Home Theater Movie Renter’s Guide – December, 2010

“The Town” (Blu-ray) – Reviewed by John Johnson

The Town

Synopsis

In Boston, there is a community called Charlestown, and apparently there are more bank robberies there than anywhere else in the United States.

Doug MacRay (Affleck) is a member of a band of robbers who are very professional in the way they go about robbing banks. They have been successful in every robbery and escaped with no clues as to who they are.

During one of the robberies, Doug takes one of the bank employees, Claire (Hall), hostage, but lets her go after they get away. He spies on her to see if she has any clue as to their identity, and to make sure she doesn’t talk to the FBI, but after meeting her a few times, falls in love with her. One of the other robbers, Gem (Renner), wants to know what is going on between them, and would prefer to just kill her to insure her silence.

In the meantime, FBI Agent Frawley (Hamm) puts together a team to catch the robbery team on their next trip to the bank. Finding a clue that leads him to Doug, they watch and wait.

Doug decides that he wants out, so that he and Claire can go to some other city and make a life for themselves, but is forced to take part in one last heist by the gang leader who owns Town Florist.

That one last bank robbery is the one that the FBI has been waiting for.

Specifications

  • Warner Brothers
  • 2010, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr 5 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Ben Affleck, Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Blake Lively, Chris Cooper
  • Directed by Ben Affleck
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Extreme
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

Ben Affleck has never been a very good actor, but he not only is great in this film (probably because Charlestown is where he came from), but a good director too. The story moves right along, with twists and turns and plenty of action, but mostly focuses on loyalty among thieves. I really was surprised at how good this movie was and enjoyed it from beginning to end.

Technical

The image quality is as good as it gets, and there is ample surround sound that delivers the flavor of the violence in a suburb community of a big city.

Extras

These include Ben’s Boston (Affleck illustrates how he made a movie in his home town), Filming in the North End, Nuns with Guns, and Pulling off the Perfect Heist. There is also an extended version of the movie, and BD-Live.

“Peanuts Holiday Collection” (Blu-ray) – Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

movie-december-2010-peanuts-holiday-collection

Synopsis

A collection of the three classic Peanuts holiday cartoons – It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, and A Charlie Brown Christmas, all available on Blu-ray. Virtually everyone knows the stories of Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy, and the rest of the Peanuts gang, The Great Pumpkin tells the story of Halloween for the group, where Charlie Brown manages to get himself invited to a Halloween party, while Linus waits in the pumpkin patch for the arrival of the Great Pumpkin. In a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, Charlie Brown gets roped into hosting a Thanksgiving dinner for everyone and has to enlist Snoopy and Woodstock to help out. Finally, in A Charlie Brown Christmas, everyone is excited about the arrival of Christmas and the holidays, except for Charlie Brown.

Specifications

  • Warner Brothers
  • 1965-1973, Color, Rated PG, 25 min/each
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
  • Codec: VC-1
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Starring: Peter Robbins, Bill Melendez, Chris Doran (voices)
  • Directed by Bill Melendez
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

These are holiday classics for a reason. Wonderful films to watch again on your own, or with your kids, they are a fantastic way to spend an evening. The Christmas episode would be my favorite, but all of them are wonderful.

Technical

The films are a bit of a mixed bag technically. Starting with Halloween, the image is wonderful, with bright, bold colors and very little noise, up until the final scene with the credits. Perhaps the source elements weren’t as good for that final shot, but the majority of the film is very nice. Unfortunately, the whole Thanksgiving episode looks like the final shot of Halloween, with lots of grain or film noise, dull colors, and not nearly as much detail, looking like they recycled an older transfer. Christmas started out the same way as Thanksgiving, but after the first minute or two, it was once again bright and colorful like Halloween was. I was OK with the individual scenes being a little bit worse, since the films are older and the source elements might not be in great shape, but the whole Thanksgiving episode was a bit of a let down.

The soundtracks were pretty sparse overall, using the surrounds for mostly ambient effects and almost everything else coming from the center channel. Unfortunately A Charlie Brown Christmas recycles a Dolby Digital low bitrate soundtrack from the DVD release, instead of the DTS-HD Master Audio tracks found on the other releases. These are certainly not designed to show off your surround system, but overall the results are fine.

Extras

“Madea Goes To Jail” (Blu-ray) – Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

movie-december-2010-madea-goes-to-jail

Synopsis

A film adaptation of Tyler Perry’s stage play of the same name, Madea Goes to Jail really focuses on two storylines that converge and diverge throughout the film.  The film’s namesake is once again in trouble with the law from her inability to control her temper.  She initially gets off thanks to a technicality in court, but once released back into the general public, she remains unable to control herself and faces the prospect of a long time behind bars.  At the same time, District Attorney Joshua Hardaway (Derek Luke) is successful and happy, with a fiancée who is a fellow DA (Ion Overman).  When a defendant comes before him that he knows from his past, is creates conflict with himself, and his fiancée, as he feels a need to help her out, while she wants him to let go of his past and move on.

Specifications

  • Warner Home Video
  • 2008, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 49 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Tyler Perry, Derek Luke
  • Directed by Tyler Perry
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: References
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

I’ll admit that I came into this film without high hopes.  I’ve seen plenty of commercials for Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns on TV, and seen the trailers for his films before, and they just are a style of comedy that has no appeal to me at all.  Madea Goes to Jail attemps to combine that comedy element with a more serious story involving the DA and the defendant that he is trying to help, but I found many elements of that to be so clichéd and unbelievable that if it was a movie on it’s own, it wouldn’t have held my attention.  For someone that enjoys the style of comedy, this might be an enjoyable film, but for me it just didn’t hit home.

Technical

While I didn’t enjoy the film, Madea Goes to Jail did have a nice transfer.  There was good detail, good rendering of textures on clothing and objects, and good contrast and color.  I didn’t notice artifacting or edge enhancement, and while not the best of the best, it was very good.  The soundtrack did a good job as well, using the surrounds when appropriate and with clear, intelligible vocals.

Extras

Six featurettes are included.

“Scooby Doo 1 & 2” (Blu-ray) – Reviewed by Jim Milton

movie-december-2010-scooby-doo-1-2

Synopsis

Laughs and scares aplenty are unleashed in these two popular live-action/computer-animation romps featuring Fred (Freddie Prinze Jr.), Daphne (Sarah Michelle Gellar), Shaggy (Matthew Lillard), Velma (Linda Cardellini) and that canine you-know-doo. The Mystery Inc. gang reunites to find out what’s behind the jinky-jittery goings-on at Spooky Island, the spring break hot spot run by Emile Mondavarious (Rowan Atkinson). Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed finds our heroes with their hands and paws full trying to find out why Coolsville is overrun with monsters they thought they’d defeated years earlier…but now the beastly beings are b-a-a-ack. ZOINKS!

Specifications

  • Warner Home Video
  • 2010, Color, Rated PG, 2 Hr 38 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Codec: Not Specifie
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DD/ DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Freddie Prinze Jr., Sarah Michelle Gellar, Matthew Lillard, Linda Cardellini
  • Directed by Raja Gosnell
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Comic
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

Both of these movies are geared for the 6-12 year old crowd. Though I grew up on the original Hanna-Barbera cartoons, I found the live action counter-parts to be less “fun”. The CGI effects were pretty good, but you’ll never mistake Scooby for being a “living” creature. Both movies had convoluted plots but should maintain the interests of the targeted age groups with lots of action and use of  vibrant color. Lillard was born to play Shaggy and nails the character both in mannerisms and voice. Cameos abound with Alicia Silverstone, Rowan Atkinson and the late Peter Boyle. If you have young kids, this 2 disc set should keep them amused on a rainy Saturday afternoon. I should mention that Shaggy and Scooby have a flatulence contest and other “low brow” scenes pop up from time to time. Ah, to be a seven year old again!

Technical

Both films have remarkable detail with strong colors that really pop and look…well…cartoonish. A few of the dark scenes exhibit crush, but in general, any youngster will be impressed with the image quality. Oddly, the first film is in DD 5.1 and the second comes with DTS-HD master audio; the latter exhibiting very deep bass and very active surrounds.

Extras

Additional scenes, commentaries, “making of”, trailers, Mystery Van, Dancing dog music video and more.

“The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” (Blu-ray) – Reviewed by Jim Milton

movie-december-2010-sorcerers-apprentice

Synopsis

Magic is everywhere in Disney’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice-the fun family adventure from the creators of National Treasure. Balthazar Blake (Nicolas Cage) is a modern-day sorcerer with his hands full defending Manhattan against dark forces. When a seemingly nerdy college kid shows hidden potential, Balthazar takes his reluctant recruit on a crash course in the art and science of magic to become the ultimate sorcerer’s apprentice. Can the students of Merlin stop the evil students of Morgana in time to prevent an army of the un-dead from taking over all of mankind? My magic 8-ball ball says “likely”.

