Media

Movie Renter's Guide - July, 2008

ARTICLE INDEX

"The Ruins" (Blu-ray)

movie-july-2008-the-ruins.jpgSynopsis

A group of college kids on vacation in Mexico get invited to see the excavation of a Mayan village.

They anticipate fun, but instead get a dose of nature's violence.

A trap is sprung.

Evil is unleashed.

The party gets rough.

The vacation is over.

Specifications

  • Dreamworks
  • 2008, Color, Unrated (R), 1 Hr 33 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English Dolby TrueHD
  • Directed by Carter Smith
  • Starring Jonathan Tucker, Jena Malone, Shawn Ashmore, Laura Ramsey, Joe Anderson
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

This is an Indie film, and it looks like one. The idea is sound, but the execution is mediocre. There is just nothing new in college kids and gore.

Technical

The picture quality is excellent, and the sound track is OK, but this is not enough when the movie is boring.

Extras

These include making of, director's commentary, deleted scenes, and other things.

 


 

"Drillbit Taylor" (Blu-ray)

movie-july-2008-drillbit-taylor.jpgSynopsis

Entering highschool students Wade (Hartley) and Ryan (Gentile) are bullied so much, they put an ad in the paper to hire a bodyguard.

Local beach bum Drillbit Taylor (Wilson), who was in the Army and knows how to defend himself, takes the job. He takes it so seriously, he actually becomes a substitute teacher at the school.

His strategy is to wear down the bullies rather than simply confront them directly. He makes their lives miserable at school, much to the delight of the students who have been bullied.

However, his past as a not-too-good-soldier catches up with him, and the school has to do something about it.  The bullies find out who he really is, and they want their revenge.

Specifications

  • Paramount
  • 2008, Color, Unrated (PG-13), 1 Hr 49 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English Dolby TrueHD
  • Directed by Steven Brill
  • Starring Owen Wilson, Leslie Mann, Danny McBride, Josh Peck, Nate Hartley, Troy Gentile
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

Owen Wilson's laid back comedy style works well in this film, but not enough to make it more than a mildly entertaining comedy.

Technical

Picture and sound are good, but this is not the type of movie where you are wowed by high definition. Regular old SD would be fine. But, if you have a Blu-ray player, well, why not use it?

Extras

These include director's commentary, deleted scenes, directing kids, and other things.

 


 

"Mad Men" (Blu-ray)

movie-july-2008-mad-men.jpgSynopsis

In New York City, 1960, advertising agencies were having a field day saying whatever they wanted to say about various products, and they were making a fortune doing it. Their egos were huge, their salaries were huge, their power was almost limitless.

And of course, part three of Money, Power, and  . . . Sex.

This high definition TV series just completed Season One, and all the episodes are here.

Don Draper (Hamm) is the centerpiece of the series, and the key player in his advertising agency.

The episodes basically wallow in the booze, the cigarettes, the money, and the sexism that characterized this period of American big business history.

Specifications

  • Lionsgate/AMC
  • 2007, Color, Unrated, 7 Hr 46 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English DTS HD Master Audio
  • Directed by Various
  • Starring Jon Hamm
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: Mild
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

Of all the new series that I have seen, this is the best one so far. It is on AMC, and I plan to watch Season 2. I highly recommend it.

Technical

Like most new sources, the picture quality of this series is excellent. The soundtrack does not really exploit the capabilities of DTS HD Master Audio, but I didn't expect it to. This is not an action series.

Extras

These include director's commentary, Advertising the American Dream, and other things.

 


 

"Batman: The Movie" (Blu-ray)

movie-july-2008-batman.jpgSynopsis

Batman and Robin discover that the Penguin (Meredith), Catwoman (Meriwether), the Joker (Romero), and the Riddler (Gorshin) have turned representatives from major countries throughout the world into dust by dehydrating them.

So, the Dynamic Duo trace the rogues to a submarine and attempt to rescue the respresentatives and save the world.

 

 

Specifications

  • Twentieth Century Fox
  • 1966, Color, Rated PG, 1 Hr 45 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC @ 27 Mbps
  • English DTS HD Master Audio
  • Directed by Leslie Martinson
  • Starring Burgess Meredith, Lee Meriwether, Cesar Romero, Frank Gorshin
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

This is the 1966 movie version of the campy TV series from that same era, and was filmed when color TV was just beginning to be a big thing. One of our fraternity brothers had a color TV at his parents' house, and one evening a week, we would all go over there to watch this TV program. We decided to buy one for the fraternity house so we could all watch this, plus Star Trek and The Fugitive. In those days, when a TV program went to color, they would announce it at the beginning of each episode.

