Saturday, February 29, 2020

Hurrah for Smith

This is my entry in the Leap Year Blogathon hosted by Taking Up Room

In the history of the Academy Awards, the ceremony has only been held once on February 29. That year was 1939.  The turning point for the award in my opinion.  Prior to that only the most avid fans of movies and the Hollywood elite really cared about the award.  It certainly wasn't the mega-extravaganza that exists today.  (For one thing, awards ceremonies dispensed with a lot of the extraneous stuff and just handed out the awards without a lot of fanfare)

The 1939 award ceremony attracted a lot of attention, however.  Gone with the Wind was the odds on favorite in all 13 categories for which it was nominated (and it won in 8 of them).  But the biggest loser at the  Oscars that year would have to be Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.  Competing with GWTW in many categories, and having 11 total nominations, Mr. Smith only managed to snag one of the golden statuettes, one of only a couple in which it was not in competition with the extravaganza.  That award was for Best Story.

James Stewart competed with Clark Gable (as Rhett Butler) for Best Actor.  But in an upset of gigantic proportions, in my opinion, the award actually went to Robert Donat for Goodbye Mr. Chips.  In almost every other category, however, the GWTW nominee topped the voting.  And despite the fact that GWTW is a fantastic film, the fact that the Stewart film failed to achieve more than one award is somewhat of a crime.

One could possibly be forgiven if they see a lot of George Bailey (It's a Wonderful Life) in Jefferson Smith.  Both are rather idealistic, and both feature James Stewart as a character who is rather uncomfortable in his immediate surroundings.  (Not to mention Stewart's iconic delivery as a stammering man who seems to be unable to marshal his thoughts to go along with his speech).

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939):

The junior senator has died.  (The actual state is unnamed, but it must be somewhere in the western part of the United States.  The capitol city, Jackson City, is fictional, so that does,t help.  However, the story which inspired the original play and film was titled "The Gentleman from Montana", which gives credence to some of the descriptions that Jefferson Smith gives to Clarissa Saunders during a private moment. ).  The governor, "Happy" Hopper (Guy Kibbee),  is pressured to name a replacement.  He has two names given to him, both of which are deemed by him as political dynamite, but he must get someone, and quick.

His children suggest a local hero, Jefferson  Smith (James Stewart).  But Smith is an unknown figure in politics.  His big claim to fame is his work in stopping a forest fire in the state.  But Hopper comes to the decision, by a strange coincidence during a flip of a coin, to get Smith as his nominee.

Of course the bigwigs of the political machine, including senior Sen. Paine (Claude Rains) and the political puppeteer Jim Taylor (Edward Arnold) are initially not very receptive.  But they decide that such an innocent guy might be just the right choice after all if they can keep him in line with the current machinations going on in the state and the Senate.

See, there is some subterfuge going on. Read: graft.  A bill in the Senate has a rider to build a dam in the state and fund it with US dollars.  And some, including Taylor, stand to make big money because they have been buying up the land where the dam will be built.

Smith arrives in Washington not having much of a clue about his job.  And the press portray him as a yokel.  Which, when Smith finds out, doesn't set well with him.  But he has been told that the way to get his feet solidly in the Senate is to propose a bill.  He decides that his dream is the best option; he wants to build a national Boys Camp in the state, with a loan from the government to be paid back by  boys across the country, in nickels and dimes donated by them.

Unfortunately for Smith, his chosen location is in the exact same spot as the dam that the political machine is trying to get approved.

Smith learns of this and is disapproving, losing his faith in a longtime family friend, Sen. Paine.  He is seen as a threat, so bigwig Taylor and Paine conspire to get him ejected from the Senate.  Taylor uses his wiles to get Smith discredited, framing him as having bought up the land around the proposed dam/boys camp himself for profit.  And despite the efforts of the boys in the state to clear his name, Smith is convicted of subterfuge and is on the dock to be removed from the Senate at the next session.

