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Number 144 - March, 2007

Part II

Staff

 


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Casino Royale (2006) (Blu-ray) The Getaway (1972) (Blu-ray/HD DVD)
Bullitt (Blu-ray/HD DVD) Big Fish (Blu-ray)
Hoosiers (Blu-ray) The Pursuit of Happyness (Blu-ray)
Destiny's Child: Live in Atlanta (Blu-ray) First Blood (Blu-ray)
The Holiday (Blu-ray) Rocky Balboa (Blu-ray)

Number 144 - March, 2007 - Part I

Number 144 - March, 2007 - Part II

Number 144 - March, 2007 - Part III

Movie Reviews Index

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MGM

2006, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 24 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 Martin Campbell


Starring: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Jeffrey Wright, Judi Dench

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

Mild

Language

No

"Casino Royale (2006)" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

In his first mission, James Bond must stop Le Chiffre, a banker to the world's terrorist organizations, from winning a high-stakes poker tournament at Casino Royale in Montenegro.

Commentary

I grew up on James Bond. My father is a HUGE fan of the series, and I've seen every one of them numerous times. While I've always enjoyed the series, it had been getting a bit silly as of late. The reliance of gadgets and rather stupid humor was getting out of hand, and I think the real Bond was starting to become a bit of a memory. Any fan of the books could attest to this. Casino Royale was also released in 1967, with Peter Sellers and David Niven. It was a comedy. The 2006 version is far from that.

This new film does what Batman Begins did for that franchise: resets it. Now we have a new Bond who is harder, crueler, and far more serious. This is much closer to the Bond in Fleming's novels and far more entertaining in my opinion. I only hope the trend will continue. I enjoyed this one immensely and am already looking forward to the next installment.

Editor's Note: Casino Royale is supposed to be about Bond's early assignments as 007. The problem is that the story takes place in 2006, in this latest release, which throws all the previous Bond movies out of sequence, especially when you consider that Judi Dench plays M in this one and several others taking place in earlier years, but later in his career. However, this is the best Bond movie I have ever seen, and I hope to see Craig come back for more stints as 007, again and again.

Technical

This is the first live action film I've seen from Sony that is encoded in AVC MPEG-4. Not that it really matters. We've already seen great transfers in every codec used on the new formats, but it is always interesting to see how a studio handles a newer codec.

In this case, Sony has done an outstanding job with a very sharp, very detailed image. I was fortunate enough to see this digitally in theaters and what I saw with this Blu-ray release was faithful to what I saw there. The opening black and white sequence is a bit noisy, but that was intended and adds to the gritty feel of the moment.

Things clean up dramatically after the opening. Colors are wonderfully saturated and deep, and contrast is excellent. I didn't see any signs of compression artifacts, even in darker scenes and backgrounds. A wonderful transfer.

The audio is presented in Sony's usual uncompressed PCM 5.1. Like most Bond films this is an aggressive mix of action, atmosphere, and score. The low end can be quite powerful at times, especially with explosions and gunshots. Surrounds are used quite well to add to the excitement, but I liked the atmosphere of the movie the most. A solid soundtrack that could provide more than a few demos.

Extras

Surprised this isn't a fully loaded special edition, but it still has more extras than most Sony BD releases. There is a feature on Craig stepping in as the next bond, a dedication to the bond girls of the past and the music video for the title song by Chris Cornell.

- Kris Deering -

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Warner

1968, Color, Rated PG, 1 Hr 54 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

1080p

 

HD DVD:

English Dolby Digital Plus 2.0

French Dolby Digital Plus 1.0

Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 1.0

 

Blu-ray:

English Dolby Digital 2.0

French Dolby Digital 1.0

Spanish Dolby Digital 1.0

 

Directed by Peter Yates


Starring Steve McQueen, Robert Vaughn, Jacqueline Bisset, Robert DuVall

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

Mild

"Bullitt" (Blu-ray/HD DVD)

Synopsis

An all guts, no glory San Francisco cop becomes determined to find the underworld kingpin that killed the witness under his protection.

