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Rocky Heavyweight Collection (Blu-ray Review)

When I first got word of this new Blu-ray box set, Rocky Heavyweight Collection, and its eligibility up for review, I thought long and hard to myself.  Do I have the strength to endure throughout this review, but not only that, can I do the Blu-ray box set justice?  The Rocky franchise contains some of my earliest childhood memories and some very damn fine cinematic moments.  Its patriotism alone is as symbolic to America as the flag is.  Heck, the franchise may be even more symbolic of America than even apple pie.  So being such a huge and passionate fan of the series, the question of whether I can do the set justice in a review is a valid question in my opinion.  And not only that, anyone who has ever done a 5 or more disc Blu-ray box set review knows that they can be very cumbersome to not only tackle, but also report thoroughly throughout without risking exhaustion and puttering out near the finish line.  Just ask Brandon Peters with his last go around on the Friday the 13th Blu-ray box set over here.  That review is a damn fine example as any of a huge undertaking done grand and guess what?  I bet you he knows first hand what I am talking about here.  But then I digress and think to myself, why not me?  Why shouldn’t I review this Blu-ray box set?  These are some of the most motivational movies ever spliced together in my opinion.  When will I ever get another chance to share my innermost personal thoughts on them again?  And so my journey begins.  I bear the cross so you don’t have to.

So I think it goes without saying that one could bill this Blu-ray box set as the greatest boxing saga of all time and that Sylvester Stallone portrays one of the most inspirational characters in cinematic history.  I think that’s very plausible to say.  But what the Rocky movies always meant to me is having this everyday kind of hero, or underdog if you will, who is determined to achieve greatness against all seemingly impossible odds.  And let’s not forget about all the iconic ear candy and motivational music that accompanies Rocky flicks that I could go on and on about, but I digress.  Several years back, at the ripe age of 36 years old, I found myself in a very similar situation as Stallone’s legendary character.  I have never been in horrible shape in my life, but I’ve never been in stellar shape either previous to this story below.

Once upon a time, out of the blue, my application I submitted to become a FBI Special Agent got selected and I found myself at the Cleveland FBI field office for my first of many interviews to come.  Congratulations!  I passed round one, but now came the hard part.  The physical fitness regimen.  You don’t know how many times I vomited, wanted to give up and fell under utter despair and disbelief while just trying to qualify for the physical agility exams, but after weeks of trying I finally did.  I then had three months to get in what I call “Rocky” shape to pass the PFT, what they refer to as their Physical Fitness Test.  All the interviews, security clearances, polygraphs, written exams and background checks were nothing compared to the PFT.  I enlisted the help of a personal trainer, ate right and was out there six days a week giving it my all in the gym and on the track, while also working a full time job and writing here, not to prove all the naysayers in my life wrong, but to prove to myself that I could do it and if nothing else…go the distance.  Despite many injuries, setbacks and bouts of unbearable stress, and against all odds really at my late age (37 is the cutoff) compared to the other spring chicken recruits, I shattered the scores not once, but twice on the PFT exams.  Do you want to know what my motivational secret was?  The Rocky franchise of films.  I studied them religiously and even emulated Rocky’s self-determination to achieve my fantastical goal of passing the seemingly impossible PFT exam, where others around me, even ten years younger, simply failed.  When I crossed that finish line during my first PFT and I knew that I had passed I raised my arms like Rocky did after beating Apollo Creed and I thought to myself, yo Adrian I did it.  That was a very emotional moment for me and that’s how much these movies mean to me, but I digress.

So I think it goes without saying that you already know that this set contains at least 6 Blu-ray discs to cover the 6 Rocky films in the franchise.  Sadly, there’s no seventh disc chalk full of extras and goodies, but we’ll get to that down below when we talk about what extras you’ll be able to scrounge up here.  And also while this box set may seem kind of premature considering there’s going to be an upcoming seventh film in the franchise titled Creed, at least we get the first Rocky film in all its re-mastered glory similar to what Paramount did with Raiders of the Lost Ark when they issued the Indiana Jones trilogy on the Blu-ray format a few years back.  So without further ado, here’s where I see if I have the chops to keep your attention as long as Brandon Peters did with his Friday the 13th Blu-ray box set review.  I think I’ll start with the individual films first, briefly discuss them and then just go with the natural ebb and flow like the majority of our Blu-ray reviews around here as we traverse through the 5 standard categories.  The good thing about this review is the fact that I don’t think there’s many people out there who have not seen these films so that makes my task of summarizing them that much easier. So here goes nothing.  Ding!  Ding!  FYI…that was the sound of the ringside bell indicating Round One has begun.  Fight!

Films 

So like I said above, since we’re all familiar with the Rocky series I think it would be in all our best interest here if I practice brevity, something that’s quite hard for my rambling mouth down to my twitching fingers to do sometime.  While I’ll discuss the films on an individual plane, I’ll keep my usual level of chatter and whimsical remarks to a bare minimum as I deliver a clear and concise discussion of the basic meat and potatoes of what goes down in each film and hopefully in turn that will reflect in the overall score above.   And let’s be honest with each other.  We all know that there’s only one mediocre or black sheep in the family here, that being Rocky V, so I think the rest of the franchise carries the overall weight and as a result “pumps” the score up to an overall five out of five.  I know I’m a little biased with this overall film score because I grew up and was nurtured/weened from them, but if you disagree with me in my way of thinking, then great!  That’s what the comments are for.  Use them.  Take your best jab at me!  Go ahead!  I dare you to swing!

