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Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - February, 2012

ARTICLE INDEX

"To Kill a Mockingbird" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Clements

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Synopsis

This classic American film is a nearly direct adaptation of the 1960 novel of the same name written by Harper Lee.  The novel won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961. 

The movie centers around a small town attorney in the deep South named Atticus Finch (Peck).  The story is told through the eyes of Mr. Finch's youngest child.  She portrays Finch as a strong, caring father figure.  The main plot focus is the trial of Tom Robinson (Peters) a black man accused of raping a white woman.  Finch agrees to defend Robinson and fights to uphold proper justice.  The main themes explored here include love, compassion, intolerance, poverty, innocence and a coming of age.

Specifications

  • Universal
  • 1962, Black & White, NR, 2 Hr 10 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Gregory Peck, Mary Badham, Phillip Alford, John Megna, Brock Peters, Frank Overton and Robert Duvall
  • Directed by Robert Mulligan
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

This movie garnered eight Academy Award nominations in 1963, scoring three Oscars.  The most prominent of which was Peck's award for Best Actor.  Peck beat out Peter O'Toole who was nominated for his part in Lawrence of Arabia that year.  Then in 2003, the American Film Institute named Atticus Finch as the greatest movie hero of all time.  So this movie has rightfully earned its place among the great and enduring American film classics.  I enjoyed every minute of the movie and feel that this 50th Anniversary Blu-ray is a must have for any serious cinephile.  It has been thoroughly and lovingly restored and comes in a special package with a DVD/Digital Copy and a 40-page book of memoirs, storyboards, telegraphs, posters, etc.  Highly recommended.

Technical

As mentioned above, this movie received a full digital restoration as part of Universal's 100th Anniversary.  The scans came from the original 35mm film elements.  The restoration team cleaned up much of the film grain, but left enough grain intact for authenticity's sake.  They also digitally restored frames that were torn or scratched.  The results of the restoration are incredible with detail galore and excellent grayscale tracking.  Some scenes are a little soft or have crushed whites but it is obvious this is a limitation of the original photography.  The audio is well restored too.  The music by Elmer Bernstein sounds as if it could have been recorded yesterday.  Voices did tend to sound a bit nasal at times.  The team smartly used the surround channels for not much more than subtle environmental cues.

Extras

This package includes some really great extras.  Besides the special packaging and booklet, you get "Fearful Symmetry", a feature-length documentary on the making of the movie; "A Conversation with Gregory Peck"; Academy Award Best Actor Acceptance Speech; American Film Institute Lifetime Achievement Award; "Excerpt from the Academy Tribute to Gregory Peck"; "Scout Remembers"; Feature Commentary with Director Robert Mulligan and Producer Alan Pakula; The Theatrical Trailer and "100 Years of Universal: Restoring the Classics".


"Dream House" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Stephen Hornbrook

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Synopsis

Will Atenton (Daniel Craig) is a successful publisher who decides he has had enough of the stressful work world and retires to spend more time with his family.  He has just bought a nice house in the suburbs where he and his wife and two daughters are in the process of moving in and fixing the place up. Will soon learns of the murder that took place in the house a few years ago.  A man named Peter Ward was believed to have killed his wife Elizabeth and daughters Beatrice and Katherine.  Will is haunted by this Peter character and believes him to be stalking his family.  He decides to research the murders and get to the bottom of what really happened inside his home.

Specifications

  • Universal
  • 2011, Color, Not Rated, 92 Minutes
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Codec: VC1
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz, Naomi Watts
  • Directed by Jim Sheridan
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

Dream House is a very average movie.  I love Daniel Craig, but this was definitely not his finest performance and the same goes for his real-life wife, Rachel Weisz.  I do think this movie is best if you go into it not knowing a damn thing about it as it adds some interesting elements.  Unfortunately, I felt the director just didn’t have the skills to properly build the suspense and intrigue required for a movie like this.  It is possible this mess of a movie wasn’t entirely his fault as apparently he and producer James Robinson did not see eye to eye and Sheridan was stripped of final edit.  I suppose maybe rent it? Although, honestly, you would be fine passing on Dream House.

