Media

Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - May, 2010

ARTICLE INDEX

"The African Queen" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by John Johnson

The African Queen

Synopsis

The time setting is WW-I, and the place is Africa. Rose Sayer (Hepburn) and her brother Rev. Samuel Sayer (Morley) are missionaries in a village. When German soldiers burn the village to the ground, Samuel has a heart attack and dies. A local riverboat captain, Charlie Allnut (Bogart), helps her bury her brother, and then, together, they head down river, with the intention of sinking a German warship, the Louisa (it's not really much of a warship, but just the same, they want to send it to hell). The plan is to turn Charlie's boat, The African Queen, into a warship itself, by making two torpedoes out of oxygen tanks filled with explosives, and ram the Louisa when they reach the lake.

As personalities, the two could not be any more different. Rose does not care for Charlie's drinking, and Charlie does not care for her prim manners.

But of course, as any physicist knows, opposites attract, and on their way to blow up the warship, they fall in love.

 

Specifications

  • Paramount
  • 1951, Color, Not Rated, 1 Hr 45 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec:  Not Specified
  • English 2.0 DD
  • Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Katherine Hepburn, Robert Morley, Peter Bull
  • Directed by John Huston
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

This movie is one of Hollywood's best. Bogie won Best Actor, and it was nominate for four other Academy Awards, including Hepburn for Best Actress, and Huston for Best Director.

Technical

Those were the days when Technicolor was used to shoot color movies. The process involved a camera with three rolls of black & white film that were exposed simultaneously, and the light from the lens passed through color filters onto each of the three film rolls. Producing the final color release involved passing different colored light through the three camera negatives onto a single roll of color film. It was a way of having complete control over the color balance in the final release print. As a result, now more than half a century later, the restoration is made much easier by taking those three camera negatives and rebalancing the color of the final print, taking into account any fading of the black & white negatives.

Besides taking great care in the color restoration, technicians removed all the pops and hiss from the old sound track. For most of us, we will watch this wonderful classic in the highest quality we have ever seen it (it has been shown on TV many, many times, but never in high definition, and not with all the restoration that was done for this version).

Extras

The only extra is The Making of.


"The Young Victoria" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by John Johnson

The Young Victoria

Synopsis

In 1819, a baby was born in a London castle, and was destined to become the longest reigning British monarch in history. Her name was Victoria.

The film chronicles her early years, trying to get out from under the control of her Aunt, who had authority over her because of her age, even though she was higher ranking royalty.

After her coronation in 1838, she met Prince Albert, with whom she fell in love. They married and had nine children, which is amazing in light of the fact that Albert died from typhoid fever at the age of 42. She continued to reign as Queen until her death at the age of 81. Their descendents are part of the Royal Families of England, Spain, Sweden, Norway, Yugoslavia, Russia, Greece, Romania, and Germany.

 

Specifications

  • Sony Pictures
  • 2009, Color, Rated PG, 1 Hr 45 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Emily Blunt, Rupert Friend, Miranda Richardson, Jim Broadbent
  • Directed by Jean-Marc Vallee
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

Unlike The Tudors, which is a Showtime high def series on broadcast TV, and which has lust and violence as the core behaviors, the story of Queen Victoria is rather dull. The musical score is lush, and the interiors are beautiful, but her life story is just not very interesting, except for its historical value.

Technical

The image is superb, and the DTS-HD Master Audio brings the full orchestra right into your living room (or wherever you watch your movies).

Extras

These include The Making of, Deleted Scenes, The Real Queen Victoria, The Coronation, The Wedding, and A Look at the Costumes and Locations.


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

movie-may-2010-traffic

Synopsis

Traffic is a look at the world of illegal drugs from several perspectives.  There are three storylines that at first seem unrelated.  First, we see two Mexican policemen who with their minimal resources and battling massive corruption, attempt to enforce the law against two different drug cartels.  Second, a pair of DEA agents works undercover to arrest a small-time drug distributor in hopes he can lead them to the ringleaders.  Finally, an ambitious judge is appointed the US’s new drug czar while trying to save his own teen-aged daughter from serious addiction.  It’s an intense portrayal of the horrible effects narcotics can have, not only on the users but everyone involved.

 

 

Specifications

  • Universal Pictures
  • 2000, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr 28 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring:  Don Cheadle, Benicio Del Toro, Michael Douglas, Luis Guzman, Dennis Quaid, Catherine Zeta-Jones
  • Directed by Steven Soderbergh
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

This film is one of the most intense I’ve ever seen.  It’s shot in a cinema verite style that is completely appropriate to the subject matter.  The reality of the drug trade couldn’t be any grittier than it is in Traffic.  The A-list cast does a superb job in every respect.  Benicio Del Toro won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance as Mexican Policeman Javier Rodriguez.  Michael Douglas as the drug czar with an addicted daughter leaves us in no doubt of his pain and anguish.  Don Cheadle plays the hard-working and frustrated San Diego detective trying to make a difference.  Catherine Zeta-Jones as a drug distributor’s wife plays the ignorant spouse to a T.  Her character creates a plot twist I didn’t see coming at all.  Despite the subject matter, violence is shown sparingly without any over-the-top gore or action.  The message comes across clearly but won’t turn your stomach.  The great acting and unique filming style combine for a high level of production quality.  I’ve rarely seen such an effective use of interpretive color or film grain.  All-in-all, I would highly recommend this movie.

Technical

The image quality is very good and I believe faithful to the original film.  Soderbergh uses a variety of different color palettes and some very interesting film grain effects to create different environments.  Mexico is a strong, almost mono-chromatic yellow with heavy grain and added edge enhancement.  You can feel the hot and dusty climate from your seat.  Ohio and Washington DC are shot through a strong blue filter.  Again the effect is mono-chromatic.  Most of the scenes in San Diego are shot with natural color and minimal grain.  It’s all very effective at letting you know which story you’re watching at any given time.  Scenes with natural color showed a bit of red in the flesh tones but excellent sharpness and detail.  Filtered material was very flat; by design I think.  The Mexico story showed so much film grain the image was, at most times, softer than standard def.  Again, I believe this is by design.  Contrast is good with deep blacks and very bright whites.  Detail is sometimes crushed at both end of the scale.

Audio was superb and realistic.  Voices and sound effects were mixed very well with clear detail and a wide soundstage.  Though this is a dialog-driven film, ancillary sounds like the rustle of paper or the click of telephone buttons were exceptionally clean and crisp.  Music is used very sparingly and only during scene transitions, never during dialog.  The score by composer Cliff Martinez creates just the right mood with its bass and electronic effects.  Again, this element is completely appropriate for the subject matter.

