Universal Soldier

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Jean-Claude Van Damme has had a quirky and fun career resurgence. Yeah, he’s found himself in a position to return to somewhat mainstream relevance since 2008′s JCVD (which is all sorts of fun, and you should watch), and while he’s done so most notably in his role as Jean Vilain in Sylvester Stallone’s The Expendables 2, and a solid voice acting gig in Kung Fu Panda 2, Van Damme’s heart belongs to indies and direct to DVD actioners. With two new Universal Soldier flicks amongst that list of films, I’d say we should be pretty stoked about the state of his career. Next on the docket is Pound of Flesh, where JCVD will portray a man who rescues a woman in distress, and wakes the next morning in a blood-filled hotel bathroom, sans kidney for his troubles.

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Drinking Games

In case you missed it this past November, or you were too cheap to watch it for a premium price on demand, Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning is now available on DVD and Blu-ray. This gritty and violent installment in the Universal Soldier franchise reunites Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren as bad guys being hunted by a soldier seeking vengeance. Don’t ask me to explain how this all fits into the series of films. (To be honest, I lost track sometime in the 1990s.) However, it’s one of those rare down-the-line sequels that is actually worth seeing. And if you have a beer or two (or seven) while watching it, so much the better.

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Editor’s note: This review originally ran as part of our Fantastic Fest 2012 coverage, and since Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning in now playing in limited release, we reckon it’s a good time to repost it. As if slipping into a nine-year coma isn’t bad enough, John’s extended nap was preceded by the murders of his wife and daughter. He does not have the best of luck. As he begins to regain his memory, after waking from the coma he was beaten into at the end of a crowbar, John begins to hunt for his wife’s killer. All the while, mercenaries of highly advanced skills begin to stalk him, and the mysteries of his own past come spin-kicking to the surface. Spoiler: Universal Soldiers are involved. When John Hyams brought Universal Soldier: Regeneration to Fantastic Fest in 2009, expectations were hovering somewhere around the stickiest parts of the theater floor. That is no reflection upon Hyams, it’s just that the series, unlike the characters that populated the first film, seemed far too dead to revive. But what we got was an adrenaline shot to the heart of the franchise that reunited its legendary leads and gave us a reason to be fans again. Now, with the re-return of Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren, and burgeoning action hero Scott Adkins (Undisputed III, The Expendables 2) added into the mix, anticipation was decidedly higher for the next chapter. And perhaps that’s where the issue lie.

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Jean-Claude Van Damme in The Expendables 2

Jean-Claude Van Damme was, without a doubt, the biggest piece missing from The Expendables. You can’t have 90′s action movies without him. The word on the street was that JCVD himself turned down a role in the film over some sort of concerns over character. You may be snickering at this, but coming off the critically well received flick JCVD the Muscles of Brussels was riding high on his acting talents. Regardless of what kept him out of the first film, Van Damme landed the meaty role of Vilain who is so obviously the villain of the film and early word from reviews is that he kicks all sorts of ass in the role. Now that all is right with the world and JCVD is standing alongside the likes of similarly muscled, speech impaired stars like Stallone, Schwarzenegger, and Lundgren, it’s time to look back and relive the career of JCVD via splits and awesome movies.

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Junkfood Cinema - Large

Welcome back to Junkfood Cinema; every bit as important as Time Cop. This is the Film School Rejects column celebrating movies that are damme stupid, damme shallow, and damme awesome! Every week we tear into a lovably bad film like it was a Belgian waffle, which by the way was the nickname of our indecisive foreign exchange roommate in college. We will roundhouse a cinematic stinky cheese in the face with mockery, making plenty of surprise sex faces in slow motion as we do so. But as we are kicking it, we are simultaneously revealing our fondness for these flicks; kicking in the face with the other foot the notion that they are without merit. It’s actually a very difficult maneuver that has us executing a groin-punishing mid-air split. As we ice down our tender bits, we will gorge ourselves on a nauseatingly tasty snack themed to the movie we just watched. This week, the Alamo Drafthouse played host to one of the most epic showcases of epic film epicness to ever be epic. In celebration of the impending/now(ish) release of The Expendables 2, a tribute to one of its newest cast members was conceived. Three classic Jean-Claude Van Damme films, at least as classic as that combination of words allows, would serve as the appetizer for the bloody bullet feast that was sure to be The Expendables 2.

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Speaking from experience, human flesh doesn’t stand up all that well when violently introduced to glass. Unless you live in Hollywoodland, that is.

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ff-UniversalSoldier

The much talked about final secret screening of this year’s Fantastic Fest was said to be epic, with a larger-than-life guest in the house to do Q&A. Some said Avatar, but they were wrong. In the end, it was Dolph Lundgren that delighted the Drafthouse crowds…

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DVDs I Bought This Week!

Brian Gibson loves to buy DVDs. Come with him on his weekly journey into the depths of credit card debt as he tells you what to buy, rent and avoid.

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