Video Game Review: The Lone Ranger (NES)

I have never played The Lone Ranger for the original Nintendo but I went into this knowing nothing about the game and without having any expectations.

What I was really surprised to discover is that this is one of the greatest 8-bit action RPGs of all-time!

Seriously, no one talks about this game, I’ve never heard anything about it and because of that, I have to consider it a real hidden gem among the 600+ titles that were released for the system.

The thing that makes this game so great is that it employs multiple gameplay styles from bird’s eye view world traveling to side scrolling, vertical scrolling and first person shooter action levels. You fight in towns, on moving trains, in caves, in forts, in hotels, on mountains, in the desert and even get to fight on horseback in two different ways.

Man, this game is just cool as hell and a shitload of fun! It’s really damn difficult but it isn’t unbeatable. I did beat the game, even though it took some time, and it gave me a real sense of accomplishment unlike many games from the era that have really underwhelming endings. This game’s ending was pretty superb for the time.

There isn’t a dull moment or a boring mission. The game designers did a fantastic job at keeping every area of the game fresh and unique, always adding new twists and ways to play the game.

For the 8-bit era, this is close to a masterpiece. The only things working against it are a lack of maps in the first-person stages and frustrating controls that switch your weapon when you jump.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: other action RPGs and western games for the NES.

TV Review: Breaking Bad (2008-2013)

Original Run: January 20th, 2008 – September 29th, 2013
Created by: Vince Gilligan
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Dave Porter
Cast: Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul, Dean Norris, Betsy Brandt, RJ Mitte, Bob Odenkirk, Giancarlo Esposito, Jonathan Banks, Laura Fraser, Jesse Plemons, Steven Michael Quezada, Charles Baker, Matt Jones, Krysten Ritter, Mark Margolis, Michael Bowen, Bill Burr, Raymond Cruz, Jere Burns, John de Lancie

High Bridge Entertainment, Gran Via Productions, Sony Pictures Television, AMC, 62 Episodes, 43-58 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I came to the Breaking Bad party pretty late but after multiple seasons of people raving about it, I ended up binging through it all just before the last season premiered.

I also almost quit the show, as the beginning of the first season drags. But once I got to the end of Season One, everything just sort of clicked and I was hooked. But even then, I thought that it would be good but that it would slowly lose steam, as all shows do and eventually, I wouldn’t care about it.

Breaking Bad did something that almost no other show has been capable of doing, though. It continued to improve and get better as it rolled on.

Just when you thought the show reached its peak, it’d throw a curveball or shock you in a way that television shows before this were never able to do. And most importantly, it either gave you satisfying resolutions to plot threads or it subverted expectations and actually gave you something better and surprising.

Frankly, I hate the “subvert their expectations” bullshit that creatives in Hollywood seem to be clinging onto because 99 percent of the time, it’s just an indicator that they’re out of ideas and their only solution is to take a big shit and go, “Ha! You fans didn’t see that coming! I’m a genius! Adore me!”

No. Breaking Bad subverts expectations and gives the viewer something better. And it didn’t just do this once or twice, it did it quite often and it was consistently really fucking good at it. More than anything, that’s what made this show so great.

Additionally, very extreme things happen on the show but it never jumps the shark or takes you out of reality. Everything feels real and plausible and it does a superb job in staying grounded and not taking a turn for the ridiculous, as many shows have done that started out really strong.

I’d have to say that the best thing about this, though, is the cast. Everyone, top to bottom, is perfection.

Almost every character in the show starts at one end of the spectrum and finds a way to make it to the opposite side. All of this happens slowly and naturally. Characters you like become ones you despise and ones you might not have liked become lovable. There are secondary characters that stay the same throughout but many of them are there to be measuring sticks, to show you how every main character evolves in their own way over five seasons.

I know that there has been a ton of hype about this show for years but it is one of the few that lived up to it and actually, in my opinion, exceeded it. Breaking Bad is as close to a perfect show that you can get for a crime drama with neo-western and neo-noir flavors.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: other modern crime dramas but this is the best of the lot.

Film Review: The Painted Hills (1951)

Also known as: Lassie’s Adventures in the Goldrush (alternative title), Lassie’s Christmas Story (DVD title)
Release Date: April 21st, 1951 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Harold F. Kress
Written by: True Boardman, Alexander Hull
Based on: The Lassie novels by Eric Knight
Music by: Daniele Amfitheatrof
Cast: Pal (credited as “Lassie”), Paul Kelly, Bruce Cowling, Gary Gray, Ann Doran

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 68 Minutes

Review:

This must have been featured on one of the few Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes that I missed because I don’t remember Joel and the ‘Bots ever riffing a Lassie movie.

