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Number 142 - January, 2007

Part III

Staff

 


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Courage Under Fire (Blu-ray) All The King's Men (Blu-ray)
The Mummy Returns (HD DVD) Rising Sun (Blu-ray)
The Devil's Rejects (Blu-ray) Pulse (HD DVD)
Resident Evil: Apocalypse (Blu-ray) Gridiron Gang (Blu-ray)
Stargate (Blu-ray) Men of Honor (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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20th Century Fox

1996, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 56 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

1080p

 

English DTS-HD MA 5.1

Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Edward Zwick


Starring: Denzel Washington, Meg Ryan, Lou Diamond Phillips, Matt Damon, Scott Glenn

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

Strong

"Courage Under Fire" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

The pilot of a rescue copter, Captain Karen Walden, dies shortly before her helicopter crew is rescued after it crashed in Operation Desert Storm. It first appears that she made a spectacular rescue of a downed helicopter crew, then held her own crew together to fight off the Iraqis after her copter crashed.

Lt. Colonel Serling, who is struggling with his own demons from Desert Storm, is assigned to investigate and award her the Medal of Honor. But some conflicting accounts from her crew and soldiers in the area, cause him to question whether she deserves it.

Commentary

A decent military thriller with Washington providing another powerful role. Courage Under Fire is entertaining but one of those "see it once, seen it all you need to" kind of films. Set after Desert Storm, Washington plays a Major in the Army that investigates a Medal of Honor nominee while fighting his own demons.

Technical

I never had the opportunity to see this one on D-Theater, but overall, I though it was about average in the picture department. Contrast was a bit lacking, and the image was a bit flatter than I prefer. This isn't that old of a movie, so I think it could have been a bit better. Detail wasn't bad on close-ups and medium shots, but in longer shots, it wasn't as good as I've seen from most of Fox's efforts so far.

The DTS soundtrack is quite good and takes advantage of the action scenes in this film. Some of the dialogue sounded a bit off. Voices didn't seem as natural as they usually do, almost like the mic was muffled. Surrounds are used aggressively at times and add a great amount of ambience and excitement to the battle sequences.

Extras

Extras include a commentary, trivia track, and theatrical trailer. This release is also D-Box enhanced.

- Kris Deering -

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Universal

2001, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 10 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

1080p

 

English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

 

Directed by Stephen Sommers


Starring Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, Arnold Vosloo, The Rock

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

Themes

Language

Mild

"The Mummy Returns" (HD DVD)

Synopsis

Another legend. Another monster. Another quest for the world! The Scorpion King is a legendary warrior who sold his soul to Anubis, and was erased from record in the ancient kingdom. His existence was lost to the sands, preserved only in mythology. But there is truth to the myth. In the desert of Ahm Shere, in a golden pyramid, sleeps the Scorpion King. And he, or whomsoever may kill him, may command the demonic and undefeatable Army of Anubis! Ten years after the cursed high-priest Imhotep was resurrected and defeated by Rick O'Connell, Evelyn, and Jonathon, he is resurrected once again by a mysterious woman, Meela, armed with the knowledge of centuries! Together, Imhotep and Meela have one goal: Defeat the Scorpion King and use his army to destroy mankind!

Commentary

After The Mummy did so well in theaters, you knew there was going to be an inevitable sequel. Luckily, the full cast returned along with the same director. The result is a sequel that is actually a bit better than the original in my opinion. The balance of comedy and action, along with a more refined production design, results in a fun ride!

Technical

A stellar transfer from Universal here. I didn't have this one on D-Theater, so I couldn't compare to that one, but I imagine owners of the former won't be disappointed. Depth and detail are excellent in this one, and I was really impressed with how solid blacks and shadow detail were. Some of the CGI is a bit softer than the live action, but it was like that in theaters too. One of the best I've seen from Universal!

Like all big summer action flicks, this one gets a powerful soundtrack that took full advantage of its budget. Lots of dynamics with a low end that REALLY kicks sometimes. Surrounds are used aggressively, and the front soundstage has a nice wide presence with great imaging. I really wish Universal would have included at least a TrueHD soundtrack here!

Extras

All of the extras from the DVD special edition are included. These include commentaries, production features, deleted scenes, and more.

- Kris Deering -

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Lionsgate

2005, Color, Unrated, 1 Hr 41 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

1080p

 

English DTS HD 5.1

English Dolby Digital EX 5.1

 

Directed by Rob Zombie


Starring: Sid Haig, Bill Mosley, Sheri Moon, William Forsythe, Ken Foree

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Strong

Sex

Yes

Language

Strong

"The Devil's Rejects" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

Sequel to House of 1000 Corpses is set some months later with the Texas State Police making a full-scale attack against the murderous Firefly family residence for the 1,000+ murders and disappearances of the past several years. But three of the family members escape, including Otis, Baby Firefly, and Baby's father Captain Spaulding. The evil trio go on a road trip, leaving dozens of mangled bodies in their wake.

