Serg Beret will be watching the Oscars and tweeting on Twitter @SergBeret at 5 PM PST/8 PM EST. It is a time of celebration, jubilation, and even humiliation.
I promise nothing but the best coverage sprinkled wih light jokes.
Serg Beret will be watching the Oscars and tweeting on Twitter @SergBeret at 5 PM PST/8 PM EST. It is a time of celebration, jubilation, and even humiliation.
The Academy Awards of Motion Picture Arts and Science has rounded up a handful of the year’s best in film to pick the Best Picture since its inception in 1929. This week on Film A Week, I wanted to take a look at one of these Best Picture winner. The problem was to find one that was unique and different than the rest. Looking at the entire list of winners, there was one that caught my attention and seems to be the unlikely underdog winner of the Oscar. Even better, it is about a underdog who managed to come on top…then on top again…and again and again to spawn a franchise that just would not end. Time to eat lighting and crap thunder with 1976’s Rocky.
Rocky (if no one knows by now) is the tale of Rocky Balboa, a down and out local boxer who gets a chance to take on World Heavyweight Boxing champion Apollo Creed. The film written by action megastar Sylvester Stallone is an interesting look at one man’s struggle to step out of being a bum and become something more. Having seen the sequels, I can tell that these films get insanely ridiculous ranging from taking on Mr. T’s Clubber Lang and Hulk Hogan’s Thunderlips in Rocky III to the ‘Those Damn Ruskies’ propaganda infused Rocky IV, which is such a product of its time that it could have New Coke featured throughout.
Rocky was nominated for a total of 10 Oscars including Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay for Slyvester Stallone and managed to beat the media satire Network and the Scorsese thriller classic Taxi Driver for Best Picture. The film also has been parodied countless times, inspire filmmakers, and made every jogger in the world have Bill Conti’s ‘Gonna Fly Now’ in regular rotation on their iPods. Let’s step into the ring to revisit a sports classic.
The film starts out with Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) fighting in the local gym and obviously bent out of shape. Rocky is a loner around Philadelphia who seems to mingle with everyone from hooligans to Mr. Gazzo, a local loan shark. Rocky works under Gazzo to make money and shake down people who Gazzo a number of cash. He lives alone with his turtles, Cuff and Link, and fish named Moby Dick and frequents the local pet store to talk with Adrian (Talia Shire) whose brother Paulie (Burt Young) is friendly with Rocky. Rocky gets kicked out of his local gym for no longer having the edge or drive to become a champion in the eyes of Mickey (Burgess Meredith) who calls him nothing bu a ‘tomato’. Rocky tries to work out and help others, but is nothing but broken. Paulie tries to get Adrian to date him, but Adrian initially much to Rocky’s disappointment. Rocky makes Adrian come around and they go on a quick date consisting of ten minutes of ice skating and heading to his place to talk or have a bite. Adrian wants to leave, but Rocky wants company since he does not have many people around. He tells her what he thinks of her and they kiss in a scene that is gorgeous and heartwarming.
While Rocky is starting to get a better life, World Heavyweight Champion Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) is coming to Philly to have a Bicentennial Celebration match on New Year’s Day. The other contender drops out and Creed must find someone else to challenge. Creed decides to go local in the spirit of the celebration and picks up The Italian Stallion himself, Stud. Wait…wrong Italian Stallion. Mickey hears about this and tells Rocky that Creed is looking for a sparring partner and Rocky is willing to take up the option. Rocky heads over to Apollo’s manager and realizes it is for the prize title of World Heavyweight. Rocky decides he is going to get in the ring. After scuffles with a constantly drunk Paulie, and earning the trust of Mickey to train him after a long heartbreaking discussion, Rocky gets back in shape ready for the big fight to make Adrian and Philly proud. Meanwhile, Apollo is meeting with heads of the boxing industry to set up the show with Apollo being oblivious to Rocky’s south paw (left handed stance) skills and focusing on putting on a show rather than fighting. Rocky starts a regimen filled with drinking raw eggs, punching meat, and the most iconic montage sequence in film history.
The day is almost here and Rocky starts having some doubts that he may not be able to maintain himself in the ring since Apollo has the edge, the strength, and the star power. This comes shortly after Rocky realizes this is all one big spectacle when seeing his poster in the stadium and making a complaint as Apollo’s manager tells him it will be ‘one hell of a show’. Rocky doesn’t want a show, Rocky wants to fight. The next day at the Bicentennial Match, The Italian Stallion is ready alongside Mickey and Paulie telling Adrian not to leave town without him. His entrance is not as bombastic as Apollo’s George Washington introduction and seems average compared to Apollo. The match begins with the two dancing around the ring and Rocky takes Apollo to the floor with an amazing hook. Apollo wanted a show, but not like this as both start to put on the show fans truly deserve.
At the end of the match, Apollo and Rocky are bloodied and bruised with both men coming out on top and Rocky giving his all. Rocky’s only concern is Adrian and calls out for her as he ignores the press and the split decision for Apollo to be crowned winner just to get her affection. He finally says the words she longed for by telling her he loves her (while wondering where her hat is) and they kiss leaving a memorable end to an unforgettable movie.
