Published: October, 2021
Written by: Chuck Dixon, Richard C. Meyer
Art by: Graham Nolan, Jason Johnson, Kelsey Shannon, Butch Guice, Daniel Brown
Based on: The Expendables franchise by Sylvester Stallone
Splatto Comics, 50 Pages
Out of all the comics that I’ve backed through crowdfunding, this is one of the few that I anticipated the most. Not because I’m a massive Expendables fan but because it was really neat seeing Sylvester Stallone work with comic crowdfunding maestro Richard C. Meyer a.k.a. Ya Boi Zack and writer Chuck Dixon, who wrote some of my favorite G.I. Joe stories. Since G.I. Joe is very similar to The Expendables, it makes Dixon a pretty solid choice for this project. Plus, he had already worked with Stallone before.
Additionally, I really liked that this featured art by Graham Nolan and a sweet as fuck cover by Kelsey Shannon. There were other variant covers as well but the Shannon cover just nailed it for me and he’s also a hell of a nice comic creator in an industry full of psychotic, narcissistic shitheads.
So while I might not be a massive Expendables fan, I still enjoy the hell out of those movies because they feature so many badasses from the action films of my childhood. Also, they’re just fun, insane movies with a bunch of likable alpha males trying to out alpha each other while also being brothers on the field of battle.
The story is pretty self-explanatory, as it sees the Expendables actually go to Hell. Once there, they learn that Hell is constant war and they find themselves at odds with tyrants of the past while also having some historical heroes becoming their allies. Also, some of their deceased friends and foes appear.
The comic is pretty straightforward, doesn’t waste time and just gets to the action. It’s a pretty cool comic if this stuff is your cup of whiskey.
All in all, I was really happy with it and thought it was certainly worth the wait.
Now if we could only get an Expendables and Jawbreakers crossover or that long-awaited sequel to Stallone’s Cobra that I’ve been dying for since 1986.
Release Date: May 20th, 1993 (Cannes)
Directed by: Renny Harlin
Written by: Michael France, Sylvester Stallone, John Long (premise)
Music by: Trevor Jones
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, John Lithgow, Michael Rooker, Janine Turner, Leon, Paul Winfield, Ralph Waite, Bruce McGill
Pioneer, Canal+, Carolco Pictures, 113 Minutes
“Kill a few people, they call you a murderer. Kill a million and you’re a conqueror.” – Eric Qualen
This is one of my least favorite Sylvester Stallone films from his legendary run from the early ’80s through the mid-’90s. However, I still enjoy it because it’s Stallone and he has John Lithgow and Michael Rooker to work with in this.
The story is about a team of people that rescue mountain climbers. The two men on the team had a terrible falling out when one of them couldn’t save the other’s girlfriend and she fell to her death. However, they have to learn to work together again when a group of criminals crashes a plane and loses the money they stole in the mountain wilderness.
The two heroes are forced into being the criminals’ guides but once the money is located, the criminals try to take out Stallone. Stallone gets pissed and decides he needs to rescue the other guide, his former buddy, and to take out these criminals before they hurt more people.
The stunts in this are pretty impressive, especially considering the terrain and the environment. Sure, there are shots where it’s obviously not a real mountainside but they still had to get certain shots to make the film feel as real as possible.
There’s also a good amount of decent helicopter work in the film and the finale with the helicopter crashing and getting wrapped up by a cable ladder is pretty good.
Overall, this is exactly what you’d expect from a movie with Stallone on snowy mountain caps. It’s basically Die Hard on a mountain and that’s fine, as Die Hard created a formula that the action genre still tries to emulate.
Also known as: Suicide Squad 2 (informal title)
Release Date: July 28th, 2021 (France)
Directed by: James Gunn
Written by: James Gunn
Based on: Suicide Squad by John Ostrander
Music by: John Murphy
Cast: Margot Robbie, Idris Elba, John Cena, Joel Kinnaman, Sylvester Stallone, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, Peter Capaldi, David Dastmalchian, Daniela Melchior, Nathan Fillion, Michael Rooker, Flula Borg, Mayling Ng, Pete Davidson, Sean Gunn, Stephen Blackehart, Jennifer Holland, Alice Braga, Taika Waititi, Pom Klementieff (cameo, uncredited), Lloyd Kaufman (cameo, uncredited)
Atlas Entertainment, DC Comics, DC Entertainment, 132 Minutes
“You know the deal: successfully complete the mission and you get ten years off your sentence. You fail to follow my orders in any way, and I detonate the explosive device in the base of your skull.” – Amanda Waller
Going into this, based off of the trailers, I wasn’t expecting much. Also, even though I like Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, I hated the first Suicide Squad and her Birds of Prey movie. That being said, this was pretty damn fantastic and it’s probably my favorite comic book movie since Infinity War, which I can’t believe is already three years old.
