Archive for Richard Crenna

Rambo III (1988) Review

Posted in Rambo III with tags , , , on November 12, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

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RAMBO III

*** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- The First was for Himself. The Second for His Country. This Time It’s to Save His Friend

Release Date- May 25th, 1988

Running Time- 102-Minutes

Rating- R

Screenplay- Sylvester Stallone & Sheldon Lettich

Director- Peter MacDonald

Starring- Sylvester Stallone, Richard Crenna, Marc de Jonge, Kurtwood Smith, Spiros Focas

Rambo III released in 1988 had a 63-million dollar budget, which at the time was the most expensive film ever made. Even by today’s standards 63-million is still a large budget, but it looks quite small when compared to modern action films, which most cost from the 150-million dollar range to even nearly 300-million in some cases. After the massive success of Rambo: First Blood Part II, which made 150-million and made roughly 103-million more than the original, which was also a big hit it allowed the studio to put a lot of money into Rambo III, but results weren’t the same as Rambo III took in only 53-million, which was far below the 150-million of the 2nd film and while Rambo III just edged out the original film, taking the budgets for each into an account this film was a major disaster and would be the last of the series until the release of Rambo in 2008. More often than not the series is simply referred to as the Rambo films, but the title Rambo III always annoyed me as the title is wrong. The original was First Blood, the 2nd Rambo: First Blood Part II. So for there to be a Rambo III there needs to be two Rambo films before it and if anything Rambo II would be a bit more appropriate than Rambo III and don’t even get me started on the 4th film title simply called Rambo. It’s just a little rant I have, which I’ll end since there are a whole slew of reviews with the same rants.

The film audience can be quite odd with what’s successful and what isn’t. First Blood, which made 47-million was perhaps a surprise hit and while for a modern audience that may not sound like a big box office hit, but seeing as it was 1982 that would be far more today. But than Rambo: First Blood Part II came out and made 150-million, which was an insane amount of money in 1985 and who knows why it squashed the original in terms of money. But than Rambo III comes out and the box office returns were about 100-million dollars less. It’s quite odd how the 2nd film made so much more than the original only to have just as big a drop with the 2nd and 3rd films. If you read reviews for Rambo III a lot of different reasons are listed from the American public not caring about what was happening in Afghanistan to the Russians pulling out of Afghanistan and seeing as Rambo III plays up to that with the conflict over that hurt the film. While both of these could be valid reasons, but perhaps the audience for whatever reason weren’t interested in a 3rd film. Rambo III did make 16-million opening weekend, which was down front the 25-million the 2nd one made opening weekend, but even with a 9-million dollar drop off, Rambo III still made a decent chunk of change in its opening and perhaps the reason the film failed was more due to quality than anything else. By most Rambo III is considered the weakest of the series and while I enjoyed the film I have to agree it was the weakest.

Col. Trautman (Crenna) is going on a mission to help the Afghan rebels against the invading Soviets and he asks Rambo (Stallone) to join him, but Rambo declines wanting to put his soldier days behind him. When Trautman is captured, Rambo goes into Afghanistan to rescue his mentor.

The screenplay by Sylvester Stallone & Sheldon Lettich is fairly decent and while I liked the premise of Rambo looking to rescue Trautman there is a little too much filler. The script I suppose doubles for social commentary and to raise awareness on what was happening in Afghanistan at the time the the film was made and while that doesn’t bother me it does however come a certain point feel like filler scenes to get the script to a certain page count. Like the 2nd, Rambo is written as a superhero of sorts and no matter how outnumbered he is it doesn’t matter, which isn’t a compliant by the way. The villains like in the previous part are your standard movie bad guys for Rambo to kill. Sly & Lettich also add a little bit of comedy as in the final act when Rambo and Trautman are making their escape there are a number of one liners and while they sort of feel out of place it was also a nice change of pace. From a pure writing side Rambo III is fairly decent, but it’s just a little overly long.

Originally Rambo III was set to be directed by Russell Mulcahy best known for such films as Highlander, Ricochet and Resident Evil: Extinction, but after two weeks he was let go due to creative differences and in stepped Peter MacDonald. With no time to prep I gotta give MacDonald credit for what’s he able to pull off. Pacing can be a little sluggish early in the film, but this could have been fixed with some editing. It takes about 40-minutes until the action kicks in and than nothing until the hour mark and than finally the last act. So with a running time of 102-minutes pacing while I wouldn’t say was poor, but could be a little slow and the script while decent isn’t strong enough to keep things exciting during the lulls in action. When it comes to the action scenes, MacDonald does craft some fun and exciting scenes as well as some decent suspense at times. With more of a prep time perhaps Peter MacDonald could have done a lot more, but for what it’s with he actually does well all things considered.

