The Spy Next Door (2010)

AKA Spy Daddy, Kung Fu Nanny, Double Mission

Starring Jackie Chan, Amber Valletta, Madeline Carroll, Will Shadley, Alina Foley, Magnús Scheving, Billy Ray Cyrus, George Lopez, Katherine Boecher, Mia Stallard, Maverick McWilliams, Quinn Mason, Lucas Till

Directed by Brian Levant

Expectations: I don’t expect much at all.


I don’t know what I expected this movie to be, other than the reasonable assumption that it’d be another in a long line of Jackie Chan spy movies. When the movie began with a montage of old Jackie Chan spy movies, I was surprised and taken aback. Why would a movie open with a montage of movies that it has no chance of matching? But as the story of The Spy Next Door developed, this opening actually makes a lot of sense. By opening with the old, amazing clips, we see how Jackie has defended the world against insurmountable odds throughout his career; he is an indestructible machine capable of taking on literally anything the villains can throw his way. But one thing Jackie has never had to contend with on-screen is the more mundane, everyday task of managing a family and earning the respect and trust of potential step-children. So while this is “another Jackie Chan spy movie,” it is unique among the bunch.

Jackie plays Bob Ho, international spy on loan to the CIA and living life undercover in New Mexico as an importer of pens. His neighbor and main squeeze is Gillian (Amber Valletta), a single mother of three: seven-year-old Nora (Alina Foley), 10-year-old Ian (Will Shadley), and teenager Farren (Madeline Carroll). Bob and Gillian’s relationship is getting serious, and Bob wants to finally divulge his true profession, retire and begin a new life with Gillian. But because it’s a movie, he’s interrupted by an urgent job which complicates matters, and before you know it, Bob is tasked with caring for the three kids on his own while a group of Russians hunts him down.

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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.

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Puppet Master: Axis Termination (2017)

Starring George Appleby, Tonya Kay, Paul Logan, Kevin Scott Allen, Tania Fox, Alynxia America, Lilou Vos, Daniele Romer, Kyle Devero, Allen Perada, Jean Louise O’Sullivan, Kip Canyon, Rob Vardaro

Puppet Cast: Blade, Jester, Pinhead, Tunneler, Leech Women, Six Shooter, Blitzkrieg, Bombshell, Weremacht

Directed by Charles Band

Expectations: Low.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


If I remember right, sometime around the release of the last Puppet Master movie, 2012’s Axis Rising, Charles Band announced that Full Moon would give the people what they want and deliver a new Puppet Master film every year. They do it with the Evil Bong films, but with Puppet Master I thought it was an especially ambitious claim. It is one they did not make good on, but given the attention paid to the production of Puppet Master: Axis Termination it definitely ended up better for everyone. Five years is a long time, but a good movie is worth more than five half-ass ones with a meager handful of tepid thrills. So yeah, the new Puppet Master is a fantastic addition to the series.

The story is not the film’s strong point, but I doubt anyone would’ve expected it to be. It’s basically just Toulon’s puppets vs. the Nazi puppets like the previous Axis films, but now with better characters! Not in terms of their depth or anything high-brow like that, more like the vanilla-white couple of Danny (Kip Canyon) and Beth (Jean Louise O’Sullivan) are immediately killed off and replaced with a musclebound soldier (Paul Logan), the dwarf magician Dr. Ivan Ivanov from Decadent Evil (now played by George Appleby) and a voodoo priestess (Alynxia America). The Nazis boast a powerful magician of their own in Sturmbahnfurher Steiner Krabke (Kevin Scott Allen), as well as his boss, the strong-willed puppet master Doktor Gerde Ernst (Tonya Kay). Maybe I’m just rusty with my Puppet Master knowledge, but I don’t ever remember this kind of purely magical stuff in the series, but regardless I loved the flavor it added to the film.

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Stephen reviews: Attack Girls’ Swim Team Vs. the Undead (2007)

Attack Girls’ Swim Team Vs. the Undead [女子競泳反乱軍 Joshikyôei hanrangun] (2007)
AKA Undead Pool, Inglorious Zombie Hunters, The Girls Rebel Force of Competitive Swimmers

Starring Sasa Handa, Yuria Hidaka, Ayumu Tokito, Hiromitsu Kiba, Kiyo Yoshizawa, Hidetomo Nishidia, Sakae Yamazaki

Directed by Koji Kawano


I approached this film with a bit of trepidation. Anything with a title like Attack Girls’ Swim Team Vs. the Undead has to be either really awful or really fantastic. And things were looking pretty worrisome there at the start. But a few minutes in, a wonderfully awkward stabbing left me giggling and hopeful for the future of the film.

