Film Review: Red Sonja: Queen of Plagues (2016)

Release Date: August 2nd, 2016
Directed by: Gail Simone
Written by: Gail Simone
Based on: Red Sonya by Robert E. Howard, Red Sonja by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith
Cast: Misty Lee, Shannon Kingston, Becca Strom, Scott McNeil

Shout! Factory, Dynamite Entertainment, 74 Minutes

Review:

I’m not a fan of motion comics, so I’m going to have a negative bias towards this in that regard. I came across this on Tubi and actually thought it was an animated film, which kind of got me excited and made me want to check it out because I had never heard of this.

However, the animation style is terrible. And this is why I hate motion comics. I’ve never actually seen one that has worked well. Even the highly heralded Watchmen one was hard for me to sit through and I believe I quit before finishing. It’s just not a medium I dig, as I’d rather just read the actual comic.

Also, this was adapted from a Gail Simone story arc and it was “directed” by her, whatever that means. Simone’s run on Red Sonja, was the lowest point in the long character’s reign at the top of the female-led sword and sorcery genre.

The story is uninteresting and weak. In fact, it is full of so many “girl power” cliches that it doesn’t fit the Red Sonja character. All of this is pretty apparent in the first scene where Sonja meets these two female archers who assist her and then act like valley girls trying to be badass. When Sonja asks about their experience they’re pretty much like, “Oh my gawd! We like… totally killed some squirrels with our bows… once!” That was me paraphrasing and the actual dialogue isn’t exactly that but it is almost exactly that.

I can’t believe that this was something released on Blu-ray and commercially sold to people. It should have been a freebie at the counter in a comic shop for customers that bought anything by Dynamite. Or it should have just been inserted as a bonus in a Red Sonja trade paperback.

This was to Red Sonja what The Coming Out of Their Shells Tour was to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Rating: 2.5/10
Pairs well with: other motion comics, I guess. But just read comics instead.

Comic Review: Batgirl: Stephanie Brown, Vol. 1

Published: August 22nd, 2017
Written by: Bryan Q. Miller
Art by: Lee Garbett, Pere Perez, John Trevor Scott

DC Comics, 296 Pages

Review:

I wasn’t sure what to think going into this series. I mean, I always liked Stephanie Brown as Spoiler since she first popped up in the ’90s but I’m not too keen on anyone other than Barbara Gordon being Batgirl.

However, I’m really happy to say that this book impressed me and was a heck of an exciting read.

Stephanie Brown is just a fun character and in many ways she reminds me of Barbara Gordon before she became Oracle. She has a lot of energy and her personality is infectious and definitely comes right off of the page.

That being said, this is very well written. Bryan Q. Miller was hitting homers right out of the park with just about every issue of the twelve that are collected in this big volume.

Reading this now is also interesting because it all takes place in the era where Dick Grayson a.k.a. Nightwing was filling in for Batman. It creates an interesting dynamic between the characters and what they all think Bruce Wayne wanted for his legacy.

Barbara Gordon is in this as Oracle and she is essentially the new Batgirl’s Alfred. It’s a nice passing of the torch to Stephanie Brown and it sort of legitimizes her. As a reader and fan of Barbara, her acceptance of Stephanie translates to the reader who may have reservations about a new Batgirl.

All the story arcs within this served a purpose and it was neat seeing Stephanie grow in this role. The final arc, a four parter called Flood is the highlight of the book. It’s a story that features The Calculator as the villain and it calls back to one of the more important Oracle stories.

This book was cool. I dug the hell out of it and I can’t wait to read the second volume.

And man, the covers are beautiful.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: the volume that follows this one.

Comic Review: The Punisher: War In Bagalia

Published: January 9th, 2019 – May 1st, 2019
Written by: Matthew Rosenberg
Art by: Szymon Kudranski, Greg Smallwood (covers)

Marvel Comics, 119 Pages

Review:

This picks up right where World War Frank left off.

Overall, this wasn’t as strong as the first Matthew Rosenberg story arc but this builds off of it in an interesting way. However, by the end of it, you’re left empty handed because Baron Zemo evades the Punisher once again.

Still, Rosenberg is doing a stupendous job on The Punisher and I hope he sticks around for some time and keeps this momentum going.

Also, this just hits the right notes for me, as it is Frank Castle, being merciless, trying his damnedest to hunt down and kill Zemo, even if his biggest rival Jigsaw keeps getting in his way.

I’m a fan of the art style by Szymon Kudranski, it’s gritty and works for the tone. However, I have seen some criticism about how he doesn’t make characters with specific physical traits pop off of the panel in ways that you can instantly recognize.

For instance, his take on Jigsaw makes it hard to tell that you’re looking at Jigsaw unless he’s shown in close up. I agree with the criticism but it doesn’t break the book for me, as it is clear who the characters are through the story. But this should be improved upon.

