Media

Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - February, 2013

ARTICLE INDEX

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

movie-february-2013-frankenwienie-3d

Synopsis

Victor Frankenstein is a young boy who mostly keeps to himself, making films starring his beloved dog Sparky.  Despite prodding by his parents, he's fine to keep to himself and work on his own projects instead of socializing with other kids his age.  Finally he gives in to his Dad and goes out to play baseball, but a tragic accident at the game claims the life of Sparky.

After a demonstration in science class that shows how a dead frog still has a muscle reaction when electricity is applied, he sets out to bring Sparky back from the dead.  His experiment succeeds, but once his classmates find out they too want to bring their pets back to life.  Unfortunately this meets with disastrous results as they don't all come back as healthy and normal as Sparky did, and now they have to be stopped.

Specifications

  • Disney
  • 2012, B&W, PG, 1 Hour, 27 Minutes
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p, MPEG-4 MVC
  • Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1
  • Starring: Charlie Tahan, Winona Ryder, Martin Short, Martin Landau (voices)
  • Directed by Tim Burton
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

I've always been a Tim Burton fan, though I've not seen some of this more recent films.  Because of this other animated films, I came into Frankenweenie with really high hopes and wound up being let down.  The film isn't bad, but the characters don't develop much depth, and the film just seems to move by instead of pulling you in.  It's not a bad movie at all, but it's also not a great one that I plan to go back and watch more often.

Technical

The 3D transfer of Frankenweenie is a bright spot, with a very nice B&W image, and a 3D image that provides a good amount of depth but doesn't overwhelm you by trying to show off.  There are specific scenes that try to use 3D to surprise you, and those are done very well, but mostly it's used to provide a bit more depth to the animated scenes, which it does quite well.

The soundtrack is also very good, with a great surround track that makes scenes like the rooftop lightning storm intense and enveloping.  Most of the scenes are pretty laid back but when more is called for, the soundtrack answers.

Extras

Some shorts and featurettes, as well as 2D Blu-ray, DVD, and a Digital Copy.


 "Amazing Ocean 3D" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

movie-february-2013-amazing-ocean

Synopsis

Be amazed by little schools of fish that swim right into your living room. See squid and the elusive octopus up close, along with the magnificent manta ray, and experience dolphins and turtles as well. Shot in stereoscopic 3D, Amazing Ocean 3D is a breathtakingly beautiful 50-minute experience for your whole family.

 

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 2013, Color, Not Rated, 50 Minutes
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • 1080p, AVC
  • Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Starring: NA
  • Directed by Timo Joh, Benjamin Eicher (producers)
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

Compared to the other 3D ocean documentaries I watched, Amazing Ocean was far superior to them.  Much better video, better narration, and better sound as well.  This I could watch again with my kids as they love the fish and turtles.

Technical

Many of the underwater shots here are detailed and stunning in clarity.  There is some minor banding visible in certain shots, as blue gradients often cause that, but this is by far the best looking underwater documentary that I've watched so far.  3D is used reasonably well, though often seem to cause that layered-2D look instead of the true 3D look that you see sometimes.

Audio is good, with better use of all the channels, and a soundtrack that is still a little too present but not as in-your-face as other documentaries.  Still more ambient sounds to really pull you more into the environment would have been nice.

Extras

None


 "Fascination Coral Reef 3D: Mysterious Worlds Underwater" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

movie-february-2013-fascination-coral-reef-mysterious-worlds

Synopsis

Often referred to as "The Pearls in the Indian Ocean," the Maldives' true treasures are to be found beneath the waves: the coral reefs. See breathtaking colorful coral forests. Observe turtles searching for food as they swim by. Duck your head as huge swarms of colorful fish take refuge in the numerous caves and crevices. And wonder at the incredible diversity of life on the coral reef in this 53-minute 3D experience.

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 2013, Color, Not Rated, 53 Minutes
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • 1080p, AVC
  • Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Starring: NA
  • Directed by Burkhard Neesen, Rene Schopfer (producers)
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

Unfortunately this is really let down by a mediocre transfer.  The reason that nature documentaries like Planet Earth often do so well on Blu-ray is the stunning images that they can produce, but that isn't the case here.  Instead we have a murky, dark image with frequent banding in blue backgrounds and other issues.  My son was fascinated by the clown fish because of watching Finding Nemo, but likely most adults will not be so entertained.

Technical

Like the previous Fascination Coral Reef title, this one seems to have an older transfer, or at least a lower quality one, that is murky and lacking detail most of the time.  Some shots are OK, but in comparison to other Blu-ray documentaries it really falls short in the image department.  3D is OK, but can't save the image.

