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Number 150 - September, 2007

Part I

Staff

 


Now Playing
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Meet Joe Black (HD DVD) Notting Hill (HD DVD)
Dawn of the Dead (HD DVD) The Wedding Date (HD DVD)
Wild Hogs (Blu-ray) Blades of Glory (HD DVD)
Infernal Affairs (Blu-ray) Bruce Springsteen Live in Dublin (Blu-ray)
Van Wilder (Blu-ray) Deliverance (Blu-ray/HD DVD)
Rio Bravo (Blu-ray/HD DVD)  

Number 150 - September, 2007 - Part I

Number 150 - September, 2007 - Part II

Number 150 - September, 2007 - Part III

Movie Reviews Index

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Universal

1998, Color, Rated PG-13, 3 Hr 1 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

 

English/French DD+ 5.1

 

Directed by Martin Brest


Starring: Brad Pitt, Anthony Hopkins, Claire Forlani, Jake Weber, Marcia Gay Harden

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Brief

Sex

No

Language

Yes

"Meet Joe Black" (HD DVD)

Synopsis

Bill Parish has it all: success, wealth and power. Days before his 65th birthday he receives a visit from a mysterious stranger, Joe Black, who soon reveals himself as Death. In exchange for extra time, Bill agrees to serve as Joe's earthly guide. But will he regret his choice when Joe unexpectedly falls in love with Bill's beautiful daughter Susan?

Commentary

It has been awhile since I've seen this film and I must say, it is still a great film. The balance of story is excellent, and despite its rather long run time, I never get bored. Pitt and Hopkins play off each other brilliantly, and I love the chemistry of the characters.

I know there are a lot of comparisons to Death Takes A Holiday, as this is a bit of a remake, and I think this film does the latter proud.

Technical

A pretty solid looking catalog release from Universal. The colors aren't as striking as most of the more recent releases, but they look like most films of this age. You can't help but think that a little bit of noise reduction was applied as the image has a slightly enhanced look to it with slight motion blur at times. Detail is consistently good throughout, even in longer shots. Contrast suffers just a bit, making depth a little uneven through the film.

The audio is presented in Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 and is far more dynamic than you would expect from a film of this genre. At times, the low end creates a spectacular ominous feel. Dialogue is clean and balanced well with the rest of the soundtrack, with no signs of strain. The surround sound environment is used nicely to convey ambience, and there are a few discrete sounds to catch you off guard.

Extras

Extras are a bit weak here. You get a production feature, a photo montage and the trailer.

- Kris Deering -

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Universal

2004, Color, Unrated, 1 Hr 50 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

1080p

 

English Dolby TrueHD 5.1

English/French DD+ 5.1

 

Directed by Zack Snyder


Starring Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Jake Weber, Mekhi Phifer

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Strong

Sex

Brief Nudity

Language

Yes

"Dawn of the Dead" (HD DVD)

Synopsis

When a mysterious virus turns people into mindless, flesh-eating zombies, a handful of survivors wage a desperate, last-stand battle to stay alive . . . and human!

Commentary

This is probably one of the best horror remakes of all time, in my opinion. Snyder took a very popular horror film with a large cult following, and put just enough modern day budget and terror to really hit the nail on the head, but not tread on the classic.

Technical

Like most modern day horror films, this one is quite stylized. The colors are pushed a bit, and contrast is exceptional. Detail in close-ups is almost too sharp given the content (makes you appreciate the make-up effects), but longer shots can be a tad on the soft side. The CGI effects are also a bit softer than the live action, which can be distracting at times.

Universal is starting to support Dolby TrueHD for most of its catalog now, and I'm glad to see them move toward lossless support. Not that their previous soundtracks were lacking anything though. This one is aggressive with some very cool use of the surrounds and main soundstage. Bass is very deep and could be system threatening, depending on what your system is capable of. Imaging is solid throughout, and dialogue balance is good with the rest of the track. If I had to complain about something, I would say the bass is a bit loose at times, but I doubt many would complain.

Extras

Extras include all of the features found on the special edition DVD. This includes lost footage, some cool themed featurettes, deleted scenes, production features, a feature commentary, and an introduction to the film by the director.

