Comic Review: Hellboy Vs. Lobster Johnson in the Ring of Death – One-Shot

Published: May 29th, 2019
Written by: Mike Mignola, Chris Roberson
Art by: Paul Grist, Mike Norton, Dave Stewart, Paolo Rivera (cover)

Dark Horse Comics, 24 Pages

Review:

I’ll be honest, I bought this strictly for the cover.

Still, I’m a Hellboy fan so I at least knew that I’d most likely enjoy the whole comic.

For the most part, this was a good read. It doesn’t seem to mean much in the grander scheme of things but it entertained me for a bit and it even threw in a bit of lucha libre to sweeten the pot.

The art was good throughout and the story was energetic and fun.

But man, I just couldn’t take my eye off of the cover and I’d buy a poster print of it in a heartbeat.

And that’s it. This is a one-shot. There’s not much to say without ruining the story. Ultimately, it doesn’t seem important and maybe this should have felt like it had more of a reason to exist but whatever.

So I’ll keep this one short and sweet because the comic was short and sweet.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other Hellboy comics.

Comic Review: Defenders of the Earth

Published: January, 1987 – July, 1987
Written by: Stan Lee, Michael Higgins
Art by: Alex Saviuk
Based on: Flash Gordon by Alex Raymond, The Phantom & Mandrake the Magician by Lee Falk

Star Comics, Marvel Comics, 110 Pages

Review:

I don’t know how many people remember Defenders of the Earth. It was kind of big in the ’80s, as it spawned this comic series, an animated television show, a toyline and other product tie-ins.

For those that don’t know, it was a team that was formed of three old school pulp heroes that were originally published in comic strips by King Features Syndicate. They would go on to be really popular and even had serials produced back in the days when serials were still a thing.

The team consists of Flash Gordon, The Phantom and Mandrake the Magician, as well as their kids and some other allies. The Defenders are unified in their battle against famous Flash Gordon foe, Ming the Merciless.

This comic series was published by Star Comics, which was a short-lived imprint of the much larger Marvel Comics. With that, they were able to get the great Stan Lee to write the first issue of the comic. Michael Higgins would take over for issues two through four with Alex Saviuk providing the art for all four issues.

The story sees Ming do something horrible to Flash Gordon’s wife, which inspires these heroes to come together in an effort to defeat Ming and his desire to conquer Earth.

Defenders of the Earth was an entertaining read, especially that Stan Lee issue. It had a lot of energy and it got you excited for what could have come but sadly, the series ended at issue four, even though it promised a fifth. It doesn’t quite end on a cliffhanger but it ends unfinished, which kind of sucks.

I didn’t remember much about this series but the comic has made me nostalgic for the television show, which I haven’t seen since about 1987. I may go back and give it a watch in the very near future.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other ’80s comic book tie-ins to toylines and animated series.

Film Review: The Car (1977)

Also known as: Wheels (working title)
Release Date: May 13th, 1977
Directed by: Elliot Silverstein
Written by: Michael Butler, Dennis Shryack, Lane Slate
Music by: Leonard Rosenman
Cast: James Brolin, Kathleen Lloyd, John Marley, Elizabeth Thompson, Ronny Cox, R.G. Armstrong

Universal Pictures, 98 Minutes

Review:

“[addressing his officers] So look… I want everybody out on the streets. I want you to remember… a young man was killed today, passing through our town… and I don’t like it… I don’t like it at all. Goodbye.” – Everett

The Car is my favorite killer vehicle movie, as it just beats out Steven Spielberg’s early film, Duel. However, unlike Duel, this one has more in common with Christine and Maximum Overdrive in that it features a vehicle without a driver.

What I really like about the film is that it’s a mystery as to who or what is behind the wheel and by the end of it, it’s still unclear other than a demonic face appearing briefly within the smoke of the vehicle’s flaming wreckage.

This is a pretty badass movie, as the meanest looking car of all killer cars mows people down without any hesitation.

Now the only real negative about the film is that there isn’t any blood or even the slightest bit of gore. This is a horror film from the late ’70s, man! Take the kid gloves off and show us some vehicular splatter porn!

I guess that the televised version of this film was heavily edited down but I’m not sure why it needed to be? This is practically PG in how it alludes to violence and doesn’t show anyone actually getting the Gallagher watermelon treatment.

