Rocky: The Knockout Collection - 4K Blu-ray Review

Michael Scott

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Rocky: The Knockout Collection


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Movie: :4stars:
4K Video: :4stars:
Video:
Audio: :3.5stars:
Extras: :3stars:
Final Score: :3.5stars:



WARNING: THE SCORES ABOVE ARE A COMBINED SCORE FROM ALL 4 FILMS, THE INDIVIDUAL SCORES ARE CONTAINED BELOW IN THE INDIVIDUAL SECTIONS OF THE REVIEW


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Movie

Some series transcend the time period that they were written in, allowing for multiple sequels to span out over the course of years, and somehow still remain indelible to this day (at least most of them. Films like the Rambo movies, Star Wars, Indiana Jones and the Rocky movies have done just that. As a huge huge boxing fan as a young boy (Stallone got me introduced to boxing, which led to kick boxing, which led to MMA over the years) Rocky was one of my favorite movies. And also a movie that my conservative parents would let me watch with a family friendly PG rating. It would take till my college days and beyond to get into the sequels, and while not every one of them is a slam dunk, they’re pretty much all entertaining (with 5 being the one that’s iffy). Not to mention an aging Stallone breathing new life into the series with Rocky Balboa, and the offshoot Creed movies gaining popularity (and of course the upcoming controversy with Creed III). So color me a bit surprised when I see that Warner Brothers is putting out the first 4 films on 4K.

Now, this isn’t horrible in and of itself, but it made me raise an eyebrow that the 5th movie wasn’t included, let alone Rocky Balboa. I’m usually leary of when a studio releases a partial series set, as a complete series set is usually a few years away. Plus I had got some early rumblings about some audio issues on the disc ala Mad Max. Reviewing the set over the course of the last week, I have to agree that there is some quirks and issues, but not nearly as egregiously annoying as some other online publications have made it out to be (in my opinion of course).

Rocky : :4.5stars:
Rocky is by far my favorite of the series in terms of depth and complexity. Much like Rambo: First Blood, it is drastically different and more subdued than later more “gonzo” sequels. First Blood wasn’t a gigantic blood bath action movie like the sequels, but rather an introspective and weary look at a PTSD ridden veteran coming home from the Vietnam war. The same goes for Rocky. Instead of being a massive spectacle of epic proportions in the ring, it takes place mostly outside of the boxing ring. Rocky Balboa (Stallone) is a low level boxer that only has his ability to absorb damage and come out on top sometimes going for him. However Rocky wants a chance to go to the top, despite his trainer Mickey (Burgess Meredith) and everyone around him thinking that he’d fail. Instead of a glorious end boxing match where Rocky turns into some sort of god, we get to watch a more mature and polished version of what he was on screen. A mediocre boxer who has pushed his talents to the max, but is not about to be held back and whose tenacity is unmatched.

There’s been a lot of aspects of the “from a true story’ tale that has turned out to be untrue (most of the story if sources are to be believed), but the film is a near masterpiece of an underdog story. The before mentioned Stallone has barely taken off in the film with this being his super star moment, Meredith Burgess (RIP) is fantastic as his cantankerous trainer, and Talia Shire is amazing as the homely girlfriend Adrian who meekly drives her beau towards being the best that he can be. Simply put, Rocky was lightning in a bottle and the became the driving force for Stallone’s upward rise to super stardom.

Rocky II: :3.5stars:
Rocky II does what all sequels of the 70s and 90s did (well, even modern sequels still follow this pattern to a certain extent). The powers that be decided to basically have Rocky Balboa go through the same order of events, just amping things up to the next level in terms of showmanship and spectacle. As you can guess, a rematch with Adonis Creed is in order, and Rocky has to get back into tip top shape for the “battle of his life” (a second time).

The movie tends to feel like a lot of deja vu, with Bill Conti’s music once more, a rematch with Creed, and of course some lady issues. The only thing is, the movie is a bit TOO similar to the first film, and while it’s not a bad movie, just doesn’t strike home run either. Rocky II is still quite a bit of fun though, with good boxing, an even more jacked Carl Weathers, and Stallone having seriously amped up his own psyche in the 3 years between films.

Rocky III: :2.5stars:
Rocky III was sort of the series falling down at the beginning. It went from being a boxing “film” to an epic blockbuster, amping up the volume from 10.5 to full on 13 out of 10 for this entry. New threats are introduced to the audience, including Hulk Hogan as Thunderlips (yeah, it’s never a good thing when Hulk Hogan enters a movie) and Clubber (Mr. T.) as the celebrity villains for the film. It’s your typical Rocky film, where Rocky has to bulk up even bigger than before, get better than he was (simple heroes journey), and of course come out victorious over TWO villains.

