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Sundance 2012 announces Spotlight, Park City at Midnight, and more

Sundance 2012 announces Spotlight, Park City at Midnight, and more (photo)

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Following up their initial competition announcement the folks at the Sundance Film Festival have released the names of thirty additional 2012 selections, in the Spotlight, Park City at Midnight, NEXT, and New Frontiers sections.

Although these sections tend to focus more on young and up-and-coming filmmakers (particularly the NEXT sidebar, which was created just a few years ago with that specific mandate), you might find a few names you recognize in the full list of invited films below. NEXT is where you’ll find the new film from “Great World of Sound” director Craig Zobel; it’s called “Compliance” and it’s described as the (based-on-a-)true story of what happens “when a prank caller convinces a fast food restaurant manager to interrogate an innocent young employee.” Lynn Shelton, director of “Humpday,” will premiere “Your Sister’s Sister” starring Emily Blunt, Rosemarie DeWitt and “Humpday”s Mark Duplass. Duplass also wrote his wife Katie Aselton‘s follow-up to her debut feature “The Freebie.” It’s called “Black Rock” and it stars Aselton, Lake Bell, and Kate Bosworth as “three childhood friends set aside their personal issues and reunite for a girls’ weekend on a remote island off the coast of Maine” until something goes wrong and it turns into a “deadly fight for survival.” You may recall Duplass also stars in “Safety Not Guaranteed,” one of the competition films at Sundance 2012. The guy’s everywhere! He’s like Michael Fassbender only without the brazen frontal nudity.

Going a little further off the beaten path, keep your eye on a film called “Grabbers” in the Park City at Midnight sidebar. It’s a monster movie with a twist so clever it hurts my heart that I didn’t think of it myself: the evil sea creatures that attack the film’s remote Irish village are apparently allergic to alcohol, so being drunk is the only way to guarantee survival. That’s just flat-out brilliant. Also exciting: the film stars Richard Coyle, who UK television fans will fondly remember as Jeff, the hilariously awkward buddy on four seasons of “Coupling.” When the Sundance schedule comes out, I’d mark that one on my calendar.

SPOTLIGHT
“Corpo Celeste” / Italy (Director and screenwriter: Alice Rohrwacher) — After moving back to southern Italy with her mother and older sister, 13-year-old Marta struggles to find her place, restlessly testing the boundaries of an unfamiliar city and the catechism of the Catholic church. Cast: Yle Vianello, Salvatore Cantalupo, Anita Caprioli, Renato Carpentiere.

“Declaration Of War” / Belgium (Director: Valérie Donzelli, Screenwriters: Jérémie Elkaïm, Valérie Donzelli) — A young couple embark upon a painful, enlightening journey when they discover that their newborn child is very ill. Cast: Valérie Donzelli, Jérémie Elkaïm, César Desseix. North American Premiere

“Elena” / Russia (Director: Andrei Zvyagintsev, Screenwriter: Oleg Negin) — A meditative, modern-noir tale about an older woman, Elena, who marries the wealthy business man for whom she worked and, when his health fails, is forced to deal with his estranged daughter who threatens her inheritance. Cast: Andrey Smirnov, Nadezhda Markina, Elena Lyadova, Alexey Rozin.

“Monsieur Lazhar” / Canada (Director and screenwriter: Philippe Falardeau) — An elegant reflection on loss and death focused on an Algerian immigrant teacher who brings emotional stability to a Montreal middle school class shaken by the suicide of their well-liked teacher. Cast: Fellag, Sophie Nélisse, Émilien Néron, Danielle Proulx, Brigitte Poupart.

“The Orator” / New Zealand (Director and screenwriter: Tusi Tamasese) — A Samoan villager must defend his land and family when they are threatened by powerful adversaries. Cast: Fa’afiaula Sagote, Tausili Pushparaj, Salamasina Mataia, Ioata Tanielu.

