Big Trouble in Little China, American Movie (1986)

John Carpenter is a legend. The man has directed so many of my favorite alltime horror movies, that it is almost impossible for me to pick one that I like the most. There are ofcourse some of them that have become absolute classics, like for instance Halloween and the Thing. But a few of them are probably not as well known to the general public as those aforementioned movies. This year marks the 30th anniversary of his cult classic Big Trouble in Little China. This technically might not even be classified as a horror movie, but it is one hell of a fun ride. Having recently purchased the cardgame Legendary Big Trouble in Little China ( A review of which you can find Here ) based on this film, I thought it was a perfect time to revisit this incredibly fun movie.

Kurt Russell plays Jack Burton, who is a truckdriver about to have a very bad day. Visiting his friend Wang in Chinatown, Jack is going to get mixed up in something way above his head. Wang tells Jack that he has found the girl of his dreams called Miao Yin, and is heading for the airport to pick her up. Jack decides to give Wang a lift, but only because his friend owes him some money and he doesn’t want to let him out of his sight. When the two of them arrive at the airport, Wang’s girl gets kidnapped by a bunch of Chinese thugs. Jack and Wang give chase all the way back to Chinatown, only to there be confronted by an ancient Chinese Sorcerer called Lo Pan. It soon becomes clear that Lo Pan is the one behind the kidnapping of Miao Yin, and needs her for an evil ritual. With ancient and mystical forces set up against him, Jack has to become a hero in order to save the world. However Jack is just a man, and not a very bright one either….

I had not seen this movie in quite some time and it was just a delight to see it back again. There are so many things in this movie that make it such a worthwhile watch. For one thing Kurt Russell is absolutely fantastic. Jack Burton is just your basic macho man, who is absolutely clueless about what is going on around him, but still ends up being the hero. Some of his oneliners in the movie are just so incredibly funny, that they still crack me up after all these years. Even though this movie is now thirty years old, it has withstood the test of time in my opinion. The special effects might be a little outdated, but are also part of it’s charm. This is basically a comedy, but a very fun and exiting one, and at times feels kind of like an old Indiana Jones movie. Needless to say I absolutely love this movie, and if you have never seen it before, track it down. It is absolutely worth it to see it at least once, if only for the incredibly fun oneliners that spew forth out of Jack’s mouth.

I give Big Trouble in Little China a 9 out of 10 score.

Deadpool & Cable Omnibus, A Marvel Comics Book (2014)

The Marvel Universe is full of superheroes that are widely known. With the succes of the movies based on these comics, Marvel has a chance to experiment with characters that are relatively unknown to the general public. As such, last year we got the first Marvel R-rated superhero movie based on the anti-hero Deadpool. The movie was absolutely hilarious and became an enormous boxoffice success. Strangely enough, before the movie I had not even heard of this character before. Despite the fact that he is now one of the most popular Marvel heroes.

I love comics, and after seeing the movie I decided to catch up a bit on Deadpool. I bought a couple of collected editions, but also a massive tome called the Deadpool & Cable omnibus. And oh boy is this last book a treat. Those of you that stayed for the after credits scene of the Deadpool movie know that (minor spoiler upcoming) Cable will be making an entrance in the sequel. Cable is an X-man from the future with incredible telepathic and telekinetic powers. This omnibus contains all 50 issues of the Cable & Deadpool comic book series,  that ran from 2004-2008.

Where to begin? Well let’s start with the humour. Deadpool is nuts, no let me rephrase that, he is completely insane. Having him paired up with the serious Cable makes for some incredibly funny situations. There are so many things in these comics that are absolutely hilarious that I can not describe them all. But to name a few: In later issues, we get a recap page in which Deadpool talks to the reader of the comic what happened in a previous issue, together with other heroes that are going to appear later on in the story. This gag becomes even more hilarious when Deadpool gets his own talkshow, and recaps what came before. The book is full of crazy one-liners, and in almost every issue something happens that will make you laugh.

