MOTIVATION FACTOR #1: Buy A Notebook, Not A Planner.

When I was in Middle School, I used to grab just regular notebook paper, write down a list of things to do, grab a can of Coke and start working my way down this list.  It was an idea I had borrowed from my 8th grade Algebra teacher who always used to be prepared and organized each and every day.  Test papers would be graded immediately the day after we took it.  Notes would already be written on the board as we walked into class.  Plans would already be made for the week.  I don’t ever remember a time when he forgot something or when he was behind on anything.  And I always thought that magic lied in the fact that he had a drink sitting on his desk.

I started doing the same thing.  I started finishing all my homework immediately after I got home.  I made sure everything was prepared the day before.  I started drinking soda every day (and a couple years’ addiction to carbonated beverages began).  It all went great…until I stopped.

It wasn’t for several years in which I started planning again.  I would do what many people did…buy a planner.  I set out to use a simple planner and began to fill up boxes and trying to literally write 30 things into one tiny box.  Soon, I stopped using it and went the rest of the year without any system at all.

The following year, I decided “bigger was better”…I bought a planner that had about three pages of fill-ups per day.  I was filling out an exercise diary, a journal, a people list and so much more each night for almost an hour daily.  For about 50 dollars, this enormous planner was worth the price, but it wasn’t helping me accomplish much of anything.  So what did I do?

I needed to take a hard, long look and figure out how I was going to do this right.  How was I going to get organized, work on my goals and following it passionately.  I went back to my 8th grade system and decided to simply buy a 5 Subject Notebook.  That was about two years ago and I have not failed to go without it each day.  I’ve taken 30 minutes each day to fill out a day’s worth of goals and accomplished more than ever before.  Here is the system I used:

The 5 Subject notebook allows you to separate one set of goals from another:

Section 1:  Yearly Goals

Section 2:  The Master List

Section 3:  Monthly Goals

Section 4:  Weekly Goals

Section 5:  Daily Goals

I won’t lie.  The notebook is a lot of writing, but I love to write and it has definitely allowed me to work on more things during a day.  I carry the notebook almost everywhere – to work, to appointments, to home, etc.  I’ve found a system that worked for me and it all goes back to the system that I started when I was young.  Who knew?

Planners are great, for people that enjoy to use them, but for people that are on a budget, spending five dollars on a notebook will give you everything you need.

So there you have it.  Motivation Factor #1 is buying a notebook.  Next week, I will talk about how to start using that notebook to plan a great year.

Revisiting Rocky: A Look Back at Creed

For the previous review on Rocky IV – please click here.

For the previous review on Rocky V – please click here.

For the previous review on Rocky III – please click here.

For the previous review on Rocky II – please click here.

Creed is the latest entry in the Rocky Series and to be honest, when is enough enough?  The film itself is very good as it boasts great performances from both, Sylvester Stallone (as Rocky) and Michael B. Jordan (as Adonis Creed).  Even before it came out in theaters, I asked myself if it was necessary.  The end of Rocky Balboa boasted a pretty heartfelt conclusion to the franchise and although some say this is a spinoff, it really is just another entry into the Rocky story.  So the question comes about again…when is enough enough?  This film, too, is not the end of the story as we will be getting Creed 2, expected to come out later this year.  (More on that later).

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Creed is about Adonis Creed, the son of Apollo Creed (who was played by Carl Weathers in the first four films).  Donnie decides he wants to box just like his father, much to the opposition of Mary Anne Creed (played by Phylicia Rashad).  For Adonis, it’s about pursuing not only his own dream, but also to finish what his father started.

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Donnie decides to go to Adrian’s, Rocky’s restaurant that was introduced in the previous installment.  Looking at pictures on the wall, Rocky realizes he is staring at the son of his former frenemy, Apollo.    Adonis wants to box, but Rocky doesn’t want to train (maybe he’s having flashbacks of Tommy Gunn turning on him?).  There’s some callbacks here that are really important.  The fact that a few of the moments from the previous Rocky films are being mentioned allows the Rocky fans to get a drawback to these previous favorite moments, but also a new audience to get acclimated to the relationship that Rocky and Apollo had.  This is important so that everyone gets a feel for why Adonis is asking Rocky to be his mentor and important to the backstory of their characters.  (In summary, good characterization).

Just as important as the Mentor/Mentee plotlines in the Rocky films, there is always a love story going as well.  (Although, I suppose it was absent in Rocky Balboa as Marie was more of a friend.)  Here, Tessa Thompson is introduced in the film as Adonis’s neighbor and eventual love interest, Bianca.  Making her different from Adrian is the fact that she’s a little bit more brash and able to stand up to Adonis when they meet first.

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Of course, since Rocky Balboa’s character is a big part of this film, he’s involved in his own storyline.  First, there is the fact that just like Adrian in the previous film, Paulie (previously played by Burt Young) has an off-screen death.  There is a difference, here, though.  I wasn’t bothered by Adrian’s death as it was the plotline that drove much of the sixth Rocky film, but Paulie’s death is mentioned once and forgotten.  In the first film, Paulie’s slovenly and drunkard act is what drives Adrian to finally agree to go out with Rocky.  In the second film, it’s him that causes Adrian to collapse.  In the third film, his jealousy and rage is a subplot.  The point is that Paulie’s character is important to the whole overall arc of the series and any first time audience wouldn’t understand that with just a throwaway line.  So I definitely did not like that aspect.

Then, there is Rocky, Jr.  He’s born in the second film, but starts becoming an important part of the Rockyverse in the third and subsequent films.  Here, however, he is relegated to a picture.  (Sadder is the fact that it’s a picture of the late Sage Stallone).  I don’t have too much of a problem with that because this is the story of Adonis, not Robert Balboa, but still his character has become a running joke now (much like the Griswold kids in the Vacation series) in that they can’t keep the same actor for each of these films.  Why not show a picture of Milo Ventimiglia, who played the character in the previous film?

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There is also the very realistic storyline of Rocky having non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma – drawing back parallels to his wife’s death.  Death has also become a key theme of each movie since the third film and here, besides Paulie’s death, it becomes a central theme for the Rocky character himself.  While Rocky doesn’t die in the film, how he reacts to his own possible mortality is a plotline in and of itself.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Rocky film without a fight and here it is presented in the final boxing match between Ricky Conlan (played by real-life boxer Anthony Bellew) and Adonis Creed.  The film has several callbacks to the first film (and in my opinion) a little predictable.  There’s the American stripes and stars shorts worn by the Creeds…there’s the underdog story, this time it’s Creed, not Balboa…and there’s the fight to the finish, much like Rocky and Rocky Balboa, that is decided by a split decision.

And this all sets up…the next film, Creed 2.  From what we know now, Adonis is set to face the son of Ivan Drago (played by Dolph Lundgren in Rocky IV), the same man that killed his father in the ring.  It will be the eighth film in the series and while not much has come out about the film, I can only hope that the Rocky legacy ends once and for all.  He has gone through love, marriage, heartbreak, birth of his child, deaths of his mentor, best friend, wife, and brother-in-law and now his own visions of mortality.  The Rocky character has been through everything he can be through and it’s time to end his story.  It’s been eight films and a story that has lasted over 40 years.  The underdog story has been told in its completion and, as a fan, I hope we can finally say goodbye and put the character of Rocky Balboa to rest.

FINAL GRADE:  B+

 

What are your thoughts on Creed?  How do you feel about more movies in the series or do you believe that it should have ended by now?  What are your hopes for Creed 2?  Let me know with a comment again and…for next week….it’s Rocky Balboa.

Revisiting Rocky: A Look Back At Rocky II

For the previous review on Rocky IV – please click here.

For the previous review on Rocky V – please click here.

For the previous review on Rocky III – please click here.

How do you follow up an Oscar-winning film with the same vibrancy, emotions, characterization and impact as the one that came before?  For the writers and crew of Rocky II, it was making sure that they were going to be able to put in a plot point that would be more emotionally charged to the main characters as well as the audience.  I can specifically say that the film did its job.

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The second film leaves off right where the first one ends.  There is a little bit of a bump as the first one ends with both opponents, Apollo Creed (played by Carl Weathers) and Rocky Balboa (played by Sylvester Stallone) agree to not go through a rematch, but in the first few minutes, there is Creed, shouting at Balboa for a rematch.  They explain it off with a couple lines, but when you watch both films together, it’s a little awkward…but that’s OK because the film could only work one way…with a rematch between the two.

We see a genuine heartfelt moment between the two fighters in the hospital when Creed admits to giving it his all during their match – setting up a slow foreshadowing of a working relationship in a future film, maybe?  From this point forward, their trajectory goes in opposite directions – one becomes fueled by what he feels is betrayal of his fans, while the other begins to enjoy fame and fortune.