Rocky is a winner. Everyone who has seen agrees and those who only have seen the sequels are missing out on a true classic. Rocky is filled with heart, soul, and the traits of any great 70’s style film, true storytelling. Stallone not only pulls off a great performance, but a tight script filled with great moments of dialogue. It is astonishing to see this film after the others because of how much dialogue is in it and how it all manages to tell the story as the actual boxing match seems secondary. At its core, it is about a man’s rise to the top and falling in love with the only person that believes in him for the whole film brilliantly performed by Talia Shire. Paulie and Mickey start to come around later and seem nearly as flawed as the hero. Paulie is broken and drinks to forget his misery and Mickey longs for greatness in someone he trains for wishing nothing but the best for Rocky. Burt Young and Burgess Meredith play them, respectively, with passion and devotion for what the characters are and it is no wondering they were both nominated for the same award. Apollo is a perfect foil to Rocky’s classic boxing as Apollo is a walking allegory for the modern world of boxing by focusing more on the show rather than the true art of the sport which still resonates to this day with the likes of Floyd Mayweather and Manny Paquiao in the industry. Carl Weathers is good as Apollo, but is not given that much in the way of showing more than just the showman, but in the later sequels, he is given more character and depth. If you want a great performance of Weathers of Apollo, I recommend Rocky III.
The direction by John G. Avildson is fantastic and utilizes the camera to film a pre-steadicam montage sequence and has a keen eye for making the little things larger than life. The scene his direction signs bright are the final boxing match and the ice skating scene. It is a very small scene, but being able to do that without the steadicam is quite amazing to myself personally. The score by Bill Conti is something everyone talks about and everyone recognizes. It is nothing short of fantastic from the ever famous popular ‘Gonna Fly Now’, the furious ‘Going the Distance’ with ‘The Final Bell’, and the gorgeous and vastly underrated ‘First Date’. Something about the violins swells combined with the melodic playing of the piano gets me a little teary eyed. Rocky is a film everyone should watch and I highly recommend it, even if you do not like boxing. Sadly, some of the sequels do no measure up to the standards of this film, but those aren’t that bad either. They are fun, flashy, campy, and even have some of the heart of this film in them. Stay away from Rocky V, though, unless you want to be bored to death. The only sequel I have not seen is Rocky Balboa, but I do plan on watching it in the near future on my own accord. Go pick these films up and have a Rocky marathon. It will not disappoint.
Next week, Film A Week will be taking a look at the new Best Picture winner of the 85th Academy Awards. The problem: There are ten and the Oscars happen Sunday, so it is going to be a surprise.
Will it be the historical dramas Argo and Lincoln or the story of mental illness and love that is Silver Linings Playbook? Is it the heart breaking reality of death in Armour or the love to spaghetti westerns and blaxploitation of Django Unchained? Can it be the fantastical worlds of Beasts of the Southern Wild and Life of Pi or the musical spectacle Les Miserables? Shall Zero Dark Thirty win and Kathryn Bigelow undergoes the Film A Week treatment once again? Find out Oscar Sunday as they announce who wins and next Friday/Saturday to talk about the winning contender. Film A Week is going to the Oscars again next week.
Friday, March 1st/Saturday, March 2nd
Stinger of the Week
Here is something fun I thought I do for you all. Every two weeks, I will round up at least eight or ten of the latest film trailers that have been entering the theater and online to give a quick first impression from each film. Just something to keep this site moving and have more content rather than wait for Film A Week posts every Friday. Without further ado, let the Prevue Revue commence!
Iron Man 3 (Extended Look Trailer)
That is how you do an extended look. With Robert Downey, Jr. back in his now signature role giving us the true definition of an ‘extended look’, we finally get a bit more footage of one of the most anticipated films of this year. I am excited as hell with the hints of Extremis coming in and having Tony struggle after the aftermath of The Avengers is going to be a joy to watch. Ben Kingsley as The Mandarin is everything I expect, even if he probably is more of a terrorist than a magic man. I can not wait for this film like everyone else.
Also, what the hell is up with the giant bunny?
I hope this is explained. I barely noticed it for the first time when seeing Side Effects. It seems right the hell out of nowhere.
I am very skeptical about this film and have been since day one of its initial announcement. Maybe it was due to how open ended the first film was at the end which was ripe for sequel hook. I guess Pixar didn’t take the bait and went with a prequel. So far from the trailer, I am still skeptical. I chuckled a bit at a couple of jokes, but I keep asking myself “Did this film really need a prequel?”. The short answer: No, but screw it. I shall see when it finally hits screen or maybe hold off till Blu-Ray release. Nothing worth getting truly excited for just yet.
Olympus Has Fallen
Also known as That One Scene from Independence Day: The Movie, this film looks like a big shoddy CGI fest that just happens to be about the White House getting taken down by a North Korean terrorist (and judging by America’s foreign policies as of late, that could very well happen). Gerard Butler plays a Secret Service agent who has to take him and his men down as Morgan Freeman must take command. Why is it that every time Morgan Freeman is involved in White House relations, something awful happens? First an asteroid and now a terrorist attack. The man was God for Christ’s sake! Cut him a break! Anyway, this movie looks mighty awful, but I do like all around badass Rick Yune as the villain as he was one of two positives of Die Another Day with the other being Rosamund Pike. Get ready because this is the first of two White House take down films.
