Is ‘Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines’ a Good Action Movie?

Terminator 3 Rise of the Machines

In Defense of T3: Rise of the Machines…

By the mid-1990s James Cameron was interested in returning to the director’s chair to make a third installment of the Terminator franchise but due to the financial and legal wranglings of Hollywood he was unable to. This led to a huge problem for the franchise, a Terminator movie without its creator.

The impact of the Terminator films can’t be underestimated. T1 and T2 are two films which are so important that they would go on to define the decades they were made in. Much of the reason for that was Cameron’s reputation as a visionary director. Making the third film without his presence would, therefore, be an uphill battle to create something as culturally significant.

What audiences received was Terminator 3: Raise of the Machines, a film that turned a profit and received mostly favourable reviews at the time of its release but which, over time, has not necessarily dated well with the franchise’s fanbase. So let’s take a look back to see if this entry into the Terminator timeline is a future worth saving.

The Dark Conspiracy Behind The Terminator’s Origins

Resources Worthy of a Time War

In many ways any further entry into the Terminator franchise could have been a cheaply made cash-in production, especially as many of the great action movie franchises were finding new audiences with the emergent straight to DVD market. Many of these productions didn’t live up to the craft of the original movies that they spun off from.

This definitely was not the case with T3, the producers had raised the biggest budget of any movie made at the time, a total of 187 million dollars. This is definitely a strength of the movie for two reasons. The first is that it allowed the franchise to continue its tradition of high production values, which led to some very memorable moments in the movie, strengthening its place within the franchise.

The second important point about the budget is that it went some way to contend with the action movie landscape of the time. The turn of the century had seen the return of the science fiction action movie in a big and certainly reformative way. Special effects had developed hugely since T2, Industrial Light and Magic blew audiences away in the summer of 1999 with the spectacle of Star Wars: Episode I and, to my mind at least, the far superior effects work on The Mummy which definitely set an incredible standard in action movies.

The budget allowed for not just the talents of ILM to be involved in the production but also the return of the Stan Winston workshop to maintain the impressive visual continuity of the franchise. It wasn’t just the world of special effects that were  changing in action movies, they were becoming more cerebral. The two best examples of this being the philosophical edge of The Matrix and the ethical and moral content of X-Men.

Both of these movies were definitely informed by the visual language of the past entries in the Terminator franchise. The budget of Terminator 3 allowed the production to attempt to keep up with other action movies of the time.

Exploring the Multimedia Legacy of Terminator 2: Judgement

Writing the Future

The script for this entry of the franchise isn’t perfect. There are lapses in logic and it doesn’t take too much of a look online to find retrospective reviews that critique the comedic and camp tone of the movie’s attempt at comedy. Where the script really does excel is in its large speculative ideals. After all, all great science fiction contains amazing concepts and for that, the script is admirable.

The idea that John Connor at the start of the film both has and hasn’t yet become the great big sci-if Messiah is a great development of his story. The ramifications of time travel and how it is all wrapped up in the inevitable grim darkness of the fact that the creation and destructive fate of Skynet was only ever something that John and Sarah could only ever delay but never truly stop is a fantastic set up for a sequel. The fact that that the TX Terminator is out to crush the figureheads of John Connor’s post-apocalyptic resistance  adds a new dimension to the franchise.

The idea that Late is responsible for sending Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator back to protect the John of the present also works nicely. This is a movie which tries to uphold the integrity of the previous movies whilst pushing the boundaries of them which is a bold ambition.

Another really strong element of the script is the movies third act. It moves at breakneck speed and really puts over a sense of catastrophe. It also quite elegantly attempts to round off the trilogy with the start of the story at it’s end. It gives the story an epic and mythological quality.

The 10 Best Arnold Schwarzenegger Ultimate Action Movies!

It’s the end of the world as we know it

Terminator 3 Rise of the Machines

Terminator 3 demonstrates strengths in its cast. The return of Arnold was, at the time, a reason for fans to get behind the movie. The hype in the run-up to release was considerable and had he not returned the film almost certainly wouldn’t have fared as well. The other central performances are strong.

Nick Stahl gives a good performance as John Connor which contains a depth and doubt not really found in many action movies and the always solid Claire Danes really grounds the movie. Kristanna Loken also shines with a performance that communicates the development of how far Skynet has come.

In a world where the uncanny valley has become a trope of film criticism Loken is really quite convincing as a killer robot. The action is of a very high standard, maybe not quite as groundbreaking as T2 but still highly watchable and in light of the sequels to come T3 does at least try to aspire in it’s older model’s footsteps.

Is Sandra Bullock Sylvester Stallone’s Daughter in Demolition Man?

I mean, we’ve all asked ourselves this, right?

When you watch the 1993 sci-fi action classic Demolition Man, you’re often left with a few questions. Like, how does Sylvester Stallone stay so fit after 40 years of being cryogenically frozen for 40 years? How did Taco Bell really win the food franchise wars? And what dirt did Rob Schneider have on Stallone to keep landing roles in his movies?

Also, how the hell do those 3 seashells work!? (Read our full list of answers here…)

3 Theories on how the ‘3 Seashells’ Actually Work in Demolition Man (1993)

But perhaps the most poignant question has to do with the roles between Sandra Bullock’s character Lieutenant Lenina Huxley and Stallone’s Sergeant John Spartan.

A Little ‘Demolition Man’ History

So, to answer this question, we need to look first at the history of Demolition Man. Originally conceived to be a vehicle to pit two ultimate action stars Jean-Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal against each other, the project bounced for years with many different names attached.

At one point Jackie Chan was set to play the villain, however that role eventually went to Wesley Snipe who kills it as Simon Phoenix (one of our UAMC best bad guys of all time, btw). By the time Stallone was brought in the cast was finally set, but the story did still need some tinkering.

10 Things You Never Knew About Sylvester Stallone’s Demolition Man (1993)

What Does the Original Script Say?

Without getting too much into the origins of the script for Demolition Man. Which itself is a topic of much debate as a sci-fi writer by the name of István Nemere has made claim to having the concept plagiarized from his work. The script does have some answers.

Pointedly to a few scenes which were even filmed, but eventually cut from the final version of the film. And it does clear things up.

Could ‘Demolition Man 2’ Finally Be About To Happen?

Was Sandra Bullock Stallone’s Daughter?

The answer is no. Although it is set up that Stallone’s John Spartan did lose his wife (and possibly) his daughter in the infamous LA Civil War (of presumably the late 90s as the film came out in 1993), there were scenes that resolved this plot point.

The final version of the film cut what would have been several scenes of Stallone’s Spartan tracking down and reuniting with his daughter.

However, this does beg the question and creates an interesting narrative of its own. The filmmakers still chose to set up the fact that Stallone’s Spartan did have a daughter. That backstory does leave the audience with that knowledge and a desire to see it resolved.

The relationship story with Bullock’s Huxley in many ways seems to imply this. And whether or not they chose to include those other films, they had to be aware of these ramifications.

So, the question almost becomes, do we take the answer from what we see on screen (which at the very least leaves it open ended)? Or do we take the answer from the story behind the story?

What do you think the true answer to the question is? Let us know in the comments!

Chuck Norris Movies Every Action Fan Should Watch

Do yourself a favor and please see these Chuck Norris movies…

MISSING IN ACTION, Chuck Norris, 1984, (c) Cannon

In many ways, the Ultimate Action Movie Club was founded because of Chuck Norris and his ultimate action movie legacy. Chuck Norris facts were the popular “meme” of the day back in the early 2000s, thanks in part to the infamous Conan O’Brien Walker, Texas Ranger lever (which you can read more about here).

The History of Conan’s ‘Walker, Texas Ranger Lever’

Many of the first Ultimate Action Movie Club meetings were centered around viewing of old Chuck Norris action classics which were found from the local Blockbuster video store. So, in honor of the great roundhouse master, we’d like to share this list.

Whether you grew up following Chuck Norris’ career or have recently found out about the martial arts cowboy legend, here are some of C-Nor’s movies that you simply have to see.

(Note: this is not meant to be a ranking of Chuck Norris movies. If you’re interested in that, we have our Top 10 Chuck Norris movies here, or our follow-up Top 11 Chuck Norris movies here.)

The 11 Greatest Chuck Norris Ultimate Action Movies


If I had to recommend one single Chuck Norris movie to someone who had never witnessed the man in action, it would definitely have to be Lone Wolf McQuade. In many arguments, this is probably Chuck’s greatest work, but it’s also historically important as well.

Lone Wolf McQuade was indirectly responsible for launching Chuck’s Walker, Texas Ranger tv series – as well as introducing his western-esque action movie persona to the world.

The Top 100 Ultimate Action Movies of All Time


Probably one of the best things to come out of Cannon Films this side of American Ninja and Over the Top, Invasion U.S.A. is a great Chuck Norris party movie that everyone can enjoy.

It’s got Chuck in his signature Canadian tuxedo dual wielding shoulder uzis. It has a bad guy that is already going into the story of the movie so afraid of Chuck that he wakes up from Chuck ultimately killing him.

Plus it’s actually a perfect Christmas movie!

The Best Action Movies to Watch During the Holidays


One of Chuck’s greatest pure cinematic features, Code of Silence is Chuck at his most hard-nosed and gritty. As a crime drama, Chuck forgoes his usual martial arts and round houses for the role of a grizzled detective the likes of Steve McQueen would play or a later Dirty Harry thriller.

If Chuck didn’t have his own penchant for high kicks, he could have certainly sustained a career in this tough guy cinema. But lucky for us he was just simply awesome at both!