“The Raid” / Indonesia (Director and screenwriter: Gareth Evans) — All hell breaks loose when an elite SWAT team, given orders to raid a run-down Jakarta apartment building that houses the city’s most notorious crime boss, is forced to fight their way to freedom or die trying. Cast: Iko Uwais, Yayan Ruhian, Joe Taslim, Doni Alamsyah. U.S. Premiere

“Where Do We Go Now?” / France, Lebanon, Italy, Egypt (Director: Nadine Labaki, Screenwriters: Nadine Labaki, Jihad Hojeily, Rodney Al Haddad, with the collaboration of Thomas Bidegain) — A group of Lebanese women try to ease religious tensions between Christians and Muslims in their village. Cast: Claude Baz Moussawbaa, Layla Hakim, Nadine Labaki, Yvonne Maalouf, Antoinette Noufaily. U.S. Premiere

“Wuthering Heights” / United Kingdom (Director: Andrea Arnold, Screenwriters: Andrea Arnold, Olivia Hetreed) — A freshly conceived retelling of Emily Bronte’s classic novel about Heathcliff and Cathy, two teenagers whose passionate love for each other creates a storm of vengeance. Cast: Kaya Scodelario, James Howson, Solomon Glave, Shannon Beer, Steve Evets. U.S. Premiere

“Your Sister’s Sister” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Lynn Shelton) — While still mourning the recent death of his brother, a bereft and confused man finds love and direction in a most unexpected place. Cast: Emily Blunt, Rosemarie DeWitt, Mark Duplass. U.S. Premiere

PARK CITY AT MIDNIGHT
“Black Rock” / U.S.A. (Director: Katie Aselton, Screenwriter: Mark Duplass) — Three childhood friends set aside their personal issues and reunite for a girls’ weekend on a remote island off the coast of Maine. One wrong move turns their weekend getaway into a deadly fight for survival. Cast: Katie Aselton, Lake Bell, Kate Bosworth.

“Excision” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Richard Bates, Jr.) — A disturbed and delusional high school student with aspirations of a career in medicine goes to extremes to earn the approval of her controlling mother. Cast: AnnaLynne McCord, Traci Lords, Ariel Winter, Roger Bart, John Waters.

“Grabbers” / Ireland, United Kingdom (Director: Jon Wright, Screenwriter: Kevin Lehane) — When the residents of an idyllic Irish fishing village are attacked by mysterious, blood-sucking sea creatures, a high blood alcohol content could be the only thing that gets them through the night. Cast: Richard Coyle, Ruth Bradley, Russell Tovey, Bronagh Gallagher.

“The Pact” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Nicholas McCarthy) — As a woman struggles to come to grips with her past in the wake of her mother’s death, an unsettling presence emerges in her childhood home. Cast: Caity Lotz, Casper Van Dien.

“SHUT UP AND PLAY THE HITS” / United Kingdom (Directors: Dylan Southern, Will Lovelace) — A documentary that follows LCD Soundsystem front man James Murphy over a crucial 48-hour period, from the day of their final gig at Madison Square Garden to the morning after, the official end of one of the best live bands in the world.

“Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie” / U.S.A. (Directors and screenwriters: Tim Heidecker, Eric Wareheim) — After two guys are given a billion dollars to make a movie, their Hollywood dreams run off course and they decide to rehabilitate a run-down shopping mall in an attempt to make the money back. Cast: Tim Heidecker, Eric Wareheim.

“V/H/S” / U.S.A. (Directors: Adam Wingard, David Bruckner, Ti West, Glenn McQuaid, Joe Swanberg, Radio Silence, Screenwriters: Simon Barrett, David Bruckner, Ti West, Glenn McQuaid, Radio Silence) — When a group of misfits is hired by an unknown third party to burglarize a desolate house and acquire a rare VHS tape, they discover more found footage than they bargained for. Cast: Joe Swanberg, Calvin Reeder, Adam Wingard, Sophia Takal, Kate Lyn Sheil.

NEXT <=>
“COMPLIANCE” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Craig Zobel) — When a prank caller convinces a fast food restaurant manager to interrogate an innocent young employee, no one is left unscathed. Based on true events. Cast: Ann Dowd, Pat Healy, Dreama Walker, Bill Camp, Philip Ettinger.

