Articles

Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - July, 2011

ARTICLE INDEX

"The Adjustment Bureau" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

movie-july-2011-the-adjustment-bureau

Synopsis

David Norris (Matt Damon) is a New York Congressman who is now running for Senate, and has a pretty sizable lead heading into the election.  Unfortunately, a couple of photos from his college reunion come out that show he’s still a bit of a party boy at heart and he winds up losing.  While practicing his concession speech in the bathroom, he happens to meet Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt), with whom he has an instant chemistry, but who runs off into the night before he can figure out how to contact her.

Months later, after losing the election and giving a memorable concession speech, David is heading off to start his new job when he happens to meet Elise on the bus again, this time getting her phone number.  However, he was not supposed to be on the bus or arrive to work on time, as Harry Mitchell was supposed to spill his coffee, making him have to change his shirt and arrive late.  David arrives at the office to find everyone inside frozen in place as mysterious people are performing some sort of mind adjustment on them.

Who are the people that David has discovered, and what are they out to do for him?  Why do they care so much about him, and why are they so determined to keep him and Elise from meeting again?  These are the secrets of the Adjustment Bureau that he will need to discover.

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 2011, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 46 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Codec: VC-1
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt
  • Directed by George Nolfi
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Implied
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

The Adjustment Bureau is an enjoyable, if not memorable, movie.  The plot moves along quickly and doesn’t leave you much time to think about what has gone on or question anything that has happened.  There are a few things that are left a bit open, and the ending feels almost a bit rushed at the end.  It’s probably not a film I will revisit in the future, but it kept me entertained the whole time.

Technical

The Adjustment Bureau features a very nice transfer with lots of detail, great shadow and bright detail, and lots of great textures.  At one point Matt Damon has just given a speech out on a farm, and his shirt has a wonderful detailed texture and pattern to it that really comes out.  A couple of times those fabric details aren’t quite as sharp, which is the only thing I really can detract this transfer for.

The audio is similarly great.  Very good use of the surrounds to draw you into the film, and sound effects in the action sequences really come to life.  The only issue here was that some dialogue I felt was a big muffled and I had to turn the volume up far more than usual to make sure I was hearing it correctly.

Extras

The Adjustment Bureau comes with a Blu-ray, DVD, and a Digital Copy, and features Directors Commentary, Deleted Scenes, The Labyrinth of Doors feature, and a few more featurettes.


"Happy Gilmore" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movie-july-2011-gilmore

Synopsis

Adam Sandler stars in this hilarious comedy that scores a hole in one for gut-busting wit and outrageous slapstick. Happy, a raucous hockey player who can not skate turned golfer who can knock a ball into orbit, sends the sedate sport of golf into overdrive after he becomes a media sensation with his outlandish antics on the links. It's par for the course entertainment, but hardly a"hole-n-one".

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 2011, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 32 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Adam Sandler, Christopher McDonald, Julie Bowen, Frances Bay
  • Directed by Allen Covert
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Slapstick Variety
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

Not one of Sandler’s best efforts, but an amusing film all the same. Sandler plays the usual buffoon with an almost childlike intensity that makes his character both annoying and likable at the same time. My favorite scene was his fight with the late Bob Barker (The Price is Right). Lots of schtick, but not much substance. If you ever wondered what would happen when you cross golf with hockey, this flick answers that question for you. If you are a Sandler fan, this blu-ray should make you HAPPY.

Technical

This BD is a small step up in picture quality from the current DVD version. Surround sound is present, but the bulk of the sound is heavily weighted to the fronts. My sub only kicked in during the mini golf scene that featured an “earthquake hole”. Dialog is crisp. Colors look natural and even the few night scenes looked good, without loss of detail or crushing. The outdoor scenes are well light, but the picture depth tends to be a bit flat and 2D.

Extras

Deleted Scenes and Outakes in SD.


"Red Riding Hood" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movie-july-2011-red-riding

Synopsis

In a medieval village a beautiful young girl falls for an orphaned woodcutter, much to her family's displeasure. When her sister is killed by the werewolf that prowls the dark forest surrounding their village, the people call on a famed werewolf hunter to help them kill the wolf. As the death toll rises with each moon, the girl begins to suspect that the werewolf could be someone she loves. Panic grips the town as she discovers that she has a unique connection to the beast--one that inexorably draws them together, making her both suspect...and bait.

