Eric Roberts Tries to Out Cliffhanger Stallone in ‘Freefall’ (1994)

Can Julia Roberts’ brother outclimb Stallone in his own extreme sport action thriller?

The answer to the question above is no. As much as I actually liked Freefall, it is not a superior movie to Stallone’s Cliffhanger. But, despite the cover suggesting that it may be in fact a complete Copycats! worthy knock-off, Freefall is actually very much its own unique, and ultimate, action movie.

We also get a great share of Eric Robert badass-ness and surprisingly fresh love story with the sultry Pamela Gidley, along with great plot twists and showdowns with Jeff Fahey. So, let’s take a look at this Cliffhanger-esque-but-not-really-at-all action classic!

7 Examples That Prove Stallone’s ‘Cliffhanger’ is Just ‘Die Hard’ on a Mountain

Eric Roberts as a Sexy Hollywood Stunt Performing Secret Agent

While myself – and many a Ultimate Action Movie Club fan – might know Roberts best for his work in the first two Best of the Best films (in which Roberts proves that he’s both excellent at ultimate fighting and dramatic crying). The rest of the world might know him best for… well… whatever the heck you might have seen him in.

The man has been A LOT of movies. Some good. Some bad. Some Ultimate. Some non-Ultimate. With over 561 credits to his name, the man has been a workhorse over the course of his career.

And even with the vast breadth of his filmography, Freefall stands out. Out of the 500+ films Roberts has been featured in, I doubt he’s ever had a character better than Grant Orian. We’re first introduced to Orian through the gaze of Pamela Gidley’s Katy, as she watches Orian jump off of a cliff into a waterfall. 

We then get to slowly meet Orian through her interactions with him as he reveals himself to be an ex-Hollywood stunt performer, who is also an Interpol secret agent with a long list of worldly conquests, powerful friends and even more powerful enemies… or is he?

By the Sword: The Most Ultimate Fencing Action Movie Ever!

A Love Story with Action

Again, as the VHS cover misled me on this one. Freefall really isn’t a straightforward action movie. Not that Cliffhanger was either, but this might have slightly less action than that. Instead, it’s mostly a love story between Grant and Katy, which, by the way, manifests itself quickly after their first encounter and mostly focuses on an absolutely drenched in sweat Roberts for most of the scene.

The rest is an almost never-ending stream of plot reveals, mostly at the expense of Katy, as Orian’s past life is catching up to him. And while he confesses his love for Katy, he also seems to literally put her in harm’s way at every turn.

And it gets worse too as the other man Katy has been involved with, Jeff Fahey’s Dex, is just as bad for her as well. And we eventually get an emotional tug-of-war between the two as everyone who shows up is instantly double crossed and we get the majority of our shootouts and other action escapades.

Stallone’s ‘Cliffhanger’ is Set to Get Reboot with Female-led Cast

But How Ultimate is it?

So the question is, how does Freefall work as an Ultimate Action Movie. Well, it checks enough boxes for sure. Eric Roberts checks the majority of them himself as he truly is a 90s action superhero of sorts. 

It also features a decent final showdown that is actually pretty on part with the final grapples between Stallone and John Lithgow at the end of Cliffhanger. We also get a satisfying final ledge drop and plenty of awesome one-liners from Roberts, including his final pickup line: “ever parachute naked into a volcano?”

Overall, it’s quite enjoyable and recommended for group gatherings. I’d say it does pair well with Cliffhanger, but maybe not how you’d expect. Would probably put it into an Eric Roberts Top 10 action movies list for sure. Check it out!

The Terminator Meets Die Hard in ‘Project Shadowchaser II’ (1994)

Zagarino as the blonde terminator and Genesse as a martial arts McClane!

Being a physical media collector, whether it is VHS’, DVD or Blu Ray, just like other collectors out there, we all have our “most wanted” lists. Night Siege: Project Shadowchaser II has been on my list for a while and I was finally able to track it down. So today UAMC readers, it is with a big yippee-ki-yay, that I bring you this review…

Night Siege: Project Shadowchaser II Review

The official plot from the back of the DVD cover goes like this:

“In the ultimate battle of man vs. machine, a beautiful scientist and a hard hitting engineer join forces against a super-human android programmed to steal a top secret nuclear weapon”.

Promoted as Die Hard meets The Terminator, it more than lived up to that hype for me. Executing elements from both films and making it work shockingly well.

The one and only Frank Zagarino (Armstrong/Trained to Kill/Blood Warriors) is the one on the cover as he plays the Terminator-like android in 4 of these Shadowchaser films, but this second entry of the series also stars Bryan Genesse. It’s just as much as a Genesse vehicle as it is one for Zagarino.

Gary Daniels Takes Down Bryan Genesse in ‘Cold Harvest’ (1999)

Bryan Genesse vs. Frank Zagarino

The beginning sees Genesse cruising in a convertible and he gives this hitchhiking kid a ride, as his mother works at the same facility that Genesse does. Genesse is just a “lowly janitor”, who gets talked down to and pretty much fired, because he drinks too much. The boy’s mother, is a scientist there… played by Bon Jovi video girl, Beth Toussaint. She definitely has the looks and yes she was in one of Bon Jovi’s first videos, “She Don’t Know Me”, circa 1984. She did quite a bit of TV and some other b-movies, such as Fortress 2 and Hijack, but she should have done more as she was good in this.

