Media

Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - October, 2011

ARTICLE INDEX

"The Lion King 3D" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

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Synopsis

The story opens with the birth of lion Simba (Broderick), heir to the throne of the Pride Lands.  His father Mufasa (Jones) has ruled successfully keeping the delicate balance between the animal races from erupting into conflict.  Secretly though, Mufasa’s brother, Scar (Irons), covets the throne and plots to kill the king.  He lures Simba into a trap and his father is killed when he comes to rescue him from a dangerous stampede.  Feeling the accident was his fault, Simba runs from the Pride Lands in shame.  He grows up with two unlikely companions, a warthog and a meerkat.  They teach him not to worry about the past and about things he can’t change.

Fast forward and Simba is now a young adult lion.  By chance he meets his former friend Nala who had assumed he was dead.  She tells him of the horrible conditions in Pride Land where hyenas have taken over and eaten all the food.  Samba decides to return and reclaim the throne.  In an epic battle, Scar is defeated, devoured by the hyenas and Simba takes his rightful place as king.  The ending is a happy one as peace and fruitfulness return to the land.

Specifications

  • Walt Disney Pictures
  • 1994, Color, Rated G, 1 Hr 28 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Codec: MVC
  • 1080p
  • English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring the voices of Matthew Broderick, Jeremy Irons and James Earl Jones
  • Directed by Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

I hadn’t seen this film in many years so it was fun to remember all the great music and the feel-good story as I watched.  I do prefer the Disney animation movies based on traditional fairy tales but Lion King holds its own against other classic stories.  The acting and singing are first-rate; just what you’d expect from the icon of family entertainment.  All the important elements are there: life, death, romance, good vs. evil and of course, musical numbers that transcend the film itself.

This was my first experience with a drawn-animation movie in 3D.  It’s very different from the CGI-rendered titles shown at every CEDIA demo.  Rather than looking three-dimensional, objects and backgrounds exist and move on different planes from front to back.  It’s a neat effect and I enjoyed it.  I won’t say it’s better or worse than watching in 2D, only different.  I was fortunate to be able to view this on a 3D projector (Optoma HD33, review forthcoming) which is far better than any flat panel for sheer wow factor.  Disney did an excellent job with the 3D conversion making the film look great without going over the top.  This is a well done and highly recommended addition to anyone’s 3D Blu-ray library.

Technical

There is no animation quite like Disney’s and this 3D Blu-ray presents the image in stunning fashion.  Color is absolutely perfect and detail is the best I’ve ever seen in a film like this.  The 3D effect only enhances; it never distracts.  Motion is about as fluid as it can be given that everything is hand-drawn.  Backgrounds have a textured look that I found very pleasing.  Contrast looks great with plenty of punch and depth even in darker scenes.

The DTS-HD Master audio track is presented here in 7.1.  The dialog sounds clean and clear and is perfectly placed on the screen.  Your surrounds and sub will have plenty to do with effects like stampeding elephants and flying objects.  And the music sounds simply fantastic.  It’s a mix of full orchestra and pit band performing the score by legendary film composer Hans Zimmer.  You’re sure to walk away with your toes tapping.

Extras

I received the Diamond Edition which includes 3D and 2D Blu-rays, a DVD version and a digital copy.  Bonus features are about two hours’ worth and include documentaries, audio commentary, alternate and deleted scenes, a gag reel and links to online content.  There is also a large collection of trailers for other Disney movies.


"Beauty and the Beast 3D" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

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Synopsis

The story begins as we are introduced to a cold hearted Prince who has been cursed by an enchantress to live as a beast until he can love another and earn her love in return.  Banished to his castle, he lives his life in solitude with only his servants, also transformed into different objects, for company.  One night, Maurice, a local inventor becomes lost and stumbles upon the castle.  When he asks for shelter, the Beast imprisons him.  His daughter Belle comes looking for him and offers herself in exchange for Maurice’s freedom.  He agrees but forces Belle to live in the castle forever.

When Belle goes exploring in the castle, she discovers the Beast’s secret and runs away.  Set upon by wolves, the Beast manages to rescue her.  She starts to see a glimmer of kindness in him and they soon begin to fall for each other.  Meanwhile, Gaston, who is determined to marry Belle, discovers the existence of the Beast and rallies the townspeople together to attack the castle.  During the battle the Beast nearly dies but not before Belle professes her love for him.  The curse is lifted and the Prince and all his servants are restored to human form.

Specifications

  • Walt Disney Pictures
  • 1991, Color, Rated G, 1 Hr 25 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Codec: MVC
  • 1080p
  • English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring the voices of Paige O'Hara, Robby Benson and Richard White
  • Directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

This has always been one of my favorite Disney animated features.  Not only did I see it in the theater, I owned it on VHS tape!  The acting and singing are just excellent and the story is a classic fairy tale; something that Disney does without equal.  I really appreciate the casting of Paige O’Hara and Richard White as Belle and Gaston.  Their musical performances are fantastic and no wonder given their extensive stage credits.  Kudos also to Jerry Orbach, David Ogden Stiers and Angela Lansbury who bring a great comedic element to their parts.

This new presentation on 3D Blu-ray is a lot of fun.  It has a different look than Lion King; I suspect this is because it uses a lot of rendered backgrounds and mainly takes place indoors.  The effect is subtle but really pops when it needs to.  My favorite scene is the ballroom sequence with its exquisite imagery and music.  For Disney animation lovers, this is a must-own.

Technical

I can’t imagine the picture quality being any better.  Color is natural and beautifully saturated with just the right level of contrast.  The 3D effect is used sparingly but it always enhances and never distracts.  Since the moving objects are hand-drawn, they still look two-dimensional but on different planes from foreground to background.  The rendered elements look amazing especially inside the Beast’s castle.  2D or 3D, this transfer is a winner.

Audio is stunning too with a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 encode.  The front soundstage is wide and deep with great-sounding dialog and lush transparent music coming from the main channels.  Surrounds and LFE are used sparingly but they are present.  The score by Alan Menken makes great use of a full orchestra and the songs are as timeless as they are beautiful.

Extras

I received the Diamond Edition which includes 3D and 2D Blu-rays, a DVD version and a digital copy.  Bonus features, most of which are in HD, run over five hours and include documentaries, audio commentary, and deleted scenes.  Also included is an extended version of the film that adds about seven minutes of content and a large collection of trailers for other Disney movies.


"Star Wars - Episode II" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

movie-september-2011-star-wars-complete-saga

Synopsis

Ten years after The Phantom Menace, the republic moves closer and closer to breaking apart.  Led by the renegade Jedi Count Dooku, thousands of systems are threatening to secede, leading up to an attempt on the life of Senator Amidala.  Anakin Skywalker is assigned to protect her, while Obi Wan Kenobi is assigned to investigate the attempt on her life.  As they spend time together, a relationship grows between Amidala and Skywalker, despite being forbidden by the Jedi code.

