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Number 142 - January, 2007

Part II

Staff

 


Now Playing
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Invincible (Blu-ray) The Breakfast Club (HD DVD)
Jet Li's Fearless (HD DVD) Transporter 2 (Blu-ray)
Bulletproof Monk (Blu-ray) Clerks II (HD DVD)
Field of Dreams (Blu-ray) The Scorpion King (HD DVD)
Flightplan (Blu-ray) AVP (Blu-ray)

Number 142 - January, 2007 - Part I

Number 142 - January, 2007 - Part II

Number 142 - January, 2007 - Part III

Movie Reviews Index

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Walt Disney

2006, Color, Rated PG, 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 Ericson Core


Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Greg Kinnear, Elizabeth Banks, Michael Rispoli

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Mild

Sex

No

Language

Mild

"Invincible" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

From the producers of The Rookie, this inspiring sports movie stars Mark Wahlberg as a Philadelphia Eagles fan who has just lost his wife and his teaching job. He decides one day to show up for an open tryout for his favorite NFL team, only to see his wildest dreams come true.

Commentary

Invincible is one of those rather cookie cutter sports films that still manages to inspire. The movie is enjoyable even for non-sports buffs (the definition of me). The production value and cast are all great and raise the enjoyment level of a film that could have been a movie of the week.

Technical

Disney continues to impress. This Blu-ray release has a great looking image with plenty of depth and detail. The film is very stylized, and film grain and deep hues are delivered flawlessly. There were some brief moments where I saw some slight banding, but it was anything but distracting. I loved the contrast of the image and the depth.

The uncompressed 5.1 soundtrack is good, but the material only lets it go so far. Some of the game sequences turn it up a notch, but this is mainly a drama, so don't expect too much. Ambience is delivered nicely, and dialogue always sounds clean and natural.

Extras

Extras include some commentaries, a look at the real Vince Papale, and developing the character.


- Kris Deering -

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Universal

2006, Color, Unrated, 1 Hr 44 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

1080p

 

Mandarin Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

 

Directed by Ronny Yu


Starring Jet Li, Nakamura Shidou, Sun Li, Dong Yong, Nathan Jones

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

None

Language

Mild

"Jet Li's Fearless" (HD DVD Hybrid)

Synopsis

Jet Li's Fearless reunites the actor and martial arts superstar with producer Bill Kong (Hero) and action choreographer Yuen Wo Ping (Unleashed) as he portrays martial arts legend Huo Yuanjia, who became the most famous fighter in all of China at the turn of the 20th Century.

Huo faced incredible personal tragedy but ultimately fought his way out of darkness and into history, forever defining the true spirit of martial arts. His self-discovery, and the choices he made, inspired his nation.

Commentary

Touted as Jet Li's last martial arts film, Fearless is one of Li's better Kung Fu films. Instead of a big action fest Fearless loosely portrays the true story of one of China's most legendary fighters and school masters. The film shows that there is more to learn in life than fighting and comes off as more inspirational than action packed.

Technical

Since this is a newer film, it benefits from a very nice looking print to work with. Detail overall is quite good, and I was impressed with how clean the blacks look. Some of the outdoor sequences were a bit softer than I would expect, but I wonder how much of that was the DP's intent.

The audio side is what you would expect from this type of film. Action scenes have some nice punch to them, and surrounds are used aggressively. Dialogue is presented in native Mandarin, and the subtitles were placed well and legible. Atmosphere is delivered nicely and overall dynamics are good, but not quite to the level of high budget Hollywood films. I loved the film's score though.

Extras

The standard definition presentation is on the flipside. There is also a making of featurette, and some deleted scenes.

- Kris Deering -

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MGM

2003, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 44 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

1080p

 

English DTS HD MA 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Paul Hunter


Starring: Chow Yun-Fat, Sean William Scott, Jaime King, Karel Roden

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

Mild Themes

Language

Some

"Bulletproof Monk" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

For 60 years, a mysterious monk with no name has zigzagged the globe to protect an ancient scroll - a scroll that holds the key to unlimited power. Now the Monk must look for a new scroll keeper.

Kar is an unlikely candidate, a streetwise young man whose only interest is himself. But when he inadvertently saves the Bulletproof Monk from capture, the two become partners in a scheme to save the world from the scroll's most avid pursuer. Packed with spectacular special effects and martial arts action, the Monk, Kar, and a sexy Russian mob princess called Bad Girl must struggle to find, face, and fight the ultimate enemy.

