Go to Home Page

Go to Index for All Movie Reviews.

 

Movie Renter's Guide
 

Number 150 - September, 2007

Part II

Staff

 


Now Playing
Divider

Starship Troopers (Blu-ray) Dante's Peak (HD DVD)
Bruce Almighty (HD DVD) In Good Company (HD DVD)
The Rock (Blu-ray) The Island (HD DVD)
Remember the Titans (Blu-ray) Arlington Road (Blu-ray)
Immortal Beloved (Blu-ray)  

Number 150 - September, 2007 - Part I

Number 150 - September, 2007 - Part II

Number 150 - September, 2007 - Part III

Movie Reviews Index

Divider

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

"Starship Troopers" (Blu-ray Import)

Synopsis

The new millennium brings man face-to-face with the deadliest enemy of all: an intelligent race of alien bugs. Young freedom fighter Johnny Rico and his comrades join the elite cadet flying school where you need to be tough to survive. When Buenos Aires, Johnny's home town, is destroyed by the bugs, an all-out intergalactic war begins.

Commentary

It is hard to describe this type of film. At times it is an all-out blood bath of action, and the next is a campy comedy with Gap Ad actors spouting bad dialogue. The production is all over the place, yet it remains fun. The special effects hold up well even by today's standards, and the action is as good as most sci-fi films on the market. This was suppose to be released this year by Sony, but they pulled it from the US schedule with no new release date. Fans of the film can still find it on Blu-ray in the UK and it will play on US Blu-ray players.

Technical

This may just be the first Sony release I've seen encoded in VC-1 (NOTE: This Blu-ray is being released by Touchstone overseas so Disney is handling distribution). Both AVC and VC-1 have been doing a consistently good job for both formats (even some MPEG-2 masters), so at the end of the day it doesn't really matter to me. This was always a good looking DVD and I used it quite a bit for demos over the years. Compared to the HD content we have now it doesn't really stack up as well, but it is still a great looking film.

The CG does look really good and blends in with the live action better than a lot of recent films I've seen. Detail is excellent, and contrast was better than expected. Some scenes can look at bit on the soft side as the camera backs up some, but these shots are few and far between. While it isn't as impressive as it was years ago, this is still a good looking disc.

The audio is presented in uncompressed PCM like Sony's US releases, and it's a winner. Dynamic range is startling at times, with an emphasis on the low end. Dialogue suffers from bad ADR a few times, but it's hardly worth noting. Surround use is aggressive, and this film does a great job of throwing you into the intense action and letting it overtake you from all sides.

Extras

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

- Kris Deering -

Divider

Universal

2003, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 42 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

1080p

 

English/French DD+ 5.1

 

Directed by Tom Shadyac


Starring Jim Carrey, Morgan Freeman, Jennifer Aniston, Philip Baker Hall

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Mild

Sex

Themes

Language

Mild

"Bruce Almighty" (HD DVD)

Synopsis

Bruce Nolan, a television reporter in Buffalo, N.Y., is discontented with almost everything in life despite his popularity and the love of his girlfriend, Grace. At the end of the worst day of his life, Bruce angrily ridicules and rages against God, and God responds. God appears in human form, and, endowing Bruce with divine powers, challenges Bruce to take on the big job to see if he can do it any better.

Commentary

Carrey's comedy is always hit or miss with me, and this film is pretty much the same way. It definitely has its entertaining moments, and some of the comedy hits the mark, but at times it is a bit too over the top, making the movie an average comedy overall for me. But this is a pretty popular Universal title, so comedy fans who haven't seen it should probably give it a look. The sequel is also due out on HD DVD this fall.

Technical

This is an average looking catalog title for Universal. Edge enhancement is noticeable more often than I would like, and the image has a bit of softness to it. Noise reduction looks like it was applied at times, making a rather hard image that lacks realistic detail. Colors are pretty good though, and contrast isn't too bad. It's an improvement over the DVD release, but far from the better Universal titles out there.

The 5.1 soundtrack is about average for this type of film. The music selections bring most of the dynamics, although there are some moments when the sound design adds a bit. Surrounds are used pretty often and add to the enjoyment of the overall mix. Dialogue sounds a bit bright at times, but overall the balance isn't too bad.

Extras

Extras include quite a few deleted scenes and outtakes, a production feature with interviews, and a feature commentary.

- Kris Deering -

Divider

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

"The Rock" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

Gung-ho general Francis Hummel, armed with deadly chemical rockets and aided by violent cohorts, takes over the island of Alcatraz, holding 81 tourists hostage. Hummel promises to deploy the missiles over San Francisco if Washington doesn't make amends to ignored combat victims to the tune of $100 million. A cadre of Navy SEALs are dispatched to quell the situation, assisted by the mysterious John Mason, the only man to ever escape from Alcatraz, who must now help the SEALs break back in. Joining them is mild-mannered chemical weapons expert Stanley Goodspeed, who is unaccustomed to such things as guns and military maneuvers.

