Articles

Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - July, 2012

ARTICLE INDEX

"Big Miracle" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Clements

movie-july-2012-big-miracle

Synopsis

This movie is based on a true story about three gray whales in Barrow, Alaska that are cut off from their usual migration route due to a quickly expanding ice sheet.  The whales have just the smallest opening in the ice where they can breathe, but winter is fast approaching and the opening will close soon, putting the whales in peril.  It is 1988 and a TV reporter from Anchorage, Adam Carlson (John Krasinski) happens to be on assignment in Barrow.  He films a brief report on the whales.   His report is picked up over the news wires and captures the interest of people all around the globe.  The movie follows a local Greenpeace activist, Rachel Kramer (Drew Barrymore) as she brings together a disparate group and their resources to help save the whales as the world watches intently.

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 2012, Color, Rated PG, 1 Hr 47 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master
  • Starring: Drew Barrymore, John Krasinski, Kristen Bell, Dermot Mulroney, Tim Blake Nelson, Vinessa Shaw and Ted Danson
  • Directed by: Ken Kwapis
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

 The plot is generally focused on Barrymore and Krasinski and their burgeoning if not tepid romance.  But the screenplay also tries to bring in many other elements that were instrumental in the real story of the whales including the local community, a rich oil tycoon, the National Guard, other reporters, a pair of inventors from Minnesota, President Reagan and the Soviet Navy.  All these story lines tend to spread the movie a little thin and may cause younger viewers to lose interest in the movie.  The whole thing works for me, mostly because there are some very good acting jobs led by Krasinskiand Mulroney as the National Guard Colonel.  I am also down for the message that we are all not that far apart in the love of nature.  The CGI effects are good, but the animatroncis and many of the shots of workers clearing the ice were not very convincing.  I recommend this as a solid rental for a fun family night.

Technical

The video shows excellent dynamic range and good color fidelity.  The image is not hampered by obvious edge enhancement which is good, but the overall image is a bit soft with some minor compression artifacts when compared with the best transfers out there.  The audio is a little better with excellent voice reproduction, Foley effects and a well-recorded musical score.  The impact of a Soviet ice breaker near the end of the movie showed more bass impact than I was expecting,  Still, surround activity is somewhat limited throughout much of the movie and I used the fader control to bring up the rears a little. 

Extras

This is a single disc pack with a 2-sided disc.  The Blu-ray is on Side 1 while the DVD version is on Side 2.  It also comes with Ultraviolet Streaming capability and a Digital Copy Code.  Extras include an Audio Commentary with Director Ken Kwapis, deleted scenes, and two featurettes in HD - A "Big Miracle" in Alaska and Truth is Stranger than Fiction. 

 


"Wrath of the Titans" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Stephen Hornbrook

movie-july-2012-wrathofthetitans

Synopsis

The sequel to Clash of the Titans, Wrath of the Titans follows Perseus 10 years after he defeated the Kraken as he tries to defend the planet from the rise of Kronos. In order to defeat the Titan king Kronos, Perseus needs the ultimate weapon, designed by Hephaestus, made from the three God's weapons: Zues' Bolt, Poseidon's Trident, and Hades' Pitchfork.  Combining these three weapons is the only way to defeat Kronos.  Helping the Titan king to return are the Gods Hades and Ares.  They have captured Zeus and are feeding his powers into Kronos. It is up to the demigod Perseus to save the Gods and humankind. 

Specifications

  • Warner Bros.
  • 2012, Color, PG-13, 99 Minutes
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master
  • Starring: Sam Worthington, Bill Nighy, Ralph Fiennes, Liam Neeson
  • Directed by: Jonathan Liebesman
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mythical Violence
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

 I am not sure where these movies are going wrong. There is a wealth of material to choose from but the screenplays behind Clash and Wrath of the Titans are shockingly weak.  I had high hopes for Wrath, the visuals looked stunning and the cast was solid.  Unfortunately the movie never gets going and has a slow pace with little to no suspense.  I enjoyed the visual's and special effects, but was otherwise waiting for the movie to end.  Skip this one. 

Technical

Solid video here. The transfer is sharp and detailed with excellent contrast. The sound mix on the other hand was a bit boring. There were some excellent bass notes from Kronos, but the use of surrounds was sporadic and lacking.  There were many moments during the film that could have benefited from extra surround effects.  

Extras

Maximum Movie Mode - The Path of Men and The Path of Gods, Deleted Scenes

 

 


"Project X" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Tyler Stripko

movie-july-2012-project-x210

Synopsis

What do three high school students do when they wish to step out from anonymity?  Answer: throw the biggest, craziest bash in history.  Social pariahs Thomas (Thomas Mann), Costa (Oliver Cooper), and JB (Jonathan Daniel Brown) decide to host the ultimate party in honor of Thomas’ 17th birthday.  With Thomas’ parents heading out of town for an anniversary getaway, the stage is set for one hell of a birthday bash.  Alas, teenagers fueled by alcohol, drugs, and lust can quickly get out of hand . . .

