John McTiernan's THE 13th WARRIOR (1999, 102 min.) on Hulu for the first time.I'm pretty sure I saw this one in theaters 20 years ago, but I don't remember one thing about it (SELF-INDUCED-AMNESIA-SPLOITATION!). And after seeing it (again?) I can understand why it left my brain as soon as I watched it in '99. For a rousing (and $160 million expensive) action-adventure picture about an Arab ambassador (a brooding Antonio Banderas) joining a dozen Viking warriors in a quest to free a small village from the bloodthirsty bear claws of a tribe of cannibal savages, the action scenes in "The 13th Warrior" are a major letdown. McTiernan lenses the shit out of some epic fights that often end in bloody beheadings. Alas, you'll mostly see lots of close-ups of swords hitting wooden shields/armor and dark corridors lit by torches (followed by James Cameron-blue underwater caves). Considering the director's action pedigree ("Predator," "Die Hard," "Hunt for Red October," etc.) and the source material (Michael Crichton's "Eaters of the Dead" novel) "The 13th Warrior" is a major letdown in the one key area that would make 90's action fans seek it in the first place.Where the picture succeeds is in (a) building a dude-friendly manly world that wouldn't feel out of place somewhere in "Game of Thrones'" opening credits map (or an 'R' rated version of "Aladdin") and (b) emphasizing physical production design/practical effects over CG/matte painting (which look kind-of bad in the unrestored, decades-old version streaming on Hulu). Banderas is fine in the audience-surrogate title role, but he's outclassed by the testosterone-oozing collection of European bad asses surrounding him. Vladimir Kulich ("The Equalizer," TV's "Vikings") steals the film as Buliwyf, a leader so much in command of his men's respect (like Hans Gruber and his terrorists) he rarely has to move, speak or do anything hurriedly. Unfortunately there are so many characters that the handful of actresses (Diane Venora's Queen Weilew, etc.) are more memorable by virtue they don't look like a northman. Your mileage may vary, but based on the filmmakers involved and the resources at their disposal "The 13th Warrior" can't help but make me feel I should have watched my HD-DVD copy of "Face/Off" instead. :-(Oh, I also posted my review for 1985's "Savage Dawn" on the 80's ACTION! Day Column..
ONLY THE STRONG (1993) – There are two good aspects of Only the Strong: the displays of the Brazilian martial art capoeira and Mark Descascos. Dacascos – whom I have only known from Iron Chef America- brings charisma to his role as a retired special forces soldier turned inner-city school teacher. Unfortunately, the script does not give any character besides his much to do, and there are too much subplots thrown into a 90-minute runtime. For those who love 1990s pop culture, there may be more to enjoy than I found in it, but the film is certainly not dull.
Dacascos is the right spelling of his name.
There’s also that Paranue song that will be in your head for the next seventeen years and the villain’s awesome vajazzled vest.
Vajazzled? This I gotta see.
Hard Target (1993)This movie has been on my to do list for a long time. I mean Van Damme punches a snake. I just didn't realise how fucking amazing it would be. I think I laughed with joy and cheered more than I did in John Wick 3. I mean Wilford Brimley has a kinda French kinda cajun accent. That on it's own should be a PSA. I still haven't seen all of Van Damme's movies but here he seems almost mystical. The power I assume comes from that magnificent mullet. I mean this movie. There are just so many things, and it's not just the John Woo-isms of the piece. I actually forgot he directed this. Something I will never forget again. I know this was a F This Movie Fest movie a few years ago, but it almost feels like it was made for Junesplitation. And is it me or is Lance Henriksen insanely good looking (more than usual) in this.
I was surprised by how much I loved this one! Definitely one of Van Damme’s best!
"Crying Freeman" 1995, Dir. Christophe Gans.Excellent mid-90s slow-mo fest with great gun fights, a typically (amazingly so) stone faced Mark Dacascos, a dubbed (by Ron Perlman!!) Tchéky Karyo, the brilliantly named Rae Dawn Chong, and Christophe Gans proving why he should've been given blank checks to make whatever genre flicks he wanted to for the rest of his (or my) life.
Stone Cold (1991)They just don't make action movies like this anymore. Tons of fun. Very ridiculous, but very entertaining. The courthouse finale is extremely fun. I had a blast watching this. I highly recommend this.
Hard Rain (1998, dir. Mikael Saloman, on non-anamorphic DVD)Die Hard in a flooded town. When this movie came out it was an afterthought, seeing it in 2019 it’s a revelation. This movie must have been so hard to make. The practical effects and stunts are phenomenal. They created an entire flooded town set that is really believable. Morgan Freeman doesn’t totally pull off the villain role, but hey, he does have a dangly earring! I loved this movie.
