The White-Bone Sword Part 4 (Review)

The White-Bone Sword (Part 4)

aka 白骨陰陽劍(四集) aka Bai gu yin yang jian, si ji aka Ingenious swords, part four
White-Bone Sword
1963HKMDB Link
Written by Sze-To On
Directed by Ling Yun

American elections in gif form!

This is it, the final chapter of the saga of The White-Boned Sword, the thrilling tale of some powerful swords that everyone wants so of course it attracts a bunch of jerks! Don’t leave yet, we still got one more brand new monster showing up later in the film, but first we have the amazing battle of the undead happening! When last we left, Wong Tin-ho had been poisoned, so Wu Sheung-fung was in search of the rare White-bone Grass to save him, but there was a pack of dancing skeletons in the way! Luckily, Luk Fong-fei and Vampire Lady were also around so Vampire Lady could send her pack of hopping vampires to fight the dancing skeletons. Thus the battle is joined…
White-Bone Sword

Wong Tin-ho (Walter Tso Tat-wah) – Poisoned at the end of the last part, after Wu Sheung-fung rescues him by getting the antidote, he can help the group with several adventures before the final fight against the villains!
Wu Sheung-fung (Yu So Chow) – Spends the first half of the film questing for the White-bone Grass to save Wong Tin-ho, and impresses Taoist White-bone with her bravery that he gives her the Grass. Later helps the gang battle against he Fire-spitting Deadly Dragon.
Luk Fong-fei (Connie Chan Po-chu) – She’s certainly around and probably does stuff, but nothing exciting enough to get a blurb.
Vampire Lady (Kong Bo-Lin) – Vampire Lady and her vampires return to kick butt of both the skeleton and normal variety!
Kam Yan-kit (Yu Kai) – Still looking to avenge his father against Chung Ching, but he’s not so avengful that he doesn’t have time to hit on Luk Fong-fei! Stay focused, buddy!
Chung Ching (Sek Kin) – Evil conspirator who works with the three devils Heaven, Earth, and Man to possess the White-boned Swords and thus rule the martial world. Also has a dragon, which seems cooler than some swords, but what do I know?
Fire-spitting Deadly Dragon (Himself) – A dragon who hangs out at Devil Mountain, he’s either part of Chung Ching’s group or he just chills on Devil Mountain and is angry when people bug him.
Tree Spirit (Himself) – Everyone’s favorite tree monster is back, this time to fight the Fire-spitting Deadly Dragon in a battle of the sparklers!!!

White-Bone Sword
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Dragonriders of Pern gets their best chance yet of actually being movies!

Dragonriders of Pern

Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern has been optioned (again!) for the silver screen, this time by Warner Brothers, who are in a desperate search for a new megafranchise to make money off of in the wake of Harry Potter being long gone (and the new Potter-less Rowling films a gamble), and with The Hobbit wrapping up with no Similarion in sight. Thus, options are getting thrown about like wild pitches at a drunken softball game! Warners optioned all 22 books, which (as those of us who read the books because we were dorks know) covers 2500 years of time on planet Pern, meaning they can potentially restart the franchise every three movies or so with whole new casts! Brilliant!

Some Dragonriders of Pern info for the few of you who don’t know and are too lazy to highlight the title and rightclick for the Google search: Dragonriders of Pern takes place on the planet Pern, which is occasionally threatened by a rogue planet called the Red Star, whose irregular orbit causes it to drag destructive creatures known as Thread with it that fall on Pern and devour all organic matter it touches until they die. The Thread threatens all living creatures with destructing, but luckily they are easily destroyed by fire. Pern also has natural tiny flying lizards that breath flames (called dragonets) and bang, zoom, genetic manipulation later, suddenly we got huge dragons that people ride and burn the Thread up with.

Of course, the dragons have psychic bonds, there are different colors of dragons, occasionally the Thread doesn’t fall when it’s supposed to and people begin resenting the dragonriders, and other planet intrigue happens. The series has a lot of trilogies and other work that could be set all over Pern history.

Thanks to movies and big budgets and Game of Thrones, this is probably the best time for Dragonriders of Pern to get optioned, and the best time for it to get turned into an actual film. Here’s hoping for some awesome dragonriding and fighting and cool things being cool. Because that would be cool! If you’ve paid attention over the years, you’ve heard this franchise get optioned numerous times. But I have a feeling about this option…

Never fear, Warners is still hedging their bets on old school franchises, including forming a Harry Potter Global Franchise Development team that’s based in both London and Burbank. It’s called HPGFD, because, of course it is! It’s all about studios and brands leveraging every dollar out of your bank account and into theirs!

