As a consequence of involving myself with independent creators, my burgeoning library is becoming steadily more populated with their works. Sometime around ten years ago, I took an unintended sabbatical from reading, and now the idea of not only doing so again, but investing myself in a series of books almost feels surreal. For the second time, we’ll be delving into the world of Barbarians of the Storm, and reviewing the second entry into the series by author Robert Rimes. As with the initial entry, Dan the Destructor, Atomic Beasts and Where to Kill them follows the adventures of Dan and Fenrik, an everyman lost in a strange new world and a towering barbarian killing machine, respectively. This time however, other characters are woven into the narrative with a collection of minor plots that tie into the overall story, leading to a more complete view of individuals we only caught faint glimpses of before. One in particular was an easy standout as the favorite, and as I’ve heard similar sentiments from other readers, I think a certain raven-haired beauty may have a fan club of her own once the series is said and done.
While I would normally begin my review with an overall impression of the physical product, this volume is physically the same as the previous, save for its greater length and varying cover art, which looks lovely beside the initial entry. I recently got a sneak peek at the cover for the third book, and I’m pleased to say that this will be a visually pleasing collection of paperbacks once they’re all published. For a closer look at the physical dimensions, feel free to refer to my review of Dan the Destructor. With that out of the way, we can get to the real meat of the story; the actors on the stage.
…check out Katharine Frances’ Substack for a full review and give her a sub, as well.
Sometimes, we have to look to darkness in order to see the light.
No better is this exemplified than within the Horror genre. At its best, a good Horror story can truly embody what it means to experience emotions such as pain and loss, along with the elation that comes from ultimately facing your fears. It should be no surprise, then, that Horror has often been intermingled with the Fantasy and Swords-and-Sorcery genres for as long as we can remember. Classic tales told by the likes of Robert E. Howard, HP Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, and more show that something exceptional can truly be made when your protagonist is likewise made vulnerable and tested by something they don’t quite understand.
It’s a tale as old as pulp storytelling itself; and in many ways, I would venture to say that Fantasy and Horror go together much like peanut butter and jelly. They are both an inseparable pair, and when done right, they can be the uncontested cream of the crop for the entire medium.
I am glad to say that Eyes In All Shadows, penned by author Rob Rimes, belongs right alongside this set of venerated classics. Now being the third canonical release in the Barbarians of the Storm anthology, it’s not only a brilliant collection of Horror-themed short-stories, that thrills as much as it entertains, but I also believe it’s his best work yet, and a testament to the revival of pulp as a renewed art form.
…check out Riverotter85’s Substack Downstream Pulp for the full review and give a sub, as well.
I would like to begin this review by posing a question to the reader; “Does the idea of watching a barbarian warrior operating a minigun mounted to the back of an SUV being driven by a man in chainmail and a Hawaiian T-Shirt pique your interest?” If the answer is yes, then Barbarians of the Storm’s first entry, Dan the Destructor, may be of interest to you. If the answer is no, I am sympathetic to the fact that life has beaten the joy out of you and distanced you from simpler times. If you can still recall the clattering of your action figures as He-Man and GI Joe joined forces to rescue Barbie from Skeletor and Megatron, Dan the Destructor is a time-capsule back to a purer form of action and adventure.
As I purchased this pulp novella as a physical product rather than an ebook, I’d like to first spend some time speaking on its presentation. With its dimensions being roughly 4 by 6 inches, it’s a compact little volume that can easily be slipped into a purse or coat pocket. Though unillustrated, the cover art is striking in its simplicity, and with other volumes in the series having aesthetically similar covers, I imagine the entire collection would be quite pleasing to look at once it’s completed. Of additional note is a morsel of hidden extra value; once the main narrative is concluded, the volume also includes a short story set in the same universe, one of fairly significant length as well. …
…check out Katharine Frances’ Substack for a full review and give her a sub, as well.
Release Date: November 8th, 1973 Directed by: Wolfgang Reitherman Written by: Larry Clemmons, Ken Anderson, Vance Gerry, Frank Thomas, Eric Cleworth, Julius Svendsen, David Michener Based on: the legend of Robin Hood Music by: George Bruns Cast: Peter Ustinov, Phil Harris, Brian Bedford, Terry-Thomas, Roger Miller, Pat Buttram, George Lindsey, Andy Devine
Walt Disney Productions, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Buena Vista Distribution, 83 Minutes
“Oh, Robin, you’re so brave and impetuous!” – Marian
When I was a kid, this was, hands down, one of my favorite Disney animated films. It still is, actually, because upon viewing it this time, the first in years, I was pulled right into it and captivated by it from start-to-finish.
