A Movie A Day #224: Armed and Dangerous (1986, directed by Mark L. Lester)


John Candy and Eugene Levy make a great team in the underrated comedy, Armed and Dangerous.

John Candy plays Frank Dooley, a member of the LAPD.  One of the first scenes of the movie is Frank climbing up a tree to save a little boy’s kitten and then getting stuck in the tree himself.  When Frank discovers two corrupt detectives stealing televisions, Frank is framed for the theft and kicked off the force.

Eugene Levy plays Norman Kane, a lawyer whose latest client is a Charles Manson-style cult leader who has a swastika carved into his head.  After being repeatedly threatened with murder, Norman asks for a sidebar and requests that the judge sentence his client to life in prison.  The judge agrees on the condition that Norman, whom he describes as being “the worst attorney to ever appear before me,” find a new line of work.

Frank and Norman end up taking a one day training course to act as security guards and are assigned to work together by their tough by sympathetic supervisor (Meg Ryan!).  Assigned to guard a pharmaceutical warehouse, Frank and Norman stumble across a robbery.  The robbery leads them to corruption inside their own union and, before you can say 80s cop movie, Frank and Norman are ignoring the orders of their supervisors and investigating a crime that nobody wants solved.

Armed and Dangerous was one of the many comedy/cop hybrid films of the 1980s.  Like Beverly Hills Cop, it features Jonathan Banks as a bad guy.  Like the recruits in Police Academy, all of Frank and Norman’s fellow security guards are societal misfits who are distinguished by one or two eccentricities.  There is nothing ground-breaking about Armed and Dangerous but Mark Lester did a good job directing the movie and the team of Candy and Levy (who has previously worked together on SCTV) made me laugh more than a few times.

Armed and Dangerous was originally written to be a vehicle for John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd.  It’s easy to imagine Belushi and Aykroyd in the lead roles but I think the movie actually works better with Candy and Levy, whose comedic style was similar to but far less aggressive than that of Belushi and Aykroyd.  One of the reasons that Armed and Dangerous works is because John Candy and Eugene Levy seem like the two last people to ever find themselves in a shootout or a car chase.  With Belushi and Aykroyd, it would have been expected.  After all, everyone’s seen The Blues Brothers.

 

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TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.12 “The Black Widow” (directed by Caleb Deschanel)


Twin Peaks

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome back to Twin Peaks!

Here we are at Episode 12 of Season 2, “The Black Widow” was directed by Caleb Deschanel, who happens to be the father of Emily (Bones) and Zooey (New Girl). The episode opens with Bobby Briggs (Dana Ashbrook) paying a visit to Ben Horne (Richard Beymer). Ben is somewhat down on his luck, having learned the truth about Audrey’s (Sherilyn Fenn) visit to One Eyed Jack’s and Hank (Chris Mulkey) informing him that the brothel has been taken over by Jean Renault (Michael Parks). Ben gives Bobby a mission to follow Hank and get him on film, handing him a camera. Anything mischievous or crazy, Ben needs it for blackmail.

On the way out of Ben’s office, Bobby watches a screaming Lana Milford (Robyn Lively, who I found out is actress Blake Lively’s sister) as she runs through the hallways. Given the title of the episode, I think we may be able to get an idea of what happened.

Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) is finally settling down in Twin Peaks, and with a realtor in his office, he’s given two options for Open Houses. Being Dale, he leaves the decision to chance with the flip of a quarter. The quarter spins and lands on the picture of a third property that was left out. The realtor tells him that the property is known as “Dead Dog Farm”, and no one really stays there long. It’s the place for Dale and he asks to see it right away.

Judy Swain (Molly Shannon, SNL)  from the Happy Helping Hands Organization stops by the precinct to speak with Andy (Harry Goaz), Lucy (Kimmy Robertson) and Dick (Ian Buchanan) about little Nicky (Joshua Harris). Judy has some interesting news on Little Nicky. It turns out that his parents were killed by mysterious circumstances, and he was bounced around to various homes. Judy doesn’t say whether Nicky had a hand in his parents death, but we can figure the best course of action here maybe to get those Megiddo daggers from The Omen and take that little kid to a church.

