Film Review: Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2011)

Also known as: Ghost Rider 2 (working title)
Release Date: December 11th, 2011 (Austin Butt-Numb-A-Thon)
Directed by: Neveldine/Taylor
Written by: Scott M. Gimple, Seth Hoffman, David S. Goyer
Based on: Johnny Blaze by Roy Thomas, Gary Friedrich, Mike Ploog
Music by: David Sardy
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Ciaran Hinds, Violante Placido, Johnny Whitworth, Christopher Lambert, Idris Elba

Imagenation Abu Dhabi FZ, Hyde Park Entertainment, Columbia Pictures, 96 Minutes

Review:

“[voiceover] Why does the devil walk on human form anyway? I have no idea. Maybe he doesn’t know either. Maybe he passes on from body to body, down through history, waiting for the perfect fit. But I know one thing, on Earth, he’s weak. His powers are limited. He needs emissaries to do his dirty work, so he finds them or makes them, using his greatest power, the power of the deal.” – Johnny Blaze

I dreaded going into this, as there was no way it could be better than its predecessor, which was a pretty big pile of cinematic shit.

However, I was wrong.

Granted, I may be alone in my assessment of this picture but I found it to be more palatable than the first Ghost Rider film because it just went batshit crazy from the get go and Nicolas Cage was fully unchained and allowed to be the insane madman he can be when he turns his performance up to eleven.

This is still a terrible film and I doubt I’ll ever watch it more than once but I didn’t find myself wanting to fast-forward like I did with the previous one.

I think it also helped the movie that Idris Elba was in it, even though he should never have to be a part of a production this atrocious. He was a bright spot in this turd, however.

Elba couldn’t save the movie, though, as it had a bafflingly bad script, not a very good story to begin with and then was littered with horrendous CGI special effects and awful acting.

Honestly, based off of the first film, this one should’ve never been made and I think that it was only greenlit, at the time, in order for the studio to try and hang on to the intellectual property rights. I mean, it’s obvious that no one associated with this film gave a shit about it.

Well, except maybe Nicolas Cage, who dedicated himself to the insanity so much that it’s only worth seeing because the level that Cage performs at here, must be seen to be believed.

At the end of the day, the movie feels like cocaine that somehow became sentient and then sniffed itself.

Rating: 4.25/10
Pairs well with: the Ghost Rider film before it.

Film Review: Ghost Rider (2007)

Also known as: El vengador fantasma (several Spanish speaking countries)
Release Date: January 15th, 2007 (Ukraine)
Directed by: Mark Steven Johnson
Written by: Mark Steven Johnson
Based on: Johnny Blaze by Roy Thomas, Gary Friedrich, Mike Ploog
Music by: Christopher Young
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Eva Mendes, Wes Bentley, Sam Elliott, Donal Logue, Peter Fonda, Brett Cullen, Rebel Wilson

Relativity Media, Crystal Sky Pictures, Columbia Pictures, 110 Minutes, 123 Minutes (Extended Cut)

Review:

“Any man that’s got the guts to sell his soul for love has got the power to change the world. You didn’t do it for greed, you did it for the right reason. Maybe that puts God on your side. To them that makes you dangerous, makes you unpredictable. That’s the best thing you can be right now.” – Caretaker

Even though 2003’s Daredevil received pretty bad reviews, under-performed and left most moviegoers feeling disappointed, it’s director was still given the character of Ghost Rider to adapt into another live-action Marvel movie.

While I liked the Director’s Cut of Daredevil for the most part, Ghost Rider is an atrocious motion picture from top-to-bottom. Honestly, this came out when Nicolas Cage seemed to run out of gas and saw his career trending downward fast. Honestly, this and its sequel could’ve been the nail in the coffin.

This is terribly acted, except for the scenes with Sam Elliott and the minimal appearances by Peter Fonda. They can’t save the rest of the movie, however, as Cage, Eva Mendes and Wes Bentley don’t really seem to give a shit about anything. Even Donal Logue severely under-performed and he’s a guy that I tend to expect a lot from, as he’s proven, time and time again, that he’s a more than capable actor with good range and convincing performances.

The special effects can’t save the film either, as they’re generally pretty generic mid-’00s CGI shit. Hell, the villains don’t look the way they’re supposed to look and it just adds to this movie’s cheapness.