Technical

For the most part, the video quality on Dream House is very good, although I did find it a bit soft here and there. The muted, depressing tone is communicated very well here, as are the solid blacks and shadow detail. 

The audio mix left me wanting a lot more.  Usually these kinds of films play with your senses through clever uses of the surround channels.  Dream House was a fairly quiet film without much music or heart thumping sound effects.

Extras

“Burning Down the House” - short SFX featurette, “Building the Dream House” - short about the house a character, “The Dream Cast”, “A Look Inside”, and Theatrical Trailer.


"Dead Poets Society" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

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Synopsis

For generations, Welton Academy students have been groomed to live lives of conformity and tradition – until new professor John Keating inspires them to think for themselves, live life to the fullest, and “Carpe Diem.”  This unconventional approach awakens the spirits of the students, but draws the wrath of a disapproving faculty when an unexpected tragedy strikes the school.  With unforgettable characters and beautiful cinematography, Dead Poets Society will captivate and inspire you time and time again.

 

Specifications

  • Disney
  • 1989, Color, PG, 2 Hours, 9 Minutes
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Robin Williams, Ethan Hawke, Robert Sean Leonard
  • Directed by Peter Wier
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Very Mild
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

I believe I’m the only person in my high school class that didn’t watch this film growing up, and really had no idea what it was about prior to watching it now.  Robin Williams delivers a well balanced, and atypically understated, performance but the picture is really driven by the students.  With many young actors who have since gone on to do far more, they really help to carry the film along and make you care about them.

I never had a teacher like The Captain in high school, though I did have one in college that helped me to think outside the box, and whom I regularly visited and talked with even after I was no longer in his class.  Those viewers with similar experiences will find something in Dead Poets Society that they recognize from their own lives, and that will help them to overlook the small flaws in the film as it connects with them personally.

Technical

The quality of the film was a bit inconsistent, but I believe a lot of that is attributed to the stock and how it was shot.  For the most part the images are a little bit soft, though there are a couple of images where the texture from Robin Williams coat is very detailed and just jumps off the screen.  There doesn’t seem to be any signs of noise reduction or anything else that would strip this fine detail from the image, so I believe this is more due to the quality of the original negative.  One of the early cave scenes is also shot very darkly and there is a lack of shadow detail for it, but this also might have been intentional.

The soundtrack is anchored across the front for the most part, with very little surround or LFE use throughout.  It does a very good job of bringing across the score, with all it’s 1980’s cheesiness, and dialog is well rendered, but it doesn’t have the full clarity or immersion that a modern film does.

Extras

Audio Commentary, a few featurettes, and the theatrical trailer.


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

movie-january-2012-manhattan

Synopsis

Manhattan is a story about Isaac Davis (Woody Allen), a man torn between two women, but really is more a love affair about Isaac and New York City.  The central character focus in Manhattan is on Isaac and his high school girlfriend Tracy, and his friend Yale and his mistress Mary.  When Isaac runs into Mary as a social event and begins to develop feelings for her, the love triangle beings to get even more complex and none of the men can consistently decide what they want.

Specifications

  • MGM
  • 1979, B&W, R, 96 Minutes
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Woody Allen, Mariel Hemmingway, and Diane Keaton
  • Directed by Woody Allen
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

The opening of Manhattan is one of my favorites from any film, with striking black-and-white shots of New York set to the sounds of Gershwin.  The first movie that Woody Allen shot in Cinemascope, all in black and white, with a wonderful soundtrack, it really is a film that I could watch even with no dialogue to go along with it.  The storyline and characters are well done and really make for an enjoyable experience, but it’s the artistic elements that I always remember from the film and make me want to watch it again.  One of the best films of Woody Allen’s long career, and one I’m very excited to finally have on Blu-ray.

Technical

Shot in black and white in cinemascope, Manhattan has never looked better at home.  Night shots feature very heavy grain, and some of the shots in the opening sequence are a bit dark, but overall the film looks fantastic.  Other than a couple of shots that looked a bit soft, this is a wonderful transfer and looks amazing.

