Comic Review: Transformers ’84: Secrets and Lies

Published: March 3rd, 2021
Written by: Simon Furman
Art by: Guido Guidi
Based on: Transformers by Hasbro

IDW Publishing, 130 Pages

Review:

I got a little hyped up when this series was first announced, as it was supposed to serve as a prequel to the original Transformers – Generation 1 comic book canon from the ’80s. I used to read those when Marvel was pumping them out and when Transformers was one of the hottest toy franchises of the time.

Sadly, I found this to be a bit underwhelming, as far as the story goes. Everything was told in flashback through narration like it was a distant legend. That’s fine and all but it didn’t need to do that and it kind of wasted time setting up the story each issue. Time that could’ve been used to tell a richer, deeper story in a more direct fashion.

The story itself was just okay and there wasn’t much in it that was surprising and all that interesting. It just read like a generic prologue where most of the events within it were fairly predictable. It’s not a bad story. it’s just not a very exciting or inspiring one.

Now I did dig the art. It was pretty much akin to what you would’ve seen in the old Marvel Transformers comics of the mid-’80s, even down to the color schemes of the characters, which differed from their cartoon and toy counterparts.

This was a fairly cool throwback but at the same time, if more Transformers stories were done in this style, I don’t think that I’d be quick to pick them up.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other Transformers comics, as well as other comics based off of Hasbro toy lines.

Comic Review: Wolverine and The Punisher: Damaging Evidence

Published: 1993
Written by: Carl Potts
Art by: Gary Erskine

Marvel Comics, 70 Pages

Review:

This comic was really weird but also kind of cool. It’s certainly a product of the early ’90s and with that, taps into some comic book tropes that seemed cool when I was twelve but come off as really dated and hokey, as an adult nearly thirty years later.

Which young kid in 1993 didn’t want to read a Wolverine and Punisher team up story, though? Especially, with the possibility that the two legendary badasses would actually duke it out, as the cover implies?

The real villain of this story is the Kingpin but he is working on creating a cyborg soldier with the ability to destroy the Punisher. The cyborg also has personal beef with the Punisher and is glad to do his part in trying to put him down.

Wolverine kind of just stumbles into the story and at first, he’s focused on taking down the Punisher for something heinous he believes the Punisher did. There are some plot twists and turns and nothing is exactly what it seems.

This comes to a crescendo with some badass fights and the two heroes coming together in the end. While it’s not a great read, it’s still fun and entertaining.

Also, the art style is sort of unique and not what you’d typically see from Marvel in this era. I feel like it was trying to tap into a grittier, indie style but it still works for the tone of the story.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: all the other Punisher miniseries, one-shots and graphic novels from the late ’80s and early ’90s.

Film Review: Orcs! (2011)

Release Date: June 6th, 2011 (UK)
Directed by: Andrew Black (as James McPherson)
Written by: Anne Black, Jason Faller, Kynan Griffin, Justin Partridge
Music by: Panu Aaltio, Ben Carson
Cast: Adam Johnson, Maclain Nelson, Renny Grames, Barta Heiner, Michael Behrens, Brad Johnson

Rub Pictures, 3 Men in a Tub Productions, Camera 40 Productions, 78 Minutes

Review:

When I first read about this movie, I thought the concept was damn cool and if handled correctly, this could’ve been a great, entertaining and badass cult film. Then a few months later, I saw the trailer and it was hard for me to muster up any interest in watching it until now, a decade later.

The main reason for watching it was that it was free on Prime Video and it was only 78 minutes. Sure, part of me hoped I’d be wrong and that I’d find something amusing and entertaining in the picture. While I didn’t hate every aspect of it, it was dull, overall, and it suffered from what appeared to be a PG-13 rating.

The only real positive was the lead actor, who had charisma, was legitimately funny and at least kept this movie from being a total waste of time.

Apart from that, this was a disappointing, tame fantasy horror flick that needed some old fashioned gore and over the top badass moments. Had this been directed by someone like James Gunn or Peter Jackson before he actually made his own orc movies, we could’ve been treated to an exceptional picture that would’ve lived on for decades as a real cult classic.

Instead, we’re given a neutered, mostly boring movie that shies away from the brutality that one should expect from a film about deranged orcs savagely murdering every human being they come in contact with.

I thought that the orcs actually looked pretty good for the budget and limitations of this movie but they were wasted because of their lack of actual brutality on the screen.

In the end, this could’ve and should’ve been great. I don’t understand the creative direction of the movie and the filmmakers didn’t seem to understand what this picture needed to actually deliver.

