Differences between Marvel and DC

With Captain America: Civil War hitting theaters in a few weeks, I figured this would be a good time to help non-comic readers understand what they are about to see. The following will highlight the major differences between these two rival, competitive (yet friendly) comic-book companies. There are a few similarities, but for the most part, they have completely separate characteristics about them that most people don’t fully realize  yet. This is especially important since DC (Detective Comics) has a bunch of new movies coming out over the course of the next 5 years, and Marvel is planning on having at least 2 comic-book movies released each year as well.

Spiderman

Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War Spider-Man/Peter Parker (Tom Holland) Photo Credit: Film Frame © Marvel 2016

I will remain unbiased while still incorporating my honest opinion. I grew up with DC and have recently over the last 6 years began to really enjoy Marvel films. So I will remain unbiased and speak honestly about the differences when walking into a movie theater to watch a movie from each. I’ve also added links to characters not as popular among casual fans of the properties so if you clink on the word “link,” it will take you to their database and explain them in more detail.

DC and Marvel billiards

Tone/Style

As we’ve known since Iron Man back in 2008, Marvel (owned by Disney) has a lighter tone – blended together with action, slapstick comedy, and heartfelt moments. They began as family movies and even when they became mainstreamed, they stuck to what made them great in the first place. Things might become intense and tough at times, but comedic relief is a must in these movies and Marvel never seems to disappoint. The guy running the movie division of Marvel is Kevin Feige, and it’s obvious how incredibly successful he has been so far.

Avengers beat Loki

On the other hand, DC is taking a different approach. Since the success of The Dark Knight trilogy, Warner Brothers (WB) and Zack Snyder (300, Man of Steel) have decided to keep that same edgy, intense, complex, darker tone to their films. This might have turned off some people once the darker tone was extended past Batman films and into Man of Steel, but whether or not you prefer lighter or darker tone, DC is to be commended for not just copying Marvel. I can confirm that Justice League next year will not be as dark as Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was.

Trinity in action

 

Score/Soundtrack

I’ll start this section by highlighting how amazing the DC soundtracks have been thus far. Only two movies into their extended universe, they have managed to produce some of the best scores possibly in movie history. Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL both tag-teamed Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and are considered among the best composers in the business today. Despite Zimmer officially stepping down from superhero movies, Junkie XL (the former Disc Jockey) should be able to carry the load after scoring Deadpool and Mad Max: Fury Road independently.

Krypton

It’s important to note that while Marvel films have a massive audience and endless critical acclaim, this is one area they aren’t as strong in. It’s not that their scores are bad, because they aren’t bad at all, DC just has everyone’s number on this one. That being said, I really do like Captain America’s theme the most in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

Captain America

 

Universe Building

Marvel has this ability to tie in so many characters seamlessly into their cinematic universe. By starting off with all solo movies before the team-up with The Avengers, fans were able to go in knowing these characters so it didn’t have to spend an entire movie throwing them in and hoping we would connect the dots ourselves and understand (*hint hint*). Even for those who haven’t seen some of the solo movies (like myself at the time), I was able to go back and watch them after seeing the team-up. Now that Marvel has so many characters with their own movies, they can now crossover with other MCU films and do so properly and successfully.

Team Iron Man

Even if BvS failed to live up to high expectations, it did set up the Dawn of Justice part pretty well for Justice League in November 2017 and their solo movies outside of that. What WB and DC decided to do was set the building blocks for their extended universe in BvS and lead that into JL, where before and after we get the solo movies, so in retrospect, they reverse-engineered the template Marvel used. For better or worse, it has people excited for solo Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Batman, Flash, and Suicide Squad films. Also, The Dark Knight trilogy is not a part of this universe, it is its own thing.

Trinity plus Aquaman

 

Heroes

I’ll begin with the DC heroes that are the founding members of the Justice League. They are Superman and Batman (the two most iconic superheroes of all-time), Wonder Woman, Flash, Aquaman, Cyborg, and Green Lantern.Other heroes that might appear at some point are Green Arrow (link), Black Canary (link), Martian Manhunter (link), Supergirl (link), Batgirl (link), Nightwing (link), Shazam (link), and Mera (link).