The Cutter (2005)

Taken as proof that Chuck Norris’ star power knows no bounds, The Cutter was Chuck’s last action movie starring role and came out probably in the most bleak of eras as far as ultimate action movies are concerned.

Released in 2005, on the heels of his long tenured run as Cordell Walker, The Cutter showcases just how prolific Norris career was – and in many ways could have been if he had stayed solely involved with just movies.

The Cutter: Chuck Norris Shines in his Final Starring Role


In retrospect, it’s really hard to make this a list of “5 Chuck Norris Movies that you have to watch”… It really should be several more, and it really should include the Delta Force franchise.

But, we chose 5 so we’re sticking to 5! And closing it out would be the first of Chuck’s Missing in Action franchise over Delta Force because… well no good reason besides it’s a classic and was one of Chuck’s biggest hits back in the day.

Plus it’s cool to see how Chuck’s legacy fits in with the Rambo / Vietnam war film lexicon against many other iterations from the 70s/80s/90s.

UAMC Ranks the Chuck Norris ‘Missing in Action’ Movies

What would you consider an essential Chuck Norris movie to watch? Let us know in the comments below!

‘Furie’ Brings Vietnamese Martial Arts to the Ultimate Mainstream

Ngo Thanh Van is a fresh new face of ultimate martial arts action!

Action is nothing without emotion. Sometimes an action film coasts on its fight scenes assuming that will enough to lure in an audience. Once in a while they’re right. Usually, they’re wrong. Despite a slow build, Furie, a 2019 Vietnamese film, has both action and emotion in spades.

Triple Threat: An Ultimate Martial Arts Movie for the Ages

Ngo Thanh Van Shows Her Skills

The film centers around Hai Phuong (Ngo Thanh Van, who made a brief appearance in The Last Jedi) and her daughter Mai (Cat Vy). Hai Phoung works as a debt collector in a remote village, a job that creates a lot of friction with her daughter as well as the locals. This element works throughout the whole film as it gives her personal doubts and an internal struggle as well as far fewer allies.

Mai is kidnapped by human traffickers after arguing with he mother at the village market and things kick-off from here leading to terrifically brutal fight proving Hai’s martial skills are second-to-none. At this point the movie does not slow down, jumping from one incredible stunt piece to another.

How Tony Jaa Saved the Ultimate Martial Arts Action Movie

Action Cinematography at its Best

Along with solid performances and masterful fight choreography, the movie also smartly relies on vibrant neon colors, and the natural beauty of the Vietnam countryside. The movie’s embrace of this rich tapestry of color and life only helps to create a unique visual palette. The cities in the movie are dense, dark and claustrophobic while the country is bright and filled with lush open spaces.

Towards the end of the film the room I was watching it in started to get a little dusty much to my unending surprise. The entire emotional core of the movie rests on the chemistry between Ngo and her daughter and it pays off it a beautiful, poignant way I won’t spoil here.

This movie won’t impress you with anything terribly genre bending. Instead it’s happy to fit within the conformity of most action movies, fulfilling many of its tropes. This safe approach though is just fine as it allows it focus on the fight staging that is incredibly satisfying. All of this is brought to life by fight choreographer Kefi Abrikh (Mission Impossible – Fallout, 2018) and action director Yannick Ben (Ghost in the Shell, 2017).

Enter the Fire: An Ultimate Nod to Old School Martial Arts Cinema

Women Make it to the Ultimate Forefront!

The movie also makes noted used of women throughout the movie including a nurse whose help is invaluable to the dangerous leader of the human trafficking ring Thanh Soi (Thanh Hoa). A woman who challenges Hai Phuong at every turn. The only male role of any note is a cop in serious need of Phuong’s help. This strong effort to put women at the forefront of action is one of the movie’s strongest points and one that can’t be overlooked.

While the film certainly doesn’t break any molds, it’s impossible to ignore Ngo Thanh Van and her incredible performance. Her ferocious drive and strong delivery is the perfect centerpiece to this thrill-a-minute, pulse-pounding movie. The high-flying kicks are worth every frame but its emotional impact is what you’ll remember.

FURIE is available now on NETFLIX

Article by: Kyle Scully credits his love of action films to a dedicated group of family and friends who fed him a steady diet of macho-nonsense. Thanks to their tireless efforts his interests range from the classics like Die Hard to the wonderfully bizarre like Universal Soldier: Regeneration.

Phillip Rhee is Ultimately the Best in ‘Best of the Best 3: No Turning Back’

Best of the Best 3 No Turning Back

Is this the best of the Best of the Best series? Here’s our best guess…

Best of the Best 3 No Turning Back

Without question, the 80s and 90s were the glory days of martial arts action cinema. It is not only what brought in the audiences on the big screen, it is what we flocked to the video stores for as well. Back before the CGI filled comic book movies, the martial arts expert was the superhero. One of the most criminally underrated movie series from that time has got to be Best of the Best.

