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Movie Time! 80s Asian Fusion: Big Trouble in Little China (1986) and The Last Dragon (1985)

Movie Time! 80s Asian Fusion: Big Trouble in Little China (1986) and The Last Dragon (1985)

The guys take on two 1980s cult classics that merge martial arts, music, and ancient magic.

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It’s Popzara’s Movie Time! Podcast!, where our own movie nerds Ethan Brehm and Nate Evans take you on an unscripted journey yakking and chatting about some of their favorite movie moments and cinematic scenes, from past and present, presented without snark and snobbery for your listening pleasure.

Entering the cinematic dojo on this episode are two 1980s cult classics that merge martial arts with magic, monsters, and music.

The first is 1986’s Big Trouble in Little China, directed by John Carpenter (Halloween, The Thing) and starring Kurt Russsel, Kim Cattrall, and James Hong in some of their most iconic and beloved performances. Follow Jack Burton (Russel) as he battles ancient Chinese magic and his own buffoonery to find his beloved Pork Chop Express and get out alive. There’s plenty of martial arts, monsters, and one-liners in one of the craziest fish-out-of-water adventures you’ll ever see.

The second is 1985’s The Last Dragon, aka Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon, directed by Michael Schultz (Cooley High, Car Wash). Follow Leroy Green (Taimak), i.e. Bruce Leeroy, as he learns to balance his journey to martial arts perfection, find his inner strength, and use the power of” The Glow” to defeat the the ridiculous Sho’nuff (a remarkable Julius Carry), all while trying to win over the girl (Vanity) and escape evil music producers. It’s a kickass combination of Motown and showdown that you can dance to.

The guys go over everything that’s made both films beloved examples of cult genre mash-up filmmaking done right (or mostly right), their favorite scenes, and the surprising number of similarities between the two.

Both films were been box-office bombs, but have since become huge cult classics (one more so than the other), both fuse martial arts with distinct American cultures, both have killer soundtracks and name-dropping theme songs (this was the 80s), and both feature an unforgettable rogue gallery of baddies and villains. Both even come highly recommended by none other than Macaulay Culkin (on Cinemassacre and RedLetterMedia).

Also discussed are how both films managed to (largely) avoid racist stereotyping, how both helped “inspire” the hit game and movie Mortal Kombat franchise, the magic of James Hong’s voice, and how sometimes all you really want is a movie that’s fun and joyfully silly,  which is exactly what Big Trouble and Last Dragon deliver. They Glow.

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