I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Posts Tagged ‘Steve James’

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…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

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…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Stalking Danger (aka C.A.T. Squad)

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015

tn_stalkingdangerSTALKING DANGER is the video title for C.A.T. SQUAD, a 1986 TV movie directed by William Friedkin. You can tell it’s TV by the cheap video titles, the 4:3 composition (even though it’s shot by Wes Anderson’s Academy Award nominated cinematographer, Robert Yeoman) and the “guest starring” in the credits, but otherwise it’s very cinematic. It even has a blood-pumping score by Ennio Morricone.

This is another secret agent counter-terror thing, with badass Doc Burkholder (the Michael Douglas-esque Joe Cortese)  appointed to put together his own team to catch an assassin called Carlos (Eddie Velez, THE HUNTED, BLACK DAWN). It’s not supposed to be Carlos the Jackal, by the way,  just standard, human Carlos I believe.

We know who the guy is because we watch him come in disguised as a priest, see how he sets up in a tower, crosses himself after he snipes the guy, gets away. And possibly we realize that the reason he looks so familiar is because he played “Dishpan” Frankie Santana, the best special effects man in Hollywood who joined the A-Team in the last season. But if not we are excited to learn that from IMDb.

Then we switch to Doc going around recruiting each member of his group (always a favorite part of this type of story), following leads, doing surveillance, poring over the photos, comparing everything to what else they know. ZERO DARK THIRTY shit. Eventually they catch on that it’s this guy and they go look for him. They follow him on the street, he tries to lose them down alleys, goes through different apartments and out the back door, that kind of stuff. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Hollywood Shuffle

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

tn_hollywoodshufflerookies-indieHOLLYWOOD SHUFFLE is the definition of a D.I.Y. movie. Comedian Robert Townsend got tired of fighting for the shitty roles that Hollywood had available to him as a black man, so he ran up his credit cards to produce and direct his own movie, casting himself as Bobby Taylor, an actor not quite yet tired of fighting for the shitty roles that Hollywood has available to him as a black man. But it’s also a sketch movie in kind of the way UHF was later. The main story tangents into parody TV shows and fantasy sequences and stuff where he gets to play different roles.

Bobby is auditioning for what seems at first like a bit part as a mugger or something, but I guess it’s supposed to be the title role in a movie called JIVE TIME JIMMY’S REVENGE. He earnestly practices his improperly ebonic dialogue with his little brother Stevie (Craigus R. Johnson), doing some kind of cartoonish pimp voice and strut that only get worse in front of the white casting directors, cast and filmmakers.

He just goes along with the bullshit like people in the real world do. He treats the #1 sitcom star – who wears a funny bat-shaped hat and mugs up a storm while being swatted at by white people – as a V.I.P. Even in a daydream about being personally boycotted by the NAACP for playing Jive Time Jimmy he’s asked if he makes “those faces” (minstrel show type mugging) in bed, and he answers innocently, “Uh, sometimes.” It works as satire because he doesn’t know any better.  (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

M.A.N.T.I.S. (pilot movie)

Sunday, March 16th, 2014
He doesn't usually look this much like R. Kelly.
He doesn’t usually look this much like R. Kelly.

Remember M.A.N.T.I.S.? It was a 1994 Fox TV show that only lasted one season. It was about paralyzed-from-the-waist-down scientist Miles Hawkins (Carl Lumbly), who builds an exo-skeleton that allows him to not only walk again but to have super strength and also jump high. The first time he tries it out in public he happens to see a woman getting attacked, so he intervenes and kicks some ass, and that gives him the crimefighting bug.

Get it? I said bug, because he’s called MANTIS and I guess he sorta looks like one with the metal helmet with a giant bluetooth on each side like mandibles.

Seven months before the TV show though there was a pilot TV movie (fortunately included on the complete series DVD), which was pretty different and much more watchable. I can’t pretend it plays like a real movie – like the The Flash TV show of a few years earlier it is kinda sad to see a low budget TV crew in Vancouver try to compete with the incredible production design of Tim Burton’s BATMAN – but having recently watched those ROBOCOP TV shows I’m able to appreciate this for what it is: something that is way better than those ROBOCOP TV shows. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

The Delta Force

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

tn_deltaforceI’ve never been much of a Chuck Norris fan, but maybe some day I could be if I fill in that gap in my badass cinema knowledge. I’ll always give a guy a shot. So I figured I couldn’t go wrong with THE DELTA FORCE. Not only is it about an elite counter-terrorist special ops team (same one as on THE UNIT), but with Lee Marvin as the man in charge. Even in his fuck-it-I’m-not-grooming-my-eyebrows-anymore later period Lee Marvin is a plus for any movie, so he could be my gateway drug to Chuck Norris.