Extras

Bonus features are limited to an 18-minute short entitled Inside Traffic and 24 deleted scenes.


"It's Complicated" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

movie-may-2010-complicated

Synopsis

The story begins ten years after the divorce of Jane (Streep) and Jake (Baldwin) Adler.  Their relationship is amicable even though Jake has married the younger woman he was cheating with.  They meet up in New York City to attend their son’s graduation and the fireworks begin.  After too much to drink, Jane and Jake fall into bed and begin an affair.  Jake is obviously unhappy with his new wife and anxious to rekindle their love.  Jane is more resistant but she finds herself happier than ever.  To complicate matters, her architect Adam (Martin) is attracted to her and she begins to fall for him.  Things start to unravel when they try to keep the affair secret from their three college-aged children.  Eventually though, things come to a head and the Adlers must decide if they want to reconcile or go their separate ways.

 

Specifications

  • Universal Pictures
  • 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:  Meryl Streep, Steve Martin, Alec Baldwin, John Krasinski
  • Directed by Nancy Meyers
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: Implied
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

I’m normally not a fan of romantic comedies but this one surprised me.  I attribute this to the fact that the characters are not silly twenty-somethings who spend two hours trying to out-dumb each other.  The Adlers and Adam the architect are just experienced people just trying to sort out their feelings and not hurt one another.  I really enjoyed the performances of the principle actors, especially John Krasinski as the future son-in-law.  I loved his talent for physical comedy and he had me laughing almost every time he was on the screen.  Meryl Streep and Steve Martin are superb actors and their skills were put to good use with an excellent, Neil Simon-like screenplay.  My favorite scene happens when Jane and Adam share a marijuana joint.  Their portrayal of two stoned fifty-somethings is simply hilarious.  Alec Baldwin was good too though not quite as strong as the others.  This relationship scenario seemed perfectly plausible to me.  Jane and Jake aren’t quite sure their relationship is finished and they can’t resist trying to see if the fire is still there.  Adam is more recently burned by divorce but doesn’t want to be alone.  He approaches dating cautiously.  This is one of the better romantic comedies I’ve seen recently; recommended.

Technical

Image quality was a strange mix of sharp, contrasty material with very pasty skin tones and poor facial detail.  Outdoor scenes looked superb with bright lighting, brilliant colors and a three-dimensional look.  The actors’ faces however looked very flat and smeared.  I got the distinct impression that an effort was made to hide their age.  There was almost no detail; lighting was flat and lifeless; and even the makeup seemed very heavy.  Flesh tones were also a bit ruddy though it could have been due to the makeup rather than an inaccurate transfer.  The effect of this was a dim representation of the characters on a brilliant and sharply detailed background.

Audio was very good and mixed appropriately for the subject matter.  Dialog was well-forward in the soundstage and clear at all times.  There wasn’t much for the sub or surrounds to do but there was no need for them.  Music was fun and light.  The score was kind of a fusion between Latin and elevator music.  I thought it a perfect backdrop for this film.  Composers Hans Zimmer and Heitor Pereira are to be commended.

Extras

Bonus features are limited to a making of documentary and an audio commentary track.  If you have a BD-Live connection, as I did, a couple of extra trailers will play before the movie.


"The Lovely Bones" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

movie-may-2010-lovely-bones

Synopsis

Based on the very popular novel, The Lovely Bones tells the story of Susie Salmon, who is murdered coming home from school one day by a neighbor.  After her death, Susie is in an area between Heaven and Earth, helping to look over her family and lead them towards finding her killer, and also unsure of how to let go and let them move on with their lives, and move on herself.

 

Specifications

  • Paramount Pictures
  • 2009, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 15 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring:  Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Stanley Tucci
  • Directed by Peter Jackson
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Implied
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

Coming from a book that many people, including my wife, loved, and directed by Peter Jackson, I had really high hopes for The Lovely Bones, but unfortunately the film left me cold.  It moves slowly, and leaves out lots of details from the novel that led to some confusion in my mind as to what was going on at times.  Unfortunately, it's not a movie that I would really recommend, much less to people that have young children (myself included), which make it fairly painful to watch.

Technical

However, The Lovely Bones does have an absolutely stunning image.  Probably the most detailed non-CG film that I have seen on Blu-ray, there is so much detail and texture in the shots that it gave me something to focus on the whole time.  At certain points in the film there were some extreme close-up images, and those looked absolutely fantastic as you could see the detail on paper or fingers really come through.  The sequences in heaven with CG also looked fantastic, with colors that would pop from the screen, and no issues that I could see.  A truly reference quality image.

The soundtrack, while not as instantly impressive as the image, also does a fantastic job.  All channels are used to drag you into a situation, be it a busy shopping mall or the quiet nighttime streets of a neighborhood.  A few times I thought they could have been even more aggressive with the surrounds, but it did a fantastic job of heightening the suspense of the film.

Extras

The only extra is a good one: A 3 hour, multi-part documentary on the making of the film, going week by week.  I've not been able to finish it yet, and it comes on a separate disc, but so far it's much more interesting to me than the film was on it's own and worth watching if you are interested at all in the production of a film.If you have a BD-Live connection, as I did, a couple of extra trailers will play before the movie.


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

Goldfinger

Synopsis

The villainous Goldfinger plots to destroy the U.S. gold reserve at Fort Knox  with a nuclear device, thus leaving himself with the largest untainted gold supply in the world (and world domination, of course). Can the British super spy 007 stop him in time? This movie was very relevent when it came out at the height of the cold war and the combination of beautiful women, diabolical henchmen and wonderful gadgetry make this perhaps the best Bond film of them all.

 

Specifications

  • MGM
  • 2009, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 50 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring:  Sean Connery, Gert Frobe, Honor Blackman
  • Directed by Guy Hamilton
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Stirred, but not shaken...
  • Language: No

Commentary

Generally considered the best Bond ever made, this Blu-ray version makes it even better. Carefully remastered from the original negatives, Goldfinger is an absolute delight to behold. It has the nostalgic look of '60s film stock, but that just makes it all the more fun. Colors and flesh tones are bold and natural. The monophonic original soundtrack doesn't translate perfectly to DTS-HD, but it's still good. If you prefer, there is a Mono option. If there were a single Bond film to own, Goldfinger on Blu-ray would be it. Filled with villains and gadgets, Bond battles Oddjob and his deadly bowler hat, stops the nuclear destruction of Fort Knox, drives a tricked-out Aston Martin and lands the gorgeous…uh, Ms. Galore! Oh, and did I mention "death by laser"?

