Archive for December, 2011


Posted in Movies with tags , on 12/23/2011 by Chris

Rocky Balboa

When Stallone announced that he was actually going through with a sixth Rocky movie, people rightfully laughed their asses off. After all, Rocky-as-an-old-man jokes had been around since the mid-80s (“I hear in the next one he fights Alzheimer’s! Har har har”) – and yet, twenty years on, it was actually happening. Critics and Rocky fans alike had every right to feel skeptical, not least of all because by 2006, Stallone’s career was in the direct-to-DVD shitter (Eye See You, anyone?) and bringing Rocky back after 16 years of hibernation just seemed like a last ditch effort for Stallone to stay relevant and on the big screen. As it turned out, 16 years was the right amount of time Stallone needed to bring his saga to the proper conclusion Rocky V just couldn’t provide.

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Posted in Movies with tags , , on 12/18/2011 by Chris

Rocky V (sorta) had the right idea, but the wrong execution. In order to appreciate anything about it, one has to first step back and realize how thoroughly preposterous the series had gotten, no matter how entertaining it was. Rocky had become an age-defying boxing superhero, and almost a completely different person than that scrappy underdog of the first film. Rocky V tries to recapture the spirit of the original by sending Rocko back to his Philly roots, but unfortunately it happens via an idiotic plot contrivance that involves hapless brother-in-law Paulie losing the Balboa family fortune to a shady accountant. It’s a simple but hackneyed way of trying to make Rocky the underdog again, as if robbing him of his wealth will make him more likeable. The ridiculousness doesn’t stop there: Rocky & Co. return home from Russia (this one picks up immediately after Rocky IV), only Rocky’s son has inexplicably aged five years since they left him home in the last one, and is now played by Sage Stallone, Sly’s son. What, did they stay in Russia for five years? Even worse, Rocky now has mild brain damage as a result of the Drago fight, and has to immediately retire. At first this seems like an excuse to change up the plot and keep him out of the ring (and it is), but it also becomes apparent that it’s an excuse to have Rocky once again act like the lovable but loopy buffoon he was in the first one. The whole setup smacks of desperation; surely there could have been more plausible and less dramatic ways of taking the character back down a notch or two, but then again these movies have never been too concerned with plausibility.

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Posted in Movies with tags , , , on 12/14/2011 by Chris

Rocky IV is, in some ways, the polar opposite of the original Rocky. Yet behind the original, it’s arguably the second most popular (often neck-and-neck, I’d say, with Rocky III). Some might argue that it’s the most superfluous of all the Rocky sequels; instead of advancing the character like previous sequels did, this is merely another “adventure” for him – much like how most of the Bond movies are just another adventure for 007. It’s certainly the leanest of all the Rocky movies; if you strip away the opening (which, like Rocky II‘s opening, recaps the previous movie’s ending), the multiple montages, and James Brown’s performance, the movie’s like an hour long. Supporting players (Adrian, Paulie, Apollo), though present, mostly fall by the wayside, and are reduced to caricatures: Adrian the worried but supportive wife, Paulie the perpetually complaining comic relief, etc. It’s all about Rocky’s quest to (once again) overcome the odds as he faces a new opponent, and there doesn’t seem to be much need for anything else. Like I said, by this point it’s like a Bond film, or a comic book: a new villain, a new challenge. And the entertainment value is through the roof.

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Posted in Movies with tags , , , , on 12/10/2011 by Chris

At the very start of Rocky III, it was clear this series was headed in a slightly different direction. It begins with a montage of Rocky – now the heavyweight champ – pummeling his opponents left and right, while a plethora of various headlines and magazine clippings sweep across the screen. Rocky is now a superstar, no longer bumming around the streets and gyms of Philly, and shit, he hardly even looks the same. Stallone was also prepping for his debut as Rambo when he did Rocky III, and it saw him pack on the muscles while dropping dangerously low in body fat. (According to Stallone in his book Sly Moves, a typical day of shooting Rocky III also consisted of running several miles, swimming and weightlifting, all the while getting by on as little as a single can of tuna and multiple cups of coffee.) But the most glaring change is in Rocky’s personality; in an early scene where he bails Paulie out of jail, we’re introduced to the new Rocky: a stiff, articulate man wrapped in an expensive suit, and now living in a mansion. Rocky likes driving his son around in a golf cart, and trains for fights in a hotel ballroom while spectators eat finger foods and pose for pictures with him. Rocky III may be known most for introducing Mr. T and “Eye of the Tiger,” but to me it’s the movie where Rocky acts like a douche.

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Posted in Movies with tags , , on 12/05/2011 by Chris

Rocky II doesn’t tend to get a whole lot of love from casual Rocky fans. Most of the attention goes to the original (which is a classic) and parts III and IV (which are flashy and entertaining). Not helping its case is the fact that it’s mostly an extension/rehash of the original; Rocky retires after taking a beating from Apollo, marries Adrian, then tries to settle into a legitimate lifestyle after spending all of the money he earned from the fight. Meanwhile, Apollo’s ego is bruised when the press question whether he really earned that victory over Rocky, and bullies the “Italian Stallion” into a rematch. Much of Rocky II is mundane – literally the first hour and change is devoted to showing Rocky foolishly spend away his money, and trying but failing to capitalize on his temporary fame by doing product endorsements. Because he doesn’t want to go back to being a strong-arm for local loan shark Gazzo (he gives brother-in-law Paulie the gig instead), Rocky takes a job at the same meat plant where Paulie used to work, and eventually ends up working as sort of a janitor at Mickey’s gym.

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Posted in Movies with tags , , on 12/01/2011 by Chris

Around this time back in 2006, MGM released (or re-released) a box set of all five Rocky movies, to piggy-back/cash in on the release of Rocky Balboa. I promptly picked it up and watched all five – precisely one each night, after which my first priority was hitting the theater. Every year since, I find myself re-watching at least a couple of the movies (Rocky II and V tend to get passed over the most), but when possible I try to watch all six between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The way I see it, the Rocky series always had a strong connection to the holiday season. Why that is I’m not really sure, but for some reason every movie (except Rocky III) seems to take place at least partially over the holidays. In Rocky, his first date with Adrian is on Thanksgiving, and his fight with Apollo is on New Year’s Day. Rocky II‘s big fight is on Thanksgiving, and in Rocky IV he fights Ivan Drago in Russia on Christmas. As for Rocky V and Rocky Balboa, they both partially occur over the holidays as well. In addition, every movie with the exception of parts II and III were released to theaters in either November or December, and you can usually find them on TV in these months more than any other time of year.

Above all else, Rocky is the ultimate feel-good movie – the classic underdog story that virtually anyone can get behind. And like some of the best holiday movies, there’s an inherent level of corniness to it that’s somehow more acceptable and even a little infectious during this time of year. So crack a few eggs into a glass (or just crack open a beer) and get some Rocky going this year:

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