The Magic Blade (1976)

The Magic Blade [天涯明月刀] (1976)

Starring Ti Lung, Lo Lieh, Ku Feng, Tang Ching, Ching Li, Lily Li Li-Li, Fan Mei-Sheng, Chan Shen

Directed by Chor Yuen

Expectations: High.


My expectations for this were just soaring after watching Shaolin Intruders. The two films have absolutely nothing to do with each other except that they’re both Shaw Bros. pictures and Tang Chia choreographed the fights, but you could connect most any Shaw Bros. film with that logic. Needless to say, I was let down. The Magic Blade is an interesting movie as it doesn’t really contain a magic blade. You might expect there to be one in a film titled The Magic Blade, but not in this film. There is the rather neato blade that Ti Lung uses throughout the film, but magic isn’t exactly the adjective I’d use to describe it. It’s on a harness attached to his arm that allows it to spin when he wants it to, but it isn’t really used all that much in the film so don’t get too worked up about it. This is possible magic blade candidate number one. Number two is where I’m placing my money though, as the film revolves around everyone trying to get a hold of it. The weapon in question is the mysterious Peacock Dart, a weapon so powerful that — well, I’ll let them explain it.

“The Dart when hurled, emits mysterious and beautiful rays, and the victim dies in a mysterious way.”

“And no one is immune to it.”

After which the dart is thrown, resulting in multiple explosions of light and smoke that very conveniently kill only the hero’s enemies. No one is immune to movie logic either I guess. Anyway I don’t mean to complain, that shit was fun to watch.

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Dolls (1987)

Starring Stephen Lee, Guy Rolfe, Hilary Mason, Ian Patrick Williams, Carolyn Purdy Gordon, Cassie Stuart, Bunty Bailey, Carrie Lorraine

Directed by Stuart Gordon

Expectations: Low. I didn’t know this was Empire International before I started watching it, otherwise I would have expected more initially.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:
threestar


With Dolls, I’m continuing my trek through the Empire International/Full Moon catalog. My girlfriend, after watching Ghoulies with me, felt a strong urge to re-watch this film which she had seen as a kid. As the credits began to roll and I saw Empire and Charles Band’s name, I immediately knew why she was compelled to re-watch Dolls. The power of the Full Moon had struck once again and she was powerless to do anything but watch this again. On the strength of Ghoulies I knew that I wanted to watch more of these films, but I had not expected Dolls to be one of them. I love it when a plan comes together. I happened to post my review of Ghoulies last Tuesday and now with this on Tuesday, I’m thinking of making every Tuesday for a while dedicated to Empire International or Full Moon films. I was trying to think of a snappy name for the day, but all I could come up with was Terror Tuesdays or Tuesday Trash. If anyone can think of something cool, let me know. Anyway, look forward to more of Charles Band’s brand of horror.

Dolls does not live up to the bar that Ghoulies set in my head. I still enjoyed this a great deal, it’s just not nearly as well made or fun as Ghoulies was. With that out of the way, let’s get down to business. Dolls opens with a girl named Judy riding in a car with her dad and stepmother. The parents here are downright evil and verbally abusive to little Judy. While a normal, well-adjusted person might be offended by their insults, I simply thought to myself, “Hmm, I hope they’re doing what I think they’re doing… setting these bastards up for some seriously gratifying death scenes!” The car breaks down and they all start hoofing it down the road in the pouring rain.

Continue reading Dolls (1987) →

Uncle Jasper reviews: The Wild Angels (1966)

Starring Peter Fonda, Nancy Sinatra, Bruce Dern, Diane Ladd, Buck Taylor, Norman Alden, Michael J. Pollard, Lou Procopio, Joan Shawlee, Marc Cavell, Coby Denton, Frank Maxwell

Gayle Hunnicutt

Directed By Roger Corman


Man, I don’t know what to say about The Wild Angels. Whereas most B-grade biker movies tend to glorify their subject matter, this film does anything but. Being that this movie marked the beginning of the outlaw biker genre, comparisons to Easy Rider are going to be unavoidable, but this film really shares little in common with that film. Instead of a couple of freewheeling drifters, we are dealing with an unruly mob of Hells Angels. And boy are they a bunch of assholes.

Peter Fonda is “Blues,” leader of the gang’s San Pedro chapter. He meets up with fellow member “The Loser” (Bruce Dern) at his day job as a construction worker. Apparently The Loser’s bike had gone missing weeks earlier and Blues has tracked its whereabouts down to some dusty desert crossroads called “Mecca.” The gang takes a day trip down to the small town before concluding that the bike is hidden away in a tiny Mexican chop shop. Now whether it actually is or not is beside the point. The Angels are mean and ugly and are gonna kick the shit out of these Mexican guys regardless.

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Mini-Review: Sid and Nancy (1986)

Starring Gary Oldman, Chloe Webb, David Hayman, Debby Bishop, Andrew Schofield

Directed by Alex Cox

Expectations: Low.


