Video Game Review: Mercs (Arcade)

As I’m trying to get the most out of my RetroPie’s MAME section, I wanted to revisit another classic arcade game that I used to play the shit out of but haven’t touched in almost thirty years.

Mercs took a lot of my hard earned money when I was in sixth grade. They put one in at the arcade next to the chicken wing spot my family would go to. I’d always run next door and then baffle my mother when I’d come back ten minutes later, already depleted of the five bucks she gave me.

I actually liked this game so much that I ended up getting it a year or two later on the Sega Genesis. However, the arcade version is still the superior one.

This takes the side scrolling beat’em up gaming style and makes it a shooter that actually scrolls from bottom to top as you move up the level, blowing up everything from shacks, tanks, jeeps and human beings trying to shoot you first.

It’s highly energetic and just a badass experience.

For fans of the Ikari Warriors games or Commando, this is basically more of the same but for lack of a better term, this is like those games on steroids.

It’s also not too long where Ikari Warriors felt like it went for friggin’ weeks.

This has solid graphics, smooth gameplay and you can kick its ass in about a half hour. Granted, it’s good that I can play it without quarters now, as my playthrough probably would’ve cost me the same as a down payment on a Kia Sorento.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other button mashing arcade shooters of the late ’80s/early ’90s.

Comic Review: Captain America: Winter Soldier, Vol. 2

Published: October 11th, 2006
Written by: Ed Brubaker
Art by: Steve Epting, Michael Lark, Mike Perkins

Marvel Comics, 136 Pages

Review:

This was a pretty good second half to the original Winter Soldier story. I liked the first half a bit more though. But I think that’s because reading this lacked tension, as I knew that Winter Soldier was actually Bucky and that he’d come around and start to see the light.

That lack of tension is my fault for taking so long to read this story. It’s certainly not Brubaker’s fault and I’m sure this was tense as hell for those that read it for the first time in 2006 without any knowledge of the Winter Soldier character.

I like that Brubaker does spend a good amount of time flashbacking to World War II and the Invaders era. The context was nice and the parallels between Cap and Bucky’s lives then and now was well done.

This story also adds in Falcon and Iron Man, which obviously influenced the MCU films that saw these two characters chime in on Cap’s relationship with Winter Soldier.

Like the previous volume, the art was really good and Brubaker truly benefits from having solid artists on his Captain America books, as they definitely enhance the atmosphere and tone of the plot in the right way.

For Cap fans who haven’t read the Brubaker run, you’re doing yourselves a disservice. Hell, for fans of just the movies, this is definitely worth checking out just to understand the depth of these characters’ bond.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: the rest of Ed Brubaker’s Captain America run.

Comic Review: Exilium

Published: September 27th, 2018 – July 25th, 2019
Written by: Ben Slabak
Art by: Salomon Farias, Marc Sintes

Alterna Comics, 192 Pages

Review:

I’ve been a fan of a lot of Alterna’s comics. In fact, I subscribe to everything they release because you can’t beat the price and almost everything is quality.

This one didn’t resonate with me though.

I found that kind of surprising as I like sci-fi stories, especially involving war and drama. And this was also a pretty epic release for Alterna, as it was six issues, the finale was double sized and it took nearly a year for the entire arc to come out.

I think that the art didn’t pull me in. It was definitely competent, it just wasn’t a style that I liked. Frankly, I thought the art and the colors were kind of drab.

As far as the story went, I just couldn’t get myself to care about it.

So with those two main components not clicking in the right way, it made getting through 192 pages kind of a slog.

Now the majority of other reviews and comments I’ve seen about this series are fairly positive. Some people really dug the hell out of it.

But at this point, I’ve read a lot of Alterna’s stuff. Some of it isn’t my cup of tea but most series I still find something I enjoy in them. For instance, I would have never picked up Cyco KO on my own but it amused me and made me a fan.

Exilium aimed high and it was ambitious. In the end though, it just didn’t connect.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: other sci-fi releases by Alterna Comics.

