Film Review: Doctor X (1932)

Release Date: August 3rd, 1932 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Michael Curtiz
Written by: Robert Tasker, Earl Baldwin
Based on: Terror, 1928 play by Howard W. Comstock, Allen C. Miller
Music by: Leo F. Forbstein, Bernard Kaun
Cast: Lionel Atwill, Fay Wray, Lee Tracy, Preston Foster

First National Pictures, 76 Minutes

Review:

“Were the murdered women… attacked?” – Dr. Haines, Academy of Surgical Research

I don’t know if this is the first horror/comedy ever made but it’s gotta be pretty close. However, it also blends together several genres in what’s a really unique experience for a motion picture from 1932.

This is directed by Michael Curtiz, who would go on to direct several film-noir pictures, as well as big budget swashbuckling blockbusters starring the legendary Errol Flynn. Curtiz was a pretty versatile and now celebrated director but this may be his most unusual film.

So the version of this that I watched was actually the one restored by George Lucas’ people, which was also in Technicolor, as opposed to the traditional black and white.

However, I really liked the Technicolor work in this film and it made it feel gritty and real and also somewhat haunting and majestic. The use of green accents enhanced it in a unique way and while I typically prefer to see films, as they were intended, this almost makes a good argument for the use of colorization just by how it was employed here.

I thought that the film was amusing, I liked the comedy and it still works for those few of us that still enjoy pictures from this era.

I also enjoyed the performances by Lionel Atwill, a guy that was featured in a slew of classic Universal Monsters films, as well as Fay Wray, who will always be remembered for her iconic part in the original King Kong.

While this is sort of your typical mad scientist tale, it’s genre bending narrative comes across as fresh and unique when compared to similar movies of the time.

Rating: 7/10

Comic Review: Batman: Three Jokers

Published: November 17th, 2020
Written by: Geoff Johns
Art by: Jason Fabok

DC Comics, 161 Pages

Review:

I enjoyed this story and its concept quite a bit. But generally, I’ve been a fan of Geoff Johns’ writing since he took over Green Lantern in the mid-’00s.

This isn’t really a canonical story but then again, nothing that’s modern DC really is to me anymore because they’ve rebooted their universe more times than my Uncle Terry has created children out of wedlock.

The story does directly build off of the events of classic Batman stories The Killing Joke and A Death In the Family. With that, it also utilizes Batgirl and Red Hood in the story, as it brings their issues with the Joker full circle and provides some closure to him crippling Batgirl and “killing” Red Hood when he was Robin.

The reason why the story is called “The Three Jokers” is because there are three Jokers. Each one represents a different version of the character, as he’s been used historically. One is the “criminal” Joker, another is the “comedian” Joker and the last is the “clown” Joker. The story plays off of their differences and the heroes aren’t sure which one is the real Joker or if possibly there’s been more than one all along. However, by the end, we see that there’s a much bigger, more sinister scheme at play and it’s revealed that Batman has always known who the real Joker is, all the way down to his real identity.

The story was very noir-esque, which isn’t uncommon for a Batman story but this one had so many curveballs that it just fits within that genre’s framework quite well.

Admittedly, I got to a point in the story where I started to think that the whole thing was ridiculous. By the end, though, it all came together in a really cool way and it seemed a lot less ridiculous and like something that would fit within the Joker’s larger worldview and his and Batman’s place in it.

I also really, really liked the art. I don’t know much about Jason Fabok but he captivated me, here, and I’ll be on the lookout for some of his other work. Frankly, I’d like to see him and Johns maybe work on a follow up to this and create their own unique continuity within Batman, similar to what Sean Gordon Murphy has been doing the last few years.

Rating: 8/10

Comic Review: X-Force – Epic Collection: Under the Gun

Published: March 22nd, 2017
Written by: Rob Liefeld, Fabian Nicieza, Todd McFarlane, various
Art by: Rob Liefeld, Greg Capullo, Todd McFarlane, Mike Mignola, Mark Pacella, Darick Robertson, Terry Shoemaker, various 

Marvel Comics, 463 Pages

Review:

Man, oh, f’n man… it’s been ages since I’ve read the Rob Liefeld era of X-Force. When I was a kid, I thought that this was the greatest new series Marvel had but I also think I was convincing myself of that, as Rob Liefeld was a hot commodity and I was also a fan of The New Mutants, which this was born out of. Besides, there was just so much hype at the time and I was at a pretty impressionable age.

Reading this now, I still found it really enjoyable and was surprised that I liked it as much as I did.

However, I also know that the story essentially came from Liefeld like bullet points and then it was handed to ace writer Fabian Nicieza, who actually wrote all the dialogue and massaged Liefeld’s notes into a usable script. After Liefeld left the series to co-found Image Comics, Nicieza stayed on as the writer and worked with other greats like Greg Capullo and Mike Mignola.