The stories themselves are great and offer a wide range of variety. We ofcourse get great battles, some more serious issues, a story that will occasionally bring a tear to your eye, but above all it is just a delight to read. Also included are numerous guest appearances from other Marvel Heroes, ranging from Spiderman to Wolverine. Last but definitely not least is the art, which except for a couple of comics, is seriously well drawn. And that last part is ofcourse very important when reading comics.

If you are a fan of Deadpool, or comics in general this is an absolute must buy. Yes, it has a hefty price tag, but in my opinion it was definitely worth it. This book is a great introduction to Deadpool, but also to Cable, and if you want to catch up on this great duo, this is the place to start. I myself could not find any negative points, and that means that the score I am going to give will not be much of a surprise.

I give this book a 10 out of 10 score.

Homeland Season 5, American Tv series (2015)

Television these days is all about the ratings. It is a brutal climate that sometimes causes your favorite tv shows to be cancelled without notice. This can be very frustrating for fans of a good show, especially if they end it on a cliffhanger with no hope whatsoever of ever coming back. For a television show to last well past a first season these days truly is an accomplishment. Homeland will start it’s sixth season next year, and has even been extended for a seventh and eight season. Which is truly amazing, especially seeing as to how this show has changed over the past few years. Having just finished season five, all I can say is if it maintains this level of quality, bring it on!

Season five takes place two years after the events of the last season. A lot of things have changed in the life of Carrie Mathison. Now living in Germany, she has started a new life in the hope of never having to deal with the horrors she has been through in her previous one. However, it is not long before she gets pulled back in, as there are certain things you just can’t avoid even how much you would like to. Saul, in the meantime has his own problems to deal with back at the C.I.A. With a database hacked in a Berlin field office, some crucial and highly sensitive documents have been released to the public. This eventually will threaten the entire national security. With a terrorist attack imminent in Berlin, the paths of Saul and Carrie eventually cross again. However, the level of mistrust between the two is big, and the question soon becomes if they can overcome their differences in time to stop the threat…

This season of Homeland has a very dark atmosphere. Starting with the first episode you feel a sense of doom creeping up on you, and it does not release you until the very end.  The start of the season is a bit slow, and with the many changes that have occurred, you might have trouble with keeping up on what has happened. Stick with it though, as this season truly reinvents the term “Bingewatching”. I dare you to not finish this season in less than three days. It is really that good. I do have to say that this season at times felt more than a season of 24, than Homeland. Is that a bad thing? Well certainly not for me, as 24 is one of my alltime favorite shows. Some people might be upset by it however, as Homeland has truly changed from what it was in the earlier seasons. The driving force behind this show is still Carrie Mathison though, and as always she is played brilliantly by Claire Danes. I can’t help but wonder where they are going to take the story in season six, as this season felt like the closing of yet another chapter in the life of Carrie. Whatever they come up with, I will be there regardless.

I give season five of Homeland a 9 out of 10 score.

The Forest, American Movie (2016)

I can still remember the first time I saw the original Japanese version of the Ring. (Or Ringu if you prefer). It truly scared the living daylights out of me, and to date I still find it one of the best horror movies I have ever seen. It also proved that the Japanese can create an intense and utterly creepy atmosphere with very little means. Although the American version is in no way a bad movie, it just failed to create the same scary vibe I had when I watched the original. This year we have an American horrormovie set in Japan called the Forest. Does it have the ingredients to make us jump out of our seats?

The Forest tells the tale of the  American girl Sara, who gets a call from the police in Tokyo, telling her that her twin sister Jess has gone missing. The place where she was last seen was entering the Aokigahara forest better known as the suicide forest. Sara does not hesitate for one second and takes a plane to Japan in order to find her sister. After a long journey she finally arrives at the entrance to the forest. It is there she meets a stranger who introduces himself as Aiden. Being a journalist Aiden is fascinated by the story Sara tells of her sister, and he agrees to help her. Together they enter the forest in search of Jess. When darkness is beginning to fall it begins to become apparent that Aokigahara forest is no ordinary forest. What begins as a search soon becomes a struggle for survival.

