Also known as: Leprechaun 4 (shortened title) Release Date: 1996 (Russia) Directed by: Brian Trenchard-Smith Written by: Dennis Pratt Based on: characters by Mark Jones Music by: Dennis Michael Tenney Cast: Warwick Davis, Brent Jasmer, Jessica Collins, Tim Colceri, Miguel A. Nunez Jr., Debbe Dunning, Gary Grossman, Rebekah Carlton, Rick Peters, Geoff Meed, Michael Cannizzo, Ladd York, Guy Siner
Blue Rider Pictures, VIDMark Entertainment, Trimark Pictures, 95 Minutes
“No one leaves this ship unless I so say! Say so.” – Dr. Mittenhand
This is the point in the Leprechaun franchise where the movies started to get more bad than good. I still like this one, though, as the drastic change of setting at least freshened things up and opened the series up for even more campiness.
Additionally, Warwick Davis is always entertaining in this role and he had some great moments in this picture. There’s the scene where the Leprechaun gets a lightsaber and the awesome kill where the Leprechaun explodes out of a dude’s dick who is about to have some hot sex.
The sets looked incredibly cheap and the CGI effects were extremely subpar, even for the mid-’90s. However, the makeup effects of the mutant spider guy were really good and looked badass.
I also liked the cast for the most part between the commander with the metal head who gives us a weird drag show, the hot doctor, the hot princess and the inclusion of one of my favorite character actors, especially in horror, Miguel A. Nunez Jr.
Positives aside, this is still kind of shit and actually tough to get through in one sitting.
Honestly, this is worth checking out if you really love the Leprechaun character and you have a weird appreciation for horror franchises that end up going to outer space once the well runs dry. If you don’t, you might end up banging your head against the coffee table.
Rating: 4.5/10 Pairs well with: the other Leprechaun movies starring Warwick Davis.
Release Date: May 11th, 1992 (Westwood premiere) Directed by: Richard Donner Written by: Jeffrey Boam, Robert Mark Kamen 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, Kenneth Tigar, Stuart Wilson, Delores Hall, Miguel A. Nunez Jr.
Silver Pictures, Warner Bros., 118 Minutes, 121 Minutes (Director’s Cut)
“I’m too old for this shit!” – Roger Murtaugh
This is where the Lethal Weapon franchise started to fall off a bit but it is still a pretty solid movie and it does keep the film series moving forward. This just isn’t as great as the first two but it is hard to be as good as those films were for a third time. In fact, it’s actually incredible that they captured lightning in a bottle twice.
That being said, this is still one of the greatest buddy cop movies of all-time because anytime Riggs and Murtaugh get together, you can almost guarantee that the end result will be a film with a lot of heart, that’s a lot of fun and full of great action sequences.
And it’s the action sequences that make this one great. They’re all pretty solid here, especially the multiple vehicle chases and the big showdown in the housing development that isn’t yet constructed. While burning wood frames in the shape of houses was probably a good way to keep the budget down, it was a great idea, executed well and it made for a good looking and unique finale.
While this one brings Joe Pesci back into the fold, it adds one more permanent member to the family in Rene Russo’s Lorna Cole, an internal affairs cop that starts a romance with Martin Riggs, who has had terrible luck with the previous women in his life.
I think the one thing that makes this film weaker is the villain and the criminal plot. He’s an ex-cop turned property developer that funds his empire by stealing guns from police evidence lockups in order to sell them to street gangs. It’s not very original and it’s pretty topical for the time when this was made. Sure, street gang violence still exists today but it’s not an issue of the magnitude of any of the criminal plots from the three other Lethal Weapon movies. I mean, these guys just took down a South African diplomat.
Anyway, I think this film also loses some steam because it wasn’t written by Shane Black, who penned the first two films. While he may have been busy and Richard Donner may have wanted to give someone else a shot at writing, this film is missing that special touch that Black had in the second half of the ’80s.
Overall, this is still a good outing, it’s just my least favorite of the four.
Rating: 8.5/10 Pairs well with: the other Lethal Weapon films, as well as most ’80s/’90s buddy action movies.
