Comic Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 5: Krang War

Published: May 1st, 2013
Written by: Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz
Art by: Andy Kuhn
Based on: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird

IDW Publishing, 107 Pages

Review:

With as many comics as I read, I’ve already reached volume five of IDW’s modern Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series, despite having to mix in a lot of other titles from other publishers for review purposes. Plus, I like to spread the love.

However, as I’ve said in the reviews of the four previous volumes, I really dig the hell out of this series.

This installment really changes the course of the series somewhat, as it has the Turtles crossover into Dimension X for the first time and it also makes them aware of General Krang, who has really only operated in the shadows, thus far.

This also continues to delve into the rivalry between Krang and Shredder, as they aren’t immediate allies like old school fans might assume. With that, it also further develops Shredder’s granddaughter, a character I’m really starting to like.

As far as the writing and the art, it’s all consistent with the volumes that came before this. But I really liked seeing the writers and artist explore the Dimension X realm. It gave the series more weight and brought in some new visual flourish by taking the heroes out of New York City for a quick story arc.

The next two volumes are a larger arc broken out into two parts. I’ll probably read and review them as a whole, however.

So far, so good with the IDW TMNT run, though. I wish I had started to read these earlier on.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the rest of IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles run.

Comic Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 4: Sins of the Fathers

Published: February 6th, 2013
Written by: Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz
Art by: Andy Kuhn
Based on: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird

IDW Publishing, 122 Pages

Review:

This series has been on a really good trajectory, thus far. The first three volumes covered a lot of ground with great, energetic, action-packed stories. So I guess eventually, you’d have to reach a slower chapter and this is it.

That’s not to say that this is boring or that it’s not up to snuff, it just spends a bit more time on fleshing out some characters and this version of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles mythos.

A breather also felt needed, as the story could’ve easily gotten away from itself if it stayed primarily focused on action and having to make the characters fight too much.

This also started to give General Krang and his species some backstory, which we hadn’t gotten up to this point. His relationship with Baxter Stockman is pretty interesting and it’s developing and evolving while really painting the picture that this version of Krang is truly dangerous and not the buffoon people are mostly familiar with from the original cartoon series.

There is also a good moment in this between Splinter and Raphael, as Raph learns an important lesson. But that lesson also leads to Casey Jones essentially becoming the Turtles’ roommate.

I was pretty happy with this volume, I truly dig this series and I can’t wait to keep reading through it.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: the rest of IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles run.

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: Clan of the White Lotus (1980)

Also known as: Fists of the White Lotus (alternative title)
Release Date: January 1st, 1980 (Hong Kong)
Directed by: Lo Lieh
Written by: Haung Tien
Music by: Eddie Wang
Cast: Lo Lieh, Gordon Liu, Kara Hui, Johnny Wang, Hsiao Ho

Shaw Brothers, 95 Minutes

Review:

“Why worry. He’s not my match at all. To come after us is like seeking death.” – Pai Mei

It’s been awhile since I’ve watched a movie with the Pai Mei character in it. While it may be surprising to some, he is not a Quentin Tarantino creation and has in fact been the villain in several Hong Kong kung fu movies over the years. He’s also based on a legendary historical figure, also referred to as Bak Mei.

Clan of the White Lotus is a pretty cool film that actually features Pai Mei quite a lot. The displays of his skill and power in this are really cool and creative and you get to see him fight a lot, which is always badass.

That being said, the fight choreography in this film is stellar and impressive, even for kung-fucianados. I love all the big battles between Pai Mei and the hero but all the other core characters pull their weight. I especially liked the girl in this, Kara Hui. Even her early training sequence was excellent.

A unique thing about this film is that it exists as both a sequel and sort of remake of the 1977 film, Executioners From Shaolin. The films feature the same main players and the Pai Mei character. Some may find it interesting that Gordon Liu, who later played Pai Mei in Tarantino’s Kill Bill films, plays the hero that must conquer him in this one.

Liu’s hero character gets his ass kicked early on by Pai Mei but then he studies the “embroidery technique” from Kara Hui’s character, which gives him the edge in the final battle. Essentially, this technique works like the antithesis to acupuncture. Here, instead of using needles to heal the body, Liu’s carefully placed needles break down Pai Mei to where he can be defeated. It’s an interesting and neat concept even if it’s a bit bonkers.

This is a fast paced, energetic and enjoyable kung fu flick. I can’t call it a classic of the genre but for fans of Tarantino that like to look at some of the film’s that have inspired his work, this is worth checking out.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other Shaw Brothers kung fu films of the ’70s and ’80s, especially those featuring the Pai Mei character.

Comic Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 3: Shadows of the Past

Published: September 26th, 2012
Written by: Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz
Art by: Dan Duncan
Based on: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird

IDW Publishing, 105 Pages

Review:

Does this series keep improving with every volume? Why, yes it does!

