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American Ninja 4 - The Annihilation (1990)

American Ninja 4 (1990)

Michael Dudikoff is back! So is the guy who jumped is as main character in the last movie, and you know what? With both of them on the screen it's made shamefully apparent... that the other guy is actually a better main character. Sure he doesn't have the same squint, and his haircut is a bit annoying... but he is a better martial artist, and a much more emotional actor as well.

As for the movie itself, even though this one was made just a year after the previous one, it's received an enormous overhaul in quality! There aren't so many loose ends this time around, overall better actors, better stunts, better everything! Shawn actually wears half a mask in this one, too, it's way more 'ninja' than the last one was. Looks like the series is moving into the 90s. :)

And still the IMDB score is sinking with each movie... are people tiring of the series? Personally it feels like it's moving back to its former glory, though I do miss Jackson in this one. Maybe he'll make another appearance in the sequel? That's the next flick on my watchlist.

 rated 3/5: not bad

American Ninja 3 - Blood Hunt (1989)

American Ninja 3 (1989)

There's a female ninja in the mix this time... Chun Li (doh)! There's a new main character too, Shawn, a much more tempered main character than the old one. Jackson's still there though, another enthusiastic sidekick... and yeah, there are ninjas.

Swapping out the main character with a new one, and having a background with no army for a change... somehow... ruins it a bit. I liked the original scenario better. I liked the first character better too. Even though it's not like he died, they're really throwing him in a bin and moving onto a new actor... as they say in the description "Jackson is back, and now he has a new partner, karate champion Sean..."

Since when did Jackson become the main character? He's not the ninja! He's not even the main character! This is getting messed up. Jackson saying: "I thought I had left all this behind with Joe in the Army" just isn't enough. Apparently the reason why Michael Dudikoff, main character in the first two movies, opted out of this one was because of some tax scandal regarding movies filmed in South Africa. American Ninja 3 took place on the remote Caribbean island of Triana btw, just so you know...

Compared to the previous movie, this one is actually a bit more polished, still with the same type of sinister plot. There are good guys, bad guys, chases, innocent bystanders who get caught in the fury...

There's also this one flight scene where the main character is talking the other guy down that's just... ridiculous. It takes so long before he reaches the ground, and all the time they're talking as if they were just watching from a distance and not really participating in it. A real B-movie moment you could say. At the end, there's a satisfying finale, there are fun punchlines; overall it's a good action movie, it just still doesn't have the same mystique or sense of realism as the first.

Fun fact: this movie from 89, is 89 minutes long!

 rated 3/5: not bad

American Ninja 2 - The Confrontation (1987)

American Ninja 2 (1987)

So this is the sequel. I liked the first one, with its mystery, its character; personal approach... even with the overly flashy ending. But this one... well sometimes it just seems silly.

Joe Armstrong and his buddy Curtis Jackson have been reassigned, to some tropical island where Marines are mystically disappearing, there are ninjas involved (though they don't know this from the start) and these two have been sent as replacements to find out what's going on.

The first thing that bothers me with this movie are that none of the loose ends from the last one are cleared out, like what happened to his master, and what happened to that girl, and if he really regained his memory, and if he ever actually learned to become invisible.

The second thing that bothers me is the lousy choreography behind the fights. Maybe it's because everything is happening in broad daylight now, or because Jackson gets almost as much screen time as the main character (attempts at appealing to a broader audience?) but suddenly the martial art craze is just a fragment of what it used to be. There is too much hesitation, too many wild punches, too little fluency and variation compared to the last one. There's more fighting, it just suddenly looks like what it is: unrealistic. Just one more eighties action movie. The IMDB score, jumping from 3 dwn to 2 stars, seems to convey my own opinion... it's not getting better with this sequel either.

But the thing that bugs me the most, are the super ninjas. It's not like ninjas are 'grown'. Ninjas are trained... Ninjas could be cloned... but then there's the 'master' in this movie, fighting for show, killing plenty of these super ninjas even though he's apparently not one himself. What's so special about these super ninjas if he's making a display of how easy they are to kill? There are so many loose ends in this movie, they're tripping all over them.

When the lost marines are rescued, suddenly they're just as good as swinging swords as the other ninjas. And why do they take the door to the arena? Why wait with the kobudera/flashback until right before the grand fight finale? Why run away from the ninja master the first time he appears? So many whys.