I have fond memories of the first two entries in the series growing up, with the last couple eluding me until now. I finally tracked down the 3rd one (Best of the Best 3: No Turning Back) and that is what is in the UAMC spotlight today.

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

Best of the Best 3: No Turning Back (1995)

Eric Roberts and Phillip Rhee made a great duo in the previous entries, but in this one we see Rhee take the reigns. Although I’m a big Roberts fan and missed seeing him, boy does Rhee ever step up and deliver.

The film is about this small southern town that is being overrun by a growing hate group of white supremacists. The opening is a little dragged out and not so easy to watch, as we see the group take the town’s reverend hostage, taunting him and killing him with a baseball bat. As hard as that is to watch, it made what eventually happens to them all the more satisfying.

Rhee comes to town to visit his sister played by Anzu Lawson (American Yakuza) and her husband, who is also the town’s sheriff, played by none other than Shooter McGavin himself, Christopher McDonald (Happy Gilmore). This was a different kind of role than I know him for and he played it well, even getting in on the action.

The beautiful Gina Gershon (Red Heat) plays a school teacher in the middle of it all, giving a well acted performance. She first meets Rhee at a fair, where he got forced into playing a clown. She throws a baseball and dunks him in the water tank. He inevitably ends up getting involved and standing up for the town. Rhee and Gershon have pretty good chemistry, but it is not all the way explored. No sex scenes, sorry guys and gals.

Who knew I ever needed to see a clown take down a bunch of thugs, but what a fight scene! One of many great fights throughout. “Homie D. kick your ass clown!” They didn’t try and reinvent the wheel when it came to the story, but it was well executed.

A Case for Daniel Bernhardt and ‘Bloodsport 4: The Dark Kumite’ (1999)

Phillip Rhee Goes All Out for BotB3

Best of the Best 3 No Turning Back

Rhee, also serving as the director, is a 7th degree black belt in taekwondo as well as holding belts in other martial arts, really shines when it comes to the action. No surprise there. All the fights were well choreographed and exciting, which leads me to the finale.

What an explosive finale. My friend and fellow action movie connoisseur John M. Gerva put it best when telling me about it, the finale is action bliss. Taking place at this compound where there is a small army of the white supremacist goons. Made up of everything you could hope for – shootouts, explosions (one that sees a door flying off its hinges and wipes a guy out) and some amazing stunt work involving motorcycles. There is one scene where 3 guys on bikes are coming right at Rhee and he somehow does a flying combo of kicks and takes ‘em out. In another scene, he is on a bike himself and plays chicken with a guy in a car.

Michael Worth and Matthias Hues Kill in ‘Fists of Iron’

Some of the Best Fights and Action of the Series!

The climactic fight is very epic and memorable, between Rhee and the over the top, hammy Mark Rolston (Lethal Weapon 2/Shawshank Redemption/Aliens). It goes from the rooftops to inside, where they his ‘army’ sees him getting his ass handed to him. They also added a layer to the movie where this one younger guy who got involved in the supremacist group, who finally comes around and gets some sort of redemption.

Also noteworthy in the cast was Dee Wallace (E.T.) as a workaholic mom and Michael Bailey Smith (The Hills Have Eyes/A Nightmare On Elm Street 5) on bad guy duties. The only real tie in with the previous films in the series is when Rhee mentions the one time he killed a man, who killed his friend (Best of the Best 2).

Phillip Rhee is someone who should have been a household name from that time, but real action and DTV (direct to video) fans know. Best of the Best 3: No Turning Back is certainly a gem and one with a good message as Rhee states at the end, “Hate is not the answer”.

What is the Best Jean-Claude Van Damme Movie?

Bloodsport Van Damme

A discussion of Van Damme’s best action movie!

Let’s start with the answer to the question first. The best Jean-Claude Van Damme movie is Bloodsport (1988). Not only has the Ultimate Action Movie Club conducted comprehensive polls and discussions on this in the past, it also pretty much pops up on the top of every list on every film website.

Bloodsport is #1 on our own UAMC ranking list of the top Jean-Claude Van Damme movies (which you can read here). And Bloodsport is actually #2 overall on our Top 100 Action Movies of All Time list as well (which you can also read here)!

The 10 Best Jean-Claude Van Damme Action Movies Of All Time

Van Damme’s Bloodsport (1988)

As we outline in our UAMC page dedicated to Bloodsport here, it really is the movie that launched Van Damme’s career. And, in many ways, it started a film sub-genre of its own with countless Bloodsport-esque martial arts tournament style films which would come out in the next years and decades.

Of course these would also include the four sequels:  Bloodsport II: The Next Kumite (1996), Bloodsport III (1997) and Bloodsport 4: The Dark Kumite (1999).

It’s also been mentioned that Bloodsport also largely caused the martial arts / karate revolution in the late 80s and early 90s in American (and abroad) culture, with mega-influential franchises like the Mortal Kombat video game series being inspired by Bloodsport.

