Documentary Review: Memphis Heat: The True Story of Memphis Wrasslin’ (2011)

Release Date: October 1st, 2011
Directed by: Chad Schaffer
Music by: Doug Easley, Adam Woodard
Cast: Jerry Lawler, Jimmy Hart, Jerry Jarrett, Bill Dundee, Sputnik Monroe, Jackie Fargo, Rocky Johnson, Jimmy Valiant, Andy Kaufman (archive footage), Hulk Hogan (archive footage)

Off the Top Rope Productions, 91 Minutes

Review:

For those who pay close attention to what is posted here at Talking Pulp, you know that I’ve watched and reviewed a lot of wrestling documentaries, as of late. I’ve got to say, this is one of the better ones I’ve seen over the last few months and it caught me by surprise with how good it is.

While I’m a fan of the old school wrestling that came out of Memphis in the ’70s and ’80s, it wasn’t something that I had easy access to until I became a tape trader in the ’90s, even then, I still didn’t have the appreciation for it that I would over time. Seeing this though, that appreciation has truly magnified.

Lately, as a Memphis fan, I’ve been really fortunate due to what I’ve learned from this film, as well as the Kentucky Fried Wrasslin’ podcast by Scott Bowden and Brian Last. Unfortunately, Scott recently passed away and it was hard not thinking about him while watching this film.

But man, Memphis Heat is solid through and through and it really gets into the history of the territory, covering as much as it possbily can in just 91 minutes. Frankly, I could’ve watched a thirteen episode documentary television series on this and still wanted more.

It gave me a lot more context into the stars and the stories that I already loved while cultivating my passion for the wrestling business in a new way. While I’ve always appreciated great legends like Jerry Lawler and Jimmy Hart, this really made me fall in love with their work. It also gave me a better understanding of the Memphis wrasslin’ style, the culture around the territory and just how incredible it must have been to see these shows live.

For old school wrestling aficionados, I’d say that Memphis Heat is a must own and I’m sure that I will watch it again much sooner rather than later.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: other wrestling documentaries you can find on Highspots.

Video Game Review: Rambo (NES)

My memories of this game didn’t paint it in a favorable light. However, I was surprised to discover that I actually quite liked the game, playing it in 2020.

Now this is far from perfect, as the objective and where to go isn’t made too clear, but once you get some time in and get the hang of the game, it grows on you.

It has a very similar playing style to Zelda II in that it is a side scrolling action game where you get experience points by killing enemies. Now the leveling up advantages aren’t as clear as they are in Zelda II but this essentially follows the same concept with roughly the same size character sprites and game mechanics.

That being said, the mechanics aren’t as polished as Zelda II and sometimes it is difficult to duck and shoot or turn and shoot someone coming up behind you. Had these issues been fixed before this was released, this could have been a damn good game. Instead, we get something that’s fairly fun but also frustrating in a firefight with multiple enemies.

Also, the boss battles are all very weak and monotonous. The big helicopter fight isn’t something you can go into with a strategy, you just have to hope you have enough medicine bottles and get lucky enough to inflict enough damage while missiles rain on your head and multiple enemies appear to expose the terrible flaws in the game’s controls.

Still, I had fun playing through this and beating it. It’s far from being a classic but for an ’80s console video game based on a licensed property, it’s not half bad.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other action side scrollers of the 8-bit era.

Film Review: Godzilla (1998)

Release Date: May 18th, 1998 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Roland Emmerich
Written by: Dean Devlin, Roland Emmerich, Ted Elliot, Terry Rossio
Based on: Godzilla by Toho
Music by: David Arnold
Cast: Matthew Broderick, Jean Reno, Maria Pitillo, Hank Azaria, Kevin Dunn, Michael Lerner, Harry Shearer, Doug Savant, Vicki Lewis, Richard Gant, Nancy Cartwright, Frank Welker (voice)

Centropolis Film Productions, Fried Films, Independent Pictures, TriStar Pictures, Toho Co. Ltd., 139 Minutes

Review:

“What the hell’s the matter with you people? You’ve caused more damage than that goddamn thing did!” – Mayor Ebert

Yes, Mayor Ebert… you’ve got a fucking point, as most of the actual destruction in this movie is committed by the moronic military and not the giant monster.