Doesn’t this film just look like a steaming pile of manure? Okay, that isn’t fair to say. I when the direction reminds me of Drive, if Nicolas Winding Refn was blitz on crystal meth and the acting is as superb as any direct to DVD trash release starring Freddy Rodriguez. James Franco’s Paul Wall impression is something I look forward to at the local Target bargain bin in the near future because this looks to be some of his worst work and I’ve seen Your Highness. This looks like garbage and judging by the movie going public these days, this will make some cash back. Another reason this film may be awful? Gucci Mane gets a top billing. That should tip you off right away.
Trance (Red Band Trailer)
Holy hell, can someone really survive with half their head missing? God damn! I have no idea what the hell this is about, what is going on, but something about that has me hooked. Better to go in not knowing much than knowing too much about it all. The fact director Danny Boyle seems to be going back to his gritty roots is something to look forward to. Not much else to say about it as of now, except I am looking forward to it.
I did not even know this was coming out, but I am glad I did because I love Jackie Robinson and his legacy. Harrison Ford is finally playing a character his current age that isn’t Indiana Jones and awesome that Christopher Meloni is getting some much needed film work. Meloni is a fantastic actor since his days on SVU. The only complaint is the use of rap in the trailer. I really do not get the appeal of it and if it is trying to appeal to the black demographic, ad executives should know that not everyone in that demographic likes rap music. Anywho, the song did mention Jackie Robinson, so it gets a semi past. I hope this turns out to be something great.
21 & Over
This looks like the same paint by numbers party movie with one element of Weekend at Bernie’s thrown in. It doesn’t look awful, just a bit to bland to actually complain about. Lately we have been getting a string of ‘epic night party’ films that do not measure up to the others. Maybe I was either burned by The Hangover Part II or the fact every character seems to be a obnoxious ass without charisma or charm that most party films tend to have. This seems forgettable. Heck, I just forgot what I just saw.
Another entry in the popular Fast franchise that grabbed my attention from the trailer. It looks ridiculous, insane, borderline inept, but utterly fun. Unlike Olympus Has Fallen which looks to take its ridiculous nature to seriously, this knows exactly what the hell it needs to be. You think if this franchise took itself seriously, we still have the evolution from street racing to world wide heists and crime busting and three cars trying to take down one plane? Of course not. The franchise was not exactly a masterpiece of cinema to begin with, but one can’t deny there are a series of fun moments in the series that make us come back.
From Up On Poppy Hill
After the forgettable yet gorgeous Arriety, good to see a Studio Ghibli release done in the US outside of the Disney run English dubs. This seems like a film possibly in the same vein of anime films that aren’t Ghibli (i.e. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time) by telling a romantic love story of boy and girl while a mystery is going on involving the main girl. Then again, I probably have the plot completely wrong because that is what I took out of the trailer. The voice cast itself is even outside of typical Disney dubs with more subdue actors coming in such as Beau Bridges, Christina Hendricks, and Aubrey Plaza. I get excited for any new Ghibli that comes out, so this is no exception.
Do not let ‘From Stephanie Meyer, Author of The Twilight Saga‘ fool you, this looks to be an interesting science fiction adventure. It seems like a combination of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and elements of post-apocalyptic features and doesn’t look to bad. Maybe my bias for both Sairose Ronan and Diane Kruger may be showing, but the acting seems to be top notch and the love story doesn’t even seem to be getting in the way. It already looks better than Twilight with a true engaging plot and I will take any new science fiction ideas that I have yet to see adapted to the screen. The only thing hurting it is the fact that they have to use the Twilight name to sell it which makes audiences sigh and deem the movie crap just from that. I, for one, am willing to give this a try.
Also, a pure chrome car is something that I cannot wait to see finally make its feature film debut.
Valentine’s Day is the day of love and romance that lovers enjoy despite being created by greeting card companies in order to gain a bigger profit. Their have been countless films analyzing the rise of romance from Breakfast at Tiffany’s to the ‘white people embracing’ sub genre of films of Nicholas Sparks novels. Couples set out to find the perfect ‘date film’ with these qualities in mind to spend time cuddling the night away. Cynics strive to find the perfect anti-Valentine’s Day film possibly relying on something of the opposite or focusing on the darker side of romance in the vein of 2004’s Closer. Very few films know how to blend these to varying styles together with the most recent being the overlooked indie of 2012, Ruby Sparks, which managed to blend the wonder created by (500) Days of Summer and all the elements of a good Twilight Zone episode. This week’s feature manages to combine the two as well with an even more insane and crazier blend of both the psychological, fantastical, and the heartbreaking realism of letting go. Considered by many to be a cult film, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, is a daring take on moving on from the one you love and lead to Charlie Kaufman winning an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.
2004’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, directed by music video master Michel Gondry, is an interesting and complex film that is an experience to witness. Eternal Sunshine is all about a man named Joel Barish, played by Jim Carrey, who has fallen for a woman by the name of Clementine, played by Kate Winslet, that calls it quits after months or even years of being together. Clementine decides to erase everything about Joel at a hush-hush medical facility. Joel gets wind of what Clementine has decided to do and decides to go through with it as well and kick-starting one of the strangest yet wonderful films I have seen.
