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Number 152 - November, 2007

Part II

Staff

 


Now Playing
Divider

2001: A Space Odyssey (Blu-ray/HD DVD) From Hell (Blu-ray)
Oldboy (Blu-ray) Galapagos (Blu-ray/HD DVD)
Face/Off (HD DVD) Hostel (Blu-ray)
Wyatt Earp (HD DVD) The Last Starfighter (HD DVD)
Gothika (Blu-ray/HD DVD) Edward Scissorhands (Blu-ray)

Number 152 - November, 2007 - Part I

Number 152 - November, 2007 - Part II

Number 152 - November, 2007 - Part III

Movie Reviews Index

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Warner

1968, Color, Rated G, 2 Hr 28 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.20:1

1080p

 

English PCM 5.1 (BD)

Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (HD DVD)

French/Spanish/English/German

Italian DD/DD+ 5.1

 

Directed by Stanley Kubrick

 

Starring: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood

 

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Mild

Sex

No

Language

No

"2001: A Space Odyssey" (Blu-ray/HD DVD)

Synopsis

2001: A Space Odyssey is a countdown to tomorrow, a road map to human destiny, a quest for the infinite. It is a dazzling, Academy Award-winning visual achievement, a compelling drama of man vs. machine, a stunning meld of music and motion.

It may be the masterwork of director Stanley Kubrick (who co-wrote the screenplay with Arthur C. Clarke) and it will likely excite, inspire and enthrall for generations.

To begin his voyage into the future, Kubrick visits our prehistoric ape-ancestry past, then leaps millennia into colonized space, and ultimately whisks astronaut Bowman into uncharted realms of space, perhaps even into immortality.

Commentary

2001 is a masterpiece of science fiction directed by the late Stanley Kubrick. Adapted from the novel by Arthur C. Clarke, the film takes you on a journey from the beginnings of our time on earth to what was our perceived future. The story unfolds in the year 2001 when we discover a "monolith" buried beneath the moon surface due to a brief radio transmission it makes to Jupiter.

We then send a craft into space to Jupiter to find out what was the intended receiver. Unfortunately the ship's computer gains a mind of its own and tries to eliminate the crew.

I find it amazing every time I watch one of Kubrick's films as to how he can make you really feel the emotion of the acts unfolding on screen. He is also, in my opinion, the master of suspense as displayed by this and many other films he has done. I don't think I've ever seen a G rated movie as unsettling and suspenseful as this one. I find the story totally captivating, despite all the times I've heard it referred to as slow and boring. This is a classic gem that would do any true collector's library proud.

Technical

I thought this was a great looking title on DVD when it was released last time, but it suffered from a bit of edge enhancement. Thankfully, that is not the case with this new HD version, which is a spectacular looking title all around. Detail is far better than I was expecting, and my expectations were high. Compression is never an issue and there isn't any ringing at all. The photography is captivating (a trademark of Kubrick's works I suppose) but it is funny to see the dated technology. Even the model work holds up well, though some of the matte work is a bit softer than some of the other footage. Compression never seems to be an issue, despite mastering for both formats.

The audio tracks are the only place where we see some difference between the Blu-ray and HD DVD releases. The HD DVD release features a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix and the Blu-ray release has an uncompressed 5.1 PCM mix. Kubrick has always been a fan of mono soundtracks, and it's pretty apparent here. The mix is extremely front heavy with little to no use of the surround soundstage. The track is still compelling though. The use of famous classical selections makes this a fun soundtrack, and at times ominous. Sound design is a big part of this production and it works wonders at creating atmosphere and mood. The only real complaint I have is the obvious noise floor that can be a bit intrusive at times. Given this film's age it isn't a complete surprise, but it was a bit louder than I would have hoped for. This hurts dynamics a bit. Overall I preferred the PCM mix a bit more than the Dolby mix, as there was a bit more transparency between channels and presence. The difference was very slight though.

