Author Archives: ochippie

  • -

Movie Review – The Platform

Category : Movie Review

Director: Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia

Starring: Ivan Massague, Zorion Eguileor, Alexandra Masangkay

Year: 2019

While we’re all in quarantine, some of the best movies of the year are going to be streamed, and the first I will add to that list is The Platform.  This Spanish sci-fi/horror/thriller from Netflix is the second best film I’ve seen this year so far, behind only Onward, and I think it has a chance to stay near the top even after cinemas get back in full swing, when standard releases & Oscar contenders dominate the conversation once more.  What makes The Platform work is its patience, its honest message, and its refusal to sell itself cheap; it takes a toll from audiences, that’s the price we pay for our enjoyment, and I’d willingly reach into my pocket again, because it’s worth it.

You can go into The Hole voluntarily, you can choose it over standard prison, you can sign up for a reward at the end, but you have no real idea what kind of hell you are throwing yourself into; even if you survive your time, you won’t exit completely human.  The Hole is torture of a rare kind, destroying your mind as well as you body, but the process is fairly simple.  Each level of the vertical structure, and there are hundreds, holds two people.  In the center of the cell is a square opening though which, from above, a platform descends.  On this platform is enough food for every single occupant, at least if the people at the top take only a small share.  But greed doesn’t leave us when we are reduced to our basest selves, it can become the only thing that drives us, that and the desire to survive.  Every month you are transferred to a different level; will you find yourself lucky and near the top, free to eat whatever delicious food you choose, or near the bottom, where living might mean becoming a monster.

Not only is The Platform an incredible horror film, a unique sci-fi experience, and a modern thrill-ride, but it’s also director Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia’s debut, which might be the most shocking thing about the film; it feels like a masterwork.  It’s creepy, it’s startling, it’s disgusting, it’s bloody, it’s primal; all the things you would ask for from a twisted tale trying to push the envelope.  At the same time, the message is amazing, the sociological perspective clear, and you feel for these trapped animals when you begin to understand that’s simply what we all are.  Ivan Massague was in Pan’s Labyrinth, and you can definitely feel a dark Guillermo del Toro mood throughout, combined with the mesmerizing quality of something much cheaper, like Cube.  On Netflix now, this can’t be called a movie for the masses, but it is definitely one that the more discerning shouldn’t let pass by, especially while they have time on their hands.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 


  • -

Movie Review – Rocky V

Category : Movie Review

Director: John G. Avildsen

Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Sage Stallone, Tommy Morrison

Year: 1990

Rocky V is a travesty, a sham, and a mockery; it’s a traveshamockery!  It’s especially bad when you remember (or have just watched) how good the first was 14 years previous, and even how great the fourth one worked 5 years before.  This formula can work and has worked; it’s ridiculous that adding the original director back into the fold wasn’t enough to pick this story back up again, given how much we already are ready to love it.  Simply put, this Rocky is a stupid disaster from start to finish, and anyone involved in it should be ashamed.  Maybe it was a bad idea to cast your son as your son and some random real boxer as the emotional lead of the film.  Bleck.

When Rocky returns from his match with Ivan Drago, he finds that a lot has changed.  Sure, he’s an international sensation and a local hero, but Paulie has lost all the family’s money somehow, so it’s back to rags from riches.  Seriously; they move back to their old neighborhood, Rocky starts working at Mickey’s gym, Adrian starts back at the pet shop, Rock Jr. has to go to the rundown school, and everything looks to have turned back gray; nothing gold can say.  But there might be a silver lining; a kid named Tommy Gunn wants Rocky to be his manager, and just might have the talent to make it big.  Ignoring his own family, Rocky takes someone else under his wing, jeopardizing all he’s worked so hard to build over all these years.