The interesting thing about this movie is that Aokigahara forest exists for real, and is truly a place where a lot of people have committed suicide. I had first heard of this place in the novel the Three written by Sarah Lotz. (If you haven’t already: read it, it is a truly interesting and frightening book). As such this movie had my interest when I first saw the trailer for it. This film manages to create a pretty creepy atmosphere throughout it’s runtime. Apart from a few scenes it does not become really scary though, and that is a bit of a shame. The acting is very decent and both Natalie Dormer and Taylor Kinney play their roles convincingly. I felt the ending was a bit rushed and did not manage to bring the movie to a satisfying conclusion. This wasn’t a truly bad movie, and the setting in Japan as well as the overall atmosphere, still make for an okay watch. And that is especially the case if you have an interest in Japanese mystic folklore. Don’t expect too much from it though.

I give The Forest a 6 out of 10 score.

From Dusk Till Dawn Season 1, American tv series (2014)

It sometimes amazes me how much television series have changed over the years. I remember way back in the nineties I used to watch the television series of Highlander, which continued the story of the movie of the same name. Highlander featured Immortals that fought against each other until there would be only one of them left. The only way they could kill one another was by cutting of each other’s heads. In the movie we saw the heads roll, but in the tv series the camera always cut away just before the killing blow. It was ofcourse deemed to violent to show on television. And now we have shows like the Walking Dead and Game of Thrones which take violence and gore up to a completely new level. We can add another show to this list now, with the arrival of the tv version of From Dusk Till Dawn.

Seth Gecko is a violent bankrobber who has just escaped from prison aided by his brother Richie. On the run and pursued by the relentless Texas Ranger Gonzalez, they soon encounter the Fuller family. Jacob Fuller is a priest who has lost his faith and has taken his two children on a roadtrip with a motorhome, to start a new life. However as soon as they cross paths with the Gecko brothers they become kidnap victims, and are forced to take them across the border to Mexico. Seth is beginning to realise that Richie is not the brother who he used to know. As Richie begins acting ever more strangely, they eventually seek refuge in a seedy strip bar. This refuge soon becomes a nightmare though, as beings appear that seem to have come straight from hell. The battle for survival begins…

A show based on a succesful movie, always has some large shoes to fill. From Dusk Till Dawn was ofcourse a cult hit, and starred a young George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino. This series takes the story of the film, and retells it over the course of ten fortyfive minute episodes. What is a good thing is that the original director of the movie, Robert Rodriguez is also the mind behind this television show. The first few episodes of the series did not really do it for me. We are introduced to the characters, get some of their backgrounds, but basically the story plots along without really getting interesting. It pays off to keep watching though, as the show truly does get better further along. It all explodes in episode 7, the best episode of the season. This show is definitely not for you if you faint at the sight of blood and gore, as this series features plenty of it, especially in the later episodes. The cast is pretty good, especially Robert Patrick in the role of the wayward priest Jacob Fuller. Apart from the first few episodes I quite enjoyed this series, and I wonder where they are going to take the story heading into season 2. If you are a fan of the original movie, this series might be worth checking out.

I give From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series,  a 7 out of 10 score.

The Boy, Canadian/American Movie (2016)

Throughout the years there have been many horror movies about dolls and supernatural spirits. The most noteworthy of these are ofcourse the Child’s Play movies, and more recently Annabelle. In Child’s Play it was the doll Chucky that gave us a few scares ( Well in the first movie at least, it all went in a completely insane direction as more sequels were made). Child’s Play definitely featured some gory moments, where Annabelle gaves us more subtle scares. This year we have the Boy, which is also featuring a creepy looking doll, although that is where the comparisons end.

