Thor Ragnarok is the third Thor solo outing, the subtitle being Viking mythology’s word for the apocalypse. In this entry Hela, the Goddess of death, has returned from banishment to conquer Asgard, with sites on the rest of the universe.

Ragnarok’s basic plot is pretty simple, but the strength of the movie is it’s humor and offbeat feel. Even the titular character himself cracks jokes adding to a vibe of almost parodying the often serious tone of the fantasy genre. It also continues the trilogy’s theme of family, exploring the relationships between Thor, his half brother Loki, and their father Odin.

At this point in the Marvel Cinematic Universe it certainly helps to be caught up on most of the movies. The last Thor ended with Loki impersonating Odin and therefore being the counterfeit ruler of Asgard. Ragnarok does attempt to bring the audience up to speed with Thor’s opening monologue (as opposed to Odin’s like the first two films), as well as a hilarious play which Loki/false Odin has commissioned, showing Asgardians a glorified version of his death from the last movie. It’s amusing that no one seemed to notice Odin acting completely different. Thor, who’d been away from Asgard for a time, immediately realizes what’s up.

A large chunk of the narrative involves Thor and Loki getting accidentally sent to the world of Sakaar, where Thor is captured, his hair cut, and forced to fight in a gladiatorial arena. It’s too bad the Hulk’s inclusion was advertised, because if you can watch this movie and pretend not to know Hulk is in it, the identity of the gladiatorial champion is built up quite nicely.

Sakaar and its gladiator games are run by actor Jeff Goldblum, who seems to channel an amped up version of himself to play the character the Grandmaster. On Sakaar, Loki has warmed himself up to the Grandmaster, while Thor rots in the gladiator pits. One complaint I had is it was a lot to believe that the Grandmaster never caught on that Loki and Thor know each other, especially after the two brothers are seen talking right in front of him.

Visually, Sakaar and its inhabitants look great, and are a clear homage to legendary comic artist Jack Kirby. There’s also the usual Easter eggs to various things from comics, like when Thor was once a frog. Another Avenger makes a brief appearance, and there is one scene with Dr. Strange that is humorous but felt tacked on. The Infinity Gauntlet’s brief appearance in the first Thor movie is also explained in a way that’s pretty funny.

Aside from the humor what I liked best about this movie is that, more than any other MCU movie to date, it has real consequences to it. Things on the Thor end of this universe are changed unequivocally. Supporting characters have met permanent deaths, Thor himself has gone through a significant transformation, and the status quo for these characters has changed for good and will not be going back.

 

 

 

 

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Leatherface is a prequel to the 1974 classic horror film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and focuses on the origin story of the franchise’s chainsaw wielding lead character. For whatever reason, Leatherface was given only a limited theatrical release and was then sent straight to Video On Demand services.

The majority of this film takes place in 1965, the premise being that years prior local law enforcement took the Sawyer children into protective custody. Now, nearing adulthood, they have spent several years in an insane asylum. One night there is a riot, and four inmates escape along with a kidnapped nurse.

Surprisingly this entry takes the feel of a horror road trip movie, akin to The Devil’s Rejects or Natural Born Killers, with some scenes reminding me of Hannibal and the more recent Revenant. The majority of this prequel focuses on the inmates being on the run from the police, one of which is shown to be pretty crazy in his own right. I suppose this is an attempt to make Leatherface more sympathetic.

There’s also the issue of which of these inmates turns out to be Leatherface, which adds a hint of mystery to it. However, maybe because of this, the cannibalistic nature of the Sawyer family is downplayed until the end, and once Leatherface’s identity is revealed, it was unclear to me what ever made him think to make his first skin mask.

Clarice, one of the escapees, was to me the most intriguing character of the film. Given she was a supporting character, I suppose that counts as a weakness. The scene taking place in a diner was the highlight of the film. If you pay attention to character names, you’ll catch few nods to the first second, and previous chainsaw films. Until the end there is limited onscreen violence, but if you recall the same was the case for the original. It does have a modern polished look to it, and it could have used more of the grit of the first movie.

Leatherface is not a great movie, but it is not terrible either. It is better its previous entry Texas Chainsaw 3D from a few years ago. If you’re a fan of the series I would recommend it.

Annabelle Creation is a prequel to the Conjuring spinoff featuring the evil creepy doll. This fourth entry in the Conjuring shared movie universe shows the making of the actual doll and how it came to be a supernatural object.