Like all Woody Allen films, Manhattan is originally a mono soundtrack and here it is presented in lossless stereo.  A good decision compared to previous DVD releases that were true mono as it lets more people take advantage of the two best speakers in their system.  You will find that dialogue is clear and the score comes across very well.  Manhattan is never going to sound like an action blockbuster, but it might never sound any better than this.

Extras

There is a trailer here, and that’s it, since it is a Woody Allen film and he hates supplements.


"Good Morning Vietnam" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Tyler Stripko

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Synopsis

As U.S. involvement in Vietnam is escalating, U.S. Air Force DJ Adrian Cronauer (Robin Williams) is brought to Saigon to inject some life into the stuffy local Armed Forces Radio station.  

Cronauer’s antics and disregard for authority quickly get him into trouble with his superiors, but the troops love him and the rock and roll he plays. 

Specifications

  • Touchstone Pictures
  • 1987, Color, R, 121 Minutes
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Robin Williams and Forest Whitaker
  • Directed by Barry Levinson
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: None
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

While certainly not Williams’ best work, Good Morning Vietnam plays to Williams’ strengths.  The part of the wacky radio DJ is similar to Williams’ stand-up comedy routines, i.e. all over the map.  As someone who appreciates Williams’ ability to shift comic gears at near machine-gun pace, I enjoyed the comedy bits throughout the film.  I also appreciated the storyline, which attempts to show the feelings of the Vietnamese, particularly through the eyes of young Tuan (Tung Thanh Tran).  While the plot is a bit predictable, it keeps a viewer interested and never drags.

Technical

For a film released in 1987, the overall picture quality is pretty good.  The picture is fairly sharp, with solid colors (sometimes a bit yellow-tinted) and good black levels as a base.  However, I noticed quite a few scenes where the actors faces had a bit of a waxy haze over them.  It is very likely that there was a bit of digital noise reduction used on the original print in an effort to clean things up for this release.  It is not terrible, but it does ruin the original film look and softens the picture to some degree.  There is still a good amount of film grain present, but it was obviously scrubbed a bit, particularly on close-ups.   In general this is the best I’ve seen this film look, though I think it could be even better with a bit more effort. 

The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is average.  The sound is clear and there are no issues at all with dialogue intelligibility.  There is little action of note in the surrounds and the few scenes that utilize the subwoofer channel are pretty weak.  Even the land mines that go off in the last act of the film lack punch.  The only real highlights are the classic rock tracks spread throughout the film, which punch through the front three channels nicely.

Extras

Included on this disc is a five-part production diary with sub-features on making the movie, Williams’ improve, the music, the origin of the movies tagline, shooting in Thailand, and a retrospective on the film.  There are also some raw monologues and the original trailers for the film.


"Shakespeare in Love" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

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Synopsis

William Shakespeare is one of the great writers of all time, but was it easy for him to write those plays?  What was it that inspired him to come up with the stories that we are still reading, performing, and enjoying hundreds of years later?  Shakespeare in Love imagines a young William Shakespeare, in and out of love, and lacking a muse to help drive his creative energies.  When a disguised Lady Viola comes to audition, as females are not allowed to act at this time, William finds someone that inspires him as no one else has.


Unfortunately Lady Viola is to be married to someone, and her identity cannot be discovered lest she not be allowed to continue acting in the play William is writing, a little thing called Romeo and Juliet.  As the play begins to take shape from the events in his own life, and the troubles of the world around them conspire to keep them apart, we come along for the ride to see an imagining of what it might have been like.

Specifications

  • Miramax
  • 1998, Color, R, 2 Hours, 2 Minutes
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Gwyneth Paltrow, Joseph Fienes, Colin Firth
  • Directed by John Madden
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

Most people now might talk about this as an example where Oscar got it wrong, and let the marketing engine of Miramax push their film to a victory over the more powerful, and serious, Saving Private Ryan for Best Picture.  Unfortunately I think this sells Shakespeare in Love short on how wonderful of a film it is.  No, it doesn’t deal with sacrifice for your country like Private Ryan, but it is still a fantastic, wonderful film that I will maintain is a fine choice for Best Picture (though my favorite films of that year were Out of Sight and Rushmore).