The American girl Greta Evans has come to England to take on a job as a nanny. Arriving at a big English mansion, she meets an elderly couple who take her to meet the boy she is supposed to take care of. To her big surprise the boy in question is a porcelain doll. At first she laughs at the absurdity of it all, but when the couple appear to be dead serious about it, she finally accepts the job. The elderly pair give her a strict set of rules to follow in taking care of Brahms, the name they have given to the doll. When Greta is left alone with Brahms she begins to relax, and leaves the doll pretty much to himself. But when not following the rules, all of a sudden strange things begin to happen around the house. Soon Greta realises that Brahms is not an ordinary doll….

The Boy is a bit hard to classify. It is a horror movie, but more in the style of a thriller. The movie starts off a bit slowly, but I do think it works in this case. Greta is being played by Lauren Cohan, who most people will know as Maggie from the Walking Dead. She plays a very different role here, but it suits her and she plays it in a convincing way. The twist at the end of the movie is done quite well, and I for one did not see it coming. This movie was okay. It will not become a classic in my opinion, but there is enough in it to keep you entertained. Whether or not you will like it will depend on the style of horror movies you are used to. If you like them gory with lots of blood, then you can pass on this one. But if you like slow burning movies with some creepy jump out of your seat scares, you might want to try this one out.

I give the Boy a 7 out of 10 score.

Cell, American Movie (2016)

Stephen King. I don’t think there is a single soul on this planet, who has never heard of this name. Whether or not you have ever read one of his books, I don’t think you can deny that he is one of the most succesful writers of our time. There are a lot of his books that have been made into a movie or a television series. Some of these were truly fantastic, like for instance The Green Mile or the Shawshank Redemption. But unfortunately there are also a lot of really bad ones, like Maximum Overdrive. One of the more recent movies based on the novel by the same name is Cell, and it stars John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson. But is this a movie that falls in the good or the bad category?

In Cell we follow the aspiring graphic novel artist Clay Riddell. After having just made a good deal for his novel, he calls his estranged wife and son from the airport to share the good news. Unfortunately in the middle of talking to his son, his cellphone dies on him. And that is when it happens. All around him people talking on their mobile phones get hit by a strange signal, later called the Pulse. All the people that have heard the signal are instantly transformed into raging and homicidal maniacs. With the airport turning into complete chaos around him, Clay manages to get away and soon meets up with Tom, also one of the people that escaped The Pulse. Travelling together with Tom, Clay has just one goal: to reach his son and get him to safety. However with everything turning into madness around them, that task is easier said than done.

I have read the novel Cell, and I honestly have to say that I loved it. I always like movies or books that centre around some kind of apocalypse, and this book was very cleverly written. The movie however, is not as good as the novel. Being based on the book, it is not following the same story. Some situations are the same, but mostly this movie just goes in a completely different direction. There were some truly disturbing scenes in the movie, and it all started off pretty good. Unfortunately, as the movie goes on, that same strong starting level does not continue for the rest of the film. In the novel you truly cared about the characters, but in the movie I could not care less about what happened to them. Both Cusack and Jackson play decent roles, but do not manage to elevate the movie to above average. In the end we are left with a pretty mediocre movie, that manages to just hold your attention until the pretty abrupt ending. This movie just isn’t very good, but I do have to say that there are definitely worse Stephen King adaptations out there.

I give Cell a 5 out of 10 score.

 

The Assassin, Chinese Movie (2015)

I am a great admirer of Asian culture. For some reason I have always held an interest in it, and I truly have the utmost respect for it. As such I am also an enormous lover of Asian cinema. And I don’t mean only Martial Arts movies, (which I ofcourse also like), but also art house movies. Last year I saw the incredibly moving Chinese movie Coming Home, a film that told a truly heartbreaking tale, and almost left me in tears at the end. It contained little to no action, but just had some very powerful acting, and  was a delight to watch from start to finish. A movie that showed that you don’t always need explosions, gunfights or other things like that, to capture the attention of the audience. However, not every picture can pull off something like that, and unfortunately the Assassin is painful proof of that.

