Rocky V (1990)

Back To Where It All Began

***This Review Contains Spoilers***

Few motion pictures seem to inspire as much intense dislike as Rocky V, even to the point of Sylvester Stallone himself giving the film a score of “O” on a British talk show – yes, 0/10. Come on man, can you really say Rocky V has absolutely no merit what so ever? Even the sitcom The Vicar of Dibly bashes Rocky V in its pilot episode; “Four’s not bad is it? There were four gospels, four horsemen of the Apocalypse, four Rocky movies until they made Rocky V, very bad movie”. As a huge fan of the Rocky movies I’ll just come out and say it, I love Rocky V. Oh yeah, deal with it! Part V was designed the return the series back to its roots, not only by bringing Rocky back to his humble beginning on the streets of Philadelphia, but also by being directed by John G. Avildsen, the director the first Rocky. In my eyes, the film succeeds.

Continuing the series tradition of recapping the fight from the previous film, Rocky V presents a recap of the Rocky- Drago fight scored with the traditional Rocky music by Bill Conti rather than the Vince DiCola score from Rocky IV, which is a nice touch. The opening title with the faces of Rocky and Drago in the lettering is also my favourite opening title in the series.

The one big grip I do have with Rocky V is how it messes up the Rocky continuity. Just to give a brief recap of Rocky continuity from Rocky III onwards: it isn’t made clear the date of which Rocky III ends, but we are told the date of Mickey’s death as taking place in 1981, so we can assume Rocky’s second fight with Clubber Lang took place in 1981/82. Rocky IV picks up where III left off, but no dates are mentioned in the movie nor is made clear on the passing of time. It seems most likely the events of Rocky IV take place somewhere from 1982 to 1985, the year in which the movie was released. Rocky V picks up where Rocky IV left off, and once Rocky returns to America from Russia and gets off the plane, he is greeted by his teenage son; however at the end of Rocky IV he was still a child. There should have been a passing of time and then introduce the teenage son. But on top of this, considering the early 90’s aesthetic of Rocky V, due in part of its soundtrack, it seems like Rocky really did travel through time when flying that plane from the 80’s world of Rocky IV. Perhaps some crazy fan theory explanation could solve the mystery such as Rocky staying in Russia for several years after his fight with Drago. While this plot hole does bother me a bit, does it really interfere with my enjoyment of the overall movie? No, not really.

Once Rocky travels through time and is back in America, the family go home to a different mansion than that seen in Rocky III and IV, but I can accept perhaps they owned more than one. Regardless, due to an issue involving taxes, the Balboa family lose their fortune and are forced to return to return to Paulie’s old place in Philadelphia. What was the tax issue? To quote IMDB’s FAQ section for Rocky V:

When Rocky was in Russia during Rocky IV, Paulie gave the power of attorney to Rocky’s accountant, because the accountant told Paulie he needed to authorize a tax extension. Given free access to Rocky’s accounts, the accountant used Rocky’s savings to finance a real estate investment, planning on having the money back in the account by the time Rocky retuned from Russia. However, the real estate deal went bad and the money was never returned. Additionally, Rocky discovers that he has debt payments, mortgage payments ($400,000) and that the accountant hasn’t filed any of Rocky’s tax returns for over 6 years.

Ok, I’m not an expert on taxes, but the movie makes it sound convincing, so I’ll buy it.

Rocky’s return to his old stomping ground gives the film a welcome nostalgia factor, from Rocky wearing his clothes from the first movie to Adrian being dowdy once again and working in the pet shop; to the return of locations from the first movie such as the Atomic Hoagie Shop. At one point in the film they even repeat the very first shot of the original Rocky. Also the streets of Philly appear to be more graffiti and trash laden than they had been in 1975/76. Rocky V also features Burgess Meredith’s final appearance as Mickey (even if he does look older than his last appearance in Rocky III), in a newly filmed flashback scene in which he gives one of the most powerful monologues in the series. This is ranks as one of my favourite scenes of the entire franchise, and I fail to see how anyone could deny its emotional impact.

Due to Rocky’s newly discovered brain damage, he can’t return to the boxing ring, and instead trains a new upcoming boxer Tommy Gunn (portrayed by real life boxer Tommy Morrison); a predecessor to the plot of 2015’s Creed. Tommy Gunn is nowhere near as iconic or memorable as Apollo Creed, Clubber Lang or Ivan Drago, but I still enjoy his character and find him more interesting than Mason ‘The Line’ Dixon in Rocky Balboa. He’s an enthusiastic go getter who eventually turns on his mentor and becomes seduced by the dark side of the boxing business. So yeah, it’s a better version of Star Wars Episode III with Rocky as Obi-Wan, Tommy as Anakin and the boxing promoter George Washington Duke as Palatine. George Washington Duke is the main villain of the movie; a Don King like boxing promoter. I love this guy; he’s such a stereotypical loud mouthed salesman, continuing the tradition of over the top Rocky Villains.

