“Rambo III” holds a very distinguished position within my movie history. It has the honor of being the first R-rated movie I watched in the theater. It was 1988 and I was 16 years-old. My uncle was down for the weekend and offered to take me to a movie. This was a big deal because there was no theater in my small town and going to the movies was a real treat. Being a huge fan of 80s action movie icons Schwarzenegger and Stallone, naturally I went with “Rambo III” when asked to choose. To my surprise my uncle agreed and the rest is meaningless movie history.

For me the Rambo franchise ended after “Rambo III”. Sylvester Stallone attempted to bring it back in 2008 with the profoundly mediocre and generically titled “Rambo”, but it lacked the feel and (yes I’m going to say it) the charm of the original three flicks. For me “Rambo III” is a satisfying  way to finish a testosterone-fueled, biceps-flexing, action-packed exercise that fits nicely into the over-the-top 80s action catalog.


The Rambo series will never find its way onto drama school curriculums, but by this time Stallone was pretty in tune with what his character needed. The screenplay (co-written by Stallone) gives us a more grounded John Rambo (aside from the one-man-army awesomeness of course) and Stallone isn’t asked to stretch beyond the bounds of his acting abilities. For example, gone are the schmaltzy end of the movie theatrics he gives us in the first two films. Well meaning but laughably bad scenes and slightly worse acting.

But that doesn’t mean the film is free of cheese. We get plenty of it especially from Richard Crenna who delivers several lines dripping with Velvetta. My personal favorite: (speaking about Rambo) “God would have mercy. He won’t”. This goes hand-in-hand with the film’s attempt to inject a touch of humor. It tries not to take itself too seriously as evident by Rambo’s numerous jokey one-liners, some that work, some not so much.

The film starts by giving us a disillusioned Rambo who has finally found a degree of peace working at a Buddhist monastery in Thailand. His mentor and one true friend Colonel Traitman (Crenna) finds him and tries to recruit Rambo to join him on a special mission. Rooted in the politics of 1988, the mission is to deliver supplies to rebels fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan. Rambo declines, Trautman goes anyway and ends up captured by a brutal Soviet officer named Zaysen (Marc de Jonge). Rambo gets word and sets out on a solo mission against all odds to rescue his friend.


This bromance takes Rambo to the toughest terrain he has faced. Filmed mostly in Israel and a bit in Arizona, the locations offer themselves up to a believable setting and some great action sequences. This also may be Stallone’s most physically demanding performance of the series. Sly runs, jumps, climbs, fights, and unleashes an insane amount of carnage. In several ways he tries to outdo the second film – bigger stunts and bigger action. For me it absolutely works.

“Rambo III” was hammered hard by critics but still made good money at the box office. I can see some of the criticisms now better than before. It is loud, violent, and mindless. Also the film doesn’t have an ounce of strategy or subtlety with its political messaging. Perhaps it’s the jaws of nostalgia tightly clamped on my perspective, but I still have a ton of fun with this film. It’s lighter, the action is energetic, and the cheese adds to the experience. I was the target audience back in 1988 and I had a blast with “Rambo III”. Maybe the ability to still look at it through that lens enables me to appreciate it for exactly what it is.


4 Stars

5 Phenomenal Movie Helicopter Scenes

movie_theatre - Phenom 5As goofy as this probably sounds, I love a good helicopter scene. I know it’s weird but I’ve been amazed at some of the great moments in movies that involve helicopters. In fact, you can sometimes find fantastic helicopter scenes in movies that aren’t necessarily that good. In light of that I’ve decided we would have some fun in this week’s Phenomenal 5. I’ve picked out 5 outstanding helicopter movie scenes that range from iconic to absolutely insane. Now considering how often helicopters have made their ways into movies it would be silly to call this the definitive list. But there’s no denying that these 5 helicopter scenes are certainly phenomenal.



“Live Free or Die Hard”

I doubt anyone will ever call 2007’s “Live Free or Die Hard” the best film of the “Die Hard” series. But while it didn’t live up to the previous three movies, it was a fun flick and considerably better than the more recent franchise killer. Perhaps the coolest scene in the movie involves an incredible helicopter sequence. On their way to FBI headquarters, John McClane and his witness are ambushed by an attack helicopter in downtown New York. They are eventually flushed out of a tunnel but McClane always leaves his mark. He not only escapes the tunnel but he launches his car into the hovering chopper. BOOM! Insanely over the top but also insanely awesome.

#4 – “RAMBO III”

Rambo III

“Rambo III”

It’s pretty safe to say that John Rambo loves helicopters. There are three or four great Rambo chopper scenes that could easily make this list. But I went with a wild and intense sequence from “Rambo III”. In this installment of the testosterone-driven Stallone franchise Rambo tackles the Soviet occupied Afghanistan. While at a village with some Afghan freedom fighters, two Russian attack choppers attack. Armed with rockets and machine guns, the choppers decimate the village and the people there. Rambo dodges explosions and bullets until he reaches a mounted machine gun on top of a hill. In typical Rambo fashion he swings the turret and starts firing on an approaching chopper. It blows to bits sending the other chopper packing. 80s cheese no doubt but I love it.


dark knight

“The Dark Knight”

For me, Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” is the best superhero movie ever made. A key ingredient to its tremendous success was the performance of Heath ledger as the Joker. The Joker’s advantage came from always being a step ahead of the Gotham Police. That was never more evident than in a scene where a police convoy is transporting Harvey Dent. Anticipating a police chopper escort, the Joker has his men fire cables from one high rise building to the other across the street. The chopper snags one of the cables which sends it careening into the side of the building and eventually crashing down in front of the convoy. It’s just one part of a truly incredible sequence.



