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Boxed Set

review by Zach B.

Rated PG (I, II, III, IV), PG-13 (Rocky V)

Studio: MGM

Running Time:
Rocky - 119 Minutes
Rocky II- 119 Minutes
Rocky III - 99 Minutes
Rocky IV - 91 Minutes
Rocky V - 111 minutes

Starring Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Burgess Meredith

Written by Sylvester Stallone (I, II, III, IV, V)

Directed by John G. Avildsen (I, V), Sylvester Stallone (II, III, IV)

Retail Price: $89.99

Rocky - Audio Commentary with Director John G. Avildsen, Producer Irwin Winkler, Producer Robert Chartoff, Talia Shire and Burt Young, Video Commentary with Sylvester Stallone, Behind-The-Scenes featurette, "A Tribute To Burgess Meredith" featurette, "A Tribute To James Crabe" featurette, Theatrical Teaser, Theatrical Trailers, Three TV Spots, Collectible Booklet

Rocky II - Theatrical Trailer

Rocky III - Theatrical Trailer

Rocky IV - Theatrical Trailer

Rocky V - Theatrical Trailer

Rocky - 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English 5.1 Dolby Digital, English Dolby 2.0 Mono, French 5.1 Dolby Surround, Spanish Dolby Mono, French Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, Chapter Search (25 Chapters)

Rocky II - 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic Widescreen, 1.33:1 Standard, English Dolby Stereo Surround, French Dolby Mono, Spanish Dolby Mono, English Subtitles, French Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, Chapter Search (32 Chapters)

Rocky III - 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English 5.1 Surround, French Mono, Spanish Mono, French Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, Chapter Search (16 Chapters)

Rocky IV - 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic Widescreen, 1.33:1 Standard, English 5.1 Surround, French Mono, Spanish Mono, English Subtitles, French Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, Chapter Search (32 Chapters)

Rocky V - 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Stereo Surround, French Dolby Stereo Surround, Spanish Mono, French Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, Chapter Search (16 Chapters)

Ah, "Rocky". The movie that made Sly Stallone a star and the movie that spawned a pretty incredible franchise. It's nearly been twenty-five years since "Rocky" made its big screen debut, and movies have never been the same. From that awe-inspiring music and scene, to many memorable characters and catchphrases ("ADRRRIAAAANNN!"), there is no denying "Rocky" has a place in film history, and it was the winner of three Academy Awards®, for Best Picture, Best Film Editing and Best Director for John G. Avildsen.

All these years later, "Rocky" still holds up and it is still pretty timeless. Now in its 25th year, a whole new audience can experience an incredible film. I think "Rocky" will always hold up and conveys a pretty important message, but more on that later. I guess what's even more amazing about "Rocky" is how it came to be. On an episode of the excellent Bravo show "Inside The Actor's Studio", host James Lipton even said it's one of the best stories about getting a movie made. The booklet inside "Rocky" goes into it some detail, but on the show, Sly went into it more in-depth. He wrote the movie in an "intense 86-hour" period, and bidding for the movie went pretty high. Sly said up to about $360,000 (though the booklet says 265,000). Names were tossed around, including Robert Redford and others, and in the end, Stallone really wanted to play the part. After a ton of talks, Stallone got the part, and got about $380 dollars a week (or so he says). And how does fate play a part in Rocky? Stallone's mother said that a seven-year "curse" is you call it would be on Sly, and that he would have bad luck. And seven years to the day, "Rocky" was sold.

So in Rocky, we meet the "Italian Stallion" for the first time. Rocky Balboa is going nowhere in his life. He's a club fighter and there's really not much to him. However, in "the land of opportunity", Rocky is thrown into the ring with world heavyweight boxing champion Apollo Creed. Pure fate? Pure destiny? Pure luck? Rocky is about to find out in a boxing match --- and a chance, of a lifetime. Can Rocky "go the distance"?

There's so much to "Rocky" and it's so easy to understand why audiences love this movie. It'll be around for generations. Stallone's script is incredibly sincere and really well developed, while the performances are really tremendous, and it's no surprised why they garnered four Oscar® nods (for Stallone, Shire, Burgress and Young). Top it off with some great editing, great directing and great everything else to make a great movie.

