Film Review: Quantum of Solace (2008)

Also known as: Bond 22 (working title), B22 (promotional abbreviation)
Release Date: October 29th, 2008 (London Film Festival)
Directed by: Marc Forster
Written by: Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade
Based on: James Bond by Ian Fleming
Music by: David Arnold
Cast: Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric, Gemma Arterton, Giancarlo Giannini, Jeffrey Wright, Judi Dench, David Harbour, Jesper Christensen, Rory Kinnear, Alfonso Cuaron (cameo), Guillermo del Toro (voice)

Eon Productions, Columbia Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 106 Minutes

Review:

“They say you’re judged by the strength of your enemies.” – James Bond

Quantum of Solace is a weird James Bond movie that seemed like it was trying to reinvent the franchise, tonally, after it already went through a major stylistic overhaul in the superb, previous film, Casino Royale.

I think that the director, Marc Forster, took a lot of creative license and the film suffers for that. Something that is part of a franchise, should have certain standards that keep the film cohesive and consistent with the other chapters in the larger, decades long, body of work.

I don’t necessarily blame Forster, as the studio may have been really keen on altering the Bond franchise following the immense success of Casino Royale. Plus, Forster wasn’t a guy known for action movies, he is known more for his dramatic, artsy films like The Kite Runner, Stranger Than Fiction, Stay, Finding Neverland and Monster’s Ball. And if I’m being honest, his other major action film, World War Z, really missed the mark too. But, personally, I really like most of Forster’s dramatic work and he is typically a great visual storyteller. I think that is probably why he was given a shot with this film, as Eon Productions possibly wanted an actual visionary to come in and freshen things up even further.

However, the problem with his action direction is almost immediately apparent in this film, as the opening scene features what should be a really fantastic sequence but it’s destroyed by quick, choppy edits that make it pretty hard to follow. It’s like a rapid paced mess of wasted, expensive shots, all of which deserved more than a split second of screen time knowing the level of craftsmanship and work that went into setting up those shots.

This issue carries over into all the other action scenes though and this is a hard movie to watch and absorb during these moments, which are aplenty.

Apart from that, the film also feels incomplete. It feels like two-thirds of a Bond movie were slapped together as best as the studio could salvage and then released with the hope that it would just be a hit, capitalizing off of the great movie before it.

For those who might not know, this film was made during the time of a big writers strike in Hollywood. When the strike happened, for better or worse (definitely worse), all writers stopped working. So it’s possible that the script was unfinished and for fear of losing money and being delayed, the studio just shoved this into the filming stage. It’s hard to really place blame on anyone due to the situation but the end result was a really lackluster Bond film and the worst one of the Daniel Craig era. Granted, there is still one more Craig-led film, which is slated to come out whenever this COVID-19 crap passes.

Quantum of Solace isn’t terrible; it’s just okay. Frankly, it’s almost forgettable other than the plot threads that tie it to the reemergence of the villainous SPECTRE organization.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: the other James Bond films of the Daniel Craig era.

Comic Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 4: Sins of the Fathers

Published: February 6th, 2013
Written by: Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz
Art by: Andy Kuhn
Based on: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird

IDW Publishing, 122 Pages

Review:

This series has been on a really good trajectory, thus far. The first three volumes covered a lot of ground with great, energetic, action-packed stories. So I guess eventually, you’d have to reach a slower chapter and this is it.

That’s not to say that this is boring or that it’s not up to snuff, it just spends a bit more time on fleshing out some characters and this version of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles mythos.

A breather also felt needed, as the story could’ve easily gotten away from itself if it stayed primarily focused on action and having to make the characters fight too much.

This also started to give General Krang and his species some backstory, which we hadn’t gotten up to this point. His relationship with Baxter Stockman is pretty interesting and it’s developing and evolving while really painting the picture that this version of Krang is truly dangerous and not the buffoon people are mostly familiar with from the original cartoon series.

There is also a good moment in this between Splinter and Raphael, as Raph learns an important lesson. But that lesson also leads to Casey Jones essentially becoming the Turtles’ roommate.

