Tag Archives: gamera

Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris

Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris

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Today’s feature is the concluding entry into the Heisei era Gamera Trilogy: 1999’s Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris.

Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris was once again written by Kazunori Itô, who also penned the previous two movies (Gamera: Guardian of the Universe and Gamera 2: Attack of Legion) as well as the movie adaptation of Ghost in the Shell and .hack//SIGN.

The director for Gamera 3 was Shûsuke Kaneko, who also helmed the Death Note movie and Toho’s Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: All Out Attack. This was his last work in the Gamera franchise after directing Gamera: Guardian of the Universe and Gamera 2: Attack of Legion.

The cinematographer, Junichi Tozawa, likewise returned from Gamera: Guardian of the Universe and Gamera 2: Attack of Legion.

The editor for Gamera 3 was a newcomer to the franchise: Isao Tomita, who also cut Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack.

The producing team for Gamera 3 included Naoki Sato (Gamera 2, One Missed Call, Three…Extremes), Yasuyoshi Tokuma (Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke), and Tsutomu Tsuchikawa (Dead or Alive, The City of Lost Souls).

The effects team for Gamera 3 included Makoto Kamiya (Godzilla vs. Biollante), Rikiya So (Godzilla: Final Wars), Shinji Higuchi (Gamera 2, Gamera, Attack on Titan), Mahiro Maeda (Blue Submarine No. 6, Mad Max: Fury Road, Porco Rosso, Gamera).

gamerairis2There has been one more Gamera movie created following the release of Revenge of Iris, though it is not regarded as part of the Heisei era trilogy: 2006’s Gamera The Brave. There are currently rumors that a new Gamera movie is being produced in the wake of the success of the American Godzilla, though specific details are sketchy.

Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris was very well received among fans, and some regard it as the greatest non-Godzilla kaiju movie ever made. It currently holds a 7.4 rating on IMDb, alongside an impressive 91% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.

A background aspect of the plot in Revenge of Iris is the return of a number of Gyaos, which were the principle adversaries in Guardian of the Universe. Iris, Gamera’s mysterious new adversary, is alluded to be a mutated subspecies of Gyaos, and retains some of the monster’s physical characteristics. The Showa era also brought back Gyaos occasionally to show how much stronger the new foes were in comparison to past threats, but their purpose in this movie is much different. Instead of acting as a display of how powerful the new enemy is, they exist to pose something of an ethical question: are the Gyaos or Gamera the greater threat in the grand scheme of things? If only one can be dealt with, which should be the priority to defeat?

Iris, the primary adversary in Gamera 3, is a curiously designed creature. The head and sharp angles still look like a Gyaos, but tentacle-like appendages add a new element to the creature. Personally, I think it looks a little too busy on paper, though it does look pretty cool on screen. The tentacles reminded me a bit of Biollante, a Heisei Godzilla villain, though I like the aesthetic of the water flora/alligator much better than the…whatever Iris is supposed to vaguely look like. The color scheme also reminded me of the far less interesting Godzilla villain Destroyah, which was a clear influence.

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Godzilla villain, Biollante
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Iris
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Godzilla villain, Destroyah

There is a notable scarcity of Gamera in Gamera 3, which lends an atmosphere of menace and mystery in the wake of the unclear ending to Attack of Legion. This fits well with the movie’s grounded approach to kaiju, emphasizing the collateral damage and ethical issues inherent to their presence. In particular, one scene shows Gamera apparently saving a child, but at the expense of countless other lives, which are brutally depicted being scorched in path of his fire breath.

I mentioned in my coverage of Attack of Legion that the effects look particularly good in that movie. Astoundingly, Revenge of Iris puts that preceding film to shame. The monsters look fantastic, and the building destruction miniatures and flame effects are shot and executed even better than they were previously, making the movie all the more brutal and visceral in accordance with the darker tone.

