Articles

Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - January, 2010

ARTICLE INDEX

"The Hangover" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by John Johnson

The Hangover

Synopsis

When four young men head for Las Vegas to have a bachelor party for one of them who is getting married, they get so drunk, they wake up not knowing what they did the night before.

One of them apparently married a stripper, but that is not the worst of the problems.

For some reason, the groom-to-be has disappeared

So, instead of returning home, they spend the entire trip trying to locate him.

It's even tough to get some rest back in the hotel room because a tiger is sitting in the bathroom, apparently taken from Mike Tyson's home.

 

Specifications

  • Legendary Pictures
  • 2009, Color, Not Rated, 1 Hr 48 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD
  • Starring Bradley Cooper, Heather Graham, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Bartha
  • Directed by Todd Phillips
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

Another road movie, only this one is just a hair more entertaining than the rest. Perhaps it is because a relatively well known star (Bradley Cooper) is in it. He plays things pretty straight, while the other guys are getting into some serious trouble.

Technical

The video is very good, and Dolby TrueHD does its thing, even though there is not a reason for high definition sound with this type of story.

Extras

These include Map of Destruction, Action Mash-Up, The Madness of Ken Jeong, Three Best Friends Song, The Dan Band, A Gag Reel, and BD-Live


"The Marine 2" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by John Johnson

The Marine 2

Synopsis

Marine Sgt. Joe Linwood (DiBiase) goes to a resort in Thailand to have a vacation with his wife (Cox).

Just as he arrives, a terrorist group takes over the hotel and demands ransom.

The local authorities try to do their thing, but it doesn't work out, and people are getting killed.

A local guy named Church (Rooker) has weapons, and Joe is accustomed to using everything he has.

So, Joe decides to be a one-man army (Marine actually), and goes in himself to save his wife, and show the terrorists the kind of exit wounds a Colt 45 can leave in the back of their heads.

The results are bad news for the terrorists, and good news for action movie lovers.

Specifications

  • 20th Century Fox
  • 2009, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 35 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC @ 33 Mbps
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring Ted DiBiase, Lara Cox, Michael Rooker
  • Directed by Roel Reiné
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

This is another case of a wrestling athelete who started to make movies (Ted DiBiase was a WWE superstar). This works out well, because these guys are incredible atheletes to begin with. There is no "getting into shape for the movie" that typical hollywood stars have to do. They are already in shape and ready for the cameras to roll. They are used to hitting the floor and each other, so they tend to get more physical in the story than would an actor who has just finished making a Victorian melodrama or romantic comedy.

Technical

The video is very sharp, and their is plenty of sound action for the DTS-HD Master Audio to deal with.

Extras

These include Behind the Scenes, The Final Fight, The Last Resort, Building a Legacy, Deleted Scenes, and Making the Cut.


"Mamma Mia!" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Tyler Stripko

movie-january-2010-mama-mia

Synopsis

Sophie’s (Amanda Seyfried) wedding day is fast approaching and she couldn’t be happier.  Her only remaining wish is to have her father walk her down the aisle.

The only problem: she doesn’t know who her real father is.  After finding her mother’s (Meryl Streep) diary and reading about three past lovers (Stellan Skarsgard, Pierce Brosnan, and Colin Firth), Sophie decides to send each of them an invitation.   When all three men show up for the wedding, the story plays out through the use of classic ABBA tunes.

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 2008, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 49 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not listed
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgard, Julie Walters, Dominic Cooper, Amanda Seyfried, Christine Baranski
  • Directed by Phyllida Lloyd
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: Mild Suggestion
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

Since my wife is a big disco-music fan, she sat down to watch this with me.  After 30 minutes, she walked out of the room.  I think it was the constant screeching and screaming by the female characters that put the final nail in the coffin for her.  You could probably make a pretty good drinking game out of it.  The vocal performances were terrible, particularly Pierce Brosnan’s.  Note to producers: when casting actors for a musical, make sure that they can sing, unless you plan on over-dubbing real singers.  With the exception of Seyfried, they all were pretty poor.  Sadly, the fun, campy quality of the Broadway musical just didn’t translate to this film.

Technical

I was a bit perplexed by the video quality on this disc.  Every shot had a soft, out of focus look to it (“This is a blu-ray?” commented my wife).  Fine details were lost due to this “blurring.”  Colors were over-hyped with a bit of blooming, which gave everything a very artificial look.   I didn’t notice any obvious edge-enhancement or sharpening so it looks like this was the film makers’ intention.  The soundtrack fared better, with the musical numbers having decent dynamic range and clarity.  Sadly, the clear musical scenes only highlighted the terrible singing performances.  The non-musical scenes were merely average, with little use of the surround and LFE channels.