The Assassin takes place in seventh century China. A young girl, only 10 years of age called Nie Yinniang is taken by a nun, who trains her to become a deadly assassin. After disappearing for 13 years, Yinniang returns to her homeland to execute a dangerous mission. She is presented with an incredibly difficult choice: kill the man for which she has soms very deep feelings, or break forever with the ways of the assassins. Whatever choice she eventually will make, both roads lead to heartache….

Having seen the trailer for this movie last year I was expecting a very powerful epic, in the style of movies such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or House of Flying Daggers. This movie however is something completely different. It is slow….so incredibly slow. I don’t mind slow movies at all, but this takes things to a new level. The story is very hard to follow, and there are things happening that just don’t make any sense. Yinniang, for instance is confronted by a mysterious swordswoman in a forest, and after a few blows with their swords and about 10 seconds, both women just walk away. Why ? No explanation whatsoever is given. And the movie is full of things like this.

One thing that does deserve mention is the way the movie is shot. The cinematography is absolutely fantastic, and at times you are wondering if you are looking at something straight out of a dream. The costumes are also spectacular, especially the black outfit of Yinniang. I had been looking forward to this movie ever since I had first seen the trailer. I truly tried to like it and after it ended I found myself wandering what I had missed. The critics were full of praise for this movie, but I have no clue as to why. Yes the movie is beautiful to look at, but that is really all there is to it. I am sad to say this movie has been one of the biggest disappointments of this year. If you have trouble going to sleep, you might find that this movie can help you.

I give the Assassin a 3 out of 10 score.

Legendary Big Trouble in Little China, a Boardgame for 1-5 players, by Upper Deck (2016)

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the cult classic Big Trouble in Little China. This movie directed by John Carpenter and starring Kurt Russel, has easily become one of my favorite B-horror movie/comedies. With some alltime great one-liners (“Son of a bitch must pay “), I have some very fond memories of this fantastic movie. When Upper Deck announced last year that they would be releasing a game in the Legendary series based upon the movie, I at first thought it was a joke. To my delight though it wasn’t, and yesterday I managed to procure my copy and play my first few games. Was it worth the wait?

Components

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As with every Legendary stand alone set, the box provides a new gameboard. The boards feel like a mousepad, and are very sturdy. The box is smaller than a regular Legendary stand alone set, and because of this the board is folded up in the box. This caused it to have a few noticeable folds. This is a minor issue, but still I wish they could have found a better way to include the board. As this is ofcourse a deckbuilding game, there are a lot of cards in this box, though also not as much as previous stand alone sets. Included are 400 cards all with original artwork of varying quality. As I currently own every Legendary set to date, I have gotten quite used to the differences in artwork between the cards themselves. All in all though the cards look great, and manage to recreate the spirit of the movie. The last thing included is ofcourse the rulebook which does a pretty good job in learning the rules for both veteran players, and players new to deckbuilders.

Game overview

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The Legendary series by Upper deck has now two different game variants. You have the Legendary Encounters sets, which include games based on Aliens, Predator and more recently Firefly. And then there are the normal Legendary sets, which so far have only included games and expansions based on Marvel superhero’s. Big Trouble can now be added to the last list. The big difference between the two gameplay variants is that in Encounters you basically replay the movies on which the games are based on. Completing a number of objectives, you play through some well known scenes of the movie. The normal Legendary series puts you against a villain, who is trying to complete some nefarious plot. Recruiting hero’s you try to stop the villain before he completes his objective.

