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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The Extra-Terrestrial Cat In Boots (Review)

The Extra-terrestrial Cat In Boots

aka O Gato de Botas Extraterrestre

Directed by Wilson Rodrigues
Written by Rubens Francisco Luchetti

O Gato de Botas Extraterrestre
Ladies and Gentlemen, TarsTarkas.NET was served. We were served by Todd at Die, Danger, Die, Die, Kill, in his review of the Mexican Puss in Boots, and he danced a deadly dance of death while everyone hooted an hollered and yelled “Damn” at the backflips and foreflips and flips that were made up of tiny flips with cream filling and cherries on top. When the dust was settled and TarsTarkas.NET was critically wounded by the serving, there was but one choice. Never backing down, TarsTarkas.NET is going to serve back! The gauntlet is thrown…and by gauntlet, I mean the boot! The boot-let, if you will. Yes, we’re serving FourDK with our own live action Puss in Boots! And this time…there’s spaceships!
O Gato de Botas Extraterrestre
Yes, it’s true, The Extra-Terrestrial Cat In Boots (O Gato de Botas Extraterrestre) features a spaceship. And a robot. And other weirdo things. But most of all, it features a guy in a cat suit running around doing things. That’s weird enough by itself. The Extra-Terrestrial Cat In Boots largely follows the plot of the original Puss in Boots story by Charles Perrault (though the film erroneously credits it to the Brothers Grimm!), except for the few random goofy things that make this Puss in Boots freaking crazy. The last time we went to Brazil, TarsTarkas.NET was tortured by Os Trapalhões’ Brazilian Star Wars (Os Trapalhões na Guerra dos Planetas). We haven’t been back since, despite an ever-growing pile of Os Trapalhões and Xuxa films preparing to destroy my body and mind. But I’m back, and this time, there is a case of cat litter and a laser light acting as backup. So, Puss, get your boots…it’s dance-off time!

WR-Filmes brings us this Brazilian take, and the credits are primed to tell us that Burman Studios created the cat makeup, while Dr. D. Wes Wheadon did the visual effects of the cat’s eyes. This cat is complicated! And yet, it still looks creepy as hell.
O Gato de Botas Extraterrestre
To add more weirdness to things, director/writer/actor Wilson Rodrigues is well known for directing a bunch of softcore Brazilian productions in the early 1980s. He even brings along a pack of the stars of those films, including Puss himself, Heitor Gaiotti! This was Wilson Rodrigues’s last film.
O Gato de Botas Extraterrestre

Puss in Boots (Heitor Gaiotti) – Puss spends much of his timerunning and cheering and “whoo-hoo”ing This Puss in Boots. Puss looks like a refuge from that 1980s Beauty and the Beast tv series that starred Linda Hamilton Heitor Gaiotti is known for the softcore films Anarquia Sexual, O Guarani, and A Vida Quis Assim.
Guy (Maurício Mattar) – The third son who gets nothing from an inheritance except a cat. Because he’s a lazy bum, he does nothing while his poor cat does all the work to make him rich and famous. The lazy bum is passed off as the Marquis de Carabas, and he even scores the hand of the princess in marriage.
Princess Belina (Flávia Monteiro) – The young princess of the royal family of the land who is conned into thinking the youngest son has tons of money, so of course she falls in love with him. Flávia Monteiro is a Brazilian actress who originally gained fame being naked at age 14 in A Menina do Lado. She is also an author and had done a lot of television work.
Coffin Joe (José Mojica Marins) – Holy crapaholy! It’s Coffin Joe! For no reason! This is the greatest movie ever. We’ll give a Coffin Joe bio when we get around to a Coffin Joe flick.
The Wizard (???) – Instead of an ogre, we have a crazy wizard who looks like a homeless man cosplaying Harry Potter! Meets the same fate as the ogre in the tale.
Darth Vader (???) – Darth Vader here is the man who built Puss in Boots and returns to change his creation’s batteries. He has a gun. This is the second Brazilian film I’ve seen with a dimestore Darth Vader.

O Gato de Botas Extraterrestre
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Haunted House Elf (Review)

Haunted House Elf

Directed by ???