But what makes "Rocky" what it is is the simple theme that we can all relate to it. It's just one of those feel good movies that has so much to it. Again, this movie will be around for generations all because of its simple theme (and the fact that this is what made Sly Stallone a star) about beating the odds. Of course, we can all relate to "Rocky" somehow or another. In everyone's life, there's been a point where one doesn't have faith or believes in oneself, and the world around us seems so bleak and so heartless. A time where we feel that we may not belong or there is nothing to us, that things aren't going anywhere. But something magical happens, and while the odds seem unbeatable, you - and maybe some others have a little hope and faith, and you feel that anything is possible. To me, and I'm sure to many people, that's what "Rocky" is about. It's executed really well, and a perfect example of how a movie with a message should be. Yes, there have been movies in the past and after "Rocky" about believing and beating the odds, but for every "Rocky" there is, there are several movies that miss the mark. You feel that they are rehashed and reused and have no heart to them, they're just not very good. But when you see one of those movies, just remember "Rocky". It brings a nice feeling to the heart, and shows us the power of movies. That movies don't have to be manipulative to give an audience strong emotions.

Now on to the sequels... of course they're not as good as the original, but some of them are pretty enjoyable. First up, Rocky II. It literally takes place right where the first left off, starting with the final scene from the first movie. Apollo Creed wants a rematch after the intense battle (though at first he didn't want as we know), but Rocky is a bit reluctant. Rocky gets married to Adrian in this one and Adrian gets pregnant. Of course, Rocky gives in and begins to train again for the ultimate rematch. As far as sequels go, "Rocky II" is one of the few sequels in movie history, that I think, is just as good as the original and even surpasses it in some ways.

First off, my philosophy is that anything with Mr. T has to be good. I'm a big Mr. T fan, and if you're not, you should be ashamed of yourself. With that out of the way, Rocky III has Mr. T as the violent boxer Clubber Lang. Here, Apollo Creed and Rocky become friends, as Creed helps Rocky defeat Clubber Lang, to get back that "eye of the tiger" after Lang defeats Rocky. I have to admit, Rocky is still in his prime here, as Stallone directs this installment (and wrote it of course). It's not boring, it's pretty interesting, and most importantly, it's very entertaining. And it has Rocky selling out and the vert catchy Oscar® nominated song "Eye Of The Tiger". YEAH. AND MR. T. HOW CAN YOU GO WRONG WITH MR. T? I PITY THE FOOL WHO MESSES WITH T---okay, I've gone overboard. I apologize.

Ah, Rocky IV. I have mixed feelings about "Rocky IV", but it's enjoyable and it gets the job done well. In it (spoiler here) Apollo Creed is killed (NOOOOOO!) by the cold, harsh Drago from Russia. Rocky seeks vengenance of sorts and decides that he'll fight Drago, who's, pretty much, a giant monster. It seems tough... but can you guess what happens? My problems with "Rocky IV" are that it sort of seems forced. I mean, I think the story is pretty decent and it is executed well, but you can easily predict it. Don't get me wrong, I like it, but it was an obvious attempt to make more off of "Rocky". Still, it's a sequel I really can't resist, it's entertaining and I do like it. I just felt there was something new there, but something missing. Still, it started to mark the fall of the franchise. Basically, "Rocky IV" is more of the same. A tired and true formula with some new aspects to make it worthwhile in the end.

Finally... Rocky V. Here comes the shredding from me. Why. Why oh why oh why? "Rocky V" was simply pointless. Even with Avildsen back on board to direct, it's just terrible. It just really annoys me... it's like Rocky has been screwed once again. He finds out that all his money is gone due to an evil financial advisor, and due to injuries from the last four movies, err, all his fights, he can't fight any more. So it's back to South Philly for Rocky, his son and Adrian. Rocky decides that he can train Tommy Gunn, a street guy/boxer, and there's some backlash from his son, Rocky Jr. Of course, Rocky has to settle things with his son and the whole Tommy Gunn situation. The acting from the kids are pathetic, but the acting from Stallone and nearly everyone else is pretty good, if not a little overdone. Again, it's a pretty lame entry and a pretty lame twist of sorts... and I hear Sly wants to make "Rocky VI"... he should have stopped at IV. Still, despite it all, I must admit there are some nice moments in the film... but not enough to save it.

Love 'em all, hate 'em all, love some of them, there's no denying "Rocky" has an impact on film history, and this boxed set from MGM is nicely done, though it is flawed in a few aspects. You'll see.

Rocky is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, but I have to say this transfer was somewhat disappointing. There are plenty of pieces of grain and dirt, and a good amount of scratches, but what disappointed me the most about this transfer is that it doesn't look as sharp as it could have been. It's not a terrible transfer, not at all, but considering a movie of this statute, I expected better. Especially for a 25th anniversary re-release. There's some slight shimmering here and there. Still, considering what DVD can do and what it has to offer, this transfer does not take advantage of that. Again, a movie like "Rocky" deserves better, but it is pretty watchable and the best I've seen it ever.

