Media

Movie Renter's Guide - November, 2008

ARTICLE INDEX

"Tinker Bell" (Blu-ray)

movie-november-2008-tinker-bell.jpgSynopsis

The legend goes that when a baby first laughs, a fairy is born, so one day, infant laughter is the beginning of Tinker Bell.

She is born in Pixie Hollow, which is governed by Queen Clarion.

The first thing a new fairy must do is choose a profession (fairies help Mother Nature along), and she chooses to be a tinker, thus her name is Tinker Bell.

The problem is that Tink becomes bored, and looks around at other occupations, and in doing so, she learns a lot about how Nature works.

One winter, Queen Clarion tells all the fairies that Spring is going to be late.

So, Tinker Bell, with all her new skills, assists the other fairies in organizing everything so that Springtime will be coming right along when it should be.

 

 

Specifications

  • Walt Disney Pictures
  • 2008, Color, Rated G, 1 Hr 15 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 Uncompressed PCM
  • Starring Mae Whitman, Kristen Chenoweth, Lucy Liu, Angelica Huston
  • Directed by Bradley Raymond
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

The jacket says this is the first time we hear Tink's voice, but I think Tinker Bell spoke in Spielberg's movie, Hook.

Technical

The image has the look of a Pixar animated feature, and that means a wonderful picture. There wasn't much use of the surround channels though.

Extras

These include Magical Guide to Pixie Hollow, Ever Wonder, and other things.

 


 

"Sleeping Beauty (Blu-ray)

movie-november-2008-sleeping-beauty.jpgSynopsis

A long time ago, in a kingdom far, far away, there lived King Stefan and his queen.

At the birth of their daughter, Aurora, three fairies visit and present gifts. The first two are beauty and song, but before the third fairy presents her gift, an evil witch named Maleficent, shows up, and says that on Aurora's 16th birthday, she will prick her finger on a spinning wheel and die.

Luckily, the third fairy has not presented her gift yet, so she modifies the curse such that Aurora will only fall into a deep sleep, and will be awakened by love's first kiss.

The three fairies take Aurora deep into the forest to hide her so the curse cannot be fulfilled.

Sixteen years later, Prince Phillip, son of King Hubert from a neighboring kingdom, is riding through the forest, and has a chance meeting with Aurora. They fall in love immediately, but do not know that each other is royalty.

The fairies take Aurora back to the palace where she will meet her betrothed, Prince Phillip, but she does not know that Phillip is the man she met in the forest. Unfortunately, Maleficent discovers that Aurora is there and tricks her into pricking her finger on a spinning wheel. She falls into the deep sleep that was fortold years before.

Maleficent captures Phillip and imprisons him, promising to keep him there until he is too old to find love with Aurora, but the fairies manage to help him escape, he goes to the palace, sees Aurora lying asleep, kisses her, she awakens, and everyone lives happily every after.

 

 

Specifications

  • Walt Disney Pictures
  • 1959, Color, Rated G, 1 Hr 15 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.55:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring Mary Costa, Bill Shirley, Eleanor Audley
  • Directed by Clyde Geronimi
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

Sleeping Beauty was made in 1959, and although earlier animated films from Disney had spectacularly fluid bodily motions, this one showed the beginnings of the short cuts that were to be a hallmark of such 1960's animation companies as Hanna-Barbera (The Flintstones). Nevertheless, Sleeping Beauty is a masterpiece of Disney storytelling, and will be a delight for young and old, especially in its restored condition, which includes the full 2.55:1 aspect ratio. Apparently, it was not released in full widescreen in the theaters back in 1959, but rather 2.20:1, and in 70mm.

Technical

There is nothing like spending time and money on restoration. It looks like it was just made yesterday. The sound track sounds like mono that has been jazzed up a bit with some 5.1 processing.

Extras

These include Maleficent's Challenge Game, Commentary with John Lasseter, and other things.

 


 

"Transsiberian (Blu-ray)

movie-november-2008-transsiberian.jpgSynopsis

Roy (Harrelson) and Jessie (Mortimer) have just completed a children rescue mission in Beijing, China, and board a train to Moscow, that traverses part of Siberia.

On board the train, they meet another American couple and become friends, although Jessie senses that something is not right.

Well, it turns out the couple is involved in transporting drugs, and Inspector Grinko (Kingsley) is hot on their trail.

The problem that Roy and Jessie now have is to stay out of the crosshairs of the Moscow Police when the shooting starts.

