TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: CODE OF SILENCE (1985)

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CODE OF SILENCE (1985)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

In terms of overall quality, Code of Silence is probably the best movie Chuck Norris ever made. It may not be as fun as Lone Wolf McQuade, or as over the top as Invasion U.S.A., but it is the closest to a mainstream movie he was ever in, till his extended cameo in Expendables 2.

Code of Silence is a simple story of honest Chicago cop Eddie Cusack (Norris) who is not only stuck in the middle of a war between Columbian and Italian mob families, but is the only cop willing to speak out against a corrupt and incompetent fellow officer (Ralph Foody) who gunned down an unarmed teen. This makes Cusack an outsider to criminal and cop alike and forces him to go it alone to rescue a kidnapped mafioso’s daughter (Molly Hagan).

The script by Michael Butler, Dennis Shryack and Mike Gray may not be anything new plot-wise, but this action/thriller is fast paced and well directed by Andrew Davis, who would go on to direct Steven Seagal’s best flick, Under Siege and the Harrison Ford hit, The Fugitive. Davis also gets a good performance out of the often wooden Norris and makes good use of the Chicago locations. The flick has a nice supporting cast including vets Henry Silva (Alligator), Dennis Farina, Bert Remsen and The Dark Knight’s Ron Dean and the action scenes are well-staged and entertaining. A bar fight scene in particular stands out as classic Chuck Norris, with our hero taking on…well, everybody. All in all, it’s a solid action/thriller and proved Norris could make the move into A-list flicks with the right projects, but…

…Despite being a box office success and a moderate critical hit as well, Chuck chose to enter a multi-picture deal with schlock-meister Cannon Films (probably the $17 million for 10 movies was key) and sank any chance of further mainstream theatrical success (none of his future films with Cannon would top or equal Code’s $20 million gross). Had Norris not been lured into staying with Cannon, he might have had a more mainstream action movie career like Arnold and Sly. As for Code of Silence, I saw this fun flick in a theater back in 1985 and it remains one of my favorite Chuck Norris movies along with Lone Wolf McQuade, Silent Rage and The Octagon.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 bullets.

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CULT CLASSIC CUTIES: DANA KIMMELL as CHRIS in FRIDAY THE 13th PART 3!

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Cult Classic Cuties are characters from some of our favorite cult classics and midnight movies who captured our hearts and/or actresses who got our attention but, sadly, never returned to these type of flicks or whose sexy stars shined only briefly, not quite achieving scream queen status. And this installment’s cutie is…

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DANA KIMMELL

The Friday The 13th series has featured a lot of crush worthy young ladies during it’s…so far…12 flick run. One of the favorites has to be adorable Dana Kimmell as Chris in Friday The 13th Part 3. Not only is Chris a first class cutie but, she is a resourceful young woman having survived a previous attack by Crystal Lake’s favorite son a few years before the film opens. When she returns to the cabin near the site of the attack on a vacation with her friends, Jason tries to pick up where he left off and once again finds himself and the resilient Chris going one on one. Guess who wins?
While the third Friday flick is not her only foray into horror… she was in Sweet Sixteen and the TV horror Midnight Offerings before that… this was Kimmell’s only high-profile fright flick as a lead and her only other horror role was a small part as a model in the supernaturally themed Night Angel in 1990. Dana modeled and had done a few films and quite a lot of TV work before and after her throw-down with Jason and even played Chuck Norris’ strong-willed daughter in Lone Wolf McQuade, another cult classic of a different genre. Her last film role was in 1990 thought, she does do convention appearances as part of Friday The 13th movie panels.

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 as CHRIS in FRIDAY THE 13th Part 3!

(click on the poster for a full review)

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While Dana may have left acting at the end of the 80s, we still have a little crush on her Chris as one of our favorite Friday The 13th final girls and Cult Classic Cuties (click on the link to see our other entries in this column)!

Be sure to check out our Cult Classic Cuties (click right here on the link) section to see more crush worthy ladies from cult films and midnight movies!

-MonsterZero NJ

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: GOOD GUYS WEAR BLACK (1978)

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GOOD GUYS WEAR BLACK (1978)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

After watching Expendables 2 and seeing Chuck Norris appear in his extended cameo as “Booker”, I decided to go back and revisit one of his early films, the one from which his Expendables 2 character’s name pays homage to…or is he playing the same character decades later?

Good Guys Wear Black may not be Chuck Norris’ first action flick, or his best, but it is the first one I saw (at the now gone Park Lane theater in Palisades Park, N.J.) and it not only started his career as an action movie star, but made me a fan as well. Sure his flicks are low budget and cheesy, for the most part, but as you probably know, if you visit here frequently, that is right up my alley.

