Book Review: ‘Indiana Jones and the Sky Pirates’ by Martin Caidin

I got halfway through the ’90s Indiana Jones novels and decided to take a break. All of those were written by the same author, however, the final six are split between two authors. So I’m not sure if I’m just going to plow through all six or if I’ll take another break between the next author switch.

This one was… weird.

It doesn’t seem like the author really understands who Indiana Jones is. He’s an archeologist and explorer that more often than not finds himself in perilous situations with villains and evil armies usually hunting the same thing for nefarious reasons. He doesn’t ask the Nazis to show up but he’ll fight them long enough to get the MacGuffin away from their evil clutches.

In this book, Indy is written more like he’s James Bond. He is essentially recruited by world leaders to take down an evil international terrorist group called E.V.I.L. What?!

These villains have these airships that are pissing off the governments of the world. This also delves into discussion about aliens and ancient UFOs. Nothing really comes of that but sure, okay.

Keep in mind that the world governments all apparently know of Dr. Jones and that this story takes place before the plots of the movies.

Overall, this is just a strange fucking book that doesn’t even seem to care that much about the source material while overloading the reader with a bloated, convoluted mess that’s, at times, hard to follow.

Up to this point, this is the worst book of the lot. If the next one isn’t a massive improvement, I may take an even longer break from this series.

Rating: 4/10

Film Review: The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008)

Also known as: The Mummy 3 (informal title), Untitled Rick O’Connell Adventure, The Mummy 3: Curse of the Dragon (working titles)
Release Date: July 24th, 2008 (Moscow premiere)
Directed by: Rob Cohen
Written by: Alfred Gough, Miles Millar
Based on: characters by Stephen Sommers, Lloyd Fonvielle, Kevin Jarre
Music by: Randy Edleman
Cast: Brendan Fraser, John Hannah, Jet Li, Maria Bello, Russell Wong, Liam Cunningham, Luke Ford, Isabella Leong, Michelle Yeoh

The Sommers Company, Relativity Media, Universal Pictures, 112 Minutes

Review:

“I hate mummies! They never play fair!” – John Carnahan

Fuck me. This was damn near unwatchable and getting through it was a hell of a challenge. But I wanted to complete the trilogy for the sake of reviewing them all.

This was so bad and weird that Rachel Weisz passed on it after reading the script and not wanting to play mother to a twenty-two year-old son. I guess Brendan Fraser came back after they threw like fourteen million dollars at him.

The only other returning cast member from previous films was John Hannah.

Somehow, Rick O’Connell has a kid that’s in his twenties, even though Rick looks the same as he did in the previous two movies. If you remember, the son was like seven years-old in the previous film and he wasn’t even born yet in the one before that. But whatever.

This time Evie is played by Maria Bello. Generally, I like Maria Bello but man was she poorly cast for this role. She doesn’t look like Evie, doesn’t act like her and it just breaks the movie. It’s a situation where the film would’ve been better off having the character omitted, whether that came from being an offscreen death or divorce.

In this story, the heroes go to China and we get a new mummy played by Jet Li. I hope Li got a fat paycheck too because this utilized him poorly.

Additionally, the special effects seem like they’re worse than they were in the previous movies.

Man, this just shouldn’t have been made. It’s absolute shit and I probably would’ve hated it more had I seen it in the theater back in 2008.

At least now, I can say that I’ve seen it, reviewed it and can go on to forget it.

Rating: 3.75/10

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

Film Review: The Mummy Returns (2001)

Also known as: The Mummy 2 (working title)
Release Date: April 29th, 2001 (premiere)
Directed by: Stephen Sommers
Written by: Stephen Sommers
Based on: characters by Stephen Sommers, Lloyd Fonvielle, Kevin Jarre
Music by: Alan Silvestri
Cast: Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, Arnold Vosloo, Oded Fehr, Patricia Velásquez, Freddie Boath, Alun Armstrong, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje

Imhotep Productions, Alphaville Films, Universal Pictures, 130 Minutes

Review:

“[to Rick] My friend, there is a fine line between coincidence and fate.” – Ardeth Bay

Let me start by saying that this is not as good as its predecessor, 1999’s The Mummy. That’s probably not a shock, though, as generally everyone agrees with that, critics included.

However, I will also say that this was better than I remembered it being and I think that fun adventure movies were in such abundance in this era that I may have taken it for granted.

My only big gripe with this movie is how atrocious the CGI was on the Scorpion King character at the end of the film. It looks like they took The Rock straight out of WWF SmackDown! 2: Know Your Role for the PlayStation 1 and added pinchers to his hands. Man, I remember it being atrocious in 2001 and it looks even worse now. What’s really odd about it, is that most of The Mummy effects looked pretty good and held up fairly well. Even the worst CGI effects are still somewhat passable.

I thought that the story was just okay but I did like that Patricia Velásquez actually had a bigger role and I liked the material they came up with for her past connection to Rachel Weisz’s Evie. I also like that this allowed Evie to hold her own in the action sequences and that she was no longer just a typical damsel in distress.

I wasn’t crazy about the kid being added to the proceedings, as kid actors can wreck a movie and honestly, his scenes are mostly annoying. I’d hate to blame the kid, specifically, and I think it has more to do with the script and Stephen Sommers’ directing.

