Comic Review: Negan Lives! – One-Shot

Published: July 1st, 2020
Written by: Robert Kirkman
Art by: Charlie Adlard

Image Comics, 36 Pages

Review:

Even though The Walking Dead comic series ended a year ago, I always figured that we’d get comics in the future.

Hopefully, this one-shot isn’t the last but I don’t think it will be. I’m not sure what Robert Kirkman’s plan is, if there even is any, but I think that stories will continue to pop into his head every now and then.

This story takes place somewhere between the time where Negan left the comic series and its finale. It shows Negan living on his own where a girl stumbles into his homestead. Negan knows that its an obvious setup and is just kind of waiting for some bad guys to show up and try to take his shit.

They do and like everyone else, they don’t kill Negan and end up paying for it with their lives.

Being that this is just a one-shot, it’s a short, simple story that is kind of similar to the episodes of the show that focus on one character for an hour. It doesn’t really move anything forward or effect the larger comic series.

Still, it was a good read and it was cool peaking in on the Negan character once again.

I only hope that the ending is a hint at something more to come with Negan or The Walking Dead universe, as a whole.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other Walking Dead comics.

Film Review: Shaft (2019)

Also known as: Son of Shaft (Germany)
Release Date: June 14th, 2019
Directed by: Tim Story
Written by: Kenya Barris, Alex Barnow
Based on: Shaft by Ernest Tidyman
Music by: Christopher Lennertz
Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Jessie T. Usher, Richard Roundtree, Regina Hall, Alexandra Shipp, Titus Welliver, Method Man, Lauren Velez

Davis Entertainment, Khalabo Ink Society, Netflix, 111 Minutes

Review:

“You’re the one being misogynistic, I never even mentioned her gender! I’m an equal-opportunity ass-whooper!” – John Shaft II

I put this off for awhile, especially after revisiting the 2000 Shaft film, as I found that one to be really lackluster and not as good as my memories of it were.

However, this one was definitely better than the 2000 film and I think that had a lot to do with this installment being more comedic and lighthearted, even though it dealt with some serious stuff.

Overall, this plays more like a Bad Boys film where the buddy cop formula is played out by a father-son duo. The grandfather, the original John Shaft, joins them for the climax.

Sam Jackson is back on his A-game for this one but I’m sure it’ll rub sensitive, cancel culture Millennials the wrong way because he puts them on blast, repeatedly.

In fact, I give the filmmakers and the studio immense props for not taking the bitch route and making this an overly “woke” movie and instead, allowed it to be critical of this generation’s young adults, as seen through the eyes of the older generation.

Weirdly, though, this Shaft film seems to be a lot less obsessed with race and social politics. While I like that these issues have been at the forefront of the other four films in the franchise, it was actually kind of refreshing to see these characters just be badass and not just fighting for some sort of racial injustice.

With that, though, it sort of loses the long-lasting blaxploitation vibe that the name Shaft has carried since 1971. But maybe this was trying to convey that we were starting to enter a post-racial era before 2020 happened and fucked everything up again.

For the most part, I liked everyone in this film. Jessie T. Usher’s John Shaft Jr. was annoying but his character was supposed to be, as part of the story dealt with him being kind of a pussy and overly concerned with how society sees him. He’s a “woke” Millennial that has a grudge against his uber-masculine father, who wasn’t around when he grew up.

These character traits allowed for some great criticism of his generation, though, and Sam Jackson delivers his punches without remorse or worry that his snowflake son wants to hear it or not. In a lot of ways, it felt like the writers and Tim Story, the film’s directors, were trying to send a message to the kids of today that think they’ve got the world figured out.

It also felt that it was trying to convey the importance of fathers, which Hollywood seems to hate.

Honestly, this Shaft film felt like it was really trying to be anti-“woke”.

As far as the crime story goes, it’s a bit weak but in films like this, that stuff doesn’t matter too much. This is more of a film about three generations of men coming together, in spite of their personal issues, in an effort to force justice down the throats of some shitty scumbags.

In the end, this was a better movie than I thought it could be. I don’t think it necessarily needs a sequel but I’d be much more willing to check one out if the same creative team stayed on.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: 2000’s Shaft, as well as the original ’70s Shaft trilogy.

Film Review: They Call Me Bruce? (1982)

Also known as: A Fistful of Chopsticks (working title)
Release Date: November 12th, 1982
Directed by: Elliott Hong
Written by: David B. Randolph
Music by: Tommy Vig
Cast: Johnny Yune, Margaux Hemingway, Pam Huntington, Ralph Mauro

Gold Pine Productions, 87 Minutes

Review:

“I am a sex object. I always ask women for sex, and they object.” – Bruce

I remember Joe Bob Briggs talking about this movie in one of his …Goes to the Drive-In books. I’ve never seen it but it was always in the back of my mind as something worth checking out because Joe Bob liked it.