Allow myself to say with full disclosure that this time, I do not want to give to much away except, yes, they still wind up together in the end, but the journey is something one must experience on their own. Joel goes into the procedure by visiting Lacuna Incorparated’s head doctor, Howard Mierzwak (Tom Wilkenson). Sometime later from the comfort of his bed, Lacuna workers Stan Fink (Mark Ruffalo), Patrick (Elijah Wood), and Mary Svevo (Kirsten Dunst) are partying and having a blast as Joel wanders through his mind reliving memories of his time spent with Clementine, his manic pixie dream girl. The audience witnesses these moments with skewed perspectives and stylistic uses of special effects to garner Joel’s dream-like sequence across. Joel soon discovers that Patrick has left to go on a woo Clementine by using all the memories and moments Joel had ever done with her. Joel tries to fight this by grabbing ‘Dreamscape Clementine’ to run away from Stan, Mary, and eventually Dr. Mierzwak.
From here, they travel through the various memories in non-linear sequences hoping to escape the erasing of themselves from one another. Joel tries to hide by taking Clem to his own past and embarrassing moments, but Stan and Howard constantly battle back Joel’s subconscious at work. The wonders that are created are extraordinary introducing each memory with forced perspective, colorful designs, and an interesting use of a spotlight for darkly lit scenes. The viewer gets a sense that only this can exist in the mind and that the mind can perceive whatever is going on as what it remembers. Joel thinks back on Clementine walking away from him at one part and suddenly a car drops from the sky onto another car. This can be seen as Joel getting hit with such a force that it impacted him the same way an accident impacts someone. Joel wandering from the bookstore to his friend’s place simply by stepping through one door in one take shows he and Clem can walk through his mind freely as long as the stories are connected in some way.
The film, already complex and strange as it is, throws in a subplot that comes full circle with Mary’s crush on Dr. Mierzwiak under the nose of her boyfriend, Stan. Mierzwiak is alarmed when she kisses him with his wife and Stan just staring at them. Mary blames herself for her lack of understanding leading Mierzwiak’s wife to say”You can have him. You already have.” Mary is perplexed until Mierzwiak explains that she underwent the same procedure Clementine went through, hinting that the memories of the past relationship continue to linger in the subconsious and unconscious spectrum of the mind. Joel is not aware of this until the conclusion and the beginning of the feature.
I said I would not spoil much about the film, but the beginning of the film and conclusion are together in an odd way. The film begins with them meeting making the audience presume this is the beginning of their relationship. It is not till later the viewer discovers they met at a party in Montauk and Clementine’s hair is a different color. Once this is realized, the beginning is in fact the end and they have met once again to fall for one another as Mary discovered earlier. Joel does win back the love of his life, but both realize that they were nearly disgusted with each other by the end. Clementine breaks down in the hallway saying that if they try to do it over again, it will end the same, thus creating a cycle they cannot break. Joel, on the other hand, says screw it all because maybe it can be different now. A bittersweet yet happy ending to a dark look at the tale of romance.
Now, with all of that out of the way, the initial final verdict. Eternal Sunshine is a marvelous film about letting go, moving on, and staying together. The film is one of the best I have seen and stands as an experiment done right. The performances are wonderful with Carrey playing Joel to a tee and uses his comedic skills he is own for to deliver the various parts of his psyche. Kate Winslet fits into Clementine taking every manic pixie girl trait and utilizing it to create a realistic version of the cliche. The other actors come into their own with Tom Wilkinson and Kirsten Dunst shing brightly. The direction by Gondry is out of this world creating the world of memories that is comparable to the world Nolan created in Inception, yet unlike that film, Gondry’s version of the mind and subconscious has no limits or restraints. The script by Charlie Kaufman was and is worthy of the Oscar it earned by taking risks and doing something new, something that can always be praised in today’s world of rehashes and remakes. The score is brilliant with heartfelt and light melodic sounds in between the harsh dark tones and atmosphere created in the darker scenes. The film is something I recommend anyone to see to discover that movies about romance can be more than the hokey and mundane and be complex and filled with both the pros and cons of a relationship.
Next week, Film A Week celebrates the Oscar weekend focusing on a Best Picture nominee of the past. After looking thought the list of winners, one seemed appropriate for being the underdog of not only the year it won, but of the entire list of winner. Also, it is all about the underdog and kicked off a franchise that has been seen as one of the franchises done right. Film A Week steps into the ring with 1976’s Rocky.
Film A Week Week 7: Rocky (1976), An Oscars Special
Friday, February 22nd/Saturday, February 23rd
Sorry in advance for not being humorous this week. Next week, I will get back to it.
Stinger of the Week
Foreword: One year ago, gamers around the world complained about the ending of Mass Effect 3 causing rabid petitions to start, chaos to be created, and so many angry fan letters that BioWare did in fact release a ‘proper’ ending. I decided to capitalize on the displeasure by making this post about BioWare changing every ending to video games. Just goes to show no one is ever truly satisfied with the finished product. Even better, Mass Effect 3 still won countless Game of the Year awards alongside The Walking Dead: The Game so I guess the complaints were not really worth it. Go on and read the humor of last year!
With the whole debacle of Mass Effect 3 and fans protesting the ending and forcing BioWare to change their ‘proper’ dark ending to a happier one, I started thinking ‘What if other companies had the courage, skill, and integrity to change other endings from video games to make the fan base happier”. I brought it upon myself to put give this a go and present the Top 10 Video Game Endings…If Redone by BioWare.
