13 Reasons Why: Season 1 Review

Some television shows exist to provide comedy, while some others exist to provide action and entertainment. Left hiding in the shadows are a select few that have a strong message and purpose, such as 13 Reasons Why. This wildly popular Netflix-original show (produced by Selena Gomez) is one that leaves its mark on viewers and is created with such fervor that it rivals other top shows.

13 Reasons Why Clay.jpg

The premise of the show revolves around high school sophomore / junior Clay Jensen discovering a set of tapes on his doorstep addressed to him. He is in for a surprise when he finds out that they were made by his classmate, co-worker, and friend, Hannah Baker, just before committing suicide. Each tape is about a specific person that is, in a way, responsible for Baker’s death and is filled with instructions and information related to that event. As Jensen starts listening to the tapes, he recognizes that others have listened to them before he had (each person passes the tapes along to the next person in the order of who is featured on which tape). Unfortunately for Jensen, the others do not want this information getting out and will do whatever is necessary to keep Jensen quiet.

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My favorite part of this 13-episode arc is the way in which it is written and directed. Every episode is sharp with transitions, misdirections, and misdirections of misdirections. The depth within the dialogue and what / who is in the shot reveals not just what is being spoken, but also conveys that information to what or who is being shown. Plus, the interweaving narrative of Baker’s retelling on the tapes combined with Jensen hearing the tapes in the present day is handled extremely well. The lighting in the past utilizes warmer colors while the present features darker illumination to further demonstrate the different feelings of before and after the death of Baker. It is not something new, but works well in the context of how it is used.

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The characters in 13 Reasons Why are, thankfully, not clichéd or stereotyped. They are unique in their own ways and are all well-developed. You know the writing is tremendous when we feel for a character that most probably could not stand in previous episodes. The entire purpose of the show is to demonstrate that every person is going through or dealing with something in their lives. The writers take the time in every episode to explore the different characters associated with Baker’s life. One might state that it might be a little too convenient for the plot to explore characterization through the tapes, but it is done in a way that ups the suspense and mystery – which makes the viewer want to know more, so in my mind it furthers the plot in an engaging way.

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There is no way to avoid the potential danger that accompanies this show. I realize that every episode begins with the warning and encourages troubled individuals to reach out, but with a television show that is centered on a likable female protagonist that puts so much thought into committing suicide and making tapes for those responsible to listen to afterwards, it could encourage those watching that are troubled to make a bad decision. I hope the show helps those in need to discover that suicide is never the right option and there is always a way through the dark times.

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There are also some dark, graphic, and violent moments peppered throughout the show that might not be best suited for the faint-of-heart. It is powerful, but could be too much for some to handle. As they say: viewer discretion is advised.

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At the end of the day, 13 Reasons Why is not only top-notch, but incredibly important due to the subject matter. While at first I was not sure how a TV-MA rating would coincide with a show based on a novel targeted for high school kids, it is clear that it is handled in the best way it possibly could. The acting is almost always on-point and combination of direction and writing is nearly masterful. I cannot wait for what the next season will unveil.

Grade: A

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13 Reasons Why features creator Brian Yorkey based on the novel by Jay Asher. The series entails directors Gregg Arraki, Kyle Patrick Alvarez, Carl Franklin, Tom McCarthy, Helen Shaver, and Jessica Yu and writers Nic Sheff, Thomas Higgins, Elizabeth Benjamin, Diana Son, Nathan Jackson, Nathan Louis Jackson, Kirk A. Moore, and Hayley Tyler. The show stars Dylan Minnette, Katherine Langford, Christian Navarro, Alisha Boe, Brandon Flynn, and Miles Heizer. 13 Reasons Why is produced by July Moon Productions, Kicked to the Curb Productions, Anonymous Content, and Paramount Television. Season 2 is expected to arrive on Netflix in 2018.

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“Riverdale” Season 1 Review

This critically-acclaimed CW series, based upon characters from Archie Comics and currently available for streaming on Netflix, has some awesome, multi-dimensional, and relatable characters (and actors portraying those characters), intriguing murder-mystery moments, fun Easter eggs and references (hint, hint, DC Rebirth), and a refreshing tone and take on this type of source material. This will be a non-spoiler review, but a few very minor spoilers may appear. The basic, end-all, be-all question I set out to answer by the end of this review is the following: is “Riverdale” a good show that I can recommend to others?