How Jean-Claude Van Damme Kickstarted the Mortal Kombat Franchise

Will There Be A New Bloodsport Sequel?

Bloodsport Van Damme

We have some information about this actually, at a screening of his Van Damme film Double Impact, writer and director Sheldon Lettich gave hints to a potential Bloodsport reboot sequel with the filmmakers of the John Wick franchise taking the helm.

You can read the full UAMC report here.

UAMC News: ‘John Wick’ Directors Looking to Helm ‘Bloodsport’ Reboot

As well as a full UAMC interview with Sheldon Lettich on Bloodsport, Mark Dacascos and Rambo III here!

Interview: Sheldon Lettich on Bloodsport, Van Damme and Stallone

And if you’re feeling really brave, you can read UAMC’s interview with the man behind the myth of Bloodsport, the infamous Frank Dux here!

UAMC Exclusive: Frank Dux Talks Bloodsport and the Real Kumite

Other Awesome Jean-Claude Van Damme Movies

But Van Damme’s career hardly stops at Bloodsport. And if you do disagree with its number one ranking – and many people do on the strength of Van Damme’s career – there are plenty of other JCVD classics to choose from.

In our Top 10 List, the UAMC has highlighted Legionnaire, Cyborg, Timecop, Universal Soldier, Double Impact, Lionheart, Sudden Death, Kickboxer, and Hard Target, as well as our honorable mentions list:

And if you do disagree with this recommendation, please do comment with your pick for the best Van Damme movie of his career in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!

A Case for Daniel Bernhardt and ‘Bloodsport 4: The Dark Kumite’ (1999)

Bloodsport 4 the dark kumite

Van Damme would be proud of this final DTV Bloodsport sequel!

Bloodsport 4 the dark kumite

I am aware that I am on the opposite side from the majority on this one, but I am here to make a case for the fourth and final installment of the Bloodsport series, The Dark Kumite.

It is the 3rd Bloodsport entry to star Daniel Bernhardt, but one thing we can all agree on is that it is very different from the others, not to mention he plays an entirely different character.

I give them credit here, you can’t really top what was already done with the previous sequels, so they completely threw out the previous Bloodsport formula and made a uniquely dark, quirky, martial arts movie that is completely over the top.

UAMC News: ‘John Wick’ Directors Looking to Helm ‘Bloodsport’ Reboot

Bloodsport 4: The Dark Kumite

When talking about Bloodsport 4, you can really split movie into 2 parts. The cop, prison first half of the movie and then the kumite tournament in the later parts. First things first…

The movie starts off by introducing Bernhardt’s character taking place in an underground fight. Why? I am not quite sure, as he is a cop as well. Still nice to see those signature Bernhardt kicks right out of the gate. The heart of the movie revolves around Bernhardt and his partner, played by his real life wife Lisa Stothard (Dumb and Dumber) and their long running pursuit of Schrek.

Yes the bad guy’s name is Schrek, but I can overlook that as he is played by the underrated Stefanos Miltsakakis, who was a good friend of Van Damme’s and was in several of his films; Cyborg, Maximum Risk, The Quest and Derailed, to name a few.

In Bloodsport 4 he is the main adversary and it Is nice to see him get an extended role to show off his many different styles of martial arts he is trained in. Anyway, they are able to apprehend him, but not before he kills another cop. Bernhardt ends up staging a scene where he makes it look like he kills 2 cops himself, making it look like he went crazy, just to get into this prison to find out about some shady things going on there and to go after Schrek as well. It just gets crazier from there…

11 Ultimate Facts About Jean-Claude Van Damme’s Bloodsport

Dark Kumite! Dark Kumite! Dark Kumite!

The warden played by the hilarious Derek McGrath is in cahoots with an even crazier fight promoter named Caesar (Ivan Ivanov/The Hunt for Red October/Derailed) who uses prisoners for his own version of the kumite. The tournament doesn’t even really start until maybe the last half hour or so of the film, but we get some nice fights in the prison setting before that too.

The kumite itself isn’t as grand or memorable as the previous Bloodsport entries, but there are a few standout fights and fighters, along with Bernhardt and Miltsakakis, the other fighter I have to give a nod to is the imposing David Rowe (Champions/Overkill/Alien Resurrection).

The main climatic fight between Bernhardt and Miltsakakis is very solid and kind of brutal, as Miltsakakis is choking him out and Bernhardt ends up stabbing him in the neck with a pen! Blood gushing out, it leads Bernhardt’s line, “I seem to have lost my pen!”, and then with one final kick to finish him off. Yeah, we didn’t see anything like that in the other Bloodsport movies.

At a point earlier on In the film, Bernhardt’s character is thought to be dead by his cop partners on the outside. He was just drugged to be sent to where the kumite was held. So all the while Stothard is looking for him and it ends up with a final shootout with them and Caesar. Bernhardt and Stothard have good chemistry, she plays her role well and it adds a little something extra, knowing that this led to a long partnership in real life as they are still together to this day.