Attack Girls’ Swim Team Vs. the Undead is pretty much what you would expect from the name. There are lots of zombies, gore, and naked ladies to go around. If you were expecting something thoughtful and enlightening, I think you need a better grasp of the English language. Or the Japanese language as the case may be. But even though the title is revealing as to the nature of the film, it’s not all that accurate to the content. The swim team doesn’t do much of anything in this film, and most of what they do do is a little underwhelming. Details are sparse, but maybe the translation of the title is a bit off as there are a variety of different titles for the film.

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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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Rush Hour 3 (2007)

Starring Chris Tucker, Jackie Chan, Max von Sydow, Hiroyuki Sanada, Yvan Attal, Yuki Kudo, Noémie Lenoir, Zhang Jing-Chu, Tzi Ma, Dana Ivey, Sun Ming-Ming, Roman Polanski

Directed by Brett Ratner

Expectations: Fairly low. I feel confident I’ll enjoy it, though.


The Rush Hour films are made to entertain. None of them are great, but they carry a certain charm. Jackie is always a joy in any form, and I like what Chris Tucker brings to the table. The two have an effervescent chemistry perfect for the age-old buddy cop premise. It’s just that by the time we get to Rush Hour 3, that’s about all we have to hang our enjoyment on. For me, this was enough to make the movie fly by in a haze of dumb jokes, action and entertainment, but I imagine others would be less forgiving.

The story they have the boys propping up this time will be relatively familiar if you’ve seen Rush Hour. Since this is Rush Hour 3, we know a basic formula has been established, but this is more than that. It’s certainly an odd choice to make from a screenwriting standpoint. I appreciate the idea to bring back characters from the original film, such as Ambassador Han (Tzi Ma) and his now-grown daughter Soo Yung (Zhang Jing-Chu). But it also mirrors the original film’s story in a lot of painfully obvious ways, to the point that I had figured out one of the late-film “Oh, shit!” twists by the time the opening scene was over. I understand wanting to bring the series back to where it started (and was successful), but this is a bit too close, no? It makes the film feel like the product it is, and this seriously hampers its ability to resonate with its audience.

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Rob-B-Hood (2006)

Rob-B-Hood [寶貝計劃] (2006)
AKA Robin-B-Hood, Project BB

Starring Jackie Chan, Louis Koo, Michael Hui, Teresa Carpio, Yuen Biao, Gao Yuan-Yuan, Charlene Choi Cheuk-Yin, Terence Yin Chi-Wai, Conroy Chan Chi-Chung, Andrew Lin, Matthew Medvedev, Ku Feng, Ken Wong Hop-Hey, Ken Lo, Hayama Hiro, Cherrie Ying Choi-Yi, Candice Yu On-On, Chen Bao-Guo, Nicholas Tse, Daniel Wu, He Jun, Ng Kong

Directed by Benny Chan

Expectations: Kinda high. I’ve come to expect good things from Benny Chan.


Rob-B-Hood is kind of a weird movie. Contrasting the modern realism in Benny Chan and Jackie’s previous collaboration, New Police Story, Rob-B-Hood feels like an attempt to revive an ’80s style focused on providing wild entertainment over believability. Apparently the film was originally intended to finally reunite Jackie, Sammo and Yuen Biao, too, lending further credence to this idea. But while the criminal character dynamics between Jackie, Louis Koo and Michael Hui recall early ’80s movies like Wheels on Meals, Rob-B-Hood owes an even bigger debt to the Aces Go Places series. The obvious connection is the baby who is often in harm’s way, but elements of that series’s James Bond riffs also find their way into Rob-B-Hood.

Thongs (Jackie Chan) and Octopus (Louis Koo) are master safecrackers, and we meet them in a hospital’s pharmacy. They are stealing high-priced drugs while their leader, Landlord (Michael Hui), waits in the getaway van outside. Crosscut with this is the birth of a child, which seems insignificant at first but wouldn’t you know it, they showed this birth to us for a reason! Imagine that. Mid-way through the criminals’ escape attempt, a disgruntled and mentally unstable ex-boyfriend of the baby’s mother abducts the kid. At first, he even tries to drag the mother along for the ride, still in her hospital bed. This fiasco gets the heat off of Thongs and Octopus, but as luck would have it, when the crazy ex-boyfriend loses control of the baby and it falls down a couple of stories in the hospital’s open lobby, Thongs is able to jump off the escalator, save the kid’s life, and return him to his mother. Thongs and Octopus are now free to leave the scene of their crime, but their story with this infant is far from over.

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