Now looking at the other side of this, creatively, the art isn’t great and even if I loved Liefeld when I was in 7th grade, I see the issues with his art much more clearly now. However, I don’t want to shit all over the guy like everyone else has done for years. I just notice the issues he has with anatomy and perspective.

It’s worth mentioning, though, that the art did improve once Liefeld stepped away, which happened about two-thirds into this collection.

As far as the story goes, I really got reinvested in this and want to keep reading it. Possibly beyond where I stopped when I was buying this month-after-month, which was about four or five years into the series.

Additionally, this also reminded me of how much I liked some of the long forgotten characters that were so cool in 1991. Characters like G.W. Bridge, Garrison Kane and the other people associated with them and Cable’s past.

Rating: 7.5/10

Film Review: The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996)

Release Date: August 23rd, 1996
Directed by: John Frankenheimer, Richard Stanley (uncredited)
Written by: Richard Stanley, Ron Hutchinson
Based on: The Island of Doctor Moreau by H. G. Wells
Music by: Gary Chang
Cast: Marlon Brando, Val Kilmer, David Thewlis, Fairuza Balk, Temuera Morrison, Mark Dacascos, Ron Perlman

New Line Cinema, 96 Minutes

Review:

“Well, things didn’t work out. Moreau wanted to turn animals into humans and humans into gods. But it’s instinct and reason, instinct and reason. What’s reason to a dog?” – Montgomery

Well, here we are. I’ve already reviewed the other Dr. Moreau film adaptations and so I figured I’d save the best worst for last. Well, it’s considered the worst by many and in fact, it’s considered one of the worst films ever made. Well, that’s definitely not true, as there are many, many, many movies that make this thing look like a masterpiece.

The thing is, I actually kind of like this movie in spite of its issues, most of which were due to this legitimately being one of the most poorly managed productions in motion picture history.

Frankly, this is a “bad” movie but there’s so much about it that’s kind of cool and intriguing that it actually overshadows the bad shit, in my opinion.

To start, Stan Winston’s special effects in this are really good. I like how he designed the creatures and applied it, giving different humanoid animal species distinct features and fur, allowing the mind to easily differentiate between them. But the makeup also works so well in the moments where the creatures lose their humanity and slide back into their wild, animalistic tendencies.

Also, the cast is as good as it can be, all things considered. But if you want the full story of the insanity that was this production, especially regarding the personal issues between Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer, as well as the two different directors, you should watch the documentary Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau, which I reviewed here.

At times, the acting can be a mixed bag but it’s not any worse than similar mid-’90s sci-fi productions. This has a lot of characters, more than the previous adaptations, but it does a fair job of trying to balance them, even if the movie had to shoot around their temper tantrums and bullshit.

I like some of the narrative changes but this one is the bleakest of all the films, tonally and in how it ends. Although, it works for what this story deals with and the questions it raises.

In the end, this is certainly far from great but it’s not a total dumpster fire like people have claimed for decades now.

Rating: 5.5/10

Comic Review: Superman: Doomsday

Published: April 5th, 2016
Written by: Dan Jurgens
Art by: Brett Breeding, Dan Jurgens, Norm Rapmund

DC Comics, 332 Pages

Review:

Well, Superman is already alive and we’ve reached the fifth and final part of the Death/Return of Superman saga. With that, this story takes care of the last thing that needs to be dealt with and that’s Superman finally defeating Doomsday without dying and thus, restoring balance the the DC universe.

Generally, I like Dan Jurgens writing but overall, I wasn’t blown away by this saga. However, I did find this to be better than all the big DC Comics Crisis events, which always read like overloaded, convoluted messes to me.

While these stories had a lot of characters in them, Superman was always really the focus and for the most part, this stayed on that thread, even if there were some distractions with new “Supermen” and with checking in on individuals after Superman’s death.

I felt like the art, here, was a bit more fine-tuned and better than the rest of the chapters in this massive saga.

Additionally, the writing felt tighter and more focused, as Jurgens pretty much handled it all and the work wasn’t spread out over a handful of people.

The highlights of this are that Superman is definitely back, we get to see Darkseid mix it up with Doomsday, Cyborg Superman cements his place as a major villain, and Doomsday finally gets some receipts cashed in on his ass.

In the end, I’m glad that I finally experienced this saga in its entirety. It was long but by the end, the total body of work made all of the smaller parts come together, giving them deeper meaning and relevance to the overall DC universe. 

Rating: 7/10

Comic Review: Wolverine: The Jungle Adventure

Published: 1989
Written by: Walt Simonson
Art by: Mike Mignola

Marvel Comics, 49 Pages

Review:

I have never read this comic and for that, I feel ashamed.