I’d also say that this was the best DC Comics film since Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy ended in 2012.
The cast was perfect and out of the core characters, I liked all of them. In fact, seeing a few of them die was actually kind of hard and it was in those moments that I realized how personally attached I had become to them and this story.
James Gunn was the perfect choice for directing this and frankly, I like that he was allowed to go for an R-rating and didn’t have to make it “kid friendly” like his two Guardians of the Galaxy movies. With that, this was able to be closer to Gunn’s pre-Marvel movies where there was great, stylized violence, no punches pulled, colorful language and the sort of balls out awesomeness that you could never tap into while making a movie for Disney.
This film is also a great example of how to properly subvert expectations. The opening sequence completely shakes thing up and throws multiple major curveballs at the audience. The film continues to do this, throughout, and with that, it’s probably the least predictable and paint-by-numbers blockbuster movie to come out in a very long time.
The movie doesn’t just subvert expectations for the hell of it, it does it to make the picture better and more engaging. This is a now rare occasion of a filmmaker having love for the material and his fans, as opposed to what guys like Rian Johnson and Kevin Smith have turned into.
Gunn wants to make great, entertaining movies and he genuinely wants his audience to leave the theater happy. I wish there were more James Gunns than talent drained directors who blame fans’ “toxicity” for holding them accountable when they fail.
Another difference between Gunn’s films and many of the others that exist in the same genre, is that there is a real, genuine passion in Gunn’s work and it is very apparent. He still loves making these movies and it shows in a way that transcends his films and becomes infectious with his audience.
In this movie, he understood these characters and the tone that was needed to make this all work. The movie is badass, violent and over the top. It’s also funny, tells a very human story and also makes you sympathize with the film’s big bad in the end.
Since this just came out, I don’t want to spoil too much of the plot details and wreck the experience for those who haven’t seen this yet. There are a lot of cool twists to the plot that should just be experienced.
In the end, this set out to achieve a certain thing and it greatly exceeded that thing, at least from my point-of-view. It’s a fun and entertaining, action-packed spectacle that has cemented itself as one of the best superhero movies of this era. At this point, I’d also consider it to be my favorite movie of 2021, thus far.
Also known as: Carquake! (UK)
Release Date: July 6th, 1976
Directed by: Paul Bartel
Written by: Paul Bartel, Donald C. Simpson
Music by: David A. Axelrod
Cast: David Carradine, Bill McKinney, Veronica Hamel, Gerrit Graham, Robert Carradine, Belinda Balaski, Mary Woronov, James Keach, Dick Miller, Paul Bartel, Joe Dante, Allan Arkush, Jonathan Kaplan, Roger Corman, Don Simpson, Martin Scorsese (uncredited), Sylvester Stallone (uncredited)
Cross Country Productions, Harbor Productions, New World Pictures, 90 Minutes
“I thought this car could beat anything on the road.” – Linda Maxwell, “This car’s a winner.” – Coy ‘Cannonball’ Buckman
A year after Paul Bartel directed the cult classic Death Race 2000, he made a very similar film with a lot of the same core cast members, as well as producer and B-movie legend, Roger Corman.
In this film, take the Death Race 2000 concept and strip away the futuristic sci-fi setting, the slapstick uber violence and the plot to assassinate a corrupt president and you’ve essentially got the same film.
Granted, Cannonball! isn’t as good and I kind of blame that on stripping away the things that made Death Race 2000 so unique. This is still really enjoyable, though, and fans of that more beloved flick will probably dig this one too.
The race car driving hero is still David Carradine and he’s re-joined in the cast by Mary Woronov, Paul Bartel (the director), Sylvester Stallone in an uncredited cameo, as well as some of the other bit players.
Like Death Race, the film follows a cross-country auto race, all the wacky characters involved and all the crazy shenanigans of racers trying to sabotage and outperform one another.
I like a lot of the new additions to the cast like the always great Gerrit Graham, Robert Carradine, Bill McKinney, Belinda Balaski and the inclusion of Dick Miller, Joe Dante, Allan Arkush, Jonathan Kaplan, Roger Corman (the producer), Don Simpson and Martin Scorsese, who is also uncredited for his appearance here.
The action is good, the comedy still works and this film has that unique Paul Bartel charm.
In the end, this isn’t quite a classic but it did help pave the way for all the other movies like it that followed for years to come.