Specifications

  • Warner Brothers
  • 2011, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 40 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p BD, DVD and Digital Copy
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Gary Oldman
  • Directed by Catherine Hardwicke
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

From the director that brought us the Twilight series, comes the tale of teens meet wolves. In spite of Oldman’s over the top villain performance (he excels as a villain, does he not?), the movie plodded along and never really built up any suspense. The CGI wolf was not too impressive and the ending was predictable. Why does the full moon always last for several nights in a row? This films get my top choice for “weird village dance” sequence in the first half of the movie…reminded me of a “Men With Hats” video. Though geared for the teens, this film is nothing to howl about.

Technical

Picture and sound are fine. Most of the scenes are filmed with muted colors, until the titular red riding hood is revealed. Though much of the film occurs during moonlight nights, the contrasts are solid and sharply defined. Musical score is well balanced throughout all of the channels and the sub comes into play during the action sequences. A digital copy is included for those that watch their movies on the run.

Extras

There are tons of extras: "Secrets Behind the Red Cloak" PIP w/ C. Hardwicke, A. Seyfried, S. Fernandez and M. Irons, "Reinvention of Red Riding Hood", "Red Riding Hood's Men", "Making of the Score", "Before the Fur...Making of the CG Wolf", casting tapes, rehearsals, music videos, "Red Riding Hood in 73 seconds", "The Wolf Goes to a Hamlet Audition", Easter Egg, Gag Reel and Deleted Scenes.


"The Outlaw Josey Wales" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movie-july-2011-wales

Synopsis

The Outlaw Josey Wales chronicles the hero's violent journey westward after the Civil War. With fresh memories of his family's slaughter by Red Leg soldier Terrill (Bill McKinney), Confederate Josey Wales (Eastwood) refuses to join his captain Fletcher (John Vernon) and the rest of his comrades in surrender to a U.S. Army regiment. Deemed a dangerous outlaw after a bloody one-man battle with that regiment, Josey is pursued by U.S. cavalry soldiers led by the unwilling Fletcher and the murderous Terrill, as well as by bounty hunters who eventually learn how coolly lethal Wales can be. A skillfully violent man of few, well-chosen words, Josey Wales resembles Eastwood's previous Western heroes in Sergio Leone's trilogy, A Fistful of Dollars (1964), For a Few Dollars More (1965), and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966).

Specifications

  • Warner Home Video
  • 2011, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 15 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Codec: MEPG 4
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Clint Eastwood, Sondra Locke, Chief Dan George
  • Directed by Clint Eastwood
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

Critics initiallly disliked this film when it came out in 1976. Over time, this film has been viewed by some to be the best Western ever set to celluloid. The film portrays the West as a pretty tough place, similar to the West of the Sergio Leone's films and it does have a Leone "feel" to it. This time, however, Eastwood plays a different kind of hero. Besides actually having a name in this film, he also has a sense of humor and a conscience. Made during the time when Watergate was expolding onto the media scene, this film reflects a natural distrust of government, but also a desire to live in peace. Next to Unforgiven, this is certainly one of the most sweeping and emotionally complex of Eastwood's Westerns. Even Eastwood considered it one of his best films. Who am I to argue?

Technical

This is a very clean transfer that exhibits lots of details and bold, solid colors. The mono soundtrack has been remixed into 5.1 and has plenty of musical sweep with lots of ambiance in the surrounds. The cannons boom during the Civil War sequences and the gunshots ring out with realism. Only a few scenes exhibits softness and a few campfire scenes exhibit black crush and slightly thickening of film grain. Overall, a sharp and vibrant look that is vastly superior to the SD version, particularly the colorful and sweeping outdoor vistas. Fleshtones are natural and the colors are consistently stable. The high resolution reveals Wales' scar to be fake and blood has an artificial look, but the illusions are not spoiled by the detailed appearance. I never noticed any dirt or specks on the print. Kudos to Warner for this fine looking 35th anniversary transfer!

