December 2006 Forecast
By David Mumpower
December 1, 2006
7) The Good German
It's George Clooney.
8) The Pursuit of Happyness
It's Will Smith.
9) Rocky Balboa
It's Sylvester Stallone. Wait a minute, that hasn't mattered since New Year's Eve 1989. The 1990s swallowed him like he was a bad combination of hair bands, thin ties and the cast of Fame. Not that there could be a good combination of those things...but I digress. Whereas the presence of A-List actors alone should carry the two awards contenders listed immediately above the latest (and, God willing, last) Rocky flick, this one merits an explanation.
I am old enough to remember a time when the kids in my school were shaking in anticipation over the release of Rocky IV. The presumptive final installment in the Academy Award winning series (and for Best Picture, no less) shattered Thanksgiving holiday box office records at the time, mainly due to its then-timely Cold War story. Times have changed since then. In fact, a Russian and an American recently fought for the Heavyweight Championship of the World (well, one of them), and it didn't even make Pardon the Interruption.
Why, then, are we faced with the production of a sequel to Rocky V, a franchise killer straight out of the Batman and Robin mold? Part of it is because Stallone used to be the biggest box office draw in the world, and he's a smart man as well as a glory hound. He misses the limelight in an era where hotel heiresses, poker players and reality show contestants constantly prove it does not take much to be famous any more.
The rest of it is that he has had 16 years since the Rocky V debacle to suss out what went wrong (hint for Sly: your son, Sage) and try to redeem the series that is his true legacy. Sure, it's a bit sad and somewhat desperate but I admire the fact that is taking the risk and attempting it. Also, shocked as I am to admit it, I think the trailer is great. I am always going to be a sucker for that Rocky Is Ready to Fight music.
10) The Nativity Story
As I also discuss in the weekend forecast, this is the ultimate family film for the season....unless you're Jewish, in which case I recommend Apocalypto. Err, never mind. The point is that a modern re-telling of the Virgin birth is well overdue independent of what your faith may be.
This is, after all, the most famous tale in our society, and New Line's production affords us the opportunity to examine what Christianity means in a way Mr. Gibson might not have accomplished completely due to all that pesky scourging. Whereas his work is a violent tale of sacrifice in the face of torture, this is a genteel exercise in faith, belief and struggle in a society that oftentimes shuns the less fortunate, independent of the age in which we live. The Nativity Story will never be the exciting box office story this holiday season, but it will be a sleeper hit throughout December.