Media

Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - October, 2012

ARTICLE INDEX

"The Cabin in the Woods" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movies-Oct-2012-Cabin

Synopsis

A rambunctious group of five college friends steal away for a weekend of debauchery in an isolated country cabin, only to be attacked by horrific supernatural creatures in a night of endless terror and bloodshed. Sound familiar? Just wait. As the teens begin to exhibit standard horror movie behavior, a group of technicians in a control room are scrutinizing, and sometimes even controlling every move the terrified kids make! With their efforts continually thwarted by the all powerful eye in the sky, do they have any chance of escape?

Specifications

  • Lions Gate Studios
  • 2012, Color, Rated R, 1 hour 35 minutes
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Codec: MPEG4
  • 1080p, Dolby Digital 5.1 audio
  • Actors: Richard Jenkins, Jesse Williams, Chris Hemsworth
  • Directors: Drew Goddard
  • Writer: Joss Whedon
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence:Yes & lots of gore
  • Sex:Topless moment
  • Language:Yes

Commentary

Not your typical horror flick, even though it looks to be a rip-off of a Sam Raimi movie. Humor mixes with gore and sci-fi technology in this amalgam that includes zombies, assorted monsters and giant gods of the underworld. Right when you think you know what is going to happen next, the movie deftly turns on a dime and spins your head. Lots of blood, but also lots of humor here. I was so entertained that I wanted to watch it again the moment it was over. Who knew the end of the World could be so much fun? Highly recommend for horror buffs and people that like The Evil Dead films. See this for Halloween…while the wife takes the kids out trick-or-treating!

Technical

The picture exhibits a bit of fine film grain, but the colors and contrasts are very good. Even the dark scenes exhibit great depth and detail. Sound was DD 5.1, but it sounded very good with lots of surround usage and some very serious bass for the sub. Dialog was always clear and well tacked to the big screen. I saw no artifacts or banding.

Extras

Audio commentary with writer/director Drew Goddard and writer/producer Joss Whedon, We Are Not Who We Are: Making the Cabin in the Woods, The Secret Secret Stash: Marty's Stash, Hi, My name is Jossand I'll be your guide, Wonder-Con Q&A, An Army of Nightmares: Make-Up & Animatronic Effects, Primal Terror: Visual Effects, It's Not What You Think: The Cabin In The Woods Bonus View Mode.

 


"Indiana Jones, The Complete Adventures" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

Indiana Jones, The Complete Adventures (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

Dr. Henry Jones, Jr. aka Indiana, is on a lifelong quest – to bring the most famous and important relics of the past out of hiding and into museums.  During his adventures to all the most exotic and mysterious parts of the world, he battles the forces of evil who would possess these artifacts for their power to destroy.  His first search takes him to the Holy Land where he seeks the Ark of the Covenant.  Only the Nazis want it as well for its enormous power.  His next adventure takes him to India and the deadly Thuggee cult who have stolen a powerful talisman from a small village rendering it barren.  To make matters worse, all the children are kidnapped and forced into slavery or sacrificed to pagan gods.  With an unlikely sidekick, and a glamorous singer-turned-heroin, Indy rescues the children and restores prosperity to the village.

In the third installment, Indiana's father is kidnapped as he searches for the Holy Grail; the chalice used by Jesus at the Last Supper.  The Nazi's return as they too seek the Grail for its power to extend life.  Jones must rescue a father he hasn't seen in 20 years and solve the mystery of the Grail at the same time.  In the end, he is put to the ultimate test as he must decide between life and death and the importance of the Grail.

Kingdom of the Crystal Skull takes place some years later as Indiana is seemingly enjoying a well-earned retirement.  The Russians come calling however, as one of his colleagues goes missing and he meets a strange young man named Mutt.  As they go looking for their lost friend, Indy learns of the Crystal Skull and its mysterious properties.  Of course the Russians want it too and it quickly becomes a race to the finish.  Once the truth is learned, the outcome is something no one expected.