“I AM NOT A HIPSTER” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Destin Daniel Cretton) — Set in the indie music and art scene, this is a character-driven story exploring themes of love, loss and what it means to be creative in the face of tragedy. Cast: Dominic Bogart, Alvaro Orlando, Brad William Henke, Tammy Minoff, Kandis Erickson, Lauren Coleman.

“KID-THING” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: David Zellner) — A rebellious girl whose existence is devoid of parental guidance, spends her time roaming the land, shoplifting, and vandalizing. Her routine is broken one day while playing in the woods when she hears a woman calling from a mysterious hole in the ground, asking for help. Cast: Sydney Aguirre, Susan Tyrrell, Nathan Zellner, David Zellner.

“Mosquita y Mari” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Aurora Guerrero) — A friendship between two 15-year-old Latinas becomes complex as they struggle to recognize the sexual undercurrent in their relationship. Cast: Fenessa Pineda, Venecia Troncoso, Joaquín Garrido, Laura Patalano, Dulce Maria Solis.

“My Best Day” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Erin Greenwell) — Karen’s life as a small-town receptionist is turned upside down when the father she never knew calls for a refrigerator repair. That day she encounters a sister addicted to off track betting, a brother struggling with grade school heartache and bullies, and a load of fireworks. Cast: Rachel Style, Ashlie Atkinson, Raúl Castillo, Jo Armeniox, Robert Salerno, Harris Doran.

“Pursuit of Loneliness” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Laurence Thrush) — An elderly patient dies in a county hospital leaving no known next of kin. Over the next 24 hours, four central characters try to find a family member to contact regarding the death of this anonymous individual. Cast: Joy Hille, Sandra Escalante, Sharon Munfus, Kirsi Toivanen, Natalie Fouron.

“Sleepwalk With Me” / U.S.A. (Co-directors: Mike Birbiglia and Seth Barrish, Screenwriters: Mike Birbiglia, Ira Glass, Joe Birbiglia, Seth Barrish) — Reluctant to confront his fears of love, honesty, and growing up, a budding standup comedian has both a hilarious and intense struggle with sleepwalking. Cast: Mike Birbiglia, Lauren Ambrose, Carol Kane, James Rebhorn, Cristin Milioti.

“That’s What She Said” / U.S.A. (Director: Carrie Preston, Screenwriter: Kellie Overbey) — Armed with nothing but their addictions and lots of personal baggage, two best friends and a mysterious young interloper battle a series of misadventures on their quest for love in New York City. Cast: Anne Heche, Marcia DeBonis, Alia Shawkat.

“TWENTY-EIGHT HOTEL ROOMS” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Matt Ross) — Seen only as fragments in the secret world of hotel rooms, a long-term affair becomes perhaps the most significant relationship of a couple’s lives. Cast: Chris Messina, Marin Ireland.

NEW FRONTIER
“Bestiaire” / Canada, France (Director: Denis Côté) — The boundaries we place around animals are provocatively and formally explored in this meditation on the relationship between nature and humanity. World Premiere

“An Oversimplification of Her Beauty” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Terence Nance) — A quixotic young man humorously courses live action and various animated landscapes as he tries to understand himself after a mystery girl stands him up. Cast: Terence Nance, Namik Minter, Chanelle Pearson. World Premiere

“THE PERCEPTION OF MOVING TARGETS” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Weston Currie) — A segmenting journey into the dreams of four neighbors. Cast: Brighid Thomas, Cherie Blackfeather, Gerald Casey, Tom Wood, Jin Camou.

“Room 237” / U.S.A. (Director: Rodney Ascher) — This experimental documentary explores the numerous theories about the real meaning of Stanley Kubrick’s film The Shining. World Premiere

“whiteonwhite:algorithmicnoir” / U.S.A., Kazakhstan (Directors: Eve Sussman | Rufus Corporation, Screenwriters: Eve Sussman, Kevin Messman, Jeff Wood) — A computer program assembles raw elements of music, dialogue, sound and footage shot in Kazakhstan into a generative noir mystery film in this live algorithmic performance. Cast: Jeff Wood, Marina Fedorenko.

