Film Review: Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985)

Also known as: Mad Max 3 (working title), Mad Max III (Philippines)
Release Date: June 29th, 1985 (Japan)
Directed by: George Miller, George Ogilvie
Written by: Terry Hayes, George Miller
Music by: Maurice Jarre
Cast: Mel Gibson, Tina Turner, Bruce Spence

Kennedy Miller Productions, Warner Bros., 107 Minutes

Review:

“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls… Dyin’ time’s here.” – Dr. Dealgood

I always thought of this as the worst of the original Mad Max trilogy. However, revisiting it now, just after watching the first two, I think I enjoyed it more than the original. In fact, I have a lot more appreciation for this film after watching it this time. Plus, it was the first time I had seen it since before Mad Max: Fury Road came out four years ago.

Now this doesn’t have the hard edge of the other films and it does feel like a Hollywood recreation of the franchise with a bigger budget, the addition of Tina Turner (a huge star at the time) and the larger scope of the movie. Those aren’t necessarily bad things, though, and I think that Hollywood sort of legitimizing this film series with a larger, more polished production, is probably what gave it the cultural longevity it’s had.

You also have to keep in mind that these films are really all that Mel Gibson was known for in 1985. Lethal Weapon and a much more lucrative, mainstream career didn’t come until 1987.

What makes this work so well, is the fact that Mel Gibson is so comfortable in this role by this point. Even though we got to know him in the first film, everything changes when his family dies and then in the second picture, he was sort of an unemotional husk with just a glimmer of humanity shining through. Here, that hard, outer husk is torn away and we’re left with a man that has found a way to live again. At least, he’s found a surrogate family and something that he must fight for. While that’s similar to the second film, it’s a much more fluid and human journey here. You don’t feel like he’s just playing the hero because it’s something to do and he hates scumbags, you actually sense love growing inside of him.

However, as much as I love Tina Turner in this, her being the primary villain also tames this movie when compared to the others. She kind of likes Max throughout the picture and she’s just a tough woman trying to maintain order in a town full of shady degenerates. She’s not pure evil like Lord Humongous, Toecutter or Immortan Joe and that kind of makes the threat in this film feel like a minor one.

Granted, the big finale which sees vehicle mayhem and the inclusion of a train car is still quite good. I don’t enjoy it as much as the finale from The Road Warrior but it is very close in quality to that one. In fact, this finale is better shot, looks crisper and has some stellar stunts. However, it is less gritty and thus, not as badass as the finale from the previous film. But it is fun seeing the kids in the film get in on the action during this big chase.

Speaking of the kids, there are a lot of them in this movie. But all the ones that have lines and are key characters are really good. This movie could have gone south really quickly with its overabundance of child actors but they certainly add more to the film than they take away.

This is definitely a film with three acts and each act has a very distinct feeling and tone to it. From a narrative standpoint, this is the best structured film and tells the best story out of all four Mad Max pictures.

Beyond Thunderdome gets a bad rap from some and while I wish it had been more of an R rated film than a PG-13 one, I’m still pretty satisfied with it and I think it’s aged pretty darn well.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: all the other Mad Max films, as well as other post-apocalyptic car and biker movies, most of which were ripoffs of this.

Video Game Review: Fallout 4 (PlayStation 4)

Having loved Bethesda’s work on FalloutFallout: New Vegas and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, I have been chomping at the bit to play Fallout 4 for awhile. Although, when it comes to video games that consume mass amounts of time to play, it can sometimes take me a few years before I can devote that much time to them. Life is a busy bitch when you get older.

So by the time I was ready to jump into this game, I was able to get the expanded “Game of the Year” edition and for rather cheap. That’s one big benefit I have by buying video games a few years too late.

Anyway, the enthusiasm I had for this series sort of went away as I started playing this. Let me clarify that I mostly like the game but after giving this a go for the first few days, I just felt like I was playing a game I’ve already played.

Sure, Fallout 4 takes place in a new location but it feels incredibly similar to Fallout 3. It’s in a northwestern American town that is surrounded by lots of patriotic shit. This one takes place in Boston, Fallout 3 took place in Washington, D.C. But this one does feature Fenway Park as a major location in the game, which was pretty cool being that I’m a big baseball fan, especially in regards to the history and culture of the sport.

But the map just wasn’t very exciting and didn’t feel like a new experience, really. Sure, there are some cool places and things that are fairly unique for this game but exploring the world map just didn’t seem as fun as it did in Fallout 3 or Fallout: New Vegas. The only part of the world map that was exciting was the nuclear zone, as it was friggin’ ominous as hell, dark, dreary, desolate, full of tough as balls monsters and cool secrets. Plus, you need a hazmat suit before you even try to venture off into this part of the map.

