HONEYMOON IN VEGAS (released August 28, 1992) is pretty mediocre, but definitely more watchable than some of the other stuff I’ve been reviewing lately. That mainly comes down to it being a romantic comedy with Nic Cage playing the protagonist, and going a little mega at times, dipping into those skills from VAMPIRE’S KISS four years earlier and taking them for a little test drive in a more mainstream movie. Gives it a little more energy.
Cage (between ZANDALEE and AMOS & ANDREW) plays Jack Singer, a small time private detective in New York City. He adores his girlfriend Betsy (Sarah Jessica Parker between L.A. STORY and STRIKING DISTANCE), but she wants to get married and have kids, which he’s not comfortable with. It’s a totally normal feeling, but it’s given a ridiculous origin story in the opening scene where his creepily possessive mother (Anne Bancroft in one scene!) dies while trying to make him promise to never get married because no one can love him as much as she did.
Betsy doesn’t want to wait anymore, and gives him an ultimatum that she says isn’t an ultimatum, so he decides she’s right and that they should take a vacation to Las Vegas, have some fun and elope. (read the rest of this shit…)
Way back in 2013 I reviewed BLOODSPORT II: THE NEXT KUMITE starring Daniel Bernhardt. But I reviewed it as part of this tournament gimmick I was doing called The Super-Kumite, and the movie lost its round to BLOODFIGHT, so I never followed up with BLOODSPORTs III and IV like I normally would. Until now!
Unlike me, the filmmakers didn’t waste time. Part III (no subtitle) came out in 1996, the same year as part II. Bernhardt (or, as we call him this week, Bob Odenkirk’s fight trainer/co-fight-coordinator/“Bus Goon” on NOBODY) returns as Alex Cardo, the guy who won the sub-titular “NEXT KUMITE” after Van Damme’s Frank Dux in the original.
One odd continuity with part II is that it has a wraparound where the movie is a story being told to a kid. In part II it was Master Sun (James Wong) telling kids in his martial arts class how Alex became a good person. This time it’s Alex telling his ten year old son Jason (David Schatz, AMBROSE BIERCE: CIVIL WAR STORIES) a story about his life “living in the far east as a very successful gambler.” He notices Jason upset late at night, finds out he got suspended from school for beating up three eighth grade bullies, and decides to take him for a camping trip. So Alex figures it’s time to tell his son – who has been training in martial arts – that he was the Kumite champion (“Cool!”) and then about something that happened while he was “living in the far east as a very successful gambler.” It’s pretty cool, because most fathers, when their son gets into trouble at school, aren’t able to whip out a “the time I tried to avenge a murder” story. (read the rest of this shit…)
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…)
MULAN is the Disney animated feature of summer ’98. It’s another Broadway-style musical loosely based on an old tale, in this case the legend of Chinese warrior Hua Mulan, as described in The Ballad of Mulan. Fa Mulan – voiced by Ming-Na Wen (STREET FIGHTER), singing voice Lea Salonga (NINJA KIDS) – is a young woman in Han dynasty China in the midst of training to be a great warrior. Oh, whoops, that’s a typo – in the midst of training to be a great wife. She gets all painted up and tries to walk in confining clothes and know all the etiquette for tea drinking and what not. But she’s not up to it, even has to write notes on her hand before a test, and completely fucks it up.
Luckily there is another option. The Huns are invading and every family must provide a man or boy to fight in the army. The only male in her family is her dad Fa Zhou (Soon-Tek Oh, STEELE JUSTICE, DEATH WISH 4), a war vet who is all for going again but he’s an old man who can barely walk and she’s sure he’s gonna get fuckin killed in like two seconds so at night she steals his armor and conscription notice and runs off to pretend to be a dude and fight in the army on his behalf.
Which she’s actually worse at than being feminine. There’s lots of, you know, humor about how she says something in a normal voice and then says “er, I mean” and repeats it in a not even remotely convincing fake-masculine voice. She starts to pick up other things like to spit and do gross things to be accepted as a man. It’s like JUST ONE OF THE GUYS I guess but when they see her boobs it’s off screen. (read the rest of this shit…)
AMERICAN NINJA 5 is the explosive finale to the AMERICAN NINJA saga, by which I mean it’s an unrelated movie starring David Bradley that they retitled. At least that’s my assumption since he’s named Joe in this one instead of Sean. I could easily accept this character as Sean Davidson, who he played in parts 3 and 4, but they call him the other name so they must not have had that in mind while filming. He also opens the movie training with Tadashi “Bronson Lee” Yamashita, who played the Black Star Ninja in part 1, but this time Yamashita is credited as playing himself.
And I guess they must’ve decided that the title was misleading enough that they didn’t have to have a totally unrelated subtitle like all the other sequels. Something like AMERICAN NINJA 5: GAUNTLET OF FIRE or AMERICAN NINJA 5: IRON CLAW JUSTICE.
