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Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - September, 2010

ARTICLE INDEX

"Harry Brown" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by John Johnson

Harry Brown

Synopsis

In London, retired Royal Marine Harry Brown (Caine) spends his time playing chess with his friend Leonard Atwell (Bradley). They watch drug dealers in the bar doing business while they play.

The police come to see Harry one evening and tell him that his friend Leonard was murdered by drug dealers. This is very difficult for Harry to take, especially since his wife has also recently passed away.

So, Harry, calling on his skills as a Royal Marine, takes the law into his own hands, and puts some of the drug dealers in the morgue, with name tags on their big toes.

 

 

Specifications

  • Sony Pictures
  • 2009, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 43 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer, David Bradley
  • Directed by Daniel Barber
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Graphic
  • Sex: Explicit
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

Revenge is one of the most satisfying of human emotions, and movies play to this year after year. Perhaps the most famous is the Death Wish series, with Charles Bronson. I think there were four of them in the series, and they all felt terrific, even if they were low budget. Harry Brown is a bit more visceral than the Bronson series, but only because our standards have changed as to how violent movie images are allowed to be.

Technical

The picture quality is superb. Surround sound is satisfactory.

Extras

These include The Director and Cast's Commentary, Deleted Scenes, and BD-Live.


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

Good

Synopsis

In 1933, when Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, the Nazis didn't waste any time, burning books that were contradictory to Hitler's Fascist National Socialism plans for the country. The first concentration camps started to be constructed, although their intitial purpose was not what they eventually turned out to be.

Author John Halder (Mortensen) is a literature professor in a Berlin university, and in 1939, a book he has written is brought to the attention of Hitler because it has certain aspects that suit National Socialistic politics. Halder is asked to join the SS and write a paper fully expounding on his ideas, some of which will support the euthanasia of the mentally ill, for the "good of the nation."

At first, Halder does not think he is the right kind of person who should join the Nazi Party, but he eventually concedes and becomes an SS officer. Years earlier, he had suggested that his Jewish friend Dr. Maurice Gluckstein (Isaacs) leave Germany, because of growing anti-Semitism, but Maurice refused to consider it.

As war begins, in 1939, now Maurice wants to leave, but John finds himself in a predicament, being an SS officer. When he finally obtains a ticket for Maurice's exit, Maurice has already been "relocated" to a concentration camp.

He asks the Office of Records to perform an experiment in locating someone to see how good their record keeping is, but in fact, he simply wants to find his old friend.

He finds him in the camp, wearing the clothes like all of the Jewish camp inmates, and Maurice does not recognize him. Then, he looks around the camp and sees what is happening not only to Maurice, but to an entire ethnic population, and he realizes that he has contributed to the worst crime ever committed by the human race.

 

Specifications

  • National Entertainment Media
  • 2008, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 36 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Jason Isaacs, Jodie Whittaker, Steven Elder, Anastasia Hille, Adrian Schiller
  • Directed by Vicente Amorim
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

This is not your typical WW-II movie. No machine guns, no bayonets. It's a story of one man, and how much impact a single book that he wrote could have on the lives of millions, especially since the Nazis were burning so many books in the first place. However, the story moves slowly, and does not really need so much flashback to Halder's early years as a professor, who leaves his ailing wife for another woman.

Technical

The image quality is very good, but not quite deserving of a 5. Not much need for surround sound, but the DTS-HD Master Audio delivers everything clearly.

Extras

None.


"Dexter Season 4" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

movie-september-2010-dexter-4

Synopsis

Dexter Morgan (Hall) is a serial killer living in Miami, Florida.  He’s a bit different than your average monster though as he works as a blood spatter expert for the Miami Metro Police.  He also only kills those who truly deserve it.  As a child he was adopted by a policeman who recognized his need to kill.  Harry (Remar) decided to channel Dexter’s need by teaching him “the code.”  Dexter would only kill people who had murdered innocents and gotten away with it.  You can imagine the obstacles someone with this kind of life must face.

In Season 4, Dexter is now married with a new baby, a new home and a crazy life spent juggling his need to kill with his family’s demands.  A new adversary comes to town in the form of the Trinity killer (Lithgow).  Rather than kill Trinity right away, Dexter wants to learn from him so they become friends.  He soon discovers Trinity is not the perfect blend of serial killer and normal man he seems to be.  Once they both discover the truth, the showdown is intense and bloody and the viewer is left with a surprising cliffhanger.

 

Specifications

  • Showtime/Paramount
  • 2009, Color, Not Rated, 10 Hrs 32 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD
  • Starring: Michael C. Hall, Julie Benz, Jennifer Carpenter, Desmond Harrington, C.S. Lee, Lauren Velez, David Zayas, James Remar and John Lithgow
  • Directed by Various Directors
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

In my opinion this is one of the best shows on television.  I am not a subscriber to Showtime so I’ve only watched Dexter on disc.  When a new season comes out, my wife and I can’t resist watching all 12 episodes in just a few days; it’s that addictive.  Michael C. Hall is a terrific actor playing the many facets of a man dealing with intense conflicts and trying not to upset the delicate balance of his life.  He desperately wants to be normal but his “dark passenger” is always there.  John Lithgow who plays Dexter’s adversary this season is masterful as always.  I’ve never seen him play such a dark role before but he does a superb job.  The other characters like Dexter’s sister Debra (Carpenter) and the various detectives in the police department provide a perfect backdrop for our hero.  A serial killer a hero?  If you’ve watched the show, you’ll understand.  Even though he is a monster (by his own admission), you can’t help but root for him as he takes over where the justice system falls short.  His victims are truly the scum of the earth.  Compared to past seasons, Dexter’s family plays a much larger role.  With three kids and a demanding wife (Benz) to support, keeping his second life secret has become harder than ever.

