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Rambo: The Complete Collector's Set(1982-2008)
For over 25 years, Sylvester Stallone's "mythic commando" Rambo (Variety) has thrilled audiences worldwide. From "ragged and flashy" First Blood (The New York Times) to the "shockingly entertaining" Rambo (The Seattle Times), the series chronicles a reluctant killing machine as he wages war against corrupt global forces - all while facing a battle within his own soul. Rambo: The Complete Collector's Set has everything the ultimate Rambo fan needs, including all 4 films together for the first time!
For more about Rambo: The Complete Collector's Set and the Rambo: The Complete Collector's Set Blu-ray release, see Rambo: The Complete Collector's Set Blu-ray Review published by Dustin Somner on August 20, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Richard Crenna, Julie Benz, Brian Dennehy, Charles Napier, Marc de Jonge
Directors: Ted Kotcheff, George P. Cosmatos, Peter MacDonald, Sylvester Stallone
This Blu-ray bundle includes the following titles, see individual titles for specs and details:
Rambo: The Complete Collector's Set Blu-ray Review
While I wouldn't exactly call this a "complete" collection, it remains a worthwhile option for Rambo fans who've played the waiting game on Blu-ray.
Reviewed by Dustin Somner, August 20, 2010
Before digging into the heart of this review, it's important to make it clear that this is merely a repackaging of the prior Blu-ray editions of the four Rambo films in the series. The initial three discs mirror the previously released Rambo Trilogy on Blu-ray, and the fourth disc is identical to the original Rambo (2008) Blu-ray, minus the inclusion of a digital copy disc. If you happen to own all four discs already, then the newly designed packaging leaves little reason to upgrade.
The Rambo series underwent a complex transition since author David Morrell created the character. Originally conceived as a blood-thirsty killing machine in the 1972 novel, the story for the film went through nearly 25 potential screen adaptations before the character evolved into a sympathetic hero. More than simply brainless action entertainment, First Blood tackled several sensitive topics that emerged in the post-Vietnam war era, gaining legitimacy and traction among an American audience just beginning to embrace the realities and resulting hardships of the war (Apocalypse Now was released three years prior). Unfortunately, the John Rambo first introduced in First Blood quickly morphed into the "one man army" most people associate with the iconic film role, thanks to the release of two successful sequels in 1985 and 1988. These later films travelled further down the road of action-heavy entertainment and remain entertaining in their own right; though I'll readily acknowledge my preference for the conflicted psychological focus of the first film (which remains fresh to this day).
Flash forward twenty years after the end of the original Rambo Trilogy, and we're given a new take on the Rambo character courtesy of Sylvester Stallone (riding high following the success of his Rocky Balboa reboot), who decided to take the complete reigns for a fourth entry in the franchise. I'll admit to my initial skepticism regarding the idea of reawakening an iconic action-hero from the 80's, but the end result ranks side-by-side with First Blood, bringing complexity back to the role of Rambo. Some may disagree and enjoy the somewhat campy nature of the prior two sequels, but regardless of which films remain your favorite, I'm sure we can all agree Rambo is one of the most recognizable names in film history, creating a legacy of nostalgia that will likely continue for generations to come.
Rambo: First Blood
Returning home to an unwelcoming society that feels foreign, Vietnam War veteran John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) hitchhikes his way to the small town of Hope, Washington in search of employment under a former military buddy of his. What he finds instead is a bitter widow still reeling from the loss of her husband to the effects of Agent Orange, who's unable to offer John any work. Making his way back through town, the veteran is soon picked up by Will Teasle (Brian Dennehy), a small-town sheriff with an extreme distaste for drifters. After an unsuccessful bid to run John out of town, Teasle decides to turn the screw by arresting Rambo and subjecting him to inhumane treatment on the part of his deputies. Before long, the actions of these small town officers awakens the inner demons captured within the inner-psyche of the war-ravaged hero, leading to his escape and an increasingly escalating manhunt in the forested hills of the Pacific Northwest. You can take the man out of war, but can you take the war out of the man?
First Blood remains my favorite of the four films to this day, thanks in no small part to the relevance of the character and the depth of Stallone's portrayal. Later versions of Rambo still show him wrestling with a desire to leave his violent past behind, but in the case of First Blood, it's almost a painstakingly difficult decision for him to eventually pick up a gun. Throughout at least the first half of the film, he sets traps in the forest, relies on his trusty knife for hunting, and effectively fends off multiple attacks by the local police force. When the military is finally brought in, we're shown exactly how dangerous Rambo is, setting the stage for the destructive events that occur during the final act. It's not difficult to understand why the Rambo franchise went in the violent direction it did, but watching First Blood serves as a reminder of Rambo's history, paving the way for a return to form in Stallone's modern reboot.