Extras

Extras include a feature commentary with the actors, a documentary on the production of the film, some features that take a look at the impact of the film, the production and a look at the ideas it explores. There is also a feature on the special effects, a audio interview with Kubrick and the theatrical trailer.

- Kris Deering -

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Tartan Asia Extreme

2004, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr 25 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

1080p

 

Korean DTS-HD MA 7.1

Korean DD 5.1 EX/2.0

English DD 5.1/2.0

 

Directed by Park Chanwook


Starring Choi Min-Sik, Yoo Ji-Tae, Gang Hye-Jung

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Strong

Sex

Yes

Language

Yes

"Oldboy" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

Oh Dae-su is an ordinary Seoul businessman with a wife and little daughter, who, after a drunken night on the town, is abducted and locked up in a strange, private prison. No one will tell him why he's there and who his jailer is, and his fury builds to a single-minded focus of revenge.

Fifteen years later, he is unexpectedly freed, given a new suit, a cell-phone and five days to discover the mysterious enemy who had him imprisoned. Seeking vengeance on all those involved, he soon finds that his enemy's tortures are just beginning.

Commentary

Oldboy is the second installment of Park Chanwook's Revenge trilogy.  Don't fret if you haven't seen the others, as the film's have no tie-in except theme and brutality of the senses.

I saw Oldboy quite sometime ago on DVD. I bought it upon its first release in Korea after it garnished a ton of awards from the critics. To say that this is an ordinary film would be foolish. Like most of Chanwook's films, Oldboy is captivating, rich in character and truly disturbing all at once. The film centers on a man who is locked up for no seeming reason for fifteen years then let out. He is told he has five days to find out why. This unleashes a chain of events that will truly test your nerves. I can't really go into it though as I don't want to spoil the ride. Needless to say I did enjoy the film though I found it a bit over the top at times. I think I enjoyed the first film in this series Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance a bit more, but it's a close call.

Technical

While an improvement over the DVD presentation, Oldboy doesn't stand up as well against the majority of the HD offerings on the market right now. Blacks look slightly washed out, and the image has an obvious softness to it the majority of the time. There are moments where detail and depth are a clear improvement over the DVD, but they fall short of most higher profile HD titles on the market. The print has a few blemishes on it, but most of the time the image is devoid of noise, and only a hint of film grain was noticed. Depth is better than one would expect, given the weaker contrast levels. Overall, I liked the improvement over the DVD, but was hoping for a bit more.

The soundtrack is in DTS-HD Master Audio, so I was unable to decode it fully. The film has always had an interesting sound design to it, and this release takes the quality up a bit of a notch. Like the video presentation, it is still a bit weak compared to other titles out there, but a noticeable improvement from the DVD I have in my catalog.

Dynamic range is a bit thin at times, and I never thought the low end was used to its full effect, given the themes in this film. Dialogue sounds natural in tone and timbre though. Surrounds are used impressively at times, but ambience isn't one of the stronger points of the soundtrack. While I don't know how much of this is due to production shortcomings, I definitely felt that there was room for improvement here.

Extras

Lots of extras on this release. The BD disc contains no less than three feature commentaries, the trailer, and a selection of deleted scenes with commentary.

The second disc is a standard DVD and contains most of the features from the box set that Tartan released before. This includes a collection of production documentaries that cover design, the score, the effects, and more. There are also cast and crew interviews and a look at the film's premier at Cannes.

- Kris Deering -

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Paramount

1997, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr 20 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

1080p

 

English DTS-ES Discrete 6.1

English DD+ EX 5.1

French/Spanish DD+ 5.1

 

Directed by John Woo


Starring Nicolas Cage, John Travolta, Joan Allen, Gina Gershon

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

Themes

Language

Yes

"Face/Off" (HD DVD)

Synopsis

FBI agent Sean Archer knows how to stop elusive terrorist Castor Troy. He'll become him. Archer undergoes a futuristic surgery and has Troy's face mapped onto his, then infiltrates the terrorist's world to discover his deadly secrets. But as much as Archer looks and acts like Troy, he doesn't really know him. He never figures Troy will retaliate and force doctors to transform him into Archer. Now the agent faces a shattering nightmare: his archrival is living with his family.

