new york comic-con 2013: the aisles less travelled

18 10 2013

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The day I’d been waiting patiently for all year had arrived. The glorious gates were almost within view. The gleaming glass fortress nestled within our mighty city shone with the reflection of a thousand suns. ComicCon 2013 was to be the biggest and baddest fantastifest of the year.

Upon entering the Javits Center, I came upon quite the sight. Not one, but two scantily-clad cosplaying Amazonians, bickering over which of them made the better Diana Prince. After a bit of high-pitched shrieking, and some wig-tossling for good measure, they were hastily escorted to the Security Office, flanked by two burly men in uniform, both of whom couldn’t seem to get a grip, chuckling away. From the spot-on hunky Supermen, to the completely wacky Minecraft Creepers, I’m never tired at gawking at the gaggle of costumed creatures each year.

I knew that it was going to be a good day. I wasn’t surprised to see most of the main arena filled to the brim with fans eagerly awaiting the newest trailer of Capcom’s Strider video game instead of lining up for autographs at an important indie imprint label’s fancy model-infested booth. Marvel made a huge announcement as well with the upcoming release of the next powerhouse in their LEGO franchise, Marvel Super Heroes! They have tons of mobile titles in the works as well, such as X-Men: Battle of the Atom and Thor: The Dark World following soon after.

Between Rockstar Games record-breaking release of Grand Theft Auto V last month, and Nintendo’s monster megahit Pokemon XY last Friday, much game buzz could be felt throughout the crowd. There were tons of fans begging for free goodies, from cardboard visors, and collectible trading cards to tote bags and tees, I greedily got my paws on some choice swag, thanks to my quick shove-n-snatch techniques, I learned from the best. Gaming on all fronts is immensely popular now. The gaming industry brings it harder every year, and it’s great to see two passions of mine tangle in the arena of geekdom. It should be quite a healthy competition between gaming giants and comic kingpins this holiday shopping season.

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Moving along to more traditional convention fare, I came upon a huge line forming with a few hot-tempered security guards fuming. Lo and behold, I took a peek and found a very frail Stan Lee hunched over and signing autographs at lightning speed. The comic icon was happy to oblige his army of fans, all with a smile on his face. Fans were beaming at the chance to greet their idol and shower him with compliments and praise.

DC and Marvel both had tremendous booths, spreading across the hall, and it looked like neither spared any expense. With the popularity of mobile devices and tablets being used for personal reading pleasure, both companies had plenty of consoles on hand where you were able to download Comic-Con exclusive titles. A really nice addition to the hard copies most other labels provided. Viz Media, a mega manga distributor also made their presence known. Translated Japanese comics have become increasingly popular, and the demand is high for new titles and their animated tie-in series as well. Whether it’s the latest adventures of high-flying ninja Naruto, or the supernatural swordplay battles of Bleach, they are the number one publisher on the market right now. There’s literally something for everyone, and I can highly recommend checking out their newest acquisition, Gun Blaze West, for some old fashioned cowboy gun-slinging action, with a fresh modern edge.

mister_sinister_cosplay Best-Cosplay-Every-Day-3-NYCC-2013Cosplay (short for ‘costume play’) is huge, whichever way you slice it. Whether it’s to become your favorite hero for a day, or just for the adrenaline rush of personal perfection in spandex, it’s here to stay. Besides the requisite Marvel heroes and Power Rangers, there were some truly ingenious costumes that were so off-the-wall, yet so amazing. As I was between discussion panels, I came across a bearishly chunky Mega Man, complete with beer belly busting outta brightly-hued blue spandex. He was just drifting along and smiling at each and every passerby, so I went right up, shook his hand, and then poked him in the tummy for good measure. Anime fans would hardly bat their eyelashes at the gazillion Hatsune Miku clones en force, but one ‘vocaloid’ was so gorgeous that I had to give her a high-five. Flowing green ponytails encircled her futuristic cocktail dress, thigh-high pleather boots with 7” heels adorned her cute lil feet, and she even whipped out a mic and started singing at one point, nice! A male Dazzler whizzed by me on a silver-encrusted ten-speed, circling the waiting area and tossing sparkles at cheering onlookers. I’ll admit being quite smitten with a fantastically accurate and handsome Mister Sinister (please, call me!) and a pint-sized Clark Kent via WB’s Smallville, baring his muscled chest and stalking the aisles innocently. And let’s not forget the handfuls of goggled steampunks, swathed in sandy suede couture, each vying for accuracy and adoration.

