The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: Fox/MGM/Sony - 1976, 1979, 1982, 1985, 1990, 2006
MPAA Rating: PG, PG-13
Feature running time: 634 minutes
Disc Format: BD-50, BD-25 (Rocky only),
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4), MPEG-2 (Rocky only)
Video Aspect: 1.85:1
Audio Format(s): Rocky: English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, French Dolby Digital 5.1, English/Spanish mono. Rocky II, III, IV, V: English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, French DTS 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, English Dolby Surround. Rocky Balboa: English uncompressed 5.1 PCM, English/French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Carl Weathers, Tony Burton, Burgess Meredith
Directed by: Sylvester Stallone (Rocky II, III, IV, Rocky Balboa) John G. Avildsen (Rocky, Rocky V)
Music by: Bill Conti (Rocky, Rocky II, III, V, Rocky Balboa), Vince DiCola (Rocky IV)
Written by: Sylvester Stallone
Region Code: A
Blu-ray Disc release Date: November 3, 2009
"Gonna fly now."
Rocky:Rocky Balboa is a struggling boxer trying to make the big time. Working in a meat factory in Philadelphia for a pittance, he also earns extra cash as a debt collector. When heavyweight champion Apollo Creed visits Philadelphia, his managers want to set up an exhibition match between Creed and a struggling boxer, touting the fight as a chance for a "nobody" to become a "somebody". The match is supposed to be easily won by Creed, but someone forgot to tell Rocky, who sees this as his only shot at the big time.
Rocky II: It's the rematch of the century as Rock Balboa takes on Apollo Creed in this powerful follow-up to one of the most acclaimed movies in film history. After club fighter Rocky Balboa (Stallone) goes the distance with heavyweight champ Apollo Creed (Weathers), boxing fans clamor for a rematch. But Rocky, having sustained massive injuries in the bout, announces his retirement. He concentrates on his relationship with Adrian (Shire), marring her and attempting to settle into the routine of family life. But as Rocky tries to make a new start for himself, he realizes that he can't escape his true calling. The ring beckons once more, and the "Italian Stallion" must prepare for the fight of his life.
Rocky III: Rocky battles his most powerful adversary yet-the ferocious Clubber Lang (Mr. T)-in this hard-hitting actioner that comes out swinging with adventure, humor and emotionally charged human drama. For what may be the most exciting and fast-paced film in the series, Sylvester Stallone writes, directs and stars with explosive passion and intensity. As Rocky Balboa (Stallone) fights his way into the hearts of millions, life couldn't be better. He scores ten consecutive wins, lands lucrative endorsement contracts, and becomes famous throughout the world. But when Clubber Lang K.O's Rocky in a humiliating defeat, it becomes apparent that the "Italian Stallion" has lost his edge. Considering hanging up his gloves, Rocky receives encouragement from an unlikely ally: his old nemesis, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers). With Creed's help, Rocky strives to regain the "eye of the tiger" before confronting Lang in a grueling rematch for the world heavyweight championship.
Rocky IV:When Rocky's old friend Apollo Creed is killed during a fight with a super fit Russian boxer, Ivan Drago, Rocky blames himself for the death when he could have thrown in the towel before the crucial moment. Fuelled by the Russian's arrogance, Rocky arranges a fight with the new champion, only this time in Russia.
Rocky V:Upon returning home from his latest triumph, Rocky (Stallone) learns that all of his money has been lost by an unscrupulous financial advisor. To make matters worse, his fight related injuries force his retirement from the ring. So, Rocky, his wife Adrian (Talia Shire) and his son Rocky, Jr. (Sage Stallone) move to their old low-rent neighborhood in South Philadelphia. There, the fighter must resolve the deep-rooted resentment held by his son, a bitterness that grows when Rocky trains Tommy Gunn (Tommy Morrison), a young boxer who soon rises to national prominence. When Tommy turns against his mentor and publicity taunts him, Rocky knows he must fight once more.
Rocky Balboa:When he loses a highly publicized virtual boxing match to ex-champ Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), reigning heavyweight title holder Mason Dixon (Antonio Tarver) retaliates by challenging the Italian Stallion to a nationally televised, 10-round exhibition bout. To the surprise of his son (Milo Ventimiglia, TV's Heroes) and friends, Rocky agrees to come out of retirement and face an opponent who's faster, stronger and thirty years his junior. With the odds stacked firmly against him, Rocky takes on Dixon in what will become the greatest fight in boxing history, a hard-hitting, action-packed battle of the ages!