For me, Connery will always be the best Bond ever. Suave, sophisticated and witty, but never campy.

Technical

Goldfinger is the prototypical '60s James Bond movie -- good looking, but a bit dated and filled with now-antiquated optical effects. I find this remastered 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode (1.66:1) to be very impressive. It is vastly superior to the 2002 remastered DVD. Sharp details jump out at you. Surrounds are used sparingly. Can this movie really be over 40 years old?

Extras

Plenty of extras including commentaries, "Making Of" feature, photo galleries and  featurettes on the "Goldfinger Phenomenon" and "On Tour with the Aston Martin", and some interviews.


"Leap Year" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movie-may-2010-leap-year

Synopsis

When Anna’s (Amy Adams) four-year anniversary to her boyfriend passes without an engagement ring, she decides to take matters into her own hands. Inspired by an Irish tradition that allows women to propose to men on Leap Day, Anna follows Jeremy (Adam Scott) to Dublin to propose to him. But after landing on the wrong side of Ireland, she must enlist the help of the handsome and carefree local Declan (Matthew Goode) to get her across the country. Along the way, they discover that the road to love can take you to very unexpected places.

 

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 2010, Color, Rated PG, 1 Hr 41 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring:  Amy Adams, Matthew Goode, Adam Scott, John Lithgow
  • Directed by Anand Tucker
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

A better than average romantic comedy that will work well for an evening with the wife or girlfriend. The story was well paced and engaging enough to keep the average male viewer from being bored to tears. Adams and Goode both played their parts well and demonstrate great chemistry together. Both characters were very likable and and even though you saw the ending coming from a mile away, you finished the movie with an upbeat feeling. Goode, who was a revelation in A Single Man, is a leading man to watch, not just because of his good looks, but because as an actor he's able to communicate subtly with looks and gestures that make his interactions with Adams touching and believable. Picture and sound are very good. The only fault for me was Lithgow. His part was so small (literally about 5 minutes total), you wondered if he was put into the movie just to add "star name" appeal.

Technical

As mentioned, the picture quality is very good with solid colors and natural fleshtones. The Irish countryside is a stunning  verdant green and after viewing this movie you may actually desire to follow-up with a visit of your own. Only a scene of the sunset from a hilltop looked a bit CGI. Sound was good with clear dialog, but don't expect your subwoofer to jump into action for the first 20 minutes or so into the movie. Hey, it's a romantic comedy, not Rambo IX.

Not a fault of the film itself, but I am finding Universal Studio movies to be painfully slow to load up on my player...more so than any other BDs from other studios. Anyone else noticed this, or is it just me?

Extras

Extras includes some deleted scenes.


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

movie-may-2010-collateral

Synopsis

Long time cab driver, Max (Foxx), begins his night shift driving a lovely lady (Smith) to her office. After dropping her off, a hitman named Vincent (Cruise) hires Max for the night.  Max thinks nothing of it, just a normal cab fare, until a body comes crashing down onto his cab.  It doesn't take him long to put the pieces together and realize that this Vincent guy killed him.  Vincent forces Max to drive him around L.A. to finish the rest of his job- to kill off key witnesses in a federal indictment of a drug cartel. A drug cartel ran by a man named Felix (Bardem).  Max is not completely on his own, as Detective Fanning (Ruffalo) smells something fishy about the murders and eventually puts everything together to realize Max is just a pawn to the real hitman.

 

Specifications

  • Paramount
  • 2004, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring:  Tom Cruise, Jamie Foxx, Mark Ruffalo, Jada Pinkett Smith, Javier Bardem
  • Directed by Michael Mann
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

I absolutely love Collateral. I would say it is one of my favorite movies. As good as Mann's epic Heat? No, not quite, but those are big shoes to fill. The story is good and the performances are terrific. I think this is some of Tom Cruise's best work.  I have been looking forward to the Blu-ray release of Collateral and I have to say, Paramount has not let me down. The quality is top notch. If you too are a fan, waste no time and pick up this disc. If you have never seen the film? By all means, go rent it and watch it now!

Technical

Collateral is a wonderful looking and sounding disc.  Many have complained about the "look" of Mann's film, all due to the fact that he used HD digital cams.  Personally I like the way it looks and this Blu-ray HD transfer is fantastic.  The DTS-HD track won't let you down either. There is so much feel to Vincent's gun shots.  Great dialog levels and James Newton Howard's score really shines during the final scene.

Extras

This disc contains the theatrical trailer, a making of documentary, commentary with director Michael Mann, 4 Featurettes and a short Deleted scene. Decent stuff, but all previously available on the DVD and nothing has been converted to HD.


"The Blind Side" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Tyler Stripko

movie-may-2010-the-blind-side

Synopsis

Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron) is a young man with little going for him.  He has no family, no home, and no prospects for the future.  The only thing he does have is his size and raw athletic ability.   After being enrolled in a Christian prep school, Michael meets the Tuohys, a wealthy family who decide to take him in as it is their “Christian duty.”  Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock) encourages Mike to start playing football and with some creative psychology Mike becomes an incredible player.  With the chance of playing Division 1 college ball looming, the Tuohys help Mike earn the grades he needs to get a full scholarship.

 

Specifications

  • Warner Home Video
  • 2009, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 8 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring:  Sandra Bullock, Quinton Aaron, Tim McGraw, Kathy Bates
  • Directed by John Lee Hancock
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

This film is based on the true story of Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy, who kindly opened up their home to the abandoned Michael.  The story itself is incredibly powerful and really is more than a simple “rags to riches” plotline.  The impact of Michael on the whole Tuohy family is elegantly displayed and shows that acts of kindness often have unintended benefits.  The acting is fantastic all around, with Sandra Bullock shining in the role of Leigh Anne Tuohy.  She won the 2009 Academy Award for best actress for this effort, and it was well deserved.  This is a very emotional and compelling story, and I highly urge even those who don’t care about sports to watch this film.  Fans of the book may feel that the movie glossed over the more detailed description of the actual “football mechanics,” but I would imagine that they will enjoy the movie nonetheless.

Technical

The Blind Side offers up a very good overall picture.  The image is sharp, with nice color saturation and very good contrast.  All-in-all, the transfer looks very natural.  The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is fitting for the movie.  The dialogue is clean and clear, with no need to adjust volume levels to hear individual characters or lines.  Surround and LFE use is kept to a minimum, though some of the football scenes use these channels to good effect.