Release Date: February 12th, 1988 Directed by: Craig R. Baxley Written by: Robert Reneau Music by: Herbie Hancock, Michael Kamen Cast: Carl Weathers, Craig T. Nelson, Vanity, Sharon Stone, Thomas F. Wilson, Robert Davi, Bill Duke, Jack Thibeau, Chino ‘Fats’ Williams, De’Voreaux White, Miguel Nunez, Al Leong, Sonny Landham, Mary Ellen Trainor
Lorimar Film Entertainment, Silver Pictures, 96 Minutes
“[turning a flamethrower on a bad guy] How do you like your ribs?” – Action Jackson
This was a film that was supposed to be the first in a franchise. That never happened and that could be due to the film being critically panned and for it being absolutely ridiculous and the type of cheese that induces a wee bit of cringe. But I still dig the hell out of Carl Weathers in this and it was cool seeing him step out from behind more famous action stars Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
But this also was born from Weathers’ involvement in the Schwarzenegger starring Predator, as he and producer Joel Silver loved blaxploitation flicks. Silver told Weathers to come up with something and its that idea that became the basis for this film.
The plot is pretty simple, Jericho “Action” Jackson is a no nonsense cop that loves the ladies and hates yuppie scum that kills and destroys for their own selfish, greedy means. In this film, the scum is played by Coach star Craig T. Nelson. And we even get to see Coach do some kung fu trickery.
Similar to a Bond film and other films with macho gun wielding heroes, there are two hot chicks. In this we get a very young Sharon Stone, just before she reached superstardom, as well as Vanity, who was super popular at the time due to her relationship with Prince. We also get boobage from both, which from my perspective, is a strong plus.
But this film is also like a who’s who of cool character actors from the era. We get Bill Duke, De’Voreaux White, Miguel Nunez, Robert Davi, Thomas F. Wilson, Sonny Landham, Chino “Fats” Williams and ’80s action star/stuntman Al Leong.
Add in a sweet score by Herbie Hancock and you’ve just got a cool motion picture.
Overall, this is an action heavy film but it was the ’80s and all we really wanted back then was good, high octane, power fantasy escapism. You know, back in the day before that stuff was frowned upon and deemed as toxic masculinity, politically incorrect and insensitive. You know, back when people were happier and most of us got along regardless of political or social affiliation.
I really do enjoy the action in this and while it can be an ’80s cheeseball extravaganza in parts, who really gives a shit? Action Jackson actually drives a Ferrari-like supercar into Coach’s mansion, up the stairs and then smashes it through his bedroom door for the big final fight. Is that dumb? Of course it is! But that’s the appeal, people!
I can’t say that this has aged well but it might not have aged well in its current year. It’s noticeably more corny than similar films but I do like the humor, its lightheartedness and its insanity.
Action Jackson isn’t an ’80s action magnum opus by any means but it was a pretty enthralling and amusing flick with Carl Weathers being a badass, Craig T. Nelson being an evil shithead and lots of other actors that were at the height of cool at the time.
Rating: 6.25/10 Pairs well with:Cobra, Lethal Weapon, The Last Dragon, Showdown In Little Tokyo, Firewalker and Hurricane Smith.
Release Date: February 7th, 2019 Directed by: Xavier Burgin Written by: Ashlee Blackwell, Danielle Burrows Based on:Horror Noire by Robin R. Means Coleman Music by: Timothy Day Cast: Robin R. Means Coleman, Ashlee Blackwell, Rusty Cundieff, Keith David, Ernest R. Dickerson, Ken Foree, Richard Lawson, Kelly Jo Minter, Miguel A. Nunez Jr., Paula Jai Parker, Jordan Peele, Ken Sagoes, Tony Todd, Rachel True
Stage 3 Productions, Shudder, 83 Minutes
I’ve seen quite a few documentaries on the history of horror as well as ones on blaxploitation and grindhouse movies. What makes this a unique film is that it examines the history of black horror, specifically.
This is well organized, fabulously presented and the thing that really gives this a lot of life is all the people that they were able to bring in and chat about the subject matter.
Also, this was told from the perspective of black people. We were able to see how certain things in movie history effected them, which is refreshing when most documentaries that cover black cinema usually feature a lot of white voices trying to interpret what they assume black people were feeling.
I think that this film gave a lot of clarity to the cultural impact of certain horror tropes regarding minority characters, as well as Hollywood tropes about race in general.
Most importantly, this honors the films it features, as well as all the talent that worked behind the scenes and on the screen.
This is a Shudder exclusive but between this, the new Joe Bob Briggs show and all their great horror film selections, you should already be subscribed. Plus, it’s cheaper than all those other streaming services.
Rating: 7.5/10 Pairs well with: other retrospective documentaries on horror and blaxploitation cinema.