Rambo: First Blood Part II
Approached by Colonel Trautman (Richard Crenna) while serving a hard labor prison sentence (resulting from his actions in the first film), Rambo is offered full clemency in exchange for his services in an upcoming mission within the heart of Vietnam. The purpose of the mission is pure reconnaissance with strict orders not to engage Vietnam soldiers operating at a suspected POW camp. After reluctantly signing up for the task at hand, the American hero is dropped into the surrounding jungle to meet up with a secret operative, who turns out to be a lovely Vietnamese woman named Co-Bao (Julia Nickson). As suspected, Rambo discovers several American POW's in the camp he's been instructed to photograph, and quickly abandons his instructions not to engage the enemy. Fearing the political backlash that would surely accompany such actions, those responsible for the mission turn their backs on the lone warrior, forcing him to save the POW's entirely on his own. Sounds like a walk in the park to America's most lethal soldier.
The first sequel marks the beginning of a transition in the franchise, from a thinking-man's action film into pure mindless entertainment. The character of Rambo hasn't necessarily changed, but instead of witnessing a man facing his own demons in the midst of a personal journey, we have a run-of-the-mill tale centered on a daring rescue and the continued government abandonment of American soldiers. Toss in flavor-of-the-week Soviet bad-guys helping the Vietnamese military, and you end up with action set pieces that feel a bit too contrived and hokey for my liking. Don't get me wrong, there's still enough wholesome violence to make the film worth watching, but considering James Cameron and Sylvester Stallone co-wrote the screenplay, I'd expect better.
After adopting a humble lifestyle at a temple in Thailand, John Rambo is yet again visited by his prior commander Colonel Trautman. On this occasion the reluctant hero is asked to accompany Trautman on a secret government mission to supply much-needed weaponry to the Mujahideen rebels in Afghanistan. Rambo initially balks at the invitation, forcing Trautman to proceed without his prized pupil, but when word reaches Thailand that the Colonel has been kidnapped by Soviet forces in Afghanistan, Rambo springs into action. Assisted by a weapons smuggler named Mousa (Sasson Gabai), and a young boy named Hamid (Doudi Shoua), Rambo descends on a Soviet-occupied base with intentions of rescuing his former commander at all cost.
Capping off the original trilogy, Rambo III is more or less an extension of the film style found in the prior sequel. The setting is different, and I appreciate the incorporation of a rescue mission involving a strong, recurring character (to ratchet up the tension), but at the end of the day this is still Rambo doing what he does best. So long as you expect huge explosions, amped up violence, and preposterous action sequences throughout the majority of the film, I doubt you'll come away disappointed.
20 years after the events of Rambo III, the humble ex-special forces agent has settled in for a meager existence as a riverboat captain along the Thailand-Burma border, where he spends his days in pursuit of odd jobs for local villagers. One day while delivering captured snakes to a local snake charming outfit, Rambo is approached by a group of missionaries on a humanitarian trip to a village just beyond the Burmese border. Knowing the atrocities committed by the Burmese army and the perils that would surely befall such a naďve group, Rambo wisely rejects their request for transport upriver, advising the leader to take his friends home to their easy lives in America. The sole female of the group (Julie Benz) remains unwilling to take no for an answer, and eventually wins him over to the righteousness of their cause. Despite giving in, a still reluctant Rambo transports the crew upriver as requested, leaving them with a short hike through the thick jungle to their destination. Several days later, he's visited by the pastor of the church sponsoring the mission trip, and told of their disappearance from the village they intended to help. Fearing for the safety of the young woman in the group, Rambo guides a team of mercenaries hired by the church to the location where the missionaries were last seen, only to find a desolate landscape littered with the bullet-torn bodies of local villagers. Teaming up with the colorful cast of hardened commandos, Rambo stages a daring midnight rescue at a nearby Burmese military base, hoping to rescue any survivors of the village massacre, and lead the remaining missionaries back to safety.
