Film Review: Berserk – The Golden Age Arc Trilogy (2012-2013)

Release Date: Part I: ….ber ..th, 2012; Part II: ….ber ..th, 2012; Part III: ….ber ..th, 2013
Directed by: Toshiyuki Kubooka
Written by: Ichiro Okouchi
Based on: Berserk by Kentaro Miura
Music by: Shiro Sagisu, Susumu Hirasawa
Cast: Hiroaki Iwanaga, Takahiro Sakurai, Toa Yukinari, Marc Diraison, Kevin T. Collins, Carrie Keranen

Studio 4°C, Madman Entertainment, Viz Media, Kazé UK, Lucent Pictures, 76 Minutes (Part I), 91 Minutes (Part II), 107 Minutes (Part III)

Review:

“Heed my words, Struggler. Soon a rain of blood, the likes of which you cannot imagine, shall fall down upon you. It will be a storm of death. But take heed, Struggler. Struggle, endure, contend. For that alone is the sword of one who defies death. Do not forget these words.” – Skull Knight

Since I watched the anime television series that served as a sequel to this first, I had a very different perspective going into this trilogy of anime films.

Being that I knew where these characters would end up, actually made me a lot more interested in how they got there, which is a place very far from where they start at the beginning of the first movie in this trilogy.

I also now have all the context regarding the three main characters in these films and it’s made me want to go back and watch the anime series again, as I think it’ll have even more of an impact.

I guess whatever order you watch these in is up to you and you probably should watch the animated Berserk material in order. If you’d prefer to do it that way, you should start with the original animated series from the late ’90s, which I actually haven’t seen yet. But I’m going to watch it in the next week or two, coming off of the high of this.

As far as these three films go, they’re pretty fucking exceptional.

The story and the relationships of the three main characters is what made this so great. A lot happens in these three films and by the end of them, you’re left exhausted and emotionally overloaded. And to be honest, I didn’t expect this to end with such an emotional punch to the gut.

It’s fucked up, tragic and you find yourself pretty fucking angry over what a particular character ends up doing to those you assumed he loved. Especially, after everything they went through together over a pretty long passage of time.

The animation is also pretty damn stellar. Overall, this looks better than the show that followed it.

As these three films rolled on, I wasn’t sure how all of this would pan out and whether or not there’d be a grand, worthwhile payoff. This exceeded any expectations I could have had for it and from my perspective, I’d call the entire body of work a masterpiece.

Rating: 10/10

Comic Review: Justice Society of America, Vol. 1: The Next Age

Published: June 24th, 2014
Written by: Geoff Johns
Art by: Dale Eaglesham

DC Comics, 128 Pages

Review:

After watching the first season of Stargirl on HBO Max, I figured that I’d give some of her more notable comics a read. Being that I really like Justice Society stuff and hadn’t read any in quite awhile, I figured I’d start with this.

The story starts with old Justice Society members trying to recruit new heroes, most of whom are descendants of previous members and have inherited their powers.

Because of that, Vandal Savage is using a team of Nazi supervillains to kill superheroes and their families in an effort to snuff out these bloodlines. However, he doesn’t see the bigger picture, which reveals itself by the end of this short story arc.

I’m a fan of Geoff Johns and dig so much of his DC Comics work. His Green Lantern run brought me back to comics on the DC side after a hiatus of about a decade, back in the mid-’00s.

Keeping with Johns’ style, this was a hell of a lot of fun to read and he once again showed that he’s really good at balancing a large ensemble of characters and letting them all develop and grow, despite having limited time to focus on each one.

This was an energetic and cool comic.

Frankly, I liked it enough to buy the next three volumes to read in the very near future.