There were also some wildly oddball events, that might’ve gone right over your head though. For example, Star Wars Origami. Yes, that’s right. Fold your very own Death Star out of vibrantly colored paper. Origami Master Chris Alexander takes this art very seriously, and gives fans exactly what they want. The workshop was quite crowded, and all materials were supplied free of charge. Some children next to me were having a tough time keeping up, as Alexander quickly went through a demonstration of crafting a cuddly Ewok, but I kept up the best I could. What I ended up with resembled more of a Chewbacca with a hangover. Fun stuff indeed.

I do love British science fiction dearly. Growing up on the likes of Blake’s 7, and who can forget the enigmatic Dr. Who. The discussion panel, 50 Years of Doctor Who was a bit dry, but awfully entertaining. Spanning 50 years, it’s the longest running science fiction show in television history. With the franchise’s 50th anniversary looming around the corner in November, this was a real treat for fans. Actor Barnaby Edwards, known for his role as a Dalek, spoke about his early fascination with the series from childhood, and how he landed a role of the landmark series. Comic artist JK Woodward, noted for his smash hit crossover series Star Trek: The Next Generation/Dr. Who: Assimilation 2, spoke of his fondness for the series and how he felt it molded the science fiction television world in it’s own unique ways.

And lastly, who in their right mind wouldn’t want to spend a hard-earned $10 on a cheaply printed press photo of the Rainbow Bubble Girls? Me, that’s who. But with all respect due, the NY-based Jpop-inspired idol group consisting of 5 attractive multicultural fangirls, doesn’t break any boundaries in the originality department. While not being a fan, they are quickly gaining recognition across the East Coast fan circle and performing regularly at conventions. Their mission? ‘To bring people happiness and positive energy’, of course! With squeaky vocals and average-at-best bubblegum beats, these girls make for a quite entertaining audio experience. Besides mostly covering anime theme songs, group lead, Hitomi Himekawa, promised original output later this year. So keep your collective peepers peeled!





rizal mantovani’s chanting trilogy

1 07 2013

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I’ve always been a huge fan of cinema steeped in haunted lore, mythical creatures, and urban legends. High on my list are the especially wondrous frightfests of Indonesia. There’s been quite the horror boom down there in the past decade, most of which are luckily available on DVD with rather good English subtitles. While there’s quite a lot of bottom-feeding drivel to be found in recent years, (need I mention the turdtastic MR. BEAN KERESUPAN DEPE? Yes, a pocong (hopping corpse) flick involving a Mr. Bean wannabe) the trash-pile is balanced by a few clever creature features that have made their way to the surface.

With such a vast variety of creepy capers to choose from, I think it’s quite safe to say that the top of the heap belongs to Rizal Mantovani’s KUNTILANAK trilogy. The English title given to it is THE CHANTING, and while not by any means a direct translation, it is quite fitting for this fantastic series.

What the heck is a kuntilanak anyway? Let’s start with a basic definition. I also found a handy reference tome, aptly titled, The Malaysian Book of the Undead, by Danny Lim. (Quite a helpful resource, with many detailed illustrations to boot!)

Kuntilanak: A vampiric ghost in Malay and Indonesian mythology, also known as the Pontianak in some parts. They are said to be the spirits of women who died while pregnant, or during childbirth. The word pontianak is reportedly a corruption of the Malay perempuan mati beranak, or “woman who died in childbirth”. Another theory is that the word is a combination of puan (woman) + mati (die) + anak (child). The term matianak means “death of a child”. The creature usually announces its presence through shrill cries. If the cry is soft, it means that the she is close, and if loud, then it must be far in the distance. A kuntilanak kills its victims by digging into the victim’s stomach with its sharp fingernails, and voraciously devouring the internal organs.

KUNTILANAK: THE CHANTING (2006)

“Her laugh may be the last thing you will hear!”

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After the sudden death of her mother, Samantha (Julie Estelle) is haunted nightly by mysterious dreams she cannot fully understand. She distances herself from her abusive stepfather by moving into a large boarding house farther from the big city, presumably Northern Jakarta. Upon finding the place, she marvels at the ancient tree in the yard, fenced in with ornately decorated mosaic tiles, oddly familiar to her.

Landlord Yanti explains the house was once the Mangkoedjiwo Batik factory, mysteriously burned decades ago, killing many of the laborers. The owner now rents rooms to promising college students. With amazingly affordable rates, there has to be a catch. Well, there is one rule, never, never ever, enter second floor for any reason. Sounds easy enough, right?

A creepy ornate mirror hangs over the vanity in her new room, with a fierce creature sculpted at its top. Sam mentions the ancient tree, and Yanti chalks it up to silly superstition. She explains that a female banshee, the kuntilanak, resides in the tree, and can only be summoned by a chant, and only by a person that has a special connection to the spiritual world. Turns out Sam is just that special girl, and things are about to get interesting.

