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Posts Tagged ‘Summer of ’89’

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…)

Thunderground

Tuesday, August 6th, 2019

I thought I had only one more movie to cover in The Last Summer of ’80s Action, but then I realized I’d forgotten about THUNDERGROUND. Like one of the first movies in the series, FIST FIGHTER, this is a WWF-wrestler-featuring bare knuckle brawler movie that I never heard of until david j. moore told me about it a while back and I ordered a VHS copy. It’s pretty much straight to video, but IMDb claims it got a release in Minnesota on September 1, 1989. Good enough excuse to squeeze yet another underground fighting movie in here.

It opens in “HOBO JUNCTION, TENNESSEE, 1989,” where a crowd of hobos gather around a campfire and a kid named Casey, who rips them off in Three-Card Monty (a strange game – the only winning move is not to play). Casey’s hat makes this look so Depression Era I honestly rewound to make sure I read that year right. Yep, it says ’89 all right, but it’s obviously inspired by period pieces. It’s about people who ride the rails and pull petty hustles just to get a little bit of money to get to the next town. (read the rest of this shit…)

Cage

Wednesday, July 24th, 2019

“Wrestling? I like wrestling. But I don’t like fighting. But I like wrestling!”

Note: Box Office Mojo only lists “1988” as the release date, but IMDb says September 1, 1989. I’m going with the specific one.

The movie CAGE is alot like the character Lou Ferrigno plays in it: brain damaged, childlike, clumsy, well-meaning, and hard not to like. The opening definitely had me concerned, though. In “VIET NAM 1969,” a bunch of army dudes run around in a field screaming and firing machine guns while the keyboards of composer Michael Wetherwax (SORORITY HOUSE MASSACRE) sort of imitate the RAMBO theme. B-movies about the Vietnam War don’t tend to be watchable, in my opinion, so thank God our boys get out of there quick.

Escaping in a helicopter, Billy Thomas (Ferrigno, between his last two Incredible Hulk TV movies) heroically saves his friend Scott Monroe (Reb Brown, UNCOMMON VALOR, ten years after his last Captain America TV movie) by having the strength to one-arm-dangle him under the copter even after being shot in the head with what, judging from the leak it springs in his temple, appears to be an adorably tiny bullet.

(Good makeup effect, though.)

The opening credits are a comically corny rehabilitation montage set to a ballad called “Don’t Let Go” by Jennifer Green. Without sound, Ferrigno and Brown pantomime a series of struggles and minor triumphs, from getting a medal to being frustrated with a puzzle to making it up a few steps. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Package (1989)

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2019

THE PACKAGE is… kind of an action movie from director Andrew Davis. After the better-than-average Chuck Norris vehicle CODE OF SILENCE (1985) and Steven Seagal’s debut ABOVE THE LAW (1988) the director put some similar elements into a thriller with Gene Hackman in the lead. Hackman had just done MISSISSIPPI BURNING (which he got Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for) but did not have any black belts in anything, so I’m not sure why he thought he should be in movies?

He plays U.S. Army Master Sergeant Johnny Gallagher, who I assume is respected for his skills, but he seems mostly just beloved for being a great guy. He’s introduced arriving for security detail at the site of U.S.-Soviet Union disarmament talks in West Berlin and walking around smiling and saying hi to everybody. (read the rest of this shit…)

Lock Up

Monday, July 22nd, 2019

It could be argued that LOCK UP isn’t quite an action movie – that it’s more of a drama with some violence and extreme villainy. And if it is action I’m not sure how it fits into the theme of this series about a shift in the genre heading into the next decade. No, it doesn’t seem like the ’90s ones with “DIE HARD on a _____” type hooks (CLIFFHANGER, DAYBREAK) or special effects and stylized settings (DEMOLITION MAN, JUDGE DREDD). But it’s also not quite the over the top feel we associate with the ’80s because of movies like RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II, COBRA and, well… OVER THE TOP. It has a score by Bill Conti (fresh off of THE KARATE KID PART III) that brings ROCKY-like majesty, especially during the montage of the harrowing football game that’s intentionally more about hurting him than sport. This is Stallone in tough-but-vulnerable mode, and even has a part where he builds to a yelling, emotional speech kinda like the end of FIRST BLOOD.

