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Number 139 - October, 2006

Part IV

Staff

 


Now Playing
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Ray (HD DVD) Eight Below (Blu-ray)
Enter the Dragon (HD DVD) Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (Blu-ray)
Dazed and Confused (HD DVD) The Great Raid (Blu-ray)
The Lake House (HD DVD/Blu-ray) Waist Deep (HD DVD)
Dinosaur (Blu-ray) Army of Darkness (HD DVD)

Number 139 - October, 2006 - Part I

Number 139 - October, 2006 - Part II

Number 139 - October, 2006 - Part III

Number 139 - October, 2006 - Part IV


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Universal

2004, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 33 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

1080p

English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

 

Directed by Taylor Hackford


Starring: Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington, Clifton Powell, Harry Lennix, Terrence Dashon Howard, Larenz Tate, Regina King

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Mild

Sex

Mild

Language

No

"Ray" (HD DVD)

Synopsis

From his early days as a little boy in a Florida slum, to his glorious years as a superstar in the 1960's, this film chronicles one of America's most endearing musical entertainers.

Ray Charles Robinson went blind from an eye disease at the age of 7, but a strong mother helped him learn to deal with his disability, and he never looked back (no pun intended).

He shortened his name to Ray Charles and went on the road to Seattle with his first job.

He started playing in honky tonk joints with such luminaries as Quincy Jones, but soon decided that he had to be in total control of his career because managers were taking advantage of him.

As a blind African American, he had enough problems to deal with at a time when racism was acceptable, but his enormous talent just could not be denied, and once the record companies realized that Blues combined with Gospel music could make a lot of money, he was sought after by everyone.

Although married to Della Bea (Washington), he womanized most of his career, and had bouts with heroin addiction. Alcohol plagued him as well, and in fact, he died of liver failure only two years ago (2004).

He toured the world with his own orchestra every year until he passed away, leaving the world with memories of such classics as "Georgia on My Mind", "What'd I Say", and "Hit the Road Jack."

Commentary

Ray is like most biographical films, uplifting, sorrowing and typically unforgettable. Jamie Foxx did an amazing job playing Ray Charles, a musical genius whose life was as flawed as anyone's. It was interesting to see how many parallels there were to so many other musical artists I've read about or seen movies about. Guess celebrity is definitely not what its cut out to be.

Technical

I saw Ray in the theaters and on DVD before this. This transfer is far more faithful to what I saw in the theater than what I saw on DVD. Colors are exceptional and very stylized. At times they seem inconsistent, but that was the intent of the director. If I did have a complaint here, it would be black levels. Blacks are raised in this transfer, and that kills contrast. On top of that, it affects depth of image, which isn't as strong as it could be.

The audio is presented in DD+ 5.1 and is outstanding. The musical numbers are obviously the highlight, but the sound design of the film contributes to an overall ambience that really draws you in at times. Fidelity is superb, and dialogue sounds clean and natural.

Extras

All of the extras are the same as the DVD release, and include commentaries, production features, trailers, and more.

 - John E. Johnson, Jr. and Kris Deering -

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Warner Brothers

1973, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 42 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

1080p

 

English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

French Dolby Digital Plus 1.0

Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 2.0

 

Directed by Robert Clouse


Starring Bruce Lee, John Saxon, Ahna Capri, Bob Wall, Shih Kien, Jim Kelly

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

Suggested

Language

Yes

"Enter the Dragon" (HD DVD)

Synopsis

A martial arts expert is recruited to infiltrate a drug operation under the guise of taking part in an invitational competition sponsored by the one handed crime boss. This was Bruce Lee's most popular film in the west.

Commentary

I've seen this movie countless times now. I owned just about all of the DVD editions. Enter the Dragon is the must-own of all Bruce Lee films in my opinion. It had the highest budget and the most focus. The martial arts displays are also quite good. An easy recommend.

Technical

This film is old, and its budget wasn't that great. You can see that here. Warner has done a good job with this one, but the results are very inconsistent due to the source elements. Some of the longer shots look horrible. You'll see heavy grain, loss of resolution, and print wear. Then the next scene will be clean and detailed. While it can be frustrating, it was expected having seen the previous editions of this film. I will say this is the best the film has looked to date though.

