Archive for Sylvester Stallone

Tango & Cash (1988) Review

Posted in Tango & Cash with tags , , , on July 25, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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TANGO & CASH

*** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- Two of L.A.’s Top Rival Cops are Going to Have to Work Together. Even If It Kills Them

Release Date- December 22nd, 1989

Running Time- 104-Minutes

Rating- R

Screenplay- Randy Feldman

Director- Andrey Konchalovskiy

Starring- Sylvester Stallone, Kurt Russell, Teri Hatcher, Brion James and Jack Palance

Released in 1989 Tango & Cash was made to cash in (no pun intended) on the success of Lethal Weapon. While most cite Lethal Weapon as the start of the buddy cop film it was actually 48 Hours that started the formula despite Eddie Murphy playing a criminal and not a cop and than of course Beverly Hills Cop, but Lethal Weapon, which is one of my all time favorite films elevated both the buddy cop and action film to a whole other level and along with Die Hard are two of the most influential action films of all time. Tango & Cash is a film I enjoy, but its also for me one of my biggest letdowns since it stars two of my favorite actors, Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell during the prime of their careers and Tango & Cash also has a great supporting cast and its a film that should have reached epic heights, but turns out a fun film nothing less and nothing more. When all is said and done what makes the film enjoyable is the chemistry between Sly and Russell who really worked amazing together. Outside of Rocky, Rocky Balboa and First Blood this is my favorite Sly performance and Kurt Russell is always great in anything he does.

Ray Tango (Stallone) and Gabriel Cash (Russell) are rival cops each thinking their the best in L.A., but when they’re both set up for murder and sent to prison they hatch an escape plan and form an alliance in trying to clear their name. The screenplay was written by Randy Feldman who in 1981 wrote the now cult classic slasher film Hell Night, which starred Linda Blair, Tango & Cash came out 8-years later and was his 2nd script produced after this Feldman would write Nowhere to Run with Van Damme and Metro with Eddie Murphy and than just have a couple of TV credits. Feldman’s script takes the basic formula of Lethal Weapon only not nearly as creative or well written. The script is basically filled with banter between Tango & Cash and at times Feldman seems to try and be witty, which causes the material to seem forced. However what makes the script work is how Sly and Russell work together and manage to make a slightly below average script seem much better. Both of them really sell the dialogue, which makes the script again seem much better than it actually is. Characters do lack depth in particular the villains, which is unfortunate due to have some very good actors, Tango & Cash fair a bit better, but that’s also due to Stallone and Russell. Overall Feldman’s script isn’t terrible and it does have some fun moments, but at times the material feels a bit forced and its never as good as the films its imitating.

Tango & Cash was directed by Andrey Konchalovskiy, but apparently late into the production he was replaced by Albert Magnoli who directed the Prince film Purple Rain. Magnoli doesn’t have a credit only Andrey Konchalovskiy does. From what I can gather Konchalovskiy wanted to make the film a little more serious, but the studio wanted it to have a light tone. Konchalovskiy delivers the standard buddy cop film and while well paced for the most part its never as exciting as the idea may have seemed. It feels like bits and pieces of other much better films and even the action scenes aren’t as exciting as they could have been. Konchalovskiy does deliver an entertaining film and the action is alright, but there was potential for a lot more.

As I stated a couple of times it truly is Stallone and Russell that elevate this film. I often feel Stallone doesn’t get enough credit as an actor now granted in some of his films his performance may not have been great, but I never really had a problem with his acting, but people forget he is an Oscar nominated actor. I found his performance is Rocky to be great and its one of my favorite acting performances. Here in Tango & Cash he was great playing a character quite different than the typical Sly character. And what I love about Sly is he has a sense a humor when one character says how Tango thinks he’s Rambo, Tango replies with Rambo’s a pussy. In my opinion Sly gave one of his best performances and Kurt Russell is equally as great here and in my opinion despite the acclaim Kurt Russell has gotten his career I also find him one of the most underrated actors. Together Sly and Russell have such great chemistry and I cannot stress enough how great they were and really elevate a film that without them might be a bit below average. Jack Palance sadly is sort of wasted here and I hate when such a terrific actor has such a forgettable character. Palance was a terrific actor, but really anyone could have played this role. Teri Hatcher as Tango’s sister is excellent and while still early in her career she holds her own and really stands out.

