Also known as: Double Dragon: The Movie (alternative title) Release Date: November 4th, 1994 Directed by: James Yukich (as James Nickson) Written by: Paul Dini, Neal Shusterman, Michael Davis, Peter Gould Based on:Double Dragon by Technos Japan Music by: Jay Ferguson, Tolga Katas Cast: Robert Patrick, Mark Dacascos, Scott Wolf, Julia Nickson, Alyssa Milano, Leon Russom, Kristina Wagner, George Hamilton, Vanna White, Andy Dick, Cory Milano, Al Leong, Jeff Imada
Greenleaf Productions, Imperial Entertainment, Les Films du Scarabée, 96 Minutes
“I just want total domination of one major American City! Is that too much to ask for? Is it? Is it? Huh?” – Guisman
So out of all the “terrible” video game movies of the ’90s, this is one I hadn’t seen until now. While I loved the Double Dragon video game franchise, I never wanted to see this after the trailer for it dropped back in 1994. It looked horrendously bad, poorly adapted and like a hokey, steaming pile of shit.
That being said, I did enjoy the hell out of this even if it’s a pretty shitty movie. I know that I would’ve hated it when it was current, however. Especially, because I loved the tone of the Double Dragon games and in that regard, this didn’t just miss the mark, it wasn’t even aiming in the first place.
The film is bad from top-to-bottom but some of the big action sequences are actually kind of impressive in regards to how well this made the most of a moderate budget. It was able to give us a cool boat chase scene with good pyrotechnics and action. Plus, some of the sets, as corny as they are, were fairly large and well designed for the bizarre world that this film takes place in.
Sadly, the special effects took somewhat of a budgetary hit in the poor use of obvious matte paintings and the giant rubber suit the Abobo actor was forced to wear.
Additionally, the acting is pretty damn bad but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy how over-the-top and hammy Robert Patrick was in his role as the villain.
To put it bluntly, this is a bad movie but it’s weird as fuck. I really enjoy weird movies and because of that, I liked this. That doesn’t mean that I’ll ever watch it again or give it a positive rating but I’ve enjoyed other films that were far worse than this.
Granted, I would watch a RiffTrax version of this movie if one exists.
Rating: 4.5/10 Pairs well with: other ’90s video game film adaptations.
Release Date: December 15th, 2018 Directed by: Vito Trabucco Music by: DJ Disco T. Cast: Al Leong, John Carpenter, Jeff Imada, Dave Callaham, James Lew
Yinzer Enterprises, 110 Minutes
Growing up in the ’80s, I saw Al Leong everywhere. I didn’t know who he was; all I knew was that he’s a really unique looking dude that would show up as a henchman to the villain in just about every iconic ’80s action flick.
As I got older, I learned more about him but still, most people just saw him as that dude that popped up all over the place, who eventually got killed after doing some badass shit.
So I’m glad that this documentary was made, as the guy deserves to be showcased and to have his story told to all the fans who have appreciated him over the last four decades.
Leong’s story is much deeper and richer than I had expected and it was fantastic getting to hear him talk about his life in his own words.
We also get to see his colleagues discuss him and his career. It’s really cool seeing John Carpenter talk about Leong and why he used him in his films so often.
Overall, this isn’t a great documentary but it will satisfy fans of the guy’s work or just those who remember seeing him everywhere.
Rating: 7.25/10 Pairs well with: other documentaries about character actors and filmmaking in the ’80s.
Also known as: Lethal 4 (promotional abbreviation) Release Date: July 7th, 1998 (Los Angeles premiere) Directed by: Richard Donner Written by: Channing Gibson, Jonathan Lemkin, Alfred Gough, Miles Millar Based on: characters by Shane Black Music by: Michael Kamen, Eric Clapton, David Sanborn Cast: Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Joe Pesci, Rene Russo, Darlene Love, Traci Wolfe, Steve Kahan, Mary Ellen Trainor, Chris Rock, Jet Li, Kim Chan, Calvin Jung, Eddy Ko, Conan Lee, Richard Riehle, François Chau, Jeff Imada, Al Leong (uncredited)
Donner/Shuler Productions, Silver Pictures, Warner Bros., 127 Minutes
“I’m too old for this shit!” – Roger Murtaugh
Well, I’ve reached the end of my Lethal Weapon reviews. From memory, I thought that the third one was my least favorite but having re-watched them all now, so close together, I’d say that this is the worst.