Extras

The version of the disc I had contained no extras at all.  The retail release Blu-ray is well packed with bonus content though.  Included in the retail version are deleted scenes, an interview with Michael Oher, a feature on the real-life college coaches who acted in the film, a feature on Quinton Aaron, and a featurette with Sandra Bullock, Leigh Anne Tuohy, John Lee Hancock, and Michael Lewis.  All of these features are in HD.  A second disc contains a DVD and digital copy version of the film.


"The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

movie-may-2010-lord-rings-trilogy

Synopsis

In the fantasy world of Middle Earth, the wizard Sauron creates the Rings of Power and gives them to the dominant races, Trolls, Elves and Men.  In secret, he forges the One Ring to rule them all.  Just as he is poised to destroy the great armies that have risen against him, Isildur defeats Sauron in a stroke of luck and claims the One Ring for himself.  His own lust for power soon gets the better of him and he loses the Ring and his life.  After spending 500 years in the possession of the creature Gollum, the Ring comes to Bilbo Baggins, an adventuresome Hobbit.  Bilbo bequeaths the Ring to his nephew Frodo and the wizard Gandalf soon discovers just what the Ring is.  It is decided that Frodo must carry the Ring to Mount Doom and destroy it in order to save Middle Earth from its fearsome power.

Frodo and his band of Hobbits form the Fellowship of the Ring along with the Elf Legolas, Gimli the Dwarf, and Boromir and Aragorn from the race of Men.  Together they set out on a monumental quest to keep the Ring from Sauron, who is gathering vast armies in an effort to destroy Middle Earth and regain corporeal form.  Along the way the encounter great challenges, not the least of which is the power and temptation of the Ring itself.

 

Specifications

  • New Line Cinema
  • 2001, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 58 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring:  Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen
  • Directed by Peter Jackson
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic trilogy, The Lord of Rings, paved the way for modern fantasy storytelling.  Peter Jackson’s adaptation of these three books is the finest film version of this timeless story yet created.  Whether you’ve read the books or not, you are immediately pulled into the fascinating plot and its endearing characters.  I saw these films several times in the theater when they were first released and also in their DVD versions.  There was no question these Blu-rays would become part of my library and I’m glad to have added them.  Production quality is without peer.  I enjoyed all the actors immensely and every other aspect of the film was first-rate.  The movie is quite long; just a whisker under three hours, so you’ll want to budget some time.  It never drags though and you’ll wonder where the time went by the end.

Technical

I was disappointed in the video quality of this first chapter of the trilogy.  Color was excellent with a natural saturation and a consistent palette.  What bothered me was the picture’s softness.  Scenes sometimes look smeared; lacking the sharp detail of the best Blu-ray releases.  I understand that computer-generated images of the era aren’t the ultra-realistic examples we see today but the lack of detail extended to the filmed footage too.  I never saw a three-dimensional quality in the actors faces.  The detail was simply not there.  Outdoor scenes looked suitably lush and the loss of sharpness was not as noticeable.  Contrast was very good with deep blacks, good shadow detail and bright glowing highlights when appropriate.  All of my comments are relative to other Blu-ray transfers.  This disc is still far better that the previous DVD version.

The DTS-MA encode is the best reason to buy this movie.  I quickly forgot the shortcomings of the visuals when I heard this reference-quality soundtrack.  The surrounds and LFE channels are used quite liberally and you feel the action at all times.  Effects like the pounding of horse hooves or the falling stones in the Mines of Moria sequence are the stuff of home theater demos.  There were many times during this film I had to resist the urge to get up and hug my SVS sub.  Dialog is crisp and clear at all times.  There isn’t even the slightest hint of chestiness.  The soundstage is always wide and deep.  This transfer will make the most of any home theater system and if you can play it loud; all the better!

Extras

Bonus features include a collection of documentaries that were originally presented on television.  Unfortunately they are all in standard-def, included on separate DVDs.  The best featurette is a collection of 15 vignettes from LordOfTheRings.net.  This is the one to watch if you want good behind-the-scenes coverage.  There is also a set of trailers and previews of the other films in the trilogy.  Also included is a digital copy for your computer or mobile device.All of these features are in HD.  A second disc contains a DVD and digital copy version of the film.


"Children of Men" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movie-may-2010-children-of-men

Synopsis

No children. No future. No hope. In the year 2027, eighteen years since the last baby was born, disillusioned Theo (Clive Owen) becomes an unlikely champion of the human race when he is asked by his former lover (Julianne Moore) to escort a young pregnant woman out of the country as quickly as possible. In a thrilling race against time, Theo will risk everything to deliver the miracle the whole world has been waiting for. Co-starring Michael Caine, filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men is the powerful film and disturbing vision of the future.

 

Specifications

  • Universal Studios Home Entertainment
  • 2006, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 49 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: VC 1
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring:  Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Michael Caine, Chiwetel Ejiofor
  • Directed by Alfonso Cuaron
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Brief Nudity
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

Alfonso Cuaron (with cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki) capture the action with you-are-there intensity. Many scenes are shot in single, long takes without break-aways. This technique adds to the realism and certainly adds to the anxiety level. The movie’s bleakness is off-set by Caine’s character, who adds humor and humanity to the plot. Many things are not explained in the film (why are cow carcasses burning?), but they don’t need to be as the story is about the “now” and not how the future got into the state it is in. A solid story with solid acting, Children of Men is a harrowing, bleak look into the future that leaves you with a feeling of unease. The ending gives humankind hope mixed with uncertainty, but along the way, the story is so compelling you will not want to take your eyes off of the screen. Easily a movie you will want to see more than once.

Technical

Picture quality is excellent in this transfer. Many scenes are shot with muted daylight and and the color palatte ranges from an almost monochromatic look to vibrant solid colors. I only noticed a slight "black crushing"  in some of the darkly lit room scenes, but for the most part, shadows are dark with plenty of detail and depth. Audio was very impressive and immersive...especially during the "uprising" near the final act of the movie. Bullets whiz all around you and the tank rounds will give your sub a kick in the seat. The dank, grimmy slums of the Bexhill detention center are so realistically portrayed, you'll want to shower after the credits roll.

Extras

Bonus features include deleted scenes, commentary, design and visual effects and 2 documentaries: "Possibility of Hope" and "Creating the baby".


