Comic Review: Stumptown, Vol. 4: The Case of a Cup of Joe

Published: January 25th, 2017
Written by: Greg Rucka
Art by: Justin Greenwood, Ryan Hill

Oni Press, 143 Pages

Review:

This fourth and final volume of Stumptown was definitely a step up from the fairly mundane third chapter. Granted, I still wasn’t as engaged by this story as I was the first two.

The plot here is more interesting than the previous book but there doesn’t feel like there’s any real danger here for the characters, as the heavies in this are inexperienced hipsters from the coffee scene and not legitimate, dangerous criminals and brutes that have actually gotten blood on their hands.

In fact, this felt more like a comedy than a neo-noir crime drama.

Maybe Greg Rucka wanted to go out on a lighter note with this one but it lacks the gravity of the earlier stories and certainly pales in comparison to the darker, grittier and more realistic neo-noir comic book tales by Ed Brubaker.

I didn’t think this was a waste but it didn’t hit the mark and just didn’t pull me in and hold onto me like the first two volumes did.

There’s really not much else to say. This is just about a bunch of rich eccentrics and hipsters trying to acquire some magic coffee beans.

The end.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: the other Stumptown volumes, as well as Gotham CentralKill Or Be Killed, The Fade Out and Sin City.

Film Review: Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter (1974)

Also known as: Kronos (US short title), Vampire Castle (alternative title) 
Release Date: April 7th, 1974 (UK)
Directed by: Brian Clemens
Written by: Brian Clemens
Music by: Laurie Johnson
Cast: Horst Janson, John Carson, Caroline Munro, John Cater

Hammer Films, 91 Minutes

Review:

“What he doesn’t know about vampirism wouldn’t fill a flea’s codpiece.” – Kronos

After revisiting and reviewing Hammer’s The Karnstein Trilogy of films, I wanted to go back and watch Captain Kronos, as it features another Karnstein vampire but it isn’t considered part of the other three films. I went into this in my Twins of Evil review, so I won’t rehash it here.

Another reason why I wanted to watch this again was Caroline Munro, who was one of my earliest crushes and frankly, that crush has never worn off. I love her and she’s a lot of fun in this vampire swashbuckler.

This film is pretty great, especially for those who like not just classic Hammer-style horror but also for those who love adventure and a little bit of swashbuckling. Granted, there are no pirate ships and tropical locales here. But our hero, Captain Kronos isn’t afraid of crossing swords with evil.

Kronos, who is a cool character, isn’t alone in his quest to vanquish undead evil. He actually has a small group that works with him, my favorite of which is played by John Carson, a guy who should have been in more Hammer movies because he always has a great presence. While I most associate him with his role as the villain in The Plague of Zombies, a damn enjoyable film, his role here is more fleshed out, more heroic and he just nails the part so well that his death onscreen stings a bit.

We also get a lot of Caroline Munro in this movie and she’s striking gorgeous and always exciting to watch, as she has real charm and she can ham it up in the right way. And that’s a necessary skill in this picture, as it is lighthearted and fun, even if it exists within the sphere of Hammer horror.

This was a cool concept and I assume that it was supposed to be the start of a new vampire-centric franchise for Hammer, as they had just wrapped up the Dracula and Karnstein series of films.

Unfortunately, there weren’t anymore Kronos movies after this one and the world didn’t get to see any further adventures of this awesome hero. I kind of feel cheated.

Although, there would be a comic book miniseries, several years later. One of these days, I’ll round up all the issues and review them.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: The Karnstein Trilogy and Countess Dracula, as well as Vampire Circus and Hammer’s Dracula films.

Film Review: The Dead Pool (1988)

Also known as: Dirty Harry in The Dead Pool (poster title), Dirty Harry 5 (alternative title)
Release Date: July 13th, 1988
Directed by: Buddy Van Horn
Written by: Steve Sharon, Durk Pearson, Sandy Shaw
Based on: characters by Harry Julian Fink, R.M. Fink 
Music by: Lalo Schifrin
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Patricia Clarkson, Liam Neeson, Evan Kim, David Hunt, Michael Currie, Michael Goodwin, Jim Carrey, Marc Alaimo, Justin Whalin, Guns N’ Roses (cameo)

Malpaso Productions, Warner Bros., 91 Minutes

Review:

“Well, opinions are like assholes. Everybody has one.” – ‘Dirty’ Harry Callahan

This is it, the fifth and final Dirty Harry movie. It’s also the one that most people seem to like the least. However, I like it a tad bit more than the fourth film, Sudden Impact.

