Film Review: Kull the Conqueror (1997)

Also known as: Conan the Conqueror (working title)
Release Date: August 29th, 1997
Directed by: John Nicolella
Written by: Charles Edward Pogue
Based on: Kull of Atlantis by Robert E. Howard
Music by: Joel Goldsmith
Cast: Kevin Sorbo, Thomas Ian Griffith, Tia Carrere, Litefoot, Harvey Fierstein, Karina Lombard, Roy Brocksmith, Pat Roach

Universal Pictures, 96 Minutes

Review:

“[with corpses around the throne] My heirs challenged me for the throne. So I’ve spared all my children any future disappointment!” – King Borna

This was originally written to be the third Conan film but the De Laurentiis family couldn’t get Arnold Schwarzenegger to commit to it. So after several years, they locked up Kevin Sorbo, star of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. However, Sorbo didn’t want to play a character that was already made famous by another actor, so the filmmakers retooled the Conan script and decided to use a different but similar Robert E. Howard barbarian character, Kull of Atlantis.

To be frank, I was really excited to see Kull get his own movie. While I love Conan, when I was a kid I read a few of the Kull stories and loved him as well. He was definitely a character worth exploring. Plus, his comics from Marvel were also in abundance in my collection.

For the most part, this is just an okay movie. It’s lighthearted, fun but it’s cheap and it shows. The story also isn’t very good but I guess it’s as good as the plot of Conan the Destroyer or other mid-tier sword and sorcery pictures.

What makes this film more enjoyable than it would otherwise be is the charisma of Kevin Sorbo and the vastly underappreciated Thomas Ian Griffith, who I have been a fan of since first seeing him in The Karate Kid, Part III. These two guys absolutely carry this movie on their backs. The opening scene between them is fantastic, as is every other scene that they share.

But in the end, I really wanted more from a Kull movie. Hopefully, someday, we can get a resurgence in sword and sorcery films and actually see Kull return to the big screen, preferably with a decent budget and stronger script.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: other movies based on Robert E. Howard creations: the Conan films, Red Sonja and Solomon Kane, as well as the Beastmaster film series.

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.

Film Review: The Pest (1997)

Release Date: February 7th, 1997
Directed by: Paul Miller
Written by: David Bar Katz, John Leguizamo
Music by: Kevin Kiner
Cast: John Leguizamo, Jeffrey Jones, Freddy Rodriguez, Aries Spears

Papazian-Hirsch Entertainment International, The Bubble Factory, TriStar Pictures, 84 Minutes

Review:

“[speaking to some Germans] So, you started a few wars, aight? Okay, you actually started every war but I mean who’s counting; it’s not like you ever won one, right? [laughs and pulls Leo’s pants down]” – Pest

When people often ask me what’s the worst movie I’ve ever seen, this always pops into my mind as a strong candidate. However, that’s all from memory and I hadn’t seen this since I saw it on a date in 1997. My date ended up not being my prom date because she made me watch this.

Anyway, I was talking about this movie with a friend recently so I figured that I would revisit it to see if it was as bad as I remembered or if it had aged in a way that gave it some sort of redeeming qualities. I mean, I generally like John Leguizamo, his sketch comedy show House of Buggin’ was something I watched in my teen years and he was a scene stealer in To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar.

But no, this film is still absolute shit. And by modern standards, this would offend all of the snowflakes running around social media today. I wasn’t offended by it but this also came out in an era where people weren’t so sensitive and we weren’t living in a comedic dark age. People were allowed to laugh in 1997. But there isn’t much to laugh at here thanks to the over the top nonsense and idiocy that actually comes off as baffling and surreal.

The Pest has an atrocious script and even though Leguizamo has charm, he can’t keep this turd afloat. The only thing that made me slightly chuckle was the gay German teen but in 2019, I’m an asshole for finding that funny.

This is a film that shouldn’t have been made. I think that Hollywood felt that they had to strike while the iron was hot and Leguizamo was on his way up. But honestly, I think this ultimately hurt his comedy career. Thankfully, he still finds work today but usually you’ll see him in more serious movies.

1997 was a really strange year for John Leguizamo after just coming off of a good, serious performance in Romeo + Juliet but then following that up with this abomination and then Spawn.

If you just want a small sample of how bizarre and off putting The Pest is, go to YouTube and just watch this film’s opening scene.

Rating: 1.75/10
Pairs well with: a root canal administered by a drunk hobo dressed as a clown.

Film Review: Alien: Resurrection (1997)

Also known as: Alien 4 (working title)
Release Date: November 6th, 1997 (Paris premiere)
Directed by: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Written by: Joss Whedon
Based on: Charcaters created by Dan O’Bannon, Ronald Shusett
Music by: John Frizzell
Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Winona Ryder, Michael Wincott, Dan Hedaya, Brad Dourif, Ron Perlman, Gary Dourdan, Kim Flowers, Raymond Cruz, Dominique Pinon

Brandywine Productions, 20th Century Fox, 109 Minutes, 116 Minutes (Special Edition)

Review:

“[voiceover] My mommy always said there were no monsters. No real ones. But there are.” – Ripley

Alien: Resurrection is a film that shouldn’t have been made. At least not in its existing form. Ripley died but they bring Weaver back as some sort of clone made from her DNA that conveniently has her memories and is basically Ripley. It’s a terrible f’n attempt at keeping the franchise’s star at the forefront instead of just moving in a new direction, which was needed but didn’t happen until 2012’s Prometheus.

