This is something I’m just totally screwing around with but it’s fun to talk about.

In the movie world Rocky I opens in November of 1975.

Rocky II has him winning the title a year later, Thanksgiving of 1976. Also it should be noted that Rocky and Adrian get married the same year.

Rocky III is said to take place 3 years later, which would be 1979.

The secret re-match between Rocky and Apollo at the end of Rocky III takes place in the same year, as evident by Apollo acknowledging that he thought of this 3 years ago.

Rocky IV opens immediately after that rematch, when Rocky comes home late for Paulies’ birthday party. Later that evening, Rocky gives Adrian an early wedding anniversary surprise. However, before Adrian gets a ride on the “Italian Stallion,” he lets out a major continuity error which could threaten the fabric of reality itself.

He says it’s been almost 9 years since they were married. (Adrian acknowledges that he’s a week early, so pretty much 9 years.)

Now this night in movie time has to be 3 years, not 9 years later.

However, in the movie world they got married in 76, which in our world is the same year the first movie came out. Rocky IV came out in 1985, which in our world is 9 years later. So in the real world it had been 9 years since the movie world of 1976. Realities have somehow crisscrossed on this matter. (FIY They get married in Rocky II, which was in 1979, but takes place in 76.)

Upon further monitoring of the Rocky Reality, it is stated in Rocky IV by Rocky and Adrian that Apollo has been retired for around 5 years. Again, in movie continuity, it should only be 3. This statement is made when Ivan Drago comes to America.

But again Rocky IV came out in 1985, Rocky II, where Apollo loses the belt, was released in 1979, which is 6 years prior. However in Rocky II they fought on Thanksgiving, near the end of the year, so it still could be 5 years technically.

However, this one COULD possibly be reconciled, by assuming that Ivan Drago came to America to fight two years after the night of Paulies’ birthday party.

Other errors to discuss:

When Apollo comes over Rocky’s house they watch their fight from Rocky II and have maybe a five minute conversation. If you watch and listen closely, (and have too much knowledge of Rocky II like I have) you’ll notice the beginning of the conversation they’re watching the very beginning of the fight, but at the end of the conversation, you can hear the announcers calling the closing moments. So a whole 15 round fight was viewed during a five minute conversation. Maybe they were watching the fight on laser disc, and Apollo in his excitement hit the skip chapter button on the remote, which sent the disc to the end of the fight. (The real reason of course, was the whole fight obviously wasn’t filmed for the movie.)

Also the age of Rocky’s son fluctuates a lot depending on what time scale your looking at. He ages rapidly between IV and V.

In Rocky III, both fights with Clubber Lang are filmed completely from bell to bell, or to the end of the fight. Rocky I, II, and IV, have rounds 1,2, and 15, filmed in their entirety, with the in between rounds shown in a MONTAGE!!!!!!!! When I was a kid I noticed if you ever watched, none of those fully filmed rounds are actually 3 minutes. I think most were like a minute and a half.

These errors could threaten the fabric of reality itself!

Of course I’m just joking around. Back to my 9 years thing the real reason is that movies are usually presumed to take place the year they came out, unless it explicitly says otherwise or it’s assumed to be a either a period piece or a sci-fi film set in the future. It’s just something fun to talk about.

Hey yo.

 

 

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Rocky IV was released in 1985, at the height of Reagan’s America. In this sequel the Rocky series reaches the peak bombastic-ness as our hero takes on the Soviet super slugging machine Ivan Drago.

Rocky IV is basically the same movie as Rocky III, just juiced up on 80‘s steroids. Early in the film the villain wins in the second round (and we see the full fight). Rocky’s mentor dies, he goes off to a far away/new place to train, and finally the big epic fight at the end.

Ivan Drago, the Soviet fighter, is easily the best villain of the series. Apollo Creed of the first two movies wasn’t a villain per say, he was an entertainer wanting to put on a show. Clubber Lang of Rocky III was more of a villain with his bad attitude, but Drago is portrayed as an inhuman monster. Even his last name suggests he’s some mythical Dragon. Another way he is distinct is how stoic he is. Creed is basically Muhammad Ali, and Clubber Lang was certainly a trash talker. Drago rarely speaks, so the few lines he has are still memorable, like “If he dies, he dies,” and “I must break you.”