Well, I actually didn’t expect that I’d like it as much as I did and it’s a movie that I wish I would’ve known about as a kid because I really would’ve dug it.

The film is full of goofy, absurdist humor and it’s almost slapstick at times. It follows a Korean guy that sucks at martial arts and is pretty much a coward. He idolizes Bruce Lee though, so he tries to follow in the man’s heroic footsteps. The mob bosses he works for also refer to him as “Bruce” due to his “resemblance” to Bruce Lee.

The film stars Johnny Yune and this is the only film I’ve seen him in. He’s actually damn good and carries the film on his own, even though there’s a little bit of help from Margaux Hemingway.

Yune’s charm is pretty infectious though and you can tell that he was enjoying making the film and had no qualms about playing a cowardly but lovable fool.

While the film’s script isn’t one of a high standard, even for ’80s comedies, it still features a good character arc that sees this loser evolve into something closer to what he envisions for himself.

It’s not a memorable film but it is a unique one in that I haven’t really seen anything else like it.

So I guess I should now track down its sequel, which I didn’t know existed until after I watched this film and started reading up on it and Yune.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: its sequel, as well as other martial arts comedies.

Retro Relapse: The Death of Chinese Food

RETRO RELAPSE is a series of older articles from various places where I used to write before Talking Pulp.

*Written in 2015.

Chinese food is dying a slow and horrible death.

While it is probably still okay in bigger cities, real Chinese restaurants have been run out of most towns by massive buffets and the overabundance of Chinese take-out cubbyholes.

Sure, the Chinese cuisine in China still exists and always will but I am specifically talking about American Chinese food or New York style or whatever you want to officially label it.

If you don’t know, we don’t make the same stuff as China. America’s Chinese food is a Western bastardization of real Chinese cuisine but it fits our sweet-obsessed palates better and we probably wouldn’t be super keen on the authentic food. Besides, from what I hear from Westerners that have gone over there, it really isn’t something to write home about.

This shit is pretty tragic though.

When I was a kid, I had a few different Chinese restaurants near my home to choose from. They were nice sit-down establishments that served high quality cuisine. You got hot tea, those little fried strips of wonton, that spicy as hell hot mustard, some nice egg rolls, fried rice that was actually fried rice and a nice big meal of some crispy fried chicken bits covered in a stellar sauce – usually sweet with a touch of spice. Yes, there are several types of entrees but they are all just slight variations of a handful of dishes.

Somewhere along the line, corners started to be cut, ingredient quality went down the shitter and we were bombarded with Chinese buffets almost everywhere. Many were good in the beginning. Who could resist the allure of all-you-can-eat Chinese food? Plus you just walk up and make your own plate. No looking over menus, no ordering, no special requests, no waiting! Just straight up instantaneous Chinese food orgy for a few bucks! It was like getting a hand job while smoking a joint under the bleachers before fourth period algebra. To a Chinese cuisine connoisseur, such as my thirteen year-old self, we were able to try a little bit of everything, not break the bank and leave in an MSG-laced coma only to be hungry for more in two hours.

As time continued to pass, the quality kept dropping. In a few short years, we were all eating shit but we kept doing it. Truth is, many people still fall victim to the phantom pull of the Chinese buffet. Hell, it still grabs me sometimes when I’m hungry, lazy and just need a spontaneous romp through crappy food, overeating and hours worth of dehydration and self-hatred.

I convince myself it is good because I am nostalgic for what Chinese food used to be. It isn’t good and I’m an asshole lying to myself. The problem is, I have a need and that need can’t be fulfilled. So a craving that should be squashed in one meal becomes a craving that hasn’t been quenched in years. I really love Chinese food. Damn it, writing this fucking article is making me hungry.

Anyway, as these Chinese buffets took over American culture like some sort of edible Beanie Babies, they still felt the need to produce food cheaper and faster. As some Americans grew exhausted of the buffet experience, these Chinese take-out hole-in-the-wall joints started popping up in every suburban and rural strip mall. Now you could walk in and walk out in less than five minutes with a $6 dinner combo or a $4 lunch combo. And now, these places are everywhere.

The Chinese cubbyhole take-out takeover compounded with the buffets has pretty much changed the American Chinese food industry’s business model so much that the really good quality mom and pop restaurants got ran out of town. Where I live, the best of these restaurants shutdown a few years ago and my relationship with Chinese food has never been the same. It has dissolved into a horrible marriage full of drinking, heavy drugs, spousal abuse and absolutely no sex – the kids moved in with grandma.