Commentary

It is surprising to me that this movie has the following it does. My brother is a big fan, and I know that McQueen fans generally have great things to say about it, but I found it quite tedious and boring. The film seems to move at a snail's pace and covers even the must mundane of events. The famous car chase toward the mid point of the film isn't any saving grace either. I am sure most of the fans of this film will buy it, anyways but if you haven't seen it I recommend a rental at best.

Editor's Note: Steve McQueen was one of the 1960's bad boy actors like Marlon Brando, and there have never been actors since who could replace either one of them. Bullitt is classic McQueen, and the movie revels in his style of acting. The famous chase scene is considered the best ever filmed, and McQueen drove the car himself. The movie is slow by today's standards, because a lot of it is just McQueen standing there, saying nothing, looking like he is ready to cut your liver out. That was his style of action, and if the guy he was staring at didn't pay attention, he would soon be horizontal, with an ID tag on his toe. As he said in The Magnificent Seven to Eli Wallach, the chief bandito, "We deal in lead, friend."

Technical

The Blu-ray and HD DVD video presentations are identical. This is an older film, and the condition of the print varies a bit. Darker scenes tend to be quite soft, and film grain is a bit on the excessive side at times. Indoor scenes are also on the dim side and have a haze look to them that was popular in the late 60's and early 70's (for reasons I will never know), so detail again suffers a bit.

Outdoor scenes are generally good looking but vary quite a bit. Depth is always pretty good, and the image is devoid of the aggravating edge enhancement and compression noise that plagues most DVDs. While I wouldn't call this a great transfer by any stretch, I imagine it is an improvement over the DVD.

The soundtracks for the two formats are also identical, though the HD DVD is encoded in DD+. This is a stereo soundtrack that lacks any information that decodes well to the rear soundstage even with today's surround modes. The imaging across the main soundstage is decent though with some nice panning and relatively good range given the age of the film. Bass is still quite weak, and the upper end has an occasional grating feel to it. Dialogue is cleaner than I would have expected, and the tonal balance isn't shifted too far into the upper end.

Extras

Extras include a feature commentary, a pair of documentaries on the film and star Steve McQueen, a production feature on film editing, and the trailer.

- Kris Deering -

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MGM

1986, Color, Rated PG, 1 Hr 55 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

1080p

 

English DTS-HD MA 5.1

English Dolby Digital 4.0

French Dolby Digital 1.0

Spanish Dolby Digital 1.0

 

Directed by David Anspaugh


Starring: Gene Hackman, Barbara Hershey, Dennis Hopper

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

No

Sex

No

Language

Mild

"Hoosiers" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

Based on the true story of a small-town Indiana team that made the state finals in 1954, this movie chronicles the attempts of a coach with a spotty past, and the town's basketball-loving drunk, to lead their high school team to victory.

Commentary

Easily one of the best sports films I've seen to date and in my opinion is borrowed from heavily even to this day. Like most true story sports films, it has a lot of spirit and that way of tugging at the heart strings. Performances are excellent across the board. If you haven't seen this film already, I don't know where you are living.

Technical

I don't think I've ever seen this film look really good. It always has that muted look to it with colors never really appearing as natural as I would expect. The HD transfer doesn't look much different from the DVD presentations I've seen.

Thankfully, all signs of ringing and EE are gone, which helps substantially with detail. The brighter the image, the better the image looks. The film gets pretty grainy in the lower light of the schoolhouse, and detail drowns out a bit. Compression is noticed at times in some of the more contrasty shots as low level banding, but it is never really intrusive.