Rocky, Rocky II, Rocky III, Rocky IV, and now Rocky V; there’s still Rocky Balboa, but that was done 16 years later; it might as well be considered in a group with Creed and Creed II.  So there you have the quintuplogy (?) and man oh man did they end it on a low note.  This latest episode in the Balboa saga is a steaming pile, nothing more than that, and it’s a shame it had to come to this.  The dialogue is ridiculous, Sly’s son is abysmal and a huge pivotal part, Tommy is even worse and he’s like the main character, and then there’s a forced angel-on-my-shoulder plot line that feels completely out of place and idiotic.  All the old ingredients are missing, as much as they tried to force feed what was supposed to taste similarly but never, ever could.  The fight at the end makes you feel less intelligent having watched it, and that’s not the way I wanted to close this chapter of my life, watching these five films.  Oh well, I had some fun along the way, it definitely wasn’t all bad, even the best artists have trouble tying a bow on even the best content.

My rating: ☆

 

 


  • -

Movie Review – Rocky IV

Category : Movie Review

Director: Sylvester Stallone

Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Brigitte Nielson, Dolph Lundgren

Year: 1985

It’s time to go full 80s with a movie about evil Russians, because we’re Americans and that’s what we want to do!  The idea of Americans vs Soviets was part of pop culture so strong that even Rocky fought the evil Reds, and honestly that’s the smartest thing Stallone did, injecting that sort that formula into the veins of his franchise.  Not condoning the hate, just stating the obvious; we loved to root for the good ol’ U.S. of A, we loved Rocky, the combination of the two was genius.  This is basically the end of an era, although multiple films would follow; this is where the series that started so well ends on a high note.

Although both are retired from boxing, Balboa & Creed remain fierce competitors and good friends.  When Russian amateur fighter Ivan Drago challenges the best America has to offer to fight him for the pride of their country, Apollo steps up to participate in the exhibition match, ready to defend his honor and put on a show.  But the match ends in tragedy, because Drago wasn’t there to perform, he was there to destroy.  In an unsanctioned bout, Rocky will fly to Russia to train for the fight of his life and to defeat the monster who took down his friend.  What happens in the ring might not just change two men, but two nations as well.

This is what I’m talking about.  It’s not Rocky, with that killer vibe, it’s not Rocky II, with the music & the heart & Mickey, it’s not Rocky III, with the cheese, it’s a Rocky movie for a whole new audience, and it knows what it’s doing, knows where its hooks are going in deep.  Death, revenge, back to the basics, passion, honor, the refusal to ever give up; these things are at the heart of the franchise, and they’re on display very broadly here.  Drago is such a great villain, as is his entire team, and we really want Balboa to take him down, it becomes very important to us very quickly.  Some iconic scenes, iconic lines, memorable feelings, and wonderful cinematic moments, Rocky IV is where it’s at and will always be a champion in its own league.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


  • -

Movie Review – Rocky III

Category : Movie Review

Director: Sylvester Stallone

Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Carl Weathers, Mr. T

Year: 1982

The third installment of the Rocky franchise might have added Eye of the Tiger, but it also added dialogue, and that’s not as great.  There’s a conversation on the beach between Rock and Adrian that’s so cringe-worthy it’s legendary, not to mention the running & jumping & hugging on the beach that’s equally weird; maybe the Balboas should have simply stayed in Philly.  That’s the thing; Rocky III does a few things differently and some of them work, but most are just silly, making it the weakest film in the franchise so far (and the worst overall until #5).  Still, it’s a stepping stone forward in the overall narrative and so necessary, we just can’t really get excited because of all the little things that go majorly wrong.

Rocky lost to Apollo (Rocky), beat Apollo (Rocky II), became the Champ, defended his title ten times, and is ready to call it quits.  He’s got money now, a family, a statue, everything is going well, so why is still being pulled toward the ring?  An exhibition match for charity with a wrestler gains the attention of a fighter named Clubber Lang, who wants a piece of a champ he sees as more of a chump, a fool to be pitied.  So Rocky comes out of retirement to defend his honor, only to lose to Lang, and to lose a dear friend in the process.  His spirit broken, Balboa must regain the eye of the tiger, that fighting instinct that drives the very best, and who better to teach him to harness that power than his old rival, Apollo Creed.

