Film Review: Beastmaster II: Through the Portal of Time (1991)

Release Date: June 8th, 1991 (Japan)
Directed by: Sylvio Tabet
Written by: Jim Wynorski, R.J. Robertson, Sylvio Tabet, Ken Hauser, Doug Miles
Based on: The Beast Master by Andre Norton, characters by Don Coscarelli, Paul Pepperman
Music by: Robert Folk
Cast: Marc Singer, Kari Wuhrer, Sarah Douglas, Wings Hauser, James Avery, Robert Z’Dar, Michael Berryman

Les Films 21, Republic Pictures, New Line Cinema, 107 Minutes

Review:

“He who defies Arklon, shall be destroyed… by Arklon!” – Arklon

This is such a shitty movie but it is a wonderfully entertaining shitty movie.

Where the original Beastmaster is truly a sword and sorcery classic, this film is pretty much just a “fish out of water” comedy with some sword and sorcery elements.

I’m not sure what the filmmakers were thinking with this. It wasn’t like they rushed out a sloppy sequel because this came nine years after the original. But it is very cheaply made and it completely lacks the superior craftsmanship of the previous film’s director, Don Coscarelli.

What saves this film, at least in my eyes, is the over the top performances of its cast. Marc Singer is dry when compared to his cast mates but he’s still enjoyable as Dar and I’ll always be a fan of his version of the character.

However, Singer is pretty much overshadowed by the energetic cuteness of Kari Wuhrer in one of her earliest film performances. He’s also usurped by the charismatic Wings Hauser, as his evil brother Arklon. Plus, you have Sarah Douglas as a sorceress and she’s always fantastic. But the real scene stealer is James Avery, who isn’t in this as much as the other actors but you’re always locked on him when we walks on screen. Avery is used as comedic relief and he’s a master of that but I can’t discount the fact that this entire movie really is comedy.

This lacks the edge and darkness of its predecessor and if I’m being honest, I would have preferred a proper sequel. However, I still like this strange movie for all of its batshittery. It’s a very smudged up gem but it’s still a gem. But you also have to be the right sort of film fan for this movie to click for you. The average person isn’t going to find much value in the picture and that’s fine. All this shit is subjective, anyway.

Beastmaster II already had its work cut out for it, as the first film casts a big shadow. But all things considered, this is bizarre and unique enough to justify its existence and at least it wasn’t just a rehash of the previous movie.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: other sword and sorcery movies of the time, most notably the Conan films. It’s also fun to watch with the other films within its own series.

Comic Review: Lone Wolf

Published: March, 2019
Written by: Doug Garrett
Art by: Jeff Lasley, David AJ Berner, Eugen Betivu

Gravestone Press, 22 Pages

Review:

I backed this comic book on Indiegogo a few months ago and it’s creator Doug Garrett seems like a cool guy. So I was really excited to find this in my mail box, last week.

This is the first issue of what is to be a bigger story arc. I’m not sure if this is a miniseries or if Garrett has a lengthier run in mind.

For a first issue, it does its job pretty effectively. We meet the main character, learn and understand his backstory and we get to see what sort of world he lives in. I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, as I believe you can still order this and it’s definitely worth the price tag when compared to other crowd funding indie comic campaigns out there.

I really dug the art style and it does wonders setting the tone for the narrative. It has a raw, gritty look to it but it is done with skill and certainly doesn’t look amateur, rushed or below the typical indie standard.

I have to be pretty discriminatory, as new crowd funded comics pop up on Indiegogo and Kickstarter, daily. But for the price point and for how Garrett interacts with his potential customers, I wanted to support this. I have no buyer’s remorse and if anything, I look forward to what Garrett releases next.

Really, there isn’t much I can pick apart about this comic and usually with crowd funded stuff, there’s a lot that I can critique. All I can say, which isn’t really even negative, is that this looks really good for a first effort, much better than a lot of first effort indie books, and Garrett and his creative team are only going to improve from here.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other recent crowd funded releases.

Film Review: Solomon Kane (2009)

Release Date: September 16th, 2009 (TIFF)
Directed by: Michael J. Bassett
Written by: Michael J. Bassett
Based on: characters by Robert E. Howard
Music by: Klaus Badelt
Cast: James Purefoy, Max von Sydow, Rachel Hurd-Wood, Pete Postlethwaite, Mackenzie Crook, Alice Krige

Davis Films, Czech Anglo Productions , Wandering Star Pictures, Metropolitan Filmexport, Optimum Releasing, 104 Minutes

Review:

“If I kill you, I am bound for hell. It is a price I shall gladly pay.” – Solomon Kane

At times, this felt like two different films. I liked a lot of the stuff in this movie but it had issues with pacing and tonal shifts.

