Media

Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - July, 2013

ARTICLE INDEX

"The Incredible Burt Wonderstone" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movies-july-2013-Wonderstone

Synopsis

After breaking up with his longtime stage partner after a major injury during a failed hotbox trick, a famous, but jaded Vegas magician fights for relevance when a new, "hip" street magician appears on the scene. Ultimately, he must turn to his old partner and fight for him to return to reunite the duo. Burt Wonderstone pairs comedy superstars Steve Carell and Jim Carrey together for the first time since Bruce Almighty.

Specifications

  • New Line Home Video
  • Color, 2013, Rated PG-13, 1 hour 40 minutes
  • DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • MPEG 4/ 1080p
  • 1.71:1 aspect ratio
  • Starring :Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi, Olivia Wilde, Alan Arkin, James Gandolfini,  & Jim Carey
  • Directed by: Don Scardino
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

You would think with a star studded cast and spoofing Las Vegas style magic shows that this movie could not miss. But presto-change-o, you would be wrong. It is a shame too, because this movie had some real potential. I love Carell, but his characters are all the same, including Wonderstone. Clueless, politically incorrect and bumbling. Use to be funny, but it is time to move on. Carey has not had a hit movie in years and his character is so totally obnoxious as to be irretrievably unlikable. His violent antics (cutting, hammering and drilling) might disturb some of the younger viewers. I also found the movie, as a whole, to just not be that funny. What a shame that this is Gandolfini's last flick. Wilde provides some eye candy, but her role was too small to add anything interesting to the flat script. Bottom line: This sleight of hand is slight of laughs.

Technical

The picture quality is excellent, from the darkly lit stage scenes to the bright outdoor shots of the “hot box” on the Vegas strip. I noticed a bit of soft focus in some of the stage shots, but colors are solid and the velvet costumes really looked soft and plush. Carell’s makeup made him look un-naturally tanned…but perhaps that was on purposes? The sound was somewhat flat and very front heavy. Even the music did not engulf you. Dialog was clear, but the whole surround experience was just not there. Not even an illusion of it.

Extras

Bloopers, added interviews with Carey's character and deleted scenes.


"A Place at the Table" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movie-Jul-2013-Table

Synopsis

50 Million Americans - 1 in 4 children - don't know where their next meal is coming from. A Place at the Table tells the powerful stories of three such Americans, who maintain their dignity even as they struggle just to eat. In a riveting journey that will change forever how you think about the hungry, A Place at the Table shows how the issue could be solved forever, once the American public decides - as they have in the past - that ending hunger is in the best interests of us all.

Specifications

  • Magnolia Home Entertainment
  • Color, 2013, Rated PG, 1 hour 24 minutes
  • DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • MPEG 4/ 1080p
  • 1.85:1 aspect ratio
  • Starring : Jeff Bridges and others
  • Directed by: Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

You would think that the greatest nation in the world would not have 50 million people going to bed hungry each night. As a guy who volunteers at a local soup kitchen each month, I can tell you first hand that the people that are hungry are not all lazy, or on drugs or even homeless. This documentary helps the rest of the nation to see what is going on right in front of us each day, if we only open our eyes and really see what is going on around us. Children are the most suceptible. As one man puts it, "If another country was doing this to our kids, we'd be at war!" Politics aside, Washington in general finds the funds to do the things they want, but can never find the funds to do the things people desperately need. Interestingly, we had the hunger issue licked in the 70’s, but now it is worse than ever before. Not a “feel good” film, but it does end with a few rays of hope. This documentary garnered an award at the Sundance Film Festival last year.

Technical

The film itself looks crisp and sharp, with the exception of stock footage from news reels. Though it is made in surround sound, it never called attention to itself. Rightfully so, as it is all dialog. Hard to watch, but not dificult to look at, this film is worth your time.

Extras

A cornucopia of extras: several movie previews, commentary, deleted scenes, interviews and more.


"Admission" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

movie-july-2013-admission

Synopsis

Portia Nathan (Tina Fey) is an admission officer at Princeton. She travels the country meeting with the best and the brightest high school students, trying to get the best into her school. Her routine, boring life begins to fall apart when her companion of a decade leaves for his pregnant mistress. Soon after she discovers that a potential student introduced to her by a former college classmate (Paul Rudd) may actually be her son.

With her son trying to get into Princeton, but lacking the usual resume, will Portia bend the rules she has always followed to help him out?

