Thursday, December 21, 2006

Take you back . . .do do do do . . .take you back...

If you haven’t watched the Rocky movies, I’m going to start you off with Whitney Matheson of USA Today, who was in your position until recently:

Halfway through the film, I realized I'd found a new obsession. This is amazing, though it's completely obvious how it's going to end, I thought to myself. And then ... well, you know what takes place in the final scene. Needless to say, my heart leapt, and I made a mental note to purchase a red hat like Adrian's. On Sunday, I watched Rocky II.

The more Rocky I saw, the more I found to love. At the top of my list was Stallone, who'd never received my full appreciation for his writing, directing, acting and, er, physical talents. (Good lord, he should've won some sort of special Oscar for his physique in Rocky III.) Even in the new movie, he slips back into character so effortlessly, you're not sure where Sly stops and the southpaw begins.

I also enjoy a good fight sequence, and while Rocky's opponents get a little nuttier with each movie, the fight choreography becomes tighter each time. (The new flick features the most realistic-looking bout yet.)

I could go on and on about the montages (my favorite has to be in Rocky III when Stallone and Carl Weathers embrace on the beach -- in slow motion, no less!), the camp (Hulk Hogan, the robot, the tailor-made Survivor lyrics), the wardrobe choices and, of course, the heart of it all: Rocky's romance with Adrian.

On Monday my husband and I attended a screening of Rocky Balboa. The movie is a must-see for fans, especially those yearning to get the bitter taste out of their mouths after the abysmal Rocky V. The crowd really got into it -- they applauded when Rocky ascended the steps and cheered during the fight scene -- and I basked in every flashback, montage and Paulie witticism.

All my life, I was led to believe Rocky Balboa was an athlete (and a guy's guy), but he's really more of a superhero. Yes, I'm 30 years late to the fan club; however, now I'm a lifelong fan.

Three decades from now, I have a feeling some kids being born today will be discovering the same thing.

So there, you should watch the Rocky movies. With the exception of the fifth installment, they’re great. Cheesy? At times, and more and more as the series move on, yes, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing. What’s wrong with a little bit of sappy, sports movie hope every once in a while? Rocky versus Mr. T? Bring it on. Rocky versus a giant, steroid-pumped Russian? Seems reasonable. Rocky as a near sexagenarian taking on The Executioner Antonio Tarver? Boo freakin’ yeah.

There are a lot of parallels between Sly and Rocky in the movie, but Matheson says above, he’s Rocky the entire movie. It’s sort of sad in the end, knowing that Stallone arranged to stand in a crowded arena with the crowd chanting his name, but as Jo Bu told me earlier, this at least gives us some closure considerably better than Rocky V. While Tarver might not be as intimidating as previous opponents, the fight itself is well shot, slipping into Sin City cinematography from time to time, red blood oozing from black and white characters.

The build-up to the fight serves its purpose, because the way every single pundit dismisses Balboa accurately portrays how it would happen in real life. The single best part? Skip Bayless, who is wrong about absolutely everything, saying that Balboa was overrated in his prime (Of course, this does mean Bayless and Cold Pizza/1st and 10 are forever immortalized on film). You understand how Rocky, now without Adrian and with a son who barely associates with him, needs this fight just to prove something to himself.

Max Kellerman is doing commentary for the fight and I think he echoes the sentiments of a lot of people my age or younger who saw the movie when he gets nostalgic about getting to see another Balboa fight. Maybe this movie wasn’t necessary, but this isn’t Jordan-to-the-Wizards or Emmitt-to-the-Cardinals, and doesn’t tarnish the Rocky legacy. If you saw this movie with no prior knowledge or love of its predecessors, you won’t enjoy it, but to go in knowing the history? The flashbacks, the montage, the music, the Rocky-isms: This isn’t just a sequel, it’s a compendium of all the Rocky movies into one roughly-crafted package that, if you have “Eye of the Tiger” on your workout mix, need to see.

No comments: