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Number 150 - September, 2007

Part III

Staff

 


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Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds: Live at Radio City (Blu-ray) Troy: Director's Cut (Blu-ray/HD DVD)
Knocked Up (HD DVD) Heroes: Season 1 (HD DVD)
Halloween (1978) (Blu-ray) House of 1000 Corpses (Blu-ray)
Next (HD DVD) Black Book (Blu-ray)
Bram Stoker's Dracula (Blu-ray) Top Gun (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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Sony BMG

2007, Color, Unrated, 3 Hr 34 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

 

English Uncompressed PCM 5.1

English Dolby TrueHD 5.1

English DD 5.1

 

Directed by Sam Erickson and Fenton Williams


Starring: Dave Matthews, Tim Reynolds

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

No

Sex

No

Language

No

"Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds: Live at Radio City" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

In April 2007, Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds embarked on a three-city theater tour, culminating with a performance in the intimate confines of Radio City Music Hall in New York City. Due to the smaller sized venues and extremely limited number of dates, tickets were practically impossible to get.

Live at Radio City features over 2 1/2 hours of music, capturing all 26 songs of Dave and Tim's performance. The performance includes numerous songs that have never been recorded by the two, including "Crush", "Grace is Gone", "Don't Drink the Water", "Gravedigger", and many more.
 

Commentary

Dave Matthews has always been one of the best singer/songwriters of our time in my opinion. The fact that he seems to surround himself with some of the most gifted musicians is just the icing on the cake.

I've seen him live before, and he puts on quite the show, but this is something special. The intimacy and stripped down performance suits his style and really adds to the emotion of the music. This could quickly become one of my favorite concert presentations of all time.

Technical

In a bit of a surprise, Sony BMG has opted to use VC-1 for their video encoding on this one. The results are very good too. Plenty of contrast and shadow detail in this one, which is great considering the lighting. I was amazed at the depth of the image when you look at the audience from the stage and the amount of detail you can make out regardless of the distance from the objects. Macroblocking, which is a mild nuisance in most concert presentations, is not an issue at all here, and the image is artifact free. Easily the best HD concert presentation I've looked at yet.

The audio is presented in three flavors: uncompressed PCM (48/24), Dolby TrueHD (96/24), and full bitrate Dolby Digital. It's amazing that we can get this kind of video quality with a 96/24 lossless soundtrack. I really hope this is something that catches on and is explored more from music studios and concert releases. I listened to both the PCM and Dolby TrueHD options, and honestly, they both sound amazing. The Dolby mix has a bit more air to it, so I lean toward that one. Detail is impeccable, from the strum of the strings to Dave's tangled voice. The man sounds exactly the same live as he does on a studio album, a feat most artists could never say. A breathtaking audio presentation by Sony BMG.

Extras

Extras include a documentary on the concert and what it took to make it, and a photo montage.

- Kris Deering -

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Universal

2007, Color, Unrated, 2 Hr 13 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

1080p

 

English/French DD+ 5.1

 

Directed by Judd Apatow


Starring Seth Rogen, Katherine Heigl, Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Jay Baruchel, Johna Hill

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

No

Sex

Yes

Language

Strong

"Knocked Up" (HD DVD Hybrid)

Synopsis

Ben and Allison's story was supposed to be over after one night, but unexpected consequences bring them together in a wildly funny yet heartwarming journey that can be summed up in two words, "Oh baby!"
 

Commentary

This turned out to be a lot different than I was expecting it to be. Since it's by the same director that delivered The 40 Year-old Virgin and Superbad, I was expecting an over the top comedy that didn't have much heart. But that is not the case.

Don't get me wrong, it reaches for the top quite a bit, but there is a lot of truth to the comedy, and anyone who has been there through a pregnancy would probably agree. This is a great one to watch with a girlfriend, fiancé, or wife, because as bad as it may seem at times, there is a lot of truth here.

Technical

A solid presentation by Universal on this one. Detail is consistently good, with only some minor softness in longer shots. Colors are balanced well with no exaggeration or styling at all. The image has a very film like look to it. Compression artifacts are nowhere to be seen, and thankfully the image is devoid of ringing and edge enhancement.

Universal stuck with Dolby Digital Plus for this one, despite the recent trend to include Dolby TrueHD soundtracks for their new releases. I'm beginning to wonder if there is some truth to the rumor that a 1.85:1 movie with U-Control can't have a TrueHD soundtrack on HD DVD??