I love Wolverine, especially his solo adventures of this era, and The Jungle Adventure just features him and Apocalypse duking it out in the Savage Land. Well, there is a big twist to that fight but yes, Apocalypse is in this.

Also, it’s really damn cool seeing a Wolverine comic drawn by Mike Mignola, which wouldn’t have meant as much to elementary school me in 1989. However, I like looking at Mignola’s earlier work and seeing how its grown and evolved since, as he has one of the most unique and patented art styles in comics.

This is also written by Walter Simonson, who did a lot of great comics that I’ve loved for decades. Many of which I’ve returned to and re-read multiple times.

Additionally, this was one of those Marvel graphic novel one-shots. Those always had a harder edge to them, as they did things that they couldn’t do in the regular monthly comics.

All that being said, this is a near perfect storm of a lot of great things coming together in a very satisfying way.

This is a quick but engaging read. However, I still took my time with it as I wanted to absorb Mignola’s art.

In the end, this is now one of my favorite Marvel one-shot releases during their ’80s and ’90s graphic novel run. 

Rating: 8.25/10

Film Review: The Boys From Brazil (1978)

Release Date: August 19th, 1978 (Honolulu sneak preview)
Directed by: Franklin J. Schaffner
Written by: Heywood Gould
Based on: The Boys From Brazil by Ira Levin
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: Gregory Peck, Laurence Olivier, James Mason, Lilli Palmer, Uta Hagen, Steve Guttenberg, Denholm Elliott, Rosemary Harris, John Dehner, John Rubinstein, Anne Meara, Bruno Ganz, Michael Gough, Sky du Mont, Carl Duering, Prunella Scales

Sir Lew Grade, Producers Circle, ITC Films, 125 Minutes

Review:

“Do you know what I saw on the television in my motel room at one o’clock this morning? Films of Hitler! They are showing films about the war! The movement! People are fascinated! The time is ripe! Adolf Hitler is alive!” – Dr. Josef Mengele

This is a movie that I watched in middle school, back in the early ’90s. I remembered digging the hell out of it and thought it was a pretty cool story with some actors that I really liked. I haven’t seen it since then, though, so I wanted to see what I thought about it as an adult. Plus, the decades in-between have made me forget some of the finer details.

The story is about a mad Nazi doctor (Gregory Peck) that has made 94 clones of Adolf Hitler and is having them raised under similar circumstances in an effort to champion in the Fourth Reich. However, a clever Jewish Nazi hunter (Laurence Olivier) is informed of the mad doctor’s plot by a young man (Steve Guttenberg) that stumbled upon it in Paraguay.

The movie also features a lot of talent beyond Peck, Olivier and Guttenberg. You’ve also got James Mason, Rosemary Harris, Denholm Elliott, Bruno Ganz, Michael Gough, Anne Meara and Prunella Scales.

Overall, this is just a cool concept that’s executed pretty well. This plays like other solid ’70s political thrillers but the stacked cast really brings it to a higher level, especially Peck, Olivier and Mason: three legit heavyweights that make everything they touch better.

The story is interesting, the acting is superb, the editing is good, the pacing is perfect and the movie gives you a really enjoyable finale that’s worth the wait.

After all these years, I actually think that I liked The Boys From Brazil more than I had anticipated. It’s something that I’m sure I’ll revisit again.

Rating: 8/10

The Book Is FINALLY Published – Introducing ‘Dan the Destructor – Barbarians of the Storm, Book I’!

For those who have been following this site for awhile, you might already know that I wrote a graphic novel script about two years ago when all the COVID stuff was kicking off.

You might also know that I wanted to expand on the ideas and stories in that script and decided to restructure it into a pulp novel format. Well, that’s finally done!

Physical copies of the book can be purchased here. The book is also on Amazon: the Kindle version is here and the physical version is here.

However, physical books are better and since this is patterned after the pulp novels of yesteryear, I think that the physical pocket book is a lot cooler.

So what’s Dan the Destructor about? Well, here’s the blurb from the back of the book:

There have been countless legends and with that, countless heroes destined to be the “chosen one”. Dan is not that person.

Sucked into an exotic, barbarous world, Dan meets a jovial warrior and finds himself on an adventure he could’ve never imagined – battling monsters, demons, armies, and evil sorcerers.

Dan the Destructor is a mixture of sword & sorcery and post-apocalyptic B-movies presented in a quick paced pulp novel format. It’s fun, badass, fantastical, and action-packed.

