Comic Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 16: Chasing Phantoms

Published: May 10th, 2017
Written by: Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz
Art by: Mateus Santolouco, Dave Wachter
Based on: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird

IDW Publishing, 127 Pages

Review:

While I like that the IDW Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic book series is in new territory, by this point, and trying fresh things for the franchise, I also question whether or not it’s ran its course and is just running on fumes after the defeats of Shredder and Krang.

Don’t get me wrong, I like that it’s sort of changed its tone and there are new villains but it’s starting to feel a lot less like the traditional TMNT I grew up with and more like it’s trying to figure out where to go, charting new, unknown territory even for original creator Kevin Eastman.

Splinter being in charge of the Foot Clan just seems damn odd, even if he’s trying to make them a force for good. He’s still doing things that seem really out of character and the Turtles, his sons, recognize this. It’s been going on for a few volumes in this series now and I’m kind of waiting to see if there’s a real reason for it that will somehow make sense in a big, stunning reveal.

The series is just in a place of uncertainty in regards to where it’s going and the core characters’ lives and direction. I still like it, I’m still invested but something has to happen and soon.

The art is still on par with the previous volumes and as the series rolls on, it gets a wee bit better even with each chapter.

As I said, I’m still enjoying this, sixteen volumes deep, but I really feel like something big needs to go down much sooner, rather than later.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: the rest of IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles run.

Film Review: The Sender (1982)

Release Date: October 22nd, 1982
Directed by: Roger Christian
Written by: Thomas Baum
Music by: Trevor Jones
Cast: Kathryn Harrold, Željko Ivanek, Shirley Knight, Paul Freeman

Kingsmere Productions Ltd., Paramount Pictures, 91 Minutes

Review:

Every now and again, I find an ’80s horror movie that somehow slipped through the cracks, even though I used to spend countless hours perusing the aisles of mom and pop video stores in the ’80s. Maybe I saw this at some point and the VHS box art just didn’t grab me. Whatever the reason, it was awesome to discover this now because The Sender is an exceptionally good sci-fi/horror flick that is grossly underappreciated and I guess, kind of lost to time.

The film stars Kathryn Harrold, who is really damn good and probably should’ve been in more than just a handful of movies I’ve seen in much smaller roles. Also, she has a kind of classic old Hollywood beauty to her.

This also stars a pretty young Željko Ivanek, whose work I’m familiar with is all much more recent. Fans of True Blood may recognize him as The Magistrate. He was also more recently in Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri. It was really cool seeing him in this, so young, as he’s a character actor I’ve grown to enjoy over the last decade or so.

Rounding out the cast is Paul Freeman, most recognized for his role as René Belloq, the primary villain in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Frankly, I love Freeman in everything and he doesn’t disappoint here. And just when you think he’s playing an annoying character trope, he surprises you in this.

The story is about a young man who is institutionalized after trying to drown himself in front of dozens of people at a lake. As the story rolls on, we discover that this young man has exceptional psychic power that he can’t control. He effects everyone around him but the good therapist at the hospital tries her damnedest to save him. As the film progresses things get more and more crazy and the movie really gives us some cool shit.

In fact, the film is damn impressive considering the things they achieved with the special effects. This came out in the heyday of practical effects in horror movies and this really just stands well above what was the standard quality of the time.

Additionally, this is surprisingly really well acted. At least, more so than you’d expect from a forgotten horror flick from 1982.

I don’t want to spoil too much because I’d rather people check this out. It deserves a hell of a lot more love and recognition than it’s gotten over the years.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: The Hidden, Carrie, The Fury and Scanners.

TV Review: Galaxy Express 999 (1978–1981)

Original Run: September 14th, 1978 – March 26th, 1981
Created by: Leiji Matsumoto
Directed by: Nobutaka Nishizawa
Written by: Hiroyasu Yamaura, Keisuke Fujikawa, Yoshiaki Yoshida
Based on: Galaxy Express 999 by Leiji Matsumoto
Music by: Nozomi Aoki
Cast: Masako Nozawa, Masako Ikeda, Kaneta Kimotsuki

Toei Animation, Fuji TV, 113 Episodes, 24 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

Out of Leiji Matsumoto’s big three series, this is my least favorite. One of them has to be the odd one out, I guess, but it never appealed to me in the same way as the Captain Harlock stuff or Star Blazers a.k.a. Space Battleship Yamato.

This is a much smaller story and even though it has some action and adventure, it isn’t on the same epic scale as the other two franchises. But they all do exist in the same universe and crossover and because of that, I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for this series, as well.

