Film Review: Rambo III (1988)

Also known as: Rambo: First Blood Part III (Malaysia)
Release Date: May 25th, 1988
Directed by: Peter MacDonald
Written by: Sylvester Stallone, Sheldon Lettich
Based on: character by David Morrell
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Richard Crenna, Kurtwood Smith, Marc de Jonge

Carolco Pictures, TriStar Pictures, 102 Minutes, 87 Minutes (heavily cut VHS version)

Review:

“Yeah, well, there won’t be a victory! Every day, your war machines lose ground to a bunch of poorly-armed, poorly-equipped freedom fighters! The fact is that you underestimated your competition. If you’d studied your history, you’d know that these people have never given up to anyone. They’d rather die, than be slaves to an invading army. You can’t defeat a people like that. We tried! We already had our Vietnam! Now you’re gonna have yours!” – Colonel Trautman

While I will love any Rambo movie by default, there are some that aren’t as good as others. From memory, this one was my least favorite but I also hadn’t seen it in about fifteen years. Now that I’ve seen it again, it is pretty damn awesome even if it is the worst of the original trilogy of films. But out of the three, someone had to lose.

That being said, it is a damn solid ’80s action movie that is unapologetic, out to splatter the balls of lesser men and just a great conclusion to the Rambo story arc. Well, that is until we were allowed to check in on him twenty years later with 2008’s Rambo, a film no one ever really anticipated, as Hollywood wasn’t resurrecting everything under the sun by that point.

Anyway, this movie shows us that John Rambo has been living in Thailand where he is a pit fighter that whips ass for money. Granted, he gives the money to the nice monks that let him live in their monastery, where he also does some handyman work. Colonel Trautman then shows up with a new mission that will help free a region of Afghanistan from a Soviet tyrant who is pretty damn sadistic.

After September 11th, 2001, this plot was looked at as somewhat controversial, as Rambo aided the mujahideen, a group that was associated with Osama bin Laden in the real world. The ending of the film even had a blurb of text that said the film was dedicated to “…the brave mujahideen fighters of Afghanistan.” Since 2001, the film has been altered to say that it’s dedicated to the “…gallant people of Afghanistan.”

Apart from that issue, which really isn’t an issue when you consider the history of the United States, the Soviet Union and the politics of the Soviet-Afghan War, this is one badass movie. In fact, once Rambo gets going in this flick, he is a killing machine and the action only stops long enough to give you a breather a few times.

My only real gripe about the film is that it takes too long to really get to the good stuff. There is a great action sequence early on, which sees the Soviets in a Hind-D helicopter attack an Afghan buzkashi match but after that, there is a lot of talk, planning and scenes of Trautman (and later Rambo) in Soviet custody. The film isn’t overly slow in the first two acts but they probably could’ve lobbed off ten or fifteen minutes and made it flow at a better pace.

Out of the original three films, however, this has, hands down, the best climax. We get to see Rambo, driving a tank, play a game of chicken with the Soviet Hind-D helicopter. It’s fucking glorious and is one of the most masculine moments in the history of cinema. While the final sequence here doesn’t beat out the final sequence of Death Wish 3, it has made me develop a theory that the big finale of the third film in action franchises will always be tremendous. Ignore Lethal Weapon 3, though, otherwise it destroys my theory like a balsa wood house in a fire… like the one in the final fight in Lethal Weapon 3.

Rambo III is a spectacular action flick, a product of its time (a great time, mind you) and it stars one of the best actors of the action genre, in his prime, playing his second greatest character. Seriously, what’s not to love, here?

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: the other Rambo movies, as well as other ’80s and early ’90s Stallone movies.

Comic Review: Wolverine: Weapon X

Published: 1991
Written by: Barry Windsor-Smith
Art by: Barry Windsor-Smith

Marvel Comics, 148 Pages

Review:

From issues 72 through 84 of Marvel Comics Presents, the world was given one of the greatest comic character origin stories ever put to paper. In fact, it may be the best, as it is an absolute masterpiece of visual storytelling.

This is a story that has since been told in cartoons, live action movies and countless other mediums that have featured the Wolverine character. None of them, however, quite capture the true horror of the story. And that’s really what this is at it’s core: horror.

It starts with a younger Wolverine being beaten and abducted. He’s taken to a lab where he is experimented on and ultimately, gets his indestructible adamantium skeleton and claws.

It’s the long painful process that is center stage in the story. Wolverine is poked, prodded and has his body filled with molten metal, as his rapid healing power keeps him alive through all of it. The evil scientists strip away his mind but eventually, Wolverine escapes, and attacks his captors like a wild animal.

There are a few twists to the plot but I won’t spoil any of that.

