Rock Bottom

Rocky V is the painful conclusion to the Rocky franchise. While Rocky IV was a bit too harshly treated, Rocky V is much more deserving of all its negative reception. I get what Sylvester Stallone was going for, but the whole thing is woefully misguided. Stallone isn’t entirely to blame though. Since the first movies director returns to direct instead. It may surprise you to know that Rocky V is actually the first PG-13 installment in the franchise. Despite the bloody boxing matches, every other film was PG. Rocky V sees the Balboa’s lose all their money forcing them to return to the Philadelphia slums. Where Adrian returns to the pet shop and Robert Jr. is bullied in school (and it’s all Paulie’s fault). As if that wasn’t bad enough, Rocky neglects his son by taking a young new fighter under his wing. Tommy Gunn, who betrays Rocky by taking a rich promoter’s money and winning the title. Making Tommy Gunn Rocky’s main opponent. His obnoxious attitude gets on your nerves so much that you just wanna punch him. The movie doesn’t even end with a boxing match. It ends with a street fight. SPOILER ALERT! Rocky rightfully kicks the crap out of Gunn, but it could’ve been worse. Rocky was very nearly killed off! Proving Rocky V to be an overall unpleasant experience in this once enjoyable series.


Rocky trains Tommy Gunn

Preceded by: Rocky IV & Followed by: Rocky Balboa

I Must Break You

Rocky IV enters the Cold War. Although unlike the first Rocky, its awards attention shifted completely. With Rocky IV being nominated for Worst Picture and winning Worst Director/Actor Sylvester Stallone. Along with Brigitte Nielsen for Worst Supporting Actress. I personally feel they beat up the movie too much. Even if its premise of Rocky taking on the Cold War is a bit hard to take seriously. Rocky IV takes the Philadelphia native’s wealth to ridiculous levels. Affording to buy a robot servant Paulie makes his wife. Rocky’s main opponent is the Soviet Union’s prize boxer Ivan Drago. One of the franchise’s most iconic villains. Dolph Lundgren’s size, limited dialogue (“I must break you”), and unstoppable fury can’t be matched. Apollo Creed takes Rocky’s place in an exhibition match between Drago. Donning an overly patriotic outfit accompanied by James Brown’s “Living in America.” The fateful fight ends with Drago beating Creed to death. Leaving Rocky wanting to avenge his fallen friend. Much to Adrian’s fearful pleas not to. Apollo’s trainer Duke steps up to train him. The duality of Drago training with machines and Rocky training with nature is genius. The final showdown takes place in Drago’s homeland of Russia. SPOILER ALERT! Rocky manages to get the best of Drago when the crowd starts to cheer for him instead. In the end, Rocky delivers a cheesy speech he hopes will end the Cold War. That along with the fact that most of it feels like a music video, are why the quality dipped. That being said, Rocky IV is still a guilty pleasure must watch that more than stands its ground.


Rocky Balboa vs. Ivan Drago

Preceded by: Rocky III & Followed by: Rocky V

Eye of the Tiger

Rocky III features some of the most standout moments in the entire franchise. By this point the studio was pretty comfortable with having Sylvester Stallone write, direct, and star all at the same time. Even though the story is practically Rocky and Rocky II mashed together. Rocky III sees Rocky Balboa becoming an undefeated celebrity with more wealth and several wins. With his wife Adrian, son Robert Jr. and brother-in-law Paulie by his side cheering him on. There are several elements that make Rocky III memorable. The first of which is an exhibition match between boxer Rocky and a wrestler played by Hulk Hogan. Goofy, but a must see. This was also the installment that first featured the real life statue of Rocky placed at the top of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Rocky’s main opponent is new fighter “Clubber” Lang. His sudden rise to the top and taunts gain Rocky’s attention. Being played by Mr. T, he of course gets an “I pity the fool” out at some point. Rocky III features the first major death in the franchise. Beloved trainer Mickey, who dies after Rocky loses the title. Surprisingly, Apollo Creed steps in to help Rocky win back the title. The newfound friendship they share is only accentuated by the catchiest training song of all time, “Eye of the Tiger.” SPOILER ALERT! Rocky is victorious when he uses everything Lang knows against him. It’s another satisfying win, but not quite as iconic as the freeze frame ending. Where Rocky agrees to fight Apollo once again in private. Rocky III sticks to the formula, yet succeeds with sheer quantity.