The story, acting, and directing are all wonderful, and the script from Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard is just fantastic in its wit and whimsy to help carry the film along.  Gwyneth Paltrow hasn’t done as much acclaimed work since this film as I had expected her to, but she delivers here and does a wonderful job in the role of Lady Viola.  I was quite happy to watch this again, as my memory of it had faded over time, and it let me recall how great a film it really is.

Technical

Shakespeare in Love is a stunning transfer, and far better than I recalled it being even when I saw it in theaters.  Textures and details are amazing in their quality, and other than a couple scenes that seem to be a bit off in contrast, the picture itself is just stunning.  The soundtrack is similar with very good use of the surrounds and clear, intelligible dialogue throughout the film.  Really it is a spectacular looking and sounding film.

Extras

Audio commentary from the director, cast, and crew, deleted scenes, theatrical trailer, TV spots, and featurettes on Shakespeare on Film and the costumes in the film.


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

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Synopsis

The mysterious murder of a U.S. senator bearing the distinctive trademark of the legendary Soviet assassin "Cassius," forces a retired CIA operative Shepardson (Gere), to team with rookie FBI agent Geary (Grace) to solve the crime. Having spent his career chasing Cassius, Shepherdson is convinced his nemesis is long dead. Meanwhile, Agent Geary, who wrote his Master's thesis on Shepherdson's pursuit of the Soviet killer, is certain that Cassius has resurfaced. As Shepherdson and Geary work their way through crimes both past and present, they discover that Cassius may not be the person they always thought him to be, forcing both to re-examine everything and everyone around them.

Specifications

  • Image Entertainment
  • 2011, Color, PG-13, 92 Minutes
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Richard Gere, Topher Grace, Martin Sheen
  • Directed by : Michael Brandt
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

This movie had potential, but fell victim to an oft used plot ploy of revealing the “big secret” in the first third of the film. Now we, the audience, know what’s going on while the rookie G-man runs around till the finale, completely clueless. Even though there is some action thrown in once and a while, the movie becomes bogged down and dull. My other big complaint was the lack of realistic blood. I mean, people were getting their throats slit and there was precious little blood to show for it. Gere steps out a car after a nasty crash and the blood on his face looks like it was painted on with a magic marker. The scars on the Russian terrorist looked like rubber cement, but that could be just because the PQ is so good and detailed. Really, a half hour of this movie could have trimmed and not affected the overall story line. Oh, and the title refers to a "double agent". Hope I spoiled the ending.

Technical

As un-thrilling this thriller was, I can not fault the pristine PQ or aggressive SQ. Lots of depth and detail (like the scars and blood that the fine details reveal to be less than genuine) with good contrasts and vivid colors. Gere's face is really showing some wear, but I can only hope to look as good as him when I get to that age. The surrounds are very effective in the car chase scene. Dialog is well centered and clear as a bell. Great looking and sounding flick...just not a great movie.

Extras

Even the extras are dull. Producer interviews, trailer and commentaries with Brandt and the writer.


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

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Synopsis

Ryan Gosling stars as a Hollywood stunt driver for movies by day and moonlights as a wheelman for criminals by night. Though a loner by nature, “Driver” can’t help falling in love with his beautiful neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan), a young mother dragged into a dangerous underworld by the return of her ex-convict husband. After a heist goes wrong, Driver finds himself driving defense for the girl he loves, tailgated by a syndicate of deadly serious criminals (Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman). Soon he realizes the gangsters are after more than the bag of cash and is forced to shift gears and go on the offense.

Specifications

  • Sony Pictures
  • 2011, Color, R, 100 Minutes
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Ryan Gosling, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks, Ron Perlman
  • Directed by : Nicolas Winding Refn
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Toplessness
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

Ryan Gosling plays his character with a detached aloofness, with an edge of explosive violence just under the surface of his calm demeanor. We don’t know where he came from, or even who he really is. But it doesn’t matter in the end. The movie kept me riveted to my seat from beginning to end. I expected more car chase scenes, but instead was treated to interesting and complex character developement. Nice for a change. A must see movie for those that missed it in the theaters and perhaps my favorite blu-ray release this year. Sequel? Maybe. Beware: the violence is quick, but brutal. Pure adrenaline. Definitely a guys movie and not for the kiddies…or squeamish gals.