There are plenty of additions that make Rocky III fun, even while it gets exponentially goofier.  First, we get three fights, not just one; Thunderlips, Lang 1, and Lang 2.  That’s a big difference from the others, and it’s welcome to audiences wanting more of the sport, more of the competition, more of the heart behind the strategy.  Also, we get more Apollo, and Apollo as a friend too, which is cool, and this film is the one that really sets up Creed to come out in the future.  Rocky goes back to the basics, finds his inner champion, and that’s all we really want to see, so there you go.  But man are there some cheesy moments, especially since neither Hulk Hogan nor Mr. T can act.  The running scenes on the beach are iconic, but they’re also ridiculous, so bear with them as the music plays and try to have a good time anyway.  That’s good advice for the entire experience; enjoy despite the problems, and get ready for a return to greatness with Rocky IV.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


  • -

Movie Review – Rocky II

Category : Movie Review

Director: Sylvester Stallone

Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Carl Weathers

Year: 1979

Rocky is the king; Rocky II is the heir to the throne that can’t possibly live up to his dad.  That metaphor works even better when you consider that Rocky has a kid in the sequel, which is one of the strangest parts of the film, so there you go.  But Rocky II does a lot of little, important things right along the way to a predictable conclusion as well, so it can’t be completely discounted, it just can’t be held up quite as high as its pater familias.  Basically we’re back for another round, and that can’t be all bad, since the first trip circling the block was so enjoyable.  Rocky is a legendary character, we (almost) just can’t get enough, so wade in and enjoy some more of the Italian Stallion, while he’s still in his prime.

Balboa has lost to Creed, but winning wasn’t really the point; he stood toe to toe with the champ and never gave up or stayed down, forcing the judges to make the call, and proving to the world that an underdog can pack a real punch.  Well, Apollo doesn’t like winning that way, so he’s pushing for a rematch, though Rocky says he’s retired.  Adrian doesn’t want him to fight again, and there’s a baby on the way, so it’s a no-go.  Mickey wants to train Rock anyway, the comeback put on hold when Adrian has complications with the baby.  But when everything turns out OK, Rocky turns his attention to Creed, and begins planning his strategy, a bout that will make him a legend.

Rocky II makes some key improvements over Rocky I, which is important, because a lot of the rest of it is no good.  I mean, this time Stallone wanted to direct, which obviously isn’t his strong suit.  Adrian’s coma, the dialogue, a runtime that couldn’t be completely filled; there were mistakes made, and there was no way this one was gonna live up to the first, especially ditching the use of that laid back 70s flick vibe that worked so well before.  But that’s not to say that Stallone didn’t know what audiences wanted.  More Mickey, more music, a longer, more detailed fight at the end; audiences were happy with the treats they were thrown.  It was almost enough to make us forgive the flaws (almost), and more than enough to make us enjoy Rocky and his success story one more time around.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


  • -

Movie Review – Rocky

Category : Movie Review

Director: John G. Avildsen

Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Carl Weathers

Year: 1976

Rocky is the perfect storm of mediocre talent peaking at the right/same moment and giving us something magical that could never be reproduced.  They tried, like five more times, but none of the other films in the franchise were ever quite as good as the original; Rocky remains champion.  The fact that Sylvester Stallone wrote the screenplay, wrote himself a part, and somehow got it all to work (it was nominated for 10 Oscars) will never not be anything short of a miracle, but then again that’s the whole point; sometimes miracles happen.  This film is simply that specific concept come to life, a larger-than-life story that shouldn’t win but does, a 70s gem that, luckily for us, shone very brightly for one brief moment in time, but etched itself on our minds so sharply that we’ll never forget.