Regardless, this is still a very good soundtrack. Dynamics were better than I was expecting, and there are some moments of impressive bass (the earthquake scene was fun). Atmosphere is natural, and the surrounds do a good job of keeping it up. Dialogue is a bit forward at times, mainly in the tonal balance, but imaging is solid.

Extras

Extras are pretty extensive on this one. There is a picture-in-picture commentary utilizing the "U-Control" feature Universal uses and some web enabled content. You also get deleted and extended scenes (which are hilarious by the way), a gag reel, a feature commentary, and some movie tie-in featurettes.

- Kris Deering -

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Anchor Bay

1978, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 31 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

1080p

 

English Uncompressed PCM 5.1

English DD 5.1

 

Directed by John Carpenter


Starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence, Brian Andrews, Nancy Loomis

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Strong

Sex

Yes

Language

Yes

"Halloween" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

Twenty-nine years ago, director John Carpenter changed the shape of terror forever with the immortal story of babysitter Laurie Strode, Dr. Sam Loomis, and the night that Michael Myers came home.

It's still considered to be one of the greatest horror films of all time.

Commentary

I've always been a fan of this film and a few of its sequels (though most of them were terrible). Carpenter opened up a door for the slasher genre with this film, and it continues to be a benchmark. If you are a big fan of the movie, this is a great presentation by Anchor Bay and I'm glad to see it released so early in the format. Having just seen the remake (another great horror film by the way), it was interesting to see this movie again after a few years.

Technical

This is a very good looking transfer from Anchor Bay, who has just recently joined the high definition movement. The master here is a lot cleaner than I was expecting, so this film doesn't quite show its age. The movie has a bit of a soft look at times, but you can tell it is from the way it was shot.

Noise reduction may have been applied at some point, as things are almost too clean, but there don't seem to be any nasty side effects. Colors are slightly muted, but in line with what we see for movies of this age.

This is by far the best I've seen this film look to date though, and fans will be in for a pleasant treat. One last note though, the color timing on this is different than the THX version I owned before that was overseen by the DP. The casts of blue and orange are almost completely gone. Detail is more prevalent because of this, but it looks a lot different. Fans of the intended version may want to hold out.

The audio is presented in uncompressed 5.1 PCM, which is another treat I wasn't expecting. The mix is pretty good, though a bit front heavy. Dynamics are about average, but given that this was a pretty low budget production, they are better than you would expect. Dialogue can sound a bit boxed in at times, but this is never overly distracting. Carpenter's chilling score is delivered beautifully though, and is the highlight of the presentation in my opinion.

Extras

Extras include a feature commentary, film facts, a look at the film, the trailer, TV spots, and radio spots

- Kris Deering -

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Paramount

2007, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 36 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

1080p

 

English Dolby TrueHD 5.1

Spanish/English DD+ 5.1

French DD+ 2.0

 

Directed by Lee Tamahori


Starring Nicolas Cage, Julianne Moore, Jessica Biel

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

Mild

Language

Yes

"Next" (HD DVD)

Synopsis

Las Vegas showroom magician Cris Johnson has a secret: he can see two minutes into the future. Sick of the government and scientific interest in his gift, he lies low in Vegas, performing cheap tricks and living off small-time gambling "winnings." But when a terrorist group threatens to detonate a nuclear device in Los Angeles, government agent Callie Ferris must use all her wiles to capture Cris and convince him to help her stop the cataclysm.

Commentary

Based on a story by sci-fi novelist Philip K. Dick, this is an interesting premise on future sight and what could be achieved with it. The story is interesting enough and I never got bored, but the production had its limitations. The special effects could have been a bit better, and at times they were almost embarrassingly bad. My wife even commented on how fake things looked. Aside from that though, this is a fun popcorn film.

Technical

The HD presentation is a bit of a mixed blessing. Most of the time the detail and depth of image are quite good. But anytime you bring an effects shot into the mix, things go awry. You REALLY notice the "green screen" effect around the actors as the backgrounds soften up quite a bit. Some of the longer shots are also a bit noisier than the rest of the image and cause distraction.

