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.

Film Review: The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (1967)

Release Date: June 30th, 1967
Directed by: Roger Corman
Written by: Howard Browne
Music by: Lionel Newman, Fred Steiner
Cast: Jason Robards, George Segal, Ralph Meeker, Bruce Dern, Jack Nicholson (uncredited), Jean Hale, Jan Merlin, Clint Ritchie, David Canary, Harold J. Stone, Frank Silvera, Joseph Campanella, John Agar, Joseph Turkel, Alex Rocco, Leo Gordon, Dick Miller (uncredited), Jonathan Haze (uncredited), Paul Frees (narrator)

20th Century Fox, 100 Minutes

Review:

“Wanna know something Jack? I like a guy who can use his head for something beside a hatrack!” – Al Capone

This is definitely in the upper echelon of Roger Corman’s motion pictures. Since I hadn’t seen it until now, it was a pleasant surprise and it actually shows how good of a filmmaker he was in spite of his rapid paced productions while doing everything on the cheap.

The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre is one of Corman’s more serious films. There are no monsters, ghosts or sci-fi shenanigans, this is just a gritty, hard-nosed gangster movie that features a damn good cast with Jason Robards at the forefront, as the world’s most famous real life gangster, Al Capone.

The cast also features several Corman regulars like Bruce Dern, Jack Nicholson, Dick Miller, Leo Gordon and Jonathan Haze. Beyond that, we also get a young Alex Rocco, as well as Frank Silvera, Joe Turkel and John Agar. This is a movie full of iconic character actors who benefit greatly from the type of characters this picture needed to make it something special and authentic.

At its core, this really feels like an exploitation picture due to the level of violence in it yet it plays like more serious cinematic art. Now I can’t quite put it on the same level as the first two Godfather films but I’d say that it is actually a lot better and more impressive than the standard gangster films that existed before it. It is also somewhat surprising that this was put out by a major studio, 20th Century Fox, as opposed to being released by Corman’s regular studio at the time, American International Pictures.

Man, I enjoyed this a lot. There are a lot of characters but they’re not hard to keep track of and this moves at such a brisk pace, it’s over before you know it. Also, 100 minutes for Corman is pretty much an epic, as he tends to like that 65-85 minute mark.

I feel as if this is a flick that has been somewhat forgotten and lost to time, as it came out well after the gangster genre peaked and a few years before it made a comeback. It’s weirdly sandwiched between the two greatest eras of the genre and despite it having a hard edge, it’s groundbreaking feats were quickly overshadowed and surpassed by films of the early ’70s like The Godfather and Chinatown.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: other gangster and crime films of the ’60s and ’70s, as well as Roger Corman’s more dramatic work like The Intruder and The Trip.

Comic Review: Stumptown, Vol. 4: The Case of a Cup of Joe

Published: January 25th, 2017
Written by: Greg Rucka
Art by: Justin Greenwood, Ryan Hill

Oni Press, 143 Pages

Review:

This fourth and final volume of Stumptown was definitely a step up from the fairly mundane third chapter. Granted, I still wasn’t as engaged by this story as I was the first two.

The plot here is more interesting than the previous book but there doesn’t feel like there’s any real danger here for the characters, as the heavies in this are inexperienced hipsters from the coffee scene and not legitimate, dangerous criminals and brutes that have actually gotten blood on their hands.

In fact, this felt more like a comedy than a neo-noir crime drama.

Maybe Greg Rucka wanted to go out on a lighter note with this one but it lacks the gravity of the earlier stories and certainly pales in comparison to the darker, grittier and more realistic neo-noir comic book tales by Ed Brubaker.

I didn’t think this was a waste but it didn’t hit the mark and just didn’t pull me in and hold onto me like the first two volumes did.

There’s really not much else to say. This is just about a bunch of rich eccentrics and hipsters trying to acquire some magic coffee beans.

The end.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: the other Stumptown volumes, as well as Gotham CentralKill Or Be Killed, The Fade Out and Sin City.

Film Review: Die Hard With a Vengeance (1995)

Also known as: Die Hard 3, Die Hard: New York, Simon Says (working titles)
Release Date: May 15th, 1995 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: John McTiernan
Written by: Jonathan Hensleigh
Based on: Simon Says by Jonathan Hensleigh, characters by Roderick Thorp
Music by: Michael Kamen
Cast: Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeremy Irons, Graham Greene, Colleen Camp, Larry Bryggman, Sam Phillips

Cinergi Pictures Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox, 128 Minutes

Review:

“Yippie-kai-yay motherfucker.” – John McClane

The original trilogy of Die Hard films might be the greatest trio of action films ever made. While the solid Die Hard brand would become diluted with sequels, over a dozen years later, this third (and once final) film closes out the trilogy with a fucking bang!

This also teams up Bruce Willis with Samuel Jackson, one of the actors he has worked best with over the years due to their chemistry and both men’s energy and charisma. The film also pits them against Jeremy Irons in one of the greatest roles he’s ever played, as the terrorist brother of the first film’s Hans Gruber (played by the great, late Alan Rickman).

