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Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - March, 2013

ARTICLE INDEX

"Wreck-It Ralph 3D" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

movie-march-2013-ralph3D

Synopsis

Wreck-It Ralph has spent 30 years playing the bad guy in the classic video game Fix-It Felix.  The other game characters don't like him and he's relegated to live in a garbage dump.  Even his group therapy sessions don't seem to help.  While on a quest to win the favor of his in-game colleagues, he gets mixed up in another game's action causing chaos and mayhem for the world of Sugar Rush.  King Candy is trying to rid his game of the glitch, Vanellope, before she causes his world to be unplugged.  Ralph tries to help her and discovers the real reason why she is an outcast.  To save her and all the games in the arcade, he must make a tremendous sacrifice.  Their fate is literally in his abnormally large hands!

Specifications

  • Disney
  • 2012, Color, Rated PG, 1 Hr 41 mins
  • 1080p
  • Codec: MPEG-4 MVC
  • English, DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1
  • Starring the voices of: John C. Reilly, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch
  • Directed by: Rich Moore
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

If you grew up playing arcade games like I did, you will love this movie.  It reminded me of Toy Story in that all the characters have lives of their own after the arcade closes.  But it was also completely original in its plot.  The basic premise seems to be, "no matter how bad you think you have it, someone else has it worse."  In solving the mystery, Ralph learns a lot about himself and how he fits into the world behind the game screen.

The world created by producer John Lasseter and director Rich Moore is a rich one.  The video game characters really do come to life and take on just the personalities you'd expect.  The use of color and sound, along with some superb voice-acting takes production quality to the highest level.  While it's not quite as thought-provoking as Wall-E, Wreck-It Ralph is right up there with the best animated films.

Technical

This commentary refers to the 3D version of the movie.  The effect was extremely well-done with a nice balance of color and texture.  The 3D never becomes too much and thankfully there aren't many in-your-face moments.  The image is perfectly sharp and detailed with deep contrast and bright, vibrant color.  There isn't much dark material but what little there is looks rich and detailed.  The world of Sugar Rush is guaranteed to make you crave sweets!

Disney includes a 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio encode which is super-clean and filled with great surround-sound moments.  The sound stage envelops and immerses from beginning to end with a feeling that make your room melt away.  There are some low-frequency bits but not as many as there could have been.  And I felt the overall mix was a little polite.  There is plenty of dynamic range but I found myself wanting more.  The action scenes, which are frequent, just didn't have the maximum impact I was expecting.

Extras

Bonus features are a little thin given this package's high price tag.  There is only one 17-minute featurette that actually relates to the film.  The rest are trailers and promotional material.  There are 14 minutes of deleted scenes.  The package I received included 2D and 3D Blu-rays, a DVD, and a digital copy.


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

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Synopsis

In 1979, the Shah of Iran has fallen and fled to the USA for asylum while the Ayatolah has taken over ruling Iran.  Every day there are protests outside of the United States Embassy, calling for the return of the Shah to face trial, until finally the protesters decide to breach the wall and storm the buildings.  While almost everyone is taken hostage, a group of six employees manages to escape the building and seeks refuge in the home of the Canadian Ambassador.

Tasked to rescue them from Tehran is CIA operative Tony Mendez.  Dismissing ideas like bicycling 300 miles to the border through the mountains, he comes up with the idea of shooting a fake movie in Iran.  Armed with a script, a fake office, and fake press coverage, he sets out to make a daring rescue that could easily cost him his life.

Specifications

  • Warner Brothers
  • 2012, Color, Rated R, 2 Hours
  • 1080p
  • Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
  • English, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Starring: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin
  • Directed by: Ben Affleck
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

The winner of Best Picture for 2012, Argo is a wonderfully suspenseful film, even if you go in knowing exactly how it turns out.  The movie picks up fast, and never really stops moving along at all.  All the actors, even Ben Affleck, do a really good job in their roles.  From the costumes down to the settings and the decor, everything brings out the feeling of the late 1970's and really pulls you into the movie, making it feel like the actual event.  A decade ago, I don't think anyone would have picked Ben Affleck as someone that would be one of the better directors working today, but he has done a fantastic job with Argo and made a deserving winner.

