Wednesday, December 20, 2006

No Easy Way Out

It should be said that kicking boy Bill Simmons has eloquently described how men in our demographic react to the Rocky movies. As much as we loathe him for all things Red Sox related, he's pretty much nailed everything here. But now that there's the alleged final chapter in the Rocky saga out in theaters and getting reviews calling it the best in the series since the original, our big time boy Simmons got a sneak peak before anyone else and has thoroughly dissed Sly's latest effort. As Marvin in Pulp Fiction would paraphrase, I can't even offer an opinion on this as I'm not seeing the film until Friday (Rocky Balboa, not Pulp for the 485th time). It just seems really odd that somebody like Simmons, who spoke for all men aged 25-45 regarding the first four Rocky flicks, would utterly diss the latest installment, other than to recommend it backhandedly. "It's one of the most embarrassing sports movies ever made, yet every Rocky fan should be required to go, for closure," Simmons says.

In this corner, I think I'm going to listen to actual movie critics, most of who have been incredibly kind towards the 6th Rocky film and are predicting big time grosses for the flick. Like Simmons, I probably like (and watch) the first four Rocky films a little too much. But I don't need his opinion on this last film. Maybe I too just need closure. Of course if I would have listened to Simmons NFL picks all year, I'd be filing for bankruptcy this Christmas.

Better news: If you need to request that last second gift, by all means go for Season 3 of The Sopranos, currently airing all month on HBO In Demand and finally bargain priced (for a 4 disc set anyway) at all major DVD outlets (including to the link posted above). Rewatching these episodes, this was clearly the Sgt. Pepper season for the series. Everyone, from the writers to the actors, were working at another level. You can't watch just one episode without craving to see another. The work is that great. Consider this:
  • Most of the more infamous episodes come from this season: Pine Barrens (where Paulie and Christopher are lost in the woods with the Russian); Employee of the Month (Dr. Melfi is shockingly raped and chooses in the end to not let Tony in on the thing for revenge); University (the one with Ralph killing the stripper carrying his child and Tony exacting revenge on Ralphie); and one of my all-time favorites, Second Opinion (a showcase for Dominic Chianese as Uncle Junior).
  • The best selection of music in the series history, from Tony singing along to Steely Dan's "Dirty Work" in the season opener, to the consistent usage of "Living on a Thin Line" by the Kinks in the University episode, to the multiple versions of "Return to Me" in the penultimate episode called Amour Fou.
  • Speaking of Rocky, Burt Young (aka Paulie) appears in one episode (Another Toothpick) as Bobby Bacala's father, dying of cancer but wanting to do one last hit.
  • Maybe my memory's fading, but nearly every episode warns of nudity before it begins. Never hurts.
  • A never better looking Annabella Sciorra scoring perhaps her best role as Tony's love interest Gloria Trillo. I only wished she could have stuck around (or as Tony would say, hung around) longer other than dream sequences.
  • Even though both would continue with incredible work on the show, this is the best James Gandolfini and Edie Falco have ever been, primarily because both are giving the lion's share of the work. Both won deserved Emmys.
  • Not that awards matter (especially no the Emmys, where they often screw things up worse than the Grammys), but that season, the show was nominated for 22 freaking awards. Twenty-two? They were up for four of the five writing slots. That's how good of a season it was.

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