Commentary

I was really excited about seeing the predecessor to this film, House of 1000 Corpses. I am a big fan of the horror genre and Rob Zombie is synonymous with the genre. Unfortunately, that movie seemed to lose its focus early on and ended up a disappointment.

Zombie definitely didn't disappoint this time though. Rejects is a better script, better film, and better production. The acting isn't as cheesy, and the film doesn't wander nearly as much. This is the return to hardcore 70's horror that everyone was hoping for with the first.

Technical

Lionsgate did a great job with this Blu-ray release, and it may be my favorite of their first run titles. Colors are excellent, and detail overall is impressive. This film is stylized to look like its 70's brethren and the transfer does a great job of delivering that. Film grain is left intact, and I only saw some minor compression problems.

The DTS-HD soundtrack is quite good and a bit of a step up from the DVD that I previously owned. Dynamics and ambience seem to have improved. Bass feels tighter, and the sense of being there is heightened. The film's soundtrack also fills the room really well, adding to the intensity of the action onscreen.

Extras

Extras include some deleted scenes and two commentaries. The menus are also pretty cool.

- Kris Deering -

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Screen Gems

2004, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 34 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

1080p

 

English Uncompressed PCM 5.1

English Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Alexander Witt


Starring: Milla Jovovich, Sienna Guillory, Oded Fehr, Mike Epps

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Strong

Sex

None

Language

Yes

"Resident Evil: Apocalypse" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

The nightmare isn't over, General Cain has ordered The Hive to be reopened, and in doing so, has contaminated all of Raccoon City, a city of the dead, with Alice stuck right in the middle. Now, along with other survivors, Jill Valentine, Carlos Oliviera, and his Captain, Nicholai, they must fight to survive, to escape the nightmare that has plagued Raccoon City.

But now there is a new threat: Matt Addison has fully mutated into a seemingly unstoppable creature, code named Nemesis, who will stop at nothing until everything around it is dead, but it also has another agenda . . .

Commentary

Ugh. I am one of those that thought the first Resident Evil film was only just passable as entertainment. This film took everything that was wrong with that one and turned it to 11. The acting, the action, the cheesiness, all WAY too overdriven here. I would say to just STAY AWAY.

Technical

The first film was a treat on DVD in the picture department. In fact, I remember seeing it a lot at tradeshows for demos. This new film had a bigger budget, but the video is definitely different. Black levels are elevated, which results in a flatter look that lacks the depth of most of the better HD presentations I've seen so far. Detail is good though. Film grain is apparent from time to time but never really distracting. While I wouldn't say this is a bad transfer, it just wasn't that great either.

The audio is what you'd expect from an action/horror film, LOUD. Lots of dynamics, lots of surround use, and LOUD. Dialogue sounds natural and never gets overshadowed by the action onscreen. Surrounds do a great job of pulling you in, and the low end has plenty of punch. A solid soundtrack!

Extras

One of the more feature-laden releases from Sony. This is the second title I've seen with the Blu-Wizard feature that allows the end user to choose what he wants to see and when. Included are commentaries, a ton of deleted scenes, production features, and a documentary on making this horrible film.

- Kris Deering -

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Lionsgate

1994, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr 10 mins.

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

1080p

 

English DTS-HD 5.1

English Dolby Digital EX 5.1

 

Directed by Roland Emmerich


Starring Kurt Russell, James Spader

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

Yes

"Stargate" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

An interstellar teleportation device, found in Egypt, leads to a planet with humans resembling ancient Egyptians who worship the god Ra.

Commentary

Back before Independence Day and Godzilla hit the screen, Emmerich and Devlin released a sci-fi film that went on to become a cult classic: Stargate. A great sci-fi film that combined interstellar travel with Egyptian history. If you haven't seen it and are a fan of the genre, you are really doing yourself a disservice. Glad to see Lionsgate release this one so early.

Technical

I don't think I've ever seen this movie look "good". It always seems to be missing something. This transfer is a step in the right direction though. Detail has improved tremendously since the DVD release. Depth overall is good, but not great. Colors are somewhat muted, and contrast overall is only fair. A lot of this might have to do with the film stock used and budget constraints, but overall this is by far the best I've seen this film look to date.

