Comic Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 11: Attack On Technodrome

Published: July 1st, 2015
Written by: Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz
Art by: Cory Smith
Based on: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird

IDW Publishing, 104 Pages

Review:

This isn’t really a filler volume in the long-running Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series by IDW, as much as it is its own solid story that puts a heavy emphasis on developing a much bigger event that is going to go down and take up the two volumes after this one. The second such event in this version of TMNT continuity. When I get to those, I’ll probably review them together, as I did the last massive story arc.

In this, however, we see Donatello go behind his brothers’ backs and try to work out an alliance with Shredder, so that they can all take down Krang, his army and the dreaded Technodrome.

There are a lot of swerves and plot twists but the story reads really well and was pretty satisfying. While this wasn’t my favorite volume, it doesn’t disappoint and it kept the story moving forward at a brisk pace without it becoming redundant or derivative of previous stories, which is really hard to do when a series has gone on as long as this one has.

Cory Smith has taken over the art full-time and I like his work. It’s a bit more dynamic and detailed and it feels like the quality is a step up from what it has been. And that’s not to knock the previous artists, as I’ve really liked this series from both the art and writing sides of the coin.

In the end, I’m still enjoying this series and frankly, it’s now probably my favorite version of the turtles. I’m really looking forward to the big arc that follows this one.

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

Film Review: Shootfighter 2 (1996)

Also known as: Shootfighter II (alternative spelling)
Release Date: August 27th, 1996
Directed by: Paul Ziller
Written by: Greg Mellott, Peter Shaner
Music by: Alex Wilkinson
Cast: Bolo Yeung, William Zabka, Michael Bernardo, Debra Ann “Madusa” Miceli

ANA Productions, 93 Minutes

Review:

While the first Shootfighter wasn’t a classic by any stretch of the imagination, it still got a sequel. Although, this one is pretty subpar and lacks the charm of its predecessor.

It stars the same protagonist trio of Bolo Yeung, William Zabka and Michael Bernardo. I like these actors and the characters they play but they seemed a lot less into this movie than the first one. Also, it felt like Bolo was barely in it. Although, I did enjoy his final fight at the end, quite a bit. Mostly because I hated this film’s incredibly weak and unintimidating villain.

This took place and was filmed in Miami. I knew a kid that claimed his uncle was an extra in the film but that kid lied all the time and he thought Hypercolor shirts were still cool in 1996.

There’s honestly not much to say about this film other than it’s damn pedestrian, a pointless sequel and it looked like everyone making the film was just as bored as the audience that would eventually watch it.

Although, it did feature professional wrestler Madusa a.k.a. Alundra Blayze, who fought some other chick in a random bout.

I did mostly like the action and I thought that the fighting arena was kind of cool but neither of these things really elevate the picture into anything worthwhile.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: it’s predecessor and other late ’80s/early ’90s straight-to-video action flicks.

Film Review: Shootfighter: Fight to the Death (1993)

Also known as: Shootfighter (unofficial shorter title)
Release Date: May 5th, 1993
Directed by: Patrick Alan
Written by: Judd B. Lynn, Larry Feliz Jr., Pete Shaner
Music by: Joel Goldsmith
Cast: Bolo Yeung, Maryam d’Abo, James Pax, William Zabka, Michael Bernardo, Martin Kove, Edward Albert

ANA Productions, 100 Minutes

Review:

As a pretty hardcore Karate Kid fan, it’s probably kind of nuts that I hadn’t seen this film until now. Reason being, for those unaware, is that it reunites the two antagonists from that film (and the Cobra Kai television series) by featuring both William Zabka and Martin Kove.

This also stars martial arts legend and intimidating badass, Bolo Yeung. And what’s really interesting about Bolo’s role in this, is that he is a good guy! He’s actually the sensei of the two young guys that enter a martial arts tournament put on by a madman criminal.

In a way, it’s also strange seeing Zabka play a good guy, as he became famous playing bullies in ’80s teen movies.

This movie came out during the height of fighting games in video arcades across the world. It was also the height of low budget, usually straight-to-VHS martial arts flicks. So the story isn’t too dissimilar from that of a classic fighting game. In fact, the two heroes feel like they’re loosely based on and inspired by Ryu and Ken from the Street Fighter video game series.

I like the heroes here, though. They have a good chemistry and camaraderie and I actually like cheering for Zabka, even though I was always pro-Cobra Kai anyway… sorry, LaRusso.

I don’t usually watch these type of movies and expect to be impressed by them. I tend to like them quite a bit, regardless. However, I was impressed by the action and fight choreography in this. While it’s not the most exceptional martial arts action you’ll ever see, it was on par with the best action coming out of low budget US martial arts flicks from this era.

Also, the tone and style of the film is really good and it feels like a fighting game come to life. I wish my fourteen year-old self would’ve rented this back in 1993 because he would’ve probably loved it and watched it as often as he watched early Van Damme movies, as well as the American Ninja series.

I dug this, a lot. I’m also glad that there’s a sequel because I plan on checking it out in about a week, as I work through my queue.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: its sequel, as well as other early-to-mid-’90s martial arts flicks.

Comic Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 10: New Mutant Order

Published: February 25th, 2015
Written by: Kevin B. Eastman, Tom Waltz
Art by: Mateus Santolouco, Cory Smith
Based on: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird

IDW Publishing, 105 Pages

Review:

Ten volumes deep and I still like IDW’s version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles a lot.

In fact, overall, from top-to-bottom, this may be my favorite long-running comic series IDW has ever done. Granted the Chuck Dixon run on G.I. Joe is still my favorite overall run but it didn’t last anywhere near as long as this series, which is still being published even in a post-COVID world and recently exceeded 100 issues.

These volumes collect four issues, which is fairly scant but the series is written almost like it’s structured for four issue mini-arcs. However, this one starts with an issue that is really a single issue story but it is also my favorite single issue I’ve read in the series, thus far.

The first chapter (or issue) in this collection sees Shredder and Krang meet to discuss a possible union while on a battleship at sea. Things go awry and the two go to war with each other. I thought it was pretty f’n spectacular and it really made me like these two characters, in this incarnation, so much more. It definitely showed Shredder as a calculating, smart villain, thinking many steps ahead. This is a very stark contrast to what fans of just the cartoon series would expect. Overall, this is my favorite version of Shredder that I’ve gotten to know.

The rest of this collection builds off of some of the earlier and still ongoing plots. Here, we see the Turtles working with Hob, their former enemy, at trying to build a mutant army to fight the evil mutants that have been appearing throughout the series.

We also get to see a really good battle between the heroes and Bebop & Rocksteady, who might still be kind of dumb but they’re actually presented as legitimate, extremely dangerous threats.

I like seeing how the larger story has expanded and grown over time. I like that there are a lot of characters and that, for the most part, they’re all well developed. I especially like the constant escalation but how this series still doesn’t go over the top with it. This is how you build towards something unlike the more recent mainstream comic publishers’ mega-events.

Massive kudos to Kevin Eastman. The dude has proven that he’s still got it and that he truly loves working on his most famous creation more than three decades later.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the rest of IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles run.

Film Review: The Punisher (1989)

Release Date: October 5th, 1989 (Germany)
Directed by: Mark Goldblatt
Written by: Boaz Yakin
Based on: The Punisher by Gerry Conway, Ross Andru, John Romita Sr.
Music by: Dennis Dreith
Cast: Dolph Lundgren, Louis Gossett Jr., Jeroen Krabbe, Kim Miyori

Marvel Entertainment, New World Pictures, 89 Minutes, 76 Minutes (heavily cut), 98 Minutes (workprint version)

Review:

“If you’re guilty, you’re dead.” – Frank Castle

While I know that this isn’t as good as the 2004 Punisher movie, this is still my favorite film of the lot and Dolph Lundgren really embodied the version of Frank Castle that I envisioned as a kid in the late ’80s, just discovering Punisher comics.

