Magic in the Mirror (1996)

Starring Jamie Renée Smith, Kevin Wixted, Saxon Trainor, David Brooks, Godfrey James, Eileen T’Kaye, Eugen Cristian Motriuc, Ion Haiduc, Ileana Sandulescu, Daniela Marzavan, Mihai Niculescu

Directed by Ted Nicolaou

Expectations: Low.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


B-Movies are always subjectively entertaining, so when I say that I found Magic in the Mirror to be one of the best Moonbeam films, I do so knowing full well that there will be others who absolutely can’t stand it. This usually should go without saying for any review, but with this movie I feel it bears repeating. One real key to my enjoyment of this movie (and not immediate & complete rejection) is that I love Howard the Duck. Yes, the movie. So the mere idea that Full Moon made a movie with a race of giant ducks was enough to put a smile on my face. The ducks of Magic in the Mirror are definitely not as well-realized as Howard in his film, but I found their limitations to be part of the charm (especially the flying). Anyway, I just wanted to get this out of the way right at the beginning, because I think this is great little fantasy adventure for kids, but I think the ducks will turn a lot of people off.

Mary Margaret Dennis (Jamie Renée Smith) is the daughter of two considerable, scientific talents. Her father works in the field of botany, following in the footsteps of his grandmother. He’s a little lacking in common sense, but his heart is in the right place. Mary Margaret’s mother (Saxon Trainor) is a physicist who is on the brink of finalizing a laser gun that shoots a hole into an alternate dimension. I’m sure there’s a more scientific way to describe it, but I’m not a physicist so that’s all I got. 🙂 Anyway, these are very engrossing jobs for parents to have, and as a result they aren’t as attentive as they should be with Mary Margaret. So when her great-grandmother’s mirror is bestowed on Mary Margaret, of course her ambitious idle hands will find a way to use it as a portal into another world.

Continue reading Magic in the Mirror (1996) →

Out of the Dark (1995)

Out of the Dark [回魂夜] (1995)

Starring Stephen Chow, Karen Mok, Wong Yat-Fei, Lee Lik-Chi, Lo Hung, Ben Wong Chi-Yin, Lee Kin-Yan, Heung Dip, Chow Chi-Fai, Tam Suk-Mui, Hau Woon-Ling, Leung Kar-Yan

Directed by Jeff Lau Chun-Wai


Out of the Dark is a great horror comedy to watch during the Halloween season, but describing it is going to be a little difficult. The film moves at absolute breakneck speed, and if you’re not ready the jokes, characters and plot alike will all fly past you before you even have time to notice they were there. I watched the first 15 minutes three times and I noticed new things and developed a better understanding every time. At this point, I’ve seen hundreds of Hong Kong films but this one really threw me! It is with movies like this where the language barrier hinders enjoyment the most, but if you’re able to lock into the groove of Out of the Dark, it’s a truly hilarious and transcendent film experience.

Out of the Dark centers around a Hong Kong apartment building and its inhabitants. An elderly resident has recently died, but her spirit is not ready to leave the building just yet. She haunts the apartment she shared with her son and his family, and she’s looking for revenge on those that caused her death. Enter Stephen Chow’s character Leon (one of the film’s references to Luc Besson’s The Professional), an odd guy who dresses in all black and talks to a lily plant he carries around in a pot. Together with the building’s ragtag security team and a few residents, Leon looks to help the spirit achieve her goal of justice.

Continue reading Out of the Dark (1995) →

Mini-Review: The Werewolf Reborn! (1998)

Starring Robin Atkin Downes, Ashley Tesoro, Len Lesser, Bogdan Cambera, Lucia Maier

Directed by Jeff Burr

Expectations: Low.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


The Werewolf Reborn! is the second of two Moonbeam films under the Filmonsters! banner, and while Frankenstein Reborn! was bad but kinda fun, this one is just atrocious. Very little of note happens in the movie, but at least it has the decency to be quick about it. The Werewolf Reborn! runs 43 1/2 minutes without credits and my sanity is eternally grateful. To imagine this movie twice as long, at “normal” movie length, is to imagine a horrific cinematic nightmare. Not exactly the usual way to strike fear in the hearts of the audience! 😛 There are definitely worse movies out there, although at the moment The Werewolf Reborn is the torchbearer in my brain, and it’ll probably remain the benchmark for some months to come.