Release Date: August 16th, 1985 Directed by: Dan O’Bannon Written by: John Russo, Rudy Ricci, Russell Streiner, Dan O’Bannon Music by: Matt Clifford, Francis Haines Cast: Clu Gulager, James Karen, Don Calfa, Thom Mathews, Miguel A. Núñez Jr., Linnea Quigley
Hemdale Film Corporation, A Greenberg Brothers Partnership, Orion Pictures, 91 Minutes
“Listen, there’s a bunch of people from the cemetery who are stark, staring, mad, and they’ll kill you and eat you if they catch you. It’s like a disease. It’s like rabies, only faster, a lot faster. That’s why you’ve got to come and get us out of here now… right now!” – Burt Wilson
There are very few movies as awesome as The Return of the Living Dead. It is, hands down, the greatest zombie comedy ever put to celluloid… sorry, Shaun of the Dead. It is also balls to the wall insane from beginning to end while being full of punk teens, great older actors and the best zombie hoard in the history of motion pictures.
Like Dawn of the Dead, which was George A. Romero’s sequel to Night of the Living Dead, this film is also a sequel (in a way), as John A. Russo was the other half of the creative duo that gave birth to that original film back in 1968.
The Return of the Living Dead is an alternate continuity to Romero’s Living Dead universe, though. In fact, the original film is mentioned in this picture, as it is a movie that exists within this alternate timeline. However, the movie is referenced and casually dismissed as a Hollywood version of the “real story”. This film continues off of that original story, which is established in a conversation between two of the characters very early on.
The reason for the split continuities, is that Romero and Russo had creative differences over the property. Romero even went as far as to send Russo a cease and desist order over this film, which effected the marketing but ultimately, didn’t stop the film from being released and spawning its own sequels.
Romero purists will probably hate me for saying this but this is my favorite Living Dead film. It is also my favorite zombie picture. I wouldn’t say that it is the greatest, as far as overall artistry is concerned, but it is the one that I watch the most and have the largest amount of appreciation for. The film is just fucking cool and that is really an understatement.
Initially, Russo wrote a Return of the Living Dead novel and shopped it around Hollywood to be adapted. At one point, Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chain SawMassacre 1 & 2, Poltergeist, The Funhouse) was slated to direct the film but that fell through. Ultimately, what we got was this, which is better than what the Hooper film probably would have been.
In this film, we quickly learn that zombies don’t die by destroying their brains. The zombies can be dismembered, have their heads knocked off and still keep coming. They’re essentially impossible to kill. At one point, they cremate a pile of animated zombie parts. However, the smoke from the crematorium goes up into the clouds, which rain onto the graveyard, reanimating the dead. There really isn’t an effective way to kill the zombies, which makes the threat in this film, infinitely worse. Not to mention the fact that they move with speed and want to eat human brains.
I know that they don’t give out Oscars for pictures like these but James Karen put on a performance that was legendary. He was a hilarious and useless doofus that accidentally set the zombie threat free. All he did from that point forward was freak out and whine but he did it with such believable gusto that it is impossible not to be captivated by his absurd character and to love the scenes that he’s in.
We also get Miguel A. Núñez Jr. in my favorite role that he ever played. He’s a punk rocker that kind of acts like a damsel in distress but it works. Linnea Quigley also shows up, gets butt naked and dances on a tomb because this is the kind of stuff she was best known for. It is also her most memorable role, in my opinion. Don Calfa, probably best known as the killer in Weekend At Bernie’s is the guy who works at the crematorium and he’s also fantastic in this. Clu Gulager is perfect as the no nonsense older alpha male lead; Thom Mathews, one of the Tommy Jarvises in the Friday the 13th film series, pulls his weight too.
This film, for what it is, is absolutely perfect, which is why I have to give it the highest score possible. I used to love watching this when it rotated in and out of Joe Bob Briggs’ MonsterVision on TNT back in the 90s but nothing beats watching the unedited non-television version. How else are you going to see the beautiful gore and Ms. Quigley’s glorious breasties? Her bum is quite exceptional too, for the record.
The Return of the Living Dead could make a case for being the coolest movie of all-time. It probably isn’t for everyone but for kids who grew up watching horror in the 80s, this thing is a friggin’ masterpiece.
Plus, it features music from The Cramps, who were the most perfect band to feature in this film. It was tailor made for their tunes.
Friday the 13th, Part IV – The Final Chapter (1984):
Release Date: April 13th, 1984 Directed by: Joseph Zito Written by: Barney Cohen, Bruce Hidemi Sakow Based on: characters by Victor Miller, Ron Kurz, Martin Kitrosser, Carol Watson Music by: Harry Manfredini Cast: Kimberly Beck, Peter Barton, Corey Feldman, E. Erich Anderson, Crispin Glover, Alan Hayes, Barbara Howard, Lawrence Monoson, Joan Freeman, Judie Aronson, Camilla More, Carey More
Paramount Pictures, 91 Minutes
This film is the start of The Tommy Jarvis Trilogy. Reason being, all three films (IV-VI) feature the character of Tommy Jarvis at different ages, battling Jason Voorhees. Well, Part V doesn’t, as he battles a lame copycat killer.
