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Number 149 - August, 2007

Part III

Staff

 


Now Playing
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The Host (Blu-ray/HD DVD) Dead Silence (HD DVD)
TMNT (Blu-ray/HD DVD) Streets of Fire (HD DVD)
Vacancy (Blu-ray) Perfume - The Story of a Murderer (HD DVD)
The Lookout (Blu-ray) Waiting (Blu-ray)
The Lives of Others (Blu-ray) IMAX: Blue Planet (Blu-ray/HD DVD)

Number 149 - August, 2007 - Part I

Number 149 - August, 2007 - Part II

Number 149 - August, 2007 - Part III

Movie Reviews Index

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Magnolia Pictures

2006, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 59 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

 

English/Korean DD 5.1

English/Korean DTS-HD 5.1

English/Korean Uncompressed PCM 5.1 (BD Only)

 

Directed by Bong Joon-Ho


Starring: Song Kang-Ho, Byun Kee-Bong, Park Hae-Il, Bae Doo-Na, Ko A-Sung

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

Yes

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

Synopsis

A creature plunges from the Han River Bridge into the river, emerging on its shores for a feeding frenzy upon onlookers. When a young girl is snatched in the melee, her family sets off to recover her from the monster that the government claims to be a host of an unidentified beast.

Commentary

I've been eager to see this film since early last year when the buzz began to build on some of the international film sites. This is the highest grossing Korean-made film in its own country, and I've been seeing some great films from Korea over the last few years.

This one is a bit of a different take on the horror genre. A creature is produced from medical waste that has mutated a fish in the Han river and wreaks havoc on the population. All the while, the government stages a virus outbreak to scare the population even more. During this, a family is desperately trying to find their youngest member who was taken away by the creature.

The film balances the horror, drama, and comedy well. Some people may be turned off by some of the darker humor, but I thought the film did a great job of entertaining and keeping me locked in. The special effects work isn't quite to par with what we're used to here in the states, but it's far from bad and never really distracting.

Technical

Both the Blu-ray and HD DVD versions appear to use the same transfer, and generally it is quite good. The images are rich in detail and contrast, and they have some really deep blacks. Fine film grain is resolved well, and the level of depth really helps add to the atmosphere of the story, especially when the creature is attacking. I did see some minor edge enhancement at times, but it wasn't too distracting. There is also some light blocking near the end of the film that caught my eye. Overall though, this is a gorgeous transfer with some really nice cinematography.

The Blu-ray definitely gets the upper hand in the audio department. Magnolia has been including Dolby TrueHD soundtracks on the majority of their HD DVD releases so far, but they opted not to on this one. Instead, the HD DVD is limited to DTS-HD, while the Blu-ray version gets an uncompressed PCM mix.

I'm also glad to see Magnolia include standard English subtitles on this one. The District B13 release was botched by only including titles for the hearing impaired.

This is a very aggressive mix with extremely deep bass at times. Whenever the creature is around, you're going to feel it. The rest of the track is balanced very well, with nice use of the surrounds to add energy and ambience to the film. I listened a little bit to the English dub and wasn't impressed with the tonal balance compared to the rest of the movie. Why is it that every dub makes the actors sound extremely dumb?

Extras

Extras are the same as the Special Edition DVD and include a feature commentary and interviews with the director. There are lots of featurettes on how the creature was designed and created, outtakes, bloopers, and the trailer.

- Kris Deering -

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Warner Bros.

2007, Color, Rated PG, 1 Hr 27 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

1080p

 

English Dolby TrueHD 5.1

English/French/Spanish DD/DD+ 5.1

 

Directed by Kevin Munroe


Starring Patrick Stewart, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Laurence Fishburne

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

No

"TMNT" (Blu-ray/HD DVD Hybrid)

Synopsis

After the defeat of their old arch nemesis, The Shredder, the Turtles have grown apart as a family. Struggling to keep them together, their rat Sensei, Splinter, becomes worried when strange things begin to brew in New York City. Tech-industrialist Maximillian J. Winters is raising up an army of ancient monsters, and only one super-Ninja fighting team can stop them-- Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael!

With the help of old allies April O'Neil and Casey Jones, the Turtles are in for the fight of their lives as they once again must face the mysterious Foot Clan, who have put their own Ninja skills behind Winters' endeavors.

