Media

Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - April, 2011

ARTICLE INDEX

"The Next Three Days" (DVD) - Reviewed by John Johnson

movie-april-2011-next-three-days

Synopsis

The story opens with John (Crowe) and Lara (Banks) Brennan having dinner with her boss Erit (Moran Atias) and her husband. Lara gets into an argument with Erit, and it almost becomes violent. Later, when Erit is found murdered, Lara is charged and found guilty, although she is innocent of the crime. She is sentenced to life in prison.

John tries filing appeals, and when all of his attempts to get her out of prison legally fail, he decides to do it illegally. Meanwhile, Lara is considering suicide rather than spend the rest of her life behind bars.

John consults an expert at escape, Damon Pennington (Neeson), who explains in great detail, how to get in, rescue her, and get out with their lives intact.

Specifications

  • Lionsgate
  • 2010, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 13 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • 1080p
  • English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Russell Crowe, Elizabeth Banks, Liam Neeson
  • Directed by Paul Haggis
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

I am not a huge fan of Russell Crowe, because he always seems to behave like a borderline jackass, but he is perfect for this role of a husband whose family has been destroyed by having his wife put in prison for a crime she is innocent of. The escape sequence is fast paced, with plenty of near mishaps, but ultimately, the correct finale. I think it was a mistake to have Neeson play such a small part. He is a fantastic actor, and the producers should have expanded his role.

Technical

The image quality is technically excellent, but because of so many dark scenes, it's difficult to classify it as great viewing. The surround soundstage is really good, due to the film being presented in 7.1 DTS-HD MA. When producers go to the trouble of making a 7.1 sound track, they use all the channels.  (I watched this movie the other day.  In the escape sequence there is a part with a semi tractor trailer.  The bass was so intense that it blew the grille cover off my sub and launched it across the room! - Jim Clements)

Extras

These include the Making of, Audio Commentary by Paul Haggis, Featurette on Prison Breaks, and Deleted Scenes.


"Little Fockers" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Stephen Hornbrook

movies-april-2011-littlefockers

Synopsis

Greg is given the title of Godfocker by his father-in-law Jack Byrnes after Jack experiences a small heart attack.  However, it doesn’t take long for Jack’s feelings of resentment toward Greg to come back.  Jack suspects Greg of cheating on his wife with a pharmaceutical sales rep and after following Greg around he finally gets the evidence he needs to end his daughters marriage to the failure that is Gay Focker.  Greg tries to win the approval of his father-in-law by interviewing at a prestigious school for their twins and remodeling a house for the family.

Specifications

  • Universal
  • 2010, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 38 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Codec: VC1
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Ben Stiller, Robert DeNiro, Owen Wilson, Dustin Hoffman, Barbara Steisand
  • Directed by Paul Weitz
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: Humor
  • Language: No

Commentary

Little Fockers is the third movie in the Focker series, preluded by Meet the Parents and Meet the Fockers.  There seems to be quite a bit of hatred for this movie in many of the reviews I have read. While it isn’t the greatest, I found it to be funny at times and mildly entertaining- far from the absolute suckfest that some with have you believe. I have seen many movies that are much worse that Meet the Fockers.

Technical

Image quality on this Universal release was very good. Rich colors, although perhaps a bit too rich and oversaturated, pristine detail and decent contrast are all present in this transfer.  The audio was mostly relegated to the front 3 channels and there was nothing all that exceptional going on with the mix, but it did the job for this movie.

Extras

Making of, Deleted and Alternate Scenes, Gag reel, and a “bonus movie” feature where you can stream “Junior” or “Sgt. Bilko”.


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

movie-april-2011-babe

Synopsis

Babe is the story of a pig who is orphaned from his mother at a very young age.  Won at the fair by Farmer Hoggett, who initially sees Babe more as a good meal at Christmas than as an animal with any value.  Taken in by Fly, a sheep herding border collie, Babe doesn’t really want to fit into the accepted hierarchy of the farm and questions why things are a certain way.

His inquisitive ways get him into trouble early as he tries to help out a duck that’s attempting to take the place of a rooster in providing the morning wake-up call, but his bungling of the situation gets him into more trouble with everyone.  However, his inquisitive nature eventually starts to pay off as he discovers a talent that no one knew was possible.

Specifications

  • Universal
  • 1995, Color, Rated G, 1 Hr 29 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Codec: VC1
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: James Cromwell
  • Directed by Chris Noonan
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

Babe was a surprising success at the box office, managing to even snag a nomination for Best Picture (beating out Toy Story, The Usual Suspects, Leaving Las Vegas, Casino, and many other wonderful films that year).  While I might not hold it in that high of regard, it was a very entertaining and touching film that flew by.  A couple of scenes were a little darker than I had expected for a kids film, and it deals with a few harder subjects, but it is overall very enjoyable and touching for the whole family.

It does feel like it was originally meant to run a lot longer, as it feels like it could have easily been another 30 minutes longer, but they wanted to hit that magic 90 minute number for a kids film, and in this case it probably benefits from omission.

Technical

Babe is 16 years old now, but for the most part the transfer doesn’t show it.  Overall it has a very nice, crisp image that looks very nice, though doesn’t quite jump off the screen in realism.  A few of the outdoor scenes were a bit rougher in quality, but overall it’s much better than I had expected.  The soundtrack isn’t that aggressive, but it does a good job with dialog and ambient effects around the farm.  It’s not something you would use to show off your new sound system to anyone, but it’s also true to the film and comes across nice and clear.

Extras

A commentary track from the writer/producer and two featurettes.


"The Fighter" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

movie-april-2011-the-fighter

Synopsis

Mickey Ward (Mark Wahlberg) is a fairly average boxer whos brother, Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale), is also a former fighter who’s claim to fame is having knocked down Sugar Ray Leonard in a bout.  Trained by his brother and managed by his mother Alice (Melissa Leo), Mickey has the deck stacked against him while he tries to do the right thing.  His brother is a good trainer and very smart tactician, but also is a raging crack addict who is completely unreliable for anything.  Alice tries to get a good fight for Mickey, but also would rather see him in a losing fight that makes the family money than to see him hold out for something to further his career.

