Articles

Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - November, 2012

ARTICLE INDEX

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

Goldeneye (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

The Cold War may be over but there are still Russian hardliners who want to dominate the West. Enter Alec Trevelyan and General Ourumov who hatch a plot to use a Soviet attack satellite to wipe out all electronic commerce in England and make off with a fortune. 007 must stop them before the United Kingdom is returned to the Stone Age. Helping him is computer analyst Natalya Simonova who survives an attack by the GoldenEye satellite in Siberia and barely makes it out alive. After several narrow escapes, Bond and Simonova pursue the conspirators to Cuba where he faces a final showdown with not only Trevelyan but the twisted female assassin Xenia Onatopp. As usual, the world hangs in the balance and Bond only has seconds to prevent disaster!

Specifications

  • MGM
  • 1995, Color, rated PG-13, 2 Hrs 10 mins
  • Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Sean Bean and Izabella Scorupco
  • Directed by Martin Campbell
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: No

Commentary

This was Pierce Brosnan's first appearance as James Bond, and GoldenEye is still my favorite of the 22 films. I've enjoyed all the actors that played 007 but Brosnan strikes a perfect balance of machismo, humor, and seriousness. The opening sequence is one of the most memorable as he sneaks into a Russian base via an unbelievable bungee jump off a dam, blows everything up, and flies away unscathed. GoldenEye, in my opinion, marked a new era of Bond movies with a little darker feel and a little harder edge. All the usual elements are there of course; the women, the action, the save-the-world plot lines, the cool spy gadgets. It just feels a little more real than the movies from the 60s, 70s and 80s which seemed a little more fantasy-like.

Technical

The DVD release of GoldenEye was one of the weaker ones in the Lowry Digital restoration collection and this Blu-ray sports a weak transfer as well. Color is probably the best facet being vibrant and saturated without becoming unnatural. Contrast is good, but there is frequent black level crush. My main beef is the prominent grain and overall smeared look to the film. And there is occasional edge enhancement which only highlights other flaws. I'd love to see a proper digital scrubbing job done here because if this is the best print available, it sure needs some TLC.

Audio is much-improved over the DVD thanks to a lossless encode but, still retains the dry ambience of the original Dolby Digital soundtrack. Loud sounds like explosions and car crashes are very sibilant and lacking in any real depth. There was no attempt made to add reverb or other dimensional cues that might have expanded the soundstage. Dialog is always crisp and the music sounded great. The Tina Turner rendition of the title song took on a whole new life on this Blu-ray.

Extras

There are almost three hours of bonus features including director commentary, deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes featurettes, a 45-minute TV documentary that covers the entire franchise, a Tina Turner music video, and a collection of trailers and TV commercials.


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

Octopussy (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

When Agent 009 turns up dead with a Faberge egg in his hand, James Bond is assigned to solve the mystery. He follows the egg to auction where Kamal Khan, a mysterious prince, buys the egg at an outlandish price. 007 follows the trail to India where he discovers an elaborate plot to smuggle priceless Russian artifacts to the West. The smuggler is Octopussy, an exotic woman who lives on an island with her band of beautiful and athletic ladies. In addition to smuggling, she runs a traveling circus. This circus is to be the cover for the operation but it turns out Russian hardliner General Orlov wants to smuggle a nuclear bomb into a US Air Force base in Germany to start World War III. Bond only has moments to discover the whereabouts of the bomb and diffuse it before thousands of innocent civilians are killed.

Specifications

  • MGM
  • 1983, Color, rated PG, 2 Hrs 11 mins
  • Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Starring: Roger Moore, Maud Adams and Louis Jourdan
  • Directed by John Glen
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: No

Commentary

Roger Moore is many peoples' least favorite James Bond, but I've always been a fan. He is the most humorous of them all with his excellent comic timing and witty repartee. The opening sequence is another memorable one with his narrow escape in a tiny jet plane. Who would see this movie and not want one in their garage? One of the top five classic moments is when he taxis the plane up to a gas station and says, "Fill 'er up please!" Maud Adams and Kristina Wayborn perform admirably as the two Bond girls. They fit right in to the exotic locations in and around Delhi, India; where most of the movie was filmed. Louis Jourdan is particularly delicious as one of the bad guys. His calm demeanor masks some serious evil. And he makes a perfect counterpoint to General Orlov's over-the-top rage and lust for power.

Technical

This is one of the better transfers among the vintage Bond films. It's obvious a very clean, high-quality print was used. Color is rich and saturated throughout. Contrast is excellent with only the occasional hint of black crush. My only complaint is the use of edge enhancement. While not pervasive, it is obvious in most outdoor sequences. I'm still mystified as to why this still persists in the modern era of excellent flat panel and front projection displays. It does nothing to improve picture quality and only creates annoying and distracting artifacts. Without this, Octopussy would have been a reference-level Blu-ray.

Audio was reasonably crisp and detailed but lacking in depth. Like other vintage-era Bond Blu-rays, there is an obvious dryness to the overall presentation. Not only is the dynamic range limited, so is the frequency range. There is very little use of the sub although the surround effects are done quite well. The music is also well done thanks to the lossless encode and Rita Coolidge's famous performance of "An All-Time High" during the opening credits.

Extras

Bonus features are quite extensive with audio commentary from director John Glen and Sir Roger Moore; nine making-of featurettes, a music video, trailers, storyboard sequences and a photo gallery.


 "Diamonds Are Forever" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

Diamonds Are Forever (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

When MI6 gets wind of an international diamond smuggling operation, 007 is called in to investigate. He takes on the identity of one of the smugglers and goes undercover with Tiffany Case so he can follow the diamonds to their final destination. His travels take him to Las Vegas and the home of the reclusive Willard Whyte, the wealthy owner of a major casino and hotel. It turns out White has been kidnapped and his arch-enemy, Ernst Blofeld is actually behind the diamond thefts. He has appropriated one of White's satellites so he can outfit it with a high-powered laser capable of destroying land-based targets from orbit. With Tiffany's help, he infiltrates Blofelds secret lair on an ocean-based oil platform and destroys the satellite only seconds before disaster strikes.

Specifications

  • MGM
  • 1971, Color, rated PG, 2 Hrs
  • Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Starring: Sean Connery, Jill St. John, Charles Gray
  • Directed by Guy Hamilton
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: No

Commentary

Sean Connery was definitely the most suave and debonair Bond of all. His class and elegance were unmatched by those who came after. Diamonds Are Forever is a perfect example of Connery at his best. Classic Bond fans will find everything they're looking for in this film; the car (in this case a very nice Mustang Mach I), the gadgets, the women, the exotic locations (OK maybe Las Vegas isn't quite as exotic as India, but it's pretty cool nonetheless!). The plot is classic too; the villain even wears the gray high-collar coat in every scene! Jimmy Dean (yes, the sausage guy), who was better known as a pioneering country singer, is especially entertaining as Willard Whyte. One fascinating bit of trivia I discovered; Lana Wood, who plays Bond girl Plenty O'Toole, is Natalie Wood's younger sister and is still working to this day.

Technical

This is an excellent transfer of a vintage film. I love the Hollywood color palette of old (natural all the way) and this disc preserves it beautifully. Detail is on par with modern films in not only close-up shots but wide outdoor scenes as well. Contrast is very broad with a terrific pop to the image. The portrayal of Las Vegas is suitably hot and arid with just the right amount of dust floating in the air. There is no sign of edge enhancement and the print is exceptionally clean. Among older movies, this Blu-ray is reference quality.

Audio quality is about as good as it gets for a film originally mixed in stereo. Some surround effects are present though most of the action takes place in the front sound stage which is nice and wide. The sub is used sparingly but does make itself known on occasion. The music gets the biggest boost in quality and John Barry's score has never sounded better. And fans get to enjoy Shirley Bassey a second time in the opening credits after her stellar performance in Goldfinger.

Extras

Bonus features are a little lighter than some other discs in this re-issue set; totaling about two hours. There are two making-of documentaries of decent length plus several shorter clips of around three to five minutes each. Also included are trailers, TV spots, and a photo gallery. The main missing element is the audio commentary included with most of the other Bond Blu-rays.

 


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

movie-november-2012-campaign

Synopsis

Long term congressman Cam Brady (Will Ferrell) has been running unopposed and untested for 4 terms until newcomer Marty Huggins is convinced by big money to run against him. The Motch’s run a large business and look to pull the strings of a weak-minded puppet in order to get what they want from the government.  They discover Marty Huggins, a dim-witted schmuck, and place a slick and sleazy campaign manager Tim Wattley (Dylan McDermott) in charge of shaping up Marty’s appearance.  At first it looks hopeless against the well known Cam Brady, but after a couple of embarrassing flubs, including leaving a lewd message to a mistress on a conservative family’s answering machine, things start to look in favor of newcomer Marty.

Specifications

  • Warner Bros.
  • 2012, Color, rated R, 1 Hr 36 Min
  • Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Starring: Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis, Jason Sudeikis
  • Directed by Jay Roach
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: Brief Nudity
  • Language: Crude and offensive

Commentary

The commercials made The Campaign look very straightforward and predictable, leaving me with little desire to see it. It’s only saving grace was director Jay Roach and stars Ferrell and Galifianakis.  I can report that I was pleasantly surprised by this film.  There are some moments during this movie that I found hilarious, but, then again, I am a fan of crude humor.  Ferrell and Galifianakis make a great pair and do their characters justice.  The story was nothing special but it kept things moving and my wife and I plenty entertained.  More than worth a rent!

Technical

Holy pristine picture quality. I was not expecting that out of a run-of-the-mill comedy.  The detail and crispness of the transfer on The Campaign is incredible.  I was curious what camera was used to shoot the film, but I could not locate any information.

The audio track is good, but no where near as impressive as the picture on this disc.

Extras

Very little in the way of extras here. Some Deleted scenes and a subpar gag reel.


 “Sweet Home Alabama" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

Movies-Nov-2012-Alabama2

Synopsis

This delightfully entertaining romantic comedy stars Witherspoon as sophisticated Melanie Carmichael, a rising New York clothing designer who suddenly finds herself engaged to the city's most eligible bachelor. But this is no fairy tale romance for Melanie. She has skeletons in her fashion-filled closet that include Jake -- the backwoods husband she married in high school who refuses to divorce her. Determined to end their marriage and sever all ties with her past once and for all, Melanie returns to Alabama. But home starts to tug at her heartstrings, and what she thought she wanted may not be what she wants at all.

Specifications

  • Touchstone Home Entertainment
  • 2012, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 39 Min
  • Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Josh Lucas, Patrick Dempsey, Candice Bergen
  • Directed by Andy Tennant
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

As a paint-by-numbers romantic comedy, I found it enjoyable to watch for the most part. The plot moves right along to the inevitable conclusion, but along the way Witherspoon and Lucas give credible, thoughtful performances. The movie does tug on the heart and make you wonder “what if?’ had you left your home town behind…or, if you had stayed for that matter! Anyway, it is romantic without being too sappy. Watch it with the one you love. This is the ten year anniversary edition...and it still holds up well over all this time.

Technical

The picture and sound quality on this film are both quite good. Contrasts are excellent and colors are both natural and solid. I saw no noticeable aliasing or digital artifacts. Details abound and the night scenes are inky without being murky. Even the soundtrack had plenty of verve. If you are a fan of Lynard Skynard…you’ll rock out!

Extras

Several deleted scenes are inluded with a commentary from the director. Also included is an alternate ending…which is horrible. Thank goodness for editors!