While far from great, I like this movie because it features an interesting plot, even if it’s not executed greatly. Also, the car chase scene with the remote control bomb car blew my mind, as a kid, and I still love the hell out of that whole sequence 32 years later.

Clint Eastwood is still great as Dirty Harry and this movie feels like it fits better within the series, as a whole, where the previous movie took him out of San Francisco and made him do cop work while essentially on vacation.

I like his energy, here, and at this point, the character is really just an extension of Eastwood and he can coast through this thing on auto pilot and still nail it.

This movie also benefits from having a young but capable Liam Neeson, alongside Patricia Clarkson and a very young and not so comedic Jim Carrey. I really dig the hell out of Carrey in this and even if his performance isn’t anything close to perfect, he did show that he was capable of acting beyond the requirements of his earlier comedic roles.

This film is short and sweet, just being around ninety minutes and not over two hours like the drawn out chore that was Sudden Impact. It’s action packed, moves briskly and doesn’t waste time on trying to make a more complex plot. These films don’t need to be that, they just need to kick ass, take names and then kick more ass.

I feel like the ’80s Dirty Harry pictures can’t really compete with the solid ’70s ones. However, this is still a better than decent ’80s action flick that knew how to get to the point while amassing a respectable body count in the process.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Dirty Harry movies, as well as the Death Wish series.

Film Review: Magnum Force (1973)

Also known as: Vigilance (working title), Magnum .44 (Spanish speaking countries), Dirty Harry II – Callahan (Germany, Austria)
Release Date: December 13th, 1973 (London premiere)
Directed by: Ted Post
Written by: John Milius, Michael Cimino
Based on: characters by Harry Julian Fink, R.M. Fink
Music by: Lalo Schifrin
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Hal Holbrook, Mitchell Ryan, David Soul, Felton Perry, Robert Urich, Kip Niven, Tim Matheson, John Mitchum, Albert Popwell, Suzanne Somers (uncredited)

The Malpaso Company, Warner Bros., 124 Minutes

Review:

“You’re a good cop, Harry. You had a chance to join my team, but you decided to stick with the system.” – Lieutenant Briggs, “Briggs, I hate the goddamn system! But until someone comes along with changes that make sense, I’ll stick with it.” – “Dirty” Harry Callahan

Although, John Milius considered this the worst film he was involved with, I consider it to be fucking badass and a worthy sequel to the original Dirty Harry, as it builds off of some of the statements from that film and really examines how broken the justice system is from a cop’s perspective.

While this isn’t quite the classic that the original was, it is still a high octane, balls out action film with a certain kind of grit that could only exist in the 1970s.

Clint Eastwood is back as “Dirty” Harry Callahan and even though he tossed his badge in the river in the previous film, he’s back to work, crossing the line and fighting the scumfucks of San Francisco. In this film, however, the scumfucks just happen to be fellow police officers that operate like a team of Punishers.

The film is just as much a thriller as it is an action picture and it almost feels kind of noir-ish in its narrative tone, as there are swerves and twists. While you might see some surprises before the film reveals them, they’re still effective and make this an interesting story about corruption and justice.

Eastwood seems more fine tuned as Harry in this film and it’s obvious that he’s real comfortable in the role. Hal Holbrook plays opposite of Eastwood in a lot of scenes and I really enjoyed the banter between the two stupendous actors.

The film also features a young Robert Urich, as one of the dirty cops. It’s cool seeing him in this early role, as a piece of shit, especially since he typically played good, mostly moral characters as he got bigger roles and established himself as a really likable actor.

This is the longest film in the Dirty Harry franchise but there really isn’t a dull moment and time doesn’t feel like it’s wasted. This has a bulky story with a lot of layers to it but it’s easy to follow and moves at a good pace.

Ultimately, the film delivers where it needs to and the finale was really well done, as Harry has to outwit and survive the young killer cops that are determined to silence him.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: the other Dirty Harry movies, as well as the Death Wish series.

Film Review: Deep Red (1975)

Also known as: Profondo Rosso (original Italian title), Profoundly Red (European English title), Dripping Deep Red (US pre-release title), The Deep Red Hatchet Murders (US DVD box title), The Hatchet Murders (US censored version)
Release Date: March 7th, 1975 (Italy)
Directed by: Dario Argento
Written by: Dario Argento, Bernardino Zapponi
Music by: Goblin, Giorgio Gaslini
Cast: David Hemmings, Daria Nicolodi, Macha Meril, Eros Pagni, Giuliana Calandra

Rizzoli Film, Seda Spettacoli, 127 Minutes (original), 101 Minutes (R rated cut), 105 Minutes (export cut)

Review:

“It seems there are just some things you can’t do seriously with liberated women.” – Marcus Daly

This was the first giallo film that Dario Argento directed after what’s unofficially referred to as his “animal trilogy”, which featured the films The Bird With the Crystal Plumage (1970), The Cat O’ Nine Tails (1971) and Four Flies On Grey Velvet (1971). This also came after Argento took a break from the giallo style with 1973’s The Five Days, which was a dramedy about the Italian Revolution.