"The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

movie-may-2010-lord-rings-trilogy

Synopsis

Book Two of the Lord of the Rings saga picks up right where The Fellowship of the Ring left off.  The Fellowship has been separated by their fierce battle with the Uruk-Hai.  Two of the Hobbits are captured.  Legolas, Gimli and Aragorn are following after them in a rescue attempt.  And Frodo and Sam continue toward Mordor on their quest to destroy the Ring of Power.  They soon encounter Gollum who tricks them into becoming their guide.  His real intent of course is to regain the Ring for himself.

The captured Hobbits are rescued by Ents, giant walking trees, as the Uruks are slaughtered by an army of men from Rohan.  Meanwhile, Sauron’s armies have started taking the lands around Mordor in hopes of controlling all Middle Earth.  Rohan is ruled by King Theodan who is under a powerful spell cast by Saruman and the evil Grima Wormtongue.  Fortunately the spell is broken by Gandalf, who has returned victorious from his battle with the Balrog.  He along with Legolas, Gimli and Aragorn evacuate the people of Rohan to a fortress at Helm’s Deep.  There they await the coming battle with Sauron’s army.

Gollum manages to guide Frodo and Sam to the Black Gate, the entrance to Mordor.  Just as they start to enter, they are captured by an army from Gondor, led by Boromir’s brother Feremir.  He recognizes the ring and means to use it to end the war.

Our wayward Hobbits, Took and Merry convince the Ents to attack Isengard and destroy Saruman’s war machines.  The battle for Helm’s Deep begins and Frodo arrives at Gondor just in time for an attack by Sauron’s army and a dragon-riding Ring Wraith.  Just as the Uruks are poised to take Helm’s Deep, Gandalf and an army of men appear and defeat them.  Isengard is destroyed by the trees and Frodo is released by Faramir when he realized the Ring can only destroy them.

 

Specifications

  • New Line Cinema
  • 2002, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 59 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring:  Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen
  • Directed by Peter Jackson
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

Where The Fellowship of the Ring merely whetted our appetites for the coming saga, The Two Towers is a feast of epic storytelling.  Even though this film is nearly three hours long, you won’t perceive the passage of time; it’s that immersive.  Fantasy film lovers will have all they could want in a movie; amazing battles, wild creatures, magical characters and a beautiful backdrop for everything.  Again, the acting is first-rate and the production quality second-to-none.  The screenplay is equally wonderful with dialog that reads like fine poetry yet is exceedingly easy to follow.  The final battle sequence which takes about 45 minutes is never boring and will keep you on the edge of your seat.  Even though I’ve seen The Two Towers several times, my heart still pounded and my blood still raced.  If you enjoyed the first film, the second will draw you in like the power of The Ring itself.

Technical

Video quality is markedly better than that of The Fellowship of the Ring.  Facial detail and texture is greatly improved and the image is much cleaner and more sharply delineated.  Contrast is at reference quality.  Blacks are as deep as my projector can display them and shadow detail is among the best I’ve seen from any transfer.  Highlights are equally exquisite with a real pop to the picture.  The only thing that kept me from giving that last half-star was the color.  Much of the film has a filtered look which is done well without the usual flatness; but the naturally-colored scenes looked drab and under-saturated.  Dark scene content was simply riveting to watch but bright outdoor scenes lacked the 3D look of the rest of the movie.  I am picking nits here but The Two Towers comes up just short of reference video quality.

Audio was again fantastic.  I’ve said it many times but Blu-ray’s greatest contribution to the art is its uncompressed sound.  If you are considering a subwoofer upgrade, do it before you watch The Lord of the Rings.  My favorite scenes are those with the Ents, the giant walking talking trees.  Their footfalls practically lifted my recliner off the floor.  And when they speak, you can feel their words in your chest.  Despite the extreme sound effects, balance was always perfect and the sound was super-clean.  The soundstage was as big as my room would allow and every scene sounded exactly like the environment in which it took place.  Caves sounded like caves, forests sounded like forests; you know what I mean.  This disc, like its predecessor, is firmly in the home theater demo category.

Extras

The bonus features are similar in scope to the first film.  Most of the documentaries are from television and fairly un-inspiring.  They are also SD only, presented on a supplemental DVD.  The only good feature is a collection of shorts from LordOfTheRings.net.  There are trailers and a short film from actor Sean Astin.  Also included is a digital copy for your PC or mobile device.


"Double Identity" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by John Johnson

Double Identity

Synopsis

Dr. Nick Pinter (Kilmer) is a member of Doctors Beyond Borders in Eastern Europe, and is mistaken for someone named John Charter, who is a secret agent for the British Government.

Unfortunately, John Charter is scheduled for termination with extreme prejudice by the Russian mob.

Along the way of trying to keep from getting killed, Nick picks up Katrine (Miko), who works for the British Secret Service, and she tries to help him escape with his life (and her own).

 

Specifications

  • Millennium Films
  • 2009, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 37 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not specified
  • English 5.1 DD
  • Starring: Val Kilmer, Izabella Miko, Raicho Vasilev
  • Directed by Dennis Dimster
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

Not much of a story here, but there is reasonable action and suspense. Funny how Dr. Pinter seems to have all the martial arts skills of 007.

Technical

Video quality is modest, and there is good use of the surround channels.

Extras

None.Also included is a digital copy for your PC or mobile device.


"Out of Africa" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movie-may-2010-out of africa

Synopsis

The acclaimed 1985 motion picture stars Meryl Steep and Robert Redford in one the screen's epic romances. Directed by Oscar winning Sydney Pollack, this is the fascinating true story of Karen Blixen, a strong willed women who runs a coffee plantation with her philandering husband (Brandauer) in pre-WWI  Africa. To her wonderment, she falls in love with the land, the people and a mysterious white hunter (Redford).This epic tale of love, loss and self-discovery amid stunning vistas of Africa won Oscars for Best Picture, Original Score, Art Direction, Screenplay and Sound.

 

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 2010, Color, Rated PG, 2 Hr 41 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: MPEG-4
  • English 5.1 DTS HD Master, French, Spanish with subtitles
  • Starring: Meryl Streep, Robert Redford, Klaus Maria Brandauer
  • Directed by Sydney Pollack
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: Brief
  • Language: No

Commentary

A wonderful story with great actors and the awesome backdrop of Africa's Serengeti. What's not to like? Be aware that this is a long narrative story that takes place over several years, so don't expect a  fast paced action movie.  However, for those of you that like a good story with character development and a poignant ending, this is your movie. Streep's character really makes this movie work while Redford adds charm to the storyline. A good story never goes out of style!