Rating: 3/10
Pairs well with: other modern, really low budget horror movies.

Film Review: Blues Brothers 2000 (1998)

Release Date: February 6th, 1998
Directed by: John Landis
Written by: Dan Aykroyd, John Landis
Music by: Paul Shaffer, various
Cast: Dan Aykroyd, John Goodman, Joe Morton, J. Evan Bonifant, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, B.B. King, The Blues Brothers Band, Erykah Badu, Blues Traveler, Eric Clapton, Clarence Clemons, Bo Diddley, Issac Hayes, Dr. John, Lou Rawls, Paul Shaffer, Travis Tritt, Jimmie Vaughan, Steve Winwood, Kathleen Freeman, Frank Oz, Steve Lawrence, Jeff Morris, Nia Peeples, Darrell Hammond, Max Landis

Universal Pictures, 123 Minutes

Review:

“Listen, Willie, you gotta understand. Those goons are orphan remnants of the post-perestroika Soviet secret police apparatus, which, until 1991, carried out its twisted interpretation of the original well-intentioned Marxist-Leninist doctrine vis-a-vis state security, which was massively corrupted by Lavrentiy Beria in the ’30s. Of course, once a mass populace is coerced into such behavior as a permanent condition, a radical didactic, dialectic shift, such as glasnost, produces guys like these:…” – Elwood Blues

I never wanted to see this movie.

For one, the first one was perfect and should have been left alone. Especially, after the death of John Belushi. Had he not passed away at a young age and then wanted to do a sequel, I probably would’ve been fine with that. Something just seemed grossly inappropriate about this film even being made but Hollywood has no morals, shame or respect for anything so I can’t say that this movie’s existence didn’t surprise me.

I figured that I’d give it a fair shot, though. Mainly, I wanted to review it and because maybe I was initially too harsh on this and it’s possible that it might be a nice tribute to Belushi.

Well, I wouldn’t call it nice or even good, really. Now it’s not as terrible as other people have led me to believe, over the years, but it’s kind of a pointless movie.

The reason why it’s pointless is that it takes all of the famous beats of the original film and just reuses them… poorly. It’s like Dan Aykroyd and John Landis dusted off the script to the original, changed some character and location names, moved some scenes out of sequence and then tried to do some clever modifications. Unfortunately, these tricks were really transparent and what we’re left with is a lame, terribly derivative picture that doesn’t have a reason to exist. Well, except for maybe one reason.

That reason is the music itself. I know that Aykroyd and Landis love the blues and they, at the very least, were able to create some solid musical sequences that I enjoyed. Now none of them are as iconic as the ones from the original movie but these sequences are where you can see that the creatives involved in the movie were really trying their damnedest to make this something special.

So, I can’t knock the musical parts but if the threads holding these sequences together is made of shit material, well, the semi-attractive tapestry is just going to fall apart. And sadly, that’s what happens with this movie.

In the end, I don’t hate this but I doubt I’ll ever watch it again.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: its far superior predecessor and other John Landis comedies.

Book Review: ‘The Conan Companion: A Publishing History and Collector’s Guide’ by Richard Toogood

If you remember the review I did for the book Paperbacks From Hell, this book is a lot like that one. Although, it’s focused specifically on Conan titles.

What’s cool about this, though, is that it doesn’t just go through the history of the original Robert E. Howard stories and books but it also covers the books that were written by other authors later on. It also explores the comic side of things to.

This is part history book, part reference book and part art book. Well, mostly art book, as it showcases so many great covers from the nearly century long literary history of the Conan franchise.

I loved thumbing through this as I was reminded of many book covers I had long forgotten and even more that I had never seen. When I was a kid, it was seeing these book covers in the library that really drew me to the character, even more so than the original 1982 movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Granted, the comics pulled me in too but there was just something about the paintings that adorned the covers of the paperbacks I’d come across that really captivated my imagination.

This is a pretty cool book to own if you’re a fan of fantasy art or the Conan mythos. If you’re a big fan of both, even better. 

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Paperbacks From Hell, as well as other Robert E. Howard related non-fiction books, many of which I’ve reviewed here.