Rocky gets an agent, who sees big money in his fighter.  Rocky begins doing commercials, where you see the humor return in his character.  But you also see the moment where he’s losing options as to what life will be like post-boxing.  Rocky sees no alternatives – he must box again.  In the meantime, Rocky decides to go with some advice he got in the first film – he takes Adrian to the Zoo!  And at the zoo, Rocky proposes to Adrian with a “I was wonderin’ if you don’t mind marryin’ me much” (a classic line that many Rocky fans have shared in their own proposals, I’m sure).  We also find out that Adrian is pregnant with their child.

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Then, there’s Apollo’s storyline and I do appreciate the fact that we get a little more insight into this character.  In the first film, we find Apollo to be sarcastic and arrogant and with an attitude where he won’t take Rocky seriously.  Here, we get the flip side of the coin…Apollo really does take it serious and feels fueled by the fact that many fans are saying he got rocked in the match.  Apollo wants to prove that he didn’t win the match just by chance.  Apollo wants a rematch.

Rocky realizes he can’t do anything else but box at this point.  He returns to his trainer, Mickey (Burgess Meredith), but Adrian (Talia Shire) is the obstacle here and doesn’t want her husband’s health to decline.  The characterization here is great….in the first one, Adrian is clueless about boxing and supports Rocky, but now they’re married and Adrian’s love isn’t the support here, but the obstacle.  Rocky knows that boxing can cause further rips in their relationship, but Rocky feels incomplete without this.  Mickey, on the same hand, needs Rocky all in because he’s at the point of no return and Apollo needs this match to prove he’s still the champion.  All the stories intermesh and each character has their own goals.

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And things get worse when Adrian collapses, gets rushed to the hospital and slips into a coma.  Now what does Rocky do?  He has a trainer who tells him he’s only got one chance at the champ now and not to waste it.  (This is the part of the character of Mickey that makes him the gruff and tough character that he is…even while Rocky is sitting there in church, praying…Mickey thinks only of the boxing match…boxing is his life, while Adrian is what’s most important to Rocky.)  It all comes to a head when Adrian finally wakes up and tells Rocky to “win”.   This is the heartbeat of the whole Rocky series – and basically life in general…obstacles that will keep us from our dreams and future and how to overcome them.  And now we’re back to the training and the road to the Main Event.

The final fight here is not as exciting as many of the other ones.  I would even say that the goofy and comical Rocky IV fight between Ivan Drago and Rocky Balboa was more exciting than this one, but it wouldn’t be Rocky without a match and a match is what we get.  The highlight here is the double knockout and the race to see who will beat the count at the end.  At the end, to keep the film fresh, Rocky wins and becomes the new champion.

Overall, the film explores many of the similar themes as the first one, but in new and innovative ways.  The weakness here is actually what they build to and that is the final fight.  Rocky proves that he’s not a “bum” anymore, but Apollo proves he’s weaker (yet somehow is still the right choice to train Rocky in the next film?).  Paulie’s only contribution is sending his sister to the hospital here and going back to drinking.  In the end, Rocky is stronger in the emotional and mental aspects…he’s a boxer, husband and father with new goals to come.

FINAL GRADE:  B

 

What are your thoughts on Rocky II?  Did it do well as a sequel to the original?  What did you think of the final fight compared to the others in the series?  Let me know with a comment and next week, I present the newest film in the series…Creed.

Revisiting Rocky: A Look Back at Rocky III

For the previous review on Rocky IV, please click here – please click here.

For the previous review on Rocky V, please click here – please click here.

Rocky III is a film that centers on a line between cheesiness and emotional impact.  You have the emotional qualities of the first two films, but you also have an idea of what’s to come.  Depending on which side of the line you view the film, the movie is either in the upper echelon of the Rocky series or the bottom.  But like the other films, I’m going to try to dissect it piece by piece.

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Many of the stars of the first two films return here,  including Sylvester Stallone, Burgess Meredith, Talia Shire, and Burt Young.  But also returning are Carl Weathers and Tony Burton and how they fit in to the story arc here is interesting, not as the opposition, but as friend and mentor.

One of the early scenes boasts a boxer vs. wrestler match with Rocky (Stallone) fighting for a cause against Thunderlips (played by future WWE Champion, Hulk Hogan).  The scene provides a small insight into the relationship between Mickey and Rocky with a comical banter among them.  And I suppose that was the reason for the scene in the film…otherwise, the scene is quite unnecessary.  Although in the long run, this scene is key in the life and career of Hogan’s trajectory as he soon gets signed to WWE, wins a championship, becomes a key piece in Wrestlemanias I through IX and pretty much changes professional wrestling forever.  So I suppose this scene changes the life of one man forever.

