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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Rambo: First Blood, Part 2 - Starring Sylvester Stallone, Richard Crenna, Charles Napier, and Steven Berkoff - Released in 1985

Undoubtedly the most successful film in the Rambo series, First Blood II is the 1985 sequel to First Blood, directed by George Cosmatos, starring Sylvester Stallone playing John Rambo, a Vietnam veteran awarded the coveted Medal of Honor. Both films have been co-written by Stallone. Rambo was arrested at the end of First Blood, after waging a one man battle against the Sherriff of the small town of Hope.

First Blood II opens to the audience with Rambo being released from prison – he is appointed by the US Government to go back to Vietnam and search leftover POWs; not knowing that he is being used as a pawn in a federal conspiracy to hush up the matter – the feds are relying on him not finding anyone there. Colonel Sam Trautman (Richard Crenna) , his former CO from Nam, offers him the opportunity to earn clemency on the one condition that he go back and search for POWs.

The operation will be overseen by a bureaucra t- Marshal Murdock (Charles Napier), who sugar coats the details, flattering Rambo about how dependable the US  Citizens think he is, and him being a trained commando - they believe none other can carry out the job as well!

He is also briefed strictly that all he must do is photograph the presence of POWs, he must, under no circumstance, carry out a rescue mission, or engage with the Vietnamese in any form of combat. Feeling frustrated that he has no way he can help the POWs, Rambo gets ready to leave for Nam, where a US official will meet him.

Whilst being airdropped, Rambo loses much of his gear since the parachute line is caught on the plane on exit. He now has his arsenal of knives, bows and arrows on his person. The agent who is there to receive him is Co-Bao (Julia Nickson), she is offered asylum in the US and agrees to guide Rambo through the jungles of Nam, along with river pirates.

When they arrive at the camp where the alleged POWs are being held, Rambo, in keeping with his training and temperament, is appalled to see the torture being meted out on  the  US inmates of the camp. A night patrol of the Vietcong discovers that a sentry has been killed - they launch a search operation in the jungles. Meanwhile, Rambo along with the native girl and POWs, escape into the thicket, they are attacked by a navy gunboat after the river pirates betray them to the enemy.

The lone ranger mows down the enemy with an RPG, killing the pirates. In need of aerial help, he calls in on Murdock, who is now worried that the US and the public will get to know the truth about the operation - the chopper does not make  a rescue landing. As a result, Rambo and the POWs are recaptured and returned to the camp.

All sorts of torture are meted out on Rambo, unspeakable indignity is doled out to the POWs as well. Another layer is added to the plot when Rambo discovers that the Russians are aiding the Vietcong, two personnel of the Soviet army are present in the camp, and they relish torturing Rambo.

In a brave attempt to escape his captors and get even with the US officials - Rambo escapes , taking Co with him; the two are once more attacked, just as soon as they realize how emotionally connected they are - unfortunately, Co is mercilessly gunned down in the standoff with the Vietcong. Enraged, Rambo hammers a full blown attack on the soldiers, killing all, including the commander. He then buried Co in the jungles.

Despite not getting rave reviews from the critics, First Blood II is a favorite with audiences worldwide, infact, it is a more beloved character than Rocky and has a cult following the world over!

Rambo: First Blood, Part 2 - Starring Sylvester Stallonem Richard Crenna, Charles Napier, and Steven Berkoff - Released in 1985

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Rocky 5 - Starring Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Sage Stallone and Tommy Morrison - Released in 1990

