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Movie Renter's Guide
DVD Movies Edition - Part 20 - April, 1997


By Stacey Spears

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Ratings:    
  Extraordinary
  Good
  Acceptable
  Mediocre
  Poor

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Antarctica"Antarctica" Lumivision; $24.95; Dolby Digital 5.1 English; No region ID; 40 Minutes; Single Sided, Single Layer.

Antarctica was one of the first 4 DVD titles released. This is an IMAX film that takes the viewer on a tour of glacial peaks. You get to see Penguins in their natural habitat and explore underwater caverns. This was the first DVD that I received, but it does not make for good demo material. In the opening scene while it is still a dark picture, there is visible pixelation in the background. During a sunset scene, the sky was very course and looked like some sort of digital artifact. Most of the picture is rather soft. Doing an A/B comparison to the laserdisc version revealed little difference between the two. I also do not believe that the source of this originated in the component 4:2:2 domain. I could see some cross-color artifacts on fine detail. The quality does not come close to what IMAX looks like in the theater! The sound quality is not much better than the picture. It is a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, but there is just too much LFE action going on.

Entertainment: **
Video Quality: **
Audio: **
Photography: ***
Violence: no
Sex: no
Language: no

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Tropical Rainforest"Tropical Rainforest" Lumivision; $24.95; Dolby Digital 5.1 English; No region ID; 40 Minutes; Single Sided, Single Layer.

My next DVD purchase was this second IMAX film. While I was leery after "Antarctica", I was anxious to use my DVD player, and no other software was available. This presentation was better than the first, and there was much more color detail to gaze upon. The opening sequence has a big bug occupying the picture with plenty of detail, but I did not have the laserdisc version to compare it to. Again, the source did not appear to reside in the component domain due to cross-color on fine detail. The soundtrack on this one was a little more annoying than the other, as the narrator's voice tended to come out of my subwoofer.

Entertainment: ***
Video Quality: ***
Audio: **
Photography: ***
Violence: no
Sex: no
Language: no

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Goldeneye"Goldeneye"MGM; 906035; $24.95; Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Stereo Surround French and Spanish; Subtitles in English, French, and Spanish; Closed Caption in English, French, and Spanish; Theatrical Trailer; Anamorphic/Letterbox and Pan & Scan format; Region ID 1; 2 Hours 10 Minutes; Single Sided, Dual Layer.

Right from the opening sequence you can see the heavily saturated colors and fine detail jump out at you. This disc is on the edge of maximum information allowed per layer, running at 130 minutes. Even with the high compression, the picture still looked very good. The 5.1 soundtrack is right up next to the picture in terms of quality, so this disc will definitely be on the demo list for some time to come. While the picture and sound were extremely good, the operation of this disc was a little bumpy. When you first insert the disc, you are prompted with a screen that asks you if you would like a widescreen image (Layer 2) or pan & scan (Layer One). This part works fine, and then you are asked if you would like Dolby Surround or 5.1 Surround (Dolby Digital). No matter what I chose, I ended up with Dolby Surround. To get Dolby Digital out of the disc I had to go to the main menu and select "Language", specify English, then choose 5.1, and I finally got it. I am using the Toshiba SD-3006 player and the Meridian 565 (surround processor) with the 5.1 upgrade. I even tried changing the PCM/DD switch on the back of the DVD player, but I got the same results. This is the only title I had that asked what sound track I wanted, and was the only one that gave me any trouble. One thing I like about the MGM titles is that there is a thumbnail picture for every chapter in the index section of the main menu. The image quality can be further improved by watching with a 16x9 TV in the full mode (Anamorphic).

Entertainment: ****
Video Quality: ****
Audio: ****
Photography: ****
Violence: Lots of it, with explosions and gun fights
Sex: the usual Bond stuff
Language: the "S" word

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Space Jam"Space Jam" Warner Brothers; 16400; $24.95; Dolby Digital 5.1 English, French, and Spanish; Subtitles in English, French, and Spanish; Theatrical Trailer; Cast Biographies; Production Notes; Film Flash; Pan & Scan format; Region ID 1; 1 Hours 28 Minutes; Single Sided, Single Layer.

WB has taken the popular commercials with Michael Jordan and Bugs Bunny and moved them to the big screen. Michael joins the Looney Tunes to help them win a basket ball match. While I am not a fan of animated/live-action films, this movie does entertain the kids. This is the one to show if you are trying to sell DVD, because the picture is absolutely stunning! Animations always look good, but this is some of the best-shown on video yet. The color fidelity is great, the reds are solid, with no bleeding to be found. The amount of detail is incredible; you can see the pores on Michael Jordan's face, and the stubble growing on his head. The video noise level, or should I say lack of noise, is a sight to be seen. Laserdisc just can not compete with this. The disc is full of Bios on all the characters, and the Looney Tune info makes for some great reading. So is this disc perfect? No, Warner did not include the letterbox version. What were they thinking? The opening and closing credits are the only scenes that are letterboxed. The soundtrack is what we have come to expect from Dolby Digital. You are enveloped by all the animated sound effects, such as the Tasmanian devil whirling around.

Entertainment: ***
Video Quality: *****
Audio: ****
Photography: ****
Violence: cartoon style
Sex: no
Language: no

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Eraser"Eraser" Warner Brothers; 14202; $24.95; Dolby Digital 5.1 English and French; Subtitles in English, French, and Spanish; Theatrical Trailer; Cast Biographies; Production Notes; Anamorphic/Letterbox (Side B) and Pan & Scan (Side A) format; Region ID 1; 1 Hours 55 Minutes; Double Sided, Single Layer.

Another explosive movie staring Arnold, and this time he play a US marshal whose job is to "erase" the lives and identities of people entering the Witness Protection program. This is another top-notch demo disc, and a great disc to show why you want to watch the letterbox version over the pan & scan. You can show the letterbox version and point out the information and then flip the disc and show what is missing. There are a lot of night shots, and you can see good shadow detail and deep blacks. Color fidelity is excellent. The soundtrack is fantastic. There is plenty of Foley detail that is lost with the Dolby Surround laserdisc version. It was nice of Warner to include the 5.1 soundtrack omitted from the American laserdisc release! The picture quality can be further improved by watching with a 16x9 TV in the full mode (Anamorphic).

Entertainment: ****
Video Quality: ****
Audio: *****
Photography: ****
Violence: It's an Arnold action film, so of course there is violence
Sex: no
Language: the "F" and "S" words


Copyright 1995, 1996, 1997 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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