Extras

Audio commentary by Richard Schickel (new), Clint Eastwood's West: documentary featuring Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, Oliver Stone, and James Mangold, Hell Hath No Fury: The Making of The Outlaw Josey Wales, Eastwood in Action & a Trailer.


"Hall Pass" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Stephen Hornbrook

movie-july-2011-hallpass

Synopsis

Rick (Owen Wilson) and his wife Maggie (Jenna Fischer) are going through some marital issues.  The tension becomes too great and Maggie, upon the recommendation of a friend, decides to give Rick a Hall Pass- a week off from marriage where he can do whatever he wants.  Rick is torn on whether to be excited about his opportunity, or scared for his marriage.  Rick decides to embrace his Hall Pass and go for it.  His buddy Fred ends up in the same boat as Rick after he pushes his wife over the edge.  The two friends hit the town in search of some action, but find the game much harder to play than they expected. Meanwhile, their wives are away meeting and connecting with some other men.

Specifications

  • Warner Brothers
  • 2011, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 51 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, Jenna Fischer, Christina Applegate
  • Directed by Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

Oh Farrelly Brothers.. what happened to the good ol days of cinema classics like Dumb and Dumber? Hall Pass is a movie that you watch and forget about.  Apart from one shocking scene, there just isn’t anything memorable here. I would suggest skipping this movie, unless you are really bored and in the mood for something lighthearted and have already seen the hundreds of other better movies in this category.

Technical

Hall Pass is pretty decent in the picture quality department. Colors are strong, if not a bit hot at times, and there is plenty of sharp detail with no noticeable compression artifacts.  The audio is pretty boring, but it services this comedy just fine.

Extras

One Deleted Scene, a lame gag reel, and an extra 5 minute long extended cut of the film. Very weak in the extras department.


"Blue Crush 2" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Stephen Hornbrook

movie-july-2011-bluecrush2

Synopsis

Dana, a spoiled rich girl who's mother died of cancer, heads to South Africa to escape her current life and maybe do a little surfing. She immediately runs into some bad luck when her locker is broken into and some important carving by her mother is stolen.  On a positive note, she meets a local surfin girl who takes her under her wing. Dana is in search of Jeffery's Bay, a legendary surf spot that her mother dreamed of catching some epic waves at. All she has is her mom's journal from her own trip to South Africa and the local surf fanatics she befriends. Her father eventually finds Dana's note she left, explaining where she went, and he heads to South Africa in search of her and hopes they might reconnect.

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 2011, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 53 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Codec: VC1
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Sasha Jackson, Elizabeth Mathis, Gideon Emery
  • Directed by Mike Elliott
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: Nudity
  • Language: No

Commentary

Some movies just shouldn't be made. This is one of them.  Dry dialog, robotic acting, and a story stuck in the shallow end put this movie in a class of its own. I, and I'm embarrassed to admit this, really enjoyed the first Blue Crush movie. The performances were decent, there was a story and the surf action was very well filmed.  The only thing the sequel has in common with the original is the title. Skip this one.

Technical

Beautiful picture quality is about the only positive thing I can say about Blue Crush 2. Colors are bright and natural and contrast is very nice creating plenty of depth to the image.  The sound mix is decent, but the dialog was hard to hear at times and there wasn't much surround activity.

Extras

Alternate Opening, Deleted Scenes, Gag Reel, The Making of Blue Crush 2, Filming in South Africa, Audio Commentary.


"American: The Bill Hicks Story" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Clements

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Synopsis

This documentary posthumously chronicles the life of comedian Bill Hicks from his early years to his untimely death at age 32.  The native Georgian started doing stand up as a teenager and over time he developed an acerbic style that largely defined his work.  For the most part, his best material went against the grain Stateside.  But he was able to flourish in the UK where his cynical take on America, Americans and American society resonated with audiences.