After his win in Moscow, Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) is offered a fight against George Washington Duke’s (Richard Grant) boxer, Union Cane in the World Heavyweight Championship in Japan - the boxer turns down the offer, to Duke’s chagrin. On his return home, he also discovers that while he was away, Paulie (Burt Young) had foolishly handed over the power of attorney to Rocky’s crooked accountant, who has lost almost all of the champion’s wealth in bad investments and non payment of taxes. His mansion and wealth are taken away, and the family moves back into the working class neighborhood in South Philadelphia, where he once learnt to fight.
Now, Rocky Balboa, five years after his big fight with the Siberian Express Ivan Drago, is battling bankruptcy and brain damage, but he does have an asset close to his heart - the gym that belonged to his trainer Mickey Goldmill (Burgess Meredith) which he bequeathed to Robert (Balboa’s son), who still motivates and inspires Balboa in flashback sequences.
Rocky is now tempted to take up Duke’s offer to help tide over his financial woes - but Adrian (Talia Shire) forbids him, citing his health issues, she, however continues to support the family with her job. The picture of struggle and the consequences of his foolhardiness haunt Rocky, he feels frustrated that he is unable to help solve the situation. Balboa meets with almost somebody like himself, in the form of a young bxer Tommy Gunn (Tommy Morrison) - a young fighter hungry to learn and box. Paulie and Rocky decide to take him under their wing and teach him the ropes.

Meanwhile Robert (Sage Stallone), a growing boy, is offended that his father pays more attention to Gunn, rather than him - constant means are applied to seek his father’s approval, when this fails, he falls into the wrong company at school, falling behind in grades and telling lies at home. Balboa’s Pygmallionesque obsession costs him his time with family; he pins his hopes on the young fighter to relive the days of his past glory - a trap into which many a great have fallen. On the other hand, Duke, after being spurned by Balboa, is still seething. He cleverly strategizes to draw Gunn away from his mentor with promises of a title and money - the rookie falls for this temptation, turning his back on the man who taught him everything he knows about fighting.
Rocky fights to keep Gun from leaving, but without any contractual obligations, Tommy is free to choose as he pleases. On Christmas Eve, Duke comes to taunt him with Tommy in tow, who believes that Balboa was only using him. Heartbroken, Rocky tries to convince the youngster, who leaves. Adrian goes onto explain patiently that the kid can never possess the honesty and heart that Rocky has - this soothes him and the two find Robert, and start afresh. Duke’s new protégée wins the fight against Cane, but the crowd won’t be pleased until he defeats the ‘real’ champion - Balboa. This reaction from the crowd angers Tommy Gunn who believes that he deserves praise and appreciation.
Duke and the boxer now have their sight set on Rocky, they try goading him into a fight - he refuses, but is forced to retaliate when Gunn assaults Paulie. Rocky challenges the young upstart to a street brawl - Duke sees things getting out of hand, and tries, in vain, to tell them they should sort out their differences in the boxing ring, there is no good to having a street brawl. Gunn beats Rocky up good, but in the true tradition of the underdog, Rocky rises to the occasion, as he has a flashback of Mickey urging him to get on his feet for just one more round. This time, Gunn is knocked out.
The film reunites Stallone and John G. Avildsen, who directed the first Rocky film in 1976. Rocky V was released in 1990. Perhaps the most endearing films in the sports biopic genre, Rocky V, despite the apprehensions of critics, has withstood the test of time and the changing tastes of fans worldwide.

Rocky 5 - Starring Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Sage Stallone and Tommy Morrison - Released in 1990

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Rocky 4 - Starring Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, Brigitte Nielsen and Tony Burton - Released in 1985