When I first saw promotional material for the pilot, I was immediately intrigued by the plot and tone that the show was going for. “Riverdale” turns the opportunity for a stereotypical high school drama into a fun, dark, and wacky murder-mystery with a high school template. The plot of the pilot, which sets up the entire season, begins with high school reject, Jugghead Jones (Cole Sprouse), narrating the story he is writing about all the events happening in the small town of Riverdale, which happens to be the content of each episode. The opening finds a high school girl named Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch) located on a rock next to Sweetwater River with a distraught look on her face. It is revealed that her brother, high school football star, Jason Blossom, has been found murdered and the investigation begins.

One thing this show nails is characterization. The show revolves around a small group of attractive, yet real and believable high school kids. Football star and up-and-coming musician, Archie Andrews (K.J. Apa), appears to be the focal character of the show. He might appear to be the perfect “boy next door” type of character, but he is written in a way that makes him much more flawed and relatable. His best friend, Jugghead, might be the best character on the show. The constant turmoil that his character deals with and continues to rise above is something admirable and inspirational in a sense. The “girl next door” to Archie is Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart). She is another character that masterfully avoids being a stereotype. She has her own issues to deal with at home that complicate her life. Her best friend and new girl in town, Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes), is probably a fan favorite. She has charisma and charm, but despite her rich family and endless talents, she gets caught up in the heart of the story.

One aspect of the show that has surprised me is the critique of parenting. All of the parent/guardian figures have decent intentions at heart, but don’t always live up to expectations. Veronica lives with her mother, Hermione Lodge (Marisol Nichols), in which it is revealed that Hermione is not a completely innocent parent (Veronica’s father is in jail, so I suppose he isn’t innocent, either). Betty’s parents, Alice Cooper (Mädchen Amick) and Hal Cooper (Lochlyn Munro), are control freaks and believe in discipline and perfection, which obviously leads to conflict with Betty and others. Cheryl’s parents, Penelope Blossom (Nathalie Boltt) and Clifford Blossom (Barclay Hope), run a $1 million syrup company and are probably the most problematic of the parents on the show. For two people that recently lost a son, they still seem quite cold and suspicious to viewers. The most unsuspicious and well-hearted parent is actually Archie’s father, Fred Andrews (Luke Perry). We do get to meet his mother, Mary Andrews (Molly Ringwald), but Fred is the parent that everyone wishes they had. He is the heart of all that is good in Riverdale, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be human, either. The plot seems to hammer home the idea that too much power and control can lead to chaos (like strict parenting, for example), but chaos has already become a staple for the town of Riverdale – which is fascinating as a viewer.

When the plot takes a break from the murder investigation and slows down, there are some great musical moments. Following not just Archie’s storyline involving music, but also a band named The Pussycats are excellent and fit the show perfectly. Obviously the song lyrics are meant to subtly reflect and reveal the feelings of the character singing, but the music itself has great replay value – even outside the show. It’s not only that the musical scenes have good music, but it furthers the plot of the episode and adds to it tremendously. This is one area of the show that I cannot wait to see expand with the characters and the plot.

Riverdale main cast

Every television show or movie has pros and cons to them, and “Riverdale” is no different. Don’t get me wrong, I like high school shows (including this one), but there is one particular aspect of the show that bugs me a little bit. I cannot understand why the show has an elaborate kissing scene in almost every single episode. Most of them actually work well, but it can feel overdone at times to a point where it takes me out of it and it loses its impact. In addition, certain characters hate each other during one episode, then get along really well the next episode, and then hate each other the episode after that. I find it to be a little odd and somewhat unbelievable. Plus, some of the dialogue doesn’t feel authentic at times, but it never took me out of any particular episode.

I think it’s obvious that there will be some kind of reveal at some point during the season. For me, I didn’t find that specific reveal to be very rewarding or impactful, which negatively impacts the entire murder-mystery subplot throughout the season. All of the build-up, twists, and turns in regards to the murder is actually fascinating and digs up new questions, but how it all concluded feels like somewhat of a letdown – although it is actually filmed really well. In fact, after I initially watched the finale episode, I thought it was a weak ending to such a good show. After taking some time to process it, I’ve actually come to like it quite a bit more, but not entirely. I’ll let you watch and decide for yourself. What I can say is this: the best scene of the entire season is in the season finale.