That being said, I still like Lethal Weapon 4 a lot.
I think that the problem with this one is that we get to check in with characters we’ve grown to love but the Murtaugh-Riggs Family has grown so much that the dynamic between the core characters is kind of watered down and subtracted away from, due to the additions of so many new faces.
This does setup a really sweet ending for the final scene in this, the final film (for now), but the core dynamic worked best when it was just Riggs, Murtaugh and sometimes Getz, when you needed to throw in some comic relief.
Moving past that, I think that this film also suffers from the same thing that the third one did, it lacks the chutzpah of the first two films. Those movies were written by Shane Black, at the top of his game, and even though he is still credited for creating these characters, these last two films don’t have the same girt or energy as their predecessors.
Now Lethal Weapon 4 still boasts some stupendous action sequences. It’s certainly not lacking in that regard, I’m grateful that it still brought the fire and frankly, Richard Donner just knows how to shoot and present action better than most directors.
After analyzing the four films in this series with a sharper eye than I’ve given them, previously, I can see that Donner has a certain style in regards to action. Everything just looks organic and real and it’s edited to maintain a quick, flowing pace but not so quick that it becomes choppy and disorienting like modern action films. In fact, a lot of modern directors should take notes from these pictures.
Speaking of action, I really enjoyed the opening of this film. It’s the second best opener in the series, after Lethal Weapon 2, and it really gets things moving and off to a bang. However, the sequence that immediately follows with the Chinese boat, stifles the momentum.
Additionally, there are too many things that happen within the plot that just seem way too convenient to be real. This was a problem that started in the third film but it’s much more apparent here.
As far as the plot, it’s okay. It’s definitely a bigger scheme on par with the first two movies but it’s not that interesting. I guess it works to shed light on the fact that some Chinese are treated like modern slaves in an effort to buy their way into the United States but it’s presented pretty heavy handedly and also quite cheesily.
There are two saving graces in this film that keep it from sinking too far down in the muck. The first is the great action, which I already mentioned, and the second is the characters. The camaraderie is generally really solid and this movie does generate some real feels, especially towards the end in a scene with Riggs and Getz and then the big finale at the hospital, where two babies are born, expanding the family even more.
In the end, this is a “feel good” movie in how it closes things out for these characters. You kind of hope that you’d get to see them again but for now, this is the conclusion of the series. Granted, the television reboot did fairly well and stayed on TV for three seasons but that version of the characters is different. However, due to the show’s popularity, they have been talking about a Lethal Weapon 5 for the first time in years. So, maybe, just maybe… this isn’t the last we’ve seen of the real Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh.
Rating: 8/10 Pairs well with: the other Lethal Weapon films, as well as most ’80s/’90s buddy action movies.
Also known as: John Carpenter’s They Live (complete title) Release Date: November 4th, 1988 Directed by: John Carpenter Written by: John Carpenter (as Frank Armitage) Based on:Eight O’Clock In the Morning by Ray Nelson Music by: John Carpenter, Alan Howarth Cast: Roddy Piper, Keith David, Meg Foster, George “Buck” Flower, Raymond St. Jacques, Peter Jason, Sy Richardson, Susan Blanchard, Norman Alden, Jason Robards III, Jeff Imada, John Carpenter (voice – uncredited), Al Leong (uncredited)
“I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass… and I’m all out of bubblegum.” – Nada
I remember wanting to see this in the theater so damn badly but no one would take me because I was nine years-old and my family was being really lame about it. To make up for that, I rented the hell out of this when my local video store got their copies in. In fact, I eventually dubbed a copy because that was the benefit of having two VCRs in the ’80s and ’90s. I think I still have it buried in one of my many boxes of old VHS tapes that I haven’t been able to play for fifteen years.