Specifications

  • Lucasfilm
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark, 1981, Color, Rated PG, 1 Hr 55 mins
  • Temple of Doom, 1984, Color, Rated PG, 1 Hr 58 mins
  • Last Crusade, 1989, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hrs 6 mins
  • Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, 2008, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hrs 2 mins
  • Aspect Ratio (all): 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Starring:  Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Kate Capshaw, Sean Connery, Shia LaBeouf
  • Directed by Steven Spielberg
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

I have looked forward to this Blu-ray release almost since the Blu-ray format first appeared in 2006.  The Indiana Jones movies are among the most iconic of adventure films and they've always been among my favorites.  I remember in 1981; the promise of a film produced by Steven Spielberg and George Lucas together.  Both men had already earned a place in cinema history with their individual works and the hype surrounding their collaboration was extreme indeed.  Fortunately, Raiders of the Lost Ark lived up to the hype in every way; and the sequels are all worthy as well.  I agree Temple of Doom and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull have a few miscues but they are still loads of fun and I always watch them along with the rest.  Spielberg and Lucas set out to make the ultimate in classic adventure films with a vintage setting, awesome hero, and great stories.  Even though all four chapters follow the same formula, they each have their unique elements and never get boring.  The Last Crusade is the best of all with the amazing interplay between Harrison Ford and Sean Connery; two superb actors at the top of their game.  Since Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is more recent, Ford is looking a little old for the part and Karen Allen too.  It's a stretch but still an enjoyable one.  I can't imagine too many film buffs not wanting to own this beautifully presented set.  It receives my highest recommendation.

Technical

The transfers of the first three films are reference quality in every respect.  Despite obvious film grain, they all show tremendous depth and clarity.  Contrast is among the best I've ever seen with bright, detailed highlights and nearly endless blacks.  There is no crush evident at any time.  Color is rich and saturated with realistic palette that's just on the warm side of natural.  There is a feel to these presentations that just isn't there with most modern, CGI-laden movies.  Yes there is the occasional scene with crude effects that are obviously fake (the airship in Last Crusade is a good example of this) but the really fun stuff like car chases and explosions are all real; real stunt men; real destruction; real pyrotechnics; just real.  CGI is cool but I love the analog feel of older films.  There is no visible edge enhancement and the films are completely free of dirt and dust.

Kingdom of the Crystal Skull has more the look of modern flicks with plenty of well-done computer effects and over-the-top action sequences.  It's a blast to watch for sure.  The color palette is natural like the previous discs but I found the image just the tiniest bit softer.  It still looks terrific but it's just shy of reference quality.  Contrast was awesome with a broad dynamic range and great black-level detail in night scenes.

Audio on all four discs is exquisite thanks to tremendous DTS-HD Master Audio encodes.  The dynamic range is extremely wide, so much so, that it sounded better the more I increased the volume.  There is so much low-level detail I never heard before that the movies took on a whole new feel.  The sub is used to great effect and I was particularly glad my Axiom plays down to 13 Hz because the tactility present on these discs is awesome.  The music deserves special mention:  John Williams received Oscar nominations for the first three films and it's easy to hear why.  The London Symphony has never sounded better than on these Blu-rays.

Extras

Bonus features total around seven hours and are all included on a separate disc.  There are almost two hours on the making of Raiders of the Lost Ark alone.  The other films get about an hour each.  Then there are many shorter featurettes on specific elements from the movies like props and creatures (yuck, snakes!).  Of note is the packaging which is a heavy cardboard book with one disc sleeved per page.  A slipcover protects it all and will take only about two standard box thicknesses on your shelf, very nice!

 


 "Dark Shadows (Blu-ray)" - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

Dark Shadows (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

Vampire Barnabas Collins awakens in 1972 after 200 years in a coffin to find his family and its fortune on the verge of ruin.  Unfortunately the witch that turned him into a monster and buried him is also still alive.  Her unreturned feelings of love for Barnabas have fueled her rage for two centuries.  Though a bloodthirsty killer, he still feels the strongest loyalty to his descendants and vows to rescue them from their plight.  Complicating matters is the young nannie, Victoria, who looks just like his lost love from the 1700s.  And then there is the strange Dr. Hoffman, a psychiatrist who lives in the house to help young David Collins cope with the loss of his mother.  She hatches a plot to become a vampire herself.  Barnabas entrusts family matriarch Elizabeth with his true identity as he sets about righting the wrongs of the past.

Specifications

  • Warner Brothers
  • 2012, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 53 mins
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Starring:  Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer and Eva Green
  • Directed by Tim Burton
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Brief
  • Language: No

Commentary

This film didn't have much of a plot so much as it was a showcase for Johnny Depp's considerable talents.  I can't imagine another actor in this role and he provided many genuinely entertaining moments.  The rest of the cast was mere window dressing by comparison.  The story meanders for just under two hours and doesn't really resolve.  If you like Tim Burton's imagery and Johnny Depp being Johnny Depp, you will enjoy Dark Shadows.  For entertainment value it's worth at least a rental.