This is the first HD DVD release from Paramount to include a Dolby TrueHD soundtrack (a trend we would like to see continue). Since this is an action movie, there is plenty of stuff going on in the soundstage, and the soundtrack does a nice job of filling the room. Bass is clean and defined, and there are some interesting panning effects the action scenes. Ambience is natural enough and the dialogue is clean and balanced nicely with the rest of the soundtrack.

Extras

These are all in HD and include some production features, interviews, a look at the effects, and the theatrical trailer.

- Kris Deering -

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Columbia Pictures

1992, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr 7 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

1080p

 

English Uncompressed PCM 5.1

English/French/Hungarian/ DD Czech/Polish 5.1

 

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola


Starring Gary Oldman, Keanu Reeves, Anthony Hopkins, Winona Ryder

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Strong

Sex

Yes

Language

Yes

"Bram Stoker's Dracula" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

This version of Dracula is closely based on Bram Stoker's original novel. A young lawyer (Jonathan Harker) is assigned to a gloomy village in the mists of Eastern Europe. He is captured and imprisoned by the undead vampire Dracula, who travels to London, inspired by a photograph of Harker's betrothed, Mina Murray. In Britain, Dracula begins a reign of seduction and terror, draining the life from Mina's closest friend, Lucy Westenra. Lucy's friends gather together to try to drive Dracula away.
 

Commentary

I had just read this book shortly before they announced that it was going to be released in theaters later that year in 1992. I remember thinking that it would make a superb film if done right using modern special effects. Coppola did a great job with the material and brought to the screen the best adaptation I've seen yet of the original story. The visual style is very interesting, not having the typical Hollywood look, and the cast is superb (especially Oldman as the Count). A great addition to any film fan's library.

Technical

Judging the video on this is hard because the biggest limitation is the intended look of the film itself. It has a softer looking image, almost as if fine detail was filtered off, and thankfully Sony did not decide to enhance it (I hate EE). The image is generally on the darker side, and shadow detail is excellent, but I thought contrast could have been better. Colors are muted quite a bit, but that is the way the film looked originally. Things look better as the film progresses to London, but only a bit. While I think this is faithful to the intended look of the film, it isn't something you'd use to show off your new display.

The soundtrack is presented in uncompressed PCM and is generally pretty good. This has always had an eerie sound design, and I like the use of the full soundstage. My biggest complaint is the low end, which is a bit loud at times in relation to the rest of the soundtrack. Boomy is a word that comes to mind. Dialogue sounds good though and is balanced nicely with the rest of the track, which is important, given the almost running commentary style of the film.

Extras

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

- Kris Deering -

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Warner

2007, Color, Unrated, 3 Hr 18 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

1080p

 

English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (HD)

English PCM 5.1 (BD)

English/French DD+/DD

 

Directed by Wolfgang Peterson


Starring Brad Pitt, Orlando Bloom, Eric Bana, Diane Kruger, Brian Cox

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Strong

Sex

No

Language

Yes

"Troy: Director's Cut" (Blu-ray/HD DVD)

Synopsis

It is the year 1250 B.C. during the late Bronze age. Two emerging nations begin to clash after Paris, the Trojan prince, convinces Helen, Queen of Sparta, to leave her husband Menelaus, and sail with him back to Troy.

After Menelaus finds out that his wife was taken by the Trojans, he asks his brother Agamemnom to help him get her back. Agamemnon sees this as an opportunity for power. So they set off with 1,000 ships, holding 50,000 Greeks, to Troy. With the help of Achilles, the Greeks are able to fight the never before defeated Trojans. But they come to a stop by Hector, Prince of Troy.

Commentary

I had heard about this cut of the film long before the announcement and always wondered if they would release it on video or to theaters. I think it is a far better cut and makes the film a bit more grand and not so much of a popcorn film.

They've stepped up the gore considerably and there is a bit more nudity. The characters are fleshed out far more than they were before, which helps with the weight of the film and the actions in it. Fans of the original should definitely take a look at this version.

Technical

While I thought the first HD release of Troy looked good, there was room for improvement. At times I thought it was a bit too soft. This new release is definitely an improvement overall, and given its runtime and the inclusion of a high resolution soundtrack, I am surprised it looks as good as it does.

Detail is quite a bit better, especially in longer shots, and color rendition seems to be improved. The clarity of the image overall has taken a step up, and this helps in the battles and longer shots during the film. Contrast is excellent, and shadow detail is quite good during the darker moments of the film. I didn't see any compression noise. A solid presentation from Warner.