Commentary

John Woo had definitely done some great action work over the years. But I will be the first to admit that not all of his films grab me. While I found this one entertaining, it was never one of my favorites by him. Probably because I went through a basic hate relationship with Travolta films for awhile. After Pulp Fiction it seemed like every other movie out there had him in it, and he always acted exactly the same. Since I've had a bit of a break from all that now, I will say the film sat a bit better with me this time around, but I still think it is one of Woo's weaker titles.

Technical

This is one of those mixed bag transfers that is hard to rate. It is quite obvious that Paramount cleaned up this master quite a bit before this HD release. This pays off in some scenes, but hurts the release in others. The obvious noise reduction left a rather edgy looking image in most medium to long shots and ringing is evident. Detail suffers too, especially in motion where blurring is quite evident and at times distracting. There are moments when it paid off though with rich detail and a clean dimensional looking image. The problem is I know a lot of people who prefer their image clean and crisp and others who prefer a more realistic film presentation. I'm all about a razor sharp image if that was what was intended, but the obvious use of filtering here distracts.

Despite rumors that this release would have a lossless soundtrack, Paramount opted instead for a DTS-ES and DD+ mix. I don't understand the logic in this, since putting one 24 bit Dolby TrueHD mix on the disc would be about the same or less in terms of bit-rate compared to the two feature soundtracks. Oh well. Both of the included tracks still sound good, though I thought the sound design was lacking a bit. There is plenty of dynamic range in the action sequences, but after awhile the shoot'em up style gets tiring. Dialogue sounds pretty good though, and the front soundstage is both open and airy, lending to a more natural soundstage. I still wish Paramount would start including lossless soundtracks, but this one doesn't disappoint much.

Extras

This is a two-disc set from Paramount, and most of the features are in HD. The feature includes a collection of commentaries. You also get seven deleted scenes in HD, a production feature in HD, a look at John Woo in HD, and the trailer in HD.

- Kris Deering -

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Warner Bros.

1994, Color, Rated PG-13, 3 Hr 10 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

1080p

 

English DD+/DD 5.1

French DD 2.0

Spanish DD 1.0

 

Directed by Lawrence Kasdan


Starring Kevin Costner, Gene Hackman, Dennis Quaid, Jeff Fahey, Mark Harmon, Michael Madsen, Catherine O'Hara, Bill Pullman

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

Mild Themes

Language

Yes

"Wyatt Earp" (Blu-ray/HD DVD)

Synopsis

Kevin Costner plays the most famous lawman ever to stride the Wild West. In a gritty, complex portrayal, Costner plays the man who became a myth in acclaimed director Lawrence Kasdan's epic, action-filled saga. From Wichita to Dodge City to the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona, Wyatt Earp is a thrilling journey of romance, adventure and desperate, heroic action.

Commentary

Don't you hate it when you miss a great movie because of all the negative buzz or comparisons out there? This is my experience with Wyatt Earp. I was living in Italy when this movie hit theaters, so I never had the chance to see it. But I did have the opportunity to see Tombstone, which is often compared to this film. Personally I feel this is an unfair comparison. Tombstone is a movie that is more of an action/adventure revolving around true events, but is singular in scope. Wyatt Earp takes the hero from Tombstone and gives you the bigger story.

The two films are also a bit conflicting in their portrayals, making me wonder which is most historically accurate. Many of the characters in Tombstone aren't even in this film, and some of the major roles, including Earp's later wife, are shown in an entirely different light.

Overall, this is a far reaching action drama that is well crafted by seasoned director Lawrence Kasdan. His previous western, Silverado, is probably one of my favorite westerns of all time, and this film is similar in some respects. The photography, casting, and acting are all first rate. The only issue I saw to complain about was the rather long run time, but I just took some short breaks here and there.