Commentary

Let me state straight out, I didn't like this movie at all. This came out shortly after the Crouching Tiger craze and went overboard in the wire-fu silliness that has plagued too many films. The characters are one dimensional, and the action doesn't make up for anything. I know this film has a lot of fans, but I am just not one of them.

Technical

Picture quality is quite good and is limited mostly by the quality of the special effects. Fine detail can be impeccable at times, and depth is never lacking. Fine film grain is quite evident but never distracting. Contrast is excellent throughout most of the film, and I never saw any distracting compression artifacts.

Fox continues to include DTS-HD lossless soundtracks on all their releases (thanks Fox!!), but unfortunately the manufacturers have been REALLY slow in getting us a player that will actually decode it. CES didn't bring any new ones to the table either. But the core 5.1 DTS mix is already very pleasing, with lots of dynamic range and extensive use of the surround environment. Bass is deep, and the action scenes use plenty of it. Atmosphere is good, but the surrounds are a bit weak sometimes.

Extras

Nada, zip, zilch.

- Kris Deering -

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Universal

1989, Color, Rated PG, 1 Hr 46 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

1080p

 

English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

French Dolby Digital Plus 2.0

 

Directed by Phil Alden


Starring: Kevin Costner, Amy Madigan, James Earl Jones, Ray Liotta, Burt Lancaster

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

None

Sex

None

Language

Mild

"Field of Dreams" (HD DVD)

Synopsis

Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella hears a voice in his corn field tell him, "If you build it, he will come." He interprets this message as an instruction to build a baseball field on his farm, upon which appear the ghosts of Shoeless Joe Jackson and the other seven Chicago White Sox players banned from the game for throwing the 1919 World Series. When the voices continue, Ray seeks out a reclusive author to help him understand the meaning of the messages and the purpose for his field.

Commentary

I'm sure everyone has already seen this one. Costner's classic baseball movie finds its way to HD, and I'm glad to have it on the shelf. Again, I am not a sports fan by any stretch of the imagination, but I still enjoyed the timelessness of this tale. Production and cast are first rate, and the story has always been moving.

Technical

I'm of mixed opinion on this transfer. There is nothing really wrong with it, but I prefer a slightly cleaner style. The film stock shows its limitations in the darker scenes of the film, but the brighter scenes look quite good. Detail overall is fine, but the image doesn't have that razor sharp look that some may prefer from their HD library. Colors look slightly muted but true to their time.

The audio presentation is exactly what I expected. Dialogue sounds good, but some of the ADR could have been a bit better. Atmosphere is okay, but I thought the surround soundstage use was a bit weak. Dynamic range is limited, but that probably has more to do with the sound design than the presentation. Overall I think it is exactly what you'd expect from a film like this.

Extras

All of the extras from the special edition DVD are here, including some production features, interviews, a Bravo documentary, deleted scenes, and a scrapbook. Lots of goodies for fans of the film.

- Kris Deering -

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Touchstone Pictures

2005, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 38 mins.

 

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 Robert Schwentke


Starring Jodie Foster, Peter Sarsgaard, Erika Christensen, Sean Bean

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

Yes

"Flightplan" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

In this modern retelling of a classic urban legend, a mother finds herself at odds with an unremitting flight crew and her own sanity when her daughter vanishes in the middle of a flight, with only a few clues left behind. She must now challenge the boundaries of her will and her mind in her desperate search.

Commentary

This film reminded me a lot of Foster's early film, Panic Room. Basically a Mom and daughter stuck in a tight spot with some baddies up to no good. Only this time they are at cruising altitude. The space makes for a gripping tale, but it just seems like it's been done too many times before. Foster definitely keeps it interesting though with another solid performance that keeps the film from ultimately sinking.

Technical

This is the first Buena Vista release to use VC-1 for its video encoding instead of MPEG-2 or AVC. The movie didn't look very exceptional on DVD, but the HD presentation isn't too bad. There are moments when it is a bit noisier than I would like, but depth and detail are far better than their SD counterpart. I hope to see Buena Vista move to exclusive use of AVC and VC-1, since I haven't been as impressed with most of the MPEG-2 offerings so far.

The audio soundtrack is exactly what I expect from a bigger budget action thriller, aggressive. You definitely get the full atmosphere effect, with lots of surround channel use and plenty of low end punch. The sounds of the plane constantly remind you that this is taking place in the air, and the environment is convincing the entire time.

