Comic Review: Dungeons & Dragons: Neverwinter Tales – The Legend of Drizzt, Vol. 1

Published: March 21st, 2012
Written by: Geno Salvatore, R.A. Salvatore
Art by: Agustin Padilla
Based on: Dungeons & Dragons by TSR, characters by R.A. Salvatore

IDW Publishing, 128 Pages

Review:

This is the first Drizzt Do’Urden story that I’ve read outside of the six volume comics series that IDW published, which adapted his earliest literary stories.

This one takes place further in the future and he doesn’t have the family-like crew that he built up over those six volumes. Here, he teams up with an ally I’ve never seen before, as they hunt down a warrior dwarf that was turned into a vampire.

Once they realize that the vampire dwarf is another ally, they try to help him, as opposed to killing him. Together, the three work together to take down the master vampire.

This is a pretty decent story with decent art and I like the concept of a vampire dwarf. However, it feels pretty weak when compared to the better Drizzt stories.

I wouldn’t call this bad, it just falls below the standard I’ve come to expect from IDW’s Dungeons & Dragons comics.

If you like Drizzt, it’s worth a read but first, I’d definitely jump into the six volume series I’ve already reviewed.

Rating: 6/10

Comic Review: Wolverine: Bloody Choices

Published: 1991
Written by: Tom DeFalco
Art by: John Buscema, Joe Jusko (cover)

Marvel Comics, 65 Pages

Review:

This story happens after the Wolverine and Nick Fury team-up in The Scorpio Connection but also takes place before that story’s direct sequel Scorpio Rising. So this has become the second act in what fans now refer to as the Wolverine/Nick Fury Trilogy.

Like its predecessor, this was released as a trade paperback and was made for more mature audiences than the typical single issue, floppy comics Marvel was publishing at the time. As a middle school-aged kid, I loved releases like this. However, this is one that I had never read until now.

The story deals with Wolverine uncovering a large pedophile ring in Central America. A kid dies trying to save his brother from the pedo cartel and Wolverine decides that these scumfucks need to be ripped to shreds, literally.

However, Wolverine quickly discovers that Nick Fury is also trying to take these evil men down. Wolverine doesn’t want to go “by the book”, as he’s hell bent on making the leader suffer an agonizing death. However, Fury wants to take down the larger cartel that exceeds the main villain’s local reach.

We eventually get a legit fight between Fury and Wolverine and it is one of the most epic Marvel has ever published featuring two heroes at odds.

Beyond that, Wolverine has to question his rage and his personal mission and what we get is a really good and satisfying ending.

I thought that Tom DeFalco wrote one of the best stories he’s ever done with this. I also enjoyed John Buscema’s art immensely.

Man, this was just incredible and being only 65 pages, it accomplished a lot and far exceeded any expectations I had for it.

Rating: 9/10

Film Review: Twister (1996)

Also known as: Catch the Wind (original script title), Wind Devils (working title)
Release Date: May 8th, 1996 (Westwood premiere)
Directed by: Jan de Bont
Written by: Michael Crichton, Anne-Marie Martin
Music by: Mark Mancina
Cast: Helen Hunt, Bill Paxton, Jami Gertz, Cary Elwes, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Alan Ruck, Sean Whalen, Joey Slotnick, Scott Thomson, Lois Smith, Alexa Vega, Zach Grenier, Patrick Fischler, Anthony Rapp, Jake Busey

Amblin Entertainment, Universal Pictures, Warner Bros., 113 Minutes

Review:

“When you used to tell me that you chase tornadoes, deep down I always just thought it was a metaphor.” – Melissa

I hadn’t seen this movie since the theater but I had fond memories of that experience. I just never really went back and watched it again because it was a simple story that was very effects heavy and didn’t offer up much for a repeat viewing unless you’re a real digital effects junkie.

Since I came across it while scrolling through the content on HBO Max, I felt the urge to revisit it just to see how good it actually was and whether or not it’s held up after a quarter of a century. Plus, I really like the cast and it’s stacked with talent from top-to-bottom.

So for the most part, the effects do hold up. Sure, there are a few moments that might look hokey like the famous flying cow sequence but it hardly breaks the mind’s immersion into the film itself. And to be honest, I kind of like the humorous bits like that.

