Tagged: Sci Fi

1980s Cine-MAGIC From Japan: The STARDUST BROTHERS!

I’m willing to bet you’re just like me and never heard of this near “forgotten ’til now” 80s gem from Japan: The Legend of The Stardust Brothers! This incredible movie from 1985 is most definitely one of the most unique oddities I’ve stumbled upon in quite sometime. An incredibly ambitious musical gem, packed with practical effects and eighties fashion that will likely knock your neon socks right off!

It tells the tale of  two struggling rival musicians: one a rowdy punk rocker and the other an egotistical wanna be popstar who meet a mysterious man while sharing the same bill  at a seedy night club. He offers them the contract of a lifetime, claiming that within one week, if they follow all the rules, the two of them will be rocketed to full blown pop super stardom. That is as long as they join forces, from that point on become The Stardust Brothers and tell the world they are indeed real bonafide brothers.

Now admittedly I’m not a real big fan of musicals, there’s only a few that I really love (Popeye, The Wizard of Oz & Little Shop of Horrors immediately come to mind). However this one has now EASILY made the list as a must watch and it’s something I’ll be watching over and over again. Essentially it’s the wildly unpredictable story of the bizarre rise and fall of this pop duo. It’s firmly glued together with a series of incredible little musical vignettes that are a visual and sonic feast.

A sweet mixture of punk rock, powerpop & some cool new wave numbers, connecting a series of incredibly ambitious music videos within one insane narrative. There are touches of the supernatural as well as a ton of amazing special effects, stop motion & practical monster effects that really impress, especially if your a fan of the 80s. It’s also filled to the brim with some of the best Japanese fashion of the era to go along with the catchy songs. As I write this, their theme song is still stuck firmly in my brain. I’d love to get my hands on some vinyl of the soundtrack. Aside from the cool music, luckily it’s got a pretty unique story that blends elements of scifi, horror and even a bit of romance. It’s unexpected twists and turns deliver a frenetic, action packed finale that will  leave you pondering the events of the entire film. Its all done with a heroic dose of heart too.

Just how far do you really go to live the life of a superstar without any of the hard work required to get to the top? The Stardust Bros go the distance and the musical journey is definitely a wacky one worth taking. Apparently director Makoto Tezuka tried to catch lightning in a bottle a few years ago by producing a direct sequel, but after doing a little poking around it doesn’t seem like he was quite to able to recreate the neon electromagnetic magic of the first.

In the meantime I highly recommend picking this one up on a newly released blu ray from SRS Cinema. The Legend of the Stardust Brothers is packed with pure charisma, tons of vibrant youthful energy and shows you exactly how inventive some directors in the 1980s were in Japan with a limited budget!  Don’t sleep on this one!

 

VHS Verdict: ‘THE SPIRIT OF ’76’ Wacky 4th of July Sci-fi!

Hey it can be hard to find good things to watch after all of the festivities of the 4th of July right? Let’s face it after drinking a case of beer at the cookout you’re probably ready to watch something stupid and I’ve got a good one for ya! ‘The Spirit of 76’ is an almost entirely forgotten ridiculous scifi comedy from 1990. It features David Cassidy, pop icon, known for hisoh so sweet musical career in the Partridge Family, as he goes way back in time to the 1970s on mission to save planet Earth!

But wait, you also get to see not one but TWO slightly past their prime but still totally dreamy, former teen 70s heart throbs, cuz  this bad boy also features Leif Garrett too! One of my favorite parts of the movie though, it also stars Jeff and Steve McDonald of one of my favorite iconic punk rock power pop bands bands REDD KROSS!  The 2 brothers are channeling some serious “Bill and Ted” vibes and add some serious cred and charm this little wacked out adventure.

 So In the year 2176, determined time travelers including Cassidy and the stunningly beautiful Olivia d’Abo (OMG so crushed!) are sent back in time, in a tin can style space ship to the year 1776 in order to save our planet. However a computer glitch transports them instead to 1976 by mistake!! Things get idiotic real quick as of course they’re being chased by a sinister force trailing not far behind. 

However we get a pretty entertaining “fish out of water” storyline going here where Cassidy (who should be in his natural habitat in the real world) and Co have some serious adjusting to do when they encounter things like platform shoes, polyester suits, mood rings and untamed 1970’s babes galore!