I was pretty happy with this volume, I truly dig this series and I can’t wait to keep reading through it.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: the rest of IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles run.

Video Game Review: Rambo (NES)

My memories of this game didn’t paint it in a favorable light. However, I was surprised to discover that I actually quite liked the game, playing it in 2020.

Now this is far from perfect, as the objective and where to go isn’t made too clear, but once you get some time in and get the hang of the game, it grows on you.

It has a very similar playing style to Zelda II in that it is a side scrolling action game where you get experience points by killing enemies. Now the leveling up advantages aren’t as clear as they are in Zelda II but this essentially follows the same concept with roughly the same size character sprites and game mechanics.

That being said, the mechanics aren’t as polished as Zelda II and sometimes it is difficult to duck and shoot or turn and shoot someone coming up behind you. Had these issues been fixed before this was released, this could have been a damn good game. Instead, we get something that’s fairly fun but also frustrating in a firefight with multiple enemies.

Also, the boss battles are all very weak and monotonous. The big helicopter fight isn’t something you can go into with a strategy, you just have to hope you have enough medicine bottles and get lucky enough to inflict enough damage while missiles rain on your head and multiple enemies appear to expose the terrible flaws in the game’s controls.

Still, I had fun playing through this and beating it. It’s far from being a classic but for an ’80s console video game based on a licensed property, it’s not half bad.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other action side scrollers of the 8-bit era.

Film Review: Godzilla (1998)

Release Date: May 18th, 1998 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Roland Emmerich
Written by: Dean Devlin, Roland Emmerich, Ted Elliot, Terry Rossio
Based on: Godzilla by Toho
Music by: David Arnold
Cast: Matthew Broderick, Jean Reno, Maria Pitillo, Hank Azaria, Kevin Dunn, Michael Lerner, Harry Shearer, Doug Savant, Vicki Lewis, Richard Gant, Nancy Cartwright, Frank Welker (voice)

Centropolis Film Productions, Fried Films, Independent Pictures, TriStar Pictures, Toho Co. Ltd., 139 Minutes

Review:

“What the hell’s the matter with you people? You’ve caused more damage than that goddamn thing did!” – Mayor Ebert

Yes, Mayor Ebert… you’ve got a fucking point, as most of the actual destruction in this movie is committed by the moronic military and not the giant monster.

I’m not sure if that’s because Roland Emmerich wanted to paint the military and the government as incompetent assholes or because he’s just a shitty director that didn’t have the talent to replicate the success of Independence Day. But his first big mistake was making this story’s heroes the absolute antithesis of those from that much better movie.

Whatever the reason though, this movie is so fucking stupid that it’s painful to watch, which is why I have never actually sat down and watched this in its entirety in one sitting. Sure, I’ve seen the whole film in increments thanks to cable television but as a lifelong Godzilla fan, I had no urge to see this in the theater when it came out and all the footage and sequences I’ve seen over the years has only solidified my disdain for this big budget kaiju-sized abortion.

Many people have claimed that this isn’t a true Godzilla film and that it is the worst one ever made. Those people aren’t wrong, as I’d rather be stuck in a room for 24 hours being forced to watch Godzilla’s Revenge, over and over, than have to watch this film ever again.

It’s completely incompetent from top-to-bottom with brainless characters, impressively bad dialogue and a story that feels like it was freestyled from the mind of a child playing with kaiju toys in the bathtub.

There is no traditional three act structure and this is just a string of sequences where some of them feel like they don’t even fit within the same movie. It also gets so far away from the core of what Godzilla is that it truly isn’tGodzilla movie, it’s some sort of generic kaiju flick trying to borrow more from Jurassic Park than its own namesake.

Had this not been given the Godzilla name and branding, it may have been more palatable but there is nothing about this that can win over the fans they assumed they’d lure in just by using the name of the world’s most famous giant monster. While that may have been a run-on sentence, 1998’s Godzilla was a run-on movie.

