Articles

Movie Renter's Guide - September, 2008

ARTICLE INDEX

"Baby Mama" (Blu-ray)

movie-september-2008-baby-mama.jpgSynopsis

Kate Holbrook (Fey) works for a PR firm that is helping Round Earth launch a new store that sells health foods and other such fare, in a neighborhood where the locals think the huge store will impact their lives.

Kate also knows she is approaching 40, is unmarried, and wants to have children. Unfortunately, the sperm bank does not help her get pregnant.

So, Kate approaches an organization called Chaffee Bicknell, and its president, by the same name (Weaver) says she will arrange for a surrogate mother to host Kate's fertilized egg.

Angie Ostrowiski (Poehler) is chosen as the surrogate mother, but Kate is horrified to see how poorly Angie takes care of herself, living on junk food.

When Angie breaks up with her boyfriend, she moves in with Kate, and that's when the real fun begins.

 

 

Specifications

  • Universal Pictures
  • 2008, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 39 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Directed by Michael McCullers
  • Starring Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Greg Kinnear, Sigourney Weaver, Steve Martin
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: Mild
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

This "Odd Couple" movie will make obsessive compulsive types out there cringe. Angie does not drink or smoke during the pregnancy, which is the important thing. I am not sure if junk food makes any difference though. Pregnant women like to eat all kinds of strange things, not necessarily what the outside observer might think is the "healthiest". In any case, this is a very funny movie and worth the rental. Steve Martin is hilarious as Round Earth's CEO.

Technical

The movie is shot with plenty of light and bright colors to exude Kate's optimism about life. Not having to deal with lots of shadows, the image jumps off the screen in high definition. The DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack is very crisp and detailed.

Extras

These include the director's commentary and a few other things.

 


 

"Point Break" (Blu-ray)

movie-september-2008-point-break.jpgSynopsis

LA Banks are being robbed one after the other by thieves who wear masks of past US Presidents, and FBI Agent Angelo Pappas (Busey) thinks they are masterminded by a group of surfers.

Agent John Utah (Reeves) is assigned undercover duty to infiltrate the gang and bring them to justice.

A young man named Bodhi (Swayze) is the leader of the gang, and Utah finds him to be charismatic. Bodhi not only likes to rob banks for a thrill, but rides huge waves off the coast, and expects all who follow him to engulf themselves in his dangerous lifestyle to prove themselves. It becomes obvious that Bodhi seeks an adrenaline rush in everything he does.

 

Specifications

  • Largo Entertainment
  • 1991, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr 2 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC @ 28 Mbps
  • English DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Directed by Kathryn Bigelow
  • Starring Patrick Swayze, Keanu Reeves, Gary Busey, Lori Petty
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Nudity
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

The story is really surf riding with a bank robbing background. Busey's character is the most interesting, and it often is because he attacks his roles with a ferocity.

Technical

It's an old movie, and it shows. Blu-ray can only do so much. The 28 Mbps is needed for the fast wave action.

Extras

Extras include Ride the Wave, Adrenaline Junkies, and other things.

 


 

"The Love Guru" (Blu-ray)

movie-september-2008-the-love-guru.jpgSynopsis

Jane Bullard (Alba), owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team, comes to The Guru Pitka (Myers) with a problem. Her star player, Darren Roanoke (Malco) is not playing his best because his wife is having an affair with Jacques Grande (Timberlake), who is the star of another team.

Jane askes Guru Pitka to do his best and get Prudence Roanoke (Good) to come back to her husband so that the Maple Leafs will have a chance in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

 

Specifications

  • Paramount Pictures
  • 2008, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 26 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD
  • Directed by Marco Schnabel
  • Starring Jessica Alba, Mike Myers, Justin Timberlake, Romany Malco, Meagan Good
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: Extremely Vulgar
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

Myers is a very funny and talented actor who can play any type of character, including a Self Help Guru. The jokes are mostly crude, and mostly amusing. Lots of The Naked Gun types of setups.

Technical

If you want to push your flat screen HDTV to the limit of its color reproduction, here is your movie. It could be used as a Kodachrome® test pattern.

Extras

Extras include An Inside Look, Hockey Training for Actors, Bloopers, and other things.

