Film Review: The Mummy Returns (2001)

Also known as: The Mummy 2 (working title)
Release Date: April 29th, 2001 (premiere)
Directed by: Stephen Sommers
Written by: Stephen Sommers
Based on: characters by Stephen Sommers, Lloyd Fonvielle, Kevin Jarre
Music by: Alan Silvestri
Cast: Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, Arnold Vosloo, Oded Fehr, Patricia Velásquez, Freddie Boath, Alun Armstrong, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje

Imhotep Productions, Alphaville Films, Universal Pictures, 130 Minutes

Review:

“[to Rick] My friend, there is a fine line between coincidence and fate.” – Ardeth Bay

Let me start by saying that this is not as good as its predecessor, 1999’s The Mummy. That’s probably not a shock, though, as generally everyone agrees with that, critics included.

However, I will also say that this was better than I remembered it being and I think that fun adventure movies were in such abundance in this era that I may have taken it for granted.

My only big gripe with this movie is how atrocious the CGI was on the Scorpion King character at the end of the film. It looks like they took The Rock straight out of WWF SmackDown! 2: Know Your Role for the PlayStation 1 and added pinchers to his hands. Man, I remember it being atrocious in 2001 and it looks even worse now. What’s really odd about it, is that most of The Mummy effects looked pretty good and held up fairly well. Even the worst CGI effects are still somewhat passable.

I thought that the story was just okay but I did like that Patricia Velásquez actually had a bigger role and I liked the material they came up with for her past connection to Rachel Weisz’s Evie. I also like that this allowed Evie to hold her own in the action sequences and that she was no longer just a typical damsel in distress.

I wasn’t crazy about the kid being added to the proceedings, as kid actors can wreck a movie and honestly, his scenes are mostly annoying. I’d hate to blame the kid, specifically, and I think it has more to do with the script and Stephen Sommers’ directing.

One takeaway from this and the previous movie, as well, is the fact that Oded Fehr’s Ardeth Bay is such a cool f’n character and even though The Rock became a massive star, I think that the producers should’ve probably given Fehr his own spinoff movie first.

Anyway, this is mostly more of the same but it does feel like it’s happening on a much larger scale. However, for some reason, when Imhotep is resurrected in this film, I guess the Ten Plagues of Egypt aren’t a factor anymore.

One doesn’t watch these sort of movies to be overly picky about details, though. This is just supposed to be fun, mindless escapism, which is something I praise a lot. This movie really works in that regard until the finale where we get PS1 graphics Dwayne Johnson.

Rating: 6.5/10

Comic Review: X-Force – Epic Collection: Under the Gun

Published: March 22nd, 2017
Written by: Rob Liefeld, Fabian Nicieza, Todd McFarlane, various
Art by: Rob Liefeld, Greg Capullo, Todd McFarlane, Mike Mignola, Mark Pacella, Darick Robertson, Terry Shoemaker, various 

Marvel Comics, 463 Pages

Review:

Man, oh, f’n man… it’s been ages since I’ve read the Rob Liefeld era of X-Force. When I was a kid, I thought that this was the greatest new series Marvel had but I also think I was convincing myself of that, as Rob Liefeld was a hot commodity and I was also a fan of The New Mutants, which this was born out of. Besides, there was just so much hype at the time and I was at a pretty impressionable age.

Reading this now, I still found it really enjoyable and was surprised that I liked it as much as I did.

However, I also know that the story essentially came from Liefeld like bullet points and then it was handed to ace writer Fabian Nicieza, who actually wrote all the dialogue and massaged Liefeld’s notes into a usable script. After Liefeld left the series to co-found Image Comics, Nicieza stayed on as the writer and worked with other greats like Greg Capullo and Mike Mignola.

Now looking at the other side of this, creatively, the art isn’t great and even if I loved Liefeld when I was in 7th grade, I see the issues with his art much more clearly now. However, I don’t want to shit all over the guy like everyone else has done for years. I just notice the issues he has with anatomy and perspective.

It’s worth mentioning, though, that the art did improve once Liefeld stepped away, which happened about two-thirds into this collection.

As far as the story goes, I really got reinvested in this and want to keep reading it. Possibly beyond where I stopped when I was buying this month-after-month, which was about four or five years into the series.