The 3rd film in the franchise is big, bold, but it’s pure early 80s cheese, and likely one of the most forgettable Rocky films ever made. It’s not as egregiously bad as the 5th film, but it’s so over the top and showy that it almost doesn’t feel like a Rocky film at this point. Stallone does his character well, but the showboating of WWF stars (and Mr. T.) don’t exactly ground the film very well. It’s an insane movie that is still solidly charming, and probably the goofiest film in the entire franchise.

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Rocky IV: :4.5stars:
While I stated that Rocky was the BEST of the series, I’d say that Rocky IV was the most FUN of the series. Widely hailed as the best of the franchise I’d say that it’s a close tie with the original film, much like Aliens was to Alien. This is of course the film that shot Dolph Lundgren out of playing bit side villain roles, and elevated him to almost Stallone level during the 80s and early 90s. This entry has Rocky Balboa defending the United States honor against the reigning champion of Soviet Russia, Ivan Drago (Lundgren).

Plot wise, the flick is about as paper thing as you can get. It was right during the height of the cold war, and patriotism was all the rage back then. Bringing in a baby faced Dolph Lundgren as a hulked up beast who kills Adonis Creed, it’s a match made in heaven. The dulled boxer who only won through heart alone (usually not skill) is up against a brute of a Russian who doesn’t know how to quite. What entails is pure cinema magic, with Dolph and Sylvester facing off in what would become one of the most iconic 80s movies ever.

Rocky IV: The Ultimate Director's Cut: :4stars:
For the first time ever, we get a new re cut of the 4th film, with Sylvester Stallone going all in to try to make it truer to what he considers his original vision. Released under the title Rocky vs. Drago, it’s a strange (if not interesting) attempt at making the movie “more” than what it originally was. The 4th film was always known to be the most paper thin on the plot department of the original films (it was patriotic jingoism mixed with boxing) and Stallone always wanted a more substantial “meat and potatoes” to the character development. He also wanted to tie it into Rocky III (not sure that’s a good idea) and basically tone down the blockbuster aspects of it. The added footage and changed up cutting is solid, making more of a back story for Drago, as well as tuning down several characters (Brigitte Nielsen) and allowing the pace to move a bit slower. At the end of the day it’s a solid attempt to make something more nuanced than a summer blockbuster, but it’s not going to give you something better and more entertaining than the theatrical cut….just a bit more different.




Rating:

Rated PG (Rocky) and PG-13 (II-IV)




4K Vidoe: :4stars: Video:
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Rocky: :4stars:
According to every source I could find, Rocky sports the same master as the 2014 remastered Blu-ray, and it still holds up quite nicely. Just with a nice new 4K look that sports better grain details, stronger colors with the HDR, and a better bitrate to breathe too. It’s a very natural and accurate looking picture, with that sort of faded 1970s gray tones, complimented by the sharp blue and red primary shades when Rocky gets in the ring with Creed. There’s no revisionist takes to the image, with no digital manipulation or any other changes. Even the HDR application is very faithful to the image, with just stronger saturation levels and more accurate shading between the various hues.

Rocky II: :4stars:
Just like the original film, Rocky II stays true to its heritage with a mostly muted color grading. Being a bit newer and with a bigger budget affords the image to look cleaner and shine brighter in 4K. The colors of the ring and the “jungle” cage yellow and black striping all stand out as deep and vibrant. Facial tones looks a tad ruddy at times, but overall the main image is till rather grayed and dulled to the eyes. Fine textural details in the clothing and the ring side audience make it so much better than the aging Blu-ray from a decade ago. Blacks are a bit wonky with some crushing still going on, but overall this is a very fine transfer.

Rocky III/IV/Rocky vs. Drago: :4stars:
Rocky III and Rocky IV (along with the Ultimate director’s cut) tend to look REALLY similar due to being shot the latest and so close to each other. The HDR 10 color grading add some incredible pop to the shadows and the bright colors of the ring suits really shine. The films are also a tad dimmer than their Blu-ray counterparts, dialing back some of the hot highlights of the previous releases, giving it a more neutral and natural look to the film. There’s still a nice grain layer over the entire picture, giving them a very VERY 90s filmic texture as well.