*

Rocky

RockyThis obviously is the film that started it all, the Rocky phenomena of the Italian Stallion, and explosively launched the career of then a pretty much unknown screenwriter, actor  (although he had a few under his belt such as Death Race 2000) and avid bodybuilder, Sylvester Stallone.    The 1976 American sports film was directed by John G. Avildsen and of course stars Stallone, who also wrote this timeless classic.  Rocky (Stallone) is a Philadelphia club fighter who seems to be going nowhere in life, a familiar story for most of us.  However, when a “bout” of fate puts him in a ring with the world heavyweight champion, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), Rocky knows that it’s his one shot, a once in a lifetime opportunity to not so much as to come out a winner between the two fighters, but to “go the distance.”

Rocky was made on a one million dollar budget and ended up grossing over $225 million at the global box office and even went on to win the coveted Oscar prize of Best Picture (there’s a reason why this simple script is praised and talked about year after year in various screenwriting courses and books).  Not bad for a relatively nobody star/screenwriter, huh?  The film also stars the likes of Talia Shire as Adrian, for without her none of these movies would have been possible (every man needs a woman to motivate and light a fire under them), Burt Young as Adrian’s brother Paulie and the famous Burgess Meredith as Rocky’s trainer Mickey.  As I alluded to a sentence ago with Adrian’s character all three of these aforementioned names were just as much as responsible for Rocky’s success as he was for himself, including the diehard competitive nature of his antagonist, Apollo Creed.  However, they didn’t have one key characteristic that Rocky had…his heart.  As you will see throughout the franchise, there’s no greater sports figure to embody in the world of cinema than Rocky Balboa.  He truly has a heart of gold as you have come to known and see prominently on display across all six films of this saga.  They just don’t make them like this anymore.

*

Rocky II

Rocky IIThree years later we have another go with Rocky as this time out Stallone is not only the writer, but also the director too!  Our story picks right up after the events of the first film where a captive viewing audience witnessed a near miracle as underdog club fighter Rocky Balboa went the distance with Apolllo Creed.  And naturally, just like we saw in the Mike Tyson days of boxing, fans cried for a rematch. But Rocky, having sustained massive injuries in the bout, announces his retirement and tries a life at product endorsement (aka acting), a life he’s clearly not cut out for and like us all born without a silver spoon in our mouth, has to go back to work and pick up whatever punishable, physical labor he can find to provide for his new bride, Adrian, and his future child on the way.  Apollo Creed, on the other hand, can’t move on in life and will do anything he can to prove the naysayers and his inner demons wrong once and for all that his initial fight with Rocky was a fluke and that he is the undisputed heavyweight champ.  And although Rocky tries to make a new life for himself, Rocky agonizingly realizes that he can’t escape his true calling and that boxing may truly only be the only thing he is ever good at in life. The ring beckons him back once more, and Rocky must prepare for the fight of his life, but at the disapproval of not only Mickey at first, but of his wife who succumbs to serious health problems while carrying their child.  It’s not until the drama settles and that emotional moment that puts me in tears every time where Adrian whispers to her man “win,” that Rocky is able to regain the necessary focus to train and ultimately topple Creed in a boxing match forever known as World War II.

*

Rocky III

Rocky IIIWhat else can I say but this is where it happens some 3 years later!  No, I’m not talking about Rocky’s tragic fall from the top and resurgence back up, but that of the iconic smash hit “Eye of the Tiger,” written by Survivor at Stallone’s request.  That tune is an inspiration to so many that I can’t even begin to think about how many lives it has touched and changed over the course of all these years, can you?  So this time out, Stallone is back as the director and writer as life couldn’t be better for Rocky Balboa. He scores ten consecutive wins, lands lucrative endorsement contracts and basically is on top of the world. I know I would be.  And hell yeah, we even get treated to a match with wrestler Hulk Hogan in it here!  But all things change when Clubber Lang (Mr. T) shows up and accuses Rocky of picking selective handicapped fights and ultimately K.O.s him in a humiliating defeat, it becomes clearly apparent that he has lost his edge, mirroring Creed’s downfall in the previous two films in underestimating his opponent.  And if that’s not worse enough, Mickey dies in Rocky’s arms.  It is here in ultimate sorrow and desperation where Rocky receives encouragement from an unlikely ally, Apollo Creed. 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 that will see Rocky not only receive and embrace the much needed support and love from his leading lady, Adrian, but also return to basics and a new way of attacking his opponent via the training, cardio and tutelage of Creed.  Anyone want to guess how this one plays out?

*

Rocky IV

Rocky IVIf there was ever a Rocky film that haters of in your face patriotism on display would disdain, Rocky IV is just that (just look at the movie’s original poster on the left) and so much more in this feature once again written and directed by Stallone.  We already know that Rocky proudly holds the world heavyweight boxing championship, but what happens when a new challenger steps forward, Drago (Dolph Lundgren), who’s a six-foot, six-inch, 240-pound fighter (or should I say freak of nature?) who has the backing of the Soviet Union.?  Does Rocky fight him?  Hell no!  Apollo Creed wants to get back in the limelight and challenges Drago to an exhibition fight to prove once and for all that the USA is number one.  Let’s just say everything goes down hill for Creed after James Brown performs “Living in America.”  Creed sadly dies in the ring while Drago and his wife (Brigitte Nielsen)  show no signs of remorse.  Rocky seeks vengeance on Drago and agrees to a fight on Christmas Day in Drago’s homeland of Russia without the blessing of the woman who’s been by his side the past three films, Adrian.  He leaves her behind as he embarks on his long international journey.  You see, this time, the jams are still getting churned out and pumping as Rocky’s training regimen takes him to an icy Siberia, where he prepares for a globally-televised match in the heart of Moscow.  But that’s where our story gets a little whacky and a bit unbelievable (more so than other times in the series) because the fight is like nothing you have ever seen before.  Admittedly so, can one man ever take a beating like Rocky does?    He gets pummeled.  But let’s face it.  He has a lot on the line here.  Not only must he fight in honor of his fallen friend and defend himself, but also the honor of his country!  So while critical reception on this one is mixed, there’s no denying that it was the most successful films in the franchise financially speaking.  And it’s Rocky!  How can you bad mouth a Rocky film?  That’s blasphemy!