 “Savages" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Stephen Hornbrook

movie-november-2012-savages

Synopsis

Two friends Ben, a peaceful hippie looking to better the world, and Chon, a former Navy SEAL, develop a highly potent strain of marijuana. They both share and love the same girl, Ophelia, who gets caught up in their drug trade.  A Mexican drug cartel led by the unrelenting Elena moves in on Ben and Chon’s territory and demands they partner up.  The boys want nothing to do with them and make plans to run away to Indonesia, taking Ophelia with them.  Elena interferes with their plans when she kidnaps Ophelia, holding her as collateral until Ben and Chon give in to her demands.

Specifications

  • Universal
  • 2012, Color, rated: R/Unrated (extended), 2 hours 11 Minutes, 2 hours 22 Minutes (extended)
  • Aspect ratio: 2.39:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Starring:Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Taylor Kitsch, Blake Lively, Salma Hayek
  • Directed by Oliver Stone
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Mild
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

I went with the unrated extended cut and I believe that may have been a mistake.  There were makings of a good movie in Savages, but drawing it out was not the way to improve it.  If anything, it should have been cut down to under 2 hours. The movie has an odd feel, both in terms of style and plot, like Stone couldn’t decide if he wanted to make a dreamy love story or a gritty drug movie.  The characters were unbelievable and empty. I think the viewer was supposed to feel for Blake Lively’s character O, but she was nothing more than a spoiled California dumb blond.  I love Salma Hayek, but as an evil drug lord she was not the right choice.  I expected a lot more from veteran director Oliver Stone.  Feel free to pass on this one.

Technical

Picture quality was very good, colors were vibrant and popped off the screen and the contrast was very punchy.  However, at times it looked a bit soft.

The audio is good and certainly adds to the movie, but it wasn’t anything exceptional.  No demo scenes on this one.

Extras

Audio Commentary, 33 minute behind the scenes look


 “Secret of the Wings" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Clements

movie-november-2012-secret-of-the-wings

Synopsis

This movie is the the latest feature length Tinker Bell release from Disney Studios.  Tinker Bell lives in Pixie Hollow with all the other warm weather fairies.  To them, the Winter Woods are strictly off limits.  Then one day Tinker Bell encounters a mysterious force that draws her to enter the Winter Woods.  While there, Tinker meets Periwinkle, a frost fairy who is the only fairy who can help Tinker Bell unlock the secrets of the wings.  It turns out that Tinker and Perrywinkle are sisters separated at birth.  Then when Pixie Hollow is threatened, they join forces to see if they can save the pixie dust tree from the frost. 

Specifications

  • Disney
  • 2012, Color, Rated G, 1 Hr 15 mins
  • Aspect ratio: 1.78:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master
  • Starring:Timothy Dalton, Lucy Hale, Megan Hilty, Anjelica Huston, Lucy Liu and Mae Whitman
  • Directed by Roberts Gannaway and Peggy Holmes
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

I am giving this film three stars for entertainment which is much higher than I thought I'd rate it as the disc was sliding into the player's drawer.  Sure the plot line is banal by grown up standards.  And the story is about a fantasy world that is a major stretch for most to beleive.  Never mind all that as the movie is positive, uplifting and full of energy.  It is just pure diversionary fun.  Plus this movie reveals two important, little-known facts about fairies.  *Spoiler Alert* One thig I learned is that fairies are warm-blooded.  The other thing I learned about fairies is, despite that they can apparently get around on foot without a problem,  having broken wings is just one step short of dying.  So a fairy with broken wings is either ready for pasture or they may become King and fly around on the back of an owl. In the end, I recommend this movie for the little ones and for those who are young at heart.   

Technical

The animation of Secrets of the Wings doesn't have the hyper detailed, photo-realistic look of the animated titles that are aimed at an older audience.  This is a video that is directed toward a younger audience and the animation is more cartoonish.  That is not to say that the image is lacking detail and nuance, because it isn't.  As a matter of fact, the video transfer of this disc is first-rate.  It is colorful and detailed with fine gradations of tint and luminance.  There was no obvious ghosting with the 3D disc either.  I deducted one star for the audio because the DTS-HD Master track doesn't exploit the surrounds as a more mature offering might.  But, here again, the sound held up its end well with clear dialog and robust sound effects.  It is just right for the type of movie that it is.   

