Articles

Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - June, 2010

ARTICLE INDEX

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

The Wolfman

Synopsis

When Lawrence Talbot's (Del Toro) brother is killed in the forest surrounding his ancestral home in England, he returns from the United States to console his father, Sir John Talbot (Hopkins).

Soon, Lawrence realizes that the death of his brother was due to something more frightening and evil than he could imagine. A werewolf stalks the forest, and Lawrence is bitten himself. Now, he finds that he has become a werewolf as well, and must yield to his violent forces within, even if it means harming a young woman that he falls in love with, Gwen Conliffe (Blunt).

Inspector Abberline (Weaving) suspects that something is amiss in the Talbot household, but he can't prove anything, yet.

Sir John must decide what to do to protect his son, knowing that he has the curse of The Wolfman, but he is hiding his own dark secret that is only exposed at the climax to this story.

 

Specifications

  • Universal
  • 2010, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 59 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Benicio Del Toro, Emily Blunt, Hugo Weaving
  • Directed by Joe Johnston
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Graphic
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

I suppose it was inevitable that the 1941 version, starring Lon Chaney, Jr. would be remade, and the 2010 film does not disappoint, but it does not thrill or scare you, for digital monsters are in so many movies these days, a werewolf seems tame compared to some others. In any case, no one did The Wolfman like Chaney. I was a bit surprised that the werewolves in the new version are recognizable in their faces, as they are when they are not werewolves. Having a monster with Hopkin's face came out a bit comical actually. Chaney's wolfman didn't look anything like him.

Technical

Picture quality is impeccable, and the DTS-HD Master Audio does a good job of creating a chilling surround.

Extras

These include Alternate Endings, Transformation Secrets, The Return of the Wolfman, The Wolfman Unleashed, Deleted Scenes, Extended Scenes, and BD-Live.


"From Paris with Love" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by John Johnson

From Paris with Love

Synopsis

James Reece (Meyers) is a low-level CIA employee stationed in Paris.

CIA operative Charlie Wax (Travolta) shows up, and the office assigns James as his partner.

Going from simple tasks like changing license plates to killing a dozen people in a Chinese restaurant is a bit much for Jimbo, but he learns fast, because he has a good teacher, and most of all, if he makes a mistake, he will be toes up on the morgue dissection table.

Charlie has been sent by the CIA headquarters in the USA to dispatch a cocaine network in Paris, and where drugs are involved, big money is not far behind, and those who deal in it are not shy about using extreme violence to protect their business.

And so, James goes from using a screwdriver to a 44 magnum, in between cell phone calls to his fiancée, Caroline (Smutniak), and trying to carry a vase full of cocaine that will be used as evidence in the case.

 

Specifications

  • Lionsgate
  • 2010, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 35 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: John Travolta, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Kasia Smutniak
  • Directed by Pierre Morel
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Extreme
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

Travolta is terrific as a CIA terminator, and Rhys Meyers takes time off from his portrayal of King Henry in The Tudors, a Showtime HDTV series. If there were not so many exit wounds, James' experiences in the new world of dealing in lead would have been comic relief. In fact, it is a bit much to see Charlie and James run through a room full of gangsters shooting at them with machine guns, and the pair of CIA guys kill all of them without a single injury to themselves.

Technical

Excellent image quality, and the explosions from very big handguns are suitably handled by 24 bit dynamic range of DTS-HD Master Audio.

Extras

These include The Making of, Spies, Spooks, and Special Ops, Secrets of Spy Craft, Friend or Foe, Charlie Wax's Gun Locker, and a digital copy for your Video iPod.


"The Edge" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

movie-june-2010-the-edge

Synopsis

While on a photo shoot in Alaska, billionaire Charles Morse (Hopkins), his photographer Robert Green (Baldwin) and assistant Stephen (Perrineau) take off in a plane to find a subject for a photograph. After striking a flock of birds, they crash in a lake very far from help. They manage to swim to shore but their problems are only just beginning. Almost immediately, they are set upon by an enormous bear. They evade him briefly but when Stephen cuts his leg, the blood on the air attracts the bear back to their camp. Stephen is killed and Charles and Robert realize that they’ll have to rely on each other to survive. The challenge is Robert’s intense jealousy over Charles’ super-model wife Mickey (MacPherson) and his vast wealth. The two men decide to kill the bear rather than be hunted. After they do, a bond seems to form but when they find a cabin with supplies and a gun, the plot thickens. In the end, the rescue happens but all involved will have their lives changed forever.

 

Specifications

  • 20th Century Fox
  • 1997, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 57 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: MPEG2 @ 18 Mbps
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Alec Baldwin, Elle MacPherson, Harold Perrineau
  • Directed by Lee Tamahori
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes, with blood and gore
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

This film was very entertaining and the outdoor survival scenes quite intense. Alaska is certainly a beautiful place but it can be deadly as our hapless characters quickly learn. The tension between Charles and Robert is obvious from the very beginning. Robert covets Charles’ beautiful young wife and Charles is quite paranoid as a result. Once they become stranded, Charles does everything he can to save them despite the tension and anger. Stephen the assistant is mostly hysterical and his death though gruesome improved the story. Robert is totally consumed by anger and jealousy and during a delusional episode; he claims he’s the only thing keeping them alive when it is clearly the reverse.

Production quality is excellent with lots of strikingly beautiful location footage. Aside from a few early scenes, the entire film takes place outdoors. You can feel the cold and wet environment in every shot. The actors turn in stellar performances as well. I can’t imagine the plight of people in their situation but Alec Baldwin and Anthony Hopkins made it amazingly real.

Technical

Image quality was about average for a catalog release. The print looked a bit tired to me with some dirt and scratches in evidence. Color was reasonably well-saturated but the overall look was somewhat dull. With such a lovely backdrop, I would have expected more pop from the outdoor material. Instead, lighting was flat and very two-dimensional. Black levels were deep during most of the darker scenes with a hint of washout here and there. Detail was a bit soft overall but there was no obvious edge enhancement.

