Kunoichi ninpô-chô: Yagyû gaiden (1998)

When a gang of killers named The 7 Spears, led by Akinari Katou, kill an entire convent of nuns — save for seven survivors, led by Ochie (Yuko Moriyama, Moon Over TaoZeiram) — who decide to become an army of female ninja, led by a legendary eyepatch wearing samurai named Jubei Yagyu (Hitoshi Ozawa, who literally led them in the film, as he directed and co-wrote it).

There were seven of these movies and this was the first to be imported to the West; as you can imagine it’s somewhat disconcerting but if you love what you see, there’s a lot more to track down and decipher. Such it the path of the otaku; often a path that you walk alone, becoming obsessed with shows and series that go beyond the more popular elements of Japanese pop culture that come to America.

So you can call this Kunoichi Lady Ninja or the very long and much more entertaining title Female Ninjas Magic Chronicles: Legend of Yagyu Part 1.

This is the kind of movie where ninjas pull out their eyeballs to summon demons, where Jubei Yagyu can have sex while deflecting arrows and the lovemaking is so good that he unlocks Nipple Shock Wave kung fu in a lady gifting her with the ability to float and unleash lightning. Also: so many heads explode. Like, this movie is obsessed with heads getting pulled off their body to the point that I was sure that it was either Jimmy Wang Yu or George Lucas directed this.

MILL CREEK BLU RAY BOX SET: Dawson’s Creek (1996-2003)

I know no bigger fan of Dawson’s Creek than my friend Jim Sloss, who was kind enough to teach me that Pacey’s boat is named True Romance and to write this:

Over the years Sam has asked me many times if I’d like to write something for B&S and I’d always hem & haw and then never get around to it. Then came the box set of all box sets, the show that is like a time capsule to the 1990s and one of my all-time favorites, Dawson’s Creek.

In 1998 when this show came out I can remember vividly watching it on my VCR the following morning (because I had to work the night before) and from the first moment of the pilot to the last I was hooked, the dialogue was nothing that I’d heard before in a teen soap. They took a chance at treating the audience like adults rather than kids and it paid off. So, from that night on I followed the “kids” from Capeside each week for six seasons.

Created by Kevin Williamson, the co-creator of the horror franchise Scream, this series is a fictionalized account of a young film buff from a small town just trying to find his way. Pretty much what Kevin Williamson did was pitch what he knew and so he told a fictionalized version of his growing up in North Carolina. The show was launched on the WB network in January 1998 and was an instant hit with the show being parodied on MTV and Saturday Night Live. Their use of current pop culture and hit music for the time was what kept it relevant each week and talked about on school campuses.

During the late 90s, Dawson’s Creek was considered cutting edge for teen angst, touching on issues that were not talked about on TV and even less so in public. The first season dealt with drug abuse, addiction and infidelity along with every teenage boys dream… the inappropriate relationship with a hot teacher. In 1998 that was a huge story arc for a main character with the teacher just leaving to avoid scandal. These types of stories were becoming more and more common during this time and now leads to the teacher spending long stretches in prison rather than just moving on to another school.

Yet along the way these colorful kids learned from their mistakes and grew into functioning adults just trying to make their way. With the main character Dawson Leery, played by James Van Der Beek, not getting his High School crush Joey Potter, played by Katie Holmes, but instead getting to fulfill his dream of working in movies and TV where he turned his life into a teen drama TV show just like Kevin Williamson.

I would be remiss if I didn’t leave you with the greatest quote and moment of this fantastic tv show. In the finale we find our core characters several years in their future living their lives with little interaction when everyone is reunited for a wedding they immediately learn that one of the main characters, Jen Lindley, is dying of cancer. While Dawson is spending time with his close friend at a hospice facility she has this Hollywood filmmaker record a video for her infant daughter to watch when she’s older. In that video one line she says that gets me every time is “Be sure to make mistakes. Make a lot of them, because there’s no better way to learn and to grow.” While she’s saying that you can see the anguish on Michelle Williams’ face, showing the audience how fragile she is at the end of her short life and how she just wants the best for her child.

This show never shied away from tough storylines and in the end wrapped up everyone’s arc phenomenally.

I would give this series a 10 out 10!!

P.S. The popular Jenna Ortega can be seen watching Dawson’s Creek in Scream 5 out in 2022 and currently on Paramount+.

Thanks again Jim.

The Mill Creek release of the entire series has all 127 episodes across six seasons, along with seven hours of bonus extras, which include Entertainment Weekly‘s 20th Anniversary Reunion, audio commentaries on select episodes, a retrospective featurette and alternate scenes and an alternate ending to the pilot episode.