JL concept art

As for Marvel, they have what might be the best group of superheroes ever assembled. They consist of Captain America, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Black Widow, Thor, Hulk, Vision, Black Panther, Scarlet Witch, Ant-Man, Hawkeye, and Falcon. Despite not having connected with the movie universe yet, the characters from their television shows could always make an appearance in the next couple Avengers films – such as Daredevil (link), Luke Cage (link), and Jessica Jones (link). Quick note: Marvel created the characters of the Fantastic Four and Deadpool, but they belong to Fox and a different cinematic universe (X-Men).

Avengers

 

Villains

Marvel have some cool villains that people tend to sleep on. My favorite from them is the comic-book version of Venom (link). Others that are obviously fan favorites are Loki, Thanos, Winter Soldier, Ultron, and Green Goblin. They have been memorable in the films and also in the comic-books. One of the few criticisms of Marvel movies have been the lack of good villains so far, but I don’t expect that to continue.

Loki and Ultron

I would be lying if I didn’t admit that this is another category in which DC is superior. Batman’s villains alone would be almost enough to give them the edge over Marvel, but that’s not why I’m writing this. Joker, Bane, Riddler, Lex Luthor, General Zod, Doomsday, Darkseid (link), Reverse-Flash, Deathstroke (link), and Ras Al Ghul are just some of the great villains in the DC Comics world.

Joker suicide squad

 

Why Can’t They Be in the Same Movies?

Someone asked me this question last year, and I feel the need to answer this question for others out there that might also be asking this question. The easy answer: they are two different companies. Marvel is a company that’s been operated by Stan Lee for many years, and DC is a company operated by Geoff Johns. They are both incredibly intelligent, and there was even a comic-book crossover between the two in the ’90s.

DC and Marvel fight

 

Final Thoughts

Although I might have subconsciously compared Marvel to DC in terms of those categories, I highly recommend NOT to compare them. Think of apples and oranges – yes, they are both fruit, but completely different (fruit = superhero movies, apples and oranges = Marvel and DC). There’s no shame in liking both, in fact, I applaud those that do. I sincerely hope you understand the differences and similarities about both.

Superman and Loki

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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?

Kylo

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!

Reasons to See Batman v Superman

Prelude

2016 is a year full of action-packed superhero films, and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is not only one of the most anticipated movies this year, but of all-time. Visionary director Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen) helms this film three years after the events in Man of Steel. BvS is now a cultural phenomenon, and the kind of movie that people usually seem to either love or hate. I won’t spoil it, but instead provide insight as to why this movie will be worth your time and money.

Wonder Woman in action

The Terrific Ensemble Cast

The movie has a large, talented cast of actors that grant this film unprecedented credibility. Gal Gadot (Fast and Furious 6) adds the first big-screen portrayal of the most iconic female superheroine, Wonder Woman (who is getting her own movie next year). Meanwhile, Ben Affleck (The Town, Gone Girl) takes on a The Dark Knight Returns / Batman: The Animated Series version of the caped crusader, with Henry Cavill reprising his role as Clark Kent/Superman.

Lex Clark and Bruce

The much debated Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network) is locked-in as the film’s main antagonist, billionaire Lex Luthor. He is publicly adored after helping rebuild Metropolis – while showcasing clear hatred for Superman as the end of human achievement. Other notable actors in the film include Jeremy Irons (The Lion King), Lauren Cohan (The Walking Dead), Callan Mulvey (300: Rise of an Empire), Amy Adams (American Hustle), Holly Hunter (The Incredibles), Scoot McNairy (Non-Stop), and an appearance by former Green Bay Packer halfback Ahman Green.

Supes on set

Brawling on the Big Screen

For the majority of this movie, we’ll see the two titans facing off. Many initially wondered why they are fighting each other. Batman sees Superman as an alien threat to mankind after the destructive battle in Metropolis during Man of Steel, and blames Superman. On the other hand, Superman sees Batman as a brutal vigilante – stating, “[Batman] thinks he’s above the law.” In essence, they are two sides of the same coin. Affleck recently stated in Empire Magazine, “Rather than just ‘Alien v Predator,’ where you have two monsters and they’re going to fight, you have two people who really, truly believe they are doing something heroic and necessary in their conflict.” Both the comic-con trailer and the final official trailer indicate this brawl (among other action sequences) will be a spectacle for the ages.

Supes and Bat engaging

Soundtrack

Returning to compose the epic score is the collaboration of Hans Zimmer (The Dark Knight) and Junkie XL (Mad Max: Fury Road, Deadpool). They both masterfully composed Man of Steel, and while Zimmer is doing most of the soundtrack again, Junkie XL will be taking on the new Batman theme. Four officially released 90-second samples can be found on YouTube and SoundCloud from their production company, WaterTower Music. Rumor also has it they will score the Zack Snyder directed Justice League: Part I due out in late 2017.

LexCorp

The Crew Behind the Cameras

BvS reunites Affleck with the film’s new writer, Chris Terrio, as they worked together closely on the critically-acclaimed film Argo, winning Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay at the 2013 Oscars. Terrio’s writing has been endlessly praised, especially for intellectual ideology, and most notably by Jesse Eisenberg, “[Terrio is] addressing geopolitics in this movie and not in a way that’s pretentious and esoteric.” Jeremy Irons has also been quoted saying the film, “[H]as an amazing screenplay. It’s a blockbuster written from the heart.” BvS is going to exude a dark, grounded tone while still embracing the lighter comic-book side of the mythology – delivering improved humor, characterization, and dialogue.

Ben and Zack BvS

Dawn of the Justice League

At the end of the day, while Batman and Superman will be adversaries in this film, they can’t remain enemies forever. As the subtitle hints, there’s always a chance we might see other DC Comics superheroes (or villains) briefly appear. Ezra Miller (The Perks of Being a Wallflower), Broadway actor Ray Fisher, and Jason Momoa (Game of Thrones) are destined for heroic cameos in the film, and in the case of a Doomsday scenario, perhaps a few cameos could help protect the people of Earth.

Trinity in action

Final Thoughts

On Easter weekend, March 25, this huge Warner Brothers DC film, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, will be remembered for decades, and in the best way possible.

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!

To the Girl He Loved After Me

A really interesting thought that I found very effective. Still thinking about it 10 minutes after reading it.

Becca Tremmel

I think you’re really pretty.

I used to hate thinking you were really pretty.

I used to wish you were plain; I used to wish you were boring.

I used to wish you had dead bodies in your closet or that your Instagram photos weren’t so freakin’ cute.

Because maybe then he wouldn’t have chosen you.

But a few months ago, I had a life altering realization.

And that is why I’m writing this letter.


I’ve been wanting to have this conversation with you for a while because I feel that I owe you an explanation as to why I was in love with your love for so long.

I know he’s yours now.

But he was once mine.

And we were once happy.

For six months, I was the one who lifted him up and made him feel like a little kid. I was the one racing him down…

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My Top 5 Films of All-Time (and some Honorable Mentions)

When it comes to the best movie ever, how on Earth can we decide on just one movie? There are so many good movies out there, especially now that we are in an age where special effects, known as CGI, can really boost (or bust) a film’s quality. After all, who doesn’t love seeing explosions, or flying with Superman? As much as I like that, I think the combination of great acting, script, and director is what really makes a movie great. Go look at the top movies IMDB has on their website. Pretty much all of them have all the things I previously mentioned. The following is a list of my favorites in order from bottom to top, so that way the best is saved for last, plus I’ll add a few that I’m really excited for in the future. But first, I feel as though I should list some honorable mentions. There were so many others I wanted to add, but if I chose that route I would end up with a book, so I’ll have it remain a short list. Keep in mind that these are films that I have seen before – I know there might be some others out there that might top one or two on my list, but I’m working on seeing them! Without further ado, here are my honorable mentions!

Honorable Mentions

Captain Phillips (2013)

Captain Phillips

Captain Phillips really took me by surprise when I watched it for the first time. It was so intense! This movie really keeps you in suspense the entire time, Tom Hanks does a wonderful job as always in the lead role, and I promise you this movie is not a waste of your time! It is also based on a true story. Kevin Spacey is a notable producer for this film that was directed by Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Ultimatum) which delves into the horrible ship hijacking that these poor African kids are forced into doing, and tells the story of how perseverance, wisdom, and heart kept Rich Phillips alive.

