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Death Wish

Death Kiss

franchisebannerindex.jpgDeath Kiss may have flickered on my radar a year ago but I forgot all about it and didn’t really notice it until I was pretty much done with this series. Death Kiss is a homage to the Bronson films of the 70’s, particularity the Death Wish films, and features a gimmick like no other.  A lookalike, standing in for Bronson.

The film opens with a very young looking Charles Bronson (younger now than he looked in most of the the Death Wish films, three and on) emerging out of the dark to patronize a pimp. He’s trafficking in underage girls and our Bronson lookalike takes him down with a quick pistol whipping. The blood flies quickly – and I note that it’s bloodier than what we used to see in the dearth wish films actually.

The Bronson lookalike is convincing until he opens his mouth and speaks to the dubbed dialogue. I almost wonder if they would’ve been better off just using the actual actor’s normal voice – even if it’s nothing like Bronson. After all we know that’s not actually images3Chuck walking on the screen. The look sometimes feels out of lace as well. While I’m sure his wardrobe was meant to be fashion neutral, it’s all comes off  as kind of vintage in a movie where all the other characters, settings, filters and cinematography are extremely 2018.

It’s honestly exactly the sort of film somebody would make if they were trying to make something LIKE a Death Wish film. It’s way closer than that awful “A Daughters Revenge” film I talked about last week.  It hits all the right elements – street gangs, big guns, it even attempt social commentary using Daniel images4.jpgBaldwin as a radio announcer (And I wonder how much of this was inspired by the media segments in the Death Wish remake) to deliver its anti-crime message. But it’s also ham fisted, and the filmmakers fail to capture the heart of the Bronson films.

It sounds like I’m down on this film, and I’m not necessarily… I’m down on what this film wanted to be. It’s a novelty piece rather than a fun low-budget action film. For a micro budget flick like this, the action and violence are really well done – it’s fun, there’s even some nostalgia seeing a young Bronson here, But index2it’s melancholy, because the lookalike, who’s trying his hardest, isn’t the talent Charles Bronson actually was. Bronson was a man with range and acting chops. This guy fires guns really well, but his overdubbed dialogue fails to move me.

This is a cool movie. Catch it where you can. Hopefully as a rental – I’m not convinced it’s worth the cost of the Blu-ray or iTunes download, but it is definitely worth seeing.


Death Wish : Another Beginning

franchisebanner300px-DW6cWhat the actual eff.

No, I mean it. While I was doing research on this series I happened across a mention of a film titled “Death Wish : Another Beginning” with a beautiful cover and a VERY vague description that tenuiously links it to the Death Wish series.

WORLD PREMIERE on DVD

THE MAKER OF DEATHWISH 5 IS BACK

Allan A. Goldstein presents a MARC VORLANDER FILM

Experience the world of director Marc Vorlander for the first time.

Immerse yourself in a bizarre world of arthouse, action and provocation.

No movie is like this !!!”

I couldn’t find this thing anywhere. After more searching (and more expense that I deathwishwant to admit) I managed to get a copy shipped to me from Germany. I grabbed my region free player and fired it up.

I don’t understand what this thing is.

It starts off with an interview with Allan Golstein who is indeed the producer of the classic films. He chats about the death wish movies for a bit and then we move into what passes for a story. We get a few shot-on-video segments of sorta actors pretending to be cops looking for the Vigilante and a girl who claims (in the last scenes) to be his daughter. (Don’t read too much into that description. It’s more detailed than the actual segments). These skits, sloppily shot with production values lower than the sketchiest porn videos, serve as bookends for long music video presentations that have little or nothing to do with SIGNALS_X.pngthe narrative.

This thing is garbage. Don’t let the slick looking packaging fool you – this video is worse than amateur quality. My best guess is that it was done to be a promotional vehicle to the band who’s CD is included (as a bonus! Ugh.). It’s got nothing to do with the Death Wish series and I have to wonder if Goldman is even aware of it.

The DVD appears to only have been released in Germany and perhaps a few European backwaters. Feel free to avoid it. If you’re desperate to see it, contact me. I’ll give you a copy. I plan on pirating the crap out of this trash.


