Rocky Balboa is back — as a supporting character in a boxing film. While that may sound strange to long-time Italian Stallion fans, they should rest easy: Ryan Coogler’s Creed is a welcome addition to the Rocky universe.
For movie fans who have been living under a rock, Michael B. Jordan stars as the illegitimate son of Apollo Creed, Adonis Johnson. The young man never met his father, who died in the ring during Rocky IV at the hands of Ivan Drago. Johnson’s mother also died when he was a boy, but Mary Anne Creed (played by Phylicia Rashad) took him in as her own.
It isn’t surprising to see what kind of themes are explored as Johnson attempts to define himself as a man while working his way out of his father’s shadow (e.g., abandonment, coping with death, letting go of the past, the importance of family). What is surprising is just how well Coogler pulls it all off — not for any lack of talent on his part, but because he is trying to succeed while tinkering with the “Rocky” brand.
Perhaps the easiest way to explain the movie’s worth to the franchise is to rank it in terms of the other films.
A convincing case can be made that Creed is the second-best movie featuring Balboa, if Oscar-contention is used as part of the litmus test. Coogler has given fans a drama. He has given them a tale of two men who slowly realize that if we become a prisoner to the past then we risk losing any number of potentially-beautiful futures.
Creed is not a movie for people who want to see larger than life characters like “Clubber Lang” or popcorn-movie gold like Rocky IV. It’s an tale that respects the source material, particularly 1976’s Rocky, but at the same time is very much its own film.
And for those who want to know how Johnson’s love interest, Bianca (played by Tessa Thompson), matches up with Adrian (Talia Shire), the answer is the same: Rest easy. Bianca is a welcome addition the the “Rocky” universe.
In short, everything in Creed feels natural. Nothing seems awkward or forced, which is good because the accomplishment has paved the way for a sequel if the creative team wants it.
The only way Coogler could have done a better job is if he invented a time machine and stopped Rocky V from ever happening, or Michael B. Jordan from signing on for Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four.
Lawmakers in California must love 1993’s Sylvester Stallone flick “Demolition Man,” because they’re now looking into ways to pass “yes means yes” sexual consent laws. For those who are a bit younger, the film includes a scene where Stallone’s John Spartan is awkwardly asked by Sandra Bullock’s Lenina Huxley if he would like to have sex. The two then use a virtual reality headset to refrain from touching during the process. Just give California ten years and the virtual reality technology will be ready for prime time…
SAN DIEGO (AP) — College students have heard a similar refrain for years in campaigns to stop sexual assault: No means no.
Lawmakers are considering what would be the first-in-the-nation measure requiring all colleges that receive public funds to set a standard for when “yes means yes.” …
Legislation passed by California’s state Senate in May and coming before the Assembly this month would require all schools that receive public funds for student financial assistance to set a so-called “affirmative consent standard” that could be used in investigating and adjudicating sexual assault allegations. That would be defined as “an affirmative, unambiguous and conscious decision” by each party to engage in sexual activity.
Silence or lack of resistance does not constitute consent. The legislation says it’s also not consent if the person is drunk, drugged, unconscious or asleep. …
After some interpreted that as asking people to stop after each kiss to get a verbal agreement before going to the next level, the bill was amended to say consent must be “ongoing” and “can be revoked at any time.”
John F. Banzhaf III, a George Washington University’s Law School professor, rightly says in the piece that the bill, if passed, would “very, very radically change the definition of rape.”
Indeed. We now live in a world where not only do officials believe they should be able to tax you per teaspoon of sugar you consume, but that they should be able to manage your sex life — down to the point where you must get “affirmative, unambiguous” consent while the process is “ongoing.”
At this point it would be easier if California just mandated that everyone have digital “sexual contracts” on hand that could be signed via cell phone apps and revoked by voice command.
The sad thing is, cultural air raid sirens are going off all around us, and the response by politicians is to create more laws.
Take the case of University of California at Berkeley student Meghan Warner, from the AP piece, for instance. She supports the legislation:
She said she was sexually assaulted during her freshman year by two men at a fraternity but didn’t report it because she believed “that unless it was a stranger at night with a weapon who attacked you when you were walking home, that it wasn’t rape. It’s just a crappy thing that happened.” She now runs campus workshops to teach students what constitutes consent.
“Most students don’t know what consent is,” she said. “I’ve asked at the workshops how many people think if a girl is blacked out drunk that it’s OK to have sex with her. The amount of people who raised their hands was just startling.”