Mostly set in the 50s, Annabelle Creation focuses on an older couple, Samuel and Esther Mullins, who have opened there home to a Sister Charlotte and several orphan girls. It was unclear to me what happened to their orphanage or why they had no where else to go, but that’s the story.  We know from the opening scene, and the orphans soon learn, that 12 years prior the Mullins tragically lost their daughter Annabelle. Samuel interacts with the children and Sister Charlotte, but Esther rests in her room, and has been bed ridden for some time, but not for the reason you may think. When she is seen she wears a porcelain mask over half of her face, reminiscent of Phantom of the Opera.

Soon the doll turns up and uncanny events ensue. While nothing is absolutely jump out of your seat scary, there is a consistent sense of dread throughout the film. On the writing side it has connection to all three preceding movies set in this world, including an unexpected tie to the previous Annabelle film.

Annabelle Creation is an improvement over its predecessor, and has expanded the world of the Conjuring films. In this age of shared cinematic universes, the Conjuring is looking to be right behind Marvel as one of the top shared movie worlds we have.

The Mummy is Universal’s quasi remake of their own 1932 Boris Karloff film. It is the first entry in what they call the Dark Universe, a planned series of interconnected monster films, set to include Frankenstein, Dracula, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Mummy in fact opens with a new Dark Universe logo.

The plot is similar to the original. An Egyptian tomb is (accidentally) found, and the titular Mummy awakes and is on a quest to bring back her ancient lover. In the original the Mummy was male but had a mostly similar scheme.

There’s a little more to the plot than that, but basically Tom Cruise is the host for the Mummy’s lover, and the film has him being chased around by the Mummy in various action scenes.

While it attempts to retain its horror roots, the tone of this movie goes all over the place. Tom Cruise’s intro is an action comedy scene. More humor follows, including scenes where a dead friend of his that only he can see keeps pestering him. I doubt anyone came to the Mummy for laughs.

More of a sense of mystery is lost as we get the Mummy’s backstory almost right away via narration by Russel Crowe. It would have worked better for the audience to learn said backstory along with the main character.

Russel Crowe is the link to the wider Dark Universe that this film tries to prepare us for. He is the shady leader of a secret organization that fights monsters throughout the world. Basically it’s to the Dark Universe what SHIELD is to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with Crowe filling in as this world’s Nick Fury. At headquarters of said secret organization we get our Easter Eggs/nods to other monsters. We see skulls with vampire teeth, an encased hand from the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and many other items in the background. Also, I don’t know if this was meant as a joke or not, but a book that appeared in Brandon Fraser’s 1999 Mummy film is shown.

Also regarding Crowe, they tease it at first, but after not very long he is revealed to be Dr. Jekyll, who of course has the sinister alter ego of Mr. Hyde, which does play a minor point in the plot.

We’re in an interesting time in Hollywood now, as studios are trying to copy the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Warner Brothers has finally established a DC Universe while also doing the Monsterverse with King Kong and Godzilla. Hasbro is also working on a shared film universe with various toy properties they have. It’s a wonder why Marvel thought of this first. This Dark Universe in particular could have been done years ago. They did in fact, cross over their monsters in the 1940s, with Frankenstein meets the Wolfman, House of Frankenstein, and House of Dracula. However those movies were made after ten plus years of making separate monster movies, that whole world was not planned from the ground up.

It is notable that the Dark Universe takes place in the present, where many of the original Universal Monster movies took place in the past. However, due to the aforementioned Easter Eggs, it is evident that monstrous events have taken place already in this world. Should they choose to do so, some of the other upcoming Dark Universe pictures, such as Creature, could take place before Mummy. The timeline could be spread out a bit.

I’m still curious to see other Dark Universe films, but they need to get really good really fast if this universe is to be sustained.

Kong: Skull Island is the second entry in what is called the Monsterverse, which began with 2014’s Godzilla and will continue into at least two more films. Skull Island is a period piece set in the 1970s. Just as the Vietnam War ended, an American military unit, led by Samuel L Jackson, is assigned to escort a group of scientists to an island that was just discovered via satellite. Skull island is surrounded by a perpetual storm, which explains why the outside world hadn’t found it already.

Kong: Skull Island breaks the basic rule (which I believe the original Kong might have established) of not showing the monster right away. As soon as the expedition gets to Skull Island they encounter Kong. They at least show Kong’s hands first, but the big reveal comes pretty fast. In the original King Kong, the monster doesn’t show up for quite a while. We get time to build up the mystery and tension, as the audience obviously knows there are monsters to be encountered before the film characters do. Kong Skull Island offers none of this.