UAMC Exclusive: Frank Dux Talks Bloodsport and the Real Kumite

A Fitting DTV Ending for the Bloodsport Franchise

Bloodsport 4 the dark kumite

Some other interesting info on the production of this film, is that it was shot at a prison in Bulgaria, with real prisoners and guards being there while filming. The filming had to be delayed before they even got started, as someone escaped literally the day before.

This is far from my favorite Bernhardt movie (I look forward to bringing you my take on his other starring vehicles as well), but someone has to stand up for it!

Is this movie at times funny intentionally and unintentionally? Yes. Does it look like a lower budget affair than the previous entries? Sure. Does the rich kumite host look like an evil Benjamin Franklin? Accurate. But somehow, I still enjoy the hell out of The Dark Kumite, as it is fun and doesn’t try to be anything that it’s not. It delivers what you want in a prison-martial-arts-tournament film.

The Top 10 Reasons Why Bloodsport is Van Damme’s Magnum Opus

We really don’t get enough of these kinds of martial arts movies these days, so going back and diving into that golden era of DTV (direct to video) cinema is something I absolutely love. Bernhardt was such an underrated talent as a lead – admittedly I might be biased here, as I could watch him in anything. Even going up against cyborgs and dinosaurs, more on that later.

‘Anna’ and the Resurgence of the Badass Women of Action


Since as long as I can remember, badass women have been one of my favorite staples of action movies, especially Blonde women.

From Cynthia Rothrock in China O’Brien (my favorite badass queen) to Uma Thurman in Kill Bill, I have long loved blonde bombshells kicking the ever loving crap out of bad guys. So in 2017, when Atomic Blonde was released, starring the incomparable Charlize Theron, and directed by David Leitch, fresh off his co-direction of the instant action classic John Wick, I was certain we were getting another badass blonde action classic. But alas, it didn’t quite turn out that way.

As you can read in my review here, I wasn’t entirely fond of Atomic Blonde all that much. While the action was great, the plot was a mess. And I left the theater feeling a bit let down, as I was hoping it would be the big return of the badass blonde bombshell. But good things come to those who wait, and 2019 saw the release of Anna, the new movie from Luc Besson, the master of the badass woman movie. The trailer for it looked fantastic, and I eagerly awaited my chance to see it. And now that I finally have, was it worth the wait? Let’s find out!

7 Reasons Why Cynthia Rothrock is the Queen of Kicking Ass

Sasha Luss as Anna Poliatova

“Beneath Anna Poliatova’s striking beauty lies a secret that will unleash her indelible strength and skill to become one of the world’s most feared government assassins.”

To put it simply: it sure was! This is an awesome movie! Besson has given us a true return to form here, delivering one of the most entertaining action/espionage thrillers in recent memory. This was exactly the movie I was hoping Atomic Blonde would be. Great action, engaging story, excellent twists, and great performances all around.

Speaking of great performances, let’s talk about the cast. Newcomer Sasha Luss really makes a nice impression as the titular character, bringing so much gravitas to Anna that you would think she made more than 2 movies (Valerian, also by Besson, and this) up to this point. Genre favorites Luke Evans and Cillian Murphy also lend an awesome touch to the movie as the two men from opposite sides of the spy game who keep a constant, but loving eye on Anna. 

But the real standout from the cast definitely is Dame Helen Mirren as Olga, Anna’s handler. Playing a career professional with a stone cold heart, Ms. Mirren truly lights up the movie whenever she appears on screen. She is such an exemplary joy to watch, and I wish she had more screen time in this. You’re a true treasure, Ms. Mirren. 

Luc Besson Knows His Action

But now let’s get to the heart of this all, and that’s the action. Director Besson, the creator of such seminal movies as La Femme Nikita, Leon, and The Fifth Element goes back to his roots after the disappointment of his previous movie Valerian to give us another awesome shot of adrenaline in cinematic form. 

Granted, the movie is not action packed, with only two real action sequences of note. But oh man, what sequences they are. The restaurant fight and the escape from the KGB headquarters are both worth catching this movie. The expert choreography in both sequences, but especially the restaurant scene are so incredibly exhilarating. No spoilers, but if you were wowed by what John Wick could do with a pencil, just wait until you see what Anna could do with a dinner plate.

Enjoyable Action that We’d Like to See More of

Any issues? Well, because the movie contains a very serpentine story, there are many jumps in time, and it did get trying a bit. Like I definitely understand why they were necessary, but it still had me like “Oh, brother… Another one.”

Also, there’s a scene in the beginning where Anna has the chance to leave a tense situation, and just doesn’t. Why didn’t she just leave? Well, if you watch it, it’s because we wouldn’t have a cool car chase scene if she did. But I feel like the character, and the movie, were smarter than that. But it is what it is.