I loved the fuck out of this movie when I saw it in 1990, once it hit video store shelves in my area. I would’ve loved to have seen it in the theater but I lived in a small town with small theaters that played it safe, didn’t take risks and have now mostly been replaced with better theaters offering more variety… and alcohol.

Dolph Lundgren is just fucking perfect in this and nothing else about the film really matters. Sure, I like Louis Gossett Jr. but he’s kind of a non-event in the picture, as is everyone else, except the mob boss turned vigilante that helps the Punisher fight ninjas in an effort to rescue his kidnapped son.

This wasn’t made by Cannon, it was in fact made by New World, but it has that Cannon vibe to it albeit with an even cheaper budget. Still, its a solid mix of gritty, ’80s action, a badass hero and more ammo wasted than an Argentinian coup.

One sequence that really stands out is where we get to see the Punisher battle a hoard of machine gun ninjas in a decrepit carnival funhouse. Granted, I also loved the big finale that saw our hero and the mobster douche machine gun the crap out of ninjas.

All in all, this is just a badass flick with uber amounts of testosterone, one of the best, most physically intimidating action stars of all-time and it feels true to the source material. It’s certainly better than everything that came after that Thomas Jane Punisher movie. 

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other Marvel live-action films pre-MCU.

Video Game Review: Avengers (Arcade)

I saw a game titled Avengers on the MAME part of my RetroPie but I soon found out that it didn’t have anything to do with Marvel’s Avengers or the 1960s British television show.

This is basically an arcade beat’em up game like Double Dragon but it isn’t a side scroller, it is instead a vertical scroller like some of the classic shooters in the vein of Commando or Ikari Warriors.

The game is smooth and it has controls that are okay but take a few minutes to get used to. However, it has a pretty killer soundtrack and decent graphics for the time.

It’s nothing special, however, other than it’s a beat’em that goes vertical as opposed to the more traditional horizontal.

It’s easy to play but the difficulty is a bit of a problem. Mainly, because when you die, you respawn from a checkpoint and not on the screen where you died like a typical beat’em up game. So later in the game, you have to be a lot less reckless and not rush into battle like a coked up kangaroo with a bulletproof face.

Overall, this was fun but not great.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other beat’em up arcade games.

Comic Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 9: Monsters, Misfits and Madmen

Published: October 29th, 2014
Written by: Kevin B. Eastman, Tom Waltz
Art by: Mateus Santolouco
Based on: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird

IDW Publishing, 99 Pages

Review:

After the previous volume, which was more of a break from the norm, focused primarily on character building, we are brought back to New York City where the Turtles continue to work towards stopping Shredder, Krang and Baxter Stockman.

This still does a lot of character building, especially in regards to Casey Jones and his father. In fact, this is where a major turning point happens in their relationship, setting the stage for some really dark shit.

The Turtles also learn what former enemy-turned-reluctant-ally, Old Hob, has been up to while they were out of town.

Most importantly, this is just a pretty good comic that is slowly but effectively building towards the next big confrontation with their two biggest enemies.

Additionally, it introduces us to the IDW continuity’s version of Rat King, in what is a really interesting take on the character.

I don’t want to call this more of the same, which it kind of is, but when “same” is still so good, it makes you want to keep reading for a bigger payoff, which I feel is right around the corner.

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

Film Review: They Call Me Bruce? (1982)

Also known as: A Fistful of Chopsticks (working title)
Release Date: November 12th, 1982
Directed by: Elliott Hong
Written by: David B. Randolph
Music by: Tommy Vig
Cast: Johnny Yune, Margaux Hemingway, Pam Huntington, Ralph Mauro

Gold Pine Productions, 87 Minutes

Review:

“I am a sex object. I always ask women for sex, and they object.” – Bruce

I remember Joe Bob Briggs talking about this movie in one of his …Goes to the Drive-In books. I’ve never seen it but it was always in the back of my mind as something worth checking out because Joe Bob liked it.