When Warner Brothers made this film I’m sure they probably saw potential for a franchise, but that never came to be and I never cared enough to look into it, but Tango & Cash was produced on a 55-million dollar budget, which may not seem like a lot for an action film with two big name actors since modern action films tend to be at a budget of 150-million and even more than that. In 1988 Stallone with Rambo III on a 63-million dollar budget had the most expensive film ever produced at the time. So the 55-million dollar budget here isn’t too far behind and while Tango & Cash made 63-million dollars in the US perhaps it wasn’t a big enough of a profit for Warner to make a sequel.

Overall Tango & Cash is a decent enough film mainly thanks in part to the two leads. My rating is a light 3.5, but its a film I can revisit from time to time, but like I said its a film that is also one of my biggest disappointments since with a cast that includes Sly, Russell, Hatcher, Palance, Michael J. Pollard, James Hong and Brion James should have come out far better. Like I said Tango & Cash is fun, but there was potential for a lot more. The highlight of the film was Kurt Russell in drag!!

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Bullet to the Head (2013) Review

Posted in Bullet to the Head with tags , , on November 15, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

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BULLET TO THE HEAD

**** Out of 5

Tagline- Revenge Never Gets Old

Release Date- February 1st, 2013

Running Time- 92-Minutes

Rating- R

Screenplay- Alessandro Camon

Director- Walter Hill

Starring- Sylvester Stallone, Sung Kang, Sarah Shahi, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje and Jason Momoa

When it comes to action stars Sylvester Stallone just might be my favorite and if not hands down top 5. Stallone of course made a name for himself in 1976 with Rocky, which he also wrote and Sly went from struggling actor to Hollywood star, but it wasn’t until 1982 with the release of First Blood that Sly had his first big hit film not part of the Rocky series and now he in his way to becoming an action star and after the major success of Rambo: First Blood Part II, Sly was now officially an action star. Through the 80s Stallone had a string of hits as well as a few failures, but around the mid 90s, Sly started to fade and it happens to the best of them, but Stallone had two things going for him; Rocky and Rambo, which are two of the most iconic film characters ever created. In 2006 Stallone made Rocky Balboa and at 60-years old some people made jokes, but after its release nobody was laughing anymore and if anyone had any doubts still, Stallone erased them with Rambo in 2008. Bullet to the Head may not be top 5 Stallone films, but its still in my opinion a really fun film and outside of Rocky and Rambo, Stallone’s character James Bonomo is one of my favorite characters he’s played.

When it comes to action films I’m a big fan of the genre and along with horror its my favorite. However since the Michael Bay era started the action film started to hit a steady decline and since 2000 in my opinion its gotten worse with really only a few that I liked with the good portion I disliked or in the very least thought it was ok, but nothing I really care to see again. Bullet to the Head is one of the few modern action films I actually liked and a lot of reviews I’ve read say its something out of the 80s or early 90s and I’d actually agree with that though the film has far more of a 90s feel with some even comparing it to Showdown in Little Tokyo, which is also something I agree with. Bullet to the Head does have a bit of that vintage feel. Produced on a 55-million dollar budget, which is fairly low for an action film, but yet only pulled in 9-million dollars, which is very unfortunate as the film deserved a much better fate and hopefully can find an audience on home video. Bullet to the Head won’t go down as one of the great action films, but its a lot of fun and while cliched and a bit predictable it has almost everything I look for in an action film and is far better than the overly stylized action films released.

Bullet to the Head is very much in the style of a buddy cop film despite the fact Stallone’s character isn’t a cop. Lethal Weapon is in my opinion a truly great film and one of the most influential action films ever made. However its often the film credited for starting the buddy cop film, but 48 Hours directed by Walter Hill had the same basic formula despite Eddie Murphy not being a cop in the film and in many ways due to that Bullet to the Head mirrors 48 Hours. James Bonomo (Stallone) is a hit man looking to avenge the death of his partner and he reluctantly teams up with a cop Taylor Kwon (Kang). The screenplay by Alessandro Camon is light on plot, but that’s not really a problem in the action genre. The problem however is the setups as everything sort of happens with little depth however Camon does craft a fun film with some fun characters though its the cast that elevates the material. Apparently Walter Hill and Stallone did some uncredited rewrites, which I would tend to believe since Hill is as much a writer as he is director and Stallone has written or co-written a good portion of his films. The script while entertaining is the only real flaw as I stated it is a bit cliched and predictable, but regardless its still entertaining and a lot of fun.