Karate Warrior 3 (1991) - Better than the first two but also not as good. I don't know how they did that. Anyway... The Saga Continues!
Death Warrant (1990)Along with Nowhere To Run this is part of Van Damme’s “Canadian phase”, where his accent is explained away by his being from Canada. Van Damme is sent undercover into a prison and it is very important that the inmates do not find out that he is a cop. They give him a fake criminal record and a fake wife and they use his real name. They send him “undercover” under his real name. The gimmick of showing the same kick two or three times from slightly different angles in immediate succession is used a few times which only turns silly into more silly. Ultimately, it is mediocre golden era Van Damme which is worth a watch if you need a break from Bloodsport, Sudden Death, Hard Target, Double Impact & Timecop.
Lionheart (1990)I'm sure most people here have seen it so I don't need to go into detail. I like Van Damme well enough but I've only seen a handful of his movies, so I figured I'd check one more off the list. Entertaining, but something still keeps me from fully embracing JCVD.
Naked Killer (1992)Both sensual and violent, Naked Killer earned its Category III rating. While I'm rarely one to make the "style over substance" remark, I think it could apply to this one, not because there is no substance, but because the substance if so strange and fast paced that it's hard to keep up with anything happening. Personally, I think that's part of its fun charm.
The Base (1999)Opening logo is for a production company called “American World Pictures” so already it makes no goddamn sense, and during Junesploitation I have to respect that. Future John Wick target Mark Dacascos stars as an army investigator sent undercover to take down a drug-dealing sergeant, and much like the production company that gave it life the movie doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Characters seem to change personalities/motivation on a whim and it all feels fairly cheap (I imagine because it is).That being said it is a fun movie and Dacascos is likable as always, but the action is fairly light despite being directed by Mark L. Lester of Commando and Class of 1984/1999 fame so your mileage, as they say, may vary. Also worth noting is a fun supporting turn by Frederick Coffin in one of the worst hairpieces ever committed to film. I’d like to see how much of the budget was allocated to that thing, it might explain the relative lack of action sequences.
Freejack (1992)This movie was impossible to watch until it showed up on Sony Crackle a couple of weeks ago. Mick Jagger wandered on the set so they gave him a part. Emilio Estevez' only good performance is in Men at Work. Anthony Hopkins is played by a hologram. Rene Russo is playing a character that's 23 then, 18 years later, plays a 55 year old. I'm not sure about the math on that but I don't think they gave a shit. There isn't a chance in hell Mick Jagger remembers doing this.
Kuffs (1992, dir. Bruce A. Evans)Not a huge amount of action here, but that's offset by Christian Slater talking to the camera, Milla Jovovich, Mary Ellen Trainor, weird tonal shifts, a Harold Faltermeyer score, Leon Rippy's trippy shirts, and the fact that his name is Leon Rippy.
As a kid, this VHS was in heavy rotation, I thought it was so cool. Haven't revisited as an adult. But I'll never forget the lawyer (?) (Ben Stein?) at the door, gun getting pointed at him, raising his hands and sticking out his tongue, fainting. One of the funniest things 12 year old me had ever seen.
Sudden Death (1995)Maybe my favorite “Die Hard in a ____” movie. Die Hard in hockey arena works really well. There was more setup than I remembered, but once Van Damme fights the Penguins mascot in the kitchen, the movie really starts to roll and it’s just fantastic. I love this one! Also, Powers Boothe is wonderful as the villain.
Samurai Cop (1991)"Keep it up.""I'll keep it up, if you keep it warm."That seem like a fair trade. "Are you circumcised?"I ask everyone that. Not weird."I'll see you in court.""Mutha Fucka, I'll see you in hell!"No one wants a court case.
Escape From L.A. (1996)First time viewing!! I narrowed down my viewing options to two 90's Action movies I hadn't seen before: Drop Zone (1994) and Escape From L.A. I noticed that Patrick had reviewed Drop Zone for the site (and didn't like it), so I went with Snake Plissken. I'm such a huge fan of Escape From New York that I probably avoided this one because I was pissed off they made a sequel. This movie had me hooked from the time the screenwriter named the bad guy "Cuervo Jones." Kurt Russell has to play basketball to avoid being killed! Such terrible, terrible basketball! Then, he goes surfing! And hang gliding! There are so many awful green screen effects in this that I honestly have no idea if the movie is any good or not. But, for something to watch this afternoon while my kid took a nap, it was PERFECT.