Generally, the tornado effects still look good and as effects heavy as this film is, it never feels like it’s too much. You kind of just get lost in the adrenaline rush of what’s happening and everything just works in the right way. Granted, I’d never want to see this sequelized or turned into a franchise. Once you’ve seen one tornado movie, you’ve pretty much seen them all and this surprisingly didn’t try to milk the flying cow to death.

It’s the personal stories in this that make the film work and make it much more than just a CGI fest.

I loved the chemistry between Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton and even with that, you still find yourself kind of sad over the way Jami Gertz, Paxton’s new fiancé, gets pushed to the side once he falls back in love with the woman he’s trying to get to sign divorce papers.

Hunt and Paxton just made a good couple and they balanced each other out, rather well. I also like that it’s the female half of the relationship that has become obsessed with her work and kind of let the romance fade away while the man steps up and reels her back in and centers her at a point in life when she needed it most. Then again, I always like seeing failed relationships finding a way to rekindle what was lost.

The supporting cast is pretty damn good too. I especially liked Lois Smith as the sort of matriarch of the storm chaser group. I also enjoyed Cary Elwes as the rival snot that gets himself killed because of ego. Philip Seymour Hoffman was enjoyable too, pretty much playing himself turned up to 11.

Twister seems like it’s been forgotten, as the years have rolled on. But honestly, it’s a really good movie in that summer blockbuster genre. I remember it being a big hit with moviegoers and everyone I knew, at the time, loved it quite a bit. When I worked at a video store, we could barely keep it in stock for the first few months.

Sadly, it was usurped by Independence Day, less than two months later and then the summer blockbusters kept getting bigger, louder and even more CGI heavy. 

Rating: 7.25/10

Comic Review: Red Sonja/Claw: The Devil’s Hands

Published: January 24th, 2007
Written by: John Layman
Art by: Andy Smith, Jim Lee (cover)
Based on: Red Sonya by Robert E. Howard, Red Sonja by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith, Claw the Unconquered by David Michelinie, Ernie Chan

Wildstorm, Dynamite Entertainment, 112 Pages

Review:

Yeesh! This was bad.

I thought a story that brought together Red Sonja and Claw the Unconquered would be pretty damn badass. Well, it should have been but this certainly wasn’t.

The Jim Lee cover was really damn cool, though.

I also thought that Andy Smith’s art throughout the comic was pretty good. There were a few spots in the action sequences that I had to examine, though, as the transition from one panel to the next seemed to be off.

As far as the story, it was pretty schlocky. While I like schlock of a certain caliber, this was just lowest common denominator crossover bait, which is something that companies like Dynamite and IDW have become famous for over the last several years. Granted, this is about fifteen years old now but this is also where I noticed IP crossovers really starting to become far more common.

At least this didn’t bring the characters together through magic portals, which has been a bad trope in stories like these.

Anyway, you can totally skip over this unless you’re a Red Sonja completist. But if you are, maybe read this last after all the other stuff.

Rating: 4/10

Book Review: ‘The Witcher: The Lady of the Lake’ by Andrzej Sapkowski

At last, I have reached the final book in The Witcher saga! Well, technically there is one more that takes place after the saga. So, this is the fifth of the five saga books and the seventh of eight, overall. Regardless, it’s been a hell of a ride up to this point and I’m kind of bummed that there’s just one book left.

This book is thicc.

It’s the thickest of the series, anyway, and with that, a whole lot of shit happens.

In fact, this probably could’ve been split into two volumes and that may have made it easier to digest all the details but regardless, it’s still the strongest and best book in the series.

This taps into the King Arthur myth, as it features the knight Galahad and Nimue, the Lady of the Lake. The story starts with Ciri recounting events in her life, which sets up the novel’s story.

In this, we see Geralt and his party face certain doom and very, very few survive. But we also see Geralt, Ciri and Yennefer come back together to close out the series.

Before that, however, we see what happens to Ciri when she’s trapped in the magical realm she entered at the end of the previous book. While there, she grows exhausted of what’s expected of her by the elves that hold the power in that mysterious place. Eventually, she discovers the unicorns, who have beef with the elves and thus, help Ciri escape back to her homeland.

There are a lot of different plot threads weaving in and out and despite the complexity of the novel as a whole, it’s well organized and the story is well told.