Film Review: Delta Force 2: The Colombian Connection (1990)

Also known as: America’s Red Army: Delta Force II, Delta Force II: Operation Crackdown, Spitfire: Delta Force II (working titles), Delta Force 2: Operation Stranglehold (Uruguay subtitled version), Comando Delta 2 (Brazil)
Release Date: May, 1990 (Cannes)
Directed by: Aaron Norris
Written by: Lee Reynolds
Based on: characters by James Bruner, Menahem Golan
Music by: Frederic Talgorn
Cast: Chuck Norris, Billy Drago, John P. Ryan, Paul Perri, Richard Jaeckel, Begona Plaza, Mateo Gomez, Hector Mercado, Mark Margolis

Golan-Globus Productions, Cannon Films, 111 Minutes

Review:

“Take her to my bedroom – first give her a beautiful bath – get rid of the baby.” – Ramon Cota

This didn’t really need to be Delta Force 2. I mean, it’s got Chuck Norris and he’s kicking the shit out of stuff but he didn’t need to be the same character, he could’ve been any random Chuck Norris character or a new one and it wouldn’t have mattered. I guess Delta Force had some branding and name recognition built into it but this just feels so different than the original film.

But hey, it’s still a damn fine action picture that was put out by the maestros of ’80s action, Cannon Films. It hits the right notes, it has a good level of senseless violence and not only does it star Chuck Norris but it stars the always stupendous Billy Drago.

In fact, this is one of my favorite roles Drago has ever played. He is absolute perfection as the evil and slithery villain, Ramon Cota. Hell, Drago’s performance here should be considered an acting lesson on how to play sadistic drug lords. The dude can just convey so much with so little. He speaks with his face and his eyes in a way that the best actors in the world can’t.

It’s pretty damn sad that we lost Drago and his talent a few weeks ago. In fact, that’s why I watched this movie. I wanted to be reminded as to why I became a lifelong fan of his in the first place, as this movie was my first experience seeing him haunt the minds of heroes.

Now apart from Norris and Drago, we also get John P. Ryan as an American general who doesn’t care whose toes he steps on, Mark Margolis as a Colombian general in league with Drago’s Cota, as well as Hector Mercado as an undercover agent.

The cast is stacked full of manly men who are very capable of giving this sort of film life. And despite not having Lee Marvin, Bo Svenson, George Kennedy, Robert Forster, Robert Vaughn and Steve James, I enjoy this movie a wee bit more than its predecessor.

This came out towards the end of Cannon’s dominance over the action film genre but it still measures up to their other kickass pictures.

I can see why people consider the first one to be a better movie (and it probably is) but I just love Drago, Norris and how well they play off of each other in this. Norris needed a true villain and Drago was exactly that. He was the Joker to Norris’ Batman.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: the first Delta Force, as well as the Missing In Action trilogy and other Chuck Norris films for Cannon.

Comic Review: Captain America: Winter Soldier, Vol. 1

Published: March 1st, 2006
Written by: Ed Brubaker
Art by: Steve Epting, Michael Lark, J.P. Leon

Marvel Comics, 167 Pages

Review:

At the start of Ed Brubaker’s historic Captain America run, I wasn’t paying attention to comics. I found my way back to them around the time that Cap died, a few years into Brubaker’s tenure. So I never got to read the original Winter Soldier story.

I’ve got to say, this pretty much lives up to the hype. However, I’m only speaking as someone that’s read the first part, as the story covers two volumes.

So I don’t know how this will conclude or where it will go in the immediate future but this was a damn fine setup.

This may be the best and the most human Steve Rogers has ever been written. This explores the layers to his character and it does a fantastic job of giving the reader the right context without just relying on them to know Cap’s backstory. Additionally, it also doesn’t just dwell on the past and act as a lengthy modernized recap of those events.

I also love the art. And honestly, it’s the evolution of comic book art that really brought me back to the medium. And one of the books that lured me in was Captain America.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: the rest of Ed Brubaker’s Captain America run.

Film Review: The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot (2018)

Release Date: July 20th, 2018 (Canada – Fantasia International Film Festival)
Directed by: Robert D. Krzykowski
Written by: Robert D. Krzykowski
Music by: Joe Kraemer
Cast: Sam Elliott, Aidan Turner, Caitlin FitzGerald, Sean Bridgers, Ron Livingston, Larry Miller, Ellar Coltrane, Rizwan Manji

Epic Pictures, Title Media, 98 Minutes

Review:

“An American Myth” – tagline

Sam Elliott is one of those guys that when you see him, you think to yourself, “This is the most badass guy on all of planet Earth.” Well, this film does nothing to dispel that thought.