The narration is fine, if a bit lacking in information sometimes.  Really more of a cursory overview than an in-depth documentary, the narrator talks on and off with the music, while there really isn't much attempt at using the surrounds to create ambience and pull you into the film.

Extras

None


 "Fascination Coral Reef 3D" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

movie-february-2013-fascination-coral-reef

Synopsis

Enter the fascinating world of the coral reefs and experience breathtaking flora and fauna up close and in 3D.  Enjoy watching an entire ecosystem of marine species including blowfish, porcupine fish, goliath groupers, giant morays, sea turtles and whale sharks, as well as the play of colors of the many different coral and anemone species.

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 2013, Color, Not Rated, 53 Minutes
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • 1080p, AVC
  • Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Starring: NA
  • Directed by Burkhard Neesen, Rene Schopfer (producers)
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

A short documentary on coral reefs, all we see are images of undersea creatures and an occasional diver, with commentary from a narrator.  A basic overview of what is present in many coral reefs, but not in depth or with much commentary beyond basic facts, it might be interesting to those that want to know more about the reefs but not for general entertainment.

Technical

Available in 2D or 3D, Fascination Coral Reef 3D alternates between decent footage and poor footage.  Much of this might be due to the environment that it was shot in, but many shots show visible banding in the blue seas, and details are murky most of the time.  The 3D use is to try to add as much pop as possible, but can't overcome the issues with either the source or compression.

Audio is just a narrator and a soundtrack that is front and center almost the whole time.  Instead of trying to make you feel like you are in the water environment, the soundtrack keeps you aware that you are watching something and attracts more attention to itself than enhancing the film.

Extras

None


"The Man with the Iron Fists" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movies-Feb-2013-Fist

Synopsis

Quentin Tarantino presents The Man with the Iron Fists, an epic action adventure inspired by classic kung fu movies. When the emperor's gold is hijacked, every kung fu warrior, assassin and hired gun in China will battle to claim the fortune. Starring Academy Award winner Russell Crowe, RZA, and Lucy Liu, The Man with the Iron Fists Unrated Extended Edition includes jaw-dropping martial arts action that you couldn't see in theaters.

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 2012, Color, Not Rated, 1 Hrs 36 mins
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • 1080p, MPEG-4 AVC
  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Starring: Russell Crowe, Lucy Liu and RZA
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: implied, but no nudity
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

Tarantino's name is evoked to make you think that this movie is going to be"fun" like Kill Bill, but it is only "presented by"…not "produced by". So in spite of high production values and a few big named stars (including a rather rotund Crowe), the story is part silly, part serious, with a lot of action. Ultimately, it all caves in with a thin plot line. At 1 hour and 10 minutes into the film, I started looking at my watch. This movie really did take too long to get to the point. RZA (apparently  some hip hop star)  fancies himself a movie director. Actaully, he loves Kung Fu movies and talked someone into funding this endevour. His music during some fights scenes really hurt the feel of the movie by using the "M*F*" and "N" words. Unfortunately, this really pulls you out of the film. RZA also mumbles his lines. In reality, he actually does mumble alot in his interview (he really needs to work on his articulation). Beware of films that self proclaim that they are "epic"…because they usually are NOT.

Technical

 

Picture and sound are both top notch. Wonderful details can be seen in the intricate costumes and set pieces. The fight sequences are well choreographed, but nothing we haven't seen before. Every thud, punch and explosion comes across with great clarity and impact. The low end is quite prominent throughout the film, so you can really show off your sub woofer to your friends. Too bad the movie plot wasn't up to these same standards.

 

Extras

The extras are a bit tight fisted with only: Deleted Scenes, A Path to the East, A Look Inside The Man with the Iron Fists, On the Set with RZA.

 


 "Peter Pan" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

movie-february-2013-peter-pan

Synopsis

Wendy is the older sister to John and Michael Darling.  She delights in telling them stories of Peter Pan, the boy from Neverland who decides to never grow up.  While their parents are off at a party one night, Peter Pan and Tinker Bell arrive at their house to take them away to Neverland themselves.  Once they arrive on the island, they meet up with the Lost Boys, a group of young boys led by Peter Pan.

At the same time, Captain Hook and his group of pirates are hoping to capture Peter Pan and extract revenge for Peter cutting off Hook’s hand.  They capture Tiger Lily, the daughter of the Native American chief on the island to discover the location of Peter Pan’s hideout.  At the same time, Big Chief believes that the Lost Boys are the ones responsible for Tiger Lily’s disappearance and takes them hostage unless Tiger Lily can be returned.

