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Tag Archive: Phylicia Rashad


jean claude van johnson

Sometimes you vote and your nominee wins.

That’s what we were hoping when Amazon Studios asked audiences last August what series they wanted to see move forward with a full season.  The underdog contender was a pilot called Jean-Claude Van Johnson, starring 1980s and 1990s B-movie superstar Jean-Claude Van Damme.  If you’re a fan of Van Damme, you probably would agree he has never failed to deliver a solid Van Damme action flick, whether it’s Bloodsport, Kickboxer, Lionheart, Double Impact, or TimeCop, or whether it’s Van Damme as a villainous voice on Kung Fu Panda 2, or star villain among a bunch of other “has-beens” in Expendables 2, Van Damme always delivers as promised.  We thought he did it again with a great series pilot last year.  And Amazon Studios agreed.

Amazon Studios has released a new trailer and a teaser plus a firm release date for season one–it’s available next month.

Jean-Claude Van Damme stars as a meta-Jean-Claude Van Damme in Jean-Claude Van Johnson.  We reviewed the incredibly fun pilot here at borg.com last year.  Jean-Claude is a retired action hero, going through the motions, living the life we would expect of this famed, otherworldly-superhero-acrobatic-martial-artist-extraordinaire known as the “Muscles from Brussels”.  He awakens to a ho-hum average day, among all the products which have licensed his name (JCVD soap, after shave, slippers, an iron statue, etc.), with the obligatory supermodel exiting his bed.  He moves on to a Ramen noodle restaurant for lunch only to encounter a lost love, played by 39-year-old ex-Weeds and Royal Pains actress Kat Foster (Van Damme is 57).  She is leaving for a gig in Bulgaria and shuns his affections.  This prompts Van Damme to visit his agent, played by Phylicia Rashad.  She has some lame (and quite funny) acting parts for him, but–no–he wants to return to his other job.  It turns out Van Damme was doing what many of us dreamed about over the years–a story where these movie tough guys were actually put to the test in real life.  That’s right, Van Damme was America’s real-life answer to James Bond.  As Johnson, Van Damme was the world’s most dangerous undercover operative.  And he’s back.

And he has plenty of disguises.

Here is the new teaser and full-length trailer for Jean-Claude Van Johnson:

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How often does a franchise include seven films?  How often are any of them up to the quality of the original that launched the franchise in the first place?  The 1976 surprise hit Rocky was nominated for ten Academy Awards and took Best Picture, Best Director (for John G. Avildson), and Best Editing.  In every way Rocky Balboa and Sylvester Stallone have been synonymous ever since.  Stallone was nominated for his original screenplay and for best actor.  Rocky is the story of an underdog, and Stallone was the mirror of Rocky in real life, proving himself to the world as a wannabe A-list movie star.  As the franchise continued, Stallone became an international megastar, with movies like Rambo.  Many argue the sequel to Rocky, simply titled Rocky II, is akin to the Godfather 2 or Superman 2, an example of Hollywood crafting a truly worthy sequel.  From there critics and audiences diverge:  Was Rocky vs. Dolph Lundgren as Drago in Rocky IV up to the adrenaline rush of the boxing rounds in the earlier films?  Where does Rocky III fit in?  The latest entry in the Rocky series, the reboot and eighth film in the series, Creed, is now streaming on Amazon Prime.  If you are looking for an inspirational, feel-good movie, it should be the next movie on your list.

What seems to be unanimous is a drop in quality and excitement beset Rocky V and the sixth film Rocky Balboa.  So when Creed was released at the end of 2015, who could have guessed it could be on par with the original?  The odds were against its success, much like the character of Adonis “Hollywood” Johnson, the son of the late Apollo Creed, played by Michael B. Jordan in the film.  Director Ryan Coogler, born ten years after the original Rocky film, grew up with Stallone’s boxer already part of the national psyche, along with other motivational sports films like Rocky director Avildson’s other unforgettable classic, The Karate Kid.  Coogler draws from that film’s sensei Mr. Miyagi in one particularly well played training sequence between Stallone and Jordan.  Stallone has played sensei before in the series, but only now, with the actor a real-life wise, elder thespian, does he provide a performance that in some parallel universe garnered him not only an Oscar nomination but a win (Stallone was only the sixth actor twice nomination for playing the same character).  The young Jordan is equally superb, holding back when others may take obvious choices with a hot-headed fighter.  Coogler’s subtlety is the stuff of great filmmaking, such as editing in musical cues from the original Rocky like a whisper throughout the film, only to release the full weight of Bill Conti’s goosebump inducing theme when it meant the most.

But how can Creed be as good as the original?

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jean claude van johnson

Review by C.J. Bunce

So much good television, so little time.  iZombie, Killjoys, Galavant, Thirteen, Mr. Robot, Angie Tribeca–so many new television series are trying new things and stretching the boundaries of what makes fresh entertainment.  While premium cable channels and innovative networks like Amazon Studios and Netflix keep trying, usually via tired formulas and weak attempts to shock viewers over providing any substance, nothing from those sources in the past few years has stood out as a truly great series.  Could it be content overload?  Would Daredevil and Jessica Jones have fared better if we watched them in small doses over a normal season?  In a flat era of television these might take off as great shows, but seem to be easy to pass over for something else.