Audio was also average for a film of this vintage. The plane crash scene had decent punch from the subwoofer as did the footfalls of the running bear. Surrounds were used only occasionally. The music was quite lush using a full orchestra. The score by veteran Jerry Goldsmith portrayed the wide open landscape beautifully with majestic brass fanfares and a big string sound.

Extras

Bonus features consist only of a theatrical trailer and a set of trailers for other 20th Century Fox films.


"Marked For Death" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

movie-june-2010-marked-  for-death

Synopsis

Drug-enforcement agent John Hatcher (Seagal) suffers serious burn-out after the death of his partner in a Mexican drug bust. He decides to retire back to his home in Chicago and spend some quiet time with his sister and her family. Trouble soon finds him however, when he gets in the middle of a gang war between Columbian and Jamaican drug lords who rule the streets. The Jamaican’s leader, Screwface, swears revenge on Hatcher and his loved ones. With the help of girlfriend Leslie (Pacula) and long-time friend Max (David), Hatcher strikes back against the entire posse vowing to destroy their leader and run them out of town.

 

Specifications

  • 20th Century Fox
  • 1990, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 33 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC @ 26 Mbps
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Steven Seagal, Joanna Pacula, Keith David
  • Directed by Dwight H. Little
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Gratuitous
  • Sex: Nudity
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

This film is very typical of the formulaic action flicks of the 80s and 90s. Our hero tries to escape his life of violence and death. He runs into trouble on his first day of retirement. He goes on a rampage of revenge and 45 minutes-worth of fight scenes later, the movie ends. The acting is over-the-top, the action is over-the-top and the violence is over-the-top. Fans of popcorn action movies will likely want to add this one to their collections. If you desire more of a plot, you’ll have to look elsewhere. Steven Seagal is known for his martial arts training but I didn’t really see much of it here. It was nowhere near the acrobatics in the typical Jackie Chan or Jet Li film. Seagal is more of a brawler and gunslinger. There is a good car-chase sequence through the streets of Chicago. The main villain, Screwface (a classic nickname if ever there was one), is a practitioner of black magic. I felt this twist to be needlessly weird and it added nothing to the already thin storyline. Hardcore action fans will surely enjoy this but those with broader tastes may not.

Technical

The image is very clean with fair evidence of digital scrubbing. Detail is fairly soft and coupled with the flat lighting, makes for a two-dimensional presentation. Color is well-saturated and natural. Black levels are a little elevated giving dark scenes a washed-out look. Many of the fast-action portions are filmed in low light making it hard to follow just who’s doing what to whom. For a catalog release, this Blu-ray is merely average.

Audio showed the same lack of dimension as the video. There was nothing approaching subtlety at any time. Whether it was dialog or explosions, everything was loud and somewhat compressed-sounding. My sub only lit up during the nightclub scenes with their accompanying loud music. Surrounds weren’t really used at all.

Extras

There are no bonus features on this disc.


"Armageddon" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Tyler Stripko

movie-june-2010-armageddon

Synopsis

After the destruction of an orbiting US space shuttle and a devastating meteor attack on New York City, astronomers discover that the mother of all meteors is on a collision course with the Earth. With only 18 days until the massive rock obliterates all life on the planet, a hail-Mary plan is pierced together to destroy the wayward meteor. A hand-picked team of the best oil-drilling men on Earth will be transported to the surface of the meteor and will plant a nuclear charge deep beneath the meteor’s surface. The resulting explosion should be enough to veer any remaining fragments safely away from Earth.

 

Specifications

  • Touchstone Home Entertainment
  • 1998, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 31 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC @ 26 Mbps
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thorton, Ben Affleck, Liv Tyler
  • Directed by Michael Bay
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: None
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

“Armageddon” is a stereotypical Michael Bay/Jerry Bruckheimer film. This is not a bad thing by any means. The movie is pure fun from beginning to end with a simple (yet effective) plot, generally solid acting, entertaining dialogue, lots of fast-paced action, very good special effects, and a great soundtrack. Best of all, there are lots of really big explosions and massive amounts of destruction. This is the type of movie home theaters were invented for.

Technical

I was pleasantly surprised with the overall quality of this disc. For a 12-year old catalog title, Touchstone did a very good job with the transfer. The Blu-ray retains all of the original grain from the source film but still manages to exhibit a sharp picture with good detail. It doesn’t look like much, if any, digital noise reduction or edge enhancement was used. Colors retain Bay’s signature yellow-toned bias but are still fairly vibrant. The blacks of space are deep, without crushing shadow detail. The original DVD soundtrack was a frequent demo piece, and the Blu-ray definitely continues that tradition. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is a real powerhouse, with fantastic bass and a highly enveloping sound field. The surrounds are used to great effect and dialog is always clear. “Armageddon” doesn’t have quite the sense of effortless dynamics and clarity as some of the more recent blockbusters so I can’t give this a perfect 5 for audio, but it is darn close.

Extras

Sadly, extras are very thin on this disc. The only bonuses are Aerosmith’s video for “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” and some original trailers for the movie, all in standard-definition.


"Do The Right Thing" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Tyler Stripko

movie-june-2010-do-the-  right-thing

Synopsis

On a scorching summer day in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, a series of seemingly harmless events leads to an all-out racial riot. At the heart of the story is Sal’s Famous Pizzeria, where owner Sal (Danny Aiello) has chosen to only display famous Italian-Americans on his “Wall of Fame.” Buggin’ Out (Giancarlo Esposito), a patron of the pizza parlor, decides to question Sal on why there are no pictures of African-Americans on the wall, being that the vast majority of Sal’s customers are of African-American descent. Sal’s only black employee Mookie (Spike Lee) does his best to keep things calm, but events slowly spiral out of control from here.

