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In hindsight, the 1982 film Rocky III turned out to be an important piece of the 1980‘s. Continuing the tradition from the last sequel, it opens with a recap of Rocky’s victory over Apollo Creed in Rocky II, before that famous guitar riff starts and the Eye of the Tiger montage begins. We see Rocky enjoying wealth and fame, doing commercials, and appearing on the Muppet show. All the while Rocky is defending his title against various opponents, eventually stacking up ten title defenses. Meanwhile, a young hungry southpaw named Clubber Lang (Mr. T) is racking up victories, and calling out Rocky in front Mickey, Rocky’s manager.

Just as the first film, Rocky III parallels where Stallone was in his life at the time. In this film, Rocky is caught up in his fame and fortune, and doesn’t take Clubber Lang seriously. In short, Rocky loses the belt to Lang, Mickey dies, and Apollo Creed offers to help Rocky train for a rematch. They go to L.A. to train, and Rocky wins the title back.

This movie takes a departure in tone of the first two movies. There’s more glitz and glam, and the fights are filmed more like an action movie than a drama. It’s also the only Rocky where we see the fight at the end in its entirety.

For the first time we see Rocky doubt himself, which is interesting. Unfortunately Stallone at this point wasn’t really an actor anymore. There’s a scene on the California beach where Adrian gets Rocky to snap out of his funk. Actress Talia Shire completely carries the scene through some really stiff dialogue.

For me personally Rocky III is noteworthy because it’s the first Rocky I’d ever seen. I watched it on HBO when I was little. In that part where Mr. T. taunts Rocky, he says Adrian should come to his apartment so she can see a real man. I remember not understanding what that meant, but my young brain presumed it had something to do with her seeing him naked. Before the first fight scene I remember telling my mom that Mr. T. was going to be all washed up. Then I was surprised of course when Mr. T. won. As the movie kept going and I realized they were going to have another fight, I assured my mother again that Mr. T. would be all washed up, and this time he was.

There’s a really great piece of music for the scene when Mickey died, and Rocky wanders around his old neighborhood (places from the first movie). In my Rocky Balboa post I’d mentioned how I went to Korea. I ended up staying there a lot longer than I planned. When I came back I remember wandering around my hometown, as well as the town I went to college in and other places, and I could hear that piece of music in my head. It was a real morose haunting kind of feeling.

Rocky III is certainly not a masterpiece in film, but it’s important to 1980’s culture in that it introduced the world to two classic 80‘s icons, Hulk Hogan and Mr. T, along with his iconic catch phrase “I pity the fool.” Just a year later Mr. T. went on to star in the hit series the A. Team, and also had his own Saturday morning cartoon show and even his own breakfast cereal. Hogan of course went on to be a mega star in the world of professional wrestling. In fact, both Hogan and Mr. T. would headline the very first Wrestlemania in 1985. Rocky III also introduced the Rocky statue, and the song “Eye of the Tiger,” by Survivor, which is now synonymous with the franchise. All in all it’s a punched filled time capsule of 80’s awesomeness.

From behind Sarah a small female arm rose from the table her father was on. “Sarah that ‘s not your father!!!” The Rider rapidly ripped the sheet away exposing the blasphemous truth to both their eyes. For on the table was an abomination, a creature made from parts that remained of her family. It had the father’s Torso and neck, its right arm was Robert’s, strong and masculine, and it’s left arm was from their mother. A sickening dark metal rod ran down the middle of its chest. The truth was not revealed quick enough, as the monstrosity sat up and grabbed a frantic Sarah by the waste, then out a beastly roar.

“Well Rider. It looks like you did my work for me, bringing this young missy back here.” The Rider turned around to see Confederate Bandit Colonel Lee standing at the top of the stairs. Meanwhile half a dozen armed bandits emerged, as well as 2 more of those horrific creatures. Like the mash of Sarah’s family, they both had a long black rod down their chests, and were monstrous and misshapen.

Out of defiance but also fear the Rider exclaimed “What is the meaning of this madness and devil work?”

“Doubtless you bested my dark rider, but I bet it was no easy task. After the war I acquired the means to build a new army, a dark army from the very pits of hell! You failed to stop me after the great train robbery in Nebraska, and I used those funds to rebuild this place. Here a new army will emerge from human flesh and demonic spirit, and will storm across this union. And you will join us!”

