Maybe I’m out of touch, but I had never heard of RENEGADES. At first I assumed it was a western. It does reunite YOUNG GUNS stars Kiefer Sutherland and Lou Diamond Phillips (the original Woody & Wesley), but it’s a contemporary buddy/cop movie set in Philadelphia. And it’s as solid as you’d hope for from director Jack Sholder, following up ALONE IN THE DARK (1982), A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2: FREDDY’S REVENGE (1985) and THE HIDDEN (1987).
Sutherland (STAND BY ME) plays Buster McHenry, who is one of those guys who goes into a little diner and is on a first name basis with the old man behind the counter. You know the type. Like Dirty Harry, he happens to see a traffic stop turn into a hostage situation from the window while having some night time coffee. Like Riggs, he goes out and performs a crazy stunt, pretending to be a drunk guy wandering in the situation so he can take one guy’s gun, shoot two others, make one surrender. Then he slaps the commanding officer and spends a night in the drunk tank for it. He’s actually a cop but he’s on vacation, doing a private undercover case with the knowledge (but not official sanction) of his boss/mentor/dead dad’s friend Lieutenant Finch (Bill Smitrovich, BAND OF THE HAND). (read the rest of this shit…)
On May 26th, 1989, PINK CADILLAC starring Clint Eastwood and Bernadette Peters was released. That’s a pretty good one, but I already reviewed it just a couple years ago. So look over that review if you want and now let’s move on to the next week, when “Rock On” by Michael Damien was the #1 single and a movie with similar levels of quality and soulfulness, NO HOLDS BARRED, came out.
When Roddy Piper wanted to star in THEY LIVE (1988), he had to leave wrestling to do it. World Wrestling Federation owner Vince McMahon wanted a piece of everything his “superstars” did, so he promised to get Piper another, bigger movie to star in if he’d stay. As Piper told it years later, he refused the offer because he knew it wouldn’t be a movie directed by John Carpenter.
Good move. A year later, the WWF’s biggest icon Hulk Hogan got to star in the kind of vehicle McMahon could put together as a fledgling movie producer. NO HOLDS BARRED is an unimaginative, pea-brained wrestleploitation movie that plays most of its acting, themes, jokes and drama for the back row of the stadium.
Hogan (whose idol “Superstar” Billy Graham appeared in the infinitely better movie FIST FIGHTER earlier in the summer) basically appears as himself: the big-hearted, beloved by fans and children World Wrestling Federation champion. But he’s not named Hulk, he’s named Rip, and instead of wearing shirts that say “Hulkamania!” he wears shirts that say “Rip ’em!” So it’s like an alternate dimension that’s the same as ours except Hulk Hogan has a different name. Terrible episode of Sliders. (read the rest of this shit…)
When INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM came out two years after RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK it was off-putting to many, and its PG-rated monkey brain and human heart munching outraged enough parents to inspire the more hardcore PG-13 rating. So five more years passed before director Steven Spielberg and producer/story-provider George Lucas came up with the next one, INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE, for summer of ’89.