Specifications

  • BBC
  • 2009, Color, NR, 1 Hr 41 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080i
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Bill Hicks, Kevin Booth and John Farneti
  • Directed by Matt Harlock and Paul Thomas
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

The main feature is a detailed portrait of Bill Hicks' life.  It is told mostly via home movies and stills with voiceover narration by an ensemble of his family and friends although there are a few short clips of some of his actual stand up performances.  It is a very thorough look at Hicks' life beginning with his early years and ending with his death from pancreatic cancer in 1994.  The documentary covers the arc of his formative years all the way through his blossoming as an artist shortly before his death.  Hicks was raised in Texas and started doing stand up by age 15.  He had some early success when he moved to LA after high school.  He even made it on the Letterman show at age 22.  Eventually, Hicks got into drugs and alcohol and was almost destroyed by them.  He got cleaned up, rebounded and really started honing his material and delivery just at the time he got his cancer diagnosis.

I found the documentary to be interesting, but far too detailed for my tastes.  I would have preferred less detail on Hicks' life and more focus on his material and social impact.  I think the documentary would have benefitted immensely with extended segments of his later performances.

Technical

The video quality of this disc varied wildly depending on the source material.  The old home movies and SD video segments of his early sets limited their respective parts of the disc while the newly-shot interview material was pristine.  The audio on the disc suffers a similar fate as the video.

Extras

This disc has 351 minutes of extra material!  The extras include Rare Clips, Extended Interviews, Bill's Audio Journals, 9 Featurettes, Deleted Scenes and Alternate Scenes.  The rare clips were my favorite part, but they were short and there was no option to play them all with a single button press.  So you have to dive into the menu to play each of the many clips.  Again, the picture and sound quality was highly variable on the extras as well.


"13 Assassins" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movie-july-2011-assassins

Synopsis

Cult director Takashi Miike (Ichi the Killer) delivers a bravado period action film set at the end of Japan's feudal era. 13 Assassins - a masterful exercise in cinematic butchery is centered around a group of elite samurai who are secretly enlisted to bring down a sadistic lord in order to prevent him from ascending to the throne and plunging the country into a war torn future.

Specifications

  • Magnolia/Magnet
  • 2011, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr 5 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio/Japanese or English
  • Starring: Koji Yakusho
  • Directed by Takashi Miike
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Nudity
  • Language: No

Commentary

I love a good samurai flick, especially by Kurasawa. More than just perhaps the best action flick you will see this year, this movie delivers on evil vs. good and a stronger than average plot line. Yes, this film is not quite a classic and the film borrows from The Magnificent Seven and other comparable flicks, but the themes of loyalty, justice and sacrifice are universal and things all good men can understand. There are a bit too many protagonists to flesh out due to time constraints, and we never get to know what makes everyone tick, but the antagonist is coldly portrayed as evil personified. How can 13 ronin defeat a small army of 200 men? By turning a small village into an inescapable “death trap”, that's how. It’s a bit hard to follow which samurai is dying at any given time, but suffice it to say, they all go down swinging. The last 45 minutes of this movie will leave you exhausted and grinning. Who needs light sabers? Highly recommended, but not for the squeamish!

Technical

The picture and sound are almost demo quality. Even the dark scenes have plenty of detail. Colors are well rendered and blood and flesh tones are natural. Fine textures in the clothing are well delineated. The sound is lively, with plenty of ambient noises and music in all channels. Explosions rumble while clanging swords swirl about you as you cower in your seat. I preferred the Japanese soundtrack vs. the English dub, but both tracks are clear and intelligible. No high wire acts like Kung Fu Hustle, here. Except for the scene with “flaming bulls” (Yes...flaming bulls. How cool is that?), the CGI is about as good as it gets. This is my pick for "action movie of the year".

Extras

Deleted scenes and commentaries.


"Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Extended Edition)" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

movie-july-2011-fellowship-of-the-ring

Synopsis

Long ago in Middle Earth, the One Ring was forged that would allow Sauron to conquer all of Middle Earth.  During a final battle between Sauron and the armies of Elves and Men, he is slain, but his aura is still bound to the ring until it is destroyed.  However, the corrupting power of the ring is so great that the men who capture it are unwilling to destroy it.  The ring is later lost during a battle, sitting hidden in a river for 2,500 years until Gollum finds it one day.  The power of the ring is great, and Gollum lives for centuries with the ring, until he loses it himself one day and it is recovered by Bilbo Baggins, a Hobbit.

