Media

Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - February, 2010

ARTICLE INDEX

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

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Synopsis

In the future, everyone on earth lives through a surrogate, that is, a body that they have selected for themselves, like a robot. The actual person stays home in an electric console that operates the surrogate.

There are a couple of very nice things about this. One is that you can select your surrogate to look exactly like yourself, or something different, i.e., incredibly beautiful.

So, of course, everyone looks terrific in their surrogate form.

Tom Greer (Willis), an FBI agent, deals with crimes committed by surrogates, and by people who have chosen not to live as surrogates.

When the son of the inventor of surrogates is murdered, Tom enters the real world to track down the killer, and in doing so, he finds that he does not want to live his life as a surrogate anymore because he has not seen his real wife in years.

The story leads Tom to a group of people who are not surrogates, and the truth behind their quest to rid the world of surrogates unfolds.

 

Specifications

  • Touchstone
  • 2009, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 28 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring Bruce Willis, Ving Rhames, James Cromwell, Radha Mitchell, Rosamund Pike
  • Directed by Jonathan Mostow
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

Interesting premise, this one. You can always be young and beautiful to your friends and spouse. You can't actually get hurt yourself.

So, what is missing? Maybe it's the same thing we all miss by communicating via IM on our computers and cell phones. We don't see each other or actually speak to each other. That's why Tom Greer decided enough was enough.

Technical

Superb picture quality. Good surround sound.

Extras

These include Deleted Scenes, A More Perfect You, Breaking the Frames, Director's Commentary, and a music video.


"The Hurt Locker" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by John Johnson

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Synopsis

Marine SFC. William James (Renner) is assigned to Bravo Company in Baghdad, in 2004. His team has the task of disarming IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices), which are buried in roads and other places in hopes of blowing up Allied Forces trucks and tanks as they pass by.

It is a very dangerous mission, and James treats it as though it were a walk in the park, seemingly and totally unafraid to go right in and disarm devices that would literally vaporize him if they were to go off.

He has only 39 days left to go before his tour is over, and yet he continues to risk his life with a seeming lack of concern, much to the consternation of his team leader.

 

Specifications

  • Summit Entertainment
  • 2008, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr 10 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring Jeremy Renner, Ralph Fiennes, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty, Evangeline Lilly
  • Directed by Kathryn Bigelow
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

This movie is the best film I have seen so far, of stories about our situation in the Middle East. Although much has changed since we first invaded Iraq, and the Irag military is being trained successfully, it is still a dangerous place to be, certainly beyond the imagination of the rest of us who have never experienced a real battlefield.

Technical

The video is very extremely sharp, and the DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is explosive (literally).

Extras

There are only a few extras here: The Director's Commentary and Behind the Scenes.


"The Bourne Identity" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

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Synopsis

A fishing boat finds a man floating in the sea.  When he wakes up, he remembers nothing.  The only clue is a small device hidden beneath his skin that projects a Swiss bank account number on the wall.  Thus begins the journey of Jason Bourne (Damon), the CIA’s top secret, $30 million dollar weapon.  As Bourne struggles to regain his memories, he is pursued by an agency determined to erase his existence and cover up their own mistakes.  Along the way he meets up with a German student, Marie (Potente), who becomes caught up in the adventure.  He quickly discovers he has extraordinary fighting skills and amazing instincts that manage to keep him one step ahead of his enemies.  As Bourne remembers more and more, it becomes clear that he isn’t the only one with a mysterious past.

 

Specifications

  • Universal
  • 2002, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 59 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Chris Cooper, Brian Cox
  • Directed by Doug Liman
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

The Bourne Identity and its two sequels have always been among my favorite movies.  The storyline is killer to be sure.  The action is top-notch and Matt Damon is just perfect as Jason Bourne.  You’re never quite sure how he’s going to survive a threat, then, he does something totally unexpected.  Fans of spy flicks will feel right at home here.  The intrigue and conspiracies abound and surprises lurk around every corner as the characters pasts are slowly revealed.  The pacing is never slow and if you haven’t seen this film before, you will be on the edge of your seat the whole way through.  The car chase scene is one of the best and the fight sequences are expertly crafted.  I’ve watched the movie many times and it never gets old; highly recommended!

