Go to Home Page

Go to Index for All Movie Reviews

 

Movie Renter's Guide
 

Number 141 - December, 2006

Part III

Staff

 


Now Playing
Divider

Miami Vice (HD DVD) National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (HD DVD)
The Ant Bully (HD DVD) World Trade Center (Blu-ray/HD DVD)
Annapolis (Blu-ray) Scary Movie 4 (HD DVD)
Meet the Parents (HD DVD) Eagles Farewell 1 Tour: Live from Melbourne (HD DVD)
Goal! The Dream Begins (Blu-ray) Hulk (HD DVD)

Number 141 - December, 2006 - Part I

Number 141 - December, 2006 - Part II

Number 140 - December, 2006 - Part III

Movie Reviews Index

Divider

Universal

2006, Color, Unrated, 2 Hr 20 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

1080p

 

English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

 

Directed by Michael Mann


Starring: Jamie Foxx, Colin Farrell, Gong Li, Naomie Harris

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

Yes

Language

Yes

"Miami Vice" (HD DVD Hybrid)

Synopsis

When detectives Ricardo Tubbs (Foxx) and Sonny Crockett (Farrell) are asked to investigate the brutal murders of two federal agents, they find themselves pulled into the lethal world of drug traffickers.

Commentary

I will state straight out, I am a HUGE Michael Mann (the director of this film) fan. His attention to detail and way of drawing you into a film are second to none. I was REALLY excited to see him return to the Miami Vice scene and hopefully do the film the way he wanted to do the TV series. The end result was quite satisfying for me.

It lacks some of the action that I know a lot of people wanted, especially since Mann set the bar for action sequences with Heat, but the mix of drama and action was enough for me. This release gets the Unrated Director's edition on the HD side. That was good and bad for me. I liked the Theatrical Cut's lack of opening credits, but I love the character development of the Unrated Cut. I also wish they wouldn't have changed the music soundtrack for the end gun battle. I am not a big fan of the cover of Collin's famous song, and it was better left in the closing credits IMHO.

Technical

I knew as soon as I left the cinema that this film would eventually spark a lot of back and forth on picture quality. Like Collateral, Mann has stylized the image a lot. The visual style fluctuates between razor sharp and crispy clean, to noisy and soft. The HD DVD delivers this perfectly.

The majority of the film looks incredible with some of the sequences bordering on the best HD I've seen to date. But there are quite a few shots that have noise intentionally laid on top, and it can be a bit distracting for some. Personally, it didn't bother me at all. I actually felt it lent to the feel of the film. There was some slight banding noticed on occasion, but it was hardly intrusive. Overall this is an excellent presentation of a controversial image.

If you haven't seen Miami Vice already, you should know that this isn't some summer action film. This is an adult crime drama that focuses a lot on the characters and situations and not so much on the big budget action scenes. The soundtrack plays to that theme as well. It can be down right aggressive at times with superb dynamic range (check out the early drug deal gone bad), but the majority of the film relies on the excellent score and soundtrack to set the mood. Dialogue sounds clean and imaging was never an issue. The surrounds are used extensively and play a big part in setting the mood and putting you in the action.

Extras

I must say I liked the new menus on this one far more than the typical Universal menus. They are a bit more stylish and fit the theme of the film. This title has some cool U-Control features including behind the scenes footage, a GPS tracker, and a tech spec sheet. Some of this is very similar to what we saw with Tokyo Drift. There is also a feature commentary and some production featurettes.

- Kris Deering -

Divider

Warner Bros.

2006, Color, Rated PG, 1 Hr 29 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

1080p

 

English Dolby TrueHD 5.1

English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

 

Directed by John A. Davis


Starring Julia Roberts, Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, Paul Giamatti, Regina King, Bruce Campbell

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Mild

Sex

None

Language

None

"The Ant Bully" (HD DVD Hybrid)

Synopsis

Lucas Nickle's the new kid in town, and the local bully, Steve, makes sure he knows it. Lucas gets so fed up with being bullied, he takes out his frustration on ants in his backyard in hilarious ways, like squirting them with his garden hose or stamping on the ant hill. The ants are understandably fed up with this, so Zoc the ant wizard uses a potion to shrink him down to ant size!