Specifications

  • Warner Bros.
  • 2012, Color, R, 88 Minutes
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD MasterAudio
  • Starring: Thomas Mann, Oliver Cooper, Jonathan Daniel Brown
  • Directed by: Nima Nourizadeh
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Moderate
  • Sex: Yup, and some nudity
  • Language: Pretty bad

Commentary

Maybe I’m getting old, but I felt that this movie was an epic failure.  First of all, the “warnings” at the beginning of the film (do not attempt any of the events depicted, etc) were just a joke.  Then there was the whole “documentary-style” filming, which just didn’t work in my mind.  The characters had little personality, and Costa’s character was just plain obnoxious.   The attempts at humor fell flat, despite using every crude or crass reference in the book.   The biggest issue I had with this film was believability – there is just no way that a party of this size could ever occur in a residential neighborhood.  There were hundreds of cars and over 1,000 raucous teenagers in attendance, plus a professional DJ, all OUTSIDE!  A party of this magnitude would have been shut down by the police within 15 minutes, no exceptions.  As a fraternity boy from a large “party” college I know of what I speak.   Add to this the ridiculous ending, and the limits of reality are even further ignored.  The only good thing is that the boys actually face some real consequences when the night is over.

Technical

For a movie supposedly shot on a home video camera and other portable devices, the picture sure looks pretty good.  When not subject to the shaky, hand-held shooting style, the picture is relatively sharp, with good color and saturation.  Contrast is solid, though blacks looked a little bit crushed to my eyes.  The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack fits the fill well, with high volume and deep bass, particularly out of the music blaring from the DJ’s system.  Surrounds are used for aggressive fill, though there is not much subtlety to this soundtrack.

Extras

Included on this disc are two featurettes; one on adding up the bill for all the damage done at the party and the other a short behind-the-scenes on the making of the movie and some of the more dangerous scenes.   The theatrical and extended cuts of the film are included on the Blu-ray disc.  There is also a DVD copy of the film as well as a code to download a copy via UltraViolet.


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

Movies-July-2012-Artist

Synopsis

 

Hollywood 1927. George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is a silent movie superstar. The advent of the talkies will sound the death knell for his career and see him fall into oblivion. For young extra Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo), it seems the sky's the limit - major movie stardom awaits. The Artist tells the story of their interlinked destinies. An homage to the golden years of Hollywood and changing times!

Specifications

  • Sony Pictures
  • 2012, B/W PG-13, 100 Minutes
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD MasterAudio
  • Starring: Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, John Goodman, James Cromwell, Penelope Ann Miller
  • Directed by: Michel Hazanavicius
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: None
  • Sex: None
  • Language: Um, it's a silent  movie

Commentary

What a wonderful movie! It's hard to believe that 99% of this movie was done without the spoken word. Actors during the "silent era" were more expressive and the stories would pull you into the silver screen because they were simple, yet compelling. This was, by far, the most enjoyable movie I have reviewed in the last several months. Though the story line is very linear, the characters (and dog) are beautifully cast and totally believable in their roles. Dujardin's George Valentin is wonderful. His infectious smile is a big reason why the film works. It's the same thingl with Bejo. The two actors have tremendous chemistry and that's more than enough to carry this film. Of course the movie is actually a metaphor for modern viewers in that we must learn to adapt, or fall behind. I was impressed with the last scene dance number that was shot without a break. Trust me. I could never have starred in a film with a dance number like that. Ever.

Technical

Shot in B/W, the image looks great. Lots of details can be found in the close-ups and backdrops. I found the picture to have plenty of depth and the dark areas never swallowed up any of the scenery. The sound was mostly derived from the musical score which was also wonderful to hear and added to the films presentation. The sub and surrounds never call too much attention to themselves, but the music is dynamic and wonderfully spread across the front of the room. This film just flat out looks and sounds gorgeous!

Extras

The Artist: The Making Of A Hollywood Love Story, Hollywood As A Character: The Locations of The Artist, Q&A with the filmmakers and cast, Blooper reel, The Artisans Behind The Artist Featurettes: The Costumes, The Cinematography, The Production Design, The Composer.


"Born on the Fourth of July" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movies-July-2012-Born4

Synopsis

 

Tom Cruise delivers a riveting and unforgettable portrait of a Vietnam veteran. Paralyzed in the Vietnam war, he becomes an anti-war and pro-human rights political activist after feeling betrayed by the country he fought for. Based on the true story of Ron Kovic, Stone's film shows us the darker side of an unpopular time in our military history.

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 2012, Color, Rated R, 145 Minutes
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC MPEG 4
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD MasterAudio
  • Starring: Tom Cruise, Raymond J. Barry, Caroline Kava, Josh Evans, Jamie Talisman
  • Directed by: Oliver Stone
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

While I don't agree with Stone's politics and find that his movies usually have an axe to grind, both he and Kovic have arrived at their perspective with honesty. After all, both men fought in the war. This film serves as a fine record of a time in our country's history when we fought a very unpopular war. Cruise's portrayal is excellently done and the movie leaves the viewer angry and a bit unsettled to know how our country did a great disservice to those that gave so much in the line of duty. This was a tough movie to watch (even more so on Independence Day), but well worth the performances and the inside story that few of us have heard or seen. War certainly does a lot more than just physical damage to our soldiers. Think about that the next time you see a veteran.

