Film Review: The Punisher (1989)

Release Date: October 5th, 1989 (Germany)
Directed by: Mark Goldblatt
Written by: Boaz Yakin
Based on: The Punisher by Gerry Conway, Ross Andru, John Romita Sr.
Music by: Dennis Dreith
Cast: Dolph Lundgren, Louis Gossett Jr., Jeroen Krabbe, Kim Miyori

Marvel Entertainment, New World Pictures, 89 Minutes, 76 Minutes (heavily cut), 98 Minutes (workprint version)

Review:

“If you’re guilty, you’re dead.” – Frank Castle

While I know that this isn’t as good as the 2004 Punisher movie, this is still my favorite film of the lot and Dolph Lundgren really embodied the version of Frank Castle that I envisioned as a kid in the late ’80s, just discovering Punisher comics.

I loved the fuck out of this movie when I saw it in 1990, once it hit video store shelves in my area. I would’ve loved to have seen it in the theater but I lived in a small town with small theaters that played it safe, didn’t take risks and have now mostly been replaced with better theaters offering more variety… and alcohol.

Dolph Lundgren is just fucking perfect in this and nothing else about the film really matters. Sure, I like Louis Gossett Jr. but he’s kind of a non-event in the picture, as is everyone else, except the mob boss turned vigilante that helps the Punisher fight ninjas in an effort to rescue his kidnapped son.

This wasn’t made by Cannon, it was in fact made by New World, but it has that Cannon vibe to it albeit with an even cheaper budget. Still, its a solid mix of gritty, ’80s action, a badass hero and more ammo wasted than an Argentinian coup.

One sequence that really stands out is where we get to see the Punisher battle a hoard of machine gun ninjas in a decrepit carnival funhouse. Granted, I also loved the big finale that saw our hero and the mobster douche machine gun the crap out of ninjas.

All in all, this is just a badass flick with uber amounts of testosterone, one of the best, most physically intimidating action stars of all-time and it feels true to the source material. It’s certainly better than everything that came after that Thomas Jane Punisher movie. 

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other Marvel live-action films pre-MCU.

Film Review: The Phantom (1996)

Release Date: June 7th, 1996
Directed by: Simon Wincer
Written by: Jeffrey Boam
Based on: The Phantom by Lee Falk
Music by: David Newman
Cast: Billy Zane, Treat Williams, Kristy Swanson, Catherine Zeta-Jones, James Remar, Patrick McGoohan, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Casey Siemaszko, John Capodice

Boam Productions, The Ladd Company, Paramount Pictures, 100 Minutes

Review:

“When darkness rules the earth, America’s in financial ruin. Europe and Asia are on a brink of self-annihilation. Chaos reigns. Like I’ve always said, there is opportunity in chaos. And so, my brothers, I give you… [raises out the first skull] The skull of Touganda. This skull is one of three. When all three skulls are united, they will produce a force more than any army on Earth.” – Xander Drax

A lot of people, myself included, slept on this movie when it came out because even for 1996, it looked hokey and cheap. Granted, it was actually made by a larger studio and it was a more expensive picture than one might think.

I feel like the tone was off for what was becoming the popular trends at the time and that this would’ve fared much better, half a decade earlier. But even really solid comic book movies like The Rocketeer and The Shadow struggled to find an audience before this flick was even greenlit.

While I’ve seen this a few times over the years, I think there are things within it that one can appreciate that would’ve most likely been overlooked in 1996.

To start, this is just a fun adventure movie, a popcorn picture at its core that features good actors, cool characters and period piece sets that show you where most of the budget went.

There is a very pulpy vibe to this and it almost calls back to the tone of old school swashbuckling epics without having any real swashbuckling in it.

It mostly taps into the film serial genre that helped make The Phantom character more of a household name in the ’30s through ’50s. For modern audiences, it will play like a superhero picture with elements of an Indiana Jones or Pirates of the Caribbean vibe to it.

While it’s not particularly well-acted, the core cast still give good performances that really show that they’re committed to this film’s pulpy goodness. Treat Williams’ over-the-top antics as the villain are superb and I liked him immensely in this. I also thought that Billy Zane made a really solid Phantom and Kristy Swanson was a good choice for her role. I can’t say that this is Catherine Zeta-Jones’ best work but she did look like she was having a blast hamming it up in this goofy but stylish movie.