Technical

The image was highly stylized with a very dark and cool color palette.  Digital smoothing seemed abundant especially on the heavily made-up Eva Green and Johnny Depp.  Detail was fair but with all the post-production work, it came up a bit soft.  The best part was black-level detail which was superb.  This is a dark film throughout and I never saw any crushing whatsoever.  I did see occasional use of edge enhancement but it wasn't too obtrusive.  The color isn't really my thing but it was unmistakably the work of Tim Burton.

Audio was a little better than video with a richly detailed lossless encode courtesy of DTS.  Most of the action was in the front soundstage with a few nice surround moments.  The subwoofer was underutilized.  Music had a nice transparent quality and provided a great sense of foreboding at the appropriate times

Extras

Not much extra is included here.  There are around 35 minutes of short clips which can be watched all at once or accessed via picture-in-picture during the movie.  Also included are five minutes of deleted scenes.  The package I received included a DVD and a digital copy accessible via UltraViolet.


"Ghosts of the Abyss" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Clements

movie-september-2012-ghosts-of-the-abyss

Synopsis

In this feature-length dcudrama, James Cameron leads an expedition to explore the wrecked remains of the Titanic.  Actor Bill Paxton and a team of marine experts are along for the adventure.  Shot expressly for playback in IMAX 3D thetares, the team uses manned submersible crafts and remote-controlled robots to explore all around and through the ship wreck.  Many of the cameras and the bots used in the production were developed expressly for this movie.  Of course, it is shot and presented in 3D so viewers can experience the ship as if they were on the scene with the exploration team.  This film was produced as a follow up and companion piece to Cameron's 1997 masterpiece "Titanic".

Specifications

  • Disney
  • 2003, Color, Rated G, 0 Hr 59 mins
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: MVC
  • English, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Starring:  Bill Paxton, Lori Johnston and James Cameron
  • Directed by James Cameron
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

James Cameron is full of a child-like enthusiasm over the Titanic, her story and the shipwreck.  He tries valiantly to transcribe this emotion onto the audience.  And this worked for the better part of the show, but I fought back boredom down the stretch when watching the extended version.  I  personally can't sustain active interest in looking at all that old stuff on the bottom of the ocean.  The fascination of seeing a man-made object that had not been touched by the hands of man for almost a hundred years just didn't hold up for 90 minutes.  But the 3D theatrical version is just under a 1 hour running time.  This version flowed better and was ultimately more satisfying, particularly when viewed in 3D.  I also enjoyed how the overlays from the movie and archived pictures brought the wreck to life.  

Technical

The video has excellent depth of field in outdoor shots, especially at the beginning of the main feature while the 3D version shows limited crosstalk throughout.  The underwater scenes were highly variable with a muted palette (artificial light) and grainy (not enough artificial light).  Added edge enhancement shows up rather persistently.  The audio has a crafty use of surrounds that offers an immersive, you-are-there effect.  There is decent bass in the music track as well. Lest we forget, this is a documentary and so the voices are most important.  The disc has fine voice reproduction.

Extras

This is a three-disc pack with the 3D Blu-ray, a 2D Blu-ray and a DVD.  Extras include an Extended Release with an additional 30 minute playing time (2D disc only) and "Reflections from the Deep" (a documentary about a documentary) (2D disc only).


"The Hand That Rocks the Cradle" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Clements

movie-september-2012-the-hand-that-rocks-the-cradle

Synopsis

A Seattle couple is expecting their second child when the mother, Claire Bartel (Annabella Sciorra), visits her new gynecologist for the first time.  This creepy new doctor eschews protocol and examines Claire without a female nurse as a witness.  Claire files a report to authorities claiming the doctor molested herin the examination.  That's when four other women come forward with similar stories.  The doctor winds up committing suicide before having to face the charges.  Then we learn that his widow, played by Rebecca De Mornay is expecting a child of her own.  Then soon after she learns that her husband's assets have been frozen, she winds up having a miscarriage and they are forced to perform an emergancy hysterectomy while at the hospital.  De Mornay creates an alternate persona and secures a job as nanny to the Bartel's two children.

