Rocky Balboa Forever

There once was an underdog boxer named Rocky Balboa. He lived on the streets of Philadelphia among shady individuals, poor as dirt, living in a rundown apartment. Even though he was a pretty good boxer at the local level and had won many fights, nobody took him seriously, calling him a bum and a loser. He even had his locker taken away from him and given to someone else, being ousted from the boxing club because he was no longer needed.

One night while in a pet shop, he met a shy young girl named Adrianna, or Adrian as Rocky preferred to call her (Yo, Adrian!). She was very reluctant of his advances at first and didn’t want to enter his apartment because she didn’t know him very well but they soon hit it off. She was a source of inspiration for Rocky, a hint of light for him to move ahead. Rocky made her more self-confident as well. They shared a long kiss and he no longer felt alone or like a creep anymore.

Then one day Rocky was given the once in a lifetime chance to go up against World Heavyweight Champion Apollo Creed, since he had no other challengers and was giving an unknown the opportunity to shine. This was to be the ultimate David and Goliath match, an upstart nobody against the best of the best. Rocky started training hard day after day for the fight, running through the streets of Philly and up the historic 72 steps, taking to punching huge cuts of raw meat in a freezer room, and working on his footwork with a trainer.

On the other side, the champ Creed was not taking the upcoming fight seriously, not even training himself. To him, this was a charity event for the fans and he doubted it would go on for more than 3 rounds. And when the night of the fight finally arrived, he showed up dressed like Uncle Sam, taking this matter as a joke, teasing and taunting Rocky. But that was not to be the case. After the Italian Stallion knocked Apollo to the ground to the audience’s surprise, the first time in the champ’s career, the fight became serious. It went the whole 15 rounds, Rocky falling down once and the fight looking like it may had been over. Cocky Apollo started waving his arms in the air, celebrating early. Rocky stumbled back to his feet, vowing to “go the distance”, to Apollo’s amazement. The fight continued, both men jabbing and beating each other up some more, Rocky too tired to defend himself with his fists, taking shots to the face. His nose was broken for the first time in his career, blood dripping. There was no way either of these competitors were going to just give up.

And finally the bell to end the fight rang. The judges called it a split decision. Adrian raced into the ring and embraced her lover in a hug, telling that she loved him. Could Rocky win the decision and become a national hero? Would the Cinderella story end happily?

Amidst the roar and cheering of the crowd, the deciding judge’s voice was barely audible:

“And the winner of the fight by a split decision is…Apollo Creed!”

Rocky was the bridesmaid again. He didn’t want a rematch, said he was tired of taking shots to the face. He went on to marry Adrian and had a son named Rocky Balboa, Jr. He gained the respect of his community and the boxing world.

And all was well with the world – his world.

I just watched this film tonight for the first time in a long while. I picked up on minor details and plot points that I missed the first time around. This movie is similar to Cinderella Man, I’ve come to realize, not that the 2005 film is a ripoff but is inspired by Rocky in a number of ways. The following movies in the Rocky series seem to follow a pattern: Rocky is on top on the world and then Rocky is fighting to get his “eye of the tiger” back.

Overall, I give the first installment in the Rocky Series an 8/10.

No Cliffhangers

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Deadpool: Something Different

I think we can officially say that a previously underrated superhero has put himself firmly on the map.

That leather looking spandex was sure used comically.

Okay, so fans of the original Deadpool (Wade Wilson) will surely hate this movie because it’s not true to the comics. Deadpool was played up to be a silly and ridiculous character who told sex jokes and was a jerk to everybody. Diehard Deadpool fans would have liked to see a more serious and traditional story of an ordinary man turned extraordinary, but this has an edge to it. It’s entertaining with the right amount of dirtiness and violence that makes it anything but another bland and boring superhero flick.