Technical

At 27 Mbps, the image quality is really good, perahps because there was so much exotic color in the various Batman environments. The audio is, alas, mono.

Extras

These include commentary by Adam West and Burt Ward, Batman on Location, Gotham City's Most Wanted, and other things.

 


 

"The Bank Job" (Blu-ray)

movie-july-2008-the-bank-job.jpgSynopsis

Based on a true story, this film chronicles the largest bank robbery in English history, occurring in 1971.

Martine Love (Burrows) is picked up at Heathrow Airport in London because she is carrying drugs. An MI-5 agent offers her a way out: She is to get her friends to rob the safety deposit boxes in a Lloyds of London bank, and specifically get some incriminating negatives and photographs from one of the boxes. She and her friends can keep whatever other loot they find. The negatives are embarrassing photos of the Royal Family.

So, Martine engages the help of Terry Leather (Statham) and his colleagues.

They tunnel under the bank vault, break in, and get the loot.

Unfortunately, the London Police, not knowing that MI-5 has planned the whole thing, has been monitoring the activities of the group, and they close in.

 

Specifications

  • Lionsgate
  • 2008, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 50 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English DTS HD Master Audio
  • Directed by Roger Donaldson
  • Starring Jason Statham, Saffron Burrows, Michael Jibson, Alistair Petrie
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

Looks like there were all kinds of interesting things that happened along the way in executing this robbery. For one, when they were digging the tunnel, they discovered an old burial crypt from the 1600's, during the time of the plague that wiped out a third of Europe. Also, they seemed to be very lucky in getting away with the whole thing, at least for awhile. Funny that the Lloyds bank was on Baker Street, where the legendary Sherlock Holmes lived.

Technical

The image quality is excellent, and the DTS HD Master Audio delivers the goods during the action, which is frequent.

Extras

These include a director's commentary, The Baker Street Bank Raid featurette, and other things.

 


 

"Patriot Games" (Blu-ray)

movie-july-2008-patriot-games.jpgSynopsis

CIA Analyst Dr. Jack Ryan (Ford) is in London on vacation with his wife Carolyn (Archer) and daughter Sally (Birch).

They are getting ready to leave when Jack is in the wrong place at the wrong time, and encounters an assassination attempt on one of the Royal Family. He kills one of the terrorists and is wounded himself. The terrorists, a group from Ireland, are captured.

He goes home to rest, only to discover that Sean Miller, who is the brother of the killed terrorist, has escaped.

Admiral James Greer (Jones), Jack's boss, tells him that it is very unlikely that Sean will come to America for revenge.

But, that is exactly what Sean does, and the consequences for everyone are severe.

 

Specifications

  • Paramount
  • 1992, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 56 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English Dolby TrueHD
  • Directed by Phillip Noyce
  • Starring Harrison Ford, Anne Archer, Patrick Bergin, Sean Bean, Thora Birch, Richard Harris, James Earl Jones
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

Several actors have played Jack Ryan, and Ford does it best. This is a superb thriller from start to finish.

Technical

I don't know which codec they used, but the picture is terrific. I have been waiting for this one to arrive on Blu-ray, and here it is. The explosive sound track is deserving of Dolby TrueHD.

Extras

Surprisingly, there are only a couple of extras, such as cast and crew interviews.

 


 

"Belly" (Blu-ray)

movie-july-2008-belly.jpgSynopsis

On the East Coast, several gangs sell drugs through connections in Jamaica.

It's a violent look at the world of money and power that are strong attractants to those growing up in poverty.

 

 

Specifications

  • Artisan
  • 1998, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 35 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English DTS HD Master Audio
  • Directed by Hype Williams
  • Starring Nasir Jones, Tionne Watkins, Earl Simmons, Taral Hicks, Clifford Smith
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

This is an Indie film, with an interesting story, but not very well done. Nevertheless, the whole thing is very frightening.

Technical

Although the picture quality is good, the sound is not recorded very well on location, as it is difficult to hear what the actors are saying.

Extras

Modest extras, including a director's commentary and deleted scenes.