I think I just really love these interpretations of the legendary characters and I always loved that they used animals, as opposed to humans. In a way, it made it unique and helped it stand out amongst all the other Robin Hood pictures that were made before it… and after it, for that matter.
The opening song and credits really sets the mood and makes you feel pretty laid back. Ultimately, this is a laid back picture and even though it has some good action sequences, it’s still just kind of a chill movie.
It’s also playful and I think that it was a really good thing that they brought back Phil Harris, who played Baloo in The Jungle Book, to play a very similar looking bear in the role of Little John. Baloo’s look and voice are very distinctive and Little John just feels like that fun-loving character we all know and adore.
This also features a lot of characters but you’re not overwhelmed by them and most of them get their own moment to shine. It’s just a cool ensemble cast of various animals and personalities but it meshes together incredibly well.
I also like the art style of the film. It employs the same style as the films from One Hundred and One Dalmatians forward but also looks more crisp and refined. The motion of the characters is very fluid and it’s just impressive all around.
While everyone should already know the general story of Robin Hood, all the little unique flourishes in this one are really creative and well-executed. At the end of the day, this stays true to the legend but is also very specifically Disney.
Robin Hood is a pretty stupendous animated feature and in my opinion, still one of Disney’s top animated films.
Also known as: Zorro Unmasked, The Return of Zorro, The Mask of Zorro 2, Zorro 2 (working titles), Z (alternative title) Release Date: October 24th, 2005 (UK) Directed by: Martin Campbell Written by: Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Ted Elliot, Terry Rossio Based on:Zorro by Johnston McCulley Music by: James Horner Cast: Antonio Banderas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Rufus Sewell, Nick Chinlund, Adrian Alonso
Tornado Productions Inc., Amblin Entertainment, Columbia Pictures, 129 Minutes
“[after making a “Z” mark on Armand] So the devil will know who sent you.” – Zorro
Unlike the previous Antonio Banderas starring Zorro picture, I had never seen this one before and wasn’t sure what to expect.
What I do like is that they got the first film’s director, Martin Campbell, back. However, they replaced the original writers with the dynamic duo of failing upwards, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman. Those guys have been instrumental in turning once great franchises into Port-O-Lets at a music festival.
Since neither Orci or Kurtzman are actually real human beings with real human being emotions, they completely fumble the ball in regards to the romantic relationship between Zorro and his babe, Elena. In fact, it’s handled so badly that when Elena splits with the kid, very early in the movie, I nearly wanted to turn this off. It was nonsensical, didn’t mesh with who she was in the first film and frankly, Martin Campbell should’ve stood up and said, “What is this?! Fuck this shit!”
Anyway, I stuck around because I wanted to review this and at least there were some things that made me enjoy the film. Although, it does pale in comparison to its incredibly fun predecessor.
For starters, I really liked the kid in this. He was badass, amusing and even if he was sometimes a prick to his dad, he made up for it when the time was right.
I thought that the general story was weak and that’s probably because the rivalry between Zorro and the villain is connected to the breakup of Zorro and Elena because the villain is her new boyfriend. But of course he is, as we’ve got to shit writers that have to follow the easiest path because they might hurt their brains.
What mostly saves this film from being a pile of shit is the swashbuckling action. Banderas is just a fun and cool Zorro and he gets to be involved in some great moments. Granted, I don’t know how much of the action is his stuntman or Banderas, himself. Still, Banderas’ Zorro is one of the most energetic and entertaining incarnations of the character and that’s not going to get diminished by a shit script.
Beyond that, the comedy in the first movie was well-balanced with the rest of the story and it fit. Here, the comedy is nowhere near as polished and this felt like a bad sitcom pilot at times.
Coming out of this, I can see why a third chapter was never made. Although, this has a happy ending and also concludes in a way where it wasn’t necessary to continue the story.