10. Shadow of the Colossus (2005)
Original Ending: As Wander life finally hangs on the edge after being possessed by the spirit of Dormin after helping him the entire game, he is now turned to a full on colossi. Wander dies after the spirit is sucked into a vortex as Mono, the girl you have fought for, finally awakes with your trusty horse, Agro, by your side. She finds a pool of water in which she finds Ico. This is considered one of the best endings for a video game.
BioWare ‘New’ Ending: Wander decides to fight off Dormin within him by having a shouting match with him, causing Dormin to separate from Wander and form into Dark Wander as they begin to get into a hand to hand sword fight. Light Wander decides against it and uses his bow and arrow to deliver a blow to the heart of Dark Wander. After Dark Wander is defeated, Light Wander runs to Mono and decides to kiss her as she miraculously wakes up with Agro and Wander and Mono ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after.
9. Super Mario Bros. (1985)
Original Ending: Mario makes his way through eight worlds after being told by Toad that the princess was in another castle every castle he gets to. After defeating Bowser for about the eighth time, the princess is found in the eighth castle waiting for you.
BioWare ‘New’ Ending: The Princess is in the first castle.
8. Red Dead Redemption (2010)
Original Ending: John Marston dies at the hands of betrayal of the government in a standoff while defending his family. His son, Jack, and wife, Abagail, finds his body and buries him. Later in the future, Jack Marston finds his father’s killer and kills him in cold blood for an amazing epilogue to already one heck of an ending.
BioWare ‘New’ Ending: John Marston survives in a standoff with the government using his dead eye to take out all twenty or so men. His son and wife come back and are shocked he survived. Years later, The Marston Family are rich and become a powerhouse in Blackwater, eventually leading John and Jack to get into politics and win the Presidental election.
7. Portal (2007)
Original Ending: After defeating the villainous GLaDOS, Chell escapes through transports to the suface with the remains of GLaDOS around her. After, we see are beloved cake we longed for as the credits play ‘Still Alive’ by GLaDOS herself.
BioWare ‘New’ Ending: Actually, Valve is one step ahead by changing a piece of the ending before Portal 2’s announcement…so that one thing. BioWare instead would let you have your cake and eat it too as we watch Chell eat as ‘Hungry Like The Wolf’ plays…and is sung by GLaDOS.
6. Kingdom Hearts II (2005)
Original Ending: Sora and Riku return home to Destiny Islands with their friends and celebrate as they saved the day…for now. We also see the various happy endings of all our favorite Disney pals. After the credits, they get a letter from Mickey which the contents are never revealed.
BioWare ‘New’ Ending: Sora and Riku return home to Destiny Islands with their friends, only to be forced back into the world after a new threat breaks. This time, Sora and Riku are stolen away as Kairi must team with Donald and Goofy to rescue them…this time with Mickey on their team. Because of this, new Disney worlds are threatened, including Andy’s Room and Prydain. After the credits, a letter by Mickey appears on screen reading “Just because you get one happy ending, doesn’t mean it’s over yet”.
5. Double Dragon (1987)
Original Ending: Playing co-op with your best bud, you (as Billy) realize that your friend (as Jimmy) was the bad guy the whole time resulting into a battle to the death in the game itself!
BioWare ‘New’ Ending: Playing co-op with your best bud, you (as Billy) realize that your friend (as Jimmy) was the bad guy the whole time resulting in the screen going dark and having text reading “Fight your friend to the death” to battle to the death…in real life!
4. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998)
Original Ending: As the Seven Sages lock Ganondorf into the dark realm as he vows for revenge, Link and Zelda have one final moment. Zelda then uses the Ocarina of Time to send Link back to his childhood to regain lost time. After the credits we see Zelda and Link meet once again in the castle garden.
BioWare ‘New’ Ending: As the Seven Sages lock Ganondorf into the dark realm as he vows for revenge, Link and Zelda have one final moment, resulting in a kiss. Zelda holds Link’s hand as she play the Ocarina of Time as they both return to their childhood to regain lost time. After the credits, an older Link and Zelda are in the garden as Ganondorf appears before them, kidnapping Zelda and starting the events of Ocarina of Time once again, a la Ghost N’ Goblins.
3. Batman: Arkham City (2011)
Original Ending: After fighting Clayface, Batman destroys Ra’s Lazarus Pit and drinks some of the antidote. Batman is then attacked by The Joker, causing the vial to drop and break. The Joker tries get some of the cure but dies. Batman takes his corpse outside and presents it to Gordon and the rest of the GCPD.
BioWare ‘New’ Ending: Batman destroys the Lazarus Pit, drinks some of the antidote while Batman is attacked by The Joker, causing it to break. Joker begins to lick some of it, but then dies. Batman carries his corpse out and presents it to Gordon and the rest of the GCPD. Batman leaves to Gotham as The Joker is taken into an ambulance for some revival. Once in the ambulance, we hear a cackle from The Joker as he shoots the ambulancemen and escapes just in time of another sequel.
2. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (1992)
Original Ending: Sonic defeats Robotnik as the Death Egg explodes. Tails rides in his airplane to save a falling Sonic and bring him back down to Mobius with all the Chaos Emeralds in tact.
BioWare ‘New’ Ending: Sonic defeats Robotnik as the Death Egg explodes. Tails rides in his airplane to save a falling Sonic. Meanwhile, the Death Egg crashes down to Mobius, killing Sonic and Tails in a collision.
