Media

Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - March, 2012

ARTICLE INDEX

"Johnny English: Reborn" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Clements

movie-march-2012-johnny-english-reborn

Synopsis

Rowan Atkinson plays Johnny English who is a British Secret Agent with a "Modus Operandi" that lies somewhere between 007 and Inspector Clouseau.  The movie opens with Johnny in exile for many years following a seriously blundered operation in Mozambique.  But then the MI-7 leadership is forced to call Johnny back to action when they learn of an assaination plot by a secret band of assasins called "The Vortex".  The informant will only speak with Johnny English.  Will our erstwhile agent make a triumphant return and stop the plot to assinate the Chinese premier, Xiang Ping?

 

Specifications

  • Universal Pictures
  • 2011, Color, Rated PG, 1 Hr 42 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Codec: VC-1
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Rowan Atkinson, Gillian Anderson, Dominic West, Rosamund Pike, Richard Schiff and Daniel Kaluuya
  • Directed by Oliver Parker
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

As luck would have it, I was in the perfect mood for some banal slapstick comedy as I slid this disc into my player's tray.  So I enjoyed this movie a lot more than I was expecting.  For me, the comedic highlight was the Hong Kong "Chase Scene".  I'm giving second place to the yacht chase scene and the ensuing fight.  Not all of the material in the movie is worthy of high praise, but I found the movie to be bright, colorful, energetic and entertaining.  I recommend this as a rental for any time when you want to laugh without your brain having to work too hard.

Technical

This is a bright and colorful film with very good video quality throughout despite a handfull of scenes that were a little soft.  This intermittent softness is my  biggest criticism of the video.  The audio is clean and dynamic.  I can't think of a single audio effect that wasn't spot on.  The bass was overly ripe though and so I'll have to take off half a star.

Extras

This is another Unoiversal two-disc package with a Blu-ray, DVD and a Pocket Blu Streaming access code.  It is also chock full of other fun extras - Deleted/Extended Scenes with Introductions by Director Oliver Parker, a Gag Reel, The Wheelchair Chase, Feature Commentary with Director Oliver Parker and Screenwriter Hamish McColl, The English Files: The Making of Johnny English Reborn, Working with Rowan, Gadgets and English in Hong Kong.


"J. Edgar" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Clements

movie-march-2012-j-edgar

Synopsis

Clint Eastwood directed this film about the life of J. Edgar Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio) that rolls out through a series of flashbacks as he tells his autobiography to a ghost writer.  J. Edgar Hoover was America's first FBI Director and served in that capacity under six different Presidents from FDR to Nixon.  This movie shows how Hoover took over the Bureau and used his powers as Director for his own personal and political gain.  Much of his drive to succeed was fostered by his Mother (Judi Dench) and we get a satisfying look at their relationship here.  This movie also brings to life two of Hoover's closest friends and advisors; his loyal secretary, Helen Gandy (Watts) and Hoover's closest advisor, best friend and Deputy Director, Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer).

Specifications

  • Warner Brothers
  • 2011, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr 17 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Naomi Watts, Armie Hammer, Josh Lucas and Judi Dench
  • Directed by Clint Eastwood
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: Mild
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

I enjoyed learning about J. Edgar Hoover's career with the FBI in this movie.  He made such major contributions to the art and science of running an effective law enforcement organization - from focusing on forensics to establishing a national fingerprint data base.  It is amazing how much one determined, principled man can accomplish when properly motivated.  It was interesting to learn what made Hoover tick and how he worked his way into a position of power so great that he wielded more political strength than some of the Presidents he served.  Leonardo DiCaprio puts in a solid performance here with the downside being the slow pace of the film.  It runs over two hours, but could have been neat and tidy under two hours with the same impact.

Technical

The image was dark with muted colors.  It was almost black and white.  This visual style is a part of the movie's visual theme as is the play on shadows throughout.  But I am deducting a star from the Video score because the picture was inexplicably soft.  The Audio is DT HD Master 5.1 with excellent voice reproduction.  There is very little music in the movie and only a few scenes with audio effects - one bomb and a few Tommy Guns.  Those effects sounded fine.  So the Audio is servicable if not of a standout quality.

