Sunday, March 19, 2023

ROCKY: THE KNOCKOUT COLLECTION (1976-1985) (4K Ultra HD Review)

4K Ultra HD + Digital 

This was a fun watch, I have not seen a Rocky film since I was in my early teens and even then it was on cable TV , so this was massive upgrade for me, having bypassed both the previous DVD and Blu-ray editions. It was quite surprising how much I remembered from these films from memory having only seen them nearly forty years ago, which is a testament to how great they are. The four-fil set tells the story of a down and out boxer named Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone, Cobra) who gets his big break when the current heavyweight champion Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers, Predator) plucks him from obscurity to be his next title bout, putting Rocky the amateur boxer and Stallone the actor on the map. With the help of a grizzled boxing trainer Mickey (Burgess Meredith, Grumpy Old Men) and the support of his girlfriend Adrian (Talia Shire, The Godfather) Rocky fights his way to to the top with lots of heart and determination. In the three following films will defend his heavyweight that title from Creed, the menacing Clubber Lange (Mr. T, DC Cab), and the Cold War-era Soviet destroyer Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren, Red Scorpion). 

ROCKY (1976)
Label: WBHE 
Region Code: Region-Free
Rating: PG 
Duration: 119 Minutes 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1, 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles. 
Video: Dolby Vision HDR10 2160p Ultra HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Sylvester Stallone 
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Carl Weathers, Burgess Meredith

Synopsis: Nominated for 10 Academy Awards, this 1976 Best Picture Winner inspired a nation. A struggling Philadelphia club fighter (Sylvester Stallone) gets a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fight for love, glory and self-respect. Featuring a legendary musical score and thrilling fight sequences, this rousing crowd-pleaser scores a knockout!

ROCKY II (1979)
Label: WBHE 
Region Code: Region-Free
Rating: PG 
Duration: 120 Minutes 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1, 2.0 with Optional English subtitles. 
Video: Dolby Vision HDR10 2160p Ultra HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Sylvester Stallone 
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Carl Weathers, Burgess Meredith

Synopsis: After club fighter Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) goes the distance with the world heavyweight champion, boxing fans clamor for a rematch. But Rocky, having sustained massive injuries, announces his retirement. Though he tries to make a new life for himself, Rocky realizes that he can’t escape his true calling. The ring beckons once more, and the “Italian Stallion” must prepare for the fight of his life.

ROCKY III (1982)
Label: WBHE 
Region Code: Region-Free
Rating: PG 
Duration: 100 Minutes 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1, 2.0 with Optional English subtitles. 
Video: Dolby Vision HDR10 2160p Ultra HD Widescreen (1.85:1) / Dolby Vision HDR10 2160p Ultra HD Widescreen (2.39:1) (Director's Cut) 
Director: Sylvester Stallone 
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Carl Weathers, Burgess Meredith, Mr. T

Synopsis: As Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) fights his way into the hearts of millions, life couldn’t be better. But when Clubber Lang (Mr. T) KOs Rocky in a humiliating defeat, it becomes apparent that the “Italian Stallion” has lost his edge. Considering hanging up his gloves, Rocky receives encouragement from an unlikely ally: his old nemesis, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers). With Creed’s help, Rocky strives to regain the “eye of the tiger” before confronting Lang in a grueling rematch!

ROCKY IV (1985)
Label: WBHE 
Region Code: Region-Free
Rating: PG
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1, 2.0 with Optional English subtitles
Video: Dolby Vision HDR 2160p Ultra HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Sylvester Stallone 
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Carl Weathers, Brigitte Nielsen, Dolph Lundgren

Synopsis: Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) holds the world heavyweight boxing championship but faces a new challenger: Drago (Dolph Lundgren), a 6'4", 261-pound fighter who has the backing of the Soviet Union. Rocky prepares for a powerfully charged fight, in which he must defend not only himself but the honor of his country! Also included is Rocky IV: Rocky vs. Drago. Stallone masterfully reshapes Rocky IV in the ultimate director’s cut!

Audio/Video: All four of the theatrical cuts of the Rocky films arrives on 4K Ultra HD framed in the original 1.85:1 widescreen framing with Dolby Vision HDR 10 color-grading. I've only seen these on cable TV back in the 80's and 90's so this was quite an upgrade for me personally. I have no previous DVD or Blu-ray comparisons top make, I've never owned the any Rocky films on home video, which speaks to me being only a casual fan of the series. With that said, I thought these films looked fantastic on UHD! Grain levels are strong and natural looking for the most part, I thought the third film looked a bit lesser compared to the other four but overall the images are strong, well-defined and had some solid depth to the image. The fight scenes are brightly lit and colors really pop once Rocky enters the ring, but the scuzzy look of 70's era Philly have a natural looking dinge to it, which translates well to UHD. The wider color-gamut color-grading certainly gives the primaries a nice boost and black levels are quite pleasing across the board. As a bonus we also get the director's cut of Rocky IV is presented in a reframed 2.39:1 with an alternate cooler color-grading. It  looks like they went with a newer scan here for the director's cut as the image often appears more robust with stronger detail, but also has a few shots that look to have been scrubbed with DNR, but nothing too egregious, but it's noticeable. This version removes about a half-hour of footage from the theatrical cut and adds in another half-hour of never-before-seen footage. 

Audio on all the film comes by way of English 2.0 and 5.1 with optional English subtitles. This release has garnered much attention for some audio issues that I don't know have been confirmed b the studio, but are nonetheless being reported across the review-niverse. What I have seen reported is that the original theatrical mix on the first film is actually a down mix of the 5.1 and that there's a pitch issue on the second film affecting both English and foreign language tracks, as more pitch issues on the foreign language tracks for the tired film. Not having ever watched these films on home video before, and not caring to checkout out the foreign language tracks on this release, I cannot tell you how they compare to past releases, but I watched these films in 5.1 and had no issues regarding the reported pitch issue on Rocky 2, which is reported to be 4-5% too low. I didn't notice it and it did not effect my viewing experience. I will be curious to know if WBHE acknowledges any errors regarding these reported downmixing and pitch issues, or set the record straight one way or the either. Regardless, I did not notice the issues myself and it did not hinder my enjoyment while watching the films. 

There are no new extras on this set, and it also not a comprehensive set of extras either as there are multiple extras from past editions that do not appear hear, Again, I've never owned a Rocky films on home video so I have no caparisons to make, but what we do get I enjoyed The only extras on the UHD discs appear on the Rocky disc, which has three archival commentaries. All other archival extras are relegated to  a special features bonus Blu-ray disc containing over two and half hours of previously released bonus junk that I quite enjoyed. 

Rocky 4K UHD Special Features:
- Audio Commentary with director John Avildsen; producers Irvin Winkler and Robert Chartoff; actors Talia Shire, Carl Weathers and Burt Young; and Steadicam inventor Garrett Brown
- Audio Commentary with Boxing trainer Lou Duva and film historian Bert Sugar.
Audio Commentary with writer/star Sylvester Stallone

ROCKY 1-4 Collection Special Features Disc (Blu-ray): 
- 8mm Home Movies of "Rocky" (13 min)  
- 3 Rounds with Lou Duva (5 min)
- Steadicam: Then and Now with Garrett Brown (17 min) 
- Make-Up! The Art and Form with Michael Westmore (15 min) 
- Staccato: A Composer's Notebook with Bill Conti (12 min) 
- The Ring of Truth (10 min) 
- A Tribute to Burgess Meredith (8 min) 
- Stallone Meets Rocky (3 min) 
- The Making of "Rocky vs. Drago": Keep Punching (58 min) 
- Trailers (14 min)