Plot: Five years after his rematch with Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) seems to have found the good life he has always dreamed of. He has reaped a financial windfall, rattled off ten straight title defenses, and of course, has the love of his wife Adrian (Talia Shire) and his son. A statue of him is about to unveiled to memorialize his trips up those hallowed Philadelphia steps and at the ceremony, Rocky announces his retirement. But before he can make it official, red hot top contender Clubber Lang (Mr. T) barges in and challenges Rocky to a title fight, claiming the champ has dodged the real competition. When he learns his previous defenses have been against mediocre fighters at best, Rocky is determined to prove himself, even against the wishes of Mickey (Burgess Meredith). But when Mickey dies from a heart attack, Rocky finds himself alone and in need of guidance, which is when a most unexpected new trainer steps in…

Entertainment Value: This third installment in the Rocky franchise marks an uptick over Rocky II, even if it still falls short of the classic original picture. This is a Rocky movie, so the narrative is by no means overly creative or unpredictable, but it throws some powerful twists into the mix. I especially appreciate how the competitive rivalry between Rocky and Apollo built over the first two movies pays dividends here, as their bond strengths and friendship blossoms. This is crucial not just in this movie, but in setting the stage for Rocky IV and of course, the eventual Creed films that follow decades later. I also liked seeing Rocky face a new, even more aggressive challenger in Clubber, who is played with great enthusiasm by Mr. T. He is a nice counterpoint to Creed’s intense, but restrained persona, as he is an unhinged animal at times, especially inside the boxing ring. And of course, Rocky’s outlandish spectacle of an exhibition with Hulk Hogan’s Thunderlips is a memorable sequence. As expected, we also have Rocky’s romance, the emotional thread with Mickey, and his own ever present inner doubts, so there’s a nice blend of ingredients here. I think Rocky III is a terrific movie for fans of the series and while it is formulaic, that is part of the Rocky franchise tradition, so it is hard to hold that against the film.

By this third movie, Sylvester Stallone has Rocky down to a science and his performance is in line with the previous installments. His inner doubts surface as always and he follows a similar formula as before, but Stallone does get a little more emotion at times, thanks to the Mickey side thread. This is not a knock on his work here, as he is good as always in the role, but it is routine by this point and this material doesn’t offer him a lot of room to evolve the character. But Carl Weathers is given ample new exploration room as Apollo moves from one sided rival to a more fleshed out role, so he takes advantage of showing the human side of Creed. He brings the same charisma and presence, but with a more likable tone and of course, his scenes with Stallone here are great, as they develop the Balboa/Creed bond even more. I also love Rocky’s new rivals in the over the top Hulk Hogan and the vicious Mr. T, both of whom shine opposite Stallone as he battles to overcome the odds once again. The cast also includes Talia Shire, Burgess Meredith, Tony Burton, and the great Burt Young.

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