Film Length: 103 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 High Definition 1080p
Disc Type: BD-50 Dual Layer
Codec: AVC Mpeg-4
Audio: Uncompressed 5.1 PCM (48kHz, 16-Bit), English & French DD 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH & French
Release Date: March 20, 2007
Rocky Balboa is, quite simply, one of the most iconic film characters in history. The original Rocky from 1976 was a passionate story of a simple and kind-hearted man who aspired to greatness. Rocky was a truly deserving winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture. Over the years, Rocky has appeared in six films of varying quality. Rocky Balboa is the final film of the series and brings the thirty year Rocky saga to its final conclusion.
In Rocky Balboa, the Italian Stallion has retired from fighting, is in his fifties and is mourning the recent death of his beloved Adrian. Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) now owns an Italian restaurant in his old Philadelphia neighborhood where he entertains his customers with stories of his former glories in the boxing ring. Something, however, is haunting Rocky… his estrangement from his son, old friends from his past and a sense of unfinished business in life compel him to seek out one last triumph in the boxing ring.
It was striking to me when Rocky Balboa hit theaters, just how many film reviews labeled the film as “cheesy.” Have we really become that cynical? Rocky Balboa is a sweet-hearted film that is very much in the same vein as the original Rocky film from 1976. This is an inspirational story that has a lot to say and says it very well. I was thoroughly entertained and, frankly, touched by the film. Director, screenwriter and star Sylvester Stallone, has a lot to say with Rocky Balboa. He addresses the fears of aging, accomplishment and family with a wonderfully written script and a well crafted film that, in my opinion, gives a fitting and downright classy resolution to Rocky as a character. In preparation for viewing Rocky Balboa, I also revisited the original
Rocky. I highly recommend re-watching the original before watching this film. It was a great refresher and reminded me of a lot of scenes and characters I would need to remember to truly appreciate Rocky Balboa.
Rocky Balboa hits Blu-ray with a spectacular AVC transfer that is nothing short of reference. I was simply in awe of how gorgeous this transfer is. From the gritty, beautifully rendered grain in the first half of the movie to the astounding HD Video of the final fight scenes, this transfer delivered superlative contrast, shadow detail, color saturation and fine detail. Stallone was very inventive in choosing how to film Rocky Balboa. He wisely uses a very grainy and high contrast film stock for the earthy street scenes of Philadelphia and then presents the fight scenes in pristine HD video as though we are watching a HD broadcast on ESPN. It all works to spectacular effect and I can’t help but give this Sony disc my highest possible recommendation for video quality.
Rocky Balboa is a very dialog heavy film for its first seventy minutes. PCM Audio is, once again, a fine option from Sony. The film’s dialog is expertly reproduced here and Bill Conti’s epic and legendary music rings from the speakers with a bright and transparent clarity that I’ve never heard in these themes before. Once Rocky’s training begins, this soundtrack spins into motion with outstanding surround use and exceptional dynamics. The famous Rocky theme has never sounded as majestic as it does in pristine PCM audio. The final fight scenes are aurally exciting as the crowd roars in the surround channels and virtually every cat-call and heckle is heard with amazing clarity. Expect for your subwoofer to help drive home exactly how punishingly each and every body blow is delivered. This is outstanding audio and, like the video on this Blu-ray disc, is absolute reference material.
Here’s what’s included:
-“Skill vs. Will: The Making of Rocky Balboa”
-"Reality in the Ring: Filming Rocky's Final Fight"
-"Virtual Champion: Creating the Computer Fight"
Note: all video features are presented on this Blu-ray in 1080 resolution.
If this set of extras is any indication, Rocky Balboa was made with an amazing amount of care. Virtually every aspect of production was lovingly documented. I was pretty well blown away by Sylvester Stallone’s frank and charming commentary. He goes into great depth regarding his motivations for making Rocky Balboa and speaks with great passion on the making of the film, his life and his career failings. This is one of the finest and most entertaining commentaries I have heard in quite some time. “Skill vs. Will: The Making of Rocky Balboa”, is a nice behind the scenes featurette with cast interviews and production notes. "Reality in the Ring: Filming Rocky's Final Fight" covers the excruciating filming process of the final, climactic fight scene. Stallone really is a very skilled director and it is informative to see how these scenes were filmed and choreographed. “Virtual Champion” details the development of the computer simulation used in the film and that serves as a key plot point in the development of the story. We are also presented with a handful of deleted scenes that expand on many of the characters in the film. These are actually worthwhile scenes and not the typical junk that usually ends up in these collections. I also really enjoyed “Boxing Bloopers”. Expect more than a few laughs from this featurette. Finally, the alternate ending adds a bit more meat to the original ending of the film. Don’t expect any serious revelations, but it is nice to see how this was trimmed down to the ending that ended up in the theatrical release.
The Final Analysis:
Rocky Balboa is a truly heartwarming and charming film. As a throwback to the original Rocky it is a fitting and moving ending to this six film saga. Video and audio quality on this Blu-ray release is second to none and the supplements set a new standard for Blu-ray releases. Rocky Balboa is an exceptional Blu-ray release and one that deserves a place in your permanent collection.
Equipment used for this review:
Panasonic DMP-BD10 Blu-Ray Player
Panasonic PT-AE1000 Front Projector
Carada 93” diagonal 16x9 Criterion Series/Brilliant White Screen – www.carada.com
Rotel RSX-1056 Surround Receiver
Rotel RB-1080 Amplifier
M&K MX-125 Subwoofer