The soundtrack is presented in lossless DTS-HD Master Audio. This is no great feat of sound design, and a lossless encode isn't going to help that out much. Dynamic range is rather weak, but the soundstage is fuller than you'd probably expect. Like a lot of older soundtracks, it is a bit treble heavy, and the lack of midrange balance hurts things a bit. Atmosphere is wonderful though, and the sense of space is conveyed nicely in the soundstage, especially in the basketball games.

Extras

The theatrical trailer is included.

- Kris Deering -

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Columbia Music Video

2007, Color, Unrated, 89 Minutes

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

1080i

 

English Uncompressed PCM 5.1

English Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Starring: Beyonce Knowles, Kelly Rowland, Michelle Williams, Lil' Wayne

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

No

Sex

No

Language

No

"Destiny's Child: Live in Atlanta" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

This is the live concert release from their show in Atlanta, featuring 30 live performances and a host of their popular music videos.

Commentary

I don't listen to the radio much and I rarely if ever keep up with things on MTV or any other music channel. But Destiny's Child is a band I'm familiar enough with from friends or just mass market visibility. While I wouldn't consider myself much of a fan, I've tapped my foot to a few of their beats that I've heard in my wanderings.

This concert release is a bit older and I think it is one of the performances of their last tours together, as I think they've broken up since. The production value is quite good, both visually and soundwise, and I was actually entertained more than I thought I would be. Fans of the band will probably want to pick this up, as I don't think you'll find the quality of presentation that you have here with any SD release.

Technical

The video is presented in MPEG-2 and is 1080i as opposed to the typical 1080p we've been getting. I imagine this was shot as video preventing the BD from being mastered at 1080p30. This is similar to what we saw with the recent Nine Inch Nails disc as well. The overall quality of the image is good, but the lighting presents some problems. First off it kills contrast a lot. This is natural given the environment, but it creates a subtle amount of noise that can hurt overall resolution and depth. Compression artifacts are noticed on occasion, especially in flashing lights and color. While not near the best concert DVD I've seen in HD, it is far better than any SD concert video I've seen to date.

The audio is presented in uncompressed PCM 5.1 or Dolby Digital. I viewed the concert with the PCM soundtrack and was impressed with the quality of the recording. The music is balanced well across the main soundstage, and the integration of the crowd and atmosphere of the venue is quite good. This is not nearly as aggressive as the recent NIN disc I reviewed, but given the nature of hip-hop music, there is plenty of material with low end punch.

Extras

Extras include three music videos, a feature on the band and its roots, and fan testimonials

- Kris Deering -

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Columbia Pictures

2006, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 16 mins.

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

1080p

 

English Uncompressed PCM 5.1

English Dolby Digital 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Nancy Meyers


Starring Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Jack Black

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

No

Sex

Themes

Language

Mild

"The Holiday" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

Movie trailer editor, Amanda of Los Angeles, California, and journalist Iris of Surrey, England, live five thousand miles apart and have never met, but are dealing with the same problem: men.

Amanda has just broken up with her cheating boyfriend, Ethan, and Iris has pined for her ex, Jasper, becoming engaged to the woman he left her for decide to take a vacation during Christmas. They come upon a website called "home exchange" and swap houses for two week,s both with a goal to forget their troubled love lives.

But love ends up finding them anyways. Amanda starts a romance with Iris' older brother, Graham, a book editor, and Iris starts a romance with a movie composer named Miles. With new found romance, both their lives change forever.

Commentary

I'll admit: I am a sucker for a good romantic comedy. Got it from my Mom. I didn't have high hopes for this one going into it, as I heard nothing about it at all during its theatrical run. Thankfully, it was quite good.

The story starts off a bit weak, with rather overdramatic acting and a bit of silliness, but it transforms as the film progresses into a nicely played out film of people escaping the ruin of their love life, only to find love again in unexpected places. The acting is solid for the most part, though I didn't really care for Jack Black's by-the-numbers performance. I would definitely recommend this one for a date or when you want to curl up with your loved one.