Lee barked orders to his beasts. “Throw them both into the machine. I won’t take chances with our masked friend. Throw them both in whole. Think what a beast can be made from the great Ringed Rider, and this feisty young thing, it can be the creatures bride!

The Rider was quickly picked up from behind by one of the beasts, and soon the two were thrown into the jaws of death that was the infernal machine. It grew silent for a moment as Lee watched on. He thought truly they would be unstoppable now. Suddenly the machine began to smoke and rattle. As if alive it let out a mechanical groan, it shook and sputtered, and soon it began to crumble. Through the sparks and the smoke, a still human hand emerged from the steel, it’s ring shining brightly in defiance.

“Impossible!” Cried out Lee.

The Rider and Sally emerged with guns blazing. They moved swiftly through the smoke as if they were one in spirit, dropping enemies as they went. The Rider hurled one of the bandits into a shelf of chemicals. A lantern fell over top of him and soon the whole shelf was ablaze. The creatures stepped back in fear. An inhuman howl escaped their lips, betraying their fear of this all too familiar element.

“To the stairwell. This may be our only chance.” The Rider said as they made their way away from the machines. Colonel Lee could not quite discern the commotion from within the smoke. The Rider almost did not see him as Lee ascended the stair case, but as soon as he lay eyes on Lee his fist soon followed. Soon the two were locked in mortal combat, Sally wanted to help, but the Rider shouted for her to escape, assuring her that he will soon follow. Sally would have reluctantly agreed, but a monstrous fist gripped her ankle. She turned to see the body that was not just once her father’s, but her entire family. It was her brother’s arm who she wrestled as a child pulling her back. Her mothers smaller effeminate arm motioning for her return, and her fathers face angrily glaring at her defiance.

Luke Cage is the 4th Marvel Netflix show, and the 3rd one from Marvel’s original deal (their first show, Daredevil, was so popular it was immediately green lit for a second season). The title character was introduced in Jessica Jones, and this series follows his exploits as he has left Hell’s Kitchen and moved to Harlem.

This show is in part a tour of Harlem and its history. Throughout the series the viewer is informed about various landmarks in Harlem, the history of artists and writers that lived there, etc. After the previous three Netflix Marvel shows taking place in Hell’s Kitchen, it was a nice change of scenery to have the show set in Harlem.

Similar to those previous shows the titular hero is not focused on saving the world, but on saving the neighborhood. The opening scene is a group of guys talking in a barber shop. Cage is laying low working at the shop, but eventually becomes more of a presence in the neighborhood as a local gangster looks to move in on Harlem. In the process Cage becomes a man of the people, doing the best he can to resolve local problems. The gangster owns a nightclub which brings us a lot of musical performances.

The sound track is one of the highlights of Cage, hip hop and R&B are fully integrated into the show. Each episode in fact is named after a Gangstar song.

While Jessica Jones took a head on approach to sexual violence, Luke Cage fully tackles the issue of race, police brutality, and the black lives matter movement. At one point in the series Cage is on the run from the police. In a show of solidarity people in the community start wearing hoodies with bullet holes in the back knowing this will bring police harassment. (Cage’s super-power is strength and unbreakable skin).

Along the way we get the usual references to the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe. Cage is compared to a local Captain America. Bootleg footage of “the incident” (The final battle in the Avengers movie) is available on the street. Matt Murdock is hinted at towards the end. There’s also a nice and unexpected reference to Iron Man two, which does serve as part of the plot.

For all its strengths, I found it to be my least favorite Marvel Netflix show. Some of it may be personal bias, as the two seasons of Daredevil had two of my favorite characters, Kingpin and the Punisher. There was no one in Cage that I found to be as fascinating. The first three episodes of Cage felt a little slow, it wasn’t until the fourth episode that started his origin that I really felt intrigued.

Writing Luke Cage is to face the same problem in writing Superman. How to you make it suspenseful when nothing can hurt the guy? Hence the fight scenes aren’t very elaborate, but instead are brute force. The final battle in the last episode tries to remedy this as the villain has a powered up suit. It looks like a poor man’s version of the end of Rocky V, with the hero slugging it out in the street while the neighbors chant his name. I don’t know if it was intentional or not, but aping a poorly received movie usually isn’t a good idea. During this fight, the villain has this big battery pack on his back which powers his suit. I kept waiting for Cage to just crush the battery pack and end the fight, but that never happened. It’s not like he didn’t see it, in one scene he looks right at it. There’s some smart writing here about how Cage is able to win by not feeding his opponent hate, but at this point smart writing doesn’t make up for the common sense question of why he didn’t just crush the battery.

