Vengeance of the Dead (2001)

Vengeance of the Dead (2001)
AKA Sleepwalker

Starring Michael Galvin, Mark Vollmers, Susan Karsnick, Andrea Washburn, Bob Wilson, Dan Kelly, Dick Furniss, Ashley Bodart, June Gracious, Wil Brochtrup

Directed by Don Adams & Harry James Picardi

Expectations: Low, but hopeful.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


The early 2000s were a low period for Full Moon productions, and in the case of Vengeance of the Dead, Full Moon simply acted as the film’s distributor. The directing duo of Don Adams & Harry James Picardi would later make Jigsaw for the company, but Vengeance of the Dead (or, as they originally and more aptly titled it, Sleepwalker) is purely the product of amateur passion and ingenuity. It is a film made for the love of it all and it shows, even through the film’s slow pace and relative lack of energy. The success of selling the distribution rights to your amateur horror film is a pretty big achievement, though, and the film is definitely worthy of its release (unlike many low-budget films I’ve seen 🙂 ).

Eric (Michael Galvin) is visiting his grandfather (Mark Vollmers), because that’s what good kids do. His grandpa is a nice guy, living is a modest house in a small town. Grandma died not too long ago, so the company is welcome (although it could be said that in most cases, grandkids visiting is always a welcome occurrence). Anyway, the guys catch up over a beer or two, and they open the final Christmas present that Grandma had squirreled away for Eric: a model rocket. It’s just an everyday, normal visit until they launch the rocket and it lands in the debris of a demolished home. While looking for the rocket, Eric takes an old spoon that catches his eye… but it seems that is not all Eric took home with him!

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New Police Story (2004)

New Police Story [新警察故事] (2004)

Starring Jackie Chan, Nicholas Tse, Charlie Yeung, Charlene Choi Cheuk-Yin, Daniel Wu, Dave Wong Kit, Andy On, Terence Yin Chi-Wai, Hayama Hiro, Coco Chiang Yi, Ken Lo, Yu Rong-Guang

Directed by Benny Chan

Expectations: Low.


Titling this film New Police Story evokes memories of Jackie’s successful series of films than ran through the ’80s and ’90s, but the “new” indicates that it’s a reboot or otherwise unrelated. It’s true, Jackie doesn’t play the loose Chan Ka-Kui character, and this film’s character is almost a polar opposite to Ka-Kui’s reckless, Supercop spirit. Jackie plays Senior Inspector Chan Kwok-Wing, a straight-laced man who gets the job done through discipline, strong leadership and efficiency. With a lead character like this, the film takes on a seriousness that none of the Police Story films carry, but anyone who has seen Crime Story will recognize the tone. So a more apt title might be New Crime Story, which is ironic since Crime Story was released in Japan under the title New Police Story. Confused yet? Anyway, what matters is that New Police Story is more Crime Story than Police Story, something that’s not readily apparent thanks to the title. I guess Hollywood isn’t the only film market to title based on name recognition.

A group of young thugs rob a bank in wild fashion, specifically asking for the police to be called when they finish gathering the money. Instead of swiftly making a getaway, they stick around to confront the policemen, seeing the situation as a game, complete with points for kills & property damage. After causing massive casualties, the robbers escape, and now Senior Inspector Chan Kwok-Wing, the force’s most successful investigator, is tasked with finding their hideout and bringing them to justice. He’s so confident in his abilities and those of his men that he brags about catching them within three hours, but when the assault on their hideout is launched, literally everything that could go wrong does. Chan is the staunch veteran going up against the youthful new breed of criminal; New Police Story could also be called No Hong Kong for Old Men. 🙂

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Around the World in 80 Days (2004)

Starring Jackie Chan, Steve Coogan, Cécile De France, Jim Broadbent, Karen Mok, Ewen Bremner, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sammo Hung, Violet Pan Ying-Zi, Daniel Wu, Kengo Watanabe, Maggie Q, Luke Wilson, Owen Wilson, Rob Schneider, John Cleese, Will Forte, Kathy Bates, Robert Fyfe, Ian McNeice, David Ryall, Roger Hammond, Adam Godley

