Film Review: Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997)

Also known as: Mortal Kombat 2 (Uruguay), Mortal Kombat: Destruction Finale (France)
Release Date: November 21st, 1997
Directed by: John R. Leonetti
Written by: Brent V. Friedman, Bryce Zabel, Lawrence Kasanoff, Joshua Wexler, John Tobias
Based on: Mortal Kombat by Midway Games
Music by: George S. Clinton, various
Cast: Robin Shou, Talisa Soto, Brian Thompson, Sandra Hess, Lynn Red Williams, Irina Pantaeva, James Remar, Ray Park, Tony Jaa (stunts)

Threshhold Entertainment, New Line Cinema, 95 Minutes

Review:

“Mother! You’re alive!” – Kitana, “Too bad you… will die!” – Sindel

I think that the original Mortal Kombat movie is pretty terrible, despite having a lot of friends that have some sort of nostalgic love for it. I was a hardcore Mortal Kombat fan, as far as the games were concerned, but the movie just didn’t resonate with me. Sure, maybe it was better than the film adaptations of Double Dragon or Super Mario Bros. but that in no way makes it good, as both of those films were beyond awful.

Well, the sequel Mortal Kombat: Annihilation makes its extremely flawed predecessor look like The Empire Strikes Back by comparison.

I avoided this movie for most of my adult life but once it was available to stream on Hulu, recently, I thought that I’d finally give it a watch because at least I’d get a review out of it.

If I’m being honest, this was damn hard to sit through. It’s a baffling movie, littered with special effects that are absolute junk, a script so bad that canaries would commit sepukku rather than shit on it and acting so atrocious that it’s kind of depressing seeing Brian Thompson and James Remar stumbling through their scenes.

It took me four sittings to get through this movie and usually I power through even the worst motion pictures in one. This just sucked away at my soul like a starved psychic vampire and I needed to take breaks from it and recharge.

This is certainly one of the worst movies I have ever seen. It isn’t the worst but that’s only because I sometimes spend a lot of time searching the bottom of the dumpster in that little rusted out back corner where even garbage doesn’t dare go.

But this may be the worst film I’ve seen that actually had some sort of budget. Somehow, this cost $30 million dollars. I’m not sure where that money went as I’ve seen better special effects in an elementary school play. If New Line Cinema was so quick to throw their money down the drain in 1997, I should have asked for a check. I could’ve at least made a better looking movie for a lot less and then pocketed the rest.

Never watch this film unless you hate yourself. I heard that Gitmo used this to torture terror suspects before it was considered too inhumane. That’s when they switched to waterboarding.

Rating: 0.5/10
Pairs well with: Other mediocre but mostly crappy movies based off of fighting games: Mortal KombatStreet FighterStreet Fighter: The Legend of Chun-LiTekken and Tekken 2: Kazuya’s Revenge.

Documentary Review: The Lost Arcade (2015)

Also known as: Arcade (working title)
Release Date: November 14th, 2015 (DOC NYC)
Directed by: Kurt Vincent
Written by: Irene Chin
Music by: Gil Talmi

26 Aries, Wheelhouse Creative, 79 Minutes

Review:

I had a high school friend that used to talk about all the great video game arcades in New York City. By the mid-’90s, he was living in Southwest Florida but his stories of these really cool and iconic places always made me want to go check them out. I never got to though, as they started shutting down, one after the other. But at least the Chinatown Fair was going strong. But then a few years ago, it had to shut its doors and I never got that authentic NYC arcade experience.

This documentary covers the ’80s and ’90s NYC arcade scene but mostly focuses on the Chinatown Fair and the love that the local gamers had for the last real bastion of coin-op gaming culture.

Several people are interviewed for this documentary and it does a great job of telling their stories and showing their love for the Chinatown Fair.

I didn’t go into this documentary expecting much, I just wanted to feel a little bit of nostalgia for old school arcade gaming and I was hoping that people’s love for this iconic spot would at least tell an interesting story.

It really hits you in the feels though, as everyone’s passion comes through the screen. I think that anyone that used to have a special place that used to make them feel great can relate to the film. Most of us have lost something from our youth that truly made us happy. This film is more about coping with that loss and trying to move past it than it is just about the great Chinatown Fair.

This is an engaging documentary. It pulls you in and makes you see things through the eyes and experiences of its subjects. That’s really what any good documentary should do and this succeeds at just that.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other video game documentaries from recent years: The King of Kong, Chasing Ghosts, The Art of the Game, Indie Game: The Movie, Free to Play, Ecstasy of Order, Special When Lit, etc.

Comic Review: Spider-Men II

Published: March 21st, 2018
Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: Sara Pichelli

Marvel Comics, 104 Pages

Review:

I had really enjoyed Brian Michael Bendis’ run with the Miles Morales version of Spider-Man since he debuted. I also liked the first Spider-Men event, which brought Miles and Peter Parker together for the first time. So I had pretty high hopes for this sequel series and Bendis’ swansong before leaving Marvel for DC Comics.

