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East Bound And Down: Farewell To A Legend

Its funny – I was writing an article covering the Smokey and the Bandit films (its one of the many articles I have in my backlog) when the sad news about Burt Reynolds death hit my news feed. So I’ve put the Smokey and the Bandit article on hold for a while as I remember the man that made Bandit such a memorable character in the first place.

Born Burton Leon Reynolds Jr. on the 11th of February, 1936 in Lansing, Michigan. In 1946 his family moved to Riviera Beach, Florida where Reynolds attended Palm Beach High School and he quickly made a name for himself as an American football player. Looking to peruse a career in the sport, Reynolds received multiple scholarship offers and after graduating from high school he attended Florida State University on a football scholarship. He suffered a knee injury in his first game of his sophomore season so had to sit out the rest of the season. The same year, he was involved in a car accident and lost his spleen and severely injured his other knee as a result, which brought a swift end to his professional American football dreams.

Burt Reynolds Football

Later, he attended Palm Beach Junior College and studied English under Professor Watson B. Duncan III. It was Duncan who suggested that Reynolds try a bit of acting and cast him in a play he was producing, Outward Bound. Reynolds won the 1956 Florida State Drama Award for his performance and got bit by the acting bug. Burt Reynolds made his Broadway debut in the play Look, We’ve Come Through and received many positive reviews for his performance too. He went on to act in several more plays. It was the late 50s when Burt decided to move to Hollywood and try for a movie career but found it hard to land any roles. So he took jobs working in restaurants waiting tables and washing dishes to make ends meet.

Burt Reynolds Young

Reynolds eventually landed some very small TV show roles before making his film debut in 1961’s Angel Baby. More TV roles followed including parts in Riverboat and Gunsmoke, his TV jobs led to starring roles in low budget flicks like Navajo JoeImpasse and Shark! through the 60s. In the late 60s, Burt was even offered a huge role from legendary film producer Albert R. Broccoli in when he was offered the James Bond role after Sean Connery announced his retirement from the prestigious part, a role that would have shot him to super-stardom. Obviously Burt never took the Bond role stating…

An American can’t play James Bond. It just can’t be done.

– Burt Reynolds

It was in 1972 when Reynolds would make his big breakthrough in the movie Deliverance. Based on the novel of the same name, Deliverance is a tense and taught thriller that earned three Academy Award nominations. Full of brilliant and memorable scenes such as the awesome Dueling Banjos and the controversial “squeal like a pig” moments. The film tells the story of four city men out on a canoe trip down a river. Lewis Medlock (Burt Reynolds) and Ed Gentry (Jon Voight) are the experienced ones of the four who are more than conformable with the outdoor life. While Bobby Trippe (Ned Beatty) and Drew Ballinger (Ronny Cox) are virgins to wilderness. The quartet cross paths with some locals and rub them up the wrong way. The guys head to the area where they aim to start their canoe trip and that’s when things begin to unravel.

Burt Reynolds Deliverance

Deliverance is an amazing flick and Reynolds really comes across as a leading man in it too. Burt even went on later to say that he felt Deliverance was the best film he ever did. Despite the serious tone of Deliverance, through the 70s Reynolds became mostly known for his comedic roles. Films such as 1973’s White Lightning and Lucky Lady from 75 and of course the picture that would cement him as a true Hollywood star and comedic actor, Smokey and the Bandit.

As I said earlier, I’m actually writing a dedicated Smokey and the Bandit article where I will go into the film(s) in more detail. So just a light glossing over here but Smokey and the Bandit is one of the all time great and classic flicks. A fast paced car chase movie full of action, comedy and some light racism…it was a different time in the 70s. The film was written and directed by Hal Needham. Reynolds and Needham would become close friends and the two would form a great partnership collaborating several times from this point onward. In short, I fucking love Smokey and the Bandit and it was the film that made me a Burt Reynolds fan.

Burt Reynolds Bandit.jpg

Reynolds also made his directorial debut in 1976 with Gator – the sequel to his earlier film, White Lightning. More films with Hal Needham followed though the late 70s and 80s including Hooper where Reynolds plays “The Greatest Stuntman Alive” Sonny Hooper. Smokey and the Bandit II followed in 1980. With The Cannonball Run from 1981 being another Needham/Reynolds classic team up.

The Cannonball Run is about a group of car enthusiasts who take part in a cross country race. JJ McClure (Burt Reynolds) teams up with Victor Prinzi (Dom DeLuise) and his alter-ego Captain Chaos to take on some of the biggest names in entertainment to win the big race. This film really is star-studded, Roger Moore, Farrah Fawcett, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. all feature in this one, oh and Jackie Chan in one of his first American film roles too. The sequel Cannonball Run II came out in 1984 and its just as high octane and madcap as the first film.

Burt Reynolds Cannonball

Reynolds career remained fairly steady though the 80s as he appeared in multiple films trough the decade. But his star power started to wane though the 90s and his film roles became smaller or he just starred in some pretty bad flicks. It got to a point when in 1996, Burt had to declare bankruptcy. Partly due to his over extravagant lifestyle and partly due to his divorce from then wife Loni Anderson. Then in 1997, he made an amazing comeback and burst back onto the big screen with the Paul Thomas Anderson directed Boogie Nights. A film that was inspired by the story of real life porn star John Holmes.

Burt Reynolds Boogie Nights.jpg

Boogie Nights is a brilliant film that focuses on the porn industry without actually being about porn. With a multitude of characters all crossing paths to tell an interweaving story about the rise and fall of porn star Eddie Adams/Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg). Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds) plays the porn film director who struggles with the changing times and falls from grace as the film progresses.

After Boogie Nights, Reynolds had a career boost, He’d never reach the highs of that late 70s and 80s era again, but he was getting more and more work as the 2000s approached. He not only got roles in movies and TV, but video games too when he played Avery Carrington in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and with Saints Row: The Third where he played himself. Burt also played a small role in The Longest Yard from 2005, which was a remake of his 1974 film of the same name. He maintained a steady career though the 2000s and even landed a role in Quentin Tarantino’s latest film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood…but sadly that’s a role he never got to play.

Burt Reynolds Tarrantino

Burt Reynolds died in the 6th September, 2018 of cardiac arrest after suffering from heart problems in recent years.

Burt was good looking, charming, talented and had a laugh that will remain in my head forever. I’m going to miss that moustache sporting, cowboy hat wearing sun of a gun. A true legend and one that will leave a huge gap in the world of movies.

Burt Reynolds Hat

Marriage is about the most expensive way for the average man to get laundry done.

– Burt Reynolds

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The Best And Worst Of JCVD

Since doing my retrospective on The Karate Kid a while back, I’ve been on a bit of a martial arts film kick (pun fully intended). I grew up watching this stuff, as far back as I can remember, I watched the likes of Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Biao Yuen, Chuck Norris, Benny Urquidez and Cynthia Rothrock to name a handful. Then in the 80s, I was introduced to The Muscles from Brussels, Jean-Claude Van Damme and became a bit of a fan.

He had a screen presence that no one else at the time could match. He was good looking with a chiseled body that was hard to ignore (am I starting to sound a little gay here?). He couldn’t act well at first yet he would hold a film together nicely. His on screen fights were in a different league as there was a brutality to them, yet they seemed so elegant at the same time and his splits soon became a trademark. Van Damme was a martial arts actor at a time when the genre was beginning to wane slightly. The 70s were the pinnacle of martial arts cinema largely thanks to Bruce Lee who made the genre massively popular in his heyday. In Asia, the genre had always been popular, but it was Lee who spread that love worldwide and when he died, so did a big chunk of martial arts film in general. While they still remained popular in Asia, the rest of the word began to distance themselves from “chop-socky flicks”. But for me, that love for the films never died.

Bruce Lee

I still remember my brother Rob renting out low budget and often badly made martial arts VHS tapes from a local shop, little gems that the bigger VHS stores just didn’t stock. I was introduced to Jackie Chan long before he became an international star. New Fist of FurySnake in the Eagle’s ShadowMaster with Cracked Fingers – these were the type of films I grew up watching thanks to my older brother. One day, Rob came home with a new film, one that featured a strange plot about Bruce Lee returning from the dead and that was the day I was first introduced to Jean-Claude Van Damme, it fast became one of my favourite films and still is to this day.

Right here, I’d like to celebrate JCVD and take a look at some of his best and worst films, a fun trip though my childhood, and even adulthood. I’m not going to cover every JCVD film as he’s done a fuck load over the years and the article would go on for weeks (it already going to be a long one). I’ll just select some of the best and worst…maybe do a few honorable mentions throughout too.

Very Early Appearances

Jean-Claude Van Damme began competing in full-contact karate tournaments in Belgium through 1977 – 1982 where we was hugely successful and managed an impressive record of 18 victories (all knockouts) and only 1 defeat. Along the way, Van Damme landed an uncredited role in a Belgian/French co-produced film called Woman Between Wolf and Dog starring Rutger Hauer from 1979. After retiring from competition in 1982, Van Damme moved to America in hope of carving a movie career for himself.

Young JCVD

His first American film appearance was in the break dancing film (yes we had those in the 80s) Breakin’ from 1984. He was hired as an extra and can be seen dancing in the background in one scene wearing a very tight, black spandex leotard. While in America, Van Damme struck up a friendship with future internet meme legend that is Chuck Norris and even worked as a bouncer for a while at a bar Norris owned. That friendship also landed him a stuntman role in the Chuck Norris classic Missing in Action. Then in 1986, JCVD secured his biggest (but still small) role yet in that film I mentioned earlier about Bruce Lee returning from the dead.

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No Retreat, No Surrender. Oh how I love this film. Okay so the plot is about Jason Stillwell (Kurt McKinney) who is an avid Bruce Lee fan and martial arts student studying at his father’s dojo. When the dojo is threatened by a local crime syndicate, Jason’s father is attacked leaving him with a broken leg thanks to the Russian henchman Ivan Kraschinsky (Jean-Claude Van Damme). The Stillwell family move away from New York to Seattle to get away from the crime syndicate.

After being harassed and beat up by martial artist Dean Ramsay (Dale Jacoby), Jason goes to the grave of Bruce Lee and asks for help. Later that night he gets that help in the shape of Bruce’s ghost who agrees to train Jason to make him a better martial artist. Long story short, Jason attends a local full-contact martial arts tournament where the Seattle team are set to square off against a New York team. Only before the tournament can start the crime syndicate appears and state that they will put up just one man against the entire Seattle team and will win too. That one man, this awesome machine of annihilation is of course the Russian Ivan. After Ivan kicks the asses of the entire team, Jason gets in the ring to fight Ivan.

JCVD No Retreat No Surrender

This film is terribly low budget with some awful acting and cringe-worthy scenes and yet I can’t help but love this film so damn much. Its basically a rip off of The Karate Kid (which is a rip off of Rocky) as about 90% of the film’s plot is taken directly from The Karate Kid – you have the young kid moving to a new city, the mentor training him, there’s a love story involving a jealous ex and of course everything comes to a head at a tournament. Van Damme’s role is minuscule as he only appears in the opening for a few minutes and then again at the end for the big fight, plus I think he only has about three small lines in the entire film. As tiny as the role is, its still a damn enjoyable and memorable one that shows a lot of promise. There’s some great fight scenes in the film too from lead actor Kurt McKinney and of course Jean-Claude Van Damme himself.

