Media

Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - December, 2013

ARTICLE INDEX

"The Wolverine" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Christian Eberle

The Wolverine (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

After the death of Jean Gray, Logan AKA Wolverine has retreated to a remote wilderness to stay off the grid and avoid hurting anyone. Unfortunately his sympathy for a suffering bear leads him to a confrontation with some unscrupulous hunters. Just as he's about to dispatch them, a mysterious red-haired Japanese girl appears and lures him away with an unexpected offer. It seems that during World War 2, Logan saved the life of a young Japanese soldier, Yashida. This soldier went on to become one of the most powerful businessmen in Asia and now wants to thank Logan one more time before he dies.

Logan travels to Japan and is immediately caught up in the struggle between the dying man's family members for control of his vast wealth and power. Yashida offers Logan the chance to transfer his immortality away to live out a normal life. He refuses and Yashida dies a few hours later. The next day, during the funeral, his granddaughter Mariko is attacked by Yakuza who attempt to kidnap her. Logan saves her but he is weakened inexplicably. Suddenly his healing powers are gone. Eventually, the Yakuza do kidnap Mariko. Logan discovers that Yashida's mysterious doctor has implanted some sort of robot parasite inside him.

After removing the parasite, Logan pursues the kidnappers to a mountain stronghold where he discovers Yashida's true plan. He is still alive and wants Logan's immortality for himself. In an epic final showdown, Logan must battle Yashida's adamantium armor and the doctor who turns out to be the evil mutant Viper.

Specifications

  • 20th Century Fox
  • 2013, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hrs 6 mins
  • Aspect ratio: 2.40:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
  • English, DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1
  • Starring: Hugh Jackman, Will Yun Lee, Tao Okamoto
  • Directed by James Mangold
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

You can see by the lengthy synopsis that the plot does meander a bit. It is still fairly entertaining though I'd consider it the weakest of all the X-Men films so far. I was ready to give it four stars but the climax is so predictable I had to knock off a star for lack of originality. Still, The Wolverine does have some elements to recommend it. The action scenes are extremely well done and have a kung-fu flavor rather than the usual bloody gun battles with constant explosions. There is some excellent choreography in the stunt sequences with some elements of parkour and lots of swordplay. The actress who plays Logan's sidekick, Rila Fukushima, is very engaging and funny and looks just like an anime cartoon. Hugh Jackman plays Wolverine in his usual blunt and brusque style which fits the character perfectly. And I do believe he has even more veins popping out of arms than ever before! If you're an X-Men fan like me, you'll want to add this to your library. If you're just looking for a good action flick on a Friday night at home, it's worth a rental at best.

Technical

The image is reference-quality in every respect. Detail is always super-sharp with perfect contrast, exacting shadow detail, and natural saturated color throughout. The middle of the film takes place in the Japanese countryside and is just gorgeous with warm vibrant colors and rich detail in both the background plant life and all the actors faces. Closeups look especially tasty.

The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is encoded in 7.1 here but I viewed the film on a 5.1 system. I didn't miss the extra channels because the surround effects are among the best I've ever heard. This mix is more about detail and ambiance rather than LOUD, which I greatly appreciate. Early in the movie there is a scene in the rain that makes an awesome surround sound demo. It sounded so much like real rain I nearly reached for an umbrella. And there's a great subwoofer demo in the first few minutes when the atomic bomb explodes over Nagasaki. It seems to extend down below the audible range; to the point where my theater doors nearly rattled off their hinges!

Extras

The best extra is the 53-minute bonus feature on Ronin warriors and the Samurai theme used in this movie. Also included is a theatrical trailer, a preview of the next X-Men film X-Men: Days of Future Past, and an alternate ending. The package I received included a DVD and a digital copy accessible through UltraViolet in addition to the Blu-ray feature.


"Fast & Furious 6" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Christian Eberle

Fast & Furious 6 (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

Uber-cop Hobbs (Johnson) returns in this sixth installment of the Fast & Furious franchise. Instead of chasing Dominic (Diesel) and his crew, he comes asking for help to apprehend a dangerous international criminal. It seems Shaw and his associates are stealing parts to build a weapon that can take down military communications; a caper potentially worth billions. To entice Dominic, Hobbs shows him a picture of Lettie who everyone thought was dead. She's working for Shaw and has no memory of her past or her love for Dominic.

Dominic assembles the old group, including former FBI agent Brian O'Conner, to go after Shaw and rescue Lettie. After a series of failed pursuits, they finally catch up with their prey as he attempts to flee England with the final part. The epic battle takes place in and beneath a Russian cargo plane streaking down the runway as Dominic and his crew try desperately to capture Shaw and potentially save millions of lives.

