Kill and Kill Again (1981, directed by Ivan Hall)

Martial artist Steve Hunt (James Ryan) is back!

When last we saw Steve, he was defeating a Nazi war criminal in Kill or Be Killed.  In this sequel, James is recruited by Kandy Kane (Anneline Kristel) to rescue Dr. Horatio Kane (John Ramsbottom) from the evil Marduk (Michael Mayer).  Marduk has forced Dr. Kane to develop a drug that allows him to control the minds of anyone who is injected with it.  Marduk wants to put the drug into the world’s water supply but, for now, he is content to control the isolated town of Irontown.

Before Steve can rescue Dr. Kane, he has to put together a crew.  Steve recruits four of his fellow fighters, Hot Dog (Bill Flynn), Gorilla (Ken Gampu), Gypsy Bill (Norman Robinson), and The Fly (Stan Schmidt).  Along with Kandy Kane, the team infiltrates Irontown and faces off against Marduk’s champion fighter, Optimus (Edie Dorie).

If Kill or Be Killed owed a lot to Enter the Dragon, Kill and Kill Again is more of a martial arts-themed take on Mission: Impossible.  Marduk, with his fake beard and his name that makes him sound like a cartoon dog, is never an intimidating villain and it turns out that it is laughably easy to defeat him.  Instead, the movie’s emphasis is on Steve putting together his team and everyone playing their part to free the people of Irontown.  Kill or be Killed‘s Olga is nowhere to be seen as Steve falls for Kandy Kane.

Unfortunately, the fights are pretty boring this time around and James Ryan doesn’t really have the screen presence to be a believable James Bond or Ethan Hunt-style secret agent.  Especially when compared to the relatively serious Kill Or Be Killed, there is a good deal of broad comedy in Kill and Kill Again, which makes it difficult to any of Marduk’s plans seriously.  The best action films convince you that only the hero has what it takes to defeat the villain but Marduk is such a weak bad guy that anyone could defeat him.  Even if Steve and the crew hadn’t shown up at Iron Town, Marduk probably would have defeated himself in just a few more months.

Originally, there was supposed to be a third film about the adventures of Steve Hunt but Film Ventures, the company behind Kill and Kill Again, went bankrupt before filming could being.  Steve Hunt’s adventures came to an end but the first two Kill films will live forever.

Retro Television Reviews: The Love Boat 2.13 “El Kid/The Last Hundred Bucks/Isosceles Triangle”

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Wednesdays, I will be reviewing the original Love Boat, which aired on ABC from 1977 to 1986!  The series can be streamed on Paramount Plus!

Welcome aboard!  Get ready for tonal whiplash on this week’s episode of The Love Boat!

Episode 2.13 “El Kid/The Last Hundred Bucks/Isosceles Triangle”

(Dir by Allen Baron, originally aired on December 9th, 1978)

Wes (David Madden) and Renee Larson (Dena Dietrich) are happy to be setting sail with their friend and business partner, April (Rue McClanahan).  They’re even more excited when the widowed April meets Van Milner (Dabney Coleman), a recently divorced businessman.  Not only is April falling in love with Van but it also appears that Van might even be willing to join the board of April’s hospital and invest some of his money into fixing the place up.  Except, of course, Van lost his job over a year ago and he really doesn’t have that much money left.  April is crestfallen to discover that Van is not the wealthy man that she believed him to be.  Was he just romancing her for her money?  When Van wins a few thousand dollars at the craps table, he donates the money to the hospital and April realizes that he was being honest about his feelings towards her.

This was a pretty predictable story and April was way too quick to forgive Van for his dishonesty but it was interesting to see an actor like Dabney Coleman, someone who brought a naturally cynical edge to any character that he played, on a show like The Love Boat.  As played by Coleman, Van seemed to be suffering from very real inner pain.  For once, the emotional drama on The Love Boat felt, if not quite real, then at least credible.

Speaking of pain, that’s what Larry (Robert Urich) and Cybill Hartman (Heather Menzies) had waiting for them when they took the Love Boat to Mexico so they could adopt a baby.  Upon arriving at the local orphanage, they were told that the mother of their baby had changed her mind and would not be giving up her baby after all.  Instead, Larry and Cybill left with 12 year-old Pepito (Gabriel Melgar), a little brat who steals Larry’s watch and sells it on the boat.  When Larry gets upset, Pepito grabs an inflatable lifeboat and prepares to jump overboard.  Fortunately, Larry and Cybill talk him out of it and he agrees to be their son and to stop stealing stuff.  This was an annoying story, largely because Pepito was so whiny.  It was hard not to feel that Larry and Cybill deserved better than having to raise Pepito.

Finally, Julie’s friend, Karen Maynard (Connie Stevens), boards the boat and both Captain Stubing and Doc Bricker spend the entire voyage pursuing her because it’s not like the Captain and the ship’s doctor would actually be expected do their job while the ship is floating in the middle of the ocean.  Gopher, Ike, and Julie take bets on who Karen will choose but, in the end, Karen chooses neither because both Doc and Stubing decide to respect the other’s feelings and stop pursuing Karen.  This whole storyline was silly because there was really no doubt about who Karen would have picked.  Seriously, anyone who is a passenger on a cruise is automatically going to fall for the captain because the captain is the most powerful person on the boat.  But, on the plus side, the storyline showed off the chemistry between all of the show’s regulars.  It was likable, even if it never quite felt plausible.