Rocky II is in 1.85:1 non-anamorphic widescreen (nooooooooooo!) and is simply decent. The film looks its age, as there are blemishes, some scratches and the print itself is in terrible shape. It's very soft and fuzzy. If you haven't noticed, this is the same transfer (and same exact disc for that matter) from the previous edition. Night time scenes and detail is decent at best, and there is some shimmering, but the print itself ruins a lot from enjoying the movie. The flip side has a full frame transfer.

Exclusive to this box set (at least for now), is Rocky III and it's presented in a very good 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. It's a little bit soft, but it's in very good condition. There's a lot of scratches, grain and dirt, which you may find distracting, but there's some good fleshtones and detail is pretty decent. Nothing too spectacular, but it looks pretty good.

Rocky IV is also rehashed from the old edition. It's in non-anamorphic 2.35:1 widescreen, and a full frame transfer on the other side. Even though it's not anamorphic, it's as good as non-anamorphic presentations gets. Detail is very, very good, colors are well saturated and there's not that much grain or dirt to be found. If it was anamorphic, perhaps, it'd be near reference. Shimmering is also kept to a mininum. Despite the lack of anamorphic enhancment, it's really sharp with a lot of clarity.

Rocky V looks the best, in a pristine 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Shimmering is really really slight, and colors are saturated perfectly. Fleshtones are dead on, as well as black levels. Exterior and night scenes look really nice. I'd even say this is near-reference to an extent. Pieces of grain and dirt are kept to a minimum too. Too bad the worst in the series looks the best... well, probably because it's the most recent.

Rocky is presented in 5.1 Dolby Digital, and it's a very good remix, I was quite surprised how good it actually sounded. Dialogue is not distorted and the audio seems to be really cleaned up. Nothing overlaps anything, and the sound sounds really clear and it is easy to understand. There are some nice pretty nice surrounds with the memorable music and during the boxing scenes. A pretty good mix for a very good movie. An English Dolby 2.0 mono track (not all of you like 5.1 remixes), a French 5.1 track and a Spanish mono track are included as well, as well as French and Spanish subtitles (but unfortunately, there are no English ones).

Rocky II is in English Dolby Stereo Surround, and there's French Mono as well as Spanish Mono for sound. The sound is decent, but the audio could have sounded a little bit more clear. Effects are clearer and subtle sounds are noticable, which is always good. There's not much to say, except I think this movie could have benefited from a 5.1 remix. While I do enjoy the original tracks, I also like remixes. Still, the track is decent, effects are noticable, and some sounds are a little lacking, a lot of them pack a good punch (no pun intended). There's something really interesting to note about the subtitles. There are two English subtitles tracks if you switch through them while watching the movie. Both are different. Check out chapter 3 for example during the fight. One English stream just has the commentators' words, while the other English stream has the words, but puts who is speaking before it. Uhh... weird? I thought so too. Interesting... I would have thought MGM would have fixed it up. SWISH.

Rocky III has a Spanish mono track, a French mono track and an English 5.1 Dolby Surround track (plus French and Spanish subtitles). I wasn't too impressed, as I felt there could have been more bass extension and better mixing. The music sounds okay, but I felt that things could have been empowered more, such as the music and even the fight sequences. Oh well. Like most of the mixes and transfers, it's pretty decent. Maybe if more effort was put into it, it could have been spectacular. Just don't expect much. There's some life to it, I just wanted more. Dialogue is clear and nothing overlaps anything, which is always good. And no hiss or background noise either.

With an English 5.1, Spanish and French Mono; plus English, French and Spanish subtitles, Rocky IV has a better 5.1 than "Rocky III". The music sounds particularly good through the channels with good surround use to really capture the essence of the movie. The fight scenes as well as the crowd cheers are a lot more lively, and there's really a lot more to experience in this track. Dialogue is clear and hiss-free, and it's a very good mix with good surround use, it fits it perfectly.

Rocky V has English Stereo Surround, as well as French Stereo Surround and Spanish Mono. No English subtitles here, just French and Spanish. Even though it's not 5.1, the Stereo Surround is over two channels and is surprisingly deep. Dialogue is clear and easy to hear, and like all the other entries, nothing overlaps anything. The music and fight parts sound really good with good surrounds and action. Though it's not a full remix, and despite the limit it has, "Rocky V" has a good last punch (you may say) to it (sorry for the pun).