Recently a restaurant that appeared to be a legit high quality Chinese joint opened near my house. I went in, I was disappointed. While it was better than a buffet or a cubbyhole, it was still pretty shitty and just a small step above its cheaper counterparts. I pretty much paid double the price for still crappy Chinese cuisine.

There is still one place that is okay in my town but it only exists because it is a “fusion” of all Asian styles and American as well. And that’s the thing, there is still a big market for Asian food but people now want sushi, hibachi, Thai and Vietnamese. The average American probably thinks all this shit is under the same umbrella but it isn’t. Traditional American Chinese food has become the bastard child of these multi-Asian eateries.

Then there is PF Chang’s but they mix up their cultural selections too and although I really like their Mongolian beef, Mongolia isn’t China and they are essentially the Asian Olive Garden. I hate Olive Garden, minus the bread sticks and high caloric salad – high caloric because I eat a shit ton.

I guess I’m going to just have to book a flight to New York or San Francisco. I’m certainly not going to stop this hunger outside of a major city with a large Chinese population.

Well, off to Panda Express at the mall, because it is now the best Chinese food in town.

Vids I Dig 450: Filmento: ‘The Lone Ranger’: How to Build the Biggest Flop of All-Time

From Filmento’s YouTube description: 2013 Disney summer blockbuster The Lone Ranger was directed by Gore Verbinski and starred Jack Sparrow himself Johnny Depp, and they clearly tried to recapture the success they found with Pirates of the Caribbean. Unfortunately, for some reason this time it didn’t work and The Lone Ranger ended up becoming the biggest box office bomb of all time, costing Mickey Mouse over 200 million dollars of lost cash. One of the biggest reasons for this is that they seemed to have forgotten the core qualities you need to keep in mind when making a massive blockbuster meant for all general audiences. In today’s Anatomy of a Failure, let’s see what those qualities are in order to see where The Lone Ranger went wrong. Here’s how to build a box office flop.

Film Review: Cuties (2020)

Also known as: Mignonnes (original French title)
Release Date: January 23rd, 2020 (Sundance)
Directed by: Maïmouna Doucouré
Written by: Maïmouna Doucouré
Music by: Niko Noki
Cast: Fathia Youssouf, Médina El Aidi-Azouni, Esther Gohourou, Ilanah Cami-Goursolas, Maïmouna Gueye

Bien Ou Bien Productions, France 3 Cinéma, BAC Films, Canal+, 96 Minutes

Review:

I normally wouldn’t have watched this or even cared about it. But since it’s the most controversial film of the fucking year, I couldn’t not watch it, review it and give my two cents.

That being said, I’ll probably piss off both sides of the debate because I’m not going to bash it as “pedo candy”, I’ll explain why, and I’m not going to pass it off like some sort of amazing motion picture that the world has been begging for and has desperately needed.

To start, this is controversial because the film is about a group of young girls who are trying to be a dance team; these girls are all about eleven years-old. They’re influenced by the provocative and highly sexual dance moves that they see all over the Internet from rap videos and other sources.

This, of course, makes people uncomfortable and it’s supposed to. However, these moments don’t make up the bulk of the movie and the film itself is really focused on one girl primarily.

This girl, Amy, comes from an immigrant family who have moved to France from Senegal. Her family is very religious and her actions in the film are a rebellion against the traditions of that strict religion and an exploration of the new things she’s found, culturally, in her new home. All the while, she’s also broken up by how changes in her family dynamic are emotionally effecting her mother and the structure of the family unit she’s used to.

Watching this as an American, I don’t know much about the culture of Senegal and how immigrants from that country would be effected by the socially liberal French that they would find themselves surrounded by. Honestly, I was kind of intrigued by this and would’ve liked to have seen it explored in a broader sense and not specifically from the viewpoint of one character. But maybe for those in France, where this film was made, it’s not as interesting, as other French films may have touched on it already.

But I feel like this film is pretty disjointed and it’s not all that coherent from a narrative standpoint. It plays more like a series of sequences with some connectivity but a lot of the film seems really random. Its like the director/writer is recalling actual moments from her own experience growing up and doesn’t realize that the audience might need some deeper context.

For instance, there’s a scene where Amy takes a picture of her private parts and uploads it to the Internet. It’s random as hell, really uncomfortable and isn’t really followed up on in any meaningful way, other than having some kid at school slap her ass. Did it need to be in the film? Was it just there for shock value?

Additionally, this is a coming-of-age story and it’s not really clear what the main character has learned or how she’s grown. Sure, she has an emotional breakdown and what appears to be a scary moment of clarity when she’s achieved her goal but the movie sort of ends and you’re sort of just left going, “Um… okay?”