While this was a pretty badass arc, it falls a bit short of the previous one because it seemed to slow the narrative down and with how this ends, it leaves Frank Castle’s hunt for Baron Zemo unfinished. While I love Zemo, he’s one of my favorite villains, period, the Punisher’s apprehension or murder of him is really being dragged out much longer than it needs to be.

But maybe Rosenberg has a solid plan for the next arc. I guess I’ll have to wait and find out.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: old school late ’80s to early ’90s Punisher and the recent Marvel Knights 20th anniversary event.

TV Review: Dungeons & Dragons (1983-1985)

Original Run: September 17th, 1983 – December 7th, 1985
Created by: Kevin Paul Coates, Dennis Marks, Takashi, Mark Evanier
Directed by: Bob Richardson, Karl Geurs
Written by: various
Based on: Dungeons & Dragons by TSR
Music by: Johnny Douglas
Cast: Willie Aames, Don Most, Katie Leigh, Adam Rich, Tonia Gayle Smith, Teddy Field III, Sidney Miller, Peter Cullen, Frank Welker, Bob Holt

Toei Animation, Marvel Productions, Dungeons & Dragons Entertainment Corporation, TSR, CBS, New World Television, 27 Episodes, 24 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I used to watch the shit out of this cartoon when I was really young. It was one of my favorite Saturday morning treats. However, I haven’t seen it since at least the early ’90s.

But like most animated series that were productions involving Japan’s Toei studio and Marvel, it was top quality stuff for its time and it has aged really well.

Sure, it’s hokey and goofy like kid’s cartoons are but it has a real charm about it and that charm is still effective.

I love the character designs of the show, especially in regards to the villain Venger and the five headed dragon, Tiamat. Also, Venger was voiced by Peter Cullen, best known as the voice of Optimus Prime while Tiamat was voiced by Frank Welker, best known as Megatron.

The show followed six Earth kids, their little unicorn named Uni and the impish Dungeon Master. The Earth kids were magically transported to the Dungeons & Dragons dimension through a theme park ride. I know, it sounds ridiculous but you didn’t care about stupid details or coherent plot when you were five years-old. Frankly, I don’t care about it now because the show works for what it is: a kid’s magical adventure.

Unfortunately, the show never had a proper ending and the kids never actually made it home within the episodes produced. I guess it can be assumed that they eventually saw their parents again but hopefully that happened before they were in their forties.

Anyway, this is still a really cool show. I even showed a few episodes to my nephew and he dug it with his discriminatory 2019 standards.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other ’80s fantasy cartoons like Masters of the Universe, Captain N the Gamemaster, Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors, Visionaries, ThundercatsSilverhawks, etc.

Comic Review: Star Trek/Green Lantern II: Stranger Worlds

Published: October 25th, 2017
Written by: Mike Johnson
Art by: Angel Hernandez
Based on: Star Trek by Gene Roddenberry, characters from DC Comics

IDW Publishing, DC Comics, 139 Pages

Review:

While I wasn’t super fond of the first Star Trek and Green Lantern crossover, I bought both volumes so I had to give this one a read too. I’m glad I did though, as this one was better than the first.

The main difference is that this story really had its footing. The first arc served to establish this alternate reality where Lanterns and the Kelvin timeline of the Star Trek universe co-exist. In this volume, the story just bursts out the gates, running.

All the weird bullshit with the Black Lanterns and zombie Vulcans is over, which was refreshing. Instead, we get the Manhunters from Green Lantern lore and the return of the Benedict Cumberbatch version of Khan Noonien Singh. And Khan acquires Atrocitus’ red ring. Khan also has his entire crew by his side, which makes him an even more dangerous threat.

I’ve got to say though, I’ve really enjoyed Angel Hernandez’s art in both of these crossovers. He illustrates the characters’ likenesses really well. Plus, his style captures the tone of the Kelvin movies superbly.

There are some neat surprises in this chapter of the saga and it leaves things open for more. I’m not sure if there will be a third crossover for these two franchises but I’m not opposed to it.

At the end of the day, this didn’t blow me away but for a fan of both franchises, it was a fun experiment to read.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: its previous installment, as well as Planet of the Apes/Green Lantern and Star Trek/Planet of the Apes.

Film Review: Mortal Engines (2018)

Release Date: December 5th, 2018 (Belgium, Egypt, Indonesia, South Korea, Philippines)
Directed by: Christian Rivers
Written by: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson
Based on: Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve
Music by: Tom Holkenborg
Cast: Hera Hilmar, Robert Sheehan, Hugo Weaving, Jihae, Ronan Raftery, Leila George, Patrick Malahide, Stephen Lang, Frankie Adams

Media Rights Capital, Scholastic Productions, Silvertongue Films, WingNut Films, Universal Pictures, 128 Minutes

Review:

“I was eight years old when my mother died. She loved traveling the world and digging up the past. He used to visit all the time, and then one day everything changed. She’d found something, something he wanted.” – Hester Shaw

Mortal Engines seemed to have a lot of fanfare when it was being made. But once it was about to come out, that fanfare had died down and ultimately, it bombed at the box office.