Specifications

  • Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
  • 2010, Color, Rated PG, 1 Hr 29 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.40:1
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring:Nicolas Cage, Monica Bellucci, Jay Baruchel, Alfred Molina
  • Directed by Jon Turteltaub
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild, no blood
  • Sex: Chemistry only
  • Language: No

Commentary

Say what you will about Disney, but they takethe quality of their films very seriously. Gorgeous picture quality and very immersive sound are found on most of their titles, and this one is no exception. The story was actually better than I expected with nice pacing, edge of your set action and stellar CGI effects that add to the movie plot, rather than drive the plot. A humorous nod to old Walt with mops and buckets half way through the feature that pay tribute to Mickey Mouse ala Fantasia. Cage is wonderfully cast and slightly wacky as the  good sorcerer. He actually uses his own one-of-a-kind Rolls Royce in this movie. Baruchel is the epitome of nerdiness. Molina is delightfully sinister and droll. This movie will delight the youngsters (pre teens are the target audience, I think) and interest the adults at the same time. A mix of magic and physics. Fun family fare!

Technical

The picture and sound are well nigh perfect and reference quality. Colors are vibrant and spot on. Black shadows are inky yet reveal texture within. Cages’ worn leather coat looks good enough to feel from your side of the screen. Sounds are broad and deep and they swirl around you during the action scenes. Details abound, especially during the China town dragon sequence. Confetti sweeps around you in an explosion of color. This is a disc you’ll use to show off your HT to your friends…it is that good!

Extras

DVD & Digital Copy: The Making of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, deleted scenes: Blathazar recruits Dave.

BD – Magic In The City, The Science Of Sorcery, Making Magic Real, Fantasia: Reinventing A Classic, The Fashionable Drake Stone, The Grimhold: An Evil Work Of Art, The Encantus, Wolves & Puppies and The World’s Coolest Car.

“The Search for Santa Paws” (Blu-ray) – Reviewed by Stephen Hornbrook

movie-december-2010-santapaws

Synopsis

Santa Claus himself learns sad news about the passing of an old friend, Grandpa Hucklebukle. Hucklebuckle had sent Santa one last gift, a stuffed puppy. Santa uses some Christmas magic to bring the puppy to life and names him Paws.  Paws and Santa take a trip to New York to run some errands. Unfortunately, there is an accident and Santa gets hurt and loses Paws.  Santa ends up finding Hucklebuckles’ Toy Shop where the late grandpa’s son and his wife are reopening it for Christmas.  They must turn a profit during Christmas in order to have the deed signed over to them.

The story also follows a couple girls living in a foster home, ran by an evil, bitter woman.  Paws meets Quinn and she brings him inside for shelter and to help him find Santa. Meanwhile, Santa is working as “Santa” at the Hucklebuckle Toy Store.  Unfortunately, after Santa was hit by a taxi, a bum stole Santa’s bag and Christmas magic crystal. Without the crystal, Santa is no longer immortal, he quickly gets sick and is dying. It’s up to Quinn and the girls and Paws to save Santa!

Specifications

  • Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
  • 2010, Color, Rated G, 1 Hr 36 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: John Ducey, Patrika Darbo, Kaitlyn Maher, Richard Riehle
  • Directed by Robert Vince
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

The Search for Santa Paws in a decent movie for adults, but its clearly targeted for kids. I think my niece and nephew would really enjoy it.  If you have kids, this is a good holiday movie for them. If anything, the video quality is absolutely outstanding.

Technical

The image quality on this disc is outstanding, some of the best I have ever seen. The audio is pretty solid as well, with good soundstaging and a clean presentation. Well done again Disney.

Extras

Pop-up storybook, music videos, sing-along mode, deleted scenes.

“Fantasia / Fantasia 2000” (Blu-ray) – Reviewed by Stephen Hornbrook

movie-december-2010-fantasia

Synopsis

Fantasia is a collection of animated shorts based around a variety of classical music pieces. Some of the standouts are: Paul Dukas The Sorcerer’s Apprentice which features Mickey Mouse as a wizard bringing pots and brooms to life, the Nutcracker Suite with dancing fairies and fields of flowers, and Night on Bald Mountain which is a bit horrific, featuring skeletons and demons wreaking havoc. One of my favorites from Fantasia 2000 is Pines of Rome set to flying whales and beautiful arctic lights.  Fantasia’s set list consists of Toccata and Fugue in D Minor (Bach), The Nutcracker Suite (Tchaikovsky), The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (Dukas), The Right of Spring (Stravinsky), The Pastoral Symphony (Beethoven), Dance of the Hours (Ponchielli), Night on Bald Mountain (Mussorgsky)/Ave Maria (Schubert). Fantasia 2000’s set list consists of Symphony No. 5 (Beethoven), Pines of Rome (Respighi), Rhapsody in Blue (Gershwin), Piano Concerto No. 2 (Shostakovich), Carnival of the Animals (Saint-Saens), The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (Dukas), Pomp and Circumstance (Elgar), and Firebird Suite (Stravinsky).

Specifications

  • Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
  • 200 Minutes
  • Fantasia: 1940, Color, Rated G
  • Fantasia 2000: 1999, Color, Rated G
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 (Fantasia) 1.78:1 (Fantasia 2000)
  • Codec: MPEG4 AVC
  • 1080p
  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 (48kHz/24bit)
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

Fantasia is a true classic and I find Fantasia 2000 to be just as good.  I actually prefer some of the musical numbers in 2000 over the original Fantasia. Do flying whales make any sense? No, but are they supposed to? It just looks beautiful. Anything goes with the arts! Disney has once again put forth a wonderful blu-ray set that does these classics justice.  All music and animation lovers should own this blu-ray set.

Technical

Fantasia has never looked so good. I find it hard to believe it will even look any better than it does here on blu-ray.  Even better than the video transfer would be the DTS-HD Master Audio presentation. It just sounds phenomenal. I found myself just getting completely lost in the music.

Extras

Audio Commentary, DisneyView presentation that fills the black side bars of Fantasia with art, Galleries, Destino – a short by artist Salvador Dali that was recently completed

Pop-up storybook, music videos, sing-along mode, deleted scenes

“Cats vs. Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore” (Blu-ray) – Reviewed by Jim Milton

movie-december-2010-cats-and-dogs

Synopsis

In the eternal battle between cats and dogs, one crazed feline has taken things a paw too far. Former elite agent Kitty Galore has gone rogue and plans to unleash a diabolical device designed to not only bring her canine enemies to heel but also to take down her former kitty comrades and make the world her scratching post. Faced with this dire threat, cats and dogs must work together for the first time ever to save themselves and their beloved humans from global cat-astrophe. This fun adventure features the voice talents of Christina Applegate, Michael Clarke Duncan, Neil Patrick Harris, Sean Hayes, James Marsden, Bette Midler and Nick Nolte and stars Chris O’Donnell and Jack McBrayer.

Specifications

  • Warner Home Video
  • 2010, Color, Rated PG, 1 Hr 22 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Chris O’Donnell, Bette Midler, James Marsden, Christina Applegate, Nick Nolte
  • Directed by Brad Peyton
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

They are getting better at it…computer animation and CGI are making our animal friends act and talk. (I grew up with the amazing Mr. Ed!) This story should amuse your 3-8 year olds, with enough references to other “grown up” movies to keep the parents smiling. Lots of action and very mild violence. The new Wiley Coyote short feature that is included  was more violent than the main feature. And yes, there are plenty of kittens and puppies to make you go “Awwww!”…

Technical

Bright, sharp colors abound. Fantastic details in fur texture. There were a few scenes were I could see free floating dog hair when Chris O’Donnell was petting his dog. Even the night action sequences looked marvelous. Sound was very good in this DTS-HD presentation with lively surrounds and explosive bass. All talking animal voices are well centered and intelligible. Woof!

Extras

Looney Toons “Coyote Falls” all-new cartoon, Sneak Peek of the All-New Yogi Bear Theatrical Film, Dog Dishing: Tails from the Bark Side of Hollywood, Bash-Up: The Best of the Best Cat vs Dog Animated Showdowns, Meow-Takes: Outtakes and Gag Reel, Pop-up storybook, music videos, sing-along mode, deleted scenes.

“Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” (Blu-ray) – Reviewed by Jim Milton

movie-december-2010-chitty-chitty-bang-bang

Synopsis

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls start your engines. You’re about to take an incredible ride with one of the most wonderful family films of all time! Dick Van Dyke stars as eccentric inventor Caractacus Potts, who creates an extraordinary car called Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. It not only drives but also flies and floats as it leads him, his two children and his beautiful lady friend, Truly Scrumptious (Sally Ann Howes), into a magical world of pirates, castles and endless adventure.

