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Another Early Review Of ROCKY BALBOA From A New Spy, J-Skell!

Hey, everyone. ”Moriarty” here. We may be seeing more of this guy around, so let’s see how he does with a review of Stallone’s return to his signature character. Is it a welcome return, though?

Hey all, here's my first AICN review. Pretty much spoiler-free. First off, Rocky Balboa is one of my heroes. Not because he's the underdog who always comes back to win. Not because he lived the American dream. Not because when we were younger, my friend seriously believed that ROCKY IV brought down communist Russia. Not even because when I see a Rocky movie I devote the following week to getting off my ass and running through the city in a sweatshirt and winter hat. Rocky is one of my heroes because he has to be the most well-meaning, unpretentious, and charismatic characters ever put on film. Who doesn't like Rocky? Name one person who doesn't. I dare you. Actuaries? Terrorists? The horribly unrealistic parents of Tom Jeter on Studio 60? Hardcore Boston Irish Catholic people who dislike all Italians no matter what? No. Everyone likes Rocky. He went the distance against Apollo, exacted revenge on Clubber Lang, and took down an 8' tall Russian steroid freak. Sure all these accomplishments prove he is awesomeness incarnate, but what separates Rocky from the stereotypical sports hero is that he's always been wonderful human being. The kind of genuinely non-judgmental person who make us wish we could leap on the screen and run along side him. The final film in the series, ROCKY BALBOA keeps that very characterization it's core, and it's that reason the film succeeds. We can all collectively agree to forget ROCKY V ever happened, right? Good. Cause so does this movie. No Sage Stallone. No lame street fights. No Tommy Gunn. More importantly, there's no saddening attempt to modernize Rocky himself. This film makes the rather smart decision of keeping Rocky the same kind of person he was when he started, even though the world around him has changed a great deal. And that's what makes it so compelling. ROCKY BALBOA is a character piece. There I said it. It's a meditation (I use the word loosely) of Rocky in his later years, dealing with the loss of his wife and a distant relationship with his son. He actually lives like most retired boxers do: a simple low-income life in a crummy neighborhood. What's great though, is how he interacts with the community around him. He's a recognizable and beloved figure. He works most nights in his little neighborhood Italian restaurant telling patrons his old fight stories. He takes time out to help his out his old friends and takes a believable interest in troubled kids. In fact, he spends most of the film bringing that "old school" endearing quality to world around him. What's more is the movie ends up being good despite a long list of flaws. There's a litany of weird editing choices: the opening sequence is a little awkward, the film has too many cheesy fades, and even the big fight ends up a little too stylized. Everyone will predictably groan during the bad pop song montage and cringe when some of the actors unleash their bad accents. Even the training montage comes off a little short (you can't tell me it wouldn't take months to get Sly in the kind of ridiculously impressive shape he's in at the end. The dude's 60 years old. It's kind of scary). But it at least the training scene ACTUALLY explains how a guy as old as Rocky can train and have some kind of effectiveness in the ring. I honestly wasn't expecting that. But none of the little complaints really matter, cause the film still works. Remember the weird ass robot from ROCKY III? Remember Hulk Hogan showing up with the little fuzzy ball cape? Yeah it didn't matter cause the movie still worked. And so does this one. The tone strikes an interesting parallel with the first (and my personal favorite) Rocky film because it gets back to what I call "Rocky simply being Rocky." We love to watch him. We love his slurred speech and simpleton way of looking at life. Stallone seems to slip back into that character so easily and it's just the way we remember him. I even disregarded the whole weird plastic surgery thing (justifying in my mind Rocky would need some after having his face bashed in some many times… Please, just roll with it). Some how, even the plot line with Rocky Jr. is a convincing story of what it would be like to be trying to live a regular life when your dad is a beloved sports figure (though the actor who plays Rocky Junior is instantly recognizable now because he's Rogue, I mean Peter from "Heroes"). ROCKY BALBOA brought me back to the old days where I'd stay home sick from school and repeatedly watch my badly-taped VHS copies from badly-edited TNT airings. (I still break them out every once and awhile, 80's commercials are funny). It brought me back cause the film has that old school 70's and 80's vibe in it's approach to telling the story. Can you believe that Hollywood forgot how to make these kind of mainstream character-based films? I imagine it happened somewhere in the mid-nineties when everything had to be an "event-picture" and the first thing thought of was the :30 second commercial. With Rocky movies integrity and nostalgia ALWAYS mean something (reminder: we have already agreed ROCKY V never happened). So, to all the Rocky fans: you should rest your fears, suspend your inner-critic, and just see the film this December. Cause it's worth it. It's like hanging out with old friend you haven't seen in awhile. Enjoy, J Skell PS. I <3 Borat. Loved him for about four years. But is it me or has the Borat-mania already become annoying? I've seen far too many bad Borat impersonations lately.
Readers Talkback
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  • Nov. 13, 2006, 5:30 a.m. CST

    Not first!!!

    by knightrider

    But, I can't wait to see this movie.

