TV Review: Gekisou Sentai Carranger (1996-1997)

Original Run: March 1st, 1996 – February 7th, 1997
Created by: Toei, Yoshio Urasawa
Directed by: Yoshiaki Kobayashi
Written by: various
Music by: Naritaka Takayama (themes), Toshihiko Sahashi
Cast: Yūji Kishi, Yoshihiro Masujima, Yoshihiro Fukuda, Yuka Motohashi, Atsuko Kurusu, Rika Nanase

Toei, TV Asahi, 48 Episodes, 20 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

Fans might see these characters and recognize them from Power Rangers Turbo but like all things Power Rangers, the majority of the action came from Japan’s Super Sentai franchise. In the case of Turbo, they borrowed heavily from this series, Gekisou Sentai Carranger.

Overall, this was one of the weaker Sentai series that I have seen but it still had really enjoyable parts and characters I ended up caring about.

In the American version, they had to create a new female villain character, as Zonnette from this show was way too scantily clad and there were scenes that featured too much sexual suggestion. I guess Japanese kids are more mature at dealing with sexy hot chicks in their television shows than the American kids are. Or, at least, the American puritan censors.

The premise for this show is one of the most bizarre, even for Sentai standards. The heroes here are “fighting for traffic safety” and they get their powers from some sort of automobile-themed cosmic force.

The big villain, who doesn’t appear until the last dozen or so episodes, has the grand scheme of building a network of super highways in space. I was never quite sure why that was even a bad thing, other than he wanted to destroy other planets and specifically their roads in order to achieve this strange goal.

Here’s the thing, though, Sentai doesn’t have to make any sort of logical sense and it rarely does. In a lot of ways, it’s all a self-parody of tokusatsu tropes and it’s very self-aware. While I’m not quite sure how Japanese kids interpret this stuff, it still makes for wacky, bizarre, entertaining television for those who are into really bonkers shit.

One thing that Gekisou Sentai Carranger did have working for it was the designs of the characters, specifically the villains and secondary heroes. Also, the Bowzock ship was one of the coolest I’ve seen in any sci-fi show or movie. It’s basically a mechanical orb made of what looks like moving, tangled razorwire.

Overall, there are much better Sentai series out there but this was still fun and enjoyable if this stuff is up your alley.

Rating: 6.75/10

Film Review: Doctor X (1932)

Release Date: August 3rd, 1932 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Michael Curtiz
Written by: Robert Tasker, Earl Baldwin
Based on: Terror, 1928 play by Howard W. Comstock, Allen C. Miller
Music by: Leo F. Forbstein, Bernard Kaun
Cast: Lionel Atwill, Fay Wray, Lee Tracy, Preston Foster

First National Pictures, 76 Minutes

Review:

“Were the murdered women… attacked?” – Dr. Haines, Academy of Surgical Research

I don’t know if this is the first horror/comedy ever made but it’s gotta be pretty close. However, it also blends together several genres in what’s a really unique experience for a motion picture from 1932.

This is directed by Michael Curtiz, who would go on to direct several film-noir pictures, as well as big budget swashbuckling blockbusters starring the legendary Errol Flynn. Curtiz was a pretty versatile and now celebrated director but this may be his most unusual film.

So the version of this that I watched was actually the one restored by George Lucas’ people, which was also in Technicolor, as opposed to the traditional black and white.

However, I really liked the Technicolor work in this film and it made it feel gritty and real and also somewhat haunting and majestic. The use of green accents enhanced it in a unique way and while I typically prefer to see films, as they were intended, this almost makes a good argument for the use of colorization just by how it was employed here.

I thought that the film was amusing, I liked the comedy and it still works for those few of us that still enjoy pictures from this era.

I also enjoyed the performances by Lionel Atwill, a guy that was featured in a slew of classic Universal Monsters films, as well as Fay Wray, who will always be remembered for her iconic part in the original King Kong.

While this is sort of your typical mad scientist tale, it’s genre bending narrative comes across as fresh and unique when compared to similar movies of the time.

Rating: 7/10

Comic Review: Batman: Three Jokers

Published: November 17th, 2020
Written by: Geoff Johns
Art by: Jason Fabok

DC Comics, 161 Pages

Review:

I enjoyed this story and its concept quite a bit. But generally, I’ve been a fan of Geoff Johns’ writing since he took over Green Lantern in the mid-’00s.

This isn’t really a canonical story but then again, nothing that’s modern DC really is to me anymore because they’ve rebooted their universe more times than my Uncle Terry has created children out of wedlock.