Their guides, Jeff and Steve from Redd Kross help them through this glamorous era and avoid certain danger among the disco era. The whole thing is a riot and also features even more familiar faces, the likes of Tommy Chong, Devo, Moon Zappa, Rob Reiner and Downtown Julie Brown! 

There’s Kung Fu fighting, disco dancing, stupid looking spaceships and the  whole damn thing takes place on the 4th of July folks! Get down!!

There’s a lot of pretty sharp comedy in this and tons of red, white and blue check out this little long forgotten scifi comedy, cult classic down if you want something a bit off the beaten path this 4th!! Here’s Redd Kross with the theme song ‘1976’ for the movie! One of my favorite tracks from their 1990 album ‘Third Eye’!!

Even better here is the entire movie, only 81 minutes long for your 4th of July viewing right on YouTube for free!!

 

VHS Verdict: The Steamy Sexy Shenanigans of ‘The Invisible Maniac’!

Forget about ‘Hollow Man’ (I’m sure you probably already did) cuz ‘The Invisible Maniac’ was in town waaaay before him in 1990! Yes I had the pleasure of viewing this wild little, sexy horror comedy this week from director Adam Rifkin (The Dark Backward, Detroit Rock City, The Chase) and it really did not disappoint. That is of course if you’re in the mood for some wildly perverted antics from it’s completely deranged villain, so damn proficient at killing hes like the “Bullseye” of slashers. You’ve never seen someone killed with a submarine sandwich before huh? Well look no further because this dude indeed performs the deed!

We do get a bit of a retred on the “invisible man” storyline, but this goes some wild and wacky places and even though it’s equal parts sex comedy, it still manages to keep a certain degree of horror firmly intact. Definitely at times ‘The Invisible Maniac’ feels like a solid Jim Wynorski movie, not a total farce but something like ‘976-EVIL 2’ or ‘Chopping Mall’.

 Luckily this one does feature sweet B-movie scream queen Melissa Moore, as beautiful as ever of course and a cast of “teens” who are more than ready to misbehave. When an insane professor (who recently escaped from an asylum) & has been working on an Invisibility serum, arrives to teach her summer school class all hell breaks loose and plenty of sexy and spooky shenanigans follow.

 The Professor goes on his low profile rampage after the sexiest principal of all time makes some seriously unwanted(?) advances on this is this lil’ pervert. It left me scratching my head as to why he got so angry being such a full on “class A perv” himself? Come on maniac, that might be your only chance to get some!! 

Nobody is safe in the school as he creeps around classrooms, locker rooms and of course……the women’s showers! It’s up to the kids, who actually look more like adults in their thirties, to ban together to take this guy out before he slaughters the entire cast. One of the best things about this 1 is observing some of the most idiotic and ridiculous invisible “fist fights” as people try their best to fend off the wild transparent whack job. 

You really can’t do much better if you’re looking for a weird horror sex comedy to liven up the party. The Invisible Maniac definitely delivers some great scenes of terribly excellent acting, legit comedy, sexy babes, a few thrills as well as some ridiculous charming special effects. Hunt this down if you’re feelin’ frisky, it’s a ton of fun! 

LOVE AND MONSTERS: A Sweet Escape from Reality into the Monsterpocalypse?!

One of the sweetest, feel good movies in recent memory, ‘Love & Monsters’ came as a totally welcome surprise! And that’s all being said as someone who’s normally pretty tough on newer horror/fantasy/sci fi movies. Love & Monsters which came out last year may not have the most original plot but it more than makes up for any shortcomings with its impressive special effects and it’s truly heartwarming adventure. I guess I’d at first glance describe this as having somewhat of a “Zombieland” type of a thing going on and it might be easily dismissed as just some wimpy copycat. On the contrary, Love and Monsters buries ‘Zombieland’ (and especially the sequel), with what I think are just plain more likable characters who embark a much more compelling and colorful adventure in general.

Roughly seven years after the Earth was subjected to a mysterious monster invasion, the rather cowardly Joel Dawson has been living underground with a small pod of people trying to avoid what lurks above. He spends his time reconnecting over the radio with his high school girlfriend, Aimee, whom he was separated from when the tragedy hit and also cooking his signature soup for his crew. When the feelings of isolation and cabin fever finally get the best him he decides to muster up the courage to head to the world above. Seeking to finally reunite with his lost love who resides 80 miles away at a coastal colony, as he surmises that there’s nothing really left for him underground anymore. As he heads out alone he soon realizes he’s hardly prepared for the dangers all around him in the outside world. Mutant monsters are hungry and lurking around nearly every corner.