Amazingly, the human story (which is a historic weakness of kaiju movies) is pretty interesting here, and builds on principles and precedence established in the first two movies. There is a genuine sense of urgency, terror, and anger in their stories, and you can’t help but care about their struggle. This is also the only kaiju movie I can think of where I genuinely wanted the film to cut away from the monster action to get back to the humans, which is damn near heresy. Still, it works, and works quite well.

Overall, this is a movie that deserves its positive reputation. However, it does suffer a little bit from not being able to stand on its own. Realistically, the intertwined stories mean that to appreciate this movie, Guardian of the Universe and Attack of Legion are mandatory viewing for this film to have a full effect. That said, if you can commit to the whole trilogy, this movie is a fantastic conclusion, and a top-tier kaiju film. Fans of the genre owe it to themselves to watch through the entire trilogy, if only to appreciate the mastery that is shown in this conclusion.

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Gamera 2: Attack of Legion

Gamera 2: Attack of Legion

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Today’s movie marks the second entry into the Hesei era of Gamera: 1996’s Gamera 2: Attack of Legion.

Gamera 2: Attack of Legion was written once again by Kazunori Itô, who also penned Ghost in the Shell, .hack//SIGN, Gamera: Guardian of the Universe, and Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris.

Likewise, director Shûsuke Kaneko (Death Note, Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: All Out Attack) returns from Gamera: Guardian of the Universe, and would stay with the franchise through Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris.

The cinematography on Gamera 2 was provided solely by Junichi Tozawa, who shared shooting duties on Gamera: Guardian of the Universe. As with the director and writer, he would return for Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris.

The editor for the film was once again Shizuo Arakawa, who cut Gamera: Guardian of the Universe, but would not return for the third film in the Heisei series.

The producing team for Gamera 2 included Yasuyoshi Tokuma (Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke), Tsutomu Tsuchikawa (Dead or Alive, The City of Lost Souls), and newcomer Naoki Sato (Gamera 3, One Missed Call, Three…Extremes).

The effects team for Gamera 2 included Shin’ichi Fushima (Godzilla Against Mechgodzilla, Godzilla vs. Megaguirus), Tomo’o Haraguchi (Gamera, Air Doll), Shinji Higuchi (Gamera, Gamera 3, Attack on Titan), Toshio Miike (Godzilla: Final Wars, Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S.), Makoto Kamiya (Godzilla vs. Biollante), and Shin’ichi Wakasa (Godzilla 2000, Godzilla vs. Destroyah, Rebirth of Mothra).

gameralegion4The reception to Gamera 2: Attack of Legion managed to exceed the acclaim of the well-regarded previous movie: it currently holds an 84% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes alongside an IMDb rating of 7.3.

Legion is an interesting sort of villain, and provides a unique challenge for Gamera. Its parasitic nature reminded me a bit of one of the Showa Gamera villains: Jiger. However, Attack of Legion goes in a far less cartoon-y direction than Gamera vs. Jiger. The first fight between Gamera and Legion was particularly interesting because of the size difference between the monsters, but a mother entity is eventually introduced that is closer to Gamera’s weight class. I actually was a little disappointed in this, because the idea of a colony of small organisms acting as a villain seems way more interesting and unique to me. In any case, the central Legion monster still looks fantastic, combining insect-like attributed with a reptilian body and metallic trim. It looked to me like a monster on the same level with Toho’s Gigan: a monster that is decidedly other-worldly in appearance.

gameralegion2Something that I specifically noticed about Gamera 2 is that the effects look really good, particularly the pyrotechnics and miniatures. The classic style is retained, but none of the destruction comes off as silly: the way things are shot keep the carnage grounded and generally realistic.

Interestingly, Gamera is out of commission for a significant portion of the second act of Attack of Legion, which again echoes Gamera vs. Jiger. However, instead of a goofy anatomical adventure saving the day, Gamera’s human connection is sacrificed to wake him up from his coma, which ends the story on an ominous, downbeat note.

