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Number 143 - February, 2007

Part III

Staff

 


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Phone Booth (Blu-ray) The Architect (Blu-ray)
Beerfest (HD DVD) The Marine (Blu-ray)
The Departed (Blu-ray/HD DVD) Hart's War (Blu-ray)
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Blu-ray) Stranger than Fiction (Blu-ray)
Entrapment (Blu-ray) Half Baked (HD DVD)

Number 143 - February, 2007 - Part I

Number 143 - February, 2007 - Part 2

Number 143 - February, 2007 - Part 3

Movie Reviews Index

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20th Century Fox

2003, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 21 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 Joel Schumacher


Starring: Colin Farrell, Forest Whitaker, Kiefer Sutherland, Katie Holmes

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Strong

Sex

No

Language

Yes

"Phone Booth" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

A slick New York publicist who picks up a ringing receiver in a phone booth is told that if he hangs up, he'll be killed . . . and the little red light from a laser rifle sight is proof that the caller isn't kidding.

Commentary

I don't care what anyone says, this would be a hard premise to pull off. The film is shot almost completely in a phone booth with nothing more than a conversation going on between the two main characters. Colin Farrell was still an up and coming actor at this point but he portrays the cocky publicist perfectly and never lets the ball drop. This is a great ride and a solid thriller.

Technical

This is the first time I've seen this film in HD and Fox has done a pretty solid job with it. The movie is somewhat stylized, and the DP used a couple of different types of cameras while shooting, so results can vary a bit. Contrast overall is excellent, but the color of the film is slightly de-saturated. Detail overall is quite good, and I was impressed with the level of dimension in the image. By far one of the better looking catalog titles Fox has released this last month.

The DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix is superb and is one of the better soundtracks I've heard in regards to imaging and creativity. I was really impressed with the presentation of dialogue and placing it in the right tone and balance within the soundstage. Dynamics are excellent as well, with a very pronounced low end in the score and plenty of surround use. Despite the limited locations in the film, there is no limit to the use of soundstage in this one.

Extras

Extras include a feature commentary and the trailer.

- Kris Deering -

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Warner

2006, Color, Unrated, 1 Hr 56 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

1080p

 

English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

 

Directed by Jay Chandrasekhar


Starring Jay Chandrasekhar, Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Comedic

Sex

Yes

Language

Yes

"Beerfest" (HD DVD)

Synopsis

Two brothers travel to Germany for Oktoberfest, only to stumble upon secret, centuries-old competition described as a "Fight Club" with beer games.

Commentary

For those not familiar with the Broken Lizard gang you may want to check out the hilarious Super Troopers film before you see this one to get a sense of their style. This one was funny as well, but I did not get as much consistent laughter out of it. Think of this as a bit of a Fight Club with beer as opposed to knuckles (and far less plot). Fans of the sillier side of comedy will probably enjoy.

Technical

A solid video presentation from Warner on this one. I only got the HD DVD version in for review, but I imagine the Blu-ray version offers up the same encode. Detail overall is excellent, and the image retains a nice sense of depth. Colors are natural, with great detail and little to no noise. I did see some light banding at times, but overall this is a great looking presentation from a very recent film.

The soundtrack is delivered in DD+ so again the Blu-ray version should be about the same, given Warner's track record. Sound design is pretty cut and dry here, but ambience and presence are quite good. The surrounds pick up a lot of the air in the room, as well as some of the crowd and atmosphere noise in larger scenes. The soundtrack provides some nice dynamic range but it is mainly contained to the music of the film.

Extras

Extras include a pair of commentaries, some deleted scenes, production features, and some funny featurettes.

- Kris Deering -

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Warner

2006, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 54 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

1080p

 

HD DVD:

English Dolby TrueHD 5.1

English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

 

Blu-ray:

English Uncompressed PCM 5.1

English Dolby Digital 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Martin Scorsese


Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Alec Baldwin, Martin Sheen

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Strong

Sex

Yes

Language

Strong

"The Departed" (Blu-ray/HD DVD)

Synopsis

Years ago, a powerful Irish mafia figure placed a small selection of his youngest, brightest men into the Massachusetts Police Academy as cadets. Their purpose is to eventually rise within the prestigious ranks of the city's police department, to serve as the eyes and ears of their boss.

