Film Review: Vampires (1998)

Also known as: John Carpenter’s Vampires (complete title), Vampire$ (working title)
Release Date: April 15th, 1998 (France)
Directed by: John Carpenter
Written by: Don Jakoby
Based on: Vampire$ by John Steakley
Music by: John Carpenter
Cast: James Woods, Daniel Baldwin, Sheryl Lee, Thomas Ian Griffith, Maximilian Schell, Tim Guinee, Mark Boone Junior, Gregory Sierra, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa

JVC Entertainment Networks, Film Office, Storm King Productions, Largo Entertainment, Spooky Tooth Productions, Columbia Pictures, 108 Minutes

Review:

“Can I ask ya somethin, Padre? When I was kickin your ass back there… you get a little wood?” – Jack Crow

James Woods is cooler than any of us could ever be. And frankly, this may be the coolest he’s ever been. I mean, shit, he’s a vampire slaying, foul mouthed, badass, ready to burn down hordes of undead bloodsuckers.

Then you have Daniel Baldwin, who is always very convincing as an overweight piece of shit that isn’t afraid to punch his way through problems.

Both of these guys inject so much testosterone into this picture that it truly is cinematic Viagra.

Now I’m not saying they’re good people or even heroic. But that’s what makes this movie so badass and chock full of the best ’90s action movie cliches.

This also features Thomas Ian Griffith as the big evil vampire that they have to kill. Griffith was born to play this part, even if he’s given better performances elsewhere – The Karate Kid, Part III is still my favorite thing he’s ever done. But he is absolutely convincing, has the right build and physical presence and is able to terrify the audience. I remember people in the theater being in absolute awe during the scene where Griffith crashes the vampire hunters’ motel party, ripping everyone and everything to shreds.

What I really enjoy about this movie, is that it is a vampire movie with a real hard edge to it. In the ’90s, vampires were still scary and this does a good job of tapping into that while reminding you how cool vampires can be when used as legitimate monsters. This, along with Blade and From Dusk Till Dawn used these mythological terrors in the way that God intended.

This isn’t John Carpenter at his finest but it’s the second best movie he did in the ’90s after In the Mouth of Madness. It’s tough as shit, blue collar as fuck and it shows you that being a vampire slayer means that you’re probably going to die a very early death instead of just being a cool teenage girl that talks like all her dialogue is written by a balding middle aged guy pretending to be a teenage girl.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Robert Rodriguez’s From Dusk Till Dawn and John Carpenter’s ’90s movies.

Film Review: Kull the Conqueror (1997)

Also known as: Conan the Conqueror (working title)
Release Date: August 29th, 1997
Directed by: John Nicolella
Written by: Charles Edward Pogue
Based on: Kull of Atlantis by Robert E. Howard
Music by: Joel Goldsmith
Cast: Kevin Sorbo, Thomas Ian Griffith, Tia Carrere, Litefoot, Harvey Fierstein, Karina Lombard, Roy Brocksmith, Pat Roach

Universal Pictures, 96 Minutes

Review:

“[with corpses around the throne] My heirs challenged me for the throne. So I’ve spared all my children any future disappointment!” – King Borna

This was originally written to be the third Conan film but the De Laurentiis family couldn’t get Arnold Schwarzenegger to commit to it. So after several years, they locked up Kevin Sorbo, star of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. However, Sorbo didn’t want to play a character that was already made famous by another actor, so the filmmakers retooled the Conan script and decided to use a different but similar Robert E. Howard barbarian character, Kull of Atlantis.

To be frank, I was really excited to see Kull get his own movie. While I love Conan, when I was a kid I read a few of the Kull stories and loved him as well. He was definitely a character worth exploring. Plus, his comics from Marvel were also in abundance in my collection.

For the most part, this is just an okay movie. It’s lighthearted, fun but it’s cheap and it shows. The story also isn’t very good but I guess it’s as good as the plot of Conan the Destroyer or other mid-tier sword and sorcery pictures.

What makes this film more enjoyable than it would otherwise be is the charisma of Kevin Sorbo and the vastly underappreciated Thomas Ian Griffith, who I have been a fan of since first seeing him in The Karate Kid, Part III. These two guys absolutely carry this movie on their backs. The opening scene between them is fantastic, as is every other scene that they share.

But in the end, I really wanted more from a Kull movie. Hopefully, someday, we can get a resurgence in sword and sorcery films and actually see Kull return to the big screen, preferably with a decent budget and stronger script.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: other movies based on Robert E. Howard creations: the Conan films, Red Sonja and Solomon Kane, as well as the Beastmaster film series.

Film Review: ‘The Karate Kid’ Trilogy (1984-1989)

The Karate Kid made a pretty big cultural impact in 1984. It had two sequels featuring the main cast, as well as a spin-off sequel and a nonsensical remake. It also influenced a ton of 80s kids to take up karate.

Let me address each film individually.