What looks good to you at Sundance 2012? Tell us in the comments below or write to us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Rocky IV Paulie Robot

Mr. Roboto

5 Reasons Rocky IV Is Too Rotten to Miss

Catch Rocky IV Friday at 8P during IFC's Rotten Fridays.

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Photo Credit: MGM/UA/YouTube

When Rocky IV was released in 1985, the critics were not kind. (While it wasn’t around back then, the film’s 39% ranking on Rotten Tomatoes speaks for itself.) Less of a movie than a jingoistic music video starring a robot and a steroid-addled, monosyllabic Russian baddie, Rocky IV is a far cry from the Italian Stallion’s humble origins.

Still, more than any movie ever made, it exemplifies the whole “so bad its good” genre. This movie was made for us, the great-unwashed masses of the 1980s, who loved the band Survivor and hated those Commie bastards. Before you catch Rocky IV on IFC’s Rotten Fridays, let’s take a look at some moments that make this flick a “too rotten to miss” classic.

5. That Opening Shot

Rocky IV
United Artists

It takes all of 30 seconds for the audience to know they’re in for one ridiculous rollercoaster ride through a Cold War conniption fit of good vs. evil. Gone is the subtle tone and grounded reality of the first Rocky. In its place we see two gloves, one emblazoned with the American flag, the other with the Soviets’, hurtling toward each other. When they collide, sparks fly, and we witness an explosion decades in the making.

In case the symbolism is too subtle for you, director/writer/star Sylvester Stallone is trying to hint that this movie will be the clash of civilizations we’d all been waiting for, but instead of nuclear bombs, a humble palooka from the streets would be duking it out in the ring with the ultimate representation of coldhearted Communism. If it were up to us, this opening shot would’ve won Best Picture all by itself.


4. So Many Montages

Rocky IV has a running time of 91 minutes and 20 seconds. Its eight montages (yes, EIGHT) run a total of 29 minutes and 10 seconds. That is one third of the movie solely dedicated to montages. (Considering Stallone’s contempt for all things Soviet, we have to wonder if he knows it was a dirty Ruskie who invented the montage.)

During one of the many, many montages, director Stallone actually flashes back to a scene that had happened a minute and half prior, creating the impression that he might actually flashback to the montage we were just watching in the same montage. Stallone clearly loves a good montage set to an inspirational ’80s song, and so do we. Which brings us to…


3. A Soundtrack Full of Pumped Up ’80s Jams

Speaking of montages, they are set to the score of some of the cheesiest hits from the mid-’80s. For once, we’re spared tracks from Frank Stallone, with Stallone replacing his rocker brother with synth-y singles from Survivor, John Cafferty and Kenny Loggins. And of course, Robert Tepper, possessor of an ’80s mullet that could topple empires, crooning “No Easy Way Out.” The music in this movie is one step away from being a parody of the music in this movie. If you ever want to know what cocaine can do to the human mind, just listen to this soundtrack.


2. Rocky Ends the Cold War

Rocky IV speech
United Artists

In one of the most misguided, self-congratulatory, and immediately dated moments in cinema history, good ol’ galoot Rocky Balboa single-handedly ended the Cold War four years before the Berlin Wall came down.

To quote the Italian Stallion himself: “In here…there were two guys… killing each other. But I guess that’s better than millions. What I’m trying to say is… if I can change… and you can change…everybody can change!” And just like that the Soviet public, generals and even the Premier himself rose to their feet in applause, realizing what fools they’d been. This guy beat Mr. T for Heaven’s sake. He knows what he’s talking about!


1. Paulie’s Robot

Okay, let’s all take a deep breath and really consider this for a moment. Rocky IV has a robot butler in it. A movie franchise that began back in 1976 exploring the gritty reality of a bum fighter trying to prove himself somehow limped along long enough to turn into a weak Short Circuit rip-off in which an alcoholic mooch with a history of domestic abuse now gets his coffee served to him by a robot. A robot that he has programmed with a “sultry” lady voice!

Stallone was inspired to include the real life robot Sico in Rocky IV because of the work it did to help autistic children like his son Seargeoh. That’s all very moving, but doesn’t explain why he decided to write a scene where Paulie dubs poor Sico “the love of my life.” It’s a testament to Rocky IV‘s “too rotten to miss” status that Paulie’s robot girlfriend/personal servant isn’t even the craziest thing that happens to Rock and the gang.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” movie Rocky IV this Friday at 8P on IFC. 

