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40 Years Of Halloween: Part II

Today is Halloween and I’m back with the second part to my Halloween retrospective. After several years of terrible, terrible sequels, will things get any better?

Halloween H20: 20 Years Later

Halloween H20 20 Years Later

So here we are celebrating the 40th anniversary of the original Halloween film with a film that was released to celebrate the 20th anniversary. (Ohh, we’re half way there
Oh-oh, livin’ on a prayer!) Released in 1998 and directed by Steve Miner (known for his work on the Friday the 13th franchise). This ones sees the return of Laurie Strode who was killed off in Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers and the first film in the continual story of Michael Myers without Dr. Loomis.

So the film begins with Marion Chambers (Nancy Stephens) who was the assistant of Dr. Loomis from Halloween and Halloween II. She finds her home has been broken into. Marion discovers the file on Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) has gone. The missing file held info on the presumed dead Laurie and her new identity of Keri Tate. Michael soon turns up, kills Marion and escapes with the file.

Now living in California Laurie Strode/Keri Tate is the headmistress of Hillcrest Academy, a private boarding school. She has moved on with her life after faking her death via a car accident to put her history behind her. Still haunted by the events of 1978, Laurie/Keri finds it hard to adjust to her new life fearing her brother Michael could return… and he does. Most of the students and teachers of Hillcrest Academy have gone on an overnight field trip to Yosemite National Park leaving only a skeleton staff at the school. However, a few of the students stayed on at the school to have a secret Halloween party in the school’s basement.

Of course the inevitable happens as Michael Myers arrives at the school to hunt down his sister… again. Michael sets about thinning out the student population and eventually comes face to face with his sister for the first time in twenty years. Laurie soon finds herself fighting for her life once more as well as trying to protect her teenage son.

My View

So this one kind of confuses me a little. Its said to be a sequel that ignores anything from Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers to Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers and is a direct sequel to Halloween II – which is fine, I have no problem with them doing that. There is no mention of Laurie’s daughter, Jamie from the previous three films which of course there shouldn’t be if the events of the other films didn’t happen in this timeline… but they do point out that the car crash that supposedly killed Laurie in Halloween 4 was faked. So there is continuity with the previous films. But if the previous films never happened, then why make that connection?

Well turns out that there was a direct connection. The original script was written with a scene where a student in one of Laurie/Keri’s classes does a report on the “Haddonfield Murders” and even goes into detail about Jamie Lloyd, Laurie’s daughter from the previous films. The report also details how Laurie “died” in a car accident and how Michael Myers eventually tracked down his niece and killed her. At this point, a clearly shocked Laurie/Keri leaves the classroom and throws up. Its also worth noting that John Carpenter was even set to return as director as Jamie Lee Curtis wanted to reunite, but when he asked for a $10 million directors fee (after believing he was cheated out of royalties), he walked when a deal could not be made.

Halloween H20 20 Years Later Laurie

Anyway, this was released during the resurgence of the slasher film in the 90s thanks to Wes Craven’s Scream (1996). The difference is though that Scream was self-aware, it was making fun of the genre while also paying respects to it. Halloween H20: 20 Years Later just is not that clever and comes across as another bog-standard slasher flick. Don’t get me wrong, its not a bad film at all and definitely one of the better sequels in the franchise but its also nothing special.

Its great to see Jamie Lee Curtis back in the role that made her famous two decades previously and you know what? I’ll even go so far as to say the story idea is a good one too, but overall the film just needed “something”. The previously mentioned Scream had that “something”, that hook to pull you in. Halloween H20: 20 Years Later is just very one note, very mundane and lacks punch. Its predictable, its a bit bland and really offers nothing new. Michael Myers turns up and kills teenagers… that’s about it. Its all very 90s with predictable jump scare after predictable jump scare. The last 10 minutes or so is pretty good though.

As I said, Jamie Lee Curtis is brilliant well worth watching. Plus she has the best scene in the film and one for a horror nerd such as myself to enjoy that is full of trivia. Jamie shares some screen time with her real-life mother Janet Leigh. Of course Janet famously played Marion Crane in Psycho. The character Janet is playing this film is called Norma, which was the name of Norman Bates mother from Psycho, plus the car Janet has in the scene is the exact same car she had in Psycho and even has the same license plate. Then (if you listen carefully) you’ll hear a few bars of the Psycho music play in the background.

“He sat in a sanitarium for 15 years, waiting for me. Then… one rainy night, he decides to go… Trick or Treating”

– Laurie Strode

Halloween: Resurrection

Halloween Resurrection Title

Released in 2002 from director, Rick Rosenthal who also directed Halloween II. This one picks up a few years after the previous film with Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) now a patient at Grace Andersen Sanitarium after accidentally killing paramedic at the end of the previous film whom she believed was her killer brother, Michael Myers.

Acting in a catatonic state, Laurie is secretly readying herself for the return of Micheal. On Halloween night 2001, Michael breaches the security at the sanitarium and gets to Laurie. She lures him into a trap on the roof and is moments away from killing her brother (again) when he gets the better of her. Michael stabs Laurie and drops her off the roof – finally completing his mission of over twenty years. Yes, Laurie Strode is now dead.

The next year and some university students win a contest to appear on an internet reality show called Dangertainment and is set to be filmed in Michael Myers’ childhood home. The show is directed by directed by Freddie Harris (Busta Rhymes). Of course Michael turns up and systematically kills the students while everything is being broadcast on the internet.

My View

This is bad, this is Halloween 46 level of bad. So lets get the only good thing about the film out of the way first. Jamie Lee Curtis back as Laurie Strode for the final time (in this continuity anyway). Yeah she’s good. Its only a small cameo role in the opening but at least it is the opening so once she’s gone you can switch the film off and watch something else instead. Jamie only agreed to do this film as long as they finally killed Laurie off as she didn’t want to appear in any more Halloween film after this… yeah, about that…

Even then, her death is not 100% definite as while she is stabbed and dropped of a roof, you don’t actually see her die on screen. She just disappears into a tree during the fall. The writing of this film is god awful and you can tell that from the terrible way they retcon the ending of the last film to suit this one. It turns out that Laurie didn’t kill Micheal at all and he swapped places with a random paramedic. You know you’re in for a bad time with this when the continuity is so damn bad that the recap at the start of this shows Laurie and Michael (not really him) drive off in an ambulance that looks nothing like the one from the end of Halloween H20: 20 Years Later, its not even close. Let this lack of detail be a warning for just how lazy and incompetent the rest of the film will be.