Death Game

franchisebannerMV5BMTM0MTAwNTUwM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNTYxMzAwMQ@@._V1_.jpgI know it’s not strictly a death wish film – but Death Game actually has a right to be included in the series as this film did start off life as Death Wish six; the new vigilante . I’m not sure how much of the DNA from that script that remains, I can’t find anything else out about it… But, after Canon folded, Mannerheim rolled Death Wish six into this. The movie starts out with the “new Canon” logo. New Canon? What the actual heck?

The credits are annoyingly captured freeze frames and have a basketball game which set up the team star player being quoted by the mob. The coach tries to intervene in the players personal life and gets beaten up for his troubles. Interestingly enough, the Masters house appears to be the same one used in deathwish5 . If it’s not, as exterior sure you look the same. Inside, Billy Dragos it’s on the throne of swords, long before Game of thrones was created. He meets with yours and Ryan resemble more closely at the Doug Koller death which movies then the masters of the later ones.

That has finally arrived at the coaches house wearing nylon masks – the least effective nylon mask at that! Still have this weird hybrid mobster in the street… they’re after the coaches kit, but luckily the most precious pug ever is protecting him and all they manage to do is murder the dog.

index.jpgIt is just a shot across the bow go as we find ourselves in more familiar death wish territory with an assault on the wife about halfway through the film. It’s an ugly one and the catalyst to buy and reset the coach off on his vengeful killing spree. Kind of any help, he’s really only going after Billy Drago and his guns – and those mobsters shoot like storm troopers… Automatic weapons that can’t hit a thing! It culminates in to do that at the end and is basketball and 18 like slo-mo game win. At the end of the day, it’s half deathwish and it’s easy to see why this didn’t go anywhere.


Death Sentence : The Novel

franchisebannerindexSo I mentioned last month that the Death Wish franchise is actually based off of books. Death Sentence is the second book in the series, but because we just looked at the movie of the same name, it’s fresh on our minds. The name is of course, pretty much where the similarities end.

Written by Brian Garfield, the author of the original Death Wish book. He was unhappy with the way the original movie ended, so he wrote his own sequel a year later. In many ways, it seems like he’s trying to work out his own second amendment issues in these novels and more than once, you get a whiff of cognitive dissonance here.

While technically a follow up to the novel, in many ways it reads a spin-off to the film. In either way, it’s well done. This feels less like a sequel and more like a second chapter, or third act. Indeed, it almost immediately feels like what I always expected a Death Wish story to be.

After the events in New York, Paul has moved to Chicago, but it hasn’t stopped his vigilante urges. Both the cops and the criminal element soon notice that the Vigilante has moved and the manhunt begins. Along the way, Paul falls in love again but soon realizes he must choose between being the vigilante or having a life with this woman. And even while the street crime rate drops, things are complicated further when copycat killers begin to emerge.

This is a fascinating read, with greater detail about the Vigilatne’s methods. We explore how he acquires guns, hides then and stalks. We get greater insight to the politics in the police department and how they want to handle it, and in general, both pro and anti gun sentiments are handled well (though Garfield makes his leanings clear).

It’s a harder book to find these days. Death Wish was reprinted in time for the remake, but this book didn’t get the same treatment (I managed to snag a kindle version using a gift card from a costume contest last year). It’s actually the superior of the two Death Wish Novels and worth hunting down.


Death Sentance

franchisebannerindexI bet you didn’t know that James Wan directed a Death Wish film did you?

Actually, that takes some explaining.

You see, there’s actually a sequel to the Death Wish book. The author, Brian Garfield, wasn’t entirely happy with the way the film turned out and wrote Death Sentance to rebut it and continue Paul’s story himself. 32 years later, there’s a film adaption (I know. I don’t get it either).
This is actually a pretty impressive cast. I mean Kevin Bacon is fine, and James Wan is always the mark of quality. Fun to see Aiesha Taylor from Who’s Line  (Although, Man does she look a lot different than usual! That severe pullback hair doo…)but you show me John Goodman I am on board! Goodman is brilliant by the way, as the gang indexmentor – it’s a bizarre performance and totally unlike anything else I’ve seen him do before. I am consistently in awe of this man’s range.

Interesting, for the first time the main characters is accountant  (Which was Paul’s profession in the novel, not architect) though he still hasn’t got the same name from the book.