I also hadn’t seen anything Galaxy Express 999 related in decades, so it was kind of cool revisiting it. A lot of Matsumoto’s stuff is actually free to watch on Tubi for those interested.

Overall, I’d say that I actually like this even less now. I’d check it out when I had access to it in my younger days because it was pretty imaginative and was full of a lot of cool visuals and ideas.

However, the animation doesn’t hold up very well. I guess it’s fine for the time but it just doesn’t feel like it is in the same ballpark as Star Blazers or Harlock. I recently revisited both of those series too and I didn’t seem to really notice any glaring problems with the animation like I do with this. Mostly, it just feels kind of choppy and not as fluid.

The story is interesting enough but I was only able to watch about a dozen episodes and couldn’t commit to the entire run, which I did with the other series. Still, I will probably review the film versions that came out in the same era and see how I feel about those.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other Galaxy Express 999 films and shows, as well as Leiji Matsumoto’s other work: Captain Harlock and Space Battleship Yamato a.k.a. Star Blazers.

 

Film Review: Gamera vs. Viras (1968)

Also known as: Gamera tai uchu kaijû Bairasu (original Japanese title), Gamera vs. Bairus (alternative spelling), Destroy All Planets, Gamera vs. Outer Space Monster Viras (US alternative titles)
Release Date: March 20th, 1968 (Japan)
Directed by: Noriaki Yuasa
Written by: Niisan Takahashi
Music by: Kenjiro Hirose
Cast: Kojiro Hongo, Toru Takatsuka, Carl Craig

Daiei Studios, 90 Minutes (TV cut), 81 Minutes (theatrical cut)

Review:

“Attention all spaceship crew members. Attention all spaceship crew members. Gamera has been located. He’s at the bottom of the ocean. Prepare to attack at once. Activate the super catch ray.” – Doctor A

This Gamera film is really a mixed bag but due to the behind the scenes troubles that Toei was dealing with at the time, their shortcuts in this film are somewhat excusable and the new stuff is pretty enjoyable for a Gamera picture.

What I’m referring to is that the studio was in financial trouble and they needed to make some money to stay afloat. The biggest money maker for them was the Gamera film series but since money was tight, this picture reuses footage from previous ones.

So on one hand, this plays like a Gamera’s Greatest Battles compilation while also providing a new, cool alien threat and an awesome kaiju creature for Gamera to fight in the final act.

From my youth, this was the Gamera movie that always stuck out in my memories, as the set design of the alien ship was just f’n cool. It’s pretty simplistic and just uses triangular screens and flashing light panels but it’s surrealness just burned into my brain. Plus, the outside design of the alien ship is cool and I always wanted a toy of it.

I also liked the monster Viras, who was essentially just a space squid with a sharp, pointed head and the ability to fly.

The plot is wonky as shit and the overall production is cheap and noticeable, even for a Gamera picture.

Still, this isn’t a bad way to waste some time, especially if you’re a kaiju fan and haven’t seen this one.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: the other classic era Gamera films.

Comic Review: Punisher/Captain America: Blood & Glory

Published: 1992
Written by: D.G. Chichester, Margaret Clark
Art by: Klaus Janson

Marvel Comics, 148 Pages

Review:

This was just incredibly badass! It made me yearn for the days of Marvel Comics when I was still an impressionable, young middle schooler.

This was originally released as three 48ish page square bound trade paperbacks. The Punisher had several books released this way that were mostly one-off stories. This one, however, was so epic and awesome it took three books to contain it. I’m actually going to review more of these one-off style bigger comics in the coming weeks or months.

In this, we get to see Punisher and Captain America come together, after the Punisher was sent to assassinate Cap. Cap fakes his death, Nick Fury is involved in that and Cap is sent to stop the real threat, alongside the man who was sent to put him down.

This is a great political thriller with intrigue and cool twists. Tonally, it reminds me a lot of the Winter Soldier movie but it’s even more badass and much more “adult” than a typical Marvel comic, even in 1992.

I also like that Klaus Janson was the artist on this, as the book looks stupendous and he’s one of my favorite artists of the era. His version of Punisher and Cap have always been pretty high up on my list. He also illustrates action so well and there are some phenomenal action sequences in this book. The big action-packed finale where Punisher and Cap fight helicopters is just f’n awesome!

This is just a badass miniseries, period.

Damn, I typed “badass” a lot in this one.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other Punisher comics of the late ’80s and early ’90s.