Halloween Resurrection Michael Myers

Stupid characters doing stupid things being killed by a stupid killer. The film is stupid. I mean, there a scene were one of the students throws black pepper in Micheal’s eyes to stop him… and it works too. This is the same Micheal Myers who has been shot multiple times, blown up, stabbed in the eyes and still kept going – but black pepper is his weakness? Halloween H20: 20 Years Later was hardly a great film, it was watchable with some okay moments and a pretty good ending. This film does away with all of that, the retconing of the good ending of the previous film is an insult and the finale to this with Busta Rhymes getting into a fistfight with Micheal Myers while saying “mother fucka” a lot is embarrassing.

There was an idea to make a sequel to this with Laurie Strode’s son from Halloween H20: 20 Years Later seeking out Micheal for revenge over killing his mother. But as this film flopped hard, the producers quickly abandoned that idea and decided to go a different route…

“You’ve heard of the tunnel. The one we all go through sooner or later. At the end, there’s a door. And waiting for you on the other side of that door is either Heaven or Hell. This that door.”

– Laurie Strode

Halloween

Halloween 2007

So the last film all but killed the franchise off, plans to make more sequels were scrapped in favor of a remake. Enter director Rob Zombie to get this film released in 2007. The baisc plot is the same as the original flick, but this one mixes in a little Halloween II as well. Young Michael Myers kills his older sister Judith and is sent to Smith’s Grove Sanitarium where he becomes a patient of Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell).

Fifteen year later, Micheal escapes the sanitarium and makes is way back to his old home in Haddonfield to continue his killing spree. Dr. Loomis teams up with  Sheriff Brackett (Brad Dourif) to try to track Micheal down. Along the way, Loomis learns that Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton) is really the sister of Micheal and soon works out that she will be is next victim.

My View

I said in the first part about the original film that I’m not a huge fan. I like the film, I think its damn good… but I just don’t love it. So get ready with the pitchforks Halloween fans because I think this remake is a better film than the original. Yeah I said it. Not that the film doesn’t have its problems, it does. Some of the dialogue is a joke with every other word being “fuck”, a lot of the redneck characters grate at times and at a little under two hours it can be a long film for what it is. But that said, there’s a hell of a lot of great stuff in the film too.

You’ve got amazing actors such as Malcolm McDowell who is the perfect replacement for Donald Pleasence as Dr. Loomis. Honestly, he’s brilliant in the role. Then you have Brad Dourif, Dee Wallace, William Forsythe and Ken Foree. There is a great cast here. I  love how this is really a film of two parts. The first part telling the history and backstory of the young Michael Myers (Daeg Faerch) and just why he turns put the way he does. Then the second half is pretty much where the remake kicks off proper with grown up Michael killing teenagers.

Halloween 2007Michael

The film can be tense at times with some genuine scares, something not seen in a Halloween film since Halloween III: Season of the Witch back in 1982. Where as the original was mostly bloodless, this one turns up the gore factor to eleven… but its a Rob Zombie film so what where you expecting? The picture is clearly made by someone who loves and respects the original but still wanting to do their own thing with it. Its a good film, its a good remake and for me, its better than the original as this version has a story that extends to more then just killer killing teenagers.

“Inside every one us, there exists a dark side. Most people rise above it, but some are consumed by it. Until there is nothing left, but pure evil.”

– Dr. Loomis

Halloween II

Halloween II 2009 Title

Rob Zombie’s Halloween remake was panned by critics, yet it still pulled in an impressive $80 million worldwide on a $15 million budget. Success meant sequel and Rob Zombie returned to continue his vision in 2009. Pretty much all the cast from the first film returned and this one picks up directly where the last film left off. After killing Micheal Myers, a shocked Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton) is found covered and blood wandering around the streets by Sheriff Brackett (Brad Dourif) and she is taken to hospital. Michael’s body is put in the back of an ambulance and taken to the hospital, only he’s not really dead. He wakes up as the ambulance crashes into a cow.

The film jumps ahead two years and Laurie is now living with Sheriff Brackett and his family. Laurie begins to have nightmares of Michael and the events of the first film. Meanwhile Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell) writes a book based on the events and his experiences of the previous film. Micheal Myers has been in hiding and having visions of his dead mother and his younger self who tell him to bring Laurie home. So he heads back to Haddonfield.

My View

I really enjoyed the first film (and I mean Rob Zombie’s first Halloween film), but this? What a fucking mess. Its trying to be clever, psychological, cerebral and it fails at all three. I’m pretty sure the only reason the idea of this film came about was because Michael’s mom is played by Rob Zombie’s wife, Sheri Moon Zombie. As he always puts her in his movies and as she died in the first one, I’m sure the thought process was ‘Need to get the missus in the film, but she died in the first one… make her a ghost. Problem solved’. Then the film was written around the idea of Michael’s mom’s ghost.

Honestly, the whole film makes little sense. The plot is nonsensical, the story is pathetic. Its just all over the place with no clear direction. How did Rob Zombie mess this up so badly when he nailed it first time around? Its a real shame as the film gets off to a great start, the opening and scenes in the hospital are really well done. Its just a shame it all goes very wrong very quickly after that.

Halloween II 2009 Michael

The good bits? Obviously the performances from both Malcolm McDowell and Brad Dourif and that’s about it really. Oh the soundtrack is pretty great too. Other than that, best to avoid this one. I didn’t like it when I first saw it back then, I like it even less after re-watching it for this retrospective. I’m not damning the film for doing something different, I like different, that’s why Halloween III: Season of the Witch is my favourite in the franchise, because its different. But this, this is just pretentiously silly and stupid.

For almost a decade, that was it, no more Halloween. Until…

“Hey, world! Guess what. I’m Michael Myers’ sister! I’m so fucked!”

– Laurie Strode

Halloween

Halloween 2018

Okay so this is the third film in the franchise to be simply called Halloween. The 1978 original, the 2007 remake and now this. Directed by David Gordon Green and sees the return of Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode. Set forty years after the original and ignores every film in the franchise except the original flick. So really this is Halloween II but a different Halloween II to the 1981 sequel and 2009 Halloween II sequel of the remake. Phew.

So Michael Myers has been locked away in the Smith’s Grove Sanitarium since he was stopped at the end of the first film and captured. Dr. Loomis dies years ago and so Dr. Ranbir Sartain (Haluk Bilginer) has taken over as Michael’s doctor. Two true-crime podcasters turn up at the sanitarium to interview Michael armed with his original mask form forty years before. They fail to get anything out if him despite mentioning the very person who stood up to him and survived his killing spree four decades ago, Laurie Strode.

