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: Judge Dredd (1995)

Also known as: Dredd (Slovania)
Release Date: June 30th, 1995
Directed by: Danny Cannon
Written by: William Wisher Jr., Steven E. de Souza, Michael De Luca
Based on: Judge Dredd by John Wagner, Carlos Ezquerra
Music by: Alan Silvestri
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Armand Assante, Diane Lane, Rob Schneider, Joan Chen, Jürgen Prochnow, Max von Sydow, Balthazar Getty, Scott Wilson, Ewen Bremmer, James Remar (uncredited), James Earl Jones (narrator)

Hollywood Pictures, Cinergi Pictures, Edward R. Pressman Film Corporation, Buena Vista Pictures, 96 Minutes

Review:

“I am the law!” – Judge Dredd

I was itching to watch the 2012 Dredd movie, once again. However, I figured that I’d revisit this adaptation first, as I hadn’t seen it since 1995.

Back then I thought it was pretty terrible. 24 years later, it still isn’t great but I appreciate it a bit more.

This movie is stupid, mindless and a total mess. However, it’s a hell of a lot of fun and just wacky enough to have some value.

Stallone is certainly enjoyable in this, as he hams it up big time and really embraces the insanity of what this picture is. But he had to know that it wasn’t going to be good once he got on set.

It had a post-apocalyptic feel that is typical of ’90s action sci-fi but man, this thing looks cheap. There are some good sets and big areas but there’s also a lot of shoddy green screen work that looks terrible when compared to the modern standard or really, the standard just a few years after this movie came out. I get that the production was limited by its resources but they were employing some techniques that were already outdated by the time 1995 rolled around.

One problem with the film is that the story is kind of incoherent and it felt like they didn’t have much of a script and just a sort of outline of the scenes. It feels like they’re just winging it and trying to make it work. Yes, I know there was an actual script but it doesn’t seem like it was fine tuned, it’s more like an early draft with some ideas for scenes stapled together.

This surprisingly had a pretty interesting cast between Stallone, Diane Lane, Rob Schneider, Armand Assante, Joan Chen, Max von Sydow, Balthazar Getty, Ewen Bremmer, James Remar, Scott Wilson and narration by James Earl Jones. But seriously, did Lane read this script before singing on? She just feels out of place, not because she isn’t a capable actress, she’s damn good, but because she’s just an odd choice to play a female Judge and she felt like she was above the rest of the film. Granted, I still liked her in it, she just stuck out like a sore thumb because she’s Diane f’n Lane. It’d be like having ’90s Julia Roberts in Double Dragon.

The only thing going for this is that it is a ham festival and pretty fun. It’s really dated and a big ’90s cliche but that kind of makes it lovable all these years later.

Also, I really like the chemistry between Stallone and Schneider, which we also got to experience in Demolition Man.

Overall, not a good movie but it is still a rather entertaining one for fans of ’90s cheese and action sci-fi.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: Demolition ManRobocopHardware and it’s much better reboot, Dredd.

TV Review: Black Lightning (2018- )

Original Run: January 16th, 2018 – present
Developed by: Salim Akil
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Kurt Farquhar
Cast: Cress Williams, China Anne McClain, Nafessa Williams, Christine Adams, Marvin “Krondon” Jones III, Damon Gupton, James Remar

Akil Productions, Berlanti Productions, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros., 13 Episodes (so far), 42 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I wasn’t sure what I thought about Black Lightning over the first couple of episodes but as the first season rolled on, I grew to like it.

It’s a CW show, so it is guaranteed to come with a certain level of cheesiness. However, this isn’t bogged down by the cheesy nonsense like The FlashSupergirlLegends of Tomorrow and sometimes Arrow is.

While the show does have some romance and it focuses on a family dynamic, it doesn’t beat you over the head with love dovey sentiment, it feels genuine and the love shared between characters is more organic than what we’ve seen from the other CW superhero shows. That doesn’t mean that it won’t get cheesy, as it continues into the future.

I really like Cress Williams as Jefferson Pierce a.k.a. Black Lightning. It’s like he was born for the role and he plays both the man and the hero, exceptionally well. I’m also a massive fan of Krondon’s Tobias Whale, as the character is fleshed out better than his comic book counterpart, who I always just saw as a poor man’s Kingpin.

The one person I absolutely love on this though is James Remar. He plays Black Lightning’s mentor and partner, even if there is a lot of tension that develops between the two. Ultimately, he is a part of the family and he is there to fight the good fight when the chips are down. I loved Remar when I was a kid because I liked him in The Warriors and then I went on to have a different appreciation for him when he played Dexter’s ghost dad on Dexter. Remar is one of those guys that is a clutch hitter but doesn’t always find himself on a good team. I think he’s found a nice roster spot on the Black Lightning team.

One thing that makes this story work so well, is that it feels smaller in scale. While Freeland is a city that’s come under siege due to powerful gangs, the world this is set in doesn’t feel as grandiose as the other CW superhero shows. It feels more like it all takes place in a smaller area, sort of closed off from anything beyond its borders, as the problems in Freeland are just too serious and real. This could totally fit in with the Arrowverse without needing to acknowledge it, which probably will happen in the future, as both Cress Williams and Arrow‘s Stephen Amell want to crossover. My two cents: I’d sneak Deathstroke onto the show to introduce the larger world. We don’t need aliens and shit.

It’s hard to tell where Black Lightning plans to go beyond season one but I hope that the producers build off of what was established in just the first 13 episodes and don’t sort of fall into the same traps when the other CW shows ran on beyond their rookie years.

Also, this did a good job of not being too political. It dealt with social issues well and didn’t beat you over the head with it like the comic book medium tends to do. Well, the big bad white villain in the show had to say, “Make America great again!” twice in the season finale but hopefully that’s it for the sociopolitical cringe.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: All the current DC Comics shows on the CW.

Film Review: Band of the Hand (1986)

Release Date: April 11th, 1986
Directed by: Paul Michael Glaser
Written by: Leo Garen, Jack Baran
Music by: Michel Rubini
Cast: Stephen Lang, Michael Carmine, Lauren Holly, Leon, John Cameron Mitchell, Danny Quinn, Al Shannon, James Remar, Laurence Fishburne

TriStar Pictures, 109 Minutes

Review:

“One sharp knife can feed you, clothe you, keep you warm and dry.” – Joe

I have been a huge fan of Miami Vice my entire life. Somehow, Band of the Hand eluded me until recently. It is sort of married to that show, as they were both produced by Michael Mann, came out around the same time, have similar themes, similar style, similar music and take place in and around Miami.

Band of the Hand also stars a young Stephen Lang, who is a guy that has become one of my favorite actors in recent years. It also features a young Lauren Holly, Leon and another one of my favorites, James Remar.

The film really has two parts to it. The first half sees a bunch of teenage punks sent into the Everglades. They are given a last chance, if they can learn from Miccosukee bad ass, Joe (Stephen Lang). They have to survive and make it to the end of their swamp quest becoming bad asses themselves. The second half sees the teens return to Miami and become vigilantes alongside Joe, in an effort to rid the city of the drug dealers who hold it hostage.

The two halves of the movie really have different tones. The first half is mostly goofy and comedic, as our urban teens can’t get along and want nothing to do with life in the Everglades. The second half becomes much darker and serious and plays like an episode of Miami Vice but with more violence, as it isn’t catering to television executives.

Band of the Hand is pretty enjoyable. It is far from a classic and not as good as the better episodes of Miami Vice but it fills its 109 minutes well.

The action is great, especially the big street shootout between the gangsters and the teens at their home.

Stephen Lang was exceptionally bad ass in this and it was cool seeing him in his younger days, as he’s just now becoming more of a household name due to being in Avatar and Don’t Breathe.

If you are into 1980s crime movies, you’ll probably enjoy this. If you are also a big Miami Vice fan, this is a good companion piece to the show.

 

Film Review: The ‘Hellraiser’ Film Series, Part II (2000-2011)

Hellraiser: Inferno (2000):

Release Date: October 3rd, 2000
Directed by: Scott Derrickson
Written by: Paul Harris Boardman, Scott Derrickson
Based on: characters by Clive Barker
Music by: Walter Werzowa
Cast: Doug Bradley, Craig Sheffer, Nicholas Turturro, James Remar

Dimension Films, Miramax Films, 99 Minutes

Review:

“Ah, the eternal refrain of humanity. Pleading ignorance, begging for mercy. “Please, help me. I don’t understand.”” – Pinhead

This film starts the direct-to-video trend in the Hellraiser series. Not putting this in the theater was probably a good call.

This film was boring as hell. There were some cool creepy moments but nothing was as shocking and visually intense as the previous films in this series. The Cenobites were generic and Pinhead was barely in the film. Actually, Pinhead was in the film but for some stupid reason he was parading around wearing the face of Dexter Morgan’s dad. Then the big lame reveal, haha! you’re therapist was Pinhead in disguise the whole time like a ghoul from a Scooby-Doo episode!

The psychology of this film makes no sense and it is uncharacteristic of everything that came before it. It’s a pretty fucking awful movie.

Oh yeah, and Nick Turturro is in it. He’s the chubby little brother of the really talented John Turturro.

