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Number 139 - October, 2006

Part I

Staff

 


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Good Night, and Good Luck (Blu-ray) The Last Samurai (HD DVD)
Good Night, and Good Luck (HD DVD) The Chronicles of Riddick: Pitch Black (HD DVD)
The Phantom of the Opera (HD DVD) Hitch (Blu-ray)
Into the Blue (Blu-ray) Species (Blu-ray)
The Manchurian Candidate (HD DVD) The Italian Job (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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Warner Bros

2005, B&W, Rated PG, 1 Hr 33 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

1080p

English Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by George Clooney


Starring David Strathairn, Robert Downey Jr., Patricia Clarkson, Ray Wise, Frank Langella

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

No

Sex

No

Language

Bad

"Good Night, and Good Luck." (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

In the 1950s, the Cold War inspired paranoia about Communism in the United States.

Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy (played by himself in film archives) started a witch hunt against anyone in influential positions that he felt might have Communism sympathies. In particular, government employees in the State Department were singled out. McCarthy never had any evidence to support his allegations.

So many lives were disrupted, CBS News Reporter Edward R. Murrow (Strathairn), supported by Producer Fred Friendly (Clooney), went on a hunt of their own, against McCarthy for his tactics.

William Paley (Langella) President of CBS, was extremely nervous about Murrow going after McCarthy, and so were the sponsors of the show, See it Now, which Murrow hosted. So, Murrow and Friendly said they would pay for the commercial spots out of their own pockets.

Murrow broadcast a program on March 9, 1954, showing clips of McCarthy accusing the Democratic Party, Franklin Roosevelt, the ACLU, and other people, of Communistic tendencies. Murrow, who was the most brilliant news reporter of the twentieth century, destroyed the Republican Senator from Wisconsin with his responses.

Congress, emboldened by Murrow's success, censured McCarthy, and that was the end of his career.

Commentary

The film was shot in high contrast black & white, much like TV appeared at the time. I think it would have been better to have only the TV segments in black & white, with the rest of the story in color.

Murrow's incredible voice, and the way he spoke, with inflections carefully managed, is something I remember from my childhood in the 1950s.

During World War II, he reported from England, and would say, "This . . . is London." The way he said it became so famous, CBS for many years, would say, "This . . . is CBS.", and more recently, James Earl Jones would say, "This . . . is CNN."

Technical

Good Night, and Good Luck is one of the early Warner Blu-ray offerings, and this is one of the first comparative reviews I've had the chance to do between the two formats. The Blu-ray presentation is quite good but has a few issues that keep it from receiving the same ranking as its HD DVD counterpart. The image has an exceptional depth to it thanks to the high contrast look of the black and white image, but banding in backgrounds was quite noticeable. Slight compression blocking is also evident in some of the background areas making the image slightly noisy. If you A/B the BD edition with the HD DVD edition, this becomes very obvious. While I would say this looks quite a bit better than most of the BD releases I've seen thus far, I would have to give the nod to the HD DVD presentation as the best available version of the film visually.

Since Blu-ray does not require Dolby Digital+ unless the soundtrack has more than 5.1 channels, Warner has released this title with a standard 640 kbps Dolby Digital soundtrack. It is virtually identical to the HD DVD release. Ambience is excellent, but this type of film doesn't have a lot going on in the dynamics or sound design department. Voice work sounds clean and imaging is solid.

Extras

Extras include a feature commentary, trailer (in HD), and a short featurette.

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

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Warner Bros

2005, B&W, Rated PG, 1 Hr 33 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

1080p and 480P Dual Format

 

English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

 

Directed by George Clooney


Starring David Strathairn, Robert Downey Jr., Patricia Clarkson, Ray Wise, Frank Langella

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

No

Sex

No

Language

Bad

"Good Night, and Good Luck." (HD DVD Hybrid)

Synopsis

In the 1950s, the Cold War inspired paranoia about Communism in the United States.

Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy (played by himself in film archives) started a witch hunt against anyone in influential positions that he felt might have Communism sympathies. In particular, government employees in the State Department were singled out. McCarthy never had any evidence to support his allegations.

