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.

Comic Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder In Hell

Published: April 24th, 2019 – December 4th, 2019
Written by: Mateus Santolouco
Art by: Mateus Santolouco
Based on: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird

IDW Publishing, 146 Pages

Review:

While I haven’t read any of IDW’s regular Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles continuity, I’ve heard really good things about it from friends who love everything Turtles. Granted, they could have some bias but I figured that this miniseries had an interesting enough premise for me to check out.

I’m not sure about what led to this but Shredder is in Hell, as the title implies. I wouldn’t say that this is too dissimilar from other comics where characters go to Hell and have to face their own demons but it was still a cool read with pretty good art.

My only real complaint about it was that I felt like I needed more context and enough backstory wasn’t revealed within this five issue arc.

Additionally, there were big delays between the issues getting released and waiting three months for issue five really hurt the momentum of the series, as it’s hard to retain most of the details from the first four issues, when you are getting old and read dozens of comics per month.

In a nutshell, this isn’t a bad effort but it’s not a very good effort. I felt lost through parts of it but the art salvaged some of it and at least it was visually neat.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: other recent Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics from IDW, especially since this ties to the main story in that continuity.

Film Review: Bloodlust! (1961)

Release Date: September 13th, 1961 (San Diego premiere)
Directed by: Ralph Brooke
Written by: Richard Connell, Ralph Brooke
Music by: Michael Terr
Cast: Wilton Graff, Robert Reed, June Kenney, Gene Persson

Crown International Pictures, Cinegraf Productions, 68 Minutes

Review:

“Listen, Mister Balleau, fun’s fun. But if you think we’re gonna be the clay pigeons in your shooting gallery – you’re just a little far out!” – Johnny Randall

I’ve seen Wilton Graff appear in other films but mostly as an uncredited bit role. Here, one of his last films, he gets some time to shine. And frankly, he comes off like a poor man’s Vincent Price. But honestly, that is kind of cool, even if he doesn’t quite nail Price’s eloquence, panache and poetic way with words.

Despite that, however, this is a pretty crappy film that was deservedly lampooned on Mystery Science Theater 3000.

The plot sees some vacationing doofus couples hijack a boat from their drunk captain. They get the genius idea to go explore a jungle island. The drunk captain wakes up and warns them not to. The doofuses quickly discover that the island is owned by a madman. Their insane host then holds them hostage in his home. They all want to escape but before they know it, they’re used as game in the madman’s manhunt.

While I like manhunt movies, this isn’t a near masterpiece like 1994’s Surviving the Game, I say that facetiously, since tone can’t be expressed properly with typed words. But honestly, this is amusing to a degree but far from anything all that worthwhile and the concept has been done much better elsewhere.

On a side note: there is a chick in this movie that is the daughter of a judo expert and she judo flips a henchman into a pool of acid. So for all the weirdos that didn’t think that there were badass female heroes before Captain Marvel, you’re stupid.

Anyway, this isn’t a film that I can recommend unless you watch the MST3K version.

Rating: 2.5/10
Pairs well with: other black and white horror schlock that was featured on MST3K.

Video Game Review: The Karate Kid (NES)

Sadly, The Karate Kid game for the original Nintendo Entertainment System is completely devoid of Cobra Kai.

I guess that’s because it is primarily based off of the second film, which saw Daniel-San and Mr. Miyagi go to Okinawa where they both had to face their own challenges. In the case of Daniel-San, his challenge came in the form of the local douchebag rich kid, Chozen.

The first stage in this game is the karate tournament from the end of the first movie but you fight generic opponents. Every stage after that takes place in Okinawa, as you fight your way through side scrolling stages. Eventually, once you reach the end of the fourth and final stage, you fight Chozen on the same platform from the finale of the second movie.

The game is pretty much a side scrolling beat’em up. However, there are a few cool mini games thrown in like dodging the hammer, catching the flies with chopsticks and karate chopping blocks of ice. These were all things taken from the second movie.

For the most part, the game is fun but it is over pretty quickly.

The mechanics are okay. They can be a bit frustrating at first but they don’t take long to adapt to.

While I like the game, I do wish it was longer and had better level design. Maybe even some cut scenes to provide some story would have been nice, as well.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other 8-bit side scrolling beat’em ups.

Film Review: Fatal Fury 2: The New Battle (1993)

Release Date: July 31st, 1993 (Japan)
Directed by: Kazuhiro Furuhashi
Based on: Fatal Fury: King of Fighters by SNK
Music by: Toshihiko Sahashi

Nihon Ad Systems (NAS), 75 Minutes

Review:

While the first movie didn’t age too well, I still wanted to watch the second one, as it bridges the gap between the first and third movies and because I remember the third one being exceptionally good for the time.

These films are based off of the fighting game series of the same name, a series that would eventually evolve into the popular King of Fighters franchise.

I would say that this chapter is a step up from the first one, as it is longer, has more story and also has more fighting and introduces fans to other beloved characters that didn’t fit in the first chapter.

The plot mostly follows the plot of the second game and introduces the villain Wolfgang Krauser, who appears to be a bigger badass than Geese Howard of the original game and film. It also brings in the matador villain Laurence Blood, as every big baddie needs a top henchman. Blood is to Krauser what Billy Kane was to Geese.

I think that the animation here is pretty consistent with the first film but it may be a hair bit better. Where I did notice improvement was in the action, especially the fighting scenes.

Fatal Fury 2: The New Battle expands the story quite a bit and it helps to set the stage for the followup: Fatal Fury: The Motion Picture, which was the finale and the only one that saw theatrical release.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: the two other Fatal Fury movies.

Video Game Review: Ninja Gaiden III: The Ancient Ship of Doom (NES)

The things I complained about with the first two Ninja Gaiden games seem to be less of an issue with this one. The main thing being the difficulty of the game and how you are constantly overwhelmed by enemies and find yourself extremely frustrated.

The other main issue I had with the other games was the mechanics. They are greatly improved here. You can climb up walls and actually jump forward over edges now, which allows you to work your way through the levels much better and with less complications.

Also, the bosses in this seem easier and there is more of a variance in their style. You can figure out and employ good strategies for most, as opposed to simply hacking and slashing and hoping you can dodge enough enemy attacks just to outlast the baddie.

Where the game lacks though, is in the story. This has the weakest plot of the three games and it feels out of place, as a follow up to the first two games. This is much more sci-fi based than fantasy. It has alien technology, super soldiers and dimension jumping. While those aren’t bad things, they just felt out of place with what was already established and the tone of the stories that came before.

The plot is still okay enough to make me care but it didn’t motivate me to push through like it did in the other games. Still, I played through and beat this but that was mainly due to it being less of a clusterfuck and more fun, overall.

I only wish they had fine tuned the gameplay earlier than this and employed it in the previous games, which would have made them much better experiences.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: all the other Ninja Gaiden games for the NES.