Film Review: Eye of the Tiger (1986)

Also known as: The Tiger (international alternative title)
Release Date: November 28th, 1986
Directed by: Richard C. Sarafian
Written by: Michael Thomas Montgomery
Music by: Don Preston
Cast: Gary Busey, Yaphet Kotto, Seymour Cassel, Bert Remsen, Denise Galik, William Smith, Judith Barsi, Kimberlin Brown, Ted Markland

Action Brothers, International Video Entertainment, Scotti Brothers Pictures, 92 Minutes

Review:

“Doing that time in there didn’t do a damn thing for you, did it? You were an asshole then and you’re a ‘bigger’ asshole now!” – Sheriff

Bruh… how did I never know of this movie’s existence? It’s pretty incredible if balls out unapologetic ’80s action is your thing. Why wouldn’t it be your thing? It should be everyone’s thing. We should still have movies like this made, today, as it might’ve stopped Generation Snowflake from existing in the first place.

Shit, I haven’t even told you yet that this stars Gary Busey and Yaphet Kotto! You also get Seymour Cassel playing a crooked, slimy sheriff in league with the villainous biker gang. Plus, you have the insane leader of the biker gang, who is an actor I don’t know, but still came off as completely chilling and intimidating as fuck.

In addition to a biker gang and a lot of motorcycle action, this movie has a bomb dropping bi-plane and a heavily armored, heavily weaponized super truck! I mean, seriously, what’s not to fucking love?!

Alright, so the script is a bit sloppy and the acting is weak once you look passed the four primary characters but the action is solid and you want to see the scumbag pieces of shit get crushed, shot up and blown to bits by Busey, who is actually playing the film’s hero.

Honestly, I wish Busey would’ve gotten to make more movies like this where he just murders the crap out of human garbage. If I had a time machine, I’d go back to 1986 and make a motorcycle vigilante flick with Gary Busey and Rutger Hauer called Murder Brothers. It’d have about seven sequels featuring previously unmentioned brothers replacing the originally leads that noped out after the first movie.

Anyway, this is as high octane as high octane gets. I mean, it’s not Death Wish 3 or anything but I know for a fact that I’m going to revisit this movie a lot over the rest of the years I have on this planet.

More people should know about this picture. I only found out about it because it was in an ’80s action DVD collection that I bought just to get a physical copy of The Exterminator 2. You can get that and this with two other movies in the same set for like nine bucks on Amazon.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other badass ’80s action movies.

Video Game Review: Spider-Man (PlayStation 4)

I bought this game way back when it came out but I didn’t actually play it until this year, as I had spent about 18 months completely immersed in Conan Exiles and The Witcher 3. Between that, I also spent a lot of time playing hundreds of retro games on my RetroPie.

I can’t say that this was worth the wait, as it’s really just mediocre.

The graphics as far as how the city looks and the smoothness of gameplay are great but the characters’ designs certainly don’t blow me away. Also, most characters don’t look like how you’d expect them to and I’m not sure why. The game sort of ignores the comic book designs and tries to go with something more “realistic” and cinematic, akin to the films. I feel like it’s trying to meet the comics and the films somewhere in the middle but it fails at that.

As far as the gameplay goes, it’s fun but it’s way too similar to the Batman: Arkham City games. Granted, I love swinging through New York City and seeing the iconic sites but after really exploring for a day or so, even that gets old.

My real issue with the game is the story. I just don’t like it and it puts a lot of emphasis on villains that aren’t all that popular to begin with like Mister Negative. While I don’t mind the character, he is the primary antagonist for the first two acts of the story. While Norman Osborn is the mayor and Otto Octavius starts out as a good guy, there are still so many great, iconic Spider-Man villains they could’ve used as a focal point. Is Mister Negative even C-list?

I also heard all this noise about how many villains were going to be in this game and after playing through it, I’m completely underwhelmed. Sure, there are many baddies but it’s the cast of villains that they went with that are the problem. Plus, there are glaring omissions that are a bit baffling.

I get that you might not want to do a full fledged Hobgoblin or Venom story but the game could’ve introduced their normal selves, as both had interesting backstories that tie back to either Peter Parker’s personal life or the lives of his friends and allies.

Beyond that, Mary Jane is just kind of Plain Jane and she’s not even a model or actress. Instead, they made her an investigative reporter and her character is basically just ginger Lois Lane. Mary Jane is nothing like Lois Lane and this creative choice was just strange.

Speaking of MJ, I hate when this game makes you play as her or pre-Spider-Man Miles Morales. I bought this to be Spider-Man. Not his no superpowers having peeps. And there are just too many of these stupid side character sneaking missions.

Complaints aside, this is still a decent game that laid some groundwork to build off of. I’ll probably check out the sequel, if it’s ever made. I’ll also probably play the Miles Morales spinoff when it’s not still full-price.

