Film Review: Yesterday’s Enemy (1959)

Release Date: July 11th, 1959 (Japan)
Directed by: Val Guest
Written by: Peter R. Newman
Cast: Stanley Baker, Gordon Jackson, Guy Rolfe, Leo McKern, David Oxley

Hammer Films, Columbia Pictures, 95 Minutes

Review:

“He knew there’s only one way to fight a war, any war. With your gloves off.” – Captain Langford

Yesterday’s Enemy was the second war movie that I have watched from Hammer Films, who were mainly known for making horror pictures. This came in a Blu-ray set I bought, which included a lot of Hammer’s more obscure stuff.

The story follows a group of British soldiers retreating from the Japanese by going into the Burmese jungle in the hopes of getting back over their defensive line and to safety. With that, this is a pretty intense film that does a great job of building suspense and having pretty decent payoffs whenever their is a skirmish in the thick, dense, swampy jungle.

The movie really maximizes its environment well and the jungle really is the main character of the film. Even though this is a 62 year-old picture and in black and white, you do feel like you’re there with these guys and I found that to be pretty impressive due to the limitations of the production and the era in which this was made.

That being said, I can’t call this a very memorable film and it really just stands out in the moment due to it’s environment and atmosphere.

I thought the acting was also decent enough but no one really stands out here. Granted, no one was bad either. But maybe that also helped with the immersion into this tale, as you weren’t distracted by a grand performance and these guys just came across as totally natural.

If war films were my thing, I probably would have enjoyed this a lot more. They never have been, though, except for an elite few. But still, this did work and was effective and it certainly exceeded my expectations going into it. 

Rating: 6.75/10

Comic Review: Avengers: Citizen Kang

Published: 1992
Written by: Roy Thomas
Art by: Larry Alexander, Geof Isherwood, Herb Trimpe, Dan Panosian (cover)

Marvel Comics, 223 Pages

Review:

Citizen Kang wasn’t just an Avengers story, it spanned four different annuals in 1992 and also featured the Fantastic Four quite heavily, as well as some characters from the Inhumans and Eternals.

It’s a damn cool story if you are a fan of Kang the Conqueror, as I am. Back when this was current, I loved the story because it gives you the full backstory of Kang up to this point in his history. A lot of the pages collected here are flashback stuff but it’s not by any means boring, even if you know Kang’s previous stuff. Reason being, Kang’s a complicated character with multiple versions of himself running around. So this served to give you the CliffsNotes version of that complicated history.

But this isn’t just a condensed history of Kang, that’s just a small part of this total package. This actually sees Kang try to take down his enemies, be they actual heroes or other villains that have caused him problems.

This was an ambitious and big story and I thought that Roy Thomas delivered. Being that he had been at Marvel for a few decades at the time that he wrote this, he knew a lot of these characters and their histories together very well.

Also, being that this is four annuals collected into one volume, it also includes all the extra side stories and supplemental material. My only gripe with this release was how it was all organized. It just pieced the four annuals together as they were printed. I would have rather had the main story flow in order and then tack on all the extras at the end, instead of having them feel like roadblocks between each main chapter.

Still, everything in this was entertaining and hit its mark.

Rating: 8/10

Film Review: The Gladiator (1986)

Release Date: February 3rd, 1986
Directed by: Abel Ferrara
Written by: William Bleich
Music by: David Frank
Cast: Ken Wahl, Nancy Allen, Brian Robbins, Robert Culp, Stan Shaw, Rick Dees, Rosemary Forsyth

Walker Brothers Productions, New World Television, ABC, 98 Minutes

Review:

“There’s order to the chaos of the universe – as above, so below. I mean, even here, there’s a natural order posed by me, because here: I am God.” – Joe Barker

I really like Ken Wahl and Nancy Allen, so I thought a movie where Wahl turns vigilante and makes his truck a weaponized killing machine would be pretty badass! Well, I was let down.

Wahl’s truck is actually just reinforced with some heavy add-ons and a harpoon gun that basically immobilizes vehicles. He’s not really doing Mad Max shit but he is still trying to clean up the streets while hunting for the killer driver that murdered his brother and several other people.

I thought that Wahl was pretty good in this but the movie was slow as hell. It has some good, action-packed moments but it just leaves you wanting more and never really delivers in the way that you’d hope.

I felt like Nancy Allen was barely in it, as well.

But this was a movie that was made for television and there is only so much that you could get away with on network TV in the ’80s.

This is just one of those films that sits in limbo: it’s not necessarily a waste of time but it also isn’t worth going out of your way to watch.

