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.

Ad It Up: Donkey Kong & Mario Handheld Games

nes handheld pun 15 1989Anyone remember these NES handheld games starring Mario, Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr.? I didn’t even know they existed until I saw this ad while reading Punisher #15 from 1989. I was mostly taken by the artwork on this ad which seems more stylized than a lot of other DK/Mario artwork I remember from being a kid around this time. Man, that Mario looks MAD.

Ad It Up: MASK

Here’s a look at some of the MASK toys I mentioned in my post about the new DVDs from Shout Factory yesterday. Of the toys seen above, I had Switchblade, Thunder Hawk and Gator. A neighbor-friend had the Boulder Hill Playset and I was very jealous. Still am. Gator came with a metal depth charge thing that fit in the back and you could launch out that looked like a tiny barrel or a shiny piece of gnocchi. My dog Rusty ate it for some reason, but she pooped it out and I got it back. I know, gross right? Scanned from the first issue of the 1985 Punisher miniseries.

The Loft, Fortress Of Nerditude Part 2

I figured it would be appropriate to post this second part of the four part epic Loft, Fortress Of Nerdery post because I’m actually in Michigan at the cottage as I type (the folks got WiFi here, but it’s pretty slow). This section of wall has the only other two posters I ever paid money for. The Tom Grummett Titans poster just caught my eye at a convention. I never read that book and didn’t know Grummett’s name at the time, but there was something epic about the poster so I bought it. Grummett would go on to become one of my favorite artists. The other poster I purchased was the Kingdom Come one. I completely fell in love with that comic. It felt like the first great book to come out while I was actively reading comics that I could lay claim to (unlike something like Dark Knight Returns or Watchmen, which you can only come into if you’re a younger comic fan).

The rest of the posters are the usual Wizard poster entries, free promo stuff I got from the comic shop and other random stuff (like the hologram Superman The Animated Series Spaghetti-Os label towards the bottom right hand corner. Other favorites in this picture include the mobster version of Punisher shooting at Ben Reilly Spider-Man, Burnout from Gen 13 playing his guitar, the ad for the Ultraverse/Marvel crossover called Phoenix Resurrection and the Amalgam poster. It’s not the coolest poster in the world, I just loved that whole thing.

I’ll get some more pictures of the loft this weekend to give you a better idea of the layout or maybe put the Flip camera to good use. I’m sure you’re just on the edge of your seats to see how it’s been turned into storage for my parents’ stuff.

Catching Up On Writing Links

Whew, between losing power for several days and catching up on my deadlines, I’ve been awful busy the last few days. So busy I’ve yet again not kept up on posting links to my work around the web.

First off, check out two of my Maxim TV columns. Here‘s last week’s which might be kind of pointless at this point unless you just can’t get enough of my whit, and here‘s this week’s which suggested you check out last night’s fantastic episode of Big Bang Theory.

Meanwhile, I’ve got a bunch of stories up on and more coming this week. I wrote about Sideshow’s life size Carnage bust and the modern Punisher vs. Daredevil statue. I also did a piece on Bowen’s upcoming statues and busts. If you dig this stuff, keep an eye out.

I also interviewed the delightful Kelly Sue DeConnick again, this time about her upcoming Sif one shot.

Lastly but not leastly, I’ve got two new pieces over on The Clik Blog. One’s about the best video game compilations and the other is about games based on sci-fi movies I want to see like Runaway and Surrogates.

Pop Culture Winter Olympics: Biathlon

The missus loves the Olympics like I love football, so this stuff will probably be on all day every day for the next two weeks. I’ve found that I like the winter games more than the summer because they’re so weird and incredibly dangerous. Everything involves blades or poles with spikes and when they don’t, hey, let’s throw some guns in. Right now we’re watching the biathlon which combines cross country skiing with target shooting (check out the Wiki page for a full list of the rules). Watching this got me thinking who from the world of comics, movies and TV might be good at these games, so here’s a list of who I’d put good money on coming in in the top four!

NAME: Frank “Punisher” Castle
COUNTRY: United States
If you need things shot, who better to have with his finger on the trigger than Punisher? He’s got accuracy and plenty of ammo for the sport, but I’m not so sure if he knows how to ski. I’m guessing he’d tackle that skill with relative ease, though.