Specifications

  • Disney
  • 953, Color, G, 1 Hour. 17 Minutes
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • 1080p, AVC
  • Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1
  • Starring: Bobby Driscoll, Kathryn Beaumont, Hans Conried (voices)
  • Directed by Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

The classic story of kids that don’t want to grow up, Peter Pan is one of the classic Disney films that we all grew up with and that our kids will grow up with as well.  Some people are going to be bothered by the portrayal of Native Americans in the film, as much has changed since this was originally made.  I’ve found all older Disney films usually have something like this that is now offensive to the parents, but the kids don’t seem to notice it themselves.  Unfortunately there isn’t a way to excise them from the film without destroying the narrative at this point.

The politically incorrect aspects aside, Peter Pan is a very enjoyable film for kids and adults, and one that many parents will likely have to watch over-and-over again with their kids.  However with how offensive many people will find the Native American scenes to be at this point, it might also be one that you want to watch again yourself first before you let your children watch it.  It’s a very good story, but one with tones and themes that are very outdated at this point in culture.

Technical

Disney almost always goes all-out on their classic animated titles and Peter Pan is no exception.  Some shots are a little fuzzy in comparison to others, but for the most part the images look fantastic.  Lines are crisp and clear, colors are very pure and true, and overall this looks remarkably nice for its age.

The audio has been upgraded to a lossless 7.1 track instead of the original track, which was mono.  For the purists the original mono track is available, albeit in a lossy format.  The surround track is well done, and most will prefer it, but I would have liked to see the original soundtrack in a lossless format.

Extras

The Diamond Edition of Peter Pan contains a good number of extras, including an introduction, audio commentary, deleted songs and scenes, featurettes, extras copies over from the DVD releases, sing-along songs, sneak peeks at other Disney movies, and even games for kids to play if they pause the movie.  There is also a DVD copy and a digital copy included.


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

movie-february-2013-cabaret

Synopsis

Flamboyant and eccentric American entertainer Sally Bowles (Minnelli) sings in Berlin's decadent Kit Kat Club, even as Nazism rises in Germany in 1931.  She falls in love with a British language teacher (York) - whom she shares with a homosexual German Baron (Griem).  But Sally's insular, carefree, tolerant and fragile cabaret world is about to be crushed under the boot of the Nazis as Berlin becomes a trap from which Sally's German friends will not escape. 

 

Specifications

  • Warner Brothers
  • 1972, Color, Rated PG, 2 Hr 4 mins
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master
  • Starring: Liza Minnelli, Michael York, Helmut Griem , Marisa Berenson and Joel Grey
  • Directed by Bob Fosse
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Mild
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

This movie won 8 Academy Awards in 1973.  This is a whale of an acheivment for a somewhat quirky film that featured subject matter that was extremely progressive at the time.  It amazes me also because it was a big year in Hollywood.  Cabaret was up against The Godfather, Deliverance, Sounder, The Poseidon Adventure and The Man of La Mancha to name a few gems that year.  My point is that here is this musical with amazing music, excellent performances, great direction and is deserving of all the accolades it has received over the last 40 years.  But it perplexes me still with the art direction and the sketchy dialog.  This movie is still hugely entertaining and provocative.  I consider it an undisputed "must have" for any cinephile's library and this newly remastered Blu-ray is certainly the way to go.

Technical

This movie is dominated by dark scenes of all sorts - inside the Kit Kat Club, outside at night and inside Sally's apartment and Maximilian's castle.  There are a few daytime outdoor scenes and other "bright" scenes, but they appear to be intentionally muted to fit the movie's theme.  Quality transfers of movies like this must therefore have deep and stable black levels.  Thankfully, this Blu-ray has solid blacks with a smooth luminance transition from absolute black on up.  The transfer also keeps all the natural film grain intact.  This certainly leads to a number of scenes that are abundantly filmic.  The image is also bolstered by solid flesh tones and good color separation.

The audio is up to the same standard as the video which means that the musical numbers are a pure delight with great presence and dynamics especially in the area of the singers' vocals.  The songs are accompanied with numerous sound effects to go along with the silly lyrics and those effects sound quite natural indeed.  There is little low bass throughout and the surrounds come into use some, but sparingly. 

Extras

Warner Brothers is celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the Cabaret theatrical release with this remastered Blu-ray package.  You get a single Blu-ray disc packaged with a hardbound, 40-page "Blu-ray Book" that is replete with full color promotional photos, story background and cast bios.  On disc extras include Commentary by Stephen Tropiano, Cabaret: The Musical that Changed Musicals , Cabaret: A Legend in the Making, The Recreation of an Era, The Kit Kat Club Memory Gallery and the theatrical trailer.


