Go to Home Page

Go to Index for All Movie Reviews.

 

Movie Renter's Guide
 

Number 149 - August, 2007

Part II

Staff

 


Now Playing
Divider

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (Blu-ray) 300 (Blu-ray/HD DVD)
Out For Justice (Blu-ray/HD DVD) Shaun of the Dead (HD DVD)
Daylight (HD DVD) Hustle & Flow (Blu-ray/HD DVD)
Flatliners (Blu-ray) Rescue Me: The Complete Third Season (Blu-ray)
Hot Fuzz (HD DVD) Weeds: Season One (Blu-ray)

Number 149 - August, 2007 - Part I

Number 149 - August, 2007 - Part II

Number 149 - August, 2007 - Part III

Movie Reviews Index

Divider

Columbia Pictures

2001, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 46 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

 

English/French DD 5.1

English Uncompressed PCM 5.1

 

Directed by Square


Starring: Alec Baldwin, Steve Buscemi, Ving Rhames, James Woods

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

Innuendo

Language

Mild

"Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

The year is 2065 AD. The Earth is infested with alien spirits, and mankind faces total extinction. Led by a strange dream and guided by her mentor, Dr. Sid, scientist Aki Ross struggles to collect the eight spirits in the hope of creating a force powerful enough to destroy the alien presence and pure enough to protect the planet. With the aid of the Deep Eyes Squadron, Aki must save the Earth from its darkest hate and unleash the final spirit.

Commentary

I was really excited about seeing this when I first saw the trailers. The animation alone had me captivated, and I'd never heard anything bad about the Final Fantasy game series. Unfortunately, the story was a bit cluttered with a lot of themes that didn't seem to make sense to anyone but the filmmakers. It also didn't have much to do with the game series evidently. Still beautiful to look at, but Final Fantasy: Advent Children was better, if only by a bit.

Technical

This was a really good looking DVD back in the day, and it has translated to Blu-ray even better. To say the animation has a 3-D effect to it would be an understatement. Depth and detail are superb. The color is a bit monochromatic, except for the desert sequences, so don't look for the dazzle of some of the other animated features.

A top notch transfer from Columbia.

The uncompressed 5.1 soundtrack is extremely dynamic with some wall threatening bass. The sound design is very good, and just shy of the major Hollywood blockbusters out there. The surround use is very aggressive and even sports some nice panning effects from time to time. This is a presentation that could find its way into lots of demos over the years.

Extras

Quite the load of extras here. There are tons of production features that show the development of the groundbreaking animation, including pre-production and rendering. Commentaries with most of the crew are also included. Some of the outtakes are also packaged here, including the hilarious "Thriller" spoof.

- Kris Deering -

Divider

Warner Bros.

1991, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 31 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

1080p

 

English DD/DD+ 5.1

French/Spanish DD/DD+ 2.0

 

Directed by John Flynn


Starring Steven Seagal, William Forsythe, Jerry Orbach, Jo Champa

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

Mild

Language

Yes

"Out for Justice" (Blu-ray/HD DVD)

Synopsis

A Brooklyn police officer tracks down a boyhood adversary-turned-drug-lord who's responsible for the death of the cop's friend and fellow officer.

Commentary

I liked Seagal's earlier action movies, and this was one of the more enjoyable ones. It is nice to see some decent catalog titles like this find their way onto the format this early on, though I don't know how much it would help with adoption or not. If you like solid action popcorn films, this is one to check out.

Technical

I really wouldn't have expected this to look that great, but the master has obviously held up well. It still suffers from a subdued color palette, but that is accurate to the time frame and film stock used. Detail is good, but not as sharp as some HD. I didn't see anything in terms of compression though, and banding is a non-issue. Fans of the film will be very pleased I'm sure.

The 5.1 soundtrack isn't quite as impressive as the video presentation. For one, the dialogue sounds unnatural compared to most of the films I've been watching lately, and is a bit on the shrill side. Dynamic range is decent enough, but most of the action sounds like the generic canned effects you hear from every other movie around this time frame. I wouldn't go so far as to say the track sounds bad, but it pales in comparison to most action films out in HD right now.