 

Specifications

  • Universal
  • 1989, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Spike Lee, Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Richard Edson, Giancarlo Esposito, Bill Nunn, John Turturro
  • Directed by Spike Lee
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: Brief nudity
  • Language: Plenty

Commentary

This film was heralded when it came out in 1989 for inspiring a lot of meaningful thought on the issue of racial tension. I even remember discussing it in class during junior high. Depending upon your point of view, each main character makes decisions that seem “right” to them. However, I still feel that much of the anger in this movie is misplaced. After all, it was police brutality that killed Radio Raheem, not Sal or his sons. Why does the neighborhood not make a bigger deal about this? Why punish Sal? Also, why does the crowd turn on the innocent Korean family that runs the shop across the street? Perhaps this was Spike Lee’s way of showing the effects of the mob mentality. While I still recommend seeing this film, I can’t help but feel that a few more carefully crafted scenes could have raised the moral power of this film immensely. I also feel that a bit more editing could have tightened the story up a bit, as many of the scenes drag on without adding much to the story. I’m still trying to figure out why we needed to see Rosie Perez dancing by herself for 5+ minutes during the opening credits.

Technical

While I don’t think that anyone would ever use this film to show off their new home theater setup, I was pleasantly surprised by how good this movie looked. The image is very sharp overall, though there is a good amount of film grain. Colors are vibrant but were intentionally skewed towards the warm side of things in an attempt to show the intense summer heat that is so pivotal to the storyline. The audio is solid, particularly when the soundtrack kicks in. Dialogue is clear and easy to understand. The surrounds and LFE are not used much, but given the age of this film and the original source material that is expected.

Extras

There are a ton of extras on this disc. In HD, there is a retrospective documentary and 11 deleted scenes. There is also a new commentary by director Spike Lee, multiple feature commentaries, behind-the-scenes footage shot by Spike Lee, a making- of featurette, an editing featurette, a story board of the key riot scene, and press footage from the 1989 Cannes film festival. The disc is also BD-Live enabled.


"Invictus" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Tyler Stripko

movie-june-2010-invictus

Synopsis

After being elected President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) finds himself in a very difficult position. His nation is fragmented down the middle, with the white Afrikaaners representing the old regime on one side, and the South African natives on the other. Looking for anything that can help ease the growing racial tensions and unite the citizens of South Africa, Nelson turns to the Springboks, South Africa’s struggling rugby team who have been given a birth at the 1995 Rugby World Cup as the host nation. Mandela meets with Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon), the captain of the Springboks, and explains his wish for the team win the World Cup. Long seen as a symbol of the Apartheid regime and way of life, the Springboks success at the tournament proves to be a galvanizing point in South Africa’s history.

 

Specifications

  • Warner Brothers
  • 2009, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 hrs 13 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: VC1
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon
  • Directed by Clint Eastwood
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: None
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

Invictus is far more than another sports success story; it is a study in politics, leadership, and racial relations. Nelson Mandela took a big gamble by showing such interest in a historically “white” sport, but the gamble ultimately paid huge dividends. Morgan Freeman did a fantastic job portraying Nelson Mandela, and I thought his dialogue on leadership and inspiration was well-crafted. Matt Damon delivered a solid performance as the Springbok’s captain, though I found myself detached from his character. This is one of my big complaints with the film: I just never really felt that attached to the players. The only scene that I found emotionally powerful was the first training camp that the team runs for local black children. This one scene explains Mandela’s motivations better than anything in the rest of the film and is the one moment that truly follows the old adage, “Show me, don’t tell me.” My other gripe with this movie is that certain scenes are dragged out far longer than they should be. The World Cup finale between the Springboks and New Zealand’s All-Blacks was about twice as long as it should have been. This was a movie that could have been great, but its faults bring the overall emotional impact down a notch.

Technical

Video quality on this disc was a bit disappointing for me. The film was shot mostly outdoors, which puts an over-exposed sort of haze on many scenes. This made the image look a bit soft, but it may have been the filmmakers’ intention. Film grain was fairly strong as well. Indoor scenes looked far better to my eyes, with excellent color and contrast. Detail and clarity was also much better on the indoor scenes. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack does its job well. Dialogue is always clear and intelligible, befitting the storyline. During the rugby scenes, the soundtrack kicks it up a notch, with much more use of the surround channels. There is a good “thump” when the ball is kicked or when the players tackle each other during the rugby scenes.

Extras

Included on this disc is a very in-depth picture-in-picture commentary/making-of, a featurette on Morgan Freeman meeting Nelson Mandela (they really do look a lot alike), a featurette on training Matt Damon for rugby, and a preview for a full documentary on the filmmaking career of Clint Eastwood. A second disc contains a DVD version and Digital Copy of the film.


"Alice in Wonderland" (2010) (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by John Johnson

Alice in Wonderland

Synopsis

More than half a century after Walt Disney Pictures brought the Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, a.k.a. Lewis Carrol (1832-1898) novel, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) to life on the screen in color and animation, Disney brings the timeless classic up to date with state of the art screen capture and 3-D.

It is 19th Century England, and Alice Kingsleigh (Wasikowska) attends a large party that she discovers has been planned so that a British Lord can formally ask for her hand in marriage.

Alice is an adventurer, and the Lord has a sensitive stomach, so Alice runs from the party, falls into a dark hole and when she hits the bottom, she finds herself in a very strange land where rabbits wear coat tails, and animals speak.

Everyone seems to be asking the question, "Is this the right Alice?"

Meanwhile, the Red Queen (Carter) rules the land with a cruel hand, and the question about Alice comes to light as she is the one destined to depose the Red Queen and put the good White Queen (Hathaway) on the throne where she belongs. In order to do this, she has to battle the Red Queen's evil monster, the Jabberwocky, after enlisting the help of the White Rabbit, the Cheshire Cat and the Mad Hatter (Depp).

 

Specifications

  • Walt Disney
  • 2010, Color, Rated PG, 1 hrs 48 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Ann Hathaway, Mia Wasikowska
  • Directed by Tim Burton
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

I was a small boy when the original Disney Alice in Wonderland (1951) was released. I remember it vividly though. This latest version, with the help of motion capture, 3-D, and the inimitable Johnny Depp, is just as entertaining to new audiences as the 1950's version was to us back then. By the way, "mad as a hatter" comes from the early use of mercury in curing leather used in hats. The hatters became poisoned with mercury, which caused brain damage.

Technical

Live animation has reached a very believable technical stage. However, they need to study a few physics books. While small characters can run and change direction quickly, large objects, like the Jabberwocky, are limited by laws of mass, velocity, and acceleration.

