Stallone Month: Cobra

Oh, lord. Is this flick produced by the Cannon Group, the most lovable pair of shameless profiteers that Hollywood has ever seen? Yes, it is. Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus did as much for my love of shitty movies as any other filmmaker not named Carpenter. But, this month isn’t about Cannon. It’s about Sly Stallone. And Cobra, the 1986 film written by Sly and directed by George P. Cosmatos (who went on to direct films about a killer rat and a fish monster), might just be peak Stallone. Coming the year after Rocky IV, Sly wasn’t going to get any bigger. Continue reading “Stallone Month: Cobra”

Stallone Month: Rocky IV

This film is, without a doubt, peak Rocky. Gone is the working class Joe with the wicked left. In his place is a warrior for not just the American way, but for the Reagan era. It’s a stunning character transition, and also makes for spectacle of the highest order. Just sit back and say “wow” whenever it feels appropriate. But first, viewers must endure Paulie’s birthday party scene. Continue reading “Stallone Month: Rocky IV”

Stallone Month: Rambo: First Blood Part II

What a gloriously stupid movie. First Blood, the 1982 film about a disturbed Vietnam vet taking on a county sheriff with a bloated sense of self-importance, was a surprisingly impressive film. It was gritty and low-rent, despite having a big star in the lead. It was an action film that had real world reasons for the action. It was ridiculous and believable at the same time. But today’s film is just a blood and guts cartoon. Continue reading “Stallone Month: Rambo: First Blood Part II”

Stallone Month: First Blood

It’s a trying time in American politics, what with the White House having fallen under the control of the Orange Menace. But, even though this Trump situation is beyond all bounds, political tension is nothing new in the United States. Without it, a film like First Blood wouldn’t exist. That’s right. The progenitor of the Rambo film franchise, films that became icons of the mad, excess-filled action film style of the 1980s, was as much a political film as it was an action film. Continue reading “Stallone Month: First Blood”

Stallone Month: Rocky III

It’s time to confront the truth, all you Rocky revisionists out there. Rocky Balboa was not a great fighter. He was raw and explosive, with a head hard enough to last against a champion who didn’t take him seriously. As Apollo Creed himself said to Rocky, “You fight great, but I’m a great fighter.” Also, great fighters don’t get KO’d in the 2nd round. Continue reading “Stallone Month: Rocky III”

Stallone Month: Victory, aka Escape to Victory

The Vietnam War wreaked havoc on the United States — its sense of self-worth; its trust in leadership, both civilian and military; and its ideas of what constitute heroism. Vietnam was the first war we fought where the awful violence wasn’t hidden from us. It was also our first tick in the loss column. There are a whole host of complex emotions that war put us through. It’s no surprise, then, that war films made after the Vietnam War ended are quite different than those that came before. There were still a few holdouts, however — anachronisms from the earlier style. Continue reading “Stallone Month: Victory, aka Escape to Victory”

Stallone Month: Sylvester Stallone and Billy Dee Williams are…NIGHTHAWKS!

Nighthawks, the 1981 film from director Bruce Malmuth and screenwriter David Shaber, sets itself up as a gritty New York City crime drama. The opening features blighted locations from the city’s darkest days, there’s a strong and stupidly simple anti-drug message, and there’s even a police lieutenant with a strong temper. I was expecting a cross between Dirty Harry and The French Connection with that setup. But instead of chasing after some drug lords or a typical big city psycho, the heroes of Nighthawks, NYPD Detective Sergeants Deke DaSilva and Matthew Fox (Sly and Williams), are drafted into a new unit that is after terrorists. Continue reading “Stallone Month: Sylvester Stallone and Billy Dee Williams are…NIGHTHAWKS!”

Stallone Month: Rocky II, or, Mediocre Rocky

Hollywood legend is replete with stories of Sylvester Stallone’s efforts to get Rocky made. Part of the fable is that Sly wanted to direct, but eventually had to agree to hand directorial duties over to someone with experience. Sly kept the starring role and Rocky was his screenplay, but John G. Avildsen sat in the director’s chair. The resulting film won Best Picture and Director, plus Best Film Editing, at the Academy Awards. When it came time for a sequel, however, Sly used the capital he had earned to secure the directing gig in addition to starring and screenwriting roles, after Avildsen declined to direct due to a scheduling conflict. The result is a film identical in theme, plot, location, and stars to Rocky, but which is inferior in execution. Continue reading “Stallone Month: Rocky II, or, Mediocre Rocky”

Stallone Month: Paradise Alley

Before there was Rocky, there was Paradise Alley. That might not make any sense, since Paradise Alley was made two years after Rocky. But back in the mid-1970s, when Sylvester Stallone made his pitch to Rocky producers Robert Chartoff and Irwin Winkler, this was the screenplay Sly wanted to make. They passed, but according to Sly, they said they would look at any other ideas he had. He went home that night and began to write Rocky. But there was still this screenplay out there, and after the success of Rocky, Sly was able to make this film. Not only did he write the screenplay, he also directed, starred, and, God help us, sang the opening theme song, Too Close to Paradise. All of this is very Orson Wellesian, in that it’s an overindulgent exercise in filmmaking, storytelling, and acting, but it doesn’t have the benefit of being any good. Continue reading “Stallone Month: Paradise Alley”