So far, I’ve looked back at my favorite blockbuster and newer horror viewing experiences of the year, so now it’s time to talk about action flicks! In 2017, I discovered some underrated movies in this department, saw some way more well-known ones, dipped into a few new genres and even marathoned the films of a particular 80s and 90s action icon!
I’ve been a fan of Scott Adkins’ action flicks since I first saw Assassination Games back in 2012. The next year I was blown away by Universal Soldier: Day Of Reckoning, which is still one of the best action films I’ve ever seen. With that in mind, I’m pretty much watching every one of his movies that pop up on Netflix or Amazon Prime. As it happens, the Flix has a nice pair in Close Range and Hard Target 2!
I could have sworn that I’d seen Bloodsport before, but actually sitting down and watching the movie on Netflix felt like a new experience, so who knows? This movie, which was said to be based on a true story that turned out to be BS, is about a guy named Frank Dux (Jean-Claude Van Damme) who traveled to Hong Kong to compete in a secret underground fighting tournament called the Kumite. He’s there to honor his teacher, a man who started training him after he broke into his house as a kid (who was NOT a good actor BTW). Along the way, he makes friends with another competitor, Ray Jackson (Donald Gibb) and gets with reporter Janice Kent (Leah Ayres) who wants to find out what this whole Kumite thing is all about. There’s also the requisite, over-the-top bad guy champ Chong Li (Bolo Yeung) who is basically Roger Rabbit with giant pecs and the ability to destroy dudes in the ring. Oh, there’s also a subplot about Frank ditching the US military so he can compete which results in two agents — one of which is Forrest Whitaker! — pointlessly chasing after him.
I can’t really say that this is a great movie, but it has good parts. The pacing and structure are super weird. The movie, directed by Newt Arnold, starts with a multi-person training montage that visually introduces many of the competitors and their fightingh styles before shifting over Frank breaking away from wherever he’s stationed (his bosses don’t want him to get killed, thus making the government’s investment in his training pointless) and then a prolonged flashback of him as a kid, his teacher and then him training as an adult as well. It takes FOREVER. And then he’s traveling and meeting Ogre from Revenge Of The Nerds and the pretty reporter lady and his mulleted guide.
Eventually we actually get to the fights and they’re pretty cool, but by this point I’m a little tired and these fights don’t hold up to the ones you see today. Hell, Arrow has faster, more intense scenes in many cases. I can contextualize all that given that this is still a pretty early example of a western fight film, so it went through so many of the conventions we’re used to (many of which are also in Kickboxer which I watched last week and will write about soon).
Bloodsport does greatly benefit from Bolo Yeung’s presence. This dude fought Bruce Lee in Enter The Dragon and certainly has the chops, which is rad, but he also gives better crazy face and infant-like ring dance moves than anyone I’ve ever seen. His pecs are also insane. You could serve dinner off of them. Speaking of the cast, I really enjoyed Gibb as well, which is surprising considering I have a longstanding dislike of him from his Revenge Of The Nerd days (though he did win me over with his turn in the sequel). Even JCVD is pretty entertaining. He’s wooden at times, which is to be expected, but these were the days when he was actually super expressive and had softer features even than he had in movies like Hard Target or The Quest. In other words, dude might not act like a movie star, but he sure looked like one.
In addition to the fights, there are some interesting moments that made me smile. Frank makes strong bonds with relative strangers VERY quickly. He’s besties with Ray after playing a karate video game and falls hard in love with Janice almost immediately and would face a crazed killer for them in a heartbeat. He also gets into some ridiculous antics with the officers, like leading them on a wild goose chase through the city that looks like something out of a cheesy 80s comedy (and trust me, I’ve seen plenty of them). Still, if you can forgive the slow-ish-by-today’s-standards action scenes and some of the cornier elements, it’s a pretty fun martial arts movie from the 80s that helped launch JCVD’s career. Here are some of my favorite moments from the film.
As is the case with Kickboxer, there’s also a remake in the works, which is a pretty good call. We don’t have enough martial arts tournament films these days and the advancements in film making will allow for faster moves to be captured more fluidly. Here’s hoping, though, that they carry over some of the bonkers nature of this final fight into the new one!
The biggest new release in our arena is the disaster comedy This Is The End which finds hyper-real versions of Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride, James Franco and Jonah Hill surviving the apocalypse.
John Cusack has been kind of slowly turning into Nicholas Cage over the past few years (see: The Raven), so it only makes sense that they’d appear in a movie together. In the thriller The Frozen Ground, Cusack’s a serial killer and Cage is trying to stop him. What more do you need to know?
