I have to confess that - while i've always had a soft spot for underdog sports stories - I wasn't going into Rocky with much hope beyond some acceptable, possibly bland entertainment. Imagine my surprise when - like with a recent viewing of First Blood - instead of the glossy, emotionally manipulative film I was expecting I got a nuanced, often gritty view of working class heroics. Sylvester Stallone - who also wrote - gives a performance so strong that it seems near impossible to separate from his actual persona, while he's given terrific support from series mainstays Burt Young, Talia Shire and - most of all - Burgess Meridith. Director John G. Avildsen holds the reigns, but this is Stallone's show all the way, and like the titular character he seems determined to make the most of his shot. The series eventually turned into a parody of itself - though returned to form for 2006's Rocky Balboa - but even the moments that have long become cliche still contain significant power.