Additionally, this also reminded me of how much I liked some of the long forgotten characters that were so cool in 1991. Characters like G.W. Bridge, Garrison Kane and the other people associated with them and Cable’s past.

Rating: 7.5/10

Book Review: ‘The Bane of the Black Sword: Book Five of the Elric Saga’ by Michael Moorcock

This, the fifth of the six books in the Elric Saga was a step up from the previous couple for me. While I’ve enjoyed all the books, up to this point, this one had more energy to it and Michael Moorcock seemed like he was really hitting his stride, here.

The Bane of the Black Sword introduces us to, Zarozinia, the woman who would become the real love of Elric’s life, despite his intense feelings for the deceased Cymoril. 

Also, Moorcock continues to expand his universe while building off of many of the things he’s established, thus far.

There are some bits in this that are slow but the good stuff makes up for that and the action and adventure are pretty solid, all around.

My only real gripe about this book, and the others as well, is that there always seems to be magical assistance that is too readily available to Elric. This has always been my issues with magic in fiction, in general. It should never be used as a “fix all”, as it diminishes the hero’s journey and their struggle.

However, this book has one hell of a payoff at the end, and it’s certainly full of a lot more positives than negatives.

Rating: 8.25/10

TV Review: Berserk (2016-2017)

Original Run: July 1st, 2016 – June 23rd, 2017
Directed by: Shin Itagaki
Written by: Makoto Fukami
Based on: Berserk by Kintaro Miura
Music by: Shiro Sagisu

Liden Films, GEMBA, Millepensee, Universal, Sony, Wowow, MBS, TBS, CBC, 26 Episodes, 24 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

So I’ve heard people rave about the manga Berserk for years. I’ve wanted to read it for awhile now but there’s like 40 volumes and it’s going to be a real undertaking. However, I figured that I’d check out the anime, as it’s streaming on HBO Max.

I found out, after being a half dozen episodes deep, that this actually takes place after a trilogy of anime films and an earlier anime series from the ’90s. So I guess I started at the end but even then, I found this pretty easy to get into and never felt like there was a lot of context or knowledge missing.

For the most part, I dug the hell out of this, especially the first of the two seasons. I guess some people found the animation style to be off-putting but I actually liked it.

I’m also not a big fan of the mixture of CGI with traditional hand-drawn animation but for whatever reason, I liked how they blended together, here. I think that has to do with the style of shading in the art, which looks like thin-lined pencil shading.

I think most of all, I really liked the character designs. Everyone was distinct and pretty damn cool in their own unique way.

I also found the stories to be pretty solid and interesting. However, it really just left me wanting more, so I’ll probably try and check out the previous anime releases and then start reading the original manga, at some point.

All in all, this was dark, twisted, really fun and pretty damn entertaining.

Rating: 8.25/10

Film Review: The Mummy (1999)

Release Date: April 16th, 1999 (Portugal)
Directed by: Stephen Sommers
Written by: Stephen Sommers, Lloyd Fonvielle, Kevin Jarre
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, Arnold Vosloo, Jonathan Hyde, Kevin J. O’Connor, Oded Fehr, Erick Avari, Stephen Dunham, Corey Johnson, Tuc Watkins, Omid Djalili, Aharon Ipale, Bernard Fox, Patricia Velásquez

Alphaville Films, Universal Pictures, 124 Minutes

Review:

“I only gamble with my life, never my money.” – Rick

I was a big fan of this movie when it originally came out. However, in the years since, it’s kind of gone down the memory hole due to its sequels and spinoffs, which each seemed to get worse. Also, the more I saw from Stephen Sommers, the more I disliked him as a director.

However, I wanted to see this with pretty fresh eyes, as its been nearly twenty years since I last watched it and a lot of the details have been lost. Granted, these details came rushing back to me, as I watched the picture again.

I loved this so much in 1999 because of three reasons.

The first is that I had been yearning for something Indiana Jones-like since that series ended ten years earlier with 1989’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

The second is that I have always loved the Universal Monsters franchise and this reboot of one of Universal’s classic monsters was something that got me really excited.

The third is that this starred Brendan Fraser as a lead in a blockbuster. I was a fan of the guy and loved watching him move up the Hollywood ladder since seeing him in the early ’90s in Encino Man and School Ties.

