Film Review: Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997)

Also known as: Mortal Kombat 2 (Uruguay), Mortal Kombat: Destruction Finale (France)
Release Date: November 21st, 1997
Directed by: John R. Leonetti
Written by: Brent V. Friedman, Bryce Zabel, Lawrence Kasanoff, Joshua Wexler, John Tobias
Based on: Mortal Kombat by Midway Games
Music by: George S. Clinton, various
Cast: Robin Shou, Talisa Soto, Brian Thompson, Sandra Hess, Lynn Red Williams, Irina Pantaeva, James Remar, Ray Park, Tony Jaa (stunts)

Threshhold Entertainment, New Line Cinema, 95 Minutes

Review:

“Mother! You’re alive!” – Kitana, “Too bad you… will die!” – Sindel

I think that the original Mortal Kombat movie is pretty terrible, despite having a lot of friends that have some sort of nostalgic love for it. I was a hardcore Mortal Kombat fan, as far as the games were concerned, but the movie just didn’t resonate with me. Sure, maybe it was better than the film adaptations of Double Dragon or Super Mario Bros. but that in no way makes it good, as both of those films were beyond awful.

Well, the sequel Mortal Kombat: Annihilation makes its extremely flawed predecessor look like The Empire Strikes Back by comparison.

I avoided this movie for most of my adult life but once it was available to stream on Hulu, recently, I thought that I’d finally give it a watch because at least I’d get a review out of it.

If I’m being honest, this was damn hard to sit through. It’s a baffling movie, littered with special effects that are absolute junk, a script so bad that canaries would commit sepukku rather than shit on it and acting so atrocious that it’s kind of depressing seeing Brian Thompson and James Remar stumbling through their scenes.

It took me four sittings to get through this movie and usually I power through even the worst motion pictures in one. This just sucked away at my soul like a starved psychic vampire and I needed to take breaks from it and recharge.

This is certainly one of the worst movies I have ever seen. It isn’t the worst but that’s only because I sometimes spend a lot of time searching the bottom of the dumpster in that little rusted out back corner where even garbage doesn’t dare go.

But this may be the worst film I’ve seen that actually had some sort of budget. Somehow, this cost $30 million dollars. I’m not sure where that money went as I’ve seen better special effects in an elementary school play. If New Line Cinema was so quick to throw their money down the drain in 1997, I should have asked for a check. I could’ve at least made a better looking movie for a lot less and then pocketed the rest.

Never watch this film unless you hate yourself. I heard that Gitmo used this to torture terror suspects before it was considered too inhumane. That’s when they switched to waterboarding.

Rating: 0.5/10
Pairs well with: Other mediocre but mostly crappy movies based off of fighting games: Mortal KombatStreet FighterStreet Fighter: The Legend of Chun-LiTekken and Tekken 2: Kazuya’s Revenge.

Film Review: Lionheart (1990)

Also known as: León (alternate title), Wrong Bet (Australia), Lion – the Streetfighter (Denmark), Full Contact (France), A.W.O.L.: Absent Without Leave (UK)
Release Date: March 1st, 1990 (Argentina)
Directed by: Sheldon Lettich
Written by: S.N. Warren, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Sheldon Lettich
Music by: John Scott
Cast: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Harrison Page, Deborah Rennard, Lisa Pelikan, Brian Thompson, Ashley Johnson, Michel Qissi, Voyo Goric

Imperial Entertainment Corporation, Guild, Sunil, Wong Bet Productions, Universal Pictures, 105 Minutes

Review:

“Sometimes life is… is… ugly. And stupid. And mean.” – Lyon

Something about this film just melts my heart. Yeah, I know it’s just some ass kicking Van Damme movie from early in his career but out of all those early pictures, this one really has a comforting charm and is a real feel good movie.

Maybe Bloodsport and Kickboxer win out in badass points but Lionheart isn’t far behind, as the action and the fights are aplenty and they’re all interesting and unique.

Where Bloodsport featured a variety of gimmicky fighters in one arena, Lionheart gives us a variety of gimmicky fighters in a variety of arenas: under a bridge, a parking garage, a swimming pool, surrounded by a ring of cars with headlights on, a rich dude’s tent, a racquetball court and maybe a few others that don’t immediately come to mind. Lionheart truly felt like a fighting video game come to life, which to my twelve year-old mind in 1991 was pretty friggin’ incredible. Oddly, Van Damme would go on to make a movie based on the Street Fighter video game and it wasn’t anywhere near as good as this.

One interesting thing about this picture is that Van Damme helped to write the story. He also teamed up with director Sheldon Lettich, who he would continue to work with over the years. In fact, Van Damme and Lettich are currently trying to get a sequel made to Double Impact.