One of the high points here is the inclusion of charming canine character named “Boy”. Lifting a bit from ‘A Boy and his Dog’ (minus the weird sex plot) in a much sweeter way, we get the best of both world’s here for this little apocalyptic adventure. ‘Boy’ proves to be the show stealer here imo and his bond with Joel makes dealing with the dangers a bit less frightening, all things considered. The two make an excellent team against the creatures and it’s clear that they both need each other more than they likely ever realized for piece of mind in a crazy world. He also meets a few other interesting characters, a pair of wandering scavengers, Michael Rooker along with the ruff and tumble little girl named ‘Minnow’. Joel soon learns the tricks of the trade from them and has to make a big decision on the outcome of his journey. One of the best scenes involves a strange AI intelligence, who brings even more unexpected meaning to his travels.

The whole thing is a great exercise in escapism during these real life uncertain times we all face at the moment. It also shows just how important real human (and animal) connections will hopefully always be to us here on the planet as we move forward. As we’re feeling isolated to certain degrees currently, Love and Monsters showcases some parallels to the current state of affairs. I guess we can all at least be relieved that big mutant monsters aren’t waiting to chomp us to bit when we head outside at least?

Let me get to the monsters here as well, I was half expecting some sort of chintzy fx work here to spoil the damn party. Not the case, the creatures here though mostly CGI are a treat to behold and for the most part are pretty convincing threats to our heroes. As a HUGE fan of monster movies I think it hits that sweet spot quite nicely. There’s also some cool plot twists and of course some admittedly hokey ones that otherwise might not have worked without such strong characters at the forefront. If you’re looking for “Calgon to take you away” (80’s kids you know the reference) from the worries of the real world, I can’t think of a better new fantasy adventure flick to visit than ‘Love and Monsters’, easily one of my faves of 2020!

THE MAGIC CRYSTAL: Hong Kong’s Killer 1986 Cynthia Rothrock Kung Fu Sci-Fi Adventure!

So you’re in the mood for an ass kickin’, science fiction, martial arts packed 80’s adventure? Look no further, ‘The Magic Crystal’ from 1986 delivers the damn goods and THEN some!! It also delivers the iconic action star Cynthia Rothrock in one of her earliest roles doing what she does best, throwing the  beat down on the wise guys. This Hong Kong production filmed largely in Greece, has some truly stunning locations and makes good damn use of them, following a stylin’ cool guy mercenary (Andy Lau) who’s hot on the trail of an alien artifact, you guessed it, a magic crystal. This green crystal which actually looks more like a glowing green glob also houses an alien within it shimmering surface. 

Of course there’s an evil mastermind named Karov (Richard Norton), who’s also head of the KGB and also full on martial arts maestro who’s dead set on acquiring the magic crystal for his own villainous plans. This huge dude is so bad ass it almost always requires at least two kung fu masters to take him on and even then he usually ends up on top. He also wears some awesome evil black studded outfits while he does his sinister business and is just a plain awesome bad guy here.

Andy Lau soon meets up with a small cast of colorful allies, Cynthia Rothrock being one of them, who help him on his pursuit for the alien artifact. Luckily for the mysterious crystal it ends up in the hands of a little boy who quickly discovers what’s actually inside of it. From here the movie goes in another different direction as the kid forms a bond with the alien and we end up with a sorta E.T. type of thing going down. Yeah the crystal even grows a creepy glowing finger and shares some of it’s “ancient wisdom” and “power” with the kid leading them on a bit of an adventure of their own.

The whole movie is simply a delight to behold. With it’s fun sets, beautiful greek isle locations, endearing characters, pulpy villains and that oh so sweet era of the mid 1980’s for it’s ambitious story to take place in. The action is top notch as well and though the movie is jam packed with bone breaking stunts and martial arts it’s definitely not simply just a kung fu flick. In fact the final third of the movie plays out more like an Indiana Jones adventure as our band of heroes delve deep into trap filled caverns and tunnel slides for our characters to glide down to more even more danger.