Specifications

  • 20th Century Fox
  • 2002, Color, Rated PG, 2 Hr 22 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Codec: AVC @ 29 Mb/Sec
  • 1080p
  • English 6.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Samuel L. Jackson
  • Directed by George Lucas
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

Much better than Episode 1, but still not as good as any of the original trilogy, Star Wars Episode 2 moves along at a brisk pace.  George Lucas unfortunately did a bad job at casting both versions of young Anakin Skywalker, as Hayden Christensen gives a fairly wooden, sullen teenager styled performance in the main role.  Thankfully the role that Jar Jar plays in this film is much lower than the first, sparing us from that accent.

Technical

Shot digitally the transfer for Episode 2 looks very nice.  I actually would have given it 5 stars if I hadn’t watched Episode 3 right after it.  Looking at the screen I can’t say there is certainly anything wrong with the image, just it doesn’t have the eye-popping clarity and definition that the third prequel has.  The soundtrack, however, comes in second to no one and does a fantastic job.

Extras

The disc itself has commentary, though there are a lot more extras if you buy the box set of all six films.


"Star Wars - Episode III" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

movie-september-2011-star-wars-complete-saga

Synopsis

As Padme and Anakin struggle to keep their affair secret, they discover that she is pregnant.  Shortly after hearing the new, Anakin begins to have visions of the future of Padme dying during childbirth.  Determined to not let this happen, he follows the advice of Chancellor Palpatine and looks into the dark side of the force, which promises the ability to live forever.  The Jedi order has begun to grow suspicious of Chancellor Palpatine and asked Anakin to report back on him to them, leading him to question the order and role of the Jedi in protecting the Republic.

Specifications

  • 20th Century Fox
  • 2005, Color, Rated PG, 2 Hr 20 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Codec: AVC @ 30 Mb/Sec
  • 1080p
  • English 6.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Samuel L. Jackson
  • Directed by George Lucas
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

Easily the best of the prequels, Episode III documents the rise of Anakin Skywalker to becoming Darth Vader, and the collapse of the Republic.  The plot and structure of the film are better than the previous ones, though the acting by Hayden Christensen still leaves much to be desired as he fails to really bring across the emotions that he is going through.  One thing that did surprise me was just how violent the film was yet still managing to keep a PG-13 rating.  This might be one that I hold off showing my kids until they are a few years older than I would with the original films.

Technical

The transfer of Episode III is just stunning.  Facial features and textures just pop off the screen, and the detail present in each frame is fantastic.  I had thought that Episode II looked good, but it’s nothing compared to this.  Even though you might not want to watch it over and over again for the plot, you will for demoing your home theater.  The soundtrack once again blows you away with great detail and envelopment during the whole film.

Extras

The disc itself has commentary, though there are a lot more extras if you buy the box set of all six films.


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

movie-october-2011-bridesmaids

Synopsis

Annie has had a rough couple of years.  Her bakery, Cake Girl, went out of business during the recession, and she’s currently living with a brother and sister pair that isn’t the brightest two ever.  She spends her time working at a jewelry shop with a job her mom got her, and occasionally having a passing relationship with Ted.  When her best friend since childhood Lillian gets engaged, she is made her maid-of-honor and has to take the responsibility of planning many of the events.

One of the other bridesmaids, Helen, wants to exert control over the whole process and makes herself a thorn in the side of Annie.  From belittling her ideas and then stealing them, to going around Annie to get the event planned the way she wants, she manages to irritate Annie to near the breaking point of her relationship with Lillian.

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 2011, Color, Rated PG, 2 Hr 5 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph
  • Directed by Paul Feig
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

Though I don’t really see Saturday Night Live actors as automatically being a good source of material now, Bridesmaids came with a pedigree of a director and producers that have been part of the Judd Apatow stable and they did deliver.  I might not have found the film quite as funny as some other people did, and it was a little slower to get going I thought, but it was consistently funny, with a lot of really hilarious moments.  It’s something I can easily see myself watching again in the future when I want to relax and enjoy a laugh.

Technical

The image in Bridesmaids is pretty good overall, with some scenes coming across much better than others.  Early on in the jewelry store, Annie’s boss has a jacket with a color and texture that really pop from the screen.  The fine detail in it is wonderful and it looks just like the coat is there in front of you.  Unfortunately not every scene is up to this level of quality and some appear to be just a bit lacking in fine resolution, but overall it looks very nice.

The soundtrack does a very good job of bringing across the dialogue of the film.  With the film being totally dialogue driven, clarity in the center channel is more important than anything and Bridesmaids does well here, as I didn’t strain to hear anything they said.  The surrounds aren’t used as much as they could be, but overall it’s a good audio track.

Extras

The film contains both the rated and unrated versions of the film, directors commentary, deleted and alternate scenes, a gag reel, and multiple featurettes in addition to a DVD with the film as well as a digital copy of the film.  Keep up the multiple disc releases studios!


"Planet Earth: Special Edition" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Stephen Hornbrook

movie-october-2011-planetearth

Synopsis

Planet Earth is an epic journey across the seven continents of our planet, featuring creatures from all walks of life.  From the arctic, to jungle forests, this documentary covers just about every climate region on Earth.  New camera technology and filming techniques were created in order to bring us closer to the action and it definitely shows.  Sir David Attenborough, a British filmmaker and naturalist, narrates the film, giving the viewer a glimpse into the heart of mother nature.

This new Special Edition for 2011 features a bunch of never-before-seen extras along with the eleven production video diaries previously only available on the DVD set.


Specifications

  • BBC
  • 2006, Color, Not Rated, 538 Minutes
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080i
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD High Resolution
  • Narrated by David Attenborough

Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

Planet Earth is an amazing documentary and it is something everyone should see.  This new Special Edition packs some great new material in a very nicely designed package.  I really appreciated the music only audio track.  The orchestral score is excellent and it makes for a very calming experience to just sit back, watch and listen.  The original 2007 Blu-ray release was bare-bones with no extras.  The making of diary’s are fascinating and provide a new window into how much effort was put into capturing these images.  They really make this a truly “special” edition.  If you never got around to picking up this series, now is definitely the time.  If you already own the 2007 release, and are a huge fan, the extra features are very good and make this a worthy purchase.

movie-october-2011-planetearthbox

Technical

The images captured in Planet Earth are amazingly beautiful and seeing them in HD is as close to being there as you can currently get.  Yes this release is in 1080i and not 1080p, and I suspect it has something to do with how Planet Earth was originally filmed, but I am not sure.  I do not have the original 2007 release to directly compare but the images do look great. 

Audio is presented in DTS-HD High Resolution 5.1 and it sounds excellent. Although it is not lossless Master Audio, it is far and away better than the original release’s lower bitrate Dolby Digital soundtrack.

Extras

NEW BLU-RAY AND DVD BONUS FEATURES
-Special Sneak Peek at Executive Producer Alastair Fothergill’s next blockbuster project: Frozen Planet
-Commentary on select episodes
-Greatest Planet Earth Moments – Relive the greatest moments of this revolutionary series and discover how these scenes were captured on film.
-Snow Leopard: Beyond the Myth – The BBC Natural History Unit explores a secret cave deep in the mountains of Pakistan where generations of snow leopards return each year to raise their young.
-Secrets of the Maya Underworld – The freshwater pools that dot Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula were believed by the Mayans to be portals to the underworld.  For the first time ever, the BBC Natural History Unit explores this incredible, labyrinthine system of underground rivers.
-Elephant Nomads of the Namib Desert – Follow the struggle for survival of two female elephants trying to raise their young in one of the harshest climates on Earth.
-Music only viewing option

ORIGINAL DVD BONUS FEATURES NOW ON BLU-RAY
-110 minutes of behind the scenes footage – one 10-minute behind the scenes production video diary for each episode
-Planet Earth – The Future – This 3-part series looks at what the future may hold for endangered animals, habitats and – ultimately – us.

