Rocky Heavyweight Collection Blu-ray Review

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“…a set that’s simply a must have for any cinephile.”

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Rocky
In South Philadelphia, Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) is collector for a gangster and an amateur boxer. Rocky trains at his local gym that is run by Mickey (Burgess Meredith) who thinks that he wastes his potential as a leg breaker. His career isn’t really going anywhere until the World Heavyweight Champion Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) wants an exhibition fight for the Fourth of July at the Spectrum in “the city of brotherly love.” Mickey then begs Rocky to train with him because he wants to feel important again. Rocky is also trying to show his love for his friend Paulie’s (Burt Young) sister, Adrienne (Talia Shire). Even with his tough exterior, Rocky is very shy about talking to her. She becomes the love of his life and the most supportive person in his life. When Rocky agrees, Mickey runs him through a tough regiment and takes him from a brawler to a real boxer who’s ready to fight the champion.

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Rocky II
Immediately after the exhibition against Apollo Creed, Rocky decides to spend a little money, marry Adrienne, and decides he wants a normal job instead of boxing. He finds out quickly that he has no skills other than being in the ring. Apollo is catching a lot of flak from the boxing community that he barely won the fight and Rocky is a real contender for the title. Apollo has blinders on that he needs to beat Balboa in a rematch so he sets it up. In the end, both want to prove that one deserves to be champion over the other.

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Rocky III
Rocky is now the World Heavyweight Champion after beating Apollo in an extremely close match. He cleans up his image by taking high paying matches, endorsements, and magazine covers. At the same time, a new fighter named Clubber Lang (Mr. T) is on a winning streak to be able to challenge the champ. Mickey tells him that the fighters Rocky has fought have been hand chosen to allow Rocky to continue winning. Balboa figures out that if he wants to win, he will need help from the best boxer he knows, Apollo.

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Rocky IV
After Rocky retires, a new boxer and army captain from the Soviet Union named Ivan Drago (Lundgren) enter professional boxing. Drago is “indestructible” and he has more power in his punches than any other fighter ever. Drago’s wife (Nielsen) want an exhibition to prove that he is unmatched but instead, Apollo gets the idea that he needs to make a show out of the event. During the fight in Las Vegas, Drago not only wins but also kills Apollo in the ring. Rocky wants to avenge his friend and challenges Drago to fight on his home turf…in Russia.

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Rocky V
Immediately after the fight with Drago, Rocky feels like something is wrong. His hands are shaky and he doesn’t really know to whom he is talking to or where he is. When they get back to the states, they find out that the accountant has left them completely broke. To make matters worse, the doctors tell Rocky that he has suffered brain trauma from the tremendous beatings he has taken from boxing. With not being able to fight and the money is gone, the Balboa family has no choice but to move back to South Philly to pick up the pieces. He reopens Mickey’s gym to train boxers and he meets a kid named Tommy “The Machine” Gunn (Morrison). Rocky takes Tommy under his wing as his manager/trainer and Tommy does well. When named as Rocky’s puppet, that’s when the greed and bitterness gets a hold of Tommy.

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Rocky Balboa
Continuing about 15 years after Rocky V, Adrienne has passed away and Rocky comes to visit her grave from time to time. Rocky now owns a restaurant that he named after his wife and he’s just trying to keep on living. His son, Robert (Ventimiglia), is also trying to make his own life while working in Philly and under the shadow of his father. In the boxing world, The champion named Mason “The Line” Dixon (Antonio Tarver) is being criticized for taking easy fights just to maintain his title. ESPN has created a virtual boxing match by taking all of the stats of Mason Dixon VS Rocky to simulate who would win. Rocky is the clear winner due to his strong hits and endurance. Rocky is practically forced to come out of retirement for one last fight to settle the argument and his internal struggles.

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Rocky is arguably the best underdog story in cinema and it’s the template that every sports film after it strives to be. Sylvester Stallone does an incredible job as a resident of South Philly and writing an amazing script. The movie was before Stallone became a huge action star and he was an unknown in the entertainment world until this role put him on the map. For a film that wrapped shooting in only 28 days and on a shoestring budget, the finished product is simply spectacular.

For most of his career, Director John G. Avildsen has made films that leave a lasting impression with the audience and in my opinion; this was the movie that showed the world his talent. Rocky, at the time of this being published, the film is ranked #4 on the American Film Institute (AFI) 100 films. It’s a film that not one single person involved saw exploding with popularity like it did.

