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Movie Renter's Guide
 

Number 136 - July, 2006

Staff

 


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Underworld - Evolution (Blu-ray) Syriana (HD DVD)
Serenity (HD DVD)  

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Sony Pictures

2006, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 46 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (16x9 enh)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

Uncompressed PCM 5.1 in Blu-ray version

 

Directed by Len Wiseman


Starring Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman, Derek Jacobi, Tony Curran, Brian Steele, Shane Brolly, Bill Nighy

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

Nudity

Language

Bad

"Underworld - Evolution" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

In this sequel to Underworld, we are given a bit of history. Back several hundred years, when William (Steele) and his brother Marcus (Curran) began the colony of werewolves and vampires.

Victor (Nighy), a vampire leader, perpetuates a war between the Death Dealers (vampires) and Lycans (werewolves) over the centuries, and imprisons William in a secret place.

Fast forward to the current times, Selene (Beckinsale) has been betrayed by Victor, and together with Michael (Speedman), who is half vampire and half werewolf, they try to locate William's place of imprisonment so that they can destroy him before he is released by his brother Marcus.

In the meantime, Corvinus (Jacobi), the father of all vampires, wants Selene and Michael to also destroy Victor so that the war can end.

The final goal is to discover the secrets of their bloodlines so that the vampires can be safe in sunlight.

Commentary

This is one of those rare cases where the sequel is better than the original.

The special effects are spectacular, and Beckinsale looks terrific, as usual.

This will be one of the first discs released in Blu-ray HD format.

Blu-ray Version (8/06 - Kris Deering): Underworld Evolution is without a doubt the best-looking Blu Ray title Iíve seen so far. The image has superb contrast, with outstanding blacks. Detail is for the most part consistently good, but there are times when the image has a softer look than I'm used to with more recent high definition releases. Compared to the DVD release, the BD release has far more detail and depth. Colors are subdued as intended, and I didnít notice any chroma noise.

Blu-ray Version

0

5

Video

*

Audio

*

The soundtrack is presented in uncompressed multi-channel PCM. Sound design is aggressive, and the PCM soundtrack sounds superb. The low end is solid, and surrounds are used extensively to convey ambience and directional effects. The disc also contains a Dolby Digital soundtrack but I recommend the uncompressed PCM track. - Kris Deering -

Extras

These include The Hybrid Theory, Bloodlines: From Script to Screen, Making Monsters Roar, and other things.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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Warner Brothers

2005, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr 8 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (16x9 enh)

Resolution: 1080p

English Dolby Digital 5.1

English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0

 

Directed by Stephen Gaghan


Starring George Clooney, Christopher Plummer, Matt Damon, Chris Cooper, Amanda Peet, Jeffrey Wright, Alexander Siddig, Bennett Holiday

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

Nudity

Language

Bad

"Syriana" (HD DVD)

Synopsis

Two major American oil companies plan to merge, making the largest oil empire in the world.

A US Government official, Jeffrey Wright (Holiday), attempts to investigate the merger.

CIA Operative Bob Barnes attempts to discover what is really going on by travelling to Beirut and asking those would know, namely Hezbollah (a radical set of Shiite groups). Unfortunately, the organization does not want Barnes messing things up, so they make his life rather miserable.

Meanwhile, Nasir al-Subaai (Siddig), an Arab prince of an oil producing country, would like his aging father to name him as successor, so that he can modernize his nation with education for everyone. However, the US favors the other son, who wants things to be status quo.

The US Military, not wanting an Arab nation to become educated before all the oil runs out, decides to assassinate Prince Nasir.

Bob Barnes tries to prevent the assassination, having had enough of his own corrupt government.

Commentary

As a companion film to Traffic, Syriana has the same documentary feel to it. Unfortunately, there are so many sub-plots thrown at the viewer, it is almost impossible to understand if there is any storyline, rather than just vignettes. As a result, the movie fails to entertain.

HD DVD version - Kris Deering - The HD presentation of this film is quite good with fine detail at times being captivating. The presentation has a very natural film-like appearance that can be a tad soft at times in long shots, but this is probably the intention of the director.

Compression artifacts are never an issue, which seems to be the trend with the new VC-1 codec. Colors are somewhat subdued to lend to the look of the film, and the image does have a washed out look at times due to the persistent brightness of the on location filming. But there is no mistaking that this is HD.

As expected, the soundtrack is pretty laid back overall with most of the work going to the film's score. There are some occasional moments of impressive dynamics, but they are few and far between. The dialogue of the film is the most important aspect of the movie's soundtrack, and it's delivered with ease. - Kris Deering -

Extras

These include Make a Change, Make a Difference, Additional Scenes, Conversation with George Clooney and Matt Damon, and other things.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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Universal Studios

2005, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 59 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (16x9 enh)

Resolution: 1080p

English Dolby Digital 5.1

English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

 

Directed by Joss Whedon


Starring Starring Nathan Fillion, Alan Tudyk, Adam Baldwin, Summer Glau, Chiwetel Ejiofor

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

Bad

"Serenity" (HD DVD)

Synopsis

Joss Whedon is well known for his very successful TV shows, including Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly. Serenity is a feature length movie that continues the story of the show Firefly and was actually originally intended as a TV movie. I imagine that was before Firefly was cancelled from the Fox network, which was a big blow to the show's many fans.

I have seen the TV show, and it was a fun ride, but Fox really did it a disservice, airing it out of order and never even finishing the first season. Thankfully though you can find the entire first season, including the shows that were not aired in a great DVD box set.

Serenity ties up a lot of the loose ends from the show and takes the production value up a notch. The film finds the crew of the Serenity on the run from a government assassin looking to recapture one of the crewmembers before she unveils some dark secrets she's been privy to. The crew finds out about the secrets and stages a plot to inform the galaxy.

Serenity is a fun and different take on the sci-fi genre, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. The characters are great, and so is the action. The special effects are a bit inconsistent though, mainly because this production started out one way and ended up another. Regardless, this is a fun film and even better in high definition.

Commentary

Serenity was Universal's first offering for the HD DVD format. And what an intro it was. Serenity looked good on DVD, but it pales in comparison to this transfer. The movie has a lot of film grain and a stylized look, and this release captures that perfectly, but still retains perfect detail even with the smallest objects. Right from the beginning of the film, depth of image is impeccable, and colors look incredible.

The audio is presented in Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 and delivers. The most enjoyable aspect is the low end, which is tight and aggressive. The space battle near the end of this film is a great demo sequence, and the new Dolby format delivers it in spades. Surrounds are used aggressively throughout the film and add to the excitement of the story and visuals. My only complaint is some inconsistent ADR from time to time, which was slightly distracting.

Extras

There are none.

 - Kris Deering -

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