Rocky: The Undisputed Collection

Rocky: The Undisputed Collection
The Rocky franchise has produced so many memorable pop culture moments that many of the flaws of the films have been overlooked. For every "Eye Of The Tiger" montage there's a corny scene that uses the easiest emotional tricks to get viewers cheering along. Yet the original is still a very entertaining film, just like it was back in 1976 when it won the Oscar for Best Movie. Thanks to a rousing screenplay and wonderful performances from the entire cast, it is still fresh. It also made Sylvester Stallone a household name and allowed him to create five sequels. While there's no doubt that the first film is deserving of its praise, it's a case of diminishing returns with the sequels, making half of this collection not very good and hardly essential. There is more focus on the sentimentality that was sort of kept in check in the original, and there's a predictability that inevitably leads to eye rolling and clockwatching. Things really go awry with the appearances of Hulk Hogan and Mr. T in the third film, and then there's the jingoism of the fourth film, where Rocky battles the evil Soviet empire, which, unsurprisingly, hasn't stood the test of time. It all reaches a climax in the fifth film, released back in 1990. It did incredibly well at the box office, but is an awful movie that doesn't even have the kitschiness of Rocky IV to redeem it. That's most likely the reason Stallone made Rocky Balboa a decade-and-a-half later. It was his attempt at redemption for both himself and the character that turned him into a star. And it actually works, to a certain degree. It ties up most of the loose ends from the rest of the series and presents a more realistic portrait of Rocky, recasting him as an over-the-hill former champ as he trains for one final exhibition against the current title-holder. That fight is the highlight of this somewhat low-key movie, and makes for a more satisfying conclusion than the fifth film ever did. The early films look not too bad on Blu-Ray, although there hasn't been much effort to remaster them, with the most recent film looking the sharpest. On initial inspection, the extras appear rather generous, with an entire disc housing them. The majority, however, have been taken from earlier DVD versions (and are not in hi-def), with only one produced specifically for the Blu-Ray, an interactive trivia quiz with clips from the series that's entertaining for at least a couple of games. The remainder clock in at over three hours, with the most substantial being "In The Ring," a three-part "making of" documentary featuring interviews with the cast and the back-story on how Stallone convinced the studios to make the film he wanted. The remainder of the extras include the typical behind-the-scenes featurettes, with the more interesting ones focussing on boxing, and some other filler, like Stallone's appearance on Dinah Shore's afternoon talk show back in 1976. In addition, the Rocky Balboa disc comes with the extras included on its initial release, including a decent commentary track, some deleted scenes and a blooper reel. (MGM)