Pern covers gallery by Michael Whelan
via Deadline

47 Ronin

47 Ronin

47 Ronin
Written by Chris Morgan and Hossein Amini
Story by Chris Morgan & Walter Hamada
Directed by Carl Rinsch

47 Ronin

Oishi looked and saw a horrible edit job that brought dishonor to his clan

47 Ronin becomes the final financial disaster of 2013, schizophrenic mess of a picture that manages to be offensive on several levels while not having the simple decency to be entertaining (either good or bad) and sits mired in the muck of mediocrity. An untested director was suddenly given stacks of cash to make a big budget effects movie, and quickly things fell apart. After the studio stepped in, things somehow got more confusing. In the end, the only people happy are people who get happy when dumb things happen.
47 Ronin

Michael Jackson!

The 47 Ronin is a classic tale of true Japanese history that has enough events going on that a straight adaptation would easily work as a mainstream film, and has before. In fact, the 47 Ronin has be adapted so often there is even a term for genre that is the various adaptations of the work – Chushingura. Due to censorship laws, the original plays featured altered names and events, and some retellings are stylized adaptations that mix myth and history. A 300-style adaptation is not out of the bounds of accepted reality, and I do not fault the film for trying that angle, it could have been interesting had it been applied correctly. Dragons, strange beasts, golems, witches, bird people, ogres, and magic swords are elements of many successful films. But it is not to be.
47 Ronin

Good thing Kai and Oishi tricked those trolls into staying out until sunrise!

Reeves plays a half-Japanese half-British character who is raised by the Lord Asano, Kai is entirely made up and shoehorned into the story. From the narrative it’s clear Reeves wasn’t the original star and has had scenes added on, while Hiroyuki Sanada’s character Oishi is either ignored or suddenly the focus during random scenes. That disrupts an already cluttered tale simplified down for mainstream audiences, gives no characters enough development to give them dramatic weight, and many things simply happen for reasons never explained. The official story is new director Carl Rinsch originally had even less of Keanu Reeves, and was forced to do reshoots to beef of the role. The hints of studio interference are obvious – Reeves’ Kai suddenly had a love interest (the Princess Mika), was inserted into the final battle fighting a dragon (more on this in a bit), and spends a lot of the running time looking at other events.
47 Ronin

At least she takes good care of her teeth!

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Na Cha and the Seven Devils

Na Cha and the Seven Devils

aka 梅山收七怪 aka Mei shan shou qi guai aka Na Cha and the 7 Devils
Na Cha Seven Devils
Written by ???
Directed by Yamanouchi Tetsuya

Na Cha Seven Devils

Here’s your disco inferno!

Who would have thought that a movie about a bunch of animal demons running amok, including a huge fire breathing dragon in sequences directed by Yamanouchi Tetsuya, would turn out to be so boring? Obviously anyone who has had prior experience with movies where flying kids battle monsters! At TarsTarkas.NET, we have dealt with a lot of them! Though most of those are Taiwanese, Na Cha and the Seven Devils comes from the illustrious Shaw Brothers studios. It’s the second of two Na Cha films that were made at the same time by Yamanouchi Tetsuya, featuring many of the same cast (they even reuse at least one human character as the grandson of his character from the first film!), and one of several Na Cha films, a character from a classic Chinese tale.

A quick Na Cha primer: Na Cha is that kid with the flaming circles around his feet that let him fly. Sometimes his name is translated Nezha or Na Zha. He’s based on Chinese mythology that probably has roots in Hinduism. Na Cha shows up in Journey to the West and has a stream of television and film appearances.

Na Cha and the Seven Devils seems like it would be an idea kids film, just let them watch the special effects while mom and dad go get hammered..I mean, go do chores. But there is an awful lot of boob grabbing. It’s oddly sensual (though in a clumsy sensual way), and Shaw was ranking up the sexy in the early 70s. It does seem way out of place for what goes on in the rest of the film.

The look of Na Cha and the Seven Devils comes from art director Mutsuo Mikimi, who has a pedigree of doing effects on Message from Space, Goke, Body Snatcher from Hell, and Super Infra-Man. Director Yamanouchi Tetsuya was making a brief foray out of Japan, but he also has a kaiju pedigree thanks to films like The Magic Serpent and 1969’s Akakage. Doi Michiyoshi is also listed as a director on the HKMDB, but not on the actual film and I can’t find any further information.