Specifications

  • Universal
  • Color, 2013, Rated PG-13, 1 hour 47 minutes
  • DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • MPEG 4/ 1080p
  • 2.40:1 aspect ratio
  • Starring : Tina Fey, Paul Rudd, and Michael Sheen
  • Directed by: Paul Weitz
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: Mild
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

Admission is a bit of a hit-or-miss proposition. Many times it can be very funny, but other attempts at humor just fall flat. It moves along nice and quickly, though the pace turns many of the side-plots into little one-note items that add little to the overall film. On the whole it is enjoyable, though a tad predictable. You likely know what you’re in for when you sit down to watch Admission, and if you’re OK with that, you’ll enjoy the film.

Technical

The transfer on Admission is good, but not amazingly sharp. I can’t say I felt that anything specific was lacking in the transfer, but there was a lack of a wow factor in it. It doesn’t detract from the film at all, but you won’t be wowed by it.

Aside from a couple key scenes, I can’t recall much use of the surrounds at all during Admission. It is heavily dialogue driven, and that came across very clearly. For the film the soundtrack works fine, but additional use of the surrounds would have benefitted it.

Extras

There is a single featurette, along with DVD, Ultraviolet and an additional digital copy of the film.


"The Host" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Stephen Hornbrook

movies-july-2013-the-host

Synopsis

A parasitic alien race has invaded Earth, taking over most of humankind, but a few have survived and are constantly running for their lives.  One human, Melanie Stryder, is somehow, we don't know why, mentally stronger than billions of other humans.  She attempts to escape capture, nearly dies, but is saved by the aliens and taken over by the one known as The Wanderer, or Wanda as the lowly humans call her.  Wanda is able to see and feel Melanie's memories as well as hear her voice.  She feels for Melanie's plight and after fighting eachother's thoughts, they start to work together to escape.  They find her brother and boyfriend hiding out in one of the last human settlements, hidden in a mountain.  All would be swell, except for the Soul Seeker, who is hell-bent on using the Wanderer/Melanie to locate the last of the humans.

Specifications

  • Universal
  • Color, 2013, Rated PG-13, 2 hours 5 minutes
  • DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • MPEG 4/ 1080p
  • 2.40:1 aspect ratio
  • Starring : William Hurt, Saoirse Ronan, Diane Kruger
  • Directed by: Andrew Niccol
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

Oh Stephenie Meyer.  I don't know what your life has been like, but it no doubt had some affect on your creative work and for that I just shake my head.  The fact that she includes another drama-filled love triangle surrounding an emotionless girl ala Bella/Edward/Jacob is laughable at best.  There was perhaps a minute or two of back footage showing the human characters falling in love, but where and how the human boy, Ian falls in love with the alien Wanderer is completely absent.  The concept of an alien parasitic race invading our bodies and taking over the planet is perfectly sound in the sci-fi world, but if they are so peaceful and never want to hurt anyone, then why is there an entire police force in charge of hunting down the remaining humans? It was really all about the love story, to which there was none, therefore there was no movie to watch and a waste of 2 hours of my life.  Damn you Stephenie Meyer.

Technical

The technical side is where The Host shines.  The image transfer is impeccable with amazing detail, color, and contrast.  I saw no fault with the video quality. I enjoyed the music in the movie and it was represented with a nice encompassing atmosphere. Surrounds were used well and the LFE was clean and defined. 

Extras

Audio Commentary, a couple deleted scenes and a short, 8-minute behind-the-scenes.


"Into the White" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Clements

movie-july-2013-into-the-white

Synopsis

During World War II, German bombers would at times get caught up in skirmishes with British fighters in the skies over Norway.  This story starts with one such dogfight on April 27, 1940.  Planes from each opposing side get shot down and crash land on this day.  Members of both crews survive the crash landings and set out to march out of the untamed wilderness.  They all soon converge on the same remote hunting cabin where they resolve to work together so they can survive the harsh spring conditions.  Based on a true story.

Specifications

  • Magnolia Home Entertainment
  • 2012, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 44 mins
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master
  • Starring : Stig Henrik Hoff, David Kross, Florian Lukas, Lachlan Nieboer and Rupert Grint
  • Directed by: Petter Næss
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

This was a very enjoyable movie to me.  It was engaging, dramatic, suspenseful and occasionally very funny.  It reminded me a bit of the Mark Twain quote, "I like a good story well told."  Yep, that's me too.  Give me a good story, craft it well and I'll fall for it every time.  For the very same reason, many of the best movies I know of involve limited sets and very few if any special effects.  That is how "Into the White" makes hay.  It is a character study first and foremost but weaves in a buddy tale while giving us hope for humanity and mankind.  Well done.