Extras

Lots of extras on this three-disc package, including Stunts of Wonderland, Scoring Wonderland, Finding Alice, The Red Queen, Cakes of Wonderland, Tea Party Props, and a digital copy for your Video iPod. It is also BD-Live.


"Carlito's Way" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Stephen Hornbrook

movie-june-2010-carlitos-way

Synopsis

Carlito Brigante (Pacino) is released from jail after serving only five years of a 30 year sentence thanks to his clever lawyer, Kleinfeld (Penn). He vows to go straight and to leave behind his life of crime. However, Carlito finds this task easier said than done. His nephew immediately draws him back into trouble at a drug deal gone wrong. Carlito uses the money from the drug deal to buy into a nightclub and we watch as his friend and lawyer Kleinfeld becomes more and more corrupt and coked out. Kleinfeld convinced Brigante to help him out in rescuing a mob boss from jail. Everything goes south from there and Carlito decides to make a run for Florida and the promise of a new life.

 

Specifications

  • Universal
  • 1993, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr 25 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: VC-1
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Al Pacino, Sean Penn, Penelope Ann Miller, John Leguizamo, Luis Guzman
  • Directed by Brian De Palma
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Nudity
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

I missed Carlito's Way on it's first go around. I was probably too young when it came out. This being my first time seeing it, I felt the movie has held up pretty well. Carlito's Way is De Palma and Pacino's second time working together, the first being Scarface. While not quite the classic that Scarface is, Carlito's Way is an excellent movie. Great performances by its all-star cast and an interesting story of a mobster looking for a change. Definitely check out this fresh new blu-ray whether or not you've seen it.

Technical

This new VC-1 encoded transfer is full of detail and excellent color fidelity. The audio was very good as well. The viewer is dropped into the movie surrounded by a wonder score by Patrick Doyle. Tons of depth to the soundstage, I could have listened to that first scene many times over.

Extras

A making of featurette, short bit on casting and filming, and some deleted scene.

"Edge of Darkness" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Stephen Hornbrook

movie-june-2010-edge-of-darkness

Synopsis

The movie begins with a nighttime shot of a river, an odd looking building at the top of a hill along the shore, and 3 bodies floating to the surface. The scene cuts to Thomas Craven (Mel Gibson) picking up his daughter, Emma (Bojana Novakovic), at the station. She vomits while getting into the car then later at home, as Thomas cooks dinner, Emma has a nosebleed and vomits again. She says she needs to see a doctor and tell him something. As they are rushing to leave the house and head to the hospital, a masked gunman jumps out and yells "Craven!" then fires a couple shotgun blasts at Emma before driving away. Emma gets blasted through the door and soon dies in Thomas' arms.

Thomas being a police detective seemed the obvious target. Everyone assumes the gunman missed and hit his daughter by accident. (although if this were true, wouldn't the gun man just the half second to adjust his trajectory and shoot Thomas as well? I guess these are not very good detectives.) Thomas does some sluething and finds Emma's boyfriend who has gone crazy with paranoia. He suspects Northmoor, the company Emma worked for, has been producing illegal nuclear weapons. So too did the 3 dead activists whom Northmoor killed. They also poisoned Emma to keep her quiet. On a quest for vengeance, Thomas goes on a killing spree, taking out quite a few Northmoor employees.

 

Specifications

  • Warner Bros
  • 2010, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 57 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: VC-1
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Mel Gibson, Ray Winstone
  • Directed by Martin Campbell
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Some

Commentary

I was actually excited to see this movie. The theatrical trailer made the movie look exciting and fast paced. However the flow just wasn't there for me. Mel does a decent job here, but he certainly wasn't at the top of the game. The story lacked some twists and turns to keep you guessing. I was never on the edge of my dark seat. It was good enough to rent, but that's about it.

Technical

Both the video and audio are excellent on this disc. There are some terrific gun shots that you just feel, they were actually quite scary. Video is sharp and detailed with natural color.

Extras

Included are some short featurettes and deleted scenes. Nothing of real substance.


"Saving Private Ryan" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Tyler Stripko

movie-june-2010-private-ryan

Synopsis

After surviving the hellish landing on D-Day at Omaha Beach, Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) is handed an even more difficult assignment.  Amidst the chaos of the Normandy invasion, Miller must find a paratrooper named James Ryan (Matt Damon), who has lost all three of his brothers in combat, and help return him home to his family.  As the immense scope of their task sinks in, Miller’s squad begins to question the logic of their mission, as in this case “the mission is a man.”

 

Specifications

  • DreamWorks
  • 1998, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr 49 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Tom Hanks, Edward Burns, Matt Damon, Tom Sizemore
  • Directed by Steven Spielberg
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Graphic
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Moderate

Commentary

This is one of my favorite movies of all-time.  While I happen to be a big World War II buff, the story is gripping enough to attract even those with little care for war films.  The moral conundrum of risking the lives of many men for the life of one solitary soldier is well played out throughout the film and really makes the viewer think about how they would respond in a similar situation.  The introductory landing sequence at Omaha Beach is still the most visceral and outright petrifying piece of filmmaking I have ever seen.  While the incredibly graphic violence throughout the film can be a turn-off for some, it is completely realistic and gives the viewer some semblance of what our brave soldiers went through to secure our freedom.  The acting is superb throughout and there is some great character development.  You find yourself really caring for each of the characters, which make their inevitable deaths more poignant and upsetting.  Direction and cinematography are superb, as is John Williams’ soundtrack.  This film certainly deserved the five Oscars that it received in 1998 and is a must-own in my book.

