Uncle Jasper reviews: Santo and Blue Demon vs. The Monsters (1969)

Santo and Blue Demon vs. The Monsters [Santo y Blue Demon contra los Monstruos] (1969)
AKA Santo and Blue Demon Against the Monsters

Starring Santo, Blue Demon, Jorge Rado, Carlos Ancira, Hedy Blue, Rafael Munoz, Manuel Leal, Vicente Lara, Gerardo Zepeda, Fernando Rosales, David Alvizu, Elsa Maria Tako, Yolanda Ponce

Directed By Gilberto Martinez Solares


From the moment you hear the slithering organ music and watch Santo, Blue Demon, and the rogues’ gallery of hilariously bad awesome looking monsters climb a hillside and momentarily pose for their starring credit, you feel like you might have a winner. Moments later, when an evil hunchbacked dwarf wearing a bowler comes sneaking out of a graveyard with his army of green, face-painted zombies, you know you are locked into some serious shit.

Welcome to the wonderful world of lucha libre. A world where badass, big motherfuckers in masks and three-piece suits canvas the byways of Mexico in convertibles with sexy young Latinas by their side. A world where everybody and anything is a potential adversary, be it dwarves, aliens, Nazis, sea monsters, vampires, women, and even vampire women. In this particular outing Santo finds himself up against the diabolical Dr. Hadler, who hates Santo and Blue Demon for reasons the filmmakers didn’t deem too important to mention. The Doctor, along with his dwarf henchman Waldo, kidnap Blue Demon, who was caught investigating the suspicious looking castle, and in an obvious attempt to give the audience a chance to see Santo fight his friend, clone an evil version of him. With Evil Blue Demon now at his command, the doctor proceeds to recruit a who’s who of legendary monsters to fight alongside him…

Continue reading Uncle Jasper reviews: Santo and Blue Demon vs. The Monsters (1969) →

Zatoichi the Fugitive (1963)

J.P. and I are back with a double shot review of the fourth Zatoichi film, Zatoichi the Fugitive. When you’re done here, make sure you head over to his site to read his thoughts on the film (link at the bottom of my review).


Zatoichi the Fugitive [座頭市兇状旅] (1963)
AKA Zatoichi 4

Starring Shintaro Katsu, Miwa Takada, Masayo Banri, Toru Abe, Junichiro Narita, Katsuhiko Kobayashi

Directed by Tokuzo Tanaka

Expectations: Moderate.


I love samurai films. I’ve heard great things about the Zatoichi series over the years, but I have yet to really dive head first into the world of the blind masseur. About five years ago, I saw the first film in the series and I was underwhelmed. Zatoichi had been built up to me as this amazing series of films, but I found the first film to be slow and just okay. I liked it enough to remain interested in the series, but I had shelved it in my mind for future times. Sometime between then and now, I saw the 2003 Takeshi Kitano remake. I used to really like his films, but again I was underwhelmed with his remake. I don’t remember a lot about it, but I do remember hating the very obvious computer generated blood effects in the film. Get a bag of blood and splatter it around. C’mon.

So going into Zatoichi the Fugitive I was hoping that it would reignite my interest in the series and show me what everyone was going on about. The first thing I noticed was that this film was in color. I had expected black & white like the first, so this was a welcome surprise. I love black & white cinematography more than most, don’t get me wrong, but after seeing this film, color is the correct choice for Zatoichi. The one downfall of using color though, is that for the fights I come in expecting blood-letting and Zatoichi the Fugitive is very sparse in that department.

Continue reading Zatoichi the Fugitive (1963) →

Mini-Review: Turtles Can Fly (2004)

Turtles Can Fly [Lakposhtha parvaz mikonand] (2004)

Starring Soran Ebrahim, Avaz Latif, Hiresh Feysal Rahman

Directed by Bahman Ghobadi


This is a good film, more for its power to stay with you, instead of its level of entertainment. It’s the eve of America’s invasion of Iraq and Kurdish refugees struggle with their television antennas to hear some small bits of news. Three wandering children; a girl, a possibly clairvoyant teenage boy with no arms and a blind toddler come to the camp in search of refuge. The film really isn’t about the plot though. Director Bahman Ghobadi seeks to paint a picture of what these villagers feel and endure on the brink of war.

It moves at a slow pace, but this is a haunting film, filled with amazing, wide-angle cinematography of the Iraqi landscape. All of the children (who aren’t trained actors) are outstanding and show a level of depth not generally present in child actors. The film ends on a perfect, understated note, skillfully illustrating disillusionment and the fragility of life. It is a tragedy and an emotionally heavy film.

Recommended if you’re in right mood.

Uncle Jasper reviews: [REC] (2007)

Starring Manuela Velasco, Javier Botet, Manuel Bronchud, Martha Carbonell, Claudia Font, Vicente Gil

Directed by Jaume Balagueró & Paco Plaza


On all accounts I should not have liked this movie. I am not a fan of the whole shaky camcorder pseudo-documentary horror genre. I am an old-school Romero zombie fan who still can’t justify a world where fast “infected zombies” have a place. I guess that makes REC all the more amazing.  I was a doubter, but Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza proved me wrong and demonstrated that if done right, shaky-cam filmmaking not only has a place, but can really up the ante in terms of genuine horror.