Technical

Major portions of this movie were shot in dark settings either indoors with low light levels or outside in a semi white-out condition with lighting courtesy of the arctic sun.  These conditions are bound to test the transfer and your video reproduction chain.  I found that the black and dark grays in this movie were transferred effectively with good gradations through the grayscale and very little if any noticeable noise in the picture.  The image did turn soft on my LCD projector and this became most apparent near the end of the movie when the sun came out and the image sharpness improved dramatically.  Also, many of the outdoor scenes showed a blue tint.  On the whole, though, this is a solid video presentation.  

The audio is presented in DTS HD Mater 5.1.  The movie is heavily weighted towards dialog with some surround effects that were largely recreations of environmental sounds in the outdoors.  There were a few gunshots that were thankfully presneted with a natural sound.

Extras

This is a single disc set with just two extras - AXS TV: A Look at Into the White and the theatrical trailer.  Pretty sparse offerings on this disc.


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

movie-july-2013-42

Synopsis

This is the true story of the Brooklyn Dodgers' owner Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) and how he broke the race barrier in Baseball when he signed Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) to play for the Dodgers' Montreal farm club in 1946.  After one year with Montreal, Robinson moved up to the Bigs where he got his chance as the starting first baseman for the Dodgers.  The movie carries us through Robinson's rookie season where he helps his team win the NL Pennant and goes on to win the Rookie of the Year Award. 

Specifications

  • Warner Brothers
  • 2013, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 8 mins
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master
  • Starring : Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford and Nicole Beharie
  • Directed by: Brian Helgeland
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Suggested
  • Sex: Mild
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

This movie is well balanced between the real history and action of baseball.  The tone is righteous without becoming overly preachy or pandering to the audience.  I felt engaged on many levels to the extent that the movie felt like it moved along on a swift pace and I was never bored.  I thought Harrison Ford did a remarkable acting job and some of his lines are truly gem-like with the delivery of a pro.  He really won me over as a character.  I liked Chadwick Boseman's work too, but I wish the script offered more opportunities to peer inside the genuine Jackie Robinson:  we never get to see his innermost thoughts in softer moments so we might learn what made him tick.  Other roles are well acted with a few being a little over the top and I'm not entirely sure how accurate they are from a historic perspective.  At the end of the day, though, this is a fun, educational and entertaining movie. 

Technical

There are some early scenes on this disc that were overly soft but after the first five minutes of the movie, the picture settled down and became very consistent from scene to scene.  42 is not a bright and colorful movie and the transfer is true to the filmaker's intent.  So what you get is a solid picture with a satisfying filmic quality that has the sepia look of days gone by.  The picture holds up nicely in dark scenes too with no visible compression artifacts or muddy grays.   

The audio is even better than the video.  The surrounds are active in many scenes, but is most prominent in game time scenes with crowd noise all around the viewer.  The msuical score is well recorded and presented in a clean, vivid rendereing.  Last, but not least, dialog is always clear and intelligible.  This is a well done soundtrack presented in a lossless encode.    

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 fairly sparse but entertaining - "Stepping Into History" a featurette on the cast, "Full Contact Baseball" a featurette about baseball and how the actors brought beleivability to their roles and "The Legacy of the Number 42" a look back at the real life of Jackie Robinson.


 "Oblivion" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Stephen Hornbrook

movies-july-2013-oblivion

Synopsis

In the year 2017, a massive foreign object approached earth and NASA sent a crew to intercept. Unfortunately, things did not go well and a war ensued.  As far as Jack (Tom Cruise) knows, the humans won the war against the aliens, but at the expese of Earth.  Nuclear war ravaged the planet and forced most to flee to one of Saturn's moons.  He and Julia are left behind as a cleanup crew to maintain the drones and terminate any alien "scavs".  

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 2013, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 4 mins
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English 7.1 DTS-HD Master
  • Starring : Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko
  • Directed by: Joseph Kosinski
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Some
  • Sex: Mild
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

Oblivion did not blow away the box office here in the states, although, thanks to Tom Cruise, it did quite well in foriegn markets.  Critical reception was mixed for whatever reason, yet I strongly recommend this movie to any fan of sci-fi.  It may not have much originality, but at I felt like it wasn't trying to be the most thought provoking, original, surprise shocker of a sci-fi movie.  If you take it for what it is, and enjoy the sights and sounds, it is a solid ride.  The photography and special effects are jaw dropping and when paired with the sweet film score and innovative sound design, Oblivion is a top notch flic.  