I’m not sure if that’s because Roland Emmerich wanted to paint the military and the government as incompetent assholes or because he’s just a shitty director that didn’t have the talent to replicate the success of Independence Day. But his first big mistake was making this story’s heroes the absolute antithesis of those from that much better movie.

Whatever the reason though, this movie is so fucking stupid that it’s painful to watch, which is why I have never actually sat down and watched this in its entirety in one sitting. Sure, I’ve seen the whole film in increments thanks to cable television but as a lifelong Godzilla fan, I had no urge to see this in the theater when it came out and all the footage and sequences I’ve seen over the years has only solidified my disdain for this big budget kaiju-sized abortion.

Many people have claimed that this isn’t a true Godzilla film and that it is the worst one ever made. Those people aren’t wrong, as I’d rather be stuck in a room for 24 hours being forced to watch Godzilla’s Revenge, over and over, than have to watch this film ever again.

It’s completely incompetent from top-to-bottom with brainless characters, impressively bad dialogue and a story that feels like it was freestyled from the mind of a child playing with kaiju toys in the bathtub.

There is no traditional three act structure and this is just a string of sequences where some of them feel like they don’t even fit within the same movie. It also gets so far away from the core of what Godzilla is that it truly isn’tGodzilla movie, it’s some sort of generic kaiju flick trying to borrow more from Jurassic Park than its own namesake.

Had this not been given the Godzilla name and branding, it may have been more palatable but there is nothing about this that can win over the fans they assumed they’d lure in just by using the name of the world’s most famous giant monster. While that may have been a run-on sentence, 1998’s Godzilla was a run-on movie.

About two-thirds of the way into the film they “kill” Godzilla, after destroying half of Manhattan. Then suddenly we’re sucked into a different movie where baby Godzillas are chasing the heroes idiots through Madison Square Garden like an army of velociraptors in a cheap attempt at trying to one-up the far superior Jurassic Park movies. Once the babies are killed, Godzilla miraculously rises from the ashes like, “Fuck you, hoes! Ain’t dead!” It’s a clusterfuck that shows that Roland Emmerich doesn’t have time for any sort of traditional narrative structure. And no, that’s not an artistic choice it’s just the incompetence of a moron that cares more about mass destruction than actually making cinematic art.

I haven’t even talked about the special effects yet, which are a mixed bag but mostly shit. Where practical effects are used, things actually look quite good but where the film employs CGI, it looks terrible even for 1998. Hell, this movie came out two years after Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day and it looks significantly cheaper than that film. This is really where big studios started to rely on CGI too much and it killed the immersion into the cinematic world onscreen. I never feel that way when watching Independence Day or Jurassic Park but here, it’s fucking distracting.

The action sequences with dozens of Apache helicopters flying through the canyon-like streets of New York City like swarms of insects just look cartoonish and buffonish. In fact, all these big action sequences between the military and Godzilla look more like a video game than a motion picture. Maybe modern HD makes it look worse than it did in 1998 but the digital flaws are really apparent and it looks like the studio cut corners in post-production or just rushed this out too soon.

Based off of the final product, Roland Emmerich could’ve just invented his own kaiju creature. But I guess less people would’ve gone to see that, so bastardizing something beloved was the easiest route to go when you can’t actually rely on talent.

Rating: 3/10
Pairs well with: other Roland Emmerich schlock that cost way too much to make.