This was also one of the coolest movies I’ve seen in a long time. Well, as far as modern motion pictures go.

The story is mostly about an older man reflecting back on his life and thinking about the things he should’ve done and how some decisions have weighed heavily on his soul. In some regard, it reminds me of another recent Sam Elliott film, The Hero, as well as one of Harry Dean Stanton’s last, Lucky.

Unlike those films, though, this movie includes the death of Adolf Hitler and Bigfoot.

However, those two events that are actually given away in the film’s title aren’t a big part of the story. Well, they are, as far as how they effect the man’s life but they are just two really cool sequences that serve as a backdrop for the film’s human drama.

Sam Elliott is one hell of an actor and this film is him at his best. But Elliott never disappoints, so I feel as if that should go without saying. But it’s not just Elliott that puts in a superb performance, the same can be said about Aidan Turner, who plays the younger version of the character, as well as Larry Miller, who I wish I could see in more dramatic roles. I mostly associate Miller with comedic performances but the guy has got chops.

Additionally, even with minimal screen time, Ron Livingston livens things up once he shows up. I have loved Livingston ever since Office Space but I feel like he’s such an underutilized actor. Like Larry Miller, it’s always nice to see Livingston’s more serious side.

When researching this film, I noticed that the ratings aren’t high for it and I guess I get that. The title might imply that this is some strange, quirky, time traveling, action adventure. It’s definitely not that, it’s something much better, actually. But character studies and dramas about old men processing a lifetime full of regret doesn’t put modern asses in seats.

But fuck those modern asses.

This is a very touching and personal film with a neat, amusing and interesting premise.

Plus it has a monster in it and I really like the unconventional approach this film took with its Sasquatch.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: the recent Sam Elliott starring The Hero, as well as Lucky with Harry Dean Stanton.

Film Review: Braddock: Missing In Action III (1988)

Also known as: Braddock (Greece)
Release Date: January 22nd, 1988
Directed by: Aaron Norris
Written by: James Bruner, Chuck Norris
Music by: Jay Chattaway
Cast: Chuck Norris, Aki Aleong, Yehuda Efroni, Roland Harrah III

Golan-Globus Productions, The Cannon Group, 102 Minutes

Review:

“Braddock! I’m warning you, don’t step on any toes.” – Littlejohn, “I don’t step on toes, Littlejohn, I step on necks.” – Col. James Braddock

So this movie doesn’t make sense unless you see this character of Braddock as a totally different Braddock from Missing In Action 2: The Beginning. Reason being, the previous film sees him as a POW at the end of the VIetnam War and he continues to be a prisoner after the war. Also, the villain of that film taunts Braddock by telling him that he’s received a letter stating that his wife has moved on. In this film, Braddock is seen looking for his Vietnamese wife at the end of the war and following an explosion, is left to believe that she had died. So the story doesn’t work if you care about continuity.

Anyway, it doesn’t break the movie for me, as this is a simple ’80s action picture made by the maestros of ’80s action, the Cannon Group.

Chuck Norris is his regular badass self but I would have to consider this the worst of the Missing In Action films. Still, I found it to be quite enjoyable and I loved that it switched gears and instead of focusing on POWs left in Vietnam for a third movie, it instead drew attention to the orphans that were left behind after the war.

The film had some serious production issues but Chuck got his brother Aaron to come in and direct the film. I think he did a pretty good job and the film is fairly consistent with the two before it.

The action in this one is good and it at least gives us more than its predecessor, the prequel film. This has some crazy, high octane, over the top moments but there is nothing more tender and sentimental than a broken Braddock having his long lost son help him raise his machine gun to blow up the main villain’s helicopter at the end.

Also, this has some of Norris’ best lines of all-time, like the exchange quoted at the beginning of this review.

This third film isn’t fantastic but it is still a nice exclamation point for the end of the series. Thankfully, they didn’t stretch this series beyond this picture, as it probably would’ve ran out of gas like the last two Death Wish sequels.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: The other Missing In Action movies, as well as the Delta Force film series and pretty much anything by Cannon Films.