Still desperate to get a story, the podcasters go to interview Laurie herself. This is when we learn of her PTSD, failed marriages and that she has a daughter and granddaughter. The family is strained and the relationship between mother, daughter and granddaughter broke down several years earlier. Laurie is given the chance to speak to Michael before he is transferred to a maximum security prison, which Laurie declines.

Dr. Sartain accompanies Michael Myers as he is transferred along with several other prisoners. Only for the bus carrying the inmates to crash, Michael escapes, tracks down those annoying podcasters, kills them and gets his mask back before heading back to Haddonfield and to Laurie. Meanwhile, Laurie learns about the crash and finds herself fighting for not only her own life but also those of her daughter and granddaughter. But Laurie hasn’t been sitting quietly knitting for the last forty years, she’s been preparing for Michael’s return.

My View

Okay so to be completely honest, I’ve not yet seen the new film. Since becoming a father last year, my cinema visits have been cut back to pretty much none. I managed to go see Bohemian Rhapsody a few days ago and that was my first time in a cinema since I watched Logan in March 2017 over a year earlier. So as I’ve not seen the film, I can’t really offer a view of it can I? I was hoping to squeeze in a viewing before doing this retrospective but it didn’t work out.

Still, while managing to avoid spoilers, I have read a few reviews and the feedback has been largely positive. The film sounds pretty damn good and Jamie Lee Curtis has been getting a lot of positive praise too. I’ll most probably have to wait until the home release before I do get to watch Halloween. At least they got John Carpenter to return for this one. Even if only as composer, executive producer, and creative consultant. He’s been directly involved in the franchise for the first time since 1982. I’m looking forward to this one if/when I eventually get to see it.

“Michael Myers killed 5 people. And he’s a human being, we need to understand. I’m twice divorced, and I’m a basket case.”

– Laurie Strode


 

Well there you have it, the entire Halloween franchise. forty years of films that are mostly terrible. I have a great deal of respect for the original even if I’m not its biggest fan. I fucking love Halloween III: Season of the Witch and think Rob Zombie’s remake was fantastic… but that’s about it for the whole series. A total of eleven films and only three that I think are truly worth watching. The new film does look and sound great, but as I’ve not yet seen it, I can’t really pass judgement – that will have to wait for later.

As an overall franchise, Halloween has many more disappointments than worthy pictures. Pretty much all horror franchises get tiresome fairly quickly with bad sequel after bad sequel and in that respect, Halloween is not one of the worst offenders. Even the absolute worst of the films still have some redeeming quality be it Donald Pleasence as Dr. Loomis, Jamie Lee Curtis returning several times or even the opening 10-15 minutes of the god-awful Rob Zombie’s Halloween II. Its a decent franchise, I just wished they had gone the anthology idea route after Halloween III: Season of the Witch as we could have had a great variety of Halloween based flicks for the last few decades instead of the same old crap of Michael Myers killing teenagers.

 

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

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40 Years Of Halloween: Part I

Yup, its that time of year again. Its getting colder, the nights are drawing in, the clocks have gone back,the leaves are turning golden brown and falling from the trees and October is coming to an end. Halloween is just around the corner once more, so its time to watch some scary flicks. But what to write about this year? Well, it has been 40 years this year since one of the most influential horror films ever was released and right here for my 2018 Halloween celebrations, I’m going to take a look at the film that changed horror cinema forever…

The Bees

Directed by Alfredo Zacarías in 1978, starring John Saxon and John Carradine. The Bees was a Mexican horror film about killer South American bees that have been imported to the U.S. where they wreak havoc. Yeah I don’t know why I’m even attempting to fool you either. You’ve read the title, you’ve seen the main image of the iconic Michael Myers. You know what this is all about. Halloween.

40 years ago this year and John Carpenter unleashed his now immortal and influential slasher picture, Halloween. It may not have been the first slasher horror film, but its the one that the sub-genre is held up to and the template many, many films would follow for four decades. Halloween changed cinema forever and its importance can not be overstated. Right here I’m going to take a look at every film in the franchise from the original up to the latest in the series. I’ll do a quick synopsis of each film and then offer my own views and opinions for each one. To paraphrase Dr. Loomis…

“I’ve been writing this article for fifteen days, sitting in a room, staring at my laptop, not seeing the laptop, looking past the laptop, looking at this night. Inhumanly patient, waiting for some secret, silent alarm to trigger me off. Death has come to this little blog. Now, you can either ignore it, or you can help me by reading and sharing it.”

Halloween

Halloween Title

Released in 1978 (happy 40th Halloween) from legendary writer/director John Carpenter. Halloween tells the story of Michael Myers. Beginning in 1963 when Myers was only six years old, dressed as a clown for Halloween. Michael grabs a kitchen knife and stabs his older sister, Judith to death. No rhyme or reason, he just murders his own sister with no remorse or explanation. Michael is then institutionalised in the Warren County’s Smith’s Grove Sanitarium.

Fifteen years pass and on the 30th of October, 1978. The now adult Michael Myers escapes the sanitarium, returns to his home town of Haddonfield to continue building his body count. Enter the shy and retiring Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her school friends who are preparing to celebrate Halloween.

Meanwhile, Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) who is Michael’s psychiatrist, tries to track the deranged murderer down before he can kill again. Loomis attempts to get help from the local police, but they find his story a little unbelievable… until the bodies begin to show up. Laurie babysits one of his neighbours kids watching scary movies, carving pumpkins and the like. Michael sets about killing her friends one by one until Laurie is the only one left. All leading to a classic showdown between unstoppable killer and scared babysitter.

My View

Halloween is an undisputed classic and I’ll happily argue against anyone that states other wise. John Carpenter is a genius for not just his minimalist writing, masterful direction but also THAT music score. Yup, the music of Halloween is just as much of a character as Michael Myers himself.

I respect Halloween, I fucking adore John Carpenter as an artist. He’s one of my favourite writer/directors ever. And yet, I’m not a huge fan of the film. Yeah this all sounds a little contradictory right now eh? Yes I think the film is a classic, yes I have the up most respect for it and yes I like the film… but I just don’t love it. Of the big three hitters of the classic slasher film genre, those three being Halloween, Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street, of those iconic trilogy of horror films – Halloween is my least favourite. Its just a tad boring. I don’t mind a slow paced film and this is slow paced. What John Carpenter does with the time in the film is commendable. There are times when its tense and suspenseful sure and the atmosphere created is still some of the best in any horror film even today. But overall, I feel the film unnecessarily drags on as if there is just not enough story for a full feature film. Perhaps this would have been better as a shorter 40-50 minute piece over a feature?