 


 

"Pirates of the Caribbean Collection" (Blu-ray)

movie-september-2008-pirates-collection.jpgSynopsis

This Blu-ray set encompasses all three films that chronicle Captain Jack Sparrow (Depp) as he recruits swordsmith Will Turner (Bloom) and governor's daughter Elizabeth Swann (Knightley) to help him recover his ship, The Black Pearl, which has been stolen by Captain Barbossa (Rush). What Barbossa really wants is a missing piece of eight that, when returned to its original chest, will restore Barbossa and his men from a horrible curse of the undead. Once that occurs, Will and Elizabeth plan to marry, and their wedding is disrupted when they are arrested for having helped Captain Jack escape. Their freedom has a price: they must obtain Jack's compass which will lead a greedy British officer, Lord Cutler Beckett (Hollander), to Davy Jone's chest, presumbably full of treasure. Then, all the pirates get together to fight the East India Trading Company before they can be destroyed, ruining the pirate's way of life. In order to do that, they have to rescue Jack Sparrow, who has been "killed" and sent to Davy Jones' locker.

 

Specifications

  • Walt Disney Pictures
  • 2003, 2006, 2007, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 23 min, 2 Hr 30 min, 2 Hr 49
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 Uncompressed 48 kHz/24 Bit
  • Directed by Gore Verbinski
  • Starring Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Jonathan Pryce, Tom Hollander, Bill Nighy, Jack Davenport
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

The first installment is the best, because it is the simplest tale, without a lot of convolution. The second and third become progressively darker and more difficult to follow. Nevertheless, they are all entertaining and the set is a must-have for collectors.

Technical

The picture quality is marvelous, maybe not quite perfect, but close to it. Even the oldest of the three is only dated at 2003, so it was no problem to obtain a good foundation for the transfers. The uncompressed 48 kHz/24 bit PCM soundtracks are terrific as well. I am beginning to notice a lot more detail in the high def movie sound that I was missing with the more compressed tracks of standard DVDs.

Extras

There are extras all over the place with this collection, including Enter the Maelstrom, Bloopers, Keith Richards and Johnny Depp on the Set, Scoundrels of the Sea (a game), and other things.

 


 

"Leatherheads" (Blu-ray)

movie-september-2008-leatherheads.jpgSynopsis

In 1925, professional football was in its infancy, and when Jimmy "Dodge" Connelly (Clooney) and his team, the Duluth Bulldogs, lose their sponsor (Perennial Starch), they have to find another way to keep the team alive.

Dodge discovers that a Princeton football player, Carter Rutherford (Krasinski), is a huge draw because he was a hero in WW-I, so he approaches Carter's promotor, C.C. Frazier (Pryce), with a deal to really make pro ball a big financial success. The Bulldogs sign Rutherford and start turning what was just practically a backyard rumble into a huge business.

Meanwhile, Lexie Littleton (Zellweger), a reporter for the Chicago Daily Tribune, believes that Rutherford's exploits in WW-I are fabricated, and she tries to uncover this fact while seemingly supporting the team and tagging along at the games.

Lexie falls in love with Dodge, and now must consider what will happen to his team if she uncovers the truth about Rutherford.

 

Specifications

  • Universal Pictures
  • 2008, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 54
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Directed by George Clooney
  • Starring George Clooney, Renée Zellweger, John Krasinski, Jonathan Pryce
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

The movie was a huge flop at the box office. The story is actually rather entertaining, so there is no particular reason for its failure, but Zellweger does overact, making her scenes a bit more dramatic than they should be.

Technical

The picture quality is a bit grainy because so much of the story was shot in underlit interiors. The sound was a bit harsh. No fault of the DTS, I think it was just the original track.

Extras

Not much here, except a director's commentary.

 


 

"Forgetting Sarah Marshall" (Blu-ray)

movie-september-2008-forgetting-sarah-marshall.jpgSynopsis

Peter Brenner (Segal) writes music for a TV series called Crime Scene, filmed in Los Angeles. He has had a romantic relationship with the show's star, Sarah Marshall (Bell), for several years, and he is madly in love with her.

One afternoon, she tells him the relationship is over.

Peter is devastated and tries meeting other women one after another to forget Sarah. It is not working.

