Film Review: Rambo III (1988)

Also known as: Rambo: First Blood Part III (Malaysia)
Release Date: May 25th, 1988
Directed by: Peter MacDonald
Written by: Sylvester Stallone, Sheldon Lettich
Based on: character by David Morrell
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Richard Crenna, Kurtwood Smith, Marc de Jonge

Carolco Pictures, TriStar Pictures, 102 Minutes, 87 Minutes (heavily cut VHS version)

Review:

“Yeah, well, there won’t be a victory! Every day, your war machines lose ground to a bunch of poorly-armed, poorly-equipped freedom fighters! The fact is that you underestimated your competition. If you’d studied your history, you’d know that these people have never given up to anyone. They’d rather die, than be slaves to an invading army. You can’t defeat a people like that. We tried! We already had our Vietnam! Now you’re gonna have yours!” – Colonel Trautman

While I will love any Rambo movie by default, there are some that aren’t as good as others. From memory, this one was my least favorite but I also hadn’t seen it in about fifteen years. Now that I’ve seen it again, it is pretty damn awesome even if it is the worst of the original trilogy of films. But out of the three, someone had to lose.

That being said, it is a damn solid ’80s action movie that is unapologetic, out to splatter the balls of lesser men and just a great conclusion to the Rambo story arc. Well, that is until we were allowed to check in on him twenty years later with 2008’s Rambo, a film no one ever really anticipated, as Hollywood wasn’t resurrecting everything under the sun by that point.

Anyway, this movie shows us that John Rambo has been living in Thailand where he is a pit fighter that whips ass for money. Granted, he gives the money to the nice monks that let him live in their monastery, where he also does some handyman work. Colonel Trautman then shows up with a new mission that will help free a region of Afghanistan from a Soviet tyrant who is pretty damn sadistic.

After September 11th, 2001, this plot was looked at as somewhat controversial, as Rambo aided the mujahideen, a group that was associated with Osama bin Laden in the real world. The ending of the film even had a blurb of text that said the film was dedicated to “…the brave mujahideen fighters of Afghanistan.” Since 2001, the film has been altered to say that it’s dedicated to the “…gallant people of Afghanistan.”

Apart from that issue, which really isn’t an issue when you consider the history of the United States, the Soviet Union and the politics of the Soviet-Afghan War, this is one badass movie. In fact, once Rambo gets going in this flick, he is a killing machine and the action only stops long enough to give you a breather a few times.

My only real gripe about the film is that it takes too long to really get to the good stuff. There is a great action sequence early on, which sees the Soviets in a Hind-D helicopter attack an Afghan buzkashi match but after that, there is a lot of talk, planning and scenes of Trautman (and later Rambo) in Soviet custody. The film isn’t overly slow in the first two acts but they probably could’ve lobbed off ten or fifteen minutes and made it flow at a better pace.

Out of the original three films, however, this has, hands down, the best climax. We get to see Rambo, driving a tank, play a game of chicken with the Soviet Hind-D helicopter. It’s fucking glorious and is one of the most masculine moments in the history of cinema. While the final sequence here doesn’t beat out the final sequence of Death Wish 3, it has made me develop a theory that the big finale of the third film in action franchises will always be tremendous. Ignore Lethal Weapon 3, though, otherwise it destroys my theory like a balsa wood house in a fire… like the one in the final fight in Lethal Weapon 3.

Rambo III is a spectacular action flick, a product of its time (a great time, mind you) and it stars one of the best actors of the action genre, in his prime, playing his second greatest character. Seriously, what’s not to love, here?

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: the other Rambo movies, as well as other ’80s and early ’90s Stallone movies.

Film Review: Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985)

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

Estudios Churubusco Azteca S.A., Anabasis N.V., TriStar Pictures, 96 Minutes

Review:

“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.

Film Review: First Blood (1982)

Also known as: Rambo (Argentina, Austria, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Peru, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Venezuela), Rambo: First Blood (informal title)
Release Date: October 22nd, 1982
Directed by: Ted Kotcheff
Written by: Michael Kozoll, William Sackheim, Sylvester Stallone
Based on: First Blood by David Morrell
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Brian Dennehy, Richard Crenna, David Caruso

Anabasis N.V., Elcajo Productions, Orion Pictures, 93 Minutes

Review:

“I could have killed’em all, I could’ve killed you. In town you’re the law, out here it’s me. Don’t push it! Don’t push it or I’ll give you a war you won’t believe. Let it go. Let it go!” – Rambo

I wanted to see Rambo: Last Blood in the theater. But when it came out, I had a lot going on and next thing I knew, it was out of my local cinema. It’s out digitally now but before finally watching it, I thought I’d start way back at the beginning and work my way through the franchise, as I haven’t watched any of these in at least a decade.