Specifications

  • 20th Century Fox
  • 1968, Color, Rated G, 2 Hr 25 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Codec: MPEG4 AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Dick Van Dyke, Sally Ann Howes, Lionel Jeffries, Gert Frobe, Anna Quayle
  • Directed by Ken Hughes
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

Directed with style and flair by Ken Hughes (story by Ian Fleming of the James Bond stories) and filmed in 70mm Super Panavision Technicolor – it’s a splendid feast of colors – you see their period clothes anew, the details in the inventions inside Caractacus Pott’s hillside home, the uncluttered English countryside, the Scrumptious Sweet Factory, the seaside scenes, the two bumbling spies, the toy dance at the King’s Birthday Party in the Palace where their love shines out and almost gets them caught – all of it – gorgeous to look at. The overture at the beginning where a black screen sits with only the roaring of car engines swirling around you before the picture finally appears – the “Intermission” break in the middle (so you could go to the lobby to get popcorn) where Chitty goes over the cliff-edge and you don’t find out what happens until the film starts up again, is all there just as it was in the theater back in the 60’s. Your family will want to see this movie over again and again.

Technical

It’s been frame-by-frame restored using the Lowry Digital Restoration Process and looks jaw droppingly wonderful in detail and color. Musical score is broad and lush with remarkably clear dialog and swirling surround sound. The film is razor sharp and as clean as a “toot sweet” whistle. This is a “must see” movie for the family. They just don’t make them like this any more. This is what blu-ray is all about, folks!

Extras

All-new “Toot Sweet Symphony” melody maker – the Toot Sweet Toots Musical Maestro, All-new “Chitty Chitty’s, Bang Bang, Driving Game”, Remembering Chitty Chitty Bang Bang with Dick Van Dyke, “A Fantasmagorical Motorcar” featurette, Sherman Brothers’ Rare Demos of the film’s most popular songs, Vintage Featurettes including, “The Ditchling Tinkerer,” “Dick Van Dyke Press Interview,” and “The Potts Children’s Featurette”, a Photo Gallery, Vintage Advertising Gallery including English and French versions of the theatrical trailer and several television spots, Sing-a-long version of the film and Music Machine.

“Twas the Night Before Christmas” (DVD) – Reviewed by Tyler Stripko

movie-december-2010-twas-the-night-before-christmas

Synopsis

Something has gone terribly wrong in the town of Junctionville.  All of the children’s letters to Santa are being returned.   A strongly worded letter in the Junctionville paper calling Santa Claus “a fraudulent myth” has sent the jolly old elf off the deep end.  In the hopes of gaining back Santa’s trust, a local clockmaker named Joshua Trundle comes up with the idea to build a giant singing clock.  With the help (and hindrance) of the Trundle’s house mice, Mr. Trundle must get the great clock working by midnight on Christmas Eve or risk having a Christmas without Santa.

Specifications

  • Warner Brothers
  • 1970, Color, Rated G, 24 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • 480i
  • English Mono Dolby Digital
  • Starring: George Gobel, Joel Grey, and Tammy Grimes
  • Directed by Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin Jr.
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: None
  • Sex: None
  • Language: None

Commentary

Ker-plunk!  Ker-plooie!  I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve seen this cartoon but I had no problem watching it again.  This film holds a great deal of important life lessons, which makes it a must see for children and families.   While the plot is only very loosely based on the classic Clement Moore poem of the same name, it holds together well and moves along nicely for the entire 24 minute run time.  The voice acting is great, though as a child I was always a bit scared of the incredibly pointy chins on the residents of Junctionville.  “Twas the Night Before Christmas” is an absolute holiday classic that still manages to entertain after nearly 40 years.

Technical

This is the “remastered” DVD edition of the film, which was “renewed” in 2002 as per the movie jacket.  Having seen this cartoon at least 30 times on poor quality broadcast television, I had high hopes for this DVD.  Even with my Oppo Blu-ray player stretching the native 1.33:1 to widescreen (gasp!), the image held up fairly well.  Colors were reasonably rich and vibrant with a fair degree of contrast to the image.  There were frequent specks of dirt and dust on the print, but it looks like the producers were careful not to over process the image.  Perhaps they were a bit too conservative, as they could have cleaned things up a lot more.  Overall, the image is a tad soft, but that could be the source material.  There is also a lot of flickering to the image, particularly in the white backgrounds, but it looks like this is just the difference between each individual cell.  The flickering was not too distracting but I would have preferred if they had spent the time to color correct/contrast match each cell to make the image a little more fluid.  The Dolby Digital Mono soundtrack can best be described as utilitarian.  It is clear enough and I was able to make out the dialogue clearly but there is no sense of immersion to the soundtrack.  The dynamic range is very limited, but that is most likely an issue with the source material.  The musical numbers come through a bit flat, which is a real shame.  Overall, a decent restoration, but I think that a holiday film of this caliber deserves a little more tender loving care.

Extras

For a “Deluxe Edition,” this disc is pretty empty.  There is only one extra, a featurette that explores Christmas traditions around the world.

“Nanny McPhee Returns” (Blu-ray) – Reviewed by Jim Milton

movie-december-2010-nanny-mcphee-returns

Synopsis

Make way for more fun and hilarious mayhem as Academy Award® winner Emma Thompson reprises her role as the magical Nanny McPhee, who arrives when she’s needed the most and wanted the least. When Nanny McPhee appears at the farmhouse door of a busy young mother, Isabel Green (Maggie Gyllenhaal), she discovers that Mrs. Green’s children are in an all-out household war with their two spoiled city cousins. Relying on everything from a flying motorcycle and a statue that comes to life, to a tree-climbing piglet and an elephant that turns up in the oddest places, Nanny McPhee uses her magic to show the children five valuable lessons, the most important of which is learning how to get along.

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 2010, Color, Rated PG, 1 Hr 39 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Codec: MPEG-4
  • 1080p
  • English DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Emma Thompson, Ralph Fiennes, Maggie Gyllenhaal
  • Directed by Susanna White
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: None
  • Sex: None
  • Language: None

Commentary

Having not seen the first installment, I can say that this installment was quite enjoyable with a mix of of interesting and often peculiar characters. With five precocious kids and an exhausted mother, Nanny McPhee sets out to teach the family five “special” lessons with good, solid life principles to live by. At the completion of each lesson, McPhee transforms from a homely figure into a beautiful women while the unruly kids transform into well behaved and thoughtful children. Sounds contrived, but the movie had plenty of charm, magic and pigs that do synchronized swimming! This is a great story for kids from 5-10 years old that will both entertain and provide a positive message.

Technical

Color presentation and details were very strong.Of special note, the details in the hand knit sweaters and wood grains throughout the farmhouse and barn. Blacks were strong without crush and the overall picture quality had a strikingly good  field of depth. Skin tones were natural and night scenes were still full of detail. CGI effects were very well done and enhanced, rather than stole the story. Sound was very clear for dialog and the surrounds were used liberally. A few places had the bass booming, such as when Nanny McPhee raps her stick on the ground.

Extras

“Making Of” and mutiple featurettes, The Mud, The Pigs and others.

“Lost in Translation” (Blu-ray) – Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

movie-december-2010-lost-in-translation

Synopsis

Bob Harris (Bill Murray) is a movie star who is in Japan to film a commercial for a whiskey company.  Surrounded by a culture and language he doesn’t understand, he feels disoriented and isolated in his surroundings.  Charlotte (Scarlet Johansson) is a recent Yale grad, newly married to John, a photographer for bands and movie stars, who is left to explore Japan by herself while he shoots photos of a band on tour.  After running into each other a couple of times in the hotel, Bob and Charlotte meet and form a bond in the bar, both feeling isolated and apart from the rest of the world and needing someone that they can talk and relate to.  Eventually they will set out to explore parts of Tokyo together and their relationship grows.

Specifications

  • Focus Features
  • 2003, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 42 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Bill Murray, Scarlet Johansson
  • Directed by Sofia Coppola
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Minor
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

One of my favorite recent films, Lost in Translation is a film that many people will find slow, or boring, but I always found completely entrancing.  The music and plot help to set up the feeling is isolation and loneliness that Bob and Charlotte both feel in this strange land, and it’s completely exciting to watch how they relate to each other and their lives.  It’s a film that I’ve come back to and watched many times in the past, and now on Blu-ray was happy to watch it again for the first time in a while.

Technical

While I have not seen the previous HD-DVD transfer of the film, I suspect that this is the same one used here.  Shots of Toyko, or any shots outside, look wonderful with great detail, a fine presence of grain from the film, and good color and blacks.  However, as soon as you move inside it’s a totally different story.  Whereas outside you can see the individual hairs on someone’s head, inside their hair seems to be a undistinguished mass on top of their head, with no detail to it at all.  It almost appears as if the interior scenes were upsampled from a DVD where the outdoor scenes look great.  The brightness level can change during interior scenes, faces lack detail and are blotchy at times, and it really looks bad on the interior scenes.  Additionally, many of these scenes seem to be overly dark as even the initial frame of the film is far darker than when I originally saw it in theaters, and I’m not sure if this is a conscious choice (the vinyl release of the soundtrack uses this frame for the cover, and it is dark as well), or if it’s just a poor transfer that didn’t get the balance correct.  Whatever it is, half the film is great, and half is bad.

