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Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - June, 2012

ARTICLE INDEX

"Erin Brockovich" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - June, 2012

Synopsis

This is the true story of a down-on-her-luck secretary who after begging for a job at an LA law firm, became the central figure in the single largest direct-action lawsuit in US history. Early in her tenure at a law firm owned by Ed Masury (Finney), Brockovich (Roberts) learns of a case where the local power company was attempting to buy property around its Hinckley plant in California. Digging a little deeper, she discovered many residents had become ill with various forms of cancer thanks to the existence of toxic chemicals in the water supply. After getting over 600 people to participate in the lawsuit, Pacific Gas & Electric settled for $333 million dollars. With no formal law or business training, Erin Brockovich became a leading advocate for environmental protection.

Specifications

  • Universal
  • 2000, Color, Rated R, 2 hrs 12 mins
  • Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: VC-1
  • English, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Starring: Julia Roberts, Albert Finney, Aaron Eckhart
  • Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

This is a fascinating story and well worth watching. I had seen this film on DVD years ago and I really enjoyed watching it again on this new Blu-ray release. Julia Roberts won a Best Actress Oscar for her performance, and it is well-deserved. It also received nominations for Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Picture. The production quality of this film is outstanding in every way, even down to the sets which effectively recreate the early 1990s to a T. This is a must-add to any video library.

Technical

The look of the movie is typical of Steven Soderbergh's work; a super-warm, almost flat color palette. Since it takes place in Southern California, I can't argue but I think the image lacks vibrancy. There is a fair amount of edge enhancement present which detracts from the smoothness of the image. Detail is well-rendered and contrast is nice and deep. There is very little dark material but what there is shows good shadow detail and nice black levels.

There isn't much opportunity for your surround system to do its thing here since the film is dialog-driven. Ambient sound effects are sparse as well. The DTS-MA encode is nice and clean with as much detail as was present in the original mix. The music by Thomas Newman plays its part creating the feel of the early 90s and nicely enhances the overall production quality.

Extras

Bonus features include a making-of featurette, a 4-minute interview with the real Erin Brockovich and Ed Masury, 18 deleted scenes and a trailer. Also included are two featurettes about the 100th anniversary of Universal Pictures. The package I received had both Blu-ray and DVD versions of the film and a code for digital copy.

 

 


"Safe House" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Stephen Hornbrook

Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - June, 2012

Synopsis

An ex-CIA agent, Tobin Frost (Denzel), has acquired a top secret data file from an MI6 agent, but as he leaves the exchange is attacked by local mercenaries and is forced to enter the American consulate for safety. Knowing the value of this once CIA agent now criminal, he is moved to a secret safe house until he can be properly extradited to the US. Ryan Renold's character, Matt Weston is the housekeeper, basically an low-level agent that sits around doing nothing until a guest like Tobin comes along. Things quickly escalate as their "safe" house is breached by mercenaries, leaving only Weston and Frost alive and able to escape. Something is fishy though, no one should have known the location of the safe house, unless there is a leak in the CIA. Weston tries to keep Frost as his prisoner, but loses the masterful agent many times with both of their lives in danger.

Specifications

  • Universal Pictures
  • 2012, Color, R, 115 Minutes
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • 1080p AVC
  • English DTS-HD MA 5.1
  • Starring: Denzel Washington, Ryan Renolds
  • Directed by Daniel Espinosa
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

Directed by Swedish newcomer Daniel Espinosa, Safe House takes on a definite Tony Scott feel. The photography is colorful and contrast is pushed in many shots with plenty of film grain to give the movie some style. Both Denzel and Ryan offer some decent performances, but nothing Oscar worthy. The movie tries to be sneaky and suspenseful, but it doesn't have any payoff in the end. That moment where everything in the previous hour and a half just snaps into clear focus. It kept me entertained and the well choreographed fight scenes are probably enough to lightly recommend this film.

Technical

The 2.40 scope picture on Safe House is a live with color and pop. Espinosa doesn't go for a natural look to this film and sometimes that can make it difficult to judge the picture quality. Given the amount of detail and amount of film grain, I don't doubt this Blu-ray looks the way Espinosa intended. It is a solid transfer.

