The Five: Five Favorite Film Franchises

It has been a while since my last “The Five”.  But I’m back and got another list of share.  With this being peak movie season, I was thinking about film franchises.  So I thought what are the five film franchises that are go to for me.  When I say “film franchises” there has to be at least five films (works well with “The Five” don’t you think).  As always, these are in no particular order:

1.) Star Wars

If there was a film franchise that would be the first to mention on any list of mine, it would be Star Wars.  Though ironically it took the prequels to qualify for this list.  I have always been a huge fan of the series and holds a special place in my heart.  Unfortunately it’s not without its clunker (The Last Jedi) but every film franchise on this list will have one.  But as a whole, I can go back and watch these films with great joy.

2.) Mission:  Impossible

Interestingly, this is the film franchise that I would say has gotten better with each successive film (which is a rarity).  I loved the TV series (both the 60s version and the 80s version which was what I got first introduced to as a kid)  So I was super interested when it hit the big screen.  Ironically, the first film is the clunker in the series to me (mainly because I hated they turned a beloved character into a villain).  But as time has gone on, the film series has gotten better with the latest film being right at the top.

3.) The Fast and the Furious

If there was an unlikely film franchise, this would be it.  I remember when the first one released and being in college and really enjoying it.  By the time they got to Tokyo Drift (which is the clunker), I figured the series was pretty much done.  But they seemed to reinvent themselves with Fast and Furious and since then have gone in over the top and wild directions and have been really entertaining.

4.) Godzilla

Talk about a long running film franchise that I love, Godzilla is that franchise.  There are essentially four eras of films in Japan (not to mention the American versions…but we’re not talking about the 1998 version..that’s an ultimate clunker) that span decades and yet the films made are ones that I find myself going back to watch over and over again, especially the Heisei era films of the 80s-90s.  Anytime I’m in the mood for watching some big monster battles, Godzilla is my go to franchise.

5.) Rocky/Creed

This film franchise is interesting because it was one I already enjoyed (minus the clunker that is Rocky V) but when Creed came along it added even more layers of depth and enjoyment to the franchise.  Beloved characters continue to be beloved and added along new characters that are just as beloved.  That is what a good franchise does.

My Favorite Films of 2015

As we’re coming to the end of 2015, I thought I would share my list of favorite films of 2015.  They are in no particular order, just in the order that I can remember them from the beginning of the year until the end of the year:

Jackie and Ryan

Jackie and Ryan

Jackie and Ryan is the story of two people each at their own crossroads.  Ryan (played by Ben Barnes) is a vagabond musician who rides the rails and stops to make some money playing music.  Jackie (played by Katherine Heigl) is a newly single mom who is trying to rebuild her life after a divorce.  The two meet and each help the other to find the direction that each needs to take.  It wasn’t a well known movie but I really enjoyed it. (Technically this film debuted in Venice in 2014 but wasn’t released in the US until 2015 so it counts as a 2015 movie)

I Am Big Bird

I Am Big Bird

Probably the best documentary of 2015, I Am Big Bird tells the story about the life of Caroll Spinney.  He is best know for his role as Big Bird (as well as Oscar the Grouch) on Sesame Street.  With classic footage, some pretty cool animation as well as interviews from people who know Caroll best (as well as from the man himself), it is a great film and one that any fan of Big Bird and Sesame Street.

I’ll See You In My Dreams

I'll See You In My Dreams

I’ll See You In My Dreams stars Blythe Danner (Gwyneth Paltrow’s mom) as a widow who in her former life was a musician and songstress.  She is kind of stuck in a rut until she encounters and befriends a young man who fixes pools as well as an older gentlemen (played by Sam Elliott) whom she falls in love with.  Those two relationships help her to see that there’s still more to life and to enjoy the people she is with including her daughter and her close best friends.  I love a good story and this film tells a good story.

Love and Mercy

Love And Mercy

Love and Mercy is the biopic of the co-founder of The Beach Boys, Brian Wilson.  The film tells his story in two parts switching back between young Brian Wilson in the 1960s (played by Paul Dano) while he was with the band and the success that he had and older Brian Wilson in the 1980s (played by John Cusack) while he was in the midst of dealing at his lowest point with his mental health and how he helped to overcome that.  Elizabeth Banks and Paul Giamatti also have strong roles in the film.  I’m a fan of a good biopic and this was a really good one.  (This was also a 2014 film with premiere in Toronto International Film Festival but didn’t get released until 2015)

When Marnie Was There

Marnie

When Marnie Was There holds the distinction (for the moment) of being the last Studio Ghibli film to be released (now granted Only Yesterday will finally get a English dubbing & theatrical release in a few months but this so far is the last new feature).  It is adapted from a book by the same name and tells the story of Anna, a 12 year old girl who goes to live with some relatives in the summer to help deal with her asthma.  While she’s there she meets Marnie, a young girl who helps Anna to learn more about herself and that she is truly loved by her family.  I am a huge Studio Ghibli fan and I really enjoyed this film. (Yes I know this is a 2014 film released in Japan but the English dub of the film released this year so it counts)