The story starts out in 1973 and has a senator (James Franciscus) using the fate of a special CIA black ops team called The Black Tigers as a bargaining chip to appease the Vietnamese during war negotiations to get back US soldiers held as prisoners of war. The deal is simple, the senator arranges for the assassination of the Black Tigers by setting them up on a phony mission and the Vietnamese will agree to release the POWs. But Major John T Booker (Chuck Norris) and some of his men survive the ambush and make their way home. Five years later the surviving members start to turn up dead and Booker must not only must fight to survive, but find out, with the help of a sexy reporter (Anne Archer), who is killing his former team and why.

As directed by Ted Post (Magnum Force), from a story by Joseph Fraley and a script by Bruce Cohn and Mark Medoff, Good Guys Wear Black is a moderately paced movie that is far more thriller than it is action flick. Sure there are scenes that make good use of star Norris’ martial arts skills, but those scenes are few and far between as the film is far more interested in being political thriller which, in turn, forces the karate champ to be more of an actor than an action star at too early a point in his career. The action we do get is routinely staged and being a low budget film, is modest in scale. I can appreciate not wanting to stick Norris in a routine martial arts flick, but putting him in a Three Days Of The Condor type political thriller wasn’t the way to go either. Norris didn’t have the chops and is rather wooden. It doesn’t help that Post doesn’t seem to be able to drum up any real suspense or really draw us into Booker’s story either. Despite being filmed widescreen, the film is shot rather like a TV movie by DOP Robert Steadman and has a fairly unremarkable jazz infused score by Craig Safan whose gone on to do some decent scores.

The cast are all fairly unremarkable with veteran Franciscus being very by-the-numbers in his few scenes and only Anne Archer, giving her side-kick role a little sex appeal, seems to be trying. Norris is likable but wooden as stated and since there is nothing special about the choreography of the action scenes, he really doesn’t get to show us much there either. The film was a big hit anyway, so it gave Norris the opportunity to be in flicks that far better displayed his martial arts skills, such as in The Octagon two years later.

Overall, the flick has some personal nostalgia for me as it was the first Norris flick I saw…and in a theater. Otherwise it’s fairly unremarkable except for being the film that got Norris started as a headlining action star, after initial notice from his legendary on-screen fight to the death with Bruce Lee at the end of Return Of The Dragon (Way Of The Dragon). Norris is now considered an action film icon and I have enjoyed many of his movies, cheesy or not.

So I give this flick a little more credit than it really deserves for being my first Norris flick and the movie that got him started on his way to being an 80s action movie icon. Worth a look if you are curious, but really nothing to recommend other than for the reasons previously stated. Flick also features Chuck’s younger brother Aaron in a small role as one of the Black Tigers. Aaron would go on to direct a number of his older brother’s films a decade later and is an accomplished martial artist as well.

2 and 1/2 bullets.

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S THANKSGIVING EVE DOUBLE FEATURE: EXPENDABLES 2 and EXPENDABLES 3

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I know I’ve covered both these movies before but, I got my copy of The Expendables 3 in the mail and decided to make an Expendables night out of it!

 

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THE EXPENDABLES 2 (2012)

Expendables 2 is a fun follow-up to the 2010 eighties action throwback hit that isn’t quite as engaging in it’s quieter moments as the previous flick but, thankfully there aren’t too many of those. This installment finds the gang being sent by the mysterious Mr. Church (Bruce Willis) after a downed plane in Eastern Europe to recover the contents of an onboard safe. Along for the ride is Maggie (Yu Nan), a tech specialist and new sniper, Billy (Liam Hemsworth). But, they are intercepted by a gang of armed thugs headed by the cold blooded Villain (Jean-Claude Van Damme) and henchman, Hector ( Scott Adkins) who take their quarry and kill one of the team. Now it’s personal, as Barney (Stallone) and Co. seek to track down Villain and put him down… for good. Along for the bullet-ridden ride are old rival Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger), Mr. Church and legendary ‘Lone Wolf’ mercenary, Booker (Chuck Norris). When the action is flying fast and furious, EX2 is a real blast. It’s great to see Arnold, Van Damme and Norris back on screen doing what they do best. Van Damme in particular seems to be having fun chewing up the Eastern European scenery as the lethal bad guy and he doesn’t get enough screen time, sadly, to really establish the character’s full menace. Aside from an overuse of CGI blood, director Simon West gives us some good, old-fashioned rip-roaring action scenes that fit the retro action icon cast perfectly and some good hand to hand combat as well. Although some of those, especially Stallone v.s. Van Damme, could have gone on a bit longer to give them more dramatic impact. And drama is where West stumbles. The scenes between the action, which should be engaging and strong to keep us involved until the bullets fly again, are rather ho-hum. The dramatic scenes, though few, needed some more energy, more “pop”. The camaraderie between the team members that Stallone captured so well in part 1 is weak here and because of that, we are less forgiving of the cheesy dialog and the characters are less engaging as well. Perfect example is Lundgren’s Gunner, who practically stole the flick first time around. He’s nowhere near as fun as in EX1 and the fun Statham/ Stallone relationship is also weaker. The in-between scenes also had a quicker pace under Stallone’s direction last time and thus we were able to overlook the plot holes easier. But, this is an action film and there is plenty of that and who is in action is why we sat in our seat and on that level, Expendables 2 delivers on what we came to see. I am all for Expendables 3 but, find a director that can put some energy in the drama, give the team their team spirit back and a writer who can give them some livelier banter… as well as deliver the carnage.

