Book Review: ‘Kings of the Wyld’ by Nicholas Eames

I heard some good things about this book from different sources. It got me hyped up and I was really stoked to give it a read.

Initially, it lived up to expectations, as the first fifty or so pages were great. It was well written, I liked the two main characters and it hit you in the feels from the get go.

However, once they set off on their adventure, the book became tedious and tiresome.

A lot of times, the action happened off the page and was just sort of reflected on, as characters spent most of their time exchanging witticisms. Because of this, I felt like the author was leaning on the strength of his dialogue and working around his possible weaknesses.

However, after hundreds of pages of mostly banter, I couldn’t wait to get through this book.

Sure, there is action but the stuff I wanted out of this book took a backseat too often. By the time you get where you’re supposed to be going, you don’t care anymore.

This was about 500 pages. It could’ve bumped up the action and told a good, solid story in 300 pages.

I had hoped that this would be the start of a series I could’ve loved but in the end, I’ll pass on its sequels.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: I’m assuming it’s sequel and other installments in the future, as well as other modern fantasy novels.

Film Review: In the Mouth of Madness (1995)

Also known as: John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness (complete title)
Release Date: February 3rd, 1995
Directed by: John Carpenter
Written by: Michael De Luca
Music by: John Carpenter, Jim Lang
Cast: Sam Neill, Julie Carmen, Jurgen Prochnow, Charlton Heston, David Warner, John Glover, Bernie Casey, Peter Jason, Frances Bay, Hayden Christensen, Wilhelm von Homburg

New Line Cinema, 95 Minutes

Review:

“God’s not supposed to be a hack horror writer.” – John Trent

I’m actually really surprised that I haven’t watched this in the four years since I’ve started this site. It’s a film I’ve watched at least a dozen times and it’s one of my favorite John Carpenter flicks. Plus, it’s the third and final part to his unofficial trilogy of films he calls the Apocalypse Trilogy. The other two films are The Thing and Prince of Darkness.

While The Thing takes the cake in the trilogy, Prince of Darkness and this movie are still damn good, incredibly fucked up and a lot of fun, especially for fans of John Carpenter’s more fantastical pictures.

This story sees its protagonist try to uncover an “end of days” conspiracy, as he’s sent to go find a famous horror author but discovers that the writer’s written words are telling the true, current and still developing story about humanity’s fall to dark, sinister powers.

In the Mouth of Madness has a very Lovecraftian vibe, which is also pretty apparent by the film’s title, which sounds an awful lot like H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness. Also, different horror novel titles seen within the film are also homages to Lovecraft’s famous stories.

The one thing this movie does incredibly well is creating an atmosphere that almost feels like a dense, creepy fog that is thickening and wrapping around the two main characters, as the film rolls on and provides more details and plot developments. Also, the small town that they’re in feels like a legit ghost town with a bizarre otherworldly-ness. Even when these characters are out in the open, it feels as if they are confined in a tight box and that box’s walls are closing in.

This is an example of a film that does a lot with very little. Sure, there are effects and actual monsters in the movie but its the unseen stuff that creates the magic. Although, when you see the monsters, it also doesn’t diminish the implied horror, it sort of just legitimizes it and makes you, the viewer, go, “Oh, shit! These things do exist and this guy isn’t fucking crazy!”

In regards to the monsters and the special effects, I dig all of it. This film really achieved some great effects shots and freak out moments. It really pushed the bar for a film that I assume just had a typical early ’90s horror budget.

Sam Neill is really superb in this, as well. While this didn’t boost his bank account like his Jurassic Park movies, it is one of his best performances and it really set the stage for what he could do in the horror realm. In fact, I think that his experience with this picture really allowed him to explore the depths of hell in his own soul in Event Horizon, a few years later. Both of these movies are two of the finest horror films to come out of the ’90s and both have aged tremendously well.

In the Mouth of Madness is a fantastic horror fantasy, through and through. It sort of just seeps into your mind and never lets go of it. I guess that’s why it’s one of the Carpenter films that I revisit the most.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the other parts of what Carpenter calls his Apocalypse TrilogyPrince of Darkness and The Thing.

Comic Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 11: Attack On Technodrome

Published: July 1st, 2015
Written by: Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz
Art by: Cory Smith
Based on: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird

IDW Publishing, 104 Pages

Review:

This isn’t really a filler volume in the long-running Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series by IDW, as much as it is its own solid story that puts a heavy emphasis on developing a much bigger event that is going to go down and take up the two volumes after this one. The second such event in this version of TMNT continuity. When I get to those, I’ll probably review them together, as I did the last massive story arc.

In this, however, we see Donatello go behind his brothers’ backs and try to work out an alliance with Shredder, so that they can all take down Krang, his army and the dreaded Technodrome.

