Film Review: The Mark of Zorro (1920)

Release Date: November 27th, 1920 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Fred Niblo
Written by: Johnston McCulley, Eugene Miller, Douglas Fairbanks
Based on: The Curse of Capistrano by Johnston McCulley
Music by: Mortimer Wilson
Cast: Douglas Fairbanks, Marguerite De La Motte, Noah Beery, Robert McKim, Milton Berle (uncredited)

Douglas Fairbanks Pictures, 90 Minutes (1970 cut), 107 Minutes (DVD cut), 97 Minutes (Academy Archive Print)

Review:

“We never let business interfere with drinking!” – Undetermined Role

My mother used to love this film a lot and I saw it multiple times, as a kid, because of that. Granted, her favorite Zorro film was the one with Tyrone Power but it was my mum’s love of Zorro movies and swashbuckling in general that made me appreciate these whimsical adventure movies too.

I wanted to go way back and revisit this one, though, as it actually set the stage for what Zorro would evolve into over the years. This generated the tone and style for the franchise from a visual standpoint and with this picture, specifically, you can see how this character and his world inspired the main character and world of the Batman comic book series.

Douglas Fairbanks, working with the original Zorro creator, made a pretty action packed, energetic and jovial motion picture, especially for its time, as this is a silent picture and had to rely more on the physical performances and athleticism of its cast.

This has a good, straightforward story and it created a template that wasn’t just reused in the dozens of Zorro films, serials and television shows that followed but also in other intellectual properties.

The Mark of Zorro is quite fantastic for its era. While it isn’t my favorite version of Zorro, it made it possible for those other versions to exist, as well as so many pulp heroes and stories from Batman, The Shadow, The Phantom and countless others.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other Zorro pictures and film serials, as well as other Douglas Fairbanks movies.

Film Review: Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)

Release Date: June 9th, 2002 (CineVegas International Film Festival)
Directed by: Don Coscarelli 
Written by: Don Coscarelli 
Based on: Bubba Ho-Tep by Joe R. Lansdale
Music by: Brian Tyler
Cast: Bruce Campbell, Ossie Davis, Ella Joyce,  Heidi Marnhout, Bob Ivy, Reggie Bannister

Silver Sphere Corporation, Vitagraph Films, 92 Minutes

Review:

“What do I really have left in life but this place? It ain’t much of a home, but it’s all I got. Well, goddamnit. I’ll be damned if I let some foreign, graffiti writin’, soul suckin’, son of a bitch in an oversized cowboy hat and boots take my friend’s souls and shit ’em down the visitors toilet!” – Elvis

I’ll always have a certain level of respect for Don Coscarelli, as he gave the world Phantasm and Beastmaster, two films that had pretty profound effects on me as a kid.

However, I saw this back when it was new and it didn’t really speak to me like I hoped it would have. I haven’t watched it since then but I do love Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis, so I thought that giving it another shot was long overdue. Plus, tastes change, I’m nearly twenty years older and I often times find myself enjoying movies that I previously hadn’t.

I’m glad to say that I enjoyed this much more than I originally did in 2002. But, at an older age, I think it’s also more relatable. Plus, I’m probably just able to enjoy the slow pace and the nuance of the picture much better.

The plot surrounds two guys that become best buds in a nursing home and discover that something strange is afoot when a reanimated mummy starts killing some of the residents. The odd thing is that Bruce Campbell believes he’s Elvis Presley and he might very well be. Ossie Davis believes he’s John F. Kennedy, after being reconstructed in a lab and dyed black. We never find out if they really are who they believe themselves to be but it doesn’t really matter and it’s part of the movie’s unique charm.

So basically, we have a story where an elderly Elvis and an elderly, black JFK team-up to fight a killer mummy. What’s not to like?

My first impression of the film, years ago, was that it was kind of cool but it moved way too slow and felt uneventful. Now, I like the pace and it isn’t slow, so much as it tries to really develop the characters, their personal bond and build up some suspense before the big final fight at the end.

It’s still far from Coscarelli’s best work but it’s definitely better than the later Phantasm sequels and the Beastmaster movies he didn’t direct.

As I get older in age, I feel like I can just relate to the movie and its characters much more than I did in my early twenties. It probably reflects where Coscarelli saw himself at the time that he made it, as well as the two stars. Davis died a few years later and even though Campbell is still going strong, today, by 2002, he had to be feeling age creep up on him.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other Don Coscarelli movies, as well as other films starring Bruce Campbell.