I entered my initial viewing of the Rambo reboot with low expectations. As much as I enjoyed the first film in the series, the two sequels never did much for me, and remain little more than over-the-top examples of the cheesy action films that dominated the 1980's. Fortunately, Rambo turned out to be much better than I'd hoped, effectively combining the sense of emotional depth found in the first film with the gleeful violence of the two sequels. No matter which film you prefer in the original trilogy, I'd wager Rambo will come close to topping it. Just as a word of warning, the reboot contains a higher level of extreme violence than we often find in an R-rated classification, never shying away from graphic depictions of limbs being torn from bodies, decapitations, and all manner of gruesome fun. If you're even remotely squeamish about such content, consider yourself forewarned.
Rambo: The Complete Collector's Set Blu-ray, Video Quality
As mentioned in the opening section of this review, The Complete Collector's Set includes the same discs released individually and as part of the earlier film trilogy. As such, there's little reason to descend into an extensive analysis of the video quality, since I agree completely with fellow reviewer Martin Liebman's earlier assessments of the transfer quality. Instead, I'll merely provide a single paragraph summary of the standout elements in the interest of providing a condensed outlook on the set.
As expected, the 2008 production fares the best out of the four films in the collection, offering pristine clarity, a consistent (though muted) color palette, and not a single digital flaw to speak of. Black levels could have been a little better during the nighttime sequences that dominate the middle portion of the film, but aside from that one complaint, this is consistently strong material. Moving on to the prior films in the series, we run into a number of flaws that don't necessarily detract from the overall experience, but prevent the trilogy from earning more than merely an average assessment. Beginning with First Blood, you'll notice black levels that rarely descend below dark gray, muted coloring that lacks much pop, and a varying degree of fine object detail. Given the budget of the first film and the dreary overcast setting of the Pacific Northwest, it's much easier to forgive these shortcomings and simply remain thankful that this is a substantial step up from the prior DVD version. Rambo: First Blood Part ii demonstrates marginal gains in the consistency of contrast and black level depth, but the same inconsistency in clarity from scene to scene plague the majority of the production. Fortunately, the one area of significant improvement lies in the color palette of the vivid photography, which captures the natural hues of greens, reds and browns with ease. The same can be said for Rambo III, which moves the setting from the jungles of Vietnam to the arid, mountainous deserts of Afghanistan, while still managing to maintain the same strong presentation of colors. Where Rambo III differentiates itself from the prior sequel is in the category of clarity, revealing crisp textures and added depth within the image. Black levels aren't the best I've witnessed, but considering the lack of black crush or lost shadow detail, I can't bring myself to complain more than I already have.
Taken as a whole, the series offers a visual presentation that's best described as slightly above average, though I'd encourage fans to temper their expectations accordingly.
Rambo: The Complete Collector's Set Blu-ray, Audio Quality
If you're on the market for a demo-worthy showcase of your new home theater set-up, Rambo (2008) is the way to go. Ranking up there with other action-heavy films such as Transformers, the sound design is pure listening bliss; creating excellent immersion and tremendous spread that incorporates every speaker in the room. No matter how many times I watch the film it always feels like a revelatory experience, which is truly saying something given the proliferation of summer popcorn flicks in recent years. Unfortunately, the prior film trilogy pales in comparison with the modern behemoth, with each film revealing their own set of age-related deficiencies. First Blood fares the worst, sporting a mere DTS-HD HR (High Resolution) track that barely surpasses the quality of the Dolby Digital offering also included on the disc. Keep in mind this was the placeholder for the superior DTS-HD Master Audio upgrade that emerged in the months following Blu-ray's inception, so it's not surprising to find an audio experience that lacks the clarity, depth, and robust sound design of the later films in the trilogy. In the case of the two vintage sequels, I failed to notice any significant variations in the quality of the sound design, with both holding up quite well (considering their age). Lows demonstrate sufficient rumble, clarity is adequate, and surround separation reveals fleeting moments of strength that mostly fade during the dialog-heavy portions of each production.
Aside from the lack of a newly-upgraded audio offering on First Blood, I'm still quite pleased with the audio proficiency on each of the four discs in this collection (though I'll again mention that these specs are exactly the same as the prior editions, so there's no reason to upgrade if you already own them).
Rambo: The Complete Collector's Set Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Drawing First Blood (480p, Dolby Digital 2.0, 22:35 min): The extensive history of bringing David Morrell's novel to the big screen is chronicled in this retrospective feature. First Blood underwent at least 25 different script iterations, which cycled through five production studios before eventually landing on the doorstep of Coralco. From there, we're given a series of first-hand accounts from the set of the film, focusing on the weather difficulties they faced, and the dangerous stunt-work involving Stallone. If you have any interest in the production of this film classic, take the time to venture through this featurette.
