TV Review: Ultraman Mebius: Side Story (2008-2009)

Original Run: 2008 – 2009
Created by: Tsuburaya Productions
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Cast: Keiichi Nanba, Motomu Kiyokawa, Shunji Igarashi, Makoto Miyoshi, Masaki Nishina, Ai Saikawa, Daisuke Watanabe, Kenta Uchino, Misato Hirata, Minoru Tanaka, Takeshi Kusao, Hiroya Ishimaru, Seizō Katō, Hisao Egawa, Daisuke Gōri, Ryōichi Tanaka, Hideyuki Hori, Hideyuki Tanaka, Jirō Dan, Kohji Moritsugu, Susumu Kurobe

Tsuburaya Productions, 5 Episodes, 13-26 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

While these five episodes were originally released as three separate stories, for their American streaming release, they were bundled together as five 13 to 26 minute episodes under the name Ultraman Mebius: Side Stories.

The first episode was originally released as a 13 minute short called Ultraman Mebius: Hikari Saga, episodes two and three were a two-parter titled Ultraman Mebius: Armored Darkness, while the final two episodes were another two-parter, Ultraman Mebius: Ghost Reverse.

All three stories take place after the Ultraman Mebius television show and serve as the official conclusion to Mebius’ story, even though he’s appeared in other Ultraman films and shows since these were released. But in any event it’s the finale for the normal human characters that fans came to love in the Mebius show.

Overall, this was pretty cool to see, as it’s been a while since I watched Ultraman Mebius and this made me properly nostalgic for it. So I guess it really did its job in that regard. And frankly, I would have watched this just after I saw Mebius but it wasn’t available in the US until just recently.

This, like many Ultraman events, was full of multiple Ultramen and multiple villains, many of whom played a major part in the Mebius mythos over the show’s 50 episodes.

The special effects and tone are exactly what one should expect from an Ultraman special event of the time. It truly looked like an extension of the show and could honestly just be five episodes tacked on at the end and most people wouldn’t know the difference.

I thought that the effects were a wee bit better than the norm but this probably had a bigger budget per episode than the television show that had to be more frugal due to the scale of the production.

If you like Ultraman Mebius, I don’t see any reason why you wouldn’t enjoy this, especially the Armored Darkness story.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: the Ultraman Mebius show and other Ultraman movies and specials.

 

Film Review: The Spirit (2008)

Also known as: Will Eisner’s The Spirit (poster title)
Release Date: December 25th, 2018
Directed by: Frank Miller
Written by: Frank Miller
Based on: The Spirit by Will Eisner
Music by: David Newman
Cast: Gabriel Macht, Eva Mendes, Sarah Paulson, Dan Lauria, Paz Vega, Jaime King, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson

OddLot Entertainment, Lionsgate, 103 Minutes

Review:

“I’m gonna kill you all kinds of dead.” – The Spirit

I really wanted to like this. I really did. But alas, it was as bad as everyone has said. That doesn’t mean it’s all bad but even the positives couldn’t save it. I’ll explain.

To start, I really liked the visuals for the most part. It’s very similar in style to Sin City. In fact, it feels like a spinoff of it, even though it has no real connection to it, other than the visual style and the director, Frank Miller, who directed some of the scenes in Sin City. However, in the previous film, Miller also played third fiddle behind all-stars Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino.

The opening to this movie was really strong. The scenes of The Spirit running from rooftop to rooftop during the credits was fantastic. Initially, I also liked the score. It did, however, sound like it was trying really hard to channel the feel of Danny Elfman’s work on the 1989 Batman score.

That being said, the score did end up being a problem for me, though.

While it started off cloning Elfman, it was inconsistent throughout the picture. It would get jazzy at times, like it was trying to accent the noir look of the picture and then it seemed like it was mimicking Ennio Morricone’s spaghetti western scores, primarily those used in the Sergio Leone films of the ’60s. The score just had multiple personality disorder and none of it seemed wholly originally, it just seemed like homages to other things that don’t necessarily fit well together.