Inside Out

Inside Out

One could say now we’re getting to the “big time” films.  Inside Out was the first Pixar film of 2015 and in my opinion was the better film.  It tells the story of a young girl named Riley and the “emotions” that are inside her head.  These emotions (Happy, Sad, Fear, Anger, Disgust) interact and help shape Riley as she grows up.  When a move from Minnesota to San Francisco changes things for Riley and her family, there a lot of changes.  These changes also include the emotions learning to change and grow as well.  It is like many Pixar films in that they work on multiple levels.  I loved it and it’s in my top 5 of favorite Pixar films of all time.

Furious 7

Furious 7

I love the Fast and the Furious series of films all the way back to the first one.  So I was excited to see this film as well and it didn’t disappoint me.  This film, like it’s predecessors, is your blockbuster action type movie.  It was a finale of sorts because of the death of Paul Walker which meant his character’s story arc was ending and they did a good job of finishing that story (without killing the character off).  I know there will be a few more films in this series and hopefully they will do as good a job of sticking to what they’re good at with the series.

Ant-Man

Ant Man

Out of the two Marvel films and all the superhero films that released in 2015, Ant-Man was my favorite.  I loved the story of Scott Lang and how an unlikely guy like him became a superhero.  Paul Rudd did a great job as Scott and was a big fan of his in the film (and like me, Paul is a huge Kansas City Royals fan so it was a very good year for him).  The rest of the cast was great too with Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Michael Pena, Judy Greer, Corey Stoll and others.  It had a great mix of comedy and drama and I think sets itself up well for what’s going to happen in Phase 3 of the MCU.

The Peanuts Movie

Charlie Brown and Snoopy

I am a huge Peanuts fan.  I grew up watching the cartoons and reading the comic strips.  My first dog I ever had was a beagle named Snoopy.  So I was super excited for this film to release.  Probably out of any film not named Star Wars, I had the most expectations on this film.  And it didn’t disappoint at all.  I loved this film.  It told a story that is very Charlie Brownesque.  It was a Peanuts movie through and through.  It was a classic story told with 21st century technology (CGI animation).  They got it right with the tone and story and it is an example of what people who are telling new stories of classic franchises should do.

Creed

Rocky and Adonis

Speaking of films that get it right of telling a new story with a classic franchise, Creed is another great example.  It is a spiritual successor/sequel to the Rocky franchise.  It tells the story of Adonis Johnson (played brilliantly by Michael B. Jordan) and his journey to become a boxer.  It’s also the story of how he accepts being the son of Apollo Creed, combatant & friend of Rocky Balboa.  Rocky himself is really the only connection to the previous films (there are a few references and mentions and Apollo’s wife is in the film but a different actress [Phylicia Rashad] plays her in this film) and Stallone does a great job of being the Mickey to Adonis’ Rocky in this film.   It mirrors the first Rocky film but also tells its own story.  To me I feel this film deserves at least a Best Director nomination and at best a Best Picture nomination.  It was the best film not named Star Wars to me in 2015.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

star-wars-the-force-awakens

This was the most anticipated film for me for 2015.  I am a huge Star Wars fan and been one since I could remember.  This was the first film of the franchise that I walked into the theater and had no idea what was going to happen (because I was born the year The Empire Strikes Back released and I was 4 when I saw Return of the Jedi and by the time I saw the Special Editions when I was a teenager I had seen the films numerous times and the prequels I had some kind of idea given that they were prequels).  I loved this film.  Like Creed, this film was it’s own story but yet is connected to the films that came before it.  It had great characters (both new and old) and had a great story.  I am interested in seeing what is in store and hope that Disney and Lucasfilm continue to build on a great start to the next trilogy of the Star Wars saga.

So that’s my list of favorite films of 2015.  What is your list?  Do we have similar films or are there other films that you have on your list?  I’d love to hear what your films are.  I’m looking forward to seeing what good films there will be in 2016

“One Step, One Punch, One Round” Thoughts on Creed

Creed

Yesterday I went and saw the movie Creed, the sequel/spiritual successor to the Rocky franchise.  This was one of the most anticipated movies for 2015 for me.  Anyone that knows me knows that I am a huge fan of the Rocky films (I will also readily admit that Rocky V doesn’t exist in my personal canon).  I grew up watching the films.  I remember watching Rocky IV in the movie theater when I was a kid.  I grew up listening to the soundtrack to Rocky III & IV all the time.  I even did a parody home movie in college based on Rocky.  So needless to say I was excited about the film from that standpoint.