The audio is just as much of a mixed bag. Fidelity is lacking overall, and the audio has an overall "bright" feel to it. The dubbing is awful at times, with voice overs being nowhere near lined up with the actors. The dialogue seems to float around them rather than delivered by them. Foley effects are pretty dated but what you'd come to expect if you've seen Kung Fu movies in the past. No great shakes, but about what I was expecting.

Extras

Warner has included a ton of supplements for this one, all from the special edition release that came out just a bit ago. Any fan of Bruce Lee will find a wealth of information here. There are documentaries, production features, and more.

 - Kris Deering -

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Gramercy Pictures

1993, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 43 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

1080p and 480p

 

English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

French Dolby Digital Plus 2.0

Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 2.0

 

Directed by Richard Linklater


Starring Ben Affleck, Matthew McConaughey, Parker Posey, Milla Jovovich, Nicky Katt

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Comic

Sex

Implied

Language

Strong

"Dazed and Confused" (HD DVD Hybrid)

Synopsis

This critically acclaimed cult favorite written and directed by Richard Linklater (School Of Rock), explores the last day of school and one wild night in the lives of high school students in 1976. Complete with bongs and bell bottoms, macramé and mood rings, and featuring classic rock music by Aerosmith, Black Sabbath, and KISS, this superb ensemble cast of up-and-comers deliver an enduring film. 1976 was a time they'd never forget . . . if only they could remember.

Commentary

Another one of my cult favorites, Dazed and Confused is one of those must-see comedies. You will be amazed how many people are in this film who become big stars down the line. The film is outrageously funny, and the story is great.

Technical

I would love to say that this film looks pristine in HD, but it doesn't. The image is inconsistent in detail and leans more toward the soft side of things. Film grain and wear are evident throughout, and colors seem a bit under saturated. I imagine most of the complaints I have are budget oriented, but I'm glad to see that Universal put this one out anyways!

While no great shakes, the DD+ 5.1 soundtrack does deliver some awesome classic rock goodness. From beginning to end you'll hear some of the best the 70's had to offer. Dialogue sounds good for the most part, but overall imaging wasn't that great.

 Extras

Universal has decided to release this one as a combo HD DVD/DVD release. You'll find the SD presentation on the flip side of the disc. While I understand this for day and date releases, I don't understand the point with catalog titles like this. Most fans of this film will already own the SD version so having to pay a premium for something they already have seems silly. Extras include some deleted scenes, and promo type featurettes.

 - Kris Deering -

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Warner Bros.

2006, Color, Rated PG, 1 Hr 38 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

1080p (and 480p for HD DVD)

 

HD DVD:

English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

 

Blu-Ray:

English Dolby Digital 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Alejandro Agresti


Starring: Sandra Bullock, Keanu Reeves, Dylan Walsh, Christopher Plummer

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

No

Sex

No

Language

No

"The Lake House" (Blu-ray/HD DVD Hybrid)

Synopsis

Dr. Kate Forster (Bullock) has finally found romance. Trouble is, it's a long-distance relationship. She's in downtown Chicago. He's in a remote lakeside suburb. And there's more: She's in 2006. He's in 2004.

Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock team for the first time since Speed for this heart-lifting story of a love that transcends time. It begins when Kate moves out of her visually stunning lake house and leaves a note for the tenant, architect Alex Wyler (Reeves). They begin a correspondence and soon come to realize they are meant for each other . . . and that, somehow, they live two years apart. Can they ever meet? What would happen if they tried?

Commentary

Call me whatever you want, but I am a man who likes romance films. I watched a lot of them growing up with my mother and I am a VERY sensitive guy when it comes to these things. The Lake House reminded me a lot of a Hallmark movie that I saw with my mom a while back called Somewhere in Time. Same premise in some ways, two lovers communicate through time. In The Lake House it is through the mailbox, in the other it is through a desk. I really enjoyed this one, and since I am in a long distance relationship right now, it hit a note. If you are looking for a romantic film to cuddle up to, this one's a winner.

Technical

Both the Blu-ray and HD DVD presentations are mastered in VC-1 and appear identical. This is a very new film, and the quality of the print used is impeccable. Fine detail is exquisite through most of the movie, with scenery bordering on breathtaking. Some of the inner city shots of buildings are so good it reminded me of some demonstration material I've seen at trade shows. A few of the dimmer scenes look like they've been filtered somewhat, almost like older films that have that hazy quality that added to the drama of the scene. Since I didn't see this in theaters, I am not sure how much of that was intended, but it sure fit the mood of the film.