However the real heart of Rocky V lies with its father-son story with its themes of neglect and abandonment  between Rocky and his son Robert, played by Stallone’s real life son, Sage Stallone; making the interactions between them feel more real and genuine. Not to mention the character of Robert has a frightening predicament of going from a sheltered life to living in a tough neighbourhood. It’s weird to think that both Sage Stallone and Tommy Morrison are now both dead; two young stars from a movie which is only 26 years old. Stallone already hates Rocky V as it is, but having the movie star his deceased son I’d imagine makes the movie even more unwatchable for him. In regards to the sub plot involving Robert and the school bullies, I actually find this aspect of the story to be interesting itself. I feel it showcases how in order to make peace with the bullies he had to fight them back and win the battle, and that Adrian’s suggestion that she who would rather he solve his problems verbally would be a futile gesture. After he fights the bullies he then immediately makes peace with one of them and they become friends. Could this be a war parable, or am I just over-analysing?

Despite V being the black sheep of the franchise, Rocky V still ends on fight, not in the ring but on the street. Having Rocky take part in a barbaric street fight makes for great entertainment, due in part to the fun of seeing Rocky engage in a fight in which there are no rules. I also love all the over the top crowd reactions (“Come on dad, he took my room!”, “You’re losing everything!”). The film’s final pay off is immensely satisfying in which Rocky punches George Washington Duke right into the air and onto a car; what comeuppance!

Rocky V reintroduces Bill Conti’s music after being absent from Rocky IV. However the soundtrack of Rocky V is mainly comprised of hip-hop and RnB. I’m not a fan of hip hop, but I do like the songs included in the film. With Go For It I get the impression they were trying to create a new Eye of the Tiger; a song which is named after a phrase which is repeated throughout the film which is central to the plot. It could never be as iconic as Eye of the Tiger, but it still gets me jamming. I also love the new version of Take You Back which gives the song an early 90’s spin. All the films in the series reflect the periods in which they were made, and for Rocky V it’s the early 90’s.

I’ve heard reviewers complain Rocky V is a depressing ending to the series. It becomes clear at the end of the film that Rocky learns he doesn’t need wealth to be happy providing he’s still got his family and his health; and eventually he chooses his family over his career, pride and ego. This is a theme which ties in with the end credits song The Measure of a Man sung by Elton John:

“You’ve come full circle, now you’re home, without the gold, without the chrome. And this is where you’ve always been, you had to lose so you could win. And rise above your troubles while you can.”

I did not find Rocky V in any way to undermine to optimistic nature of the series. Initially it was scripted for Rocky to die at the end, and there is even a deleted scene which shows the character of Marie from the first movie continued to hang out with the wrong crowd. These elements would make an interesting alternative version, but for my Rocky canon I prefer the direction they took. Plus the reintroduction of Marie in Rocky Balboa was a better path for the character, more in tune with the series’ optimistic nature.

The end credits of Rocky V give a retrospective of the entire series which couldn’t be more perfect, plus I love the song The Measure of a Man. I don’t often talk about how great the end credits of a film are, yet with all the Rocky sequels I watch the credits in their entirety. Rocky V is the black sheep of the series in terms of plot structure. We already have four movies which end with Rocky fighting an opponent in the ring, it would have been tiresome to do that a fifth time. Instead Stallone wrote a sequel which took a chance. So yes, I love Rocky V. Got a problem with that, then my ring’s outside!

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Rocky IV (1985)

80’s: The Movie

***This Review Contains Spoilers***

Rocky IV is one of the most entertaining movies ever made. If there was ever a movie I can turn to for just 90 minutes of pure, immense, adrenaline filled, inspirational entertainment, it’s Rocky IV. The run time is the shortest of the series, but those 90 minutes are perfect. The poster for Rocky IV is displayed proudly in my bedroom, and every now and then I look at it in all its majesty with Rocky sticking his glove up in the air while draped in the stars and stripes. I feel the Rocky movies had the ideal lifespan for a movie franchise; start off serious, goof out for some fun, but then end again on a serious note.

There’s no question about it, Rocky IV is the most 80’s movie ever. Case in point:

– Synthesized rock soundtrack.

-Cold war propaganda.

-Conservative, Reagan era values.

-MTV music video style montages.

-Larger than life villain.

-It’s a sequel of a long running franchise.

-There’s a robot.

-Rocky drives a sports car.

-Display of decadence.

-Brigitte Nielsen, star of other very 80’s movies Red Sonja and Cobra.

-Action movie revenge plot.