12 Years a Slave (2013)

12 Years a Slave

12 Years a Slave was another movie that made me feel sad and depressed throughout its entirety, and I loved it for that reason! The story unfolds with Solomon Northup, a free black man in New York, was kidnapped and forced into slavery down South. With twists and turns throughout the film, fantastic acting by Chiwetel Ejiofor and Lupita Nyong’o, as well as producer Brad Pitt and directed by Steve McQueen (Shame) won Best Picture at the 2014 Oscars. Trust me, this movie didn’t win that award for no reason. Grab a kleenex or two and enjoy a masterpiece, also based on a true story.

Argo (2012)

Argo

Argo was really close to cracking my top five list. I almost want to go change it quick, but I figure if I do critics will slam me for showing too much favoritism for one of my favorite actor/directors, Ben Affleck, so I’ll just keep it among my honorable mentions. This is a really wonderful film, and won the 2013 Oscar’s Best Picture Award very deservingly so. The synopsis starts with a US Embassy in Iran being overtaken and how six members snuck away without being captured. They were safe at a Canadian-owned house there, but not for long. Then, CIA agent Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) puts together a fake film crew to go scout for locations to shoot a fake movie, while safely bringing the civilians back home (also based on the inspirationally-true story). This film has a star-studded cast in Ben Affleck (director/lead role), Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), John Goodman (Monsters Inc), and screenplay by Chris Terrio, who re-wrote the script for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice from David S. Goyer (The Dark Knight trilogy), but we’ll get to that later. Overall it is a great movie, and I highly recommend it.

Star Wars trilogy (Episodes IV, V, VI)

Star Wars Episode 5

I couldn’t decide between all three of the original George Lucas films, so I’m putting them all together collectively as a whole. Each movie gets better and continuously throws you for a loop, keeping you in the action despite being in a galaxy far, far away. The voice of James Earl Jones as Darth Vader, the progression of a hero in Mark Hamill portraying Luke Skywalker, and the kick-ass nature of Harrison Ford as Han Solo really drive the story forward. How about those special effects for being in the ’70s and ’80s? These are some of the most successful and critically-acclaimed films ever, check them out!

The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)

Pursuit of Happiness

The Pursuit of Happyness is a movie that takes you into the life of the young man Chris Gardner (Will Smth) struggling in life so far, and trying his very best to to improve not only his life, but providing the best care for his son. They are posed with some tough challenges, like Gardner’s job at a prestigious company doesn’t pay since it’s an intern job, where only one person will be hired for the position. A great storyline and some fantastic acting by Will Smith really delves deep into a theme of making the most out of life, and creating the best life for your family.

Man of Steel (2013)

Man of Steel

Of all the films that are going to be mentioned, this one is my personal favorite. While it isn’t perfect, it’s one of the best superhero movies ever to hit the big screen. An origin story that’s directed by Zack Snyder (300), produced by Christopher Nolan (Interstellar) and written by David S. Goyer (The Dark Knight) really puts Superman into a realistic world where he is an outcast because he is different. When he finally discovers where he is from, General Zod (Michael Shannon) and company show up to take Kal-El back, or else Earth will suffer the consequences. What happens next is for you to watch and discuss. An excellent cast, starring Henry Cavill (Immortals), Amy Adams (American Hustle), Russel Crowe (Gladiator, Noah), Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix), Diane Lane (Unfaithful, Hollywoodland), and Kevin Costner (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Field of Dreams), along with intense storytelling really enhance its credibility. Did I forget to mention how visually stunning it is? It’s worth a watch, no matter what you think of the ending, I guarantee it!

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Captain America Winter Soldier

The second installment of the Captain America franchise in the Marvel Cinematic Universe really hits a home-run here. In my humble opinion, it’s the best Marvel movie ever produced, surpassing The Avengers, and especially its sequel, Avengers: Age of Ultron. As IMDB states, “As Steve Rogers struggles to embrace his role in the modern world, he teams up with another super soldier: the black widow, to battle a new threat from an old history: an assassin known as the Winter Soldier.” This film is directed by the Russo brothers and stars Chris Evans (Captain America: The First Avenger), Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction), and Scarlett Johansson (The Avengers). A big improvement story-wise over the first movie, and includes a few small tid-bits from other Avengers that add a nice touch of comedy to it. Like I said, it’s the best Marvel movie yet!

Top 5 Films of All-Time

Now that we’ve gone through my honorable mentions, which are pretty good films in terms of how they make you feel, and entail quality directing, acting, producing, and scripts. The list that follows is my top five films of all-time, here we go!

