Media

Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - December, 2012

ARTICLE INDEX

"Ted" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

Dec-movie-2012-Ted

Synopsis

Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane brings his boundary-pushing brand of humor to the big screen for the first time as writer, director and voice star of Ted. In the live action/CG-animated comedy, he tells the story of John Bennett (Wahlberg), a grown man who must deal with the cherished teddy bear who came to life as the result of a childhood wish...and has refused to leave his side ever since.

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • Color, 2012, Rated R, 1 hour 47 minutes
  • DTS-MA 5.1
  • Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis and the voice of Seth MacFarlane
  • Directed by: Seth MacFarlane
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence and pervasive drug references: Yes
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

This is the 3rd highest grossing R-rated movie of all time. Is it lewd, rude and crude? You bettcha! That said, I must admit that it was not as horrible as I was expecting. Its premise is nothing more than a buddy movie, except the obnoxious buddy is in the form of a cute cuddly teddy bear. After 15 minutes, I quit thinking of the "bear" and just imagined another "foul-mouthed roomie", likened to the odd couple genre. If you watch "Family Guy", you will have trouble disassociating MacFarlane's voice from that show. If you are not into MacFarlane's brand of edgy humor, you may want to steer clear of this flick. Too vulgar and crass for kids, but outrageously funny enough for adults, this movie had some great acting by Wahlberg and just enough heart to save it from going down the toilet. A delightful nod to Flash Gordon half way through and a hilarious fight in a motel room add to the overall fun. 

 Technical

The CGI bear is a marvel to behold. Getting human actors to interact with a bear "that isn't there" is tricky, but they pull it off well. Picture quality and sound are very good. I saw no artifacts or anomolies anywhere, and color/contrast rendition is great with details that pop off the screen. (Notice the details in the thread worn bear). Dialog is crisp and clear. The sub comes into play occasional when called for and the music soundtrack is punchy and expansive.

Extras

Included are a DVD and digital copy with commentaries, gag reel, deleted scenes and alternate takes. A few are in HD. Also a commentary on the motel fight scene and how it was staged.


"Men In Black 3" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

Men In Black 3 (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

When an alien assassin breaks out of the Lunar Max prison on the Moon, Agent J (Smith) must stop him before he travels back to 1969 and changes history.  It seems there are a few things Agent K (Jones) hasn't told him about his past.  J arrives in 1969 and meets the younger K (Brolin) and must convince him to help to avoid an alien invasion and the destruction of Earth.  A mysterious being named Griffin, who can see all possible futures, appears to help the Agents.  It all comes to a head at Cape Canaveral when K must get a special piece of alien tech aboard the first rocket headed for the Moon.  Not only is Earth's survival hanging in the balance, so is K's.

Specifications

  • Columbia Pictures
  • Color, 2012, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 46 min
  • DTS-MA 5.1
  • Starring: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones and Josh Brolin
  • Directed by: Barry Sonnenfeld
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

I did enjoy this film but it didn't seem to have quite the verve and comic-book style of the previous two.  There is action to be sure, but it's separated by slower scenes where the story seems to vamp without real progress.  I suspect it could have been about 30 minutes shorter to improve pacing.  Still, there's plenty of Tommy Lee Jones' dry wit, and Will Smith remains the master of the one-liner.  I was especially impressed by Josh Brolin's portrayal of the young Agent K.  He performs Jones' voice inflection and mannerisms to a T.  I also thought the feel of the 1960s was very well done.

Technical

The image is reference-quality in every respect; definitely an improvement over the first two Blu-rays.  Detail is as sharp as it gets.  In fact, close-ups of Tommy Lee Jones' face were almost TOO revealing!  His skin is seriously craggy.  The color palette makes a nice change from the modern (cool and metallic) to the retro (bold and saturated with lots of reds and terrific warmth).  Contrast is also superb with the deepest blacks and brightest whites both showing superb detail and no clipping.  And there is no visible edge enhancement.

Audio is also state-of-the-art with a dynamic DTS-MA encode.  Ambient effects make excellent use of the surrounds to create a wide envelope of sound.  The sub gets plenty to do as well with a nice tight presentation that shakes the room when appropriate.  Dialog was nicely balanced within the front sound stage without any hint of sibilance or chestiness.  The music is another superb score from composer Danny Elfman who penned the other two Men In Black films as well as many other comic-book movies like Spider-Man (1,2 and 3), Hulk, Batman, and Batman Returns.