Technical

This is the same transfer as the initial Blu-ray release from January of 2009; previously available only in a boxed set.  Resolution is quite good with some film grain which is never distracting.  The color palette is very cold with a blue or green tint over pretty much the whole movie.  This is appropriate as the entire plot takes place during the winter.  The feeling of coldness is quite apparent throughout.  Flesh tones are a bit flat due as a result but it fits in with the theme just fine.  Sometimes mid-tones are too dark, muddying detail a bit.  Contrast is generally uniform with solid blacks and good shadow detail in dark scenes.

Audio is generally excellent with great punch and dynamic range throughout.  Car crashes and gunfire have a terrific impact with aggressive use of the subwoofer and surround channels.  Dialog is always clear and well-defined.  John Powell’s musical score is especially nice featuring a haunting bassoon solo for Bourne’s theme.  The overall soundstage is quite wide and deep with effects placed appropriately.

Extras

This is the first Blu-ray flipper disc I’ve encountered.  One side is Blu-ray and the other is DVD.  Tiny hub rings tell you which side is which.  While I’m sure this saves a bit on production costs, it would be nicer to have two separate discs.  Not only does this reduce the risk of damage but you can take the DVD on the road or to another room while leaving the Blu-ray in the main viewing area.

The bonus features on this release are the same as the previous version and are quite extensive.  There are featurettes about the Ludlum novels that are the basis for the movies, alternate opening and ending scenes, deleted scenes and an extended scene.  Other featurettes include making of documentaries, interviews with screenwriter Tony Gilroy, character sketches, Inside a Fight Sequence and even a music video.  You can also activate director commentary during the film.  BD-Live features include live in-movie chat, webcam video commentary and a card-based strategy game.


"The Bourne Supremacy" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

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Synopsis

The Bourne saga continues with Jason (Damon) and Marie (Potente) living in India seemingly hidden from their violent and mysterious pasts.  Jason is still having fragmented memories, this time of a mission in Berlin.  Within a few minutes however, chaos resumes when an assassin shows up.  It seems Bourne has been framed for a CIA operation gone bad that resulted in an agent’s death and the loss of sensitive files.  Deputy Director Pamela Landy (Allen) opens an investigation into the failure and quickly uncovers information about Treadstone, the weapons program that created Bourne.  As Landy digs deeper she discovers conspiracies and coverups that lead to the top officials of the CIA.  After realizing Bourne was framed she reaches out to him along with Ward Abbott (Cox) in an attempt to capture him.  Bourne remembers more of the Berlin mission and eventually atones for his misdeeds.  At the end he simply fades into the crowd leaving the door wide open for the third and final chapter in the series.

 

Specifications

  • Universal
  • 2004, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 49 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Brian Cox, Julia Stiles, Joan Allen
  • Directed by Paul Greengrass
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

I found this film every bit as enjoyable as the first.  The action and intrigue are non-stop and even though I’ve watched it many times, it still feels fresh.  The plot is a bit more complicated than The Bourne Identity.  I picked up more information after multiple viewings.  Again the fight scenes and car chases are filmmaking benchmarks displaying truly excellent stunt work and choreography.  Joan Allen gives a great performance as the CIA Deputy Director who isn’t afraid to question her superiors.  Despite others efforts to hide the truth from her, she tenaciously gets to the bottom of the conspiracy surrounding Treadstone, the secret weapons program.  Julia Stiles is also good as Bourne’s former handler, Nicky Parsons.  You can really feel her terror when Bourne interrogates her at gunpoint.  Brian Cox rounds out the principal cast as the slimy protagonist, Ward Abbott.  His past is gradually revealed as the film progresses and by the end you are really hoping he’ll get what he deserves.  Like the first film, The Bourne Supremacy is highly recommended!