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The next part introduces the most ferocious opponent to date.  His name is Clubber Lang and he is played by the then-unknown Mr. T.  Again, this is one of those parts that opens up a whole new trajectory for the actor as he becomes very well known after this part, including a popular stint on “The A-Team”.   So, if anything, this film is a life changer for some.  He’s different from Apollo (Weathers), though.  He’s serious, more focused, and apparently he pities Rocky.  But he also puts a fear in Rocky’s manager, Mickey (Meredith) and that fear is what brings about Mickey’s nonchalant attitude toward picking Rocky’s opponents instead of having him fight Lang.  And Clubber feels it, too as he decides to come forth at Rocky’s retirement announcement in front of the unveiling of the most famous statue in the city of Philadelphia.  The scene does what it’s supposed to…it makes the audience realize that this new opponent isn’t going to be an easy fight for Rocky and because of his insulting attitude towards Adrian (Shire), it’s also become personal.

There’s some great acting in the beginning scenes of the film:  Paulie’s (Young) jealousy towards his brother-in-law, Mickey and Rocky’s contentious relationship, and of course Lang and the World.  These emotions of frustration and built up angst is what builds towards the ending climax.  In the first film, it’s a fear of failure…in the second film, it’s the fear of losing Adrian…here, it’s a mix of all those feelings and then some.

In what becomes the first major death of the series, Mickey dies during a match between Rocky and Clubber.  Rocky loses his mentor and his friend, which leads to the unknown.  The death scene itself was an emotional scene, although it may have been even more emotional if we knew what in the world Rocky actually says as he is blubbering over his trainer.  (To this day, I still wonder…).

Luckily, enter Apollo Creed – who, despite the fact that he couldn’t go toe to toe with Rocky, has the ability to help him beat Lang.  How?  By bringing him to his neck of the woods.  And after some cringeworthy scenes in where we think Paulie may be racist, in addition to being a recovering alcoholic, we have Rocky training to, of course, “Eye of the Tiger” and making Survivor the “pick-me-up” band of the 80s.

Of course, we have to have the obligatory scene between Adrian and Rocky where only she can motivate him to fight his best.  And after Rocky admits to Adrian that he’s afraid, Adrian tells him to pretty much suck it up and get going….because we’ve only got five more sequels and counting to go.  From here on out, we have the training sequences, the music, the screaming and everything else that goes on with every other Rocky film to date.

This leads to the fight of the century…after the rematch of the century…which came after the first fight of the century.  But here it is…Clubber Lang and Rocky Balboa in a match much shorter than the first two.  We don’t have a final decision here and we don’t have two boxers toppling over one another.  What we do have is a fresh knock out to send Clubber Lang from the fearsome opponent to an after-thought.  If you think I thought this match should have gone a little longer, you’re right.  I didn’t care too much about the knockout…but I thought it was silly that a wife’s coaxing hand all of a sudden turned Rocky into an invincible beast.

Overall, the film was an improvement on what was to come in the next two films with a much more emotional punch to the gut, but the ending took it away somewhat.

FINAL GRADE:  B-

 

What are your thoughts on Rocky III?  Did it provide the emotional punch that it intended to?  Or a better question…does anyone, to this day, understand what Rocky’s final words to Mickey are?  Let me know with a comment and I will see you next week with a review on Rocky II.

Revisiting Rocky: A Look Back at Rocky V

For the previous review on Rocky IV, please click here – Rocky IV Review

I remember standing inside the lobby of our local movie theater back in 1990 when I first saw a poster of Rocky with his fist in the air and the advertisement that Rocky was coming soon.  I thought it may have been the original Rocky coming back to theaters for a limited time.  If that had been the case, I wouldn’t have minded…but instead as I soon found out, it was another sequel to the original and while I don’t think the movie was terrible, it was definitely an unnecessary sequel that didn’t do much to change much of the story.

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Let’s go back to the beginning where we find out that Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) has some lingering after-effects from his previous match with Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren).  Concussions and brain damage is a pretty hot topic in today’s world of sports, ranging from football to mixed martial arts, so not too unrealistic that this could occur.  Adrian (Talia Shire) is worried and for good reason.  However, this plot line is a major part of the fifth film, but does not get mentioned in the next sequel, so it does bring about some continuity issues there.

Speaking of continuity, if I am not mistaken, Robert (Rocky, Jr.) Balboa was a sandy-haired little nine year old boy when Rocky got to the Soviet Union.  Now…he has grown into a dark haired 14 year old when Rocky returns.  That was one long trip!  The change in actors is understandable…I am not a big fan of it, but sometimes it has to be done for personal reasons.  But couldn’t they have at least found someone a little closer to his previous age.  Instead, Sly casts his own son, Sage Stallone, in the role, which of course opens up a completely new storyline involving teenage angst, jealousy and bullies.  It’s like “Rebel Without a Cause” meets “Rocky”.