If you haven’t watched Dexter before, a heads-up; it is on Showtime so sex, violence and language are R-rated.  This is a show to watch after the kids have gone to bed.  I never found anything to be inappropriate given the subject matter.  Watering it down would spoil the fun for sure.  I highly recommend giving Dexter a try and if you’re already a fan, adding Season 4 to your collection is a no-brainer.

Technical

The image is among the best I’ve seen from any TV show.  Color is always bright and vivid; perfectly depicting the city of Miami.  Detail is sharp and clear with no obvious edge enhancement.  Nighttime scenes exhibit a touch of grain but it’s not distracting.  Since most of the violent stuff happens at night, the grain adds an appropriate level of grittiness.  Contrast is also excellent with a wide dynamic range and a lot of punch in bright scenes.  While the picture is not quite reference-level, it comes closer than any other TV show I’ve seen.

The sound track is always clean and clear but not tremendously dynamic.  The surrounds and sub are used sparingly.  Dialog is mixed well with proper placement and good clarity.  The best part though is the music.  Much of the transitional material is done in a Cuban salsa style that you can’t help but dance to.  Added to the excellent visuals, the score, penned by Daniel Licht, elevates the show to a level of high quality.

Extras

Bonus features can only be accessed via BD-Live.  There are no featurettes or commentary tracks on the discs.  Available content includes two episodes each from The Tudors and Californication, and interviews with all the principal actors including John Lithgow.  Why this content (at least the interviews) wasn’t included on disc is a mystery.  Downloading video from Showtime’s servers is painfully slow and of poor quality.  A show this good deserves better treatment.

Extras

None.


"Wolverine and the X-Men: Final Crisis Trilogy" (DVD) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movie-september-2010-wolverine-and-the-x-men

Synopsis

The Battle for the Future Ends in a Shattering 3-Part Finale. It’s time to save the world from Xavier's catastrophic future in “Volume 6: Final Crisis Trilogy,” as Wolverine and the X-Men stop at nothing to prevent the world’s end in this epic first season finale. The shadowy Inner Circle has captured Jean Grey in order to possess the dangerous Phoenix inside her, while Magneto uses Mystique, disguised as Senator Kelly, to launch the Sentinels on Genosha. After discovering the truth about the Circle’s plan, Emma Frost realizes she alone must try to harness the Phoenix force and save Jean before it’s too late. Meanwhile in the future, Xavier unwillingly helps Master Mold track down every mutant on the planet…for execution. Only Wolverine can stop both Magneto and the Inner Circle, preventing the devastating future Xavier has foretold. Who will succeed? The battle for the future has arrived.

 

Specifications

  • Lionsgate
  • 2010, Color, Not Rated, 1 Hr 8 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 Dolby Digital
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

If you have not seen the prior episodes to this story, you might not be up to speed on what has/is transpiring with the storyline. The animation, though colorful, is generally flat without detail or depth. The story is too deep for little ones and a bit too slow for older kids. If you’re into Marvel characters, perhaps this ones for you.

Technical

Picture quality is good for this type of animation, but being a DVD, it exhibits some artifacts, particularly "stair stepping" with diagonal lines and around moving body parts. Colors are strong and solid without bleeding. Sound quality is good with clear dialog and good use of surrounds.

Extras

Audio commentary and trailers.

None.


"Lost in Space" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movie-september-2010-lost-in-space

Synopsis

The family Robinson is in hiber-sleep, soaring into deep space. Their mission: establish a colony that will become home for a dying Earth’s inhabitants. But sabotage jolts the Robinsons awake, sending them--and an often troublesome robot--off course and into amazing adventures where the question is not just where they are, but also when. A fine cast (Gary Oldman, William Hurt, Matt LeBlanc, Heather Graham and more) sets just the right tone of heroism and fun in an imaginative sci-fi voyage based on the ’60s TV series and featuring cameos by some of the TV stars.

 

Specifications

  • Warner Home Video
  • 1998, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 10 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: William Hurt, Gary Oldman, Mimi Rogers, Heather Graham, Lacey Chabert
  • Directed by Stephen Hopkins
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

I grew up on the TV series….first in B/W, later in color. It was campy, but fun. This departs from a lot of the campiness, but sacrifices a lot of the fun for explosions and tons of CGI effects (most of which look great on BD). At least 4 of the original characters cameo in this re-make. See if you can find them. Oldman is his usual “over the top” villianous bad guy as Dr. Smith, LeBlanc almost works as Major West the cocky pilot, but my favorite actor is…the robot. I’d rate this as a “rainy Saturday afternoon with the kids” kind of movie.

Technical

Though the story and character development are weak, this film looks great in HD. Ironically some of the CGI comes off looking cartoonish compared to the lower rez DVD version, but in general the picture quality is far superior to the DVD version. The sound is full of impact and detail. Dialog is very good and the surrounds and sub are almost in constant use. If you already own this on DVD (and really like the movie), this release is worth the upgrade.

Extras

Commentaries, theatrical trailers, "special effects" section, interview with original TV show cast. The disc loads quickly, right to the movie.