In this film, Tommy is a small boy, played by Corey Feldman when he was still a cute kid. In fact, this is the best thing Corey Feldman ever did, even though the original The Lost Boys was pretty awesome and I am a fan of License to Drive for some odd reason.
The film also stars one of my favorite actors, Crispin Glover – most famous for playing George McFly in the original Back to the Future.
In this installment, Jason kills a house full of horny teens and decides to move on to the neighbor’s house where a young Tommy Jarvis lives with his older sister and mother. Tommy and his family also have the protection of Rob Dier, who is the brother of one of Jason’s victims from the second film. Rob has returned to Crystal Lake to destroy Jason. Considering there are like eight more films after this one, we know how that turns out for him.
I find this film to be better than the three before it. While the first is the most unique and the template of the series, The Final Chapter is more refined, fluid and engaging. It also features Crispin Glover’s dance scene, which is the best dance scene in film history.
This is the first film where Jason really feels like the Jason everyone is used to. And for a long time it was my favorite film in the series but upon re-watching these again, was upstaged a bit by Part VI – Jason Lives.
Although this film’s bizarre and intense ending is still my favorite in the series.
Friday the 13th, Part V – A New Beginning (1985):
Release Date: March 22nd, 1985 Directed by: Danny Steinmann Written by: Martin Kitrosser, David Cohen, Danny Steinmann Based on: characters by Victor Miller Music by: Harry Manfredini Cast: Melanie Kinnaman, John Shepherd, Shavar Ross, Richard Young, Marco St. John, Juliette Cummins, Carol Locatell, Vernon Washington, John Robert Dixon, Jerry Pavlon, Caskey Swaim, Mark Venturini, Anthony Barrile, Dominick Brascia, Tiffany Helm, Richard Lineback, Corey Feldman, Miguel A. Núñez, Jr.
Paramount Pictures, 92 Minutes
Tommy Jarvis is back! But Jason isn’t.
That doesn’t make this a bad film even though fans of the series seem to hate this installment. Sure, the killer is Roy. Who the fuck is Roy? No one cares. What is Roy’s motivation? Still, no one cares. The point is, there is a psycho in a hockey mask murdering teens and other people who seemingly don’t fit the Jason Voorhees victim profile.
Tommy is older, he is slightly mad and somehow a master of judo, which he somehow forgets about when the sixth film rolls around a year later. He has visions of Jason and when the copycat killer springs up, it makes Tommy have to face those demons.
The film features a few scenes with Miguel A. Núñez, Jr, an actor I love in just about everything. In horror, he has been in the first Return of the Living Dead and Leprechaun 4: In Space. He is probably most known for being the star of the somewhat awesome, mostly awful Juwanna Man. The film also features a young Shavar Ross a.k.a. Dudley from Diff’rent Strokes and Vernon Washington, who played Otis in The Last Starfighter.
The film also features the second greatest dance scene in movie history when Violet the goth girl is putting her stellar 80s moves to the tune of Pseudo Echo’s “His Eyes”. She dies violently immediately afterwards, as Fake Jason apparently wasn’t impressed.
There is also the crazy backwoods redneck mom and her dufus son. They are over the top and entertaining. And strangely, the actors had great chemistry being the comedic distraction in a film about murdering teenagers.
This isn’t as bad as many say it is. It isn’t even the worst film in the series. It is the low point of this trilogy of films but it is still an entertaining and worthwhile bridge between the two best installments of the series.
Friday the 13th, Part VI – Jason Lives (1986):
Release Date: August 1st, 1986 Directed by: Tom McLoughlin Written by: Tom McLoughlin Based on: characters by Victor Miller Music by: Harry Manfredini Cast: Thom Mathews, Jennifer Cooke, David Kagen, Renée Jones, Kerry Noonan, Darcy DeMoss, Tom Fridley, Ron Palillo
Paramount Pictures, 87 Minutes
Tommy is back, again! But this time, so is Jason!
Wait, is that Horseshack?! Yes, it is!
This film starts with the oldest version of Tommy Jarvis we will see in the series, fresh out of the psych ward. He is healed but needs to make sure Jason is actually destroyed before he can move on with his life. He brings Horseshack from Welcome Back, Kotter with him to dig up Jason’s grave and burn the body. Except he inadvertently causes Jason to resurrect and for the first time, we know that Jason is some sort of supernatural zombie demon.
This film is the start of Jason looking truly undead and a lot less like just a human with a facial abnormality.