- Kris Deering -

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Touchstone Pictures

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

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

1080p

 

English Uncompressed PCM 5.1

English/French/Spanish DD 5.1

 

Directed by Walt Becker


Starring Tim Allen, John Travolta, Martin Lawrence, William H. Macy, Ray Liotta, Marisa Tomei

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

Themes

Language

Yes

"Wild Hogs" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

Tim Allen, John Travolta, Martin Lawrence, and William H. Macy star in Wild Hogs, the hysterically funny comedy about four weekend-warrior friends who decide to rev up their ho-hum suburban lives with a cross-country motorcycle adventure. They don their leathers, fire up their hogs and throw caution and their cell phones to the wind as they hit the open highway. A lot can happen on the road to nowhere, including a run-in with the bad-to-the-bone Del Fuegos, a real biker gang who donít take kindly to the wannabes.

Commentary

I can honestly say I wasn't very hyped about watching this film. The trailers did nothing for me, and they made me think I would hate the comedy. After watching it, I can say that it was far better than I expected, but still short of the level of comedy I prefer.

This is a film that is advertised as a family comedy, but I think it is geared far more toward the 40 and up crowd who can relate to the mid-life crisis themes. While there are definitely some good laughs, I would recommend a rental on this one.

Technical

A solid HD presentation here. Detail is solid throughout most of the film, with only some hints of softness in longer shots. Contrast is excellent and helps a lot with the depth of image and dimensionality of the picture. Colors are a bit bolder than normal, but this helps with the crisp look of the film.

The full resolution uncompressed PCM soundtrack is fun and aggressive. Home Theater fans will probably love the kick of the Harleys in both the main soundstage and the low end, and you'll swear there is a real one in your room if you turn it up loud enough. The score evens things out and is fun enough to keep the volume up even when the bikes are off. Balance is excellent from front to back, and the dialogue is always clear.

Extras

Extras include outtakes, deleted scenes, an alternate ending, some comedy film themed supplements, a production feature, and a feature commentary.

- Kris Deering -

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Media Asia Films

2002, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 37 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

1080p

 

Cantonese Uncompressed PCM 5.1

Cantonese/Mandarin DD 5.1

 

Directed by Andrew Lau and Alan Mak


Starring Tony Leung, Andy Lau, Anthony Wong, Eric Tsang

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

Yes

"Infernal Affairs" (Blu-ray Import)

Synopsis

This is a story between a mole in the police department and an undercover cop. Their objectives are the same: to find out who is the mole, and who is the cop.

Commentary

This is the film that inspired the American hit film The Departed, that won quite a few awards in its native country and spawned two sequels. I've been a fan of this film for years (and its sequels) and was excited to see it gain more notoriety here in the states after the release of The Departed. This film is slightly different than the US version, a bit more streamlined, but still has plenty of suspense and action. I can only hope we'll see a US release in HD along with the sequels.

Technical

I don't think I've ever seen this movie look "great", but this is the best I've seen it yet. The film style is a bit washed out at times, which hurts contrast and depth. Detail is decent enough, but the image isn't as crisp as most of the stuff we're seeing on HD these days. The biggest gripe I have is whites, which are clipped in most of the scenes of the film, and I hate overdriven whites. Film grain is apparent throughout most of the film, and the print used for the master isn't the most pristine out there. There is definitely room for improvement, but again, it's the best I've seen it look yet.

The soundtrack for this film has been used in quite a few demos I've attended over the years. There are some great dynamics, and the use of the surround soundstage is excellent. But I've never been a fan of the dialogue. It always sounds like it was done all in post production with the level and balance not nearly as convincing as most American cinema. It always sounds too forward, and too loud. The rest of the soundtrack is compelling though with some impressive low bass and plenty of atmosphere. Take note that there is no English dub for this film, but English subtitles are provided.

Extras

Extras include a feature commentary, the teaser and theatrical trailers, a production feature, and some movie themed supplements.

- Kris Deering -

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Lionsgate

2002, Color, Unrated, 1 Hr 34 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

1080p

 

English Uncompressed PCM 7.1

English DD 5.1 EX

 

Directed by Walt Becker


Starring Ryan Reynolds, Tara Reid, Tim Matheson, Paul Gleason

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Mild

Sex

Yes

Language

Strong

"National Lampoon's Van Wilder" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

Life is good for Van: he's got a coed in every closet and a party to go to every night. His slick reputation even catches the eye of sexy Gwen Pearson, an on-campus reporter determined to expose the naked truth behind his wild exterior. When Gwen enters his life and his father stops paying for his tuition, could Van's days as the king of Coolidge College be over?