What’s even worse is that this film is really well acted from top-to-bottom but the performances feel wasted.

This had the makings of something that could’ve been interesting but it’s honestly a really boring and drab movie. Even though there’s a plot progression, it feels like not much happens apart from the uncomfortable finale and a few weird moments dropped in.

The thing that has people in an uproar are the scenes that have leaked out that feature these young girls dancing in an over-sexualized way. The thing is, if you know kids or remember when you were that age, kids didn’t know a damn thing about sex but they all talked about it. I remember girls in my middle school days emulating the dances they saw in 2 Live Crew videos. This is nothing knew but maybe I also grew up in a more urban area and I was exposed to things that middle America wasn’t. I can only speak from my own experiences and memories but I’m pretty sure kids this age, everywhere, weren’t too dissimilar.

What is bizarre and sort of counterproductive to the director’s stated intent, is how the dancing scenes are filmed. The movie is made to critique and expose the over-sexualization of kids, especially young girls, but in trying to speak out against that, the film does exactly that. So I have to conclude that the director is either lying to cover her ass or a moron.

You could’ve made your point without closeup shots of eleven year-olds crotches and booties. Once or twice, I might roll my eyes but it did feel gratuitous. And frankly, I think it would’ve been a lot more effective having them dance but having the camera looking out to the crowd, getting their reactions to seeing young girls dance in such a way. But I’m not the artist, here.

I can’t say that I’m offended by it, I just sort of got through these moments like, “Really, you had to go there?” And maybe this was deliberate and the director knew that it’d get attention and that the media and film industry being the way they are, would show support. I’m leaning more towards her being an idiot, though.

Additionally, what tune would Hollywood and the media be singing if this was made by a white dude? And since it’s not made by a white dude, is the director getting a free pass? Why do we have to even ask these questions in 2020?

While I think this isn’t “pedo candy” (or why it isn’t intended to be) is due to the fact that these moments don’t happen often in the overall running time of the picture. I highly doubt that the director had that intention. I think she wanted to make something personal but didn’t realize that she was doing the same thing she wanted to expose as a problem. You don’t clear a flood by hosing it down and someone else working on the picture or producing it should’ve stepped in.

It also doesn’t help how Netflix initially marketed this film. They’ve since apologized and removed their pedo-tastic poster but the damage was done and it makes you wonder about the suits at Netflix making these decisions. As you can see above, the film’s original poster wasn’t offensive or provocative.

So yeah, I get the pushback but I’ve never been a fan of puritans of any kind. While I’ve gone on Twitter to chime in on the film’s marketing in the US market, I didn’t feel like I had a right to comment on a film I hadn’t seen. But we live in a time where everyone is outraged about everything without actually having the full context. That’s the main reason I felt like I needed to watch the movie when I’m surrounded by those trashing it or talking it up without actually watching it.

Any critic that tells you that this is anything more than “meh” is a shill, however. While that’s my opinion, from my point-of-view, my opinion is fact.

In the end, without the controversy, this is a completely forgettable film. While I would’ve liked to have learned more about the Senegalese experience in France, I was left with a mostly boring movie that felt aimless and didn’t effectively make its point or develop its main character in any sort of meaningful way. In fact, this film does the opposite of what it set out to do.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: other coming of age movies from Europe, I guess. I don’t watch a lot of those.

Film Review: Tenebrae (1982)

Also known as: Unsane (US alternative title)
Release Date: October 27th, 1982 (Tortona, Italy premiere)
Directed by: Dario Argento
Written by: Dario Argento
Music by: Goblin (credited as Claudio Simonetti, Fabio Pignatelli, Massimo Morante)
Cast: Anthony Franciosa, John Saxon, Daria Nicolodi, Giuliano Gemma

Sigma Cinematografica Roma, 101 Minutes, 91 Minutes (edited)

Review:

“Let me ask you something? If someone is killed with a Smith & Wesson revolver… Do you go and interview the president of Smith & Wesson?” – Peter Neal

Tenebrae or Unsane, as its also been called, is one of the Dario Argento movies that I’ve seen the least. In fact, it’s probably been twenty years since I last watched it. I kind of regret not revisiting it sooner, though, as my experience with it this time was pretty incredible.

While it’s not the best of Argento’s stories, it is one of his best directed films and it has some of the best visuals he’s ever done outside of Suspiria and Inferno.

