"KEEP BUSTIN'."

Posts Tagged ‘Sylvester Stallone’

Samaritan

Thursday, September 1st, 2022

It seems to me like Sylvester Stallone has been talking up this retired super hero movie SAMARITAN (not to be confused with THE SAMARITAN) for ridiculously long. That’s because, I’m reading now, it was intended for a theatrical release in November of 2020. A pandemic happened, it got delayed, Amazon bought MGM, now it’s finally out, but released straight to Amazon Prime. I can see why they’d do that – it doesn’t have the scope people expect from theatrical movies, but it’s also not a serious indie movie, or a cheapie where he shot all his stuff over a weekend and green-screened him in with the other actors. I think it’s a mid-budget movie! Like they used to make!

In my opinion SAMARITAN doesn’t go the distance to completely working, but honestly it’s much better than the bullshit I always pictured. Off brand super heroes aren’t all that appealing to me, and Stallone playing one kinda seemed like a concession. He’s keenly aware that super heroes have replaced his style of action hero in the popular imagination, so playing one sounded like a sad “Okay, kids, I guess this is what you want then” surrender. What I didn’t really consider is that Stallone already played super heroes in JUDGE DREDD and DEMOLITION MAN. It turns out SAMARITAN is sort of like that type of movie for the Old Man Stallone era – scaled down, grittier, with some melancholy to it. And, admittedly, without the satirical elements that have helped those survive in our memories. But it’s more interesting than I expected. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Suicide Squad

Wednesday, August 11th, 2021

THE SUICIDE SQUAD, from writer/director James Gunn (SLITHER, SUPER, writer of TROMEO & JULIET and DAWN OF THE DEAD) is kind of miraculous as far as these big ol’ corporate franchise movies go. Imagine the odds against a director starting out as a writer at Troma, making some well-liked-but-not-super-successful hard-R comedies, then going mainstream with two beloved Marvel hits, then being temporarily fired by Disney due to right wing trolls feigning offense at his old tweets, and spending his time off going over to a different comic book universe to make a super gory and death-filled but heartfelt sequel to someone else’s widely-hated part 1, building off of his horror comedy past, the skills he built on his GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY movies, and what was fun about that first SUICIDE SQUAD movie, to make something really special?

Though I didn’t hate David Ayer’s 2016 SUICIDE SQUAD the way most seem to have, I had many complaints. I suspect he had a more sensible version before the studio literally hired the trailer company to re-edit it, but even in its present form I think the movie deserves praise for establishing a rowdy, cartoony take on the DC Universe that BIRDS OF PREY and now this were able to riff on and use as a jumping off point. And of course even bigger than that is its casting of Margot Robbie (THE LEGEND OF TARZAN) as Harley Quinn, as close to a universally beloved character and portrayal as has ever come out of such a widely hated movie. (read the rest of this shit…)

Get Carter (2000)

Wednesday, September 30th, 2020

Nearly 30 years after GET CARTER and its American cousin HIT MAN there was another version of the movie and/or its source novel, Jack’s Return Home by Ted Lewis. It starred Sylvester Stallone and was almost universally hated. Unsurprisingly it doesn’t fare well if hung up on a wall next to the 1971 version, but I find it at least interesting as an exercise in adaptation and an oddity in the Stallone filmography. And maybe I’m a little easier on it because it takes place in Seattle, with some of it actually filmed here.

In the mid ’90s, the ground was shifting under everyone’s feet. Hair metal bands felt displaced by Nirvana, MC Hammer decided he had to sign to Death Row Records, and the action heroes of the ‘80s were starting to see the writing on the wall. So by the end of the decade the once dominant Stallone was trying to find his place in a new world. JUDGE DREDD (1995) had been a notorious flop, and ASSASSINS (1995) and DAYLIGHT (1996) were poorly received. He couldn’t get Tarantino to cast him as Max Cherry in JACKIE BROWN. Though COP LAND (1997) had been one of Stallone’s best performances, it didn’t seem to bring him the critical credibility he was looking for, and his followup, the thriller D-TOX, was sitting on a shelf (it would be barely released in 2002 under the title EYE SEE YOU). Stallone been pigeonholed by his massive success as a larger than life action god, and many critics were more interested in rooting for his failure than seeing him evolve, or even return to his roots. (read the rest of this shit…)

New Patreon bonus: FIRST BLOOD book vs. movie comparison

Friday, June 26th, 2020


As I’ve mentioned before, I feel a little weird about promoting my Patreon during These Uncertain Times™. I guess I always feel weird about it. But the fact is your generous, totally optional support is helping me get through this, it’s so much better than having to freelance for morally questionable outlets, and I want to show my gratitude. So what I have here is a rough draft I dug up from 2008 when I was trying to write a follow-up to Seagalogy. If you’re interested in how the Stallone classic FIRST BLOOD differs from the David Morrell book it’s based on, here you go! (spoilers for both, of course)

Thanks again.

CLICK HERE FOR FIRST BLOOD

 

Rambo: First Blood Part II

Friday, May 22nd, 2020

May 22, 1985
(yes, 35 years ago today!)

RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II was a phenomenon. And an unlikely one. It’s right there in the title: FIRST BLOOD PART II? How the hell do you do a FIRST BLOOD PART II?