The first time we see Zagarino, it is as memorable of an entrance as any. As he emerges from some smoke, shirtless and bulked up, with an awesome tan and hair to match… he yells while firing his machine gun. When done firing on everyone, he puts on one of their little party hats and says “Merry Christmas”! Yes, we have another action Christmas movie that needs to be added to our annual rotation!

For a b-movie, this seemed to have quite the production and set pieces. Blood and explosions a-plenty and it was all shot very well.

Before the inevitable final showdown with Zags, Genesse has a number of killer hand to hand fights as well… each made distinctively and memorably! One of the first ones ends up with a baddie being set on fire, still coming at him and we see Genesse take him down with a couple jump kicks! Then later on we get another fight where he gets to wield some nunchucks.

Side note:we don’t see nearly enough nunchuck action in these movies, so it was cool to see. A couple more scraps end in cool ways as well, involving an axe to the head and water electrocution! The climactic fight between Genesse and Zagarino is the best of em all of course and as epic as you could hope for. Both getting to show off their kicks and martial arts skills.

Dean Cochran in the Nu Image Gem ‘Target of Opportunity’ (2005)

But How Ultimate is it Really?

The rest of the cast were pretty solid as well. We had Todd Jensen (The Cutter/Target of Opportunity) as one of the terrorists, Danny Keogh (Wake of Death/Operation Delta Force 2 & 3) as the sheriff, Daniel Bonjour (The Walking Dead) as the kid and Genesse movie alumni Gavin Hood (Live Wire Human Timebomb/Traitor’s Heart/Kickboxer 5).

One of the things that make an ultimate action movies so ultimate the one liners and we had some good ones here! Zagarino says “Welcome to the main event! In one corner we have the janitor and in the other… Me!”. There are some others, but I am not trying to spoil the whole movie for ya. Zagarino is at his unhinged best and his ruthless android character is certainly larger than life.

I will also say while going back in my rediscovery of this 80s and 90s action genre, Genesse has become a favorite for sure. I love some of his others like Live Wire Human Timebomb, Death Train and my recently reviewed Cold Harvest, but Night Siege: Project Shadowchaser II just might be his finest all around film!

Zagarino as the blonde terminator and Genesse as a martial arts McClane – Night Siege: Project Shadowchaser II if not already in your collection, should be on your most wanted list as well!

A Look into the Ultimate Martial Arts of ‘Enter the Fat Dragon’

Donnie Yen is truly at the top of his martial arts game!

Donnie Yen is quite simply the greatest actor currently working in martial arts movies. He has played opposite Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Sammo Hung, Vin Diesel, Scott Adkins, Wesley Snipes and Mike Tyson. He’s taken over roles played by Bruce Lee, did a sequel to Crouching Dragon, Hidden Tiger and starred in a Star Wars movie for Christ sake.

He has literally picked up the mantle from Bruce Lee in introducing the world to a variety of martial arts exhibited in amazing fight scenes in his films. Two of my all time top 10 fight scenes feature Donnie Yen.

So anytime a great action star takes a detour into comedy, I tend to get nervous. For every Terminator, we get an Killing Gunther. Missing in Action will leave behind a Top Dog. Die Hard begets Hudson Hawk. Rambo will give us Stop or My Mom Will Shoot. The only actor I’ve seen successfully transitioning between action and comedy is Dwayne Johnson. But now it seems like Donnie Yen is determined to take his brand of action down the comedy rabbit hole with his latest Enter The Fat Dragon.

UAMC Reviews Donnie Yen in ‘Enter the Fat Dragon’ (2020)

Donnie Yen is the Fat Dragon

Enter The Fat Dragon tells the story of Detective Fallon Zhu. He breaks up a bank robbery in the opening scene that leaves a wake of collateral damage. This gets him busted out of his unit down to the evidence room. He’s fiancé then leaves him because of this single minded dedication to his job. An injury proves to be the last straw. Our once lithe super cop then packs on about a hundred pounds and takes on the titular role of the title.

I think the advertising for this movie is a little misleading. Yen in a yellow track suit from Game of Death made me think this would be a zany comedy with some martial arts. But Yen continued his streak in never making a bad movie in delivering a typical police procedural, where he’s given the opportunity to redeem himself by delivering a prisoner to Japan. When that prisoner escapes and is murdered by the Yakuza, it’s up to our out of shape, fish out of water hero to solve his murder and close the case.

Donnie Yen is a fat suit is quite a sight to see. He kicks and flips and nunchucks his way across Japan. Yen may be 57 years old but looks like he is in his 30s in this movie. Age has not slowed this man down. Check out his acrobatics and his Parkour as he’s chased across rooftops or his flips and splits as he fights multiple opponents in all manner of fighting.

His action comedy a throwback to the actors trained at the Chinese Operas before they were all closed down. The best compliment I can give is he looks like a young Sammo Hung, who Yen actually fought in an amazing fight at the end of Kill Zone.