Extras

Extras on this dual layer release include an audio commentary, effects feature, and a look at designing the plane for the film. There is also a "Blu-scape" short film that ties in to the airplane theme.

- Kris Deering -

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Universal

1985, Color, Rated R

1 Hr 37 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

1080p

 

English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

French Dolby Digital Plus2.0

Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 2.0

 

Starring Emilio Estevez, Paul Gleason, Anthony Michael Hall, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy

 

Directed by John Hughes

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

No

Sex

Themes

Language

Strong

"The Breakfast Club" (HD DVD Hybrid)

Synopsis

It's the weekend, and five students have weekend detention. There's a jock, a princess, a misfit, a nerd, and a lout. Not much in common, except for having to give up their day, sit in the school library, and write an essay for the principal. Being from such widely different backgrounds and having such completely different personalities, it's inevitable that some frictions and shenanigans develop. Especially when the principal leaves the room.

Commentary

This is a film that loses a bit of its appeal as I get older, and the more I see it. One of the early Brat Pack films of the eighties, The Breakfast Club has some good humor and shows that teen flicks of the eighties had better actors, stories, and bravado than the fluff we have now.

Technical

This is definitely the best I've ever seen this film look, but it is still short of the better looking videos out there right now. Not that this is an authoring fault, it was just a lower budget film, and the print has definitely aged. Colors are a bit muted, and print wear is noticed on occasion. Detail is better than I've ever seen from TV or DVD though.

Dialogue is the big thing here, and it's delivered with no issues that I noticed. I love the film's soundtrack, and it is really the only time you get to hear any real dynamics. Surrounds are used sparingly, but atmosphere is convincing enough.

Extras

For some reason, Universal decided to make this a combo disc, so you get the SD version on the flipside. That's about it though.

- Kris Deering -

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20th Century Fox

2005, Color, PG-13, 1 Hr 27 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

1080p

 

English DTS HD MA 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Louis Leterrier


Starring 
Jason Staham, Alessandro Gassman, Amber Valletta, Kate Nauta

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

Brief Nudity

Language

Some

"Transporter 2" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

Professional driver Frank Martin is living in Miami, where he is temporarily filling in for a friend as the chauffeur for a government narcotics control policymaker and his family. The young boy in the family is targeted for kidnapping, and Frank immediately becomes involved in protecting the child and exposing the kidnappers.

Commentary

I liked the first first film in this franchise despite some of the outrageous stunts. But, the movie almost sets the bar on unbelievable and ultimately falls flat because of it. I am all about having great action scenes, but the stupidity of some of the action in this film makes it almost unwatchable no matter how much suspension of disbelief I can come up with. Did the story really have to go this far?

Technical

This could have been a perfect video presentation in my book. There is so much eye candy and outstanding detail that I can see using this time and again for demos. Problem is, someone screwed up on the encode. Throughout the film, I saw noticeable jaggies and moiré. My video processor handles both film and video based flagging properly, so it is hard-encoded into the master. It only happens a few times, but it took me right out, which is exactly what you don't want in a video transfer. Outside of that, this disc has beautiful color, detail, and depth.

The audio presentation is a delight and one of the best action soundtracks I've heard in awhile. Dynamics are excellent, and I love the sound design. Surrounds are used extensively, and the bottom end packs a hell of a punch. While I may not use the video for demo'ing much, I wouldn't hesitate to use the audio.

Extras

Just the trailer.

- Kris Deering -

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The Weinstein Company

2006, Color, Rated R

1 hr 38 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

1080p

 

English Dolby TrueHD 5.1

English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

 

Starring: Jeff Anderson, Brian O'Halloran, Rosario Dawson, Trevor Fehrman, Jennifer Schwalbach, Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith

 

Directed by Kevin Smith

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

No

Sex

Strong Themes

Language

Strong

"Clerks II" (HD DVD)

Synopsis

A calamity at Dante and Randall's shops sends them looking for new horizons - but they ultimately settle at Mooby's, a fictional Disney-McDonald's-style fast-food empire.

Commentary

Kevin Smith brings the dynamic duo back again, both inside the store and out. Clerks II is a more mature follow-up to the original low budget cult favorite, but it may be even more outrageous than the first.

Production budget has definitely increased, but so has the language and shock value. Some of the moments in this film had me crying though, which is exactly what I want from a raunchy hard-R comedy.

Technical

The Weinsteins are definitely impressing me with their quality so far. This is another video gem. Fine film grain is preserved beautifully throughout, and I was really pleased with the dimensionality and detail of the video. My only complaint was the occasional pulsing I saw in whites in some of the backgrounds.