Sure, the makers of FIRST BLOOD famously went with the ending where Rambo didn’t die, as he did in David Morrell’s book. But the character doesn’t exactly lend himself to a rousing second adventure. He wasn’t your typical action movie protagonist, a hero who comes along and saves the day. He was a drifter who was mistreated and fought back hard. Went on a rampage. Single-handedly waged a war against law enforcement (one guy died falling off a helicopter), wrecked a whole town, finally broke down about his experiences in the war and then turned himself in. A great movie because of its simple, character-driven story mechanisms, emotional center and excellent, largely internal and physical (and finally blubbering) performance by Sylvester Stallone.

So what’s Rambo gonna do, get out of prison, try to go straight, and get hassled by some other sheriff? Nope. They figured we got a perfect killing machine, let’s plug it in. Let him out for a dangerous mission, a one-man DIRTY DOZEN.

(read the rest of this shit…)

Escape Plan: The Extractors

Thursday, April 16th, 2020

I’m not sure why we’d ever be ranking the least likely trilogies of our cinematic era, but if the topic comes up, I’ll be sure to mention the ESCAPE PLAN saga. Here – let’s recap:

It all began with a legit theatrical release from the director of 1408. This was in 2013, after EXPENDABLES 1 and 2, in a period when Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger were making solid old-man-action vehicles that just weren’t catching on (BULLET TO THE HEAD, SABOTAGE, THE LAST STAND). ESCAPE PLAN is only my third favorite of those, but it’s a solid sort-of throwback action movie, it was fun to see Sly and Arnold together in something less winky than an Expendables, and it was especially cool to see Schwarzenegger kind of being a character actor, being funny and a little crazy as a sidekick instead of the hero. Plus it had a weirdly overqualified cast of Jim Caviezel, Sam Neill, Vincent D’Onofrio and Amy Ryan (plus Vinnie Jones and 50 Cent). (read the rest of this shit…)

Rambo: Last Blood

Monday, September 23rd, 2019

You remember Rambo, John J. Vietnam vet, Green Beret, POW camp survivor, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient. In ’81, as a homeless drifter, he waged a one-man guerrilla war against the police department of Hope, Washington, wounding several officers, killing police dogs, blowing up buildings and causing one officer to die from falling out of a helicopter. But they let him out of prison for a secret POW rescue mission. Though he earned a presidential pardon, he decided to live in Thailand, living off odd jobs such as stickfighter, temple-builder, snake-catcher or river guide, with occasional missions to help the Mujahideen in Afghanistan or rescue missionaries in Myanmar. But eventually he came home to his dad’s place in Arizona.

It doesn’t seem like it, but that movie was 11 years ago. Rambo has short hair now, wears cowboy hats and runs his (now deceased) dad’s horse ranch. He lives with a woman named Maria (Adriana Barraza, AMORES PERROS, DRAG ME TO HELL), who I guess the photos on the wall indicate was his parents’ maid, and her granddaughter Gabrielle (Yvette Monreal from the El Rey show Matador), who calls him Uncle John and who he says he thinks of as his daughter. (read the rest of this shit…)

Nighthawks

Thursday, July 25th, 2019

PROGRAMMING NOTE: I’m still working on one more piece that will cap off the Last Summer of ’80s Action series next week. But last night, while celebrating the life of Rutger Hauer and linking to my reviews of his action movie roles (BLIND FURY!), I was confused as to why I couldn’t find a review of NIGHTHAWKS. It turned out I was working on one two years ago that I never posted, so I polished it up and have it for you today. R.I.P.

* * *

NIGHTHAWKS. A couple of tough street cops who go out at night like, uh… a couple of hawks. Or probly more like that famous Edward Hopper painting of the mostly empty diner at night. Except no diner and not always at night.

You know what, you and I together are going to have to face that I actually have no idea why it’s call NIGHTHAWKS, but the point is it’s the story of NYPD (New York Police Department) undercover dudes Deke DaSilva (Sylvester Stallone, DEATH RACE 2000) and Matthew Fox (Billy Dee Williams, HIT!) who, just because they’re war veterans and also familiar with where all the low lifes go around here, are recruited by ATAC (Anti-Terrorist Action Command) to stop a terrorist (Rutger Hauer, WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE, in his first American film) who is in NYC (New York City) to attack the U.N. (United Nations) which in my opinion is B.S. (bullshit), you shouldn’t do something like that you jerk. (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…)

Creed II

Monday, November 26th, 2018

CREED was a perfect movie, a miracle that unexpectedly resurrected the ROCKY series. CREED II, coming from a different director and writers, cannot match it. But it’s a solid continuation of beloved characters from both the original series and the new one that brings them to new places in life, with some boxing, training montages and dramatic music in between. Kinda like ROCKY II.

And of course there are other parallels. Adonis (Michael B. Jordan, RED TAILS) becoming champ, getting married and becoming a father, and also being embarrassed to be seen by the media while coming out of the hospital all beat up. But he doesn’t get a tiger jacket, so it’s not a remake of ROCKY II. Mostly it’s a direct sequel to CREED and ROCKY IV.

Before they ever even announced a CREED II, you and I and everybody else were dreaming of the same thing: a sequel where Adonis meets the man who killed his father in the ring, Ivan Drago, and has to fight his son. It’s one of those things that’s so obvious that they sort of had to do it. If the sequel was about anything else, no matter how exciting, you’d just think “Yeah, but why not Ivan Drago?” (read the rest of this shit…)