So seeing this now, I pretty much fell in love with it again. It also made me wish that Hollywood could just stop with the crap and make fun summer movies again. Sure, the occasional fun blockbuster comes out now and again but these things used to be really common and they were also made to entertain the audience and allowed them to get lost in the magic of Hollywood for a few hours. This reminded me of how big blockbusters coming to theaters were really big events in pop culture. It feels like that’s been gone for a few years and not just because of COVID; it started before that.

While I felt like the overall story, here, wasn’t particularly strong, it didn’t matter as much as the spectacle and scope of the film. This was ambitious for 1999 but it succeeded and probably much more than what was anticipated for it.

The special effects wowed audiences and they are mostly still good, even though some of it does look a wee bit dated. However, the big CGI heavy sequences still play well and nothing really pulls you out of the movie.

I really like the cast of this picture and thought that Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz were a good pairing with nice chemistry. I also thought that Fraser and John Hannah had solid camaraderie and it grows throughout the movie.

Arnold Vosloo was a pretty solid choice for Imhotep. He didn’t have to say anything but did a fine job acting with his facial expressions and body language. He was believable as an undead mummy trying to resurrect his long lost Anck-su-namun.

All in all, 1999’s version of The Mummy is much better than the recent Tom Cruise take on the franchise. I’m sure they’ll attempt yet another reboot in the future but this is a hard one to top outside of the 1932 original with the legendary Boris Karloff.

Also, this is the best movie that Stephen Sommers ever made, as everything went downhill from here.

Rating: 8/10

The Book Is FINALLY Published – Introducing ‘Dan the Destructor – Barbarians of the Storm, Book I’!

For those who have been following this site for awhile, you might already know that I wrote a graphic novel script about two years ago when all the COVID stuff was kicking off.

You might also know that I wanted to expand on the ideas and stories in that script and decided to restructure it into a pulp novel format. Well, that’s finally done!

Physical copies of the book can be purchased here. The book is also on Amazon: the Kindle version is here and the physical version is here.

However, physical books are better and since this is patterned after the pulp novels of yesteryear, I think that the physical pocket book is a lot cooler.

So what’s Dan the Destructor about? Well, here’s the blurb from the back of the book:

There have been countless legends and with that, countless heroes destined to be the “chosen one”. Dan is not that person.

Sucked into an exotic, barbarous world, Dan meets a jovial warrior and finds himself on an adventure he could’ve never imagined – battling monsters, demons, armies, and evil sorcerers.

Dan the Destructor is a mixture of sword & sorcery and post-apocalyptic B-movies presented in a quick paced pulp novel format. It’s fun, badass, fantastical, and action-packed.

Beyond that, the original idea for this concept came when I was imagining what it would be like if the ’80s Italian and Spanish rip-offs of Conan the Barbarian and The Road Warrior merged into one thing. I have always loved these sort of movies and was pretty much raised on them and all the Cannon Films action flicks. So this blends all those badass things together and tries to keep that tough as nails but awesome spirit alive.

This is also very much influenced by the pulp novels and pulp heroes I’ve read since I was a kid.

Entertainment has lost itself in recent years and its generally become an uninspiring, bleak reflection of reality. Gone are the days of adventure, fun and genuine escapism. With Dan the Destructor, I tried to bring this back.

With that, this shouldn’t be taken too seriously. I just wanted to create the book that wanted to read and I hope that other people enjoy it and that it gives them a much needed break from reality.

The novel also features a short story at the end, which tells the origin of the big villain for the book series. While that is a very dark story, I thought that it was necessary in providing the proper context for that character going into the second book in the Barbarians of the Storm series.

If people like this series, I promise not to George R.R. Martin you. I will give you your ending.

Lastly, I listen to a lot of music while writing and during the creative process, I developed a playlist that has become the unofficial soundtrack of the book for me. Honestly, all badass books deserve soundtracks and I think it helps set the tone for what to expect with the story.

Book Review: ‘The Vanishing Tower: Book Four of the Elric Saga’ by Michael Moorcock

I have to say, I liked this one a bit more than the previous volume. However, it still falls below the first two books.