After Bilbo’s birthday party, the wizard Gandalf sees the ring and leaves to find answers about it.  After discovering that it is the One Ring of Sauron, he has them quickly leave the Shire as they need to find a plan to destroy the ring, but also avoid the forces of Sauron who will be out to recover the ring at all costs.  From here, one of the great stories of 20th Century literature continues.

Specifications

  • New Line Cinema
  • 2001, Color, Rated PG-13, 3 Hr 28 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 6.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Ian McKellan, Elijah Wood, Ian Holm
  • Directed by Peter Jackson
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

Fellowship was always my least favorite of the LOTR films when I saw them in theaters.  While very well made and mostly enjoyable, I find much of Fellowship to be building up for what happens in the next two films and sometimes a bit slow in comparison.  Of course, there’s no way around this as it’s how the books are structured, and by no means is it a bad film.  It just doesn’t grab me as much as the later two chapters do.  This was also the only title I had not previously watched in the Extended cut, and unlike many directors’ cuts where it is just padding a film, in this case it helps to flesh out and add extra detail and depth to a film that is already epic in scope.  It is a long film to watch, but it is certainly worth it.

Technical

When the original theatrical versions of Lord of the Rings were released on Blu-ray, much was made of the quality of the transfers, particularly that for Fellowship.  The image was very soft for a film that was under a decade old and it seemed to be made using an older master.  In this case, New Line looks to have gone back and redone the mastering for the extended editions and there is more detail than there was before.  Of course, they also went back and did some color correction on the image, which has led to a firestorm of online controversy.

Certain scenes, when viewed in screenshots, seem to have a green cast applied to them compared to previous home versions of the films.  Some initial reports seem to indicate that this is how Peter Jackson wanted them to be, that Middle Earth would have a different appearance than we would have here on Earth, but no one is 100% sure about this.  That said, when I watched the film I didn’t notice the change unless I was specifically looking for it, and I don’t think it’s as big a deal as it’s being made out to be.  I also can’t recall how it looked when I first went to the movie theater, so maybe it always looked this way.

However, there should be no complaints at all about the soundtrack for the films.  A lossless 6.1 track that completely surrounds you and brings you into the film is what we are presented with and it delivers on all counts.  Dialogue is clear and easy to understand, battle scenes surround you, and the whole time you are sucked into the picture.  I really can’t find a single fault with the audio track.

Extras

Fellowship of the Rings has far too many extras to ever be able to list them all in one place.  From four commentary tracks featuring input from over 30 people, there are three DVDs of extra content included.  There are multiple documentaries that go over the planning and design of adapting the book to the film, galleries of art and concepts, storyboard and film comparisons, learning all about the special effects, a look at a day of principal photography, and far, far more.  Getting through all of the extra content will take you even longer than getting through the extended cut of the film and is greatly rewarding for fans of the flim.


"Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (Extended Edition)" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

movie-july-2011-the-two-towers

Synopsis

Continuing where Fellowship of the Ring left off, Frodo and Sam are now continuing on their own to destroy the ring at Mt Doom, though they are being followed by Gollum who seeks to get the ring back.  After capturing Gollum one night, they take him prisoner and he agrees to lead them to the Black Gate of Mordor.  Meanwhile, the rest of our Fellowship has gone on a quest to gather people for an attack on Mordor, but find the reach of Sauron has extended further than they thought.

The hobbits Merry and Pippin become separated from the rest of the party, only to happen upon the Ents of Middle-Earth, while the rest of the Fellowship is surprisingly reunited with a reborn Gandalf.

Specifications

  • New Line Cinema
  • 2002, Color, Rated PG-13, 3 Hr 55 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 6.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Ian McKellan, Elijah Wood
  • Directed by Peter Jackson
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

Possibly my favorite of the trilogy, The Two Towers continues right where Fellowship left off and sets it up for the climactic final film.  The whole film seems to fly by, even at almost four hours long, and I really can’t imagine how they trimmed it down for the original theatrical release from the extended cut.

Technical

Unlike the first film, I can’t see their being any controversy here.  There are some very small artifacts that you can see at times, but they are few and far between and overall it’s a wonderful transfer.  Placing all of these films on two discs has allowed them to really use the space to give an excellent image and they have delivered.  The soundtrack is just like the first film, wonderful and enveloping and with nothing bad that I can say about it at all.  It’s a fantastic soundtrack, and you can easily break out the attack on Helm’s Deep for a demo of everything your home theater can deliver sonically.