For the most part, this is a terrible film that at least has some good actors and a few cool bits in it. The stuff featuring Brad Dourif and his xenomorph captives is pretty well done. I also liked the look of the standard xenomorphs in this chapter.

People everywhere love Joss Whedon like he’s some sort of golden boy. Well, he wrote this script and the story and this is one of the prime examples I give when battling it out with Whedon fanboys. Did he have a few good ideas, sure. However, even the good ideas were pretty unrefined and made this feel more like a fan fiction fantasy than anything that fits cohesively within the already established Alien mythos.

The Ripley stuff was just dumb, the human/xenomorph hybrid was strange and bizarre and not in a good way and the whole tale just seemed like a pointless side story in some pocket of the Alien universe where I just didn’t care about a single character or their mission, even if Earth itself was in imminent danger.

It’s hard to believe that I didn’t care about anyone. I like Weaver, Ryder, Perlman, Dourif and Wincott a lot. They have all done things that have spoke to me and had me invested in their characters. I don’t in any way blame them, I blame Whedon’s weak script and the director, who was the first in the franchise that I am not even remotely familiar with. Okay, upon checking he did Amélie but that was after this and I haven’t seen it in a long time, so I can’t judge it. I kind of liked it back in 2001 or so, though.

Alien: Resurrection is an example of a major studio turning a property into their whore that has to keep turning tricks to keep making the pimp money.

The underwater sequence was kind of cool, so I do give this film some props for that. Usually underwater stuff comes off as terrible. But then, maybe this film should’ve focused on its strength and taken place entirely underwater. I’m being facetious, that would’ve been shitty.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: Other films in the Alien franchise but this one is one of the weakest.

Film Review: Cube (1997)

Release Date: September 9th, 1997 (TIFF)
Directed by: Vincenzo Natali
Written by: Andre Bijelic, Graeme Manson, Vincenzo Natali
Music by: Mark Korven
Cast: Nicole de Boer, Nicky Guadagni, David Hewlett, Andrew Miller, Julian Richings, Wayne Robson, Maurice Dean Wint

Feature Film Project, Odeon Films, Viacom Canada, Ontario Film Development Corporation, Cube Libre, Téléfilm Canada, Harold Greenberg Fund, Trimark Pictures, 90 Minutes

Review:

“No more talking. No more guessing. Don’t even think about nothing that’s not right in front of you. That’s the real challenge. You’ve gotta save yourselves from yourselves.” – Rennes

Cube is a film with a great concept mired by bad acting and questionable direction.

Don’t get me wrong, I really like the movie and it is, by far, the best of the three films in the series. Granted, the sequel and prequel weren’t made by this film’s director and therefore, can’t be considered his vision, even if they are extensions of the ideas established in this film.

The movie is actually pretty impressive. For one, it all takes place in a very confined space. It was filmed in one room on a very modest budget and even if it wasn’t a critical success, initially, it has developed a well deserved cult following.

The premise of Cube is intriguing. The setup is not wholly original but the overall idea for this film is.

We come to meet a group of strangers, who find themselves in a giant cube maze. Every room looks the same: a big cube with a door on all six sides, each door leading to an identical cube. However, some rooms have traps that kill and maim characters throughout the film. They must use their skills to try and traverse the deadly maze in an effort to find an escape.

You never really find out why the people were put in the cube or what its purpose is. There is the thought that they were selected for their different skill sets and that the game they are playing is only happening to give the cube a reason to exist.

None of the questions are really answered by the time you get to the end of the film and while that will most assuredly annoy most people, I was really happy with there not being a big reveal. The film is effective because it doesn’t need to explain itself. We meet these people, they are in this situation, we watch the experiment play out.

The later sequels started explaining more but without Vincenzo Natali in the director’s chair, I can’t really accept those events within the context of this film.

Cube is well paced, moves briskly but still builds tension in the right way. It’s not as predictable as you might think but then again, some things sort of just happen because they’re tropes of this picture’s genre style.

The only real negative is the acting. It’s not horrible and a few characters are likable but a few of them become grating after 90 minutes. I think that the acting quality just comes from lack of experience and a director that was more into the visual elements of the film than the performances of its stars. Nicole de Boer who was on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine around the same time as this, has proven she’s got chops.

Cube is certainly a worthwhile experience and it has a bit more gore than I remembered, as I haven’t seen it in a very long time. Not a lot of gore but some nice, quick gross outs here and there.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: The Cube sequels.