Specifications

  • Disney
  • 1992, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 50 mins
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Starring:  Annabella Sciorra, Rebecca De Mornay, Matt McCoy, Julianne Moore and Ernie Hudson
  • Directed by Curtis Hanson
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

This is a 20th Anniversary Blu-ray release.  I remember seeing this film in theaters and felt disappointed at the time. Now when reflecting back, I think I simply had an off reaction because of the disturbing plot and subject matter.  I could actually beleive something like this could happen; the story is very plausible.  At the same time, Seattle is a wonderful setting for a horrific thriller like this.  The Blu-ray release has a super nice picture for a Disney catalog title.  This movie is a well crafted story and it is tightly edited.  In the end, this is a quality production that resulted in a movie that is quite compelling and it really captured my imagiation this time around.  Highly recommended. 

Technical

As mentioned above, this disc has a nice picture.  Film grain is intact.  There is minimal edge enhancement and the colors are true to the source.  Detail in the image is abundant.  But there are elevated black levels in some scenes.  The audio is mostly dialog and environmental sounds for the majority of the movie.  But there is a very nice score composed by Graeme Revell that gives glimpses of a good source that's been properly transferred to disc.  The Foley effects came through without the hyped and ripe bass that is common on newer movies while consonants in the dialog were also quite natural.

Extras

Just the theatrical trailer in NTSC.


"The Avengers" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

The Avengers (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

Evil demi-god Loki comes to Earth to steal the Tesseract, a source of unlimited energy, from SHIELD who recovered it from Captain America's plane some 70 years earlier.  In doing so, he unleashes a huge alien force bent on the destruction of the planet.  Nick Fury manages to gather all the Avengers together, in an uneasy alliance, to battle this global threat.  With vast technological resources at their disposal, the Avengers locate Loki and the Tesseract just as he mounts an attack on Manhattan.  Our heroes finally understand the meaning of teamwork as thousands of alien soldiers stream through a dimensional portal wreaking havoc and destruction on everything in their way.  When the mysterious committee behind SHIELD decides to level the city with a nuclear bomb, Iron Man swoops in to save the day.  After the planet is once again safe, Thor takes his brother Loki into exile and the rest of the Avengers scatter now that the world knows of their existence.

Specifications

  • Paramount
  • 2012, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hrs 23 mins
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: MVC
  • English, DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1
  • Starring:  Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson
  • Directed by Joss Whedon
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

I'm a big fan of superhero films and this one may just be the best yet.  It truly checks all the boxes:  non-stop action, great characters portrayed by great actors, an awesome plot that's easy to follow (take that Michael Bay!), bar-raising special effects, complete ignorance of the laws of physics, snappy one-liners (Joss Whedon, you rock!) phenomenal production design; and there's even a monster that eats New York.  The construction delays are going to be legendary after this one!  This is a film I'll watch again and again; my highest recommendation.

Technical

The Avengers checks the box for reference quality video as well.  Every shot is super crisp and detailed with beautifully saturated color and stunning contrast.  The overall palette is a little cool but given the amount of metal in play here, it makes sense.  The battle scene in New York has a nice warmth which I enjoyed.  CGI effects were seamless and completely convincing and there was no visible edge enhancement or other artifacts.

Sound was reference-level as well with a smashing DTS lossless encode.  Surround effects were top-notch and the front sound stage was enormous in all directions.  My only nit was the LFE channel seemed a little light given the material.  There were plenty of tactile moments to be sure but with the destruction I witnessed, my chair should have been shaken a little harder.

Extras

Bonus features include a 11-minute short film set in the Avengers universe, a 14-minute making-of featurette, 15 minutes of deleted scenes, a short gag reel and commentary by Joss Whedon.  There is also a "second screen experience" accessible on iOS devices or a laptop which I did not try.


"Hocus Pocus" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movies-Sept-2012-Hocus

Synopsis

Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker play three resurrected witches who wreak havoc on a town 300 hundred years after they were hanged. With just the right mix of “scary” and “fun”, three present day (1993) kids have got to find a way to rid the town of these witches before sunrise or risk having the life sucked out of the town’s children. With the help of a talking cat named Binx and a zombie, they find that sunrise can not come soon enough.

