Tag Archives: Rocky Balboa

Film Review: Derek Wayne Johnson’s 40 Years of Rocky: The Birth of a Classic

40 YEARS OF ROCKY: THE BIRTH OF A CLASSIC — Epic Documentary ...

Filmmaker Derek Wayne Johnson delivers a beautiful tribute to cinema’s most beloved underdog movie.

What more can be said about Sylvester Stallone’s most seminal film and character, Rocky? Well – a lot. Filmmaker Derek Wayne Johnson, the man behind John G. Avildsen King of the Underdogs and Stallone: Frank, That Is has crafted a beautiful showboat of a film that solidifies Rocky’s place alongside Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and James Bond as being not just an important part of modern cinema, but more-so showcasing how Rocky has become a significant part of American culture, conveying how an underdog was able to make the greatest underdog story of all time.

The film, with its very lean runtime of just 30 minutes, is patched together with home movies, behind the scenes footage and rehearsal footage shot by John G. Avildsen, as well as on-set footage that was found in the basement of Troma Entertainment by Rocky’s production manager Lloyd Kaufman almost 40 years after it was shot. Most of this footage has been seen on DVD and Blu-Ray special features, but Johnson’s new documentary includes some snippets of never before seen home movies from Avildsen’s personal collection. Along with Stallone’s steadfast narration, the viewer is able to take a closer look behind the making of one of the greatest films of all time. It is a thrilling experience, watching unseen footage, along with hearing a very intimate recount from Stallone, who is unseen, just heard as the 8mm film flickers across the screen.

Johnson, who didn’t just direct but also produced, assembles a very poignant and remarkably touching tribute to the film, allowing the audience a glimmer inside the intimate home movies of Avildsen, who was able to capture the vulnerabilities of Stallone and company through fantastic behind the scenes footage. Greg Sims, Johnson’s musical partner, was able to produce a remarkable score that finds its own voice to guide the audience through the picture, without retreading Bill Conti or any of the popular music featured in the franchise.

Rocky is just one of those films that has grown a legacy onto itself – everyone knows who Rocky is, yet not many know the pain and triumph it took to get the film made, or how the film had revolutionized filmmaking by the invention of the Steadicam by Garrett Brown that has since become a mainstay in filmmaking.  Derek Wayne Johnson outdoes himself with this film and has become an artist who, with each new film, grows as a filmmaker, creating an objective view of whatever subject undercard matter he chooses to tackle, yet allows the audience a very intimate look into the world of film, and in particular those who sacrificed everything to tell their stories the way they needed to tell them. If 40 Years of Rocky: The Birth of a Classic tells us anything, it is that Rocky isn’t just a film or a character Sylvester Stallone wrote and played, Rocky has become a part of American culture – world culture; and that we all have a Rocky inside of us, and between Stallone’s words and Avildsen’s footage, what Derek Wayne Johnson is telling us is to embrace that part of ourselves, and champion our own underdog.

40 Years of Rocky: The Birth of a Classic is available for preorder on Amazon and iTunes.

CREED – A Review by Frank Mengarelli

CREED excels on every level possible.  It’s a new story that is shored up by one of the most seminal film legacies of all time.  The story is rather simple; the bastard son of Apollo Creed wants to build and champion his father’s legacy. He travels from Los Angeles to Philadelphia to seek out the only man who can train him, Rocky Balboa.  Yes, the film is a template of the first ROCKY film, and it is predictable – yet this is an incredibly inspired film that fulfills the legacy of the sacred ROCKY franchise.

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There are two things that make this film as phenomenal as it is.  Firstly, this film is the next collaboration between actor Michael B. Jordan and filmmaker Ryan Coogler who first worked together on the brilliant FRUITVALE STATION.  These two are a perfect team, ranking up amongst the team of Nicolas Winding Refn and Ryan Gosling and the early work between Martin Scorsese and Harvey Keitel/Robert De Niro.   There is a scene in this film, which is to be absolutely marveled at – the second fight featuring Michael B. Jordan is all in one shot.  There aren’t any fancy camera movements to slip in trick edits; it is one showboat of a camera movement.  Coogler brings a fresh look and feel to a franchise that was pretty much closed with Stallone’s final chapter, ROCKY BALBOA.

Regardless of how fantastic this film looks, how good of a performance Jordan gives as Creed, the be-all-end-all to this film is the resurrection of Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa.  Stallone is not only one of the most talented people in Hollywood today, but maybe even ever.  The man has three fantastic franchises under his belt and a probable fourth if CREED gets its own series of films (which I hope happens, it more than deserves).  While Stallone is credited as an actor and producer on the film, he doesn’t get a WGA credit even though he did help polish the script.

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In CREED, Stallone gives not only his best performance as Rocky, but one of the very best of his career.  Rocky’s legacy is continued in the best possible way – he becomes Mick from the first film, and it is beautiful.  Stallone reaches a new emotion depth in his seventh turn as one of the most classic and beloved characters in film history.  This time, we see a more vulnerable and human Rocky.  He’s no longer the superman, he’s an old man fighting his biggest and most personal battle yet.

Michael B. Jordan, Ryan Coogler and Sylvester Stallone are wonderfully complimented by Maryse Alberti’s cinematography, Ritchie Coster’s turn as a skeevy trainer, and Ludwig Göransson’s score.  Possibly my favorite thing about the film is Rocky’s theme GONNA FLY NOW lingers throughout the film, it softly and slowly lurks in the ambient background until it is loudly unleashed while Michael B. Jordan runs down a Philadelphia street in a grey sweat suit.  CREED is a wonderful film on all accounts and is one of the very best of the year.

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