Archive for John Travolta

The Punisher (2004) Review

Posted in Punisher (2004) with tags , , , , on August 12, 2014 by Last Road Reviews


*** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- The Punishment Has Begun

Release Date- April 16th, 2004

Running Time- 125-Minutes

Rating- R

Screenplay- Jonathan Hensleigh & Michael France

Director- Jonathan Hensleigh

Starring- Tom Jane, John Travolta, Roy Scheider, Ben Foster, Laura Harring and Rebecca Romijn

Released in 2004 this wasn’t the first time an attempt was made at launching a series a series based on the Punisher. The first Punisher film came out in 1989 and starred Dolph Lundgren and while it did receive a theatrical release in certain countries, but went DTV in the States and while the film has a cult following it is semi forgotten. 15-years later another attempt was made and the 2004 version had better results in terms of quality and finances. The Punisher while a very good film is also one of the most frustrating films I’ve seen since there was potential for it to be great, but it’s sort of held back by a few flaws that keep the Punisher from reaching the next level though with that said it is an enjoyable film.

An undercover mission led by Frank Castle (Jane) leads to the death of the son of crime boss Howard Saint (Travolta). Howard puts a hit out on Frank, but his wife Livia (Harring) wants the entire family killed. During a family reunion, Saint’s men show up and murder Frank’s entire family including his parents and wife and son. Frank is severely wounded, but survives and than turns vigilante and seeks revenge on Howard Saint.

The screenplay was written by Jonathan Hensleigh & Michael France and character wise, the Punisher was terrific as its filled with interesting characters with depth. The plotting is fairly strong and this version unlike the 89 & 2008 version gets deeper into the origins of Frank Castle and really Frank doesn’t become the Punisher until the very end. The script sets things up for a sequel, which never came to be as the next film was another reboot. While the origin of Frank Castle is changed a bit I think however it works well. The problems though with the script is Hensleigh & France wanna write a dark and gritty film, which they do, but there are also a number of scenes that are written for more camp value and this does hinder the film as it seems out of place. The script works best when it’s played off a straight up revenge/thriller, which is it for the most part, but the more campy aspects of the script do slightly hinder things.

As director Jonathan Hensleigh crafts a well made and fun film, but at 125-minutes the Punisher is a little overly long in spots. As I mentioned how the script tries to play it straight in spots and campy in others and the direction is very much the same. Certain scenes like with the Russian (Kevin Nash) while a lot of fun does in my opinion hinder the film as in my opinion the Punisher works best when played straight. For the most part Hensleigh does play the film in a more serious tone and the campier moments sort of break the flow of the film. The action scenes are played well and the film quite exciting, but my issues are again the pace can be a little sluggish in spots and the campy moments just don’t really fit.

The cast is quite strong with Tom Jane making an excellent Frank Castle. As I’ve mentioned in other reviews for this series is the casting of Frank has been great with each actor bringing something different to the role. John Travolta is a terrific actor who doesn’t always get his credit. Films such as Saturday Night Fever, Grease, Blow Out and Pulp Fiction very much showcase his talents as an actor, but I don’t think he was the right choice for Howard Saint. While not a bad performance by any means he just doesn’t really fit the role.

Overall the Punisher is a solid film and had the potential to be great, but instead turns out to just be a good film. I like how the film handled Castle’s origin even if it slightly strays to some degree. I’d rate this film above the 89 version, but isn’t quite as enjoyable as War Zone. My only other complaint is the score, which doesn’t quite fit at times and more often than not has a campy feel even in the more serious scenes. The Punisher flaws and all is still a solid watch, but again could have been so much more.







Saturday Night Fever (1977) Review

Posted in Saturday Night Fever with tags , , , , , on July 6, 2013 by Last Road Reviews


**** Out of 5

Tagline- Where Do You Go When the Record is Over

Release Date- December 16th, 1977

Running Time- 118-Minutes

Rating- R

Screenplay- Norman Wexler

Director- John Badham

Starring- John Travolta, Karen Lynn Gorney, Barry Miller, Joseph Cali, Paul Pape, Donna Pescow

Saturday Night Fever released in 1977 is one of my favorite films and its been one ever since I first saw it as a teenager. 70s cinema is hands down my favorite era of film, but Saturday Night Fever is an unlikely film to be a favorite of mine. I’m not a fan of disco and in general not really a fan of films that feature a lot of dancing with this movie and Dirty Dancing being the exceptions. Even though again I don’t really like disco I have to admit the soundtrack to SNF is one of the all time greats and I’ve spent countless hours listening to it. Saturday Night Fever is a film I would have little interest it and I’m not sure why I even watched it in the first place as a teenager, but I’m sure glad I did. One of the biggest selling points for me is the film was shot mostly in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn and I’m originally from Brooklyn and even though I wasn’t exactly close to the locations I’ve spent a lot of time in Bay Ridge and while most of my time there wasn’t on the same streets as the film I have though walked down the very same streets and often passed by it. So for me seeing a film where I know the area so well really adds to the film enjoyment for me.

