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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Winner and still champion..., November 23, 2010
This review is from: Rocky: The Undisputed Collection (Rocky / Rocky II / Rocky III / Rocky IV / Rocky V / Rocky Balboa) [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
The odds were equally stacked against Sylvester Stallone as they were against his creation, the fictional southpaw boxer Rocky Balboa - a million to one shot. Languishing in obscurity as an extra in small films, Stallone managed to sell his script, about a Philadelphia club fighter who gets a shot at the World Heavyweight Championship, and an American cinematic icon was born. Spanning six films, the Rocky series stands as one of the most lucrative franchises in Hollywood history and has truly penetrated the cultural lexicon.

In Rocky, washed-up Philly boxer Rocky Balboa is granted the chance of a lifetime. Hand-picked by boxing champ Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) as his next opponent, Rocky Balboa (Stallone) must find the physical strength under the tutelage of scrappy trainer Mickey (Burgess Meredith) and the courage to go the distance and prove that he's "not just another bum from the streets." But even if he doesn't win, at least he will find love and self respect in the arms of Adrian (Talia Shire). Rocky won the 1978 Oscar for Best Picture, made the name "Adrian" an annoyance to anyone bearing the name, and inspired countless people to run up staircases and throw their fists in the air triumphantly.

In Rocky II, The Italian Stallion tries to start a family and a new life away from the boxing ring. Despite partial blindness in his right eye sustained from his first bout with Creed and a wife clinging to life, Rocky is lured back to the ring for a rematch that will literally come down to the last second.

Rocky III takes the series in a slightly more surrealistic directon. Rocky's partial blindness is never addressed again for the rest of the franchise, and Rocky's opponents become more like caricatures, in the form of flamboyant wrestler Thunderlips (Hulk Hogan) and grimacing, mohawked brawler Clubber Lang (Mr. T). Life as the world champion has made Rocky complacent after a string of easy fights. But after being soundly beaten by Lang, Rocky finds an unlikely ally in former foe Apollo Creed, who trains Balboa in his own style so he may regain the "eye of the tiger" and reclaim the championship from Lang.

Rocky IV veers directly into the realm of 80's anti-Communist propaganda absurdity and MTV slickness, as Rocky finds himself taking on roided-up Russian superfighter Ivan Drago, who possesses a 1800 PSI punch - harder than actual gunshots! Synth-accompanied training montages abound as Rocky mourns Apollo's death at Drago's hands and heads up to snowy Siberia in order to prepare for the fiercest fight of his life.

In the aftermath of Rocky IV, Rocky finds himself brain-damaged and inexplicably broke in Rocky V. Seems that Rocky's brother-in-law, Paulie (Burt Young), signed away power of attorney over the Balboa fortune to some shady lawyer who loses all the money. Forced into retirement by his scrambled noggin, a much more punch-drunk Rocky sells off his remaining belongings and moves his family back into his old Philadelphia neighborhood. Rocky reopens Mickey's boxing gym and takes a young fighter, Tommy Gunn (Tommy Morrison) under his wing. Tommy quickly rises up the boxing ranks, but betrays Rocky by signing with Don King-esque promoter George Washington Duke (Richard Gant) in order to get a title shot. Gunn wins the title easily, but fears forever living in Rocky's shadow. He calls out Balboa, culminating in a bizarre fist fight between teacher and student on the cold Philly streets. Rocky emerges the victor, yet somehow avoids being arrested while Gunn gets taken away by the cops. Stallone's desire to return the character to its roots after the increasingly cartoonish direction the series was taking is understandable, but having Rocky lose the fortune he fought so hard for and earned over the course of four films is just depressing, let alone the "shady lawyer" angle seemed highly contrived. Rocky V remains the most confusing, misconceived installment in the franchise, and left a bad taste in everyone's mouths, including Stallone's.

Stallone sought to make up for Rocky V with Rocky Balboa, which finds an aged Rocky (Stallone himself was 60) the owner of a a Philly restaurant where he indulges its patrons with stories of his glory days in the ring. Looks like the Italian Stallion has found an opponent even he can't defeat - time (though his brain damage is forgotten, much like his partial blindness). Adrian has since died of "woman's cancer" and Rocky Jr. (Milo Ventimiglia) is now an emotionally distant businessman. After a simulated boxing match on ESPN finds Rocky the victor over current heavyweight champ, the absurdly named Mason "The Line" Dixon (Antonio Tarver), Dixon challenges the long-retired Balboa to an exhibition match. Balboa, longing for one more throwdown, accepts the invitation and sets out to prove that the last thing to age is your heart. Though Rocky Balboa (the film) prescribes to the Rocky formula established from the very beginning and the prospect of a sextagenarian - with or without brain damage - being allowed to take on anyone in a sanctioned boxing match is more than a tad outlandish, this final installment (which Stallone assures us is the FINAL one) feels the most genuine since the original, as Stallone imbues his most iconic character with his own frustration with growing old and that lingering desire to make good on past regrets (like Rocky V) while he still can. With Rocky Balboa, the story finally feels whole.

And you have the whole story here, in Rocky: The Undisputed Collection on Blu-ray.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 12, 2011 7:55:44 AM PST
Excellent review! We have the same thinking for each movie it seems! Well done!
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