As with Frankenstein Reborn, this film attempts to re-invent a horror classic for a younger audience. I don’t know what was wrong with kids just watching the original Universal films, but I guess some kids (and parents) might not want watch stuff in black and white. So enter Full Moon to create low-budget ’90s versions! In 2017, I’d be curious to see which one kids would rather watch; my money’s on the Universal versions, but it’s probably a toss-up depending on the person. Anyway… what this translates to is the coupling of the basic Wolf Man story with the well-used Moonbeam story of a kid sent off to live with a relative in another country. Frankenstein Reborn got a little more than this — it also had 60 whole minutes to work with! — but in The Werewolf Reborn that’s about it. The way the film handles the gypsies is a little different than the 1940s Wolf Man, but it’s nothing significant enough to set it apart. If the rest of the proposed Filmonster films were just going to be these relatively lazy productions of classic stories with teens shoehorned in, I guess I’m glad they stopped when they did.

I don’t really have anything else to say about The Werewolf Reborn. It’s one of the worst Moonbeam films I’ve seen, about as interesting as a bucket full of dust thrown in your face. It has a few moments of fun with the werewolf, but literally everything else had me clamoring for the film to end… and when it’s only 43 1/2 minutes long that really isn’t a good sign! Full Moon also combined the films in 2005 into Frankenstein & the Werewolf Reborn!, and I can only imagine the amount of fortitude and caffeine it would take to make it through both of them back to back.

Next time I get around to a Full Moon movie I’ll be watching The Vault! I hope whatever is locked up in that vault is better than the Werewolf’s rebirth! 😛 See ya then!

Spellbreaker: Secret of the Leprechauns (1996)

AKA Leapin’ Leprechauns! 2

Starring Gregory Smith, Madeleine Potter, Godfrey James, John Bluthal, Tina Martin, James Ellis, Sylvester McCoy, Ion Haiduc, Mike Higgins

Directed by Ted Nicolaou

Expectations: Moderate. I liked the first one.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


Spellbreaker: Secret of the Leprechauns is a great, intriguing title, but to be honest it’s not the most fitting one for the film that bears it. There is some spell breaking to be had, but I can’t remember any great secret of the leprechauns that comes to light. Anyway, this shouldn’t get in the way of the fun, and who knows, maybe in the course of writing this review, I’ll somehow unlock the film and discover the secret of the leprechauns. 🙂

This film picks up a short time after the original. Michael Dennehy (John Bluthal) has returned to his home on Fairy Hill, where he lives in harmony with the leprechauns and the fairy folk. His grandson, Mikey Dennehy (Gregory Smith), is staying with Gramps (no sign of the other family members) and enjoying his time there. One day while fishing, a woman rides up on a horse and sparks a conversation. She introduces herself as Morgan (Madeleine Potter), explaining that she’s staying at a nearby castle. Michael thought the place was uninhabitable and haunted, but apparently it’s been recently cleaned up! Morgan does need a spot of help, though, so Michael volunteers Mikey to help the nice woman.

Continue reading Spellbreaker: Secret of the Leprechauns (1996) →

Leapin’ Leprechauns! (1995)

Starring John Bluthal, Grant Cramer, Godfrey James, Tina Martin, James Ellis, Sylvester McCoy, Sharon Lee Jones, Gregory Smith, Erica Hess, Mihai Niculescu, Dorina Lazar, Ion Haiduc

Directed by Ted Nicolaou

Expectations: Moderate.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


The Moonbeam films share so many similarities that I am no longer surprised to see re-used elements; I actually look forward to them now. Leapin’ Leprechauns comes from the mold of Dragonworld, though it uses its building blocks uniquely to make for a much different film experience. Shot on the rolling green hills of Ireland Romania, Leapin’ Leprechauns introduces us to a world of wonder and fantasy, the people who believe in it, and a few who do not.