Pairs well with: Paul Bartel’s Death Race 2000, as well as other cross-country racing movies of the ’70s and ’80s like the Cannonball Run films, The Gumball Rally and Speed Zone.
Written by: Jim Rugg
Art by: Jim Rugg
Based on: characters by David Morrell
Jim Rugg Art, 32 Pages
I’ve wanted to read this since finding out about it on one of Cartoonist Kayfabe’s videos. And since I already own and read three bootleg comics about Sylvester Stallone’s Cobra, I figured that I’d enjoy this too.
Unfortunately, I don’t own this, yet. But Jim Rugg does have it up to read on his website for those that want to give it a read.
The story tries to answer the question about how John Rambo might have handled the events of 9/11, especially after he helped the Afghan rebels in Rambo III.
The comic focuses on George W. Bush and John Rambo, as the two form a bond and team up to fight the terrorists. There is a plot twist, however, but I won’t ruin it.
Overall, the comic was amusing and I enjoyed it. It’s pretty cheeky towards Bush and his handling of the situation but I’m not a snowflake and I’m pretty indifferent to the guy, anyway.
Some may like this, some may not. I tend to gravitate to bootleg and outlaw comics, especially unofficial sequels to movies I’m a fan of.
Pairs well with: the Cobra II comics from Teddy Goldenberg.
Written by: Teddy Goldenberg
Art by: Teddy Goldenberg
Based on: Cobra by Sylvester Stallone, Cannon Films
Teddy Goldenberg Comics, 48 Pages
I love Sly Stallone’s Cobra and even though it’s never officially gotten a sequel, that didn’t stop Teddy Goldenberg from giving us the next best thing.
Since I really dug the first part of the story, as soon as this second and final part came out, I had to grab it from Goldenberg’s website. You can do that too by going here.
Overall, this one is also a lot of fun, as well as being gritty, utterly awesome and taking that ’80s action movie formula and upping the ante in a crazy and great way.
It’s like a Cannon Films action flick on steroids but this chapter in the series gets real f’n trippy, as Marion Cobretti gets closer to solving the crime and confronting his own dastardly father, who has a striking resemblance to Christopher Walken.
I love this indie outlaw, bootleg stuff and this is one of the best out there. I like the first part a bit more but this concludes the story in a cool and unpredictable way and frankly, it just makes me want to see what else Goldenberg could do with unofficial sequels to other similar films. Or hell, just give us a Cobra III because Marion Cobretti needs to live on forever.
Pairs well with: the first part of this story, as well as the bootleg Hungarian Cobra comic book I recently reviewed here.
Also known as: Rambo V (alternative title)
Release Date: September 18th, 2019 (Indonesia)
Directed by: Adrian Grunberg
Written by: Matthew Cirulnick, Sylvester Stallone
Based on: characters by David Morrell
Music by: Brian Tyler
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Paz Vega, Sergio Peris-Mencheta, Adriana Barraza, Yvette Monreal, Genie Kim, Joaquin Cosio, Oscar Jaenada
Lionsgate, Millennium Films, Campbell Grobman Films, Balboa Productions, 89 Minutes, 101 Minutes (international cut)
“I’m gonna tear you apart.” – John Rambo
I may be four months late to the party but I finally got around to seeing Rambo V or, as it is officially called, Rambo: Last Blood.
Getting straight to the heart of it, this is the worst Rambo film. That doesn’t mean it is bad, though, as I still really enjoyed it and it’s better than most other modern action films.
The last fifteen or twenty minutes of the movie are incredible for fans of hardcore ’80s style action. It’s an all out war between Rambo and piece of shit sex traffickers on Rambo’s farm.
The first two acts of the film are a bit weak, however. They don’t feature that much action, really, except for a few scenes of Rambo just beating up some thugs. This picture certainly doesn’t have the level of action as 2008’s, far superior, Rambo.
I think part of the problem is that this movie is too short. It’s less than 90 minutes and if you lob the credits off the film, it’s only about 80 minutes. Now there is a longer international cut that comes in at 101 minutes. I’d assume that this is a better cut of the film and maybe the US version had its violence and action toned down due to the overly bitchified political and social climate of 2019. I mean, this is a movie about a white dude killing off a fuck ton of Mexicans. It doesn’t matter that these people are the scumfucks of the Earth, the Hollywood elites would rather the races be reversed in movies like this now.
That being said, the villains in this are so evil that I don’t feel like the end was satisfying enough. After what these men did to Rambo’s surrogate daughter, his friend’s sister and well, to Rambo himself, I was really hoping for levels of violence and gore on par with the 2008 film.
