'Rocky Heavyweight Collection' [Blu-ray]
(Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Carl Weathers, Burt Young, Mr. T, et al / 6-Disc Blu-ray / PG-13 / 2014 / MGM)
Overview: Go the distance with this Rocky Heavyweight collection, featuring all six knockout Rocky films including the first film with a stunning new master. Sylvester Stallone stars in the greatest boxing saga of all time and triumphs as one of the most inspirational characters in cinematic history.
Blu-ray Verdict: For those not in the know, the last collection of 'Rocky' films before this was The Undisputed Collection - which is now, of course, discontinued. So, as 'Rocky' is one of the best series' in American cinematic history, well, here we have on Blu-ray the chance to collect all the six remastered versions of the great films instead.
'Rocky': The first in the series and the best. It started the story which is a classic. Rocky (Sylvester Stallone)is a small time boxer and a collector for a lone shark. But he has a good heart, he has a relationship with a pet store worker Adrian (Talia Shire) and his best friend is her brother Paulie (Bert Young). When the world heavyweight champion Apollo Creed (Carl Weather) come to Philadelphia he fights Rocky for the championship. It's simple enough to wrap your head around it so you don't have to think too much, of course re: the outcome. Indeed, it's a great movie, one of my favorite movies of all time, in fact!
'Rocky II': Not my personal favorite in the series, the sequel starts where starts where the last movie left off. Apollo is upset that Rocky won the original fight and so wants a big ticket rematch. But Rocky say no to him, initially and to boxing, in general! He then ups and marries Adrianne and sets about working a normal job. He tries commercial, an office job, even working at the meat shop Paulie worked at in the first movie, butt hey just don't fit him. So trying to get some money for his family, Rocky agrees to fight Apollo again; which Adrianne doesn't like one bit, trust me! But after she gives birth to their son she actually wants him to. So Rocky trains for the big fight which come the time in the ring is one of pure cinematic history.
'Rocky III': For my money, this third chapter changes the way the 'Rocky' movies played out re: from drama to all-out action! The movie starts with a montage of Rocky going on a winning streak with the song "Eye of the Tiger" being played later in the movie. Again he plans to retire, but is challenged by Clubber Lang (Mr.T). So, Rocky agrees, but loses the fight because Mickey, his trainer dies. But Apollo Creed comes back to help him get into fight shape, which is a great touch, of course. Also, for those not in the know, 'Rocky III' is the only movie that shows the whole fight scene from bell to bell, which is pretty awesome.
'Rocky IV': Quite easily the most entertaining of the six (6) movies - to date - when a Russian boxer, Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) comes to America, Apollo fights him ... and gets killed in the ring. So Rocky blames himself for not stopping the fight. Thus, the only way to get back at Drago is to fight the guy himself. Chock full of montages galore, the fight itself is the most brutal and the best fist-to-face screen-setting in the set. Rocky's winning speech about World Peace is out of place these days, but 'Rocky IV' is wildly entertaining.
'Rocky V': For the most part, the general opinion on 'Rocky V' is that it wasn't needed, and worse yet didn't work. Stallone was too old, so they said, but I actually like it - still! It starts with Rocky learning that he has brain damage and needs to quit boxing for good. Then he loses all his money thanks to Paulie, so they have to move out off their house and go back to the house where Paulie and Adrianne lived in the very first movie. However, Rocky trains a young, powerful but ungrateful fighter Tommy Gunn (Tommy Morrison) and so when a boxing manager gets Tommy away from Rocky, Rocky needing a pay day helps the kid try and win the coverted Title in boxing. This film also features a great street fight that comes out of nowhere! So keep an eye out for that, trust me! But with Rocky not fighting in the ring fort he first time, well, it is lacking that certain something, I do agree.
'Rocky Balbao': In what is meant to be the last in the series, although word has it there's a new 'Rocky' and a new 'Rambo' being sanctioned as we speak (!), 'Rocky Balbao' comes complete with a rather beautiful aspect to it: In that it fits well both as a sixth film, but even more so as a direct sequel to the original. It has that same quieter feel of the fighter finding his way back into the show biz spotlights. The story is told in a believable enough way that one does not have to stretch too far to see how the old guy could fight the young one. The character of "Little Marie" is back (though a woman now for sure) and becomes the love interest. But, if you are looking for superhero antics, this is not that kind of Rocky. But if you want a great film, with good pacing, characters, and a look at state of boxing today, I recommend 'Rocky Balboa,' for sure.
Oh, and one last thing: For those needing a reason to upgrade from the Undisputed Collection (if they have it, which I'm sure they do) to this newly-remastered Blu-ray set is summed up simply by the words "improved image quality." I mean, come on, if you own the Undisputed Collection and now this one you've probably already figured it out for yourself! The overall picture quality is great in difference and so after a remaster the viewing experience is just so much crisper; so much clearer. These are all Widescreen Presentations (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
•8mm Home Movies of Rocky (1975) — Narrated by Director John G. Avildsen and Production Manager Lloyd Kaufman
•In the Ring: Three-Part Making-of Documentary
•Behind-the-Scenes Featurettes: Makeup, Music, Directing and Camera Work
•Boxing Featurettes: Three Rounds with Legendary Trainer Lou Duva, The Opponents and The Ring of Truth
•Tributes: Burgess Meredith, James Crabe
•Interview with a Legend: Bert Sugar
•Video Commentary with Sylvester Stallone
•Sylvester Stallone on Dinah! (1976)
•Theatrical Trailers, TV Spots and More!