 

 

Specifications

  • Filmax Entertainment
  • 2008, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 51 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DD
  • Starring Woody Harrelson, Emily Mortimer, Kate Mara, Eduardo Noriega, Ben Kingsley
  • Directed by Brad Anderson
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Mild
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

This is an Indie film, and it shows. Interior shots are poorly lit, which means that parts that have sunlight from the windows are washed out. Too many shots of the locals, just to make sure the movie is not too short. Not enough use of surrounds.

Technical

Blu-ray makes all movies look pretty good in the image department, but those interior washed out highlights take away from the overall experience.

Extras

Only The Making Of is included as an extra feature.

 


 

"Hellboy II: The Golden Army" (Blu-ray)

movie-november-2008-hellboy-2.jpgSynopsis

There is a legend that an ancient warrior, Prince Nuada (Goss), went into hiding, ready to return someday and command a Golden Army that he will use to take over the world.

Well, that day has come. Unfortunately, Nuada does not know where the Golden Army has been stored.

Hellboy and his Paranormal pals must keep Prince Nuada from finding the secret map showing where the Golden Army is hidden, just waiting to be awakened.

Finally, Nuada locates the Golden Army, but Hellboy, having come from the netherworld himself, is allowed to challenge Nuada for the right to command the Golden Army. So, the movie location sets get pretty messy with the outcome.

 

 

Specifications

  • Universal Pictures
  • 2008, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Doug Jones, Jeffrey Tambour, Luke Goss, John Hurt
  • Directed by Guillermo del Toro
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

More comic book hero stuff, on the big screen. I like this Hellboy character though. He smokes cigars and cracks good jokes.

Technical

In the old days of Cinemascope, there were no shadows. Everything on the stage had bright lights shining on it. Those days are gone. Now, everything is dark and full of shadows. But Blu-ray looks good in the dark, just as it does in the light. Lots of subwoofer action here, so batten down the hatches.

Extras

These include Hellboy: In Service of the Demon, Production Workshop Puppet Theater, and other things.

 


 

"The Strangers" (Blu-ray)

movie-november-2008-the-strangers.jpgSynopsis

Kristen McCay (Tyler) and James Hoyt (Speedman) head for Jim's summer home after a party.

The mood is not good, and they settle down to discuss their issues.

Beginning with a knock on the door, the evening turns much for the worse as Kristen and James are terrorized by strangers wearing masks.

They arm themselves with his father's shotgun and try to escape, but the "strangers" are there to stay. Their intentions are extremely unpleasant.

 

 

Specifications

  • Rogue Pictures
  • 2008, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 31 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring Liv Tyler, Scott Speedman
  • Directed by Bryan Bertino
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

Although the lead-in tries to make a case for this "based on a true story" film unique, and respresentative of the violence occurring every year, the plot has been beaten to death over the years with the "face at the window, at night, while you are home alone" kind of action. It's an Indie film all the way.

Technical

The low frequencies at the beginning were so intense, I had to turn off the subwoofer. Someone in production went way overboard on the volume control. Lighting is poor. Good production staff can make a scene look dark without having it appear muddy.

Extras

Deleted Scenes and The Elements of Terror. This is also a BD Live disc (let's you access the Internet for bonus content).

 


 

"Madagascar" (Blu-ray)

movie-november-2008-madagascar.jpgSynopsis

Would you want to live caged in at a zoo? I guess no one would, and in this amusing animated comedy, a bunch of animals decide it is no fun either.

So, they plot their escape, and actually get out.

Unfortunately, the city doesn't care for lions wandering around, so they are captured, but instead of being put back in the zoo, they are shipped to a Kenya Wildlife Reserve.

But, things don't go exactly as planned, and they end up in Madagascar, where the local animals try to make them feel at home.

I guess there are no lions in Madagascar though, so instead of letting nature take its course, and meat eaters do their thing, the Madagascar animals teach the lion to eat sushi.

And, he likes it.

 

 

Specifications

  • Dreamworks
  • 2005, Color, Rated PG, 1 Hr 26 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD
  • Starring (voices of) Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett Smith, Sacha Baron Cohen, Cedric The Entertainer
  • Directed by Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

This is a fun movie for all ages. The kids get the cartoon, and the adults get the one liners from such talent as Chris Rock and Sacha Baron Cohen.

Technical

This particular movie obviously did not get the detail put into it that Pixar puts into theirs. Funny how you can tell this simply from the number of hairs on the lion's mane. I don't blame them though. I visited Pixar a few years ago, and it takes an entire room full of computers all night long to render a short animated scene in one of their movies.

Extras

These include Mad Trivia Pop-up, The Penguins in a Christmas Caper, Behind the Crates, and other things.

 


 

"Wall•E" (Blu-ray)

movie-november-2008-wall-e.jpgSynopsis

Some hundreds of years in the distant future, earth has become one big junkyard. A company called BnL has robots roaming the cities, compacting all the trash.

