I always respected how Sylvester Stallone tries to make a lot of his big screen action heroes something of blue collared, under appreciated men who are just working to get by. There was “Rocky” that helped boost how interesting boxing can be, and while arm wrestling never took off in the eighties, “Over the Top” is a decent action film about an estranged father and son making amends. “Over the Top” is admittedly a childhood favorite, and a movie I watched over a thousand times as a kid. Stallone is great, Robert Loggia is great, and director Menahem Globan charismatically films every single instance of arm wrestling as an epic moment of pride, and manhood.
You have to give it to Sylvester Stallone. The reason why Rocky is such a pop culture icon is because Stallone has always managed to keep him relevant. Rocky could have gone down with eighties icons like Max Headroom or Alf, but Stallone has kept his character socially relevant time and time again. The first film was about the underdog, the second about fame, the third about repeating history, the fourth about the cold war, and part five is where the series trips and falls on its face. “Rocky V” doesn’t have much of a point to make and doesn’t do much of anything with Rock Balboa at all. It seems to be like one of Stallone’s efforts to break Rocky out of the eighties cold war pigeon hole and make him blue collar and the underdog again. Instead rather than building a hopeful and raucously engaging sports drama, “Rocky V” is depressing right until the very end.
With Superman, Hulk Hogan, and Rocky Balboa, America pretty much beat the hell out of Communist Russia in the eighties, and we were proud of it. While “Rocky III” is the superior sequel in the original “Rocky” series, “Rocky IV” is perhaps the most talked about of the Rocky mythology and is also the most action packed. “Rocky IV” has a brisk pacing with almost no slow down in its storytelling and that brevity is probably why the sequel is still so beloved, despite its camp and homoerotic overtones. There really isn’t much to “Rocky IV” that’s tough to figure out. It has a robot that talks like a woman, features scenes of Rocky’s son trading one-liners with his friends while watching his dad’s fight, and a stern jingoistic attitude that it unapologetically waves around.
If there is any real successor to “Rocky” in the original series, it has to be “Rocky III.” While “Rocky II” was an interesting enough look at Rocky dealing with fame, “Rocky III” puts us right in to where we were in the original film that started it all. Now “Rocky” is a champion in his prime who has settled in to his wealth and luxury, and there’s a hungry new fighter named Clubber Lang out there who wants what he has, and is willing to whatever it takes to get it. For the first time ever, Rocky Balboa has a lot to lose, and he meets his match in Clubber Lang, a humongous and deadly boxer who wants to take on Rocky Balboa.
At the end of the day, when Rocky Balboa learned to test his limit and prove to the world he is a contender, he is still Rocky Balboa, warts and all. What I enjoy most about “Rocky II” is that even though we didn’t need it, Director Stallone allows us a look in to how the fight with Apollo Creeds affects the man Rocky Balboa in the long run. In the end when he’s gone through the wringer and fought hard, where does Rocky go from there? Apollo is still the champion and is still wealthy, and Rocky is still living in his neighborhood, and is arguably a celebrity. What’s more is that Rocky is thrust in to worldwide fame, and he has to face that perhaps his fame will likely be short lived with an only fifteen minute window for him.
I am not ashamed to admit that not only is “Cobra” a child hood favorite of mine, but it’s a movie I still quite love, if only for its unique villain. When you take a pumped up anti-hero like Cobra, you have to give him someone to match, and George P. Cosmatos gives us a serial killer cult leader who plans to lead a New World Order of other serial killers. Their plan is to begin a new civilization by—um—killing a lot of people? I wasn’t quite sure what the big plan was. The muddled plan by the film’s villain is made up for by Brian Thompson who is just the ultimate bad guy on film. He’s creepy, menacing, and can deliver lines with his deep grunt that make him sound otherworldly. The best aspect of “Cobra” though is Sylvester Stallone who plays Marion “Cobra” Cobretti. How cool and convenient is that name?
The way critics savaged “Ratchet & Clank” in 2016, you’d swear we were given an animated move in the same league of “Norm of the North” or “Doogal.” Instead, we get a funny and entertaining science fiction adventure that doesn’t re-invent the wheel, but manages to be a fun animated movie nevertheless. I have never played the video games “Ratchet & Clank” is based on, but I know enough to understand the basic concept and premise. “Ratchet & Clank” is a eye catching and very good action film that touches on all bases and delivers one very interesting underdog tale about a potential hero trying to prove his worth. Director Kevin Munroe stages a prequel to the games that widens the universe of Ratchet and Clank and genuinely attempts to add another dimension to the titular duo for the sake of their fans.
Director Bruce Malmuth’s “Nighthawks” is easily one of the most eighties action thrillers ever made. It’s a teaming of various talents from the decade, and further paves Sylvester Stallone as an action hero. Stallone is quite convincing in his role as renegade street cop Deke DaSilva who goes to great lengths to stop criminals alongside his partner Matthew Fox, as played by Billy Dee Williams. Most of the concept for “Nighthawks” revolves around the uneasy pairing of Stallone’s more rough neck street cop going up against Rutger Hauer’s international villain. Hauer is excellent the villainous bomber Wulfgar who delights in terrorizing people with planting bombs and infiltrating the local populace.