Deleted Scenes (480p, Dolby Digital 2.0, 5:33 min): Alongside the infamous alternate ending where Rambo dies, we have a flashback sex scene, and a gag reel version of the same suicide death sequence.
Rounding out the extras, we have the same two audio commentaries found on the prior home video releases of First Blood (one with Stallone and one with David Morrell), a pop-up trivia supplement that plays during the film, and a collection of high definition trailers advertising other Lionsgate Blu-ray offerings.
Rambo: First Blood Part II
We Get to Win This Time (480p, Dolby Digital 2.0, 20:04 min): Written primarily by James Cameron (Avatar) and Sylvester Stallone, the first Rambo sequel went through a more traditional production process, which is chronicled here. A large focus of the present-day interviews is on the editing of the film and how it helped further the Rambo legacy among fans of action cinema.
Rounding out the extras, we have a feature length audio commentary with director George Cosmatos, a pop-up trivia supplement that plays during the film, and a collection of high definition trailers advertising other Lionsgate Blu-ray offerings.
Land in Crisis (480p, Dolby Digital 2.0, 29:48 min): Unlike the production-focused featurettes on prior discs, this supplement highlights the history of the Afghanistan uprising against the Soviet Union during the early 80's, and the influence it had on the storyline of the third Rambo film. Not much time is spent on the actual film itself, but I found it interesting to hear from various scholars and Middle Eastern experts on the flaws and strengths of the production.
Rounding out the disc three supplements, we have a feature length audio commentary with director Peter MacDonald, a pop-up trivia supplement that plays during the film, and a collection of high definition trailers advertising other Lionsgate Blu-ray offerings.
Feature Length Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Sylvester Stallone
Bonus View Feature: playing in a window during the film (and occasionally expanding), this feature allows viewers to witness behind the scenes footage and listen to Stallone's commentary while also viewing the film.
It's a Long Road: Resurrection of an Icon (1080i, Dolby Digital 2.0, 19:44 min)
A Score to Settle: The Music of Rambo (1080i, Dolby Digital 2.0, 6:31 min)
The Art of War (1080i, Dolby Digital 2.0, 10:02 min)
The Weaponry of Rambo (1080i, Dolby Digital 2.0, 14:23 min)
A Hero's Welcome: Release and Reaction (1080i, Dolby Digital 2.0, 9:31 min)
Legacy of Dispair: The Real Struggle in Burma (1080i, Dolby Digital 2.0, 10:42 min)
Rounding out the disc four extras, we have four deleted scenes in 1080p, and a series of high-definition trailers for the Rambo films and other Lionsgate productions.
Rambo: The Complete Collector's Set Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The million dollar question on everyone's mind will naturally have to do with whether an upgrade is warranted. Lionsgate already released prior single disc versions of all four Rambo films and a trilogy box set of the original three, so I'm going to assume most Rambo enthusiasts already own at least some version of what's included in this set. Minus the inclusion of new special features or upgraded audio/video, and considering the complete lack of any value added material, there's zero reason for this collection to find a home among current owners of the four films. In addition, it seems a bit careless to call this a "complete" collection when the excellent production diary on the extended cut of John Rambo (renamed as part of the extended cut) is missing. I suppose Lionsgate viewed the extended cut as a supplement to this release, but I find it difficult to recommend the purchase of both versions when they each offer an equally enjoyable viewing experience.
I suppose if you don't already own the four films, the Complete Collection is worth a look as a low-cost alternative to buying the Rambo series in a piece-meal manner. Otherwise, I'd suggest you keep what you currently have and wait for the inevitable upgrade to arrive at some point in the future.
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Rambo: The Complete Collector's Set Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Amazon Blu-ray Deal of the Week: Rambo: The Complete Collector's ... - July 24, 2011
Amazon's Blu-ray deal for this week has Rambo: The Complete Collector's Set discounted 50%. This will get you all four Rambo films for the reduced price of $27.49, or about $6.87 a movie. The deal is valid until July 30th.
• Rambo Extended Cut and More Blu-ray from Lionsgate in July - May 7, 2010
Lionsgate Home Entertainment has announced a set of catalog movies for release on Blu-ray on July 27 to tie in with the theatrical release of Sylvester Stallone's The Expendables: Johnny Handsome, Lock Up, Rambo: Extended Cut (with 9 minutes of additional footage) ...
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