Technical

Both sound and picture quality are top-notch. In some shots you can see lint floating in the air around the actors. Depth and details are very good. Even the dark street scenes look good with deep blacks that don’t obscure the details. The soundtrack is a very important part of what is going on up on the screen. Often when the music stops…something bad is about to happen. Powerful driving bass is heard throughout the movie. My suggestion? Turn it up, sit down and hold on.

Extras

I Drive, Under The Hood, Driver and Irene, Cut To The Chase,Drive Without A Driver: Interview With Nicolas Winding Refn.


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

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Synopsis

While serving as a paid companion for the wealthy Edythe Van Hoppe in Monte Carlo, our main character (unnamed) meets the recently widowed Maxim de Winter.  Right before our narrator has to leave, Mr. de Winter proposes to her and they return to his estate, Manderley.  As she is introduced to the staff, the head housemaid Mrs. Danvers treats her coldly.  As she tries to find out more, she discovers that Mrs. Danvers was very close to his previous wife, Rebecca, who drowned last year in a boating accident.  As Mrs. de Winter continues to try to fit in at the estate and make Mr. de Winter happy, her relationship with Mrs. Danvers grows more and more strained and combative, as she tries to understand just who Rebecca was.

Specifications

  • MGM
  • 1940, B&W, Not Rated, 2 Hours 11 Minutes
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • English Mono DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine
  • Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

I’ve only seen the later, and more famous, Hitchcock works in my life, and was happy to see one of his earlier works.  I wound up being a bit disappointed as Rebecca did build up suspense, but it moved along very slowly in comparison to other films.  The acting was very good overall, and the plot was good, but I wound up surprised that this won Best Picture back in 1940 at the end.

Technical

Rebecca is pretty old but MGM does a nice job overall with the image transfer.  There is some damage here and there, and some shots are pretty soft as well, but overall the image is very nice for the age.  Not as good as some of the titles from the area that were given more extensive restorations, but good overall.

The soundtrack was a little bit more hit-and-miss than the video was.  Early on I found the soundtrack to be very thin and scratchy, and really pretty harsh to my ears.  Later on the quality improved quite a bit and the harshness was gone.  Some bits of dialogue were too low, with one scene early in the car where a voice starts out too quiet to hear and then rises up to a normal level during a sentence.  Overall, not bad considering the age of the materials.

Extras

There is a commentary track, multiple featurettes, the original trailer, screen tests, and interviews with Hitchcock.


"Spellbound" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by John Johnson

movie-february-2012-spellbound

Synopsis

When handsome Dr. Edwardes (Peck) arrives at Green Manors Psychiatric Hospital to replace Dr. Murchison (Carroll) as Chief of the hospital, Dr. Constance Petersen (Bergman) falls in love with him. But there is something very strange about his behavior, and Constance discovers that Dr. Edwardes is not who he says he is, and also does not remember what his real name is. When the real Dr. Edwardes is found dead, Constance and "Dr. Edwardes" go on the run, and she takes him to an old friend, also a psychiatrist, to try and unravel the mystery of who "Dr. Edwardes" is, and more importantly, who murdered the real Dr. Edwardes.

Specifications

  • MGM
  • 1945, B&W, Not Rated, 1 Hr 58 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Codec: AVC @ 38Mbps
  • 1080p
  • English Mono DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Gregory Peck, Ingrid Bergman, Leo G. Carroll
  • Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

Spellbound is one of Hitchcock's best, and it was made at the height of his career. His female love interests were always blondes, and always beautiful, as Bergman was certainly, in 1945. The story is gripping, the photography a visual feast, and the surprise ending is typical Hitchcock. The film had six Oscar® nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director, and won for Best Music Score (by Miklós Rózsa).