Film Review: Fatal Fury: The Motion Picture (1994)

Also known as: Garou Densetsu (original Japanese title), Fatal Fury 3 (informal title)
Release Date: July 16th, 1994 (Japan)
Directed by: Masami Obari
Written by: Takashi Yamada
Based on: Fatal Fury by SNK
Music by: Toshihiko Sahashi
Cast: Kazukiyo Nishikiori, Keiichi Nanba, Nobuyuki Hiyama, Kotono Mitsuishi, Tomo Sakurai, Shinichiro Miki

Asatsu, Fuji Television Network, SNK/Playmore, 100 Minutes

Review:

“Worthless fool! How can you ever help to beat me? By the next time I’m done with you, there’ll be nothing but stinking meat!” – Laocorn

I really dug this anime series in the mid-’90s when I was eating up all the anime my video store started getting in during the boom. These were some of my favorites due to my love of the Fatal Fury video games, as well as all the other Neo-Geo fighting games.

This third film was by far my favorite and even though I own it on VHS, I hadn’t watched it in nearly two decades due to not having a VCR. However, all three Fatal Fury anime films are available on YouTube, at the moment.

Seeing this again, all this time later, this is still my favorite of the lot and it’s actually a pretty good animated movie, from top-to-bottom.

The art is much better than the previous two installments and the running time is longer, as well. But I guess that’s why this is referred to as a “motion picture”. But the extra care given to this production makes it the best installment in the series.

Additionally, this doesn’t try to tell an anime version of a video game story. It actually branches off into a new direction with new characters and I’m not sure if any of the new villains actually made it into the video games.

This also has a very Indiana Jones vibe to it, as the villains are hunting down multiple MacGuffins in ancient ruins and temples in an effort for their leader to essentially become a god.

Fatal Fury: The Motion Picture is just a lot of fun, really f’n cool and is a more refined and perfected version of the two chapters that came before it.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: the two other Fatal Fury movies.

Comic Review: Doctor Strange – Epic Collection: A Separate Reality

Published: October 19th, 2016
Written by: various
Art by: various

Marvel Comics, 480 Pages

Review:

I’ve been going back and picking up a lot of ’70s Doctor Strange floppy issues, lately. Mainly, I love Marvel’s art style with their fantasy and horror titles from the decade and Doctor Strange had some of the best covers from that time. But after reading a few of the singles issues, I wanted to delve into a much larger chunk, so I gave this huge Epic Collection release a read.

This actually focuses on the end of Doctor Strange’s first solo series, his complete run in Marvel Premiere and then the first handful of issues of his second solo series.

This also features a ton of great artists and writers, as well as adapting some of H.P. Lovecraft’s characters and concepts into the Marvel Universe, beyond what was done in just the Conan titles.

Furthermore, this collection features just about all of the major Doctor Strange villains of the era with a lot of emphasis on Nightmare.

This was, hands down, one of the best Doctor Strange trade paperbacks I have ever read and it only solidified my love for the character from this era. It also kind of made me wish they’d have done something with Strange and Conan back in the ’70s due to the Lovecraftian flavor of this book.

I’ll be in search of other hefty collections of Doctor Strange from the ’70s and early ’80s because this was just damn cool and featured so much imagination and stupendous art. I wish people didn’t sleep on old school Doctor Strange, it’s really, really great stuff.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other old school Doctor Strange collections, as well as ’70s Marvel fantasy and horror comics.

Film Review: Highlander: Endgame (2000)

Also known as: Highlander IV, Highlander IV: World Without End, Highlander: A New Order (working titles)
Release Date: September 1st, 2000
Directed by: Doug Aarniokoski
Written by: Joel Soisson, Eric Bernt, Gillian Horvath, William N. Panzer
Based on: characters by George Widen
Music by: Nick Glennie-Smith, Stephen Graziano
Cast: Adrian Paul, Christopher Lambert, Bruce Payne, Lisa Barbuscia, Donnie Yen, Damon Dash, Sheila Gish, Adam “Edge” Copeland

Davis-Panzer Productions, Dimension Films, 87 Minutes, 101 Minutes (Producer’s Cut)

Review:

“You’re missing the point, Kate. The difference between Connor and I is that as long as you’re still alive, there’s a chance that one day I might be forgiven. It may take years. Centuries even. But at least I can carry that hope inside me. That’s one blessing of immortality; there’s always tomorrow. Even for us.” – Duncan MacLeod

I guess this is the best of the Highlander sequels but that doesn’t mean much as they’re all pretty shitty.