Commentary

This is a bit of a guilty pleasure for me. The comedy definitely hits the funny bone more often than it should and the level of over the top crudeness is hard to beat. I think the only thing that turns me off about the film is Tara Reid, who hasn't turned in a good performance in her career yet, IMHO.

Technical

Ouch, this is a pretty sad transfer from Lionsgate. While they've delivered some really solid transfers to Blu-ray (Crank, Saw films) this one looks like an up-scaled DVD, and almost a poor one at that. The image has a veil over it that robs it of pop and fine detail. Edge enhancement is also intrusive. I can't tell if the image has been heavily filtered or not, but something is definitely amiss. Fans of the film would probably do well to just stick with the DVD and a good up-scaling DVD player.

The 7.1 uncompressed soundtrack fares better than the video presentation, but is still a bit short of a solid reference presentation. I don't understand Lionsgate's model of using 7.1 mixes for films that were 5.1 to begin with. Most systems out there don't support a native 7.1 soundtrack and most systems do a very adequate job of converting 5.1 to 7.1 convincingly.

The mix here is dynamic enough, but most of the thrills are from the film's score and musical selection. Dialogue is tinny at times, but overall the balance is decent with the rest of the soundtrack. Surrounds are used more often than usual for a film in this genre, but at times the effect is hokey.

Extras

Plenty of extras here. Lionsgate included their standard pop up bar for interaction during the film, there are lots of college themed featurettes to add to the humor of the package, a music video, outtakes, deleted scenes, interviews, trivia, and a Comedy Central feature on the film.

- Kris Deering -

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Universal

1999, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 4 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

1080p

 

English Dolby TrueHD 5.1

English/French DD+ 5.1/2.0

 

Directed by Roger Michell


Starring Julia Roberts, Hugh Grant

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

No

Sex

Themes

Language

Mild

"Notting Hill" (HD DVD Hybrid)

Synopsis

Anna Scott is the world's most famous movie star. Her picture has been plastered on the cover of every magazine, and every time she makes a move, the entire world knows about it. William Thacker owns a travel bookstore in the quaint neighborhood of Notting Hill. His business is stagnant, he has the roommate from hell, and his love life is completely nonexistent. Then one day, their paths cross and the couple comes to face the ultimate question: can two people fall in love with the whole world watching?

Commentary

I am a huge fan of the romantic comedies in the Working Title production library. I hope to see Universal release more of them over the next year. Notting Hill is a very charming romantic film that does a great job of balancing the characters, humor, and romance perfectly. The premise of the film is far more interesting than I thought it would be when I saw it years ago and the replay value for fans of the genre is excellent. A welcome addition to any library.

Technical

I owned this one on the short lived D-Theater format, and this transfer seems to be from the same master. There is a slight increase in detail, but that might be a side effect from having a higher resolution display now. Detail overall is good, though not quite as sharp as some of the newer films out there. I like the balanced look though. No oversaturated colors or overstated contrast, just natural photography. While not demo material, Universal has done a solid job with this transfer.

The 5.1 soundtrack is presented in Dolby TrueHD and continues the trend of support from Universal. This is not an aggressive soundtrack, but it does very well with songs that were picked perfectly for the mood of the film. The lossless track delivers them nicely and is a step up from the DVD and D-Theater versions I've had before. The atmosphere is a bit more open, and I thought the dialogue sounded a bit more natural.

Extras

Most the extras from the DVD release are included. You'll find a feature commentary, some music videos, a look at the real Notting Hill, interviews, deleted scenes, and trailers.

- Kris Deering -

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Universal

1984, Color, Rated PG, 1 Hr 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

"The Wedding Date" (HD DVD)

Synopsis

Kat Ellis is determined to attend her younger sister's wedding with a date. Rather than face the ridicule of her family and in order to show up her ex-fiancť, she resorts to the Yellow Pages to find a last-minute escort, Nick. His dashing good looks and quick-witted charm may win over her family. But will they win over Kat?

Commentary

I'm a big fan of this genre, and I actually think it is avoided a bit too much on these new formats. I hadn't seen the film before this review, and overall I thought it was good, but not a home run. The love affair of the two characters didn't make sense to me given their pasts and professionals and came off as forced for the good of the film. The acting was good though, and there is enough humor to make the film enjoyable, but I don't know how much I would revisit it in the library of romantic comedies out there.