Lucas is sentenced to hard labor in the ruins and learns to be more compassionate to ants. He becomes an ant friend, then must become an ant hero when Stan Beals, the local pest control guy, who's an even bigger bully, comes to wipe out the entire colony. An "ants vs. pest control" battle ensues and Zoc reluctantly accepts that Lucas may be the ants' only chance of survival.

Commentary

I missed this one in theaters but almost wish I would have caught it in Imax 3-D. The Ant Bully was surprisingly entertaining and had more heart than I would have thought.

The film is geared more to kids than a lot of animation I've seen lately. The animation style is very similar to what you see with the Jimmy Neutron series, which isn't quite as impressive as I've seen with Pixar and Dreamworks, but it works well here. Kids will probably really enjoy this one though.

Technical

Animation is usually great looking in high definition, and this is no exception. As I mentioned before this was shown in 3-D, and some of the scenes in this film have so much depth it almost looks three dimensional without the glasses! Color rendition is fantastic, and the level of detail is breathtaking at times. I did notice some slight banding at times, which keeps this one from getting a perfect score, but overall I doubt this would disappoint any videophile.

Warner has served up another Dolby TrueHD soundtrack here (why can't this be standard on all HD DVD releases???), but it is a bit of a disappointment. Animation usually has some of the most impressive sound design out there. While I did like the use of the surround soundstage and some of the interesting sound effects, dynamics were severely lacking. There were a lot of scenes that could have knocked my socks off if the sound designers would have taken a more aggressive route ( la Disney and Pixar). While this is in no way a bad soundtrack, it was just a bit uninspiring given the nature of the material.

Extras

Extras include some extra animated shorts and scenes, a production feature. and a screensaver.

- Kris Deering -

Divider

Touchstone Pictures

2006, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 43 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

1080p

 

English Uncompressed PCM 5.1

English Dolby Digital 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Justin Lin


Starring: James Franco, Tyrese Gibson, Jordana Brewster, Donnie Wahlberg

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

Some

"Annapolis" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

After insisting thirty-four times with his congressman, the shipyard welder and amateurish boxer Jake Huard joins the U.S. Naval Academy. Having difficulties in the classes and suffering prejudice in his relationship with his superior, Cole, he has the support of his roommate and his superiors Ali and Lt. Commander Burton. Jake studies hard and trains for an internal box competition, in an unfair environment.

Commentary

Annapolis is entertaining, but a bit predictable. Franco plays a shipyard boxer who dreams of getting into the Academy only to find out he made it the day before class starts. He soon learns that he must work with his shipmates and let go of his pride to make it. The tale is a typical inspirational piece, but it's a bit dramatic. Maybe it's just because I am in the Navy though.

Technical

Overall not a bad transfer at all. Contrast is excellent, and detail can be quite good at times. Occasionally I saw a bit more softness than I would like, and at times there was a bit of noise, but overall I thought this was a solid effort by Touchstone.

The audio is good too, but the mix seemed overly front heavy. The uncompressed PCM soundtrack has nice dynamic range and imaging across the main channels, but I never felt like I was there. Since this movie revolves around boxing, I was expecting to feel more of the energy of the crowd in the rear soundstage, but it never happened.

Extras

Extras include a feature commentary with the director, writer, and editor. You also get some deleted scenes.

- Kris Deering -

Divider

Universal

2000, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 48 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

 

Directed by Jay Roach


Starring: Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro, Teri Polo, Owen Wilson, Blythe Danner

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

No

Sex

Innuendo

Language

Mild

"Meet the Parents" (HD DVD)

Synopsis

A Jewish male nurse plans to ask his live-in girl friend to marry him. However, he learns that her strict father expects to be asked for his daughter's hand before she can accept. Thus begins the visit from Hell as the two travel to meet Mom and Dad, who turns out to be former CIA with a lie detector in the basement. Coincidentally, a sister also has announced her wedding to a young doctor. Of course everything that can go wrong does, including the disappearance of Dad's beloved Himalayan cat, Jinxie.

Commentary

This movie always cracks me up, but it is frustrating at the same time. Stiller's character is so spineless it drives me nuts. I guess that is the point of the film, but I find it hard to feel sorry for someone who puts himself in these situations. De Niro is superb in the role of the Dad though and does some of the best comedy work I've seen in a long time!

Technical

Unfortunately I never had this one on D-Theater. I would have liked to compare the two HD presentations. Meet the Parents looks good, but it is a bit hazy. Detail and depth are decent, but the image softens up on occasion, and colors and contrast seem washed out a lot. The film almost has a "glow" to it that is reminiscent of classic cinema in a way. I don't remember that from the other times I've seen this film.

The audio soundtrack is what I would expect from a comedy. The dialogue sounds very natural, and imaging is great. The film's music selection comes over nicely and never intrudes on the film. Surrounds are used on occasion as the comedy builds up, and dynamic range isn't bad for the genre.

Extras

Extras include outtakes, some production features, deleted scenes and comedy features.

- Kris Deering -

Divider

Touchstone Pictures

2006, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 58 mins.

 

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

 

Directed by Danny Cannon


Starring Kuno Becker, Stephen Dillane, Anna Friel, Marcel Iures, Sean Pertwee

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

No

Sex

Innuendo

Language

Mild

"Goal! The Dream Begins" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

Like millions of kids around the world, Santiago harbors the dream of being a professional footballer. However, living in the Barrios section of Los Angeles, he thinks it is only that: a dream. Until, one day an extraordinary turn of events has him trying out for Premiership Club Newcastle United.

Commentary

Honestly, I had never even heard of this film before I got it in for review. That is rare. Whether or not this movie even made it to theaters here in the states is beyond me. But I did have a good time with it. Goal is a rather predictable sports film that follows the classic formula, but its characters and pacing make it a lot of fun to watch. Football (soccer) fans should love it!

Technical

Touchstone has delivered a very nice video presentation with this one. The print seems to be in pristine condition, and the movie has a crisp detailed look to it. Contrast is excellent, and colors are very bold. I saw some very light banding on occasion, but overall I would say this is an outstanding product.

The uncompressed 5.1 PCM track is good, but not a complete standout. I thought the mix was a bit too loud, and I had to back the volume down quite a bit from my normal listening levels (which are already loud).

Surrounds aren't used as extensively as I would like for a film like this, but I was pleased by the fullness of the main soundstage. Some of the matches were exceptionally dynamic, and I got a decent sense of ambience from the stadium and crowd.

Extras

Extras include a look at how the matches were shot, and a feature commentary.

- Kris Deering -

Divider

Warner Bros.

1989, Color, Rated PG-13

1 Hr 37 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

1080p

 

English Dolby Digital Plus 2.0

French Dolby Digital Plus 1.0

Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 1.0

 

Starring Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo Rany Quaid, Diane Ladd, Julia Louis-Dreyfus

 

Directed by Jeremiah S. Chechik

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

Mild

Language

Yes

"National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" (HD DVD)

Synopsis

It's Christmas time, and the Griswolds are preparing for a family seasonal celebration, but things never run smoothly for Clark (Chase), his wife Ellen, and their two kids. Clark's continual bad luck is worsened by his obnoxious family guests, but he manages to keep going, knowing that his Christmas bonus is due soon.

Commentary

Just in time for the holidays, Warner delivers the Griswold's Christmas classic. I always liked this one the most out of the series even though I typically don't go for this type of comedy. If you want a few belly laughs for the holidays in HD, pick this one up.

Technical

I honestly didn't expect much from this one in HD. The image is better than I expected, but not super. Detail is decent for its age, and depth can be quite good at times. The image has an almost constant haze over it that hurts contrast and color, but that is actually pretty common with older films. Overall, it's the best I've seen this movie look, but its a far cry from the better HD discs out there.

The audio soundtrack is delivered in stereo, and fidelity is lacking. Most of the voice work sounds okay, but the ADR isn't great. Imaging is decent across the front soundstage, but even with PLIIx in the mix, the rears were just about non-existent. The music selections sounded tinny and lacked any type of dynamic range.

Extras

Extras appear to be the same as the collector's edition DVD and include some commentaries, a feature documentary, and some production featurettes.

- Kris Deering -

Divider

Paramount Pictures

2006, Color, PG-13, 2 Hr 37 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

1080p

 

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 Oliver Stone


Starring 
Nicolas Cage, Michael Pena, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Maria Bello, Stephen Dorff, Jay Hernandez, Michael Shannon

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

Yes

"World Trade Center" (Blu-ray/HD DVD)

Synopsis

In the aftermath of the World Trade Center disaster, hope is still alive. Refusing to bow down to terrorism, rescuers and family of the victims press forward. Their mission of rescue and recovery is driven by the faith that under each piece of rubble, a co-worker, a friend a family member may be found.

This is the true story of John McLoughlin and William J. Jimeno, two of the last survivors extracted from Ground Zero and the rescuers who never gave up. It's a tale of the true heroes of that fateful time in the history of the United States when buildings would fall and heroes would rise, literally from the ashes to inspire the entire human race.

Commentary

I really expected this film to be a lot different than it was. Since Oliver Stone was at the helm, I expected a lot more of a questioning attitude, and more speculation surrounding the events. However, Stone created a film that becomes very personal, and instead of focusing on the events themselves, he focuses on the personal impact it had on a handful of police officers and their families.

I think this is an area that a lot of people can forget with a major event like this. People tend to focus on the big picture, and not some of the key players. Because of Stone's approach, you end up with a moving film that is both saddening and inspiring.

Technical

The HD DVD is encoded in VC-1 and delivers a very crisp and engaging image. Depth and detail are excellent throughout the film, and colors are extremely vibrant. Some of the darker scenes suffer from blocking artifacts in black, but this was confined to just a few shots that I saw.

The Blu-ray version is encoded in MPEG-2, so it is pretty much completely different apart from the master. Both presentations look pretty much identical except the BD version doesn't have some of the artifacts in black that I saw with the HD DVD.

There are also differences in the audio treatment for this release. Despite the fact that Paramount used a BD50 for the Blu-ray release, they've limited the audio to standard 640 kbps Dolby Digital. The HD DVD release features a 1.5 Mbps DD+ soundtrack, which has been Paramount's standard soundtrack for HD DVD so far. I don't understand why Paramount didn't include either an uncompressed PCM 5.1 track, or a higher bit rate DD soundtrack for this release on Blu-ray, since it had more than enough space for it.

The HD DVD sounded very good, but lacked some of the more aggressive sound design I would expect from a major Hollywood production. Bass response is excellent, but the soundstage wasn't nearly as engaging as I thought it could be, given some of the situations in the film.

Extras

Both the HD DVD and Blu-ray have identical extras, and both have all their extras on a separate disc. All of the features are done in full HD and include some production features, a look at the real life survivors of that day, and some behind the scenes looks at the creation of the film. You also get a Q&A with the director and the film's theatrical trailer.

- Kris Deering -

Divider

The Weinstein Company

2006, Color, Unrated

1 hr 31 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

1080p

 

English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

 

Starring: Anna Faris, Regina Hall, Craig Bierko, Charlie Sheen, Leslie Nielson, Bill Pullman, Carmen Electra, Chris Elliot, Dr. Phil, Shaq

 

Directed by David Zucker

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Comic

Sex

Innuendo

Language

Yes

"Scary Movie 4" (HD DVD)

Synopsis

Anna Faris and Regina Hall are back as the lovable, dim-witted Cindy Campbell and her self-serving, sex-crazed pal Brenda respectively. They are joined this time around by Craig Bierko as the cute, but utterly clueless, Tom Ryan. Together, they battle to save the world from a ruthless alien invasion.

Cindy Campbell moves in next to Tom Ryan because she's taking care of an old lady. She finds out the house is haunted by a little boy and goes on a quest in the village to find out who killed him and why. Also, Alien "Tr-iPods" are invading the world, and Cindy has to uncover the secret in order to stop them.

Commentary

I thought the first film was okay, and I actually enjoyed the second one, but the third was horrific, and this one is just about as bad. I am not a fan of this type of humor though, as it always seems like it's just trying too hard to be funny. But, if you like this type of film, you'll probably love this one.

Technical

Scary Movie 4 was shot with the same type of HD camera as Superman Returns. But I would give the edge to this film for overall picture quality. Superman was a bit darker overall and tended to be a bit soft. This film is bright, vibrant and full of wonderful detail. It still doesn't have quite the detail of film (HD cameras tend to have a bit less detail and somewhat softer look at times), but the image is impeccably clean and punchy. I really couldn't find anything to fault with this transfer at all. A gorgeous example of what great HD can look like.

Typical comedy fare here. Dynamic range is decent, and at times things get pretty lively, but the film's soundtrack pales in comparison to most of the films it's poking fun at. Dialogue sounds very clean though, with good imaging across the main soundstage.