It’s a vapid, shit film, a complete waste of time and could only be upstaged in its awfulness by its even worse sequel.

I guess I’ll have to review that flaming turd soon.

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: its sequel and other terrible comic book adaptations of the era.

Film Review: Werewolves on Wheels (1971)

Also known as: Angel Warriors 2 (Australia)
Release Date: August 11th, 1971 (Traverse City, Michigan)
Directed by: Michel Levesque
Written by: Michel Levesque, David M. Kaufman
Music by: Don Gere
Cast: Stephen Oliver, D.J. Anderson, Deuce Barry

South Street Films, 85 Minutes

Review:

On paper, this film seemed like an incredible idea! Especially for something coming out at the height of exploitation film that mashes up the counter culture biker picture with B-movie horror.

What we got instead was a poorly made, shittily crafted flick that barely has any werewolf stuff in it and mostly just focuses on bikers being boring assholes.

Now the first act of the picture is kind of awesome. It sees this biker gang show up at a cemetery with a monastery that is full of satanic cultists. These cultists feed the bikers bread and wine that knocks them out. Then they start a satanic ritual with one of the biker dude’s ladies. There’s a bunch of black magic, chanting and a naked chick dancing with snakes next to a large flame pit. Then you get to see the bikers wake up, interrupt the ritual and beat up evil monks.

Then almost nothing happens for the rest of the movie except for a semi-violent werewolf kill which happens in silhouette and just shows a bloodied head with a fucked up eyeball. And then we get the really short finale, which sees one of the bikers trying to get away from the other bikers after he transforms into a werewolf.

The werewolf costume is pretty crappy but it works for me, as this is a no budget movie shot in just 16 days, guerrilla style and probably without permits.

In the end, this is a missed opportunity and someone should make a better version of this concept. If a better version exists, I’d like to know about it. If you do, let me know.

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: other biker movies of the era, as well as Psychomania.

Film Review: The Wild Angels (1966)

Also known as: All the Fallen Angels, The Fallen Angels (working titles)
Release Date: July 20th, 1966
Directed by: Roger Corman
Written by: Charles B. Griffith, Peter Bogdanovich (uncredited)
Music by: Mike Curb
Cast: Peter Fonda, Nancy Sinatra, Bruce Dern, Diane Ladd, Buck Taylor, Norman Alden, Michael J. Pollard, Frank Maxwell, Dick Miller, Peter Bogdanovich

American International Pictures, 87 Minutes

Review:

“We don’t want nobody telling us what to do. We don’t want nobody pushing us around.” – Heavenly Blues

While people mostly remember Easy Rider as the counterculture biker picture of its time, The Wild Angels predates it by three years, features the same star and was actually the film that kicked off a whole slew of biker and drug movies.

Directed by Roger Corman and starring two of his regulars, Peter Fonda and Bruce Dern, this picture also inspired some other counterculture films by Corman, most notably The Trip.

Overall, this is a pretty dark picture but it has some charm to it, mainly because the main players are so good. Despite the fact that they’re mostly despicable pieces of shit, there is that part of you that wants them to find the freedom and fantastical utopia they are looking for.

At it’s core, this is just a cool movie with cool stars and the film really does a superb job at manufacturing a pretty genuine feeling story about outlaw bikers and their flimsy philosophies. I think that’s the main reason as to why this picture sparked a cinematic trend that saw more films like this getting made for several years.

I wouldn’t place this among Corman’s best films but it is certainly a good one that stands on its own and showcases the director’s talent in spite of his rapid shooting style and microbudget economics.

I also wouldn’t call this the best of the counterculture pictures of its day but it is most definitely a great example of this sort of cinematic social commentary done well.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other Roger Corman films from the ’60s, as well as other counterculture and drug pictures of the time. Especially those starring Peter Fonda or Bruce Dern.

Video Game Review: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade – Ubisoft Version (NES)

I’m going to start this review with a really bold statement: this is the worst game that I have played on the original Nintendo.

It surpasses the awfulness of Conan the Barbarian and Bible Adventures. This game truly takes the cake in its awfulness, from top to bottom.

To start, it’s the clunkiest fucking game I have ever played from the 8-bit era. It barely functions, the mechanics are horrendous and it caused me to lose about 30 percent of my remaining hair.