I watched several of the episodes on this set as, surprise, I never watched this show, despite Jim telling me near consistently — we lived in a house with six people while this show was popular, so I have no idea how I didn’t watch it with him — that I need to watch “The Dawnson,” as he put it.

Surprisingly — as I have often remarked about Williamson’s other work — I really liked what I watched. It felt honest and truthful, nearly lived in. I’ve been watching a few episodes a week now and really enjoying the opportunity to be part of the lives of these characters.

These Mill Creek TV sets are great because they really give you the opportunity to do the same, exploring or binging or however you choose to watch. And unlike streaming, they’re always there for you, not being edited or taken down when you’re in the middle of watching a season.

You can buy the Dawson’s Creek set from Mill Creek at Deep Discount.

The Parent Trap (1998)

Remember The Parent Trap? Well, this is a reimagining with Dennis Quaid and Natasha Richardson as Nick Parker and Elizabeth James, a couple that divorced after the birth of their twin daughters, Hallie Parker and Annie James, which seems like a strange way to settle a divorce, but hey, that’s how the story has worked since Erich Kästner wrote Lisa and Lottie.

Nancy Meyers was the right person to create this, as she wrote Father of the Bride and this was the first movie she would direct. It was written by her husband at the time, Charles Shyer, who she worked with on Private BenjaminJumpin’ Jack Flash and Baby Boom.

There’s a lot in common between the two movies beyond the story itself. Joanna Barnes appears in both films, playing Vicky Robinson in the original and Vicki Blake, the mother of Meredith Blake (Elaine Hendrix), who is the same character she was in her youth. The song “Let’s Get Together” gets sung, the bunkhouse is named Arapahoe and the grandfather has the same smell of tobacco and peppermint.

Hayley Mills would say, “It was so like the one I did, and yet not. But I thought it was really good.”

It makes me feel old to discover that this movie is 25 years old. There will be another remake and I’ll remember all the ones that came before. Lohan is really great in this and it started her career. She’d play twins again in I Know Who Killed Me, but that’s a totally different movie.

Also: the captain of the Queen Elizabeth 2? That’s Dean Cundey.

APRIL MOVIE THON 2: McCinsey’s Island (1998)

April 13: Kayfabe Cinema — A movie with a pro wrestler in it.

Look, I love Grace Jones more than most members of my extended family. Robert Vaughn? A huge fan. Sam Firstenberg? I’ve bought his movies Revenge of the NinjaAvenging ForceAmerican NinjaNinja 3: The Domination and Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo multiple times.

Yet here they are in a movie that stars Hulk Hogan.

Unlike the Rock, John Cena, Dave Batista and even Pat Roach and Hard Boiled Haggerty, Hulk Hogan has never really been able to go from wrestling superstar — trust me, other than maybe Steve Austin, no one in their prime in my lifetime was a bigger deal — to movie star, despite the promise of Rocky 3. Yes, the Vince McMahon No Holds Barred is filled with dookie, quite literally, but there’s really never been a movie where Hogan has ever been anything other than Hogan, the same man who claimed that Darren Aronofsky offered him the lead in The Wrestler, that Andre died a few days after he slammed him at Wrestlemania 3 and not six years later, that he partied with John Belushi four years after his death at the after party for Wrestlemania 2…I can go on. Also, this is the same Hulk Hogan who used a racial slur about a man his daughter was dating while half naked in a sex tape with his best friend’s wife that was being taped by the aforementioned buddy.

This has jet skis and Jeeps yet is not Thunder In Paradise — messing with him is like rolling the dice — nor is it the movie that started that program, Assault On Devil’s Island. Does it have Brutus Beefcake, the one-time Baron Beefcake, The Booty Man, Big Brother Booty, Brother Bruti, Brute Force, The Butcher, The Clipmaster, Dizzy Hogan, Dizzy Golden, The Disciple, Ed Boulder, Ed Golden, Eddie Hogan, The Mariner, The Man With No Name, The Man With No Name, Furface and The Zodiac? Yes and it has The Giant as well. The Hulkster did not have time or the stroke, one assumes, to find parts for Brian Knobbs, Jerry Saggs or Greg Valentine.

That said, The Giant’s name in this is Little Snowflake.

This is a movie that has Hulk Hogan — I mean Joe McGrai — find a treasure map carved into the shell of a turtle. He also has a bird named Willy that he rescues when his house blows up by literally grabbing him in his fist and someone the bird’s bones are destroyed, brother.

