Film Review: Master Ninja II (1984)

Also known as: The Master (as a TV series), The Ninja Master (original VHS movie release)
Release Date: 1984 (the original run of the TV series)
Directed by: various
Written by: Tom Sawyer, Michael Sloan, Susan Woollen
Music by: Bill Conti
Cast: Lee Van Cleef, Timothy Van Patten, Sho Kosugi, George Lazenby, Crystal Bernard

Michael Sloan Productions, Viacom, CBS, 88 Minutes

Review:

“Sorry, I’m not allowed to serve you.” – nervous waitress

Well, Mystery Science Theater 3000 couldn’t just give us one Master Ninja, they had to give us two. They were actually going to do a third one in a later season but it got cut from the production schedule.

Like the previous “film” in this series, this is just two television episodes of the short-lived show The Master, edited together into feature length and sold as a movie.

As these things go, it is horribly paced and doesn’t work all that well. In fact, this has poorer execution than the first chapter in the series.

I think the first film worked better because it was the start of the series and it helped setup everything. It was a jumbled mess of a thing but it seemed more coherent than this one and it also had Demi Moore in it, just before she reached superstardom.

This one has Crystal Bernard and even adds George Lazenby, a former James Bond, to the mix but it’s pretty uninteresting and very mundane.

The high point of the film is the big action climax at the end but that’s still pretty damn mediocre. This show did pull off some solid stunts though, so there’s that. But when your big action sequence is punctuated by a van smashing through a dainty gate in slow motion, you might need to go back to the drawing board and up the octane.

The Master isn’t a great show but it plays better as single episodes, as opposed to trying to convince audiences with short attention spans that these are actual movies.

But hey, There’s some motocross in this one!

Rating: 4.25/10
Pairs well with: Master Ninja I and The Master TV series.

TV Review: The Gifted (2017- )

Original Run: October 2nd, 2017 – current
Created by: Matt Nix
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: characters by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
Music by: John Ottman, David Buckley
Cast: Stephen Moyer, Amy Acker, Sean Teale, Natalie Alyn Lind, Percy Hynes White, Coby Bell, Jamie Chung, Blair Redford, Emma Dumont, Skyler Samuels, Grace Byers, Garret Dillahunt

Flying Glass of Milk Productions, The Donners’ Company, Bad Hat Harry Productions, Kinberg Genre, Marvel Television, 20th Century Fox Television, 13 Episodes (so far), 45-47 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I’m way behind on a lot of shows, especially the superhero stuff but I finally got around to checking out the first season of The Gifted.

This takes place in the X-Men cinematic universe but at the same time it doesn’t. What I mean by that is that this all happens in a different timeline, where the X-Men have essentially vanished and left some young mutants in charge of a group called the Mutant Underground.

The show centers around Stephen Moyer a.k.a. Vampire Bill from True Blood and his family. His two teenage kids are mutants and they are on the run from the Sentinel Services agency and later, Trask Industries.

The only really well known X-Men characters in this are Polaris, Thunderbird and Blink. Other than that, there are some minor comic book characters that show up but the majority of the main cast is comprised of new mutants and thus, this show has more creative freedom.

While this show does do a good job of filling out it’s pocket universe, it doesn’t necessarily feel like the X-Men films that most of us know and love. But it also doesn’t feel like other comic book television shows that are currently on the air. This definitely has a different vibe than the CW DC programs or the Netflix Marvel ones. This is also more family friendly than the harder stuff out there like Gotham.

The first season told a really good story that came to a satisfying conclusion that actually made me want to jump right in to season two, as it leaves off on a bit of a cliffhanger due to the non-heroic actions of one of the main heroes.

This started out a bit shaky for me though. But being that it was only thirteen episodes, I stuck with it and I’m glad I did. It found it’s footing faster than most other comic book TV series and it got really solid over the back half of the season.

I especially loved Garret Dillahunt in this and as his character’s motivations become more clear, the threat gets a lot more serious for the heroes.

