RUNAWAY TRAIN (1985, TUBI, Unknown: 6/19/2015)No wonder Andrei Konchalovsky got the call from Hollywood to direct "Tango & Cash." Though a couple of times it descends into stereotypical Russian high-minded symbolism (complete with religious-like chants in the soundtrack), this is a muscular action movie in which character development between a controlling prison warden (Kyle T. Heffner) and two inmates (veteran caged animal Jon Voight and eager-but-green Eric Roberts) doesn't stop when the latter two escape Alaska's Stonehaven Federal Prison aboard an abandoned train that's lost its brakes. Hell, I'd argue this remains a prison movie from beginning to end because Manny and Barstow carry their resentment and obsession with taking each other down all the way through the end. Who says a prison movie needs walls and a building for the characters to be trapped inside their own minds by allegorical demons? The More You Know! :-)The impressive practical stunt work of a train going fast with people on board unable to stop it (mixed with decent miniature work) highlights human knuckleheads (civilians and train operators) showing their best and worst behavior as they try to solve the crisis. So nice to see Rebecca De Mornay and "Tiny" Lister in small supporting roles. Even Cannon couldn't mess up something this good inspired by an Akira Kurosawa screenplay. 4.5 DANNY TREJO BOXING GLOVES (out of 5)BREAKIN' (1984, YouTube, Heath Holland: 6/10/2013)Here's an even rarer Cannon species than the just-reviewed quality movie: a culturally trendy, money-making hit without a body count. Two L.A. street dancers (Adolfo 'Shabba-Doo' Quinones and Michael 'Boogaloo Shrimp' Chambers) hook-up with a waitress-by-day jazz dancer ("Ninja III's" Lucinda Dickey), and convince the latter's doubting agent ("The Hearse's" Christopher McDonald :-P) to back them up against judgmental competitors. Cannon goofiness abounds (a brawl at a family restaurant, Tab and RC Cola for breakfast, etc.), but when Ozone, Turbo and other street performers do their routines "Breakin'" comes alive.Too bad that Dickey (who can't dance or move as well as her partners) is written as a "white savior" for two talented minority dancers that could and should have triumphed on their own. Hell, Kelly's agent should have ditched our heroes and gone with the Electro Rock crew instead (Ana Sánchez dances so much better than Lucinda). If only I could look as cool as Turbo does when sweeping the floor of my apartment. :'( 3 BABY-FACED ICE-T BACKGROUND SHOTS (out of 5)X-RAY (1982, A.Prime, Chaybee: 6/10/2014)Despite its reputation as a sleaze peddler, Cannon rarely dabbled into actual horror. Its few movies released in the genre were mostly acquired catalogue titles or hybrids like "10 to Midnight" (half procedural, half slasher, ALL MAN ASS!) This slow-burn slasher stars Barbi Benton (of "Deathstalker" and Playboy Magazine fame) as a divorced parent having a hell of time getting out of the hospital to get some routine results. We know who is after Susan (the 19-years-prior flashback spells it out), just not which of the many red-herring characters (cold nurses, doctors with coiffed hairdos, freaky drunks, old hags, etc.) will be the killer at the end. Even the mandatory nude scenes with Benton feel clinical and not sexy at all. A skippable verse in the early 80's Cannon movie bible. 2 FOGGY 9th FLOOR ABANDONED ROOMS (out of 5)
Breakin' was feature on TCM Underground a couple of years ago. I watched it without any expectations and was pleasantly surprised. Turbo is amazing, and the film in general is such an early '80s time capsule. I still have that Chaka Khan song in my head.