Technical

This is a gorgeous restoration considering the age of the film, and the producers did not hold back, at 38MBps bit rate. The sound is mono, but the film needs no surrround sound. The movie is black & white, but this medium allows for so much more manipulation of light and shadow than color, it is the format most suitable for this masterful storyteller. There are two very upfront special effects: one by Salvador Dali, and the other in the climax to the story.

Extras

These include Dreaming with Scissors, Guilt by Assocation, and other things. If you are a Hitchcock fan, this disc is a must-have.


"Lady and the Tramp" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by John Johnson

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Synopsis

A well-to-do businessman gives his wife a puppy for Christmas, and they name her Lady. She grows up in the wealthy neighborhood with other dogs as friends. On the other side of the tracks, literally, there is a mongrel dog named Tramp. At a chance meeting, Lady and the Tramp hit it off and fall in love. Meanwhile, back home, a new baby in Lady's home is threatened by rats who make their way inside. Tramp saves the day, and soon, a basketfull of puppies play together with the baby who is now a young child.

Specifications

  • Disney
  • 1955, Color, Rated G, 1 Hr 16 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • 1080p
  • English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring the Voices of Barbara Luddy, Larry Roberts, Peggy Lee
  • Directed by Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

Ah, the old days when the plots were simple and the good guys always won. Now, you have to check to see that a movie is rated G rather than PG so you can be sure your kids won't hear at least one "F" bomb.

Technical

The techniques for restoring old film must be advancing at breakneck speed, because the transfer is flawless on the visual side. No scratches, dust, or anything else to give away the fact that the camera negative is more than half a century old. It was shot at 2.55:1, which was in the very early days of Cinemascope®. A few others were also filmed at this high aspect ratio, including Demetrius and the Gladiators, and another Disney classic, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Things settled quickly, however, and 2.40:1 became the standard. The audio is 7.1, taken from the original stereo sound track. The stereo effect is good, but the sound recording had some distortion that could not be corrected in the restoration.

Extras

These include Deleted Scenes, Deleted Song, Lady's Pedigree, The Siamese Cat Song, Going to the Dogs, the SD-DVD version, and some other things.


 

"Texas Killing Fields" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movie-february-2012-texas

Synopsis

The movie follows detective Souder (Worthington), a homicide detective in a small Texan town and his partner, a transplanted New York city cop (Morgan) as they track a sadistic serial killer dumping his victims mutilated bodies in a nearby marsh that the locals call the “killing fields”. Based on true events, the detectives must find the killer before he murders his latest kidnap victim, the young female friend of Souder...and time is running out!

Specifications

  • Anchor Bay
  • 2012, Color, Rated R, 105 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.35:1
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 Dolby Tru-HD
  • Starring Sam Worthington, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Jessica Chastain, Chloe Grace Moretz
  • Directed by Ami Canaan Mann
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

The film opens with the over used phrase, "Inspired by true events." That’s just a fancy way of saying the story took place in Texas…the rest is completely made up. I don’t mind so much as long as the story is compelling, but this story left me with way more questions than it answered. What was the motivation of the cops and killers? Was the case ever solved? What is the back story to the main characters? If it is any consolation, this is about the best acting I have seen from Worthington. Still, the story could have been trimmed by about 30 minutes and still had time to tell this tale. Admittedly, after seeing Morezt in Kick-Ass and Let Me In, I am convinced she is going to become an actor of some stature. Her subtle, but solid acting here carries her character well into the realm of believability.

Technical

The overall picture is very good, with only the darker scenes becoming noisy with film grain. Sound quality was also on par, with crisp dialog and good use of surrounds during the rainy scenes and car chase scenes. Nothing outstanding, but not bad either.

Extras

Trailer and audio commentaries from the director.


"I Don't Know How She Does It" (DVD) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movie-february-2012-how-she-does-it

Synopsis

Kate Reddy (Parker) devotes her days to her job with a Boston-based financial management firm. At night she goes home to her adoring, recently-downsized architect husband Richard (Kinnear) and their two young children. It's a non-stop balancing act, the same one that Kate's acerbic best friend and fellow working mother performs on a daily basis, and that Kate's super-brainy, child-phobic young junior associate Momo (Munn) fully intends to avoid. When Kate gets handed a major new account that will require frequent trips to New York, Richard also wins the new job he's been hoping for and both will be spreading themselves even thinner. Complicating matters is Kate's charming new business associate Jack Abelhammer (Brosnan), who begins to prove an unexpected source of temptation.