Still, this had some real badass moments and I loved the character design between Solomon Kane and the two big villains, Malachi and the Masked Rider.

The opening ten minutes or so of this film were great and got me excited for what was to come. However, after the intense and fantastic opening, things slowed to a crawl for quite awhile. The energy didn’t really pick back up until the Masked Rider appeared and started doing some evil shit. Man, he just looked sinister and cool as hell, almost like a powerful Sith thrown into a Robert E. Howard story.

Malachi also added a lot to the picture and was a nice antagonist for Solomon Kane, a hero that walks the line with one foot in Hell and the other on the side of God.

The ghouls were also pretty cool and provided a lot of intense moments, as did the ghosts in the mirrors and the big demon beast in the big finale.

I thought that the cinematography was good and the film is very well shot. It looks great, even in the moments were CGI is very prevalent.

I just wish that the film wasn’t bogged down by some of its inconsistencies.

Every part in the picture was well acted, though and that certainly boosted the overall quality of the film. James Purefoy was perfection as Solomon Kane and even if he’s not a widely known star, I can’t think of a bigger one that would’ve pulled off the character as well as he did. Frankly, I wish this had done better because I would’ve liked to have seen him return to the role for other movies. And maybe it’s not too late but it’s been almost a decade since this came out and I haven’t heard anything about a follow up. It’ll probably be rebooted sometime in the future.

I wasn’t sure what to expect before watching this. On one hand I was pleasantly surprised and on the other, I was bored for half the film. But the positives definitely outweigh the negatives.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other films featuring Robert E. Howard heroes: all the Conan movies, Kull the ConquerorRed Sonja and other sword and sorcery films.

Comic Review: Suicide Squad: Black Files

Published: November 7th, 2018 – April 3rd, 2019
Written by: Mike W. Barr, Jai Nitz
Art by: Phil Briones, various

DC Comics, 260 Pages

Review:

I didn’t really know what this miniseries was going to be about when it came out, I just knew that it was full of a lot of characters, many of whom were new to the Suicide Squad.

What this is, is a miniseries where each double-sized issue is broken into two halves, telling two six issue story arcs. Although, they are somewhat joined as this serves to closeout the Suicide Squad team that’s been around for a few years while introducing the readers to a new team, who seem to be in line for an upcoming series of their own.

While this series was going on, the regular, monthly Suicide Squad comic came to an end with it’s 50th issue.

The two stories here were pretty decent but nothing exceptional. Between the two plot threads, I preferred the one centered around the newer team. So I guess that’s good, considering that they seem to be taking over as the primary Suicide Squad soon.

But I don’t know if this miniseries was enough to entice me to buy the new team’s books. I may give it a whirl and see how I feel about it after a few months but I was getting burnt out on the regular Suicide Squad title before it even got to it’s 50th issue finale.

If anything, the new team feels kind of like the Suicide Squad equivalent to the Justice League Dark. I’m kind of getting bored with Justice League Dark too, even though it started with a mighty bang.

Ultimately, it just feels as if a lot of the DC titles seem aimless, as of late. I don’t know where any of them are going and I’m not sure that there’s much of a cohesive plan by editorial.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: the regular Suicide Squad series before it and I’m assuming an upcoming Suicide Squad Black series to follow up with the events here.

Comic Review: Hellboy, Vol. 1: Seed of Destruction

Published: 1994
Written by: John Byrne, Mike Mignola
Art by: Mike Mignola

Dark Horse Comics, 130 Pages

Review:

It’s been a really long time since I have picked up a Hellboy comic, even though I’ve been a massive fan of the character since the ’90s. This was also the first time that I read his debut story.

This four issue story arc was the basis for the plot of the first Hellboy film. While it’s not the exact same story, it features Rasputin as the villain, as well as large, tentacled, Lovecraftian monsters and a very similar origin story for the title character.

While it may sound as if I am trying to oversell this, Hellboy: Seed of Destruction is perfection in the comic book medium.

Featuring the incredible duo of comic book legends John Byrne and Mike Mignola, this earliest Hellboy story was superb on every level. The writing was terrific, the dialogue was fantastic and Mignola’s art style creates a perfect tone for this tale.

When things are this good, I want others to experience them fresh. So I don’t want to spoil too much and would rather others go pick this up, read it and be as surprised and impressed by it as I was.

Now this may not be everyone’s cup of tea and my opinions are my own but I think it’d be hard to deny that this is a solid comic book, through and through, and it does exactly what it set out to achieve.

