Tag: sylvester stallone

Stallone and Rocky:40 years bookended by Oscar

“It’s not about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”

Sylvester Stallone wrote those words and embodies them every time he climbs into the skin of his most legendary character, Rocky Balboa. Before he was a superstar and high paid action hero, he was an underdog in Hollywood.

The endurance has paid off. It took 40 years and seven films for Stallone to truly give a performance that deserved an Oscar. On February 28th, he will and should win the best supporting actor award for Creed, directed by Ryan Coogler and starring Michael B. Jordan. The young actor and director brought a reluctant Stallone out of retirement to play a character he seemingly “put to bed comfortably” ten years ago. Fortune has a sense of humor, because Creed became a critical darling, a breakout hit and perhaps another Rocky/Creed story.

It all started back in 1976, when an unknown actor brought a script to a pair of producers about a fighter with a million to one shot and wanted to get it made. Stallone wanted to do whatever it took to get his foot in the door and Rocky was it. It wasn’t easy. The studio didn’t want a 30 year old actor taking the part, but eventually Sly won them over and played a part in casting and the actual fight choreography. The film was made for 960,000 dollars and ended up making 117 million, playing in theaters for over a year and winning three Academy Awards.

The film spawned five sequels, with the last having Balboa fight a heavyweight champion(and real life boxer in Antonio Tarver) in an exhibition. That was supposed to be it. A below than average fifth film, starring Tommy Morrison, was erased and the ending of Rocky Balboa was perfect, with the aging fighter sitting at the love of his life’s resting spot.

Then, Coogler, a die hard Rocky fan, came calling with an idea. Let’s take Rocky’s former nemesis and late friend, Apollo Creed, and bring his son Adonis(Jordan) into the picture to truly place bookends on the franchise and potentially bolster a whole new avenue of films. The gamble was plentiful. Critics and audiences spent the months leading up to Creed’s release pondering the worth and motive of another Rocky film. When it came out, the doubts were put to rest. Critics loved it. Audiences were blown away by it. The Thanksgiving release date was a first round knockout.

The signature ingredient was Stallone and an unforgettable performance. The actor, turning 70 in July, had never been better. As Balboa or any other character. Creed brought something out in the actor that people hadn’t seen before. A true authentic and heartbreaking portrayal of a broken down fighter, living alone and fighting off isolation and death. In a classic scene, Rocky urges Adonis to maintain perspective. “Everything I have is dead and buried. It’s back there. In the past.”

Gray and weathered nearly down to the bone, Sly gave his best performance in 73 movies spanning 46 years. It was so unexpected because while he was good and sometimes great as Rocky, Creed showed a different side of Sly. Equal parts defiant and tragic, it brought tears to my eyes when I watched it. It was like he was climbing into the skin of this character for the first time.

The first film Sly played in was The Party at Kitty and Stud’s back in 1970. He made 15 films before he got Rocky. 40 years later, he will step back onto the Oscar red carpet not accepting a “thanks for your service” Lifetime Achievement Award. He will be fighting for an Oscar for the first time since he was nominated for the original film. He should win. No other performance made you feel like Stallone’s did. The nostalgia and grace combined with the unexpected dose of feeling. Sure, Mark Rylance and Mark Ruffalo are brilliant actors, but I am expected to be blown away by their work. Sly’s work in Creed was like a hook to the ribs. I never saw it coming. That deserves recognition.

When Stallone stands up to accept the award later this month, expect the longest standing ovation. Why? There’s a little Rocky in all of us. Regular people who strive to be their best every day and fight against the odds to win, whether it be a business meeting, an evening run or a personal goal. The ring for us rests everywhere we go every day. When you get out of that bed, you are stepping into a ring of numerous possibility. We are all underdogs facing a million to one shot. People can relate to that, and they gravitate towards it.

Sylvester Stallone wasn’t handed anything. He’s earned it every step of the way. At the 2016 Academy Awards, he will step on that stage, shed a tear, thank a lot of people and represent a winner.

He took the hits Hollywood gave him and kept on coming. Long may you run, Sly.

CREED produces best Rocky story in 36 years

During recent weeks, all I heard about the seventh film in the Rocky series, Creed, was that it wasn’t needed. Fair game I figured. The sixth film seemed to put a nice stamp on the series after a lackluster fifth entry so why push it? When you leave this film, you will know why it was made. The Rocky Balboa saga comes full circle here and is the strongest film in the series since Rocky 2, which was made 36 years ago. It has a lot to do with Sylvester Stallone, the epitome of the tough hardened streets of Philadelphia this tale was born on. He’s never been better and bares EVERYTHING as an old, tired and lonely champ who sees a chance to redeem something when Apollo Creed’s son Adonis finds him at Adrian’s restaurant. Let me explain…

Some actors get better with age. Others fade into the distance, taken over by younger talents never to be found again. As he has gracefully plowed into his late 60’s, Sylvester Stallone has found his stride. He blows things up with the Expendables, makes a light film like Grudge Match, and returns to either Rambo or Rocky. He’s old, rich, well known and can do whatever he wants. With his latest film, Stallone packs the hardest punch in his entire career. He gave his baby and the rights to the characters to writer/director Ryan Coogler. This guy didn’t just pick up a script and say let’s go make a movie. Coogler had intentions here and something to add to the series. If not, Sly would have never given it over. Creed is the first Rocky film Stallone didn’t write.  The result is a special Thanksgiving treat that took me back to my first Rocky film when I was just five years old. Creed will fill loyal fans of the series with nostalgic thoughts while entertaining newcomers aka the young hashtag crowd.