This isn’t as stylish as his earliest giallo pictures but it feels more fine tuned and refined. It feels like the giallo style actually adapting and moving into a new decade. Now while the style was starting to disappear into the ’80s, this kept it alive for a bit longer and I think that’s because it feels like a more mature film. It certainly shows that Argento had really found his stride and in some regard, it almost plays like an Italian version of an early ’80s Brian De Palma neo-noir picture.

It’s almost uncanny that this was able to look so clean yet be so gritty and raw at the same time.

I think that some people may see this and think of it as watered down when compared to Argento’s earlier work but I think he really just tried to make a more palatable movie for a wider audience. Granted, Argento also doesn’t betray himself, as the finale gets incredibly bloody. However, the more reserved tone actually sets the climax up perfectly, as seeing an immense amount of vibrant red blood spray across a plain, white wall is pretty fucking jarring in an awesome way.

Additionally, this film features amazing camera work. There is a long tracking shot done by crane that is breathtaking to see and it has held up tremendously well. Also, some of the shots during the murder sequences are fantastic. The moment where you see cloth tear to reveal a woman filled with terror just as blood splashes across her face is, hands down, one of the best shots Argento ever captured.

Lastly, the score by three of the four members of regular Argento collaborators, Goblin, is one of their best. The film’s main theme would even be sampled by the French band Justice for two songs on their 2007 album Cross.

While this isn’t my favorite film of Argento’s from a story or even visual standpoint, it’s still a breathtaking experience that hit all the right notes and made me appreciate the director even more. 

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: Dario Argento’s other giallo pictures.

Film Review: Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs (1966)

Release Date: July 29th, 1966 (Italy)
Directed by: Mario Bava
Written by: Castellano & Pipolo (Italian version), Louis M. Heyward & Robert Kaufman (US version)
Music by: Les Baxter (US version), Lallo Gori (Italian version)
Cast: Vincent Price, Fabian, Franco Franchi, Ciccio Ingrassia, Laura Antonelli, Mario Bava (cameo – uncredited)

Italian International Film, American International Pictures, 82 Minutes

Review:

“That’s not Rosanna. That’s a jigsaw puzzle.” – Bill Dexter

I haven’t seen this film in a long time and the two Dr. Goldfoot movies blended together in my memory. I was a bit intrigued to check this one out, though, as I noticed that it was directed by giallo and horror maestro, Mario Bava. He’s a director that has a fantastic style.

Sadly, this was a bit of a let down. That’s not to say that the first movie was great by any stretch of the imagination but it was entertaining and full of charming whimsy. This picture is a big step down.

I think that this may just be a problem with the American version of the film, however, as the jokes and gags don’t seem to land. This could be due to this being an Italian production, unlike its predecessor, and some of the humor got lost in poor translation.

The film does seem more concerned with showcasing gags than any sort of interesting, coherent story though.

I still enjoyed Vincent Price in this but his performance is weaker, overall, because he didn’t have his assistant from the first movie, who was a good goof for Price to play off of. They had good banter and decent chemistry but in this film, the new henchman barely speaks and just sort of follows orders.

The film’s humor is also goofier, as it relies pretty heavily on slapstick and people falling all over the place like a Benny Hill sketch.

Still, this isn’t a complete waste of time if you like ’60s era spy parodies and Vincent Price. He’s surrounded by a weaker cast but at least he’s still fun to watch when he gets to ham it up.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: its predecessor, as well as the Dean Martin starring Matt Helms films.

Comic Review: The Incredible Hulk: Future Imperfect

Published: 1992
Written by: Peter David
Art by: George Perez

Marvel Comics, 98 Pages

Review:

Since this ’90s Peter David Hulk story was recently repackaged and reprinted in a thick floppy comic titled Maestro, I figured that I’d give it a read, as I’ve never read this story and have always loved Peter David’s Hulk material. Plus, with George Perez art, what’s not to love?

The story sees the smart version of the Green Hulk travel to the distant future. He’s pulled there by his longtime friend Rick Jones, who is now a decrepit, ancient dude that has to move around in Professor X’s ’90s hover chair. He also lives in a museum full of the long dead Marvel heroes’ personal items and weapons.

Hulk’s arrival in the future is so that he can defeat the future version of himself, an aged, balding asshole tyrant named Maestro. For those who know the character, this is his first appearance. He would go on to be more prominent years later.

This is a pretty action packed story with an epic battle between two Hulks. But it also has a lot of layers to it for being under 100 pages. In a weird twist, that no one ever seems to talk about, the Hulk is raped by one of Maestro’s concubines when he finds himself a captive of the tyrant.

The story is fast paced and I enjoyed it. I actually think that it should have been a bit longer but it packs a punch and helped to establish one of the better Hulk villains.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other Peter David Hulk stories, as well as comics from the Old Man Logan continuity.