This is a movie where Robert Vaughn’s name is spelled Vaughan in the credits and Grace Jones quotes Darth Vader talking to Boba Fett when he said, “He’s no good to me dead.” It ends with Hogan adopting two tiger cubs and if we learned anything from Joe Exotic over quarantine, it’s that anyone can start a sex cult. I mean, no one, most germanely Hulk Hogan, should ever own a tiger cub.

I may still be watching this movie as you read this, because that’s how long the boat chase scene is. It feels like that whole theory of Hell, in that one second in eternal hellfire is a year of our time, so that scene is still going and I’m stuck in it and may never escape.

I looked up Hulk Hogan acting on Google and got this.

After this, Hogan was in Assault on Death Mountain with Martin Kove, Shannon Tweed, Carl Weathers and Lisa Scrage, Mary Lou Maloney herself; The Ultimate Weapon with Beefcake and 3 Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain, which has Victor Wong, Loni Anderson and Jim Varney. This is where I mention that 3 Ninjas: Knuckle Up was directed by Shin Sang-ok, who was abducted by Kim Jong-il  and forced to make Pulgasari.

Today, Hulk Hogan sits in his beach store and meets fans. I wonder if Grace Jones ever thinks about this time in her life.

APRIL MOVIE THON 2: Desperate Measures (1998)

April 12: 412 Day — A movie about Pittsburgh (if you’re not from here that’s our area code). Or maybe one made here. Heck, just write about Striking Distance if you want.

While Desperate Measures is set and partially shot in San Francisco, the Allegheny County Jail in downtown Pittsburgh is the setting for the first part of this tense film, in which widowed police detective Frank Conner (Andy Garcia) finds out that his nemesis Peter McCabe (Pittsburgh native Michael Keaton) is a perfect bone donor match for his leukemia-suffering son Matt (Joseph Cross).

Based on the novel by David Klaas, who also wrote the script, this was directed by Barbet Schroeder, who also directed Barfly and Single White Female. It also has Marcia Gay Harden as the doctor who is to get the bone marrow, Brian Cox as Captain Jeremiah Cassidy and Richard Riehle as Warden Ed Fayne.

You know going in that McCabe is going to escape, but the surprise is how far Conner is going to go to save his son, even costing fellow cops their lives. And hey — there’s Tracey Walter — Bob the Goon — as a criminal!

Pittsburgh works for this movie, as Grant Street is a brick road like many in San Francisco. The. hospital is actually One Mellon Bank Center, in case you’re trying to figure out which UPMC or Allegheny Health Network building it is.

This was made the same year as Jack Frost, with Keaton playing the father who comes back as Jack Frost after he passes on and Cross as his son Charlie.

APRIL MOVIE THON 2: Jackie Chan: My Story (1998)

April 7: Jackie Day — Celebrate Jackie Chan’s birthday!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Upton is an American (non-werewolf) writer/editor in London. She currently works as a freelance ghostwriter of personal memoirs and writes for several blogs on topics as diverse as film history, punk rock, women’s issues, and international politics. For links to her work, please visit https://www.jennuptonwriter.com or send her a Tweet @Jennxldn

Jackie Chan: My Story coincided with the release of his autobiography I Am Jackie Chan: A Life in Action. The documentary chronicles the life of Jackie Chan beginning at infancy and ending in 1998 with Jackie poised on the brink of huge success in American with release of the first Rush Hour.

It begins with a great opening montage composed of some of Jackie’s best fights and stunts over the years. The montage makes the viewer realize the extent to which time has taken its toll on Jackie’s body. As time passed, he relied more on wire work and stunt doubles whereas the clips from the “old” days show a young, spry Jackie leaping up walls in top form. It’s quite a sight to behold and will likely make you want to dust off some of the old videos.

Following the introduction, we are told about Jackie’s childhood at the Peking Opera school. History is fleshed out through interviews with fellow school-mate Sammo Hung, Jackie’s father Charles Chan, and Jackie himself telling basically the same stories we’ve all heard him tell before on countless talk show appearances over the years. The stories of the long hours of practice and the beatings by the master are inter-cut with clips from the film Painted Faces (1988) in which Sammo played as the schoolmaster, Yu Jim Yuen.

The film moves through Jackie’s days as a stuntman showing many wonderful clips of him working his butt off as an unknown continuing through the phase of his career where director Lo Wei tried unsuccessfully to turn Jackie into the next Bruce Lee.

It’s not until Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow (1978) that we really see why Jackie became a star. With this film, he truly found his niche as a comedian and hasn’t looked back since. In Hong Kong, from then on, each of his films was more successful than the last except for his brief stint in several bad American movies in the early 1980s. In particular, new light is shed on The Protector (1985.) When viewed side by side, Jackie’s version is superior. Long-time fans will feel vindicated for preferring the Hong Kong versions over the American.

From there, the documentary shifts gears and takes some time to focus on Jackie’s various injuries and brushes with death. Watching them all edited together really makes you appreciate how hard Jackie has worked over the years.

At one point Jackie himself admits he neglected his wife and son for his career but avoids the issue of his extra-marital affairs and his illegitimate daughter altogether. Since then, accusations of domestic abuse and neglect have plagued him. Jackie has always been a master at controlling his image and this film is no exception. The primary focus of Jackie Chan: My Story is in his work, not his personal life. For old and new fans alike, it’s a good way to kill a couple of hours.

It’s on YouTube for free here:

Arrow Video The Lukas Moodysson Collection: Show Me Love (1998)

Show Me Love was originally titled Fucking Åmål in reference to one of its leads, Erin, who yells, “Varför måste vi bo i fucking jävla kuk-Åmål?” (Why do we have to live in fucking bloody cock-Åmål?). As the movie was going to be Swedish entry to the Academy Awards, the country itself wanted the name changed, as did the city, which claimed that the name of the movie would show their town in an unfair light and may even cost their economy. Variety even refused to run ads for it. So Moodysson just took the title of the Robyn song on the soundtrack and gave this movie its new name.

As you can imagine, after its success, Åmål has now embraced the movie and even has a Fucking Åmål Festival.

Agnes (Rebecka Liljeberg) and Elin (Alexandra Dahlström) are two students who have different outlooks on life. Agnes has no one close to her and is always depressed, while Elin is surrounded by friends and yet finds her life dull. They start to get to know one another and Elin confesses how trapped their small town makes them so they attempt to leave for Stockholm, but are kicked out of a car when the driver catches their first kiss. Of course, Elin is not sure about this relationship, wondering if she’s meant to be with Johan before realizing that perhaps this love is the one good thing about their small town.

As you’ll discover watching the full career of Moodysson, this coming of age film is just the start of his ability. Ingman Bergman said that this was, “a young master’s first masterpiece.” I’m so excited that I got to watch nearly his entire filmography in one week.

The limited edition The Lukas Moodysson Collection from Arrow includes high definition blu rays of seven films, as well as interviews with Moodysson and other cast and crew, moderated by film programmer Sarah Lutton. There’s also a two hundred page featuring new writing by Peter Walsh, excerpts from the original press kits for each film, interviews with and directors’ statements from Moodysson and essays on his films from a 2014 special issue of the Nordic culture journal Scandinavica by C. Claire Thomson, Helga H. Lúthersdóttir, Elina Nilsson, Scott MacKenzie and Anna Westerståhl Stenport and Kjerstin Moody.

Show Me Love appears as a 2K restoration by the Swedish Film Institute, approved by director Moodysson and cinematographer Ulf Brantå. Extras include new interviews with Moodysoon and Alexandra Dahlström, an appreciation by Dr. Clara Bradbury Rance, author of Lesbian Cinema After Queer Theory, a short film named Talk (Bara prata lite), a trailer and an image gallery.

You can get this set from MVD.

Things II (1998)

Things II is not a sequel to 1989’s Things. No, it’s a sequel to 1993’s Things and how about the fact that there are two SOV movies called Things? Well, Dennis Devine, who directed and wrote this with Steve Jarvis and Mike Bowler, also directed Fatal ImagesDon’t Look In the Cellar and Demon Kiss (want to learn more? Check out Drive-In Friday: Dennis Devine Night).

Horror writer Dean F. Keene orders a pizza and tells two of his stories to the delivery girl. “The Thing From Nanchung” has Stace getting a monster from a scientist and feeding it chutney and that’s she’s going to lead it to kill her husband Dexter and get to be with her true love Sam. Then two thieves come in and the whole plan may be ruined. Steve Jarvis directed this part.

“The Thing From The Lab” has a cop hunting down a serial killer called The Westside Strangler who may be an insect while romancing a photographer who has already had the creature kill someone in her studio. This segment was directed by Devine and has a slasher theme mixed with some strange science fiction monster action.

Mike Bowler, who would make Hell Spa, was in charge of the wraparound and the stories all work together. This is the precursor to the streaming horror anthologies that glut my inbox, except that it’s closer to a real horror anthology because there was some thought and care put into it.

If you’re looking for what happened after the 1989 Things, prepare yourself for Wicked World.

Gargoyle Girls (1998)

Joe LaPenna did special effects for Tales for the Darkside and Alien Beasts before directing and writing this, his one and only film which was intended as a portfolio for his work.