The audio is presented in Dolby TrueHD on the HD DVD (like the original release) and in PCM on the Blu-ray release. I am not really sure why Warner decided to go with PCM on the BD release, but I am glad to see support for high resolution soundtracks on both releases and not just one or the other.

This sounds about the same as the previous HD DVD release, which is good. Troy was a big summer movie, so as you'd expect, sound design is exemplary. Surrounds are used consistently throughout the battles, lending to the atmosphere and tension of the film. Dynamic range is consistently good, with nice extension into the lower end.

Extras

These include some production featurettes and the trailer.

- Kris Deering -

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Universal

2007, Color, Unrated, 16 hrs. 49 mins

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

1080p

 

English DD+ 5.1

 

Directed by Various


Starring Various

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

Themes

Language

Mild

"Heroes: Season 1" (HD DVD)

Synopsis

Join the phenomenon and discover every hidden clue, electrifying twist, and suspense-filled moment in Heroes: Season 1, the epic drama of ordinary people who discover they possess extraordinary abilities.

Commentary

Wow, this took some time to get through. As some of your know, I am not a big TV watcher, so this was my introduction to Heroes. Overall, I liked it, but I wouldn't call myself a huge fan. I do like the Superhero genre, and I like the more adult tone of the show, but I could take it or leave it.

Universal has outdone themselves with this set though. There are LOTS of features for fans and plenty of in-depth material.

Technical

The video is a bit on the hit or miss side. At times, the image looks very detailed and very sharp. Colors are natural and well balanced, and contrast is excellent. Other times we see quite a bit of grain (probably intentional) and detail wavers a bit.

The image tends to be on the darker side on occasion, which hurt depth a bit, but I did like the shadow detail. This definitely looks better than most of the other TV shows I've seen on HD so far, with the exception of probably Nip & Tuck.

The soundtrack is presented in DD+ 5.1 and is a lot better than I was expecting for a TV show, but still a bit below what you'd get from a big budget motion picture. Surrounds are used quite frequently to add to the intensity of the moment, and ambience is always pretty natural. Dynamics are better than expected, and there is plenty of nice bass throughout the series. Dialogue quality can waver a bit, and I did notice some poor ADR at times.

Extras

Extras include deleted scenes, production features, games, and some very cool "U-Control" extras such as PIP, character features, and artwork. This release also has downloadable content such as new artwork, share scenes, and trailers. You can also download the results of a test to the Internet.

- Kris Deering -

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Lionsgate

2002, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 28 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

1080p

 

English DTS-HD 7.1

English DD 5.1 EX

 

Directed by Rob Zombie


Starring Sid Haig, Bill Moseley, Sheri Moon, Karen Black

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Strong

Sex

Yes

Language

Strong

"House of 1000 Corpses" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

Two young couples take a misguided tour into the back roads of America in search of a local legend known as Dr. Satan. Lost and stranded, they are set upon by a bizarre family of psychotics. Murder, cannibalism, and satanic rituals are just a few of the 1000+ horrors that await them.

Commentary

This was Rob Zombie's premier into the horror genre and a bit of a mixed bag in terms of a horror film. The film starts out quite good, but I always felt it lost its way in the last third. I like Zombie's return to the 70's style of raw horror, but he improved greatly upon it with his release of The Devil's Rejects and the recent re-imagining of Halloween. Still, this is a great presentation of his first film.

Technical

This was a great looking movie on DVD, and it looks even better here. I was amazed at how crisp and dimensional the darker scenes in this film are. The master is in impeccable shape, and detail is everywhere. It is a very stylized film that reminds me of Natural Born Killers in a lot of ways, especially since Zombie used lots of different film types throughout the movie. Colors are dead on (pun intended), and contrast is as good as any HD movie I've seen so far. A wonderful job by Lionsgate on this one.

The DTS-HD soundtrack is also quite good. This is a very aggressive soundtrack, and the music selections take full advantage of the surround soundstage. The music, action, yelling, and dialogue are balanced very well across the mains, and no matter how horrific things get, the soundstage never lets up. A great horror soundtrack.

Extras

Extras include a feature commentary, production featurettes, casting footage, interviews, and the trailer.