 "The Awakening" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Clements

movie-february-2013-the-awakening

Synopsis

The death of a student at a British boarding school is rumored to have been caused by a ghost.  All the other students are naturally worried about this haunting of their school.  So school calls in Florence Cathcart, a renouned supernatural hoax exposer.  Her task is to expose this as a false rumor so everything at the school can return to normal.  What she finds at the school will shake her belief system: the hunter becomes the hunted. 

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 2011, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 48 mins
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master
  • Starring: Rebecca Hall, Dominic West and Imelda Staunton
  • Directed by Nick Murphy
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: No

Commentary

I am not a big fan of the visual presentation of this movie.  I thought the insipid picture was so lacking in realism and punch that it caused the story to become much too abstract.  It was a constant distraction for me.  I think a horror/suspense movie must grounded with a broad sense of realism in order to draw you in fully.  But the engaging story, decent acting and the vivid audio design all combined to bring about some genuinely chilling moments.  So I give the Awakening kudos for breaking the mold a little bit with those aspects of the production.  I think this is a solid rental recommendation for a chilly winter evening.  Just consider turning up the color saturation control. 

Technical

I honestly thought something was seriously the matter with my projector when I first fired up this disc.  The picture is almost completely devoid of any natural color, even less than you see in the promotional stills.  This look apparently plays an integral part in setting the tone of this movie.  But that doesn't mean that I have to like it and I don't.  There is generally decent detail and sharpness in the picture but some scenes have what looks like a touch of video noise.  All in all, it is a decent transfer that fulfills the film maker's stylistic vision.  

The audio is clearly better than the video and offers up a delectable portrait of the environmental sounds, both real and imagined.  The multi channel audio track supports the ebb and flow of the script and elicits the appropriate emotional response to the film.

Extras

This is a single Blu-ray disc release with a fun but fairly commonplace suite of extras - Deleted Scenes with Introductions by Director Nick Murphy, A Time for Ghosts, Anatomy of a Scene: Florence and the Lake, Anatomy of a SCREAM, Behind the Scenes and an Extended Interview with Nick Murphy.


"Downton Abbey Season 3" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

Downton Abbey Season 3 (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

Downton Abbey follows the Crawley family as they live, die and love at their grand estate at the turn of the twentieth century..  Robert Crawley, aka Lord Grantham must deal with triumph and tragedy alike, sometimes in the same day.  His American wife and three daughters provide a constant stream of challenges and joys.  The downstairs staff is an equal part of the story with their own set of trials and tribulations to live through.

Season 3 picks up with Lady Mary and Matthew’s wedding.  The tension between them seems resolved but even the night before the ceremony, their relationship teeters on the brink of doom.  Mr. Bates, the unfortunate valet, has been convicted of murdering his wife.  He bides his time in prison while his new wife, housemaid Anna tries to find evidence to clear him.  Lord Grantham receives the shock of his life when he learns his investments have soured and he is nearly broke.  To add to the chaos, Cora’s mother Martha arrives carrying a whole truckload of sharp-tongued comments.  Through it all, the Crawley’s resolve to maintain the traditional aristocracy remains, above all, their lifelong purpose.

Specifications

  • PBS
  • 2012, Color, Not rated, 8 Hrs 45 mins (9 episodes)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
  • English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Hugh Bonneville, Phyllis Logan, Elizabeth McGovern
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

I have always been a fan of British costume dramas but there are only two that I would call perfect – the BBC production of Pride and Prejudice from 1995 and Downton Abbey.  Given its amazing popularity, it would seem most of the world agrees.  The legion of devoted fans around this show is unprecedented.  Season 3 premiered to 7.9 million viewers, an increase of 2.5 million over the Season 2 finale.  If that is any indication, I’d say this show is a hit!

The cast is a mix of seasoned and less-experienced actors who are all phenomenally talented.  Maggie Smith is the queen of the cast for sure as she delivers barb after barb.  Her role as the Dowager Countess and matriarch of the family could be filled by no other.  As the episodes evolve, different members of the Crawley family are featured.  And each story line is a jewel unto itself.  Coupled with tremendous production quality and a lush backdrop of English finery, and I can’t say anything else but “perfect.”  For British costume drama fans, this series is a must-own.

Technical

The image quality is noticeably improved from the previous two seasons’ Blu-ray release.  I hate to use a cliché, but a veil truly has been lifted.  The subtle haze and elevated black levels have been replaced with a super-crisp high-contrast presentation.  There is an amazing increase in dimensionality along with a much more natural and bright color palette.  While I enjoyed the warmth of the other seasons, this one is much more real in its rendering.  My only complaint is the rich deep blacks are often too deep resulting in crushed detail.  Most scenes are of medium to high average level but some indoor material has the “floating head” syndrome when a character is dressed in black.  Overall though, I thought the image superb.