Extras

I received the special "Gimme!  Gimme!  Gimme!  More" gift set edition of the movie which includes the Blu-ray disc with the movie and special features, a CD of the movie soundtrack, and a full color mini-book that tells "A magical, musical journey from Stage to Screen."  All of this is packaged in a large box complete with flashing blue lights and the theme song that activate when you press the cover.  Bonus features on the Blu-ray disc include a sing-along, a deleted musical scene, a feature commentary and making-of, a break down of one of the musical scenes, a "how-to" for singers, behind-the-scenes footage, location shots in Greece, a music video, deleted scenes, and outtakes.  The extensive content should be a big hit with fans of the film.


"Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

movie-january-2010-cloudy210

Synopsis

Hapless inventor Flint Lockwood (Hader) is bitten by the science bug as a child and what follows is one failed invention after another.  Finally he builds a machine designed to turn water into food and when it accidentally flies up into the clouds, a storm of cheeseburgers is the result.  After he creates an uplink to communicate with the machine, the orders start pouring in.  Soon food of every kind is raining down to order and the townspeople are happier than ever.  Of course the bliss doesn’t last and soon a major food disaster is brewing (cooking?).  With the help of perky reporter Sam Sparks (Faris), Flint meets the challenge with relish as he fights to save the world from spaghetti tornados and meatballs the size of blimps.

Specifications

  • Columbia Pictures
  • 2009, Color, Rated PG, 1 Hr 30 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not listed
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan, Andy Samberg
  • Directed by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

This movie was 90 minutes of non-stop fun and laughs.  The gags and jokes flow without interruption.  There are plenty of subtle and not-so-subtle references to other science fiction films.  Some of the humor nearly had me in tears from laughing so hard.  The film moves along at a frenetic pace and there is nary a dull moment.  Two of my favorite characters were Flint’s father, voiced by James Caan, and the town cop, Earl Devereaux, voiced by the indomitable Mr. T.  Flint’s father is a hard-working guy who takes the uni-brow to a whole new level.  You know his emotions are intensifying when you actually see his eyes!  Mr. T’s portrayal of Earl the Cop is simply riotous.   He bounces around the screen as though he were on permanent afterburners.  Flint and reporter Sam Sparks are perfect as geeks trying to fit into a world that doesn’t understand them.  I have only one word of warning:  do not watch this film on an empty stomach!  Seeing comfort food raining down from the sky made me glad I was eating pizza as I viewed it.  Even though it’s CGI food, it will make you hungry!

Technical

The picture is exemplary of course as this film has never passed through a camera lens.  For a 100 percent digital experience, I even watched it on my plasma TV.  Texture and detail is not up to the high standard set by Pixar but this is not the fault of the disc.  I’m sure every bit and byte the animators created wound up on this Blu-ray.  Color is very saturated and vivid with every mouth-watering element rendered beautifully.  Characters facial expressions come across clearly in every scene.

Audio was the only slightly weak aspect of this movie.  My chief complaint was dialog was recessed from the rest of the sound track.  I had to turn up the volume quite high to hear voices which made other sound effects too loud.  The sound track in general lacked good balance.  When the material called for big thunderous effects, I thought it came up short.  The use of LFE and surrounds was sparing at best.  Still, the audio was clear and detailed in its DTS HD Master Audio format.

Extras

There is a cornucopia of bonus features on this release.  Besides multiple making-of featurettes, there are interactive games, extended/deleted scenes and commentary from directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, and principal actor Bill Hader.  The package also includes a DVD transfer and a digital copy of the film for your computer or portable device.


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

movie-january-2010-extract210

Synopsis

Joel (Bateman) is the owner of a flavor extract company.  He’s bored with his job and his life in general.  He’s close to selling the company and moving on but a freak accident at his factory injures a worker and threatens to derail his plans for escape.  Add to that an attractive female con artist; a gigolo with the brain of a radish; and his laid-back, pill-popping, joint-smoking, bartender friend Dean (Affleck), and Joel is headed for several disasters at once.  Before he’s through, he’ll have to deal with his equally bored wife, Suzie (Wiig), some incredibly simple-minded employees and an aggressive lawyer played by Gene Simmons (yes, the Kiss guy).

Specifications

  • Miramax Films
  • 2009, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 32 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not listed
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring Jason Bateman, Mila Kunis, Kristen Wiig, and Ben Affleck
  • Directed by Mike Judge
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: None
  • Sex: Frequent innuendo
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

This workplace comedy is written and directed by Office Space creator Mike Judge.  The personalities of the various characters are all larger-than-life.  Most of them are quite funny in and of themselves.  There are also many funny moments throughout the film.  It just never really gels into a coherent storyline.  The movie is short at just under 90 minutes which is an ideal length as it ended before becoming boring.  It struck me as more a series of skits and scenes than anything else.  Some of the scenes were funny, others weren’t.  The various actors all do a superb job at their roles.  Jason Bateman is the man with serious doormat issues that ties it all together.  Gene Simmons is a riot as the ambulance-chasing lawyer.  I think my favorite though had to be the gigolo.  Brad (played by Dustin Milligan) was so incredibly stupid he had me laughing more than anyone else.  I’m not sure many would see this movie more than once.  If you’re a fan of dry comedy though, this film will appeal to you.