No Retreat, No Surrender hardly made JCVD a major star and the film is mostly forgotten about now (but check it out if you can find a copy…preferably uncut. Its awesome!). But it did at least showcase his talents and very slowly opened a few doors. In 1987 Van Damme did manage to land himself a role in a genuine, big budget blockbuster with the biggest action star in the world at the time. He got himself a part in Predator alongside that other mound of muscle Arnold Schwarzenegger. Die hard Predator fans will already know this story, but for those now scratching their heads while reaching for their Predator Blu-rays to try and find JCVD in the film…you won’t find him.

JCVD Preadator.jpg

See, he was hired to play the titular alien in full costume and everything, he did shoot some of the film too. But the alien design was later changed and the new suit didn’t fit Van Damme so he was replaced with Kevin Peter Hall. Plus there was the fact that JCVD hated the role and via some misunderstanding, he didn’t know he would be stuck in an alien suit for the whole film. It has been said that Jean-Claude Van Damme could very well still be in the film somewhere as some of the shots may have been left in but I don’t know how true that is – plus he would’ve been in costume and most probably doing that cloaking thing too so you wouldn’t recognise him anyway.

His Breakthrough

If there is one film that began to put Van Damme on the map and get him recognised, then it has to be 1988’s Bloodsport. Said to be based on the true story of real life martial artist Frank Dux (that’s a whole other article in itself). The film follows Frank (Jean-Claude Van Damme) as he takes part in a no holes barred, underground, full-contact kumite tournament in Hong Kong.

JCVD Bloodsport

Bloodsport is a cracking flick and Van Damme is brilliant in it too. The film has loads of great fights showcasing numerous fighting styles from around the world and of course the final fight is a belter too. Outside of all the fighting, the film still has some memorable scenes such as Frank and Ray Jackson (Donald Gibb) playing the arcade classic Karate Champ or when the mighty Bolo Yeung playing the main villain Chong Li says the line “Brick not hit back” to JCVD in which he is paraphrasing a line Bruce Lee said to him in Enter the DragonBloodsport was a big hit and put people began to notice Jean-Claude Van Damme.

Just as a quick aside. You know how they’ve made several films based on and inspired by the game Street Fighter II? Am I the only one who thinks Bloodsport is a better SF II film than any of the real ones?

Anyway, Van Damme was now a bona fide martial arts/action star. Yeah he was still only appearing in low budget flicks, but he was being recognised. Through the rest of the 80s he began to appear in more films in starring roles including Cyborg from 1988, which is pretty poor to be honest and best to avoid. The much better Kickboxer from 1989 is a film worth checking out though and one JCVD wrote the story for too.

JCVD Kickboxer

Telling to story of American kickboxing champ Eric Sloane (Dennis Alexio) who travels to Bangkok to face the best fighter they have. Eric takes his younger brother, Kurt (Jean-Claude Van Damme) along for support and as his cornerman. Its during a fight against the Thai champ Tong Po (Michel Qissi) when Eric is badly beaten and Tong Po deliverers a particularly vicious elbow to Eric’s back which ends up leaving him in a wheelchair. Kurt swears revenge for his brother and demands to fight Tong Po, yet no one will train him out of fear he will get killed. Until Kurt meets Xian Chow (Dennis Chan) an old expert in Muay Thai who agrees to train Kurt for his big fight against Tong Po.

Kickboxer is perhaps JCVD’s most famous film up to this point. Its good, but I think it lacked the punch (pun still intended) that Bloodsport had.

As the 90s began, Van Damme had a busy and full work schedule for the next few years starting with Death Warrant from 1990. A pretty bog-standard action romp that is not really bad nor good, its okay. Oh and the film is also the first writing credit for David S. Goyer who would go on to pen some of the biggest superhero movies much later like Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. Also from 1990 was Lionheart where JCVD played French Legionnaire Leon Gaultier who goes A.W.O.L (an alternate title for the film) from his duties after receiving a letter about his seriously injured brother. Finding himself in Los Angeles, Leon enters the world of underground fighting to raise money for his extended family. Its worth noting that this film also features Michel Qissi from Kickboxer.

Jean Claude Van Damme

I quite like Lionheart or Wrong Bet or A.W.O.L.: Absent Without Leave or Leon or Full Contact…yes this film has that many alternate titles depending on where you are from and when it was released in your country. Its a fairly decent flick with some solid action and Jean-Claude Van Damme’s acting is actually pretty damn good as if he’s finally getting the hang of this acting thing.

Double Impact was released in 1991 and JCVD plays two roles. The twin brothers Chad & Alex Wagner who are made orphans as babies by the Triads. The twins are separated and raised differently, one is a gruff, cigar smoking bad-ass and the other is softer and more gentle…but still able to kick some ass. Years later and they learn of their past, team up to track down and get revenge on those who killed their parents. Double Impact is pretty damn good fun and its interesting to see Van Damme in the dual role playing two sides of the same coin. Oh yeah and man mountain, Bolo Yeung is in the film as the main bad guy which he plays with great relish. This one is worth watching.

His Even Bigger Breakthrough

Its only 1992 and Jean-Claude Van Damme is knocking out films faster than he was opponents in Bloodsport. Next up is his biggest and most successful film up to this point – Universal Soldier.

JCVD Universal Soldier

Luc Deveraux (Jean-Claude Van Damme) is an army vet along with Andrew Scott (Dolph Lundgren). While on a mission in Vietnam, 1969 where Luc and Andrew as tasked with clearing out a small village, Andrew snaps and kills two innocent civilians. A shocked Luc turns his gun on Andrew just as he reciprocates and the two end up killing each other. Their bodies are recovered and cryogenically preserved. Decades later and the two corpses are reanimated as super advanced “UniSols” who are genetically enhanced with cybernetics giving them super strength and self-healing abilities while their memories are erased.

These UniSols are used for counter terrorism work and its while on a mission at Hoover Dam to save some hostages when the flashbacks to their previous lives begin and things start to unravel. Luc escapes his creators with the help of TV journalist, Veronica Roberts (Ally Walker) and Andrew Scott is sent out to bring him back…only Andrew’s mind is still stuck in Vietnam, 1969 and he thinks the war is still going on. Things get bloody and brutal as Luc just wants to go home to his parents while Andrew wants to kill any and everything in his way.

Oh man, I love this film. Its got just the right blend of sci-fi, martial arts and all out action. Van Damme is fantastic as the slightly confused and lost Luc Deveraux and gets a chance to show a rage of acting skills including some great comic timing. Ally Walker as the TV reporter is even better, a little ballsy mixed with a damsel in distress kind of thing. But the person who steals this film has to be Dolph Lundgren as the utterly psychotic Andrew Scott, perhaps one of my favourite action villains ever? If you get a chance, watch this one its a blast. The chemistry between Van Damme and Lundgren is pure gold.

JCVD Universal Soldier 2.jpg

Universal Soldier was a hug box office hit and catapulted Jean-Claude Van Damme to stardom after several (mostly) modest hits in low budget films.

After making a fun cameo in the massively underrated and clever satire of action films that was Last Action Hero, JCVD starred in 1993’s Nowhere To Run a rather shallow and bland film not really worth bothering with. And followed that up with the far, far better Hard Target also from 93. In this one Chance Boudreaux (Jean-Claude Van Damme) is a  Cajun merchant seaman looking for work. He helps Natasha Binder (Yancy Butler) who is being attacked by a bunch of thugs and she hires him to help find her missing father. But when they discover Natasha’s father is dead, this leads Chance into a very dangerous game.

JCVD Hard Target

Hard Target is thoroughly entertaining even if the plot is one used a ton of times in the past. But what lifts it above most other action flicks of the time is the man behind the camera. This was the first American film directed by legendary Hong Kong action film maker, John Woo. Woo’s blending of American and Chinese cinema is masterful and makes for some great action well worth checking out. Oh and JCVD punches a snake.

Rising Star

By 1994, Jean-Claude Van Damme could be counted among other big action stars of the day such as Stallone, Schwarzenegger and Willis. More starring roles were on the horizon too. Timecop was a sci-fi/action picture with a silly plot that’s actually a damn good watch and entertaining from start to finish. Still in 94, Van Damme landed the lead in Street Fighter based on the hugely popular game series…and its awful. Though its worth checking out just for Raúl Juliá in his final film performance as Bison before his death. Honestly as bad as the film is Juliá is amazing in it.

JCVD Street Fighter

95’s Sudden Death was one of those countless Die Hard rip offs that were becoming increasingly more popular at time. You know the kind, a bunch of terrorists show up and take control of a building (in this case a sports stadium) and only one man can save the day. Its okay, above average, one of the better Die Hard rip offs but there are far better films of its ilk out there…like Die Hard. In 1996, Jean-Claude Van Damme not only starred in but also wrote the story for and even directed The Quest. Not a great film at all, in fact its pretty awful – but a lot can be said for the cinematography that showcases the beautiful locales and the wide range of various martial arts on show. Its a lot like his previous flick Bloodsport only not as charming or as 80s.

The Decline

JCVD’s stardom began to dim in the latter part of the 90s, after The Quest he had a couple of below average films followed up with some absolute stinkers and his career would never reach the highs of that early/mid 90s era. Double Team from 1997 was his first real box office bomb. I mean, its a film where he teams up with basketball player Dennis Rodman. That’s like mixing Jack Daniels with orange juice a terrible combo. This was followed up with 98’s Knock Off where his co-star was Rob Schneider…seriously, what the fuck happened Van Damme? You were riding high and then thought doing films with a basketball player and a crap, unfunny comedian would be a good idea? Both Double Team and Knock Off were and still are atrocious.

Oh but he wasn’t done with the bad decisions yet as next up Jean-Claude Van Damme made Legionnaire, a (wait for it) period costume action movie set in the 1920s. Its not very good.

JCVD Legionnaire

In 1999, he made a sequel to one of his most successful film with Universal Soldier: The Return. Set seven years after the events of the first film, Luc Deveraux (Jean-Claude Van Damme) is no longer a UniSol, he’s now human after having his implants removed. Luc now works as a technical expert for the government to help create more advanced UniSols. The program is overseen by S.E.T.H. an artificially intelligent computer. But when S.E.T.H. learns the UniSol program is being shut down, it attempts to protect itself by unleashing a horde of the advanced UniSols as a defense.

The first flick was brilliant, still is. This sequel is trash and boring that lacks everything that made the original so damn great.

Through the 2000s, JCVD had a steady stream of direct to DVD films or films that saw a minimal theatrical release in countries like Spain, Mexico, etc. Films such as; The OrderIn HellThe Hard Corps and Until Death to name a few, made little to no impact and are mostly forgotten about if they were even known to exist in the first place. His career was dying out fast and the name Jean-Claude Van Damme no longer drew in the audience it used to in the 90s.