The biggest gripe with Na Cha and the Seven Devils is that Na Cha and his immortal buddies cause all these problems on Earth, then they send only three of them to deal with the problems. Meanwhile, hundreds of people die! Sorry, folks, you are all being slaughtered to teach Na Cha responsibility! The main trouble is there is a magic peach tree that only blooms every 1000 years, and then the peaches take 1000 years to ripen. And it’s about time for those babies to pop. There are 8 this year that are destined to be a gift to the Queen Mother by order of the Jade Emperor.

Na Cha is unaware of all this, and just sees a tree with a bunch of peaches, and Na Cha wants to eat them peaches. So he climbs up the tree and grabs on, accidentally causing the other 7 to fall. Because they are at Mt. Kunlu – which is between Heaven and the Mortal World, the peaches fall through the clouds to Earth. Where they are promptly found by animals, that eat them and become superpowered Devils themed on whatever animal they were.

Na Cha Seven Devils

See my vest, see my vest, made from real gorilla chest!

Now, Na Cha did cause the original problem, but he also wasn’t told not to eat the peaches, and as someone who has done their fair share of gardening (and has peach trees in the back yard!), I know for a fact peaches will be falling off the tree regardless of Na Cha shaking the branches or not, which means a few would have dropped down below anyways. Which means the immortals should have hung a few baskets to catch these valuable and dangerous peaches!

After the peaches are found to be missing, an edict comes down on high from the Jade Emperor to solve this problem in 10 days! So the group of immortals decide to just send Na Cha by his lonesome. It’s only when his two older brothers Jincha and Mucha beg to go along that the party is increased. But still, everyone else just stays around Mt. Kunlu and laments their fate and probably going to get squashed by an angry Jade Emperor soon. Lazy, lazy people who deserve it for not bothering to help solve the problem.

Na Cha Seven Devils

I’ll use this to contact Sauron!

Na Cha (Yau Lung) – The Third Prince, he who killed the dragon and brought the rain and did other stuff that was either in the other movie or is a mishmash of his legend. His dad is General Li, and his two older brothers are Jincha and Mucha. I’ve never realized until now that Na Cha is the prototype for all those annoying flying children movies that Taiwan kept pumping out. Na Cha is also annoying and flies!
Yang Jian (Ngok Yeung) – That legendary triclops who pops up from time to time in Chinese fantasy films. Notable here for popping up out of the blue and owning Celestial Dog!
Eagle Devil (???) – An eagle that eats a magic peach, becomes a devil, and decides to steal children for food!
Rat Devil (Ngai Chi-Wong) – A rat that eats a magic peach, becomes a devil, and begins chomping down on dozens of innocent people.
White Horse Devil (Chen Hung-Lieh) – A white horse that eats a magic peach, becomes a devil, and immediately declares he’ll make the village send him a lass every day!
Frog Devil (Aai Dung-Gwa) – A frog that eats a magic peach, becomes a devil, and starts trying to get it on with random human women.
Monkey Devil (???) – A monkey that eats a magic peach, becomes a devil, and starts trying to become a beautiful seductress or something. I’m not really sure what her endgame was.
Dragon Devil (Law Bun) – A huge dragon that eats a magic peach, becomes a Red Hair Devil, but still has plenty of time to burn villages and do other dragon stuff.
Fox Devil (Tina Chin Fei) – A fox that eats a magic peach, becomes a devil, and starts seducing all sorts of random guys just because she can.

Na Cha Seven Devils

I will be the Superior Spiderman!

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Dungeons & Dragons: The Book of Vile Darkness

Dungeons & Dragons: The Book of Vile Darkness

aka Dungeons & Dragons 3

Written by Brian Rudnick
Directed by Gerry Lively

Dungeons Dragons Book of Vile Darkness
The horrors of Lasik!

Dungeons & Dragons: The Book of Vile Darkness. D&D: The Threequel. D&D: Chipwrecked. Known by many names, Dungeons & Dragons 3 still manages to become a SyFy original and pack in some fun. While there is no comparison to big budgeted blockbusters where characters slice down armies of orcs, for a small adventure things are peachy keen. +2 axe keen.

Where do we stand? Well, it is still a hell of a lot better than Dungeons & Dragons. But Dungeons & Dragons 2 is slightly more charming. That isn’t to say Dungeons & Dragons 3 isn’t good. It’s actually pretty entertaining. I would say it is equally as good as the second one, if only because they switch things up and have us follow around a gang of evil adventurers who aren’t afraid to slaughter innocent people and rob and kill each other. It’s the cool things like this that make you want to watch more films that follow around a bunch of amoral people. And it’s also how some of the funner D&D campaigns go, as your characters just loot, murder, and plunder the countryside while becoming the most powerful and the most wanted people out there.