Rocky Balboa vs. “Clubber” Lang

Preceded by: Rocky II & Followed by: Rocky IV

Yo Adrian, I Did it!

Rocky II is the rematch everyone was waiting for. After the huge success and multiple Oscar wins of Rocky, everyone wanted to see a continuation. The question was, how do you make a sequel without repeating yourself? Since Rocky ended with Apollo Creed winning and anything else might seem like a cop-out. Fortunately, Rocky II succeeded in an entirely different way. Wasting no time writing the sequel, Sylvester Stallone now wanted to direct the film himself. It was another gamble, but a smart move on the producers part to let him. Rocky II picks up immediately after the big fight. Rocky’s main opponent is once again Apollo Creed. As his loss of popularity gets to his head. Making him challenge Rocky to a rematch. Rocky on the other hand chooses to retire, marry Adrian, and have a child. His sudden rise of popularity gets him many endorsements, but his limited knowledge of anything other than boxing makes it hard for him to find a job. Though hesitant at first (due to possible eye damage), Paulie, Mickey, and eventually Adrian all persuade him to accept the rematch. Complete with a new training montage that includes dozens of people running through Philadelphia with him. During the big fight, Creed brings his A game. With an even more exciting boxing match that’s so evenly matched it comes to a halt when both men get knocked down. The first to get up being (SPOILER ALERT!) Rocky Balboa! Going the distance was inspiring, but nothing beats seeing Rocky win. In an emotional climax ending with one of the most satisfying closing lines of all time, “Yo Adrian, I did it!” Rocky II deserves the championship belt more than any other Rocky sequel.


Rocky Balboa vs. Apollo Creed (Rematch)

Preceded by: Rocky & Followed by: Rocky III

Gonna Fly Now

Rocky is an inspirational underdog story for the ages. Winning the Academy Award for Best Picture, Best Director John G. Avildsen, and Best Film Editing, Rocky is perhaps the most universally beloved sports movie of all time. It’s certainly the most iconic boxing movie ever made. You don’t even have to be into sports to appreciate it. Which is why I knew I needed to watch the first movie and by extension, the rest of its many sequels, as soon as possible. Long before he was famous, Sylvester Stallone was known mostly for his role in a softcore porno film (later renamed Italian Stallion). After watching a championship boxing match, Stallone wrote Rocky in 3½ days. Unsurprisingly, studios loved his script, but wanted to cast a more A-list star. So Stallone refused to sell the script if he didn’t play the lead himself. It’s a good thing it worked out, because Sylvester Stallone is Rocky Balboa. Rocky tells a very simple underdog story. Rocky Balboa is just a small time boxer working for a lone shark. Because of this, people call him a bum. It isn’t until he’s given the chance to fight the world heavyweight champion that he finally proves himself. What makes it standout is everything in between…