Rocky II is the first of the series that is written, directed, and stars Stallone. He took the franchise over from this movie and every one after it. It is a good movie but I have to imagine that this was a tough sequel to try and make more successful than a film that became an American classic. It’s a solid movie but it unfortunately fell into some of the issues that happen to most sequels. The beginning is a little slow getting to the bulk of the story but it does pay off in the end. It has the same caliber of acting that the first film has but there’s just something missing.

Rocky III is, in my opinion, the first movie with a tough opponent. Rocky’s main rival in this film is Mr. T, who was not who the producers had in mind when they were looking to cast the part. Mr. T got the part because of his menacing look and the Mohawk is what sold them. It’s a very good sequel but this is where the franchise’s metaphorical lines get smudged. Rocky goes from having a thick South Philly accent to it almost not having one at all. Some could argue that it’s because of cleaning up his image but it’s an inconstancy that is really hard to ignore. Also, his intelligence fluctuates throughout the series from very dumb to smarter to punchy.

Rocky IV is a very entertaining film because it takes the franchise completely out of its comfort zone and uses events for the time period as a backdrop for the match. The film was released in the twilight of the Cold War and it uses what is happening in the news like the current movies and the Middle East. This was the most financially successful in the franchise and I think it’s because it was something that was parallel with what was happening in the world. Dolph Lundgren plays Ivan Drago, the larger than life Russian. As Lundgren says in an interview, this was the role that jump-started his career.

Rocky V is probably the least popular in the franchise. The rival in this film is a real boxer named Tommy Morrison. He was young in his fighting career and that’s exactly what they wanted to play the part. The movie feels like Stallone and the studio thought it was going end the franchise on a high note, possibly even paving the way for another sequel, depending on its success of course. But when the movie didn’t do that well at the box office, I think people thought that this really was to be the end of this once great character.

When Rocky Balboa was coming to the theaters, I think critics and audiences just figured this was just a way to squeeze one last movie out of the franchise, hopefully redeeming the last movie as a better way to close on the series. The movie went back to its roots and told the story of the man himself with his deep struggles. It’s beautifully filmed, directed and written with Philadelphia used as the backdrop again. It told an underdog story again, but as one of the characters, Marie, says in the film, “Tomorrow, you’re gonna prove that the last thing to age on somebody is their heart.”

The one defining characteristic about this film is during the final fight, the movie is filmed like an HBO pay-per-view event. They put names and stats on the screen like a real broadcasted boxing match. It was a simple but strong idea to set it apart from the rest. Make sure to check out “Reality in the Ring: Filming Rocky’s Final Fight” featurette on the Rocky Balboa disc, it takes things completely behind the scenes of that perfectly filmed last act.

Directors
John G. Avildsen (Directed Rocky)
Sylvester Stallone (Director of Rocky II, III, IV, V, and Rocky Balboa)

Franchise Cast
Sylvester Stallone – Rocky Balboa (The Italian Stallion; In Rocky I, II, III, IV, V, Rocky Balboa)
Talia Shire – Adrian Pennino/Balboa (Rocky’s girlfriend then wife; In Rocky I, II, III, IV, and V)
Burt Young – Paulie (Adrienne brother and Rocky’s friend; In Rocky I, II, III, IV, V, Rocky Balboa)
Carl Weathers – Apollo Creed (boxer and Rocky’s friend; In Rocky I, II, III, and IV)
Burgess Meredith – Mickey Goldmill (Rocky’s friend and trainer; In Rocky I, II, III, IV, V)
Mr. T – Clubber Lang (Rocky’s opponent in Rocky III)
Dolph Lundgren – Captain Ivan Drago (Rocky’s opponent in Rocky IV)
Brigitte Nielsen – Ludmilla Vobet Drago (Drago’s Wife in Rocky IV)
Sage Stallone – Robert Balboa Jr (Rocky’s son in Rocky V)
Tommy Morrison – Tommy Gunn (Rocky’s protégé and opponent in Rocky V)
Richard Gant – George Washington Duke (boxing promoter in Rocky V)
Tony Burton – Tony “Duke” Evers (Apollo and Rocky’s trainer; Rocky I, II, III, IV, V, Rocky Balboa)
Antonio Tarver – Mason ‘The Line’ Dixon (Rocky’s opponent in Rocky Balboa)
Milo Ventimiglia – Robert Balboa (Rocky’s son in Rocky Balboa)
Geraldine Hughes – Marie (the bartender, Rocky’s friend in Rocky Balboa)
James Francis Kelly III – Stephenson “Steps” (Marie’s son in Rocky Balboa)