In the end, there is a satisfying conclusion and Ciri gets to walk her own path in spite of everyone telling her what her destiny should be over the course of her entire life, up to this point.

This was a solid conclusion to the saga and frankly, the book was hard to put down.

I’m pretty happy that I picked this series up. It actually exceeded my expectations and lived up to the hype, which things rarely do.

Rating: 9.5/10

Film Review: El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie (2019)

Also known as: Greenbriar (working title), El Camino (informal title)
Release Date: October 7th, 2019 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Vince Gilligan
Written by: Vince Gilligan
Based on: Breaking Bad by Vince Gilligan
Music by: Dave Porter
Cast: Aaron Paul, Jesse Plemons, Krysten Ritter, Charles Baxter, Matt Jones, Scott Shepherd, Scott MacArthur, Tom Bower, Kevin Rankin, Larry Hankin, Tess Harper, Robert Forster, Jonathan Banks, Bryan Cranston

High Bridge Productions, Sony Pictures, Netflix, 122 Minutes

Review:

“You’re really lucky, you know that? You didn’t have to wait your whole life to do something special.” – Walt

I wouldn’t call this movie a disappointment but it was incredibly underwhelming. But I also didn’t have much anticipation for it and the fact that I put off watching it for nearly two years, shows my lack of enthusiasm for it.

The reason being is that I didn’t need this. I very easily assumed that Jesse was headed to Alaska after the finale of Breaking Bad. Seeing this movie just lets me know that I was right.

All this movie really was, was Jesse running a few dangerous errands while having flashbacks before he could actually leave for Alaska. Granted, based off of how much he was wanted by authorities, he really should’ve booked it to somewhere outside of the United States’ jurisdiction. But whatever, there are some other logic flaws with the story.

I feel like this was made just because fans have been clamoring for more Breaking Bad since the show ended. Well, they got the Better Call Saul show, which seems to be doing well and satisfying the fan base.

If a sequel needed to be made, I would’ve rather it come much later and we check in on Jesse years later. Maybe some dangerous character from his past is also hiding up in Alaska and recognizes him, setting off a crazy series of events. But whatever this movie was, I didn’t need to experience it.

This isn’t particularly bad but it isn’t particularly good either. The acting was actually pretty stellar but I didn’t expect it not to be.

El Camino is what happens someone like Netflix comes along and throws a lot of money at a creator who is apparently just out of gas.

In the end, there were only two real highlights in this for me. The first, was the scenes between Jesse, Skinny Pete and Badger. That does hit you in the feels. The second, was seeing Robert Forster go out with a bang, as he died just after this was released.

Rating: 6/10

Ranking the Bosses of ‘Dark Souls II – Scholar of the First Sin’

Since I ranked the bosses of the first Dark Souls game, I figured that I should also rank the bosses of the second game.

I played through this game a few times but not as many times as I played through the original game. There are reasons for this, as I explain in my review of the game. Mostly, I just didn’t enjoy the overall experience as much as the first game.

But as I stated in my previous list, I wanted to take the experience of playing through this multiple times to rank the bosses by how difficult I’ve found them to be overall.

My list certainly is my own and the more I talk to others that have an affinity for this series, we all seem to have a very different take on which bosses gave us the most trouble. I guess, this also has to do with play style and character type.

In the end, though, these are how I’d rank the bosses I’ve faced from hardest to easiest.

1. Ancient Dragon
2. Sinh, The Slumbering Dragon
3. Fume Knight
4. Sir Alonne
5. Blue Smelter Demon
6. Vendrick
7. Afflicted Graverobber, Ancient Soldier and Cerah the Old Explorer
8. Darklurker
9. Orange Smelter Demon
10. Lud and Zallen, The King’s Pets
11. Burnt Ivory King
12. Elana, Squalid Queen
13. Aldia, Scholar of the First Sin
14. Demon of Song
15. Aava, The King’s Pet
16. The Rotten
17. Throne Watcher and Throne Defender
18. The Pursuer (the first one)
19. Lost Sinner
20. Velstadt, The Royal Aegis
21. Looking Glass Knight
22. Nashandra
23. Old Iron King
24. Giant Lord
25. The Duke’s Dear Freja
26. Executioner’s Chariot
27. Belfry Gargoyles
28. Ruin Sentinels
29. Old Dragonslayer
30. Twin Dragonriders
31. Scorpioness Najka
32. Guardian Dragon
33. Flexile Sentry
34. The Skeleton Lords
35. Mytha, The Baneful Queen
36. Dragonrider
37. The Last Giant
38. Royal Rat Authority
39. Covetous Demon
40. Prowling Magus and Congregation
41. Royal Rat Vanguard