"MacGruber" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Adrian Wittenberg

movie-september-2010-macgruber

Synopsis

MacGruber(Will Forte) is an ex-military specialist who, for the last ten years, has been living in a remote monastery trying to find peace in his life since his fiance Casey (Maya Rudolph) was killed by criminal mastermind Dieter Von Cunth (Val Kilmer).  When the military learns that Von Cunth has stolen a powerful nuclear warhead called the X5, Col. James Faith (Powers Booth) and Lt. Dixon Piper (Ryan Philippe) convince MacGruber to come out of retirement, form a team, and go after Cunth before it's too late.

Specifications

  • Rogue Pictures
  • 2010, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 30 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2:35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: VC-1
  • English DTS-HD Master Audio, French DTS 5.1, Spanish DTS 5.1
  • Starring: Will Forte, Kristen Wiig, Ryan Phillipe, Val Kilmer, Power Booth, Maya Rudolph
  • Directed by Jorma Taccone
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Graphic
  • Sex: Explicit
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

I wasn't aware of the SNL skits featuring the MacGruber character and therefore didn't have any preconceptions before watching this movie.  I had originally watched this film when it was released in the theaters and thought it was absolutely hilarious.  I found it to be just as funny watching it for the second time around on the Blu-ray release.  The style of comedy is silly but the performers are exceptionally talented in making the outlandish situations work and delivering funny lines.  Will Forte and Kristen Wiig are delightful to watch on screen and it's also refreshing to see Val Kilmer play a comedic role, which he does really well.  The plot of MacGruber is painfully simple, but it's really just a vehicle for showing unique and ridiculous ways that the characters would handle dangerous situations.  The Blu-ray disc features an unrated version of the film, but I couldn't easily tell what the differences from the theatrical version were.  There may be some extra banter in there, but the unrated version didn't strike me as raunchier than the theatrical version.

Technical

MacGruber was shot using the RED One digital camera system which was also used on District 9, Angels and Demons, and Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian to name a few.  This film was originally shot in 4k and the transfer is very high quality, which makes the picture quality of this Blu-ray exceptional.  Colors are vibrant and make the scenery look really striking.  There is an excellent amount of detail throught the whole film as well as deep blacks, lots of shadow detail and really good contrast.  The image quality just looks fantastic for the entire film.  The audio track is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio and spares no expense in delivering the typical smashing, crashing, and thudding sounds present in major action flicks.  I really enjoyed the soundtrack on this film and also found it hilarious at times.  Overall the sound mix on this film was entertaining and done superbly.

Extras

There are very few extras on this Blu-ray release.  There is a single deleted scene, a gag reel, and commentary on the film with Will Forte, Director Jorma Taccone, and co-writer John Solomon.  I found the gag reel to be quite amusing, but it doesn't make up for the skimping on the included extras.


"Lost - Season 6" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

movie-september-2010-lost-6

Synopsis

Lost began in 2004 with one of the most spectacular plane crash sequences ever shown on TV.  43 survivors emerged from the wreckage on a mysterious island in the middle of the Pacific.  They soon discovered two things, their plane had been hundreds of miles off course so no one would be looking for them and their new home was full of deadly mysteries.  Dr. Jack Shephard (Fox) led the castaways with the promise of rescue.  Through flashbacks, we learned of the characters pasts and sometimes fateful relationships with each other.  Along the way some died and some were reborn as their lives started again on The Island.

Season Six finds our core group of characters having returned to The Island in an attempt to change time and prevent the plane crash from ever taking place.  The mysterious Others are still there trying to protect The Island’s secrets and more importantly to prevent an evil force from escaping.  At the end of Season Five, an H-bomb was detonated supposedly to alter the timeline and reset everyone’s lives.  It’s not clear if this was successful as we see the action unfold in two realities or “flash-sideways.”  One reality begins as Flight 815 lands safely in Los Angeles; and the other leaves our heroes still on The Island picking up the pieces.  How will this all play out?  You’ll have to watch to find out.

Specifications

  • ABC Studios
  • 2010, Color, Not Rated, 13 Hr 22 min (16 Episodes)
  • Aspect Ratio:  1.78:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Matthew Fox, Evangeline Lilly, Josh Holloway, Jorge Garcia, Naveen Andrews, Yunjin Kim, Daniel Dae Kim, Terry O’Quinn
  • Directed by Various Directors
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: No

Commentary

I apologize for the minimalist synopsis but Lost really must be experienced to be understood.  No one can really “tell you what happens.”  The plot has taken so many unexpected twists and turns it’s barely recognizable as the story that began in 2004 with that amazing plane crash.  I admit I was a latecomer to this ground-breaking series picking it up during Season 2.  I haven’t been anything but a rabid fan since then, tuning in every week and, thanks to the magic of my DVR, watching each episode twice to catch extra details missed the first time around.  If you’re a newcomer to this show, you really should watch all the previous seasons before embarking on number six.  Trust me; you won’t know what’s going on if you don’t start at the beginning.  Block out some time because if you get hooked like millions of others have, you will be watching three or four episodes a night just to see what happens next.

I remember an interview with Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof where he said the team’s goal was to write themselves into a corner as often as possible.  You’ll quickly see what he means when you experience it.  There are countless scenarios where you can’t possibly imagine the resolution or the escape but the brilliant architects of this story find a way almost every time.  Almost, you say?  Yes, it’s not a perfect show.  There are some unresolved plot threads and a few head-scratching moments.  And the series finale?  Let’s just say it’s polarizing and leave it at that.