Technical

This transfer is just a hair better than a good up-converted DVD presentation. Edge enhancement is quite bad, and ringing is noticed in almost every scene of the movie. The only thing separating it from an up-converted DVD is the lack of mosquito noise and blocking. Close-ups look pretty good, but as soon as you hit a medium shot, detail plummets quickly. The image has the look of noise reduction application with faces looking a tad pasty. Definitely one of the weaker-looking catalog titles from Universal.

The soundtrack fares better than the picture, but not by a long margin. Sound design is typical of a film of this genre, but I didn't care much for the score. I did really like the songs they picked for the film though, and they were definitely the highlight of the presentation. Dialogue was balanced well enough, but at times the ADR (Automatic Dialogue Replacement - where they dub in some dialogue to replace the original one that may have not been recorded well, or had too much background noise) was pretty bad (watch the scene in the airport line toward the beginning of the film to see what I mean).

Extras

Universal decided not to include anything here.

- Kris Deering -

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Paramount Pictures

200, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 33 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

1080p

 

English/French/Spanish DD+ 5.1

 

Directed by Will Speck & Josh Gordon


Starring Will Ferrell, Jon Heder, Will Arnett, Amy Poehler, Craig T. Nelson

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Comedic

Sex

Mild Themes

Language

Mild

"Blades of Glory" (HD DVD )

Synopsis

Bitter figure skating rivals Chazz Michael Michaels and Jimmy MacElroy brawl after tying for the gold medal at the world championships. Banned for life from menís competition, these archrivals beat the system thanks to a loophole that allows them skate again - in pairs competition!

Commentary

I had a strong feeling going into this film that I wouldn't be a fan. I am not big on Ferrell's brand of comedy (though I did love Stranger than Fiction) and Heder hasn't done anything particularly good since Napoleon Dynamite. The comedy is a bit too over the top for me, and they borrowed a lot from comedies of the past. There are some good laughs here and there, but not nearly enough of them to warrant a purchase. I would stick with a rental on this one.

Technical

The HD transfer here is quite good, as one would expect from such a new film, but not without its issues. There are a few scenes when the image quality seems to take a big step down, especially in detail. The image becomes far softer than it should be and almost looks like someone screwed up when they were doing the master or encode.

Most of the time, the image has plenty of detail, and perhaps even too much. I say this because the CG addition of the actors' faces on the skaters is almost too obvious with the clarity of the HD transfer, which becomes distracting. 

When this was originally announced by Dreamworks, they had mentioned support for an uncompressed 5.1 mix for the Blu-ray release. Since they are no longer supporting Blu-ray, we are left with the DD+ mix on the HD DVD release.

It is too bad they didn't opt for a Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. I hope they start supporting the lossless soundtracks soon, with some of the higher profile titles they have coming out. This is a fun soundtrack that does make full use of the surround soundstage, especially during the ice skating competitions. The ambience and sense of space is realistic enough, and the dynamic range is actually quite good. Dialogue is balanced well for the most part, though some times I thought it was panned back too far into the room.

Extras

Extras are almost completely in HD on this release. This includes some production features, interviews, some comedy interviews, deleted scenes, gag reels, a photo gallery, and a music video.

- Kris Deering -

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Sony Music

2007, Color, Unrated, 2 Hr 10 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

1080p

 

English Uncompressed PCM 5.1

English Uncompressed PCM 2.0 English DD 5.1

 

Starring Bruce Springsteen and the Sessions Band

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

No

Sex

No

Language

No

"Bruce Springsteen Live in Dublin" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

Bruce Springsteen With The Sessions Band Live in Dublin features 23 songs drawn from the band's performances in Dublin, Ireland at The Point on November 17, 18 and 19, 2006. Songs include fan favorites from The Seeger Sessions, radical interpretations from the Springsteen songbook and rare songs appearing for the first time on any Springsteen release. This Blu-ray Disc captures the band during the finale of its multi-leg 2006 tour.

Springsteen's longtime manager Jon Landau said, "'Live in Dublin charts the development of a band from an informal gathering in Bruce's living room to an onstage powerhouse. It also documents the growth in Bruce's vision of American music; it includes folk music, blues, Dixieland, country, swing, gospel, rock, down to and including his own writing. It's all performed with Bruce's classic energy and focus. I think it's some of the finest music he's ever made."

Commentary

I'll admit I am not the biggest Springsteen fan, but this concert was a lot different than anything I've seen from him before. The music had an almost "showtune" quality to it and the recording was excellent. Lots of showmanship and lots of fun.

