ROCKY: What our hero lacks in smarts, he more than makes up for in genuine kindness. Though the first hour can be a bit shaky as the awkward relationship between Rocky and Adrian builds into something tangible, I’m always gunning for this underdog in a battle of blood, sweat and tears that may very well be (in my opinion) the best “reach for the stars” story of all time. And though it’s painfully obvious that Apollo’s ego will get the better of him; that just makes it all the sweeter when Rocky devastates him all fifteen rounds.
ROCKY 2: Somehow Rocky managed to get the girl AND kick the shit out of Apollo, but what pisses me off is that nobody will give him a shot at anything else in life. I loved the building in relationships here, most importantly Pauly’s complete change of persona, and though it took her long enough, Adrian finally came around gave Rock all he needed to hear to go round 2 with Apollo. Sure, this sequel in some ways is simply a fancier retelling of the first film, but I still enjoyed the hell out of Rocky and Apollo’s rematch (maybe even more this time around). I especially dug Apollo’s humbled attitude at the end.
ROCKY 3: Still my favorite of the bunch (and the whole reason I still have “Eye of the Tiger” on some of my gym mixes), this film pushed the envelope as far as intensity and emotion go. Mr. T plays a superb asshole, making you hate him a little too much. Micky’s passing still brings a tear to my eye, but I always dug the reverse psychology here with Rocky going soft and on an ego trip like Apollo did, ending with him getting his ass handed to him in the same fashion. Add to that Apollo helping Rock train for his rematch (one of the most iconic moments in cinema) and you have a film that I STILL to this day watch every time I see it on TV.
ROCKY 4: This one was where I felt the story should end, but I’ll get back to that. Looking back now, this film holds a special kind of interest because of how iconic a fight between Stallone and Dolph Lundgren is and will forever be in my mind. Again, Dolph’s villain was a mean, tough as nails mofo like Mr. T who punishes Rocky something awful (you can’t help but wince and just want it to be over). The storyline here is linear in the way that we’ve seen it done pretty much the same way up to now, so I’d always felt it was a nice way to end the series.
ROCKY 5: Which brings me to this film. This was the only one I never went back to, THIS being the second time I’ve ever watched it. I hated this one when it came out, and I still hate it today. Rocky worked his ass off to get to the top, and taking it all away from him was humiliating and just plain dumb. The Tommy arc pissed me off, despite the enjoyment I experienced while watching Rocky beat the hell out of him. I just think they should have went from ROCKY 4 to ROCKY BALBOA (which is how I choose to look at these films, pretending this one doesn’t exist) as you could tell they were running on fumes here.
ROCKY BALBOA: This one is a remarkable effort from Sly, a true hidden gem of a film that could have easily came off as “milking the franchise” like KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL, but instead took everything you loved about the previous films and Rocky’s lovable character, tweaked it and made it the sequel everyone wanted to see. I still think HEROES star Milo Ventimiglia (who played Rocky’s son) acted like a spoiled bitch in need of a serious punch to the nuts, but other than that this film was pure gold, renewing my faith in Sly and making me want to see more. Not bad for a sixth installment.
Feeling Strong Now! Game: An interactive boxing game in the vein of Punch Out where your trivia answers and punch decisions determine how well your fighter fights. A cool idea.
Three Rounds with Legendary Trainer Lou Duva: A look into the training tactics of World Champion Manager Lou Duva. This guy’s totally old school, there’s probably not many guys like him around anymore.
Interview with a Legend-Bert Sugar: Author/Commentator and Historian: Burt shares his love for the sport of boxing and explains how ROCKY has become more than just a movie. I’ll admit his insight is thought provoking.
“The Opponents”: Producer Robert Chartoff explains the larger than life opponents Rocky has had to face over the years. The actor interviews here are awesome; I wish I knew why Mr. T was the only one to pass this up.
In the Ring: Three-Part Making-Of Documentary: The production team as well as the cast get together to pay homage to the films and discuss the ups and downs of this legacy. This meaty segment proves to me that this may very well be the most loved and celebrated films of all time.
Steadicam: Then and Now with Garrett Brown: Cinematographer Garrett Brown explains the visual tactics used to make these films look like masterpieces. Everyone has loads of respect for Sly here, but not just because of his acting, but because of his superb writing skills.
Make Up! The Art and Form with Michael Westmore: Make up designer Michael Westmore explains the art of make-up effects. This is a crazy science that we don’t even understand the half of. It looked believable to me.
Staccato: A Composer’s Notebook with Bill Conti: Bill explains that movie music is all about emotion, and they did a fantastic job with the ROCKY theme music and as I said before, I still get pumped every time I hear “Eye of the Tiger”.
The Ring of Truth: Art Director James Spencer explains the tools needed to work within budgets, how to get the most of out the actors and how to get around some of the film pitfalls. No easy task.
Behind the Scenes with John Avildsen: Director John Avildsen shows us some raw footage and test screens for the film. It’s hilarious that when first propositioned to direct a “boxing” movie he wanted nothing to do with it; that is until he read it.
Tribute to Burgess Meredith: Sly explains the thought process behind Mickey’s character and why he chose Meredith for the role. Burgess went above and beyond to prepare himself for this role. He was perfect.
Tribute to James Crabe: Director John Avildsen pays homage to cinematographer James Crabe who worked with him on ROCKY as well as eleven other films. You can tell these two were good friends.
Video Commentary with Sylvester Stallone: This is the real gem here; Sly speaking from the heart about his baby. He put everything he had into the ROCKY script and the character and you can easily see that he holds these films close to his heart.
Sylvester Stallone on Dinah! (1976): Back before I was even born, Sly was on the morning talk show Dinah! Here is that footage. I love his suit and the hair.
Rocky Anthology Trailers/TV Spots: We have a trailer for each of the films, four other movie trailers and three TV Spots featuring Sly. It’s fun to watch them after all these years, what a difference.
Extra Tidbit: Burgess Meredith (Mickey) also voiced the villain Golobulus from one of my favorite animated movies of all time: G.I.JOE: THE MOVIE.