Halloween Laurie.jpg

Yeah I know what I’m doing here. I’m saying that the all time classic Halloween is not all that classic. But hey, that’s how I feel. When it comes to John Carpenter films, I’d just rather watch They Live, Escape From New York, The ThingBig Trouble in Little China and even the massively overlooked In the Mouth of Madness. Quite honestly, Halloween would struggle to make it into my list of truly great Carpenter classics. And as I previously said, I’d even choose other horror films over this one too.

Again, I respect Halloween, it is a classic but its just not an all time classic for me and I feel that John Carpenter made several other films that are far superior. Still with all that said, I’m more than happy to sit down and watch Halloween. I just did to do this whole retrospective and I have a lot more films to get through.

“You’ve got to believe me, Officer, he is coming to Haddonfield…Because I know him! I’m his doctor! You must be ready for him…If you don’t, it’s your funeral.”

– Dr. Loomis

Halloween II

Halloween II

This 1981 sequel saw the return of a lot of the cast and crew from the first film, sadly no John Carpenter in the director’s chair. Taking on the main role this time around is Rick Rosenthal. Though Carpenter did come up with the story and pen the screenplay, plus he was a producer on the film too. Picking up directly after the events of the first flick, Michael Myers is alive and well while Laurie Strode is taken to Haddonfield Memorial Hospital after her ordeal at the end of the previous film.

Dr. Loomis continues his search for Michael in Haddonfield until the governor orders Loomis to go back to the Smith’s Grove Sanitarium. While on route back to the sanitarium, Loomis learns that Laurie Strode is the younger sister of Michael Myers and realises that Michael is heading to the hospital where Laurie is to kill her.

At the hospital, Michael has already begun pilling up the bodies in his search for his sister. Loomis turns up just in time to save Laurie as everything ends with a bang finally putting an end to Michael’s murderous ways.

My View

John Carpenter himself has said that he didn’t want to make any sequel to the film as this interview with Deadline points out.

I didn’t think there was any more story, and I didn’t want to do it again. All of my ideas were for the first Halloween, there shouldn’t have been any more! However, I couldn’t stop them from making sequels. So my agents said, ‘Why don’t you become an executive producer and you can share the revenue?’ But I had to write the second movie, and every night I sat there and wrote with a six pack of beer trying to get through this thing. And I didn’t do a very good job, but that was it. I couldn’t do any more.

– John Carpenter

Carpenter has never made any secret about the fact that he really didn’t want to make this movie, that’s why he refused to return as director. But seeing as the studio were going to make the film with or without him, he thought he may as well write it and earn some cash regardless. The film is a bit of a mess and clearly hastily thrown together just to cash in on the massive success of the first film. It lacks the spark Carpenter brought to the table with the first film. Its not as atmospheric, not as scary, not as moody. Watch the two films back to back (as I just have) and you can really see a decline in the quality of direction. Where as the first film used atmosphere and suspense to great effect, this sequel negates all of that for a higher body count and more gory deaths. I don’t mean to rag on Rick Rosenthal but he’s clearly no John Carpenter. Oh and the wig they put on Jamie Lee Curtis (she cut her hair for another role) is terrible…

Halloween II Laurie

The plot is stupid, the characters are dull and the dialogue is terrible. Carpenter has admitted that he was drunk while writing this film and it shows too. Yet despite all of the troubles behind the scenes and the problems on screen, overall this is not a terrible film. Yeah its hokey, yeah its cheesy but for a sequel to a slasher film, its still watchable. Its nowhere near as good as the first film, not even close but its not a terrible sequel either. We’ll get plenty of those later.

I kind of like Halloween II. Its a stupid flick yeah, but its a good stupid flick.

“He was my patient for fifteen years. He became an obsession with me until I realized that there was nothing within him, neither conscious nor reason that was… even remotely human.”

– Dr. Loomis

Halloween III: Season of the Witch

Halloween III Title

So this is a major departure over the previous two films. Directed by Tommy Lee Wallace and released in 1982. Where as the first two films followed the story of Michael Myers, this sequel has nothing to do with him at all. Its a whole new story about Dr. Dan Challis (Tom Atkins) who turns detective when a patient is murdered on his ward while clutching a strange Halloween mask while ranting about people dying when he was admitted to the hospital.

The daughter of the victim, Ellie Grimbridge (Stacey Nelkin) joins Dan Challis in his investigation which leads them to a small town called Santa Mira where the Halloween mask originally came from. The masks are made by Silver Shamrock Novelties, a toy manufacturing company headed up by Conal Cochran (Dan O’Herlihy).

As Dan and Ellie dig deeper into their investigation, they soon learn that Silver Shamrock and Conal Cochran may not be as sweet and innocent as they first appear to be and a strange plot involving Stonehenge and the killing of children emerges.

My View

Okay so maybe a little backstory first. Halloween II was meant to be the end of Michael Myers, they killed him off, they killed him off good. But there was a problem, that problem was the fact that the Halloween name was a major draw to the box office, it made money and lots of it too. The studio wanted more Halloween films but they didn’t have Michael Myers anymore cos he dead. John Carpenter was approached and asked if he would return to the franchise, he declined so the studio offered him a fuck load of money. Carpenter agreed to come back as a producer but only if the film is not a direct sequel to the previous one. So the the idea came about to turn the Halloween films into an anthology thing with a new film every year, only the stories would be separate and that each subsequent film from this point on would be a new story and new characters. Halloween III: Season of the Witch was set to be the start of a whole new franchise concept… only that’s not how it all worked out.

Anyway of all the films that bear the Halloween name, this is my all time favourite. Yeah I just said that Halloween III: Season of the Witch is my favourite of the whole franchise. The film was slated when it was originally released and the fans hated it. No Michael Myers, no ticket sales and the film bombed. Due to the poor critical response and commercial failure the film ended up being, the idea to continue the whole anthology idea was scrapped and Michael Myers would be brought back for all future Halloween film form this point onward.

Halloween III Masks

As I said, I love this one and the reasons I do love it is for all the reasons most people hate it. Its not about Michael Myers and I applaud the film for that as I was bored of him anyway. The plot is a more than a little stupid if you stop and think about it… so don’t think about it. Its a stupid film, a very stupid film but its also thoroughly entertaining. I never felt bored watching this one as I have with the previous two in palaces. Its just a damn shame the general public only wanted more of the same and more Michael Myers as I’d loved to have seen what this franchise could have become if it did turn into an anthology series.

There are some genuinely terrifying scenes in this one coupled with some stunning effects work. I mean, the scene with that woman at the motel messing around with the microchip found in the badge on the mask, or the bit where the kid wears the mask and Conal Cochran reveals his nefarious (and asinine) plan –  pretty shocking stuff. Dan O’Herlihy as the main antagonist is brilliant, he’s charming but slimy, warm but twisted all at the same time. Tom Atkins playing the lead role hold the film together nicely and he has an awesome moustache too. The film has an eerie and unnerving feel about it especially when we get to Santa Mira and the Silver Shamrock factory. As I said, the plot is silly, but its a good silly and a bloody entertaining film from start to finish.