First Blood is the best film, at least from my memory. But my opinion doesn’t really seem to be that different from the general consensus. And after revisiting it, I think the other ones have their work cut out for them, as this still holds up and hits the same notes it did when I first saw it, a few decades ago.

This is the most serious and dramatic of the films and Stallone is pretty damn stellar in this. He carries the entire film on his back and shows why he was one of the biggest action movie stars of all-time. People will always debate who was better between Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger but this film, like the original Rocky, shows that Stallone was the better actor.

The story here is simple, Rambo is a Vietnam veteran that just happens to be traveling on foot through a small town. He draws the attention of a bigoted sheriff that thinks it’s wise to fuck with Rambo. Both men push each other back a little bit and it escalates into the police going on a manhunt for a legitimately deadly soldier that knows how to use his wild environment to his extreme advantage.

What sets this film apart from the other Rambo movies is that this one has a clear message that really resonated at the time that it was released. It’s a straight up action movie, for sure, but beyond that, it examines the treatment of Vietnam veterans by their own country once they got home from the hell that was the Vietnam War.

The film conveys its message quite well and Stallone’s final moments in this film really show the audience the horrors and the effects of war on those who are closest to it. You sympathize with Rambo, you feel what he’s feeling in your gut and its hard not to truly feel his emotion and pain as he breaks down in the arms of his former commander.

In regards to the bulk of the film, which is action, everything is wonderfully shot and executed. I love the look of this picture, the choice of using the Pacific Northwest and how it becomes Rambo’s real weapon against a corrupt, power mad sheriff and his police force.

I also like the final act of the film which brings Rambo back into town for a showdown with the sheriff. Speaking of which, Brian Dennehy was pretty good as the slimeball sheriff and this is the role that helped to give him a pretty solid and respectable career.

One thing that really takes this movie to the next level is the Jerry Goldsmith score. It’s pretty perfect, especially in how it gives extra energy to the spectacle of the action heavy sequences.

First Blood is still a damn good motion picture to watch and it carries a message that is still relevant while not being too heavy handed, allowing the movie to still entertain you. Modern Hollywood could learn a lot from First Blood in that it doesn’t sacrifice story and character to force feed its audience an agenda. It presents its message and allows you to digest it, think on it and then do what you will with it.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: the other Rambo films, as well as Chuck Norris’ Missing In Action movies.

Comic Review: Doomsday Clock

Published: November 22nd, 2017 – December 18th, 2019
Written by: Geoff Johns
Art by: Gary Frank, Brad Anderson
Based on: Watchmen by Alan Moore

DC Comics, 456 Pages

Review:

Well, Doomsday Clock has finally ended! This twelve issue series wasn’t supposed to stretch out for over two years but it did. I’m glad that I didn’t start reading it until it was over, as I would’ve forgotten all the details due to the delays and the dozens of other comics I would’ve read between each issue.

Now that it’s all out, I finally read it: binging through it in two days.

I guess my first thoughts on it are that it is underwhelming and that it doesn’t justify its need to exist.

I had always been against new Watchmen stories without the involvement of Alan Moore. My mind changed, however, when I read some of the Before Watchmen stories from a couple years ago.

They made me see Watchmen the same way I see other comic book properties and that’s as a sort of modern mythology that is told and retold by countless others, each bringing something new and unique to the table. Superman and Batman have had countless writers and many of them have evolved and grown the character in great ways beyond their original concept. Granted, some writers have gravely failed too.

Generally, I like Geoff Johns’ work, so I wan’t against the idea of him tackling the Watchmen property.

Ultimately, though, this took too long to come out, especially with how sloppily put together it feels.

This is one of those stories where it feels like a lot happened but also like nothing happened.

It tries to merge the Watchmen universe with the DC universe but it doesn’t work. But I’m also over the crossover trope of using inter-dimensional portals or a superbeing that basically acts as a super-dimensional portal. That being said, I don’t know how else to bring these universes together but that also makes me ask why they had to try it in the first place?

Watchmen is very much its own thing, as is DC. Hell, Marvel is also its own thing in that same regard and whenever they tried to crossover Marvel and DC, which happened multiple times, it always felt forced, clunky and weird.

The only real highlight of this was seeing how certain characters from different universes would interact with one another but honestly, none of it was as cool as I felt it should have been and it all felt pretty pointless and made me realize how bad the Rebirth era of DC Comics has been – well, for the most part, as I liked some titles in the last few years.

In the end, this doesn’t feel any different than one of any of the dozen indie publisher crossovers that pit Green Lanterns against Ghostbusters, Ninja Turtles, Transformers, Star Trek crews or the apes from Planet of the Apes. While those crazy crossovers are neat to a point, they’ve been done to death in recent years. And despite this being better written and having better art than the other franchise mashups, it feels like DC Comics were really late to the party and didn’t even realize that it was over.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: Watchmen and the Before Watchmen stuff, as well as just about everything under the DC Rebirth banner.