  • Nov. 13, 2006, 6:02 a.m. CST

    The fuzzy robot...

    by photoboy

    ... was in Rocky IV, and it was probably the worst part about that film. And what's wrong with the pop song montage? Unless they've chosen a shit song it should be one of the best bits of the film.

  • Nov. 13, 2006, 6:40 a.m. CST

    Frank Stallone song?

    by theBigE

    Does Frank have a song in this movie? 'Cause that would about fit the bill for the training montage.

  • Nov. 13, 2006, 6:42 a.m. CST

    If I can change ... and if you change ... then maybe ..

    by chrth


  • Nov. 13, 2006, 7:08 a.m. CST

    Paulie's love slave...

    by KabutoKoji

    "Remember the weird ass robot from ROCKY III?" Um, no. I remember the weird ass robot from Rocky IV, though...

  • Nov. 13, 2006, 7:39 a.m. CST

    MCMLXXVI got a first with Bay hate!

    by tile_mcgillus

    YES! congrats!

  • Nov. 13, 2006, 8 a.m. CST

    Sounds promising

    by amrisharmpit

    I really hope Sly pulled a rabbit out of the hat with this one. The last two were weak.

  • Nov. 13, 2006, 8:05 a.m. CST

    I don't like Rocky!

    by DerLanghaarige


  • Nov. 13, 2006, 8:35 a.m. CST

    MCMLXXVI is a mug

    by themanlikedave

    MCMLXXVI is a mug

  • Nov. 13, 2006, 8:42 a.m. CST

    How DARE No One Call PLANT!


    Buuuut seriously, folks: Those don't sound like minor complaints to me, they sound like deal breakers. Retreads. Blech.

  • Nov. 13, 2006, 8:49 a.m. CST

    I need montage

    by The Dum Guy

    No really, that's all I want out of a Rocky movie, a good montage. Yep.

  • Nov. 13, 2006, 8:54 a.m. CST

    Rocky V was Underrated

    by DarfurOnTheRocks

    ....Wasn't the robot from Rocky IV? I think that that robot was the closest that Paulie ever got to having a real woman! I got to take the unpopular stance the Rocky V was better than most people give credit. The idea that Rocky was not indestructable was explored, along with his need to live vicariously through the young, Tommy Gunn. I found the final fight to be wonderful. Why? Because Apollo told Rocky "You Fight Great, But, I'm a Great Fighter" and I think that the street brawl proved that Rocky fights great. Anyways, I am looking forward to the new movie...

  • Nov. 13, 2006, 8:57 a.m. CST


    by ABking

    This must be the 100th great review for this film. For the doubters: maybe it's possible STALLONE has made a really really really good film! I count the days until X-MAS!

  • Nov. 13, 2006, 9 a.m. CST

    At least this reviewer paints the movie to be...

    by Childe Roland

    ...what it almost certainly is: a mindless and otherwise pointless slice of macho nostalgia. There's nothing wrong with a bad movie that makes you feel good, and that's what most of the Rocky movies have been. I'll watch it on video, I'm sure. But I do think it's a shame what happened to Sly. He showed so much promise as a film writer with Rocky and First Blood. I guess those were his only two ideas. Pity he had to ruin both by missing hte point of what made them each great (the heroes in those pieces didn't get traditional happy endings and it made them work on a very emotional level...everything he did with the characters after was just trite).