What makes this better than it should be is the fact that the car looks so damn menacing. Plus, it moves like a real predator because whoever was driving it and orchestrating how its movements needed to work within key shots and scenes knew exactly what the hell they were doing.

Sure, there are some cheesy and goofy bits, like the car barrel rolling over two cop cars and the weird French horn toting pothead in the beginning but that stuff works within the framework and tone of the picture.

The character development is also good and no one really seems disposable other than the two bicycle teens that meet their terrible fate in the opening sequence.

The Car introduces you to several characters and it does a superb job of giving them life, even with limited time. For instance, the cop who dies early on didn’t have much screen time but his death hits you in the feels because even with just two small scenes, he was shown to be a good, honorable man.

Additionally, Kathleen Lloyd’s death was a real punch in the nuts. She came off as really likable and she’s definitely one of the people you hoped would survive to the end. Sure, she talked shit to the demon car and some of her disses were corny but it really humanized her and showed her strength as she stood strong against a lethal predator despite showing that she knew she was vulnerable and was very frightened underneath it all. Her death is one of the coolest scenes in the movie though.

James Brolin, Ronny Cox and R.G. Armstrong were all very good too. I’ve never seen Cox play a character that came off as kind of dopey and weak and it’s a real departure from his role as Dick Jones in RoboCop or as the police captain in the Beverly Hills Cop film series.

When I saw this for the first time, I was surprised by how good the main players in this film were. Especially for a late ’70s horror picture that seems like it’s mostly forgotten today.

I also dig the score to this film. The opening credits were eerie and ominous as hell, as they truly set the tone for something dark and brooding.

In a lot of ways, this film reminds me of Jaws, as a killer force of nature descends upon a small, quiet town and starts picking off its citizens one by one until it dies in a explosion caused by the town’s brave sheriff.

The Car is damn good. And it’s just one of those films that I can watch over and over and never get bored with it.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other killer vehicle movies: Duel, Christine, Maximum Overdrive, etc.

Film Review: Blade: Trinity (2004)

Also known as: Blade III (working title)
Release Date: December 7th, 2004 (Hollywood premiere)
Directed by: David S. Goyer
Written by: David S. Goyer
Based on: Blade by Marv Wolfman, Gene Colan
Music by: Ramin Djawadi, Rza
Cast: Wesley Snipes, Kris Kristofferson, Jessica Biel, Ryan Reynolds, Parker Posey, Dominic Purcell, Triple H, Natasha Lyonne, John Michael Higgins, James Remar, Patton Oswalt, Christopher Heyerdahl

Marvel Enterprises, Shawn Danielle Productions Ltd., Amen Ra Films, Imaginary Forces, New Line Cinema, 112 Minutes

Review:

“[licking one of Hannibal’s wounds] You’re tasting a little bland, lover. Are you getting enough fatty acids in your diet? Have you tried lake trout? Mackerel?” – Danica Talos, “How about you take a sugar-frosted fuck off the end of my dick?” – Hannibal King, “And how about everyone here not saying the word “dick” anymore? It provokes my envy.” – Danica Talos

Well, revisiting Blade II wasn’t fun but at least this one was a bit better, in my opinion, even if the consensus doesn’t agree with me.

But let’s be honest, this is also pretty much a total turkey unworthy of being a sequel to the first film.

What’s kind of baffling is that this installment has the best cast out of all three films. I mean, there is a lot of talent on the roster but what we got was a movie that has given most of these actors something to scrub off of their resume.

For instance, Parker Posey is a dynamite actress. In fact, she may be mostly known as an indie darling but she’s one of the best actresses of the past twenty-five years. She has range, she delivers and it’s hard to think of anything else that sees her performance be anywhere near as cringe as it is here. But I don’t blame Posey, I blame the atrocious script and poor direction of David S. Goyer.

So speaking on that, I have to point out how bad the dialogue is in this picture. It’s heinously bad. So bad, in fact, that it almost makes the dialogue in the first Blade come off as Shakespearean. It’s worse than the dialogue in Blade II, which was also shit. But I guess it’s kind of surprising, considering that Goyer wrote all three films. But maybe it’s worse here because he took over the directing duties and thus, didn’t have a more talented director that was able to work around terribly written lines and find a way to salvage them. Maybe Goyer kept a tighter leash on his actors than Guillermo del Toro or Stephen Norrington.