We’re well into the movie when we get to our tragedy. Using the old flashing-headlights-initiation-killing urban legend is a really interesting way of updating for the 21 st century. I’m glad that we are going up against street thugs once again. After a few films of the vigilante going out to the mafia, I like that we’re going back to basics. Death Sentance has created a street gang with all the charisma and index4distinctive look from the first Death Wish films, well making them distinctly modern.

What’s interesting is Kevin Bacon succeeds everywhere that Bruce Willis failed for me. I completely buy his internal conflict, how difficult it is for him to begin his revenge. I totally accept his reluctance and clumsiness with his weapon (indeed, the early kills are almost accidental) and it makes sense because this is a revenge drama and not an action like the 2018 Death Wish was. It’s important to remember this because it doesn’t move fast like an action film does, or like a Death Wish film does. There is a great deal more attention paid to the family dynamics – with the family member who has been killed, and Bacon really sells it in one of the best performances I’ve ever seen from him. When we had a home invasion, I’d swear we’re at the end of the third act when in actuality it’s only the index5second and the third act is just beginning.

It’s that last 30 minutes, and I kind of wish that it had come earlier. But come back to the original premise – this really isn’t a action movie, it’s a revenge drama. Sure there are some action elements, but that’s not the thrust of the film.

It’s worth waiting for though, very much worthy of the Death Wish legacy. By the way, fans of The Crow are going to notice A great deal of influence from that here too. Someone needs to get James Wan on that reboot Because this film convinces me he’s the man for that job.

There is a greater sense of finality in this film, something that I never truly feel from the Death Wish movies. That may actually make it the most fitting way to end this marathon. I’m glad I saw it, I’m glad I saw all of them. It was long overdue.

Aw crap. What do you mean I didn’t see ALL of them? and why are you speaking in German? (*sigh* We’ll be back with more)


Death Wish : The Novel

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garfield-deathwishDid anyone else here realize that the original Charles Bronson film was based off a novel? I sure didn’t. But the good news is that the release of the remake has also led to the novel getting reprinted in hardcover, and that makes it mercifully simple to find. Not so much with it’s sequel “Death Sentence”, but I’m working on that one.

I was surprised as to how much of the basic plot from the Death Wish novel made it into the film. It’s in many ways the same story, so what I really want to highlight are the differences.

We see a great deal more of the son-in-law in the book. He’s a bit of a weasel but he’s there to serve as a sounding board. He embodies the liberal archetype this book sets as the standard, even as Paul swings ever so slightly to the right. The assault on the wife and daughter are never described in detail. The film is far more lurid in it’s portrayal – the book goes out of it’s way to insist there was no rape. I kind of appreciate that. Still, we get a LOT more of Paul’s inner monologue as he begins his descent into violence. His violence is more random, and there’s just as much of it as we see in the movie. The ending is very different. Unresolved but very interesting.

Reading this, I can see where the film gets it’s social messaging from. It’s very heavy handed here, and while the film seems balanced, the author of the novel has definitely chosen a side on the left wing – which is odd because his hero is on the 493661opposite end of his philosophy, causing an interesting cognitive dissonance.

Like the film, it moves slow. Most of the book is about getting over the tragedy of Paul losing his wife and daughter, and the madness of feeling alone. It absolutely draws you in and compels you. By the time we hit that last quarter of the novel where the shooting starts, it feels almost like we’ve got a completely different book in our hands.

I’m conflicted as to what is superior – the film or the book. The intellectual and literary snob in me wants to say the book, and yet the film is comfort food – not only is it familiar, there’s things it just does better. Do yourself a favor and check both the original film and this novel out from the Library so you can compare and contrast for yourself.


Death Wish 2018

franchisebannerDeath-Wish-2017-movie-posterI think the problem is Bruce Willis. I love Bruce Willis. He’s a tough guy and a great action star… and I’m not sure that’s what this film really requires. Stay with me on this.