The movies in the Rocky series have captivated audiences since 1976; little known to people is the fact that novelizations of the screenplay are also available, beginning with the first film. These have been published by Ballantine Books, and written by Rosalyn Drexler, Robert.E.Hoban, and two of the novelizations based on Rocky II and IV were written by Stallone himself. Rocky 4 has once again been scripted and stars Sylvester Stallone in the lead role of the boxer Rocky Balboa. It is also the most financially successful film in the Rocky series.
The year is 1985, and a Russian fighter Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) with his wife Lumdilla (Brigitte Nielsen), a champion swimmer and a coach at a guest boxing championship match, arrive in the US.
It is believed that Drago has been scientifically trained by the Soviets and is called the ‘Siberian Express’ by the Russians. The boxer’s manager Nicolai Koloff (Michael Pataki) leaves no stone unturned to sell Drago’s macho image to the Americans, exhibiting it to be the hallmark of Soviet perfectionism.
Foe turned friend Apollo Creed, although he has been out of the ring for several years, challenges Drago to an exhibition bout - against Balboa’s reservations. The match takes place in Vegas to the background of ‘Living in America’. Not prepared for the Russian’s steely defense and rock solid physical fitness to get in the way - Apollo is in for a surprise. His blows have no effect on the Siberian Express, who remains calm and unaffected - even warning Creed that he will lose, after the first round.
Unfortunately, the Russian’s warning serves its purpose - the fighting legend and friend, is mercilessly beaten and killed by Drago, who is least affected by his death - ‘If he dies, he dies.’ Rocky, still not over the death of Mickey, his former coach, now loses both his friend and trainer - Apollo Creed. He is spurred to action by this sad event and takes on the mantle of fighting for retribution.
Drago cites safety concerns and decides that the best place for the match would be his homeland - Moscow. Rocky agrees to fight the Russian in a fifteen bout round on Christmas Day. Meanwhile, Creed’s trainer Duke (Tony Burton) decides to train Rocky in far off Russia, sans Adrian and Rocky Jr. Accompanying them is Paulie (Burt Young), his brother-in-law. Those were the days when the Iron Curtain was still in place, and as expected, Balboa has to rough it out, and trains despite the vagaries of Nature stacked up against him. His perseverance is rewarded when his wife Adrian (Talia Shire) comes to visit him.
In order to put him on the back foot, the Russian is introduced to the audience with a lot of pomp and fanfare. When the bout begins, Rocky is crushed by the strength, stealth and skill of the Russian.
In a crazy blood bath lasting twelve rounds, Rocky maintains his secure stance, and the crowd admires his resilience against the bigger opponent. The loss of home support ruffles Drago’s calm demeanor, he roughs up his manager. Ivan loses his cool and this becomes his undoing- as Rocky delivers a KO punch in the fifteenth round.
Although the film eluded praise from critics, yet it has endured over the years, endearing fans of all ages. It has also been hailed as one of the few sports biopic with such lasting appeal. The movie ends with a politically correct Rocky Balboa mumbling ‘If I can change, and you can change, then everybody can change.’

Rocky 4 - Starring Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, Brigitte Nielsen and Tony Burton - Released in 1985

Friday, January 24, 2014

Rocky 3 - Starring Sylvester Stallone, Carl Weathers, Burgess Meredith, Talia Shire and Burt Young - Released in 1982

After prequels in 1976 and 1979, the third in the series ROCKY 3 was released in 1982. Only the first movie ‘Rocky Balboa’ was directed by John G. Avildsen, the others have all been written and directed by Sylvester Stallone, who assays the character of Rocky in all the films.

Rocky Balboa has won ten titles after winning the grueling fight against Apollo Creed. His success is phenomenal, people adore him and fame sits pretty on his handsome frame. On a day when nothing could’ve gone wrong, as he is unveiling a statue of himself, he is thrown a gauntlet by the beefy and cocky upstart - James Clubber Lang (Mr.T). The young fighter insults Rocky and openly insinuates that he chooses fighters less able than himself to fight against, he goes a step further and questions his manhood – this infuriates the boxer.

When Rocky approaches his coach Mickey (Burgess Meredith) to train him to fight - Mickey refuses. He agrees with Clubber that Rocky fought against those who had less of an advantage over him - Mickey tells him that he picked his opponents intentionally, knowing full well that the match with Creed had done more damage to Rocky than he’d ever accept. The trainer warns the boxer that he will surely be killed by Lang, who is fitter and faster.

This revelation by a man who knows him best, puts Rocky on the back foot; on introspection he begins to question if he is actually worthy of the titles he’s won. Balboa comes to the conclusion that the best way to regain his self respect would be to fight against Lang. Mickey agrees to train him, and Rocky vows that this would be his last fight. Clubber trains in the meanest and hardest conditions, whilst Rocky, flush with wealth and distractions, rents a ballroom, converts it into his private gym and throws it open to local media. This bothers and annoys his coach, who is aware that this is no way to train for a big fight.

On the big day 22 August 1981, before the fight, the teams of Balboa and Lang come to blows, and Mickey is roughed up as well - this leads to him having a heart attack. Although Rocky wants the fight called off, Mickey wants him not to - he’d be happier if he fought. As the medics take him away, Mickey insists that they wait on him in the dressing room - he wants to be around while Rocky fights.