Extras

All the extras from the Unrated DVD edition are here including a feature commentary, a truckload of deleted scenes, some production features and some other fun stuff.

- Kris Deering -

Divider

Eagles Recording Company

2005, Color, Unrated

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

1080p

 

English Uncompressed PCM 2.0

English DTS 5.1

 

Starring: The Eagles

 

Directed by N/A

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

No

Sex

No

Language

No

"Eagles Farewell 1 Tour: Live from Melbourne" (HD DVD)

Synopsis

Without doubt, the Eagles are one of the all-time biggest acts in popular music since the dawn of the rock-n-roll era. The band's roots go back to their role as defining artists in the phenomenally popular Southern California rock scene of the '70s, a decade in which they delivered four consecutive #1 albums.

Commentary

It is nice to see some quality concert videos already hitting the market in HD. Fans of the Eagles will find no less than 30 tracks on this disc, and every one is delivered wonderfully. Personally I loved it and can't wait to see if they'll release Hell Freezes Over soon as well.

Technical

30 tracks of HD goodness. The HD DVD is encoded using Microsoft's VC-1 codec, and the video holds up remarkably well for a concert. I am not sure if this was shot at 24 fps or 30 fps, but I didn't see any lack of resolution or de-interlacing artifacts at all throughout the entire concert (my video processor does do 2-2 properly though, so if this is 30p, it still should look fine).

Blacks were surprisingly solid with no blocking (even with a lot of light flashes), and there is an almost utter lack of banding with the stage lights. At times some of the performers can look softer than the shot before, but overall I would say this is some great looking HD footage.

I was really hoping to see this released with either an uncompressed 5.1 soundtrack or at least a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix. Unfortunately, you either get an uncompressed PCM stereo track or a 5.1 DTS mix. I opted for the DTS mix, and like Hell Freezes Over, it is a winner.

The balance of stage and audience is excellent, and some of the instruments are brought into the rear and side soundstage on occasion (but not much). Bass is rich, tight, and robust through most of the performance. I was really pleased with how well everything was kept in check in relation to each other. None of the instruments intruded on another, and vocals were always clear.

Extras

There are some interviews with the band and behind the scene footage all shot in HD.

- Kris Deering -

Divider

Universal

2003, Color, Rated PG-13

2 hr 18 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: Eric Bana, Jennifer Connelly, Sam Elliott, Josh Lucas, Nick Nolte

 

Directed by Ang Lee

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

Mild

"Hulk" (HD DVD)

Synopsis

After a freak lab accident unleashes a genetically enhanced, impossibly strong creature, a terrified world must marshal its forces to stop a being with abilities beyond imagination.

Commentary

Hulk is a movie I saw opening day in the theaters while I was on travel for business. Most of the recent comic based films at that time had been solid, and the actors and director attached had a great track record.

Unfortunately, this film didn't hold up as well as some of the other Marvel franchises, but I still enjoyed it as a summer popcorn film. Ang Lee did a decent job at keeping the comic book feel, but sometimes the gimmicks distracted from the overall result.

Character development was good, but could have been better. While I don't think this is one of the worst or even mediocre comic translations, it isn't up to par with some of the bigger ones out there.

Technical

When I went to this on opening day, I saw a gorgeous film print. I was in awe through the majority of the film at how good it looked. Some of the locales are just breathtaking in color, clarity, and detail. That translated well to the DVD, but it was slightly marred by obvious MPEG artifacts and some banding.

The HD DVD is by far the best presentation I've seen for the home, and nearly as impressive as what I saw in theaters. Colors are extremely vivid at times and really have that added punch that the DVD lacked.

Fine detail is exquisite, but the overall condition of the film print wavers from time to time. My only complaint is some occasion posterization that is quite noticeable. I will definitely be using this transfer for demo material.

The audio track is extremely dynamic, with some of the most intense bass I've heard in a while. There are some great showoff scenes in this film that will demonstrate just how good movies can look and sound at home. The front soundstage is very wide, and dialogue is intelligible throughout the entire film. Surrounds are used aggressively at times and really add to the excitement of the film. An amazing soundtrack!

Extras

Extras include a feature commentary, some production featurettes, and deleted scenes.

- Kris Deering -

Divider

 

Copyright 2006 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity

Go to Table of Contents for this Issue.

Go to Home Page.

 

About Secrets

Register

Terms and Conditions of Use