Rocky Balboa (Blu-ray)

January 28, 2012 7 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

Evidently someone forgot to tell Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis and Harrison Ford that the 80’s are, in fact, over. Let me expand on that for a minute. Stallone has “Rocky Balboa”, the sixth installment in the “Rocky” series plus “Rambo IV” while Ford has finally gotten around to making the fourth “Indiana Jones” movie and Will is taking on the role of John McClain in “Die Hard 4” all due this year. The aforementioned “Rocky Balboa” is Stallone’s sixth step into the ring with the focus on the Philly southpaw. Stallone worked out and whipped himself into unbelievable shape to play Balboa and though he’s not the cut figure he was twenty years ago, he still looks pretty darn good.for a man that’s 60 years old. “Rocky Balboa”, as previously mentioned, is the sixth movie in the Oscar-winning franchise. Granted, four of those movies took place in one decade and it’s been over fifteen years since we’ve last seen or heard from Rocky; but you know what? It worked for me.

Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) has aged, his glory days as the heavyweight champion of the world are long behind him. His wife, Adrian (Talia Shire in archive footage) has passed and he tries to relive their relationship once a year on their anniversary. He’s the owner of Adrian’s, an Italian restaurant on the south side of Philadelphia. He tells old boxing stories, poses for pictures and clearly doesn’t have a bad life. His relationship with his son (Milo Ventimiglia from TV’s “Heroes”) is on the rocks as he feels somewhat embarrassed by his father’s success and is trying to make a name for himself. We then meet Mason “The Line” Dixon (Antonio Tarver) the current heavyweight champion of the world who’s so good – he’s never really had any true competition. ESPN does a computer animation of who would beat who in a fight and they predict that in his prime, Rocky would win. This gets Mason thinking and he arranges an exhibition match between the two. This works out, of course, because Rocky has just recently re-applied to get his boxing license back. Before he knows it, the two are in Las Vegas and Rocky has one last chance to prove he’s the best that ever was.

I have to admit that I was probably thinking this was one last attempt to make some money off the “Rocky” franchise. And I was probably right, but I will say that I was pleasantly surprised with how this was handled. Sylvester Stallone wrote and directed this movie (he also wrote the original “Rocky”) and it’s evident that he still has a lot of love for the character Rocky Balboa. The only two returning characters are Rocky and Paulie (Burt Young) who hasn’t really aged since the last installment. Paulie’s still the cantankerous old coot that he always was but seemingly not as troublesome. For the life of me, I can’t remember what happened in “Rocky V” but the other four films are very ingrained in my mind. “Rocky Balboa” is a fitting end to the franchise and certainly worth a look.

Video: How does it look?

“Rocky Balboa” is presented in a MPEG 4/AVC transfer that looks pretty darn good. There are some scenes that look intentionally grainy and a few of the nighttime scenes have a little movement in them, but on the whole I was very impressed with how this looks on Blu-ray. Naturally, the movie is new to the format and as such, I’d expect nothing less than a stellar transfer and that’s what we get. As per usual, edge enhancement is a thing of the past and though the palette used is somewhat subtle, the ending boxing scene looks just as bright and vivid as if you were actually there. A top notch effort by Sony on this one.

Audio: How does it sound?

The uncompressed PCM track isn’t quite what I expected, but after watching a few of the supplements, I know why. Previous “Rocky” movies had artificial sound whenever the boxers hit one another. It sounded like a Sherman tank when Rocky would hit Apollo/Mr. T, etc. This time around, they use a much more lifelike approach and make the punches sound very natural. Dialogue is well-centered and very natural as well. There aren’t a whole lot of other effects that really get the stage going, save the ending fight when the surrounds kick in and do their thing. So while I wouldn’t call this a disappointment, it’s probably not what you’d expect either.

Supplements: What are the extras?

“Rocky Balboa” has a bevy of featurettes, the first is a commentary with writer/director/star Sylvester Stallone who gives us his insights on the feature-length commentary. Stallone is very articulate, but ultimately the track tends to kind of drag on. It’s a solo track so there are several dead spaces in there as well. Moving onto the featurettes, there are a few starting off with “Skill vs. Will: The Making of Rocky Balboa” tells us how the concept came to be and a general EPK of the film. There’s a segment on how the computer animation was done (i.e. video game) and even how they filmed the final fight. I found this interesting as they piggybacked on a real fight and the different camera angles used were such a departure from the other movies. There are some outtakes and some deleted scenes complete with an alternate ending.

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