Rocky Balboa is a bum of a boxer who never made it big whose side job is breaking people’s thumbs for a local Philly bookie.  That’s not Rocky though, he’s sweet, he’s kind, he may not be the brightest crayon in the box but he’s got a heart of gold.  He loves his turtles, his neighborhood, working out at Mickey’s gym, and the shy girl at the corner pet store, the mousy little Adrian.  But his chance to make a name for himself isn’t as far off as he imagines, because lighting is about to strike.  The Champion of the World, Apollo Creed, wants an unknown for his next opponent, a chance to gain a massive audience to watch a David & Goliath story, and he picks Rocky, the so-called Italian Stallion.  They seem to be in different classes as competitors, but Balboa has a heart that won’t quit, a tenacious southpaw style that’s hard to beat, and an entire city behind him willing him to win.

It’s gold, that’s all I can say.  Well no, that’s not true, I’m gonna say more, but that’s really what it boils down to; Rocky is gold.  It’s a sports movie with that feel-good, underdog mentality like so many others we’ve seen, but perhaps never done so well as this; Rocky is the leader of the pack.  We root for him like we’ve never rooted for anyone before, and we’re with him every step of the way, through his self doubts and his greatest achievements.  The music is spectacular, obviously, and sweeps us along, pulling all the right strings at all the right moments.  But, surprisingly, the writing is very good, done in a wonderfully simple 70s style that’s among my personal favorites, I just love the unaffected flow of 70s movies with their honest expressions and bare bones.  Rocky isn’t complicated, his mission is focused, his heart is in the right place, we fall in love with him, and so also with the film, partly because it’s so believable and uncluttered.  All the pieces combine around the actors, who all give shockingly great performances: Stallone, Shire, Weathers, Burt Young as Paulie, Burgess Meredith as Mickey.  It’s just good timing, amazing timing, perfect timing, and we don’t see films like this very often where all the elements combine at the right moment in the right way; Rocky is special.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


  • -

Movie Review – Greed

Category : Movie Review

Director: Michael Winterbottom

Starring: Steve Coogan, David Mitchell, Isla Fisher

Year: 2019

Michael Winterbottom likes to work with Steve Coogan, which is great, but unfortunately Greed is more The Look of Love than The Trip franchise, except also much, much worse.  Winterbottom isn’t afraid to experiment, which is great, but sometimes those experiments blow up in his face, and that’s exactly what we have here, a good idea in theory that simply explodes in vomitous style all over everyone involved.  It’s lucky that this movie wasn’t released very widely or seen by almost anyone, because it is bad enough to mar otherwise positive career paths and give audiences a bad taste in their collective mouths that could last into next season or beyond.  Simply put, Greed is boring, banal, and in bad taste, an overall failure from every angle that will make any lover of film cautious the next time they go to snuggle up.

It’s Sir Richard “Greedy” McCreadie’s 60th birthday, and that can only mean one thing; moronic extravagance.  The bazillionaire is known for his wild romps, where no expense is spared, and you never know which celebrity you’ll find around any given corner, but his success didn’t start out easy, he had to fight for every dollar her earned, which just fueled his desire to win no matter what, fleece whoever he can, and cash in whatever chips he has in the game before anyone can notice that there’s a crooked asshole in their midst.  Richard started his empire by buying cheap clothes, selling them for an amazing amount more than they are worth, and paying his workers nothing; now he’s the richest man in Britain, go figure.  But these evil ways will catch up with him someday; divorce, screwed up children, no friends, tax investigations, public humiliation.  Money can’t buy happiness, Sir Greedy; you’d think 60 years would be long enough to figure that out.

So I’ve enjoyed Winterbottom before, like I said he takes risks and that’s great, but my god did Greed turn into a swing & a miss fast enough to make your head spin.  Steve Coogan is the man, he’s great, but there was nothing he could do to carry this dead dog to the finish line, all he could come up with was to be as over the top as possible and hope it worked out in the end.  It did not, that’s for sure, but hey, at least they tried.  That’s the positive way to look at it; the negative way is to call this film what it obviously is; one of the worst of the entire year and one that’s bad enough to hold that position.  There were eight thousand boring storylines all wrapped up in one bad experience, and I just wished each of them would end as they were happening: the garment district, sweat shops, tax evasion, ego trips, divorces, patricide, reality TV, celebrity status, Syrian refugees.  It was all way too much, no focus was given to any one thing, and the entire movie felt like it was puked out instead of captured on film.  It was sleepy, stupid, recycled, and not funny in the least; don’t be fooled by the word ‘satire’.  David Mitchell I liked quite a bit, but I was a fan of That Mitchell and Webb Look, so that was a given, and even he couldn’t work hard enough to make anything happening around him a success.  This wasn’t really an exposé on the super-rich, it was a clunky attempt to make 100 statements at the same time, and so they all failed miserably while almost the entire cast embarrassed themselves.  Stay far, far away from this one, which shouldn’t be hard, and try to forget these talented people made something this awful.