*

Rocky V

Rocky VAnd here’s the one Rocky feature that no one ever wants to talk about or admit happened, 1990’s Rocky V.  Yeah sure, I’d be happy too forgetting it never happened like Superman Returns tried to do with part’s 3 and 4, but the reality of the situation is like it or not it did happen.  This time out Stallone is the writer again, but John G. Avildsen has returned to the franchise to helm the picture once again (odd that he comes back for the worst one).  So upon returning home from his latest triumph in Russia (think Rocky IV), Rocky learns that all of his money has been lost by an unscrupulous financial advisor and to make matters worse, his fight-related injuries force his retirement from the ring. Therefore, Rocky, Adrian and his son Rocky Jr. (Sage Stallone) are forced to move to back to the all too familiar low-rent neighborhood in South Philadelphia.  Are you still with me?  I’m just checking because this is where things take a turn for the ugly, for a Rocky movie that is.  Rocky must resolve the deep-rooted resentment his son has for him and the bitterness gets even worse when he trains Tommy Gunn (former real life boxer Tommy Morrison), a young boxer who Rocky takes under his wings, but soon rises to national prominence way too quickly for Rocky who wants to protect him much the way Mickey did of him.  However, you know these young people.  They are all so reckless and impatient and Tommy’s no different.  He wants the title now and leaves Rocky.  Tommy gets what he wants, but ultimately gets a lashing for it too as people say he won against a paper champion since the champ never won the belt in a fair fight against Rocky.  When Tommy publicly taunts Rocky to fight him in the ring, Rocky declines.  But one blow to Paulie and Rocky’s back in the ring so to speak.  Word of caution.  Don’t touch Paulie!  The only difference here is that the ring is not in a sports arena.  It’s an outside brawl.  Rocky fights once more.  It wasn’t the most fitting end to this franchise to say the least, but it wasn’t no Star Wars prequel either so pick your poison.  I choose Rocky V!  But we all know what happened to Tommy Morrison is real life, right?  But I digress, because below is something I find real interesting.

In the original script, Rocky is killed during the final fight with Tommy, dying in Adrian’s arms in the street.  Through most of the filming and production, this was to be the outcome.  However, it wasn’t until the film was nearing completion that Stallone decided against Rocky’s death and went with the current ending we all have now.  According to him, the director and the studio had second thoughts.  Eventually, Stallone rewrote the ending, saying that he decided to change it because Rocky was supposed to be about perseverance and redemption, and having him die in a street brawl would be against the roots of the series.  Pretty interesting, huh?  I do have to admit I really like this alternate ending, but then again we would not have the next phenomenal movie to discuss now would we?

*

Rocky Balboa

Rocky BalboaThirty years after the clang of the first bell (16 years after his retirement from the ring), Rocky Balboa dons his gloves for the last time…we think!  LOL.  Does Grudge Match count?  I sure hope not!  So I guess you can say in the production of this film Rocky goes back to his roots as Stallone picks up the writing duties and directing once again, and I couldn’t be happier about it.  Since retiring, Rocky reminisces about his glory days for the locals at his Philly diner, Adrian’s (Adrian has since passed).  However, his quiet, simple world is suddenly rocked when the current reigning heavyweight champ , Mason “The Line” Dixon (Antonio Tarver), loses by a K.O. victory to a virtual, in-his-prime Rocky in a computer-simulated match.  How’s that for the use of technology in modern day filmmaking?  Pretty good if you ask me!   Rocky’s pumped about that and decides to maybe go back in the ring and grab some low key fights.  Paulie thinks he’s crazy.  And Mason, well he just can’t shake his loss, virtual or not.  So needless to say as the Rocky formula goes Mason challenges the Italian Stallion to the real thing! Not one to back down, Rocky commits to the unthinkable and he agrees to the “newest” fight of his life…and pushes himself to the breaking point to go the distance one last time with his son by his side (Milo Ventimiglia) in the ring against Mason in Las Vegas for a charity exhibition bout that, as the formula goes again, Mason wasn’t too prepared for.  And you know what?  This is the fitting end for me.  This title is perfect in every which way and I can’t believe I am saying this, but not too far fetched either.  It just goes to show you that no matter how hard life knocks you down, winners are the ones who get back up (I wish I could always practice what Rocky preaches in this flick).  Rocky says it better in the film, but you know what I’m getting at here.

Years ago I remember listening to the audio commentary by Stallone on the standalone Blu-ray release of Rocky Balboa and I could have sworn by now we would have seen a director’s cut of this one, but that’s what double dipping down the road is eventually for, right?  Maybe in 4K?  So what I also love about this film besides its heart, guts and glory to give it your all in life even when you get knocked down is unlike the fifth film in the franchise, Rocky Balboa brings things full circle.  It features the return of two minor characters from the original movie: Marie, the young woman that Rocky attempts to steer away from trouble (as an Easter Egg she can also be scene in the background crowd of the street brawl in Rocky V), and Spider Rico, the first opponent that Rocky is seen fighting in the original film. Rocky Balboa also holds many references to people and objects from previous installments in the series, especially the first as we already discussed.  And God!  How did I not hear about that extra call to be part of the ending credits on the steps of the Philadelphia art museum?  I would have loved just to be a fly on the wall.   It’s truly remarkable!