Extras

Bonus features total about 90 minutes and include three making-of featurettes, four scene investigations, scene-specific audio commentary, an interactive game, a gag reel, and a music video.


 "The Dark Knight Rises" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Clements

movie-november-2012-dark-knight-rises

Synopsis

The last we saw of Batman, he was being blamed for the death of Gotham's District Attorney, Harvey Dent.  Despite the dissappearance of Batman, the ensuing eight years have been a period of great peace for Gotham thanks in large part to the anti-crime law implemented by the fallen DA.  Now a powerful new masked vilian named Bane comes on the scene with plans to destroy Gotham.  Bane, who was once a member of the League of Shadows proves to be a formidable force of terror.  Bruce Wayne must resurrect Batman to save the city from this new evil.  Batman is going to need help but since he is the accused killer of the city's great DA, he has few places to turn and is forced to solicit the support of Catwoman, a jewel thief who also operates in the  shadows.

Specifications

  • Warner Brothers
  • 2012, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 45 mins
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 and 1.78:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master
  • Starring: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Morgan Freeman
  • Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Mild
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

This is a long movie with lots of plot elements that I honestly couldn't grasp in a single viewing.  I was intrigued, but I needed to go back and watch it over so I could pick up on all the subtle aspects of the story.  The good news is that I enjoyed the movie even more the second time around.  I will return to this movie again and strive to get even more immersed with each viewing.  It is art in that it stays fresh and can offer deeper insights each time you watch it.  That is what makes a movie worth  watching over and over much like many of the cinematic classics in human history.  A full appreciation of this movie does require more than a passing understanding of the first two Nolan Batman movies and it also requires that you suspend your reality and find some way to really care about the dark city of Gotham.

Technical

I am deducting a half a star from the video rating in large part because the picture is so darn good.  Allow me to explain.  As with the Dark Knight, this Blu-ray is a mixed aspect ratio with scenes in both a 'scope 2.4:1 aspect ratio and some in an IMAX 1.78:1 format.  Well as before, the 'scope scenes are noticably softer and it made me wish they'd just forget the whole affair and film the entire show in IMAX.  So I'd give the IMAx five and a half stars and the 'scope scenes four stars for a net 4.5 rating.  Outside of that, my only quibble would be that some of the scenes had a bit of crush in the blacks.  Every remaining quality of the picture is state of the art.  

The audio is nothing short of masterful.  The opening action scene caused my sub to double, a rarity.  But I found the whole movie is mastered at a high level of gain and I settled on a volume setting of around 4 dB below normal.  That was just right.  Even with my high-res system, I found that I needed to concentrate at times to understand Bane despite that his voice is prominently rendered in the dialog channel.  The musical score and special effectes are very well recorded and transferred.  Brilliant.

Extras

I reviewed the three disc combo pack that includes the two layer Blu-ray, a separate disc of Special Features on Blu-ray, a DVD copy and an Ultraviolet Streaming Code.  The extras on disc 2 include The Batmobile documentary, Ending the Knight featurette and much more.  Also available is the Dark Knight Rises App that allows you to sync your phone or tablet to your Blu-ray player and view exclusive content while watching the film.


 "The Apparition" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

Movies-Dec-2012-Apparition

Synopsis

When frightening events start to occur in their home, young couple Kelly (Greene) and Ben (Stan) discover they are being haunted by a presence that was accidentally conjured during a university parapsychology experiment. The horrifying apparition feeds on their fear and torments them no matter where they try to run. Their last hope is an expert in the supernatural, Patrick (Felton), but even with his help they may already be too late to save themselves from this terrifying force.

Specifications

  • Warner Home Video
  • 2012, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 22 mins
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master
  • Starring: Ashley Greene, Sebastian Stan, Tom Felton
  • Directed by: Todd Lincoln
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

Geared to frighten teens, this inept horror flick starts out with the ubiquitous “lost footage” from the 1970’s with some college kids trying to call up the spirit of some dead guy. A creature is brought over from the other side, which shows up as a ghost girl ala The Ring and The Grudge. What happened to the guy's spirit? Don’t know. However, the inconsistent story says that the “apparition” is not even a ghost, but "something else" that feeds on power. The haunting takes place in a new home constructed by massive transmission towers in the back yard. You think the ghost followed these guys through the power lines, right? No. They have nothing to do with the movie. I can never understand why people continue to stay in a house that has spooky things going on in it, but they always do. Kids!