TP-Molly Shannon

Sheriff Truman (Michael Ontkean) calls out to Andy as they have to make a run to the Great Northern. A tragedy has occurred. Sure enough, the next scene gives us the recently deceased Dougie Milford (Tony Jay) laying in bed. Doc Hayward (William Frost) declares it – a heart attack. Apparently, Dougie was in the throes of passion when his heart gave out. Mayor Dwayne Milford (John Boylan) says his brother couldn’t refuse a beautiful woman, and on seeing Lana in the hallway, he calls her out as a witch and a succubus. Hawk (Michael Horse) approaches Lana and attempts to console her, listening to her state that she’s cursed. Her Prom Night date in High School tried to kiss her, but his braces malfunctioned, leaving him with a lockjaw. Knowing a thing or two about curses, Hawk tells her not to worry and that when things go down, he’s the man. The scene ends on a laughable note.

Gym Class at the High School. The coach introduces the newest member of the wrestling team to her peers, Ms. Nadine Hurley (Wendy Robie). She challenges her crush Mike Nelson (Gary Hershberger) to a sparring session. Mike sets Nadine up in a grapple hold, but she easily tackles him to the ground. She manages to also put him in a head lock and even body slam the poor fellow. Mike is down and out for the count, waiting for someone to throw a python on him and call it a day. In the next scene, we see a damaged Mike as he makes his way down the hallways of school. He reaches Donna and begs her to help him get Nadine off his back. She tells him that maybe an older woman is what he needs.

At Evelyn Marsh’s (Annette McCarthy) residence, James (James Marshall) meets Malcolm Sloan (Nicholas Love) Evelyn’s brother and the family chauffeur. If you recall from the previous episode, James is staying with Evelyn to fix her husband’s Jaguar. He was given the job by his sister, and without it would have probably gone on to drink himself into a corner. He alludes to the idea that her husband Jeffrey (John Apicella) beats her often, and to get back at him, she damages his things. Apparently, she was the one to put the Jaguar in traction. Malcolm leaves James to deal with the info he’s just provided.

Irene Littlehorse (Geraldine Kearns) brings Cooper to Dead Dog Farm.

A tiny digression here. Angelo Badalamenti has a sweet eerie tune here that sounds very much like something Charlie Clouser (Saw, The Collector) would have worked on. The closest contemporary sound I could find was as a song called “Talk to Me” by Porcelain Raft. If you get a chance, give it a listen. I wouldn’t be shocked to discover Badalamenti was an influence to them and others. This might also explain how Trent Reznor’s involved in the Revival.

Anyway, Irene and Cooper find that Dead Dog Farm was recently visited. As they go inside, they discover more clues. It appears someone’s been there in the past few hours (how Cooper realizes that is beyond me, but he’s Cooper. He deals in luck and sorcery, we’ll just accept it). He discovers baby laxative in the sink, and cocaine in a chair. With a smile, he tells Irene that they have to contact the Sheriff. The trail has become hot, and he wasn’t even trying.

Dick and Nicky are at their campsite, and Dick is trying to fix a flat. Nicky is being somewhat annoying by playing with the steering wheel and honking the horn. Dick yells at him, and Nicky puts himself out of the way, somewhat happy at the mayhem he’s caused. However, when the jack on the car gives way and almost injures Dick, Nicky runs and hugs him, worried about if he died. Dick seems a little surprised by this, and it’s something of a bonding moment between them. Then again, perhaps Nicky was just setting a trap for Dick.

At the preceinct, Truman and Cooper are talking with Colonel Riley(Tony Burton) regarding Garland Briggs’ (Don Davis) disappearance. There appears to be a connection between some messages from deep space that pertain to Agent Cooper. According to the Colonel, the source of the messages weren’t from space, but from an area very near to, or practically in Twin Peaks. The Colonel mentions that Briggs’ disappearance is a very serious thing with extreme ramifications to national security.

At the Marsh residence, James is finished fixing the Jaguar. He asks Evelyn about her husband, about what he’s done to her. She argues the point, but after a kiss and the honk of a car, she goes on alert. Jeffrey has come home, and she runs out to meet him.

Audrey meets Bobby at the Great Northern, congratulating him on the job he’s acquired with her father. She also asks him if he’d be willing to work with her as well. Misunderstanding the meaning of business, he leans in for a kiss, which she deftly evades. He smiles, saying he likes the way she thinks and heads to Ben Horne’s office.