Smith, with the help of his secretary, Clarissa Saunders (Jean Arthur), launches a filibuster to prevent his expulsion, and hopefully derail the dam.  A twenty-three hour filibuster, we are led to know, which includes reading the United States Constitution, word for word.  But because of Taylor's machinations, even his home state is against him.

It looks like Smith is going to be fighting a losing battle.  You can't beat the system, he is told.  But Smith has ideals and he thinks that having right on his side will win in the end.  But its not looking good for our hero.

Capra had a hell of a time bringing this movie to the big screen.  For one thing, the real US government was highly objectionable to the poor treatment it received in the script.  And Joseph Breen, the head of the censoring committee in Hollywood at the time warned the production that the script might not be .accepted if it painted a dim light on the Democratic form of government.  This was due more to how the world at large might view the government rather than the US citizenry, but be that as it may.

Fortunately for us, the film did get a go sign, and it was filmed in the spring and summer of 1939.  It didn't set well with the Washington press at it's premiere, and was attacked as being "pro-Communist" for its presentation of the government as corrupt. Capra claimed that some senators even walked out during it's premier at Constitution Hall.  The movie was banned in Europe, especially in Hitler's Germany.

But Washington, and the world at large, were just minor dissenters to the film.  The film got better press from critics who were not in line with the politics of Washington.  Most of the press of the time was more acceptable to the film.  It has since been named in the top 20 of many lists as one of the greatest films of all time, and many consider it to be one of Capra's greatest films.  And as noted above, it was a big winner in the nominations category at the Oscars, (even if it only won one.)  The film, probably quite fairly, is labeled as "Capra-corn" because of its overt sentimentality, but it does have its inspiration.

Drive home safely, folks.


Thursday, February 27, 2020

Aliens in the Old West

This is my entry in the Harrison Ford Blogathon hosted by Sat in Your Lap

Two of my favorite types of movies are westerns and sci-fi.  The two subjects are pretty disparate. Although, truth be told, a lot of sci-fi movies are just westerns set in an alien world.  (Star Wars, for instance could be a western if you substitute horses for the spaceships and a wooden fortress for the Death Star, in my opinion...)

But pitting aliens against a background of the old west is something that is pretty rare.  Howard Waldrop, a sci-fi author, once wrote a parody of War of the Worlds as experienced in an old west setting, but it usually is not something that would mesh.

Cowboys and Aliens started out life, as you would expect, as a comic book.  The graphic novel, created by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg, made its way into the comic book stores in 2006.  But its genesis began 10 years earlier when Rosenberg pitched the idea to Universal Pictures.   They bought the rights to the idea, but it bounced around for years.  By 2004, Columbia Pictures had acquired the rights but it was still going nowhere.

So Rosenber published the idea as a graphic novel.  That apparently was the needed factor.  Now, with a concept that was visually on paper, Universal once again acquired the rights and it was put into the process of bringing it to the big screen.  It took another 5 years to get it done, but we finally got a concept that was unique to Hollywood.

Cowboys and Aliens is actually two movies welded into one.  You could take out the aliens and still have a pretty decent western.  And you could transfer the western setting to a modern setting and have a damn good alien invasion film.  But together, the concept makes for a pretty entertaining mash-up of the two genres.

Cowboys and Aliens (2011):

A cowboy (Daniel Craig) wakes up in the middle of the desert.  He has no idea of where he is, how he got there, or what this peculiar bracelet is that is attached to his arm.  He also has an odd wound on his stomach.  He stumbles into the town of Absolution where the local preacher, Meacham (Clancy Brown) performs some rudimentary work on his wound.

Meanwhile, Percy Dolarhyde (Paul Dano), the malcontent son of a local cattle baron, Col. Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford), roughs up the town and shoots one of the deputies.

Sheriff Taggart (Keith Carradine) arrests him and prepares to ship him off to the county seat for trial.  In the process he recognizes the stranger as Jake Lonergan, a wanted man, who has also coincidentally robbed Col. Dolarhyde of some gold.

But before the stage can take off, aliens invade the town and take some of its citizens hostage.  The true nature of the bracelet that Jake has on his arm comes to the fore as he uses it to take out one of the alien ships.