Even though Walter Hill is a respected writer and director I feel as if he also doesn’t get the respect he deserves. He has a story credit on Aliens and was a writer on the 1972 Steve McQueen starting and Sam Peckinpah masterpiece The Getaway. Walter Hill made his directorial debut with Hard Times, which starred Charles Bronson, he made the Warriors, which is a classic film and also made 48 Hours, which is another truly great film. Crossroads, which starred Ralph Macchio and not to be confused with the lame Britney Spears film of the same name is another great film in Hill’s career and it doesn’t end with those four films. There comes a point in every filmmakers career where they might hit a decline and as much as I like Walter Hill it did seem as if his best days were behind him. Bullet to the Head is his first film since Undisputed, which came out in 2002 and since he only has a couple of TV credits. Bullet to the Head may not go down as one of Walter Hill’s best films, but its still a really cool film and proves Hill still can direct a really fun and exciting film. The pacing is generally strong and the film moves at a strong pace. The first 30-minutes is entertaining, but it’s the last hour when Bullet to the Head gets going. Walter crafts some really fun action scenes and the film very much lives up to its title and Hill also does a great job at the comedic moments. Like I mentioned earlier Bullet to the Head has a vintage feel to it and Walter Hill shows he can still make a really fun film. Don’t go in expecting another Warriors or 48 Hours, but fans of Hill should enjoy.

The cast is excellent and really as I stated elevates the material. Jason Momoa as Keegan the main villain has a great onscreen presence and it’s also a joy to see Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje who is best known for his role on the HBO series Oz, though too bad he isn’t given enough to do he’s a terrific actor. Sylvester Stallone is great as James Bonomo. Like I said outside of Rocky and Rambo, Bonomo is one of my favorite Stallone characters and Sly is hysterical with some really great one liners. I’m a big fan of Stallone and he did not disappoint.

Overall Bullet to the Head while a flawed film is also a lot of fun and it’s too bad the film was such a flop since it truly did deserve a better fate. This isn’t an action classic and both Walter Hill and Sly have done better work, but with that said Bullet to the Head at only 92-minutes has enough fun and action to always keep the pace moving. If you enjoy 90s action prior to the Michael Bay era getting started Bullet to the Head is your kind of film.

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Rambo (2008) Review

Posted in Rambo with tags , , on November 13, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

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RAMBO

**** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- Live for Nothing or Die for Something

Release Date- January 25th, 2008

Running Time- 99-Minutes

Rating- R

Screenplay- Art Monterastelli & Sylvester Stallone

Director- Sylvester Stallone

Starring- Sylvester Stallone, Julie Benz, Matthew Marsden, Paul Schulze, Maung Maung Khin

When it comes to Sly Stallone he’ll forever be known for two roles; Rocky Balboa and John Rambo, which are two of the most iconic film characters. Stallone had a slew of hits through the 80s and into the 90s, but like many actors he started to fade a bit. A lot of his films in the late 90s into the 2000s failed to get much interest and it seemed like Sly’s best days were behind him. In 2006 Rocky Balboa was released and at the time Sly was 60-years old and the jokes started. Even I had my doubts if Sly could pull it off. After the release for Rocky Balboa nobody was making jokes as Stallone proved age ain’t nothing but a number. Two years later the 4th Rambo film was released simply called Rambo and once again Stallone showed us age doesn’t mean anything. Stallone is one of my favorite action heroes and I could even make a case for him being my favorite. In an age when most action stars lack, Stallone shows them how it’s done. Rambo in my opinion is amongst the greatest action films ever made. I love action films, but since the Michael Bay era it seems the great ones are few and far between and more filmmakers should follow what Stallone did with Rambo. This was also the first Rambo film directed by Sly and quite honestly this might be the best of the series just edging out First Blood.

As I mentioned in other reviews by films written or co-written by Stallone is he’s a writer that clearly knows what his audience wants and he can also write a deeply powerful film. Rambo was written by Art Monterastelli & Sylvester Stallone and if there is a weakness the script might be it. Now don’t take that the wrong way since Rambo has a fair enough script, but compared to other films written of co-written by Sly this isn’t one of his strongest even if still solid. The plot is a bit light, but it’s an action film and this type a film can get away with that. From a character side of things they were fairly well done and while they do have a little depth some are a little clichéd. Regardless of some flaws Monterastelli & and Stallone still deliver a fairly well written film and while it may not be one of Sly’s strongest it still gets the job done.