All in all, I was pretty happy with season one and gladly anticipate what season two has to offer.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: Other recent Marvel shows: LegionThe Runaways and Cloak & Dagger.

Film Review: Superman II (1980)

Release Date: December 4th, 1980 (Australia)
Directed by: Richard Lester, Richard Donner (uncredited)
Written by: Mario Puzo, David Newman, Leslie Newman
Based on: Superman by Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster
Music by: Ken Thorne
Cast: Gene Hackman, Christopher Reeve, Ned Beatty, Jackie Cooper, Margot Kidder, Valerie Perrine, Terence Stamp, Susannah York, Jack O’Halloran, Marc McClure, Sarah Douglas, Marlon Brando (appears only in the Richard Donner Cut)

Film Export A.G., Dovemead Limited, International Film Productions, Warner Bros., 127 Minutes (original cut), 116 Minutes (Richard Donner Cut)

Review:

“Come to me, son of Jor-El, kneel before Zod!” – General Zod

In all honesty, I like Superman and Superman II just about the same. II gets a bit of an edge though just because I like the story better and the threat in the film is a credible threat, as it pits Superman against an adversary that matches his power level.

While I love Lex Luthor, the character, and I also love the mind versus might rivalry, the Gene Hackman version of the character just doesn’t hit the right mark. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Hackman and his character in these movies but he doesn’t feel like the Lex of the comics I grew up with. He is to Luthor what Cesar Romero was to the Joker. He’s damn entertaining and enjoyable but he’s lacking the darkness that’s needed to truly be villainous.

General Zod, however, is an incredible opponent. He was created for this film series but he was so damn good that he would go on to be in the comics. Terence Stamp really brought some much needed testosterone to the table and his minions, played by Sarah Douglas and Jack O’Halloran, were pretty cool villains as well. Man, I was crushing hard on Sarah Douglas when I was a kid.

I also really liked the romance in this movie and usually I don’t care about that crap in these sort of films. I just like how Clark and Lois’ relationship blossomed and how it was really tested and pushed Superman into having to make an incredibly hard decision, which he then had to try and fix because saving the world is his destiny, even if that means he can’t love a human. Yeah, the story around this was actually weird and nonsensical but the point of it and the challenge made me accept it.

Getting back to Lex Luthor though, his role in this film seemed pretty pointless. Once again, he was the top billed star but it’s like they had nothing for him to do. He breaks out of prison, leaves poor Otis behind, breaks into Superman’s house and then aligns himself with Zod, who didn’t need Luthor’s help at all, let’s be honest. Luthor is just sort of wedged into the film just because they had to have a name as big as Gene Hackman’s, after Marlon Brando’s Jor-El was killed off in the first picture. I should note that Brando did film footage for the film but he wanted more money than the producers were willing to pay, so it was edited out of the final cut. He does appear in the Richard Donner cut of the film though.

This chapter in the Superman movie saga is a great extension of what the first movie was. Really, they just feel like two halves of a whole. The movies did a lot of their filming simultaneously because the producers knew there would be a sequel. Some of the filming on II got put on hold though, as it was holding up the production of I and the studio wanted to make sure it wasn’t going to miss its Christmas time release. There was a lot of conflict, behind the scenes, and Richard Donner was fired after directing most of II. He wasn’t given credit for his work and Richard Lester took over. Lester would also go on to direct the terrible Superman III, showing that he wasn’t as skilled as Donner. On a side note, the Richard Donner Cut was released years later, which most people seem to enjoy more.

Despite the backstage politics, this still ended up being my favorite film in the franchise.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: Superman: The Movie, the 1980 Flash Gordon.

Comic Review: Preacher: Crusaders

Published: October 31st, 1996 – March 31st, 1997
Written by: Garth Ennis
Art by: Steve Dillon, Glenn Fabry (covers)

Vertigo Comics, 156 Pages

Review:

Since I just finished Preacher‘s third season, I am really happy because the show is in a spot that I remember really fondly from the comics: the six-part Crusaders story arc.