One of these robots is named Wall•E. This is actually an acronym for Waste Allocation Load Lifter, Earth Class.

Wall•E goes about his business, but is a very lonely guy. All the humans have moved to a ship called Axiom, which orbits in space. It is a nice place to live, but they all hope to go home to earth one day.

Other robots, one of which is named Eva, are sent to earth to search for the emergence of plant life in the heaps of trash that cover the ground. Wall•E is frightened when Eva shows up in his neck of the woods. Slowly, they get to know each other, and a bond of affection develops. Then, when Eva discovers that Wall•E had found a small plant and was keeping it, she takes it back to Axiom, where the captain of the ship, examining the plant, opens his directive to find that discovery of plant life back on earth means that everyone can go home to earth and recolonize.

The ship's computer, realizing that this means the end of Axiom, tries to steal the plant and keep everyone  - and Axiom - in status quo.

 

 

Specifications

  • Disney-Pixar
  • 2008, Color, Rated G, 1 Hr 38 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring (voices of) Ben Burtt, Elissa Knight, Jeff Garlin, Sigourney Weaver
  • Directed by Andrew Stanton
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

Although it's a tour de force of Pixar's spectacular animation skills, Wall•E doesn't have the magic of Ratatouille, mainly because during the first half of the story, no one is speaking, except for a highly computerized "Wall•E" and "Eva" as they try to communicate. Nevertheless, it is a must see, because it is indeed entertaining, as well as state-of-the-art animation. Axiom must be one mother of a ship if all humans have lived there for some 700 years.

Technical

Great imaging from Blu-ray is now the norm and expected, and delivered here. But, if you use a flat panel HDTV, the picture will never have passed through a lens (which always degrades the image no matter how good the lens), and you will be rewarded with detail that is simply over the top.

Extras

There are several discs, and extras include Cine-Explore, Geek-Track, The Axiom Arcade, The Pixar Story, and many other things.

 


 

"Tropic Thunder" (Blu-ray)

movie-november-2008-tropic-thunder.jpgSynopsis

In 1969, a team of US Special Forces was sent into North Vietnam to rescue one Sgt. Four Leaf Tayback from a prison camp.

The outcome was so exciting, a hollywood studio decided to make a movie about it.

This is the story of how the movie was made.

The star is Tugg Speedman (Stiller).

So, the movie gets underway, but it is so boring, the studio takes a different approach. Speedman and his acting crew are dropped off in the jungles of South Vietnam and are told to make their way, on their own, to the camp where they are to rescue Sgt. Tayback. Hidden cameras will record their progress.

Unfortunately, they are captured by a drug cartel called The Flaming Dragon and are held ransom to the studio for $100,000,000.

Producer Les Grossman decides that an actual rescue attempt would make the movie even better.

 

 

Specifications

  • Dreamworks
  • 2008, Color, Unrated, 2 Hr
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD
  • Starring Ben Stiller, Robert Downey, Jr., Jack Black, Tom Cruise, Jon Voight
  • Directed by Ben Stiller
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

There are cameo roles all over the place, including Tom Cruise, Alicia Silverstone, Mickey Rooney, and several others. Robert Downey's portrayal of soldier Kirk Lazarus deserves an Oscar nomination.

Technical

The picture has great detail, with no noticeable edge enhancement, and the sound is explosive, literally. I didn't realize Ben Stiller had directed the movie until it was over. Nice job!

Extras

These include Before the Thunder, The Hot LZ, Rain of Madness, and other things.

 


 

"Wanted" (Blu-ray)

movie-november-2008-wanted.jpgSynopsis

A thousand years ago (towards the end of the Dark Ages), a group of weavers created The Fraternity. Their assignment was to assassinate those people who were creating chaos in the world, and at that time in our history, there were plenty of them.

In the 21st century, The Fraternity still exists.

When one of the team goes rogue and assassinates another member, the leader, named Sloan (Freeman), brings the murdered member's son, Wesley Gibson (McAvoy), into the Fraternity to find and eliminate the traitor who killed his father.

Fox (Jolie) is assigned the job of training him and helping him with his first assignments of killing businessmen who are creating chaos in the modern world.

Finally, Wesley is allowed to go after his father's killer, but learns a devastating truth that The Fraternity had kept hidden all this time.

 

 

Specifications

  • Universal Pictures
  • 2008, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 50 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring James McAvoy, Morgan Freeman, Angelinia Jolie, Terence Stamp
  • Directed by Timur Bekmambetov
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Explicit
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

Lots of great actors here, and the story is exciting all the way through. They borrow the slow motion bullet CG that was started by The Matrix series. The only complaint I have is that McAvoy just seems miscast in the main role. But Angelina Jolie is cast perfectly. I can't think of a film where she wasn't cast perfectly.