Well, could’ve been, but this movie is not very good. It’s written and directed by Cannon head Menahem Golan (OVER THE TOP, ENTER THE NINJA) and seems to be his attempt at an all star ensemble movie with some kind of social message, like Irwin Allen used to make. Yeah, it seems like it’s mainly a Chuck Norris movie, but then you see Martin Balsam (Arbogast from PSYCHO), Joey Bishop, Susan Strasberg, Robert Vaughn, Kim Delaney… (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Avenging Force

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

A bunch of people have suggested this one to me over the years, so thank you all. It’s a Michael Dudikoff picture made one year after AMERICAN NINJA. Once again Steve James is the sidekick, this time playing a senator whose family is targeted by racists, so Dudikoff tries to help them and, when that fails, becomes an avenging force.

The best thing about the movie is the bad guys. They’re introduced at a big martial arts demonstration/awards dinner type ceremony. At first it just seems like some kind of weird overlap between a martial arts club and the Republican party. They’re these prominent businessmen and they keep talking about how bad gun control is. But then all the sudden they start tossing the N-word around. These guys are fuckin white supremacists! They also have a secret “hunting club” where they dress up in Halloween masks and S&M gear and shoot arrows at humans. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

The Exterminator

Thursday, February 7th, 2008

THE EXTERMINATOR is a crude but enjoyable vigilante action movie from 1980. It’s kind of in the vein of ROLLING THUNDER but closer to the quality level of THE PARK IS MINE. Robert Ginty plays a troubled Vietnam vet whose best friend (Steve James, more on him later) gets paralyzed by a gang so he kills them in revenge, then decides to declare himself The Exterminator and go murder various criminals. Now that I think about it this is actually in the vein of THE PUNISHER (either version), but it came before those movies.

You know this movie means business when the very first shot is the main character being tossed through the air by a huge explosion. There’s not even a studio logo before that, that is the very first shot. It starts out with a gruesome battle in Vietnam that explains why a dude would be troubled enough to become The Exterminator. There’s a very realistic and disturbing beheading in this scene. Stan Winston was one of the effects guys. It’s one of those action movie paradoxes because on one hand these things are what torments the main character, they are what cause him to go crazy and what he flashes back to when he’s murdering criminals. But on the other hand we think they are awesome. We want to see explosions and beheadings. As viewers, what’s worst for him is best for us. We are cruel gods. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

American Ninja

Friday, July 6th, 2007

This review is dedicated to Ryan Kenner, who’s been bugging me to see this for almost a year, and to the soldiers and planners of the American Revolution, especially if any of them were ninjas (not sure)

AMERICAN NINJA is not something I consider a classic, but it is a solid, enjoyable b-movie and it finally made me understand the Michael Dudikoff phenomenon. When I saw him in a much later movie, BLACK THUNDER (a Stealth bomber thriller remade as Seagal’s FLIGHT OF FURY) I was surprised at his lack of fighting. I assumed he was some karate champion or something like most of the ’80s action stars, but when I looked him up I found out he started as a model. No wonder.

But in this movie wouldn’t’ve noticed, because he does do plenty of fighting and makes it convincing. His line deliveries are sometimes bad but they manage to make him not talk very much. In fact, he doesn’t speak for the first 15 minutes of the movie, it almost seems like he’s mute. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Vigilante

Tuesday, May 18th, 2004

I don’t know how familiar anybody is with William Lustig. The guy is no genius. He made the MANIAC COP series. He made the picture UNCLE SAM which is a decent holiday slasher picture with subversive Gulf War themes, but it’s kind of a bummer because there is almost no use of stilts after the initial appearance of the Uncle Sam costume in a parade. Anyway after many years of directing bad horror pictures this guy started that company Anchor Bay which put out alot of better ones on video and DVD.

But there are some pretty good ones in his filmography, especially the first one, MANIAC. That was a sleazy, brutal horror picture about a sweaty New York pervert who kills women, staples their scalps to a mannequin, handcuffs himself to the mannequin and cries. Then during the daytime he puts on shades and tries to make it as a hip fashion photographer. It’s a real sick movie with ridiculous gore effects by Mr. Tom Savini. Not recommended for anybody unless they like that kind of crap, which in this case I do. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.