#5 – Forrest Gump (1994)

Forrest Gump

If you haven’t seen Forrest Gump, I highly encourage you to do so as soon as you possibly can. It is considered one of the best critically-acclaimed films ever, and has won six Oscars to prove it. Tom Hanks stars as the title character, who is not the most intelligent man on the planet, yet finds himself at many historic events. This theme of being able to accomplish whatever you want, no matter what circumstances you might face is an uplifting message that really hits home. But don’t leave out Jenny! She is the one woman who seems to get him, and the one woman who he really understands too, but she keeps eluding him. It’s a wonderful story written by Eric Roth (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) and reunites Hanks with director Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Cast Away).

#4 – The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003)

Lord of the Rings Return of the King

This epic movie closes the chapter on the Peter Jackson trilogy, and earned an 8.9 rating on IMDB. It’s also considered one  of the best all-round films ever to hit the cinema. The synopsis is as follows: While Frodo and Sam continue to approach Mount Doom to destroy the One Ring, unaware of the path Gollum is leading them on, the former Fellowship aid Rohan and Gondor in a great battle in the Pelennor Fields, Minas Turith, and the Black Gates as Sauron wages his last war against Middle-Earth. Starring Elijah Wood, Ian McKellan, and Viggo Mortensen, this fantasy action-packed adventure will leave you stunned. It won 11 Oscars- a great film!

#3 – The Dark Knight (2008)

Dark Knight

These next three films can easily be interchanged, but in my #3 spot I have The Dark Knight, directed by Christopher Nolan. Starring Heath Ledger (seen above, Brokeback Mountain), Aaron Eckhart (Battle Los Angeles, Olympus Has Fallen), Michael Caine (Inception, Interstellar), Maggie Gyllenhaal (White House Down), Morgan Freeman (Shawshank Redemption, Se7en), and Gary Oldman (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix), the second installment of DC Comics’s biggest moneymaker brings us Christian Bale reprising his role as Batman facing off against the Joker, who is wreaking havoc on Gotham. With many twists and turns at unexpected moments, this film really keeps you on your toes until the credits. Many consider this the film that made comic book movies go mainstream in the world of cinema. Take a ride with Legendary Pictures’s psychological thriller that will leave you wanting more!

#2 – Good Will Hunting (1997)

Good Will Hunting

This independent film from 1997 will capture your soul, and possibly your tears. This film sees the best of Robin Williams, and the beginning of fame for Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. Matt Damon, playing Will Hunting, is a janitor at M.I.T. and has a really special gift for math. Unfortunately, he has lived a rough life and needs help from a psychologist named Sean Maguire (Robin Williams). Of all the films on this list, this one might have the very best dialogue and characterization. It has a wonderfully-weaved, beautifully-timed dramedy aspect, and throws in some great themes and ideas to think about and let resonate. Good Will Hunting won two Oscars, and was nominated for Best Picture in 1998. Directed by Gus Van Sant, this movie hits it out of the park. Please watch it!

#1 – The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Shawshank Redemption

My number one movie of all-time is The Shawshank Redemption. Have you ever watched a movie for 142 minutes and walk away feeling numb and not knowing what to do for the rest of the day? That was me after watching this 1994 film. It literally tears one’s soul out, put it back in, and tear it out again. The synopsis for this movie is how two imprisoned men bond over a number of years, finding solace and eventual redemption through acts of common decency.Words have a tough time describing how Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins (Mystic River) aced their roles in this movie. Fun fact – it’s also Morgan Freeman’s favorite film that he has been a part of. With a big, surprise ending, this one is considered an American masterpiece. It’s a must-watch, hands down.

Films I Still Need to Watch / Most Anticipated

Now I’m going to move onto my next section of movies that I know are regarded as classics in American cinema that I still need to watch. I’m also going to include films that I’m very anxious for to come out in theaters.

The Godfather (1972)

The Godfather

Pulp Fiction (1994)

Pulp Fiction

San Andreas (2015)

San Andreas

Gone Girl (2014)

Gone Girl

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice

Star Wars Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015)

Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens

The Great Madden Idea!

Xbox One and PS4

Are you a gamer? Do you enjoy playing the Madden video game franchise? Well, then this is the article for you. I have an idea for them that will hopefully intrigue them into bringing back a certain feature they used to have. Would you like to know what that is?