Somewhere else, a young cadet is assigned with an equally dangerous task: infiltrate the Irish syndicate headed by the man sending in his own to the Boston Police. Now, one cadet is an up and coming police official with a torn allegiance to his job and to the criminal mastermind that put him there. The other cadet is the trusted number two of that man, only finding his professional duties are becoming blurred with his current state.

New clues have led to unfortunate discoveries, when both sides realize they're being watched by the enemy. It's now all just a matter of time before the men assigned to find out the name of the infiltrator, could come to a bloody end when someone's identity may be revealed.

Commentary

This was by far one of the best films I saw this past year. I was quite excited to see it since I am a huge fan of Infernal Affairs, of which this is a US remake. Scorsese makes this his own though and re-imagines it in some ways. All of the performances here are superb, with Nicholson being the highlight in my opinion. This is a smart and taunt thriller that shouldn't be missed.

Technical

I saw this film presented digitally in theaters and liked the overall look of it then. This presentation on disc seems to be about the same. Contrast is excellent, and the level of fine detail that can be seen is striking at times. My only gripe is the consistency of that detail, as it seems to waver on occasion, making the image seem a bit softer than it should be for no apparent reason. Film grain is noticeable but never intrudes, and there seems to be an utter lack of compression noise throughout, which is always nice. I didn't see any differences between the HD DVD and Blu-ray presentations.

This release marks the first feature film that Warner has included an uncompressed PCM soundtrack on the Blu-ray version. The HD DVD features a Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. Why Warner just didn't include a TrueHD soundtrack on the BD version I don't know. The PS3 is by far the biggest selling BD player and fully supports TrueHD.

Anyway, I did some A/B comparisons, and after level matching the two, I didn't really hear any difference at all. The soundtrack isn't very remarkable to begin with. The soundstage is very front heavy, with little to no use of the surrounds even for ambience. Dynamics are decent but nothing to write home about. The dialogue all sounds clean though, and the front soundstage has very nice imaging and depth to it. Hopefully we'll get some more soundtracks to compare PCM and TrueHD that have a bit more going.

Extras

These include some deleted scenes, a story about some of the influences used for the characters from the Boston mob scene, and another feature about some influences that Scorsese drew from.

- Kris Deering -

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Touchstone Pictures

2005, Color, Rated PG, 1 Hr 49 min

 

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 Garth Jennings


Starring: Sam Rockwell, Mos Def, Zooey Deschanel, Martin Freeman, Alan Rickman

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Mild

Sex

No

Language

Yes

"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

Everyone has bad mornings. You wake up late, you stub your toe, you burn the toast. But for a man named Arthur Dent, this goes far beyond a bad day. When he learns that a friend of his is actually an alien with advanced knowledge of Earth's impending destruction, he is transported off the Earth seconds before it explodes to make way for a new hyperspace motorway. And as if that's not enough, throw in being wanted by the police, Earth II, an insane electronic encyclopedia, no tea whatsoever, a chronically depressed robot, and the search for the meaning of life, and you've got the greatest adventure off Earth.

Commentary

The first time I ever tried to watch this film I ended up stopping it about a third of the way through because I was just not enjoying it. A bit too silly for me I guess, and I didn't know what to expect from it in the first place. Watching it this time was a lot better because I knew what I was in for. While I still don't think this is a great movie by any means, it does have its fun and humor at times. I am actually surprised that this has a legion of fans behind it though.

Technical

I must say that I was EXTREMELY impressed with this transfer for quite awhile into the movie. Then I started noticing a lot of inconsistency in overall detail. It reminded me a lot of when a de-interlacer drops into video mode and the image gets soft, only to get sharp again when film mode is restored.

Most of the time this is a really detailed and dimensional transfer that would make for some great show-off material. But the occasional softness was really distracting for me and far more occasional than I would have liked it to be.