Extras

This is a Warner Brothers two-disc Combo Pack with a Blu-ray disc and a DVD featuring an ultraviolet streaming digital copy.  The only other extras is the short featurrette titled "J. Edgar: A Complicated Man".


"Columbus Circle" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

movie-march-2012-columbus-circle

Synopsis

Abigail Clayton (Selma Blair) lives alone. Very alone. In fact, the heiress has not left her Manhattan apartment for almost two decades. When the death of her elderly neighbor prompts NYPD Homicide Detective Frank Giardello (Giovanni Ribisi) to launch an investigation, the agoraphobic Abigail is distressed to find him outside her door, questioning her. Having tried to acquire the now vacant apartment to ensure her privacy, Abigail is further upset when new tenants Lillian (Amy Smart) and Charlie (Jason Lee) move in. Abigail anxiously monitors her new neighbors from the safety of her front door's peephole, but her well-ordered world begins to unravel when she finally encounters Lillian and Charlie face-to-face and her sheltered existence becomes threatened in unexpected and terrifying ways.

Specifications

  • Universal
  • 2012, Color, PG-13, 86 Minutes
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Codec: VC1
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Selma Blair, Jason Lee, Giovani Ribisi
  • Directed by George Gallo
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

Columbus Circle is one of those movies that gets made, and then seems to sit around and never be released, and then shows up for sale at your store one day.  Set up as a thriller, Columbus Circle seems to give away all of its secrets in the first 10 minutes, then spends the rest of the running time pretending that you can't figure it out.  The characters act ridiculously, and act in ways that no one in their positions would. The ending, which seems to be setup as a great "gotcha", is both implausible and totally laughable, but really is no different than the rest of the film.  Unfortunately one movie that I am certain I will never sit down to watch again.

Technical

The image in Columbus Circle is decent, but not great.  Sometimes there are nice textures and detail, and sometimes it is a bit soft and lacking in details.  Black levels were sometimes a bit higher that I expected them to be, but overall contrast was decent.  The soundtrack was the best part of the film, with decent use of surrounds and clear, intelligible dialogue throughout.

Extras

There is nothing on the disc, not even a trailer.  Just a lot of previews at the beginning that you need to skip over.


"The Son Of No One" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

movie-march-2012-the-son-of-no-one

Synopsis

Jonathan (Channing Tatum) is a second-generation cop who gets in over his head when he's assigned to re-open a double homicide cold case in his Queens neighborhood.  An anonymous source feeding new information on the long-unsolved murders to a local reporter leads to evidence suggesting a possible cover-up by the former lead detective who was on the investigation.  As Jonathan digs deeper into the assignment, a dark secret about the case emerges, which threatens to destroy his life and his family.

Specifications

  • Anchor Bay
  • 2011, Color, R, 94 Minutes
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Channing Tatum, Ray Liotta, Al Pacino
  • Directed by Dito Montiel
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

The Son of No One has a goal in mind, and really takes its time to get there.  Unfortunately by the time we arrive at our goal, we haven't really learned that much about any of our characters or seen them grow from where they were at the start of the film.  We've seen them paint cops as crooked, bad people who will throw away the lives of others to protect themselves, but we've seen that in other films that resonated far more after the film was done.  It feels almost like the movie was chopped down to as short as it could be without losing any more plots, but it feels like we lost a lot of other information as well.

With the speed at which the movie moves along, we easily could have learned far more about the characters by having fewer meditative shots, or flashback shots that move along much quicker than they do.

Technical

The best part of Son of No One is clearly the transfer, which is very nicely done.  Aside from one issue I noticed when driving across a bridge, the transfer was very nice with great detail, wonderful contrast, and very little to complain about at all.  The soundtrack is also quite good, though doesn't always use the surrounds as well as it could, and some of the dialogue came across very quietly.

Extras

Audio Commentary from the Director and Editor, Extended Scenes, and the Theatrical Trailer.


"Puss in Boots 3D" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

movie-march-2012-puss-in-boots-3d

Synopsis

Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) is a orphaned cat, raised in the village of San Ricardo.  Unfairly blamed for a crime and on the run from his village, he seeks to repair his reputation and to be able to return home.  When the opportunity to steal the magic beans from Jack and Jill comes up, he must team up with Kitten Soft Paws (Salma Hayek) and Humpty Dumpty to continue the quest for the golden goose.

