Wednesday, March 3, 2021

What's Next On My List? John Wick (Trilogy)

Since I have to be at home (all the time) I decided to take this as an opportunity to go through my bucket list of famous franchises that I never got around. One of those were the John Wick movies, and I do have a couple of thoughts. Instead of having a review per movie, I decided to put them together as it is much easier to analyze them by comparing them to each other. So let us dig in:


John Wick (2014) seems like a simple revenge story, of a man who has lost literally everything, and then we slowly find out that he used to be the go to hitman for various mob bosses and that you do not want to get on his badside. I remember watching this movie when the third one came out and feeling happy that there are more movies to see because I was on board immediately. Keanu Reeves is a special person, somebody I deemed to be a wonderful actor all my life, and he made this character come alive. I really wish he would be in some more fun action movies too, like The Expandables, or really anything with Tom Cruise in it. This movie is a great example of why we need sequels for certain stories to be fully told. The world that was established in the first movie brought about a lot of questions, and I really loved the idea of having a code of honor when it comes to assassins, and I also liked that the universe created easy rules to follow and to adhere to. The more we found out about this world, the more curious I got. 

John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017) was probably my favorite. Growing up in Italy I followed the career of Riccardo Scamarcio quite closely and I loved to see him face-off with Reeves in this movie, and if you are expecting a big battle based on my review, well, then you need to watch it to understand what I mean by face-off. The Italian branch was very well constructed and I love how each country has its own version of the hotel and each one follows its rules. Each action movie franchise branches out into the world as they make sequels, they include at least three countries, mandatory for one to be in Europe, and then the final conflict takes the main character back home. Now, Wick is similar in that setup, but this organization is just there, it always was and it always will be, and going around the world feels like a logical decision for someone on the run. The fact that these movies can exist in the same universe that I am living in gives it an edge in my opinion, something that most stories use as a device to scare us, but here, we co-habit with assassins and the mob, rather than be terrified by them. And this mostly because the rules are taken seriously.
At the time when I am writing this review, we only had three chapters of this franchise, and I got to see the third one just a little bit after it came out. What I believe is wonderful about these three movies is that they are connected, but they work separately as well. John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum (2019) had the best action sequences in my opinion. Reeves does a lot of his own stunts, and actually, his way of fighting is quite straight forward, it is a mix, and he does do some martial arts, but essentially he uses what he has, from cars to ranches to... pencils. I do believe that when you are good at something you don't have to have finess to it. Wick has his own style and that is a constant gem in this trilogy, and in the franchise that is still on going. 

So watch them? I would be very surprised to learn that you have not. Most movies are stand-alone, but the MCU brought about the idea of having its audience want more and think of stories as chapters rather than separate books. Something that the titles of the Wick movies emphasize as well. And personally, I cannot wait for the other chapters. 

Until the next item on my list!

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

What's Next On My List? Cop Land

Welcome to the seventh installment of #StalloneMonth, which I have to say, is my favorite time of the year! In February we look over the filmography of this wonderful actor, 4-5 movies at a time. This has been a fun project, and I will keep on going until I run out of movies to review! As we are still at home in various kind of lockdown, it is the perfect time to go and look at the awesome movies that - despite any ratings on movie sites - have the awesome, the one and only, the inimitable: Sly Stallone

Cop Land (1997)

Freddy Heflin (Sylvester Stallone) is a sheriff of a small New Jersey town, as he could not apply to the police academy after having lost his hearing in one ear after an accident. He is considered to be a nobody, and the town, that is filled with NY cops, ignores him completely. Little do they know, that Freddy will not let anyone be above the law. 

I have seen Stallone play several characters by now, as far as I can tell, when he actually portrays his range, people react badly, they just want him to be in non-sensical action movies. But Rambo is nothing like Rocky, who is nothing like Oscar and is nothing like Freddy Heflin in this movie. I truly adore this actor, because it does not matter if it is a comedy, an action movie, a thriller, he delives 110% percent every single time. This movie was fantastic, simply and straightforward, with the story and the casting being outstanding, and the slow and underrated sheriff portrayed by Stallone was in the center of it. What was exclusive about this movie is that you know that Freddie will figure it out what is happening, you are waiting for him to save the day, what you cannot see is that he will do it with his speed. And by that I mean, that Freddy sees everything, but he does not react fast, but that is what the action of the movie required from him. And still, he decided to do it his way, and the person that came to his rescue is someone he had already confronted about their illegal activities. That is the person that Freddy was: someone you cannot help but love, even when they become your enemy. There is something incredibly endearing about a very difficult story to stomach. That is a strange summary, but if you see it, you will know what I mean. 