Technical

The picture quality is generally good with most of the darker scenes coming off without crushing. Skin tones are natural and colors solid with good detail. The real treat to this otherwise dull movie are the wonderful use of surround sound effects that really help add tension and suspense. However, sound effects do not a movie make. This is a teen rental at best.

Extras

The Dark Realm of the Paranormal, Haunted Asheville, The Experiment of the Apparition and “A Cinematic Specter”. A UV copy and DVD copy are also provided.

 


 "The Bourne Legacy" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Stephen Hornbrook

movie-december-2012-bournelegacy

Synopsis

The top secret US defense programs Blackbriar and Treadstone have been publicly exposed, thus leaving the secret service agencies in a state of panic.  Their only hope to cover up the mess is to shut down all the related programs including Operation Outcome, a black ops unit with advanced genetic capabilities.  Aaron Cross is one of those soldiers and is on a training mission in Alaska when the agency decides to exterminate the evidence.  Cross is able to escape the attack but is low on his medication that gives him enhanced mental and physical abilities. His only hope to retrieve more drugs is with one of the scientists, Dr. Shearing, who in the wake of the Treadstone collapse, just witnessed a fellow research scientist murder her colleagues and commit suicide.  Aaron must find Dr. Shearing and obtain more medicine as well as escape the fallout from Operation Treadstone.

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 2012, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hrs 15 mins
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English 7.1 DTS-HD Master
  • Starring: Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton
  • Directed by: Tony Gilroy
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

The Bourne movies have been solid entertainment, but the critical reception of Legacy was less than exuberant (56% on Rotten Tomatoes). I was not expecting much from Legacy, but I was thoroughly glued to the screen and entertained throughout the movie. Renner makes a great action star and I hope to see more of him as Aaron Cross.  There are some excellent action sequences and a great parkour chase scene to keep you from falling asleep.  I say forget about what the reviews say and check out The Bourne Legacy, you might be pleasantly surprised.

Technical

The picture quality is pretty good, but there is often quite a bit a noise to the picture. This may have been the intent, but for me it kept it from being in the stack of reference quality video transfers.  The 7.1 audio was aggressive and very well done.  Gave my system a great workout!

Extras

Audio Commentary, 7 minutes of Deleted Scenes, a few short featurettes.

 


 "Finding Nemo 3D" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

movie-november-2012-finding-nemo-3d

Synopsis

Nemo is a clown fish, raised in the waters of the Great Barrier Reef by his father Marlin.  When he ventures too close to a boat one day and is captured by a diver, Marlin must chase after him to get his son back.  Along the way he will encounter sharks, jellyfish, turtles, undersea mines and more.

Specifications

  • Pixar
  • 003, Color, Rated G, 1 Hrs 41 mins
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD
  • Starring: Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Alexander Gould (voices)
  • Directed by: Andrew Stanton
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Slight Cartoon Violence
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

Finding Nemo is one of the most loved films in the Pixar catalog.  Watching it again for the first time in years, it really is one that is truly wonderful.  Adults will love it, my 3-year-old loves to watch it and will sit down and watch it from beginning to end.  Now he wants to watch it every day, multiple times a day, yet the story and writing is so great, it doesn't bother me at all.

Technical

On its transfer to Blu-ray, Finding Nemo looks better than ever.  Their undersea home is incredibly bright and colorful, with not an issue to be found.  Even in the deep sea where blues could lead to banding, none were visible when I looked.  This is likely as good as Finding Nemo has ever looked at theaters or in home.  The 3D transfer works well, with some scenes having a lot of depth but some not having as much as I’d expect.  The image itself looks great and is free of crosstalk and artifacts.

The audio keeps up with the video as well.  Effects keep you in the environments of the film, and bass is present when needed.  Dialogue is clear and well anchored, and Pixar has done a fantastic job with this lossless mix again.

Extras

The 3D version of Finding Nemo comes packed with extras.  Aside from 3D, 2D, DVD, and Digital Copies of the film, you get Picture-in-Picture commentary, deleted scenes, trailers, storyborards, countless featurettes, a short film, and even aquarium screen savers.  I’m not sure what more Disney and Pixar could add to this package.


 "Arbitrage" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movies-Dec-2012-Arbitrage

Synopsis

Robert Miller (Gere) is a New York hedge-fund magnate who appears to have it all - money, power, a loving wife (Sarandon), and a devoted daughter (Marling) working by his side. But behind the gilded walls of his mansion Miller is running on borrowed time, trying to unload his crippled trading company before his frauds are revealed. A deadly error throws Miller's "perfect life" into a tailspin, raising the suspicions of a detective (Roth) and threatening the future of his financial empire. As the line blurs between what is right and wrong, legal and criminal, Miller is driven to desperate measures to protect the only thing more precious than his considerable fortune: his family.