So, he takes off for Hawaii, and stays at the Turtle Bay Resort, which is at the north end of Oahu.

Sarah shows up at the resort by chance, with her new boyfriend Aldus Snow, who is lead singer for a British rock group.

Obviously things are a bit precarious with them running into each other all the time, and a hostess, Rachel, whom Peter met at the front desk, tries to help him forget by inviting him to social gatherings.

When Crime Scene is cancelled, and Sarah has second thoughts about what a cool guy she originally thought Aldus was, she wishes maybe she could restart her relationship with Peter, but Peter and Rachel are now having a romance of their own.

 

Specifications

  • Universal Pictures
  • 2008, Rated R, 1 Hr 51
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Directed by Nicholas Stoller
  • Starring Jason Segal, Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis, Russell Brand
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: Frontal Nudity
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

The movie was produced by the same people that did 40-Year-Old Virgin, and has the same kind of flavor (romance problems), with gross jokes.

Technical

The picture quality is soft for a high def film. Sound is OK, but nothing special and certainly does not make much use of surround features.

Extras

These include commentaries, gag reel, deleted scenes, and other things.

 


 

"The Godfather Trilogy" (Blu-ray)

movie-september-2008-the-godfather-trilogy.jpgSynopsis

The Trilogy - subtitled The Coppola Restoration - is the complete set of stories that chronicle the rise of organized crime in America, focusing on an Italian family with Don Vito Corleone (Brando) as its head. Part I is actually the middle of the story, when Michael Corleone (Pacino) comes home from WW-II, and although his father Don Vito does not want Michael to become involved, there is just no way around being in the family "Business", and when Don Vito is in the hospital recovering from an assassination attempt, Michael does what he is born to do. Part II takes us back to Vito's childhood days in Italy, when his mother is murdered in front of his eyes by a local Don. He escapes to America, and begins working in an Italian grocery store. When he loses his job, he sets up his own company, destined to become one of crime and violence. In Part III, we move ahead several decades, and Don Michael would like to make his organization legitimate, in part by doing business with the Vatican. Another reason for the attachment is to seek absolution for his sins, one of which was murdering his brother years before. When he can no longer handle the pressure of what happens, he hands over the organization to his nephew.

 

Specifications

  • Paramount
  • 1972, 1974, 1990, Rated R, 2 Hr 55 min, 3 Hr 20 min, 2 Hr 49 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD
  • Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
  • Starring Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall, Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, Talia Shire, Andy Garcia, Sofia Coppola
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Graphic
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

When Part I was being filmed, some of the staff thought that Coppola was a mediocre director and that the movie would be a flop. Well, between the three movies, there were 28 Academy Award nominations and nine wins, including two Best Picture awards. Of course, Marlon Brando was already a huge star, but Part I made stars of Pacino, Caan, and Duvall. Parts I and II are two of the best films ever made, and even though Part III is not quite as impressive, the trilogy is a must-have for any movie collector.

Technical

Coppola did a fantastic job on the restoration. The image quality of even the 1972 Part I is spectacular. The sound has been redone in 5.1 surround, and is as exemplary as the image quality. Coppola's innovation in these movies was to shoot it all in available light, so interiors have plenty of menacing shadows. But, instead of looking muddy in the dark, it is just exquisite. Truly, movie making was changed forever with The Godfather.

Extras

There are several hours of extras, all worth a visit.

 


 

"Kill Bill: Volumes 1 and 2" (Blu-ray)

movie-september-2008-kill-bill-1-2.jpgSynopsis

A young woman, known only as the bride at first, is the victim of an assassination attempt at her wedding rehearsal in El Paso, Texas. Everyone else in the wedding party is killed, except for her.

She awakens from a coma four years later, and sets out for revenge against The Deadly Viper Assassination Gang, of which she was a member. Her code name at the time was Black Mamba, which is a deadly snake. The problem was that the gang's leader, "Bill" (Carradine), was in love with her and was jealous that she was marrying someone. So, he had the gang murder them all, except that the bride survived.

So, one by one, she finds the gang members, and does some very unpleasant things to each of them, especially when she obtains her very own Hattori Hanzo sword.

At the end of Volume 2, she confronts Bill, and has the final showdown.