Watch it? Definitely. This was a diamond in the rough for me, something I had seen posters of but never heard any reviews or mentions, despite the wonderful casting and the smart plot. I just cannot get enough of Sylvester Stallone.

That is the end of #StalloneMonth for 2021, thank you for staying with me while we went through these movies. A year from now I will continue this, until we run out of Stallone movies. February will always be devoted to this powerhouse of a man and his legacy.

Until the next item on my list!

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

What's Next On My List? Rocky Balboa

Welcome to the seventh installment of #StalloneMonth, which I have to say, is my favorite time of the year! In February we look over the filmography of this wonderful actor, 4-5 movies at a time. This has been a fun project, and I will keep on going until I run out of movies to review! As we are still at home in various kind of lockdown, it is the perfect time to go and look at the awesome movies that - despite any ratings on movie sites - have the awesome, the one and only, the inimitable: Sly Stallone

Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) goes through his day, visiting his wife Adrian at the cemetary, trying to have a relationship with his son Robert (Milo Ventimiglia) and trying to make something of the legacy he built up. Feeling without purpose, he decides to get into the fighting game again, purely for the enjoyment of it. His family helps him train, and he does go the distance, the way only Rocky can. 

I saw this movie after seeing Creed (read my review here), and first of all, I really like how this older Rocky was lifted and put into those movies, from the restaurant to his ways as a father. I love that his spirit never dies, but I also love that he knows when to teach and when to let others continue on their path. A perfect example of this was a speech he gave to his son, who seemed to be embarassed about his father and the unlucky cards that life dealt him.

"You ain't gonna believe this, but you used to fit right here. I'd hold you up and say to your mother: 'This kid's gonna be the best kid in the world.' 'This kid's gonna be somebody better than anybody ever knew.' And you grew up good and wonderful. It was great just watching. Every day was like a privilege. Then the time come for you to be your own man and take on the world, and you did. But somewhere along the line, you changed. You stopped bein' you. You let people stick a finger in your face and tell you you're no good, and when things got hard, you started lookin' for somethin' to blame. Like a big shadow. I'll tell you something you already know. The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It's a very mean and nasty place. And I don't care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain't about how hard you hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep movin' forward. How much you can take and keep movin' forward. That's how winnin' is done! If you know what you're worth, get what you're worth, but you gotta be willin' to take the hits and not pointin' fingers, sayin' you ain't where you wanna be because of him or her or anybody! Cowards do that, and that ain't you! You're better than that! I'm always gonna love you no matter what, no matter what happens. You're my son and you're my blood. You're the best thing in my life. But until you start believin' in yourself, you ain't gonna have a life."

I do not believe in being passive, I like to yell someone's head off, just to make them see reason. These big monologues have a very similar effect in movies. His son gets it together and he realizes that his dad is someone to be proud of and that his name is not a curse. They story pics up they relationship at the end of Creed II (read my review here) and I hope that it will give us more. His pain over losing Adrian just gets my crying everytime. And when this movie was over, I felt sad... this is most definitely one of my favorite franchises. These were not all good movies, some were silly, some forgot that Rocky has a certain kind of persona - which this brough back -, some went to great depths. And this movie was truly a perfect ending to that chapter.

Watch it? Honestly it is a perfect ending to this powerhouse of a franchise. It marked the 70s, the 80s, the beginning of the 90s, and even the 2000s. If we do not take into account that Rocky has given life to a new franchise as well with Creed, it is amazing to see the evolution of this character, as it accompanied Sylvester Stallone's career as well. Boy, amd I gonna miss it...

Until the next item on my list!