Extras

The only extra on this catalog release is the trailer.

- Kris Deering -

Divider

Universal

1996, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 55 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

1080p

 

English/French DD+ 5.1/2.0

 

Directed by Rob Cohen


Starring Sylvester Stallone, Amy Brenneman, Viggo Mortensen, Dan Hedaya

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

Mild

"Daylight" (HD DVD)

Synopsis

When an explosion seals off a commuter tunnel, the survivors are faced with toxic fumes, fires, and the impending collapse of the tunnel. Their only hope lies in the hands of Kit Latura, a former Emergency Medical Services chief who is haunted by a tragic past. As the walls cave in and the tunnel fills up with water, Latura risks his own life to save others and prevent the disaster from escalating into an even greater catastrophe.

Commentary

This came out in the mid nineties right around when Hollywood was in a "Natural Disaster" kick. Stallone had scored pretty big with Cliffhanger, and a lot of the skills he exhibited in that one play into this movie too. The film is decent altogether, though it has its moment of summer popcorn cheese. The action sequences can be pretty intense, but I still prefer some of Stallone's other films more.

Technical

I've been a bit bummed with Universal's catalog releases lately. Some have looked decent enough, but very few have been as consistently good looking as the films they were releasing 4-5 months ago. This one is on the teetering edge. The print is in decent enough shape, but you can't help but get the impression that some type of noise reduction was used because the image has a subtle plasticky look to it. Colors are a bit subdued, but they also lack the texture you see with better releases. Depth is good though, and contrast is on the better side.

Universal sticks with the DD+ treatment on this one, and overall it is what I would expect from an older summer blockbuster. The sound design is impressive at times, and there is no doubt that the full soundstage is pushed to the limits. The bass is a bit boomier than I think it needs to be, creating a bit of a loose feel in the lower range. Dynamics are good, but with the lower end being a bit overcooked, they suffer a bit. Dialogue sounds fine through most of the film, but at times it can lose a bit to the rest of the action.

Extras

Extras include a making of feature, a full length commentary, and a music video.

- Kris Deering -

Divider

Columbia Pictures

1990, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 54 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

1080p

 

English Uncompressed PCM 5.1

French/English DD 5.1

 

Directed by Joel Schumacher


Starring Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts, Kevin Bacon, William Baldwin, Oliver Platt

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

Yes

Language

Yes

"Flatliners" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

Are you afraid to die? This doctor isn't. He's an ambitious, charismatic medical student who persuades classmates to take part in a reckless experiment. To see if there is life after death, they will kill themselves: temporarily shut down their heart and brain functions to briefly experience clinical death.

After the doctor survives the first experiment, the others flatline for increasingly longer intervals. But their horror begins when they realize that although they've come back alive . . . they haven't come back alone.

Commentary

This is still a very creepy movie and holds up well over time. I saw this in theaters and loved it, and I still enjoy the mood of the film every time I see it. The cast is excellent, and the themes are still eerie and interesting. A solid catalog offering by Columbia.

Technical

I really wasn't expecting this film to look that good. I'd seen it on DVD a few times and I was never impressed. The image I'm used to is on the softer side and a bit noisy. Not the case here. Detail is far better than I would expect from a film of this age. There are moments when a bit of softness creeps in during darker passages, but its fleeting. Colors are a bit cooked, a style that seemed to be popular during the late eighties/early nineties. Fine detail is excellent through most of the film, and image depth is impressive. Not bad for an MPEG-2 catalog title.

The soundtrack is a bit limited due to age. I guess we've been getting spoiled with all of these films that have been really amping it up over the last few years in the sound design department. But that isn't to say this isn't good. The 5.1 mix has a lot of effective ambience that really brings you into the film. The front soundstage is deep and extends nicely into the sides, making the size of the locals believable.

Dialogue always sounds natural and is balanced with the rest of the track nicely. Dynamics are good, and some of the death sequences make the most of the subs.

Extras

Extras include a trailer and some previews.