-Full of cheesy/corny quotable lines (“If he dies, he dies”, “Whatever he hits, he destroys”).

Stallone’s inspiration for Rocky IV came from the two fights between Joe Louis and Max Schmeling in 1936 and 1938 respectively; two fights which embodied the political and social conflict of the time – an African American taking on a supposed representation of Aryan superiority. Thus in Rocky IV we get Ivan Drago, the terrifying Aryan superman Rocky must challenge to avenge the death of his friend (could that sound more 80’s?).  Ivan Drago is a terminator; the strongest opponent humanly possible; however is Drago an interesting villain? I say yes; one of my favourite screen villains of all time as a matter of fact. In a memorable Siskel & Ebert moment, Roger Ebert described Drago as a “moderately interesting villain” but complained “how come he never has a single scene alone with his wife” and “why does she have nine times more dialogue than he has?”. Drago doesn’t speak for himself as there is no individualism in communism. I feel Dolph Lundgren gives a great physical performance, playing a character who is the opposite of Clubber Lang in that he speaks few words; succeeding in being an intimidating monster with his physical presence alone. I also love Drago’s reaction to Apollo’s entrance at the exhibition fight; that of a soviet being welcomed to America.

Ivan Drago is a product of a state that sponsors his training as exemplified in the movie’s two training montages. Drago’s music theme is cold, intimidating and mechanical, just like his training. He is given steroids by his trainers and at a press conference an American reporter says “There have been rumors of blood doping and widespread distribution of anabolic steroids in the Soviet Union”; feels like an eerie foreshadowing to the state operated Russian doping scandal of 2016. Following the boycotts at the 1980 and 1984 Olympics, Rocky IV couldn’t have come at a better time when sports and politics where going hand in hand. Drago’s fit of rage near the end of the fight in which he proclaims “I fight to win. For me! For me!”, is clearly a jab at communism as he wants to work for himself and not for glory of the country. Likewise when he lifts up and throws the Russian official who criticises him, it’s a classic Frankenstein moment; the monster turning on its creator.

Apollo Creed’s entrance on the other hand is one of the most capitalistic things ever put on film, with James Brown singing Living In America among Belly Dancers and Apollo Creed dressed in stars and stripes; and to top it all off, it’s in Las Vegas. A stark contrast to the Russians who open the Rocky-Drago fight later in the movie to their national anthem (yet another awe inspiring musical highlight in the film). Did Apollo’s ego untimely kill him? Apollo’s patriotic egotism clouded his better judgment and no idea just how strong Drago would be. The sheer power of Drago’s punches during the fight with Creed (if you could even call it that) is exemplified by the sound effects. Also why does Drago receives no punishment for throwing the referee aside, but if I was going to point out every little thing in this movie which makes no sense I’d be here all day. There’s such brutality to Creed’s death; such slow motion brutality. I’ll never forget my mum’s reaction the first time I watched Rocky IV, a gasping “oh my God!”.

When I was studying for my GCSE examinations, the Rocky IV soundtrack was one of my primary sources of music listening. Whenever I have a stressful day of work I listen to the Rocky IV soundtrack when I need that extra bit of adrenaline to make me go on. Feeling down? Rocky IV soundtrack! Need inspiration?  Rocky IV soundtrack! Having a workout? Rocky IV soundtrack! 20% of the Rocky IV or 23 minutes is comprised montages with songs which can make anything look epic in one of epitomes of the 1980’s soundtrack; everything you would expect from a score which won the Razzi for worst music score. The score by Vince diCola has been officially released but copies are not easy to come by. The actual Rocky IV soundtrack features different versions of War and Training Montage than those which appear in the film, although these variants are good in their own right.

If there is one word associated with Rocky IV, its montage. I can watch these montages over and over again and still be enthralled by them. The first training montage is heavy on it’s symbolism of nature vs. machine and showcases the beauty of the Russian wilderness. Ok it’s actually Wyoming but I can buy into it being a vast frozen expanse of the Soviet Union. But its training montage number 2 which has to by my favourite training montage in film history. This is partly due to John Cafferty’s Hearts on Fire – a motivating, pumping song if there ever was one. That synth, god I love it! In the spirit of everything in Rocky IV being larger than life, instead of running up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the montage ends with Rocky climbing a mountain.

The editing of Rocky IV also contributes to the film’s bombastic nature. The transitional shots of magazine covers and newspaper articles makes the film play out like more of a comic book than it already is. Likewise shots such as that of Rocky’s Russian chaperone looking into binoculars gets repeated three times within a few seconds but zoomed in further each time and edited to the rhythm of the score; it’s just so cool. On the other hand I even recall a review I heard for Star Wars: The Forces Awakens refer the final shot of that movie as a Rocky IV shot, in reference to the aerial shot of Rocky on top of the mountain. Is Rocky IV a more influential than the history books say?