Balboa faces his opponent, only to be beaten down by him - literally as well as figuratively, after the second round. He however, does not tell Mickey he lost; he’d rather that the old man believed they won. Sadly, Mickey Goldmill, beloved coach and father figure to Balboa, passes away at 81 - leaving a void in the lives of Rocky and his family. Rocky spirals downward into depression, one evening, as he stands near the gym that used to be Mickey’s playground, but is now shut close - he meets Apollo Creed - the opponent who once saw him as the underdog, worthy to fight a great like himself.

Taking Balboa under his wing, Creed steps into Mickey’s shoes - training Rocky to fight Clubber Lang. More than the physical aspect of training the fighter, Creed must work on Rocky’ s broken psyche that is affected by the past fights he won. In the end, Apollo is able to help the boxer regain confidence and his edge.

The two men meet again in New York City - Lang and Balboa; this time, Rocky flies into aggression, taking Clubber by surprise, but after the initial high, the younger man regains his offensive temperament and hammers Balboa. To add to the spectator’s bewilderment, Rocky continuously goads Clubber Lang into beating him up, the opponent is easily provoked, and Rocky, although beaten up, refuses to be KO - a reprisal of his fifteen round bouts with Creed in Rocky II.

After the third round, Clubber is exhausted and tired, the fight is not what he is used to, fast and furious - it is dragging on, and sapping his strength, just the way Balboa wants. The fight ends in Rocky’s favor, and he is once more the heavyweight champion of the world - and this time, he picked on someone larger than his size, not smaller.

Apollo lives out his wish, as Rocky and Creed face each other in a friendly match - the two men found a friendship over the boxing ring which is unparalleled in strength and trust. The movie is a fresh change from the predictable, we see the man behind the boxer, who struggles with his weakness and emerges a winner, it is a story of loyalty and sportsmanship, which in the end, adds to the character of an individual.

Touching, heartwarming and inspirational - the theme song ‘Eye of the Tiger’, written by Survivor especially at Stallone’s request, has become a cult classic and remains the most motivating audio ever!

Rocky 3 - Starring Sylvester Stallone, Carl Weathers, Burgess Meredith, Talia Shire and Burt Young - Released in 1982

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Rocky 2 - Starring Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Carl Weathers and Burt Young - Released in 1979

The ‘Italian Stallion’ makes a comeback in the hugely successful Rocky Series; it is directed and written by Stallone and stars him again in the lead as Rocky Balboa - the underdog debt collector turned household name after his fight with Apollo Creed which lasted fifteen rounds!

At the end of Rocky, the two were injured and admitted to hospital - both were not in favor of the match ending in a draw, Apollo offers another chance to Rocky, in a rematch - the latter refuses, and declares his retirement. This decision finds favor with his girlfriend Talia Shire and doctor, who tells him his future maybe plunged into darkness due to a detached retina.

Balboa’s fortune changes - he is now well known and basks in the aftermath of his success; his financial status which was nothing much at first, improves considerably and he decides that he must propose marriage to Adrian - and she accepts the proposal. On the other hand, Apollo Creed is now concerned about his own image ‘There’s still a lot of people out there who think he won, there’s a lot of people out there accusing me of having the fight fixed’ - which is somewhat shadowed by the fact that an unknown fighter should steal his thunder. He starts obsessing over the events in his mind, and wants his team to coax Rocky out of retirement. In a calculated move to besmear Rocky’s career and name, he publicizes the fact that the fight was a ‘fluke’ - that Rocky withstood him for fifteen rounds only because he was just a ‘lucky club fighter’!

Never one to be wise with money, Rocky’s new found fortunes dwindle and he loses his financial security -this event gives Apollo a window of opportunity. Rocky is forced to reconsider a return to the ring, a decision he makes after a meeting with his coach Mickey Goldmill (Burgess Meredith), a former bantamweight boxer who owns a gym. Although Goldmill refuses to support his decision at first – ‘you’ve got the heart, but you ain’t got the tools’, he agrees after Creed throws an insult and a gauntlet on TV, to Rocky.