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But we’ll move forward.  We have a completely new boxing challenger named Union Cane (Michael Williams) that is trained by George Washington Duke (Richard Gant).  So we have Duke….and we have Duke.  One is training Rocky and one is training the opponents of Rocky.  Confusing?  I was and always tried to figure out why they wouldn’t change their names.  Now Richard Gant, who has had some great dramatic roles in his career does a parody here and that is of famed Boxing promoter Don King.  I don’t know why that was necessary instead of inventing a completely new character…but it doesn’t work here.  It makes the film a farce and completely makes it stand out (not in a good way) from the other films.

It seems to me that Stallone was trying to go back to the original formula that made Rocky a success and one way he does it is by returning it to the roots…literally….Paulie (Burt Young) loses some money and the next thing you know they wind up back in Philadelphia.  Rocky returns to his old gym and sees the ghost of Mickey…a scene that actually is probably the highlight of the film as Burgess Meredith can’t do wrong…ever!  It’s a poignant scene that brings the film back to the mentor-fighter relationship, one of the strong points of the first 3 films.

That is when the film takes a turn, however and introduces Tommy “The Machine” Gunn.  What made the first three opponents work (Creed, Lang and Drago) is that they were played believably by Carl Weathers, Mr. T and Dolph Lundgren, respectively.  Tommy Gunn, however, is played by real-life boxer, the late Tommy Morrison and it seems to me all of Morrison’s “butterflies” and nervousness and possibly being intimidated by Stallone was shown through his character.  If we were to believe that Gunn could stand up to Rocky, I didn’t want to see a scared fighter, jittery lips intact.  I can honestly say that the character of Tommy Gunn is the weakest in all the films and brings the film down and out of sync.

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There is a secondary plot in the film, one that I don’t want to dwell on too much because the plot isn’t what the original story was about.  Robert, Jr. goes to a new school, gets bullied, meets a new girlfriend and learns to fight.  With all of that, Rocky is more concerned with his new protégé, Gunn than listening to his son until one fateful Christmas evening when Rocky loses Gunn to GW Duke and his son to his new found friends.  It is here where Adrian reminds her husband that she’s still around and if he doesn’t bring their son home, she’s out of there…well, she didn’t really say that, but finally a character had some fortitude to say “Hey, remember us?”  Rocky, of course, gets his son back and they become the “home team” again.

This all leads to the Tommy Gunn vs. Rocky Balboa fight….which is not for a title, but to see who is better out on the streets.  And again, it doesn’t work.  Much of the hoopla from all the other films has surrounded the fact that there’s a match in the ring and Rocky’s the underdog.  Here it’s a tale of revenge because….Paulie got a tooth knocked out in a bar?  And while there’s always that one inspirational line…”You knocked him down, now why don’t you try knockin’ me down” isn’t one of them.  But on to the fight we go…and this is where we once again have to suspend our beliefs.  Apparently, it’s a street fight that’s being televised live, even though it’s illegal.  You’ve got people standing around, hooting and hollering…I mean, I’ve never lived in Philadelphia, but I’m sure the last thing they want is that their city is known as a bunch of blood-thirsty folks.

In the end, Tommy loses and is arrested, while Don George Washington Duke King is knocked out on to the hood of a vehicle.  With that, Rocky is able to hug his wife, son…and give a thumbs up to the Italian priest.

And so we fade out to Elton John’s “Measure of a Man” as we reminisce of the better parts of the series with stills of scenes from the previous films and with that, the Rocky saga ends.  Oh wait, it doesn’t?  Apparently, even Sylvester Stallone wasn’t happy with the ending of this one (who would be?) that he decided we would get another film down the road.

FINAL GRADE:  C

 

So what are your thoughts on Rocky V?  Do you agree or disagree?  Is it better than Rocky IV or worse?  Hit me with a comment either way and next week, I’ll be reviewing Rocky III.

Poem 2: Yesterday

(This poem was generated by the Three Things Challenge:  Click on this post! )

 

YESTERDAY

My past is forever a brick of a wall

and forever it will stumble

with an exploding heavy boom

one by one, every bit will tumble.

 

My past is forever a family of fireflies

that dares to light up my eyes

with broken whistles and welts

all these nights, all these lies.

 

My past is a melody of a broken album

that is played with a heartbreaking strum

and with the tunes of disillusioned tears

that melt with the beat of each drum.

 

My past is a forgotten fantasy.