“I know your story is far from over Rocky, as we’ll later see in CREED, but from the bottom of my heart thank you for everything, from your blood, sweat, tears and determination to the heart your story instills in me, I’ll always be your biggest fan.” – Brian E. White

*

Rocky Pic 2

Video 

So we’re trying something a little different here on the site with Blu-ray reviews when it comes to discussing the audio and video presentations of said discs.  To make it a little painless for us to write them and you to ultimately read, understand and take away the required information you came here for, we’re going to break things down into required categories we have to fill out.  This way you get all the information in a straight forward layout and it spares us from having to find different ways in which to say the same thing over and over that we have the last two hundred reviews.  We think it’s simple, clean, concise and directly to the point and we hope you like it!  So with the cat out of the bag now, let’s take a closer look at the video presentations found on each of the 6 Blu-ray discs in this set.

*

Rocky (4)

Let’s be honest with ourselves here for a moment.  If you are already a proud owner of the last Rocky Blu-ray box set, then this 4k remastered version of Rocky is the main draw and reason why you’re even here reading this.  So let’s cut the foreplay and find out if it’s worth your money or not in the video department.

  • Encoding: AVC MPEG-4 @25 MBPS
  • Resolution: 1080p
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Clarity/Detail: The levels of fine detail and sharpness is on par here with the original release of Rocky on Blu-ray.  I guess because the grain is healthier you could say things are a bit clearer, but let’s face it.  Rocky was shot this way and meant to look mean and gritty, is it not?  We don’t want a waxy Predator release on our hands!
  • Depth: Because of the grain being less intrusive here as opposed to the original Blu-ray transfer, the depth of field is much improved to my eyes.
  • Black Levels: Comparing this to the first Blu-ray transfer of Rocky, the blacks look a bit deeper here overall.
  • Color Reproduction: Besides the noticeable improvements to depth and black levels, the color correction is probably most prevalent.  Things just look more natural now.  And I like that!  But let’s face it, Rocky was never about being a colorful movie.  It’s about being gritty!
  • Flesh Tones: The skin tones generally look natural and lifelike throughout.
  • Noise/Artifacts: The grain structure remains intact, thankfully, but not at the risk of minimizing the depth of field or clarity.  I want to say that all the anomalies such as the specks and such are gone, but let’s just say for argument’s sake they are kept to a bare minimum here.

*

Rocky II (3.5)

  • Encoding: AVC MPEG-4 @ 31 MBPS
  • Resolution: 1080p
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Clarity/Detail: Here’s why I love the Blu-ray format.  For a film of this age, things are remarkably sharp here from facial details to individual beats of sweat in the fight scene.  You gotta love it!  But on the flip side, there are moments of softness here too.
  • Depth: Obviously the three-dimensional pop is hard to achieve on a picture of this age, without a complete remaster, but things are quite crowd pleasing here.  It is what it is.  You hate that saying, huh?
  • Black Levels: These don’t disappoint as they are deep and pleasing…for the most part.
  • Color Reproduction: The colors, particularly the reds and yellows, are vibrant and vivacious.
  • Flesh Tones: The skin tones are all natural and accurate throughout the flick’s runtime.
  • Noise/Artifacts: My biggest beef with this one would be those pesky white flecks that pop up from time-to-time throughout.  Boo!  There’s also a lot of grain here, but that’s fine as it’s relatively unobtrusive and to be expected too.  But at times, the noise is noticeable.

*

Rocky III (3.5)

  • Encoding:AVC MPEG-4 @ 32 MBPS
  • Resolution: 1080p
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Clarity/Detail: Detail fluctuates throughout this presentation from strong to weak at times.  Make no mistakes there are some fine moments for this pore whore to enjoy complete with the tiniest beads of sweat, but there are also soft shots to speak of too.  Facial details are prominently on display here too.
  • Depth: The depth of the scene obviously goes hand and hand with the detail mentioned above.  When the scenes go soft, the picture admittedly goes flat and two-dimensional.
  • Black Levels: Luckily for me, I have no reservations about the black levels employed throughout, but be warned.  There are a few instances of crushing shadows.
  • Color Reproduction:  The colors are pretty bold and vibrant just like in the second film transfer above.
  • Flesh Tones: Thankfully, the skin tones are all accurate and naturally looking throughout.
  • Noise/Artifacts: While there are no apparent issues other than the white specks mentioned above in the second film (notably the funeral scene), grain does become problematic in places.  Again, I’m perfectly fine with this as I expect this from a movie of this age.  It does not detract from my enjoyment of it, which is the main reason I can live with it until they remaster this one fine day and I’m forced to buy it again.  LOL.