Haunted House Elf is what the title of this film translate to. There are little to no records of this hardly anywhere, especially records in English. Whoever did the subtitles decided that the vampires would be called “The Living Dead” He also decided that checking spelling was for pussies and that he was a real man. I’m here to tell you this guy is no real man and probably couldn’t spell “man” correctly if it was tattooed on his hand, much less any other word.

There was a period of time where tons of hopping vampire flicks popped up in the shadow of the Mr. Vampire films. Because hopping vampires are wacky, kids loved them, and it was inevitable that hopping vampire kid movies appeared. There was a ton of them at one point, you couldn’t shake a magic paper tract without it hitting the forehead of some hopping vampire kid. Then, like most fads, it quickly died and was replaced with Pokemon or something. Hmph…kids.

Wang Chi-Chiang aka Shiao-Chiang (???) – His mom is dead, his dad is a drunk, and Shiao-Chiang has anger at his mom for dying. But he’s too busy trying to please and comes off as a normal kid, which is good. Shiao because means little, as you should know had you seen that Karate Kid remake or speak Chinese.
Shiao-Ming (Lin Hsiao Lan) – The daughter of the family that owns the house. We never find out her full name. Not very good at being low-key that they are up to something, but mom is too busy. Lin Hsiao Lan is best known for starring in a bunch of Peach Boy films.
Lee Chung-Chiang aka Shaio-Tai (???) – Bratty son of the family that owns the haunted house. Is a big jerk, yells at people for no reason, and the rest of the kids ditch him to go on their comic book adventure. Jerks always finish last, buddy!
Tong-Tong (???) – A Hopping Vampire Kid who was trapped in a coffin for 300 years, then gets his new friends trapped in a comic book where they almost die like 50 times. A real friend. Now let’s stake him!
Tribal Chief (Wu Ma) – An evil tribal chief who is about to feast on some princess when these kids and a vampire show up in his comic book story and ruin the plot. Tribal Chief switches more costumes than an evening of Saturday Night Live trying to defeat the invaders, but eventually dies when the comic book burns up.

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Beauty’s Evil Roses (Review)

Beauty’s Evil Roses

aka Se jiang II zhi xie mei gui

Directed by Lam Wah-Chuen
Written by Chan Hiu-Bing

Beauty’s Evil Roses is somewhat famous in the circle of people who watch Hong Kong cult cinema because it is pretty darn weird. Besides being a weird Category III film, it also falls into the genre of movies that have weird S&M-type scenes, creepy tentacle stuff, and goofy Thai witchcraft battles. The creepy tentacle stuff is the types of things you expect to see out of Japan, not Hong Kong. The best stuff is the crazy goofy witch effects, especially when the Taoist priest is battling the Thai witches (why to all the evils in the universe in Hong Kong films come from Thailand? Because the city fears the wild frontier!)

So we have crazy witch cults, girls getting kidnapped, lesbians, cops doing cop stuff, more characters than you can shake a rape tentacle at, confusion, goofy effects, lesbians, gender-neutral evil deities, lesbians, Taoist priests, battles in outer space, lesbians, and lesbians. Seems like a winner to me.

Despite this being a VHS copy, the film did get a cheap DVD release at some point. But we don’t have it, so you can’t see it! Nyah nyah nyah!

The cast list is very sketchy, I did my best but make no promises as to the accuracy. So if there are errors, it is your fault for noticing them, and I will use my Lathe of Heaven powers to alter reality so my guesses are correct. That’s what you get for doubting my cast listing skills!