The soundtrack fares better, with lossless audio that does a great job with music and use of the surrounds, though sometimes can falter with dialog.  I think this is more an issue with how the soundtrack was recorded, as the hard to decipher parts of dialog were there in the theater and on the DVD release, but it’s still a bit annoying to have to pay that close of attention at times.

Extras

It features deleted scenes, a couple featurettes, music videos for some of the songs, the theatrical trailer, and a preview of Sofia Coppola’s next film.

“Inception” (Blu-ray) – Reviewed by Jim Milton

movie-december-2010-inception

Synopsis

Acclaimed filmmaker Christopher Nolan directs an international cast in this sci-fi actioner that travels around the globe and into the world of dreams. Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is the best there is at extraction: stealing valuable secrets inside the subconscious during the mind’s vulnerable dream state. His skill has made him a coveted player in industrial espionage but also has made him a fugitive and cost him dearly. Now he may get a second chance if he can do the impossible: inception, planting an idea rather than stealing one. If they succeed, Cobb and his team could pull off the perfect crime. But no planning or expertise can prepare them for a dangerous enemy that seems to predict their every move. An enemy only Cobb could have seen coming.

Specifications

  • Warner Home Video
  • 2010, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 28 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.40:1
  • Codec: VC-1
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page
  • Directed by Christopher Nolan
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

Difficult to describe, but fun to watch, Nolan’s film boils down to a heist flick with a twist: stealing and inserting ideas through dreams. DiCaprio leads a group of people into the dream of a young heir of a corporation in order to insert the thought of breaking up his fathers conglomerate. To do so, he must put a dream, within a dream, within another dream. Because of the complexity, I would recommend you watch this movie 2 or 3 time to really grasp all of the nuances (not that anyone would really only watch this once). All acting and pacing throughout the film are nearly perfect and the storyline is fresh and exciting. The ending is ambiguous and leaves you wondering, “What is reality?”

Technical

The long anticipated BD release will not disappoint fans. The picture quality is very good with razor sharp details for the most part. Colors are accurate with perhaps a slight push to orange on some of the skin tones, but that could be an artistic design. Close-ups reveal all of Leonardo’s skin imperfections, but also textures and colors of clothing and details in the surrounding scenes. The special effects look tremendous and will leave you slack-jawed. BD can make CGI look horrible, but that is not the case here. It all looks real. Sound is equally impressive with some very deep growls from the subwoofer. Surrounds are in almost constant use and rattle the rafters in some of the gun fight scenes. Dialog is clear and the musical soundtrack really helps set the mood. I recommend watching this movie with the  volume turned UP! You will not be disappointed with this release.

Extras

Extraction mode, “Dreams, “The Cobol Job, soundtrack, still gallery, trailers and BD Live. Almost all are in HD, too.

“Going the Distance” (Blu-ray) – Reviewed by Chris Eberle

movie-december-2010-going

Synopsis

Garrett (Long) is a typical New York 30-something who is less than successful in long-term relationships.  Erin (Barrymore) is an ambitious newspaper intern working for a six-week stint in the City.  They meet by chance at a bar one night and hit it off immediately.  Encouraged by his friends and she by her sister, they become closer over the time they have together until it’s time for her to return to San Francisco.  Committed to maintaining their relationship, they talk on the phone, text each other constantly and Garrett flies out to visit when he can.  Eventually, hard choices have to be made when they declare their love for each other.  In the end it comes down to their feelings or their careers.

Specifications

  • New Line Cinema
  • 2010, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 43 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring:  Drew Barrymore, Justin Long, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Christina Applegate
  • Directed by Nanette Burstein
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

This movie was a pleasant surprise.  Most romantic comedies I’ve reviewed start out strong then fall apart in the middle when things get serious.  This did not happen in Going the Distance.  Witty writing coupled with superb acting makes this one of the most enjoyable films I’ve seen of late.  The humor is firmly in the adult category but never crosses the line of being too crude.  The counterpoint between Erin and her sister, and Garrett and his friends is simply riotous.  There are some truly hilarious moments that easily qualify as side-splitting.  I don’t have too many romantic comedies in my library but this one will be a keeper.

Technical

Image quality is decent with relatively natural color used throughout.  Scenes in and around New York City look slightly cold and flat with a bluish hue while San Francisco is depicted in warmer tones.  Detail is a bit soft and the picture lacks the last degree of pop seen in a reference-level transfer.  There was no obvious use of edge enhancement or any artifacts in my observation.  Contrast was quite deep with occasional crushing of black-level detail.  The few nighttime scenes had consistent black levels with merely average shadow detail.

Audio was very good with clear well-placed dialog and an upbeat musical accompaniment.  Imaging in outdoor scenes was a tad small with very little use of the surrounds.  The best part was the music which exhibited superb clarity and detail.  Several familiar pop songs make an appearance and I enjoyed hearing old favorites like Take My Breath Away, well-known to any Top Gun fan!  The movie features an actual band, The Boxer Rebellion, performing a few of their songs, which adds a nice touch.

Extras

There are a few bonus features on this release.  The cast offers dating advice in two featurettes.  There is a collection of improvised scenes from the principal actors and commentary by director Nanette Burstein.  Finally there is a music video from The Boxer Rebellion and behind-the-scenes info about the film’s soundtrack.  Included in this release are a DVD and a digital copy for your computer or portable device.

“A Christmas Carol” (3D) (Blu-ray) – Reviewed by Chris Eberle

movie-december-2010-christmas-carol

Synopsis

This is Charles Dickens’ classic tale of Ebenezer Scrooge and his “spiritual awakening” one Christmas Eve.  Scrooge (Carrey) is a friend to no one except his money.  He leaves work on Christmas Eve and upon returning home has a serious of visits from first the spirit of his dead partner, Jacob Marley then three ghosts representing the past, present and future.  Seeing his life unfold before him and learning of a possible dark future convinces him to change his path and embrace life and look for rewards outside the material.  It’s quite a wild ride but Scrooge learns a valuable lesson to his everlasting benefit.

Specifications

  • Walt Disney Studios
  • 2009, Color, Rated PG, 1 Hr 36 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring:  Jim Carrey, Gary Oldman and Colin Firth
  • Directed by Robert Zemeckis
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

This story must be one of the most-made movies in history.  IMDB lists 25 versions going all the way back to a 17-minute silent film from 1910!  I really enjoyed this telling with its fantastic special effects and some of the best motion-capture animation I’ve ever seen.  Though it is appropriate for family viewing, the tale is a bit dark and will probably not be as entertaining for young children.  Jim Carrey does an amazing job voicing Scrooge with a completely authentic British accent and a crotchety-old-man delivery.  Even though there are other A-list actors in the cast, Carrey steals the show for sure.  Colin Firth has a brief role as Scrooge’s nephew Fred and Gary Oldman and Robin Wright Penn deliver excellent performances too.  This tale never gets old and I’ll be adding this Blu-ray to my library.

Technical

This film first hit theaters about a year ago when it was shown in both 2D and 3D Imax versions.  The animation is motion-captured for a very life-like depiction.  I really enjoy CGI like this.  It’s not cartoonish in any way.  Colors and textures are intended to be natural and motion is amazingly realistic and fluid.  A lot of time was put into the details of Scrooge’s face.  Every wrinkle, age spot and hair is rendered with phenomenal clarity.  I watched this disc on an LCD 3D TV and found the added effect enjoyable.  I also watched a few clips on my normal projection setup in 2D and enjoyed the image just as much.  I still believe a quality display properly calibrated can equal or exceed the best 3D presentation and this film proved that to me.

Color and contrast were equal to the best live-action films I’ve seen with realistic textures on most objects.  In scenes with many characters, some of the faces looked flat as though less effort were put into their rendering.  Surfaces like wood and fabric looked three-dimensional even in the 2D version.  CGI seems to get better and better with every new release.  I have no problem watching movies entirely generated by computer.  It’s a neat way to make a film and I applaud the effort by Disney and Robert Zemeckis.  This is the fifth 3D title I’ve watched at home and the best to date in its use of the technology.

The DTS-HD Master Audio sound track was rich and dynamic with lots of detail.  Fast-motion scenes had plenty of panning action that took full advantage of the surrounds.  Low-frequency effects were used sparingly but when the sub was called upon, the result was a nice tight bass with no bloat.  Music was up to Disney’s usual high standard with full orchestra used throughout; kudos to veteran film score composer, Alan Silvestri.