Lionheart is an action film with a decent story where you actually care about the people in it. While that’s a rare thing, Van Damme pulls you in even if he wasn’t a master of acting in 1990. He’s proven that he actually has acting chops later in life with JCVD and his current project for Amazon. But really, no one watched these kind of movies for superb acting prowess. Needless to say, Van Damme is a tough but sweet character here and it is still one of my favorite performances that he ever gave.

The only real disappointment for me, was seeing Brian Thompson in this but not getting to see him actually square off with Van Damme. He was absolutely terrifying and intimidating in Cobra and in several episodes of The X-Files. He’s one of my favorite heavies from the era and he is pretty much just the sidekick to an evil rich bitch in this movie.

I like Lionheart, a whole friggin’ lot. If you are an old school JCVD fan, you probably do too.

Rating: 7.75/10

Film Review: Fright Night, Part 2 (1988)

Release Date: December 8th, 1988 (Australia)
Directed by: Tommy Lee Wallace
Written by: Tommy Lee Wallace, Tim Metcalfe, Miguel Tejada-Flores
Based on: characters created by Tom Holland
Music by: Brad Fiedel
Cast: William Ragsdale, Roddy McDowall, Traci Lind, Julie Carmen, Jon Gries, Brian Thompson, Merritt Butrick

New Century/Vista, TriStar Pictures, 104 Minutes

Review:

“It was a performance.” – Charley Brewster, “She cast no reflection!” – Peter Vincent

You know that old sentiment that sequels are never as good as the original? Well, it’s not entirely true, as many sequels have eclipsed their predecessors. However, Fright Night, Part 2 is not one of those.

While it is great to see Roddy McDowall and William Ragsdale reunite, as vampire hunting friends, the film has a massive void from all the other characters who aren’t here. Granted, Chris Sarandon’s Jerry Dandrige is dead and we have a new vampire threat in this chapter but Amanda Bearse is sorely missed, as is Stephen Geoffreys, whose Evil Ed died but reappears in a tease at the end of the first movie.

We do get the additions of Jonathan Gries, a guy I love in everything, and Brian Thompson, one of the most intimidating heavies of the ’80s and ’90s. Plus, Traci Lind is really good, even if she isn’t Bearse, and Julie Carmen is absolutely alluring as Dandrige’s ancient vampire sister, seeking revenge for the events of the first film.

Sadly, this film is pretty damn boring. It has a few good momnets, here and there, but none of them really make up for the overall film being unable to even muster up just a little bit of the magic they had in the first picture. The only time you really feel anything, is when McDowall and Ragsdale are together but even then, it feels like a cheap imitation of the first movie. However, that vampire bowling sequence is fairly amusing.

Fright Night, Part 2 is neither bad nor good. It just sort of exists and isn’t all that memorable. It’s a highly sought after film, as it has been out of print for awhile but I’ve still got an old copy.

If you haven’t seen this sequel but have been dying to because you’re a fan of the first film, just be prepared that it isn’t the lightning in a bottle that was the original Fright Night. You also shouldn’t pay a lot of money just to get your hands on a rare copy of it.

Rating: 6/10

Documentary Review: You’re So Cool, Brewster! The Story of Fright Night (2016)

Release Date: December 2nd, 2016
Directed by: Chris Griffiths
Music by: Lito Velasco

Dead Mouse Productions, 217 Minutes, 146 Minutes (Condensed version)

Review:

If you don’t like Fright Night, we can’t be friends. I mean, seriously, it’s a hell of a good time and was a much needed return to traditional monsters in a decade ruled by slasher films.

This long documentary covers everything you could ever want to know about Fright Night and it even goes into its mostly unappreciated sequel.

The coolest thing about this film and what I love about these modern documentaries about old horror franchises, is getting to revisit the cast and creators all these years later.

It may seem bizarre to have a documentary that is much longer than the subject matter it is discussing but a lot goes into filmmaking and this documentary doesn’t leave a single stone unturned. You get candid looks at the special effects, props making, creature makeup and how certain sequences were shot.

The interviews with the cast, the director and all the other key people were really the best part of this film though. It was especially cool seeing William Ragsdale, Chris Sarandon, Amanda Bearse and Stephen Geoffreys in 2016. Geoffreys’ bits I liked because it showed the man himself and how different he is from the Evil Ed persona. He also discusses how he was apprehensive about performing certain aspects of the character.

Tom Holland, the director, discussed at length about how the whole project came to be, as well as shedding light on what lead him to it.

If you are a fan of the original Fright Night or you’re hardcore and love the whole franchise, this is certainly worth checking out.