But Jake still has no idea how he got the bracelet or what its nature is.  With some misgivings at being roped into a posse to chase down the aliens he joins forces with Dolarhyde and Taggart.  Dolarhyde's main focus is to rescue his son who was one of the captives, but the rest of the posse has a goal to save members of the town, some of whom where related to the posse members.  (One of them is the wife of the town's saloon operator/doctor).

In the process, more of Jake's background is revealed.  It seems he ditched the rest of his gang and took off with all the gold from a robbery.  But when he and his wife were in their cabin, the aliens came by.  They are not just interested in captives, they are also trying to harvest the Earth's gold (for which purpose is never really fully explained).  Jake's wife was killed during an experiment on the alien ship, but Jake managed to escape, with the strange bracelet attached to his arm.

Much of the story comes to the fore when Ella (Olivia Wilde), a woman with a strange past reveals she knows quite a bit more about the aliens than any Earthling should know.  Of course, the reason she turns out to know all of this is because she herself is not really an Earthling, but an alien from another world that our enemy aliens ravaged.

That's enough to get you involved in the story.  Its a typical shoot-em-up western, but the added twist of aliens makes it pretty intriguing.

Time to fire up the engines on this Plymouth. Drive home safely folks.


Sunday, February 23, 2020

Freeze Frame

This is my second entry in the So Bad Its Good Blogathon hosted by Taking Up Room

There were four Batman movies produced from 1989-97.  Tim Burton was involved in three of them (and directed the first two).  Production of the fourth installment had ts ups and downs.  Interestingly, Patrick Stewart was originally going to play Mr. Freeze until the production crew and director decided he needed to be played by a beefier actor.  Enter Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the script was altered somewhat to accommodate a hulkier actor.

The problems involved included the fact that director Joel Schumaker insisted to the cast and crew that he was making "a cartoon".  And the cartoonish aspect went beyond just Akiva Goldsman's script.  Chris O'Donnell who played Robin, commented in an interview " On Batman Forever, I felt like I was making a movie.  The second time, I felt like I was making a kid's toy commercial."

The film was not received well by the critics, or for that matter, the general public.  It barely made back it's budget.  It wasn't even in the top ten of money makers for the year.  According to wikipedia, the top ten movies of 1997 included Liar, Liar, My Best Friend's Wedding and The Full Monty, movies that were good, but not so good that that they should have out-gained a superhero action film, which typically makes a good show, even if its not so good...

Still, all in all, Batman and Robin is a cool film if you like superhero movies.  Just not exactly the greatest dialogue driven film that earlier incarnations of the Batman franchise had.

Batman and Robin (1997):

Robin : "I want a car!  Chicks dig the car."

Batman: "This is why Superman works alone."

Thus begins the movie and foreshadowing much of why the movie is so disparaged.  The dialogue for Batman and Robin seems to have been written by a twelve-year-old geek comic book enthusiast with a 40 year life of immersion in action movies where everyone spouts non sequiturs and lame jokes.  But I don't come back to Batman and Robin for the dialogue, even though I admit it is kind of funny.  I come back to it because Arnold Schwarzenegger is a great villain, and Chris O'Donnell is a pretty good Robin.  George Clooney is miscast as Batman, in my opinion, but he is believable as Bruce Wayne.

Batman and Robin appear on the scene as our new resident supervillain, Mr, Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger) attempts to steal a diamond.  See, Mr. Freeze (alias Dr. Victor Fries) had an accident which causes him to need a space suit designed to keep his body at a relatively cold temperature in order to survive in the outside world.  And to maintain the suit Freeze needs diamonds, which makes it imperative that he steal them.  (The suit couldn't need something simple like potato chips, otherwise we wouldn't have a movie...)  Freeze also needs diamonds to continue his research in curing his wife, currently in suspended animation, from a rare disease.

At the museum where the diamond that Freeze intends to steal is installed, a fight ensues, which breaks out into a hockey game.  And eventually Freeze succeeds in his theft.

