Friday, November 24, 2017

Captain America (1990)

Holy shit...  This is the 100th post for B-Movie Enema.  Yowzers.  How am I going to celebrate?

Fuckin' America.

I've already looked at one Captain America movie way back in May 2016.  So why am I double dipping?  Because Cap is my A-1 Super Guy.  He fights for freedom and awesomeness.

And also... America.  Fuckin' pure America.  Pure like Budweiser changing their name to America.

That first go around was the 1979 made-for-tv version of Captain America starring Reb Brown.  Just 11 years later, another attempt was made by 21st Century Film Corporation and producer Menaham Golan who previously was one of the Cannon Films heads.  Originally, the movie was planned to coincide with Cap's 50th anniversary in 1990, but ultimately never found its way to North American theaters, having to instead be released direct to VHS in the summer of 1992.

The movie was directed by schlock-master Albert Pyun who had a pretty good relationship with Golan from the days of Cannon having made Cyborg and Alien from L.A. for Cannon.  Really, for all intents and purposes, the 1990 Captain America movie was a Cannon film.  It even featured skilled character actors like Ned Beatty, Darren McGavin, and Ronny Cox.  It even featured famed Italian actress Francesca Neri in an early role.

What's truly interesting, though, is that the film stars Matt Salinger, son of legendary author J.D. Salinger.

That's all I have on Salinger.  Really.  He's the son of J.D. Salinger.  He's done some successful stage productions and is pretty active in the producing game, but I kinda feel like saying you're the son of J.D. Salinger trumps pretty much any other fact you could find about him.

The plot is one we've all heard before: Captain America becomes the USA's greatest hero during World War II as he fights the villainous Red Skull.  He ultimately was lost stopping the Skull from blowing up Washington, D.C. and was found in the ice decades later.  He now has to stop the Red Skull again and save the President.

I have no problem saying that this movie holds a kind of special place in my heart.  I don't hate it like so many do.  It's silly, sure, but it was 1990.  Comic book movies were still very much in their infancy.  I even like the movie enough to own it on blu-ray.  That's not how I'm gonna watch it for this article, though.  Oh no.  I'm gonna watch a shitty VHS transfer by way of YouTube because...

Fuckin' America.

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Punisher (1989)

Frank Castle...  It's the A-1 super bad ass of the Marvel Universe.  He is a marksman from the U.S. Marines who also trained with the Navy Seals.  Basically, name some group in the military, and Castle probably had something to do with it.

When he returned from service, he was excited to come home to his wife and children.  However, while picnicking with them, tragedy happened.  A mob deal went sour and the shootout resulted in Castle's family being caught in the middle and killed.  He vowed to destroy every criminal and became known as The Punisher.

Punisher's first appearance came in a 1974 issue of The Amazing Spider-Man in which he tries to take down Spidey for the apparent murder of Norman Osborn (not knowing the truth which was Osborn actually was a supervillain and his death was at his own hands).  He became a huge hit with readers, and grew to even greater prominence in the grimy-gritty days of the 1980s.  That's when he got not one, but two series of his own.  With this type of popularity, the 80s mostly being a tough-on-crime era full of action and shoot-em-ups, and hype growing for the upcoming grittier version of Batman coming to screens (as opposed to the campy 1960s version from the TV series), it was only a matter of time before Hollywood came knocking for a Punisher movie.

New World International won the opportunity to put Frank on the big screen.  They intended on putting the film out in theaters in August of 1989.  That would have been great timing to capitalize on Batman's popularity, and still get those lucrative summer bucks.  The film was delayed being released, playing only in a couple places in Europe in late 1989, and at a comic convention in 1990, but New World's financial issues that would eventually lead to their demise caused them to have to sell the film to Live Entertainment.  Live released it direct-to-video in summer of 1991.

I remember seeing advertisements for this around before its release to video, but I never saw the movie.  I was never a huge Punisher fan.  I'm not that big on grimy and gritty anti-heroes.  I prefer the sunshine heroes as opposed to those who utilize darkness and shadows like villains would.  I have seen the later films made in the 2000s (The Punisher in 2004 and Punisher: War Zone in 2008, the latter being far superior to which I know I am in the minority with that opinion).  While it did carry some negativity from fans, but not quite like 1990's Captain America and 1994's Fantastic Four did.  That indicates to me what I always believed - this movie mostly flew under the radar and therefore never that much of a disappointment in the grand scheme of things.

Of course, now that he's made his big bow on Netflix's Daredevil series, he's about to get his own series on the streaming outlet and is likely to get the attention he deserved as one of the best selling comic book characters of the 80s and 90s.

The synopsis from the back of the DVD box reads: "The avenging angel of Marvel Comics fame comes brilliantly to life in this searing action-adventure thriller!  Dolph Lundgren stars as Frank Castle, a veteran cop who loses his entire family to a mafia car bomb.  Only his ex-partner (Louis Gossett, Jr.) believes Castle survived the blast to become THE PUNISHER... a shadowy, invincible fighter against the evil who lives for total revenge on his mob enemies.  Lashing out from a labyrinth of subterranean sewers, THE PUNISHER leads a heavily armed raid into a world of brutal crime and savage retribution.  A world where only one thing is certain... the guilty will be punished."