My only other minor gripe about “Riverdale” is based on the season finale. To me, I feel like I already know exactly what is going to happen in the next season. I like the idea of how they were setting up the next season, but I think they set it up a little too well – although, I have to admit, a particular scene with Archie and Veronica is pure gold.

With everything considered, I think this is a show that I can definitely recommend to potential viewers. The good easily outweighs the bad. The show’s producers, writers, directors, and tech crew (most notably: executive producer, Greg Berlanti, and composer, Blake Neely) have a hit-show on their hands. I think the part I like most about “Riverdale” is that while the first season is a success, the future seasons have so much potential and ability to elevate the show’s quality even more.


Grade: B


My Star Wars Theories

Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens re-introduced us to the fantastical, magnificent world of Star Wars. The notion that the prequels were a letdown compared to the original trilogy (Episodes IV-VI) has almost become a universally accepted truth. What this film did was bring back what made the original trilogy so special. Episode VII delivered new characters like Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), Poe (Oscar Isaac), Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), and Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis), while also featuring returning members, such as Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Leia (Carrie Fisher), and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill).

Han and Chewy

I’m assuming you’ve seen the movie by now, so here is my list of theories for each unanswered question or plot-line as Episode VIII is in production.


Supreme Leader Snoke

Who is Supreme Leader Snoke?

He might only be in a couple scenes, but they were among the most intriguing. He is the one who revealed Kylo Ren’s father, as well as mentioning Luke possibly bringing back the Jedi if he is found by the resistance. The main question people have is whether or not this new character is actually completely new. Many theories have been floating around about him being a plethora of characters, like Palpatine, Vader, Jar Jar Binks, and even the boy from the temple in the prequels.

Palpatine talking to Anakin about Plagueis

I think all of that is hogwash, though. My theory is that Snoke is none other than Darth Plagueis the Wise. He was mentioned briefly in Episode III when Palpatine was talking to Anakin about how Plagues could save people from dying. The reasons speculators tend to lean this way is because it would be a fascinating story-line to tell, the score during both parts in both movies were identical, and there are other subtle context clues in the dialogue to suggest this possible outcome.


Rey vision

What is really going on in Rey’s vision?

This was probably by far the most bizarre aspect to the movie – one I did not see coming. In the beginning of the sequence, she hears a little girl’s scream and runs down the stairs of Maz Kanata’s building. She discovers a chest with a lightsaber inside (later learning it belongs to Luke), and that the screams were actually hers when she was a child and her parents left her. From my knowledge, she has no recollection of her childhood memories. She also catches a glimpse of Kylo Ren and his Knights of Ren as they appear to kill people (perhaps the Jedi?) and sees Luke with R2-D2. She also hears Darth Vader’s breath, and the voices of Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi telling her this is the beginning. Crazy stuff, right?


I do believe her visions were real and from her past. Maz Kanata tells her the lightsaber belonged to Anakin Skywalker passed down to Luke, and now calls to her. I think it’s fair to say the vision with Kylo Ren was him taking down the Jedi Temple that Luke had established. We’ll get to the rest of this scene and how it ties to lineage down below.


Maz Kanata

Maz Kanata backstory?

This is the one character that really made me grind the gears and think about how she knows so much about the Jedi and the force. Some might think she used to be a Jedi, while others disagree. I honestly have no idea how to answer that. How did she get Anakin and Luke’s old lightsaber? I honestly have no clue, and I hope we get some answers within the next two movies.

Kylo Ren

Who’s the guy in the beginning that had the final piece of the map?

At the beginning of the film, there is a man who gives the final piece of the missing map to Poe and BB-8. He also seems to know Kylo Ren, but it isn’t determined how. It would be interesting to figure out why he seems to know him and how he got his hands on that missing piece of the map. There’s a chance he probably knew Han Solo as well, so it would be fascinating to incorporate that into the plot of the next film.


Knights of Ren

What really happened to Luke’s Jedi Temple? Kylo Ren?

During Rey’s vision, she saw Kylo Ren standing with the Knights of Ren in the rain with another shot of Luke Skywalker touching R2-D2. It was also said earlier in the film by Han Solo that Luke went into exile after something went wrong with an apprentice, and was searching for the first Jedi Temple.