The Karate Kid (1984):

Release Date: June 22nd, 1984
Directed by: John G. Avildsen
Written by: Robert Mark Kamen
Music by: Bill Conti
Cast: Ralph Macchio, Noriyuki “Pat” Morita, Elisabeth Shue, William Zabka, Martin Kove, Randee Heller, Chad McQueen, Tony O’Dell, Ron Thomas, Rob Garrison, Frances Bay, Peter Jason

Columbia Pictures, 127 Minutes 

karate_kidReview:

The first film is the best overall. I would consider it to be a classic. Sure, it can be 80s cheesy but that is also a lot of the appeal. It still feels pretty realistic and has a grittiness to it.

The film was directed by John G. Avildsen and the score was done by Bill Conti. Both men worked on the original Rocky and there are plenty of similarities between that film and this one. Just make the hero younger and switch out boxing for karate and there you go. But as emotional as Rocky was, The Karate Kid may actually have more depth and character.

Sure, some of my love of this film is due to nostalgia but it still resonates today. The message is timeless. It is about standing up for yourself and not backing down or succumbing to fear. But it also shows how bad kids can be created by the influence of bad adults. It is also about friendship in its purest form, as teenage Daniel and the elderly Miyagi have one of the strongest bonds in motion picture history. There is a lot to take away from this film.

It is shot well, directed well and the music is perfect, whether it is the score or the pop tunes of the time. In fact, some of the epic landscape shots, enhanced by the beautiful score, are majestic. The cinematography was superb.

It also just hits you right in the feels.

The Karate Kid, Part II (1986):

Release Date: June 20th, 1986
Directed by: John G. Avildsen
Written by: Robert Mark Kamen
Music by: Bill Conti
Cast: Ralph Macchio, Noriyuki “Pat” Morita, Nobu McCarthy, Tamlyn Tomita, Yuji Okumoto, Danny Kamekona, William Zabka, Martin Kove, Chad McQueen, Tony O’Dell

Columbia Pictures, 113 Minutes 

karate_kid_part_iiReview:

This film picks up at the point where the first one ended, which was kind of cool. It then follows Daniel and Miyagi as they travel to Okinawa to see Miyagi’s sick father. While there, a former best-friend turned rival challenges Miyagi and the heroes must face stakes much higher than those of the first film.

This is a beautiful picture. Even though it takes place in Okinawa, it was filmed mostly in Hawaii. But the island village life and the geography are well captured and become characters in the film.

The scenes between Miyagi and his long lost love Yukie are both heartbreaking and heartwarming and really make an impact in this film, more so than the love story between Daniel and his new love interest.

As a kid, I liked this film better than the first but that was due to the exotic feel of it and the fact that Daniel was forced to fight to the death. The threat in this film is just so much more real than the petty squabbles of teenagers from the first movie. But as an adult, I can see that the original is superior.

This film doesn’t get the respect it deserves by critics or IMDb, as it is certainly better than its 5.9 rating.

The Karate Kid, Part III (1989):

Release Date: June 30th, 1989
Directed by: John G. Avildsen
Written by: Robert Mark Kamen
Music by: Bill Conti
Cast: Ralph Macchio, Noriyuki “Pat” Morita, Robyn Lively, Thomas Ian Griffith, Martin Kove, Sean Kanan, Randee Heller, Frances Bay

Columbia Pictures, 112 Minutes 

karate_kid_part_iiiReview:

While this might be the worst film of the original trilogy, it is still better than the 2010 remake and that 1994 abomination, The Next Karate Kid.

This film sees John Kreese, the leader of the villainous Cobra Kai from the first film, join forces with his war buddy in an effort to get revenge against Daniel and Miyagi. Their plan is to tear apart the bond between Daniel and Miyagi while finding a challenger that can crush Daniel and take his title.

The spirit of the series is still alive in the relationship of Daniel and Miyagi but that is where it ends, really. You still love the characters and it is hard to watch them struggle, as they find themselves at odds with one another for the first time. But this film also has some of the sweetest moments between the two characters, as Daniel sacrifices a lot to help his mentor achieve his dreams.

This is still a movie worth your time, if you like the series. It’s not great but it’s not a total waste either.

Although, I find it hard to believe that the villainous Kreese and Terry Silver just walked away after this film ends. And I have to wonder what’s wrong with Daniel after striking out with three girls in three films. Can we maybe get some sort of follow-up or update?

Maybe I’ll write and direct The Karate Kid, Part VII, disregarding the nonexistent films Part IV, V and VI. In my film, Earth is in a post-apocalyptic state following the Cobra Kai defeating the military might of the world. Daniel awakes from a coma to find out that he was in a plane crash, orchestrated by the Cobra Kai and that Miyagi has died. He discovers that the Cobra Kai took over the world and now he must lead a band of fighters proficient in Okinawan karate. Daniel and his karate army must stop Terry Silver and John Kreese’s fascist Cobra Kai government. Daniel’s advantage is that Silver and Kreese don’t know he survived the plane crash years earlier. But they are about to discover the truth like a crane kick to the face!