Rocky holds a very special place in my heart. I have been a fan since 1976 (at 12 years old) when my mother took me to see it in the theater. I have seen every sequel theatrically since. Before home video I watched them every chance I got when they were broadcast on television. For me Rocky is the most complete of them and could easily have stood on its own as a masterful cinematic work. Then again, what fun would that have been? The original film is multifaceted with an intrinsically engaging and heartwarming story that remains as powerful today as it did 30 plus years ago. Rocky, the underdog, uneducated, local boy whose name was drawn for a title shot and simply wants to go the distance against the heavyweight champion of the world. The establishment of his relationship with Mickey, Adrienne, and Paulie is cemented into place and builds the foundation that will carry on throughout the series. It also connects us with them in a personal way through the wonderfully crafted script. This film introduces us to the first of Rocky's opponents in Apollo Creed, the training montage, and the use of stirring, thematic music that conjoin the dramatic build up/fight sequences and encapsulates the tone of each of the films. Bill Conti's memorable music graces all but one of the Rocky movies and is simply awesome at evoking the mood, energy, excitement, and drama in each. The story builds to a natural yet visceral climax which culminates in Rocky achieving his goal of going the distance. He and Adrienne come to realize the depth of their feelings for one another and everyone comes to see that he isn't just another bum from the neighborhood.
Rocky II was written and directed by Stallone and gives us the chance to pick up where Rocky left off. It satisfies our need to see Rocky succeed both in life and in the ring. Its story is nearly as good as the original film at eliciting emotion as we follow the trials and tribulations that eventually lead Rocky back into the ring against Apollo. Carl Weather's gives a solid performance as the embittered and ultimately unsuccessful Apollo Creed. We see Rocky and Adrienne marry, grow closer, and have their son Rocky junior but not before a complication with her pregnancy lands her in a coma. The scene at the conclusion of the title fight when Rocky holds up the championship belt and says yo Adrienne, I did it! meaning he kept his promise to win, chokes me up every time (no idea why). Outside of Rocky, my favorite of the five remaining films is Rocky III. This one squeezes so much into 91 minutes that it literally seems like no time is wasted. Stallone's slimmed down and beefed up appearance, The exhibition wrestling match against Thunderlips, Mickey's death, Apollo the unlikely hero stepping in to help, the eye of the tiger/ building of their friendship, the seemingly indomitable opponent in the hungry wrecking machine Clubber Lang, their two fights, the second of which is my favorite out of all of the films.
I don't mind Rocky IV but its story is too over the top with the death of Apollo, the USA/Russian theme, and of course an even bigger, impregnable opponent in Ivan Drago. Vince DiCola composed the music for Rocky IV, with Survivor returning with In the burning heart as the theme song. Rocky V just doesn't work for me. The story, script and performances seem hollow and although I understand what Stallone was trying to achieve from a conceptual standpoint I simply can't sit through it. The last installment Rocky Balboa surprised me as I had low expectations prior to seeing it. I had no idea how Stallone was going to pull off stepping into the ring with the reigning heavyweight champion at his age. After seeing it I felt that overall he told the story with humility and morality that helped it feel genuine (although obviously still a stretch). The fight sequence was far from the most engaging but the film's strength lies in the fulfillment of the elements that occur around that. Quite frankly I am happy that things weren't left to end with Rocky V. For me Rocky represents an iconic figure featured in compelling films that I grew up watching. His ability to overcome insurmountable odds both in life and in the ring while thrilling us with exciting training montages in preparation to extinguish larger than life opponents that may have stretched the limits of plausibility but still kept us coming back for more. This character leaves an endearing and lasting legacy that Sylvester Stallone will forever be known for. The ensemble cast of Talia Shire, Burt Young, Carl Weathers, Burgess Meredith, and Tony Burton provided us with plenty of memorable moments. Regardless of which film may be your favorite there is no denying that as a whole they are special. I own the previously released Rocky I through V collection on DVD and am happy to now own all six films in high definition on Blu-ray Disc.
The ratings are for thematic material, brief sensuality, boxing violence and some language.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
Rocky: The undisputed collection comes to Blu-ray featuring 1080p MPEG-2 (Rocky only) and AVC encoded video that has average bitrates of 18mbps (Rocky) and 32 mbps. The films feature lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio and uncompressed 5.1 channel PCM audio (Rocky Balboa only) with average/constant bitrates of 3.1 and 4.6 mbps respectively.
In looking at these films, specifically, Rocky, Rocky II, Rocky III and Rocky V they essentially offer similar video quality although of the four I would perhaps give the edge for better overall quality to Rocky. Resolution is fair with patches of crisp delineation that offers clear refinement and average depth. At other times fine detail is limited and images appear noticeably lacking in sharpness and resolvable texture. In the case of Rocky this is less of an issue but not by a large margin. Blacks are plenty deep however depending on the lighting they can appear gradationally hindered and therefore lacking in punch. Contrast is elevated which pumps up bright colors and gives certain scenes an overly dynamic aesthetic. Color balance with the exception of red is very good with natural rendering that is pleasing to the eye. Reds tend to lean toward orange which I found distracting. Fleshtones are primarily on the warm side but otherwise look fine. Grain is prominently on display and takes on heavier emphasis in low lit backgrounds (Rocky II & III). Rocky/Rocky V have a lighter veil of grain that appears more consistent and evenly textured. Rocky IV offers improved overall quality that results in improved sharpness, better refinement and slightly punchier colors. As with the others grain can be quite noticeable with occasional over emphasis. With the exception of Rocky the prints all exhibit a fair amount of white speckles and debris that is simply unacceptable. These should have been cleaned up and re-mastered for a high profile release of these films on Blu-ray. Rocky's print is in appreciably better condition with only an occasional fleck here and there. I noticed what appeared to be digital noise here and there but honestly between the print imperfections and grain it's hard to determine exactly what I was seeing. I didn't notice any overt signs of digital manipulation, although I thought the statue dedication ceremony sequence in Rocky III might have been touched up. I really wanted these to look top notch and while they aren't I don't think it would be fair to say that I am completely unsatisfied with them.