If you haven’t watched Lost before, I urge you to give it a try.  If you’re still a fan after five seasons, number six is a must-see.  I bought the first four seasons on DVD and then on Blu-ray.  Adding this set to my library was a certainty.  I pre-ordered it before it was even shown on TV.  Highly recommended.

Technical

In general the image is of reference quality.  Detail and color saturation are stunning, especially during scenes on The Island.  Lost is filmed in Hawaii and all the lush hues and tones of this tropical paradise are captured beautifully.  The scenes taking place in Los Angeles have a slightly hazy filtered look and are less saturated.  I expect this is by design.  Flesh tones are always accurate and natural.  Contrast is excellent with a wide dynamic range.  My only reason for knocking off a half star is varying black levels.  Nighttime scenes on The Island show different black levels, sometimes within the same scene.  One moment blacks are rich and deep; then the camera angle changes and they’re suddenly gray and grainy.  It’s the only flaw in an otherwise stellar presentation.  Watching the Blu-rays also showed me how poor ABC’s broadcast HD is.  I watched every episode when it aired and saw mostly poor color saturation, frame drops and annoying judder.  The discs display none of this.

The DTS-HD Master Audio track is not quite up to the level of the video.  Dialog and sound effects are clear but sound compressed in volume.  Perhaps it’s the result of so  much location shooting.  By the time background noise is filtered out, dialog becomes flat and one-dimensional.  It didn’t matter whether the action took place in the jungle or in a cab, voices always had the same processed feel.  The music by Michael Giacchino sounds fantastic and is easily the best part of the audio presentation.  Not only does it fit the material perfectly, it’s mixed superbly.  Bravo!

Extras

Every previous release of Lost has included a large set of bonus materials and Season 6 continues that tradition.  In addition to the usual blooper reel, deleted scenes and making-of featurettes, there are several story extenders.  Billed as a new chapter, The New Man In Charge is a 12-minute post-script that ties up a few loose ends to the overall plot.  It’s a very nice gift to Lost’s devoted fans.  Other features cover the various hero characters’ development and give us further explanation of the unique “flash sideways” plot element.  Interactive material is called Lost University and gives access to many hours of lectures and documentaries on the science depicted in the show.  Finally, there is a neat feature called Season Play that remembers your place on each disc and even prompts you to insert the next one when necessary.  This is something I’d like to see on all TV Blu-rays, very cool!


"Nanny McPhee" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

movie-september-2010-nanny

Synopsis

Mr. Brown (Firth) has a nagging problem:  his seven children are very naughty and quite bent on chasing off every nanny that tries to care for them.  He’s simply overwhelmed trying to raise them by himself and hold down his job as a mortician.  When the local agency runs out of nannies, he’s not sure what to do.  Suddenly a mysterious and quite ugly woman arrives at his door – Nanny McPhee (Thompson).  She immediately sets to straightening the children out through her “Five Lessons” and a bit of magic.  Every time they learn a new lesson, she becomes a little less ugly.  Meanwhile, Mr. Brown learns he will lose his allowance from a rich Aunt (Lansbury) if he does not marry immediately.  He asks a rather horrid woman (Mrs. Quickly) to become his wife.  Just as she begins to step into the role of the wicked stepmother, the children disrupt the wedding and Mr. Brown marries the scullery maid instead.  Now that Nanny McPhee is no longer needed, her transformation is complete and she fades off into the distance.

Specifications

  • Universal Pictures
  • 2005, Color, Rated PG, 1 Hr 39 min
  • Aspect Ratio:  2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec:  not specified
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring:  Emma Thompson, Colin Firth, Angela Lansbury
  • Directed by Kirk Jones
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence:  No
  • Sex:  No
  • Language:  No

Commentary

This movie is fair family entertainment but that’s about it.  The antics of the children get old pretty quickly.  I felt the three main actors were completely out of their element with such shallow material. I was surprised to learn Emma Thompson wrote the screenplay.  I would have expected better.  Nanny McPhee will probably appeal to the kids though.  There’s plenty of comical action and the children do eventually find a reason to behave and all turns out well in the end.  The whole thing reminded me of Mary Poppins minus the singing and the Dick Van Dyke character.  There’s something to enjoy for children of any age and I’m sure families will enjoy this film together.  It’s certainly worth a rental.

Technical

Color is uber-saturated with vivid and bright hues throughout.  Flesh tones are kept at a reasonably natural level.  Clothing and building interiors are decked out in the brightest and loudest colors imaginable.  Detail is razor-sharp at all times.  Contrast is extreme and I expected some crushing but saw none.  Shadow detail is preserved very well.  There were only a few dark scenes but they looked fantastic with amazing blacks and excellent detail.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see this Blu-ray as a projector and flat-panel demo at CEDIA this year.

Audio is nothing special.  Dialog is clear and blends well with other sound effects.  Surrounds are not used except for a few ambient effects.  The sound field remains firmly up front.  I only heard the sub when Nanny McPhee banged her cane on the floor with a suitably thunderous effect.  Other than that, action scenes sounded somewhat flat with little in the way of dynamics.

Extras

Bonus features include a documentary about the casting process, shorts about the elaborate makeup worn by Emma Thompson and the overall production design.  There is also a featurette covering the adaptation of the screenplay from the original books by Christianna Brand.  Finally there are 13 minutes of deleted scenes and a blooper reel.This is something I’d like to see on all TV Blu-rays, very cool!