JCVD JCVD

Then in 2008, JCVD starred in the film JCVD. An interesting Belgian drama in which Van Damme plays a semi-fictional version of himself caught up in a robbery at a post office where his is taken hostage. I don’t want to say too much about this one other than to express how fucking good it is. Its a film one should watch and experience for yourself. Its not an all action, high kicking kung fu flick that you’d normally associate with Jean-Claude Van Damme. This is something very different, a tense drama that’s highly unique with a mesmerising and engrossing performance from JCVD which shows that he really can act well when needed. Perhaps the most notable scene in the film is when Van Damme breaks the fourth wall and talks directly to the audience in a one shot, six minute monologue. Some critics at the time even suggested that Jean-Claude Van Damme should’ve been nominated for an Oscar for his performance…and you know what, he should’ve. Brilliant film.

2009 saw him return to one of his biggest hits once more with Universal Soldier: Regeneration. Okay, so this one ignores the previous and awful Universal Soldier: The Return and works as a direct sequel to the original film. Reuniting Luc Deveraux (Jean-Claude Van Damme) and his arch nemesis Andrew Scott (Dolph Lundgren).

JCVD Universal Soldier Regeneration

Luc Deveraux is in Switzerland undergoing rehabilitation therapy from his UniSol days in an attempt to reinsert him into society. However, he is used by the government to take part in a mission involving a group of terrorists who’ve taken over the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant and are holding hostages. The terrorists threaten to detonate a bomb if their comrades are not freed. When the prime minister gives into the demands of the terrorists, Dr. Colin (Kerry Shale) of the UniSol program is not impressed and sends in a cloned and upgraded version of Andrew Scott who’s severely mentaly unstable and reactivates the terrorist’s bomb. Enter Luc Deveraux to clean up the mess and face his adversary once more.

You know what? This ain’t half bad, in fact it pretty damn good. Its pure low budget b-movie stuff, but its bloody entertaining none the less. The showdown between Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren being a particular highlight. If you liked the original flick, then check this one out too.

From 2010 Onward

Jean-Claude Van Damme’s direct to DVD film career continued through the 2010s with a few more notable highlights. He wrote, produced, edited, directed and even starred in Full Love from 2010. The film was screened at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival but its not yet been released, though it has been given a 2019 release date along with some more recently shot footage. I have no idea what the film is about, but I hope its something different like JCVD that will showcase his acting a bit more. I’ll certainly be looking out for it next year. Van Damme provided the voice for Master Croc in Kung Fu Panda 2 and its sequel.

Then in 2011, JCVD also took part in his own reality TV show Jean-Claude Van Damme: Behind Closed Doors.

JCVD Coors Light

Since 2012, JCVD been seen in ads for Coors Light. Also in 2012 Van Damme played Jean Vilain in the ensemble action romp The Expendables 2 where he rubbed shoulders with classic and much revered action stars like Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Plus his old friends Dolph Lundgren and Chuck Norris. Still in 2012 and Van Damme slid back into his role of Luc Deveraux for Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning where he once more crosses paths with Dolph Lundgren’s Andrew Scott, and this one is also pretty good too and a great way to end the trilogy.

JCVD Universal Soldier Day of Reckoning

Several more direct to DVD films followed but nothing really worth mentioning. Until 2016 when JCVD was part of a remake of one of his much loved films with Kickboxer: Vengeance. But instead of playing the main hero, he plays the teacher role as Master Durand. Kurt Sloane is played by Alain Moussi this time around with villain Tong Po played by Dave Bautista. Then in 2018, JCVD returned for the sequel, Kickboxer: Retaliation with several of the cast also coming back. I’ve been writing this article just after watching the the two films and have to say how much I enjoyed them. Van Damme still looks great and has that magnetic personality and charm, acts very well and even gets to kick some bad guys in the face too. Its great to still see him doing what he does best and doing it so well.

Then production is said to start this year is the third film, Kickboxer: Armageddon. Its not been confirmed whether Jean-Claude Van Damme will be in the film or not, but I strongly suspect so (I hope so anyway). It also seems like we may be seeing JCVD return as Leon Gaultier in a sequel to Lionheart, which is also said to begin production this year.

JCVD Lionheart 2

Well that’s pretty much yer lot. As I said at the start, I’ve not covered every film of JCVD’s career…but I think I’ve got most of them here and certainly the ones well worth watching if you get chance.


You know, I really do genuinely like this guy and I’d love to see him in bigger and more mainstream films. Whenever I’ve seen him in interviews, Jean-Claude Van Damme always comes across as very likable, charming and humble. I know he’s had a few demons in the past involving drugs and money issues and I sincerely hope JCVD is over the worst of it all. He may not be an Oscar worthy actor but can still really surprise with just how good he can be at times (see JCVD for proof). I’d love to see him as a celebrated action star as he was in the 90s.

Some of his early flicks are stone cold classics. The likes of Bloodsport, KickboxerLionheartUniversal Soldier and of course the utterly awesome No Retreat, No Surrender are still damn fine films and ones I love to watch every now and then.

I really did grow up watching Van Damme films and have a lot of happy memories surrounding them too. Thanks for all the entertainment JCVD.

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Believe me – I’ve done very good stuff and very crazy stuff, and I don’t regret the crazy stuff.

Jean-Claude Van Damme

Cha-mone! Michael Jackson In Movies And Games

Today would’ve been The King of Pop’s 60th birthday. So to celebrate and remember the man, I’m going to take a look at MJ in movies and video games. From main, starring roles to smaller cameo appearances.

Regardless of what anyone thinks about his more than bizarre personal life, one can not deny that Michael Jackson was one of the finest singer/song writers ever. He amazed millions of fans around the globe with his performances from huge and epic world tours to single show stopping smaller appearances. I mean just look at the 1983, Motown 25th anniversary where he did Billie Jean live, still one of the single greatest live performances ever.

But I’m not here to reminisce over his musical prowess (well maybe a little), its time to take a look at MJ in movies and games.

The Movies

The Wiz.jpg

The Wiz was Jackson’s first ever film appearance back in 1978. A reimagining of the classic The Wonderful Wizard of Oz novel by L. Frank Baum and based on the Broadway musical of the same name. The Wiz was an all singing and dancing extravaganza and featured some serious and legendary talent including Diana Ross, Richard Pryor, Quincy Jones and even an uncredited Luther Vandross.

Jackson played the Scarecrow who of course is in search of a brain. MJ belts out quite possibly the most famous song from the entire film, Ease on Down the Road along with Diana Ross. The Wiz was panned when originally released with many critics saying the only saving grace was Michael Jackson. The film has gone on to become a cult classic that really is not worth watching these days, just do a YouTube search for Ease on Down the Road and you’ve seen the best part of the film.

Thriller.jpg

Next film role for MJ was the music video and short movie hybrid of 1983’s Michael Jackson’s Thriller. After watching the John Landis classic werewolf flick, An American Werewolf in London, MJ contacted Landis and asked him if he’s like to direct a music video – an idea Landis had no interest in. But Landis didn’t want to pass up the chance of working with Jackson who was (at the time) on top of the world as a superstar. So he suggested they get together to make a short movie instead, an idea Jackson loved and so the greatest music video of all time, Thriller was born.

Landis had his friend, long term collaborator and legendary make-up artist Rick Baker on hand to provide the special effects and make-up – which still look stunning today. While Landis and Jackson wrote the screenplay for this short movie. This teaming up created a phenomenon. In 2009, the Thriller video was inducted into the National Film Registry and to this day is the first and only music video to ever receive such an honor.

Off the Wall

At this juncture I just was to ask a question. Why do people consider Thriller to be his best work? It’s often cited as one of the greatest albums ever and don’t get me wrong, it’s a damn good album. But I personally would praise Off the Wall as an overall better piece of work than Thriller. In fact I’d even argue that Bad is a better album than Thriller. Anyway, back to the topic…

Captain Eo

In 1986, MJ once more teamed up with film-making legends for his next project, Captain EO. Jackson worked with George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola for this seventeen minute 3D mess of a film. Shown exclusively at Disney theme parks around the world. Originally, it was only shown from 1986 to 1996, but it was given a re-release following Jackson’s death in 2009. I got to see this film on a trip to Epcot in Disney World Florida a few years back.

MJ plays the titular Captain EO a captain of the spaceship with a crew of aliens. After crossing paths with The Supreme Leader (Anjelica Huston) who demands Captain EO and his crew are to be subjected to torture. MJ busts out some dance moves and sings a couple of songs turning the evil Supreme Leader and her grimy land into a paradise.

Visually, Captain EO is stunning. Just a shame its got a mess of a story, bad acting and a sickly sweet “we can change the world” mantra that Jackson seemed to enjoy shoving down people’s throats back then. This mini movie/music video is no Thriller and a waste of great talent.

Moonwalker

1988 saw the release of perhaps MJ’s most egotistical project…and that’s saying something. The epic opus that was Moonwalker. I’m not entirely sure how one would describe this film as its not really a film so to speak. Its more a collection of music videos, clips and performances, an anthology of everything MJ inspired by his Bad album. The film is split into various sections including; Man in the MirrorRetrospectiveBadder,  Speed DemonLeave Me AloneSmooth Criminal and Come Together.

Each section has its own flavour and style and they all work as mini movies/music videos within one huge movie. There’s no real story or narrative to follow except for maybe the whole Smooth Criminal section where MJ helps some homeless children fight off the evil Frankie “Mr. Big” LiDeo (Joe Pesci). Moonwalker is a huge mess…but one I can’t help but enjoy. There are some amazing highlights including the Badder segment where MJ’s Bad music video is recreated with kids. Speed Demon which picks up directly after Badder and has MJ dancing with a rabbit costume (its better than it sounds). The extended version of Smooth Criminal is also great fun even if the main story of that segment is crap. As I said, Moonwalker is a mess but not without its charm.

Ghosts

Michael Jackson’s Ghosts from 1996 sees MJ team up with some major talent once more for another short movie. With a story from famed horror writer Stephen King and directed by special effects maestro Stan Winston. MJ plays multiple parts in this one, the main one being the owner of a creepy house who entertains children with his magic tricks. The mayor of the town (also played by MJ) takes a disliking to the mysterious owner of the house and so attempts to run him out of town.

I have always felt that this was an attempt to make a new Thriller mini movie…and it kind of succeeds too. Michael Jackson’s Ghosts is a good watch with some amazing effects work and lots of fun to be found that features various songs from his HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I and Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix albums. Its just that…this is no Thriller, but its close.

Men in Black II.jpg

Then in 2002, MJ made a quick cameo is the sequel Men in Black II. The film starred Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones as the extraterrestrial police (kind of) who have to protect Earth from alien invasions and keep the secret of alien life from the humans.

Jackson played Agent M in a quick appearance on a video call to Men in Black boss Zed as well as also making a voice cameo on a phone later.

Miss Castaway.jpg

Which all leads to Michael Jackson’s final on screen scripted performance in the comedy film, Miss Cast Away and the Island Girls. A parody film in the same vein as films like The Naked Gun, Airplane!, etc. Again, MJ jut has a small cameo in this playing Agent M.J. who appears as a holographic image.

I’ve never seen it to be honest, not sure if I really want to either. But its there for those that want to see Jackson’s final scripted movie role.