Technical

Wow, this disc is a technical tour de force.  The image quality is absolutely stunning with incredible amounts of detail, and pristine color and contrast.  I detected no flaws while watching this movie.  The sound mix is also stunning.  Featuring a fabulous score by Anthony Gonzalez (M83) and Joseph Tapanese, the audio will blow away your home theater.  The sound engineering is some of the best I have heard in some time.  They did a great job creating the sounds of the repair droids.  This is a great demo disc!   

Extras

DVD and Ultraviolet included along with commentary from Cruise and Kosinski, Deleted scenes, The Making of Oblivion, and my personal favorite, an isolated track for just the film score!


 "The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movies-July-2013-Blanc-Sec

Synopsis

As the tale opens, Adele, a redheaded , wisecracking, hard-living adventurer and novelist living in pre-WWI France is on a mission in Egypt. She is attempting to retrieve a sarcophagus and tote it back to Western Europe, while fending off complications wrought by her nemesis, archaeologist Dieuleveult. She succeeds on both fronts, but runs headfirst into another issue: a Parisian scientist with the power to heal Adele's comatose sister has accidentally let loose an ancient Pterodactyl above the Parisian skies. While a zany detective and a hunter attempt to eliminate the creature, the villains turn up yet again and try to thwart Adele's long-term plans.  

Specifications

  • Shout! Factory
  • 2013, Color, Rated PG, 1 Hr 47 mins
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English or French 5.1 DTS-HD Master
  • Starring : Louise Bourgoin, Mathieu Amalric, Gilles Lellouche
  • Directed by: Luc Besson
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Comic
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

Though a bit uneven in the storyline, the overall feel of the movie is bit of Tin-Tin and a dash of Indiana Jones with a splash of Jurassic Park. With a $40 million budget, Besson does not follow the usual formula from Hollywood in the comic book adaptation, but he does manage to entertain. Some of the comedic characters are wonderfully enjoyable. Not all of the CGI holds up to the scrutiny of high resolution, but for the most part, the set design pieces and makeup look terrific. Mummies and dinosaurs…how can you miss? I recommend this flick for parents and children over the age of eight.  

Technical

Picture and sound are exemplary. Lots of details in texture and colors make this film a lot about eye candy. The sound has lots of surround effects and some surprisingly deep bass output as well. I enjoyed the original music soundtrack as well, as it complimented the “feel” of the film with wit and whimsy.

Extras

Mon Deiu:  Only some deleted scenes, "making of" and a music featurrette.


 "Tai Chi Hero" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movies-jul-2013-Hero

Synopsis

Lu Chan is still trying to find his place in Chen Village, the legendary town where everyone is a martial arts master...and Chen-style Tai Chi is forbidden to outsiders. But since he helped save the town from a frightening steam-powered machine, Chan has a mutant horn on his head gives him incredible kung-fu power. Chen Village still stands in the shadow of danger. As a prodigal brother returns, Lu Chan s presence invokes a curse on the town. Can he save the village from being destroyed by an evil railroad baron?

Specifications

  • Well Go USA
  • 2013, Color, Unrated, 1 Hr 46 mins
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English or Mandarin 5.1 DTS-HD Master
  • Starring : Jayden Yuan, Angelababy, Tony Leung, Eddie Peng
  • Directed by: Shu Qi
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

As an odd martial arts/steam punk film, I found the action and humor to be quite entertaining. The element of an “old way” of life being overcome by the “new steam era” is nothing new, but the story hits all the right notes with a mix of comedy, romance and drama. The fight sequences are well choreographed and the action is plentiful enough that you will not quickly become bored. This film is actually part two of a trilogy and I am going to have to dig up the first one, Tai Chi Zero, then race out to find the finale. Though it is “unrated”, it easily falls into the PG-13 category. If you like Kung Fu flicks, you’ll enjoy this movie.

Technical

Sound and picture are very good (it doesn’t say, but I suspect it was shot digitally). There is a fair amount of talking, so unless you are fluent in Mandarin, I suggest watching with the 5.1 English soundtrack so your eyes can stay glued to the action. The picture is sharp and detailed without evidence of crush in the dark scenes. Flesh tones are acurate and the colors are vibrant. Surrounds are quite lively and the bass has some pretty good punch. Turn it up!

Extras

Kung Fooey! Beside a detailed "making of" featurette, there are only a few movie trailers.