*

Rocky IV (4)

  • Encoding: AVC MPEG-4 @ 32 MBPS
  • Resolution: 1080p
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Clarity/Detail: There is a level of satisfaction here with crisp and clear visuals throughout.  It’s no modern day transfer, but things look nicely in tune here.  It’s  a step above the transfers of Rocky II and III.  You get to see Rocky’s stubble on his face sharply transform as he goes all grizzly in preparation for his fight with Drago.  I also feel comfortable in my masculinity commenting on the beads of sweat that glisten on both boxer’s bodies in the final fight scene.
  • Depth: When things are good this one pops!  However, there are some signs of blurriness at play occasionally too.
  • Black Levels:  The black levels throughout are nicely deep and inky.  There are no problems here to report on.
  • Color Reproduction: Things are quite vivid, colorful and deeper here and why shouldn’t they be?  It’s the mid 80’s after all!  Contrast is consistent throughout.
  • Flesh Tones: Skin tones look better than they did in the previous two installments.
  • Noise/Artifacts: There are a few one-offs and anomalies in this presentation within a few scenes such as the mountain climbing scenes.  The white specks as opposed to the others above are very much minimized.  There are also varying levels of grain too.  So in contrast to the other two above, things look much better here at least.

*

Rocky V (3.5)

  • Encoding: AVC MPEG-4 @33 MBPS
  • Resolution: 1080p
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Clarity/Detail: It’s weird as this encode seems like a step back from the fourth one.  Odd, huh?  I agree!  So yeah, the image is softer.  However, maybe it’s intentional to blend in with the bleakness of the story.  Now don’t get me wrong, there are some shots with great detail such as the final brawl.
  • Depth: This kind of goes hand in hand with the clarity section above here as things look dull and lifeless a lot.
  • Black Levels: Black levels are consistent and deep throughout with equal contrast.  There’s no great fluctuation here.
  • Color Reproduction: Obviously, due to the story and environment, things look less colorful in this encode.  The final brawl in the street, mentioned above, pumps the colors up a little.  Just make a mental note to yourself, things are just darker overall in this one.
  • Flesh Tones: This one kind of goes along with the color section above.  I think the skin tones blend in nicely with the drab and are in check.
  • Noise/Artifacts: A few noisy insert shots plague the print as well as spikes in grain occasionally.  So you just got to visualize that when you get a spike in grain, you lose that beloved clarity we all know an dove about the Blu-ray format.  Boo!

*

Rocky Balboa (5)

  • Encoding: AVC MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Clarity/Detail: I remember this one fondly back in 2007 looking absolutely stunning on the Blu-ray format like it still does now.  Back then, this Blu-ray disc, particularly the Las Vegas skyline filmed in HD along with the ending fight scenes, and the Casino Royale disc were my reference when trying to make DVD watchers see “blu.”  I would say don’t hurt your eyes.  Feast them on this.  You have to understand though.  This was released during the Red vs. Blu wars so Sony came out swinging with this reference encode that still holds up quite nicely in my opinion.  You would be hard pressed to find anything at all to complain about here in the clarity and detail category.  The final fight, filmed in polished HD, echoes how you would view a modern day fight on a pay-per-view broadcast.  It’s simply gorgeous, breathtaking and extremely chiseled.  This encode slices like a razor.
  • Depth: You want that three-dimensional Blu-ray pop like none other in this Blu-ray box set?  Well if so, you’ve come to the right disc here!  Dimensionality is all abound here.
  • Black Levels: Black levels are exceptionally deep and inky here.  No complaints!
  • Color Reproduction: Things were shot with a higher contrast and color toned in post so that explains the over saturation at times.
  • Flesh Tones: I’m fine with the skin tones throughout.  Skin tones looked pumped up, yes, but natural too.
  • Noise/Artifacts: There’s a thin layer of veneer grain throughout that reminds you that you’re watching a classic.  Otherwise, this transfer is clear of any excessive noise, artifacts, white specks or anything else that would tragically plague a presentation.

Rocky Pic 3

Audio 

While the remastered version of Rocky‘s not going to win any demo reference awards in the audio category, that doesn’t mean it’s anything to snub at either.  None of these tracks are.  Come on.  I’ll give you a quick tour around the place.

*

Rocky (3.5)

  • Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English Dolby Digital 1.0, Spanish Dolby Digital 1.0, French DTS 5.1
  • Subtitles: English SDH/Spanish/French
  • Dynamics: You weren’t expecting any miracles here, were you?  This is the best this one’s going to sound.  It’s a drama after all!  The songs are where it’s at.  Those are the dynamic moments in this track!
  • Low Frequency Extension: There’s not too much to brag about here.  The LFE is kind of hollow.  Punches are not as robust as they are in later films mostly due to the effects back then.
  • Surround Sound Presentation: Rocky s a very front heavy presentation.  There’s no doubt about it.  Things sound as good as possible here.  However, that’s not to say we don’t hear some trains passing, kids singing and audience applauding.
  • Dialogue Reproduction:  Voices are strong and carry for the most part, but there are occasional lines muffled in the mix.

*

Rocky II (3.5)

It should be noted that oddly for Discs 2-5, there is no music for the menus.  It’s about as Plain Jane as you can get as asking for a plain hamburger at Burger King (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

  • Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English Dolby Surround, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, French DTS 5.1
  • Subtitles: English SDH/Spanish/French
  • Dynamics: Let’s face it, Bill Conti’s score is the highlight of these films back in the days, and that’s no exception here.
  • Low Frequency Extension: It’s pretty much what you would expect here from the dramatic environmental aspects of the track in relation to the scenery and of course later, the blows/thuds that are exchanged.
  • Surround Sound Presentation: The motivational music bleeds minimally, but harmoniously in the rears.  There is also some environmental ambience going on in the surround mix from the blows that are traded to the cheering of the crowd and factory noises.  Make no mistake, during the more dramatic scenes, this track gets quite front heavy.
  • Dialogue Reproduction: Dialog is for the most part clear and understandable.