SILENT TRIGGER (1996) Dolph Lundgren plays a sniper who ends up on the run and blah blah blah fights chases guns explosions. This is a mean-spirited movie, with every character being an angry a-hole in every scene. BUT… just between us, is director Russell Mulcahy actually good? His whole thing of tough guys duking it in big industrial warehouse-like spaces with weird lighting is a style I can get behind. Bonus #Godzillasploitation: SON OF GODZILLA (1967) Weather experiments lead to the discovery of a Godzilla egg, which hatches and grows into a baby ‘Zilla, here named Minilla. The franchise drops from family-movie down to kiddie-movie in this one, emphasizing cute monster shtick over explosive action. A lot of what I thought I remembered from GODZILLA’S REVENGE was in this movie, which has me wondering what I’m going to see in REVENGE in a few days.
SAMURAI COP (1991) with Joe Bob Briggs commentary. WOW. This one left me a little speechless. Highly recommend the Joe Bob Briggs commentary. 5 stars.
You should check the Live Rifftrax version of "Samurai Cop" (streaming on Amazon Prime). It's toned down to PG-13-ish levels for obvious reasons, but for my money still the most hysterical live show they've ever done. :-)
Awesome! Will do!
Live Wire (Christian Duguay, 1992)Danny O'Neill (Pierce Brosnan) is a jerk, but he's got a tortured past, so it's okay. That he's a jerk. He's also really good at diffusing bombs, he even does it for fun. Problem is, the bad guys have created a new explosive. It's a liquid and can't be discerned from water and when people drink it they explode like a bomb. I'm serious. It's bananas. Also, steamy unnecessary sex scene complete with jazzy sax riffs. Also, Ron Silver play's a slimy politician. Great bad movies are hard to come by. This one is fantastic.
Death Warrant (1990)I knew I was watching an action movie from the 90's when someone mentions a "main frame", JCVD kicks in slow motion, and a bad guy yells out, "Welcome to hell!". What a fun movie.
Surf Ninjas (1993)Me: I need a 90's action movie!*roommate looks at movie collection*Roommate: Surf Ninjas!!!Do you ever watch something and think, yeah, this is the 90's? That's this movie.
Showdown (1993, dir. Robert Radler)Total Karate Kid rip-off with Kenn Scott as the world's oldest high school student and Billy Blanks as Miyagi. The clothes and camera work are the most '90s things ever. The score rules.
Tonight was a...SHOWDOWN IN LITTLE TOKYO (1991, dir. Mark Lester)- SHOWDOWN is one of those films that is an enjoyable alternative reality. As a yakuza gang starts to move into several criminal rackets in Los Angeles, Dolph Lundgren and Brandon Lee pretend to be cops but mainly focus on winning the next fight or gun battle. You also get a man breaking his own neck, drug distribution through beer shipments, a beheading, and a noticeable body double for Tia Carrere. Everything gets more over-the-top as film nears its entertaining finale. A good time was had.
Dark Angel/I Come In Peace (1990)My first movie of Junesploitation, and my first time watching this. I did not expect aliens. At all. Someone needs to explain the meaning of the phrase "I come in peace" to the alien, because that ain't it. Also, CD's as weapons! This was the era when CD's were still fairly new, and mysterious, and kind of looked like sharp metallic frisbees (I'm thinking of Hell On Earth a couple years later). Fun watch.
Hi, Paul! Good to hear from you!
UNDER SIEGE (1992): Imagine being trapped on a battleship with Gary Busey.
Double Team (1997)Though this movie isn't all that good, Hark Tsui is trying really, really hard to make a great movie and I respect that. It's very stylized and it works sometimes, but it's mostly kinda weird. JCVD's doing his best and it's nice to see a lucid Dennis Rodman and a just-starting-to-get-ugly Mickey Rourke is okay too, but it's very much one of those meh 90's action movies.
Vampires (1998)James Woods' fall from grace is very sad to me. When I was a kid, I pretty much loved him in everything. I love politics hidden in movies but real world politics, hard pass. He's great in this and I'm sure when he looks back at this he thinks that it was him just owning the libs(gross), This reminds me of Near Dark minus the noir aspect. Which is what makes Near Dark so good. This is just ok, not terrible, just ok. Something happened to John Carpenter after In the Mouth of Madness(his last great film). He was never quite the same starting with The Village of the Damned. His run from Halloween to Madness is as good as a director has ever had. For that, he will always be on the Mount Rushmore of horror.
Out for Justice (1991)I’m not convinced Seagal is playing an actual human being here (though I suppose that goes for most of his movies), but the bar scene is legit great, and it’s pretty entertaining all the way through. Definitely a clear transition from 80’s style action movies to 90’s ones (it absolutely has its feet in both pools).