For it's 25th anniversary, Rocky gets a full special edition treatment with some truly fantastic supplements. Unfortunately, its sequels are not honored for this anniversary, just the original that started it at all. It would have been nice to get some additional supplements for the other movies, or an evolution of the sequels or such, but let's focus on what we have.

So back to "Rocky"... first up is a Commentary With John G. Avildsen, Irwin Winkler, Robert Chartoff, Talia Shire and Burt Young. It is edited, but for all you "Rocky" fans out there, you'll find a wealth of information to absorb. Things are pretty screen specific but not always. Avildsen is quite insightful. He discusses good production stories and how certain things fit the characters, he's really enthusiastic. Winkler and Chartoff discuss how the project came to them as well as some interesting tidbits. Shire and Young also have good stories to share, and I found them to be interesting. There's also some commentary cameos I guess you can say, like at the start of chapter 3 (I won't spoil it for you). This is definitely one of the better commentaries I've heard in a long time.

A 28 Minute Video Commentary With Sylvester Stallone is not a full commentary, but there's a lot here. I would have liked a full one with him considering the fact he created the whole world of "Rocky" and it has played a major part in his life, but don't get me wrong, you'll really love this. And maybe Stallone wouldn't have more to add during the commentary, who knows. Anyhow, Stallone talks about writing the movie, his inspirations (a Muhammad Ali fight), creating key elements and the whole experience, and in between there are key clips from the films. Stallone is quite insightful and very interesting to listen to here, and this is a must watch for anyone who likes the film.

MGM also serves up some three great featurettes. First up is Behind The Scenes With John Avildsen. Lasting twelve minutes in length, Avildsen shows off some nice, rare behind the scenes movies of fighting tests and whatnot. He gives a good preface before with interesting comments, and ends it nicely, encouraging you to compare the rough footage to the final film. Check it out for sure.

Tribute To Burgess Meredith last eight minutes, and it's a really nice tribute with clips from the film and has a variety of interviews with the like of Stallone, Burt Young, Carl Weathers and Lee Grant. Pretty much this featurette has some nice stories about Meredith, and it seems everyone had a blast working with him and liked him very much. I must admit I think he was a fantastic actor, and did a superb job in the "Rocky" films, and his memory will live on as new generations experience "Rocky" and his other films.

Though not as well known, there's a Tribute To James Crabe. Avildsen talks about the cinematographer, and they did have a long history together. Avildsen talks on camera and stills as well as clips from the movie are shown. It's only three minutes, but still nicely done.

Rounding the disc out are three Rocky TV Spots (wow, TV ads have surely changed) which are enjoyable, as well as some Theatrical Trailers. The teaser trailer for "Rocky" is in full frame while the actual trailer is in anamorphic widescreen. The other "Rocky" movie trailers are on the disc as well. "Rocky II" is in full frame, "Rocky III" is in full frame, "Rocky IV" is in full frame and "Rocky V" is in anamorphic widescreen. Also, inside the case there is a Collectible Booklet with some neat facts about the movie.

As far as extras on the other discs go, each one has the original Trailer. If you want to watch those and don't want to go through each disc, of course, you can watch them all on the "Rocky" Special Edition disc.


Truly, this set is a toss up as it varies, but if you're a "Rocky" fan, it's worth it in the end. While I would have liked more supplements for the other movies, the thing that bothers me the most (and I'm sure will bother you too) is that "Rocky II" and "Rocky IV" are just rehashed from their original releases, meaning, they are not anamorphic. I don't think MGM is going to re-release "Rocky II" and "Rocky IV" (and this was the perfect opportunity to improve on the old releases), so if you're a fan of the franchise, get this set for sure. With a retail of ninety bucks, that's about eighteen dollars per disc, which is pretty respectable. And considering you can get this set for about sixty, that'll be only about twelve dollars per DVD, even better (and you can only get III and V in this set!). The presentations of the disc aren't go to blow your home theater out of the water, but they are above average. This could have been really something special though if MGM improved on II and IV, added more supplements and put just some more care into the presentations. Still, for what's here and what you get, I think it's worth owning in the end. You may feel disappointed by some aspects, but you'll be glad in the end of how it is, despite how it does vary. "AADDDRRRRRRRIIIIIAAAAAAAANN, GET THIS SET!".

(Rocky I - 4.5/5, Rocky II- 4.5, Rocky III - 4/5, Rocky IV - 3.5/5, Rocky V - 2/5 -- - ALL NOT included in final score)




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