As soon as the bad guy dies, the girl starts smiling... and what's up with the Samurai ending? This is supposed to be a Ninja movie! Argh, details... maybe it's just the lousy fighting choreography that pisses me off though, since it could've been so much better! It could've been, at least, as good as the previous one!

At least the end isn't as sudden as last time, but all the same... this one just didn't leave me with the same satisfaction as the last. Also, second time I'm watching it. It's not that bad, but it's worse. :/

 rated 2/5: decent

American Ninja (1985)

American Ninja (1985)

Americans and Ninjas, hmm... just hearing these two somewhat clashing ideologies reminds me of how they just don't mix, how Asian and American culture at its core is so different that all attempts to make some combined form of entertainment usually results in laughable results. Well, this might be one of the rare exceptions... at least exceptions from the eighties. Tolerance and knowledge of foreign cultures seems to be much more widespread now.

The movie starts off at an army base.

There's a girl, there's a loner, there's a group of energetic soldiers, there's an attack... and from there on it builds up into a real drama, as much action as thriller, conspiracy and scheme all in one. Of course the main character is American (the title so duh), and of course the foes are (mostly) Asian, and of course there's a muscular black dude to act sidekick. In many ways the movie is full of prejudice and stereotypes, and the moments that could have been emotional and traumatic flash by like a smoke bomb. Like when the main character's master dies, he kills the foe, gets the girl; happy ending.

It isn't a very deep movie, with amazing actors or a complex plot (though it is a good plot), but it doesn't need to be. It does what it's supposed to, it entertains, with plenty of fights, plenty of stunts (just ignore the obvious mattresses and trampolines you're not supposed to see... and occasionally don't), explosions, car chases and even a little bit of romance. A prime example of pinnacle eighties action.

Second time I watch it, but still just as fun!

Hit The Bucket

 rated 3/5: not bad

Catch Me If You Can (2002)

Catch Me If You Can (2002)

This is the true strong of Frank Abagnale Jr., professional con-artist and counterfeiter who started out young, a kid on the run, met a girl, escaped his followers many times, became an airline pilot, was eventually arrested by the FBI and then given a job in their relatively new counterfeiting unit, working together with Carl Hanraty, who he'd developed a sorta bond with during the chase.

At the time the movie has made, he had been married for 26 years and led a quite life in the mid-west, was considered one of the 'world's foremost authorities on bank fraud and forgery' and made millions of dollars per year thanks to his new designs of secure checks used everyday by Fortune 500 companies, amongst others.

Sounds interesting? The movie is too, and Leonardo DiCaprio plays his role flawlessly, as does Tom Hanks as Hanratty... I've never appreciated Hank that much as an actor, he's just not a particularly charismatic and memorable person, but maybe that's the same reason he is such a good actor: he blends in. The movie was just clean and... professional. Not always fun. Not full of action, but definitely an interesting watch.

 rated 4/5: fo shizzle

Caged Heat 3000 (1995)

Caged Heat 3000 (1995)

It's the year 3000 AD. The world's most dangerous women are banished to a remote asteroid 45 million light years from earth. Kira Murphy doesn't belong; wrongfully accused of a crime she did not commit, she's thrown in this interplanetary prison and left to her own defenses. But Kira's a fighter, and soon she finds herself in the middle of a female gang war; where everyone wants a piece of the action... and a piece of her! "Caged Heat 3000" takes the Women-in-Prison genre to a whole new level... and a whole new galaxy!

So that basically explains it. This is like the 1974 original on a whole other plane (yeah yeah, galaxy, OK)... with a bit more of everything but not such a big a difference in plot or artistry, and slightly worse acting. When people speak of films like this in regard to 'artistic sensibility' I really don't get what they're going on about, this is like creative softcore porn with a lot of violence. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but if the goal really is to be artistic, there are better ways to get there.

Compared to the 1974 movie (the only real prison exploitation film I've seen so far, prior to this) there is a lot more focus on fights, especially between prisoners (part of the also very increased factors of exploitation). There is electric therapy, death, rebellion, conclusion... and hey, isn't that the actor from American Shaolin? :O Biggest surprise of the movie!

It's a pretty silly movie despite the violence, at times unnecessarily brutal and plotless, but still a pleasure to watch. I'm also thinking this might be an inspiration behind the hentai title Kangoku Senkan, which takes the aspect of exploitation to a whole other level. There, there is no prison, but apart from this minor detail there are plenty of similarities... the characters even wear similar suits. Anyway, I'll give this a...

 rated 2/5: decent

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