Even better, now that I've seen it I can tackle the all-mighty "Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo" (which "Breakin'" already promotes during its closing credits!). :-)
THE BARBARIANS (1987, Pluto, E.S.A.D.D.: 6/10/2014)Is it me or is this a better, more entertaining "He-Man"-type fantasy/sword adventure than Cannon's own "Masters of the Universe" (for 1/22th the budget of the latter)? Even Sheeba Alahani's China has an Evil-Lyn thing going, and Richard Lynch's Kadar is an impressive baddie by virtue his conflicted emotions give him shades of depth. "The Barbarians" has enough dashes of "Mad Max" ingenuity early on (an assault on a caravan) to make the eventual turn into magic and quest for a powerful red gem more palatable. Never heard or seen The Barbarian Brothers before (even though Patrick used their picture from this very movie four days ago), but director Ruggero Deodato ("Cannibal Holocaust") uses these twin brothers' impressive physique to compensate for (a) their enthusiastic personalities not hiding their lack of acting skills and (b) the relative lack of beauty from co-stars Eva LaRue and Virginia Bryant... sorry, ladies. Both lighthearted and kind-of violent (in a fantasy way), "The Barbarians" doesn't outstay its welcome and would probably be better remembered if the finale wasn't self-sabotaged by inept prop management. I mean, seriously? This is how you're ending the movie? Fine, FINE! :-( 3 GEORGE EASTMAN "OVER THE TOP" MOMENTS (out of 5)ELECTRIC BOOGALOO: THE WILD, UNTOLD STORY OF CANNON FILMS (2015, YouTube, EliTheButcherBoy: 6/19/2015)Not only one of the most entertaining and informative behind-the-scenes documentaries about the movie industry in years, but perhaps the finest thing Brett Ratner has ever put his (producer) stamp on as a filmmaker. So many memorable moments/interviews: Greydon Clark calling Menahem Golan "Jabba the Hut," Tobe Hooper being the picture of quiet grace amidst so many loud talking heads, former MGM boss Frank Yablans calling out the bullshit from Menahem-Globus after they started distributing their films, etc. And so many recommendations for Cannon films I've yet to track down and/or watch: "Sahara," "Forbidden Dance is Lambada," "Messenger of Death," "Over the Brooklyn Bridge," those crazy non-"Death Wish" Michael Winner films, etc. Even though it's technically French, the version of "Electric Boogaloo" streaming on YouTube right now is in English except for the on-screen French movie titles... big whoop. 5 BOAZ DAVIDSON IMPERSONATIONS OF MENAHEM GOLAN ORDERING LUNCH (out of 5)
NINJA 3: THE DOMINATION (1985, dir. Sam Firstenberg)Vengeful ninja spirit possession. Aerobics. Action scenes that border on cheesy or fully cross over that border. This is Cannon craziness that actually works. Ninja 3 does not top Police Story as the most fun first viewing experience this month, but it is high on that list.I am surprised this has not yet been featured on TCM Underground.I am making my way through the 1988 film HERO AND THE TERROR. It definitely is not as enjoyable. A report is coming soon.
Film at 11? :-D
NINJA III: THE DOMINATION (1985, Sam Firstenberg)I also watched The Domination, and agree with everything Casual said. Though as I was watching I was thinking that if I werw.to try and explain 80s movies to an Alien, Domination might work. It somwhow manages to squeeze nearly every troupe from Poltergeist Wardrobe to big hair. So much fun! Also after watching this I might need more Lucinda Dickey in my life.
The "Breakin'" movies are streaming; both feature Lucinda in the lead. And Cannon! Day is still young... just sayin'. 💝🤩
I watched it earlier in the month, and it was a lot of fun. Know I know the only method to kill a ninja. My favourite bits were when he spin-drilled into the ground, causing an earthquake, and the poof-of-smoke disappearing act near the beginning. The aerobic dancing was pretty great too. Also, V8 juice as I've never seen it before. How Did This Get Made podcast recent did an episode on this movie (They loved it).
I need a ninja cave.Ninja III did not unseat Death Wish 3 as my favorite Cannon film, but it is a now a close second. I agree about it being as '80s as a film can get.
Ninja III: The Domination (1985) Me three! I watched Ninja III as well, and I have a feeling we won't be the last... Not much to add to Lindsay and Casual's takes. It feels like someone traveled back in time to 1984 determined to make the 80’s’est movie possible. Lucinda Dickey is cute, and the ninja stuff is pretty amusing. It was good silly fun, though not the masterpiece I’d heard it was elsewhere. (It did make me wish we had a Godfrey Ho day. Now those are ninjas!)