*

Rocky III (3.5)

  • Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English Dolby Surround, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, French DTS 5.1
  • Subtitles: English SDH/Spanish/French
  • Dynamics: Obviously, the “Gonna Fly Now” and “Eye of the Tiger” is generously in your face, but things for the most part here are mediocre like in the second installment above.  It’s above average, but nothing to really write home about.  The punches do sound better though!
  • Low Frequency Extension: Probably one of the best examples of bass would be found in the rumble of Rocky’s motorcycle.
  • Surround Sound Presentation: Like I mentioned above in Dynamics, things are almost identical to Rocky II‘s audio here.  There some strange inconsistencies to take note of though with some hisses from the rear channels as well as an instance of crackle.  Weird, huh?
  • Dialogue Reproduction: For the most part, things are intelligible.  However, there are a few lines that do unfortunately get lost in the shuffle here.

*

Rocky IV (4)

  • Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English Dolby Surround, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, French DTS 5.1
  • Subtitles: English SDH/Spanish/French
  • Dynamics: This is a slight improvement over the past two films in our discussion here with much better sound effects and oomph.    This one just sounds like it has more depth for some reason.  I don’t know.  Maybe it has to do with the sheer size of Drago?  What do you think?  LOL.  The flick’s pop anthem songs pump you up through their reproduction here.
  • Low Frequency Extension: The bass or low end is utilized much more here than in the previous installments, hence the extra oomph mentioned above.
  • Surround Sound Presentation: Ambient noise, especially crown participation in the fight scenes is most prevalent here.
  • Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is clear and intelligible.

*

Rocky V (4)

  • Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English Dolby Surround, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, French DTS 5.1
  • Subtitles: English SDH/Spanish/French
  • Dynamics: From the opening montage music you get the feeling that things are going to be better this time around…and they are!  Not leaps and bounds, but dynamically better…haha yes!  The most disappointing aspect of this track is the minimal use of the classic Conti score in favor of hip-hop.  Boo!  The final fight scene obviously offers the most bang for your buck here.
  • Low Frequency Extension: Body blows are more devastating here giving it a deeper sound this time around.  The bass also kicks in too here with the new hip-hop music employed here.
  • Surround Sound Presentation: There is a little more ambience going on here most notably the trains behind you.  I have them where I live so believe me I notice them whenever I hear them in this track.  However, it gets most impressive here with the final fight scene between Rocky and Tommy, regardless whether you love or hate the movie or this moment.  LOL.
  • Dialogue Reproduction: The dialog is always clear and understandable throughout.

*

Rocky Balboa (5)

  • Audio Format(s): English PCM (Uncompressed) 5.1, English Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Subtitles: English SDH/Spanish/French
  • Dynamics: Since this is the same Blu-ray disc basically as originally issued in the early days of the Blu-ray format it should come as no surprise that this PCM Uncompressed track still kicks a$$ even to this day.  I remember this track fondly back in the day and it’s no wonder why it’s still hanging around here still.  And guess what?  Bill Conti’s themes are back bigger and better here!
  • Low Frequency Extension: The Big Bad Wolf shows up here with fantastic reproduction of the robust Conti themes.  Wait until you hear the thuds of the blows in the final match.  Ba da boom!  Get knocked out with this one!
  • Surround Sound Presentation: Finally!  The rear channels are constantly alive from the inhabitants and ambience of Philly to the roaring crowd in Vegas.
  • Dialogue Reproduction: The dialog representation is perfect throughout here.  I have zero qualms with this one!  Everything is loud and clear.

Rocky Pic 1

Extras 

I have to admit that I’m kind of bittersweet in this section.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s a wealth of bonus materials that will keep you quite busy and engaged for hours on end (if you count all the commentaries), but that’s just it.  The only real gain you are getting between this new Blu-ray box set and the Undisputed collection a few years back is the 8-minute featurette titled “8MM Home Movies of Rocky” and some audio commentaries (if you are into those).  However, I’m fine with all of that and I actually do enjoy hearing Stallone comment over his films, but I guess my main point of contention is why no love for the Digital Copy lovers?  I would have even been complacent and content with even SD quality of those, something I can take to the gym on my iPhone, but nada.  We have nothing here.  I’m kind of surprised since Fox is such big pushers of that Digital HD marketing.  Oh well.  Maybe I’ll get my wish in the third box set before Creed comes out…or with Creed in it!  The other weird thing is besides the extras on Disc 1 (Rocky) and Disc 6 (Rocky Balboa), we have nothing in the way of extras on Discs 2-5, not even the trailers that were in the Undisputed collection.  Where did they go?!  Boo!  In all honesty, besides the aforementioned extras above, all you are getting with Discs 2-6 is new artwork on the Blu-ray discs themselves.  Heck, Disc 6 is a repackage of the original Rocky Balboa standalone Blu-ray from what seems like light years ago.  Where is all the behind-the-scenes footage from Rocky II to Rocky V?  Who knows?!  So without further ado and anymore wasting of your time, let’s take a closer look at all the extras housed on either Disc 1 or Disc 6, which I will distinguish between the two below for you.  Most of you avid fans of the Rocky saga will notice the majority of these as the DVD ports. All of these extras are listed as they appear in order on the Blu-ray discs.  Enjoy!