NAME: Black Racer
COUNTRY: New Genesis
Punisher might have the edge when it comes to shooting, but no one can ski like the Black Racer. This New God’s job was to travel the cosmos and act as the grim reaper for New Gods, superheros and regular folks alike. He’d definitely win the speed portions, but I’m not sure how good he is with a gun. NAME: Harlan “Snow Job” Moore
COUNTRY: United States
Snow Job’s, well, job is literally to ski and shoot people. He was even a contender for the Olympic biathlon before joining G.I. Joe. Oh, he’s also a rifle instructor so this event seems tailor made for his specific expertise. Keep your eye on him, though, as he’s a known con artist.

NAME: James Bond
COUNTRY: England
Snow Job’s good, but James Bond is the best. He’s shown both his skiing and shooting skills in movies like On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and The Spy Who Loved Me, so biathlon should be a walk in the park for him, especially considering the target’s won’t be shooting back.

Halloween Scene: Frankencastle (2009)

I don’t currently read Punisher and don’t have much experience with Rick Remender comics, but I’m pretty excited for the upcoming Frankcastle storyline. Just look at these covers by Mike McKone (Tony Moore’s doing interiors). The interview Remender did over at
doesn’t really get into the plot of the book, but it looks fun. Punisher’s one of those difficult characters to do in a shared superhero universe because, you know, he’s all about killing people and in “reality” he’d kill as many supervillains as possible and probably get put down by one of the superheros also running around NYC. So, why not turn him into Frankenstein and put him with the Legion of Monsters? We’ll see how it does.

Punisher War Zone Takes the Bronze!

As loyal Kicking It Old School readers might remember, a few months ago I declared Wanted as my third favorite comic movie of 2008 behind Dark Knight and Iron Man and miles ahead of Hellboy 2 and Incredible Hulk. Well, Wanted has been ousted by Lionsgate’s Punisher War Zone which I watched last week and have been telling my friends about ever since (in real life, that is).

This flick is awesome. It’s great in the same way that I thought it would be when I started seeing previews for it before it came out. This is like Crank or Shoot ‘Em Up or any number of Jean Claude Van-Damme or Steven Seagal movies from the late 80s or early 90s. It’s balls to the wall crazy for most of its 103 minutes, which is exactly what a Punisher movie should be in my opinion (for the record I really like Dolph’s Punisher and barely remember Tom Jane’s).

To put things in perspective, by the 8 minute mark, The Punisher had killed an entire party full of mobsters (including decapitation AND shoving a chair through a guy’s face) before heading off to another creation when the man who will become Jigsaw gets one of the more gruesome villain origins in comic book movie history.

Joining Jigsaw in his murderous rampage is his brother known as Loony Bin Jim, who Lost fans may or may not recognize as Horace (I had no idea, this dude is a chameleon). Sure, both villains are way over the top and it’s nearly impossible not to compare their versions of crazy to the amazing Heath Ledger’s Joker performance, but I still found their brand of crazy enjoyable.

I understand it’s kind of crazy to lump Punisher: War Zone in with two of the greatest comic book movies ever made (hey, we comic fans had a good year last year), but I had more fun watching P:WZ than I did Incredible Hulk and Hellboy 2, both of which suffered, in my opinion, for various reasons (I’d have to see both movies again to really remember why, but I just don’t feel like putting myself through that again).

Speaking of comic fans, even though it’s your basic “dude shooting and killing his way through a bunch of bad guys” story, there are still some nods to the comics. You get Detective Soap and Microchip (played by Newman himself, Wayne Knight), plus some other characters that I wouldn’t have known about if IMDb hadn’t told me about them in the trivia page. Plus, anyone can enjoy the awesome final showdown scene in an old hotel with tons of gangs each trying to kill The Punisher.

All in all, Ray Stevenson did a bang up job as Frank Castle (though, even he couldn’t save himself from the sappy-ish parts of the script that should probably have been scrapped). Dominic West’s Jigsaw and Dough Hutchinson’s Loony Bin Jim were over-the-top crazy and director Lexi Alexander made me excited to see whatever her next project will be. And hopefully it will be another awesome action movie, because there really aren’t enough female action directors out there. Actually I can’t think of any others, can you?