Articles

Movie Renter's Guide - September, 2009

ARTICLE INDEX

"State of Play" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by John Johnson

State of PlaySynopsis

Reporter for the Washington Globe, Cal McAffrey (Crowe), investigates the death of a young woman, Sonia Baker (Maria Thayer), who worked as an aid for Senator Stephen Collins (Affleck). Sonia's death is labeled as a suicide, but Cal is suspicious that it may have been murder.

Senator Collins is involved in a controversy over the Defense Department outsourcing procedures, and Cal suspects that the senator may be responsible for her death.

Cal enlists the help of a newly hired reporter, Della Frye (McAdams), while the Editor, Cameron Lynne (Mirren) thinks that a more seasoned reporter should be working on such an important story with Cal.

They uncover a sex scandal and misuse of funds (hundreds of millions of dollars), and of course, there are those in high places who will do anything to keep the truth from being published.

 

Specifications

  • Universal
  • 2009, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 8 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring Ben Affleck, Russell Crowe, Helen Mirren, Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, Jeff Daniels, Harry J. Lennix
  • Directed by Kevin Macdonald
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Mild
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

The film is based on a British TV mini-series, and although it is an interesting story, I think they have condensed too much into the slightly longer than 2 hours of movie play time.

Technical

The image is not very sharp, and there could have been more use of the surrounds.

Extras

These include Deleted Scenes, The Making Of, and BD Live.


"Sex Drive: Unrated and Cream-Filled" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by John Johnson

Sex DriveSynopsis

A teenager named Ian Lafferty (Zuckerman), who works part time as Senor Donut in a shopping mall, meets a girl on the Internet who calls herself "Ms. Tasty" (Bowden). He decides to drive to Knoxville, Tennessee to meet her in person.

So, using a Ponticac GTO, and along with his friends Felicia (Crew) and Lance (Duke), they set out on the trip.

The car breaks down, and an Amish man, Ezekial (Green), happens to come by in his horse-drawn buggy. He helps to fix the car, but in the meantime, the group gets involved in a local party, where Lance meets an Amish girl and falls for her.

The group ends up in jail for a short while because Ian tossed a tire iron at a State Trooper car.

Finally, Ian gets to meet Ms. Tasty, but only because he pretends to be gay, as Ms. Tasty's boyfriend is a psychopath.

Lance decides to stay in the Amish community, and of course, Ian and Felicia discover that they were meant for each other.

 

Specifications

  • Summit Entertainment
  • 2008, Color, Unrated, 2 Hr 9 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DD
  • Starring Josh Zuckerman, Amanda Crew, Katrina Bowden, Clark Duke, James Marsden, Seth Green
  • Directed by Sean Anders
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: Explicit
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

This film is about as crude as you will ever see in a movie. It's based on the "Road Movie theme, meaning that you put a bunch of actors in a car, and the story is what happens along the way, wherever they are going.

Technical

The image is not as sharp as it could be, and the audio is nothing impressive.

Extras

These include an Introduction by the Director, 20 additional minutes of footage (extra nudity), Outtakes, and other things.


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

MoonrakerSynopsis

The opening scene of this Bond film is like all Bond films: On the edge of catastrophe. Bond (Moore) is left in an airplane to crash, while the pilot jumps out with a parachute. So, Bond goes after him, takes the parachute away from the pilot, and lands safely (since this film is rated PG, they are not about to show you the pilot hitting the ground and splattering like a ripe watermelon).

So, in the story, after a space shuttle that Drax Industries manufactured is stolen, Bond is assigned to go to the factory, meet with Hugo Drax (Lonsdale), and from there, find the stolen space shuttle.

While at the factory, he meets Dr. Holly Goodhead (Chiles) (another play on words that was common in all Bond films, up until the most recent in the series, where Bond is played by Daniel Craig, and the plots are much more deadly and less fun).

After a mishap in a centrifuge that is used to train astronauts, Bond becomes suspicious that Drax is somehow involved in the theft.

Along with Holly, Bond discovers that the space shuttle was actually "stolen" by Drax himself, and it was placed in orbit around earth. He has a secret facility where he has paired the most healthy and most beautiful humans he could find, and they are to be sent to the shuttle, where they will have healthy and beautiful children who will eventually repopulate earth after Drax destroys everyone else still on earth, using some chemical weapons that he has gathered in a Venice glass factory.

Bond and Dr. Goodhead launch into space to meet the space shuttle and stop the plan from reaching its goal.