Ip Man 4: A Fitting End to a Legendary Martial Arts Franchise

The Types of Martial Arts in ‘Enter the Fat Dragon’

So where do we find martial artists such as Donnie Yen? Donnie was been training in traditional Chinese martial arts like Kung Fu and Tai Chi since he was a child by his mother, who was a martial arts master in the Boston area. As a teenager, he picked up the high kicks of Tae Kwon Do.

Like Bruce Lee before him, Yen then took his experimentation in the martial sciences to the streets. His family saw that this might end well, so they arranged for him to study with the prestigious Beijing Wushu Team in China, where he went on to become a gold medal winning national champion. Director and fight coordinator Yuen Woo Ping of The Matrix fame cast him in his first starring role in 1984’s Drunken Tai Chi and again in 1994’s Iron Monkey.

He was then seen by Jet Li who also practiced Wushu and invited to be his opponent in 1992’s Once Upon A Time In China II. This led to an acting career that has spanned almost 80 films and cemented his reputation as the screen’s foremost martial artist.

Along the way, Yen has picked up black belts in Tae Kwon Do, Judo, and a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. He breakdances, sings and does Parkour. Like Bruce Lee who is the god father of mixed martial arts, Yen defines his style as MMA because he incorporates all of his martial arts when he does a fight scene.

And if that wasn’t impressive enough, to prepare for his role in 2008’s Ip Man about Bruce Lee’s Wing Chun teacher, he actually went and learned Wing Chun from Ip Man’s son. Yen is credited with a resurgence of Wing Chung in the Orient trough Ip Man movie and its three sequels.

The True Heir to Bruce Lee is Sonny Chiba in ‘The Street Fighter’

Other Donnie Yen Classics to Consider

If your new to Hong Kong action or martial arts in general, Donnie Yen and his massive and ever expanding catalogue of films is the place to start. 2005’s Kill Zone has two of the best fights put to film. For a pure MMA fight done right, check out 2007’s Flashpoint.

My favorite Yen film is 2015’s Kung Fu Killer, where a serial killer is murdering all the masters in Hong Kong in mortal combat. In the meantime, let’s show Enter The Fat Dragon some love. It’s box office just got killed because it was pulled from theaters in China to prevent the spread of the Corona virus.

Allow me to end my article with my all time favorite Donnie Yen fight scene from 2007’s Flashpoint (video above). If this doesn’t get you to the dojo, nothing will!

UAMC Reviews Donnie Yen in ‘Enter the Fat Dragon’ (2020)

The Ultimate Zany Kung-Fu Comedy of Sammo Hung…

In 1973, martial arts legend Bruce Lee starred in the most iconic martial arts film of all time, Enter The Dragon. In the legendary intro to said movie, he fights a heavy set, but very agile opponent in front of a circle of spectators. That opponent was none other than future movie icon Sammo Hung. 

In 1978, Hung starred and directed in the zany kung fu comedy that not only helped catapult him into stardom, but also served as a loving tribute to his friend, Bruce. That film was called Enter the Fat Dragon.

Now, over 40 years later, reigning martial arts icon Donnie Yen pays tribute to both men in his newest opus, the kung fu action comedy also titled Enter the Fat Dragon. So, how does Yen’s version stack up when in the presence of two greats? Let’s find out!

The True Heir to Bruce Lee is Sonny Chiba in ‘The Street Fighter’

Enter the Fat Dragon Review

A cop is assigned to a case of escorting a criminal to Japan while dealing with relationship problems, and his enormous change in appearance as a result of being dumped.

Man. Oh. Man. What a ride this was! A hilarious, hyper-paced, rock-em sock- em blast of a movie! A throwback to the golden days of the 80s when we got kung fu comedy classics like Wheels on Meals and My Lucky Stars, I was grinning from ear to ear by the time the credits started playing! An absolute great time! Donnie Yen does the legends justice while continuing to show us he truly is one of the greatest to ever do it!

But let’s talk about Donnie for a second. What I love about Donnie is how he always goes for parts that are outside of what he usually does. Sure, he could play Ip Man 800 times more and make millions of dollars at it, but he isn’t content with that. Donnie loves a challenge.

Ip Man 4: A Fitting End to a Legendary Martial Arts Franchise

Donnie Yen in a Fat Suite

And playing an over 300 pound policeman in a laugh out loud kung fu comedy is definitely a challenge. But Yen is absolutely up for it, and he is truly a joy to behold! With this role, Yen proves there is nothing he can’t do as he provides some of the biggest laughs of the movie with his genuine charm and wit. Job well done, Mr. Yen!

The supporting cast also provide great big laughs as well, so salute to Teresa Mo, Wong Jing (who also wrote, co-produced, and co-directed the film), Niki Chow as Chloe, Fallon’s fiancee, Naoto Takenaka, Tetsu Watanabe, and the countless others. Awesome work!

And it’s all thanks to the wonderfully funny script penned by Wong Jing, who balances not only the comedy, action, romance and drama, but all the conflicting stories and characters perfectly as well, creating a great dynamic between all. Damn fine job, sir!

Thoughts on Bruce Lee’s Portrayal in ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’

But How Ultimate is the Action?