Rating: 5/10

Film Serial Review: Zorro’s Black Whip (1944)

Release Date: November 16th, 1944 (first chapter)
Directed by: Spencer Gordon Bennet, Wallace Grissel
Written by: Basil Dickey, Jesse Duffy, Grant Nelson, Joseph Poland, Johnston McxCulley (original Zorro novel)
Cast: Linda Stirling, George J. Lewis, Lucien Littlefield, Francis McDonald

Republic Pictures, 182 Minutes (total over 12 chapters)

Review:

Zorro’s Black Whip is pretty unusual, as Republic Pictures didn’t have the rights to use the Zorro character in a film but they could still use the name. So with that, they created this serial where the Zorro-esque hero is named The Black Whip and is, in fact, a dame!

The story also takes place in Idaho, a far departure from southern California, even though that’s where this would’ve been filmed.

I like the heroine and thought that Linda Stirling did a pretty decent job as a female version of Zorro with a different name. 

The rest of the cast was about as good as film serial casts go. No one really stood out other than the lead.

The story was a bit all over the place and I thought that the chapter cliffhangers were fairly weak and mundane. Honestly, in a lot of ways, the writing and the situations were incredibly derivative for the genre style.

Still, this did have some spirit for something that was a gender-swapped generic ripoff of a popular hero.

In the end, this is very far from being the best representation of “Zorro” but it’s also not dreadful. I doubt I’ll ever watch it again, though.

Rating: 4.5/10

Film Review: Halloween Kills (2021)

Release Date: September 8th, 2021 (Venice Film Festival)
Directed by: David Gordon Green
Written by: Scott Teems, Danny McBride, David Gordon Green
Based on: characters by John Carpenter, Debra Hill
Music by: John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter, Daniel Davies
Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Will Patton, Thomas Mann, Anthony Michael Hall, Nick Castle, Kyle Richards, Nancy Stephens, Charles Cyphers, Scott MacArthur, Michael McDonald

Blumhouse Productions, Miramax, Universal Pictures, 106 Minutes

Review:

“I’m coming for you, Michael.” – Laurie Strode

So this is the second part of the Halloween trilogy by David Gordon Green and Danny McBride. I mostly liked the first one and I also mostly liked this one.

Oddly, there are some things about this one that are worse and also some things that are better. So with that, it kind of just evens itself out and, overall, is on the same level as its predecessor.

Looking at the positives first, I thought that this one committed to the violence of the deaths better. The previous film showed some seriously fucked up kills but then it’s like it met its quota and then some gruesome kills saw the camera shy away from them. Here, it threw everything at you and didn’t pull any of its punches.

This one also brought back some classic characters and some minor characters from the original 1978 film. I don’t like how some of these characters were utilized and ultimately what their fates were but I did like the idea of a group of Michael Myers survivors being fully aware that one day they’d have to come face-to-face with the monster once more.

As for the negatives, I don’t like how reckless and stupid Tommy Doyle was, as well as his dipshit small town mob. They pushed an innocent man to suicide, they got overzealous and then sloppy when they had the advantage over Michael and by the end, you kind of want these morons to get what you know is coming to them.

Additionally, the film did some time jumping early on, which I felt was a bit messy and made the first act of the story somewhat chaotic and disjointed. It also doesn’t really recover from having a bad flow, as it starts introducing new sets of characters that just seem to be on their own side quest from the get go and it pulls time away from the main story and the main characters of this film series.

Also, I get that Laurie Strode was severely injured but I hated that she was in a hospital bed the entire movie, except when she tried to leave, hurt herself, and then ended up right back in bed next to the cop from the first movie, who also stayed in bed the whole time.

I also didn’t like the appearance of Loomis in this. It felt kind of cheap and weird like when Disney used a CGI Peter Cushing in Rogue One. I couldn’t tell if they used CGI on an actor’s face here or if they just got an actor that looks an awful lot like Donald Pleasence.

Other than that, the story was okay and the kills were solid and creative. At the very least, this feels like a good extension of what was established in the original 1978 Halloween and these are much better movies than that white trash Rob Zombie crap from a decade and a half ago. These are also better than the other attempt at a sequel reboot that we got with H20 and Halloween: Resurrection.