JOE (1970 w/ Peter Boyle; dir. John G. Avildsen) A piece of the 70s zeitgeist that is very one note, but shocking and satirical enough to stay around in conversation of the New Hollywood era. Exploitation with a capital E.
And, sadly, "Joe" is as timely today as it was 50 years ago. 🤢 Peter Boyle was Archie Bunker before network TV sanitized Archie Bunker for mainstream consumption.
American Ninja 2: The Confrontation (1987)Michael Dudikoff fights ninjas on the beach, catches arrows and darts with his teeth, and drags a dude across town in a stolen pick up truck. This one is a lot of fun and hardly slows up. Also, the Blind Beggar Bar seems very popular.
So much fun! One of my favorite discoveries of this year’s Junesploitation so far
Number One with a Bullet (1987)Robert Carradine and Billy Dee Williams are mismatched cops (because of course they are) who don’t follow the rules (because of course they don’t) trying to uncover a mole in their department. I’m a big fan of buddy cop movies, but good lord does this movie not have any idea what it wants to be. There are moments where it plays everything (fairly) straight, coupled with moments where it goes full ZAZ-style spoof (like a scene in Carradine’s apartment where he’s got his motorcycle in his living room and he’s eating a raw steak with a folding knife and chugging Worcestershire sauce from the bottle).Since it never commits to a tone it never becomes particularly involving. It seems like casting Carradine, fresh off the Revenge of the Nerds franchise, as the brash cop who doesn’t go by the book is supposed to be a gag in and of itself, but like most things in the movie it only partially works, it’s a premise without a joke. Bad buddy cop movies can often be redeemed by good chemistry between the leads or fun action/stunt work, but this movie has neither. I went into it hoping to find an underseen gem, unfortunately it turns out it’s probably been seen precisely the correct amount.
HERO AND THE TERROR (1988)I can remember watching this on VHS as a kid. I had a few memories of certain scenes and that it was about an escaped killer. My curiosity to re-visit the film was, sadly, not well rewarded.Chuck Norris plays Danny O’Brien, a cop who single-handedly captured serial killer Simon Moon but almost payed with his life to do it. O’Brien earned the nickname Hero from that incident. Moon, of course, is the Terror. Three years later, Moon escapes from prison and seems to have died when the vehicle he stole plunges off a cliff. Sometime afterwards, women start dying in the same way Moon killed his victims. O’Brien has his suspicions.The word that comes to mind when thinking about Hero and the Terror is bland. Though there are some suspenseful scenes, the film is for the most part predictable. Rather than being oriented toward high-energy scenes, the focus is on Danny O’Brien’s life. He is a man with a relationship heading towards marriage and a baby on the way. Drama, to say the least, is not Norris’s strong point. It does not help that the script is clunky.As late 1980s movies go, this does look good and is probably more polished than most Cannon productions of that period. Interestingly, the novel and the screenplay based on it were written Michael Blodgett, who portrayed Lance Rock in the wonderful Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.
Kickboxer (1989, dir. Mark DiSalle & David Worth)Not produced by Cannon but distributed by them, so I'm counting it.A cocky American kickboxer is paralyzed by a dirty fighter in Thailand, so his brother JCVD has to find an eccentric local trainer, go through an hour's worth of training montages, fall in love with the trainer's niece, and avenge his now wheelchair-bound brother in a bloody underground fight.Less fighting and more drama than I was expecting, but the training scenes are fun and the final fight great. Plus JCVD's dance moves are sublime.American Ninja (1985, dir. Sam Firstenberg)I've said it before and I stand by it: despite his limited screentime, Steve James is the star of this movie (and this franchise).