No one can hear the bouncing of balls

the ones we followed with a frolic

and our shrieking shouts and calls

that are forever gone

where the wall has been torn down

and each bright harmonizing smile

has turned into a frown

and a city

has disappeared

behind the cracked clouds.

 

Revisiting Rocky: A Look Back at Rocky IV

Over the next few weeks, I will be taking a look back at one of my favorite film series – the Rocky franchise, from my least favorite to my favorite.

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One of the reasons why I love the Rocky series is simply because it’s a metaphor for life in general – about overcoming odds when you’re an underdog.  It has a mix of everything for every type of person, whether you like romance, drama, comedy, action, etc.  The film mixes the best of all worlds.  And so without further ado, I present Rocky IV.  (Spoilers if you have not seen the films, by the way).

I first watched Rocky IV pretty soon after it came out (in 1985) and it was either this film or the third one that introduced me to the whole series (I really can’t remember which one I watched first, but I did not start with the first one until years later).  I remember really liking this film as a kid and really rooting for Rocky throughout the film, yet over the years my opinion has changed drastically.  When you watch this film with the others, it doesn’t fit.  There’s something off with this one.  On the one hand, it’s different from other films and yet, there’s also parts that are similar to the previous film that we’re almost watching a remake of Rocky III (albeit with a different character and world).

When you watch the first ten minutes, we go from Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) giving Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) a black eye during an exhibition (where the last film left off) to a birthday celebration for Paulie (Burt Young).  We are introduced to a talking robot.  Now I know I said that this film touches upon many themes and genres, but Sci-fi is not one that is needed.  Being introduced to Hal 2000’s doppelganger is unnecessary and doesn’t do much to advance the plot.

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From there, we are introduced to Ivan Drago (played by Dolph Lundgren), who we quickly see will be the chosen nemesis throughout the film.  And for some reason, this film cashes in on the Cold War in a boxing ring.  So I guess now, we’ve gone from Sci-Fi to a War film.  And so, because Apollo Creed represents America and Drago represents the Soviet Union, we have to pit these two against each other.

Apollo comes to Rocky’s home and decides to announce to the Balboa family that he will be taking it upon himself to fight Ivan.  (And in our little throwaway side plot, we also learn that Paulie has programmed his robot friend to become female???).  We also have learned that apparently Rocky’s wife, Adrian (Talia Shire) has grown so fond of Apollo that she advises against him going through with the match.  (When exactly did these two become so close?  Beats me…but we can’t dwell on that because we have a more fascinating Paulie-Robot love affair going on here.)

And so we turn our attention to the first fight of the film, Apollo Creed vs. Ivan Drago.  We also turn our attention to the next category this film will be undertaking – a musical!  No, really…for the next 30 or so minutes, we will be going through songs and montages and James Brown and exercise regiments that will set your hearts on fire (pun intended).  I am surprised we didn’t get Russian ballerinas performing in the middle of the boxing ring…although we do get to hear the Russian National Anthem.  And so there you have it so far, we’ve turned the Rocky series into a Sci-Fi/War Musical.

The fight between Apollo and Ivan is short and not-so-sweet, at least not for Mr. “Dancing Destroyer – King of Sting – Count of Monte Cristo – Master of Disaster”.  Just like in Rocky III, there is a death (this time it’s Creed).  And just like its predecessor, Rocky uses it as fuel for his comeback match.  And just like its previous effort, there’s a training regime out of Rocky’s element.  So if you compare the two films, instead of Mickey, we have Apollo dying and instead of Mr. T, we have Lundgren.  Instead of “in da hood”, we have “in the Siberian snow”.  And instead of “Eye of the Tiger”, we have “Hearts on Fire”.

I want to take a moment to talk about Adrian’s character here, too.  So, in the first film, she’s finally found love with Rocky and you can tell that she will stand by him no matter what, from Paulie’s abusive ways to his fights in the ring.  Even when she wakes up from a coma in the second film, the first thing she tells Rocky is to “WIN!”  Then, Rocky loses his mentor in the next film, but even then she stands by him and tells him to fight through his fears.  But yet, all of a sudden, in this film she does a 180 turn and tells her husband that he can’t win?  What happened to the motivation?  Luckily, she comes to her senses when she realizes that her words only drive Rocky out of America and into Russia and she decides to follow him…which only begs the question who is watching their son, Rocky Jr, but who really cares because we find out in the next film that he has super-aging powers beyond the scope of mankind.