It actually kinda feels like this flick might have been where Spielberg got his idea for ‘Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’! Hey you never right? There’s so much fun here to be had, the classic 80’s fx in play and a ridiculous paper mache alien that could have used a bit more work still come off as charming. Cynthia is also right on top of her game here as well and it’s fucking awesome to see her in some of these Hong Kong productions where she looks right at home in their frenetic bone breaking action sequences. The kind that US productions never could seem to replicate but never stopped trying. I checked the movie out on Blu Ray, though it sadly wasn’t an official release (it desperately needs one!), you can watch the English Dub on Youtube and get the scoop about the flick from Cynthia herself right here below,   

 

Movie Review: ‘BUTT BOY’ is a 100% WTF Genre Blend!

Ok so WTF did I just watch? Well ‘Butt Boy’ is a 2020 horror/thriller/mystery with a truly bizarre plot. It’s a genre melder that’s 110% absurd yet played straight & somehow for the most part actually kinda works. Now that’s not to say I really give this one my stamp of approval, but at the same time I’m not going to NOT recommend it either. I’d say the less you know about the plot the better, as going in completely blind for me at least felt like the best way to view this thing.

I guess if I had to describe it briefly I’d say it’s basic story might have been concocted during a heavy drinking session by a couple adults with a severe case of juvenile humor. Then the next morning they decided to pitch the idea to someone who’s a big fan of ‘Stranger Things’ looking to produce a serious gritty supernatural thriller. I don’t know why someone would spend serious time and money on a movie with a plot this damn ridiculous but hey it’s 2020 and yes anything at this point seems possible. I suppose the allure here is just that, a film with a premise so absurd that’s for the most part pretty well acted, atmospheric, mysterious and taken quite seriously most of the time. If you wanna check this out blindly, STOP reading here! I won’t spoil the whole thing but I will mention the plot synopsis and a few details I took away from my viewing.

Detective Fox, a ruff and tumble guy loves his work and also is a bonafide alcoholic. After finally deciding to check himself into AA, he meets mild mannered Chip, who becomes his sponsor. However there’s been someone out there on a child abduction spree and Detective Fox begins to suspect Chip could somehow be responsible. More so he begin’s to think Chip has something sinister helping him cover his tracks and his suspicions lead him down a dark hole of terror no one could ever imagine or believe possible.

So that’s it in a nutshell, the flick from the get go starts off pretty odd and will likely leave you doing some serious head scratching as things quickly unfold. And yeah soon you’ll probably begin to think of the stupid ways this film could all go and likely you’re dumbest scenario will probably be correct! That all being said ‘Butt Boy’ somehow manages to be pretty entertaining and even somewhat…engaging? Forget the absurd plot, the real interesting thing here is the execution of of the whole damn thing. Sure there’s humor, but there’s also a degree of tension that at times actually make this feel like a pretty decent thriller. The supernatural aspect of it all never gets any explanation and at times it make it feel a bit like some dumb dream you might have had as a teenager. ‘Butt Boy’ is worth a viewing if you’re up for something different and it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, does that make this one good? I honestly don’t know still what to make of it all, butt I guess I’m going to have to keep pondering it for maybe I’ve just somehow missed some powerful deeper meaning……

Movie Review: New ‘Bill & Ted’ a Most Supremely Mediocre Adventure, Dude!!!

Warning do NOT watch ‘Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure’ or ‘Bogus Journey’ before viewing ‘Bill & Ted Face the Music’!! I made the mistake of watching them both in a span of a less than a week and witnessing the comedic genius of these retro gems before viewing the latest installment. Both the previous films have just aged so damn well, I was laughing out loud as it’d been so long since I revisited them and they truly hold up. This along with the hype from critics boldly claiming it was just as good as the first two had me excellently PUMPED for the long awaited sequel! Well, I’m sad to say I was most supremely let down by ‘Bill & Ted Face the Music’.

So that’s not to say you shouldn’t check it out, if you’re a fan it’s your obligation dude to see what became of the legendary duo. What I’ll tell you is, the legendary duo isn’t very excellent these days. The two are down on their luck, apparently still trying to write the song that unites the human race. They have their two daughters, who are basically younger versions of them and their struggling with their marriages to the Princesses. Enter two more “excellent adventures” to steal the hit song from their future selves and their daughters to round up legendary musicians to be their back up band ala the first film. 