Extras

Bonus features include a 3D presentation on the making of the film and documentaries on the creative process and motion-capture techniques used.  There are also deleted scenes.  The package is a great value with both 2D and 3D Blu-rays, a DVD and a digital copy for your PC or portable device.

“Diary of a Mad Black Woman” (Blu-ray) – Reviewed by Stephen Hornbrook

movie-december-2010-diaryofmadblackwoman

Synopsis

A well to do couple, “happily” married for many years, are about to have their anniversary when the husband, Charles, decides he is done with the marriage and kicks his wife, Helen, out of the house.  His new girlfriend has already moved in and he has ordered a U-Haul, packed with his wifes belongings to take her away. The U-Haul is driven by a nice guy, Orlando, who bends over backwards to try to make things easier for Helen. However, she is in too much shock to treat him with any respect and kicks him out of the truck and drives herself to her grandmother Madea’s house. Madea convinces Helen she needs to get revenge on Charles and they proceed to break in and vandalize Charle’s and his new girlfriend’s, Brenda, clothes and other belongings.  Unfortunately the law does not look so kindly upon these acts and Helen ends up needing a lawyer, so Madea’s nephew steps in to help out.

Helen ends up coming to peace with herself and wanting to move on. She run’s into Orlando, the U-Haul driver, again and he woo’s her and they develop a strong relationship.

Charles ends up in some shady dealings as an old “friend”, a drug dealer who Charles did some dirty work with to earn extra cash, comes back to black mail him into being his attorney. Things do not go well for the drug dealer, Jamison, in court and he is found guilty. Jamison cannot believe this outcome, blames Charles, and takes a bailiff’s gun and shoots Charles. Helen finds out about the shooting on the news and run’s to Charles’ hospital bedside.  Helen and Brenda were both asked if the plug should be pulled on Charles’ life, since he would now be paralyzed. Well, the wonderfully loving Brenda says no, however Helen was still legally married and she let him live. Helen goes on to take care of Charles and treat him very poorly, getting her revenge. Eventually she forgives him and he apologizes for his ways.  Helen free’s herself from her shackels of rage by giving Charles signed divorce papers and running away to Orlando, finally a happy woman.

Specifications

  • Lionsgate
  • 2005, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 56 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Kimberly Elise, Shemar Moore, Tyler Perry, Steve Harris
  • Directed by Darren Grant
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: Mild
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

I’m not the world’s biggest Tyler Perry fan, but I did find the movie interesting and I was entertained for the almost 2 hours of the film. Good performances by the cast, especially Steve Harris, who plays an exceptionally horrible man.

Technical

The picture quality in this 1080p MPEG4 transfer is decent, but nothing special. I found it to be a bit flat and soft with nothing really popping from the tv screen. The audio was good, with clear dialog and good use of the front main speakers.

Extras

Commentary, outtakes, and a few featurettes.

“Why Did I Get Married” (Blu-ray) – Reviewed by Chris Eberle

movie-december-2010-why

Synopsis

Each year psychologist Patricia (Jackson) gathers her married college friends together for a couples retreat to help everyone re-evaluate their relationships and hopefully renew their bonds.  This year however, all the marriages are strained by various situations including a child’s death, infidelity and a vindictive ex-wife.  The final descent into chaos occurs when Mike shows up with an attractive young lady instead of his wife who arrives later.  The problems come to a head at dinner one night when all (and I mean ALL) the dirty is aired in one cathartic scene.  The second act has our characters trying to pick up the pieces and save their marriages.  By the end, most have decided what’s most important and one lady gets a new lease on life.

Specifications

  • Lionsgate
  • 2007, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 58 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring:  Tyler Perry, Janet Jackson, Jill Scott
  • Directed by Tyler Perry
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

I found this film difficult to watch for most of its length.  This is not a romantic comedy by any means.  It is a serious drama and the emotions portrayed are intense and very personal.  I didn’t find the movie particularly well-made but I did empathize with a few of the characters.  The acting was fairly uneven with excellent performances by some and downright terrible efforts from others.  The subject matter is not what I’d call entertaining.  There were a few brief humorous moments but the rest was pretty serious.  The characters treat each other quite horribly.  I don’t know how any marriage could survive some of the antics I witnessed.  It wasn’t overly depressing and the ending is a happy one but I can’t see this film being more than a one-time rental at best.

Technical

The video transfer was only fair with a soft image and some rather bizarre color palette choices.  Nearly every scene had some sort of colored filter with warm tones for indoor scenes and a bluish tint outdoors.  The overall presentation was quite flat and un-natural looking.  Given the subject matter, I don’t think the weak video quality will detract from the overall experience.

Audio was mostly average with clear dialog that sounded the same regardless of the environment.  Music was very sparse with just a few jazz big band and pop tunes.  It was used only during transition scenes, never during the action.

Extras

Bonus features include actor interviews, a documentary about the Whistler resort depicted in the film and a featurette about the music used.

“The Wiz” (Blu-ray) – Reviewed by Chris Eberle

movie-december-2010-wiz

Synopsis

Think Frank Baum meets Motown.  Dorothy (Ross) is a 24-year old schoolteacher living a sheltered life in Harlem with her Aunt and her dog Toto.  When Toto slips out the door into a raging snowstorm, Dorothy runs after him and they are both caught up in a magical tornado that suddenly appears.  When they wake up, they’ve been transported to a magical land called Oz.  The Munchkins there are celebrating because Dorothy has just killed their nemesis, the wicked witch of the east.  To get home, Dorothy has to travel to the Emerald City and find The Wiz.  Along the way she meets first a Scarecrow (Jackson) who just wants a brain, a Tin Man (Russell) looking for a heart and a Cowardly Lion (Ted Ross) hoping to find some courage.  They overcome a few obstacles and make it to the Emerald City but The Wiz won’t help them until Dorothy kills the wicked witch of the west.  She and her faithful companions find Evilline’s Sweat Shop and defeat her just in the nick of time.  The Wiz turns out to be a phony but Dorothy and the others discover they already have what they want and everyone is happy as the credits roll.

Specifications

  • Universal Pictures
  • 1978, Color, Rated G, 2 Hr 15 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring:  Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Nipsey Russell and Ted Ross
  • Directed by Sidney Lumet
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence:  No
  • Sex:  No
  • Language:  No

Commentary

This is the OTHER musical adaptation of Frank Baum’s timeless tale, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.  It is derived from the Broadway show by the same name which won seven Tony Awards in 1975.  This film version does not hold up nearly as well as the stage production.  My reference for movies like this is Phantom of the Opera and Chicago.  These were done with the screen in mind with great camera work and specially choreographed dance sequences.  The Wiz looked more like an expanded stage show with mostly static camera work and dancing limited to large group numbers.  The film was shot in and around New York City making an appropriate backdrop for the storyline.  I do have positive comments about the main actors’ performances.  Diana Ross and Michael Jackson especially do a superb job bringing their characters to life and their musical talents really shine here.  Jackson is at his musical peak with none of the annoying embellishments heard in his more recent singing.  At first, Diana Ross struck me as a bit too old for the part of Dorothy, but her singing won me over.  Fans of the show will probably want to add this disc to their collections but if you’ve never seen it before, one rental is sufficient.

Technical

Video was unremarkable in quality.  The image was fairly clean and detail was about average for a film from this era.  Dark scenes showed some crushing in the shadows and most of the lighting was flat and too dark.  Only a rare few moments really showed any bright colors or punchy highlights.  Compared to a movie like Chicago with its bright spotlights and high contrast, The Wiz looked uninspiring.

The DTS-HD Master Audio sound track was by the far the best thing on this Blu-ray.  Although the sound was a tad veiled, it easily topped other material I’ve heard from the late seventies.  Musical numbers were rich and dynamic with a fantastic foot-tapping musical score from composer Charlie Smalls.  Even though the many musical numbers didn’t look great, they sounded fantastic.  My only reason for docking one star was the disconnect between the sound and the visuals.  It was painfully obvious that all the music and dialog had been recorded on a sound stage.  There was no proper imaging nor were there any environmental cues.  I doubt it would have made any difference had the track only been offered in stereo.  Only the excellent dynamics and full frequency range saves this audio from mediocrity.

Extras

Bonus features are limited to a 12-minute behind-the-scenes documentary and the original theatrical trailer.

“Meet The Parents” (Blu-ray) – Reviewed by Adrian Wittenberg

movie-december-2010-meet-the-parents

Synopsis

Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) is an average Joe who works as a nurse and is deeply in love with his girlfriend Pam (Teri Polo). Greg wants to propose to her but finds out that Pam’s father Jack (Robert De Niro) would probably appreciate being asked permission first. Pam takes Greg to meet her parents and Greg finds it quite difficult to make a good impression on Pam’s discerning father no matter how hard he tries.