"Road to Perdition" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movie-september-2010-road-to-perdition

Synopsis

It’s the Great Depression, and Hanks plays Michael Sullivan, an enforcer working for crime family head John Rooney (Paul Newman). Though Rooney has an adult son, Connor (Daniel Craig), he regards Michael with the affection reserved for the son he wishes he'd had. Sullivan himself has a wife and two boys. In the film's first half-hour, Connor botches a job assigned to him and Michael by the elder Rooney. In the aftermath of the fiasco, Connor kills Michael's wife and his youngest son, and sets up Hanks so no witness will remain. For the remainder of the film, Sullivan goes on the lam with Michael, Jr. (Tyler Hoechlin) seeking revenge against Connor while evading a creepy hit man named Maguire (Jude Law) reluctantly hired by John Rooney to thwart the revenge slaying of his low life offspring.

Specifications

  • Dreamworks Pictures
  • 2010, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 53 min
  • Aspect Ratio:  2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Tom Hanks, Tyler Hoechlin, Daniel Craig, Paul Newman, Liam Aiken
  • Directed by Sam Mendes
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence:  Yes
  • Sex:  No
  • Language:  Yes

Commentary

This movie starts out slowly, but Mendes takes great care to let the movie unfold in a compelling manner. Hanks doesn’t seem to be a good pick for the role of mob "enforcer", but as the story progresses, he really opens up and becomes a moving character. Law is wonderfully repulsive as a photographer that “shoots the dead”. Newman is, well, Newman. That’s to say he provides a great performance with plenty of pathos (one of his last performances). The ending is unexpected and bittersweet. I love this movie. It entertains and speaks to your heart at the same time.

"Sons are put here on earth to trouble their fathers."

And so in the end, this is a story about fathers and sons. But what a fascinating story it is. An engrossing movie that looks and sounds wonderful on the BD format.

Technical

Picture quality is very good with just the right amount of grain. Contrasts and colors are almost perfect. Looking closely, I was able to see an occasional speck here and there, but overall, the clarity and details just blow the DVD version away. The sound quality is immersive, such as the “machine gun in the rain" sequence near the end. Gun shots are startling! This is a great film to demo the BD format to your freinds...it is that good! Also the score is beautiful, expansive and poignant.Very highly recommended.

Extras

Bonus features include: Commentary by Director Sam Mendes, deleted scenes (with optional commentary by Director Sam Mendes), The Making of Road to Perdition,  and theatrical trailers. HD content includes an intro by Mendes, "A Cinematic Life" of Conrad Hall and more.


"The Office - Season Six" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

movie-september-2010-the-office-season-6

Synopsis

The Office TV show is a fake documentary look at the internal workings of Dunder Mifflin, a paper company in Scranton, PA.  The cast of characters includes Michael (Steve Carell) as the boss who is in over his head much of the time, but has his heart in the right place, to assistant managers Dwight (Rainn Wilson) and Jim (John Krasinski) who constantly battle with each other, and more.  One of the anchors of Thursday Night on NBC, the office is at times painful to watch, and many others times can hit close to home for those of us who work in an office day after day.  This season was filled with events from the marriage of Pam and Jim, to the birth of their child, to the downfall of Dunder Mifflin.

Specifications

  • Universal
  • 2010, Color, Not Rated, 25 episodes
  • Aspect Ratio:  1.78:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec:  VC-1
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring:: Steve Carell, Rainn Wilson
  • Directed by Various Directors
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: Slight language
  • Language: No

Commentary

One of my favorite shows on TV since it debuted, The Office continues to be a fantastic show, though perhaps not as good in seasons past.  Many times it's almost too painful for me to continue watching as some of the characters go overboard into their weird personality traits, but even despite these issues, it's still one of the best shows on TV in my opinion, and something that I enjoy having on my shelf to go back and watch.

Technical

Presented in 1080p, The Office looks better on Blu-ray than it does on television thanks to the higher bitrate and better picture format.  The image is clean and crisp, and brings across the look of a documentary as it wants.  Because of the aim for the image, it's not as perfect and demo material worthy as a feature film can be, but it doesn't prevent it from being the best presentation possible of the show.  The audio track is also well done, though once again since it's meant to be a documentary style, you won't find fancy surround effects and amazing pans across all speakers.  it does bring across the feel of the environment you are in, however, and in lossless audio instead of the Dolby Digital that the HDTV broadcast is limited to.

Extras

You get multiple audio commentaries for a few of the episodes, deleted scenes, blooper reels, promotional clips, a full episode of Parks and Recreation (also on NBC's Thursday night), and other featurettes. The most exciting feature is that as Season 7 is on NBC this fall, people that own the Blu-ray set can use BD Live to stream episodes after they air, which is a great feature that I hope future TV shows on Blu-ray copy.  I can't wait to test it out once the new season begins.


"The Evil Dead" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movie-september-2010-evil-dead

Synopsis

The Evil Dead, director Sam Raimi's (Darkman, Army Of Darkness) first feature film, is a true cult classic in every sense of the word. Originally released in 1982, The Evil Dead tells the tale of a group of friends who go to a cabin in the woods, where they find an unspeakable evil lurking in the forest. They find the Necronomicon, the Book Of The Dead, and the taped translation of the text. Once the tape is played, the evil is released. One by one, the teens become deadly zombies. With only one remaining (Bruce Campbell), it is up to him to survive the night and battle The Evil Dead.