Then there is the plot itself. I do like the origin story of The Spirit and how it ties to the villain, The Octopus. But apart from that, everything else seemed overly stylized, ridiculously hokey and nothing was fluid. The film felt like a bunch of scenes sewn together without any regard for pacing or a consistent tone.

Humor was used a lot in this movie and most of it just doesn’t work. Everyone feels like a caricature and therefore, is lacking any real depth. Without depth, you don’t care about them, can’t relate to them and don’t even find them to be all that interesting. Sure, The Octopus changes his look in nearly every scene and he usually looks cool but when doesn’t Samuel Jackson look cool? Also, when doesn’t Scarlett Johansson look stunning? Here, she always looks great but she delivers her lines like she’s dead. I don’t blame her for that, I blame Miller’s script and his direction.

The only actor I actually liked in this was Dan Lauria. His role here felt tailor made for his personality. But I’ve always loved Lauria since The Wonder Years and I thought it was cool seeing him essentially play the Commissioner Gordon of this movie, even if he felt more like Harvey Bullock.

The Spirit lures you in with its credit sequence and its overall look but after about twenty minutes, you grow tired and bored of it. The humor is bizarre, the tone is confusing, the music is distracting and the actors deliver their lines like they’re in a film that should be lampooned on Mystery Science Theater 3000.

It’s no wonder why there was never a sequel to this, even if the ending leaves things open for one.

Rating: 4.75/10
Pairs well with: the Sin City and 300 films.

Film Review: Step Brothers (2008)

Release Date: July 25th, 2008
Directed by: Adam McKay
Written by: Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, John C. Reilly
Music by: Jon Brion
Cast: Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Richard Jenkins, Mary Steenburgen, Adam Scott, Kathryn Hahn, Rob Riggle, Ken Jeong, Phil LaMarr, Seth Rogen, Horatio Sanz

Relativity Media, The Apatow Company, Mosaic Media Group, Gary Sanchez Productions, Columbia Pictures, 98 Minutes, 106 Minutes (unrated cut)

Review:

“I wanna roll you up in a little ball and shove you up my vagina… You could just live there, it’s warm and it’s cozy… Oh I’d just walk around with you in there and just knowing, whenever I feel a little tickle or scratch it’s your hair on my vagina!” – Alice

Full disclosure, I’m not a huge Will Ferrell fan. I did like him on Saturday Night Live, in an era where the show was good, and I do like his chemistry with John C. Reilly. But still, that’s not enough to make this film work for me.

The problem is that Will Ferrell’s comedies have a few jokes that land but they’re usually lost in a sea of misses. And really, most of his jokes have been recycled to death and predate him.

I do like a lot of stupid comedies but Ferrell’s don’t do much to help that genre evolve. He relies on low brow humor and by milking the same cow that the worst comedians have been milking for decades. He just makes his movies zanier, which I guess is supposed to make them funnier.

Now I mostly liked this film the first time that I saw it but it’s not something that I ever needed to watch again. Also, from a narrative standpoint, nothing that happens here matters or holds any sort of weight. There really isn’t much of a story, there’s just a plot thread set up to weave together a bunch of fart and dick jokes. Also, there’s the obligatory over the top profanity because yelling out “fuck” in the middle of a joke’s delivery makes it funnier or something.

I don’t want to sound like I’m shitting on the guy or this movie but by the time that this did come out, his shtick really ran dry for me. Although, I do have friends that adore this movie for some reason.

It is funny in parts and the two leads have charm and always seem to work well off of one another. However, Reilly has proven he’s a much better actor than this and he’s actually superior to Ferrell in regards to his comedic roles.

I don’t know, this is just a stupid film to me. It doesn’t have a lot of replay value and I have to deduct points off of any movie that has Rob Riggle in it. When people were boycotting the NFL because of freedom of expression being un-American, I was boycotting it because Rob Riggle was hired to work on a Sunday pregame show.

