Film Review: Mortal Kombat (2021)

Also known as: Mortal Kombat 3, Mortal Kombat: Devastation (working titles)
Release Date: April, 2021
Directed by: Simon McQuoid
Written by: Greg Russo, Dave Callaham, Oren Uziel
Based on: Mortal Kombat by Ed Boon, John Tobias
Music by: Benjamin Wallfisch
Cast: Lewis Tan, Jessica McNamee, Josh Lawson, Tadanobu Asano, Mehcad Brooks, Ludi Lin, Chin Han, Joe Taslim, Hiroyuki Sanada, Nathan Jones

NetherRealm Studios, Atomic Monster, New Line Cinema, 110 Minutes

Review:

“Throughout history, different cultures all over the world reference a great tournament of champions. That dragon marking, I think it’s an invitation to fight for something known as Mortal Kombat.” – Sonya Blade

Let’s be honest up front, I didn’t expect much from this movie. I think it’s hard to make a great film based off of a fighting game due to the nature of what it is and how many characters need to be balanced. However, this was better than I anticipated and for the most part, I really enjoyed it for what it was.

My only real gripe about the film was the lead actor, who was playing a character that was just made up for the movie. His character doesn’t exist in the games, unless he was wedged into the newest one to justify his presence in this picture.

Beyond the lead, everyone else was pretty decent and enjoyable. I’d have to say that Kano was the best character in the film, though, as that dude was just a complete dick, funny as hell and true to his nature of being a total bastard.

Unfortunately, the best thing about the movie is the opening scene. The studio also leaked this scene early in an effort to entice people to watch the movie. I guess that was a good marketing ploy but everything after that epic, incredible intro is a letdown.

There are still really solid bits sprinkled in throughout the film and I also thought that most of the fight choreography was pretty good. I enjoyed the fights and pretty much liked all of them.

Additionally, I love that this embraced the R rating and stayed true to the spirit of the Mortal Kombat games and gave us some pretty awesome, gory kills and over the top defeats.

All in all, this is a decent video game movie full of solid action, mindless fun and a whole lot of cool, badass shit.

Plus, it’s a better movie than the two from the ’90s.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: the other movies based on fighting games, as well as anything else in the Mortal Kombat franchise.

Film Review: Double Dragon (1994)

Also known as: Double Dragon: The Movie (alternative title)
Release Date: November 4th, 1994
Directed by: James Yukich (as James Nickson)
Written by: Paul Dini, Neal Shusterman, Michael Davis, Peter Gould
Based on: Double Dragon by Technos Japan
Music by: Jay Ferguson, Tolga Katas
Cast: Robert Patrick, Mark Dacascos, Scott Wolf, Julia Nickson, Alyssa Milano, Leon Russom, Kristina Wagner, George Hamilton, Vanna White, Andy Dick, Cory Milano, Al Leong, Jeff Imada

Greenleaf Productions, Imperial Entertainment, Les Films du Scarabée, 96 Minutes

Review:

“I just want total domination of one major American City! Is that too much to ask for? Is it? Is it? Huh?” – Guisman

So out of all the “terrible” video game movies of the ’90s, this is one I hadn’t seen until now. While I loved the Double Dragon video game franchise, I never wanted to see this after the trailer for it dropped back in 1994. It looked horrendously bad, poorly adapted and like a hokey, steaming pile of shit.

That being said, I did enjoy the hell out of this even if it’s a pretty shitty movie. I know that I would’ve hated it when it was current, however. Especially, because I loved the tone of the Double Dragon games and in that regard, this didn’t just miss the mark, it wasn’t even aiming in the first place.

The film is bad from top-to-bottom but some of the big action sequences are actually kind of impressive in regards to how well this made the most of a moderate budget. It was able to give us a cool boat chase scene with good pyrotechnics and action. Plus, some of the sets, as corny as they are, were fairly large and well designed for the bizarre world that this film takes place in.

Sadly, the special effects took somewhat of a budgetary hit in the poor use of obvious matte paintings and the giant rubber suit the Abobo actor was forced to wear.

Additionally, the acting is pretty damn bad but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy how over-the-top and hammy Robert Patrick was in his role as the villain.

To put it bluntly, this is a bad movie but it’s weird as fuck. I really enjoy weird movies and because of that, I liked this. That doesn’t mean that I’ll ever watch it again or give it a positive rating but I’ve enjoyed other films that were far worse than this.

Granted, I would watch a RiffTrax version of this movie if one exists.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: other ’90s video game film adaptations.

Film Review: The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974)

Also known as: The 7 Brothers Meet Dracula (US poster title), The Last Warning (UK alternative title)
Release Date: July 11th, 1974 (Hong Kong)
Directed by: Roy Ward Baker, Chang Cheh
Written by: Don Houghton
Music by: James Bernard
Cast: Peter Cushing, David Chiang, Julie Ege, Robin Stewart, John Forbes-Robertson

Shaw Brothers, Hammer Films, 89 Minutes, 75 Minutes (American edit)

Review:

“I need your mortal coil. I need the form of your miserable carcass. I need your vile image. I need to walk this Earth again, free from these walls, free from this mausoleum. I will return to your temple, in your image Kah. I will recall the Seven Golden Vampires, as my own host. Tools of my vengeance on mankind. I will take on your appearance, your image.” – Dracula

I saw this years ago and while I mostly liked it, I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did, revisiting it now.

This film was a co-production between the UK’s Hammer Films, known for their iconic gothic horror pictures, and Hong Kong’s Shaw Brothers studio, the masters of classic kung fu flicks.