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Swimming To Cambodia Spalding Gray

Gray's Anatomy

Everything You Need to Know About the Movie That Inspired “Parker Gail’s Location is Everything”

Brand new Documentary Now! airs Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Cinecom Pictures

This week Documentary Now! spotlights a master monologist with “Parker Gail’s Location is Everything.” Before you tune in at 10P this Wednesday on IFC, check out our guide to Swimming to Cambodia, the 1987 film that captured writer/performer Spalding Gray’s acclaimed one-person show.

Spalding Gray 101

Swimming to Cambodia
Cinecom Pictures

Actor and renowned monologist Spalding Gray spent two years on stage perfecting his Obie Award-winning “Swimming to Cambodia” monologue. In it, Gray tells the story of his eight weeks in Southeast Asia while shooting the 1984 Academy Award-winning movie The Killing Fields. He had a small role, but the experience gave him several anecdotes about hanging out with the film crew and experiencing the local culture, all while searching for “the perfect moment.”

Directed by the Silence of the Lambs Guy

Hannibal Lecter
Orion Pictures/Everett Collection

Acclaimed filmmaker Jonathan Demme took Gray’s two-night, four hour performance and crafted it down to 85 minutes. His use of dramatic lighting, stylish camerawork and a score by performance artist Laurie Anderson was praised by critics and earned the film a cult following. No stranger to groundbreaking docs, Demme also directed the 1984 Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense, which Documentary Now! pays tribute to in this season’s episode “Final Transmission.”

All about the Voices

While it may have been a one-man show, Gray created a repertoire of characters all with distinctive accents. (He portrayed conversations between himself and others just by turning his head.) Our favorite impressions are of his demanding girlfriend Renee and Ivan Strasberg, the South African director of photography on The Killing Fields who, as depicted by Gray, sounds a bit like a Jamaican surfer.

The Original Cranky New Yorker

In one memorable scene, Gray rants about how his noisy upstairs artist neighbors are driving him and Renee crazy. Even in the mid-’80s, there were New Yorkers complaining that the city wasn’t what it used to be.

Show and Tell

Swimming to Cambodia
Cinecom Pictures/YouTube

A big fan of visual aids, Gray used pull-down maps to illustrate his travels. This helped to bring Swimming to Cambodia to life, since he’s basically sitting at a desk the entire time.

Inspired One-Person Shows

Gray’s groundbreaking performances in Swimming and other documentaries like Monster in a Box and the Steven Soderbergh-directed Gray’s Anatomy (about Gray’s struggle with a rare eye condition) paved the way for future one-person shows. (We wouldn’t have everything from Carrie Fisher’s “Wishful Drinking” to Mike Birbiglia’s “Sleepwalk With Me” without him.) Even Doc Now! star Fred Armisen got into the one-person show act for his recent SNL monologue.

Catch Documentary Now!’s tribute to Spalding Gray when “Parker Gail: Location Is Everything” premieres Wednesday, September 28th at 10P on IFC. 

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Rocky IV Stallone Lundgren

Burning Heart

10 Reasons Why Rocky IV Is the Ultimate Rocky Movie

Catch an all-day Rocky movie marathon this Friday, September 30th on IFC.

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Photo Credit: United Artists/Everett Collection

Sure, most people love the first Rocky for its heart, gripping boxing scenes and the classic training montage. Or, you might love Creed for being both a return-to-form and a new exploration of the Rocky mythology. Maybe the thrill of seeing Mr. T and Hulk Hogan in the same movie makes Rocky III your top pick. Well, sorry, you’re wrong: Rocky IV is the greatest of all the “Italian Stallion”‘s movies.

Before you watch the all-day Rocky movie marathon this Friday, September 30th on IFC (with Rocky IV airing at 8P as part of Rotten Fridays), check out a few reasons to appreciate the fourth installment as the king of the series.