That scene bothered me a little, and this may have to do with the idea that at the time, Lara Flynn Boyle was dating Kyle MacLachlan. Since the two of them were together, it supposedly caused a bit of a rift between she and Sherilyn Fenn. The setup that would have possibly led to an Audrey / Cooper courtship was derailed and by this point, it looked like the writers weren’t entirely sure of where to put Audrey in the scheme of things. As long as she was far from Cooper, it worked out. That’s just my speculation.

Audrey snoops in on Ben and Bobby from one of the cubbyholes in the lodge. She sees that he was able to get the pictures for Ben, though to what end, we’re not sure.

Josie (Joan Chen) is doing maid duty for Catherine Martell (Piper Laurie) to pay for her scheming against here. There isn’t much to the scene save that Catherine is relishing where she has Josie here.

Cooper records something for Diane, saying that the response to Windom Earl’s first move was printed in the local paper, but he received the response to that move the day before. He understands that Windom is one step ahead of him, and needs to find a way to change that. He also points out that in the time since his suspension, he’s looked for a home, and he has to worry about his defense, which could be a problem.

Just in time, Audrey knocks on the door, presenting Cooper with a package. Inside are the pictures from Ben’s office. Pictures that include Ernie Niles (James Booth). Audrey’s happy here, considering that the information may actually exonerate Cooper, but before she could continue, Cooper’s door knocks again. This time, it’s Denise Bryson (David Duchovny), who is introduced to Audrey.

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“They have women agents?” she says, shaking Denise’s hand, a glint in her eye that suggests she may have found her calling.

“More or Less.”, Denise responds. Audrey thanks the both of them and kisses Cooper (Finally!!!) before leaving the room. It’s here that Denise points out something I missed in Audrey’s age. Cooper smiles, telling Denise that with her change in perception and identity, he assumed girls wouldn’t factor into all that. Her response is simple and it’s an effective close to the scene:

“Coop. I may be wearing a dress, but I still pull my panties on one leg at a time, if you know what I mean.”

Norma (Peggy Lipton) and Ed (Everett McGill) have a small moment over Pie about the lives they planned, and the plans that didn’t work out. She touches his hand, and says that they can make new plans, but this falls within earshot of someone holding a domino in their hands. Hank perhaps? We’re not shown. They better be careful.

Dick comes into the Precinct, pulls Andy aside and whispers that Little Nicky may very well be the Devil. Called it. Totally called it.

Mayor Milford is in Truman’s office with Truman and Doc Hayward, looking to press charges against Lana over his brother’s death by sex. He yells that she won’t get a red cent of Dougie’s money and storms out.

And here’s one of the best scenes of the episode, if short. Hawk, standing in the doorway of the room with Lana (playing the Ingenue) behind him asks the men in the main room (Hayward, Andy, Truman, and Dick) for some Irish creme to add to Lana’s coffee. Dick breaks into Act 1, Scene 5 of Romeo & Juliet, with Hayward joining in. They’re all transfixed on the redhead in the room, which reminded me of both Rita Hayworth’s introduction in Gilda, the cover models in some of the detective stories that Erin has posted here on the Lens, and Lindy Booth’s character in Cry Wolf. When everyone disperses, a phone call comes in on the line, which Lucy picks up. She finds, however, that she’s unable to reach Truman, Andy or anyone. Walking back to the room where Lana was in, she opens to door to find everyone laughing and listening to Lana’s stories. Even Andy is caught up in the magic. This, of course, infuriates Lucy, who leaves and slams the door behind her. I would have loved to know if slamming the door had any effect on the guys in the room. Whether Lana presents any kind of danger is unknown at this point, but that honestly was a great setup if we do find she’s a Femme Fatale.

We’re back at the diner, with a pair of heeled legs that step into the room. Ernie Niles is having dinner when Denise slides into the seat across from him. Taking out the pictures that Audrey stole, she informs Niles that he’s guilty of a parole violation and unless he helps her (she says, reapplying her lipstick), she’ll do everything she can to make sure he stays there. It’s a cute little scene.