- Kris Deering -

Divider

Universal

2007, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr 1 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

1080p

 

English/French DD+ 5.1 EX

 

Directed by Edgar Wright


Starring Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Jim Broadbent

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Strong

Sex

Themes

Language

Strong

"Hot Fuzz" (HD DVD Hybrid)

Synopsis

Nicholas Angel is the finest cop London has to offer. With an arrest record 400% higher than any other officer on the force, he's so good, he makes everyone else look bad. As a result, Angel's superiors send him to a place where his talents won't be quite so embarrassing - the sleepy and seemingly crime-free village of Sandford.

Once there, he is partnered with the well-meaning but overeager police officer Danny Butterman. The son of amiable Police Chief Frank Butterman, Danny is a huge action movie fan and believes his new big-city partner might just be a real-life "bad boy," and his chance to experience the life of gunfights and car chases he so longs for.

As a series of grisly accidents rocks the village, Angel is convinced that Sandford is not what he seems, and as the intrigue deepens, Danny's dreams of explosive, high-octane, car-chasing, gun-fighting, all-out action seem more and more like a reality. It's time for these small-town cops to break out some big-city justice.

Commentary

One of my favorite movies of the year so far and a riot from beginning to end. A bit of a sucker punch on the action genre and full of laugh out loud humor, Hot Fuzz is one of the most entertaining action/comedy films I've seen to date. A must have for any film fan in my opinion.

Technical

Wow! is one way to put it, but I can think of some other four letters words that may have passed my lips on occasion during the film. This is a gorgeous transfer from Universal and probably one of their best yet. Detail, color, depth, contrast, all impeccable. The amount of dimension in the film at times is just flooring. If all of the HD releases out there looked this good, I wouldn't even need to review the technical aspects anymore.

When I saw this in theaters I thought the soundtrack had a very aggressive quality, but on the boomy side. Turns out the theater just didn't have the right subs for the job. This is an aggressive track, in fact it is a bit overdone. But that is all in the theme of the film, and it jabs at the Hollywood action film. Bass is very pronounced, but also tight. My walls felt this one plenty of times. The full soundstage is utilized, with nice ambience and directional effects from the rear soundstage, including the rear channels (thanks to the EX mix).

Extras

Lots of extras on this one including deleted scenes, outtakes, interviews, an in-movie trivia track, and some publicity features.

- Kris Deering -

Divider

Warner Bros.

2007, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 56 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

1080p

 

English/French Spanish DD/DD+ 5.1

English Dolby TrueHD 5.1

Uncompressed PCM 5.1

 

Directed by Zack Snyder


Starring Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, David Wenham, Dominic West

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Strong

Sex

Yes

Language

Yes

"300" (Blu-ray/HD DVD)

Synopsis

The epic graphic novel by Frank Miller (Sin City) assaults the screen with the blood, thunder, and awe of its ferocious visual style, faithfully recreated in an intense blend of live-action and CGI animation. Retelling the ancient Battle of Thermopylae, it depicts the titanic clash in which King Leonidas and 300 Spartans fought to the death against Xerxes and his massive Persian army.

Commentary

Of course I saw this in theaters when it was initially released and had extremely high hopes after the brilliant trailer campaign. The film as a whole is good, but I was a little disappointed as my expectations were a bit high with all the hype. This is an adrenaline film that will probably be a huge seller for HD as it is a movie that was made to show off home theaters to their full extent.

Technical

Please, did you really think Warner would drop the bomb on a film as big as this? Like The Matrix before it, 300 was a film meant to show off formats like this. Plenty of cool styling, lots of detail, superb contrast, there is just eye candy galore in here.

Both versions deliver in spades. This is a grainy looking film, that was the way it was intended, but the transfers deliver that faithfully and I didn't see any blocking or compression noise as a result. Detail is great, but this wasn't a razor sharp movie in D-Cinema either due to the heavy use of CGI. Contrast is probably the most impressive aspect, and blacks are inky. Displays that aren't up to snuff in the contrast area will probably leave their owners a bit wanting in this one.

The 5.1 soundtrack is delivered in lossless for HD DVD and Blu-ray, and the Blu-ray also gets an uncompressed PCM mix. I didn't notice much of a difference though, so either should satisfy. Like the video, the audio presentation is everything you would want it to be. Plenty of rich, deep bass and lots of surround use make this a very immersive and very aggressive soundtrack. The surrounds are used almost constantly to put you in the fight, and there are some really cool discrete effects in the rear. Dialogue sounds dead on to the theatrical presentation. I don't think you could ask for much more.