  • Nov. 13, 2006, 9:53 a.m. CST

    Beyond the insanity

    by sundancekeed

    of ABKing and his maturbatory fantasies, I do think this will be a good popcorn movie. Because all of the Rocky movies were. And beyond that, what's wrong with a series of films about a genuinely good natured guy who makes it with humility, perseverence and an optimistic attitude? The Rocky films didn't succeed because of the unrealistic fight sequences. (though admit it, you COULD get caught up in them) They didn't succeed because of the silly situations that the characters found themselves in. (except for the first film) They succeeded because in Balboa, Stallone crafted the kind of "everyman" character that you'd LIKE to know. A guy that you could depend on to watch your house and your kids. A guy who no matter what, would never throw a friend under the bus. A guy who wouldn't be swayed by profit margins or trends or expediency. Simply, a nice guy who you wanted to see catch a break and unlike most who do, when fortune did smile on him, he retained all the characteristics that made you root for him in the first place. And who would retain those characteristics even when the fame and fortune went away. People liked the character. Still do. Beyond all the geriatric jokes to come, the movie will probably do well.

  • Nov. 13, 2006, 9:58 a.m. CST

    Sly's had a Good Career

    by DarfurOnTheRocks

    He perhaps has not had a critically acclaimed one. But he does had an Oscar to brag about. Over The Top still chokes me up to this day.

  • Nov. 13, 2006, 10:02 a.m. CST


    by PhantomSpazzz

    Damn you Michael Bay! FIRST! Too Soon!

  • Nov. 13, 2006, 10:22 a.m. CST

    Regarding Rocky 5...

    by Jaffa8

    he was supposed to die in the street at at the end of that movie...UA made Stallone change the ending, and that's cool cause even though 5 sucked, I'm excited for this one, it sounds GREAT!! GONNA FLY NOW!!!

  • Nov. 13, 2006, 10:45 a.m. CST

    Worked on the movie...

    by Ender's Jeesh

    ... during the Philly shoot (Burt Young's stand-in... and NO, I'm not ugly) and have been saying since Feb. that this movie was going to be surprisingly good. Glad my gut feeling is turning out to be true. FYI: Milo Ventimiglia (Heros, Rocky Jr.) is a helluva nice guy. Humble. Quiet. Was a very anti-Hollywood feel to the whole shoot. And I got to wear Paulie's hat, motherfuckers!

  • Nov. 13, 2006, 10:54 a.m. CST

    Rocky is awesome

    by Acappellaman

    I'm a die hard Rocky fan. Even the worst film in the series is enjoyable on a certain level. I'm really psyched to see this movie. Starting next weekend, my wife and I are going to watch each of the Rocky films - one each Saturday night - and then go see Rocky Balboa on opening night. I can't wait. Do I notice the flaws in the movies? Absolutely! I don't care though, because it's the character of Rocky and what he stands for that I enjoy so much. And the fights are great. Realistic? Hell no, of course not, but they make for good entertainment. Count me in Rocky's corner for this last great Rocky movie. If ABking lives in Chicagoland, I invite him along so we can cheer on Rocky together.

  • Nov. 13, 2006, 1:32 p.m. CST

    and so begins the borat backlash....

    by slappy jones

    as for rocky i can't wait to see it... rocky V totally underrated...he takes it to the streets....THE STREETS....great film....

  • Nov. 13, 2006, 2:36 p.m. CST

    Is everyone using "Rocky V never happened"

    by eraser_x

    because Bill "The Sports Guy" Simmons invented that phrase years ago? Or, did and do others invent that phrase independently?

  • Nov. 13, 2006, 2:43 p.m. CST

    Haven't seen Borat, yet.

    by eraser_x

    Most of the old Borat TV bits on youtube give only a slight chuckle at most, but I'm hoping that all the great reviews of the movie mean that the movie's bits are funnier than the old TV skits. So, given that the reviewer says he loved the old Borat but not the new Borat, I am instantly suspicious that the reviewer is one of those people who conform with other wannabe nonconformists by dropping something as soon as it becomes popular. It's just a suspicion, at this point.

  • Nov. 13, 2006, 2:48 p.m. CST

    okay, actually the reviewer isn't dropping Borat;

    by eraser_x

    he's just annoyed that so many uncool others now also like Borat; and he's bragging that he liked Borat first. It's still a too-self-conscious thing to do. The guy must be in his teens or early 20's and still awkward.

  • Nov. 13, 2006, 3:15 p.m. CST


    by J Skell

    1) Crap. The robot was in Rocky IV, I stand corrected. mea culpa 2) Also. I am so NOT a plant. Why does liking something make it a plant? 3) As for Borat, I'm just mad that the whole Borat phenomenon came about because of the media. It was an organic thing where people were showing each other ali g or the movie. The marketing machine hyped it up and more people were impersonating him from his so-so performances on late night talk shows. 4) Sly said he's pretty much retiring from acting after the new rambo, and may direct if he gets to do his movie about Poe he's always wanted to do

  • Nov. 13, 2006, 3:17 p.m. CST

    This movie better be good

    by Pipple

    Stallone's swan song for his best Character.