We then find Ernie being interrogated by Cooper and Denise in a cabin under the midst of a thunderstorm. Ernie confesses he had about four kilos of coke, and Denise has him set up a meet at the Dead Dog Farm, where she’ll meet him as a drug trafficker. On realizing that Denise is more than who she says she is, he kind of has a bad reaction and runs to the restroom.

Cut to the Marsh residence. Screaming. Glass breaking. James wakes up to these sounds and when Malcolm steps into the room, he asks if Evelyn will be alright. He states that he once thought revenge, but she stopped him for both of their sakes. This leaves James wondering if he should intervene.

The final scene of this episode has Betty Briggs (Charlotte Stewart), weeping over the loss of Major Briggs. Bobby has a great moment here where he tells her of the dream his father had about him and his future. During the storm, the lights go out, and in the darkness, we find Major Briggs suddenly in the living room. How did he get there? Where the heck was he?! He asks Bobby to fix him a drink, and when asked if everything’s alright, his answer is simple.

“Not exactly.”

And isn’t that always how is it in Twin Peaks? That’s the episode. This one was actually really good, and so far the show is holding up well. Tune in tomorrow for “Checkmate”, the next episode in our Marathon.

Previous Entries in The TSL’s Look At Twin Peaks:

  1. Twin Peaks: In the Beginning by Jedadiah Leland
  2. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.1 — The Pilot (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  3. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.2 — Traces To Nowhere (directed by Duwayne Dunham) by Jedadiah Leland
  4. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.3 — Zen, or the Skill To Catch A Killer (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  5. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.4 “Rest in Pain” (dir by Tina Rathbone) by Leonard Wilson
  6. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.5 “The One-Armed Man” (directed by Tim Hunter) by Jedadiah Leland
  7. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.6 “Cooper’s Dreams” (directed by Lesli Linka Glatter) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  8. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.7 “Realization Time” (directed by Caleb Deschanel) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  9. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.8 “The Last Evening” (directed by Mark Frost) by Leonard Wilson
  10. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.1 “May the Giant Be With You” (dir by David Lynch) by Leonard Wilson
  11. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.2 “Coma” (directed by David Lynch) by Jedadiah Leland
  12. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.3 “The Man Behind The Glass” (directed by Lesli Linka Glatter) by Jedadiah Leland
  13. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.4 “Laura’s Secret Diary” (dir by Todd Holland) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  14. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.5 “The Orchid’s Curse” (dir by Graeme Clifford) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  15. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.6 “Demons” (dir by Lesli Linka Glatter) by Leonard Wilson
  16. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.7 “Lonely Souls” (directed by David Lynch) by Jedadiah Leland
  17. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.8 “Drive With A Dead Girl” (dir by Caleb Deschanel) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  18. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.9 “Arbitrary Law” (dir by Tim Hunter) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  19. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.10 “Dispute Between Brothers” (directed by Tina Rathbone) by Jedadiah Leland
  20. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.11 “Masked Ball” (directed by Duwayne Dunham) by Leonard Wilson

A Movie A Day #71: Side Out (1990, directed by Peter Israelson)


Monroe (C. Thomas Howell) is a young lawyer who moves to California and gets a job working for his Uncle Max (Terry Kiser).  Max wants Monroe to concentrate on evicting beach bums.  Monroe wants to play beach volleyball.  Together, they solve crimes.  No, actually, Max orders Monroe to evict Zack (Peter Horton), a former volleyball champion who was once “king of the beach.”  Zack agrees to coach Monroe and his goofball friend, Wiley (Christopher Rydell) in a volleyball tournament.  But when Zack misses a match because he is having underlit, PG-13 sex with his ex-wife (Harley Jane Kozak), uncoached Monroe accidentally breaks Wiley’s arm.  Now, Zack has to step in as Monroe’s partner and reclaim his status as king of the beach!

When I was a kid, Side Out was a HBO perennial, which is not the same thing as being a good movie.  There have not been many movies made about beach volleyball and Side Out shows us why.  Beach volley ball is just not that exciting to watch, especially when the main competitors are two out of shape actors.  All the jump cuts and close-ups in the world can’t disguise the fact that neither actor looks like he could get the ball over the net, never mind playing for over ten minutes without getting out of breath.  In Side Out, beach volleyball teamwork comes down to a lot of yelling and whenever Monroe yells at either Wiley or Zack, he sounds just like the “Put him in a body bag, Johnny!” guy from The Karate Kid.

