder’s End will be unlike any puppet film you have ever seen before.”
Check out this epic gothic puppet trailer! Hopefully the full movie will drop soon!
A little behind the scenes too:
I had to take a moment here to share with you a little something awesome I stumbled upon recently! Being a giant fan of anything and everything monsters it was to my surprise to pleasantly find out about Nightmerriment!
Nightmerriment is a one man operation out of Portland Oregon run by Matthew Hopkins. Hopkins is a puppet/monster maker and his creations are incredibly creepy, cute and fierce all at the same time. I guess when I first got a glance of his work I pictured him working in the Jim Henson Workshop, putting together monster puppets for movies like The Dark Crystal or Labyrinth. Self described as monster art somewhere between sculpture and puppetry, his creations look like they could come to life at any moment despite being showcased like taxidermy on wooden mounts.
Most of his creations from what I understand are for sale, so in fact we all could own a little creature of our own! Hipsters aren’t the only thing found in Portland these days, now we’ve finally got something real cool to brag about-hand made Monsters!
Check it out and Nightmerriment’s facebook page and follow his creations!
I ran across this amazing Kickstarter campaign for “The Mill at Calder’s End” an amazing looking short film by special effects wizard Kevin Mcturk. He’s already worked on some great movies like Hellboy II and the awesome horror comedy Black Sheep to name a few. Now he’s completing a fully puppetized film in the vein of Lovecraft and Edgar Allen Poe.
This film brings to mind movies like The Dark Crystal, which when you watch it still, it’s mind blowing piece of movie making. The behind the scenes are incredible and I think creative hands on movies like that are nearly obsolete these days. No matter how amazing computer generated imagery is or will become I think we can all appreciate something as incredible as a fully puppetized film full of real sets. So check this little video out it’s pretty amazing. He’s shooting for a $50,000 goal and god damn do I hope he makes it…
Hey everyone it seems word on the net today is about the possible ALF reboot / remake full length feature film! Sounded good to me when I first heard about it, I mean you have to have no soul to not like ALF! I am certain there are some youngsters out there are like who the shit is ALF? But all of us 1980’s kids need no introduction, his name stands for Alien Life Form. He’s a furry smart ass alien who loves to dine on….Cats!
It was also one of best 80’s sitcoms around & Alf was brought to life entirely by puppetry. This version boasts a CG Alf. Uggh…hey Hollywood did you see the latest installment of The Muppets movie? Do you think that would have been any good if Kermit and Co were CG? It’s no wonder that this is the direction the movie is taking as Jordan Kerner the “genius” behind the latest Smurfs movie is Alf’s producer. This movie could be a completely nostalgic & delightful throwback for all of us. Somehow I have a feeling this new version of Alf will be a bunch of watered down Hollywood Schlock. Only Hollywood could ever be accused of something as atrocious as watering down Alf. But they are already en route to doing so. The good news is that original voice of Alf, Paul Fasco is on board at least! Maybe I am being too hard on Hollywood? But hey Alf was never broken, he doesn’t need to be fixed….in the meantime puppet ALF is saying F’ off to CG Alf via this ALF Metal, this isn’t the first time I posted this here because it’s goddamn amazing!!!