On a more positive note, the final fight was not the end of the show, it actually goes on for another 20 minutes. Interestingly enough, in the end it appears the villains have won. That was a nice touch, because, so far, no Marvel movie, TV or Netflix show ended with the villains winning.

While Luke Cage has many positive traits, if there is a season two I would hope they’d have more intriguing characters, while maintaining its sound track and social commentary.

No one was on the first floor. They found a still working old lantern that illuminated the tools and equipment Sarah’s father mentioned. This included the mechanical devices that were strange and indescribable. They planned to check the second story, where Robert met his fate, but were distracted by strange noises emitting from the very earth below them, The Rider noticed a small handle on the ground, he pulled it upward to reveal a passage to a subterranean chamber. Numerous already lit lanterns shown the way into this dark and evil pit. As they descended the air filled with undecipherable sounds that may never have fallen in human ears before.

While their ears were assaulted by hideous sounds, the bottom of the chamber lay sights of the mad and macabre that eyes had not seen even during the War of the Rebellion. Pieces of cadavers were strewn across blood stained mechanisms. It was like some bizarre processing plant. Pieces of bodies, both human and animal, mutilated by machines. Yet that was not the most horrible sight for Sarah, as she then saw laid before her what was her brother. His remains also desecrated, parts missing, and the top of his head had been scalped. Sarah tried to contain her shriek, only the Riders hand over her mouth kept them from being revealed.

She looked up to see her father lying face up on a table. His face pale and lifeless, a white sheet covered him from the neck down. She ran over to him sobbing, she stroked his gentle face and his white beard. She wished with all her soul they had never come to this town. But then, something uncanny occurred. Through the sheet she could see his hand begin to move. Tears of fear and sorrow turned to joy as she exclaimed “He’s alive!!! He’s alive alive alive!!!”

Suicide Squad is the third entry in the DC Extended Universe. A Dirty Dozen with super villains, the premise is government operative Amanda Waller assembles a team of criminals to fight super human threats. However, only a handful of the operatives are meta-humans themselves. One might wonder why regular humans are on this team, aside from the fact that they’re characters the movie audience knows or are played by well known actors like Will Smith.

I’ve never seen a movie that tried so hard to have a cool soundtrack. It opens with three or four classic songs in a row while the premise is set up. While I was perfectly happy to hear Black Sabbath’s Paranoid, by that point the constant use of songs seemed excessive.

While working so hard to be cool it forgets a few basic things, like giving the audience enough time to read the text shown to introduce each squad member. In fact the opening shot is of Harley Quinn’s prison and they show text on the bottom right corner of the screen to tell us the location, but the colors on that part of the shot are so dark I couldn’t even read it in time.

Interestingly enough the squad isn’t assembled for a specific mission, but soon enough a situation arises that they’re sent off into, partly involving finding a certain mystery contact. The identity of that contact serves as a plot twist but the way it’s edited doesn’t carry the feeling of shock that it should, it’s just kind of like “oh ok.” Shortly after this another bit of information is presented to the team that is supposed to surprise them, but I couldn’t quite grasp why this information would be surprising, other than to serve that part of the script where the team says “screw this mission I’m going home.”

Most of the Squad members seem pretty interesting, but this team movie mostly centers around Harley Quinn, because she’s a beloved character, and Deadshot, because he’s played by Will Smith. Quinn is fantastic by the way, and I’d happily watch another movie with her, but potentially more interesting characters like Killer Croc are underused. I wanted to know what his condition is, what is his life like, etc. Instead Killer Croc seems to serve the role of Groot in this August would be block buster. Action happens, Harley says something funny, Croc grunts, repeat.

The character Slipknot just kind of shows up, and it’s said that he can climb anything. Why can he climb anything? Is he a skilled master thief (and if that’s all it is why does this qualify him to be on a team to fight meta-humans)? Is he a meta-human? Can he climb walls like Spiderman or something?