Specifications

  • Weinstein Company
  • 2012, Color, Rated PG-13, 89 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • Widescreen
  • English 5.1 Dolby Digital
  • Starring Sarah Jessica Parker, Greg Kinnear, Pierce Brosnan, Christina Hendricks, Olivia Munn
  • Directed by Douglas McGrath
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

Parker does a fairly good job as the stressed out mom who can do it all. Trouble is, the movies stresses the fact that you really can’t be a mom, wife, professional, traveler, etc.- I mean, somethings got to give and somethings going to suffer. Kinear plays a fine understanding spouse, but sort of wimps out and doesn’t put his foot down very often. Brosnan is showing signs of heavy mileage, but seems entranced by Parker. There are some good, honest insights into the lives of working moms, and of women trying to make it in a male-dominated field yet these insights get lost in an avalanche of cliches and stereotypes. In anycase, after a few funny situations, all is resolved in the end. This is a chick-flick, but not a totally lame one.

Technical

It is getting so that I can’t stand watching a DVD anymore. Remember when we thought DVD was the cat’s meow? Still, the picture looked pretty sharp with good color saturation and few artifacts. Sound was front heavy, but this is a “talky”, not an “action” film. Near the close of the movie, look for the “snow” falling on Parker and you’ll see that it is composed of not so subtle…soap bubbles. Oh my!

Extras

Audio commentaries from Douglas McGrath.


 

"Tower Heist" (Blu-ray)) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movie-february-2012-heist

Synopsis

Josh Kovacs (Stiller) manages a super-high-tech high-rise in the middle of Manhattan, catering to every need of the tower's residents, including financier Arthur Shaw (Alda). When Shaw gets arrested by the FBI, Kovacs realizes that his staff's pensions, which he asked Shaw to invest, are lost, and when it looks like Shaw is going to get away with it, Kovacs pulls together a mismatched team (included Matthew Broderick, Casey Affleck, Michael Peña, Gabourey Sidibe, and Eddie Murphy) to steal the secret stash of cash that the FBI suspects Shaw must have. The central character in all of this scheming is a gleaming Ferrari once owned by Steve McQueen.

Specifications

  • Universal Pictures
  • 2012, Color, Rated PG-13, 104 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.40:1
  • Codec: MPEG 4
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring : Ben Stiller, Mathew Broderick, Alan Alda, Eddie Murphy
  • Directed by Brett Ratner
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: Innuendo
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

When a Bernie Madoff-like character at an exclusive New York high-rise is accused of swindling the life savings of the entire staff, Stiller’s character decides to combine forces with a band of misfit service staff to get their money back. Eddie Murphy plays Slide, a street savvy thief who will help them achieve their goal. Stiller and Alda bring their considerable talents to this action-comedy, making it both mildly humorous and interesting. The film combines some comedy with some intense action sequences that work right up to the end…but then fails to provide a believable ending. Does everyone forget how heavy gold is? Does no one on the street below see a red car hanging out the side of a sky-rise during the Thanksgiving Day parade? Still, I must confess that I liked the movie as it has some quirky charm. And finally, Murphy plays a character that he is good at portraying ala Beverly Hills Cop and 48 hours!

Technical

Picture and sound are exemplary. The musical score is bold and full in all of the channels. Bass has good punch and the picture was crisp with few artifacts noticed. Some details are lost in the dark scenes and skin tones sometimes appear orange in the bar scenes, but overall, this is a sweet BD transfer with a fine audio track in the mix.

Extras

Feature Commentary with director Brett Ratner, editor Mark Helfrich and co-writers Ted Griffin & Jeff Nathanson, 2 alternate endings, deleted and alternate scenes, a gag reel and Plotting Tower Heist. Being a Universal 100th anniversary disc,the complete U-Verse stuff is also included as well an opening montage from the deep Universal movie vaults. Happy Anniversary Universal! You have given us some great films over the last century.