I attribute the film’s timelessness and grit to director John Flynn, a legend to me because of THE OUTFIT and ROLLING THUNDER in the ’70s and OUT FOR JUSTICE in the ’90s. This was his followup to BEST SELLER. He didn’t generally participate in trends – he just made John Flynn movies. (read the rest of this shit…)

Licence to Kill

Thursday, July 18th, 2019

One summer of ’89 joint that seems older than most of the others is Timothy Dalton 007 movie #2 of 2, LICENCE TO KILL. It’s got a definite ’80s action influence in that James Bond is supposed to turn in his proverbial badge and actual gun (he keeps the gun though) and goes rogue to get revenge on a Colombian drug lord named Sanchez (Robert Davi, CITY HEAT, RAW DEAL, ACTION JACKSON, DIE HARD), who has invented a novel way to smuggle cocaine (mixed with gasoline). And the theme by Gladys Knight and end credits song by Patti Labelle could probly slip onto a BEVERLY HILLS COP soundtrack without causing a scene. It’s also pretty violent, and was seen as a darker interpretation of Bond, which to some was upsetting and to some others was more in keeping with the books by Ian Fleming. But in most ways it’s old timey James Bond shit with elaborate stunt sequences, gadgets that make computery sounds (what good did it do him to disguise the explosives as toothpaste and cigarettes, by the way?) and multiple gorgeous women who throw themselves at Bond for no reason. (read the rest of this shit…)

Lethal Weapon 2

Wednesday, July 17th, 2019

I already wrote about LETHAL WEAPON 2 along with the rest of the LETHAL WEAPON series back in 2014. I’m still happy with that review. It covers much of what’s relevant about the movie, and even features a scan from my beloved Summer 1989 Warner Brothers Catalog (as seen in the BATMAN review). But I didn’t think I should skip over the movie in this series because it’s such a crucial piece of what I’m talking about here. So the earlier review still stands, but here’s a partially overlapping supplemental look at LETHAL WEAPON 2 focusing on its place in the action movies of summer ’89.

LETHAL WEAPON (1987) was of course a quintessential ’80s action movie, the Platonic ideal of a buddy cop picture, and one of the originators of the idea of Mel Gibson and producer Joel Silver (ROAD HOUSE) as action kings. But part 2 is more my idea of what “a LETHAL WEAPON movie” is like because it invented how to sequelize that movie and make it about the continuing adventures of that now-established friendship. It takes what was already seen as heightened and makes it bigger, sexier, funnier, lethal-er (apparently it’s the biggest body count in the series at 33), creating a template (and new character in Leo Getz, played by Joe Pesci a year before GOODFELLAS) that would be used for two more sequels in the ’90s. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Karate Kid Part III

Tuesday, July 16th, 2019

INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE was not the only part 3 on offer for Summer of ’89 – there was also John Avildsen’s THE KARATE KID PART III. And as Mrs. Vern pointed out to me, the series kind of follows the same pattern as Indy: there’s the popular first one, the second one goes off in a different direction (bringing him to Japan), and then the third one plays it safe by being closer to part 1, with Cobra Kai, John Kreese and the All-Valley Karate Tournament. And then of course both series also have a much later, unpopular part 4 and a pretty enjoyable remake starring Jaden Smith.

I think PART II had an okay reception, and this isn’t supposed to be an apology for it like LAST CRUSADE was for TEMPLE OF DOOM. But it’s kinda funny to me because PART II’s trailer narrator said, “No more tournaments. No more cheering crowds. This time… the combat… is real.” Of course there’s no more tournaments and crowds and shit, that wasn’t real combat at all, that was for babies, and only a complete coward would make another movie about that kind of sissy bullshit. We have moved well beyond that nonsense and fuck you if you even think for one second that– oh, what’s that? We’re doing tournaments and cheering crowds again? Oh, cool! Welcome back! (read the rest of this shit…)

Batman

Friday, June 21st, 2019

Tim Burton’s BATMAN is a movie about a feeling – a feeling called Batman. It’s a lonely, broken, hanging out in a cave with the bats feeling. A sad about my dead parents but trying to be me feeling. A doing a bad job of passing for a normal person but fuck you I’m gonna dress and drive how I want and do what I want at night feeling. An okay it’s true that I am legitimately crazy and even sometimes hang upside down like a bat when I can’t sleep but does that have to mean I can’t have a girlfriend feeling. The feeling is evoked by shadowy alleys, towering gothic structures (thanks to brilliant production design by FULL METAL JACKET‘s Anton Furst), matte black metal and Danny Elfman’s low, murmuring horns that climb to the rooftops, step to the edge and spread their gargoyle wings in a thunderous explosion of marching drums and rococo instrumentation.

Man, that score. There aren’t many I like better than this one. It’s as eternal as the concept of Batman itself.

Now, just as we’re in a groove here – as Batman (in a place that looks sort of like the ’40s, sort of like the ’80s, sort of like a future that never happened) is terrifying muggers, chasing gangsters in fedoras, dodging old timey reporters with similar hats, sitting in his cave looking at scans of old newspaper articles on his computer that looks sturdier than a submarine, or out of costume hiding away in his big empty manor, stewing in a mood that’s black, blue and overcast – here comes this walking splatter of white, green and purple called The Joker. The nerve of this asshole to hold himself as a parallel to Batman! Sure, we understand the need for self expression, the rebellion against conformity, the back and forth between masking and glorying in his disfigurement. And yeah, he knows how to be a funny jerk. His arrogance can be kinda charming. “You look fine.” “I didn’t ask.” (read the rest of this shit…)

Renegades

Thursday, June 20th, 2019

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…)