So many lives were disrupted, CBS News Reporter Edward R. Murrow (Strathairn), supported by Producer Fred Friendly (Clooney), went on a hunt of their own, against McCarthy for his tactics.

William Paley (Langella) President of CBS, was extremely nervous about Murrow going after McCarthy, and so were the sponsors of the show, See it Now, which Murrow hosted. So, Murrow and Friendly said they would pay for the commercial spots out of their own pockets.

Murrow broadcast a program on March 9, 1954, showing clips of McCarthy accusing the Democratic Party, Franklin Roosevelt, the ACLU, and other people, of Communistic tendencies. Murrow, who was the most brilliant news reporter of the twentieth century, destroyed the Republican Senator from Wisconsin with his responses.

Congress, emboldened by Murrow's success, censured McCarthy, and that was the end of his career.

Commentary

The film was shot in high contrast black & white, much like TV appeared at the time. I think it would have been better to have only the TV segments in black & white, with the rest of the story in color.

Murrow's incredible voice, and the way he spoke, with inflections carefully managed, is something I remember from my childhood in the 1950s.

During World War II, he reported from England, and would say, "This . . . is London." The way he said it became so famous, CBS for many years, would say, "This . . . is CBS.", and more recently, James Earl Jones would say, "This . . . is CNN."

Technical

Wow. This is an impeccable HD release, with superb detail and depth. Contrast is exceptional (which is expected with a good black and white film) and gives the image a punch and depth that is almost unmatched right now. Fine object detail is remarkable, with no sign at all of compression issues. It will be interesting to see how this film plays on different displays. With an abundance of 8 bit digital displays in homes, I imagine a lot of people may see banding in this film, but I saw none with my 12 bit display.

The 5.1 DD+ soundtrack is good. The film calls for a rather tame sound design, but ambience is solid throughout. Dialogue (which is by far the most important aspect of the film) is delivered without a hitch or a single sign of strain. 

Extras

Extras include a feature commentary, the theatrical trailer, and a companion piece featurette.

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

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Warner Brothers

2004, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 23 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

1080P

 

English Dolby TrueHD 5.1

English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Joel Schumacher


Starring Gerard Butler, Emmy Rossum, Patrick Wilson, Minnie Driver

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

No

"The Phantom of the Opera" (HD DVD)

Synopsis

In the late 1800's, a Paris opera house is haunted by the Phantom (Butler), an opera singer who has hidden himself in the lower chambers because of disfigurement.

He has taken Christine Daae (Rossum) as a student, training her in secret.

When the opera's star, Carlotta (Driver), leaves because of a dispute, Christine takes her place and becomes a sensation.

A childhood friend, Raoul (Wilson), hears Christine singing and reignites their friendship, which matures into a love affair.

The Phantom becomes jealous, and attempts to sabotage their love, because he wants her for himself.

Commentary

This is one of many film iterations of the story by Gaston Leroux, including at least two made in the silent movie era. The best is probably Lon Chaney's 1925 interpretation.

In my opinion, the 2004 version is not very good, for several reasons. One is that there is too much emphasis on the staging and not enough on the characters. Secondly, the Phantom is better looking than Christine's lover Raoul, and that just does not work for a horror story where the Phantom is supposed to be an evil monster.

The music of Andrew Lloyd Webber is wonderful, but we can get that from a CD.

Technical

The Phantom of the Opera was one of Warner's initial release options and was an excellent foot forward. The image is extremely detailed, with no signs of compression or noise at all. This film is quite new and benefits from a superb master. The black and white sequences show incredible contrast and depth. Comparing directly to the original DVD showed far more rich detail, especially in backgrounds. Depth of image was far better on the HD DVD release as well. The standard DVD just looked smeared in comparison.