The Games

Michael Jackson’s first appearance in a game was the tie in to his movie Moonwalker. Now things will get a little confusing here as there was more than one version of the game and I don’t mean different ports, I mean completely different games released for different systems and all released at different times through 1990 but all called Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker.

Moonwalker Arcade

I guess I should start with the more famous arcade version first. Published and developed by Sega, Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker is an isometric scrolling shoot/beat em’ up style game where you can two friends can team up and all play as MJ (yes three MJs) based on the Smooth Criminal section of the Moonwalker movie. Make your way though levels, take out bad guys, rescue kids and defeat the evil Mr. Big.

It was pretty simple gameplay, typical arcade fare designed to eat your coins faster than  fat person at an all you can eat buffet can eat chicken wings. As simple as the game was, it was also massively playable and great fun. Featuring some of Jackson’s most famous songs and locales from the movie. Perhaps the best part of the game was the Dance Magic move where MJ would dance along to one of his tunes while all the enemies on screen joined in until they could dance no more and are defeated.

Moonwalker Megadrive

Sega and Jackson built up a relationship which led to the arcade game and then versions of Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker for Sega’s home consoles with both the Master System and the Mega Drive/Genesis getting their own games. While these games were ports of each other, they were different to the arcade version. Yet they all shared the same basic gameplay with you playing as MJ saving kids, taking on the bad guys and eventually defeating Mr. Big. And yes, the awesome Dance Magic returns too. Where the arcade game was an isometric viewpoint, the home console versions were side scrolling games. These home versions lacked something, the fast paced fun factor just wasn’t there and the game(s) got very repetitive very fast compared to the arcade game.

Moonwalker Amiga

As for the home computer versions, well that was a completely different game altogether. This time developed by Emerald Software and published by U.S. gold. The other games took inspiration form the Smooth Criminal section of the film only, but the home computer game used more elements of the film. This one was split into four different levels. The first being a top down maze-like game with you playing as MJ trying to escape crazed fans while collecting the bunny costume from the Speed Demon portion of the film. The second level was also a maze-like one but now with you on the motorbike from the film and having to collect tokens which will morph you into a car so you can jump a barrier. Level three is inspired by Smooth Criminal and is a side scroller where MJ shoots bad guys with a machine gun. Then finally there is the big showdown between MJ and Mr. Big with Jackson now transformed into a robot (yes this happens in the film) and shoots the henchmen that appear from various openings in the level.

Out of the three versions of the game, the arcade one is still the best to play with the home computer one being not very good at all.

Sonic 3

Next up is a game in which Jackson didn’t appear in person, but did provide music for…possibly. MJ was a huge fan of Sega’s mascot Sonic the Hedgehog and it has been said that he asked Sega if he could provide music for a Sonic game. In 1994 Sega released Sonic the Hedgehog 3 which may or may not include some of MJs music. There are conflicting stories, one says they MJ did provide music for the game but after allegations of child abuse began to rear-up, Sega removed all music MJ had composed for the game. Others claim that MJ was never asked nor did he ask Sega to provide music for the game. Another story says that MJ did compose a few tracks for Sonic the Hedgehog 3 but he ultimately was not happy with the end result and the lack of sound capabilities with Sega’s console so asked for them to not be used. Then another story says that MJ’s music is in the game, but he was uncredited for “legal reasons”.

There is this article by The Huffington Post from 2016 that claims they can prove MJ’s music is in Sonic the Hedgehog 3. Is Michael Jackson’s music in Sonic 3…can’t say I care all that much anymore. Its a story that has just dragged on for years and while I may have found it interesting years ago, now I couldn’t care less.

Space Channel 5.jpg

Sticking with Sega and MJ popped up in another one of their games…well two actually. He appeared in a cameo for Space Channel 5 in 1999 and again in its sequel, Space Channel 5: Part 2 but in a larger role from 2002. These were dance/rhythm games where you had to follow the on screen prompts in a series of QTEs to pull off dance moves. So MJ fitted perfectly here. Jackson voiced and performed his character himself so he was pretty authentic.

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But between the two Space Channel 5 games, MJ also appeared in the boxing game Ready 2 Rumble Boxing: Round 2 from 2000. Yes, Jackson was a boxer punching people in the face and everything. Though it has to be said that Ready 2 Rumble Boxing: Round 2 is a game with its tongue firmly in cheek, it uses comedy a lot – so the MJ in this is very much a parody. Again Jackson provided the voice and even did motion capture for the game. So if you ever feel like playing as a bad-ass boxing Michael Jackson, then you know where to look.

In 2010 after his death, MJ was resurrected in video game form in Michael Jackson: The Experience. This was another one of those dance/rhythm games with you copying the prompts on screen to mimic some of Jackson’s iconic dance moves. Songs such as Bad, Thriller, Beat It, Billie Jean, Smooth Criminal, Speed Demon, Black or WhiteDon’t Stop ‘Til You Get EnoughWanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ and many more were included.

Planet Michael

There was one more game to feature Michael Jackson, but it was never released. Called, Planet Michael the game was a massive online multiplayer game. However, exactly what the game was going to be is anyone guess. Info is very thin on the ground and seems to have been abandoned. The Facebook page still exists and you can find some early concept art easily online. But as the game was originally given a 2011 release date and its now 2018 with no game in sight, I guess we can say its been cancelled.


Well there you go, Michael Jackson’s life in movies and games. A bit of a mixed bag with some worthy entries and some real stinkers too. But I wasn’t here to review any of these titles, just to bring them up and highlight them and to remember Michael on what would’ve been his 60th birthday today.

Young Michael.jpg

Happy Birthday Michael.

Just because it’s in print doesn’t mean it’s the gospel.

Michael Jackson

The Karate Kid Saga…All Of It

This year saw the release of a spin-off TV show based on the classic coming of age, underdog story that is The Karate Kid. An old friend of mine asked if I was going to review the show but at that point, I hadn’t seen it…now I have. But before I get to the show, I thought it would be a good idea to do a quick history on what The Karate Kid was. The idea was to just quickly recap the first film, highlight the sequels and move onto the TV show – that was the initial idea anyway. However, I got a little carried away and ended up re-watching all the films in the franchise…all of them. So thought I’d do a retrospective of everything The Karate Kid instead from the first film to the TV show and everything in between.

I’ll quickly go though the plots of each film before I offer my own view and opinions. Its time to sweep the leg on the whole franchise.

The Karate Kid

Released in 1984 from director John G. Avildsen. The Karate Kid tells the story of Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) who moves from New Jersey to Los Angeles with his mother. The mother and son move into an apartment where they meet the handyman Kesuke Miyagi (Pat Morita).

The Karate Kid Fly Scene

At school, Daniel befriends Ali Mills (Elisabeth Shue), a pretty cheerleader who has some excess baggage in the shape of her ex-boyfriend Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka). Johnny is studying a form of karate called Cobra Kai under the rather vicious sensei, John Kreese (Martin Kove). Johnny’s jealousy kicks in when he sees the new kid Daniel and his ex Ali together. Johnny and his Cobra Kai gang berate, torment and even beat up Daniel. Fortunately handyman Mr Miyagi is close by as Daniel is getting beat up and steps in to stop the fight by taking on the gang single-handed.

Impressed by Mr Miyagi’s karate skills, Daniel asks the handyman to train him but Miyagi (initially) refuses. Instead he suggests they try to make peace with the Cobra Kai dojo. When sensei John Kreese declines the peace offer, Mr Miyagi suggests that Daniel should take part in the All Valley Karate Championships where he can fight against Johnny and the other members of the Cobra Kai dojo. An agreement is made where the bullying of Daniel will stop while Miyagi trains him for the tournament.

And so begins some of the most memorable scenes of the 80s with Daniel-san’s karate training. Wax on, wax off. Paint the fence and so on. The training eventually brings Daniel and Miyagi closer as they become friends as well as teacher and student. As Daniel learns about karate, Miyagi also teaches him about life in general and these life lessons help Daniel to get closer to Ali…much to Johnny’s anger.

The Karate Kid Crane Kick

The karate tournament kicks off and Daniel makes it through to the semi-finals. But this is where Cobra Kai’s sensei John orders one of his students to injure Daniel with an illegal move to take him out of the competition. The Cobra Kai student is disqualified and Daniel’s injury takes him out of the fight too. Just as Johnny is about to be declared the winner by default, Daniel makes his return to the tournament with thanks to Mr Miyagi’s healing hands and goes on to win despite some underhanded tactics from Cobra Kai.

My View

I haven’t seen this film for years and years. I’ll be honest with you, I never was much a fan of it back then as I always saw it as a poor man’s Rocky, its basically the same plot as Rocky too. You have an underdog who finds an older mentor to train him up for a big fight no one thinks he can win…oh and the hero also finds love along the way too. Plus there is the fact that both The Karate Kid and Rocky were directed by the same man, John G. Avildsen. I should’ve included this in my déjà vu article from a while back.

Despite me not really being a fan and not watching the film for probably decades now…I have to admit I really enjoyed watching it for this retrospective. People change as do their tastes and though I still do see it as a poor man’s Rocky – I found watching the film now really enjoyable. There are some great performances here, the relationship between Daniel and Miyagi is brilliantly realised/acted by Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita respectively. There’s a real father/son thing going on as Daniel has no father and Miyagi lost his wife and son during childbirth. There is a real kinship between the two and it comes across beautifully on screen.

The Karate Kid Fight Agreement

Yeah the plot is a bit dry and predictable (not as good as Rocky either), but the tension created between Daniel and Johnny enjoyable none the less. Which brings me to the film’s villains. William Zabka’s Johnny is a fantastic antagonist and played well making his anger and vitriol toward Daniel very clear…though its also clear he is just a puppet being controlled by the complete asshole John Kreese played to awesome effect by Martin Kove. This factor kind of makes you slightly sympathise with Johnny to a point as deep down he seems like a decent guy who is just being led astray by sensei John.

The fights are okay, but seem very stiff in their choreography overall. The final tournament builds to a tense showdown and even though its pretty damn obvious who will win, it still provides some great entertainment regardless. And yes, that crane kick is bloody stupid. Plus there is that very 80s soundtrack with songs from the likes of Survivor (who also did music on the Rocky films), Bananarama, Baxter Robertson and Commuter to name a few. I can’t really talk about the great soundtrack and not mention its most famous song – Joe Esposito’s You’re the Best…which interestingly enough was originally written for Rocky III but Sylvester Stallone rejected the song in favor of Eye of the Tiger by Survivor who did appear on The Karate Kid soundtrack. Is that enough Rocky/The Karate Kid connections yet? Okay, one more. The score for this film was by Bill Conti who also scored Rocky.

Anyway, I need to move on, more films to cover yet. But yeah – I really enjoyed watching The Karate Kid for this retrospective, far more than I thought I would as I never really liked it growing up.

The Karate Kid Part II

Directed by John G. Avildsen once more, this first sequel was released in 1986. The film sees both  Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita return in their respective roles from the first film. Only the location is switched from America to Japan where Mr Miyagi must face his past.