1. The Greatest Opening Ever

How many openings are able to sum up the entire conflict of the film in less than a minute and without a single line of dialogue? And how many of those movies have exploding boxing gloves? Just try to watch the opening sequence above and not be completely psyched for the pumped-up flick to come.


2. Montages!

We all know that the best part of any sports movie is the montage, and Rocky IV doesn’t give you one measly montage. There’s a recap of the previous films montage, a getting to Russia Montage, two training montages and an ending fight montage. That’s five montages! There’s probably a montage of montages snuck in there, too.


3. There’s a Full James Brown Musical Number

This movie is so packed with memorable moments, it’s easy to forget one of the first things that happens in the film: Apollo comes out to fight Drago dressed as a shirtless Uncle Sam, while James Brown and a full band play “Living in America.” To drive home the number’s patriotism, there are dancers in tuxedos and top hats, weird unitards and bowler caps, and bedazzled showgirls with headpieces for miles. Oh, and don’t forget the giant tentacled dragon statue on the stage. This is how every boxing match should start. Heck, this is how we always want to enter a room.


4. The Soundtrack

The Rocky IV soundtrack doesn’t just feature James Brown — it has rock anthems galore, all of which make you immediately want to hit the gym. From “Heart’s on Fire” by John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band to “Sweetest Victory” by Touch to multiple Survivor jams, you’ll get pumped and stay pumped. Even the instrumental score rocks! Sure, sometimes it sounds like it was made on a kids Casio, but this soundtrack never quits and — to quote Robert Tepper — never takes the easy way out.


5. Abs!

Rocky IV weights

Every Rocky movie shows off Stallone’s incredible physique, but Rocky IV really ups the game. Not only do we get Dolph Lundgren mostly shirtless looking like a man machine, but we get a wide variety of scenes of Stallone doing impossible tasks. Stallone’s crazy dragon fly crunches, aka a thing no human should be able to do, automatically take this movie to the top.


6. Two words: Ivan Drago

Ivan Drago
United Artists

Not only does Rocky IV explore the global conflict between the US and the Soviet Union, but it encapsulates all of our fears of the Cold War in one perfect villain. Ivan Drago only trains with machines and science and looks like he stepped out of an Aryan Nations recruitment poster. He also only responds in short, cold phrases like “If he dies, he dies,” or “I must break you.” There’s never been a villain who we so clearly want to get the crap beat out of than Ivan Drago.


7. Rocky Makes Chores Look Badass

Rocky saw
United Artists

Rocky doesn’t need to be hooked up to machines to become the perfect fighter. All he needs are huge tires and some outdoor chores to do. No one’s ever looked cooler chopping wood and using tractor parts. Half of his training is lifting an old wagon, probably to fix a broken axle. If anything, this film inspires us to take care of that gardening work we’ve been neglecting.


8. Rocky’s Beard

Rocky IV Beard

Stallone’s beard game is truly on point in Rocky IV. And this isn’t some “I forgot to shave, here’s a little stubble” look. No, we get full out, lumberjack-style beard action. Does any other Rocky movie have our hero looking like an old Russian aristocrat? Another point for Rocky IV.


9. There’s a robot!

Again, there’s so much to Rocky IV, you probably forgot about the robot. Well, Rocky has some money now and he’s not going to spend it on frivolous things for himself. He’s going to buy Paulie a robot! The best part of this scene is how truly disturbed Paulie is by this new technology until he gives it a sexy lady voice.


10. Rocky Ends the Cold War

If you’re still not convinced that Rocky IV is the greatest, answer this question: Does any other Rocky movie bring peace between the US and Russia?

By the end of the film, Rocky rises up to beat the seemingly undefeatable Drago. He fights so well, that even the Russians begin to appreciate his skills. Then, instead of using his victory to prove America’s superiority, he gives a rousing speech of “If I can change and you can change, everybody can change!” The whole crowd goes wild, including all of the Russian government, who we assume give up Communism immediately based solely on Rocky’s words. Stallone’s call for international reconciliation through brutal fighting and a variety of montages makes this if not one of the greatest films of all time, certainly the greatest Rocky of them all.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” movie Rocky IV this Friday at 8P on IFC. 

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