Advertisements

Tag Archive: Burt Young


Review by C.J. Bunce

Is it strange that the two latest Netflix series, Kingdom and Russian Doll, play out like they were written from the same story writing prompt?  The title is perfect, Russian Doll–the traditional Eastern European nesting doll toy is a metaphor for the repetitive existence of the heroine in the next time loop-centric series.  Natasha Lyonne (Blade: Trinity, American Pie) plays Nadya Vulvakov, an emotional, more accessible Jessica Jones–in fact the series might as well be called Marvel’s Russian Doll, because it’s centered on a superpowered heroine with a unique gift (like Deadpool 2’s Domino), the power of the do-over.  The twist here is her power is not in her control, as with the dying and re-birth in the wonderful short-lived series Forever.  Nadia’s got to make the best of it, and figure out why she’s repeating the same day, before it is too late.

In a month with Groundhog Day and the sequel to Happy Death Day just around the corner, the time loop trope shows no signs of stopping.  (Not up to speed on time loops?  Start here, then check out all we’ve covered at borg here).  Even if you’re tired of the same old Noo Yawker shtick that’s been overused in sitcoms a million times, the hook of Russian Doll will keep you around for the full eight episodes.  Vulgar will be your first impression of Nadia.  She’s a mouthy 36-year-old who acts, talks, and seems to think she’s lived 85 years and her life is all used up.  (It’s more than likely the cause is the chain smoking–the character acknowledges two packs per day and the actor sounds like that’s an underestimate, with one montage making it look like she isn’t going to live beyond the end of the series with all she inhales performing the role).  Lyonne plays the accent 25 years older, sounding like Lorraine Bracco, or a brash Rhoda Morgenstern (or Rhoda’s mom?) impersonating Billy Crystal or Don Rickles stand-up routines, with a 1980s hair band orange wig that makes her look like “Andrew Dice Clay and the girl from Brave had a baby,” to top off the vibe.  And every time she dies she appears back in front of a mirror confronting herself, looking something like a 1980s Stevie Nicks album cover.

As a time loop twisting tale, Russian Doll is a fresh surprise, providing no linear pathway for anyone to predict what will happen in the next episode.  It’s the editing of the splices–the weaving of the scenes shot in the same place but at subtly different numerous times–that the production works into the story beautifully, many more than you’ve probably seen before in a time loop tale.  Is it a time loop story of the science fiction, horror, or fantasy variety?  You’ll just need to watch to find out.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Review by C.J. Bunce

How often does a franchise include seven films?  How often are any of them up to the quality of the original that launched the franchise in the first place?  The 1976 surprise hit Rocky was nominated for ten Academy Awards and took Best Picture, Best Director (for John G. Avildson), and Best Editing.  In every way Rocky Balboa and Sylvester Stallone have been synonymous ever since.  Stallone was nominated for his original screenplay and for best actor.  Rocky is the story of an underdog, and Stallone was the mirror of Rocky in real life, proving himself to the world as a wannabe A-list movie star.  As the franchise continued, Stallone became an international megastar, with movies like Rambo.  Many argue the sequel to Rocky, simply titled Rocky II, is akin to the Godfather 2 or Superman 2, an example of Hollywood crafting a truly worthy sequel.  From there critics and audiences diverge:  Was Rocky vs. Dolph Lundgren as Drago in Rocky IV up to the adrenaline rush of the boxing rounds in the earlier films?  Where does Rocky III fit in?  The latest entry in the Rocky series, the reboot and eighth film in the series, Creed, is now streaming on Amazon Prime.  If you are looking for an inspirational, feel-good movie, it should be the next movie on your list.

What seems to be unanimous is a drop in quality and excitement beset Rocky V and the sixth film Rocky Balboa.  So when Creed was released at the end of 2015, who could have guessed it could be on par with the original?  The odds were against its success, much like the character of Adonis “Hollywood” Johnson, the son of the late Apollo Creed, played by Michael B. Jordan in the film.  Director Ryan Coogler, born ten years after the original Rocky film, grew up with Stallone’s boxer already part of the national psyche, along with other motivational sports films like Rocky director Avildson’s other unforgettable classic, The Karate Kid.  Coogler draws from that film’s sensei Mr. Miyagi in one particularly well played training sequence between Stallone and Jordan.  Stallone has played sensei before in the series, but only now, with the actor a real-life wise, elder thespian, does he provide a performance that in some parallel universe garnered him not only an Oscar nomination but a win (Stallone was only the sixth actor twice nomination for playing the same character).  The young Jordan is equally superb, holding back when others may take obvious choices with a hot-headed fighter.  Coogler’s subtlety is the stuff of great filmmaking, such as editing in musical cues from the original Rocky like a whisper throughout the film, only to release the full weight of Bill Conti’s goosebump inducing theme when it meant the most.

But how can Creed be as good as the original?

Continue reading

Rocky VII Creed

Has there been a bad Rocky movie?  Sylvester Stallone’s springboard to stardom was the character and stories he wrote and starred in beginning with the first, garnering ten Oscar nominations and three wins, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Film Editing.  Stallone’s acting and screenplay even earned a nomination for the 1976 classic.  In fact Stallone has written each of Rocky II, III, IV, V and the most recent Rocky Balboa in 2006.  Now the Rocky story takes a new direction, this time with new writers, newcomers Ryan Coogler and Aaron Covington, with the fall release Creed.

Who doesn’t remember the motivational Bill Conti soundtrack to Rocky?  Rocky II’s “Eye of the Tiger”?  How about cheering on Rocky as he defeated Dolph Lundgren’s Drago in Rocky IV? 

Rocky II 1979 movie poster

This time Rocky steps into the shoes of those that trained him, Burgess Meredith’s Mickey, Carl Weathers’ Apollo Creed, and Burt Young’s Paulie, to train a new fighter.  That fighter is Adonis Creed, son of Apollo, who we saw as Rocky’s unlikely trainer in Rocky III, and last saw as he was killed by Drago in Rocky IV.

Check out the trailer for Creed:

Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: