TV Review: Iron Fist (2017- )

Original Run: March 17th, 2017 – current
Created by: Scott Buck
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Trevor Morris
Cast: Finn Jones, Jessica Henwick, Tom Pelphrey, Jessica Stroup, Ramón Rodríguez, Sacha Dhawan, Rosario Dawson, David Wenham, Carrie-Anne Moss

ABC Studios, Marvel, Devilina Productions, Netflix, 13 Episodes (so far), 50-61 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

Iron Fist is, unfortunately, the first of the Marvel Netflix shows to be a bit of a disappointment. It is even more disappointing in that this was the show I was most anticipating, as I’ve loved reading Iron Fist comics for years. He is a unique but very cool character, especially in his legendary team ups with Luke Cage.

All is not lost, however, as the show still has some promise and could go to some great places. The first season is just bogged down by origin story crap and a lot of corporate drama that kind of distracts from the story more than it helps it or drives it. A lot of it is just uninteresting but I hope all that stuff is now out of the way to make room for the future.

Also, Danny Ran a.k.a. Iron Fist being like a fish out of water really got old pretty quickly. He had to adjust to life in the modern world after being stuck in Mystical Ninja Land since he was a boy. Captain America, a guy thawed out 80 years into the future seemed to adjust to modern life a lot quicker than Iron Fist, who returned to a world with just an iPod only four models old.

The show also features the evil ninja clan The Hand quite a lot. Frankly, I was kind of over them by the end of the second season of Daredevil. I get that Danny Rand has ties to them but they didn’t need to be such a huge focal point and something fresher and unique would have been much better. I really don’t care about The Hand’s inner politics and how they aren’t all bad.

The villain character played by David Wenham was initially fantastic. I have always liked Wenham as an actor and it was cool seeing him get a little psychotic. Also, it was a neat contrast to him playing Faramir in the Lord of the Rings movies, as Faramir was a man trying to earn the love of a psychotic father and now he is a psychotic father with a son that hungers for his approval. Sadly, the character’s story goes off the rails the longer it stretches on. I obviously don’t blame Denham, as he played it magnificently.

Iron Fist is not necessarily a bad show but it doesn’t live up to what was established with DaredevilJessica Jones and Luke Cage. Nevertheless, I am still excited to see him team up with the rest of these heroes in The Defenders and I still look forward to another season of Iron Fist, where hopefully the origin crap is over and the corporate drama takes a backseat to better stories.

Film Review: Batteries Not Included (1987)

Also stylized as: *batteries not included
Also known as: Miracle On 8th Street (international)
Release Date: December 18th, 1987
Directed by: Matthew Robbins
Written by: Mick Garris, Brad Bird, Matthew Robbins, Brent Maddock, S.S. Wilson
Music by: James Horner
Cast: Hume Cronyn, Jessica Tandy, Frank McRae, Elizabeth Pena, Dennis Boutsikaris, Michael Carmine

Amblin Entertainment, Universal Pictures, 107 Minutes

Review:

“The quickest way to end a miracle is to ask it why it is… or what it wants.” – Frank Riley

Batteries Not Included sort of came and went in the theater. At least, I wasn’t really aware of it until it popped up on HBO about a year later. Once I saw it though, I was captivated and would try to catch it every time it was playing on television. It is one of those movies I loved as a kid but hadn’t really seen since. So when I came across it on Netflix, I wanted to see how it played, thirty years later.

The film was actually intended to be an episode of Steve Spielberg’s awesome television show Amazing Stories. Spielberg liked the story so much that he wanted to have it expanded into a feature film. Also, this was Brad Bird’s first time writing for a theatrical release. He would go on to write and direct the beloved animated films The Iron GiantThe Incredibles and Ratatouille.

The movie tells the story of the residents of a rundown building in New York City. The area is being torn down and the residents forced out by thugs hired by developers who intend to build modern massive skyscrapers. The thugs go around destroying the resident’s homes and property. Two tiny alien spaceships show up and start fixing everything. The little spaceships are actually alien lifeforms that take junk and appliances and use them to repair and enhance themselves. They even give birth to three baby alien ships in the film.

The movie is really about miracles and how when you are pushed to your limit and all seems hopeless, sometimes things can happen to pick you back up. Batteries Not Included is about not losing hope and it is also about family and friends and turning to those around you who are good people. It’s interesting that it takes non-human lifeforms to bring the humans in the story together.

For 1987, the special effects are fantastic. The movie still looks stellar today and it held up really nicely.