Extras

This is a four disc set with a Blu-ray, a DVD, a 3D Blu-ray and a Digital Copy disc.  Bonus content is found on the 2D Blu-ray and the DVD.  The short list of bonus features includes a 22-minute Bonus Feature titled "Pixie Hollow Games", an animated short, "Pixie Preview" and two music videos - "Great Divide" by the McClain Sisters and "Dig Down Deeper" by Zendaya.


“Brave" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Stephen Hornbrook

movie-november-2012-brave

Synopsis

A young princess, Merida, was born into a kingdom where tradition ruled first. Forced to marry one of the other clan’s sons, Merida fights to change her fate.  She is more like her father, a headstrong warrior with exceptional fighting skills, than her traditional mother.  A constant power struggle between her and her mother ends in a poor decision by Merida.  She sees an old witch and wishes that her fate be changed.

Specifications

  • Disney Pixar
  • 2012, Color, rated: PG, 1 hour 33 Minutes
  • Aspect ratio: 2.39:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English Dolby TrueHD 7.1
  • Starring:Kelly MacDonald, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson
  • Directed by Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

Many said Pixar could do no wrong and the reviews were pretty mixed for Brave, so in that sense I suppose they missed the mark with Brave.  Given the lackluster reviews, my expectations were pretty low coming into this one. While I will agree this was far from the best Pixar film, Brave still has some charm and was more entertaining than most movies I get to watch for review.  As a Boardwalk Empire fan, it was odd to hear Kelly Macdonald as the voice of Merida, but she did a good job and it wasn’t long into the movie until I forgot about her BE character, Margaret Schroeder.  Brave is a good looking movie with excellent art direction.  I love their use of Merida’s glowing red hair against complement colors. Brave is a solid movie that does take a bit of an odd twist, but if you roll with it I think you will enjoy it in the end.  Definitely worth at least a rent. Die hard Pixar fans, well you probably already bought it ;) 

Technical

As with most computer generated animation, the video transfer is perfect for Brave. Merida’s bright orange hair pops against dark gray, blue and greenish hues. Detail of the textures is great, contrast is beautiful, and there is plenty of shadow detail with no signs of compression.

The Dolby TrueHD 7.1 track is among the better I have heard recently. Great use of the extra 2 surround channels and some chest thumping bass as well.

(Comments regarding the included 3D version coming shortly)  

Extras

Audio Commentary, La Luna and Legend of Mordu - short films, Tons of Behind the Scenes material all the way down to how they generated the moss, Alternate opening, extended scenes, and more. The Legend of Mordu was a great edition to the Brave world, I am glad they took the time to make it and include it.


“Beaches" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movies-november-2012-Beaches

Synopsis

When the irrepressible C.C. Bloom (Bette Midler) and the shy and proper Hillary Whitney (Barbara Hershey) first meet under the boardwalk at the beach, all the 11-year-olds have in common is the need for a best friend. Worlds apart in lifestyle and location, their friendship ebbs and flows through a lifetime of highs and lows, career changes, marriages, jealousy, and more. From the boardwalk in Atlantic City to the beach house on the Pacific, BEACHES will remind you of the true meaning of friendship.

Specifications

  • Touchstone Pictures
  • 2012, Color, rated: R, 2 hour 3 Minutes
  • Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English DTS-HD MA 5.1
  • Starring: Bette Midler, Barbara Hershey, John Heard
  • Directed by Gary Marshall
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

O.K... Admittedly, this is a tough movie for a guy to have to sit through. Sentimental, silly, smaltzy and of course a yank-on-the-heart-string ending combined with a film that runs just a bit too long was tough for me to endure to the end. What I can say is Bette Midler has pretty good comedic chops. The rest of the players were a bit flat compared to her vivaciousness. Speaking of flat, am I alone in thinking that Midler sings slightly off key and slides into her notes? The whole movie seemed to me to be a setup just so she could belt out one of her numbers every 10 minutes or so. I know this was a BIG movie in the 90’s, but I don’t find that it has aged well over time. That said, if you are a gal and looking for something to make you cry on a Thursday night, this is a sure Bette.