Cobra1986, dir. George P. CosmatosThis is one of the last outliers in the Cannon major arcana that I’ve somehow never sat down for. For some reason, probably based solely on the poster, I thought this was about Stallone being an assassin or something. Turns out he’s just the most ludicrous, “fuck the system”, too-cool-for-middle-school, vigilante supercop, which, maybe isn’t exactly where my attention wants to be right now. So yeah, my initial feelings about this movie are definitely colored by current events and I had a reeeaaallly tough time giving this movie any of the half dozen fucks I have left for this week. This is without doubt Stallone at the height of his vanity, heaping every cool guy McBadass accessory and trope onto this one flat and unintelligible street cop. The cult angle is weird in that it seems to be some larger conspiracy but their motives are never made clear. So why make them a cult instead of just your garden variety gang? I don’t guess it really matters as it’s not like this movie is going for subtlety or anything.This movie also has a weird fixation on food - the opening scene takes place in a grocery store that’s shot like a music video, the sole personality trait of Stallone’s partner is that he’s a junk food addict, Brigitte Nielsen fuckin loves her some ketchup, Stallone cuts pizza with scissors (I’m not hating on this one since Bromley and I are also fans of pizza scissors), etc. In typical Cannon fashion, there’s constant fetishization of idiosyncratic weapons, loads of vehicles constantly crashing and exploding, a solid handful of “that guy” character actors (Andrew Robinson, Art LaFleur, Marco Rodriguez, etc.), and the final confrontation takes place in one of Cannon’s ubiquitous abandoned “chains and sparks” factories.
Do you think the pizza scissors were Stallone's idea?
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Scissors are frequently used to cut food in Asia. Maybe Stallone say it being done somewhere.
House of the Long Shadows (1983, dir. Pete Walker)It's a Cannon movie with Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, and John Carradine. And I really liked it. Apologies for being so damn predictable. ;)For real, I know this movie doesn't get much respect but I thought it was lots of fun. I'll even stick up for Desi Arnaz Jr, who I really liked in the lead. And Julie Peasgood was so stunning, she lit up the screen through the whole movie. This is good, spooky fun and I'm a fan.
Sword of the Valiant: The Legend of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (1984, dir. Stephen Weeks)I'm not going to besmirch a movie which features Sean Connery getting beheaded then picking up his own head and reattaching it to his body... but asides from Connery as the glitter-covered Green Knight, there's not much good here. Features some of the most dull bland acting and direction I can remember, and the way the fights are choreographed and shot is incredibly clunky. At one point our hero does a move I've never seen before: he flips his sword around, grabs the blade with his bare hands, then swings it like a baseball bat hitting a henchman with the handle. Recommended for Connery or Cannon completionists only.
HOT T-SHIRTS (1980) Two guys organize wet T-shirt contests to save their failing bar. You’d think that wouldn’t be enough of a premise for a whole movie, yet here we are. Also, I suspect the filmmakers have greatly overestimated how much a wet T-shirt contest can improve the local economy. It is what is – lots of boobies and corny jokes. The man character is played by Walter Olkewicz from Twin Peaks, so I’ll just assume this is the long-lost fifth Renault brother. 30 days of HELLO MARY LOU: PROM NIGHT II, day 18 OK, what’s the little victory dance those two guys do in gym class? Then, in the same scene, the character Kelly is playing volleyball with one hand and an open can of Pepsi in her other hand? What gym teacher allows this? As long as I’m nitpicking, when Craig is rushing to the rescue at the end, why does he park his bike so far away from the school and run the rest of the way? If life and death are on the line, just drive up to the front door. And it appears I’m running out of things to say about this movie.
Your persistence is admirable, Mac. I could not watch the same film everyday. You probably would be able to write a long essay on Prom Night II just based on what you have observed the past two and half weeks.
I've been very much enjoying reading the daily reviews of Hello Mary Lou! I should try to squeeze in a viewing somewhere at the end of the month, and go back to read each review again.
Thirded, a daily highlight during J! '20. 🤠😇
Same here! You're doing God's work, Mac. In honor of your achievement I promise to watch Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II right after June is over.