Specifications

  • Lionsgate
  • 2012, Color, Rated R, 1 Hrs 47 mins
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC/ BD50
  • English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD
  • Starring:

    Richard Gere, Tim Roth, Susan Sarandon, Brit Marling

  • Directed by: Nicholas Jarecki
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

This film is a better than average thriller that takes a look behind the curtain of the financial institutions. Gere portrays his character with quiet desperation as he attempts to juggle his mounting problems with a cool exterior. $400 million are missing from his company, an on-going audit is taking place and he is trying to evade a manslaughter case involving his mistress. He has a lot on his plate and you feel the building tension with each passing minute of this movie. Ultimately, this is a morality tale. What would you do to protect your family, fame and wealth? Do the rich really get away with murder? Some very thought provoking themes are at play here. The acting and production are superb. Recommended!

Technical

Though the budget for this film was probably on the low side, you would never know it. Picture quality and sound are all quite good. Most of the film takes place indoors or at night, but the colors are crisp and details are plentiful. The dark scenes still hold up without murkiness. Only a few close shots of Gere are a bit soft, but they are hardly noticeable. The sound is clear and the dialog well anchored. Not a lot of action, but the sub and surrounds jump into play effectively during the car crash scene.

Extras

A comentary with the director, deleted scenes, "Who is Robert Miller?" and "A glimpse into Arbitrage" featurettes.


  "Up 3D" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Clements

movie-december-2012-up

Synopsis

Carl Fredricksen is a retired balloon salesman.  Carl and his late wife, Ellie, were drawn together as children through their joint fascination with a famous explorer named Charles Muntz.  Ellie and Carl lived together in an idyllic home but were never able to have children of their own.  So they dreamed  instead of following in their hero's footsteps by travelling to Paradise Falls in South America.  They  planned on saving up money for their trip, but other financial needs stood in the way of their dream vacation.  Eventually, Ellie goes to her grave without ever seeing the falls for herself.  Carl is undaunted and wishes to flee the unfettered growth of his hometown.  So he rigs his home with thousands of helium balloons and embarks on the ride of his life alongside an unlikely stowaway an 8-year-old Wilderness Explorer named Russell.

Specifications

  • Disney Pixar
  • 2009, Color, Rated PG, 1 Hr 36 mins
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master
  • Starring: Edward Asner, Christopher Plummer, Jordan Nagai, John Ratzenberger and Bob Peterson
  • Directed by: Pete Docter and Bob Peterson
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

Up is one of my favorite animated movies of all time.  I think Ratatouille is more finely crafted and entertaining, but Up comes in a close second, thanks to its very touching storyline and its bittersweet, melancholy tone.  Of course, I have all sorts of reservations about the physics behind a floating house, without which this would be a whole different movie.  But really how does Carl hold down enough balloons to raise a house off its foundation?  And how in the world do the balloons retain their bouancy long enough to carry the house all the way to the Southern Hemisphere?  Well never mind all that.  Simply focus on the principal characters, the interplay of their relationships and the adventure of a lifetime.  If you are like me, you will simply sit back and get whisked away on a touching and heartfelt journey. 

Technical

This is one of the better 3D Blu-ray's I have in my collection. The tranfsr is clean and detailed with a realistic perspective on the image's depth.  The flight scenes are downright breathtaking on this disc.  I also didn't notice any obvious crosstalk in the image.  The crisp audio track is presented in DTS-HD Master 5.1.  The audio is especially kind to Michael Giacchino's award-winning musical score.  The soundfield is enveloping and comes through with solid bass effects when called for.

Extras

This 5-disc Blu-ray edition of Up is chock full of fun and interesting bonus materials.  There is a 3D Blu-ray of the Feature Film, a 2D Blu-ray of the Feature Film with Extras, an additional Blu-ray disc of other Bonus Materials, a DVD with the Feature Film and Bonus Materials along with a Digital Copy disc.

Here is a short list of the major bonus materials in this set:  Cine-Explore Commentary - the Making of Up with Pete Docter and Bob Peterson, The Many Endings of Muntz - Alternate Scenes, Married Life - Expanded Character Back Story and no less than seven documentaries.  These are all very engaging extras that are presented in HD, but my two favorites on this disc are undoudtedly a pair of animated shorts - "Dug's Special Mission" and "Partly Cloudy".