Revisiting this franchise has been a pretty crappy experience, other than revisiting the first movie, which is damn enjoyable. But I’ve had a few people ask me to tackle the Highlander franchise so I figured I should get it over with.

I haven’t actually seen this one since around the time that it came out. I barely remembered it, other than it is the one installment of the franchise that brings both MacLeod men together: Conner from the films series and Duncan from the television series.

Now the movies are an absolute clusterfuck for those wanting continuity. This series’ canon is an atrocious mess but this film actually seems to work the best, as a sequel, as it is a continuation of the television series and the original film, ignoring the two crappy sequels before it.

For those who might not know, the television series was a continuation of just the first film while being focused on a new character from the same clan as the original Highlander. So being that this is a followup to that series, I guess you could look at the first film and this one as bookends to the television show. Although, there is another sequel after this one, which concludes Duncan MacLeod’s story. I’ve never seen that one or at least, I don’t remember seeing it.

Anyway, this is just an awkward and weird film. It has the weakest villain of the first four films and the story is flimsy as hell with a strange confrontation between the two heroes that just felt like a nonsensical plot convenience just to make the younger Duncan, the one and only hero.

The film is littered with awful special effects, which leads to a bonkers final fight that sees Duncan and Connor essentially as one physical entity whose face digitally morphs from one actor to the next and back again. It looks fucking deplorable, even for low budget circa 2000 digital effects.

It also doesn’t help that the film is mostly a bore. There are moments in the narrative where things seem like they could take an interesting turn but they never really do. This feels like a made-for-TV movie or two-part pilot for some syndicated fantasy garbage that was below the level of this era’s syndicated television offerings.

Highlander: Endgame should have been the end but they kept going after this one. Actually, Highlander, the first movie, should have been the end.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Highlander sequels, none of which come close to the cool and original first film.

Film Review: The Warrior and the Sorceress (1984)

Also known as: The Warrior (Germany)
Release Date: September 7th, 1984
Directed by: John C. Broderick
Written by: John C. Broderick
Based on: a story by John C. Broderick, William Stout
Music by: Louis Saunders
Cast: David Carradine, Luke Askew, Maria Socas, Anthony De Longis, Harry Townes

Aries Cinematográfica Argentina, New Horizons Picture, 81 Minutes

Review:

Just when the world thought that there were enough re-imaginings (or ripoffs) of Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo, Roger Corman’s New Horizons made a sword and sorcery version of the tale.

Sadly, this is terribly boring and like many of David Carradine’s lower tier schlock flicks, he doesn’t even really seem to care too much about performance in this one.

While that is a knock against Carradine, the guy was truly great when he wanted to be. But maybe he’s one of those guys that needs good motivation from the director.

I don’t think that Carradine got that direction here and all of the other actors just sort of seem to be dialing it in. This feels more like a community theater rehearsal than a legit motion picture. That could be due to the inexperience of the director or simply because the script and story are uninspiring and overly derivative.

Additionally, the special effects are subpar, even for a foreign made Conan ripoff. Although, I did enjoy some of the sets. But to be fair about that, it really isn’t hard creating a sword and sorcery world. I have an ex-girlfriend whose house looks like half the sets in this film because she’s a witch and never cleans up after herself or her pets.

The biggest problem with this movie is that it is simply boring. Yes, I already pointed that out but it can’t be stated enough. I can look past some of the faults I already listed if I can be engaged or energized by something. This film, to its extreme detriment, just drained my battery dry.

If you are a big fan of cheap-o sword and sorcery flicks, you’ll probably still want to pass on this one. That is, unless you’re a David Carradine completist. If that’s the case, I don’t envy you, as he’s starred in some really dreadful shit.

Rating: 2/10
Pairs well with: other cheap sword and sorcery movies of the early ’80s.