Specifications

  • Anchor Bay
  • 1981, Color, Not Rate, 1 Hr 25 min
  • Aspect Ratio:  1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec:  AVC-MPEG 4
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Bruce Campbell
  • Directed by Sam Raimi
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: No

Commentary

After almost 20 years, 1982's Evil Dead is still a great example of low-budget filmmaking. It‘s not without flaws, but this first feature-length film by Raimi, produced on a slim budget of around $350,000, offers clever special FX, grotesque make-up, continuous shocks, and brilliant direction and camera work. Also of  note to genre fans, it illustrates Raimi's penchant for pushing the envelope of violence and gore to such an extreme that it becomes almost farcical, a trait that is enhanced by the slapstick talents of actor and cult hero, Bruce Campbell. This is the precursor to Evil Dead II and the hilarious Army of Darkness. Later, Raimi brings us Spiderman. Go figure! The disc offers two choices of aspect ratios which is wonderful. Both ratios are equal in PQ, but Raimi said he preferred the WS version. I agree. This is a “must own” for cult horror fans and will not disappoint the first time viewer. What macabre fun!

Technical

The film has never looked better than on this BD version. Yes, film grain and occasional soft images appear, but the colors and contrasts are very good. The low budget stock looks very good for its age and quality. Great shadow delineation abounds. The film has been cleaned up, but not digitally scrubbed to death. The sound is greatly improved with good use of surrounds, clear dialog and screams. The music sounds like it was recorded yesterday…very clear and open…and “creepy”. Trust me, you will be looking over your shoulder during the show.

Extras

Hours of interviews, a plethora of deleted scenes, commentaries, reunions, trailers, photo gallery and more on a second DVD.


"Se7en" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

movie-september-2010-se7en

Synopsis

Se7en is the story of two detectives, Somerset (Morgan Freeman) and Mills (Brad Pitt), who work to track down a serial killer who is attempting to make a statement on society using the seven deadly sins as his basis.  Detective Somerset is working his last week as a detective, happy to be able to finally leave the deranged, crazy metropolis that he has worked in for his whole life.  Mills is a young detective, fresh to the city with his wife (Gweneth Paltrow), excited to escape the boredom of country life for the hustle of the big city.  Paired together to allow Mills to get a feeling for working in the city, they seemingly are not going to get along, and want nothing to do with each other, until a series of murders that they are sent to investigate forces them to connect.

On their first case, they find a grossly obese man who has been seemingly forced to keep eating until he can eat no more and his stomach ruptures from the food.  Where Somerset is methodical and composed in his investigation, Mills seemingly can't wait for something interesting to happen, excited by the rush of being in a big city with more going on.  The next day, an attorney is found murdered in his office, with Greed written on the carpet in blood.  After further investigation reveals that the two murders are connected, Mills and Somerset realize they must hurry to catch this killer before his statement to the world can be completed.

Specifications

  • New Line Cinema
  • 1995, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr 7 min
  • Aspect Ratio:  2.40:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec:  VC-1
  • English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring:: Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman
  • Directed by David Fincher
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Extreme
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

Se7en is the film that really introduced us to David Fincher as a director, and is one of my favorite movies of the 1990's.  While some people might find it too gruesome to watch more than once, I've found myself returning to it over and over again through the years, as it's well written, well acted, and just a wonderful movie.

Technical

This is also the best that I have ever seen Se7en look.  When Se7en was originally released in theaters, many of the original prints used a CCE process on the film to make the blacks really, truly black, and leading to a very dark look for the film.  The Criterion Laserdisc version was made from one of these prints, though it came out lighter than intended.  The Special Edition DVD was digitally altered from the original negative to replicate the process and came close, but this Blu-ray presentation is as close as it has come so far.  Appearing very, very dark in many scenes, just like the director intended, this is as good as Se7en has looked, and I can't really find an issue with the image.

Additionally, the lossless soundtrack is truly amazing.  My theater system is better than it was the last time I watched the DVD, but the audio on the Blu-ray is truly fantastic, surrounding you almost all the time in a dark, ominous atmosphere that sucks you into the film.

Extras

The Blu-ray features four commentary tracks, multiple featurettes, extra and deleted scenes, alternate endings, and a series of videos on mastering Se7en for home video release.


"Clash of the Titans" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Tyler Stripko

movie-september-2010-clash-of-the-titans

Synopsis

In ancient Greece, mankind has begun to question their loyalty to the gods of Mount Olympus.  After the destruction of key monuments to the Titans and the blasphemy of Queen Cassiopeia of Argos, the gods descend to Earth and give Argos an ultimatum: sacrifice the Princess Andromeda or face the destruction of the city.   Young Perseus, whose family was killed by the god Hades, learns that he is a demi-god and vows to find a way to save Argos and prevent Andromeda’s sacrifice.