Rocky IV is incredibly distant from the first movie but this is appropriate as Rocky is out of his element and in a foreign land. This in the only film in the series not to take place in Philadelphia, unless you include the scene in the Balboa mansion although it’s never made clear where the mansion is located. The No Easy Way Out montage provides you with clips from the first movie, so it the film itself allows you to bask in the stark contrast between the movies; a man who used to be a not very intelligent nobody and made money from prizefighting and working for a loan shark is now at the center of international politics.

Even the sheer predictably of Rocky IV is wonderful, such as when Adrian shows up in Russia to support Rocky; it’s all cliché but in the best sense of the word. The build up to the final fight and the atmosphere is so immense; there could never be a Rocky film more epic than this. By this point I’m actually scared for Rocky and fearful for his life, and Paulie’s emotional out pour before the fight, it gets me every time. I don’t care what anyone says, this is the greatest fight in film history. Rules don’t apply and Rocky somehow lasts the 15 rounds and even wins over the crowd (“Suddenly Moscow is pro-Rocky!”). This isn’t just Rocky against another opponent, this is Rocky against a superhuman, a hostile crowd, a Mikhail Gorbachev lookalike and an entire world superpower. Keep your superhero movies with their city destroying battles; this is what I call a duel! Rocky’s final speech is naive in the most wonderful way. The words of the speech are so juvenile, yet when I hear Stallone utter them in the movie; it brings a tear to my eye. Did Rocky IV really help end the cold war? Who knows? Oh, and the end credits provide us with yet another awesome montage!

Rocky IV embodies the essence of capitalism the American Dream; if you work hard, success is attainable. I know many would just look at the movie and scoff at it as a simplified look at the Cold War with an “us and them” mentality. But as a piece of propaganda does it work? Oh you bet it does. Rocky IV, I salute you to your over the top, cheesy 80’s perfection.

Rocky IV > Citizen Kane

Rocky III (1982)

Rocky III: An American Tradition

After the recap of the fight from the previous movie, Rocky III opens with a montage which begins with fireworks and giant light up sign of Rocky as if to say “Welcome to the 80’s!”; a decade when everything was larger than life. The song of choice is Eye of Tiger, the montage is edited like an MTV music video and Rocky even appears on The Muppet Show; and all that merchandise, me want!

Rocky III is ridiculously entertaining while still managing to have thematic substance. Rocky is no longer struggling with fame. A man who couldn’t film a simple commercial in Rocky II is now making all sorts of endorsements. He could barely drive a car in Rocky II, now he can now drive with ease. Rocky has also become a more intelligent man instead of the dum dum he was in first two movies. Not to mention does he looks different, very handsome I might add and in such physical shape. I think Stallone looks like Al Pacino here, especially when wearing a suit.

Rocky III brought the series in a different direction, distant from the first two movies. But despite Rocky’s wealth and fame, Rocky III is not a movie which cheapens out. The primary theme of the movie is about Rocky’s fame making him soft or as Mickey puts it, “You got civilised”. Once Rocky discovers Mickey has been hand picking fighters his seemingly perfect bubble of a life is burst; “You wake up after a few years, thinking you’re a winner, but you’re not, you’re really a loser”. This continues the series theme of being semi autobiographical of Stallone’s own life as the movie examines what fame and fortune can do to a person. Adrian’s role is smaller is time round although her character still sees an evolution as the famous lifestyle has taken away her shyness and made her more outspoken and pretty hot too I might add. Just listen to the words of motivation she gives Rocky on the beach; a far cry from the Adrian in the first movie.

Even when Rocky discovers Mickey has been hand picking fighters prior to his fist fight with Clubber Lang, Rocky is training in the most superficial gym. It’s full of photographers and visitors, musicians are playing and merchandise is being sold.  Unsurprisingly he gets the worst beating of his life at the hands of Clubber Lang. The solution to Rocky getting his so called “eye of the tiger” back; get away from the superficiality of his wealthy lifestyle and back to the nitty gritty. As Apollo Creed puts it, “Man, when we fought, you had that eye of the tiger man, the edge! And the only way to get it back is to go back to the beginning; you know what I’m saying?”. I stick by these words as some of the wisest words I’ve heard uttered in a motion picture. Whenever you lose your mindset of determination weather physically or mentality, go back to where you first started in order to reclaim it. Rocky III humanises Apollo Creed with Rocky and Apollo becoming friends being a great spin on the story. I always think of his intense shouting of “There is no tomorrow!” whenever I need some motivation.

The hypnotic, uneasy music which plays when Rocky is training poorly under Apollo and stuck with the threat of living with failure reminds me of Bernard Herman’s score to Vertigo in possibly the most uneasy scenes in the series. Likewise the scene of Paulie in the arcade has to be the most surreal scene in the entire series in which he throws a bottle pinball machine in slow motion complete with odd sound effects; it’s an image which doesn’t leave your head.

Mr. T as Clubber Lang, oh man! What a beast! A true larger than life villain with outbursts of immensely entertaining lightening fast dialogue; he sure has a way with words with such a violent temper and high levels of anger. You do not want to be stuck in an elevator with this guy. Which raises the question; is Clubber responsible for the death of Mickey by pushing him to the side? Yet even close to death Mickey can still inspire with scenery chewing words of motivation; his death being one of the series most emotional moments. The boxer vs. wrestler charity fight on the other hand between Rocky and Thunderlips (Hulk Hogan) has nothing to do with the rest of the movie but dam is it entertaining. It’s so over the top with such intense pain on display. The referee and police officers are thrown to the side, the audience is assaulted and even Paulie gets in on the action (I do love those bits of humour Paulie provides).

The final fight in Rocky III is the only in ring fight in the series which takes place in real time until Creed.  Meanwhile the final scene of the movie is such fun, with Rocky and Apollo playing off each other which along with the training montage gives off some homoerotic vibes along the way with sweaty, shirtless, muscular men in tank tops as well as men hugging and jumping in the sea.

Also the film’s trailer refers to Rocky III as an “American tradition”. What’s the tradition? Hollywood sequels?

Rocky II (1979)

Rocky II: Electric Boogaloo

***This Review Contains Spoilers***

Rocky II picks right off where the first movie ended and with the characters are already established, we can get right into the story. Stallone writes and directs this time, and who knows his own creation better than him?

Rocky II has a much higher budget than the first film and thus doesn’t have the guerrilla film making tactics of the first so while is loses something in that regard it’s still no less a beauty of a film. They can even afford to have a huge crowd of kids following him during the training montage and possibly the cheesiest moment in any Rocky movie. We now get two montages instead of one and the series obsession with them would grow from here. The final fight benefits the most from the higher budget. We actually get to see a large crowd of spectators instead of relying on stock footage and camera angels disguising the lack of extras; while the use of slow motion captures the pain and barbaric nature of fighting in glorious detail. When Rocky and Apollo both fall to the ground at the end of the fight, the suspense is crazy! The final shot of Rocky’s beat up face as he slurs in classic Stallone fashion is so barbaric; a perfect shot to end the movie on.

In Rocky II we get to see what Rocky does now that he has lots of money for the first time in his life and you really get a sense of the character’s new found happiness. However he becomes blinded by this happiness and it goes to his head such as when he buys a house without even checking the upstairs. Rocky struggles with his new found fame and can’t even film a simple commercial. Just like how the public turn their back on Rocky, the public turned their back on Stallone after his two follow up films to Rocky bombed; Paradise Alley and F.I.S.T. Like how Stallone had to do a sequel to Rocky in order to get by, Rocky has to fight Apollo again to get by and prove that he is not a fluke or a one hit wonder. Apollo’s trainer Duke also has a bigger role here and would continue to be more prevalent in Rocky III and IV; I love this guy and his intense words of inspiration.

Rocky II is easily the funniest movie in the series, from his poor driving skills to his mispronunciation of words when trying to film a commercial (“Smeel mainly”) but my favourite moment is when he tries to a catch a chicken as part of his training (“I feel like a Kentucky Fired Idiot”). I also find it funny the scene in which Apollo is being consumed by hate mail telling him to kill himself; it’s a good thing for him the web doesn’t yet exist. In terms of more twisted humour, Rocky takes Adrian to the zoo and even proposes to her there, because you know, retards like the zoo.

Rocky II was the first film in the series to use synthesizers in its score and the music feels very late 70’s and at times disco inspired (listen to the vocal version of All of My Life, its beautiful). Bill Conti’s ‘Redemption’ is by far the best piece of original music in the movie; it makes me want to climb a mountain.
Just a side note: In regards to the Rocky DVDs, only the first movie gets the special edition treatment and the rest are just bare bones releases. I know the first is considered the best but that doesn’t mean there’s no merit to the sequels that they’re just tossed aside on the home video releases.

Rocky II offers everything I could ask for in a sequel, a movie which stays true to the original but offers new elements along the way. It advances the story and adds an extra layer of depth to already complex characters. In 1979 the New Hollywood movement was coming to an end and the age of the blockbuster had begun. In 1976 Rocky lost the final fight but keeping with the new found optimism in Hollywood movies, in 1979 Rocky wins the fight (although timeline wise its late 1976).