Technical

Though the film is over 20 years old, it looked very good on this BD presentation. The opening scenes are a bit grainy and hazy, but this might well have been done to make the early years of Kovic's life seem like the "distant past". The movie itself was fairly sharp and detailed with only a few scenes exhibiting crushing in the darker shadows. In a few instances I saw some aliasing and banding, but it was not distracting. Dialog is clear and the music was at times powerful and then sentimental. Battle scenes sounded realistic, with weighty "booms" from mortar fire.

Extras

Not much in the "extra department": An audio commentary, featurettes , DVD Copy/ Digital Copy, news ticker and My Scenes. Still, the movie stands on its own merits in spite of the lackluster extras.


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

movie-July-2012-Wanderlust

Synopsis

Rudd and Aniston play a couple from the big city that lead a frenetic, fast paced life. When both lose their jobs, they decide to move to Georgia to live with family. On their way, they stop over for a night at a commune called Elysium, and their lives are forever changed by the community built on free love, pot and nudists.

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 2012, Color, Rated R, 145 Minutes
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC MPEG 4
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD MasterAudio
  • Starring: Paul Rudd, Jennifer Aniston and Alan Alda
  • Directed by: David Wain
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Comic
  • Sex: Yes & nudity
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

One could argue that Wanderlust uses the same formula over and over involving raunchy jokes and dialogue and featuring the most nudity of any film in your recent memory (so that's what a prosthetic penis looks like!). In spite of the vulgarity and over-the-top hippie sub culture references, I found the movie to have many really funny moments...and even a bit of heart. Rudd plays the "every man" part so very well and he is easy to relate too. His scene where he talks to the mirror is...unique. Even Aniston does a rare good part in this film. Not for the prudish and definitely not for the kids, but you children of the 60's will chuckle. (Did I call myself an old hippie?)

Technical

Picture quality and sound are very good with lots of solid, natural colors (oh yes, and flesh tones, if you follow my drift). Sound is good with some great music and action in the surrounds. The special effects during the "tripping out" scenes were clever and amusing. Overall, a fine looking film with sound to match.

Extras

A plethora of added goodies: Commentary with director/writer/producer David Wain, writer/producer Ken Marino, actor/producer Paul Rudd, and impressions by Kevin Pollak, God Afton! behind-the-scenes featurette, Penis Envy mockumentary, The Elysium Campaign skit, "Elysium" webisode of Wainy Days, Deleted, extended/alternate scenes and Gag Reel. Oh, and don't forget to watch the "bizarro cut"!


"Father of the Bride 1 & 2" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movies-July-2012-Bride

Synopsis

This '90s update of the Spencer Tracy-Elizabeth Taylor hit is a mix of the pleasant and the silly. Steve Martin plays the aging patriarch who is threatened by his daughter's engagement and not-quite-willing to let her go. Things get out of hand for befuddled father George Banks (Martin) when his young daughter unexpectedly announces her plans to wed. Life gets even crazier in the side-splitting sequel when his daughter and his wife (Keaton) both announce they are pregnant, and George desperately tries to capture the wild and crazy days of his youth.

Specifications

  • Touchstone/Disney
  • 2012 (1991), Color, Rated PG-13, 105/106 Minutes
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC MPEG 4
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD MasterAudio
  • Starring: Steve Martin, Diane Keaton, Martin Short
  • Directed by: Charles Shyer
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

Generally, I like Steve Martin as an actor. He carries a bit of zany, yet lovable, charisma to the big screen. That being said, these flicks are not his best works and after Roxanne, I think he was waning in popularity in Hollywood. Both of these movies are mildly funny and entertaining…the sequel being a bit better than the first. Martin Short all but steals the sequel as an over-the-top wedding planner. I appreciate the nostalgic feel of the films as I have just married off my eldest son a few weeks prior to viewing these. Whether you've gone through a wedding or not, this movie should make you laugh and touch you. It is also "family friendly".

Technical

Picture and sound quality are about average but some of the scenes really show some age with soft focus and lack of detail. Not a lot of surround and sub action in either of these, but the dialog always remains clear and distinct. Since these are the 20th anniversary editions, it is not likely they will be re-mastered to look and sound better than they do now.

Extras

Only a commentary, featurrette and trailer. On the other hand, you get two BD movies and a DVD for the price of one!

 

 

 

 

For a movie supposedly shot on a home video camera and other portable devices, the picture sure looks pretty good.  When not subject to the shaky, hand-held shooting style, the picture is relatively sharp, with good color and saturation.  Contrast is solid, though blacks looked a little bit crushed to my eyes.  The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack fits the fill well, with high volume and deep bass, particularly out of the music blaring from the DJ’s system.  Surrounds are used for aggressive fill, though there is not much subtlety to this soundtrack.