But other than that, this was a very enjoyable experience that I want to see again and again. And I’m hoping it leads to resurgence of sorts to this type of movie. Let’s hear for the return of the badass blondes!

David Bradley Goes ‘Death Warrant’ in ‘Hard Justice’ (1995)

Hard Justice David Bradley 1995

Featuring a killer cast of UAMC characters with Yuji Okumoto, Charles Napier, Vernon Wells and Professor Toru Tanaka!

Hard Justice David Bradley 1995

By the mid 90’s, David Bradley had already cemented his place in DTV (direct to video) action movie history and in the hearts of fans, by taking over the American Ninja series, as well as vehicles like American Samurai, and Cyborg Cop, among others. But Hard Justice, while not as well known as the before mentioned, is his best or my personal favorite anyway.

Unapologetically borrowing from Van Damme’s classic Death Warrant, Hard Justice carves out its own place in the genre as well, due to the strong supporting cast and just the over the top action sequences that make it a blast to watch.

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Another Nu Image Classic

In this Nu Image flick, David Bradley stars as an ATF agent who ends up going undercover in a prison to unravel the mystery of what happened to his good friend and fellow agent, who got killed there. Lets just say his friend witnessed some illegal activities going on there, involving all kinds of crooked individuals, ranging from the warden, to others who aren’t revealed until the later parts of the movie.

Hard Justice starts and ends with a couple really well put together and stylized shootouts, with enough fight sequences in the middle to satisfy any martial arts fan. We first see Bradley when he crashes through the window of a warehouse where a deal is going down and he comes face to face with his longtime adversary, played by the talented Yuji Okumoto, whose resume is vast as well – The Karate Kid Part II, Nemesis, Mean Guns, American Yakuza, Bloodfist V and more.

Much like The Sandman in Death Warrant, Okumoto comes into play later on in the movie where he is brought into the prison.

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An Undercover Cop in Prison

Hard Justice David Bradley 1995

Now to the warden… One of the factors that really puts this movie over the top for me, making it one of my absolute cult favorites of the genre, is the warden, none other than Charles Napier, who we all loved to hate in Rambo II.

Here he is at his ultimate best, with his holier than thou attitude,  he just plays it perfectly. In the explosive finale, he shouts out things like “I demand order!” and “this is my world!” as he is wielding a machine gun in each hand.

As I mentioned with the fights, Bradley always delivers. They are frequent and complete with some good one liners like; “You really need to clean up your act” as he throws a guy in a washing machine. When he is surrounded in a shower fight scene, he says “Well I guess you guys aren’t here to conserve water!”.

He gets a nice showdown with Okumoto, but I also have to mention the first fight in the movie where he meets his cellmate named “Mr Clean” (Jim Maniaci) – it is pretty extended and badass, earning each other’s respect.

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I can’t not talk about Hard Justice without mentioning a tattoo-faced Vernon Wells (Commando/Stranglehold), who plays a fellow prisoner. My only complaint would be his lack of screen time, but he is great as always and makes the most of the scenes he is in.

Not to mention, a surprising, uncredited cameo from Professor Toru Tanaka. Who is known for everything from 007’s Goldfinger, to An Eye For An Eye, to The Running Man. Lets just say he doesn’t last nearly as long here as he did in The Perfect Weapon, as Bradley takes him down with one, apparently powerful punch, surprising even himself. Still was nice to see Tanaka in what I believe was his last appearance on film.

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Andre Benita (Three Amigos) and stunt legend John Koyama (The Perfect Weapon/Breaking Bad) also highlight a strong cast.

David Bradley gives it one hell of a go to have Hard Justice up there with Death Warrant when it comes to undercover cop in prison films, and he just about pulls it off. Recommended if you are lucky enough to find this now out of print gem!

Exploring the Multimedia Legacy of Terminator 2: Judgement

Terminator 2 Judgement Day

The world was not ready for the ultimate juggernaut that became T2 (1991).

August 16th 1991, Judgement Day, well, for me at least. One day after my birthday and the release date of the one movie was on my heart and lips. That movie was Terminator 2: Judgment Day or T2 to its friends – the much anticipated next part of the Terminator series. You better believe it, the hype was real, damn real. Advertising was everywhere, the television, radio and print media, Arnold Schwarzenegger, looking badass on the poster on the side of buses and billboards.

My father, who worked for a newspaper, had managed to grab me facsimiles of parts of the press kit which sat proudly on the pin board in my bedroom. There was one issue, I had just turned 8 years of age and as well as the fact that I could not battle Skynet another system stood in my way.  An enemy so menacing that it stopped me viewing T2 in the cinema. That enemy was the British Board of Film Classification who rated T2 as a 15 certificate.