The thing is, this could’ve been something great had they made it more loyal to the source material and not used a scrub that casual fans won’t know as the big bad for the first two-thirds of the game. Can you imagine if they made a Batman game and the main villain was someone like The Clock King?

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: its Miles Morales spinoff game, as well as other recent Marvel games and old Spider-Man games.

Comic Review: Red Sonja: Worlds Away, Vol. 4: The Blade of Skath

Published: June 12th, 2019
Written by: Erik Burnham, Amy Chu
Art by: Carlos Gomez
Based on: Red Sonya by Robert E. Howard, Red Sonja by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith

Dynamite Entertainment, 120 Pages

Review:

I’m not sure why this series is still carrying the Worlds Away banner, as the story of Sonja traveling to modern Earth has been over since the second volume of this series. But whatever, you do you, Dynamite and Amy Chu.

This final volume in the series started out really strong and it was becoming my favorite volume in the series. But then it ended in the middle of the fucking story! What the fuck?! Why?!

I would’ve been infinitely more pissed if I had bought the trade paperback of this and not just bought the digital version during a big Comixology sale.

This started with Sonja discovering that her sword belonged to a great warrior king that lost it after killing a deadly dragon. She then seeks out this hero to return the sword only to find out that he’s a drunk and pretty useless now. As the land she’s in prepares for a big battle, she has to try and get this former king to return to his former glory and win the day. He continues to fail, drinking himself into a coma by the start of the battle. Then I don’t really know what happened because the story got prematurely cut off!

I bought and read through four volumes of this series and this is how it goes out?

Thanks, Dynamite!

Rating: 3/10
Pairs well with: other Red Sonja stories from Dynamite.

Comic Review: Spider-Man: Origin of the Hobgoblin

Published: May 18th, 2017
Written by: Tom DeFalco, Bill Mantlo, Roger Stern
Art by: Ron Frenz, Al Milgrom, John Romita Sr., John Romita Jr., Marie Severin, Mike Zeck

Marvel Comics, 266 Pages

Review:

One thing that’s been pretty consistent with Spider-Man comics over the years is that there have been great origin stories for the title hero’s major villains. 

Origin of the Hobgoblin may seriously take the cake, though, as this is a beefy collection and by the end of it, it’s still not clear who the Hobgoblin is, even though the first few chapters make it obvious and because I read the big reveal years ago.

This collects his first ten or so appearances and even then, his ability to trick and dupe Spider-Man is so damn good that his true identity remains unknown to the hero.

Hobgoblin has always been one of my favorite villains and this just made me love him more and it’s easy to see why he became so popular throughout the ’80s until Venom came along and stole everyone’s thunder for a solid decade.

In this collection, we meet a guy that is pure evil, calculated, smart and able to stay several steps ahead of Spider-Man and his rivals on the crime side of things like The Kingpin. And while Hobgoblin may appear as if he’s simply ripping off Norman Osborn’s Green Goblin persona, which he most definitely is, he also takes the gimmick and improves upon it. Hobgoblin is born out of stealing another man’s legacy but with that, he builds his own, unique identity and he’s still a very different man behind the mask.

The best thing about this collection of issues is the writing. It’s just so damn good and makes me wish that modern mainstream comics could muster up just a tenth of this creativity. The plot is well-structured, layered, unpredictable and not even a wee bit derivative or redundant.

While the year is still young, this is the best comic book that I’ve read so far in 2021. 

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: other Spider-Man comics of the ’80s, specifically stories involving the Hobgoblin.

Film Review: Godzilla vs. Kong (2021)

Release Date: March 24th, 2021 (Asian markets)
Directed by: Adam Wingard
Written by: Eric Pearson, Max Borenstein, Terry Rossio, Michael Dougherty, Zach Shields
Based on: Godzilla by Toho, King Kong by Edgar Wallace, Merian C. Cooper
Music by: Tom Holkenberg
Cast: Alexander Skarsgård, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Shun Oguri, Eiza González, Julian Dennison, Kyle Chandler, Demián Bichir, Lance Reddick, Zhang Ziyi (scenes cut), Jessica Henwick (scenes cut)

Legendary Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures, Toho, 113 Minutes

Review:

“The myths are real. There was a war. And they’re the last ones standing.” – Ilene Andrews

*There be spoilers here! No, seriously, I spoil the shit out of stuff in this one.