The Karate Kid II

The film picks up right where the previous one finished, with the end of the All Valley Karate Tournament. Daniel is the champ and John Kreese is both angry and embarrassed his Cobra Kai students lost. In the parking lot, John angrily attacks his losing student Johnny Lawrence. This is when Miyagi steps in and confronts sensei John. Without throwing a punch or kick, Mr Miyagi passively stops John and makes a fool of him in front of his students when instead of delivering a deadly blow, Miyagi tweaks John’s nose.

The story then jumps ahead in time six months when Miyagi gets a letter from home in Okinawa telling him his father is dying. He sets out to return to his home village and Daniel agrees to tag along for support. Mr Miyagi tells Daniel why he left Okinawa to begin with. Many years ago when Miyagi was still young, he fell in love with a girl called Yukie and she had been arranged to marry Sato who was Miyagi’s best friend at the time and also the son of the richest man in the village. When Sato learned of Miyagi’s feelings toward his future wife, he challenged him to a fight. But this was not ordinary fight, this was a fight to the death. Torn between his feelings toward his best friend, the girl he loved and the idea of fighting to death – Miyagi left Japan for America.

Soon after arriving in Okinawa, Sato appears and re-challenges Miyagi to that fight from years ago which Miyagi refuses and heads to his home village. Miyagi and Daniel are greeted by Yukie who reveals she never married Sato due to her feelings for Miyagi. They also learn that Sato has become a rich industrialist who has destroyed the village fishing population which the locals relied on for income and that Sato now owns the land the village is on, the locals are forced to rent their homes from Sato. Soon after and Miyagi’s father dies, this is when Sato once more challenges Miyagi to their fight and give him three days of mourning before they fight to the death. Sato says he will destroy the village if Miyagi refuses to fight. So they strike a deal, the fight will go ahead only no matter what the outcome is, Sato will sign over the land the village is on to the villagers.

Meanwhile Daniel crosses paths with Chozen who is Sato’s nephew and just as evil and corrupt too. Chozen accuses Daniel of insulting his honor when Daniel-san accidentally uncovers corruption in Chozen’s business. The two have several confrontations as the film progresses. The day of the big fight comes around only it is interrupted by a typhoon which causes severe devastation. Sato becomes trapped when his dojo is destroyed by the typhoon. Both Miyagi and Daniel rush to save him showing Sato respect and honor. Daniel then tries to save a young girl trapped in a bell tower and Sato orders he nephew to help only Chozen refuses. This disrespect causes Sato to disown his nephew who disappears in anger.

The Karate Kid II Fight

The next day and Sato arrives at the typhoon destroyed village with his bulldozers, only he’s not there to cause trouble as he offers to help rebuild what he can. Miyagi and Sato finally make their peace after all these years and the fight to the death is cancelled. Yukie’s niece, Kumiko asks Sato if he will host an upcoming festival for the village which he accepts. Its while Kumiko is performing a dance at the festival when the vengeful Chozen reappears takes Kumiko hostage and demands to fight Daniel. This is the big final fight of the film and of course Daniel wins. With Chozen on his last legs, Daniel repeats the tweaking of the nose Miyagi did at the start of the film.

My View

Well, there is more to the plot in this sequel that the original…but that is not necessarily a good thing. It just feels a little too convoluted and unnecessary overall. There’s a lot going on with subplots inside subplots wrapped up in the main plot. You have Miyagi’s relationship and history with Sato. Sato’s relationship with his nephew. Miyagi’s relationship and history with Yukie. Then Yukie’s relationship with her niece. Daniel’s relationship with Kumiko as well as his rivalry with Chozen…and of course the continuing friendship between Miyagi and Daniel all going on at the same time. That’s before I get into the whole angle of Sato’s corrupt business, his wanting to destroy the village and so on…

The first film had a simple, bare bones plot about a kid being bullied but it worked. This sequel is a mess of multiple plots and subplots. Its not that the film is confusing in any way, its just largely asinine and inane. There can be a such a thing as too much story and this film proves that.

The acting seems to be a step backward from the first flick too, not that the acting in the original was Oscar worthy or anything, but it was more than good enough for the film it was in. Here, the performances just seem bland and tepid. The chemistry that worked so well between Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita with that father/son relationship just is not there this time around which is a shame because Pat Morita’s performance as Miyagi is probably the best thing about the whole film. Its interesting and rather engrossing to learn more about Mr Miyagi’s origins and past – in fact I’d even go so far as to say the film probably would have been much better without the titular Karate Kid of Daniel and instead focused solely on Miyagi, I think a Mr Miyagi solo film could’ve worked.

The Karate Kid II Drum

I don’t know how they managed it but the fight scenes feel more stiff and sluggish than the first film too. The villains lack any kind of punch or impact and come across as badly written pantomime bad guys. There is another 80s soundtrack to enjoy though this time with the likes of Carly Simon, Dennis DeYoung and Peter Cetera with the film’s most famous song, Glory of Love.

All being said The Karate Kid Part II isn’t a terrible film at all, but it is woefully disappointing and largely superfluous.

The Karate Kid Part III

Managing to squeeze itself in just as the 80s was on the way out, John G. Avildsen is back as director for the third time as this sequel hit cinemas in 1989. Not only do Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita return but so too does Martin Kove as sensei John Kreese of the Cobra Kai dojo from the first film. This time its all about bonsai trees…seriously.

The Karate Kid III Bonsia

Okay so John Kreese has been left broke and desperate after losing his students at the Cobra Kai dojo due to the fallout from the tournament from the first film. He turns to his old friend Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith) who co-founded the Cobra Kai with John years earlier. Terry vows to get revenge on Miyagi and Daniel and plans to re-establish the Cobra Kai dojo before sending John on vacation to rest up.

Meanwhile Mr Miyagi and Daniel return to America from Japan to find that the apartment complex Miyagi worked at and where Daniel lived is being torn down, leaving Miyagi with no job and Daniel homeless…and if you were wondering, its also revealed that Daniel’s mother returned to New Jersey leaving her son alone and homeless. Daniel spends his college funds to buy a rundown shop which he uses to realise Miyagi’s dream of owning a bonsai shop.

Terry Silver hires an up and coming fighter to go up against Daniel at the All Valley Karate Tournament but soon learns that Daniel has no intention of defending his title. Despite several attempts to get Daniel to change his mind over the tournament, he continues to refuse to participate which annoys Terry and his protege fighter Mike Barnes. Terry tires to manipulate Daniel by telling him that John Kreese died of a heart attack after his failure at the Cobra Kai dojo when he lost his students following the events of the first film and Terry begs forgiveness for John’s previous behavior.

When Mr Miyagi and Daniel return to the bonsai shop they find all the stock has gone to be replaced with an application for the All Valley Karate Tournament. To help replace the missing bonsai, Daniel attempts to retrieve a very rare tree that Miyagi brought back from Okinawa and planted part way down a cliff. He tries to climb down the cliff only for Mike Barnes and a few henchmen to retract the climbing rope leaving Daniel stranded on the cliff side, giving him no option other than to sign up for the tournament. Now back at the top of the cliff and after Daniel has singed the application, Mike breaks the rare bonsai. Daniel returns to the shop with the broken tree which Miyagi sets about fixing, he also refuses to train Daniel for the All Valley Karate Tournament.

The Karate Kid III Terry

This is when Terry Silver steps in and suggests that he train Daniel for the competition instead…only he trains him at the Cobra Kai dojo using very brutal and violent techniques. Terry pushes Daniel beyond the limit as he becomes increasingly more distanced form Miyagi as Terry continues to poison Daniel’s mind. It is when Daniel gets involved in a fight at a nightclub that he realises just how aggressive he has become and nothing like the person Mr Miyagi taught him to be. Ashamed, Daniel goes back to Miyagi and apologises. Daniel then goes to tell Terry that he will not be taking part in the All Valley Karate Tournament after all and this is when Terry reveals his master plan of revenge and to ruin Daniel as he brings out both Daniel’s main aggressor Mike Barnes and the not really dead John Kreese. Mike beats the crap out of Daniel and this is where Mr Miyagi intervenes and finally agrees to train Daniel for the tournament.

Its the big day and both Mike Barnes and Daniel reach the finals and Daniel takes a beating leading him to want to concede. Miyagi urges Daniel to continue and go on to win while the Cobra Kai are given a lifetime ban on competing on future tournaments due to their actions.

My View

I really have little to say about this one, its pretty damn terrible. Nothing more than a lazy re-hash of the original with none of its charm or personality. Where as the previous sequel was such a departure form the original that it made very little sense, this one is an horrific mish-mash of the first two films that is spat out with little to no effort. The plot is basically the same as the first flick with the tournament, bullies and all. But then there are those pointless subplots and unimportant story tangents from the second film that just don’t need to be there.

The Karate Kid III Terry Silver

If the film has one saving grace, then it has to be the performance of Thomas Ian Griffith playing the manipulative yet charming bad guy Terry Silver. He’s utterly brilliant and believable in the role as well as being one of those villains you just love to hate. Its a shame as the idea of turning Daniel against Miyagi is an interesting angle to explore, they just did a really shit job of it in the film. It needed less bonsai and more Thomas Ian Griffith.

Time to move on, it can’t get any worse…can it?

The Next Karate Kid

Its abandon ship time for the fourth film in the franchise from 1994 This is the first film in the series not to have John G. Avildsen directing or Ralph Macchio as Daniel, hell even the writer of the first three films Robert Mark Kamen didn’t want anything to do with this one. Instead we have Christopher Cain directing with a then unknown and future Oscar winner Hilary Swank playing The Next Karate Kid. The only returning cast member is Pat Morita as Mr Miyagi.

So this time around Miyagi goes to Boston to accept a commendation for Japanese-American soldiers and his efforts during World War II. While there, Miyagi meets up with Louisa Pierce who is the widow of Miyagi’s commanding officer during the war. As they catch up on old times, Louisa’s granddaughter, Julie (Hilary Swank) makes her appearance. Julie is a troubled teenager with anger issues after the death of her parents in a car crash. This has led to a fragmented relationship between Julie and her grandmother.

Mr Miyagi suggests that Louisa goes to Los Angeles and stay at his house for a break while he says in Boston and takes care of Julie. At school Julie makes friends with a security guard, Eric McGowen who is trying to get into a shady school security fraternity called The Alpha Elite which is led by the self-styled Colonel Dugan. The Alpha Elite are strict and ruthless as they enforce the schools rules using physical force and Ned Randall is one their most aggressive member who continually harasses and hits on Julie unbeknownst to Eric.

The Next Karate Kid

Julie is almost hit by a car and only saved by her relaxes and karate training that she tells Miyagi she learned from her father before he died who in turn learned from his father who was a student of Mr Miyagi many years ago. Julie sneaks into school at night to look after an injured hawk she found. Its during one of her night time skirmishes when she is found and chased through the school by members of The Alpha Elite. Ned manages to get hold of Julie only for her to escape but she is arrested by the police and suspended from school for two weeks by Colonel Dugan. Mr Miyagi uses this time to further teach Julie karate and how her to control her anger.