Mannie (Wong Wing-Fong) – A model and girlfriend of A-Kang, who spends a lot of time having sex with her. She also poses nude, which didn’t bother A-Kang before he started dating her, but suddenly makes him uneasy. Mannie helps infiltrate the evil cult that kills women, giving a bonus lesbian sex scene. Wong Wing-Fong is also known as Usang Yeong Fang.
A-Kang Hsiao (Jack Wong Wai-Leung) – A-Kang Hsiao is a cop with a girlfriend and anger issues. He’s such a good cop he becomes a target of th evil cult. His sister is Show-Mei
Police Supervisor Madam (Chang Siu-Yin) – Cheng’s girlfriend – aka Handcuff Girl – Police Captain that Cheng is sleeping with, their relationship is supposed to be a secret
Cheng (Alex Fong Chung-Sun) – Handcuff Guy – A neurotic cop who likes to beat suspects. He is dating his superior, who is only referred to as Police Supervisor Madam. He is also filled with rage. The rage burns in him like the fire of 1000 suns.
Da-Shie (???) – The evil queen of the cult who has lesbian sex and S&M bondage stuff with all the female members, though she has to answer to Evil God. The makeup artist decided to make her look extra evil, so she’s got that going on for her. Suffer not the evil to live, thus Da-Shie is dead by the end of the film.
Evil God (???) – Evil God looks a lot like Gozer. Hmmmm…. He’s evil, and he has God-like powers, such as kung fu and…kung fu. Okay, maybe he can torture people from afar. I am not sure. Evil God sure isn’t immune to bullets.
Show-Mei (???) – The Money. Miss Missouri here seems to be a tourist who makes friend with a guy who never gets a name, until she is kidnapped by a cult and brainwashed with tentacle worms or something. Then she becomes evil and her brother A-Kang has to track her down and destroy the cult.
Ian-Huang (Chui Seung-Ha) – Member of the evil cult with a Keira Knightly vibe going on. Spends the beginning of the film boinging an old dude to infect him with evil tentacle stuff. Then she dresses as a dude and later tries to kill A-Kang. The most well-characterized of the evil cult’s disciples. Her name is spelled Ian-Heung and Yen-Hong when the subtitles guy is letting his assistant do the work.
Great Priest (???) – A Taoist priest who is not Lam Ching-Ying, so he will be dead by the end of the film. And he is. Only Lam Ching-Ying can be the awesome Taoist priest, sorry, dude.
Share (???) – Share is probably supposed to be Cher, but maybe her parents wanted to teach her how to share so much they made it her name. Too bad they didn’t teach her not to get involved in deadly lesbian S&M cults.

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Legend of Eight Samurai (Review)

Legend of Eight Samurai

aka Satomi hakken-den

Directed by Kinji Fukasaku

A classic Japanese tale gets a reworking and then is dubbed and imported into America. Like many Asian epics, there are a lot of characters and a complicated plot, which is made more confusing with the bad dubbing. Even worse, this is an adaptation of an epic tale that is condensed into a film so huge chunks of back story are either disregarded or glossed over in less than a sentence. Any movie boasting giant centipedes is worth a look. Unfortunately, the 80’s soundtrack does a wonderful job of dating the film, despite it being a period piece. Originally I thought that the songs were added by the American importers, but with the release of the Japanese language original since I originally wrote this review over a year ago, it has become known that the songs where already added in the original version. It’s a deadly blow, imagine the worst of hair bands and love ballads, more deadly than any martial art. The film loses some of the fun factor as the emotion turns to hating the soundtrack. This version of Legend of Eight Samurai that we are recapping is the full screen original American dub, one day we will try to get a hold of the Japanese widescreen version for comparison.

The story is a Japanese mythology that originated in China (like many things Japanese, including the Japanese writing scripts (the kanas are simplified versions of the kanji they “borrowed” from China.) The story of a princess, the last of her clan, given eight warriors to protect her, selected without their knowledge. Magic crystals are found by those selected, the crystals created by a dog (thus giving the story its name:Hakkenden or “Dog Warriors.”) Each crystal has a different Confucian virtue, which is only used in this film as the kanji symbol on each crystal (we have gone through the trouble of translating each one.) Takizawa Okikuni (also known as Kyokutei Bakin or Takizawa Bakin) created the version used in this film from 1814 to 1842 (Edo era) a 106 volume story called Nanso Satomi Hakkenden that took 28 years to complete. Almost as long as the Wheel of Time series is taking. The serial was then updated in 1982 by Toshio Kamata in a novel called Shin Satomi Hakkenden. Many of the stars are part of the Japanese Action Squad, a group founded by Sonny Chiba that practiced martial arts and seemed to star in many movies together. In fact, they previously starred in a futuristic version of this very same tale called Message From Space over here (Uchu kara no messeji in Japan) that even featured the same director!