Also known as: Mark of Zorro (working title) Release Date: July 10th, 1998 (Beverly Hills premiere) Directed by: Martin Campbell Written by: John Eskow, Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio Based on:Zorro by Johnston McCulley Music by: James Horner Cast: Antonio Banderas, Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Stuart Wilson, Matt Letscher, Maury Chaykin
David Foster Productions, Amblin Entertainment, TriStar Pictures, 136 Minutes
“There is a saying, a very old saying: when the pupil is ready the master will appear.” – Don Diego de la Vega
Wow! I forgot how ridiculously fun this movie was. That’s probably because I haven’t seen it since the theater and for whatever reason, I just never got around to seeing it again. Also, I haven’t seen the sequel either but I’m going to rectify that very, very soon.
To start, Antonio Banderas was pretty damn perfect as Zorro. Almost too perfect, honestly. But then, Anthony Hopkins is also pretty close to perfect as an aged Don Diego a.k.a. the most well-known Zorro.
If that’s confusing, it shouldn’t be. You see, this is a movie with two Zorros in it! Yes, two!
Hopkins’ Don Diego is at the end of his swashbuckling career due to his older age but also because he was imprisoned by an evil bastard that stole his daughter and raised her as his own. The villain also carried a grudge because Don Diego had the child with the woman he loved.
Upon escaping prison, Don Diego still has a score to settle and he must bring down the villain. However, he meets a young man with an enemy of his own, who is the right hand of the big villain. So Don Diego takes the younger Alejandro Murrieta and trains him to be the next Zorro.
Over the course of the story, Alejandro falls in love with the villain’s daughter, Elena. Elena, by the end of the story, learns that Don Diego is her true father and shit hits the fan in one epic, incredible finale.
This motion picture truly embodies everything a Zorro story should have: adventure, action, romance, swashbuckling and a lighthearted, playful style of humor. Again, Banderas was perfect as this story’s primary Zorro and it’s as if he was born to play this character. Additionally, his chemistry with Catherine Zeta-Jones and camaraderie with Anthony Hopkins are immensely enjoyable.
Man, I just loved the hell out of this and even though I haven’t seen the sequel, it’s kind of a shame that this didn’t become an ongoing franchise with Banderas as the lead. Although, there have been rumors that Quentin Tarantino wants to bring Banderas back for a Zorro meets Django movie. Tarantino actually wrote a comic book miniseries that featured both characters. I reviewed that here.
Original Run: October 13th, 1982 – March 30th, 1983 Created by: Leiji Matsumoto Directed by: Tomoharu Katsumata, Masamitsu Sasaki Written by: Leiji Matsumoto, Hiroyasu Yamaura, Hiroyuki Hoshiyama Based on:Space PirateCaptain Harlock by Leiji Matsumoto Music by: Shunsuke Kikuchi
This second Captain Harlock series served as a loose sequel to the Arcadia of My Youth feature film that came out in the same year.
Following the events of the film, Harlock and the crew of the Arcadia are exiled from Earth, which has been taken over by the Illumidas, along with several other planets.
For much of the series, Harlock explores space while also having battles with the Illumidas. He’s also searching for the mythical “Planet of Peace”, a place where all intelligent species can live free of war and interplanetary conflict.
The show was originally planned to have double the episodes that it got. It struggled in the ratings due to competition from new series like the original Gundam, which was a quicker paced, more action oriented show.
Still, this did have a proper and good conclusion, even if production was cut short.
I also liked this show a hair bit more than the earlier Captain Harlock series. I enjoyed the stories, the characters and the overall style of it.
Well, I have reached the final book in this great looking Robert E. Howard collection by Del Ray. These Del Ray editions are my favorite Robert E. Howard collections, aesthetically, physically and in the way they’re organized and decorated with incredible art, giving the stories more life and some visual flourish that fits exceptionally well with Howard’s incredible and beautiful prose.
Since this book doesn’t focus on a specific character, a lot of the stories here are also in some of the other Del Ray volumes for Conan the Barbarian and Solomon Kane. Also, this shares a lot of stories with another similar book I reviewed about a year ago, The Cthulhu Stories of Robert E. Howard (see here), which tied many of Howard’s famous characters with the work of one of his best friends, horror maestro H.P. Lovecraft.
All in all, this is really f’n solid and it’s just a good collection of Howard’s more horror-centric tales.
The thing with this installment is that some of the stories are recycled from other Howard collections. However, even though I had already read much of what’s here, I was still captivated enough by it to read those stories again in an effort to really embrace this volume for what its theme is.
Honestly, more than anything else, these various Del Ray collections just showed me how easy it is to revisit and re-read Howard’s short stories.