Film Review: Double Team (1997)

Also known as: The Colony
Release Date: April 4th, 1997
Directed by: Tsui Hark
Written by: Don Jakoby, Paul Mones
Music by: Gary Chang
Cast: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dennis Rodman, Paul Freeman, Mickey Rourke

Mandalay Entertainment, Film Workshop, Columbia Pictures, 93 Minutes

Review:

“Offense gets the glory.” – Jack Quinn, “But defense wins the game.” – Yaz

This film came out just as Jean-Claude Van Damme was spiraling down into the lowest part of his career. His vehicles kept getting worse thanks to atrocious scripts and low box office turnouts. He’d soon be downgraded to having his films come out as “straight to video” releases where he’d remain until resurrecting his career with JCVD. This probably isn’t the worst film he’s done but it’s certainly pretty well down in the murky barrel.

This was also a starring vehicle for Dennis Rodman, who was a part of the Chicago Bulls second threepeat team when this was made and released. Rodman was a sports celebrity superstar but even his involvement couldn’t elevate this film into anything worthwhile. Granted, two decades later, it has become some weird novelty movie that happens to have Dennis Rodman and Jean-Claude Van Damme in it.

The film also stars Mickey Rourke and Paul Freeman. I feel bad for them being subjected to this massive turd but it’s directed by Tsui Hark, which on paper, makes this lineup of talent seem pretty damn good. Hark, a massive director in Hong Kong, just couldn’t cut the mustard in the United States but that’s probably because he aligned himself with the sinking ship that was Van Damme, as his two American films, both featured the actor. But maybe he was trying to follow John Woo’s lead, as that approach worked for him.

Double Team is a really hard movie to sit through, even at 90 minutes or so. It’s got deplorable editing, a script that would be better used as lining in a chicken coop, a nervous and awkward Dennis Rodman, Van Damme looking bored, Mickey Rourke looking depressed and Paul Freeman just looking around with a face that says, “WTF am I doing here?!”

Dennis Rodman’s acting career never took off and he followed this up with an even worse movie called Simon Sez. Switch out Jean-Claude Van Damme for Dane Cook and you can see how bad that film was.

Double Team is a pretty big offender and should be thrown into movie jail, if such a place exists. As is customary with pictures this bad, it must be run through the Cinespiria Shitometer. The results read, “Type 7 Stool: Watery, no solid pieces. Entirely Liquid.”

Rating: 3/10
Pairs well with: Not much, really… but I’d recommend watching it with Rodman’s other “classic” Simon Sez, if you want to torture yourself.

Film Review: Mimic (1997)

Also known as: Judas (working title), Mutant (Poland), Métamorphose (French Canadian)
Release Date: August 22nd, 1997
Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
Written by: Matthew Robbins, Guillermo del Toro
Based on: Mimic by Donald A. Wollheim
Music by: Marco Beltrami
Cast: Mira Sorvino, Jeremy Northam, Josh Brolin, Giancarlo Giannini, Alexander Goodwin, F. Murray Abraham, Charles S. Dutton, Norman Reedus, Doug Jones

Dimension Films, Miramax Films, 106 Minutes

Review:

“Evolution has a way of keeping things alive.” – Dr. Gates

I haven’t seen Mimic since it first came out on VHS back in like 1998. I rented it once, watched it while drunk with friends and didn’t remember much other than it being visually creepy and having a lot of gross bug stuff.

hate cockroaches. I can deal with spiders, snakes and rabies raging raccoons but roaches are my sworn enemy. They’re gross, carry disease and well, they look like roaches. So I’ve never been big on bug horror, other than The Fly remake because that was some incredible otherworldly shit, visually. And to be honest, it just isn’t the fact that I hate roaches, which makes me not like bug horror, but it is the fact that most of these movies are pretty drab and just rely on the gross bits.

Plus, my mind always mixed this film up with Relic, which was another horror film that came out at the same time that dealt with some creature in the dark and had a five letter title that ended in “-ic”.

Mimic has the benefit of being directed by Guillermo del Toro and not too long after he did another bug-themed horror film with his breakout picture Cronos. And while this is a pretty pedestrian horror film it does have a fantastic atmosphere provided by del Toro. Watching this now, I got to take in a lot of shots that were very breathtaking and gave this an artistic feel that a film like this isn’t typically deserving of. That early shot where we see the children’s hospital, as the camera starts high and gradually sweeps towards ground level looked like something straight out of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil.

This film also has a pretty strong cast but unfortunately, none of them are used that well. Mira Sorvino’s bug scientist is the most interesting person but she’s about the only character you’ll care for in this film, which boasts the talented lineup of Sorvino, Josh Brolin, F. Murray Abraham, Giancarlo Giannini, Charles S. Dutton, Norman Reedus and Jeremy Northam. It also features del Toro regular Doug Jones, as one of the bug creatures.

Mimic is pretty forgettable but it spawned some direct-to-video sequels. I really have no interest in watching this as a series but I’ll probably eventually work my way through those followups.

I have only rated this as high as it is because it had good atmosphere and style to it and it wasn’t awful. It could have had a better script, better characters and been more engaging but it’s a product of its time and not too dissimilar from slightly above average horror pictures from the late ’90s.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Relic because they always blend together in my memories and I suppose the sequels to this film, as well as del Toro’s other bug/body horror movie Cronos.