Rocky Balboa vs. Apollo Creed

Rocky takes place in the city of brotherly love, Philadelphia. Which certainly boosted the overall appreciation of the city. Rocky Balboa often dresses in a black leather jacket and matching fedora. Due to his ethnicity, he’s nicknamed “The Italian Stallion.” Despite his current occupation, Rocky is actually very friendly. He doesn’t even swear. Most only focus on the boxing, but at its core, Rocky is a love story. Between Rocky and shy pet shop owner Adrian, played by Talia Shire. His innocent attempts to get her out of her shell make their relationship feel real. Rocky’s main opponent is Apollo Creed. The current boxing champ that only Carl Weathers can make as likable as he is. Being a small time fighter, a promoter selects Rocky to fight in an exhibition match against Apollo Creed. Burgess Meredith plays Rocky’s trainer Mickey. His gruff tough love attitude pushes Rocky to achieve his full potential. By far the most iconic part of the movie is the training montage. Accompanied by one of the most famous movie themes of all time. Rocky first consumes five raw eggs (leading to many sick imitators). He also punches frozen meat in (Adrian’s brother) Paulie’s meat factory. Since hitting meat is closer to hitting a person. Rocky then chases chickens, runs through the streets of Philly, and makes his way up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Rocky’s arms extended in triumph is so iconic that a statue was built on the steps where millions of people visit to recreate the moment to this day. But the big fight is what everyone came to see. Creed is so confident that Rocky manages to get the best of him. Leading to a more serious fight with the two opponents delivering brutal blow after brutal blow. Until the final bell sounds where (SPOILER ALERT!) Apollo Creed is named the winner. It may seem like an unhappy ending, but the outcome was never important in the first place. Rocky is about going the distance. About proving yourself, and that’s why Adrian is all Rocky cares about in that moment. Rocky is an event that never fails to exhilarate, inspire, and most importantly, triumph.


Rocky conquers the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Followed by: Rocky II

Her Legend Begins

Tomb Raider is the gritty reboot everyone assumed would be great simply because it was the opposite of the fun Angelina Jolie movies. Coming as no shock to me, it wasn’t. The video game movie curse won’t be broken that easily. Lara Croft is a character I’ve always liked because she had brains, brawn, and beauty. So I haven’t been a big fan of the grounded take the character’s had in her more recent games. Ditching her iconic outfit just makes it feel less unique. Tomb Raider is also an origin story. So some of her other trademarks are either absent or briefly teased with no payoff. Tomb Raider follows Lara Croft’s life as a working class citizen (since she can only be likable if she’s not rich). When she returns to her estate, she discovers her father may have discovered a tomb that holds world destroying power. Instead of having mythical creatures, the movie brings things to almost generic levels of realism. The action isn’t too bad, but Lara gets thrown around so much that the realism wears off. Not to mention the tomb being as cliché as possible. Ironically Alicia Vikander was also an Oscar winner beforehand. The main difference being that she’s actually British. Despite her best effort, I can’t help but find her miscast. If not for a Lara Croft mobile game I got addicted to, I wouldn’t have seen Tomb Raider in theaters.


Lara Croft takes aim

Reboot of: Lara Croft: Tomb Raider

The Search for Pandora’s Box

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life is the second video game movie sequel released. Since the first movie was a financial success, Angelina Jolie claimed that this was the one she really wanted to do. While I saw Lara Croft: Tomb Raider at least twice, the sequel was a different story. I only saw The Cradle of Life once back-to-back with the first movie. I didn’t find it nearly as memorable. I have a hard time remembering what it was even about. Not that it’s a weaker sequel. It’s just as convoluted as before, but the action was a bit less cheesy. The Cradle of Life centers around Lara Croft’s retrieval of Pandora’s Box. Along with the help of Gerard Butler. It takes her on a more global adventure to exotic locations where the action comes out more in exciting stunts. Like motorcycle chases or deep sea diving. With the occasional monster thrown in. Although unlike the one scene in the first movie with her iconic outfit, Lara doesn’t wear it in the second. Not that she doesn’t still have her fair share of sexualized moments. It didn’t last though. Since The Cradle of Life was the last we saw of Angelina Jolie’s memorable portrayal of the heroine.


