Film Review: Lady and the Tramp (1955)

Release Date: June 16th, 1955 (Chicago premiere)
Directed by: Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske
Written by: Erdman Penner, Joe Rinaldi, Ralph Wright, Don DaGradi
Based on: Happy Dan, The Cynical Dog by Ward Greene
Music by: Oliver Wallace
Cast: Barbara Luddy, Larry Roberts, Bill Thompson, Dallas McKennon, Bill Baucom, Verna Felton, Peggy Lee

Buena Vista Film Distribution, Walt Disney Productions, 76 Minutes

Review:

“(repeated line) As my grandpappy, Ol’ Reliable, used to say… I don’t recollect if I ever mentioned Ol’ Reliable before?” – Trusty

As I started reviewing Disney’s classic animated features from the beginning, I wondered where their distribution partnership with RKO Radio Pictures would end. I guess it’s here, as this is the first film distributed by Buena Vista, which was created to be the distribution arm of the Disney company.

While that might not seem as if it is important to the final film, it could possibly be a reason as to why this one feels like a slight step down in quality for what Disney had been putting out, at the time. However, following up Cinderella, Alice In Wonderland and Peter Pan couldn’t have been easy.

Also, that’s not to say that this is bad or unworthy of the Disney brand. Lady and the Tramp is still one of the best animated films of its time and deservedly considered a classic.

In fact, this is one of the classic Disney films that I watched the most, as a kid. I always liked the characters, the story and yes, even the romance. Honestly, this may have been my first experience seeing romance play out in a film. Well, it was at least the first romantic movie I probably paid attention to.

The animation is great and I also like the few songs in the film. However, the movie plays more like a sequence of events without much tying them together. At least, there doesn’t seem to be much of a point to the larger arc of the story and it almost feels like there isn’t one. Things happen, dogs fall in love and eventually, they live together and have babies. All of this, however, just felt like things that happened around random scenes.

I guess it didn’t need to have a clear objective and can be brushed off as just peaking into these two dogs’ lives for a bit but its lack of real structure and narrative progression does effect the quality.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other Disney animated films of the 1950s.

Film Review: The Gruesome Twosome (1967)

Release Date: August 28th, 1967 (premiere)
Directed by: Herschell Gordon Lewis
Written by: Allison Louise Downe
Music by: Larry Wellington
Cast: Elizabeth Davis, Gretchen Wells, Chris Martell

72 Minutes

Review:

I have been working my way through the Herschell Gordon Lewis films that I haven’t reviewed yet, as they are currently on the Criterion Channel but they’re being pulled down at the end of the month (at the time of me writing this in September).

So this is one I haven’t reviewed and one I actually hadn’t seen until now.

It’s pretty bad, overall, even for an HGL flick.

The story is about a crazy lady that owns a wig store. The shocking thing is that the wigs are real hair from the victims that she lures in for her mentally handicapped son to kill. He then scalps them and viola!… new inventory!

I guess it’s a clever idea for the time and this film in Lewis’ oeuvre plays more like a comedy but this is still a splatter flick with terrible acting, abysmal production value and a story so boring that the only highlight is seeing the blood flow.

The effects in this are so bad, even for the time and even for a non-existent budget, that they become distracting. I’ve seen better gore and makeup at an elementary school haunted house as a kid.

I guess I get the appeal of Herschell Gordon Lewis’ work to the extreme minority that masturbates to gore porn and splatter but even this film feels like its beneath HGL’s own brand of blood-soaked schlock.

There’s really not much interesting in this other than the taxidermied bobcat.

Rating: 2/10
Pairs well with: other Herschell Gordon Lewis movies.

Comic Review: What If Thor Battled Conan?

Published: June, 1983
Written by: Alan Zelenetz
Art by: Ron Wilson
Based on: Conan the Barbarian by Robert E. Howard

Marvel Comics, 37 Pages

Review:

I’m planning to review many of the classic What If? stories but in doing so, I wanted to start with the ones featuring Conan first. This is the second of the four Conan stories.

While Conan briefly crossed over with Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson in his first What If? tale, it was just a small cameo by Spider-Man and his future wife and the characters didn’t actually interact. This story, however, is the first time that Conan actually has fisticuffs with an iconic Marvel character.

The comic also features Conan villain Thoth-Amon, a brief appearance by Loki and a strange, bonkers appearance by Crom, who shows that he just doesn’t have time for Thor’s shit.