Technical

Overall Argo looks fantastic on Bu-ray.  Most shots are superb and incredibly sharp, with loads of detail that comes through.  A few shots fall just short of this, so it's not perfect, but it really doesn't distract at all and makes for a wonderful image.  The soundtrack is much better than I expected, with very good use of the surrounds to build ambience and bring you right into the action.  The opening raid on the embassy has wonderful use of the surrounds and subwoofer, and later scenes continue this.  A really great transfer for a great film.

Extras

Director's Commentary (Ben Affleck is great on commentary), PIP Commentary, and multiple Featurettes, as well as a DVD and a Digital Copy.


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

movie-march-2013-deadfall

Synopsis

Eric Bana and Olivia Wilde play a brother and sister team who have just pulled off a casino robbery when they  suddenly crash their getaway car during their attempted flight to Canada.  The crash forces Bana's character to murder a police officer who stops to help them from the wreckage.  So the siblings split up with the plan to convene at their parents' home on the Canadian border.  They plan to cross over together from there.  The story follows each of them on their bloody, sexy and bizarre trek across the wintry Michigan countryside.  This all culminates in a very eventful reunion at their parents' cabin.

 

Specifications

  • Magnolia Home Entertainment
  • 2012, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 35 mins
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master
  • Starring: Eric Bana, Olivia Wilde, Charlie Hunnam, Kate Mara, Treat Williams, Kris Kristofferson and Sissy Spacek
  • Directed by: Stefan Ruzowitzky
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

I have really liked many of the films coming from Magnolia lately.  Not all of them, mind you but many of them.  And when I find a Magnolia film that I like, I tend to really like it a lot.  Plus this movie is very well cast.  The headliners are great actors but look also at the list of veterans who showed up for this one - Kris Kristofferson, Sissy Spacek and Treat Williams.  I really enjoyed this aspect of the movie's production.  So I was very excited to watch Deadfall.  The movie proved to have some genuinely gripping moments particularly in the climatic episode at the parents' cabin.  I also enjoyed the snowmobile chase scene.  But the movie was ultimately not much more than a trite diversion and my final recommendation is to rent this one if you enjoy a good action thriller.

Technical

During the screening of this movie, I thought the image quality was very good.  Deep blacks, a stylish color palette and what appeared to be significant resolution and detail.  But I was a little bothered by the soft presentation and right after I finished this movie, I watched the Blu-ray of another "Fall" movie (Skyfall).  The difference in image quality was striking with Skyfall besting Deadfall on pretty much every critical point .  It really brought into "focus" the shortcomings of the picture quality on the Deadfall Blu-ray.  

The audio was much better than the picture.  The car crash in the opening scene could be used as an audio demo to show off any surround system.  The surround channels carry the environmental effects with decent envelopment.  Dialogue is clear, natural and easy to understand. 

Extras

This is a single disc package but with a reasonably healthy suite of extras - Snow & Western (featurette in HD about filming in cold weather), Family (featurette in HD about the American idyllic family ethos), Production Interviews with Eric Bana, Olivia Wilde and director Stefan Ruzowitzky, Extended Interview with Stefan Ruzowitzky, Behind the Scenes Footage, AXS TV: A Look at Deadfall and the Theatrical Trailer.


"Best in Show" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

movie-march-2013-best-in-show

Synopsis

Following multiple competitors in the Mayflower Dog Show, held annually in Philadelphia.  Making the trip to the event and Gerry and Cookie Fleck from Florida, who have a Norwich Terrier they dote on while continually running into ex-boyfriends of Cookie while on the road.  Meg and Hamilton Swan are corporate attorneys with a weimaraner who is lovely, but seems to be ill at ease thanks to their continual fighting and bickering.  Harlan Pepper runs a fishing shop down in North Carolina, but also raises bloodhounds and has made the trip with Hubert to attempt to win this year.  These people, and many more, will stop at nothing and seemingly lose touch with reality in their attempt to claim Best in Show.  

Specifications

  • Warner Brothers
  • 2000, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hour, 30 Minutes
  • 1080p
  • Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
  • English, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Starring: Eugene Levy, Fred Willard, Parker Posey
  • Directed by: Christopher Guest
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: Discussions
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

I’ve really tried to like the mockumentary films.  I really enjoy The Office on television, but even after trying to watch This Is Spinal Tap, Waiting for Guffman, and Best in Show multiple times, the film concept just leaves me bored.  I can see where people will find it funny, but overall I just find it to be a drag.  I did highly enjoy Fred Willard’s turn as the idiotic sports broadcaster that is providing absolutely inane color commentary about the dog show, as his character is far too close to actual sports announcers.  On the whole, however, I just did not enjoy the film at all, but I think it’s that I just don’t like the style of film.

Technical

Best in Show was originally shot on 16mm in normal lighting, so it isn’t a wonderful source material to begin with.  You certainly won’t be bringing this out to show off your home theater, as fine detail is lacking and black levels get pretty muddled at times.  Colors are nice and natural, and they didn’t go crazy with edge enhancement or anything really bad, but it just is a bit of a soft looking film.

The soundtrack itself is also very laid back.  There’s very little use of the surrounds, as it is mostly a dialogue focused film.  Ambience is lacking for the most part, perhaps in keeping with the documentary style, but dialogue is typically fairly clear.  It’s very serviceable, but they also don’t take advantage of what they could with a 5.1 discrete track.

Extras

There is commentary from the director and Eugene Levy, as well as countless deleted scenes, and the trailer.


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

movies-March-2013-Terminator

Synopsis

In this newly remastered film, Arnold Schwarzenegger stars as the most fierce and relentless killing machine ever to threaten the survival of mankind! An indestructible cyborg - a Terminator (Schwarzenegger) - is sent back in time to kill Sarah Connor (Hamilton), the woman whose unborn son will become humanity's only hope in a future war against machines.

Specifications

  • MGM Video
  • 2013 release , Color, Rated R, 1 Hour, 48 Minutes
  • 1080p/ Ratio: 1.85.1
  • Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
  • English & others, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Biehn, Linda Hamilton
  • Directed by: James Cameron
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

The one and only "original" film that would later spawn 1 pre-quel and 2 sequels (it’s that time travel thingy, people), returns for the umpteenth iteration. But wait! This blu-ray release is more than just an, “I’ll be back” version. No Sci-Fi fan should go without this movie in their collection, and if you are like me, you have had this in VHS, VD, DVD and Blu-ray. The story holds up well and still never fails to excite the viewer. It also rewards us with some of Arnold’s best one-liners. Why is this release such a big deal? Read on…

Technical

The film has been re-mastered (thank the HD gods!) and I am going to go out on a limb and say that this is the sharpest, cleanest and most esquisitely detailed version I have ever seen.  All of the grit and filth have been removed from the print and damaged frames have been restored. Most scenes reveal excellent contrast and depth of field. Colors are well saturated and look life-like. Amazing details reveal skin pores, sweat, texture and some gosh awful make-up scars. Gone are the reddish skin tones. Film grain is present with almost no sign of digital scrubbing. The color timing has been changed a bit and leans towards teal, but I never found it to be distracting. The sound is very active in all 5 channels with bullets and lasers zipping around your head. In fact, the sound is almost too lively. When Sarah walks into the kitchen you can hear things going on in all the channels at once, almost to distraction. Dialog is clearly centered and intelligible. Still no mono track, but really, who cares?

Bottom line: Yes, yet another release of an iconic film. Should you upgrade? Only if you really want to own this movie in what is its best picture and sound quality to date (and considering the low budget, they have made this one look as good as the original stock will permit). This is the version you have been waiting for.