So far, this was my favorite release in the collected trade paperback versions of IDW’s rebooted Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series.

My only real complaint about these is that I feel like each one should be longer than just four issues. However, the story arcs seem to fit this format thus far, as each of these truly feels like their own chapter in a larger novel.

In this one, we see Splinter and Shredder finally meet face-to-face. They also come to the realization that each is their ancient mortal enemy, meeting again in the modern world because destiny is a real bitch.

This also sees the Turtles get into their first official fight with Shredder while also meeting a new ally in Angel, along with her gang The Purple Dragons. We also see April come to discover just who the Turtles and Splinter are. Frankly, a lot happens in little time and even if there is a lot of story, there is also a lot of action.

This is a well-balanced series between its narrative, character building, relationship development and the action itself.

I love how this rebooted reimagining by original creator Kevin Eastman has set the foundation for what’s to come. This truly is a solid and satisfying series up to this point and I hope that this greatness maintains throughout.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: the rest of IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles run.

Comic Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 2: Enemies Old, Enemies New

Published: August 31st, 2012
Written by: Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz
Art by: Dan Duncan, Mat Santolouco
Based on: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird

IDW Publishing, 104 Pages

Review:

Since I was impressed by the first volume in the rebooted Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series by IDW and original creator, Kevin Eastman, I had to quickly jump into the second chapter of this long-running series to see if the momentum would maintain.

Short answer: it did!

In fact, this is even better than the first installment, as it builds off of the origin of the characters and then goes further back into who Splinter was, as well as Shredder, who hadn’t yet appeared.

This also introduces Krang and helps to setup his story and what appears to be conflict with Shredder and his Foot Clan. So unlike the cartoon and the stories most fans are familiar with, Shredder and Krang aren’t on the same page here. And frankly, that makes this really interesting.

Like the previous volume, I enjoyed the art style and it just looks and feels right, aesthetically. Especially, for those of us who enjoyed the original Turtles comic stories.

This series has been really good, thus far, and I can’t wait to jump into the third volume, which I’d imagine I’ll do in the next week or so.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: the rest of IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles run.

Film Review: Kill and Kill Again (1981)

Also known as: Fighter Gang (Germany)
Release Date: May, 1981
Directed by: Ivan Hall
Written by: John M. Crowther
Music by: Igo Kantor (supervisor)
Cast: James Ryan, Anneline Kriel, Michael Mayer

APC, Again Productions, Kavalier Films, 100 Minutes

Review:

“My father has been working for several years on a project to extract fuel from potatoes.” – Kandy Kane

Man, I saw this so long ago that I barely remember it. I mostly just geeked out a bit at some visual cues that re-sparked my feelings from the first time I watched this, which would’ve been somewhere in the mid-’80s. I think my cousin had this on a bootleg VHS or we rented it from the Movie Van, a cool van that provided us with lots of ’80s horror, sci-fi and action flicks when we had weekend sleepovers.

Watching it now, it’s still good at its highpoints but a lot of it is kind of boring and drab. It wasn’t as action heavy as I remembered or as the trailer implies. Most of the film is actually about building a badass team to go overthrow an insane dictator with a karate army.

One thing that caught me by surprise, though, was how funny this was. I didn’t remember it being so quippy and maybe that’s because I wouldn’t have noticed that as much as a kid. But the jokes were goofy and fun and made this a really lighthearted romp mixed with Cannon Films style action.

In fact, the humor and action mix reminded me a lot of the Amir Shervan pictures of the late ’80s and early ’90s, once the Israeli director came to the United States and made some awesome D-movie classics.

The bulk of the movie is carried by its star, James Ryan. He’s not a guy that worked a whole lot but he’s always been enjoyable to me, as he’s convincing and charismatic in these sort of roles. Other than this film, he’s probably most known for Space Mutiny and Rage to Kill. He has a sort of poor man’s David Carradine thing going for him.

Side note: this movie is apparently a sequel to a film called Kill or Be Killed, which I have never seen. That film is also referred to as Karate Killer and Karate Olympiad. I’ll have to try and track it down so I can review it.

This is a fun movie at its best but you do have to sit through a lot of talking and a lack of action in parts. There are at least enough action sequences worked in, just when you might start getting too bored to care.

The fight choreography is decent, the plot is bonkers, the acting is barely acting but this still has a lot of heart and is mostly enjoyable.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: the Amir Shervan pictures of the late ’80s/early ’90s, as well as most of Cannon’s action flicks from the ’80s.

Comic Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 1: Change Is Constant

Published: February 8th, 2012
Written by: Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz
Art by: Dan Duncan, Ronda Pattison
Based on: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird

IDW Publishing, 102 Pages

Review:

I have heard really good things about IDW’s regular Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot series. I’ve only read bits and pieces over the last decade but I thought that I’d start way back at the beginning, in an effort to catch up with the 100-plus issues the series has now released.