The tenants are a mixed bunch, mostly throwaway stereotypes: pretty rich bitch, humble poor lass, hunky horndog jerkface, lovelorn nerd, etc. So, its no surprise that they start dying in horrific ways, seemingly caused by accidents. There’s the interesting decapitation by ceiling fan, some possessed furniture, and necks twisted round like Twizzlers.

Sam has been inadvertently been summoning the kuntialank for revenge. Her inner power is strengthened when she’s emotionally charged. After a fight with another girl, she enters a trancelike state and begins humming eerily and chanting, the girl’s nose starts to bleed, and after a few minutes of panic, she’s as good as dead. Afterwards, Sam vomits a handful of maggots and creepy crawlies, … rinse and repeat throughout the flick.

The kuntilanak itself is quite the amazing creature. The makeup effects are quite spectacular. A lithe female phantom, draped in white shroud, long web-like tresses float around her, like wisps of smoke, razor sharp talons adorning her bony limbs, and sporting a pair of highly unmanicured cloven hooves. Cackling wildly and grimacing for the camera, she’s quite the monstress. The ornate mirror in Sam’s room acts as a portal for her to move throughout the mansion, and also trap her in the otherworldly dimension.

Sam’s boyfriend, Agung, seems a bit worried with his girl surrounded by these bizarre deaths, and her recurring dreams and wants to help. They’ve been apart for some time, but he truly loves her and wants to see what he can do to protect her. He begins researching the local legends and finds that the Mangkoedjiwo family was actually a powerful black magic sect. Disapproved by the locals, they burned it to the ground, and the cultists disappeared.

The Mangkoedjiwo legacy has kept the Kuntilanak under control for years, and it is now Sam’s turn to take her seat as a member of the cult, and use the kuntilanak for their scheming evil purposes. She can either choose to follow her dark destiny with them, or rebel and face the wrath of the cult, and the creature itself. I’ll leave the thrilling ending under wraps. I then prayed for something that rarely ever happens in Indonesian horror cinema, … a sequel. My prayers were swiftly answered a few months later.

 KUNTILANAK 2: THE ENCHANTMENT (2007)

“Everyone has a dark side.”

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 Sam has since moved from the mansion, and is apparently on the run from the cult members. Agung is desperately trying to find her before they do, and before the dark power claims her forever. From the credits onward, this is definitely a darker film, which picks up almost  exactly where we left off. It’s haunting atmosphere immediately pulls you in, and we hope for Sam’s return to the light.

She rents a room from a distant family member, and tries to start life anew. Despite trying to surround herself with the new family she’s made for herself, she cannot fully control her rage and continues to summon the kuntilanak to wreak vengeance on all those that wrong her. No matter how small the grudge. Assaulted by a smarmy taxi driver, (cue chanting) he’s swiftly decapitated by the vehicle’s possessed window, his noggin plummets to the rain soaked street as rodents fight over his squishy eyeballs. Another girl meets an untimely demise just for urging Agung to help bring Sam back into the light. She’s lost herself completely, and might not be the Sam we’re hoping she is.

The Mangkoedjiwo are hot on her trail, and will stop at nothing to regain Sam. Without her, they are powerless and cannot use the kuntilanak for their evil schemes. They scheme unsuspecting clients out of their fortunes, and our monstress slays them mercilessly on command, as soon as their funds are suckled dry. By increasing their wealth, the cult’s power grows, these greedy denizens of the darkside plan on ruling the world, with Samanatha’s unique powers of course. Without her, they cannot control the demoness, and it seems Sam’s mother was the last one with that role. We delve deeper in the backstory here, but the real truth lies in the shadows for now.

Sam’s battle for control of her own soul continues. With Agung’s help she continues to carry on, letting the light shine. Her inner struggle really is the focus of this film, and her dark journey up from the depths of Hell. We are told that the answers will be found in the mysterious Ujung Sedo, the birthplace of the Kuntilanak.

Julie Estelle is a great choice for the role of Samantha. Whether its her natural onscreen talent, her exotic Eurasian beauty, or her beautiful chanting, I’ll watch anything she’s in. I’ve scoured the net to locate as many of her films I could find (mostly unsubtitled unfortunately), she’s a true joy to watch. Her film MACABRE was truly an endurance test, even for avid gorehounds, and I loved every sloppy supernatural second of it. She’s also been in some intense romantically-charged dramas, such as SELAMANYA, which is also worth the hunt.

 KUNTILANAK 3: FINALE (2008)

“Every story has an ending.”