Irons’ Simon Gruber isn’t just looking for revenge on Willis’ John McClane, he is also using the opportunity to steal the gold from New York City’s branch of the Federal Reserve. There are a lot of layers to the plot but this film does a great job of telling its story, slowly revealing new layers and twists as it rolls on and escalates from scene-to-scene.

This calls back to the first film, a legitimate masterpiece of the action genre. But it doesn’t just do that by using a villain that is the brother of the original film’s, it also brings back that film’s director, John McTiernan. For those that don’t know, McTiernan is the heavyweight champion of cinematic action storytelling between his two Die Hard films, Predator, The Hunt for Red October and Last Action Hero, which has been unfairly crapped on since it came out. Maybe I’m in the minority but I love that film. We should all ignore his Rollerball remake though.

Anyway, this film is literally a non-stop action bonanza that is able to balance those sequences with a good, layered plot that isn’t predictable and provides some real surprises.

Setting this in the middle of New York City also propels it to a new level of scale when compared to the two films before it. The entire island of Manhattan is the playground for the movie’s villain and it’s incredible watching John McClane and Zeus Carver constantly race against time, rushing from location to location in an effort to prevent as much collateral damage as possible. And the whole time, the game is a ruse to cover up what the criminal’s real plan is. Furthermore, his plan also doesn’t align with all of his allies and that just leads to another great plot shift.

This is a superb movie on every level. While it isn’t on the same level of perfection as the first, it’s pretty damn close and it should satisfy those who have loved other chapters in this five film series. But I would say that this is the last of the great ones.

I’ll review the final two in the near future, as I haven’t seen four since it came out and I’ve never actually seen the fifth in its entirety.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Die Hard movies, as well as other Bruce Willis action films of the era.

Film Review: Twins (1988)

Also known as: The Experiment (working title), Twiins (alternative spelling)
Release Date: December 8th, 1988 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Ivan Reitman
Written by: William Davies, Timothy Harris, William Osborne, Herschel Weingrod
Music by: George Delerue, Randy Edelman
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Danny DeVito, Kelly Preston, Chloe Webb, Bonnie Bartlett, David Caruso, Marshall Bell, Maury Chaykin, Tony Jay, Frances Bay, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Jason Reitman, Catherine Reitman, Heather Graham

Universal Pictures, 107 Minutes

Review:

“My name is Julius and I am your twin brother.” – Julius Benedict, “Oh, obviously! The moment I sat down I thought I was looking into a mirror.” – Vincent Benedict

When Arnold Schwarzenegger was at the absolute top of the action film world, he decided to be in a comedy. At first, that may have seemed crazy. But the end result was this great picture that in my opinion, is a true comedy classic of its era.

Granted, this also had Danny DeVito in it, who never disappoints, and it was directed by Ivan Reitman, who was a great comedy director at his creative peak.

I think this film has actually aged really well too. Sure, it’s definitely a product of the ’80s but it is still a very human story that is carried by the charisma and chemistry of its two stars.

Schwarzenegger and DeVito just felt like a natural pair and even if they aren’t really brothers and don’t look the part, as that’s part of the gag, they just clicked and their connection and relationship felt truly genuine. And maybe Schwarzenegger doesn’t get enough credit as an actor but this allowed him to show his range and he did stupendously well in the role. It’s damn near impossible not to love him in this. And even if DeVito is a shithead for most of the film, you understand why he’s broken and I find it hard not to sympathize with his character and sort of grow into loving him as well.

At its core, this is just a feel good movie and it came out in a time where family dynamics were changing. I think that for a lot of people, it gave them hope that even if their upbringing might not have been the ideal, cookie cutter situation, that maybe, in some way, they could find the people in their life that would become family.

It’s really hard to peg but this is just a film that resonated with me at an early age and it still does. I don’t really think that has to do with nostalgia and for me, at least, it has to do with how good this is top to bottom from the characters, the story and their emotional journey.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other Ivan Reitman comedies.

Comic Review: Judge Dredd: Year One

Published: November 20th, 2013
Written by: Matt Smith
Art by: Simon Coleby, Greg Staples
Based on: Judge Dredd by John Wagner, Carlos Ezquerra and Pat Mills

IDW Publishing, 105 Pages

Review:

This has been in my Comixology queue for awhile, so I figured it was time to give it a read.

Being that this is a Year One story, it focuses on the Judge Dredd character very early in his career. He’s still green, lacks experience and has to rely on his training, his undeveloped skills and the knowledge he gets from his seasoned superiors.

In this story, he has to deal with a strange psychic phenomenon that starts popping up, which gives powers to regular people and in the first part of this story, a group of juvenile delinquents.

The setup is interesting but the story doesn’t do much to capitalize off of that and just sort of falls flat and honestly, isn’t all that exciting or engaging.

I guess the high point for me would be the art. It was pretty good and I liked the tone of the comic. But beyond that, we’re just given an interesting concept that just doesn’t pan out into anything worthwhile.

This isn’t a stinker but it’s certainly forgettable.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: other Judge Dredd stories by IDW.