Michael Dennehy (John Bluthal) has lived peacefully on Fairy Hill his entire life, and now in his elderly years gives brief tours of the grounds to visitors on bus excursions. He lives in harmony with the living world around him, including the wee leprechauns and the fairy folk. One day, Michael comes upon a pair of surveyors examining the land, and much to his surprise they’re working under the orders of his son living in America, John Dennehy (Grant Cramer). John wants to turn the land into an amusement park called Ireland Land, so he invites Michael to see the grandkids in the US (getting him out of the way for the surveyors to survey in peace). It’s kind of an inverse of Dragonworld, where an American boy is orphaned and comes to live in Scotland with his grandfather. In the back story of Leapin’ Leprechauns, John must have moved to the US at a young age with his mother or something, because he has zero trace of an accent or respect for his Scottish heritage. This makes me wonder about the wild, roving days of Michael, but all of this is far outside of the confines of Leapin’ Leprechauns.

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Stephen reviews: Samurai X: Trust and Betrayal (1999)

Samurai X: Trust and Betrayal [るろうに剣心 追憶編] (1999)
AKA Rurouni Kenshin: Reminiscence, Rurouni Kenshin: Tsuioku-hen

Starring Mayo Suzukaze, Junko Iwao, Nozomu Sasaki, Masami Suzuki, Shuichi Ikeda, Hirotaka Suzuoki

Directed by Kazuhiro Furuhashi


The Rurouni Kenshin series has never been one of my favorites. In fact, I rather disliked the TV series when I gave it a try many years ago. But I’ve heard great things about the film version, which was renamed to Samurai X because that made it sound cooler. The TV series was a misguided slapstick comedy that really didn’t hit very well with its humor. I only watched a few episodes before writing it off as bland and unappealing. This film on the other hand (which is actually a re-edit of a direct-to-video mini-series) is an intense historical drama about a man gone numb from killing, and his growth towards becoming the character portrayed in the TV series.

As an origin story, you don’t need to have any knowledge of the series. It makes just as much sense either way. It starts with a boy nearly getting killed by bandits who massacre the slave caravan he had been trapped in. But a kindly wandering samurai wipes out the brigands and takes the boy under his wing, naming him Kenshin. Kenshin grows up to be a master swordsman with a burning desire to fight for justice. In so doing, he abandons his master’s seclusion and joins a rebellion against the shogun.

Continue reading Stephen reviews: Samurai X: Trust and Betrayal (1999) →

Pet Shop (1995)

Starring Terry Kiser, Leigh Ann Orsi, Spencer Vrooman, Joanne Baron, David Wagner, Jane Morris, Jeff Michalski, Shashawnee Hall, Sabrina Wiener, Cody Burger, Leondardo Vincent Surdo, Nino Surdo, John LaMotta

Directed by Hope Perello

Expectations: Moderate.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


Pet Shop is the story of an alien invasion in the small Arizona town of Cactus Flats, but it’s probably unlike any alien invasion movie you’ve seen. One night while locking up, the aged proprietor of the town’s pet shop is visited by a kid on a bike. He asks for the turtle he ordered, but the old man has forgotten the kid’s request. He just doesn’t have his heart in the business anymore. Just a minute later, almost like an answered prayer, the man meets a pair of aliens who offer him a suitcase full of money to take the whole kit and caboodle off his hands. Of course, he agrees, and now this sleepy town of just under 2000 residents is in for the craziest pet shop this side of Mars.

What’s a crazy pet shop without crazy pets? Pet Shop delivers a batch of weird, lovable critters, all realized through animatronics and puppets. Each one is based on a common Earth animal, and they all have a lot of personality. For instance, the little bunny creature — who looks just like a Furby, three years before that toy’s debut! — does the cutest little yawn at one point, and even a lil’ bunny burp. Oh, so cute! My other favorite was the lizard critter who gets a lot of screen-time and probably features the best animatronic work of the bunch. I don’t think their appeal really translates to my poor attempts at describing them, so you’ll just have to take me at my work that the little guys are charming and fun to watch. The low budget shows through at times, but it’s never enough to override the animals’ charm.

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