Halloween III TV Mask

There’s also an interesting social commentary in regards to consumerism running through the film, but people don’t want subtle and clever satire, they just want to see Michael Myers slowly walking after stupid teenagers cos that’s much more interesting…

Its a damn shame this picture flopped as it did because the idea of expanding the franchise into an anthology series was great. Each year a new Halloween film with a new story? The idea was limitless, but people just wanted to see the same thing over and over instead. People are stupid. Halloween III: Season of the Witch is dark, moody, atmospheric and had some great scares in it too. Just judge it on the film it is and not the film Michael Myers fans wanted it to be. Oh and also be on the look out for a few Halloween cameos too inducing, Nancy Loomis who played Annie, Laurie’s friend in the first film, Jamie Lee Curtis has a voice cameo and yes even Michael Myers himself appears.

“Halloween… the festival of Samhain! The last great one took place three thousand years ago, when the hills ran red with the blood of animals and children.”

– Conal Cochran

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers

Halloween 4 The Return of Michael Myers Title

Directed by Dwight H. Little in 1988. This one sees the return of Michael Myers (now there’s a title) after the box office bomb that was the previous flick. So Michael has been in a coma for a decade (which makes no sense) following the events of Halloween II. As he is being taken to his old haunt of Smith’s Grove Sanitarium, he wakes up. The now conscious Michael overhears that his sister, Laurie was killed in a car accident but had a daughter, Jamie Lloyd (Danielle Harris). Michael Myers now has a new target and heads back to Haddonfield in search of his niece.

When Dr. Loomis, who also survived the explosion from Halloween II (also doesn’t make sense) learns Michael has woken and gone to Haddonfield, he quickly follows. Jamie is living with foster family. The elder daughter of the family is left to babysit Jamie and that is when Michael turns up with Dr. Loomis not far behind him.

My View

You know, just writing that synopsis up there just made me realise how pointless do so it is from this point on. See, pretty much all the Halloween films from now forward all follow the same basic plot. Everyone thinks Michael Myers is dead, turns out he’s not. Michael goes out looking for victims and Dr. Loomis follows. There you go, that’s pretty much all the films covered from this point onward.

This is not a good film and it still annoys me they dropped the anthology idea for this crap. Its just bland, predictable and lifeless. The only real saving grace is Donald Pleasence returning as Dr. Loomis. In fact he’s the only reason to watch any of the films in the franchise he was in from this point. Pleasence is just too damn good for a film this poor. They even almost tempted John Carpenter to return with this film. He was originally on board to write and direct. In fact Carpenter wrote a treatment to be turned into a script. His idea centered around a more psychological concept based on the idea of what effects the events of the first two films had on the residents of Haddonfield. It sounded pretty interesting and would’ve been a more cerebral flick. But the idea was rejected in favour of a standard slasher movie and so John Carpenter sold the rights to the franchise and walked from the project. This is the first film in the franchise that didn’t involve Carpenter in some way after serving as writer, director and producer from the first film to the third and it shows. You know things are bad when they mess up the iconic mask…

Halloween 4 The Return of Michael Myers Michael Mask

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers is a lazy and poor imitation of the first film and follows many of the exact same beats. Michael escapes and steals a mechanic’s overalls, Dr. Loomis spends a lot of time with the sheriff, the daughter of the sheriff is one of Michael’s victims, Michael kills and eats a dog, there’s a bullying subplot, etc. Honestly, this is a remake of the original with many of the same scenes repeated beat for beat. It even copies some of the dialogue directly form the original film too. And they dropped John Carpenter’s original more clever idea for this?

I read this film took eleven days to write and seeing as its a blatant rip-off of the first one, that seems like about ten days too many. Just watch the first film, its like this one only far, far better and the ending is not as stupid either.

“We’re not talking about any ordinary prisoner, Hoffman! We are talking about evil on two legs.”

– Dr. Loomis

Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers

Halloween 5 The Revenge of Michael Myers Title

Yes he’s back (again). Released in 1989 and directed by Dominique Othenin-Girard. Not only is Michael Myers back but so are Donald Pleasence and Danielle Harris reprising their respective roles from the previous film. This one picks up a year after the events of the last one. So this time, Michael falls into a coma (again) after the ending of the last film. He is found by a hermit and nursed back to health. After killing the hermit, Michael returns to Haddonfield to kill his niece Jamie (again), who has been committed to a children’s hospital.

Of course Dr. Loomis turns up (again) to try and stop Michael Myers (again). Some strange man in back keeps popping up. There’s some telepathic link crap thrown in between Michael and Jamie because everybody knows that uncles and nieces are telepathically linked right? So Jamie begins to have visions of Michael and his murders and Loomis uses this link to lure Michael to his demise… of being locked up in prison. Yes Michael Myers is arrested in the film.

My View

Well at least this works as direct sequel to the previous film and doesn’t just rip-off the original… though it also retcons a few things along the way. If I was asked to choose the worst film out of this one and Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, that would be next to impossible as they’re both equally shit. Both badly written, both unoriginal, both boring. Yeah Donald Pleasence is on top form again and the only real reason to watch the film too.

Its not scary, its not tense. Its a typical 80s slasher flick with very little effort put into it. The ending is stupid, Michael Myers arrested? Yeah cos after being shot multiple times, blown up, dropped down a mine shaft not to mention all the other damage he has received over the course of the films, I’m sure a pair of handcuffs will stop him. Also, why is is allowed to keep his mask while locked away?

Halloween 5 The Revenge of Michael Myers Title Michael

It bad, its really bad. But you’d better get used to that because the age of good Halloween films is long over and things are not likely to improve soon either. Also, why is it called The Revenge of Michael Myers? What revenge, he’s the bad guy, he’s the one going around killing innocent babysitters. Is he getting revenge on Jamie because she’s done nothing wrong other than be his niece? I don’t know.

“I prayed that he would burn in Hell, but in my heart I knew that Hell would not have him.”

– Dr. Loomis

Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers

Halloween The Curse of Michael Myers

This one took a while to come out as the last film damaged the franchise so much, it was left dormant for six years until 1995 when Michael Myers was finally brought back. Directed by Joe Chappelle, this film marks the final film appearance of Donald Pleasence before his death in 1995. The niece of Michael Myers, Jamie Lloyd (J. C. Brandy) is now grown up and gives birth to her first child. She is held captive by a strange cult known as Thorn and her child is taken away by the mysterious man in back from the previous flick who is the leader of the cult.