Well, I actually didn’t expect that I’d like it as much as I did and it’s a movie that I wish I would’ve known about as a kid because I really would’ve dug it.

The film is full of goofy, absurdist humor and it’s almost slapstick at times. It follows a Korean guy that sucks at martial arts and is pretty much a coward. He idolizes Bruce Lee though, so he tries to follow in the man’s heroic footsteps. The mob bosses he works for also refer to him as “Bruce” due to his “resemblance” to Bruce Lee.

The film stars Johnny Yune and this is the only film I’ve seen him in. He’s actually damn good and carries the film on his own, even though there’s a little bit of help from Margaux Hemingway.

Yune’s charm is pretty infectious though and you can tell that he was enjoying making the film and had no qualms about playing a cowardly but lovable fool.

While the film’s script isn’t one of a high standard, even for ’80s comedies, it still features a good character arc that sees this loser evolve into something closer to what he envisions for himself.

It’s not a memorable film but it is a unique one in that I haven’t really seen anything else like it.

So I guess I should now track down its sequel, which I didn’t know existed until after I watched this film and started reading up on it and Yune.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: its sequel, as well as other martial arts comedies.

Comic Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 8: Northampton

Published: June 17th, 2014
Written by: Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz
Art by: Sophie Campbell
Based on: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird

IDW Publishing, 105 Pages

Review:

After the first seven volumes in this series, the team needed a breather and some time to reflect on where they’ve come. This was that break, which was fine and, as a reader, allowed me to kick back and read as these characters developed more and dealt with some emotional baggage that needed to be processed.

That’s not to say that there isn’t action here, there certainly is. But for the most part, it takes a bit of a backseat to the characters working through their issues and moving forward in what feels like a new era in the larger TMNT saga.

The story takes place in farm country, as April, Casey and the Turtles take a vacation from their crazy, dangerous lives in New York City. This also gets into more backstory regarding the experiments that led to the creation of the mutants and the sort of business that drives Baxter Stockman’s company. We also see Alopex, a villain thus far, try to turn over a new leaf and repent for her previous sins against the heroes.

I guess the biggest thing here, though, is seeing Leonardo work through his demons, as he’s just recently broke the spell of control that Shredder and the Foot Clan had over him.

This chapter in the saga came with a new artist. At first, I wasn’t feeling it but I quickly got passed it and it worked for me. It just has a different look than the volumes that came out before this one but after it initially being a distraction, it sort of smoothed out as I kept reading.

Overall, this is probably the slowest volume of the lot, so far, but it didn’t feel like filler and the breather felt necessary. Plus, these collections only cover four issues and you can read them very quickly.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the rest of IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles run.

Video Game Review: Kung Fu (NES)

Kung Fu was one of the first Nintendo games that I owned. My cousin had the system about six months before I did but when I got mine later that year at Christmas, this was one of the games that “Santa” dropped off with it.

loved this fucking game and used to play it for hours, even though you can actually beat it in like ten minutes. I didn’t care about how repetitive it was and how basic as fuck the level design was, it was just a badass game with a badass dude throwing lightning fast kicks and unimpressive punches. Just use the kicks, man!

I also noticed, as a kid, that this was a lot like the plot to Bruce Lee’s Game of Death, where the hero has to fight through five levels of a pagoda, facing a tough boss on each level. I’m pretty sure this took its inspiration from that film’s general premise but it also adds in lots of baddies and unique bosses that weren’t trying to emulate the character from the Lee film.

For the time, the mechanics of this game were superb. While you can get overwhelmed by enemies if you aren’t precise, most mistakes are due to human error and not the game being a piece of shit.

There’s not a lot of strategy to this game. Just kick and don’t get hit. When you fight the bosses, sweeping the leg works for most of them. Just unload lightning fast leg sweeps and be done with them.

While this is one of the best side scrolling beat’em ups from the earliest days of the original Nintendo, it did get overshadowed by games like Double Dragon. 

Still, this is one smooth game that packs a punch and is still fun to blast through every now and again.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other side scrolling beat’em action games for the original Nintendo.