To pull it off they had to back away from everything new they’d tried in TEMPLE OF DOOM and walk right up to everything old we all loved in RAIDERS. So it’s less mean, less weird, less gross, and more directly built onto the template of RAIDERS. Not that it was a total rehash. Nazis are involved, but not necessarily in charge. Marion isn’t there, and the new love interest follows a very different arc. There’s less desert and more water. There’s a wacky old man sidekick played by Sean Connery (ENTRAPMENT). And a whole sequence from Indy’s childhood. But he steals an artifact and brings it to school and then finds out about a quest for another artifact and offers his expertise and travels to different countries and looks at ancient texts that lead him to a series of riddles that he solves while pursued by Nazis, murderers and betrayers and teamed with Brody and Sallah and ultimately when they find the thing it kills the bad guys in cool face-melting special effects sequences and etc. So it’s kind of the same thing. But they did a good job of hiding it. (read the rest of this shit…)
ROAD HOUSE is one of the canonical works of… I don’t even want to say action cinema, or badass cinema, I just want to say cinema. When I first wrote about it 15 years ago I was in awe of its unique mix of raucous bar brawls, quotable lines and heightened badassness. I mean, you’d just have to be such a chump not to get something out of a well-made movie about the world’s second best bar security expert (Patrick Swayze shortly after STEEL DAWN) being called into Jasper, Kansas to straighten out “the kind of place that they sweep up the eyeballs after closing,” along the way falling in love, ripping out a guy’s throat and freeing the town from the corrupt grip of rich bully Brad Wesley (Ben Gazzara, BUFFALO ’66), who within one scene is revealed as a domestic abuser, shuts off his victim’s aerobics music because it “has no heart,” and boasts “JC Penney is coming here because of me!” It’s a glorious elevated drive-in classic forged from the undiluted sincerity of Swayze, the rioutous fight choreography of Benny “The Jet” Urquidez (BLOODMATCH, THE BIG HIT, WAR INC.), and the savage entertainment instincts of producer Joel Silver (COMMANDO, LETHAL WEAPON, PREDATOR, ACTION JACKSON, DIE HARD, THE MATRIX). It may top even RICOCHET as the most Joel Silver movie ever made. (read the rest of this shit…)
Confession: Classifying FOR QUEEN & COUNTRY as an action film is a bit of a stretch. Yeah, it stars Denzel Washington (RICOCHET, THE EQUALIZER, THE EQUALIZER 2) as an ex-paratrooper, and he gets in some fights and there’s an explosion and some people get shot and there’s crime and the score is by Michael Kamen (DIE HARD). It’s much more of a drama that includes these elements of action and crime movies, though, than it is an action or crime movie.
But look, he has a gun on the poster. I thought it was gonna fit into this series more than it does. Let’s not worry about it.
Washington plays Reuben James, who joins the army to move beyond an aimless life as a soccer hooligan – that’s right, he’s English in this one! – then saw some shit and earned some medals as a gunner in the Falklands. Back in the old neighborhood he tries to get a job and politely decline criminal activities with old acquaintances including high roller Colin (Bruce Payne, HIGHLANDER: ENDGAME), who claims to have a legitimate offer for him, but… come on. And the people with real jobs are indifferent to him, nobody cares that he’s a veteran, racist cops harass him and call him slurs, etc. (read the rest of this shit…)
When people think of the summer of ’89, it’s possible that the first thing that comes to mind is not the movie FIST FIGHTER. And when they think of the movie FIST FIGHTER, it’s possible that the first thing that comes to mind is not I am aware of a movie that exists that’s called FIST FIGHTER. Yes, this is an obscure one. IMDb says it was released on May 12th (the week when Bon Jovi’s “I’ll Be There For You” overtook Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” as the #1 single) and doesn’t list it as a video premiere, but it has no box office data, and it doesn’t register on the Box Office Mojo charts. It has only come out on VHS and laserdisc, and not even Scarecrow Video had it last time I checked. But I bought myself a copy a while back after asking david j. moore the best movies he discovered while working on The Good, the Tough and the Deadly, and fortuitously saved it to review until now.
Our hero is a handsome, muscular man with a full head of salt-and-pepper hair, which I greatly respect. Both times I’ve watched I forgot where I knew this actor from – he’s Jorge Rivero (credited as George Rivero), the star of that Lucio Fulci barbarian movie I liked, CONQUEST. He worked primarily in Mexican films from the ’60s until as recently as 2014, but was also in Howard Hawks’ RIO LOBO with his hero John Wayne, THE LAST HARD MEN with Charlton Heston and James Coburn, and a couple English-language ’90s b-movies like this one. Here his stoicism and dry humor remind me a little of Chuck Norris when he’s playing one of his nicer, less arrogant characters. A big good looking guy who genuinely wants no trouble, wouldn’t try to steal your girl or strut around wearing sunglasses. (read the rest of this shit…)
This year my summer review series will be a little different. I knew I had to write about the 30th anniversary of a certain culturally phenomenal event movie that gave the town of Hollywood an enema, taught us to keep bustin and set us on a path to pretty much our entire current era of entertainment. And when I looked at the other movies that came out that year it reminded me how different summer movies used to be, for better or worse. In those days they were less genre, less special effects, more straight ahead action. And it seems to me the summer of ’89 was a transitional period bridging the prevailing action movements of its decade to those of the next. So I’m going to be taking a look at 1989: The Last Summer of ’80s Action. (title pending)
Note: To help remind you and myself what it was like back then I’ll often be mentioning Billboard‘s #1 single for a particular week. For example, when RED SCORPION came out it was “She Drives Me Crazy” by Fine Young Cannibals. But the truth is that’s not what I was listening to at the time. To re-create my summer of ’89 audio experience I’d have to get a portable radio with auto-reverse tape deck and listen to a dub of It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back over and over all day every day.