Technical

The video presentation is very good, but a bit odd. I've grown accustomed to these very sharp, very detailed looking films lately, and this one doesn't really fit that mold. Detail is by no means lacking, but the image has a film quality to it that creates the finest sheen over the finest detail. It almost adds a bit of warmth to the image. Colors are a bit overdone, but contrast and blacks are excellent. I didn't see any noise in the film or compression artifacts. Overall, I would rate this as a very solid transfer, but realize this is a bit lighter on detail than some of the other new films out there.

The soundtrack is typical of the genre, with mood music and nice ambience. Nothing at all to gripe about. Dialogue is always well balanced within the soundstage, and atmosphere is conveyed nicely in all channels. Dynamic range is not an issue at all, and there are a few moments when the film's musical selections liven things up a bit.

Extras

Extras include production featurette and a commentary with the director.

- Kris Deering -

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Warner

1972, Color, Rated PG, 2 hours 3 minutes

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

1080p

 

HD DVD:

English Dolby Digital Plus 1.0

French Dolby Digital Plus 1.0

Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 1.0

 

Blu-ray:

English Dolby Digital 1.0

French Dolby Digital 1.0

Spanish Dolby Digital 1.0

 

Directed by Sam Peckinpah

 

Starring Steve McQueen, Ali MacGraw, Ben Johnson, Al Lettieri, Sally Struthers

 

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

Brief Nudity

Language

Mild

"The Getaway (1972)" (Blu-ray/HD DVD)

Synopsis

Doc McCoy has been granted parole. The catch is that Sheriff Beynon expects a small favor from McCoy for his generosity: robbing another bank! Beynon does not really intend to let McCoy walk away after the heist and neither does co-robber Rudy Butler, but stopping Doc proves a trifle difficult.

Commentary

While I have seen the remake of this movie with Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger, I had never seen the original. This film is quite similar, though a bit less racy. The production design and use of the score to heighten the suspense are quite good, but I found the pace of the film a bit slow. It is also frustrating to see so many silly mistakes made by people that supposedly know what it is they are doing. While I won't say this is one of my favorite McQueen movies, I thought it was at least worth a rental for fans of the genre.

Technical

The video transfer is a bit inconsistent. This is mainly due to the wavering quality of the print used for the film. Most of the movie looks quite good, but some of the shots that appear to be mainly stock footage aren't in near as good of quality as the principle photography. Detail is better than expected through most of the film but isn't quite on par with some of the older films we've seen on HD like Blazing Saddles and Casablanca. Color rendition is good and overall depth of image is solid. While I don't think I would use this for demonstrations, I think fans of the film will be more than pleased with the overall quality of the presentation.

The film's soundtrack is presented in big fat mono. Obviously this takes its toll on imaging overall and dynamic range. Dialogue always sounds a bit boxed in and tinny, and the action sequences have no low end at all. This results in a rather flat soundtrack that can be a bit on the grating side at times.

Extras

All the extras from the special edition DVD release are included. A feature commentary, some documentaries, featurettes, an isolated score, and a trailer gallery.

- Kris Deering -

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Columbia

2003, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 5 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

1080p

 

English Uncompressed PCM 5.1

English Dolby Digital 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Tim Burton


Starring 
Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney, Billy Crudup, Jessica Lange, Helena Bonham Carter, Alison Lohman, Steve Buscemi, Danny DeVito

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Mild

Sex

No

Language

Mild

"Big Fish" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

The story revolves around a dying father and his son, who is trying to learn more about his dad by piecing together the stories he has gathered over the years. The son winds up re-creating his father's elusive life in a series of legends and myths inspired by the few facts he knows. Through these tales, the son begins to understand his father's great feats and his great failings.

Commentary

Tim Burton's heart warming tall tale makes its way to high definition. This has been one of my favorites from Burton since I first saw it and reminds me of his lighter tales like Edward Scissorhands. The visuals are superb, and the heart behind the story is outstanding. The film has an all star cast that portrays the roles brilliantly, and I was glad to see Burton bring in some new actors this time around rather than rely on his old standbys.