Charlene (Amy Adams) is tending bar as Mickey is getting ready to head off to his next fight.  Mickey’s Dad helps to get the two of them together, much to the chagrin of the rest of the family who sees Charlene as a trampy, MTV-girl who went to college and must have a superiority complex over them.  With another voice coming along to help Mickey see that he’s hurting himself by trying to help his family, will Mickey make some changes in his life to help move his career forward?

Specifications

  • Paramount
  • 2010, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 56 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Melissa Leo, Amy Adams
  • Directed by David O. Russell
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

One of the more acclaimed films of 2010, The Fighter is a boxing film, but is really a character drama at the heart.  If you don’t like boxing you should still see the movie as it’s all about the relationships of the characters, who are far deeper and more nuanced than you would expect from a film in the sports genre.  With absolutely stunning performances from Christian Bale and Melissa Leo, who both took home an Oscar for their work, it really is a wonderful film to watch.

Technical

Watching The Fighter, I really don’t have anything bad to say about the image at all.  Everything was clear and detailed, and the only scenes that looked less than ideal were the ones that were designed to look like an HBO broadcast from a decade ago.  The audio also holds it’s own with an enveloping soundtrack and wonderful use of surrounds to create ambiance in all the scenes.  The only issue was a couple scenes where the dialog was a bit muted compared to the other sound effects, but for the most part it was very good.

Extras

A commentary track from the director, two featurettes, deleted scenes, the theatrical trailer, and a DVD copy of the film are included.


"I Love You Phillip Morris" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Stephen Hornbrook

movies-april-2011-iloveyouphilip

Synopsis

Steven Russel (Jim Carrey) decided to be the best man he could be on the day he discovered he was adopted. He becomes a police officer and decides to use his access as a cop to find his mother. Upon facing his mother, she rejects him, claiming to have no clue what he is talking about. He quits his job at the force and moves his family to Texas to find success  Steven is bisexual and leads a secret life with other men, but he keeps the truth from his wife. That is until a near death car accident makes him start his life over again.

Steven’s new expensive lifestyle leads him into a life as a con artist. His illegal dealings finally catch up with him and Steven has to spend some time in prison. In prison, Steven meets and falls in love with Phillip Morris (McGregor).  Steven is released before Phillip and devotes himself to getting Phillip out of prison early. Steven’s love for Phillip grows strong and he wants to be able to truly provide and take care of him, so he decides to get a real job.  However, Steven continues to struggle to find a balance between right and wrong.

Specifications

  • Lionsgate
  • 2009, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 42 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Jim Carrey, Ewan McGregor, Leslie Mann
  • Directed by Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

ILYPM was a funny and very entertaining film. I enjoyed it from start to finish.  The performances by both Carrey and McGregor were excellent and Jim especially, really carries this film.  Unless you are uncomfortable with gay material, I highly suggest checking this movie out.

Technical

Image quality was fairly good on ILYPM. There was a fair amount of stylistic film grain that added to the look and feel of the movie.  Black levels and shadow detail were a bit lacking, as was the contrast.  The DTS HD MA 5.1 track had some good depth in the film score, but, as this was not an action film, the surrounds weren’t very active.  Overall a good presentation for this particular film, just not demo material.

Extras

Making of, Deleted Scenes, Audio Commentary


"The Ten Commandments" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

movie-april-2011-the-ten-commandments

Synopsis

Taken from the Book of Exodus and other historical texts, this is the account of the life of Moses and his call by God to free the enslaved Hebrews from Egypt.  For 400 years, the Hebrew people have lived in bondage to build Egypt’s vast cities for a succession of Pharohs.  Moses is born of the Hebrews but to save him from death by the Pharoh Seti’s edict, he is sent down the Nile River in a basket.  Seti’s sister Bithia who longs for a child finds him and takes him into her house.  He grows up as a brother to Seti’s son Rameses and becomes a prince of Egypt likely to succeed to the throne.

At age 30, Moses discovers his true lineage and leaves the court to search for his God and his life’s purpose.  Seti turns him out of the palace and he is left to wander in the desert with only one day’s ration of food and water.  After 40 days, he is rescued by a sheepherder’s family of seven daughters who live at the base of Mount Sinai, the holy mountain.  There Moses is called by God in the form of a burning bush and he learns he is the Deliverer prophesized to save the Hebrews from their enslavement.

He returns to Egypt to demand the Hebrew’s release.  When Rameses, now Pharoh, refuses, God brings plagues to Egypt culminating in the death of all first-born males.  When Rameses own son is killed, he relents to Moses’ demands.  The Hebrews leave the next day to freedom.

During their flight, they are pursued by Rameses who has decided to avenge his son’s death by destroying them and Moses.  The Hebrews are saved when Moses parts the Red Sea to let them pass and the Egyptian army is drowned.  Later, the Hebrews faith wavers and they create a false God, a Golden Calf.  Moses comes down from Mount Sanai with the Ten Commandments.  When he sees the people, he smashes the tablets into the Calf and the unfaithful are destroyed.

As punishment, the Hebrews travel for 40 years until finally reaching the Promised Land.  Moses however, does not cross the river Jordan but his purpose and calling have finally been fulfilled – that man should live by God’s law and not in bondage to any other man – the birth of Freedom.

Specifications

  • Paramount Pictures
  • 1956, Color, Rated G, 3 Hr 51 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Codec:  MP4-AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring:  Charlton Heston, Yul Brenner, Anne Baxter, Edward G. Robinson, Yvonne De Carlo, Debra Paget, John Derek
  • Directed by Cecil B. DeMille
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

You can see by my extended synopsis that this is an epic film.  In fact, epic is just not a sufficient adjective to describe the experience of watching this Blu-ray on a big screen with a top-shelf sound system.  I have seen The Ten Commandments many times on TV but never unedited.  I’m ashamed to say I never owned the DVD release.  The power of this movie has to be experienced to be believed.  My emotions were cranked to eleven for nearly four hours.  If you’re already a fan, owning this Blu-ray is a must.  There truly is no other film like it.  In my opinion, it defines Hollywood’s Golden Age.  The exodus scenes not only have thousands of extras, there are hundreds of animals and other props in play as well.  The sheer scope of filming these scenes is beyond my imagination.  The performances by all principal actors are typical of the era with over-the-top drama and emotion.  Charlton Heston was born to play the role of Moses and I can’t imagine another actor in the role.  Yul Brenner is deliciously evil as Rameses and Anne Baxter’s portrayal of Nefretiri is both dark and intoxicating at the same time.  I also enjoyed a young Yvonne De Carlo as Sephora.  Of course, she’s probably better-known for her role as Lily Munster which came along eight years later.