Technical

Ouch! The picture quality is barely better than that of the DVD. Few details show up through the entire film. There are no textures in the clothing or hair. Skin tones appear pasty. Colors and contrasts are fine, but the whole movie is just a little too soft and fuzzy. Sound only comes out during the musical numbers and the dialog in some parts sounds a bit thin and anemic. A disappointment, to be sure. Technically, this film has been...ahem...beached.

Extras

Bloopers, commentary and theatrical trailers.


“The Amazing Spider-Man" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movies-November-2012-Spiderman

Synopsis

The Amazing Spider-Man is the story of Peter Parker (Garfield), an outcast high schooler who was abandoned by his parents as a boy, leaving him to be raised by his Uncle Ben (Sheen) and Aunt May (Field). As Peter discovers a mysterious briefcase that belonged to his father, he begins a quest to understand his parents' disappearance - leading him directly to Oscorp and the lab of Dr. Curt Connors (Ifans), his father's former partner. As Spider-Man is set on a collision course with Connors' alter-ego, The Lizard, Peter will make life-altering choices to use his powers and shape his destiny to become a hero.

Specifications

  • Sony Pictures
  • 2012, Color, rated: PG-13, 2 hour 16 Minutes
  • Aspect ratio: 2.40:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English DTS-HD MA 5.1
  • Starring:Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Martin Sheen
  • Directed by Marc Webb
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

A re-boot of the earlier series that had a lackluster finish, this Spider-Man has a new Peter Parker that is a bit darker and edgier. This, actually, makes the film all the more enjoyable. The pacing of the plot is quite good, with time to develop the characters. The “villain” this time around is not evil hearted until he morphs into a lizard monster. The biggest change in the storyline is probably the fact that Peter gets bitten by a genetically alter spider and not a radioactive one. This change was necessary in order to create the genetically altered lizard-man. Either way, it works for me. Some wonderful action in this film, too.

Technical

Very excellent picture and sound quality come with this package. Though most of the movie takes place in the sewers and at night, the contrasts and details are always very good. I saw no digital artifacts in any of the scenes and Spidey’s suit abounded in fine details and texture. Surrounds and subs get their full due here as well. Powerful and punchy sound compliments the fast action on the screen. The CGI is top-notch. I liked the texture and "feel" of the Lizard’s skin which had a nice organic design. Well done!

Extras

Lots of goodies here: Deleted scenes, commentaries, developing the video game, Oscorp archives, What is the second screen?, stunt rehearsals, image progression reels and more.


“The Expendables 2" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

movie-november-2012-expendables-2

Synopsis

Barney Ross (Sylvester Stalone) leads a group of mercenaries for hire.  Owing a favor to Mr. Church (Bruce Willis), Barney and his team must travel to Europe to attempt to recover a safe that was lost in a plane crash.  After an opposing group ambushes them to recover the same thing, Ross and his partners must now seek revenge for a member of their group while trying to keep this dangerous cargo from falling into the wrong hands.

Specifications

  • Lionsgate Films
  • 2012, Color, rated: R, 1 hour 43 Minutes
  • Aspect ratio: 2.40:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English DTS-HD MA 7.1
  • Starring: Sylvester Stalone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Bruce Willis
  • Directed by Simon West
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Extreme
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

Expendables 2 wants to walk the line between being an action film and a self-aware parody of all the prior action films the cast has made before.  Some of the plot twists are very predictable to the point of being a bit ridiculous, and unfortunately the script seems to be the last thing that was worked on.  Some of the dialogue even seems to have been dubbed over by someone other than the actor that said it.

