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Number 148 - July, 2007

Part II

Staff

 


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The Frighteners (HD DVD) Black Snake Moan (Blu-ray/HD DVD)
The Lost City (Blu-ray/HD DVD) The Patriot (Blu-ray)
Dragonheart (HD DVD) Daddy's Little Girls (Blu-ray)
Primeval (Blu-ray) Norbit (Blu-ray/HD DVD)
Black X-Mas (HD DVD) Hellboy (Blu-ray)

Number 148 - July, 2007 - Part I

Number 148 - July, 2007 - Part II

Movie Reviews Index

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Universal

1996, Color, Unrated, 2 Hr 3 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

 

English Dolby Digital + 5.1

 

Directed by Peter Jackson


Starring: Michael J Fox, Trini Alvarado, Dee Wallace Stone, Jake Busey, R Lee Emery, Chi McBride

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

Themes

Language

Yes

"The Frighteners"(HD DVD)

Synopsis

For Frank Bannister, death is a great way to make a living: ridding haunted houses of their "unwelcome" guests." But he's in cahoots with the very ghosts he promises to evict! It's the perfect scam...until Frank finds himself at the center of a dark mystery. A diabolical spirit is on a murderous rampage, and the whole town believes Frank is behind it.

Commentary

I was a big fan of this film when it first came out. While it didn't do the best during its theatrical run, it found a healthy following when it appeared on video. Universal has released the director's cut on HD DVD and this marks the first time I've seen it. Overall it improves a bit on the original as it fleshes out the characters a bit more and adds some comedy and chills. Jackson did a nice job of balancing comedy and horror here. The film does have its hokey moments, but overall I'm always entertained.

Technical

This was never a great looking movie but this release does improve upon the DVD quite a bit. Fine detail is better overall, especially in close ups, but longer shots still suffer from a softness that some may find unappealing. Edge enhancement is noticed on occasion, but its not nearly as intrusive as what I've seen on some other Universal titles lately. The image has some excess film grain and colors look a bit awash at times. Not reference by any means, but faithful to the look I've always seen from it.

The audio is my biggest complaint. Sound design was good enough but this is a REALLY boomy soundtrack. Bass has been amped up to the level of complete distraction and it takes away from the intensity of the soundtrack. Rarely will you hear me complain about rich bass, but this is overkill. Surrounds are used aggressively through most of the film and add a lot to the excitement. Dialogue sounds good enough, though slightly strained at times.

Extras

Great extras here. The full length production feature from the laserdisc is included. You also get an intro from director Peter Jackson and a feature commentary.

- Kris Deering -

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Paramount Vantage

2007, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 55 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

1080p

 

English/French Dolby Digital 5.1

English/French DD+ 5.1

 

Directed by Craig Brewer


Starring Christina Ricci, Samuel L Jackson, Justin Timberlake,

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

Yes

Language

Yes

"Black Snake Moan" (Blu-ray/HD DVD)

Synopsis

When ex-blues musician Lazarus finds the town nymphomaniac Rae left for dead on the side of the road, he vows to nurse her back to health...and cure her of her wickedness. Until then, she'll be chained to the immovable radiator in his home. But Lazarus has demons of his own: his wife just left him for his own brother. While Lazarus and Rae struggle to fix their broken lives, the situation threatens to explode as Rae's boyfriend Ronnie - a roughneck soldier just back from Iraq - comes searching for his missing lover.

Commentary

I saw this during its theatrical run. Was a big fan of the director's previous film and always a fan of Jackson's roles. The film is interesting, but not really in the ways it is advertised to be. The sexual side of the story is okay, but not that sexy. The blues side of the story and the way it treats its music made it worth the watch, oh and of course the performances from the two leads.

Technical

I was lucky enough to see this in D-Cinema during its theatrical run and I thought the image looked pretty good overall then, but it had some noise and softness inherent in the source. The same holds true here. This is a very detailed image with great depth and contrast, but picky watchers may not like the intended noise structure or softness that some scenes reveal. Personally I thought this was very accurate to the film's intended look and both versions here look great.

The blues soundtrack is the highlight here and is delivered nicely. I'm still disappointed to see Paramount not getting into the lossless audio niche but their recently announced titles seem to be pointing to that direction. Despite that this is a nice airy 5.1 mix with plenty of great music to fill the room. Dialogue always sounds spot on with nice balance and timbre and the imaging is realistic to the settings.

Extras

Extras include a feature commentary, some production features, the trailer and some music performances.