Comic Review: Django/Zorro

Published: November 11th, 2015
Written by: Quentin Tarantino, Matt Wagner
Art by: Esteve Polls
Based on: Django Unchained by Quentin Tarantino, Zorro by Johnston McCulley

Dynamite Entertainment, 306 Pages

Review:

Not gonna lie, I was really curious to see how this crossover would play out, especially since it was branded as “The official sequel to Django Unchained.” I’m sure this will be water under the bridge if Quentin Tarantino actually ever does a proper cinematic sequel but for now, I guess Jamie Foxx’s incarnation of Django exists in the same world as the legendary Zorro.

And that’s fine… in fact, it’s really fucking cool. Granted, I would’ve rather seen Zorro team-up with the original Franco Nero Django but I still really like Foxx’s version of the character even if I wasn’t in love with the film he was featured in.

Anyway, I thought the story was just okay. It’s not bad and this was entertaining, accomplishing what it set out to do. However, it still just feels like one of a gajillion comic book IP crossovers just made to cash-in on combining multiple franchises. But at least this one sort of fits together well unlike Transformers and Star Trek or Ghostbusters and Ninja Turtles.

Additionally, I also liked the art and overall style of the book. It felt like an homage to old school western comics while still being modern.

Overall, this was a neat experiment and an amusing read. However, it’s still kind of forgettable and will most likely slip down the memory hole fairly quickly.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other recent western comics from Dynamite Entertainment.

Film Review: Melody Time (1948)

Also known as: All In Fun (working title)
Release Date: May 27th, 1948
Directed by: Jack Kinney, Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske, Wilfred Jackson
Written by: Winston Hibler, Harry Reeves, Ken Anderson, Erdman Penner, Homer Brightman, Ted Sears, Joe Rinaldi, Bill Cottrell, Jesse Marsh, Art Scott, Bob Moore, John Walbridge
Music by: Eliot Daniel, Paul J. Smith, Ken Darby
Cast: Roy Rogers, Trigger, Dennis Day, The Andrews Sisters, Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians, Freddy Martin, Ethel Smith, Frances Langford, Buddy Clark, Bob Nolan, Sons of the Pioneers, The Dinning Sisters, Bobby Driscoll, Luana Patten

Walt Disney Animation Studios, RKO Radio Pictures, 72 Minutes

Review:

“In the state of Texas, USA, life still goes on in the same old way.” – Roy Rogers

Melody Time is the fifth of the six Walt Disney anthology/package films of the 1940s. This one is also a lot like Make Mine Music in that it mostly focuses on a series of musical numbers.

I’d say that this one is a bit better than Make Mine Music, as it features some live-action actors interacting with animated characters. Although, I don’t think that it’s as groundbreaking as The Three Caballeros in that regard.

While I appreciate these films, I much prefer the anthologies that feature stories or educational bits like Fun and Fancy Free, Saludos Amigos and The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad.

The animation is really good, the voice acting is solid and overall, this is an energetic and amusing film with great music. But I think, by this point, the animated anthologies were starting to get redundant and tiresome.

Luckily, Disney fans in 1948 were only two years away from the second great era of Disney animation with 1950’s Cinderella being just around the corner.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: Disney’s other 1940s package/anthology films.

Vids I Dig 450: Filmento: ‘The Lone Ranger’: How to Build the Biggest Flop of All-Time

From Filmento’s YouTube description: 2013 Disney summer blockbuster The Lone Ranger was directed by Gore Verbinski and starred Jack Sparrow himself Johnny Depp, and they clearly tried to recapture the success they found with Pirates of the Caribbean. Unfortunately, for some reason this time it didn’t work and The Lone Ranger ended up becoming the biggest box office bomb of all time, costing Mickey Mouse over 200 million dollars of lost cash. One of the biggest reasons for this is that they seemed to have forgotten the core qualities you need to keep in mind when making a massive blockbuster meant for all general audiences. In today’s Anatomy of a Failure, let’s see what those qualities are in order to see where The Lone Ranger went wrong. Here’s how to build a box office flop.

Film Review: Spacehunter: Adventures In the Forbidden Zone (1983)

Also known as: Adventures In the Creep Zone (working title), Spacehunter (short title)
Release Date: May 20th, 1983
Directed by: Lamont Johnson
Written by: David Preston, Edith Rey, Daniel Goldberg, Len Blum, Stewart Harding, Jean LaFluer
Music by: Elmer Bernstein
Cast: Peter Strauss, Molly Ringwald, Ernie Hudson, Michael Ironside, Andrea Marcovicci

Delphi I Productions, Zone Productions, Columbia Pictures, 90 Minutes

Review:

“I lied, nobody goes free! Chemist, prepare the Fusion Tube!” – Overdog

For those of you that always wanted to see Molly Ringwald in a cyberpunk, almost comedy, space western, this is your movie!