At least Kathy Ireland has a small role.  Also, in the role of Zack’s friend, keep an eye out for Duke himself, the great Tony Burton!

What are you doing here, Duke!?

The Measure of a Man: The Life and Career of Rocky Balboa


rocky-and-apollo-02

Have you heard the rumor?

Rocky Balboa, also know as the Italian Stallion and the former heavyweight champion of the world, is going to die.

2013Rocky_SylvesterStallone_PA-14110031250713At least that is what some people think after reading the official plot synopsis of the upcoming boxing film Creed.  Here is the press release from MGM and Warner Brothers:

From Warner Bros. Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures comes award-winning filmmaker Ryan Coogler’s “Creed.” The film explores a new chapter in the “Rocky” story and stars Academy Award nominee Sylvester Stallone in his iconic role. The film also reunites Coogler with his “Fruitvale Station” star Michael B. Jordan as the son of Apollo Creed.

Adonis Johnson (Jordan) never knew his famous father, world heavyweight champion Apollo Creed, who died before he was born. Still, there’s no denying that boxing is in his blood, so Adonis heads to Philadelphia, the site of Apollo Creed’s legendary match with a tough upstart named Rocky Balboa.

Once in the City of Brotherly Love, Adonis tracks Rocky (Stallone) down and asks him to be his trainer. Despite his insistence that he is out of the fight game for good, Rocky sees in Adonis the strength and determination he had known in Apollo—the fierce rival who became his closest friend. Agreeing to take him on, Rocky trains the young fighter, even as the former champ is battling an opponent more deadly than any he faced in the ring.

With Rocky in his corner, it isn’t long before Adonis gets his own shot at the title…but can he develop not only the drive but also the heart of a true fighter, in time to get into the ring?

Sylvester-Stallone-creedMany have interpreted that to mean that, while training Adonis, Rocky will be battling cancer.  With the exception of the first one and Rocky V, every installment in the Rocky franchise has featured a character either dying or coming close.  Since Paulie will apparently not be appearing in Creed, that leaves Rocky himself as the most likely candidate to tragically pass away before or after the big fight.  In death, Rocky would not only pass on his legacy Adonis Creed but Sylvester Stallone would pass on the Rocky franchise to Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan.

With his days possibly numbered, I decided to take a look back at Rocky Balboa’s amazing career.

Rocky (1976)

Sylvester Stallone was just another out-of-work actor when, one night in 1975, he saw a little known boxer named Chuck Wepner go 15 rounds against the reigning heavyweight champion, Muhammad Ali.  Inspired by the fight, Stallone wrote the first draft of Rocky in three days.  When he sold his script, he did so with one condition: that he be allowed to play Rocky Balboa.  You know the rest of the story: Directed by John G. Avildsen, Rocky became a huge box office hitwon the Oscar for best picture of the year, and made Sylvester Stallone into an unlikely star.

618_movies_rocky_10Rocky Balboa is an aging boxer and a collector for Philadelphia loan shark, Tony Gazzo (Joe Spinell).  The current heavyweight champion, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), is scheduled to fight a match in Philadelphia in honor of America’s bicentennial.  When his opponent injures his hand, Apollo decides to give a local boy a chance and the unknown Rocky gets a once-in-a-lifetime shot at the title.  Nobody gives Rocky a chance, except for Rocky.  With the help of grizzled trainer Mickey (Burgess Meredith) and alcoholic best friend, Paulie (Burt Young), Rocky prepares for the fight.  After a training montage (the first of many) that ends with Rocky running up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Rocky shocks everyone by going the distance against Apollo.  Though he loses by a split decision, Rocky wins both his self-respect and the love of Paulie’s sister, Adrian (Talia Shire).

Rocky holds up as one of the best boxing movies ever made and it set the standard by which almost all future underdog sports movies have been judged.  Rocky may have ended with Rocky ready to take off his gloves and concentrate on his life with Adrian but the box office demanded that Rocky get another once-in-a-lifetime shot.