Anyway, They Live is a spectacular film.
While it’s not John Carpenter’s best, it’s pretty high up on the list and it is my favorite film to star wrestling legend “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. Considering that this also has Keith David in it, there’s almost too much testosterone and gravitas that I don’t know how the celluloid didn’t melt from the masculine heat.
The story is pretty simple: “Rowdy” Roddy Piper shows up in town, tries to earn some honest money and work towards the American dream but soon finds out that the world is completely fucked because it’s been taken over by aliens hiding in plain sight. How does he discover this truth? With special sunglasses. Seriously, what the fuck is there not to like about this picture?
Also, this has, hands down, the greatest one-on-one brawl in the entire history of Western cinema. A fight so epic and so perfect that its choreography was stolen for the infamous “Cripple Fight” episode of South Park.
The film also features Meg Foster and her eyes that can melt steel, Buck Flower playing not just a hobo, Carpenter regular Peter Jason, as well as blaxploitation veteran Raymond St. Jacques, the cool Sy Richardson and an uncredited bit part for the greatest motion picture henchman of all-time, Al Leong.
As is usually the case with most Carpenter films, this one benefits greatly from his score. It’s brooding, sets the perfect tone and just has the right kind of vibe to enchant your mind and pull you into this cool and crazy film.
I also like the physical atmosphere in general and how Carpenter used daytime and nighttime as a sort of narrative tool, drawing allusions to the seen world and the unseen world in this story. I also liked how the special sunglasses displayed reality in black and white while the visible world was in full color. I’m not sure if that was decided upon in the initial draft of this story or if it was a convenience in pulling off certain effects that still worked and added another layer of duality.
They Live is just solid, all around. It’s one of those movies I can watch anytime and it’s just cool as hell.
Rating: 8.25/10 Pairs well with: other John Carpenter films of the ’80s.
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, Jeff Imada (uncredited)
Estudios Churubusco Azteca S.A., Anabasis N.V., TriStar Pictures, 96 Minutes
“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.
Also known as: Blade, the Vampire Slayer (working title), Blade: The Daywalker (Norway, Denmark, Finland), Blade: Cazador de vampiros (Mexico, Argentina, Brazil) Release Date: August 19th, 1998 (premiere) Directed by: Stephen Norrington Written by: David S. Goyer Based on:Blade by Marv Wolfman, Gene Colan Music by: Mark Isham Cast: Wesley Snipes, Kris Kristofferson, Stephen Dorff, N’Bushe Wright, Donal Logue, Udo Kier, Sanaa Lathan, Arly Jover, Traci Lords, Jeff Imada (uncredited)
Amen Ra Films, Imaginary Forces, Marvel Enterprises, New Line Cinema, 120 Minutes, 110 Minutes (cut)
“Some motherfuckers are always trying to ice skate uphill.” – Blade
Revisiting Blade has been long overdue but I’m glad that I finally did.
While I loved this movie, back in the day, I think I like it even more now. Maybe that’s because it is the least formulaic Marvel movie ever made and because it is just so balls to the wall badass that every time I watch it, I sprout another testicle.
Wesley Snipes is a man’s man and he’s got no time for some prissy ass bullshit. He just fucks shit up, does a cool pose, fucks up more shit, smiles and then fucks up whatever shit he hasn’t yet fucked up.
Also, this stars another man’s man in the legendary Kris Kristofferson. Add in Udo Kier, Donal Logue and Stephen Dorff being the best he’s ever been and you’ve got one hell of a cast. I also love the small role for Traci Lords, the coolness of Arly Jover and the loveliness of N’Bushe Wright.