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

Fortune & Glory

***This Review Contains Spoilers***

The second installment of the Indiana Jones franchise is one of those films I thought was beloved for many years until the advent of the internet when I discovered it gets a lot of stick. So hold onto yo potatoes, it’s time for a controversial review of unpopular opinion.

I’ll begin my defence of Temple of Doom with discussing the movie’s two not so beloved characters. First up, Short Round. I love this character for several reasons; the first is the endearing relationship he has with Indiana Jones. Unlike Indy’s other companions, Short Round idolizes Indy. The moment in which Indy places Short Round’s cap on his head after freeing him from the Thuggee cult’s spell, perfectly sums up their relationship and it gets me every time. Short Round saves Indy’s life on multiple occasions; In fact sometimes I wonder how he’s even still alive without him. In comparison to a more beloved character in the series, Henry Jones senior, who almost gets Indy killed on a number of occasions thus rendering the criticism of Short Round being a hindrance to Indy invalid. But I hear you say, Short Round has an annoying voice? So I guess a high pitched voice renders a character’s personality, vulnerability and character arc void? Short Round is like a kid’s fantasy, what’s cooler than getting to be Indiana Jones’ sidekick? Who wouldn’t want to be Short Round? Well I’d rather be Indy himself, but being Short Round is the next best thing.

But how do I defend Willie Scott?! I’ve never found the character of Willie to be annoying and I believe one of the reasons for this is that she is punished for her selfish actions throughout the film. Her character is supposed to be unlikable and the movie is fully aware of this by making her receive comeuppance. During the movie her character matures, she shows concern for Indy and Short Round during the later portion of the film and even punches bad guys during the mine cart chase, a far cry from her earlier self. I love this trio of characters, so yeah, what are you going to do about it?!

It might seem odd to start an Indiana Jones movie with a musical number but as it captures the 1930’s setting and exotic tone of the series it manages to work. This is my favourite opening scene in the series. Of course I love musical numbers and this is one of the greatest spectacles of song and dance ever put on screen.

Temple of Doom is too juvenile? You say juvenile like it’s a bad thing. I like all the weird creepy stuff; the bugs, the monkey brains, hearts being ripped out of people’s chests. It’s repulsive in the best sense of the word. But Temple of Doom isn’t a stupid film. No one ever seems to mention Indy’s character arc of overcoming his selfish streak. During the first half of the film he is only concerned with obtaining his ‘fortune and glory’. Even after visiting the baron village, obtaining the Sankara Stones for his own personal gain remains his only objective. It’s not until he sees his own eyes the children in slave labour that he changes his way.

Also why is the raft scene a constant source of criticism? I can understand how Indy surviving a nuclear explosion inside a fridge went too far but the raft scene is perfect sort of implausible B-movie type moment that doesn’t go too far to the point of absurdity. The second half of Temple of Doom is one huge roller coaster ride with the mine cart chase being an actual roller coaster ride. The movie throws so many classic b-movie thrills; a room with a descending spiked roof, a conveyor belt with a crushing roller at the end, a scene atop of a rope bridge. After the trio escape from metaphorical hell, the final kiss between Indy and Willie is one of the most satisfying in all of cinema.

But let’s get into the real serious stuff, the film’s portrayal of Hinduism. I don’t claim to be an expert on Hinduism but I’ll attempt to the best of my ability to defend this most controversial aspect of the film. The villains of Temple of Doom, The Thuggee, were a cult who resided in Indiana over several hundred who would strangle travellers and steal their belongings (hence the origin of the term ‘thug’). The Thuggee where followers of the Hindu Goddess Kali, however in Hinduism, Kali is not an evil entity, but rather the goddess of time, change and energy. As what The Thuggee believes is not what Kahali stands for, it makes the villains more interesting as they religious extremists, desecrating a faith for their own selfish gain, such as The Westro Baptist Church to Christianity or Isis to Islam. I believe the filmmaker’s are aware of this, as evident in the scene towards the end of the film on the dangling rope bridge, Just before Indy sends Mola Ram to his death, he utters “You betrayed Kali!”. The more I look into it, selfishness seems to be a recurring theme in Temple of Doom.

When a film is labelled for apparent racism I think to myself was there malicious intent behind it? I’m not one for defending the Star Wars prequels but did George Lucas create Jar Jar Binks because he has a prejudice against African Americans and/or Caribbean peoples or is it an innocent oversight? In the case of Temple of Doom the filmmakers where simply taking inspiration from another film, 1939’s Gunga Din, which features The Thuggee as the central villain, and of scenes in Temple of Doom pay homage to.

I consider Temple of Doom to be no less worthy a film than Raiders or Last Crusade. Like how Temple of Doom dared to be different and the black sheep of the series, I dare not to bow to the will of popular opinion. What are you going to do about it!? For you see my opinion is always correct, expect for the times when I am wrong, which is never.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

Now That’s What I Call Archaeology!