About two-thirds of the way into the film they “kill” Godzilla, after destroying half of Manhattan. Then suddenly we’re sucked into a different movie where baby Godzillas are chasing the heroes idiots through Madison Square Garden like an army of velociraptors in a cheap attempt at trying to one-up the far superior Jurassic Park movies. Once the babies are killed, Godzilla miraculously rises from the ashes like, “Fuck you, hoes! Ain’t dead!” It’s a clusterfuck that shows that Roland Emmerich doesn’t have time for any sort of traditional narrative structure. And no, that’s not an artistic choice it’s just the incompetence of a moron that cares more about mass destruction than actually making cinematic art.

I haven’t even talked about the special effects yet, which are a mixed bag but mostly shit. Where practical effects are used, things actually look quite good but where the film employs CGI, it looks terrible even for 1998. Hell, this movie came out two years after Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day and it looks significantly cheaper than that film. This is really where big studios started to rely on CGI too much and it killed the immersion into the cinematic world onscreen. I never feel that way when watching Independence Day or Jurassic Park but here, it’s fucking distracting.

The action sequences with dozens of Apache helicopters flying through the canyon-like streets of New York City like swarms of insects just look cartoonish and buffonish. In fact, all these big action sequences between the military and Godzilla look more like a video game than a motion picture. Maybe modern HD makes it look worse than it did in 1998 but the digital flaws are really apparent and it looks like the studio cut corners in post-production or just rushed this out too soon.

Based off of the final product, Roland Emmerich could’ve just invented his own kaiju creature. But I guess less people would’ve gone to see that, so bastardizing something beloved was the easiest route to go when you can’t actually rely on talent.

Rating: 3/10
Pairs well with: other Roland Emmerich schlock that cost way too much to make.

Film Review: Fatal Fury: The Motion Picture (1994)

Also known as: Garou Densetsu (original Japanese title), Fatal Fury 3 (informal title)
Release Date: July 16th, 1994 (Japan)
Directed by: Masami Obari
Written by: Takashi Yamada
Based on: Fatal Fury by SNK
Music by: Toshihiko Sahashi
Cast: Kazukiyo Nishikiori, Keiichi Nanba, Nobuyuki Hiyama, Kotono Mitsuishi, Tomo Sakurai, Shinichiro Miki

Asatsu, Fuji Television Network, SNK/Playmore, 100 Minutes

Review:

“Worthless fool! How can you ever help to beat me? By the next time I’m done with you, there’ll be nothing but stinking meat!” – Laocorn

I really dug this anime series in the mid-’90s when I was eating up all the anime my video store started getting in during the boom. These were some of my favorites due to my love of the Fatal Fury video games, as well as all the other Neo-Geo fighting games.

This third film was by far my favorite and even though I own it on VHS, I hadn’t watched it in nearly two decades due to not having a VCR. However, all three Fatal Fury anime films are available on YouTube, at the moment.

Seeing this again, all this time later, this is still my favorite of the lot and it’s actually a pretty good animated movie, from top-to-bottom.

The art is much better than the previous two installments and the running time is longer, as well. But I guess that’s why this is referred to as a “motion picture”. But the extra care given to this production makes it the best installment in the series.

Additionally, this doesn’t try to tell an anime version of a video game story. It actually branches off into a new direction with new characters and I’m not sure if any of the new villains actually made it into the video games.

This also has a very Indiana Jones vibe to it, as the villains are hunting down multiple MacGuffins in ancient ruins and temples in an effort for their leader to essentially become a god.

Fatal Fury: The Motion Picture is just a lot of fun, really f’n cool and is a more refined and perfected version of the two chapters that came before it.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: the two other Fatal Fury movies.

Comic Review: Doctor Strange – Epic Collection: A Separate Reality

Published: October 19th, 2016
Written by: various
Art by: various

Marvel Comics, 480 Pages

Review:

I’ve been going back and picking up a lot of ’70s Doctor Strange floppy issues, lately. Mainly, I love Marvel’s art style with their fantasy and horror titles from the decade and Doctor Strange had some of the best covers from that time. But after reading a few of the singles issues, I wanted to delve into a much larger chunk, so I gave this huge Epic Collection release a read.