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And so after all the robotic elements and musical interludes, we arrive to the final fight – Rocky Balboa and Ivan Drago….in the Soviet Union….on December 25th….because if there’s one thing this film has not hit yet, it’s that it’s a heartwarming Science Fiction War Christmas Musical!  The fight between these two is actually not badly choreographed…it’s the other elements around it that is somewhat perplexing.  For example, what’s with Paulie deciding to rub on Duke’s (Poor Tony Burton’s) head?  Is Duke a secret genie?  Did Paulie break up with Robo-Maid?  And we go back and forth between a heart-pounding fight and three kids, supervised by a talking robot, jumping on a bed.  And then there’s the Mikhail Gorbachev look-alike under the dome lights…but my favorite part is the audience.  From completely booing our beloved hero at the beginning of the fight, they turn in a matter of a few rounds (or 8 minutes of screen time) to cheer him on over one of their own countrymen because….again, why?

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And then of course…there’s the heartwarming speech that ends it all where we find out that if we can change and Rocky can change…and Russia can change….and Ivan can change….and robots can change…then we can all change.  And with those words, Rocky ends the Cold War, eventually leading to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the presidency of the Bush Administration.

FINAL GRADE:  D

What are your thoughts on Rocky IV?  Do you agree or disagree?  Do you consider it a guilty pleasure?  Hit me with a comment either way and next week, I’ll be reviewing Rocky V.

 

 

What We Do: Wear Styles That Define Us

Through the decades, we’ve been defined by our actions, our attitudes, our ancestry, and most frequently as the years progress, by our looks – whether it be our bodies or our height and weight.  While we should never be judged by our God-given bodies, there is a case to be made for style and wear.

Through the last few decades, we’ve gone through eras with the invention of jeans, bell-bottoms, leather jackets, punk-wear…all of which have significantly pointed to certain historical times in our own lives, most notably in our youth.

Today’s day and age allows us to wear whatever we want and indicate to the world around us who we are.

  1. Where We Come From

T-Shirts can be emblazoned with any slogan or saying that we want.  People wear shirts with an American flag on it to show the world they’re American.  People wear shirts with landmarks and landscapes to mark the beauty of where they lived.  Here in the states, people wear clothing of all types, but others are proud to wear traditional dresses and attires that mark their legacy – think of an Indian Sari or the beautiful styled African wear from different regions of the country.

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  1. The Sports and Teams We Love

One of my favorite events to watch is the Olympics, whether it’s Winter or Summer because it’s a gathering of nations worldwide.  When you take one look around the crowd, you can see multiple flags waving, but if you take a closer look, you’ll see their clothes match their favorite star or home team – a track suit ornamented with Jamaican colors like Usain Bolt or a jersey of the French soccer team.

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  1. The Music We Listen To

It isn’t only concerts where we show our musical fandom, but when we’re comfortable in our own homes or go to a party, we want the world to know the type of music we are into.  From “Grateful Dead” fans to rocking sideburns a la Elvis, we’ve dressed and appeared as our favorite musical acts for years.

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  1. The Way We Perceive Ourselves

I have known people to wear suits around town, even when they’re not going to a formal event.  Why?  Most likely because they want the world to perceive them as being successful.  I’ve known people to wear pajamas on a weekday afternoon because they want the world to know they’re comfortable wherever they go.  We perceive the world certain ways from what they wear…if you’re wearing a “Harley Davidson” leather jacket, we perceive them as a certain type….teenagers wearing “ripped jeans” get a certain reputation, as do fit men with cut-off shirt sleeves.  So how do you want the world to see you?

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What else do our clothes tell us about ourselves or others?  How are we defined by our style and is it accurate to who we really are?  Leave a comment and let us know.

What We Do: Host a Movie Marathon!

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A few years ago, binging a TV show was not really possible (unless you taped every episode on a VHS tape like I did with reruns of Quantum Leap).  Nowadays, it’s the norm for many households to watch all the episodes of one season in a day or two, especially with many TV shows being released on a popular streaming service, like Netflix or Hulu.  But with the inclusion of the “TV Show Binge”, out went the days of holding a “Movie Marathon”.

There are benefits, though, to watching several movies in a row over a day or two, or over a course of a few weeks.  With the working world, it may not be possible to watch a movie or two a day, but it’s always possible to watch one or two over a weekend.  So how to start?

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First, decide whether you want to do it alone or invite friends over.  Personally, I usually enjoy watching them alone or with one or two other people.  Adding a whole group of people is fun for a short “film-a-thon” (2 or 3 movies in a day), but if you’re expecting someone to stay for hours or even commit to several movies over the course of a few weeks, it may not work.  And then people will be lost and confused for any plot lines they missed.  So my suggestion is to stick to 1 to 3 people.