Audio is nice and clear as well and serves the material perfectly.  I did hear occasional blooming in the dialog but it was rare.  Your surrounds and sub won’t have much to do but then there aren’t too many low-frequency moments in a proper English household.  The music sounded great also and I enjoyed John Lunn’s score immensely.

Extras

Bonus features total just less than two hours and include seven making-of featurettes and 48 minutes of interviews with cast and crew members.

 


"Game of Thrones The Complete Second Season" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Stephen Hornbrook

movies-february-2013-gamethrones-s2

Synopsis

The events of the second season of Game of Thrones are mostly based on G.R.R. Martin’s novel A Clash of Kings. A lot happens in the 10 episodes and would hate to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen it. Basically, several families of Westeros are vying for the Throne and the power it holds over the kingdom.  Tyrion continues his mischievous ways, Jon Snow ventures far north, Stannis wages war on King’s landing, and Daenerys takes care of her dragons and searches for a ship and crew.

 

Specifications

  • HBO
  • 2012, TV-MA, 560 Minutes
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Lena Headey, Jack Gleeson, Maisie Williams, Kit Harington, Michelle Fairley, Peter Dinklage
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

With just two seasons under its belt and a third I anxiously await, I can already claim Game of Thrones as one of the best TV series ever produced.  I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the Blu-ray release of season two as the first season was impeccable (see my review  here. ) Well I am happy to say that the quality continues as everything from the packaging to the audio and visual is top notch.   I enjoyed season two and felt it had plenty of drama, suspense, and action to just about live up to that first season.  Everyone delivers fine performances and that Battle of Blackwater had me on the edge of my seat.  Thank you to HBO for doing this wonderful body of work by G.R.R. Martin justice. 

 

Technical

The Blu-ray transfer for Game of Thrones Season Two captures everything from the mute tones of Harrenhal to the vivid ancient port city of Qarth.  Game of Thrones is easily one of the best looking TV series to have been produced and I am happy to report that the Blu-ray image quality does it the justice it deserves.  Compared to the cable broadcast the Blu-ray has much better contrast with deep blacks, colors that are rich, and sharp noise-free detail.  There’s really no comparison.  

The DTS HD Master audio is full and lively with good use of surrounds for that added sense to pull you in.  Dialog is clear and natural sounding.

.

Extras

12 Audio Commentaries, In-Episode Guides, Seven Character Profiles, History and Lore, War of the 5 Kings, Creating the Battle of Blackwater Bay, Religions of Westeros, Inner Circle


"Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movies-Feb-2013-Chrome

Synopsis

An all-new chapter in the Battlestar Galactica saga, Blood & Chrome takes place in the midst of the first Cylon war. As the battle between humans and their creation, the sentient robotic Cylons, rages across the 12 colonial worlds, a young, talented fighter pilot, William Adama (Pasqualino), finds himself assigned to one of the most powerful battlestars in the Colonial fleet: the Galactica. Though Adama quickly finds himself at odds with his co-pilot, the battle-weary officer Coker, the two men must set their differences aside when a routine escort mission with an enigmatic passenger turns dangerous and becomes a pivotal one for the desperate fleet.

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 2013, PG, 1 Hour 4 Minutes
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Luke Pasqualino, Ben Cotton, Lili Bordan
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Yes, but PG
  • Language: No

Commentary

Though I greatly enjoyed the original series, this “episode” left me wanting. At no time was I able to envision Pasqualino as the young Adama. He did not have the mannerisms or the pock marked face needed to convince me that he would grow up to command the Galactica. Also, in the very beginning, Adama was supposed to die from radiation exposure because he blew his protective canopy on his Viper. The count down clock just stops…and all is well. Huh? Adama's friend, Coker gets shot up and you think he is dead, but there he is walking around in the final scene. Anyway, the bulk of this flick is shot digitally with CGI backdrops, which is good and bad…but I’ll get into that in a bit. I’d recommend this for fans of the show only, but it is not as good as Razor.

Technical

So what about the CGI? Colors and contrasts are strong and stable, but the “digital grain” added to the picture was a bit too heavy at times. I understand that adding grit makes the movie, well, grittier, but who needs grit on a snow planet? Also, the “flare effect” was overly used to the point where faces actually showed flare. Even JJ Abrams would have said it was a bit much! The CGI was also not up to snuff compared to the original series. The ice planet did not look natural or convincing to me. I just felt that the entire movie was shot with a blue screen backdrop. Not my cup of tea.

Sound was exemplary, with lots of deep bass explosions, whirling wind driven snow and electronic sounds all around the control room. The opening battle scene was quite lively and rivaled anything you’d hear in the re-mastered Star Wars series.

Extras

Extras are spare parts: Visual effects and deleted scenes. It's enough to make a Cylon cry.