Specifications

  • Universal Pictures
  • 2010, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 48 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Codec: VC-1
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro, Teri Pol, Blythe Danner
  • Directed by Jay Roach
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: Suggestive
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

Meet the Parents is one of Ben Stiller’s funniest films. Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro’s character acting really make this film come alive in the way the characters play off of each other.  Ben Stiller plays the part of the average guy who continually can’t catch a break and Robert De Niro is an excellent antagonist. I’ve heard people say that this film was frustrating because Ben Stiller’s character gets such a raw deal but I found the progression of Greg Focker’s misfortune to be absolutley hilarious. This is a very funny film and is a perfect film to cozy up to and watch over the holidays.

Technical

The video quality in this Blu-ray release was excellent. Colors tend to be on the natural side with relaxed and realistic colors for the people and environments in the film.  Colors have average saturation and don’t pop out artificially.  The contrast in the film is good though and most scenes have good depth. Most of the content takes place around the daytime and there are relatively few dark scenes in the film.  All in all this is an excellent transfer of film to Blu-ray.

While this film is mostly dialogue and soundtrack, the audio presented in DTS 5.1 Master Audio has impeccable quality and makes the Blu-ray release of the film the preferred version to buy if you don’t own this movie already.

Extras

Extras include commentaries featuring the director as well as director, some of the cast, and producer, a behind the scenes production, deleted scenes with/without commentary, outtakes, a clip of Robert De Niro singing which sounds like a drunkard was given a microphone, a clip about how polygraph machines work, a clip about how pet trainers achieve there results on the set of a movie, a psychadelic techno clip sequence of images of the director Jay Roach, and additional BD-Live content. Some of these clips were entertaining and are fun additions for fans of the film.

“Meet The Fockers” (Blu-ray) – Reviewed by Tyler Stripko

movie-december-2010-meet-the-fockers

Synopsis

In this sequel to the hugely successful “Meet the Parents,” Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) and Pam Brynes (Teri Polo) are back in action.  In preparation for their wedding Greg and Pam invite Jack and Dina Byrnes (Robert De Niro and Blythe Danner) to meet Greg’s rather unconventional parents, Bernie and Rozlin Focker (Dustin Hoffman and Barbara Streisand).   As can be expected things don’t go well, as the two families quickly find their vastly different lifestyles at odds.

Specifications

  • Universal Pictures
  • 2004, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 56 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Codec: VC-1
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro, Teri Polo, Blythe Danner, Dustin Hoffman, Barbara Streisand
  • Directed by Jay Roach
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: Suggestive
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

While not as good as “Meet the Parents,” “Meet the Fockers” is still a pretty funny movie.   I’m not a big Ben Stiller fan, but it seems like he was born to play the role of Greg (Gaylord) Focker.  The rest of the cast plays their roles well, though the characters of Bernie and Roz seem to be a bit far-fetched.  While “Meet the Parents” excelled because it showed the daunting and often harsh reality of meeting your soon-to-be in-laws for the first time, “Meet the Fockers” takes that scenario just a bit too far.  Many of the situations appear to be forced in order to try and get a laugh out of the audience.  As a result some of the humor falls flat.  The scenes involving Jack Junior are also unnecessary.    I’m not sure why they even felt the need to add that character to the film as it just distracts from the true heart of the plot; the relationship between the Brynes and the Fockers.

Technical

I saw “Meet the Fockers” when it was first released on DVD and remember it being a pretty good looking disc.  The Blu-ray is a definite step up in quality though.  The image is sharp, with nice contrast and fairly vibrant colors.  Saturation is strong, and suits the tropical Florida setting where most of the movie  takes place.   My only minor gripe is that there is a moderate amount of film grain and the occasional speck or sparkle that keeps this from being a truly great transfer.   Audio is solid as well.  Dialogue is very clear and the soundtrack rings through when called for.  Surrounds and the LFE are used sparingly, but are appropriate for a comedy like this.

Extras

Included on the disc are deleted scenes, bloopers, a behind-the-scenes with Jinx the cat, an expose’ on the “Manary Gland,” a Fockers’ Family Portrait, a featurette on handling babies on-set, Matt Lauer’s interview with the cast, and a feature commentary.

“Hunter Prey” (DVD) – Reviewed by Tyler Stripko

movie-december-2010-hunter-prey

Synopsis

After the crash of their spacecraft on a barren desert planet, the surviving crew members of the Prometheus must track down a prisoner who has escaped from the wreckage.   However, the prisoner turns out to be far more dangerous than any of the soldiers expected and the hunters quickly become the prey.

Specifications

  • Maya Entertainment
  • 2010, Color, Not Rated, 1 Hr 28 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Codec: MPEG-2
  • 480i
  • English 5.1 Dolby Digital
  • Starring: Isaac C Singleton Jr, Clark Bartram, Damion Poitier, Simon Potter, Erin Gray
  • Directed by Sandy Collora
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: None
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

“Hunter Prey” is the first full-length feature from Sandy Collora, the guy who made the much praised short film “Batman: Dead End.”  Frankly, I didn’t think “Batman: Dead End” was all that special (okay, it did have Batman, the Joker, Aliens, and Predators in it – and they all fight), but given the current state of sci-fi/comic movies I guess it could be considered better than average.   I don’t know what the budget was for this film, but it must have been really small.  The “sets” are nothing more than empty desert and the few CGI scenes are pretty sad.  The alien costumes and makeup looked like an amateur effort out of film school to my eyes.  The uniforms of the soldiers are a blatant rip-off of Boba Fett and there are numerous cues to “Enemy Mine” (Dracs), “Battlestar Galactica” (the frak you say?), and other sci-fi classics.    I know that I should be more kind to independent filmmakers such as Collora who show promise, so I’ll now focus on the good stuff.   The story prods along slowly for the first half of the film but gradually picks up in the second half.  There are some interesting plot turns which I rather enjoyed and there is a good moral conundrum thrown into the mix.  The acting was surprisingly good considering the trite dialogue.  The action scenes are entertaining, though the elite soldiers from the Prometheus seem to be lacking much in the way of military tactics (or common sense).   The ending leaves the story unfinished and begging for a sequel.    Die-hard sci-fi fans will probably find a viewing worth their time.

Technical

Considering the budget nature of this movie, the picture quality was excellent.  The image was incredibly sharp for a DVD.  Colors were nicely saturated and contrast was excellent.  There are a few shots that wash out a bit in the bright desert sun, but considering the shooting conditions that is hardly a surprise.  There were quite a few shots that looked almost high-def.  Sound quality was not quite as good as the picture, but it was still much better than I expected.  The drum heavy soundtrack had great weight and clarity.  Dialogue is clear for the most part, though there were some scenes that were a bit muffled.  Surround use is adequate and is often used to highlight the swirling winds of the desert.

Extras

Included on the disc are a director’s commentary and a making-of featurette.

“Flipped” (Blu-ray) – Reviewed by Tyler Stripko

movie-december-2010-flipped

Synopsis

When young Bryce Loski moves into his new neighborhood, he is instantly greeted by the girl across the street, Juli Baker.  Though only in the second grade, young Juli has decided that Bryce will be her first kiss.  Bryce feels that Juli is annoying and just a little bit odd, so he spends the next few years doing everything he can to avoid her.   As the pair prepare to graduate junior high, Bryce finally begins to see just how special Juli Baker is while Juli begins to doubt her devotion to Bryce.

Specifications

  • Warner Brothers
  • 2010, Color, Rated PG, 1 Hr 30 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Madeline Carroll, Callan McAuliffe, Rebecca De Mornay, Anthony Edwards, John Mahoney
  • Directed by Rob Reiner
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: None
  • Sex: None
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

I don’t recall seeing any trailers or advertisements for this film when it was released in theaters.  This is a real shame, because this movie is far more deserving of your $10 movie ticket than most of garbage being released today.  The story does a wonderful job of making the viewer remember their formative years, particularly that girl/boy you loved to hate when you were little but grew quite fond of once you got older.  The story is wonderfully simple, and the well-acted characters just help the movie reach you on an emotional level.  Anthony Edwards’ role as Bryce’s father Steven is possibly some of his best work ever, as he does a fantastic job of making the character an emotionless jerk.  You really start to hate him until you learn why he is so unhappy with life.  I loved how the story was primarily set in 1963, which helped to add a sense of nostalgia and innocence to everything.   Highly recommended.

Technical

Flipped is presented with a wonderful film-like quality.  The image is sharp without being over-processed and contrast and image depth are very good.  Colors are slightly muted in what appears to be an attempt to fit with the late 50s/early 60s setting.  There is a nice touch of film grain, but no other artifacts to speak of.  Personally, I thought the overall look of the film helped bring me further into the experience, so high marks are deserved here.  The 5.1 DTS-Master Audio soundtrack is certainly not bombastic, but it also helps further the film’s message.  Dialogue is very clear and the music score punches through when called for.  Surround use is subtle, but added nice ambient effects which further envelop the viewer.