Moorcock writes this one in his patented style and I’ve stated how much I love his prose, previously. In this one, he just feels like he really found his grove with this character and the universe Elric inhabits.

I liked seeing Elric have Moonglum as his companion. I also liked that this featured Elric seeking vengeance against Theleb K’aarna, a villain worthy of Elric’s and the reader’s disdain.

Like the previous books, this has three parts that have been collected into one larger body. Also like the previous books, it does a fine job at fleshing out the series’ mythos and making it richer for future stories.

This is simply good old fashioned sword and sorcery and while Moorcock didn’t invent the genre, he certainly deserves to be alongside the best writers that have added to it for nearly a century.

The Vanishing Tower is just a really cool book and a solid volume in this solid series.

Rating: 7.75/10

Film Review: The Nude Vampire (1970)

Also known as: La Vampire Nue (original French title)
Release Date: May 20th, 1970 (France)
Directed by: Jean Rollin
Written by: Jean Rollin, Serge Moati
Music by: Yvon Gerault
Cast: Christine Francois, Olivier Rollin, Maurice Lemaitre, Bernard Musson, Jean Aron, Ursule Pauly, Catherine Castel, Marie-Pierre Castel, Michael Delahaye, Caroline Cartier, Ly Lestrong, Pascal Fardoulis, Paul Bisciglia, Rene-Jean Chauffard 

Les Films ABC, Tigon British Film Productions, 88 Minutes

Review:

This was a really bizarre movie… but it’s French, so I guess it’s pretty normal over there!

Anyway, this gives you the impression that it is a vampire movie but it is actually something much more weird and much more complex than that. Although, I don’t want to spoil any of the big reveals.

Now, I wouldn’t call the reveals Earth shattering or even good but they do make this a unique experience.

Like most European horror of the time, this is a sexy movie with a lot of nudity and pretty hot chicks. The twins are especially mesmerizing in that ’70s euro horror way that reminds me of the vampire films starring Soledad Miranda and Lina Romay.

This has a lot of cool occult stuff in it like the opening scene where the main girl is trying to get away from pursuers wearing creepy animal masks. It has Wicker Man vibes in that regard.

Also, the locations where this was shot are opulent, mesmerizing and cool.

Overall, this is slow at times but it’s too unusual to ignore and the really strange stuff keeps one’s interested in where this could potentially be going.

Rating: 5.75/10

Video Game Review: Bloodborne (PlayStation 4)

After playing the trilogy of Dark Souls games by Hidetaka Miyazaki and From Software, I naturally wanted to try Bloodborne, as it features a similar gameplay style, a similar tone and has been one of the most beloved games of its type.

I’m prepared for the heat that may come but honestly, the game just doesn’t click for me in the same way that the Dark Souls games did.

What’s really odd about that, is that this is more tailor made for my gameplay style, which is faster paced. My biggest weakness with the Dark Souls games was my lack of patience and how it got me killed… a lot.

Still, by the end of Dark Souls III, I felt like I had gotten much better in that regard and this almost felt like it was too quick, at times. Maybe it doesn’t help that I played this immediately after playing the three Dark Souls games back-to-back-to-back.

One thing I wasn’t super keen on with this was the lack of customizability. You really only have three melee weapons to choose from and even though you get firearms in this, they’re basically useless except for parrying attacks. So essentially, guns in this game function as shields. I found that mildly disappointing, as I wanted to see what it was like to take on a Dark Souls-like game with a f’n shotgun.

I really tried to push myself through this game for about two weeks. However, I just wasn’t enjoying it and I didn’t have the same sense of accomplishment that I got when beating a tough boss or area in Dark Souls. Granted, playing three of those games in a row could’ve really desensitized me to that effect.

Now, I can’t really criticize the game for its design or mechanics. In both regards, I thought the game was impressive. It definitely wasn’t as clunky as the mechanics of Dark Souls II but it also wasn’t quite on the level of Dark Souls III.

I liked the look of the world in this game. The streets and sewers were haunting and cool. As you advance and the world opens up, the new areas are at first, really cool. However, some of it does start to feel like more of the same.

Maybe in a few years, I’ll give this a shot again. If my opinion changes, I’ll return to this review and give an update.

Rating: 7/10