"Skyfall" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

Skyfall (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

The timing couldn’t be worse for MI6.  Bond has been lost on a mission in Turkey just as M and headquarters are attacked in a bombing.  Bond resurfaces but his injuries are severe and he must retrain and prove himself fit for duty.  He struggles to recover and M finally certifies him.  He follows the clues to China and discovers the villain is a former agent bent on revenge.  Silva is a master of computers and wields a tremendous arsenal of weapons, soldiers, and resources.  Bond manages to capture him but that doesn’t last long.  Now M is in real danger as Bond spirits her away to his family’s Scottish estate, Skyfall.  There Bond makes his stand as Silva and his army closes in.  The final battle is epic indeed and the outcome is not something you’ll see coming!

Specifications

  • MGM
  • 2012, Rated PG-13, 2 Hrs 23 mins
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Judi Dench
  • Directed by Sam Mendes
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Brief
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

I’ll make a bold statement and say, “this is the best Bond yet.”  While all the different Bond actors bring something unique to the part, Daniel Craig is something special in the re-imagined franchise.  While his first two efforts were good, they were a bit muddled in terms of plot.  This third film strikes a perfect balance of old and new.  In fact, that is the plot theme as politicians try to dismantle the old ways and put M and her organization out of business.

Action-wise, it doesn’t get much better.  The pre-credit chase scene is of legendary proportions as some amazing things happen on Turkish rooftops.  If you enjoyed the Parkour sequence in Casino Royale, you’ll love the amazing motorcycle stunts in Skyfall.  The overall feel of the movie is dark and gritty.  There isn’t nearly as much jet-setting as in the past.  Javier Bardem as the villain turns in one of the creepiest performances I recall from any Bond film.  And Judi Dench is, as always, a pleasure to watch; a true virtuoso practicing her craft.

Technical

The picture quality is reference-level.  There was no time when the image wasn’t razor-sharp.  Color is a bit muted with varying palettes of blue and orange, depending on material.  Contrast was broad and deep with rich detailed blacks and bright highlights that were free of crushing.  Honestly, there were no flaws whatsoever.

The DTS-HD Master Audio track is easily one of the best home-theater demos I’ve ever experienced.  The sound stage was so large and enveloping that my room simply melted away.  The surrounds are in play throughout and the bigger sub you have, the better.  Skip ahead to the train crash or the house explosion if you want to amaze your friends.  And if they aren’t amazed, buy a bigger sub!  The only flaw, and the reason for the half-star deduction, was the center channel.  It seemed over-balanced and even chesty at times.  I was able to tame it by backing off on the channel trim a little.  It’s minor but it prevents the audio from attaining perfection.  One thing that was perfect – Adele’s performance of the opening song.  It’s my new favorite Bond theme.

Extras

Bonus features included an hour-long making-of documentary that is one of the best I’ve seen with any Blu-ray or DVD release.  The production is followed from beginning to end and the best highlights are featured.  Also on the disc is commentary from director Sam Mendes, the chief production designer and two producers.  The package I received included a DVD and a digital copy of the film.


 "Silent Hill Revelation" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

movie-february-2013-silent

Synopsis

Heather Mason and her father are on the run from the dark forces of an evil cult.  They arrive in a new town and get exactly one day of peace before the mayhem begins.  Heather has trouble separating her violent dreams from reality and she sees horror wherever she goes.  When her father is kidnapped by the cult, she knows she must go to the town of Silent Hill to rescue him and end their suffering once and for all.  Reading through her father’s notes, she discovers she is the key to an evil ritual; one that will summon a powerful demon with her as its vessel.  The final battle in Silent Hill is epic and its outcome will decide not only her fate, but humankind’s as well.

Specifications

  • Universal
  • 2012, Rated R, 1 Hr 35 mins
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Adelaide Clemens, Kit Harington, Sean Bean
  • Directed by Michael J. Bassett
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Extreme
  • Sex: Brief nudity
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

This is a pretty typical video-game-turned-movie product.  The story is razor-thin but it’s much more about the imagery.  If you’re looking for an interesting plot and fascinating characters, you won’t find them in Silent Hill.  If you’re a fan of monsters, gory special effects and creepy environments, then this is your film.  The sets present a whole new level of dirt and grime.  Not only did watching this movie compel me to take a shower, I also had an overwhelming desire to clean my house from top to bottom.  And the creature effects!  Kudos to the makeup and CGI artists.  Rarely have I seen such a creative effort in an otherwise B-horror flick.  Production design gets an A+.  The script and the actors get an F.