Extras

Included on this Blu-ray disc are a few featurettes, three of them exclusive to the Blu-ray release.  There are segments on the filming of the first kiss between the leads, a how-to on building your own erupting volcano, a look into using live chickens for film, and a behind-the-scenes look at the lead actors and director.   There is also a second disc which includes a DVD and Digital Copy of the film.

“Despicable Me” (Blu-ray) – Reviewed by Jim Clements

movie-december-2010-despicable-me

Synopsis

In a happy suburban neighborhood with its white picket fences and flowering rose bushes, there is a black house with a dead lawn. Hidden beneath this home is a vast secret hideout. Along with his army of minions, the evil Gru (Steve Carell) is planning the biggest heist in the history of the world. He is going to steal the moon! Armed with his arsenal of shrink rays, freeze rays, and battle-ready vehicles for land and air, he vanquishes all who stand in his way including his young and amitious nemesis, Vector (Jason Segal). Along the way, he encounters three little orphaned girls who look at him and see something that no one else has ever seen: a potential Dad. The world’s greatest villain has just met his greatest challenge: three little girls named Margo, Edith and Agnes.

Specifications

  • Universal Pictures
  • 2010, Color, Rated PG, 1 Hr 35 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Steve Carell, Jason Segal
  • Directed by Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: None
  • Language: None

Commentary

This turned out to be a very enjoyable film for anybody who is young at heart.  Many of the plot elements are riotously funny.  Take the Bank of Evil, for example.  I’ve always wondered how movie villians fund their world-domination schemes.  Well now I know that a burgeoning villian can apply for a loan from the Bank of Evil.  It’s downright diabolical!  I also delighted in the various and unique cars, planes and rockets that the villians used in their conquests. The three little orphan girls, lead by Margo (Miranda Cosgrove) were super cute as well.  They were easy to connect with emotionally. Also, the movie benefits from excellent casting and voice acting. A common criticism of modern Hollywood productions is that the plot is a far too predicatble and Despicable Me suffers this fate to a large extent as well.

Technical

The world of Gru is an imaginary place such that the colors are intentionally cartoonish. As a result, this movie has a wide color gamut for your HDTV. Fine details in the picture (when present) are preserved well on this Blu-Ray. The sound is very lively throughout and will work your subs at every twist and turn. Still, the voices remained legible regardless of the amount of action that was going on. The Bee Gees’ “You Should Be Dancing” comes on near the close of the film and sounded very good with great extension at both frequency extremes with a tight, clean bass line.

Extras

This package includes three short films starring the minions: “Orientation Day”, “Home Makeover” and “Banana”. These were very funny and entertaining shorts. The package contained two other discs, the DVD and the Digital Copy Disc.  Other extras include Gru Control where Gru and Vector embellish the film by battling for control of your TV, Pocket Blu which includes access to the bonus content via your smart phone as well as two iPad/iPhone games, a Commentary by Directors Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin with the Minions, the Voices of Despicable Me (16:34), the World of Despicable Me (15:16), A Global Effort (3:23) and several interactive features.

“The Secret Life of the American Teenager Vol. 5” (DVD) – Reviewed by Jim Clements

movie-december-2010-secret-life-of-an-american-teenager

Synopsis

Amy (Shailene Woodley) and Ben (Ken Bauman) try to rekindle their romance, but things get complicated when Ben discovers Adrian (Francia Raisa) is pregnant with his child. As Adrian agonizes over whether to keep the baby, Ben struggles to tell Amy the truth. Relationships are pushed to the limit and life-changing decisions are made in this modern-day teen drama set in Southern California among students at Ulysses S. Grant High.

Specifications

  • ABC Family
  • 2008, Color, Rated TV-14, 602 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 (DVD)
  • Codec: MPEG-2
  • 480i/p
  • English Dolby Digital
  • Starring:Molly Ringwall, Shailene Woodley
  • Directed by Anson Williams
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
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  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

This is essentially a soap opera for teens.  The big teen secret is revealed straight away and the secret is sex. The main story arcs are virtually all about teen sex, birth control, unwed pregnancy, abortion and the interplay among the various principals. Lots of emotional dialog plays out among the characters. The series does not have an MPAA rating, but the TV rating of 14 is about right. I suggest that parents pay close attention to the subject matter before letting their little ones watch this series.  Don’t be fooled by the fact that this series originally aired on ABC Family. The writing is generally decent but with variable acting from the ensemble cast. The series leaves you wishing for more variety in the subject matter. For example, the story could have given more attention to Amy’s experience at band camp in New York.

Technical

The episodes are presented anamorphically in a 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio on this DVD boxed set. The colors are lifelike and stable. The picture has reasonably good resolution for a DVD. The whites are generally blown out in much of the daylight scenes. The menus are colorful. On the audio side, voices are clean and clear. Music is sparsely presented and is limited in its response at the frequency extremes. There are virtually no audio special effects that would test your sub or surrounds.

Extras

On set with Director Anson Willams (a/k/a “Potsy” from Happy Days), On Set Fist Bumps with Joey and Matthew, On Set with Shailene and On Set with Luke.  All extras are non-anamorphic.

“Step Up” (3D) (Blu-ray) – Reviewed by Adrian Wittenberg

movie-december-2010-step-up-3D

Synopsis

Moose (Adam Sevani) had given up dancing when he was enrolled as a freshman to NYU where he would pursue a degree in engineering.  Shortly after arriving to NYU he accidentally stumbles his way in the middle of a hip-hop dance battle where he is challenged.  Moose rises to the challenge and publicy defeats a member of the Samurai Clan, one of the premier hip-hop dance crews in the city.  The other premier hip-hop dance crew called The Pirates, takes notice of Moose’s abilities and recruits him into their crew so they can win a large sum of money in a major dance battle competition and in the process save their dance studio from being sold off.  Moose must now try and balance his studies with his passion for hip-hop dance as he trains with The Pirates and tries to maintain passing grades at NYU.

Specifications

  • Disney / Buena Vista
  • 2010, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 47 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Starring: Sharni Vinson, Rick Malambri, Adam G. Sevani, Alyson Stoner, Harry Shum Jr.
  • Directed by Jon Chu
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
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  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

I have never seen a dance movie that has had as much amazing choreography and talent as this one has.  In particular, the Battle of Red Hook robotic ending sequence combined with the stellar sound effects and soundtrack the movie has is about as cool as a hip-hop dance sequence can get.  The film has a cookie cutter plot which has been used countless times in films and it revolves around trying to save a dance studio by entering a dance competition with a high dollar prize.  The story was ridiculous at times ( Being hip-hop accosted in a restroom comes to mind).  The story, acting, and plot provide only a mildly amusing experience but the dance choreography, cinematography, visuals, and sound transform this into a highly entertaining movie.  In 2D the dance sequences in the film have stellar impact and in 3D, it’s like watching an entirely different presentation.  Dancing turns out to be an excellent subject for 3D representation because it allows us to see the dance choreography with more respect to the dancer’s individual space.  In 3D we can see the dancers move from the background to the foreground as well as side to side which gives you a sense of the space where all of them are moving together.  The 3D effects in this film are very entertaining and make this title an excellent addition to a 3D movie collection.

Technical

There is very good color and detail throughout the film with a warm and natural presentation.  There is a high level of depth in the darker scenes as well as excellent detail present in the city scenes as well as the elaborate dance sequences.  3D seperation between the dancers is excellent and the effects are used effectively and judiciously.

Extras

Extras include music videos, making of the music videos, deleted scene and extra dance sequences, and Born from a Boombox, a documentary style mini film that features interviews with the dancers from the movie.

“The Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole  ” (Blu-ray) – Reviewed by Adrian Wittenberg

movie-december-2010-legend-of-the-guardians-3D

Synopsis

Young owls, Soren (Jim Sturgess) and Kludd (Ryan Kwanten) are easily impressed by stories from their father about the legendary guardian owls of Ga’Hoole.  One day in their adventures, they mistakenly fall far from their home in the tree and are abducted by other owls and taken to an owl slave camp where young owls are hypnotized to become part of a far more evil owl plan.  With some help from some renegade owls and the possibility of locating the guardian owls of Ga’Hoole, there might be a glimpse of hope for owlkind.

