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PCR # 352  (Vol. 7, No. 51)  This edition is for the week of December 18--24, 2006.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review
"Rocky Balboa"

Movie review by:
Michael A. Smith
Four stars

Movies are rated 0 to 4 stars

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Harry and the Haunted Packing Plant....Merry Christmas and Happy New Year From PCR and La Floridiana  by Will Moriaty
"Rocky Balboa"  by Mike Smith
Give the Gift of Cult Films this Year....Publix - Where Shopping Costs a Treasure....Christmas Greeetings  by Andy Lalino
A Prophetic Rocky Balboa Article  by Mark Terry
Oscar News....Quite An Honor....Was "Phantom Menace" Taken?...Passing On This Week....Passing On This Year....My Favorite Films, Part 51: "A Christmas Story"  by Mike Smith
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Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Burt Young, Milo Ventimiglia and Antonio Tarver
Directed by: Sylvester Stallone
Rated: PG
Running Time: 1 hour 42 mins

It's funny how time flies. As a junior in high school I signed up to write for the school paper. I didn't have a lot to say but the class was right before lunch and many times we would head off school property with the intention of selling advertising, though we would all just head to Subway and get a sub. As I was just getting interested in film I proclaimed myself the resident movie guy. I even made friends with Steve Otto, who at the time was the film critic for the Tampa Times and currently still writes for the Tampa Tribune. Steve had graduated from the same high school I attended so I'm sure that gave me a foot up on the other schools. In December 1976, Steve invited me to accompany him on an interview session. A new film was opening soon and the stars were in town to promote it. The stars were Sylvester Stallone and Talia Shire. The film was "ROCKY."

Present day.

Each morning Rocky Balboa (Stallone) rises early, feeds his turtles, gets dressed and heads out the door. In his prime, he would run the streets of Philadelphia. Now, each morning takes him to the grave of his beloved wife, Adrian. After a few minutes he returns to business, which is as the owner of a small Italian restaurant named, of course, Adrians. Like Jake Lamotta and other boxers before him, Rocky spends his time greeting guests and posing for photos. He is the closest thing to royalty in Philly. His son, Robert (Ventimiglia), is working his way up the corporate ladder, angrily aware that it's his father's fame, and last name, that has gotten him where he is. "You throw a big shadow," he tells Rocky. Worried that life is now passing him by, Rocky tells his brother in law Paulie (Young) that he's thinking of putting the gloves back on. Paulie is dumbfounded. "You haven't peaked yet?"

Meanwhile, current heavyweight champ Mason "The Line" Dixon has won another fight but, instead of cheers, he is booed. The boxing scene is in shambles and critics and fans feel that Dixon hasn't fought anyone worth a shot at the title. Because of the lackluster response to the sport ESPN begins airing a series featuring computer simulated fights between the greatest boxers of all time. In the final match, the computer proclaims that Rocky in his prime would beat Dixon handily, which angers the champ. He swears he'd kill Balboa. But how to prove it?

Sylvester Stallone as Rocky BalboaI am a true Rocky fan. I've even run up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and held my arms up high in triumph. Still, when I first heard that Stallone was climbing back into the ring, I viewed this film with great skepticism. I had enjoyed all of the films but the prospect of a 60 year old man duking it out in the ring seemed pretty implausible. I shouldn't have worried. Returning to the heart and soul of the original, "Rocky Balboa" is a story for the ages. His face weathered and scarred from constant battles, Stallone plays Rocky like an old lion who still paces back and forth hoping for one more battle. New visits to old, familiar places give us a glimpse into the heart of a man who has fought all his life for the things he loves, only to see them disappear one by one. An offer to fight Dixon in a charity exhibition takes Rocky on one last journey to the ring. And it is a journey I highly recommend.

The rest of the cast is equally up to the task. Young has always managed to make Paulie the kind of guy you want to dislike but still have a soft spot for. Paulie has always regretted the way he treated Adrian and now he looks at Rocky's return as his own chance at redemption. Ventimiglia does a fine job as a son who hates the fact that he resents the man he wants to impress most. He also bears a passing resemblance to both Stallone and Talia Shire, who played Adrian in the previous films. He even has the same slightly crooked lip as Stallone. Of course, like the previous films, the emotional payoff is the fight and here Stallone the director delivers. Staged in Las Vegas, the bout is well choreographed and intense. If you don't cheer from your seat then you're watching the wrong movie.

December 1976

After the press gathering I met Stallone. I told him that my ambition was to become an actor and he wished me luck. He even gave me an autographed picture. "May your dreams come true," he wrote. And he signed it "Sly." I still have the photo. Like Rocky it's beaten and weathered, but 30 years later it's still around. So is Rocky and that is a wonderful thing.

On a scale of zero to four stars I give "Rocky Balboa"  Four stars

This week's movie review of "Rocky Balboa" is ©2006 by Michael A. Smith.  All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2006, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2006 by Nolan B. Canova.