Rocky Balboa (Blu-ray) (2006)
Audio Commentary-Sylvester Stallone
Featurette-Rocky Balboa: Going the Distance
Featurette-Skill vs. Will: The Making of Rocky Balboa
Featurette-Reality in the Ring: Filming Rocky's Final Fight
Featurette-Virtual Champion: Creating the Computer Fight
|Year Of Production||2006|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Sylvester Stallone|
Twentieth Century Fox
James Francis Kelly III
Henry G. Sanders
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English dts 5.1 EX (1536Kb/s)
Italian dts 5.1 EX (1536Kb/s)
Spanish dts 5.1 EX (1536Kb/s)
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.85:1|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||Yes|
More than a decade since his last fight, a fifty-something Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone, back in one of his signature roles) spends his days running an Italian restaurant, named after his late wife Adrian, in his native Philadelphia. By night Rocky tells customers stories of his glory days and poses for their cameras, but by day he mourns the loss of his wife with the occasional companionship of her brother Paulie (Burt Young). Though it's been several years since Adrian's passing, Rocky is having trouble letting go. The healing process is made more difficult for the aging champ as Rocky Jr. (played this time by Heroes' Milo Ventimiglia), now a young professional who is growing tired of living in his father's shadow, will barely give him the time of day.
Visiting the old neighbourhood, Rocky becomes re-acquainted with "little" Marie (Geraldine Hughes). Marie is now a single mother working as a barmaid to support her teenage son Steps (James Francis Kelly III). Marie and Rocky form a platonic friendship and Rocky becomes a surrogate father-figure to Steps.
As he builds a new life for himself, Rocky soon realises that the one thing missing is the sport that he loves. Rather than make the obvious progression to coaching, Rocky convinces the state medical board to allow him to re-register as a professional fighter. Though his initial intent is to fight a few local league bouts to get the bug out of his system, a computer simulation produced for television that pits Rocky against the current reigning champ Mason Dixon (real-life fighter Antonio Tarver) causes a stir and soon has Dixon's promoters on Rocky's doorstep. Rocky agrees to fight the champ in an exhibition bout and gets to training, while the publicly reviled champ casually waits for the "challenge".
Though the thought of yet another Rocky sequel seems scoff-worthy given the general decline in quality throughout the series and the more-than 15 year gap since the woeful Rocky V, Rocky Balboa does a good job of knocking out those preconceptions. Though Rocky Balboa is certainly guilty of reliving past glories, particularly that of the original Rocky, it effectively uses the well-known back story as a springboard for its own drama.
Rocky Balboa is about growing old and accepting one's lot. Getting on with life rather than getting hung up on where it has led. It is a different direction for the series and a turn for the best. Gone is the fanfare of the past Rocky sequels, along with the feeling that the series is like a broken record. Rocky Balboa still ticks the prerequisite Rocky requirements - personal dilemmas, "Gonna Fly Now" montage, big finale bout - but it does so at its own pace and in its own way. The result is a welcome change from sequels that simply repeat the same tired formula of their past lives. By never pretending to be bigger or better than its predecessors Rocky Balboa outshines each of the other Rocky sequels.
The story is solid, though not a classic in its own right. Likewise, the acting stands up well without setting the world on fire. Rocky Balboa is no classic but it works well as a companion to the original Rocky. Highly recommended to any fan of the original, even (particularly!) if you've skipped 2 - 5. Anybody else would do well to watch the original first.
The video on offer is excellent. It features a deep palette and superb clarity.
The film is presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and is 16x9 enhanced.
The image is razor sharp. A fine level of film grain is visible throughout the feature, which adds to the atmosphere of the film rather than detracting from the image. There is an excellent level of shadow detail in the black areas and dark scenes.
Rocky Balboa makes excellent use of colour to enhance the look of film and aid the story-telling. The dramatic scenes are deliberately slightly pale, with specific colours highlighted on occasion for dramatic effect (for example, when Rocky visits Adrian's grave he carries a bouquet of brilliantly coloured red roses). Whilst this sounds a little clunky when described, the effect itself is quite subtle. At various points of the film, colour fades and black and white footage are both used to similar effect. Fight scenes, which were shot with digital video to look like a real Pay-Per-View fight, feature vivid colours. The colours are faithfully and rather gloriously rendered on this Blu-ray.
There are no signs of MPEG-compression related artefacts or pixelation during the film. The film is free from film artefacts with the exception of one out-of-place frame at 22:30 that looks as though it missed out on being digitally cleaned up. That one frame features a small hair and several small dust flecks. It is such an oddity that I am left wondering if it was deliberately placed to bait technical reviews like this one!