Colors are excellent, and the sense of depth in the image is fantastic at times. I was also pleased to see an almost complete lack of banding, especially since there are a lot of parts in this film that would normally be rampant with it.

The uncompressed PCM soundtrack is far more dynamic than I was expecting. The low-end presence at times can be downright startling and system threatening if turned up too high. Surrounds are very engaging, and the overall sense of space is quite nice. I did notice a few times when the dialogue sounded a bit inconsistent and even had some static in it, but it was only on a few occasions.

Extras

Extras include a pair of commentaries, deleted scenes, and an additional guide entry.

- Kris Deering -

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20th Century Fox

1999, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 53 mins.

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

1080p

 

English DTS-HD MA 5.1

Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Jon Amiel


Starring Sean Connery, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Will Patton, Ving Rhames

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Some

Sex

Themes

Language

Yes

"Entrapment" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

Following the theft of a highly-secured piece of artwork, an agent convinces her insurance agency employers to allow her to wriggle into the company of an aging but active master thief. The burglar takes her on suspiciously and demands rigorous training before their first job together - stealing a highly-valued mask from a chichi party.

Their deepening attraction and distrust could tear apart their partnership, but the promise of a bigger prize (some eight billion odd dollars) by the agent keeps the game interesting. Only, who's playing with whom?

Commentary

A solid catalog offering by Fox, Entrapment is a fun thriller that never bores me even after repeat viewings. Connery and Jones are excellent together, and this story makes the most of their "talents".

Technical

I must say I wasn't very impressed with a lot of the Fox titles I got this month, but this one is definitely one of the better transfers. Darker scenes tend to be a bit flatter than I am used to, mainly from the raised blacks and rather mediocre contrast. But once things lighten up, the image gets a whole lot better.

Detail is solid throughout, and depth of image is consistently good. This film has a bit of a soft haze over it a lot of the time, which I've seen in several films from this time period. While it isn't really distracting, it holds back the image compared to a lot of the cleaner titles out there.

The DTS-HD MA mix is very good and full of dynamics. Fox consistently provides some outstanding surround mixes that take advantage of the surround soundstage more than most studio soundtracks that I hear on a regular basis. While this isn't the most aggressive mix, it does provide some satisfying ambience and range. Dialogue is consistent, and imaging overall is solid.

Extras

Extras include a commentary and the trailer.

- Kris Deering -

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Magnolia Pictures

2006, Color, Rated R

1 Hr 22 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

1080p

 

English DTS-HD 5.1

English Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Matt Tauber

 

Starring Anthony LaPaglia, Viola Davis, Isabella Rossellini

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

No

Sex

Yes

Language

Some

"The Architect" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

An architect engages in conflict with an activist who lives in a dangerous complex the architect designed.

Commentary

This is an interesting drama, but one that I felt was burdened with too much going on in one plotline. In less than a half hour, we have the drama of a marriage failing, a girl coming to grips with teenage angst, a boy discovering his sexuality, an urban project development falling apart, and a mother coming to terms with her community. Sounds like a lot huh? I thought the performances were good, but the story should have found a finer focus and developed a bit more. Ultimately it ends with little resolve.

Technical

Like all of the HDNet films I've seen so far, this one was shot with digital cameras and has that razor sharp, hyper detailed look that accompanies the filming style. The image has lots of depth, sensational color, and lots of detail, but it does have that overly clean video look that some may find a bit distracting. Overall, I thought the image looked excellent, but you know this was never a film.

The soundtrack is presented in both DTS-HD and Dolby Digital. I watched the movie with the DTS soundtrack and thought it was a great recording. Spatial design is excellent, and the sense of atmosphere throughout the film was outstanding. There are plenty of subtle cues throughout that really add to the sense of being there. Dialogue is clean and realistic throughout. Again, really nothing to complain about at all.

Extras

Extras include a commentary, deleted scenes, and an episode of HDNet's Higher Definition.

