Friday, December 13, 2013


Stop motion magic.
Manborg is a 2011 spoof/homage to cheesy action/horror/sci-fi from the late 80s/early 90s. So, it takes the most ridiculous aspects of films like Cyborg, Robocop, Hellraiser, Terminator II, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, Hardware, Mortal Kombat, etc. and turns them into a brilliantly entertaining film that should satisfy fans of Full Metal Yakuza, Hobo with a Shot Gun, Tokyo Gore Police, Isle of the Damned and most of Troma's output. It's unbelievably good, a result of mixing conventional latex effects, stop motion, and comically bad laptop effects.

Manborg was originally a soldier in the last great war against Hell's armies, led not by Satan, but by the dreaded Count Draculon, a bio-mechanical demon created on a shoe-string budget. But of course, that soldier was killed in combat and made into a super-warrior, only to wake up in a futuristic time full of future cassettes and future locks and total world domination by Hell.

A blonde Peter Sellers plays a future Dr. Strangelove.
Manborg is quickly captured and locked up with several archetypal prisoners --Liberty, the Australian punker whose power seems to be to shoot two revolvers at once while dancing, Mina, the kick-ass knife ninja chick who has the power of going into anime attack mode, and #1 Man, the superstrong and disciplined martial-arts master. They are held captive by the evil Baron and his henchmen Dr. Scorpius and Shadow Mega, a hot cyborg woman, and forced to fight in an arena against Hell's minions and giant robot monsters.
Liberty, his sister Mina, and #1 Man. The good guys.
All of the usual action cliches follow: Manborg suffers from amnesia and can't explain himself, so he is not trusted by the other prisoners. But then he quickly masters his robo-human powers and becomes their hero. They break out of prison and go into hiding. Heads get blown off. Lots of scary skeletal and zombie-esque bad guys in Nazi-style uniforms. Liberty and #1 Man try to make a box of instant macaroni, blah, blah, blah. 

A jailer-bot and Shadow Mega. Bad guys.
The movie works great as a parody, but also contains a lot of really witty and bizarre additional humor, and some really great horror effects. Totally recommended if you like anything cool. It kept me entirely entertained the whole way through and I laughed out loud at least a dozen times. It's great. Made me happy.


Thursday, December 12, 2013

American Samurai

In the mid 80s, a film called American Ninja emerged, exposing Americans for the first time to Japanese martial arts culture. Seven years later someone said, "American Ninja... American SAMURAI!" And that's the movie they decided to make. 

The year was 1992. Cool stuff hadn't been invented yet, but fortunately CGI had also not been invented yet, so everything in this movie is REAL. When the main character pulls a bullet out of his gut, it's REAL. Or it might as well be. Though, sometimes when the scene cuts away, that wound isn't even there. It's the paradox of conventional FX.

I am deep in thought. I am a samurai.
This is the story of white man named Andrew, who was raised by a Japanese samurai master after after his mother and father were killed when their plane crashed in Japan, leaving the infant the only survivor. Despite this, Andrew has no Japanese accent and doesn't appear to speak Japanese. He was raised in English by a Japanese father, and his adoptive brother, Kenjiro (Mark Dacascos), also lacks the ability to speak his native tongue.  You may know Dacascos as the Chairman from Iron Chef America (SPOILER: He's not really a Chairman).
Mark Dacascos knows good eating.
Andrew was taught all of the essential samurai skills, and manages to master the elusive Samurai Sixth Sense, which Kenjiro can't even do, so the father declares that Andrew is his true heir and gives him a magical sword. Kenjiro is fucking pissed, calls Andrew a round-eye, and flashes his big-ass yakuza tattoo and he's all like, "Fuck you, dad!"
I'm all like, FUCK YOU DAD!!!!
Suddenly, it's five years later and Andrew wakes up to his apartment being burglarized by four or five heavily armed men who are trying to steal his sword, which he keeps in a glass case above his fireplace or something. After a brief but intense battle, Andrew winds up shot in the gut, which causes him to lose consciousness but gives him a psychedelic vision that his evil brother is trying to steal his sword.
He comes to consciousness and realizes it was all a dream. His brother isn't trying to steal the sword... he's already stolen the sword. 
Hi-yah! This is not my real sword, but it is my real package.
Hey, don't you think this movie could use an attractive female character? Well, one shows up and goes with Andrew to Turkey for some reason. She has red hair and she fights with Andrew all the time, like a meager rendition of Han and Leia. They fall in love.
"I'm sorry I couldn't find a screen cap of your face, but it's obvious you are hot."
Yata yata, the girl gets captured and Andrew has to agree to fight in a gladiator-style tournament against weapons masters, martial artists, a Texan with a big knife, a viking with a horned helm and battle axe, and, you guessed it, Kenjiro who is using the sacred family sword!
Tex-ass! Kans-ass!
I'm not going to tell you who wins, but there may be a reason this film is not called Kenjiro.

Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh I ded

All in all, a pretty interesting and absurd watch, though parts are boring and it feels kind of rushed. Especially recommended if you have a high tolerance for bullshit and a love for stupid action. 


Monday, December 9, 2013

The Visitor (1978)

Nothing to do with the movie. 
The Visitor is getting a lot of buzz as they've recently re-released it to theaters, which is where I saw it and it was AWESOME. Seeing something like this on the big screen is just indescribable.