***This Review Contains Spoilers***

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade takes everything that made Raiders of the Lost Ark great to begin with and builds on top of that. Last Crusade is unquestionably my favourite of the series, the main reason for this being the role of Sean Connery as Indy’s father Henry Jones Sr which I consider to be one of the greatest casting choices ever. This casting was largely due to James Bond being one of the inspirations for Indiana Jones although oddly enough despite my love of Indiana Jones I’ve never been keen on the James Bond films. There’s something about father-son stories that I’ve always had a particular affection for and the relationship between Indy and his father is so difficult to put into words how in depth it is. They don’t get along despite being so much alike, at heart they are both being giddy school boys. Their scenes together are so melancholic and full of complex emotions which humanises the character of Indiana Jones. I really do think this may be the greatest pairing of two actors ever.

This ties in with the other aspect which elevates The Last Crusade, just how thematic it is. The search for the bond between father and son ends up becoming more important than the search for the grail; I always remember Henry Jones’ words of “Let it go” as legitimate life advice. The score by John Williams is not only one of his best but one of his most moving, perfectly capturing the melancholic and deep thematic nature of the film. I regularly listen the movie’s soundtrack in moments of personal reflection, it’s that powerful.

The Last Crusade is also a comedy classic in its own right from the North by Northwest type moments (“No ticket!”) to more slapstick oriented gags. The Forest Gump type moment in which Indy inadvertently confronts Hitler face to face is brilliant on so many levels. It works the same way the clothes hanger scene from Raiders did. I also love that Marcus gets to go along on the adventure, revealing that he’s a clumsy fool who once got lost in his museum. His line “The pen is mightier than the sword” always cracks me up with the manner in which he delivers it in an English gentlemanly way, or Indy Sr’s uttering of “Junior!”; music to my ears. Indy Jr, Indy Sr, Sallah and Marcus are simply the most fun group of characters.

If I was the make a list of my favourite action scenes in film, I swear my list would be dominated by scenes from the original Star Wars and Indiana Jones films. Last Crusade was one of the last blockbusters to have such extensive use of practical effects, you know, before CGI had to go and ruin everything. Also does anyone else think Donavan looks like Doc Brown after drinking from the wrong cup?

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is one of these rare movies which gives me everything I could ask for a movie. Like the filmmakers specifically made it just for me, encapsulating everything I love about cinema.

Back to the Future Part III (1990)

Once Upon a Time In Hill Valley

***This Review Contains Spoilers***

While I loved Back to the Future Part II for how frantic and fast paced it is, I love Part III for largely the opposite reason; for being more simple and laid back. You need a dark chapter like Part II before you can have something more romantic and light hearted like Part III. I love the western setting, there’s a certain innocence to it and is classic in every sense of the word. There’s monument valley, cowboys, Indians, a saloon as well as the atypical western music score. It’s also fun to see Marty and Doc in a date much further back in time as well as seeing the images, quotes and motifs from the first film reapplied in the western setting. The film shows us Hill Valley during its early days thus over the course of three films we get the entire history (and near future) of this town, making it a character onto itself even if the western setting does raise the question about Hill Valley’s geographical location.

Part III is the Doc’s movie; it gave his character a whole new dimension as his scientific ethics are challenged by falling in love for the first time. I don’t think many people realise it but Doc Brown is a pretty dark character. He blew his family’s fortune on inventions which don’t work (at least until he invented time travel) and is ostracised from the rest of Hill Valley so it’s about time something finally went right in his life and he finds a love. Plus it’s cute, two geeks falling in love who were previously separated by space and time for that added romantic element.

My only complaint with Part III (really my only complaint with any film in the trilogy) is that the film pulls the liar revelled, one of my most dreaded of movie clichés. We know the Doc and Clara are going to get back together towards the end of the movie, so do really need to have the movie abruptly stop for a period. But I’m more forgiving of it in this instance as their separation does contribute to the suspense during the film’s finale which is one of the highlights of the entire trilogy. The interactions between Marty and Doc on the other hand are just as great as ever, even more so that they have to find a way to get the DeLoran up to 88 miles per hour with the technology available to them in 1885. Although I do have to ask is Doc not going against his principles at the end by creating another time machine, oh well, it’s still a great ending. Back to the Future Part III is my least favourite of the series but I still love it. Unlike other film franchises the trilogy is done and dusted. It’s not polluted with further sequels, prequels, remakes, reboots, re-whatevers, and hopefully it will stay that way.

The End.