This exquisite restoration of an iconic film receives my highest possible recommendation.

Technical

The video restoration is reference quality.  This is a fairly early example of widescreen shooting using the Vistavision format.  The original aspect ratio was 1.85:1 but a slight crop to 1.78:1 was done for this transfer.  The color quality is simply stunning with rich saturation and natural tones throughout.  Film grain is at a pleasing level and there was not one speck of dirt evident at any time.  Contrast is excellent with bright highlights and deep blacks when appropriate.  Shadow detail was superb and the whole presentation has a depth and clarity that makes you forget this movie is 55 years old!  Nostalgia buffs will enjoy the primitive special effects where you can clearly see matte lines and optical printer artifacts.  I especially enjoyed the overlaid hand-drawn animation used for the pillar of fire and serpent effects.  This was state-of-the-art for 1956 and there is an Oscar win to prove it.  When the Secrets staff votes for a Media Award recipient, this Blu-ray will likely top the list for the Best Restoration category.

The audio was very good but not quite reference-level.  The detail and clarity were there but I would have enjoyed a larger sound stage, especially for the music.  The whole thing seemed a bit narrow and centered.  The original was in stereo, but it does not come through with great depth.  I am nit-picking here.  Dialog was crystal-clear at all times.  The music was awe-inspiring and a definite gem among Elmer Bernstein’s achievements.

Extras

There are two versions of this Blu-ray release.  One is a large boxed set with Blu-ray and DVD versions of both the 1956 and 1923 films.  This set also includes an hour-long documentary about the making of the film.  The version I watched only includes a Blu-ray of the 1956 movie, a newsreel about the film’s premiere and commentary by historian Katherine Orrison.  I rated the bonus features at two stars because to get the documentary, which I would have loved to watch, you have to pay nearly double the price.


"Tangled 3D" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Adrian Wittenberg

movie-april-2011-tangled-3d

Synopsis

In a kingdom there was rumoured to be a golden flower that had the magical properties of healing or reversing aging.  When the queen of the kingdom became terribly ill, everyone set out to find the famed flower to heal the queen.  After finding and using the flower to heal the queen from the illness, the queen gave birth to a girl whose hair was bestowed with some of the magical qualities from the golden flower.  The girl, named Rapunzel, was then kidnapped by a wicked witch who wanted to use Rapunzel's hair to keep herself young forever.  The witch raised Rapunzel as her own daughter and kept her locked up in a tower, never cutting her hair and keeping her from the outside world.  On one day, when the witch was gone, a thief named Flynn Rider accidentally finds and enters the tower and gets a swift blow to the head with Rapunzel's frying pan.  After he comes too, he offers to take Rapunzel outside of the tower to the kingdom in exchange for the location of the thief's lost satchel, which Rapunzel has hidden.  Together they set out on the journey and Rapunzel eventually learns of her true identity.

 

Specifications

  • Walt Disney Pictures
  • 2011, Color, Animated, Rated PG, 1 Hr 40 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Codec:  MPEG-4-MVC
  • 1080p
  • English, French, Spanish DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1
  • Starring:  Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi, Donna Murphy, Brad Garrett, Ron Perlmen
  • Directed by Byron Howard, Nathan Greno
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Cartoon Violence
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

This is a light hearted adaptation of the german fairy tale that I found to be very entertaining because of the excellent animation, 3D effects, characters, dialogue, and music.  The film has good pacing so there aren't any dull moments.  The dialogue and voice acting is charming and sometimes funny throughout the film and is really good so it makes the story come alive.  Donna Murphy did a great job making Gothel into a selfish and cruel villain and Mandy Moore did an excellent job of breathing life into a hopeful and dreamy Rapunzel.  Like many Disney animations that borderline on being musicals, there is quite a bit of singing in this film which was entertaining and fit in the film very well.  For those that have a full surround sound setup and quality 3D display, this film will be a winner for the whole family.

Technical

This film really showcases how far animation has come in the last 50 years and the quality of the animation is top notch.  The animators working on this film did an impeccable job of breathing emotion and charm into the characters and created motion that was extremely realistic.  The detail level in the film is exquisite and the colors are very lush and striking. Even without 3D technology, the visuals make the film pop out enough to look three dimensional.  Tangled 3D effects are all computer generated as opposed to using two cameras preset to different capturing angles.  This gives the directors complete creative control and the ability to choose many different 3D scenarios.  The 3D in this movie is at many times quite pronounced.  Throughout the entire film there is excellent depth and spacing between objects and you get a really good sense of the environments.  This is especially true in some of the outdoor scenes.  In video game terminology I would compare it to parallax scrolling where the effect is that there are many different objects at different depths in the film that are independantly moving.  The horse Maximus and Rapunzel are right in the forefront, some bushes are at the next distance back, some more trees are further back, and so forth.  In other scenes, like the scene where Rapunzel and Flynn are watching the floating lanterns in the sky, you really can enjoy the surreality of the effect.  The film does a really good job of creating that 3D wow kind of effect that everyone will be sure to love.  I'd say that the 3D in this film is very tasteful and really adds to the adventure and further enhances the incredible detail and animation in the film.  After I watched this film, I only thought about how much I was anticipating this year's lineup of 3d Displays including Samsung's 75" 9500 series 3D panel, Panasonic's VT 35, Sony's XBRHX929, and LG's PZ950 plasma . On a really good 3D display with minimal crosstalk, this movie is going to look incredible.  The DTS 7.1 MA soundtrack on this film is excellent.  Whether it's the soundtrack and the singing numbers or the full use of all the surrounds and LFE effects, this film has a top notch presentation.

Extras

There are a couple of nice extra features on here including some funny clips in the Tangled Teasers section and some extended songs.  There are a couple of deleted scenes and some featurettes on the Disney production.


