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Rocky Balboa
DVD disk
03.19.2007 By: Jason Adams
Rocky Balboa order
Director:
Sylvester Stallone

Actors:
Sylvester Stallone
Burt Young
Antonio Tarver

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Times have changed for Rocky Balboa. With Adrian dead and his son avoiding him, the man now spends his days sitting by his wife’s grave and his nights telling old boxing stories to customers in his restaurant. So when he gets a chance to fight the current heavyweight champ in an exhibition match, it seems like a joke to everyone—everyone, that is, but Rocky. And the Italian Stallion sets out to prove that he ain’t too old for this shit.

Somewhere Mel Gibson and Danny Glover sit in awe.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
The Rocky series essentially consists of the same movie. Characters and subplots may differ, but it’s all just hors d'oeuvres leading up to that big ending fight. ROCKY BALBOA doesn’t break the mold, but it’s probably the best sequel (maybe tied with ROCKY II). While I have a soft spot for Clubber Lang and Ivan Drago, none of the cinematic successors came close to the greatness of the original. What makes ROCKY BALBOA different is that for the first time since 1976, the title character truly feels like the underdog again. There’s no certain victory this time around. Rocky’s dangerously old. He’s an emotional wreck. Yet he’s actually fighting for something personal (that’s not Tommy Morrison’s respect).

Sylvester Stallone knew he had a lot to live up to by bringing back such an iconic character after 16 years, especially when the last outing was universally hated. But he more than pulls it off, putting in a heartfelt performance (along with the great Burt Young). Even as writer/director Stallone impressed me, with a character driven script that took its time to hit the needed emotional notes before the word “fight” was even mentioned, as well as some great visuals. (I don’t see how the final shot could be any more perfect.) Saying ROCKY BALBOA mirrors Stallone’s personal career might sound harsh, but it’s tough not to make that distinction. This isn’t a pointless sequel; like Rocky, Stallone is proving to us that he still has the goods.

My overt praise is not suggesting this is a perfect movie. The "romance" subplot is a bit awkward (a little too father-daughter for my taste) and I wasn’t a big fan of the editing in the final fight (although the fight itself is extremely well-choreographed). However, when punch comes to shove, ROCKY BALBOA got me pumped, lifted my ass off the seat and had me chanting. Is it overly sentimental and inspirational? Perhaps. But it still feels like an incredibly natural way to end the series. Consider yourself forgiven for ROCKY V, Mr. Stallone. (Not RHINESTONE though.)
THE EXTRAS
Two things come across in this solid set of bonus features. One, Sylvester Stallone truly cares about the character of Rocky Balboa. And two, he worked his ass off in every department to make sure he didn’t screw this one up.

Commentary by Sylvester Stallone: Not to be mean, but I was surprised how articulate and intelligent Stallone sounded here. It’s obviously a very personal story for him (there are even times where he says “I” instead of “Rocky” and vice versa) so he’s got plenty to say about the filming, why he brought the character back and even some inspirational stuff about life itself. If you’re a Rocky fan, you’ll enjoy this.

Deleted Scenes: There’s over twenty minutes worth of deleted stuff, including more training, more raw eggs and Rocky wearing a hair net. However, the major find is the alternate ending. I won’t give away the original ending, so I’ll just say that the opposite outcome occurs here.

Boxing’s Bloopers (1:31): The first couple times Stallone messed up and made a wisecrack, I thought for a split second, “The man has a good sense of humor. He should make a comedy.” Then I remembered STOP! OR MY MOM WILL SHOOT and soiled myself.

Skill vs Will: The Making of ROCKY BALBOA (17:47): A general behind the scenes feature centering on the casting and what it’s like shooting in Philadelphia, especially the famous museum steps scene.

Reality in the Ring: Filming Rocky’s Final Fight (15:37): A detailed look at the long road to creating a worthy ending fight for the series. You get a look at Stallone’s hardcore training regimen (the dude is ripped), the months of choreography practice, as well as explanations of how they filmed the fight itself. Both guys took all real hits and it shows. This is definitely the most realistic fight out of all six movies.

Virtual Champion: Creating the Computer Fight (5:08): Seeing Marion Cobretti with those little motion capture balls all over his body is well worth the price of this DVD.

Some Previews, including SPIDER-MAN 3.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
Clichés be damned; when Bill Conti's iconic theme kicked in before the requisite training montage, I got chills. What Sylvester Stallone did with ROCKY BALBOA is a minor miracle. This movie made me feel and care about this character again and it ends the series on a definite high note. And after watching the extras on this disc you still don’t have some respect for what Stallone did, then I think Dolph Lundgren’s fist would like to have a word with you.

Extra Tidbit: Sylvester Stallone’s famous sneer/slurred speech is actually due to paralysis in the left side of his face as a result of complications from birth.
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