That said, the ending departure of Legion is a bit silly. Essentially, Gamera shoots a giant blast out of his chest with the help of…Earth energy? Something like that? Basically, the effect is like a spirit bomb from Dragonball, but is never explained further.

gameralegion3In spite of a few minor complaints, this is a pretty fun kaiju showcase, and manages to build and improve on the previous movie without losing any connections to the story. I wouldn’t recommend watching it without seeing Guardian of the Universe first, but I think it is definitely worth giving a watch.

Gamera: Guardian of the Universe

Gamera: Guardian of the Universe

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Today’s feature was the debut of the Hesei era of the famed kaiju franchise Gamera: 1995’s Gamera: Guardian of the Universe.

Gamera: Guardian of the Universe was written by Kazunori Itô, who is best known for Ghost in the Shell and .hack//SIGN. He would also return to write both of the following Gamera films.

The movie was directed by Shûsuke Kaneko, who also helmed the film adaptation of the popular anime Death Note as well as the Toho kaiju showcase Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: All Out Attack. As with Ito, Kaneko returned for both of the subsequent Gamera movies.

Gamera: Guardian of the Universe featured two cinematographers: Kenji Takama (Welcome Back Mr. McDonald, Death Note: The Last Name) and Junichi Tozawa, who would later shoot Gamera 2: Attack of Legion and Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris.

The editor for Gamera: Guardian of the Universe was Shizuo Arakawa, who would also cut the sequel, Gamera 2: Attack of Legion.

The producers for the film included Hiroyuki Kato (who has produced recent episode of the Pokemon television show), Yasuyoshi Tokuma (Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke), and Tsutomu Tsuchikawa, a frequent collaborator of Takashi Miike’s on such movies as Dead or Alive and The City of Lost Souls.

The effects team for Gamera: Guardian of the Universe included Hajime Matsumoto (The Grudge, Ringu), Mahiro Maeda (Mad Max: Fury Road, Blue Submarine No. 6), Tomo’o Haraguchi (Gamera 2: Attack of Legion, Air Doll), Shinji Higuchi (Gamera 2: Attack of Legion, Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris, Attack on Titan), Makoto Kamiya (Godzilla vs. Biollante), Toshio Miike (Godzilla: Final Wars, Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S.), and Shin’ichi Fushima (Godzilla Against Mechgodzilla, Godzilla vs. Megaguirus).

gameraguardian4The cast for the movie includes Ihara Tsuyoshi (13 Assassins, Letters From Iwo Jima), Shinobu Nakayama (Fist of Legend, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II), Ayako Fujitani (Man From Reno, Gamera 2: Attack of Legion, Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris), and Hirotarô Honda (Kamikaze Girls).

The antagonist monster of the film, Gyaos, was performed by a woman actor, which was reportedly the first time this was done in the history of kaiju movies.

gameraguardian5The reception to Gamera: Guardian of the Universe was generally positive: it currently holds a 6.9 rating IMDb alongside a 75% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, which is plenty respectable for a franchise known for its historic low quality.

Gamera: Guardian of the Universe stands in sharp contrast to the Showa era of the franchise, which I covered a while back. Whereas those movies were generally goofy and aimed at children, Gamera: Guardian of the Universe has a much more serious and dark tone, more in line with a typical monster or disaster movie. There is also the notable absence of children characters in the cast, which was a staple of the Showa era and the Gamera character.

I particularly appreciate that Gamera: Guardian of the Universe still uses the classic rubber suit monster effects, just updated for the times. If they had attempted to use mid-1990s CGI, this movie would be nearly unwatchable. Speaking of which, the team also made the solid decision to introduce both Gamera and his classic foe Gyaos in this movie. The original Gamera didn’t feature an antagonist, and is the weakest in the franchise from an action standpoint because of it (unlike the original Gojira, which was a true drama that didn’t need monster action to carry it).

Gyaos in this movie looks more like Toho’s Rodan more than I ever remember him looking before. The design used in the Showa era had a larger, more pronounced triangular head, whereas the Hesei update is toned down significantly with a head more reasonably proportional to the body. The result is a creature that looks very similar to the Heisei design of Rodan which debuted a handful of years before in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II.

Gyaos design from Showa era
Gyaos design from Showa era
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Gyaos design from Heisei era
Rodan design from Heisei era
Rodan design from Heisei era

Overall, this is a really enjoyable kaiju movie. It isn’t revolutionary in any sense and doesn’t break any new ground for the genre, but is perfectly serviceable for what it is. For fans of big monster action, this is absolutely worth checking out. It still isn’t as good as the Heisei Godzilla flicks, but that shouldn’t come as any sort of surprise. The fact that a Gamera movie is honestly worth the time spent watching it is noteworthy enough.

Bargain Bin(ge): CD Warehouse (Marietta, GA)

Marietta, GA sits just Northwest of the Atlanta, GA beltline, just on the edge of the greater metropolitan area. It home to one of the few remaining CD Warehouse locations in the area, along with sister shops in Duluth and Roswell. I’ve been to a few different locations of the chain in Tennessee and North Carolina over the years, but they have been rapidly dying off in recent years as they have generally failed to adapt to the new landscape of the business.

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As far as quality goes, it has always been a crapshoot with CD Warehouses for me. Sometimes they would have terrible selections and awful prices, and other times they would have a wealth of off-the-wall flicks on sale. After wrapping up at DragonCon, I decided to drop by the Marietta, GA location on my way home to see what they might have laying around. (Side note: conventions like DragonCon are garbage for DVD hunting. You might find a bootleg of a rare video, but you are just as well-off hunting online for how much vendors will charge and how bad the quality will be. Unless you want the novelty of directly purchasing a movie from Troma, don’t buy movies at cons.)

ware15Lucky for me, this turned out to be a fantastic haul, and probably the best I have ever pulled out of a CD Warehouse.

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Death To Smoochy

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With the death of Robin Williams last year, I feel like people have been going back to give this movie another shot. Critics at the time panned it, but it has gained some cult acclaim over the years after running on Comedy Central through countless late night blocks. This may very well have been a nail in the coffin of Danny DeVito’s directing career, as he has since careened into the world of self-parody. However, I have always liked the twisted take on the competitive world of children’s entertainment, and personally regard it as on par with (or better than) DeVito’s other directorial works. That said, it has been a while, and I’ll be interested to see how it holds up now.

Robot Jox

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Until the Shout! Factory release of a Blu-Ray this summer, it was not particularly easy to come by a physical copy of Stuart Gordon’s Robot Jox. Back when I reviewed it, I happened to come across the flick on YouTube, but I won’t deny that I desperately wanted a physical copy of this cult classic robot beat-em-up. Sure enough, I finally have myself a copy of the original DVD release! This is a movie that I can’t recommend highly enough, and it is nearly mandatory viewing for fans of good-bad movies. I might still pick up that blu-ray soon as well…

Gamera: Guardian of the Universe / Gamera 2: Attack of Legion / Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris

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This is a collection of the Hesei era Gamera movies, also known as the Gamera trilogy. I did a marathon of the hilarious Showa era Gamera movies last year, but I have been hearing that these Hesei flicks are actually pretty fantastic watches. Now that I have copies (on Blu-Ray no less), I’ll have to finally give them a watch.

Batman: The Movie

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We all know this movie. The feature-length spotlight on Adam West’s campy version of Batman is unforgettable, from the cast of villains to the giant bomb to the shark repellent bat spray. At the very least, this movie is a nostalgia trip of the highest order.

Wolfen

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This is arguably the most under-appreciated werewolf movie out there, and it is also a flick I have never had the chance to sink my teeth into. I’ve heard a lot of good things about it, but had never come across a copy of it until I spotted it here.

Bad Influence

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James Spader and Rob Lowe are two guys that I just can’t help but like, regardless of the movie or television show they pop up in. David Koepp, the writer on this movie, has been responsible for everything from the Dolph Lundgren cult classic I Come In Peace to blockbusters like Jurassic Park and Mission: Impossible, as well as the tragically underrated Nic Cage / Brian De Palma movie Snake Eyes. Director Curtis Hanson went on to helm flicks like L.A. Confidential and 8 Mile, so I have every reason to believe that this is going to be a movie that is worth my time. It made some money back when it released, but never got big enough to enter the public consciousness, which is probably why I have never heard much about it. The premise and casting has me curious though, so I’m eager to see what it has to offer.

Reign of Fire

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The career of Matthew McConaughey in the era before the McConaissance was a dark and strange place. Back in 2002, he starred alongside fellow future-stars Christian Bale and Gerard Butler in the bizarre dystopian fantasy film Reign of Fire. Some people remember this flick fondly, but critics and audiences at the time widely panned it. That said, reviews seem to have softened over the years, indicating that it may be time to give it another shot. I have’t watched it in roughly a decade, so I’m curious to see how it holds up.

Catch Me If You Can

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Catch Me If You Can is one of my favorite Steven Spielberg movies, if not my hands-down favorite. Really. I think it is John WIlliams’s best score (or at least in the running), one of both Leo’s and Hanks’s best performances, and is one of the best biopics out there. It blends suspense, comedy, drama, and style effortlessly, and is a rare movie that seemed to please audiences and critics alike. For whatever reason, it often gets shoved aside when discussing the career of Spielberg, which I think is unfair. The movie is one of the most well-balanced films in his filmograpy, which is made of up of a mixture of man-child indulgences (E.T., 1941, Hook), blockbuster fodder (Jurassic Park, War of the Worlds) and excessively heavy dramas (Amistad, Schindler’s List, Munich) with not a whole lot in the middle ground. Catch Me If You Can showcases every side of Spielberg: his flair for drama, his love of child-like wonder, his heart for adventure, and his ability to create a film with the widest possible appeal. The more I think about it, the more I look forward to re-watching this flick.

Creepshow III

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I know what you are thinking: “there was a Creepshow III?” As a matter of fact, there was! And no one in the entire universe gave half a damn, because it is absolute garbage. The movie released nearly 20 years after Creepshow 2 to absolutely no acclaim, and currently holds an abysmal score of 2.9 on IMDb, along with Rotten Tomatoes ratings of 0% from critics and 11% from audiences. The only things I know about it are that it exists and that it is nearly unwatchable, so I’ll be giving it a go soon enough.

Raising Cain

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Brian De Palma has had a career filled with ups and downs. 1992’s Raising Cain released immediately following what was arguably his lowest low: 1990’s The Bonfire of the Vanities. It also immediately preceded a bit of a De Palma revival with Carlito’s Way and Mission Impossible, along with a personal favorite of mine, 1998’s Snake Eyes. I don’t know anything about this particular flick, but I’m interested to see where it falls on the wide spectrum of Brian De Palma’s career. From another angle, I’m interested to see how John Lithgow is in this movie. Audiences today can certainly buy him as a menacing presence since his acclaimed role on the television series Dexter, but 1992 was a very long time ago for Lithgow’s career. People might have recognized him from The Twilight Zone movie, or Harry and The Hendersons, or perhaps from Footloose. At this point, he hadn’t even become recognizable for his role on 3rd Rock From The Sun. Given his next role after this was as a villain in a Sylvester Stallone action flick (Cliffhanger), I’m pretty sure this didn’t break any boundaries for him. I’m sure it’ll be an interesting watch for his performance all the same, because he is not a man who is known for phoning it in.  I mean, just watch the trailer for this movie. Somehow, I think Lithgow will keep things entertaining.

Smokin’ Aces 2: Assassins’ Ball

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Smokin’ Aces is, if you ask me, a damn fun crime movie. It isn’t a masterpiece by any means, but I’ve never not had a good time watching through it. Smokin Aces 2, on the other hand, is a very different story. I remember watching this on VOD when it first came out, and I’ve never gone back to it since. Honestly, I only remember brief flashes of it, and the feeling of unsurprising disappointment when all was said and done. Looking back at the cast list now, however, I’m curious to give it a re-watch. Ernie Hudson? Tom Berenger? Michael Parks? I recalled Vinnie Jones, but not the rest of these folks. Maybe there will be more to redeem it on this go-around?