The 1980s. A time of sweaty chests and bandoliers. Half a decade after the smash success of JAWS, summer was cemented as the go-to season for mainstream crowd-pleasing movies. For the purposes of this study I’ve chosen to define summer movies as anything released from the beginning of April to the end of August – the months when kids are out of school, with some leeway at the front for Spring releases intended to play well into the summer. (read the rest of this shit…)
Man, I guess they’re considered kinda antiquated now, society has moved on, but I still love the X-MEN movies. Here is the only super hero series to span the entire post-BLADE era until now. Their first movie was eight years before IRON MAN started the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Put another way, it was only three years after BATMAN & ROBIN seemed like it might’ve ended Hollywood’s affair with comic book movies.
You super heroes now a days don’t know how easy you have it. The X-Men come from a time when the filmmakers felt they had to give them black leather outfits and make a disparaging joke about yellow spandex if they wanted audiences to take them seriously. And I’m pretty sure they were right. But seven movies and five spin-offs later (not including next year’s NEW MUTANTS) they’ve fought the government, giant robots and an ancient god-like tyrant, solved the Cuban Missile crisis, traveled through time, died and come back to life, gone to space, and yes, even wore yellow uniforms. From “maybe we better call them by their first names” to nobody batting an eye at a six-member space mission team with 50% blue representation. That’s progress.
Through much of that the movies retained members of a brilliant ensemble centered on the obvious but perfect (famous bald man Patrick Stewart as Professor Xavier) and the counter-intuitive but ingenious (Australian stage actor Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, Shakespearian Ian McKellan as Magneto). Though this final chapter is the new timeline younger cast of FIRST CLASS, DAYS OF FUTURE PAST and APOCALYPSE, it ends storylines begun 19 year ago. (read the rest of this shit…)
GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS is not the perfect American Godzilla movie of our dreams, nor is it one that takes a thrillingly new angle on giant monsters, like SHIN GODZILLA did in 2016. Honestly I expected to like it more than I did, being a devotee of director Michael Dougherty’s previous movie, KRAMPUS. (He’s also the guy who wrote X-MEN 2, URBAN LEGENDS: BLOOD MARY and SUPERMAN RETURNS, and then wrote and directed TRICK ‘R TREAT) But this is the first time an American version feels to me like it’s completely in the spirit of the Japanese films from Toho Studios, particularly the “Heisei period” from GODZILLA 1985 to GODZILLA VS. DESTOROYAH (1995), so we’re getting there. As a monster fan apparently more forgiving than some of my friends, I found plenty to love about it. (read the rest of this shit…)
Thank you again for reading my HIGHLANDERLAND series. It was a thrill to write and share it with you all. I knew it would be wrong for Badass Studies and humanity as a whole to lock such an important topic behind a paywall, but I really owe a debt of gratitude to the Patreon supporters on this one. The predictable monthly extra income from that has allowed me to work one less day a week and that’s truly why I was able to prepare the whole series in advance like I did with the TWILIGHT ones. So if I was going into some aspect of part 5 and realized there was a parallel in part 2, I could go back and mention it earlier. An extra opportunity for excellence-striving.
As a special thank you for that I have one last Patreon-exclusive HIGHLANDERLAND bonus – a review of the second season Highlander: The Series episode “Epitaph For Tommy,” chosen not for its importance as an episode, but for it guest starring Rowdy Roddy Piper.