As director Stallone delivers one of the all time great action films. Of all the films directed by Sly I’d rate Rambo 2nd to Rocky Balboa, but in terms of directing Rambo has the edge. The pace is generally strong, but there a few slow moments, but these scenes also help set up the crazy stuff later to come. The violence is graphic and unsettling as well. Some of the violent acts by the Burma army are deeply disturbing and this really adds to the film. Rambo moves along nicely and is a good film, but the final act elevates the film to greatness. Stallone delivers some of the most violent and insane action scenes I’ve ever seen. Bullets rip off body parts, heads are blown clean off, throats are ripped out. It’s just insane there really is no other word to describe it. Stallone shows he has an eye for action and delivers an epic film. I’ve said in the past I find Sly a great filmmaker simply cause he knows what his audience wants, but with Rocky Balboa and than Rambo, Sly shows he’s a great filmmaker in the traditional sense as well. Rambo was released 30-years after Stallone made his feature film debut and not many filmmakers at that stage of their career make what is perhaps their best film, but Sly seems to be getting better with age. Rambo is disturbing, tragic, extremely graphic and when all is said and done, crowd pleasing. This was an amazingly directed film. Well done Stallone. Rambo is just again an insane film and I really don’t know any other way to describe it. This was by far the most graphic of the series and makes the other Rambo films look PG-13. Rambo at least in my opinion boarders exploitation film at times. Like I said the violence by the Burma army was truly unsettling and when Rambo goes on the attack its insanely violent and very much crowd pleasing.

Stallone as Rambo is terrific I think what I love most about Sly as actor is he has this regular guy feel to him, which makes him far more relatable than most action stars. First Blood was Stallone’s best performance as John Rambo, but this performance is a close 2nd.

Overall Rambo is one of my favorite action films and was the perfect way to end the series while I did enjoy Rambo III this ended the series the proper way. Once again Sylvester Stallone proved here age is nothing but a number. While the middle sections can be a little slow (never boring) it’s all made up for in one of the craziest action packed final acts seen in an action film.

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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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Rocky Balboa (2006) Review

Posted in Rocky Balboa with tags , , , on November 7, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

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ROCKY BALBOA

***** Out of 5

Tagline- It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over

Release Date- December 20th, 2006

Running Time- 102-Minutes

Rating- PG

Writer/Director- Sylvester Stallone

Starring- Sylvester Stallone, Burt Young, Geraldine Hughes, Milo Ventimiglia, Antonio Tarver, Tony Burton, James Francis Kelly.

Released in 2006 I remember being so excited for the release of Rocky Balboa and I really wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was still excited since the Rocky series was a big part of my childhood and what I ended up getting was a film far better than I ever could have predicted. Rocky Balboa in my opinion was the best film of 2006 and the best of the Rocky sequels and honestly this film is surprisingly every bit as good as the original, which sometimes people forget how great it was and was nominated for several Oscars including a win for best picture. The first two were more grounded in reality whereas the Rocky III & IV almost felt like comic book film with the hero in Rocky and he villains in Clubber Lang and Drago. Rocky V attempted to go back to the style of the first two with less than spectacular results, but I actually enjoyed it and sometimes I feel as if I’m the only one, but it wasn’t a satisfying conclusion. Rocky Balboa on the other hand is a perfect way to the end the series. I saw this the day it came out and honestly it was the greatest cinematic experience I ever had. The crowd was really into the film and cheering on Rocky and when he gets knocked down during the fight people were yelling get up Rock. Normally people talking gets on my nerves, but this really added to the experience for me.

Like I said the Rocky series was a big part of my childhood and I remember having various Rocky merchandise including action figures. All of the films were to me at the very least enjoyable, but once we got to the 3rd and 4th it very much got away from the roots of the series though I still liked both films and again Rocky V I liked how it went back to the basics and even though I liked the film it was lacking (though Rocky III would be my least favorite). I think part of the problem is even though the odds are stacked against Rocky the underdog aspect of the story were gone after the original as we knew how things would turn out and that in part is what helps make Rocky Balboa so great is the underdog story is back. I think this film came out at the perfect time in Stallone’s career. Back when the original came out Sly was a struggling actor and Rocky helped jump start his career. So in many ways Sly was Rocky; he was broke like the character and a stalling career. When Rocky Balboa came out, Stallone sort of faded and a bunch of his films were either very limited release or even DTV and Rocky Balboa was sort of his comeback. I think had this film been made while Sly was still highly successful it while may have turned out well wouldn’t have been as great. Rocky Balboa gets his chance to show he can still perform at a high level and Stallone showed he can still make a great film and Rocky Balboa helped resurrect his career.