Beyond that, the original idea for this concept came when I was imagining what it would be like if the ’80s Italian and Spanish rip-offs of Conan the Barbarian and The Road Warrior merged into one thing. I have always loved these sort of movies and was pretty much raised on them and all the Cannon Films action flicks. So this blends all those badass things together and tries to keep that tough as nails but awesome spirit alive.

This is also very much influenced by the pulp novels and pulp heroes I’ve read since I was a kid.

Entertainment has lost itself in recent years and its generally become an uninspiring, bleak reflection of reality. Gone are the days of adventure, fun and genuine escapism. With Dan the Destructor, I tried to bring this back.

With that, this shouldn’t be taken too seriously. I just wanted to create the book that wanted to read and I hope that other people enjoy it and that it gives them a much needed break from reality.

The novel also features a short story at the end, which tells the origin of the big villain for the book series. While that is a very dark story, I thought that it was necessary in providing the proper context for that character going into the second book in the Barbarians of the Storm series.

If people like this series, I promise not to George R.R. Martin you. I will give you your ending.

Lastly, I listen to a lot of music while writing and during the creative process, I developed a playlist that has become the unofficial soundtrack of the book for me. Honestly, all badass books deserve soundtracks and I think it helps set the tone for what to expect with the story.

TV Review: Cowboy Bebop (1998-1999)

Original Run: April 3rd, 1998 – April 24th, 1999
Created by: Hajime Yatate
Directed by: Shinichiro Watanabe
Written by: Keiko Nobumoto
Music by: Yoko Kanno
Cast: Koichi Yamadera, Unsho Ishizuka, Megumi Hayashibara

Sunrise, TXN, Wowow, 26 Episodes, 24 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

Decades upon decades of hype and Cowboy Bebop just didn’t live up to it for me. But this is what happens when people, for years and years, claim that something is the “best ever”.

In those situations, I think that a lot of people who hear that, repeat it, as they don’t want to be the asshole that disagrees with everyone else. It’s just this effect that happens with things that are grossly overhyped by a passionate few who are able to push something beyond cult status.

Now that’s not to say that Cowboy Bebop isn’t enjoyable, it certainly is. I also wasn’t quite ready for it to be over when it was.

I like that it’s unique, features an incredibly jazzy score and finds itself wrapped up in several genres not really committing to any of them fully. It’s a mix of noir, western, cyberpunk and space opera. But it also features real human drama, comedy and often times plays like a crime thriller.

Essentially, I like it for all the reasons that other people do. I just don’t think it’s the greatest anime I’ve ever seen and just because it was unique and fresh when it came out in 1998, doesn’t mean that its some sort of masterpiece.

The show has some weak, forgettable episodes, some of the characters begin to grate on you like the shrill little kid with the barky dog.

However, that doesn’t mean that I’m not game to check out the animated film that came after or any potential sequel or animated reboot.

In the end, this is still high tier anime and much better than the norm. I’d even call it a classic. However, I can’t look at it as the greatest thing that ever existed in anime. It simply isn’t. But that’s also subjective and doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things.

Rating: 8/10

Comic Review: Stars Wars – Omnibus: Quinlan Vos: Jedi In Darkness

Published: February 5th, 2015
Written by: Pat Mills, John Ostrander
Art by: Ramon F. Bachs, Christian Dalla Vecchia, Jan Duursema, Davide Fabbri, Guy Major
Based on: Star Wars by George Lucas

Dark Horse, Marvel Comics (reprinted), 509 Pages

Review:

Outside of the Star Wars films, Quinlan Vos is my favorite character. I first came across him during the Clone Wars era of the Dark Horse Star Wars comics between 2002 and 2005.

I guess, technically, he is in The Phantom Menace even though he is just a background character in one scene and originally, he was just some random dude that the character was later based off of. But he was set to appear in Revenge of the Sith and even got a name drop in the movie but his scene was left out of the film. Although, that scene did make it into the novelization.

This beefy collection of issues collects his earliest comic stories and I had fun reading this, as these were stories I missed, as they predate his Clone Wars tales.

While I didn’t like these as much as the Clone Wars stuff, which saw Vos infiltrate the Sith and stand alongside Count Dooku, I did enjoy these stories because it gives Vos’ backstory and shows you where he came from, who he is and also establishes his relationship with his padawan Aayla Secura.

Vos always interacted with the seedier parts of the Star Wars universe and that’s one of the things I always liked about him and his stories. In a lot of ways, he feels like Star Wars‘ version of ’80s Wolverine. He’s down to do dirt if he has to and you never really know if he’s truly a hero. Vos walks on the line and if anyone crosses him, they’re probably going to regret it.

Ultimately, this really reignited my love for this era of Star Wars in the comics and I really want to go back and read the Clone Wars stuff again. Maybe I will, in the near future.

Rating: 7.5/10