Film Review: Super Mario Bros. (1993)

Also known as: Super Mario Brothers: The Movie (original script title)
Release Date: May 28th, 1993
Directed by: Rocky Morton, Annabel Jankel
Written by: Parker Bennett, Terry Runte, Ed Solomon
Based on: Mario by Nintendo
Music by: Alan Silvestri
Cast: Bob Hoskins, John Leguizamo, Dennis Hopper, Samantha Mathis, Fisher Stevens, Fiona Shaw, Richard Edson, Mojo Nixon, Dana Kaminski, Lance Henriksen, Frank Welker (voice), Dan Castellaneta (narrator)

Allied Filmmakers, Cinergi Pictures Entertainment, Hollywood Pictures, 104 Minutes, 90 Minutes (Japan), 87 Minutes (TV cut)

Review:

“[bathing in mud] Do you know what I love about mud? It’s clean and it’s dirty at the same time.” – King Koopa

Super Mario Bros. was one film in a string of a few that helped to build the reputation that video game movies suck. Looking at the picture in comparison to the video game series it’s based on, I get it. And frankly, it irked the shit out of me when I saw it in 1993. 

However, seeing it with pretty fresh eyes nearly three decades later, I have a very different view of the film now. Especially, when I just look at it as its own weird body of work apart from the video game franchise.

Removing the source material from the equation, I can still see why this would be viewed as a bad film by most but for me, a lover of really weird shit, everyone in this cast and late ’80s/early ’90s cyberpunk shit, this is kind of a feast of awesomeness!

Additionally, the Alan Silvestri score is great, lively, playful and boisterous. It reminds me of his score to Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, which was, honestly, what really set the magnificent tone for that movie. Here, Silvestri’s work is just as effective and man, I miss scores like this.

This movie also feels like a time capsule into the heart of the ’90s. It embraces the wonky tropes of the decade and it completely misses the mark it should’ve been aiming for. Although, in retrospect, I really like that this just did whatever the hell it wanted to and provided the world with something so damn bizarre and zany.

I really liked the bond between Mario and Luigi, even if trying believe that Hoskins and Leguizamo are supposed to be real brothers is maybe the most unbelievable thing in the film. That kind of doesn’t matter, though, as nothing in this needs to make any sort of logical sense. It’s actually cooler that it doesn’t. Now that’s something I’d typically be highly critical of but this movie with its flaws is still so much fun and overly ridiculous that it adds to its charm.

I guess Dennis Hopper was miserable working on this due to behind the scenes clusterfucks and severe delays but honestly, it probably worked to the movie’s benefit, as he truly comes off as an insufferable prick and it just makes his character that much more sinister and entertaining to watch.

Additionally, I really liked Samantha Mathis in this, as she played Princess Daisy, the apple of Luigi’s eye. Her and Leguizamo had nice, believable chemistry and she really was a highpoint of the picture. In fact, her final scene where she returns as a gun toting badass really made me wish a sequel had been made.

That being said, I actually wouldn’t be opposed to having more things made from this version of the Super Mario IP. I get it, it was a bomb and most people hated it but it’s also unique and kind of special in its own odd way. Plus, it’s developed a good cult following over the years and I think many people are like me, where seeing this decades later really allows you to separate from what it should of been and wasn’t to seeing it as its own cool thing.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: the other few ’90s movies based on video games, as well as other early ’90s cyberpunk films.

Comic Review: Deathstroke: The Terminator, Vol. 5: World Tour

Published: January 22nd, 2019
Written by: Marv Wolfman
Art by: Steve Erwin

DC Comics, 237 Pages

Review:

Man, I really love this series outside of the weird third volume. I’m glad that it recovered from that chapter and this one is actually a bit better than the previous one.

Marv Wolfman really knows Slade Wilson a.k.a. Deathstroke but then he should, as he created the character a decade before this series.

I love this in the same way I love the earliest G.I. Joe stories by Larry Hama. It has that same sort of gravitas and machismo while also featuring badass characters outside of just the main one.

With this series, I’ve become a much bigger fan of the Pat Trayce version of Vigilante than the original version. She looks great in the costume, is a complex, solid character and it’s extremely hard not to like her, even if she sometimes acts too reactionary and doesn’t trust Deathstroke, the man she unfortunately loves but who is also, in this era, trying to do good things and atone for his sins.

I love Deathstroke and Vigilante’s relationship, though, as they are usually allies but often times in each other’s crosshairs. Wolfman writes these characters and these stories so well, however, that it just works and makes sense.

Like most of the previous volumes I also really enjoy the art in this.

I guess this volume is probably the most important one in the series, thus far, as it shows a bridge finally being built between Slade and his ex-wife, who still wants him dead due to his part in their sons’ deaths.

This volume also takes Deathstroke around the globe and just about every single issue collected here has him somewhere else. That reminded me a lot of G.I. Joe, as well.

I really dug the hell out of this volume and that should come as no surprise if you’ve read my other reviews of this series.