Technical

I don't know what happened at the beginning of this film, but the camera work is really shaky, to the point that I thought my projector might have been shaking from something. It continues on until about the end of the opening titles and then settles out. Aside from that this is very nice looking film. You can tell it is a few years old, but the photography still holds up incredibly well. Detail wavers a bit in the beginning, but the transfer is crisp through most of the film. Some of the longer shots soften up a bit, but only on occasion. Contrast is good, but this is a very natural looking film with no artificial enhancement of black and white. Instead, you have a very nice looking film presentation.

No advanced audio support on this one. Warner opted for the vanilla Dolby Digital track on the Blu-ray release and a DD+ mix at the same bit-rate for the HD DVD release. Aside from that it still sounds quite good. Dynamics are excellent for the most part, and the soundstage is very open. The imaging across the main channels is a little limited, with obvious panning from channel to channel at times instead of a seamless soundstage. Surrounds are used extensively to broaden the soundstage, and there is some very limited discrete use. Bass extension is very nice throughout, with some tight dynamics in the gun fights and ominous low end in other scenes.

Extras

Extras are the same on both formats. You get some deleted scenes, a documentary on the film's subject, a TV documentary on the man, and the theatrical trailer.

- Kris Deering -

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Warner Bros.

2003, Color, Rated R, 1 Hour 38 Mins.

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

1080p

 

English/French DD+/DD 5.1

Spanish DD+/DD 2.0

 

Directed By: Mathieu Kassovitz

 

Starring: Halle Berry, Robert Downey Jr., Charles S. Dutton, Bernard Hill, Penelope Cruz

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

Mild

Language

Yes

"Gothika" (Blu-ray/HD DVD)

Synopsis

A brilliant and respected criminal psychologist, Dr. Miranda Grey, is an expert at knowing what is rational. Under the direction of her husband, Miranda treats dangerously disturbed patients at the Woodward Penitentiary for Women. But Miranda's life is thrust into terrifying jeopardy after a cryptic encounter with a mysterious young girl leads to a nightmare beyond her wildest imagination.

Commentary

I was a little disheartened during the opening of this film. The movie is a Dark Castle production. Dark Castle has given us such films as Thirteen Ghosts and the remake of House on Haunted Hill. My impression of them has been a studio that produces exceedingly good looking and sounding films with little substance. They usually have a great premise, but execution is typically lacking.

Gothika breaks this trend thankfully and stands as a pretty solid thriller with some great chills and scares. Few films even make me flinch these days, but several scenes in here made me jump. The film has their trademark polish and exceedingly good sound design, but the story is the surprise and is full of good twists and really keeps you wondering where the movie is going.

Berry is strong in her lead role, but I felt that Downey Jr. was a tad underused. Cruz also has a nice supporting role, but again is slightly underused. As a whole though this is a good creepy movie to watch with the lights out.

Technical

I really liked the way this film looked on DVD, but I wasn't quite as impressed with the HD release. Both versions are the same encode so I didn't notice any differences there. Detail is good, but this isn't as crisp as some other HD titles on the market today. Contrast is good, but blacks could have been a bit better. Depth of image suffers a bit from this, but overall dimensionality is strong. I didn't see any noise in the image, and compression artifacts were a non-issue.

Warner stuck with a vanilla Dolby Digital soundtrack for the Blu-ray release and a DD+ mix for the HD DVD. I don't know why they couldn't have included a TrueHD mix on this one, since they were getting better about including them lately. This is a fairly dynamic mix, and the sound design has some nice moments to it.

Surrounds are used extensively to put you into the situation, and they help a lot with the intensity of the film. Bass is clean and deep, with some nice room shaking moments. There are plenty of pop-up scares throughout this film that will make you jump, and the soundtrack's dynamic range is pretty much the main reason. Dialogue is also very clean and balances well with the rest of the track.

Extras

Extras include a feature commentary, two making-of documentaries, a music video, MTV's Punk'd episode with Halle Berry at the premiere, a set visit, and a tour of the real prison from the film.