My honest opinion of the movie: it was awesome in every way. I just watched it for the second time tonight and was blown away. The acting is superb and the action is spot on. There was never a dull moment. Ryan Reynolds, God’s perfect idiot, has the look and charm to command a powerful leading role. Morena Baccarin was more than just the pretty face in this film and had some tenacity, such as when she punched the long bearded biker in the tender zone when he tried to hit on her. That Sinead O’Connor look a like named Negasonic Teenage Warhead (best name ever) played her part great as the sidekick and offered some funny moments. The humor is never ending and mixes well with some perfectly timed serious moments, such as the fight in the fire that proves Mr. Pool is truly invincible. Deadpool is definitely a breakout hit of 2016 so far. “It’s a game changer” states the movie poster. That it definitely was. This isn’t your daddy’s superhero movie. The excellent delivery of Reynolds and his breaking the fourth wall give this film an extra appeal.

The movie starts out with some early exposition of Deadpool being involved in a car wreck on a bridge. This scene happens at the end of the movie but the director decided to give us an early glimpse of what’s to come. His girlfriend, Vanessa Carlysle, played by Morena Baccarin, is kidnapped by Deadpool’s arch enemy Ajax played by Ed Skrein. Deadpool’s main objective is to get back at this man who left him horribly disfigured. The climatic battle at the end of the movie is slowly revealed in pieces throughout with X-Men members Colossus and Negasonic being introduced, who were trying to recruit him to join the team (maybe he will in Deadpool 2?) Did I mention that this is also the eighth installment in the X-Men franchise? That I did not realize until doing some research.

The movie then dives into the origins of Deadpool, starting with his wild lifestyle as a mercenary in New York and the “Dead Pool” game of betting on targets to kill. He proposes to his longtime love Vanessa but after she accepts he suddenly faints. Shortly after, Wade is diagnosed with terminal cancer and is told he doesn’t have much time to live. He is then approached by a special team that says they have a way to cure his cancer and give him superhuman abilities. After he leaves Vanessa for this project, she moves on with her life knowing that Wade will eventually pass away.

In the laboratory, Wade meets Ajax and Angel Dust, two members of the Weapons X special operative. Ajax gives him a serum that will cure his cancer with the catch being that he will have to become a mutant for it work. He is put through a series of stress tests in order for the mutation to awaken, but which fails. Wade is then locked in an oxygen chamber and develops the mutant gene to cure his cancer – but here’s a surprise: Ajax abruptly cuts off the oxygen and subjects Wade to total asphyxiation. He is cured of his cancer but as a side effect contracts a case of Freddy Kreuger skin with his new abilities. Wade eventually escapes from the chamber by lighting a match and blowing up the lab, getting into a fiery battle with Ajax who impales him, leaving him for dead. With his immortality, Wade survives this and sets off to find and kill Ajax.

Unable to walk around normally in public without being stared at, Wade creates the Deadpool suit and persona. His mission as the New York mercenary turned Deadpool badass is to track down Ajax, kill him, and win his love back. It’s a reversal of roles. The man is the damsel in distress this time, not the woman.

The thrilling ending battle sees Deadpool kill everyone but Ajax, demanding a cure for his impairment but is told that it isn’t possible. Deadpool kills Ajax and eventually reconnects with his girlfriend. He reveals his mangled face to her and it is concluded that she still loves him despite his flaws (on the inside and out) and they share a long embrace with Wham’s “I’m Never Gonna Dance Again” playing on Deadpool’s iPhone.

Overall I’d give this movie a 7/10. It’s got everything you want in a superhero movie and more. Some of the jokes are ill advised and some scenes are over the top but it was a pretty spectacular popcorn flick. This is not a kid’s movie but kids would find it enjoyable. It’s not going to win any major awards but you can expect it to be one that can watched repeatably because of all the memorable scenes, that save it from being mediocre. Definitely one of Ryan Reynold’s best films so far.

Now, don’t get me wrong, this movie was great from beginning to finish. It instantly catches your interest with the freeze framed airborne car scene set to Juice Newton’s “Angel of the Morning”. But I’m just begging to wonder how Wade Wilson suddenly found the skills to craft his intricate Deadpool suit overnight.

The bonus scene at the end of the movie is a reference to the one used in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, another thing that I failed to realize until later.

How incredibly inventive of the writers. This was quite an original movie by director Tim Miller. I had a far better time critiquing this film than the first time I watched it because of things being far more clearer to me.

Night At the Movies

Drinking beer with the guys

A starcross night, chilly air over the city skies

I’ve wrote about this already but I might has well revisit it to freshen up the details in my mind.

Seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens on the first night it premiered in my sleepy little town was definitely an experience I will never forget. I can’t believe how much of a fanboy I felt like sitting in that theater, watching one of the biggest films, perhaps the biggest, of 2015 unfold. I chuckled inside when the iconic words seen in every Star Wars film popped on the screen, and then let out a sigh of relief when “Star Wars” zoomed onto the screen and the iconic scroll commenced. A mysterious fog was cleared in my head when I finally realized the masked person seen in the trailer was Rey as she uncovered her face.

Afterward, standing on the curb of the theater in the chilly December air, waiting for my ride, I reflected on my awesome experience. I had waited years to see this film, first hearing it announced in 2012, and had bought tickets months ahead, so to finally live out my dream and be one of the early goers to these insanely hyped up parties, was very satisfactory. There was never a movie I went to where I felt such a connection that I had to where a matching t-shirt. Not even Harry Potter could do that.


Tell us about the most exciting big night out you had recently.

The Decision of 2007

There will always be a memory in my life that might forever redefine my judgement in the quality of cinematic films. My tendency to get sucked into the hype of a movie just by looking at the trailer changed after a tandem lesson during the late naughts.

Late December 2007 I believe. The snow was falling heavily outside. At the local theater that has ten screens each showing one film. The higher up on the list, the more important the film is. Me, my sisters, mom, and uncle. Right from the start, I could tell there would be a split in interests. They all were interested in one film while I had slightly different tastes.

It was a decision between two dark movies, both of them featuring lead actors with sharply contrasting talents and backgrounds. It was Will Smith in I Am Legend and Johnny Depp in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. The latter was obviously the more popular choice among the movie-going family and was watched multiple times later on when it came out on home video, while ‘Legend’ was largely forgotten and ridiculed by the uncle who saw it with me in a separate theater. He still complains about that to this day, asking why I chose the Will Smith film over Johnny Depp’s cult classic, why we dished out six dollars each for this forgettable, mediocre film. I was simply interested in the post-apocalyptic piece about the last man on Earth, based on Richard Matheson’s 1954 novel of the same name. The movie, especially the ending, however, turned out to be a disappointment to most people. I don’t know if it was Will Smith’s acting or the lack of characters in a film about a lack of people but all of my excitement and anticipation in seeing this film was over before the credits rolled. That last scene with the infected people ruined what I thought was a perfectly believable and entertaining movie.

Sweeney Todd, while having some pretty gory and bloody killing scenes, is one movie that is very memorable and full of wonderful actors. And the dance numbers and singing – “JoAnna” always is referenced once or twice. One of the best scenes from that movie is the barbershop contest between Sweeney Todd, AKA Benjamin Barker, and the guy played by Sasha Baron Cohen. Oh, and the scene about describing what is actually in the Miracle of Elixir to growing hair (hint: it’s not apple juice).

How many scenes from I Am Legend can I vividly recall and call my favorite? Virtually none. All I remember is the lone man having a dog and something about a virus. Not much to go on, humor wise.

Both movies having an average rating of 7.5 stars on IMDb so I guess the decision between the two wasn’t so bad after all. I’m shocked that ‘Legend’ is rated that high. I guess I’ll have to see it again to get a different perspective.

I don’t regret anything from that theater day, even if I left my screening feeling cheated out of my money and popcorn and soda feeling more indulging than the film itself. I took a chance to see a film of my choice, not one that everyone else went with. I guess I wanted to feel like a rebel. It would have been too easy to go with the eventual popular choice and I wasn’t a big fan of Johnny Depp back then, seeing him as more of a theatrical actor who only starred in novelty films. The other half of the family seemed a lot more excited after getting out of their screening, with me and uncle subdued and more interested in what the other film was about.

Thankfully, I paid him back a favor by seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens last December so that all visions of that disappointing zombie people flick were evaporated. There is a sequel or prequel to I Am Legend slated to come out this year. Maybe I should repeat history and go against a more sensible choice? Or have I learned my lesson to invest my money in a film that will be worthwhile and easily remembered for years to come? If it were Johnny Depp vs. Will Smith again I think the decision would be very easy. To the left, to the left, as Beyoncé would say.


