Sunday, December 24, 2006

TBG Reviews Rocky Balboa

But, first the trailers…

Transformers - Those of you who've read me long enough know that The Transformers hold a special place in and around my aorta. I grew up on Optimus Prime and his Autobot posse, while rooting for Megatron and his roster of red-eyed devils. And, now I'm convinced that Michael Bay is a greater threat to earth than Unicron ever was. This doesn't just look bad…it looks bad. Big, loud and dumb. It opens July 4 and yes, I'll be there. Shut up, it's got Jazz!

Lucky You- Well, I hate America's current craze with all things poker, but this one should make it into theaters before the renaissance of hearts happens. Eric Bana is apparently obsessed with the game, while Drew Barrymore apparently plays the same along-for-the-ride wife or girlfriend that she played in last year's Fever Pitch. Bob Duvall plays Bana's father and is quite the player in his own right. Just a guess at the ending: father and son end up at the same table and son beats father with a bluff that his old man taught him at age 8. Meh.

Blood & Chocolate - After watching, quite possibly, the worst trailer in the history of cinema, I can only assume that the alternate title was "An American Werewolf in Dawson's Creek". Seriously, people in the audience were howling (sorry) at this one. And, then, when the title flashed on screen… I mean, how did Eric Roberts not land a part in this?

Wild Hogs - Joe Reid might rip up my temporary movie guy membership for this, but this looks more than watchable. John Travolta, Tim Allen, William H. Macy and Martin Lawrence play four middle aged men who form a biker…uh, gang (or whatever assembled urban white guys become). I laughed at most of what I saw, despite the obvious two strikes going in: Martin Lawrence (who should really get the name of that bee that stung him and see someone about the full-body swelling) and Tichina Arnold who, I assume, plays his love interest. Y'know those loud Black women that keep the stereotype alive? That's Mrs. Bootleg. Oh, and Tichina, too.

Rocky Balboa

About 20 minutes in, Rocky is standing next to the torn-down ice rink where he and Adrian skated 30 years ago in the original Rocky. From a few feet away, Paulie shouts out, "It's depressing! It's cold!"

That about sums up the first third of the movie. Since it's common knowledge that Rocky's wife, Adrian, was killed off, I don't mind saying that the "scenes of mourning" go on way too long. Rocky takes us to the old pet store where she worked, the ice rink, the cemetery…meanwhile, everyone wants Rocky to get on with his life, but he…just…can't.

The set-up to get Rocky back in the ring is patently ridiculous, but along the way, his interactions with his son (Milo Ventimiglia) and a grown-up girl from his past (Geraldine Hughes) are, dare I say…entertaining? Sure, each scene with them is written for the sole purpose of concluding with another quasi-inspirational platitude ("be proud of yourself!") but they still work for me.

It's the fight sequences that I had the biggest problem with. The fight itself was fine and typical Rocky stuff, even though the ending can be seen before the bell even rings.

So, in no particular order (no spoilers, of course)…

Larry Merchant - He's the insufferable color commentator on HBO's boxing broadcasts and he has a cameo here. In real life, Merchant talks like a stroke victim who might someday hope to regain 50% of his faculties. Here, he's reciting lines that someone else has written and the result is unlistenable.

Three-6 Mafia - Their music is used as Mason Dixon's (Antonio Carver) entrance theme. Here's the whole song: "Get yo' ass knocked out wif the right, left, right, left, right, left…Get yo' ass knocked out wif the right, left, right, left, right, left…

The post-fight reaction of Mason Dixon - Can't give too much away, but if that's how a 20-something champion reacts after taking a beating from a 50-something has-been…

On a four-star scale, this one's somewhere around a two. On a nostalgia scale, it's off the charts. After a slow start, it builds into everything I remembered when I was eleven years old. For fans of the Rocky series, only, but still better than I thought it would be.