The audio is quite good for its time and better than I remember the DVD sounding. Lionsgate has included a DTS-HD soundtrack, and it takes full advantage of the rear soundstage. This film always had a nice sense of ambience to it, and this presentation captures that perfectly. Some of the sound effects are cheesy, but the dynamics and lower end are nice.

Extras

A feature commentary is included.

- Kris Deering -

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Columbia Pictures

2006, Color, Rated PG-13

2 Hr 08 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

1080p

 

English Uncompressed PCM 5.1

English Dolby Digital 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Starring Sean Penn, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, James Gandolfini, Mark Ruffalo, Patricia Clarkson, Anthony Hopkins

 

Directed by Steven Zaillian

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Mild

Sex

Mild Themes

Language

Yes

"All The King's Men" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

Based on the Robert Penn Warren novel. The life of populist Southerner Willie Stark, a political creature loosely based on Governor Huey Long of Louisiana.

Commentary

I remember all the buzz about this one long before it came out. Just look at the cast list and you can understand why. The film ultimately failed at the box office though, and critics weren't as impressed as one would have thought. The acting in this film is great, the problem was the script. This is a political thriller of sorts, but it has problems keeping the audience in the know. It took a long time to understand just what was going on because the film only gave you glimpses of what the issues were. Too bad, I think I could have really liked this one.

Technical

Sony has done an amazing job with this transfer. I don't know how many times I said, "Wow" while I was watching it, but it was a lot. Fine detail and depth are the standouts. The film's color is a bit de-saturated to give it more dramatic tone, but it helps the contrast dramatically, which in turn helps depth. The dimensionality of most of the frame is better than most films I've seen in HD so far. Excellent blacks too!

For more of a drama than anything else, this film boasts an impressive soundtrack. The sound design is a bit more aggressive than one would expect from the genre and helps keep you more engaged than the story will. Dynamics are quite good, and the sense of ambience is unsettling at times. Dialogue sounds dead on, and imaging across the main soundstage is excellent. One of the best presentations I've seen from Sony overall so far.

Extras

Nothing, not even the trailer.

- Kris Deering -

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20th Century Fox

1993, Color, R, 2 Hr 9 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

1080p

 

English DTS HD MA 5.1

French Dolby Digital 2.0

Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0

 

Directed by Philip Kaufman


Starring 
Sean Connery, Wesley Snipes, Harvey Keitel, Tia Carrere

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

Yes

Language

Yes

"Rising Sun" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

At the offices of a Japanese corporation during a party, a woman who's evidently a professional mistress is found dead, apparently after some rough sex. A police detective, Web Smith, is called in to investigate, but before getting there, he gets a call from someone who instructs him to pick up John Connor, a former police Captain and expert on Japanese affairs. When they arrive there Web thinks that everything is obvious, but Connor tells him that there's a lot more going on.

Commentary

Been a long time since I've seen this one. Rising Sun is a good thriller that fits the time it came out. It reminded me a bit of some other sexy thrillers that were trying to press the limits a bit like Basic Instinct. While I wouldn't call this the best film for either actor, both did a good job with the material, and Connery definitely makes it worth at least a rental.

Technical

Image quality overall here is decent, but nothing too stellar. You can tell this is an older film. The image comes off a bit flat, with colors never reaching the vibrant hues you see from most of the newer films. Detail is good though, and the print seems to be in better than average shape. Contrast is lacking a bit, with blacks elevated slightly, but I imagine that has more to do with the intended look of the film rather than the transfer.

The 5.1 DTS-HD soundtrack is also quite good. Dynamics are better than I expected for this genre, and some of the musical moments at the party are quite good. Dialogue is natural, and imaging across the main soundstage is excellent. Surrounds are used on occasion but don't expect too much atmosphere.

Extras

Just the trailer.

- Kris Deering -

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The Weinstein Company

2006, Color, Unrated

1 hr 28 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

1080p

 

English Dolby TrueHD 5.1

English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

 

Starring: Kristen Bell, Ian Somerhalder, Rick Gonzalez, Samm Levine

 

Directed by Jim Sonzero

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

Some

"Pulse" (HD DVD)

Synopsis

Imagine our wireless technologies making a connection to a world beyond our own. Imagine that world using the technology as a doorway into ours. Now, imagine the connection we made can't be shut down. When you turn on your cell phone or log on to your e-mail, they'll get in, you'll be infected, and they'll be able to take from you what they don't have anymore -- life.

Commentary

I saw the original Japanese horror film this is a remake of about a year ago and absolutely hated it. It wasn't that creepy, and it made me want to go to sleep over half of the time. This remake is somewhat faithful to that one, but they make it a bit more engaging.