Unlike the more enlightened approach of the American movie certificate where children can see a movie of a higher certificate with an adult, in the UK, you have to hit the appropriate age to see the film, so sadly readers, a cinematic screening was completely prohibited. That did nothing at all to stop me from enjoying T2 in just about every other way. All it took was my imagination and the landslide of merchandise for the movie. Let’s time travel to the early 90s and explore the multimedia phenomenon that was T2.

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Terminator 2 Judgement Day

It’s very easy to forget how massive the marketing push was for T2. We live in an age where even a mid-budget movie will receive a huge marketing push with a library full of tie in media. In fact, by the mid-90s it was almost expected that a film came accompanied by toys, books and video games but it was still a relatively new phenomenon on the release of T2.

Most tie in media before its release was put out after the fact, almost as an act of nostalgia but T2 used tie in media as a pop culture assault in the build-up to the release of the movie. Selling the cool, chrome heavy metal fantasy to audiences, T2 wasn’t just a movie, it was an experience.

Before digital and online media came to prominence, revisiting your favourite flicks was more of a challenge, sure there was home video, but the gap between cinema and home video release was long, sometimes years. This meant that the market for print adaptations was strong.

The summer of the film’s release saw a Marvel comics version released over 3 parts which would later be collected into a trade paperback, it was written by Gregory Wright and the art was provided by Klaus Johnson.

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The importance of this release can’t be underestimated, Terminator comics have basically become a franchise of their own and almost every comic book company of significance has worked on the property. It’s well worth noting that within that franchise T2 specifically, has become basically an imprint of the franchise spawning spin-offs decades after the release of the movie by various comic book companies.

T2 prose books were also hot off the press, the selection included The making of Terminator 2: Judgement Day by John Shay and Jody Duncan, there was a book of the film which was an illustrated screenplay with an introduction by James Cameron and there was also the novelisation of the picture by Randall Franks which is highly acclaimed as a movie novelization and expands beyond its original screenplay

As with the comics, the success of these publications really kick-started the Terminator franchise in print and again like the comics T2’s impact would be felt for a very long time.

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And Don’t Forget the Music!

Music from T2 was another runaway hit for this instalment of the franchise. The score by Brad Fiedel was a commercial hit, with the album staying on the Billboard chart for 6 weeks and being so popular that it has been reissued.

T2 also had massive success In the worldwide singles chart with ’You Could Be Mine’ by Guns n Roses. It hit number 29 on the Billboard chart, number 3 in the UK top 40 and number 1 in Spain and Finland and was a smash hit in many other countries.

The single was supported by an awesome music video which was partly co-directed by Andy Morahan (Highlander 3) and the legendary Stan Winston and stars Arnold Schwarzenegger. This music video is an excellent example of one of the reasons T2  supporting media was so good, it’s because of the amazing creative talent behind it.

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And the T2 Toys and Merch!

T2 made a huge splash in the world of toys and games. Toy manufacturer Kenner released a range of action figures, these were mostly variations of the movie’s T 800 but there was a T 1000 and a John Conner figure. A larger T 800 was also released which said phrases from the movie. This toy line was incredibly popular and ran well into the 90s.

In fact, the action figures are so iconic that Macfarlane toys made T2 toys years later and toy company NECA have gone one step further by actually recreating some of the original Kenner T2 toy line in greater scale and detail. As the world of video games was exploding, games developers exploited T2 on just about every possible computer platform possible.

Terminator 2: Judgement Day the arcade game was a fantastic game which had the player shoot plastic machine guns at on-screen T 800s, flying Hunter Killers and Skynet tanks. An 8-bit T2 game was released on both Saga and Nintendo consoles. A separate Game Boy version came out, which was a great deal of fun to play. Ocean software developed a T2 game for systems such as the Amiga, Amstrad, Atari, Commodore 64 and other platforms. The Terminator computer games were everywhere on the computer games market despite some mediocre reviews. A pinball game was also produced for arcades.

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And the Games and Ultimate Rides!

Like all the other media mentioned this mass release of product lead to a huge dynasty of games related to the franchise. It wasn’t just T2 computer games that dominated the market,T2 tabletop games also made their presence known in the marketplace as  MB games produced a board game

A couple of years later a tabletop wargame was developed by Leading Edge Games called Terminator 2 Year of Darkness which was supported by a range of wargames miniatures.

The last thing of note is T2 3D: Battle Across Time, which was an attraction at Universal Studios theme park. It was directed by Cameron, had most of the T2 original cast, a budget of 60 million dollars and a run time of 12 minutes. It was one of the most expensive productions per minute of film ever made. It was so popular that even into the 2000s the attraction was being recreated across the globe in Universal’s parks.

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A True Multimedia Action Legacy

Terminator 2 Judgement Day

The impressive thing about T2s multimedia success is what a huge legacy it created in almost every form of media it was licenced to and also the quality of the tie in media itself.

The creative minds behind the movie were very much involved with the media which really set a precedent and helped shape audience expectations. After this examination, it’s no wonder T2 became the ultimate action juggernaut it is today.