Technical

The Blu-ray transfer was of average quality with a somewhat flat color palette.  Outdoor scenes all appeared to have been shot at the same time of day as they were always warm in tone.  Film grain was evident but not intrusive.  I don’t know if the color presentation was part of the original film or something done during the telecine process but dimension was definitely lacking.  The image sharpness was fine with consistent black levels though dark material is pretty scarce.  I would say the transfer was probably faithful to the original film.

Audio was nothing special.  There is very little music and few sound effects.  Dialog was clear and properly placed on the screen.  Your surrounds and subwoofer will get a break watching this movie as they are not used perceptibly.

Extras

Bonus features are sparse with a short featurette called Mike Judge’s Secret Recipe, a deleted scene and five extended scenes.


"Jennifer's Body" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by John Johnson

Jennifer's Body

Synopsis

In a small town called Devil's Kettle, the local high school's most beautiful student, Jennifer Check (Fox), has a geek, Needy Lesnicky (Seyfried), as a best friend.

Of course, Needy tags along with Jen when they hit the night spots, but she just watches Jen as she has all the guys swarming over her. Needy already has a steady boyfriend, Chip (Simmons), so she doesn't join in the fun.

When a band called "Low Shoulder" comes to the town's truck stop, Jen and Needy go, because Jen is attracted to the band's singer, Nikolai (Brody).

A fire erupts, and many people are killed. Nikolai invites Jennifer into his SUV for safety, but then drives off.

Later, Jennifer shows up at Needy's home, covered in blood. Needy is shocked to discover that Jen is possessed by a demon.

When more students at the high school begin dying, Needy realizes that Jen is responsible, and now she must decide how to deal with the demon who is also her best friend.

Specifications

  • 20th Century Fox
  • 2009, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 42 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not listed
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring Megan Fox, Amanda Seyfried, Johnny Simmons, Adam Brody
  • Directed by Karyn Kusama
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Horrific
  • Sex: Suggestive
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

Demons and vampires seem to be the hot item in new movies these days. In this case, it's a demon. The carnage is graphic, and it is always contrasted against Fox's natural beauty.

Technical

The image is very sharp, but a bit noisy, probably as a result of most scenes being shot in low-light situations. The surround sound was pretty good, and it made the whole thing all that much scarier, because I guess we are all a little afraid of what we can't see that might be creeping up behind us.

Extras

These include the unrated version of the movie, a digital copy for your Video iPod, Director's Commentary, Deleted Scenes, The Dead Pool, Behind the Scenes, and the Gag Reel.


"Horton Hears a Who!" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Tyler Stripko

movies-january-2010-horton-hears-a-who

Synopsis

While sitting in the jungle one day, Horton the elephant hears a tiny cry for help.  Using his highly-tuned hearing, Horton realizes that the whisper of a voice is emanating from a speck of dust floating on the breeze.

He captures the speck and strikes up a conversation with the microscopic Dr. Who-Vee, who tells Horton that a whole world of beings lives on the tiny ball of dust.  Horton then makes a vow to protect the world of Whos from all dangers because "A person is a person, no matter how small."

Specifications

  • Warner Brothers
  • 1970, Color, Not Rated, 26 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not listed
  • English 2.0 Dolby Digital
  • Starring Hans Conried, June Foray, and Chuck Jones
  • Directed by Chuck Jones and Ben Washam
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: None
  • Sex: None
  • Language: None

Commentary

“Horton Hears a Who” is a classic story with a wonderful moral message.  Chuck Jones’ animation is excellent, just like the other Dr. Seuss stories that were made into cartoon specials.  Overall, I don’t think Horton is as tight of a story as “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” or “The Lorax,” but it should be mandatory viewing for families nonetheless.  While I now realize that the musical numbers are little more than filler to stretch the film’s length, watching this movie again brought back some fond childhood memories.

Technical

While I think it is great that classics such as this are being brought to Blu-ray, I wish that Warner Brothers would have spent some time on a proper restoration.   The 1.37:1 image could really use an overhaul, with massive color fluctuation from frame to frame.  Brightness and contrast changes with each individual cell as well.  This is a shame because the picture is sharp.   After seeing the job that Disney has done with some of their classic animation films (many of which have much older source material) I can only think how great this film could look with a little TLC.  If you already own the standard definition DVD, I don’t think that I would recommend the upgrade.  There is not much to say about the Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack except that it is about what I expected, given the age of the source.

Extras

The packaging includes the Blu-ray disc as well as the DVD, plus a “Digital Copy” of the feature.  Also included are two extra cartoons; “Butter Battle Book” and “Daisy-Head Mayzie.”  There is also a sing-along video and a feature length story on the life of Dr. Seuss.


"Command Performance" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by John Johnson

Command Performance

Synopsis

Joe (Lundgren) is a drummer in a band playing in Moscow as the opening act for a superstar American singer, Venus (Smith).

