Film Review: From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)

Release Date: January 19th, 1996
Directed by: Robert Rodriguez
Written by: Quentin Tarantino, Robert Kurtzman
Music by: Graeme Revell
Cast: George Clooney, Harvey Keitel, Quentin Tarantino, Juliette Lewis, Cheech Marin, Fred Williamson, Tom Savini, Salma Hayek, Ernest Liu, Danny Trejo, Michael Parks, John Saxon, Marc Lawrence, Kelly Preston, John Hawkes

Los Hooligans Productions, A Band Apart, Dimension Films, Miramax, 108 Minutes

Review:

“I know what’s going on. We got a bunch of fucking vampires out there, trying to get in here and suck our fucking blood. And that’s it. Plain and simple. I don’t want to hear anything about “I don’t believe in vampires,” because I don’t fucking believe in vampires, but I believe in my own two eyes, and what I saw, is fucking vampires. Now, do we all agree that what we are dealing with is vampires?” – Seth

I should preface this by saying that I love the hell out of this movie and it’s probably my favorite out of the films that Robert Rodriguez has done. I also hadn’t seen it in a really long time so a revisit was certainly long overdue.

This movie also features my favorite performance by George Clooney, an actor I have always loved and thought was cool, since first seeing him on The Facts of Life and Roseanne, as a kid in the ’80s. I’m glad this cool sitcom guy I liked actually carved out one of the greatest acting careers of his generation and really, any generation.

The reason why I like Clooney in this so much is that it is the greatest departure from the roles he usually plays, which are calm, chill, often times heroic people. While he’s always been cool, this is him at his coolest, going full throttle with no fucks given. It’s a real sight to behold, especially if you consider yourself a Clooney fan and have never seen this.

The rest of the cast is also great with Harvey Keitel, Juliette Lewis and Quentin Tarantino, who surprisingly did a solid job as his character, a guy that’s pretty much a psychopath.

Additionally, the cast is loaded with other memorable but smaller performances from Salma Hayek, Fred Williamson, Tom Savini, Danny Trejo, John Saxon, John Hawkes, Kelly Preston, Michael Parks and Cheech Marin, playing three different roles.

The thing I like most about this movie is that it’s like two films in one. The first half feels like a Tarantino crime picture and since he wrote it, it makes it that much more akin to say Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown or True Romance. The second half of the film turns into an over-the-top, balls out vampire action movie that is reminiscent of exploitation horror. Being that this has Fred Williamson in it, it just adds to that motif.

My only real gripe about the movie is in its use of CGI special effects, which I thought looked shitty even way back in 1996. The film also uses some incredible practical effects done by maestro Tom Savini. Savini’s work is as superb as always and with Robert Rodriguez having that guy at his disposal, I don’t know why he didn’t let him work out the kinks and help design the more elaborate effects shots. The creature makeup just looks so incredible in this picture that when it resorts to using CGI for vampire transformations or deaths, it’s really fucking jarring and takes you out of this otherwise awesome flick.

Like Savini’s stupendous practical effects, I also thought that the set design and general costumes throughout the picture were incredible. This is such a finely crafted, cool film that unfortunately has the rug pulled out from under it due to the bad CGI moments. Honestly, the CGI really undermines the work that went into creating this unique and fun world.

In the end, though, From Dusk Till Dawn is still a solid fucking movie. The pros definitely outweigh the cons but it’s frustrating that those cons weren’t avoided in the first place.

Rating: 7.25/10

Documentary Review: What We Left Behind: Looking Back at Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (2018)

Also known as: What We Left Behind: Star Trek DS9 (shortened title)
Release Date: October 12th, 2018 (Los Angeles special screening)
Directed by: Ira Steven Behr, David Zappone
Music by: Kevin Kiner, Dennis McCarthy
Cast: Max Grodenchik, Andrew Robinson, Armin Shimerman, Nana Visitor, Colm Meaney, Jeffrey Combs, Aron Eisenberg, Rene Auberjonois, Ira Steven Behr, Alexander Siddig, Casey Biggs, Rick Berman, Terry Farrell, Jonathan West, David Carson, Marc Bernardin, Penny Johnson Jerald, Avery Brooks, Rene Echevarria, Ronald D. Moore, Michael Okuda, Chase Masterson, Louis Race, Michael Dorn, Wallace Shawn, Marc Alaimo, Michael Westmore, John Putman, James Darren, Bill Mumy, Cirroc Lofton, Nicole de Boer

Le Big Boss Productions, Tuxedo Productions, 455 Films, 116 Minutes

Review:

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was my favorite Star Trek show of the bunch. However, my relationship with it didn’t start out well. In fact, I really disliked it early on, quit halfway into the first season and didn’t return until years later, after it was off the air and I could stream it on Netflix.