Technical

The video in this movie is frustrating. Some scenes are sharply focused with natural color and nice black levels and then the very next scene is less sharply focused. Fleshtones range from natural to orange. Some scenes are crystal clear and render the African landscape in all of its glory and then you see sections that contain some flecks of dirt and scratches. The "green screen" work is poor in the opening sequence where Streep and Brandauer talk after hunting. Audio in general is good, but there are a few places where the John Barry score swells so loudly, you'll find yourself reaching for the volume on the remote. Dialogue is always clear and the rears are used only occasionally. Your powered sub will go to sleep during most of this movie. In spite of these caveats, the movie is still very enjoyable and worth watching.

Extras

Fifteen deleted scenes, a 75min. documentary "Song of Africa" (which is very good), trailers and production notes. This is a "flipper" with the DVD version on the other side of the disc.


"The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

movie-may-2010-lord-rings-trilogy

Synopsis

The final chapter in the epic Lord of the Rings trilogy finds the race of men preparing for war with the vast armies of Sauron.  Orcs and Uruk Hai have overrun the cities.  The armies of Gondor have fallen back to the city of Minas Tirith to make their final stand.  Gandalf journeys to the city to find its ruler, Lord Denethor, grieving over the loss of his son Boromir.  He is too consumed by madness to do anything against the coming onslaught.

Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas realize that more allies must be found so they ride into the Cursed Mountain to summon help from an army of undead soldiers.  Meanwhile, Frodo and Sam continue toward Mordor, still trying to reach Mount Doom to destroy the Ring.  They have kept Gollum as their guide but he is leading them to their death in his effort to reclaim the Ring, his “precious.”  Gollum nearly accomplishes this but Sam saves them from a giant spider and rescues Frodo just in the nick of time

The battle begins at Minas Tirith between a vast army of Orcs, Uruk Hai and even Men.  Just as the city is on the brink of defeat, the army of Rohan rides into their flank, along with the undead soldiers led by Aragorn.  The city is saved but Gandalf realizes Frodo still needs one more diversion to reach Mount Doom.

The remaining armies attack the Black Gate of Mordor in an effort to draw Sauron’s eye away from Frodo and Sam who are nearly at their goal.  Just as Frodo is about to throw the ring into the fire, he is attacked by Gollum.  Luckily, Gollum and the Ring go over the edge but Frodo hangs on and is saved by Sam once again.  The Orcs are destroyed and the war is finally won as Sauron and his powers crumble to dust.

In the end, all are reunited at Rivendell as the Elves herald the Fourth Age of Middle Earth; the Age of Men.  Frodo finishes the book started by Bilbo and he sails off into the sunset in a fitting and poetic ending.

 

Specifications

  • New Line Cinema
  • 2003, Color, Rated PG-13, 3 Hr 21 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler and Viggo Mortensen
  • Directed by Peter Jackson
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

This was my favorite of the three movies in the Trilogy.  The emotional impact was intense in nearly every scene.  Despite the long battle sequences, the action never dragged or became repetitive.  You feel every moment of angst as Frodo and Sam journey to Mount Doom.  You will even feel for Gollum as he struggles with his 500-year old inner demons in trying to regain the Ring.  The scope of this film is simply enormous.  More than just a classic battle between good and evil, these people are fighting for their very world.  The Return of the King won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2004 along with ten other Academy Awards and it’s easy to see why.  I can’t imagine Peter Jackson topping this.

Technical

Image quality is at reference level.  I wish the same care had been given to the first two films as was given to this one.  Color is perfect with natural hue and saturation throughout.  Some nighttime or early morning scenes are filtered but the picture is never flattened as a result.  In fact, everything just popped from the screen.  Contrast was simply amazing with deep, rich blacks and excellent shadow detail.  Some white highlights had a glowing aura about them that I found very pleasing and effective.  Facial detail was superb with every pore and bit of razor stubble evident.  Scenes that mixed CGI and normal footage were perfect and devoid of any digital scrubbing.  Film grain was always evident but very subtle.  The realism of the CGI content was quite amazing.  Even though the three movies were produced consecutively (and released annually), the quality of the special effects is noticeably better in the final chapter.

Audio was easily at the same level at the other two films; once again, a reference-quality mix.  The battle scenes were especially impactful given the gigantic creatures and thundering armies participating.  Your sub and surrounds will get a workout as they are used quite liberally.  The bass is always tight and accurate, never bloated or undefined.  Dialog is crystal-clear and balanced perfectly to the background effects.  It’s no wonder that Return of the King won the Oscar for Best Sound Mixing.  The Oscar-winning musical score by Howard Shore also deserves mention.  The music is always performed by a full orchestra and has a scale as grand as the film.  Mr. Shore has an impressive list of credits; not the least of which is the upcoming release of Twilight: Eclipse.

Extras

Bonus features are a little better than the previous two discs.  There are three documentaries that cover the entire trilogy and the history and lore behind Tolkien’s writing.  Everything is still presented in SD on a separate DVD.  Perhaps when the Extended Editions are released later this year, we can expect some high-def extras.  Also included is a digital copy for your PC or mobile device.


"Sherlock Holmes" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Tyler Stripko

movie-may-2010-sherlock-holmes

Synopsis

In this reboot of the classic Sherlock Holmes storyline, Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) and Dr. Watson (Jude Law) chase down a mysterious London killer with ties to the supernatural.  The killer turns out to be Lord Blackwood, a well-known man in London society.  Blackwood is hanged for his crimes and is pronounced dead by Dr. Watson.  However, Blackwood rises from the grave and sets forth a diabolical plot to return to power and install his own puppet government that will carry out his plans to re-conquer America.

 

Specifications

  • Warner Home Video
  • 2009, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 8 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong
  • Directed by Guy Ritchie
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: None
  • Language: None

Commentary

Despite some enjoyable acting by Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law, the nebulous plot of this film was pretty weak.   The movie was about 45 minutes longer than it should have been given the minimal storyline.  As a result, the film seems to drag between the action sequences.  This is a shame because the action scenes were creative and a lot of fun, if not entirely believable.

Technical

From the opening scene when you hear the noise of a train approaching through the left surround channel and slowly panning to the front, I knew I would be in for a treat with this movie.  Fortunately, the video on this disc was right up there with the sound.  The picture is highly detailed, with good contrast and shadow detail.  Take a close look at some of the jackets on the men and you can clearly see the subtle details of the fabric.  Flesh tones are accurate but there is not a lot of color in the dreary London settings.  I did notice a few shots that looked a little soft, but they weren’t too distracting.  The audio is even better on this disc, with great use of the surrounds and LFE.  There are some really neat scenes where voices seem to be coming from all around you and really envelop you in the moment.   My only audio complaint is that Downey Jr. tends to mumble some of his lines (a bit of a trademark for him), so there are occasions where you can’t really understand what Holmes is saying.