"Black Swan" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Stephen Hornbrook

movie-april-2011-blackswan

Synopsis

Black Swan is a wonderful movie that you all should watch, so I am going to keep the synopsis simple.  It’s about a young ballet dancer, Nina Sayers (Portman) who wants nothing more than to be the next star. Her whole life balances on being the perfect dancer.  She lives with her crazy, overbearing mother (Hershey) who gave up her own mediocre dance carrier when she had Nina. Nina scores the leading role as the Swan Princess in “Swan Lake”, but struggles with the pressure of being the star.

 

Specifications

  • 20th Century Fox
  • 2010, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 48 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Codec:  AVC
  • 1080p
  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Starring:  Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey
  • Directed by Darren Aronofsky
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

Awesome, fantastic, stunning, beautiful. Some of Darren’s best work and easily Portman’s best acting job. This is one of those movies that fit into the category of motion picture arts as it is more like a symphony or an oil painting than your standard cinema fare.

Technical

Aronofsky filmed Black Swan primarily in Super 16mm film and this gives it a grainy, softer look than standard 35mm.  There is nothing technically wrong with the transfer, it’s just that the source is different than most movies.  Don’t be discouraged by my score of 4 for video, as I am sure Black Swan looks how Darren would want it to on Blu-ray, but compared to other discs, the detail and definition just isn’t there.  

Audio, on the other hand, was spectacular. The revisioned work of Tchaikovsky by Clint Mansell sounds fantastic.  The sound is very dynamic and builds to aggressive levels that will really test out your home theater. This is a disc I will be returning to many times to demo equipment, or to just enjoy.

Extras

49 minute Making of Documentary, Trailer, Character Discussions.


"Every Day" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Tyler Stripko

movie-march-2011-every-day

Synopsis

Ned’s (Liev Schreiber) life is not going according to plan.  He is unhappy with his job, his teenage son is gay, his wife (Helen Hunt) is unhappy, and worst of all – his ailing father-in-law (Brian Dennehy) has just moved in with the family.  In order to put his life back on track, Ned must find a way to accept the cards he’s been dealt and come to grips with them.

 

Specifications

  • Image Entertainment
  • 2010, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 33 min
  • Aspect Ratio:1.85:1
  • Codec:  AVC
  • 1080p
  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Starring: Liev Schreiber, Helen Hunt, Carla Gugino, Brian Dennehy, and Eddie Izzard
  • Directed by Richard Levine
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence:  No
  • Sex:  Yes
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

A movie reviewer’s gig is not always easy.  We often get films that we’ve never heard of or were released straight to video.  “Every Day” is one of those films.  I don’t recall seeing any advertisements for the film or seeing it on the marquee at the local cinema.  However, the film turned out to be far better than expected.  Perhaps due to the talents of “Nip/Tuck” writer/producer Richard Levine, everything about the movie just seemed incredibly realistic, from the characters to the situations.  The cast was excellent, with Liev Schreiber and Brian Dennehy delivering stand-out performances.   I even found myself enjoying Helen Hunt, who I don’t usually care for.   The story moves along well and has a lot of heart to it.  Definitely worth a rental.

Technical

The picture quality on this Blu-ray disc was pretty good.  The digitally shot image was sharp with just a bit of induced “film grain.”  However, contrast suffered a bit due to what looked like elevated black levels.  There also appeared to be a slight “haze” to the image that could also be due to a black level elevation.  The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack was merely average with almost no surround or LFE use.  However, dialogue was perfectly clear and the music punches through the front channels nicely on a few occasions.

Extras

Included on this disc are deleted scenes, cast interviews, and the original trailer.  All extras are in standard-definition.


"Tron" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Tyler Stripko

movie-april-2011-tron

Synopsis

Deep within the mainframe of the Encom corporation, the powerful Master Control Program (MCP) is secretly stealing computer code from computers all over the world in an effort to become the most powerful piece of software on the planet.   Once access to the MCP is restricted, Encom programmers Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner) and Lora (Cindy Morgan) seek out the help of former programmer Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) to help them break into the system in an attempt to bring the MCP back under control and to find the evidence Flynn needs to prove that he created the software products that made Encom a fortune.   However, when the MCP realizes what the programmers are doing, it digitizes Flynn and sucks him into the computer world.  With more than just software at risk now, Flynn must find a way to shut down the MCP and get himself back to the real world.

 

Specifications

  • Walt Disney Pictures
  • 1982, Color, Rated PG, 1 Hr 36 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.20:1
  • Codec:  AVC
  • 1080p
  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/24-bit)
  • Starring: Jeff Bridges, Bruce Boxleitner, David Warner, and Cindy Morgan
  • Directed by Steven Lisberger
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: None
  • Language: None

Commentary

Despite the near-cult following this movie has, I never saw this film in its entirety until now.   While the computer animation was revolutionary for 1982, the rest of the film doesn’t hold up all that well.  The plot is pretty thin and much of the dialogue is comical.  The actors do their best given the script, but as any programmer/database analyst knows – garbage in, garbage out.   The soundtrack is just a bunch of blips, beeps, and ominous tones that further enhance the cheese factor.  However, the movie doesn’t take itself too seriously, so if you take it for what it is – an experiment in computer assisted storytelling, you can still enjoy the film.  Definitely worth a viewing before diving into "Tron: Legacy."

Technical

Given the quality of the television broadcasts I’ve seen for this film over the years, I didn’t have very high expectations for the picture and sound.  Much to my surprise, this Blu-ray looked and sounded much better than I had expected.  Disney did a great job in restoring the original film elements.  The picture is very sharp, with only occasional shots showing a lack of focus.  Colors are rich and vibrant , with good black levels and shadow detail.  The CGI scenes are surprisingly crisp, considering the relatively low resolution they were rendered at.  The only real hiccup with the CGI scenes is that you often see flickering to the images, since the technology wasn’t advanced enough to render the animation with a high enough refresh rate.  I was happy to see that Disney did not try to “update” the original CGI, but left if in its original condition.  The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack has surprising dynamic range, and the surrounds are used judiciously for discrete little computer noises.  The bass was also much deeper than expected given the age of the film.  The only real issue I noticed was that the dialogue during certain scenes was a bit muddy and hard to understand.

