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Number 140 - November, 2006

Part I

Staff

 


Now Playing
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The Brothers Grimm (Blu-ray) Out of Sight (HD DVD)
Space Cowboys (Blu-ray/HD DVD) Dark Water (Blu-ray)
Bubble (Blu-ray) Legends of Jazz Showcase (Blu-ray)
The Thing (1982) (HD DVD) Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (HD DVD)
Grand Prix (HD DVD) Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (HD DVD)

Number 140 - November, 2006 - Part I

Number 140 - November, 2006 - Part II

Number 140 - November, 2006 - Part III

Number 140 - November, 2006 - Part IV

Number 140 - November, 2006 - Part V

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Dimension Films

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

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

1080p

 

English Uncompressed PCM 5.1

English Dolby Digital 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Terry Gilliam


Starring: Matt Damon, Heath Ledger, Peter Stormare, Lena Headey, Monica Bellucci

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

No

"The Brothers Grimm" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

Wilhelm (Damon) and Jacob (Ledger) Grimm were two brothers who studied law at the University of Marburg, in Germany. However, they became interested in folk lore, began collecting the stories, and published books based on them.

This particular film tells a tale of how the two brothers go to a village whose children have been kidnapped and taken into a dark forest.

They contract with the village to use their skills to get the children back.

Once in the forest, they find that the strange tales they have collected for their books may actually be true, and now they have to find a hidden tower and destroy an evil queen who is using the children to keep herself young.

Along the way, they meet a beautiful damsel, Angelika (Headey), who is anything but helpless. In fact, she leads the way to the evil queen's tower and helps them get inside.

Unfortunately, Angelika is taken captive by the queen, who hopes to use her as the twelfth and final youngster for her secret potion that will restore her youth.

Commentary

The various tales highlighted in the film include Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, and Snow White.

Although it had potential, the film suffers from being too fragmented due to all the classic tales that are intertwined into the Grimm's search for the kidnapped children, and complicated by having the French militia, headed by a slimy character played by Jonathan Pryce, chasing them all the time.

Technical

Wow! I think a 4 for video is a bit conservative on this one, but there are some issues that I will talk about that keep me from giving it a higher score. Most of the time the amount of detail and depth on this disc are just breathtaking. Fine object detail is impeccable, and some of the scenes really give you that "looking through a window" impression. But there are some issues. First off, blacks need work. They never get very dark, and that kills contrast. They are gray most of the time, and I found it distracting. There is also banding in some of the sequences near the end of the film. The blacks could have been intentional, who knows, but that killed it for me.

The uncompressed soundtrack is alive and a lot of fun. I really love that we are seeing so many high quality soundtracks on Blu-ray, I hope they keep it up! Surrounds are used aggressively, and the dynamic range of the film is quite nice. Imaging is quite good at times, with some interesting use of the rear channels.

Extras

Extras include a feature commentary and movie showcase.

- Kris Deering and John E. Johnson Jr.-

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Warner Bros.

2000, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 10 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

1080p

 

Blu-Ray:

English Dolby Digital 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0

 

HD DVD:

English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 2.0

 

Directed by Clint Eastwood


Starring Clint Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland, James Garner, Marcia Gay Harden, James Cromwell

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Comedic

Sex

Mild

Language

Mild

"Space Cowboys" (Blu-ray/HD DVD)

Synopsis

A Russian space satellite, called Icon, is suffering a degradation of its orbit and will plunge into earth's atmosphere in one month. It is an old satellite, and an old astronaut, Dr. Frank Corvin (Eastwood), is the only one who knows how to fix the navigation electronics. NASA calls him out of retirement, and he not only demands that he be the one sent into space for the repair job, but he wants his old Air Force team members to go along too. These include Bill Hawkins (Jones), who is a crop duster, Jerry O'Neill (Sutherland), who engineers roller coasters, and Tank Sullivan (Garner), who is a minister. The NASA Director, Bob Gerson (Cromwell), is an old nemesis of Corvin's, and reluctantly agrees. They go through training and are launched. Upon docking with Icon, Frank discovers a secret that the Russians have been hiding, about the exact nature of the satellite.

Commentary

The movie is filled with geezer humor which is extremely funny, and this is followed by the very serious nature of the satellite sequences. It is one of the most engaging films I have seen in awhile.

Technical

I didn't quite know what to expect with this film. While it isn't an old film by any means, I've just never seen it look real impressive. This is by far the best I've seen it look, regardless of the format, but it isn't without some issues. The lens used does soften up the ends of the image a bit, which can be distracting, but it is obviously intentional. Print quality wavers a bit, with some images coming off crisp and clean, and others grainy and slightly soft. The end of the film has a lot of CG work, and that is extremely crisp with superb color rendition.

The audio side of the house is quite good. Dynamic range is impressive, with great use of the subs. Surrounds do their part, but mostly provide ambience until the latter part of the film.

Extras

These include an on the set look at the production, some production features that cover special effects, and the theatrical trailer.

- Kris Deering and John E. Johnson Jr.-

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Magnolia Pictures

2005, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 13 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

1080p

 

English Dolby Digital 3.0

English DTS 3.0

 

Directed by Steven Soderbergh


Starring: Debbie Doebereiner, Dustin Ashley, Misty Wilkins

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

No

Sex

No

Language

Mild

"Bubble" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

In this unique cinematic experiment from acclaimed director Steven Soderbergh, an unlikely love triangle is born at a doll factory in a small mid-western town that has fallen on hard times. Lonely and isolated, long time employees Martha and Kyle have become friends by default in spite of their drastic age difference, but the dynamics are upset by the arrival of a new worker: young, attractive single mother Rose. As Martha grows increasingly wary about Rose's dubious character, she discovers Kyle and Rose developing a relationship of their own.

Commentary

Bubble is a bit of an experience for acclaimed director Steven Soderbergh. In an arrangement with HDNET films, Bubble was released simultaneously on film in theaters, on HDNET, and on DVD all on the same day. This is a reactionary move to the shrinking time-to-video window that Hollywood has been delivering since DVD's popularity has grown. The film is a bit dry in its delivery, but I did find it quite interesting as it progressed. Almost a student film of sorts. The story develops into a murder mystery as it unfolds but goes about it in a way where you don't really know if you like it or not, but there is no doubt that it keeps your attention.

Technical

This film was shot in HD and the result is what you'd expect. For anyone who has watched Discovery HD or HDNET, you know just how good something can look when it is shot with an HD camera. This is no exception. Detail is exquisite and almost distracting, it is so fine.

The only reason I didn't give it a perfect score was the subtle amount of noise that crept in on occasion. In fact, the opening frame was a good example with the grass showing a bit of noise that almost makes it look alive. These distractions are few and far between though, and most of the time you'll be in awe.

Magnolia Pictures has included a Dolby Digital and a DTS track for this release. The case labels them as 3.0, but my surround sound processor (Anthem Statement D2) indicates that they are stereo encoded tracks. You still get a brilliant imaging across the main soundstage, but there was no discrete center channel delivered.

I was impressed by the level of ambience that was delivered. Sometimes it was hard to tell if I was hearing something from another room in my house! Dialogue was a bit inconsistent at times in terms of fidelity and balance, probably due to the mics used. Overall though, it was a lot better than I was expecting for a low budget stereo film.

Extras

These include a feature commentary with the director and an HDNET interview with the director in HD.

- Kris Deering -

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Turman-Foster Company

1982, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 49 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

1080p

 

English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

French Dolby Digital Plus 2.0

 

Directed by John Carpenter


Starring: Kurt Russell

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Strong

Sex

No

Language

Strong

"The Thing" (1982) (HD DVD)

Synopsis

In the winter of 1982, a twelve-man research team at a remote Antarctic research station discovers an alien buried in the snow for over 100,000 years. They bring it inside, and after thawing, the form-changing alien wreaks havoc, creates terror and becomes one of them.

Commentary

This movie is a remake of the 1951 film, starring James Arness as the monster, and I can't even count the number of times I've seen the the 1982 version. My parents sat me down to watch it for the first time in early elementary school if you can believe it. I think it took me about 3-4 times before I got through the whole thing. The effects and horror were like nothing I had seen before (good thing for a young kid I guess!!) and had a big impact on me. Years later I still love this movie. Even though the effects work doesn't hold up quite as well, it is amazing to see the creativity here. The tension is awesome. A welcome addition to my HD library!