 

Specifications

  • MGM
  • 1979, Color, Rated PG, 2 Hr 1 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC @ 22 Mbps
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring Roger Moore, Lois Chiles, Michael Lonsdale, Richard Kiel, Lorrine Clery
  • Directed by Lewis Gilbert
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: Mild
  • Language: No

Commentary

Moonraker is one of my favorite of all the Bond films. The story flows perfectly, and even "Jaws" (Kiel) makes a return, ending up as a good guy. My favorite line in the story is when Drax tells his assistant, "See that some harm comes to Mr. Bond." In any case, for Bond fans, Moonraker is definitely one to purchase for your library.

Technical

The image is fantastic for such an old movie, and the sound is quite good, with some surround extracted from the old stereo sound tracks.

Extras

These include The Director's Commentary, Commentary by Roger Moore, 007 in Rio, Learning to Freefall, 007 Mission Control, and other things.


"The World is not Enough" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by John Johnson

The World is Not EnoughSynopsis

When Elektra King (Marceau), daughter of the CEO of King Industries (an oil drilling and production company), is kidnapped, Bond (Brosnan) is brought in to find her. Her father had been killed when trying to pay the ransom. She had been planning to build an oil pipeline that would have competed with Russian pipelines, and they wanted to stop her.

Bond travels to Azerbaijan, where King Industries is located, and runs into Christmas Jones (Richrds), who is a scientist working there. She is quite a handful, matching wits with Bond.

Together, they are put into life and death situations trying to rescue Elektra, as they close in on the kidnapper, named Renard (Carlyle). The "help" they get from an acquaintance, Valentin Zukovsky (Coltrane), makes them wonder if he is friend or foe.

 

Specifications

  • MGM
  • 1999, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 8 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC @ 25 Mbps
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring Pierce Brosnan, Sophie Marceau, Robert Carlyle, Denise Richards, Robbie Coltrane, Judi Dench
  • Directed by Michael Apted
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: Mild
  • Language: No

Commentary

This was Brosnan's third film as Bond, and sometimes I wonder how Judi Dench, who plays "M" in many of the Bond movies, maintains her sanity with so many actors she has to address as "James". The double entendres are still there, and they don't disappear until Daniel Craig takes over.

Technical

The image is nearly perfect, although it looked a little etched (edge enhancement), and there is ample surround sound (as there should be with action films such as these).

Extras

These include The Director's Commentary, The Secrets of 007, Creating an Icon, Deleted and Alternate Scenes, and other things.


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

movie-september-2009-duplicitySynopsis

Julia Roberts and Clive Owen are two former spies, one MI6, one CIA, who have turned to careers preventing corporate espionage.  After falling for each other, they begin looking for a single big score that will allow them to retire from the game.  They soon become entangled in an all-out war between the CEOs of two rival soap companies.  Through a series of flashbacks a complicated web of plans within plans and elaborate cons begins to unfold.  The final act is a completely unexpected twist that almost no one will see coming.

 

Specifications

  • Universal
  • 2009, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 5 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: VC1
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring Julia Roberts, Clive Owen, Tom Wilkinson and Paul Giamatti
  • Directed by Tony Gilroy
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: Implied
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

I find many movies like this to be difficult to follow; not so with Duplicity.  While you do have to pay attention, it’s pretty clear most of the time what’s going on.  The chemistry between Owen and Roberts is well-played.  They constantly walk the fine line between love and trust as they weave their schemes during the fast-paced storyline.  Even the viewer can’t always tell if they’re actually double-crossing each other or cooperating!  The plot resolution is truly unique and was a complete surprise to my wife and me.  The idea of two rich and powerful men fighting over seemingly mundane things like soap creates a very comedic stage for a well-thought-out story and well-executed performances by a group of A-list actors.

Technical

Like most recent films on Blu-ray, this transfer is top-notch.  Colors are highly saturated yet natural and pleasing to the eye.  Contrast is quite punchy with deep black levels, good shadow details and bright highlights.  The different lighting environments were clearly presented both by color and contrast.  Sharpness and clarity are very good but there is a hint of edge enhancement here and there which I found unnecessary.  The DTS-MA soundtrack was very clean and detailed with a wide dynamic range.  Dialog was clear and presented slightly forward in the soundstage.  Music was punchy like the image with a lot of clean clear bass guitar and drums.

Extras

The only bonus feature is a commentary track from writer/director Tony Gilroy and editor/co-producer John Gilroy.


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

movie-september-2009-edge-of-loveSynopsis

This is a rather unusual love story woven around famous Welsh poet Dylan Thomas (Rhys), his wife Caitlin (Miller) and his childhood sweetheart Vera (Knightley).  The two women are his inspiration and the three of them live as though each moment will be their last.  Vera suddenly falls in love with a young soldier, William (Murphy) and when he is posted to the front, they are quickly married.  While he is away, Dylan, Caitlin and Vera move in together in a beach house in Wales.  All is carefree until William returns quite altered by his wartime experiences.  Jealousy soon erupts and William in a drunken state one night nearly kills Thomas and Caitlin.  The event forces all involved to take a hard look at themselves and their lives.