The English subtitles featured appear accurate to the spoken word and are well timed.
There is an English DTS (1536 Kbps), an Italian DTS (1536 Kbps), a Spanish DTS (1536 Kbps) and an English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 (192 Kbps) soundtrack available.
The audio is simultaneously very good and a little disappointing. Very good in that it is a rather good full-bitrate DTS soundtrack but disappointing in that we aren't given a next-generation audio format to enjoy.
The dialogue is crisp and clear. It appears well timed to the video.
The music is very fitting and sounds beautiful. The score is a step slower and softer than that of the original Rocky, which fits the tone of the movie well. Needless to say, the classic Gonna Fly Now pops up in all its original glory too.
The surrounds are used quite subtly throughout the film until the final fight, where they run into overdrive to place viewers in the middle of the ring with a crowd roaring all around. The subwoofer is fairly delicately used, even for the final fight. Rather than big Hollywood thuds, subtle bass is used to provide a more realistic sound to the punches and the subwoofer ends up with a heavier workout from the music than the action, which isn't a bad thing in this case.
|Surround Channel Use|
This dual layer BD-50 disc is packed with worthwhile extras, but has one frustrating flaw that seems to be becoming a frequent gripe with Blu-ray discs: no top level disc menu. The extras must be selected from a pop-up menu while the feature is playing, as is also the case with selecting subtitles or different audio streams. Worse still, the pop-up menu is not available from the extras featurettes themselves. Once you have started a featurette, the only way out is to skip through to the end of the featurette. It is surprising that such a little thing can prove quite so frustrating.
Stallone provides a surprisingly entertaining commentary. The man is surprisingly affable and quite articulate in commentary mode. He is surprisingly honest about both his career and feelings for the franchise too. I ended up with a lot more respect for the man after this one, which itself surprised me!
Presented in 480p. This featurette is a jack of all trades making of featurette. The content is a little less glossy than the other featurettes on the disc, both physically (because of its lower resolution) and because it seems like more of a rush-job, but it still makes for interesting viewing.
Presented in 1080i. This fairly broad "Making Of" featurette largely consists of interviews and production footage. It is fairly slickly produced, however, and is not padded out with filler.
Presented in 1080i. Another "Making Of" featurette, this time focussing on various aspects of making the final fight look plausible and action-packed. Ranging from the shoot itself, which was largely done during breaks of a real Pay-Per-View match, to ensuring both fighters physique and technique was up to snuff (probably not too hard given that Antonio Tarver is a bronze-medal winning Olympic boxer), and to ensuring that the style of shooting was consistent with actual fight filming styles.
Presented in 1080i. A shorter featurette about how a "virtual" match between the champ and Rocky in his prime was produced - almost a Rocky-ified version of Lord of the Rings' Gollum!
Presented in 1080p. A couple of surprisingly funny outtakes.
Presented in 1080p. Seven deleted and extended scenes. These aren't presented with any context, or explanation, but still provide a little insight into the development of the film (particularly as a couple are very different alternate versions of key scenes in the film).
Presented in 1080p. A fairly obvious alternate ending, but one that the film is better off without.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The Australian Region B Blu-ray edition of Rocky Balboa features an identical set of extras to the DVD release.
There are a few differences to the US Region A release however. Most notably, the Region B misses out on an uncompressed English PCM 5.1 Surround (48kHz/16-Bit/4.6mbps) soundtrack and French Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. The Region A edition misses out on the Italian and Spanish DTS soundtracks, English Descriptive Audio track and Rocky Balboa: Going the Distance featurette. Though weighing the loss of a featurette against the loss of a soundtrack is a bit like comparing apples to oranges, I believe most early adopters of HD technology would prefer the uncompressed soundtrack to the additional featurette. That said, both the US and Australian discs enforce region encoding, so importing the Region A version is only an option if you have a player from each region as multi-region players do not exist yet.
Rocky Balboa is a real surprise. It is a thoroughly deserving follow-up to the original and concludes the series well. This is by far the best of the Rocky sequels and will please any fan of the original. Anyone that hasn't seen the original would do well to see it prior to Rocky Balboa, however.
The extras are both plentiful and highly worthwhile.
The video is excellent and really showcases how HD video can enhance drama as well as marquee action titles. The audio is very good, but it is disappointing that it is not presented in an uncompressed or next-gen format.
|DVD||Sony Playstation 3, using HDMI output|
|Display||Samsung 116cm LA46M81BD. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL).|
|Audio Decoder||Pioneer VSX-D512. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||150W DTX front speakers, and a 100W centre and 2 surrounds, 12 inch PSB Image 6i powered sub|