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Rocky (Digibook Version) (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 25, 2011 by  



“Rocky” is the ultimate sports film, the ultimate boxing film and a film that is a true classic but also featuring a character that is so iconic!  While there is no doubt that the film is fantastic, the Blu-ray release unfortunately is not.  This 2011 Blu-ray release is pretty much the exact same 2006 Blu-ray disc but with a newer digibook packaging.  Previous owners will probably not need to upgrade but if you haven’t seen the film or purchased it yet, then definitely check this release out!  The Blu-ray could have been better, but for now, this latest release will suffice.

Images courtesy of © 1976 Metro Goldwyn Mayer Studios, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Rocky

FILM RELEASE DATE: 1976

DURATION: 119 minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (widescreen 1:85:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English Mono, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish Mono, Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

RATED: PG

COMPANY: UA/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc./Twentieth Century Fox

RELEASE DATE: May 10, 2011

Directed by John G. Avildsen

Written by Sylvester Stallone

Produced by Robert Chartoff, Irwin Winkler

Executive Producer: Gene Kirkwood

Music by Bill Conti

Cinematography by James Crabe

Edited by Scott Conrad, Richard Halsey

Casting by Caro Jones

Production Design by William J. Cassidy

Art Direction by James H. Spencer

Set Decoration by Ray Molyneaux

Starring:

Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa

Talia Shire as Adrian Pennino

Burt Young as Paulie Pennino

Carl Weathers as Apollo Creed

Burgess Meredith as Mickey Goldmill

Thayer David as George Jergens

Joe Spinell as Tony Gazzo

Jimmy Gambina as Mike

Jodi Letizia as Marie

Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) is a Philadelphia club fighter who seems to be going nowhere. But whena stroke of fate puts him in the ring with a world heavyweight champion, Rocky knows that it’s his one shot at the big time – a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go the distance and come out a winner!

The greatest boxing film of all time!?

Sure, there will be countless debates on whether “Rocky” or “Raging Bull” is the best boxing film of all time but what we do know is that “Rocky” was the most successful and it literally came from nowhere to surprise everyone, win multiple awards and become a money-earning beast in the box office!

Written by Sylvester Stallone, who has had bit parts previously in films such as “Death Race 2000”, “The Lord’s of Flatbush” and “No Place to Hide” in the early ’70s, it was until he wrote “Rocky” where he would gain international attention.

The screenplay was inspired by a boxing fight between Muhammad Ali and Chuck Wepner, which lasted until the final 15th round in which Ali would win by TKO.  But the match was a big surprise as no one expected Wepner to last that long.

And sure enough, this low budget film directed by John G. Avildsen  (“Rocky” films and “Karate Kid” films), written and would star Sylvester Stallone would be well-received by the film critics and enormously successful in the box office.  The low budget film which cost around $1 million would bring in $225 million and would also be nominated for ten Academy Awards, winning three for “Best Director”, “Best Film Editing” and “Best Picture”.

The character of Rocky is literally an American icon, so much that a statue was commissioned in 1982 and placed at the top of the Rocky Steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  The film would be selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2006 as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

And has been listed in many polls as one of the greatest American films of all time.

“Rocky” revolves around a semi-pro boxer named Rocky Balboa (played by Sylvester Stallone), who works as a loan shark enforcer by day and trains at the local boxing gym owned by Mickey Goldmill (played by Burgess Meredith), a former bantamweight fighter from the 1920’s who feels Rocky is a disgrace because he has so much talent and never wanted to test his boxing against professional fighters but chose to stay and fight at local matches for small money (which Rocky calls it “a living”).

Each day at the gym, he goes by the pet store across the street to pick up food for his pet turtles but the real reason is that he likes Adrian Pennino (played by Talia Shire), the pet store clerk who is very shy and also the sister of his friend Paulie (played by Burt Young) who works as a meat packing plant.

Despite how much Rocky tries to make her laugh or tries to get her to go with him on a date, she doesn’t respond.

Meanwhile, the undefeated heavyweight champion Apollo Creed (played by Carl Weathers) is planning for a World Heavyweight Championship bout in Philadelphia, to celebrate the US Bicentennial.  But when his opponent is injured and other people in line to fight Apollo are not available, Apollo figures why not play to the American dream, give an underdog the opportunity to fight for the championship.

And so he picks Rocky Balboa, because of his nickname, “The Italian Stallion”.  Of course, Apollo and the others feel that no boxer is going to last that long in the ring, especially Rocky Balboa.