Madden NFL 06

Football is my favorite sport. I’ve been playing Madden back since I was a kid and just gotten my first PS2 (I feel old, who else does?). Among the ones I most enjoyed playing are Madden NFL ’06 – having Donovan McNabb on the cover was really cool since I was a fan of him, and the new QB vision feature that put emphasis on the awareness attribute, and was also dubbed (gaming-wise) “year of the quarterback.” Being a quarterback myself, I love that thought. I also played Madden NFL ’08, but probably put my most hours into Madden NFL ’10. That game was awesome! From there, I’ve played Madden NFL ’12, ’13, 25 – with all of them not really changing much and making me start losing faith in the future of the quality for the Madden gaming franchise. Having said that, the newest installment in the game really pleasantly surprised not only myself, but many others as well. IGN rated it an 8.7/10, which was at least a whole one point higher than they rated it the year before. It was now much easier to progress players on what they call connected career/franchise mode, where it contains player, coach, and owner modes. I mostly play for that particular part, but I’ve also played online and ultimate team. They’re fun, but don’t intrigue me as much as playing through a career and building a team/progressing a player. Madden NFL ’15 also has a new feature called “chew clock” where you can turn it on at the end of games (or right in the middle of them) to automatically work as accelerated clock and have it skip right to 12 seconds on the clock to snap the ball. It really speeds up the end of a game and saves time. Another great feature it has: the best, realistic graphics and presentation that the game has ever seen. It seems – at least for now – Madden is going in the right direction.

Madden NFL 15

So the Madden franchise is definitely an improvement in the game’s series, but what are they going to do for this coming year? So far they haven’t released any new information lately about it. All they’ve said publicly is their release date, which is August 25, 2015. Speculation is that Madden game developers will be releasing more details come May, but who knows if that is true or not. One thing that is true though is the announcement of Joe Montana Football 16, and much like Madden, not much for details is known about the game. The only time Madden’s franchise has been rivaled was back when ESPN NFL 2K5 came out, and is still considered to this day one of the best football games ever made. It knocked Madden NFL 2005‘s price down from the $50-$60 price range to about $29.99. EA then got the exclusive rights for the NFL, and haven’t been in competition since. Yes, games like NFL Head Coach, NFL Head Coach ’09, and All-Pro Football 2K8 (the only 2K game since EA gained their exclusive rights), but none of them even came close to competing with the iconic Madden games. Montana has said that Madden games are like “roster updates,” and his game would change that idea.

Joe Montana Football 16

Thinking about this new Joe Montana Football 16 game has me really interested in what direction they are going to go and what it is going to be like. He was always one of my biggest inspirations growing up, so I’m really cheering for him to make a great game. I mean, competition only brings out the best in people (and their games), right? I sure hope so in this case! One of the things that came across my mind while pondering about the game was how when I was younger and played the older Madden games, they had all the old classic teams from the past that you could play with, and I always enjoyed that. Of course they didn’t have names, so I would go through and name the players I knew. Also recently, I’m playing a connected franchise as some NFL legends as rookies, and the combination of those thoughts led me to an idea that has been unconscious in my brain for quite a while until now. What if they made a game, or even brought back those classic teams, into their own spin-off game? EA could even include them into their next installment of the Madden franchise if they wanted to. I doubt people are commanding for former legendary teams to be included into Madden NFL ’16 though, sadly.

1985

I used to love watching NFL Films as a kid. I would watch the classic commentary to the NFL Game of the Week (and I’m also a fan of America’s Game) and fall in love with old-school football – whether it be the Colts of the ’60s, Steelers and Cowboys of the ’70s, or the 49ers of the ’80s. With the graphics of the latest Madden and future ones coming, how awesome would it be to play with not only the Hall of Fame player (ex: Warren Moon, John Elway, Walter Payton), but the whole team? For me personally, a dream come true would be able to play with one of those teams in the connected franchise mode and change history. You could make Dan Marino, or even Barry Sanders win a Super Bowl! That is my great Madden idea, and even though the likelihood that it’ll come true is very slim to none, it’s a very entertaining thought. Oh, the joys of “what if?” What are your thoughts? Is this something that you would enjoy to play, or not? Let me know! Thanks for your time, and have a great day gamers!