Extras

I received the 5-disc set with “Tron: Legacy” for review.  As such, the overall set was loaded with extras, but I’ll focus on the extras included with “Tron.”  Included with the “Tron” Blu-ray disc are the complete set of standard-definition extras from the prior DVD, including: deleted scenes, storyboarding, picture galleries, a making-of, and sections on the music, development, digital imagery, design, and publicity of the film.  Added to the Blu-ray are HD segments for “The Tron Phenomenon” and the “Photo Tronology” plus an audio commentary.

Included on this disc are deleted scenes, cast interviews, and the original trailer.  All extras are in standard-definition.


"Tron Legacy 3D" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Adrian Wittenberg

movie-april-2011-tron-legacy-3d

Synopsis

Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) is all grown up now and it has been some time since the sudden disappearance of his father Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), a genius computer programmer and head of the Encom coporation.  While Sam is now the majority stock holder of the corporation he has never pursued running the company seriously or pursued finding his dad until one day an old friend receives a mysterious page from Kevin's old office at a rundown arcade.  When Sam finally decides to investigate the page he accidentally gets transported to the Grid, a complete digital cyberworld where he finds his father and begins to learn where his father has been for the last 20 years.  After their renunion and after Sam learns how screwed up the Grid is and has become, the two decide they must escape the world and bring with them Quorra (Olivia Wilde) a girl who is the only survivor of a unique breed of creature and can unlock the keys to advancing humanity.

 

Specifications

  • Walt Disney Pictures
  • April 2011, Color, Rated PG, 2 Hr 5 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1, 2.35:1
  • Codec:  MPEG-4AVC
  • 1080p
  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, English, French, Spanish Dolby 5.1
  • Starring:  Jeff Bridges, Bruce Boxleitner, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde and James Frain
  • Directed by Joseph Kosinski
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence:  Yes
  • Sex: None
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

There are movies that have intricate plots, really good character development, and they make you think deeply and reflect about them after they are over and then there are films that have thinner plots and storylines but are fun to watch because the visuals are intense and the action keeps you at the edge of your seat for the duration of the movie.  Tron Legacy 3D fits into the latter category and is way more style than substance. Most action movies these days come across like you are flipping through a comic book.  You have hero characters, antagonist characters, and some sort of confliction that requires action to be performed in a certain amount of time.  In this case it was for Sam Flynn and his dad to try to escape from the grid and go back through the portal before it closes as well as try to stop Kevin Flynn's clone from bringing his digital army into the material world.  If this movie was stretched out another hour or two and gave more attention to intriguing plot and character development it probably could have been as epic as Star Wars but I'm sure the budget wouldn't allow it.  What you end up with is a film that has stunning visual appeal, impeccable style, and a slightly ho hum story. Jeff Bridges is probably my favorite actor and what little development there is of his "Dude" like character is pretty good, but once again not enough.  The film has an overall dark feel to it and the 3D effects definitely fall into the tasteful and strategically placed category.  Don't expect to watch this movie and have beams of light constantly shooting out into your living room.  Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of 3D effects but they are done so that they are integrated into the world seamlessly and make watching more of a surreal experience than making it a "Let's try to catch the laser beams!" experience.

Technical

This film is both a video and audio tour de force.  Expect reference level audio and video presentation that will put your home theater equipment through its paces. On the DTS 7.1 Master Audio track, surround and LFE channels are used generously throughout the film and the music presentation is very entertaining.  I would recommend making sure your black level is set correctly on your display because this film has dark and subtle tones throughout.  3D effects are subtle and while there are a few scenes where images like flying Tron discs are popping out of the screen, most of the environment doesn't have extreme depth to it.  The end sequence with the spaceships and Sam Flynn as the ship gunner is really good and the light trails from the spaceships and the intensity of the gun fire is very cool.  This film is an example of "Good" 3D that won't give you a headache and doesn't try to knock you out with right hooks coming out of the screen.

Extras

The extras on this disc are decent for any fans of the series.  Extras include a preview of Disney's animated series Tron: uprising,  a feauturette about how the filmmakers created the digital world of Tron, cast commentary, the ability to watch interactive elements on an Ipad, a featurette about the storyline, a clip about how they got the crowd sound effects, and a music video from Daft Punk.


"The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movie-april-2011-hornets-nest

Synopsis

This is the third and final film adaptation of the best-selling Millennium trilogy written by the late Swedish author, Stieg Larsson (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played With Fire). In this last installment, Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) lies in critical condition, a bullet wound to her head, in the intensive care unit of a Swedish city hospital. She's fighting for her life in more ways than one: if and when she recovers, she'll be taken back to Stockholm to stand trial for three murders. With the help of her friend, journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), she will not only have to prove her innocence, but also identify and denounce those in authority who have allowed the vulnerable, like herself, to suffer abuse and violence. And, on her own, she will plot revenge - against the man who tried to kill her, and the corrupt government institutions that very nearly destroyed her life.

 

Specifications

  • Music Box Films
  • 2011, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr 27 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Codec:  AVC
  • 1080p
  • English Dolby Digital Audio 5.1
  • Starring:  Noomi Rapace, Michael Nyqvist
  • Directed by Daniel Alfedson
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Rape
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

This is the thrilling conclusion to the trilogy, and I must say, it was satisfying to see how it all coalesces in the end. Lisbeth is tough and vulnerable at the same time. I watched this with the English overdub on because I knew there was going to be a lot of dialog in the court room and I did not want to miss the flow of the story by reading fleeting words at the bottom of the screen. Not a lot of action, but when there is action, it is usually quick and brutal. With heroes and slimy characters, this series holds up well with its literary counterpart. It will be interesting to see the new American version of this when it comes out later this year, though my money is on Hollywood screwing it up with lots of explosions and over used CGI.

Technical

The picture quality is not demo worthy, but it is still good. The film was shot in 35 mm, so a fair amount of grain persists throughout the movie. Some of the darker scenes are a bit murky, but skin tones and colors are well done. The audio was DD, but for a film that is dialog driven, it works well. Not enough action to engage the subwoofer or surrounds, but the dialog is clear and the English dub is respectable.

Extras

Commentary and interviews.


