After years of just being available on DVD and Blu-Ray in other countries and regions, Shout Factory comes to the rescue to deliver fans a deluxe edition of one of the most underrated action films ever made. Something of a spiritual sequel to Walter Hill’s “The Warriors,” director Hill sets his latest gang land picture in an undisclosed period between the 20’s and 40’s in what is apparently New York. Sadly, Hill intended the film to be the first of a trilogy, but while we never got that wish, “Streets of Fire” still manages to be a single adventure rich in character and pulp appeal. Starring the incredible beautiful Diane Lane, and the fantastic Michael Pare, “Streets of Fire” is a rock and roll musical, romance, gangster, action, adventure. It has everything for mostly everyone and it gets better with every viewing.
I think Nickelodeon has things bassackwards when it comes to “Monster Trucks.” In the nineties and perhaps even eighties, a normal company would have released a “Monster Trucks” toy line followed by its very own movie. Instead we have a long gestating kids movie about glowing monsters that hide in trucks that transform in to… monster trucks—or something. And there’s not a toy line to be had. I say that because “Monster Trucks” watches more like a pitch movie for a franchise than it does an actual movie. “Monster Trucks” was created by a four year old (no seriously, look it up), and intended to be aimed at younger kids (Honest) as a sort of pseudo-Transformers. Which in and of itself is pointless when young kids are still very much all about Transformers.
This is the story of The Regulators. No wait, this is the story of Billy the Kid. No this is the story of how Billy the Kid met Pat Garrett. Oh hell, it’s all of that and essentially a remake of “The Cowboys.” Rather than a small group of boys who avenge their mentor in a dramatic finale, this group of young men avenges their caretaker in the beginning and we’re stuck with them for the duration. And they do so in a very long and cheesy Western that jumps in and out of so many sub-plots that it becomes exhausting. Christopher Cain’s “Young Guns” is really only a film you’ll likely love if you were between 13 and 19 in 1988. It’s another attempt to tack the brat pack on to a movie genre, and it pretty much fails from the moment we’re introduced to various characters in a goofy opening credits sequence. Every character is essentially some kind of gimmicky contributor to the narrative, only delivering broad Western cliches.
With Superman, Hulk Hogan, and Rocky Balboa, America pretty much beat the hell out of Communist Russia in the eighties, and we were proud of it. While “Rocky III” is the superior sequel in the original “Rocky” series, “Rocky IV” is perhaps the most talked about of the Rocky mythology and is also the most action packed. “Rocky IV” has a brisk pacing with almost no slow down in its storytelling and that brevity is probably why the sequel is still so beloved, despite its camp and homoerotic overtones. There really isn’t much to “Rocky IV” that’s tough to figure out. It has a robot that talks like a woman, features scenes of Rocky’s son trading one-liners with his friends while watching his dad’s fight, and a stern jingoistic attitude that it unapologetically waves around.
If there is any real successor to “Rocky” in the original series, it has to be “Rocky III.” While “Rocky II” was an interesting enough look at Rocky dealing with fame, “Rocky III” puts us right in to where we were in the original film that started it all. Now “Rocky” is a champion in his prime who has settled in to his wealth and luxury, and there’s a hungry new fighter named Clubber Lang out there who wants what he has, and is willing to whatever it takes to get it. For the first time ever, Rocky Balboa has a lot to lose, and he meets his match in Clubber Lang, a humongous and deadly boxer who wants to take on Rocky Balboa.
At the end of the day, when Rocky Balboa learned to test his limit and prove to the world he is a contender, he is still Rocky Balboa, warts and all. What I enjoy most about “Rocky II” is that even though we didn’t need it, Director Stallone allows us a look in to how the fight with Apollo Creeds affects the man Rocky Balboa in the long run. In the end when he’s gone through the wringer and fought hard, where does Rocky go from there? Apollo is still the champion and is still wealthy, and Rocky is still living in his neighborhood, and is arguably a celebrity. What’s more is that Rocky is thrust in to worldwide fame, and he has to face that perhaps his fame will likely be short lived with an only fifteen minute window for him.
“Teen Titans: The Judas Contract” is a sequel to “Justice League vs. Teen Titans” which was a sequel to “Batman: Bad Blood” so don’t worry, it all ties to Batman. Like pretty much everything DC Comics these days, it’s all about Batman, and “The Judas Contract” compensates for the lack of Batman by including both Robins. Not only do we get a look at Dick Grayson as Robin when he led the Titans, but we also go to modern times where Grayson is now Nightwing. Damian Wayne is Robin now, and is a member of the Teen Titans. So that Batman flavor DC banks on is still there, even if Batman never shows up. “The Judas Contract” is an adaptation of one of the most iconic comic book storylines of all time, as the Teen Titans confront a traitor in their midst. Sam Liu’s animated adaptation is weak and limp, and often times bereft of entertainment value. And I say that as someone who genuinely loves the character Nightwing.
I will never understand the reasoning behind Frank Miller ever wanting to direct his own superhero movie. It’s not that he’s directing a movie, either, it’s that he’s directing a movie in the style of Robert Rodriguez’s fast and cheap process where he merely places his cast in front of a green screen for ninety percent of his film. And we must endure a hundred minute crime thriller with people that stumble around a CGI world. Frank Miller has no idea how to grasp at anything other than dark, violent, and gritty thus he takes Will Eisner’s groundbreaking comics and tacks it on to his “Sin City” neo-noir universe. Miller doesn’t outright say it to us, but Miller wants us to very much believe that “The Spirit” is a shared universe with “Sin City.”