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MOVIE INFO

Director:
John G. Avildsen
Cast:
Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Carl Weathers, Burgess Meredith, Thayer David, Joe Spinell, Jimmy Gambina
Writing Credits:
Sylvester Stallone

Tagline:
His whole life was a million-to-one shot.

Synopsis:
Rocky Balboa is a struggling boxer trying to make the big time. Working in a meat factory in Philadelphia for a pittance, he also earns extra cash as a debt collector. When heavyweight champion Apollo Creed visits Philadelphia, his managers want to set up an exhibition match between Creed and a struggling boxer, touting the fight as a chance for a "nobody" to become a "somebody". The match is supposed to be easily won by Creed, but someone forgot to tell Rocky, who sees this as his only shot at the big time.

Box Office:
Budget
$1.1 million.
Domestic Gross
$117.235 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Monaural
Spanish Monaural
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 120 min.
Price: $26.98
Release Date: 12/5/2006

Bonus:
DVD One
• Audio Commentary with Actor/Writer Sylvester Stallone
• Audio Commentary with Boxing Legends Trainer Lou Duva and Commentator Bert Sugar
• Audio Commentary with Director John G. Avildsen, Actors Talia Shire, Burt Young and Carl Weathers, Producers Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff, and Steadicam Operator Garrett Brown
• “Three Rounds with Lou Duva” Featurette
• “Interview with a Legend - Bert Sugar: Author/Commentator and Historian” Featurette
• Sneak Peek at Rocky Balboa
• “The Opponents” Featurette
• Trailers and TV Spots
DVD Two
• “In the Ring” Three-Part Documentary
• “Steadicam: Then and Now with Garrett Brown” Featurette
• “Make-Up! The Art and Form with Michael Westmore” Featurette
• “Staccato: A Composer’s Notebook with Bill Conti” Featurette
• “The Ring of Truth” Featurette
• “Behind the Scenes with Director John Avildsen” Featurette
• “Tribute to Burgess Meredith” Featurette
• “Tribute to James Crabe” Featurette
• Video Commentary with Sylvester Stallone
• Sylvester Stallone on Dinah! (1976)
• Booklet


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EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Rocky: Collector's Edition (1976)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 10, 2007)

Here's an age that has become increasingly hard to recall: the era in which Sylvester Stallone was a respected talent. I don't know which route is more common, but some actors follow one of two paths. On one hand, a few performers start out as popular but poorly-regarded among the critical community, and they later earn respect; Jim Carrey falls into that category. On the other hand, there’s the Stallone way. Although Rocky was far from his first film, it was the one that brought him fame and success, as it earned an Oscar for Best Picture in addition to nominations for Stallone himself in the acting and writing categories.

But it's mostly been downhill since then for old Sly, at least as far as critical acclaim goes. Through the Eighties, he became a huge star but got farther and farther from the sense of realism and honesty that pervaded his earlier work. He clearly believed the hype, especially after the enormous success of Rambo: First Blood Part II in 1985. After that hit, we experienced atrocities such as Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot and the arm-wrestling epic Over the Top. Stallone attempted to regain some of his lost reputation with the more serious and gritty Copland in 1997, but it didn't work; everyone still seemed to view him as a big, dopey galoot.

Was Rocky an aberration, a one-shot deal that spent whatever creative abilities Stallone ever possessed and forever doomed him to be a hack, or did success simply corrupt Stallone and spoil what could have been a nice run of good work? I guess we'll never know, but at least we have the original Rocky to look at as a fine film. I'm not quite sure it deserved to win Best Picture against some tough competition in 1976. It topped All the President’s Men, Bound for Glory, Network and Taxi Driver. When you combine the continued resonance of both Watergate and Vietnam with the jingoistic glory that surrounded the Bicentennial, it's not surprising that Rocky, the only "feel-good" picture in the bunch, would take home the prize. The fact that the film's success - Rocky also was the biggest moneymaker for 1976 - paralleled the story's "underdog" theme certainly helped as well.