Specifications

  • Warner Bros. 2010, Color, Rated PG, 1 Hr 37 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Starring: Jim Sturgess, Hugo Weaving, David Wenham
  • Directed by Zack Snyder
    Rating
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  • Extras:
  • Violence: Animated Violence involving Birds of Prey
  • Sex: None
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

This movie could have featured any animal species in a similar fashion and never really made any kind of a connection with me in terms of why it focused around owls.  The film is long and drawn out and comes short of delivering any kind of meaningful experience from the story elements.  Young children might be delighted by this type of story but I found it rather stale.  On the other hand, both the CG effects as well as the 3D effects of the film are simply stunning and make it into a title that is good to showcase 3D technology

Technical

This film has truly incredible CG effects and the image is flawless throughout its entirety.  The 3D effects in the film look impeccable and are artfully designed and give a feeling of immersion in the environment.  The 3D looks as good as it does because the character models have an incredible amount of detail.  Watching this film in 3D becomes completely entertaining because it makes the creatures look so life like.  Audio is presented in DTS 5.1 HD Master Audio and is top notch throughout.  The film’s storyline provides ample opportunity to entertain the viewer with spacious surround sound effects and climactic action scenes and is sure to run any sound system through its paces.

Extras

Extras include children’s activities such as games or owl dress up, information about owls, artwork gallery, and music videos.

“Frenemy” (DVD) – Reviewed by Tyler Stripko

movie-december-2010-frenemy

Synopsis

Mr. Jack (Matthew Modine) and his cohort Sweet Stephan (Callum Blue), are two friends with a very interesting take on life.  After witnessing the murder of a friend, the two begin to question how they survived.

Specifications

  • Lionsgate 2009, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 20 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Codec: MPEG-2
  • 480i
  • English 5.1 Dolby Digital
  • Starring: Matthew Modine, Callum Blue
  • Directed by Gregory Dark
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
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  • Audio:
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  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: Suggestive
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

You have no idea how hard it was to write the two sentence plot synopsis above.  The reason:  there really is no plot.  “Frenemy” is nothing more than a bunch of boring, long winded, drawn out scenes that attempt to connect a very vague story together.  Judging by the cover, you’d think that Zach Galifinakis has a major role in this movie.  He does not.  He has about a 15-minute part as a drug dealer/porn shop owner which is about the only entertaining scene in this movie.  Matthew Modine is simply annoying in his role as Mr. Jack with what can only be described as one of the worst British (or is it Australian, New Zealand, or South African?) accents in film history.  Having the character “act” English adds absolutely nothing to the storyline, so I don’t know why the director didn’t have Modine speak naturally when it was blatantly obvious that the accent just wasn’t working.   Callum Blue turns in a decent acting performance as Sweet Stephan, but with the rest of the movie being such a train wreck, it just doesn’t matter.  Don’t waste your time with this one.

Technical

The picture quality on this DVD runs from poor to very good.  Certain scenes are crisp and sharp, while others are poorly focused and blurry.  The color palette ranges as well, from dull and washed out to nicely saturated and accurate.  This was obviously someone’s intent, but I have no idea what they were trying to convey with the choices.   The 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack is adequate, with clear dialogue (not that you want to hear it) and the occasional use of the surround channels.

Extras

There are a few trailers included on the disc.

“Devil” (Blu-ray) – Reviewed by Tyler Stripko

movie-december-2010-devil

Synopsis

Shortly after an apparent suicide, five complete strangers find themselves riding in the express elevator in a Philadelphia skyscraper.   On the way to the top, the elevator dies and the five passengers quickly begin feeling paranoid.  Once the lights begin to flicker it becomes apparent that someone, or something, is in the elevator with them and it intends for all of them to die.

Specifications

  • Universal 2010, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 21 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Codec: VC1
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Chris Messina, Logan Marshall-Green, Geoffrey Arend, Bojana Novakovic, Jenny O’Hara, Bokeem Woodbine, Jacob Vargas
  • Directed by John Erick Dowdle
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
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  • Violence: Moderate
  • Sex: None
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

After the string of bombs with the name M. Night Shyamalan attached to them, I didn’t have high expectations for “Devil.”  However, I was pleasantly surprised.  The first half of the movie slowly ratchets up the tension, feeding the viewer just enough to keep them on their toes.   There is just enough character development to make you feel for the characters while still retaining an air of mystery as you wonder what each of these people has done to deserve a place at “The Devil’s Meeting.”  The second half of the film clues you in to these little details slowly while the film builds to its climax.  The acting was solid and the pacing felt just about right.  The second act of the film seemed to lose some of the suspense built earlier, but the ending is still satisfying.  The gore is kept to a tasteful minimum, which is rare for a horror/suspense film these days.

Technical

Picture quality on this disc is solid.  The image is clean and sharp, befitting the recent production.  There is good depth to the image and colors are nicely saturated.  The color palette has been tweaked towards the cool/blue end of the spectrum, but I kind of liked it.  My only real complaint is that black levels appear to have been elevated a bit.  Blacks never appear truly “inky” and they seem to have a processed look to them.  The intro scene in the coffee shop shows this perfectly.  Look at the dark suit and hair of Detective Bowden and you’ll see what I mean.  The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack has great dynamic range, with the powerful score hitting very hard when called for.  Surround use is infrequent, but is used effectively.  Dialogue is perfectly clear throughout the film.

Extras

Included on the disc are deleted scenes and brief featurettes on the story itself, the premise behind “The Devil’s Meeting,” and Shyamalan’s “Night Chronicles” series.  The deleted scenes would have added little to the film and the featurettes are nothing more than extended commercials/trailers for the film.  The disc is also D-Box and BD-Live enabled.

“Boy Meets World, the Complete Fourth Season” (DVD) – Reviewed by Jim Clements

movie-december-2010-boy-meets-world-season-4

Synopsis

Boy Meets World, Season 4 is a classic coming of age tale spun around the life of Cory Matthews (Ben Savage) who is living out his senior year at John Adams High School in Philadelphia. Along for the ride are his best friend, his older brother and his girlfriend since before the age of 1, Topanga (Danielle Fishel). Although Cory and Topanga are back together, Topanga’s possible move to Pittsburgh could jeopardize their long-term relationship.  Look on as they dream of their future while making the most out of their time together.

Specifications

  • Lionsgate
  • 2006, Color, Not Rated, 528 mins
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Codec: MPEG2
  • 480i
  • English 2.0 Dolby Digital
  • Starring: Ben Savage, Rider Strong, Danielle Fishel and Will Friedle
  • Directed by Jeff McKracken
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: None
  • Sex: None
  • Language: None

Commentary

The overall production quality in this series is very rudimentary, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that this is a decent story that is well told. In general, the acting is very solid throughout all 22 episodes of this delightful sitcom. I have always been a Ben Savage fan and Boy Meets World just helps to reinforce that sentiment. But the credit goes beyond Ben to many of the other cast members. Danielle Fishel as Topanga is simply cute as a button. And special mention must also go to Willam Daniels, the veteran Emmy Award-winning actor, who plays Cory’s teacher and neighbor, Mr. Feeny. This series is full of heart and has made a believer out of me.

Technical

The discs in this set are mastered in a full screen format. This program was originally shot on video for the 1996/97 television series. Be that as it may, my major criticism is that this discs have the unfortunate combination of very prominent compression artifacts and seriously over done edge enhancement.  The muted colors and washed out picture don’t even begin to approach the limits set out by the NTSC specifications. Too bad the set doesn’t have optimimum quality for the format. The audio was only a little better. The set is mastered in Dolby Digital 2.0. While not at all live sounding, the voices are nevertheless clear and intelligible. The occsional music is limited in bandwidth, but maintains a polite and listenable presentation.

Extras

There are no extras in this boxed set.

“Madea’s Family Reunion” (Blu-ray) – Reviewed by Adrian Wittenberg

movie-december-2010-madea's-family-reunion

Synopsis

Madea (Tyler Perry) is a fiesty spirited elderly woman who is sentenced to look after an unruly foster child.  Madea also has a couple of nieces that are troubled in their personal relationships.  One of her nieces is stuck in a physically abusive relationship and the other niece has been abused in the past and finds it difficult to trust again.  Madea and her family learn valuable lessons of life as everybody tries to find some peace and happiness.

Specifications

  • Lionsgate
  • 2010, Color, PG-13, 1 Hr 47 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • 1080p
  • English Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1
  • Starring: Tyler Perry, Blair Underwood, Lynn Whitfield, Boris Kodjoe
  • Directed by Tyler Perry
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
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  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Suggestive
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

Madea is a likeable character and there were times during this movie that were amusing but overall I think the story is far better suited to live theater than on the big screen.  Without any familiarty of the characters or emotional connection to the hard knocks values in the film, this movie takes far too long to develop and delivers only minor satisfaction by the end of the story.

Technical

The image quality on the film is good with vibrant colors and good contrast and detail throughout.  Flesh tones look a little on the warm side.

The sound quality of the film was good with voices sounding exceptionally clear throughout the whole film.  This being a dialogue driven film, there is very little in the way of surround sound effects.

Extras

Special Features include; Madea Mania, From Stage to Screen, Transforming Tyler, Deleted Scenes, More Deleted Scenes, Photo Gallery, Commentary, The Making of Madea’s Family Renuion, Making the Music, Gaither Plantation, Marriage Madea Style.