Extras

The best way to experience all the extras on this disc is via the “Maximum Movie Mode.”  Basically, this brings up a secondary window with the special features that apply to the on-screen portion of the movie.   This only works on Bonus View-enabled Blu-ray players.  You can also watch much of this same bonus content in a more traditional format via the 8 “Focus Point” featurettes and the “Sherlock Holmes: Reinvented” segment.


"The Last House On The Left" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Tyler Stripko

movie-may-2010-the-last-house

Synopsis

The Collingwood family heads out to their remote lake house for a much needed vacation.  Mari Collingwood (Sara Paxton) quickly finds herself bored and heads into town to meet up with her friend Paige (Martha MacIsaac).   In an effort to score some quality weed, the two girls foolishly follow a complete stranger named Justin (who of course they find cute) back to his hotel room.  While partaking in a bit of the aforementioned product, Justin’s “family” returns to the hotel room.    Justin’s father Krug (Garret Dillahunt) is a convict on the run, and decides that the girls can’t be allowed to tell the police about him.  Mari and Paige are taken out into the woods, where Paige is murdered and Mari is raped.  Mari manages to escape by swimming out into the lake, but is shot by Krug and left for dead.

With a monster storm approaching, the criminals seek shelter in the nearest home, which just so happens to be the Collingwood’s.  The wounded Mari manages to struggle back to her home, where her parents find her.  What follows is an interesting case where the criminals become the victims, as John and Emma Collingwood enact revenge on those who hurt their daughter.

 

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 2009, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 50 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Sara Paxton, Martha MacIsaac, Garret Dillahunt, Tony Goldwyn, and Monica Potter
  • Directed by Dennis Iliadis
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Graphic Rape Scene, Nudity
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

I never saw the original 1971 version of this film and based upon this remake I have no desire to.  I will admit that I found the first 45 minutes of the movie to be pretty good, but the movie fell apart once the criminals enter the Collingwood house.  Early in the film, Krug and company’s violence is used to develop the characters, but it seems completely inappropriate for the Collingwoods.  The violence also goes from realistic to “slasher-movie grotesque” as the Collingwoods enact their revenge.  Adding insult to injury, the final scene is comical and completely unnecessary to the storyline.

Technical

The picture quality on this disc is merely average in my opinion.  The picture is fairly sharp, though there seemed to be a bit of a haze to things.   There are a lot of dark scenes, but I didn’t notice much detail in the shadows.   Colors aren’t artificially pumped up, but there was an odd color-cast to the overall look of things.  Audio was a bit disappointing for a thriller/horror flick.  The sound designers didn’t use the soundtrack to create any feeling of dread or foreboding.  There are no creepy sound effects or “make you jump” moments.   Dialogue is clear but there is little surround or LFE use.

Extras

Included on the disc are about 9 minutes of deleted scenes and a very brief (3 minutes) “look inside” featurette, both in standard definition. The disc is BD-Live and D-Box enabled.   A second disc contains a digital copy of the movie.


"The Last Starfighter" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

movie-may-2010-last-starfighter

Synopsis

Alex (Lance Guest) is a high school student growing up in a trailer park that his mom manages.  Somewhat of an outcast from the popular kids in school, he spends a lot of his time playing the Starfigher arcade game.  One night, he manages to break the record score for the game as the whole community cheers him on.  Unfortunately, he comes home to learn that he didn't get his college scholarship and will not be able to leave his hometown.  Later, a car drops by looking for the person who broke the high score on Starfighter.

When Alex reveals that he is the one that broke it, he hops in the car only to be taken away to a distant planet.  The game was actually developed by an alien race and placed on different planets to find who can pilot their starship to defend their race against attackers.  Will Alex take the responsibility to step up and defend the race, or will he shrink away from this responsibility?

 

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 1984, Color, Rated PG, 1 Hr 41 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: VC-1
  • English 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Lance Guest, Catherine Mary Stewart
  • Directed by Nick Castle
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: None
  • Language: None

Commentary

I saw this last when I was a kid and, unfortunately, I probably think I should have kept it that way.  It's a film that is very rooted in the 1980's when it was shot, and seems a bit outdated and ridiculous now. Perhaps if you are less cynical than I am, you will still enjoy it as you did when you first saw it, but now I wish I had just kept the memories of it from when I was a kid.

Technical

This is certainly the best this has ever looked at home, but it also has had a ton of DNR applied to it.  People and object look sharp, but there is no fine detail to faces or textures, and the larger your screen, the more you will notice how much detail is missing.  Unfortunately, the visual effects have not really stood the test of time either.  The soundtrack is acceptable, but the surround mix seems half hearted which is a little surprising since the original 70mm prints had a 6 channel soundtrack.  I guess things have just improved a good deal in the past 25 years.

Extras

The Last Starfighter features a Directors Commentary, Trailers, Image Galleries, and Featurettes.

 


"Minority Report" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Stephen Hornbrook

movie-may-2010-minority-report

Synopsis

In the year 2054 there is an experimental police force called the Precrime unit. Their task is to end murder before it happens. Utilizing 3 genetically modified humans that possess amazing precognative abilities, they can predict a murder before it happens. Tom Cruise plays John Anderton, chief of the task force. On the eve of the Precrime program being taken to a national level, a Department of Justice representative, Danny Witwer, arrives to investigate the program. During Witwer's visit, the precogs witness Anderton killing a man named Leo Crow in a few days; Anderton escapes the facility and a subsequent manhunt once the precrime is discovered.  He is on a race to discover who set him up to murder this unknown man, Leo Crow.

 

Specifications

  • Paramount
  • 2002, Color, PG-13, 145 Minutes
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Tom Cruise, Colin Farrell
  • Directed by Steven Spielberg
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: suggested, mild
  • Language: mild

Commentary

Based on a short story by Philip K. Dick, Minority Report is essentially a sci-fi who-done-it. The futuristic Washington DC area has a nice gritty feel to it, that doesn't go over the top in it's believability. I really enjoyed this movie. I think this must have been my 4th time viewing it, and it is still entertaining.  Some good performances by Cruise and Farrell and an ending that will leave you thinking make this a must watch for any sci-fi fans. This new Blu-ray version will not disappoint.