"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

movie-april-2011-harry-potter-deathly-hollows

Synopsis

With the demise of Dumbledore, Voldemort has steadily grown in power as he seeks to rule over the land.  He has overthrown the Ministry of Magic with his own minions, as they seek to rid it of mudbloods and build a more perfect race of wizards and witches.  Of course Harry stands as the one person that everyone expects to be able to take on Voldemort, though not on his own.

After the fall of the Ministry and an attack on Harry and his friends at a wedding, everyone has to quickly move underground for their safety, and that of their families.  Harry knows that they must seek out and destroy the rest of the Horcruxes before Voldemort can obtain them, though he isn’t sure where to even start looking, or how to deal with them once he has found them.  He is joined in his quest by Hermoine and Ron, who are also trying to keep their families safe at the same time as they are trying to stop Voldemort.

 

Specifications

  • Warner Brothers
  • 2010, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 26 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Codec:  AVC
  • 1080p
  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson
  • Directed by David Yates
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

Harry Potter is a dark film, and not nearly as young child friendly as a parent might think if they haven’t seen a film since the first one.  I know that it started out even darker than I had expected, though I have only seen the films and never read the books.  I’ve always been pleasantly surprised by the Potter films, especially once the direction of them switched to people like Alfonso Cuaron, and it’s good to see that David Yates has kept that quality going.

Of course, Deathly Hallows was a massive book that Warner Brothers decided to split into multiple films, so people like myself that have not read the book have this film as more of an appetizer before the finale this summer.  However, while I was worried that breaking it up into two parts might lead to a slow, boring first act, I was pleasantly surprised to be entertained the whole time and can’t wait for the series finale now.

Technical

Watching Harry Potter, I really can’t find anything to fault the movie on visually or audibly.  Shadow detail, of which the film is filled with, is rendered superbly.  Most of the outdoor shots are fairly dreary, with a bit of a washed out, overcast look that comes across perfectly.  I never saw, or was at least distracted by, any grain in the image or distracted by any compression noise or any other flaws.

Similarly, from the opening Warner Brother logo, the soundtrack takes full advantage of all the speakers and never slows down.  Battle scenes surround you with explosions in all directions as wizards and witches fly around your head, but even quiet scenes use the surrounds to put you right into the environment of the film.  I might not pull it out as my reference piece to show off my home theater to friends due to the darkness of the image, but it really is reference quality in my experience.

Extras

The 3-disc package that I received features multiple featurettes, Warner’s Maximum Move Mode - Where you get a PIP image with members of the film contributing as you watch, additional scenes, a look at the opening of the final film (well, the retail copy has this, screener copies do not), as well as DVD and Digital copies of the film.


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

movie-april-2011-resident

Synopsis

ER doctor Juliet Devereau (Swank) is looking for an apartment in the challenging market of New York City.  When a caller answers her want-ad, she goes to find a too-good-to-be true opportunity; a large and beautiful apartment in a classic building.  Shortly after she moves in, we discover the owner has more on his mind than simply attracting tenants.  Through a series of hidden passages, Max (Morgan) is able to watch Devereau secretly and even enter the apartment through a panel in the wine closet.  His stalking becomes more serious when he drugs her wine one night.  Juliet becomes suspicious when she discovers the drugs in her system and installs a motion-activated hidden camera.  What she sees is beyond shocking.  Unfortunately, Max enters at just that moment with less than honorable intent.  What follows is a classic showdown between good and evil and you’ll have to watch the film to learn the outcome!

 

Specifications

  • Image Entertainment
  • 2011, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 31 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Codec:  AVC
  • 1080p
  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Starring: Hilary Swank, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Christopher Lee
  • Directed by Antti J. Jokinen
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Brief Nudity
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

While this wasn’t the most tense or gripping thriller I’ve seen, it was highly entertaining.  At 90 minutes the film moves along at a brisk pace which I appreciated.  Hilary Swank gives an excellent performance as the victim; but not too helpless as it turns out.  Jeffrey Dean Morgan who I know from the Supernatural TV series was dynamite as the stalker.  He provided just the right level of creepiness without going over the top.  Christopher Lee’s appearance is fairly brief but he plays his usual mysterious character with competent ease.  I’m a fan of good thrillers and this Blu-ray has become a permanent addition to my library.

Technical

Picture quality is superb and only a fraction short of reference quality.  Detail is sharp and well-defined in the many close-up facial shots.  Dark scenes are frequent in this film and always showed excellent shadow detail and rich, deep blacks.  Color is very natural and nicely saturated.  I’m glad to see a warmer palette in use here instead of the more common cool presentation of modern films.

The DTS-HD Master Audio sound track is solid with good dynamic range and excellent clarity.  I had no trouble with dialog at any time.  I watched this disc on my living room system which sometimes has difficulty if the dynamics are too extreme.  This was not the case with The Resident.  You won’t be reaching for the volume control as quiet scenes are not overly quiet and loud scenes are not overly loud.  Overall, it was an ideal mix for watching on TV.  The sub wasn’t used too heavily but there were some good surround effects which added to the tense atmosphere of the storyline.

Extras

The only bonus feature is a two-minute theatrical trailer.

The 3-disc package that I received features multiple featurettes, Warner’s Maximum Move Mode - Where you get a PIP image with members of the film contributing as you watch, additional scenes, a look at the opening of the final film (well, the retail copy has this, screener copies do not), as well as DVD and Digital copies of the film.


"Somewhere" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movie-april-2011-somewhere

Synopsis

Actor Johnny Marco (Dorff) is leading the fast-paced lifestyle of a tabloid celebrity. He's comfortably numb with his life of women and pills when his 11-year-old daughter, Cleo (Fanning), unexpectedly arrives at his room at Hollywood's legendary Chateau Marmont hotel. Their time together encourages Johnny to re-question his life in ways he never expected.

 

Specifications

  • Focus Features
  • 2011, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 38 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Codec:  AVC
  • 1080p
  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Starring:  Stephen Dorff, Elle Fanning
  • Directed by Sophia Coppola
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

Unlike Sophia Coppola’s Lost in Translation, Dorff’s character is not likable like Bill Murray’s character was. Marco is just plain lost and without any hope of finding direction. I know what you are thinking. The young daughter shows up and helps her father leave the sex, drugs, alcohol and narcissistic behavior behind. Wrong! For an hour and a half, you watch him slowly self destruct. His life is so pointless and without meaning that he even falls asleep during sex. Is it a statement by Coppola that Hollywood excess is the ruin of many a young man? Maybe, but we didn’t need to watch this movie to know that. The movie is very slow to develop and just seems to shuffle along aimlessly from start to finish. In the end, I found that Somewhere went nowhere.