Extras

Like Fellowship, we have four commentary tracks with over 30 people contributing, and three more DVDs of extra features that include hours and hours of documentaries, behind the scenes features, interactive maps, image galleries, notes on adapting the books, and far more.  If there is something missing from this set of extras, I have no idea what it would be.


"Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Extended Edition)" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

movie-july-2011-the-return-of-the-king

Synopsis

With Sauron preparing for his final assault on Middle Earth, Gandalf and Theoden have to raise their forces to protect Minas Tirith, the capital of Gondor, from attack.  At the same time, Aragorn is finally ready to rise and claim the throne of Gondor to assist in the battle.  However, even this full assault on Sauron might not be enough and the fate of everyone may still rest with Frodo, Sam, and Gollum as they attempt to enter Mt Doom and destroy the One Ring for good.

Specifications

  • New Line Cinema
  • 2003, Color, Rated PG-13, 4 Hr 23 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 6.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Ian McKellan, Elijah Wood
  • Directed by Peter Jackson
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

A fitting climax to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Return of the King takes all the momentum that has built up in the previous two installments and carries it through to the end.  Return of the King is a wonderful film, and a fitting winner of the whole raft of Oscars that it took home (11 nominations, 11 wins).

Technical

Just like The Two Towers, there isn’t much to complain about here visually, with just a little bit of effects related issues showing up to distract from the film.  Detail is typically very good and really there isn’t much to complain about here.  Just like the other two films, the soundtrack is as good as it gets, and there is nothing to complain about with it.

Extras

Once again, we have multiple commentaries with a ton of people contributing, countless documentaries on the book to script to film transition, special effects, designing Middle Earth, choosing the filming locations, and more.  Three DVDs barely seems to hold it all.


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

movie-july-2011-ocean-wonderland-3d

Synopsis

From the perspective of a meandering sea turtle, the ocean and many of its inhabitants are observed as the viewer gets a tour of typical oceanic life in 3D.

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 2003, Color, Not Rated, 41 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Codec: MPEG-4 MVC
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Ocean Creatures
  • Directed by Jean-Jacques Mantello
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

This was originally an IMAX 3D presentation and is probably better suited for a very large screen.  While the narration wasn't bad, there was nothing striking and alluring about it.  Without any 3D effects this film could easily put me to sleep with it's mellow soundtrack and overall dark presentation.  Oceanic life makes for a good subject for 3D and in this film there were many interesting effects utilizing large schools of fish or large expanses of sea floor that created a wow experience.  This is a fun release for 3D due to the variety of scenes and while the film is short, the amount of depth that is presented is enough to warrant a full viewing. 

Technical

This film doesn't have great video quality.  Due to the underwater camera work there is poor contrast and colors are dull.  There were more than a couple scenes where crosstalk was significantly noticeable however, the presentation succeeds overall in offering attractive 3D.  The audio is presented in high quality DTS 5.1, the soundtrack was calming, and alongside the 3D effects the sound presentation might easily lull you into a trance.

Extras

There are no extras but there are quite a few different language choices available in the menu.


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

movie-july-2011-sharks-3d

Synopsis

From the perspective of a meandering sea turtle, many various shark species are examined in their natural habitat.

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 2004, Color, Not Rated, 42 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Codec: MPEG-4 MVC
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Sharks
  • Directed by Jean-Jacques Mantello
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Underwater frenzy and carnage
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

Sharks 3D is an IMAX production in the same series as Ocean Wonderland 3D.  While Ocean Wonderland 3D had more variety and generated interest in the underwater sea expanses, Sharks 3D really only delivers lots of sharks in 3D and not much else making this a release for kids or those folks who will get a kick out of experiencing sharks virtually swim around in their living room.  To me this film just came off as a novelty release without much substance.