Directed by Frank Coraci

Expectations: Low, but it has Jackie and an Arnold cameo, so…


I haven’t seen the 1956 version of Around the World in 80 Days since I was a kid, but my initial feeling was that it didn’t seem like something that lends itself to Jackie Chan. But this new version isn’t so much a remake as it is a complete fantasy/steampunk re-imagining with Jackie Chan’s style in mind from the genesis. A new sub-plot focuses on bringing Jackie’s talents to the forefront, and while it definitely isn’t the most inspired story line, it’s more than enough to entertain and justify the stunts and fights we all look for in a Jackie movie. Fans of the novel and the classic, Oscar-winning film will likely be disappointed by this re-telling, but I feel like fans of Jackie might really enjoy themselves if they click with the film’s comedic style (which probably skews a bit younger than Jackie’s other US films). I know I did, and to be honest I was expecting a total stinker!

Passepartout (Jackie Chan) robs a precious Jade Buddha from the Bank of England and is in need of shelter. He finds it with Phileas Fogg (Steve Coogan), an inventor with a rich, creative mind for science. Fogg lacks much life experience “outside the lab,” though, rarely venturing from his home. One of the few places he frequents is the Royal Academy of Science, where he’s regularly laughed at and thought of as an eccentric thinker who lacks the practicality to be useful to the field of science. In a bid to rid themselves of him, the head of the academy, Lord Kelvin (Jim Broadbent), bets Fogg that his calculation of being able to circumnavigate the world in 80 days is incorrect. The stakes are immense: if Fogg wins, he becomes head of the academy, but if he loses he must give up inventing for the rest of his life. Oh, and a bunch of henchmen are in pursuit of Jackie and his Jade Buddha the whole time, further complicating their travels.

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Dead & Rotting (2002)

Starring Stephen O’Mahoney, Tom Hoover, Debbie Rochon, Trent Haaga, Jeff Dylan Graham, Barbara Katz-Norrod, Christopher Suciu, Beth Biasella, Tammi Sutton, Jamie Star

Directed by David P. Barton

Expectations: Low.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


I always hope to like the movie I’m watching, but I must admit that I started Dead & Rotting with a real sinking feeling. The title seemed prophetic of the film’s quality, and its ugly cover art (see above) didn’t reassure me any. So when I began the film and it wasn’t an immediate train wreck, my spirits lifted a bit. A few minutes in, I actually thought to myself, “This is actually pretty good!” By the end of the film, I had been converted completely, and I can now declare Dead & Rotting to actually be one of the best Full Moon films of the early 2000s. Maybe now I’ll have learned my lesson not to judge a movie by its title/cover, but with Full Moon movies like Magic in the Mirror: Fowl Play still on deck for review, I’m unsure if it’ll stick.

Three prankster buddies are out for a night ride in their truck, daring each other to check out a scary house in the woods rumored to be the house of a witch. Before they can get too close, though, they meet a weird, dirty man who runs them off the property by attacking the truck with some kind of animal on a stick. One thing leads to another and the witch sets out to curse the men, asking them, “Do you know what it feels like to be dead and rotting?” It’s a fairly simple, straightforward movie and it’s also short, so I’ll leave it at that. You get the gist.

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Traces of a Dragon (2003)

Traces of a Dragon [龍的深處:失落的拼圖] (2003)
AKA Traces of a Dragon: Jackie Chan & His Lost Family

Starring Jackie Chan, Charles Chan Chi-Ping, Fang Shi-De, Fang Shi-Sheng, Chan Yu-Lan, Chan Gui-Lan

Directed by Mabel Cheung

Expectations: Moderate.


Traces of the Dragon is a documentary about the lives of Jackie Chan’s parents, the details of which were unknown to Jackie Chan himself until some time around the filming of this documentary. Crazy as that sounds, it’s true; his parents were focused more on surviving and keeping the family afloat than regaling their young son with tales from their lives before he was born. Jackie wasn’t around his parents for much of his youth, anyway. His distaste for regular school led to a 10-year, contracted enrollment in the Peking Opera school where he would meet Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, laying the groundwork for his life of entertainment and death-defying stunts. And from the way they talk about it in the film, it doesn’t seem like Jackie did much of anything but practice his skills during these school years.