Specifications

  • Warner Home Video
  • 2010, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 46 min
  • Aspect Ratio:  2.40:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec:  VC-1
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring:: Sam Worthington, Gemma Arterton, Mads Mikkelsen, Alexa Davalos, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes
  • Directed by Louis Leterrier
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: None
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

As corny as it was, I have fond memories of the original “Clash of the Titans,” the 1981 film that featured the brilliant stop-motion effects of the great Ray Harryhausen.   When I saw that they were remaking the film in 2010, I had high hopes.  Sadly, I think this remake wasted a lot of potential.  There is no doubt that the special effects for this film are better and far more believable than the 1981 film’s clay-mation, but they still aren’t great.  Many of the CGI shots blatantly stand out from the live-action footage and don’t blend seamlessly into the film.  The Medusa sequence is particularly bad in this regard.  The acting is much less hokey than the original, but is still rather wooden.  I never felt any connection to any of the characters, as they just don’t show any real emotion or range.  The numerous action scenes are fast-paced and entertaining, but it feels like they tried to pack a bit too much action into the film at the expense of plot and character development.  Perseus’ character suffers the most from this.  In the original film Perseus falls in love with Andromeda, which is the catalyst that sparks his dangerous quest and makes us actually care about his fate.  Is this version, Perseus could care less about Andromeda, he just wants vengeance against Hades for killing his family.  Saving Argos from complete destruction at the hands of the Kraken just seems to be an added benefit.   This really hurts the whole “hero” image that Perseus is supposed to live up to.  I’m not sure why the writers felt the remake needed this change, as it was not a change for the better.   Despite all of my criticisms, I still found this to be a somewhat enjoyable action film and at least worthy of a rental.

Technical

Overall picture quality is pretty good on this disc.  Most of the images are sharp, with punchy colors and decent contrast.  The image is surprisingly devoid of grain, which gives it more of a video presentation as opposed to film.  Some may like this, but I thought the image looked a bit over-processed and slightly dull.  Unfortunately, the smooth image just makes the poor CGI more obvious to the viewer.   Audio quality left little to be desired.  The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is clean, clear, and highly dynamic.   Dialogue intelligibility is good and the surrounds are used judiciously to expand the sound field.  Bass is very deep, without being overly boomy or droning.

Extras

The main extra on this disc is Warner’s “Maximum Movie Mode,” which makes a lot of the special features available via picture-in-picture pop-ups throughout the film.  Most of the segments available in “Maximum Movie Mode” are also available separately.  We have the usual barrage of storyboards, visual effects breakdowns, and interviews with the director and cast.  There is also an alternative ending to the film.  A second disc contains a DVD version and Digital Copy of the movie.


"Crazy Heart" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Tyler Stripko

movie-september-2010-crazy-heart

Synopsis

Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges) is a down-on-his-luck country musician whose best days seem to be far behind him.  Stuck driving around the south playing gigs at bowling alleys and dive bars, Bad is slowly falling into a pit of alcoholism and despair.  After meeting a young reporter named Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal) Bad starts to turn his life around, but getting back to the top may prove to be harder than he thought.

Specifications

  • 20th Century Fox
  • 2009, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 51 min
  • Aspect Ratio:  2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring:: Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Robert Duval
  • Directed by Scott Cooper
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: Suggestive
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

I will freely admit that I am not a fan of country music, but this movie was simply excellent.  Jeff Bridges brings Bad Blake to life and definitely deserved the Oscar win for best actor.  Maggie Gyllenhaal and Robert Duvall were excellent in their supporting roles as well.  Even Colin Farrell was somewhat convincing as Bad’s ex-protégé.  The story was extremely moving and the script was tight.  The movie was exactly as long as it needed to be, without any filler or fluff.  Highly recommended, even if you don’t care for country music.

Technical

I was very pleased with the picture quality of this disc.  The picture was nicely detailed, without coming across as too sharp or processed.  Film grain was subtle, but contributed to the very natural look of the film.  Black levels were solid and colors were rich without being oversaturated.  The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack was great as well.  Dialogue is nice and clear and the surrounds were well utilized.  The soundtrack really came to life during the music scenes, which sounded fantastic.  Guitars had just the right twang, bass was clean and tight with good punch, and the pianos/keyboards sounded just right.

Extras

Extras are presented in a mix of HD and SD.  There are about 30 minutes of deleted scenes and alternate music takes, a brief featurette with the film’s stars, and the theatrical trailer.  A second disc contains a digital copy of the film.


"House: Season Six" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Tyler Stripko

movie-september-2010-house-season-6

Synopsis

Season 6 of this award-winning show finds Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie) in a psychiatric institution, struggling to rid himself of his Vicodin addiction after having his medical license revoked.  After leaving therapy, House must get back to what he does best; solving the most puzzling medical mysteries around.  

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 2010, Color, Not Rated, 16 Hr 7 min
  • Aspect Ratio:  1.78:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring:: Hugh Laurie, Lisa Edelstein
  • Directed by Various Directors
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: Suggestive
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

I watched “House” somewhat religiously for the first two seasons, then just sort of drifted away from the show.  I can see now that that was a mistake.  Season six reminded me why I got hooked on the show in the first place.  Each individual episode is brilliantly written and executed.  The character development is superb.  Hugh Laurie absolutely shines in his role as House and constantly finds new ways to enhance the character.   The supporting cast is excellent and keeps the show from devolving into a one-trick pony.  There weren’t any real “stinker” episodes in this season, and I particularly enjoyed “The Tyrant” which showcased the talents of James Earl Jones as a genocidal African dictator.  On a somewhat-related note, the season’s opener “Broken” was filmed at Greystone Psychiatric Hospital in Morristown, NJ.  If you are ever in the neighborhood, I recommend a visit (just a drive-by mind you).  The facility has some of the creepiest abandoned buildings around. 