The comic’s title is somewhat misleading, as Thor and Conan do actually battle but it’s pretty short and they start working together to try and figure out how to get Thor back home, as he’s trapped in Conan’s realm and time.

The setup for this is pretty basic. Thor follows Loki into a cave and ends up in a different time and place. Part of me was kind of hoping to see Loki team up with Thoth-Amon but that didn’t happen.

Overall, this was a pretty cool read but the scene with Thor meeting Crom felt really out of place, strange and as if the writer didn’t really know much about Conan lore. Crom isn’t like Odin, just chilling on a throne for anyone to confront and chat with.

This isn’t my favorite of the Conan What If? stories but none of them are bad and they’re all amusing and entertaining in their own unique way.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: the three other What If? comics featuring Conan.

Film Review: Shootfighter: Fight to the Death (1993)

Also known as: Shootfighter (unofficial shorter title)
Release Date: May 5th, 1993
Directed by: Patrick Alan
Written by: Judd B. Lynn, Larry Feliz Jr., Pete Shaner
Music by: Joel Goldsmith
Cast: Bolo Yeung, Maryam d’Abo, James Pax, William Zabka, Michael Bernardo, Martin Kove, Edward Albert

ANA Productions, 100 Minutes

Review:

As a pretty hardcore Karate Kid fan, it’s probably kind of nuts that I hadn’t seen this film until now. Reason being, for those unaware, is that it reunites the two antagonists from that film (and the Cobra Kai television series) by featuring both William Zabka and Martin Kove.

This also stars martial arts legend and intimidating badass, Bolo Yeung. And what’s really interesting about Bolo’s role in this, is that he is a good guy! He’s actually the sensei of the two young guys that enter a martial arts tournament put on by a madman criminal.

In a way, it’s also strange seeing Zabka play a good guy, as he became famous playing bullies in ’80s teen movies.

This movie came out during the height of fighting games in video arcades across the world. It was also the height of low budget, usually straight-to-VHS martial arts flicks. So the story isn’t too dissimilar from that of a classic fighting game. In fact, the two heroes feel like they’re loosely based on and inspired by Ryu and Ken from the Street Fighter video game series.

I like the heroes here, though. They have a good chemistry and camaraderie and I actually like cheering for Zabka, even though I was always pro-Cobra Kai anyway… sorry, LaRusso.

I don’t usually watch these type of movies and expect to be impressed by them. I tend to like them quite a bit, regardless. However, I was impressed by the action and fight choreography in this. While it’s not the most exceptional martial arts action you’ll ever see, it was on par with the best action coming out of low budget US martial arts flicks from this era.

Also, the tone and style of the film is really good and it feels like a fighting game come to life. I wish my fourteen year-old self would’ve rented this back in 1993 because he would’ve probably loved it and watched it as often as he watched early Van Damme movies, as well as the American Ninja series.

I dug this, a lot. I’m also glad that there’s a sequel because I plan on checking it out in about a week, as I work through my queue.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: its sequel, as well as other early-to-mid-’90s martial arts flicks.

Film Review: Grand Central Murder (1942)

Release Date: May, 1942
Directed by: S. Sylvan Simon
Written by: Peter Ruric
Based on: Grand Central Murder by Sue MacVeigh
Music by: David Snell
Cast: Van Heflin, Patricia Dane, Sam Levene, Cecilia Parker, Virginia Grey, Tom Conway

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 73 Minutes

Review:

“Where were you raised? Didn’t anyone ever tell you its bad luck to whistle in a dressing room?” – Mida King, “I’m sorry miss, I… I was raised in a cattle boat, where folks whistle when they feel like it, including the cows!” – Whistling Messenger

Grand Central Murder is an example of a very early noir picture just before the style really started to take shape. It’s also a comedy and because of that, isn’t a straight crime picture but more of a tongue-in-cheek, amusing take on the evolving crime genre.

This sits just between the super popular gangster films that ruled the ’30s and the noir boom that happened in the mid-’40s. It also stars Van Heflin, who might just be the perfect guy to be featured front and center in a film that works as a bridge during this stylistic shift.

While I liked the amusing bits, I think that this would’ve been a much better and actually, really good, crime picture had it played it straight.

What I did like about this movie is that it doesn’t waste time and it moves at a brisk pace getting from point-to-point without trying to pad itself out with a bunch of filler. Even with the comedic moments, the film still flows like a steady river and picks up the right sort of momentum, leading into the climax.

Like a typical noir picture, it has a mystery that comes with some swerves. But I thought that the reveal and the solving of the crime was well done, especially in a time where this picture couldn’t be influenced by all of the other films like it. For the most part, those films didn’t exist yet.

