Dolph Double Feature: Dark Angel (1990) & The Punisher (1989)

dark angel scream factory Over the past few years, I’ve had a lot of fun diving into the action movies of the 80s and 90s focusing on stars like Sylvester Stallone, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren. As it turns out, Lundgren and his films have turned out to be a lot more impressive than I would have imagined. Not only does it turn out that he’s a brilliant man, but what I’ve learned about his life has been pretty fascinating. He also makes really fun movies with lots of kicking and explosions.

One such movie is Dark Angel (a.k.a. I Come In Peace) which I’d never seen and only started hearing about in the last two or three years. Shout Factory recently released the film on Blu-ray and a buddy of mine sent me a copy. I jumped at the chance to start watching the week before last, but fell asleep and then found myself in a place without a Blu-ray player so I had to hold off on finishing until last night. But, I will say the movie about alien drug dealers running afoul of Lundgren’s Detective Jack Caine and his new partner Special Agent Smith (Brian Benben) was worth the wait. While investigating the murder of a police officer, Caine and Smith become more and more aware of the intergallactic threat which they fight in an abandoned warehouse, as you do.

The disc comes with a retrospective that scored Lungren, Benben and director Craig R. Baxley (Action Jackson) to talk about the movie. It was really interesting learning that Baxley was tight with stunt people, so he was able to really beef up the explosions and other action elements, all of which look great in Blu-ray. Lungren also points out an interesting aspect of the story that I didn’t think about, but it’s cool to see a sci-fi movie that’s on a relatively small scale. This isn’t an alien invasion movie with a few people fighting them off, which is what you tend to get. From story and explosions to actors and ideas, I dug Dark Angel and am glad to have it in my collection for repeated viewings.

The Punisher 1989 poster Moving from Dark Angel to The Punisher seemed like a pretty natural move for me. Not only did they come out a year after each other, but they both feature a bad ass Dolph sporting uncharacteristic dark hair! Plus, it helps that the latter has been in my DVD collection for years.

A lot of people complain about how bad comic book movies were for so long and, compared to the effort put in these days, it’s fairly accurate. But, I think The Punisher — directed by Mark Goldblatt (Dead Heat) — is an overlooked gem. Frank Castle is actually one of the easiest comic book characters to bring to film which makes him a good choice for a lower budget, street level movie concept. His wife and kids were killed so now he’s driven by the desire to kill all criminals. There’s no flying or lasers or superpowers, just lots of shooting, punching and explosions which were right up Lungren and company’s alley in the late 80s.

This movie finds Castle living in the sewers, befriending weird rhyming guys like Shake (Barry Otto) who give him information and avoiding cops on the hunt for him like Jake Berkowitz (Louis Gossett Jr.) and Sam Leary (Nancy Everhard, who was in Trial Of The Incredible Hulk that same year too!). Castle’s after a mobster named Gianni Franco (Jeroen Krabbé) who’s on the ropes after years of the Punisher taking out his men compounded with the recent appearance of Lady Tanaka (Kim Miyori) who’s trying to take over by kidnapping all the mobsters’ kids. To save the kids, Punisher teams up with Franco to get his boy back.

The film features several great fight scenes, but there are two particularly fun ones. Castle heads to Coney Island in an attempt to get the kids back and faces off a ton of gun-toting ninjas in an amusement park ride. How rad is that? The end of the movie also features Castle and Franco storming Lady Tanaka’s skyscraper, taking on all kinds of threats as they climb towards their adversary. For some reason, many of these scenes are tinged red, but I still really enjoy this high body count explosion of violence. This is one of the few comic book movies that also fits right in with that great 80s/90s action aesthetic and I love it.

Random Double Feature: Enemy Mine (1985) & Rising Son (2006)

I spend most of my days now sitting on my couch with my laptop in front of me and the TV on. I’m usually catching up on the crappy TV shows I missed throughout the week or watching movies I’ve decided to randomly watch. Today is one of those movie days as nothing was on TV this morning. I started off with the sci-fi flick Enemy Mine which I knew nothing about aside from the fact that Dennis Quaid was in it. I figured it would be a big crazy sci-fi movie on a fairly low budget. And it was, it just wasn’t anything like what I thought it would be in the specifics.

In the future, humans are trying to explore the galaxy, but they run into an alien race called Dracs. There’s fighting and all that. Quaid gets shipwrecked on a planet with a Drac and no one else. They start off as enemies, but eventually become friends and learn each others’ languages and culture. I’ll give a SPOILER WARNING now in case you don’t want things ruined for you. Eventually, the Drac (played by Louis Gossett Jr.) tells Quaid he’s with child (they spontaneously become pregnant, but carry their children like a mammal). After giving birth, the Drac dies and Quaid takes care of the little guy only for some scavengers to come, nearly kill him and take the baby Drac away to work in their mines. Once he gets better, Quaid goes and gets his adopted nephew back.

I give the writers and director Wolfgang Petersen tons of credit for going all over the place with this story. It could have been just a man vs. alien story or a man learning to get along with an alien story, but they got the extra few miles with the kid and the relationship and Quaid’s eventual revenge on the scavengers. There’s even a scene at the end with Quaid being honored by the Dracs on their homeworld. I like how, at the end of the movie, it’s not like everything between the two races has been solved and put aside just because two people got to know each other, but it does offer hope that maybe if he can tell his people about the Dracs, they can work something out. I also really liked the sets of the alien world. They didn’t go the Star Wars route and just choose one season/type of climate and just stick to that. It’s a very rich environment that’s fun to watch. Good stuff, highly recommended!

I’ve been on a mini-skateboard movie kick lately. Well, if a “kick” can be described as watching three movies on a subject in 8 months. Anyway, it started off with Lords of Dogtown and then I watched the documentary that was based on called Dogtown And Z-Boys, which I really should have posted about. And now, I just got done with Rising Son: The Legends Of Skateboarder Christian Hosoi, which focused on one skateboarded. Rising Son is the perfect compliment to Dogtown And Z-Boys because Hosoi started skating with those dudes when he was just a kid, but eventually he became one of the greatest skaters in the game only to fall from site thanks to a drug addiction and eventual time in jail. It even has a few of the original Z-Boys in the form of Tony Alva, Jay Adams and Shogo Kubo which was pretty rad. The doc also has some big time skaters like Tony Hawk, Bob Burnquist and a slew of others talking about how influential Hosoi was. Heck, even skateboarder-turned-actor Jason Lee and David Arquette are interviewed (though I think Arquette’s only on screen once). There’s even a contestant from Launch My Line, Louanna Rawls (Lou’s daughter), interviewed because she used to date Hosoi.

So, why is this dude such a big deal? Well, when he was coming up he just started doing all these sick tricks that no one else was doing and really brought skateboarding back into the mainstream after it died off with the Z-Boys crew a few years earlier. He had a swagger that made him a rock star and the talent to back it all up. To be honest, I had never heard of the dude, but then again, I don’t really know much about the history of skateboarding, just what I’ve been learning in these movies. I found the film really fascinating though and it does have something of a happy ending as Hosoi got out of jail, off drugs and is now going around talking to people about his experiences with drugs, skating and God.

One thing I’ve discovered after watching so many documentaries on Netflix is how freaking interesting life can be. On the surface, this story is just another story about a kid who made it big and then crashed, but the interest, along with the devil, is in the details. I think I’d like to try my hand at making a documentary about something, I just need to figure out what it is. Any thoughts?