Kung Fury

What do Nazis, dinosaurs, Vikings, and Miami-Dade cops have in common? The 80s action satire film Kung Fury. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an odd one, but if you have any appreciation for the likes of 80s era action films, it is a MUST SEE. Plus, it’s only a half-hour long. Apparently the film’s financial backing came via a Kickstarter campaign.

The 2015 film was directed by David Sandberg who also plays the epic, martial arts super-cop Kung Fury. The story line is ridiculously funny. KF has to go back in time to vengefully kill Adolph Hitler. (That’s after KF becomes “The Chosen One”. He was “hit by lighting and bitten by a cobra” or something like that. Naturally, he sports a reddish headband a la various 80s icons: Rambo, Loverboy’s Mike Reno, Johnny from the Cobra Kai Dojo, Olivia Newton-John, etc. )

Along the way, he gets some help from an ensemble of oddballs: Thor, two barbarian chicks, a computer geek called Hackerman, and his new partner named Tricera-cop. As random as it seems, the satire of the 80s is a big (and funny) part of the whole deal – video game arcades, enormous mobile phones, David Hasselhoff , and boomboxes to name a few. There are some big nods to Arnold Schwarzenegger via one-liners. I also felt the influence of Miami Vice and Tron as well. Plus, there is plenty of synth music.

If you were alive in the 80s, you owe it to yourself to see this film. I can’t tell you how many action movies I saw back then. You had Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Jean Claude Van Damme, and Steven Seagal to name a few action stars from the big screen. I wouldn’t call these guys action stars, but TV had the likes of Hasselhoff on Knight Rider and Don Johnson on Miami Vice. It’s funny to look back now at all of the computer-themed technology. (Yes, it really did look like that. ) The big thing I would says is we didn’t have the internet, streaming, or even blogging back then. We had to do something to keep ourselves entertained besides watching MTV. The best part of all is a full length film which is due to be released some time soon. It will feature some of those 80s icons like Schwarzenegger and Hasselhoff.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon.

The Good, The Bad, & The Dystopian

Before I talk about the 2016 film “The Bad Batch”, I have to first give credit to the film “Mad Max”. It’s probably the film which made me familiar with the term “dystopian” (the opposite of utoptian). Wikipedia defines a dystopia as “a society which is undesirable or frightening”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dystopia . Dystopian films aren’t a new thing. They come and go with different generations — The Mad Max franchise is a good example of that. Having said that, that’s where the similarities of these films end.

Most people might describe “The Bad Batch” (directed by Ana Lily Amirpour) as “weird” — but, in my humble opinion, it’s a “good weird.” Suki Waterhouse stars as protagonist Arlen – a young woman who’s sentenced to a life of survival of the fittest in a desert prison fraught with not only wind, sand, and weather, but cannibals as well. I don’t think viewers ever really find out what offense has led her to this fate, but she’s stuck there all the same. Waterhouse, a pretty young blonde, brings LOTS of attitude and grit to the character she plays. Along the way she encounters the mysterious mountain of muscles known as “Miami Man” (played by Jason Momoa) and rock star/cult leader “The Dream” (played by Keanu Reeves). Like a lot of movie trailers, the ones I saw for this film didn’t do much for me so I’m including Federale’s “All the Colours of the Dark” from the soundtrack.

“The Bad Batch” is not a film for the mainstream. It’s pace is slow and the dialogue is sparse. With that said, I absolutely loved this film. To me, it just sucked me in and took me into a world I’d never seen. There is a bit of violence, “gore”, and drug use, but I don’t think it’s too over the top.
In its defense, how pleasant is a dystopia supposed to be? In my mind the main themes explored in the film are justice, being an outcast, and just plain survival. While the stars (actors) in this film shine, it’s real beauty is its uniqueness. There’s a strong chance you’ve never seen any film like this one.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

Dead Men Tell No Jarmusch Tales

It’s quite possible you’ve never seen ANYTHING like the 1995 Jim Jarmusch film “Dead Man”, starring Johnny Depp.   While the film’s director Jim Jarmusch is known for his weird black and white films, to me, this one is different because I actually enjoyed it. 

The story follows main character William Blake (played by Depp) who involuntarily travels to the Wild West from Cleveland.   Once he gets there, the bookish-looking Blake goes down a rabbit hole of experiences:  humiliation from his potential boss and          co-workers, a brief love affair, gunshots, injury and escape — and that’s only the first few minutes of it. Before too long he encounters a Native American/Indian named Nobody (brilliantly played by Gary Farmer) and the two set off for even more adventures.