My rating: ☆ ☆

 


  • -

Movie Review – History of the World: Part I

Category : Movie Review

Director: Mel Brooks

Starring: Mel Brooks, Gregory Hines, Madeline Kahn

Year: 1981

We’ve been waiting a long time for Part II, Mel; maybe after the quarantine you can get on it.  I mean, Jews In Space?  Hitler On Ice?  What’s not to be excited about, even after 40 years?  I kid, and it’s just another gag, but still, that would be fun, and maybe when I get to be a famous filmmaker I’ll make the sequel in honor of Brooks, who has had such an interesting career.  He really didn’t direct too many movies, 11 to be exact, and they definitely aren’t all home runs, especially his later films.  But his early work is spot on, as is History of the World, a middle work and my personal favorite of his collection.  It’s bright, it’s funny, it’s memorable, and it’s 100% Mel, a real success in the land of classic comedies.

Mel Brooks takes us on a journey through time, from early caveman to the potential of galactic Stars of David.  We see everything from the invention of art to the Spanish Inquisition from his unique perspective, and by unique I mean ridiculous.  In Ancient Rome, we meet Comicus, the stand-up philosopher.  He’s got a gig at Caesar’s Palace coming up and really can’t blow it, because when you die at the Palace you really die at the Palace.  Later, during the French Revolution, Jacques the poor bucket boy finds himself in a Prince and Pauper situation, and so also finds himself in hot water when the peasant’s revolt.  History is a tricky, tricky river to ply, but Mel Brooks knows how to help us find the funny side of even the darkest days.

For my money, this is the best it gets from the catalog.  Spaceballs is classic, Men in Tights is fun, Producers is good, Young Frankenstein is great, but I think History of the World is my favorite, a nice, well-rounded feature that has just a little more to say.  It’s stupid, obviously, but with context, just a little touch of real life that makes it somehow believable, maybe because history is already stranger than fiction; we can almost imagine Mel’s escapes, they can’t be that much weirder than what really happened.  Brooks is great, the Rome scenes are the best, with Hines, Kahn, and Dom DeLuise stealing the spotlight.  The France scenes are fun too, and there are a few timeline tidbits thrown in for good measure, like the Inquisition, the Stone Age, Moses.  It all comes together nicely, it’s good to see Brooks lead, there’s a bit of raunchy sex appeal thrown in for good measure, and it’s just an entertaining romp from start to finish; let’s end on a high note ….”AAAAAAAAA!!!”

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


  • -

Movie Review – Robin Hood: Men in Tights

Category : Movie Review

Director: Mel Brooks

Starring: Cary Elwes, Amy Yasbeck, Richard Lewis

Year: 1993

Men in Tights was one of Mel Brooks’ last movies and you can tell; the gag was up.  It’s shocking that it lasted so long, this running Jew joke that was Brooks’ style, this physical comedy romp genre that made fun of everyone and so was fun for everyone.  It lasted through the the 60s, 70s, & 80s, eight films before the 90s, with not every one a home run but most working as well as they were designed to.  The last decade of Mel’s career things started to slump, we just didn’t find the goofs as amusing anymore, and Robin Hood is a good example.  I liked it when I was 16 and watching with my friends who could quote every line like Holy Grail, but as an adult the same appeal is missing, or at least very, very different.