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

What's Next On My List? Rocky V

Welcome to the seventh installment of #StalloneMonth, which I have to say, is my favorite time of the year! In February we look over the filmography of this wonderful actor, 4-5 movies at a time. This has been a fun project, and I will keep on going until I run out of movies to review! As we are still at home in various kind of lockdown, it is the perfect time to go and look at the awesome movies that - despite any ratings on movie sites - have the awesome, the one and only, the inimitable: Sly Stallone

Rocky V (1990)

In Rocky fashion, this movie picks up right where the previous one ended, and after his fight with Ivan (Dolph Lundgren), Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) tells Adrian (Talia Shire) that something in him has snapped and he should not fight anymore. Once returned to the US, one manager is hell beant on getting him into the ring, and keeps rattling Rocky's cage, but he never gives him what he wants. 

I really liked this movie, honestly, I did not care for Rocky's new student Tommy (Tommy Morrison), mostly because he was an actual fighter and not an actor. I also know that we were not meant to like him, but the problem was more with the lack of chemistry between him and Rocky. What I did like about the movie is that Rocky managed to escape this hell hole, and now he is forced back into it and the way he acts about it incredible. Leaving this neighborhood slowly changed it, most prominently in movie four, but here the character went back to its roots and with him being a dad this time around, the growth of the character was incredible. I really liked his interactions with Adrian too, as she was now more in charge than he was, and I also loved that money and fame was not what came to define their relationship. Rocky's relationship with his son Robert (Sage Stallone) was also very well developed and the last time Rocky was in this neighborhood he had absolutely no family to speak of. Now, however, he is a father, and I enjoy opening my academic papers and compare this family to that of other Italian Americans that live in certain communities that bound them there. All that said, the franchise came to a stop here, at least for sixteen years. Since then Stallone's son Sage, who played his son on the screen too, sadly passed away, and although he did not play this character once he got older, it was quite amazing to see father and son act next to each other. 

Watch it? This was quite a journey, with one more Rocky movie in the series coming, that I am going to review it next week. I really enjoyed the journey, so much so that at the end of this one I already felt that there is an end coming, despite the Creed series still going strong as far as I know. I also loved in this one how we slowly saw Rocky get into the role of coach that was expanded in the Creed movies. Not all movies were great, and some quite frankly forgot who Rocky was - which this movie remembered beautifully enough to elevate again - showing that you cannot take the neighborhood out of the kid. So having seen the first movie hundreds of times, I can say calmly that this would have been a worthy sequel, even without the movies in between. I do recommend it highly!

Until the next item on my list!

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

What's Next On My List? Escape Plan

 Welcome to the seventh installment of #StalloneMonth, which I have to say, is my favorite time of the year! In February we look over the filmography of this wonderful actor, 4-5 movies at a time. This has been a fun project, and I will keep on going until I run out of movies to review! As we are still at home in various kind of lockdown, it is the perfect time to go and look at the awesome movies that - despite any ratings on movie sites - have the awesome, the one and only, the inimitable: Sly Stallone

Escape Plan (2013)

Breslin (Sylvester Stallone) finds himself set up by the people he decided to work for, being a prison that seems to be inescapable. Upon making a friend, Rottmayer (Arnold Schwarzenegger), he slowly finds a way, as this prison was modelled based on the perfect prison he invented himself. 

Now, this movie has been waiting for me to watch it, we popped it in with my girlfriend and although, I'll be honest, my claustrophobia was triggered and I hated every aspect of this prison, which I do believe is the goal in many of these buildings, wanting you to behave well enough to not want to go back ever again. That having been said, the plot was not perfect... my girlfriend guessed the twist right away, while I think one of the storyline was not at all tied up well: one of the villains turned out to Breslin's business partner Lester Clark (Vincent D'Onofrio), and that plot was so badly executed that I did not even understand despite the characters literally describing it. I had to pause the movie and ask for help. This villanous expartner was then left to die in his car, which just felt a bit excessive to rest on the conscience of the main character who is doing this job primarily to be a good guy keeping bad ones in jail. 

Watch it? Honestly, the idea is not bad, and well, Stallone and Schwarzenegger on the screen is a constant boner alert for me, I just love the interactions between these two. As I have seen this has also become a trilogy with movies that have horrible rating, and I cannot wait to see them. But this movie had very smart moments and a great casting, so I think it is worth a watch. 

Until the next item on my list!

Enjoy this year's #StalloneMonth!