Audio on this DTS-HD MA encode is good, but nothing special.

Extras

U-Control picture-in-picture track
Featurettes: Making of Safe House, Hand-to-Hand combat, Shooting the Attack, Building the Rooftop Chase, Behind the Action, Inside the CIA, Safe Harbor Cape Town

 

 


"John Carter" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Adrian Wittenberg

Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - June, 2012

Synopsis

John Carter (Taylor Kitsch), a Civil War calvalryman finds himself telported to the world of Barsoom from a strange artifact held by a mysterious individual. As John explorers the world he discovers that his physical abilities are far greater due to the the planets weaker gravitational forces. John comes across a tall alien race called the Thark who want John to fight for their cause because of his abilities. Meanwhile two warring cities seek to rule the planet for different purposes. Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins), the scientist and beautiful princess of the city of Helium is close to unraveling the mysteries of an powerful energy source that can help her people. When she comes into contact and is rescued by John Carter, she sees John as someone who can potentially fight for her people and bring good things to their withering planet.

Specifications

  • Disney
  • 2012, Color, PG-13, 132 Min
  • Aspect Ratio
  • Codec
  • 1080P 3D
  • English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Willem Dafoe, James Purefoy, Samantha Morton
  • Directed by Andrew Stanton
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

This film uses a popular theme that involves a planet with strange inhabitants and a brave hero who is faced with making tough decisions. This film was fun to watch and is nothing too serious. The lead characters scratch the surface of a flirtatious romance and the storyline features a light hearted adventure although the pacing can be tedious at times. The film has the big task of making a planet with alien creatures believable and the CG of the film rises to the challenge with some extraordinary special effects and blends with real scenery that were part of the film's approximate 250 million dollar budget. The vast landscapes used in the film and the combination of the CG are the most interesting aspect of the 3D elements of the film. The scenery looks fantastic and the 3D effects can at times make them seem larger than life. The action sequences such as the arena fight scene or flying ship scenes frequently utilize three dimensional elements that add some depth to the scenes and add some novelty to the action. John Carter didnít fare as well as expected in U.S theaters and even though the special effects, costumes, and sets were glorious, there was nothing about the acting or the story that broke ground or hadnít been seen before in the last couple of years. It's not especially easy to make acting together with a CG species meaningful and it comes down to how likeable the characters are. I felt that the Thark characters looked too whimsical and lacked charisma for me to care about them (Less Jar Jar Binks please). Overall, the John Carter 3d Blu-ray is a fun release for the family and would be an entertaining disc to enjoy 3D effects on a new 3D flat panel television.

Technical

This disc is a top notch transfer with excellent video quality. The film features mostly desert scenery with warmer tones that are moderately vibrant in saturation. The film has excellent contrast with deep blacks and will look awesome on any modern screen. The film maintains excellent detail and is not plagued with edge enhancement. 3D implementation was free from major issues like ghosting and effects that were CG generated were effective. The scenes that were shot in 2D and then converted to 3D added some depth but not as much as would be found if the scenes were shot natively in 3D The sound quality from the lossless DTS 7.1 Master Audio track left nothing to be desired giving the home theater system a full workout from all the speakers.

Extras

Standard fare for extras with some behind the scenes footage, bloopers, and a tribute to Edgar Rice Burroughs and his stories that inspired this film.

 

 


"Love Never Dies" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Clements

Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - June, 2012

Synopsis

Filmed at Melbourne's Regent Theater, this lavish production picks up the story of the Phantom of the Opera ten years after he was presumed killed in the fire that destroyed the Opera Populaire. As it turns out, the Phantom did not die in the fire in Paris. Instead, he escaped and made his way to Coney Island where he created a successful career writing music for his performaing arts troupe called the "Phantasma".

The show opens with the Phantom realizing that he can no longer continue his creative streak without his muse (and lost lover), Christine Daae. So he lures Christine, her insipid husband Raul and their 10 year old son Gustave to Coney Island. What will become of the reunion between the fiery lovers when Christine enters the world of The Phantom once again?