It is appropriate to mention here the unfortunate passing of Paul Walker, who played the role of Brian O'Conner in this and four other Fast & Furious films. He and a friend were killed in an auto accident in Los Angeles on November 30. His talent was part of the very fabric of these and many other films and he will be much missed.

Specifications

  • Universal
  • 2013, Color, Rated G (PG for 3D version), 10 Hrs, 33 mins
  • Aspect ratio: 2.40:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
  • English, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson
  • Directed by Justin Lin
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

Although the plots of the Fast & Furious films have always been thin, chapters five and six center on crime caper themes; which is far more entertaining than the morality play framework used in the first four movies. As always, it's about the cars and car chases; and there are more of these packed into two hours than you'd think possible. The laws of physics are pretty much ignored but it's all in good fun right? Seriously, the stunt work; both vehicular and otherwise, is stupendous. The stunt people are the real stars here. A lot of the vehicular mayhem is CGI but you can't tell the difference between real and computer-generated effects. And car buffs will especially appreciate the Jensen Interceptor drive by Lettie. It's a real tip of the hat to old-school nuts like me!

Technical

The image is sharp and detailed throughout with deep contrast and excellent color saturation. The only flaw here is the palette tends too far towards warm tones, especially during daylight scenes. The color leans towards cartoonish at times but is mostly natural in tone. There is no evidence of edge enhancement or excessive digital scrubbing. In fact, there is just enough film grain to give things an appropriately gritty appearance.

The DTS-HD Master Audio track is presented here in 5.1. The overall soundstage is extremely wide and deep with constant and proper use of the surround speakers. The subwoofer has plenty of opportunities to shine as well. Dialog is nicely balanced and detailed as is the music which ranges from hard-hitting rap to techno funk. There is plenty of detail to be heard in the loudest and quietest scenes. It's reference-quality all the way.

Extras

Bonus features include four making-of featurettes, a preview of Fast & Furious 7 which is currently in production, audio commentary by director Justin Lin, deleted scenes, and interviews with cast and crew members. There is also an extended version of the film which adds less than a minute of footage. The package I received had the Blu-ray, a DVD, and a digital copy of the feature film.


"Despicable Me 2" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movies-DEC-2013-Despicable

Synopsis

Gru, his adorable girls, and the mischievous Minions are back with a cast of unforgettable new characters in the blockbuster sequel to the worldwide phenomenon. Just as Gru has given up being super-bad to be a super-dad, the Anti-Villain League recruits him to track down a new criminal mastermind and save the world. Partnered with secret agent Lucy Wilde, Gru, along with the wildly unpredictable Minions, must figure out how to keep his cover while also keeping up with his duties as a father.

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 2013, Color, Rated G , 1 Hr, 39 mins
  • Aspect ratio: 2.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
  • English, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Starring: • Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Benjamin Bratt, Miranda Cosgrove, Ken Jeong
  • Directed by Chris Renaud
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Slapstick
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

Dru, the minions and kids join up with Lucy to help defend the world from the arch-villain, El Macho. Though not as charming and original as the first, this sequel delivers some good laughs and even though the ending is all but certain, your kids will want to see it more than once. The theme of love and courtship permeate the plot, but the characters (I'm a Dr. Nefario fan myself) are funny and lovable…even Gru. The story is fast paced and the gags never stop. If you liked the first one, the sequel is a no-brainer.

Technical

The picture is well near perfect and the audio is superb. Lots of surround action and powerful punchy explosions throughout. The colors and details are demonstration quality, even if the movie itself comes up a little short. Digital animation films always look good and this one is no exception.

Extras

3 new animated short films starring the minions, deleted scenes, DVD Copy & UltraViolet digital copy and commentaries.


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

movies-DEC-2013-Getaway

Synopsis

The chase is on in this modern spin on the pulse-pounding action thriller. Academy Award nominee Ethan Hawke plays a burned-out race car driver thrust into a perilous mission behind the wheel after his wife is kidnapped. Forced to follow the orders of an unseen, mysterious assailant (Voight) who is monitoring his every move, the driver must rely on a young hacker (Gomez) in this high-octane thriller.