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 We follow a group of friends, searching for a couple that have strayed during a jungle expedition. Along the way, they come across Sam, hiking all alone, up the mountains, on her own personal journey. She seeks the village of Ujung Sedo, where she’s been told she’d find the answers to her destiny. It seems her grandmother is the powerful sorceress that originally bonded herself with the titular creature. But, things may not be as cut and dry as they seem. The group offer their help as they are also going the same direction, and an uneasy bond begins to form amongst them all. Sam doesn’t reveal her true intentions to the group, it’s something she keeps deep down, afraid to accidentally summon the demoness once again. She’s learned how to control her urges, and is ready to finally rid herself of her dark destiny once and for all.

In this film, the kuntilanak and spirits are stronger, and able to act on their own, being close to the mystic village of Ujung Sedo they’ve gained power. There’s quite a few jump-out-of-your-seat scares, and some inventive death sequences on display. What’s also great is that you learn more about the Kuntilanak mythos as well.

As they traverse the dense jungle, they come across a deafening fog, and an overgrown area that leads them to a deep cavern. It’s refreshing to see they’ve added the adventure bit to this flick, really keeps the viewer entertained. The monster quotient has been upped a notch as well, with many dastardly denizens coming out of the woodwork, literally. As they cross over into the unknown, they reach an abandoned village. During the night a baby’s cries are heard, which freaks them out completely. Upon investigating, they find a large buffalo carcass in the center of the village. The cries are coming from within the stomach of the putrifying animal! After a few slices of a machete, a humanoid infant crawls quickly from the innards and into their arms. I’ll leave the rest of that happy scene to your imagination.

Samantha knows that she must confront her grandmother in order to reverse the curse placed upon her. When finally reaching the village of Ujung Sedo, Sam comes face to face with a large statue of the diety sculpted on the original mansion’s mirror. An eerie thatched hut rests on stilts not far behind, and a low cackling can be heard from within. Why has her grandmother been hidden here all this time? What are her ties to the Mangkoedjiwo cult? Can she actually end this dark destiny? I will not give you those answers here, but I assure you, you will be enthralled with the outcome, … and perhaps a bit sad, as there won’t be another addition to this wonderful series.

You’ll be able to track these films down on import DVD with a little digging. All three of these come complete with a truckload of extra features, and subtitled in grammatically correct English to boot. Indonesian amd Malay DVDs seem to go out of print rather quickly, but I’m sure you’ll do just fine if you’re an avid video archaeologist like myself, good luck!

 





ferocious & frustrated female phantoms from faraway

23 04 2013

A woman in red rises from the grave, with a faithful hellhound at her side. It seems she’s hungry for revenge, as well as some tasty flesh. Tearing out hearts still beating from some unfortunate clowns, she feeds the offal to her dutiful hound. Her name is Asih, and this is her story.

As the title, MISTERI JANDA KEMBANG (Mystery of Flower Widow) slithers across the screen, some especially creeptacular muzak accompanies the wind’s howling, a sure sign of something nasty approaching. Brutally gang raped by four creeps in a rainstorm, she committed suicide to save her devout Muslim family the humiliation. Back from beyond, poor Asih has a blood mission to fulfill. As if pulled right out of an old pulp comic, she picks off her perps one by one in fantastically gruesome ways. Perpetually bathed in eerie gel lighting, she remains eerily sexy in her red satin slip, as the body count rises.

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As in many Indonesian horror flicks, the sheer amount of wild and innovative effects are plentiful, albeit cheap. They are true artists combining amateur video effects and old-fashioned rubber monster techniques. You can’t help but chuckle as Asih launches her head at one creep, and chomps at his privates. In agony, or pure embarrassment, he hops around wildly with a mannequin head stuck to his crotch, as her devil doggie howls.

Asih has many supernatural talents in her arsenal, but best of all she’s a penanggalan. She has the power to detach her head from her body, which can fly about, chasing her prey, complete with dangling spine and internal organs. Many films were made about this popular creature allover Asia, such as Tjut Djalil’s own MYSTICS IN BALI, and the more obscure 1977 Hong Kong treat, WITCH WITH THE FLYING HEAD. In another great scene, a mulleted thug watching TV notices Asih on the screen. She taunts him sexily, and then reaches straight outta the boob tube, in a cartoony attempt at VIDEODROME, and quite possibly inspiring Hideo Nakata’s RINGU a bit, too. After some clawing and choking, he’s literally pulled inside the television. It’s time to call in the local cleric. He tries to persuade her to leave willingly, but she refuses and offs a few more lowly punks. He begins a passage from the Quran, and before we can say, “The power of Allah compels you!” Asih wretches wildly, and then vanishes in a poof of smoke.