- Kris Deering -

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20th Century Fox

2006, Color, Unrated, 1 Hr 32 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

1080p

 

English DTS-HD MA 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by John Bonito


Starring 
John Cena, Kelly Carlson, Robert Patrick

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

Mild

Language

Yes

"The Marine" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

A group of diamond thieves on the run kidnap the wife of a recently discharged marine who goes on a chase through the South Carolinian wilderness to retrieve her.

Commentary

I am not a fan of wrestling at all. When I was in my very early teens, I tuned in to the WWF on occasion but I quickly outgrew it. Anytime I've caught it since I found it too silly to bear. With the recent success of The Rock in Hollywood, I knew there was a pretty good chance that we'd see more wrestlers try and take a crack at film stardom. I guess John Cena is first at bat, but man does he whiff. The Marine could possibly be the silliest film I've seen in recent memory. The sheer amount of cliques is unbelievable.

The opening of this film is so ridiculously stupid that I cringed at the idea that I would have to finish it. Thankfully it lightens up a bit, but not much. How this film made it to theaters and not directly to a rental shelf amazes me, but what surprises me more are all of the great films that have limited US theatrical releases, yet something this bad gets a wide release.

Technical

Being a brand new film you would expect The Marine to look pretty good in HD. Unfortunately, it doesn't look nearly as good as I would have expected. Compression noise is quite obvious in quite a few scenes throughout the presentation, especially when film grain is more of a factor. Detail overall is good, but it loses ground when things get darker. Depth is decent, but the longer the shot the less detail we see. Contrast is lacking overall as well, which hurts dimensionality in darker scenes. In the end this isn't a bad looking movie, but it's far from great.

Fox continues its reputation of solid action soundtracks. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack is full of explosions, gunfire, and really bad synth-based score cues. Sound design is pretty simple in this one: blow it up and blow it up LOUD. Everything sounds forced and fake, but I imagine that is what they wanted.

Extras

Extras include some featurettes on John Cena, the film, and the WWF. The trailer is also included.

- Kris Deering -

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MGM

2001, Color, Rated R

2 hr 05 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

1080p

 

English DTS-HD MA 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Starring: Bruce Willis, Colin Farrell, Terrence Howard, Cole Hauser

 

Directed by Gregory Hoblit

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

Strong

"Hart's War" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

Fourth-generation Army Col. William McNamara is imprisoned in a brutal German POW camp. Still, as the senior-ranking American officer, he commands his fellow inmates, keeping a sense of honor alive in a place where honor is easy to destroy, all under the dangerous eye of the Luftwaffe veteran Col. Wilhelm Visser.

Never giving up the fight to win the war, McNamara is silently planning, waiting for his moment to strike back at the enemy. A murder in the camp gives him the chance to set a risky plan in motion. With a court martial to keep Visser and the Germans distracted, McNamara orchestrates a cunning scheme to escape and destroy a nearby munitions plant, enlisting the unwitting help of young Lt. Tommy Hart. Together with his men, McNamara uses a hero's resolve to carry out his mission, ultimately forced to weigh the value of his life against the good of his country.

Commentary

I love getting a film in for review that I know nothing about. Sure I've heard of this movie, but I've never had the chance to sit down and watch it. Obviously, it has a war theme to it, but I didn't know what aspect of war it was about or what war it took place in. The film ultimately deals with a group of POWs who not only have to battle with their situation, but also their personal beliefs. This film ultimately turns into a story about racial tensions and how they were as far reaching as the German front, and also a struggle on what is right and wrong in time of war. I found the story very interesting and definitely worth a watch.

Technical

Nothing at all to complain about here. Fox has done a remarkable job with this video presentation, and I was impressed the entire way through. Detail and depth are outstanding throughout the entire film, and the range of contrast and depth of blacks is excellent. I think the only reason I didn't give it a solid 5 was some occasional softness that creeps in on occasion. Otherwise this is one of the best I've seen from Fox yet.