The Phantom is far from being a classic in the superhero genre but its much better than a lot of the other offerings in the pre-Dark Knight and MCU era. Frankly, I wish it would’ve done well enough to have had a few sequels but since this felt somewhat dated for 1996, I can’t imagine any sequels connecting with the audience of that era.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other comic book adaptations of the era like The Shadow, Dick Tracy, The Rocketeer and the early, cheap Marvel attempts at live-action.

Film Review: Ghost Rider (2007)

Also known as: El vengador fantasma (several Spanish speaking countries)
Release Date: January 15th, 2007 (Ukraine)
Directed by: Mark Steven Johnson
Written by: Mark Steven Johnson
Based on: Johnny Blaze by Roy Thomas, Gary Friedrich, Mike Ploog
Music by: Christopher Young
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Eva Mendes, Wes Bentley, Sam Elliott, Donal Logue, Peter Fonda, Brett Cullen, Rebel Wilson

Relativity Media, Crystal Sky Pictures, Columbia Pictures, 110 Minutes, 123 Minutes (Extended Cut)

Review:

“Any man that’s got the guts to sell his soul for love has got the power to change the world. You didn’t do it for greed, you did it for the right reason. Maybe that puts God on your side. To them that makes you dangerous, makes you unpredictable. That’s the best thing you can be right now.” – Caretaker

Even though 2003’s Daredevil received pretty bad reviews, under-performed and left most moviegoers feeling disappointed, it’s director was still given the character of Ghost Rider to adapt into another live-action Marvel movie.

While I liked the Director’s Cut of Daredevil for the most part, Ghost Rider is an atrocious motion picture from top-to-bottom. Honestly, this came out when Nicolas Cage seemed to run out of gas and saw his career trending downward fast. Honestly, this and its sequel could’ve been the nail in the coffin.

This is terribly acted, except for the scenes with Sam Elliott and the minimal appearances by Peter Fonda. They can’t save the rest of the movie, however, as Cage, Eva Mendes and Wes Bentley don’t really seem to give a shit about anything. Even Donal Logue severely under-performed and he’s a guy that I tend to expect a lot from, as he’s proven, time and time again, that he’s a more than capable actor with good range and convincing performances.

The special effects can’t save the film either, as they’re generally pretty generic mid-’00s CGI shit. Hell, the villains don’t look the way they’re supposed to look and it just adds to this movie’s cheapness.

It’s a vapid, shit film, a complete waste of time and could only be upstaged in its awfulness by its even worse sequel.

I guess I’ll have to review that flaming turd soon.

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: its sequel and other terrible comic book adaptations of the era.

Film Review: Crocodile Dundee In Los Angeles (2001)

Also known as: Crocodile Dundee III, Crocodile Dundee In Hollywood, Crocodile Dundee Returns (working titles)
Release Date: April 12th, 2001 (Australia)
Directed by: Simon Wincer
Written by: Eric Abrams, Matthew Berry
Based on: characters by Paul Hogan
Music by: Basil Poledouris
Cast: Paul Hogan, Linda Kozlowski, Jere Burns, Jonathan Banks, Aida Turturro, Paul Rodriguez, Steve Rackman, Gerry Skilton, Mike Tyson (cameo)

Bungalow Productions, Silver Lion Films, Vision View Entertainment, 92 Minutes

Review:

“Now, you pick out what you want on that menu there. Then you yell it out into that box. Then in 2 minutes, you’re scoffing it down, without even getting out of the car.” – Mick Dundee, “So, you can eat like a pig… and nobody can see you. [winks] Clever buggers, these yanks.” – Jacko

If I’m being honest, I wasn’t looking forward to revisiting this film, even though I just revisited the two chapters before it and still found them to be entertaining and a great way to waste a few hours.

This one was bad when it came out and time hasn’t done it any favors. In fact, it’s made it worse.

The main issue with this picture is that it wasn’t even written by Paul Hogan. Some other blokes took over that part of the creative process for some reason.

The second issue is that this waited way too long to come out. There is a thirteen year gap between its most recent predecessor and it hurts this movie a lot, as it feels like it’s written like an early ’90s comedy and not something that was made at the turn of the millennium. Honestly, it kind of shows that the style of film that the first two Crocodile Dundees were, were products of their time that worked well back then but not in 2001.

The story is a mess and it takes the weakest part of the first film, which was just being a series of “fish out of water” segments and embraces them more than any of the other installments. It just doesn’t work and most of the bits and gags fall flat in spite of Paul Hogan still having a hell of a lot of charm. But that charm just can’t save a poorly written, unfunny turd.

