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John G. Avildsen
Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Carl Weathers, Burgess Meredith, Thayer David, Joe Spinell, Jimmy Gambina
Writing Credits:
Sylvester Stallone

His whole life was a million-to-one shot.

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.

Box Office:
$1.1 million.
Domestic Gross
$117.235 million.

Rated PG

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English Monaural
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 120 min.
Price: $34.98
Release Date: 5/10/11

• Trailers
• Hardcover Book


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Rocky [Blu-Ray Book] (1976)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 27, 2011)

Here's an age that has become increasingly hard to recall: the era in which Sylvester Stallone was a respected talent. I don't know which route is more common, but some actors follow one of two paths. On one hand, a few performers start out as popular but poorly-regarded among the critical community, and they later earn respect; Jim Carrey falls into that category.

On the other hand, there’s the Stallone way. Although 1976’s Rocky was far from his first film, it was the one that brought him fame and success, as it earned an Oscar for Best Picture in addition to nominations for Stallone himself in the acting and writing categories.

But it's mostly been downhill since then for old Sly, at least as far as critical acclaim goes. Through the Eighties, he became a huge star but got farther and farther from the sense of realism and honesty that pervaded his earlier work. He clearly believed the hype, especially after the enormous success of Rambo: First Blood Part II in 1985. After that hit, we experienced atrocities such as Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot and the arm-wrestling epic Over the Top. Stallone attempted to regain some of his lost reputation with the more serious and gritty Copland in 1997, but it didn't work; everyone still seemed to view him as a big, dopey galoot.

Was Rocky an aberration, a one-shot deal that spent whatever creative abilities Stallone ever possessed and forever doomed him to be a hack, or did success simply corrupt Stallone and spoil what could have been a nice run of good work? I guess we'll never know, but at least we have the original Rocky to look at as a fine film.

I'm not quite sure it deserved to win Best Picture against some tough competition in 1976. It topped All the President’s Men, Bound for Glory, Network and Taxi Driver. When you combine the continued resonance of both Watergate and Vietnam with the jingoistic glory that surrounded the Bicentennial, it's not surprising that Rocky, the only "feel-good" picture in the bunch, would take home the prize. The fact that the film's success - Rocky also was the biggest moneymaker for 1976 - paralleled the story's "underdog" theme certainly helped as well.

Did Rocky deserve to beat some of the classics against which it competed? Probably not, but that shouldn't diminish the fact it's still a fine and entertaining film. Unfortunately, the combination of some dreadful sequels and Stallone's generally-poor reputation have diminished this movie's legacy, but if it's inspected on its own, Rocky offers a strong experience.

Stallone himself offers a gently sweet and affecting performance as Rocky, a not-too-successful fighter who gets an improbable shot at the big-time. While I wasn't sure I completely bought Sly during Rocky's moments of rage, he made the character endearingly modest and simple without creating a moronic joke. Rocky retained his dignity and seemed surprisingly real.

Also effective was Talia Shire's turn as Rocky's sweetheart Adrian. Oddly, I found her more believable as an intensely shy wallflower than when she grows as a person due to Rocky's affection. One unusual aspect of Rocky is that it actually makes some attractive people seem unappealing. Most movies take good-looking folks and try to make them look ugly, but it rarely works; it almost always appears obvious that underneath some bad style choices exists a hottie. That's not the case here. Both Stallone and Shire look pretty grotty at times in their roles, and this sense of realism helps the film.

Though the plot seems improbable, the film presents it believably and I easily buy into Rocky's story. The movie progresses at a nice pace which keeps the viewer involved and interested, though I think it moves a little too quickly at times. For example, Adrian's transformation from skank to babe happens too rapidly and effortlessly. One minute she's hiding in a corner, and the next she's all dolled up and ready to go!

I also thought the climactic fight flew by too fast. We don't get enough of a feel for what an epic battle this thing was supposed to be, as the montage treatment loses the sense of desperation and weariness it should portray. It's still a fairly rousing climax for the film, but I thought it could have been paced better.