Hellraiser: Hellseeker (2002):

Release Date: October 15th, 2002
Directed by: Rick Bota
Written by: Carl V. Dupre, Tim Day
Based on: characters by Clive Barker
Music by: Stephen Edwards
Cast: Doug Bradley, Ashley Laurence, Dean Winters, William S. Taylor

Dimension Films, Miramax Films, 89 Minutes

Review:

“Wherever there is hate, violence, depravity… a door will always be found.” – Pinhead

Somehow, the awful fifth film didn’t kill the idea of making a sixth installment. I’m cool with that though because this film was far superior than the previous one.

Also, Hellseeker brings back Kirsty for the first time since Hellbound: Hellraiser II (not counting her small cameo in part III) and gives closure to her character. I guess, in a way, this is the final chapter and what can be referred to as the “Kirsty Trilogy”.

This movie had a much better story than its predecessor and even though it felt somewhat predictable and straightforward, the end leaves you surprised.

Hellseeker also feels a lot more like a Hellraiser film than Inferno did and it brings the franchise full circle. Truthfully, it could’ve ended here and been a fine series, even though Inferno was complete crap.

They decided to crank out two more though.

Hellraiser: Deader (2005):

Release Date: June 7th, 2005
Directed by: Rick Bota
Written by: Neal Marshall Stevens, Tim Day
Based on: characters by Clive Barker
Music by: Henning Lohner
Cast: Doug Bradley, Kari Wuhrer, Paul Rhys, Simon Kunz

Dimension Films, Miramax Films, 89 Minutes

Review:

“When you attempted to live beyond death, you entered into my domain.” – Pinhead

I like Kari Wuhrer, so I was glad to see her in this film. I don’t know why, but I’ve crushed hard on her for years. Okay, I admit, I know why.

She isn’t what I would call a stellar actress but she is better than average and really nice to look at. She has a good on-screen presence and is able to carry a film, especially when surrounded by less talented people.

Deader was another sequel with a very interesting story. As a film, all its own, I enjoy this one. As a Hellraiser film, it feels like it has gotten away from the essence of the series. In fact, each film after the second one, gets further and further away.

This was about on par with Hellseeker in quality and a big step above that crapfest Inferno. Still, these direct-to-video sequels feel like low-budget cash cows, missing the imagination and heart of the earlier theatrically released features.

Hellraiser: Hellworld (2005):

Release Date: September 6th, 2005
Directed by: Rick Bota
Written by: Carl V. Dupre
Based on: characters by Clive Barker
Music by: Lars Anderson
Cast: Doug Bradley, Lance Henriksen, Katheryn Winnick, Christopher Jacot, Khary Payton, Henry Cavill

Dimension Films, Miramax Films, 95 Minutes

Review:

“You still don’t understand, do you? There is no way out for you, Chelsea. Oh, what wonders we have to show you.” – Pinhead

At last, we have reached the final film in the original series. We have also reached the one film that feels the least like a Hellraiser movie.

This film follows some gamers who get invited to a mansion for a party, which turns into a crazy billionaire scheming to get revenge for the death of his son for some reason.

I’m not even sure if Pinhead actually showed up. I mean, he was in the movie but then it was revealed that all that stuff was hallucinations or whatever stupid asshole plot faux pas they threw up on the wall.

This just wasn’t a Hellraiser film. It didn’t matter that Doug Bradley appeared in full Pinhead makeup, it was just a pointless film that made little-to-no sense.

However, it was still mildly entertaining, which puts this film above Inferno as well.

Also, the newish Superman, Henry Cavill plays a douchebag in this movie. He also screams like a complete pansy.

Hellraiser: Revelations (2011):

Release Date: March 18th, 2011
Directed by: Victor Garcia
Written by: Gary J. Tunnicliffe
Based on: characters by Clive Barker
Music by: Frederik Wiedman
Cast: Steven Brand, Nick Eversman, Tracey Fairaway, Sebastien Roberts, Devon Sorvari, Sanny Van Heteren, Daniel Buran, Jay Gillespie, Stephen Smith Collins

Dimension Extreme, 75 Minutes

Review:

“You have a darkness that rivals my own, Nico. It will be a very special pleasure to rip you apart.” – Pinhead

Due to the fact that Dimension Films was on the cusp of losing the rights to Hellraiser, they had to produce a film and quick. The result, was this piece of complete fucking shit.

This is a remake or a reboot or a reimagining or whatever they want to call it. I call it a giant genital wart that has permanently afflicted the legacy of this franchise.

I don’t blame Doug Bradley for deciding not to return to the series as Pinhead. Instead, we’ve got some new actor in the Pinhead role. The new Pinhead, looks nothing like the real Pinhead. Could they have at least gotten an actor that somewhat resembles Doug Bradley? Also, the actor can’t talk like Doug Bradley, so he was dubbed over with another actor’s voice who also doesn’t sound like Doug Bradley.

