Film Review: Angus (1995)

Release Date: September 15th, 1995
Directed by: Patrick Read Johnson
Written by: Jill Gordon
Music by: David E. Russo
Cast: George C. Scott, Chris Owen, Ariana Richards, James Van Der Beek, Charlie Talbert, Kathy Bates, Kevin Connolly, Irvin Kershner, Anna Thomson

Atlas Entertainment, BBC, New Line Cinema, 87 Minutes

Review:

“As for what anybody else thinks, always remember these words and live by them: screw ’em!” – Grandpa

Angus had a pretty big impact on me when I saw it back in the late ’90s. I thought it was one of the best movies of the teen coming-of-age genre. Something about it felt more pure and realistic than the dozens of other films like it and having now seen it, a quarter of a century later, I’m really pleased to discover that not only has it held up but it’s still relevant and even better than similar movies that came after it.

I think that this movie flourished in that it used a cast of mostly unknown teens. Sure, it had Academy Award winners George C. Scott (who refused his Oscar for Patton) and Kathy Bates but they just sort of added legitimacy to the film and probably helped get it in front of audiences that might have otherwise missed it. Plus, they’re both damn good in it and even if their roles are smaller than the teens in the movie, they really have a profound effect on the overall story and Angus’ character arc and personal growth.

The story is about a smart but awkward fat kid who is voted homecoming king as a joke. However, it gives him the opportunity to at least have a dance with the girl he is crushing on, as well as allowing him stand up against the bullies trying to break him down.

It’s a pretty fresh take on the awkward kid trying to win over the popular love interest trope and it’s done remarkably well, which I think has to do with superb writing but also the great performances of the young cast. Frankly, there isn’t a weak link among them and the film’s title character, played by Charlie Talbert, is just great in every scene.

Talbert was a newcomer and this was his first professional credit. Still, this kid held his own sharing scenes with George C. Scott and Kathy Bates and it’s pretty damned impressive.

I think another thing that adds a lot to the picture is the music. The film is full of great tunes from ’90s alternative rock bands and even if it dates the movie, it still sets the tone and allows the viewer to sort of sink into this kid’s world.

Angus is something I should probably revisit more often. It’s absolutely one of the best motion pictures of its type and it’s still good with a message that will always be relevant.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other teen coming-of-age movies of the ’80s and ’90s.

Film Review: Rocky V (1990)

Release Date: November 16th, 1990
Directed by: John G. Avildsen
Written by: Sylvester Stallone
Music by: Bill Conti
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Sage Stallone, Tommy Morrison, Richard Gant, Kevin Connolly, Tony Burton, Delia Sheppard, Burgess Meredith (cameo), Carl Weathers (archive footage), Dolph Lundgren (archive footage),

United Artists, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 104 Minutes

Review:

“Now, like your Mark Twain once said, ‘Virtue has never been as respectable as money.'” – George Washington Duke

I have never gotten the level of hatred that people have for Rocky V. Is it the best in the series? No. But I also don’t think that from a quality standpoint, it is anywhere below the later sequels III and IV. It actually has a great and important story and examines some areas of a boxer’s life and boxing as a sport that were probably long overdue in being explored in this long running film series. There is one big negative but I’ll get to that.

First, the film deals with Rocky Balboa getting brain damage after his bout with Ivan Drago in Rocky IV. It also deals with how athletes are often times taken advantage of by financial crooks, as we see Paulie give power of attorney to their accountant, who lost all their money in a failed scheme. Additionally, we get to see the crookedness of high profile boxing promoters with the character of George Washington Duke, who was an obvious caricature of Don King, who exploited several young boxers that he “owned” for his own personal monetary gain. Lastly, the film deals with a boxer and his relationship with his family and also with his personal struggles when his career is over. Rocky V is a film with a lot of layers, all of which I found to be interesting.

And that’s the thing. You could say that there is too much going on in Rocky V from a narrative aspect but I like that the film addresses these issues, shows them play out naturally and doesn’t have to spell everything out for the audience or beat them over the head with each issue. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to recognize the challenges as they appear and to understand that ultimately, Rocky has always had what he needs most and that the solution is simply embracing the love in your life.

Rocky V may be cheesy at points but aren’t most of the Rocky films to some degree? Balboa is a good hearted guy always ready to crack a bad joke and those characteristics have sort of become larger than Balboa in the films themselves. Plus, by the time you get into the later films, Paulie just adds in his own sense of humor that keeps the later sequels grounded in lightheartedness even with serious subject matter.

This film also brings the original creative team of the first Rocky back together. John G. Avildsen returns to direct, Bill Conti is back on the music and ultimately, it works well to recreate the poor area of Philadelphia that Rocky, Adrian and Paulie rose out of but now have to return to. The addition of Burgess Meredith, even as a ghostly cameo, is a nice nod to the first film and brings things full circle, which was good considering that this was the last film in the series for sixteen years.

The big negative I mentioned before is Tommy Morrision, who played the boxer Tommy Gunn. The character starts as Rocky’s protege but decays into a puppet for the sinister George Washington Duke and thus, becomes Rocky’s big opponent at the end. The problem with Morrison is that he is a real boxer and not an actor. Rocky films work better with actors as the rivals. Imagine if Apollo Creed was played by George Foreman or Larry Holmes, it just wouldn’t have worked as well. Also, I felt the same way about Antonio Tarver in the sixth film and Tony Bellew in Creed. None of these guys had the impact of Apollo, Clubber Lang or Ivan Drago. Plus, Morrison’s line delivery was really painful at times.

While people knock the street fight at the end of the film, I’m fine with it. We’ve seen Rocky in the ring more than a half dozen times. Seeing him take it to the streets and embracing his roots against a jacked up farm boy was kind of cool.

I think that Rocky V came out in a time when the franchise sort of ran its course. It was the fifth film in 14 years. Plus, there was solid competition when it came out, so it didn’t perform well. Critics weren’t crazy about it but they aren’t crazy about most movies. I think people shit on Rocky V because it’s fun to shit on something that everyone hates. But I think it is more about following the crowd and not really about the movie. People just parrot each other’s sentiment and comments without much actual thought of their own but that’s why we always end up with shitty presidential candidates. But I’ll stop there and not go on some political rant.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: Other Rocky films.