Also known as: National Lampoon’s European Vacation (complete title) Release Date: July 26th, 1985 Directed by: Amy Heckerling Written by: John Hughes, Robert Klane Music by: Charles Fox Cast: Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Dana Hill, Jason Lively, Victor Lanoux, Eric Idle, William Zabka, John Astin, Paul Bartel, Robbie Coltrane, Moon Unit Zappa
National Lampoon, Warner Bros., 95 Minutes
“[repeated line] God, I miss Jack!” – Audrey Griswold
I was a bit underwhelmed by the first Vacation movie after revisiting it a few weeks ago. While I wasn’t a massive fan of this film series, as I’m not really a fan of Chevy Chase, they’re still amusing enough to hold my attention and make me laugh in spots.
Now having revisited the second movie, I like this one more. I think that the European setting made it better, overall, and I this set of Griswold kids is my favorite in the series, as a tandem.
While the original seems to be the most beloved of the series, with Christmas Vacation being a very close second, this is just more interesting, as I find the culture clash stuff funnier than the family just driving through the desert, meeting their redneck kin and then riding some rollercoasters.
This also has more action and a pretty good, high energy finale for an ’80s comedy movie.
Additionally, it fleshes out the kids more and gives them their own subplots apart from just making them accessories to their parents on a road trip. In fact, the subplots with the kids I found to be more enjoyable.
All in all, I’m still not in love with this series but it’s not a bad way to kill some time on a rainy day. There are much better ’80s comedies and much better ’80s comedic leads than Chevy Chase.
Rating: 7/10 Pairs well with: the other Vacation movies, as well as other National Lampoon films.
Also known as: Shootfighter II (alternative spelling) Release Date: August 27th, 1996 Directed by: Paul Ziller Written by: Greg Mellott, Peter Shaner Music by: Alex Wilkinson Cast: Bolo Yeung, William Zabka, Michael Bernardo, Debra Ann “Madusa” Miceli
ANA Productions, 93 Minutes
While the first Shootfighter wasn’t a classic by any stretch of the imagination, it still got a sequel. Although, this one is pretty subpar and lacks the charm of its predecessor.
It stars the same protagonist trio of Bolo Yeung, William Zabka and Michael Bernardo. I like these actors and the characters they play but they seemed a lot less into this movie than the first one. Also, it felt like Bolo was barely in it. Although, I did enjoy his final fight at the end, quite a bit. Mostly because I hated this film’s incredibly weak and unintimidating villain.
This took place and was filmed in Miami. I knew a kid that claimed his uncle was an extra in the film but that kid lied all the time and he thought Hypercolor shirts were still cool in 1996.
There’s honestly not much to say about this film other than it’s damn pedestrian, a pointless sequel and it looked like everyone making the film was just as bored as the audience that would eventually watch it.
Although, it did feature professional wrestler Madusa a.k.a. Alundra Blayze, who fought some other chick in a random bout.
I did mostly like the action and I thought that the fighting arena was kind of cool but neither of these things really elevate the picture into anything worthwhile.
Rating: 4.5/10 Pairs well with: it’s predecessor and other late ’80s/early ’90s straight-to-video action flicks.
Also known as: Shootfighter (unofficial shorter title) Release Date: May 5th, 1993 Directed by: Patrick Alan Written by: Judd B. Lynn, Larry Feliz Jr., Pete Shaner Music by: Joel Goldsmith Cast: Bolo Yeung, Maryam d’Abo, James Pax, William Zabka, Michael Bernardo, Martin Kove, Edward Albert
ANA Productions, 100 Minutes
As a pretty hardcore Karate Kid fan, it’s probably kind of nuts that I hadn’t seen this film until now. Reason being, for those unaware, is that it reunites the two antagonists from that film (and the Cobra Kai television series) by featuring both William Zabka and Martin Kove.
This also stars martial arts legend and intimidating badass, Bolo Yeung. And what’s really interesting about Bolo’s role in this, is that he is a good guy! He’s actually the sensei of the two young guys that enter a martial arts tournament put on by a madman criminal.
In a way, it’s also strange seeing Zabka play a good guy, as he became famous playing bullies in ’80s teen movies.
This movie came out during the height of fighting games in video arcades across the world. It was also the height of low budget, usually straight-to-VHS martial arts flicks. So the story isn’t too dissimilar from that of a classic fighting game. In fact, the two heroes feel like they’re loosely based on and inspired by Ryu and Ken from the Street Fighter video game series.