- Kris Deering -

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Magnolia Films

2005, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr 24 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

1080p

 

English Dolby TrueHD 5.1

Dolby Digital 5.1 English/French

 

Directed by Andy Garcia


Starring Andy Garcia, Bill Murray, Richard Bradford, Benjamin Bratt, Dustin Hoffman

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

Themes

Language

Yes

"The Lost City" (Blu-ray/HD DVD)

Synopsis

In Havana, Cuba in the late 1950's, a wealthy family, one of whose sons is a prominent nightclub owner, is caught in the violent transition from the oppressive regime of Batista to the Marxist government of Fidel Castro. Castro's regime ultimately leads the nightclub owner to flee to New York.

Commentary

A very solid drama that I'd never heard of before getting it in for review. The casting is quite impressive and Garcia does a great job as director. The film centers on the revolution of Cuba and the intentions of Garcia's family members and associates. I'm not that knowledgeable on the rise of Castro so this was an interesting look at the turbulent time.

Technical

I've been impressed with all of the Magnolia Films releases so far. Most have been shot in HD and have exquisite detail but this is a film source. Detail is still quite good and I was really impressed with the color rendition. Unfortunately macroblocking was noticed on a few occasions, mainly in darker scenes, and could be a bit distracting.

The HD DVD release features a TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack. This isn't a rich soundfield so don't expect bells and whistles, but the film's score does make nice use of the high resolution soundtrack. Ambience and atmosphere always sound realistic and dynamics are good. Dialogue sounded a bit strained for some reason, making me wonder how well the film was miced.

Extras

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

- Kris Deering -

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Columbia Pictures

2000, Color, Not Rated, 2 Hr 54 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

1080p

 

English/French/Polish/Czech Dolby Digital 5.1

English Uncompressed PCM 5.1

 

Directed by Roland Emmerich


Starring Mel Gibson, Heath Ledger, Jason Isaacs, Chris Cooper, Tom Wilkinson

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

Yes

"The Patriot" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

In 1776 South Carolina, widower and legendary war hero Benjamin Martin finds himself thrust into the midst of the American Revolutionary War as he helplessly watches his family torn apart by the savage forces of the British Redcoats. Unable to remain silent, he recruits a band of reluctant volunteers, including his idealistic patriot son Gabriel, to take up arms against the British. Fighting to protect his family's freedom and his country's independence, Martin discovers the pain of betrayal, the redemption of revenge and the passion of love.

Commentary

In my opinion this is Emmerich's best work to date. He moved away from the special effects spectacles that he has become famous for but kept up the grand stage. Gibson contributes an outstanding performance that may be as brutal as his turn in Braveheart. This new director's cut is a bit better than the theatrical version, but both are very satisfying.

Technical

Wow, Sony has done an outstanding job with this one. Detail and natural film grain are preserved beautifully and this is one of the most cinematic transfers I've seen lately. I would have given this one a 5 if it wasn't for the brief glimpses of edge enhancement I saw with some of the longer shots. Some of the CG work is also a bit soft at times and distracts from the gorgeous detail that is so abundant most of the time. Otherwise this is by far the best presentation I've seen of this film to date.

This was a powerful soundtrack on DVD and this new uncompressed PCM version takes it up a few notches. Dyanmic range is superb with some impressive low bass that can be a bit startling at times. Sound design is not slacking here. Atmosphere is delivered beautifully throughout the entire soundstage with plenty of help from the surround channels. Like the video presentation, this is a superb effort.

Extras

Extras include two production features.

- Kris Deering -

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Universal

1996, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 43 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

1080p

 

English DD+ 5.1

French DD+ 2.0

 

Directed by Rob Cohen


Starring Dennis Quaid, David Thewlis, Julie Christie, Sean Connery

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

Themes

Language

Mild

"Dragonheart" (HD DVD)

Synopsis

Long ago, when majestic fire-breathers soared through the skies, there lived a knight who would come face-to-face and heart-to-heart with the most remarkable creature that ever existed.

Commentary

I've always been of mixed opinion on this one. It is entertaining, and the effects were ground breaking for their time, but it has lost its luster over the years for me. Quaid gets on my nerves a bit in this role and I've never been a big fan of talking dragons. The premise is good though, but there are other more recent dragon films that I've enjoyed a bit more.

Technical

The overall quality of the video varies a lot throughout the film. At times detail and depth can be very good with crisp fine detail and excellent color balance. But some of the longer shots seem to lose focus and detail wavers. The CG still holds up well but is a far cry from the detail we get today. While I won't say this is a bad transfer, its inconsistency may turn off some fans.

This is a soundtrack I've become pretty familiar with over the years. The DTS DVD was a staple at many tradeshows and used constantly for surround sound demonstrations. This DD+ mix is easily on par with that, if not a bit tighter in the low end. The bass is extremely deep and can scare you at times. Surrounds seem to be a bit lower than the DTS mix, but still provide some nice panning effects. Dialogue is always clean and natural and the balance is dead on with the rest of the track.