Just when I thought that Indiana Jones games for the NES couldn’t get any worse than the Taito version of Last Crusade, I decided to give this one a shot, hoping it’d be an improvement over that other piece of shit with the same title.

This also boasts some of the worst graphics I’ve ever seen from the terrible sprites, basic as fuck environments, boring colors and complete static backgrounds in scenes that need to convey motion (like the train level).

All in all, this is the worst game I’ve played out of all the ones I have reviewed for this site.

Rating: 0/10
Pairs well with: a ghost pepper juice enema.

Film Review: Warrior of the Lost World (1983)

Also known as: Mad Rider (European VHS title), Warrior: Exterminador del 2000 (Uruguay), The Last Warrior (Germany)
Release Date: 1983 (Italy)
Directed by: David Worth
Written by: David Worth
Music by: Daniele Patucchi
Cast: Robert Ginty, Persis Khambatta, Donald Pleasence, Fred Williamson, Harrison Mueller Sr., Laura Nucci

A.D.I. Inc., Continental Motion Pictures, Royal Film, 92 Minutes

Review:

“Very bad mothers! Very bad mothers! Very bad mothers!” – Motorcycle

This is the final movie in my quest to review every film ever featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000. It’s been a long journey and I’m glad that I saved something I kind of like at the finish line.

At it’s core, this is a terrible and shitty movie. However, it falls into a weird niche that I’m a fan of: European (primarily Italian) ripoffs of Mad Max or other dystopian movies. And like a few others, this one has Fred Williamson in it. It also has Donald Pleasence but I’ll get to the actors shortly.

First off, this is a film that feels like it was rushed. The shot set ups are basic bitch shit and there isn’t much cinematography to speak of.

There’s barely any attention to detail given to anything in this film.

Most of the props are shoddy and cheap and even the super motorcycle looks like a lazily slapped together piece of crap. The effects are weak, the vehicle action lacks excitement and I’ve seen better vehicular carnage with my seven year-old self’s slot car track.

Additionally, despite the greatness of Fred Williamson and Donald Pleasence, the acting is abominable. Robert Ginty is so unlikable as the hero, you’ll find yourself begging for his death almost immediately. Persis Khambatta, who you may remember as the bald chick from the first Star Trek movie, is easy on the eyes but hard on everything else.

But with all that negativity I just dumped out, I still like this movie. And that’s because I love post-apocalyptic, Italian car crash movies that have no qualms about stealing from Mad Max, as well as a dozen other popular sci-fi action films from the era. Plus, Williamson and Pleasence sort of legitimize it and raise it up to a level that it could never reach without either of them.

When I started reviewing MST3K movies, I didn’t do it in any particular order and there wasn’t any real planning. I just started watching them pretty randomly while checking them off of the list. It’s pretty fitting that I ended this long, arduous quest with this picture. It’s just the perfect type of schlock for MST3K and it’s one of the movies that I actually like out of their nearly bottomless toilet bowl of cinematic poo.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: other foreign ’80s Mad Max ripoffs.

Comic Review: Plan 9 From Outer Space Strikes Again!

Published: May 6th, 2009
Written by: Darren Davis, Chad Helder
Art by: Giovanni Timpano
Based on: Plan 9 From Outer Space by Ed Wood

TidalWave Productions, BlueWater Comics, 29 Pages

Review:

Since I’m doing a Thanksgiving weekend full of Mystery Science Theater 3000 posts, I figured I’d also review a comic book based on prime cinematic schlock. Granted, Plan 9 From Outer Space was never featured on MST3K, which is baffling, but many of Ed Wood’s movies were. So I feel like this certainly fits the tone.

The story here serves as a sequel to the Plan 9 movie. It takes place in modern times and sees the alien invaders return after fifty years.

This was schlock-y but pretty enjoyable. It doesn’t feel like it exactly taps into the essence of the Ed Wood picture but it does give some solid fan service.

My biggest gripe about it though, is that it is a really short story and this probably needed to be stretched out over four-to-six issues.

Everything just pops off almost immediately and then it is also over, almost immediately. There is no character development and nothing to really grasp onto.