They do some kind of ritual to the baby before a nurse grabs it, gives it back to Jamie  and helps them escape the cult. As Jamie and baby escape, Michael turns up and kills the nurse. Jamie runs for her life only she is chased by uncle Michael. She does get away and calls a radio station to warn them that Michael Myers is back but they don’t believe her. The now retired Dr. Loomis hears Jamie’s call to the radio station and quickly heads to Haddonfield. Michael eventually tracks down Jamie and kills her, only to discover the baby is gone.

Meanwhile in Haddonfield, Tommy Doyle (Paul Rudd) who was the little boy being babysat by Laurie in the first film, finds Jamie’s baby and take it into his care can calls him Steven. Tommy meets up with Dr. Loomis and they team up to take care of Michael  once and for all while trying to save baby Steven.

My View

Okay so this is just a complete mess of a film. My synopsis my seem a little all over the place, but that is only because that film is all over the place. The story is bat-shit insane and the editing is horrendous with all these quick jump cuts and flashing images making scenes extremely hard to watch. Honestly, watching this film gave me a headache. I don’t really know what is going on. The story is nonsensical, I think Michael Myers is part of this Thorn cult and he’s the father of his won niece’s baby… or something. I have no idea what the aim or point of the Thorn cult is, they just do bad things as far as I can tell. Nor do I know why Michael is part of it, he just is.

Halloween The Curse of Michael Myers Loomis.jpg

You know, people have said that Rob Zombie ruined the Halloween franchise with his remake (I’ll get to that later). No, no he didn’t. The franchise has been ruined from Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers and this film is just another twist of the knife. I have problems with the last two films – they’re not very good… but at the very least they were semi-competent films. This, this picture is a car crash of terrible story, awful acting and vomit enduing editing.

Of course it goes without saying that Donald Pleasence is once more the only saving grace of the film and its a sad note that this was his final film as he died before it was released. But there is a kick in the balls to the whole Donald Pleasence thing. See he originally had a bigger role in the movie, only the studio decided to cut him out of most of it. How about that for paying respects to a recently deceased legendary actor? But I’ll get onto all of that next…

Honestly, I given the legend that is Donald Pleasence much more respect in this article by using his character’s quotes from the previous films than this film does in its entirety.

“I knew what he was, but I never knew why.”

– Dr. Loomis

Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers: The Producer’s Cut

Halloween The Curse of Michael Myers The Producers Cut

Okay so I don’t think I really need to do a synopsis of this one as its the same film, only a different cut. Yes there are some changes between the theatrical cut and this version and I’ll cover those in my view. But by and large, the plot is pretty much the same between both films.

So lets crack on with the story of the butchering of Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers.

My View

The story goes that this version of the film was tested for an audience and they hated it. So the film was cut, re-edited as well as having to go through some re-shoots. The final result was the complete mess that is Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers. But do you happen to know why they audience hated this cut of the film? Because the test audience was full of 14 year olds and of course 14 year olds know all about making a good film right? So yeah, the studio fucked up the film because some spotty teenagers didn’t like it.

Well I’m more than happy to say that this cut of the film is better then the released theatrical cut, but to be honest its still got a good film – just a better one. As I said, the plot is still pretty much the same but I’ll take a look at a few of the differences here.

I guess the first difference should be the title, see the film was originally called Halloween 6: The Origin of Michael Myers as this teaser trailer shows.

The biggest differences worth noting are the fact that Jamie doesn’t die… well at least not in the same way as as in the theatrical cut. Her death comes later in this cut and you know what? I actually makes sense within the plot. There’s more detail on the whole Thorn cult and explains what they are. Then editing is much better and gone are all the jump cuts and flashing images, it now looks like a film.

The opening narration in the theatrical cut was provided by Paul Rudd’s Tommy Doyle character, even though he had not been introduced to the film yet. In this version, its Dr. Loomis covering the backstory – which make so much more sense. The overall style and atmosphere of the film is also much better and there’s actually some pretty tense scenes.

As for Donald Pleasence? He has a hell of a lot more screen time, more scenes and more dialogue that fills in backstory and even covers plot holes that exist in the theatrical cut due to his part being edited down. Then there’s the ending. The theatrical cut’s ending make no sense. Dr. Loomis says he has business to take care of and the film then cuts to Michael Myers’ mask with Loomis screaming in the background. The ending here actually wraps things up and resolves the whole Thorn cult thing too. Its still not a great ending, but it makes coherent sense at least.

Halloween The Curse of Michael Myers The Producer's Cut Loomis.jpg

The film just has better pacing despite it being longer than the other version. There’s more story, more suspense and more atmosphere. In every way, this cut is far, far superior and why the studio decided to cut the shit out of it I do not know. As I said, I can’t say that this is a good film but it most definitely is better. If you really want to watch Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers then get hold of the producers cut. You’ll thank me for it later.

This is a fitting tribute to Donald Pleasence and shows respect to a masterful actor who dedicated seventeen years of his life playing the character of Dr. Loomis. A man who died before his final film was released and had his part massively cut in the theatrical version and was disrespected for all he had done. This film is bad, but at least you can watch Donald Pleasence acting and acting well.

“I feel great! I had surgery, plastic surgery. Skin grafts. It cost a fortune, but at least I don’t frighten people anymore.”

– Dr. Loomis

Halloween The Curse of Michael Myers The Producers Cut Michael


 

I think I’ll split this one up into two parts and seeing as the next film marks an anniversary, this seems like a good place to take a break. See you in Part II.

Bohemian Rhapsody: Is This The Real Life, Is This Just Fantasy?

So I watched the Freddie Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody a couple of days back. I wrote this one not long after watching the film but didn’t publish it until now as I didn’t want to break my Red Dead Redemption II saga of articles (they’ve been going on for six weeks or so). But now that damn long awaited cowboy game is released, I can resume (almost) normal service.

So I’m a huge and long time Queen fan. I grew up with their music and when Freddie died back in 1991, the world music lost one of its greatest. There can never, nor will there ever be anyone quite like Freddie Mercury. He was so unique that the word “unique” doesn’t do him justice. He was able to do things with his voice that no one else on the planet could manage and that’s not just personal opinion from a fan, its now scientific fact. But before I get into my feelings about the film, a quick history lesson of how this film came to be.