I did have an interest in this because Peter Jackson was behind it. But once I found out that he wasn’t directing this, my interest died down and I figured I’d see what the public’s consensus was before jumping in, headfirst.

This is a pretty weak film. Now it isn’t bad but it completely lacks the spirit of Jackson’s most famous films: the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies. Maybe that’s because he didn’t direct it or because the story itself just wasn’t strong enough.

Now the idea behind the story is cool. This is a really neat concept as it is about massive cities that move around and steal the resources of smaller settlements. At least, that’s what the film was sold to me as. This picture really just showcases one city: London. Maybe the sequels would have shown more moving cities, which could have been badass had this film succeeded and its sequels weren’t cancelled.

Moving cities battling other moving cities almost sounds like the makings of a kaiju movie where the giant monsters are the cities themselves. That could have been cool but now we’ll probably never see it, unless someone steals the idea for another film or if there is another attempt at this young adult novel series several years in the future. But really, this would probably work better as a television series.

I thought that the acting was pretty good and Hugo Weaving really owned the scenes he was in. However, Stephen Lang’s performance, as the cyborg Shrike, was actually chilling to the bone. He was the best, most complex character in the film and even though you initially see him as an unstoppable force of evil, the more you learn about him, the more you understand what his motivations are and how there is a tortured human being’s soul buried under his metal shell and wires.

By comparison though, a lot of the other characters besides Weaving and Lang, felt a bit flat.

The special effects were impressive but this is a Peter Jackson produced motion picture with his effects studio Weta providing those effects. That being said, you can expect to be as impressed by the visuals of this film as you were with Jackson’s Tolkien adaptations.

It’s a shame that this wasn’t a better motion picture and that it ultimately flatlined upon arrival because it would have been really cool to see another epic fantasy trilogy by Peter Jackson. Also, the video games could have been incredible. But alas, I guess we’ll have to wait to see Jackson wow us once again. But hopefully, the next big fantasy or sci-fi film he’s a part of will see him once again in the director’s chair.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other YA novel adaptations of recent years: The Maze RunnerDivergent, etc.

Film Review: Deathsport (1978)

Also known as: Death Race 2050 (Germany)
Release Date: April, 1978
Directed by: Allan Arkus, Roger Corman, Nicholas Niciphor
Written by: Nicholas Niciphor, Donald E. Stewart, Francis Doel
Music by: Andy Stein
Cast: David Carradine, Claudia Jennings, Richard Lynch

New World Pictures, 82 Minutes

Review:

“As much as I would enjoy killing you here tonight, I will enjoy watching you die more in the Deathsport tomorrow.” – Ankar Moor

Man, despite being a fan of this film’s style, this was a real challenge to get through, even at just 82 minutes.

Maybe part of the problem was that it had three directors. Also, it was trying to capitalize off of the cult classic Death Race 2000 and was intended to be a follow-up to it but switching out cars for motorcycles. It definitely fails at being anything close to the greatness of Death Race 2000 and another similar film also starring Carradine, Cannonball.

I think the biggest reason as to why this doesn’t have the charm and coolness of those other two films, is that this one wasn’t directed by Paul Bartell. And I think that is most apparent in the dryness of this film and it’s complete lack of clever humor and endearing spirit.

Put out by New World and Roger Corman, this was a bargain basement production. But it was also mired in production issues beyond the budgetary constraints.

The film looks cheap. In fact, it looks cheaper than Death Race even though it was made much later in the same decade. But maybe the clusterfuck of a production just didn’t have the wherewithal to get the best bang for the buck, as Paul Bartell did and as Corman usually does.

The acting is really bad, even for New World Pictures standards. Plus, the action sequences are bizarre and riddled with more mistakes than a typical Corman production.

While the film has an interesting visual style that isn’t too dissimilar from Death Race, it has really bizarre weapons, like transparent swords and these handheld spotlight things that vaporize people.

This also has one of the strangest bits from any Corman production. There are two scenes that feature a naked woman dancing around these suspended silver rods. Then the rods start shocking them, as they dance around, yelping in pain as an old fascist dweeb laughs in amusement.

Deathsport was a real disappointment. Granted, I didn’t go into it expecting it to be on the level of the rare gem, Death Race 2000. However, I had hoped that some of that spirit would’ve made it into this film. It didn’t.

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: Death Race 2000 and Cannonball.