Anyway, I really like and respect Mary Steenburgen, so I’ll say that she’s a beaming light of sunshine and positivity in this but I really don’t need to ever watch this again because I saw this movie before it was even made.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: other Will Ferrell movies and “bro” comedies of the ’00s and ’10s.

Film Review: Punisher: War Zone (2008)

Also known as: The Punisher 2, The Punisher: Welcome Back, Frank (working titles)
Release Date: December 4th, 2008 (United Arab Emirates)
Directed by: Lexi Alexander
Written by: Art Marcum, Matt Holloway, Nick Santora
Based on: The Punisher by Gerry Conway, Ross Andru, John Romita Sr.
Music by: Michael Wandmacher
Cast: Ray Stevenson, Dominic West, Julie Benz, Colin Salmon, Doug Hutchinson, Dash Mihok, Wayne Knight

Valhalla Motion Pictures, MHF Zweite Academy Film, SGF Entertainment Inc, Lionsgate Films, Marvel Studios 103 Minutes

Review:

“God be with you, Frank.” – Priest, “Sometimes I would like to get my hands on God.” – Frank Castle

Well, my memory of this film was better than what it actually is now that I’ve seen it again, ten years later.

It has a big problem and really, it’s that it’s boring. Yeah, the action stuff is pretty damn good and badass but all the filler in-between is just uninteresting and really f’n derivative.

Now I do like Stevenson as Frank Castle. I think he looks the part more than any other actor who has been in the role. However, he’s missing the charm of Thomas Jane even if he makes up for it with a much needed harder edge. I mean, I also liked Dolph Lundgren’s version of Frank Castle but that 1989 movie really wasn’t up to snuff and he didn’t even have a skull on his chest.

The only real problem with Stevenson and it’s not his fault, is that he is just very one-dimensional. But the script was written without Frank Castle feeling all that human. But I get it, even in the comics he’s typically a quiet badass that doesn’t let people into his orbit on any sort of emotional level. I just feel that the character, in a cinematic sense, should fall somewhere between Ray Stevenson and Thomas Jane. And that’s something that probably needed to be done at the script level.

Lexi Alexander did fine behind the camera from a visual standpoint and also handled the action sequences nicely. The big battle in the hotel at the end was fun to watch and that early scene where the Punisher murders the mob in their mansion was fantastic. Granted, spinning upside down from a chandelier was a bit stupid, as one of the thugs outside of his line of sight could’ve got in a head shot. Unless the mob has the accuracy of Star Wars Stormtroopers.

This movie just makes me sad though. It had the makings of something that could have been a great Punisher film but it fell flat in just about every regard outside of the action. Plus it had parkour in it, which is just a silly form of freestyle walking. I respect the athleticism but people pushing for it to be an Olympic sport need a lobotomy.

Anyway, if you just want a lot of awesome and senseless violence, this will be right up your alley. Unfortunately, you spend a lot of time waiting around for it between those high octane scenes.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: The other Punisher movies from 1989 and 2004, as well as the current TV show.

Film Review: The Strangers (2008)

Also known as: The Faces (script title)
Release Date: May 29th, 2008 (Russia)
Directed by: Bryan Bertino
Written by: Bryan Bertino
Music by: Tomandandy
Cast: Liv Tyler, Scott Speedman, Gemma Ward, Kip Weeks, Laura Margolis, Glenn Howerton

Vertigo Entertainment, Mandate Pictures, Intrepid Pictures, Rogue Pictures, 86 Minutes, 88 Minutes (unrated cut)

Review:

“Since we’ve been here, I haven’t heard a dog bark… or a car pass. Nothing. Just us and them.” – James Hoyt

This was a film ruined by its marketing, which is why I never wanted to see it in the theater ten years ago and only decided to finally check it out because it was on Netflix and less than 90 minutes.