Granted, I can’t necessarily call it an intelligent film but it’s more than competent and it certainly entertained this noir buff for 73 minutes.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other very early film-noir pictures.

Film Review: Hulk (2003)

Also known as: Big Green (fake working title), The Hulk (working title)
Release Date: June 17th, 2003 (US premiere)
Directed by: Ang Lee
Written by: James Schamus, Michael France, John Turman
Based on: The Incredible Hulk by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby
Music by: Danny Elfman
Cast: Eric Bana, Jennifer Connelly, Sam Elliott, Josh Lucas, Nick Nolte, Cara Buono, Lou Ferrigno (cameo)

Marvel Enterprises, Valhalla Motion Pictures, Universal Pictures, 138 Minutes

Review:

“You know what scares me the most? When it happens, when it comes over me… and I totally lose control, I like it.” – Bruce Banner

I haven’t watched this since around the time that it came out and with good reason. Despite liking the cast, this was a boring dud of a film that ran on for way too long and didn’t really give us a whole lot to care about.

Which is probably why a sequel was never made and the character of the Hulk was rebooted for the Marvel Cinematic Universe just half a decade later.

I did like Eric Bana as the title character and I thought that he was a solid choice. However, the script just made him completely vanilla. And I guess I can say the same for everyone else other than Sam Elliott and Nick Nolte.

Elliott was perfect as Thunderbolt Ross. But, then again, he’s perfect in just about everything.

Nolte was also damn great and committed to the role so well, that he was the only character I truly felt anything emotional from. The character was awful, though. He was sort of like the Absorbing Man but he was a different character, altogether and his story just didn’t work for me. That’s not to say that Nolte didn’t nail the part, he did. It’s just to say that the part was pretty shit.

The story was also shit and that’s really the main issue. The script and the plot were both uninspiring and slower than a mentally handicapped snail trying to compete at Monaco.

Additionally, Ang Lee wasn’t a wise choice for the director. It was a baffling decision to me in 2003 and even more so in 2020, looking back at this green turd sandwich and being annoyed by his visual style and his failed attempts at trying to give this some sort of artistic merit, inspired by his more beautiful Hong Kong pictures.

The audience wants to see Hulk smash, not kung fu masters magically flying over bamboo forests or gay, emotionally conflicted cowboys staring at meadow grass blowing in the wind. While Lee has an action background with his Hong Kong pictures, those movies are such a vastly different style than this one. Additionally, his style of really emotional human drama is great in the right picture but it’s not necessary in something like this.

Ultimately, this felt like a weird amalgamation of all things Ang Lee mashed together in the most non-Ang Lee style of motion picture.

Other than a few performances, the only other thing I really liked were the special effects.

What sucks, is that I really wanted to like this but I knew before even seeing it that it was destined to be a strange misfire.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: other Marvel movies before the MCU was established in 2008.

Film Review: The Mummy (1959)

Release Date: August 1st, 1959 (Japan)
Directed by: Terence Fisher
Written by: Jimmy Sangster
Music by: Franz Reizenstein
Cast: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Yvonne Furneaux, Michael Ripper

Hammer Films, 97 Minutes (original), 86 Minutes

Review:

“He who robs the graves of Egypt dies!” – Mehemet Bey

Since I’ve reviewed the entirety of Hammer’s Dracula and Frankenstein films, I figured that this classic monster reboot series also needed to be revisited.

Coming off of the heels of The Curse of Frankenstein and The Horror of Dracula, Hammer got the same creative team back together and took a shot at resurrecting The Mummy in their own, original way.

It also helped that they brought back both Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee for this one, making it feel like the third part in a trilogy of films where Hammer was showing tribute to the Universal Monsters franchise that kicked off in the 1930s.

I actually love that this is its own thing and it’s not trying to remake 1932’s The Mummy with Boris Karloff. It just takes the concept and gives the audience a fresh, new story. Sure, there are obvious similarities but this picture has a unique visual aesthetic and frankly, it’s one of the best looking Hammer movies of all-time. I also say that as someone that already loves the visual style of the studio’s classic films.

While I would rank this below the first Dracula and Frankenstein films, it’s still pretty damn good and it’s certainly the best of the Hammer Mummy series.