Speaking of the fight, I could never figure out one thing in regard to it: the match is billed as occurring on a big day for the US, and it seems likely this should be July 4. In fact, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) once refers to the bout as taking place on the nation's biggest birthday. However, the fight actually happens on January 1, 1976. My guess is that they wanted to have it take place on July 4 but production issues caused them to change it to New Year’s Day. In any case, it seemed very confusing since every aspect of discussion about the bout clearly leads one to believe it'll take place on Independence Day.

That oddity excepted, Rocky remains a very good film. The story of the underdog who makes good is as old as time itself, but it continues to maintain appeal and the movie shows how that can happen. I won't argue that Rocky deserved its Best Picture victory over some strong competitors, but I think it's a nice piece of work nonetheless.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B-/ Bonus D-

Rocky appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The film showed its age and budgetary restrictions.

Sharpness was decidedly inconsistent. Occasional shots – like those at the pet store – looked great, as they displayed excellent clarity and definition. Plenty of others could be rather iffy and soft, though. Most of the movie offered decent delineation, however, given the source restrictions. I noticed no jagged edges or shimmering, and edge enhancement remained absent.

Print flaws appeared at varying points throughout the film, but they seemed fairly minor for the most part. Grain was the most prominent distraction, as some parts of the flick – like the opening fight - were intensely grainy. Occasional specks came along as well.

Colors were generally subdued - this is a gritty character drama, after all, and Philly isn't Miami – and they could be erratic as well. Most of the hues looked fine, but skin tones could be messy. At times Rocky and the others looked nearly purple! These elements were satisfactory most of the time, however.

Black levels appeared fairly deep and dark, and shadow detail also was appropriately thick without any signs of murkiness. That was a pleasant surprise. Much of Rocky took place in dank settings, so I feared the film would often become impenetrable. The low-light shots were reasonably vivid. This was an erratic transfer, but I thought it deserved a “B-“ given its age and gritty setting.

This DTS-HD MA 5.1 remix of the original monaural audio expanded the image in a modest but pleasing manner. Most of the sound remained anchored to the center channel, but a few effects spread nicely to the sides as well. Probably the "showiest" instance happened early in the film when Rocky walked past some street singers and their voices panned from the center to the right.

Other than that, it's just music - which boasted some very nice stereo separation - and ambiance on the sides. The surrounds also included these factors. The effects popped up from the rear mainly during the final fight scene, but the music drifted back there quite frequently, which added a lot to the impact of the score.

Quality seemed decent but unexceptional. Dialogue appeared vaguely flat for the most part, but it remained consistently intelligible and clear. The one poor instance that involved speech occurred at about the 74-minute mark, when Rocky and Paulie talk in the meat locker; the dialogue sounded really rough and edgy during that scene. This wasn't an issue at other times, though. Effects were clean though thin, and the music sounded pleasantly crisp and distinct; the score largely lacked much low-end but it seemed adequately reproduced. The 5.1 mixes stayed appropriately modest and worked nicely for the film.

How did the audio and picture of this 2011 release compare with the 2006 Blu-ray of Rocky? Both are identical – literally. The 2011 set just takes the 2006 and repackages it.

That means we still don’t find many extras. We get trailers for the film as well as Flyboys, Windtalkers, The Usual Suspects and Bulletproof Monk. In addition, this release comes in a hardcover book. It includes essays from Richard Tanne and Travis Baker, cast/crew biographies, trivia and photos. It’s a nice little booklet.

Note that there’s a Collector’s Edition DVD with many supplements, but the Blu-ray fails to include them.

Rocky continues to hold up well after 35 years. The movie marks the creative high point of Sylvester Stallone’s career, and it offers a moving and inspirational look at a bum made good. The Blu-ray provides decent picture and audio but omits significant extras.

One might’ve hoped MGM would’ve used this 2011 Limited Edition to finally package the many supplements from earlier DVDs on Blu-ray, but that’s not the case. Instead, it just plops the existing 2006 Blu-ray in a new book-based package – and add $15 to the list price. If you could get this version for a couple of bucks more than the disc-only edition, I’d say go for it, but the mini-book isn’t worth any more than that.

To rate this film visit the Collector's Edition review of ROCKY

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