 

Specifications

  • Miramax
  • 2004, Rated R, 1 Hr 51 min, 2 Hr 17 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 Uncompressed PCM
  • Directed by Quentin Tarantino
  • Starring Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Lucy Liu, Vivica A. Fox, Michael Madsen, Daryl Hannah
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Graphic
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

Tarantino is a brilliant young director, and these two films (they started out as one, but the total was too long, so they broke it into two movies), truly illustrate his genius. It took me four viewings before I could understand what the bride was saying just as Bill shot her in the head at the wedding rehearsal. That is a major clue as to Bill's relationship with her and why he did it.

Technical

A lot of care has gone into the Blu-ray mastering of these films because the image quality is exquisite. The sound is harsh, but it was meant to be that way.

Extras

These include the making of, bonus musical performances, and other things. I wish there were much more. These films deserve at least one extra disc with bonus material.

 


 

"Iron Man" (Blu-ray)

movie-september-2008-iron-man.jpgSynopsis

Stark Industries, a weapons manufacturer, has been inherited by a playboy son, Tony Stark (Downey).

On a trip to Afghanistan, his truck is attacked, and he is captured by insurgents. He wakes up to find that a scientist has installed a magnetic device next to his heart to keep shrapnel from killing him. The insurgents demand that Tony construct a missile, but he instead makes an iron suit that he uses to escape.

Once home, he renounces weaponry and promises to focus on peaceful endeavors. He builds another iron suit, this time much more sophisticated than the one he built to escape his captors. He discovers Stark weapons in the hands of war lords who are taking over an Afghan town, and he demands answers from his business advisor, Obadiah Stane (Bridges).

With the help of his assistant Pepper Potts (Paltrow), he uncovers a sinister plot, and unfortunately, his enemy has now built an iron suit bigger and more powerful than his own, so in order to save the world from greater evil than it has ever known before, he must confront his iron opponent and destroy him.

 

Specifications

  • Paramount
  • 2004, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 5 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD
  • Directed by Jon Favreau
  • Starring Robert Downey, Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Mild
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

Although with much more exciting computer graphics, Iron Man is really just a twist on RoboCop. This one, however, is much more of a political statement about US involvement in the Middle East.

Technical

The movie is full of dark interior shots, but unlike The Godfather, where it was done masterfully, Iron Man just seems too dimly lit for seeing what is going on a lot of the time. There are lots of explosive action scenes, which are well handled by the Dolby TrueHD sound.

Extras

There is an entire disc with the extras for this film, including a discussion of the iron suit by director Favreau.

 


 

"Hulk" (Blu-ray)

movie-september-2008-hulk.jpgSynopsis

After baby Bruce Banner (Bana) is infected through radiation experiments by his father, David (Nolte), he grows up to become a scientist at Berkeley Nuclear Biotechnology Institute, where among other things, he discovers that when provoked, he transforms into a huge hulk of a man.

The US Military wants to discover what is causing this so they can duplicate it and develop a non-stoppable army of Hulks. The call him Angry Man.

Although the military does not seem to have any weapon they can use to capture and hold Hulk, Bruce's girlfriend and research partner, Betty Ross (Connelly) can always get Hulk to calm down.

Bruce's father, who is still infected, always stays nearby, wanting the cure as well. Betty's father, a Colonel in the Army, does not want Bruce anywhere near his daughter, but she is the only way to have any control over Hulk at all.

Finally, the Army captures Hulk, and although they have chained him in a seemingly unescapable chamber, Hulk knows that there is always a way out.

 

Specifications

  • Universal Pictures
  • 2003, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 18 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Directed by Ang Lee
  • Starring Eric Bana, Jennifer Connelly, Sam Elliott, Josh Lucas, Nick Nolte
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

This is the 2003 movie by Director Ang Lee, not the latest one, The Incredible Hulk (2008), with Edward Norton.

Technical

The CG for creating Hulk is very good, and Lee does a nice job of telling this story, which is based on a comic book character and a 1960's TV series. The sound is intense, and is handled well by the DTS-HD Master Audio.

Extras

These include the director's commentary, Evolution of The Hulk, The Incredible Ang Lee, and other things.

 


 

"Speed Racer" (Blu-ray)

movie-september-2008-speed-racer.jpgSynopsis

Speed Racer (Hirsch) grows up under the mesmerizing influence of his brother Rex (Porter) who is a star race car driver.

