Wednesday, August 25, 2021

GI JOE BINGE thoughts.

 

GI Joe had some very odd seasons- in the first season, it was mostly a short serial involving the Weather Dominator and it focused on the initial Joe figurines. General Hawk led the team with the first figures, but this initial series focused mostly on Duke, Scarlett, and Snake Eyes.They fought the evil forces of Cobra, attempting to regain the broken pieces of Cobra's "Weather Dominator" device- a satellite that could control and terrorize the planet. It was fairly straightforward and was, itself, designed to act as a commercial to sell the toy-line.

The second season included the second series of Joes, though they still had many episodes that involved or focused on some of the classic Joes, including an "Elseworld" episode where the classic characters Grunt, Clutch, and Steeler would stay behind in order to fight the forces of Cobra in that other world where their duplicates had been killed in action. Joes featured in this series were largely Flint, Lady Jaye, Quick Kick, Alpine, Wild Blll, Mutt & Junkyard, and many more-- including my favorite episode that heavily featured Barbecue, the Joe fire rescue specialist.

I am currently on the third series, which focuses on the creation and rise of Serpentor as Cobra's new leader, replacing Cobra Commander. This would also heavily introduce Sgt. Slaughter as one of the lead trainers for GI Joe, and introduced many new recruits to the team: Lifeline, Leatherneck, Sci-Fi, Beach-head, and Wet-Suit. One of the primary running side-plots was the impending star crossed lover story between Zartan's sister Zaranna and GI Joe computer specialist Main-Frame.

All of this led to GI Joe: The Movie- intended for theatrical release, the animated feature film included celebrity voices such as Don Johnson as Duke's younger brother, Falcon. This film would introduce the far more fantasy-centric villains from "Cobra-La", an ancient snake cult that would ally with Cobra to fight our erstwhile heroes.

It was that film that sort of jumped the shark by stretching beyond the high concept ideas of a specialized Military Unit fighting an organized criminal terrorist organization. While occasional episodes introduced time travel, other realms, spirits, supernatural, and and other sci-fi elements to the series- it was all still wrapped around the idea of Cobra and the Joes.

The film marked the end of the "Real American Hero" cartoon series, but a new series developed by DIC would attempt to continue the series in 1989 with a five part series, and then continuing for another 44 episodes in 1990.

Monday, July 5, 2021

The Forever Purge

The Forever Purge dares to ask the question: "What if the Right Wing Extremist Chodes acted just like the Antifa Rioting Dipwads? Your answer is this ham-fisted attempt at a "morality" play. At it's core, it's the same high concept idea that's gone on for probably too long, but this latest film does get a few kudos for bringing out the "Mad Max"-esque aesthetic and filling the runtime with enough blood and violence to make it worthwhile. 

So here we are, four years after the Purge "ended" and the New Founding Fathers have been elected BACK into power and have immediately restarted the annual purge. Seriously an sincerely, I have to sk how this idea ever blossomed- it's such a dumb concept. But that's not what I'm here to talk about- I'm here to talk about THIS movie, the latest in a long series that includes FOUR films and TWO seasons of television programming. So let's get to the plot of this film... 

Two Mexican immigrants have fled the Mexican cartels to the United States where they find gainful employment and wind up experiencing their first Purge. Meanwhile, the husbands' wealthy employer is protecting his own family on the same night, across town. We see a bit of tension between Juan and the eldest son, Dylan. The night is mostly uneventful for both families- and then, when the sirens echo and the Purge is called to a halt- a new group of Racist Anarchistic Lunatics (called the "Ever Afters") decide to enact their own rebellion with the Forever Purge. With this act, the two families are thrust together ad forced to flee to Mexico. Tensions are high as the two families are also forced to face their own racism, their own paranoia, and also learn to trust and rely on one another to survive. 

THE GOOD: Okay, one of the things I actually liked about this film was that we see the "aftermath" of an annual "purge" event. We see the smoked out ruins of homes, businesses, and bodies that litter the streets and the carrion that feast.  It's an eerie thing and might remind some viewers of a zombie film in a few ways. 

THE BAD: It's a whole lot of political nonsense delivered with a ham-fisted approach that dumbs down a great many issues. There are a number of scene chewing performances, but none more ridiculously over the top than a Neo-Nazi with a swastika tattoo on his freaking cheek "identifying" the sounds of various "gunfire" taking place out of sight. It was was just silly and forced.

Mild recommendation if you enjoy the Purge films. There isnt much new here, though having an opportunity to experience the aftermath of one night is actually kind of chilling and further builds the world.

 

Monday, June 28, 2021

"With Teeth" by Brian Keene

 I am a big fan of Brian Keene's work. 