In fact, Drago is so fearsome that even Rocky’s wife Adrian doubts her husband for the first time, out right saying “You can’t win!” and initially refuses to go to Russia with Rocky.

Another great distinction Rocky IV has is the abscence of music by Bill Conti and the Rocky theme. Vince DiCola scores this amazing sound track adding to the otherworldly feel. Drago’s introduction in the final fight presents him as something mythological. Then there’s the montages. As the Angry Video Game Nerd pointed out, “dam, this movie’s like 20% montages.” We get not one, but two training montages, the fight montage, and of course that reflective one with Robert Tepper’s “No Easy Way Out” (Where’s Rocky driving in that montage anyway?). I’ve always loved that line “Talking about what it might have been. I’m thinking about what it used to be.” Heavy stuff. Vince Dicola also scored the Transformer’s movie sound track a year later, and that film’s score for Unicron, the evil robot planet, is somewhat similar to Drago’s theme.

The traditional Rocky music would not have worked here, as this whole movie is off the charts with it’s over the top-ness. It’s to the point of sheer lunacy, Drago’s punches are basically shown to be shot gun blasts (“Whatever he hits, he destroys!) but Rocky takes them. Stallone gets super ripped for the final fight, and yeah, Rocky’s been training in Russia for months but shows up to the fight with a golden California tan, really? It all doesn’t matter though. Rocky vs Drago is the greatest fight in the history of cinema. It’s epic, brutal, and un-relenting.

On a side note, I’d mentioned before Drago’s fate is one of the most intriguing things to me in the Rocky universe. I’m dying to know what happened to him after the fight. What did he do with himself after the Soviet Union collapsed?

No one will ever call Rocky IV a masterpiece of cinema, but that was never the point. Nothing that happens in this movie is a surprise, no one went into this doubting Rocky would win the fight. What we have is the pinnacle of raw 80’s entertainment. Rocky IV is unquestionably the most entertaining of the series. As the Angry Video Game Nerd would say, “Real men like Rocky IV”

Rocky V was released in 1990, the dawn of a new decade. It opens with the usual montage showing highlights of the last film’s fight, except it’s not the usual montage. Instead of exciting the audience, it’s very foreboding, focusing on the damage Rocky is taking, with occasional freeze frames that turn black and white.

Cut to the aftermath, Rocky’s hands are trembling in the shower, and it is evident something’s not right with him. Things continue to turn worse as he returns home. Apparently his accountant has ripped him off and as a result he’s lost his fortune. Fighting turns out not to be an option to regain it, as after seeing a Dr. he apparently is in the early phases of brain damage.

This whole set up is for the purpose of getting Rocky back to his old neighborhood. Paulie has kept his old house, which they all move back into, and one of the only assets Rocky still has is Mickey’s old gym, which was willed to Rocky’s son.

So with a rap remake of “Take it Back” (originally by Stallone’s brother) we see Rocky back in the streets. One night, after drinking at the neighborhood bar from the first movie, he walks into the old abandoned gym. Here we get an apocryphal flashback scene of a young Rocky training in the gym with Mickey. Given this was supposed to be the last Rocky, I wasn’t surprised to see Burgess Meredith reprise his role as Mickey. He gives a nice little speech you can watch below.

“Get up you son of a bitch! Cause Mickey loves ya.” Vintage Mickey.

Back to the main plot. Rocky ends up re-opening Mickey’s gym, and comes across a young Tommy Gunn, played by real life boxer and relative of John Wayne, Tommy Morrison. Seeing a young and hungry boxer, Rocky personally manages him and becomes a father figure to him. This puts a strain on his relationship with is son, who is now going to an inner city school in Philly and having trouble with bullies (and has magically aged since the last movie). Adrian, who is back working at the pet store from the first movie, is not pleased with Rocky either.

Meanwhile, David Washington Duke, a crooked boxing promoter, basically Don King, had been trying to lure Rocky back into the ring for one more match. Failing that, he manages to lure Tommy away and gets him a title shot. One aspect of boxing that was absent from this franchise was the crooked/dirty side of the business. Here it is vaguely hinted that Tommy’s win against champion Union Cane was fixed. Cane, also managed by Duke, had the title awarded to him after Rocky retired. Duke’s original plan was to have Cane fight Rocky for the title in Tokyo, in a bout that was to be called “Lettin it go in Tokyo.”