In fact, based off of the film’s title, I had just assumed this was a standard western. Now while it is a western and a pretty basic one, Lassie the dog is front and center and gets top billing.

All that being said, this is a pretty boring movie even for a Lassie one but full disclosure, I’ve never been a big Lassie fan.

It lacks the energy and spirit of the television show, the version of Lassie I, and probably everyone, am most familiar with.

The story actually doesn’t even feel that much like a Lassie story, as the dog is named Shep. It’s also a darker tale than the television plots, as it focuses on a nice old prospector who finds gold but is then murdered by his partner. The evil partner also poisons Shep the dog and nearly kills Tommy, the little kid in the story. Lassie… er… Shep gets revenge though, as she chases the evil bastard until he falls off of a cliff to his death.

I should’ve prefaced that paragraph with a spoiler alert but I’m saving my readers from watching this dud. However, I guess it’s palatable if you watch it on MST3K.

Rating: 3.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Lassie movies, as well as the long running television show.

TV Review: The Mandalorian (2019- )

Original Run: November 12th, 2019 – current
Created by: Jon Favreau
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: Star Wars by George Lucas
Music by: Ludwig Göransson
Cast: Pedro Pascal, Carl Weathers, Werner Herzog, Nick Nolte (voice), Taika Waititi (voice), Gina Carano, Ming-Na Wen, Mark Boone Junior, Bill Burr, Clancy Brown, Natalia Tena, Richard Ayoade (voice), Giancarlo Esposito, Emily Swallow, Jason Sudeikis

Lucasfilm, Walt Disney Studios, Disney+, 8 Episodes (so far), 31-46 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

While I haven’t been too happy with Disney’s handling of Star Wars, this was still one of the television shows that I was anticipating the most.

I assumed that after the Boba Fett movie was cancelled, following the lackluster performance of Solo, that this show would end up taking some of that planned film’s ideas, reworking them into a new character and story. I’m not a hundred percent sure that’s what they did but this feels close to what Boba Fett could’ve been.

The first few episodes of this show were mostly okay but they didn’t blow me away, if I’m being honest. However, it did feel good to have someone seemingly taking Star Wars seriously once again, which I didn’t feel was the case since Rogue One, the only Disney Star Wars film I actually liked.

The middle few episodes were low points but everything really started to pickup with episode six. Episodes seven and eight were then quite awesome and they brought everything that happened over the course of the season together in a way that justified the episodes that felt more like filler than part of the larger story.

Season one of The Mandalorian was more about world building and introducing the audience to these new characters. In that regard, it succeeds greatly. But ultimately, it feels like the first act of a much larger story and not necessarily its own self-contained arc.

In any event, I’m more excited for season two than I was season one and I hope that the momentum continues to build and that this stays on the right trajectory, especially after the terrible sequel films just concluded, leaving most people with a really bad taste in their mouth. I still haven’t seen The Rise of Skywalker and I’m really not that enthused about taking time out of my schedule to go see it in theaters.

I used to be a massive Star Wars fan: massive. But until this show mostly impressed me, this gigantic force in my life was dwindling away. Granted, The Mandalorian alone isn’t enough to bring me back and, at this point, I don’t think I’ll ever have a love for Star Wars like I once did.

But so far, so good. Don’t fuck this up.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: any Mandalorian heavy Star Wars Expanded Universe books, comics and video games.

Film Review: Gunslinger (1956)

Release Date: June 15th, 1956
Directed by: Roger Corman
Written by: Charles B. Griffith, Mark Hanna
Music by: Ronald Stein
Cast: Beverly Garland, John Ireland, Allison Hayes, Dick Miller

Roger Corman Productions, American Releasing Corporation, 78 Minutes

Review:

“I’ll make you a deal. I won’t try to make you a bad woman, if you stop trying to make me a good man.” – Cane Miro, “You’re not bad, you’re just no good.” – Marshal Rose Hood

This came out before Roger Corman really found his footing as a filmmaker. While I love how Corman could make so much with so little, his pictures typically survived on the charm he was able to put into them. Gunslinger, however, is just so drab and pedestrian that I have to put it as one of Corman’s worst.