Let me describe it for you.

There are very few films like The Visitor. First of all, just take a look at the cast: Mel Ferrer, Glen Ford, Lance Henriksen, John Huston, Joanne Naill, Sam Peckinpah, Shelley Winters and Franco Nero as space-age Jesus Christ.
Shocked speechless by basic information for the rest of the movie.

That's right. Django himself. As the savior of mankind. In space. 
Kardashians got nothing on Katy.
John Huston stars as some kind of galactic warrior who, along with his often misplaced theme music, tracks down the evil children (indirectly?) spawned by some space criminal who sowed his seed all over the universe. He is locked in combat with an eight-year-old Earth girl (played by 12 year old Paige Connor) and her evil pet falcon. How does he conduct this combat, you ask? By going up on a skyscraper roof top, where interpretative dancers cast their shadows on white sheets, and lights dance around like a low budget Close Encounters. In the psychedelic world, he turns her into popcorn or something.
This little girl spends most of her time wreaking havoc at basketball games, gymnastics meets, ice rinks and any other sporting event she manages to attend or compete in. She also cusses out old cops (who seem to be incapable of applying the breaks of their cars when blinded) and generally sasses baby sitters, house keepers and anyone else who can't escape her insidious presence. She's a low budget Damien.
John Huston as Obi-Wan Kenobi.
There's a weird cabal of rich white stuffed shirts who, for no reason ever fully explained, want to control the sex life of the evil girl's mom, using young Lance Henriksen to impregnate her and bring forth a boy child... for no reason every fully explained. They even resort to hiring evil futuristic football players with no faces to kidnap her and implant something in her womb. (SPOILER: It's a baby.) This gives her a great opportunity to reconnect with her ex-husband (Sam fucking Peckinpah) by seeing him for an abortion.
Hint: This is not a homoerotic incest scene.
Then, it sort of turns into The Birds. Birds were apparently the weapon the good aliens used to kill that space criminal guy, "fatally wounding him, in the brain."

Add together the Birds, Close Encounters and the Omen II... and throw in an Italian space Jesus.. and you've got The Visitor.

This movie is full of beautiful, arty, psychedelic scenes that make no sense whatsoever. The plot is so convoluted that it's brilliant. And the dialog... just see this damn thing, already. Or you'll never forgive yourself.


The Brood

If you like early Cronenberg (and if you don't, you are probably at the wrong blog) then this is a movie you should see, because it is early Cronenberg. It's not exactly a secret, but it's probably an easy one to miss. It slides right under the radar because it's not as popular as Scanners, not as weird as Videodrome and not as Viggo Mortensen as Eastern Promises. 

In The Brood, lots of people get beaten to death with blunt objects (primarily mallets) by weird mutant albino children who seem to be distant cousins of Chaka. 
At least Chaka had teeth and sexual organs. So you know he was a fun date.

Melodrama (or psychodrama, specifically, Psychoplasmics) and body horror abound, and everyone needs a new hairstyle. (See: Early Cronenberg.)

But this film does also contain some really great, disturbing scenes that make it one of the more memorable horror films of the late 70s. Cronenberg was well on his way to becoming a weirdo icon with this one. It might be the first film of his classic era (which ends with Spider, I'd say).
Don't eat the baby.
Oliver Reed turns in a brilliantly bombastic performance, as usual. And it's fun to pretend the little blonde girl in this movie is Carol Anne from Poltergeist. Make a riffing game out of it by quoting classic lines from that franchise. Drink if they don't make any sense in the context of the Brood.
You have something on your face, grandma.

Shockingly, the blood in this film is as tomato-red as any typical 70s schlock, and there is zero attempt to make any of the blunt trauma wounds look realistic. You'd think that might have occurred to Cronenberg, but he certainly puts in a lot of effort into other weirder effects. Like lymphatic chin tumors and boil babies.
Give us better make-up, father!

Shaolin Soccer

Now don't be fooled. Movies about soccer are almost always bad (except Ladybugs which might be the best movie ever. But fuck that Bend it Like Beckham shit). And if you are like me, you generally avoid sports movies.

This is not a sports movie. Well, it is, but it's more of a fantasy kung fu comedy. 
You can expect a lot of kung fu-nny antics like this.
There's two guys: Golden Leg, a former soccer pro who had his knee broken because he threw a game, and Iron Leg, a master of shaolin who seems to spend most of his time collecting cans, wishing for sneakers with no holes in them, and generally being a bum. It just goes to show you, kids, shaolin kung fu just doesn't pay...
You try to get a respectable job with only Shaolin Master as a credential.
...but maybe it can. If these two Legs can just get it together, Golden coaching and Iron shaolining, and beat Team Evil, then maybe everybody will wind up rich.
TEAM EVIL (SPOILER: They are the bad guys and they cheat)
It all gets complicated when Iron Leg sings a song of admiration to a girl with boils all over her face who uses her kung fu mastery to make delicious buns. There's a really bizarre and overly complicated rom-com sideplot here that winds up with the girl shaving her head and saving the day.
"What a beauty."
 If you liked Kung Fu Hustle, this film is just a good and a lot funnier. It relies on totally over-the-top special effects to turn an otherwise b-grade movie plot into a gonzo cartoon of destruction. It pretty much rules. Even my parents liked this one. Fun for the whole family.