Peter Yates’ 1968 neo-noir action thriller film “Bullitt” was my introduction to one of the coolest actors and movie stars ever to inhabit this planet of ours, Steve McQueen. It also starts off with one of the most ingenious opening title sequences I have ever seen as a dozen men are waiting outside of a building for a certain individual whom we later see is waiting for them and already prepared to escape their clutches. Seeing the names of the main actors being revealed and then having them come right at us showed how creative one can get with opening titles, and they have the benefit of being scored by the man who would later create the music which Edgar Wright would call “acid jazz” for “Dirty Harry,” Lalo Schifrin.
The opening titles for “Bullitt” were designed by Cuban-American graphic and film titles designer, Pablo Ferro. His list of credits is extensive, and many of his other film titles may end up on this website at some point. What I love about his work on this particular sequence is how cool it all works and how it gives you a sense of not only characters on the move like John Ross, but also of how we are invited to look much closer at everything which goes on here. While everything might seem crystal clear on the surface, the antagonists are eventually going to get quite a rude awakening when they realize they are not as smart as they think.
Keep in mind, we do not see any of the main characters in these opening titles. What we do see is the beginning of a chase for a certain individual, and it is contained within a motion picture which has one of the greatest car chases in cinematic history. While we are left to guess how everything we see here adds up, this is perfect as the characters we are eventually introduced to such as Steve McQueen’s Frank Bullitt, Robert Vaughn’s Walter Chambers and Don Gordon’s Detective Delgetti are thrust into a situation which has more layers than they initially realize.
“Bullitt” remains one of the greatest cop movies ever this side of “The French Connection,” and I recommend you check it out if you have not yet done so. Please feel free to check out its opening titles down below.
I first remember watching the trailer for Brian De Palma’s “Blow Out” years ago before a double feature at New Beverly Cinema. While I don’t remember which double feature I was seeing that evening, I do remember the trailer itself and in becoming excited about checking out this underappreciated De Palma classic. Roger Ebert gave it four out of four stars and proclaimed it to be one of those “hidden treasures” at your local video store, and Quentin Tarantino, who bought the building New Beverly Cinema is housed in, has declared this to be one of three motion pictures he would love to take with him to a deserted island.
That little needle bouncing up when a certain sound is detected instantly reminded me of when I recorded my favorite records to audio tape when I was a boy. You had to make sure the levels did not go into the red area as the sound could become distorted and easily lay waste to your expensive stereo system. But when Jack Terry (played by John Travolta) ends up recording a loud sound no one was ever supposed to hear, and which ended up on the red side of the sound mix, we immediately know this was no mere accident.
I love how this trailer shows Travolta, Nancy Allen and John Lithgow giving the performances of their lives here. Seeing them shows how committed they are to the material, and I love the ever so cold look on Lithgow’s face as he is about to take the life of an innocent victim who is completely unsuspecting of someone about to strangle them. They way this trailer builds to a fever pitch made me want to check it out sooner rather than later.
“Blow Out” was a box office disappointment when released back in 1981 despite positive reviews, but thanks to Ebert and Tarantino among others, it has since gained a cult following it richly deserves. I finally got to check it out at the New Beverly Cinema where it played as a double feature with a movie said to have inspired it, Michelangelo Antonioni’s “Blow-Up.” This proved to be quite the cinematic evening for yours truly.
If there is to be a fifth “John Wick” film in our future, or perhaps this can be included in the upcoming spinoff entitled “Ballerina,” in which a father and son visit a memorial which stretches out for a couple of miles. Their dialogue would be comprised of the following:
“Daddy, what is the wall?”
“Well son, this is a memorial for all the people killed by John Wick, a professional hitman and assassin.”
“Wow, there are so many names up there!”
“I know son. Funny thing is, this memorial was opened up the public before those who constructed it realized they had another mile or two to add on. Just when everyone thought John could not kill another soul, he somehow found the strength to kill another human who was sent out to kill him.”
“Why did so many try to kill him dad?”
“Because there was a bounty on his head son, one to the tune of around $20 million dollars.”
“Daddy, are all these names up here to show they did not die in vain?”
“Actually son, it was quite the opposite. This memorial is proof of what happens when you put greed above everything else.”
Right from the start, the “John Wick” movies have shown how its title character is a human being somewhere in between the 1980’s action heroes portrayed by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone, and John McClane from “Die Hard.” On one hand, John looks to be super-human as he dishes out punishment while taking quite a large number of brutal hits in return, but thanks to Keanu Reeves, who continues to do some of his best work in these films, this character remains fully human as he is not without a soul and is looking to find peace in a world which appears very much devoid of it, particularly for him.
“John Wick Chapter 4” starts not too long after the events of “John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum” in which he found himself betrayed by the High Table. Since then, he has lived in an underground bunker with The Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne) who has helped nurse him back to health. Suffice to say, John’s bloody knuckles are a sign that he is ready to fight yet another battle. Of course, what makes this even clearer is the following dialogue:
The Bowery King: “You ready, John?”
John Wick: “Yeah.”
But the fact that John Wick is still alive does not sit well with Marquis Vincent de Gramont (Bill Skarsgard, who always looks like he is about to start singing “I’m Sexy and I Know It”) who chastises Winston Scott (Ian McShane) and his friend Charon (the late Lance Reddick) for failing to kill this dog-loving assassin. To see that the job finally gets done, Marquis hires Caine (Donnie Yen), a blind assassin who also happens to be an old friend of John’s. Caine is not keen on taking the job, and he shudders once he realizes what name he is reading on a braille card to where he does not even need to spell it all out. As these two come to blows, it does not take much to see how they are both victims of circumstances beyond their control as they fight to protect what they love most.
Director Chad Stahelski knows what we want and expect from a “John Wick” film when we enter then theater, but he is smart to not start things off with too big a bang. During its 169-minutes, he takes his time to reintroduce us into the world John inhabits and of the people in his universe who either benefit or suffer from his deadly actions. And when those action scenes suddenly take flight, you can bet it will take not one or two, but close to a dozen bullets to take out a single bad guy. Watching this, it makes me wonder if John will suddenly run out of bullets at the worst possibly moment.
When it comes to Reeves, many love to joke about what a bad actor he is. As for myself, I feel the need to defend him from time to time even if his work in “Knock Knock” remains too painful to endure. The truth is, he is one of the main reasons the “John Wick” movies work as well as they do. In this latest installment, he receives the deepest of bruises, is almost hung from a noose, has a tattoo searingly burned into one of his arms and ends up falling down more flights of concrete stairs than Father Karass did in “The Exorcist,” and yet he still comes out of all of this standing tall. Even if you wonder if John ever gets any sleep, has any time to go to the bathroom or if one ice bath a day is enough for him, Reeves makes you believe he can endure the worst and yet still come out of it all with a pulse. Even when a supporting character utters to John why he doesn’t just die, he makes you realize he is not about to or, at least, not yet.