In fact, the only comedic bits I found amusing were the ones with his buddy, Jacko. They had good chemistry and they were funny together but these scenes were kind of scant and didn’t do anything to propel the story forward.

The criminal plot in this movie is also pretty dumb. It has to do with a Hollywood producer that shoots movies in Europe and Hollywood, using the travel between the two locations as a way to smuggle valuable paintings out of Europe. It’s damn asinine.

Anyway, you can watch the first two movies and still get a lot of enjoyment out of them. This one, not so much.

Well, except for that bonkers Mike Tyson cameo; I can watch that anytime.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: the other Crocodile Dundee films but they’re both a lot better than this one.

Film Review: Crocodile Dundee II (1988)

Release Date: May 20th, 1988 (Australia)
Directed by: John Cornell
Written by: Paul Hogan, Brett Hogan
Music by: Peter Best
Cast: Paul Hogan, Linda Kozlowski, John Meillon, Hechter Ubarry, Juan Fernandez, Charles S. Dutton, Kenneth Welsh, Stephen Root, Steve Rackman, Gerry Skilton, Susie Essman, Colin Quinn, Luis Guzman, Tatyana Ali

Rimfire Films, Paramount Pictures, 108 Minutes

Review:

“What did you do last night?” – Mick Dundee, “We didn’t do nothing. We was here all night.” – Punk, “That’s what you call cool, is it? Well, tomorrow, if someone asks you the same question, you can say: “We didn’t do nothing.” Or you can say: “We went out to Long Island to help this lunatic storm a fortress!” At the very least you can come watch me get my head blown off.” – Mick Dundee

The consensus from critics and from filmgoers is that Crocodile Dundee II is a weak attempt at a sequel that was just made to cash in on its far superior predecessor. Well, the consensus is wrong, as this is the superior film for many reasons, all of which I’ll outline here.

To start, this film knows exactly what it is where the first one couldn’t decide if it was a romantic comedy, an action movie or just a series of comedic bits about a fish out of water.

Crocodile Dundee II is an action comedy. Sure, it taps into the fish out of water stuff but this has a much more cohesive story and it stays on its rails much better. It also goes back into the romance plot but it’s sort of just there to accent the proceedings and to give the stakes depth and meaning, as the love interest is abducted by the villains.

Secondly, Paul Hogan is much more comfortable in the role of Mick Dundee. Not that he wasn’t great in the first movie but in this one, everything comes off as much more natural and it’s as if he really is the character. In fact, when I was a kid, I just kind of assumed this is who he really was and he was just some dude from the Outback that was charismatic enough to get a big break in movies.

Similar to that, Linda Kozlowski is also better in this picture. She seems like she’s come a long way since the first movie, which came out just two years before this one. Her chemistry with Hogan is better and more natural and she’s grown a lot as a character just in being with him and learning from him. She’s kind of a badass in this chapter of the series and where Dundee doesn’t really take the danger seriously, she’s the voice of reason that understands the trouble that they’re in and the monsters that they’re dealing with. All that being said, she has this trait that makes Mick Dundee stronger and more driven and their dynamic in this movie is just really cool to see and far exceeds the awkwardness of their first film together.

This movie is also more action heavy. I love the raid on the drug kingpin’s mansion fortress in the New York City portion of the movie. However, the third and final act that takes place in Australia is really what makes this movie so damn enjoyable. Seeing Dundee use his home field advantage against the drug cartel that is hunting him is clever, fun and showcases all the best aspects of this great and iconic hero.

I think that people mostly have a fond viewpoint of this film now but I remember it getting a lot of hate, back in the day. Or maybe the third film was so bad that by comparison it made this one look better to the haters.

Whatever the case, I’ve always considered this movie to be the best in the franchise. It utilizes the characters much better, has a more cohesive story and also represents the spirit of the franchise in a way that the others just don’t seem to.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: the other Crocodile Dundee movies, as well as other films starring Paul Hogan.

Film Review: Crocodile Dundee (1986)

Release Date: April 24th, 1986 (Australia)
Directed by: Peter Faiman
Written by: Paul Hogan, Ken Shadie, John Cornell
Music by: Peter Best
Cast: Paul Hogan, Linda Kozlowski, Mark Blum, David Gulpilil, Michael Lombard, John Meillon, Reginald VelJohnson, Terry Gill, Steve Rackman, Paul Greco

Rimfire Films, Hoyts Distribution, Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox, 97 Minutes, 93 Minutes (DVD cut)

Review:

“New York City, Mr. Dundee. Home to seven million people.” – Richard Mason, “That’s incredible. Imagine seven million people all wanting to live together. Yeah, New York must be the friendliest place on Earth.” – Michael J. “Crocodile” Dundee

The first two Crocodile Dundee movies were films that I used to watch a lot, as a kid. The third one is a total turd but I’ll review that after revisiting the first two.