Specifications

  • Warner
  • 2013, Color, Rated PG-13 , 1 Hr, 30 mins
  • Aspect ratio: 2.40:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
  • English, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Starring: Ethan Hawke, Selena Gomez, John Voight, Rebecca Budig, Paul Freeman
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

Not to be confused with the movie starring Steve McQueen, this silly car chase movie is almost ruined by the acting "skills" of Gomez, who at no time ever comes across as a street wise, gun toting computer hacker. The real star of this movie is the Shelby "Super Snake", which is one bad (by that, I mean "good") automobile! To the benefit of the film, almost all of the car smash-up scenes are real and not CGI. The problem is in the editing. It is so quickly chopped up that you can not enjoy the action sequences. I also noticed that the Shelby would lose a mirror in one scene and moments later it would be back on the car. This happens more than once, too. Despite the plot holes and predictable ending (can you say sequel?), this flick is a rental at best. I assume Gomez is thrown into this story to appeal to adolescent boys in the audience? Stick to Pop music, please.

Technical

The picture and sound are pretty good. In spite of all the night scenes in the street, the contrasts are good with lots of depth and shadow details. The surrounds are always active and the bass is loud and dynamic, as you'd expect with car crashes and a monster muscle car chewing up the scenery. This is a case of a good disc, but a bad movie.

Extras

The bonuses all got way here: just a few featurrettes, with none of them being very interesting.


"The Lone Ranger" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Stephen Hornbrook

lone ranger

Synopsis

Tonto, an elderly Native American, recounts a tale from his past about lawyer John Reid and his transformation into The Lone Ranger, a legend of justice. After becoming a lawyer, John returns home to visit his Texas Ranger brother and his family. They ride out to capture outlaw Butch Cavendish, but instead get ambushed and John is rescued by a renegade Comanche warrior known as Tonto. Together they seek justice against evil white man. 

Specifications

  • Disney
  • 2013, Color, Rated PG-13 , 2 Hr, 29 mins
  • Aspect ratio: 2.40:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
  • English, DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1
  • Starring: Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, Tom Wilkinson
  • Directed by: Gore Verbinski
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

Tagged as Pirates of the Caribbean in the old west, The Lone Ranger did not live up to the quality of Gore's previous films. However, the writing should take most of the blame, as the fault of the movie was in its lack of clever dialog and mundane plot. There are some fun action sequences, including moments that take zero regard for the laws of physics, but other than that there isn't anything to hold the movie up. I guess it is back to the swashbuckling seas for Verbinski.

Technical

The Lone Ranger features a fantastic video transfer. Colors are natural, yet vibrant, and contrast is top notch. Don't know if Blu-ray could look any better than this. The 7.1 DTS track was just slightly underwhelming for a Verbinski film. I thought the bass would have more impact and surrounds would have been stronger. Still, it is a better mix than most movies.

Extras

Riding The Rails of The Lone Ranger, Armie's Western Road Trip, Becoming a Cowboy, Deleted Scene & Blooper Reel


"Prisoners" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Clements

Prisoners

Synopsis

Two young girls go missing on a Thanksgiving afternoon. Upon discovering the girls are gone, their families begin a frantic search. The police detective assigned to the case is Detective Loki (Gyllenhaal) a cop who heretofore has solved every case he's been assigned through a methodical process. Well, Detective Loki's measured brand of police work isn't fast enough to satisfy one of the girl's fathers, Keller Dover (Jackman) and he decides to take matters into his own hands. Multiple leads and suspects are investigated as the clock continues ticking and the pressure mounts to find the two innocent victims. How far will Keller Dover go in his quest to find his missing child?

Specifications

  • Warner Brothers
  • 2013, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr 33 mins
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English 5.1 DTS HD Master
  • Starring: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard, Melissa Leo and Paul Dano
  • Directed by: Denis Villeneuve
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

This was an incredibly tense movie. I was totally engaged in the story and the characters from the very beginning and my involvement never let up. The writing, the directing, the music, the cinematography, the sound mix, and the acting are all very well done. All these aspects make this one finely crafted cinematic experience. Jackman and Gyllenhaal in particular laid down great acting performances in this film. This is a very believable tale and it was easy for me to get caught up in it all. I have kids of my own and I could directly relate to each parents' reaction to the abduction of their children to some measure or another. Very highly recommended.

Technical

This is a dark movie with numerous indoor and night scenes. Most of the outdoor scenes are dominated by poor weather, overcast skies, rain and snow. The picture quality remains demo worthy throughout. There is great rendering of fine details and the colors are true to the source. But what really makes this a reference quality transfer is that the image never loses its pop even in the darkest scenes.

The audio is also of reference quality. There is of course abundant dialog in this movie. But there is also a musical score with strings and deep bass effects that build and support the tense moods. Then you have all the environmental sounds that are natural and enveloping. Dynamics are a joy here as you can hear every subtlety like the soft speak of one suspect or the sound of a tree growing (really).

Extras

This is a 2-disc set with a Blu-ray, a DVD and an HD Ultraviolet streaming code. There are only two additional on-disc extras:

A very brief featurette called "Every Moment Matters" in which Jackman and Gyllenhaal explore the tension between their characters. The other short featurette is "Prisoners - Powerful Performances" which looks at the entire cast.