Luke and R2D2

My best guess is that Kylo Ren was that pupil that turned to the dark side and took out the Jedi – forcing Luke to be the lone survivor of the Jedi. It would definitely make for an interesting meeting in Episode VIII if Kylo Ren (Ben Solo) was the bad trainee, and I would be surprised if they went down a different route. Wouldn’t it also be interesting if Rey was trained in the Jedi arts before being moved to Jakku and having her memory erased? It would definitely explain her sudden masterful lightsaber and force abilities.


Finn and Han

Does Finn Have Familiar Family Ties?

Before the release of Episode VII, there was a lego set that had the name Finn Calrissian on it – possibly revealing at the time that Finn was the son of Lando Calrissian (Episode V, VI). Let me reiterate this: I don’t want every single new character to be the child of someone in the older movies. It’s a plot twist that can only be used so many times, and it also makes for a very small Star Wars universe. Sometimes it is nice to have some fresh faces from different places. Especially since Finn was introduced as a stormtrooper with no name (2187), I find it hard to believe he would be a Calrissian or any other character from the two trilogies previous.


Luke seeing Rey

Who is Rey’s father?

I saved the best for last. This is the million dollar question. Is Rey’s father Luke? Is it someone else? To me, I feel like Rey was way too powerful with the force with no training and not have gained those powers from someone in her past. I’m under the impression that Luke is NOT the father (despite that being the popular theory), but instead it is a familiar face to both prequels and originals. My opinion is that Rey is a blood-relative of Obi-Wan Kenobi. Let me try to explain why.

Obi Wan Yoda Ben Kenobi

After that vision sequence, Maz Kanata’s dialogue makes it seem like Luke isn’t the father. For a more detailed version of why, John Campea has a YouTube video that discusses the exact dialogue and why he also believes Luke isn’t her father. I also got the impression that she has to seek her own destiny in the present and not in the past. Plus, during her vision she hears both versions of Obi-Wan Kenobi (prequel and original) tell her this is only the beginning. I know Yoda’s voice was in there too, but for both voices of Kenobi seems a little peculiar, doesn’t it? Besides, if you put the face of Rey and Obi-Wan from Episode I together, they do look very similar in terms of facial features. By the way, she also discovered and used that Jedi mind trick that Kenobi was infamous for.


Kylo Ren capturing Rey

Final Thoughts

What do you guys think? Do you agree with some of my theories, or do you think they are entirely false? I would love to hear your thoughts! Thanks!

Why I Don’t Like Most People

Let’s face it: not everyone is going to get along. Some people will argue, some will fight, and others will become cyberbullies. We live in an era in which the internet has become a gateway for many to express their own negativity upon others. They think it makes them feel better, or appear as being “cooler” than the rest of us down here on planet Earth. Honestly, the worst part is that they aren’t the only ones bringing people down. Internet chat-boards and comment sections might be a big slice of the problem pie, but they aren’t alone. In fact, those other people might be closer to home than you think.


Before I get into my personal side of the issue, a recent example of this behavior happened in mid-December. An online group from Facebook called Extended Universe went to every high-followed Facebook page and began spoiling Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens in the comment sections around the release date. How mean and inconsiderate, right? For those who don’t know, Extended Universe was formerly a part of the Star Wars canon (history) until the new Star Wars movie was announced, then it was publicly erased from official record and considered fan fiction. Thankfully, Google Chrome created a Star Wars Adblock to block any potential spoilers from the group or anyone else.


I’m a big fan of Collider Movie Talk. It’s a YouTube talk show about everything going on in the world of movies by people in the industry. The guy running the show is Senior Producer and former Editor-in-Chief of AMC: John Campea. He called out Extended Universe for their actions – which was echoed by the rest of the excellent ensemble at the discussion table. I think Campea is a wonderful person, and I highly respect him, but he has also been known to be very opinionated, and one of his recent opinions had me slightly disagreeing with him. While still extremely excited for the film, he didn’t like the last full-length trailer for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice that debuted in early December on Jimmy Kimmel Live, and moved it down a spot to #2 on his most anticipated movies of 2016 list (that’s still nothing to be ashamed about). While I disagreed with him, I still respect his opinion. He’s a smart, hard-working guy. Sadly, he took a tremendous amount of unnecessary online heat for that – which has lead to a new slogan around the Collider studio, “But John!”