Technical

Having seen this film countless times already, I have to admit that I was a bit worried going in on this one. I've never seen this film look all that "good". But I was surprised at how solid this presentation appeared. The print quality was surprisingly good, although it had some moments of looking a bit worn out. Depth and detail were far better than I expected, and colors didn't look too dated.

The 5.1 soundtrack is pretty good. I love the ambience of this film. It is exactly what a horror movie should be in my opinion. Moody and subtle. There is a reason a film like this will spook you out (or a film like Alien for that matter!). Atmosphere is everything. The synth driven soundtrack sounds great. But I thought the rear soundstage was a bit underused. Dialogue sounds good but not completely natural.

Extras

All of the great extras from the special edition DVD release are included. You get an 80 minute documentary that is great, a feature commentary, some production stuff and more.

- Kris Deering -

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MGM

1966, Color, Unrated, 2 Hr 56 mins.

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.20:1

1080p

 

English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

French Dolby Digital Plus 1.0

Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 1.0

 

Directed by John Frankenheimer


Starring James Garner, Eva Marie Saint, Yves Montand, Brian Bedford

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

Yes

"Grand Prix" (HD DVD)

Synopsis

American Grand Prix driver Pete Aron is fired by his Jordan-BRM racing team after a crash at Monaco that injures his British teammate, Scott Stoddard. While Stoddard struggles to recover, Aron begins to drive for the Japanese Yamura team, and becomes romantically involved with Stoddard's estranged wife.

Commentary

This was the first time I got to see this film, and what a way to see it. The photography in this one is amazing, especially given the era. The film can be a bit slow at times, but the racing sequences more than make up for it and put most recent films to shame. Worth checking out for the production value alone.

Technical

This master was just recently completed, and the image was done from a restored 65mm element. This is an amazing looking film to say the least. The panorama of it (originally released for Cinerama), the fine detail, the depth, just incredible. It is really something to see these older films look so amazing and almost show up the newer films. From a technical standpoint the only issues I saw were banding, which was evident in some of the fadeouts, otherwise this is an impeccable presentation of a beautifully shot film.

This film won an Academy Award for its sound design. Unfortunately compared to most modern soundtracks, this isn't that great. But the new surround mix isn't too bad. Surrounds are used pretty extensively to convey the atmosphere of the race environment. The soundtrack overall seemed a bit bright, but I imagine that is a byproduct of the microphones used at the time. Dynamic range is on the limited side with the low end being almost non-existent.

Extras

This release has no less than four new documentaries on the making of the film. There is also a production featurette.

- Kris Deering -

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Universal

1998, Color, Rated R

2 Hr 03 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

1080p

 

English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

 

Starring George Clooney, Jennifer Lopez, Ving Rhames, Don Cheadle, Dennis Farina, Albert Brooks

 

Directed by Steven Soderbergh

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

Mild

Language

Yes

"Out of Sight" (HD DVD)

Synopsis

Meet Jack Foley (Clooney), the most successful bank robber in the country. On the day he busts out of jail, he finds himself stealing something far more precious than money: Karen Sisco's heart. She's smart. She's sexy, and unfortunately for Jack, she's a Federal Marshal (not to mention, Jennifer Lopez). Now, they're willing to risk it all to find out there's more between them than just the law.

Commentary

I saw this one in theaters and instantly loved it. The production has a really cool feel to it, and the comedy is dead on. Clooney gives one of his best performances ever in my opinion and Lopez shows that she is quite capable with the right part. This film is full of talent, and the story is one of the better Elmore Leonard efforts in my opinion. I've owned this one on DVD and D-Theater and recommend it all the time.

Technical

This transfer seems to be identical to the D-Theater release. Basically it's a mixed bag, but only because that is the way it was shot. The overall sharpness of the image varies throughout the film, with different timelines taking on different looks. Colors can be quite natural in one scene, only to be overdriven and harsh in others. Depth can be surprising at times, especially in some of the prison scenes. Overall, this is exactly the way the film looked theatrically.

I LOVE the music in this film. It fits the story perfectly and sets the mood throughout the film. Dynamic range is superb in some of the sequences, but most of the film centers around dialogue and atmosphere, both of which are solid.

Extras

Extras look the same as the DVD. You get a feature commentary, a making of documentary, and some deleted scenes.

- Kris Deering -

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Touchstone Pictures

2006, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 45 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

1080p

 

English Uncompressed PCM 5.1

English Dolby Digital 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Walter Salles


Starring 
Jennifer Connelly, John C. Reilly, Tim Roth, Dougray Scott

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

Mild

"Dark Water" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

Dahlia Williams (Connelly) is starting a new life; newly separated with a new job and a new apartment, she's determined to put her relationship with her estranged husband behind her and devote herself to raising her daughter, Ceci. But when the strained separation disintegrates into a bitter custody battle, her situation takes a turn for the worse. Her new apartment - dilapidated, cramped, and worn - seems to take on a life of its own. Mysterious noises, persistent leaks of dark water, and strange happenings cause her imagination to run wild, sending her on a puzzling and mystifying pursuit to find out who is behind the endless mind games.

Commentary

I saw the original Dark Water quite some time ago and was left uninspired. Japanese horror films were going through a phase of repetitiveness that was getting old. When I saw that they were re-making this one for American audiences la The Ring and The Grudge, I was less than thrilled. Rarely do remakes succeed at becoming better movies than their originals, and the original in this case wasn't that good. My fears were pretty much confirmed once I watched this one. The film is almost identical to the original except locales, but it does have the benefit of a sleeker production design and obvious increase in budget. But that doesn't save it from being a bit of a bore in my opinion.

Technical

Dark Water has a drab look to it and reminds me a lot of the local look here in the Pacific Northwest. Lots of grays. Detail is wavering through most of the film. At times I was impressed with the level of fine detail, but then the very next scene can come off way too soft in comparison. Depth was also lacking. Outdoor shots show more film grain and print wear than indoor shots, but neither is too distracting. I saw some very light compression noise on backgrounds in the apartment, but they were far from distracting.

The audio presentation is quite moody and engaging. Early on I heard some very strange noise issues when the parents are meeting with the childcare people that was very distracting. I tried the same scene in both uncompressed PCM and Dolby Digital and got the same result, so it is obviously an issue with the master recording. I only heard the problem in this one scene though. Surround use is quite engaging for this film, and some of the sound design is down right creepy. Overall, it's a decent effort for this genre of film, but it isn't quite demo material.

Extras

Extras include some deleted scenes and production features. You also get the random scene clips from the movie showcase.

- Kris Deering -

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LRS Media

2006, Color, Unrated, 55 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

1080i

 

English Dolby Digital 5.1

English Dolby TrueHD 5.1

English PCM 2.0

 


Performances by Chris Botti, Dave Brubeck, Chick Corea, Robert Cray, George Duke, Kurt Elling, Benny Golson, Al Jarreau, Ramsey Lewis

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

No

Sex

No

Language

No

"Legends of Jazz Showcase" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

Legends of Jazz with Ramsey Lewis Showcase is an all-star collection of 13 riveting live performances from the acclaimed TV series by some of the biggest stars in jazz today including Chris Botti, Dave Brubeck, Chick Corea, Robert Cray, George Duke, Kurt Elling, Benny Golson, Al Jarreau, Ramsey Lewis, Ivan Lins, Marcus Miller, Jane Moneit, Keb' Mo', John Pizzarelli, Lee Ritenour, David Sanborn, Billy Taylor, Clark Terry, Dave Valentin, and Phil Woods.

Commentary

This is essentially a collection of performances from a lot of well known jazz musicians. Each one is different than the other so you get a lot of varying flavors. All of the musical numbers are engaging, and I wouldn't even call myself that big of a jazz fan. While I am sure there are fans of specific artists from this collection, I think most music lovers will enjoy the entire showcase.

Technical

The entire set was shot in HD and reminds me a lot of the presentations you see on HDNET and stations similar to it. The great thing is, you don't get the macroblocking typically associated with cable presentations. Detail is phenomenal, as is color saturation. There were issues with some of the lighting though, and what appeared to be clipping from over saturation in some scenes. But, it only happened a few times. Overall this is a disc that would be a great demonstration of how good stuff shot in HD can look.

This is the first Blu-ray disc that I know of with a Dolby TrueHD soundtrack on it. Unfortunately, there isn't a single Blu-ray player on the market that can take advantage of it. I used the new Panasonic Blu-ray player and even if I selected the TrueHD soundtrack, it was down-converted to 448 Kbps DD. This is also the quality of the standard Dolby track on the release, which is strange since Blu-ray is perfectly capable of much higher bit rates. Nevertheless, the audio was REALLY impressive. Anyone who thinks that DD isn't capable of delivering a solid musical experience needs to check this disc out. I hope that I'll have the opportunity to hear it in TrueHD sometime soon!

Extras

Extras include artist biographies, trailers and a picture gallery.

- Kris Deering -

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Warner Bros.

1971, Color, Rated G, 1 Hr 40 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

1080p

 

English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

French Dolby Digital Plus 1.0

Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 1.0

 

Directed by Mel Stuart


Starring Gene Wilder, Jack Albertson, Peter Ostrum

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

No

Sex

No

Language

No

"Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" (HD DVD)

Synopsis

The world is astounded when Willy Wonka (Wilder), for years a recluse in his factory, announces that five lucky people will be given a tour of the factory, shown all the secrets of his amazing candy, and one will win a lifetime supply of Wonka chocolate. Nobody wants the prize more than young Charlie, but as his family is so poor that buying even one bar of chocolate is a treat, buying enough bars to find one of the five golden tickets is unlikely in the extreme. But in movieland, magic can happen. Charlie, along with four somewhat odious other children, get the chance of a lifetime and a tour of the factory. Along the way, mild disasters befall each of the bad children, but can Charlie beat the odds and grab the brass ring?

Commentary

I just recently reviewed Tim Burton's adaptation of this classic story, and while I did enjoy his vision, this is still the best. It's the darkest G rated film you will ever watch. It is almost comical how this one will go right over your kids' heads but make you cringe from Wonka's dark remarks in the factory. The music is spectacular, and the production design is still delightful, despite having seen this film countless times already. I am glad that Warner is releasing classics like this one in HD!

Technical

Having seen older films lilke Blazing Saddles, Robin Hood, and Grand Prix on HD DVD already, I was a bit disappointed with this one. Inconsistency is the main issue. The quality of the print wavers a lot from scene to scene. Interior shots can look wonderful at times, but then the characters step outside and you see all kinds of film grain and print wear. Colors look good, but a bit subdued. Given the popularity of this film, I was expecting a bit more.

The soundtrack is a better than the video, but it definitely shows its age. Fidelity is lacking, and voices sound a bit tinny. The soundstage is front heavy but that changes towards the end of the film in the factory. Again, I was expecting more.

Extras

Extras include a look at the film and story behind it, some commentaries, songs, and trailer.

- Kris Deering -

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Universal

1998, Color, Rated R

1 hr 59 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

1080p

 

English Dolby TrueHD 5.1

English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

French Dolby Digital Plus 2.0

Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 2.0

 

Starring Johnny Depp, Benicio Del Toro, Cameron Diaz, Christina Ricci, Gary Busey

 

Directed by Terry Gilliam

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Mild

Sex

Mild

Language

Yes

"Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" (HD DVD)

Synopsis

This is the big-screen version of Hunter S. Thompson's seminal psychedelic classic about his road trip across Western America as he and his large Samoan lawyer searched desperately for the "American dream"

They are helped in large part by the huge amount of drugs and alcohol kept in their convertible, The Red Shark.

Commentary

This is one of those films I really tried to like, but just couldn't get too into it. Maybe I need to be as high as the people portrayed in the film. Depp and Del Toro are both brilliant in their roles and give some of the best performances of their careers though. I know this film has a strong following, but I am just not one of them.

Technical

Fear and Loathing is classic Gilliam. The image is extremely stylized and very inconsistent. Fine detail is breathtaking in some moments, especially in extreme close-ups. But some of the darker scenes look a bit soft and noisy. Colors are vibrant for the most part, but again some of the dimmer scenes come off drab. Print wear is obvious but not too distracting.

This is one of only two Universal films to get a TrueHD soundtrack, but I wasn't that impressed here. The biggest offender is dialogue, which has obvious strain at times. The soundstage is a bit thinner than I would expect given the onscreen imagery, but I did enjoy the monologue style.

Extras

Unfortunately none of the extras from the Criterion release are included here. What you do get are some deleted scenes, production features, and the trailer.

- Kris Deering -

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