I think that over the span of the first five films the lossless sound quality is essentially the same with quality of the recorded elements being defined by their age. Dialogue is crisp, well intonated and mixed to a prominent position within the front soundstage. Sound effects and panning sequences emanating from the main channels were integrated with discernible separation and average sound field penetration. The films includes some active elements that didn't have the feeling of authority and quantifiable dynamics that you might find with today's digital soundtracks but exerted tangible influence with a fair level of impact and clarity. There was no deep bass contained in these soundtracks however low frequency detail is present and detectable here and there. The surround channels are used mainly for atmospheric ambience that provides a good sense of envelopment but not to the level of being engagingly immersive.
Rocky Balboa was released on Blu-ray Disc in 2006 and offers excellent high definition video quality. I decided to rate it separately from the others for audio/video. Blacks are inky, stable and gradationally satisfying. Colors are visually pleasing with crisp texture and dynamic highlights. Resolution is strong as image penetration is deep with discernible subtle refinement and long range acuity that is visually enticing. The mix of film and high definition video gives the source a varied yet nuanced perspective that is rewarding. I didn't notice any signs of video related artifacts or extraneous noise and felt the video had a pristine quality. The uncompressed lossless sound is superior to the first five films in terms of depth, dynamic range and detail. The difference isn't night and day but comes in the form of update to date sound effects, higher intelligibility and newly recorded elements coupled along with an improved surround mix. Rating for video = 90 rating for audio = 84 total rating = 87.
- Rocky (Disc 1) - (HD) 5 trailers - Flyboys, Rocky, Windtalkers, Usual suspects, Bulletproof monk
- Disc 7 Bonus features:
- Feeling strong now! Interactive game
- Three rounds with legendary trainer Lou Duva - 4 minutes
- Interview with a legend - Bert Sugar: Author/commentator/historian - 7 minutes
- The opponents - 16 minute featurette
- In the ring: Three part making of documentary
- Steadicam: Then and now with Garrett Brown - 17 minutes
- Make up! The art and form with Michael Westmore - 15 minutes
- Staccato: A composers notebook with Bill Conti - 11 minutes
- The ring of truth - 9 minutes
- Behind the scenes with John Avildsen - 12 minutes
- Tribute to Burgess Meredith - 8 minutes
- Tribute to James Crabe - 3 minutes
- Video commentary with Sylvester Stallone
- Sylvester Stallone on Dinah! 1976
- Rocky anthology trailers, TV Spots
Rocky Balboa bonus features:
- Commentary by Sylvester Stallone
- (HD) 7 deleted/alternate scenes and an alternate ending
- (HD) Blooper reel
- (HD) 17 minute making of featurette
- (HD) 15 minute featurette on the fight sequence
- (HD) Creating the virtual/animated fight, including the uncut sequence (5 minutes)
- (HD) Trailers for Casino Royale, Talladega Nights, Stranger than Fiction, Gridiron Gang, Pursuit of Happyness
I can't speak for everyone but for me the Rocky films will forever hold a nostalgic and special place in my heart. In growing up I can remember the various stages during my life when each was released and how much I enjoyed watching them. Rocky: The undisputed collection from Fox/MGM includes all six and comes to Blu-ray with the first 5 five films offering video quality that while fair, doesn't approach the level of the best catalog titles released in high definition, which is a shame as I feel that these films deserve better. Rocky Balboa stands on its own and offers excellent audio/video quality. The bonus supplements are wonderful and well worth the three plus hours to view them all. Regardless of its intermittent video quality this collection is absolutely a must have for fans and comes highly recommended.
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews
Reference Review System:
JVC DLA-RS20 1080p High Definition Front Projector (Calibrated by Jeff Meier)
Carada Precision Brilliant White 96" Screen
Anthem AVM50v THX Ultra 2 Preamp/Video Processor
Sherbourn Technologies - 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier
Oppo BDP-83 Universal disc/Blu-ray Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Toshiba HD-XA2 HD DVD Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Oppo 970HD universal disc DVD Player (480i HDMI)
Philips TSU9400 Pro Series Touch Panel Remote Control
Canton "Ergo" Series speakers
Axiom Audio QS8 Quadpolar speakers
SV Sound PB-13 Ultra (Rosenut finish)
APC AV S15BLK Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Furman SPR-20i Stable Power Regulator
Wireworld, VizionWare, Audioquest, Best Deal Cables - Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
Cool Components - CP-CP102 cooling package