Did Rocky deserve to beat some of the classics against which it competed? Probably not, but that shouldn't diminish the fact it's still a fine and entertaining film. Unfortunately, the combination of some dreadful sequels and Stallone's generally-poor reputation have diminished this movie's legacy, but if it's inspected on its own, Rocky offers a strong experience.

Stallone himself offers a gently sweet and affecting performance as Rocky, a not-too-successful fighter who gets an improbable shot at the big-time. While I wasn't sure I completely bought Sly during Rocky's moments of rage, he made the character endearingly modest and simple without creating a moronic joke. Rocky retained his dignity and seemed surprisingly real.

Also effective was Talia Shire's turn as Rocky's sweetheart Adrian. Oddly, I found her more believable as an intensely shy wallflower than when she grows as a person due to Rocky's affection. One unusual aspect of Rocky is that it actually makes some attractive people seem unappealing. Most movies take good-looking folks and try to make them look ugly, but it rarely works; it almost always appears obvious that underneath some bad style choices exists a hottie. That's not the case here. Both Stallone and Shire look pretty grotty at times in their roles, and this sense of realism helps the film.

Though the plot seems improbable, the film presents it believably and I easily buy into Rocky's story. The movie progresses at a nice pace which keeps the viewer involved and interested, though I think it moves a little too rapidly at times. For example, Adrian's transformation from skank to babe happens too quickly and effortlessly. One minute she's hiding in a corner, and the next she's all dolled up and ready to go!

I also thought the climactic fight flew by too fast. We don't get enough of a feel for what an epic battle this thing was supposed to be, as the montage treatment loses the sense of desperation and weariness it should portray. It's still a fairly rousing climax for the film, but I thought it could have been paced better.

Speaking of the fight, I could never figure out one thing in regard to it: the match is billed as occurring on a big day for the US, and it seems likely this should be July 4. In fact, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) once refers to the bout as taking place on the nation's biggest birthday. However, the fight actually happens on January 1, 1976. My guess is that they wanted to have it take place on July 4 but production issues caused them to change it to New Year’s Day. In any case, it seemed very confusing since every aspect of discussion about the bout clearly leads one to believe it'll take place on Independence Day.

That oddity excepted, Rocky remains a very good film. The story of the underdog who makes good is as old as time itself, but it continues to maintain appeal and this movie shows how that can happen. I won't argue that Rocky deserved its Best Picture victory over some strong competitors, but I think it's a nice piece of work nonetheless.


The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B-/ Bonus A

Rocky appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Although the movie’s origins came through at times, I thought the transfer seemed pretty solid.

Sharpness almost always looked nicely crisp and precise. Only a few isolated scenes displayed minor evidence of softness, usually due to some mild edge enhancement. No issues with shimmering or jagged edges occurred, and source flaws were insignificant. Other than a bit more grain than usual and a couple of specks, this was a clean presentation.

Colors were generally subdued - this is a gritty character drama, after all, and Philly isn't Miami - but what I saw looked well-saturated and solidly accurate. Apollo's costume at the start of the fight came across especially nicely, and the other occasional examples of brighter hues appeared strong. Black levels appeared deep and dark, and shadow detail also was appropriately thick without any signs of murkiness. Both of those seemed especially important since so much of Rocky took place in low-light situations. I found a lot to like in this quality transfer.

Also relatively strong was the film's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. This remix of the original monaural audio expanded the image in a modest but pleasing manner. Most of the sound remained anchored to the center channel, but a few effects spread nicely to the sides as well. Probably the "showiest" instance happened early in the film when Rocky walked past some street singers and their voices panned from the center to the right. Other than that, it's just music - which boasted some very nice stereo separation - and ambience on the sides.

The surrounds also included these factors. The effects popped up from the rear mainly during the final fight scene, but the music drifted back there and that added to the impact of the score.

Quality seemed decent but unexceptional. Dialogue appeared vaguely flat for the most part, but it remained consistently intelligible and clear. The one poor instance that involved speech occurred at about the 74-minute mark, when Rocky and Paulie talk in the meat locker; the dialogue sounded rough during that scene. This wasn't an issue at other times, though, and it appeared obvious the problems stemmed from the source material. Effects were clean though thin, and the music sounded pleasantly crisp and full. The 5.1 mix stayed appropriately modest and it worked nicely for the film.