Now a star himself, Speed has the opportunity to break his brother's record, but pulls back at the last minute.

A company called Royalton's Racer Motors invites Speed to join their racing conglomerate, but he refuses. His girlfriend Trixie (Ricci) is impressed with Speed's integrity and advises him while he decides what to do with his life.

An officer of a government agency comes to the family and asks Speed to help in the investigation of a certain group that has infiltrated the racing industry and caused its corruption.

At stake is not only Speed's career, but the future of his entire family.

 

Specifications

  • Warner Brothers
  • 2008, Rated PG, 2 Hr 15 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 Dolby Digital
  • Directed by The Wachowski Brothers
  • Starring Emile Hirsch, Christina Ricci, John Goodman, Susan Sarandon, Scott Porter
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

What makes this movie quite interesting is that it lays the groundwork for melding live action characters into a completely CG environment. The racing is spectacular due to state of the art CG, and this is the reason I suggest renting it for a view, even though the story itself is not all that exciting.

Technical

The image quality is incredible on the Blu-ray disc. I don't know what bit rate they used, but it must be way up there. Surprisingly, only Dolby Digital 5.1 is available as the sound track, no Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio. Nevertheless, DD 5.1 hangs in there for the ride.

Extras

There are two separate discs with extras, including a game called the Crucible Challenge. The other disc has more standard extras like Touring the Movie Set, and Behind the Scenes.

 


 

"The Thing" (Blu-ray)

movie-september-2008-the-thing.jpgSynopsis

It's 1982, and members of the US National Science Institute, Station 4, in the Antarctic, are shocked when a stranger approaches their compound shooting at a dog. They have to kill the stranger because he starts shooting at them as well, but the dog is saved.

In the kennel, the dog metamorphoses into a monster, and the team kills it before it can take on the shape of the other dogs.

Now it is apparent that something "The Thing" is beginning to infect members of the team, and since the monster takes on the shape of the animal or person it infects, everyone is suspicious of the other.

One of the team, R.J. MacReady (Russell) takes charge, and begins to test each member, hoping to force The Thing to reveal itself.

 

Specifications

  • Universal Pictures
  • 1982, Rated R, 1 Hr 49 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.20:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Directed by John Carpenter
  • Starring Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, Richard Dysart, Keith David
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Graphic
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

This is a remake of the original by nearly the same title (The Thing from Another World), from 1951, which was James Arness' first role, and was directed by Howard Hawks. At about 6 foot 5, Arness was perfect for the part. In 1982, it was still a bit early to use CG, so Rob Bottin built some astonishing monster latex creations.

Technical

The image quality is superb, mainly because this was a 70mm movie, so the film space from which to master the Blu-ray was twice the area of standard 35mm film.

Extras

Not much here except for the Director and Star Commentary.

 


 

"Casino" (Blu-ray)

movie-september-2008-casino.jpgSynopsis

In 1973, Sam "Ace" Rothstein (De Niro) is chosen to manage a new casino in Las Vegas. The problem is that Ace is owned by organized crime, and this means that the only goal is to take the customer's money - all of it.

Nicky Santoro (Pesci) is Ace's handyman with a gun.

Perhaps even more trouble is dealt out by Ace's girlfriend, Ginger McKenna (Stone).

Eventually, greed topples the growing empire, and there are plenty of skeletons buried in the surrounding desert, testimony to what happens to those who got in their way.

 

Specifications

  • Universal Pictures
  • 1995, Rated R, 2 Hr 59 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Directed by Martin Scorsese
  • Starring Robert De Niro, Sharon Stone, Joe Pesci, Don Rickles, Alan King, Kevin Pollak, James Woods
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Graphic
  • Sex: Mild
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

Casino is an absolute masterpiece, and is certainly one of Scorsese's best films, in my opinion. The story, the actors, the photography, the environment . . . perfect. If you are a collector of fine motion pictures, this is one of them to have.

Technical

In spite of the often dim interiors of the casino, the image quality is stellar. It does not require DTS-HD Master Audio to bring across the impact of gunshots, but it sure doesn't hurt to have it.

Extras

These include Moments with Martin Scorsese, Deleted Scenes, and other things.