Film Review: The Terror of the Tongs (1961)

Also known as: Terror of the Hatchet Men (alternative US title)
Release Date: March 15th, 1961
Directed by: Anthony Bushell
Written by: Jimmy Sangster
Music by: James Bernard
Cast: Christopher Lee, Yvonne Monlaur, Geoffrey Toone

Merlin Film Productions, Hammer Films, Columbia Pictures, 76 Minutes

Review:

“Have you ever had your bones scraped, Captain? It is painful in the extreme I can assure you.” – The Tong Leader

When I recently reviewed Hammer Films’ The Stranglers of Bombay, I discovered that this film was somewhat of a remake of that film. Watching this, I didn’t see it. I guess there are some similar narrative beats and both take place in exotic places in Asia but this is much more a proto-Fu Manchu picture than anything else.

With Christopher Lee in the lead, as the Chinese criminal kingpin, I feel like this lead to him starring in those five Fu Manchu pictures that stretched from 1965 to 1969. Hell, this probably inspired their creation.

However, this is better than those Fu Manchu movies. I think that Christopher Lee’s performance is solid in each of those, as well as this picture, but this really is the genesis of his longest run as a character other than Dracula.

I like that this takes place in Hong Kong but it still has that patented late ’50s/early ’60s Hammer style to it. I’m actually surprised that the studio didn’t recycle some of these sets into sequels for this, as Lee gives a really chilling performance and because this was different enough from Hammer’s regular output that they could’ve crafted another franchise from this, as they did with Dracula, Frankenstein and The Mummy.

I understand why this was just a one-off, though, as it’s not as good as the first installment in Hammer’s core franchises. Also, Christopher Lee was not a fan of the makeup and considered it the most uncomfortable that he had ever worn up to this point in his career. But this was his first starring credit, as his other well-known films before this had him playing the monster to Peter Cushing’s hero or mad scientist.

Once again, I thought that Jimmy Sangster wrote a pretty good script for Hammer. The sets are good, as are the costumes. The makeup passes the test for the era, even if modern HD restoration brings out its flaws more.

Overall, The Terror of the Tongs is better than I anticipated it being.

Rating: 6.5/10

Comic Review: Moon Knight – Epic Collection, Vol. 3: Final Rest

Published: December 19th, 2018
Written by: Doug Moench, Steven Grant, Tony Isabella, Alan Zelenetz
Art by: Bill Sienkiewicz, Kevin Nowlan, Joe Brozowski, Bo Hampton

Marvel Comics, 486 Pages

Review:

Well, I’ve gotta say that as much as I’ve loved the other early Moon Knight – Epic Collections that I’ve read, this one most definitely takes the cake! In fact, it’s pretty f’n perfect, even if it features issues with different creative teams.

It kicks off with Doug Moench writing and Bill Sienkiewicz doing the art. They had lead me through the series through pretty much its entirety up to this point. However, just a few issues in, creative teams shift and then later, shift again.

Regardless of that, the tone of the stories and the art remained pretty damn consistent. And this just reminded me of the level of quality control and consistency that Marvel used to have, which they are sorely lacking today.

This kicks off with a really awesome story featuring Stained Glass Scarlet, who has become a character I really like after reading just her first two appearances.

We then get the even better debut story of Black Spectre, which became my favorite Moon Knight story up to this point in the original series’ run. Frankly, it’s one that will be really hard to top.

After that, we get a lot of stories that continue to develop the character of Moon Knight and his inner battle with his multiple personalities. I’d say my favorite story arc of the lot is the werewolf one, though. And man, I loved the art style used for the werewolf, as it reminded me of The Howling, which probably inspired the design, as that film came out just a few years before this was originally published.

There’s also appearances by the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, Doctor Strange and Moon Knight’s first encounter with The Kingpin.

This was just an incredible stretch of issues and while I own some, I may actually seek out the single issues and complete this run.

Rating: 10/10