The audio is the typical blend of soft emotional music and dialogue that always comes with this type of film. Unfortunately, the dialogue sounds unnatural for certain parts of the film. There is a scene when Sandra Bullock's character is talking with her mom outside of a building in a square, and the echoing in their voice sounds like they are in a tiny reflective room together. Very distracting. I noticed a few more inconsistencies in dialogue throughout the film as well. Otherwise the soundtrack is subtle, but effective.

Extras

The HD DVD release is a hybrid release with the SD presentation on the flip side. As for supplements, both have some additional scenes and the trailer.

 - Kris Deering -

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Walt Disney

2000, Color, Rated PG, 1 Hr 22 mins.

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

1080p

 

English 5.1 Uncompressed PCM

English DTS 5.1

English Dolby Digital 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Eric Leighton and Ralph Zondag


Starring

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

No

"Dinosaur" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

Long before humans appeared on the planet, dinosaurs ruled the earth. On a little off-coast island, a clan of lemurs finds a dinosaur egg, hatching. Since there are no parents, the lemurs take care of the newborn, Aladar. Years later, a medium-sized meteor goes down close to the island, and the shockwave forces its inhabitants to flee to the continent.

There, Aladar and his family meet other dinosaurs for the first time, and experience some real dangers. The destruction caused by the meteor here has also forced a herd of different herbivores to move to a remote valley that can provide food and protection against the carnivorous predators following after them.

Since Aladar grew up with a different understanding of the ways of the world, his way of helping others first isn't accepted within the herd, but soon it is proven that reason may be better than panic.

Commentary

I remember seeing this in theaters and just being amazed by the technical prowess of it. The story isn't half bad either. If you can get over the talking dinosaurs, this is a fun ride with lots of eye candy. Kids may find some of the dinosaurs a bit intense, but for the most part this is good family fun.

Technical

I really expected this to be a shining star for the Blu-ray format, but as it turns out, it is a bit of a lame duck. The image looks overly filtered and very soft. So soft in fact that we decided to A/B it to the SD DVD that I happened to have on hand. I would bet you that most people could not tell the difference between the two, in fact, most of the people in the room thought the SD DVD looked better in terms of detail. Colors seem a bit muted, and there is a layer of haze over the image that just prevents it from ever really shining. I don't really know what went wrong here. This is a short movie from a direct digital transfer, so it should look amazing.

The audio side of the house is also a bit of a disappointment. Disney has included a lossless PCM audio track plus a Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 mix. The uncompressed PCM mix is 48/24 resolution, which is a first for Blu-ray so far (hopefully a trend!!) The overall balance of the soundtrack seemed way off, with surrounds not doing really anything, and bass response lacking. The DTS track seemed a bit more defined than the new PCM track, so I almost wonder if different mixes were used.

Extras

Extras include a feature commentary and a scene dissection. There are also a few showcase scenes that are pre-marked for demonstrations, which I found to be an interesting idea. Last up is Blu-Scape, a short film shot in HD that fits the theme of the movie.

 - Kris Deering -

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Walt Disney

2006, Color, Rated PG

2 Hr 00 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

1080p

 

English Uncompressed PCM 5.1

English Dolby Digital 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Starring Paul Walker, Bruce Greenwood, Moon Bloodgood, Jason Biggs

 

Directed by Frank Marshall

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Mild

Sex

No

Language

No

"Eight Below" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

In the Antarctic, after an expedition with Dr. Davis McClaren (Bruce Greenwood), the sled dog trainer Jerry Shepherd (Paul Walker) has to leave the polar base with his colleagues due to the proximity of a heavy snow storm. He ties his dogs to be rescued after, but the mission is called-off, and the dogs are left alone at their own fortune. For six months, Jerry tries to find a sponsor for a rescue mission while his dogs fight for survival.

Commentary

Like most live action Disney films, Eight Below is heart warming and good plain family fun. It was quite the story to see how these dogs survived the rough climate of Antartica. The rest of the cast is good in this one, but the dogs take the lead and have an occasional tug at the heart strings. A great one for the family.

Technical

Eight Below is one of only two Disney titles that were encoded in MPEG-4 (AVC). The difference between this and the MPEG-2 titles is huge.

This is a very clean looking transfer, and there is no mistaking that you're looking at an HD presentation. Fine detail in close-ups is excellent, but I did feel that wider shots seemed a bit filtered. Colors are crisp and contrast is exceptional. Some of the footage in this is jaw dropping with excellent depth and detail. It is too bad that the overall experience was a bit wavering.