No longer owning the Preacher comics I had in the ’90s, as they were lost somewhere along the years and after several moves, I had to round up these issues again. Luckily, my local comic shop had all six issues and in pristine condition, I might add.

It was great revisiting this series and if you haven’t read the comics but are a fan of the show, you can jump right into this story and know where you are. It has some of the stuff from the back end of season three in it and it also goes into what I assume will be the early parts of season four. Ultimately, this is just a badass chapter in the long epic that is this superb series.

Cassidy, the vampire, is captured by Herr Starr and his minions. Jesse has to leave Tulip behind as he goes on an insane mission to rescue Cassidy from The Grail’s fortress. We meet the Allfather, get to learn about the angel that is imprisoned with Cassidy (seen in the season three finale of the show), get some awesome action when the Saint of Killers takes on The Grail in their stronghold and get to see Starr in all his evil greatness.

As much as I like the show, I still love the comic and this just made me realize that I need to give the entire series a revisit.

Garth Ennis was on his A-game here but any fan of comics from the ’90s knows about how great this series was. Steve Dillon’s art still looks incredible and frankly, I wish more comic books had even half of the style that Dillon did here. I also love the Glenn Fabry covers and some of them have become so iconic over time that I may frame a few of these issues.

Preacher is an exceptionally great comic book. Even with a television show, there are just too many people that haven’t delved into the source material. It’s fucked up, twisted and delightful.

For fans of the series, this arc is a high point and ’90s comic book perfection.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: The other Preacher stuff, as well as ’90s Spawn and Garth Ennis’ run on Shadowman.

Film Review: The Locket (1946)

Also known as: What Nancy Wanted (working title)
Release Date: December 20th, 1946
Directed by: Jason Brahm
Written by: Sheridan Gibney
Music by: Roy Webb
Cast: Laraine Day, Brian Aherne, Robert Mitchum, Gene Raymond

RKO Radio Pictures, 85 Minutes

Review:

“Okay… you be the dropper, I’ll be the deer!” – Nancy Monks Blair Patton

There are two things I really like: classic film-noir and Robert Mitchum. When you put these two things together and under the banner of RKO Radio Pictures, you can bet that I’ll be interested in seeing it.

However, while this is noir, it isn’t my cup of tea.

The story is about a woman who has been married multiple times, has a very checkered past and is just pretty damn shady, in general.

The film plays out showing her life’s story but primarily focusing on her many relationships and how she is a self-absorbed narcissist that doesn’t much care for the wreckage she causes. A real femme fatale but not as cool as most of the other femme fatales from her day. Although, Laraine Day is incredibly beautiful and her charm is effective. Her character just comes off as fairly generic and that’s probably got more to do with the writing and direction than Day’s skill as an actress.

This film is just fairly boring for its subject matter and these stories have been done much better.

The film’s style is noir-esque but lacking in style. There are some good shots and framing in the picture but nothing seems like it fits the great detail and noir aesthetic that was synonymous with RKO’s other pictures in the genre. Everything is just pretty standard and pedestrian and this looks more like a noir picture from Poverty Row than one from a major studio, let alone one that specializes in the style.

The Locket is still an okay watch. To the layman, it will probably be boring but to someone who has invested a lot of time in the film-noir style, it was worth my time and I enjoyed it regardless of what I felt it lacked.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: When Strangers Marry, The Racket, Undercurrent, Angel Face, The Big Steal and My Forbidden Past.