Specifications

  • Disney Home Entertainment
  • 2012, Color, Rated PG, 1 Hrs 32 mins
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: MVC 1080p
  • English, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Starring:  Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy
  • Directed by: Kenny Ortega
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mostly slapstick
  • Sex: Inuendo
  • Language: No

Commentary

In the 1600s, the Sanderson sisters bewitched people. The three aging women, lusty Sarah, plump Mary, and wicked Winifred, were particularly fond of performing a certain spell that would keep them alive and young forever, by sucking the life out of children. This happens within the first 5 minutes of the movie and sets a rather ugly tone from which the film never really resolves. I also felt that a few bawdy references might make some parents uncomfortable while watching this with their youngsters. I mean, even the little girl knows what a “virgin” is and the bus driver hitting on the “hot” witches was unnecessary. Anyway, due to some of the more scary situations, I think this film is appropriate for the 8 and older crowd.

Technical

The special effects actually hold up well for the age of the movie. The flying witches look like they really are flying. Overall PQ is good with vibrant colors and pretty good detail. Crushing was noted in the zombie resurrection scene, but it is forgivable. Sound was lush and lively with occasional deep bass. Surrounds are used generously. Dialog was always distinguishable.

Extras

All of the extras magically disappeared as there are only a few previews of other Disney flicks.

 


“E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Stephen Hornbrook

movies-october-2012-et

Synopsis

A young boy, Elliot, meets an alien left behind on our planet by his buddies. Elliot befriends said alien and helps him to contact his home planet to ask for a rescue party. The evil paranoid government agents are afraid of this extra-terrestrial being and want to capture it for their own purposes.  Elliot must save his new alien friend from the evil clutches of the government!

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 1982, Color, rated: PG, 1 hour 54 Minutes
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English, DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1
  • Starring:  Dee Wallace, Henry Thomas, Peter Coyote, Drew Barrymore, C. Thomas Howell
  • Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Very Mild
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

I have waited years for the Blu-ray release of E.T. as it is a childhood favorite of mine and,  actually, as an adult I appreciate it even more. So was it worth the wait for this Blu-ray? Yes, most definitely. The remastered audio and video are superb and offer an amazing presentation of the Spielberg classic.  Indeed some of the extras on here are recycled from the DVD release, but there is only so much content that can be derived from a 30 year old film and I think this is a solid package.  This is a great opportunity to show a new generation of youngsters one of your own favorite films from your childhood.  Easy to recommend E.T. as a must buy for fans!

Technical

E.T. has never looked better. In fact, given today’s technology, I wouldn’t be surprised if it looks better than it originally did on the scratched and faded 35mm at your local cinema. The image is crisp, detailed, but retains a natural film quality as well.  As good as the video quality is, I was more excited about the new DTS-HD MA 7.1 mix, and boy does it sound good.  John Williams’ score is one of my favorites and it sounds fantastic here. Excellent job Universal!

Extras

Steven Spielberg and E.T., The E.T. Journals, 4 minutes of Deleted Scenes, A Look Back - production diary, The Evolution and Creation of E.T., The E.T. Reunion, The 20th Anniversary Premiere, The Music of E.T., Image Galleries, Theatrical Trailer, TV Spot.


“Werewolf: The Beast Among Us" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

Movies-Oct-2012-werewolf

Synopsis

Werewolf: The Beast Among Us takes Universal Studios' historic monster legacy to an all-new level of chilling action and terrifying suspense. When a mysterious creature terrorizes a village by moonlight, a local young man, Daniel, convinces a team of skilled werewolf hunters to let him join their quest to hunt it down. But as the villagers are attacked one by one and turned into vicious beasts, Daniel begins to fear that his ruthless foe is someone closer than anyone thinks.

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 2012, Color, rated: R or Unrated, 1 hour 33 Minutes
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Starring:  Guy Wilson, Stephen Rea, Ed Quinn, Adam Croasdell
  • Directed by: Louis Morneau
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

This story takes place in Transylvania and judging from the eclectic weaponry, it must be sometime in the late 1800’s. A group of werewolf hunters are searching the area for a mysterious werewolf that changes at will and without regard to the lunar cycle. Throw in some Gatling guns and the stereo-typical leather clad female, add a vampire that doesn’t drink human blood and loves the sun…and you get this. It is a fine movie if you like mindless action and plenty of bloody, rubber, body parts. For laughs, they throw in a horse with wheels for hind legs. I mean, it has to be for laughs, right?

Technical

CGI, prosthetics and wolf masks combine for some interesting effects. The picture has nice color renditions with a slightly hyper-reality look to it…similar to what Instagram looks like. Though it is not specified, it appears to be shot digitally. Contrasts are good with lots of pop and detail. Sound is immerse and the sub gets a good work out.