Rating: 8/10

Film Review: The Terminator (1984)

Release Date: October 26th, 1984
Directed by: James Cameron
Written by: James Cameron, Gale Anne Hurd
Music by: Brad Fiedel
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Biehn, Linda Hamilton, Paul Winfield, Lance Henriksen, Earl Boen, Bill Paxton, Brian Thompson, Chino ‘Fats’ Williams

Hemdale Film Corporation, Pacific Western Productions, Cinema ’84, Orion Pictures, 107 Minutes

Review:

I got to watch this on the big screen. Okay, not in an actual theater but at a friend’s homemade theater with a twenty foot screen outside under the stars. He was testing his new projector, put up a giant sheet between the trees and decided that we’d watch The Terminator. I couldn’t argue with that.

I’m glad I got to see this thing huge, like it was originally intended by James Cameron, a man who used to make fantastic cinematic masterpieces until that pile of shit Titanic made more money than the GDP of all the EU countries combined.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day is also pretty much a masterpiece but nothing compares to this, the first film. While it isn’t technically considered a horror movie, it is. This is a bonafide slasher flick where the killer carries big ass guns instead of bladed objects.

Arnold Schwarzenegger plays the Terminator. If you don’t know, he is a killer cyborg from the future. He is essentially a clean cut Jason Voorhees that dresses like Rob Halford from Judas Priest. He’s got more guns than John Rambo in the sequels. He is a relentless killer, that will keep coming and coming until he murders his target or he is somehow destroyed. Good luck with that!

Linda Hamilton and Michael Biehn also star in this. Biehn, a favorite of Cameron, is great as the future hero sent back to protect Sarah Connor from the Terminator. Hamilton is her most famous character, the aforementioned Sarah Connor. She isn’t the bad ass heroine that she would be in Terminator 2 but she did a good job in this picture, evolving from the damsel in distress type to the powerful strong woman that was on the verge of raising future super bad ass John Connor, the man who would defeat the Terminators in 2029.

Seriously though, Linda Hamilton is so damn good as Sarah Connor that the best way to spot a crappy Terminator sequel is to see if Linda Hamilton isn’t in it. Her voice over cameo in the fourth film doesn’t count. She has to be in the film, as flesh and blood. She is only in the first two movies and for me, that is the story. I ignore everything after part two.

This movie is dark and it is balls to the wall bad ass. It gets going and it never slows down. Even when you think the heroes are safe for a minute… nope! Next thing you know, the Terminator is driving a car through a damn police station and shooting up dozens of cops. You blow up the Terminator in a gas truck… too bad, his skeleton will chase you! You blow up his skeleton… too bad, his head and arms will crawl after you!

This was some of James Cameron’s best work. For a low budget film in 1984, the special effects are pretty friggin’ stellar. This certainly redeems him from that Piranha II movie and it set the stage for his greatest picture Aliens in 1986. The Sarah Connor character was a good prototype for what Ellen Ripley would become in the Alien franchise. Then on the flip side, Ripley became the template for the more evolved Sarah Connor in Terminator 2.

The Terminator is incredible. I can’t imagine what it was like seeing this in the theater in 1984. It probably would have blew my mind but I was five years-old and my mum probably took me to something like Footloose, she liked dancing movies and I always got dragged along.

Rating: 10/10

TV Review: The X-Files (1993-2002, 2016- )

Original Run: September 10th, 1993 – May 19th, 2002
Revival Run: January 24th, 2016 – present
Created by: Chris Carter
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Mark Snow
Cast: David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Robert Patrick, Annabeth Gish, Mitch Pileggi, William B. Davis, Nicholas Lea, Chris Owens, James Pickens Jr., Tom Braidwood, Bruce Harwood, Dean Haglund, Laurie Holden, Brian Thompson, Mimi Rogers

Ten Thirteen Productions, 20th Century Fox Television, 208 Episodes, 45 Minutes (per episode)

the-x-files-tvReview:

The X-Files was on television for quite a long time: nine years. In fact, it just recently had a revival series that lasted six episodes and there will probably be some sort of follow up to that. It also spawned two motion pictures and two spinoff television series: Millennium and The Lone Gunmen. It also propelled the careers of stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson. It even paved the way to greatness for producer and writer Vince Gilligan, who would go on to create Breaking Bad and its spinoff Better Call Saul. Many don’t realize that The X-Files isn’t just a show, it is a massive franchise.

I hadn’t watched the series in its entirety, even when it was still on television, as I was a teenager at the time and being home on Friday nights wasn’t the cool thing to do. We also didn’t have DVR, On Demand or Hulu back then. But I did catch a lot of episodes and watched through most of the earlier seasons once the show went into syndication.

It wasn’t until recently, in early 2016, that I decided to dedicate some serious time to binge watching the 200-plus episodes.