My biggest complaint about the game, however, is its difficulty from the get go. Hell, one of your first few missions makes you have to fight a damn deathclaw when you’ve really got no experience or perks to speak of. It’s not an unbeatable situation but I had to expose a flaw in the games design in order to sort of cheat my way through the feat. Plus, in that same mission, you acquire power armor. It just makes everything seem very topsy turvy when compared to how the other two games played out.

Also, there are raiders and super mutants literally everywhere. Exploring the map is really damn difficult, early on. I found this to be a major annoyance, as I tend to like exploring my surroundings in these types of games. I think that it’s done to make exploring more pocketed to what your actual experience level is at. However, that seems odd as you also have to travel to Diamond City pretty early on in the game and it’s a hell of a real trek for just starting out and having to fight or evade groups of raiders and super mutants.

Needless to say, I had some frustrations with the game and it wasn’t very fun, as a low experienced player. So then I noticed that Bethesda allows you to use mods on the console versions of this game. So I tried a few out, not that I wanted to cheat but I just wanted to enjoy the game and have my battles with swarms of raiders and ghouls to feel a bit more balanced.

The mods made the game fun enough for me to not want to outright quit it after about ten hours. Although, the game should work and be balanced enough on its own. Everything felt lopsided early on and that wasn’t a problem I experienced with other Bethesda games before this.

Additionally, all the “dungeons” in the game feel very repetitive and not as imaginative as the dungeons from Skyrim or New Vegas. Those games had some great interior locations whereas Fallout 4 just seems like a lot of the same. Some places are interesting but a lot of the maps suck and are more like traveling through a knotted up snake than something more natural feeling. Also, a lot of these interior mazes make you have to backtrack through them, unlike Skyrim, which would typically reward you with a secret exit once you worked your way through these places.

In regards to the settlement building addition to the game, I’m not really a fan of it. I think that’s because it wasn’t a component in other Bethesda games and it just feels like something to waste my time and distract me from actual ass kicking gameplay.

The story in this game is also lacking. I was engaged by the main narrative in the other three Bethesda games but I just didn’t care about the story here. A lot of the missions were fun but I got more enjoyment from side quests than main quests. In fact, getting back on track with the main quest felt like a real chore.

Another issue, is that the graphics are improved but this doesn’t necessarily feel like a next gen game. I guess I’d have to fire up Fallout 3 again to really notice the difference but Fallout 4 doesn’t feel like a big enough leap forward in that regard. I haven’t played the older Fallout games since 2012 or so but the mechanics in this one felt clunkier than they needed to be. The controls felt more complex and it took a period of adjustment for me to get used to them but they never feel natural to me.

The only real positive is that this seems less buggy overall than previous Fallout games. Both of them felt littered with bugs that caused me to have to save often. Stuff like getting stuck in terrain and lots of freezing. This Fallout is better in that regard. I never got stuck in a rock and the game only froze up on me once.

I expected this to be at least a 9 out of 10 based off of my experience with other Bethesda games. It really disappointed, even though it was fun to play after getting some mods. But ultimately, I still quit after a few weeks because the mods eventually caused bugs and I didn’t want to go back to a really old save and play through some of the mundane missions again.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas.

Comic Review: Whoa, Nellie!

Published: 1996
Written by: Jaime Hernandez
Art by: Jaime Hernandez

Fantagraphics Books, 60 Pages

Review:

I’ve known of the Love & Rockets comic book series for quite some time. However, I wasn’t aware of this spinoff title until I saw Jim Rugg talk about it in an episode of Cartoonist Kayfabe (a YouTube channel that every fan of the comic book medium should be subscribed to).

This looked like my cup of tea, though. I love indie comics, I love ’90s comics and I love old school territory wrestling before Vince McMahon bought the entire world.

Whoa, Nellie is a lot of fun but overall, the story is a bit short at only three issues. I would’ve liked to have gotten to know these characters better but it still told a good, self-contained story over those three issues.

I really like the art style of Jaime Hernandez, it’s clean, crisp and the way he captures action, primarily all wrestling holds and moves, is pretty dynamic and damn accurate. He’s got a good sense of anatomy, even if he uses more of a cartoonist’s style than a more highly detailed Marvel or DC style.

Even though this is over twenty years-old, it feels like a comic from a bygone era before that. It respects its subject matter and it also seems to exist in a world that’s very true to it.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other Love & Rockets comic book stories.

Film Review: Captain America (1990)

Release Date: December 14th, 1990 (UK)
Directed by: Albert Pyun
Written by: Stephen Tolkin, Lawrence Block
Based on: Captain America by Joe Simon, Jack Kirby
Music by: Barry Goldberg
Cast: Matt Salinger, Ronny Cox, Scott Paulin, Ned Beatty, Darren McGavin, Francesca Neri, Michael Nouri

21st Century Film Corporation, Marvel Enterprises, Jadran Film, 97 Minutes, 124 Minutes (Director’s Cut)

Review:

“Assassination isn’t worth the trouble. It took me two years to find Sirhan. Three to find Oswald. The King job alone cost me over twenty million dollars. What do we get for our pains? Saints. Martyrs to the cause.” – Red Skull

Somehow this attracted the talents of Ronny Cox, Ned Beatty and Darren McGavin. Although, I’m not sure why. There couldn’t have been much money for them to make and had they read the script, they probably would have ran away. I mean, I can only assume that they didn’t read the script.

This movie has a terrible reputation and it is very apparent pretty much immediately, as to why. At the same time, it’s not that bad and is almost enjoyable for its cheesiness and its lighthearted, playful nature.

It is very clear that Marvel had no idea on how to make movies with their characters at this point in history. Granted, it’s not Marvel’s fault, as they didn’t have the control they have in modern times and they were just selling off the film rights to their key characters in an effort to stay financially afloat. But this was produced by one half of the duo behind Cannon Films and yet it didn’t even come close to matching their action pictures in quality, gravitas or fun.

Matt Salinger looked the part for Captain America but he wasn’t qualified for the role. Really, no one in the cast was qualified to do anything other than the three actors I mentioned in this review’s first sentence.

Red Skull at least looked cool when he was actually Red Skull. However, for the majority of the movie, he is just a scarred up looking Italian mobster guy. This film also has his daughter, known as Sin in the comics, but she is a poor version of the character that doesn’t amount to much.

The story is hard to follow but mostly just because it’s boring and paying attention is hard to do with this movie, as I’d rather mindlessly scroll social media feeds on my smart phone than try to stay locked on this picture.

I can’t say that this is as bad as Roger Corman’s Fantastic Four movie from 1994 but this makes the 1989 Punisher movie look like the 2004 Punisher movie.

This isn’t a film worth watching unless you enjoy torturing yourself or you love Captain America so much that you’ve tattooed his entire costume under your street clothes.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: other terrible early Marvel films like 1994’s Fantastic Four and 1989’s The Punisher but at least that one was much better than this. Also, the ’70s Captain America live action stuff and The Incredible Hulk TV movies.

Comic Review: Red Hood and the Outlaws, Vol. 3: Bizarro Reborn

Published: April 24th, 2018
Written by: Scott Lobdell
Art by: Joe Bennett, Tyler Kirkham, Dextor Soy

DC Comics, 188 Pages

Review:

Out of all the volumes of the Red Hood comic that focus on the trio of Red Hood, Artemis and Bizarro, this is my favorite.

Man, this story was solid as hell and it was also a pretty emotional due to how we see Bizarro die, come back to life as a super-genius and then find out that he is still going to devolve into a dumb brute again.

For long-time fans of Jason Todd, this is especially emotional, as we see him finally find a sense of family that has eluded him for so long. He’s no longer alone, he’s with people he loves but you get the sense that it’s all going to be taken away from him in the near future. Re-reading these issues now, it certainly adds more context to his more recent stories.

Scott Lobdell has done such a fantastic job with this series and even though my pull list from my local comic shop keeps shrinking, this is a series I just don’t want to give up. It’s much better than the industry standard in modern times and it is awesome that there is top tier talent working on a book that mainly features B or C level characters.

This volume actually collects three short story arcs, which see cameos from a lot of cool characters like the modern Suicide Squad, Nightwing, the modern Bat-family, Lex Luthor and others.

I’m also now a big fan of Dexter Soy’s art style. I didn’t know much about him before this series but the issues he works on just look fantastic.

Red Hood and the Outlaws is one of the best DC Comics titles of the last few years. I wish more people would read it, even if the most recent stuff is a bit different due to Jason Todd being alone, once again. But I feel as if that’s leading to him reuniting with his Outlaw family.

With DC cancelling a bunch of titles in the very near future, I really hope that this isn’t one of them.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: the other Red Hood and the Outlaws collections post-Rebirth. Also, the recent Bat-family titles: NightwingBatgirl and also the current runs on Suicide Squad and Deathstroke.