I enjoyed the characters and I especially liked the look of Christopher Lee’s mummy. The makeup was impressive for 1959 and Lee is such a good physical actor that his mummy is one of my favorites of all-time. While I don’t feel that he gets the same level of admiration as Karloff’s version of the monster, I’d say that his is on the same level and possibly a bit better due to his size and how imposing he is. Lee’s mummy just looks and feels stronger than Karloff’s and there is just something more sinister about him.

Ultimately, this is a solid Hammer horror flick. For fans of the studio and classic monsters, it is definitely worth checking out.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: the other films in Hammer’s Mummy series, as well as other Hammer films of the time.

Comic Review: Batman R.I.P.

Published: October 8th, 2013
Written by: Grant Morrison
Art by: Tony S. Daniel, Lee Garbett

DC Comics, 213 Pages

Review:

I’m pretty sure I liked this when I read it back when it was current, about a decade and a half ago. However, I found it just weird and wonky this time around. But I’ve also aged quite a bit and in that time, read some truly incredible comics.

I was probably really into this, as it came out at the height of my Grant Morrison love. Plus, back then, I was more into weird shit and experimental storytelling. However, I don’t feel like any of that necessarily benefits the most mainstream of all mainstream comic book titles.

Having now recently read a good amount of Grant Morrison’s Batman run, my opinion on it has soured quite a bit. It’s stuck in this weird limbo where it’s too weird to feel like it fits within the top Batman title and it isn’t weird enough to truly feel like Grant Morrison, unrestrained. 

This feels like watered down Morrison and by trying to sit on the fence between mainstream acceptance and Morrison’s typical narrative style, it’s really just a boring, baffling dud of a comic.

The art is good, damn good. However, that’s not enough to save it from how disappointing it is, overall. Besides, this is a story from the pages of the most popular comic book in the medium and if the art isn’t up to snuff, DC Comics should close up shop.

This kind of wore me ragged, honestly. I don’t want to read anymore of Morrison’s Batman work and I consider it to be overrated, at this point. I also say that as someone that once liked it.

In the end, Morrison shouldn’t have his hands creatively tied but he also shouldn’t be allowed to go into Batman with reckless abandon. That’s what DC’s Elseworld Tales are for and frankly, that’s where Morrison’s Batman work should be.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: the rest of Grant Morrison’s Batman run.

TV Review: Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich (2020)

Original Run: May 27th, 2020
Directed by: Lisa Bryant
Based on: Filthy Rich: A Powerful Billionaire, the Sex Scandal that Undid Him, and All the Justice that Money Can Buy: The Shocking True Story of Jeffrey Epstein by James Patterson
Music by: Justin Melland

RadicalMedia, JP Entertainment, Third Eye Motion Picture Company, Netflix, 4 Episodes, 55-57 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I didn’t know as much about this story as I probably needed to. Sure, I, like most people, know the general gist of it but not the details.

Although, if I’m being honest, I kind of expected this to go much deeper and also expose the guy’s ties to some of the politicians and celebrities that were in his orbit.

Regardless of that, this was still a decent primer on the horrible shit that this guy did.

Frankly, this was pretty tough to get through, as you come to realize how deep the rabbit hole goes and how many different under-aged girls that this guy sexually assaulted on a constant basis.

Most importantly, this serves as a warning against the type of people that prey on young girls, as well as looking at their behavior and the methods that they could use to exploit and violate others.

As a documentary, I thought this was just okay. I feel like it needed a lot more information and that it could’ve gone a lot deeper into Epstein’s reach among the elite.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other recent Netflix true crime documentaries.

Book Review: ‘Assassin: The Man Behind the Mask’ by Joe Hamilton & Scott Teal

I’ve definitely been digging the wrestling biographies I’ve recently gotten from Scott Teal’s website, Crowbar Press. This one is just the latest of those books that I’ve read but it lives up to the quality I’ve come to expect from the publisher.

The Assassin primarily wrestled before my time but I did get to catch the tail end of his work when I was really young. Also, he spent some time in Florida, where I grew up and still live. Because of that, I love reading books that are tied to that specific wrestling territory.

This was thoroughly enjoyable from cover-to-cover and I even liked all the stuff about his youth and growing up, as he had some issues and felt as if he needed to leave his small town behind and follow his older brother into the professional wrestling business.

I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this book, as I honestly didn’t know much about the man other than his in-ring character and all that knowledge came later, as I was a wrestling tape trader in the ’90s and early ’00s.

Like everything I’ve read from Crowbar Press, this did not disappoint and it’s a cool book for anyone that’s a fan of the old territory era of the professional wrestling business.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other books on the history of the old school territory wrestling business, as well as biographies on the personalities who lived it.