Ultimately though I still didn't care for it. The chills are too few, and like most of today's horror, I feel like I am watching a bunch of Gap ad kids being overdramatic and hacked up. I guess this is the unrated edition but I couldn't find anything that would likely warrant more excess. This isn't a violent film, there is no sex, and the language is pretty tame. I am actually surprised it isn't PG-13.

Technical

Pulse is a great looking HD DVD. Image detail and depth are consistently good throughout, and aside from some annoying banding toward the end of the film, shadow detail and black levels are excellent. I was really impressed with how dimensional the film looked, even with the obvious stylization you see from every horror film nowadays. The Weinstein Company continues to impress.

Like Clerks II, Pulse gets an unadvertised Dolby TrueHD soundtrack included. I don't know why this isn't being advertised on the back of the case, but it is there in the audio options. Sound design here is what you'd expect from the genre, lots of atmosphere and low end. The bottom end of this soundtrack is system threatening, so be wary if your subs aren't up to the task. Surrounds are used nicely to compliment the mood of the film, and imaging overall is excellent.

Extras

Extras include some deleted scenes, production features, commentaries, and the trailer.

- Kris Deering -

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Columbia Pictures

2006, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 hours 5 minutes

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

1080p

 

English Uncompressed PCM 5.1

English Dolby Digital 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Starring: The Rock, XZibit, Kevin Dunn, Lion Rippy

 

Directed by Phil Joanou

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

Yes

"Gridiron Gang" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

Teenagers at a juvenile detention center, under the leadership of their counselor, gain self-esteem by playing football together.

Commentary

I'm not going to lie, this is the same warm hearted sports film we've all seen time and time again. The twist here is it takes place in a detention center with young kids from the rougher neighborhoods. Yes it is uplifting, but I always find it hard to feel sorry for kids who allow themselves to get into these situations in the first place and continue to make it worse for themselves no matter what opportunities they may get. I did enjoy the film, but it is nothing groundbreaking.

Technical

Wow! Sony seriously stepped up to the plate with this one and hit a homerun right over the fence. I was constantly impressed with the level of detail and depth in this transfer. Some of the football games look exquisite, with amazing color and detail in the fields. Contrast is exceptionally good throughout, and the print seems to be in pristine condition. This could quite literally be the best presentation I've seen from Sony on Blu-ray yet! A stellar reference transfer.

The 5.1 uncompressed PCM mix is equally good. Dynamic range is impressive, and the football games pack plenty of punch. This is a more dramatic film, so don't expect too much going on, but don't be fooled into thinking that this won't be engaging. Even subtle passages have plenty of ambience in the main and rear soundstage, and dialogue sounds perfect throughout.

Extras

Extras include the trailer and some featurettes that show the real people from this film. There is also a commentary.

- Kris Deering -

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20th Century Fox

2000, Color, Rated R, 2 hr 9 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

1080p

 

English DTS-HD MA 5.1

Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Starring: Robert De Niro, Cuba Gooding Jr, Powers Booth, Hal Holbrook, David Keith

 

Directed by George Tillman Jr.

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

No

Sex

No

Language

Yes

"Men of Honor" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

The story ultimately revolves around two "men of honor": their relationship, their individual and joint failures and triumphs. Carl Brashear is determined to be the first African American Navy Diver in a time where racism is strife. Leslie Sunday is his embittered trainer, determined to see him fail. Fate, challenges and circumstances eventually draw these two men together in a tale of turbulence and ultimate triumph.

Commentary

Being in the Navy myself, I think I have a high bar for what I expect out of a Navy film. Too many are clichéd into stereotypes that just don't fit the mold anymore. Either that or they're too dramatic for my tastes. Men of Honor does skirt most of this, but it is close. I have a lot of friends who are Navy divers, who have met Brashear, and all of them say that Cuba did an excellent job in his portrayal. It is sad to think that such a great man had to endure this kind of treatment. 

Technical

I wanted to be really impressed with this presentation. Fox has been doing a great job on Blu-ray so far, and I heard this one had a nice presentation on D-Theater (one of the few titles I didn't own on that format). While I do admit that at times the level of detail and depth is striking, the presentation comes off very inconsistent. One moment depth is great, the next scene the image is soft and on the flat side. This could be a filming style, but a lot of the time it was all in the same scene. While this isn't a bad transfer by any means, I just thought it could have been a bit better.

The DTS soundtrack is quite good, though this isn't really an action film. Dialogue sounds clean and clear, and the front soundstage is nicely detailed and airy. Some of the diving sequences are immersive with nice support from the surrounds, and dynamics are never an issue.

Extras

Extras include a feature commentary, trivia track, and trailer.

- Kris Deering -

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