- Kris Deering -

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Sony Pictures Classics

2006, Color, Rated R, 2 hour 26 mins

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

1080p

 

Dutch Uncompressed PCM 5.1

Dutch DD 5.1

 

Directed by Paul Verhoeven


Starring Carice Van Houten, Sebastian Koch, Thom Hoffman, Halina Reijn

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Strong

Sex

Yes

Language

Yes

"Black Book" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

In the darkest days of World War II, Jewish fugitives attempt to escape occupied Holland – only to face a Nazi ambush. Rachel Stein alone survives the attack and joins the Dutch Resistance to avenge her family.

She soon confronts the ultimate test: she must infiltrate German headquarters by tempting Captain Ludwig M˙ntze. In the heat of passion, he uncovers her duplicity, but keeps her secret.

Then Rachel's espionage reveals that a murderous traitor lurks within Resistance ranks. Unable to fully trust anyone, Rachel navigates a minefield of deception and becomes an enemy to both sides.

Commentary

Considering the director, this movie was a surprise, as it's far more serious than I'm used to seeing from Verhoeven (Robocop, Starship Troopers). But the trademark violence and gratuitous nudity are still there. This is an interesting look at a Jewish woman in Holland during the last few months of the German occupation. She hooks up with some resistance members and does what she can to survive. While I don't think this film has a high replay value, I thought it was entertaining with plenty of good twists and intrigue.

Technical

Sony has delivered an extremely impressive video presentation here. Detail, depth, contrast, color, all excellent across the board. I was really impressed with the dimension that the image had, even in long shots, as well as the amount of fine detail on just about everything on the screen. Even the darker moments of the film preserve detail, and depth and shadow detail are excellent.

The uncompressed PCM soundtrack is also very good. The film offers only the native Dutch soundtrack as an option, and the tonal balance is excellent. The entire soundstage is rich with detail and atmosphere. Surrounds are used almost constantly to put you in the environment, and the dynamic range is deep when it needs to be.

Extras

Extras include a feature commentary and a making-of feature.

- Kris Deering -

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Paramount

1986, Color, Rated PG, 1 Hr 49 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

1080p

 

English Dolby TrueHD 5.1

English DTS-ES 6.1

English/Spanish/French DD 5.1

 

Directed by Tony Scott


Starring Tom Cruise, Val Kilmer, Anthony Edwards, Tom Skerritt, Kelly McGillis, Meg Ryan

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

Yes

Language

Yes

"Top Gun" (HD DVD)

Synopsis

Tom Cruise stars as Maverick, a talented training pilot in an elite U.S. school for fighter pilots. When he stumbles upon some MiGs over the Persian Gulf, and his wingman panics, Maverick cleverly talks him through the situation to safety.

Consequently, he is moved up in rank and sent to the Top Gun Naval Flying School. There he has several conflicts with other students while trying to live up to his deceased father's reputation. Unable to cope with the death of his best friend, and fellow pilot, Goose, Maverick contemplates dropping out, but follows through with his dream and ultimately becomes one of the "Best of the Best."

Commentary

Please, like you've never seen this before. It became a phenomenon and launched Cruise's career into the stratosphere when it was released. Navy recruiting went out the roof as well, and being a Navy man myself, I never hear the end of all the lines from this film. It's a lot of fun, and a great piece of HT demo material.

Technical

Top Gun has always had an interesting image quality to it. The stock footage doesn't always hold up as well as the normal footage, and at times that can be distracting. Some of the low light footage is also very grainy and can have a bit more noise than some may appreciate.

Detail is quite a bit better than the DVD though, and the color rendition is also improved. Contrast is exceptional at times, lending to a very dimensional image, even in lower lighting. While it isn't the best looking HD I've seen, it is quite good given the source.

Paramount has included a lossless Dolby TrueHD soundtrack for this one, and I am REALLY hoping it is going to be an ongoing trend for the studio. The movie has always had a fun soundtrack and has been used for years now as a demo piece. While I don't think it holds up as well as some of the newer films, it still is enjoyable. The roar of the jets, the intense use of the surrounds and the ominous low end provide a very rich soundscape that is very satisfying.

Comparing it to the previous DTS-ES offering (also included on the disc), it is a bit less dynamic, but more balanced and detailed in my opinion. Either soundtrack will please though. Dialogue seemed a bit too forward at times, and I did see some ADR issues.

Extras

Can we say, "None??"

- Kris Deering -

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