Rating: 8/10

Film Review: The Scorpion King (2002)

Release Date: April 15th, 2002 (Netherlands – Fantastic Film Festival)
Directed by: Chuck Russell
Written by: Stephen Sommers, William Osborne, David Hayter, Jonathan Hales
Music by: John Debney
Cast: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Steven Brand, Kelly Hu, Bernard Hill, Grant Heslov, Peter Facinelli, Michael Clarke Duncan, Tyler Mane (uncredited)

BT Film, Alphaville Films, Universal Pictures, 92 Minutes

Review:

“Let me tell you, after a hard day of looting and pillaging, there is no greater city than Gomorrah… except maybe Sodom.” – Arpid

This was the first ’90s Mummy-related movie that I didn’t see in theaters and that’s mainly because it just didn’t interest me, even though I love The Rock and I love sword and sorcery flicks.

I was just turned off from how bad the Scorpion King character was presented at the end of The Mummy Returns and the trailers for this looked terrible.

Visually, I thought that this looked more like a TV production that had more in common with The Beastmaster TV show than something epic and cool like 1982’s Conan the Barbarian or the original and awesome Beastmaster movie.

I wasn’t wrong, as the finished product does feel like a television level production and that’s just one problem with it.

Beyond that, the story is cookie cutter shit. You never care about any of the characters or their situations in the film and that’s kind of an amazing feat, as Dawyne “The Rock” Johnson is one of the most charismatic people on the entire f’n planet. But somehow, this made him come off as boring and uninteresting.

I also never liked Steven Brand as the villain, as he just didn’t look like a guy that could remotely be a threat to The Rock. In the movie, his character is smaller and he’s just a dude that’s really good with swords.

I truly wish that this would’ve been The Rock’s Conan and that we’d get sword and sorcery movies with him in it every few years. However, this is a dud in every way.

But hey, at least it was better than that third Mummy movie.

Rating: 4.5/10

Comic Review: Thor: The Deviants Saga

Published: July 25th, 2012
Written by: Robert Rodi
Art by: Stephen Segovia

Marvel Comics, 114 Pages

Review:

I missed this back when it came out but I looked forward to reading it, as I loved the original Thor and Eternals mega-event from the ’70s and because this came out on the heels of a great Thor run by J. Michael Straczynski (reviewed here).

However, I was pretty underwhelmed by this and even though it featured a pretty cool battle or two, the story had really disjointed pacing.

Sometimes this dragged and then sometimes it felt rushed.

It’s not a bad story and I did enjoy it for the most part but it also seems pretty forgettable and lacks the impact that previous Thor/Eternals stories have had.

This also features Ka-Zar, which was cool, as I enjoy that character, but it just seemed like a glorified cameo the writer wanted to work in.

The art in this is really good and it represents a time when Marvel was still giving work to the best artists out there. Tonally, it felt like everything else that branched out of the Straczynski run.

All in all, if you’re actually an Eternals fan, this isn’t a bad read and considering there isn’t a lot of Eternals material, compared to other Marvel heroes and teams, I guess you take what you can. Although, the important Eternals don’t even show up until the end.

Rating: 6/10

Book Review: ‘Indiana Jones and the Sky Pirates’ by Martin Caidin

I got halfway through the ’90s Indiana Jones novels and decided to take a break. All of those were written by the same author, however, the final six are split between two authors. So I’m not sure if I’m just going to plow through all six or if I’ll take another break between the next author switch.

This one was… weird.

It doesn’t seem like the author really understands who Indiana Jones is. He’s an archeologist and explorer that more often than not finds himself in perilous situations with villains and evil armies usually hunting the same thing for nefarious reasons. He doesn’t ask the Nazis to show up but he’ll fight them long enough to get the MacGuffin away from their evil clutches.

In this book, Indy is written more like he’s James Bond. He is essentially recruited by world leaders to take down an evil international terrorist group called E.V.I.L. What?!

These villains have these airships that are pissing off the governments of the world. This also delves into discussion about aliens and ancient UFOs. Nothing really comes of that but sure, okay.

Keep in mind that the world governments all apparently know of Dr. Jones and that this story takes place before the plots of the movies.