Softcore starlet, Sally Marcellina was a perfect choice as Asih. She dominates every scene, captivating and seducing her prey. In one steamy flashback scene we’re even treated to a blindfolded Asih, writhing on the floor, as her boyfriend traces her curves with an ice cube. And yes, said scene set to a new age sax number by an Indo Kenny G. wannabe. As for Sally, she just might be Indonesia’s very own Linnea Quigley, bargain basement workout video and all, get in shape, ghouls!

Next up is PEMBALASAN SETAN KARANG BOLONG (Vengeance of the Hollow-backed Demoness). Herman and Mira, two young Muslims deep in love, are expecting their first child out of wedlock. His uppercrust parents have another idea, ‘kill the slutty bitch’. It’s all planned, and during a downpour, Mira is stalked by a group of smarmy thugs. We watch in excruciating detail as she is hunted in a ramshackle stable, in a scene reminiscent of Pauline Wong in HER VENGEANCE.Horses neigh and look on as she’s brutally attacked, raped, and afterwards hung to make it look like an apparent suicide.

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Filled with rage and a lust for revenge, she erupts from her flower petal covered grave like a bottle rocket. She looks spectacularly evil with neon face-paint, bathed in black light, cackling maniacally. The flesh melts from her back, exposing her spine and innards, a gooey mess, and also the telltale sign you’ve got trouble on your hands. She’s transformed into one of Indonesian folklore’s vilest vixens, the setan karang bolong or ‘hollow-backed demoness’. The movie’s tagline was appropriately “Beautiful, Exciting, and Unforgiving!”

Rapist #1 rolls around in bed with one of his whores, she’s possessed by Mira who messily chews off the tip of his tongue. She exposes her maggot-riddled wound as he wretches in disgust, just before his head is bashed in with a possessed television.

She finds Rapist #2, steadily grinding his old lady in a junkyard. With one swipe of her finger, the burnt out cars begin revving their engines, and steaming from their hoods. As she reappears, cackling from behind the wheel of a Toyota 4×4, he’s gored by the reanimated wrecks, lotsa the red stuff splashing the pavement.

Herman’s mama calls on the aid of a crooked-toothed to rid them of Mira’s wrath once and for all. The kooky shaman uses a fire-breathing skull wand to taunt her spirit in the graveyard, but she quickly trumps that with a windstorm. He fires back with some super-imposed cartoon fireballs to no avail. He runs away in fast-forward, pants around his ankles, leaving mama to fend for herself. Face to face with her mortal enemy, Mira exposes her gaping ghostly wound once again, and pins mama with a fallen tree. Straight outta nowhere a gunshot rings out, the bullet lodging its girth into mama’s skull. Gushing with gore from every orifice, she croaks. Turns out Rapist #3 had other ideas for our villainess. Mira gestures her palm and he’s laughably swallowed up by an enchanted length of astroturf. Desperately pleading for his life, he’s pulled down to pay his debts in the underworld. Herman and the local cleric arrive on the scene, reciting the holy Quran. With a smile and a nod, Mira acknowledges her fate and explodes in a shower of sparks.

You just might find yourself attempting to hunt down these unsubtitled goregasmic gems, so enjoy at your own risk!

 

 





tha supah bombastic, missus fantastic

19 09 2012

There’s always that one vixen gyrating on the dancefloor, snatching everyone’s attention. Possibly for her outrageous outfit, or lack there of, or maybe her seductive moves, dancing upside-down on the wet bar as well as she dances on her feet.  No matter her claim to fame, the ‘Dancehall Queen’ will always be the center of attention. I’ve been meaning to do a piece on something a bit more musical, in order to mix it up a bit, and I’m glad I did. Fingering through my dusty digital archives, I came across this long forgotten gem of Jamaican cinema. With it’s brightly-colored, and photo-chopped cover artwork, it called out quietly to me, seeping with ganja-infused memories, I knew it would give me the munchies.

Dancehall is a genre of Jamaican popular music that originated in the late 70s. Initially, dancehall was a loose version of reggae, which had dominated much of that decade. In the mid 80s, synth and digital instrumentation was prevalent, changing the sound considerably, with digital dancehall, Ragga, becoming increasingly characterized by faster beats & rhythms. Dancehall music has come under much criticism from international groups for its violent and sometimes homophobic lyrics, although the lyrical themes are more varied than simply dealing with civil uprising, poverty, and violence.