Almost everything in this film feels right. The only real hiccup is some of the really dated CGI effects that didn’t look great even in 1998. But I can look past that, as this flick is one of the coolest comic book movies ever put to celluloid.
The script is great, the characters have real depth and the movie has perfect pacing.
There aren’t any dull moments and the action is aplenty, even with the story itself being pretty rich and layered.
Although, I don’t entirely understand Duncan Frost’s evil plan to turn the entire population of Earth into vampires because that would leave them without food. But hey, maybe the high tech vampires have a lab where they can clone and mass produce human blood. So my brain can just file that away as a plot point from a deleted scene I’ll never see.
One thing that really works well in this movie is the music. It hits the right notes, provides the right tone and propels the action sequences to another level. The soundtrack is mostly made up of hip-hop and techno or a hybrid of the two. In fact, I feel like this may have had an effect on the production of The Matrix, which came out a year later.
All in all, Blade is a fantastic comic book adaptation and in a lot of ways, I think it exceeds the source material, as the Blade character wasn’t all that popular before the movie and his interpretation in the film would go on to alter him in the comics themselves.
Rating: 9/10 Pairs well with: the Blade sequels, as well as other ’90s action films with Snipes.
I just re-watched The Crow and all of its sequels. I watch the original film about once a year or so but it has been a long time since I have seen the sequels. Instead of just reviewing one of them, I figured I’d give my two cents on each film.
The Crow (1994):
Release Date: May 13th, 1994 Directed by: Alex Proyas Written by: David J. Schow, John Shirley Based on:The Crow by James O’Barr Music by: Graeme Revell Cast: Brandon Lee, Ernie Hudson, Michael Wincott, Bai Ling, Rochelle Davis, David Patrick Kelly, Jon Polito, Tony Todd, Jeff Imada
Dimension Films, Miramax Films, 102 Minutes
The first film in the series is by far the best, that isn’t even debatable. The cast was pretty fantastic, as director Alex Proyas (Dark City, I, Robot) strung together a nice team comprised of Brandon Lee (Rapid Fire, Showdown In Little Tokyo), the late son of Bruce Lee, as well as Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters, Oz), Michael Wincott (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Basquiat), Tony Todd (Candyman, Platoon), Bai Ling (Anna and the King, Three… Extremes), David Patrick Kelly (The Warriors, Twin Peaks) and newcomer Rochelle Davis, who has only appeared in one other film.
The tone of the film was perfect, the music was perfect, the casting of Brandon Lee was perfect. There aren’t a lot of negatives that one can find in this near masterpiece. For its time, it was one of the best, if not the best, comic book films of all-time. The only comic book films that one could possibly put in front of The Crow are the Richard Donner Superman films and the Tim Burton Batman films. In 1994, when this movie was released, comic book movies were very scarce.
This is a film that has a strong cult following and deservedly so.
Brandon Lee died on set due to a firearm accident and it had to be finished without him. There was a lot of debate as to whether or not the film should even be released but it was and has had a certain degree of mystique attached to it. The real-life tragedy added to the emotion and darkness of the film in a way that didn’t make light of Lee’s death or try to capitalize off of it. Everything, in my opinion, was done tastefully and in a way that honored the actor and gave people a look at his best work.
The chemistry between Lee and Davis, as well as Lee and Wincott was pretty strong. Brandon Lee gave this his all and it was a good display of his talent, which never got to grow and reach the heights it could have.
Plus, there is a performance by My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult in the film.
The Crow: City of Angels (1996):
Release Date: August 30th, 1996 Directed by: Tim Pope Written by: David S. Goyer Based on:The Crow by James O’Barr Music by: Graeme Revell Cast: Vincent Perez, Mia Kirshner, Iggy Pop, Richard Brooks, Thomas Jane
Dimension Films, Miramax Films, 84 Minutes
The first sequel in the series was pretty bad, which would become the trend. It starred Vincent Perez (Queen of the Damned) as the title character and I still can’t recall anything noteworthy that I have seen him in besides this. It also starred punk rock legend Iggy Pop (Dead Man, Tank Girl), Thomas Jane (The Punisher, Hung) and Mia Kirshner (The L Word, The Black Dahlia).