The audio is presented in both Dolby Digital + and the new Dolby TrueHD lossless 5.1 format. The DD+ soundtrack is good, but it has issues. The center channel is recorded too low in comparison to the other channels and is quite distracting. This is a known issue that plagued both this title and The Last Samurai, but none of the titles after that. If you are looking for the best presentation, look no further than the lossless TrueHD soundtrack. It has amazing presence, air, and tonal balance. I did some comparisons to the DD+ soundtrack, but it was hard to judge due to the balance inconsistencies. You still have to turn up the TrueHD soundtrack to get the full potential of the soundtrack, but it is well worth it.

Extras

Extras include the story of the film, three production features, an additional scene and the theatrical trailer.

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

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Columbia Tristar

2005, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 50 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

1080P

 

English Uncompressed PCM 5.1

English Dolby Digital 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by John Stockwell


Starring Jessica Alba, Paul Walker, Scott Caan, Ashley Scott, Josh Brolin

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

Mild

Language

The S word

"Into The Blue" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

Sam (Alba) and Jared (Walker) charter their boat, but money is running out.

They decide to drown their woes by going on a nice skindiving vacation in the Bahamas, and take some friends, Bryce (Caan) and Amanda (Scott).

One afternoon, while anchored far off shore, they happen upon a downed aircraft about 30 feet deep. Inside, they find a huge load of cocaine, still watertight in their containers.

Nearby, they also discover the remains of a treasure ship, which had sunk in the 1700's.

Local drug lords find out that Jared and friends have the cocaine, and they try to force the vacationers to tell them where it is.

All the while, Jared and his pals want to keep them from discovering that they have found the treasure ship.

 Commentary

This is basically just a harmless story, with healthy young people in bathing suits. Sort of like the Beach Blanket Bingo movies of the 1960's. Those older films were always tongue in cheek comedies. Too bad this one tries to be serious.

Technical

This is another title where Blu-ray is just coming up way too short of the mark. Into the Blue is one of those films that should just scream demo material. Plently of gorgeous photography (and actresses), bold colors, and lots of detail to work with. But this transfer just doesn't live up to the task. The presentation is riddled with banding, which is apparent from the get go. Contrast is lacking overall, with blacks never achieving a very dark level, and appearing grayish in quality. Detail can be quite good at times, but consistency is below average, with some scenes appearing too soft compared to what you were seeing before. While detail is better than what you'll see on DVD, this is still a disappointment for HD.

The uncompressed 5.1 soundtrack is pretty good overall. Dynamic range could be improved upon in some sequences. Imaging is solid, and there is plenty of use of the surround channels to keep things engaging. Dialogue sounded good through the whole film with no signs of strain.

Extras

Extras include a director's commentary, 10 deleted scenes, and a making of feature.

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

 

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Paramount

2004, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr 9 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

 

English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

English DTS 5.1

French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

 

Directed by Jonathan Demme


Starring Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep, Liev Schreiber

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Graphic

Sex

No

Language

Mild

"The Manchurian Candidate" (HD DVD)

Synopsis

It's 10 years after Operation Desert Storm, and Captain Bob Marco has been living with a nagging dream that tells him what happened to his unit during a fire fight one night long ago in the desert is not what everyone is led to believe.  One by one, the survivors are mysteriously dying off, except for the supposed hero of that night, Raymond Shaw, who is being propelled to no less than the vice presidency of the US.

Commentary

It is always with a measure of apprehension that I approach a remake, as, with little exception, they are just a rehash of something which did not need to be remade, and fall short as such.  The original Manchurian Candidate staring Frank Sinatra is something of a vintage classic, an excellent film which I would not have imagined a candidate (pardon the pun) for redoing.  It's interesting that the producer is none other than Frank Sinatra's daughter.

Often times, the "excuse" for redoing a movie is that its a good story and it needs to be updated to appeal to the current audience.  That in my mind is simply a statement about the sad intellectual state of today's movie audience who just can't appreciate a story, a performance, a work of art if its not in Technicolor with 5.1 surround (the original was black and white mono).

Despite the director, writers, and producers patting themselves extensively on the back for producing subtle differences from the original, the 2004 film tracks the old quite closely as far as remakes go.  The big obvious substitution is that it's not Communists who are trying to erode the white house, it's multinational corporate totalitarianism.  If the film maker's agenda was to make a political statement as such, good for them, but I still think that an original script could have done the same thing.  Cut and pasting into a classic just seems lazy to me.

All that said, the film is well shot, with distinctive optical effects used at times, and Denzel . . . well, he's Denzel.  He always seems to play the same character in every movie, with only a different background to distinguish them.

Technical

The Manchurian Candidate is a newer film, so I was expecting a pretty solid HD transfer here. While I wasn't blown away, I will say this is a pretty solid looking HD DVD. Film grain is resolved nicely, and depth and detail are pretty consistently solid. I did notice a bit more film print issues than I would expect on a new film like this though. The master seems to be the root of any issue I did see, with compression never appearing to be an issue.

The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1+ and is good, but not great. The film's dialogue didn't sound that good to me. Voices seemed a bit lacking in range and sounded boxed in. The soundstage had ample presence though, with nice ambience and range. Surrounds are used effectively for both directional effects and atmosphere.

Extras

There is a commentary track by director Jonathan Demme and screenplay writer Daniel Pyne.

Enemy Within: Inside the Manchurian Candidate is as the name suggests, the making-of piece.

There are deleted scenes and various outtakes, Schreiber's screen test, and a segment on political pundits.

The trailer is also included in full HD.

 - Kris Deering and Brian Florian -

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Warner Brothers

2003, Color, Rated R

2 Hr 34 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

1080P

 

English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Starring Tom Cruise, Timothy Spall, Ken Watanabe, Billy Connolly, Tony Goldwyn, Hiroyuki Sanada, Koyuki

 

Directed by Edward Zwick

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

Mild

"The Last Samurai" (HD DVD)

Synopsis

Following the American Civil War, in 1876, retired Captain Nathan Algren (Cruise) is commissioned by fellow officer Colonel Bagley (Goldwyn) and a Japanese businessman, Omura (Masato Harada), to go to Japan and organize the Japanese army to find and capture a rebel Samurai named Katusmoto (Watanabe), in the name of Japanese Emperor Meiji (Shichinosuke Nakamura). Compatriot Sergeant Zebulon Gant (Connolly) goes along to help Nathan train the troops. Englishman Simon Graham (Spall) is to photograph the whole thing for a book he is writing.

Upon arriving in Japan, Nathan realizes that it will take a long time to train unseasoned troops, who are basically just farmers who have been conscripted into the Army.

In spite of their inexperience, Omura and Col. Bagley order Nathan to march and find Katsumoto.

The troops engage Katsumoto and his army in the forest, and are defeated. Nathan is captured and taken to Katsumoto's village, where he is held captive while his wounds heal. Katsumoto decides to keep him alive and discover what makes his enemy tick.

During his stay, Nathan meets the beautiful Taka (Koyuki), Katsumoto's sister, and falls in love with her, only to discover that he is the one who made her a widow in the forest battle.

Nathan learns the culture and language of Katsumoto's people and realizes that maybe he is on the wrong side, and must decide whether to fight with or against Katsumoto.

Commentary

Samurai is an excellent film, except that Tom Cruise is not a very good actor. He has star presence, but pales next to real actors like Ken Watanabe, who deserved an Academy Award for his performance in this movie, in my opinion. In fact, the acting of the entire Japanese crew in the film is stunning.

Technical

The Last Samurai is one of Warner's first HD DVD releases and is probably the weakest of the initial slate in terms of "wow" factor. The image is impeccably clean and free of compression, halos, and noise, but it is a touch soft. This was part of the director's intent, but it doesn't make for the standard eye candy usually associated with a new software launch. This is a great looking disc, though, that is far cleaner and crisper than the previous DVD release.

The audio track is excellent, with a compelling score that really fills the room. Surrounds are used aggressively in both atmosphere and action. The low end is clean and at times compelling, but don't expect demo material out of this one.

Extras

These include the Director Commentary, History Channel Documentary, Production Design, Costume Design, Training for a Samurai, Deleted Scenes, and other material.