3 bullets!

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THE EXPENDABLES 3 (2014)

Having grown up in the 80s, I obviously have an appreciation and love for the styles of  movies that came out then. And the 80s action flick is no different. So,no surprise, I am a fan of this series which takes a lot of those 80s action icons and let’s them suit up and shoot it out once more. And maybe I am biased but, I had an absolute blast with the latest installment.

The newest adventure finds Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) and crew (Statham, Crews, Lundgren, Couture) rescuing an old Expendable member referred to as Doctor Death (Wesley Snipes) from a moving train incarceration and taking him on a mission in Somalia. There, not only does Barney find former Expendables co-founder turned arch-enemy Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson) still alive… after Barney himself thought he killed him… but, one of his team is critically wounded. CIA operative Drummer (Harrison Ford) is not happy with the team’s failure and demands they try again. But, Barney realizes his team has been doing this a long time and the next mission may be their last so, he releases his longtime friends to gather a newer, younger team including the headstrong Smilee (Kellan Lutz) and the sexy and quite lethal Luna (Ronda Rousey). But, Conrad Stonebanks is one step ahead of them again and when he takes Barney’s rookies hostage, Barney realizes his mistake and the old team reunites to go into battle once more… maybe for the last time as Stonebanks has an army and is waiting.

I really enjoy these flicks and am certainly cutting them some slack due to the wonderful nostalgia of seeing these icons back in action and this time joined by veterans Wesley Snipes, Harrison Ford, Antonio Banderas… who practically stole the movie… and even a cameo by Robert Davi. But, to be honest, aside from some cheesy dialog, some sub-par CGI shots and a few wooden performances, the movie is a lot of fun especially in it’s roller coaster ride of a last act. Stallone’s script with Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt conveys a theme of adding new blood and this carried over to Sly’s choice of Australian director Patrick Hughes (Red Hill) to helm. Hughes directs well and and really brings it during the action scenes such as the exciting opening train assault and the final showdown, which was one of the most exciting extended action scenes I’ve seen since in a while. Hughes gives the film far more dramatic weight then Simon West’s somewhat weaker Expendables 2 but, doesn’t take his material too seriously as to not have a good time with it. The film is never boring at over 2 hrs and while the pace is fairly moderate, it makes the action all the more thrilling when Hughes and his cast crank it up to 11 for the carnage. For those worried about the lesser PG-13 rating, this might have the largest body count yet, so, it’s not a concern. Again, you have to go in knowing this is an old school style action flick and corny dialog and implausibility is to be expected. Sure I didn’t quite buy that Barney would cast away his old team so easily but, you know that’s not going to last and it doesn’t. Along the way there are some corny messages about ‘family’ but, it’s all part of the formula and for me, it works. It’s popcorn action, with a popcorn plot and Stallone and his team delivered the old school smack down once again, in my opinion. Brian Tyler also delivers another exciting score to accent the action and the film is shot well by Peter Menzies Jr.

There is quite a big cast so I will start by saying that Stallone and Expendables regulars Statham, Crews, Lundgren, Couture, Li and Schwarzenegger all give us what we expect from them and seem to be having a really fun time especially, Arnold who hams it up a little more then usual. As for newcomers… Snipes hasn’t lost a beat and it’s great to see him back in action on the big screen. Gibson is simply a great villain and really chews up the scenery in grand style. Antonio Banderas is hilarious and practically steals the show as the screwball Galgo and his scene laying the Latin charm on Ronda Rousey mid-battle was a showstopper. As for Rousey her line delivery is a bit wooden but, it’s her first flick and when she is in action, the girl is poetry in lethal motion. Harrison Ford also seems to really be enjoying himself too and he and Sly seem to actually have a nice camaraderie together. Too bad it took this long to appear in a flick together. Kelsey Grammar gets some nice laughs as Barney’s grizzled recruiter Bonaparte and the also work well together. And rounding out Kellan Lutz, Victor Ortiz and Glen Powell are fine in their parts with Lutz’s Smilee possibly being groomed to take a larger role in future installments. And if there is an Expendables 4… I’m in.