This actually focuses on the end of Doctor Strange’s first solo series, his complete run in Marvel Premiere and then the first handful of issues of his second solo series.

This also features a ton of great artists and writers, as well as adapting some of H.P. Lovecraft’s characters and concepts into the Marvel Universe, beyond what was done in just the Conan titles.

Furthermore, this collection features just about all of the major Doctor Strange villains of the era with a lot of emphasis on Nightmare.

This was, hands down, one of the best Doctor Strange trade paperbacks I have ever read and it only solidified my love for the character from this era. It also kind of made me wish they’d have done something with Strange and Conan back in the ’70s due to the Lovecraftian flavor of this book.

I’ll be in search of other hefty collections of Doctor Strange from the ’70s and early ’80s because this was just damn cool and featured so much imagination and stupendous art. I wish people didn’t sleep on old school Doctor Strange, it’s really, really great stuff.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other old school Doctor Strange collections, as well as ’70s Marvel fantasy and horror comics.

Film Review: Highlander: Endgame (2000)

Also known as: Highlander IV, Highlander IV: World Without End, Highlander: A New Order (working titles)
Release Date: September 1st, 2000
Directed by: Doug Aarniokoski
Written by: Joel Soisson, Eric Bernt, Gillian Horvath, William N. Panzer
Based on: characters by George Widen
Music by: Nick Glennie-Smith, Stephen Graziano
Cast: Adrian Paul, Christopher Lambert, Bruce Payne, Lisa Barbuscia, Donnie Yen, Damon Dash, Sheila Gish, Adam “Edge” Copeland

Davis-Panzer Productions, Dimension Films, 87 Minutes, 101 Minutes (Producer’s Cut)

Review:

“You’re missing the point, Kate. The difference between Connor and I is that as long as you’re still alive, there’s a chance that one day I might be forgiven. It may take years. Centuries even. But at least I can carry that hope inside me. That’s one blessing of immortality; there’s always tomorrow. Even for us.” – Duncan MacLeod

I guess this is the best of the Highlander sequels but that doesn’t mean much as they’re all pretty shitty.

Revisiting this franchise has been a pretty crappy experience, other than revisiting the first movie, which is damn enjoyable. But I’ve had a few people ask me to tackle the Highlander franchise so I figured I should get it over with.

I haven’t actually seen this one since around the time that it came out. I barely remembered it, other than it is the one installment of the franchise that brings both MacLeod men together: Conner from the films series and Duncan from the television series.

Now the movies are an absolute clusterfuck for those wanting continuity. This series’ canon is an atrocious mess but this film actually seems to work the best, as a sequel, as it is a continuation of the television series and the original film, ignoring the two crappy sequels before it.

For those who might not know, the television series was a continuation of just the first film while being focused on a new character from the same clan as the original Highlander. So being that this is a followup to that series, I guess you could look at the first film and this one as bookends to the television show. Although, there is another sequel after this one, which concludes Duncan MacLeod’s story. I’ve never seen that one or at least, I don’t remember seeing it.

Anyway, this is just an awkward and weird film. It has the weakest villain of the first four films and the story is flimsy as hell with a strange confrontation between the two heroes that just felt like a nonsensical plot convenience just to make the younger Duncan, the one and only hero.

The film is littered with awful special effects, which leads to a bonkers final fight that sees Duncan and Connor essentially as one physical entity whose face digitally morphs from one actor to the next and back again. It looks fucking deplorable, even for low budget circa 2000 digital effects.

It also doesn’t help that the film is mostly a bore. There are moments in the narrative where things seem like they could take an interesting turn but they never really do. This feels like a made-for-TV movie or two-part pilot for some syndicated fantasy garbage that was below the level of this era’s syndicated television offerings.

Highlander: Endgame should have been the end but they kept going after this one. Actually, Highlander, the first movie, should have been the end.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Highlander sequels, none of which come close to the cool and original first film.