I was also excited about it because it was a story on it’s own.  It wasn’t another sequel.  It wasn’t a remake.  It was set in that “universe” but it was telling it’s own story.  Also I’m a huge fan of actor Michael B. Jordan from his work in Friday Night Lights.

The story is about Adonis Johnson, the son of Apollo Creed by a woman who wasn’t Apollo’s wife.  Apollo died in the ring at the hands of Ivan Drago in Rocky IV before Adonis was born.  Adonis didn’t grow up with his father and it bounced around foster homes and juvenile detention before Apollo’s wife took him in as her own son.  Of course being Apollo’s son, he takes up boxing and wants to make his way in the sport on his own.  He can’t get the trainer at his father’s old gym to train him (who ironically was the son of Apollo & Rocky’s trainer Duke and the actor that played him was the same guy who played Julius Campbell in Remember the Titans).  So Adonis travels across the country to Philadelphia to get Rocky Balboa to train him.  Rocky doesn’t want to be involved but after awhile he reluctantly trains Adonis.

I won’t give away what happens or spoil anything but I do have several thoughts to share on the film.  One, it has the feel of a Rocky film without it being a Rocky film.  You have the training montages.  You have the big fight between Adonis (who eventually takes the name Creed) against the lightweight champion of the world “Pretty” Ricky Conlon (played by Tony Bellew, who is an accomplished boxer in the cruiserweight & light heavyweight divisions).  You have the budding romance between Adonis & singer/songwriter Bianca.  It feels like it fits in the “Rockyverse”.

At the same time, it tells it’s own story.  Aside from clips and pictures of Carl Weathers as Apollo, only Sylvester Stallone was in the film.  You have mentions of Adrian and Paulie and also Rocky’s son Robert but no one from the previous films returns.  The actress who played Apollo’s wife is a different one than played her in the Rocky films (Phylicia Rashad plays her in this film).  And the main theme of the story is one different from the Rocky films (except from maybe the last one Rocky Balboa pertaining to Rocky and his son).

That theme is about about legacy and name.  Adonis tries to make his way without using the name Creed.  The only reason he gets a fight with Conlon is because of his lineage as Creed (and Conlan’s camp was desperate to get a fighter to fight Conlon after he broke the jaw of the #1 contender at their weigh-in).  So Adonis has to live up to the name Creed as well as make his own name.  I think one of the most poignant scenes in the film was the scene when Rocky is training Adonis and they’re standing in front of a mirror.  Rocky points at the reflection in the mirror of Adonis and tells him that he is the toughest fighter that he will ever face.  Rocky wanted Adonis to shadowbox in front of the mirror and focus on punching and avoiding the punches of the reflection as a means of training.

Rocky and Adonis

The line of the film that was a theme was “One step, one punch, one round.”  The biggest fights in our lives have to be handled one step at a time, one punch at a time, one round at a time.  I think that’s a very important message that is handled throughout the film.

A lot of times we see movie franchises get sequels or reboots that don’t need them.  Or they’re done in such a way that detracts from the heart of the movies that came before them.  Creed is not like that at all.  It does a great job of touching on the past while telling a story on it’s own that is compelling.  It is its own movie while also being connected to a great movie franchise.  I would recommend seeing Creed if you’re a Rocky fan or if you’re just a fan of good movies.

Legacy: Thoughts on “Creed” Trailer

This week, the first trailer for the new film Creed released on line.  The film stars Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone.

Jordan plays Adonis Johnson Creed, the son of Apollo Creed.  For those that may not remember, Apollo Creed was the opponent of Rocky Balboa in the first two Rocky films as well as trainer in Rocky III.  Apollo was killed in Rocky IV by Ivan Drago in an exhibition fight.  So Adonis doesn’t grow up with his father around.  This film is his story.  Here is the trailer and my thoughts will be on the other side

By the trailer alone, you wouldn’t necessarily know it is a spinoff of the Rocky films.  Yes, Sly Stallone is in it playing Rocky Balboa.  But he’s not the center of the picture, in fact he’s taking on the role more of Mick or even Apollo (the Rocky III version) as a mentor/father figure.  This is Adonis’ story.  It definitely has the feel of the first Rocky film.

It also has the feel of a story about a young man who is trying to find himself.  He has the legacy with the name Creed with his father being the heavyweight champ.  But he also has no connection to his father.  He never knew him.  He says in the trailer “Every punch I’ve thrown has been on my own.  No one ever showed me how to do this.”

While we barely see who Adonis’ opponent will be in the main event, we do know that he will fight not just that opponent but the weight of the name Creed.  Will he live up to the name Creed?  Will he carry on that legacy in the boxing ring?

I’m a fan of the Rocky series so when I heard about this film I was excited.  But after seeing the trailer, I’m excited just the see the film on its own.  There are a lot of good films that are coming out towards the end of the year and Creed is right up near the top of the list.