Not only that, but it spoils what should be a surprise in the plot. The opening scene is actually in 1945. During World War II an American and Japanese pilot have shot each other down and crashed on Skull Island. They’re fighting to the death when Kong arrives. So later in the second act when the Vietnam vets discover an American who’s been living on the island for the past 28 years, it’s not a surprise at all. Granted this plot point was revealed in the trailer too, but still, it should be something of a shock. Even worse, the WWII vet, played by John C. Reilly, is played for laughs. As I’m writing this I think back to the original Predator, I can honestly remember feeling a sense of dread as the soldiers trekked through the jungle, being picked off one by one by the predator. Even though it was Arnold Schwarzenegger, I was still thinking “Arnold, just forget about it, just get on the chopper and go home!” Here on Skull Island, we have another group of soldiers trekking through the jungle, and instead of one killer alien, there’s a whole bunch of big giant monsters running around, and most of the time it’s not even remotely scary.

Further removing itself from the proper tone is the soundtrack, which reminding us that it’s set in the 1970s by having hits of that era playing. While it was great music, and, just as in Suicide Squad, I was perfectly happy to hear Black Sabbath’s Paranoid, cool songs alone don’t save a movie.

One piece of advice writers are given is to start the story as late as possible. It would have worked to start the film with the military unit getting assigned to the island, and the audience would slowly find out what’s going on as the characters do. There’s that scene in the trailer where Samuel L. Jackson points his gun at John Goodman and says something to the effect of “You better tell me what’s going on right now.” By that point in the movie the audience already knows everything Goodman tells him. After the un-needed WWII flashback we get a scene in Washington introducing John Goodman as an agent of Monarch, which is the secret government group that looks for giant monsters. Monarch appeared in the previous Godzilla film, and presumably will be the Monsterverse equivalent to Marvel’s SHIELD. At this point Monarch is considered a joke by most, but Goodman manages to finagle this mission. He does provide some interesting personal backstory to how Monarch came to be, but, in my opinion, this whole scene in Washington could have been cut, and the audience could have learned all of Goodman’s secrets at the same time as Samuel L. Jackson.

There are lots of other giant monsters to see on the island. We don’t get to see dinosaurs, (and I just realized, why not!!!) but there is a giant spider. Giant ants are hinted at but never shown. Kong’s primary antagonists are called Skull Crushers, and they may vaguely remind audiences of something across from Godzilla and Cloverfield.

Interestingly enough, Kong appears to have an ambiguous ending, leaving the audience to wonder if anyone escaped the island or not. However, as the credits roll we learn what happened to the WWII vet. There is the question of, given this is a period piece, how the general public never learned of Skull Island. Late in the movie the characters simply state they’ll never tell anyone, which is a bit to believe.

This issue is partly hinted at in the post-credit scene. Yes by the way there is a post credit scene, which sets up the monster mayhem to come. King Kong vs Godzilla is slated for 2020. Monster fans often speculate on how they will fight when Kong is significantly smaller than Godzilla. Kong Skull Island tells us that Kong is just a baby, so presumably he’ll have grown in the last 40 plus years.

There is some decent cinematography, with imagery that reminds audiences not just of old monster movies, but of Vietnam movies like Apocalypse now etc. The basic story is interesting, and provides some good old fashion monster fun, but overall was disappointing. It’s remarkable that over eighty years later the original King Kong is still the best Kong film.

Lego Batman is a spinoff from the 2014 Lego movie (which featured Batman), and has a surprising level of introspection into the Batman character.

It’s a very meta film, with Batman’s voice talking over the opening credits, remarking how cool movies start in black with ominous music, going on to comment on the Warner Brother’s and DC logos. The opening scene offers more self-awareness as its remarked that a plane with a ton of explosives is flying over a city (Gotham) with an extremely high crime rate. Naturally the Joker hijacks the plane, but the pilot is not scared of the Joker at all, as he remarks all the times Batman has stopped him (actually referencing the Dark Knight film as well as Tim Burton’s first Batman film). When asked what to do, Commissioner Gordon says out loud that they’ll do the only thing they ever do, which is turn on the Bat-signal. Naturally Batman saves the day. Joker gets away, but Batman is greeted with his usual hero’s welcome. Batman soon returns to his Bat-cave, as a journalists comments that Batman will probably go home and have a big party with all his friends.