While champion, Tommy Gunn is not respected by the press, who still has “Balboa on the brain.” Duke convinces him that the only thing for Tommy to do is challenge Rocky. The climax of the movie is Rocky and Tommy getting into a street fight in the back of the bar Rocky frequents. The crowd cheers on Rocky, but is getting beat down a lot. Cue to the plot point of Mickey in Rocky’s mind whispering in his ear telling him to get up. Rocky gets up and wins the brawl.

Rocky V is by no means a good movie. Stallone at this point hadn’t been an actor in almost 15 years. He cast his real life son, the late Sage Stallone, to play Rocky’s son. Sage never acted before, and no disrespect to the guy but it shows. Some of the scenes and lines delivered are genuinely cringe worthy. Rocky Jr. falling into the wrong crowd is evident by him wearing an ear ring and smoking cigarettes, as if he fell into the wrong crowd of an 1970s ABC after school special. Stallone himself admitted that he was negligent during the making of this entry, and has openly said it’s his least favorite. On the Rocky DVD commentary director John Avildsen, who directed I and V, described Stallone on the set of V as “the prince of Lichtenstein.”

In fact in the next film, Rocky Balboa, clips from all previous films except V are shown, it is explicitly left out. The only remote references are lines of dialogue where Rocky mentions “home team,” and makes a comment about being “brittle.”

Rocky’s brain damage is also not addressed in the next movie. Stallone has said in interviews that in V Rocky never went for a second opinion, and with advances in medical science, it’s possible Rocky just had a concussion. Even if you don’t buy that explanation, you can almost watch Rocky Balboa under the assumption that V never happened.

The thing is if you read the script for Rocky V I’d bet it is probably a good script to read. It arguably has the most actual plot of any in the series. There was no way they could outdo Rocky IV in terms of over the top ridiculousness, so they took a different approach. Given the conceit that this was going to be the last Rocky, it was a good idea to go back to the beginning, to go back to the old neighborhood with the familiar places from the first movie. The plot of Rocky being a teacher to the next generation fit this as well. While nodding to that past, at the same time it tried to bring Rocky into the 90s with a hip hop sound track, and attempted to make “go for it” a new catchphrase. That didn’t take.

In the long run, if Rocky V didn’t put certain things in place, both in real life and in the world of fiction, I don’t think the next movie would have worked as well. Getting him out of his mansion and back into the old neighborhood arguably helps us have more sympathy for him in the beginning of Rocky Balboa. More importantly, the overall disappointment with V was what drove Stallone to make Rocky Balboa, easily the best of all the sequels.

Interestingly enough, a director’s cut of Rocky V was at one point available on YouTube. It’s not much different, but has two things of note. First, Rocky reveals in a conversation with Paulie that he’s not taking any money managing Tommy. More importantly, there’s a scene where he runs into Little Marie, the young girl he walked home in the first movie. Marie, now and adult, is a street bum and presumably a prostitute, something Rocky had warned she might turn out to be. Just after this scene, he runs into Tommy on the street. During this part, which makes the theatrical cut, Tommy tries to convince Rocky to manage him. Tommy says he’s got nothing in his life but boxing, and if this doesn’t work out he doesn’t know what he’ll do. In the directors cut, as this conversation is happening, Rocky looks back and can still see Little Marie loitering in the street. He makes the connection that if he doesn’t help Tommy, he’ll turn out to be a bum like Little Marie. This is a very interesting scene. Little Marie was taken out because it was too dark, but you can understand Rocky’s motivation here. However, if this scene was left in, it makes Little Marie’s appearance in Rocky Balboa not work as much.

Also of note, it was revealed after Rock V’s release that the director and Stallone planned to have Rocky die at the end. That certainly would have put a damper on things. Consequently, I think we have to see Rocky die in a Creed sequel. I thought for sure he was going to die in Creed, but I’m going to guess he’ll die in Creed III, as Mickey died in Rocky III.

Again, Rocky V by no means is a good movie. However I would argue that the basic plot was fitting for the time, and that overall it is not actually the worst Rocky movie.

I will leave you with the closing credits of Rocky V, set to Elton John’s Measure of a Man set to black and white still images from all five movies. Note that in a few of the still shots of the first Rocky are backwards lol.