As for Rocky, he doesn’t know how to take the whole World Heavyweight Championship seriously but with the support of his girlfriend Adrian, his friend Paulie letting him use the frozen carcasses as the meat packing plant as a punching bag and bringing in Mickey to be his manager, with a lot of hardwork, all Rocky wants to do is go the distance with Apollo, feeling that there is no chance to beat a champ like him but he can go the distance and prove that he is not just another bum from the neighborhood.

Can Rocky do it?

VIDEO:

Because the 2011 “Rocky” Blu-ray is essentially the 2006 version (1080p High Definition, widescreen 1:85:1, mpeg 2@18mbps), as most Blu-ray owners know, the earlier Blu-rays were not that great compared to today’s Blu-rays but yet, they are still better than their DVD counterpart.  In this case, there are a few things that people should remember and that this film was a low-budget film.   While certain scenes look good and there is some detail that can be seen (such as opening fight and you can see blood dripping off Rocky’s face or when the cutting man has to do his job on Rocky, you can see that blood splatter) but for the most part, the film looks like it has aged and has a dull finish to it.

There is a good amount of grain and blacks levels are mostly good but I would imagine if this film would get a modern restoration and remastering, it could look better.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Rocky” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English Mono, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish Mono and with English SDH and Spanish subtitles.

While the film does have good ambiance during the scenes with a lot of people or when you hear the Rocky theme playing the background, one again, this is the 2006 release repackaged for 2011.  While dialogue is clear, I know that Twentieth Century Fox if they were able to give the audio a 2011 treatment, I’m sure the lossless soundtrack would be more immersive.  But there are times where audio seems a bit muffled and you feel like turning up the sound a bit.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Rocky” comes with the original theatrical trailer.

EXTRAS:

“Rocky” (Digibook Version) comes in a Digibook format with 28-pages.  “Rocky” comes with the following essays: “Stallone: Going the Distance” by Richard Tanne and “Anatomy of a Scene: The Final Fight” by Travis Baker plus cast profiles.

There is no doubt that “Rocky” is a fantastic film and possibly one of the few films where you can say that Sylvester Stallone was really deserving of an Oscar.  There are not too many films that feel right, Sylvester Stallone, from the words that come out of his mouth, he literally embodies the character of Rocky Balboa.

There is no one else that I can imagine playing Rocky Balboa, even if the studio chooses to remake it many years later, I doubt anyone can come close to the performance that Sylvester Stallone gave.  Not only did he write the film, you can tell that he could easily slip into the character and be part of that world.  A part of a world where everything seems just fine.  Making a little money or being an enforcer for a loan shark is just fine.  This is a man who grew up poor but always had fighting/boxing to keep him in check and because Rocky and his environment seemed so real to the viewer, it adds to that efficacy of the film and why Rocky has become an iconic character.

While Burgess Meredith was probably the only person at the time who had a wonderful acting career, it helps to have talent who weren’t well-known, who seemed to fit within the Rocky Balboa environment.  From the characters of Paulie to Adrian, to the girl that Rocky tries to talk to and make sure she doesn’t become a bad person growing up.  Everything from its supporting cast to those who barely were in the film for a minute, they all fit within the environment and it made this film work!  The environment was captured realistically and you have to give credit to Sylvester Stallone and also director John G. Avildsen for making this film work for only $1 million and making it a box office success!

But there is no need to go into the details of “Rocky” as this film has been seen by many people and for those interested or those who had the 2006 Blu-ray release, many may wonder… is this the big one, that would contain the special features presented in the 2007 Collector’s Edition DVD?  Unfortunately, the answer is no.

I am actually surprised that the special features were not included to begin with because it would have made this Blu-ray release an easy recommend.  But what you get is an early 2006 Blu-ray with no special features but it now has a re-release with a digibook case/packaging.

If you do not own, “Rocky” on Blu-ray, then yes, I can easily recommend this digibook version but if you do own the film on BD previously, there is no reason to upgrade since it’s the same Blu-ray that was released in 2006.

Overall, “Rocky” (Digibook Version) may not be the release that everyone was hoping to see for 2011, nor does it contain the special features that were in the 2007 DVD release.  So, I have no doubt that another Blu-ray release for “Rocky” will be released.  And  mabe it will happen for its 40th Anniversary.  But for now, this is just a re-release of the 2006 Blu-ray with a digibook that contains two essays and profiles of the actors.

But once again, if you have never seen the film or have not owned it on Blu-ray, then I can easily recommend purchasing this newer Blu-ray release (or even looking online to see if the older version is on sale).

“Rocky” the film is highly recommended, there is no doubt that this film must be viewed because it’s a great film but as for the Blu-ray release…it’s OK and the fact that we know it can better, I look forward to a much better, definitive version of “Rocky” on Blu-ray in the near future.






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