Extras

Besides the BD, you also get a DVD and digital version. Also included are a commentary with director Louis Morneau and producer Mike Elliott , Making the Monster, deleted scenes, Transformation: Man To Beast and Monstr Legacy.


“Prometheus" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

Prometheus (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

Long before the events of Alien, a team of scientists discovers 35,000-year-old cave drawings that suggest an extra-terrestrial visit by beings similar to modern humans.  Drs. Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Holloway convince the Weyland Corporation to fund their expedition to a distant moon where they believe they will find The Engineers and the answers to the origin of intelligent life on Earth.  After touching down, they quickly discover a mysterious structure with long passages and rooms filled with strange objects.  Things quickly disintegrate as a snake-like form attacks one of the crew and cyborg David steals a sample of the alien DNA.  Back on the ship, David spikes Dr. Holloway’s drink with the DNA.  It’s obvious there are multiple hidden agendas at work and the innocent scientists are caught in the middle.  Eventually, they realize the purpose of the structure and its deadly contents and it becomes a race to prevent certain disaster for the Earth.

Specifications

  • 20th Century Fox
  • 2012, Color, Rated R, 2 Hrs 4 mins
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English, DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1
  • Starring:  Noomi Rapace, Logan Marshall-Green and Michael Fassbender
  • Directed by Ridley Scott
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Brief
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

Pre-release expectations for Prometheus were extremely high and I’d have to say the film didn’t quite meet them.  That being said, it certainly is entertaining and a must-see for any fan of the Alien franchise.  It will definitely become a permanent addition to my library.  The production quality is amazing in every respect.  Even the opening credits are a treat both visually and aurally.  The principal actors play their roles well but the action and story take center stage.  I did enjoy Michael Fassbinder as the cyborg.  You could tell right away he wasn’t quite human as he tended the ship alone while everyone was in stasis.  He is quite a fine actor.  Another standout for me was the alien humanoid that appears at the beginning and end of the film.  His makeup and costume were incredible and unlike anything I’d seen before.  My final recommendation on Prometheus is a solid buy.

Technical

The image is stunning from beginning to end.  The overall color palette is pretty cool but the picture pops no matter what the light level.  Contrast is broad and deep with excellent shadow detail.  Sharpness is first-rate in both close-up and wide shots and there was no sign of edge enhancement.

Audio is equally superb thanks to a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 encode.  The subwoofer plays an important role throughout and the bigger sub you have, the better you will like it!  Surrounds are also used frequently and to great effect.  Early in the movie, there is a scene where Dr. Shaw digs through a rock wall and feeling of immersion was strong enough to make me turn in my chair.  The detail is reference quality.  The music by composer Marc Streitenfeld was some of the best I’ve heard of late.  The bulk of his past work is as an editor on many blockbuster films like Gladiator and Mission Impossible 2.  It’s great to hear his original work here and I suspect I’ll be hearing his music again in future films.

Extras

Bonus features include spoken commentary by director/producer Ridley Scott and writers John Spaihts and Damon Lindelof (yes, the guy from Lost).  Also on the disc are 37 minutes of deleted/extended scenes and a few internet promo shorts presented in a dossier format.  If you pick up the 3D version of this Blu-ray, it includes all of the above plus a three-hour making-of documentary.

 


“Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Stephen Hornbrook

movies-october-2012-seeking-a-friend

Synopsis

This is it. The end of the world approaches as an asteroid is on a collision course for Earth.  Steve Carell plays a lonely man, Dodge, who is completely lost, not knowing what to do with himself in his final days.  Then he meets his neighbor Penny, played by Knightley, and due to the circumstances, they form a connection. Dodge is on a mission to find his “one true love” from his high school days and Penny just wants to be back with her family.  This movie explores how people might react to the end of the world.

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 2012, Color, rated: R, 1 hour 41 Minutes
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Starring:  Steve Carell, Kiera Knightley
  • Directed by Lorene Scafaria
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: Mild
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

I like Steve Carell and he has proven himself a competent actor with a good range, but through the first half of the movie he was stuck in his type-cast of “loser guy.”  However, by the time the movie ended I had forgotten about his type-cast and thoroughly enjoyed his performance.  Personally, I found this movie to be a bit more depressing than funny and wouldn’t recommend it for anyone wanting something light to watch.  However, those looking for something a bit more thought-provoking and emotional should definitely check Seeking a Friend for the End of the World out.