This is an interesting new take on the whole Death Wish series. I’m glad they went with a diffrent profession (doctor instead of an Architect) and that they went with a very up-to-date look. On paper, Willis looks perfect for this role. He’s every bit the action star that Charles Bronson was and he’s about as long in tooth as we remember Bronson being – especially in the late series sequels. But Bronson had a quiet toughness. He could sit in a living room or work on a drawing and be at ease. Bruce Willis oozes tough guy in all his movements. I have a hard time buying those action star fists as the healing hands of a doctor. I have a hard time buying the clumsiness with a gun, or the reluctance to use it.

Don’t get me wrong, when we get into the later confident action sequences, he’s in perfect form. It’s just a haul trying to get him there. I admit I kind of dig the way the hoodie has replaced that knit thermal hat Bronson wore in two.

Death WishIt’s funny, I would have expected a lot more grit and grain here. Eli Roth is a grindhouse aficionado and I was really expecting an exploitation movie. I suppose that’s a much more difficult proposition in 2018. This is a slickly packaged almost- revenge/action film. We (thankfully) lack the rape  and the death of  the wife seems less brutal. Roth does manage to stick in some gore though – a few messy set pieces that are more extreme than you would normally find in an action film. I’m grateful for that though I wish we’d see a little more kinetic over-the-top action.

All in all, it’s not a bad film. It’s definitely a remake of the film and feels like it has less than ever to do with the original novel. It’s probably as good as any of the late series sequels and I would hope that it’ll drum up some interest in classic Bronson. Besides, you can’t tell me it isn’t pretty cool to see the nod to the original in the way this ends!

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Death Wish V : The Face of Death

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images.jpgMan, that’s some ominous music – and there is no Canon logo here. None of this bodes well.

I’ve got to be honest, I didn’t even know this one existed. And with this kind beginning, it’s very different tone. I’m a little perplexed at what Bronson’s doing at a fashion show… It doesn’t quite read correctly. Still it’s a very 90s sort of intro and look.

Bronson is finally beginning to show his age as well. While in previous films he could pass for 40, in this one he is looking every bit of man in his late 60s and early 70s. It’s a problem, and one that I would usually dismiss… but the truth is the lines on his face are so deep that just a can of hair dye wouldn’t have been enough to make him look younger. The fact that he issurrounded by much younger actors brings their problem into even sharper focus.

images2.jpgOf course Bronson should know better than to ever propose to anyone because it means she is immediately going to be assaulted – though to be fair he probably couldn’t have foreseen her getting her face smashed into a mirror by a transvestite in the ladies room. Like I said, things feel different this time – even that moment where he snaps the chamber back into his vigilante gun, it’s framed differently, almost heroically. Indeed, when I saw the way they were lighting both the previous and following scenes with that dramatic blue lighting – I knew I was in a comic book.

The lawyers, headed by Saul Rubinek, are practically cartoons and the mafiosos are standard issue bad guys with big guns and lots of bullets. Also, don’t forget the obvious stunt men in bad wigs. Hint if the stunt man has his full face on display, you images3don’t want to show the stunt in slow motion!

Despite all this, it’s the best looking  of all the Death Wish films. It’s nicely shot, on great looking sets. A bit of a drag now that Bronson doesn’t start killing people until literally the halfway point of the film. In fact, for an action film it’s actually quite slow. And then, once Bronson finally starts taking the law into his own hands, he’s not shooting! He is using new and innovative ways of dispatching his enemies but that’s not what the deathwish films are all about is it? Acorrding to Brnson’s Loose, he’d begun to tire of the same old thing and really wanted more interesting kills and found a director who agreed with him.  It’s weird, even when he does use a gun, it’s not a gunshot that usually kills the bad guy – they fall into a vat of acid or ground up or some other ridiculous whammy. All around it’s just a very different kind of action from what we’ve seen in this series, and I can’t help but wonder if this didn’t contribute to it being a box office failure.

There’s more to it than that of course, this movie was released in 1994, after the death of the over-the-top action film (in my opinion, the last action hero signals the end of that era – and that film was released in 1993). Indeed, Stallone and index.jpgSchwarzenegger were both trying their hands at comedies, seeing the decline of the action genre. This, combined with a Bronson that genuinely looks too old for the role, then budget, and practically no publicity (I don’t remember seeing a single commercial for this movie – and in 1994 I would have been just old enough to go see it by myself), it’s no wonder the film sunk. It’s not a bad movie in of itself, but it’s an odd sequel and definite direct to video fodder.

