Sep 092013
 

I enjoyed 2009's Ninja, starring British martial arts star Scott Adkins. It wasn't a great film, nor even particularly original, but I thought it was a better-than-average direct-to-DVD action flick, and an entertaining throwback to the 80's heyday of Cannon's classic ninja movies. Well, director Isaac Florentine and Adkins have reunited to chronicle another adventure of Occidental ninja, Casey Bowman, with the oddly-titled sequel, Ninja: Shadow Of A Tear.

From the trailer, it looks like it could be fun. I'm particularly pleased to see little Kane Kosugi all grown up and playing the evil ninja in this entry. As a child, Kane frequently appeared alongside his father, the legendary "ninja star," Sho Kosugi, on films like Revenge Of the Ninja, 9 Deaths Of The Ninja, Black Eagle and Pray For Death. His presence just adds to the nostalgia factor for me. Looking forward to this.
Jul 272013
 
It's been about three years since the last DVD release, but four more late-period Charlie Chan mysteries from Monogram Studios are coming to DVD in a couple of weeks (August 6th), courtesy of Warner Home Entertainment's latest Charlie Chan Collection

I've never seen any of these four particular crime capers - Shadows Over Chinatown, Docks Of New Orleans, Shanghai Chest and The Golden Eye - which were produced on a shoestring by the legendary Poverty Row studio, but as an unrepentant B-mystery & Chan fan, I'm looking forward to adding them to my collection. (Even if three of them star the somnambulant Roland Winters, by far the least-interesting of the actors who portrayed the Honolulu detective.)

They're arriving right in the nick of time, too, as I've just finished watching the last of the Falcon mysteries, starring Tom Conway, and produced by RKO, and I'll be needing some fresh material for my nightly Late Movies.

Pre-order from Amazon: Charlie Chan: Collection
Jul 222013
 
I am saddened today to hear of the passing of actor Dennis Farina. Farina died Monday morning in a Scottsdale, Ariz., hospital after suffering a blood clot in his lung, according to his publicist. He was 69.

Like just about everyone else, I first witnessed his talent and screen presence when he played hardboiled police Lieutenant Mike Torello on Michael Mann's seminal period police drama, Crime Story series back in 1986. A true-life ex-Chicago cop, Farina brought hard-earned verisimilitude to his mob-busting, tough guy role.

Farina went on to play a wide variety of tough cops and criminals - sometimes comically (as in Get Shorty) - in dozens of television shows and films, including Code Of Silence, Manhunter, Snatch, and Midnight Run. He was well known for his recurring role on Law and Order, but I most fondly remember him as the titular character in Mark Frost's short-lived 1998 private eye series, Buddy Faro.

I'm definitely going to miss the guy. Rest in peace, sir.

Jul 032013
 

Booyah! This is the best Pacific Rim trailer yet! Apparently, it's not testing well with mainstream audiences, who see it as a "Transformers rip-off." I feel very sad for anyone whose pulse doesn't race in anticipation of witnessing giant robots battling giant monsters on the big screen. Poor devils.
Jun 252013
 
Sadly, after an anxious day of rumors on Facebook and Twitter, it has been confirmed that the extraordinarily talented fantasist Richard Matheson has departed this plane at age 87 after a long illness.

Matheson has always been one of my greatest literary influences and inspirations, a man whose imagination knew no limits, who could see the fantastic in the mundane world around us, and paint vivid, indelible, unforgettable images with words. He was a master, and his influence on popular culture - from the Twilight Zone to The Incredible Shrinking Man to Roger Corman's colorful Poe films to Somewhere In Time (the movie theme was played at our wedding) to I Am Legend and beyond - is immeasurable. In fact, I was just watching the 1971 film adaptation of Legend, The Omega Man, last night.

When I was writing my Kolchak The Night Stalker comic book miniseries a few years ago, it was Matheson's teleplays for the original TV movies that I used as my guide to the character.


Rest in peace, sir.
Jun 242013
 
Here's another upcoming action flick I'm looking forward to. Sylvester Stallone writes and produces this vehicle for his fellow Expendable, Jason Statham: Homefront. According to the IMDb, this Gary Fleder-directed thriller co-stars James Franco, Kate Bosworth, Winona Ryder and Clancy Brown.

The plot is described thusly: "A former DEA agent moves his family to a quiet town, where he soon tangles with a local meth druglord."

Not a lot to go on there, admittedly, but the cast looks good. Director Fleder is an unknown quantity to me (looks like he's mostly done episodic television), but, as we all know, I'm pretty much always up for a Statham flick. Homefront is due in November.
Jun 212013
 
Speaking of 80s action icons, Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger will soon appear in their first film as genuine co-stars (I don't really count Arnold as a co-star in the Expendables flicks, as his appearances there were really just cameos)... something 80s action aficionados have been waiting 30 years to see!

Escape Plan (formerly known as The Tomb, which was a far cooler title, in my opinion) is due out in October, and casts Stallone as a “structural-security authority” who finds himself locked up in a prison of his own design. In order to figure out who framed him for the crime he didn’t commit, he’ll have to use his expertise - and, no doubt, Arnold's invaluable assistance - to escape.  Sounds promising. I'm looking forward to the first trailer.
May 072013
 
Ray Harryhausen, the undisputed master of stop-motion animation, has passed away at age 92. As others have noted, he didn't create the special effects technique of animating small models one frame at a time, but he perfected it in a series of imaginative motion pictures that, regardless of their other merits (or lack thereof), will endure forever because Ray somehow managed to breath convincing life into his menagerie of mythological and fantastical creations, working in solitude for months at a time. There have been other talented stop-motion animators (including Harryhausen's own mentor, Willis O'Brien), but few managed to imbue their characters with quite as much personality and "soul."

The movies he made will always be remembered, but it is all of the artists and animators, filmmakers and authors that he inspired that will be his true and greatest legacy... and I count myself among them.

R.I.P. Ray. There's considerably less magic in the world today.

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