If what Ms. Warner says is true, and a “startling” amount of kids on the Progressive UC Berkeley campus think it’s okay to have sex with a woman who blacks out during a party, then that is a problem that can not be adequately addressed by writing “yes means yes” laws; that is a cultural implosion, which requires the kind of spiritual training that is mocked and ridiculed on college campuses.
As G.K. Chesterton wrote in “Orthodoxy”:
“Not only is faith the mother of all worldly energies, but its foes are the fathers of worldly confusion. The secularists have not wrecked divine things; but the secularists have wrecked secular things, if that is any comfort to them. The Titans did not scale heaven; but they laid waste the world.”
Perhaps one day California will come to its senses. If not, they will have only themselves to blame for the creation of a cultural wasteland littered with laws that fail them.
As regular readers know, I’m a long-time fan of Stallone. I love his movies. I love his dedication to fitness. I love that after everyone said his career was down for the count he found a way to get back up and show the world there was still a lot of fight left inside him; The Expendables and its sequel were both worthy additions to the man’s body of work.
Sylvester Stallone says that despite his “Rambo” image and new shoot-em-up film “Bullet to the Head,” he’s in favor of new national gun control legislation.
Stallone supported the 1994 “Brady bill” that included a now-expired ban on assault weapons, and hopes that ban can be reinstated.
“I know people get (upset) and go, ‘They’re going to take away the assault weapon.’ Who … needs an assault weapon? Like really, unless you’re carrying out an assault. … You can’t hunt with it. … Who’s going to attack your house, a (expletive) army?”
The 66-year-old actor, writer and director said he also hopes for an additional focus on mental health to prevent future mass shootings.
“It’s unbelievably horrible, what’s happened. I think the biggest problem, seriously, is not so much guns. It’s that every one of these people that have done these things in the past 30 years are friggin’ crazy.
Remember when Stallone was killing guys in ‘The Expendables’ with a Single Action Army? I do. Should we ban those? But I digress.
During the course of ‘Bullet to the Head‘ I counted 28 dead bodies by the time all was said and done. I may be off by one or two, but it was difficult to tell with so many of them hitting the ground.
The point is, a guy who made his career and his millions on ultra-violent fare — and who continues to do so — might as well embrace the Second Amendment and possibly learn a few things in the process.
For instance, the question “Who’s going to attack your house, a f***king Army?” is interesting. One might be inclined to reply: “I don’t know Sly — perhaps we should ask the Japanese Americans who wound up in internment camps only decades ago.” And given that Stallone has fans all around the world, maybe some who escaped tyrannical regimes might want to write him a kind letter regarding the very real armies that knock on doors in the middle of the night — particularly when the population has been disarmed.
Another question for Sly might be: “How do you define ‘assault weapon’?” In ‘Bullet to the Head,’ Stallone’s character, a hit man named Bobo, demonstrates on a cop how he can kill a target … with an apple. In the climax, two men go after each other with axes. Are there times when an apple can be an “assault apple” or an ax can be an “assault ax”? We don’t know, because most interviews don’t continue to probe complex issues once the “right” (i.e., politically correct) answer is given.
Stallone’s comments aside, I did my best to focus solely on the movie.
In short, ‘Bullet to the Head’ is a mindless action flick that is worth checking out with a buddy. A by-the-books cop, Kwon, played by Sung Kang, and hit man Bobo both had their partners killed by the same criminal. Each man seeks to mete out their own form of justice before the credits roll. Along the way they need to survive crooked cops (the kind you might need a weapon to protect yourself from), armed thugs (the kind you might need a weapon to protect yourself from) and the prospect that powerful — but corrupt — politicians might also put a price out on their heads.
The biggest weakness with ‘Bullet to the Head’ is the villain “Keegen,” played by Jason Momoa. He’s soft. And he doesn’t particularly exude evil. He just looks like a beefy model and not a killer (which is probably another reason why almost no one saw his remake of ‘Conan the Barbarian’).
Compare “Keegen” in Bullet with Brian Thompson’s “Night Slasher” in “Cobra.” One guy is so evil he spits all over the place when he blurts out “PIG!” He uncontrollably salivates at the chance to kill the hero. The other guy is simply supposed to look menacing when he comes out of the water. He causally asks, “Are we going to do this?” (i.e., “I guess there has to be a to-the-death battle between us, huh?”)
Compare ‘Cobra’s’ ending, in which Stallone impales a serial killer and casts him into a hellish inferno, with ‘Bullet’s’ … which I won’t ruin for you other than to say it doesn’t measure up to 1986 Stallone.
Go see a Sunday matinee showing of ‘Bullet to the Head’ if you have some time on your hands this weekend. Just be aware that while it’s enjoyable, you’ll feel like you were wearing a bulletproof vest.