So, that wraps up the Deathwish series doesn’t it?

Wait, what do you mean there’s one more film?


Death Wish 4 : The Crackdown

franchisebanner3120833-lSomehow, right from the start, this feels like a Canon film. I don’t know if it’s the low angle, or the leather jacket on Bronson, but this movie definitely want’s you to know exactly what kind of film it is as Bronson guns down three men attacking a helpless woman.

Somehow Paul Kersey has a new family here – and let’s be honest. It’s only ten minuets in and I already know this is going to end badly for them. Sure enough, not even five minuets later the daughter is dead.

Because it’s the end of the 80’s and we’re firmly in formula mode now, this becomes “The Vigilante vs. Drug Dealers”! I kind of liked it better when the bad guys were leather clad punks, but any port in a storm. Bonus points for one of the dealers being Star Trek Voyager’s Tim Russ, not to mention that Danny Trejo’s in this thing as well (two more guys I’ve met over the years!).

JesseIt feels like the Punisher more than ever to me. The idea of the Vigilante being hired by a rich patron to wipe out the criminal element. It’s very reminiscent of the Punisher’s “Circle of Blood” storyline. Thre’s stalking, sneaking around and false names.  The similarity is only enhanced by the fact that this time around, the Vigilante is going after the mob.

Its interesting to see the police investigation back and trying to find the Vigilante. Even the Architecture background of Paul Kersey is given some lip service, though his identity is still very much more wrapped up in being the vigilante than being an artist.

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I can’t help but notice that jokes are starting to get attached to increasingly outrageous kills. “I wish he’d just drop dead!” as a gangster plummets from his apartment building window and plows into a windshield.

It’s one of the more interesting sequels though because just when you think it’s over, there’s a double cross twist waiting to spring. It’s a nice bit of innovation to keep the series fresh. In fact, it’s really got my interest up for the next one.

 


Death Wish 3

franchisebanner220px-Death_wish_threeAh old Canon films. That familiar logo and the sign of quality as we roll into a gray New York on the bus and finally settle in an abandoned slum inhabited by leather clad punks. Man, it’s about as 80’s as you can get. Also, what is Bill from Bill and Ted’s Excellent adventure doing beating up old men for protection money?

It’s a different kind of start, with the police on Bronson’s case immediately, falsely arresting him and treating us to a jail scene in the first act where he battles an articulate  punk that resembles the Kergan from Highlander.

Once Bronson has the blessing of the cops, it’s time to get things started. This film in articular feels more formulaic. We have drug pushing street punks. We know as soon as a girlfriend shows up, she’s going to die. We have an older male mentor. We have revenge for a bit player. A heretofore never-mentioned “old friend” murdered in the first five minuets. It’s all very convenient and formula driven, right up to the swelling music as Bronson looks over his dead friends war medals. The F vlcsnap-2018-08-24-15h01m51s656bombs have increased too.

Seriously though. I’m having a difficult time taking Alex Winter seriously as he tries to be hard.

One of the things this film really gives us though, is a true villian. In previous films, the violence has been more random, and the gangsters scattered; on the run. This time with Tony Spiridakis, we have a villian – a face to the gang. It makes sense too, because t here’s less for us to explre with Paul Kersey in this one. Here, his identity is entirely “The Vigilante”.  We’re not even hiding it anymore. There’s no Architect here. There’s no police investigation or mystery, MV5BZDJhODZkOTYtYTRiOS00YTMyLTlkMmUtM2Q1NTliMTEwODc5XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjUyNDk2ODc@._V1_this is The Vilgilante vs. the gangs and that’s it. Automatic weapons and big guns are the order of the day and the body count is at it’s highest.

A couple other notable bit players here. I spotted Ricco Ross. He”s one of these guys I see popping up from time to time – one of the grunts in Aliens, a cop in Wishmaster, and a gangster here.  Barbie Wilde (the female cenobite from Hellraiser 2) is in here too. It’s during her punk days and I can’t imagine that look was much of a stretch! Finally, Marina Sirtis from Star Trek the Next Generation shows up as well. She has frizzy hair, a meek personality and is pretty much just a walking prop in this film but it’s an vlcsnap-2018-08-24-15h45m30s302interesting curiosity. Fun fact. I’ve met all three of these people.