Commentary

While I wasn't particularly excited to see this one, the previews did impress me with the level of animation they displayed. This definitely isn't the level you saw with the famous daytime cartoon, and the film is better than the live action attempts in my opinion.

While still not as dark as the original comic/graphic novels, this is darker than the TV show was, and the characters have more grit. The only one I didn't care for was Casey Jones, who has turned into a domestic Gap Ad boy rather than the sleazy crime fighter he used to be. The animation is really good and borders on photorealism at times. Fans of the characters will probably enjoy this more than they think.

Technical

As I mentioned before, this has some really good looking animation. The color scheme is on the drab side, and the image overall has a more contrasty look than you would expect if you watched the show at all years ago.

The depth of the image at times is eye popping, giving you that feeling that you could literally reach into the picture. Some noise and banding pop up really early in the presentation, and at times I wondered if this was sourced from the digital files or from a film print. Overall though this is a showcase title that has some excellent demo material.

The 5.1 soundtrack is presented in lossless Dolby TrueHD sound for both releases, and overall it is quite good. Not nearly on the level of sound design as some of the more popular Pixar and Disney releases, but aggressive nonetheless. Atmosphere is convincing, but I thought the lip synching was a tad off.

Extras

Extras include a feature commentary, alternate opening and deleted scenes, interviews, and a side by side feature with the storyboards. The HD DVD also has the standard DVD presentation on the flipside.

- Kris Deering -

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Screen Gems

2007, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 25 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

1080p

 

English Uncompressed PCM 5.1

English/French DD 5.1

 

Directed by Nimrod Antal


Starring Luke Wilson, Kate Beckinsale, Frank Whaley, Ethan Embry

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

Mild Nudity

Language

Yes

"Vacancy" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

When David and Amy Fox's car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, they are forced to spend the night at the only motel around, with only the TV to entertain them . . . until they discover that the low-budget slasher videos they find were all filmed in the very room they're sitting in.

With hidden cameras now aimed at them - trapping them in rooms, crawlspaces, underground tunnels - and filming their every move, David and Amy must struggle to get out alive before they end up the next victims on tape.

Commentary

Great, another thriller about a couple that breaks down and gets terrorized at some sleazy motel. Haven't we seen this a million times?

Fortunately this one is a bit different. The couple check into a motel that has a surveillance system and some managers who like to videotape their guests being tortured. The nice twist is that they let you see the videos of the other guests before they do it! Nice way to set the mood huh?

This is a shorter story, and it does a decent job of keeping things going and keeping the suspense up. I thought the end was a bit anti-climatic, but overall I enjoyed the movie. It made my wife jump a few times, so that should count for something!

Technical

Sony continues to bring solid video transfers to Blu-ray, and this is no exception. The image is very dark most of the time, so displays that lack contrast may not handle the material that well. Fine detail is excellent though, and the stylized color palette only adds to the grit of the film. I didn't see any banding or breakup in the darker scenes.

The uncompressed PCM soundtrack is also quite good, though not as aggressive as I would like for a thriller. I thought the moodiness could have been amped up just a bit. Thankfully the filmmaker didn't rely on a bunch of silly music, a problem with too many thrillers these days. Surrounds are used impressively to create mood, and the low end can be aggressive at times.

Extras

Extras include a behind the scenes feature, deleted scenes, and some extended scenes.

- Kris Deering -

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Miramax Pictures

2007, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 39 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

1080p

 

English Uncompressed PCM 5.1

French/English DD 5.1

 

Directed by Scott Frank


Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jeff Daniels, Matthew Goode, Bruce McGill

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

Yes

Language

Yes

"The Lookout" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

Chris "Slapshot" Pratt, whose once-bright future has been dimmed by a head injury, is a night janitor at a bank. Lonely and frustrated, Chris falls prey to a con man's seductive promise of romance and a better life, and agrees to help rob the bank where he works.

Commentary

Never even heard of this film before, I was surprised to see it appear on my doormat for review. Good film though. Reminded me a bit of Memento in the beginning, but veers off a completely different direction as it progresses. The story is gripping enough, and the performances are all solid. Definitely worth checking out for a good crime thriller.

Technical

Miramax delivers a very solid presentation here. Detail and depth are all top notch, and the encode was sourced from a pretty much flawless master. I noticed a touch of banding in some of the darker sequences, but they were fleeting. The image has a very dimensional quality to it, even in darker scenes, and the color balance is very nice. Contrast is excellent throughout, making this a very visually appealing film.

The soundtrack is also good, but not quite as impressive as the video. Dialogue always sounds natural, and the imaging in the main soundstage is solid. I thought the surround soundstage was a little weak, which hurt atmosphere just a bit. Dynamic range was impressive at times, but limited overall.

Extras

Extras include a feature commentary, a behind the scenes feature, and interviews.

- Kris Deering -

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Sony Pictures Classics

2006, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr 18 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

1080p

 

German Uncompressed PCM 5.1

German DD 5.1

 

Directed by Florian Henckel Von Donnersmarck


Starring Martina Gedeck, Ulrich Muhe, Sebastian Koch

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Mild

Sex

Yes

Language

Yes

"The Lives of Others" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

Before the collapse of the Berlin Wall, East Germany’s population was closely monitored by the State Secret Police (Stasi). Only a few citizens above suspicion, like renowned pro-Socialist playwright Georg Dreyman, were permitted to lead private lives. But when a corrupt government official falls for Georg’s stunning actress-girlfriend, Christa, an ambitious Stasi policeman is ordered to bug the writer’s apartment to gain incriminating evidence against the rival.

Commentary

Before the Oscars I would have almost bet the farm that Pan's Labyrinth was going to walk away with the Oscar for Best Foreign Film for 2006. Yes, it had some tough competition, but it was universally praised and a REALLY good film. The Lives of Others is the only film with a nomination that I hadn't seen before then. Having seen it now I can agree it is a very moving and powerful film, but I can't help but think that Labyrinth was slightly robbed. The acting in this film is incredible and just about as convincing as you can get, but the production as a whole is a bit lower than the other. This is a superb thriller and human drama though, and fans of political drama should really catch this one.

Technical

One of the most film-like transfers I've seen in HD yet. The image has a nice balance of natural look and crisp detail. The lens plays a lot in the presentation though, slightly bending the image around the corners, and focal points are a bit inconsistent at times. Colors are natural, although the image has a bit of a dark feel to it overall. There are times when film grain is evident and the image has a softer look, but in the end this is a very solid HD presentation from Sony.

The only soundtrack is the original German language track in both Dolby Digital and Uncompressed PCM. Both are satisfying, but the PCM mix has a more open feel and a bit more ambience. Subtitles are also maintained in the active video frame, so this release is friendly to those 2.35 screen users and their constant height systems. This isn't a very dynamic mix, but the score and soundstage are effective at achieving the right mood and atmosphere.

Extras

Extras include an interview with the director, a feature commentary, and some deleted scenes.

- Kris Deering -

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Universal

2007, Color, Unrated, 1 Hr 31 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

1080p

 

English DD+ 5.1

 

Directed by James Wan


Starring Ryan Kwanten, Amber Valletta, Donnie Wahlberg, Bob Gunton

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Strong

Sex

No

Language

Yes

"Dead Silence" (HD DVD Hybrid)

Synopsis

Ever since Mary Shaw was hunted down and killed, the small town of Ravens Fair has been haunted by horrific deaths. When a local's wife is brutally murdered, he returns home to unravel the terrifying legend of Mary Shaw and the reason that when you see her, you should never, ever scream.

Commentary

This is one of those horror films that you've sworn you've seen before, but probably haven't. The idea is somewhat original, but the premise isn't all that interesting. There are some genuine scares in the film, but they are few and far between for a seasoned horror fan like myself. Aficionados of the genre may want to consider a rental, but I don't think it earns its way to the shelf.

Technical

Universal is pretty consistent when it comes to new day and date releases in HD. This is a very good looking transfer, especially considering how dark the film is most of the time. Shadow detail is excellent, and depth is far better than I would expect from a film this dark. Colors are very punchy, especially red, making for a nice contrast with the rather bleak backdrops. I didn't see any compression noise, and only the slightest amount of banding creeps in on occasion.