Still, this wasn’t a terrible read, it was fairly fun and definitely energetic. It just completely lacked the real estate it needed to tell any sort of story.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: the movie it is based on, as well as Ed Wood’s other works.

Comic Review: Akira – The Complete Saga

Published: December 6th, 1982 – June 11th, 1990 (original Japanese release)
Written by: Katsuhiro Otomo
Art by: Katsuhiro Otomo, Steve Oliff (colors in original US version)

Kodansha, Epic Comics, Marvel Comics, 2660 Pages

Review:

For my 500th comic book (or manga) review, I wanted to do something iconic; a true classic. Something that was epic in size, beloved by most and is considered to be one of the most influential works of all-time in the medium.

Now I should preface this by saying that I didn’t read this in it’s traditional manga form but I instead read the original American releases that Marvel put out through their imprint, Epic Comics.

What’s special about these is that they were broken out into 38 volumes, as opposed to the six beefier manga books. Also, the Epic version was colorized and had the art flipped to read like a traditional American comic from left to right.

But, back in the day, this is how I first read Akira, as I had the first few issues. Sadly, I never completed the set of 38 and therefore wasn’t able to read the entire Akira epic until now.

I can say that my expectations were pretty high, as I’ve been a lifelong fan of the anime film, owned all the McFarlane Toys action figures and used to draw the characters quite regularly. Akira even inspired my own comics in the early ’90s.

This exceeded my high expectations and the reason why is because I had no idea how much story I missed out on just seeing the anime. In fact, those who enjoy but who’ve only seen the anime have been severely cheated. But there is only so much you can do with a story this large with just a two hour running time. Plus, Katsuhiro Otomo made the film before completing his manga, so there are certainly some major differences with how the two conclude.

This was a stupendous read and even though it’s massive in scale, there wasn’t a dull moment or a chapter that just felt like filler. Every issue, every page and every panel served the story in some capacity. There are a lot of characters, a lot of layers and multiple avenues to explore. Akira does a fantastic job at managing multiple plots threads and bringing them all together for an incredibly satisfying conclusion.

I don’t want to go into too much detail about the story and its differences with the anime. Besides, it’s all pretty complex. But that doesn’t make this hard to follow, there are just so many things to take in and process.

I guess I should also point out that Otomo’s art is some of the best I’ve ever seen in manga. And while the standard black and white form is probably how this should be read first, the colorized versions are pretty much perfection, especially considering that they were made well after the original black and white pages were published in Japan.

If you love Akira but haven’t read the manga in its entirety, it’s definitely something you need to do.

In the end, comic book or manga, this is one of the best stories I have ever read in the medium.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: Katsuhiro Otomo’s other works, as well as Ghost In the Shell and Battle Angel Alita.

Film Review: Black Rain (1989)

Release Date: September 22nd, 1989
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Written by: Craig Bolotin, Warren Lewis
Music by: Hans Zimmer
Cast: Michael Douglas, Andy Garcia, Ken Takakura, Kate Capshaw, Luis Guzman, Stephen Root, Richard Riehle, Vondie Curtis-Hall

Paramount Pictures, Jaffe-Lansing, Pegasus Film Partners, 125 Minutes

Review:

“I usually get kissed before I get fucked.” – Nick Conklin

Ridley Scott has done some great films. While Black Rain isn’t often times in the discussion of Scott’s best works, it is one of his best looking motion pictures.

Being that this is pretty much neo-noir, it shares a lot of the same visual style as Blade Runner. However, instead of seeing a futuristic Los Angeles on the screen, we are given modern day Osaka. Or what was modern day in 1989.

Sure, this doesn’t have Replicants and flying cars but it does show us how late ’80s metropolitan Japan wasn’t too far off from Scott’s vision of the future.

The story follows two cops played by Michael Douglas, in maybe his coolest role, and Andy Garcia. They witness a Yakuza hit in New York City, capture the criminal and then have to escort him to Japan, where he escapes and they then have to work with the Osaka police in an effort to catch him and bring him back in.

What the cops soon find out, once their stay in Japan is extended, is that the Yakuza guy they caught is in a massive gang war. Now these two find themselves in the middle of it all while the local Osaka police are slow to act due to their hands being tied by their strict laws.