Dungeons Dragons Book of Vile Darkness
This dragon is ET!

We see the return of the director and writer of Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of the Dragon God for this new installment, Gerry Lively and Brian Rudnick. Their familiarity with the subject matter and how to make a film that isn’t terrible helped save this franchise from becoming the gigantic joke the original installment made it. The Book of Vile Darkness is an actual book for D&D as well as being an item in the game. The book was controversial upon release, as it was the first D&D book for mature audiences and some claimed it validated the old complaints about Dungeons & Dragons being evil. Others were a bit more rational with their reception.

In the film, each character gets effects and has their own motivations for why they are doing what they are doing. Some have tragic back stories, some are just in search of interesting lives, and some are just giant dicks. Akordia has neat effects where she can teleport her hands to far away to do things, which are put to great use like when she needs to slap Grayson for being an idiot again. It’s fun seeing how such powers would actually be used as opposed to just them being used in random battles. There is some great flavor, and some neat concepts for some of the monsters, particularly the very creepy undead child, and the disturbing evil Lord who has his mouth sewn shut, but still speaks through his chained twin female slaves.

Dungeons Dragons Book of Vile Darkness
Mrs. Gollum!

Grayson’s quest to save his father and thus save the world forces him into positions that betray the oaths he swore, but they are the only way to do the job of saving the world. Grayson’s choices (and eventual reveal as being way more powerful morally than his father because he compromises on his principles) is an interesting story branch, and makes you wonder how it plays out in a grander scheme. Do Grayson’s choices to kill people and ally with bad men equate with some of the awful things the US does on its War on Terror? Is this like a Jack Bauer situation, in that Grayson truly doesn’t have another alternative? Grayson does do bad things, but they are done to bad people who are planning to do even worse things. In a matter of principles, his hands aren’t as dirty as they might be, but to the values that the Knights he belong to, he doesn’t measure up to the oaths. But that doesn’t matter, as his commitment and character is what activates his magic amulet, something more pure members of the Knights were never able to do. Following the Dungeons & Dragons alignment system, Grayson moves from Lawful Good to Chaotic Good, but he never really steps outside of the good sphere. So it isn’t an abandonment of the Good principle, even if he isn’t the pure Lawful Good he wanted to be.

Grayson Azrael (Jack Derges) – Heroic newly initiated Knight who is the lone survivor of an ambush and must now join with some unseemly scum in order to rescue his father. Finds out the real world is far more complicated than the rules he agreed to as a Knight.
Akordia (Eleanor Gecks) – Witch who is out to have a good time terrorizing the masses for fun and profit. Unexpectedly falls for Grayson despite him being a goody-goody.
Bezz (Barry Aird) – The coolest character proves that evil people rule. Bezz is a vermin lord, literally made of bugs. He has extendable eyes and other weird powers. Gives Grayson a neat warning about a raccoon grabbing an apple from a box that Grayson doesn’t pick up on. Is not opposed to causing massive chaos to alleviate his boredom.
Vimak (Habib Nasib Nader) – Barbarian member of the evil party who is looking for gold to get revenge against the village that slighted him as a wounded child. Doesn’t care that his revenge will impact many people.
Seith (Lex Daniel) – Evil rogue and thief who is totally into the concept of the strong dominating the weak, to the point where he yaks about it constantly. He never shuts up about it. Ends up becoming very weak in the end.
Dungeons Dragons Book of Vile Darkness
The worst modern dance ever.

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Thrilling Sword (Review)

Thrilling Sword

aka Shen jian dong shan he

Directed by Cheung San-Yee
Written by Shing-Ming Huang

This film rules!

It is a Taiwanese take on Snow White, which needed giant monsters, guys turned into bears, demon worship, and crystal swords. Take that, Disney! The film is filled with fantastic elements, just when you think the film has exhausted its supply of weird wonderness, it shows that Thrilling Sword has barely scratched the surface. Parts of the film remind me of He-Man, to the point where I suddenly became interested in He-Man again after years of not being interested and now know all sorts of new stuff about He-Man.