Sadly, this was a letdown.

Now it wasn’t terrible but it was just okay. But this should have maintained the momentum and the energy that the previous Miles Morales stories had.

Ultimately, Spider-Men II took the wind out of the sails and brought this once fun to read character back down to Earth in the most Brian Michael Bendis way possible. And I don’t say that to be trendy and trash Bendis’ work like so many others but this is a prime example of what his harsher critics can point to and say, “See, Bendis gonna Bendis!”

This tried to be clever and give fans a swerve with an alternate, darker version of Miles Morales but it fell flat. In the end, the story was a total dud, lacking in a healthy amount of action and any sort of depth or solid character development. It read more like a love letter between “evil” Miles and the Kingpin than something worthy of bringing the two most popular Spider-Men together again.

Miles Morales debuted with a hell of a bang. But for Bendis’ last story for the great character he created, Miles went out with a whimper.

But hey, Sara Pichelli’s art was absolutely top notch, beautiful and up to her great standard. So, at least I got to enjoy the overall look of this book.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Miles Morales stories by Brian Michael Bendis but they’re all better than this one.

Film Review: Thoroughbreds (2017)

Also known as: Thoroughbred (festival title)
Release Date: January 21st, 2017 (Sundance)
Directed by: Cory Finley
Written by: Cory Finley
Music by: Erik Friedlander
Cast: Olivia Cooke, Anya Taylor-Joy, Anton Yelchin, Paul Sparks, Francie Swift

June Pictures, B Story, Big Indie Pictures, Focus Features, Universal Pictures, 92 Minutes

Review:

“You cannot hesitate. The only thing worse than being incompetent, or being unkind, or being evil, is being indecisive.” – Amanda

I’ve been wanting to see this for about two years, after reading about it following its premiere at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. It was said to be “smart”, “quirky”, “unpredictable” and a mashup between American Psycho and Heathers.

It really isn’t any of those things, unfortunately. Okay, maybe it has a small dose of Heathers mixed in but it certainly doesn’t come close to the darkness one experiences in watching American Psycho.

I also didn’t find it to be “smart”, “quirky” or “unpredictable”.

I don’t want to take a big shit on this film, as I did moderately enjoy it and bits were amusing. Plus, I thought Anya Taylor-Joy and Anton Yelchin’s performances were terrific.

I just couldn’t buy into Olivia Cooke’s Amanda with her emotionless, dead pan delivery. I get that this is what her character is supposed to be but she doesn’t truly commit to the bit. You see, even though she isn’t supposed to care about anything, she is still conveniently driven by things in a way that seems to betray her own character.

Cooke’s Amanda was the apathetic angsty teen that acts overly depressed and always talks about it, probably for attention at first but somewhere along the line has bought into her own bullshit. I’ve dealt with major depression my entire life and people who act like her are typically attention seekers, even if they are legitimately broken. But I don’t think she was intended to be portrayed that way, I feel as if the director/writer actually bought into her bullshit too. But I guess that really just makes it his own bullshit.

Amanda is not quirky. She also isn’t smart. And as far as the plot goes, it isn’t unpredictable, it is actually very predictable. From the get-go, you know there is going to be a dark twist of some sort by the end and you also know that the stepfather will die somehow. But when that twist comes, it’s not all that shocking or surprising, it just limps its way into the narrative and all the ultraviolence that should come with something that’s compared to American Psycho, happens off screen.

I’m not saying that gore was necessary for this film to work but this was tame when compared to the things that modern critics have associated it with.

The big scene where the shit hits the fan is comprised of a still longshot that lasts a few minutes, as Amanda is passed out on the couch and you hear a loud, violent commotion upstairs. It’s a trope that’s been overused by indie filmmaking darlings for decades and its mostly lost its effectiveness. Or maybe I’ve just watched too many movies over the years.

But the point is that there is nothing new here and the promised shocks and surprises limp into the plot like a rat stuck to a glue trap.

Thoroughbreds isn’t a terrible motion picture but it is an underwhelming and disappointing one. It’s only real saving grace was the performances by two of its top three stars.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: Heathers and Jawbreaker.

Comic Review: Justice League Odyssey: Ghost Sector

Published: September 26th, 2018 – January 30th, 2019
Written by: Joshua Williamson
Art by: Stjepan Sejic, Phil Briones, Jeromy Cox, Carmine Di Giandomenico, Ivan Plascencia

DC Comics, 137 Pages

Review:

I was a bit saddened when Green Lanterns ended its run a few months back, as I was really digging Jessica Cruz’s story arc over the duration of 50-plus issues. But luckily for me, she joined this team, which is actually a really cool mash up of characters that currently don’t have much else going on.

This teams up Cruz with Cyborg, Starfire and Azrael. It also brings in Darkseid, who has a hand in the events that transpire. Is he a protagonist or an antagonist? You do find out by the end of this five issue story but it all plays out really well and this has been one of the more engaging comic books currently being published.

This story doesn’t have a definitive conclusion but it helps to build up this series and it looks to be promising something bigger on the horizon. It does have a nice cliffhanger reveal which opens the door for a more serious threat than what was first apparent.

I like this mix of characters, they have a good dynamic and I will continue to keep reading this, assuming it doesn’t go off the rails at some point.

The art is solid, even if it does have different people working on it issue to issue. It needs to find a consistent art team but at least the styles have meshed well thus far.

I love cosmic stories, which is why I have been a big Green Lantern fan since the beginning of the Geoff Johns era. This continues that tradition well, even if Cruz is the only Lantern here. But seeing her removed from the Corps and working with a new group of allies is also pretty intriguing and it is something that her character needed if she is going to evolve into something more than just another human Lantern.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other recent DC Comics cosmic stuff like the recently ended Green Lanterns series.

Comic Review: Wizzywig

Published: July 4th, 2012
Written by: Ed Piskor
Art by: Ed Piskor

Top Shelf Productions, 282 Pages

Review:

I may have been late to the game in discovering the work of Ed Piskor. I was introduced to him through his most recent work on X-Men: Grand Design and its sequel Second Genesis and then I really developed an appreciation for him through Cartoonist Kayfabe, a YouTube channel he runs with Jim Rugg (and sometimes Tom Scioli).

Being pretty impressed with his X-Men projects and his passion for the medium and the industry he works in, I wanted to go back and read some of his more personal, earlier work. A friend of mine highly suggested Wizzywig due to the fact that I love Mr. Robot and have always been intrigued by hacker culture and history.

My friend didn’t steer me wrong and I absolutely loved this graphic novel.

The main character, Kevin, is based on a few famous hackers from back in the day. His story is sort of an amalgamation of their stories but it is done really well and comes off as pretty damn accurate. I have to give props to Piskor for the research he did and how he weaved an engaging tale around a subject that can be difficult for the layman to follow.

Ultimately, you really care for the characters in this book and it is a sad and tragic story. In a way, it deals with the main character’s mania and obsession over what he can do and how he is a victim of his own compulsions.

I love the art style; it was clean and consistent on every panel. I also thought the lettering was fantastic.

This is a story that is basically this character’s life and there is a lot to unpack with it but it flows well, has a good energy to it and there isn’t a dull moment. Every panel deserves to be on the page and while that should be an obvious standard in this medium, so many comics spend too much time wasting away their real estate on pointless drivel.

Wizzywig is a solid piece of work by Piskor and it has made me want to go out and pick up some of his other comics that I’ve missed.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: other work by Ed Piskor, as well as stuff by his Cartoonist Kayfabe colleagues Jim Rugg and Tom Scioli.

Film Review: Prince of Space (1959)

Also known as: Yūsei Ōji, lit. Planet Prince (Japan), The Star Prince, Prince Planet, Invaders from the Spaceship, Invaders from Space (alternate titles)
Release Date: March 19th, 1959 (Japan)
Directed by: Eijirō Wakabayashi
Written by: Shin Morita, Masaru Igami
Music by: Katsuhisa Hattori
Cast: Tatsuo Umemiya, Joji Oda, Hiroko Mine

Toei Company, 57 Minutes (Part I), 64 Minutes (Part II), 85 Minutes (DVD cut), 121 Minutes (full cut)

Review:

“You there! Discharge the caustic vapors!” – Phantom of Krankor

This isn’t the first Japanese superhero character but he is a very early example of one before the superhero tokusatsu genre took off. This is sort of an early prototype for more famous characters like Ultraman, Kamen Rider and the Super Sentai team (Power Rangers in the States).

Like several tokusatsu “films” that are released to American audiences, this one was comprised of episodes of a television show. In Japan, the original show consisted of 49 episodes that were broken up into multiple segments. Some of the segments were edited into a two-part film series, which was released theatrically in Japan. Once this made it over to the States, those two separate films were edited into one very choppy motion picture.

Like many other tokusatsu show to movie edits, this one was featured on an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. It appeared in the original first season when the show was just shown locally in Minneapolis. This movie was never recycled into the show once it went national on Comedy Central.

Being that I am a fan of tokusatsu entertainment, I’m always eager to check out some of the more obscure offerings. While I found this entertaining, due to the nature of what it is, it was still a poorly edited mess and rather boring.

The special effects are dreadful, even by the tokusatsu standard. But in this show’s defense, this did come out well before stuff like Ultraman. That classic tokusatsu show wouldn’t debut until 1966.

Unless you are a hardcore fan of tokusatsu or a Mystery Science Theater 3000 completist, you won’t get much benefit from watching Prince of Space a.k.a. Planet Prince a.k.a. The Star Prince a.k.a. Prince Planet a.k.a. Invaders from the Spaceship a.k.a. Invaders from Space.

Rating: 2.75/10
Pairs well with: other really early examples of tokusatsu, most of which was bad until Godzilla and Ultraman took the world by storm and became top franchises.