The Five Venoms (1978)

Streaming on Netflix | imdb | trailer

I avoided recommending this one (aka The Five Deadly Venoms) until now as it’s very well known among martial arts fans. Anything I saw on TV regularly as a kid may even be too obvious. However, I think a lot of younger folks may have missed this classic Shaw Brothers film. It’s got all the crazy fight choreography you’d expect, and the majority of Shaw’s greatest stars, plus a mystery angle with a very dark edge. There are some parts that even look like a Mario Bava film. Maybe hold off on watching something in the Netflix Top 10 and check out this fun piece of Anomalous Cinema.

Available on Blu-ray from Celestial Pictures.

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First Love (2019)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer 

I believe this is the most recent Takashi Miike movie that is currently streaming in the USA. It has a unique look, no fake grain but all the detail. I’d call it video crafted with care. The sets look amazing. The production designer is a genius. Every interior scene looks almost like an art installation. As you’d expect, there are some very entertaining action sequences amid the strange comedy / drama too. First Love also features one particularly freaky knob turn. In the end I was very happy to have watched this weird, but modest movie. Miike keeps being Miike, and I love it.

Available on Blu-ray from Well Go.

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I’m Gonna Git You Sucka (1988)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer 

This is my favorite comedy of the late ‘80s. Written, directed, and starring Keenen Ivory Wayans, it’s essentially a parody of ‘70s Blaxploitation Cinema. The good news is that it works even if you’ve never seen one of those films. Sucka has got some of the very best Black Action stars too. Isaac Hayes, aka Truck Turner, is particularly funny. Yep, this film is very offensive, so if you were born after 2000, be warned… your head might just explode while viewing.

Available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber.

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Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter (1974)

Streaming on Hulu and Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer 

This film marks the beginning of the end for Hammer Studios. They had hoped it would be the first in a series of movies to rescue the company from it’s financial decline. That was not to happen. Kronos failed to do well enough in the theaters to help. Luckily it’s now gained a bit of a cult following. This one is not as impressive as my favorite Hammer films, but absolutely worth watching. It is fast-paced, and not missing much of the late-period Hammer naughtiness and violence. Vampire Hunter is on the cheesy side, so make sure to enjoy it with an open mind, and your favorite psychoactive substance.

Available on Blu-ray from Scream Factory.

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Outlaw King (2018)

Streaming on Netflix | imdb | trailer

After the death of Braveheart’s William Wallace, came Robert the Bruce. This film is based on the true story of the 14th century Scottish hero. It’s an entertaining but imperfect action / biopic. Any flaws are made up for with the battle sequence at the end. Outlaw King manages to touch on the good parts of historical war films like Mel Gibson made, without spoiling things with their Hollywood cheese. This was directed by the man behind the excellent Hell or High Water, which also starred Chris Pine. He does a damn good job in the lead role too.

Not available on Blu-ray.

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Dredd (2012)

Streaming on Hulu and Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer 

In a bleak future, Judge Dredd is a brutal super-cop who teams up with a trainee to take on a drug gang. I learned a major lesson with this one. I was so staunchly against big budget Hollywood movies at the time that I didn’t even contemplate seeing it in the theater. Huge mistake. Not only is it absolutely amazing, it was in 3D. Not the static, pointless, 3D either. We’re talking the lovingly crafted kind. Now I pay much closer attention, and don’t automatically dismiss any movie in a genre of interest before doing my research. 

I’m kind of depressed now. What were we talking about? 

Oh yes… Dredd

It’s one of the very best action movies made in the last 20 years. There was talk of making it into a TV series. Didn’t happen. There was also a petition to make a sequel. Nope. Well, at least we have Dredd. It’s a thing of pitch black beauty.

Available on Blu-ray through Lionsgate.

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Ran (1985)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

This is Akira Kurasawa’s samurai adaptation of Shakespeare’s King Lear. I was a twelve year old Japanophile back when this came out, and begged my mom to take me. It was not at all what I expected. I was probably hoping for something closer to Revenge of the Ninja. However it left an impression on this future cinema nerd for sure. This is a deliberately paced, epic drama, with some impressive fight and battle sequences. The title translates to “chaos,” and there’s a lot of that too. Other than the fact that this is a nearly perfect work of filmmaking, there is one part that makes this absolute Anomalous Cinema. A pitch black post-battle sequence that is so morbidly beautiful that it absolutely blew my mind the last time I watched the film. The imagery, along with Tōru Takemitsu’s fantastic score, make for one of the most powerful scenes I’ve ever experienced. I feel sorry for my mom, but it wasn’t nearly as traumatic as when she took me to see Full Metal Jacket. I’m positive she regretted that choice.

Blu-ray available from Lion’s Gate.

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Bad Day for the Cut (2017)

Streaming on Netflix | imdb | trailer

This is simply a very good, deliberately paced, revenge drama. The artwork might make you think Bad Day… is a violent shoot-em-up. No, but that’s really ok. The performances by Nigel O’Neill and Susan Lynch alone make it well worth a watch.

Available on Blu-ray from Well Go.

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Hardcore Henry (2015)

Streaming on Netflix | imdb | trailer

This movie will not make you smarter, but it’s a very entertaining action flick. The basic premise of a violent, first-person, sci-fi adventure, that happens to be well-executed, qualifies it as Anomalous Cinema alone. The cherry on top is that Hardcore Henry manages to ramp up the insane action as it goes along. Oh yeah, and Sharlto Copley is excellent in this. He even does a literal song and dance routine. That’s some sprinkles with your cherry. The whole thing could be dismissed as just plain stupid. I say it’s damned fun, and confirmed that on a second viewing last night. So turn off your logic circuits, and enjoy with your favorite psychoactive substance for the proper experience.

Available on Blu-ray from Universal Studios.

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Black ‘47 (2018)

Streaming on Netflix | imdb | trailer

This is a very good revenge action / drama set during the Irish potato famine. It could easily be a Samurai movie, or Spaghetti Western, but the dark, muddy locations are a visual improvement on those genre’s usual settings. Several writers have made the connection to First Blood, which is indeed driven home by a scene in a “police station” and the music. The good thing is that Black ‘47 goes off in it’s own direction after that. Our anti-hero has much deeper motivation for his revenge than John Rambo. You will recognize several fine actors in this film, but I was most happy to see Hugo Weaving as the manhunter (pictured above). Don’t go into this expecting non-stop action. The pace is deliberate between the explosive scenes, but I was never bored. The balance of drama to action is just about perfect. Watch this instead of one of the zillion straight-to-Netflix shitshows, and I doubt you’ll regret it.

Not available on domestic Blu-ray.

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