I’ve read several reviews and interpretations of “Dead Man”.   One called it an “Acid Western”.   That’s not far from the truth, but there are a few  other important considerations that pop to my mind if you’re going to watch it.  First and foremost, it is a strange experience. Second, it’s a slow paced film – not necessarily a bad thing, but good to know. Third, Neil Young contributed the primarily electric guitar score to the film.   (I’m a fan of Neil’s, but not everybody will dig this soundtrack and not everybody will dig the film itself. ) 

The other cast members of  “Dead Man” are a pretty wild assortment of actors like Billy Bob Thornton, Iggy Pop, and too many more to name them all.   For my money, Michael Wincott steals the show as a motor mouthed gun for hire.  Sound interesting? It’s hard to encapsulate what “Dead Man” really is.   I purposefully didn’t re-read any of the reviews/interpretations of it, prior to writing my take on it.  I don’t think “Dead Man” is a “shock value” sort of film where that’s it’s sole purpose, but there is a bit of violence, cannibalism, and a transvestite cowboy.   On the flip side, there is also an amazing       re-creation of a Makah village, which has some really amazing artwork (http://makah.com/makah-tribal-info/).   

In conclusion, you could describe “Dead Man” like throwing your favorite western into a blender with “Alice in Wonderland” and it coming out black and white.  

Till next time, keep your black and white Mojo on the Horizon.

My Favorite Villain

What makes a great villain?  I’d say a great villain has to be cold and ruthless, but also a worthy adversary.   The word villain itself may cause some James Bond fans to conjure up specific movies or scenes, but who is the ultimate?   You could certainly make an argument for Darth Vader – cold, ruthless, motivated, and most definitely a worthy adversary. Killer voice and quite mysterious, too.

However, my all-time favorite villain can be found in the 1994  kung fu saga “Fist of Legend”.   Jet Li stars as Chinese folk hero Chen Zen, and he kicks major ass from the opening scene. He snaps some wiseguy’s leg like it’s a twig just minutes into the film.  The question is… Who could believably match a kung fu ass-kicking machine like Jet Li?  The answer is…his most worthy adversary  General Fujita, played by Billy Chow (also known as Billy Chau   https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0159435/)

This dude is one BIG, mean looking Asian.   Cold? The Japanese general has got that covered.  He’s cocky and doesn’t mince words.

What left a lasting impression on me the first time I watched the film was General Fujita’s  training montage.   (It’s just as well I couldn’t find it on YouTube.   It’s my favorite part of the movie and should probably be experienced in the context of the film). Let me just say breaking boards and arduous training are martial arts movie expectations which are far exceeded —  and it’s done with a cocky coldness that IS General Fujita.   My mouth was wide open the first time I saw it.   This may be personal preference, but the fact that the movie is dubbed into English just makes Fujita’s voice that much more sinister.  Fujta has a great scene where he tells Chen Zen he’s “made a little sign” about Chen Zen’s academy being closed. Expectation exceeded again. As you might guess, there’s an epic battle between good and evil, Chen Zen and General Fujita (aka The Supreme Killer), Jet Li and Bill Chow towards the end of Fist of Legend.

Outside of the movie world, Billy Chow was a world champion kickboxer, who also trained in boxing and Muay Thai.   Maybe that real world legitimacy is what translates into his confident, cocky portrayal of General Fujita. Whatever the case may be, it works.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fist_of_Legend

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon.

Chasing the Sun

I can remember exactly where I was when I stumbled across  the 1996 film called The Sunchaser .   (I was working as the overnight guy in radio at the time and found it channel surfing late one night while staying at a relative’s house.)   It had an impact on me.  “Offbeat” is the first word that pops to mind when trying to describe this unique film.   It was directed by Michael Cimino, perhaps best known as the writer/director of The Deer Hunter, and stars Woody Harrelson as mega-yuppie physician Dr. Michael Reynolds along with Jon Seda as teenage inmate/patient Brandon “Blue” Monroe.

If I had to pick one central theme to  The Sunchaser,  it’s healing.  While the two main characters are very different, they both are in need of it.    Dr. Reynolds leads an extremely materialistic/country club type of lifestyle while “Blue” is a desperately sick teen from the wrong side of the tracks. Seda is very believable as a streetwise, angry young man who’s determined to live despite any number of cards being stacked against him.  The two characters wind up on a purpose-driven road trip through the Southwest. The film also explores Native American and New Age spirituality as part of the overall “vibe” of healing.

This film never was going to be a blockbuster and it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. It’s definitely offbeat, and might be described as disjointed in parts. Some will even say it’s predictable. However, the beauty of The Sunchaser may be its ability to show the common ground between the two main characters.   They’re both flawed, but still have their likable qualities.