"We're The Millers" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Clements

We're The Millers

Synopsis

A down on his luck pot dealer, David Clark (Sudeikis) is forced to take on a major drug smuggling assignment after losing all his cash in a robbery. So he crafts a "fool-proof" cover by enlisting three of his neighbors to pose as his family for the smuggling operation. Stripper Rose (Aniston) will play his wife; a loser teen boy will be his son (Poulter) and a runaway girl will pose as his daughter (Roberts). They get cleaned up, dress like they are from the suburbs, rent a giant motor home and then head to Mexico to pick up their precious cargo. Of course it will be quite the adventure along the way.

Specifications

  • Warner Brothers
  • 2013, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 50 mins
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master
  • Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Jason Sudeikis, Emma Roberts, Nick Offerman, Kathryn Hahn and Ed Helms
  • Directed by: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Strong

Commentary

I love a lot of comedies, even raunchy and trivial ones at times. But while I found We're the Millers had some brief moments of worthwhile humor, I generally thought it was overtly trite, formulaic and just far too predicable to warrant a recommendation. I giggled here and there and laughed out loud a few times but in the end, the movie came full circle from a predictability standpoint with a weak ending. I would recommend it as nothing more than a rental for fans of Jennifer Aniston or Jason Sudeikis.

Technical

This is a new release from a major studio so the video and audio quality are commensurate with the best production values Hollywood has to offer. The picture is clean, sharp, vibrant and colorful. The same goes for the audio, even for a movie that is dominated by dialog. Voices are natural and intelligible with a few effects thrown in that came through loud and clear.

Extras

I got the 2-disc set in for review this time. It includes the Blu-ray, the DVD and an Ultraviolet Streaming Code. On-disc extras are substantial.

An Extended Cut adds over 8 minutes of new material. Other noteworthy extras - Outtakes Overload, Gag Reel & Deleted Scenes, Extreme Aniston, The Miller Makeovers, Road Trippin' with the Millers, Don't Suck Venom, Getting Out of a Sticky Situation, Rollin' in the RV, Livin' It Up with Brad and When Paranoia Sets In.


"Mary Poppins" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

Movies-Dec-2013-Poppins

Synopsis

“Practically Perfect in Every Way” Mary Poppins flies out of the windy London skies and into the home of two mischievous children. With the help of a carefree chimney sweep named Bert (Dick Van Dyke), the spirited nanny turns every chore into a game and every day into a “Jolly Holiday.” The movie received 13 Academy Award(R) nominations and won 5 Oscars(R) for Best Actress, Best Song, Best Music Score, Best Film Editing, and Best Special Visual Effects. It also received a special scientific award for the creation and application of Color Traveling Matte Composite Cinematography, which helped make the combination of live action and animated actors in the film possible

Specifications

  • Disney Video Entertainment
  • 2013, Color, Rated PG, 2 Hr 19 mins
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, Ed Wynn, Hermione Baddeley, Karen Dotrice
  • Directed by: Robert Stevenson
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

In my opinion, this is Walt’s crowning achievement. It took over 20 years to get approval for motion picture production from the author, PL Tavers, but the final product was a timeless masterpiece that compares to the all time childrens classic,  The Wizard of Oz. After revisiting this movie (which brings back wonderful childhood memories), I have decided the real star here is Van Dyke, who in spite of some “cockney” slips, can sing and dance like a natural born entertainer. The story is deceptively simple, but the movie as a whole is very entertaining, even in this day and age of whiz-bang CGI. After 50 years, this movie hasn’t aged a day. you need to buy this film and create some wonderful childhood memories for your young 'uns. It's a shame that this type of movie will probably never be made again...such was the genius of Disney Studios.

Technical

The picture is beautiful with bright, bold colors and costumes. A fine film grain layers the picture, but doesn’t obscure any of the details. I saw no flecks, dirt or scratches during the viewing. Details abound: notice the obvious makeup effects on Dawes Sr. (Van Dyke) . I also noticed that the little girl has a baby tooth in front on some scenes, then an adult tooth, then a baby tooth again…which serves as a reminder as to how long a movie production can be. A few shots exhibited some softness, but that would be from the stock and not the transferring process. Dialog is very firmly anchored in the center channel with musical effects spreading out with the R/L. The sub only comes into play during a few scenes with fireworks and cannon shot. The rears are in play, too, but they are subtle.

Extras

Commentaries, Disney on Broadway, Disney backstage, Publicity, Music and more. Most of this was on the 40th anniversary DVD.