The 5.1 PCM mix is quite good and fits the mood of the film wonderfully. Don't look for too much excitement with this one, except maybe the score. Surrounds are used nicely to convey the atmosphere and create believability in the scene. Dialogue has a natural tonal balance, and imaging is fine.

Extras

Extras are a bit slim here. The Blu-Scape feature is an HD short film about ice and looks okay. There are some demo scenes that are linked, and the film has a feature commentary.

 - Kris Deering -

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Dimension Films

2001, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 44 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

1080p

 

English Uncompressed PCM 5.1

English Dolby Digital 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Kevin Smith


Starring 
Ben Affleck, Chris Rock, Jason Lee, Shannon Elizabeth, Eliza Dushku, Will Ferrell, Ali Larter, Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Mild

Sex

Implied

Language

Strong

"Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

When best buddies Jay and Silent Bob discover that a major motion picture is being based on their likenesses, the dopey duo head for Hollywood to claim the movie money they deserve.

Commentary

For anyone familiar with Kevin Smith films, this one will be no surprise. It's adult humor at its worst, and man will you laugh. The final film in the "Jersey Trilogy", Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back is a hilarious road trip film of sorts that finds the two stoners going to Hollywood to prevent their comic characters from being made into a movie. Not my favorite of Kevin Smith's films, but certainly full of laughs.

Technical

Wow. What a disappointment this one was. How on earth this can be a launch title for a new format is beyond me. The image is just soft and unimpressive. This reminded me of an average upconverted SD DVD throughout just about the entire film. I don't know if it was because they used MPEG-2 (shoudln't since D-Theater always looked quite good) or what, but this is not what I expect for a good high definition transfer. I really hope that Buena Vista moves away from MPEG-2 on its future titles, as their first two releases using MPEG-2 have not been impressive at all.

Wasn't expecting much on the audio side, as this is a comedy and doesn't warrant an elaborate sound design. The uncompressed PCM mix is fine, but dialogue heavy. The film's soundtrack livens things up as well, but dynamics are pretty limited overall.

Extras

Extras are pretty slim on this one. There is a feature commentary and some shortcuts to demo clips in the film.

 - Kris Deering -

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Miramax Films

2005, Color, Unrated, 2 Hr 11 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

1080p

 

English Uncompressed PCM 5.1

English Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by John Dahl


Starring Benjamin Bratt, James Franco, Connie Nelsen, Joseph Fiennes

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

Yes

"The Great Raid" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

Set in the Philippines in 1945, The Great Raid tells the true story of the 6th Ranger Battalion, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Henry Mucci (Bratt) who undertake a daring rescue mission against all odds.

Traveling thirty miles behind enemy lines, the 6th Ranger Battalion aims to liberate over 500 American prisoners-of-war from the notorious Cabanatuan Japanese POW camp in the most audacious rescue ever.

Commentary

For some reason, this film didn't get really any exposure when it made its theatrical run. In fact, I don't remember seeing a trailer or even seeing it at a local cineplex. The film is quite good though, even if it is familiar ground. The production value is high and the acting is pretty solid throughout. While I wouldn't call it a "great" film, it is by no means a waste of time.

Technical

The Great Raid is the other initial Buena Vista release to use MPEG-4 (AVC), and it is a very good looking transfer overall. My only complaint was with blacks. For most of the film black appears to be clipped, with no shadow detail at all. This makes contrast look good, but it looks unnatural too. Later in the film the blacks look a bit inconsistent as well.

Detail is excellent, and depth is sensational at times. If Buena Vista starts pumping out more titles that look like this and Eight Below, there won't be too much to complain about.

The uncompressed PCM soundtrack is quite good with excellent use of the surround soundstage. Ambience is always a factor, and I liked the believability of the surround soundstage. Dynamic range is impressive at times, but this isn't a Saving Private Ryan type of film, so don't walk in expecting a reference soundtrack.

Extras

Extras are limited to an audio commentary and quick links to some scenes in the film for demonstration.