Overall, this is just a strange fucking book that doesn’t even seem to care that much about the source material while overloading the reader with a bloated, convoluted mess that’s, at times, hard to follow.

Up to this point, this is the worst book of the lot. If the next one isn’t a massive improvement, I may take an even longer break from this series.

Rating: 4/10

Film Review: The Rescuers (1977)

Also known as: Bernard and Bianca (alternative title)
Release Date: June 19th, 1977 (Washington DC premiere)
Directed by: Wolfgang Reitherman, John Lounsbery, Art Stevens
Written by: Larry Clemmons, Vance Gerry, Ken Anderson, Frank Thomas, Burny Mattinson, Fred Lucky, Dick Sebast, David Michener, Ted Berman
Based on: The Rescuers and Miss Bianca by Margery Sharp
Music by: Artie Butler
Cast: Bob Newhart, Eva Gabor, Joe Flynn, Geraldine Page

Walt Disney Animation Studios, Walt Disney Productions, 78 Minutes

Review:

“Poor Evinrude. Your carburetor is all pooped out.” – Miss Bianca

The Rescuers was a movie I watched a hell of a lot as a kid. It came out before I was born but my uncle that had access to things gave me a copy, I think before it was even commercially available on VHS tape. I was young, details are murky.

Anyway, I guess this was immensely popular, even though I feel like it’s been forgotten today. In fact, Chip & Dale: Rescue Rangers originally started out as a Rescuers show. It was changed once The Rescuers were given a theatrical sequel film, being the first and only Disney animated feature of the old hand-drawn style to receive a theatrical sequel. There would end up being many sequels for various Disney films after that, however, except those were always straight-to-video.

Staying focused on this film, however, it still plays well and I think it’s aged tremendously and represents an era of Disney that is too often overlooked and underappreciated.

The Rescuers is also kind of a dark film, even if it is kid friendly. It deals with dark subject matter and a fairly realistic, truly evil woman as its villain.

However, most of the characters are cute animals, so that helps keep the movie from going too deeply into darkness.

I love the characters in this, though, specifically the mice Bernard and Miss Bianca. I think it also helps that they were voiced by the great Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor, who already had voicework experience from The Aristocats.

The story is about a kidnapped orphan, an evil woman obsessed with a mythical diamond and how these two mice are on the search for the little girl and ultimately, have to take down the villainess.

I really liked the setting of the film being the bayou. It gave it a very unique look and style and it also provided the right type of place for those two villainous alligators to thrive. I always loved the alligators as a kid but I also grew up on the edge of the Everglades, which isn’t too dissimilar from the bayou.

The Rescuers is still an entertaining movie and my second favorite of the ’70s Disney animated features after Robin Hood.

Rating: 8/10

TV Review: Stargirl (2020- )

Original Run: May 18th, 2020 – current
Created by: Geoff Johns
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: Courtney Whitmore by Geoff Johns, Lee Moder
Music by: Pinar Toprak
Cast: Brec Bassinger, Yvette Monreal, Anjelika Washington, Cameron Gellman, Trae Romano, Jake Austin Walker, Meg DeLacy, Neil Jackson, Christopher James Baker, Amy Smart, Luke Wilson, Hunter Sansone, Nick Tarabay

Berlanti Productions, Mad Ghost Productions, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Television Studios, DC Universe, The CW, 26 Episodes (so far), 42-53 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

So this show starts off fantastically! The opening sequence is pretty damn incredible and really fucking cool! Branching off of that, this has some cool villains it throws at you from the get go and you’re immediately invested in the story.

Beyond that, the show is a rollercoaster ride of highs and lows, not really sure what it even is and not really able to find its footing before the end of the thirteen episode first season.

For the positives, I really like Luke Wilson in this and Amy Smart is pretty good too but she also doesn’t get to do much in the first season, which I hope changes somewhat going into seasons two and three. And while season two has already aired, it’s not on HBO Max yet, so I haven’t seen it.