Like most of Argento’s giallos, this film was a proto-slasher movie that employed some pretty good, artsy gore. You know, the type that isn’t just gore for the sake of gore but is instead creative, full of vivid color, especially in regards to blood and other bodily fluids, and done so masterfully with practical, real effects that you kind of just stare in awe of it.

The story is about a killer that seemingly kills at random and that you are only given small clues about over the course of the film. Eventually, the crime is solved but there are great film-noir-esque twists throughout the picture and the most haunting thing about this movie isn’t the killer but it’s the picture’s atmosphere.

I’ve often mentioned about how film-noir influenced giallo and how giallo influenced slasher films. This is a movie that, honestly, makes one of the best supporting arguments for my theory. In a lot of ways, it pulls from the best bits of Argento’s previous giallos but it also reminded me a lot of Mario Bava’s Blood and Black Lace, which might be the best example of giallo bridging the bizarre gap between classic noir and slashers.

I thought that some bits of the movie were bonkers and insane, like the bit with the robot doll. But stuff like that is so surreal, cool and terrifying in its own way that it actually makes the picture work better in how it overwhelms you with weird, creepy shit.

Certain things don’t have to make sense and Deep Red is an example of how bizarre, nonsensical moments can actually throw your scent off just to hit you with something else unexpected and jarring. This was something that Argento would actually get even better at, as can be seen in films like SuspiriaInferno and Phenomena.

Deep Red is not Argento’s best picture but it is well constructed, visually rich and it delivers the type of experience a giallo fan should greatly enjoy.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other Dario Argento giallo films of the ’70s and ’80s.

Film Review: Don’t Bother to Knock (1952)

Also known as: Night Without Sleep, Mischief (working titles)
Release Date: July 18th, 1952 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Roy Ward Baker
Written by: Daniel Taradash
Based on: Mischief by Charlotte Armstrong
Music by: Lionel Newman
Cast: Richard Widmark, Marilyn Monroe, Anne Bancroft, Elisha Cook Jr., Jim Backus, Donna Corcoran, Jeanne Cagney, Lurene Tuttle, Verna Felton

20th Century Fox, 76 Minutes

Review:

“You smell like a cooch dancer!” – Eddie Forbes

This is a really interesting film about mental illness. It came out in the 1950s when there wasn’t as much knowledge about the subject but compared to other films from the time, this one is actually really respectful towards mental health. Honestly, Don’t Bother to Knock is probably one of the best movies of its era to actually try and tackle the issue, as it doesn’t make the character struggling with it into a psychotic nutjob.

The film gives top billing to Richard Widmark but the real star of the picture is Marilyn Monroe, who plays a babysitter that mentally breaks down as the story rolls on. I’ve absolutely got to give Monroe props in this role, as she truly comes across as believable and makes you feel for her on a pretty deep level.

In fact, this is one movie that you can point to when people claim that Monroe was just a pretty face. She handled the material with a sort of grace and respect that transcends the picture. And if I’m being straight here, I’ve never been a massive Monroe fan. But her ability to act in this picture was stupendous and it kind of makes me want to reexamine her other roles.

Additionally, Widmark is superb in his role, as are Anne Bancroft, who I wish had more screen time, and the always entertaining character actor Elisha Cook Jr.

This is a sympathetic and intelligently handled picture where the cast figures out something is off with this girl but they ultimately rally around her to give her the help she desperately needs. It’s hard to say what happens to her after the film but you do leave with the feeling that the core characters in this story will be there to help her heal, as opposed to just sending her to an asylum and being done with her uncontrollable antics.

Directed by Roy Ward Baker, who would go on to do a lot of horror and sci-fi pictures, the film is well shot and it shows that the guy had a real skill that his later work might not have showcased nearly as well. While I enjoy the work he did for Hammer and Amicus, the two horror giants of the UK, this may be the best film of his that I’ve seen from an artistic and technical standpoint.

Don’t Bother to Knock has been a film that has been in my Prime Video queue for a long time. I’m glad that I finally got around to giving it a shot, as I was pleasantly surprised by it on just about every level.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other early ’50s film-noir, as well as other early Marilyn Monroe movies.