Things aren’t as smooth on the home front, though, as Adrian is hurt that Rocky is breaking his promise to her and is going back to the ring. As a result, training is tougher on him - he is mentally not there to deal with the physically grueling aspect of his battle in the ring. To make matters worse, his brother-in-law Paulie (Burt Young) is equally upset with Adrian for not being supportive of her husband’s decision – ‘Ditchin’ the guy when he needs your help…he’s going to get hurt because of you’ - this added stress results in her going into labor, the child is born prematurely, and Rocky faces a grim future, as his wife slips into a coma.

When she comes to, she accepts Balboa’s choice to go back into the ring and asks him to win - he is now relieved and gets back into training with renewed gusto. On the day of the fight, Creed promises that Balboa won’t last more than two rounds - he does his damnedest – Rocky is conscious of the injury to his right eye from the first fight and is defensive – not using his southpaw - for he is naturally a left handed boxer. This earns him hard knocks in the ring, to Creed’s delight. However, the underdog lasts fifteen rounds this time, too! Apollo’s team advises him not to go for the knockout, as he is already leading - but he pays no heed, and comes to blows with Rocky like an amateur street fighter.

This change of stance gives Balboa the window of opportunity he has been waiting for - in the fifteenth and final round - Creed gives it all he’s got, going for the knockout - only to be stunned into immobility by the appearance of Balboa’s southpaw! As the arena resounds with shouts of ‘Rocky, Rocky’ - Creed is knocked out - making Balboa the new heavyweight champion of the world!

The film is now considered a cult classic, even though critics described the script to be ‘as predictable as a gym workout’. The appeal of the film lies in its theme of the underdog getting it right every time, only because his intentions are honest and he exudes grace under pressure. A must see!

Rocky 2 - Starring Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Carl Weathers and Burt Young - Released in 1979

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Rhinestone - Starring Sylvester Stallone and Dolly Parton - Released in 1984

Sylvester Stallone known more for his muscle flexing, makes his singing debut alongside Dolly Parton in the ‘Rhinestone’. Not only has he starred in the role of a cabbie who can’t sing to save his life, he has also collaborated on the screenplay.

Freddie Ugo (Ron Liebman) is the owner of Rhinestone, a dance-song-pub, where Jake Farris (Dolly Parton), his star performer and love interest  is stuck with him, after she signs a life long contract with the Sultan of Sleaze. He refuses to let her go, and insists that with his Midas touch, he can turn any one into a superstar - a country western singing sensation.

Ugo tells Jake that the only way she can buy herself out of the contract is if she finds a clown to turn into a ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’ - he would give her two weeks, one number on stage, and voila - she gets to tear up her three year contract…if she loses, another five years and a sleazy proposition for something on the side with him.

She agrees, even though the stakes are high -‘no weirdoes, no lepers, no dead people, just some average normal person’ - and so the two go hunting and come across Nick Martinelli (Sylvester Stallone) a cabbie, who ‘passes in front of her face’ - she’d rather have had a leper!

When Ugo discusses the wager with Nick, he laughs, pointing at the singer on stage ‘I can’t stand that hill Billy’. Well, he walks out on the duo, leaving a beaming Ugo, though Jake reminds him she has two weeks. She goes and traces Nick down to the company that rents its cab to him. He is, as expected, fired by the owner. Now jobless, he takes up Jake’s offer, provided she gets Freddie to get the banged up taxi repaired, AND get his OWN taxi.

Ugo says they have a deal (cocksure that Jake will lose), because Nick thinks country music is ‘worse than liver’. Jake takes her job seriously; Nick is full of crock trying to flirt with her instead of concentrating on the singing. She takes him home to Leiper’s Fork, to her home in the country so that he can feel the life and the music.

Their relationship is frustrating as Nick insists he wants to do it his way, but eventually, he sings with the Wild Possum Band, singing ‘Drinkenstein’, in a yellow and orange suit with fur trimmed hat! At one point in time, he actually starts to believe he can sing - Jake tells him otherwise, and he shrugs her off, saying its ‘professional jealousy’. The two part ways.

Nick meets Noah Farris (Richard Farnsworth) who takes to Nick immediately, inviting him to sing with the Wild Possum Band - true bluegrass, he refuses, though. Jake is miserable, and says that she doesn’t want Nick to wind up with nothing, by instilling false hopes in him.