Commentary

This is right up there as one of my favorite films by director Michael Bay. I always go back and forth between this and Bad Boys 2. I know they are both popcorn flicks, but they both turn on the action full bore and have great comic relief. I am really hoping that this film gets a US release soon as it was announced for Blu-ray months back and then pulled off the schedule for unknown reasons. It can be found in the UK and is playable on US Blu-ray players.

Technical

I was a bit disappointed with this version. Whites are clipped at times, which is always distracting. I am almost wondering if foreign releases are mastered differently, as I had the same issue with a recent Korean release on Blu-ray. Detail can be breathtaking at times, but the film has a natural film-like look, complete with grain and softer focus at times. There is a lot of stylization, so colors are all over the place. Fans of the film won't be disappointed, but I'm hoping the US release is a bit tighter in appearance.

This disc is interesting in terms of soundtracks. The English track is delivered in uncompressed PCM 5.1, while the foreign tracks are all DTS-HD Master Audio lossless 5.1. Interesting way to go about things if you ask me. This has always been a fun ride for action sound, but the bass is too pumped here for my tastes. Anyone who knows me knows I appreciate a great bass track, but this one is too hot and it detracts from the enjoyment of the film. The rest of the mix is balanced well, and there is plenty of juice to fill up every channel in the mix. Again, I am hoping the eventual US release is polished up a bit.

Extras

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

- Kris Deering -

Divider

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

"Remember the Titans" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

Remember The Titans is a rousing celebration of how a town torn apart by resentment, friction, and mistrust comes together in triumphant harmony.

The year is 1971. After leading his team to 15 winning seasons, football coach Bill Yoast is demoted and replaced by Herman Boone, tough, opinionated, and as different from the beloved Yoast as he could be. How these two men overcome their differences and turn a group of hostile young men into champions plays out in a remarkable and triumphant story full of soul and spirit.

Commentary

This is one of the best football films I've seen and one of Washington's best roles in my opinion. It's a disturbing look at the amount of intolerance and prejudice that have plagued our nation. A black football coach is brought in as an assistant coach only to find himself filling the head coach's shoes early on and then who has to face a town of hate and a team tearing itself apart because of their differences. All of that changes though as the kids start to learn more about each other and appreciate their teammates. This is an inspirational film that is often imitated.

Technical

The disc is a pretty sharp transfer from Disney, and the photography gives plenty of eye candy. Like all of Bruckheimer's productions, it's very stylized, and contrast is extreme at times. The image is a bit dim compared to a lot of films out there, but it helps with the mood of the story. While not a reference transfer, there is a lot to like here.

The soundtrack is delivered in full uncompressed PCM, and like the picture, delivers a lot to enjoy. Dynamics are good, and the surround soundstage presents a nice open atmosphere during the sporting events. Dialogue is well balanced, and timbre is very natural and convincing.

Extras

Extras include two feature commentaries, a look behind the real people and events, a production feature, and some more tie ins to the true events. You also get a collection of deleted scenes.

- Kris Deering -

Divider

Sony Pictures Classics

1995, 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

"Immortal Beloved" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

Oldman gives a tour de force performance as the passionate, volatile genius, Ludwig Beethoven, who inspired love and hatred in equal measure.

Whether seducing regal followers or criticizing the ruling class, Beethoven made many enemies. But he also had one true love, the unnamed "Immortal Beloved" mentioned in an enigmatic letter discovered upon his death. The thrilling search for the identity of this mystery woman leads us into Beethoven's dark past, his hidden passions, and, ultimately, into the unparalleled genius of his music.
 

Commentary

I've been a big fan of this film for years, and was pleased to see it released on Blu-ray. The movie is an interesting look at the classical composer and how he dealt with his affliction (deafness).

Oldman gives another brilliant performance, and the supporting cast is excellent. The photography and soundtrack are also outstanding. A must-see in my opinion.

Technical

I love the photography in this film and the gorgeous landscapes throughout the story. The Blu-ray presentation does a great job of capturing the beauty on display. Detail is quite good, especially in close-ups, and colors are outstanding. Some of the longer shots seem a bit softer than they should, but I only noticed this a couple times. Dimensionality is excellent throughout most of the film, and I'm glad to see that Sony is putting this kind of effort into their catalog titles.

Without a doubt the most important element of this presentation is the soundtrack. Thankfully the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack delivers. Presence is excellent, and the dynamics displayed during the musical passages are superb. My only complaint was the slight noise floor during some of the more quiet musical passages. Dialogue is recorded perfectly and balanced with the rest of the soundtrack well. The surround soundstage is rich with ambience and makes for a compelling soundstage at times.

Extras

Extras include a feature commentary, production feature, and a documentary on Beethoven.

- Kris Deering -

Divider

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

"Dante's Peak" (HD DVD Hybrid)

Synopsis

Welcome to the town of Dante's Peak, where a long-dormant volcano is about to erupt with devastating force. Who will survive when the inferno unleashes its fury?

Commentary

Is it just me or does the cover for this HD DVD get the prize for worst cover art ever? Why can't movie studios just use the original poster art for the film? Is it really to much to ask?