There are a lot of swerves and plot twists but the story reads really well and was pretty satisfying. While this wasn’t my favorite volume, it doesn’t disappoint and it kept the story moving forward at a brisk pace without it becoming redundant or derivative of previous stories, which is really hard to do when a series has gone on as long as this one has.

Cory Smith has taken over the art full-time and I like his work. It’s a bit more dynamic and detailed and it feels like the quality is a step up from what it has been. And that’s not to knock the previous artists, as I’ve really liked this series from both the art and writing sides of the coin.

In the end, I’m still enjoying this series and frankly, it’s now probably my favorite version of the turtles. I’m really looking forward to the big arc that follows this one.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the rest of IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles run.

Film Review: Born to Kill (1947)

Also known as: Deadlier Than the Male (working title, Australia), Lady of Deceit (UK alternative title)
Release Date: April 30th, 1947 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Robert Wise
Written by: Eve Greene, Richard Macaulay
Based on: Deadlier Than the Male by James Gunn
Music by: Paul Sawtell
Cast: Lawrence Tierney, Claire Trevor, Walter Slezak, Phillip Terry, Audrey Long, Elisha Cook Jr.

RKO Radio Pictures, 92 Minutes

Review:

“You’re the coldest iceberg of a woman I ever saw, and the rottenest inside. I’ve seen plenty, too. I wouldn’t trade places with you if they sliced me into little pieces.” – Mrs. Kraft

Since I’m not posting enough to truly celebrate the month of Noirvember, my noir-centric reviews have been pretty nil, as of late. But I wanted to slip in one of the film’s I haven’t seen that’s been in my queue for far too long.

1947’s Born to Kill teams up Lawrence Tierney and Claire Trevor, which on paper seems like quite the duo. It also adds in the always entertaining Walter Slezak and superb character actor/cinematic weasel Elisha Cook Jr.

Needless to say, this has a well-rounded cast and it’s also directed by Robert Wise, who had a very long and successful career making pictures in just about every genre.

Weirdly, this one just didn’t hit the mark for me like I hoped it would.

Now there are some really good scenes, like the one linked below, which shows Elisha Cook Jr. being a total bastard, but ultimately, this story felt a bit clunky and I wasn’t that engaged by it.

Also, Tierney and Trevor didn’t seem to mesh together as well as I had hoped.

Still, Wise’s direction was generally good, at least from the visual side of things. The cinematography was great and Wise’s ability to capture visually appealing magic lived up to expectations but everything else kind of fell flat.

That being said, I mostly enjoyed this and didn’t find it to be a waste of time but sometimes, even with a lot of good pieces, things just don’t click in the right way.

A lot of noir lovers do like this film and my take on it may exist in contrast to most but this just didn’t give me what I needed.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other classic film-noir pictures of the time, especially those starring Lawrence Tierney.

Documentary Review: Banking On Bitcoin (2016)

Also known as: The Battle for Bitcoin, The Bitcoin Takeover (working titles)
Release Date: 2016
Directed by: Christopher Cannucciari
Written by: Christopher Cannucciari, Prichard Smith
Music by: Ben Prunty
Cast: Wences Casares, Nathaniel Popper, Gavin Andersen, Naomi Brockwell, Nancy Cannucciari, Michael Casey, David Chaum, Andy Greenberg, Benjamin Lawsky, Jaron Lukas, Blythe Masters, Rakesh Motwani, Rand Paul, Charlie Shrem, Barry Silbert, Nick Spanos, Chris Tarbell, David Thompson, Jeffrey A. Tucker, Paul Vigna, Erik Voorhees, Cameron Winklevoss, Tyler Winklevoss, Alex Winter 

Periscope Entertainment, Downtown Community Television Center, Dynamic Range, Gravitas Ventures, 90 Minutes

Review:

I’ve owned some Bitcoin for awhile and while I generally understand it, it was neat seeing a good, well-produced documentary about it.

This covers the short but very interesting history of Bitcoin and cryptocurrency while also explaining what it is and how it works. The biggest obstacle it faces is the public’s lack of understanding of it. I think that this did the best job it could in trying to speak to the layman.

The documentary also features a lot of people who known what they’re talking about and have been involved in Bitcoin for quite some time.

If the subject matter doesn’t interest you, why have you read this far? If it does, this is well worth a watch.

There’s really not a whole lot more to say other than pointing out that this is one of the best documentaries I’ve come across on the subject.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries on crypto currencies and cypherpunk culture.