Rating: 6.75/10

Film Review: Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)

Release Date: June 14th, 1991
Directed by: Kevin Reynolds
Written by: Pen Densham, John Watson
Music by: Michael Kamen
Cast: Kevin Costner, Morgan Freeman, Christian Slater, Alan Rickman, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Geraldine McEwan, Michael McShane, Brain Blessed, Michael Wincott, Nick Brimble, Jack Wild, Sean Connery (cameo, uncredited)

Morgan Creek Entertainment, Warner Bros., 143 Minutes (theatrical), 155 Minutes (Extended Edition)

Review:

“Locksley! I’ll cut your heart out with a spoon!” – Sheriff of Nottingham, “Then it begins.” – Robin Hood

I remember seeing this in the theater and loving the hell out of it. But I think I’ve only seen it once or twice since then and those viewings were in the ’90s. So I kind of didn’t know what to expect from it, seeing it decades later. And sure, I remembered some of the more iconic moments and lines but that’s about all I remembered.

This film starts out interesting and gives Robin Hood a neat backstory that saw him held prisoner in a dungeon in Jerusalem, far from his home in England. He is able to escape and saves the life of a Moorish warrior in the process. This warrior swears a life debt to Robin and follows him back to England.

Azeem, the Moorish character, was created just for this film but I liked the character a lot and it was cool seeing Morgan Freeman bring him to life while also getting to partake in the action heavy parts of the movie. Also, he paired up well with Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood and I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t have watched these two go on further adventures.

The story is your standard Robin Hood tale for the most part but it takes some liberties, as all interpretations of the legend do. This one also pushes the romance pretty hard between Robin and Marian but honestly, it doesn’t get in the way of the action or the larger story. This version also has a witch character, who gives advice and directions to the Sheriff of Nottingham.

Alan Rickman plays the Sheriff and frankly, it’s one of his best roles. He gets some great lines in this and he came off as very formidable against Robin in their final battle. Rickman turned the role down twice but finally took it when he was told that he’d have the freedom to play the character in the way that he wanted. I think that his influence and creative decisions made the character unique and memorable and it takes a great villain to shape a great hero.

I also like that the Sheriff of Nottingham had Michael Wincott as his main henchman. I’ve dug the hell out of Wincott for as long as I can remember and he was a good addition to this cast.

I also liked Christian Slater in this even though I felt like he was a bit underutilized.

The only truly odd thing in the film is that Kevin Costner, as the legendary British hero Robin Hood, uses his American accent, as opposed to doing a British one. I guess this was decided during production, as there are some scenes where Robin sounds a bit British-y. However, the director thought that it might be too distracting and break the film. I guess the critics of the time felt the opposite, though, as they got really hung up on the American sounding Robin Hood.

While the accent didn’t bother me too much, the running time did. I just thought this was 20-30 minutes too long and there was a lot that could’ve been whittled down. Once Robin gets back to England, early on, it felt like it took awhile for the film to really get going.

I thought that the action was pretty good and the big battles were exciting and hold up well. However, the final swordfight didn’t feel swashbuckling-y enough. I think that the director wanted a more realistic fight but part of Robin’s appeal, at least to me, was his athleticism, playfulness and mastery of the sword. Furthermore, the Sheriff of Nottingham truly gets the best of Robin and the hero only wins due to a distraction and a dagger he had hidden. It just felt kind of meh and cheap.

Still, I did like seeing this again and it was an entertaining experience. Costner was fine as Robin Hood but Rickman stole every scene that they shared.

Rating: 7.5/10

Comic Review: The Cimmerian, Vol. 1

Published: December 23rd, 2020
Written by: Regis Hautiere, Jean-David Morvan, Robert E. Howard
Art by: Pierre Alary, Didier Cassegrain, Olivier Vatine
Based on: Conan the Barbarian by Robert E. Howard

Ablaze, 144 Pages

Review:

Now that Conan has fallen into public domain, at least the earliest stories, anyway, other publishers besides Marvel can now make Conan comics. Ablaze is the first company that I’m aware of that has taken their shot at adapting the iconic character.

In this collection, we get Ablaze’s adaptations of “Queen of the Black Coast” and “Red Nails”.

I like both of these stories a lot and always have because the first one features Bêlit, the swashbuckling pirate queen, and the other features Valeria, another female warrior that was great at Conan’s side.

Starting with the “Queen of the Black Coast” story, I thought the adaptation was pretty good but it also flew by rather quickly. I mostly liked the art, the dialogue was good and it felt pretty true to the story.

For me, though, “Red Nails” was the better half of this collection. I liked the art more, the story felt longer and more detailed and it had the right sort of vibe, matching Robert E. Howard’s source material.

All in all, this reminded me a lot of the old Savage Sword of Conan magazines that Marvel put out back in the day. These comics had a harder edge to them and didn’t pull any punches unlike the modern Marvel stuff that tries to appeal more to all ages.

Rating: 7.5/10