We're back, 30 years after the original Rocky, Sylvester Stallone is at it again. We all know Rocky...his life...his passion...and how painful it was to watch a 5th "Rocky." Thankfully, Sylvester Stallone realized his mistakes in the past and made sure that "Rocky Balboa" was exactly how he wanted it to be.
Rocky Balboa lives a simple life. His life consists of memories--memories of Adrian, boxing, and how life used to be. He is stuck in the past, unable to move on after the death of his wife. Rocky struggles with his purpose in life and attempts to rebuild a relationship with his son (Milo Ventimiglia). But when a computer generated fight airs on TV between former Heavy Weight Champion, Rocky Balboa, and current heavyweight champ Mason 'The Line' Dixon (Antonio Tarver), Rocky realizes that he hasn't completed everything he wants in life. Going against all odds, Rocky agrees to fight Mason, trains and finds passion in his life once more.
"Rocky Balboa" goes back to its roots--everything about the film feels like the original "Rocky." The tempo has been dramatically slowed down to allow for character development and even the music brings us back to a place we once loved. A lot of people struggle with the fact that Adrian is no longer with us, but this is actually a vital part to who Rocky has become and why he is at this place in his life. "Rocky Balboa" does an incredible job bringing us down memory lane and making us remember why we loved the original so much. Throughout the movie we see clips of Adrian and Rocky together, previous boxing matches, the ice rink, the pet store, and special other memories to Rocky. Even Paulie (Burt Young) makes a return and continues his struggle with drinking and embracing Rocky as family, as well as dealing with the death of Adrian in his own way.
Writer, Director, and Actor, Sylvester Stallone does an absolutely perfect job bringing us back. His direction is spot on, followed by an almost perfect representation of who Rocky was, and how he would look and act 30 years later. With a relatively simple script, Stallone manages to keep emotion and memories the center of attention through the first half of the movie before we even get close to a fight. Stallone allows us inside the heart of Rocky and I really appreciated the fact that Stallone knew that he didn't want to make another boxing movie. He wanted something that had heart, something that relied on the characters and brought us closer to understanding them than we ever have before. "Rocky Balboa" feels very raw and not produced as much as Rocky II through V have. Focusing on the emotional side of things fits perfectly with where Rocky is in his life and how he is going to overcome the challenges that still face him.
Everyone who has seen any of the "Rocky" films, loves the training sequences. "Rocky Balboa" does not focus on training--rather it is merely a part that Rocky has to go through in order to get to his very last fight. Don't get me wrong, the short training sequence is perfectly written and captured: from boxing in the meat factory, to running up the stairs at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, to more raw eggs--"Rocky Balboa" makes us aware of the fact that training is a crucial part, but still doesn't focus on it the entire movie. After watching the special features, I can honestly say that Stallone has my respect in how much passion he put forth in training to be a boxer...especially at his age.
The Fight: As any "Rocky" fan knows, the fight has always played a big part. "Rocky Balboa" doesn't disappoint. Stallone makes sure that every brutal punch is perfectly choreographed, if you can call it that. While filming the end fight scene, Stallone made it clear that he was boxing, and most of the hits you see were actual hits, not just choreographed hits. For me, the end result is much more realistic and the sense of pain is present the entire fight.
"Rocky Balboa" hits right at home for previous "Rocky" fans. I had a blast going back to the place that I loved so much growing up. I can remember how excited I was every time "Rocky" was on TV. Rocky has had an incredible journey; I am so glad that it didn't end at "Rocky V". "Rocky Balboa" is a perfect end to what will be remembered for a very long time...Rocky.
Shot using film almost entirely through, Stallone has created "Rocky Balboa" to remind us of the past. Using film, he does an incredible job adding age to the movie. There is a little grain, but that isn't even it. Many of the scenes were shot with almost all natural light. Stallone really wanted us to feel as if we were there, and not watching a film at all. Now, this doesn't mean that the picture quality is not good--the quality is incredible, with few artifacts (if any) and a couple scenes of to much contrast. One of the things that I absolutely loved was the transition to HD instead of film. During the entire fight sequence, Stallone knew that he wanted this to feel as if we are watching this fight on HD TV, and that is exactly what happens. The picture turned to the crisp, detailed, beautiful colored goodness as we watch each punch make contact. During this scene the picture quality is so good, it could almost earn a PG-13 rating with how detailed we see the blood go flying!