Who’s the bigger weirdo… The guy who believes in magic mountains or the guy who doesn’t?  This affirmation is my favorite quote from The Sunchaser:

May beauty be before me.

May beauty be behind me.

May beauty be above me.

May beauty be below me.

May beauty be all around me.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon.

80s action movies & PG-13

I was surfing on YouTube for something to catch my interest and I started watching a documentary on the unknown/ psychic phenomenon. What can I say, I love that kind of stuff.   A few minutes into it I started thinking about the 1984 film “Dreamscape” , starring a young Dennis Quaid.   I highly recommend it.   In my opinion, it falls into the high quality science-fiction genre. It’s about a psychic who’s recruited into a secret government program involving dreams.

If you’re looking for CGI effects, this is NOT your movie.  If you have any imagination at all, you’ll most likely enjoy it.   I mean the setting for a good deal of the movie is in dreams, right?  Looking back at it now, the film’s cast is a bizarre lineup of talent:  Eddie Albert, Kate Capshaw, Max von Sydow, and 80s icon George Wendt (aka Norm from Cheers). There’s also great “bad guy” David Patrick Kelly — perhaps best known as the taunting villain in “The Warriors” (1979).   The cold war/nuclear tensions portrayed in the film definitely take me back to that time period.  It was also rated PG-13, which was a new thing at the time.

The first film released with a PG-13 rating is another mid 80s classic:   “Red Dawn” (1984). Cold war fuses explode when a not-so-friendly group of Russian soldiers lands right smack dab in the middle of Calumet, Colorado — the home of the Wolverines.  Those soldiers have their hands full when they come across the Eckert Brothers – played by Patrick Swayze and a seemingly more innocent Charlie Sheen.   This film will have both sides of the gun law battle shouting, “U-S-A, U-S-A!”.  There’s guerrilla warfare, firefights in the snow, and horses.   What’s not to like!

The female cast members are also “very 80s”:   Lea Thompson and Jennifer Grey.  The film just sucks you in and makes you think, “What WOULD I do if enemy soldiers just attacked out of the blue?” Also, the title of the film is powerful: Red Dawn.  Have two syllables ever said more?   If you were around in the 80s, you know “Red” meant Russia, and it wasn’t necessarily a good thing.

Prior to the PG-13 rating, most movies you wanted to see were either “PG” or “R”.   Why did it come about?  Well, I remember one scene from the PG-rated “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981) where this evil Nazi dude’s face melts.  My friend’s younger brother started screaming hysterically and had to be taken from theater temporarily.   Good times! I’m sure there are other examples which contributed to the need for the PG-13 rating.

The best part, though, is I turned 14 during the month before PG-13. Perfect timing!

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

 

Swords, Sandals, & Skeletons

I don’t remember exactly how old I was, but I can remember watching the movie “Jason and the Argonauts” on television as a schoolboy.  It was probably a Saturday afternoon special on KPLR Channel 11 in St.  Louis.   I’d never seen ANYTHING like it.   It was like putting an action movie, a mythology book, and a bunch of crazy creatures into a blender.  The basic plot is Jason goes on a quest for The Golden Fleece, but that description doesn’t do it justice.    He and his crew sail away in their ship, The Argo, and have all kinds of colorful adventures.  They have to use brains, brawn, and bravery to conquer epic monsters like Talos.

Is the film cheesy and dated in parts? Sure it is, but, in my humble opinion, there is no other “sword and sandal” movie that comes close to this one.

The 1963 film stars St. Louis, MO native Todd Armstrong as the hero Jason, leader of the Argonauts.   However, the real stars of the film are the monsters created by stop-motion animation genius Ray Harryhausen.   There are hydras, harpies, clashing rocks, and so much more.  The film may be best known for the battle between Jason and The Argonauts, and an army of stop motion skeleton warriors who come out of nowhere.

If you’ve never heard of stop-motion animation, it involves a mind-blowing amount of detail work.  According to Wikipedia, “Stop motion is an animated-film making technique in which objects are physically manipulated in small increments between individually photographed frames so that they will appear to exhibit independent motion when the series of frames is played back as a fast sequence.”  Knowing how it’s made just makes it that much more unbelievable.

In 2000, an updated TV movie version starring Jason London was released.  I’d recommend it.   It’s a two part mini series that lasts 3 hours.  The special effects are digital if I’m not mistaken, but I enjoyed them.  I’d recommend seeing the original first, but as far as remakes go, I give it a thumbs up.   The remake also features Dennis Hopper and Natasha Henstridge.   https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0217579/?ref_=nv_sr_2

You have NOT LIVED until you’ve experienced this world full of mythological monsters,  swords, and sandals.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!