- Kris Deering -

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20th Century Fox

2001, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr 2 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

1080p

 

English DTS-HD MA 5.1

Spanish/French DD 5.1

 

Directed by The Hughes Brothers


Starring Johnny Depp, Ian Holm, Heather Graham

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Strong

Sex

Themes

Language

Yes

"From Hell" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

While Jack The Ripper ruled the streets of London, terror reigned. His crimes were unspeakable. His blood lust, unquenchable. His identity, unknown . . . until now!

Commentary

This film is based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore (V for Vendetta) and Eddie Campbell. It is a departure from the other Ripper films I've seen (I've seen a lot of them, including most of the TV mini-series too). The film is very stylistic in nature, due to the source material, but it makes for a fun ride.

This time around the premise arises that the Ripper was actually a necessary evil approved by the royal family to cover up a nasty little bit of business by the Prince. Systematically everyone who was involved was massacred by the Ripper. While there are a lot of facts mixed in with the fiction, this is in no way a true re-creation of the events that happened in London, as there is still no concrete evidence of who the Ripper truly was. Overall, I like the style of the film, but only found it to be an average watch.

Technical

This one has been on the Blu-ray release slate for what seems like forever now. Was it worth the wait? I guess. I didn't have the chance to see the D-Theater release of this one, but compared to the DVD release, this is a definite step up. Detail is quite good through most of the film, but there are some occasions where a bit of softness creeps in. Edge enhancement is noticed on occasion as well. Blacks are deep, and the level of shadow detail is exceptional throughout most of the film. The color balance borders on oversaturation, but this was intended. Greens and reds are deep and punchy, lending to the contrast of the image. Depth is also exceptional. I doubt fans will be disappointed.

The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is also quite good. This is an aggressive mix of ambience and dynamic range. The sound design is an interesting mix of graphic massacre noises and subtle ambient cues that draw you in. There is a constant wealth of atmosphere in the surround soundstage, and it opens up the mix tremendously. Dialogue always sounds natural in timbre and imaging, and the front soundstage is quite open and airy. Another solid audio presentation from Fox.

Extras

Extras appear to be the same as the DVD edition. There is a feature commentary, a TON of deleted scenes (20 no less!), an alternate ending, the trailer, and a trivia track.

- Kris Deering -

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BBC Video

2007, Color, Unrated, 2 hr 30 mins

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

1080p

 

English DD 2.0


Narrated By Tilda Swinton

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

No

Sex

No

Language

No

"Galapagos" (Blu-ray/HD DVD)

Synopsis

The inspiration for Darwin's theory of evolution, the Galapagos Islands are a living laboratory, a geological conveyor belt that has given birth to and seen the death of many species of plants and animals. As the western islands rise up from the sea, offering a chance of life, the eastern islands sink back beneath the waves, guaranteeing only death.

Between the two are the middle islands: fertile, lush land in its prime that contains an incredible diversity of life. Nowhere else on the Earth are the twin processes of creation and extinction of species so starkly apparent.

See it all unfold before your eyes in this stunning series filmed entirely in high definition from the BBC and the National Geographic Channel.

Commentary

We have been fortunate enough to get some really great nature productions on the new HD formats. Between this and Planet Earth, my family has been overjoyed! This is a mesmerizing look at the Galapagos Islands and their interesting geographic environment and perplexing wildlife. Unlike any islands in the world, this small group is the home to some of the most interesting animals ever known, and not only that, the islands are moving out into the ocean at a startling rate. All of these things together make for a really interesting documentary that shouldn't be missed.

Technical

This presentation was done by the same people who brought us Planet Earth, and the overall video quality is about the same. This feature was shot in HD, and detail overall is in line with what we saw from PE. There is some slight banding that creeps in from time to time, but otherwise this is a really good looking transfer. The image has a very natural quality to it, with no stylization or exaggeration of color or contrast. Detail, especially fine object detail, is excellent throughout. Close-ups have an incredible quality to them in terms of dimensionality. If you're a big fan of nature documentaries with stunning imagery, this is another one to pick up.