And now, a little herstory. Way back in 1991, the first recognized dancehall queen, Carlene, made her appearance across the seedy nightclubs of Jamaica.  She won a ‘fashion-dance competition’ using her inventive homemade costume, elegant poise, sultry glamour and confident rump-shaking style. To this day, she’s heavily involved in the Jamaican music and television scene while promoting Slam Condoms, real smooth. She’s also happens to be rapper Beenie Man’s baby mama. The actual ‘dancing’ is extremely provocative, basically pole dancing without a pole, lotsa gyrating hips and booty jack-hammering, its pretty wild. It’s even a bit vulgar at first glance, but it represents a certain pocket of self expression that could come from nowhere else.

Dancehall Queen, released in 1997, is rumored to be based in part on Carlene’s rise to the top of the dancehall world. Instead of braving the riotous crowds and stiff competition in person, you can finally witness the amazingly raunchy world of the Jamaican dancehall in your own living room, blunt  not included.

Audrey Reid stars as Miss Marcia, a poor Kingston street vendor, hawking hotdogs to hungry patrons. She positions her cart just outside a notoriously popular dancehall, hoping to entice more customers, and to see what all the hype is about. She struggles against overwhelming odds to raise her two young daughters and get them out of their gritty ghetto lifestyle. Barely making ends meet, she works day and night, while taking insults from the local dregs and drunks. But, she’s got two other problems on her hands. Larry, a lecherous strongman with a twisted desire for her adolescent daughter, and Priest, a murderous thug responsible for the death of her best friend, now hot on her booty as well.

She slowly she embraces the alluring world of the dancehall. Finding her alter ego, she transforms into the sultry Mystery Lady (how original!) and captures everyone’s attention. It’s a big turn-on for conservative Marcia, keeping her identity secret while climbing the ladder of local social stardom. She begins designing her own fabulously feathered lingerie inspired outfits that’d make any drag queen jealous, with majestic masks and wily weavy wigs to match. After Marcia gets her groove back, she decides to enter a dancehall contest with a huge cash prize, enough to solve her financial woes, and also play both villains against each other in one magnum shot. Her routine has to be seen to be believed. We’re treated to plenty of backflips, headstands, coochie crunches, and a host of other awe-inspiring magical moves.

Mixing volatile social issues with the high drama of the dancehall scene, makes for a heady concoction to say the least. Released thru Palm Pictures, while being a practically bare bones disc, features a great reggae and dancehall soundtrack as well as guest starring roles for Beenie Man, Lady Saw and Chevelle Franklin. You also wanna make sure and turn the subtitles ON, …that Jamaican dialect can whiz by your ears pretty damned fast. Warm up some tasty Golden Krust beef patties, tap some choice Red Stripes, and shake yer rump along with Miss Marcia the Mystery Lady for an experience you won’t soon forget.





the collosal copycat catfight, well sorta…

1 12 2011

Hey folks, just a short rant on design, before i get to the drama at hand. I usually don’t discuss this aspect here, but I should. I’ve been a graphic designer for many years now, and obviously look at every detail of a home DVD release, and the marketing materials as well. So, it’s hard for me to understand why stuff like this continuously happens:

I’m about 99.9% sure that this spicy telenovela starring Kate De Castillo, was well in the works and to the print shop before CBS had any fresh ideas for their drab legal action drama. I first noticed the similarities while taking the Q67 bus to work one morning. At the bus stop, the large poster advertising Julianna Margulies in a slightly provocative pose gave me the where-have-i-seen-that-before head scratch. The Good Wife has established excellent ratings despite it’s cliche-ridden premise since it’s first season in 2009. As the bus pulled up, emblazoned on the side panel was the admat for La Reina del Sur, and it literally smacked me on the noggin. Could it be that there was some creative thievery at work here? It’s Good Wife vs. Bad Girl in this cross-cultural slugfest.

What’s funny is how similar the images and layout are, despite the fact that they are polar opposites in character and plot device. La Reina del Sur (The Queen of the South) produced by Telemundo, is based on a novel of the same name by Spanish author Arturo Perez-Reverte. The drama depicts the rise of Teresa Mendoza, a young woman from Mexico, who becomes the most powerful drug trafficker in southern Spain. With a $10 million budget, La Reina del Sur was the most expensive telenovela they’d ever produced, and garnered the network’s highest rated premiere for a soap to date. Chock full of bullet ballet gunfights, seedy cockfights, enough catfights to satiate even the most jaded femme-fatale action fans, and impossibly hunky Ivan Sanchez, wow, how could you watch anything else?

Being a spicy soap, it wasn’t without some real-life controversy, something we all like, heh. Stars Kate del Castillo and Cristina Urgel publicly spoke out against media censorship when a scene featuring a kiss between their characters was edited out before broadcast on Mexican television. Due to its controversial subject matter, the program has been criticized by some for its glamorous depiction of the life of a narco-trafficker, with one Mexican government official calling the series “an apology for organized crime. In Spain, the dramas locale, it was edited down to a mere 13 episodes, with the original novel’s author calling it putrid garbage, as opposed to the full length 63 episode extravaganza shown in the Americas. I’m searching out the bootleg DVDs as we speak, as I have some time until Rebelde sexbomb Angelique Boyer’s Teresa comes out.





misty mundae: date. mate. mutilate.

15 11 2011

I’ve been gorging myself on all kinds of  indie horror the past few weeks, and most recently Full Moon’s seminal Subspecies series.  Sometimes I don’t give homegrown cinema it’s rightful due, so I wanted to do a piece on some of the standout stars (well, to me, anyway) and wondered who to start with. Curvaceous, witty, and all-around sassy Erin Brown, aka Misty Mundae, came to mind. She’s wrapped me in her clutches on many occasions, with an almost Cristina-Lindberg-esque charm, which keeps you wanting more. Whether, high camp or high art, she’s got a way of (not to sound completely cheesy) ‘making love to the camera’, its almost claustrophobic, yet comforting.  I mean, with distinct classics like Lord of the G-Strings and Shock-O-Rama under your belt, how can you miss the mark?  Actress, model, filmmaker, and former softcore starlet, and now a cult icon. This gorgeous bisexual vegetarian vixen has starred in over 50 low budget indie masterpieces to date.

Brown’s early career was spent with porn film production label Factory 2000, afterwards signing an exclusive contract with E.I. Independent Cinema, under the stage name  Misty Mundae. She dove headfirst into a juicy role in the Columbine tragedy inspired Duck! The Carbine High Massacre, in early 2000, and also wrote, directed, and starred in a remake of Director Nick Phillips’ 1969 softcore classic, Lustful Addiction. She made her way to France for the US/French co-production of Vampire of Notre Dame, which was later peddled very successfully by Seduction Cinema, under the alternate title An Erotic Vampire in Paris.

In late 2003, she began ventured deeper into the horror film industry headlining features for E.I. Independent Cinema’s horror division, Shock-O-Rama Cinema. Some of her best features sprang from that union, such as Splatter Beach, Bite Me!, and Chantal. Frankly, with titles like the ones below, you have to know they’re gems of the highest order! The ‘special effects’ (more like special people effects) makeup in PlayMate of the Apes alone is worth the price of admission.

The following year, Erin released a short film titled Voodoun Blues, direct-to-dvd through Shock-O-Rama Cinema. This feature won Best Short Film on the college filmfest circuit . This B/W 16mm film features a voluptuous black magic maiden performing some malevolent voodoo rituals, seeking retribution from a reclusive ex-lover (Misty Mundae). Her magical motives are ambiguous at best, as the vindictive priestess hexes her victim in dreams, in consciousness, and ultimately in death. It’s extremely avant-garde in feel, featuring a classic retro vibe, and pseudo-expressionistic style. The use of stop-motion cinematography gives the film a surreal look, which gave me the willies. You can purchase it as a DVD-EP from amazon.com, with the following goodies included: Interview with Misty Mundae (August 2004), ‘Making Blues’ – the recording of the Voudon Blues soundtrack, ‘Sour Milk’ – a short film by Joe Miller, ‘Night of the Whorror Hoppers’ – a short film by Katie Bordeaux, Misty Mundae Trailer Reel, and a nifty limited edition Misty Mundae Collectible Postcard.

Erin decided it was time to move on, and sold the ‘Misty Mundae’ name rights to E.I. Independent Cinema, and retired from spicy films to pursue a mainstream acting career. She was recently seen starring opposite Angela Bettis, in an episode of Showtime’s ‘Masters of Horror’ series entitled Sick Girl. A bookish entomologist’s mundame life is changed by the simultaneous arrival of a large, mysterious bug and a torrid affair with a sexy young woman. But when the bizarre insect chooses a shocking place to secretly feed, Sapphic ecstasy turns to infection, mutation and murder. Will these lesbian lovers let a venomous threesome tear them apart, or is the most horrific metamorphosis of all yet to come? A must-see for trash fans, trust.

Erin was so successful in her reach that Sci-Fi Weekly magazine included Misty Mundae on their list of “Living Horror Icons” with the charming subtitle “the ones whose movies you might pay to see or rent, the ones you’d stand in line to shake hands with, or to snag an autograph from”  along with Robert Englund, Linda Blair, Elvira, and Jamie Lee Curtis. With a fully loaded DVD re-release of spandextastic Spiderbabe in the works, be sure to keep your collective peppers peeled!