Over the years, I’d hear from really hardcore Trekkies that it was the best show and that once it found its footing, its larger story and its purpose, it became one of the best shows in sci-fi television history.

After giving it a second chance, I discovered this to be true and the show, at least for me, lived up to that hype and may have even exceeded it.

This documentary was crowdsourced and probably long overdue. I’m glad that it got made when it did because a few key people who were involved in it have passed away in the few years since.

This was directed and put together by Ira Steven Behr, who was the DS9 showrunner. But he clearly has a ton of passion for this show, all the people he worked with on it and the large fanbase that has continued to grow over time.

What We Left Behind features interviews with just about every key person that was involved in the show and it was nice seeing how much they loved their work and each other, as well as the fans. Sadly, many fanbases have been wrecked in recent years, Star Trek, as a whole, being one of them. However, for whatever reason, DS9 seems to be less effected by that.

Overall, this was a really cool documentary and it was fun to watch. If you loved Deep Space Nine, you really should check this out. Plus, I think it is currently free on Prime.

Rating: 7.25/10

Film Review: Spies Like Us (1985)

Release Date: December 6th, 1985
Directed by: John Landis
Written by: Dan Aykroyd, Lowell Ganz, Babaloo Mandel, Dave Thomas
Music by: Elmer Bernstein, Paul McCartney (title song)
Cast: Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd, Steve Forrest, Donna Dixon, Bruce Davison, Bernie Casey, William Prince, Tom Hatten, Vanessa Angel, Frank Oz, Terry Gilliam, Ray Harryhausen, Joel Coen, Sam Raimi, Bob Hope, B.B. King, Larry Cohen

AAR Films, Warner Bros., 102 Minutes

Review:

“They do seem to be headed in that general direction. Maybe your dick’s not so dumb.” – Austin Millbarge, “It got me through high school.” – Emmett Fitz-Hume

When talking about the great comedy films of the ’80s, few ever mention Spies Like Us. While it stars two comedy legends in Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd, it’s sort of been lost in the shuffle with their other movies.

I had a friend’s dad who used to watch this movie constantly, when it first popped up on premium cable. While I loved it too, going over to my friend’s house almost always meant that we’d have to sit through this for the umpteenth time. I’m not sure why his dad was obsessed with this specific movie but because of that, I got burnt out on it and hadn’t watched it since, other than coming across some clips, here and there.

Watching it now, I am no longer plagued by the fatigue I once had for this film and I got to see it with somewhat fresh eyes.

Dan Aykroyd has always been a favorite of mine and honestly, I have had a new appreciation of Chevy Chase after revisiting and reviewing a lot of his movies lately. In this, he’s exceptionally good and it’s as if the movie was written specifically with him in mind.

Aykroyd is also on his A-game in this and the two men had good chemistry, which probably goes all the way back to their time on Saturday Night Live. And with that, I really wish these two would’ve worked together more often. I think all they did together after this was the abysmally bad and super weird Nothing But Trouble and Caddyshack II, where they were barely used and I’m not even sure if they shared any scenes in that one, at all.

Anyway, this sees the two legends paired together and sent into the Soviet Union as spies. What they don’t know going into their mission is that they are just sent in to create a distraction for the real spy team. However, they do end up rising to the occasion and help complete the real mission.

This was directed by John Landis, who had a real penchant for comedy, especially in the ’80s. He had directed Aykroyd a few times before this and he’d work with Chase after. But if you like Landis’ style of comedy, this fits right in with the rest of them.

Spies Like Us is just a fun, fairly mindless movie. Being that the Cold War was still seemingly going strong when this came out, it allowed people to laugh about it and also see Americans and Russians working together for a greater good.