The History

This film has had a long and troubled production with it being originally announced in 2010. Back then, Sacha Baron Cohen was signed up to play Freddie. But Baron Cohen left the project in 2013 due to “creative differences”. Partly due to the fact he felt that the producers and remaining members of Queen wanted to make a family friendly picture while Baron Cohen wanted to make a more adult look at Freddie going deeper into his sexuality and lifestyle, a more honest biopic of you will. A more recent story has come out suggesting that Baron Cohen wasn’t taking the film seriously.

Bohemian Rhapsody Movie Sacha Baron Cohen

Then in 2013 Ben Whishaw was being tipped to play Freddie while Dexter Fletcher would be in the director’s chair. Both Whishaw and Fletcher left the project by 2014 with both of them citing “creative differences” (the go to excuse for leaving a film project). In 2015 it was suggested that Sacha Baron Cohen could be back as Freddie but that was proven to be false information. For a while, the film was stuck in development hell with numerous writers, directors and actors all hitting the rumor mill over the next few months.

In 2015 the film was confirmed to be back on track and a title was revealed for the first time – Bohemian Rhapsody. All new scripts had been written with Brain May and Roger Taylor attached as consultants and producers. Then in 2016 film was suddenly a-go when Rami Malek was announced to star as Freddie Mercury. Pre-production on the film began in early 2017 and filming started on September 2017 with Bryan Singer as director. Things were going well until filming ground to a halt when Singer stopped showing up to film. Exactly why this is open to speculation, one source says Bryan Singer left the film due to an illness in his family but another suggests that Singer’s poor behaviour on set got him removed from the film. Either way, the production lost it’s director with around two or three weeks still left of filming to do. So re-enter Dexter Fletcher to finish the film who was originally attached to the project back in 2013.

Bohemian Rhapsody Movie Rami Malek.jpg

Now with the film having two directors, that caused a problem as rules state only one director can be given credit. It was announced earlier this year that despite his leaving/firing that Bryan Singer would still be credited as director as he did shoot most of the film before Dexter Fletcher stepped in to finish it up.

So then finally after eight years in film development hell, the movie was released on the 24th of October here in the U.K. while our American cousins will have to wait until the 2nd of November. And I was there opening day wearing my Freddie Mercury shirt, with my mom to see this long troubled film. But was it worth it? A quick synopsis before I offer my view…

Queen Shirt

The Film

It opens up with Freddie (Rami Malek) preening himself, trimming his moustache just before heading out on stage for the famous Live Aid gig from 1985. It then jumps back to the early 70s with a teenage Freddie working at Heathrow Airport as a baggage handler where he puts up with racial abuse for being a “pakki”. Young Freddie dreams of bigger things and while at a bar enjoying a pint, he listens to the student band on stage, a band called Smile. With Brain May (Gwilym Lee) and Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy) as the lead guitarist and drummer respectively. When the lead singer leaves the band to join Humpy Bong (a folk band founded by former Bee Gees drummer Colin Petersen) Freddie steps in to offer his vocal talent, this is when he first meets Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton).

Bohemian Rhapsody Movie Freddie And Mary

The band then hire bassist John Deacon (Joseph Mazzello) and change their name to Queen. They record their first album for EMI and perform their first live gig as Queen. Freddie and Mary grow closer and become lovers as the band also grow from student gigs to tours. Queen begin become a little tired of performing the same type of music over and over so begin to experiment and from that experimentation comes their most famous song, Bohemian Rhapsody. EMI executive Ray Foster (Mike Myers) hates the song and refuses to allow Queen to release it. So the band walk out and take the song elsewhere getting it played by Kenny Everett (Dickie Beau) on his radio show. The song is a smash hit and Queen become huge.

Bohemian Rhapsody Movie Recording.jpg

While out on tour in Rio Freddie begins to show an interest in men and when he returns home he confesses to his then girlfriend that he is bisexual. The pair split but remain very close friends. As Queen begin to rise in the world of music, Freddie’s life begins to unravel. Keeping his sexuality from the press despite continual intrusion. Freddie begins to find comfort in drink, drugs and sex with anyone who shows him even the slightest bit of interest. Cracks begin to show in the band as Freddie grows increasingly out of control and he keeps turning up late for recording sessions often drunk, high or both after a heavy night of partying. Eventually, Freddie feels stifled by Queen and decides to go it alone by signing a solo contract behind the back of the other members at the suggestion of his manager. Queen (unofficially) split and go their separate ways.

Freddie moves to Germany to work on his solo music. After a visit from Mary who gives him a few home truths, Freddie returns home after sacking his backstabbing manager and meets up with the other members of Queen to ask them to reform so they can do the Live Aid gig as a way to say goodbye properly. They agree and the film ends with an amazing recreation of (almost) the entire Queen set from Live Aid 1985 and they cement themselves into rock music history.

Bohemian Rhapsody Movie Poster Freddie.jpg

My View

I’m a huge Queen fan so obviously there is going to be a little bias in my view. The film is utterly brilliant. Now its not perfect and hardcore Queen fans (like me) will spot several flaws especially if you have seen as many Queen documentaries and interviews as I have. This is a biopic and like other biopics certain aspects are exaggerated, changed and twisted to make the film more entertaining. What I’m trying to say is that not everything in this film is 100% factual. But creative licence has to be expected with these kinds of movies, they are not documentaries, they are films. I’m not going to concentrate on the half truths in the film but will highlight a few issues.

Bohemian Rhapsody Movie Poster Freddie and Brian.jpg

First, the film is rated 12A here in the U.K. and if you know anything about the life of Freddie Mercury then you’d know aspects would’ve had to have been diluted to fit that 12A rating… and diluted the film is. Things like the drug usage is not explicitly shown and only hinted at, Freddie’s bisexuality is lightly shown with a couple of gay kisses and that’s about it. But I didn’t go the film to watch gay sex, I went to watch a film about Freddie’s life and that is what I got. There is a scene where Freddie throws one of his infamous lavish parties and even that is watered down from reality. The real parties are legendary in the world of music with Freddie having naked dwarfs (sorry, little people) with trays of cocaine on their head for the guests, performers biting the heads off live chickens, rampant sex and so much more. The party scene in the film shows none of this though and is not as wild as the real things were. Freddie led such an overtly hedonistic lifestyle that even the Roman Emperor Caligula would have suggested that Freddie tone it down a bit. Plus the film shows Brian May not enjoying the party when in reality, he was one of the people who would suggest them and enjoyed himself as much as Freddie.