Mr. Freeze: "You're not sending me to the cooler!" 

Mainly because the rash Robin, overstepping his capabilities, is frozen and Batman must let Freeze escape with the diamond in order to thaw out his comrade.

Mr. Freeze: "Stay cool, Birdboy."

The somewhat bitter rivalry between Batman and Robin is part of the story line.  Robin, it seems, resents the fact that Batman treats him like a child, not letting him do the things he, Robin, thinks he is capable of doing.  It comes close to Robin deciding to go out on his own as a separate force.

Enter Poison Ivy.  Dr Pamela Isley (Uma Thurman) has been doing research in a remote location trying to develop a strain of plant life that can fight back against the humans.  But she is saddled with a psychotic scientist, Dr. Jason Woodrue (John Glover), who keeps stealing her work in an effort to create a super soldier.  When he creates Bane, he tries to sell it to the highest bidder    .  The bidders are a collection of Evil Empire leaders (such as Iraqis, Russians, North Koreans etc.)  When Dr. Isley confronts Dr. Woodrue and threatens him with revealing his nefarious purposes, he kills her.

Or so it seems.  But like the Joker (from the first Tim Burton Batman), the death is not so sure.  The mass of equipment and fluids she falls into transform her into Poison Ivy.

Poison Ivy eventually tries to seduce both Batman and Robin, and although Batman's inherent nonchalance towards women in general helps him resist, Robin is infatuated with Ivy.  (I would be too.  Uma Thurman at 25, when the movie was made, was hot...)

Robin: "I need a sign that you've turned over a new leaf."

Poison Ivy: "How about 'slippery when wet'?"

Poison Ivy eventually teams up with Freeze, as they both have one particular goal in mind, the destruction of the Dynamic Duo.  Ivy tries to put her wiles on Freeze, but he is resistant because his devotion is only to his wife.

Mr. Freeze: "Hmm... Adam and Evil"

On the home side, Alfred (Michael Gough), Bruce Wayne's butler, has come down in the first stages of the same disease that is killing Freeze's wife.  And his niece, Barbara (Alicia Silverstone) has appeared on the scene to help.  Through some fortuitous events, she eventually discovers Bruce Wayne's secret, and with the help of an AI version of Alfred, becomes transformed into... Batgirl.

Batman:  "Batgirl?  That's not very PC.  What about Batwoman, or Batperson?"

(...and because "Batchick" not only isn't PC, but might be misheard...)

Eventually, of course, the Terrific Trio defeat both Poison Ivy and Mr. Freeze.  Batman implores Freeze to help cure Alfred who is in the first stages of the disease killing Freeze's wife, and Freeze opens a secret compartment in his suit and hands Batman two vials.  (Don't tell me you don't see it coming...)

Mr. Freeze: "Take two of these and call me in the morning."

Batman and Robin  was so poorly received that another sequel was shelved.  It would take 8 years, and a complete reboot, for the franchise to come back to the big screen.  Admittedly the attempt to try to change Tim Burton's original dark vision evidenced with the first two Burton Batman's suffered from an attempt to try to meld the darkness with, apparently, the camp of the  60's TV series.  Fortunately for Batman fans, the death knell was only 8 years.  The Christian Bale Batman eventually gave us what is in my opinion the greatest Batman movie ever, The Dark Knight (coming to a blog near you very soon).

Its no Batmobile, but it does run, mostly.  Time to fire up this old Plymouth.  Drive safely, folks.


Saturday, February 22, 2020


This is my entry in the Butlers and Maids Blogathon hosted by Caftan Woman and Wide Screen World

In 1949, an English gentleman by the name of Anthony E. Pratt developed a board game which he dubbed Cluedo.  It was sold to a company called Waddington's in Britain as well as Parker Brothers in the U.S  The classic muder mystery board game became popular, and I doubt there is a child since it's subsequent launch who hasn't played it at least once.

The classic board game has gone through some changes as it was fine-tuned over the years.  Initially there were ten characters in the game, but that was reduced to six.  (Eliminated in the shuffle were Mr. Brown, Mr. Gold, Miss Grey and Mrs. Silver).