Technical

The image quality was disappointing.  Contrast varied from scene to scene quite noticeably.  Sometimes it was nice and deep with good blacks and excellent depth and pop.  At other times, it was washed out and flat as if a gray haze had been thrown over the picture.  And the color palette varied greatly as well.  An effort was certainly made to create a mood with color but I found it disjointed.  One moment it would be cool, the next it would be warm, even within the same sequence.  Detail was decently rendered but a bit soft at times.

The audio is by far the best thing about this Blu-ray.  The sound design is simply stunning.  There are lots of “boo” moments that are preceded by the loudest silence you can imagine.  Subtle ambient sounds are used to great effect.  Even though the movie isn’t very good, the sound will draw you in.  Your surrounds and sub will get maximum use with this title.  The sound field is incredibly immersive and the action literally does take place all around you.

Extras

The only bonus included is a three-minute promo and the theatrical trailer.


 "Monsters, Inc. 3D" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

movie-february-2013-monsters-inc-3d

Synopsis

In the city of Monstropolis, power is provided to the residents by Monsters, Inc.  To generate this power, they send monsters into the bedrooms of children at night to scare them, capturing their screams to power their town.  Sulley Sullivan is the best of the monsters at scaring children, and is closing in on the all-time record for scaring.  Attempting to rival him is Randall Boggs, a chameleon who likes to bully the monsters as well as scaring the children.

One night while trying to see what Randall is up to, a child manages to escape back to Monstropolis with Sulley.  Sulley and his friend Mike now have to figure out what to do with the child while trying to avoid being found out, as this is the biggest no-no in their line of work.

Specifications

  • Pixar
  • 2001, Rated G, 1 Hr 32 mins
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: MPEG-4 MVC
  • English Dolby TrueHD 7.1
  • Starring: Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi (voices)
  • Directed by Pete Docter
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

While the idea of monsters harvesting the scared screams of children to power their city sounds a little creepy on the surface, it really isn’t at all, and Monsters, Inc. is another fabulous Pixar movie for adults and children.  The characters and story are wonderful, the movie moves right along and never drags, and it really gets better the more that you watch it.  Even if your child loves it and forces you to watch it daily, as we know children love to do, as a parent you will still enjoy it every viewing.

Technical

Pixar has been going back through their catalog and converting their older films to 3D.  Since they are rendered in a computer, the process of doing this is much more logical than, say, converting a flat film picture like Titanic to 3D after a decade.  Pixar has always done a great job with 3D and here they do as well, adding some very realistic depth to the image, but not forcing things to pop out of the screen and causing excess eye strain.  The times that 3D starts to fail is when characters are at the edges of the screens, since adding depth to them results in weird effects and the framing was done for the 2D film, but overall the 3D film looks just great.

Audio was always good on Monsters, Inc. and that is the case on the Blu-ray as well.  A lossless 7.1 TrueHD track is continually engaging and pulls everyone into the movie.  Dialogue is clear and easy to understand, ambience is well done, and there isn’t anything to complain about with this audio track at all.

Extras

Pixar has loaded up this release with extras, from a 2D copy on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital Copy, commentary, multiple featurettes and short films, a look at the upcoming Monsters University, some 3D short films, a filmmaker’s round table, games, and more.  I’m really not sure what else Pixar could add to this collection.


 "Anna Karenina" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movies-Feb-2013-Karenina

Synopsis

Keira Knightley, Jude Law and Aaron Taylor-Johnson dazzle in this stunning new vision of Leo Tolstoy's epic love story. At the twilight of an empire, Anna Karenina (Knightley), the beautiful high-ranking wife of one of imperial Russia's most esteemed men (Law), has it all. But when she meets the dashing cavalry officer Vronsky (Taylor-Johnson), there is a mutual spark of instant attraction that cannot be ignored. She's immediately swept up in a passionate affair that will shock a nation and change the lives of everyone around her.

 

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 2012, Rated R, 2 Hr 10 mins
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: MPEG-4 MVC
  • English Dolby TrueHD 7.1
  • Starring: Keira Knightley, Jude Law, Aaron Taylor-Johnson
  • Directed by Joe Wright
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

“Sin has a price”, says Karenina’s husband at the start of this film. And by the end, we see just how high a price. My fear was that this “artistic” presentation would ruin the feel of the original novel, but I in fact enjoyed this film quite a bit. The director uses an actual stage to present the film, so some scenes are “real” while others are performed on the stage floor. It added to the sumptuous design and feel for the entire movie which made it enjoyable to behold. Costumes were gorgeous as well. Ms. Knightley looks beautiful and as like the other actors, all perform well. The story does beg the question: Is love just a form of madness? That depends on the type of love, I guess.