Video Game Review: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero – The Atlantis Factor (NES)

Where the first G.I. Joe game for the Nintendo was almost shit, this one actually succeeds at being total shit.

The main reason for this being terrible is that I got stuck at a point really early in the game and couldn’t advance. I’m not sure if it was a glitch but there’s a point in the early level with the space shuttle where I couldn’t get the game to advance.

I tried replaying it, starting over, and I kept getting to that same problem. So fuck this game.

Also, it’s just a rehash of the game we already played except it just adds some new characters to play with. However, the interface and how everything works is stupid and bizarre.

I can only add Joes to my team as I find them in the field? G.I. Joe has like 200 members. You mean to tell me that I can’t just grab three Joes to go on a mission? Especially since the first playable character is General f’n Hawk?!

I also hated the map system that looked like it was ripped off from Bionic Commando or Super Mario Bros. 3. It didn’t need to exist and the game could’ve just had simple levels that went in a simple order like the first game.

I think they were trying to make the game better but their attempts at refining it made it worse.

It’s 2019 now. I’m still waiting for a good G.I. Joe game.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: it’s predecessor, which is mostly just more of the same.

Video Game Review: Super C (NES)

Contra was a massive game for the original Nintendo. Super C, its first sequel also did well but it wasn’t a phenomenon like its predecessor. I think that the reason why has a lot to do with the Konami Code giving you 30 lives in Contra but only 10 in Super C, a game that was actually harder.

For the most part, this plays and feels exactly like the first game except for one major change.

The levels in the first game where you walk through two fortresses with your back to the camera and move forward in almost a 3D effect are now replaced with vertical scrolling bird’s eye view levels, which kind of suck. The main reason is that jumping is disabled due to the mechanics of the level and therefore, evading a volley of bullets from baddies is much more difficult. I’m not sure why they changed this but I prefer the alternate non-side scrolling levels of the first game a lot more.

However, the game sort of makes up for that mistake in the level design of the standard side scrolling levels. We now have levels that feature side and vertical scrolling, as well as slanted platforms that add to the challenge but make this game feel more advanced.

I also thought that most of the boss battles were really fun, even if the bosses here aren’t as iconic as those from its predecessor. In regards to bosses, my only complaint is that the final boss is one of the easiest in the franchise and a total cakewalk as a final boss. But at least the boss looked damn cool.

Ultimately, this isn’t as good as the first game but it’s still in the same ballpark and for fans that love Contra that haven’t actually given Super C a fair shot, it’s worth your time, especially because its just like playing new levels in a game you already love. But with less lives available, it’d behoove you to be less reckless.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other side scrolling action games for the classic Nintendo, which narrows it down to about 8 dozen games. But definitely the original Contra.

Video Game Review: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (NES)

Hasbro really missed the boat in not getting a G.I. Joe game out for the original Nintendo a few years earlier than this.

The main reason is that by the time that this was developed, G.I. Joe was already passed its peek and the toys and figures were starting to get weird, uninspiring designs that were made even worse by garish color schemes and baffling designs.

This game is littered with what was the most up-to-date versions of G.I. Joe characters and vehicles.

Point being, this would have been a lot better had it been released in the early era, around season one in the TV show continuity. This way all the Joes and members of Cobra had their more classic look and the boss battles would have been made up of the cool iconic Cobra vehicles every boy in the ’80s loved, as opposed to these fluorescent, bizarrely designed messes that can’t come close to being as cool as the H.I.S.S. Tank, the Moccasin, the F.A.N.G. or the Cobra Rattler. Hell, even if this was made to tie to the second season era, we could’ve gotten the Night Raven or the Thunder Machine.

Instead, we got a game that represented the DiC era of the cartoon, which is where everything turned to shit.

I mean, do you really want to fight Raptor, Road Pig, Metalhead and Voltar? Or would you rather fight Storm Shadow, Firefly, Scrap Iron, Major Bludd, the Baroness and Zartan? Gold headed Destro? Fuck you. Battle armor Cobra Commander? Fuck you too.

The game is made worse by the fact that it is also full of garish colors and clunky looking graphics. Some of the key characters aren’t even the right color. For instance, Metalhead is purple when the character actually wears mostly black with red and yellow accents.

The game mechanics aren’t great either. The controls aren’t horrible but they’re a bit wonky and sometimes seem unresponsive.

Also, the level design is really basic, even in the maze-like fortresses where you have to strategically place bombs.

The sprites are also really tiny and kind of blocky looking.

Ultimately, this is a game that deserved to be better and had it been, it would’ve made Hasbro a lot more money.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: it’s sequel, which is mostly just more of the same.