This is also like two buddy cop films in one, as Douglas’ Nick Conklin works with his New York partner for the first half and then has to work with his assigned Japanese partner for the remainder of the film. But unlike your typical buddy cop formula, we’ve got two guys from very different cultures, clashing but ultimately finding respect for one another. It’s kind of like what we would get with the Rush Hour movies nine years later and with less comedy and more testosterone.

The thing that I really like about this flick is not only the clash of cultural styles but the mixing of genres. You’ve basically got a neo-noir Yakuza biker movie. It also has a pretty hard edge to it and is unapologetic about its violence and what modern critics would deem “toxic masculinity”.

Black Rain is a cool fucking movie, hands down. While it is sort of a Yakuza movie seen through Western eyes and made for that audience, it really isn’t too dissimilar from the best films that genre has to offer. Ridley Scott doesn’t specifically try to replicate Japanese gangster cinema, so much as he just tries to make a film within his own style that just happens to take place primarily in Osaka. And frankly, it all seems to fit pretty well together.

Unfortunately, Scott had issues filming in Japan due to the budget. He actually had to shoot the big finale back in California. I really would have loved to have seen a sequel but I’m assuming that Nick Conklin only got one outing because of the financial strain of going back to Japan for another movie.

Then again, Scott didn’t really have much interest in sequels to his films until more recently. So maybe we can get Black Rain 2? Assuming Michael Douglas can still go at 75 years-old. But hey, Sylvester Stallone is bringing Marion Cobretti back, so why not?

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Blade Runner, Someone to Watch Over Me, Rising Sun and ’80s neo-noir.

Film Review: Akira (1988)

Release Date: July 16th, 1988 (Japan)
Directed by: Katsuhiro Otomo
Written by: Katsuhiro Otomo, Izo Hashimoto
Based on: Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo
Music by: Shoji Yamashiro

Akira Committee Company Ltd., Akira Studio, TMS Entertainment, Toho Co. Ltd., 124 Minutes

Review:

“Look at what they abandoned in their panic, they were afraid! They were too scared, so they hid it away from the public. They forgot all shame and honor, cast off the civilization and science we had created, and shut the lid of the Pandora’s Box they themselves had opened.” – Colonel Shikishima

This wasn’t the first Japanese animated film that I saw but it was the first one to have a lasting impact on me. In fact, this is the one anime film that I have seen more than any of the others, as it is damn near perfect and the older it gets, the better it ages. Plus, it really got me into what was then called “Japanimation” before Americans started properly calling it anime.

Akira really opened the floodgates for me. Even though I was already a fan of Robotech, Voltron and Star Blazers, I didn’t really know that they were Japanese properties retrofitted for American kids. But after seeing Akira, I started renting or buying almost every anime I could find. Many were bad but many were also good. It was a rabbit hole I really enjoyed going down, especially from the early to mid-’90s.

But what makes this film the best of the lot, at least from its era, is that it has a solid story, truly embraces the cyberpunk aesthetic and was just too damn cool to turn away from.

Now I might not of understood the film as a kid but I didn’t care. In my mind, this was the best animation I had ever seen and it made the American cartoons I enjoyed look drab by comparison. Also, being that it was animated, I could watch it without my parents suspecting that it might not just be some regular Saturday morning action cartoon. And that was cool because this was so adult and I hadn’t experienced that in anything animated up until this point.

Through adult eyes, I still can’t turn away. This picture is absolutely beautiful and Katsuhiro Otomo did a stupendous job in adapting his stellar manga into an animated movie. Granted, I wish that he would’ve gone on to continue to adapt the manga series, as this film doesn’t give you the rest of the lengthy story.

But as a standalone film and a self contained story, this works well, even if it opens a Pandora’s box by the end and leaves you with a lot of questions as to what the future holds for those living in this world.

It’s also a film that is good in both the subtitled and dubbed versions. While I typically prefer subs, the English language dub is better than most.

But the sound and the music really take this picture to another level. Sound was used to great effect through simple effects and audio cues that still sound cool and otherworldly regardless of how many times I’ve watched this film.

If someone where to ask which single anime is the best to show people to see if they’re into the style, Akira would be my answer. But I’m also a fan of cyberpunk sci-fi, neo-noir and youth gang movies.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: the Akira manga series, as well as Katsuhiro Otomo’s other manga series. Additionally, Ghost In the Shell.