Other than that, “John Wick Chapter 4” contains a lot of great things such as Ian McShane’s performance as he plays Winston Scott in a far more gleeful than he did previously, Clancy Brown who proves to be a wonderful addition as a high-ranking High Table operative called the Harbinger, a thrillingly propulsive music score composed by Tyler Bates and Joel J. Richard, and striking cinematography from Dan Laustsen.
Still, I do need to single out another performance here, and it is the one from Donnie Yen, As Caine, he shows how the blind can see things better than those who still have their eyesight, so it should be no surprise when he easily takes out his devilish opponents with something like the sound of a doorbell. Like John, Caine is in a position not of his own making, and Yen does an excellent job of showing the painful conflicts this character is forced to deal with. As much as he does not want to be in this position, you know he is not about to go easy on his prey. But will he enjoy taking down his target? That remains to be seen.
While watching “John Wick Chapter Four,” I was reminded of what happened after Ang Lee’s “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon” became such a worldwide phenomenon. Hollywood quickly greenlit a number of martial arts films heavy stunts, but none of them were anywhere as successful. Some studio executives proclaimed that these films had the best fight choreographers available, but they clearly missed the point. The best action films out there are not just about stunts, but also about characters with moral dilemmas they are constantly entangled in. Whether or not they win the day, they still wonder what will become of them once all the violence ends.
The ”John Wick” films are not just about stunts; they are about the characters which inhabit them. This is what makes all the amazing stunt work, and it is infinitely amazing here, so bloody effective. Whether or not you consider “John Wick Chapter Four” to be one of the best movies ever made, it is clearly one of the greatest action flicks to come out in recent years, and seeing it once is not enough. More importantly, you have got to check it out on the silver screen with the biggest audience in town.
By the way, there is a post credit scene I encourage you to stick around for. And yes, this film is dedicated to the memory of Lance Reddick, yet another actor who tragically left us far too soon. Rest in peace Lance…
Walt Disney Pictures has released many classic animated movies over the years, but none of them compare to the sheer anarchic lunacy of Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s “South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut.” While “Beauty and the Beast, “Aladdin” and “The Lion King” have given us songs not easily forgotten, so many other Disney animated musicals have only stayed in our minds for so long before they are easily forgotten, and they only dream of being as tuneful as this 1999 animated musical. It takes advantage of its big screen format to mercilessly satirize the MPAA (or the MPA as it is known as these days), hypocrisy, and of various musicals we all grew up with.
One does not have to be a fan of “South Park” to enjoy this movie. The characters of Stan, Cartman, Kenny and Kyle are introduced to the audience in wonderful fashion through the opening song “Mountain Town,” and they go off to the local movie theater for the opening day premiere of “Asses of Fire,” a Canadian film starring their favorite comedy duo of Terrence and Phillip. They are, however, denied admission as the movie has been rated R by the ever-reliable MPAA. But instead of paying for a PG-13 movie and sneaking into “Asses of Fire,” they pay a homeless guy to be their adult guardian. It sure saves on the anxiety of getting caught and kicked out of the theater by that one usher who actually bothers to follow the rules.
All four of them love “Asses Of Fire,” and this movie could be seen as the way parents view “South Park” on Comedy Central. The song “Uncle Fucka” ends up outdoing anything Parker and Stone ever did on the show. Hilariously profane without setting any limits for decency’s sake, it sets off this powder keg of a musical in an unforgettably hilarious style. Stan, Cartman, Eric, and Kenny brag of how cool they are for seeing Terrence and Phillip on the silver screen, and they gleefully spout off the vulgar profanity from the film to the shock and delight of their fellow classmates.
But it does not take long for their parents to discover what their kids been up to, and they end up doing what just about any loving parent would do; blame someone other than themselves. Parental hypocrisy is one of the big targets of “South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut” as the parents here all refuse to take any sort of responsibility for their children’s behavior. Instead, they launch an all-out war against Canada as Terrence and Phillip originated from the country, and also because, you know, why not?
Kids are far more of aware of hypocrisy when it confronts them, and in many ways this movie is seen through the eyes of a child. Their parents’ intention to obliterate a country just because a comedy duo inadvertently taught kids some utterly hideous words is completely ridiculous, but so was George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq. The media, movies and music are such easy targets even though they are emotional outlets, and those in power are quick to criticize them and suggest legislation to limit what they seem as their immoral influence for no good reason other than to put the more conservative population of America (a.k.a. white people) at ease.
Kenny also gets a bigger part than he ever had in the television show as he, of course, dies and ends up going to hell. When he arrives, he meets Satan who is far more vulnerable and sensitive than various depictions of him in popular culture have led us to believe. But the bigger problem though is Satan’s boyfriend who is none other than Saddam Hussein as he is shown to have died years before he actually did in real life. Saddam treats Satan like crap while Satan begs for him to be an affectionate partner in all things love. Satan also does his “Little Mermaid” number of how he yearns to be “up there” on Earth and above ground. Where else can one find Satan be more kind hearted than Saddam Hussein, let alone groups of parents?
This movie also satirizes those most famous of Broadway musicals such as “Les Miserables” on top of all those Walt Disney animated musicals we were raised on. In the process, both Parker and Stone, along with composer and lyricist Marc Shaiman, created the best musical Hollywood has seen in years. The songs are brilliant and insidiously, let alone gleefully, inspired as they stay with you long after you have finished watching this particular animated classic.
Seriously, after watching “South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut,” who can forget songs like “Blame Canada,” which should have won the Best Original Song Oscar over “You’ll Be in My Heart,” or “What Would Brian Boitano Do?” For me, however, the real showstopper here is “Uncle Fucka” in which Parker, Stone and Shaiman deign to portray from their critics’ point of view of how the critics view the show “South Park” as opposed to the rational way any other decent human being would. Perhaps it might be easy to say that the music and songs here are brilliant because of the uninhibited profanity on display, but each song gets at a deeper meaning beneath its shamelessly filthy lyrics.
The other great thing about this “South Park” movie is how it is proof Parker and Stone did not sell out. They could have made this into a PG-13 comedy and would have made three times more money in the process, but they both resisted Paramount Pictures urging to tone things down and succeeded in taking the show beyond the stifling confines of television. Seeing them stick to their guns is highly commendable, but perhaps it should not be seen as a surprise as they go after everything and everyone, and the show no hesitation in biting the hand that feeds them (Comedy Central).