Fox continues to impress with their DTS-HD MA mixes. While this isn't an aggressive wartime soundtrack, the soundfield is quite engaging, and the sheer level of presence in the soundstage is delightful. Dynamics are solid, and the few action scenes there are make full use of the bottom end. Dialogue is always clean, and the film's score is balanced nicely into the mood of the story.

Extras

The only extra is the trailer.

- Kris Deering -

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Columbia Pictures

2006, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 hours 53 minutes

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

1080p

 

English Uncompressed PCM 5.1

English Dolby Digital 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Starring: Will Ferrell, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, Queen Latifah, Emma Thompson

 

Directed by Marc Forster

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Mild

Sex

No

Language

Mild

"Stranger Than Fiction" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

An IRS auditor suddenly finds himself the subject of narration only he can hear: narration that begins to affect his entire life, from his work, to his love-interest, to his death.

Commentary

I am not a big fan of Will Ferrell. His type of comedy doesn't usually do much for me, so when I got this film in for review, I didn't think I would like it much. Thankfully I was wrong. Stranger than Fiction is an interesting dramatic comedy that takes a story we've seen many times before and presents it in a fresh way. Ferrell isn't as over-the-top as he usually is, and his performance here is actually quite good. His supporting cast is excellent as well. I would definitely recommend this one as at least a rental.

Technical

Sony has been delivering far more consistent transfers lately, and this is no exception. The image has a consistently clean and detailed look to it with very nice color rendition. Contrast is probably the only weakness, with some occasionally washed out blacks that hurt image depth. I only noticed this a couple times, but it keeps me from giving this a 5 for video.

The uncompressed 5.1 soundtrack is also quite good, though this isn't the type of film with an aggressive soundtrack. I loved the subtle cues that were thrown in with the fantastical elements of the film though. They added to the overall ambience. The front soundstage sounded extremely natural with a great presence. I must say, these uncompressed soundtracks do deliver a nice sense of ambience that I find missing in a lot of the compressed soundtracks.

Extras

Extras include some deleted scenes, behind the scenes bloopers, and production featurettes.

- Kris Deering -

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Universal

1998, Color, Rated R

1 hr 23 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

1080p

 

English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

French Dolby Digital Plus 2.0

Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 2.0

 

Starring: Dave Chappelle, Jim Breuer, Harland Williams, Guillermo Diaz, Clarence Williams III

 

Directed by Tamra Davis

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

No

Sex

Yes

Language

Strong

"Half Baked" (HD DVD Hybrid)

Synopsis

After Kenny accidentally kills a cop's diabetic horse by feeding it the food he purchased from a munchies run, he is put in jail and is given a 1 million dollar bail. The rest of the group must bail Kenny out before Nasty Nate gets to him. The group decides to sell marijuana that Thurgood gets through his job as a janitor at a pharmaceutical lab. They become pals with rap star Sir Smoke-A-Lot and the rivals of dealer Samson Simpson.

Commentary

I don't know how many times I've heard friends talking about this film and how funny it is. Personally I didn't care for it much at all. Sure it has some laugh out loud spots to it, but overall I found it pretty lame. I definitely prefer the older Cheech and Chong films for the drug comedy fare or even the more recent Friday films.

Technical

I really didn't know what to expect from this one. I've seen clips of it on DVD and on cable, but I've never really been impressed with what I saw. The production design isn't very high budget, so some of the effects can look cheesy at times. The HD presentation isn't bad at all though. Colors are very dynamic, with lots of saturation and pop. Some of the longer shots were a bit on the soft side and the print did show a bit of wear. Detail in close-ups was quite good though, and this is definitely an improvement over most DVDs I've seen.

The DD+ soundtrack is also limited by the obvious budget constraints of the film and never journeys much farther than some loud and thumping music. Dialogue sounds good though, and I was extremely impressed with the use of surrounds in a lot of the scenes. Far more split-surround effects than I would have guessed for a film in this genre.

Extras

All of the extras from the DVD special edition are included on the standard DVD side. These include deleted scenes, an alternate ending, interviews, production features, and some fun fluff material.

- Kris Deering -

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