Technical

This Blu-ray transfer is identical to the version released in January of 2009 as part of a boxed set.  The big change from the first film is the use of handheld cameras.  Some people may find this movie difficult to watch because of this.  The camera is constantly moving and it can be difficult to follow the action.  It’s still a great ride though, with sharp imagery and a cold foreboding color palette.  Blues and greens abound both indoors and out.  Since most of the story takes place in the winter, this is entirely appropriate.  Contrast is excellent with good shadow detail though film grain is more apparent than in the brighter scenes.  Flesh tones pick up the green and blue tint most of the time but detail is preserved.  Skin textures and hair looked great at all times.

The soundtrack makes great demo material, especially in the extended car chase sequence late in the film.  Dynamic range and soundstage are quite wide with excellent use of the surrounds and subwoofer.  John Powell is once again called on for the musical score and he delivers beautifully.  The haunting bassoon is back for Bourne’s theme and the music fits the movie extremely well.  Dialog is very clear and detailed and always at the front of the soundstage.

Extras

Like The Bourne Identity, this release is a flipper disc with Blu-ray on one side and DVD on the other.  Please read my previous review for my comments on that.  I suspect this will become a trend, at least with Universal releases.

The bonus features are just as impressive as those included with The Bourne Identity.  There are deleted scenes and feature commentary with director Paul Greengrass.  Making of documentaries include casting, pyrotechnics, fight training, car chase creation and even an interview with composer John Powell.  BD Live features include live in-movie chat, webcam video commentary and a card-based strategy game.


"A Serious Man" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Tyler Stripko

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Synopsis

Larry Gopnik (Micheal Stuhlbarg) is a college physics professor facing a seemingly endless supply of problems.  His wife wants to leave him for a friend.  His tenure at his university is in doubt.  His children ignore him and his eccentric older brother won’t leave his house.  He even has a foreign student threatening to sue him for “defamation” unless he accepts a bribe for a passing grade.  Needing help figuring out what to do with his life, Gopnik seeks advice from whoever will offer it, from his attorney to his rabbi.

 

Specifications

  • Universal
  • 2009, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 46 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 and 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring Michael Stuhlbarg and Richard Kind
  • Directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: Nudity
  • Language: Moderate

Commentary

This movie is only 106 minutes long, but it felt like three hours.  The pacing is incredibly slow.  This was deliberately done, but frankly NOTHING happens in this entire movie.  There is no tie-in to the creative introductory scene and the ending is completely unsatisfying.  As each new problem hits Gopnik, you pray that he will finally stand up for himself and fight back, but he never does.   He just keeps taking all the punishment.  It is both frustrating and infuriating to watch, but I guess that was the point of this movie.  On the plus side, the acting was excellent throughout the film, with strong performances by all members of the cast.   This film is a nominee for “Best Picture” at the 2009 Academy Awards, but I really struggle to see why.

Technical

Despite not caring for the film itself, I have nothing bad to say about the audio or video quality of this disc.  The carefully crafted cinematography is finely preserved in HD, with excellent detail, good color, and solid contrast.  The images are very natural looking, with no over-hyped colors and great clarity.  The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack was also nicely done.   While this is not a loud action movie, the soundtrack fits the film well.   Dialogue is always clear and easy to understand.  The few scenes where music kicks in with full surround sound were pretty neat and sounded great.  While the overall soundtrack is rather subdued, the occasional music and massive bass thwacks (during the start of the “rabbi” scenes) contrast nicely.

Extras

Included on this disc is a sit down with the Coen brothers about their vision for the film, a feature on how they recreated 1967 for the film, and "Hebrew and Yiddish for Goys."


"Love Happens" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Tyler Stripko

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Synopsis

After the loss of his wife in a car accident, Dr. Burke Ryan (Aaron Eckhart) writes a book about coping with grief.  The book is a huge success and leads to a series of seminars across the country.   During a seminar in Seattle, Ryan meets a florist named Eloise Chandler (Jennifer Aniston).  Despite being an “expert” on dealing with the loss of a loved one, Ryan has never truly dealt with his own feelings of loss, and it puts his budding relationship with Eloise in jeopardy.

