Few people will call the original Kickboxer a good movie. It was a low budget action movie capitalizing on the surprise success of Bloodsport and could best be described as an adult version of the Karate Kid: a young Caucasian man is trained by an elder Asian man using unorthodox training methods in order to take on the movie’s nemesis during a fight in the ring. Throw in some female nudity here and there, a couple of bloody fights and a rape and you have got yourself a typical 80’s tournament movie. And yet, Kickboxer became somewhat of a classic in its genre. This can be attributed mostly to its lead, Jean-Claude van Damme, as this was one of his earliest movies and one that helped to build his career. At the time it was released kickboxing was a relatively unknown sport, but it turned out to be a great subject for a movie, especially since it allowed Van Damme to display his abilities. Sadly, they hardly make movies like that any more, but after 17 years someone decided it was time for a remake: Kickboxer: Vengeance.
Making a direct sequel to a movie that was made multiple decades ago is nothing new. 23 years after the original Psycho was released it was followed up by Psycho 2 which, surprisingly, brought back Anthony Hopkins as Norman Bates. Over the past few years making long overdue sequels seems be a way for studios to make a quick buck, by capitalizing on an existing property. Not taking reboots into account. Earlier this year we got a sequel to the 26 year old Kindergarten Cop. Then starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and this time Dolph Lundgren. Now it’s up to Scott Adkins to fill in for Jean-Claude van Damme in the sequel to one of his better movies: Hard Target. A movie that was released 23 years ago. The same time span between Psycho 1 and 2, but unlike Psycho 2, Hard Target 2 has no ties to the Van Damme movie, other than a plot about rich men hunting people for sport.
“TV movie”: the label that guarantees you your next two hours will be wasted time. There are hardly any good TV movies out there, especially since that genre is almost synonymous for Lifetime movies. There are exceptions to this rule of course: Stephen King’s IT has become somewhat of a classic and so have both Duel (by Steven Spielberg) and The Day After. A movie is definitely not an exception to this rule is the third installment in the Stepfather-franchise. A franchise that actually should have never been a franchise as it contains only one good movie. Since the third one was made for TV that automatically means no nudity and a longer running time as a two hour time slot has to be filled. The result: a movie in which the mentally ill stepfather now woos not just one, but two single women with a kid.
The insane asylum: the classic plot-device in sequels to justify the return of somebody supposedly killed off at the end of the previous movie. Remember when Michael Meyers was killed in Halloween 2? He was shot multiple times in the head. In the eyes even! That guy was dead, there is no way he could have survived that. Cut to Halloween 4 where he’s alive and well in an insane asylum, because he apparently magically survived all of that. Guess who’s also back in Stepfather 2; Jerry Blake, the maniacal stepfather hellbent on killing his family once they seemed to be unable to live up to his expectations of a perfect family. This guy apparently survived a stab wound directly into heart as well as several gunshot wounds and is now stuck in an insane asylum at the beginning of Stepfather 2. Which really begs the question: shouldn’t he be sitting in death row, or at least some high security prison? This is a guy who killed multiple women and children with premeditation. Not the kind of guy you should put in some insane asylum with the hope of him one day getting well.
Stepfathers: a subject usually only seen in porn. Taking a cue from all the wicked stepmothers that have tormented many of our childhood fairy-tale heroines, a psychotic stepfather is the subject of a tense 80’s thriller which eventually went on to become somewhat of a slasher-franchise with two sequels. It even got a remake treatment back in 2009 which, like most remakes, was inferior compared to the original. This movie is largely a character study of the a disturbed man looking for the perfect family. His tactic to gain this perfect family is to marry an attractive single woman, often a widow, with one or more kids and be the perfect family you always see on TV. Sadly reality isn’t perfect and neither are families. Therefor the stepfather slowly grows more and more infuriated and frustrated with his family until he reaches a boiling point and simply murders them all. As soon as he starts to realize his current family is imperfect he starts to prepare a new alias in a different town, so that when he does snap he can quickly slip into a new life in a new town and start dating a new single woman with a kid.