Rating: 7/10

Book Review: ‘The Best of Robert E. Howard, Vol. 2: Grim Lands’

I found this volume out of the two Best of Robert E. Howard anthologies to be the better one. I figured they’d blow their load in the first one but they really saved some good stories for this volume and there was more diversity in these tales from Howard’s most famous characters and the different genres he dabbled in.

This had great sword and sorcery tales, some swashbuckling, horror and a whole lot of action and adventure!

This book features solid stories with Conan, Kull and Solomon Kane. Each of those characters have a hefty amount of good material to pull from, though.

And sure, my preferences are subjective but the stories here are just ones that resonate with me more.

Also, these can be found elsewhere in other collections and even free online but if you really want to hold a thick, beefy book in your hand and enjoy some of Howard’s best work, this is certainly a good place to start.

Granted, I’d start with volume one but I’m OCD like that.

Rating: 8/10

Film Review: The Onion Field (1979)

Release Date: May 17th, 1979 (Cannes)
Directed by: Harold Becker
Written by: Joseph Wambaugh
Based on: The Onion Field by Joseph Wambaugh
Music by: Eumir Deodato
Cast: John Savage, James Woods, Franklyn Seales, Ted Danson, Ronny Cox, Christopher Lloyd, Priscilla Pointer, John de Lancie

Black Marble Productions, AVCO Embassy Pictures, 122 Minutes

Review:

“Any man who gives up his gun to some punk is a coward. Any man who does can kiss his badge goodbye, if I can help it. You’re policemen. Put your trust in God.” – LAPD Captain

I had never heard of this movie until the Criterion Channel put up a neo-noir collection, recently. Going through it, I figured I’d give this picture a watch, as it was one of the few in that collection that I hadn’t yet seen.

This also has James Woods and Ted Danson in it, so I was pretty intrigued, considering I had never stumbled across this.

The story is based on a true crime book and the film is written by the same author, which I guess helped keep things as accurate as possible. With real world stories, accuracy is hardly a priority for Hollywood.

First and foremost, this is incredibly well acted. Once the big, fucked up event in the film happens, John Savage’s acting goes to another level and the film switches gears, showing a once badass man break down because of the death of his partner and because the broken justice system is failing to make the killer pay for the crime.

The first hour of the story gives the background on the people and the events that led to a cop being murdered by a scumbag criminal. At the midway point of the film, we see the traffic stop that leads to the cop’s murder and his partner’s escape. The last half of the film focuses on the fallout and how the surviving cop can’t deal with justice not being served.

This is an emotionally heavy film in the back half and it leaves you incredibly pissed off, as you start to wonder if the scumbag is going to get away with the heinous, cold-blooded crime.

Beyond the great acting, this is a film that has great atmosphere. Watching it, it feels dark, confined and muggy. You feel stifled by the weight of it and feel the emotion pretty intensely. However, even with the genuine emotional connection to the primary character, the film really suffers from its pacing and structure. Something just felt a bit off in that regard and the film drags in points.

Still, I enjoyed this and was glad that I discovered it.

Rating: 6.75/10

Video Game Review: Dark Souls III – The Fire Fades Edition (PlayStation 4)

Well, I have reached the third and final installment of the Dark Souls series. The game’s director and creator Hidetaka Miyazaki claims that it is the last and he’s already moved on to other things like 2019’s Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice and the upcoming Elden Ring. There are also rumors of a Bloodborne sequel in the works.

Needless to say, I don’t know how Miyazaki can top the Dark Souls series, as a whole. These games are near masterpieces! Well, the first game is a masterpiece and this one is close. The second game, which Miyazaki was a lot less involved in, had its problems but I covered those in my review of it. However, it was still a pretty great gaming experience and much better than most games out there.

So speaking specifically on Dark Souls III, this game was really fucking solid. It’s not as good as the original but I like it at almost the same level.

I was worried that it was going to be ungodly hard but I actually found it to be the easiest of the three. In fact, I didn’t need to grind for souls (XP) until I got to the last three bosses out of a few dozen. In the previous games, I spent quite a lot of time grinding away for souls really early on.

Everyone seems to have a different opinion on which game they consider the hardest. A lot of people think this one is it, so I’m not sure why it was the easiest for me. I think a lot of that has to do with playing style. Also, by this point, I had two previous games worth of experience under my belt and I’m sure that helped me out immensely.