The cast were all really good but the bulk of the picture rests on the shoulders of Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy (just a few years before her big Academy Award win for Driving Miss Daisy). It’s kind of nice revisiting pictures like this and Cocoon, as they feature elderly actors as the main characters. It is something that you don’t see very often anymore, at least not in major studio sci-fi releases. But the 80s were a magical time for film.

I was happy that I revisited this, so many years later, because I wasn’t disappointed, as I often times am with movies I once loved as a kid. It was actually just as I remembered it without any extra romantic flourish added to it from my memory.

Batteries Not Included is sort of forgotten today and it wasn’t a big hit in its day, anyway. It is a movie that probably deserves more recognition than it got, though. It just looks good, plays good and most importantly, feels good.

20 Animated Properties That Haven’t Gone Live-Action Yet

*written in 2015.

I recently did a list called 20 Comic Book Properties That Haven’t Gone Live-Action Yet (see here). This is a sequel to that.

Considering that Hollywood is out of ideas and they keep resurrecting old stuff from my childhood as live-action blockbuster films, I figured that I would list twenty awesome cartoon or anime properties that they haven’t turned into a live-action spectacle yet.

Now some of these have been in live-action development, whether in film or on television, but for the most part, those that have been in development, have been in a state of limbo for quite some time.

Sure, I’d like to see Hollywood take a crack at some of these depending upon who is involved in them. I’d prefer Michael Bay to stay away, however.

Also, a few of these may have had a live-action version but it is either really obscure, very poorly done, really outdated or for a foreign market.

1. Robotech: The Macross Saga
2. Neon Genesis Evangelion
3. ThunderCats
4. Star Blazers
5. Voltron
6. Space Pirate Captain Harlock
7. Akira
8. Ninja Scroll
9. Johnny Quest
10. SilverHawks
11. Mobile Suit Gundam
12. Dino-Riders
13. Captain N: The Game Master
14. Defenders of the Earth
15. She-Ra: Princess of Power
16. M.A.S.K.
17. Captain Planet
18. Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors
19. Gargoyles
20. Filmation’s Ghostbusters (the one with the Gorilla)

Film Review: Vampire Circus (1972)

Release Date: April 30th, 1972 (UK)
Directed by: Robert Young
Written by: Judson Kinberg, George Baxt, Wilbur Stark
Music by: David Whitaker
Cast: Adrienne Corri, Anthony Higgins, John Moulder-Brown, Lalla Ward, Robin Sachs, Lynne Frederick, David Prowse

Hammer Film Productions, Rank Film Distributors Ltd., 20th Century Fox, 87 Minutes

Review:

“The Circus of Nights! A hundred delights!” – Michael

Vampire Circus is a little known Hammer Studios film from the early 1970s, when they were on their way out as a dominant horror studio. It came out at the same time that Hammer’s Dracula series was winding down.

I have always liked Hammer’s non-Dracula vampire spectacles, however. And to fanboy out a little bit, Vampire Circus has always been a favorite of mine. That may have something to do with Darth Vader himself, David Prowse, being in the film, as well as one of my favorite Doctor Who companions of all-time, the second Romana, Lalla Ward. Realistically, I just love the premise.

The story is pretty original and really fun. A troupe of circus gypsies shows up in town and captivates the people. The reality is that they are vampires out to get revenge on the town for killing their master Count Mitterhaus.

Speaking of which, the opening sequence, which features the original defeat of Mitterhaus, is one of the best things Hammer has ever created. It was also a great way for director Robert Young to start his career, as it was the opening to his first feature film.

Vampire Circus is really imaginative and it certainly isn’t a cookie cutter vampire flick. The circus twist is really cool and freshened things up for the genre. Everything from the live performances to the animal stunts just added a really cool vibe to the picture. It certainly had a bit more flair than other Hammer vampire movies.

Additionally, the cast was really good. I really enjoyed the performances of Adrienne Corri and Anthony Higgins. Higgins was particularly mesmerizing as the sexy male vampire that transforms into a black panther. Skip Martin, as the sinister dwarf, was a big highlight too. He was legitimately scary and intimidating for a little fellow. He played up the creepy clown shtick quite well, before creepy clowns were even a thing.

The style of the film mimics what was the norm for Hammer’s gothic horror pictures. Even if it may have felt dated for the time, its creativity certainly makes up for it being stylistically derivative. Plus there is a naked body painted tiger lady that rolls around all frisky and seductive.

Vampire Circus is probably only a good film for those who love the work of Hammer Studios in their heyday. But if you are one of those people, this is a unique experience that deviates quite well from their typical formula while not venturing so far away that it isn’t a Hammer picture.