Where The Final Chapter was a more refined version of the formula, Jason Lives shocks new life (literally) into the franchise, and is even more refined. In short, this is the best film in the series. Pretty crazy, I know, considering that this is the fifth sequel to the groundbreaking original.
This is the best Jason has ever been before Kane Hodder took over the roll for the four films following this one. He looked truly predatory in his movement and felt like an unbeatable zombie hulk. The resurrection scene is actually the coolest scene in the entire series and showed Jason at his absolute best.
Thom Mathews (also great in the first and second Return of the Living Dead) is perfect as the aged and more experienced Tommy Jarvis. He feels like a bad ass, even though he is missing his ninja skills from the previous film.
Jason Lives also looks the best visually. I don’t know if it was just the talent of the director, the cinematographer or the person lighting the set and setting the tone but it just looks perfect.
While I adore the fourth film, this one here, is the cream of the crop for me. This is the perfect Friday the 13th film in every way. It has everything you want and nothing that you don’t.
Release Date: December 23rd, 1994 Directed by: Steven E. de Souza Written by: Steven E. de Souza Based on:Street Fighter II the video game by Capcom Music by: Graeme Revell Cast: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Raul Julia, Ming-Na Wen, Damian Chapa, Kylie Minogue, Wes Studi, Miguel A. Núñez, Andrew Bryniarski
Capcom, Universal Studios, 102 Minutes
The Street Fighter video game series is still one of my favorites. It is the premier fighting game series of all-time, in my opinion. At the time that Street Fighter II was the current game on the market, the world was experiencing an obsession over the franchise. That obsession created mania and that mania created a slew of Street Fighter knockoffs. Some of them were good and created their own long running franchises. That mania, however, also gave birth to this film.
I saw the cinematic Street Fighter the day it came out in 1994. I had just turned sixteen and it was the first film my friends and I drove to ourselves. In fact, we drove to the theater after each blowing through twenty bucks or so playing Street Fighter II at the arcade close by. We were pumped. And in our defense, we all loved Van Damme back then (I still do).
Our experience ended up being a massive disappointment.
At the time, we were baffled by how wrong they got most of the characters. We were also distraught over how awfully cheesy it was. We expected a darker, more serious tone – similar to how all the Street Fighter animes played out when they were released after this movie. What we got was a daft and insipid cheese fest!
Street Fighter solidified my fears. It was the next film in the growing genre of video game movies that didn’t even come close to representing its source material. It rounded out an awful unofficial trilogy that included a couple unrelated video game pictures: 1993’s Super Mario Bros. and 1994’s Double Dragon.
Over twenty years later, despite my teenage broken heart, I finally decided to give the film a second chance.
Now that I know what the movie is and how badly it turned out in relation to the property it is based on, I have had a lot of time to process all of that and move on. I wanted to go into this fresh, without emotion and I did. I gave it an honest and pretty much unbiased viewing.
Well, I’m glad that I did.
To start, Street Fighter is absolutely ridiculous. It is a collage of everything good and bad about the 90s. It is also kind of magical in a weird way. Sure, it isn’t Street Fighter, at its core, but it is a fun movie with a ton of odd characters capped off by an intense and ludicrous final showdown between Jean-Claude Van Damme and the incredibly talented Raul Julia.
In fact, I didn’t appreciate it in 1994, but Raul Julia is actually pretty amazing in this film as the villainous M. Bison. He delivered his lines with a gusto and confidence that were unwavering despite the awful script he probably shook his head at when the cameras weren’t rolling. The scene where he is trying to woo Ming-Na Wen’s Chun Li is almost perfection.
Van Damme was bizarre as the American bad ass Guile. Sure, he was great in that JCVD sort of way that always makes him great but here we have an American colonel with a strong Belgian accent. Not to mention an obviously fake American flag tattoo on his shoulder.
Ming-Na Wen as Chun Li was decent but mostly because it was cool seeing her as a serious ass kicker two decades before her role as Agent May on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Kylie Minogue was passable as Cammy and quite cute. Wes Studi was a convincing Sagat but I have always appreciated his work. Jay Tavare played Vega and looked the part more than anyone else in the movie. But props goes to Miguel A. Núñez, who knocks every role out of the park. That’s mostly because I adored him in Return of the Living Dead and Friday the 13th, Part V: A New Beginning.
Street Fighter is still a pretty dumb movie but it is an enjoyable dumb movie. It never gets boring like a bad movie should. There are a lot of poorly developed characters but most of them provide enough material to keep you engaged from scene-to-scene. Also, almost everyone in the film is fairly likable, even the bad guys.
Street Fighter is just a weird mixed bag. But it is a bag I have come to enjoy with age and without feeling like an angry teen whose heart was stepped on.