I thought the boss battles in this chapter were better and more varied in style than the previous game. However, the first Dark Souls still takes the cake in that department. Granted, it was also the first game and set such a high precedent that anything after it has its work, unfairly, cut out for it.

I also liked that this game felt a lot less linear than Dark Souls II. While this didn’t have the sandbox style, interlocked world of the superbly designed first game, the shortcuts and secret paths that created loops through multiple areas were a welcomed addition.

This also felt like it had a lot more optional areas than the previous installments. I played through all of them, though, as I always want the full experience in these games.

I also found the combat to be smoother in this game than the previous ones, as well as the graphics and design being a step up.

Overall, this is nearly a masterpiece. I think the only thing working against it is that it felt shorter than the other games and some of the bosses just had ridiculous levels of health regardless of how suped up my character and his weapons were.

Rating: 9.5/10

Film Review: While the City Sleeps (1956)

Also known as: New Is Made at Night (working title)
Release Date: April 19th, 1956 (London premiere)
Directed by: Fritz Lang
Written by: Casey Robinson
Based on: The Bloody Spur by Charles Einstein
Music by: Herschel Burke Gilbert
Cast: Dana Andrews, Rhonda Fleming, George Sanders, Vincent Price, Howard Duff, Thomas Mitchell, Sally Forrest, John Drew Barrymore, Ida Lupino, James Craig, Robert Warwick, Mae Marsh, Leonard Carey

Bert E. Friedlob Productions, RKO Radio Pictures, 110 Minutes

Review:

“What a beautiful nightgown; and it’s a shortie!” – Ed Mobely

I love Fritz Lang’s work, especially in regards to the noir narrative and visual style. And while noir films were waning in popularity by 1956, Lang still managed to make a pretty good one with this picture.

The film is about a serial killer that is terrorizing the city. All the while, a media tycoon dies and leaves the business to a son he despises. The son, played by Vincent Price, doesn’t know much about running a news company, so he creates a new “second-in-command” position. He holds a contest between the company’s best investigative journalists to catch the killer. The one who does will be given the new position and some lucrative perks.

The movie has a weird but interesting premise and all the core actors in this do a good job with the material.

One thing Lang does exceptionally well in his films is how he builds up tension and suspense. He does a fantastic job in this one, as well.

I think the serial killer stuff is also a bit darker and more gruesome feeling than other serial killer movies before this. But going all the way back to 1931’s M, Fritz Lang showed that he didn’t shy away from the darkness and was able to really push the envelope in spite of the limitations of what was deemed acceptable at the time.

This movie is full of characters that are entertaining and fun to watch. However, there is still this haunting presence looming over everything.

Ultimately, this isn’t Fritz Lang’s best noir picture but it also solidifies the fact that the guy never made a bad or even mediocre one.

Rating: 7.5/10

Comic Review: Moon Knight by Bendis and Maleev – Ultimate Collection

Published: March 7th, 2018
Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: Alex Maleev

Marvel Comics, 264 Pages

Review:

After reading through the lengthy Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev run on Daredevil, I figured I’d give their run on Moon Knight a shot.

Reason being, I mostly liked Bendis’ Daredevil stuff other than how he didn’t know how to bring it to a close and his cringe romance shit. I also liked Maleev’s art, for the most part. Plus, I like the hell out of the Moon Knight character and wish I had read more of is stories over the years. I’m trying to rectify that now, as I’m older and have access to so much more.

This story is twelve issues long and it uses that space really well and wraps up much better than Bendis’ Daredevil run. I think that he went into this knowing where it needed to end and that since he had limited space to tell a story, he gave us something well structured that got to the point and gave us a satisfying conclusion.

In this story, we see Moon Knight dealing with his “hearing voices” problem in a fresh way. While he is recruited for a mission by Captain America, Wolverine and Spider-Man, he also starts seeing versions of them in his mind. Additionally, with such a close connection to them, he starts to use their gimmicks in his battles with L.A.’s criminal underworld.

That underworld is ruled by its own kingpin, similar to The Kingpin in New York City. However, this person’s identity is a mystery and Moon Knight is tasked with luring them out and discovering why exactly they wanted to buy a deactivated Ultron head.

Moon Knight also meets Echo, the two have a reluctant partnership but end up falling in love during their mission.