Extras

Same as all the prior versions: 7 Deleted Scenes, Creating The Terminator: Visual Effects & Music, Terminator: A Retrospective


"Twilight: Breaking Dawn, Part 2" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

movie-march-2013-twilight-breaking-dawn-part-2

Synopsis

Bella has just completed her transformation from human to vampire, finally joining the Cullen clan for good.  She also discovers that Jacob has imprinted upon her and Edward’s daughter, making her keenly aware of what is going on in their clan as well.  As their daughter ages at a very rapid pace, they are unsure what will happen to her until they are spotted by an angry Irina.  Irina believes their daughter to be a child vampire, and not a half-human, half-vampire, which is strictly forbidden, and runs off to alert the Volturi.

As the Volturi prepare to destroy the child, as child vampires cannot be trained and will destroy a whole village at a time, Bella and Edward try to gather as much support to help protect their daughter as they can.  All of this sets the stage for a final battle between the Cullens and the Volturi over Renesmee.

Specifications

  • Summit Entertainment
  • 2012, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hour, 55 Minutes
  • 1080p
  • Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
  • English, DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1
  • Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson
  • Directed by: Bill Condon
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: No

Commentary

As a mid-30’s man, I’m certainly not the target audience for Twilight.  That said, my wife highly enjoys it and has read all the books multiple times, as well as seen each movie many times.  Sitting down to watch these I was surprised that they were decent, and much better than I expected them to be.  Perhaps a bit too much with green-screen effects that don’t look that great, and acting that certainly won’t win awards, but for escapist entertainment they certainly fit the bill.  If you’re in the target demographic, you’re probably going to wind up really enjoying them, and if you’re watching along with your significant other as they enjoy it, you’ll probably find yourself far more entertained than you expected to be.

Technical

There seemed to be a bit of edge enhancement that was visible as halos in the scenes set against the stark white backgrounds, but otherwise this transfer was very good.  Shadow details, of which there are many, are always there and look quite good.  Detail is superb, and the transfer is good enough that all the special effects issues are visible for you to see.  A really, really nice transfer overall.

I’ve got almost nothing bad at all to say about the sound either.  The surround effects are seamless during the climactic battle, though the subwoofer could be a bit more aggressive sometimes.  If you’re watching this with your wife, unlike a romantic comedy you aren’t going to be left down by the video and audio, as they are really superb.

Extras

Making-Of Documentary, Music Videos, Directors Commentary, and Featurettes.


“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Stephen Hornbrook

movie-march-2013-the-hobbit

Synopsis

Before The Lord of the Rings there was The Hobbit, an extraordinary tale about Bilbo Baggins.  The epic Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor was taken over by an extremely dangerous dragon, Smaug.  A group of Dwarves led by King Thorin stops by the Shire for an extra member for their quest.  Suggested by Gandalf the Grey, Bilbo has been requested to join their journey to reclaim Erebor.  Along their journey to the east, the group of heroes face many dangers such as goblins and orcs.  The climax of An Unexpected Journey occurs in the goblin caverns where Bilbo meets Gollum and finds the ring.

 

Specifications

  • New Line Cinema
  • 2012, Color, rated: PG-13, 2 hours 49 Minutes
  • 1080p
  • Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
  • English, DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1
  • Starring: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage
  • Directed by: Peter Jackson
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Fantastical
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

After a lukewarm response from fans and press, my expectations for the first part of The Hobbit were less than optimal.  I do not understand why Peter Jackson felt the need to split this story into 3 long movies, other than to feed his own personal obsession.  I am fairly certain once all three movies are out that a perfect edit down to one lengthy but concise movie would be ideal.  Of course, Jackson will never do this.  There was a lot of fluff in An Unexpected Journey and that ruined the pacing of the movie.  As a fan of The Lord of the Rings and fantasy in general, I still enjoyed An Unexpected Journey, but it fell way short of the quality that was any of the three Lord of the Rings films.  Still, there isn’t a lot of fantasy movies to choose from, so I would still recommend watching The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

Technical

A lot of fuss was made about Jackson’s use of 48fps 3D video.  Many complained the movie’s picture quality was so sharp and clear that it revealed the fake nature of a movie.  I have to say that having missed the movie in the theaters and watching it for the first time in normal 24fps Blu-ray, that many of the scenes had a fake feel to them.  Often the use of lighting on a soundstage gave the movie a cheap feeling.  I haven’t had the chance to research why Peter Jackson chose to film this way, but it often didn’t look right to me.  I can imagine seeing in in higher frame rate would only exacerbate the issue.  Those notes aside, the image quality on the blu-ray is stunning with some of the best image detail I have ever seen on Blu-ray.