Not being much of a fan of The Punisher, and by no means an expert, I will primarily be watching this as a casual viewer.  I will likely not be able to point out too much that wasn't well adapted - well aside from Castle not being a cop and it was a shootout that killed his family.  So let's get this thing rolling!

Friday, November 10, 2017

The Fantastic Four (1994)

The Fantastic Four is Marvel Comics' "first family".  Without them, there literally is no Marvel.  They were the brainchild of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and launched in 1961 to capitalize on the re-emergence of superhero popularity in comic books that had waned by the late 1950s.

The Fantastic Four was comprised of leader Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic) who could stretch like rubber, Susan Storm (Invisible Girl) who could turn herself invisible, The Thing  (Ben Grimm) who was a hulking rock monster, and Johnny Storm (The Human Torch) who was both Susan's brother and able to light himself on fire.  They treated each other as family and even argued like one too.  It was the first real example of a team of superheroes who didn't always get along.  Despite the overall high sci-fi type of tales they would tell, Lee and Kirby had created something that had a realistic flavor to the characters and their interactions.

Sadly, the attempts to bring the FF to screen has not proven to be very successful.  No matter how important the Fantastic Four are to the Marvel Universe and the great stories of my youth and before, most don't really even care about them.

Today, we're going to look at the very first attempt - 1994's The Fantastic Four.  The rights to the movie was purchased in the mid-80s by a German filmmaker and, before the rights expired at the end of 1992, a low budget version of the film was rushed into production.  The actors were cast, sets were built, and everything started to roll.  The actors and much of the production crew were kept out of the loop about one very key fact...

Producers Bernd Eichinger and Roger Corman never planned on releasing the film despite trailers running before films released in 1993 and promotional materials landing at comic conventions along with the actors actually being sent out to promote the film.

If you want to know more about the behind the scenes details, I definitely recommend the documentary on Hulu called Doomed!  It's a fascinating, and kind of sad, story.  I'm not here to regurgitate what was covered in that documentary.  I want to watch this movie and tell you about it.  This is available on YouTube to watch for free.  As for the plot, I'm also grabbing this from the YouTube listing: "When an experimental space voyage goes awry, four people are forever changed by cosmic rays: Reed Richards, inventor and leader of the group gains the ability to stretch his body and takes the name Mr. Fantastic. His girlfriend, Sue Storm, gains the ability to turn invisible and create force fields becoming The Invisible Girl. Her little brother, Johnny Storm, becomes The Human Torch with the ability to control fire, including covering his own body with flame. The pilot Ben Grimm is turned into the super-strong, super-tough Thing. Together they become a team of super-heroes and use their unique powers to foil the evil plans of villains."

Let's have a look, shall we?

Friday, November 3, 2017

The Incredible Hulk Returns (1988)

Marvel Comics...  Man, what more can I possibly say about how awesome they are?  Obviously, they know what they are doing with their movies.  Over the past 20 years, Marvel has, for the most part, cranked out great superhero movie after great superhero movie.  Starting with 1998's Blade all the way up to today's Thor: Ragnarok, no other movie studio has come close to recreating their source material into a major motion picture.

However, there was about 20 years before the release of Blade that things were pretty lean for Marvel getting their intellectual properties into movies.  So, I'll be looking at four of these attempts this month.  There's no better place to start than right here with The Incredible Hulk Returns.

There are two very good reasons why I start here.  First, The Incredible Hulk was a pretty successful TV series for Marvel than ran from 1978 to 1982, then returned as a trilogy of made-for-TV movies in the late 1980s.  This was the first of them (the second featured Daredevil and the Kingpin and the third resulted in the death of both the Hulk and David Banner).

The second reason is because, much like today's Thor: Ragnarok, The Incredible Hulk Returns features a team-up of the Hulk and Thor.  This time, Thor was played by Eric Allen Kramer who was fairly new on the scene at the time and ultimately became a fairly popular character actor who still works to this day.

The movie premiered on NBC on May 22, 1988.  I was really, really excited for it.  Back then, I was buying comics whenever I had a spare $1.05 ($1 cover price plus 5% Indiana Sales Tax back then).  My favorite comic series at the time was Thor.  Knowing Thor would be making his live action debut I was losing my mind.  I could not wait to see the mighty Thunder God in his classic dark blue top with the metal circles and that flowing red cape and those yellow boots and light blue tights...  But...

Well, I'll get that in a little bit.  But for now, let me get to what the basic synopsis is for the movie.  David Banner believes he is about to find a cure for his little green problem, but he runs into a former student, Donald Blake, who tells Banner that he found this magical hammer that summons the Norse God Thor who is bound to serve Blake (sigh).  Thor is a dick and ends up pissing Banner off enough to bring out the Hulk.  After the two make nice, they battle a criminal organization.

Let's get this started so I can talk about how frustrating this movie was for me as a kid.
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