Iggy was fantastic and just completely Iggy, which made his character great. Kirshner was angelic and beautiful with a real genuine level of sweetness but she was also more or less a statue propped up in the background to add allure to a very ugly looking film. Tom Jane basically just played a weird pervert and he was unrecognizable in the role.
I would consider this film to be the second to worst in the series. And there really isn’t much one can say about it. It is empty, soulless and an awful rehash of the classic before it.
But again, it features Iggy Pop and I will watch him in anything.
And I love Mia Kirshner, who has never looked better than she does in this.
The Crow: Salvation (2000):
Release Date: January 23rd, 2000 Directed by: Bharat Nalluri Written by: Chip Johannessen Based on:The Crow by James O’Barr Music by: Marco Beltrami Cast: Eric Mabius, Kirsten Dunst, Jodi Lyn O’Keefe, Fred Ward, William Atherton, Walton Goggins
IMF, Edward R. Pressman Film Corporation, Jeff Most Productions, Pacifica Film Development, Dimension Films, 102 Minutes
The second sequel was better than the first sequel. After the original film, this is the best installment of the series. It starred Eric Mabius (Ugly Betty, Cruel Intentions), Kirsten Dunst (Spider-Man, Melancholia), William Atherton (Real Genius, Ghostbusters), Fred Ward (Tremors, The Right Stuff) and Walton Goggins (The Shield, Justified).
Mabius was much more personable and likable than his predecessor, Vincent Perez. Dunst was good but nothing extraordinary. Atherton and Goggins were both presences in the film but didn’t leave me with anything all that memorable. Fred Ward, one of those lesser-known actors I’ve just always liked for some reason, did a pretty solid job of playing the scumbag evil bastard in this film.
From a storytelling standpoint, this offered so much more than City of Angels. It involved a conspiracy, a cover-up and evil dudes sending an innocent kid off to die for their sins. It wasn’t as straightforward and as simple as the previous films in this series. Granted, it wasn’t a storytelling masterpiece but it had depth and a bit of mystery.
The Crow: Wicked Prayer (2005):
Release Date: June 3rd, 2005 Directed by: Lance Mungia Written by: Lance Mungia, Jeff Most, Sean Hood Based on:The Crow: Wicked Prayer by Norman Partridge Music by: Jamie Christopherson Cast: Edward Furlong, David Boreanaz, Tara Reid, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Dennis Hopper, Tito Ortiz, Danny Trejo
Dimension Films, 99 Minutes
The final film in the series was god awful, and that might be an understatement. It starred Edward Furlong (Terminator 2, American History X), Tara Reid (American Pie, The Big Lebowski), David Boreanaz (Angel, Bones), Tito Ortiz of UFC fame, Danny Trejo (Machete, From Dusk Till Dawn), Dennis Hopper (Speed, True Romance) and a very brief appearance by singer Macy Gray.
Furlong just looked ridiculous as the Crow. I think the hair had a lot to do with the sloppy shitty look. Also, Furlong by this point, had grown too old and looked like a washed up forty-something Robert Smith wearing his Cure makeup instead of an awesome twenty-something Robert Smith wearing his Cure makeup. Furlong’s acting was horrible but so was everyone else’s.
Boreanaz was deplorable, Tara Reid was annoying and not naked enough, Tito Ortiz was a dipshit and Danny Trejo was the worst I’ve ever seen him and I really love that guy. Dennis Hopper took the cake, however, as he stumbled through some of the worst written lines I have ever heard in a film. It sucks that such a great actor was working on shit like this so late in his career.
Technically speaking, the special effects were disastrous, the cinematography was nightmarish and the editing was shit. There isn’t anything nice I can say about this film.