 

Specifications

  • Universal
  • 2009, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 49 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring Aaron Eckhart and Jennifer Aniston
  • Directed by Brandon Camp
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

Despite being fairly predictable, I enjoyed this movie far more than I expected to.  The story moves along well and both Eckhart and Aniston turn in solid performances.  I didn’t sense all that much chemistry between the two leads, but Ryan’s internal struggle is the crux of this story, not the relationship.  This is definitely one of the better “date night” movies I’ve seen in recent years.

Technical

I was absolutely floored by the introductory scene where Ryan is slicing some lemons.  The clarity, image depth, color, and contrast were simply fantastic.  I felt like I could reach out and grab a lemon through the screen.  The rest of the movie doesn’t look quite this good, but is still of a high standard.  The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack was merely average, with little use of the surrounds or LFE channel.  Dialogue was clear and well balanced with the rest of the soundtrack.

Extras

There are deleted scenes, a feature commentary, and a featurette on how CGI was used to create some of the movie backgrounds (which are pretty obvious when you watch the film).  The disc is also BD-Live enabled.


"Smokin Aces" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

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Synopsis

Buddy "Aces" Israel (Jeremy Piven) is a Las Vegas magician who has gotten a little too into the mafia lifestyle and now finds himself way over his head. Hiding out in a penthouse in a Lake Tahoe hotel. The head of a mafia family has put out a hit on him for $1 Million Dollars and this has brought out all sorts of assassins looking to collect on that bounty. At the same time, the FBI is trying to convince him to give himself up to them for all the information he has on the crime family, so they can put him into protective custody before someone else can get to him.

 

Specifications

  • Universal
  • 2006, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 39 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: VC-1
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring Jeremy Piven, Andy Garcia, Ryan Reynolds
  • Directed by Joe Carnahan
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Graphic
  • Sex: Nudity
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

Smokin' Aces looked to be the kind of fun distraction that would help pass the time while a snowstorm trapped us inside this winter. Unfortunately, the movie was constructed in a way far different than I would have liked. The first 30 minutes of the film are basically spent introducing the large cast of characters and setting up the back story, which is important to do, but I'd prefer if they let some of this information develop more naturally instead of the very direct way in which it was done.

Once everyone arrives in Lake Tahoe and the action begins to pick up, the film gets more exiting and more enjoyable, though unfortunately this only lasts for around 30-45 minutes of the film. I won't go into details so as not to ruin the film for anyone that does watch it, but the ending left me a bit disappointed, and during many of the bits you could see that they were trying to set themselves up for a sequel if the movie did well. I was just hoping for more action overall, as that was when the movie succeeded, but there was too much downtime during which the movie falls apart a bit.

Technical

The picture for Smokin' Aces was fantastic overall. There is some very fine film grain present, but overall the picture is very detailed, and even with some very stylistic cinematography at points, it never seems to lose the dark blacks and good contrast that is present. The soundtrack was certainly a high point of the film, especially in the action sequences. Bullets fly all around your head, and you are placed directly in the middle of a shootout. Action movies are certainly great for showing off the lossless audio on Blu-ray, and this was no exception.

Extras

Smokin' Aces features a directors commentary along with the editor, and a second track featuring the director with some of the stars of the film as well. There are also featurettes giving you the lineup of characters in the film (and there are quite a few characters), showing the stunts and special effects, outtakes, deleted scenes, and even an alternate ending.


"Pride and Prejudice" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

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Synopsis

Pride and Prejudice is the classic novel from Jane Austen set at the turn of 18th century England. Following Elizabeth Bennett (Keira Knightly), one of five daughters, all of whom their mother is eager to marry off before their father dies, as their estate will be turned over to their cousin, Mr. Collins. While her sisters seem to be infatuated with the goal of meeting a man and being married as soon as possible, Elizabeth seems unconcerned with the idea unless she is truly in love with the person. When as a ball they meet Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy, her sister Jane is instantly taken with Mr. Bingley while Elizabeth wants nothing to do with Mr. Darcy after she overhears him commenting on her.

As the relationships with the characters play out, the roles of class, education, manners and marriage in 18th century England come into play, making the situations more complex than they would often be today.

 

Specifications

  • Universal
  • 2005, Color, Rated PG, 2 Hr 9 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: VC-1
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring Keira Knightly, Matthew Macfadyen, Donald Sutherland
  • Directed by Joe Wright
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

I had never read the book, nor seen the popular BBC version, and so I had no idea how the movie would unfold. I was pleasantly surprised by the film and found it to be highly enjoyable. Keira Knightly does a wonderful job playing Elizabeth, and was nominated for an Oscar for her performance, which was justly deserved. While sometimes it could get to be a bit confusing, as the intricacies of marriage and class in this time period are most likely not familiar to you as they aren't to me, I was always able to understand what was going on, and enjoyed the film, as did my wife.

Technical

The image in Pride and Prejudice was fantastic throughout. There was very good detail, no film grain, with excellent contrast and shadow detail. I thought I could detect a small bit of edge enhancement in some very bright scenes, but overall the film looked absolutely wonderful. For the most part, the audio was wonderful as well. While a dialogue driven movie as you would expect, the film does make very good use of all channels to surround you and really bring you into the environment you are watching. That said, we did find that the center channel would sometimes lack some clarity for the dialogue. We tried turning the volume up multiple times, and eventually just turned on the subtitles to make sure that we didn't miss anything. This problem seemed to be gone by the midpoint of the film, but for a movie that is focused on dialogue, to be a bit unclear was not something we liked.

Extras

Extras on the film include commentary from the director, featurettes on the cast, the Bennett family, and on Jane Austen. There is also a feature on 18th Century dating that I wish was a bit more in-depth (it would have helped to watch before watching the film), and on the homes featured in the movie. There are also BD Live features, all of which I'm tempted to disable as Universal is now adding new ads and a message scroll to the front menu using BD Live, which I find highly annoying.


"Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Tyler Stripko

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Synopsis

Based upon the book and real-life escapades of Hunter S. Thompson, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” documents the drug-fueled journey of writer Raoul Duke (Johnny Depp) and his Samoan attorney sidekick, Dr. Gonzo (Benicio Del Toro).   Starting with the simple assignment of covering the “Mint 400” dessert race in Las Vegas, the two pump every imaginable drug into their body in an effort to discover the quintessential “American Dream.”


Specifications

  • Universal
  • 1998, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 59 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro
  • Directed by Terry Gilliam
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: Brief Nudity
  • Language: Strong

Commentary

I was in college when this film was released theatrically, and remember seeing it with a bunch of fraternity brothers.  It was a wild ride then, and seems even more unbelievable on repeat viewing.  The fact that this whole story is just a slight modification of one of Hunter Thompson’s actual “road trips” is profoundly scary.  How anyone can continue to function with so many different illegal substances in their body is beyond me.  Just when you think Duke and Dr. Gonzo have hit rock bottom, they take yet another drug and sink (or rise, depending on your point of view) to a new low.

Despite the meandering storyline (when is a multi-day drug fest ever logical?), the direction is strong and the cinematography really helps the audience experience the debauchery.  Both Depp and Del Toro are simply brilliant in their respective roles and there are some strong cameo appearances, particularly Gary Busey’s role as a highway patrol officer.   This film is pretty disturbing, but highly recommended.

Technical

This film didn’t look all that great in the theater, so I wasn’t expecting much in terms of picture quality.   However, this Blu-ray looked pretty darn good given the relatively weak source material.  While not reference quality, the transfer preserved the film-like look of the source while still managing to appear “high-def.”  Colors weren’t always natural, but this is a film about drug usage after all.  The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack was also better than I expected.  There is a creative use of the surround channels and some impressive bass on occasion.  My only real complaint is that some of the dialogue is unintelligible.  The characters (particularly Dr. Gonzo) mutter many of their lines, so it would have been nice if the mixers could have raised the volume just a bit to make things easier to understand.

Extras

There aren’t many extras on this disc.  There are a few deleted scenes and a 10-minute short on some of the locations used during filming. This disc is also D-Box motion enabled as well as BD-Live enabled.


"All About Steve" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

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Synopsis

Mary Horowitz (Bullock) is the uber-geeky crossword puzzle creator for a local newspaper.  She is quite intelligent, freakishly so in fact, but socially inept.  Her well-meaning parents (yes, she lives with them) set her up on a blind date with a hunky cameraman who works at the local TV station.  After five minutes, Steve (Cooper) realizes Mary is a complete nutball and fakes a phone call to escape.  Unfortunately Mary doesn’t perceive his lack of interest and starts following him from job to job.  She falls into one bizarre situation after another until she winds up trapped in an abandoned mineshaft with a little deaf girl.  By the time she and the girl are rescued, the world (at least those watching the news) has fallen in love with Mary and Steve realizes just how special she really is.


Specifications

  • 20th Century Fox
  • 2009, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 39 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec:  AVC @ 26 Mbps
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring Sandra Bullock, Thomas Haden Church, Bradley Cooper
  • Directed by Phil Traill
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: Innuendo, Crude References
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

I admit I am a fan of Sandra Bullock.  Her quirky but cute characters are always entertaining… until this film.  After about 30 minutes I wondered if someone had simply set up a camera and the actors improvised their parts.  The script was horrible and I found it a challenge to make it to the end.  Mercifully it was only 90 minutes or so.  I was quite surprised to Sandra Bullock listed as a producer on this movie.  If she had simply showed up for the paycheck I could understand.  But for her to be involved in the production was unexpected.  I might have thought a little better of All About Steve if there had been more slapstick comedy, or just comedy period.  Even Sandra Bullock’s trademark physical gags were in very short supply.  Her talents were completely wasted.  Bradley Cooper’s performance as Steve, the love interest, was completely phoned in.  I think anyone with white teeth and a bit of razor stubble could have done as good a job.  Thomas Haden Church as the has-been TV reporter tried to be funny but I couldn’t stop seeing him as the Sandman character from Spider-Man 3.  All in all, this flick was a snoozer, a romantic comedy devoid of both romance and comedy.

Technical

Color quality ranged from flat and washed out to over-saturated.  Flesh tones are fairly natural but you can sometimes see the actors’ heavy makeup.  The image is quite sharp with good rendering of textures and small details like hair and fabric.  Dark scenes showed slightly elevated black levels which created a foggy look.  Shadow detail was often crushed as well.

The audio was nothing special.  Dialog was clear but the sound in general lacked depth.  Music was used very sparingly.  What little there was seemed fairly average and non-creative.  It didn’t really add or detract from the experience.

Extras

The bonus features consist of five short documentaries, a gag reel, deleted scenes and audio commentary with the writer, the principal actors and the director.  Also included is a digital copy of the film for use with a computer or iPod.  This comes on a second disc.


"Atonement" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

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Synopsis

Atonement opens on a wealthy British estate in 1935.  Sisters Cecilia and Briony (Ronan) are wiling away the summer and playing host to three visiting children.  Briony enjoys writing and has just finished a play for them all to act in.  Cecilia, unbeknownst to anyone, is in love with the housekeeper’s son Robby (McAvoy).  Briony of course has a crush on him and when she catches them having an intimate moment in the library, she is devastated.  Later that evening, her friend Lola is raped by one of the other guests.  Consumed by jealousy, she blames Robby for the crime and he is promptly arrested.  This of course irreparably changes the lives of everyone in her family.  Once the war breaks out, Robby enlists in the infantry to get out of jail.  Cecilia and Briony, now estranged, become nurses.  Eventually, Briony tries to atone for her misdeeds.  I won’t spoil the end by telling you how, but suffice it to say she finds a unique and touching solution.


