Rocky Balboa (Blu-ray)

From the time it was first announced all the way through the previews, reviewers and the general public alike roundly derided the idea of another Rocky movie. Stallone, now 60, still boxing on-screen?

But the movie surprised reviewers. They generally gave it begrudging praise, and it turned into a modest box-office success. When it closed March 29, Rocky Balboa had earned about $149 million in box office receipts worldwide. That contrasts nicely to MGM's reported production cost, $24 million.

While the story line is predictable, Sylvester Stallone's Rocky continues be a most likeable hero. Set today, Rocky, now far past his fighting prime, has lost his wife and his purpose in life—until he decides to return to the ring, where he plans to fight small-time exhibitions around Philadelphia.

When word came out that the boxing commission had given him a license, the current reigning heavyweight champion, an unlikable fellow who was having a hard time finding anyone worthwhile to fight, agreed with his agent's suggestion to fight Rocky Balboa. The two were certain that the fight would draw a lot of money. Big surprise.

And so begins the runup to the fight with the very same training sequences, and triumphant score, that many of us have seen and heard numerous times in the five Rocky films that preceded this one. Only this time Rocky is not as appealing to watch. As The New York Times described him, Rocky presents "a weightlifter's slab of aged meat, knotted with tiny hard veins popping out of the shoulders."

All of this training leads, of course, to the big fight, and if you haven't seen it, I will not tell you how it turns out. You should know, though, that among the entertaining extras is an alternate ending that gives the opposite outcome. It is fun to figure out which you find more believable.

The 1080p video on this Blu-ray disc is grainy—deliberately so—to enhance the shabby look of the downtrodden Philadelphia neighborhood where most of the story takes place. The graininess makes the film look less sharp and pristine than it might have been. Still, the overall video quality was quite good.

The audio, recorded in Dolby Digital and PCM 5.1, is clear and intelligible but conventional. Nothing special.

And that's consistent with the film itself. It's predictable, but pleasant—surprising for most everyone who thought it would be a dreary bomb. Stallone's endearing personality saves it.

Reviewed on the Sony KDS-R60XBR2 1080p SXRD RPTV and Pioneer BDP-HD1 Blu-ray player via HDMI to a Lexicon HD12HD pre-pro, Proceed Amp5, and Infinity Composition MTS speakers.

Picture: 7.5…Audio: 7.0…Film: 7.25