Rocky IV is almost ten years after the original Rocky. But it could be world apart. The style of filmmaking is completely different. The High Concept pitch might well have been: Rocky IV High Concept pitch: America smashes the Soviet Union in five high-energy MTV montages plus lots of flesh on display, a little bit of heart, and lots and lots of room for product placement. There’s much to say, not least in relation to the nod to Gorbachov in the final bout. But I will here limit myself to noting that Sylvester Stallone is at least as narcissistic as any old-fashioned Hollywood diva, and since he directs himself, has more scope to reveal it. Certainly, as you can see below, he changes clothes or ‘looks’ more often than even Marlene Dietrich at her dressiest, though perhaps to lesser effect. The product placement is sometimes in your face, sometimes more subliminal:
Boxing might be mistaken for disco dancing:
Sly, full 80s, as if styled by Olivia Newton-John ,in full-on Let’s Get Physical gear, also from Rocky III
The second feature-length computer-animated film ever made, after Pixar’s groundbreaking Toy Story, Antz is an oddball. A public feud between Jeffrey Katzenberg and then-CEO of Disney, Michael Eisner, led to Katzenberg founding Dreamworks SKG and subsequently feuding with Pixar’s John Lasseter, who was making the suspiciously similar – and ultimately more successful – A Bug’s Life. Pixar is the historically more successful and well-regarded studio, and the direct comparison between these two films usually sees Antz considered inferior, but Mike’s long been fond of it, and in revisiting it we discuss both how far it shows us animation has come in the last twenty years, and its many qualities, including its rather grown-up tone and references, imaginative and expressive visual design and cinematography, and witty dialogue.
Oh, and we try to work out how children think.
Donald Trump’s vision of Mexico as America’s terrifying, criminal neighbour to the south finds a home in Rambo: Last Blood, a film in which a journey to Mexico is no less than a descent into Hell, and the comfort of the USA means a ranch, horses, sunsets, and a subterranean network of tunnels in which to viciously trap and slaughter Mexican rapists. You may be surprised to hear that we weren’t that keen on it.
Considering Sylvester Stallone’s age – a mighty 73 years old – Last Blood‘s action can’t ask as much of him physically as did the Rambo films of old, but through the use of traps and ambushes, Stallone’s limitations are smartly made irrelevant. But that’s about as positive as we can get. This is a film that cost $50m, if the production budget figure on Box Office Mojo is to be believed, and if Stallone hasn’t taken $40m of that for himself it’s impossible to tell where it’s been spent. This is cheap, nasty, acrid cinema, and it spurs José to look back on Stallone’s career and decry it for not simply having too few hits but moreover representing a betrayal of what Stallone meant to immigrant kids and underdogs back when he broke out with Rocky in 1976.
Avoid Rambo: Last Blood like the self-mythologising, racist bile it is.
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My original review, which appeared in the very first issue of The Montreal Mirror, on 20th of June 1985, and which indicates the film showing in various cinemas which no longer function as such.
Sylvester Stallone has had so many facelifts he now looks like an unsexy version of the cartoons Mad Magazine used to do of him in the 70’s. Yet he’s now been starring in big-budget movies for close to 40 years. Bullet to the Head (James Bonomo, USA, 2012) also had a theatrical release earlier this year and is now out on DVD plus there are two more films currently in postproduction. The man’s career is unstoppable. Why that is so is a mystery: I can’t think of another star who’s sustained that kind of career for that long with barely two good films in his filmography — The Expendables 2 isn’t one of them. Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jean-Claude van Damme, Chuck Norris, Dolph Lundgren and other 80’s action stars parade through the film like a taxidermist’s prize exhibit. Jet Li and Jason Statham figure as more recent generations of action stars. Liam Hemsworth presumably wants to join the club. It was a hit.