Another person who has taken a lot of unfair criticism is me. I used to be the victim of harassment and abuse. It started from a young age when I started playing sports, and a few teammates would pick on and make fun of me for being the little guy. This also took place inside the classroom. It wouldn’t end until after I left high school and advanced onto college. Once there, my lifestyle and self-confidence was tremendously uplifted. I’ve also learned so much more than the small, baby doses of information that high school so strictly tries to impose on their students.


That’s what makes it so conflicting to come home during my winter or summer break. I have a great life at college: I have a wonderful girlfriend (whom I have been dating for almost 16 months now), classmate friends, I’ve developed some good relationships with instructors, and it is nice to go home for a weekend to see my awesome family. I feel free and able to become the person I want to be. When I’m at home, I can’t do that. I’m not really at home – it’s just temporary. Things have changed since I was last there and I feel like a guest at a house and in a bedroom that I’ve lived in for years. I can’t continue pursing the lifestyle and persona that is becoming me, but instead forced to accustom and almost regress back to who I used to be – especially since that’s how the community back home will apparently always remember me as. It’s like fighting within a claustrophobic struggle of ideals.


Most people still remember me from high school sports. I loved sports from childhood and it’ll forever be a part of my life. However, there comes a point in time when people change and grow up. It took me a little longer than others and myself would have maybe preferred, but nevertheless, it occurred. I love writing, and writing about things relevant to my life and others around me in the world. Yours truly even wrote an article covering the homecoming football game at the University of Minnesota – Morris campus that I attend, and it made the front page of the campus newspaper. Even though I was a three-sport athlete in high school, since I graduated, I haven’t played much sports competitively since – only intramural basketball (a few years ago) and I was fortunate enough to participate in a two-hand touch football game with my girlfriend’s dorm floor last year. A recent revelation, however, has changed the outlook of my life forever.


What’s one thing that almost everyone can have an opinion on? Entertainment. What’s potentially the biggest avenue of entertainment in America? Cinema. Everyone loves movies – that’s just the way it is, just like everyone likes some form of music. For a small price, you can buy popcorn, soda, and enjoy spending quality time with friends and family. It’s a business that will never end. So what do movies have to do with why I don’t like people? Well, I’m getting to that part. Even though I have loved movies my whole life, I decided to pursue it. I wanted to know how a feature, full-length film gets made (and how the box office works), and immerse myself with the wonderful world of Hollywood – only instead of being in sunny California, I’m watching movies and television from the comfort of my bedroom in cold, snowy Minnesota.


Despite taking acting and film classes early on in college, I am an English major. I love writing and storytelling. There’s nothing quite like reading a good book, or watching a thrilling, fulfilling movie. Perhaps someday I’ll give Hollywood a shot in some manner. Sounds great, right? There’s only one small problem: NOBODY CARES. When it comes to entertainment, it’s supposed to appeal to everyone in a variety of different ways. Someone who likes Adele might not like Luke Bryan, and someone who enjoys listening to Aerosmith might not like listening to Hanz Zimmer. Everyone is different, and that’s perfectly fine. Unfortunately, I live in a place that hinders most of the things that interest me. Yes, I enjoy watching Marvel films and occasionally listening to country music, but I grew up loving Batman and Superman (the two biggest superheroes in the comic-book world), playing and studying the quarterback position, and listening to Lifehouse, Daughtry, and more recently, Tim Urban. That’s what gets me jumping out of my seat.


I try to have civil conversations with people when I’m back at home, but I’m still just regarded as that weird kid with weird interests – despite doing the “cool” thing and playing multiple sports. Lately, I have been sharing the new trailers and television commercials for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice on my social media (I’m so excited for the DC Cinematic Universe), while encountering interesting results. I’ve even shared videos and posts – most notably cool song covers that others and myself have done and my thoughts about that kind of media. On my Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat accounts, I’ve received multiple likes (or favorites) and views, and that is with generally a younger audience. When it came to Facebook, which has the more “general public” and an audience that is older, hardly anyone liked ANY of my posts.