D’Asaro Michael plays Stanley, a not-so-great magician who mostly does work at parties for kids. Then he gains a magic ring and it brings two female gargoyles — yes, that title was not lying — into his life. One of them, Gwendolyn (Sasha Graham, who is still making microbudget films), is the nice one, kind of like Splash with wings. Her sister, however, realizes that if you’re a demon woman in the modern world, you should probably start to do some damage.

The romcom nature of this isn’t exactly to my liking in inverse proportion to how much I love the actual gargoyle girls in this, which look like they stepped out of the art of Coop or a particularly well-stocked Hot Topic and want to break my heart.

You can watch this on YouTube.

VESTRON BLU RAY RELEASE: The Dentist Collection (1996, 1998)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Vestron releases are coming out from Lionsgate, such as this collection of two 90s slashers. Extras on The Dentist include commentary with director Brian Yuzna and special makeup effects supervisor Anthony C. Ferrante, isolated score selections and audio interviews with composer Alan Howarth and director of photography Levie Isaacks, interviews with Corbin Bernsen, Dennis Paoli, Ferrante and J.M. Logan, a trailer and a still gallery. Extras on The Dentist 2 includecommentary with director Brian Yuzna and special makeup effects supervisor Anthony C. Ferrante, isolated score selections and audio interviews with composer Alan Howarth and editor Christopher Roth, interviews with Jillian McWhirter, Pierre David, Ferrante and Logan, a trailer and a still gallery.

The Dentist (1996):

Brian Yunza directed this one, a movie that is ready to upset you even if you’re hardened to gore, because everyone hates the dentist. Seriously, if you’re about to get a filling, please avoid this movie, because it features major moments of molar malice. It made my teeth hurt just watching it.

Dr. Alan Feinstone (Corbin Bernsen*) is a man with it all: a successful dental practice, plenty of money and a gorgeous wife. Of course, she’s sleeping with the pool guy, which makes him go absolutely bonkers and start killing everyone that has ever upset him. It starts with shooting his wife’s friend’s dog and then only gets crazier from there. By the way, that isn’t even a dog. It’s a stuffed goat.

He hallucinates that an actress is his wife and starts choking her with her stockings before her boyfriend (Mark Ruffalo!) flips out. And then he brings his wife in to show her a new opera-themed room and cuts her tongue out before taking out all of her teeth.

For most of the film, Alan is in-between reality and his delusions, so you have no real idea what’s happening. What is going on is plenty of death, like air getting injected into someone’s jugular and smashing out someone’s teeth with a drill**, this movie reminds me of how long it took me to get all my front teeth replaced with implants.

Hey — Ken Foree shows up as a cop. If you’re playing at home, that makes him a police officer in Dawn of the DeadTerror SquadTrue BloodBlood Brothers and this movie.

The budget was so small that Yuzna did his own storyboards and gave the art department his credit card to get set decorations. Favors must have been called in, because Alan Howarth composed the entire score in one weekend (as well as doing the final mixing and foley work).

*While Bernsen played real-life serial killer dentist Glennon Engleman in Beyond Suspicion, this movie was not based on that tale.

**The kills are all based on murders from Hitchcock films.

The Dentist 2: Brace Yourself (1998): When we last saw Dr. Alan Feinstone (Corbin Bernsen), he was being sentenced to a maximum security mental hospital and being menaced by his wife Brooke (Linda Hoffman). However, he’s hidden a weapon inside his own skin and escaped, but his aforementioned ex knows that he’s gone to one of the towns that he’s kept postcards from and she’s going to get the money he owes her to pay back all of the teeth and the tongue she’s lost.

This Brian Yuzna (SocietySilent Night, Deadly Night 4: InitiationFaust: Love of the Damned) directed film — he also made the 1996 original — seems like a sideways sequel for The Stepfather, with Dr. Feinstone becoming Dr. Lawrence Caine and starting all over again in the town of Paradise, Missouri.

Of course, he’s still a maniac and all the issues he had in the first film all come raging back all over again, like his extreme jealousy when he falls for local Jamie Devers (Jillian McWhirter, Dune Warriors), who looks just like his last wife.

Also, much like the last time we saw the evil dentist, if you have to get any work done on your chompers, you shouldn’t watch this beforehand. There’s also a Clint Howard appearance, which is always welcome.

Alan Howarth did the score, so listen for stingers that sound suspiciously like the ones from Halloween 2. And I almost forgot that Big Ed Hurley’s eyepatch-wearing wife Nadine (Wendy Robie) is in this.