At the time, this may have been the darkest story ever to be published by Marvel. It was intense, incredibly fucked up but it was also perfect, which is due to the great Barry Windsor-Smith, who wrote a stupendous story and illustrated some the best work in his legendary career.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: other Wolverine solo stories from the late ’80s into the early ’90s.

Film Review: Secret Agent Super Dragon (1966)

Also known as: New York Calling Superdragon (informal English title)
Release Date: February 17th, 1966 (Italy)
Directed by: Giorgio Ferroni (as Calvin Jackson Padget)
Written by: Giorgio Ferroni (as Calvin Jackson Padget), Remigio Del Grosso, Bill Coleman, Mike Mitchell
Music by: Benedetto Ghiglia
Cast: Ray Danton, Marisa Mell

Films Borderie, Fono Roma, Gloria-Film GmbH, 95 Minutes

Review:

Secret Agent Super Dragon is just one of several attempts of the Italians trying to capitalize off of the James Bond phenomena. It’s a film that fails in just about every way but luckily for us, it was so bad that it was showcased on an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

This is one of those films that is unintentionally funny. It’s not officially a comedy but some of the stuff in it is so ridiculous that it plays like parody in parts.

The story is flimsy but that could also be due to a bad English language dub. But films like this get a lot lost in translation so it’s hard to say if there are actual details left out and if the really atrocious dialogue is just a really atrocious translation.

Still, the movie looks bad. It’s poorly shot, badly lit and shows no signs of competent cinematography. While one could claim it’s at least stylish, I could claim that it’s just due to the time and the country it was made in and that whatever style there is, is just a byproduct of it trying to mimic a James Bond picture.

Apart from its lack of technical and artistic merits, the film is just a dreadful bore to get through. It’s only really worth checking out on MST3K.

Rating: 2/10
Pairs well with: other terrible ’60s wannabe Bond movies of which there are many.

Comic Review: Batman: Arkham Knight – Genesis

Published: 2015-2016
Written by: Peter J. Tomasi
Art by: Viktor Bogdanovic, Dexter Soy
Based on: the Batman: Arkham Knight video game by Rocksteady Studios, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

DC Comics, 138 Pages

Review:

For those who have been around this site for awhile, you know that I loved the Batman: Arkham video game series, especially the final installment: Arkham Knight. I also really loved the Arkham Knight character even though he was a twist on a different well-known character. That being said, reading a comic book prequel to the game was right up my alley.

This was in my stack for a long time but I finally got around to it. In fact, I think I bought this at least two years ago. I have a really large stack, especially if you take into account my queue on Comixology.

Anyway, this was mostly okay but it was pretty drab overall. It shows the early planning before Arkham Knight takes over Gotham City but it didn’t give me any real info that I didn’t have already. At least, nothing that made this worth going out of your way to read. The game’s story is rich enough and this just felt like more of a cash-in attempt, banking off of the game’s popularity than it did a well thought out and executed story deserving of existing on its own two feet.

The highpoint is the art. Viktor Bogdanovic and Dexter Soy do stellar art in general but this book looked great from cover to cover.

I wish that I could say, “If you love the games, this is a must-read!” but it’s not. It’s okay, it exists. I guess you could read it if you’re interested but it’s not going to make the story from the game any better.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: the game it’s connected to: Arkham Knight, as well as the other Arkham video games. Also, the Detective Comics story Medieval, which features a different version of the Arkham Knight character.

Comic Review: Vampirella: NuBlood – One-Shot

Published: February 27th, 2013
Written by: Mark Rahner
Art by: Cezar Razek

Dynamite Entertainment, 37 Pages

Review:

This one-shot Vampirella comic basically takes the concept of the TV series True Blood: introducing the world of Vampi to synthetic blood that is commercially produced in an effort to get vampires to drink that instead of people.

Beyond that, this is a total True Blood parody, as within the first few moments, you see Vampirella working in a bar full of characters that closely resemble the bar and characters from the HBO show. And it all takes place in a rural Louisiana town that is overrun with supernatural weirdness.

So I guess this is an unofficial Vampirella and True Blood spinoff? Maybe the license for True Blood was too expensive but this comes so damn close to the source material I’m amazed that it didn’t run into some legal issues, parody or not.

There is a twist here though, as some of the characters you will recognize from that TV show end up being shitheads and not the versions of the characters you’re familiar with.

In any event, this could have been somewhat cool, as a longer story with more room to breathe but its all wedged into a single issue that then has to make room for an additional story that’s tacked on at the end. And that extra story was completely forgettable.

Overall, I felt like this was a waste of time and it just made me want to see what would actually happen if Dynamite actually were able to crossover Vampirella and True Blood. Maybe, eventually, that can and will happen, as she’s been crossed over with every other property under the sun.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: other Vampirella comics from the Dynamite era.

Video Game Review: The 3-D Battles of WorldRunner (NES)

I remember liking this as a kid but it’s been a really long time since I’ve played it.

As a grown adult in 2020 with over three decades of video game experience under my belt, I now think that The 3-D Battles of WorldRunner stinks!

It’s repetitive, annoying, pretty damn pointless and doesn’t offer up anything worthwhile other than it having a 3D mode that no one ever used, even way back in 1987.

You just run forward in a faux 3D world, dodging random objects, blasting random objects, avoiding poisonous mushrooms and trying not to get stopped by flying disembodied hands while jumping over massive chasms.

At the end of each series of stages, you basically fight the same boss: a flying serpent shaped thing. Sometimes you have to fight multiple in a row. The only difference between them is they have different heads and colors. They also take more hits to kill as the game advances.

In the end, this is pretty basic, very repetitious and not very exciting. I guess the world looks cool but that doesn’t salvage the game from simply being a gimmick that doesn’t deliver beyond that.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: other 8-bit adventure games for the original Nintendo, which is almost every game for the original Nintendo.

Film Review: Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985)

Also known as: Rambo II (unofficial title), Rambo (shortened title)
Release Date: May 22nd, 1985
Directed by: George P. Cosmatos
Written by: Sylvester Stallone, James Cameron, Kevin Jarre
Based on: characters by David Morrell
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Richard Crenna, Charles Napier, Steven Berkoff, Julia Nickson, Martin Kove, George Cheung, Voyo Goric

Estudios Churubusco Azteca S.A., Anabasis N.V., TriStar Pictures, 96 Minutes

Review:

“Pressure? Let me just say that Rambo is the best combat vet I’ve ever seen. A pure fighting machine with only a desire to win a war that someone else lost. And if winning means he has to die, he’ll die. No fear, no regrets. And one more thing: what you choose to call hell, he calls home.” – Trautman

The first Rambo movie, First Blood, is and will always be the best of the Rambo films. Frankly, it’s really hard to top but this one does comes pretty close while being a very different kind of movie.

At their core, both films are action flicks with a one man army fighting for survival against man, the wild and every other dangerous thing that arises.

However, the first picture was more about making a statement regarding the treatment of Vietnam veterans returning from war to a home that didn’t want them while this film was much more about balls out action and fun.

That’s not to say that this chapter in the franchise doesn’t have a message, it does. It sees John Rambo return to Vietnam in an effort to rescue some of the P.O.W.s that were left behind by their own government. The film critiques the U.S. government’s handling of the P.O.W. situation and shows that the government wasn’t actually too keen on getting them out. Rambo is essentially set up to fail but he blasts his way through the dangerous jungle, falls in love, loses love, rescues some soldiers, kills several evil men and then exposes his own government for spitting in the faces of the men that lost their lives and sanity for a government that abandoned them.

There are actually a lot of similarities between this movie and Chuck Norris’ Missing In Action film series. As much as I love those movies, this just feels like a better, more polished version of what those movies were. That being said, Missing In Action was actually rushed out and released in 1984 to avoid a lawsuit, as it was based off of a story treatment that James Cameron wrote for this film.

Out of all the Rambo films, this one features my favorite cast. Alongside Stallone, Crenna gets a bigger role here and then you’ve got the great Martin Kove, who I wish had a bit more screen time, Charles Napier, Steven Berkoff and Julia Nickson, who I will always remember most for her part in this film and how it inspired and gave hope to John Rambo that there could be life beyond war. Additionally, Voyo Goric is in this and while his name might not be known to most people, he was in several action flicks of the time and always played a good, intimidating and convincing heavy.

As an adult, I know and recognize that First Blood is better. However, as a kid, this was my Rambo film, as it was so over the top and action heavy that it made my young mind explode with excitement and wonder. It felt like a G.I. Joe character come to life and it was just violent and cool in a way that makes it a near perfect ’80s action picture. It feels like a Cannon Films movie with a bigger budget and a bigger star. Granted, it could’ve used a few ninjas.

One thing that makes this picture work so well is the pacing. For example, I love Rambo III but it isn’t as good as this one because it has a slow pace that hinders it. I’ll talk about that more when I review it. The pacing here though is perfect, the film keeps moving forward, a lot happens but you don’t get stuck in a spot of fixated on some plot point. Rambo blasts or punches something just about every five minutes.

Some may accuse this of being a mindless action movie, it’s not. It has a message and a point to make but it also doesn’t let that message get in the way of what’s most important: action, muscles, bullets, explosions and heavy machinery.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Rambo movies, as well as other ’80s and early ’90s Stallone movies.