Rocky Balboa. Man. Rocky. Freaking. Balboa. Wow. Well, now, look. I know no one was really asking for another go-round. I wasn’t. Folks are still pissed about Rocky V and Tommy Gunn, the little prick. But I’ve been looking at the throwbackish publicity materials, and hey — it’s Rocko. Y’know? He’s from Philly, he punches meat, he loved his trainer. It’s Rocko. He even made friends with Apollo, fer cryin’ out loud. He’s the American, streetwise, meat-punchin’ (he loves it so), funny-little-hat-wearin’ James Bond, Lord help us. Plus, he fights a guy named Mason “The Line” Dixon (real-life bruiser Antonio Tarver), a worthy addition to the canon, at least handlewise — it’s possibly the best name for a Rocky opponent since (dare I?) Creed himself. (Clubber Lang is sweet-ass, too, but he and Drago are more about their catchphrases. And Thunderlips … hmm.) Ah, well. If nothing else, Rocky Balboa will take the brunt of the puristfan opposition, clearing the way for Rambo IV: Pearl of the Cobra and Beverly Hills Cop IV. (No. Not kidding. Would that I were.) That, and help kill time between Rocky VII: Adrian’s Revenge (you’d better get that reference) and, finally, Rocky VIII: Balboa Parks It. Review of number six next issue.
When you’ve only directed one movie all by yourself, it helps when your buddies don’t do you like the Little Red Hen. (Word.) The good news for Robert De Niro: All his friends pitched in to bake the loaf of cinematic, Oscar-bait bread that is The Good Shepherd: Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie, Alec Baldwin, Billy Crudup, Michael Gambon, William Hurt, Joe Pesci, Timothy Hutton … sheesh. That’s one heck of a DVD commentary. Plus, Oscar-winning (and thrice-nominated) screenwriter Eric Roth. So, the bad news: If this somehow sucks, Mr. Corleone-Bickle-Vronsky-La Motta-Tuttle-Capone-Conway will likely be remembered as both the Greatest Actor of Our Time and the Worst Director in the History of Your Mom’s Face. (Like, Ever.)
You’ll probably recognize Richard Griffiths (and no one else) in The History Boys, which transplants Alan Bennett’s raved-about play from London’s National Theatre to the screen — by way of Broadway and with principal cast intact. A sensitive, witty rumination on learning, friendship, and burgeoning sexual identity? I smell a double-feature pairing with Rocky Balboa! (It’s a distinct odor.) Read the review, page 24.
The worst tragedy in the history of college sports serves as the jumping-off point for We Are Marshall, which, thankfully, is very, very, very far from the worst tragedy in the history of college-sports movies (review, 23). I haven’t given much thought to which film nabs that distinction, but if you even think Necessary Roughness, I’ll kick you in the eyeball.
Screw you, Night at the Museum looks like it might be fun. Owen Wilson, Robin Williams, Steve Coogan, Charlie Murphy, Ben Stiller, Paul Rudd, DICK VAN DYKE? Written by Reno 911 guys? C’mon. Something’s gotta give. Tell Mickey Rooney not to do the Mr. Yunioshi thing, and he can hang out, too.
Sweet. Happy Wednesday.
Ah, yes — and merry, merry Christmas.
— Brian Villalobos
Local premiere dates for limited-release films are tentative and can change at the last minute. Please check your local theater listings to confirm showtimes.