Film Review: Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010)

Also known as: Wall Street 2 (working title)
Release Date: May 14th, 2010
Directed by: Oliver Stone
Written by: Allan Loeb, Stephen Schiff
Based on: characters by Stanley Weiser, Oliver Stone
Music by: Craig Armstrong
Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Michael Douglas, Josh Brolin, Carey Mulligan, Eli Wallach, Susan Sarandon, Frank Langella, Austin Pendleton, Sylvia Miles, Charlie Sheen, Vanessa Ferlito, Jason Clarke, Natalie Morales, Oliver Stone (cameo), Jim Cramer (cameo), Donald Trump (scene deleted)

Dune Entertainment, Edward R. Pressman Film, Twentieth Century Fox, 133 Minutes

Review:

“Bulls make money. Bears make money. Pigs? They get slaughtered.” – Gordon Gekko

Like Godfather, Part III, I feel like this movie gets unnecessarily shitted on.

I get it, though, it’s hard not to compare it to its predecessor and it’s certainly not as good but remove that from the equation and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is still a pretty good finance industry thriller with a lot of good twists and turns that keep your attention and leave you wondering where the story is going to end up.

Sure, there are some things I would’ve done differently but the movie’s main plot focuses on a new character and completely different situations. It just so happens that this character is engaged to Gordon Gekko’s estranged daughter and with him getting out of prison, he comes into their lives and that has a big effect on their relationship and their future.

The film is well shot and it has pretty alluring cinematography. But when you’ve got Oliver Stone behind the camera, you should expect competent and majestic visuals. Needless to say, he doesn’t disappoint.

I like that this film wasn’t just a rehash of the original and that the main character wasn’t just another Bud Fox. Shia LaBeouf’s Jacob was a better person and even if he was on the verge of doing some shady shit, his morale and goodness prevailed. Sure, he got burned a few times along the way, playing with fire, but he won out in the end because he was better than the schemers around him.

Additionally, this movie had so much talent that it’s hard not to enjoy the performances by Josh Brolin, Eli Wallach, Frank Langella and so many others.

Hell, we even get Charlie Sheen back for a single scene cameo. Although, it would’ve been much more interesting to see him involved in the story somewhat, even if just minutely. His appearance is cool to see, as he runs into Gordon all these years later, but it also felt forced and a bit out of place.

really liked Brolin in this, though. He was essentially this movie’s version of what Gekko was to the first but something about him was even more dastardly. Where I kind of see Gekko as a sometimes misguided anti-hero in the series, Brolin was certainly a villain.

Also, I liked that this picture focuses a lot on the collapse of Wall Street and involves the Federal Reserve. As someone who followed and wrote about this stuff circa 2008, it felt like the film represented that era well.

In the end, this isn’t as great as its predecessor but it’s still a fine follow-up and frankly, I’d welcome a Wall Street 3 in another decade or so.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: its predecessor, as well as Boiler RoomThe Wolf of Wall Street and Rogue Trader.

Book Review: ‘The Cthulhu Stories of Robert E. Howard’

I’ve always loved that H.P. Lovecraft never really gave a shit that other writers would tap into his Cthulhu mythos. In the case of Robert E. Howard, the two had become good friends whose work influenced each other. So, naturally Howard wrote some Lovecraftian tales and even merged some of his most famous characters with those existing in Lovecraft’s literary universe.

The first story in this anthology collection sees Howard’s Kull of Atlantis crossover into Lovecraftian horror. Granted, this also happened in some works featuring Conan the Cimmerian, as well.

My favorite story in the collection was the second one, which was originally a novella. The story is called “Skull-Face”. The story is about a British man who smokes opium, has weird visions and then discovers that there’s something real and sinister afoot.

As I was reading “Skull-Face”, I kept envisioning Peter Cushing as the main character and it read like something that could’ve been adapted greatly by Hammer Films in the 1960s.

The rest of the stories were also pretty solid but my mind kept drifting back to “Skull-Face”.

All in all, this was really neat to read as it merged two of my favorite fantasy authors’ worlds together. Sure, Lovecraft influenced Howard’s sword and sorcery tales but this thick volume went beyond just the stuff I’ve read involving Conan, Kull and Solomon Kane.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other works by Robert E. Howard, as well as the literary work of H.P. Lovecraft.

TV Review: Dracula (2020)

Original Run: January 1st, 2020 – January 3rd, 2020
Created by: Mark Gatiss, Steven Moffat
Directed by: Johnny Campbell, Damon Thomas, Paul McGuigan
Written by: Mark Gatiss, Steven Moffat
Based on: Dracula by Bram Stoker
Music by: David Arnold, Michael Price
Cast: Claes Bang, Dolly Wells, John Heffernan, Morfydd Clark, Joanna Schanlan, Mark Gatiss, Lydia West

Hartswood Films, BBC, Netflix, 3 Episodes, 88-91 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

Yeesh!

What a fucking catastrophe this show was.

It started out kind of interesting and I watched it because Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat were the creative forces behind it. I liked most of their work even if their later Doctor Who stuff turned to shit. But I had hoped this would be more like Sherlock than late-Doctor Who but what I got was more like a botched kidney transplant.

The show really got away from itself at the midpoint of the first episode where it decided to deviate from the traditional Dracula story. While I’m okay with creative freedom and the Dracula story has been reinvented dozens, if not hundreds, of times, this was one of the worst Dracula storytelling experiments I’ve ever had to suffer through.

Now this isn’t a knock against the actors, they were mostly really good, and it’s not a knock against the quality of the production as it looked great. No, this is about the story and how stupid and batshit retarded it was.

This was damn near unwatchable once it went off the rails but there was that part of me that stuck through it, hoping that the genius of Gatiss and Moffat would somehow turn this around and make it something great or at least acceptable enough to not be a total waste.

By the time you get through the third and final episode, however, you’re left scratching your head wondering what the fucking point was.

Honestly, I have no idea and I can’t get my four and a half hours back.

Rating: 2.5/10
Pairs well with: waking up in a bathtub full of ice after an abduction and a kidney gone missing.

Film Review: A Day’s Pleasure (1919)

Release Date: December 15th, 1919
Directed by: Charles Chaplin
Written by: Charles Chaplin
Music by: Charles Chaplin (in 1959 re-release as part of The Chaplin Revue)
Cast: Charlie Chaplin, Edna Purviance, Marion Feducha, Bob Kelly, Jackie Coogan, Tom Wilson, Babe London, Henry Bergman, Loyal Underwood

Charles Chaplin Productions, First National Pictures, 25 Minutes

Review:

This wasn’t Charlie Chaplin’s greatest film and truth be told, critics were underwhelmed by it and thought of it as his least impressive.

Still, this was enjoyable if you’re a fan of Chaplin and the silent slapstick comedy style.

The story is about Chaplin, as his Tramp character, taking his family on an excursion. Most of the action takes place on a ferry but there are some other scenes like the beginning, which sees Chaplin having trouble starting his Ford and the finale that involves a traffic cop and some sticky, hot tar.

On the ferry we get gags that feature seasickness, as well as some physical comedy centered around the turbulent boat ride.

In the end, this is still amusing and lighthearted but it lacks that extra oomph that Chaplin’s films typically have. I think the setting detracted from the performance, however. But it’s still entertaining and a pretty quick watch at just twenty-five minutes.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other Chaplin shorts, as well as the short films of Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton.

Film Review: The Dunwich Horror (1970)

Also known as: Scarlet Friday (working title), Voodoo Child (Germany)
Release Date: January 14th, 1970
Directed by: Daniel Haller
Written by: Curtis Hanson, Henry Rosenbaum, Ronald Silkosky
Based on: The Dunwich Horror by H.P. Lovecraft
Music by: Les Baxter
Cast: Sandra Dee, Dean Stockwell, Ed Begley, Talia Shire (as Talia Coppola)

Alta Vista Films, American International Pictures, 90 Minutes

Review:

“Come back, Old Ones… Princes of Darkness… and repossess the earth.” – Wilbur Whateley

Over Halloween weekend, I wanted to watch some Lovecraftian horror. So I figured, why not watch an actual adaptation of Lovecraft’s work. An adaptation that I both love and haven’t seen in a really long time.

So that thought brought me to The Dunwich Horror, a film put out by American International Pictures, which feels very close to their Edgar Allan Poe adaptations of the ’60s.

While this sadly doesn’t feature Vincent Price, I love Dean Stockwell and he made a great villain in this. Plus, he’s so damn young that it’s just cool seeing him this youthful.

The film also stars Sandra Dee, Ed Begley Sr. in one of his last roles, as well as a very young Talia Shire when she was still going by Talia Coppola.

The film has a tremendous atmosphere that feels like those Poe films but even more evolved and refined. I’m nowhere near as versed in director Daniel Haller’s work, as I am in Roger Corman’s, but he borrowed from Corman’s style while at AIP and gave us something that looked a little more pristine and as if he really took his time and didn’t rush through the production as quickly as Corman typically did.

The sets and the town in this look lived-in and genuine and even the stuff made on sets just fit well within the total presentation and came across as authentic locations.

I loved the lighting and how it almost has a giallo type feel in the more fantastical moments.

While this is far from perfect, it’s pretty well acted for a low budget horror movie and it tells an enthralling story that at least feels consistent with the tone of Lovecraft’s literary work.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: the Edgar Allan Poe adaptations by Roger Corman for American International Pictures.