Rocky II (1979)

The first Rocky may have ended with Apollo saying there would be no rematch and Rocky replying that he did not want one but the film’s box office success said otherwise.  In Rocky II, Apollo is stung by criticism over how he nearly lost his first fight against Rocky and demands a rematch.  At first, Rocky refuses but, with no prospects and a wife, son, and alcoholic brother-in-law to support, Rocky finally agrees to a rematch.  What follows is largely a repeat of the first film, except this time Rocky has a lot more fans following him through the streets of Philadelphia during his training montage and Rocky actually wins the fight, becoming the heavyweight champion of the world.

rocky-ii-1979-01-gThe best thing about Rocky II is that it fleshes out the character of Apollo.  No longer is he just the cocky villain from the first film.  Instead, he is revealed to be a proud man, a fierce competitor, and a worthy opponent. Though he may lose the final fight, Apollo regains the respect that he sacrificed as the end of the first film.

Rocky II is also notable for being the first film in the franchise to be directed by Sylvester Stallone.  Stallone would direct all of the subsequent installments, with the exception of the John G. Avildsen-directed Rocky V.

Rocky III (1982)

mr-t-plays-clubber-in-rocky-iiiRocky III has the best opening of the franchise.  While Rocky does commercials and trades jokes with Kermit and Miss Piggy on The Muppet Show, Clubber Lang (Mr. T) relentlessly trains and savagely knocks out every opponent that he faces in the ring.  The premise of the first two films has been reversed.  Now, Rocky is the overconfident champion who does not take his latest fight seriously while Clubber Lang is the challenger who is hungry for victory.  Clubber has the “eye of the tiger” and is determined to win.  Rocky is busy doing charity events with Hulk Hogan and bailing alcoholic freeloader Paulie out of jail.

Rocky III features the first death of the franchise, when Clubber shoves Mickey so hard that Mickey ends up having a heart attack and dying almost immediately after Clubber defeats Rocky and becomes the new heavyweight champion of the world.  As if Rocky needed another reason to demand a rematch, Mickey’s death makes it personal.  Unfortunately, Rocky has lost his hunger.  He no longer has the eye of the tiger.

Fortunately, Rocky’s former rival, Apollo Creed, is there to help him get it back.  Taking over as Rocky’s trainer, Apollo gets the former champion back into fighting shape.  This means that it is time for a training montage!  This one ends with a great moment in bromance history as Rocky and Apollo embrace while jumping up and down in the ocean.

2009654-rocky_iii_l_oeil_du_tigre_1983_07_gRocky III ends with what may be the best fight in the history of the franchise.  It is also the only fight to be shown straight from beginning to end, without jumping to future rounds.  From the start of the fight, it is obvious that Clubber is stronger than Rocky but, taking a page from the rope-a-dope strategy that Muhammad Ali used on George Foreman in Zaire, Rocky knows that Clubber is so aggressive that he will tire himself out before the end of the fight.  Once Clubber has exhausted himself, Rocky sends him down to the canvas.

At the end of the film, Rocky and Apollo square off one last time to see who is truly the best boxer.  The film ends before the first punch is thrown and we never find out who won.  I like to think that it was Apollo, if just because I know what is going to happen to him in Rocky IV.

Rocky IV (1985)

Ivan_kills_ApolloHaving defeated every contender in the U.S., it only made sense that Rocky’s next opponent would come from the evil empire itself, the Soviet Union.  But before Rocky could battle Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), someone had to die.  This installment’s sacrificial victim was none other than Apollo Creed.  Apollo dies in the ring, beaten to death by the robotic Russian.  Of all the deaths in the Rocky franchise, Apollo’s was the most shocking and the most traumatic.  After Apollo falls face forward onto the mat, his body is still twitching even as Ivan says, “If he dies, he dies.”

Knowing that he should have been in the ring instead of Apollo, Rocky challenges Drago to a rematch, to be held in Moscow on, of all days, Christmas.  Leaving behind his mansion, his son, and his robot (yes, Rocky owns a robot in this one), Rocky goes to Siberia and that means that it is time for a training montage!  While Drago trains with machines and shoots steroids, Rocky trains by chopping wood and running in the snow.

lXRPTbIt’s a tough fight.  At first, Drago does not even seem to feel Rocky’s punches.  The Soviet audience (including someone who looks a lot like Mikhail Gorbachev) chants Drago’s name.  Just like in Philadelphia, Rocky refuses to go down.  The crowd starts to chant Rocky’s name.  When Drago’s manager demands that he win the fight in the name of communism, Drago shouts that he does not fight for the Soviet Union, he fights for himself.  Finally, with seconds left in the final round, Rocky knocks Drago out.