This leads to some surprisingly quiet and mundane moments. Batman goes home to his mansion, puts some lobster in the microwave, and eats by himself. Watching the “You complete me” scene from Jerry McGuire he cracks up laughing, he finds it hilarious. His butler Alfred eventually shows up, and we immediately get the surrogate father/son relationship between the two. Batman acts like a spoiled child, while Alfred tells him that he needs friends.

Lego Batman’s central theme is Batman learning that he needs other people, and also explores what Batman fears the most, along with the concept of a sidekick, his relationship with the law, and Batman’s relationship with the Joker. In fact, it is a breakthrough in that relationship that leads to the resolution at the film’s climax.

Without giving major spoilers, early on in the movie, Joker outsmarts Batman by actually surrendering. Joker knows being locked up at Arkham won’t be enough for Batman, and this knowledge moves the plot. Along the way Joker teams up with villains from various media, including Lord Voldemort from Harry Potter, King Kong, the Kraken, Dracula, Sauron from Lord of the Rings, the Gremlins, and the Daleks from Dr. Who, which are referred to as British robots. I wonder if they weren’t allowed to use the name Daleks or something.

Batman villains aren’t lacking however, we get the traditional rogues gallery of Catwoman, the Riddler, etc, but also a bunch of obscure ones. The Joker breaks the fourth wall telling us that all these characters, no matter how ridiculous (Condiment Man) are real characters, and actually encourages us to Google them.

Lego Batman is the kind of movie you’ll want to get on DVD and pause a million times to get all the Easter eggs. I doubt any movie ever had more Easter eggs than this. I believe there are references to every live action Batman appearance (including the 1940’s serials), as well as nods to the animated series of the 90’s and Batman Beyond, and nods to various comic books like The Dark Knight Returns. There’s a ton of references to the Batman Adam West TV show of the 1960’s. Actual villains from the show like King Tut and Egg Head appear, there’s more than one reference to the Bat-Shark Repellent, and there’s even actual footage of the series shown.

Given the plot, I was hoping Batman would team up with heroes from other media. This didn’t happen, but there is an appearance by Superman and the Justice League. In their segment we get both musical and visual nods to the first two Christopher Reeve Superman movies, and we see a bunch of obscure characters from the old Super Friends cartoon.

Personally, one of my big nerd fantasies is a story/a world with characters from  various media, comics, TV, film, video games, etc. all together. The Lego film series may be the closest I come to seeing this. It’s nice to have various references to things in film, but things like that don’t matter unless the movie is good. Given it’s a kids movie, Lego Batman is infinitely better than it needed to be. It is a very poignant examination of the Batman character and the tropes that surround it. Honestly, Lego Batman may be the best Batman movie there is.

 

 

 

 

 

Where do I even begin to talk about Rocky? Its wide release was December 3rd, 1976, 20 days before I was born. Written by the then little known Sylvester Stallone, originally the studio wanted a bigger star for the title role, but Stallone wrote it for himself. The story of Stallone holding out against big money offers to have someone else play the lead has been exaggerated a bit, but it was still a big chance to cast an unknown. At the time no one could have ever guessed this low budget movie with a no name actor would become a true global phenomenon. Rocky went on to win Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director (John Avildsen) and Best Editing. Talia Shire, Burt Young, and Burgess Meredith also received nominations.

Basically Rocky is a street version of Cinderella. Boxing champion Apollo Creed is set to have a bout on January 1st, 1976, which was Bicentennial Day, the 200th anniversary of America. The fight is to be in Philadelphia, where the American Constitution was signed. Creed’s opponent pulls out because of an injury, and seemingly no other contenders are available. Creed comes up with the idea of, in the spirit of America and the Bi-centennial, giving a local underdog a shot at the title. He picks Rocky Balboa out of a book because Balboa gave himself the nickname the Italian Stallion. Creed liked the name, musing that America was discovered by the Italian Columbus. You could also read into this that to succeed in America you need a gimmick, but it also fit into the idea of the country. 1976 was not only the bi-centennial, but also the year a peanut farmer from Georgia became the President of the United States. It fit this idea of the spirit of America.

Rocky is one of the few movies where the inciting incident doesn’t happen until an hour into the film (The only other one I can think of is 2010’s Book of Eli). Its first hour is spent on character development and world building. The first image we see in this film is Jesus Christ. Stallone has said maybe it’s a little heavy handed, but it’s suggesting Rocky is the next one to be saved, to go on this journey. The opening scene is our main character fighting in a small time boxing club called Resurrection Athletic Club (with Jesus painted on the wall). He wins the fight, but in a way it doesn’t matter. He’s still beat up, get’s about $40, after which he asks “When can I fight again?” After this he walks home over which we see the opening credits.

