Say what you will but they don't make sports movies quite like Rocky anymore and I'm not talking about the most recent Rocky Balboa. We're talking old-school, running up the stairs, punching frozen slabs of meat Rocky. This 1976 classic was the launching pad for Sylvester Stallone's career and the role that put him on the map. The rest, as they say, is history. What else can you say about a franchise that has pumped out six films featuring Stallone's face-steak?
As a Rocky fan you have to look at the original as the best of the best. This is the one that had it all and that's the reason it won three Oscars. Like Million Dollar Baby, Rocky was a character driven piece with a fair amount of boxing tossed in for good measure. I have to admit that outside of scenes from movies I have never watched a boxing match. I just don't understand the appeal of two guys getting into a ring and beating the snot out of each other. Despite that, I love Rocky for the classic that it is; face-steak and all.
Since this movie is over thirty years old it's safe to say that many of you have seen it at least once in your lifetime. If you are from a different generation though and haven't had the chance to catch it let me break the plot down for you.
Rock Balboa is living not-so large in the bowls of Philadelphia. He has two turtles named Cuff and Link, an apartment that hasn't been cleaned in about two months, and a crush on a seemingly mentally challenged girl who works at a pet shop. Yes, one might think that he's living the American Dream. But with money coming in by breaking thumbs for a loan shark and beating on bums in low grade boxing matches he's kind of stuck in a rut. He could have been somebody but wasted his potential by never really striving to go the distance and reach for his dream.
He spends a fair amount of time feeling sorry for himself but he has been kind of trying to turn his life around. That's when he gets an invitation to something he never thought possible; a Title Match. It seems that the World Heavyweight Champion Apollo Creed has run out of professional opponents to beat up so he decided to give the common man a shot. Out of all the underground boxers in the world he picks Rocky because he liked his nickname (The Italian Stallion). It's this twist of luck that makes Rocky begin to believe in himself and feel that maybe he can turn his life around. Be somebody.
With five weeks to go until the big match Rocky begins to train like he never trained before. Going for a jog before the iPod was invented was arduous enough but he hops to it at 4am every morning. Now that's dedication! At any rate the culmination of his efforts leads him to the presumption that he's going to lose no matter what. Apollo is a professional after all and Rocky is, well, unrefined to say the least. He begins to feel that if he can go the distance and at least last longer than anyone else it doesn't matter if he wins the match; he would have proven to himself that he's not a loser.
Rocky is truly just about as inspirational as sports films can get. It goes way beyond time spent in the ring and promotes a strong amount of character development and solid acting. I have loved the movie since the first time I saw it and it's a story that has stuck with me for a very long time. Saw what you will about the rest of the franchise but in my opinion the original is still the best.
Rocky is presented on blu-ray with a 25GB disc and MPEG 2 at 18 MBPS encoding. The picture comes through with full 1080p HD resolution and an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. When the Collector's Edition of Rocky was released for Standard DVD I thought that it looked pretty decent for a film that was thirty years old. Imagine my surprise when the blu-ray release actually took the presentation one step further.
Sure there are plenty of moments were grain permeates the video and equally so when the image flickers. For some things there is just not a lot that a clean-up job can take care of. What's most impressive here is the extent that the image was cleaned up. So many scenes are crisper with more detail and vibrancy. The picture absolutely pops in places and quite honestly this is about as good as Rocky has ever looked.
Four separate audio tracks are included for this release of Rocky. Granted two of them are Mono (English and Spanish) and one of them is Dolby Digital French so chances are you won't be listening to those unless they suit your needs more. The main attraction here is the English DTS HD 5.1 Master Lossless Audio track which just like the video presentation; is about as good as Rocky could get.
The soundstage isn't the most immersive for this track and it's not going to blow your subwoofer with a lot of presence. Instead the rear channels kick in at opportune moments for subtle sound effects, musical cues, and bits of dialogue. Considering this track was born from the original Mono one I was very impressed with the channel diversity.
Apart from some trailers there is nothing here to check out. This splits the market between blu-ray and the Collector's Edition. If you want the better presentation get this one but if you care about special features you'll need to stick with the Standard DVD.
I can't enough about how classic Rocky truly is. This was one of those movies that transcended the silver screen and became an icon of the era. With solid writing, acting, and development this film is rock solid from start to finish. This blu-ray offers some outstanding video and audio considering the age of the show and quality of the source material. The lack of extras that were featured on the Collector's Edition is disappointing to be sure though in all honesty the presentation makes up for most of what's lacking. Rocky comes Highly Recommended