Technical

The picture is not quite as sharp as other recent Blu-ray releases, but the surround sound, courtesy of DTS-HD Master Audio, is great!

Extras

Lots of extras, including Assassin Profiles, Stunts on the L Train, The Art of the Impossible, and other things.

 


 

"The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian" (Blu-ray)

movie-november-2008-narnia-prince-caspian.jpgSynopsis

In the ancient realm of Narnia, Prince Caspian (Barnes) is in line for the throne.

But, there is another person at court, Miraz, who covets the crown, and when he attempts to assassinate Caspian, the prince escapes into the Narnian forest where many strange creatures live.

Lucy, Edmund, Peter, and Susan Pevensie - from the previous Chronicles adventure where they defeated the White Witch, are summoned from their real world in London, to Narnia and find that it has changed over many centuries while they were absent. They save the life of a Black Dwarf named Nikabrik who becomes their friend, and, along with other new acquaintances such as a talking mouse named Reepicheep, they aid Prince Caspian's quest to return home to his castle and reclaim what is his.

Miraz, in Caspian's absence, becomes king, and he prepares to launch a war against the creatures in the Narnian forest, and ultimately, to kill Prince Caspian so that he can keep his usurped position as King of Narnia.

 

 

Specifications

  • Walt Disney and Walden Media
  • 2008, Color, Rated PG, 2 Hr 29 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring Ben Barnes, Georgie Henley, William Moseley, Skandar Keynes, Anna Popplewell, Sergio Castellitto
  • Directed by Andrew Adamson
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

This film does not have the story depth of the original in the series, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but nevertheless, is entertainment for the whole family. It's well worth the rental for an evening by a warm fireplace.

Technical

The picture is very sharp and crisp, and the 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is terrific, courtesy of a full bodied musical score.

Extras

The package contains three discs, one is the Blu-ray movie along with featurettes including Creating the Castle Raid, the second disc has more short featurettes such as Big Movie Comes to a Small Town, Talking Animals and Walking Trees, the the third disc has a digital copy of the movie in standard definition for uploading to your iPod.

 


 

"TV Series - Hannah Montana (SD DVD), Prison Break (Blu-ray), Lost (Blu-ray), Grey's Anatomy (Blu-ray)"

movie-november-2008-tv-series-hannah-prison-lost-greys.jpgSynopsis

Putting TV series on DVDs has been around a long time, and it seems only natural that high definition TV series should be released on Blu-ray sets.

If you are a fan of particular series, I am sure you are delighted that the studios are doing this. The Hannah Montana series is broadcast in standard definition, so, of course, the DVDs are standard definition.

The other series discussed here, Prison Break, Lost, and Grey's Anatomy are all high definition broadcasts, and the latest seasons that have been released are in Blu-ray. I could not find Blu-ray releases of the first season in some cases, but I suspect they will eventually all be available in high definition, presuming that sales of the various series support that production cost.

For TV series, there is no plot per se. There is a theme. For Hannah Montana, it is the trials and tribulations of life at high school. In Prison Break, some fellows break out of prison, get put back in prison, and break out again. Their real enemy is an unknown group who do not want the prison guys to make certain secret information public. For me, this is the toughest of the series to continue to keep exciting. It's OK for a movie, but keeping the theme going week after week is not so easy. On the other hand, Lost and Grey's Anatomy are naturals for a series. The theme for Lost is having crash landed on a deserted island, and for Grey's Anatomy, it is the difficulty of the physicians having to deal not only with patients, but with each other. In both cases, it is relationships that keep the stories moving.

I think we will see more current HDTV series being released in Blu-ray collections, but my real hope is that Hollywood will go into its vaults and release some of the old, classic TV series in high definition. The Fugitive, Star Trek, Mission Impossible are just a few. I have seen some Hogan's Heroes episodes broadcast on TV in high definition, but no release in Blu-ray disc form yet (they are available in SD DVD form). While we are on the subject of old films, how about some of the Warner Brothers 1930's and 1940's classic movies in Blu-ray? Bogart, Errol Flynn, James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson.

Technical

The picture is generally good, although not always as sharp as one would expect it to be, given the fact that the sources are so new. Some of the Blu-ray series use high def soundtrack codecs like DTS-HD Master Audio, so theortically, you will get a better sound when watching these series in your home theater with a modern processor than you got when you watched them when they were broadcast on TV.

Extras

All of the series include plenty of extras such as deleted scenes, bloopers, behind the scenes. In fact, you get more features here than I have seen for some major movie release disc sets.