But the reason this film was ruined for me before I even saw it was due to one of the trailers where Liv Tyler’s character asks the psychos, “Why are you doing this to us?” And one of them simply says, “Because you were home.”

That killed this picture for me because I knew that those lines were the big reveal of the “mystery” within the film. The shocker moment; the money shot. And I also knew that if I saw this film, that answer was all I was going to get. So I didn’t need to see it, really. Because I’ve already seen home invasion and psycho slasher movies a billion times.

A user review on IMDb refers to this as “stupid people being tormented by stupid killers” and that’s probably the best description of this that there is.

This was a poorly written plot where it relied completely on the psychos just having good luck. It also made them have unnatural stealth abilities, which can only be explained if they were ex-Navy SEALs or trained in the ninja arts.

But seriously, the psychos were stupid, the victims were stupid and I kind of just wanted an asteroid to smash the house and kill them all.

Look, you have two people, holed up in a house with a shotgun and a shitload of shells. Outside are just three people armed with handheld tools from the family shed. How in the hell do you not just blow their f’n brains out in 2 minutes and order a pizza while waiting for the cops to show up.

And then, the only person to get their brains blown out was Dennis from Always Sunny, who just dropped in to say “hey”.

This movie was so painfully stupid that it hurt me physically.

There isn’t much else to say about it, really.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: Probably the sequel I have no interest in seeing, as well as VacancyYou’re Next and the modern remake of The Last House On the Left.

TV Review: Sons of Anarchy (2008-2014)

Also known as: Forever Sam Crow (working title)
Original Run: September 3rd, 2008-December 9th, 2014
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Bob Thiele, Dave Kushner, Curtis Stigers
Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Katey Sagal, Mark Boone Junior, Kim Coates, Tommy Flanagan, Johnny Lewis, Maggie Siff, Ron Perlman, Ryan Hurst, William Lucking, Theo Rossi, Dayton Callie, Jimmy Smits, Drea De Matteo, David Labrava, Niko Nicotera, Glenn Plummer, Taryn Manning, Ally Walker, Mitch Pileggi, Kenneth Choi, Kurt Sutter, Titus Welliver, Walton Goggins, Henry Rollins, Hal Holbrook, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, Marilyn Manson, Kim Dickens, Chuck Zito, Ray McKinnon

Linson The Company, Sutter Ink, Fox 21, FX, 92 Episodes, 41-81 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2015.

This is one of those reviews that will probably turn a lot of my friends against me. I care not. I must tell it like it is from my point-of-view.

Sons of Anarchy is a show that I have developed a like/hate relationship with. I don’t say “love” because I’m not that enthralled with the positive aspects of it. It does however, have some positives amidst a sea of negatives. And I guess that makes me go against the popular opinion, as nearly everyone that I have talked to, has loved this show.

But I guess this isn’t a show for me. Where I expected something more like The Sopranos on motorcycles, this was more like a mindless action flick full of an overabundance of violence, bad CGI, bad acting, bad writing, bad music and really stupid and unlikable characters. Sons of Anarchy is geared more towards the male millennial crowd than it is for people who want good and groundbreaking television or at the very least, some sort of coherent plot.

This show is a mess. It is a moderately enjoyable mess at times but it is a show that constantly tries too hard and falls short. Yes, there are shocking and intense moments but they lose their meaning and significance almost immediately. For one, it is hard to care about any of these horrible characters. Also, with the show trying to constantly outdo itself and escalating further and further from episode to episode, things eventually get so over the top that it becomes unintentionally ludicrous.

The premise of the show also changes as it goes on and it loses sight of itself just a few seasons in. Maybe this is intentional but it really just feels like the weight of this ratings beast forced the showrunners to make quick, big decisions, which may have increased ratings further but sacrificed whatever integrity and soul the show may have had early on.