Thrilling Sword is one of many awesome fantasy films that came out of the Taiwanese film industry. At the time, they were competing with the Shaw Brothers and their elaborate and expensive productions. No Taiwanese company could compete in making their films look just as good, but that didn’t stop them from trying or from going over the top with the fantasy aspects. And that makes the films that came out of Taiwan from the 1970s and 80s some of the weirdest and most fun films. It is a shame that so many of the films are hard to find or even lost. Many of the surviving films are only found on fullscreen VHS tapes that are running on thirty years old (luckily, most have been archived digitally, so even if the film never is released again it won’t disappear.) This particular rip is taken from a TV broadcast, which is supposed to be more widescreen than the fullscreen VHS releases of Thrilling Sword, but then I saw a VCD case while looking up cast info on the film, so there is at least VCD copies around, which means there might be a DVD somewhere, but who knows how good that copy is. But this is one film I would put extra time into hunting down an upgrade for.

Thrilling Sword has also been released under the titles Heaven Sword and Thrilling Bloody Sword. So now you know. Director Cheung San Yee also directed a few classics such as Lady Constables and Snaky Knight Fights Against Mantis. He also wrote Island Warriors and came up with the story for Challenge of the Lady Ninja.

Yaur-gi (Fong Fong-Fong) – It’s Snow White! The daughter of King Gau-shien who is sent down the river when she is born as a giant lump of flesh, returning 18 years later after being raised by seven dwarf generals. See more of Fong Fong-Fong in Island Warriors.
Prince Yur-juhn (Lau Seung-Him) – Yur-Juhn is a prince of the Yur Chin Kingdom/Yur Min Nation. The name changes as the film goes on, so don’t blame me. Maybe his country should choose a name and stick with it! Prince Yur-juhn falls in love with Yaur-gi and does lots of heroic stuff for the king before he is turned into a bear and has to go get crystal armor. Just your average Thursday night. Lau Seung-Him was Monkey in Monkey War and New Pilgrims to the West.
Gi-err (Elsa Yeung Wai-San) – Gi-err is from Wu Shien Kingdom is said to be a powerful exorcist. The King has her go and kill lots of demons. She also worships demons and is plotting to overthrow the king thanks to all the demons she is letting loose in the country. The King trusts her completely. Elsa Yeung has been seen on TarsTarkas.NET in Island Warriors and Challenge of the Lady Ninja.
Shiah-ker (Chang Yi) – Gi-err’s partner who also has magic powers and also worships a demon master, and he’s totally evil and even looks horribly evil and his name even sounds horribly evil. The King trusts him completely. I think the King would trust Hitler if he knew how to pull a rabbit out of his hat.
The Little Fairy of the Forest (Ha Ling-Ling) – She used to be a rabbit that Yaur-gi was nice to and then turned into a fairy to be a friend and ally. All fairy tales need fairies, which is a rule or something. I think you can go to jail. So be sure to follow that rule, okay?
Magic Master (???) – Magic Master was trapped in a box by Gi-err and Shaih-ker long ago, probably because he has a butt on his head. A butt on his head. And a nose ring. AND A BUTT ON HIS HEAD! Magic Master also has a sweet skull staff, but there is not butt on the skull. Magic Master is let loose by Prince Yur-juhn and heads off to fight the ones who trapped him.

The Dwarves!

Leader Dwarf (???) – Is the leader, and is also an archer. All of the dwarves are former generals who have been shrunk in size. All of the dwarves raise Yaur-gi when they find her in the river as an infant. Like most of the dwarves, I am not sure who played him. None of the dwarves are given names, so I named them based on their traits.
Vain (???) – He’s so vain, he probably thinks this Roll Call entry is about him.
Drunky (???) – Are these the Seven Dwarfs or the Seven Duffs? I guess Drunky parties hard to hide his crippling lack of self-esteem, his fast-living lifestyle heading towards a colision course with reality one day soon.
Sleepy (???) – He’s sleepy, thus his name. He’s also the only dwarf whose seems to correlate to one of the classic dwarves besides the Leader Dwarf.
Farty (Hui Bat-Liu) – Guess how Farty got his name! Yep, toilet humor isn’t just the realm of modern day PG-13 comedies. Hui Bat-Liu is in the greatest movie of all time, Fantasy Mission Force, as well as Island Warriors
Mohawk (???) – I know if I was a dwarf, I would have a mohawk. Because why not? Mohawk is not the brightest of bulbs, but does help sneak Princess Yaur-gi into the castle to meet Prince Yur-juhn again.
Screechy (???) – Screechy has a screechy voice, thus his name. Yep. Good times.
Raising the roof!

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