The soundtrack is a bit of a disappointment. We get a lackluster stereo Dolby Digital mix that is pretty drab. The narration is good though, but by the numbers. Dynamics are about average, and the front soundstage has nice presence, but compared to Planet Earth, this is pretty underwhelming.

Extras

No extras on this one.

- Kris Deering -

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Lionsgate/Sony

2006, Color, Unrated, 1 Hr 34 min

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

1080p

 

English Dolby TrueHD 5.1

French/Portuguese DD 5.1

 

Directed by Eli Roth


Starring Jay Hernandez, Derek Richardson, Eythor Gudjonsson

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Extreme

Sex

Yes

Language

Strong

"Hostel" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

Paxton and Josh, two college friends, are lured by a fellow traveler to what's described as a nirvana for American backpackers - a particular hostel in an out-of-the-way Slovakian town stocked with Eastern European women as desperate as they are gorgeous.

The two friends arrive and soon easily pair off with exotic beauties Natalya and Svetlana. In fact, too easily . . . .

Initially distracted by the good time they're having, the two Americans quickly find themselves trapped in an increasingly sinister situation that they will discover is as wide and as deep as the darkest, sickest recess of human nature itself - if they survive.

Commentary

Over the last few years, there has been almost a new genre born from films like Hostel, High Tension, Saw, and a few others. I call it torture porn (as do others). It is a bit of a departure from typical horror in that it focuses more on the suffering of humans in different ways.

This film defines it more than most (and its sequel). It literally uses a simple storyline to allow you to build up to scenes of graphic torture and mutilation so you can enjoy the physical and mental torture in strange and grotesque ways. I am a big horror fan, but unfortunately, I have a hard time getting into both of Roth's films. I like that he isn't afraid to cross boundaries and explore some darker themes, but I'm not so sure what is so entertaining about the idea of literally torturing people to this degree for no apparent reason other than to do it. Oh well, obviously it has its audience or they wouldn't being selling so well.

Technical

It's been a bit since I've seen this movie. Having just watched the sequel recently, I was expecting a visual presentation that was pretty close, but that is just not the case here. This film isn't nearly as contrasty, which may or may not be your thing. The darker moments of the movie have a more natural lighting going on, so blacks aren't quite as deep. Dimension is excellent though, and the depth of image is solid throughout. The biggest issue is the rather intrusive edge enhancement that pretty much constantly plagues the image throughout. This also gives the image a rather processed look that appears harder than most HD transfers I'm used to.

Fine detail is exaggerated a bit. I wouldn't be surprised if some light noise reduction was used on this, as it has a smeared look from time to time, and I remember it being a bit noisier when I saw it in theaters. While overall this isn't a bad image, it is definitely one of the weaker ones I've seen from Sony lately.

The soundtrack is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1. I've heard that Sony is going to be shifting their audio tracks to TrueHD a lot more in the coming year, which is fine with me. The audio presentation is definitely the jewel of this release. While not quite as intense in sound design as the sequel, it still has its unsettling moments. Surrounds are used aggressively in the more disturbing moments of the film, and they do a superb job of simulating the acoustics of the environments the characters are in. You really get a sense of the room and surrounding environment. Dynamics are good, but not reference. Bass is there, but not as tight and enveloping as it is on some higher budget films. Imaging is good though, and the dialogue is balanced nicely in the mix.

Extras

Lots of extras on this one. No less than four feature commentaries, a ton of production featurettes, deleted scenes, the director's cut ending, interviews, and some TV specials about the film.

- Kris Deering -

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Universal

1984, Color, Rated PG, 1 hour 41 mins

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

1080p

 

English Dolby TrueHD 5.1

English DD+ 5.1

 

Directed by Nick Castle


Starring Lance Guest, Dan O'Herlihy, Catherine Mary Stewart, Robert Preston

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Yes

Sex

Themes

Language

Mild

"The Last Starfighter" (HD DVD)

Synopsis

Millions of light-years ago, a great frontier was constructed in the Universe to protect the Syar League of Planets from its enemy, the evil Ko-dan. But now a defector has given the key to the frontier to the Ko-dan, and Starfighters from throughout the galaxy are needed to defend the peace.