By the time this came out in 1993, ninjas were a subject of parody and kiddie fare. In the same year, the older brother of AMERICAN NINJA 5’s young star starred in SURF NINJAS with Rob Schneider and Leslie Nielsen. So this is a PG-13, sometimes jokey movie. Bradley has to take care of his master’s grand-nephew Hiro (introducing Lee Reyes). Also, his master, Master Tetsu, is played by Pat Morita, four years after THE KARATE KID III and the KARATE KID cartoon, one year before THE NEXT KARATE KID. Not very Cannonical. But it does have many elements of an AMERICAN NINJA movie: a scheming evil scientist, an army of multi-colored ninjas with one more visually distinguished lead ninja (with a snake-themed name, even), a kidnapping, sneaking into a foreign land, sneaking into a compound, getting jailed, doing a ninja hand signal meditation thing, child ninjitsu training montage, suppressed memories of childhood ninjitsu training. (read the rest of this shit…)
ROUND 1, FIRST BOUT, BLOODSPORT SEQUELS VS. TEAM BOLO
“You’re a true warrior, Alex.”
The hero of the original BLOODSPORT, Frank Dux (played by the icon of tournament fighting movies, Jean-Claude Van Damme) trained in ninjitsu as a kid after stealing a valuable katana and then impressing its owner by having second thoughts and returning it. As an adult he’s in the Army, but goes AWOL to enter the dangerous underground Kumite tournament.
The replacement hero for the Van-Damme-less part 2, Alex Cardos (Daniel Bernhardt, the Swiss martial artist and model who had been in a Versace commercial with Van Damme) is also a dirty sword-stealer, but this guy does it as a grown man, has no regrets and doesn’t try to give it back. He goes to a party at Pat Morita’s house, steals the sword from upstairs and makes a lunch date with a lady he was flirting with named Janine (Lori Lynn Dickson) as he flees. (read the rest of this shit…)
SHADOW FURY is a cheap-ass 2001 sci-fi action movie about clones. It has one of those inexcusable keyboard-pretending-to-be-an-orchestra scores and the acting and dialogue are at higher cheesiness levels than I’ll usually put up with, i.e. worse than a SCANNERS sequel. But I really liked this movie because it rarely goes more than a couple minutes without a really cool action scene, a clever concept or a (usually unintentional) laugh. It has a similar energy to an early Isaac Florentine, so it fits that the director, Makoto Yokoyama, did second unit and stunts for the Power Rangers. An IMDb search finds 7 specific episodes directed by Florentine with Yokoyama on 2nd unit. So let’s call him the 2nd unit Florentine. (read the rest of this shit…)
THE KARATE KID was such a phenomenon, man. It mainstream-popularized karate in the U.S. and was heavily imitated in everything from kid’s movies to sports movies to actual action movies. It was sequeled, next generationed, cartooned, action figured, parodied in REVENGE OF THE NERDS, postmodernly referenced and recently remade. It’s hard to remember what the context was then. I can’t really watch it without comparing it to martial arts themed movies made since then. But I’ll try to be nice. (read the rest of this shit…)
As a Chris Tucker fan in a white-people-heavy part of the country I too often find myself defending the kind-of-funniness of RUSH HOUR. I don’t love the movie or anything (MONEY TALKS is the real classic) but I have to admit that every time I come across it on TV I find myself laughing at the shit Chris Tucker says and saying, “I forgot how funny this was.”
I realize that you all think I’m crazy for that, so I got a new argument in defense of RUSH HOUR, and it’s called COLLISION COURSE (1989). You think RUSH HOUR is such a terrible movie – well, what about the version where instead of Jackie Chan it’s Pat Morita, and instead of Chris Tucker it’s god damn Jay Leno? This is a generic mismatched buddy-cop picture only made novel by the rare hero role for the famous Tonight Show host/usurper. It’s funny – not in the sense that the jokes are funny, but in the sense that it’s sometimes interesting to look back at older movies and remember what was considered cool or funny at that time. (read the rest of this shit…)
When I reviewed Jean-Claude Van Damme’s SECOND IN COMMAND on The Ain’t It Cool News recently I made a shocking admission: I haven’t seen a whole Van Damme movie since 1998’s KNOCK OFF. I understand if that means I lose credibility in some of your eyes, but I gotta be open and honest with you people. I’m one of them straight shooters, in my opinion. So I gotta admit it: I learn more and more about Steven Seagal every day, but when it comes to Van Damme I’m a straight up amateur. And I want to become a more well rounded person so I asked for some advice on the best movies from Van Damme’s post-theatrical days. Two people made convincing cases for COYOTE MOON, or DESERT HEAT as it’s called here in the states, so that was my first stop. (one guy described the plot, the other guy a threesome scene.) (read the rest of this shit…)
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