*

DISC 1:

  • 8MM Home Movies of Rocky (HD, 8:13) – This 1975 “home movie” so to speak is narrated by Director John G. Avildsen and Production Manager Lloyd Kaufman.  It starts out asking you to imagine Rocky without Philadelphia.  The producers wanted to shoot in LA.  Lloyd, President of Troma Entertainment now, shows us the scene where he’s drunk and Rocky picks him up.  We even get to see Lloyd’s wife Pat, who later went on to become the film commissioner in NY, on the set.  She’s a nice lady.  I met and talked with her in length a few years back at Comic-Con, but I digress.  As you can imagine, this footage is quite rough due to the 8mm quality of it.  It’s basically some behind-the-scenes footage set to some score with a few clips thrown in here and there and narrated by John and Lloyd.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad to have anything we have never seen before involving these films, but it’s not the showstopper that will make you take notice and declare you want to double dip.  Oh what the heck?  Why not?!  You get to learn that all meals on set involved pizza.  LOL.  Did you know that Rocky was the second movie ever to use the unknown product of the Steadicam?  Now you do!
  • Three Rounds With Legendary Trainer Lou Duva (SD, 4:44) – The famous boxing trainer shares his insight on boxing and training.
  • Interview With A Legend (SD, 6:56) – Up next here we have an interview with author, commentator and historian Bert Sugar talks about all things Rocky and how it’s so much larger than just boxing..
  • The Opponents (SD, 16:23) –  This one is kind of cool from a screenwriting perspective as Producer Robert Chartoff chats about the underdog hero of Rocky and the superhuman abilities of his opponents 9aka villains) as it relates to the nucleus…THE STORY.  Carl Weathers, Dolph Lundgren and Tommy Morrison all chime in too.
  • In The Ring: Three-Part Making-Of Documentary (SD, 1:15:52) –  Now we’re talking!  A documentary with some girth!  I like it!  This three-part documentary takes a look at the original Rocky film by focusing on the origins of the story and quick production schedule, the performances of Talia and Burgess and dissection of the Paulie and Creed characters.  This also touches upon the music and choreography of the WWI fight.  This is a long one one, but a MUST-SEE for fans of Rocky in my opinion.
  • Steadicam: Then And Now With Garret Brown (SD, 17:25) -You didn’t think this one was about anything other than the Steadicam being shown off with footage from Rocky, right?  Along with a brief history, you get to see how this technology was utilized in the production of the original film.
  • Make Up! The Art And Form With Michael Westmore (SD, 15:08) – If you want a 15-minute look at the importance of makeup in Rocky, then the universe says your wish is my command.
  • Staccato: A Composer’s Notebook With Bill Conti (SD, 11:26) – I LOVE this one and rightfully so since it involves the motivational and unmistakeable score of Rocky.  This one will PUMP you up as it goes into talking about how the music relates to the underlying themes at play here.
  • The Ring of Truth (SD, 9:48) – Art Director James Spencer talks about achieving the look of Rocky.
  • Behind The Scenes With John G. Avildsen (SD, 12:36) – Our director shows us some footage he used as a drawing board to sketch out and prepare for the fight choreography.
  • Tribute To Burgess Meredith (SD, 7:56) – Stallone and others talk about the late great Burgess Meredith who passed away in 1997.
  • Tribute To James Crabe (SD, 3:46) – This one is another tribute to James Crabe who’s responsible for the gritty look of Rocky as he was the cameraman.
  • Video Commentary With Sylvester Stallone (SD, 28:56) – You gotta love Sly, don’t you?  Who doesn’t?  The man is simply genuine and seems like a class act, but until he befriends me on Facebook, I cannot confirm that completely.  LOL.  But seriously.  I would love to be the guy’s friend!  He’s a great source of inner inspiration to me and to be able to surround myself with his drive and positivity in life would be the best drug one could ever ask for, but once again like so many other times throughout this review I digress.  Here we have Stallone looking directly at the camera recalling the origin of the story, the shoot, the reception of it and more.  Love it!
  • Sylvester Stallone On Dinah! (SD, 17:16) – Am I too young to remember Dinah!?  I guess so!  So needless to say, here’s Stallone on Dinah! in 1976 talking about his own inspirational story and of course, promote the movie!
  • Stallone Meets Rocky (SD, 2:59) – I’m not sure why this even exists?  It’s real life Sylvester Stallone meets the character of Rocky with a painting of Rocky Balboa as a backdrop.  Rocky thanks Sly for inventing him.  Sly says he wants to race up the steps in Philly.  At the end Rocky holds up the Oscar Award.  Dumb!  I don’t want to spend anymore time talking about this extra.  I hate it.
  • Commentaries – Here were have a total of three separate audio commentary choices that include the following selections below.  You can also select subtitles for the spoken audio commentary track too in a slew of languages.  I have no idea if I will ever use this option again, but love that it’s there for you.
    • Writer/Actor Sylvester Stallone – What’s not to love about a Stallone commentary track.  Yep.  You heard him right!  They only had 5 days to shoot this in Philly.  This audio track was recorded during the filming of Rocky Balboa.  I don’t know about you, but I can listen to Stallone talk about these movies forever.  It was really interesting to hear about the one scene that determined whether or not Stallone would be replaced as the main actor or not.  Thankfully he nailed it!  And what about the Hertz truck they forgot to move out of the one scene.  LMAO!
    • Boxing Legends Trainer Lou Duva and Commentator Bert Sugar
    • Director John G. Avildsen, Producers Irwin Winkler, Robert Chartoff, Actors Talia Shire, Carl Weathers, Burt Young and Steadicam Inventor Garret Brown
  • Rocky Theatrical Trailer (HD, 3:34) – This one is quite the lengthy trailer, huh?  As you can see it clocks in at over 3 minutes.  It’s old school, but I love it so.
  • Rocky Teaser Trailer (SD, 1:35) – This one kind of reminds me of the “Introducing Sylvester Stallone TV Spot below the way it starts out talking about Stallone and then it breaks into a small trailer that’s just as motivating as the full trailer above.
  • Rocky TV Spots – There are a total of 3 TV spots to be found here: Introducing Sylvester Stallone (SD, :32), Critical Acclaim #1 (SD, :32) and Critical Acclaim #2 (SD, 1:02).  Sadly, there is no Play All option so you’re going to have to select these individually to watch them all.  I have to admit that even though I was too young to have seen these air on television back in the day (I would have only been 2 years old), these are a trip down memory lane and something really special in my opinion.

