“YOU should write a book about it,” is a comment that has been directed to me numerous times. The reason has less to do with my writing ability and more with the incredible to outrageous stories I have been involved in or told. I will avoid using pronouns to protect the individuals. There was one person I was involved with whose family history played out like an evening soap opera, television show. One family member was going to be elected to a high political position until their views deviated from the people in power. The person I knew was sent out of the country to avoid any fallout, but to also get a better education. Spending many years traveling the world instead of coming back home, they told me about some of their experiences in foreign lands that I have not even seen done in a movie. One of these stories involved a stalker and a secret intelligence agency; that is all I can say about this individual. RECENTLY I was involved with someone who had a story to tell me every time we got together. One of the stories was accompanied with photographs; however, they could only show me a select few because they were brought in to oversee a secret government operation. The first photo they showed me was of them standing in front of a posted sign out in the jungle. I immediately knew why they had to be secretive about their whereabouts. Another photo showed how they were transported to this secret location; essentially it was a cargo bay with portable toilets and folding chairs nailed to the floor. It was so not part of my little corner of the world that I did not even know how to respond to any of it. I could go on with so many other encounters I have had that I could actually fill up a whole book. However if I do that then I cannot tell you whether it was worth seeing this biographical drama about a man who was the real boxer behind the famous film character Rocky Balboa. KNOWN as the “Bleeder of Bayonne” boxer Chuck Wepner, played by Liev Schreiber (Spotlight, Ray Donovan-TV), was a hometown hero even before there was a movie called Rocky. With Elizabeth Moss (The One I Love, Mad Men-TV) as Phyliss, Naomi Watts (St. Vincent, Diana) as Linda, Jim Gaffigan (17 Again, It’s Kind of a Funny Story) as John and Ron Perlman (Poker Night, Hellboy franchise) as Al Braverman; I had never heard about this boxer. Everyone in the cast did a wonderful job of acting. Liev however stood out for me because he was so good in his role, but be prepared there was a lot of blood shown. Not being a big fan of boxing, I was glad that the actual act was secondary to the story. As for the story it was engaging with surprise. The sets, costumes and dialog captured the era; it was interesting to watch the arc of Chuck’s story line. If I had to choose one particular thing that increased my interest in this film it would have to be the connection to Sylvester Stallone and the Rocky movie. I think it helped that this was included into the script because it produced deeper emotional intensity to the story. There are so many people in the world that need to have their story told; I was satisfied that this one came to the big screen.
I was a window washer, a singer, a soldier, a mayor, an explorer and a spaceman. My imagination knew no boundaries when I pretended to be someone else. As far as I can tell, a vivid imagination is a vital component to the well-being of a growing child. I am sure all of us at one time play acted, becoming anything we wanted to be. It was so innocent back then in our childhood, too bad some individuals cannot keep that innocence in their adult life. There have been news stories about people who pretend to be high powered financiers, convincing innocent people to part with their money for huge gains they can attain with the help of the financier. It turns out these finance people were working a Ponzi scheme. I know this example is just one of many since there are all kinds of stories about someone impersonating someone else for their own gain. Now this pretending thing is not just exclusive to individuals; there have been some operations set up just to scam larger amounts of people. I remember reading about a so called pharmaceutical company that was selling placebos of the actual drugs patients required. On the flip side of this, what really blows my mind are the individuals who believe certain historical events never really occurred; that it was all made up. With the technology we have at our disposal today I am sure any group of people can create almost anything they want and just post it online. Can you imagine if you discovered something you thought was true was not? CONCERNED the astronauts of the Apollo 11 mission would not make it to the moon; CIA agent Kidman, played by Ron Perlman (Hellboy franchise, The Job), was sent to London to get director Stanley Kubrick to stage and film a pretend moon landing. Due to an unfortunate set of circumstances agent Kidman was stuck with rock band manager Jonny, played by Rupert Grint (Harry Potter franchise, Driving Lessons), to create a video of the first moon landing. This comedy had a fun idea as its premise. When you think about it this could have been plausible since who would be able to say no among the general public. I thought it was comical that the government wanted Stanley Kubrick to direct. The beginning of this film was enjoyable as the set designers and costumers correctly got the time period. As the story continued I realized the humor was not hitting the mark; there was a disconnect of tired scenes that seemed like they were copies of past better ones. Maybe the additional story lines burdened the original idea because I felt things were just going crazy. Besides I did not feel there was any chemistry between the actors and to be honest, I felt a little sad for Rupert. The writer’s imagination was in the right place, it just was not executed in the best of ways.
1 3/4 stars
I never understood why monsters would constantly attack Japan. The poor citizens were caught on film as they screamed and ran away from creatures, who had names like Godzilla, Rodan and Mothra. At the age where I would soon realize those horrible monsters were actually humans dressed in costumes; I could be found sitting on the floor in front of our console television, mesmerized by those massive creatures of destruction. Even today I can still hear Godzilla’s roar just before flames would shoot out of his mouth. Writer and director Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, The Devil’s Backbone) has created a beautiful tribute to those old classic movies with this science fiction film. In the fine tradition of Japanese director Ishiro Honda (Godzilla, All Monsters Attack) and American visual effects creator Ray Harryhausen (Jason and the Argonauts, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad), Guillermo honored these 2 men with this visual masterpiece. Earth had been fighting a war against alien beings called the Kaiju (Japanese for strange creature). To combat the massive beings, the government created colossal robots called Jaegers (German for hunters), that were each synched with 2 pilots that were mentally connected. Under the command of Stacker Pentecost, played by Idris Elba (Prometheus, Thor), it appeared the Kaiju were learning to adapt with each battle. Cast in the starring role of Raleigh Becket was Charlie Hunnam (Children of Men, Sons of Anarchy-TV). This was not the best choice because he lacked screen presence. Compare him to Idris or Rinko Kikuchi (Norwegian Wood, The Brothers Bloom) as Mako Mori and you will see what I mean. Details were spent on the special effects and the fight scenes. The monsters were certainly imaginative; but I found myself drawn more to the robots. What was weak for me was the story, particularly some of the cheesy dialog. It did not help having the overly dramatic music accompanying several scenes. I hope they will make a sequel because there were parts to this film that verged on greatness. It just came up a little short in becoming one heck of an exciting thrill ride movie for me. Move over Godzilla, there is a new beast in town. Stay through the first set of credits at least.
2 3/4 stars