Technical

Minority Report had the lucky benefit of receiving a brand new, state-of-the-art 4K transfer.  This leads to a beautiful looking Blu-ray that accurately presents Spielberg and cinematographer, Janusz Kaminski's vision.  The audio is just as pristine. Powerful gun shots that feel like they hit you in the gut, deep bass, and perfectly executed surround FX make this a good option to demo your home theater with.

Extras

Minority Report comes with a whole second disc full of extras, many of which are presented in HD. Interviews, behind the scenes footage, gag-reel (I'm kidding, there is no gag-reel), and all the extras from the previous DVD release.

 


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

movie-may-2010-tombstone

Synopsis

Retired lawman Wyatt Earp (Russell) is looking for a quiet retirement with his two brothers and his wife.  They travel to the town of Tombstone, Arizona in hopes of getting away from it all.  They quickly discover the town is lawless and run by the Cowboy gang, the Old West’s version of organized crime.  Earp, his two brothers and friend Doc Holliday (Kilmer) soon run afoul of local gangsters Curly Bill (Boothe) and Johnny Ringo (Biehn).  The famous shootout at the OK Corral results in the deaths of several gang members.  The Cowboys quickly get their revenge when Wyatt’s younger brother Morgan (Bill Paxton) is killed and older brother Virgil (Sam Elliott) loses his arm.  Earp and Holliday quickly get themselves and their wives out of town.

All is not ended however when Earp takes up his badge and vows to wipe out the Cowboys once and for all.  After a series of fierce gun battles, Earp is victorious and Arizona is finally rid of the gang.  In a classic Hollywood ending, Earp even gets the girl and they live happily ever after.

 

Specifications

  • Cinergi Pictures Entertainment
  • 1997, Color, R, 2 hrs 10 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec:  not specified
  • English 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio
  • Starring:  Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer, Michael Biehn, and Powers Boothe
  • Directed by George P. Cosmatos
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence:  Yes, strong
  • Sex:  No
  • Language:  Yes

Commentary

I’m not a big fan of Westerns but found some recent films like 3:10 to Yuma to be quite enjoyable.  I had similar expectations for Tombstone but it played more like a B-grade Westerns from Hollywood’s Golden Age.  The scenery was dusty and dry and the acting over-the-top.  The script had many of the cliché lines we’ve come to know and love from classic Westerns.  Fans of the genre will undoubtedly enjoy this movie.  Historically, the events portrayed are based on truth.  I did find myself reading up on the real Wyatt Earp afterwards.  Action is fast and furious and there are no dull moments.  Our heroes have nary a moment of rest as they battle baddies at nearly every turn.  The violence is frequent and intense as people seem to have no regard for human life.  Even the good guys have no trouble dishing out vigilante justice with little provocation.  For those looking for a classic Western with modern production quality, Tombstone is your film.

Technical

Image quality is better than average for a catalog title.  I was surprised to learn this film is now 17 years old!  Color is nicely saturated yet natural and consistent.  The lighting is fairly flat which contributes to the classic Hollywood feel.  While it lacks dimension, it is appropriate to the material.  Facial details pop nicely with every bit of grit and grime readily apparent.  Contrast is excellent with deep blacks and good shadow detail.  The levels stay consistent throughout the film and there are many dark scenes.  Outdoor material is bright and vivid.  Overall image dynamics were very good.

Audio is decent though not exceptional.  The LFE channel is active during gun battles or when horses pass across the screen.  The surrounds are under-utilized however.  The action always happens in front of rather than around the viewer.  Dialog is clear but recessed in the soundstage.  The dynamics are somewhat flat but I think this is also in keeping with the material.

Extras

Bonus features include a making-of documentary in SD, director’s storyboards and a series of trailers and TV commercials also in SD.

 

 


"Spy Game" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

movie-may-2010-spygame

Synopsis

CIA operative Tom Bishop (Pitt) is captured while trying to rescue a prisoner in a Chinese prison.  His handler Nathan Muir (Redford) is called on the carpet, on the day he’s set to retire after 30 years of service, to justify why a rescue attempt should be made.  Told in a series of flashbacks, the story looks back on the history of their relationship and how the situation escalated to Bishop’s capture.  It quickly becomes apparent that he was operating without authority; “gone rogue.”  Still, Muir wants to save Bishop and in the end he takes some big risks to try and accomplish that.  He eventually has to decide between saving his friend or sticking to his own mantra, “never get involved with an asset.”

 

Specifications

  • Universal Pictures
  • 2001, Color, R, 2 hrs 7 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec:  not specified
  • English 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio
  • Starring:  Robert Redford, Brad Pitt and Catherine McCormack
  • Directed by Tony Scott
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence:  Yes
  • Sex:  Implied
  • Language:  Yes

Commentary

I found this film a very worthy member of the spy/thriller genre.  There’s plenty of gritty realism and the story is completely plausible.  Redford and Pitt turn in superb performances (would you expect anything less?).  My only reason for docking one star is the story dragged a bit in the middle.  Watching the development of the handler/operative relationship is fascinating as we see Bishop go from soldier to secret agent.  Despite the fact the Muir uses him relentlessly, they still have a strong bond and great respect for each other.  I don’t want to throw out any spoilers but this movie is completely worth watching for the ending.  I won’t say any more but that this film is highly recommended.

Technical

Image quality runs the gamut from fair to moments of reference quality.  Color is used very effectively.  Flashback scenes are shot with a warm palette and the present day is shown in cooler tones.  Saturation is excellent at all times.  Contrast is superb as well with deep blacks and bright highlights.  I had only two small complaints.  One is “there’s that edge enhancement again.”  To be fair, it’s not used throughout but it is present in most brightly-lit outdoor scenes.  Given the quality of the un-enhanced scenes, the added sharpness is totally unnecessary.  The second thing I noticed is the not the fault of the transfer.  During the meeting room scenes, there moments of softness as if the camera operator couldn’t decide which actor to focus on.  This is minor but noticeable in an otherwise great-looking film.

Audio was bold and dynamic with deep bass and powerful music.  Action scenes had great punch though not quite at the reference level.  Dialog was very clear and forward in the soundstage.  Surrounds were used only sparingly.  The score by composer Harry Gregson-Williams provides a powerful backdrop for the action and I enjoyed it immensely.

Extras

Bonus features include a set of deleted scenes with director commentary and an alternate ending.  There is also an interactive feature where you can access behind-the-scenes material during the movie.  Other documentaries include Requirements for CIA Acceptance and the process of script-to-storyboard.  Finally, there is feature commentary with director Tony Scott and producers Marc Abraham and Douglas Wick.