Second, I didn’t like when the film ended. Note I didn’t say “how” it ended but “when”. To be honest, the recreation of the Live Aid set is stunning, those last ten minutes or so of the flick that show an abridged version of Queen’s now legendary performance is jaw dropping. But there is so much more to the story of Queen after Live Aid that is not shown in the film. Live Aid was their turning point, they had all but broken up and were thought of as a washed up band (especially in America) with nothing left. After that gig, Queen went on to become world dominating and there is so much more story to be told about their music. Plus there is the relationship between Freddie and his lover Jim Hutton to explore which is only lightly touched on in the film, his continual relationship with Mary Austin to the point where Freddie became godfather to her son. And of course there is the death of the man himself and how he kept recording despite the fact he was in so much pain and discomfort right to the very end. There really is so much more story to be told about Freddie/Queen and this really feels like only half a film. Its a fantastic half a film, but still only half of the story. I’ve seen a tone of these biopics and always felt satisfied at the end but this film left a bit of a gap and needs a sequel, there must be a Bohemian Rhapsody 2. Just having a bit of text at the end of the film pointing out Freddie died of bronchial pneumonia resulting from AIDS didn’t really cut it for me.

Bohemian Rhapsody Movie Live Aid

That’s about it for the negatives really. On to the positives.

The cast have to be addressed here. Of course Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury is amazing. He has the voice, the mannerisms and everything. There are times during the Live Aid finale when a few long shots are shown and I’m not sure of it was Rami or Freddie himself using actual Live Aid footage. In fact, I’m pretty sure I spotted a cheeky cameo from the real Freddie during one shot. The strutting on stage the arm waving/air punching, Rami has it all nailed. I said earlier how there can never, nor will there ever be anyone quite like Freddie Mercury and I stand by that – but Rami Malek is pretty bloody close. I’d like to see a side by side comparison between the actual Live Aid footage and the end scene in this film to see just how close it all was. Everyone is talking about Rami Malek’s performance and rightly so to as its (almost) flawless, but I think he’s already getting enough praise. He deserves every ounce of it too and any recognition or awards he may get along the way. But there are other equally as great performances too.

Bohemian Rhapsody Movie Brian May.jpg

The other three band members of Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon played by Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy and Joseph Mazzello respectively are all brilliant. Four great actors coming together to reunite four of the best musicians in music. After Rami Malek, Gwilym Lee’s Brian May was the stand out performance for me though. Brian in the film is just as spot on as Freddie is and I just feel that Rami Malek (as deserving as he is) will overshadow the other actors here. Gwilym Lee deserves just as much praise. Then there is Lucy Boynton as Mary Austin, Freddie’s former girlfriend and long time friend. Yet another strong performance that I feel will be overlooked. You really feel her pain as she loses her boyfriend but refuses to give up on him at the same time.

But my absolute favorite bit of casting? Its really just a glorified cameo from Mike Myers as Ray Foster the EMI records executive who turns down the Bohemian Rhapsody record after listening to it. Now I can’t remember the exact quote, but after hearing the record he says something along the lines of, “Teenagers won’t be banging their heads to this”. Seeing as it was Mike Myers who introduced Bohemian Rhapsody to a new legion of fans with his movie Wanye’s World in 1992 and helped get the song to the top of the charts seventeen years after its original release, its a great in-joke…

As a quick aside. Freddie actually got to see the above scene before he died in 1991 as the film was completed before his passing and released a few months following his death. Brain May has said that Freddie loved the scene and gave Mike Myers his blessing to use the song too. So Mike Myers being the guy to turn the song down its a fitting tribute as well as an ironic joke.

I’m sorry but I must break out an overused cliché here. The film is a roller-coaster of emotions. There are funny and light hearted moments that will leave you with a smile on your face. Such as the band discussing the merits of the Roger Taylor penned “joke” song I’m in Love with My Car or Freddie continually telling Roger to go higher and higher on the “Galileo!” when recording Bohemian Rhapsody. Then you’ll have tears in your eyes during the more heavier scenes. Two such scenes that spring to mind are the one where Freddie finally comes out as bisexual to Mary while the song Love of My Life plays in the background, a song Freddie wrote specifically for Mary. The scene features some sterling acting from both Rami Malek and Lucy Boynton. Then later, toward the end of the film another scene has Freddie attend a hospital where he is told he has AIDS. Such a powerful scene with very little dialogue (I think there’s only one line) but the powerful and emotive Who Wants To Live Forever plays in the background. Honestly, I was welling up.

Yeah of course it goes without saying that the film’s soundtrack is sublime… but I’m going to say it anyway. Its Queen, of course its a brilliant soundtrack. It was great to hear some of the very early stuff such as Keep Yourself Alive, one of my favourite early Queen songs that doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. Seeing how some songs were slowly created and evolved such as Brian May slowly building We Will Rock You with the iconic foot stomps and claps was joyful.

Bohemian Rhapsody Movie We Will Rock You

As for the Live Aid finale. The hairs on the back of my neck were standing up. I have very strong memories of watching Live Aid live back in 85. Both myself and my mom sat there staring at the T.V. in awe while Queen did their thing. I think I was only about 8 or 9 at the time but that twenty odd minutes watching Queen at Wembley Stadium left a lasting impression on me. Then there I was, a now 42 year old man sitting in the cinema with my mom next to me reliving that same experience 33 years later. Honestly, one of the best moments I have witnessed on the big screen. Then as Queen were in the midst of belting out Radio Ga Ga, mom leaned over to me and simply said “it has to be done.” and I knew exactly what she meant, so up went the arms and we both clapped along to the chorus. So there were me and mom doing the Radio Ga Ga bit and as I looked around, other people in the cinema joined in. It was almost like being there live, a genuinely amazing experience. The seats in the cinema gently rocked back and forth as people tapped/stomped their feet and clapped along. A special thanks to my mom for reliving a childhood memory with me.

The re-enactment of Live Aid at the end of this film is stunning and clearly done with passion, worth the price of the ticket alone.

Bohemian Rhapsody Movie Radio Ga Ga.jpg

If you’re a Queen fan, of course you are going to watch the film and you’ll enjoy it too. Just remember that it is a biopic and some elements have been altered to make the film more interesting. Its not a factual documentary but its still telling the story of the greatest front-man ever and one of the greatest rock bands to ever grace a stage. So then, is This The Real Life, Is This Just Fantasy? It’s a bit of both really, but more real life than fantasy. If you’re not a Queen fan, I still suggest checking the film out. Its funny, its emotional and above all, it rocks! You never know, you might just end up becoming a fan of Queen yourself.

A cracking film with laughs, tears, awesome music and some truly amazing performances from the entire cast. It Will Rock You!

Bohemian Rhapsody Movie Live Aid Crowd

We just need a sequel to finish the story up.

“I pity your wife if you think six minutes is forever.”

– Freddie Mercury

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

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.

No Retreat No Surrender.jpg

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.

JCVD.jpg

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.

Ready 2 Rumble 2.jpg

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!