Now, all this talk about comedy, I know what you’re all thinking: “So, is there any action?”. Well, ladies and gentlemen, yes there is… and it’s FANTASTIC! We get quite a few brawls here, and thanks to the efforts of action choreographers Kenji Tanigaki (who also co-directed), Hua Yan, and Donnie Yen himself, these are some damn fine brawls! From the opening bank heist/chase scene to the finale on top of Tokyo Tower, every single action sequence is choreographed, shot and edited to perfection. Yes, Donnie looks funny kicking all the ass in a fat suit, but that’s the point. So just enjoy it!

All in all, I seriously loved this movie! I may have even liked this more than Yen’s Ip Man 4. It’s that great! So if you get the chance, sit back, relax, and enjoy the show! 

Light Blast: A Primer on Ultimate Italian Action

It only happened once, folks. One of the greatest practitioners of Italian action cinema, Enzo Castellari, teams up with master thespian Erik Estrada (CHiPs) to bring us the criminally underseen gem of action that is Light Blast.

In an isolated railyard a van with a broadcasting antenna pulls up and points a laser gun at a large digital clock. The laser beam destroys the clock, and the heat from the explosion is so intense it melts the chain link fence and rail cars near the clock, including a young couple who made the unfortunate choice of climbing into one of those cars to have sex.

Across town, a pair of psychopaths have rounded up the employees of a bank and are demanding money, safe passage, and food. And to let San Francisco Police know that they’re serious, they shoot a security guard dead right in front of the news cameras. The passage and money are going to take some time, but the food arrives fast enough.

Ronn Warren (Estrada) arrives in his underwear, as per the criminals instructions, to make sure he’s not carrying weapons, and holding a tray with a cooked turkey and fries. Suspicious of poisoned food, one of the psychos orders Ronn to taste the food. Ronn reaches into the turkey, pushes a hidden gun through a slit in the turkey meat, and shoots the psycho in the forehead.

And just like that, in a matter of minutes, Light Blast has established our protagonist and antagonist in their respective habitats, and the narrative cuts back and forth between them, moving them closer to each other in a final confrontation. The narrative moves along like a police procedural, but has an ending that feels very much like a Western showdown.

Erik Estrada stars in the Italian Sci-Fi Action B-Movie ‘Light Blast’ (1985)

Enzo Castellari’s Italian Action Expertise

Enzo Castellari had been to San Francisco a few years before–briefly–to shoot some establishing scenes with Franco Nero for Day of the Cobra before taking the rest of the production back to Italy. (I’ll cover that movie soon.) Light Blast is entirely shot in San Francisco, and the city is as much a character as Ronn and Dr. Yuri Svoboda (Ennio Girolami.) Through a number of scenes we see the Oakland Bay Bridge and Coit Tower in the background. And a crucial action scene takes place in Mare Island’s drydocks, featured many times in the show Mythbusters.

Watching this film I’d say Castellari not only has a keen eye for action–and possibly no concerns over consequences from dangerous stunts–but good casting instincts. Erik Estrada ably carries this movie, giving his all in the action sequences, and owning the scenes of Ronn’s investigations with an easy charm and screen presence.

I can’t remember how I discovered this film, but I was blown away by the fact that Castellari had made a movie with the guy from CHiPs. But the time Estrada spent in that show paid off. He’s very believable not just as a police detective, but as a spiritual descendant of Dashiell Hammett’s Continental Op. A line of errant knights of justice that continues through Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe, Mike Hammer, Popeye Doyle, and Travis McGee. (And a more recent descendant is Jack Reacher.)

Exploring the Ultimate Action Roots in ‘Live Like A Cop, Die Like A Man’ (1976)

A Solid Plot Combined with Great Action

Ronn lives on a boat, and has a devoted wife, but he always looks most natural when he’s on the hunt for something or someone. At the crime scene he ponders the evidence the lab boys share with him, but it’s not until a second attack from Dr. Svoboda’s laser and a demand for 10 million dollars that Ronn can see a pattern to start working from. The film balances the story aspects of the police investigation with incredible action sequences in a way that feels effortless and natural.

Clues lifted from the crime scene lead Ronn to a place, where action happens, where more clues are found that take Ronn to a new place. In a smooth and efficient manner we learn about Svoboda’s doom ray, and the Doctors intentions with it. (A high frequency laser that excites the molecules in the liquid crystal displays of clocks, releasing enough energy to melt the entire city of San Francisco, which Svoboda will do if his demands aren’t met.) And we learn of the Doctor’s past as a brilliant but reckless professor and researcher, embittered over his dismissal from the University of San Francisco following an accident in the laser research lab.

From these pulp elements Castelli and his co-writer Tito Carpi craft a lean story that is supported by a solid performance by Estrada, and skillful camera work and editing. When it’s time to investigate, we learn new things along with our hero without being weighed down with info dumps. When it’s time for action, we are treated to some spectacular action sequences, complete with car explosions and shootouts.

The IMBD entry for this film states that no less than 8 stuntmen were injured making this film. After you watch the movie, you’ll believe it. There’s no visible character development, but Ronn is more archetype than character. He moves through a landscape he’s very familiar with, acting as a shield against the forces of chaos through a defined set of characteristics. Though Light Blast is shot in the United States with an American actor as its star, it has the vitality that is distinctive of Eurocrime.