Anyway, this is a good disaster flick that came along when a lot of other films were trying to cash in on the theme as well. Luckily this one didn't get as corny as most of the other did, and ILM did a great job with the special effects. A solid catalog film that is always fun for showing off sound.

Technical

The HD presentation is definitely a step up from the previous DVD releases. Fine detail is a lot better, and it is nice to see a lack of edge enhancement. The image stays consistently sharp with only some mild softness creeping in during some of the effects shots. Colors are a bit muted at times, but it is hardly distracting.

Overall this is a decent catalog effort from Universal and better than some of the other titles they've released lately.

This was a great show-off DVD back in the day, and it still retains most of that quality.

When the volcano unleashes, it unleashes. There is some serious low bass on this soundtrack, and you may want to be careful where you set your levels. The surround soundstage is also used extensively to put you in the madness. Despite the tremendous amount of sound design, the dialogue is balanced nicely into the mix, and the fine details aren't left out.

Extras

Extras include a production feature, a commentary track, and the theatrical trailer.

- Kris Deering -

Divider

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

"In Good Company" (HD DVD)

Synopsis

Dan Foreman is a loving husband, caring father and star ad executive. But now, life is putting him through the ultimate test. Carter Duryea, a young hot shot half his age, has just become his boss. And to complicate matters, Dan discovers Carter is dating his daughter.

Commentary

This actually turned out to be a better film than I expected. It's heart is in the right place, and I like the comedy that naturally pops up. The characters are likeable, and the story never tries to hard to be something it's not. A fun film for the family.

Technical

This transfer is just above average for a catalog HD title. Detail is good, but you can't help but feel like it was artificially sharpened at times. The image just has a processed look throughout most of the film, and that never sits well with me. Colors are good and contrast is alright, but nothing ever stands out as exceptional.

The soundtrack is what you'd expect from a film in this genre. Dialogue is balanced well with the rest of the soundtrack and only sounds a bit forward from time to time. Surrounds are used sparingly, largely for atmosphere, but the front soundstage is pretty open and airy. The film's score is good though, as are most of the musical selections, which bring most of the dynamics of the soundtrack.

Extras

Extras include some deleted scenes, a look at America's industry and some of its younger businessmen, production features, a feature commentary, and trailers.

- Kris Deering -

Divider

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

"The Island" (HD DVD Import )

Synopsis

In a desperate race for their lives, Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johnasson make a daring escape to the outside world where they make the startling discovery that they are more valuable dead than alive.

Commentary

This film didn't get much acclaim at the box office and had a lukewarm reception at the ticket box for a Michael Bay film. Sure it has a lot of borrowed ideas, but I think it's still a fun popcorn film.

There is plenty of dazzle, and the action scenes are very intense. Note that this release is only available overseas right now, but you can find it on both formats. Hopefully, we'll see a release here in the states soon.

Technical

This is a very stylized film with boosted contrast and aggressive colors. Detail is amazing at times, with some of the sharpest fine detail I've seen. Longer shots look good, but some of the CG elements take away from the natural look of the photography. Depth is another high point, especially in the chase scenes. I doubt this will disappoint anyone in HD.

Warner has only included a Dolby Digital Plus soundtrack on this one, and while it's good, it isn't nearly as engaging as I had hoped.

This film has some great demo moments that were a standout on DVD and even in theaters. Bass isn't quite what it was in the theater, but it's still pretty good. This is an aggressive mix and you will get plenty of neat sound effects from every channel around you. I just felt like it could have been taken a notch higher. Hopefully, the US release will have a bit more polish in this regard.

Extras

Extras include a documentary on making the film.

- Kris Deering -

Divider

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

"Arlington Road" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

Widowed when his FBI agent wife is killed by a right-wing group, college professor Michael Faraday becomes obsessed with the culture of these groups, especially when his new neighbors, the all-American Oliver and Cheryl Lang, start acting suspiciously.

With each twist, the mystery deepens, and the question looms: is Faraday just consumed by fear and driven by paranoia, or has a lethal conspiracy been born on Arlington Road?

Commentary

This is one of the better thrillers of the last decade and as solid as the genre comes. Great characters, great story, and really good twists. I'm glad to see Sony delivering solid catalog titles like this to HD this early in the game. A must-see for fans of the genre.

Technical

I don't know if Sony is handpicking their titles right now or not, but they are really delivering some consistently excellent titles for picture quality. This is a great looking HD transfer, with plenty of detail and lots of depth. Colors can be slightly muted at times, but the rest of the image more than makes up for it. Fine object detail is superb through most of the film and at times you really get that "looking through a window" effect. I really hope to see Sony keep this up with all of their catalog releases.

The uncompressed PCM soundtrack is also quite good. The surround soundstage keeps the tension of the film up and the mood intact. Dialogue sounds natural and is balanced well with the rest of the sound design. Dynamics are good when they need to be, but I wouldn't call this an overly aggressive soundtrack.

Extras

Extras include a feature commentary, a production feature, and an alternate ending.

- 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