The DD+ 5.1 soundtrack is very dynamic and features an interesting score by ex-Nine Inch Nails keyboardist Charlie Clouser. The film does a nice job of creating atmosphere, and I liked the "Dead Silence" parts of the film. Surrounds are used extensively to add to the mood, and there are some very cool discrete noises littered throughout the film, increasing the tension of the movie.

Extras

Plenty of extras here, including an exclusive alternate ending and opening sequence. Most of the other extras are the same as the special edition DVD (which is on the flipside of this hybrid disc) and include deleted scenes and production features.

- Kris Deering -

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Universal

1984, Color, Rated PG, 1hr. 34 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

1080p

 

English/French DD+ 5.1/2.0

 

Directed by Walter Hill


Starring Michael Pare, Diane Lane, Rick Moranis, Amy Madigan, Willem Dafoe

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

Brief Nudity

Language

Yes

"Streets of Fire" (HD DVD)

Synopsis

A Rock and Roll singer is taken captive by a motorcycle gang in a strange world that seems to be a cross of the 1950's and the present or future. Her ex-boyfriend returns to town and to find her missing and goes to her rescue.

Commentary

I saw this film several times growing up and was a big fan of this and Pare's Eddie and the Cruisers. It's a movie that was made back when PG didn't mean it had to be a kiddie film. Swearing, nudity, violence, all included. Man, Hollywood has become a pale ghost since then. This is a great rock and roll action film with a good cast and definitely a nice addition to the HD library.

Technical

This is an older film, but it holds up very well on HD DVD. It has the typical 80's look to it with plenty of soft colors and a bit of a washed out appearance, but detail holds up pretty well. Blacks are deeper than most films of this age, and the master seems to be in pretty good shape. There was a little bit of ringing in the image at times, but it barely distracted. By far the best I've seen the film look to date, but not quite as pretty as some other HD presentations out there.

The soundtrack is also typical 80's all the way, but has some solid songs in it. Lots of electric drums and synths to keep things lively, and the main soundstage is nice and open. Dynamics are good for the age of the film, but not quite to par with what we have today. The soundtrack is a bit on the high side with a bit of strain in the upper end of the frequency band, but not nearly as glaring as so many other early eighties films I've watched.

Extras

Universal decided not to include anything here.

- Kris Deering -

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Paramount Pictures

2006, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr 27 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

1080p

 

English/German DTS-HD 5.1

 

Directed by Tom Tykwer


Starring Ben Whishaw, Dustin Hoffman, Alan Rickman, Rachel Hurd-Wood

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

Yes

Language

Yes

"Perfume - The Story of a Murderer" (HD DVD Import)

Synopsis

In 18th-century France lived Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, who was born with a phenomenal sense of smell. But as his gift becomes an obsession, he strives to create the most intoxicating perfume in the world by murdering young women to capture their essence.

Commentary

I remember seeing the limited trailers for this movie before its theatrical release and not being very excited by them. I really don't think they did this bizarre film justice. It's quite an interesting story and a completely different take on a murderer and the reasons why he does what he does.

The production value is fantastic and despite the long runtime, the pacing is quite good. I hope Paramount will see fit to release this one in HD sometime this year. For now you can buy this German HD DVD release (remember all HD DVDs are region free) from several online dealers. I recommend www.xploitedcinema.com

Technical

This is a really great looking HD DVD. The amount of detail and depth are astounding at times. The cinematography is gorgeous, and I love the dark and dreary tones of Paris and the contrast with Grass later in the film.

The textures you see in everything really make this a standout title for visuals. Depth is as good as anything I've seen to date, and there are some moments when you really get that sense of looking through a window.

The soundtrack is presented in DTS-HD and there is the original English track and a German track. There are no forced subtitles on this release, so don't worry if you are thinking of importing. The soundtrack has a very open feel, and the front soundstage is very wide with some nice sidewall imaging. Surrounds are used quite a bit to open things up even more. Dynamics are good when they need to be, but bass extension isn't too deep. Dialogue always sounds very natural and balanced nicely with the rest of the film's soundtrack.