Italian genre films are known for their soundtracks, and this one is no exception. Horns, percussions and synth scores fade in and out through the movie’s running time as the action peaks and dips in intensity and we roll to the final showdown, where Svoboda makes the fatal error of wearing a Casio wristwatch. (Understandable. A methodical, calculating man like Svoboda would use a reliable watch, and who didn’t own a Casio back then?)

The Soldier: The Greatest Arthouse Action Movie Ever Made

A True Vestron Video Classic!

Light Blast is an entertaining and suspenseful film, featuring a propulsive score, and face-melting practical effects approaching the quality of the ones seen in Raiders of the Lost Ark. But I get the feeling that not enough people have seen this film, and that needs to change! If you still need another endorsement, the VHS cover art for this film that I found on the internet shows the Vestron Video logo above the art.

Remember Vestron?

Article by Melvin Cartagena – born and raised in Puerto Rico on a diet of mainstream, cult and action movies. Currently resides in Massachusetts where he writes fiction and nonfiction, and writes and draws comics. You can see his work on YouTube at RoboPulp Media.

Latest ‘No Time To Die’ Trailer Could Change Everything… Or Nothing

James Bond might never be (or always be) the same…

Two months after the first official trailer for the upcoming James Bond film No Time To Die, we got a 30 second TV spot with brand new footage during the 2020 edition of the Super Bowl, yesterday night. Although many label it as a “trailer”, particularly on YouTube uploads, this isn’t a trailer but a promo meant for TV only due to its shortness. For sure (unless there is a change of plans) there’ll be a second trailer for the film throughout the month along with a theatrical poster with the credits.

I’ll be describing the TV spot in the following paragraphs. It is important to let you know that you may consider some things “spoilers”, but these aren’t actually spoilers per se, it’s just speculation and things being said around and converted into “news” by tabloids, some of them generating an incredible hype. When researching for my third book A View To A Thrill: A Closer Look At The James Bond Trailers, I also notice how incredibly misleading the audiovisual Bond promos can be, particularly in the past 25 years.

The first seconds of the Tomorrow Never Dies theatrical trailer could have easily passed for a Jack Ryan film starring Harrison Ford, as the initial seconds of the Die Another Day teaser felt like a horror movie and the black and white build up for Casino Royale’s teaser could have belonged to a noir film about an assassin like Léon: The Professional. So we’ll have to see yet how the first trailer and TV spot for No Time To Die have fooled us in a way or another.

James Bond: ‘No Time to Die’, but Plenty to Guess

No Time to No Time to Die

“Have you every fly one of these before?”, asks James Bond (Daniel Craig). “Nope”, cheekily replies 00 agent Nomi (Lashana Lynch) as she pilots a hi-tech flying machine resembling Die Another Day’s Switchblades used by Pierce Brosnan’s 007 and Halle Berry’s Jinx to infiltrate a North Korean base at the end of Die Another Day.

In captions placed over the 007 logo, we read “This April, the 25th film will change everything”, intercut with incredible and beautiful looking shots of Bond improvising a bungee jump over a bridge in Italy, a couple of assailants abseiling down a skyscraper at dawn, Bond underwater, and the secret agent shooting a machine gun in tuxedo.

We also see Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) on a balcony, Bond surprised after getting a phone call, and the villain Safin (Rami Malek) pointing someone with a gun. M (Ralph Fiennes) is also seen looking at a portrait of his predecessor played by Judi Dench who got a painting on the MI6 walls, an homage also given to Bernard Lee in 1999’s The World Is Not Enough. The final shot has Bond, in shock, pointing his gun.

Pierce Brosnan: A New James Bond for a New World

How Exactly Will ‘No Time to Die’ Change Everything?

The first thing that shocked me and even put me off a little was the tagline. What do they mean with a film that would “change everything”? I personally wouldn’t want them to change anything. I want them to improve what we have seen for years and adapt it for these days as GoldenEye did with the usual formula and Casino Royale did with the 1953 novel in which it was based. Don’t forget there rumors that Danny Boyle wanted to kill off Bond and that some franchises killed relevant leading characters in the past five years, but it appears this were the “creative differences” that made the Yesterday director leave the project before Cary Fukunaga got the job.

But now, knowing how many trailers have promised us films that were less dark than what we thought or less dramatic than it was apparent in many previews, there is a big possibility that we are being played into thinking that Bond will die. Follow: you fire a director because he wanted to kill Bond off, you say you let him go because of “creative issues” and the rumor mill begins to spread news that the film will surprise fans and that Craig wants to leave the series doing something groundbreaking and original.

What do you do, you contradict it or you use it as a clever publicity stunt? Everyone’s been so tight-lipped and the production details were so confidential for years that instead of contradicting every guess we make they use that to build-up intrigue in a case of diversion that could be the biggest marketing strategy ever made in the series. Part of this strategy includes an imprisoned Ernst Stavro Blofeld telling Bond that when Madeleine’s secret finds its way out, “it’ll be the death of you”.

James Bond: Ultimate Thoughts on the ‘No Time To Die’ First Trailer

What Kind of Villain Will Bond Ultimate Face?