The game, although not evident as a potential for film (but then what game really is...?), became fodder for Hollywood in the 80's.  Getting some pretty good talent on the screen side of the production helped transform the kid's game into a fairly cohesive if somewhat ridiculous movie.

Clue (1985):

It's 1954.  Six guests arrive at a mansion in the rain, having been invited by a mysterious host.  They are each greeted at the door by Wadsworth (Tim Curry).

Along with Yvette (Colleen Camp), Wadsworth has prepared a night of subterfuge for the guests.

Wadsworth reveals that each guest has been given a secret identity for the night's festivities.  Col. Mustard (Martin Mull),

Mrs. Peacock (Eileen Brennan),

Mrs. White (Madeline Kahn),


Mr. Green (Michael McKean),

Professor Plum (Christopher Lloyd)

and Miss Scarlet (Lesley Ann Warren)

are all identified only by their aliases throughout the night.
Wadsworth reveals over the dinner that they have all been subjected to blackmail by their mysterious host.  The host, Mr. Boddy (Lee Ving), has been delayed but eventually shows up.

Mr. Boddy tells them all that Wadsworth is the biggest threat to their security and presents a package containing a gift for each.  Inside each package, the guest finds a potential murder weapon:  a candlestick, a knife, a revolver, a wrench, a lead pipe, and a rope

Suggesting that the real threat to their security is Wadsworth, Mr. Boddy suggests that one of the six kill him, and turns out the light.

But when the light comes back on it is Mr. Boddy who is lying on the floor.

Thus ensues one of the most convoluted and red herring infused plots ever conceived.  The guests pair up, along with Wadsworth and Yvette, trying to discover if there is another person on the premises.  Added to the confusion are the arrival of several unannounced visitors, such as a policeman and a singing telegram girl, each of which is murdered.  As the bodies pile up, it becomes increasingly evident that (at least) one of the guests is actually killing the rest of the people.

Eventually, after the guests (and the audience) are thoroughly confused,  Wadsworth reveals that he knows how it all happened.

Now, in the theaters, if you went to see this film, you were treated to one of three potential endings.  So if you saw this in the theater you may not know of the other two possibilities.  In the interest of fair play, I won't tell you ANY of the endings.  You have the opportunity to see them all on the DVD, however, and you won't have to buy three separate copies of the DVD to see them all.

There are some interesting little tidbits throughout.  But, just to note, Communism is a red herring.

The highlight is Curry's portrayal as a butler, of course, but each of the guests, although essentially a caricature, have their moments.  Mull as the colonel is one of my favorites.  And Brennan is always a treat in whatever movies I see her in.

That's it from the back seat of the Plymouth this time.  Drive safely, folks.


Thursday, February 20, 2020

Stone Face vs. The Russians

This is my first entry in the So Bad Its Good Blogathon hosted by Taking Up Room

(Note on the title of this entry) Sylvester Stallone has only one facial expression, a seriously blase', sometimes angry, look which I would call "stone face".  I have watched dozens of Stallone movies, and I don't recall him cracking a smile once.  Maybe because "cracking a smile" would cause his face to crack...?

It could be said that Sylvester Stallone made one good movie in his entire career (Rocky), and then either just cloned or parodied the character for the next 45 years.

At least, if you take the Razzies for what they are worth.  The Razzies, Or Golden Raspberry Awards,  in case you didn't know, are the wicked step-brother of the Oscars, an award given every year to the Worst Picture / Actor / Actress / Director (etc.) in a given year.  For Worst Actor alone, Stallone holds the record for most nominations, with 15 to his credit.

He also won the award for Worst Actor of the Decade, twice, for the 1980's and 1990's.  (The 1990's  award was for "99.5% of everything he's ever done".)  And pretty much every movie he was a part of in that time period also competed for an award (Worst Picture / Director).