This was an episode about which I had mixed feelings.  The three storylines were so tonally dissimilar that they didn’t really seem that they all should have been happening on the same cruise.  Plus, Pepito was the most obnoxious orphan since the kids on One World.  I’m glad things worked out for Dabney Coleman, though.

Film Review: M3GAN (dir by Gerald Johnstone)

Gemma (Allison Williams) is a roboticist who works for America’s most successful Seattle-based toy company, Funki.  Funki is the company behind the Purrpetual Pets, the really annoying Furby rip-offs that every child wants to have.  Gemma has developed a child-sized humanoid robot that she calls M3GAN.  She thinks that it could be the new big toy but her boss, David (Ronny Chieng), disagrees.  David says to stick with what works and develop a new Purrpetual Pet.

While Gemma is trying not to lose her job, she also has to deal with a new arrival in her home.  Following the tragic deaths of her parents and the destruction of her Purrpetual Pet, Gemma’s eight year-old niece moves in with her.  From the minute that Cady (Violet McGraw) shows up, things are awkward.  Gemma is more comfortable dealing with technology than with other humans.  When Cady attempts to play with a toy on Gemma’s bookshelf, Gemma quickly explains that it’s not a toy.  “It’s a collectible.”  In fact, it’s not until Gemma introduces Cady to M3GAN (played by Amie Donald with Jenna Davis providing her voice) that Cady finally starts to become comfortable in her new home.  M3GAN is the friend, older sister, and maternal figure that Cady is desperately looking for.  And even though Gemma knows that M3GAN is still being developed and could possibly malfunction, Gemma is kind of happy that Cady finally has someone other than Gemma to look after her.

And, of course, M3Gan is happy too.  M3GAN proves to not only be a quick learner but she also takes her duty to look after Cady very seriously.  When the neighbor’s dog bites Cady, the dog vanishes shortly afterward.  When the neighbor suggests that either Cady or Gemma had something to do with the dog’s disappearance, the neighbor ends up getting attacked in her garage.  When a bully tries to push Cady around before then attacking M3GAN, M3GAN reacts by ripping off his ear.  It may seem like it’s good to have M3GAN on your side but what about when M3GAN decides that Gemma isn’t doing a good enough job raising Cady?  What about when M3GAN herself starts to suspect that Cady needs to be disciplined?

M3GAN came out in January and it was, to the surprise of many, the first big critical and commercial success of 2023.  Some of that, of course, is because there really wasn’t much competition back in January.  Audiences that didn’t want to rewatch the Avatar or Black Panther sequels really didn’t have many other options other than M3GAN and Plane.

That said, M3GAN is an undeniably effective mix of satire and horror.  It works precisely because it captures what we all secretly fear, that AI is eventually going to kill us.  M3GAN may look adorable and she gets to show off some pretty good dance moves towards the end of the film but she’ll kill anyone who gets on her nerves and, as both Gemma and Cady find out, it’s pretty much impossible to turn her off.  It’s not just that M3GAN replaces Gemma as Cady’s primary caregiver.  It’s that the viewer knows that it’s totally possible that there’s an army of M3GANs out there, waiting to replace all of us.  At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if, in the future, at least 50% of the reviewers over on Rotten Tomatoes will actually be advanced AIs, programmed to overpraise studio productions while only giving negative reviews to films that don’t necessarily need good reviews to sell tickets.

M3GAN works as both a satire and a horror flick.  The movie opens with a macabre  Purrpetual Pet commercial that’s cringey specifically because it feels so accurate.  As brought to life by Amie Donald and Jenna Davis, M3GAN is a wonderfully creepy character who is occasionally made sympathetic by the fact that, much like HAL in 2001 and the robots in Creation of the Humanoids, M3GAN seems to have more genuine feelings than the humans around her.  Indeed, with the exception of Violet McGraw’s Cady, there are no sympathetic human characters.  Gemma, for instance, is a very familiar type, someone who knows how to write code but who has no idea how to relate to anyone on an actual emotional level.  In many ways, her relationship with Cady is just as a manipulative and destructive as M3GAN’s.

M3GAN is a strong movie up until the final 20 minutes, when M3GAN suddenly starts to target people who she really doesn’t have any reason to go after.  But, overall, it’s an effective look at the future that we may have waiting for us.

Music Video of the Day: Ain’t No Sunshine, covered by DMX (2001, dir by Hype Williams)

This song and most of the footage in this video was taken from a Steven Seagal movie.  Exit Wounds was apparently Seagal’s last big studio film.  Both the song and the video make Seagal look cooler than he’s ever looked in any of his films but obviously, a lot of that is due to the power of DMX’s vocals.  DMX could make anything seem powerful.