1. Mass Effect 3 (2012)
Original Ending: All three choices result in Shepard’s death, the destruction of the mass relay network, the Normandy crash landing, and the team looking at the sky. In the end credits, a man and child are are looking at the skies with the man talking about the whole universe. The child wants to be told the story of the Shepard.
BioWare ‘New’ Ending: The ending is replaced by a $15 DLC pack to replace the ending pissing off gamers everywhere. The pack’s name: “The Whiners in the Distant”
If there is one brand of film I personally have a soft spot for, it will always be musicals. Musicals are similar to animation in that they can bleed into other genres to deliver the story from the dramatic efforts of Les Miserables to the comedy of Little Shop of Horrors to the thrills of horror in Sweeney Todd. Musicals were once a box office cash cow back in the Classical era between the 1930’s and the 1960’s. Legends were made in the form of household names Judy Garland (The Wizard of Oz), James Cagney (Yankee Doodle Dandy) Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor (Singin’ in the Rain). No one was more popular than the duo that was Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. According to Katherine Hepburn herself, “He gives her class and she gave him sex appeal” and that quote alone sums up their relationship quite nicely with Astaire’s grace and style in dancing and Rogers’ true beauty coming through both in her appearance and footwork. Together, they wowed audiences made ten dance musical features including The Gay Divorcee, Top Hat, and today’s featuring we are covering which is considered by many their greatest, Swing Time.
1936’s Swing Time is a tale of a man named John “Lucky” Garnett (Fred Astaire) who heads off to New York to raise $250,000 dollars in order to marry his fiance after arriving late upon his own wedding. Whilst in New York, he meets the gorgeous Penny Carrol (Ginger Rogers) to help him and herself to becoming a popular dance duo. The only thing coming in between them is love, due to Garnett’s resistance to be close to Penny and Penny’s resistance to kiss him. From this quick description, readers, this is going to be one fine classy comedy.
John Garnett is ready to go off and marry when his friends stall him for time to make sure he doesn’t get married to Margaret (Betty Furness), his fiancee. One of his pals is on the phone playing it off as John and giving him the wrong time as the other tells John that his pants are last year’s fashions and need cuffs for his trousers. After all this turmoil, John has to face Margaret’s father. John convinces her father that he can get $250,000 by performing in New York and also with a bit of his gambling skills. John heads off to New York alongside his managing magician companion “Pop” Cardetti, played by Victor Moore, with his friends taking his money to not allow John to get on the train. Luckily, John knows the old ‘hobo boxcar’ tricks and hitch a freight train alongside Pop. John and Pop arrive in New York and asked for change for a quarter from a woman in passing for Pop’s cigarettes from a machine. Unfortunately, John loses his lucky quarter and Pop gets it back to lead to the woman accusing John of stealing the quarter. After the confrontation, they follow her to Gordan’s Dance Academy she works at to apologize for the fuss they made. The only way to talk to her is to take a dance lesson from her as they learn her identity is Penny Carrol (Ginger Rogers). He engages in a a lesson and plays it off as a man who doesn’t know anything about dancing (Fred Astaire without dancing is like Pavarotti without his operatic tenor) and sing the first song “Pick Yourself Up”, a polka number that is both silly and heartwarming at the same time.
Penny tells John that he will never learn anything and to save the money. Her boss, Mr. Gordon, over hears this and promptly fires her with John, stunned by his criticism and sudden dismissal, grabs her to show what she ‘taught’ him.
She gets her job back along with her friend Mabel Anderson (Helen Broderick). Mr. Gordon books them an audition at the Silver Sandal. John and Penny stay at the same hotel to prepare for their audition, but John needs a dinner jacket for the audition and has none. Pop brings up the bright idea of bringing a drunkard in to win the tuxedo off of him. Penny wonders where ‘Lucky’, as she nicknamed him, is and discovers he is gambling causing Penny to get angry at ‘Lucky’. After a week (and hours of walking in the hallways under Penny’s demands in sadness), John and Pop plead for forgiveness. Whist alone in the room to convince Penny to get another audition for them to succeed, Lucky sings a beautiful song of admiration, “The Way You Look Tonight” that makes her come around.
They head off to the Silver Sandal, but they cannot perform as the band leader, Ricardo Romero (George Metaxa) of the club has just signed to a casino which Lucky and Penny head off to. At the casino’s club, Club Raymond, Lucky decides to play a game against the owners for Romero’s contract to allow them to dance (if only you can do that for every audition). As he plays, he finds that he is getting enough money to head back to Margaret and takes his final bet and the contract into his hand to stay a while longer with Penny. Ricardo comes to tell them about how he would not let them dance because of his love of Penny and wants no other man to dance with her. Screw that noise because Lucky whips out the contract and he is forced to perform for the “Waltz in Swing Time”.
As they continue their long (in movie time) career dancing in the Silver Sandal, they decide to take a holiday at the New Amsterdam, a cabin Mabel once stayed at as a young girl. Lucky tells Pop to not let him get too close or alone with Penny while Mabel convinces Penny to expand on her fondness of Lucky by getting comfortable with him. Pop and Mabel go off on their own as Lucky and Penny stay together with one avoiding the other and the other wanting to get something more leading to the number comical love ballad, ‘A Fine Romance’.