Planet Earth: Special Edition (Blu-ray)


"Cider House Rules" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Clements

movie-october-2011-cider-house-rules

Synopsis

Homer Wells (Tobey Maguire) is an orphan at St. Cloud's Orphanage in Maine.  He is twice adopted as a toddler, but is retuned by the first couple because he didn't cry enough.  Later, he is rescued from his second adoptive family by the orphanage director, Dr. Larch (Michael Caine), as this second couple was physically abusing the young boy.  Then Dr. Larch takes Homer under his wing and grooms him to be his successor.  Dr. Larch teaches Homer how to deliver babies and how to perform abortions although Homer is not at all interested in performing abortions himself.  Everything changes one day when an American pilot, Lt. Wally Worthington (Paul Rudd), brings his pregnant girlfriend, Candy (Charlize Theron), to the orphanage for an abortion.  Homer decides to leave with them and see the world.  Homer gets a job at Wally's apple farm and that is when he begins to learn the most important lessons of his life.

Specifications

  • Miramax
  • 1999, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 5 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 5.0 DTS-HD Master
  • Starring Tobey Maguire, Charlize Theron, Delroy Lindo, Paul Rudd and Michael Caine
  • Directed by Lasse Hallström
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: Nudity
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

This movie was nominated for a total of 7 Academy Awards in 2000, taking home two that year - Michael Caine for Best Supporting Actor and John Irving for the best Adapted Screenplay.  The screenplay was adapted from the Irving novel of the same name. 

This movie grapples with some very serious and at times morose elements.  It does this in a compelling and engaging narrative through characters who are  living Stateside during WWII.  This film paints most of these characters with sharp lines.  But the reposed Homer breaks through to experience a renaissance in his own life. The main plot aspects of the movie are abortion and incest.  The thematic tone hinges on the relationships between children and their real or ersatz parental figures.  I found this movie to be very well directed, competently acted and I was engaged from beginning to end by way of the complex interplays among the characters.  The direction and musical score are top notch efforts as well.

Technical

The video quality is soft and muted in the indoor scenes of the orphanage with an obvious cepia hue.  Scenes at the apple farm, at the drive-in and on the beach are much more detailed with improved contrast, color saturation and sharpness.  This may have been a directorial decision and the effect does set some of the tone for each setting in the film.  In any event, the image quality falls short of the very best transfers.   

The audio is presented in DTS-HD Master without an LFE channel.  This is not a major shortcoming as there are very few audio effects to speak of.  Certainly, the voices are clear and easily understood.  Likewise, the beautiful musical score by Rachel Portman comes through famously.

Extras

There are a few extras on the disc.  They are presented in standard definition - Audio Commentary with Director Lasse Hallström, Screenwriter John Irving and Producer Richard N. Gladstein, The Cider House Rules: The Making Of An American Classic, Deleted Scenes and The Theatrical Trailer.


"Transformers: Dark of the Moon" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

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Synopsis

The year is 1961 and President Kennedy has just proclaimed his wish to put a man on the moon.  What the world doesn’t know is the US has monitored an impact on the moon and they want to be the first to discover just what’s landed there.  When the astronauts arrive, they find a gigantic alien shipwreck that looks like it was flown by giant robots.  It’s a relic of the war between the Autobots and Decepticons of Cybertron and it contains a powerful technology that must be kept out the hands of the enemy.

Flash forward to the present and Sam Witwicky, after saving the world twice, is looking for a job in Washington DC.  Optimus Prime, the lead Autobot discovers the weakened form of Sentinel Prime, the former leader of Cybertron on the Moon and brings him back to Earth.  It turns out the shipwreck also contains five pillars which can be used to build a transportation device.  Sentinel Prime is awakened and he immediately sets out to complete the device and transport the whole of Cybertron to Earth to rebuild his race and use the surviving humans as slaves.

The Decepticons are only too happy to participate and Chicago becomes their base of operations.  After destroying most of the city, they set up the pillars and begin to transport Cybertron to Earth.  At the last moment, Sam and the Autobots manage to destroy the control pillar and Sentinel Prime is defeated.

Specifications

  • Paramount Pictures
  • 2011, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 32 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD
  • Starring:  Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Josh Duhamel, Leonard Nimoy
  • Directed by:  Michael Bay
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Innuendo
  • Language: Moderate

Commentary

You can say what you want about Michael Bay but the man knows how to put on a show.  Yes the story is cliché and the gags get repetitive but the action scenes and special effects more than make up for the films weaknesses.  I’ve never seen such convincing CGI and the devastation is completely believable.  I half-expected to hear of Chicago’s destruction on the news after watching this movie.  The story is a bit difficult to follow at times as most of the main characters are extremely hyper.  Shia LaBeouf definitely had too much coffee before filming because he practically explodes in every scene.  His girlfriend Carly is played by former Victoria’s Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and she does a passable job, though she’s no Megan Fox.  The actors are almost superfluous next to the amazing CGI robot characters.  The detail in their movements is quite a sight to behold.  If you want a two-and-a-half hour roller coaster ride in your living room, this film is for you.

Technical

Not only is the image reference-quality, it’s easily one of the best Blu-rays I’ve seen to date.  Detail, contrast and color are pretty much flawless.  No edge enhancement is used which made me very happy.  The color palette tends to the cool side but still retains great dimensionality and looks fairly natural.  The CGI effects are easily the most convincing I’ve seen.  Obviously, great care was taken from beginning to end in this transfer.

This disc is my new benchmark for audio quality.  The Dolby TrueHD 7.1 encode will grab and shake you from beginning to end.  If you don’t have an enormous sub you either need to buy one or watch this film at a friend’s house that has one because the LFE channel is beyond unreal.  I literally feared for the structural integrity of my room during the battle sequences as my Axiom EP800 shook me, and the furniture, and the walls, with tremendous force.  This is what home theater is for folks.  I can’t imagine replicating this experience in a traditional movie house.  The surrounds are also used frequently and effectively.  It all combines into a vast and enveloping soundstage.  The destruction of Chicago had my palms sweating and my heart racing.  I couldn’t help but laugh at the sheer sensory overload caused by this amazing soundtrack.  A small word of warning:  this track is mixed LOUD.  If you are already pushing your electronics, expect some extra heat.