Enter the Ninja (1982, dir. Menahem Golan)I love that Cannon movies can have such cartoonish bad guys, like the big rich boss who likes to choreograph synchronized swimming in his indoor pool/office, or the evil Ninja who cackles like Skeletor while torching huts. They are unapologetically goofy.Enter the Ninja can be paint-by-numbers at times, which doesn't necessarily ruin the flow. For example, there needs to be a sex scene, so Ninja Franco is sitting at the bar with his friend (played by not-James Caan) and the friend says, complete non-sequitor: "Oh, by the way, I can't get it up." Cut to Ninja Nero bedding his wife.And then, by act 2, he's dressing up as a janitor to break into the bad guy's office and then watches an 8mm snuff film of the black ninja, Hasegawa. Why did we need ANOTHER introduction to him ? We know who he is, from the first five minutes. Maybe Ninjas have to make a sizzle reel for prospects clients.My biggest complaint is that despite how well Cannon movies succeed as low budgets affairs, a movie about cartoonish ninjas could have had more absurd acrobatics. The Ninja action is too grounded, I'd have loved for them to add some psuedo-supernatural abilities given that the Ninja master tells us that ninjas can control time (or something).But, strong recommend for Franco's killer pornstache, which almost makes up for him being dubbed.
Breakin' (1984)I had been wanting to see this for a while. I was delighted and surprised when I noticed Jean-Claude Van Damme dancing in the background in the beach scene, in one of his first roles. Pretty entertaining movie, and notable for being one of the first movies with breakdancing (Wild Style was maybe the first). On the other hand, I found the dancing to be fairly subdued, but that was the style at the time, and breakdancing didn't become more acrobatic until later.
That was JCVD in the Venice Beach crowd? 🤯 I did notice him, but thought that couldn't be Van Damme... damn. 🙄
Lifeforce (1985)I... don't really know what to think. On the one hand I admire the filmmaking, the impresssive visual effects, including truly amazing animatronics, and the obvious directorial flair that Hooper brings to the table. On the other hand, the movie left me feeling rather cold and a little bit tired. I guess I always assumed that a sci-fi flick about "space vampires" would be a little goofier and more playful, but as it turned out, the tone was very somber throughout, to the point where I couldn't help but think it dragged the whole thing down a little. The clash between the heavy mood and the shlocky nature of what was actually happening on the screen was a bold choice, to be sure, I'm just not sure if I 100% vibed with it. That's not to say I didn't like the movie, I just don't think I liked it as much as I expected to.
Death Wish 3 (1985)Comfort food for misinformed sociopaths. Like a warm, soft blanket of reactionary bullshit. “Don’t you get it; THE POLICE ARE POWERLESS!”
Masters of the Universe (1987, dir. Gary Goddard)Honestly, this movie is such a pile of utter nonsense. But it also looks fantastic and Dolph Lundgren is in it. A+?
Day 18Invasion U.S.AChuck Norris goes full superhero in this braindead, stupid, empty, amazing spectacle that only Golan and Globus could share with the world.
Runaway Train (1985) Amazon PrimeYou know when you've got Cannon working off a reworked Kurosawa screenplay that you're in for something special.
Bloodsport (Prime) There is a lot of blood, and I guess no holds barred fighting in an enclosed space counts as a sport, so we have Bloodsport. I am not sure that I have ever seen a movie that draws such a straight line from the beginning to the end. Bloodsport starts by getting Van Damme into a training montage and ends up with him fighting the big bad in a brutal martial arts tournament. Everything in between is just to pad the time. I believe this is Van Damme's first starring role, and the movie is worthwhile because of his charm and his surprisingly youthful innocent good looks. Speaking of youthful, I was astounded to learn that the actor who played Chong Li was 50 at the time of filming.
Breakin 2: Electric Boogaloo (1984)I’ve never wanted to live inside a movie more than I do this one.
Over the Top (1987, dir. Menahem Golan)I chose...poorly.
Cobra (1986)Agree with everything Aaron Mansfield said above.Felt like Stallone was doing a Stallone impression the whole time. There were only like 3 scenes in the movie, maybe 4 tops.
Death Wish 3 (1985):Here a creep, there a creep, everywhere a creep-creep.
Ninja III: The Domination (1985, dir. Sam Firstenberg)Had to watch what was available on Prime. This might be the most purely entertaining movie ever made.