Extras

Extras include a feature commentary, making of feature and trailers.

- Kris Deering -

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Lionsgate

2007, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 40 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

1080p

 

English/Spanish DD 5.1

English Uncompressed 7.1 PCM

 

Directed by Tyler Perry


Starring Gabrielle Union, Idris Elba, Louis Gossett Jr, Tracee Ellis Ross

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Mild

Sex

Themes

Language

Some

"Tyler Perry's Daddy's Little Girls" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

Monty is a mechanic struggling to make ends meet while raising his three young daughters. When the court awards custody of his daughters to his ex-wife, Monty desperately tries to win them back with the help of Julia, a beautiful, Ivy League-educated attorney. Monty and Julia couldn't be less alike, but a flame is ignited...touching off a firestorm of love and conflict.

Commentary

I'm not really familiar with Tyler Perry's previous works but I see he has some videos and shows out there. This film is an uplifting film but it takes a look at the effect of divorce and relationships on our children. The acting is very good and the story is easy to relate to if you've had any experience with these sorts of things. While I don't know how much replay value the film has, it is worth a look for a good family drama.

Technical

Not a bad transfer from Lionsgate, but not near the level of some of their other recent releases. Overall the look of the film is slightly soft, but I imagine it was shot that way. Detail is still preserved well, you just don't get that razor sharp look that so many new films have. Colors look good but darker scenes can be a bit on the noisy side at times.

The soundtrack is is presented in uncompressed 7.1 PCM. Personally I don't see the reason for a 7.1 mix of a film like this and wonder if Lionsgate has been doing this just to show that it is possible. The film's original soundtrack was only 6-channels so the back channels were derived. Ambience and the film's score are the biggest players when it comes to soundstage, and both are good enough. Dialogue sounds very natural throughout the film, which is probably the most important thing in a film of this genre.

Extras

Extras include some behind the scenes features, outtakes, interviews, gag reels and more.

- Kris Deering -

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Hollywood Pictures

2007, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 34 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

1080p

 

English Uncompressed PCM 5.1

English DD 5.1

 

Directed by Michael Katleman


Starring Dominic Purcell, Orlando Jones, Brooke Langton, Jurgen Prochnow

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Mild

Sex

No

Language

No

"Primeval" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

An American news crew, determined to capture this voracious monster and stop his demonic rampage, travel deep within the darkest reaches of Africa to hunt their prey. But Gustave, as the natives call him, is also on the hunt always on the move, always elusive, always hungry for human flesh.

Commentary

I remember the first ads I saw for this film. I thought for sure it was about some serial killer or a new slasher film. Of course I found out later that it was based on true events inspired by a large killer crocodile in Africa that terrorized a large population during a rather harsh time politically. Now killer animal movies (with the exception of Jaws) are usually a bust in my book and largely rely on bad humor and over the top special effects, but this one isn't too bad. The story is simple and the acting isn't the best, but they don't go out of their way to make it cheesy or gimmicky. The croc is there when it needs to be, and its scary, but there is enough of a story around it that the studio didn't rely on special effects to tell a thirty minute story in ninety minutes. Fun for a rental, but I don't think replay value is real high.

Technical

Disney has been delivering some great transfers lately and this one is pretty good. The colors have been stylized A LOT and lean heavily toward yellow. At times this can create some artifacts that caught my attention. Detail is consistently good, but banding is noticed on occasion, especially in some of the underwater footage. The CG effects hold up pretty well and mostly take place at night, which helps with the look and detail.

Like most horror movie soundtracks this 5.1 uncompressed mix has a lot going on and most of it is meant to make you jump. Sudden dynamics are impressive at times and anything involving the croc has a nice layer of low bass to add to the mood. Surrounds are used effectively to add to the atmosphere and tension in the film but the rest of the mix is never skimped on either.

Extras

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

- Kris Deering -

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Dreamworks Pictures

2007, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 42 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

1080p

 

English/French/Spanish DD/DD+ 5.1

 

Directed by Brian Robbins


Starring Eddie Murphy, Thandie Newton, Eddie Griffin, Terry Crews, Cuba Gooding Jr.

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

No

"Norbit" (Blu-ray/HD DVD)

Synopsis

Murphy stars as mild-mannered "Norbit," who gets a second chance at love with his childhood sweetheart, Kate. But there's one huge obstacle: jealous, mean-tempered Rasputia, who wants Norbit all to her sizeable self. Can Norbit win the heart of Kate... before Rasputia puts the hurt on him?