  • Nov. 13, 2006, 3:49 p.m. CST

    Rocky XIII....

    by maceodkat

    i'd see that one too

  • Nov. 13, 2006, 4:09 p.m. CST

    ROCKY and BOND will save the HOLIDAY season!

    by ABking

    It seems that BOND and ROCKY are two of the only movies that are gonna break out BIG and save the HOLIDAY season...MGM should count themselves lucky!

  • Nov. 13, 2006, 5:41 p.m. CST

    Robot in ROCKY IV!

    by sledgehammer5050

    This review ends up being quite good despite one minor flaw....the goofie robot was in Rocky 4, not 3.

  • Nov. 13, 2006, 9:16 p.m. CST

    Too Soon!

    by The Ender

    Actually not soon enough, I loves me some Rocky!

  • Nov. 13, 2006, 10:52 p.m. CST


    by Lamerz

    Get over it, loserboy. You suck Bay's dick.

  • Nov. 13, 2006, 10:54 p.m. CST

    Hey Incrediburgible

    by Lamerz

    You're not funny. That schtick is lame. Eat a dick up, muthafucka.

  • Nov. 13, 2006, 11:23 p.m. CST

    Do they play the TeamAmerica montage song

    by S-Mart shopper

    that would make RB worth seeing, and the only person swallowing Bay's dick is Don Murphy who then snowballz Uwe Boll! Remember kids "DAMN YOU MICHAEL BAY" is a pro-movie/life choice not a cliche!

  • Nov. 14, 2006, 3:04 a.m. CST

    Lets pretend Rocky IV didn't happen.

    by Blok Narpin

    "We can all collectively agree to forget ROCKY V ever happened, right? " I'd rather pretend Rocky IV never happened. God, did Rocky IV ever suck. Rocky V was weak but soooo much better then IV.

  • Nov. 14, 2006, 4:15 a.m. CST

    There is no such thing as a bad montage tune

    by Lone Fox

    ...though it may have peaked with 'You're The Best' from Karate Kid. I overheard two 10 year olds on the train re-enacting the Borat 'not joke' skit. Quality performances all round! Rocky V wasn't so bad... except for the soundtrack. All that 90's European rap shit, for the love of fuck sake.

  • Nov. 14, 2006, 4:24 a.m. CST

    "The Count of Monte Fisto"...

    by Carl's hat

    I think I just wet myself.

  • Nov. 14, 2006, 11:47 a.m. CST

    Rocky V was not great...

    by abominate

    ...but it was okay, though I must say some elements in it DID suck, luck Sage as Rocky Jr. He did okay, I just didn't like the kid. I mean, when ROcky and Adrian had the baby in Rocky II, you want to think the kid grows up to be somebody you'd like. Aw, who cares. He aint in the new one. They should put Apollo flashbacks in it.

  • Nov. 14, 2006, 11:52 a.m. CST

    Damn you media

    by LizardMan

    Good review, but ya lost me the second you wrote... "I'm just mad that the whole Borat phenomenon came about because of the media." That kind of assinine, knee-jerk statement makes us ALL look like 'tards. But I seriously enjoyed your review.

  • Nov. 14, 2006, 12:44 p.m. CST

    J Skell and Borat

    by eraser_x

    Thanks, J Skell, for explaining more. I can now relate to your point about Borat a bit. Some people wouldn't know what to like unless the media shoved it down their throats. I remember in college at big party, the DJ played a great danceable song, and everyone left the dance floor because it wasn't one of the songs that they'd heard 1000 times already. But it was a damned good song! Then, two months later, everyone wanted to dance to that song, once it had gotten airplay. That showed me that many people are afraid or unable to make their own judgments.

  • Nov. 18, 2006, 4:18 a.m. CST


    by matrix101


  • Nov. 18, 2006, 3:02 p.m. CST


    by matrix101


  • Dec. 29, 2006, 11:10 a.m. CST


    by J Skell

    Actually there is no reference to absolutely anything from Rocky 5 in this film. It seriously is like it never happened. So... there's that.