Amazon Studios keeps trying and may finally have a winner.  Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle started off well and was rewarded with a second season beginning this December.  Now Amazon is launching its own Kickstarter of sorts, letting we the audience influence what series is made next, based on three pilots, including a drama with Kevin Bacon, and another superhero series featuring The Tick.  But it’s difficult to resist the third entry–a pilot called Jean-Claude Van Johnson, starring 1980s and 1990s B-movie superstar Jean-Claude Van Damme.  If you’re a fan of Van Damme, then you probably would agree he has never failed to deliver a solid Van Damme action vehicle, whether it’s Bloodsport, Kickboxer, Lionheart, Double Impact, or TimeCop, or whether it’s Van Damme as a villainous voice on Kung Fu Panda 2, or star villain among a bunch of other “has-beens” in Expendables 2, Van Damme always delivers as promised.  And he’s done it again.

Van Damme Kat Foster

Jean-Claude Van Damme stars as a meta-Jean-Claude Van Damme in Jean-Claude Van Johnson.  Like all those great real and fictional characters interspersed in Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula series of novels, Van Damme is both real and unreal.  He is a retired action hero, going through the motions, living the life we would expect of this famed, otherworldly-superhero-acrobatic-martial-artist-extraordinaire known as the “Muscles from Brussels”.  He awakens to a ho-hum average day, among all the products which have licensed his name (JCVD soap, after shave, etc.), with the obligatory supermodel exiting his bed.  He moves on to a Ramen noodle restaurant for lunch only to encounter a lost love, played by 38-year-old ex-Weeds and Royal Pains actress Kat Foster (Van Damme is 55).  She is leaving for a gig in Bulgaria and shuns his affections.  This prompts Van Damme to visit his agent, played by Phylicia Rashad.  She has some lame (and quite funny) parts for him, but–no–he wants to return to his other job.  It turns out Van Damme was doing what many of us dreamed about over the years–a story where these movie tough guys were actually put to the test in real life.  That’s right, Van Damme was America’s answer to James Bond.  And he’s back.  But audiences must make it happen.

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Psych 100th episode

We’re beginning Hour 31 of the “99 Psychs on the Wall” Marathon on the cable channel Cloo here at midnight Monday morning.  Have you seen all 99 Psych episodes?  We have.  Many times each for some, like the Halloween episode “Tuesday the 17th,” or when Henry goes undercover in “The Old and the Restless,” and Juliet dons roller skates in “Talk Derby to Me.”  And we have found a pineapple (or something that looks pretty darned close) hidden or not-so-hidden in almost every episode.  The funniest ever detective-crime-drama-comedy beat the odds to get renewed for yet another season with next year’s Season 8, and hits the rare benchmark of 100 hours on television.  We’re eager to watch the 100th episode premiere Wednesday, March 27, 2013, on the USA Network.

If you haven’t watched Psych before, tune in any time to the Cloo cable channel before Wednesday night and pick any episode.  Psych stars James Roday as Shawn Spencer, a guy who was raised by cop father Henry (Corbin Bernsen) to pay incredibly close attention to details, and he uses this to fake psychic abilities with a detective agency of sorts called “Psych” with lifelong best friend Gus (Dulé Hill), who at any time may be randomly renamed on a case by Shawn as anything from Ghee Buttersnaps to Lavender Gooms to Lemongrass Gogulope.  Shawn and Gus create a perfect buddy team-up and once you get on their wavelength you’re in for a lot of fun keeping up with pop culture references dropped sometimes wrong and sometimes right.

Psych banner

Early episodes began with a flashback of Shawn and dad Henry, leading to some kind of parallel experience later in the episode.  Young Shawn and Gus were as funny as old Shawn and Gus.  Corbin Bernsen’s Henry is a great codger who knows about his son’s fake business and disapproves but never lets on to anyone else.

Shawn and Gus are often hired on by a likable and trusting police chief, Karen Vick, played by Kirsten Nelson.  The change-up compared to other detective shows is Chief Vick knows Shawn’s tactics are a little off kilter but he gets results time and again so she ignores his eccentricities and keeps bringing him back to help with Santa Barbara Police Department cases.  The SBPD actually is filmed in Vancouver, BC, which can add its own humor as actors can be in a scene wearing shorts on a typical California afternoon yet you see their breath when they speak.  The SBPD includes two other key characters, Shawn’s late season love interest Detective Juliet O’Hara (Maggie Lawson), and her partner, Detective Carlton (“Lassie”) Lassiter, played like Sergeant Joe Friday by Timothy Omundson.  Lassiter never approves of Shawn’s methods, yet Juliet believes in Shawn’s “powers” no matter how strange–a bit like Lois Lane not recognizing Superman is Clark Kent.

Shawn and Gus

Other great recurring characters are Officer McNabb (Sage Brocklebank), the hilarious coroner Woody (Kurt Fuller), Shawn’s sweet and equally quirky high school crush Abigail (Rachael Leigh Cook), Shawn’s mom Madeleine (Cybill Shepherd), the really, really strange Mary Lightly (Jimmi Simpson), the psychotic Mr. Yang (Ally Sheedy), Juliet’s love interest Declan Rand (Nestor Carbonell), and Lassiter’s criminal girlfriend Marlowe (Kristy Swanson).

Countless episodes should be included in the annals of classic television, and many bring in some of the best big actor guest stars as well as many blasts from the past.  If you miss the Cloo “99 Psychs on the Wall” marathon this week, nearly all the episodes but only the latest from this season can be found on streaming Netflix.

Here are twelve episodes that are not to be missed:

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