This becomes more and more high stakes as it rolls on. Out of the twelve issues, none of them are wasted on filler bullshit and the romance stuff is in there but it’s nowhere near as exhausting as what we got in Bendis’ Daredevil. It’s like Bendis improved in that regard and wrote something more natural and to the point. Nothing between Moon Knight and Echo seemed forced like it did between Daredevil and his wife Milla.

I also feel like Alex Maleev’s art was an improvement. It’s cleaner while also looking more detailed. It also fit the tone of the story pretty damn well.

I don’t want to say too much about the story, as there are some big reveals and twists but this is definitely worth reading if you want a superhero, neo-noir tale that isn’t Daredevil-centric.

Rating: 9/10

Film Review: Jigsaw (2017)

Also known as: Saw 8, Saw VIII, Saw: Legacy (working titles)
Release Date: October 25th, 2017 (Moscow premiere)
Directed by: The Spierig Brothers
Written by: Josh Stolberg, Peter Goldfinger
Music by: Charlie Clouser
Cast: Tobin Bell, Matt Passmore, Callum Keith Rennie, Clé Bennett, Hannah Emily Anderson, Laura Vandervoort, Mandela Van Peebles

Serendipity Productions, Burg Koules Hoffman Productions, Twisted Pictures, 92 Minutes

Review:

“The truth will set you free.” – Jigsaw

Well, after the terrible weekend where I forced myself through all of the original Saw sequels, I really didn’t want to have to jump into the more modern sequels at all… but there’s only two of them, so I figured I’d just power through them each in sperate sessions. Luckily, this film at least provided me with something that was a wee bit of a step up from those last several.

Granted, I say “wee bit” because this isn’t a particularly good movie but it stood out when compared to all the sequels after the third Saw.

As I’ve stated before, I like Tobin Bell as Jigsaw and I was glad that they found a way to actually have him in this, alive and as well as he could be, as the cancer hadn’t beat him yet.

With his presence, though, it left you wondering if him surviving cancer was some sort of clever Jigsaw trick all along. The big reveal in this chapter, as there’s always a big reveal in Saw movies, is that half of the plot takes place before the first Saw while the other half of the story is a sequel. So my worry of there being some type of stupid supernatural element thrown in was eased once the reveal happens.

There was also a pretty solid red herring in the movie, when you had to start guessing who might be pulling some of the strings, as you assume there is some sort of copycat Jigsaw or another unknown apprentice.

However, this, like it’s several predecessors, is nowhere near as clever as the original film. Additionally, the dual storylines that take place at different times is kind of confusing and a bit of a bloated clusterfuck.

One big positive, is that the people playing Jigsaw’s game in this are a lot less annoying than the groups in previous films. I thought Laura Vandervoort was pretty good and likable in this. Well, until her dark secret comes out.

As Saw sequels go, however, I felt like I wasted my time with a movie that’s just unpleasant, often times shrill and has very few redeeming qualities other than enjoying the pivotal scenes with Jigsaw in them.

Rating: 5/10

Comic Review: Batman: The Black Mirror

Published: October 8th, 2013
Written by: Scott Snyder
Art by: Jock

DC Comics, 295 Pages

Review:

So this takes place when Dick Grayson was still Batman. That whole era gets screwy in my head and even though I’m a massive Nightwing fan, it’s like my brain blocks out that he was ever Batman, until I come across one of those stories and it jars me back into that strange stretch of reality.

This was written by Scott Snyder for Detective Comics before he would go on to his solid run in the main Batman comic.

So this is pretty damn dark, even for a Batman comic but I liked it quite a bit, as Snyder gives us some new villains, very different situations and also links these multiple stories together quite well.

While “The Black Mirror” story is just about the first third of this collection, the other tales build off of it and maintain the same tone.

My favorite part of this was the story about Commissioner Gordon’s serial killer son and whether or not he was truly “cured”. I’ve always liked this character and how he fucks with the heads of Jim Gordon and Barbara Gordon, whether she’s Oracle or later on when she went back to being Batgirl.

The art in this was distracting at first but I adjusted to it pretty quickly and liked how well it added to the brooding atmosphere of these stories.

Batman: The Black Mirror is weird for me because it takes place during Dick Grayson’s Batman stint and I think this would’ve been better with Bruce Wayne in the story. However, it’s still a neat collection of really dark tales and it helped set Snyder on the right path for his career.

Rating: 8.25/10