The story does directly build off of the events of classic Batman stories The Killing Joke and A Death In the Family. With that, it also utilizes Batgirl and Red Hood in the story, as it brings their issues with the Joker full circle and provides some closure to him crippling Batgirl and “killing” Red Hood when he was Robin.

The reason why the story is called “The Three Jokers” is because there are three Jokers. Each one represents a different version of the character, as he’s been used historically. One is the “criminal” Joker, another is the “comedian” Joker and the last is the “clown” Joker. The story plays off of their differences and the heroes aren’t sure which one is the real Joker or if possibly there’s been more than one all along. However, by the end, we see that there’s a much bigger, more sinister scheme at play and it’s revealed that Batman has always known who the real Joker is, all the way down to his real identity.

The story was very noir-esque, which isn’t uncommon for a Batman story but this one had so many curveballs that it just fits within that genre’s framework quite well.

Admittedly, I got to a point in the story where I started to think that the whole thing was ridiculous. By the end, though, it all came together in a really cool way and it seemed a lot less ridiculous and like something that would fit within the Joker’s larger worldview and his and Batman’s place in it.

I also really, really liked the art. I don’t know much about Jason Fabok but he captivated me, here, and I’ll be on the lookout for some of his other work. Frankly, I’d like to see him and Johns maybe work on a follow up to this and create their own unique continuity within Batman, similar to what Sean Gordon Murphy has been doing the last few years.

Rating: 8/10

Film Review: The Mummy Returns (2001)

Also known as: The Mummy 2 (working title)
Release Date: April 29th, 2001 (premiere)
Directed by: Stephen Sommers
Written by: Stephen Sommers
Based on: characters by Stephen Sommers, Lloyd Fonvielle, Kevin Jarre
Music by: Alan Silvestri
Cast: Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, Arnold Vosloo, Oded Fehr, Patricia Velásquez, Freddie Boath, Alun Armstrong, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje

Imhotep Productions, Alphaville Films, Universal Pictures, 130 Minutes

Review:

“[to Rick] My friend, there is a fine line between coincidence and fate.” – Ardeth Bay

Let me start by saying that this is not as good as its predecessor, 1999’s The Mummy. That’s probably not a shock, though, as generally everyone agrees with that, critics included.

However, I will also say that this was better than I remembered it being and I think that fun adventure movies were in such abundance in this era that I may have taken it for granted.

My only big gripe with this movie is how atrocious the CGI was on the Scorpion King character at the end of the film. It looks like they took The Rock straight out of WWF SmackDown! 2: Know Your Role for the PlayStation 1 and added pinchers to his hands. Man, I remember it being atrocious in 2001 and it looks even worse now. What’s really odd about it, is that most of The Mummy effects looked pretty good and held up fairly well. Even the worst CGI effects are still somewhat passable.

I thought that the story was just okay but I did like that Patricia Velásquez actually had a bigger role and I liked the material they came up with for her past connection to Rachel Weisz’s Evie. I also like that this allowed Evie to hold her own in the action sequences and that she was no longer just a typical damsel in distress.

I wasn’t crazy about the kid being added to the proceedings, as kid actors can wreck a movie and honestly, his scenes are mostly annoying. I’d hate to blame the kid, specifically, and I think it has more to do with the script and Stephen Sommers’ directing.

One takeaway from this and the previous movie, as well, is the fact that Oded Fehr’s Ardeth Bay is such a cool f’n character and even though The Rock became a massive star, I think that the producers should’ve probably given Fehr his own spinoff movie first.

Anyway, this is mostly more of the same but it does feel like it’s happening on a much larger scale. However, for some reason, when Imhotep is resurrected in this film, I guess the Ten Plagues of Egypt aren’t a factor anymore.

One doesn’t watch these sort of movies to be overly picky about details, though. This is just supposed to be fun, mindless escapism, which is something I praise a lot. This movie really works in that regard until the finale where we get PS1 graphics Dwayne Johnson.

Rating: 6.5/10

Comic Review: X-Force – Epic Collection: Under the Gun

Published: March 22nd, 2017
Written by: Rob Liefeld, Fabian Nicieza, Todd McFarlane, various
Art by: Rob Liefeld, Greg Capullo, Todd McFarlane, Mike Mignola, Mark Pacella, Darick Robertson, Terry Shoemaker, various 

Marvel Comics, 463 Pages

Review:

Man, oh, f’n man… it’s been ages since I’ve read the Rob Liefeld era of X-Force. When I was a kid, I thought that this was the greatest new series Marvel had but I also think I was convincing myself of that, as Rob Liefeld was a hot commodity and I was also a fan of The New Mutants, which this was born out of. Besides, there was just so much hype at the time and I was at a pretty impressionable age.