 - Kris Deering -

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Rogue Pictures

2006, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 37 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

1080p and 480p

 

English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

 

Directed by Vondie Curtis Hall


Starring Tyrese Gibson, Meagan Good, Larenz Tate, The Game

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Harsh

Sex

No

Language

Strong

"Waist Deep" (HD DVD Hybrid)

Synopsis

"I'll always come back for you," single father O2 tells his young son Junior. This parental promise is put to the test when O2 is suddenly plunged into a do-or-die situation. Trying to go straight for Junior's sake, this recently paroled ex-con is forced to go back outside the law after his son is kidnapped in a carjacking.

The resulting chase and shootout have left Junior in the hands of Meat, the vicious leader of the Outlaw Syndicate. O2's shady cousin Lucky tries to mediate, but is caught between criminal and family loyalties.

The only person who can or will help O2 get his son back is wily street-smart hustler Coco, whose path fatefully crossed O2's just moments before the kidnapping.

Commentary

Saw the trailer for this one at the theaters and didn't think much of it. Now that I've seen it, I still don't think much of it. Lots of action, lots of swearing. The film centers around ex-model turned actor Tyrese portraying O2, an ex-con whose son is kidnapped in a car jacking.

The Game plays the local hood king who has him and wants money to give him back. So O2 turns the two local thugs against each other in hopes to get his son back. Pretty typical B-Movie action fare. I wasn't that entertained, and the amount of profanity got old after awhile.

Technical

Universal has been pretty consistent at delivering excellent HD presentations across the board on HD DVD so far. But, this is by far the worst title they've released in terms of picture quality.

First off, black levels are extremely elevated. In fact, I wouldn't even call them black but rather light gray. This kills the onscreen contrast ratio and makes the image extremely flat. Depth is pretty much non-existent. Fine detail is okay at times, but most of the movie looks overly soft compared to most of the HD DVDs I've seen so far. There also seems to be an issue with the frames. I saw a lot of shimmering and what appears to be combing in some sequences. I use a video processor that doesn't drop out of film mode very often, even with bad edits, so this is the first time I've seen something like this. Banding is also clearly evident in some of the darker scenes, and I saw a lot of random digital noise as well (not macro-blocking). I really don't know what happened here, but hopefully it's an isolated case.

The soundtrack is rather hard hitting, especially from the bass in the hip-hop tracks. Dynamics are good in the action sequences, but the sound production isn't terribly impressive. Dialogue sounds natural, with good imaging. Surrounds are used quite a bit, but nothing really excited me that much. Pretty average soundtrack overall.

Extras

Waist Deep is a hybrid HD DVD, so you get the standard DVD presentation on the flip side of the disc. You'll also find deleted scenes, some production features, and a music video.

 - Kris Deering -

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Universal

1992, Color, Rated R

1 hr 21 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

1080p and 480p

 

English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 2.0

 

Starring Bruce Campbell, Embeth Davidtz

 

Directed by Sam Raimi

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

Yes

"Army of Darkness" (HD DVD Hybrid)

Synopsis

Back to do battle with the hideous "Deadites," Bruce Campbell reprises his role from the Evil Dead series as Ash, the handsome, shotgun-toting, chainsaw-armed department store clerk from S-Mart's housewares division.

Demonic forces time warp him - and his '73 Oldsmobile - into England's Dark Ages, where he romances a beauty and faces legions of undead beasts, including a ghastly army of skeletons. Can Ash save the living from the evil dead, rescue his girlfriend, and get back to his own time?

Commentary

This is not my cup of tea at all, but rather a B-Horror movie that tries its best to be nothing but a screwball B-Horror movie. The comedy is cheesy, the special effects are horrible, and the acting is atrocious. But I imagine the legions of fans this film has (yes, I know it has them) love every minute of it. Sorry, but I didn't.

Technical

Since it's literally the first time I've seen this film (despite the numerous DVD releases out there), it is hard to judge this one. The image is extremely inconsistent, with some scenes looking spectacular and others looking downright atrocious. The special effects work in the movie is awful, and there are a lot of backdrops that don't blend with the main characters at all. These scenes come off really soft. You literally get huge swings in picture quality from scene to scene, and the swings are huge. Edge enhancement was noticeable on occasion, but compression artifacts don't seem to be an issue.

This film was obviously done on a small budget, and the soundtrack does about as well as everything else. It is silly, and rather sloppy. Dialogue sounds uneven to me, with tonal balance shifting a lot. The soundtrack is front heavy, but the surrounds are used on occasion to bring the score up.

Extras

Since this is a hybrid, the standard DVD presentation is included on the flip side. There is a theatrical trailer, but that is it.

 - Kris Deering -

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