Nick is hell bent to make it in the music world, wanting to approach Freddie. Before he does so, Jake wants to call off the bet. Ugo is thrilled with the latest developments and welcomes the decision; elsewhere, Nick is riding a studded horse in Elvis style rhinestone jeweled suit, he rides into the hotel and knocks down the door to save Jake from Ugo’s clutches. They ride together to the Rhinestone, Nick believes he has to sing a duet with Jake, and is shocked to learn he is going solo - at the club, he is booed on stage. Suddenly he breaks into the best ditty ever, the crowd goes crazy cheering, and the bet is won!

The movie was wonderful for portraying the comic side of Stallone via this comic role; for once he flexed his vocals instead of his arms! Though the film won many nominations for the worst movie of the year - Stinkers Bad Movie Awards for Worst Picture - it does have a certain amount of following.

Rhinestone - Starring Sylvester Stallone and Dolly Parton - Released in 1984

Victory - Movie about soccer match and escape during Nazi rule - released in 1981 - Starring Sylvester Stallone, Michael Cane and Pele

Based on the Hungarian drama Two Half Times in Hell by Zoltan Fabri, Escape to Victory (or simply 'Victory' in North America), was released in 1981, starring Sylvester Stallone, Michael Cane, Max Von Sydow and Daniel Massey and was directed by John Huston. However, the USP of the film were the football players who starred in it, including the legend Pele. A rare film with an international ensemble cast.

The story is about the Allied POWs in a German war camp. Major Karl von Steiner (Max Von Sydow) is the camp commander, a former member of the German National Football team. Nazi big wigs order the Major to set up an exhibition match between the prisoners and cream of the German team, in Paris. Captain John Colby (Michael Caine) is the man coaching the POWs; he was part of the West Ham United, before the war broke out. The team is unaware that they being used as pawns in a Nazi Propaganda bid.

Captain Robert Hatch (Sylvester Stallone) insists that the opportunity should be utilized to plan an escape, though Colby insists that the plan would be doomed from the start, taking precious lives. Initially Colby had not included Hatch in the team, and after much pleading, he gets to be a part of it - as a trainer. In on the plan are a bunch of Brit officers who encourage the whole deal, even the French Resistance is out to help them. Colby’s superiors weigh in on his decision, using their influence to change his mind - succeeding in the end.

Hatch makes a risky attempt to escape first, he contacts the Resistance, knowing full well that they will not refuse; the French chalk out an escape route, through tunnels below the Colombes Stadium in Paris, which will lead to the showers in the locker rooms.

Robert Hatch will have to allow himself to be recaptured, so that once he’s back in the war camp, he can share the details with the others. As luck would have it, Robert is put into solitary confinement, this ruins his chances of sharing the details with his fellow prisoners; Colby rises to the occasion and tells Steiner that they need Hatch back (he is also the stand-in goalkeeper) in the team, since the first goalkeeper in the lineup has fractured his arm - the poor man has to undergo a forced fracture to prove the story right.

When the day of the match arrives, a group led by Robert is ready to escape during half time, but the others are taken up by the spirit of the moment, and insist that they finish the match and then leave, even though they are trailing by three goals. Although the bias towards the Germans and prejudice towards the Allies is evident, for all to see, yet the Allied players persevere, and the match ends in a draw. The penalty kick goal by the POWs is disqualified, and yet they manage to win the game. In the confusion following the game -  all the men escape.

However in reality, the 11 Ukrainian members who played the game during the Second World War had multiple games and defeated the Germans in all of them, and were recaptured, sent to camps where 4 of them died. These are the words inscribed on the memorial for the eleven footballers on whose lives the story of the film Escape to Victory is based:

“For our beautiful presence
They fell in a fight…
For ages your glory won’t fade,
The fearless hero-athletes.”

Remarkable movie highlighting the spirit of mankind to achieve the seemingly impossible. Must watch, classic!

Victory - Movie about soccer match and escape during Nazi rule - released in 1981 - Starring Sylvester Stallone, Michael Cane and Pele