Plus, Count Mitterhaus, Emil and the Gypsy Woman were pretty cool villains, as was their troupe of circus themed henchmen.

TV Review: Jessica Jones (2015- )

Original Run: November 20th, 2015 – current
Created by: Melissa Rosenberg
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Sean Callery
Cast: Krysten Ritter, Mike Colter, Rachael Taylor, Wil Traval, Erin Moriarty, Eka Darville, Carrie-Anne Moss, David Tennant, Leah Gibson, J.R. Ramirez, Rosario Dawson

ABC Studios, Marvel, Tall Girls Productions, Netflix, 13 Episodes (so far), 46-55 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*written in 2015.

Jessica Jones is the second series in Netflix and Marvel’s television shows about the Defenders. It is directly connected to Daredevil and sets up what will become Luke Cage’s show, which will then be followed up by a show for Iron Fist. All of these heroes will then combine into the Defenders and get their own team up miniseries. And maybe they’ll eventually end up in the bigger Marvel Cinematic Universe alongside Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and the others. But probably not.

Let me start by pointing out that I loved Daredevil. He is one of my top five superheroes of all-time and it was fantastic seeing him get a series that was on the mark, after that Ben Affleck-led dud from a dozen years ago. That being said, I like Jessica Jones, as a show, much more.

I feel like the show benefited from the character of Jessica Jones not having as rich of a history as Daredevil. She is a lesser known character, by far, but that is one of the many reasons as to why she is compelling. There is a lot more creative freedom with the character and it is ballsy on Marvel and Netflix’s part, as she is such an unknown outside of hardcore modern comic book readers.

Additionally, the villain, Kilgrave, known more prominently in the comics as the Purple Man, is barely known as well. He certainly isn’t familiar to mainstream audiences and David Tennant was able to bring him to life in his own way, which is terrifying and exhilarating, especially if you are a fan of his fun and carefree version of the Doctor from Doctor Who. Tennant deserves an Emmy nomination for this, as he proved how great he can be, which was also made apparent by his role in the spectacular Broadchurch.

Speaking of acting, Krysten Ritter was perfect as Jessica Jones. While she had darker hair and the purists will probably complain about that, her performance was solid and very organic. She was believable as the bad ass Jessica and when looking at the other actresses who were finalists for this role, I don’t think any of them could have pulled off the character in the way that Ritter does. I’ve always been a fan of hers, since Breaking Bad, and this is the best she has ever been.

When it comes to our other heroes, Mike Colter was the quintessential Luke Cage. Hell, he didn’t have to act and if he was acting, I couldn’t tell. He is Luke Cage like no other actor has owned a role as a comic book character. While he is used sparingly, as he is getting his own show in a few months, the scenes he shares with Jessica are pretty awesome. For those who don’t know, they do get married and have a child in the comic books and I can’t imagine that Netflix will alter that but it is also probably a few seasons away from going into that territory. Also, Luke Cage becomes a key member of the Avengers in the comics. I’d certainly like to see him make the roster in the films.

Rachael Taylor is really good as Trish “Patsy” Walker, Jessica’s best friend and part-time sidekick. In the comics, she becomes the hero known as Hellcat.

The show never has a boring moment and each episode gets pretty intense. There isn’t a lot of filler and every episode serves a purpose. That’s seemingly hard to accomplish in modern television but that’s probably also why shows that run for twelve or thirteen episodes a season are better than shows that do twenty-plus.

The only real negative, for me, was that the final showdown between Jones and Kilgrave, after everything that happens, felt a bit underwhelming. The outcome was satisfying but I hoped for more of a mental battle. I also would have loved to see him be able to come back, as Marvel has the habit of doing “one and done” villains. A trend I had hoped they broke with the Kingpin in Daredevil.

I am really enjoying Netflix’s attempt at making Marvel properties for more adult audiences. Not every comic book property has to be made kid friendly. Jessica Jones, like Daredevil, certainly isn’t a vehicle for toy and lunchbox sales. I hope that this paves the way for more adult comic book adaptations in the future.

Also, I would probably buy the lunchbox.

Film Review: Kitty (2016)

Release Date: May 20th, 2016 (Cannes)
Directed by: Chloe Sevigny
Written by: Chloe Sevigny
Based on: a short story by Paul Bowles
Music by: Brian DeGraw
Cast: Edie Yvonne, Ione Skye, Lee Meriwether

First Generation Films, 15 Minutes

Review:

Kitty is the directorial debut of the great actress Chloe Sevigny. It also truly feels like an extension of her soul and hits all the right notes. Frankly, this is a really exceptional short film that was endearing, enchanting and pretty damn emotional.