The 7.1 DTS-HD MA audio track is solid, but not as impressive as the mixes on The Lord of the Rings movies.  There wasn’t as much bone crunching bass in this one and use of the extra center surround channel could have been more aggressive in my opinion.

 

Extras

A short bit on New Zealand, 2 hours worth of production video blogs


“This is 40" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movies-March-2013-40

Synopsis

After years of marriage, Pete (Rudd) and Debbie (Mann) are approaching a milestone meltdown. As they try to balance romance, careers, parents and children in their own hilarious ways, they must also figure out how to enjoy the rest of their lives. This Is 40 is a candid and heartwarming comedy about the challenges and rewards of marriage and parenthood in the modern age. There are a lot of genuine laughs in This Is 40, many bordering on bad taste--but still hilarious. 

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 2012, Color, rated: R, 2 hours 14 Minutes
  • 1080p
  • Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
  • English, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Starring: Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, John Lithgow, Megan Fox
  • Directed by: Judd Aptow
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

Even though I slept through my mid-life crisis, I still found some of the situations and conflicts in this flick to hit close enough to home to make me chuckle nervously. The chemistry between Rudd and Mann is great to watch. Some of the scenes require that they be very comfortable with each other, if you catch my drift. The humor ranges from amusing to down right crude and raunchy. Albert Brooks and John Lithgow round out a cast that makes this film a fun watch. And who knew? Megan Fox looks fine in a bikini. My biggest complaint is that at over 2 hours, it could have been slimmed down a bit. There is a lot of bickering going on within the family which could have been reduced and still maintained the essential humor. Remember, there is a reason this movie is rated R, so no kids allowed!

Technical

The sound and picture were fine, but nothing stellar. I’m getting used to seeing films done on Epic RED, so I expect more details to pop. Having a “fine” picture quality in the age of BD is a bit of a downer. It's just that the picture quality is nondescript. Still, no digital artifacts or loss of detail was noticed in the darker scenes. Sound is clear, with some lively soundtrack music. Did I mention a few live performances from Graham Parker (remember the 80's?)? If you don’t know of him…you are obviously not old enough to be going through a mid-life crisis!

Extras

Deleted scenes, Commentary with Judd Aptow, Graham Parker and The Rumor play some music and a gag reel. There are also several extras in the HD format.


"Twilight: Breaking Dawn, Part 1, Extended Edition" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

movie-march-2013-twilight-breaking-dawn-part-1-extended

Synopsis

Bella and Edward are finally ready to be married.  After their wedding they head for a honeymoon on a private island they own off of Brazil.  While there, Bella manages to become pregnant with a vampire child, something they didn’t believe could happen.  After their return to Forks, Bella must try to protect her child while also trying to survive it as it attempts to destroy her from the inside.

 

Specifications

  • Summit Entertainment
  • 2011, Color, Not Rated, 2 Hours, 4 Minutes
  • 1080p
  • Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
  • English, DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1
  • Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson
  • Directed by: Bill Condon
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: No

Commentary

Watching Part 2 first, the Twilight series was better than I had expected it to be.  There was more action, and less focus on silly romantic angles.  Apparently all of that was covered in Part 1, which features a wedding, angry jilted lovers, a pregnancy, and far more to appeal to women far more than men.  My wife still loves it, but as a guy, I’d much rather watch Part 2 than this one.

Technical

Other than a slight bit of shadow crush in a few scenes, the transfer for Twilight is very good.  Images are full of detail, colors are great, and it’s a fantastic looking film on the whole.  The soundtrack has no such issues, as finding a flaw it in was pretty much impossible for me to do.  Dialogue is clear and detailed, surrounds are used effectively, and the sense of ambience is very well done.  On the whole it is a fantastic transfer.