All these years later, “South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut” remains uproarious as ever. The MPAA (a.k.a. the MPA) remains an overly conservative bunch of hypocrites who give NC-17 ratings to movies for all the wrong reasons, and parents continue to blame others for the ills of their children and society. Thankfully, this is not a motion picture that can be easily relegated to the Disney vault for an “anniversary release” twenty years into the future. Trey Parker and Matt Stone still fight the good fight, and the big screen version of their brilliant television show became a brilliant musical, which later led to others like “Team America” and the Broadway smash “The Book of Mormon.”
Like Kenny, “South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut’s” legacy will never die. But, like Kenny, if it ever does die, it will eventually be resurrected sooner than we think.
WRITER’S NOTE: This review was written in 2010, long before a certain actor in this film became quite the pariah.
You know, in retrospect, maybe 2009 wasn’t such a bad year for science fiction movies. It’s just that the stench from some of the biggest movies in that genre lasted much longer than the memories we had of the movies we saw.
With “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” we sadly watched a strong franchise fall victim to a prequel which lacked the thrills and the complex characters that made the three previous entries so good. “Terminator Salvation” will probably be remembered best for Christian Bale’s angry rant on set than with what ended up onscreen.
And then came “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” and I still have the impulse to bitch and moan about that sequel whenever necessary. Michael Bay left a giant robot turd for us which we just couldn’t resist seeing, so it of course made hundreds of millions of dollars. It put such an enormous dent in my enjoyment of things science fiction, and I am still getting over my frustration with it even after all this time.
But getting past that awful stench, there were a number of sci-fi gems to be found in 2009. “Star Trek” turned out to be an enormous surprise and a fantastic piece of entertainment. Imagine that, a prequel heading in unpredictable directions. And although I keep running into more and more haters of this one, “Avatar” for me was a great reminder of why experiencing movies on the big screen with an audience can be so much fun. And let us not forget “District 9,” a film that paralleled the Apartheid movement which overtook South Africa for far too long. These films were so good that I believe they will stand the test of time as opposed to the others which let me down to an infinite degree.
And then there is “Moon” which came out in limited release and did not have the same publicity as those big blockbusters did. This one proved to be the most thought provoking and original sci-fi movie of 2009. Granted, it does borrow from many classics of the genre like “2001” and “Alien” to name a few, but first-time director Duncan Jones takes all these influences and molds them into a motion picture which feels very fresh compared to what we generally get year to year. Jones is also aided greatly by another in a long line of superb performances from Sam Rockwell who is more or less doing a solo show this time out.
Rockwell plays Sam Bell, an employee of Lunar Industries who is under a 3-year contract to extract Helium-3 from the moon’s surface; a natural gas which will provide much needed clean energy back on Earth. You would figure he would get more than just a robot companion as company during all this time far from home. But I guess corporations managed to find a way to cut the whole workforce down to one person in the future, hence saving them an obscene amount of money for themselves. Sam’s only human contact is the messages he gets from his wife and infant daughter as well as his superiors who are always checking on his progress. For him, it must be like staying at “The Shining’s” Overlook Hotel with outer space to deal with instead of snow. But at least here, he is spaced out instead of snowed in.
While doing his daily work on the land rover, Sam crashes and is knocked unconscious. When Sam comes to, he is back in the lunar base but has no idea of how he got back. He also ends up hallucinating to where he sees a little girl he does not know. In short, a number of things happen to where he goes outside the base and back to the damaged harvester to find someone barely alive: himself. To reveal more would be criminal because it would spoil the many surprises this film has for you.
For a moment, I thought “Moon” was an adaptation of another Philip K. Dick novel like “Blade Runner” or “Total Recall.” It turns out, however, it is not, but “Moon” does deal with some of the same themes. How would you feel if one day you woke up and found you were not who you thought you were? Would you continue on in life if you found you were nothing more than a copy of another person? How long can a secret be kept before it comes out into the open? While scientists may continue to play around with the evolution of human beings, they can never fully control the desires and actions of them. Throughout history, humanity has always found a way to break through its collective suppression to get at a reality which cannot be forever contained.
As I said, “Moon” borrows from many other sci-fi movies. The design of the lunar base looks much like the Nostromo from “Alien,” and a lot of the lettering and fonts seem very similar to those seen in “Aliens.” And there is no mistaking the influence “2001: A Space Odyssey” had on this film, especially with Sam’s robot companion GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey). Instead of an eerie looking red dot like HAL, GERTY has a smiley face which illustrates the different emotions which better relate to Sam’s emotional needs. This is that same smiley face Wal-Mart co-opted, and although this company is not mentioned here, seeing that icon makes me believe this particular corporate monolith may very well have the last laugh on the unions and remain more dominant in the future. Be afraid. Be very afraid…
Other directors would just take these elements and throw them up onto the screen without much forethought. Jones, however, takes all these familiar elements and more than makes them his own. “Moon” looks familiar in some ways, but it feels quite unique in others.
But what is especially impressive about “Moon” is how it was made for only $5 million dollars. Most sci-fi movies these days cost at least $150 million, and this does not include advertising and other promotion costs. Heck, when I see a sci-fi movie that costs only $30 million, I expect subpar effects and am usually forgiving about them. But Jones takes the budget he has and makes everything look like it cost ten times as much. I guess this further proves what Robert Rodriguez said about having less money forces you to be more creative.
“Moon” also benefits from an excellent music score by Clint Mansell whose career as a film composer keeps getting better and better. His music adds a strong emotional quality that strengthens our need to understand Sam on an emotional level. Ever since “Pi” and “Requiem for a Dream,” Mansell has proven to be one of the most original sounding composers working today, and the musical themes he typically deals with are perfectly suited to this kind of material.
In the end though, this is Rockwell’s show, and he has quite a challenge as he is essentially acting opposite himself. You have to wonder how an actor plays off of himself and yet makes it look so natural at the same time. Rockwell has become better known for playing bad guys or heavies in mainstream movies, but he is more than capable of playing outside of that and continues to prove so in movies like this, “Frost/Nixon,” and “Choke” to name a few. In giving his character a strong complexity to someone who may not really actually be human ends up forcing you to identify more with something which may simply look like a machine from the outside. As a result, you could say that “Moon” also has a bit of “A.I.: Artificial Intelligence” in it as well.
And I do not want to leave out Kevin Spacey whose voice as GERTY creates a soothing trust Sam wants to hold on to and, at other times, test. GERTY is HAL but without the homicidal tendencies, and that has to be reassuring if you are stuck on the moon with no one else but a robot. Spacey makes GERTY seem like more than just a robot, and he makes us see how GERTY more in common with Sam than at first glance.