An argument could probably be made for saying that John Wilson (the founder of the Razzies) and company just have it in for Stallone.  At the same time he was getting Razzies he was also ranked in the top of Best Action Movie stars.  Admittedly, Stallone will probably never be confused with Oscar material as an actor.  But for a certain segment of the population, mostly he-man wannabees like me, he is almost the equivalent of an action hero god.

Stallone's career as a Razzie nominee hit it's highlight, in my opinion, in 1985.  That year, both Rocky IV and Rambo: First Blood Part II hit the big screen.  Between the two, a total of 16 nominations were garnered for Razzies.  Stallone even got a nod from the Razzie committee as worst director (for Rocky IV).

To the two films credit, both were big money makers (and my $$ were a part of that tabulation).  Only Back to the Future made more money that year, but Rambo: First Blood Part II and  Rocky IV were #2 and #3 respectively in terms of overall bucks at the box office.  Proving that even if he was a bad actor, he did have the cachet to draw in the crowds.

Part of the attraction of these two movies, at least at the time, was the presence of Russians as the villains.  In order to understand the conflict within the movies, one must understand the historical context.  This was during a time, prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the decline of Russia as a dominant threat to the American way of life.  The Cold War was still in effect, when the United States (in particular the Ronald Reagan led years of the American government) danced toe to toe with the evil empire of the Soviet Union. Thus, the James Bond movies and most other action movies of the time that involved an international conflict would reflect a Russian influence on the other side. (see my review of the 80's movie  Red Dawn for more).

Rambo: First Blood Part II: (1985):

In terms of release Rambo: First Blood Part II was the first in the theater, a summer release.

At the end of the first First Blood, John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) is sent to the penitentiary to do hard labor.  (See the movie to find out why, if you don't already know.  Or just follow the link above and read my thoughts on it  if you don't want to invest 2 hours to watch it...)

But his former commanding officer, Col. Trautman (Richard Crenna) has been keeping him on his mind.  So when a covert mission to go back in to Vietnam to see if they can verify the existence of P.O.W.s who were never repatriated at the end of the Vietnam war, Rambo is one of the few surviving Green Beret veterans from that war that is thought to have the capabilities to complete the mission.

So Rambo is taken to a headquarters where he meets Murdock (Charles Napier) who gives him his mission.  He is to infiltrate the Vietnamese jungle and locate a potential P.O.W. camp and take pictures to bring back proof that P.O.W.s are still being held by the Vietnamese. 

(A side note:  At the time it was widely believed that the Vietnam government had reneged on repatriating many P.O.W.s  from the Vietnam war.  Although there was no actual proof of such, the government at the time used the idea as muscle in its relationship with the Republic of Vietnam,  And the theme of a rescue operation to free them made its way into a few movies of the time, including the Chuck Norris vehicle Missing in Action and the Gene Hackman film Uncommon Valor.)

Rambo is rather incredulous at the idea that he is supposed to just "take pictures" but leave the P.O.W.s he might find there. But he agrees to the mission.  Dropped off in the jungle (with most of his equipment lost during the drop), Rambo meets up with Co (Julia Nickson), a covert Vietnamese girl who is fighting against the Communist regime.

Together they approach the potential site where, indeed, several prisoners are being held.  Against orders Rambo frees one of the prisoners and makes his way back to the pickup site.  The prisoner informs Rambo that it was lucky they came when they did because "they move us around a lot."  This revelation is the first clue in the fact that the mission might not have been all on the up and up.  Apparently the camp was supposed to be empty, which would have produced no results.

The true nature comes to the fore when, at the pick up site, the rescue team radios back to HQ that Rambo has a P.O.W. with them and Murdock orders them to abort the mission, leaving Rambo behind to be captured.

Enter the Russians.  Headed by Lt. Col. Podovsky (Steven Berkoff), the Russians try every which way to get Rambo to talk, and to radio back to his HQ that any further attempts to come in to Vietnam will be addressed with requisite retribution.

But Rambo tells them to go to Hell.  He does submit to the radio contact, but his only words are to tell Murdock that "I'm coming to get you!" And then proceeds to escape.