Technical

Burton's films always have a unique style to them when it comes to visuals. They are sometimes dark and dreary, but this time you get bright and oversaturated. This is a collection of tall tales, so the imagery takes on a more fantastical look. Colors are obviously overdriven to a point, and most of the imagery is shrouded in a sort of haze. The Blu-ray release seems to convey this perfectly with only a hint of some dithering in backgrounds. I am sure a lot of people will complain about this release as it isn't the greatest looking thing out there.

Detail suffers because of the filming style, but depth is quite good. Colors are extremely bold but again a bit oversaturated at times. This doesn't help detail much either. I would call this an accurate transfer, but not something you would use to show off a display with.

The 5.1 soundtrack is presented in PCM 5.1 and is quite good. This isn't an aggressive soundtrack, but it definitely has its moments. Dynamic range is superb at times, and the limited use of surrounds does wonders for the atmosphere of the film. The score is a highlight as always, and Elfman doesn't disappoint.

Extras

A feature commentary with Tim Burton is included.

- Kris Deering -

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Columbia

2006, Color, Rated PG-13

1 hr 57 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

1080p

 

English Uncompressed PCM 5.1

English Dolby Digital 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Starring: Will Smith, Thandie Newton

 

Directed by Gabriele Muccino

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

Mild

"The Pursuit of Happyness" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

In 1981, Chris Gardner was a struggling salesman in little needed medical bone density scanners, while his wife toiled in double shifts to support the family, including their young son, Christopher. In the face of this difficult life, Chris has the desperate inspiration to try for a stockbroker internship where one in twenty has a chance of a lucrative full time career. Even when his wife leaves him because of this choice, Chris clings to this dream with his son even when the odds become more daunting by the day. Together, father and son struggle through homelessness, jail time, tax seizure, and the overall punishing despair in a quest that would make Gardner a respected millionaire.

Commentary

This is one of those movies that is good, but I don't think I would watch it more than once. It's no surprise that this film pulls on the heart strings a lot, especially if you have children. Smith delivers his best performance since Ali and proves again that, given the right material, he is more than just a cocky action hero type. The film can be a bit slow at times, but like most films inspired by true stories, it has a lot of heart.

Technical

Another AVC encode from Sony, and this one is probably the best yet. Detail is outstanding throughout the entire film. The image is crisp, and depth is superb throughout. Colors are vivid and never noisy. I did see some light compression noise creep into the background in two different shots, but I would hardly call it distracting. Like Casino Royale, this is a very engaging image, but it's is a lot cleaner than what you get with Royale.

The 5.1 PCM soundtrack is what you'd expect from a drama like this one. Dialogue and ambience are solid, but overall, range is pretty limited, which was expected. I loved the musical selections of the film, and this is where dynamic range shines and the soundstage opens up a bit more. Surrounds are used to help with the atmosphere, and the imaging across the main soundstage is surprisingly good. A solid uncompressed offering.

Extras

Extras include a feature commentary, some production featurettes, a music video, and a father and son feature.

- Kris Deering -

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Lionsgate

1982, Color, Rated R, 1 hours 36 minutes

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

1080p

 

English DTS HD 5.1

English Dolby Digital EX 5.1

 

Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Richard Crenna, Brian Dennehy

 

Directed by Ted Kotcheff

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

Yes

"First Blood" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

John Rambo is a disoriented Vietnam Vet. He is hitchhiking from town to town to see friends from the war. A sheriff tries to make him leave town and when he refuses, arrests him for vagrancy. While in jail, a deputy takes delight in abusing him. Rambo escapes, showing his old Vietnam fighting skills and takes to the woods as the sheriff and deputies try and find him in his element. Things get out of hand as Colonel Trautman, Rambo's old commander, appears to shed light on the situation.