When she returns to school, Julie discovers that the hawk is now fully healed and lets it go in the wild. Its also prom time at school and Julie goes with Eric which angers Ned. After the prom, Eric drives Julie home and kisses her, unbeknownst to them Ned followed them and saw the kiss. In a fit of rage and jealousy, Ned smashes Eric’s car with a baseball bat and challenges Eric to a fight. However, its not a fair fight as Colonel Dugan and The Alpha Elite all turn up, set fire to Eric’s car and beat the living shit out of him only for Eric to be saved by Miyagi and Julie.

Julie challenges Ned to a fight while Miyagi takes on Colonel Dugan. Of course they win and The Alpha Elite are left disappointed in their leader. The end.

My View

Okay so this is tough as its hard to chose which film is the worst out of this and The Karate Kid Part III. I mean, they are both fucking terrible films, absolutely God awful. I guess even though the third film was terrible, it still had that one redeeming factor of Thomas Ian Griffith playing the villain to perfection…this film has nothing.

Here’s a still from a film called The Karate Dog

Karate Dog

I’ve used this because it has to be a better film than The Next Karate Kid, plus Pat Morita is in it so there’s that connection.

I had little to say about the third film and I have even less to say about this one, its just such a non-film I fail to understand why it even exists. I even think Pat Morita even gave up on the franchise at this point despite agreeing to be in the film as even his performance is below par. If you want to see down right damn fine actress Hilary Swank before she became a respected Oscar winner in a terrible film then this is the film for you.

I’m done with this one.

The Karate Kid

No I’ve not accidentally covered the first film again, this is the remake from 2010 directed by Harald Zwart. Of course there are no returning characters from the originals here with it being a remake. Instead we have all new characters with Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) and Mr Han (Jackie Chan). With the basic premise being the same as the original only with a shift in location from America to China.

The Karate Kid 2010

So Dre and his mother Shelly (Taraji P. Henson) move from Detroit to Beijing after Shelly gets a new job. While out enjoying the sights of Beijing, Dre meets Meiying (Wenwen Han), a young violinist and the two develop a friendship. Enter Cheng (Zhenwei Wang) a young kung fu (yes kung fu, not karate) student who takes a disliking to Dre and his attraction to Meiying. So the fighting and bullying begins both in and out of school as Cheng continually hassles Dre. During one particular fight when Cheng and his cohorts corner Dre and beat the crap out of him, a maintenance man, Mr Han steps in and defends Dre. The gang turn their attention to Mr Han who ends up taking them all on revealing himself to be a bit of a kung fu (not karate) expert himself.

Han then tends to Dre’s injuries and points out that the boys are not the bad ones, its their teacher who is. Dre asks Han to teach him kung fu (still no karate) which Han refuses to do. But Mr Han suggests they talk to Cheng’s teacher, Master Li (Yu Rongguang), at the Fighting Dragon dojo to make peace. Of course (just like the original) this does not work out as planned and the inevitable martial arts tournament is suggested where Dre can take on Cheng and the rest of the students of the Fighting Dragon dojo instead.

So Mr Han ends up teaching Dre kung fu (not karate) and trains him for the up coming tournament. Dre’s relationship with Meiying continues as the two get increasing closer. Dre suggests that they skip school for a day of fun which leads to Meiying almost being late for an important violin audition. Meiying’s parents see Dre as a bad influence on their daughter and forbid them from seeing each other. One night, Dre goes to Mr Han’s home to find him drunk and smashing up his prized, classic car he had been working on. Han tells Dre this is sort of a tradition with him and that every year he fixes up the same car and every year she smashes it as a way to vent his anger over an accident Han had years ago when he crashed the same car killing his wife and ten year old son. Dre promises to try harder in his training and take it more seriously out of respect for Han and everything he had lost.

The two grow closer and Dre works harder than ever before in his training. Han even helps Dre write a letter to Meiying’s father in Chinese as a way of an apology for his previous behavior. The apology is accepted and Dre is told that Meiying will be at the tournament to offer support.

The Karate Kid 2010 Dre

So its fight day and (just like the original) Dre advances to the semi-finals, there’s some illegal moves, broken leg and so on. Dre and Cheng go up against each other and Dre does some flip kick that’s even sillier than the crane kick form the original. Dre wins, Cheng has a new found respect for him and an ends well.

My View

Okay so here goes a bold statement that will probably incite anger…I much prefer this remake over the original. I mentioned at the start how I wasn’t much a fan of the original anyway but enjoyed watching it for this retrospective – so that could play a bit part in why I prefer this version. I don’t know, the remake just feels a lot more “authentic” over the original. In the original, they hired American actors do the stiff martial arts, in this they hired martial artists to do some acting and the difference on screen is night and day. There are some great action sequences and fights in this one and moving the location to China adds to that previously mentioned authenticity. This feels and looks like a genuine martial arts film where as the original feels and looks like an American TV movie.

The acting is far superior in this version too, though I really, really do not like Jaden Smith at all and in this, he’s barely passable as an actor. But having the living legend that is Jackie Chan playing the mentor figure is genus and I found him far more believable and engaging as Mr Han than Pat Morita’s Mr Miyagi in the original…and I love Mr Miyagi as hes the only consistently good thing in the original films, except that awful fourth film.

The Karate Kid 2010 Mr Han

There are a lot of beats repeated directly from the original in this, yes the basic plot is the same, yes the bullies are back and yes its all boils down to a tournament that offers no surprises, you know Dre will win and earn the respect of his enemies. But its overall better written and presented.

Yes I guess I’d better mention it. There was a lot of backlash over the title of the film seeing as there is no karate in the film and instead features kung fu, but still called The Karate Kid. My retort is, does it really matter? When watching a film are you invested more in the plot and characters you are watching or the title? Enjoy the flick ignore the title.

Now before I get into the new TV show, I just want to quickly cover the other TV show…Oh yes there was another one.

The Karate Kid

This one was an animated TV show that only lasted one season in 1989. None of the original cast return. Daniel and Mr Miyagi are voiced by Joey Dedio and Robert Ito respectively. Very loosely based on the film franchise…very loosely indeed.

While the show retains the characters of Daniel and Mr Miyagi, that’s about the only connection to the film. The series has pretty much nothing to do with karate, kids, tournaments or karate kids in tournaments. Instead it goes for an action/adventure kind of thing that has Daniel and Miyagi trying to recover a stolen miniature shrine with magic powers that takes them on an adventure around the world.

The Karate Kid Animated

There were only ever thirteen episodes made and they all followed the same basic formula. Mr Miyagi would find some info on where the mysterious shrine was for that particular episode, Daniel and and new character Taki would have to go to wherever the shrine was last seen, defeat the bad guys who were also after it, obtain the shrine only to have it escape their grasp somehow meaning they would have to repeat the whole process next episode. It was standard kids Saturday morning cartoon stuff.

My View

You know what, this show was actually pretty good fun. Yeah it has nothing to do with the franchise its based on I admit, but these kind of shows were everywhere back then (there as an animated version of Police Academy for example). So for one of these animated shows based of an existing and popular film franchise, this ain’t half bad.

Yeah its a bit formulaic and one episode is hard to distinguish for the last but overall it was a decent action/adventure show aimed at kids. If you can find it, check it out.

Just to throw in a bit of random trivia and link everything together. James Avery lent his voice to this animated show and he also appeared as Uncle Phil in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air which starred Will Smith. Will also produced the remake of The Karate Kid which starred his son Jaden Smith. How that for a little six degrees of separation? By the way, Six Degrees of Separation is an early film for Will Smith who was in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air which also featured James Avery who lent his voice…

And now finally, the reason I began writing this article…

Cobra Kai

This show works as a direct sequel to the movies and offers plenty of in-jokes and references for the hardened fan to spot. Bringing back Ralph Macchio as Daniel LaRusso and even his old rival William Zabka as Johnny Lawrence who hadn’t been part of the franchise since his short cameo at the start of the first sequel in 1986. Sadly no Mr Miyagi as Pat Morita died back in 2005. The show aired in 2018 exclusively on YouTube as part of their YouTube Premium streaming subscription service.

Cobra Kai

The show tells the story of both Daniel and Johnny thirty plus years after the events of the films. Daniel is now a family man with a daughter and owns a very successful car dealership. While Johnny is less successful, a bit of a down and out guy who decides to re-open the Cobra Kai dojo in an attempt to redeem himself using the same brutal methods he was taught while he was a student there. The dojo begins to attract some questionable students including Johnny’s star pupil Miguel Diaz (Xolo Maridueña) who Johnny slowly changes from mild mannered kid to aggressive karate student.

Meanwhile, Johnny’s estranged son, Robby Keene (Tanner Buchanan) starts work at Daniel’s car dealership where Daniel teaches Robby the life lessons he learned from Mr Miyagi. Caught in the middle of all of this is Daniel’s daughter, Samantha (Mary Mouser) who finds herself torn between the love for her father and loyalty toward her friends. Over the course of the series Daniel and Johnny butt heads, reignite old rivalries and are haunted by the ghosts of their past.

My View

I have to be honest and tell you that I’ve not seen all of the episodes yet, but I am over halfway through the ten so far and will watch the rest after I’ve finished this (long) article. But up to this point, I’m loving the show. I think its a brilliant and refreshing series and while it offers a new spin on the whole The Karate Kid franchise, it still has one foot firmly in the 80s and reminds you it all takes place in the same universe as the films without it being overbearing. Perhaps one of the best bits of the first episode is when Daniel and Johnny meet for the first time in decades and address a major plot-hole in the first film involving that stupid crane kick which given the rules for the tournament, was illegal and Daniel should’ve been disqualified. There are plenty of these little throwbacks and references just to let you know the writers are respecting the films but still doing their own thing too. Even Cobra Kai‘s lifetime ban from the third film is addressed, the writers really did their homework for this show.

I’m not a big fan of T.V. shows, I just find they drag on endlessly. How the hell anyone can sit there and watch Game of Thrones without falling asleep I have no idea. But Cobra Kai is different, the episodes are short coming in at around 23-25 mins each. This makes them fast paced, snappy and more importantly –  entertaining. There are jokes as well as more serious and emotional elements, of course there’s plenty of fighting too. Its a nice little concoction of elements that all work together to make a refreshing and delightful series. Plus the show does something I mentioned about the first film and how Johnny is generally a good guy, just mislead/treated. This show delves into his past a little and shows why he is the asshole he became.

Cobra Kai Daniel and Johnny

I think the reason the show is called Cobra Kai and not The Karate Kid is because its more of an ensemble affair with multiple characters and stories intertwining instead of focusing on one particular character like the movies did. The cast are great and the kids are the paint that create the main picture while Daniel and Johnny’s history is the canvas where the main story unfolds but is just as important. Everything just works so damn well. Oh yeah, it has an awesome soundtrack too.

The show has been renewed for a second season which will air next year with ten more episodes. I’m really looking forward to it.


Well there you go, The Karate Kid franchise covered in its entirety (except for the video games). Its a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to quality and as I said at the very start, I was never a big fan of the first movie. But I have thoroughly enjoyed going through the franchise and ending on the high note that is Cobra Kai. I just hope you have enjoyed reading (especially you Mike).

Cobra Kai Daniel and Johnny Fight

Now I just need to finish up the last few episodes of Cobra Kai and wait for the second season…no mercy!