Technical

Picture quality and sound were very good. Some grain is seen buzzing around in some of the dimly lit indoor scenes, but it is consistent throughout the film. Not an action movie by any stretch, so surrounds and sub come into play sparingly. Dialog was clear, though the first word is not spoken until 15 minutes into the film!

Extras

The only bonus feature is a "making of".


"Taxi Driver" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

movie-april-2011-taxi-driver

Synopsis

Travis Bickle (Robert DeNiro) is a Taxi Driver in New York City.  An ex-marine, Travis is bothered and somewhat disgusted by the filth he sees all around him on the streets of the city, or in the back seat of his cab.  Travis meets a campaign worker (Cybill Shepherd) who he manages to ask out on a date, but he manages to make a mess of things.  He later becomes enchanted by a young prostitute (Jodie Foster) who he wants to free from the bonds of her pimp.

 

Specifications

  • Sony Pictures
  • 1976, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 54 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Codec:  AVC
  • 1080p
  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Starring:  Robert DeNiro, Cybill Shepherd, Jodie Foster
  • Directed by Martin Scorsese
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

Taxi Driver is a classic, wonderful film, but one that defies easy answers to basic questions.  The actions of Travis Bickle, and the ending to the film, are deliberately ambiguous, leaving you unsure what is reality or fantasy.  A film that is worthy of repeat viewings, and fully worthy of the wonderful transfer that Sony has given it.

Technical

Given a new 4K transfer by Sony, Taxi Driver hasn’t looked this good since it was originally released in theaters.  In most scenes, detail is absolutely stunning compared to any other home release of the film.  Some scenes suffer from a bit of softness, and there is film grain present the whole time, but that’s how the film originally looked, and so you can’t ask for anything more from a transfer than to represent the original film perfectly.

The soundtrack similarly does a fantastic job with the jazz score of the film, bringing it to life in all the channels.  Additionally, they have done a fantastic job using the surrounds to bring about the ambiance of the scenes, sounding far more like a current film in it’s use of the surrounds than a film from 35 years ago.

Extras

Commentaries with Martin Scorsese, Paul Schrader, and Robert Kolker, Making of Documentary, Page to Screen feature, multiple featurettes, storyboard to film comparison, and a photo gallery.  The commentary with Scorsese and Schrader from the original Criterion Laserdisc is alone worth the cost of the disc, as it’s fascinating from beginning to end.


"A.I. Artificial Intelligence" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Stephen Hornbrook

movie-april-2011-artificialintelligence

Synopsis

In Artificial Intelligence, a couple’s son is placed in suspended animation, awaiting a cure for his disease.  To fill his void, they test out a prototype mecha, also described as an advanced humanoid robot. The technology is so advanced, it is nearly impossible to tell the difference between the robot, David, and a real boy.  After bringing David home and adjusting to the idea of a humanoid, a cure is found and the son, Martin returns home.  Martin and David clash and can’t seem to get along. This anger culminates at a birthday party where David drags Martin into the pool and almost drowns him. Henry, the father, demands that they return the robot to Cybertronics for destruction.  Monica, the mother, can not go through with it and drops David off in the forest where his is picked up by an anti-mecha group.  David is able to escape with a male prostitute mecha, Gigalo Joe (Jude Law). David begins a journey in search of the Blue Fairy, a mythical idea from Pinocchio that will bring life to David.

 

Specifications

  • Paramount Pictures
  • 2001, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 26 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Codec:  AVC
  • 1080p
  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Starring: Haley Joel Osment, Jude Law, Frances O’Conner, Sam Robards
  • Directed by Steven Spielberg
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: Mild
  • Language: No

Commentary

A.I. was a project that originated back in 1970 by Stanley Kubrick. Nothing much ever happened with it until after his death in 1999. The project was taken over by Spielberg and here we have the final product. It is not your typical Spielberg sci-fi adventure. The movie has pretty dark overtones and requires a bit of thought by the viewer, unlike certain 1 Dimensional “films” recently made (Crystal Skull) by Spielberg. Upon my initial viewing of the film, almost 10 years ago, I enjoyed it quite a bit and always planned on further viewings, but just never got around to it.  The movie holds up well and, in my opinion, is one of Spielberg’s better science fiction works.

Technical

Blu-ray springs new life into A.I. as I was never that pleased with the DVD transfer.  Image quality is much improved and cinematographer Janusz Kaminski’s gritty style is reproduced very well.  The wonderful score by John Williams sounds fantastic and the surround mix is very well done.

Extras

Several documentaries on design, lighting, acting, special effects and the sound and music of AI.


"Fiddler on the Roof" (Blu-ray)) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movie-april-2011-fiddler

Synopsis

Strong film adaptation of one of the greatest musicals ever. Jewison beautifully recaptures the essence of the Alchiem stories with wonderful cinematography, editing and performances from Teyve, Frey and Molly Picon. One of the last great movie musicals. The story takes place in a poor pre-revolution village and ecnompasses the struggles of community, family and love. Filled with many memorable songs, Fiddler is a triumph of the human spirit over adversity...and life!

 

Specifications

  • Fox/MGM
  • 2011, Color, Rated PG, 3 Hr 1 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Codec:  MPEG-2
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS Master Audio
  • Starring: Topol, Leonard Frey
  • Directed by Norman Jewison
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

One of my favorite musicals adapted for the big screen, this story portrays hope in the face of obstacles, love in spite of bigotry and hatred. The themes, like the film, have aged well and are still relevant today. They don’t make them like this anymore. Why do I keep watching this old film? One word: Tradition!