Technical

The picture quality is top notch. Lots of eye candy can be seen here. Very vivid colors and textural details are ever present. Contrast is very good with lots a of field depth. I saw no artifacts or overly smoothed processing. Sound quality, especially the musical score, was spacious and strong. The thunderous hoof beats during the racing scene really put the sub woofer into overdrive, too. All in all, the picture and sound enhance this worthy award nominated film and make it worth your while to check it out.

 

Extras

The extras are nothing novel: deleted scenes, commentary and time-lapse photography.


 “The Insider" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Stephen Hornbrook

movie-february-2013-theinsider

Synopsis

Lowell Bergman, a producer for 60 Minutes, receives an anonymous package containing documents from tobacco company Philip Morris.  He seeks out an industry expert to decipher the technical documents and finds Jeffrey Wigand, a recently fired Biochemist who worked for Brown & Williamson, another tobacco company.  Things quickly get out of hand as former employer Brown & Williamson find out their ex-employee is talking to a 60 Minutes producer.  They apply legal pressure as well as scare tactics including death threats.  After producing a segment exposing the tobacco industry, CBS execs pull rank and demand a re-edit that cuts out Wigand’s interview.  Wigand’s marriage falls apart and he is left depressed and confused.

 

Specifications

  • Disney / Touchstone Home Entertainment
  • 1999, Color, rated: R, 2 hours 37 Minutes
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
  • English DTS-HD MA 5.1
  • Starring: Russell Crowe, Al Pacino, Christopher Plummer
  • Directed by Michael Mann
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Some

Commentary

When discussing the career of Michael Mann, The Insider usually does not come up first.  However, it is such a well crafted film that it begs to be mentioned along with Heat, Collateral, and The Last of the Mohicans.  The real life characters portrayed by Crowe and Pacino are full of depth and emotion are up there with their other top performances.  The story is gripping and well told with just enough suspense thrown in to keep things moving.  The Blu-ray release has taken awhile to be produced, but I am thankful that we at least get a high quality version of this terrific film.  If only there was at least one audio commentary track included.. guess I can only look at this cake.

Technical

Michael Mann’s leading choice for photography, Dante Spinotti, has brought forth a brilliantly filmed moving picture. This new Blu-ray release finally gives this movie the proper presentation.  The image is crisp with tons of depth and Spinotti and Mann’s use of color is beautiful, to say the least.  
 
The sound mix is nearly all upfront and dialog heavy. There really isn’t much to critique here other than to say dialog was clear and well leveled.

 Extras

7 minute featurette on the production and a theatrical trailer. Yup, that's it.


“Schindler's List" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movies-feb-2013-Schindler

Synopsis

Experience one of the most historically significant films of all time like never before with the 20th Anniversary Limited Edition of Steven Spielberg's cinematic masterpiece, Schindler's List. Winner of seven Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director, this incredible true story follows the enigmatic Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), who saved the lives of more than 1,100 Jews during the Holocaust. It is the triumph of one man who made a difference and the drama of those who survived one of the darkest chapters in human history because of what he did. Schindler's List is a powerful story whose lessons of courage and faith will continue to inspire generations.

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 2013, Rated: R, 3 hours 16 Minutes
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
  • English DTS-MA 5.1
  • Starring: Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley and Ralph Fiennes
  • Directed by Steven Spielberg
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Nudity
  • Language: Some

Commentary

This is a tough movie to watch, but ultimately, a movie everyone must watch. Spielberg’s story is a history lesson depicting intense drama and character development. I might add that you would need to watch this film first in order to put his Saving Pvt. Ryan into a deeper perspective. The film does not look away from the brutality of the concentration camps, the inhumanity depicted, or the profound effect that an individual can have on the lives of people. It is fascinating to watch Schindler transform over time from a shrewd businessman to a person of conscience who helps save the lives of his Jewish factory workers. This movie is compelling on both a historic and personal level simultaneously. This is not only a great film, but an inspiring film. Never has beauty and horror been so closely intertwined in a cinematic presentation. A "must see" movie in glorious HD!

Technical

The film starts out in color, and then turns to black and white, as though the life is being sucked out of the world. Color is used mid way through the film to show a little girl in a red coat, which ultimately has a profound effect on Schindler. Spielberg oversaw the transfer of the original 35mm film stock to Blu-ray and the details and picture quality are quite wonderful. I did notice some minor edge enhancement in a few scenes where a character is silhouetted by a brightly lit window, but the film retains the original grain and feel of the theatrical release. Razor sharp details in the BD version make it the best one to watch. The movie is long, so it is spread out onto 2 (DVD) discs, but the BD is a single. Sound is front heavy but the dialog is clear, even when in hushed tones. The music score sounds wonderful as well.

Extras

A short list of extras: A Documentary (which is excellent), Featurettes , DVD and Digital Copy are included.