Extras

Extras are pretty awesome on the HD DVD, but not quite as good on the Blu-ray version. There are already rumors floating that we'll see another version of the Blu-ray release once the new profiles for Blu-ray's special features get implemented. The in-movie experience is simply awesome here, with a PiP that lets you see the movie as it's being shot on green screen to compare to the feature. You also get some deleted/alternate scenes, a feature commentary, lots of production features, cast interviews, an interactive game (HD DVD), and a way to create your own montage of favorite scenes. One of the most fully loaded HD DVDs yet!

- Kris Deering -

Divider

Rogue Pictures

2004, Color, Rated R, 1hr. 40 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

1080p

 

English/French DD+ 5.1

 

Directed by Edgar Wright


Starring Simon Pegg, Kate Ashfield, Nick Frost, Lucy Davis, Jina Jay

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

Themes

Language

Yes

"Shaun of the Dead" (HD DVD)

Synopsis

There comes a day in every man's life when he has to get off the couch . . . and kill some zombies. When flesh-eating zombies are on the hunt for a bite to eat, it's up to slacker Shaun and his best pal to save their friends and family from becoming the next entre.

Commentary

I heard about this film for months before it was ever released into the US, and even then I didn't get to see it until the eventual DVD release. A great take on the zombie flick and a heck of a good time. The comedy is witty and not nearly as dumb as most of the American made spoof films. But this is also a pretty gore-ridden horror film with lots of blood and splatter to gross you out.

Technical

Universal, THIS IS HOW YOUR CATALOG TITLES SHOULD LOOK. It's one of the best catalog releases I've seen from any studio yet. Outstanding color, detail, and dimension. Not quite as good as Hot Fuzz, but REALLY close. It's almost distracting how good the image looks while your'e watching this. The depth of the image is outstanding, giving you one of those "window" presentations. Colors have plenty of pop, and contrast is solid throughout. A great job by Universal.

The soundtrack attributes are very similar to Wright's other film, Hot Fuzz: extremely dynamic, lots of low bass, and very enveloping. It's a playful mix, especially as things start to go awry, and it makes the film that much funnier. Dialogue is balanced extremely well, and you really get a sense of ambience throughout the whole soundstage. A great sound all around.

Extras

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

- Kris Deering -

Divider

Paramount Pictures

2005, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 55 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

1080p

 

English/French/Spanish DD/DD+ 5.1

 

Directed by Craig Brewer


Starring Terrence Howard, Anthony Anderson, Taryn Manning, D.J. Qualls, Ludacris

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

Yes

Language

Strong

"Hustle & Flow" (Blu-ray/HD DVD)

Synopsis

DJay is a Memphis hustler who spends most days in a parked Chevy philosophizing about life, while Nola turns tricks in the backseat. He's not very good at pimping, but he can hustle almost anything or anyone and makes enough to keep himself and three girls satisfied and housed in his shotgun home.

DJay, however, is in the midst of a midlife crisis: he quietly harbors dreams of becoming a respected rapper. When he learns from a local club owner, Arnel, that rap mogul Skinny Black, is rolling through town, DJay decides to record his flow with the hopes of slipping his demo to Skinny. With little help from his friends and "family" DJay sets in motion the hustle of his life, and galvanizes the lives of those around him as they learn that "Everybody's gotta have a dream".

Commentary

I reviewed Black Snake Moan a few weeks ago, and this is director Craig Brewer's freshman effort that put him in the limelight to say the least. A solid film that focuses on a hustler who finds his calling with music and enlists the help of a friend to get it out. But things don't always go how you plan, especially when you live your life the way this guy does. A solid film with excellent performances that show a dark side to street life and trying to get out.

Technical

This movie was shot to look older and worn out. It has that grind house cinema look to it with lots of grain, oversaturated colors, and, well, more grain. The image is a bit on the soft side, and I don't know how intentional that is. Detail in close-ups isn't bad, but everything seems to have a haze over it for the most part. Blacks are slightly elevated, which hurts depth a bit, and the film has a very "used" look to it. Again, this movie was never supposed to look great, just remember that going in.