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

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Universal Pictures

1999, Color, Unrated, 1 Hr 52 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

1080p

English Dolby Digital + 5.1

 

Directed by David Twohy


Starring 
Vin Diesel, Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser, Keith David

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

Yes

"The Chronicles of Riddick: Pitch Black" (HD DVD)

Synopsis

A transport ship containing 40 passengers heading to other worlds and for one passenger, Riddick, another cell. The ship encounters a tiny meteor storm and crash lands on a barren planet with only 1/4 of its complement surviving. Survival is tough with Riddick on the loose and no water in sight. However, come nightfall, they have even more to fear . . . .

Commentary

Pitch Black is the first installment in The Chronicle of Riddick series. This film reminded me a bit of Alien in some respects, though I don't think it is in quite that league of film. For a rather low budget sci-fi movie, though, this is a great one. The story keeps you interested the whole time, and as the film progresses, the enemy changes, making things even more exciting.

Technical

Pitch Black has always had an extremely cool visual style. The budget for this film wasn't that big, but they did a lot of tricks to make it look a lot more polished than it was. The first half of this film takes place on a planet, which is REALLY bright. Filters are used to cool off the color a bit, but everything is still highly stylized. Detail in these scenes can be jaw dropping at times. Close-ups reveal texture, and fine object detail as good as anything I've seen to date. Film grain is preserved, and there doesn't seem to be any compression issues at all.

The second half of the film is almost completely dark, and again I didn't see any type of banding or compression issues. Detail isn't as good as the brighter scenes, but it is still very satisfying. The special effects of the film hold up well, but they are definitely not as good as the newer Riddick film.

The audio is presented in Dolby Digital+ 5.1. The opening sequence of the film has always been a favorite of mine, with an extremely intense crash sequence. Dynamic range is superb for this spot. Surrounds are used aggressively, and the low end is ample. Atmosphere is extremely important in a film like this and Pitch Black doesn't disappoint. Imaging is solid, and subtle cues are heard in all channels throughout.

Extras

Extras appear to be the same as the original special edition DVD. Commentaries, featurettes, and more.

 - Kris Deering -

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Columbia Pictures

2005, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 58 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

1080P

 

English Uncompressed PCM 5.1

English Dolby Digital 5.1

French (Canadian) Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Andy Tennant


Starring Will Smith, Eva Mendes, Kevin James, Amber Valetta

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

No

Sex

Mild

Language

Mild

"Hitch" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

Alex "Hitch" Hitchens (Smith) is the Love Doctor, someone who will help you get the person you love from afar to notice you.

One of his clients, Albert Brennaman (James), who works for a Manhattan law firm, is in love with rich socialite Allegra Cole (Valetta), so Hitch gives him some advice on how to develop a relationship.

Meanwhile, Hitch meets a columnist, Sara Melas (Mendes), whom Hitch finds very interesting, so in between helping his clients, he tries his tricks on her.

Funny thing is that Sara is trying to discover the true identity of the Love Doctor as a story for her column, and she does not know that Hitch is the one. And, he does not know that she is looking for him either.

So, while Hitch seems successful in helping his clients find love, he has a tough time with his own romance. And, that is before she finds out who he really is.

Commentary

Hitch is an easygoing romantic comedy, with predictable outcomes for all. It does have some very funny scenes, such as where Hitch shows Albert how to kiss, but most of the film is pretty banal.

Technical

The HD presentation of Hitch is about average for Blu Ray's earlier releases. It has its moments, but overall, it isn't much better than an average cable broadcast. The image just has a hazy look that robs fine detail. It is also noisier than I would expect from a newer film. Close-ups look good, and the image is generally more detailed than standard DVD, but the difference isn't nearly as dramatic as a lot of the better HD content out there.

The 5.1 soundtrack is good, but given the rather tame material, it never really shines. Dialogue sounds clean and glare free, and the overall ambience of the film is satisfying. The music of the film is probably the highlight and provides most of the film's range. Never a disappointment, but never quite overly satisfying.

Extras

A gag reel and some featurettes.