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Rocky
Rocky was the only film in the collection that was remastered and this is the second time that it has been released on Blu-ray. The transfer is in 1080p AVC and with the film coming up on its 40th anniversary; this is the best it has looked. The coloring is much more natural, especially in the skin tones. In the older release, everyone had very pale complexions but now they’re warm and more realistic. There is definitely more detailing that has been brought out, giving the scenes more depth. The other side of that coin is the makeup is noticeably dated and the blending lines stand out. This is something that happens when older movie are remastered. Sometimes the makeup looks obvious due to the clarity in the mastering. However, with the details being brought out, the film has been digitally scrubbed so, at times, the images get blurred. The scene that shows this most is when Rocky and Adrienne are in his apartment for the first time. Rocky’s face looks like there is Vaseline smeared on the film, losing details and it’s slightly pixilated. Also the grain in the film is practically gone from the DNR. It’s just overdone and heavy handed. Overall, MGM/FOX’s newest way of remastering films does not look as good as the previous Blu-rays done with this technique.

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Rocky II
The video transfer for this film is also a 1080p AVC that’s a direct transfer from the film version, converted in HD. The detailing has improved so much that it makes everything pop. It’s a step up from DVD but it does have a lot of issues. The initial scene is from the first film and it’s has a lot of flaws such as bright spots and hairs. Throughout the movie, there are speckles and scratches in the film that haven’t been digitally removed. There are also some color issues as well as blocking, pixilation, and black crushing. Hopefully in the next release, they might clean up this video as well.

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Rocky III
The video on the third film is much better than the second movie. It’s also in a 1080p AVC that has fairly clean transfer. There is a lot of grain that is essentially noise from the transfer. Details are on point and the images have excellent separation. The only major issue is there is a little bit of contrasting that’s off in some of the darker scenes and this might be from the noise in the transfer. There are some sporadic, noticeable speckles in the film but they’re not distracting. I’m not sure if the original movie was better preserved than the second film but, if that’s the case, this is the better looking movie.

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Rocky IV
This movie has been transferred in 1080p AVC as well and it is definitely a step above the previous 2 films. The picture is clearer with much sharper details and, again, perhaps the source material was better preserved. It might also be due to this movie being the biggest moneymaker in the franchise and arguably the fan favorite. There is still that grain/noise in the film but it isn’t as heavy on this disc. The coloring in the film is more reflective of an HD release with them being more vivid and rich. There is some minor contrast issues in the darker scenes with some slight pixilation but it’s a good release overall.

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Rocky V
As this review has progressed, so has the quality from Rocky II to this film. Rocky V has the same 1080p AVC transfer but it just looks like something is missing. The details are sharp and consistent throughout the movie. The blacks are dark and have a lot of good contrast. The grain on this movie is very light but there is some pixilation and noise in the background areas that is minor but worth mentioning. Also, the coloring seems a little off and inconsistent. Sometimes it’s bright and at other times it’s intense or overexposed. It’s not exactly a shining moment in the collection.

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Rocky Balboa
The quality of the transfer of this movie is easily the best in the series. Being that this is the latest film in the franchise, the 1080p transfer looks excellent. The disc is from the original 2007 Sony release but just with different artwork. Even after 7 years of this progressing technology, the quality is unmatched in the collection. The colors are bold and vibrant in every frame. It’s obvious this was filmed in HD and it’s brilliantly authored to showcase the beauty. The warmth in the skin tones looks great but the hues are a little red. There are a lot of clear details and film grain that gives it personality that a Rocky movie deserves. There are also a lot of low-lit scenes that you might think that contrasting would be an issue, but there aren’t any issues in that area. This is a reference Blu-ray for sure.

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Rocky
I viewed the movie with the DTS HD-MA 5.1 and this new version of the audio track sounds great. The HD mix has an amazing presence and it brings a lot of life to the film. The scenes inside the gym and at the boxing matches have ambient sound filling the home theater with crowd noise/cheering. The mix has a little more bass that the original Blu-ray doesn’t have. It sounds natural and like it has always been there. Overall, it’s quite an improvement from the original Blu-ray release.

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Rocky II
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix for this movie is flat and lifeless. The majority of the sound is coming from the front three speakers. This is made up of the dialogue and some of the ambient sounds but it blends to a point where some of the elements get lost. The crowd at the fight is mostly in all of the speakers but the score is its saving audio’s grace. It uses every channel evenly without any separation problems. The music sounds great and separate in every channel.

