80s Action Movie Capsule Reviews

For reasons I don’t really know, sometime a week ago I suddenly really wanted to watch some 80s action movies. Okay, “action” movies are a dime a dozen, but it needed to be a very specific breed–the kind where the action was clearly shown, the camera stays steady, and the cinematography prefers wide angle shots and simply showing the action rather than goofy filters and ADD film techniques.

So awhile ago I went to a local game store and bought some movies, Commando and Total Recall. But I really wanted to see two in particular, First Blood and (though its not an action movie) Rocky. So I ordered the Rambo complete set (the one that comes in a tin and includes the fourth movie) and the 2-disc edition of Rocky 1, and I’m trying to score the rest on eBay due to the prices being significantly lower there.

I think I really just like Sylvester Stallone. He’s a good actor, and a brilliant writer and director. Every movie he’s written and directed personally has (so far in my experience) been great, and listening to his commentary on Rocky, he’s an insightful writer. And Rambo 4–which again he wrote and directed–is one of the few revivals that is actually worth acknowledging. It’s clear he put his heart into it, and didn’t just make a cash-in nostalgia ticket.

So since I can’t really review these movies on Youtube (there wouldn’t be a point anyway), just some short thoughts. Listed in alphabetical order:

Commando – When I saw this movie, I suddenly understood Duke Nukem a bit more. This movie is like the essence of those games. It’s just so over-the-top. At the very beginning, Arnie’s character finds out his daughter has been kidnapped and the wires in his car cut… so he pushes it down a hill and jumps in, using the downhill momentum to drive and attempt to crash the kidnappers (which you’d think would endanger his daughter but screw logic). This movie was just awesome.

First Blood – I’m not sure why it took two viewings (the first being via TV) for me to recognize it, but this is honestly one of the best action movies of all time. Part of why is just the underlying theme of the whole Vietnam thing (and bad government decisions in general) effing it up for everyone… though admittedly, I also enjoy a bit of “fun” with it because I like the fantasy of a single guy squaring off against a clearly dickish authority figure and coming out… not-quite-on-top, but enough to make his point.

Rambo: First Blood Part II – Not quite as good as the first, and the one where Rambo started to feel more like a mindless action hero, although the transition felt smooth. It honestly kinda felt like a necessary sequel since it feels kinda like Rambo “redeeming” himself after what happened in the first movie, and beginning to kind of piece himself together.

Rambo III on the other hand felt… weird. I mean, I knew it had a rep for being a more standard action movie than the first two, but I didn’t quite realize that included Rambo attempting to make jokes… which just feels out-of-character for him. That didn’t bother me all that much, just that I kinda felt this one was a little more boring than the first two (although I watched the DVDs in a marathon session so I was likely burned out by the third movie, so take this with a grain of salt).

Rocky – This movie is strictly in the category of “where have you been all my life?” Hard as it is to believe, I never saw Rocky until the mid-2000s (borrowed a DVD from a friend) and at that time, I didn’t like it. I guess I just didn’t have the mental ability to grasp it at the time. Now that I do… its a movie I can’t see living without. In fact I’ve watched the DVD more than once in the three days I’ve owned it, something I almost never do with movies. Rocky really is as good as its reputation suggests.

I also have to mention one extra:

Rambo 4 or John Rambo (I refuse to call it simply “Rambo” due to the confusion that would inevitably cause) – I first saw this movie on TV and initially kinda hated it, feeling like it was a typical revival. However, it was compelling enough that I looked into its background and discovered more about it, including Stallone’s intentions, that the conflict it depicts (Burma) is actually real and that the idea was to both return to the tone of “First Blood” as well as realistically portray Rambo as he’d be living decades later. And when I watched it again with all this in mind, I couldn’t help but love it. It just goes to show that a misinformed opinion is a wrong one.

….

In other news, been wrestling with the idea of doing a Wolfenstein 3D Let’s-Play. Besides the “I’d have to point a webcam at a monitor” issue, I’m not really good at making running commentary. Who knows though, it might be fun.

That’s pretty much everything worth talking about.