For instance, the show’s main drive in the beginning is the main character Jax’s obsession with his dead father’s writings. The writings talked about what the motorcycle club was supposed to be, how it got away from itself and how butt hurt Jax’s dad was about it. Jax then makes it his mission to right the wrongs and make the motorcycle club respectable. Maybe he would’ve been more inspired and followed through had he actually read more than two paragraphs of his father’s writings at a time. Maybe Jax has a bad attention span. Maybe that is why he couldn’t follow through because he got distracted by doing really stupid shit every episode.

In any event, the show evolves away from the club’s redemption through Jax’s leadership and instead shows the club fall on hard times and then even harder times. It just gets worse and worse, Jax stops reading his dad’s journals and pretty much turns into the asshole his stepfather Clay is. He actually turns out worse than Clay by the end of it all.

I could write a book about how much of an idiot Jax is but I’m not going to waste my time. I could also write a book about how much of an idiot his mother Gemma is.

All the characters really suck and all of them, for the most part, are stupid morons. They are the dumbest criminals I’ve ever seen. Darkwing Duck had smarter bad guys than the members of the Sons of Anarchy.

As far as likable characters, there are really only five. There is Wayne, who is on a tragic journey that ultimately ends up sucking really bad for him. Also, he had terminal cancer “eating away” at him in season one but somehow survived seven seasons. There is Jax’s ex-heroin addict wife who goes on to redeem herself and she’s about the only character you are happy for in the end. Then we have Nero, the pimp and tragic lover of Gemma. I really liked Nero but Jimmy Smits is awesome in every role. There’s Piney, who saw the bullshit for what it was and tried to hold everyone accountable. Since he was the voice of reason in a sea of shitty people, he was killed off. This brings me to my favorite character: Juice.

Juice is most likely the most tragic character in television history. Juice was a positive on this show even though his end was horrible. You couldn’t not like Juice and feel for him every step of the way. He truly cared about the club and doing the right thing but continually got fucked (literally) and lost his life and stature because the people he invested his love and loyalty in were pieces of garbage. Juice’s journey is one of the redeeming factors of this show. I don’t like how it ended but this show is one big tragedy.

In regards to the show’s music, it is terrible. The main theme is awful but somehow was nominated for an Emmy by some tone deaf Hollywood types. The songs throughout the show are even worse. More often than not, we are treated to some poor slowed down roots rock cover song of a known pop hit. It always feels bizarre, out of place and makes the show come off as generic and cheesy. At least once per season, we get some crappy song sung by Katey Sagal, who probably shouldn’t sing but is most likely encouraged by her husband, who is the show’s creator. That’s probably also why she was cast as Gemma. Lastly, the music selections are almost racist. When the biker gang fights another biker gang there is rock music. When they fight Mexicans: Spanish language gangsta rap. When they fight blacks: generic crappy English language gangsta rap. Asians: make sure to add in some Asian stringed instruments and gongs in over the soundtrack. Irish: Celtic shit. Persians: grab the sitar – hey wait, that’s Hindi you racist bastards! It’s sad and predictable and becomes a distraction.

This show was not The Sopranos on motorcycles, it was a Shakespearean tragedy on motorcycles. Which is perfectly fine. The problem is that the execution was shit and it tried to convince the viewer that it was clever while beating you over the head with its Shakespeareanism. After the tragic, pointless and retarded ending of the show, it even gives the viewer a Shakespeare quote before rolling its final credits. I’m sure dumb ass college students for years to come will write papers about how fantastic this modern Shakespearean saga is after just skimming over the Cliff Notes of Shakespeare’s work to make them feel the connection.

I don’t hate this show, even though it probably comes across like that. I had a hard time getting through segments of it but I enjoyed it enough to finish it. Granted, the ending was one of the worst in television history but really crappy endings to long-running shows is the trend lately. And maybe that ending just enhanced whatever bitterness I’m feeling.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: The SopranosBreaking BadFear the Walking Dead and Justified but these are all better shows. Well, maybe not Justified, I’ll post my review for that soon.