Specifications

  • Dreamworks
  • 2011, Color, PG, 90 Minutes
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek (Voices)
  • Directed by Chris Miller
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

Puss in Boots was one of my favorite characters from Shrek, so I was looking forward to a film of his own, and that it would be something my son would enjoy watching.  While not as sharp as a couple of the Shrek films were, the film is very enjoyable with enough humor mixed in there for adults in addition to kids that both of you can enjoy watching it.  The 80-minute run time goes by quickly, but feels about right.

Technical

The 2D presentation of Puss in Boots looks very, very nice.  It only doesn't get 5 stars as it is not quite up to the level of Rango, which was the best looking animated film this past year.  Certain scenes in 2D looked like they would be wonderful in 3D and for the most part they are.  There was decent depth and 3D on a lot of the shots and they did a good job with the 3D version overall.  The soundtrack also does not disappoint, with good use of surrounds and subwoofers in addition to the front soundstage, and you never struggle to understand dialogue.

Extras

A bonus animated short, The Three Diablos, multiple Featurettes, PIP Animators Corner, Deleted Scenes, Games, Trailers, a DVD copy and a Digital Copy.


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

movie-march-2012-gameofthrones

Synopsis

After the death of Jon Arryn, Hand of the King, Kink Robert Baratheon visits Winterfell to see an old friend, Lord Eddard Stark.  He asks Eddard to be his new Hand and he reluctantly accepts.  There were many suspicions regarding the death of previous Hand, Arryn, and Eddard agrees with his wife to investigate.  Drama erupts when Eddard's youngest son Bran is injured after witnessing an intimate relation between two members of the House of Lannister.  During his recuperation, Bran is attacked, but saved by his Dire Wolf and it is soon discovered that the dagger used in the attack belonged to Tyrion Lannister.  Tensions between the Houses Stark and Lannister erupt, leading to war amongst all seven of the noble families.  Meanwhile across the sea, the Targaryen exiles, Viserys and sister Daenerys, hatch a plan to build an army by marrying Daenerys to Khal Drogo, one of the horse warriors known as the Dothraki.  If that wasn't enough, and ancient evil is brewing up north, kept at bay by a giant wall of ice and a group of soldiers known as the Night Watch.

Specifications

  • HBO
  • 2011, Not Rated, 561 Minutes
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Lena Headey, Jack Gleeson, Sean Bean, Michelle Fairley, Peter Dinklage
  • Directed by Various Directors
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

I have not read the well regarded books by George R.R. Martin, but this series holds up extremely well on its own and from what I have heard from fans of the books, they did a very good job.  It's beautifully directed with an epic big budget feel.  They did a wonderful job casting as everone from Jason Momoa as Drogo to Peter Dinklage as Tryion to Sean Bean as Eddard work perfectly. I loved watching the series when it premiered on HBO last year, and could not wait to get my hands on the Blu-ray version. It's a wonderful release and something that should be in every one's collection.

Technical

I originally watched GoT over cable HD broadcast and was pleased with the presentation. The Blu-ray beats it by a long shot. Every scene is crisp and full of detail and wonderful contrast. You couldn't ask for more from a Blu-ray transfer.

The DTS-HD MA audio absolutely beat the pants off the dolby digital cable audio. Awesome music and sound effects were given a proper medium hear to really show off the time and detail that was spent by the audio engineers.

Extras

Commentaries, Episode Guides, Complete Guide to Westeros, Character Profiles, Anatomy of an Episode- which offers pic-in-pic commentary and interviews for the episode "A Golden Crown", Making of, From book to Screen, couple short features. Overall, tons of great content to sink your teeth into before Season 2 starts April 1st!


"The Adventures of Tintin" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim MIlton

movie-march-2012-tin-tin

Synopsis

The Adventures of Tintin follows the exciting exploits of a young reporter, his dog, a sea captain with a drinking problem, and a couple of bumbling Interpol detectives as they travel from Europe to the Sahara and Morocco in pursuit of a pickpocket, model-ship collectors, and long-lost treasure. Steven Spielberg's and Peter Jackson's long-awaited full-length film, based on the original "Tintin" comics by Hergé, combines the stories "The Secret of the Unicorn," "Red Rackham's Treasure," and "The Crab with the Golden Claws" into a generally fast-paced adventure that provides fun for the whole family.