Technical

I couldn’t find much at fault with this video transfer as Universal delivers a crisp, clear, vivid picture on this Blu-ray. The audio does a good job at carrying the film and even has some very dynamic scenes that catch you off guard, but, overall, there isn’t enough going on with the mix to give it a high rating.

Extras

Outtakes, A Look Inside, Music From, Feature Commentary


“Rock of Ages” (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Tyler Stripko

movie-october-2012-rock-of-ages

Synopsis

Hoping to fulfill her dream of becoming a singer, Sherrie Christian (Julianne Hough) heads to Hollywood to make it big.   Right after getting off the bus, her precious collection of records is stolen by a street thug.   To the fair maiden’s rescue comes Drew Boley (Diego Boneta), who consoles Sherrie and also manages to get her a job at the local palace of Rock and Roll – the Bourbon Club.  The Bourbon Club is unfortunately in a tough position.  Issues with back taxes and the mayor’s wife (Catherine Zeta Jones) looking to shut them down hover menacingly over the Bourbon Club.  In a last effort to raise the money needed, owner Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin) rests all his hopes on a monster concert by the band Arsenal, led by the uber-star Stacey Jaxx (Tom Cruise).  Will the Bourbon Club survive?  Will Sherrie and Drew find true love?  Will Stacey Jaxx ever stop drinking?

Specifications

Warner Bros. Pictures

2012, Color, Rated: R, 2 Hr 3 min (theatrical cut)

Aspect Ratio: 2.4:1

1080p

Codec: AVC

English, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Starring: Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Russell Brand, Paul Giamatti, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Malin Akerman, Mary J. Blige, Alec Baldwin, and Tom Cruise

Directed by Adam Shankman

Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: None
  • Sex: Suggestive behavior
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

I almost felt like reviewing this film as two separate entities.  The first half, which focuses on Sherrie and Drew, was simply terrible.    I felt like they tried to force as many 80’s rock songs into the first 45 minutes of the movie as possible and did nothing to work on the development of the characters or their relationships.  It all felt very rushed to me.  Then they tried to jam the plotline with the mayor’s wife into things, which just further diluted the little bit of character development taking place.  To further degrade the experience we are forced to endure multiple instances of Hough’s singing, which sounds something like a chipmunk trying to imitate Britney Spears.  Seriously, her voice is THAT annoying. 

The second half of the film, focusing on Stacey Jaxx, his sleazy agent (Paul Giamatti), and the Bourbon Club’s issues, is excellent.  Tom Cruise absolutely owns the role of the rock god Stacey Jaxx.   Every scene with him in it shined.  While Cruise did a great job on the vocals, I do wish that they had him put just a bit more screech and scream into his songs, which would have been more fitting for the music.  Paul Giamatti’s role as Paul Gill, the stereotypical scum-bag Hollywood agent, was superbly portrayed as well.  You really end up hating the guy by the end of the film.  Alec Baldwin was a joy to watch as the Bourbon Club manager, though Russell Brand as the club manager Lonny was a little over-the-top.  I’d also recommend watching the theatrical cut of the film.  The extended cut adds 13 minutes to the film but the extra footage just makes the movie drag on a bit too long.  Being a child of the 80’s and a lover of rock (yes, even glam-rock), I still found the movie enjoyable but it could have been so much better. 

Technical

I was very impressed with the picture quality on this disc.  Colors were natural, yet vibrant and there was great “pop” to the image due to deep black levels and excellent contrast.    The image is very sharp, without the distractions of edge enhancement or any other apparent artificial sharpening.  The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is more of a mixed bag.  On the plus side, the musical numbers sound fantastic.  The 80’s rock tracks hit hard, with great dynamics and excellent clarity.  Bass is potent and most of the vocals are very clear.   I did notice that Julianne Hough’s vocals were mixed a few dB lower than the other actors, making her lines blend in more with the music.  Perhaps they were trying to hide her less than stellar voice?   Thank heavens for small favors.  For the non-musical parts of the film I found myself raising the volume a bit to hear dialogue clearly.  Surround usage was minimal throughout the entire film and bass is practically non-existent except during the songs. 

Extras

Included on this blu-ray disc are the theatrical and extended versions of the film, “Legends of the Sunset Strip,” “Defining a Decade,” “The Stories We Sing,” the “Any Way You Want It” music featurette, and a presentation of the musical numbers.  “Legends of the Sunset Strip” and “The Stories We Sing” are the best of the lot here as they both feature the real-life rockers describing what were truly decadent times.