Russian President Petrov (Shopov) and his two daughters are attending one of the performances, and a terrorist group kidnaps the president, his daughters, and the TV crew.

The leader of the terrorists goes on TV to demand 1.5 billion dollars as ransom for the presidential family.

In the meantime, Joe had taken a break to go to the bathroom, and was there when the terrorists attacked, so they don't know he is a loose cannon in the building.

Joe has been telling everyone he used to be in a USA motorcycle gang, but the way the story is told, the viewer can infer that he probably was CIA, and that is most unfortunate for the terrorists because Joe has special skills in dealing with terrorists that involve terminating in very unpleasant ways.

Specifications

  • First Look Pictures
  • 2009, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 33 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not listed
  • English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD
  • Starring Dolph Lundgren, Melissa Smith, Hristo Shopov, Dave Legeno, Zahary Baharov
  • Directed by Dolph Lundgren
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Graphic
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

This was apparently, like many movies these days, "Direct to Disc", but you might be surprised to learn (or you probably already know) that in many cases, the studio makes more money from the DVDs than they do from the theater receipts. Anyway, Lundgren wrote the screenplay, produced and directed the film, and it is pretty good. The trailer showed another of his action films coming to DVD soon. Lundgren has taken a seat beside Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone, Steven Segal, and Jean-Claude Van Damme as heavy duty action stars.

Technical

The image is very sharp, and there is plenty of surround sound envelopment.

Extras

Not much. Just an interview with Lundgren and behind the scenes fight footage.


"9" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Stephen Hornbrook

movie-january-2010-9

Synopsis

9 takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where sentient machines have turned against man and destroyed all life.. almost. Still alive are a group of "sack dolls" that were created by an old scientist before he died. 9 was his last creation.  It isn't very long after 9 comes to life that he discovers there are others like him, all named after the order they were created in.  They have survived by laying low and hiding from any of the leftover machines.  9 feels its his destiny to find a way to live freely and without fear.  In his efforts to destroy the machines, he instead awakens the brain, or creator machine. It's up to him and his new friends to save civilization!

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 2009, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 19 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: VC-1
  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround Sound
  • Starring Christopher Plummer, Elijah Wood, Martin Landau, John C. Reilly, Jennifer Connelly
  • Directed by Shane Acker
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

The movie is beautiful to watch and at only 79 minutes, doesn't take too much of your time.  It's worth it though.  Original visuals, good music and sound effects make this a fun ride.  Like many other reviewers, I did find the plot a bit weak and wanted more depth and back story.  Some things just didn't feel fully explained to me..

Technical

Flawless image quality that really shows off the detail and textures in the movie.  Audio was spacious and filled my home theater room with tons of atmosphere. The bass track is dynamic and floor-shaking. Excellent disc!

Extras

Audio Commentary with director Shane Acker, writer Ryan O'Laughlin, animation director Joe Ksander, and editor Nick Kenway.  "The Original Short" is exactly that.  Shane Acker created a short piece as his thesis for film school.  "The Long and Short of it" is a short making-of featurette.  "On Tour with Shane Aker" is a very quick look at the teams that made the movie.  "the Look of 9" deals with the film's visual style.  "Acting Out" looks at the animation department and how they recreate the actor's emotion. "Deleted Scenes" show some storyboards.


"A Perfect Getaway" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

movie-january-2010-perfect210

Synopsis

Newlyweds Cliff (Zahn) and Cydney (Jovovich) travel to Hawaii on their honeymoon for a jungle adventure.  As they hike through the jungle they learn of the grisly murder of another married couple in the area.  Just as their paranoia peaks, they meet up with a free-spirited and unusual couple from Georgia, Nick (Olyphant) and Gina (Sanchez).  As the two couples hike deeper into the jungle, the tension mounts.  When the police swoop in and arrest another couple, it looks like things are safe for our hapless foursome.  But it wouldn’t be called a thriller if the unexpected moments didn’t keep on coming.  I can’t go any further without a spoiler but suffice it to say you will be surprised!

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 2009, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 38 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring:  Timothy Olyphant, Milla Jovovich, Kiele Sanchez, and Steve Zahn
  • Directed by David Twohy
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Innuendo
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

The promise of this film was great.  The box claims it to be “an expertly made thriller!”  I must disagree.  The plot is quite clever but the execution just doesn’t measure up.  I found myself rooting for the killers within the first five minutes and I didn’t even know who they were yet!  Jovovich and Zahn are incredibly annoying as the newlyweds acting more like lovesick teenagers than actual adults.  Things smooth out a little once the movie gets going but it mostly meanders for an hour or so before the fun begins.  I did enjoy Timothy Olyphant as the weird ex-military guy.  He tells stories about his past that are quite entertaining.  The final act does have a few decent action sequences and just enough gore and violence without going over the top.  This Blu-ray contains as its only special feature, the original scripted ending.  After watching it there was no question as to why it was changed.  Overall I was disappointed.