If you want to get into the man’s work, this is one of the books that is a good starting point. That is, unless you want to jump into a specific character first like Conan, Solomon Kane or Kull.
Release Date: June 14th, 1991 Directed by: Kevin Reynolds Written by: Pen Densham, John Watson Music by: Michael Kamen Cast: Kevin Costner, Morgan Freeman, Christian Slater, Alan Rickman, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Geraldine McEwan, Michael McShane, Brain Blessed, Michael Wincott, Nick Brimble, Jack Wild, Sean Connery (cameo, uncredited)
Morgan Creek Entertainment, Warner Bros., 143 Minutes (theatrical), 155 Minutes (Extended Edition)
“Locksley! I’ll cut your heart out with a spoon!” – Sheriff of Nottingham, “Then it begins.” – Robin Hood
I remember seeing this in the theater and loving the hell out of it. But I think I’ve only seen it once or twice since then and those viewings were in the ’90s. So I kind of didn’t know what to expect from it, seeing it decades later. And sure, I remembered some of the more iconic moments and lines but that’s about all I remembered.
This film starts out interesting and gives Robin Hood a neat backstory that saw him held prisoner in a dungeon in Jerusalem, far from his home in England. He is able to escape and saves the life of a Moorish warrior in the process. This warrior swears a life debt to Robin and follows him back to England.
Azeem, the Moorish character, was created just for this film but I liked the character a lot and it was cool seeing Morgan Freeman bring him to life while also getting to partake in the action heavy parts of the movie. Also, he paired up well with Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood and I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t have watched these two go on further adventures.
The story is your standard Robin Hood tale for the most part but it takes some liberties, as all interpretations of the legend do. This one also pushes the romance pretty hard between Robin and Marian but honestly, it doesn’t get in the way of the action or the larger story. This version also has a witch character, who gives advice and directions to the Sheriff of Nottingham.
Alan Rickman plays the Sheriff and frankly, it’s one of his best roles. He gets some great lines in this and he came off as very formidable against Robin in their final battle. Rickman turned the role down twice but finally took it when he was told that he’d have the freedom to play the character in the way that he wanted. I think that his influence and creative decisions made the character unique and memorable and it takes a great villain to shape a great hero.
I also like that the Sheriff of Nottingham had Michael Wincott as his main henchman. I’ve dug the hell out of Wincott for as long as I can remember and he was a good addition to this cast.
I also liked Christian Slater in this even though I felt like he was a bit underutilized.
The only truly odd thing in the film is that Kevin Costner, as the legendary British hero Robin Hood, uses his American accent, as opposed to doing a British one. I guess this was decided during production, as there are some scenes where Robin sounds a bit British-y. However, the director thought that it might be too distracting and break the film. I guess the critics of the time felt the opposite, though, as they got really hung up on the American sounding Robin Hood.
While the accent didn’t bother me too much, the running time did. I just thought this was 20-30 minutes too long and there was a lot that could’ve been whittled down. Once Robin gets back to England, early on, it felt like it took awhile for the film to really get going.
I thought that the action was pretty good and the big battles were exciting and hold up well. However, the final swordfight didn’t feel swashbuckling-y enough. I think that the director wanted a more realistic fight but part of Robin’s appeal, at least to me, was his athleticism, playfulness and mastery of the sword. Furthermore, the Sheriff of Nottingham truly gets the best of Robin and the hero only wins due to a distraction and a dagger he had hidden. It just felt kind of meh and cheap.
Still, I did like seeing this again and it was an entertaining experience. Costner was fine as Robin Hood but Rickman stole every scene that they shared.
I found this volume out of the two Best of Robert E. Howard anthologies to be the better one. I figured they’d blow their load in the first one but they really saved some good stories for this volume and there was more diversity in these tales from Howard’s most famous characters and the different genres he dabbled in.
This had great sword and sorcery tales, some swashbuckling, horror and a whole lot of action and adventure!
This book features solid stories with Conan, Kull and Solomon Kane. Each of those characters have a hefty amount of good material to pull from, though.
And sure, my preferences are subjective but the stories here are just ones that resonate with me more.
Also, these can be found elsewhere in other collections and even free online but if you really want to hold a thick, beefy book in your hand and enjoy some of Howard’s best work, this is certainly a good place to start.
Granted, I’d start with volume one but I’m OCD like that.
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