The main selling point for me was that Kevin Eastman, the original TMNT creator, was one of the writers on this rebooted continuity. It’s sad that Peter Laird isn’t doing this along with him but Eastman’s involvement gives this take on the Turtles some real legitimacy.

I’m happy to say that this was a really good introduction to the characters and even if it tweaks their origin, somewhat, it felt true to the classic comic book series while also tapping into the spirit and energy of the cartoon, which was how most kids discovered the franchise.

I thought that the art was perfect, as it hearkened back to that primitive Turtles art style while also being a real improvement over it without trying to diminish the original series’ aesthetic.

It’s hard to say how much I’ll enjoy the whole series, just off of this first volume, but it left me gleefully optimistic. Time will tell but I think I’ll probably be pleased with what comes next.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: the rest of IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles run.

Film Review: The Way of the Dragon (1972)

Also known as: Fury of the Dragon (European English title), Revenge of the Dragon (US cable TV title), Return of the Dragon (US dubbed version)
Release Date: June 1st, 1972 (Hong Kong)
Directed by: Bruce Lee
Written by: Bruce Lee
Music by: Joseph Ko
Cast: Bruce Lee, Nora Miao, Paul Wei, Tony Liu, Unicorn Chan, Chuck Norris, Malisa Longo, Robert Wall, Hwang In-shik, Jon T. Benn 

Golden Harvest Films, Concord Productions, 99 Minutes, 133 Minutes (extended cut), 86 Minutes (censored cut)

Review:

“Let him know. If I ever see him here again… he won’t leave alive!” – Tang Lung

While this is my least favorite of the trilogy of martial arts films that Bruce Lee made before the legendary Enter the Dragon, this one does have the best finale of the three, as it pits Bruce Lee against Chuck Norris and then shows him kick the f’n shit out a bunch of gangsters.

The story takes place in what was modern 1970s Rome. Lee and his family’s restaurant is terrorized by local mafiosos, so he takes it upon himself to beat them all to a bloody pulp for 99 minutes.

The plot is fairly weak and generic but I like most of the characters from Lee’s family to the evil mob boss to Chuck Norris’ Colt.

If one were to pull the action sequences from this film, it’d be dreadfully dull. However, the action and Lee’s presence keep the film afloat.

In fact, the fight choreography in this movie is stunning but that should probably go without saying, as Lee never disappointed in that regard. Adding Chuck Norris to the mix only maximizes the awesome action sequences.

Ultimately, this is a pretty fun movie to watch for its high points but it still pales in comparison to Enter the Dragon, which followed.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Bruce Lee martial arts films of the ’70s.

Film Review: Order No. 27 (1986)

Also known as: Myung ryoung-027 ho (original title), Order 27 (alternative English title)
Release Date: 1986 (North Korea)
Directed by: Ki Mo Jung, Eung Suk Kim
Written by: Sang Uck Ri
Music by: Jin Yong Hwang
Cast: Sung Chol Cha, Yong Chol Choe, Pong Ho Han, Kwang Jo, Ha Chun Kim, Hye Son Kim, Jeong Woon Kim, Kun Sang Pak, Won Bok Ri

Korea February 8 Film Studio, Korean Film, 77 Minutes

Review:

I’d like to see as much North Korean cinema as possible but a lot of it doesn’t make it over to the United States in any sort of accessible way for obvious reasons.

Still, it’s interesting to see how they express themselves through art because of how secretive and controlled that fascist dictatorship is. And there’s no part of me that believes that this wasn’t 100 percent approved by the government but it is still interesting to see, especially in regards to this, a film about war that’s full of North Korean propaganda.

The summary found on IMDb shows just how propaganda filled this movie is:

A group of elite soldiers is sent across the border to South Korea to destroy a military base. The soldiers are well aware of the inherent suicide nature of their mission, but are happy to risk it all for the benefit of their Great Leader.

In fact, the film ends with the hero riding on the landing gear of an American helicopter as it explodes, fulfilling his suicide mission for his Great Leader, Kim Jong-il.

While it’s obvious that the film was made to fulfill one agenda, I can’t not look at it as an artistic body of work and judge it on its merits.

Unfortunately, it’s poorly made, poorly shot and employs really basic and pedestrian cinematography. As for the positives though, the actors seemed pretty good, despite the language barrier, and the martial arts fights were really well choreographed and actually made the film somewhat salvageable for those who like Eastern style martial arts cinema.

Even if it is a real stinker of a film, the people of North Korea don’t have a lot to compare this too and in their country, this could be their Bridge On the River Kwai.

This is a much more straightforward film than Pulgasari, which was a bonkers and insane fantasy kaiju movie. But, overall, I found it less enjoyable and kind of boring when people weren’t doing martial arts shit.

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: other North Korean cinema but the only other film I’ve seen is Pulgasari.