"KEEP BUSTIN'."

Posts Tagged ‘Cannon Films’

Penitentiary III

Wednesday, September 25th, 2019

Well holy shit. I’ve taken my sweet time getting to all three of Jamaa Fanaka’s PENITENTIARY movies, but they’ve all lived up to my hopes. If you’re not familiar, they star Leon Isaac Kennedy (LONE WOLF McQUADE) as Martel “Too Sweet” Gordone, a man who is unjustly incarcerated but becomes a legend in the prison boxing circuit. I’m sure it’s an inspiration for the UNDISPUTED series, but Fanaka’s world is angrier, dirtier, and much, much weirder.

Released in 1979, PENITENTIARY was actually the third movie Fanaka made while attending UCLA. Unlike other directors considered part of the L.A. Rebellion film movement, he was more attracted to Hollywood than to political statements, so he made straight up lurid and entertaining blaxploitation movies. But racism, cruelty and injustice are central to his stories.

PENITENTIARY II (1982) brings the action into the outside world, and it’s a little slicker and more expensive, so it features Mr. T and Ernie Hudson.

But PENITENTIARY III (1987) is a Cannon Film. It is not fucking around. It would be an exaggeration to say that Cannon did to the PENITENTIARY series what they did to THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE with part 2, but there’s definitely a hint of that sort of unhinged insanity. We find Too Sweet still a free man, competing as a legitimate boxer, when his corner man is paid off to put something in his water. (That he looks over his shoulder nervously and then just openly pours something into the water in front of an audience without anyone noticing is one of many goofy touches.) (read the rest of this shit…)

Kickboxer (and the conclusion of The Last Summer of ’80s Action)

Wednesday, August 7th, 2019

As with LETHAL WEAPON 2 and ROAD HOUSE, KICKBOXER is a classic that I’ve already reviewed, and I stand by what I wrote about it the first time. But I thought it might be worth revisiting 11 years later, after also writing about its sequels, remake and remake sequel, and in the context of these other ’89 movies. It hit some European countries in April and August of that year, and the U.S. on September 8th, making it a good closer to THE LAST SUMMER OF ’80S ACTION.

Earlier in the series we had fighting circuit movies from an old Disney live action director (FIST FIGHTER), the World Wrestling Federation (NO HOLDS BARRED), and a guy that did Dorf movies (CAGE). Not surprisingly it was Cannon Films that gave us the season’s slickest version of the form, building off the success of BLOODSPORT (1988) for an in my opinion even better vehicle for shiny new splits-doer Jean-Claude Van Damme. I mean that literally, by the way – in the climax the camera really focuses on the reflectiveness of his muscles as an illustration of how ready he is to triumph. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Seven Magnificent Gladiators

Thursday, September 29th, 2016

tn_sevenmagnificentgladiatorsEnough with the cowboys. THE SEVEN MAGNIFICENT GLADIATORS is the sword and sorcery version of the SEVEN SAMURAI story. Obviously.

An evil Ming-the-Merciless-Halloween-costume-looking-motherfucker named Nicerote (Dan Vadis from EVERY WHICH WAY BUT LOOSE and ANY WHICH WAY YOU CAN) who apparently has some kind of magic sorcerer powers threatens his own mother (Barbara Pesante) that he’s gonna come back and attack the village after the harvest. What a brat. So she sends Pandora (Carla Ferrigno [BLACK ROSES] in her movie debut) and three other women into town with “the mystical Sword of Achilles,” which can only be held by the worthy. Find somebody worthy and get him to come protect the village.

They find Han (Lou Ferrigno, also in his first movie, though he’d already done six seasons of The Incredible Hulk), a gladiator who is said to be immortal, but it’s not really explained very well. I guess he’s not strong or immortal enough to do it on his own, so he has to put together a team which includes some gladiator friends and a badass cynical mercenary lady named Julia (Sybil Danning, who had already been in the space version of SEVEN SAMURAI, BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS). (read the rest of this shit…)

Lifeforce

Monday, September 19th, 2016

tn_lifeforceLIFEFORCE is a crazy fuckin movie, my third or fourth favorite from director Tobe Hooper. Three years after POLTERGEIST and one before THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 he made this distinctly weird but effective sci-fi horror film, his first of three Golan and Globus productions.

Based on a 1976 novel called Space Vampires by Colin Wilson, it is about exactly that. Astronauts on a British space shuttle mission to study Halley’s Comet find themselves landing on a weird flower-shaped object and discovering hundreds (maybe thousands) of dessicated corpses of giant space bats. But also they find three naked humanoids hibernating in glass cases, much like the underwear girls behind the front desk at the Standard Hotel.