Since this 2006 two-disc special edition of Rocky represents the 786th DVD release of the film, I won’t attempt to compare its quality to all the others. This one looks at least as good as the others, and I think it’s probably the strongest transfer of the bunch. All of them come with what appear to be identical 5.1 soundtracks, so that factor doesn’t vary from release to release.

Comparisons between the 2006 SE and the prior releases become easier when we move to the set’s extras. Only the 2001 25th Anniversary Edition included any substantial bonus features, all of which also appear here. I’ll note new materials with an asterisk, so if you see a star, the component is exclusive to this set.

(For the record, I attempted to rent the 25th Anniversary DVD to compare it to the new one. I couldn’t find a copy of it, however.)

On DVD One, we find three separate audio commentaries. The first comes from *writer/actor Sylvester Stallone. He offers a running, screen-specific chat. Stallone gets into characters and themes, sets and locations, the script and altered/deleted sequences, cast and performances, the boxing scenes, and various scene specifics.

Overall, Stallone provides a reasonably introspective and thoughtful look at the flick. His track comes short on filmmaking details and long on character insights. These prove quite interesting to hear, and he throws in enough behind the scenes material to flesh out those elements. This ends up as an enjoyable and satisfying piece.

For the second commentary, we hear from *boxing legends trainer Lou Duva and commentator Bert Sugar. Both sit together for their own running, screen-specific track. They mostly joke around and razz each other. However, they do reflect on aspects of the movie as well as elements of their own lives and careers.

Don’t expect a great deal of depth or information. The good-natured ribbing between the pair dominates the track, and they even poke fun at the flick itself on occasion. Some of the stories from their careers are fun, and the piece leaves a pleasant impression. It simply doesn’t have a lot of substance to it, as it remains entertaining but not much more.

Finally, the third track features director John G. Avildsen, actors Talia Shire, Burt Young and Carl Weathers, producers Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff, and steadicam operator/inventor Garrett Brown. Most of the speakers were recorded separately and the results were edited together for this commentary. The commentary gives us a look at the project’s genesis and development before it digs into other issues. We hear about cast, characters and performances, sets and locations, budgetary challenges and accommodations, camerawork and cinematography, and general production issues.

We learn a lot of great details about the movie. A slew of production notes appear, and we also hear some great anecdotes about the making of the film. Ultimately, I thought this was an entertaining and compelling look at Rocky.

A few featurettes follow. *Three Rounds with Lou Duva” runs four minutes, 32 seconds and gives us more notes from the trainer. He discusses his early days in the business and aspects of his work. It’s marginally interesting at best but not particularly valuable.

For more with Duva’s commentary partner, we turn to *Interview with a Legend - Bert Sugar: Author/Commentator and Historian. The six-minute and 47-second piece looks at his early exposure to boxing, the sport’s depiction in movies and thoughts about Rocky. Sugar proves more eloquent than Duva but not much more interesting in this forgettable clip.

Finally, *The Opponents goes for 16 minutes, 10 seconds. We hear from Chartoff, Weathers, and actors Dolph Lundgren and Tommy Morrison. “Opponents” looks at all Rocky’s foes throughout the first five movies. We get some casting and performance notes as well as thoughts about the characters. Too many movie clips show up here, but the program offers a pretty fulfilling examination of Rocky’s opponents.

Advertising fills out DVD One. A *Sneak Peek at Rocky Balboa lasts three minutes, 36 seconds. It mixes movie clips with comments from Stallone, Young, producer Kevin King, actors Tony Burton, Antonio Tarver, Joe Cortez and Milo Ventimiglia, and fight coordinator Rob Sale. This acts as a glorified trailer and little more. The DVD also includes two Trailers and three TV Spots

Heading to DVD Two, we launch with a three-part documentary called In the Ring. This one-hour, 15-minute and 42-second program offers the expected mix of movie clips, behind the scenes materials, and interviews. We hear from Stallone, Winkler, Chartoff, Weathers, Shire, Avildsen, and Young. “Ring” starts with the origins of the project and its development. We find out how various members of the crew and cast came on-board as well as adapting the material for the actors and aspects of the performances and characters. We also learn a little about shooting the boxing sequences and the score.

