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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Stephen reviews: Animal Treasure Island (1971)

Animal Treasure Island [どうぶつ宝島 Doubutsu Takarajima] (1971)
AKA Jolly Joker

Starring Minori Matsushima, Asao Koike, Eiko Masuyama, Fusako Amachi, Jouji Yanami

Directed by Hiroshi Ikeda


This film is pretty much what it says: an adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s famous novel Treasure Island with lots of animals in it. The only human characters are the main character Jim, his baby brother Baboo, and a girl named Kathy who shows up about halfway through the movie. The rest of the cast are anthropomorphic animals of all kinds, and the film is full of all the swashbuckling seafaring adventure that you would expect of a pirate story.

I’ve never read the novel it was based upon, but I did look over a summary of the plot for comparison. It seems that Animal Treasure Island is a very loose adaptation. The basic premise is pretty much the only thing the two stories have in common. A boy named Jim with large dreams of exploring the ocean lucks upon a pirate treasure map and the money to finish his own homemade boat. So he sets off with his mouse pal Glan and his baby brother in tow, running afoul of pirates lead by a pig named Captain Silver.

Continue reading Stephen reviews: Animal Treasure Island (1971) →

Dragonworld: The Legend Continues (1999)

AKA Shadow of the Knight

Starring Drake Bell, Tina Martin, Andrew Keir, James Ellis, Judith Paris, Constantin Barbulescu, Richard Trask

Directed by Ted Nicolaou

Expectations: Low.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


Dragonworld: The Legend Continues might sound like a sequel to Full Moon’s Dragonworld, but no, it’s actually a prequel! The legend continues… in the past! In this particular case, though, the title seems to refer to the story line used to craft the film, continuing the legend from Dragonworld that explained how a baby dragon was suddenly in 1990s Scotland after all the dragons died out hundreds of years ago. This was one of my favorite parts of the original, so it was a great surprise to see it continued. This makes Dragonworld: The Legend Continues a more-than-worthy follow-up to Dragonworld, and in a lot of ways I actually like this one better.

John McGowan is roughly around age 11 or 12 in Dragonworld: The Legend Continues, and his grandfather Angus (Andrew Keir) is teaching him about the magical properties of their land. Angus attempts to show John the power of the ley lines intersecting underneath a circular grouping of stones, but this causes lightning to strike and crack the center stone. Unfortunately for the McGowans and their dragon Yowler, this stone was the prison of the evil knight MacClain (Constantin Barbulescu), AKA the guy who killed all the dragons. Immediately after being released, he sets out to finish what he started and kill Yowler.

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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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Dragonworld (1994)

Starring Courtland Mead, Alastair Mackenzie, Brittney Powell, Lila Kaye, Andrew Keir, John Calvin, Jim Dunk, John Woodvine, Janet Henfrey

Directed by Ted Nicolaou

Expectations: Low.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


I’ve been watching the Full Moon films in a fairly random order, so I generally associate the Moonbeam films with a certain style that developed during Full Moon’s leaner years when everything was shot in Romania. I’m so accustomed to this “flavor” that I forgot entirely that the origins of Moonbeam go back to the years when Full Moon was partnered with Paramount, and as such they are much higher budgeted films. Dragonworld — the third Moonbeam film released — is one of these Paramount/Full Moon endeavors, and it’s decidedly more ambitious than pretty much every other Moonbeam film I’ve seen.

John McGowan (Courtland Mead) is a five-year-old American orphan traveling to Scotland to live with his paternal grandfather, Angus (Andrew Keir). John is scared and not entirely prepared to handle this kind of intense life change at his age. Living in a remote Scottish castle might sound like a great idea to get away from the current state of American politics for you or I, but to John it’s a bit isolating. His grandfather starts him on the path of learning the bagpipes — with the wonderful line, “Put your sadness into the music.” — and one day while practicing he wishes for a friend. Smoke billows, the earth shakes, and before you can say The Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond a baby dragon emerges from this geological anomaly.

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The Fantastic Magic Baby (1975)

The Fantastic Magic Baby [紅孩兒] (1975)

Starring Ting Wa-Chung, Lau Chung-Chun, Chiang Tao, Cheung Chuen-Lai, Woo Gam, Tsai Hung, Fung Hak-On, Ku Kwan, Teng Jue-Jen, Chen I-Ho, Yeung Fui-Yuk, Chao Li-Chuan, Siu Wong-Lung, Lee Lung-Yam, Phillip Kwok Chun-Fung

Directed by Chang Cheh

Expectations: High. Chang Cheh and Journey to the West!


In a career full of intriguing and entertaining films, Chang Cheh’s The Fantastic Magic Baby is one of his most interesting and unique. On the surface, it is an adaptation of a story from the Chinese classic Journey to the West, but it quickly reveals itself to be much more than that. Like Chang’s Shaolin Cycle films, The Fantastic Magic Baby honors and preserves the legacy of a Chinese tradition, showcasing the beautiful movements of the Peking Opera as only a Chang Cheh film could.

For those unfamiliar with Journey to the West, the basics are all present in the film. The Monk Tripitaka (Teng Jue-Jen) is traveling to retrieve sacred Buddhist scriptures from India with his companions Sun Wukong the Monkey King (Lau Chung-Chun), Bajie AKA Pigsy (Chen I-Ho) and Sha Seng AKA Sandy (Yeung Fui-Yuk). Demons and other devious entities catch wind of their travels and seek to imprison them in order to eat the monk’s flesh, which can supposedly prolong their lives 1,000 years. In this particular story, it is Princess Iron Fan (Woo Gam) and the Ox Demon King (Chiang Tao) who desire the monk’s flesh. They send their son Red Boy (Ting Wa-Chung) — the fantastic magic baby of the title — to capture Tripitaka for their pleasure. Red Boy is perfect for the mission because he has recently mastered the Three Types of True Fire, which are so powerful that not even the Monkey King can withstand them.
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The Super Inframan (1975)

The Super Inframan [中國超人] (1975)
AKA Infra-Man

Starring Danny Lee, Wang Hsieh, Yuan Man-Tzu, Terry Lau Wai-Yue, Dana, Lin Wen-Wei, Kong Yeung, Bruce Le, Fanny Leung Maan-Yee, Ting Tung

Directed by Hua Shan

Expectations: High. I love this one.

On the general scale:
I don’t think it matters.

On the B-movie scale:


There are many different types of great movies, and to call The Super Inframan anything less than great is selling it short. It may lack the depth of more traditionally great movies, but it makes up for this with some of the most fun and relentless entertainment I’ve ever laid my eyes on. Simply put, The Super Inframan is pure fun from start to finish. This is entertainment of the highest order, and to look at it critically, picking apart its flaws for the sake of proving why its unable to sit alongside cinema’s great films is completely wrong-minded. The film sets out to hammer home thunder-fisted thrills and it does not disappoint.

Written by the prolific and talented Ni Kuang, The Super Inframan introduces us to a world in chaos. Natural disasters are occurring all across Hong Kong: earthquakes split roads in two, fire bursts forth from the ground, and a previously dormant volcano has suddenly become very active. Soon after, a local science center is contacted by Demon Princess Elzebub AKA the wonderfully named Princess Dragon Mom in the English dub (Terry Lau Wai-Yue). She informs the scientists that she is the Earth’s new master; our only choice to surrender or be destroyed.

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