 

Specifications

  • Capitol Films/Image Entertainment
  • 2008, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 51 mins
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring Kiera Knightly, Sienna Miller, Cillian Murphy and Matthew Rhys
  • Directed by John Maybury
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

The Edge of Love is less a story and more a character study.  It is a look at how people might behave with the knowledge that they might not live to see the next morning and war and death are around them constantly.  Thomas is fantastically self-absorbed and seeks nothing beyond his own amusement and the pursuit of his writing.  Vera walks a fine line between her friendship with Caitlin and her love for Dylan.  Caitlin also walks a fine line as she is quite possessive of Thomas yet devoted to Vera.  William is the catalyst for everything when his harsh experiences with reality bring everyone’s lives into focus.

The film is beautifully acted by all and finely crafted by director John Maybury.  There is some very unique cinematography and the use of dialog pans and other sound effects is something I have not experienced before.  The use of color is also quite interesting.  It is mostly stylized but there are occasional uses of saturated and almost dream-like colors.  Though I usually prefer a more natural palette, this presentation was done extremely well.

Technical

Image quality is at reference levels with deep and uniform black levels and just the right amount of contrast.  The color is highly stylized with some scenes rendered in near mono-tones.  The picture never flattens however.  Many period films look as though they are shot through filters which can dull the image.  This is not the case here.  I have rarely seen a better use of interpreted color.

The soundtrack is also of reference quality with clear dialog properly placed within the soundstage.  Music is balanced perfectly with a nice mix of orchestral and period nightclub tunes.  The occasional battle scenes and bomb explosions make excellent use of deep frequencies played through the sub-woofer channel.  Panning effects are used uniquely whenever Thomas reads his poetry over a scene.

Extras

Bonus features include commentary with director John Mayberry and actor Matthew Rhys, the featurette “Looking Over The Edge of Love,” a blooper reel and the theatrical trailer.


"Race to Witch Mountain" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

movie-september-2009-race-to-witch-mountainSynopsis

Race to Witch Mountain is a remake of the 1975 Disney classic Escape to Witch Mountain.  The story is basically the same.  Two extra-terrestrials in teenage form (Robb and Ludwig) enlist the unlikely aid of a Las Vegas cab driver (Johnson, aka The Rock) and a scientist (Gugino) to help them retrieve an experiment that will save their home planet from extinction.  Through a series of car chases and narrow escapes from an alien assassin they manage to complete their mission and return to their home world.  Along the way they must also avoid a cold-hearted government organization led by the diabolical Henry Burke (Hinds).

 

Specifications

  • Disney Pictures
  • 2009, Color, Rated PG, 1 Hr 39 mins
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring Dwayne Johnson, AnnaSophia Robb, Carla Gugino, Ciaran Hinds, Alexander Ludwig
  • Directed by Andy Fickman
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

Disney adventure movies have always been good clean fun for the whole family and Race to Witch Mountain is no exception.  There might be the occasional scene too intense for the youngest children though the violence is no more than the average video game.  The action sequences are pretty much non-stop and extremely well crafted.  I always enjoy a good car chase and this movie had several.  Dwayne Johnson plays his part with the usual barrage of quips and one-liners.  He is very enjoyable as are the two teens, AnnaSophia Robb and Alexander Ludwig.  They are quite believable as beings of advanced intelligence in human bodies.  Special effects are used quite liberally and are excellently done.  Production quality in general is very high.

Technical

Image quality is not quite up to par with the better Blu-ray releases.  While colors are well-saturated, there is a yellowish cast to most scenes which makes the image look a bit unnatural.  Contrast is very high with consistently deep black levels and fair shadow detail.  The picture was reasonably sharp but the inaccurate color was a disappointment.

The audio is among the best I have ever heard.  Your sub and surrounds will get a real workout!  The action sequences are loaded with deep bass effects and superb detail.  Surrounds are used appropriately and often.  Dialog was very clear and uniform with superb imaging.  The music is typical of Disney movies with a full orchestra and very lush scoring, very nice!  Despite the box labeling stating the sound track as DTS-HD it is in fact DTS-HD Master Audio.

Extras

The box includes a DVD copy of the film plus a digital copy which you can rip to your computer and/or portable device.  On-disc features include a featurette discussing references to the original film, deleted scenes and a blooper reel.