*

DISC 6:

  • Commentary with Sylvester Stallone – This is one of the first Blu-ray audio commentary tracks I remember listening to in the infancy of the Blu-ray format.  Not only am I a huge fan of Rocky Balboa, but also of this track too.  As I mentioned above, I could listen to Stallone ramble on and on infinitely about these motivational pictures.  I can’t recommend this one enough.  You’ll definitely learn a lot about the production through the personal stories and insight of Stallone.
  • Deleted Scenes and Alternate Ending (HD, 23:19) – This one contains a total of seven deleted scenes as well as a more victorious ending, imagining if Stallone had won the fight.  I don’t know about you, but I like the way the theatrical one ended, keeping it as grounded as possible.
  • Boxing’s Bloopers (HD, 1:31) – This is your obligatory blooper reel that’s really not bad.
  • Skill vs. Will: The Making of Rocky Balboa (HD, 17:47) – Here you have a behind-the-scenes look with interviews from cast and crew, onset footage and even the mayor of Philadelphia who chimes in.
  • Reality in the Ring: Filming Rocky’s Final Fight (HD, 15:38) – Stallone gives us a behind-the-scenes look at the exhaustive process of cutting together the fight scene.  
  • Virtual Champion: Creating the Computer Right (HD, 5:08) – This one goes over the motion capture that was utilized to create the CGI fight.

*

So like I do with all my important Blu-ray product reviews, I thought it would be really cool to post some exclusive unboxing pics of this 6-disc Blu-ray box set.  Anyone have any objections to that?  Good!  I didn’t think so!

*

Below we have the front box art of a still sealed Blu-ray box set.

Rocky 1

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And here’s the back of the box set that houses an enlarged Blu-ray case with 6-disc holders.

Rocky 2

*

I’m just so happy we get a real case as opposed to cardboard sleeves like Star Wars came in.

Rocky 3

*

And here’s the back of the case artwork which lists the A/V specifications.

Rocky 4

*

Discs 1 and 2!

Rocky 5

*

Discs 3 and 4!

Rocky 6

*

And Disc 6!  No one cares about Disc 5, do they?  Just kidding!

Rocky 7

*

Rocky Pic 4

Summary 

If you made it this far in my review, congratulations!  In hindsight, I believe the only true question here is Rocky Heavyweight Collection worth the upgrade if you already own The Undisputed Collection?  You tell me!  How much do you absolutely worship and idolize Rocky?  For some, that’s a very silly question!  I know people like my old friend Tony, who literally embodies the man with his kind heart and physical ruggedness to him, that would double dip on this set without a second of any hesitation whatsoever.  So who are you?  Are you a consumer who has to always have the best deal before you pull the trigger or are you a doer like my friend Tony and going to show me what you can do?  You don’t have to answer that.  It’s only meant to be thought provoking, making a point and of course, rhetorical.  For a Blu-ray connoisseur such as myself who happens to be a Tony, of  course it’s worth the upgrade for the remastered version of Rocky alone!  Don’t forget, you’re also getting those three audio commentary tracks with this set as well as that 8mm footage featurette.  And all that is fine and dandy, but what it really comes down to is how much you love the character, heart and never-ending determination of Rocky.  His fictional presence means the world to me in my life.  So it’s a no-brainer.  For everyone else on the fence, rest assured, I’m sure Amazon will have a sweet deal on these later in the year.  Until then…yo Adrian…I did it!  I conquered this box set!

So if you like what you see on this page here, please help support our site and my little, exhaustive typing fingers and click here to bring Rocky Heavyweight Collection home today!  Thank you very much!

Rocky Heavyweight Collection Blu-ray Cover Art

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Owner/Writer/Reviewer/Editor, Dreamer, Producer, Agent of Love, Film Lover, Writer of Screenplays and a Devoted Apostle to all things Ford Mustangs (the real ones with V8's!). Some of my favorite films include FIGHT CLUB, MOULIN ROUGE, THE DARK KNIGHT, STAR WARS alongside television shows such as SEINFELD, 24, SANFORD & SON and even the often loathed in the geek community BIG BANG THEORY. Outside of my three lives I live I also enjoy spending time with my girlfriend and our three girls (of the furry kind).

4 Responses to “Rocky Heavyweight Collection (Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Gerard Iribe

    This is an epic review, Brian. That lead-in paragraph(s) really speaks to and from the heart, which makes everything else that comes from it, that more poignant.

    Thank you for this.

    \m/ \m/

  2. Brian White

    Thank you Gerard. That may be the single greatest comment anyone has ever left for me.

  3. Tom Thompson

    I agree with the other reviewer. Adding your own experience adds realism and honesty. We can all go to that point in our life that was tough and we can remember having a personal rocky moment. Thanks for bringing us with you on this review.

  4. Brandon Peters

    I loved this coverage. This was professional, personal, passionate and informative all at the same time. The Friday the 13th review now has its partner in crime. I think you’re ready for 10+ series review.

    Great work, seriously. If people aren’t clicking the Amazon link after reading this…well…maybe they’re homeless and just accidentally stumbled upon this while surfing porn at an internet cafe (do those still exist?).