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Blu-ray Reviews

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#1 of 38 OFFLINE   Ben_Williams


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Posted March 17 2007 - 06:37 PM


Studio: Sony
Year: 2006
Rated: PG-13
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

The Movie:
(****/*****) 4/5

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.


The Video:
(*****/*****) 5/5

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.

The Audio:
(*****/*****) 5/5

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.

The Supplements:
(*****/****) 5/5

Here’s what’s included:
-Director’s Commentary
-“Skill vs. Will: The Making of Rocky Balboa
-"Reality in the Ring: Filming Rocky's Final Fight"
-"Virtual Champion: Creating the Computer Fight"
-Deleted Scenes
-Boxing Bloopers
-Alternate Ending

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:
(*****/*****) 5/5

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
B&W Speakers
M&K MX-125 Subwoofer
Interconnects: www.catcables.com

#2 of 38 OFFLINE   Jim_K


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Posted March 18 2007 - 01:00 AM

Thanks for the review. Another blind-buy for me. My copy shipped a few days ago which means I'll probaly get it in my hands by early April if I'm lucky.
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#3 of 38 OFFLINE   AlanZ



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Posted March 18 2007 - 02:47 AM

Awesome review. As excited as I was to see this film, it exceeded my expectations. Anyone who has been with Rocky since the beginning will likely be overcome with a strong sense of nostalgia, even though the girl I saw the film with had never seen any of the prior installments and still loved it.
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#4 of 38 OFFLINE   CoreyII


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Posted March 18 2007 - 02:57 AM

Ben, I'm with you all the way. I am not cynical (like many people I know) and I loved the film from beginning to end. I tried to catch a second viewing but it did not stay in the theaters as long as Casino Royale which opened about month before Rocky Balboa.

Sly did a stellar job with this film, I only hope he brings the same amount of love and care to Rambo IV, that character deserves no less.

I can't wait until Tuesday, Rocky Balboa and Justice League Unlimited Season 2 both released at the same time. I'd say March 20 should be a very good day Posted Image.

#5 of 38 OFFLINE   Tim Glover

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Posted March 18 2007 - 03:14 AM

Nice review Ben. RB was one of my favorite films of 2006. Such a kind hearted film...and Stallone's best work ever maybe. Posted Image

Good to hear that the BD is first rate. One day I'll be format neutral and this one will be one of the first BD titles I'll get.

Good job.

#6 of 38 OFFLINE   TwoKings


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Posted March 18 2007 - 08:29 AM

I am blind buying this. I missed it in theaters but have a soft spot for rocky movies. Corey, you mentioned Rambo IV...is this actually a go? I would love to see a Rambo movie that is actually good like the first one.

#7 of 38 OFFLINE   Dave_P.


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Posted March 18 2007 - 09:32 AM

Damn, my copy hasn't shipped from Amazon yet Posted Image

#8 of 38 OFFLINE   TonyD


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Posted March 18 2007 - 12:39 PM

me too, seems that if you dont use the 2 day shiopping it doesnt even ship till a few days AFTER street date. this seems to have started recently, at least for me. i use to get everything the normal time frame before.

#9 of 38 OFFLINE   CoreyII


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Posted March 18 2007 - 01:34 PM

Yeah, it's been a go for some time now. As a matter of fact, there has been several reports that Sly recently left Thailand where he was shooting footage for the fourth installment. I believe it is due for a 2008 release. I must say, that I have liked all three films not just the first one. I know most people tend to go for First Blood as opposed to the second and third film, but I've enjoyed them all for very different reasons.

#10 of 38 OFFLINE   Neil Joseph

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Posted March 18 2007 - 02:17 PM

I just pre-ordered this. Thanks for reviewing for us.
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#11 of 38 OFFLINE   Ben_Williams


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Posted March 18 2007 - 06:12 PM

Thanks, everyone... This is a very special movie with a great message. If this isn't the very definition of a film for the whole family, I'm not sure what is! If any of you have a copy of the original Rocky laying around, I highly recommend viewing it before watching Rocky Balboa. There are some amazing connections made between the two films...

#12 of 38 OFFLINE   Southpaw


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Posted March 19 2007 - 07:53 AM

Netflix mailed this one out to me today. I should have it tomorrow. I was going to blind buy it but thought I would try it out first. Now I wish I had just bought.

#13 of 38 OFFLINE   Ben_Williams


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Posted March 19 2007 - 09:01 AM

Southpaw, you have, without a doubt, the perfect screen name for this thread!

#14 of 38 OFFLINE   Southpaw


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Posted March 19 2007 - 02:07 PM

Haha...thanks Ben. At least I have one thing in common with Stallone.

#15 of 38 OFFLINE   ChristianB


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Posted March 20 2007 - 03:40 AM

They've even taken a cue from Rocky Balboa's title and the film is now called John Rambo.

#16 of 38 OFFLINE   Southpaw


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Posted March 21 2007 - 08:47 AM

Just got done watching this one along with the extras and commentary. What an enjoyable, heart warming movie this is. I loved it. I sure wish I had bought it to begin with because now I must own it. Well done Sly.

#17 of 38 OFFLINE   Eric F

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Posted March 21 2007 - 10:14 AM

No chicken chasing? No deal! (Do we at least get one "Eye of the Tiger" montage"?)Posted Image

Seriously...I really didn't want to buy this movie, but now I'm seriously changing my mind.

#18 of 38 OFFLINE   Andrew Bunk

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Posted March 21 2007 - 10:18 AM

Just watched this last night. very impressed with the quality and the film itself. I think this is the best performance from Stallone since Cop Land. Now I kind of want all the Rocky films on BD.
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#19 of 38 OFFLINE   CRyan



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Posted March 22 2007 - 04:44 PM

A question about the transfer. During on of the beginning scenes when he first takes the woman home from the bar. The dark scenes in the van - I am seeing a lot of noise - Is everyone seeing this?

#20 of 38 OFFLINE   Ben_Williams


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Posted March 23 2007 - 07:33 AM

I saw it too, but it isn't noise, its grain.

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