Katana is another character that just kind of shows up, apparently because when they wrote the script they forgot to introduce her earlier. She seemed like a cool character I’d like to see more of. She’s not a criminal, but a government operative, which left me wondering why she joined the team in the “screw this mission we’re going to the bar” scene. Maybe because the writers didn’t know what else to do with her or they didn’t have time to film a scene where she fought them instead.

Team leader Rick Flag is pretty good, his life as a government operative leaves him conflicted. Amanda Waller is like an evil Nick Fury of this universe and she’s good to watch. I enjoyed the Joker as well.

The final battle isn’t very suspenseful. The evil plot isn’t exactly clear, a machine is being built, but I couldn’t tell you what it was supposed to do, other than generic destruction. There’s no timeline on this plan either, it just seems to always be there with no real progress. One of the big bads get’s destroyed by conventional explosives, which made me wonder why the conventional military couldn’t have stopped it, aside from the fact that the movie is about Suicide Squad. Rick Flag himself wonders why he can’t just take care of the problem with his own soldiers. So is a character in this movie wondering why this movie exists?

As I’m writing this I realize I have a lot of negative things to say. I didn’t hate watching this movie. Looking back on it Harley Quinn pretty much saved it. I will say that one of the things the DC Extended Universe has over the Marvel Cinematic Universe is they’ve established that a lot of things have already happened. Rick Flag has a history. The actual government name of Suicide Squad, Task Force X, has a history. Katana has a history, and Batman ran Killer Croc out of town. Batman vs Superman established a Batman that was active for 20 years, and the upcoming Wonder Woman movie takes place in World War One. (BTW I’m disappointed nobody made a World War One movie since it’s been a hundred years. I find it ironic that the only World War One movie we’ll get is a Wonder Woman movie.)I enjoy this approach more than how Marvel has all their big name heroes being active right now.

Suicide Squad is not a terrible movie, but in the context of a underwhelming Man of Steel and a divisive Batman vs Superman, this movie needed to be so much better than it was. In fact, for all my complaints I’d still say it’s the best movie of this universe so far. As I think about it, that’s worrisome for the future of this franchise.

Civil War is the third entry of the Captain America trilogy in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It is perhaps the only MCU film to adapt a specific story from the comics, there was a story called Age of Ultron, but that story was completely different from the movie.

Here the Avengers tracked down an old foe in Lagos Nigeria. This scene is shot like a black ops Jason Bourne style espionage thriller. While the fight scenes are entertaining they are shot in that quick cut shaky cam style that makes them hard to watch at times.

Unfortunately there are civilian casualties during this mission, including Wakandans on a humanitarian mission. Meanwhile the UN has issued the Sokovia accords, which call for the Avengers to be overseen by the United Nations. Tony Stark/Iron Man agrees with the idea of government oversight, while Captain America does not. This philosophical disagreement split’s the Avengers down the middle, as something with the Winter Soldier arises that exasperates the situation.

One vast improvement with the movie over the comic book story it is loosely based on in the movie presents both sides fairly evenly. You can understand both Tony and Steve’s point of view, whereas in the comic book story the pro-registration side was made pretty villainous.

Casualties from the fictional nation of Wakanda allows the Black Panther to be introduced to the MCU. The Wakandan superhero puts himself into the mix, and I’m definitely excited to see a solo Black Panther movie after this.

Also introduced to the MCU is Spiderman. While only appearing briefly this is probably the best Spiderman seen on screen. He’s funny, cracks jokes during battle, makes pop culture references, etc. Ant-man is also brought in for humor. Honestly neither Spiderman nor Ant-man are really necessary to the plot, but they’re both so entertaining you don’t mind.

There is an interesting villain behind the scenes. Civil War takes a break from the take over/destroy the world plot. This villain’s motivations are personal and smaller scale, and if you think about it, the villain does succeed.

Captain America is possibly the best superhero trilogy, and another superb chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Creep is a short minute homage to the slasher films of the 1980s. The killer is not masked, as most characters like Jason and Michael Meyers were, but is menacing nonetheless. There’s only four characters in the story, the girl, who plays the “last girl” bit, her date, the neighbor, and the killer who simply is credited as ???? in the vein of some of the old monster movies. The other three characters don’t have names either. It’s a straight to the point, bare bones narrative about a girl running from a killer, complete with chase scenes through the streets, hiding in an empty house, and a few quick kill scenes. Worth checking out for any fans of the slasher genre.