Technical

Much like Ocean Wonderland 3D,  Sharks 3d had mediocre video quality.  Due to the underwater camera work there is poor contrast and colors are dull.  Some of the 3D effects where sharks were swimming directly out at you were completely lost as most eyes can probably not deal with the quick shift of focus from the fast moving sharks.  There are a couple scenes where crosstalk is a significant issue however the film succeeds at rendering the many varieties of sharks.  The audio on this release has high quality and adds to the overall presentation and the soundtrack is enjoyable and fits with the short film. 

Extras

There are no extras but there are quite a few different language choices available in the menu.The Eagle (Blu-ray)


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

movie-july-2011-eagle

Synopsis

Marcus Aquila (Channing Tatum) chose to lead a Roman garrison in occupied Britain because that's where his father lost a military standard--a metal eagle, representing the glory of imperial Rome--on an expedition into the northern wilds. To reclaim his family honor, Aquila sets off into native territory to recover the eagle, with only a slave named Esca (Jamie Bell) to help him--but the more Aquila learns about Esca's history, the more he has reason to doubt his slave's loyalty.

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 2011, Color, Not Rated, 1 Hr 54 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Codec: MPEG-4 MVC
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell
  • Directed by Kevin MacDonald
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

Though not a bad movie, I could not help but think that it was trying too hard to be epic. And it is not. However, the acting is fair and the action sequences are pretty good without resorting to overly used CGI (that means you, Bruckheimer!). The movie seems to exhude authenticity, which I really liked. Tatum is fairly expressionless throughout the flick, but Bell provides some good contrast to Tatum's one dimensionality. The ending is obvious…but still, this “sword and sandal” flick is worthy of a guy’s night out in the “man cave”, with plenty of blood and sword play to keep your interest to the very end.

Technical

Contrast is generally well displayed, though a few scenes have that infernal stylized blown out contrast look to them. Colors and lighting provide the picture with sharp visuals and wonderful vistas of Scotland. A bit of noise creeps up during the dimly light scenes and crush appears once in a while. Black levels are inconsistent, appearing inky one minute and dark grey the next. Details look well defined and the colors are solid. Sound is very lively and the surrounds and sub are often engaged. Battle sounds encircle you and the music track is expansive. Dialog is clearly rendered. The action scenes are definately enhanced by the sound field.

Extras

Commentary, alternate ending, deleted scenes and The Eagle: The Making of a Roman Epic.Source Code (Blu-ray)


"Source Code" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Stephen Hornbrook

movie-july-2011-sourcecode

Synopsis

US Army Helicopter Pilot Colter Stevens (Jake G) wakes up on a Chicago bound commuter train.  The woman sitting across from him appears to know him, but Stevens does not remember a thing. The last thing he remembers is being shot down during battle.  In a panic, Stevens finds his way to the bathroom to discover he is inside the body of another man.  Eight minutes after he woke up the train explodes from a planted bomb and Stevens wakes up again, but this time inside a dark capsule.  A woman, Goodwin, in uniform begins to talk to Stevens in an attempt to bring him back into "reality".  Before he grasps what is going on, Stevens is blasted back onto the train to relive the same 8 minutes from before.  The Source Code is a miltary experiment based on quantum physics that allows a human brain to relive 8 minutes of an event, over and over.  The goal Stevens is tasked with is discovering who planted the bomb before the suspect can do even more harm to the city of Chicago.

Specifications

  • Summit Entertainment
  • 2011, Color, PG-13, 1 Hr 33 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan
  • Directed by Duncan Jones
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

Duncan Jones' previous movie, Moon, was expertly crafted so I was excited to check out his second movie, Source Code.  Although not quite as polished and thought provoking as Moon, Source Code is a very enjoyable ride. The movie is relatively short at 93 minutes, so there is not much investment required.  Jake does a pretty good job carrying he movie, but I really enjoyed Vera Farmiga's performance.  Source Code is definitely worth checking out.

Technical

Picture quality on this disc was very solid. I wouldn't put it in a reference quality category, but detail is great, colors are natural and there were no apparent compression artifacts or haloing.  The audio track had quite a bit of energy to it with some great low frequency effects and pretty good use of the surrounds.  The music was presented with a nice full soundstage as well.

Extras

Audio Commentary and a feature called "Access Source Code" which allows the user to view scene specific features and interviews.