Extras

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

- Kris Deering -

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Lionsgate

2005, Color, Unrated, 1 hour 34 mins

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

1080p

 

English Uncompressed PCM 7.1

English DD 5.1 EX

 

Directed by Rob McKittrick


Starring Ryan Reynolds, Anna Faris, Justin Long, David Koechner, Chi McBride, Dana Cook, Luis Guzman

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

No

Sex

Strong Themes

Language

Strong

"Waiting" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

A waiter for four years since high school, Dean has never questioned his job at Shenanigan's. But when he learns that Chet, a high school classmate, now has a lucrative career in electrical engineering, he's thrown into turmoil about his dead-end life.

Dean's friend Monty is in exactly the same boat, but he couldn't care less. More concerned with partying and getting laid, Monty is put in charge of training Mitch, a shy new employee. Over the course of one chaotic shift, Mitch gets to know the rest of Shenanigan's quirky staff: Monty's tough-talking ex-girlfriend, Serena, Shenanigan's over-zealous manager, Dan, and head cook Raddimus, who's obsessed with a senseless staff-wide competition known only as "The Game".

Commentary

I have plenty of friends who love this film, but this is the first time I'd seen it. It reminds me a bit of Office Space, only in a restaurant environment. The laughs aren't quite as good as Office Space, but there are plenty of them here. I was surprised how many well known comic actors were in this Indie film. Comedy fans would do well to check this one out.

Technical

Bit of a mixed bag on the video front. Close-ups look the best, but you can't help but think that the master went through some type of noise reduction. The image is eerily clean, but most textures look a bit pasty. Medium to long shots are a lot softer and border on upscaled DVD in terms of detail. Contrast is good enough, although colors look a tad dark overall.

I can't imagine this film being shot on a high budget, so a lot of the complaints may stem from limitations in the production. There are a few scenes that you would swear were shot with a handheld DV cam, especially during the party scene toward the end of the film.

This Blu-ray release boasts no less than a 7.1 Uncompressed PCM mix. This film was shot as a 5.1 mix so I imagine there is just some channel extraction going on before the encode is done for the HT mix. Regardless, the surround channels are used pretty sparingly. The production design on the sound side wasn't anything to brag about, and I thought dialogue suffered a bit from time to time by poor recording. Voices sounded a bit off compared to the rest of the main soundstage, and at times a bit boxed in.

Extras

Extras include a feature commentary, an interactive video commentary, a premiere feature, deleted scenes, outtakes, and a lot of trailers.

- Kris Deering -

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Warner

1990/1985, Color, Unrated, 44 mins

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

1080p

 

English/French DD/DD+ 5.1

English Dolby TrueHD 5.1

 

Directed by Graeme Ferguson/Ben Burtt


Starring Toni Meyers, Walter Cronkite

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

No

Sex

No

Language

No

"IMAX: Blue Planet" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

From the unique vantage point of 200 miles above Earth's surface, we see how natural forces - volcanoes, earthquakes and hurricanes - affect our world, and how a powerful new force - humankind - has begun to alter the face of the planet. From Amazon rain forests to Serengeti grasslands, Blue Planet inspires a new appreciation of life on Earth, our only home.

Commentary

Don't confuse this with the new Blue Planet series that is coming to Discovery Channel. This is an older IMAX presentation that was made with Lockheed and has some nice footage from the space shuttle and talks about the planet as a whole. Not nearly as interesting as the recent Planet Earth series that found its way to HD DVD and Blu-ray, but it does have some nice footage and interesting points. I thought the narrator was a bit on the dry side though.

Technical

This is very similar to the recent IMAX film released by Disney on Blu-ray. The footage varies significantly in quality throughout the short film. The IMAX camera footage has great detail and depth, as do the shots from space, but stock footage has significant amounts of wear and tear and lots of ringing. Blocking was noticed on occasion, but its presence was fleeting. Overall this isn't a bad looking disc, but it does look dated.

The audio is presented in both standard Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby TrueHD 5.1. I am glad to see Warner supporting this new lossless sound format more on both formats. Like most IMAX films, the dynamic range of the recording can be system threatening at times. My room got a good shake during the shuttle take-off and through a few animations. Bass is heavy in these scenes. Surrounds are used more than I expected, but at times can be gimmicky, especially with voices.

Extras

Warner has included quite the extra here, another whole IMAX film! You get The Dream is Alive. This focuses a lot on the astronauts and NASA and has some nice footage.

- Kris Deering -

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