There are also moviegoers insisting that Safin is a new version of Dr. No, the first villain in the series played by Joseph Wiseman in the eponymous 1962 film. While the lairs of both villains are rather similar-looking and while Malek has mentioned that film in many interviews, I personally find the Dr. No rumors rather weak. First of all, it all came from tabloids. Secondly, he wasn’t a recurring character as Felix Leiter, Moneypenny, M, Q or Blofeld. He was pretty much a one-off antagonist who got drowned into boiling water at the end of the first James Bond screen adventure. Scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade are known for recycling Ian Fleming elements, so it could make sense that they based Safin into the literary version of this villain, but it’s hard to think they would take an unoriginal path as naming him Dr. No at some point of the film.

Those kind of retcons and revivals are perhaps more common in franchises like Star Wars, but it’s not very appropriate for Bond. And let’s not forget that the homages to previous films in Die Another Day weren’t too celebrated by many Bond fans as was turning Ernst Stavro Blofeld as a foster-brother to 007 in SPECTRE, so my bet is that they would like to aim for an original threat to 007. Let’s not forget that Ralph Fiennes’ M is not Admiral Miles Messervy but Lt. Colonel Gareth Mallory from the Irish army, so that shows they are not attempting to tie this era to the original timeline but making a timeline on its own.

In only two months until we see what No Time To Die has in store. It appears the cinematography is beautiful and that it’ll be more action-packed than Skyfall and SPECTRE on the very least. Then there’s that little thing about it being the film that will change everything. But, it may be nothing.

A Tribute to Mickey Rourke’s Scene-Stealing Turn in ‘Double Team’

Ol’ Mickey steals the show from Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dennis Rodman in Double Team (1997).

Mickey Rourke appeared in plenty of stinkers during his time in the doldrums back in the 1990s with films like Wild Orchid and Sylvester Stallone’s Get Carter remake immediately springing to mind.

But when it comes to choosing the hidden gems of this particular era, they don’t come much gleaming than 1997’s Double Team, which saw go bad as the villain facing off against Jean-Claude Van Damme and… Dennis Rodman.

And if that sounds like the most bizarre line-up of actors ever assembled, it’s worth noting that Paul Freeman, aka Rene Belloq from Raiders of the Lost Ark, also features.

VHS Vault: Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man (1991)

Van Damme’s Double Team Adventure

Directed by seasoned Hong Kong martial arts film maker Tsui Hark, and written by Arachnophobia and Evolution scribe Don Jakoby, the film ranks among JCVD’s most bats*** crazy of all-time and that’s thanks, in no small part to Rourke. He plays, Stavros, a freelance international terrorist willing to work for any government able to stump up enough cash. So far, so ridiculous, but Rourke was having none of it.

Evidently seeing the film as an opportunity to return to the kind of training schedule he enjoyed during his brief career as a boxer, Rourke underwent a serious martial arts regimen to prepare for his fight scenes alongside Van Damme. It did the trick, with Rourke’s buff, shiny, appearance remaining an enduring memory of the film in the mind’s of most fans. Or us at least.

Rourke, to his credit, gives it his all with an unhinged performance that sees him throwing people through plate-glass with wild abandon and regularly either shooting guys in the face or just sneering at them before someone else does the deed or delivers a roundhouse kick.

Sudden Death: When Jean-Claude Van Damme Checked Die Hard

Rourke and Van Damme Would be Pretty Ultimate…

At the start of the movie, JCVD is a government assassin brought out of a sabbatical to “retire” Stavros after they get wind he is heading to a nearby theme park having just purchased some rather expensive plutonium.

Van Damme soon realises why he’s there though: Stavros is taking his six-year-old son on a lovely day trip. JCVD’s Jack Paul Quinn hesitates at the vital moment and ends up shooting Stavros’ son in a move that’s very Face/Off.

Enraged and upset, Stavros eventually escapes after a hospital maternity ward shootout that ends up knocking Van Damme’s Quinn out in the process. It’s here that things get weird. Quinn awakes to find himself on The Colony, a mysterious island full of old government assassins who have been sent there to see out their retirement years in secret. Yep, it’s a lot like The Prisoner.

Run by Freeman’s Alex Goldsmythe, inhabitants spend their days helping governments catch terrorists using a giant super computer set up in a kind of war room like the one seen in Dr. Strangelove.

However, Quinn is called into action when Stavros somehow gets in touch to let him know he’s kidnapped his wife, setting things up nicely for one of the most ludicrous training montages ever put to film. Van Damme must then escape the islands bizarrely intricate security system before getting in touch with eccentric arms dealer Yaz (Rodman) and going off to fight Stavros.

Mickey Rourke Takes on Danny Trejo in ‘Point Blank’ (1998)

Dennis Rodman’s Short-lived Action Movie Career

Once united, the banter between JCVD and Rodman is, without fail, painful. “Who does your hair,” Van Damme quips at one point, “Siegfried or Roy?”

Rodman, meanwhile, gives off the air of a man either unable to act or simply too disinterested to care – he probably had Carmen Electra waiting for him at home – with several of his lines evidently re-recorded in post-production, given that his mouth rarely moves in sync.

But despite the lack of chemistry between the pair, Rourke remains a worthy villain and still finds time to out-crazy the rest of the movie with the film’s killer finale. Facing off against JCVD and Rodman in Rome’s coliseum – long story – Rourke has got them stuck between a rock and a hard place or, more specifically, a coliseum full of land mines and a tiger.