Extras

Directors Commentary is here, but all of the supplements from the non-Extended Edition are missing.


 "Killing Them Softly" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

movie-march-2013-killing

Synopsis

Three amateur crooks decide to rob a mob-protected poker game.  They think they can frame another mobster for the heist and get away with $50,000.  Enforcer Jackie (Pitt) is brought in to clean up the situation.  He has a policy of never killing anyone who knows him so he hires associate Mickey (James Gandolfini) to help out.  Mickey shows up and proceeds to drink himself into oblivion so Jackie is on his own.  Moving with the stealth of a professional, he takes out the robbers one by one.  His final challenge?  Getting paid the agreed amount!

Specifications

  • Anchor Bay Entertainment
  • 2012, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr, 38 mins
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Starring: Brad Pitt, Ray Liotta, Richard Jenkins
  • Directed by: Andrew Dominik
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Extrene
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Extreme

Commentary

This film is all about gritty realism.  Shot in a cinéma vérité style, it focuses almost exclusively on conversations between two and occasionally three people.  The violence is extreme but only plays a small role.  The assassination scenes are done in super-slo-mo where you can see the bullets hitting their targets, the spent shell flying from the breach, and blood spattering everywhere.  To call it intense would be an understatement.  It’s obvious the film-makers want to provoke an emotional reaction and they succeeded wholeheartedly.  I had to follow my viewing with something positive just to bring myself out of the funk this movie put me in!  It is certainly well-made and for fans of realistic crime drama, it’s a must-own.

Technical

The image is as sharp and detailed as it should be given the subject matter.  This is not a movie to be given in a super-clean digital presentation.  There is exactly the right amount of film grain and color is muted just enough to create the atmosphere you’d expect in the criminal underworld.  The transfer is true to the original with no added edge enhancement or other distracting artifacts.

Audio is done with a strong sense of minimalism.  Music is used sparsely and never during dialog; which by the way is superbly clear and balanced.  Since nearly all scenes contain only conversation, the mixing of this crucial element is key to the film’s success.  It’s extremely well-done.  Voices come from the correct part of the screen and you’ll never have trouble discerning even the smallest details.  Ambient sound effects are also mixed well and add to the movie’s feel just as they should.

Extras

Bonus features are fairly thin and include only a making-of featurette and deleted scenes.


"Zero Dark Thirty" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

movie-march-2013-zero-dark-thirty

Synopsis

After 9/11, the CIA is desperately searching for information about Osama bin Laden and anything that will help to prevent another terrorist attack.  Maya is a young CIA officer, recently out of high school, who is helping in the search.  From interrogating prisoners to listening in on phone calls, the search for information is continuous and often fruitless.  Leads turn into dead ends, informants lie, and she and her fellow US citizens are constantly under the threat of attack while in Pakistan.

As she continues her investigation, things only get harder after public pressure forces them to clamp down how they handle interrogations, making the search for information harder than ever.  Friends, and herself, are attacked by militants, but her determination keeps her looking down the path for anything to lead her to Osama bin Laden.  Her continual searching leads her to someone that he believes might be able to help lead them there, but only if she can determine his true identity, and if he is alive or dead.

Specifications

  • Sony Pictures
  • 2012, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr, 37 Min
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Starring: Jessica Chastain, Kyle Chandler, Jason Clarke
  • Directed by: Kathryn Bigelow
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Graphic
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

The last movie from Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker, also focused on the US military in the Middle East, and was one of the most intense movies that I have ever watched.  Zero Dark Thirty is a bit more procedural and analytical than that film, but is still a riveting adventure.  Though we all know how it winds up, the process of getting there is one that takes a bit to get going, but becomes completely enthralling, giving you the all-encompassing feeling of taking over your life as it does for Maya.