Most people, including myself, sometimes refer to this as NAKED SPACE VAMPIRES. But another good title would be DON’T BRING SHIT BACK FROM SPACE. But this is a momentous discovery, so understandably the astronauts want to get some samples, including all three of the humanoids. And I don’t want to give anything away so I will just say it is possible that they will come to Earth and scientists will have many great breakthroughs from studying them and there will be numerous benefits for mankind. That is one possibility. (read the rest of this shit…)

American Ninja 2: The Confrontation

Thursday, May 19th, 2016

“That damn American ninja. Fights like a tiger. We’ll have to get rid of him.”

tn_an2The opening credits of AMERICAN NINJA 2: THE CONFRONTATION feature a badass theme song (composer George S. Clinton, who had already done AVENGING FORCE for Cannon and Dudikoff, joins the series) as three dudes confidently cruise on their motorcycles, journeying through mountain roads. They’re wearing tinted helmets, so we wonder if this is Joe Armstrong, the American Ninja, and some other Army guys? Is it some scary villains he’s gonna have to face? Who is it?

still_an2-1

They turn out to be some weinery dudes who drive up to a bar and immediately get bullied. One of them, Tommy Taylor (Jonathan Pienaar, BLOOD DIAMOND), steps away and cowers nearby while his friends get beaten up, and then all the sudden a bunch of ninjas walk in and carry them away.

In this enjoyable sequel Joe (Michael Dudikoff) and Curtis Jackson (Steve James) are still best friends, and still in the Army, now as Rangers. They seem to receive more respect now, and maybe I’m naive but when they’re sent on the mission that the last guys (the guys at the bar) disappeared on it really seems to be because of faith in their abilities, not to get rid of them. (read the rest of this shit…)

American Ninja

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016

tn_americanninjab“You know, loners don’t go too far in this outfit.”

AMERICAN NINJA is a Cannon Films classic starring model-turned-action-star Michael Dudikoff as army-rookie-with-a-mysterious-ninja-past Joe Armstrong. I already reviewed it several years ago and in my opinion it was a well-written review with some points and some jokes that I wouldn’t have thought of now. For example I said that the ninjas in the yellow costumes would be good at hiding in a banana tree or a field of dandelions. You gotta have that youthful eye of the tiger to come up with that one.

But today I am revisiting AMERICAN NINJA for an important new series in which we will compare each installment of Francois Truffaut’s Antoine Doinel series to each installment of Golan and Globus’s AMERICAN NINJA series. Why, does the AMERICAN NINJA series follow the same character as he ages? Well, not really, I don’t think so, but I can’t think of a better pairing of quintologies to represent the full spectrum of cinema art from the respected and high brow (“brilliantly and strikingly reveals the explosion of a fresh creative talent… a picture that encourages an exciting refreshment of faith in films” wrote Bosley Crowther in The New York Times) to the… other kind (“Woefully acted, abysmally written… an embarrassment even when held to the low standards of grade C exploitation movies” wrote Candice Russell in The Sun Sentinel). By alternating between them and comparing and contrasting how they approach each chapter I hope we’ll find the true meaning of art or whatever. (read the rest of this shit…)

Powaqqatsi

Thursday, January 14th, 2016

tn_powaqqatsilucasminusstarwarsGeorge Lucas and his big homey Francis Ford Coppola (CAPTAIN EO) are executive producers of Godfrey Reggio’s POWAQQATSI (Life in transformation), the EMPIRE STRIKES BACK of the Qatsi trilogy that began with KOYAANISQATSI (Life out of balance) in 1982 and ended with NAQOYQATSI (Life as war) in 2002. If you’ve seen either of those, or the ones by Reggio’s cinematographer Ron Fricke (I reviewed his SAMSARA in 2011) then you got a pretty good idea what this is like. Which is good, because my words might not cut it.

We could classify these as “experimental documentaries,” but they don’t have much of what anybody thinks of when they think of documentaries. No interviews, no narration, no onscreen text, no people talking at all. No storyline or argument made. No easily encapsulated subject or premise. Just themes.

They’re like cinematic paintings, or photo essays, or poems. They rhyme by having similar shots and images over and over again, all set to very repetitive (in a good way) scores by Philip Glass.