That sucks because the film does have an interesting premise, especially for a mid-’50s movie. It sees the town sheriff get murdered by criminals and then his widow picks up his badge to take out the scum that killed her man. The story is the type of female empowerment stuff that I love. But unfortunately, it completely lacks any sort of badassness and feels more like a half-assed pilot to a ’50s western show that had no chance of getting picked up.

The film stars Beverly Garland, along with John Ireland and a small role for Corman favorite Dick Miller but it lacks any sort of energy or emotion.

Even though Roger Corman may have the record for most films riffed on Mystery Science Theater 3000, I don’t feel like this one really fits the mold that well. It’s just dry and weak and even though MST3K features schlock, this film feels out of place among the other Corman flicks they lampooned.

In a time where I hadn’t seen this, if someone came up to me and asked, “Hey, have you ever seen that Corman picture where the dead sheriff’s wife picks up his badge to get revenge?” I’d have been like, “No! Fuck! We gotta go watch it!” But I would’ve been let down, severely.

Rating: 2.75/10
Pairs well with: other western schlock from the time, as well as other ’50s Roger Corman pictures.

Film Review: Future Force (1989)

Also known as: C.O.P.S. (Sweden)
Release Date: November 9th, 1989
Directed by: David A. Prior
Written by: David A. Prior
Music by: Mark Mancina, Steve McClintock
Cast: David Carradine, Anna Rapagna, Robert Tessier, William Zipp, D.C. Douglas, Kimberly Casey

Action International Pictures (AIP), Winters Hollywood Entertainment Holdings Corporation, 84 Minutes

Review:

“David Harris? I’m John Tucker, Civilian Operated Police. You have committed a crime and are presumed guilty. You have a right to die. If you choose to relinquish that right, you will be placed under arrest and imprisoned. I haven’t got all night.” – Tucker

This movie is nowhere near as badass as its poster implies.

Also, for a David A. Prior action flick, this one is pretty goddamned dull.

I like Prior films like Deadly Prey and The Final Sanction. Even though they are over the top action films full of cheese, violence and men with more testicles than just a pair apiece, Future Force doesn’t quite bring the same level of badass, insane intensity.

Although there is a pretty sweet and bizarre scene where Carraidne’s cyborg glove starts flying around trying to knockout the baddie.

The film was also kind of a letdown when I saw it as a kid because the police force in this movie is called C.O.P.S., so my little mind in 1989 thought this might be a live action C.O.P.S., you know, that cool cartoon that came on after school in the afternoons. But no, it has no association and rightfully so, as this is one big ass glass of suck.

Hell, I can’t believe that Carradine followed up Bird On A Wire with this, as Bird should’ve brought his career back up into the mainstream. He was a solid f’n villain in that and then six months later, he’s doing this movie?! I can only assume that he got paid in video arcade tokens because that’s not real money and he was high on coke and thought it was actual gold. I hope the studio at least sent pizza to his trailer. Wait… who am I kidding? He probably had a wheelbarrow.

Anyway, this is boring, uneventful, Carradine looks bored and out of shape and it’s one of Prior’s worst films, which if you’ve seen his movies, is a really, really low bar.

There is a RiffTrax version of this you can watch though, if you feel compelled to do so.

Rating: 2.5/10
Pairs well with: its sequel Future Zone, as well as other action schlock with David Carradine from the mid-’70s through the ’90s.

Comic Review: Coffin Bound

Published: August 7th, 2019 – November 6th, 2019
Written by: Dan Watters
Art by: Dani, Brad Simpson

Image Comics, 142 Pages

Review:

When I first saw that this series was coming out, I added it to my pull list.

The main reason is that I loved the art style. It’s well drawn with a unique style and the colors reminded me of something very giallo-esque.

Also, the story looked like it was a sort of mashup of the gothic horror and neo-western genres.

Now I absolutely loved the art, which was illustrated by Dani and colored by Brad Simpson. But it’s the story that mostly didn’t work for me.

This comic is full of cool ideas and concepts but I found the story hard to follow and a little too outside of the box that it became distracting and hard to focus on some of the details.

Frankly, I was looking for that piece to grasp onto but I just couldn’t find it and from a narrative standpoint, this fell flat and seemed kind of aimless and as if it were struggling to find itself.

And this is coming from a guy that loves really weird shit.

I honestly don’t know if I’ll give the followup miniseries a shot. I’ll probably wait until I hear some feedback from other people I trust.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: most of the modern Image Comics stuff.