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Rocky III
With a decent DTS-HD Master Audio mix, the music, the sound effects and dialogue are more separated in this movie. The more prominent songs in the score are “Eye of the Tiger” and “Gonna Fly.” Also, the bass is light except for the scene where they arrive in LA and the song “Take it Back” plays with a singer and a bass guitar. I would even say that it isn’t until the second half of the film the mix wakes up. Mr. T. has a very loud voice in general so when he yells, there’s a bit of overdrive in the speakers that causes distortion.

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Rocky IV
The DTS-HD MA track on Rocky IV is a much stronger mix than II and III. There is still heavy use of the sound in the front channels but there is a much better use of the rear channels. Very good highs and some better bassy tones but the biggest stand out moment in the movie was during James Brown’s performance of “Living in America.” It is loud, clear, and filled the room with music. The other parts of the score and musical scenes do well just like in they have in the previous films. Yes, it could definitely be a stronger mix but we can hope it will be in the next round.

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Rocky V
The mix for this movie was definitely better than the video transfer. Also being in DTS-HD MA, the mix has more depth that these types of movies require. Again, this movie is very dialogue driven, but there are a lot more scenes in the streets of Philly, at the gym with boxers training and at the kid’s schoolyard that have better speaker use. This creates good channel filling ambient sound. Like the other films, the score is clear and separated from any sound effects in the movie. This is especially evident through the many montages that are in the movie. Also worth mentioning is the range of the mix. It uses highs, mids and good LFEs consistently from start to finish.

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Rocky Balboa
The Audio for this film is a Sony standard that they don’t use anymore: uncompressed PCM 5.1 and it sounds incredible. There are a few scenes, aside from the boxing matches of course with strong ambient sound. Like most of the Rocky films, it’s dialogue heavy so the front speakers get the most use, but the rear speakers don’t get to rest too much. The most impressive section of the film is during the fight at the end. The sound field is fluid in its movement in the theater is very realistic. Even the hits thrown between the boxers are felt in the bass track when they are connecting punches. The bass is heavy and the highs are clean. Honestly, like the video transfer for this disc, this mix is practically flawless.

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This is one of the most extensive sets of bonus features that I’ve ever seen in a release. The reason it’s not getting a perfect score is because only half of them are new to this release.

Bonus Features on the Rocky Disc:
-8mm Home Movies of Rocky (1975) – Narrated by Director John G Avildsen and Production Manager Lloyd Kaufman: This is a short featurette of Avildsen narrating his experiences on set and interacting with the actors. He also explains the challenges that the production went through to get the film made. It’s a good look at how much went into the film to make it a classic.

-Three Rounds With Legendary Trainer Lou Duva: This featurette interviews Lou Duva about how he trains boxers and his style to make them learn.

-Interview with a legend: Bert Sugar: This is a short interview with the late, great sports writer and historian on how he feels that Rocky Balboa has touched American culture. He speaks about how it is a true to life movie and how the character/actor is inspiring.

-The Opponents: This featurette takes a look at how Rocky is nothing without the “villains” or antagonists. They needed people that were challenges to make Balboa great. Interviews include Robert Chartoff, Carl Weathers, Dolph Lungren, and Tommy Morrison.

-In the Ring: Three Part Making-of Documentary: This is a 3 part documentary with footage over the years from the cast, crew and producers.

-Part I: the featurette goes over how Stallone came into producer Robert Chartoff’s office who looking for work and gave him the first draft of Rocky. Everyone also goes over how they loved the script and wanted to audition for the parts.

-Part II: the portion discusses how the character of Adrianne has so much depth that Talia Shire and Sylvester Stallone never expected. They also remember Burgess Meredith and his incredible performance. Also just how he touched their lives beyond the film to a point that the cast get very emotional.

-Part III: This portion, the cast talks about the actor, Burt Young and his role as Paulie, Carl Weathers portraying Apollo Creed and training/creating the final fight.

-Steadicam: Then and Now with Garrett Brown: This featurette interviews cinematographer Garrett Brown. He is the inventor of the steadicam, which is a crucial tool in filmmaking. This changed the way films have been made from then on. His test footage on the art museum steps was a direct influence as to why that iconic shot made it into the film.

-Make Up! The Art and Form with Michael Westmore: This featurette speaks with Michael Westmore and how he came up with the makeup for Rocky. He comes from a long line of makeup artists that have been involved with movies for decades.

-Staccato: A Composer’s Notebook with Bill Conti: This interview with composer Bill Conti and how he created the score for the film. He talks about how there are a lot of different elements to consider while writing music.

-The Ring of Truth: The art director James Spencer is interviewed in this featurette how he planned and found locations for shooting.