“Moon” is easily one of the most intelligent sci-fi movies of 2009, and it got lost in the shuffle of all the other big Hollywood releases, both bad and good. It deserves a long shelf life at your local video store, if there are any left where you live. In the end, it will last much longer in the memory than Michael Bay’s desecration of all things Hasbro. But enough of that one already…
The best way to describe “Source Code?” It is “Groundhog Day” crossed with “Quantum Leap.” It stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Captain Colter Stevens, an army helicopter pilot who has been assigned to a mission which has him looking for a bomber who blew up a Chicago bound train and killed everyone onboard. The movie’s title refers to a special program which allows him to enter the body of one of the passengers on that train for the last eight minutes of their life. So, perhaps this film is more like “Groundhog Day,” except that the day is going to be a lot shorter than 24 hours, and I mean a lot shorter.
Now this is a great concept for a film as we all have those moments which can prove to be as painful as they are unforgettable. Whether we admit or not, we keep replaying certain memories in our minds over and over again, often changing the outcome to something far more pleasing to our ego and sense of well-being. Even though it does us no good to dwell on the past, we fall into those patterns when our present is not all that great, and our future is more uncertain than we would prefer it to be. And through the breakthroughs of science here, Captain Colter gets to relive a moment which, while not his own, allows him to manipulate reality whenever the opportunity presents itself.
Of course, we can replay a moment from our lives to where we can no longer remember what was real or what was not. “Source Code” explores this as well, making one believe that if our lives were predestined, they will cease to be thanks to what science can continually do for us.
This film is director Duncan Jones’ follow up to “Moon” which itself was one of the very best movies of 2009. Like “Moon,” its main character is caught up in a situation not entirely of his making, but which becomes clear as the story rolls along. Like Colter, we are making discoveries about who he is along with him, and we eagerly await the answers he comes across even if they do not produce the desired result of stopping the bombing.
From the outset, “Source Code” looks to be a whodunit, but this ceases to be the case before the film reaches its midpoint. Besides, it’s pretty easy to figure out who the bomber is, and it is only a matter of time before Colter confronts said person to learn their true intentions. In actuality, it is about a man caught up in a situation which he has no control over, and of how he gets that control back in a way no one can predict.
Gyllenhaal remains one of the most dependable actors in movies, and he does not let the audience down in this one. In many ways, his performance is not too different from others he has given in recent years, so there is not much new to what he does here. All the same, he is very good, so why complain? Gyllenhaal engages us emotionally in his character’s struggle as, like him, we do not know how we got into this and we are desperate to get answers.
Jones does great work in making each visit to the same eight minutes unique from the last Colter gets unwillingly subjected to. “Source Code” could have been redundant as hell, and certain moments and actions are repeated ad nauseam throughout, but each eight-minute period has a different theme or construction to it. There are various people Colter has to meet, and there are other things for him to take advantage of in the little time he has to work with. Colter also gets to pull the rug out from under us to where, once the bomber is found, he finds there is still work to do.
Aside from Gyllenhaal, “Source Code” features other strong performances like the one from Vera Farmiga who was so great in “The Departed” and “Up in The Air.” Her character of Captain Colleen Goodwin at first looks to be Colter’s embattled conscience, but it is really the other way around. Farmiga is great in taking a typical military stock character and giving them a heart and soul which strongly informs the decisions Colleen later makes.
Also in the film is Jeffrey Wright who plays the creator of Source Code, Dr. Rutledge. This could have been a simple obsessive doctor, one mad with power, or one who is overly cruel. Somehow, Wright succeeds in making Rutledge something of an enigma to where you are not quite sure what to make of him. He may not be a mad scientist, but he is also not the warm kind either.
And, of course, we have the infinitely lovely Michelle Monaghan here as Christina Warren, girlfriend to the man Colter inhabits. Whether it is “Mission: Impossible 3,” “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” or “Gone Baby Gone,” she always has a wonderful presence about her, and her smile brightens our mood every time we see it. And, like many actresses I tend to have a crush on, she is already married (dammit).
Is “Source Code” an original movie? I do not know nor do I care, but it sure feels like one compared to most movies being released these days. While you could say that there is a bit of “Inception” in this film as it involves searching through the mind of another person, this one feels like its own thing. It is a pointless argument to complain about what Jones borrows from here because not much of anything is original these days. It becomes a quest to take elements from other movies or stories and make them your own, and Jones has succeeded in doing this here.
While “Source Code” is a bit confusing at times, and I did not fully buy the its concluding act, this film is an enthralling mystery with a good dose of exciting action. Hopefully, Hollywood studios will start taking the time in being more openly inventive instead of just regurgitating the blockbuster hits from the recent past.
Still, it would be nice to change some of the more painful moments from our past so that we can look at ourselves in a kinder light, one which will help make our egos rise out of the muck they too often sink into. While it is best to make peace and forgive ourselves for our foolish trespasses, science is always catching up with us. Just you wait!
With each passing year, I find myself getting increasingly cynical and disenchanted with the Academy Awards/Oscars. As a kid, I watched them with wonder and excitement as the winners gave such great speeches in front of an audience that adored them. But as an adult, I see more and more how the wheels spin as movie studios continue to spend millions upon millions of dollars on their Oscar campaigns in hopes of obtaining one or more of those golden statues. Let’s face it if we have not already, an Oscar win means big box office money, and everyone wants to see their films turn a profit even if those Hollywood accountants will eventually tell them they did not, news which we greet with a loud, “Bitch, please!”
Still, as I watched the 95th Annual Academy Awards which saw the return of Jimmy Kimmel as host, I found myself swept in the innocence of everything cinematic as the speeches the winners gave moved me to no end. Granted, this ceremony is essentially Hollywood’s way of congratulating itself, but sometimes they get it right with the winners (case in point: “Parasite”). Plus, it is the only awards show I bother to watch as the Emmys and the Grammys never do anything for me. As for the Golden Globes, they are enjoyable for all the wrong reasons.
Allow me to take a look at this year’s Oscars before I slip into my cynical self and discover all the things which were wrong with it. Call me naïve or woefully ignorant, I would rather celebrate this evening right now rather than lay waste to it.
Well, there were virtually no surprises as “Everything Everywhere All at Once” won the most Oscars including Best Picture. “All Quiet on the Western Front,” however, looked at one point to be the evening’s upset victor as it scored more wins than many initially suspected. But with Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s film walking off with key prizes at the DGA and PGA award shows, we all walked in to this one knowing who would be victorious.