The other adult actors are all pretty good in this too, even if they have to often times embrace the cheese in the way these Greg Berlanti DC Comics shows embrace the cheese.

I thought some of the villains were actually exceptional and legitimately awesome. I especially loved Dragon King, who looked like Cobra Commander if he were leading Hydra instead of Cobra. His costume was outstanding and he was intimidating, specifically in the scene where he has to knock his asshole daughter back down to Earth.

I also love the S.T.R.I.P.E. suit, which is basically a badass mecha that Luke Wilson pilots in battle. It resembles a patriotic Iron Giant.

Beyond all that comes the problems with the show.

The teen characters are all pretty annoying at times and Stargirl comes across as a reckless idiot until she learns some hard lessons. They all just seem one-dimensional and basic and that’s not necessarily a problem with the actors, as much as it’s a problem with the writing, directing and overall production.

Each teen is simply a trope or caricature. Now I hope that they get to build off of these basic templates but none of them get the time they need to really develop, except for Stargirl and to a certain extent, the villain teen Shiv.

The girl who plays Doctor Mid-Nite II is there to be the obvious “heart and soul” of the team, as she lacks powers and is just kind of stuck in the middle of all this. The problem is that she never really connects with the audience and she’s written to be annoying as hell, which wasn’t what they intended. I don’t blame the actress, I blame the lame material. In fact, she is somewhat charismatic and you kind of want her to develop into something but every time you start to dig her, she does something irritating.

The boy who plays Hourman II is also someone you kind of want to cheer for but then he acts like a total ass at the wrong moments.

Now maybe this is the writers trying to express these newfound heroes lack of experience in life and crimefighting but it’s just bad and there is a lot of awkwardness that doesn’t jive right.

Also, this takes place in Nebraska. The high school of this small town is incredibly diverse for a state that has 87 percent white people. Granted, I don’t care that much, as this is the norm in entertainment, but it’s just blatantly obvious Hollywood bullshit.

Additionally, Stargirl has never been a fighter but by the end of just thirteen episodes, she’s kicking the shit out of ninjas that have probably trained their whole lives. Also, Wildcat is basically a ninja but all she does is get angry and hit a punching bag. You never see her actually spar with opponents or have Catwoman-like reflexes and agility. It’s this type of shit that really turns me off about modern “nerd” entertainment. Where’s the struggle? The hero’s real journey?

At least this show allows its female hero to fail, pick herself up and learn from those mistakes, though. So that’s at least a step forward when compared to the brainless storytelling of modern Hollywood.

In the end, I mostly liked this. I want the show to be good. I feel like it’ll probably lean to much into its negatives, though, as just about everything else does these days.

If my opinion drastically changes one way or another after seeing season two, I’ll update this review and the score.

Rating: 6.25/10

Film Review: The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008)

Also known as: The Mummy 3 (informal title), Untitled Rick O’Connell Adventure, The Mummy 3: Curse of the Dragon (working titles)
Release Date: July 24th, 2008 (Moscow premiere)
Directed by: Rob Cohen
Written by: Alfred Gough, Miles Millar
Based on: characters by Stephen Sommers, Lloyd Fonvielle, Kevin Jarre
Music by: Randy Edleman
Cast: Brendan Fraser, John Hannah, Jet Li, Maria Bello, Russell Wong, Liam Cunningham, Luke Ford, Isabella Leong, Michelle Yeoh

The Sommers Company, Relativity Media, Universal Pictures, 112 Minutes

Review:

“I hate mummies! They never play fair!” – John Carnahan

Fuck me. This was damn near unwatchable and getting through it was a hell of a challenge. But I wanted to complete the trilogy for the sake of reviewing them all.

This was so bad and weird that Rachel Weisz passed on it after reading the script and not wanting to play mother to a twenty-two year-old son. I guess Brendan Fraser came back after they threw like fourteen million dollars at him.

The only other returning cast member from previous films was John Hannah.