Technical

The image has been overly color-processed apparently in an effort to make the Hawaiian scenery look more lush and beautiful.  Unfortunately the warm overtones simply flatten the picture and make most flesh tones too yellow.  Darker scenes held up reasonably well and contrast was consistent.  The color palette did change on occasion to a brighter and cooler look.  Perhaps there was more than one interpretation at work here.

The sound was unremarkable with a small dynamic range and almost no use of the surrounds or subwoofer.  In fact, the only time I heard any surround effects was during the opening credits.  Even a mid-movie rainstorm was completely in the front soundstage.  Dialog was clear and properly placed on the screen.  The musical score had a few nice moments but could have played a bigger role.

Extras

The only bonus feature was the aforementioned alternate ending.  There is also downloadable content over BD-Live but I did not investigate this.  The disc contains both the theatrical version and an unrated director’s cut of the film which is 10 minutes longer.  I watched the theatrical version.


"Taking Woodstock" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Tyler Stripko

movies-january-2010-taking-woodstock210

Synopsis

After failing as an artist/designer in New York City, Elliot Tiber (Demetri Martin) heads back home to his parents’ (Imelda Staunton and Henry Goodman) run-down motel in upstate New York.  After learning that a neighboring town has pulled the permit for a large outdoor “music festival,” Tiber uses his position on the local Chamber of Commerce to offer up his town as an alternate location.  Little does Elliot know that his actions will wind up helping to define an entire generation.

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 2009, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr 1 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec:  Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring:  Demetri Martin, Dan Fogler, Henry Goodman, Jonathan Groff, Eugene Levy, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Imelda Staunton, Emile Hirsch, and Liev Schreiber
  • Directed by Ang Lee
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: Full Nudity
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

“Taking Woodstock” is an interesting take on one of the defining moments of the “hippie-generation.”  The actual concert is really just a background player in the story of Elliot Tiber and his family.  Personally, I really enjoyed this unique take on the festival, as it is something that to my knowledge has not been done before.   The story was excellent and the acting was top-notch, particularly Imelda Staunton and Henry Goodman in their roles as Elliot’s parents.  I won’t spoil the fun, but Liev Schreiber definitely went out on a limb with his role, and I think it made a nice addition to the progression of the storyline.   Based upon real-life events, “Taking Woodstock” earns a must-see recommendation from me.

Technical

The 1080P image is consistently true to the source.  Most scenes are sharp with accurate colors but there are numerous shots that were made to look like home-video footage from the time period, complete with lots of film grain and washed out colors.  Black levels and contrast were good throughout.   Despite being a film about Woodstock, the DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is fairly sedate.  Since this film is not about the music, you only hear the performances from “miles away.”   During the obligatory “acid-trip” scene, the surrounds finally make their presence known, but are mostly used for subtle ambient effects throughout the rest of the film.   There is little use of the LFE channel either.

Extras

There aren't a ton of extras on this disc.  There is a look into the real "Earthlight Players," deleted scenes, a feature commentary, and featurette on "Peace, Love, and Cinema."  The disc is also BD-Live enabled.

"Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Stephen Hornbrook

movie-january-2010-night-at-museum-2

Synopsis

Larry (Ben Stiller) has left his museum night guard days behind and is now running a successful "As seen on TV" company.  Unfortunately his old pals at the museum feel a bit ignored, especially when they find out they are being packed up and placed in storage at the Smithsonian.  Larry's guilt is too much to handle, so he takes it upon himself to rescue his friends after receiving a call for help from Jedediah (Owen Wilson).  Kahmunrah (Hank Azaria) has been awoken by the magical tablet and is determined to unleash his army of ghost warriors.  Ivan the Terrible, Al Capone, and Napoleon are recruited by Kahmunrah to take out our hero Larry and his museum buddies.  With the help of Amelia Earhart (Amy Adams), Larry manages to save the world and all of his re-animated friends.

Specifications

  • 20th Century Fox
  • 2009, Color, Rated PG, 1 Hr 45 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec:  AVC MPEG-4
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring:  Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Amy Adams, Hank Azaria, Robin Williams
  • Directed by Shawn Levy
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: none
  • Language: none

Commentary

I didn't think the first Night at the Museum was all that great of a movie, but I was entertained by it at least.  This sequel just felt forced and not very funny.  It is a decent movie to watch with the family, but do keep your expectations low.  The Blu-ray is very nice, good quality and lots of extras, so if you are indeed a fan, don't hesitate to pick this one up.

Technical

Very bright and colorful picture with loads of detail, Battle of the Smithsonian is another great transfer from Fox.  The audio was pretty good, but I thought the surround mix could have been a tad more aggressive considering the type of movie.

Extras

Battle of the Smithsonian is pumped full of extras. A couple of commentary tracks, several featurettes, deleted scenes, and my favorite - gag reels.  For the kids, there is a Scavenger Hunt mode that adds some interactivity to the movie watching experience.  They even include a DVD version of the movie.