I mean, even Ryan Reynolds who is one of the most charming and funny actors of his generation, stumbled through his clunky and unfunny lines, trying to make them work but failing at delivering anything other than unfunny edgy boi humor that sounds like it was written by a middle schooler trying so hard to impress his older brother’s high school friends.

Don’t even get me started on Triple H’s performance but regardless of how convincing he is as a wrestler, his heel game is weak as hell here and I actually had to subtract some cool points from him when I saw this in 2004.

This chapter also lacks a real story and it isn’t even sure which character it wants to make the big bad of the movie. Dominic Purcell plays Drake, who is really just Dracula, but he comes off as the lamest Dracula in the last twenty years of film history. But Purcell is another guy that’s cool and pretty capable of putting in a good performance if given the right direction.

Ultimately, this is a film entirely bogged down by poor performances, bad writing and sloppy direction.

However, the story is better and more clever than the previous film. This had elements that could have saved it and turned this into something great. The opening in the desert and then the first action sequence were all well done and set the stage for what could have been a really solid picture but everything becomes a mess after that.

I also liked the idea of Blade finding a team to work with but the film fucks all that up by having Limp Bizkit Dracula killing just about all of them off except for Ryan Reynolds and Jessica Biel.

Now I really liked Biel in this, even if fighting vampires while jiving to your iPod seems incredibly careless. She gives a better performance than this weak script should have allowed and maybe Goyer was more lenient on letting her alter her performance, as she’s pretty hot and this was only the second time he directed.

Other great performers were all pretty much wasted and were forgettable. In fact, I forgot that James Remar, John Michael Higgins, Christopher Heyerdahl, Patton Oswalt and Natasha Lyonne were even in this.

In the end, this had the ability to be something much better but it suffered for all the reasons I’ve already bitched about. I liked that this wasn’t over stylized like del Toro’s Blade II and that it had a more interesting story that put Blade up against Dracula but the film’s execution snuffed out the possibility of something solid.

And while it seems as if I’m bashing Goyer, he would improve. But his best work has always come when he’s worked under a much more talented director than himself. Christopher Nolan, for instance. But he’s still put out some shitty scripts and unfortunately, the shit outweighs the gold.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: the other Blade movies.

Film Review: Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II (1987)

Also known as: Prom Night 2 (shortened title), The Haunting of Hamilton High (Germany)
Release Date: May 11th, 1987 (Cannes)
Directed by: Bruce Pittman
Written by: Ron Oliver
Music by: Paul Zaza
Cast: Michael Ironside, Wendy Lyon, Justin Louis, Lisa Schrage, Richard Monette

Simcom Limited, Allarcom Limited, British Columbia Television, Norstar Releasing, Alliance Atlantis, The Samuel Goldwyn Company, 97 Minutes

Review:

“It’s not who you come with, it’s who takes you home.” – Mary Lou Maloney

Surprisingly, I had never seen this movie before. But thanks to it being featured on The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs, I finally got to check it out. I also had no idea that this wasn’t an actual sequel to the first film and was it’s own thing that only took the Prom Night title after it was filmed. I guess that was to market it better.

Originally titled The Haunting of Hamilton High, this cheap Canadian horror film stands out well on its own and maybe would’ve had more of a cult following had it stuck to that original title. And even though its premise borrows quite heavily from Carrie, it’s different enough to not just be a simple ripoff of that film.

Also, like Carrie, the girl with the magical powers that ruins the prom is an innocent victim. However, she is played up here as evil because I guess sluts are bad. But before she died, she was simply horny and cheating on her boyfriend. Now her boyfriend burns her alive but it was an accident. But the adult version of him, played by Michael Ironside, is pretty much a target when Mary Lou comes back from the dead 30 years later.

So with magic and the undead involved, this isn’t a straight up slasher like its predecessor in name only. This is one of those supernatural slashers, where the evil presence possesses other people and also uses a sort of telekinetic power. Or she just attacks as an invisible ghost, it’s hard to say which one it is for sure when she murders the pregnant teen by hanging her. But later on, she does telekinetically explode neon signs, which impale a girl.

While this is not a great movie, it doesn’t need to be. It does its job, it entertains and it leaves horny teenagers in its wake. What more do you want with an ’80s horror picture? Sure, it could have gored it up a bit more but it’s not completely lacking in that regard.