Of the four Rambo films I do agree Rambo III is the weakest, but with that said its still a fun and exciting film and Rambo is one of the greatest film icons and Stallone is great in the role and it was nice to see Rambo and Trautman on the field together and Stallone and Crenna really work well together and are also quite funny. Even if Rambo III is the weakest it’s still highly entertaining and with better editing to tighten the film up Rambo III could have been a bit more even if still the weakest. As I mentioned Rambo III had a major drop off in box office returns and 2-years later in 1990 Rocky V would be released and also suffer the same fate and it seemed as if the days of Rambo and Rocky were over. In 2006 Rocky Balboa was released and was a huge success for Stallone and 2-years later in 2008, which was 20-years after Rambo III, Sly would write and direct the 4th Rambo film simply called Rambo and that also was a big success for Stallone.

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Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985) Review

Posted in Rambo: First Blood Part II with tags , , , , on November 11, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

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RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II

**** Out of 5

Tagline- What Most People Call Hell. He Calls Home

Release Date- May 22nd, 1985

Running Time- 95-Minutes

Rating- R

Screenplay- Sylvester Stallone & James Cameron

Director- George P. Cosmatos

Starring- Sylvester Stallone, Richard Crenna, Charles Napier, Steven Berkoff, Julia Nickson, Martin Cove

Rambo: First Blood Part II was released in 1985, which ended up being a huge year for Sylvester Stallone. First Blood was Sly’s first big hit that wasn’t part of the Rocky series and pulled in 47-million, which was a lot back in 1982. First Blood Part II would pull in an amazing 150-million and also in 1985 Rocky IV was released, which became the highest grossing of the series (and still is) and pulled in 127-million and it seemed like everybody in America were seeing these films and if I add in worldwide numbers both these films are over 300-million and for 1985 that’s just an amazing box office return. A lot of people forget the original film was called First Blood since most just refer to the series as the Rambo movies, but First Blood was a first rate action/thriller and it’s really nothing like the rest of the series. With Rambo: First Blood Part II the series became more of the standard action series (not that’s its a bad thing). Overall I’d say First Blood is the better film, but First Blood Part II is one of those crowd pleasing films and even I can’t help, but yell out to the screen while watching this.

Some people have labeled this film propaganda and regardless films of this nature were fairly popular in the 80s and in 1984 Missing in Action was released and First Blood Part II would have a similar theme. However while I can see why some might label it propaganda, but the American characters aren’t all the heroes. Rambo (Stallone) is sent back to Vietnam to find proof of American POWs. He’s only to take pictures and that’s it. The place Rambo is being sent to is empty and it’s just a way to show the public they looked and nobody was found however the place Rambo is sent that’s supposed to be empty actually has a few POWs. A brief fight breaks out and Rambo manages to rescue one POW and as they leave the helicopter is called back leaving Rambo to fend for himself. Rambo is captured, but manages to escape and sets off to take down the Viet and Russian army alone while rescuing the POWs and finally going after those that left him to die.

The screenplay was written by Sly Stallone and James Cameron and yes that James Cameron. Just the year before Cameron hit the big time for writing and directing Terminator and after the 2nd Rambo film his career would continue to take off. If you look at the credits for many Stallone films you’ll see he often writes or co-writes a good portion of his films. Apparently it was Cameron who wrote the bulk of the action scenes and Sly adding in the political aspect of the film. Rambo: First Blood Part II is actually fairly well written for this type of film. Stallone who was nominated for an Oscar for his screenplay for Rocky doesn’t quite reach that level here, but like the good portion of Sly’s work he knows what his audience wants and delivers. When you look at the career of both Stallone and James Cameron as far as screenwriting goes they both have written far better films, but regardless the screenplay is stronger than most would assume going into the film, but with that said its not a great screenplay, but simply a fun one. The villains have no depth and are the standard film bad guys that are simply there for Rambo to kill. It’s quite interesting though in seeing how vastly different this film was in terms of both writing and directing when compared to First Blood. Stallone & Cameron pretty much turn Rambo into a superhero. Seeing as Rambo is a highly trained special forces soldier the original may not be too far fetched. Can it really happen? Maybe or maybe not, but Rambo is highly trained going against a local small town police department so maybe not overly possible, but not so far fetched its absurd either. This time around Rambo is going up against the Vietnamese and Russian army and while he does have some assistance early in the film he pretty much goes at it solo and rather easily takes down his enemies.