"CSI: The First Season" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Tyler Stripko

movies-january-2010-csi-season-one210

Synopsis

In Las Vegas, a crack team of crime-scene investigators uses their incredible knowledge of forensic investigation to solve crimes that regular police and detectives can’t.

This 5-disc set includes all 22 episodes of the first series, plus the original pilot that started it all.

Specifications

  • CBS Productions
  • 2000/2001, Color, Not Rated, 17 Hr 6 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • 1080i
  • Codec:  Not specified
  • English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring:  William Petersen, Marg Helgenberger, Jorja Fox, Gary Dourdan, George Eads
  • Directed by Danny Cannon, Kenneth Frank, Lou Antonio, Michael Shapiro, Michael Watkins
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Moderate
  • Sex: Some suggestive behavior
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

I remember watching the first episodes of this series when they aired back in 2000.  I was struck by how original the series was and how they focused so strongly on the science that could be used to track down criminals.  As a techno-geek, this immediately struck the right cord with me.  The acting was excellent and the writers kept coming up with new crimes and methods for solving them.   The formula was a big hit, and the show is now in its tenth season.

Technical

CSI looks much better in HD than it did during its original SD airings.  The 1080i picture is sharp, with very good black levels.  The night-time shots of Vegas look very good, especially considering the fact that they were shot 10 years ago.  Brighter scenes are a bit softer, with more visible film grain.  Daylight scenes are a bit oversaturated, which gives a slightly artificial look to many shots.  There didn’t seem to be any noticeable compression artifacts or edge enhancement either.  The 7.1 (yup 7.1) DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack was pleasantly surprising.  The music and sound effects had real weight and volume to them, with great clarity and strong bass.  The surrounds are used effectively, even the back surrounds in the 7.1 mix.  The only real negative is that the dialogue seems to have been mixed at a much lower level than the music and effects, so you may need to crank up the volume a bit to hear the actors better.

Extras

Most of the extras are on discs 1 and 5 and include a director’s cut of the pilot, deleted scenes, outtakes, promos, a gag reel, and two featurettes: “CSI People Lie . . . But the Evidence Never Does” and “Rediscovering the Evidence.”  some interactivity to the movie watching experience.

"10 Things I Hate About You" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

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Synopsis

New kid in school Cameron (Gordon-Levitt) falls hard for the local beauty queen on his first day.  Unfortunately she isn’t allowed to date until her sister does.  Kat (Stiles) is a rebel through and through with no love for anyone and no interest in dating.  Cameron and his nerd-buddy Michael hatch a plan where school tough-guy Patrick will date Kat, for a fee of course, thereby clearing the way for Cameron to take Bianca (Oleynik) to the prom.  Many unexpected things happen along the way of course, as things turn from hormone-driven hijinks to budding romance.

 

Specifications

  • Touchstone Pictures
  • 1999, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 37 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec:  Not specified
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring:  Julia Stiles, Heath Ledger, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Larisa Oleynik
  • Directed by Gil Junger
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence:  No
  • Sex:  Innuendo and crude references
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

I was expecting more of a teenage sex and party fest when I received this film.  Instead it turned out to be a cute romantic comedy wrapped in gland-driven chaos.  It was also a mini-parade of future stars.  Julia Stiles (Mona Lisa Smile) plays the rebellious counter-culture teen to perfection.  Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight) gets to speak with his native Australian accent as the misunderstood tough-guy.  His performance is quite funny and enjoyable.  David Krumholtz (Numb3rs) was my favorite though.  His portrayal of school nerd Michael was simply brilliant.  I can see why he was cast as Charlie Eppes after seeing him in this movie.  That’s really what saved this from becoming just another chick-flick.  The acting was simply superb.  There were no weak members in the cast.  Even the lesser-known actors did an excellent job.  The various situations the characters create, or fall into, made me laugh throughout.  Even the tender intimate moments were never boring or sappy.  Pacing was just right and at 97 minutes, the movie was an ideal length.

Technical

The film appears to have been shot on Super 16mm as grain is quite noticeable.  It was distracting at times but not the worst I’ve seen.  Some transfers apply excessive noise reduction to combat this but this Blu-ray went in the opposite direction.  I believe the telecine process preserved the original accurately.  Color was very saturated and pleasing with just a hint of extra redness in the flesh tones.  It looked a bit better when shown with a SMPTE-C color gamut.  It may have been mastered on a Rec 601 monitor.  Detail was as good as could be expected given the grain level.  Dimensionality was also about as good as it could be.

The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack was first-rate.  The film’s score is mostly 80s and 90s-era rock and it was reproduced with a high degree of clarity.  The musical soundstage was among the widest I’ve heard in any film.  Dialog was balanced perfectly with the music and extremely clear and detailed.  Surrounds weren’t used much but is that necessary given the material?  It didn’t bother me a bit.  This kind of quality is what lossless audio is for.

Extras

Bonus features include a documentary with cast interviews, a look back with the director and screenwriters, writers and cast audio commentary and deleted scenes. 

"Fighting" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Stephen Hornbrook

movie-january-2010-fighting

Synopsis

Channing Tatum plays Shawn, a young man living on the streets of New York, just trying to make enough money to survive. The movie opens with an altercation between him and some dvd bootleggers.  A scam artist, Harvey, played by Terrence Howard, witnesses the fight and is impressed by Shawn's natural fighting ability.  They later run into each other at a diner where Harvey convinces Shawn he can make loads of money fighting. The venue's start out small, but Shawn earns his street-cred and starts making some real money.  There is a bit of back story when Shawn meets an old "friend", Evan Hailey (Brian White), regarding Shawn's wrestling coach of a father.  The two had a bit of a falling out when the father took Evan under his wing and led him to state championships.  The tension is immediately palpable when Shawn runs into Evan.  Harvey is able to score a big fight between these childhood rivals and the payout is huge.  The only problem? Harvey needs to bet against the underdog Shawn in able to win money... or does he??

 

Specifications

  • Universal
  • 2009, Color, Rated PG-13 (Includes Unrated Version), 1 Hr 45 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: VC-1
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring:  Channing Tatum, Terrence Howard, Luis Guzman
  • Directed by Dito Montiel
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence:  Yes, fighting
  • Sex:  about 5 seconds, PG
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

Fighting is a decent movie.  Honestly, I thought it would be worse than it was.  I don't think i would recommend it to many people, but if you are bored there are worse ways to spend an hour and a half of your life (ok, not many. Jumping into a pit of snakes sounds worse though).  The problem with the movie is that the character's back stories are weak and the fight scenes aren't even choreographed that well.  Therefore you end up with a bit of an empty movie trying to be filled with an unconvincing love story, some sort of fatherly bonding tale, and some fighting.  It's just a bit of a mess.

Technical

The video quality on this title is excellent. Plenty of detail and texture to the picture. Great colors and contrast. I really have nothing bad to say about the video. The audio was decent. Not a very exciting mix, certainly nothing you would use to demo your home theater. The dialog seemed a tad empty as well. I feel it needed a bit more oomph.

Extras

A few deleted scenes and a digital copy are provided. Pretty empty disc. 

"Love Actually" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

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Synopsis

Love Actually looks at the lives of multiple couples who all manage to intertwine as they fall in and out of love with each other.  Taking place during the Christmas holiday season, the story moves quickly from couple to couple, as you discover the relationship between the different characters and how they interact with each other.  Directed by Richard Curtis, the Writer/Producer of Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, Blackadder and other British comedies with a large, wonderful cast.

 

Specifications

  • Universal
  • 2003, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr 15 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: VC-1
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring:  Hugh Grant, Kiera Knightly, Liam Neeson
  • Directed by Richard Curtis
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence:  None
  • Sex:  Yes
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

I'd seen Love Actually a few times before, I was quite happy to watch it again.  While I do think it is an enjoyable film, and one that I'll gladly watch with my wife again in the future, I do think it could have been better.  There are too many characters in the film to really develop all of them to the degree that I would like, and some of them could be easily dropped without any harm to the movie.  Getting some extra background on the other characters that you care about more would help to improve the film, though most of the inconsequential characters are there for comic relief, so it might lead to an overly serious film, though I'm sure they could have accounted for that.  However, still a movie I recommend watching.

Technical

Love Actually features a very nice image that might not be reference quality, but is well ahead of any other presentation of the film for home video before.  There's no real issues with the image at all (no film grain, artifacts, holes, scratches, or any other major issues I could spot), but it isn't as sharp as the sharpest Blu-ray discs can be.  The audio left more to be desired, however.  While a romantic comedy and very dialog driven, the surrounds are hardly used during the film.  Dialog is clear and intelligible, but the surrounds are never used to provide ambiance to make you feel as if you are in the location of the characters.  They kick in during certain musical numbers, and when the film was originally mixed this was how most films of this type were mixed at the time, but now it sounds a bit outdated in comparison.

Extras

The Blu-ray features audio commentary from the director and many of the films actors, deleted scenes, music video, and featurettes on the music of the film, as well as a look at all of the individual story-lines in the film.

"American Pie Presents: The Book of Love" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

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Synopsis

When three East Great Falls High buddies accidentally discover the legendary "Book of Love", penned by some of their school's alumni, they embark on a hilariously outrageous quest to lose their virginity with the girls of their dreams. Join Jim's Dad (Eugene Levy) and this lovable and outrageous group of guys in this raucous comedy full of shocking and heartwarming fun! p>

 

Specifications

  • Universal
  • 2009, Color, Unrated, 1 Hr 34 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: VC-1
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Eugene Levy, Rosanna Arquette
  • Directed by John Putch
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: None
  • Sex: Yes (and nudity)
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