Specifications

  • Paramont
  • 2012, PG, 107 Minutes
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Voices of Daniel Craig, Jamie Bell , Andy Serkis
  • Directed by Peter Jackson/Steven Spielberg
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: None
  • Language: None

Commentary

Having been an avid reader of the comic series from my early chilhood, the characters of Tintin, Snowy, Captain Haddock, and Thompson and Thomson are all quite faithfully represented. The motion-capture animation is similar to that of Polar Express and Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and actually has Andy Serkis in this movie. The characters are highly stylized to look like their comic counter-parts, but Tintin's facial expression in particular lacks expression. Snowy is fun, though he is a bit fluffier than in the original comics, but the other characters seem spot-on. Some of the humor becomes a bit slapstick and the overall length of the film a bit too long, but the characters, gorgeous colors and details save this film in the end. (Also, see if you see the comic creator Herge in a small cameo in the opening sequence). Great music by John Williams, too.

Technical

The PQ and SQ are well nigh perfect, as to be expected from an all CGI film. Colors are gorgeous and the details astounding. You can even see fine facial hair on Tintin's chinchin (Sorry…). Water is rendered so well as to be indistinguishable from the real stuff. The details extend into the environment. Look how wonderful the wet cobblestones appear or the fine details on the Unicorn. The surround sound field is very active with nice deep bass to underpin the story on the screen. This is a great film to demo for your friends.

Extras

There are over ten featurettes, most of which are quite interesting.


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

movie-march-2012-the-muppets

Synopsis

The Muppet troupe disbanded and went their spearate ways many years ago when the Muppet Show went off the air.  Since then, the Muppet Theater has fallen into disrepair and is nothing more than a dilapidated eyesore that an occasional fan will visit for the 50 cent tour.  That's when a die hard Muppet fan named Walter visits the Muppet Theater with his brother (Segel) and their friend Mary (Adams).  While touring the theater, Walter overhears a plan by a wealthy oil tycoon to buy the theater so he can tear it down and drill for oil.  The only way to stop this plan is to find Kermit, get the old gang back together and put on a telethon to raise $10 million and buy back the theater.

Specifications

  • Disney
  • 2011, Rated PG, 1 Hr 43 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Amy Adams, Jason Segel, Chris Cooper and Rashida Jones
  • Directed by James Bobin
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

In the "Making of the Muppets" special feature, Jason Segel wonders who could be against the Muppets when they are all about goodness and warmth.  You know, he has a point.  People may be for the Muppets or not for the Muppets but can you imagine anybody being against the Muppets?  I can't.  So I suspect that you will most likely be for this movie or not for it but not against it.  You can count me in the "for" number.  Sure the movie is largely predictable and campy with some very banal humor.  But there are cameos and guest appearances galore.  There are also a whole slew of allusions to various movies of the past.  So look past the lamest of jokes, enjoy the music and let the chickens' rendition of "Forget You" bring down the house like it did at our private screening.  I dare you to try and not laugh at that one!

Technical

Let's see here.  The Muppets are bright, colorful and live action on a Disney Blu-ray.  Do I really need to critique the P.Q.?  Let's just say that it is bright, colorful and detailed.  The few dark scenes just pop right off the screen with good depth of blacks.  The audio holds up its end as well with clean dynamics, good surround effects and tightly controlled bass.  I listened to "Man or Muppet" a few times just to be sure.

Extras

I reviewed the Wocka Wocka Value Pack which is replete with extras just as the name would suggest.  It is a 3-disc pack with the Blu-ray, a DVD and Digital Copy.  It also comes with a free download of the soundtrack that didn't work for me.  The URL for the download was a page not found on the Disney site.  Plus it bombed out after I entered the code and I can't get it to reload.  So I've been forced to register my concern with the seeming black hole of the Disney web machine.  I hope to hear back from them soon.  One big plus is the brilliant application when you pause the movie and it goes into "intermission" mode to play little vignettes and jokes and things, brilliant. 