Audio: :3.5stars:
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I was going to break down the audio into their separate movies too, but the 5.1 mixes sound REALLY similar, with only slight variances among them (the director’s cut of IV being the cleanest). HOWEVER, there have been reported some fairly moderate audio quirks that tend to be true upon close inspection.

To start it off, Rocky’s DTS-HD MA Mono mix is not the original mono track to my ears. It’s the folded down stereo or 5.1 mix into Mono, as evidenced by comparing to the original Mono track on the DVD. While I’m usually not a huge fan of Mono mixes if a 5.1 is available, the purist in me really feels like it’s the most accurate version out there, and this folded mix is frustrating if you’re already familiar with the original mix.

The 2nd film is even worse, with all audio tracks having about a 4-5% slowdown in the track (sourced from a likely PAL source), which affects the ENTIRE track (music, score, action, dialog, surrounds). While there’s nothing else wrong, being slightly slowed down is really odd on the ears and a pretty stinking HUGE QC issue right there.

The 3rd is fine for the english tracks, but has a weird high pitch whine on Foreign language tracks. While it’s not exactly a problem for the majority of viewers who are going to watch the lossless tracks, it IS a problem for some people. Otherwise the English track is more than capable.

Rocky IV is probably the best out of the mix. I didn’t notice any appreciable errors in the film, and given the rousing hyped action of the flick, it really shines in terms of raw power, dialog and heavy surround use.

As I said, there are some rather noticeable audio errors on this set that frustrated me a bit more than I should have been. While other sites and reviewers have made an enormous deal out of the first 3 films and their quirks, I think the general audiences will have a hard time picking up the errors brought forth by the Digital Bits in their initial review last week. However, I’m not excusing Warner either, as they are noticeable enough for fans of the movie to notice and it’s more than just a minor blip here or there either.







Extras: :3stars:
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Rocky
• Audio Commentary with director John Avidsen and producers Irvin Winkler and Robert Chartoff
• Audio Commentary with Lou Dua and Bert Sugar
• Aduio Commentary with Sylvester Stallon

Rocky 1-4 Bonus Disc
• 8MM Home Movies of Rocky
• 3 Rounds with Lou Duva
• Steadicam: Then and Now with Garrett Brown
• Make-Up! The Art and Form with Michael Westmore
• Staccato: A Composer's Notebook with Bill Conti
• The Ring of Truth
• A Tribute to Burgess Meredith
• Stallone Meets Rocky
• The Making of "Rocky vs. Drago": Keep Punching
• Trailers










Final Score: :3.5stars:


I hate to give ANY sort of hate to a classic set of films like this, but The Knockout Collection does have a few problems to address. The first being that we only get 4 of the 6 films much like Paramount did with the Star Trek original films a couple years back. Secondly we have some weird audio quirks that have supposedly been reported to the studio, and while I certainly enjoy the boxset, I can understand why some folks will be holding out for the complete boxset (especially with the rumored director’s cut of Rocky V and a new remaster for Rocky Balboa in the works). It’s a good set in terms of what we get, but it’s missing a lot along with the QC irritants to fully recommend the set wholeheartedly.

Technical Specifications:

Starring: Burgess Meredith, Sylvester Stallone, Carl Weathers, Mr. T., Hulk Hogan, Dolph Lundgren, Brigitte Nielsen
Directed by: Various
Written by: Various
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC, 1.85:1 AVC, 1.85:1 AVC, 2.35:1 AVC
Audio: DTS-HD MA 5.1, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono, French, Spanish DD 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish, Dutch (only English SDH, French, Spanish on Rocky IV: Rocky vs. Drago)
Studio: Warner Brothers
Rated: PG/PG-13
Runtime: 523 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: February, 28th, 2023
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Recommendation: Good movies, awkward boxset.

 

tripplej

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Thanks for the review. I always enjoyed the Rocky series and now the Creed series.
 

Epoxy1

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How can you not like Rocky III? I personally like all of them and would put II and III in the same category. I love I and IV the best as well though...I for the underdog story and IV for the uplifting message (and killer soundtrack).
 
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Todd Anderson

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Mike - when you say the track is slowed down... it's actaully been altered? As in slowed down??????

That sounds like a massive error??
 

Michael Scott

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Mike - when you say the track is slowed down... it's actaully been altered? As in slowed down??????

That sounds like a massive error??

correct. it's at a slowed down pitch. so it's a lower pitch than it should be. It affects ALLL tracks on the disc too. not just the mono mix like the fold down in #1
 
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