And now I give you ‘Angel of the City’ just for good measure. So cheesy. So bad. But so good.
The Expendable 2 opened in first place its opening weekend, to the tune of $28.5 million. It can’t be hard to put Stallone, Willis and Schwarzenegger into one flick and not have a good opening weekend, so in that sense no one should be impressed with the haul. Regardless, the film still needs to be reviewed. Many of those who follow this blog probably figure that I’ll have nothing bad to say about the movie, given that I’ve claimed Stallone knows the meaning of life. Not true. Expendables 2 is a solid summer popcorn movie, but I still plan on covering the good, the bad and the ugly.
First things first. Or should I say last? If you’ve ever wanted to see Stallone throw down against Jean-Claude Van Damme, consider your wish granted. In his mid-sixties, Sly is as ripped as ever. JCVD brings some serious triceps to the game, and the roundhouse kicks are as swift and powerful as ever. Men will watch The Expendables 2 for the next few decades for the climatic battle alone. Van Damme’s “Vilain” is so cheesy that he wears sunglasses in a mineshaft, but it doesn’t matter because all the audience cares about is a.) He represents pure evil and b.) He’s going to meet his maker in a death match with Stallone.
Watching The Expendables 2 is sort of like looking into a soul made of pure testosterone. There are explosions galore, muscles, fighting, guns, and creatively-staged deaths of evil men that give the audience license to smile and say, “Well, the bastards kind of deserved it.” There’s a scene that involves Vilain’s henchmen, and dare I say it — what happens to the last man standing may be worth the price of admission alone.
Where Stallone’s sequel goes wrong is with the overuse of cheesy one liners. I expect those in an 80’s throwback movie, but there are only so many times I can hear Schwarzenegger say “I’ll be back” or make some painful reference to the Terminator flicks before it becomes annoying. In some sense I wish they would have done away with them all together. The wry smiles the men share when they’re on screen together tells the audience everything they need to know. We’re already in on the joke … and at times the hammy dialogue distracts from an action movie that can stand out its own.
And finally — the ugly. Someone needs to punch Simon West in the kidneys for the blink-and-you-missed it shot of Stallone, Willis, and Schwarzenegger charging forward, guns blazing. How great would it have been to have a few classic stills of the three of them — running towards the camera in an extended shot — while emptying their magazines? Instead, we get a bunch of quick cuts, usually with a back turned away from the camera. Sometimes two of them have a moment together (and there is one with Arnold and Chuck Norris that is fabulous), but in general Mr. West dropped the ball when it came to getting three of the world’s best action heroes of all time into a few frames worthy of posters and t-shirts and memes for time eternal.
With that said, I think The Expendables 2 has enough juice in it for a third (and final) installment. Now get out there, do your manly duty, and see Expendables 2. And if you’re wondering why I didn’t cover things like, say, the “plot” … then you obviously haven’t see the original. I’m in a decent mood, so I’ll make it easy for you: Good guys need to kill bad guys.
Got it? Good. Now go see it, because Stallone and Co. aren’t getting any younger.
The Expendables 2 is opening in a few months, which means there will also be a video game. As luck would have it, the trailer is out now and it delivers a much-needed dose of testosterone.
It’s been a disturbing couple of months, as I see a steady trickle of search engine results bring men to douglasernstblog.com in their quest for “brosiery and mantyhose”— but what is more disturbing has been the occasional Republican buying into the claptrap that video games make kids violent. Wrong.
What makes kids inappropriately violent are bad parents. What makes kids inappropriately violent are cultures that place little value on human life. What makes kids inappropriately violent are neighborhoods and communities that tolerate it. The easiest thing to do is to blame video games and video game makers for deep-seated problems that metastasized long before computer graphics perfected the blood splatter or bone crunch.
With that said, it should also be noted that violence isn’t always a bad thing. Teaching kids to be violent — when necessary — is healthy. Does good and evil exist? If so, let’s have it displayed in a video game. And if good and evil exist, who symbolizes good and who symbolizes evil? While I haven’t had a chance to play the Expendables 2 video game, a good guess might be that Communist-thug regimes and the goons of South American dictators are the bad guys. And if that’s the case, then I say: “Put that controller into your kids’ hands and let them have at it!”
Wouldn’t it be nice to see an avatar of Sylvester Stallone blowing away North Korean soldiers, perhaps the kind who perform in Kazoo Armies by day and rape women by night? There are free nations and there are fear nations, and there is nothing wrong with portraying them in video games. The problem with many video games is that today’s characters are often anti-heroes, or the line between good and evil is so blurred that the user doesn’t know what to believe. Stallone’s movies (and I’m assuming his video games) generally don’t have that problem, which is probably a reason why I’ve been watching and loving them for ages.