Here is everything else that is on there - Scratching the Surface: A Hasty Examination of the Making of The Muppets, The longest Blooper Reel Ever Made, A Little Screen Test in the Way to the Read-Through, Explaining Evil: The Full Tex Richman Song, Deleted Scenes, Theatrical Spoof Trailers and an Audio Commentary with Jason Segal, James Bobin, and Nicholas Stoller.


The Three Musketeers (Blu-ray)

"The Three Musketeers" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

movie-march-2012-musketeers

Synopsis

After a failed mission that ends in Athos' betrayal by his lover Milady, the Three Musketeers are disbanded by Cardinal Richelieu and left to live as paupers.  Just then, the brash and ambitious D'Artagnan rides into Paris and immediately crosses paths with the Musketeers challenging all of them to separate duels.  Captain Rochfort and his guards have other ideas however, and the duels turn into a battle of four against forty as the guards are soundly defeated.  Richelieu brings them before the King expecting them to be punished but Louis surprises everyone by offering his congratulations.  The Cardinal in his anger decides to hatch a plot that will bring about war with England, the execution of the Queen and his own rise to power.  He hires double-agent Milady to steal the Queen's diamonds in order to frame her for the crime.

The Musketeers decide to recover the diamonds in order to prevent the war that the evil Lord Buckingham is only too happy to engage in.  In a bold move, they attack the Tower of London and get the diamonds but in the process, they are in turn attacked by Richelieu's secret airship.  The battle rages all the way back to Paris where the Musketeers and D'Artagnan are finally victorious.  Rochefort is killed and Richelieu is exposed.  The story doesn't end there though as Buckingham and his vast fleet of ships is seen advancing on France as the movie ends!

Specifications

  • Summit Entertainment
  • 2011, Rated PG-13, 110 Minutes
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Logan Lerman, Matthew Macfadyen, Ray Stevenson, Orlando Bloom, Luke Evans and Milla Jovovich
  • Directed by Paul W. S. Anderson
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

If you're expecting a period film that brings Dumas' brilliant novel to life, this isn't your movie.  If you're looking for a fun action flick that wraps fantastic stunts, seamless CGI and over-the-top acting in a gilded 18th century costume, this is your movie.  Drama is not the goal here.  The pacing is fast and furious though and you won't be bored for a moment.  Even the few quiet, dialog-driven scenes are laced with comedy that makes this movie hard to dislike.  Though it was obvious from the get-go The Three Musketeers would not be a factor at the next Academy Awards, I did enjoy the spectacle very much.  The only actor who delivered a balanced performance was Ray Stevenson as Porthos.  He was truly funny; perhaps even rivaling Gerard Depardieu's portrayal of the same character in The Man in the Iron Mask.  At the other extreme, Orlando Bloom and Milla Jovovich as the principal villains were not only poorly cast, they pretty much phoned in their roles.

Technical

I so wanted to give this disc five stars for video but a few instances of elevated black levels spoiled the party.  Other than that miniscule flaw, this picture looks incredible.  Color is richly saturated while always remaining natural and true.  Detail and sharpness could not be any better.  Contrast is deep with excellent blacks and bright highlights.  Aside from the aforementioned scenes, it's pretty much perfection on disc.

Audio is also flawless with a huge dynamic range and immense impact from the DTS Master Audio encode.  Bass plays a huge role in all the battle sequences with crushing realism and tremendous feel.  If you have a big sub in your theater, it will get a workout, rest assured.  I actually turned my sub down a few clicks as it got a tad fatiguing after a while.  Music and dialog are clean and crisp at all times.  The surround effects are done masterfully as the sound stage is huge and convincing.  No doubt this disc will go on the short list of show-off titles for new home theaters everywhere.

Extras

Bonus features include audio commentary by the director and producers, deleted scenes, four short documentaries (under three minutes each) and a PiP feature that runs during the film with little nuggets about the making of the film.

The Three Musketeers (Blu-ray)


"Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movie-march-2012-tinker

Synopsis

Gary Oldman stars as former British secret agent George Smiley in this stylish adaptation of the novel by John Le Carre. In the early '70s, Smiley is called out of retirement and tasked with flushing out a Soviet mole believed to be serving in a high-ranking office of British Intelligence, MI6. Smiley's search is narrowed to four senior men, but which one is the double agent?