Second, make sure you have working equipment – whether you’re watching them on a DVD player, Blu-ray player or some other device.  Nothing can be more frustrating when you’re watching and all of a sudden, there’s a technical glitch that shuts everything down.  If your TV is old or you’re DVDs are known to skip in your player, you may want to hold the marathon somewhere else or hold off for another day.

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Next, what kind of a “Movie Marathon” are you going to hold?  There are several different ways of going about it:

  • By Actor/Actress: An actor with a short filmography, like James Dean, could be completed in one day, but if you’re selecting someone like John Wayne or Tom Hanks or Meryl Streep, it could go longer.
  • By Series: Go small, like a “Young Guns” double feature or a “Back to the Future” Trilogy or big, like watching all 26 James Bond films from “Dr. No” to “Spectre” (and if you include all the spoofs and TV versions, it could go even longer.)
  • By other cast/crew: You could go into other areas, too – like watching “Stephen King” films, or films with James Horner music or all the films that had a certain gaffer in its crew (although now we’re bordering on some strange obsession you may have.)
  • By a Book or list: Some people love to go by recommended lists – “1000 Movies to Watch Before You Die” or the “IMDB Top 250 List”.
  • By Country: And if you’re a fan of foreign films, like myself, you could choose the 100 greatest Japanese films or a similar idea.

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Honestly, the choices are endless as you can go by film era (Silent era), genre (Romantic Comedies), award winners (Best Picture Winners), theme (Underdog films), etc.

Also, on a final note, if you’re going to watch a movie based on the actor or director or a series, the best way to do it is probably chronologically.  I know it’s somewhat self-explanatory, but sometimes people may not want to watch that “bad-reviewed” film.  (I mean, honestly, if you’re holding a “Superman” marathon, who really wants to relive “Superman IV”?).  But there’s a lot of perks to watching in order.  One is you get to see an actor’s growth.  Another thing is you get to see how a filmmaker may have learned from past mistakes.  (Maybe….)

There are really no rules.  I mean, it’s your movie marathon!  So enjoy it and make it memorable.  Happy Viewing!

Flash Fiction: The Encounter

The boy looked down into the water, his eyes fixing onto the large gray boulder-shaped object at the bottom of the lake.  He didn’t want to believe that it could be him.  It was impossible.  Hadn’t he just spoken with him twenty minutes ago at the guiding posts by the entrance of the park?  He remembered….he had taken hold of the leather jacket as he had brushed by him and for a minute, their eyes had met and a sense of an awkward feeling had kicked in – his heart beating rapidly as a past memory flashed in his mind.

“Wait!” the boy had called out.

The man in the leather jacket had disappeared, though.  Among the throng of all these people, he would be hard to spot again.  I am not running, the boy thought to himself.  But what if….

“No, forget it,” he said to himself.

He quickly put the thought out of his mind and continued walking, hands in his pocket.  He saw other kids his age, some running towards the water spouts in the middle of the park.  He could see the joy on the faces of these kids, a sensation he had been missing for years, but one he was hoping would be reborn again soon.  Some of the parents were laughing with others, marveling at the  bliss of the summer day’s thrills.

He could see the paint on some of the kids’ faces, visages of tigers and rabbits, superheroes and supervillains.  In the midst of all the masked expressions, the boy saw one that was darker than the others, bones and skulls painted on his cheeks and forehead, a look that frightened him.  Behind it, their eyes locked again.  This time, the boy ran after the man.  Scampering as quick as possible, he tried to keep up with the man’s elongated strides.

“Stop!” the boy shouted.  But the man kept moving forward, swiftly zig-zagging around the crowds.  Many people began to move to the side, their eyes fastened onto the scene in front of them.  Some were quickly pulling their children close to their bodies, embracing them from the dangerous peril in front of their eyes.

The boy was growing tired – he could feel it.  Soon, the man would once again be free.  With his breathing struggling to open up, the boy stopped.  He heard murmurs growing from the left side of him and saw a crowd beginning to gather.  The boy stared over and wondered what was hidden beyond the wall of the onlookers.  Slowly, he gathered himself and walked over.  He brushed people slightly apart, his heart beginning to rise in beats.

The crowd’s eyes followed him as he slowly made his way towards the bank of the lake, a leather jacket sitting on top.  An awkward silence followed the sounds of the waves of the lake hitting the embankment.  The boy’s eyes looked down.  The boy’s eyes rested on his father’s facial features, ignoring the harpoon that had struck the shark that suffocated the man to his final resting place in the depths of the shallow water.

(Today’s story was based on the Daily Prompt:  Click Here! )