Technical

As wonderful as the film is, the transfer on BD is less than stellar. The picture can be a bit murky and soft at times. The cinematographer said he filmed it as though through a piece of gauze…and it shows. Specks and blemishes appear frequently. Why didn’t Fox take the time to remaster it for HD is beyond me, but it is a shame. If I were a rich man, I would have restored it and cleaned it up. Still, the BD is superior to the included DVD. Sound is about what you would expect from the old stereo source. The musical numbers are expansive and as delightful as ever.

Extras

Commentaries, John William's on making the music,Songs and storyboards.


"Rabbit Hole" (DVD) - Reviewed by Jim Clements

movie-april-2010-rabbit-hole

Synopsis

Becca and Howie Corbett (Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart) had their lives shattered when their 4 year old son was hit by a car after he ran into the street chasing his pet dog.  Now, eight months later, they are struggling to return their lives to normalcy.  Then one day Becca sees the driver of the car, Jason (Miles Teller).  She begins to follow him and they later start meeting up.  Becca also opens up to her mother, Nat (Dianne Wiest) who suffered a similar loss when her adult son passed away.  Meanwhile, Howie is trying to work out his feelings by attending group therapy.  The story ultimately comes down to how Becca and Howie each cope with the situation in their own unique way and will it bring them closer together or drive them apart?

Specifications

  • Lionsgate
  • 2010, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 32 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Codec:  MPEG-2
  • 480i
  • English 5.1 Dolby Digital
  • Starring: Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart and Dianne Wiest
  • Directed by John Cameron Mitchell
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: Mild
  • Language: Mild

Commentary


Nicole Kidman as Becca garnered a ton of nominations for best actress awards for her role in this movie.  But she didn't break through and win any of these awards.  I find this to be very interesting as "Rabbit Hole" is just the type of movie that would appeal to many critics in the various associations.  Nevertheless, the nominations are an indication that she performed at her typically high level in this movie.  To a certain extent, She may have been let down by her co-star, Aaron Eckhart.  He has a generally decent performance throughout most of the movie, but his work turns a little wooden right at the moments when his character, Howie, should be at his most emotional.  I saw these parts of his portrayal as a sort of "paint by numbers" effort.  Still, the movie is well directed with an engaging screenplay.  The whole thing comes together under a cloud of a persistently grave tone to keep you interested and engaged in all the characters.  The ending was "nice", but I personally wished for a substantially different ending.

Technical

The review sample I revceived was an old-fashioned DVD so my maximum score for video or sound would be 4 stars.  As far as DVD's are concerned, this disc is above average in both categories but it does not reach the highest quality levels for the format.  I found the picture to be smooth and free of artifacts.  However, it is softer than the best DVD's with colors that tended toward the over-saturated.  The black levels are elevated as well.  The audio for its part is more than passable with good surround effects but the sound was muted at the frequency extremes.

Extras

This single disc package has three extras - an audio commentary with the Director, the Writer, and the Director of Photography; deleted scenes and the theatrical trailer.  I enjoyed the deleted scenes the most.  At a running time of 92 minutes, I found that "Rabit Hole" had fine pacing, but I felt some of the deleted scenes could well have made the cut and helped flesh out some character and plot elements without making the movie overly long.


"The Incredibles" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Tyler Stripko

movie-april-2011-incredibles

Synopsis

After a series of lawsuits sends the once beloved superheroes of the world into hiding, former superheroes Bob (Craig T. Nelson) and Helen Parr (Holly Hunter) must try to redefine their lives in the “normal” world.  While aching to get back to the job of saving the planet from evil, Bob is approached by a mysterious government agency that needs his special talents.   Jumping at the chance to don his Mr. Incredible digs once again, Bob dives in, only to find out that the job is not all that it appears to be.  When Bob goes missing Helen must put on her Elastigirl suit once more to go to his rescue taking along their “super” children Dash (Spencer Fox) and Violet (Sarah Vowell).

Specifications

  • Walt Disney Studios
  • 2004, Color, Rated PG, 1 Hr 55 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson, Jason Lee, Spencer Fox, Sarah Vowell, and Brad Bird
  • Directed by Brad Bird
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Moderate
  • Sex: None
  • Language: None

Commentary

While I have loved all of the Disney/Pixar films, “The Incredibles” is one of my absolute favorites, ranking right up there with “Finding Nemo” and “Cars.”  This film has it all; a great plot, wonderful voice-acting, witty dialogue, perfect pace, an interesting villain, and some wonderful action sequences.  It also feels like one of the most “adult” Pixar films to me, as Bob/Mr. Incredible’s search for a return to the glory days resonates strongly with just about any adult with fond memories of days gone by.  There is also some extremely poignant socio-political commentary in the movie, such as the basic premise of people suing superheroes for saving their lives.  I also hope viewers pick up on some of the lines such as “finding new ways to celebrate mediocrity” and “everyone’s special, which is just a way of saying no one is.”  Leave it to a Pixar film to so clearly illustrate issues confronting American society today.

Technical

“The Incredibles” was a standard demo disc on DVD and it will continue to be so on Blu-ray.  While the animation is not quite as realistic (though still wonderful) as more recent Disney/Pixar release, the picture is absolutely perfect.  I can’t find a single thing to complain about.  The image is incredibly sharp, colors are vibrant but not oversaturated, there is great contrast and depth to the image, etc, etc, etc.  The lossless 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is a big step-up from the older Dolby Digital track on DVD.  Again, perfect is about the only word I can use to describe it.  Dialogue, music, and sound effects are all perfectly balanced and really help engage the viewer in the movie.  There are subtle details present throughout the movie if you listen carefully as well as massively bombastic moments.  The surround field in particular is really well done and really helps to fully immerse the viewer in the experience.

Extras

I’d give this disc a 5 here just for the inclusion of the “Jack-Jack Attack” short film but there is a load of other good stuff as well.  I received the 4-disc combo pack which includes: a Blu-ray disc with the film, a second Blu-ray disc with additional bonus content, a DVD copy of the film, plus a fourth disc with a Digital Copy.  Extras (almost all in HD) on the Blu-ray discs include a filmmaker Roundtable, the “Boundin’” and “Jack-Jack Attack” short films, a commentary on the “Jack-Jack Attack” short, a visual tour of the island lair of Syndrome, deleted scenes, teasers, an art gallery, and a few other featurettes.  There is also a voucher for a free ticket to “Cars 2.”  I wish more discs came with this many goodies.