Empty Balcony: Undisputed

Monroe Hutchens (Wesley Snipes) is a hell of a boxer. In fact, he has never lost a fight. The big problem for Hutchens, though, is that all the boxing he’s done for the past ten years has been care of the California Department of Corrections. Once the California state champ for his weight class, Hutchens was poised to enter into a lucrative professional boxing career when he came home to find his woman in bed with another man. Hutchens beat the paramour to death and was sentenced to life without parole for the murder. While in prison, he continues to ply his trade, doing his time and beating up on the boxing champions from other prisons around the state. Continue readingEmpty Balcony: Undisputed”

Stallone Month: Creed

Here it is — the end of Stallone Month. Sly isn’t in the lead role in this last film, but there isn’t a better set of bookends for this month than Rocky and Creed.

Creed, from 2015, is a spinoff of the successful Rocky series. In a surprising change, Sly did not pen the screenplay for this film. After having seen all the Rocky films, it’s clear that not only is Rocky Sly’s opus, it’s also his most personal character. The lovable meathead aspects of Rocky are pure invention, but all the motivational stuff — the pronouncements about hard work and not expecting any handouts — that’s all Sly. Rocky was the vehicle Sly used to share his worldview. Continue readingStallone Month: Creed”

Stallone Month: Rocky Balboa

Rocky V was supposed to be the last Rocky movie. In it, Rocky is robbed of all his money by an accountant, and he has to retire from boxing due to brain damage. His final fight, and there is always a final fight in a Rocky flick, took place on the streets in front of Mickey’s gym, where it all began. It was meant to wrap the story of Rocky up with a nice little bow. In that, the film did its job, even though the mediocre quality of the film left some fans feeling a little let down. But, by the mid-2000s, Sylvester Stallone was feeling nostalgic, and along came another sequel, sixteen years after the last. Continue readingStallone Month: Rocky Balboa”

Stallone Month: Driven

What a putrid, rotten mess of a movie. I was really hoping before I sat down to watch this movie for Stallone Month that it was not as bad as I remembered — that time had distorted what I recalled being one of the worst films I have ever seen. As it turned out, this memory was a reliable one. I hate this movie. I haven’t hated a movie this much since I reviewed Return of the Living Dead: Rave to the Grave. In fact, this movie joins the short list of films I absolutely despise. Continue readingStallone Month: Driven”

Stallone Month: Rocky V

If Rocky IV is peak Rocky, then Rocky V is the story’s nadir. Whereas Rocky II was but pale imitation of the first film, Rocky V is caricature, its characters in many ways reduced to cartoon versions of those with which we have grown familiar. Mostly this is down to Sylvester Stallone. He was the one who ditched Rocky’s lovable lunkhead persona in the previous two films. But now he’s back, and poor. Continue readingStallone Month: Rocky V”

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 readingStallone Month: Rocky IV”

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 readingStallone 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 readingStallone Month: Victory, aka Escape to Victory”

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 readingStallone Month: Rocky II, or, Mediocre Rocky”