That being said, I can’t wait to jump into volume two.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: other Hellboy and B.P.R.D. related comics.

Film Review: The Beastmaster (1982)

Also known as: Invasión Junk (Argentina), Dar l’invincible (France), El señor de las bestias (Spain)
Release Date: August 16th, 1982 (US limited)
Directed by: Don Coscarelli
Written by: Don Coscarelli, Paul Pepperman
Based on: The Beast Master by Andre Norton
Music by: Lee Holdridge
Cast: Marc Singer, Tanya Roberts, Rip Torn, John Amos

Beastmaster N.V., ECTA Filmproduktion, GmbH & Co., K.G., Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, United Artists, 118 Minutes

Review:

“Don’t move. The beast is fierce. But if we show no fear, we might escape.” – Dar

I used to love the hell out of this film when I was a little kid. It could because it was the first time I remember seeing boobies in a movie and that my parents seemed oblivious to this having boobies and lots of violence and therefore, never making me turn it off when I put it on. But then again, they were usually walking around the house doing adult things.

Anyway, I still like to revisit this movie every few years. It had been awhile seen I’d seen it this time though, maybe five years or more. But I wanted to work my way through all of The Beastmaster films since I haven’t reviewed them yet.

This is absolutely the best film in the series and I’d say that it’s the second best sword and sorcery film after the original Conan the Barbarian, which also came out in 1982.

I think that a lot of this film’s awesomeness can be attributed to it being written and directed by Don Coscarelli, the man behind the Phantasm film series, Bubba Ho-Tep and John Dies at the End. It has a very dark fantasy vibe that isn’t too dissimilar from his Phantasm series. And there are parts of this film that feel like actual horror, like the scenes with the winged demon vampire creatures that captured people within their wings and devoured them, turning them into a dripping acidic goo. Also, there is children sacrifice and all types of other hardcore shit thrown in.

The film also has a pretty layered narrative. It’s a straightforward movie where the hero is born, the hero loses the life he knows due to a tyrant, the hero grows up and then takes the tyrant down. But there are multiple villains in the movie: Rip Torn as an evil religious cult leader and a big brutish warrior with one of the coolest helmets in movie history. Plus, there are other evil abominations thrown in at certain points.

For those that might not know, Dar, the Beastmaster, has the power of befriending animals and using them as allies in his war against evil. It’s a cool concept and even though the idea comes from the book this is based on, which is really all they took from the book, it gives this story an edge over other sword and sorcery movies. Now it isn’t better than the first Conan but it is, at times, more entertaining.

I really enjoy Marc Singer in this. I also liked Tanya Roberts, here, but she was always a favorite of mine when I was a kid, between this film and A View to a Kill. Also, she’s the best thing about Tourist Trap. I think the real highlights for me though, are seeing John Amos being a total buff badass in this, as well as Rip Torn embracing his character’s evil insanity. All of the performances are better than what’s typical within this genre.

The movie has good cinematography and the shots are framed quite well. I especially like the scene where Dar faces off with the evil helmeted dark knight amongst the flames. It was well lit, well captured and the use of contrast in this sequence was well done.

Decades have come and gone since this film came out but like Coscarelli’s other motion pictures, it has survived the test of time and it is still a lot of fun to watch.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other sword and sorcery movies of the time, most notably the Conan films. It’s also fun to watch with its sequels but this is much better than them.

 

Comic Review: Red Sonja/Conan: Blood of a God

Published: February 3rd, 2016
Written by: Victor Gischler
Art by: Roberto Castro
Based on: characters by Robert E. Howard, Roy Thomas, Barry Windsor-Smith

Dynamite Entertainment, 138 Pages

Review:

A crossover between the characters of Red Sonja and Conan the Barbarian is kind of rare but usually, they are always fun. Plus, the comic book version of Red Sonja first debuted in the original Conan the Barbarian comic from Marvel back in the ’70s.

In this miniseries, things are pretty simple and straightforward. Conan and Red Sonja run into each other, they flirt, they kill shit and they band together to destroy an evil wizard warlord. There is a big twist in the story towards the end though, and one of Conan’s biggest enemies appears.

The action was great in this and the book is full of cool monsters, my favorite of which was a large three headed rat that looked like a rodent Cerberus.

Blood of a God also has several nods to older Conan and Red Sonja stories.

The way that the story comes together at the end and concludes was really cool.

I read through this pretty quickly. Actually, while sitting in a busy restaurant waiting too damn long for some Buffalo wings.

In the end, this was exciting, badass and hit the mark.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other Red Sonja and Conan comics from Dynamite Entertainment.