A Little R-E-S-P-E-C-T: The Last Of The Blues Brothers

What a kick in the nuts, today we lost Soul Sister Number One as Aretha Franklin has died after a battle with pancreatic cancer. She was one of the finest singers to ever walk this Earth and the world of music will be a little darker without her bright flame.

I was brought up on real R n’ B music, soul and the like. I still remember Sunday mornings as a kid when Mom would make us do housework before Nan and Granddad would visit for dinner. Mom would always put some music on while we polished, vacuumed and washed. Songs from people like Sam and Dave, James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke and of course Aretha Franklin would fill my ears and turn me into the fan of proper blues, soul and Motown that I am today.

But there was another element that turned me into the fan of what I like to call “real music”, a film and one of my all time favorite films ever, a musical film and a film Aretha was a part of herself – The Blues Brothers. The loss of The Queen of Soul today has got me thinking about the amazing talent involved in The Blues Brothers and how many of them we have lost over the years. So here, I’d like to pay my R-E-S-P-E-C-T to the stars of The Blues Brothers and even its sequel. Yeah I’ll throw in Blues Brothers 2000 as whether you liked the film or not, one can not deny it had some stunning people in it who are sadly no longer with us. This is for all those, in memorandum for all they have given us over the years.

The Blues Brothers Title

Walter Horton  1921 – 1981

“Big” Walter Horton appeared in the first film alongside John Lee Hooker on the street as they performed Boom Boom together.

John Belushi 1949 – 1982

One of the originators of the whole Blues Brothers craze, along with Dan Aykroyd. The duo created a phenomenon that has lasted decades and still attracts new fans to this day.

Cab Calloway 1907 – 1994

The oldest member of the family, he was born when the 1900s were till new. Cab provided one of the best scenes in the original film when he belted out Minne the Moocher.

John Candy 1950 – 1994

John Candy

His role as parole officer Burton Mercer in The Blues Brothers was one of his first movie acting roles after a successful career in TV.

Junior Wells 1934 – 1998

Wells made a small cameo in Blues Brothers 2000 as one of the band members during the Cheaper to Keep Her song.

Grover Washington Jr 1943 – 1999

Grover was a part of the ensemble group, The Louisiana Gator Boys from Blues Brothers 2000 where he was joined by several other musical legends.

Bobby Sheehan 1968 – 1999

Not just appearing in the sequel but also a founding member of the band Blues Traveler who feature in the film.

George Sperdakos 1931 – 2000

A character actor known for small roles in numerous films. He played a priest in Blues Brothers 2000.

Kathleen Freeman 1919 – 2001

Kathleen Freeman

Kathleen played Sister Mary Stigmata A.K.A The Penguin, the vicious nun Jake and Elwood have to visit in the first film and she returned for the sequel too.

Esther Ridgeway 1959- 2003

She was one of the entourage of friends that accompanied and joined in with Aretha Franklin as she sang Respect in the car dealership in Blues Brothers 2000.

Jeff Morris 1934 – 2004

Jeff played Bob of Bob’s Country Bunker where the boys did their Country & Western gig in the first film. He also returned for the sequel to reprise his role.

Ray Charles 1930 – 2004

Of course this man doesn’t need an introduction, its Ray Charles. He played (imaginatively) Ray of Rays’s Musical Exchange where Jake and Elwood get their instruments from in the first film.

Gracie Ridgeway 1957 – 2006

Along with her sister Esther, she was also part of the entourage that sang Respect with Aretha Franklin in the sequel.

Wilson Pickett 1941 – 2006

Wilson appeared in Blues Brothers 2000 playing the character Mr Picket at the “phone company” where he sang 634-5789 (Soulsville, U.S.A.).

James Brown 1933 – 2006

James Brown

The hardest working man in show business, The Godfather of Soul. He played Reverend Cleophus James in both films.

Billy Preston 1946 – 2006

Another one of the Louisiana Gator Boys supergroup that popped up in Blues Brothers 2000.

Lou Rawls 1933 – 2006

And yet again, one of the Louisiana Gator Boys from the sequel.

Bo Diddley 1928 – 2008

Yes he was another one of them Louisiana Gator Boys. That band had some serious talent in it eh?

Isaac Hayes 1942 – 2008

Guess what? Aside from recording the greatest song ever with Shaft. Yes Isaac was also a Louisiana Gator Boy in Blues Brothers 2000.

Wally High 1938 – 2008

Played one of the Russian thugs chasing after Elwood in Blues Brothers 2000.

Koko Taylor 1928 – 2009

A female in the Louisiana Gator Boys band from the sequel and known for he powerful blues singing voice.

Henry Gibson 1963 – 2009

Henry Gibson

A brilliant character actor who you would find popping up in a lot of comedy films of the 80s – one of which was The Blues Brothers where he played the leader of the Illinois Nazis.

Alan Rubin 1943 -2011

Known as Mr. Fabulous, Rubin was one of the members of The Blues Brothers band appearing in both films as the trumpet player.

Clarence Clemons 1942 – 2011

Along with the many others, Clemons was part of the Louisiana Gator Boys from Blues Brothers 2000.

Charles Napier 1936 – 2011

Played Tucker McElroy, lead singer and driver of the Winnebago for The Good Ole Boys Band in the first film. He was another one of those great character actors you’d see in many films.

John Lee Hooker 1942 – 2001

Johm Lee Hooker

One of the best blues musicians ever, he appeared in the first film singing Boom Boom on the street.

Pinetop Perkins 1913 – 2011

Along with John Lee Hooker, he was also on the street performing Boom Boom in the first film.

Donald “Duck” Dunn 1941 -2012

Another member of The Blues Brothers Band. “Duck” was the bass player as uttered some of the best lines in both of the films. “We had a band powerful enough to turn goat piss into gasoline.”

B.B. King 1925 – 2015

Played Malvern Gasperone who sells Elwood the police car that would become the new Bluesmobile in Blues Brothers 2000…he also became one of the Louisiana Gator Boys later in the film. As well as bring one of the most recognised blues musicians ever.

Carrie Fisher 1956 – 2016

Carrie Fisher

She played Jake’s stalker/ex-girlfriend in the first film hellbent on trying to kill Jake and his brother Elwood because she was stood up at the alter by Jake.

Matt “Guitar” Murphy 1929 – 2018

The lead guitarist of The Blues Brothers band and married to Aretha Franklin’s character in both films.

Aretha Franklin 1942 – 2018

Aretha Franklin

Which all brings me to the latest loss in The Blues Brothers family. A force to be reckoned with as the strong willed wife of Matt “Guitar” Murphy. She had two great performances in both films singing Think in The Blues Brothers and Respect in Blues Brothers 2000.

She will be missed, one of the very finest singers ever with a career that spanned six decades. I’ll Say A Little Prayer For You..

Don’t say Aretha is making a comeback, because I’ve never been away!

Aretha Franklin.

The Troubled Remake Of The Crow And My Idea

Its recently been announced that they are remaking the Bruce Lee classic Enter the Dragon.

Enter The Dragon.jpg

Well I never expected that news but as a huge Bruce Lee fan (my middle name is Lee named after him) I was brought up on his movies, I’ve read countless books about the man and watched just as many documentaries. I love me a bit of Brucie so you’d think I’d be upset about a remake of one of my favorite films of his. I’m not.

Just as a quick aside. The Enter the Dragon remake is getting some backlash over the fact they have hired a white American to direct the film in David Leitch. Errrr, the original was directed by the white American Robert Clouse, produced by white Americans Fred Weintraub and Paul Heller and written by white American Micheal Allin. Worked then didn’t it? Point is, why does the colour of a person’s skin or their race matter? Shouldn’t it be about hiring the best person for the job regardless of their race?

Back to the main point…the talk of remaking Enter the Dragon got me thinking about a similar subject, the much troubled remake of The Crow.

Yes I know there will be a certain group of people who will instantly take a disliking to any talk of a remake of The Crow. But hey, I’m not one of them and this is my blog – so tough. You want to rant and rave against it, set up your own blog.

I honestly think that, if done right a remake of The Crow could be amazing. But before I offer my idea, a quick history on the numerous troubles in getting The Crow remade…okay so before my idea and before the troubled history – maybe a quick mention of exactly what The Crow is and why some people are against it.

The Source

The Crow Comic

Originally written in the form of a comic book series and published in 1989, The Crow was born from the bitterness and anger of writer/artist James O’Barr who lost his girlfriend at the hands of a drunk driver. The Crow is a bloody and violent revenge tale with a hell of a lot of heart and emotion. Telling the story of Eric and his girlfriend Shelly, who one night are attacked. Eric is put in hospital fighting for his life while Shelly is killed outright. Eric holds on to life while a mysterious crow tells him the let go. Eric eventually dies but is brought back by the crow. Eric now possess supernatural powers such as invulnerability which he uses to extract revenge on those that killed both him and Shelly.

Its a dark and moody story with a lot of rough edges and a little uneven in places for sure, but its also a brilliant and utterly enthralling story and well worth reading if you can find a copy.

The Movie

The Crow Eric

In 1994, a film adaption was released after the death of its star Brandon Lee who was accidentally shot on set while filming in 93. Director Alex Proyas was so upset by Lee’s death that he felt he couldn’t continue with the film despite the fact that Lee had already finished pretty much all of his work and his death occurred with only three days let of the film shoot. The film sat on the shelf for several months and it looked like it would never be released, until Linda Lee (Brandon’s mother) stepped in an urged Proyas to finish the film out of respect for her son.

The Crow was released in 94 and became a huge cult hit and made a star of Brandon Lee.

The Controversy

It is the death of Brandon Lee while making The Crow why many people feel it should never be remade. I’m not one of them. Look, I loved the movie back in the day – but quite honestly, it hasn’t really held up well. A film I once loved back in the 90s just feels very off after I read the comic books it was based on. The 94 film is a bastardised, diluted film that lacks so much of what made the source material so damn good. I don’t “hate” the film version at all and can quite happily sit down to watch it – but its just lacking in so many ways, it feels so weak after reading the comic books. And as controversial as it may seem, no film or character is bigger than any actor.

The Crow Eric 2

Getting upset over a remake of The Crow due to the death of Lee is like boycotting any and everything involving the character of The Joker due to the death of Heath Ledger. Times change, new ideas need to be explored and above everything else – no matter if The Crow remake eventually happens or not…the 94 film will always be there. Nothing any remake does or does not do can ever take anything away from the film Brandon Lee died for while making. If the remake does happen and whether its the best film ever made or a big piece of shit, the 94 film will still be the exact same film it was before. Nothing changes, so just calm down folks.

The Troubles

So the idea of remaking The Crow has been around for quite a while, as far back as 2008 in fact. Originally Blade director Stephen Norrington was in the main man for the job until he left the project and director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo of 28 Weeks Later fame stepped in around 2011. There were talks of having Bradley Cooper play the main role too as this early concept art shows.

Concept Art

The film was moving along nicely but a few legal matters between the production company of the remake, Relativity Media and creator of The Crow James O’Barr that had not been fully sorted out surfaced. This eventually put the project on hold and led to scheduling conflicts with Cooper who then had to drop out. Producers needed a new lead and looked at Mark Wahlberg, Channing Tatum, Ryan Gosling and James McAvoy as possible replacements. Around this time, director Fresnadillo also left the project. So they were back at square one.