The story is simple enough. Adonis(Michael B. Jordan, perfectly cut from the boxing mold and sharing an uncanny resemblance to Carl Weathers) is a lost soul at 30. The film opens with Apollo’s wife(not Adonis’ mother) taking him in from juvenile detention and raising him in her house. Adonis wrestles with the fact that he never knew his dad yet shares so many things in common, such as fighting. He quits his day job and goes to Philly to track down his father’s roots and Rocky.

The scene where he walks into the restaurant and asks Balboa who won that unofficial tussle from the end of Rocky 3 is perfectly scripted, acted and laid out. Coogler has a confidence with the camera that most young directors don’t have. He lets Stallone and Jordan do the lifting and circles them like they are fighters in a ring. From there, it’s cake talking. Rocky trains Adonis after initially declining and they are off. I don’t need to explain the rest. There’s a girl(Tessa Thompson), a few bumps, training montages(NO eye of the tiger) and a climactic fight.

Jordan is the perfect sparring partner for Stallone. He proved in Fruitvale Station that he could carry a film and tear into a role. The two actors meld into their roles seamlessly, conveying emotion and historical relevance like it’s following their footsteps. Jordan is a dynamic young talent and physically gifted so he convinces just as much in the ring as he does out of it. Stallone feeds off his energy and gives it all he’s got.

Coogler’s script is even better than his directing, filling the spaces in between the fight scenes with true grit from a fighter’s life. It’s believable and emotionally satisfying without being repetitive or manipulative.

I can’t say enough how good Stallone is. This is his baby. His stomping ground. With no offense to John Rambo, Rocky Balboa will always be the part I associate Sly with. I grew up watching him kick butt, take names and look good doing it in other roles but Rocky is his personal stage to swing the wrecking ball. Here, weary and gray, he goes for broke. Maybe due to the fact he didn’t write or direct, Sly could fully plug into the role and push harder. There are three scenes in Creed where he will break your heart. Smashing it to pieces with his poignant take on a boxer who searches for reasons to get up in the morning and keep throwing punches. Underrated for his entire career due to his action bravado, Stallone can act and do a lot with a look. The moment he goes “how you doin” or sits next to Adrian and Paulie’s grave to tell them what’s what, you just sit back and smile, realizing the actor is home again.

The boxing scenes in the series have always been stellar because they respect the true craft and sweet science of boxing and combat. Creed is no different. Real boxers like Andre Ward and Tony Bellew make cameos here and add authenticity to the film. The training scenes are legit boxing tutorials that give off knowledge if one is paying attention. The film carries a dirty lived in look that serves the fight game well. Coogler has respect for the characters and the world here, infusing it with flashbacks of the previous films and using part of the score and the same locations.

When I left the theater, my good friend, a former MMA fighter and beast of a human being, told me watching this movie took him back to those pre-fight emotions and internal energy. Some films can do that to you. They make you want to revisit a part of your own history because a connection was made. They hook you.

Creed wasn’t just good. It was surprisingly great and made for a purpose. The strongest film in the franchise since Rocky II. See it for Stallone. See it with the family. See it to revisit this cinematic champ one last time before Sly decides to hang them up.

Sylvester Stallone: Still saving the day at 69

66ème Festival de Venise (Mostra)
66ème Festival de Venise (Mostra)

Let’s be honest. Most of us won’t be hanging off an exploding car or engaging in a gun battle when we are 69 years old. We will be suffering through a lawn mow or making coffee before we digest the paper and make a 56th attempt to fight the computer keyboard. On Monday, Sylvester Stallone, one of the best action stars who ever lived and the owner of an Academy Award, turns 69 years old. He’s the king of blow it up and talk about it later but probably most remarkably known for Rocky Balboa, the ultimate underdog.

In the spirit of recommending, I am going to provide 6(serious number territory) underrated movies of Sly’s for you to watch.

 

6. Cliffhanger

A tense nerve racking thriller to this day. Renny Harlin’s “Sly on a mountain” action adventure pitted our 5 foot 10 inch hero against the ruthless criminal John Lithgow and more importantly, ice cold temperatures up in the Rocky Mountains(really, Rocky?). From the unsettling opening death scene to the ending fight off a cliff with a plunging helicopter as their base, this movie never lets up and works all of the action hero’s strong suits to perfection. For a movie that’s 22 years old, it still holds up well. (more…)