Technical

I’ll go out on a limb here and venture that I’m not the only Secrets reader (or writer) who used the Omaha Beach landing scene on the original DVD as a demo when family or friends came over.    As good as sound was on the original DVD, the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray is even better.  Clarity and dynamics are improved over the lossy DVD track, as is the ability to pick out the more subtle sounds throughout the film.  Surround use is incredibly effective, with the explosions and gunshots coming at you from all directions.  Bass is powerful, but except for the German Panzer and Tiger tanks at the end of the film, not terribly deep.   The powerful dialogue is clearly presented, so there is no need to fiddle with your volume control in order to hear individual lines.  Picture quality is also a huge step up from the DVD.  There is now far more detail visible in the picture, and the Blu-ray has been mastered with a more natural, warmer tone.  The DVD was always a bit cool to my eyes, pushing colors to a grey/blue shade that created a very washed-out look.   Black levels and shadow detail are improved on the Blu-ray as well.  The film’s signature grainy look has been retained, which really fits the subject matter well.  There are a few shots that appear a little soft or out of focus, but they do not distract from the viewing experience.   I also liked some of the “lens flare” shots that have been included in the Blu-ray release as it makes you feel like the footage was shot on the fly by a combat photographer.   Overall, this is a fantastic demo disc to show off your system.

Note:  There was a minor audio/video synch issue with some of the original discs (starting around chapter 15).  Paramount very quickly shipped out corrected discs, so make sure that you get one of the newer versions.  You can spot the “corrected” version by the yellow UPC box on the back of the packaging.  The original discs had a white UPC box.

Extras

Extras are pretty much the same as on the DVD versions and are almost entirely in standard-definition.  Included are the following featurettes:  “Looking into the Past,” “Miller and his Platoon,” “Boot Camp,” “Making Saving Private Ryan,” “Re-creating Omaha Beach,” “Music and Sound,” “Parting Thoughts,” and “Into the Breach: Saving Private Ryan.”  There is also “Shooting War,” a feature on World War II combat photographers that I really enjoyed.  The only high-def extras are a couple of trailers for the film.


"Daybreakers" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Tyler Stripko

movie-june-2010-daybreakers

Synopsis

In the year 2009, a plague strikes the human race, turning almost everyone into a vampire.  Ten years later the human race is nearly extinct and the vampires are now facing a serious food shortage.   With the vampires’ “blood banks” nearly exhausted and blood deprived creatures wreaking havoc on society, the vampires turn to their scientists for a blood substitute.  Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke), the chief vampire hematologist, has a chance encounter which proves that there may be something out there even better than a blood substitute: a cure.

 

Specifications

  • Lionsgate
  • 2010, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 38 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe, Claudia Karvan, Michael Dorman, and Sam Neill
  • Directed by Michael Spierig and Peter Spierig
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Brief Nudity
  • Language: Moderate

Commentary

This film had a very intriguing premise and did a great job of portraying what the world would be like if vampires ruled the planet.  Little details such as the billboard signs and TV commercials were very clever and helped bring you into the vampire world.  However, the great setup of the first act quickly devolved into mediocrity.  The acting was globally weak with one exception: Sam Neill as blood bank tycoon Charles Bromley.  Special effects were above average, but the directors chose to add a lot of blood and gore to the later parts of the film that just seemed out of place to me.   Vampire film fans should give this movie a rental, as the original angle made for a nice change of pace from traditional vampire films.

Technical

Overall picture quality is pretty good on this disc.  The image is reasonably sharp throughout, with a lot of detail visible and only a small amount of grain.  Contrast is strong and black levels are deep, without smearing shadow detail.  Colors are muted, except for the scenes outside in the “human world,” which are richer and warmer in color tone.  Lionsgate went all out on the audio, including a 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack.  I run a full 7.1 setup in my media room, and definitely noticed the enhanced sense of surround panning offered by the discrete back surround channels.  Dynamics and bass were strong, and surround channel use was very effective.  Spatial effects were well done and dialogue was clear.

Extras

There are a quite a few extras on this disc.   Included is an audio commentary with the directors, a full length (over 2 hours!) HD “making of” feature, a poster art gallery, and the original theatrical trailer.  There is also BonusView enabled storyboarding and the Spierig brothers’ first short film, “The Big Picture.”  A second disc includes a DVD copy of the movie.


"Robin Hood: Men In Tights" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Tyler Stripko

movie-june-2010-robin-hood

Synopsis

In Mel Brooks’ comical take on the classic tale, Robin Hood (Cary Elwes) works to right the wrongs of the oppressive Prince John (Richard Lewis) and his villainous sidekick, Prince Rottingham (Roger Rees).  With the aid of his “Merry Men,” Robin Hood must free the good people of England from excessive taxation, all while trying to capture the heart of the lovely Maid Marian (Amy Yasbeck)

 

Specifications

  • Twentieth Century Fox
  • 1993, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 44 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC @ 28 Mb/s
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Cary Elwes, Richard Lewis, Roger Rees, Amy Yasbeck, Dave Chappelle
  • Directed by Mel Brooks
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

Despite my love for many of Mel Brooks’ films, this is one of his weaker efforts.  I remember finding the film pretty funny when I was younger, but the jokes and story just seem a bit flat to me today.  There are some funny lines and creative scenes (such as Blinkin reading the braille Playboy while in the bathroom), but they are few and far between.   A lot of the slapstick leaves you scratching your head and wondering, “Am I supposed to laugh at this?”  The actors do their best, but this is certainly not “Blazing Saddles” or “Spaceballs.”

Technical

Picture quality on this disc is an improvement over the regular DVD, though certainly not reference quality.  There is more detail to the picture and colors and contrast have been improved.  Film grain is present, but is not excessive.  The source material may be the limiting factor here, as the film is definitely showing its age.  The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack serves the film well.  Dialogue is nice and clear, although surround usage is minimal.  My ears detected a bit of harshness in some of the louder passages, but this may stem from the source.  LFE use is almost non-existant.  There is a dedicated score soundtrack in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, which is a nice bonus.

Extras

Included on this disc is an audio commentary by Mel Brooks, a reflective look at the filmmaking process: “Funny Men in Tights: Three Generations of Comedy” (in HD), and an HBO special promotional piece that came out before the film debuted (in SD).


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

movie-june-2010-tetro

Synopsis

17-year old Bennie (Ehrenreich) travels to Argentina to find his older brother who has disowned his family and been out of touch for nearly ten years.  What he finds is a tortured and melancholy man carrying a tremendous load of guilt and anguish.  As Bennie learns more about his own past and his family, he discovers Tetro (Gallo) is a writer of genius caliber.  He secretly takes the writings which are scribbled backwards on scraps of paper and assembles them into a play.  Tetro discovers this and turns Bennie out of the house.  Bennie completes the play and enters it in a prestigious competition hosted by the larger-than-life literary critic, Alone.  Hoping to save his brother, he instead learns some shocking things about himself.  In the end, he is forced to choose who his real family is.