Reading this now, I still found it really enjoyable and was surprised that I liked it as much as I did.

However, I also know that the story essentially came from Liefeld like bullet points and then it was handed to ace writer Fabian Nicieza, who actually wrote all the dialogue and massaged Liefeld’s notes into a usable script. After Liefeld left the series to co-found Image Comics, Nicieza stayed on as the writer and worked with other greats like Greg Capullo and Mike Mignola.

Now looking at the other side of this, creatively, the art isn’t great and even if I loved Liefeld when I was in 7th grade, I see the issues with his art much more clearly now. However, I don’t want to shit all over the guy like everyone else has done for years. I just notice the issues he has with anatomy and perspective.

It’s worth mentioning, though, that the art did improve once Liefeld stepped away, which happened about two-thirds into this collection.

As far as the story goes, I really got reinvested in this and want to keep reading it. Possibly beyond where I stopped when I was buying this month-after-month, which was about four or five years into the series.

Additionally, this also reminded me of how much I liked some of the long forgotten characters that were so cool in 1991. Characters like G.W. Bridge, Garrison Kane and the other people associated with them and Cable’s past.

Rating: 7.5/10

Film Review: Malone (1987)

Release Date: May 1st, 1987
Directed by: Harley Cokeliss (as Harley Cokliss)
Written by: Christopher Frank, Rudy Wurlitzer (uncredited)
Based on: Shotgun by William P. Wingate
Music by: David Newman
Cast: Burt Reynolds, Kenneth McMillan, Cynthia Gibb, Lauren Hutton, Cliff Robertson, Scott Wilson, Alex Diakun, Philip Anglim, Tracey Walter, Dennis Burkley

Orion Pictures, 92 Minutes

Review:

“I’ve got socks older than you.” – Richard Malone

While I had hoped that this would be incredibly high octane, it paled in comparison to Charles Bronson’s awesome Death Wish movies. However, it’s still a much harder movie than what Burt Reynolds typically did, so it was cool seeing him go badass vigilante in order to help a small town combat a scumbag that was trying to buy everyone out for very nefarious reasons.

This movie also had a pretty solid cast with Cliff Robertson being the villain, Scott Wilson playing a good guy mechanic and Tracey Walter a.k.a. Bob the Goon playing a total shithead that got his back blown out with one of the largest squib explosions I’ve ever seen that represented just a single bullet.

Additionally, the women in this, Cynthia Gibb and Lauren Hutton, were damn enjoyable.

This is kind of a paint-by-numbers small town protector movie, though. These things were super common back in the ’80s but also, it’s a formula that most dudes love and why shouldn’t Burt Reynolds have had his go with one?

It didn’t really offer up anything new or bold but seeing a bunch of shitheads take a bullet from an all-time masculine great like Reynolds is a treat. His rivalry with Robertson in this was pretty well managed and both men performed well with one another.

Malone is just a mindless, entertaining action movie that features an aging cool guy showing that he’s still pretty fucking cool. It’s also got a good villain, a decent supporting cast and leaves you nodding your head with the type of satisfaction only these sort of movies can bring.

Rating: 6.25/10

TV Review: The Keepers (2017)

Original Run: May 19th, 2017
Created by: Ryan White
Directed by: Ryan White
Based on: Murder of Catherine Cesnik
Cast: various

Film 45, Tripod Media, Netflix, 7 Episodes, 60 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

This Netflix true crime documentary featured an incredibly interesting story about the mysterious and unsolved murder of a nun more than fifty years-ago and how it seems as if it is associated with the sexual abuse committed by a priest at a high school.

Sadly, that priest is dead and can’t suffer for the things he did to several children. However, this documentary does serve as an avenue for these victims to speak about what happened to them and how it may very well relate to the murder of the young nun, who many of the female victims saw as their one true confidant in the school.

This documentary series is seven episodes long and while each is chock full of details, this did seem like it was dragged out much further than it needed to be, especially since the case is still unsolved, even after all the information that is shared in these seven hours.

Like many of the other Netflix true crime miniseries, though, this is well-produced and well-presented. 

This is a tragic and honestly, infuriating story. Hopefully, this sheds enough light onto the case that it can actually be solved some day. As is the nature of these things, though, the more time passes, the less likely that seems possible.

Rating: 7/10