Overall, I really enjoyed this flick. It is definitely better then Expendables 2 and comes close to being an equal to part 1It did take a little time to tell it’s story but, there is no shortage of action and when it comes, it’s fast and furious, especially the all out war of a last act. There were some really enjoyable appearances by action icons absent too long from the screen and the new additions seem like they make a good fit if this series continues. The audience I was with wasn’t full but, cheered louder then any audience I have heard in some time. Everyone seemed to have had a blast with this second sequel and I am definitely one of them. A really fun, action-packed popcorn flick that proves Sly and company still got it. It isn’t Shakespeare… it’s The Expendables!

3 and 1/2 bullets.

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: THE EXPENDABLES 1 & 2

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Since we’ve had so much cool Expendables 3 news this week, I thought I’d take a look back at the previous 2 installments.

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THE EXPENDABLES (2010)

Expendables is a spectacularly entertaining, old fashioned, shoot ’em up action movie that not only brings back memories of the 80’s action flicks but, shows that Stallone and company, including  Jason Statham,  Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Mickey Rourke, Randy Couture and Terry Crews, still got it when it comes to kicking ass. Expendables is the story of mercenary leader, Barney Ross (Stallone) and his team of veteran guns for hire who are recruited to do a mission on a small South American island run by military dictator, General Garza (Dexter’s David Zayas) and rogue CIA agent, Munroe (a slimy Eric Roberts). Of course things don’t go quite as they planned and are further complicated by Barney falling for the General’s rebel daughter (Giselle Itié) and a simple mission becomes a literal fight for life as the ‘Expendables’ have to take on Garza’s entire army and Munroe’s trained killers to get out alive. The Expendables is one of Stallone’s best efforts as a director, he keeps things moving fast enough to cover up the plot holes but, not too fast as to not enjoy some of the commraderie between the characters. And there are some really great scenes from this cast of action icons, especially between Stallone and Statham, who work very well together, and Stallone and Rourke, who has a very poignant dialog scene about half way in. Not to mention a great fight between Jet Li and Dolph Lundgren’s Gunner, who turns rogue after being thrown off the team. Round out some balls to the wall action sequences and a cameo from Bruce Willis and the Austrian Oak, that brought down the house, and you have some rip roaring, testosterone fueled entertainment! Also stars Stone Cold Steve Austin and martial artist Gary Daniels as Roberts’ thugs and Buffy’s Charisma Carpenter as Statham’s girlfriend, Lacy. Fun stuff!

A solid 3 and 1/2 bullets!

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THE EXPENDABLES 2 (2012)

Expendables 2 is a fun follow-up to the 2010 eighties action throwback hit that isn’t quite as engaging in it’s quieter moments as the previous flick but, thankfully there aren’t too many of those. This installment finds the gang being sent by the mysterious Mr. Church (Bruce Willis) after a downed plane in Eastern Europe to recover the contents of an onboard safe. Along for the ride is Maggie (Yu Nan), a tech specialist and new sniper, Billy (Liam Hemsworth). But, they are intercepted by a gang of armed thugs headed by the cold blooded Villain (Jean-Claude Van Damme) and henchman, Hector ( Scott Adkins) who take their quarry and kill one of the team. Now it’s personal, as Barney (Stallone) and Co. seek to track down Villain and put him down… for good. Along for the bullet-ridden ride are old rival Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger), Mr. Church and legendary ‘Lone Wolf’ mercenary, Booker (Chuck Norris). When the action is flying fast and furious, EX2 is a real blast. It’s great to see Arnold, Van Damme and Norris back on screen doing what they do best. Van Damme in particular seems to be having fun chewing up the Eastern European scenery as the lethal bad guy and he doesn’t get enough screen time, sadly, to really establish the character’s full menace. Aside from an overuse of CGI blood, director Simon West gives us some good, old-fashioned rip-roaring action scenes that fit the retro action icon cast perfectly and some good hand to hand combat as well. Although some of those, especially Stallone v.s. Van Damme, could have gone on a bit longer to give them more dramatic impact. And drama is where West stumbles. The scenes between the action, which should be engaging and strong to keep us involved until the bullets fly again, are rather ho-hum. The dramatic scenes, though few, needed some more energy, more “pop”. The camaraderie between the team members that Stallone captured so well in part 1 is weak here and because of that, we are less forgiving of the cheesy dialog and the characters are less engaging as well. Perfect example is Lundgren’s Gunner, who practically stole the flick first time around. He’s nowhere near as fun as in EX1 and the fun Statham/ Stallone relationship is also weaker. The in-between scenes also had a quicker pace under Stallone’s direction last time and thus we were able to overlook the plot holes easier. But, this is an action film and there is plenty of that and who is in action is why we sat in our seat and on that level, Expendables 2 delivers on what we came to see. I am all for Expendables 3 but, find a director that can put some energy in the drama, give the team their team spirit back and a writer who can give them some livelier banter… as well as deliver the carnage.

3 bullets!

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