But using a mix of Rodman’s “attitude” and Van Damme’s penchant for high kicks, the pair escape with Van Damme’s wife, after Rourke somehow steps on one of his own mines. He’s a trooper to the end though, delivering one final, emotive close-up to camera before being blown sky-high.

Oh and the tiger dies in the blast because, well f*ck you Tiger for getting involved in stuff that wasn’t your business. The gang even find time to fit some subtle product placement in there, using a Coca-Cola vending machine to shield themselves from the blast.

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Still an UAMC-approved Action Classic!

Universally panned, the film did at least get a good review from the LA Times who describe it as Rourke’s “best work in some time.” Ouch. Audiences disagreed though with the film making back just over a third of its $30 million budget and picking up three Golden Raspberries, though Rourke was not the recipient of any.

All of this meant that the plans that had been in place for a sequel were, unsurprisingly, scrapped, with the movie’s failure doing irreparable damage to Van Damme’s box office pull.

Director Hark and JCVD would reunite two years later for Knock-Off – an action movie also starring Rob Schneider that saw the Muscles From Brussels take on a gang of international criminals trading in counterfeit jeans.

It would get worse before it got better for Rourke though, who returned to one of his most famous roles as John Gray in the straight-to-video sequel to 9 1/2 Weeks entitled… Another 9 1/2 Weeks.

Rodman would return to acting with Simon Sez and Cutaway but, oddly enough, has not featured in many films since. Don’t call us Dennis, we’ll call you. Still, at least there was a happy ending for Rourke, who went on to appear in The Rainmaker less than a year later.

Gary Daniels Takes Down Bryan Genesse in ‘Cold Harvest’ (1999)

Bounty Hunter Gary Daniels is hot on Bryan Genesse’s trail in ‘Cold Harvest’ (1999).

Cold Harvest – what an awesomely unique gift from the action movie gods! It brings me great pleasure to bring you this review today UAMC readers. This Nu Image offering from 1999 was helmed by martial arts action maestro Isaac Florentine, who was in the director’s chair. If that wasn’t good enough, they also brought in a couple of the biggest names in the DTV (direct to video) action world. Gary Daniels and Bryan Genesse.

Yes sir, the ingredients were all there and does it ever deliver! It would be awesome enough to have those 2 in a normal setup for these kind of movies, but Cold Harvest is anything but normal. It is a post apocalyptic western, with a healthy amount of martial arts added in for good measure.

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UAMC Review: Cold Harvest (1999)

The plot isn’t too complicated. It is set in a world where a comet has destroyed much of the earth. There is no sun, so it’s always night time. Daniels plays a bounty hunter who returns to his old stomping grounds after some time away. He intends to reunite with his estranged twin brother (yes Daniels in a duel role), but unfortunately he is too late. His brother was just shot down and murdered by Little Ray (Genesse) and his gang.

He ends up saving and protecting his brother’s wife played by the lovely Barbara Crampton (Trancers II/From Beyond). The other aspect of the story is that there were a handful of people that carried a rare gene that could be used to help save mankind, and Crampton may or may not be one of the people that had that gene.

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Great Actors, Ultimate Action!

The set pieces and scenery make for a really cool atmosphere for the mayhem that ensues. In some aspects, the movie tries to be a western, complete with revolvers, cowboy hats and saloons.

And then at other points, it also has the Mad Max/Cyborg, post-apocalyptic feel with dirt bikes, dune buggies, rocket launchers and machine guns. Daniels kicks not one, not 2, but 3 bad guys off of dirt bikes throughout the film! Not to mention kicking guys through windows and making an awesome kill with a pitchfork!

Barbara Crampton looks great and turns in likeable performance, shooting some baddies herself. One of the funniest scenes of the movie comes when she is cleaning herself with a washcloth, while Daniels is simultaneously cleaning his gun, looking at her in a mirror.

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Florentine’s Daniels vs. Genesse Finale

There are some cool old west style shootouts and duels, especially at the end, but I have a feeling I know what most are watching the movie for and that is the martial arts! The fights are crazy and expertly choreographed as you would expect from a Florentine directed film.

Genesse, usually playing the good guy in most roles like Street Justice, Live Wire Human Timebomb and Death Train, has a ton of fun playing the cocky bad guy here. The final throwdown with Daniels and Genesse is one for the record books and one of my personal favorites of the genre.

Cold Harvest is one of Daniels’ finest hours and just might be the best martial arts post-apocalyptic western of all time! Change my mind.

Mel Gibson and Danny Glover Confirmed for ‘Lethal Weapon 5’

Lethal Weapon 5 is happening with Mel Gibson and Danny Glover returning one final film!

A fifth and final Lethal Weapon movie is in the works with original stars Mel Gibson and Danny Glover returning as the original buddy cop duo Riggs and Murtagh.

It’s 22 years since Gibson and Glover starred together in Lethal Weapon 4 alongside Jet Li in a sequel many thought signaled the end of the franchise created by legendary action movie screenwriter Shane Black.

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Lethal Weapon 5 is a Go!