As Big Trouble in Little China is only one movie, I understand why they decided to go with the normal Legendary treatment. Legendary is a deckbuilder, which means that starting off with a basic set of cards, you try and purchase new and more powerful cards with the basic ones, to enhance your deck. During the game your deck will grow stronger, making it more able to deal with all the enemies that are thrown against you. The hero’s you recruit in this game are ofcourse all familiar characters of the movie including Jack Burton himself. There are a total of 12 schemes, or evil plots if you will, to provide more than enough variety.

Difficulty

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If you already played any other set in the Legendary series, you will have absolutely no trouble in playing this game. It closely resembles the Marvel Legendary series, and as such contains mostly rules that you will already be familiar with. For new players it will at probably be a little bit more difficult in getting into the game at first, but eventually you will get the hang of it. The best way to learn it is by letting a player who already knows the game teach it to you, or just look at the enormous amount of YouTube video’s already out there. Legendary isn’t a difficult game to learn though, and after you have played a couple of rounds, you will have no big trouble (pun intended) with it  whatsoever.

The verdict

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I have been looking forward to this game since it was announced last year, and obviously my expectations for it ran high. Being a huge fan of the movie, I at least hoped the game would do it justice. And I am very glad to say that it does. It is a delight to play with the characters from the movie, and see some great lines of the film return on the cards. The schemes are pretty tough, the villains are great, and the enemies you have to fight are also not a walk in the park. This provides for some very challenging gameplay. A thing worthy of note is that there are no official solorules included with this game, which is a first for Legendary. The rulebook does mention that you can play the game solo using any of the rules from previous sets. I played the game solo by just playing with two hands, and treating it as a two player game.

If you are a fan of the movie, than I think you should check this game out. But even if you are not, or might never have even heard of it, you will probably still enjoy playing it. It provides enough challenge and replay value to keep you playing for a long time. Whether or not you will be able to beat all the schemes, well to use another Jack Burton quote : “It’s all in the reflexes…..”.

I give Legendary Big Trouble in Little China a 9 out of 10 score.

Homeland Season 4, American tv series (2015)

When Homeland season 3 ended, I thought that was it. The story was told, the ending was pretty devastating but very powerful as well, and it just felt like a series finale. To my big surprise the fourth season was announced. At first I was pretty sceptical. I just thought that with one of the main cast members not returning, and the story having reached a conclusion, that this was just an attempt to keep milking a very succesful series. However, having just finished this season I can honestly say that my fears have been put to rest. Season 4 just happens to be the best season to date, except for one thing, which I will adress shortly.

Season 4 finds Carrie Mathison returning in her new role as station chief in Kabul. When she receives high level intelligence from her counterpart in Islamabad, she orders a drone strike. It turns out that the drone hits a wedding party, and that the high level target, the terrorist known as Haqqani, may not even have been eliminated by the strike. As tensions begin to run very high in Pakistan, Carrie finds herself in the middle of it. When enlisting the help of former friends, Carrie is being undermined by both her new colleagues and the Pakistani government. Lines begin to blur, and the question becomes who to trust? Meanwhile, danger lurks at every corner, and soon this danger becomes very, very personal indeed…..

What to say about this season? As always the acting was absolutely superb. Claire Danes just is simply amazing in her role, and she seems to grow with every season. But both Mandy Patinkin and Rupert Friend as Saul and Quinn respectively, also do a fantastic job. This season truly contains some nervewracking episodes, most notably episodes 8, 9 and 10. This season was just an absolute amazing experience from start to episode 11. You must have noticed how I do not say “from start to finish”. I wish I could have done this, but the last episode of this season was just an absolute letdown. The series finale of season 4, just felt like I was watching an entirely different show. After the incredible tension filled episodes that came before, we are treated to an almost soaplike end to an otherwise fantastic season. This was a bit of a disappointment, but despite the finale, I still think that this has been the best season of Homeland to date. It almost felt like a complete renewal of the show, and I am looking forward to what is going to happen next.

I give season 4 of Homeland a 8 out of 10 score. The score would have been higher, but I could not justify it because of the final episode.

Michels Book/Boardgame/Movie review Blog

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