 

Specifications

  • Lions Gate Films
  • 2009, Black & White and Color, Rated R, 2 Hr 7 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring:  Vincent Gallo, Alden Ehrenreich, Maribel Verdu, Klaus Maria Brandauer, Carmen Maura
  • Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence:  No
  • Sex:  Yes and nudity
  • Language:  Mild

Commentary

I’m going to avoid the word “movie” in this review.  Once you see it, you’ll understand why.  This is one of the most beautifully artistic examples of film I’ve ever seen.  The story is a touching tragedy that shows how selfishness can affect others around you.  The tortured artist character may be a bit cliché but as the plot unfolds, I quickly forgot that fact.  The raw emotion portrayed by the fine actors was a inspiring to witness.  Not a single character was weak either in performance or as a part of the story.  Dialog is by far the driving force here and I found myself hanging on every word.  I read a quote from another review claiming “Coppola’s best since Apocalypse Now.”  I would wholeheartedly agree.  Any collector of fine art films will want to add Tetro to their library.

Technical

The entire film is shot in black & white with the exception of the flashback sequences.  These are shot with a very warm color palette and framed in a center-screen window, evoking a home-video feeling.  The camera is mostly static which makes for a razor-sharp picture.  Detail is superb and combined with fantastic lighting makes for one of the most visually appealing films I’ve ever seen.  Blacks are deep and rich creating a great sense of depth.  Contrast is used perfectly to highlight the important elements of each scene.  Detail is never crushed at either end of the brightness scale.

The sound is truly reference-quality.  In addition to crystal-clear dialog, the ambient sounds of the city are presented in exquisite detail.  It was as if I were sitting in Tetro’s apartment watching the story unfold.  The surrounds and sub are used extensively to envelope the listener in each environment.  I recommend watching this in a very quiet setting.  There are many soft dynamics that will be lost if there is any ambient noise.  If you have such a viewing room, you will find Tetro sounds even better than it looks.

Extras

Bonus features consist of six featurettes covering the music, dance, rehearsal process and other aspects of the film’s production.  There is also audio commentary with Coppola and actor Alden Ehrenreich.


"High Anxiety" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

movie-june-2010-high-anxiety

Synopsis

Famous psychiatrist Dr. Richard H. Thorndyke (Brooks) has just been named head of the prestigious Psycho-Neurotic Institute for the Very, Very Nervous.  Before he even gets to his new office, he learns of some strange goings-on at the institute.  It seems the evil Nurse Diesel (Leachman) and her love slave, Dr. Montague (Korman) are keeping famous industrialist Arthur Brisbane captive at the asylum.  When his daughter Victoria (Kahn) shows up, Thorndyke devotes himself to solving the mystery.  After he is framed for murder, things really turn to chaos.  Through all this, he must overcome his fear of heights which he finally does as he saves Brisbane’s life.  All ends well when he marries Victoria and lives happily ever after.

 

Specifications

  • 20th Century Fox
  • 1977, Color, Rated PG, 1 Hr 34 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec:  AVC @ 27 Mb/s
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring:  Mel Brooks, Madeline Kahn, Cloris Leachman, and Harvey Korman
  • Directed by Mel Brooks
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

This is classic slapstick 70s comedy.  Everything is overdone and the gags are never-ending.  High Anxiety spoofs many of the most well-known films from Alfred Hitchcock.  I certainly enjoyed the masterful satire of the legendary shower scene from Psycho.  The entire ending sequence is lifted right out of Vertigo; even down to the Spanish-style bell tower.  You’ll also recognize a famous scene from The Birds.  This time it’s pigeons instead of black crows and rather than attacking Mel Brooks they simply poop on him mercilessly.  Fans of this genre will certainly enjoy this movie as we see these comedy greats of the last century at the prime of their careers.  One fascinating bit of trivia I learned:  the actor who played Arthur Brisbane, Albert Whitlock, was Alfred Hitchcock’s principal matte artist for most of his movies.

Technical

The image was above average for a catalog title in that it was quite sharp and clean.  Some effort was obviously put into making a decent transfer.  I did have two complaints; edge enhancement and overblown flesh tones.  The added sharpening was, as usual, totally unnecessary.  It was obvious that a very clean print was used.  The color was oversaturated in faces to the point where it flattened them.  Detail was there but people looked a bit orange most of the time.  The picture was quite bright and vivid throughout.

Audio was very clean but restricted to the front channels only.  I heard nothing from the surrounds and there was nothing for my sub to do either.  Occasionally higher frequencies, like those from female voices, sounded compressed.  I would attribute this to the original sound mix, not this particular transfer.  I suspect High Anxiety has never sounded better.

Extras

Bonus features consist of a making of documentary, an interactive test called “Am I very, Very Nervous?” a Hitchcock trivia track, and an audio-only presentation of the film’s score.  There are also trailers for other Mel Brooks movies.


"Dirty Dancing" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

movie-june-2010-dirty-dancing

Synopsis

Baby (Jennifer Grey) is a naive, but ambitious 17 year old when her family goes for a summer retreat in the Catskill Mountains.  While there, Baby falls for Johnny (Patrick Swayze), the dance instructor at the resort who is very different that the type of person she usually associates with.  When circumstances force Baby to have to fill in for Johnny's usual dance partner, they must spend time together and start to change how they feel for each other.

 

Specifications

  • Lionsgate Films
  • 1987, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 41 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
  • English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring:  Patrick Swayze, Jennifer Grey
  • Directed by Emile Ardolino
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

Dirty Dancing has certainly become a popular classic from the 1980's, like The Breakfast Club or Ferris Bueler's Day Off.  Anyone that's reading this has seen it before, and can probably quote the movie even if they didn't enjoy it.  I'll admit that I was very young when I first saw the film and didn't fully understand it, so watching it again now, many things made more sense than they used to.