Much has been made of the use of torture in the movie and the impact that might have, and the torture in there was far more overt than I expected it to be.  The first third of the film is almost dominated by scenes of it, showing the use of various techniques to extract information, though the usefulness of it isn’t really certain in the end.  I have no idea how accurate or inaccurate it is in its portrayal, but it certain is in there quite a bit.  The raid at the end on the bin Laden compound is incredibly tense and well executed, giving me a far better feeling for how that raid likely went down than I had from reading accounts of it after it happened.

Despite knowing exactly what was going to happen inside, the whole part is incredibly tense, and totally enthralling.  Zero Dark Thirty is a wonderful film, and one I’ll probably want to watch again sometime soon.

Technical

Beyond being a great film, Zero Dark Thirty is possibly the best looking disc I’ve ever watched at home.  Detail is just simply stunning, and fine hairs and everything else there to see, and not an issue I can find.  I found myself continually amazed at how great the picture looked, and it is certainly going to be the disc I turn to now to demo my home theater or for reviews.

The sound is also top notch.  From the ambient effects in a crowded market, to the concussive sound waves of a car bomb that is detonated, everything here is perfect.  Dialogue is clear and audible, and there is really nothing to fault here at all.  Tron Legacy might have a bit more bass for showing off your subwoofers in a demo, but Zero Dark Thirty has an audio track that will show off everything your home theater can do.

Extras

Four small featurettes as well as DVD and UltraViolet Copies.


 "Les Miserables" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Clements

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Synopsis

This story is set in 19th Century France soon after the French Revolution and follows the life of Jean Valjean (Jackman), a paroled prisoner who is under the very close scrutiny of Inspector Javert (Crowe).  Valjean is able to break loose from his lifelong parole with the help of a very kind priest.  Valjean  later becomes mayor of Montreuil-sur-Mer.  Inspector Javert eventually identifies Valjean when he sees Valjean perform a feat of great strength.  From this point, the plot roils with interconnecting story lines formed among an ostracized factory worker Fantine (Hatahaway), her daughter Cossette (Seyfried) and many other players by way of love, war and thievery.

 

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 2012, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 38 mins
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English 7.1 DTS-HD Master
  • Starring: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway , Amanda Seyfried, Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter
  • Directed by: Tom Hooper
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

This classic is an intricate and sweeping tale that will live on well into the future.  Is this the definitive film version?  I think the answer to this question is both "yes" and "no".  Yes in that it is the best film version I have seen to date.  No in that at some point in time, a better version is bound to come along.  But I won't begrudge this movie its eight Academy Award nominations and three wins.  These are well earned and appropriate in my opinion.  Anne Hathaway really amazed me with her performance and the feeling she put into her role.  Furthermore, I think live singing on the set is a stroke of genius.  I quickly lose interest in musicals that are lip synched/over dubbed.  But not with Hooper's Les Mis.  I stayed riveted to the set the entire 2-1/2 hours.  Not every Hollywood actor is a world class Broadway singer and this is the biggest downside of the movie but it also gives the film a down home, rough-hewed feel over many other musicals.  All in all, I highly recommend this Blu-ray for the story, the performances and the technical accomplishments that show up on the screen and in the sound.

Technical

The picture quality on this disc is near reference quality.  It is obviously mastered at a high bit rate because the picture holds up fine details despite the prevalent very dark scenes.  Because of the excellent shadow details and the surprising impact of the resultant image, this is now one of my all time favorite transfers of a dark movie. This masterful transfer shows off the elaborate sets, makeup and costumes.  

The audio is first rate through and through.  Voice intelligibility is excellent from the softest whisper to the loudest crescendo.  The special effects are clean and impactful, including the full and deep bass.  The surround activity is excellent and extraordinarily compelling as well.

Extras

This is a two disc set with a Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy and Ultraviolet Streaming code.  Special features include The West End Connection, Les Miserables on Location, Battle at the Barricade, Les Miserables Singing Live, The Stars of Les Miserables, Creating the Perfect Paris, The Original Masterwork: Victor Hugo's Les Miserables and Feature Commentary by Director Tom Hooper.