You know, "sequel," can be a dirty word. They make money, sure, but does the world need a follow-up to a tidily, self-contained part one? Really, did we gain anything from "Caddyshack II" we didn't get in the original? But we also shouldn't overlook the occasional sequel that improves on the original and use that source material to construct a more complex work -- "The Godfather, Part II" or "Terminator 2: Judgment Day," for example. "Rocky II," you'll be happy to know is one of those -- a worthy successor to one of the best sports movies of all time.
But why should the mere promise of not tarnishing your memories of the original "Rocky" be reason enough to tune into our "KCET Presents" screening of "Rocky II" at 9 p.m. this Sunday? Here are eight more reasons to tune in.
Didn't see "Rocky I"? Or just don't remember it? No problem. "Rocky II" opens with the final moments of the original "Rocky." And that's especially handy, because it will remind you that Sylvester Stallone's original turn doesn't end well: Rocky loses to Apollo Creed. With all the "Rocky" sequels and Rocky Balboa being remembered as this classic cinematic champ, it can be easy to forget that his first big showdown in the ring ended in failure.
Stallone's commitment to acting. According to IMDb, Stallone tore his right pectoral muscle while working out in preparation for the film's climactic fight. He did the scene anyway. Ouch.
Talia Shire's finding strength behind Adrian. Shire, who scored a Best Actress nomination for the first "Rocky," pulls of an impressive feet here: She convinces you that she's the powerful character in this film even when she's surrounded by rippling muscles. As Talia plays her, Adrian seems shy, but she's not afraid to make her feelings heard. And in the end, Rocky returns to the ring as much to win her respect as he does to claim the title that eluded him in the first film.
The training montage. Why don't more movies have training montages? This one -- with Rocky running with the children of Philadelphia through the city streets -- makes me dig up my cross trainers. Please enjoy:
Also, the scene works on a whole different level if you imagine that the children are actually chasing Rocky.
Frank Stallone. Yep, Sylvester's little brother -- the Billy Carter to Sylvester's Jimmy, if you will -- makes an appearance. Frank is a singer who launched his career by crooning on street corners in Philadelphia. So about 19 minutes into "Rocky II," when you see a vaguely Stallone-looking dude crooning on a Philadelphia street corner, know that it's Frank making a cameo.
That one guy from "E.R." Were you an "E.R." fan? Perhaps you remember actor Paul McCrane, who played Dr. Romano, the bulldoggish, bald-headed chief of surgery? The mean guy who made inappropriate comments? And who got his arm chopped off in a propeller rotor? While still in his teens, McCrane appears as a young Rocky Balboa fan. Check out the clip here:
Sylvester Stallone chasing a chicken. Speaking of clips worth previewing, there's an awesome one of Sylvester Stallone trying to catch a chicken as a form of training. Watch it here:
Yes, it's an Italian dub, but it's the best I could do given the limited availability of "Rocky II" clips online. The language barrier won't prevent you from enjoying watching Sylvester Stallone run in a circle, trying to grab a chicken. In fact, had they just made the sequel "Rocky II: Rocky vs. a Chicken," I would have liked the movie just as much.
The Penguin. With a new "Batman" in theaters this weekend, it's hard not to mention that Burgess Meredith -- who plays Rocky's gruff but loving trainer, Mickey -- also played The Penguin back in the old '60s "Batman" series. If you close your eyes and just listen to Meredith's voice, it's entirely possible to envision The Penguin giving Rocky orders instead of Mickey.
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