Still not convinced? Watch this workout video with Terry Crews. He seems like a genuinely nice guy and a stand-up citizen. There’s nothing cooler than a man who is physically fit, mentally strong, compassionate and in possession of a moral compass. If I had kids, I’d let them hang out with Crews any day of the week, and I’d definitely let them play the Expendables 2 video game.
Sylvester Stallone has stopped a lot of bad guys in his day, but this summer he’ll have to stop Democrats in the United States Congress if Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas., has her way. Stallone, most known for his iconic roles as Rocky Balboa and Rambo, has had his career resurrected in recent years with the success of his film The Expendables in 2010. This summer, the cigar chomping man’s man, “Barney Ross,” and his merry mercenaries (with a cast that includes Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Chuck Norris) will be back in action—and Democrats are fuming. The ‘Stallone Act’ seeks to put out that fire—and the guns of August.
When is enough, enough?” asked Sheila Jackson Lee, appearing on cable news shows Sunday morning. “As the president has said, at some point I think you’ve had enough success, and these action heroes have been inciting gun violence for decades. There are strong correlations between violent video games and aggressive behavior, and Congressional Democrats believe the same holds true for the movies put out by Stallone and his ilk. The ‘Stallone Act’ (Stop The Action, Let’s Love Only Non-violent Entertainment) is the Democratic Party’s favor to the American people. It’s hard to take away gun rights when men like Stallone keep glorifying their defensive purposes, but we can make it near-impossible for him to get his guns on the silver screen.
The NRA was swift in responding to news of the Stallone Act, putting out a press release in mere minutes after Jackson-Lee had spoken.
Sheila Jackson Lee and the Democratic Party should ask themselves why Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis and Aronold Schwarzenegger are loved throughout the world, including by the people of some of the most oppressed nations. Besides Stallone’s muscles and charisma, it’s the way he wields his guns. Guns say, “I’m going to do what I want, and you’re not going to stop me.” And by and large, most people just want to live a good life, raise their families in peace, and be left alone. People living in fear societies wish they had firearms readily available, but they don’t—because the guns and money are in the hands of their oppressors. Women walking home late from work in dangerous areas often wish they had a way to defend themselves, but the Democrat’s policies often make it nearly impossible, which only benefits criminals. The Republican Party will do their part by shooting down this law; the American people will only need to do theirs and buy a ticket to The Expendables 2 on August 17.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, when asked whether President Obama would sign the Stallone Act if it came across his desk, would only wistfully say, “In theory the president respects gun rights. The president wishes it didn’t have to come to this. The world would be a better place if Paul Giamatti’s star had shown brighter than Sly’s. We’ll have to wait and see.”
Anyone who reads this blog knows I love Stallone. I come back to him again and again and again because he’s been planted a lot of conservative seeds in the minds of young men over the years—seeds that have been fruitful. The Expendables 2 is starting to fire up its engines, and so it must be covered.
When The Expendables hit theaters last summer, it seemed like virtually every action star of a certain age dropped by to flex their biceps and kick some keister. But apparently writer-director-star Sylvester Stallone still thinks there’s room for more macho men in the upcoming sequel. In a recent interview with EW, Stallone said that not only would Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger have meatier parts the second go-round, but that he’s also added Chuck Norris and Jean-Claude Van Damme to the mix and, fingers crossed, we may even see Nicolas Cage and John Travolta getting in on the mayhem, too.
“John Travolta”? No one’s perfect. Nicolas Cage is a wild card… so I’ll withhold judgement.
The great thing about Stallone is that he writes movies with Americans who are big and bold and sure of themselves. He writes about characters who know what they believe and why they believe it. They have a big heart, but they also have big guns. Moral relativism is nowhere to be found. Characters must grind through tough times to persevere, and even when they lose the audience knows that there can be honor in defeat.
Film snobs and elitist jerks make fun of Stallone, but in between the blood and guts and greased up muscles is often some great writing that can only come from the heart. There are plenty of iconic Stallone scenes, but how many kids went to the theater and were deeply affected by the father/son speech in Rocky 6? I’d bet a good many. In it, Stallone presents a door to conservatism—it’s just up to the viewer to recognize it and walk through.
When The Expendables 2 comes out I’ll be there on opening night, if for no other reason than because I think Sly is a stand up guy who deserves to be supported. He’s a rarity in Hollywood: a conservative who makes entertaining films.