My review of the previous film in the MonsterVerse series ended with:

The moral of the story review is:
Monsters punching monsters: Good!
Human family drama and storytelling: Bad!

That still holds true for this movie but one half of the human story was really good and the best use of human characters, thus far, in this series, which has now made it four films deep.

This is also the best film out of the four, as it found a really good balance between action and storytelling and seemed to have fixed some of the biggest criticisms of the series. Well, except for the human characters but it did get that half right, as I already stated.

Looking at the human stories first, I’ll start with the bad.

This brings back the daughter and father of the family with all the drama from Godzilla: King of the Monsters. With that, it primarily focuses on Millie Bobby Brown’s character and just uses Kyle Chandler pretty sparingly. Honestly, it felt like Chandler probably filmed all of his scenes in a day or two. Also, this isn’t a knock against these actors, it’s just a knock against how they’re used, especially Brown.

In this movie, Brown’s Madison teams up with Julian Dennison, the fat kid from Deadpool 2, and Brian Tyree Henry, who plays a really annoying conspiracy theory podcaster that I can only describe as a male Leslie Jones. Basically, he’s loud, awkward and unfunny while trying so hard to be the comedic relief in a movie that doesn’t need any.

Anyway, this odd trio easily break into high tech, high security facilities and somehow end up in Hong Kong and just accidentally stumble upon MechaGodzilla. When it comes to them stepping up to the plate to save the day, they more or less fail, but then somehow short out an evil supercomputer with booze from a mini flask.

Needless to say, everything that happens around these characters is stupid, convenient and if they were completely edited out, it wouldn’t disrupt the main story and it’d actually be a much better movie.

Now on the flipside, we get the second group of human characters, who were f’n excellent! It’s almost like their scenes were written by someone else than the other group. The stark contrast between the quality of these two different human plot threads is kind of astounding and baffling.

This other group consists of Alexander Skarsgård, a guy I’ve always liked, as well as Rebecca Hall and the orphaned deaf girl she cares for, played by Kaylee Hottle, who ended up giving the best performance out of any human being in these movies.

Hottle’s Jia is a native of Skull Island and she’s the only person that Kong trusts, as they’ve developed a way of communicating with each other, secret from the adults on the island. Jia is the voice of Kong throughout the film and she is also his conscience at times. Frankly, it’s a really beautiful relationship that was crafted exceptionally well. It’s impossible not to get wrapped up in the emotion of their bond and the pain and love they share throughout the picture.

Additionally, Skarsgård and Hall are absolutely perfect in this and if any characters come back for future films again, I sincerely hope its these three.

Now on to the monsters!

As should be expected, both Godzilla and Kong were great in this. Every single battle was visually incredible and it far exceeds what has been done in the previous movies. Plus, we get to see MechaGodzilla show up to the fight in the last twenty minutes of the film.

The special effects in this are just superb. There were even moments where I almost thought that the CGI was a practical effect, that’s how good some shots were. The big final battle in Hong Kong is, hands down, the best action sequence that this film series has given us, thus far. Granted, I hope that now that they’ve really found their footing, it’s just a taste of what could come.

Something I wasn’t expecting and was thoroughly impressed by was the Hollow Earth stuff. Kong and the humans I like in the movie return to Kong’s true home and Kong even sits on the throne of his long dead ancestors. This part of the film also shows us a lot of cool creatures and we see Kong mix it up with some of them.

As far as the story goes, it’s simple, pretty easy to follow but I felt like it left me with a lot of questions that I hope are Easter eggs to be answered in the future. Especially, in regards to the Hollow Earth stuff and the mythos around Kong’s ancestors and their seemingly advanced kingdom.

I honestly feel like this would’ve deserved an 8 out of 10 or possibly higher but that bad human subplot really takes you out of the film when it pops up. I honestly wish all that crap would’ve been wiped from the script and freed up more pages to develop the story and the good characters more. But I think that Brown and Chandler had contracts that had to be honored, regardless of what that meant for the total package of this motion picture.

Still, everything else is so good that I really, really enjoyed this movie. I just hope someone does an edit, removing the bad parts at some point because I’d like to see it and I think it’d make the plot flow better and wouldn’t detract from the movie’s strengths.

I know that nothing is currently announced, following this film, but Warner Bros. needs to get moving on a follow up. Honestly, this is really the only good thing the studio has going for them after they’ve squandered the DC film universe.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: the Legendary Pictures’ King Kong and Godzilla films before this, as well as the original Japanese films King Kong vs. Godzilla and King Kong Escapes.