Ke Huy Quan proved to be an unforgettable presence in both “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” and “The Goonies” before his acting career lost speed and he went to work in film production and as a fight choreographer. His win for Best Supporting Actor was an emotional one as he spoke of how he spent a year in a refugee camp long before arriving on the stage at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. Here is what he also said:
“Dreams are something you have to believe in. I almost gave up on mine,” he said. “To all of you out there, please keep your dreams alive.”
Regardless of how cynical I may have become, I could not help but be moved by what Quan said as our dreams and passions are what we should be living for.
And how cool is it to finally be able to call Jamie Lee Curtis an Oscar winner? I have said this over and over, but you can put her in a god awful movie (“Virus” for example) and she will still deliver a terrific performance regardless of the material she has been saddled with. Her win for Best Supporting Actress comes on the heels of her laying waste to Michael Myers one last time in “Halloween Ends.” Granted, the Akkad family is bound to resurrect the “Halloween” franchise at some point in the future, but Curtis, as Laurie Strode, still got to have the last word.
As for Curtis’ speech, it was as moving as Quan’s as she slowly accepted the reality that she actually won an Academy Award. While many were not shocked at her taking home the Best Supporting Actress Oscar, she clearly was. Her proclamation of “I just won an Oscar” may come to rival Sally Field’s infamous one of “You like me! You really like me!”
When it comes to Best Original Song, the performances of each nominee can either be a much needed bathroom break or something spectacular which upstages the rest of the show. This year was a mixed bag when it came to that, but the winner of this category, “Naatu Naatu” from the film “RRR” brought the house down with its energetic performance as the performers and singers displayed an infinite amount of passion and audacity as they danced and sang the night away. The standing ovation which accompanied this was well deserved.
Still, when it came to the other original song nominees, Lady Gaga was not far behind with her performance of “Hold My Hand” from “Top Gun: Maverick” which proved to be both emotional and rousing. Moreover, while she came into the Dolby Theatre looking as glamorous as anyone else, Lady Gaga performed this song sans makeup and in a dark t-shirt which made her rendition of this song infinitely remarkable and wonderfully defiant.
I got to interview Michelle Yeoh a few years ago when she was doing press for “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny,” and she look fabulous and was great to talk to. I was reminded of this during her speech when she won Best Actress for “Everything Everywhere All at Once” as she gave us some of the most memorable lines of the evening:
“Ladies, don’t ever let anyone tell you that you are past your prime.”
“For all the little boys and girls who look like me watching tonight, this is a beacon of hope and possibility.”
No one can ever forget the inevitable “In Memorium” segment which pays tribute those who have since passed away, and which also infuriate so many who get deeply angered over who got omitted (speaking of which, what about Richard Belzer?). Having John Travolta introduce this segment seemed both appropriate and highly emotional as two of his co-stars, Olivia Newton John and Kirstie Alley, died after their long fights with cancer, and the death of his beloved wife Kelly Preston still hangs heavy on him. Lenny Kravitz pulled off a memorable performance as the names of the deceased were unveiled before us. Was anyone left out? Probably, but I will let others get into that. I do not have the energy to do it here.
And when it comes to predestination, Brendan Fraser’s win for Best Actor in “The Whale” was an inescapable certainty. Everyone loves a comeback, and no one could seem to get enough of his performance as a morbidly obese man desperate to restore his relationship to his daughter. Some will say there are no absolutes in life, only in vodka, but there was little doubt Fraser was going to take home the prize. And even after all the accolades he has received thus far, he remained as emotional as he was on the WTF Podcast with Marc Maron as he thanked director Darren Aronofsky for “throwing me a creative lifeline and hauling me aboard.” That is quite the compliment.
It is moments like these which quickly remind me of why I love watching the Academy Awards/Oscars. Regardless of the ridiculously competitive races Hollywood studios participate in, and whether or not you believe these winners even deserve to be nominated, I cannot help but love how thrilled the winners are to have reached such a penultimate recognition. History is always being made, and careers are being rewarded to where I cannot and do not want to deny that dreams can come true. Even if they do not come true for everyone, it always provides a beacon of hope we all need and thrive upon in this crazy realm known as show business.
Even as I still wonder if the Oscar campaign tactics of the Weinsteins are still being utilized by others, there is still a special place in my heart for the Academy Awards. Even if they seem more political than anything else, watching them still makes my spirits rise even when they seem too low down. Now please excuse me as I have to end this article before the things which pissed me off about this year’s Oscars rise to the surface…
…Okay, there a couple of things. I mean seriously, did we really need Halle Bailey and Melissa McCarthy introducing the new trailer for Rob Marshall’s take on “The Little Mermaid?” This struck me as crass commercialism as the producers have better things to do than promote upcoming films during this ceremony. Besides, if they are going to show a trailer for that, what about other studio releases? What is so special about Disney that they get to promote yet another live action remake of one of their famous animated classics?
As for the tribute to Warner Brothers on its 100th anniversary, someone needs to do a little more research as some of the movies they showed originated under MGM, not Warner Brothers. Even Bugs Bunny was rolling his eyes at this, and yes, he did this while in drag.
Many will probably look at “The King’s Speech” as one of those snobby British art movies, but this of course will say so much more about its so-called critics than anything else. The story of a man who, it is said, “bloody well stammers” and works to overcome this affliction which keeps him from completing sentences let alone a whole speech sounds more like one of those formula movies where we watch a human being triumph over personal obstacles with the help of a mentor. Then again, not many of those movies are about King George VI, and with this being “based on a true story,” it all adds more dramatic heft to this particular story even as I continually tire of that overused phrase.
Formulaic or not, “The King’s Speech” is a magnificent film which takes hat seems like an easy to overcome problem (or so others might think) and turns it into compelling cinema. This is in large part thanks to a wonderful cast that includes Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, and Helena Bonham Carter. There’s nary a single weak performance to be found here, and this was one of the best acted films of 2010.
Seriously, I bow down to Firth after watching him here. That he gives a brilliant performance is no surprise as he has had an amazing career to date, but this particular role seems all the more difficult for him or anyone else to pull off. Mastering the technical part of it and making the stammering seem utterly believable must have been a job unto itself. How do you get an audience to suspend disbelief and get them to believe you are seriously afflicted with such a seriously irritating impediment?
Now other actors would probably try to master the stammer to where they are not thinking about it. But with Firth, he digs deep into the role to get at who King George VI was as a person and what has affected him emotionally. That he gets at the heart of this character and creates such a vivid portrait of a leader many do not know much about is what makes his performance so damn good. As for the technical aspects of the role, I am guessing Firth saw this as secondary, but it should go without saying that he perfects the stammer from start to finish.