This was when the then unknown Spanish director Francisco Javier Gutiérrez became attached. New actors were considered including Tom Hiddleston, Alexander Skarsgård, and finally, Luke Evans. The film even got to a point where Evans was officially announced to star and the remake was once more going ahead around 2015. Not too long after the announcement though and Evans dropped out to be replaced with Jack Huston…who also dropped out soon after being announced as lead actor. New actors were being suggested with both Nicholas Hoult and Jack O’Connell but director Gutiérrez eventually left. Yes, back at square one…again.

Jason Momoa and Corin Hardy

Enter English director Corin Hardy who relished the idea of remaking The Crow and began working on the film in 2015. However, Relativity Media who were set to produce the film filed for bankruptcy, so Hardy left. Still, Relativity Media carried on with the project despite their money troubles and Hardy unexpectedly returned to the film with Game of Thrones and Aquaman actor Jason Momoa signing to play the lead. It seemed a little strange that a studio filing for bankruptcy were still trying to get a big budget film  made and in 2016 Davis Films, Highland Film Group, and Electric Shadow banded together and bought the rights to the film from Relativity Media. Both Hardy and Momoa stayed on board and in 2017 Sony agreed to distribute the film. Things were looking good once more and the remake was going full steam ahead. Production was set to begin in early 2018 in Budapest. This was the furthest the remake had ever gotten. There were even start dates announced for filming…

Yet around May of this year and it all fell apart…again. Even though Sony announced an 11th of October, 2019 release date, both director Hardy and lead actor Momoa left the project. Which all brings us up to date with this decade long attempt to remake The Crow. Once more, the remake is back at square one. And its a damn shame too as it had been said that James O’Barr was fully on board with this remake and aimed to make it a much more faithful adaption of his original source material…which is exactly what I want to see…

My Idea

I fucking love the original The Crow comics and as I said earlier, I feel they are far more powerful and with more depth than the 94 film version which I think is massively diluted over its source material. I have a far simpler and I think much better idea for the remake than any of the attempts over the last ten years too. Just take the comic books and animate them.

The Crow Comic 2

Same art style, same characters, same plot. Use the comics as storyboards and bring the whole thing to life via animation. I’ll even allow some creative license with the material to a point. Much like Robert Rodriguez did when he made Sin City. Be about 90% faithful to the source, but still tweak things enough to allow the director to put their own stamp on it. Alter and switch some of the dialogue, tinker with colours in the stark black and white world – blood, etc. But still remain as true to the comics as you can. James O’Barr could be story and art director but give the main directing job to a great animator/director such as Brad Bird, Dorota Kobiela, Sylvain Chomet, Gil Kenan or how about giving one of the old guard a chance to return to their roots with Don Bluth or Tim Burton?

Holly fuck-balls. An adult based Tim Burton directed animated film closely based off The Crow comics. That has to be the best idea since someone said “I think I’ll put some Jack Daniels into this glass of Coke.”.

The Crow Comic 3

I’d love to see an adult, uber violent, bloody but still with all the heart and emotion animated attempt at The Crow and finally see one of the finest comic book series brought to life on film full of life. Make it happen Sony.

Why Disney Sacking James Gunn Is Bullshit

So over the weekend, Disney decided to fire writer/director James Gunn from his duties on the up and coming Guardians of the Galaxy 3. This is after Gunn had already penned and helmed the first two films for Marvel who are owned by Disney which went on to become huge box office hits and an important piece of the growing Marvel Cinematic Universe. Gunn was fired in relation to a handful of Tweets he made with jokes about rape and paedophilia, now on the surface and given Disney’s strict “family friendly” persona that yes, sacking someone who would make such Tweets is understandable. On the surface. Walt Disney Studios’ Chairman had this to say on the matter…

“The offensive attitudes and statements discovered on James’ Twitter feed are indefensible and inconsistent with our studio’s values and we have severed our business relationship with him.”

Fuck off Disney as if you’ve never been offensive in  the past. Which brings me nicely to my main gripe. I have a few problems with the whole thing and Disney’s blatant hypocrisy over the whole affair. Yes Gunn made some questionable Tweets…some of which are a decade old. Are Disney really going to bring up the past of someone as a negative about who/what they are today? If so, then I feel there should be a balance and on the subject of being fair – lets look at Disney’s past…

What about their animated propaganda film, Education For Death? For those not in the know, this was an animated short showing the evolution of a Nazi soldier form birth to adulthood. Given the fact that it was strongly believed that Walt Disney was a Nazi supporter/sympathiser. Would it be acceptable to bring this past up too then Disney? You know, just to be fair. Just imagine what it would be like if Disney also had one of their most famous characters like Donald Duck dressed as a Nazi giving a photo of Hitler the Nazi salute or reading Mein Kampf…

Donald Duck NaziDonald Duck Mein Kampf

Oh yeah, that happened too in the cartoon Der Fuehrer’s Face. Funny though, Disney don’t seem to bring this slice of their past up all that often, as if it was something they no longer associate themselves with as they were different back then to who they are now. A bit like James Gunn and his Tweets. You can’t walk around Disney World and line up for a Nazi Donald Duck ride for example, nor will you find any Nazi Donald Duck merchandise.

Or what about the fact that Walt Disney himself refused to hire women to work as animators at the studio? Its true, Disney felt that “women do not do any of the creative work” and declared “that work is performed entirely by young men”. So if you were a talented animator and female back then…well fuck you. No penis, no job.

Disney Sexist Letter.jpg

Yeah it all a bit unfair to bring up the past as a punishment for someone today isn’t it? Yet still – there’s more. Song of the South a Disney film surrounded by infamy and a film that still has never seen a home release in the U.S. But why? Mainly due to its massive racist under and overtones. Now to be fair, Disney have never fully banned the film, they have released clips and even songs from the film, most famously the Oscar winning Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah for example. Plus there is the Splash Mountain ride at Disney theme parks that is inspired by the movie…none of the racist stuff made it into the ride though for some reason. Still, even after all these years, the film has never been given a home release in the U.S. despite several times over the years where Disney have said they fully intend to do just that, the most recent of which was back in 2010 by Disney creative director Dave Bossert who said that Disney intend to give the film a U.S. release but still that has not happened. Does it really take over eight years to get a film released for the home market?

There is a lot more to Disney’s rather checkered and questionable past and some of it can be a bit more recent than the 1930s and 40s when times were different. I mean I could bring up their refusal to put up warning signs about the population of alligators at Disney World in Florida as they believe these warnings would break the illusion and magic they strive for at the theme park. Well lets be fair, they now have these warnings in place, but only after the death of a two year old boy in 2016. Its just a shame it took the death of a child before Disney did anything about it though eh?

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Or what about the working conditions at Disneyland Paris where so far two employees have committed suicide over their treatment. With one of them leaving the suicide note of “Je ne veux pas retourner chez Mickey” (I don’t want to work for Mickey any more). Expecting staff do work longer hours for minimum wage and numerous staff cuts despite the increasing visitor numbers?

Maybe I’m getting a little off track here, but my point is that Disney sacking James Gunn over Tweets made a decade ago is more then a little hypocritical given their own past and some of their questionable standards. Much like Disney, Gunn is not the same person he was a decade ago they have both changed. Surely if people can and have forgiven Disney for some of their questionable history, then Disney can do the same with James Gunn? He clearly feels remorse over his past humor.

“My words of nearly a decade ago were, at the time, totally failed and unfortunate efforts to be provocative.

I have regretted them for many years since – not just because they were stupid, not at all funny, wildly insensitive, and certainly not provocative like I had hoped, but also because they don’t reflect the person I am today or have been for some time.

Even these many years later, I take full responsibility for the way I conducted myself then. All I can do now, beyond my sincere and heartfelt regret, is to be the best human being I can be: accepting, understanding, committed to equality, and far more thoughtful about my public statements and my obligations to our public discourse. To everyone inside my industry and beyond, I again offer my deepest apologies. Love to all.”

If it really is Disney’s policy of sacking people who work for them over questionable jokes that person has made, then they’d have to fire pretty much any and everyone associated to the Disney company as everyone has made an off colour joke/comment in their lives.

Hey Disney, that fella that plays Tony Stark/Ironman in your movies – you may want to look into his past as you may find he has said and done some questionable things too, drugs, firearm offenses and the like…

But wait, I have another slice of hypocrisy for you. Disney have recently bought 21st Century Fox for $71.3 billion. That’s a big chunk of cash alright and Disney now own all the IPs and licences that 21st Century Fox owned, that includes the film rights of a certain other Marvel superhero…

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Yup, Disney now own the Deadpool movies and if you’ve seen either of the two movies, then you know that they are hardly “family friendly” and really do not fit into the Disney mantra. But even more specifically, Deadpool 2‘s main villain is Firefist who was brought up in an orphanage and its made pretty clear that he was sexually abused there too…and there are several jokes about paedophilia within the film. The very same reason Disney have sacked James Gunn to begin with. The only difference is that Gunn’s comments are years old, Deadpool 2 is just over two months old. I’m still willing to bet that Deadpool 2 will see a home release and fully uncut with those paedophilia jokes in tact even though its now owned by Disney who clearly have a problem with such humor. The irony eh?

Moving on from Disney’s obvious hypocrisy, James Gunn was known as a comedy writer, he was known for his near the knuckle comments and jokes long before he was hired by Disney. So they must have already known what he was like beforehand right, they must have done their homework on the person they chose to head-up and be part of one of their biggest franchises? I mean, that would have been like Disney asking Richard Pyror to appear in a Disney film in the 70s/80s but not knowing he had a penchant for saying “nigga” beforehand. But now his past comments have been brought up…now they decide to sack him? Utter bullshit.

I don’t know James Gunn, never met the guy and for all I know he could be a complete prick. So my offering any kind of opinion on the man would be pretty pointless. But what about people who do know him, worked with him? His cast members from the Guardians of the Galaxy films as an example have spoken out on how much of a great guy he is and how wrong Disney are for sacking him. Actors like Dave Bautista

“I will have more to say but for right now all I will say is this.. is one of the most loving,caring,good natured people I have ever met. He’s gentle and kind and cares deeply for people and animals. He’s made mistakes. We all have. Im NOT ok with what’s happening to him”

Or Selma Blair

“@JamesGunn I thank you for your talent, your decency and your evolution as a man. You propped me up when I was in a scary place, and guided me towards the decent and right thing to do. You have shown strength of character more than most anyone I know. You understood.”

Because if people are punished despite changing, then what does that teach people about owning mistakes and evolving? This man is one of the good ones.”

There’s a long list of celebs echoing similar views and opinions, they all know Disney are in the wrong here.

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A petition has been started to get James Gunn reinstated and back working on  the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel, and rightly so too. Disney should be offering Gunn an apology right about now while crawling back to him on their knees asking him to return. He has done nothing wrong. Do me a favor, sign the petition. Its currently smashing its target and even if Disney do not reverse their pathetic decision, at least it shows support for a man who has been wronged.