Sadly, there isn’t a volume six but the series continued on beyond this. I’m not sure how I will review the rest of the run but I may just read everything that’s left and review it as one big batch of issues.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: the other volumes in the original Deathstroke: The Terminator series from 1991 to 1996.

Comic Review: Red Sonja: Worlds Away, Vol. 1

Published: August 9th, 2017
Written by: Amy Chu
Art by: Carlos Gomez
Based on: Red Sonya by Robert E. Howard, Red Sonja by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith

Dynamite Entertainment, 197 Pages

Review:

In the spirit of all those Conan the Barbarian stories that sent the title character into modern times, as well as the awful but enjoyable film Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time, we have finally gotten a Red Sonja tale that sends her into the future a.k.a. our present.

Granted, this did come out in 2017. I just got around to reading it though, as I’ve read through a lot of other Red Sonja runs since I started this site and started reviewing comics.

I liked that this story really just got right into it and sent Sonja to present day New York City pretty much immediately while she was in a major scuffle with the evil sorcerer, Kulan Gath.

For the most part, I enjoyed the story, most of the characters Sonja meets and the art was pretty damn good.

My only real complaint was that there was a lot of things that were done for plot convenience. In comics, I can look away once or twice but there was just too many instances of it that I was like, “Oh, c’mon!”

Still, I liked this in spite of that. I just feel like this would have been a much better experience than it ended up being had those conveniences been less common and figured out within the story in a logical, believable way.

I still plan to read the other volumes in this series, anyway, as I love Red Sonja and this is a fun, fresh take on it.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other Red Sonja stories from Dynamite, as well as the Conan comic book stories that put him in the modern world and the second Beastmaster movie that sent the hero to 1990s Los Angeles.

Film Review: Soldier (1998)

Release Date: October 23rd, 1998
Directed by: Paul W.S. Anderson
Written by: David Webb Peoples
Music by: Joel McNeely
Cast: Kurt Russell, Jason Scott Lee, Sean Pertwee, Connie Nielsen, Michael Chiklis, Gary Busey, Jason Issacs, Paul Dillon, Wyatt Russell 

Jerry Weintraub Productions, Morgan Creek Entertainment, Warner Bros., 99 Minutes, 91 Minutes (edited)

Review:

“Brave. It means that even when you’re scared you control your emotions. You make the fear be really small and tiny.” – Sandra

I have to thank this film’s existence and Kurt Russell’s part in it for giving us Event Horizon, a far superior film and one of the greatest sci-fi/horror movies ever made. The reason being, this was supposed to be made earlier but Russell requested and extra year to get super diesel. To kill that time, Paul W.S. Anderson went off and directed the best film he’s ever made.

Plus, we still got this, which I also like quite a bit and it shares a couple of actors with 1997’s Event Horizon, the always awesome and underappreciated Sean Pertwee and Jason Issacs, who has a hell of a presence in every film he finds himself in.

In this, we also get Gary f’n Busey and Jason Scott Lee, who is the other super soldier that Kurt Russell ultimately has to face off with. Lee was also jacked as fuck in this and their big battle at the film’s climax is like swimming in Niagara Falls if the water was liquid testosterone.

Strangely, and something I didn’t know until reading up on this film before revisiting it, Soldier is an unofficial, spiritual sequel to Blade Runner. In fact, there are some Easter eggs sprinkled throughout that I didn’t catch the first time I saw this in the theater back in ’98.

The reason for this is that this film’s writer, David Webb Peoples, was one of the writers on Blade Runner, so he sprinkled some things in to tie it back to that legendary movie (and the original Philip K. Dick story). I guess I’ll always think of it as Blade Runner 1.5 from now on.

Anyway, the story sees an old super soldier get dumped like trash on a trash planet. He soon discovers a discarded civilization there and has to fight to protect them, as the government that threw him away brings war to their doorstep. With that, they bring their updated, newer super soldier model, which Kurt Russell has to face, testing his mettle and proving that sometimes newer isn’t better.

While this film has some apparent budgetary limitations, everything still looks pretty damn good for the time. I also really like the story and think it’s something that’s relatable to most people. Especially those of us that have lived a little while and may feel like changing times and younger blood may try and push us out of our spots, specifically in a professional setting.

Soldier is just a good, balls to the wall, popcorn movie. It’s the type of great manly man film that we’re not allowed to have anymore. Sure, it’s far from perfect and there are many movies that hit similar notes and do it better but this is still an awesome way to spend ninety-nine minutes.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other sci-fi action films of the ’80s and ’90s like Enemy Mine, Stargate, Escape From L.A., Event Horizon, etc.