Not going to lie here, as this crazy sonofabitch caught my attention and absolutely shredded my soul with his novel "DarkHollow" (AKA: The Rutting Season). He just continued to shred me with a series of Zombie novels that completely reinvented the genre in a way no film has managed to capture, twisted a coming of age story into horrific discoveries and revelations regarding the cycle of abuse, and introduced a ruthless "hero" willing to do anything to stop the Elder-thing forces that constantly threaten Keene's shared multiverse of horror. 

Now, here's the thing- EVERYONE eventually has to write a vampire story. It's practically a "coming of age" event for horror writers and such. And while I am a fan of Keene's work, I in no way have a full collection of his books and stories at my fingertips. So when I managed to get a little extra money on "Prime" day, I saw that Keene had a fairly new novel out and that it was going to explore some very ravenous vampires in the West Virginia Hills. 

I had to have it. 

And with the opening lines of the novel, I was hooked- my cheek drawn down to the page, ripped by the cold steel of Keene's wordplay. He knows how to turn a phrase, capture the voice of his lead character, and lead the reader through a journey that finds a group of middle-age men taking a trip to a dark hollow deep in the West Virginia woods. 

What stands out about the novel, however- is that Keene captures the very real and compelling reason for their journey. He describes the characters, letting us know about the economic struggles of their families, what is driving each man, and how each character connects to the others. These are all familiar faces that many people have seen in their day to day lives- poor men in dire straights hoping to make a quick buck on a "get rich" scheme. They're all just as hungry as the vampires they're about to encounter, just as desperate, and maybe just as brutal when it comes down to it. 

Keene's novel comes with two additional vampire stories, one of which references the clan of monsters in the West Virginia woods- the other deals with another group of vampires trapped within a watery grave. 

Highly recommended 8/10. I think a part of me wanted the story to go on, but there you go.

Monday, May 17, 2021

Army of the Dead 2021

Zack Snyder's return to basics directing is a fairly "paint by numbers" zombie action film. It takes it's cues more from "Escape from New York" and "Doomsday" rather than George Romero's zombie films,however- a group of ex-military are tasked with the opportunity to make in excess of several million dollars, tax free, if they can raid a Casino Vault the day before the government plans on dropping a nuke atop the zombie infested Las Vegas. When the group get there, they encounter far more than the shambling, mindless hordes that they fought before. 

Snyder's new zombies have developed into an savage and largely barbaric society, complete with a King and Queen to rule over the city of the dead. Communicating with one another through primitive growls, howls, grunts, and screams; the creatures have developed a hierarchical structure between "shamblers" and "Alpha" zombies, the latter of which were all bitten by Patient Zero (AKA: The King). 

Scott Ward (Dave Bautista) leads his rag tag team of ex-military and other criminal sorts into the Zombie City. Tagging along for the ride is his daughter, a volunteer with Las Vegas refugees looking for some of her people who tried to go back inside for that loose cash laying about the city. Their expectations soon go south and it isn't long until the zombies start to converge on our little group of would-be casino robbers. 

The nitty gritty is that this is a lot of gory action fun eye-candy and the social dynamic between the group is pretty good. Tig Notaro puts in an especially caustic performance as a snarky Helicopter Pilot. Dave Bautista is believable as a veteran struggling with the inability to communicate with the people around him due to his own feelings of guilt in having to put down his wife. The growing camaraderie between Dieter (Matthias Schweigh√∂fer) and the philosophical Vanderohe (Omari Hardwick) is often entertaining to watch. Theo Rossi shows up as a despicable refugee camp guard, while Ella Purnell rounds out the cast as Scott's daughter, Kate Ward. 

A satisfying 8 out of 10, though don't expect it to be the "best thing evah!"- it's fun popcorn munching at it's best.

 

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Psychoape! (2021)

 In the low to no budget tradition of "Gorilla" film-making, a bunch of film makers set out to follow a vision. Armed with a love for and admiration for the classic monkey horror films of yesteryear, a lot of puns, a bushel of bananas, and some fairly basic digital effects (A lot of splatter effects) the crew put some guy in an ape suit and set out to make a film. It had all the tell-tale signs of being shot on video- poor sound quality mixed with some decent shots, and actors in bad wigs. And with all the heart director Addison Binek could muster up, they set out into the cold cruel world of promoting their film.

Which, oddly, led to me answering a tweet that happened to pop up on my feed with the film makers asking for reviews. They sent me a link and a password- a little more than an hour later, I am back from the jungles with a report. 

I am torn between being highly amused and feeling slightly like the Banana Spinning Sign Guy from the early portion of the film, in which I am also torn between the brilliance of and confusion in choosing to keep much of the footage the crew actually shot for this scene. Admittedly, the most talented performer and hilarious performance comes from the news anchor, played by Grover McCants. Many of the scenes are cut a little oddly, with pacing being a little too brisk at places and then dragging in others. In one scene, the film moves to New York City to follow a pair discussing the ape as they walk through the park. The acting is awful as both performers struggle through dialogue that seems largely improvised on the spot. There are a couple of scenes just like this, including an oddly stretched out argument between two sisters- which seems to stray very far from its original intent. For the record, I agree with the one girl on the rat movie- it's better than the other movie in my book. 