The continuity in the Rocky series can be a little off; the first 3 generally flow well together, but after that even if they pick up where the other left off there are issues with the continuity. So I’m not sure how long its been since Rocky last fought, but he’s listed as being in his 50s in Rocky Balboa (Sly was 59 at the time of the release). Also based on his sons age I would assume its been 10-years or a little more. Retired from boxing and now running a restaurant named Adrian’s, Rocky is far removed from his past glory and is quite lonely since the death of Adrian. His relationship with his son Robert (Ventimiglia) is a bit strained since Robert feels as if he’s in his fathers shadow. Meanwhile heavyweight champion Mason ‘The Line’ Dixon (Tarver) is winning fight after fight, but often gets booed out of the arena. Is Dixon this dominate or are his opponents that subpar? Rocky still wanting to compete decides to come out of retirement and fight small local fights, but Dixon’s people see a chance for a great marketing plan. Rocky is reluctant at first, but agrees to a fight with Dixon to prove despite his age he can still compete with the best while nobody gives Rocky a chance to win he’s been in that position before.

I’ve always been a big fan of Stallone as both a writer and director and people forget he’s an Oscar nominated writer. Rocky Balboa was by far his best screenplay since the original Rocky. Sly has written a lot of excellent films, but with this screenplay like the original it has heart and real human emotion. As the Rocky series went on obviously they were made due to the success of the others, but Sly still took his time to develop the characters and he does that here. Stallone writes some great and deep characters with plenty of depth. I thought his relationship with Marie (Hughes) was deeply touching as Rocky is just sort of lost without Adrian and his son is always too busy for him and Paulie (Young) has his own life. While some wondered where their relationship would go I always took it as friends, which is something Rocky needed.

I’m not one to get choked up during a film in general, but I can’t lie as there are several scenes that get me teary eyed. The scene in which Rocky visits places he was with Adrian such as the pet shop, his old house and the skating rink where they had their first date, which has been taken down was such a deep and sweet scene and Stallone with his writing and acting was so very touching. And by the end its tough for me to hold back the tears. Sly’s script like I said is just so powerful and touching with real human emotion and again its just inspiring. This was my favorite piece of dialogue;

The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you’re hit. It’s about how hard you can get it and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done! Now if you know what you’re worth then go out and get what you’re worth. But ya gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody! Cowards do that and that ain’t you!

As director Stallone makes the best film of his career. I’ve always enjoyed his work as he’s a great filmmaker, but not in the traditional sense. He’s a guy that clearly knows what his audience wants and often delivers on that. With Rocky Balboa he makes a truly great film. I know I keep repeating myself, but the direction like the writing is touching with such heart. The pace of the film is great and has this tragic feel to it, but by the end its so inspiring and makes you believe anything is possible. Rocky Balboa the character and film has a ton of heart and emotion.

To be totally honest I find Stallone underrated as an actor. As his popularity grew it seemed his performances did lack at times. I never really though had an issue with his acting, but a lot of the times he wasn’t great. However with that said Stallone was excellent in the original Rocky and people may not realize but he was nominated for best actor, but lost to Robert De Niro. De Niro was brilliant as Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver and very much deserved the Oscar, but Stallone was equally as good. I also though Sly was very good in Rocky II and First Blood. But he wasn’t really as great after that, but in Rocky Balboa, Stallone was again at his very best with a very heartfelt performance. If you think Stallone can’t act watch the original Rocky and Rocky Balboa. He was brilliant in both. The entire cast was excellent with Geraldine Hughes being excellent as Marie who like Adrian did gives Rocky the confidence in himself when he needs it. Burt Young again is hysterical and even quite touching with his performance. Like in Rocky V using real life boxer Tommy Morrison, Antonio Tarver is also a real boxer and he’s actually better than one might expect. While he may not be Oscar worthy or anything, but for a guy that isn’t an actor he’s fairly good actually.

Like the original Rocky winning or losing isn’t the point. Here in Rocky Balboa after the fight ends he leaves the ring. He doesn’t care what the decision is what mattered he gave everything he got and went the distance and give Dixon everything he had left. Even in the other Rocky films the message behind them were always great and Rocky Balboa is no different. Overall Rocky Balboa is truly a great and powerful film that has plenty of heart. Like I said I was really excited for this film, but it turned out far better than I expected, Rocky Balboa is a winner by knockout. This was truly a great ending to a fantastic series. Thank you Sly for your creation.

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