Pop and Mabel come back with Pop revealing to Penny that Lucky must go back to get married, which Penny did not know anything about. The trope of the ‘misunderstanding’ may be done to death as of now, but this film is much older so I can buy it. Lucky finds out that Penny knows, but tries to make it up to her. Back at their steady gig, Penny finally kisses Lucky thanks to Mabel’s advice and tries to move the relationship forward as they both realize they are mad for one another. After this, Lucky pays homage to Bill Robinson with the piece ‘”Bojangles of Harlem”. Yes, kids, Fred Astaire in full blackface as Bill Robinson. It is not that offensive as Robinson actually was fond of this tribute and is a huge inspiration of Astaire. Even stranger, this footage is nowhere on YouTube and it is sad because the performance is spectacular despite the whole blackface on Astaire’s face. After this, Lucky heads back to his dressing room and comes across Margaret and the casino owners finding out Pop cheated using his magician sleight of handto win. Lucky, down on his luck, is saddened by the whole affair and Penny sees that Margaret is their with him. Out of anger, she decides to get married to Ricardo and leaves Lucky in the dust. Lucky stops Penny and proceeds to profess that once she leaves, he will never dance again with the gorgeous ‘Never Gonna Dance’ that tells their entire story in one performance.
The next day, Lucky meets with Margaret who decides to break off the engagement falling head over heels for someone else. Lucky laughs at it all with Pop and Mabel finding out as well and laughing it off. Lucky finds out that Penny is getting married that day and heads off to stop it all by using a method with Ricardo his friends used to stop his wedding from going. Ricardo, perpexed by the whole ordeal, comes down with over sized trousers as Penny calls it all off and telling Ricardo she loves Lucky more than him. They all have a laugh and Penny and Lucky get married and thus, the classic end.
Swing Time is astounding and an all round joy. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers work wonders to together with delightful dancing and performances and the numbers throughout are amazing. One thing out of the film I did enjoy was the buildup to the first true number after twenty minutes of set up and does not feel forced at all. The dancing is spectacular with a thrilling dance number after ‘Pick Yourself Up’ that I looked up countless times before watching this feature because of how mesmerizing it all is. ‘Never Gonna Dance’ is also a lovely sequence that compliments the whole relationship between the two nearing the end that might make one tear up. The side characters are wonderful with Victor Moore’s Pop stealing a few scenes with wit and deadpan snarker lines. The direction is wonderful as is the cinematography constantly keeping up with Astaire and Rogers and never missing a beat. This may have been my first time watching this film, but there is going to be a few more views in the future because I have fallen in love with Swing Time.
Next week on Film A Week, a special Thursday edition is coming for Valentine’s Day. Having used up my time this week to focus on love blossoming, time to focus on love declining and trying to forget the one you loved the most. With foundations in the science thriller genre and romance with a praised performance by Jim Carrey, Film A Week will enter the mind of Michel Gondry to discover the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
Film A Week- Week 6 Valentine’s Day Special: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Thursday, February 14th
Stinger of the Week
Kathryn Bigelow is arguably one of this generation’s best director after her success with The Hurt Locker back in 2010 earning the Best Director Academy Award over her ex-husband, James Cameron. A handful of people may not realize Bigelow has been in the movie making business since the early 80’s writing and directing the independent biker drama The Loveless back in 1982 starring Willem Dafoe. Bigelow also directed cult classics genre bending films such as Near Dark (a Western with vampires), Strange Days (a cyberpunk styled Noir thriller), and one of the most expensive films ever made, K-19: The Widowmaker, starring Harrison Ford and Liam Nesson in a disaster film as Russian submarine captains that are more convincing than Sean Connery in The Hunt for Red October. Here on Film A Week, I decided to say screw covering these other exceptional films, I am covering Point Break.
Considered a cult classic despite being a successful box office hit, Point Break captures the essence of the early 90’s adrenaline craze and action flicks of the era all in one neat little package. The always wooden Keanu Reeves as Johnny Utah, FBI as he goes on to investigate a series of bank robberies in Southern California done by a group known as ‘The Ex-Presidents’ making Utah heads into the world of surfers meeting zen master Bodhi played by the late and great Patrick Swayze…and that’s just the beginning.
The film starts out with former college football quarterback Johnny Utah going to Los Angeles to the bank robbery sector of the FBI headed by hardass FBI director, Ben Harp (John C. McGinley). Utah is brought in to help track the location of the Ex-Presidents as stated above. The gang dress up as Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon (subtle, writers), Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan respectively. Following a sting of robberies, he is teamed up with FBI veteran agent, Angelo Pappas (Gary Busey). Yes, reader, that parentheses is true, Gary Busey is in this and he is as fun crazy as one expects Busey to be. Pappas brings up the insane and borderline ridiculous theory that the Ex-Presidents may be surfers. Utah is just as crazy to believe him to decide to go on his lead to head to the beach and infiltrate the world of surfing. Utah tries to surf, failing miserably, and comes across a woman named Tyler (Lori Petty), which he gets to know and convince to teach him how to surf. As he learns in a typical grungy 90’s montage, he meets up with Tyler’s ex, The Swayze, I mean, Bodhi and his gang of friends, Roach (James LeGros), Nathaniel (John Philbin), and Grommet (Bojesse Christopher with no relation to the dog of the similar sounding name). Utah gets to know the ways of zen and surfing under Bodhi’s wing, ends up with Tyler by sleeping with her, and shows off his former football skills while giving exposition of his trick knee that surely will not lead to being Chekov’s Gun.