Starting with this one, the first film, I immediately felt the nostalgia bug creeping in when I heard the fairly iconic Crocodile Dundee opening theme start playing, as the helicopter carrying Sue into the Outback showed us that we were ready to go on a cool adventure.

Watching this, all these years later, allowed me to see a lot of the flaws and issues that weren’t apparent to me before. The movie is riddled with editing and pacing issues and there doesn’t seem to be much of an idea as to what the film is supposed to be.

At its core, it is a romantic comedy but it doesn’t fully commit to that and it seems to be more about showing two different characters as fish out of water.

The first half of the picture deals with Sue going into the Australian bush to meet Mick Dundee and to learn about how he survived an alligator attack. The second half deals with Mick going back to New York City with Sue to see what life is like outside of the Outback.

There is an actual plot but it is really thin and it seems to rely more heavily on gags and jokes from scene to scene, as opposed to telling a cohesive story that one can sink their teeth into.

Now this isn’t necessarily a bad thing and the humor in the film is mostly fine but it lacks any sort of emotional investment into the characters and their budding romance. It also doesn’t help that there doesn’t seem to be much chemistry between them, at least not natural chemistry. I kind of find that strange, as they got married in real life and remained married for a few decades, only getting divorced a few years ago.

Some of the gags are pretty dated and I think some stuff might make people’s stomach churn in modern society where everything is offensive. Two scenes that come to mind are the ones where Mick grabs someone’s genitals to see if they’re a bloke or a sheila.

Crocodile Dundee is still a mostly humorous, lighthearted picture that is actually kind of charming and cute because Paul Hogan is actually pretty great as the title character. But that charm can’t carry a whole movie and this one is sort of a mess, structurally.

I don’t really see what the point of it was and that’s because it’s objective wasn’t all that clear. I think this is why I liked the second film better, back in the day, because it actually has a more solid plot and objectives you can follow, as Mick fights a drug cartel and it’s more action heavy. Most people seem to think the second one was a much weaker film but I guess I’ll have to see how I feel about it now, when I watch it in the very near future.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: the other Crocodile Dundee movies, as well as other films starring Paul Hogan.

Film Review: The Marshes (2018)

Release Date: 2018 (Australia)
Directed by: Roger Scott
Written by: Roger Scott
Music by: Tristan Coelho
Cast: Dafna Kronental, Sam Delich, Mathew Cooper, Zac Drayson, Amanda McGregor, Eddie Baroo

28 Productions, 85 Minutes

Review:

Holy fuck this was a dreadfully bad movie!

That sucks because I saw a pretty glowing review for this but that reviewer must have been someone that worked on the film or the director’s mother.

The story taps into the Australian legend about the Swagman. He’s a sort of Boogeyman that lives in the marshes. Other than that, I don’t know anything about him and the film doesn’t do much to spell it out for you either. So those watching it that aren’t privy to Australian folklore are pretty much left in the dark. Honestly, maybe it’s not even a real legend and I’m just assuming that because the plot here is so thin that a bulimic ’90s supermodel is in awe of it.

The worst thing about this film is that you don’t care about the peril that the main characters are in. Why? Because there isn’t a single character in the movie that is remotely likable. They’re all know-it-all douchebag Millennials that are so into themselves and their bullshit that they’re pretty damn insufferable. So I guess these type of youngsters aren’t exclusive to just the United States. And that’s not a shot at Millennials in general, just the dominant type of Millennial.

Anyway, there are also two redneck characters but they’re even worse than the three leads.

The Marshes tries really hard to be a slow burning suspense thriller but it fails in that regard. Not a lot happens and it takes awhile to get to the good stuff but the slow build is kind of just derivative shite, mostly boring and totally predictable.

When it comes to the killer, he’s not that exciting or cool. His powers are confusing and you never fully see him or get to understand him on any level.

This film is a complete failure of storytelling, character development, pacing and just about everything else that’s important to a motion picture.

Well, on a positive note, it’s pretty short.

Rating: 2.5/10
Pairs well with: the crappiest of crappy foreign slasher films.