Jean-Claude Van Damme fans will be happy to discover that two of his films are making their way to Blu-ray on the same set. Thanks to the Jean-Claude Van Damme Double Feature: The Order / Nowhere to Run you can watch both movies back to back without getting up from the couch.
We here at Explosions Are Rad hadn’t heard of the Chinese crime thriller Cold War before seeing it on Amazon this morning. But after seeing the trailer above, it’s certainly one we’re going to check out.
A pair of very different director’s cuts made their debut this week. Troy Duffy’s cut of The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day and Luc Besson’s The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec [Director’s Cut] now offer their more complete visions for their films.
1997 was a big year for fire-coming-out-of-the-ground movies. You had your Dante’s Peak and your Volcano. Whose side were you on? Well, either way, the Tommy Lee Jones starring Volcano is now available on Blu-ray.
We’ve only seen a handful of episodes of the current Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles show on Nickelodoen, but it’s pretty darn cool. We’re thinking of catching up more with the latest DVD release Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Ultimate Showdown.
If you’re looking to relive Tom Selleck’s 80s hey day all in one convenient box set then Magnum P.I.: The Complete Series might be right up your alley. The series lasted from 1980-1988 and consists of 42 discs.
Finally, Phineas and Ferb: Mission Marvel was pretty hilarious and you should watch it.
The biggest release of the week by far is Louis Letterier’s Now You See Me, the magic-themed heist flick starring Morgan Freeman, Common, Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Isla Fisher, Michael Caine, Woody Harrelson and Dave Franco.
How is it possible that a movie featuring Dwayne Johnson, Liam Hemsworth and Emma Roberts didn’t get a wide theatrical release as was the case with Empire State? Maybe it’s because, cool as the movie looks, Johnson just doesn’t fit in with the 70s period piece aesthetic of the film.
TV-wise, Person of Interest: Season Two, Revolution: The Complete First Season, Spartacus: War of the Damned – The Complete Third Season, Da Vinci’s Demons: The Complete First Season and Sinbad: Season One are all available now.
WB has a 20th Anniversary The Fugitive Blu-ray to check out, but there aren’t any special features listed.
We haven’t seen Mulan: Rise of a Warrior, but seeing this movie for sale on Amazon lead us to the above trailer and now it’s definitely on our to-watch list.
Hey, Jean-Claude Van Damme fans both Hard Target and Sudden Death now have fancy new Blu-ray versions. Note that both of these are all regions import discs that come with zero special features, so they might not actually be very fancy.
You guys like multi-packs? We here at Explosions Are Rad LOVE them. As you might expect we’re all over 4 Film Favorites: The Matrix Collection (BD) [Blu-ray] (basically the same thing as the DVD version that’s been out for a while) and the Dusk Till Dawn Blu-Ray/DVD Combo pack which features the three movies as well as Full Tilt Boogie, a documentary shot during filming of Robert Rodriguez’s initial film.
We’re also interested in multipacks with less well known films like Echo Bridge’s 8-Film Fast Action [Blu-ray] which includes People I Know, Ordinary Decent Criminal, Malevolent, Albino Alligator, David Cronenberg’s Existenz, B. Monkey, Dolph Lundgren’s Men Of War and Sean Bean’s Bravo Two Zero.
Finally, if you just can’t get enough Sharknado on Syfy, you can now buy your own copy for repeated watching.
Variety reported yesterday that Relativity’s looking to bring 1988’s Bloodsport back to the big screen, this time with V For Vendetta director James McTeigue at the helm. The new version, which was written by Robert Mark Kamen (Taken, The Transporter), is said to “explore the life of 21st century mercenaries as they collide with the underground world of Brazilian Vale Tudo fighting.”
With McTeigue on board, the remake — which previously had Salt‘s Philp Noyce in the director’s chair — he’s going to work closely with Craig Rosenberg (After The Sunset) on a rewrite more in line with his vision. No casting announcements have been announced yet.
Meanwhile, Deadline posted a story that same day about Radar Pictures’ interest in revisiting the world of 1989’s Kickboxer. Hong Kong director Stephen Fung (Gen X Cops, Tai Chi Zero) has signed on to direct the project which is being written by Jim McGrath and Dimitri Logothetis.
Casting is currently underway. The original Kickboxer found Van Damme learning Muay Tai to avenge his brother. It’s currently unknown whether that same fighting style will be the focus of the remake or not, butere’s hoping Tony Jaa’s somewhere in the running!