Director Lo Wei (Fist of Fury, The Big Boss) was characteristically busy in the late ’70s, specifically with a pair of martial arts films he was shooting back to back in 1978: Spiritual Kung Fuand Dragon Fist. Both films ended up being shelved due to lack of funds, but once star Jackie Chan and director Yuen Woo-Ping came through with the rousing success of Snake in the Eagle’s Shadowand Drunken Master, Lo Wei found a golden opportunity to finally release both belated projects.
The results are yet another showcase of Jackie Chan’s singular blend of exaggerated comedy and expert stunt coordination, and the dubbed version made its way to screens in the west in the ’80s under the not-so-subtle title of Karate Ghostbuster. Much like how other successful movies paved the way for Spiritual Kung Fu‘s release in Hong Kong, Ghostbustersmania led to the film’s catchy English tagline of “Who you gonna call? Jackie Chan!”
Featuring Yuen Biao and an intense final fight that pits Jackie Chan against James Tien, Spiritual Kung Fustarts out like one of those martial arts movies that feels like a couple different films mashed together. Part of it hinges on the disappearance of a dangerous martial arts manual and the murders that occur as a result, while the other is pure Jackie Chan tomfoolery. As martial arts masters drop left and right, Jackie learns new fighting techniques from a quintet of ghosts who each represent different styles. This is, of course, where he spends an entire scene chasing them around and, eventually, peeing on them.
When he’s not training with ghosts and begrudgingly battling invisible enemies—which is apparently something the action star found particularly difficult, and was an aspect of Lo Wei’s film he didn’t mesh well with during production—Jackie puts on a real show sparring with monks in order to pass his final tests before setting out to wrap up the murderous loose ends and avenge his masters. Outside of the finale, his staff and tonfa bouts are some true highlights.
88 Films impresses with their Blu-ray release of yet another Jackie Chan classic. Sporting a new 2K remaster of the Hong Kong cut from the original 35mm negatives, the 2020 Spiritual Kung Fuhome video release comes with Cantonese, English and Mandarin DTS-HD MA mono audio options, as well as an alternate Cantonese DTS-HD MA mono track with different music. As has come to be expected from 88, this one looks way better than most of us have ever seen it presented, and the feature is complemented by a mix of new and archival bonus features, from commentary by genre experts to Korean version excerpts to interviews and English, Japanese and Hong Kong trailers.
Distributor: 88 Films Format: Blu-ray Region: B Release Date: 10/26/2020
How’s THIS for a new horror movie? I checked Zombieland: Double Tap out in the theater with a few friends the other night, fitting it nicely in the #30 slot for the month. It’s been a decade or so since the first Zombieland movie hit theaters, which means it’s been about a decade since I saw it on DVD and thought it was okay. Thus, I remember almost nothing about it, and that doesn’t matter a lick if you plan on watching this sequel.
Double Tap is, per my hazy recollection, more of the same. It moves at a brisk pace, has enough jokes to keep it going, and coasts pretty comfortably off the talent of Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin, and, to a lesser extent, Jesse Eisenberg. If you had told me 10 years ago that Eisenberg was not, in fact, the K-Mart Michael Cera and would even go on to replace him in the spotlight completely, why… why I woulda shrieked!
For my money, the brief time spent with Luke Wilson and Thomas Middleditch completely steals the show in this one. The rest is enjoyable enough, but if you’re not itching to get out to your local theater you can probably wait until this one hits the ‘Box. That’s REDBOX, baby!
Much like the zombies in this film, at this point I can practically feel the trick-or-treaters lumbering my way, so I really need to move on to… our FINAL FILM!
It’s Halloween! That means it’s finally time to wrap up this month of movies with the last batch. No, sadly, not The New Batch, but close enough, because the 29th movie of the month is Joe Dante’s The Howling!
This particular cycle of the werewolf happened to be released during my own dang birth year, 1981, which means I definitely didn’t see it in theaters. Ever since I did eventually see it, though, I’ve held it up as one of the staples of werewolf cinema, with a classic transformation, incredibly animalistic werewolves, and a story that puts these creatures in a more modern and believable context.
Throw in a bit of Dante’s comedic bite and you have a movie that holds up to this day, especially when it comes to that roarer of an ending. If you want to see it in all its glory, pick up the Blu-ray from Scream Factory ASAP.
As much as I’d love to ruminate on this one more, we gotta get through to the end. Like I said, it’s Halloween!
This entry is a three-for-one, but not in the way Body Bagswas way back in the beginning of the month. For movies 26-28, my wife and I watched the first three Scream movies back to back. It takes a lot for my wife to want to watch a horror movie, and it helps that we both find the Scream movies entertaining. Guess what? They’re mostly still good!
This should come as no surprise given the fact that the late, great Wes Craven directed them all. You end up with diminishing returns along the way—especially when the time comes to reveal the big whodunnit twist—but each has an incredible opening scene, and the first is a total classic of the genre.
Beyond the frozen-in-time casting, it’s amazing to go back to these and see what Craven kicked off with the series as a whole. So many teen slashers rose from the ashes of Scream, which revitalized the horror genre for the late ’90s and early ’00s, regardless of what the old heads at the time had to say about it. Even if you don’t like some of the movies that followed—from your I Know What You Did Last Summers to your Urban Legends—you gotta hand it to Scream.
Scream 3 is the weakest of the initial trilogy, but in this case it might not have helped that I watched them all one after the other. As for which has the best opening, while the first with Drew Barrymore is an all-time great, I really love the movie theater rowdiness of Scream 2‘s kickoff.
If, like me, it’s been ages since you bothered with the Scream movies, fire ’em up sometime soon. We plan on bringing the saga to an end with Scream 4 tonight, but I’m already past my 31 movie plan so you won’t be reading about it here.
Ah, Basket Case. If there’s anything that can cleanse my palate after a dud from 1972, it’s the glory of a New York grime time classic from 1982. Frank Henenlotter is one of my favorite genre directors, and the sheer ridiculousness of movies like Brain Damage and Basket Case are among the key reasons why.
Duane Bradley just arrived in New York City from upstate, and despite a suspiciously large wad of cash, all he really has to his name is a rectangular wicker basket with a firm lock on it. Naturally, everyone would love to know what the hell’s in that basket, but there aren’t many that survive after they find out.
Because, baby, Belial is in the basket!
I’ll save the specifics for any of you who have, for some reason, never seen Basket Case before. It’s a real low-renter with effects that are just okay, but it has a lot of piss and vinegar that make it a blast to watch. It’s also one of those great NYC time capsule movies that offers a ground-floor glimpse at what the city was like before it became the safe-but-still-urine-soaked city we know it as today.
Arrow Video put out a great Blu-ray of this one, returning it to its original 1:33:1 aspect ratio. It looks better than ever, even when Belial is bumbling around in stop-motion or clinging to a wall for dear life. A stinky staple of the season!