Saturday Night Fever was based on an article Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night and the screenplay was written by Norman Wexler. The script is terrific and well plotted with solid characters. Some of the supporting cast may not be fully developed, but you get a sense of what they are like. Wexler writes a film that is sometimes funny and often deep and dramatic. The script truly is excellent and its something I would highly recommend to aspiring writers as its very clever and the mixture of comedy and drama are great and the characters don’t feel fake. Times may have changed since 1977, but the characters remain fresh.

Saturday Night Fever makes for a great time piece into another era, but with that said I actually think the film holds up very well and remains relevant. The story I think can still reach each passing generation. A lot has changed since 1977, but the central story remains relevant. Tony is kinda stuck though he wants more out of life and I think it’s a story a lot of people can relate to. He puts so much into going to the disco and really doesn’t have anything else going for him in the future. This is one of those rare films that very much captures a certain era in history, but yet also remains relevant each passing generation.

Director John Badham would later go onto direct such films as WarGames, Short Circuit and Point of No Return as well as various TV episodes for shows such as the Shield and Psych. I never realized how many solid films he’s made until looking it up, but Saturday Night Fever in my opinion remains his best film. The pace of the film is excellent and like ho Wexler mixed comedy and drama well, Badham handles it well from a directing standpoint. Badham sets up a fun tone right away and even when the film takes a more serious turn it never feels out of place. Badham also gets great use out of his locations in Bay Ridge and the setting is as important as the story and characters. John Badham delivers an excellent film that works on every level and like I said Saturday Night Fever remains relevant and there is good reason the film is seen as a classic.

After breaking it big with Welcome Back, Kotter and than in 1976 a co-starring role in Carrie and the TV movie The Boy in the Plastic Bubble, Saturday Night Fever was John Travolta’s first big time starring role and the following year he would have even more success with the very awesome Grease. Unfortunately there is far too much talk on Travolta’s private life, which isn’t anybody’s business. Travolta is an actor that really intrigues me. When he’s given great material he’s a terrific actor and while he hasn’t always made the best choices in his career when he does get a great project he always delivers and if anyone doubts his talents as an actor Saturday Night Fever and Pulp Fiction should put that all to rest. While from a performance level Pulp Fiction was by far his best, but Saturday Night Fever is a close 2nd. Pulp Fiction was the best film Travolta appeared in, but that’s part of an ensemble cast so not counting that I feel the best Travolta movie is either Grease or Saturday Night Fever and I’d probably give the edge to SNF. Travolta was actually nominated for an Oscar for this picture and it was very well deserving. The rest of the cast is excellent and the acting in this film was top notch from Travolta all the way down to the smallest of roles.

Where would Saturday Night Fever be without the soundtrack? That was huge part of the films success in 1977 and to this day I still think the music by the Bee Gees is still a major selling point. Like I said I’m not really into disco, but this soundtrack was just amazing and the highest selling soundtrack. I do have to say I actually like the Bee Gees in general; for the most part their not the kind of artist I typically listen to, but I do enjoy their work and none better than Saturday Night Fever. Like I said the music was and still is a major selling point and as great of a movie Saturday Night Fever was it wouldn’t be the same without the soundtrack.

Overall Saturday Night Fever is truly a classic film for a reason; the central theme remains relevant, it has an epic soundtrack and an excellent cast led by John Travolta. Even if you aren’t into disco I think you have to appreciate the dance sequences, which are excellent. Saturday Night Fever remains a personal favorite of mine and its a film that has stood the test of time.

The Blu-ray release of the 30-th Anniversary Edition is excellent with some really great extras and Paramount often gives a good enough transfer, but that could be more, but with Saturday Night Fever the video is excellent and the film has never looked better and the audio was also surprisingly strong as well. If you haven’t seen the film or wanna see it again there is nothing better than the Blu-ray edition.

Some little points of interest for Saturday Night Fever is when originally released it was R-rated and the following year in 1978 Paramount re-released this with a PG rating cutting about 6-minutes out. This was a way in hopes to capatalize even more on the films success. As far as I know the R-rated cut is the only available home video release. Fran Drescher appears in a bit role as Connie, Lloyd Kaufman who would later found Troma pictures serves as the location executive and in an un-credited role Adrienne King who played Alice in Friday the 13th appears Also in Tony’s room is a poster for the Stallone classic Rocky. Stallone would actually co-write and direct the 1983 sequel Staying Alive. And lastly originally John Avildsen who directed the original Rocky was slated to direct Saturday Night Fever before he was replaced by John Badham.