Technical

The picture quality absolutely shines on these discs.  Frankly, this is some of the most natural looking HD images I have seen short of nature documentaries.  Colors are very accurate yet still manage to “pop” on a properly calibrated screen.  There is hardly a soft shot to be found on any episode. Black levels and contrast are also excellent.  I wish all TV shows looked this good.   The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is about as good as can be expected from a TV drama.  While dialogue is clear and concise, there is little use of the surround or LFE channels.

Extras

Included on the discs are audio commentaries for certain episodes, “Before Broken: An Exclusive Original Short,” “A New House for House,” “New Faces in a New House,” and “Crazy Cool Episode: Epic Fail.” All bonus content is in high-def.  Well done Universal!  The disc is also “U-Control” and BD-Live enabled.


"Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Stephen Hornbrook

movie-september-2010-prince-of-persia

Synopsis

A young orphan named Dastan (Gyllenhall), is discovered by the king during a tussle with his guards. The king, impressed with Dastan's spirit, decides to adopt the boy.  Many years later, Dastan and his 2 brothers Tus and Garsiv attack the holy city of Almut whom is believed to have been selling weapons to their enemies.  All seems lost until Dastan breaks in through a side entrance and leads his men to victory.  As a prize, Dastan receives a special dagger, one that carries the sands of time.  In order to achieve peace, Tus suggests he marries the princess of Almut, but the king decides Dastan should marry her instead.

Dastan unknowingly gives his father a poisoned robe, of which he got from Tus, and the King dies when putting the robe on.  To everyone it appears Dastan killed the king so his only choice is to escape the city and head for the desert.  Princess Tamina follows with him as a means for her own escape.  It is not long until Tamina tries to kill Dastan and steal the dagger. During this altercation, Dastan discovers the daggers amazing ability to turn back time (queue Cher.. "if i could turn back time").  During their escape, they are captured again, however this time it is by Sheik Amar (Molina), an ostrich racing gangster of a fella. Dastan and Tamina escape and return for his father's funeral.  Afterwards, he approaches Nazim and attempts to convince him he was framed, but instead notices that Nazim's hands are burnt from handling the robe.  Tamina has stolen the dagger and now Dastan must escape.. again. 

After catching up with Tamina the two discuss his discovery of Nazim killing his own brother.  It dawns on Dastan that Nazim attacked the city of Almut to steal the dagger so that he could travel way back in time to the point where he saved his brother from a lion.  That way he would become the king of Persia. From there, it becomes a struggle to obtain the power of the sands of time and to stop Nazim from unleashing a fury upon the land.

Specifications

  • Disney
  • 2010, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 56 min
  • Aspect Ratio:  2.40:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec:  AVC
  • English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Ben Kingsley, Alfred Molina, Gemma Arterton
  • Directed by Mike Newell
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Some
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

I have played several of the Prince of Persia video games and they are all quite excellent.  Did the world really need a movie version of the game? No, it didn't.  Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is not a bad movie, in fact, it is one of the better video game to movie adaptations.  However, that isn't saying much considering the reputation video game movies have.  The movie is at least entertaining enough for a boring Saturday night.

Technical

Video was excellent, with plenty of detail and richness. Disney continues to never disappoint.  The DTS audio blew my socks off in all directions. Loads of surround activity and a strong but not dominating bass track make this soundtrack terrific.

Extras

A ton of production featurettes and some deleted scenes.


"Robin Hood" (2010) (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by John Johnson

Robin Hood

Synopsis

In 1199, as Richard the Lionheart is returning to England, broke after spending 10 years in The Crusades, he has to battle his way through France to get to the coast. One of his archers is Robin Longstride (Crowe).

When Richard asks Robin if there were anything he regretted during the army's actions, Robin tells him that it was the slaughter of thousands of Muslims. Robin is punished for saying this, and he decides that he will abandon Richard's army and make his way on his own. Another soldier, Robert of Loxley is wounded and asks Robin to take his sword and give it to his father when he gets back to England.

Richard is killed, and Robin finally arrives in Nottingham, England, and meets Robert's wife, Marion (Blanchett). He takes the role of her husband in order to protect her from Prince John's men, who are collecting taxes on the orders of the Sheriff of Nottingham (Macfadyen). Robin and the people who worked on Loxley's estate become the men of Sherwood, who make life difficult for Prince John and his tax collectors.

There is a final showdown, with the ending we all know.


Specifications

  • Universal
  • 2010, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 36 min
  • Aspect Ratio:  2.40:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec:  Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Max von Sydow, Matthew Macfadyen
  • Directed by Ridley Scott
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Graphic
  • Sex: Mild
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

The best of all the Robin Hood movies, the 1938 version, starring Errol Flynn, was filmed in Northern California. Blue skies in every daytime scene. Over the past several decades, Hollywood has moved away from movies that show European history of the Middle Ages as never getting wet or dirty, into a more realistic, rainy, muddy, rather unpleasant set of living circumstances. Robin Hood 2010 follows that trend. However, as with all legendary heros, the story is still not quite accurate. There was an actual Robin, but he was just a lout and a drunkard, and didn't take from the rich and give to the poor. He was just a folk hero whose fame grew beyond reality.

Technical

The image quality is excellent, with nice use of surround sound during the battle scenes.

Extras

These include The Art of Nottingham, Deleted Scenes, Rise and Rise Again, Behind the Scenes Footage, Ballad, Legend & Myth, The More the Merrier, No Quarter Given, Pocket Blue, and BD-Live.