However Lethal Weapon producer Dan Lin has revealed that a fifth film is in development.

Speaking during a roundtable interview for the Hollywood Reporter, Lin confirmed that a fifth and most likely “last” movie was in the works with Richard Donner also expected to return as director.

“The story itself is very personal to him, and it’s just amazing,” he said. “The original cast is coming back. Mel and Danny are ready to go, so it’s about the script.”

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Mel Gibson and Danny Glover Ride Again

If Lethal Weapon 5 does get made, it’ll mark the first big-screen outing in the series since the fourth installment was released back in 1998.

The news comes less than a year after the Lethal Weapon TV series, starring Damon Wayans alongside Clayne Crawford and later Seann William Scott was cancelled after three seasons.

Black previously hinted at plans for a fifth film, explaining in one interview back in 2017 that he had written a “62-page treatment with [his] friend Chuck for Lethal Weapon 5 that would’ve been, a very good movie”.

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Script and Story Details to Come…

The Lethal Weapon creator said: “It was interesting. It was essentially an older Riggs (played by Gibson) and Murtagh (Glover) in New York City during the worst blizzard in east coast history, fighting a team of expert Blackwater guys from Afghanistan that’s smuggling antiquities. And we had a young character that actually counter-pointed them.”

Details on the project or whether or not Black’s treatment will serve as the basis of the script remain scarce.

Over the Top: An Ultimate Mess That Became a Masterpiece

Over the Top is the most Over the Top movie of all time, and you just have to simply accept and love it!

Everything about Over the Top works in just how much it doesn’t. From the concept, to the casting, to the performances, to the awkward plot, to the even more awkward pacing, Over the Top amazingly delivers in every aspect and at every turn until… well… it simply just goes “over the top” and becomes one of the greatest pieces of Ultimate Action cinema ever.

It’s also probably the quintessential Cannon Films film in my opinion as it perfectly summarizes Cannon’s huge popularity and potential against the real world results which ultimately doomed the company into bargain pile obscurity.

At the heart of it all is also Sylvester Stallone at the absolute heights of his career. And despite his $12 million dollar payday just for showing up, he also similarly walks the line between going with the odd flow, while also flexing his cinematic action muscles to will the movie to ultimate greatness.

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Why Didn’t Arm Wrestling Become the Next Karate?

So, the bet at the crux of Over the Top basically comes down to “we bet this whole ‘arm-wrestling’ thing takes off, and Over the Top will be the film at the center of a pop culture zeitgeist.” And it makes sense, kind of. Cannon Films had been at the forefront of the whole Ninja and Karate craze with Enter the Ninja in 1981 (and was a year away from releasing Van Damme’s Bloodsport on the world in 1988, which would eventually indirectly inspire the Mortal Kombat game and launch an entire generation into a Karate craze itself).

And who’s to say that Arm Wrestling isn’t just as cool as Karate? In many ways it’s even more basically school yard and accessible. Not a kid in the world couldn’t watch Over the Top and say: “Hey, I do that!” 

With the addition of Rocky Balboa himself walking up, flipping his trucker hat backwards, and throwing down hands, it really, really should have cornered the entire market on one of the most basic human games. But alas, for whatever reasons, besides working amazingly well within the confines of the film, in the real world it just really didn’t become the big “thing” they were hoping for.

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The Father Son Relationship Flick No One Asked For

There’s a scene in the Coen Brothers’ Barton Fink where its explained to John Turturro’s struggling screenwriter character Barton that one of acclaimed novelist William Mayhew’s tricks for tackling “wrestling pictures” is to switch up a traditional love story for a mentorship between the hero and a young boy.

This seems to be the approach that writer Stirling Silliphant took when he promised “an action love story with the emphasis on action.” However, while we have plenty of scenes building the relationship between Stallone’s Lincoln Hawk and his estranged son Michael, there really isn’t as much action as you’d like to see in a Stallone action movie of this late-’80s era. 

Instead, we get a father son bonding movie that oddly has the mask of turning into a more straightforward actioner at any given minute, but doesn’t really get going until the end. Which apparently for many fans and critics was simply too little too late.

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An Arm Wrestling Tournament That Begins in the 3rd Act?

If you ask a fellow action movie watching friend what they remember about Over the Top, chances are you’re going to get some sort of answer about the Arm Wrestling scenes – and most probably some recollections of the Arm Wrestling tournament. 

Every time I watch Over the Top though, I’m astounded at how late into the narrative that the Arm Wrestling tournament gets going. It’s literally like halfway through the 3rd act! That is assuming that Over the Top is even truly on a full hero’s journey 3 act structure, and not some odd hybrid 4 act arc to begin with.

Yes, it’s off-handedly teased in some early encounter between Hawk and the Smasher, but the way it’s thrown in as the saving grace for Stallone to basically win his son back is just amazing. Amazing and unfortunate, because I truly believe if the movie was just about the whole tournament from the beginning – this would have been one of Stallone’s highest grossing movies of all time.

It’d basically just be Bloodsport, pre-Bloodsport, but with Arm Wrestling, and with Stallone! And while the tournament we do get is awesome and intense and just downright fun. We only get a slice of what it could have been, and ultimately always will be when looking back at Over the Top.