(read the rest of this shit…)

Delta Force 2: The Colombian Connection

Monday, August 31st, 2015

tn_deltaforce2The first DELTA FORCE movie, directed by Menahem Golan, seemed like it was trying to be a prestige Chuck Norris movie. You got Lee Marvin, Bo Svenson, Robert Forster and Steve James in the cast, but also Martin Balsam, Joey Bishop, George Kennedy, Susan Strasberg and Shelley Winters. There’s a long section in the middle that has no Chuck Norris at all and is based on a real life hijacking incident.

But DELTA FORCE 2 (arguably subtitled THE COLOMBIAN CONNECTION) is directed by Chuck’s brother Aaron and it’s pretty straightforward about just being about Chuck’s character Colonel Scott McCoy going around being more awesome than everybody else. He’s introduced having dinner with his friend Major Bobby Chavez (Paul Perri, MANHUNTER) when three punk rockers cause a scene elsewhere in the restaurant, so he excuses himself to go beat them up. He says he likes the food and slams a guy’s face into a plate of rice in a possible homage to a way better part 2,  A BETTER TOMORROW 2.

The villain is the straight up blatantly evil South American drug lord Ramon Cota (Billy Drago). We know he doesn’t have a human soul because he goes to visit the coca fields where poor villagers are forced to work and he immediately gets angry that one of them (Begonya Plaza, HEAT, ‘R XMAS) is tending to her baby instead of the plants. He has his men take away the baby and stabs the father right in front of her.

(So don’t go talking shit about unions. We need unions.) (read the rest of this shit…)

Cyborg

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

tn_cyborgYears ago when I saw a little movie called DOUBLE TEAM I remember coming out of the theater and running into an acquaintance, a friend of a friend named Corey who was waiting for the next show. We got to talking about Van Damme, and it was kind of shameful how many of them he mentioned that I hadn’t seen. So this guy decides right then and there that we’re gonna meet once a week in a neutral location and we’re gonna watch a Van Damme movie. And I don’t remember how long we did that but it was probly a month or two of important learning. You know, it’s the same as with KICKBOXER or BLOODSPORT, you try to find a mentor or a buddy to take you under his wing, and that’s how you get your start. So shout out to Corey. And I hope I’m doing my part to pass on these lessons to the next generation.

Anyway, that was the last time I saw CYBORG. On a screen bigger than I’ve ever owned, but full frame VHS, and when I was younger and dumber in my ongoing journey to filmatistic enlightenment. Here’s all I remember: Van Damme doing the splits between two walls, a guy with sunglasses grunting, being bored.

Okay, I wasn’t that far off, this is still a bit of a chore for me to get through, but I respect it more at this stage in my evolution. CYBORG is from the Cannon Group, it’s directed by our friend Albert Pyun, it doesn’t really have any concepts that separate it much from other post-apocalypse movies (with a little BLADE RUNNER and TERMINATOR influence thrown in the mix), but the thing I didn’t get back then is that it’s a fuckin art movie. The plot is minimalistic, there’s very little dialogue, lots of wind and dreamy slow motion. Van Damme plays a mysterious figure apparently called “Gibson Rickenbacker,” a so-called “slinger” or bounty hunter helping a woman named Pearl (Dayle Haddon, NORTH DALLAS FORTY) who has the cure for a deadly plague to travel through the wasteland to Atlanta. And she’s part robot, by the way. (read the rest of this shit…)

Menahem Golan, 1929-2014

Friday, August 8th, 2014

tn_golanAs you may have read, Menahem Golan, co-head of The Cannon Group (as well as 21st Century Film Corporation and New Cannan Group) died today at the age of 85. Don’t worry, he didn’t have to suffer from cancer or anything, he just collapsed while walking outside his home in Jaffa, and could not be revived. Golan was a filmmaker to the end, at least according to an IMDb listing that says he was in pre-production on a new ALLAN QUATERMAIN movie that he wrote and would’ve directed.

Like so many of the greats, Golan actually got his start working for Roger Corman, in his case as a production assistant on THE YOUNG RACERS in 1963. That same year he made his writing/directing debut with a Hebrew-language Israeli production called EL DORADO, starring Topol of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF fame. Throughout his career he would direct more than 40 films and produce more than 200. He and his cousin Yoram Globus started Noah Films, an Israeli production company known worldwide for the Oscar nominated satire SALLAH. But of course we know and love them for their reign as the heads of The Cannon Group, which they purchased in 1979 and turned into a prolific powerhouse of low budget action and exploitation in the VHS era. (read the rest of this shit…)