Technical

Although this video is only a year old, I wasn't that impressed with the quality of the release. It is a very dark presentation, and detail and depth suffer from it. Detail is pretty good in close-ups, but the lighting doesn't do the overall image any favors. Colors are a bit muted, but at least there isn't any noise (something I've seen with some other HD concert releases due to the harsh lighting).

The audio is presented in both 5.1 uncompressed PCM and a stereo PCM mix. Wonderful would be one way to put it. Plenty of dynamics and a very rich atmosphere. The recording is one of the better ones I've heard lately for live performance, and all of the musicians in the collection did an outstanding job.

Extras

Extras include two bonus tracks.

- Kris Deering -

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Warner

1972, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 49 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

1080p

 

English/French DD/DD+ 5.1/1.0

 

Directed by John Boorman


Starring Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty, Ronny Cox

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

Yes

Language

Yes

"Deliverance" (Blu-ray/HD DVD)

Synopsis

Intent on seeing the Cahulawassee River before it's turned into one huge lake, outdoor fanatic Lewis Medlock takes his friends on a river-rafting trip they'll never forget into the dangerous American back-country.

Canoeing down the river, the four city men run into some unfriendly locals. The group is unable to escape from the gorge in which the river runs, and the locals become more and more of a threat . . . to the point they are running for their lives.

Commentary

This has always been a disturbing movie. The film starts off with great character development and some absolutely gorgeous photography, but once the detours start happening, things get ugly. A classic in this sense, the film has been referred to countless times now by newer films and general media. It's still as effective today as it was years ago.

Technical

I honestly didn't know what to expect from this one. This is an older film, but it was shot in some beautiful country. Thankfully, the beauty is still pretty much intact. Detail is exceptional in most circumstances, with only a few long shots looking a bit soft. Colors are slightly washed out, but this is probably a styling choice as I remember the other versions I've seen looking the same. The master is in excellent condition, and I didn't really see much of any noise, nicks, or compression.

The audio is delivered in 5.1 Dolby Digital on both formats, and for its age, it holds up pretty well. You can tell that some dubbing was done, but the atmosphere is still quite convincing. Dynamic range isn't completely up to snuff with the newer films out there, but it never left me wanting. Dialogue was a bit tinny at times, and also a bit forward.

Extras

Extras include a collection of interviews and look backs at the film's production and effect on the film world. It also discusses the novel and recreating the intent of the author on film. A feature commentary, production feature, and theatrical trailer are also included.

- Kris Deering -

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Warner

1959, Color, Not Rated, 2 Hr 21 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1

1080p

 

English DD 1.0/French DD 1.0

 

Directed by Howard Hawks


Starring John Wayne, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson, Angie Dickinson, Walter Brennan, Ward Bond

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

No

Language

No

"Rio Bravo" (Blu-ray/HD DVD)

Synopsis

In a small Western town, Sheriff John Chance (Wayne) and his deputy Stumpy (Brennan), along with a drunken pal Dude (Martin), arrest a member of a local ranch. The owner of the ranch wants to get him out of jail, and Sheriff Chance isn't about to let that happen.

Kid Colorado (Nelson) comes into town on the side of the rancher, but decides that Chance is in the right, so joins his team to hold off the rancher's gang when they arrive to get their buddy out of jail.

In the meantime, Angie Dickinson works in the local saloon, and even though she is a woman with a past, she is after the Sheriff for other reasons, and aims to get him.

Commentary

Hawks made this film because he and John Wayne didn't like High Noon, with its portrayal of a sheriff who was afraid to face the bad guys all alone. They didn't think a sheriff should ever show fear.

Although Rio Bravo is a classic, High Noon is a vastly superior film, with its depiction of what is basic human nature: fear of death. There has never been a remake of High Noon, but Rio Bravo was remade several times, as El Dorado (1967), and Rio Lobo (1970), all starring Wayne. Wayne apparently asked if he could play the drunk this time.

There are so many stars in this movie, it is worth watching just to see them interact, even without the violent climax to the story.

Technical

The picture is pristine for such an old movie. Colors are good, not washed out, and everything appears sharp. They must have transferred the film from the camera negative. The sound is mono, but is adequate and easily intelligible.

Extras

Extras include a short film about the locale for the movie, The Men Who Made the Movies: Howard Hawks, and some John Wayne Westerns trailers.

- John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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