Sounds like a blast huh? Not so fast! It’s not exactly that simple to be truly excellent in 2020 dude! Alex Winter was pretty on point as Bill to be fair, and carries the whole movie almost entirely on his shoulders. The strangest, most perplexing thing about this damn movie is Keanu Reeves as Ted. It feels like he’s trying to do a bad, unpracticed impression of the iconic character, his delivery is flat, uninspiring and just plain not convincing. This is highly problematic for a Bill & Ted flick! I’m certain Keanu was excited to revisit the role and with the original writers on board along with the director of ‘Galaxy Quest’ this should have been an easy slam dunk! I guess Keanu just couldn’t channel the magic, in fact his daughter in the movie is more convincing as Ted than he is.

I also noticed how silent my viewing was in terms of laughs, I chuckled a few times and my friend barely made a damn sound, as we both laughed our way recently through the first two. There were also too many subplots and a flimsy script left for a pretty disjointed rushed adventure. William Sadler however returning as ‘Death’ was the film’s highlight IMO and probably the funniest part of the whole movie. I think Bill & Ted really needed to ham this thing way up, I was certain seeing the older versions of them being as ridiculous as the first two movies would be a real treat of comedic gold. Instead this one felt like some sort of depressing Bill & Ted “drama” that worked hard to undo the major plot points of the first two films. I guess lightning rarely strikes the same place three times. That all being said I’m happy they did it, or at least tried because they certainly didn’t need to but clearly wanted to give it one more spin. I’m still a bit bummed the day after seeing it that my old pals Bill & Ted aren’t quite the same guys I knew and loved, but at least the film tried it’s best to be optimistic in these strange, troubling & uncertain times….

WTF?! Arnold Schwarzenegger as ROBOCOP?!!

The world is a crazy place right now, so you might want to take a moment to disconnect from the madness just for a minute to see Arnold Schwarzenegger in the role of ROBOCOP!!! Ok that is all for today!! You may now go back to the regular scheduled programming!

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. 

Movie Review: DARK ENCOUNTER is Top Notch Alien Abduction Family Drama!!

You like classic alien abduction flicks as much as I do? Well the recently released ‘Dark Encounter’ brings to mind movies like ‘Communion’, ‘Fire in the Sky’, ‘Close Encounters’ but also brings some new dramatic plot points to the traditional alien abduction story. Basically we’ve got a small town scenario here where a family’s 8 year old daughter suddenly goes missing one sunny afternoon while home alone. A year passes, with no clues of her whereabouts and the family, along with some close friends gather at their home for a memorial, still trying to come to terms with what happened to her. As the night descends upon their gathering so does a seemingly sinister alien force. Mysterious lights in the sky are seen and soon members of the family begin to go missing in the woods that surrounds the house. It’s not long before the strange lights fill the home and the remaining must try to survive the night while piecing together the very mystery for which they gathered.

It all takes place in the 1980’s and much of it’s imagery is clearly influenced by those classics like ‘E.T’. & ‘Close Encounters’ but it still manages to set those similarities apart by going in unexpected directions. It starts off as the classic extraterrestrial abduction story but ends up with revelations far more disturbing to the family dynamic set up earlier. It looks great too, beautifully shot with plenty of tense scenes set out in the woods while strange colors shine through the trees. They capture a sense of a looming alien presence that’s purely unsettling and mysterious creating some great scenes of raw tension. There’s some great acting here as well, everyone’s quite convincing in their roles which lends tremendously to the mystery of it. As far as those little green men though, people waiting for alien mayhem might walk away a bit disappointed from Dark Encounter. While I ultimately appreciated the movie at it’s end for different reasons I was of course hoping things were going to climax with some human vs E.T. action. I still think someone needs to churn out a bonkers gray alien vs human abduction flick, I know it was attempted by ‘The Vicious Brothers’ with their 2014 film ‘Extraterrestrial’ and again with “Dark Skies” but somehow in my opinion just missed the mark.

That all being said I think Dark Encounter is most definitely worth watching for fans of the “Alien Abduction” film genre. It’s got an intriguing mystery at it’s core and goes in some surprising directions that also land it firmly into the family drama category as well. Hey if I’m going to watch a family drama this is the kind of move I want to do so with. It will leave you with a bittersweet feeling but it’s definitely an interesting encounter with visitors not of this Earth.