 

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 2011, Rated R, 128 Minutes
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Codec: AVC MPEG 4
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hardy, John Hurt
  • Directed by Tomas Alfredson
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

Although two hours long, the slowly developing story manages to work in the key elements from the original lengthy novel. You will need to pay attention or you'll get lost in the labyrintine plot. The movie benefits greatly from some terrific work from the cast, especially Oldman as Smiley, a retired Cold War veteran whose long brooding silences enhances his methodical pursuit of a "mole". The music and set pieces give the film an authentic 1970's feel, while the pacing of the story keeps the suspense alive to the end. Because this is a "thinking man's" spy tale with an intricate plot, to really absorb the full effect of this movie, I would recommend at least two viewings. You'll be rewarded for it. Oldman continues to astound me with his acting skills.

Technical

The picture is quite good with plenty of detail and colors that are bright and bold. In spite of several dark scenes, I saw no crushing or loss of details in the murk. Dialog is crisp (though with some heavy British accents) and well presented. The sound is enveloping with lots of ambiance and details in the surrounds. Because it is not an action flick in the general sense, the sub only plays a supporting role throughout the movie. What a wonderful music soundtrack, too!

Extras

Bonus features include audio commentary with Oldman and the director, featurettes, interviews, deleted scenes and a digital copy with a DVD.

 


"Out of Africa" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

movie-march-2012-out-of-africa

Synopsis

Based on the life of Karen Blixen, a woman from Denmark who moves to Africa with her husband to start a farm.  Once there, she finds her marriage of convenience isn't much of a marriage at all as her husband continues to see whomever he wants on the side, and then she meets a man who also has come to Africa for an adventure, but also to live life as freely as he can.

Specifications

  • Universal
  • 1985, Color, PG, 2 Hours 41 Minutes
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Meryl Streep, Robert Redford
  • Directed by Sydney Pollack
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Implied
  • Language: No

Commentary

The idea of a sweeping, romantic epic that won Best Picture could be good, or it could remind me of The English Patient, which also fits that criteria and never connected with me at all.  Out of Africa did better than that, with a story that was enjoyable and acting that was really first rate.  I wouldn't put it up there as one of the best winners of Best Picture, but it's far better than something like Crash.

Technical

There is a bit of DNR that you can sometimes spot, with faces losing their texture and appearing flat, but typically it is used with a light hand and most details and textures come through well.  Overall it looks quite good for a film that's over 25 years old now, and much better than it's been seen at home before.

The soundtrack is good, but unfortunately you can tell it was done 25 years ago.  Almost all of the action is lodged in the front channels with the surrounds being used for some effects and the score, but not used to build ambience, as they would be today.  Dialogue is easy to understand and doesn't get buried in with the other sounds, which is key on a drama, and so overall the soundtrack is good but not fantastic.

Extras

Directors Commentary, a full-length feature on Karen Bilxen, Deleted Scenes, the Theatrical Trailer, and a DVD copy of the film are included.


"Casablanca (70th Anniversary Edition)" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

movie-march-2012-casablanca

Synopsis

Casablanca: easy to enter, but much harder to leave, especially if you're wanted by the Nazis. Such a man is Resistance leader Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid), whose only hope is Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), a cynical American who sticks his neck out for no one - especially Victor's wife Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman), the ex-lover who broke his heart. Ilsa offers herself in exchange for Laszlo's transport out of the country and bitter Rick must decide what counts more - personal happiness or countless lives hanging in the balance.

Specifications

  • Universal
  • 1942, Color, PG, 1 Hour 42 Minutes
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • English Mono DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains
  • Directed by Michael Curtiz
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

I've watched Casablanca countless times, and have never gotten tired of it.  With a story set during a turbulent time in the world, but a simple story that connects the characters involved, it really doesn't age or grow tired at all.  You can't imagine the characters being played by anyone else, as everyone seems tailor made for their role.  There really isn't much to be said about Casablanca that hasn't been said before, only that if you haven't seen it there has never been a better time.