That’s not to say that the film isn’t a decent way to spend 100 minutes and just relax.  Some of the blood seems a bit over-the-top sometimes, and there certainly isn’t much logic involved in the story, but it is full of action scenes that viewers will want to see.  Trucks and trucks of enemies seem to show up only to die seconds later while our heroes keep fighting on.  It won’t win an Oscar, but it likely won’t disappoint either.

Technical

My thoughts on the video of Expendables 2 are a bit mixed.  At times the transfer is very detailed, with many of the CGI effects being clearly visible.  However most of the scenes seem to have a bit of a soft filter applied to them.  Faces are missing some of the really clear lines and textures that usually make them stand out, and Jason Statham’s hat is dull and flat when the texture should pop from the screen.  This seems to be the intent of the filmmakers, perhaps a vanity decision of actors that are past 50 and can live without every pore of their face being clear and detailed, but because of it I won’t be pulling it out for a reference picture for my friends.

The audio leaves nothing to spare however.  It seems to be the first soundtrack that fully support DTS Neo X 11.1, but I am not equipped to play back that many channels of audio.  Most people will have to make due with a DTS-HD Master Audio track with 7.1 channels that explode all around them.  I really didn’t find anything to complain about with the audio at all, as the movie sounded fantastic.

Extras

Directors Commentary, a few featurettes, deleted scenes and a gag reel.  There is also an UltraViolet copy included to watch.


“Paranorman" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Clements

movie-november-2012-paranorman

Synopsis

Norman Babcock is a special young boy who is growing up in the mythical New England town of Blithe Hollow.  What makes Norman so special is that he can speak with ghosts.  His unique talent is a source of ridicule among the other townsfolk and he has become somethig of a loner as a result.  The town's biggest claim to fame revolves around a witch execution that took place 300 years earlier.  The local school kids reenact the execution each year in a sort of witch pageant.  It is during a rehearsal when Norman has a major premonition of scary events yet to unfold.  Now he will be called upon to use his special talents to protect the town from a 300 year old curse.

Specifications

  • Universal
  • 2012, Color, Rated PG, 1 Hr 33 mins
  • Aspect ratio: 2.40:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master
  • Starring: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Leslie Mann, Jeff Garlin and John Goodman
  • Directed by Chris Butler and Sam Fell
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

Paranorman is the product of the creative minds at Laika Entertainment who also produced films like Coraline and Corpse Bride.  On Paranorman, they have managed to create a unique world of morphed shapes, figures and colors without a single straight or square line to be found.  I was drawn in by the art direction and the stop motion animation.  The story is interesting, but it lacks the heart of Coraline or the satisfying interplay you get with  Corpse Bride.  It does come together nicely at the end and as I mention below, I will very likely use the closing scenes as demo material when I have guests over.  I personally don't think Paranorman is too scary for kids these days.  They get more scary stuff from their video games.  But Paranorman does take death in stride without much reverence.   My final opinion is that this is a strong rental recommendation or one to purchase for the true fan out there.

Technical

This is a high quality video transfer that maintains the film makers' intent to create a dark film by rendering excellent shadow detail and a picture that really pops despite the dark theme.  The colors in this movie are very unique and they take full advantage of HD's expanded color gamut.  The image also has a fine sense of depth on this 2D disc.  All in all, this is a very strong video presentation.  The audio quality is also of reference quality.  The intricate mix spreads through all channels in a natural construct.  While the climactic scene is as good as any other example of a modern day lossless surround mix and it will be one of the selections I'll pull off the shelf to demonstrate my sound system for guests.

Extras

This is the two-disc combo pack that includes the 2D Blu-ray, a DVD, a Digital Copy of the film and a code to unlock Ultraviolet Streaming.  Other Special Features include numerous featurettes "Preliminary Animatic Sequences", "Peering Through the Veil: Go Behind the Scenes To See How This Stunning Stop-Motion Animation was Created" and seven other featurettes on the making of Paranorman.  Also included is a Feature Commentary with Writer/Director Chris Butler and Director Sam Fell.