Because we’re firmly in the action formula, it’s the biggest, most explosive finale yet and by the end, Bronson’s not alone. Even the citizens of the slum are getting in on the act as the graffitied up neighborhood turns into a war zone.

It leads me to wonder…where do we go from here?


Death Wish 2

franchisebanner9344256010644It’s a quick and efficient recap that gets us directly into the film and moves us to this installments atrocity. Paul Kersey is the most unlucky man ever with the same kind of assault happening to his housekeeper in Chicago that happened in New York. After his daughter is kidnapped and dies, the decent into violence is swift, and it almost feels like we race through the first act.

It feels good though. We see him prep and there’s the hat….that knit cap I was completely missing in the first film. It’s a new city and a different gun, but Bronson  slips back into the role of vigilante easily and it fits him like a glove.

Hang on. Is that Lawrence Fishbourne??? OMG it is! The pink sunglasses threw me off. (And I remember that mayor or commissioner guy from an episode of the Twilight zone) I mean there’s been volumes written about Jeff Goldbulm in the first one, but I don’t 4ccd2af28ac5fbf26ba885b44b44efbathink I actually knew about Fishbourne in this one! It’s very strange to see him dance. It’s also strange to see his brains come out his nose when he gets shot in the face.

I was surprised to see Vincent Gardenia as the cop from the last film show up here (even more surprised to see him buy it in the beginning of  the third act). It didn’t seem like the sort of sequel that really requires  all of the old cast show up for an encore – after all, it’s a diffrent actress playing the daughter and no other alumni show up.

Death-Wish-II-645x370At times, LA feels like the wrong setting for this. Not as grimy as New York. Even when they find sufficiently seedy areas  for action, it’s slicker than I remember with bigger guns and smoother action. Indeed, it makes for almost a textbook sequel. Bigger and louder than the first. More action, more bullets and everything I could ask from a Death Wish film.

Except he asks the girlfriend to marry him at the end. What’s he doing? He just signed that poor woman’s death warrant! Run Jill Ireland! RUN!

 

 


Death Wish 1975

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v1.bTsxMTI5MTA2NjtqOzE3ODYwOzEyMDA7MTUzNjsyMDQ4Even at the beginning, I get that familiar feeling of the Punisher in plainclothes. Bronson sells it well, but it’s really Bronson that I want to focus on.

As a kid watching these movies, I never realized that Bronson had such range. This is more than a gun toting action star (though he’s that too). He’s able to sell concern and grief. He’s able to convey a complete attitude change after he begins the killing spree.

Holy crap. Bronson’s a GOOD actor!

The politics of the film were lost on me at an early age. It’s more than just a Bernie Goetz rip off (Under thirty fives may have to look that one up). There’s an honest, balanced discussion going on here about guns and crime (Taking a cue fro  the book). I think either side could see themselves represented here…indeed it may even be more balanced than the novel. Someone was trying to do more than just create an exploitation film here (But it is that too). It makes the remake feel a little vapid and empty. Then again, that might be an indewxunfair comparison. I really want to see how everything holds up to the late series sequels.

I have to wonder if it’s worthy of being the sacred cow some people elevate it as. It’s a good movie, but not great cinema. I think it may have found it’s best destiny in reruns on late night television, and honestly….I wish it’d make a return to those screens.

 


Death Wish introduction

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7f_deathwishoriginalvsremake00I remember catching a lot of these on UHF channel 43 during a lot of nights when I was about jr. high age. My reaction was “It’s the Punisher!”. Maybe the Punisher in plainclothes. The 70’s look probably turned me off a bit and I wasn’t completely sold on Bronson as an action star (Give me a break. I was a kid). I remember kind of liking them, but not being particularly obsessed.

Because I remember them fondly, but not fervently, I wasn’t bothered when the remake was announced. Quite frankly, it’s been a LONG time since we had any Death Wish. Bronson is dead and these were never high art to begin with. Being one step above the grindhouse fare, Eli Roth sounded like a good choice and all around it seems like it’s time for me to dive into this series again, moreover it’s time for me to exlore the source material. I’m interested in what I’ll find and I think I’ll start off with the remake so I can go in unbiased. See you soon!