Jackie Chan may have gone on to become a global star, but his parents’ lives are actually far more interesting and worthy of a documentary than his. It’s such a moving tale that the director of the documentary — well-respected Hong Kong filmmaker Mabel Cheung — would later dramatize it into the 2015 film A Tale of Three Cities. They not only lived through the Second Sino-Japanese War and the continued Chinese Civil War that followed it, his father was involved in the war as a Nationalist operative and both of his parents were hugely affected by these country-wide struggles. Their story is one of war, refugees, and making the hardest choices that life can throw your way.

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The Medallion (2003)

Starring Jackie Chan, Lee Evans, Claire Forlani, Julian Sands, Alex Bao, Johann Myers, John Rhys-Davies, Anthony Wong, Christy Chung, Scott Adkins, Tara Leniston, Lau Siu-Ming

Directed by Gordon Chan

Expectations: Moderate, but I’m excited cuz it’s Gordan Chan.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


The Medallion is an odd movie in just about every way. It’s definitely not a good movie, but I had a fun time watching it thanks to my love for the weird and wonderful world of B-Movies. This makes it something of a hard movie to rate, as I’d rather re-watch this movie than most of his US work leading up to it, but there’s no way that this movie is anywhere near as polished or well-made as those. These are the conundrums of my eclectic taste.

Jackie plays Eddie Yang, a Hong Kong police officer who finds himself pulled into the world of the supernatural when his target, Snakehead (Julian Sands), attempts to kidnap a boy from a local temple. The boy holds the power to reunite two halves of a sacred medallion that can give immortality and great power to those it is bestowed upon. It’s kind of a riff on The Golden Child, but beyond this basic premise of a kidnapped child of prophecy, The Medallion diverges significantly from anything resembling the classic Eddie Murphy film.

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Mini-Review: Hell Asylum (2002)

AKA Prison of the Dead 2

Starring Debra Mayer, Tanya Dempsey, Sunny Lombardo, Stacey Scowley, Olimpia Fernandez, Timothy Muskatell, Joe Estevez, Brinke Stevens, Matt Moffett, Trent Haaga

Directed by Danny Draven

Expectations: Low.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


My first exposure to director Danny Draven was with his most recent directorial work for Full Moon: Reel Evil. That movie stands firm as one of the worst Full Moon movies in my eyes, so to start up Hell Asylum and almost immediately feel similar vibes, I knew I was in trouble. While the plots aren’t exactly the same, from what I remember of Reel Evil you could almost call it a remake of Hell Asylum. Both films feature a group of people trapped in a “real” haunted asylum to film a show/movie, expecting scares/FX but getting killed by real ghosts. Reel Evil goes into a more direct, found-footage direction to capture the proceedings, but the seeds of that are in Hell Asylum as well, with headset cams that annoyingly cut in and out to static every few seconds.

My predisposition to dislike a movie like this is not the only concern with Hell Asylum, either. It’s barely over an hour long, but something like 20 minutes of that is just unnecessary setup and filler. First we see an overlong pitch meeting — scored with ominous music — where an executive (Joe Estevez, the film’s bright spot) is sold on the idea of five hot chicks in an old mansion/asylum getting scared for the chance to win a million dollars. Then we see the girls’ audition tapes, where they explain themselves and their darkest fears. Using their fears against them was the most intriguing part of the pitch, reminding me of the Stephen King novel It, but there’s nothing engaging that actually comes of it. Next is a lengthy explanation of the rules of the game. It all adds up to extreme boredom and disinterest. Lot of repetitive, meaningless talking heads do not make for a good horror film.

Other than the presence of Joe Estevez, the only redeeming quality of Hell Asylum is its approach to gore. Full Moon’s films are generally light in this department, and Hell Asylum looks like it wants to make up for lost time. There is a distinct choice in favor of ridiculously over-the-top gore, particularly featuring lots of ripped-out intestines. I appreciated this desire to spice things up where other Full Moon films have failed, but the thing I found most enjoyable was the very small diameter of the intestines they used. We all have a basic idea of what human intestines look like, but whatever is in Hell Asylum is much smaller and stringier. Whatever they were or were supposed to be, I don’t honestly know, but wondering about this was the closest thing to engagement that Hell Asylum provided.

I put a lot of time into my writing hobby, but I don’t consider amateur writing to be hard work. Sitting through Hell Asylum, though, was a tough day at the office.

Next time I get around to a Full Moon movie I’ll be checking in with Ted Nicolaou’s Moonbeam film Dragonworld! See ya then!

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