I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead

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The combination of director Mike Hodges and leading man Clive Owen worked wonders in the cult classic, Croupier. A few years later, the tandem tried to re-bottle the lightning with I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead, with a supporting cast that included Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Malcolm McDowell. Despite a few positive heralds, it generally didn’t fly with critics or audiences at the time, due primarily to its perceived dullness and a convoluted ending. I remember seeing this go in and out of my Netflix queue a few times over the years, but I never had a chance to sit down to watch it. I generally like Clive Owen’s work, particularly in crime dramas, and I am also a big fan of Malcolm McDowell when he isn’t phoning in a role for a paycheck. I’m interested to see if this slow-burner is deserving of its negative reputation.

Bargain Bin(ge) Las Vegas: Zia Record Exchange – Eastern

Welcome to the newest installment of the Bargain Bin(ge), where I cover used DVD stores from around the country and the various movies I have plundered from them.

Earlier this week, work took me out to fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada. With the limited free time I had, I decided to check out some used media stores in search of DVDs.

lasvegasI wound up visiting two locations of Zia Record Exchange, a chain of used media stores in the Southwestern states of Arizona and Nevada. This particular segment covers the Eastern Avenue location in Las Vegas, a little ways off the beaten path.

ziaeastern8 ziaeastern9As with the Sahara Ave. location, the Zia on Eastern is very much defined by its ambiance. I will say that it isn’t quite as distinctive as the Sahara location, and that it is a little better spaced out (I think the floorplan may be a bit bigger). This location proved to have an equally impressive movie selection, and plenty of good deals to go around.

ziaeastern1ziaeastern2ziaeastern3ziaeastern4ziaeastern5ziaeastern6ziaeastern7As you might expect, I came away with a pretty good haul after spending some time scouring through the bargain bins and shelves. Here’s are the flicks I came home with:

Destroy All Planets / Attack of The Monsters

14I am a total sucker for old kaiju movies, and these are two of the most ridiculous entries into the infamous “Gamera” franchise. I marathoned all of the classic ones a while back, and I thoroughly recommend checking out the MST3k treatment for “Attack of the Monsters” (“Gamera vs Guiron”).

The Beast of Yucca Flats

15Here’s a flick I covered as part of the IMDb Bottom 100: “The Beast of Yucca Flats.” It is usually in high consideration for being one of the worst films ever made, and the director, Coleman Francis, is easily one of the most notoriously awful filmmakers in history. Tor Johnson of “Plan 9 From Outer Space” stars in it, making it a sort of perfect storm of awfulness. I recommend checking out the MST3k treatment if you want to watch it, or else it is not a pleasant experience.

Gamera: Return of the Giant Monsters / The Magic Serpent

16“Gamera: Return of the Giant Monsters” is better known as “Gamera vs Gyaos,” and is one of the classics in the “Gamera” franchise. “The Magic Serpent,” on the other hand, seems to be a more obscure kaiju creature feature that leans more towards being a fantasy ninja epic. I’m curious to see how it is, because the few reviews out there about it seem positive.

It’s Alive

17“It’s Alive” is a cult classic from Larry Cohen, and a movie that I have had a lot of trouble finding on DVD. I’m a pretty big fan of the Cohen stuff I have seen, so this one has been on the top of my “to watch” list for a while now. Also, it is about a ridiculous killer baby. I am totally down with that. It got a remake a few years ago that I have also been meaning to check out. Keep your eyes peeled, because this one is for sure going to be popping up on the blog soon.

Active Stealth

18“Active Stealth” is a movie that stars Daniel Baldwin of “Car 54, Where Are You?,” “King of the Ants,” and “Vampires.” I think of him as a modern version of Joe Estevez, in that he is related to a famous person that he kind of looks like, and uses the similarities to rack up endless b-movie acting gigs. As for “Active Stealth,” director Fred Olen Ray has over 130 directing credits on b-movies like “Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers” and “Super Ninja Bikini Babes,” so I have to assume that this is a quality action flick.