These are the eight who have Confucian Virtue Jewels:

Daikaku (Minori Terada) – (Gi – Duty or Justice.) Loyal sidekick to Dosetsu, hides Princess Shizu at his mother’s house, only to find his mother has been replaced. Killed in the final battle.
Dosetsu (Sonny Chiba) – (Chuu – Loyalty.)Sonny Chiba gained massive fame from the original Streetfighter film, and had a long career before and after, with many ups and downs. His recent inclusion in the first Kill Bill rocketed him back to fame, and lead to many of his films being released again in better editions. Has been seen here before in Sister Streetfighter, which also stars another of this movie’s actors. Killed in the final battle.
Shino (Masaki Kyomoto) – Brother of his sister (well, duh!) who just happens to be in love with his sister (not blood sister) but as she is getting married it is impossible for him. Until her groom-to-be is killed, but then their forbidden love results in her death and his revenge upon his family. Eventually given a crystal and ends up dead in the final battle. (Kou – Filial devotion/piety.) Played Ryo in Cutie Honey.
Female Assassin Keno (Etsuko Shiomi) – An assassin who disrupts Shino’s sister’s wedding in order to kill the groom. Eventually gets a crystal as well. (Rei – Knowledge traditional/proper form. I think they may have altered her kanji character.) Killed in the final battle by a killer who was hounding her the entire movie. Etsuko Shiomi became famous after the Sister Streetfighter films, and was Japan’s only all-around female action star. She retired after marrying singer Tsuyoshi Nagabuchi and now runs marathons under her married name, refusing interviews about her action star career.
Soldier (Kenji Oba?) – A servent of the demons who kills for them, before given a crystal because of his disgust for what he is forced to do. Killed in the final battle. I believe the soldier is played by Kenji Oba (who is credited as Genpachi in the credits.) Kenji Oba was another Japanese Action Club member who also starred in Kill Bill recently. (Shin – Faith.)
Kid (??) – Some kid who lives in a cave with a Big Dude. He gets a crystal, making him awfully close to Kenny territory. Luckily he doesn’t say or do much at all. Killed in the final battle. (Chi – Wisdom.)
Big Dude (??) – A Big Dude who lives in a cave, where there is also a kid. Both he and the Kid are basically tacked on and don’t do much. Not much except die in the final battle. (Tei – Brotherly affection.)
Shinbei (Hiroyuki Sanada) – Shinbei is a punk kid who goes around pretending he is a swashbuckler until he finds out the Princess has a reward on her head, then tries to capture her repeatedly. Eventually forced to be evil, then gets his own crystal after he dies but returns to life and has sex with Princess Shizu. You’ve heard of STD? Well, that was STC, Sexually Transmitted Crystal! Not killed in the final battle. (Jin – Sympathy, inclusive of all virtues. Jin is the top virtue in Confucianism, thus the main hero gets it.)

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Dragon Dynasty (Review)

Dragon Dynasty

Federico Castelluccio as Marco Polo
Aaron Hendry as Giovanni Polo
Dion Basco as Gao Ling
Stana Katic as Ava
Peter Kwong as Shang Sei
James Hong as Emperor
Directed by Matt Codd

Welcome to the second run of the team-up between TarsTarkas.NET and FantasyFilmscapes.com known as The Dragon Slayers. Today, we will be taking on the 2006 SciFi Channel original movie Dragon Dynasty, because we can. The original team-up was Dragon. Also, before we begin, check out this cool graphic whipped up to celebrate the event:

As usual, the beginning section is co-written between Tars Tarkas and Iain Norman, and then the movie is divided into 15 minute chunks, alternating between each other, where our contributions are color coded. Iain’s version on his site is located here

Dragon Dynasty is one of the more recent SciFi Channel Original movies to air. Like many of their other films this ones features some big CGI monsters and a basic chase and hunt monster scenario – in this case the settings range from China to Italy in the late 13th century A.D. Usually SciFi puts about $1 million USD each into their ‘originals’ and uses Bulgaria for locations because it costs next to nothing to produce a film there. While not sure of the exact nature of the Bulgarian tax setup it is probably made quite affordable for foreign products to use the country in their shoots by way of tax credits in return for employing local actors and related industries. They usually drag over a few actors who are looking to make house payments and sleepwalk through their roles, but the supplemental local actors have been known to do bang up jobs.

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