Film Review: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

Also known as: Indiana Jones 4, Fourth Installment of the Indiana Jones Adventures, Indiana Jones and the City of the Gods, Raiders of the Lost Ark Sequel, The Untitled Genre Project (working titles)
Release Date: May 18th, 2008 (Cannes Film Festival)
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Written by: George Lucas, Jeff Nathanson, David Koepp
Based on: characters by George Lucas, Philip Kaufman
Music by: John Williams
Cast: Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Cate Blanchett, Ray Winstone, John Hurt, Jim Broadbent, Shia LaBeouf

Lucasfilm Ltd., Paramount Pictures, 122 Minutes

Review:

“Leave it to Ox to write a riddle in a dead language.” – Indiana Jones

After this film came out, people seemingly hated it. Well, I hate those people because the hate for this film is pretty silly.

Okay, I get it, there are some really goofy things in this picture and you could argue about the stupidity of a few bits but ultimately, this was still a great adventure and a lot of fun. Yes, this is the worst of the Indiana Jones movies but that’s like saying sirloin is the worst cut of steak. It’s still friggin’ steak, man.

I like the fact that the film’s setting was in line with Harrison Ford’s increased age since last being seen as Indiana Jones in 1989’s The Last Crusade. Sure, you want to see Indy punch Nazis in the face but the Soviets were a good replacement as were the Cold War fears of the time.

I enjoyed Cate Blanchett’s Colonel Dr. Irina Spalko as the villain. She wasn’t as good as René Belloq from Raiders of the Lost Ark or Mola Ram from Temple of Doom but I thought she definitely had the edge over Walter Donovan from The Last CrusadeIndiana Jones movies have always had great villains though and Blanchett lived up to that task, being one of the absolute high points of this movie.

I also loved that the older Indy wasn’t focused so much on chasing tail and that he, for the first time on the big screen, was reunited with a love from the past. Marion Ravenwood was nearly everyone’s favorite “Indy Girl” of them all and it was really cool seeing them reunited and there being a romantic happy ending for both characters. I’ve always loved Karen Allen and her return makes almost all of the bad shit in this movie worth it, especially since we got to see her and Indy ride off into the sunset.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the Shia LeBeouf addition to the cast and the whole bit about him being Indy’s kid but he did okay with the material and really, I don’t think another actor could have salvaged some of his poor dialogue anyway. But I am glad that he wasn’t given the reins of the franchise.

I guess the hardest pill for me to swallow as a fan is that Sean Connery, Denholm Elliot and John Rhys-Davies aren’t in the picture. I get that Connery didn’t want to do it and that Elliot had passed away since The Last Crusade but even a cameo by Rhys-Davies would have been awesome. Especially, for the wedding of Indy and Marion, as he was good friends with them both.

Most people didn’t like the alien twist and I get that. However, looking at what Indiana Jones is supposed to be, which is a modernization of the old school cheesy movie serials of the 1940s, it sort of fits the style. Sure, I would have rather gotten those long rumored Bermuda Triangle or Atlantis plots but I didn’t hate the premise of this film. It did feel strange and somewhat out of place at first glance but hey, there was a vampire story in The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles and that show is canon.

I, like almost everyone I’ve talked to about this movie, rolled my eyes at the refrigerator scene, the Tarzan homage and the giant ants. But looking beyond those weird bits, this film still has a lot more good stuff than bad or cringe inducing stuff. And none of it was as bad as dancing Emo Spidey from Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3.

Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was the best summer blockbuster of 2008 after The Dark Knight and Iron Man. There weren’t many films that were more fun than this one was that year.

Harrison Ford was still great and his chemistry with Karen Allen was perfect. I also thought that John Williams did a fine job with the score and the tone of the film was just right.

The first three Indiana Jones films were all given a perfect score here at Cinespiria. Obviously, this isn’t a perfect ten but all things considered, I’d say it’s a solid eight. But I also really love Indiana Jones.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: The other Indiana Jones films.