The final segment involves the typical Ramboesque escape and jungle battle as Rambo picks off both Russian and Vietnamese soldiers who are in pursuit, and eventually commandeers a helicopter which he uses to help the remaining P.O.W.s in the camp escape.

Of course, Stallone would go on to reprise Rambo in a few more movies, most recently Last Blood, (which I missed in the theater.  Just waiting for a chance to get it on DVD).  The Rambo series is proof positive that an attitude and a good knife will get you through any situation...

Rocky IV (1985):

Rocky IV by contrast, enjoyed a Thanksgiving release.  This was one of the handful of movies that my sister and I saw together over the years.

After Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) defeated Clubber Lang (Mr. T.), life has become sedate for Rocky.  He has his family to care for, and his friends to pal around with, especially his once nemesis, now good friend and sometimes trainer, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers).

But there is a new enemy on the horizon.  The Russians, who are always trying to denigrate their nemesis, the Americans, have begun a  campaign to claim that their amateur boxing hero, Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) is better than anything the Americans could pit against him. Of course, this will inspire even the most liberal of the population to experience a little twinge of resentment and American pride to come to the fore.

As a result, since the Boxing Commission is not quite ready to sanction an official fight between its champion and the, as yet, unknown contender, there is an agreement to have an exhibition bout in Las Vegas.  And who else but pro-America former heavyweight champion Apollo is better to step in to the ring and take this Russian whippersnapper down a peg or two?  So despite some misgivings, not only from Apollo's family but also from Rocky, the former champ agrees to a match.  Of course, Apollo is under the impression that even though he has aged a few years, he should still be able to hold his own against an amateur.  (You could be forgiven if this reminds you of George Foreman, who tried something similar in the early 90's, entering the ring in his mid 40's).

Apollo, unfortunately, is no match for Drago. And despite a pre-match performance of a somewhat patriotic song by James Brown,

the fight doesn't quite come out the way Apollo and Rocky and the American public quite intended.

Apollo is pulverized and eventually dies from the damage he suffers in the altogether too short match.  Making Apollo the second trainer/friend that Rocky has had to watch die.  (See Rocky III)  Disgraced not only by he fact that he wouldn't throw in the towel during the match to stop the fight and incensed by the pure chutzpah the Russians exhibit after their win, Rocky agrees to a match between himself and Drago, to be held in Moscow on Christmas Day.   (and if you don't see the slap in the face the Russians are giving America by having the fight on that day, you haven't been paying attention).

Adrian (Talia Shire), Rocky's wife, pleads with him to not follow through on the fight, but if you know Rocky (or at least this kind of movie), you know those pleas have to fall on deaf ears.  Rocky travels to Russia where he knows he can train without the distraction of the American paparazzi, which he knows all too well won't give him the peace to train.  Don't miss the recreation of Rocky's famous climb up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in which Rocky does virtually the same thing, only up a mountain.

The day of the battle comes.  The crowd is sufficiently hostile to the intruder from America while cheering for their national hero.  Which is to be expected.  What is not expected (and may just be wishful thinking on the scriptwriter's part that it would actually happen) is that as Rocky manages to go toe to toe with Drago, as each round passes, more and more of the crowd seem to switch their allegiance from Drago to Rocky.

If you don't know how this movie turns out, you don't watch enough of these kinds of films.  I must admit that Rocky still looks like he could take Drago (or at least that Stallone could take Lundgren) despite the fact that the Russian is a head taller.  Much more believable than in later years, in which Stallone is still trying to capture lightning in a bottle as an action hero, despite the fact that he looks like he would be more comfortable in a walker than an armored tank.

You've got to admit, though, that both John Rambo and Rocky Balboa can instill some patriotic idealism.  Both of these movies deserve at least one look, and even if you don't care for the jingoistic fervor, which quite frankly comes off as something like John Wayne saying "A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do".  Whether you watch them or not, just remember, stand up for what you believe in no matter who stands in your way.

I actually prefer First Blood II over Rocky IV, but both are pretty cool if you like this type of movie.

Time to fire up the Plymouth and head home.  Drive safely folks.