Extras

There are no bonus features included in this release.  Paramount does provide a $10-off coupon towards the upcoming 3D version which will include extras.  There is also a DVD copy and a code to download a digital copy which did not function at press time.Planet Earth:       Special Edition (Blu-ray)


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

movie-october-2011-tempest

Synopsis

This modern retelling of William Shakespeare's final masterpiece is an exciting, mystical and magical fantasy with Helen Mirren as the sorceress Prospera. Exiled to a magical island, she conjures up a storm that shipwrecks her enemies and then unleashes her powers for revenge. Directed by the visionary Julie Taymor The Tempest, with its innovative twist, is a supernatural dramedy filled with Shakespearean villains, lovers and fools that will leave you spellbound.

Specifications

  • Touchstone Pictures
  • 2011, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 50 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD MA
  • Starring Helen Mirren, Russell Brand , Alfred Molina
  • Directed by Julie Taymor
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: Nudity
  • Language: No

Commentary

With some first class acting, this story is wonderfully transferred from stage to screen, with the advantage of using some modern digital effects that helped propel the storyline. It helps if you have “done” Shakespeare before, but a novice can sit through this and enjoy the acting and gorgeous picture quality of this flick. The script contained enough of the actual play's language that the minor tweakings to make it easier for contemporary audiences did not bother me a bit. Mirren continues to impress me with her acting range. Forbidden Planet was a sci-fi flick based on this story, but this work holds up well in its original story line here. Though not for everyone, if you like the works of the Bard, this adaptation is a wonder to behold

Technical

This production demonstrates a wonderful color palette and the textures of the costumes really benefit from the stunning HD transfer. I especially liked the make-up effects on Calaban, a mixture of paint and flaky dried mud that exhibited exquisite details. The special effects blended well with the overall story and enhanced, rather than distracted, the telling of the tale. The sound effects were very good and put you into the story as well. The music was at times modern and then old, but was well mixed and helped maintain the comedic and/or drama aspects on the screen. The surrounds and sub were often engaged during the entire show. Dialog was clear, as it should be. Overall, a feast for the ears and eyes.

Extras

There are some interesting supplements: Los Angeles Rehearsal -- Features Julie Taymor, Dijmon Hounsou, Russell Brand & Alfred Molina, Raising The Tempest -- Julie Taymor Documentary About The Making Of The Movie, -Julie Taymor Audio Commentary, Annotated Shakespeare -- View The Tempest With Audio Commentary By Renowned Shakespeare Experts Virginia Vaughan & Jonathan Bate, -"O Mistress Mine" Music Video and Russell Brand Rehearsal Riff.


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

movie-october-2011-dumbo

Synopsis

One day a stork delivers a baby elephant to Jumbo, a female elephant in the circus.    With his gigantic ears, the baby is taunted by the other elephants and nicknamed Dumbo.  As his mother tries to protect him from people taunting him later, she becomes overly aggressive and the circus then keeps her separated from the other elephants, causing Dumbo to be even more depressed.  A mouse, named Timothy, comes along and doesn’t ridicule Dumbo for his large ears, and Dumbo doesn’t act frightened of him as the rest of the elephants in the circus do.  Together, Timothy and Dumbo work to help him overcome his giant ears and turn them from a hindrance to an advantage.

Specifications

  • Disney
  • 1941, Color, Rated G, 1 Hr 4 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring Sterling Holloway, Edward Brophy, James Baskett (voices)
  • Directed by Samuel Armstrong, Norman Ferguson, and 4 others
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

Watching some of the older Disney cartoons, they are very dark in nature compared to what you would think.  Dumbo begins very depressingly with him being ridiculed for his ears, and being separated from his mother and really only having Timothy the mouse to turn to for support.  Of course things improve and everyone winds up happy at the end, it was just surprising how dark it was compared to what I remember from being a kid.  It is a film I will watch with my kids going forward.

Technical

I wish everyone handled their catalog titles with the care of Disney, or just let them do the work for them.  Dumbo has never looked so good at home, nor sounded so good.  The animation is crisp and clear, as they obviously put in work to make sure it looked as good as it could.  The soundtrack has been moved from the original mono to a full 7.1 surround track and they’ve done a very nice job of it overall.  It’s not as all enveloping as a current Disney title, but it’s not full of tacky surround effects as it might be from a lesser upgrade as well.  The original mono track is still available if you want it.

Extras

These include the Disney CineExplorer mode for watching the film as experts on the film discuss it, deleted scenes, featurettes, trailers, art galleries, and more.  For a film so old and so short, it’s quite the selection.


"Fast Five" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Stephen Hornbrook

movie-october-2011-dumbo

Synopsis

This movie picks up right where Fast & Furious left off, with Dom having been caught and heading to prison.   Brian O'Conner (Walker) and his love, Mia Toretto (Brewster) stage a daring highway stunt to free Dom from the prison transport bus. After successfully nabbing Dom, they flee the law and media and head south to Rio de Janeiro.  Up against the odds, they must pull off one last job in order to gain freedom.  They assemble an elite crew of drivers to pull off the heist.  On their tail is Luke Hobbs (Johnson), a hardcore federal agent who never fails a mission. The lines blur between good and bad as the crew double crosses a local crime lord and leaves Agent Hobbs with some tough choices.

Specifications

  • Universal
  • 2011, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 12 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Jordana Brewster
  • Directed by Justin Lin
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

The Fast and Furious series has been a bit of a dirty pleasure for me.  I have enjoyed everyone of the films on some level, even 2 Fast 2 Furious and Tokyo Drift.  Many have claimed that Fast Five is the best of the series, but I am on the fence with this one. I think the original still has a special place in my heart, with its exceptional usage of NOS and althought Fast Five is solid, it does have some flaws.  The sentimental moments between Brian and Mia felt a bit forced to me, but I guess they needed something for the ladies. Also, be sure to throw aside all logic when it comes to physics as this movie plays fast and loose with reality. Its a fun ride and the Blu-ray from Universal Studios is fantastic and an easy buy for fans.

Technical

Flawless picture quality from Universal. Sharp and detailed scenes with loads of depth to the image. I was very pleased with how the movie looked.

Awesome DTS-HD MA sound mix on this disc. Tons of well used LFE and surround activity that really make you feel like you are in the movie. A great demo disc.

Extras

Tons of extra content for fans. Theatrical and slightly Extended edition, Second Screen Interactive Viewing that uses iPad or other tablet, U-Control Pic-n-Pic Track, Scene Explorer, Audio Commentary, 9 featurettes in HD, Deleted Scenes, Gag Reel, My Scenes Bookmarking, and BD-Live.Fast Five (Blu-ray)


"Life is Beautiful" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movie-october-2011-life-is-beautiful

Synopsis

Benigni plays the Jewish country boy Guido, a madcap romantic in Mussolini's Italy who wins the heart of his sweetheart (Braschi) and raises a darling son in the shadow of fascism. When the Nazis ship the men off to a concentration camp in the waning days of the war, Guido is determined to shelter his son from the evils around them and convinces him they're in an elaborate contest to win (of all things) a tank. Guido tirelessly maintains the ruse with comic ingenuity, even as the horrors escalate and the camp's population continues to dwindle. Benigni walks a fine line mining comedy from tragedy and his efforts are pure fantasy, yet for all its wacky humor and inventive gags, Life Is Beautiful is a moving and poignant tale of one father's sacrifice to save not just his young son's life but his innocence in the face of one of the most evil acts ever perpetrated by the human race. This film won 7 Academy Awards, including Best Actor in 1998.

Specifications

  • Miramax
  • 2011, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 56 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • Italian 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, DD 5.1 with subtitiles
  • Starring Roberto Benigni, Nicoletta Braschi
  • Directed by Roberto Benigni
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Off screen
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

Life is Beautiful is a wonderfully inventive tale that seems fresh even today, years after its first release. Part slapstick, part drama, part romantic comedy, part tragedy - this story of an Italian family during the Holocaust defies categorization. Benigni is sort of a cross between Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton…yet, totally unique as a character. I always have advocated watching foreign films in the original language with subtitles, but I understand that some may not like "reading" a movie. I found the dubbed version to be too distracting, as Benigni provides the English track for his own character while English voices dub the rest of the cast. His Italian accent amid the English accents ruined the illusion. Still, if a dubbed version is the only way you'll watch this movie, just do it. The reward is still great. The ending could be seen as bittersweet, but I found it to have just the right poignancy that will leave you pondering this film long after it is over. This is a film worth viewing and illustrates that life is beautiful, indeed!

Technical

Though the overall picture is good, there are some scenes that suffer from buzzing film grain. Details are OK, but never as razor sharp as we have come to expect from blu-ray. The color red has a tendency to bleed and obscures the details in fabrics. Skin tones are natural, though Benigni's complexion seems more pale compared to others. In spite of these minor issues, the film is very entertaining. The sound is DD if you use subtitles, but it is still clear and provides plenty of ambiance. The original Italian track is DTS-HD-MA 5.1.

Extras

The extras are thin with only "the making of" Life is Beautiful and some theatrical trailers.The Hour (Blu-ray)


"The Hour" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Stephen Hornbrook

movie-october-2011-thehour

Synopsis

BBC reporters Bel Rowley (Romola Garai) and Freddie Lyon (Ben Whishaw) are given the opportunity to escape their jobs producing dull newsreels and work on a new, weekly investigative news program. The interplay and intense ambitions between the rising news team plays out against the backdrop of a rivalry between Freddie and lead anchorman Hector Madden (Dominic West) for Bel's affections. But it's only when Freddie has a chance encounter with a childhood friend, Ruth Elms, that he is thrust into the middle of a mysterious murder along with a controversial and dangerous investigation.  The mini-series begins with the murder of an unknown man which then unravels a ball of conspiracy yarn upon the young, ambitious reporter, Freddie Lyon.

Specifications

  • BBC
  • 2011, Color, Not Rated, 344 Minutes
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • 1080i
  • English Stereo 2.0 LPCM
  • Starring: Ben Whishaw, Anna Chancellor, Anton Lester, Romola Garai, Dominic West
  • Directed by Harry Bradbeer, Coky Giedroyc, Jamie Payne
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

Going into The Hour I had no idea what to expect. Turns out that The Hour is a suitable mix of Mad Men and a bit of the behind-the-scene intrigue of The West Wing, but set in 1950's England. The show is centered around a new nightly news program looking to be the top dog of edgy reporting. The Hour takes place in 1956 during the Suez Crisis, a war fought by the UK, France and Israel against Egypt.  I was actually blown away by the production values of this show.  It never felt like I was watching a TV show, but rather a well made motion picture. The sets, costuming, acting, and photography were of a very high level. The photography alone really grabbed my attention, with its beautiful, richly composed shots. Dominic West does an excellent job at his schmarmy character and Ben Whishaw makes for a very intriguing character.  After a couple episodes, my wife and I were hooked on this show and I definitely recommend giving it a chance. The Blu-ray presentation makes for a wonderful viewing experience.

Technical

As I mentioned above, The Hour is shot beautifully with excellent contrast and a wonderful color palette. Don’t be taken aback by its technical stats, as the 1080i transfer is very well done. 

With just a 2.0 soundtrack, it serves the purpose just fine, but it won’t be rocking your home theater. I was actually a bit surprised at how nice the audio presentation was. The classical and period jazz that fill the background sound quite nice.

Extras

Creating The Hour - Set Design Piece, Behind the scenes of The Hour.


"Moby Dick" (2010) (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movie-october-2011-moby-dick

Synopsis

Ishmael sees his dream of a whaling voyage come true when he joins the crew of the Pequod, a sailing vessel leaving port in Nantucket. Unbeknownst to Ishmael and the mates, the Pequod’s monomaniacal Captain Ahab is taking them all on a mad and personal mission to slay the great whale Moby Dick, an obsession that will open their eyes to the wonder and spectacle of man, of beast, and the inescapable nature of both. The film premiered on the Encore network as a two part movie and is based on the novel by Herman Melville.

Specifications

  • Vivendi Entertainment
  • 2010, Color, Not Rated, 3 Hr 8 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Codec: VC-1
  • 1080p
  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Starring Ethan Hawke, Donald Sutherland, William Hurt, Gillian Anderson
  • Directed by Mark Barker
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

Free will vs self-determinism. Ahab feels compelled to complete his tragic mission even as he sees it unfold before him because he is preordained to do so by a higher authority. Do we plot our own course through life or are we just characters in a great play authored by God? This is the crux of Melville's opus. This philosophical conundrum to be debated in our hearts and our souls is completely obliterated from this empty rewrite. The attitudes are too modern, Ahab is way too happy and not a single sailor sports an authentic New England accent (Hey, I’m from Boston). You know the script has gone terribly awry when Ahab holds an impromptu pep-rally on the ship deck and gets the crew to chant, "Moby Dick, Moby Dick...". Add to it some horrible CGI of the eponymous whale and you have over 2 hours of looking at your watch. Stick to Gregory Peck’s 1956 version where he quotes large passages from the novel, verbatim, and adds gravitas and purpose to the character of Ahab. I recommend that you let this one get away. It is a far cry from the 1956 version, starring Gregory Peck as Ahab, and directed by John Huston.

Technical

The picture quality is very good, with most scenes revealing great detail and texture. Lighted scenes look very good, but some of the dark interior scenes crush and lose details. A few of the day lit scenes exhibit a slightly blown-out contrast that drains the color from the skin tones. The downside to this razor sharp HD presentation is the poor CGI effects are really high lighted. The “great white whale” looks misshapen and fat. At no time will you ever mistake him for a real whale. Surround sound is fair, but don’t expect ship board creaking and wind sounds like you’d hear on Master and Commander. The sub comes in when ever the whale appears.

Extras

Zilch. It’s a made for TV movie. Were you really hoping to see a “making of” or lengthy commentary?



"A Cinderalla Story: Once Upon a Song" (DVD) - Reviewed by John Johnson

movie-october-2011-a-cinderella-story

Synopsis

This is basically a musical Cinderella story, with the characters being students at a performing arts school. Katie (Hale) is a very talented singer. Her stepsister (Pyle) takes credit for Katie's beautiful singing voice to attract a boy, Luke (Stroma), which is just what her mother wants, so Katie has to figure out how to bring the truth to light.

Specifications

  • Warner Brothers
  • 2011, Color, Rated PG, 1 Hr 28 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • 480p
  • English 5.1 Dolby Digital
  • Starring Lucy Hale, Megan Park, Freddie Stroma, Jessalyn Wanum, Missi Pyle
  • Directed by Damon Santostefano
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: Suggestive
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

Classic tale, told as simply as the original, with a modern twist, and current music style.

Technical

The picture quality is very good for DVD, but the sound does not have much of a surround presence.

Extras

These include Meet Prince Charming, Learn New Cool Steps, Behind the Scenes, and other things.


"Ben-Hur" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movie-october-2011-ben-hur

Synopsis

High-definition Blu-Ray hits greater heights with the arrival of the visual splendor, thundering action and towering drama of this record-setting winner of 11 Academy Awards® including Best Picture. Charlton Heston brings a physical and moral presence to his Best Actor Oscar®-winning role of Judah Ben-Hur, a Jewish nobleman in Palestine whose heroic odyssey includes enslavement by the Romans, vengeance against his tormentors during a furious arena chariot race and fateful encounters with Jesus Christ. Best Director Oscar® winner William Wyler masterfully grips the reins of an enduring and spellbinding spectacular.

Specifications

  • Warner Brothers
  • 2011, Color, Rated PG, 3 Hr 42 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.76:1
  • Codec: MPEG 4/BD 50/2 discs
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD-Master Audio
  • Starring Charlton Heston, Jack Hawkins, Haya Harareet, Stephen Boyd
  • Directed by William Wyler
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

Ben-Hur was not the Best Picture of 1959 by accident. An incredible cast, led by Heston, the cinematography of Robert Surtees, the score from Miklos Rozsa, all blend together to create one of the great masterpieces of modern cinema. As to the Blu-ray, the quality of the film shines through. The labors performed to get it back into shape (re-mastered into 8K resolution) look superb on this format. Each frame was painstakingly cleaned and in over 200+ minutes of film, and I noticed no major problems. There were a few mis-cuts during the film, but they were minor and hardly noticeable. The details and wonderful colors leap off the screen. Some scenes almost look 3D, with incredible depth and contrast. The climactic chariot race scene has more action and suspense then the silly pod racer scene in Star Wars, which Lucas blatantly steals from this film. Ben-Hur is a glorious Blu-ray experience that your whole family can enjoy. This is a beautifully restored Hollywood masterpiece, the likes that Hollywood will never make again. If you love movies, this one is a “must own”.

Technical

As mentioned above, the movie looks astounding in it's cinematography, details, and set designs. Yes, the sea battle is fought with models, the large backdrops are matte paintings, but the picture is so outstanding and the story so well acted, you will hardly notice. What an amazing experience to view a true Hollywood spectacle that isn’t awash with obtrusive CGI effects. The sound quality is wonderful, too. Rosza’s score is broad and expansive, befitting a great film like this. The sub kicks in during much of the martial parade scenes and lends weight to the score. The surrounds are used to flesh out the sound from becoming too front heavy and work particularly well for the battle and crowd scenes. Dialog is always clear and centered onto the screen, and I never heard any distortion or hiss from the 50 year old soundtrack. The film is split into 2 discs with the intro and intermission music sections left intact. It is hard to beleive that this film is over 50 years old because it looks so very good. Thank you Warner for taking the time to do this Blu-ray the right way!

Extras

Commentary by Film Historian T. Gene Hatcher with Charlton Heston, Music-Only Track Showcasing Miklós Rózsa's Award-Winning Score and Theatrical Trailers. The 50th anniversary box set contains tons of good stuff while this 2-disc set is more for the guy that just wants to watch the movie.


"Cape Fear" (1991) (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movie-october-2011-cape-fear

Synopsis

Martin Scorsese brings heart-pounding suspense to one of the most acclaimed thrillers of all time in Cape Fear. Earning an Academy Award® nomination for his brilliant performance, Robert De Niro stars as vicious psychopath Max Cady who emerges after being imprisoned for fourteen years with a single-minded mission - to seek revenge on his attorney Sam Bowden (Nick Nolte). Realizing he is legally powerless to protect his beautiful wife Leigh (Jessica Lange) and his troubled teenage daughter Danielle (Juliette Lewis) against Max's relentless psychological torment, Sam resorts to unorthodox measures, leading to an unforgettable, action-packed showdown on Cape Fear.

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 1991, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr 8 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.85:1
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD-Master Audio
  • Starring Robert De Niro, Jessica Lange, Nick Nolte, Juliette Lewis, Joe Don Baker
  • Directed by Martin Scorsese
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes-graphic
  • Sex: Implied
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

Robert De Niro is extremely terrifying as the vengeful "Max Cady" who is out looking to settle a score. This is definitely a signature role for De Niro, and this may well be one of his many roles that he will be remembered for most. Nick Nolte also gives a solid performance that adds a flawed human quality to his character. In the end, De Niro’s character, who was so careful and clever during most of this movie, degenerates into a bible quoting, maniacal pervert and the ending leaves you feeling unsettled. Still, it is remarkable to see De Niro get totally lost in his character. This film is not for the squeamish as it contains some graphic depictions of violence and rape, but comes just in time for Halloween. (Watch for cameos by Gregory Peck and Robert Mitchum who starred in the 1962 version of this film).

Technical

The film looks pretty good here, besting the DVD version in clarity and color saturation. Not all scenes are pristine and in focus though, and the darker scenes tend to show noise and crushing. The sound is nice, with all sorts of insect sounds and thunderstorm rain filling the rear channels. The descending 4 note motif that starts the movie score sounds chilling in the DTS-HD MA 5.1 sound field.

Extras

Documentary, deleted scenes, photo gallery, matte paintings, behind-the-scenes footage, and theatrical trailer.


"African Cats" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movie-october-2011-african-cats

Synopsis

From Disneynature, the studio that brought you Earth and Oceans, comes the epic journey African Cats. Set against one of the wildest places on Earth, you'll experience the extraordinary adventure of two families as they strive to make a home in an untamed land. Stunning high-definition images take your breath away as you come face-to-face with these majestic kings of the savanna and their true-life love, humor, and determination. Blending family bonds with the power and majesty of the wild, it's an exciting, awe-inspiring experience that will touch your heart.

Specifications

  • Disney Studios
  • 2011, Color, Rated G, 1 Hr 29 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD-Master Audio
  • Starring Samuel L. Jackson (Narrator)
  • Directed by Keith Scholey, Alastair Fothergill
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Implied
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

How does Disney do it? The camera techniques used allow remarkable close-ups in this film. You can easily spot the tiny fly on a lion's whiskers. How can the cameramen get that close and not have these big cats notice them? There's also a lot of slow-motion photography that shows the supple muscles in a lion's shoulders when the cats are on the hunt. The film focuses on a pride of lions overseen by Fang, a male with a broken tooth, and the lionesses and cubs that make up his family. It also follows the life of Sita, a young female cheetah and her litter of five cubs that are just as cute as, well, kittens. This film is not a real life version of The Lion King and doesn't shy away from the danger. Some of these cats will die, either from ill health or predators, so be prepared to talk to your kids about that “circle of life” thing. But despite the very real perils of nature, the film entertains and will keep your eyes glued to the screen. To sum it all up, "Wow!".