TV Review: Fear the Walking Dead (2015- )

Original Run: August 23rd, 2015 – current
Created by: Robert Kirkman, Dave Erickson
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman
Music by: Atticus Ross, Paul Haslinger, Danny Bessi, Saunder Jurriaans
Cast: Kim Dickens, Cliff Curtis, Frank Dillane, Alycia Debnam-Carey, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Mercedes Mason, Lorenzo James Henrie, Rubén Blades, Colman Domingo, Michelle Ang, Danay García, Daniel Sharman, Sam Underwood, Dayton Callie, Lisandra Tena, Maggie Grace, Garret Dillahunt, Lennie James, Jenna Elfman

Square Head Pictures, Circle of Confusion, Skybound Entertainment, Valhalla Entertainment, AMC, 48 Episodes (so far), 43-65 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

The Walking Dead really didn’t need of a spinoff. But as these things go, when you’ve got a cash cow, you’ve got to milk it until the teets come off.

What made this spinoff intriguing, however, was that it started when the zombie outbreak started. In The Walking Dead, we follow Rick Grimes, as he wakes up from a coma and enters a zombie infested world, months after the outbreak. Fear the Walking Dead starts on any given normal day and then the shit hits the fan. The first season shows society crumbling and how the main characters respond to it.

That rookie season was good but a somewhat unsatisfying origin story for The Walking Dead world. But once the show moved beyond the initial chaos, it got more interesting.

The sophomore season was broken into two halves, like a typical season of The Walking Dead. This show would follow that formula going forward. And while that season was a bit rocky, it found it’s footing in the second half, once our characters got off of the boat they lived on for eight episodes.

Season three switched things up quite a bit and by this point, a lot of the main characters were already wiped out.

But season four, the current season, is where the show really reinvented itself in a bold way. By the time you get through the first half of the season, only one person from the pilot episode is still alive. Additionally, Morgan from The Walking Dead comes on the show, officially crossing over, connecting this show directly to the events of the more popular parent show.

The fourth season also brings in a bunch of new and interesting characters and to be honest, it’s a completely different animal than what Fear was when it started out.

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with this show, which I have also had with the regular Walking Dead series, but it’s moving in a really cool direction.

It’s hard to tell where this will end up but I find it to be the more enjoyable of the two shows, right now. But being that this is The Walking Dead, that could change at the drop of a hat.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: The Walking DeadDeadwoodSons of Anarchy and Hell On Wheels.

 

Film Review: Master Ninja I (1984)

Also known as: The Master (as a TV series), The Ninja Master (original VHS movie release)
Release Date: 1984 (the original run of the TV series)
Directed by: various
Written by: Tom Sawyer, Michael Sloan, Susan Woollen
Music by: Bill Conti
Cast: Lee Van Cleef, Timothy Van Patten, Sho Kosugi, Demi Moore, Claude Akins, Clu Gulager

Michael Sloan Productions, Viacom, CBS, 88 Minutes

Review:

“Don’t worry, I won’t leave this bar through the window.” – Max Keller

This isn’t really a movie but it was treated as such when it was lampooned on Mystery Science Theater 3000. This is actually just two episodes of the television show The Master edited into a feature length format and presented as a film to the VHS market circa 1984. The show bombed and only lasted thirteen episodes.

This film version of episoides 1 and 2 doesn’t have a good flow to it. Usually when episodes are diced up and made into “movies” like this, the result is always pretty piss poor.

The thing is, I vaguely remember seeing the show when I was a kid and I kind of liked it. I was five when this came out though and I probably didn’t actually see it till I was like seven or eight but I thought it was sort of cool for the time.

Really though, it’s not a good show by any stretch of the imagination. It works if you are into televised ’80s action cheese. It certainly isn’t horrible but it’s shoddily produced with glaring flaws but it’s got Lee Van Cleef and Sho Kosugi in it, so it’s overflowing in manliness points.

It’d be easy to hate on this, especially in this butchered up format but I’m someone that loves ’80s ninja shit and that’s exactly what this is, even if it’s highly diluted for general audiences. It’s no Revenge of the Ninja or American Ninja but it still firmly represents the ’80s ninja craze with gusto.

The stunts are pretty good in a lot of scenes though.

Rating: 4.75/10
Pairs well with: Master Ninja II and The Master TV series.