For the rest of us, this is a forgettable relic lost to the sands of time but regardless of that, it’s still an enjoyable, mindless movie that’s sort of fun if you like ’80s sci-fi cheese and visually cool practical special effects.

I didn’t even know about this film until I stumbled across it while working in a video store. I fired it up in the store and thought it was pretty cool. I ended up taking it home and giving it a proper watch and found myself intrigued over the sets, the style and the more complicated effects like the villain’s body harness and cyborg appendages.

I also really loved the matte paintings and how well-crafted the larger world was for a film that had a pretty small budget.

In a lot of ways, this has a Mad Max vibe to it, as well, in its use of post-apocalyptic motor vehicles, as well as the characters’ style of dress.

Michael Ironside was the best part about the film, as his Overdog character was just a site to behold whenever he came onscreen. His costume was incredible and Ironside seemed to be really enjoying the role, hamming it up to the nth degree and putting in a performance that I can only assume eventually led to his villain role in the much more modern but very retro Turbo Kid.

Overall, there are much worse ways to spend 90 minutes. If you’re into campy sci-fi from the best decade for campy movies, you’ll probably like this weird, obscure flick.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other campy and cool sci-fi films of the ’80s like The Ice Pirates, Cherry 2000, Battle Beyond the Stars, etc.

Film Review: The White, The Yellow, and The Black (1975)

Also known as: Il bianco il giallo il nero (original Italian title), Samurai (Canada), Ring Around the Horse’s Tail (US dubbed version), Shoot First… Ask Questions Later (US alternative title)
Release Date: January 17th, 1975 (Italy)
Directed by: Sergio Corbucci
Written by: Amendola & Corbucci, Santiago Moncada, Renee Asseo, Antonio Troisio, Marcello Coscia, Sergio Spina
Music by: Guido & Maurizio De Angelis
Cast: Giuliano Gemma, Tomas Milian, Eli Wallach

Filmel, Mundial Film, Tritone Cinematografica, 112 Minutes

Review:

“[about to be hanged by a gang] I’ll never die without my boots on, and a star on my chest.” – Sheriff Edward Gideon

I’ve seen and reviewed about a half dozen Sergio Corbucci spaghetti westerns in recent years. I didn’t know about this one, however, until I stumbled across it while looking for something else. But I’m glad I did, even if it’s one of Corbucci’s weaker westerns.

Still, it’s a well cast film with three cool characters that had nice chemistry and provided solid performances that required dramatic and comedic acting with a little pinch of badassness sprinkled in.

People today would probably find the fact that Italian actor Tomas Milian plays a samurai in the Old West to be “problematic” and while the character is written mostly for laughs by tapping into cultural stereotypes, Milian still gives his character a certain panache and coolness when push comes to shove.

Spaghetti western legends Eli Wallach and Giuliano Gemma also add some fun to the proceedings, with Wallach playing a Sheriff and Gemma playing a typical western cowboy.

The plot sees this unlikely trio come together to track down a stolen Japanese horse that was intended to be a gift for the US government. The three men end up embroiled in a rivalry with a band of desperadoes that are made up of former Confederate soldiers.

Side note: this film was actually made as a loose parody of the Charles Bronson starring Red Sun. Milian’s samurai character would also reappear in the film Crime at the Chinese Restaurant in 1981, directed by Sergio’s younger brother, Bruno Corbucci.

Out of the Corbucci westerns I’ve seen, this one is, unfortunately, the weakest. But I can’t fault the director for trying to do something different for his last picture in the genre. While the characters are amusing and work fairly well together, the movie does kind of miss its mark and pales in comparison to Django, The Great Silence, Compañeros and The Mercenary. I’d also rank it behind Navajo Joe, which wasn’t anywhere near as goofy and borderline slapstick-y despite having more humorous bits than Corbucci’s other spaghetti westerns.

This also lacks the gravitas of those earlier films. Not that that’s a bad thing, per se, but Corbucci sort of had a particular style with his westerns and this plays more like a generic western comedy than the great action flicks one could expect from Corbucci.

Overall, I like the casting and I enjoyed their characters but apart from that, this is almost forgettable and probably only stayed afloat in a sea of spaghetti flicks due to who made it.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other Sergio Corbucci spaghetti westerns.