Then there is Geoffrey Rush who also served as one of this film’s producers. As Lionel Logue, the King’s speech therapist, he serves as the Mr. Myagi of “The King’s Speech.” Lionel gets the King to do a variety of exercises which are as physical as they are vocal, but his biggest challenge is in getting George to exorcise the personal problems which affect him and his speech more than anything else. All the tongue twisters and warm ups won’t do a thing until the King confronts the emotional scars which he has endured up to this point in life.
Ever since his Oscar winning turn in “Shine,” Rush has been one of the most entertaining actors in movies. I don’t know if it is his deep voice or incredibly dry wit, but he’s never boring in any film he’s in. Whether it’s as the Queen’s servant in “Elizabeth” or Jack Sparrow’s foe in the “Pirates of The Caribbean” movies, Rush has remained such a fascinating presence in one performance after another. Sometimes all it takes is a look or a move from him to get a big response from the audience, and it was a big audience when I saw “The King’s Speech” at a nearby theater. Seriously, seeing him strike a pose in a chair Lionel has no business sitting in is enough to get a big laugh, and that is saying a lot?
When it comes to Helena Bonham Carter, just how many great performances has she given us? It still does not feel all that long since she appeared in “A Room with A View,” and that film was made back in 1985. Still, she glides effortlessly from role to role, and it truly is impossible to pigeonhole her. Whether it is “Fight Club” or Tim Burton’s disappointing remake of “Alice in Wonderland,” she has proven capable of playing any role given to her with relative ease, and not many can pull this off these days.
As the King’s wife, Queen Elizabeth, Carter is sublime throughout. She makes Elizabeth both empathetic to her husband’s problems and very strong in the role which is suddenly thrust upon her. Her performance here is actually quite subtle, and you never really catch her acting. Seeing her interact with “commoners” is a delight as she comes off as professional but very polite and never snobby. I keep talking about actors who inhabit roles more than play them and Carter proves to be one of them here.
There are also other great performances to take note of as well in “The King’s Speech.” I was surprised to see Guy Pearce on board as George’s brother, King Edward VIII, whose passion for another overcomes his royal responsibilities. Derek Jacobi shows up as Cosmo Gordon Lang, the Archbishop of Canterbury, whose advisements to the King perhaps go a bit further than they need to. I almost did not recognize Michael Gambon as King George V, his booming voice covered up by a face which is very un-Dumbledore like. Claire Bloom also is wonderful as Queen Mary, and she is also another one of those actors you never catch acting. And then you have Timothy Spall who plays the famous British Prime Minister Winston Churchill almost as well as I did back in junior high school.
The cast of this movie, when you look at it, is a roster of those British actors who were not cast in a “Harry Potter” movie, and those who had somehow managed to find a break in between those movies to pop in for a performance here.
Seriously though, the story does have that setup of a person who asks for help from a “wise old man” and then keeps coming and quitting on him before coming back again for more lessons. But director Tom Hooper and screenwriter David Seidler keep it from ever becoming a routine film, and their attention to historical accuracy throughout is very commendable. Adding to this is the chemistry of the actors who interact with each other so well. I also have to say that the process of a man giving a speech to an entire nation has never seemed so exciting before I watched this film. “The King’s Speech” may not be an action thriller per say, but the last half had me on the edge of my seat.
Hooper brilliantly sets up the tension between King George VI and his audience right from the start. As we watch George at a local race, stumbling over a speech he is forced to give, Hooper really puts us into the mindset of someone with a serious problem of speaking in front of others. We are made to feel the way Firth’s character does, and we immediately sympathize with what he is going through. That scene hangs over our heads and the main characters all the way to the end to when, I guess you could say, George has his “Rocky” moment.
“The King’s Speech” was more than deserving of the accolades which were bestowed upon it back in 2010. While “The Social Network” would have been my choice for Best Picture at the 83rd Annual Academy Awards, there is no denying just how well made Hooper’s film was, and it still holds up to this very day.
Believe it or not, “The Artist” is only the second silent film in cinematic history to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards. The first was “Wings” which itself was the first film to win this particular award. I figured there were several other silent films which took home this award, but I guess the Oscars came about as the movie business was quickly transitioning to what was once called “talkies” when these awards began.
Looking back at “The Artist,” I have to admit it was nice to see a filmmaker reach back to a time when the movie industry was in its infancy, just like what Martin Scorsese did with “Hugo.” But while “The Artist” does not quite reach the same level of greatness that “Hugo” did, it still proves to be a compelling motion picture with great performances, a powerful story, and it serves as a reminder of how great black and white can be for certain motion pictures.
The story told here is one which has been told a million times before. George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is a silent film star who sees his great career suddenly crash to the ground when sound is introduced into motion pictures. George initially resists this change, feeling that it is a fad which will pass by quickly before anyone knows it. Of course, we all know this is not going to be the case as change is in the air and there is no stopping it.
As George finds his career ruined by this advancement in film and technology, another actress he once befriended named Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) embraces this technological change and sees her star rise to the heavens as a result. She has gotten great and truly genuine advice from George in how to make her mark as an actress, and she forever holds a special place in her heart for him. So, it comes to deeply hurt her seeing his career fall apart after what he has done for her, and then we see things for him get even more difficult with the 1929 stock-market crash. Will Peppy save George and help him make a comeback?
That the plot of “The Artist” is such an old one ended up taking away from the overall experience for me a bit as I knew where it was heading and that everything would eventually be alright. All I could hope for was that the director and actors would keep things interesting so that I was not thinking about the outcome too much. This is where this movie succeeds because the performances are so rich and the direction is nothing short of excellent to where I was caught up in the moment to where I started watching and stopped thinking so much.
Jean Dujardin looks like he walked right out of a 1920’s silent film here, and he was clearly born to play George Valentin. In doing a movie within a movie, he manages to balance out both Valentin the star and Valentin the man. Much of the acting in silent films involved a lot of mugging, and its great fun to watch Dujardin getting ready to shoot a scene as he makes clear how much he is playing for the camera. But when Valentin is not making a movie, Dujardin’s performance becomes all the more remarkable as he expresses emotions he is not in a position to verbalize onscreen or off of it.
This is the thing about screen acting; the most powerful moments in a movie can come from just one look from an actor. Being able to make clear what a character is thinking without saying it out loud is the biggest challenge, and the actors in “The Artist” have to work even harder because words will not save them, especially even when certain dialogue is put on the screen for all to see. That they do succeed in drawing us in emotionally with little in the way of sound or dialogue is a true testament to their talents.