Daily Prompt: Unpopular 

Tell us about a time when you had to choose between two options, and you picked the unpopular choice.

The Force Awakens Review

The moment we’ve been waiting for since it was announced in 2012 has finally arrived…and with a bang. Did it live up to the high expectations? Read on and find out.

I got to be one of the early ones to see Star Wars because of holding tickets to a special pre-screening show. Surprisingly, more people than I expected showed up to this event so they must have all been in on the gameplan. People came dressed in their Jedi robes and stormtrooper suits. A bucket of popcorn cost over six dollars, almost as much as a single ticket. Ridiculous, but the bills have to be paid somehow.

These review will avoid spoilers at all costs and will instead focus on the good and bad aspects of the film.

First off, the movie was incredible, hitting every note perfectly. The explosions were powerful, the sound was electrifying.  J.J. Abrams used those three years (the typical number of years between films) making this film wonderfully. He did not disappoint. Being passed the torch from George Lucas as director of his beloved creation is a serious responsibility and Abrams handled it well. He didn’t try to change too much in this movie (keeping the iconic title intro, music, and “Windows Movie Maker” transitions) to keep it in consistency with the films before it, but did add his own personal touches to make it look newer.

BB-8 was the most adorable droid of any Star Wars film, rolling around like a ball and making cute sounds. But it was not just there for laughs and cries, it had a pivotal role in the story, containing clues to something really important.

There were a few, however, things I didn’t like about the film:

  • Having about the same plot as Episode IV
  • Not developing the characters very well
  • No chemistry between Finn and Rey
  • Too many battle scenes and not enough downtime with humor or any iconic moments. Actually, there weren’t any moments that really stand out in my mind. The movie was just one long noisefest.
  • Han and Chewbacca seemed to be thrown into the film at the last minute

It was the first time I’d seen a Star Wars installment in theaters. The last time it graced the silver screen for Revenge of the Sith, I was a little more than 14 years old. I wasn’t at all into Star Wars back then, only being vaguely familiar with the characters of Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker, not knowing they were related, and not giving the saga much thought. I just watched all six films for the first time last year and finally figured out that there was a man behind the Darth Vader mask. Somehow, that took away the mystique about the whole character for me. Knowing now that it was just a man in a suit didn’t exactly strike fear in me anymore. But basically, he is man and machine united together, but without knowing it’s a man, the character takes on a much sinister role, doesn’t seem so fake – and silly. Yup, ever since I saw Anakin Skywalker turn into Vader, I’ve had a hard time believing it was still the same mythical, scary villian as before. Maybe it was because the one who played Anakin, Hayden Christiansen, wasn’t very believable in his transformation over to the dark side. It seemed so forced and unnatural and the fight between Obi-Wan and Anakin not justified enough.

The Force Awakens awoke all of our inner science fiction interests, resurrecting a franchise that, for a while, was beginning to live off of its past and rely on video games, books, and other merchandise to keep it alive. It really tells you about the legacy of a film franchise when after almost 40 years, new and old fans are turning out to see their favorite heroes once more and get to know new ones as well.

Episode VIII is set to be released in May of 2017, Episode IX in 2019. I’m eager to see where this new trilogy goes and how the future of the Star Wars universe plays out. In my own mind, I can only believe that the plot ideas will be more or less the same as previous films (like blowing up the Death Star again in The Force Awakens). The excitement and anticipation will still be as high as ever, but there does come a time when things start getting a little long in the tooth. Which is why having two different directors on the next two films will prevent stale ideas from happening. It’s going to be fun the next five or so years. The Star Wars fandom machine is officially at full power again.

As for that triple lightsaber, called a crossguard lightsaber, well, let’s just say it’s more than just for show but can do some serious damage at close range.

 

Guilty Horror Pleasure

I’m always looking for that one horror film that no one even knows about or has any decent actors in it. Some of the worst horror films out there are some of my favorites, one’s that I love to watch late at night when everyone has gone to bed. Finding a horror film not even I have heard about and is forever lost in the depths of the film industry with not even a DVD or Blu-ray release is like finding gold

One of my guilty pleasures is seeking some of the worst films of all time, not just horror films. Watching these films is like witnessing the worst of human creativity, the failures that somehow made their way onto video. Underneath all of the glamorous award-winning films are the films that are so bad, their names are only whispered in the corners of society, but which eventually turn into cult classics.

You can find some really good (but bad) horror films on Netflix, at least before they started to do away with the old films and add some of their originals. Some two star or less films are actually quite entertaining to watch if you aren’t expecting much. The utterly bad scriptwriting and overdramatic acting make for a good popcorn flick. It’s fun to go down a list of some of the worst films of all time and see how far you can get before you just can’t take it anymore.

One of these has to be the cult classic Pumpkinhead. I watch it every Halloween and the tale seems to get better every time. It’s actually not that bad of a film, even if the online ratings say otherwise. The monster was done very well and is believable enough for you to be just a little frightened.

My Top Five Best Worst Horror Films:

  1. Mindwarp (1992)
  2. House of Wax (2005)
  3. Pumpkinhead (1988)
  4. Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2010)
  5. A Crack in the Floor (2001)

I hate to waste my time on such horrible films, not just including the five above, but what else is better to do when you are bored? It’s a pleasure to bury myself in these low budget thrillers and some of them are purely out of nostalgia, having not seen them in a long time and wanting to relive a distant memory.

I don’t always gravitate towards the good films because the bad ones are also appreciated in my world. Everyone of them is a unique piece of human history and has contributed, in maybe the smallest ways, to who we are as a whole.


In Response to the Daily Prompt: Hate to Love

What is a guilty pleasure that you hate to love?

Back to the Basics

An Amazon.com review on the remastered Star Wars saga collection, “written to” creator George Lucas.

George,

I appreciate your attempt to clean up matte lines, wonky lightsabers, and improve sound and picture quality in your Blu-ray release.

However, I don’t understand why you want to make jarring changes to your characters that make once powerful cinematic moments now creepy or distracting.

A lot of people have made the case for Han shooting first (as in the theatrical cut) in Episode IV being a much more interesting and accurate characterization, so I’m not going to touch that.

This review is going to be principally about the changes you made to scenes with me in it.

For instance, in the original cut, when I throw Emperor Palpatine down the death star’s reactor shaft, there is a moment of silent deliberation where, oscillating my expressionless masked face back and forth, I decide whether or not to sacrifice my life for the life of my son. The lack of dialogue allows the viewer to read more subtlety and indecisiveness into this act, and the silence is truer to my character’s previous dialogue in films IV-VI.

In this release, you decided to have me scream “NO! NOOOOO!” at the very beginning of the scene, removing any of the subtlety or conflict, inserting a goofy, lamely comic line not befitting of my badassness, and consequently dulling the emotional significance of a father’s redemptive sacrifice of his son.

What’s worse, you replace Sebastian Shaw’s peaceful and redeemed ghostly image on Endor with Hayden Christiansen’s garish, creepy, pedophile-like smirk.

Not only does this not make any sense, because the last time I was alive (on the Light or the Dark side) I looked like Sebastian Shaw, and Obi-Wan and Yoda’s ghosts look exactly as they did before they died… but again, Hayden’s horrible acting and the visual unevenness of the three actors blunt what could have been a great, emotionally significant scene.

The scene starts great with Mark Hamill’s excellent contemplative stare, coupled with peaceful acting from Sir Alec Guinness, but it ends with Hayden Christiansen’s disgusting smirk, ruining what was one of the emotional high points and one of the key resolutions of the trilogy.

I keep trying to Skype you – please pick up so I can force choke you and prevent you from making any more changes to your movies.

Sincerely,
Darth Vader (acting as)

If I could be the possessor of a time machine, I would go back and stop George Lucas from changing the movies or even better, prevent the script writers from including Jar Jar Binks in the prequel trilogy, just to end all of the heated, pointless online discussions and make the first film a little more likable.

Let’s go back to the Star Wars that people living in the seventies used to know. Where Han always shot first. I could care less about it all but the geek fandom tends to pay close attention to every detail in these films. That’s what makes this franchise so endearing and captivating.


In Response to the Daily Prompt: Pick-Your-Gadget

Your local electronics store has just started selling time machines, anywhere doors, and invisibility helmets. You can only afford one. Which of these do you buy, and why?