Commentary

I think Eddie Murphy has a fetish for fat jokes. One only needs to look at his catalog of films over the last decade and you see a trend. Either that or he is a big fan of Rick Baker's make-up abilities. Murphy plays a handful of roles again for this film about an orphan that gets married to a BIG bully of a woman who has three mean brothers. Norbit finds himself trapped in a situation and relationship he doesn't want to be in and to add to the grief, his childhood sweetheart returns into his life. Sure there are some good laughs here but ultimately I didn't care for the film. Bit too predictable and I can only take so much stereotyping. Fat jokes lose their luster over time.

Technical

While I may not like the movie much, there is a lot to like in the transfer. Both versions look quite good with impeccable detail and gorgeous color rendition. This is a bright movie with LOTS of color and that always looks good in HD. Depth and fine detail are also exceedingly good all around.

The soundtrack is customary for a comedy. The film's music livens it up most of the time but surrounds are used quite a bit to open up the soundstage. Dynamics are decent considering the genre. Despite the different encodes for the two formats I didn't notice any difference between them.

Extras

It is nice to see more HD supplements coming out. Here you have some production features, interviews, deleted scenes, trailers and a photo gallery.

- Kris Deering -

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Dimension Films

2006, Color, Unrated, 1 Hr 35 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

1080p

 

English Dolby TrueHD 5.1

English DD 5.1

 

Directed by Glen Morgan


Starring Katie Cassidy, Michelle Trachtenberg, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Oliver Hudson

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

Yes

Language

Yes

"Black X-Mas" (HD DVD)

Synopsis

A handful of sorority girls remain at the house after the school shuts down for Christmas break. An ominous snowstorm blows in, isolating them. At the same time, a killer - who in this version escapes from a mental institution to return to his former family home - breaks into the attic and begins making terrifying phone calls to the girls  before killing them off one by one.

Commentary

I guess this is a bit of a remake of a famous horror movie from the 70's. I would consider myself a pretty big horror fan but I don't remember the original and I didn't care much for this. It is a textbook slasher flick with one cute girl being killed after another by what appears to be the most jaundiced person alive. If you like predictable cookie cutter horror though, this may be one to watch.

Technical

The AVC encode of this film looks quite good. The film is very dark overall but contrast was exceptional, as was the detail in darker scenes. The Christmas lights did a nice job of punching up the image and color rendition was very nice. Another solid transfer from The Weinstein Company.

The 5.1 soundtrack is encoded in Dolby TrueHD and can be quite lively. The score does a good job at sustaining the mood and there are enough creepy aural cues to keep things interesting. Dialogue is nicely balance and timbre always sounds natural.

Extras

Extras include alternate endings and deleted scenes, a look at remaking the original film and a production feature.

- Kris Deering -

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Revolution Studios

2004, Color, Unrated, 2 Hr 12 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

1080p

 

English/French/German DD 5.1

English/German Uncompressed PCM 5.1

 

Directed by Guillermo Del Toro


Starring Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Jeffery Tambor, Karel Roden, Rupert Evans, John Hurt

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

Yes

"Hellboy" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

Born in the flames of hell and brought to Earth as an infant to perpetrate evil, "Hellboy" was rescued from sinister forces by the benevolent Dr. Broom, who raised him to be a hero. In Dr. Broom's secret Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense, Hellboy creates an unlikely family consisting of the telepathic "Mer-Man" Abe Sapien and Liz Sherman, the woman he loves who can control fire. Hidden from the very society that they protect, they stand as the key line of defense against an evil madman who seeks to reclaim "Hellboy" to the dark side and use his powers to destroy mankind.

Commentary

One of the best graphic novel based films yet and right up there with Sin City in my opinion. A great cast, story and production. With all the over the top but cookie cutter comic movies being churned out, it is nice to see that a great filmmaker can still make something this good out of the genre. The director's cut steps it up a notch with the character development and action.

Technical

This has always been a nice eye candy film with deep blacks, lots of contrast and punchy colors. This Blu-ray release ups the ante with excellent detail and superb depth. I have a copy of the HD cable broadcast and this runs circles around it. My only complaint is the slight amount of edge enhancement that I saw on some longer shots and the light banding in some of the fades. Otherwise this is a GREAT looking disc.

Like most films in this genre, there is plenty going on in all the channels. Deep bass is abundant and the surrounds are put to ample use. The score is a lot of fun to and one of the highlights of the dual uncompressed options (English and German) found on the disc. This is a disc I would easily break out for high end demonstrations.

Extras

Extras include a feature commentary, production documentary, deleted scenes, effects feature and more.

- Kris Deering -

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