The big finale is still great, as Rambo lures the scumfucks into his underground maze where he picks them off one-by-one like a silent predator. The murder of the gang leader at the very end is pretty intense and violent but I feel like that piece of shit got off too easily. But maybe this is a sign that Rambo is older and he just wants these men dead, as opposed to playing with them like a cat slowly torturing a mouse.
Like other Rambo movies, this one comes with a message. This time, the film’s message is about how fucked up the cartels are in Mexico between sex trafficking, kidnapping, drugs, etc.
I guess one big difference between this and the 2008 chapter, is that I didn’t leave this one wanting more. The ending is sort of ambiguous, as Rambo may or may not bleed out and die. I think it was left that way to keep the door open for Rambo VI. I don’t think it’s necessary though and now, I don’t think that this movie was necessary either.
The fourth film had a pretty perfect ending and went out on a really high note. This fifth film, while mostly okay, felt like that family member that stuck around a day or two too long after the rest of the family left following the holidays.
Pairs well with: the other Rambo movies, as well as other ’80s and early ’90s Stallone movies.
Also known as: Rambo IV (unofficial title), Rambo IV: End of Peace, Rambo IV: In the Serpent’s Eye, Rambo IV: Pearl of the Cobra, Rambo: To Hell and Back, John Rambo, Rambo: First Blood Part IV (working titles)
Release Date: January 23rd, 2008 (Kuwait)
Directed by: Sylvester Stallone
Written by: Art Monterastelli, Sylvester Stallone
Based on: characters by David Morrell
Music by: Brian Tyler
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Julie Benz, Paul Schulze, Matthew Marsden, Graham McTavish, Tim Kang, Rey Gellegos, Jake La Botz, Maung Maung Khin, Ken Howard
Lionsgate, The Weinstein Company, Millennium Films, 92 Minutes, 99 Minutes (extended), 80 Minutes (heavily cut)
“You know what you are… what you’re made of. War is in your blood. Don’t fight it. You didn’t kill for your country. You killed for yourself. God’s never gonna make that go away. When you’re pushed, killing’s as easy as breathing.” – John Rambo
This was a film that I never knew I wanted until I saw the trailer for it back in 2007. But after the success of Stallone’s return as Rocky Balboa in Rocky Balboa, a decades late Rambo sequel felt like a natural follow up, creatively speaking.
I assumed the Rambo character, like Rocky, was long gone. I figured that someone would eventually just do a shitty remake. But no, we got this, a legit sequel and one of the most intense action films of its decade.
Rambo is super violent, supremely extreme and it doesn’t just feel like a throwback to ’80s action movies, it feels like a fucking throwback to ’70s gore porn exploitation! I’m not even sure what Stallone or the other executives were thinking but this movie was like a big “fuck you” to the Hollywood status quo, who ruined action and horror by forcing every genre filmmaker to keep their art neutered for PG-13 audiences.
This is the best Rambo movie since the original: First Blood. It, like the other films, has a message and a point to it, as it draws attention to just how shitty the decades long genocide was in Burma. It’s unapologetic in how it displays the sadistic nature of the fascist dictatorship and its treatment of its citizens. Since the movie, things have improved in Burma (actually officially called Myanmar).
In fact, the film was banned there by the government. However, it was eventually disturbed via bootlegs by the resistance, hoping to use it as anti-military propaganda. It also went on to inspire the people in the country, who adopted some of the film’s most notable lines in their battle cries. Learning of all this, Stallone said, “That, to me, is one of the proudest moments I’ve ever had in film.”
I point that out because some people have wondered as to whether or not things in Burma were as bad as the movie portrayed. Also, it shows that Hollywood can make a difference and inspire change when it addresses real world problems and doesn’t get fixated on faux bourgeois identity politics or being overly fixated on trashing the other end of the political spectrum most of them subscribe to.
The film’s story is pretty simple: a group of missionaries charter Rambo’s boat in Thailand. They want to go up the river into Burma to deliver aid to the people there. Rambo reluctantly agrees. The missionaries eventually get captured and Rambo goes back to Burma with a group of mercenaries to bring war to some of the worst humans on the planet.
If you thought that previous Rambo films were too violent, then you might want to skip this film. This is insanely violent but when the villains are as evil as they are in this movie, it feels gratifying to see them literally blasted to bloody chunks.
Also, Stallone feels completely at home in the John Rambo character; like no time has passed and he’s been living in Rambo’s head for twenty years, waiting to get out. For die hard fans of the film series, this more than makes up for a twenty year gap between the third film and this one.
It’s a short, quick and badass motion picture. It’s also one of the best that Stallone, himself, has directed.
Pairs well with: the other Rambo movies, as well as other ’80s and early ’90s Stallone movies.