Technical

The HD quality is incredible! Disney always does a great job with their films and this one is no exception. Every hair, blade of grass, specks of sand and buzzing insect are all caught in great detail here. The close-ups of these creatures reveals tons of details both of the animals themselves or their surroundings. You can not get this close to them at the zoo, let alone in the wild. There are plenty of aerial shots and panoramic views of the Serengeti that are wonderfully rendered. This film is demo quality, both in picture and sound. Wait till you hear the deep and powerful roar of the lions.

Extras

Filmmaker Annotations - Interactive Experience Takes You Behind The Scenes With The Filmmakers And Conservationists , "The World I Knew" by Jordin Sparks Music Video plus bonus features with “BD Live”.


"Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" (3D, Blu-ray) - Reviewed by John Johnson

movie-october-2011-pirates-stranger-tides

Synopsis

Like the other three Pirates movies, On Stranger Tides has a basic goal, in this case, the search for the Fountain of Youth, but the real nature is, "Let's all dress up like pirates and chase each other around." Sort of like the games we played as children.

Cruz is the beautiful girl in this installment, playing Angelica, who is a pirate herself, and very dangerous to our hero Jack Sparrow. Throw in a mermaid - a very attractive one - and you have a complete gameboard. Oh yes, of course Barbossa (Rush) is there too, although he has joined His Majesty's Royal Navy, and a new character (at least new to the series): Blackbeard, played by Ian McShane.

Specifications

  • Disney Studios
  • 2011, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 16 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • 1080p
  • English 7.1 DTS-HD-Master Audio
  • Starring: Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Geoffrey Rush, Ian McShane, Keith Richards, Kevin McNally
  • Directed by Rob Marshall
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Sensuality
  • Language: No

Commentary

There's the usual pirate violence and some sensuality, but really, it's a Disney picture and great family fun.

Technical

The Blu-ray version has the best image quality I have yet seen. I can't imagine the picture being any sharper or more detailed. And the 7.1 surround sound. Wowsers! This is one film that we will all be using to impress our neighbors, that is, if they don't already have a system that is 7.1 capable.

The 3D is good, but I think the limitations right now are the displays. There is too much ghosting, which is due to pixels not turning on and off fast enough. And, unless you hold your head exactly horizontal, you will get a headache (because, otherwise, one image will be lower than the other, and the eyes try to accommodate this, but can't do it). In any case, the Blu-ray movie is a reference disc for anyone wanting to remind him/herself of what Blu-ray should look like and sound like.

Extras

This is a 5-disc set, so you could keep yourself occupied all day watching the content. An entire disc is dedicated to the Extra Features, including The Making of, Deleted and Extended Scenes, In Search of the Fountain, Bringing Mermaids to Life, and an interview with Depp and Rush, discussing the nature of their characters. There is also another disc with bloopers. The set includes a standard DVD version, the Blu-ray version, the 3D Blu-ray version, and a Digital Copy version that you can load onto your video iPod.



"X-Men: First Class (Blu-ray)"  - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movie-october-2011-Xmen

Synopsis

X-Men: First Class is the thrilling, eye-opening chapter you’ve been waiting for.Witness the beginning of the X-Men Universe. Before Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr took the names Professor X and Magneto, they were two young men discovering their superhuman powers for the first time, working together in a desperate attempt to stop the Hellfire Club and a global nuclear holocaust at a time when Russia and the US were at the zenith of the Cold War

Specifications

  • 20th Century Fox
  • 2011, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 13 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Codec: AVC MPEG 4
  • 1080p
  • English 7.1 DTS-HD-Master Audio
  • Starring James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Kevin Bacon
  • Directed by Matthew Vaughn
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Sensuality
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

This flick is a pretty good re-boot after the dismal Wolverine movie from a few years back. The CGI is slick, though some of the mutants are less than interesting (dragon fly wings really are not that amazing and one guy can scream so hard he can fly). The parts of the movie that dragged a bit were the scenes where the mutants were not front and center, yet the conflict between Prof. X and Magneto are solidly set-up. Perhaps the movie tries a little too hard to explain things like how Beast became blue and furry, or how Xavier ends up in a wheelchair, but overall the movie stayed fresh and believable. Certainly worth an evening in the "man cave".

Technical

The picture quality is almost demo quality as was the sound. The climactic battle scene with the navy exhibited tremendous low frequencies and hyper active surrounds. Most of the CGI looked realistic and the HD picture did not make it seem too fake. Contrasts and skin tones were natural and colors were lush.

Extras

X Marks The Spot, composer's isolated score, Cerebro: Mutant Tracker, Children of the Atom, 8 part featurette series and deleted scenes.



"Jurassic Park Ultimate Trilogy" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Stephen Hornbrook

movie-october-2011-jurassicpark

"Jurassic Park"

Synopsis

Based on the best-selling novel by Michael Crichton, “Jurassic Park” is the wondrous tale of dinosaurs brought back to life.  Brilliant visionary and mega-millionaire, John Hammond opens a new kind of theme park: one where dinosaurs are free to roam, having been recreated through advanced DNA technology. A group of individuals invited by Hammond to have a special sneak preview of his park are faced with a fight for their survival after the security systems holding in the dinosaurs are purposefully disabled.

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 1993, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 7 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Codec: VC-1
  • 1080p
  • English 7.1 DTS-HD-Master Audio
  • Starring Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough
  • Directed by Steven Spielberg
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

The original Jurassic Park is clearly the main reason to purchase this Ultimate Trilogy set.  The two followup movies are in a whole different league.  I remember reading the book by the late and great Michael Crichton in the months leading up to the release of Jurassic Park.  It was about as excited as I get for a movie and with Spielberg at the helm, I wasn’t the least bit worried.  Jurassic Park is now a classic in my mind, as it brought dinosaurs to the screen like we had never before seen and all in an exciting, action packed ride. The special effects were ground breaking and they knew just when to use animatronics and computer generated effects.  In fact, I wish animatronics had not been completely taken over by the cheaper and easier computer generated approach of today’s movies.  Computer graphics have not quite reach the level of tangibility as something like a robotic T-Rex head can produce. Our brains are so good at identifying the flaws in CGI. But we are getting closer and it is thanks to movies like Jurassic Park for pushing the technology further.  If you have never seen this movie, and I can’t imagine there are many in this category, then by all means, see it!  As for this long awaited release on Blu-ray, it’s a no-brainer: a must buy.

Technical

Those of you expecting a magical 8K remaster and the film to look as good as a movie produced in 2011 will be disappointed.  The image quality is very good, especially since this movie is almost 20 years old.  There is a tad bit of edge enhancement here and there, but it isn’t too aggressive.  Since this is replacing my old DVD version, it is a welcome upgrade and the Blu-ray looks way better than the DVD. 

The DTS-HD MA 7.1 track is breathtaking.  John Williams amazing score will fill your home theater with all its orchestral glory and the roar of the T-Rex will probably damage your house.