2016 is the 40th anniversary of the movie Rocky, and also happens to be the year I turn 40. There’s probably no other set of movies that are so ingrained into my life. I’d thought a lot about writing about this series, so here goes. What I’m going to do is write a piece about each movie, not just a review, but how each film was a part of my life. I would start with Creed, but I did review that when it came out, which was just last year so I don’t think I have anything new to say about it. So I’ll start with 2006‘s Rocky Balboa and move backwards from there.

Rocky V came out in 1990, and at the time was billed to be “the last Rocky film.” However, it was neither a financial or critical success. Throughout the 90’s there were rumors off and on of Stallone wanting to do another, but they never got off the ground. In fact, on the DVD commentary track of Rocky Balboa, Stallone recalls a studio executive telling him another Rocky movie will get made “over my dead body.”

Eventually through a change in management the project got green lit. I remember hearing about it in the news, and even though I was a big fan, I was till like “man just let it go Sly.” While Rocky V wasn’t as good I thought it wrapped the series up well under the premise that this would be it. Plus, what could a Rocky movie set in the 21st century possibly be about?

Cut to 2006. At some point I was at home surfing the internet, and, back when YouTube was a brand new thing (which is a whole story in itself, YouTube was launched in 2005), somehow, someway I stumbled upon this video.

This was super intriguing to me (I remember wondering if he said “What is it you said today kid,” or “What is it you said to the kid?”). I was surprised how dark it was. Nothing about the plot, just this message that life is absolutely brutal, but you just gotta keep moving and take the hits.

Not to get too heavy, but around this time I was going through a real low point in my life. I’m a teacher by trade, but found myself in a different profession. For various reasons I ended up taking a job teaching in South Korea in the summer of 2006. If I remember correctly a second trailer dropped after I got to Korea, followed by a third. These last two trailers revealed more of the plot, and I watched them religiously, but with cautious enthusiasm.

The release date date was December 20th, right before my 30th birthday. In Korea often times the big blockbuster movies open prior to their American release dates, but other movies come later. It did not come to Korea right away, but eventually arrived in February of 2007.

Rocky Balboa was the only Rocky I’d actually seen in the theaters (until last year’s Creed). The theater was packed, and I turned to a Korean next to me asking if he was a Rocky fan. He said “All my life.”

It was a pleasant surprise. I remember early on thinking to myself “Wow this is actually really good.” If you haven’t seen it, the basic plot is Adrian has died, and Rocky’s been racked with grief since. Not knowing what to do with himself, he decides to be active in boxing again, but his intentions are not to do big fights. In his mind he sees himself doing small local fights just to be active. Meanwhile, the current Heavyweight boxing champ, Mason “The Line” Dixon is very unpopular, and is accused of taking easy matches. Balboa is reluctantly goaded into accepting an exhibition match with Dixon. Rocky faces public ridicule and doubt for fighting at his age, but he uses this fight to exorcise his demons and deal with the grief of losing is wife. Just as the first movie did, Rocky Balboa paralleled where Stallone was in his life at the time. Stallone faced the same ridicule for making another Rocky that the fictional character faced for having another fight, and it worked. The whole movie had the theme of doing what you needed to do despite the criticism you will catch for doing it.

On the DVD commentary Stallone says this scene below reflects the frustration he faced in trying to get this movie made.

“It’s your right to listen to your gut, it aint nobody’s right to say no when you earned the right to be where you wanna be and do what you wanna do.” I can honestly say this scene shook me when I first saw it in the theater.

Then there’s this scene.

Stallone says it is his understanding that this scene affected people most. It’s the same speech from the teaser trailer, only done more dramatic, with the added line “that’s how winning is done!” The son is really seeing what his father is made of, and there is Rocky on the screen, telling his son, telling me, telling the audience directly, this is life, this is what it takes to get through life.

Only Stallone could have directed Rocky Balboa, however, another director might have developed Mason’s character more, for  it is as much his story as it is Rocky’s. One way the script gets around how Mason wouldn’t beat Rocky right away, is that Mason’s hand gets broken in the second round. This puts him in his own Joseph Campbell like journey where he must prove himself, his own trial by fire.

Having said that, one way we judge art, apart from its technique and aesthetics, is how it affects us personally. Granted, a lot of the emotional weight of this movie rests on knowing its previous entries, but I doubt there will be many movies in the rest of my lifetime that will genuinely affect me this much. A message from my favorite movie character of how you gotta do what you gotta do lined up just about perfectly for me. Rocky Balboa is simply the best Rocky sequel, and is almost the best of the series.