The movie quickly loses steam at around the fifty minute mark as I kept glancing down to check my phone during PsychoApe's trip to New York, which was an inevitable moment given the direction of the film. The puns keep coming and the monkey movie jokes stack up.

3 out of 10, and while not a high recommend I would recommend it for fans of low to no budget studios like Troma and directer Chris Seaver's Mulva: Zombie Ass-kicker series. I got a small kick out of the film, though I also recognize it's not going to be everyone's top banana.


Friday, March 26, 2021

NOBODY review, CRAZY SAMURAI MUSASHI review


NOBODY (2021)

Hutch Mansell (Bob Odenkirk) is about as "average" as they come- clocks into work monday through friday, works out Thursday, takes out the garbage on tuesday, goes to sleep, rinse, repeat, one day to the next. An average man, milquetoast even, with no major personality quirks or exceptional skills to speak of. His daily life is the photo-perfect example of a man who is only going through the motions. 

But, after a home burglary, something eats away at him. He has a distant brother (RZA) he communicates with over a short wave radio, his retired father (Christopher Lloyd) urges him to take care of things, and he finally goes out to pursue the robbers. But that doesn't settle things with the doting father and husband, the milquetoast family man, that he wants to be. When a group of Russian thugs accost the people sharing the bus with our boring hum-drum "every man", all the pieces click into place and he isn't about to let things slide. In his words, he's going to "Fuck (them) up". 

Unfortunately, this begins a chain of dominoes that results in Mansell now becoming a marked man with a local Russian mafia boss. And all bets are off when he sends his thugs to Mansells house. When his family is threatened. When the life he has carefully crafted is finally blown up and we learn just WHO this veritable "nobody" really is. 

I loved this movie. The action was frenetic and brutal, with broken teth and bones- ripped tendons, slashed muscles, and plenty of knuckle cracking, body-jolting impact. Guns were blazing and the soundtrack was excellently selected. 

Highly recommended, 8.5 out of 10.

 

CRAZY SAMURAI MUSASHI: 400 vs. 1

TAK Sakaguchi is best known as the Convict from the 2000 film "Versus", though he's had various action roles throughout the decades and was recently seen in "Re:Born". In this film, he plays the legendary swordman; Miyamoto Musashi. Shortly after his duel with Yoshioka Seiji and his younger brother, the clan decides to strike back with their 100 retainers and an additional 300 Mercenaries... what follows his a non-stop duel with all 400 and is considered one of Musashi's most famous legends. 

Director Shimomura Yuji approaches the material as an experiment, presenting an introduction and climax in a typically cinematic style- but the 77 minutes between are a non-stop, uncut, single-take action extravaganza following Musashi from the moment he kills the youngest brother with a surprise appearance to his exit at sundown. And for the sheer effort and marathon of choreography, both the star and directed should be commended and applauded. Though the maneuvers get a little repetitious at times- the film maintains it's approach of completing the task with one long take AT sundown. Watching the sun move throughout the scene, watching the shadows deepen and stretch, you keep expecting a cut at every turn and moment. 

Definitely worth watching for fans of the Samurai genre. 

7 out of 10


Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Seven Souls in the SKull Castle (on Netflix, live stage show)

 

Netflix so rarely presents live stage shows on their platform, so I was kind of surprised when this came up as a new release this evening. Doing some rudimentary research, Seven Souls in the Skull Castle was filmed in 2013. The story takes place in 1590, after the demise of Oba Nobunaga. The nation still sits on the brink of war and unification under the Toyotome Hidoyoshi. In the Kanto region, there sits a dark castle in which the evil Tenma (Mirai Moriyama), a self proclaimed "demon". He wants to ally himself with foreigners and rule the rest of Japan in his evil ways. Muahaha! 

Standing in his way is a wandering swordsman, Sutenosuke (Shun Oguri) who helps to rescue a young woman, and he then meets members of a small village supported by a former ally named Ranbe (Taichi Saotome) populated with thieves, vagabonds, prostitutes, and many other outsiders. The sweeping Shakespearean drama unfolds at a thrilling pace, with epic sword battles, stunts, lavish costumes, and a glorious soundtrack echoing with the clang of blades and driving the action onstage like a live-action Anime come to life. Having so much movement on stage seems counterproductive to many Western techniques, but all of the action actually serves to highlight the more emotional moments as characters struggle as another remembers the past in stark lighting as the others fade... emotional moments dig deeper and the visuals serve as a highlight. 

This original Samurai Drama has played every seven years since 1990 and was the first original production to take place in the historic IHI Stage Around Tokyo for a whopping 15-month run. Highly recommended!!!

10 out of 10