I wasn’t expecting much going into this. I liked the film, but I found it a bit on the boring side. Gary Oldman is fantastic as Sid Vicious, the definite star of the show. That’s also part of the problem I had with the film though, as he outshines nearly every other actor in it. He seems to embody not just Vicious but the punk ethos itself, while the majority of the rest of the cast looks like they’re playing dress-up at punk rock school. I’m probably being a bit biased here, but I couldn’t get past it while watching the film. Chloe Webb is pretty good as Nancy but she does get pretty annoying. I suppose that was part of the point though, so I can’t complain too much.

The film showcases the relationship of Sid and Nancy and seeks to give Sex Pistol fans an insight into their world. I’m just okay with the Pistols (personally I’m much more into The Clash), and I was okay never knowing anything about them. Obviously that doesn’t make me the target audience here, but I still liked it well enough thanks to the wonderful Oldman performance. Many people involved with the Pistols, including Johnny Rotten, have spoken at length about how inaccurate the film is, that no one should watch it, etc. I don’t have a clue what is true or not, but regardless, it tells a believable version of the tale. For me the film was on the borderline of okay and good, I kept jumping back and forth between 2 and 2 1/2 stars, but ultimately I decided that as the days moved on after watching this, the images in my head did not. Watch it if you enjoy Gary Oldman and want to see his breakout performance. It was shot by Roger Deakins too, so it looks pretty nice.

As a side note to all the Oldman fans: I’d also recommend Stephen Frear’s Prick Up Your Ears. It’s a very good film from the same time frame featuring a great Oldman performance and also starring Alfred Molina.

Coincidentally, my colleague Dan the Man has also recently watched this one and has got some thoughts up. Go check out his take on it!

Crazy Heart (2009)

Starring Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Colin Farrell, Robert Duvall, Jack Nation

Directed by Scott Cooper

Expectations: High.


Crazy Heart tells the story of Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges), an alcoholic country singer whose career is on the decline. We enter his life as he pulls into the parking lot of his next gig: a bowling alley. The last time I saw Bridges at a bowling alley were the final moments of The Big Lebowski, so this was a nice place to start the film for me. I’m sure it wasn’t lost on a lot of other viewers as well. He eventually meets up with a young reporter (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and strikes up a friendship. The heart of the film lies within this relationship. Maggie Gyllenhaal has never looked more beautiful on-screen than she does here and she displays a deep talent for creating a believable character.

I was shocked to learn that this is the debut feature from Scott Cooper. It is a very well-made film with crisp, beautiful cinematography. The film is set all across the American Southwest and it looks gorgeous. The wide, expansive landscapes made me long for a good road trip and the bar interiors perfectly captured the heartbroken neon feeling that local bars always gives me. I look forward to what he comes out with next, because if it’s as well shot as this was, it’ll be something special.

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The Road (2009)

Starring Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Michael K. Williams, Robert Duvall, Guy Pearce, Charlize Theron

Directed by John Hillcoat

Expectations: Very high.


I’ve been looking forward to this movie for way too long. My mind-hype was allowed to fester and there’s no way that the film could have lived up to that kind of expectation. It was originally slated to release late 2008 but got pushed back a few times, ultimately releasing over a year later in November 2009 to a limited number of screens. Whenever a film is pushed back to this degree, I always get apprehensive about its worth, but in this case it seems that the delay was more for post work and to (unsuccessfully) optimize Oscar potential, so I still expected it to be great.

The film is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning Cormac McCarthy novel of the same name, but as I haven’t read it yet I can’t offer any sort of adaptation notes. The story follows the journey of a man and his boy in a world devastated by an unnamed catastrophe. There isn’t a defined plot other than the standard apocalypse fare of “Let’s get to the coast, I hear it’s OK there.” This works for the film as the point of it all is to examine the father/son relationship during an incredibly tough time where survival and primal instincts are the only constants. The father (Viggo Mortensen) struggles to keep himself and his son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) alive and away from the other survivors. As the apocalyptic events wiped out most life on Earth, including plants and animals, most people have resorted to cannibalism of those weaker than them. This is established at the opening of the film as Mortensen is forced to kill a man and he later finds his head and entrails under an overturned truck.

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Uncle Jasper reviews: The Dragon Lives Again (1977)

The Dragon Lives Again [李三腳威震地獄門] (1977)
AKA Deadly Hands of Kung Fu

Starring Bruce Leong, Shin Il Lung, Eric Tsang, Alexander Grand, Siu Tien Yeung

Directed By Law Kei


Oh man, do you remember that time when Bruce Lee fought Chuck Norris in the Roman Coliseum? Yeah, that was great! How about when he beat that guy with the claw on his hand in that hallway full of mirrors? Classic stuff!  Yes sir, that guy was a true legend. Hey, that reminds me of another one… do you remember that time Bruce Lee went to hell, confessed infidelity, fought James Bond and the Exorcist, made friends with Caine from Kung Fu, and helped Popeye beat a bunch of mummies?

Hi folks. My name is Uncle Jasper and I am a film critic.

Sometime after the death of Christ and before the dawn of the Reagan Empire, some Chinese guys got together and made a movie called The Dragon Lives Again. This remarkable documentary attempts to chronicle the years following Bruce Lee’s death and his adventures in hell during that period. The film goes to great lengths to convey to the viewer the size of Bruce Lee’s gigantic cock, and includes a heartfelt, personal apology to his wife Linda for all the years of banging hundreds of women with said cock.

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