Johnny gets a clue from Pappas about toxins found from a hair follicle that has similarities with toxins found in the ocean waves or ‘breaks’ (Note: As a writer from California, I can clarify that our beaches are some of the most wretched beaches in the world). this leads Pappas and Utah to cut the hair of other surfers leading to some stellar “acting” by Keanu imitating a dude. After a group of rough and tough surfers attack Johnny with Bodhi saving him, Johnny gets a tip by Bodhi that the guys who attacked him do not understand the concept of surfing leading Johnny to tell Pappas they may be on the right track to nabbed the Ex-Presidents. Utah and Pappas head off to raid the hideout, but wind up screwing up a DEA undercover case investigating them for dealing cocaine with a surprise appearance by Tom Sizemore as a pissed off DEA agent. After that gigantic screw up, Johnny heads with Bodhi and Tyler early in the morning to catch a break when he comes to the sudden realization that Bodhi and his gang are the Ex-Presidents in a sequence even Chazz Palminteri could have seen coming. Johnny trails the group to discover they are scouting banks for the next hit and arranges with Pappas to go on a stakeout to finally get catch them red-handed. The next day at the stake out, Johnny is busying order meatball sandwiches thanks to Angelo’s appetite while the Ex-Presidents arrive on the scene to begin their heist. Utah and Pappas proceed to chase them down leading to a foot chase that is one of the best ever put on film that one must see for themselves to believe. At the end, Chekov’s Gun goes off as Utah’s trick knee dislocates and locks eyes with the leader in the Reagan mask and shooting off into the air in angst of not catching him.
Later that evening, it is discovered that Bodhi and his crew are the Ex-Presidents, which one could have figured out in the first ten minutes of the film. Even better, they know Johnny is an FBI agent due to his knee or it can always be Joe Theisman (Super Bowl Sunday is this weekend, we had to put a football joke somewhere). Bodhi brings Johnny along to go skydiving with the crew for a beautifully shot skydive sequence, Bodhi tells Johnny he knows he is an FBi agent and has hired a friend named Rosie (Les Tergesen) to take hostage of Tyler since he is not one for violence. Bodhi takes Johnny with the Ex-Presidents to the next bank heist to possibly frame if (at least, that what I thought, I do not really know). The Ex-President continue with their heist as they kill an off duty police officer and heading into the vault unlike their past robberies spending too much time with two of the Ex-Presidents dying in the gunfire. Johnny is knocked out by Bodhi who gets away as Harp comes to give Johnny the third degree leading Pappas to knock out Harp for mistreating Johnny. Pappas and Utah head off to the airport to fight off against Bodhi and his last remaining man, Roach in an all out gunfight. Roach gets injured with Pappas fatally wounded as Johnny goes of to avenge his friend by heading into Bodhi’s plane. Bodhi and Roach leave Johnny behind in the plane that will start to crash down. Johnny, fed up and ready to take vengeance jumps out of the plane to free fall dive onto Bodhi to allow them to both land safely. Nearing too close to launch the chute, Bodhi and Johnny fall with Johnny dislocating his knee once again. Bodhi gets away scott free and tells Rosie to come and release Tyler who runs to Johnny’s aid. Everything seems completely hopeless for Johnny and the investigation into the Ex-Presidents robbery as the film fades to black and the credits roll.
Just kidding. Despite how amazing and dramatic that ending may be, this is a typical post-Die Hard action flick, so the bad guy is not going to get away easily. Nine months have passed and Johnny finds Bodhi, back to looking like the Swayze we know and love,in Bells Beach, Austrailia, ready to tackle on the big wave of the 50 Year Storm he dreamed about. Bodhi and Utah get into one more scuffle with Utah letting Bodhi goes as the authorities watch Bodhi head to die in the wave with Utah leaving his badge behind.
Point Break is not that great, but it isn’t that bad either. It has flaws in its own logic, riddled with ridiculous moments such as the picture above that involve a gas pump being used as a flamethrower, and some very poor moments of acting mostly from Keanu Reeves’ woodenness. The film has probably stood the test the time due to Bigelow’s near-perfect action direction and likeable performances by Patrick Swayze and Lori Petty. The action and surf sequences in the film also is beneficial in helping it be the cult classic it is today with an impressive foot chase and skydiving scene that is truly remarkable that no film has been able to measure up to. The entire premise is beyond ridiculous, but the film knows it is and uses it to its own advantage and has gone to inspire (or be ripped off, depending on what side you are on) 2001’s The Fast and the Furious right down to casting the spectacularly wooden and abysmal Paul Walker in a Johnny Utah-esque role. The real question remains: would I recommend Point Break? Hell yes. Invite a couple of buddies over, grab some pizza and a couple of brews, kick back and watch a cheesy 90’s action film with everything you wanted and everything you need.
Next time, we detour form the action genre and go into the wayback machine to the dance musicals. A gambler and performer drifts off to New York to earn money for his own wedding, but comes across a dance instructor who might change all that. Get on your dancing shoes and have a fine romance because Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers are going to sweep us up in the 1936 classic, Swing Time.
Film A Week- Week 5: Swing Time
Friday, February 8th/Saturday, February 9th
Stinger of the Week