Rambo: First Blood Part II was directed by George P. Cosmatos known for such films as The Cassandra Crossing, Cobra and Tombstone. There are rumors despite the directing credit it was Kurt Russell who called the shots on Tombstone and apparently here it was Stallone who controlled the picture and Cosmatos more or less is just credited and following what was presented to him. I have no idea if these rumors are true and I wouldn’t be overly shocked if they were in particular with First Blood Part II. But since George P. Cosmatos is credited I’ll just assume he called the shots. The film gets off to a solid start with a slow, but steady pace and while not boring it’s not all that exciting either. However once we get to around the 30-minute mark the film is pretty much action packed for the final hour. Cosmatos delivers a really fun and exciting film with some great action scenes that will have the viewer sitting back and enjoying the ride. The tone of the film is far different than the original and actually bares very little resemblance to the original film as it feels like this is its own film and later turned into a Rambo movie. This film may not go down as of the all time great films, but it is an excellent and over the top action film and Cosmatos delivers not only one of my favorite 80s action films, but one of my all time favorites. Loaded with a great hero in Rambo, Cosmatos stages some really awesome action scenes and if you like these kinda films you’ll find much to love about Rambo: First Blood Part II.

Rambo: First Blood Part II is just a really fun and entertaining film that’s easy to cheer on while watching it. Stallone at least to me is the perfect action star and he doesn’t disappoint here. Like I said the original First Blood is a first rate action/thriller and his film is totally different in style and while the original is the better film as a whole this one is just so much fun and might just edge out the original due to that. Stallone is again excellent and Julia Nickson as Co is stunningly beautiful. Richard Crenna is a joy to watch as Trautman and Charles Napier fun as Murdoch who turns on Rambo. This film has everything you could ask for in an action film and in my opinion its one of the action genres best efforts.

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First Blood (1982) Review

Posted in First Blood with tags , , , on November 9, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

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FIRST BLOOD

**** Out of 5

Tagline- This Time He’s Fighting For His Life

Release Date- October 22nd, 1982

Running Time- 93-Minutes

Rating- R

Screenplay- Michael Kozoll, William Sackheim & Sylvester Stallone (Novel- David Morrell)

Director- Ted Kotcheff

Starring- Sylvester Stallone, Richard Crenna, Brian Dennehy, Jack Starrett

In 1976 Sylvester Stallone wrote and starred in Rocky, which became a massive hit and won the Oscar for best picture. Prior to Rocky, Stallone was a struggling actor and Rocky put him on the map. After Rocky, Stallone had success, but box office numbers were far below that of Rocky. All his other big hit films were Rocky II & Rocky III. However that would change in 1982 with the release of First Blood, which pulled in 47-million making it the first big hit film for Sly that wasn’t a Rocky film. Rambo: First Blood Part 2, which came out 3-years later would pull in an amazing 150-million, which even now is a big deal, but a far bigger one in 1985. However back to First Blood, which actually came out the same year as Rocky III became another iconic role for Sly, which he would reprise 3 times. I doubt if David Morrell who wrote the novel the film is based off or anyone involved with the film could ever imagine it would become a franchise. Funny thing about First Blood is if you mention the title to most people it may not ring a bell, but say Rambo everyone knows it. Even I sometimes refer to First Blood as Rambo (the 4th part would simply be called Rambo). But most people associate this series with that of the Rambo character and not the actual title. Even the 2nd one is referred to as Rambo II and starting with the 3rd the First Blood title would be dropped.

First Blood is vastly different from the rest of the series. Starting in part 2 the Rambo series would become your standard action films (not that its a bad thing), but First Blood while also an action film is also a thriller and a little more grounded in reality to a certain degree whereas the sequels Rambo became a superhero of sorts, but in the original he was a regular guy with training that made him deadly. First Blood would become one of the most iconic action films and helped shaped the action film for years to come. Everything about First Blood feels like an action film from the 70s it sort of feels like a holdover. First Blood isn’t action packed, but does feature plenty of action, but all the action scenes are quite effective making worth the wait.

Vietnam vet John Rambo goes to a small town to visit an old friend, but when he gets there he finds out his friend died. Rambo leaves and than is stopped by sheriff Teasle (Dennehy) and wants him out of town. Rambo wants to get something to eat and the sheriff says he can get food in the next town. After dropping Rambo off over the bridge Teasle sees Rambo walking back over the bridge. He’s arrested and subjected to some abuse, which leads to a flashback from Nam. Rambo escapes into the woods where the sheriff and his deputies pursue Rambo.

First Blood was based off a novel by David Morrell and from what I hear the novel and film are quite different. The script was written by Michael Kozoll, William Sackheim & Sylvester Stallone. The plot is quite simple, but effective and characters are quite strong. People may not realize but Stallone often writes or co-writes a lot of his films. In regards to co-writing, Sly most likely does a rewrite to suit him as an actor and deliver what his audience wants to see. The script is strong and the influence on action films quite obvious.

Director Ted Kotcheff perhaps isn’t the most ideal for a film like First Blood, but overall Kotcheff does a very good job. The film is well paced with effective action scenes and when there isn’t action, Kotcheff delivers some genuine suspense. First Blood is an excellent film and Kotcheff gets the most out of every scene.

Brian Dennehy is excellent as Teasle and you really wanna see him get what’s coming to him. Richard Crenna like always is quite solid as Trautman. The acting is first rate and really helps elevate the film.

When it comes to Sylvester Stallone a lot of people say he isn’t that great of an actor and those people couldn’t be anymore wrong. I never really had a problem with Sly’s acting, but at times some of his performances weren’t as strong as they could have been. People forget Sly was nominated for an Oscar for his performance in Rocky, which was highly deserving. As Sly’s popularity grew in the 80s his performances weren’t as strong however in his early years he was terrific and here in First Blood Sly was great. Stallone has limited dialogue through most of the film, but his presence was felt however and his speech at the end was truly emotional and Sly gave one of his best performances. For those who think Sly can’t act Rocky & First Blood prove how good he can be.

Stallone more so in his early years often came across as your average guy and I think that is what really helped elevate the Rocky films. And that quality is on display in First Blood. Rambo obviously has issues from his time in Vietnam, but he isn’t breaking any laws and a backwoods cop decides to pick on him unaware hrs messing with the wrong guy. Rambo only kills one person, which he had little choice and it was an accident. But in the final act when he starts destroying the town despite making sure no civilians are around we easily could have had one of those films where the hero becomes the villain, but like I said Stallone has this regular guy quality and that always makes Rambo remain the hero and sympathetic.

Overall First Blood is a great action film and features one of Stallone’s best performances. This film made a huge impact on the action film and gave Stallone another iconic character. If you think First Blood is gonna be another mindless action film you’re in for quite a surprise.

Before making it big on NYPD Blue, David Caruso has a bit part as the only cop with a conscious.

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Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell (1978) Review

Posted in Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell with tags , , , on June 7, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

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DEVIL DOG: HOUND OF HELL

*** Out of 5

Release Date- October 31st, 1978

Running Time- 95-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- Stephen Karpf & Elinor Karpf

Director- Curtis Harrington

Starring- Richard Crenna, Yvette Mimieux, Ike Eisenman, Kim Richards, Victor Jory and R.G. Armstrong

Devil Dog is a really fun and silly made for TV movie that originally aired on Halloween night in 1978. I’ll admit to being a big fan of TV movies of the 70s and 80s and to a lesser degree the early to mid 90s. That goes for all genres and not just horror and while Devil Dog wouldn’t rate as one of the best the film does have this campy tone throughout despite being played straight. Surprisingly enough Devil Dog has a solid cast led by Richard Crenna and a bit part from Ken Kercheval best known as Cliff Barnes on Dallas (both original and continuation). If anything the only problem I have with TV films are they are often bogged down by TV conventions and production values and even some of the better ones can often have these very problems. Devil Dog again while not one of the best TV movies does have more of a theatrical look than TV and some of the flaws of the film have nothing to do with being a TV movie.

The whole concept to Devil Dog is quite absurd and the plot of the film is beyond silly; Satanists posses the body of a dog with satan and then breed the dog, which has satanic off springs. After the death of their dog, the Barry family adapts one of the puppies and soon the satanic dog begins to gain control over the family.

The screenplay by Stephen Karpf & Elinor Karpf is fairly entertaining as they take a silly concept, but yet never really play up to camp value. Characters are fairly decent actually and while the plot absurd it oddly enough works. I however learned a few things from this film; a devil dog will turn the children into sociopaths and the mother into the town slut. As entertaining as the script is the story wasn’t strong enough to fully carry the film and by the final act things get really sloppy and messy.

Director Curtis Harrington opts to play the film straight rather than go for camp value and with the absurd plot it does make for a really fun film. Pacing as fairly strong through most of the film and while Harrington attempts suspense and tension the devil dog is just too cute to ever take as a serious threat. German Shepard are big dogs and can do damage if they attack, but the dog was calm and non-aggressive and seeing how beautiful the dog is, Harrington really can’t entice much suspense. The highlight is when the dog is chasing after Betty (Mimieux) when she realizes something isn’t quite right with the dog, but the dog casually follows her non-aggressively and while this isn’t the fault of the director, but it does make for an unintentional funny scene, which this film is filled with. Also while the dog is following her it looks up and off screen probably to the trainer (what a bad actor that dog is lol). However as I mentioned about the script getting a but sloppy in the final act, the direction does as well. The final 30-minutes just seem to drag on and on; the fun factor found in the first half is gone and the film is very sluggish with some long scenes that bring about boredom. While tolerable it does hinder the film, but the first half Harrington delivers a fun paced and silly film and while some of the comedy may be unintentional I found the first half a total blast.

Overall The Devil Dog: Hound of Hell is a really fun film that’s highly entertaining, but does unravel in the final act. Despite that it can’t fully bring the film down and this again was just a lot of fun with an excellent cast. While not the best TV horror movie it is however one of my favorites.

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