One recruiter, the alien scalawag Centauri (Robert Preston), visits Earth to fill his quota of recruits and finds Alex (Lance Guest), an 18-year old earthling with an extraordinary talent for video game wizardry. Alex is quickly propelled into the regions of outer space to join others from planets throughout the Star League to fight a war to save the Universe.

Commentary

I was a big fan of this film growing up and still remember seeing it during its theatrical run as a kid. Revisiting it now is almost funny. I can't believe how cheesy most of the special effects look in this film! Even so, the story still doesn't disappoint. Great characters and a solid sci-fi script keep it from becoming the clumsy recycled stuff that we see so much from this genre. Kudos to Universal for bringing this little gem out in HD.

Technical

I really must say that I am surprised that Universal is releasing as many catalog titles as they are on HD DVD. It's risky, considering the quality of the elements for older films usually isn't that great, and trying to deliver a really great HD presentation isn't that easy with poor masters.

Thankfully, this one held up pretty well. Colors are a bit muted compared to more recent films, but in line with what we usually see from films of this age. Detail is better than I was expecting, but not quite as crisp as some may prefer. The computer animation looks even worse in HD because you see just how primitive it was! It is almost comical. Contrast is quite good though, and depth and dimension are solid for a rather low budget film like this. Fans of the film will probably like this presentation quite a bit better than the DVD, but it's about average for a catalog HD title.

Universal continues to up its Dolby TrueHD support. I'm glad to see them using it more and more, but I must say, it didn't help this release much. The sound design can be fun at times, but it's extremely dated. Dialogue also sounds really strained and tinny. It was almost distractingly bad. Sound effects are a bit on the cheesy side, and you never really get a sense of envelopment.

Extras

Extras include a feature commentary with the director and production designer, and a making-of feature hosted by the star of the film.

- Kris Deering -

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20th Century Fox

1990, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 hour 45 mins.

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

1080p

 

English DTS-HD MA 4.0

Spanish/French DD 2.0

 

Directed by Tim Burton


Starring Johnny Depp, Winona Ryder, Dianne West, Anthony Michael Hall, Kathy Baker, Vincent Price

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

Violence

Mild

Sex

Themes

Language

Mild

"Edward Scissorhands" (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

Once upon a time in a castle high on a hill lived an inventor whose greatest creation was named Edward. Although Edward had an irresistible charm, he wasn't quite perfect. The inventor's sudden death left him unfinished, with sharp shears of metal for hands. Edward lived alone in the darkness until one day a kind Avon lady took him home to live with her family. And so began Edward's fantastical adventures in a pastel paradise known as Suburbia.

Commentary

Tim Burton has put out some of the best fairy tales of our time, and this is one of his true gems. The story has all the magic and some of the best character work I've seen in my lifetime. It is a tale that should be shared with our children and passed on like every good fable out there. I am overjoyed to see Fox release this film so early into the format!

Technical

This is definitely the best I've seen this title look to date. While it doesn't have the high contrast pop of some of Burton's later works, its visual imagery still holds up well. Colors are an interesting blend of tones, with some offering nice pop, and others looking far more natural.

Contrast is the same way. Most of the darker scenes offer a more natural look without exaggerated contrast or unnatural blacks. While this does hurt depth slightly, it makes the film look far more like film than stylized video. Detail is preserved far better than I was expecting, and fine detail can be quite good at times.

The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is quite good, and Elfman's score is the primary reason why. This film really brought Burton into the limelight, and in the end, it kind of set the tone for almost everything we've seen from him since. The score is almost a character, and this 4.0 mix does a great job of preserving it. Dynamics are good, but this isn't an aggressive mix on the lower end. Surrounds do add a lot of ambience and atmosphere, but I didn't hear a lot of discrete or placed sound effects. Dialogue sounds very natural, with nice integration with the mains.

Extras

Extras include two feature commentaries and the trailer.

- Kris Deering -

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