Paradise Alley 1978 ****


Sylvester Stallone’s career has been peppered with throwbacks; whether with Rocky, Rambo or The Expendables, he can’t let a franchise idea go. He probably learned a lesson from his directorial debut, in which he reprises the underdog story of Rocky but with a novel twist; he plays Cosmo Carboni who, together with his brother Lenny (Armand Assante) is working the wresting circuit in hell’s Kitchen circa 1946. They’re pot of gold is brother Victor (Lee Canalito), who is making it big in the ring, but the brother’s friendship is tested by the potential success. Stallone loves a good montage;  scenes of carrying large blocks of ice up flights of stairs replace the running montages of Rocky. But Paradise Alley is more complex than most sports movies, looking into the motivations of the characters looking to make a packet; Damon Runyon-esque moments where Stallone is struggling to get his dancing monkey to perform are emblematic of the problems of aspiring dreamers whose ideas exceed their grasp.


Son of Rambow 2007 ***


Writer and director Garth Jennings gave the ailing British comedy genre a shot in the arm with this clever coming of age drama about two British children who decide to make their own Rambo movie after seeing First Blood in 1982. Will Poulter and Bill Milner play kids Lee and Will, and Jessica Hynes plays Will’s mother Mary, who is trying to raise her lad in the traditions of a religion called The Brethren, but the boys find French exchange student Didier (Jules Sitruk) a more welcome influence on their project. While many films are self-referential, Son of Rambow is delightful in its focus on the gap between Hollywood and reality, with a pitch-perfect rendition of British suburban life. Details like the cinema full of kids with lit cigarettes capture nostalgia for the past, and the naivety of the children is infectious in this funny, wise film about loving cinema.