Bloodsport (1988) Review

Bloodsport (1988)

Directed by Newt Arnold

Story by Sheldon Lettich

Starring: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Donald Gibb, Leah Ayres, Norman Burton, Forest Whitaker, Bolo Yeung

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
“Bloodsport” follows Frank Dux, an American martial artist serving in the military, who decides to leave the army to compete in a martial arts tournament in Hong Kong where fights to the death can occur.

My Opinion:

Yeah! Bloodsport!! This is where my rating system is confusing to people (maybe?!). This movie is terrible. But I’m giving it a 7.5, about the same as my recent ratings for Promising Young Woman & Swallow, both of which I really enjoyed & thought were good. I’ve not yet reviewed these but I’m giving two absolute worthy classics that I watched this past month a 7.5 as well (Battleship Potemkin & The Innocents). Why?! I don’t know. I just rate on a combination of a) how much I enjoyed a movie (this is the first & most important), and then b) if it’s a “good” or worthy film. I gave Mank a 7/10. I didn’t enjoy that one at all, really, but I know it’s “good” so I gave it a 7 to be nice. But I had a hell of a lot more fun watching Bloodsport!

First of all, shockingly as I grew up in the ’80s and adore that decade & love everything from it, this is the first & only Jean-Claude Van Damme movie I’ve seen. I just always avoided him & Steven Seagal as their movies looked rubbish. I mean, we had Sylvester Stallone & especially Arnold Schwarzenegger at the time making some damn good movies, so why would I want to watch bad action movies? Well, I suppose Van Damme & Seagal were a bit later & more into the ’90s but you know what I mean. I just didn’t see the point of watching their shit. Plus Van Damme had a terrible mullet in later movies. He was kind of a cutie in this early film, though. And, wow – that ASS! I’m fine with the only nudity in this being male nudity. What a butt! (Why can’t I find a decent image of that butt to post here?! Found a nice gif, though. May have watched that a few times…)

I think it actually helped that I watched this for the first time in 2021, so I thoroughly enjoyed the absolute ’80s fucking cheese of this. So I felt nostalgic whereas I probably would have just thought this was bad if I’d watched it in 1988 when it came out. And it actually looks & feels more like an early ’80s movie, not late ’80s when movies started to get a little bland (that’s a good thing – the early ’80s feel works for this martial arts genre). The early & late ’80s were a lot different as there was a spillover of the groovy ’70s at first. I suppose it made this feel a tiny bit closer to the ’70s masterpiece Enter The Dragon. Not that I’m comparing them, exactly – I just don’t have much experience in the martial arts film genre so am going to think of the very few others I’ve seen plus a bunch of people come together to fight “to the possible death” in both movies. But Enter The Dragon is awesome and a classic (8.5/10 – I loved it AND thought it was actually good).

Van Damme is good in this, I guess. He’s great at the martial arts stuff, at least. Right? I don’t know. What do I know? I’m a wuss & know no martial arts. He’s maybe not so great at the acting stuff but no one watches this kind of movie for Oscar worthy performances. And I loved his friend in this (Jackson, played by Donald Gibb, the big dude who played Ogre in Revenge Of The Nerds). He was funny & super likeable in a big dumb doofus sort of way. And Van Damme’s training at the start of the movie was hilariously silly. There’s a thing he’s made to do where you just KNOW he’s gonna have to use it at the end of the film. How convenient! Ha! Well, there are a few things he learned while training which came in super handy at the end (those splits!). And why on Earth did the young version of Van Damme look nothing whatsoever like him plus he sounded weird (was there odd dubbing or ADR or some shit – I dunno, I know nothing about this stuff either!).

So, back to the splits… Van Damme does those painful looking splits so many times in this thing. First time was funny as hell while tied up to trees and the final time was way up high overlooking everything because, yeah, who wouldn’t want to sit there on painful stone doing painful splits while getting massive vertigo? Here’s what I’m talking about:

Actually, I just looked up “Bloodsport splits” for an image and there were so many from this movie that I’m just gonna go ahead & stick them all in here. Love it!