Technical

Having seen Casablanca originally on DVD, then on HD-DVD, then Blu-ray, and finally this brand new Blu-ray with a new 4K scan to create it.  Compared to the previous Blu-ray the differences are pretty small, but there is more grain structure than before.  Some people loved the lack of grain on the previous release, and some felt that they were scrubbing over details to remove grain.  With the new transfer, you can pick up on the soft focus in many of the close-up shots, and it has enough detail to pick up differences in the white-on-white textures of Bogart's tuxedo.  Casablanca will never be a tack-sharp image, but it is going to be hard to get more detail out of it than this does.

The main other upgrade from the last release is that we finally get a lossless soundtrack.  It is the original mono mix, which is perfectly fine with me, but no longer is it restricted to the anemic Dolby Digital bitrate.    Casablanca might not be filled with shootouts and chase scenes to stress your system, but dialogue and effects come across well, and the most active scene (of the two bands competing with each other) comes across more clearly than ever before.

Extras

The limited edition box set includes a very nice book about the film, a poster reproduction, Casablanca coasters, and a load of special features including twin audio commentaries, deleted scenes, alternate takes, a host of brand new featurettes on the films director and stars, a five hour documentary on Warner Brothers, two more documentaries on the Warner brothers, and a DVD copy of the film.  More than anyone could ask for.


"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

movie-march-2012-tattoo

Synopsis

After a conviction for libel, journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Craig) accepts a job with industrialist Henrik Vanger (Plummer) writing his memoirs.  The real purpose however is for Blomkvist to investigate the 40-year old cold case involving the disappearance of Vanger's niece Harriet.  Henrik is convinced she was murdered and even after exhaustive detective work, the crime still remains unsolved.  Mikael goes about uncovering the many dark secrets of the complex Vanger family who still all live on the island of Hedestat.  Along the way, he hires Lisbeth Salander (Mara), the investigator originally retained by Vanger's lawyer to perform Blomkvist's background check, to assist him.  Salander is relentless and quickly uncovers several gruesome murders that coincide with Vanger Industries different business locations.  Just as they both discover the killer, Blomkvist is captured and tortured.  Salander manages to rescue him in the nick of time.  In the end, the truth is uncovered and unless you've already read the book, it's a twist you won't expect!

Specifications

  • Sony Pictures
  • 2011, Color, R, 2 Hours 38 Minutes
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara and Christopher Plummer
  • Directed by David Fincher
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

I read all three of Stieg Larsson's books voraciously and saw the Swedish films based on them.  This US release is far superior to those productions.  It follows the book pretty closely except for the last bit (you'll see what I mean) which was a head-scratcher.  It's hard to award five stars to any movie based on a famous novel.  My benchmark for this is BBC's Pride and Prejudice from 1995 which is nearly perfect.  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo comes pretty close though and I look forward to the next two films with high expectations.  Rooney Mara received a well-earned Oscar nomination for her portrayal of Lisbeth.  She is amazing in the role.  Daniel Craig serves up his usual balance of machismo tempered with humility.  And Christopher Plummer brings his vast acting experience to another excellent performance.  The thing I enjoyed most was the foreign film feel created by director David Fincher.  It suited the material perfectly.

Technical

The image is very sharp with excellent detail and deep contrast.  Color is mostly natural except for the various tints used in the different scenes.  Outdoors it's very cool; appropriate for a country so close to the Arctic Circle.  Indoors it's very yellow or green in the more industrial spaces.  I found the tints excessive, especially indoors because the image became very flat, almost monochromatic.  Blacks were nice and rich in the nighttime scenes with excellent detail.

Audio was very good except for the dialog which I found somewhat receded in the soundstage.  Compounding the problem were the accents used by the different actors.  While accurate, it made a lot of the speech hard to understand.  Action scenes made excellent use of the sub and surrounds.  Things like car crashes and Lisbeth's motorcycle had great depth and slam.  Music also sounded great with an excellent score penned by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.  I especially liked the Led Zepplin tune Immigrant Song used in the opening credits.  It's a cover but a good one.

Extras

The package I reviewed contained audio commentary on the main feature disc along with a second disc that has over four hours of featurettes, interviews and other behind-the-scenes material.  It's one of the most complete bonus feature discs I've ever seen.  Also included are a DVD copy and a digital copy code to download the film from Ultraviolet cloud service.