-Behind the Scenes with John G. Avildsen: This featurette takes a look behind the scenes with the director.

-Tributes: Burgess Meredith, James Crabe: These featurettes have the cast and personal friends to remember these great people.

-Video Commentary with Sylvester Stallone: This isn’t so much commentary but Stallone telling stories about some of the scenes in the film.

-Sylvester Stallone on Dinah!: This is a clip from the 70’s talk show Dinah with Stallone as a guest star.

-Stallone Meets Rocky: This clip is from the DVD extras with the actor meeting the character from the movie.

-Commentary by Writer/Actor Sylvester Stallone

– Commentary by Boxing Legends Trainer Lou Duva and Commentator Bert Sugar

– Commentary by John G. Avildsen, producers Irwin Winkler, Robert Chartoff, Talia Shire, Carl Weathers Burt Young and steadicam inventor Garret Brown

Trailers and TV Spots
-Theatrical trailer
-Teaser Trailer
-TV Spots

Bonus Features on the Rocky Balboa Disc:
-Commentary with Sylvester Stallone: Stallone gives a good commentary of the movie with him telling his experiences of filming the movie.

-Deleted Scenes and Alternate Ending: This portion includes seven deleted scenes and an alternate ending.

-Boxing’s Bloopers: this is short featurette of some outtakes from the movie. It’s bloopers of people messing up lines or missing their mark.

-Skill vs. Will: The Making of Rocky Balboa: This excellent behind-the-scenes featurette with cast and crew interviews, lots of on-set footage, and even a few words from the mayor of Philadelphia.

Reality in the Ring: Filming Rocky’s Final Fight: Stallone talks about how he choreographed the not only the final fight but the training as well. Stallone did a phenomenal job bringing everything together. Also how they basically hijacked an HBO boxing event and film a live fight. The punches during this scene were real but, of course, pulled a bit.

-Virtual Champion: Creating the Computer Fight: The featurette explains the training and processes of layering to make the virtual boxing match between Rocky and Mason Dixon.

-Previews: There are the included trailers on the disc
Casino Royale
Talladega Nights
Stranger Than Fiction
Gridiron Gang
The Pursuit of Happyness

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Details for the Set
5 Blu-ray Discs

Region Coding
Region Free

Rocky Details
Disc Rating
PG

Video
1080p AVC MPEG-4 AVC

Audio Tracks
English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
English Dolby Digital Mono
Spanish Dolby Digital 1.0
French DTS 5.1

Rocky II Details
Disc Rating

PG

Video
1080p AVC MPEG-4 AVC

Audio Tracks
English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
English Dolby Surround
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
French DTS 5.1

Rocky III Details
Disc Rating
PG

Video
1080p AVC MPEG-4 AVC

Audio Tracks
English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
English Dolby Surround
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
French DTS 5.1

Rocky IV Details
Disc Rating

PG

Video
1080p AVC MPEG-4 AVC

Audio Tracks
English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
English Dolby Surround
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
French DTS 5.1

Rocky V Details
Disc Rating

PG-13

Video
1080p AVC MPEG-4 AVC

Audio Tracks
English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
English Dolby Surround
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
French DTS 5.1

Rocky Balboa Details
Disc Rating

PG-13

Video
1080p AVC MPEG-4 AVC

Audio Tracks
English PCM Uncompressed 5.1
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1

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The Rocky film collection is a set that’s simply a must have for any cinephile. It’s a franchise that over the course of 40 years has had peaks and valleys that, as a whole, make for excellent entertainment. The remaster of the first film with the extras is an excellent way to present this movie. There are some low points in the authoring overall but the very last film’s quality ascends steadily with Rocky II – V. The heavyweight set is, at the moment, the only way to purchase the remastered first film. If you already own the previously released “undisputed” collection, aside from the remaster, the disc’s artwork matching up is the only other upgrade. The extras alone in this set make it worth purchasing due to the extensive bonus features packed in the collection. If you haven’t picked up or upgraded your collection to Blu-ray yet, this is the version to get. I would recommend this to collectors and fans alike.

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About the author

MEDIA JOURNALIST & STAFF WRITER | Michael is a fanatic about all cinema. He collects many things from movies to Steelbooks to 1/6 Scale Collectibles and vinyl collectibles. He loves pop culture, writing, reviewing films & collectibles, and journalism. Anything that is even slightly related to these things are always on his radar and most definitely a comic book nerd. He is also, of course, a Batman junkie and will chat it up about pretty much anything.