Commentary

This is by far the best of the Rambo series and the only one I would call a serious film. The picture portrays the struggle of a nation accepting their soldiers back from Vietnam and those soldiers adapting to civilian life again. Stallone does a brilliant job as former special ops soldier John Rambo and puts in a performance that is on par with his turn as Rocky Balboa. A must-have in my opinion.

Technical

I've seen this film countless times, but I don't recall ever seeing it in high definition before. I know it was released on the fledging D-Theater format, but I never got the chance to view it. The film was restored a few years back, and this is obviously a product of that restoration. The image is incredible given how bad I've seen it look in the past. The picture is very clean, very detailed, and very dimensional. Contrast is decent, and color balance is average for an 80's film. There is a little bit of haze around the outer parts of the image, but it appears to be a stylistic choice by the DP. I did see some banding at times in some scenes, which is a bit disheartening because this could have been one of the best transfers on Blu-ray to date.

The 5.1 DTS-HD soundtrack is good, but limited by the original master. Dynamic range suffers a bit, as the low end extension is a bit on the weak side. Dialogue is clean, but slightly boxed in at times. Like most soundtracks of this age, the presentation comes off slightly tinny at times, with a bit too much emphasis on the treble. While not a bad track by any means, it comes off a bit weak in comparison to most films in this genre.

Extras

Extras include deleted scenes, two audio commentaries, and a trivia track.

- Kris Deering -

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MGM

2006, Color, Rated PG

1 hr 42 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

1080p

 

English Uncompressed PCM 5.1

English Dolby Digital 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Burt Young, Antonio Tarver

 

Directed by Sylvester Stallone

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Mild

Sex

No

Language

Mild

"Rocky Balboa" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

Rocky Balboa examines one of America's greatest icons at a vulnerable period in his life: middle age. A former heavyweight boxing champion, known and renown throughout the world for going the distance, Rocky finds a new venture: giving back to his community. This is where he, once more, finds himself at the opposing side of opportunity, not unlike the one he has seen decades ago.

Heavyweight champ Mason Dixon and his representation offer Rocky a shot for the title. For Balboa, it'll be one last hurrah he'll never forget . . . but with his glory days far behind him, can he withstand the inevitabilities of what's to come? A look at going full circle and wanting more, when life turns out how you least expect it and then some.

Commentary

If someone would have asked me a few weeks before this movie hit theaters if I would have even given it a thought, I would have laughed. I've seen WAY too many films try to dig up a franchise that had already rotted away to fall into it again. And so this one hit the big screen and unbelievably, the reviews weren't half bad.

But I still didn't go see it. Too much to do these days to go see anything other than films I REALLY want to see. But I won't lie, I was anxious to finally see this in HD given the rather positive buzz. The results were worth it, and Stallone has delivered a rather pleasing final note to the story, much like his character does in the film. This is a story of a man finding his worth after everything in his life has started to fade away. It is easy to relate to, and easy to enjoy. Though at times it feels a bit long despite its runtime, I did find it quite enjoyable, surprisingly.

Technical

Another AVC encode for Sony. Looks to be a trend. This one is definitely the weakest of the bunch from a show-off standpoint, but solid nonetheless. The image lacks contrast a bit and tends to look softer than I would expect it to a lot. Things improve as the lighting gets better though. There are a lot of scenes where you would expect some light banding to creep in, but thankfully it never does. Depth is consistently good, and detail through most of the film is excellent. There is some noise in the image, but nothing distracting. Overall a solid presentation from Sony.

The uncompressed PCM 5.1 soundtrack is quite good and very dynamic when it needs to be. I was extremely impressed with the sense of space the soundtrack provides in some key areas in the film. The score is what you would expect, and the theme never sounded so good. Deep bass is felt at times, especially around the fight, and surrounds are used impressively to convey the sense of the arena and the madness of the boxing match.

Extras

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

- Kris Deering -

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