Matching Dujardin scene for scene is Bejo who plays rising film star Peppy Miller. She is a joy to behold and an infinitely appealing presence here, and that smile of hers lit up my heart in a way few things can. Seeing Peppy rise to the level of a movie star is endless fun, but Bejo also keeps her a likable character even when success threatens to spoil her rotten. This made me like Peppy all the more as a result.
There is a slew of other great performances to be found in “The Artist” which does not have a weak one to be found in its entire cast. John Goodman looks like he’s having a marvelous time channeling his “Matinee” character for the role of studio boss Al Zimmer. James Cromwell is very touching as Valentin’s loyal butler Clifton as he becomes the conscience this fallen movie star needs to hear out. It is also great to see Penelope Ann Miller here as Valentin’s wife, Doris, a character who does not seem to be the least bit satisfied with this marriage.
But the one who upstages everyone here is Uggie who portrays George’s ever so faithful Jack Russell terrier named Jack. Uggie reminded me of Mike the Dog who stole many scenes in “Down and Out in Beverly Hills” from his human co-stars and, like Mike, he becomes as big a character as everyone else here. That he is able to convey certain emotions to where he gets a police officer to save his owner from certain death is amazing. His performance topped off what had been a great year for dogs at the movies along with another named “Beginners.” Isn’t it about time the Academy Awards gave animals special Oscars for their work onscreen?
Director Michel Hazanavicius stays very true to the way silent films were shot back in the day, and his extensive research of them certainly shows from start to finish. He makes “The Artist” look like it really came from the 1920’s as he transports you back in time to this specific cinematic period. He is also served well by a beautiful film score by Ludovic Bource which heightens the already strong emotions to great effect, and by cinematographer Guillaume Schiffman who gives “The Artist” a striking look which does not betray any of today’s technological advances which could have been used here.
Having said all this, “The Artist” would not have been my choice for Best Picture at the 84th Academy Awards (my pick was “The Tree of Life”). Plus, with such a familiar story, it feels like we are getting hit here by a case of deja vu. Regardless, it is still a fantastic piece of filmmaking which you owe it to yourself to watch if you have not already. Along with “Hugo,” many may look at 2011 as the year movies reached back in time to remind us of what a magical experience they were when they first came to exist.
The following review was written by Ultimate Rabbit correspondent, Tony Farinella.
When it comes to the genre of underdog sports films, they don’t make them any better than the original “Rocky.” It was a film that came along at the right place at the right time and with the right actor. After all, Sylvester Stallone was the writer of the original “Rocky” script, and he demanded to star in the film even though the studio wanted a big name. Stallone was unknown at the time. It’s been 47 years since “Rocky” came out, but its staying power will last forever. It is why I was extremely pleased to hear Warner Brothers was going to be releasing a collection of the first four “Rocky” films in 4K and in a set. It was one of my most anticipated releases of the year so far.
Many of you who are reading this review might be asking, “Where is ‘Rocky V?’ What about ‘Rocky Balboa?’ The ‘Creed‘ movies?” I heard rumblings that there are possible director’s cuts coming out for “Rocky V” and “Rocky Balboa.” As far as the “Creed” movies, I would imagine they will get a separate release, as they are part of their own universe. Now with all that out of the way, this review is going to focus on the first four “Rocky” movies and how they are available on 4K for the very first time.
The original “Rocky,” released in 1976, was nominated for 10 Academy Awards and won Best Picture. When revisiting the film, which I’ve seen a number of times, it is easy to see why it has such staying power. It starts with the relationship between Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) and a shy young woman named Adrian (Talia Shire) who works at a pet store. For my money, “Rocky” is a love story, first and foremost, and it is a sports movie second. The interaction Rocky and Adrian have with one another in his apartment is one of the most tender and genuine love scenes I’ve ever seen on film.
Rocky Balboa is a local southpaw boxer in Philadelphia where he makes little to no money, and he takes a lot of abuse in the process. He also collects for a local loan shark named Tony Gazzo, played by Joe Spinell. He hangs out at a local pub with his friend Paulie (Burt Young), who also happens to be Adrian’s brother. Paulie isn’t always the easiest guy to get along with, but Rocky is a very patient and understanding individual. As a matter of fact, you would be hard-pressed to find anyone that doesn’t like Rocky. It’s a well-known fact these days that Stallone was not someone the studio wanted to portray Rocky. However, the script was written by him, and he knew this character inside and out. He went on to write and direct “Rocky II, III and IV” which are also included in this set, along with “Rocky Balboa.”
That’s the beauty of this film. Stallone was an underdog actor at the time he sold his script, and the film is about an underdog boxer who is given a chance to fight the heavyweight champion of the world, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), after Creed’s original opponent ends up injured. Creed, being the shrewd businessman that he is, figures it would be a great idea to give an underdog a shot at the title in order to create a marketable gimmick and make some money. Rocky Balboa knows this is his chance to prove he can go make something of himself and stand out as a winner. He is trained by the cranky yet seasoned Mickey (Burgess Meredith), who is finally willing to give Rocky a chance. The two of them joust verbally back-and-forth with one another for some great comedic relief.
In “Rocky II,” Rocky is dealing with life after the big fight with Creed. Even though he didn’t win, he went the distance with the champion which shocked the world. He lasted all fifteen rounds and lost based on the decision of the judges. Regardless, many people think Rocky was the true winner of the fight. He has to figure out how to live a normal life now that he’s a well-known figure not only in Philadelphia, his hometown, but around the world as well. He starts to do commercials and even ends up with a manual labor job, but he realizes his true calling is as a boxer.
Apollo Creed also has a score to settle with Rocky. He wants to knock him out and prove to the world and himself that he’s truly the world heavyweight champion. Creed wants to show everyone that what happened in their previous fight was a fluke. Rocky, on the other hand, might go blind if he gets in the ring again after what happened in their last fight. He took quite a beating, but he came back for more. He knows he’s a fighter, and he knows the risks, even though he has to think of Adrian now and their child. Mickey has devised a plan for Rocky which he thinks will allow him to win the fight and protect his eyes at the same time.
In “Rocky III,” Rocky is forced to handle success. He learns that Mickey has been protecting him from the really good fighters out there because he wants to keep him safe and look out for him. This causes Rocky to feel like a paper champion and question his manhood. There is also a tough challenger coming for him by the name of Clubber Lang (Mr. T) who is hellbent on embarrassing Rocky in the ring and becoming heavyweight champion of the world. This time, though, he has a new trainer in Apollo Creed. Rocky once again must learn a new fighting style: it is one based on endurance and speed. Clubber Lang is bigger and stronger than Rocky, so it will take everything Rocky has in him in order to defeat him.