I like the heroes here, though. They have a good chemistry and camaraderie and I actually like cheering for Zabka, even though I was always pro-Cobra Kai anyway… sorry, LaRusso.
I don’t usually watch these type of movies and expect to be impressed by them. I tend to like them quite a bit, regardless. However, I was impressed by the action and fight choreography in this. While it’s not the most exceptional martial arts action you’ll ever see, it was on par with the best action coming out of low budget US martial arts flicks from this era.
Also, the tone and style of the film is really good and it feels like a fighting game come to life. I wish my fourteen year-old self would’ve rented this back in 1993 because he would’ve probably loved it and watched it as often as he watched early Van Damme movies, as well as the American Ninja series.
I dug this, a lot. I’m also glad that there’s a sequel because I plan on checking it out in about a week, as I work through my queue.
Rating: 6.5/10 Pairs well with: its sequel, as well as other early-to-mid-’90s martial arts flicks.
Also known as: I Was a Teenage Boy (working title) Release Date: April 26th, 1985 Directed by: Lisa Gottlieb Written by: Dennis Feldman, Jeff Franklin Music by: Tom Scott Cast: Joyce Hyser, Clayton Rohner, Billy Jacoby, Toni Hudson, William Zabka, Leigh McCloskey, Sherilyn Fenn, Arye Gross, Robert Fieldsteel, Stuart Charno, Kenneth Tigar
Summa Entertainment Group, Triton, Columbia Pictures, 100 Minutes
“Budmeister, are you okay?” – Terry, “No, Terry, I’m not. Mom and Dad come home Monday. I’ve had two weeks of total freedom. The closest that I’ve come to sex was a girl who took her top off to seduce my sister. What’s wrong with me?” – Buddy
This used to be one of those movies that was good to watch on a rainy weekend. Plus, it was on cable TV all the time in the late ’80s and early ’90s. It’s goofy but charming and it’s also kind of endearing because of how ridiculous the premise and the execution is while having actors fully committed to the bit.
I really liked Joyce Hyser in this and it’s actually strange to me that this didn’t lead to a lot more work, as she’s pretty good dramatically, as well as comedically. She was also believable and you just liked her and rooted for her, even if it wasn’t entirely clear what the hell was going on from scene-to-scene. You just had her trying to play a teenage boy to prove a point to the teacher that didn’t take her journalistic prowess seriously because she’s a girl. It’s really awkward and quirky but it’s supposed to be.
William Zabka is also in this, showing that he was pretty much Hollywood’s go-to guy for high school/college bullies. In fact, I consider this to be the second part of an unofficial trilogy of films I call the Zabka Trilogy. The other two films being 1984’s The Karate Kid and 1986’s Back to School. Needless to say, he was just good playing a jerk and he’s definitely on his A-game here, as Greg, the popular douche that wears weightlifting gloves and jacks up lunch tables causing nerds to lose their lunches to the cafeteria floor.
The film also features a young Sherilyn Fenn before she’d go on to enchant males of all ages in Twin Peaks.
Another interesting tidbit is that one of the writers on this was Jeff Franklin. For those who don’t recognize his name, he was the creative mind behind Full House and was also a writer on 1987’s Summer School. He also wrote scripts early in his career for The Bad News Bears TV show, as well as Laverne & Shirley and the Tom Hanks starring Bosom Buddies, which may have inspired the story for this film to some degree, due to similarities.
Ultimately, this isn’t a must-see film but it’s still funny, amusing and lighthearted. You can just sit back, kick up your feet and enjoy the ’80s nostalgia and well-aged cheese.
Rating: 6.75/10 Pairs well with: other goofy ’80s teen comedies.
Release Date: June 13th, 1986 Directed by: Alan Metter Written by: Steven Kampmann, Will Porter, Peter Torokvei, Harold Ramis, Rodney Dangerfield, Greg Fields, Dennis Snee Music by: Danny Elfman Cast: Rodney Dangerfield, Sally Kellerman, Burt Young, Keith Gordon, Adrienne Barbeau, Robert Downey Jr., Sam Kinison, Ned Beatty, Paxton Whitehead, Terry Farrell, M. Emmet Walsh, William Zabka, Robert Picardo, Jason Hervey, Edie McClurg, Kurt Vonnegut (cameo), Oingo Boingo (cameo)
Paper Clip Productions, Orion Pictures, 96 Minutes
“Bring us a pitcher of beer every seven minutes until somebody passes out. And then bring one every ten minutes.” – Thornton Melon
I guess I completely forgot how many stars were in this film because it’s been a long time since I’ve seen it. I obviously remembered Rodney Dangerfield but I also recalled Keith Gordon, Robert Downey Jr., William Zabka and Sam Kinison because of that one iconic scene.
