John G. Avildsen
Granted, I'm probably wasting my breath. Even the people who haven't seen ROCKY (not many I'm guessing) have at least heard of it. It's the film that put Sylvester Stallone on the map, and eventually helped him to become one of the ultimate action heroes (rivaled only by Chuck Norris and Arnold Schwarzenegger... sans Steven Seagal). His acting here is superb, and combined with his masterful screenplay he manages to create the most compelling and interesting character he's ever portrayed. The other characters are just as deep, turning what could've been a collection of one-dimensional faces into a believable community of people just trying to get by. The shy Adrian starts off as a rather bland love interest, but later becomes somebody worth caring about. Rocky's friend Paulie has a similarly strange appeal - even though he's kind of an asshole, you can't help but feel he's a good guy at heart. But of course, Rocky's the one you'll spend your time rooting for - he's the lovable thug who throws one helluva mean punch (now if only he'd stop blocking his opponent's punches with his face...). These characters are only a portion of what makes ROCKY so wonderful.
Still, as good as the film may be, I can't help but feel it's just a tad overrated. Don't get me wrong; I love the movie. But I wouldn't consider it great enough to earn a whopping 10 Oscar nominations (winning 3, including Best Picture), not to mention spawning four sequels (soon to be five with ROCKY BALBOA). But hey, I guess ROCKY's all about going the distance - far be it from me to try and stop it.
The extras are terrific; fans will be thrilled. It's two discs of ROCKY heaven. If you're big on special features, this is without a doubt the version of the film to own. The returning extras from the previous release are the third commentary, the 2 tribute featurettes, and the video commentary - all on disc 2.
Audio Commentary (with actor/writer Sylvester Stallone): All three tracks are interesting (the other two of which can be seen listed below), and they should certainly please fans due to their great variety. Stallone discusses the story and characters and the overall film; the boxing experts discuss the sport, how it's shown in the film, etc. (an especially fun, lively track); the cast/crew track is also worth listening to, but it's obvious that many participants were recorded separately (some old, some new).
Audio Commentary (with boxing trainer Lou Duva and commentator Bert Sugar)
Audio Commentary (with director John Avildsen, producers Irwin Winkler & Robert Chartoff, actors Burt Young, Talia Shire & Carl Weathers, and the inventor of the Steadicam, Garrett Brown)
3 Rounds with Lou Duva (4:32): A brief, not-so-insightful look at how boxing trainer Lou Duva works (among other things).
Interview with a Legend: Bert Sugar (6:47): Commentator and boxing expert Bert Sugar discussing boxing being shown in movies, the reason ROCKY worked so well, etc. More interesting that the previous featurette.
The Opponents (16:10): An interesting and entertaining featurette that goes over each of Rocky's opponents and how they correlate with each of the films.
Also included on this disc are a Sneak Peek at ROCKY BALBOA, 2 Theatrical Trailers, and 3 TV Spots.
In the Ring (1:15:41): An amazing 3-part documentary that discusses in great detail everything you'd want to know about ROCKY. Part 1 goes over the character of Rocky, Stallone's script, the casting, and other aspects of pre-production. Part 2 focuses entirely on Talia Shire (who played Adrian) and Burgess Meredith (who played Mickey, Rocky's coach). Part 3 starts off with a focus on actors Burt Young (who played Paulie) and Carl Weathers (who played Apollo Creed), but then switches over to discuss the movie's music, cast/crew remembrances of the production, the impact the movie had after being released, etc. Overall, it's just an outstanding look at the making of ROCKY.
Steadicam: Then and Now with Garrett Brown (17:26): A fascinating featurette, showing the steadicam usage in ROCKY and how it revolutionized filmmaking.
Make Up! The Art and Form with Michael Westmore (15:09): Westmore was the make-up artist on ROCKY, and here he shows what he did and how he did it. Surprisingly entertaining, as well as interesting.
Staccato: A Composer's Notebook with Bill Conti (11:29): A featurette focusing on Bill Conti, the movie's composer, featuring discussions such as how to make the ROCKY theme sound so perfect.
The Ring of Truth (9:34): James H. Spencer, the film's art director, talks about his work on ROCKY.
Behind the Scenes with Director John Avildsen (12:24): Another interesting featurette, this time focusing on the director and some footage of his 8mm movies. It also goes over the planning and practicing of the final fight, which is also worth watching.
Video Commentary with Sylvester Stallone (28:53): A very interesting piece which has Stallone discussing various aspects of the film's initial production, the evolution of the script, and more. Fans should be grateful concerning the lack of overlap from his audio commentary - I know I was.
Sylvester Stallone on Dinah! (17:19): A humorous and entertaining look-back at Stallone on the show Dinah!, which he went on to help promote the film.
Tribute to Burgess Meredith (7:43)
Tribute to James Crabe (3:34)
Rocky: The Ultimate Guide: This is a nifty little excerpted mini-booklet. It features character information, Rocky facts, and various other interesting tidbits. Nice inclusion (it also helps to make the thick slipcase feel more meaningful, since that's where the booklet is held).
Also, if you pick the DVD up now, you'll get a free pass (up to $10.50) to go see ROCKY BALBOA. The pass expires January 31, 2007.