Somehow, Rick O’Connell has a kid that’s in his twenties, even though Rick looks the same as he did in the previous two movies. If you remember, the son was like seven years-old in the previous film and he wasn’t even born yet in the one before that. But whatever.

This time Evie is played by Maria Bello. Generally, I like Maria Bello but man was she poorly cast for this role. She doesn’t look like Evie, doesn’t act like her and it just breaks the movie. It’s a situation where the film would’ve been better off having the character omitted, whether that came from being an offscreen death or divorce.

In this story, the heroes go to China and we get a new mummy played by Jet Li. I hope Li got a fat paycheck too because this utilized him poorly.

Additionally, the special effects seem like they’re worse than they were in the previous movies.

Man, this just shouldn’t have been made. It’s absolute shit and I probably would’ve hated it more had I seen it in the theater back in 2008.

At least now, I can say that I’ve seen it, reviewed it and can go on to forget it.

Rating: 3.75/10

Comic Review: Daredevil – Epic Collection: A Touch of Typhoid

Published: January 13th, 2016
Written by: Ann Nocenti, Mike Baron, Fabian Nicieza
Art by: John Romita Jr., Ron Lim, Steve Ditko, Whilce Portacio

Marvel Comics, 465 Pages

Review:

The first issue of Daredevil that I ever picked up came from his stretch, collected here. This also covers about the first half of Ann Nocenti’s incredible Daredevil run. A run that sold me on the hero and made his comics ones that I would pickup monthly for years.

Other than the Typhoid Mary-centered issues, this is the first time that I’ve really reread Nocenti’s Daredevil material since the late ’80s/early ’90s.

Overall, this era is fucking great and if I’m being honest, I actually like it on the same level, if not more, than the Frank Miller era before it. While this can read lighter than Miller’s run, it still gets really damn dark and stays true to the core of what Daredevil became because of Miller.

What makes this even better and also keeps the tone right is the art by John Romita Jr. Even though I didn’t know it in 1989, when I first got hooked, Nocenti and Romita Jr. were one of the best creative duos of the time and certainly a better combination of writer and artist than Marvel has put together in modern times.

In my opinion, this is still Romita Jr.’s best work and the legacy he should hang his hat on. And yes, I say that knowing that he still works, today.

As far as the stories go, this starts with the debut of Typhoid Mary, which I’ve reviewed on its own (see here), but it also goes into some follow up stories with her character. This also happens during the major Inferno crossover event and sees Daredevil tie-up with demons and even Mephisto. In fact, the Mephisto-centric issue is one of the greatest Christmas comics ever produced.

This is just great. It’s one of the best stretches of my favorite comic book series. Revisiting it now didn’t leave me disappointed.

Rating: 9/10

Book Review: ‘Stormbringer’: Book Six of the Elric Saga’ by Michael Moorcock

While this isn’t the last of the Elric of Melniboné novels, it is the final one in the six-part Elric Saga. And with that, this is a pretty intense and satisfying finale.

I’ve enjoyed these books pretty f’n thoroughly. After spending the better part of a year reading through everything by Robert E. Howard I could get my hands on, switching over to Michael Moorcock’s stories of a hero that is essentially, Conan in reverse, was also a great experience. I do plan on reading more Elric books, as well as other non-Elric works by Moorcock.

As for this tale, I thought that it was the best since the first book. This is also the thickest of the series. But this is also because a lot happens here and this is the culmination of everything that has happened before it. Because it’s the last in the series, I don’t want to spoil any of the key details.

I will say that it packs a punch, wraps some things up pretty well and ultimately, leaves you sad that the “saga” is over while being very hungry for more.

Moorcock’s prose, as I’ve mentioned before, is just incredible and there’s almost this extra layer of confidence and familiarity in his writing, here, that it takes this to another level.

In the end, all I can do is hope that more people check out Moorcock’s work, especially the books in the Elric Saga.

Rating: 8.75/10