This is a rap-heavy soundtrack, so bass is accordingly deep. Dialogue sounds natural and is balanced well with the flavor of the music. Atmosphere is convincing, but I thought the surrounds were used a bit sparingly. The music is the highlight, and in that respect, they did this mix justice. Not quite as impressive as ATL, but still quite good.

Extras

Extras include a feature commentary, lots of production features and behind the scenes footage, some promotional features, deleted scenes, trailers, and a music video.

- Kris Deering -

Divider

FX

2007, Color, Unrated, 572 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

1080p

 

English Uncompressed PCM 5.1

English/French DD 5.1

 

Directed by Various


Starring Denis Leary

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

Yes

Language

Yes

"Rescue Me: The Complete Third Season" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

Recently divorced fireman Tommy Gavin is coping with the fear of his job and the unease he feels watching his ex-wife as she starts to date other men. To better keep tabs on his ex and stay close to their three kids, he moves across the street from them.

Commentary

I am not a TV watcher. If I do watch any TV programs, it is usually some HBO On-Demand. Just recently a co-worker of mine brought some episodes of this show in from an earlier season, and its seemed pretty good while I watched it with him during lunch. This season is also nice, though I don't know if I'll be tuning my TV in every week now. Like most shows the quality of the episodes vary quite a bit. I do love how FX isn't scared to put an adult series on regular cable though, so I might watch more TV if that were the case all the time.

Technical

This show looks like it was shot with digital video cameras. There is that pronounced look of softness that always seems to be vidible with cable based HD camera programs. At times it can make the image look quite good, but most of the time it has a smeared kind of look that seems to lack the detail of most films. Whites are overdriven, a problem I see with almost every TV show on the air nowadays, and that hurts contrast a bit. Otherwise I think fans of the show will be pleased with Sony's presentation here.

Aside from The Sopranos, this is the only TV show I'm aware of with a high resolution soundtrack. Sony has included an uncompressed PCM soundtrack for the show, and for the most part it's quite good. This isn't the most dynamic audio programming out there, but it definitely has its moments. The soundtrack does a good job with atmosphere. Dialogue sounds a bit tinny at times, but overall it's not too bad.

Extras

Extras include some production featurettes, bloopers, deleted scenes, a sneak peek at the next season, and behind the scenes footage.

- Kris Deering -

Divider

Showtime/Lionsgate

2005, Color, Unrated, 283 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

1080p

 

English DD 5.1 EX

English DTS HD 6.1

 

Directed by Various


Starring Mary-Louise Parker

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

Yes

"Weeds: Season One" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

After her husband's unexpected death and subsequent financial woes, suburban mom Nancy Botwin embraces a new profession: the neighborhood pot dealer. As it seems like everyone secretly wants what she's selling - even city councilman Doug Wilson - Nancy is faced with keeping her family life in check and her enterprise a secret from her best friend/PTA president, Celia Hodes.

Commentary

I haven't kept track of Showtime's original programming in years. I wasn't even aware this was one of their programs until after I did some research on it. Turns out it's excellent. The show has some great humor and I was really impressed with the caliber of acting in it. It's nice to see better known actors coming into series-based drama like this. I'm looking forward to reviewing Season Two.

Technical

I don't have Showtime HD at home, so I don't really know how this presentation compares to the cable one. I thought it was a bit soft overall though. Colors seem natural enough, but they lean a bit toward the muted side.

Lionsgate has gone out of their way to do a full 6.1 DTS-ES discrete mix for this show. Bit of overkill if you ask me, as this show doesn't have a lot going on in the rears and isn't overly dynamic. Sure it has its moments, but they are pretty few and far between. Dialogue always sounds very good though, and the balance of the channels in the front soundstage is excellent.

Extras

Extras include six commentaries, some marijuana features, and a look at some other Showtime programming.

- Kris Deering -

Divider

 

Copyright 2007 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity

Go to Table of Contents for this Issue.

Go to Home Page.

 

About Secrets

Register

Terms and Conditions of Use