Robin of Locksley has returned to England after being a prisoner during the Crusades, and he finds his homeland changed.  King Richard is busy with war, so his brother John has taken the throne, and is ruling unwisely.  The people of Rottingham are being bullied for every penny they earn by the evil Sheriff and his men, which is breeding the seeds of rebellion.  Robin will become their leader, but first he must recruit his merry men: a black man named Ahchoo, a blind man named Blinkin, a big man named Little John, and a clever man named Will Scarlet O’Hara.  Together, along with the feisty villagers, they will rid the countryside of evil, and Robin may win the hand of the fair Maid Marian along the way, the greatest treasure in all the land.

It’s the standard Robin Hood plot for much of the way, with some standard Robin Hood fight scenes as well as homage to the older versions, but also still with Mel Brooks’ patented raunchy comedy and juvenile jokes.  They still make me laugh, I can admit that, these ridiculous dudes with their ridiculous jokes, it’s still entertaining if you grew up knowing every single line.  Blinkin, Ahchoo, the Italians from Jersey, the silly songs, the stupid gags; it’s classic Brooks, it’s not rocket science, but it’s also timeless in a very comforting way.  And the cast is cool: Elwes, Yasbeck, Lewis, Roger Rees, Dave Chappelle, Tracey Ullman, Isaac Hayes, Patrick Stewart, Dick Van Patten (Hey Abbot!), Dom DeLuise (my personal favorite part).  But, I mean, it’s all also kinda dumb.  People watching it for the first time would think the rest of us had gone crazy, it makes no sense, and it really isn’t all that comical if you watch too closely.  I think Brooks was losing a little steam, which is understandable, and he wasn’t a major player in the film himself except for a cameo, which hurt too, since Elwes is a terrible actor.  Overall, this is a classic that should remain so, but perhaps Lesser Brooks, and also not something that anyone new to his style should be experimenting with.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


  • -

Movie Review – Over the Top

Category : Movie Review

Director: Menahem Golan

Starring: Sylvester Stallone, David Mendenhall, Robert Loggia

Year: 1987

Watch the openings credits, listen to the cheesy 80s theme song, and tell me Over the Top isn’t the best movie ever made, I dare you.  By ‘best’ I mean so bad that it comes full circle and becomes amazing against all logic, but same difference; either way this ridiculous gem is something that you need to see, if just to say that you watched Sly Stallone pretend to be a professional truck driver/arm wrestler once in your life.  Seriously, that’s the plot, and it only gets worse from there, that’s only the base; the devil is in the details.  But watch on a lonely night, allow yourself to laugh, and you’ll come away shaking your head in what, hopefully, will be a fun way.

Trucker Lincoln Hawk is also an arm wrestler and a dad, in that order.  He abandoned his wife & son years ago, but has regretted it every day since, as he drives American highways looking to make a quick buck with a random muscle match in a roadhouse honky tonk.  When his son Michael finishes a year at military academy, Hawk is there to pick him up and drive him to see his dying mother, against Mike’s grandfather’s wishes.  He’s a rich and powerful man, doesn’t want his grandson having anything to do with a scoundrel like Lincoln, and will stop at nothing to keep them apart.  But father & son have some bonding to do and an international arm wrestling competition in Vegas to win, no matter the odds.

It’s as bad as it sound.  Sly is this quiet tough guy who just loves his rig and his rassling, Michael is this spoiled kid who has a lot to learn, and of course since it’s an 80s movie there’s an angry rich white man trying to mess everything up.  My god, so terrible, and yet so perfectly lovely as well.  The opening song is so cheesy, so stupid, that you can’t help but love it, and it just goes up/downhill from there.  Lessons about life, bonding, escapes, giant bruisers named Bull; magic.  And at the heart of it all, there’s Lincoln Hawk, who’s name, no joke, switches back & forth to Hawks with an S for no reason over & over again throughout the movie; it’s maddening, and it’s just another sign of how little work went into making this movie a real film.  Watch solely for entertainment; it’s not worth anything else but shock value and guffaws, but that’s not nothing.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