I saw the first American Pie film in theaters and really enjoyed it when it originally came out, and have watched parts of it on video since then. I saw the second film at home, and by the time they got to a third film I thought that they were starting to recycle jokes and plot ideas too often, and I stopped watching. I was totally unaware that it was still going as a direct-to-video series, though it seems that Eugene Levy is the only person that I could recognize from the original film. Unfortunately, I realized 30 seconds into this movie that whatever enjoyment I got from the first film, I was not going to get that from this film. Every single character, and plot idea, seems to be a rehash of the characters from previous movies, with the same plot points and themes that came before, only less funny and more crude. I was hoping for something similar to how the first movie was, but unfortunately they seem to have aimed lower that before, losing all of the fun and creativity of the first movie for something that couldn't end fast enough for me. Maybe since it's been a decade since the first film I'm no longer a part of their target audience, but it just was not a film that I enjoyed at all.p>

Technical

The picture on the film was OK, though not extremely sharp, and about what I would expect for a Direct-to-Video title from a major studio. Colors looked to be a little off, but contrast and black levels were good. The soundtrack was dialog centric, with it's main use of the surrounds for it's soundtrack and not for extra ambiance or details. Overall, the picture and sound were acceptable, and right in line for this type of release.

Extras

The extras consist of some deleted scenes, a gag reel, and some very short featurettes. Nothing really of substance here, which is about what you would expect.

"Funny People" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

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Synopsis

Adam Sandler stars as George Simmons, a successful stand up comic and movie star who discovers that he has an aggressive form of cancer. After a younger comedian, Ira Wright (Seth Rogan) takes a few shots at him during his act at a club, George takes Ira under his wing to help him with his act, and serve as his personal assistant. As George thinks more about his life and how he wants to live it, he tries to reconnect with the woman that he loved, but who left him, but will he really change his life around given another chance to do so?p>

 

Specifications

  • Universal
  • 2009, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr, 26 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Adam Sandler, Seth Rogan, Jason Schwartzman
  • Directed by Judd Apatow
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Very Light
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Very Bad

Commentary

Directed and written by Judd Apatow (The 40-Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up), I came in expecting a movie in the same style as those, but got something much different than I expected. While still full of the same style of humor as those films, it does take a much more somber and serious tone at many points, often not really being funny at all. However, it did suck everyone in that was watching it by a certain point, and no one wanted to stop until they found out what happened, but I don't think it will have the replay value that his previous films do for me.

Technical

Funny People has a very nice transfer, with good detail, no blemishes in the print that I could see, strong black levels, and a lack of digital artifacts. The way that the film was shot doesn't allow for the image to pop as much as other titles, but it looks very nice. The soundtrack also does a nice job, with good use of the surrounds to add extra ambiance to their locations instead of only being used for songs as is often the case. The film is very dialogue focused and the majority of the soundtrack is from the front three speakers, but it does a good job overall of putting you in the locations of the film.

Extras

This comes as a two disc set featuring both the theatrical and directors cuts of the film, audio commentary, gag reels, deleted scenes, alternate takes, production featurettes, extended scenes and alternate takes, expanded segments of the fake TV shows and movies featured in the film, trailers, stand up segments, and more. This is really a fully loaded set of discs and has enough extras to keep you watching for a long time. The fact that the cast, when just improvising as they are in many of these, are very funny helps as well. 

"Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Stephen Hornbrook

movie-january-2010-lock-stock

Synopsis

Four friends pool their money together for a card game and get bamboozled out of 500,000 pounds by a local porn king, Harry Lonsdale.  You don't mess with Hatchet Harry though. When you owe him money you best pay it off quickly.  The four of them come up with a scheme to rob their thieving neighbors and sell their stolen weed to make a quick 500k.  The plan seems so simple, so easy and surprisingly, everything goes smoothly with the heist. Unfortunately, they have pissed off the wrong people.  It's a small world when the neighbors discover who stole their stolen drugs and cash and all heck breaks loose. Worlds collide in a mess of gunfire.

 

Specifications

  • Universal / Summit Entertainment
  • 1998, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 47 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: VC-1
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Jason Flemyng, Dexter Fletcher, Jason Statham, Vinnie Jones
  • Directed by Guy Ritchie
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Brief Nudity
  • Language: Very Bad

Commentary

It has been a few years since my last viewing of Guy Ritchie's first movie, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and I didn't enjoy it as much.  Snatch is definitely my favorite of Ritchie's films. Lock Stock just felt a bit slower and a lot less showy than I remember it. It's still a well-written, great film though, don't get me wrong. I think this blu-ray is easily the best representation you can get at home, but given the source, just don't expect it to look like most other blu-ray films.

Technical

The video quality is nothing to write home about, but it isn't the transfer's fault.  Lock Stock was a low budget film and Ritchie used 16mm to film it. The image has a heavy processed feel to it with lots of grain and way too much contrast.  Basically Universal did the best they can with the source material.  On the audio front, it too was pretty weak. Little to no bass track, which i found surprising.

Extras

Not much in the way of extras, just a short look at the production of the movie.