I guess that’s impressive, though. Ouch! All I can say is THIS:

As I’m an idiot who knows nothing about this stuff I’ll say that I did read about the film & it’s based on some guy’s “true story”. So I don’t want to go dumping on the movie too much. But I’m a little concerned now & thinking that there are huge underground death-matches going on for real! Is this a thing?!? Well, the real guy is Frank Dux & his claims are disputed. Here’s what Wikipedia says about it: “According to Dux, a ninjutsu expert named Senzo Tanaka trained him as a ninja when he was a teenager. He established his own school of ninjutsu called Dux Ryu Ninjutsu, and has said he won a secret martial arts tournament called the Kumite in 1975. His alleged victory at the Kumite served as the inspiration for the 1988 film Bloodsport starring Jean-Claude Van Damme. Dux’s victory at the Kumite has been disputed, as has the existence of both the Kumite he described and Senzo Tanaka.

Well. I kind of loved this movie? Or, at least, I loved watching it. As I tried to watch a lot of dreary & depressing Oscar nominees the past few months, it was nice to just relax and have good giggles over a fun ’80s movie. Oh, and there’s lots of fighting in this too if you like that kind of thing! Nice – I didn’t even mention the actual fighting in this “fight to the death” film! Whatever. I’m a girl. I was distracted by his butt. The fighting was great. I do actually love these fights. I think I might actually like these martial arts films?? I’ve now seen this, Enter The Dragon, Fist Of Fury & Ip Man (now THAT is a damn good film). Fun! I like. What martial arts film should I watch next?

My Rating: 7.5/10

Oh, let’s end this post with this amazing backwards kick thingy he used on this dude.

Paperhouse (1988) Review

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Paperhouse (1988)

Directed by Bernard Rose

Based the novel Marianne Dreams by Catherine Storr

Starring:
Charlotte Burke
Glenne Headly
Elliott Spiers
Ben Cross

Running time: 92 minutes

Plot Summary: (via IMDB)
Anna is becoming lost in the loneliness of her own world when she discovers she can visit another, a house she has drawn herself and occupied by a young disabled boy. But as she discovers more of the links between her fantasy world and the mundane present, she is drawn only deeper into a dream turning into a nightmare.

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My Opinion:

Well, what a strange little movie this was! I’m not quite sure what to think of it. If I’d have seen this as a 12 or 13-year-old, I think I’d have loved it. It’s very much the weird sort of dark fantasy/slightly scary kind of thing I always loved (my favorite TV show from a very young age was The Twilight Zone). Too bad I missed out on this one, probably because it’s an obscure British film. I caught this on the Horror Channel a few months ago and it’s a shame that the quality was sooo AWFUL. Just like when I watched the movie Popcorn, it was harder to fully enjoy because of that. I thought the story was great, though. Like all the other movies I’ve reviewed this week, this was based on a novel (Marianne Dreams by Catherine Storr). I know nothing about it but imagine it’s a good read and, again, am sure I’d have loved it as a pre-teen. I bet the few now-grown-up kids who saw this in 1988 would be like “Oh, wow – I remember that movie!”. There are certainly some scenes that would stay with you if you’d seen it at a young age and a couple that were kind of “borderline” on the horror and violence so I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone younger than 12 or 13. When looking this up, I saw that it’s from the same director (Bernard Rose) who later went on to make Candyman. A lot of reviews compare this movie to Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures, which is kind of a fair comparison although Paperhouse is certainly less horrific. It’s just a bit “eerie” and slightly unsettling. It also reminded me in a small way of things like Labyrinth and Mirrormask, two other movies that involve young teens living in their own fantasy worlds.

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In Paperhouse, an 11-year-old girl is home recovering from an illness when she draws a house which she soon starts visiting in her dreams. She finds she can add to this world by drawing more of the picture but things soon turn sinister in her dream world. I was a little confused by the sudden turn of events having to do her father and am not sure what the meaning of that was meant to be. I enjoyed it because I like to see films that are a bit “different” but it’s not one I put much thought into afterwards. The movie doesn’t go out if its way to explain things and I suppose you could interpret her dream world in different ways. I’m curious about the book now and if it goes into more detail or if, like the movie, it’s up to you to decide what it all means. It’s certainly not a film for everyone and it’s hard to know if I’d recommend it to anyone. Hmm. Oh! I know who might like it! Laura – I think you’d be interested in checking this one out. 🙂

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Summary:

An odd film that, I think, is aimed at a pre to mid-teen audience. I really liked the central story of a young girl living in an eerie fantasy world that she’s created in her drawings and the relationship she forms with the boy she meets in this world. Everything is dark and grey and dreary and I’m not entirely sure if that’s down to the horrible quality of the version I saw or if it’s just because, well, it’s set in England (Ha! No, I’m actually not joking – you wouldn’t believe how sunless & dreary it is here). It helps sets the tone & mood of the film, though, and makes it feel like more of a “horror” film than it actually is. I’m really not sure how to rate this one… In some ways, I found it great and very refreshing as it’s so unusual and I love to get a break from your typical mainstream types of movies sometimes. However, I don’t know if it’s exactly a “good” film. It feels very low budget & 80’s (not negative things in my book) and… I don’t know! Seriously – I have no clue what to rate this one. Brian is going to yell at me for my confusing ratings again if he reads this. I actually had this movie on my to-watch list for YEARS after reading about it a very very long time ago and liking the sound of it. I’m very glad I managed to finally see it & it’s one that will stay with me as the story and visuals were so unique. It may not be the best film I’ve seen this year but it’s one of the most memorable. I appreciate its creativity.

My Rating: 6.5/10

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By the way – Thanks to everyone for all your wonderful comments on my blog this week! I don’t get much time to reply to anyone during the week – I’ll catch up with you all this weekend! 🙂

CPD Classics: Big (1988) Review

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A note before I start the review:

Since starting this blog, I’ve only reviewed movies I’ve just recently watched instead of attempting to review old favorites of mine. This felt too difficult for me as I’m not always great with words & feel like I won’t do these movies justice. I’ll attempt to do very SHORT reviews (probably on Fridays) where I talk briefly about what I like about some of my favorite films or films I think deserve a bit more recognition than they get (be warned: there will probably be a lot of 80’s movies because of my age). In most cases, I won’t be re-watching them as I know them so well. I’m starting with Big as I did re-watch that recently.

Big (1988)

Directed by Penny Marshall

Starring:
Tom Hanks
David Moscow
Elizabeth Perkins
Robert Loggia
John Heard
Jared Rushton
Jon Lovitz
Mercedes Ruehl

Running time: 104 minutes

Plot Synopsis:
12-year-old Josh Baskin makes a wish to be “big” on an old carnival fortune telling machine after he’s embarrassed in front of a girl he likes when he’s told he’s too short for a ride. To his surprise, he wakes up the next morning as a 30-year-old man.

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Why It’s A CPD Classic:

I was in my early teens when this came out & remember going to it in a group with several relatives as it was such a hugely successful family film at the time. I feel like there are very few “family” films like Big these days. Nowadays it would star an Adam Sandler-type instead of someone like Tom Hanks and the humor would be so dumbed down and immature that only the youngest members in the audience would enjoy it while they’d throw in an occasional “dirty” joke to try to entertain the bored adults. The family would walk away from the film (after it’s predictably sentimental ending) with maybe the kids thinking it was okay but the adults just glad that they got to rest for a couple hours while their kids were entertained.

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Big appeals to everyone between the ages of 8 and 108. I liked it as a (moody) early teen, my mom liked it, my aunt liked it, my grandma liked it. Everyone liked it in 1988, right? It was a nicer time. The film is wholesome without being annoyingly so (I mean, there’s even some PG boobies-in-bra action). Tom Hanks is on top form as a 12-year-old stuck in the body of a 30-year-old and I can’t imagine anyone else nailing that role the way he did. He’s brilliant and totally believable. We don’t get a bunch of stupid high jinks – we get a young boy who at first is very scared then slowly starts to do his best to adjust to his new life as an adult. We never forget that he’s 12, though, even as we see him mature after getting his first job and “girl”friend – Hanks plays the role perfectly from start to finish. And how loveable was he as we watched this “big kid” playing with toys & spending his paychecks on all the stupid things a 12-year-old boy would and getting the pretty but uptight female co-worker to loosen up & jump on his trampoline?? And then there’s the big piano scene! You have to love Hanks & Robert Loggia dancing on the big piano and playing Heart & Soul. If you don’t love that, I want to hear from you in the comments below! That scene is an all-time classic.

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Big is a heartwarming coming-of-age comedy with a character who behaves in a very realistic way to an unrealistic situation. We never forget that we’re watching a 12-year-old boy and the movie doesn’t treat the audience like idiots. It appeals to all ages by telling a simple story in a simple way and having a lot of heart and soul. That’s why it’s a CPD Classic.

My Rating: 8/10

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