Also, Michael Ironside is a fucking bawse!

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: Carrie and all its sequels/reboots, as well as the other Prom Night movies even if they are unrelated.

Film Review: Blade II (2002)

Also known as: Blade 2: Bloodlust (working title)
Release Date: March 21st, 2002 (premiere)
Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
Written by: David S. Goyer
Based on: Blade by Marv Wolfman, Gene Colan
Music by: Marco Beltrami
Cast: Wesley Snipes, Kris Kristofferson, Ron Perlman, Leonor Varela, Norman Reedus, Luke Goss, Danny John-Jules, Donnie Yen, Matt Schulze

Marvel Enterprises, Amen Ra Films, Imaginary Forces, New Line Cinema, 117 Minutes

Review:

“They tortured me almost to death, and then let me heal in a vat of blood so they could go at it again. Sorry sons of bitches could’ve at least fixed my damn leg while they were at it.” – Whistler

I think I liked Blade II when I saw it in theaters, which was the last time I saw it. However, seeing it with 2019 eyes, this thing is a total failure when compared to the solidness of the first picture.

Guillermo del Toro directed this, which means something to a lot of people, but if I’m being honest, del Toro rarely wows me. I don’t know why. I like his style to a point but I think he’s a severely over hyped filmmaker and his faults are really apparent in this movie.

The first movie in this franchise had superb character development and world building. This just takes all of that and makes it darker for the sake of making it darker and it adds in so much of del Toro’s narrative and visual tropes that its a flat movie with flat, predictable characters that act more like caricatures than real people. Blade II is a perfect example of style over substance.

This also has a new vampire threat that is very del Toro-esque and while these new, more dangerous vampires should be scary, they’re just kind of weird and go so far outside of what a typical vampire is that they feel like a different type of monster altogether. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but I just don’t like these creatures and they seem pretty generic and lame. Plus, they all basically look the same, which is just shirtless, bald and pale things. If I’m being honest, it’s as if del Toro is trying to channel some of the visual cues from Dark City‘s baddies while adding in a bit more fright factor with their jaws splitting open and revealing vampire vagina faces like the aliens from the Predator franchise.

While there are several actors I like in this beyond Snipes and Kristofferson, all of them are poorly used. Ron Perlman is underwhelming, Norman Reedus is annoying, Donnie Yen is wasted and Danny John-Jules feels like a watered down and less fabulous version of his most famous character, the Cat from Red Dwarf.

I didn’t like the bad guys, I didn’t like the plot twists that one can see from ten miles away and there was nothing here that justifies the need for a sequel.

I’m trying to think of one scene or sequence that stands out in the movie and I’ve got nothing. This is just an almost two-hour music video full of late ’90s techno and industrial scene cliches. And the whole shebang is derivative as fuck.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Blade movies.

Comic Review: Conan Chronicles – Epic Collection II: The Heart of Yag-Kosha

Published: April 16th, 2019
Written by: Kurt Busiek, Mike Mignola, Timothy Truman
Art by: Cary Nord, Greg Ruth, Timothy Truman, Eric Powell, Mike Mignola
Based on: Conan the Barbarian by Robert E. Howard

Dark Horse Comics, Marvel (reprinted), 504 Pages

Review:

Since I really dug the hell out of the first volume of the Kurt Busiek run on Conan, I wasted no time jumping into the second Epic Collection.

This carries on with the same quality in writing and art as the previous massive collection and was also a really awesome read.

I ended up liking the first one just a bit more because it seemed to have more action and longer, deeper stories but there isn’t much to complain about with this one. There seemed to be more dialogue and a lot of new characters added into the series but it still captured the right tone and spirit.

This volume also adapts some of Robert E. Howard’s original Conan stories. It was really cool reading the comic book version of The Tower of the Elephant for the first time, as I always enjoyed that story in its original medium.

Mike Mignola also did some of the covers and wrote some of the stuff in this collection. I really liked seeing Conan in Mignola’s artistic style.

Ultimately, this was another solid outing and something that I’m sure I’ll go back to and read again in the future.

This was over 500 pages in length but I feel like I ripped through it in no time, as it was hard to put down.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: the rest of Kurt Busiek’s Conan run, as well as other Conan comics from the Dark Horse era.