There are certainly episodes that haven’t aged well in the two decades since the show was on television but there are many that are still pretty chilling and freaky. And many episodes hold up really well today and I can now consider some of them to be classics, as they stood the test of time and still maintain their effectiveness. Season Two was especially nightmarish and it still is at its high points.

For those who don’t know, the show follows FBI Agents Mulder and Scully. Mulder works on the FBI’s secret X-Files cases while Scully is sent in to partner up with him in an effort to be the skeptical voice in Mulder’s conspiratorial goose chases. Of course, Mulder is most often right and Scully is left questioning everything she knows while still maintaining her stance of skepticism until she can’t any longer. It’s actually a great relationship to watch, seeing these arguments happen throughout the show, as it always tries to debunk the weird stuff and usually does a good job of it until the shit hits the fan or a twist pops up near the end.

Duchovny and Anderson were perfect for the roles of Mulder and Scully and their relationship is the driving force of the series. Yeah, it’s cool to see aliens, vampires, monsters, demons and whatever other weird shit they throw at you, but without Duchovny and Anderson, the show doesn’t work. And that was apparent after Duchovny left the show at the end of the seventh season. He made sporadic appearances here and there but the show wasn’t the same. The magic was gone.

The X-Files is one of the greatest pop culture things from the 1990s. Hell, it is one of the greatest franchises out there. It is still eerie, unsettling and it plays well for the most part. And honestly, I would be okay with further miniseries and films until the end of time. Or just as long as Duchovny and Anderson want to keep doing them.

Rating: 9/10

Film Review: Cobra (1986)

Release Date: May 23rd, 1986
Directed by: George P. Cosmatos
Written by: Sylvester Stallone
Based on: Fair Game by Paula Gosling
Music by: Sylvester Levay
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Brigitte Nielsen, Reni Santoni, Brian Thompson, Andrew Robinson

Cannon Films, Warner Bros., 87 Minutes

cobraReview:

I was once asked what my favorite Punisher movie was. My answer was Cobra.

No, Cobra isn’t actually a Punisher movie but it is the closest thing that I think Hollywood has gotten to a live-action version of him. Cobra is a balls out, unapologetic, bad ass, gratuitously violent, one-liner bonanza of an action film.

I mean, Stallone’s Cobra actually says, right before he knifes and blasts a guy, “You’re a disease – and I’m the cure.” When challenged about the broken justice system by a serial killer, Cobra says, “This is where the law stops and I start – sucker!” The film even starts with a fantastic narration by Cobra, “In America, there’s a burglary every 11 seconds, an armed robbery every 65 seconds, a violent crime every 25 seconds, a murder every 24 minutes and 250 rapes a day.” There is just that stone cold Stallone delivery of every line of Cobra’s dialogue in this movie.

From the standpoint of the critics in 1986, the film is too cliche and relies too heavily on tropes weaved together with bad dialogue. But these are the same assholes that loved Avatar.

No, Cobra is not a critically-acclaimed motion picture. But it made a shit ton of money at the box office and really, should have had a sequel or five. Just because critics don’t like something, doesn’t mean that there isn’t something for the world to sink its teeth into. Besides, the critics hated a lot of things that became classics and then they later backtracked and tried to act like they were now accepting of many of those films. Granted, they’ll probably never like Cobra, its balls are too huge and covered in thick masculine hair.

Cobra is just a manly fucking film. It is the epitome of violent 80s action movies. It does just about everything right, if senseless violence and bad asses triumphing over psychos is your thing. It is my thing.

Stallone was great as Cobra, even though he was one-dimensional and not that interesting or dynamic. He was Stallone playing Stallone but with extra octane. Brigitte Nielsen was passable as the girl he is protecting from the psycho. Speaking of which, Brian Thompson was perfect as the serial killer, the Night Slasher. And to be honest, as a kid, I was never afraid of Freddy or Jason. But I was scared shitless of the Night Slasher.

This movie is dark; it plays more like a horror film in some scenes. It is that darkness, however, that makes this movie really cool. Yeah, it really frightened me when I was a young kid, who probably shouldn’t have been able to rent this, but that is what I loved about it. And even though it is a mid-80s testosterone-laced action picture, it holds up really well.

This came out when overusing tropes was frowned upon by serious filmgoers. If this came out today, it would probably be applauded as a great homage to that old action style. I mean, the critics would still probably hate it but there’d be a lot more people accepting of it. And I think that is due to the fact that films like this don’t really exist anymore.

Cobra is just a seriously bad ass movie. Its not a great movie, from an artistic standpoint, but it is great at giving the men of my generation something to pump their fists to.

Rating: 9/10