“Rocky IV” is where it gets very interesting, as there are two cuts of the film featured here on one disc. There is the original “Rocky IV” theatrical cut and also “Rocky IV: Rocky vs. Drago,” which is the ultimate director’s cut. This time, Rocky finds himself having to fight his biggest opponent yet in Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), who is a foot taller and thirteen years younger than him. He also must train in Russia as the fight will be taking place there on Christmas Day. Rocky will not only train like he never has before, but he will have to win in enemy territory against “The Russian,” as he’s referred to many times throughout the course of the film.
I didn’t want to give four full-length reviews for these films, as I imagine almost anyone reading this has seen and knows them fairly well, much like myself. If I were to give my ranking of the films featured in this set, I would go with the original “Rocky” as the best, “Rocky II” as the second best, “Rocky IV: Rocky vs. Drago” as the third best, and “Rocky III” as the fourth best. I would really advise you to check out the ultimate director’s cut of “Rocky IV” over the theatrical cut. It’s only two minutes longer, but the film is more serious, intense, and flows in a much more effective manner. It’s all in the tone of the film, and I loved the tone of the ultimate director’s cut. It really gave me a new appreciation for the fourth “Rocky” film.
As soon as this set arrived, it only took me two days to go through all four films. It was truly a treat to revisit them. I understand why they released these four films in a set together. It makes sense after watching them. You can also buy them as standalone steelbooks at your local Best Buy, but I believe they have different release dates. This set is out right now and while it is far from perfect, I’ll explain why later, if you are a “Rocky” fan, you have to buy this set for your collection. The original “Rocky” will always be a great, great piece of cinematic history. The second film is very, very good as well. The third one is good, but not great. “Rocky IV: Rocky vs. Drago” is also much improved with the ultimate director’s cut.
4K Info: “Rocky: The Knockout Collection” is released on 4K from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment. This set features five discs. The first three films are on their own individual discs and “Rocky IV” has the theatrical cut and the ultimate director’s cut on it. There is also a Blu-ray disc of special features. The set also comes with a digital code to have all of them in your digital library on 4K. “Rocky” has a running time of 119 minutes, “Rocky II” has a running time of 120 minutes, “Rocky III” has a running time of 100 minutes, and “Rocky IV” has a running time of 91 minutes (theatrical cut) and 93 minutes (ultimate director’s cut). All the films are rated PG. The set comes in a flipper case with a thick cardboard slipcover, so the discs are not stacked on top of each other and can be flipped through with their own slot. On one hand, I would have loved it if they released these films in four separate cases with slipcovers in a box set. However, for space reasons, this set works for me as it’s easy to put on the shelf with all four films together on five discs (including the Blu-ray special features disc) in a single set which isn’t much bigger than your average 4K film with a slipcover. All of the films come with Dolby Vision as well, which I was VERY happy with as a 4K collector.
Video Info: Let’s talk about the look of these films. The original “Rocky” is probably the worst looking film out of the bunch. I say this because of the age of the film and its low budget. It doesn’t look awful or terrible, but I don’t think it’s ever going to be a film that looks spectacular or blows you away. There is noticeable grain here, but in many ways, it adds to the gritty nature of the original film. That being said, if you are looking for a major upgrade with the first film on 4K, you probably are going to be disappointed. “Rocky II” looks very, very good. It’s a clean transfer which is smooth looking and crystal clear. The boxing scenes, in particular, look the best I’ve ever seen them look. This is when you can see the Dolby Vision and the HDR really, really stand out. This is a major upgrade. For “Rocky III,” the transfer is above average. It’s better than “Rocky,” but it’s not as good as “Rocky II.” There was noticeable grain, but it didn’t have the same old-school charm as the original look of the film. The best-looking film out of the bunch, far and away, is “Rocky IV.” I wish the majority of the films looked like this. This counts for both the ultimate director’s cut and the theatrical cut. You can see everything on their faces, and they really cleaned up this film. It looks beautiful and modern.
Audio Info: The following audio formats were used: English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, English/Spanish/French Dolby Digital, and 2.0 Dolby Digital with subtitles in English, French, and Spanish. I’ve read from a lot of people online that are unhappy with how the films sound. Personally, I don’t think the audio issues are as bad as advertised, and the problems don’t take away from the viewing experience. At times, the films can fluctuate in audio, but the dips are not that frequent. They are here and there throughout the four films. Truth be told, I would not have ever noticed these issues unless they were pointed out to me. Overall, though, I think it’s much to do about nothing.
“Rocky” 4K Special Features:
Audio Commentary featuring Sylvester Stallone.
Audio Commentary featuring John G. Avildsen, Irvin Winkler, Robert Chartoff, Talia Shire, Carl Weathers, Burt Young, and Garrett Brown.
Audio Commentary featuring Lou Duva and Bert Sugar
Bonus Features Disc:
The Making of Rocky vs Drago: Keep Punching
8mm Home Movies of Rocky
3 Rounds with Lou Duva
Steadicam: Then and Now
Staccato: A Composer’s Notebook
The Ring of Truth
Tribute to Burgess Meredith
Stallone Meets Rocky
* * * ½ out of * * * *
Should You Buy It?
This set was delayed in getting to me as it had a street date of February 28th, and I imagine a lot of that had to do with people complaining about the audio issues. I’m not a film snob by any means, but I am very particular about the audio and visual quality of 4K releases, as I’ve invested heavily into the 4K format. With all that being said, the pros outweigh the cons. Yes, not all of the films look great, but this is the best they have ever looked, with “Rocky II” and “Rocky IV,” in particular, looking fantastic. Yes, the audio is problematic at times, but it’s not so noticeable that it impacted my ability to hear the films or enjoy them. Right now, the set is going for about $53 plus tax, and I think for four films in 4K that are hugely popular, it’s a good value for the price. I would say this set is imperfectly perfect, as I enjoyed watching the films and the quality of them when they were flying on all cylinders. For film fans or Rocky fans, I think there is A LOT more to like than dislike with this collection. You can buy this set with confidence and try to ignore all of those folks out there who are analyzing every little detail to death. I think people are getting way too particular with 4K films, and this is coming from someone with high standards. The key is watching and enjoying the films with quality video and audio, and I felt I was able to do that more often than not. As far as the films themselves, many would argue these are the best films in the franchise, so it’s fine that “Rocky V” and “Rocky Balboa” are not included. “Rocky Balboa” is enjoyable nostalgia, and I imagine it will get a proper 4K release along with “Rocky V” at some point. As I often bring up, the special features are old special features. It’s hard to get people to sit down and do special features anymore, I feel like. At the end of the day, buy this set and enjoy it!
**Disclaimer** I received a copy of this film from Warner Brothers to review for free. The opinions and statements in the review are mine and mine alone.