 

 





seoulful boybandery

3 09 2011

Despite my current i.v. drip of TVB kungfu soaps of the early 80s, I’ve been meaning to write a healthy post on another seemingly innocent vice of mine, Korean television drama fever, or hallyu. Miniseries in format, at most twenty episodes long, these spicy morsels are easily digested and keep you full and smiling the whole way through. Next post, I’ll cover some of the classics that should’nt be passed up, like, Full House, (nope, sorry, not the one with Greek superstud Uncle Jesse) Winter Sonata, Princess Hours, and a top fave of mine, My Girl, (yeah yeah, I know its funny how these Koreans seem to swipe names from U.S. counterparts, that don’t echo the plot at all) to name a few.

You’re Beautiful (미남이시네요), literally “He’s a handsome man”, is a South Korean drama about a fictional boy band A.N.Jell and the relationship between its members when a female, posing as her twin brother, joins the group. The series aired from October 7 to November 26, 2009 on the Korean network SBS.

Go Mi Nyu is a nun-in-training, ala Sally Field in the Flying Nun series of yesteryear. Her twin brother Go Mi Nam successfully auditions for the musical band A.N.Jell, but is forced to leave for the United States to correct a botched plastic surgery. Mi Nyu is approached by Mi Nam’s manager to pose as Mi Nam while he recovers. She is against it at first, but agrees in order to fulfill her dream of finding their mother. Once a star, she feels it will be much easier for her birth mother to find her, let alone greedy relatives crawling from the woodwork. Now, posing as Mi Nam, Mi Nyu enters the group and meets its members: Hwang Tae Kyung, Kang Shin Woo and Jeremy. If not getting along with three guys that don’t know youre a girl wasn’t hard enough, you have a horde of jealous fans wondering who this fledgling member is, and can he even sing?!

Created by duo Hong Jung Eun & Hong Mi Ran, this series bursts with amazingly complex charactes. Seemingly cold-hearted, Hwang Tae Kyung, (Jang Geun Suk) the lead vocalist, is desperately seeking to regain his relationship with his ex-starlet mother, despite his stonefaced exterior, all the while falling in love with the group’s newest member. Kang Shin Woo, (Jung Yong Hwa) the smart, loyal, and extremely receptive guitarist, he’s handsome dandy that also finds himself strangely attracted to our androgynous nun-turned-popstar. Jeremy, (Lee Hongki) blonde-coiffed drummer, and prankster of the group, really plays up the humor here, and is super cute all the while.Whether its his unique facial expressions, his jarring bleach-blonde locks, or his impeccable comic delivery, hands down, he’s my fave. Major crush, heh.

Yoo He Yi (portrayed by Uee, member of real-life girl group After School) adds the bitch factor. She’s a rising pop  star competing for stage time with A.N.Jell, and trying early on to expose Go Mi Nam for what she really is. She soon falls for Hwang Tae Kyung, reluctantly at first, and uses her diva antic to always get what she wants. She’s gorgeous, and steals every scene she’s in. She easily switches from icy-cold-stare to anime-eyed sweetcheeks as the paparazzi arrives each time.

Interesting to note, the drama features a live concert, and A.N.Jell actually performed,where it was reported that as many 25,000 fans showed up.The group performed the songs “Promise” and “Still”. Their music is comprised of the wispy ballads and rock-pop infused drivel you’d expect from current Korean boybandery. It’s fluff, well-written, and catchy to boot.

Thankfully, I was able to get the entire series with excellent English subs for a mere $15 in NY Chinatown. Actually, you can get almost ANY Korean drama series there if you look hard enough. The best spot is hardly even noticeable from street level. It’s an unassuming glass door, next to a modern bubble tea cafe. Once opened, you walk down a flight of stairs, the entire stairwell plastered with the posters for the latest TVB dramas, which reminds me of my bedroom as a teen geeker. The entire basement is filled wall-to-wall with box sets of the DVD and VCD variety. Each section is well stocked with the latest releases at fantastically cheap prices. I got the entire Legend of the Condor Heroes series for $50! They have Chinese (TVB, ATV, CCTV), Japanese, and Korean sections as well. As for the staff, while not fluent in English, they excel at being quite friendly, albeit a bit pushy at times. It’s a group of five middle-aged Chinese women, all gossiping while drinking oolong tea and munching on sweets, but it’s all part of the charm of the place. It’s a Asian TV drama queen’s paradise. They also have a large variety of recent Hong Kong movies, bootlegged, and mostly non-subtitled, plus even some cheaply produced Chinese CGI anime crap as well.