Facing Ali (2009)

I’d Go in the Jungle and Fight a Lion With a Toothpick

I don’t really know what drew me in to watching today’s movie.  I’ve never been that big of a fan of the type of movie or the subject matter, but when I saw a trailer for the movie I decided to add it to my Netflix queue.  I don’t know if I’m not a fan of documentaries because I haven’t seen the right ones or if they’re just not interesting to me.  Most of them seem like I’m just watching a bunch of interviews that are supposed to make me sad.  I’ve also never been that big of a boxing fan because most matches are fairly slow and I just want to see people get knocked out.  On the other hand, a boxing documentary might show me some good highlights, but it also might just try to make me sad.  We’ll see in my review of Facing Ali, directed by Pete McCormack, and including interviews with, and footage of, Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Ken Norton, Larry Holmes, Leon Spinks, George Chuvalo, Sir Henry Cooper, Ron Lyle, Earnie Shavers, and Ernie Terrell.

Muhammad Ali is considered by many to be the greatest boxer of all time.  In this movie, his most memorable fights are relived by the people on the other side of the ring, telling the story of Ali’s life, and their own, through his rise to success, his conversion to Islam, his legal troubles surrounding the Vietnam War, his eventual decline and retirement, and then his Parkinson’s.  And that’s about it.

I still don’t really get the appeal of documentaries.  All this really was to me was a collection of highlights from Muhammad Ali’s fights and interviews, with a couple interviews with his former opponents talking about why he was the greatest, most of who were fairly hard to understand.  I admit that I was fairly interested in the movie just because of the subject matter.  Not knowing very much about boxing, I chose long ago to start calling Muhammad Ali my favorite boxer of all time, and I was very willing to argue with people about it even though I was well aware of the fact that I didn’t know what I was talking about.  That being the case, I was pretty interested in watching Ali’s story from when he started boxing to somewhere around present day and his life with Parkinson’s.  I liked watching the scenes from his fights that I had not seen much of before, but they were pretty brief.  It makes sense as the story they were looking to tell was more about the buildup to the fight and the aftermath than the fight itself.  But the retelling of his history was done well enough and was interesting to a point.  Near the end, they went for a very brief jump from his fighting life into the Parkinson’s, but I didn’t get any kind of emotional impact from it.  And they tied the whole thing up by asking the boxers that they had been interviewing for their stories about the last time they saw Ali, but most of them were extremely lackluster.  Ken Norton’s story was about going up to Ali and joking that they should fight again, then Ali turned slowly towards him and said, “Norton.”  Great story, dude.  Could’ve used some dragons though.

The other part of the documentary consisted of interviews with the boxers that participated in some of Ali’s most famous fights.  The problem with interviewing a bunch of older boxers is that many of them have been hit in the head so many times that they don’t speak very clearly.  A lot of them had to be subtitled even though they were technically speaking English.  A pretty small portion of them (like George Chuvalo and the grill master George Foreman) were much easier to understand.  The stories they told had about an 80% chance of being interesting enough for me to pay attention.  And then there was Leon Spinks, who was not only hard to understand, but also scary to look at.  He had teeth like a chainsaw.

Facing Ali is a fine enough movie, but not one that appeals to me very much.  I’m not a fan of the documentary style so I needed to rely on my limited affections for boxing to get through the movie.  Ali’s life made for an interesting enough story, but the interviews were occasionally hard to understand and not interesting to listen to.  Personally, I’d rather watch Ali, the Will Smith movie.  But if you’re a fan of documentaries, boxing, or both, you’ll probably get a kick out of this movie.  Facing Ali gets “If there don’t be no Ali, you think you’d be sitting here talking to Ron Lyle?” out of “Rumble, young man, rumble!”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook (Robert T. Bicket) and Twitter (iSizzle).  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

Rocky (1976)

You’re Gonna Eat Lightnin’ and You’re Gonna Crap Thunder!

Dani really likes to get the most out of her reviews.  So far, she’s only made two recommendations, but those two recommendations were for 6 movies a piece.  Thankfully, I had already reviewed the first 6, but the second request starts us off on a brand new sextology.  Giggle.  I would call the first movie in this series one of the best movies of all time, and the ensuing sequels spiraled pretty quickly down the drain, allowing part four to have some campy charm, and not bringing it back to quality until years later in the sixth movie.  Thankfully, today we’re talking about the best of the sextology.  Unfortunately, that means I’ll have to do the next five.  Today’s movie is Rocky, written by Sylvester Stallone, directed by John G. Avildsen, and starring Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Carl Weathers, Burgess Meredith, Burt Young, Joe Spinell, Tony Burton, Joe Frazier, and Frank Stallone.  HEY, BABY DANI!!!

Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) is a mediocre boxer that highlights as a debt collector for Anthony Gazzo (Joe Spinell).  He lives in Philadelphia and is a generally good guy who occasionally stalks the quiet, homely pet store clerk named Adrian Pennino (Talia Shire), sister to his friend Paulie (Burt Young).  Rocky’s life changes when the opponent of the undefeated heavyweight champion Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) gets injured, leaving Creed to figure out something else for his New Year’s Day Bicentennial fight.  He comes up with the idea to give a shot at the title to the unlikeliest of contenders.  Rocky Balboa is picked because Creed decides he’s the pinnacle of Americanism due to his nickname “The Italian Stallion.”  …Okay!  I guess that makes sense.  Either way, Rocky’s gonna go through with it.  The owner of the gym he trains at, ex-bantamweight fighter Mickey Goldmill (Burgess Meredith), becomes Rocky’s manager.

This movie makes me sad.  Not because of the quality of the movie; it’s actually really good and still totally holds up.  And it’s also not because of the material, because it kind of has a happy ending.  What makes me sad is that I know there are some people (mostly women) that refuse to watch this movie and it’s sequels because they have an idea of what the movie is that isn’t actually true.  I would assume that they think the movie is just a boxing movie as the sequels became.  It’s true that this is a boxing movie, and a really great example of the underdog overcoming expectations and triumphing, but this is actually a secondary plot in the movie.  Another big plot in the movie is actually a love story.  In fact, the climax of the movie is not the outcome of Rocky’s battle with Apollo Creed, it’s Adrian and Rocky confessing their love for each other.  Women should be all over that stuff!  I would say they do beat us over the head a little bit with how good of a guy Rocky is in this movie.  He helps drunks off the sidewalk, he goes against his bosses orders when it comes to hurting people that owe him money, he gives inspirational speeches to ne’er-do-well children, and is crushing on the homely girl instead of some hot bimbo.  The first time he kisses Adrian is a little bit on the rapey side, but she digs him later so that’s her problem.  Another thing that makes me mad about women not wanting to give this movie a chance is that this thing was nominated for 9 Academy Awards, winning three of them, for things like Best Picture (won), Best Director (won), and nominations for Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Original Screenplay.  I’m not just arguing for a movie that I like, this is a movie that makes it into most top 100 films of all time lists.  Bitches, y’all need to get over the boxing and watch this movie.  I’m a poor excuse for a man, and have admitted it on numerous occasions.  I hate the greater majority of all sports, and am not particularly a fan of boxing, but I still love this movie.  This movie can’t be faulted for it because it’s the first in the series, but you can pay attention to the basic formula of the movie and have a good idea of how the remaining movies will turn out.  Rocky will probably be an underdog, he’ll get mopey about it for a little while, then he’ll train super hard in a low tech kind of way, and then he’ll at least perform beyond expectations, if not win.  That’s a basic plot summary of all of the Rocky movies.  But this is the first one, so it can’t be blamed.

I felt like all of the performances in this movie were very real, but a few of them were still irritating.  This movie makes me wonder why Sylvester Stallone doesn’t act anymore.  I know he still shows up in movies, but he left actual acting by the wayside.  His performance in this movie was really good and seemed very real, but he got irritating over the course of the movie.  He just wouldn’t shut up at times in this movie.  Like when he was ice skating with Adrian.  It might have been his character’s nerves, but his mouth just kept letting things spill out of it.  Even with that, he was very good in this movie.  Talia Shire was also pretty good, but didn’t have to do a lot.  Her character was realistic, but was also really quiet and reserved, allowing her to sort of coast in the movie.  Carl Weathers was over the top and charismatic for the scenes when he was there, but he didn’t have that much screen time that didn’t involve him punching Rocky in the face.  Burt Young was also very realistic in this movie, but he was also a drunken asshole.  I don’t know how this guy makes it through all the movies.  If I were Rocky, I’d have beaten him to death pretty early in the first movie.  I would say that the hands down best performance in this movie was Burgess Meredith.  He was real and grizzled and angry, mostly only speaking in gravelly yells.  But he also has one great scene of great vulnerability as he goes to basically beg Rocky to let him be his manager.  Just fantastic.

Women-folk, you need to get over the fact that there is boxing in this movie and watch it.  It’s a fantastic underdog story and a good love story mixed in there as well.  It’s much more about the relationships and how they change with this fight than about the fight itself.  But it’s also a pretty good boxing movie as well.  The performances in the movie are really good and they feel like real people, so much so that a few of them are irritating, but they work for the movie.  I think this movie needs to be watched, should be in any respectable DVD collection, and would easily make it into a list of my favorite movies of all time.  Get to watching this movie.  And come back in the next couple of days to find out which (if any) of the other ones you should watch.  For today, Rocky gets “He doesn’t know it’s a damn show!  He thinks it’s a damn fight!” out of “ADRIAN!”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook (Robert T. Bicket) and Twitter (iSizzle).  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.