Something has to be said of the pacing and the way REC uses it to great effect. The movie starts off slow, and borderline mundane. A pretty, young news reporter, Angela and her cameraman Pablo are filming a “Cops” type TV series with a group of fire fighters. Realizing that her assignment is less exciting than it appears, she desperately tries to drum up some kind of interest and goes into great detail reporting on exciting aspects of the fire fighter’s lives such as empty briefing rooms, what they eat for dinner, and how big their suits are. Even when the fire fighters get what seems like a routine call and shit starts to go south, the film gets very interesting, yet the pacing still leaves plenty of time to react and wrap your head around the situation.

Continue reading Uncle Jasper reviews: [REC] (2007) →

Once Upon a Time in China (1991)

My new friend J.P. and I share a love for Hong Kong movies. We are celebrating it with a special double-post, Siskel/Ebert kind of review for one film. Make sure you head over to his site when you’re done here to read his thoughts on the film. Now back to your regularly scheduled reviews.


Once Upon a Time in China [黃飛鴻] (1991)
AKA Wong Fei-Hung, Kungfu Master

Starring Jet Li, Yuen Biao, Rosamund Kwan, Jacky Cheung, Kent Cheng, Yee Kwan Yan

Directed by Tsui Hark

Expectations: High. I love this movie.


Bravery soaring! Magnanimity overflowing!

It has been at least eight years since I’ve seen this. Back when I was watching nothing but Hong Kong movies with my friends, this was one of our top films. Going into watching this again, I had incredibly high expectations. There was no way it could live up to those kind of hopes, and in some ways it doesn’t, but overall I still really love this film. My tastes have changed over the years and it struck me how old the film felt. It didn’t feel like 1991, it felt more like 1971. That was when it hit me. This movie has more in common at a base level with a traditional Shaw Brothers kung fu flick than I had ever noticed before. The fight choreography and wire work are completely modern, but it has the feeling and the charm of a classic from the Run Run Shaw studio. In this way, Once Upon a Time in China is a look back, while taking a step forward.

The fights are spectacular. They’re what you are here for, and if not, they should be. The umbrella fight early on is quite good, but nothing can prepare you for the final battle in the warehouse involving multiple ladders. Even with the wire-work, the sheer level of acrobatic and physical ability on display is amazing. I remembered this fight a lot better than I remembered the rest of the film because my friends and I used to re-watch this fight over and over back in the day. It’s truly fantastic. I was a little disappointed that Yuen Biao didn’t get more to do in the way of fighting, but as his character was a guy that wanted to learn kung fu, I suppose I can forgive this.

Continue reading Once Upon a Time in China (1991) →

Red Cliff: Part II (2009)

Red Cliff Part II [赤壁] (2009)
AKA The Battle of Red Cliff

Starring Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Zhang Fengyi, Chang Chen, Zhao Wei, Hu Jun, Shidō Nakamura, Lin Chi-ling, Tong Dawei, Hou Yong, You Yong

Directed by John Woo

Expectations: Moderate to high. I enjoyed the first one a lot and I hoped that Part II was as good.


So the question is this: Does Part II live up to the expectations built up after watching Part I? Yes, yes it does. I liked this 140 minutes of Red Cliff more than the first 140 minutes, not necessarily because it’s better, but because of familiarity. Part II opens with a brief rundown of what happened in Part I over the credits. The first new shot is of troops opening the gate into Cao Cao’s camp. The music swelled and I broke a smile. It reminded me of how I felt when I first saw Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Both films (Rings & Cliff) were made as one movie and then chopped into parts for release. So instead of the feeling of watching a sequel, with a slightly different production style, you are watching more scenes from the same movie. It’s a good, nostalgic feeling of revisiting something you love and finding treasures you had never seen before.

From there, Part II just consistently entertains. I especially enjoyed the part when Sun Shangxiang (Zhao Wei) is infiltrating and mapping Cao Cao’s camp and when the Southerners use a very inventive way to get the 100,000 arrows they need. The end battle of Part II is nothing short of spectacular. It’s a part naval battle, part castle siege, part kung fu action extravaganza. Like Part I, this end battle fills up the final hour of the film. The review would not be complete without mentioning how awesome Zhang Fengyi is as Cao Cao. Absolutely perfect in the role. All the actors are great, but Zhang Fengyi’s performance really caught me by surprise.

Continue reading Red Cliff: Part II (2009) →

Red Cliff: Part I (2008)

Red Cliff Part I [赤壁] (2008)
AKA The Battle of Red Cliff

Starring Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Zhang Fengyi, Chang Chen, Zhao Wei, Hu Jun, Shidō Nakamura, Lin Chi-ling, Tong Dawei, Hou Yong, You Yong

Directed by John Woo

Expectations: Moderate. I loved John Woo when I was a teenager, but I am more realistic about his strength as a filmmaker these days.


No one films action like John Woo. He is known for it and he does it very well. The action sequences in Red Cliff: Part I are outstanding, specifically the battle at the end of the film. The final battle fills up most of the last hour and it flies by. Without a doubt, one of the best action sequences in recent memory. It’s incredibly inventive and it feels like new ground, which is hard considering the massive legacy of kung fu pictures.

But to lump Red Cliff with standard kung fu films is wrong, because it really is more than that. It’s epic in its scope and its production design. It’s a kung fu film for the post-Lord of the Rings film era. But this is also where it falls a bit short for me. This first part of the film runs 146 minutes. It’s long. It feels long. There are times when certain scenes don’t seem necessary, so I found myself waiting through them, hoping for a better one next time. But a lot of my disappointment stems from my expectations. I came in to this film expecting a John Woo action picture. It delivers on that promise, no doubt, but it just takes a while to get there, so plan accordingly.

Continue reading Red Cliff: Part I (2008) →

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