Now, I’m not just asking and begging for people to like my stuff just for the sake of liking it, but I’m noticing a pattern I don’t like. Once the Zack Snyder DC film BvS comes to theaters in March, I’ll probably never post anything on Facebook ever again. People usually say that on social media, you’re supposed to be posting about your individual life and not videos and other entertainment-related posts – even if that could be a big part of your life. I’ll call it as it is, and in my opinion, simple, random posts of pictures and little things going on in my life is BORING. It’s sometimes boring to me in the real world. We all need a break from our daily, everyday lives, and what better way to do it than events going on in our culture.


People don’t like to be told they might be wrong. Don’t speak aloud, but think back to the last time someone actually admitted they were wrong to you, or when you admitted you were wrong when having an argument. I will bet in most scenarios it might take you a while to pinpoint a time when that happened. It’s something we all need work at improving, including myself, but I am enough of a man to say when I’m wrong, and then do something about it.


What am I trying to say? It’s okay to be wrong, as long as you are willing to admit it and move forward to make it better – whatever “it” may be. Sadly, most people don’t care. Human beings can have this ability to come off as self-centered, rude, inconsiderate, and quite frankly, lazy when it comes to the sincerity of other people’s interests. Yeah, I like comic-book characters and some football players and coaches that most people in my area don’t generally care for: SO WHAT? Because I have recently expressed my interests and moving towards my career, people just ignore me. They cut me out of their lives and don’t even blink. Did you know that I usually only hang out with only potentially six to eight different people at the most? I won’t list any names, but if you still hang out with me, thank you. It means the world to me, and there’s a reason I still like to chill with you.


Think about that for a second. Out of the 7.4 billion people on this planet, I only have maybe six true, great friends that I enjoy spending time with – despite sometimes not living near each other. Do we all have the same interests? No, not even close, but that’s the point. We don’t all have to have the same interests. People can enjoy spending time with people, and have an understanding for what makes them tick. Most people don’t get that. If you hate on a recording artist, professional athlete, or actor that someone enjoys (or vice versa), it is like you insulted them in the worst way imaginable. I’ll straight up tell you something right now. If you aren’t interested in Parenthood, Ben Affleck, Johnny Unitas, Harry Potter, Tom Brady, or Skyler Day (whom I would love to collaborate with someday),  that’s totally okay. It doesn’t bother me in the slightest. There is more to life than my own personal interests. Just please don’t hate and judge me for enjoying the things that puts a skip in my step everyday – and many others worldwide as well. Thank you.

Rocky II: A Superior Sequel

“Yo, Adrian.” The sequel to the 1976 Academy Award for Best Picture (Rocky) continues the saga with increasing momentum and spectacle. It’s an action/thriller written from the heart. Rocky II (1979) screenplay was written and directed by Sylvester Stallone, who also reprised his role as the “Italian Stallion” – Rocky Balboa. Other notable returning stars are Talia Shire (Adrian), Carl Weathers (Apollo Creed), Burt Young (Paulie), and Burgess Meredith (Mickey). Rocky II picked up right where the first one left off. Rocky and Apollo are in the same hospital, and things sort of whirlwind from there. Rocky lets his quick rise to fame get the best of him, and loses the respect of those close to him (along with all of his money). With a determined Apollo Creed feeling the heat of an overwhelming amount of hate-mail and media criticism, he is left with no choice but to prove his worth in a rematch with Philadelphia’s “favorite son,” Rocky Balboa.

Rocky II fight

In this Irwin Winkler/Robert Chartoff-produced film, the acting is absolutely spectacular. Carl Weathers steals the show as the reigning Heavyweight Champion. His line deliveries and body movements capture exactly how he feels, and got potentially snubbed for nomination of Best Supporting Actor at the 1980 Oscars. Weathers’s believability and vulernability really drove the motivation in every scene he was in. Another actor’s performance that really shone was that of Burgess Meredith, portraying Rocky’s trainer, Mickey Goldmill. He has a couple scenes in the film where he has to knock some sense into Rocky, and does it masterfully (in addition to adding some comedic relief at specific moments). His veteran experience really helps create that contrasted juxtaposition with the young, inexperienced Mr. Balboa. Sylvester Stallone was great as usual. His ability to continue the star-power of writing, directing, and starring in the same film, while making it almost an equal to his first big hit, compares similarly to a more recent example in Ben Affleck (as does this whole movie for the next blockbuster film Affleck will star in due out in March 2016, but that’s a different topic for a different day).