Dr. Strange, the latest entry in the Marvel Universe, opens up the world of magic in the MCU. At first it plays like Iron Man with magic. Strange is an arrogant but brilliant celebrity neurosurgeon. He’s on the lecture circuit and on TV and is pretty rich. While Tony Stark in the first Iron Man was an asshole, he was played up as a cool asshole. Dr. Strange takes the chance of presenting the main character as a real asshole. In fact in one scene the audience audibly reacted to his assholeness.

So one night Strange is driving his sports car too fast and looking at his phone. This causes an accident which messes up his hands. Now he’s out of work and looking for a way to heal himself. Desperately running out of options, he follows an off the wall tip to travel to Nepal for a chance at healing.

Here he runs across the Ancient One, not an old Asian man like in the comics, but a Celtic woman who apparently is much older than she looks, and is the latest in a long line of Ancient Ones. She wastes no time exposing Strange to magic, putting him on a wicked mind trip and allowing some great cinematography. There’s no sequence of Strange doubting, then coming to believe, it’s straight up right to the magic.

So Strange begins training, eventually learns magic, and reluctantly comes into a conflict with enemy sorcerers who are seeking to bring a powerful being from another universe into our realm. Along the way we are introduced to the idea of a multiverse, meaning the Marvel Cinematic Universe is just one universe known to exist.

Dr. Strange follows the familiar trope of someone who never knew about something suddenly becoming a master of it/being better at it than people who’ve trained their whole lives. We don’t get a sense of exactly how long Strange has been training, but his accident does happen in the present day. They do try to work around that by showing strange astrally projecting himself so he can study in his sleep. While I appreciated that it wasn’t enough for me. There’s almost no reason why his accident could have been in the past and the film could have acknowledged that he’d been training for years.

Like many MCU films the villain seems rather one note. We do get to see the big bad at the end and I thought he looked a little silly. Interestingly enough the third act doesn’t feature the normal epic battle, rather Strange manages to trick his enemy to get the victory.

The post credit scene is an interesting one, in that it seems to have changed something from a previous MCU sequel.

Dr. Strange isn’t one of the better MCU movies, but it’s not one of the worst either. Assuming it gets a sequel someday, I hope it would introduce more horror/scary elements.

Sally’s young life flashed before her eyes. Memories of her daddy holding her in his arms, playing with her in the garden, seeming so brave as they traveled the great frontier. She knew the horrible truth, this creature was not her father, nor anyone in her family, and it never would be. Her father taught her the strength to bear this vile hand life had dealt her, and in a moment she drew her gun, shoved the barrel into the beasts eye socket, and pulled the trigger.

“This is one hell you won’t escape from.” the Rider declared. Swiftly defeating Lee he kicked him back down the stairs, joining his creations in the coming damnation.

Upon escaping the chamber, Sarah bolted for the door, but the Rider stopped and opened one of the crates. “What are you doing?” exclaimed Sarah. For the first time in this horrific adventure, Sarah doubted the Rider’s actions.

“These things can still follow us.” the Rider answered as he dumped the crate of dynamite and lit several fuses. Now the two finally escaped on the Rider’s horse. It just barely began to gallop away as the building erupted in a mighty explosion.

Once the reached the edge of town, they paused just a moment to look at the inferno. Sarah thankful that they had escaped, but the Rider with a remorseful tone said “I’m sorry.”

“Why?”

Not able to look at her he answered “I Couldn’t save your family.”

Without hesitation she replied “Those things will never hurt anyone again. That’s what matters now.”

Now able to look at her the Rider said“I couldn’t have stopped them without you. Thank you.”

“The whole time we were in there, I knew we were going to make it.”

“How did you know?”

“Because that’s what you do.”

Sarah removed the dusky mask. Though she could not yet make out his face in the night sky, she would always know that this is was a face she could trust. When he embraced his new friend, he knew that he now had a faithful companion, whom he could share in all his secrets. Sarah lost her family on this horrible day, but at the days end she knew her life would carry on.

As they rode off into the moonlight, they grew too far away to hear it. Below the smoke and the fire and the melted steel, was one lone hellish howl emerging from the depths.

The End

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.