Somehow, this unusual movie came together like a perfect marriage between the two studios’ very different styles and the end result was something really entertaining, especially for fans of both companies.

I’m not surprised that Christopher Lee didn’t come back to play Dracula once again but I still wish he had, as it would’ve added something extra to the movie. But at least Peter Cushing returned to play another version of the Van Helsing character. I do like the actor that did play the traditional Dracula, however, even if the role was rather limited.

That intro between Dracula and Kah, the Chinese baddie that became his mortal host, was really damn enjoyable: the perfect kind of old school cheese.

Once the story gets to China, it’s really energetic and cool. I love the tone of the film, the martial arts action and the ideas explored in this were really neat and fresh.

I especially love how vivid and almost giallo-esque some of the lighting was in the more surreal horror scenes. However, at times, the movie also looks like what one would expect from a traditional Shaw Brothers kung fu movie.

There’s just a lot of awesome stuff in this film and if you just sit back and enjoy the show, it’s a lot of fun and a great attempt at trying to bring two very different things together in a well-crafted package.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other Hammer Dracula films, as well as other Shaw Brothers kung fu pictures.

Comic Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 16: Chasing Phantoms

Published: May 10th, 2017
Written by: Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz
Art by: Mateus Santolouco, Dave Wachter
Based on: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird

IDW Publishing, 127 Pages

Review:

While I like that the IDW Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic book series is in new territory, by this point, and trying fresh things for the franchise, I also question whether or not it’s ran its course and is just running on fumes after the defeats of Shredder and Krang.

Don’t get me wrong, I like that it’s sort of changed its tone and there are new villains but it’s starting to feel a lot less like the traditional TMNT I grew up with and more like it’s trying to figure out where to go, charting new, unknown territory even for original creator Kevin Eastman.

Splinter being in charge of the Foot Clan just seems damn odd, even if he’s trying to make them a force for good. He’s still doing things that seem really out of character and the Turtles, his sons, recognize this. It’s been going on for a few volumes in this series now and I’m kind of waiting to see if there’s a real reason for it that will somehow make sense in a big, stunning reveal.

The series is just in a place of uncertainty in regards to where it’s going and the core characters’ lives and direction. I still like it, I’m still invested but something has to happen and soon.

The art is still on par with the previous volumes and as the series rolls on, it gets a wee bit better even with each chapter.

As I said, I’m still enjoying this, sixteen volumes deep, but I really feel like something big needs to go down much sooner, rather than later.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: the rest of IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles run.

Comic Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 15: Leatherhead

Published: October 5th, 2016
Written by: Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz
Art by: Mateus Santolouco, Dave Wachter
Based on: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird

IDW Publishing, 125 Pages

Review:

This chapter in the very long-running IDW Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series was pretty damn good.

The series is in a new place after the defeat of Shredder and Krang in two different big battles. So it’s uncertain where this can go, as it has entered really new territory and sort of has a clean slate.

That being said, this was really entertaining and full of surprises.

By the title of this volume, you know that Leatherhead enters the series. He was always a cool concept for a character but I always thought that he was never properly executed in the good ol’ days. In this, though, he’s a dangerous, massive beast. He at first seems like an ally but there’s a very dark, pretty f’d up twist with his character.

In this chapter, we also see more of the female Foot Clan member Jennika, who is trying to redeem herself after existing in a dark cloud under Shredder’s command. Here, Master Splinter is essentially her Yoda: training her, helping her find peace, balance and self-respect.

Man, this was just a good piece of storytelling with great art that fans that have stuck around this long should expect.

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

Comic Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 14: Order From Chaos

Published: June 1st, 2016
Written by: Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz
Art by: Michael Dialynas, Ken Garing
Based on: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird

IDW Publishing, 136 Pages

Review:

This volume of the long-running Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles‘ IDW run looked a little bit different, as the artists changed. That’s not a bad thing, though, as the art in this collection of issues was still pretty good and fit well within the tone of the series.

The writing was still very good and honestly, more than anything else, that’s what’s kept me reading this series for well over a dozen volumes, at this point.

This story is the first one after the defeat of Shredder and the landscape of the TMNT-verse is now very different. There is a new threat and we also get to see how the core characters are adjusting to major changes in their lives.

Master Splinter now runs the Foot Clan and with that, there are new challenges and a new female student that I know will go on to have a pretty big impact on this series going forward.

All in all, this was another good, action packed volume and the series still hasn’t lost steam.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: the rest of IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles run.

Comic Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 12 & 13: Vengeance

Published: November 4th, 2015, February 3rd, 2016
Written by: Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz
Art by: Mateus Santolouco, Cory Smith
Based on: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird

IDW Publishing, 204 Pages (total)

Review:

This was the second large story arc in the IDW continuity of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Also, it was well worth the wait, after the slow build towards it since the last large event.

In this one, we get the final showdown between Splinter and Shredder and with that, we see both senseis’ families go to war. This story involves all the big players, thus far, and it brings major changes to the series.

While I know that Shredder has a story arc in Hell, I’ve already read it and reviewed it, and that he returns to life, eventually, the Turtles and their allies are finally able to move beyond the Shredder threat and shift their focus to an oncoming war with Krang.

I dug this one a lot but after how much I’ve liked all the previous volumes, this shouldn’t be a surprise.

Eastman is still writing great stories, alongside Tom Waltz, his righthand man on this incarnation of his most famous creation.

Additionally, I loved the art Mateus Santolouco and Cory Smith but this series has looked great from the start.

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

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.