Technical

Dirty Dancing wasn't a high budget picture when it was made, and it shows now.  The transfer is fairly soft, lacking in shadow detail, and not nearly what Blu-ray can offer, but I have a feeling that lots of that is due to the source.  It's probably the best it has ever looked at home, but it's not what you will grab to show off your new TV or projector.  The sound is fairly anchored to the front, with light use of surrounds.  Vocals are well balanced so it's easy to understand at all times.

Extras

This comes fully loaded for everyone that loves the movie.  It includes a keepsake book, cast interviews, trailers, music videos, multiple featurettes, deleted scenes, alternative takes and endings, photo galleries, a tribute to Patrick Swayze, and more.  This is the kind of through collectors edition that I would want for my favorite films.


"Elektra (Directors Cut)" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

movie-june-2010-elektra

Synopsis

Picking up with the Elektra character after the film Daredevil, with Elektra (Jennifer Garner) working as an assassin for hire.  Tasked with assassinating a man and his teenage daughter, she instead decides to spare them, which leads to her having to battle The Hand, a mysterious syndicate of ninjas.

 

Specifications

  • 20th Century Fox
  • 2005, Color, Unrated, 1 Hr 39 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Jennifer Garner, Goran Visnjic
  • Directed by Rob Bowman
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

I put on Elektra hoping to be able to turn off my brain and enjoy a comic book film for a while.  Unfortunately, I was never able to really get into the flim that much as I found parts to be a bit ridiculous, even for a comic book film, and the action sequences to be lacking.

Technical

The film is shot in a very distinct style, with pushed blacks for the interior scenes that replace all shadow detail with black.  It seems to be what the director intended, so be aware that there will be less shadow detail than you'd expect.  There is a fine bit of grain but not a distracting amount, just enough to indicate that it's from film.  The soundtrack is a real killer, with all channels used very aggressively.  However, it seems to be designed to be played at reference level, and only that, as the vocals are so quiet if you have the volume down at all that you can barely understand them.  If I turned up the volume enough to hear the characters talk, then the fight sound effects would wake up everyone else at home.  My receiver might have features to help with this, but I prefer that the dialogue is a little louder.

Extras

Directors Commentary, Deleted, Alternate, and Extended Scenes, Making Of Documentary, and multiple featurettes.


"History of the World-Part 1" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movie-june-2010-history-of-the-world-part-1

Synopsis

Mel Brooks shares his version of human history from the dawn of mankind through the zenith of Louis the XVI's French Empire. Of course, along the way, political correctness is jettisoned and no person, ethnic or religious group escapes his parody and  zany wit.

 

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 1981, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 32 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: MPEG 4
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Mel Brooks, Dom DeLuise, Madeline Kahn, Gregory Hines, Harvey Korman
  • Directed by Mel Brooks
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Comic Slapstick
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

I never found this film to be an example of Mel's best work as his wacky humor in this movie seems a bit dated. Yes, a few sight gags work here and there, but the overall flow seems stilted, as though the whole movie was made of  pieced together vignettes. The opening cavemen  scenes are more silly than funny. But I actually laughed out loud at Moses and the 15...oops...10 commandments. Scenes with "ghetto blasters" and "weed" fell flat. However, a lot can be said about a film that incorporated a Spanish Inquisition musical (the highlight of the movie)! That reminded me of "Springtime for Hitler" from The Producers. Lots of sexual innuendo throughout the movie will certainly keep this off the program for "family" movie night.

Technical

The overall picture quality is good for a film this age. Minor scratches and spot appear throughout the film, but the colors are spot on and generally very sharp. The 1080p picture reveals details of the low level quality props and set pieces in the film, but that's part of the charm of this movie. I did not notice any edge enhancements or color smearing. Sound was clear with well centered dialog, but the surrounds are not called upon often. My sub fell fast asleep 10 minutes into the movie.

Extras

Theatrical trailers, Making Of Documentary, and trivia track are included.


"Wolverine and the X-Men: Revelation" (DVD) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

movie-june-2010-wolverine-x-men

Synopsis

Wolverine and the X-Men is an animated TV series based on the comic book series by Marvel.  Originally aired on Nicktoons and Nickelodeon, Revelations is Volume 5 in a collection of the first (and only) season of episodes.  Featuring five episodes from late in the season (ending just before the three-part season finale), the episodes deal with common themes that run through the X-Men comics, including finding a "cure" for being a mutant, as well as protecting the world from Magneto.

Specifications

  • Lionsgate
  • 2008, Color, Not Rated, 110 Minutes
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • 480i
  • Codec: MPEG-2
  • English 5.1 Dolby Digital
  • Starring: Jennifer Hale, Liam O'Brien, Tom Kane (voices)
  • Directed by Craig Kyle, Greg Johnson (creators)
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Cartoon Violence
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

I loved reading the X-Men comics growing up, and loved getting to see the movies when they were released as well.  I'm also certain that I would have loved to have the TV show as a kid.  Watching these reminded me of watching Transformers and GI Joe (also recently movies) as a kid, and I'm sure children of that age will enjoy these as well.

Technical

Though the production values for animated TV series for kids are always low (they're not Disney, by any means), X-Men looks like I expect an animated series to look, which is fine for their target audience.  The image was presented as 16x9 (I'm not sure if this is cropped from TV or it was shown this way on TV) and had a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack which was nice, though this isn't demo material of course.  It is a faithful transfer to the original source material, though.

Extras

The disc features audio commentary and trailers.


"Heroes: Season 3" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Stephen Hornbrook

movie-may-2010-heroes-3

Synopsis

Season three has two parts, starting with "Villains" and ending with "Fugitives."  "Villains" begins with an attempt at Nathan Petrelli's life by none other than his brother Peter. Peter had witnessed the downfall of society (which happens in every season of Heroes) and thought he could change the course of history by traveling back in time and killing his brother. Sylar breaks into the Company and releases a bunch of criminals armed with special powers.  Noah is later forced to team up with a brainwashed Sylar to hunt down said escapees.  Meanwhile, Hiro and Ando are chasing down a superfast girl, Daphne, who has stolen a secret from Hiro's father's company. Daphne ends up meeting Parkman and they become romantically envolved.  Hiro loses much of his memory and tries to reclaim it in part two, "Fugitives."  In "Fugitives", the heroes attempt to live normal lives after the destruction of Primatech and Pinehurst.

Specifications

  • Universal
  • 2008, Color, un-rated, 1073 Minutes
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: not specified
  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Starring: Hayden Panettieri, Milo Ventimiglia, Adrian Pasdar, Zachary Quinto, Ali Larter
  • Created by Tim Kring
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: some
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

Season one started out so strong. Heroes quickly became one of my favorite shows on TV.  Unfortunately, as quick as it came, it sunk. Season two got worse with every episode, but it was still mildly entertaining. By the time they got to season three, pretty much all was lost.  The show tries too many things and loses focus about 4 times in each episode. They mess with characters like Sylar to the point where you don't have a clue who they are anymore.  Everything in these season just feels so contrived. There are plot holes so large, entire characters have fallen in.. never to be seen again.  If you have the time to spend watching all 25 episodes of Heroes Season 3, then I guess you could do that, but I highly suggest you waste your time in a more enjoyable fashion. If you happen to love Heroes and all its ups and downs, then this is certainly a quality set to own.

Technical

Picture quality is decent, I felt it was on par with the NBC broadcast, but without any compression artifacts.  Audio was cleaner and more dynamic than the TV broadcast, certainly better than the average tv show sound mix.

Extras

There are tons of extras in this set. If you are a fan of Heroes, and in particular, this season, then you will be more that pleased with all the goodies they have included.

The disc features audio commentary and trailers.


"Battlestar Gallactica- Season 2.0" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movie-june-2010-battlestar-galactica

Synopsis

Season 2 starts off with Starbuck (Sackhoff) finding the fabled "golden arrow" while on a secret mission ordered by the president (McDonnell). This artifact will guide the remainder of the human race to the planet Earth. The Cylons have infiltrated the fleet with clones and an assassination attempt is made on Admiral Adama's (Olmos) life. VP Baltar (Callis) continues to become more unstable. And worst of all, the Cylons are getting ready for another attack after unleashing a software virus on the Galactica's defensive computer systems that leaves the fleet completely defenseless. Will the Cylons annihilate humankind this time?

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 2010, Color, un-rated, 963 Minutes
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: MPEG4
  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 - 5 Disc Set
  • Starring: Mary McDonnell, James Callis, Katee Sackhoff, Edward James Olmos, Michael Hogan
  • Executive producers: Ron Moore and David Eick
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: some
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

This is by far the best series to come off of the SyFy channel. The picture quality is stylized with occasional contrast blowout and added film grain, but the picture in general is lush and sharp. Organic might be a good descriptor. Colors really "pop", especially the verdant green vegetation on Caprica and the red dress of the Cylon "vision" that plagues Baltar. Wonderful details abound. The 5 disc set offers several story lines that are adeptly juggled from episode to episode. This is not your daddy's Battlestar Galactica from the 70's. The acting is top notch and you really develop a liking (or disdain) for the characters. Having only seen bits and pieces of this series on TV and I was surprised how quickly I got sucked into the story and watched episode after episode only to have it end abruptly with...well, the next seasons set up. A real cliff hanger!

Technical

Picture quality is better than I remember on when it was originally aired on SyFy. The producer opens the series with a quick intro and overview of the whole digital production. I did not observe that the "processing" was distracting in the least and found the CGI work to be very realistic and well blended with the live action. As good as the picture was, the sound was even better, with an enveloping sound field that surpasses many current movie releases in theaters today. Very powerful and deep drums punctuate the sound track and the surrounds are in almost continues action. Thank you Bear McCreary for your awesome score! Your subwoofer will thank you for this purchase.

Extras

There are plenty of extras in this series: audio commentaries, deleted scenes, Davide Eick's video blog, "sizzle reel", and a Battlestar Galactica Career Assignment Quiz.


"Dune (Blu-ray)" - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movie-june-2010-dune

Synopsis

In the year 10,191,  the universe is dominated by the presence of the spice Melange which extends life, expands consciousness, and can fold space. It exists in only one place: the desert planet of Arrakis, also known as Dune. He who controls the spice, controls the universe. Will the House of Atreides or the House of Harkonnen gain control? And what about the messianic prophecy of a powerful leader who will arise from the local populace?

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 2010, Color, PG 13, 137 Minutes
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: VC-1
  • English DTS HD-Master Audio
  • Starring: Kyle MacLachlan, Jose Ferrer, Max von Sydow, Sting
  • Directed by David Lynch
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

Dune is a "love-it-or-hate-it" affair. I am of the latter camp. An ambitious, epic, utterly astonishing--and, let's just call it strange--adaptation of Frank Herbert's classic science fiction novel from 1965. Dune remains one of the most controversial films in the director's career. Lynch later distanced himself from the film as the critics generally hated it. The story is complex and convoluted. It has something to do with political intrigue and a planet that is home to a precious spice called Melange and gigantic sand worms that produce it. Sort of like if Shakespeare wrote Tremors and set in another universe. But despite plenty of whispered voice-overs (listening in on the thoughts of a charater while they explain what is going on), you will still struggle with the muddled plotline and quickly get lost. For me, the movie tried to fit too much story into one movie. Think of the novel as being The Lord of the Rings trilogy and putting into a 1.5 hour movie. It can be done…just not very well. Even after reading the book, this movie was hard to follow. There are, however, a lot of memorably extraordinary/bizarre images, a solid cast, and a soundtrack featuring Toto and Brian Eno.

Technical

Picture quality is better than the DVD counterpart, but far from perfect. Long shots are fuzzy and display dirt specks and scratches. Close shots are vivid in general, with pretty good detail and saturated colors. The pustules on the Barons face look delightfully gross. Shadows are fairly black, but not inky black. There are continuity issues, such as the mélange tinted eyes; one moment a character has them tinted blue and a few moments later the eyes are un-colored. Dialog is clear and well centered, though I heard audible distortion during the battle sequences in my surrounds.

Extras

Extended footage, deleted scenes, and featurettes.