The film stars Edie Yvonne, who has more acting chops at her young age than the majority of adult actors that rake in the big bucks for mediocre blockbusters, year after year. I can’t recall a time where I was as impressed with a young actor, as I was with Yvonne in this short.

The next paragraph may spoil the story but not the magic. Skip over it though, if you don’t want to know anything going into this fifteen minute short.

Edie Yvonne plays a young girl who feels neglected by her mother (Skye). As the story progresses, she sprouts whiskers but her mother just brushes it aside. Then she sprouts pointy ears, claws and eventually turns into an actual kitty. Arriving home, she can’t get into her house but she sees her parents crying as they are talking to the police. The kitty is then cared for by the neighbor (Meriwether), who invites her in and gives her a saucer of milk. Later on, the kitty returns home again to see her father alone and it is assumed that the mother has left. She later finds her mother on a swing set and gets her attention. The sad and broken mother picks her up and takes her home.

Sevigny’s visual style is magnificent and impressive. She took this fantastical story, put it in a normal setting but made it look fantastical in her visual approach. It is a beautiful piece of work to look at and her two decades of starring in some of the great independent films of her day have taught her a lot, as far as how to work behind the camera.

Kitty is sweet and sad but it still carries hope with it along the way. There is a lot happening in the film, emotionally, but everything just works and it excites me for what Chloe Sevigny can do, as a director.

Film Review: Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings (1994)

Release Date: October 19th, 1994
Directed by: Jeff Burr
Written by: Constantine Chachornia, Ivan Chachornia
Music by: Jim Manzie
Cast: Andrew Robinson, Ami Dolenz, Soleil Moon Frye, J. Trevor Edmond, Hill Harper, Alexander Polinsky, Linnea Quigley, Mark McCracken, Steve Kanaly, Roger Clinton Jr., Kane Hodder, Gloria Hendry, Joe Unger

Motion Picture Corporation of America, Live Entertainment, 88 Minutes

Review:

“You will die! You all will die! Miss Osie curses every one of you to the vengeance of Pumpkinhead!” – Miss Osie

Pumpkinhead is a solid late 80s horror flick. Its straight-to-video 1994 sequel is not solid. Well, at the very least, the monster still looks damn cool and he still rips people to shreds.

Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings does stay afloat but that is mainly due to its interesting ensemble cast. You have Andrew Robinson, who was damn good in Hellraiser, as the police chief. You also have Ami Dolenz, who I really just like to look at because she is mesmerizing. Then there are a couple 80s sitcom stars, Soliel Moon Frye (Punky Brewster) and Alexander Polinsky (Charles In Charge). You even have small parts given to Kane Hodder (the best Jason Voorhees from the Friday the 13th film franchise) and Gloria Hendry, who kicked ass in several 1970s blaxploitation movies. I also can’t forget scream queen Linnea Quigley and her famous boobs.

The problem with Pumpkinhead II is that it disregards the first film completely and just does its own thing. However, apparently the mutant kid that becomes the new Pumpkinhead in this movie was the illegitimate bastard son of the first Pumpkinhead and some insane girl that had sex with him. She was probably raped though, honestly. Then again, I knew this Craigslist hooker that lived in my complex and she probably would have given up the ass to Pumpkinhead for a drive to K-Mart and a big bag of Skittles.

Anyway, this movie doesn’t totally suck, it’s just lame that it didn’t continue on from the first one. The sequels after this are more direct sequels to the original but I haven’t seen those yet.

Pumpkinhead II sees the monster brought up from the grave of a dead mutant looking kid. He is summoned by a witch that wants revenge for the people who wronged the boy in the 1950s and for the kids who let her house burn down.

I have to give props to the creature effects. Even though Stan Winston wasn’t involved in this, as he was very involved with the first, the new team did a better than decent job at keeping the monster awesome. He looked the same and even got to move around a bit more. This version of Pumpkinhead was just more mobile and not as limited as the original. This made for better action and more versatile shots, where in the first film, they had to shoot it in a way that hid the monster’s limitations.

While the story and the action aren’t bad, this chapter in the series just doesn’t measure up to the first one. It’s not a waste of time and it is enjoyable if these kind of movies are your cup of tea. It is better than most pointless horror sequels and it had a decent cast. Although, I really just want to check out the third and fourth film to see if they right the ship.