Back To The Future Part II (1989)

It’s a Wonderful Future

***This Review Contains Spoilers***

Back to the Future Part II is one of the most relentless films I’ve ever seen. A one hour and forty minute film yet it feels like only a fraction of that length. As the characters are already introduced to us, the movie immediately gets the ball rolling. I love how frantic and faced paced Part II is; the movie almost never pauses and is one hell of a thrill ride. How many movie sequels return to the events of the first film? I can’t imagine the effort that went into recreating the scenes from the first film from different perspectives, it makes you see the first film in a whole different light. The film’s portrayal of 2015 on the other hand is the future we all wish we could have, unlike most movies which predict a future of doom and gloom. I still want those self tying shoe laces and the pizza which can be cooked with a few seconds – its fun watching all those future gizmos. Although they got some things right; the large, flat, wide screen TV with multiple channels or the market for nostalgia with the Cafe 80’s.

Part II takes The Empire Strikes Back route by being darker than the first film; the alternate 1985 is like an even darker version of It’s a Wonderful Life. Part II is Biff’s movie; while he doesn’t have the most complex personality. What makes him such a great character is all the different incarnations he has from different ages, time lines as well as his relatives. Thomas F. Wilson has by far the juiciest role in the film, playing no less than five variations of the same character and even having the young Biff interact with the old Biff. I find it funny that the universe could get destroyed just because this one guy has to be an asshole. Also I’m not the first person to notice this but it’s dawned on me how much the alternate 1985 Biff looks like Donald Trump. If the first Back to the Future showed the good side of capitalism: this movie shows the bad side capitalism.

Back to the Future Part II is one of the best examples I’ve seen of single actors playing multiple roles and how they seamlessly have them appear side by side and interact with each other. It still makes me wonder how they did those effects. Today of course they would be achieved using CGI but not back then and that’s part of the fun of these effects – on top of being cool to look at – you find yourself asking “how did they do that?” Robert Zemeicks had just directed the technically challenging Who Framed Rodger Rabbit and then directed a film as complex as this followed by directing the third Back to the Future; someone had a busy set of years working. They also got a new actress for the role of Jennifer and even then they manage to make the change in casting appear seamless.

Part II is by far the most and I do mean by far the most complex of the trilogy, these movies seriously screw with your head if you think about them too much. For example, (presuming time travel exists) if you go to the future you can’t actually meet your future self, as you skipped the intervening time period by travelling forward in time, your older self would not exist in that time line; instead you would find your loved ones mourning over the day you disappeared or how about when old Biff returns to the future after giving his younger self the almanac, should he not have returned the future which he changed? I’ll admit the first time I saw it I found the plot a bit confusing; it took me a number of viewings until I finally figured out why the old Biff is in pain when he returns to 2015. I don’t see these inaccuracies as a bad thing if anything they strengthen our love for these films. Part of the fun of the trilogy is discussing the time travel mechanics and trying to find explanations for any possible inaccuracy. Also one other thing I’ve always wondered, why does Marty make no effort to protect the letter from the rain when his life depends on it? The scene in which Doc tries to explain to Marty that they are in an alternative 1985 must have been similar to the interactions between Robert Zemeicks and Bob Gale when they were writing this film.

To Be Concluded…

After the Thin Man (1936)

All In The Family

***This Review Contains Spoilers***

After the Thin Man clearly has a much higher budget than the first film so it does loose the grittier, low budget charm of the original but it still works in its own glossier way. I don’t think any of The Thin Man sequels reached the standard of the first film but this was the best of them.

After the Thin Man gives William Powell some of the best comedic moments of his career; the scene in which he has a conversation with the snoring gentlemen I could watch over and over; he manages to maintain composure and still act sarcastic no matter how frustrated he gets. Although my favourite part of the film is just watching Nick and Nora trying to get an important clue from Asta by chasing him through their giant manner of a house. Just how does a retired detective and a woman who doesn’t work manage to afford to live in a palace like this during the great depression anyway? Every movie in the series had a long sequence in which Nick would go sleuthing on his own in the dark with no dialogue or music, and rightfully so, it’s so captivating. The plot is even the easiest in the series and I was actually just barely able to keep up with it.

The film’s most notable contribution to cinema is having James Stewart’s first really notable screen role.This would be the only time in his career in which he would play a villain as the suspiciously motivated David Graham. At the end of film when he’s revelled to be the murder culprit, he has a breakdown and threatens everyone at gunpoint before being thwarted and then arrested. Jimmy Stewart as a heartless murder who is sent to prison, what kind of crazy movie is this? It’s disheartening in a way to see this but of course this was before he became forever enshrined as the everyman. He does pull of the role and displays he was a natural acting talent from the start of his career and shows he could have potentially portrayed convincing villains. Also look out for the asian bodyguard who throws his hat to get a gun from Jimmy Stewart’s hand, Oddjob anyone?