“Apocalypse Now”

I may not hold Francis Ford Coppola’s beloved 1979 war picture “Apocalypse Now” in as high regard as many do, but I do recognize some of the great moments it gives us. Maybe the most well known scene in the film comes after Martin Sheen runs into Robert Duvall’s wacky, surf-loving Lieutenant Colonel Kilgore. Kilgore leads his air calvary helicopter squadron in an attack on a Vietcong base based on nothing more than the fine surfing conditions in that area. The helicopter attack amid napalm drops and “Ride of the Valkyries” is for me the film’s most memorable scene. But it’s Coppola’s camera that makes it so good. His sweeping shots and perfectly framed chaos create one of the most visually stunning war sequences. This scene also leads to one of the most iconic film quotes in history – “I love the smell of napalm in the morning”. How could this scene not be on this list?

#1 – “28 WEEKS LATER”

28 weeks later

“28 Weeks Later”

Whenever I think of helicopter scenes in cinema my mind will always gravitate to the inventive, over-the-top, and down right nutty chopper sequence in “28 Weeks Later”. I won’t get into the whole “are the Rage virus victims zombies” debate, but they’re close enough for me. In the movies we’ve seen zombies killed in a variety of ways but never as they are here. I don’t want to spoil anything but let’s just say that our survivors are discovered hiding in the tall grass of a field by a huge ravenous group of snarling infected who instantly come running for them. But a friendly chopper steps in and boy does it take care of business. Pilot Harold Perrineau dips the nose of his helicopter to where his swirling blades are mere feet from the ground. You guessed it, he flies that thing right through the horde. Limbs fly, blood splatters, and heads roll in this graphic zombie/infected slaughter sequence. I still remember my first reaction when seeing it.

So there you have it. These are five phenomenal helicopter movie scenes that I love. But what about you? See something I missed? Please take time to share your favorites below.

THE THROWDOWN : Stallone vs. Schwarzenegger

Wednesday is Throwdown day at Keith & the Movies. It’s when we take two movie subjects, pit them against each other, and see who’s left standing. Each Wednesday we’ll look at actors, actresses, movies, genres, scenes, and more. I’ll make a case for each and then see how they stand up one-on-one. And it’s not just my opinion that counts. I’ll share my take and then open up the polls to you. Visit each week for a new Throwdown. Vote each week to decide the true winner!

*Last week Christian Bale (74%) manhandled Michael Keaton (26%) in a Batman battle to the death.*

This week it’s an action movie face-off between the two biggest names of the 80’s. The 80’s and early 90’s were the glory days of the action genre and no one was bigger than Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Forget the critical acclaim, the stuffy Academy Awards, and the overrated importance of good acting. These guys were all about biceps, blood, and bullets. Before they teamed up in the recent “The Expendables” movies, these two had a huge box office rivalry that lasted several years. Now it’s time to settle the big question. Which of these action movie icons is truly the best? Their guns are loaded, their knives are sharpened, and their muscles are flexed. But it’s your votes that will decide the outcome.


At 66-years old, Sly Stallone is still kicking bad guy’s butts on the big screen. But then again, he’s been doing it for almost 40 years. His career really took off in 1976 with “Rocky”. But it was “First Blood” and “Rambo: First Blood Part 2” that laid the foundation for what would become an amazing action movie career. He would go on to clean up a psycho cult in “Cobra”, team up with Kurt Russell in “Tango & Cash”, hang from mountain cliffs in “Cliffhanger”, battle baddies in the future with “Demolition Man” and “Judge Dredd”, and rescue survivors trapped in a collapsed tunnel in “Daylight”. He’s also made several more “Rocky” pictures and two more “Rambo” films. He has several new projects ahead but he’ll always be remembered for his incredible run that helped make the action genre so popular.

Arnold Schwarzenegger may have more memorable scenes and memorable one-liners than anyone in cinema history. He also has an action movie resume that’s as impressive as any you will see. This one-time Austrian bodybuilder made a name for himself in the early 80’s with his “Conan” films. But his career really took off when he traded his sword for a gun in the sci-fi classic “The Terminator”. He then cemented his one-man-army status in “Commando” and “Raw Deal”. He would battle an alien threat in the spectacular military sci-fi film “Predator”. He also ventured into the future with “The Running Man” and “Total Recall” before making what is one of the best sequels of all time, “Terminator 2: Judgement Day”. He mad several more action films including “True Lies” and another successful “Terminator” flick. This 65-year old has no plans on slowing down and you’ll see him plenty in 2013.

So there’s a case for both. Now you decide who’s the winner. The action movie genre wouldn’t be what it is without the contributions of these two icons. So vote now. Who’s the heavier hitter, Arnie or Sly? You decide!