Film Review: Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

Release Date: March 14th, 1975 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones
Written by: Monty Python
Music by: Dewolfe
Cast: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin

Python (Monty) Pictures, Michael White Productions, National Film Trustee Company, EMI Films, Cinema 5 Distributing, 92 Minutes

Review:

“I don’t want to talk to you no more, you empty-headed animal food trough wiper! I fart in your general direction! Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries!” – French Soldier

I’ve never been a big Monty Python fan and I know those are fighting words from big Monty Python fans but I don’t care.

It’s not to say that I don’t find some amusement within these movies but once I’ve seen one, it’s hard for me to go back and see them again. But that also applies to most comedy movies for me. Well, except for a few things I am a big fan of like old school Bill Murray movies, the Police Academy franchise (omitting part 7) and a lot of ’80s comedies that I probably only love because nostalgia is a needy whore that must be satisfied every so often.

And that’s the thing with Monty Python movies. I just don’t have the nostalgia for them because they were a decade before my time and I never saw them until I was into my 20s. But also, I’m not a big fan of parody films unless it’s a very small sample of the best of Mel Brooks’ oeuvre.

I do love the cast and a lot of these guys have gone on to be in movies I’ve loved over the years. Especially, John Cleese and Eric Idle. Then there’s also Terry Gilliam, who has gone on to make some solid motion pictures outside of the comedy genre.

I appreciate this movie for being the first real exposure to these talented guys outside of the UK. And it is a funny movie but it’s not something I need to experience, again and again.

From memory, I think that The Life of Brian was the one I liked the most. So I do plan on revisiting that one again soon, simply so I can review it.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other Monty Python films and projects.

Documentary Review: Leaving Neverland (2019)

Also known as: Leaving Neverland: Michael Jackson and Me (UK)
Release Date: January 25th, 2019 (Sundance Film Festival)
Directed by: Dan Reed
Music by: Chad Hobson
Cast: Michael Jackson (archive footage), Wade Robson, Jimmy Safechuck

Amos Pictures, HBO, Channel 4, Kew Media, 236 Minutes, 182 Minutes (UK)

Review:

So, yeah… I had to watch this because there has been so much controversy around this documentary.

First off, if you take this documentary at face value and don’t go through the details with a fine tooth comb, it’s pretty convincing and pretty damning. But like all documentaries, this one had its agenda and it had to hit its points home without there being any counterpoints to what was presented as “fact”.

To be blunt, this is incredibly one-sided and hopefully, people are astute enough to see the forest for the trees, even if the two alleged victims that are featured in this documentary come off as genuine. And I do think they do come off as genuine or they are just damn good actors and deserve every Oscar next year.

I’m not saying that the victims are lying and I don’t want to doubt them, assuming their stories are true. But there are a lot of holes and when looking at the facts that are presented here, some of them don’t line up with details that are already public knowledge.

One example I should point out, is that Jimmy Safechuck’s mom says that she danced for joy when Michael Jackson died in 2009 because he couldn’t sexually abuse anymore children. However, Safechuck never told his mom that Jackson abused him until he was inspired by Wade Robson coming forward in 2013. And this is just one of several things that don’t add up when you take these victims’ stories at face value and look at other important factors like the actual timeline of events.

This was a compelling documentary and I am certainly not dismissing the possibility that Michael Jackson sexually abused children but if the victims’ stories are to be believed, there are a lot of plot holes and details that need to be ironed out.

The biggest problem, is that I can’t take any of this at face value because looking beyond this documentary as entertainment, which is what it is designed to be, as fucked up as that is, these stories come apart when you do any research beyond what is laid out and spoon fed to the audience for four whopping hours. But then, you can see that things don’t add up just within this movie, if you are actually paying attention to the finer points. Plus, the movie isn’t exactly clear on the dates of events it discusses, except where something happens around an event known by the mass populace like the release of an album or actual trials.

I’m not on either side of the debate here. However, it is pretty damn weird that Michael Jackson spent so much time with kids behind closed doors without parents around. But even if Jackson was a predator, the fault really lands right in the parents’ laps.

I don’t want to doubt the story of any victim but we live in a country where you are innocent until proven guilty and when details don’t add up or make sense, that’s more than enough for me to dismiss whatever story is being sold to me.

This was shoddy filmmaking where the film’s own director shot himself in the foot by not catching contradicting details. It was agenda driven, didn’t offer up anything fair and balanced and presented no real evidence other than the stories of two victims, stretched to an ungodly length.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: various other documentaries about Michael Jackson.