But throw in Burt Young, M. Emmet Walsh, Adrienne Barbeau, Sally Kellerman, Ned Beatty, Edie McClurg, Jason Hervey, Robert Picardo, Terry Farrell and Oingo friggin’ Boingo and you’ve got an all-star ensemble! Plus, Harold Ramis was one of the writers. Granted, this had seven writers, so one of them other than Dangerfield probably had to be a big name.
While this is a pretty dated comedy, as are most comedies of the ’80s, it’s still entertaining and in 2019 it’s refreshing, as comedy is dead due to political correct nutsos who spend every waking moment searching high and low for shit to be offended about.
Point being, you couldn’t make this movie today because every joke is (insert label here)-shaming and insensitive.
You see, we didn’t care too much about political correctness in the ’80s. Hell, we didn’t even care about it until like five years ago. And this film goes to show how talented all these people were as they weren’t bogged down by Hollywood wokeness and crybaby pussies on Twitter.
Now this isn’t a superb motion picture by any stretch of the imagination but it is really solid escapism that is amusing and charming in a way that film’s aren’t anymore. And honestly, I think that’s a big reason as to why so many people are nostalgic for ’80s and ’90s shit now. Even the slightly above mediocre stuff is cherished more than it was when it was current.
The plot of Back to School follows a sextagenerian as he goes to college, surprising his twenty-something son, the school professors and his friends. In short time, he takes over, turns the campus into one big party and even saves the day for the college diving team in a ridiculous but satisfactory way that may be goofy but works in a comedy from this era.
Back to School isn’t perfect and it isn’t even close to being the best comedy of its day. However, it’s a lot of fun if you just want to mindlessly escape into something for an hour and a half while having a laugh.
Rating: 6.75/10 Pairs well with: other Rodney Dangerfield comedies, as well as college comedies like PCU, Old School, Animal House, Van Wilder, etc.
Original Run: April, 2018 (Tribeca Film Festival) – current Directed by: various Written by: various Based on: characters created by Robert Mark Kamen Music by: Leo Birenberg, Zach Robinson Cast: William Zabka, Ralph Macchio, Mary Mouser, Courtney Henggeler, Xolo Mariduena, Tanner Buchanan, Jacob Bertrand, Randee Heller, Peyton List, Martin Kove, Ed Asner
I went to the theatrical premiere of this streaming television series. The premiere consisted of just the first two episodes, so that is all I have to go on for this review. I’ll probably update this and adjust the rating after I’ve seen the completion of the first season.
For those that don’t know, this series takes place now, in 2018. It follows Johnny Lawrence, the main bad guy from the original Karate Kid movie. He’s having a hard time in his fifties and really has nothing going right in his life. He runs into Daniel Larusso a.k.a. Daniel-san and the encounter inspires Johnny to reform the Cobra Kai, because he yearns for his glory days in a typical “peaked in high school” sort of way.
What makes this really damn cool and the only reason why this should have been made, is that it brings back both William Zabka and Ralph Macchio as Johnny and Daniel. And man, it was really cool seeing them on the screen together, once again.
I love the tone of this series. It is true to the tone of the original movies but is very different in that it is about those teenagers, thirty-four years later, as adults with adult problems and an event that changed both of them permanently, giving them different trajectories through life.
The show sort of does a bit of role reversal, as Johnny is teaching the young weak teen that is constantly bullied. In fact, Johnny kicks the crap out of the bullies in the same way Miyagi did in the original film where Johnny was one of those original bullies. But Johnny’s methods and agenda are very different than Miyagi’s. At least he’s not a psycho like John Kreese, the original Cobra Kai leader.
I really dig how this show examines these characters and their lives. Daniel has basically become the rich family dad living in the Hills, which is in stark contrast to where he was as a poor teenager trying to hook up with the rich girl. Johnny has gone from the top stud in high school to utter poverty.
This show works and it works well. I had some high expectations for this after I saw the first trailer but those expectations have been surpassed, at least with this small sample size. We’ll see how it goes as the show marches on.
For now, I’m definitely a fan of Cobra Kai and it may just make me subscribe to YouTube Red, at least just to watch this until the season one finale.
Rating: 8.5/10 Pairs well with: The original Karate Kid trilogy of movies, obviously.
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, Larry B. Scott
Columbia Pictures, 127 Minutes
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
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
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!