Extras

Return to Jurassic Park: Dawn of a New Era, Return to Jurassic Park: Making Prehistory, Return to Jurassic Park: The Next Step in Evolution, The Making of 'Jurassic Park', Original Featurette on the Making of the Film, Steven Spielberg Directs 'Jurassic Park', Hurricane in Kauai Featurette, Early Pre-Production Meetings, Location Scouting, Phil Tippett Animatics: Raptors in the Kitchen, Animatics: T-Rex Attack, ILM and 'Jurassic Park': Before and After Visual Effects, Foley Artists, Storyboards, Production Archives, Theatrical Trailer

“The Lost World: Jurassic Park”

Synopsis

“The Lost World” takes place four years after the events in Jurassic Park and John Hammond is up to no good again after he reveals to chaos theorist Ian Malcolm that he has been secretly breeding more dinosaurs.  Malcolm is joined by his girlfriend Dr. Sarah Harding, a paleontologist, and a wildlife videographer so they may document the dinosaur’s natural behavior.  The expedition quickly turns in to a rescue mission to save everyone from the murderous dinos.

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 1997, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 9 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Codec: VC-1
  • 1080p
  • English 7.1 DTS-HD-Master Audio
  • Starring Julianne Moore, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough, Pete Postlethwaite
  • Directed by Steven Spielberg
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

After the success of the first movie, writer Michael Crichton and director Steven Spielberg were dying to make a sequel.  Crichton quickly tossed together some ideas into a book and the movie was soon after filmed.  I remember enjoying The Lost World when it initially came out in theaters, but now I realize that I think my judgment was a bit clouded by the hype.  The Lost World has many issues including the entire final act where the dinos arrive on the mainland.  Regardless, it is still a fun and entertaining movie.

Technical

The picture quality on The Lost World is a bit sub-par as well as again, it looks dated.  It’s still way better than my DVD copy. 
The audio track is what really shines here.  Spielberg has always hired some of the best sound engineers in the business and this proves it.  Seriously, these discs are worth it for the audio alone.

Extras

Return to Jurassic Park: Finding The Lost World, Return to Jurassic Park: Something Survived, The Making of 'The Lost World', Original Featurette on the Making of the Film, The 'Jurassic Park' Phenomenon: A Discussion with Author Michael Crichton, The Compie Dance Number: Thank You Steven Spielberg from ILM, ILM and "The Lost World': Before and After Visual Effects, Storyboards, Production Archives, Deleted Scenes, Theatrical Trailer

“Jurassic Park III”

Synopsis

Desperate for funding for his research, Dr. Alan Grant agrees to guide Paul and Amanda Kirby on an aerial tour of Isla Sorna, the dinosaur home from “The Lost World”.  The group becomes stranded on the island where new, more deadly, species of dinosaurs hunt them down. It is revealed that the divorced Kirby couple is actually in search of their son Eric and Amanda’s fiance Ben that recently disappeared on the island.

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 2001, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 33 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Codec: VC-1
  • 1080p
  • English 7.1 DTS-HD-Master Audio
  • Starring Sam Neill, William H. Macy, Téa Leoni
  • Directed by Joe Johnston
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

Jurassic Park III is the ugly step-child in the JP family.  It has a different pace and feel than the other two movies and overall, the quality is subpar.  Tea Leoni is annoying throughout the whole movie and you really just want her to get eaten alive. This movie is also quite short, a half an hour shorter than the other two films, but that turns out to be a good thing. It’s part of the Ultimate Trilogy so if you want Jurassic Park on Blu-ray you are going to get its sequels as well.  I honestly don’t mind as I find them to still be fun and entertaining even though they aren’t the greatest movies ever made.

Technical

Given that JPIII is the newest film of the bunch, one would it expect it too look the best, and well it does.  JPIII clearly has the best video transfer of the bunch, although it isn’t quite reference quality. 

Once again, the audio is reference quality on this disc as well.  Although the movie is lacking an original score by John Williams, the music by Don Davis will still create a wide soundstage in your home theater.

Extras

Return to Jurassic Park: The Third Adventure, The Making of 'Jurassic Park III', The Dinosaurs of 'Jurassic Park III', The Special Effects of 'Jurassic Park III', The Industrial Light and Magic Press Reel, The Sounds of 'Jurassic Park III', The Art of 'Jurassic Park III', Montana: Finding New Dinosaurs, Tour of Stan Winston Studio, Spinosaurus Attacks the Plane, Raptors Attack Udesky, The Lake, A Visit to ILM, Dinosaur Turntables, Storyboards to Final Feature Comparison, Production Photographs, Theatrical Trailer, Feature Commentary with the Special Effects Team


"Green Lantern (Blu-ray)"  - Reviewed by Jim Clements

movie-october-2011-green-lantern

Synopsis

Throughout the universe, there exists an elite force of protectors for peace and justice called the Green Lantern Corps.  One of these protectors, Abin Sur, is mortally wounded in a battle against the evil Parallax (voiced by Clancy Brown).  Abin Sur manages to escape from Parallax and crash lands on earth where he commands his ring to find a worthy successor to his place as the Protector of Sector 2814.  The ring selects a cocky test pilot, Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds), to be the first Earthling to join the Green Lantern Corps.  Jordan gets taken to the Green Lantern Corps' home planet, Oa, where he trains under the other protectors from around the Universe.  He finds that the power of the Green Lantern is fed by the will of all living creatures while the yellow power of the villains is fed by the fear in all living creatures.  Jordan must now return to Earth and try to single-handedly protect the planet from destruction at the hands of the evil Parallax.

Specifications

  • Warner Brothers
  • 2011, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 54 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Codec: AVC MPEG 4
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD-Master Audio
  • Starring Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Saarsgard, Mark Strong and Tim Robbins
  • Directed by Martin Campbell
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

I really wanted to enjoy this movie.  And I did - in some ways at least.  The special effects were pretty cool.  The acting job turned in by Peter Saarsgard was noteworthy in its competence.  But I was disappointed with the acting efforts of Ryan Reynolds in the lead role and of Tim Robbins, who plays Hammond (Saarsgard's on-screen father).  Neither actor came on the screen with any sizzle or vigor and their low-key tone permeated the entire film as it plodded along to a predictable conclusion.  I also never felt an emotional connection to any of the characters.  This Blu-Ray is worthy of a rental if only for the special effects.

Technical

I found the picture quality to be near reference-quality.  It is amazing how the skin tones looked very natural, despite all the green lighting.  The CGI effects were first rate as well.  I deducted half a star because the darker scenes exhibited a small degree of crush.  The audio was very good.  The surrounds only kicked in when the bigger battle scenes were underway.  I was impressed that the bass was full and present when called on but it was not boomy or bloated.

Extras

This two-dsic set is loaded with extras - Extended Cut (adds 9 minutes), Maximum Movie Mode - Green Lantern's Light, "The Universe According to Green Lantern" Featurette, "Ryan Reynolds Becomes Green Lantern" Featurette, The Justice League #1 digital comic, Deleted scenes, a Preview of "Green Lantern: The Animated Series", BD-Live, Disc Two - DVD of theatrical version and Ultraviolet (streaming) digital copy.  Also included is the access code to unlock the Sinestro Corp Batman Skin for the "Batman: Arkham City" video game.