Despite not being listed on the box anywhere, Clerks II features a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack. Since this is a comedy, you really can't expect much in the dynamics department, but I think Smith did a great job with the soundtrack's musical selections. These are the moments when the soundstage really opens up, and you get a bit more envelopment out of the mix. Ambience is also quite good throughout the film, which is one of the things I find lacking with a lot of soundtracks lately.

Extras

This two-disc set has all the extras from the recent special edition DVD release and more. There are commentaries, documentaries, deleted scenes, funny featurettes, bloopers, and other things. You'd be hard pressed to find more supplemental material than this one has!

- Kris Deering -

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Universal

2002, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 hours 32 minutes

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

1080p

 

English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

 

Starring: The Rock, Kelly Hu, Bernard Hill, Grant Heslov, Michael Clarke Duncan

 

Directed by Chuck Russell

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

No

"The Scorpion King" (HD DVD Hybrid)

Synopsis

In an ancient time predating the pyramids, the evil King Memnon is using the psychic powers of his sorceress Cassandra to predict his great victories. In a last ditch effort to stop Memnon from taking over the world, the leaders of the remaining free tribes hire the assassin Mathayus to kill the sorceress. But Mathayus ends up getting much more than he bargained for.

Now with the help of the trickster Arpid, tribal leader Balthazar and an unexpected ally, it's up to Mathayus to fulfill his destiny and become the great Scorpion King.

Commentary

When The Mummy Returns came out, I just knew they were going to do a follow-up for The Rock's character. Unfortunately, it isn't nearly as entertaining as the other two films and comes off as a B-action movie at best. It also portrays the lead as a good guy, which seems to contradict what we saw from the Mummy follow-up. Oh well.

Technical

While it may not be the best movie, it is one heck of a great looking HD DVD. Detail and depth are excellent, and I was pleased with how good the film print looked.

Blacks were consistently good, but I did see a couple of spots where some light banding crept in. Some of the later shots in the film also looked a bit softer, so consistency started to waver a bit. Overall though, this is a great looking HD presentation.

The 5.1 mix is aggressive and a lot like the two other films in this franchise. Surrounds are used extensively, and the battle sequences have lots of dynamics. I don't think the sound design is as impressive as the other two Mummy films, but it wasn't as bad as the script!

Extras

The SD presentation is on the flipside, and all of the extras from the DVD release are included. You'll find two commentaries, outtakes, production features, and some interviews.

- Kris Deering -

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20th Century Fox

2004, Color, Rated PG-13 & Unrated

1 hr 41 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

1080p

 

English DTS-HD MA 5.1

Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Starring: Sanaa Lathan, Raoul Bova, Lance Henriksen, Ewen Bremner

 

Directed by Paul W. S. Anderson

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

Yes

"AVP: Alien vs. Predator" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

An expedition of archaeologists on earth discover an Aztec temple hidden under the Antarctic circle, housing a host of Alien creatures. A group of coming-of-age predators have also arrived at the temple, as it has long been a training ground for their race. From there on, it's Aliens vs. Predators, with the humans caught in the middle.

Commentary

I think a lot of people had high hopes for this film, but all mine were dashed when I saw who was directing the film. Short of Uwe Boll, Anderson may be one of my least favorite directors out there. AVP takes a decent premise, but ultimately becomes a textbook film with flashy special effects and no real substance.

The unrated version may just make it worse by adding some more CGI gore to existing scenes. These franchises really need to go back and re-evaluate why they were great in the beginning: solid story and direction.

Technical

I've seen this film quite a few times already, as a friend of mine and fellow Secrets writer - Darin Perrigo - uses it a lot for testing contrast on projectors. I already had an HD copy on D-VHS from cable. This presentation is definitely better than that, but misses the reference mark. First off, there is a disturbing amount of video noise in a lot of the fine detail that wasn't there with the cable broadcast or the standard DVD. There is also a slight amount of contouring in some scenes around lights. Contrast is still excellent though, and the level of detail in blacks is impressive.

The DTS soundtrack is a powerhouse of dynamics and aggressive surround soundstage use. Bass is extremely deep at times, and the sound design is far more engaging than anything the story brings. In fact, this may be the best thing about this film overall!!

Extras

This BD-50 includes a feature commentary, seamlessly branched versions of the film (a first for any HD format!), a trivia track, and coding for D-Box motion simulators. Fox is definitely impressing in the extras department here!

- Kris Deering -

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