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

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MGM

1995, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 48 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

1080p

Uncompressed English PCM 5.1

English Dolby Digital 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Roger Donaldson


Starring Ben Kingsley, Michael Madsen, Alfred Molina, Forest Whitaker, Natasha Henstridge

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Harsh

Sex

Lots

Language

Yes

"Species" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

An organization called S.E.T.I sends a message into space, 1/4 kilobyte in size, containing the human DNA sequence, a map of our solar system, and the human population (now that's what I call a good data reduction scheme!)

Lo . . . they get an answer. It has a formula for a methane catalyst and a "friendly" instruction on how to insert their own DNA sequence into human DNA. So, 100 human fertilized eggs get the insertion, and the earth lab allows an egg to grow in-vitro (code named "Sil"). The egg divides rapidly, and a 10 year old girl develops in only a few months.

The researchers (Kingsley is the chief honcho) try to terminate her because of her lethal powers, but she escapes. A team of scientists is assembled, consisting of a biologist, a sociologist, a psychic, and a hit man (how nice) who are sent on a search and destroy mission to find her. By this time, the girl is a stunningly beautiful woman (Henstridge), and her mission is to reproduce her species so that they (the aliens) can destroy humankind, which they consider a galactic weed.

Commentary

Therein lies the story, and I don't think they did a very good job of telling it. After "Aliens", we are all expecting a certain standard in alien splatter films, and this one just does not cut it.

Technical

Somebody fell asleep at the wheel for this one. Either that, or the master was just REALLY poor. Either way you cut it, Species is pretty bad on Blu-ray. Again, I just don't know who picked these titles for launch, but I would expect a new format that is trying to attract adopters to put at least a decent foot forward, and this release is anything but a decent foot. Species looks incredibly grainy, and contrast is severely lacking. Detail is about what you'd find on an average DVD, and this movie never has anything really "HD" about it. In fact, there is even a moment when the film print is spliced wrong, combining two frames that aren't even the same!!

The uncompressed PCM soundtrack fares better than the video, but not by much. This movie sounds dated. Dialogue sounds decent for the most part, but atmosphere is a bit lacking, and the sound design comes off a bit cheesy. Surround effects are forced, and the balance overall seems off.  For a decently budgeted sci-fi film, I would expect a bit more.

Extras

These include two feature commentaries and two production features.

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

Divider

Paramount

2003, Color, Rated PG-13

110 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

1080P

 

English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

English DTS 5.1

Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

 

Starring Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron, Ed Norton

 

Directed by F. Gary Gray

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

Mild

"The Italian Job (2003)" (HD DVD)

Synopsis

After the flawless robbery of millions of dollars in gold in Italy, Charlie Croker and his gang are betrayed by one of their own, resulting in the death of his mentor. Now a year later, Charlie enlists the help of his mentor's daughter to get the gold back and to get revenge.

Commentary

Considering the way the preview for this film seemed to give away every important plot point, I was surprised that I enjoyed it as much as I did. I made a point of missing the movie at the theater because of the trailer, which is a real disappointment. Otherwise, it should have been a highlight of the 2003 summer movie season.

Mark Walberg will in all likelihood never win an academy award, but he usually doesn't ruin movies. Ed Norton and Chalize Theron were good as usual, although their roles really never required them to act very much. And of course Donald Sutherland is as good as ever.

This is basically a fun action/capper movie with interesting characters and great stunts. There really isn't any new ground covered, but it is an old road that is still enjoyable to ride.

Technical

I was really expecting The Italian Job to look a lot better than it did. The image doesn't have that snap that a good HD transfer normally has. Detail seems a bit wavering, with some images appearing a bit hazy at times. Color rendition is weak for the most part, due to the washed out appearance of the image. Depth is reasonable, but not exemplary. Overall, this is one of the weaker HD DVD titles from Paramount so far.

The audio presentation is better than the video, but still nothing to write home about. Dynamic range is about average overall, and the surround atmosphere isn't used to its full potential. Dialogue is good throughout the film, with no signs of strain, and ambience as a whole is decent. 

Extras

Lots of extras on this one from the original DVD release including a few featurettes, deleted scenes, and the trailer in HD.

 - Jason Irving and Kris Deering -

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