“Ring” doesn’t attempt to provide a broad encapsulation of the movie’s production. Instead, it focuses heavily on the characters and actors as it explores their work and tendencies. That makes it more introspective than most programs but doesn’t always offer a satisfying piece. While a number of good moments emerge, much of the time the show degenerates into basic praise for those involved. The piece deserves a look but it’s not a great program.

We learn more about technical innovations via *Steadicam: Then and Now with Garrett Brown. The piece runs 17 minutes, 26 seconds and features notes from Brown as he discusses his career and how he came up with the Steadicam. He also chats about his work on Rocky and the subsequent success of the Steadicam. Lots of good archival footage fleshes out Brown’s comments. These allow the featurette to illuminate and entertain.

During the 15-minute and nine-second *Make-Up! The Art and Form with Michael Westmore, we hear from the make-up designer and supervisor as he covers his family roots in the business as well as his work on Rocky and other aspects of his career. Star Trek fans will know Westmore from his designs for the various spin-off series. Westmore provides a nice look at his work on the film and makes this a useful show.

For a look at the movie’s famous music, we head to *Staccato: A Composer’s Notebook with Bill Conti. This offers an 11-minute and 28-second program during which the composer goes over his creations for Rocky along with recording the tracks. As with its predecessors, this becomes another solid little take on its topics.

*The Ring of Truth lasts nine minutes, 35 seconds as it presents remarks from art director James Spencer. He talks about locations and set design as well as budgetary restrictions. We learn a fair amount about the production dressing in this tight and satisfying show.

Next comes a very intriguing look Behind the Scene With Director John Avildsen. In this 12-minute and 23-second piece, Avildsen discusses the fight rehearsal process and also shows a variety of 8mm test shots made to help refine the choreography between Stallone and Weathers. Also included are some glimpses of early make-up concepts. One of those would have allowed Stallone to easily fit in on the set of Frankenstein. Although Avildsen’s remarks repeat some of the material heard on the commentary - indeed, the latter seems to use the exact same tape - the 8mm test material is a terrific find and it offers a fun view of the filmmaking process.

The next two featurettes pay homage to two now-deceased Rocky contributors. A Tribute to Burgess Meredith combines remembrances from Stallone, Young, Weathers, and Meredith’s friend, actress Lee Grant into a seven-minute and 44-second piece. All except for Stallone - whose statements come from his “Video Commentary” sessions - appear only as voice-overs while we see stills of Meredith. A Tribute to James Crabe lasts for three minutes and 34 seconds as director Avildsen talks about the film’s cinematographer. Both pieces are respectful and interesting, and I thought they added a classy touch to the DVD.

Despite its title, the Video Commentary with Sylvester Stallone is really just a 28-minute and 52-second interview. However, it’s a good one. Stallone covers the genesis of the project and also goes through many aspects of its production, all while presenting the impact it had on his then-young self. Stallone can be a charming and interesting interview subject, and he proves that here.

Finally, we get a clip of *Sylvester Stallone on Dinah! (1976) that lasts 17 minutes and 19 seconds. Stallone schmoozes with host Dinah Shore and fellow guest Joey Bishop as part of the publicity for the movie. The clip is interesting as a historical curiosity but other than Stallone’s hideous suit, there’s nothing particularly compelling on display.

Finally, the package ends with a 30-page booklet. Called “Rocky - The Ultimate Guide”, this provides an excerpt from a book by Edward Gross. We find a short preface by Stallone along with profiles of the main characters and notes about various important sequences. It’s a nice little piece that stands up fine on its own and not just as a “teaser” for the book.

Rocky continues to hold up well after 30 years. The movie marks the creative high point of Sylvester Stallone’s career, and it offers a moving and inspirational look at a bum made good. The DVD provides positive picture and sound plus a strong mix of extras.

Without question, this two-DVD release of Rocky stands as the best version of the flick to date. It presents the strongest visuals and supplements and represents a fine upgrade compared to prior renditions.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.7741 Stars Number of Votes: 31
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main