Lara Croft dives

Preceded by: Lara Croft: Tomb Raider

Raiders of the Lost Tomb

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider brought the iconic PlayStation heroine to life for the first time. Everyone in the video game community and beyond recognizes Lara Croft. Her first game appearance in 1996’s Tomb Raider was an instant success. Her trademark braided hair, light blue tank top, brown short shorts, and curvaceous figure made her video game’s first sex symbol. So casting Angelina Jolie in the role was a stroke of genius. Which they took full advantage of by giving her a steamy shower scene. Lara Croft is a wealthy British heiress/archaeologist proficient in combat including duel gun usage. Lara Croft: Tom Raider sees her face off against the Illuminati in an attempt to recover an artifact that controls time. Since this is an early 2000’s video game adaptation, it’s of course full of cheesy effects, improbable action, and iffy performances. Not Angelina Jolie though. Her charm and sex appeal are perfectly suited for the character. Although her British accent is just ok, while Daniel Craig’s American accent is terrible. The movie also united Jolie with her real life estranged father Jon Voight. Unlike most video game movies, I felt like they knew not to take it too seriously. She fights robots and living statues, while also bungee fighting. It’s supposed to be dumb fun. So with the exception of its overly convoluted plot, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider brings down the tomb.


Lara Croft locks and loads

Followed by: Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life

Hacked Up Furball

Catwoman is one of the most relentlessly bad superhero movies ever made. Catwoman first made her appearance in the 1940 comic Batman #1. Establishing herself as one of Batman’s greatest enemies and love interests. Since then, Catwoman has been portrayed numerous times in TV, movies, and animation. A Michelle Pfeiffer solo movie was discussed, but since it never materialized, they did something original instead. Winning Razzies for Worst Picture and Worst Actress in the process. Oscar winner Halle Berry stars as Patience Phillips (instead of Selena Kyle). She actually showed up to accept the Razzie in a hilarious way. Patience is an “unattractive” woman with the most stereotypical job imaginable. Working in a cosmetics company where she has a gay sidekick and Lois Griffin as her wacky best friend. She also has not Batman as a love interest. In fact, forget about everything DC related since Gotham City or anything else is tossed out. In the comics, Selina Kyle is simply a cat burglar who dresses like a cat. What do they do here? Patience dies and is brought back to life by a magical Egyptian cat. She develops the ability to hiss, jump, enjoy catnip, and eat tuna just like a cat. You can’t make this crap up, but it gets worse. Being a guy, I can’t complain too much about the costume, but it’s clearly something only a stripper would wear. With its bra, striped pants, and whip. Looking even worse with horribly rendered CGI jumping. Catwoman has terrible acting, stupid moments (like the infamous basketball scene), and the dumbest villain in any superhero movie. Sharon Stone who has diamond hard skin as a result of makeup. It was only the second female lead superhero movie ever made. The 2000’s truly were a dark time. It just doesn’t get any worse than the purrfectly awful Catwoman.


Catwoman is ever vigilant

Unbuckled Swash

Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas is the straw that broke the camel’s back. Computer animation was coming closer and closer to overtaking traditional animation as early as 2003. Although Dreamworks Animation intended for their company to utilize a variety of animation, Sinbad officially killed their 2D animation department. Bombing at the box office and receiving lukewarm reviews from critics. I’m sorry to say I was sort of a contributing factor. Since I had no interest in seeing the movie when I was 8 years old. I saw it way later, only once, as a teenager. Sinbad returned to Disney’s formula of adapting a famous fictional figure. Sinbad the Sailor, a character who (like Aladdin) came from Arabian folklore. Sinbad is a pirate who journeys the seven seas looking for adventure. This particular story centers around a McGuffin called the “Book of Peace.” Through a series of overly complex reasons, Sinbad captains his ship along with his friend’s fiancé Lady Marina while avoiding the villainess Goddess of Discord. Sinad battles several digital beasts, as well as his own old fashion view of women. The main problem with Sinbad is its over reliance on mostly juvenile jokes and computer animation in out of place areas. Really I’d only recommend Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas if you want to see what became of this once thriving animation style.


Sinbad (left) and Lady Marina (right) argue