Lundgren_Ivan_DragoAs a bloody Drago looks on, Rocky literally wraps himself in an American flag and gives a speech.  Rocky thanks the Americans and the Soviets for supporting him and then says, “”If I can change, and you can change, then everybody can change!”  Gorbachev stands and applauds.  Is it just a coincidence that, four years later, the Berlin Wall fell and the Cold War ended?

Rocky IV may be the best remembered of all of the Rocky films.  Ivan Drago was Rocky’s greatest and most imposing opponent and it is not surprising that, despite killing Apollo, he still has a strong fan base.  Unlike Clubber Lang, Ivan is a cold and methodical machine.  Rocky’s improbable win over him is not just a victory for America but a victory for humanity as well.

Rocky V (1990)

Is Rocky V canonical?  A lot of fans consider this to be the weakest film in the franchise.  Despite writing the film’s screenplay, Sylvester Stallone reportedly hates Rocky V and ignored it when he made Rocky Balboa.

rocky-5Rocky V starts with Rocky retiring after being told that his battle with Drago has left him with permanent brain damage.  Paulie, proving once again that he’s the worst best friend that anyone could hope for, loses all of Rocky’s money.  Rocky, Adrian, and Rocky, Jr. (now played by Sage Stallone) move back to the old neighborhood.  Following in the footsteps of Mickey and Apollo, Rocky trains a mulletheaded young boxer named Tommy Gunn (Tommy Morrison).  Instead of a training montage, we get a fight montage as Tommy becomes a champion but rejects Rocky’s management and signs with Don King George Washington Duke (Richard Gant).  Tommy and Rocky eventually face off in a street fight.  Originally, the plan was for Rocky to die at the end of the fight but, fortunately, someone in production realized that nobody would want to see Rocky Balboa beaten to death by Tommy Morrison.

551-3Tommy Morrison was a real-life boxer.  Rocky V was his only film role and he’s almost too convincing as the dim-witted Tommy Gunn.  In the real world, Tommy Morrison was suspended from boxing in 1996 when he tested positive for HIV.  He spent the rest of his life loudly insisting that the test was a false positive and trying to make a comeback.  He was 44 years old when he died of AIDS in 2013.

Rocky V suffers because Tommy Gunn and George Washington Duke cannot begin to compare to great Rocky opponents like Clubber Lang and Ivan Drago.  However, Rocky V does feature one of the franchise’s best endings.  Rocky and Rocky, Jr. jog up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and, father and son together, they finally decide to enter the building and discover what’s inside.

Rocky Balboa (2006)

After the critical and box office failure of Rocky V, it seemed like Rocky Balboa had retired for good.  However, after 16 years of well-deserved retirement, Rocky followed the path of George Foreman, Larry Holmes, and Riddick Bowe and decided to make a comeback.

guide_cemeteryAs Rocky Balboa begins, Rocky is a widower and owns an Italian restaurant named Adrian’s, where he spends most of his time telling patrons stories about his fighting career.  He is estranged from his son, who now wants to be called Robert and is played by Milo Ventimiglia, but Rocky still has his best friend Paulie.  If not for Rocky, Paulie would probably be living in a cardboard box.  After a computer simulation suggests that Rocky, in his prime, could have defeated the reigning heavyweight champion, Mason Dixon (Antonio Tarver), Rocky comes out of retirement for one last fight.  With the help of Apollo’s former trainer, Duke (Tony Burton), Rocky proves that he can still go the distance, even though he ultimately loses the fight in a split decision.

At the start of the film, Adrian has been dead for four years.  However, her ghost haunts the film.  Rocky regularly visits her grave and the film ends with him at her grave and saying, one last time, “Yo Adrian, we did it.”  Stallone may be the battered face of the Rocky franchise but Talia Shire was the heart.  Though she’s only seen in flashback, Rocky Balboa is a tribute to the way that Talia Shire brought Adrian to life.

Sentimental and nostalgic, Rocky Balboa felt like the perfect way to end the franchise.  However, Rocky will be returning for at least one more fight when Creed is released on November 25th.

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