I thoroughly enjoyed watching "Rocky Balboa" and seeing Stallone's creation come to life. Some people will tell you that you never know when grain or older feel is really what the director is going for...well, watch the commentary and you will know. The picture quality is near perfect.
Sony brings us another Uncompressed 5.1 PCM track that fails to let us down. Considering how much dialogue is in "Rocky Balboa" Sony does a great job filling the environment with sound. As Rocky walks through the streets where he once lived, everything from cars, to the railways above come alive, all while allowing dialogue to be presented smoothly and crisply. The one time when everything really kicks into high gear is the fight scene. Every punch has been recorded to bring us a true punching sound, with Rocky's slow but powerful low end hits, to Mason's super fast style of boxing to come in with nice mid-to-high range hits. Stallone was very meticulous when it came to producing the right sound for this scene.
As far as the soundtrack goes, it couldn't get much better. Every song is created to make us feel as if we are back, watching "Rocky" 30 years ago and things haven't changed.
Commentary with Sylvester Stallone: This track is absolutely great. Honestly one of the best commentary tracks that I have heard in a good amount of time. When we think of Rocky and they way he talks all slow and mumbled, Stallone is the complete opposite. He is actually very articulate, and knows exactly what to say and when to say it.
His commentary is pretty standard, but the way that he presents it with a little humor, and how much passion he has for the character Rocky, you can't help but find yourself wanting more. He talks about the audio and how it fits with the movie, bringing us back to the original. He talks about Adrian and why she is no longer a piece of this movie, but really is still the center of why Rocky does what he does. We get your normal, how he shot this scene, and how this one looks different, and why everything had to look authentic. Then he goes into the character Rocky, and how he transitions to this lonely man who has lost his wife, to achieving everything he wants in life and having that change him as a person.
One of my favorite parts was when he talked about the fighting, training and how grulling it was. I almost wish that there was someone else talking during this time to allow for some bragging up Stallone. Stallone stays very modest and explains how he trained...hit...and got hit a lot. I think it would have been fun to listen to even Mason talk about getting hit by Stallone and how well he performed as a boxer.
Overall, this is by far the best extra on this BD release.
Deleted Scenes & Alternate Ending: These are just mild deleted scenes. Nothing that I felt was really important to moving the movie along. The alternate ending was okay, but as Stallone will tell you in the commentary just didn't fit the emotion of what Rocky was going through and what he would have done.
Boxing Bloopers: These could have been fun. It was such a quick piece I didn't even see it go by. Really nothing very special, just laughing while boxing and messing up of lines.
Skill vs. Will: Making of: The feature has lots of guests come in and talk about the script, casting choices, shooting the scenes. Basically everything the Stallone talked about in the commentary, but we are able to see some of the actors, producers, and even Stallone talk about this with visuals.
Reality in the Ring: Filming Rocky's Final Fight: This again was a mixture of interviews of cast and crew about writing the final fight, talking about the sounds they used to use in boxing movies to how the did this one. They also talk about the training that Stallone went through and then the actual shooting of the scene.
Virtual Champion: Creating the Computer Fight: This is exactly what you would expect if you were watching a heavy computer generated film. They talk about motion capture, plaster faces, digital scans, and directing the CG scene. We also get to see the full virtual fight that we see a part of during "Rocky Balboa."
In the end, the commentary track definitely takes the cake for best feature. There are a few extras that are worth a look, but if you only watch one...watch the commentary track!
"Rocky Balboa" was done extremely well. Any fan of the series knows that "Rocky V" was no way to end a legacy. Although no one really expected Rocky to reprise his role again, Stallone made sure that we wouldn't forget this one last hurrah. "Rocky Balboa" succeeds on many levels, it is well written, directed and acted. The video transfer is great and the audio track is also very nice. With a good amount of extras, "Rocky Balboa" is tough to pass up. I Highly Recommend this one to anyone new to the Rocky series, and especially to fans who will find themselves once again cheering...Rocky...Rocky...Rocky!!!!