Ben Affleck

Most movie sequels don’t quite live up to the original, but that’s not necessarily the case with this film. A gritty and grounded style of storytelling really helps create believability not only for each scene, but in terms of what this film is trying to be. Another specific element in Stallone’s writing that excels is the humanistic approach combined with the grounded, everyday life “movie universe.” That term is used very frequently in today’s world of cinema. With sequels, prequels, remakes, and spin-offs in the works frequently, it can become very confusing to the average movie-goer for which is which. Fortunately for this film, it came out in 1979, so it didn’t have to deal with that.

When it comes to Stallone’s writing, each scene has a specific way in which they are voiced on screen that not only tell you, they resonate and make you think about it for moments afterwards (show, don’t tell). In other words, each scene carries weight. In a scene early on, Apollo is in an office with his trainers having a conversation. Apollo voices his opinion on wanting to face Balboa again, while his trainers disagree with him. Creed asks his head trainer Tony if he won the last fight, and even though Tony replied with saying that Apollo got the decision, Apollo fires back with “I won, but I didn’t beat him!” In addition to a comedic scene where Rocky proposes to Adrian in the most interesting and worst way possible, another scene where great writing is evident is when Rocky is greeted by Mickey at 3 A.M. in a church. Rocky is ailing, and Mickey sees this, so he starts off his monologue by going easy on him, reminding him that he has a fight coming up soon with an angry Apollo Creed that Rocky isn’t ready for. Then Mickey bursts out, “For God’s sake, why don’t you stand up and fight this guy hard like you done before? That was beautiful!” Then he eventually retreats by saying that he doesn’t want to get mad in a biblical place, but reveals his thoughts on how Rocky’s potential is more than he has proven thus far. It ends beautifully by Mickey sitting by Rocky and praying, while telling him how he’s all in with “Rocko” – whether they win or lose.

66ème Festival de Venise (Mostra)

Another beautiful element in Rocky II is the score. Composed by Bill Conti, it highlights the comedy, drama, and suspense in masterful ways. The comedic scenes are few and far between, but when they appear, the score usually helps create the levity that Stallone is trying to captivate by having light, soft piano themes (especially the scenes between Rocky and Adrian). When the going gets tough, it continues those softer themes, but usually with a slower, more somber tone. A great example of this is the track, “Vigil,” where it captures the emotion at the particular part of the movie beautifully. One of the editing choices made was adding the score in towards the end of each scene that needs it, with the exception of the training scenes and climactic boxing match. Before the final ring confrontation, there is a scene where something critical happens involving Adrian, Pauly, Mickey, and Rocky, and the suspense leading into that event is brought out of the cross-cutting scenes even more with the long-lasting baritone/bass note that keeps repeating. When Rocky finally kicks it in gear and starts training hardcore, Conti created this dark, motivating track that demonstrates how Rocky is feeling inside (motivated), and then he goes on a morning run – except this time a famously familiar tune: “Gonna Fly Now” starts playing and kids everywhere start running with Rocky down streets and all the way up those stairs. Finally, the score during the boxing match between Rocky and Apollo is suspenseful and epic – much like a 300 or Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II showdown. With the twists and turns during the characterization up until about 2/3 of the way in, the final battle between the two God-like warriors really exemplifies it, leaving you on the edge of whatever seat you’re sitting in to see who will make it out of the match alive.

Rocky II run

Rocky II really embodies what makes Hollywood so great and successful in today’s entertainment industry. It has all the highs, lows, and thrilling plot points that make a feature-film exciting and fun to watch. You see all these beloved characters return to the big-screen and do their best to endure through and overcome tough times and struggles. Between Stallone’s brilliant balance of characterization vs. spectacle, the actors delivering and putting on a wonderful display of emotion and physicality, and the score that helps put you cringing on the edge of your seat (or crying during sad moments) really make for one of the best sports films of all-time. There have been quite a lot of sports movies over the years – some great, some not-as-great – but none have really resonated with me quite like this Rocky franchise. These movies (with the exception of Rocky V) have always been favorites of mine since I was a little kid, and although much time has passed between now and then, that time has only allowed me to enjoy them even more. If you haven’t seen Rocky II, or even Rocky, I’m highly recommending that you find it on Netflix or DVD (shouldn’t be more than $10). You won’t be disappointed!