 


 

"High Noon" (SD DVD)

movie-july-2008-high-noon.jpgSynopsis

In a small western town, Marshall Will Kane (Cooper) and Amy Fowler (Kelly) celebrate their wedding day only to find out that Frank Miller, a criminal that Kane put in prison some years ago, is coming back to kill him.

At first, some of the men in town agree to help Kane confront Miller and his gang, but slowly, they realize that if they provide assistance, they might just get killed themselves.

So, one by one, the townspeople close their doors and shrink from their original enthusiasm to help Will when the Miller gang arrives.

Meanwhile, Amy tries unsuccessfully to get Will to just leave with her instead of staying for the showdown.

Then, it is high noon, and Will must face Frank Miller and his gang, alone.

 

 

Specifications

  • United Artists
  • 1952, Black & White, Not Rated, 1 Hr 25 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
  • 480i
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English DD
  • Directed by Fred Zinnemann
  • Starring Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly, Thomas Mitchell, Lloyd Bridges, Lon Chaney
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

High Noon is, in my opinion, the best Western ever made. I am sure some will disagree, but just about everyone concedes that it is terrific. The story takes place in real time, so that the 1 hour 25 minutes of the movie length coincide with 1 hour and 25 minutes in the story. There are plenty of fine actors in the film, and it was Grace Kelly's debut.

The movie won four Academy Awards, but John Wayne didn't like this story of a hero that was afraid. So, in response, he and John Ford made a movie where the hero never showed any fear. That one - can't remember the name of it just now - didn't win anything.

Technical

It's black & white with mono sound, but it's pristine. Obviously, great care was taken with the transfer. I suspect it won't be long before there is a Blu-ray version, and I can't wait to see it.

Extras

Lots of extras here, on a second disc, including the making of, Behind High Noon, and other things.

 


 

"Clear and Present Danger" (Blu-ray)

movie-july-2008-clear-danger.jpgSynopsis

Dr. Jack Ryan (Ford) a CIA Analyst, is assigned Deputy Director of the CIA because Admiral James Greer (Jones) is very ill.

This puts Ryan from the frying pan into the fire as they say, because the problem of cocaine entering the USA from Colombia is at a crisis stage.

Unbeknown to Ryan, the President has unofficially approved a paramilitary operation in Colombia to "neutralize" one of the major drug cartel's leaders.

When Jack is sent to Colombia to find out what is going on, he is the target of an assassination attempt, and he realizes that maybe the job is not so much fun.

So, the Deputy Director ends up having to help the "contractor" extract the surviving paramilitary from a hugh mess.

 

Specifications

  • Paramount
  • 1994, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 21 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
  • Directed by Philip Noyce
  • Starring Harrison Ford, Anne Archer, Willem Dafoe, James Earl Jones
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

Ford starred in two of the Jack Ryan series, and they are the best of the four, at least in terms of the Jack Ryan character. The Hunt for Red October is excellent, but only because of Sean Connery who played the Russian submarine commander.

Technical

I wish all Blu-ray releases looked this good. If there is edge enhancement, it's not noticeable. Great sound too.

Extras

I am surprised only three of the Jack Ryan movies, including this one, have any significant extras. Clear and Present Danger only has cast and crew interviews.

 


 

"The Sum of All Fears" (Blu-ray)

movie-july-2008-sum-fears.jpgSynopsis

The President of Russia passes away, and his successor is someone with a dark history.

When the CIA discovers that Russia may be re-energizing its efforts to make nuclear weapons, they realize they have a problem.

And, the problem gets bigger when Jack Ryan, a CIA Analyst, discovers that Middle Eastern terrorists are planning to set off a nuclear weapon somewhere in the USA in order to start a war between the USA and Russia.

 

Specifications

  • Paramount
  • 2002, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 3 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
  • Directed by Philip Noyce
  • Starring Ben Affleck, Morgan Freeman, James Cromwell, Liev Schreiber
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

Ben Affleck is a pretty good director, but he is a weak actor, and it shows in this film (as well as others). Fortunately, the story has Morgan Freeman to boost the story.

Technical

Paramount is doing a fine job with their transfers these days, and the Jack Ryan series certainly deserves such treatment.

Extras

Perhaps Paramount realized that the fourth installment is not as good as the previous three, so they added more extras, including the making of, Creating Reality: The Visual Effects of The Sum of All Fears, and other things. Nevertheless, the extras section is still rather Spartan.