One takeaway from this and the previous movie, as well, is the fact that Oded Fehr’s Ardeth Bay is such a cool f’n character and even though The Rock became a massive star, I think that the producers should’ve probably given Fehr his own spinoff movie first.

Anyway, this is mostly more of the same but it does feel like it’s happening on a much larger scale. However, for some reason, when Imhotep is resurrected in this film, I guess the Ten Plagues of Egypt aren’t a factor anymore.

One doesn’t watch these sort of movies to be overly picky about details, though. This is just supposed to be fun, mindless escapism, which is something I praise a lot. This movie really works in that regard until the finale where we get PS1 graphics Dwayne Johnson.

Rating: 6.5/10

Film Review: Malone (1987)

Release Date: May 1st, 1987
Directed by: Harley Cokeliss (as Harley Cokliss)
Written by: Christopher Frank, Rudy Wurlitzer (uncredited)
Based on: Shotgun by William P. Wingate
Music by: David Newman
Cast: Burt Reynolds, Kenneth McMillan, Cynthia Gibb, Lauren Hutton, Cliff Robertson, Scott Wilson, Alex Diakun, Philip Anglim, Tracey Walter, Dennis Burkley

Orion Pictures, 92 Minutes

Review:

“I’ve got socks older than you.” – Richard Malone

While I had hoped that this would be incredibly high octane, it paled in comparison to Charles Bronson’s awesome Death Wish movies. However, it’s still a much harder movie than what Burt Reynolds typically did, so it was cool seeing him go badass vigilante in order to help a small town combat a scumbag that was trying to buy everyone out for very nefarious reasons.

This movie also had a pretty solid cast with Cliff Robertson being the villain, Scott Wilson playing a good guy mechanic and Tracey Walter a.k.a. Bob the Goon playing a total shithead that got his back blown out with one of the largest squib explosions I’ve ever seen that represented just a single bullet.

Additionally, the women in this, Cynthia Gibb and Lauren Hutton, were damn enjoyable.

This is kind of a paint-by-numbers small town protector movie, though. These things were super common back in the ’80s but also, it’s a formula that most dudes love and why shouldn’t Burt Reynolds have had his go with one?

It didn’t really offer up anything new or bold but seeing a bunch of shitheads take a bullet from an all-time masculine great like Reynolds is a treat. His rivalry with Robertson in this was pretty well managed and both men performed well with one another.

Malone is just a mindless, entertaining action movie that features an aging cool guy showing that he’s still pretty fucking cool. It’s also got a good villain, a decent supporting cast and leaves you nodding your head with the type of satisfaction only these sort of movies can bring.

Rating: 6.25/10

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: 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

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

Film Review: Parasite (2019)

Also known as: Gisaengchung (original South Korean title)
Release Date: May 21st, 2019 (Cannes)
Directed by: Bong Joon-ho
Written by: Bong Joon-ho, Han jin-won
Music by: Jung Jae-il
Cast: Song Kang-ho, Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong, Choi Woo-shik, Park So-dam, Lee Jung-eun, Jang Hye-jin

CJ Entertainment, Barunson E&A, 132 Minutes

Review:

“[to his son] You know what kind of plan never fails? No plan. No plan at all. You know why? Because life cannot be planned. Look around you. Did you think these people made a plan to sleep in the sports hall with you? But here we are now, sleeping together on the floor. So, there’s no need for a plan. You can’t go wrong with no plans. We don’t need to make a plan for anything. It doesn’t matter what will happen next. Even if the country gets destroyed or sold out, nobody cares. Got it?” – Ki-taek

It’s been long overdue but I finally checked out Parasite.

I actually had the opportunity to see this in the theater, two years ago. I passed on it, despite the buzz, because I wasn’t a fan of the other pictures I had seen from Bong Joon-ho. Those earlier films that I’ve seen are Snowpiercer and The Host.

This time around, Joon-ho captivated me and I really liked this movie, even if I think it’s been extremely overhyped and definitely wasn’t the Best Picture of the Year, as the ass clowns at the Academy decided.

The film is about an incredibly poor family that cons their way into a rich family’s home. All of them get various jobs for the rich people and they have to act like they’re strangers in order to protect the con. Then one night, while the rich family is away, the previous maid, who was unjustly fired as part of the con, returns and shit hits the fan.

For me, the story becomes unbelievable once you learn that the maid’s husband has been living in the labyrinthine basement for years, undetected by the rich family. In fact, I thought this part of the plot was kind of stupid and the rest of the movie was built off of this weird reveal. It reminded me of the implausibility of Snowpiercer and how that film fell apart for me, as it rolled on and got dumber and dumber.

The thing that makes Parasite not completely derail itself is its ability to build tension and how it essentially pits two families from two very different social classes against one another.

The picture is superbly acted from just about everyone. Even the young kid does a really good job.

My only real gripe about the movie is that it just makes some strange narrative choices, This is also the main flaw in the other Bong Joon-ho films I’ve seen. This one, however, is saved by its strengths, which keep it from completely falling apart for me. And it’s those great strengths and how they’re capitalized on that made me rate this as high as I did.

Rating: 8/10