With the release of the first two Ninja Turtles movies a year apart, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III seemed to have taken ages to release. If my memory serves me correctly it wasn’t even released theatrically in my country. It’s just one of those sequels that suddenly pops up at you local video store. This is often a sign that the movie bombed in the U.S. upon its release and no one wants to take the risk of releasing as a theatrical feature overseas. So they release it directly on video to make a quick buck on rentals. In a lot of cases there is a justified reason such a sequel bombs a the box-office: it sucks. Just look at RoboCop 3 for instance. Released three years after part 2 with the lead role being played by a different actor. Is there actually any one who thought this was a good movie? If you have trouble remembering it: it was the one where a RoboCop movie suddenly was suitable for kids and RoboCop himself took on Ninjas. Ninjas in Detroit: just let that sink in for a moment. There are similarities between RoboCop 3 and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: both are the weakest entries in the series, have a largely different production team compared to the previous two movies and are also very different in tone and style to their predecessors. While being the weakest Turtle movie, Turtles 3 is still way better than the turd called RoboCop 3. But I could film my dog shitting in the backyard and I would have a better movie than RoboCop 3, so that’s not saying much.
The original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was at the time the highest grossing independent movie of all time. No wonder a sequel was green-lit and released only a year later. Most sequels take up at least two to three years to to be released, but leave it up to a movie starring one of the slowest species on earth to produce a sequel at top speed. In “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze” our four amphibious friends and their rodent mentor battle the Shredder again as he seemingly survived falling ten stories down into a garbage track. It must be those padded shoulders. Now, knowing that his Foot Clan is no match for the Turtles, he tries to get his hands on a canister of the same ooze that once mutated the Turtles. His plan is to mutate a snapping turtle and a wolf to create two adversaries that can handle the Turtles. In the mean time, the Turtles are living in April’s apartment while looking for a new place since their old lair was discovered by the Foot Clan in the previous movie.
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles property is a lot like Peanut-butter and Jelly: it shouldn’t be good, but surprisingly it is. The whole concept is a joke; nothing more than a gimmick. But unlike a similar property like Howard The Duck, the Ninja Turtles actually became a world wide phenomenon overnight in the late 80’s. The most famous properties being the cartoon and several video games. Like how the surprise success of Star Wars paved the way for the infamous Holiday special, the Turtles had their fare share of really shameful media outings as well. The “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – Coming Out of Their Shells Tour” being probably the worst thing ever to come out of the Turtles franchise. Google it, but be sure you delete your browser history afterwards. “Two Girls, One Cup” you can probably explain, but this will make for some awkward conversation during dinner. One thing that was destined to fail of course was the 1990 live action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. Just think about it: it’s a movie based upon a far fetched idea that might have worked as a comic or a cartoon but shouldn’t necessarily work as a live action movie. It features four adult men dressed in a turtle suit in a movie produced on a low budget, with no notable actors and released by a small studio.
It even has the word Ninja in the title. When was there ever a really good movie with the word Ninja in the title? If at all the word Ninja in the title should be a precaution: before you know it you’re watching some terrible movie starring Michael Dudikoff released by Cannon pictures.
The greatest feat Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles manages is that it actually works.
One of the problems I have with a lot of superhero movies and several other properties like Transformers is that at the finale always revolves around some big bad destroying a big city with the fate of the world hanging in the balance. Take the 2 Avengers movies for instance: both deal with an non-human life form trying to take over the planet with an army. All of the Transformers movies have similar third acts, where dozens of robots battle each other and entire cities are destroyed. At the end of Man of Steel, Superman and General Zod duke it out above Metropolis, destroying half of the city and costing thousands of people their lives. The epilogue in that movie, like so many others, focuses on the positive fact that the villain has been stopped and nothing more. Just think about the post-credits scene of the Avengers, where New York has just been under attack of an alien army which was fought off by the Avengers. As the streets are filled with battlefield remains including injured people, the heroes are enjoying a well deserved Shawarma in a diner. This year saw an end to that attitude as both Captain America: Civil War and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice actually dealt with the direct aftermaths of their fiery previous battles. The similarities between the two movies don’t end there as both of them feature an all star cast and pit two well known heroes against each other due to an antagonist pulling strings from behind the curtain. What really sets these movies aside is how they were both received by critics and audiences. One got raving reviews, while the other was destroyed by every self-respecting critic. The movie that was reviled: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
As the old saying goes: Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. That certainly is the case for Cannonball Run II, the follow up to a race movie of which the large amount of cleavage on display was its most notable aspect. Cannonball Run II is a basic rehash of its predecessor, with a large portion of the cast returning, but with a goofy kidnapping plot thrown in for the sake of variation. The plot is simple: the sheik from the previous movie is considered to be a disgrace to his family due to not winning the Cannonball Run. His solution: organize another so he has new chance to win the race and the approval of his father. But nefarious plans are made as the son of a gangster is in debt for 9 million dollars with another gangster and decides that kidnapping the sheik and holding him for ransom is the quickest solution to all of his problems. Without the sheik there is no prize money, so the Cannonballers have to set aside their differences and work together to save the Sheik.