The script was deplorable and I can’t believe that some of the dialogue actually made it on the page, let alone in the final cut of the film. The acting was painful and not pleasurable Hellraiser pain but more like stomach cancer with an ulcer while eating a gallon of ice cream pain. The film was 75 minutes, which is nothing but it still seemed like it was an hour and fifteen minutes too long.

The plot made no sense within the realm of the Hellraiser mythos. It’s like some horribly bad fan fiction was mixed up with an actual script and they filmed it on accident. Some of the film was also “found footage” style, which is a gimmick that not only has run its course, but it really never took off to begin with. Hollywood just likes the shit because it’s cheap. It isn’t edgy, original or effective.

This film is a 75 minute demo reel of how not to make a film. It is so bad, it makes Inferno look as critically acclaimed as Das Boot. I hope that when they make a new Hellraiser film, which they eventually will, that this is ignored and they at the very least do something similar to Hellseeker or Deader because at least those served a purpose and were enjoyable for a Hellraiser fan.

I’d also like to add that all of the sequels after Bloodline were written as scripts for other horror movies that were picked up by Dimension Films and retrofitted to make them Hellraiser movies. This film however, was the first original script written for Hellraiser since Bloodline. So how bad is this movie, when it is worse than the four previous that didn’t even start as Hellraiser films?

Film Review: The Warriors (1979)

Release Date: February 9th, 1979
Directed by: Walter Hill
Written by: David Shaber, Walter Hill
Based on: The Warriors by Sol Yurick
Music by: Barry De Vorzon
Cast: Michael Beck, Deborah Van Valkenburgh, James Remar, Dorsey Wright, Brian Tyler, David Harris, Tom McKitterick, Marcelino Sanchez, Terry Michos, Roger Hill, David Patrick Kelly, Lynne Thigpen, Mercedes Ruehl, Paul Greco

Paramount Pictures, 92 Minutes

Review:

The Warriors is a classic. Albeit, maybe not in the same sense as 2001: A Space Odyssey or The Good, The Bad and The Ugly but it is a classic nonetheless.

Few films have as much style and grit as The Warriors. Even fewer are able to generate the nostalgic kinship this film has with its long-time fans. It is a gem at the end of a great era of film – closing out the 1970s and making way for the 1980s.

I wasn’t even two months old when this film came out but I have had a strong bond with it since my preteen years. Maybe that leads me to showing a lot of favoritism to this film but considering the amount of movies I have seen over the course of my life, being that I’ve been an avid film buff since I was five or six, the fact that I still watch this twice a year says something about how great it is.

The Warriors follows a street gang in New York City as they have to fight through several gangs and several territories in an effort to get back home after being framed for murdering the biggest gang leader in the city. It almost plays like a 1980s arcade fighting game and I can bet that many of the game developers of the 80s borrowed a lot from this film. Each borough is a new stage, each stage comes with a new gang or a new challenge and eventually, they win by getting to the end – some safe and sound but with many casualties and fatalities along the way.

Instead of just being a somewhat accurate portrayal of 1970s New York City gangs, the film is more of a fantasy portrayal. All the gangs have unique looks and gimmicks which may seem cheesy at first but ultimately creates an environment that is just as scary as it is bizarre. Also, even with the 1970s fashion and hair, it is a timeless feeling film because it creates its own world and isn’t necessarily a representation of 1970s reality.

This is my favorite film by director Walter Hill and he’s done a lot of films I like, such as Hard Times, The Driver, Streets of Fire, The Long Riders, 48 Hrs., Brewster’s Millions, Red Heat and Trespass. This is also my favorite film featuring the talents of David Patrick Kelly, who plays the villainous Luther – a character which gave us one of the best ad-libs in cinema history with “Warriors, come out to play-ay!” He went on to star in a lot of roles that were all almost equally as awesome – Twin Peaks and The Crow being my other favorites. James Remar, most famous now for being Dexter Morgan’s ghost dad on Dexter, is just fantastic in this. I also enjoyed Deborah Van Valkenburgh who went on to be in the Ted Knight sitcom Too Close For Comfort.

The acting isn’t superb by any stretch of the imagination, other than Kelly, but it doesn’t matter. Besides, the acting is much better than the run of the mill B-movies of the era. While this can seemingly fall into that category, it stands on its own as a unique film and an interesting experience. The film never tires, even after all these years.

If I were ever to open a film school, The Warriors would be required viewing. It has style, it is a really cool concept that is perfectly executed and it is a fun movie. Although, if you are a male in America, I’m assuming you’ve seen it already.