While Rocky is known for being a positive and inspirational film, the world of Rocky is very dark and bleak, arguably taking place in the same world of 1970s urban decay as more pessimistic films of the era like Death Wish or 1976‘s Taxi Driver. The difference is Rocky himself is not a dark character, he’s a genuinely good person, almost like a Captain America or even a Superman, but he’s birthed in a dark environment. In his apartment we see brass knuckles and a machete. While Rocky is rated PG, it is evident that the character obviously has R rated violence in his life.

Looking at Stallone’s later work and then looking at Rocky, it almost seems like a totally different actor. When filming this movie, for all intents and purposes, Stallone’s life was on the line, and it shows. We see this young hungry actor taking his shot and it paid off. For a brief moment he was taken seriously as an actor, some even called him the next Marlon Brando. Stallone was nominated for best original screenplay and best actor. He wouldn’t be nominated for acting again until Creed, making him only one of 6 people to be nominated for the same role twice. Also noteworthy is in 1976 the only people ever nominated for both acting and writing in the same film were Charlie Chaplin and Orson Wells.

Back to the movie, next we see the constant rejection and disrespect Rocky faces throughout his day. For example, it is evident no one he knows saw his fight last night. He goes to a pet store trying to impress Adrian, the pet store clerk, but is rejected. We should say a word about this character. Actress Talia Shire, who was also in the Godfather series, is a very attractive woman. It was a really gutsy move for her to play the role of an ugly duckling. It’s a very unglamorous part, and she makes it work. If Rocky were made today Adrian would be all hot, they’d give her glasses for the sexy nerd look, but they wouldn’t dare make it unglamorous. In this movie the character works, we see both Rocky and Adrian blossom from having love in their lives. Perhaps one of the weaknesses of the later sequels is her character doesn’t have much going on. It’s actually one of the things the spinoff Creed out does Rocky in, the love interest in Creed is a more interesting character. Still, Talia Shire provided some of the only real acting as the series entered later installments.

Another rejection is faced at the local boxing gym, where he’s been kicked out of his own locker so another up and coming fighter can have it. This is our introduction to Mickey, the gruff old manager and gym owner, played by the late great Burgess Meredith. Sometimes you can tell a lot about a character by their first line. “Shut up!” is the first thing Mickey says in the movie. He has no respect for Balboa, and plays the part of a pseudo father who constantly disapproves of his son. He dismisses Rocky’s win against Spider Ricco and suggests he retire.

On the 25th anniversary DVD Stallone explained how Mickey represented someone that never lived up to their potential. In the year I turned 25, I left the first job I had coming out of college, which was a teaching position in the midwest. One phrase people often say to young people is “You’ve got your whole life ahead of you.” You never really grasp what this means until your older. As soon as I left that job my life took a turn for the worse, and then understanding what Mickey represented unfortunately clicked with me. Being too young to understand I had my whole life ahead of me, I was afraid of turning into Mickey, this bitter old man whose dreams never came true.

Eventually Rocky whoo’s Adrian over, and it’s no coincidence that the very next day he’s offered a shot with Apollo. Robert Mckee in Story writes about how if this were the opening scene, the audience would not have understood Rocky’s reaction. Rocky knows he’s a “ham and egger.” So when he’s offered the fight at the 60 minute mark he actually says no. The promoter figures this will get him fired, and has to con Rocky by appealing to his patriotism. This was a nuance I didn’t understand as a kid.

This leads to my favorite scene. Mickey comes to Rocky’s apartment and asks to be his manager. He tries to con him like a salesmen, smiling as he walks in the door, telling Rocky his dump is a nice place. He then goes on to tell stories of his brutal boxing days which are so captivating. Rocky knows he’s being worked over but doesn’t have it in him to just kick Mickey out. Eventually he does leave, and it is only then that Rocky just goes off on this really powerful monologue. Stallone explained there had to be some point where Rocky just let it all out. People think he‘s a “happy go lucky dumbell but he has a lot of rage in there, a lot of hurt, a lot of angst.” He calls out Mick for finally paying him some attention. My favorite line is “Talking about your prime. What about my prime Mick! Least you had a prime! I didn’t have no prime I didn’t have nothing.” Maybe this doesn’t make sense, but in some twisted way I felt like I could relate to it when I was younger. In our culture they sell the idea that your teenage years and your twenties is supposed to be the best time of your life. As I’d mentioned, at 25 things were getting rough for me, and my teenage years weren’t that great. So somehow I could relate to this “what about my prime, what about my good times” etc. Either way, it’s a great scene, great dialogue and two great performances. It may be Stallone’s shining moment as an actor.

Soon we get to the famous training montage where he runs up the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum. I’d been there as a kid, but a few years back I went back and hung out for an hour. It really is a genuine phenomenon. All day people of all ages and all walks of life run up those steps and raise their arms in the air.

rockysteps     rocky

Rocky is nearly a perfect movie. It’s small budget gives it a certain charm, the ice rink scene with Rocky and Adrian that couldn’t afford extras, Rocky’s baggy robe, the poster with the wrong color shorts. This lack of budget does catch up with it at the end, as they didn’t have enough money for lots of extras for the big fight. The result is outside the ring the arena is really dark to hide the fact that it’s half empty. Early on they try to cover this with stock footage of a crowd but it looks really out of place.

Boxing purists probably cringe at most of these movies due to Rocky’s lack of actual boxing skill. The announcer says ‭“‬In fact it‭ ‬just looks like Rocky is‭ ‬blocking the blows with his face.‭” By Rocky III it was a bit excessive, as he definitely should have picked up some skills by then. With t‬his first movie it makes more sense, as that’s the whole point, that this guy has no skill but has this incredible determination to take everything the champ can dish out. Watch this scene.

Pure determination. I love at 1:45 where Apollo looks down and you hear the announcer saying “Apollo can’t believe it!” When Rocky gets back to his feet and says “Come on” while motioning with his hands, that’s the whole movie right there, this is life.

It wasn’t until ten years ago I realized the fight isn’t the most important scene of the movie. The 30th anniversary Rocky DVD has audio commentary by Stallone (the 25th had a extended video commentary with him). On it he describes the scene just after the famous training montage. Rocky goes to the Spectrum, and sees this arena that is so much grander than the dingy clubs he’s used to fighting in. He goes home and tells Adrian that he knows he can’t really win. Early on it’s established that no one ever lasted 15 rounds against Creed, which is what they call going the distance. Rocky says “it really don’t matter if I lose this fight. It really don’t matter if this guy opens my head either, cause all I wanna do is go the distance. Nobody’s ever gone the distance with Creed, and if I can go that distance, see and that bell rings and I’m still standing. I’m gonna know for the first time in my life see, that I weren’t just another bum from the neighborhood.”

On the commentary track Stallone says this scene is “one of the benchmarks of my life.” They had one take to do it, and “if lines had been fumbled or we had camera problems, it would have been been all over.” Stallone explains “without this scene, I don’t think the movie would have accomplished nearly what it set out to, even half of what it set out to accomplish, which is to show that a man given an opportunity, or a woman given an opportunity to express themselves fully even though they know that they’re going to be defeated, but in that defeat there can be glory, personal glory. And that’s what I think so many people in the world hunger for, is the opportunity to rise or fail on their own abilities, just given the chance.”

If I may talk about myself for a moment, I was born in a small coal mining town in Pennsylvania. My mother finished high school but my father didn’t. My mother pretty much raised me by herself and fortunately I was the first in my family to go to college. As I mentioned my first job was teaching in the midwest, and after I left I had a rough time for a few years. As I mentioned in my Rocky Balboa piece, I ended up teaching in Korea. I suppose over there I got to have my “prime” and my good times. After doing that, I decided to go back to that very first teaching job I had when I was 22. It wasn’t easy, but I’m glad I did it, and I ended up getting some success and some recognition out of it, like when I got Teacher of the Year in 2015

This past year was difficult for a lot of reasons. While I’m still at that first job I had, in the spring I was thinking of doing one more year, but I wasn’t sure if I had it in me. There were a lot of different things getting to me and I’d considered leaving. In all honesty I thought about that scene, and realized this was my going the distance moment. This is that one more round, finishing what I started, seeing this through to the end.

Pop culture is entertainment to pass the time, we enjoy it, maybe remember it, and go on with our day. Truly great art genuinely affects our lives, and it’s probably too late for any other movie to affect me so personally. The only other one that was probably even close was Rocky Balboa. It’s just so ingrained in my life, to the point it’s something I try to live out. I write as a hobby, and when I sell my books as shows or when I read poems on a stage etc, I see it as taking my shot. No one owes us any fame or fortune, but we have the right to try. So as both Rocky and I turn 40, I like to think I did alright with my life. I didn’t turn out to be just another bum from the neighborhood, and I’m going my distance.

Happy Birthday Rocky

“Hey yo.”