Film Review: Deadwood: The Movie (2019)

Release Date: May 31st, 2019
Directed by: Daniel Minahan
Written by: David Milch
Music by: Reinhold Heil, Johnny Klimek
Cast: Timothy Olyphant, Ian McShane, Molly Parker, Paula Malcomson, W. Earl Brown, Dayton Callie, Kim Dickens, Brad Dourif, Anna Gunn, John Hawkes, Leon Rippy, William Sanderson, Robin Weigert, Brent Sexton, Sean Bridgers, Franklyn Ajaye, Gerald McRaney, Keone Young, Jeffrey Jones, Don Swayze, Jade Pettyjohn, Cleo King, Peter Jason, Geri Jewell, Garret Dillahunt (cameo), Larry Cedar (cameo)

Red Board Productions, The Mighty Mint, HBO Films, 110 Minutes

Review:

“It’s a sad night. Something’s afire. Christ, I do have feelings.” – Al Swearengen

Man, I’m still a bit pissed that we never got a fourth season of Deadwood, especially with how the third season ended. We were told that there’d be a movie to followup the series, however, but that seemed to be an empty promise, as it was in limbo for well over a decade. Well, in 2018, they were finally able to get the key cast members back to revisit the Deadwood world once again.

While I still would’ve preferred a fourth season and felt like the followup to the George Hearst storyline needed more time to come to its proper and satisfying conclusion, this was still probably the next best thing, considering the long hiatus and frankly, it’s better than nothing, as we’re no longer left with an intense, unresolved cliffhanger.

Even though, this film came out thirteen years after the show ended, the story takes place ten years later. It lets us peek into the lives of all these great characters once again and it does a pretty good job of closing out some lingering issues and plot threads. But, unfortunately, these characters deserved more time, especially since there are so many of them that you care about and only 110 minutes to wedge all this story into.

I get it, it was a bit of a miracle that this actually, finally, got made. But it would’ve been a richer, better and more satisfactory story had it at least been a multi-part miniseries or even the length of half of a regular season. While I know that these shows and films are expensive to produce, Deadwood was iconic and even if it is wrapped up, for better or worse, it just left you needing more.

Still, this was damn enjoyable and every actor really stepped up and brought their A-game, returning to roles that none of them had played for nearly a decade and a half. In fact, many of them have grown and become even better with all the added experience they’ve gotten over their careers. Most of these actors have gone on to do many, great things and it was impressive that they were actually able to get most of them back.

I thought the story was really good and the best that could be done with the running time. There isn’t a dull moment in the film and it flies by. On the flipside of that, it doesn’t feel like too much is stuffed in either. Plus, it is fairly well-balanced between all the key characters. I even like that they were able to work in some of the minor characters without it feeling forced or just cheap fan service.

While this isn’t as great as a fourth season could have been, it at least gives fans some closure after all these years. Still, I’d always be down for more.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: the Deadwood television series, which should probably be watched first.

Comic Review: Iron Sights: 2 Psychos

Published: May, 2020
Written by: Richard C. Meyer, Carlos I. Silva
Art by: Ibai Canales, Kelsey Shannon (cover)

Splatto Comics, 100 Pages

Review:

I really dug the first Iron Sights, which upset some of the sensitive, snowflake types that are out to “cancel” Richard C. Meyer just because he criticized a dying comic book industry full of talentless shitheads.

Anyway, I’m happy to say that I enjoyed this sequel even more. Meyer had a few issues with his writing in his earliest books but he’s definitely improved quite a bit in the less than two years since he’s been publishing his own comics on a regular basis.

That being said, unlike his detractors, Meyer listens to criticism and learns from it, which is apparent after seeing how he’s improved over his last two releases.

Overall, I enjoyed this story a lot, even more so than the first and it has some interesting surprises that makes me enthused about the eventual third book. I don’t want to spoil any of the plot details but if you are a fan of neo-western films of the last decade or two, this will most assuredly be your cup of tea.

Additionally, the artist, Ibai Canales received a lot of criticism over the first Iron Sights. While his style wasn’t for everyone, I liked it. However, in this second story, the guy has vastly improved over his previous work. It gives me hope for the future, as I see the guy only getting better, as he keeps working at his craft. Seriously, he’s made really noticeable improvement here and I’m glad that Meyer kept him on and gave him the opportunity to keep working on this series.

At it’s core, this is a hard-edged, action packed crime saga that goes for the gusto and succeeds at building off of what came before it while keeping the reader excited about what could be next.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: it’s predecessor, as well as Richard C. Meyer’s Jawbreakers comics.

Vids I Dig 301: The Critical Drinker: The Drinker Recommends – ‘Unforgiven’

From The Critical Drinker’s YouTube description: Grab your whisky and six-shooter, because we’re going into the Wild West with this one, as I review one of my favourite Westerns of all time – Unforgiven.