Specifications

  • Universal
  • 2007, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr 3 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring James McAvoy, Keira Knightley, Romola Garai, Saoirse Ronan, Vanessa Redgrave
  • Directed by Joe Wright
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence:  Yes
  • Sex:  Brief
  • Language: Strong

Commentary

This is a tragic love story wrapped in a sometimes difficult to watch film.  The plot can be hard to follow at times.  There are many non-linear sections where the same scene is retold from a different perspective.  Once you are able to keep up with the flashbacks, things start to fall into place.  The movie is beautifully crafted with excellent performances from Keira Knightly and James McAvoy.  The war sequences are a bit drawn out and extremely depressing which is certainly appropriate.  This is not a feel-good flick by any stretch of the imagination.  In fact it has all the earmarks of a classic tragedy.  It’s certainly worth a rental but I can’t imagine watching it more than once.

Technical

Color is used superbly with just the right level of saturation.  The World War II period is depicted very appropriately with muted flesh tones and a warm palette.  The image is very clean with great dimension and rendering of detail.  The only downside to an otherwise reference quality transfer, were the noticeably elevated black levels.  The darkest scenes never quite reached minimum black showing a grayish tone instead.  Shadow detail was good despite this.  Though this isn’t relevant to the quality of the Blu-ray, I really enjoyed the camera work in this film.  There are many scenes where a simple change of focus becomes a pivot point for the action.  The image was a joy to watch.

Audio was clear and detailed with a wide and deep soundstage.  The subwoofer was used to great effect in the war scenes as were the surround channels.  Dialog was crisp and clear, though the chatty British manner of speaking made understanding the characters a challenge at times.  The musical score by Dario Marianelli was nicely done except for his use of the typewriter as a percussion instrument.  I understand the connection to Briony’s character as a writer but rhythmic typing is not music to my ears.

Extras

Bonus features include deleted scenes, a making of documentary, a featurette about the adaptation of the original novel and audio commentary by director Joe Wright.


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

Amelia

Synopsis

Amelia Earhart (Swank) was the female counterpart to Charles Lindbergh, who is credited with being the first pilot to fly non-stop from New York to Paris, in 1927. However, he was not really the first to fly trans-Atlantic non-stop. This had been done in 1924 by the US Navy, flying a Zeppelin from Germany to New Jersey. But, he was the first to fly it non-stop using a heavier-than-air aircraft.

In the 1920's, Amelia Earhart gained fame for her flying skills, and with the help of her husband, George Putnam (Gere), who was also her book publisher, she was the first woman to fly trans-Atlantic from New York to Europe in 1932.

She had bigger aspirations, and wanted to be the first woman to fly around the world, but George was very afraid for her, as other women had tried it and died in the process.

Nevertheless, Amelia got her way, and on June 1, 1937, she began her journey from Miami, Florida, taking her navigator, Fred Noonan, with her (so it was not a solo flight). After stops in South America, Africa, Asia, and New Guinea, their plane approached Howland Island in the mid-Pacific, on July 2, but stormy weather and poor radio reception resulted in her plane vanishing forever.


Specifications

  • 20th Century Fox
  • 2009, Color, Rated PG, 1 Hr 51 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC @ 18 Mbps
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring Hilary Swank, Richard Gere, Ewan McGregor, Scott Anderson, Richard Donat
  • Directed by Mira Nair
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

More a documentary and love story than an adventure, Amelia simply tells us about the person rather than the pilot. Instead of spending more footage in the air, we are told of her affair with Gene Vidal (McGregor), father of Gore Vidal, who went on to become a successful author. Too much time is also spent on how she endorsed various products because of her fame. The justification for this is that it paid the high cost of flying. However, it drowned the excitement of soaring through the clouds during the early years of flight. There were other adventures that the story could have encompassed, such as her solo flight from Honolulu to Oakland in 1935, as well as from Los Angeles to Mexico City, and Mexico City to New York. I also think they could have spent some footage on the exhaustive search that was made after her disappearance, especially since there are people still searching for evidence of her plane in the region she was believed to be lost!

Technical

Excellent image quality, reasonable surround sound that could have been better.

Extras

These include Deleted Scenes, The Power of Amelia Earhart, Behind the Legend, Movietone News Reels (of the real Amelia Earhart), and a digital copy for your Video iPod.