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 2012, Color, Not Rated, 2 hrs 1min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master and 2.0 Dolby Digital
  • Starring: Ben Lewis, Anna O'Byrne, Maria Mercedes, Simon Gleeson and Sharon Millerchip
  • Directed by: Simon Phillips
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: Implied
  • Language: No

Commentary

The most impressive elements of this Blu-ray center around the overall production and audio quality. The sets are amazingly detailed and stylistic without a single obvious flaw in their design or execution. And they seamlessly transition from scene to scene. The wardrobe and makeup are similarly specatacular, especially with the oddball characters who are part of The Phantom's entertainment troupe. It is pure eye candy, even though it wasn't captured or transferred to disc up to the possibilities of today's technology. I was very entertained by singing performances while the voices and musical accompaniment were conveyed with excellent dynamics and low distortion. I tip my hat to Andrew Lloyd Webber for sticking with a dark tone throughout, but I sadly found the story to be a little thin and there wasn't any one song that I went around humming the next day like I do after every time I watch the original Phantom of the Opera. All in all, I was entertained over the entire expanse of the show and I will watch it again whenever I'm in the mood for a light diversion.

Technical

When I recently reveiwed "The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall", I said that the picture quality was so good, that "I sat there agog throughout the whole show." This was not the case with Love Never Dies. The picture quality is passable but is hampered by soft focus in long shots and other random scenes. Much of this is apparently due to the show being shot with a wide aperture and the dark lighting of many scenes also contributed to a limited dynamic range. But I still give it 4 stars because there are planty of nice-looking close ups. The audio is a little better and I found the voice reproduction to be stellar while the sound of the otrchestra was balanced and clean. It just lacked that last bit of sparkle that would make me feel that I'm in a live performance.

Extras

This disc has but one extra, a short documentary called "The Making of Love Never Dies". Presented in 1080p HD, it covers the story behind the production including the sets and the director's vision to portray the Coney Island of the day with a cinematic flair.

 

 


"The Sting" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - June, 2012

Synopsis

Winner of seven Academy Awards including Best Picture, Director, and Screenplay, this critical and box-office hit from 1973 provided a perfect reunion for stars Paul Newman and Robert Redford, who previously delighted audiences with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Set in 1936, the movie's about a pair of Chicago con artists (Newman and Redford ) who find themselves in a high-stakes game against the master of all cheating mobsters (Shaw) when they set out to avenge the murder of a mutual friend and partner. Using a bogus bookie joint as a front for their con of all cons, the two feel the heat from the Chicago Mob on one side and encroaching police on the other. But in a plot that contains more twists than a treacherous mountain road, the ultimate scam is pulled off with consummate style and panache.

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • Actors: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Robert Shaw
  • Directors: George Roy Hill
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Audio: DTS MA 5.1
  • Video: MPEG 4 1080P
  • Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Some Blood
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

Newman and Redford had wonderful chemistry when they worked together. This excellent film is complimented by so many great actors, intricate scripting and delightful musical score (ala Scott Joplin). With just the right mix of action, humor and danger, this movie is one that I have watched many times before. And will gladly watch again. If you have never seen this movie, you need to put it on your "to do" list and see if the ending doesn't leave you astonished.

Technical

This re-master from Universal looks stunning, but not perfect. Only a few shots are somewhat out of focus, but this is most likely due to the original film and not a BD issue. Colors are vibrant and punchy, with skin tones looking natural. Some dark scenes exhibit a bit of crush and film grain is a bit thick in some scenes as well. Overall, the picture is very clean and much more enjoyable than the DVD counter-part. Sound is excellent with the dialog well presented up front. Not a lot of work for the sub to do during most of this flick. The music is wonderful.

Extras

Three-part The Art of the Sting documentary, Three 100 Years of Universal featurettes: The Lot, The '70s, and Restoring the Classics and a theatrical trailer. DVD and digital copy are included.

 

 


"Women in Black" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - June, 2012

Synopsis

Radcliffe plays Arthur Kipps, a young solicitor tasked with resolving the affairs of a recently deceased woman and her brooding estate in the gloom of the remote Victorian England-era village of Crythin Gifford . The mood is melancholic all around, starting with Kipps himself, who lost his wife to childbirth a few years earlier. When he arrives in the small village, the icy response he receives does not bode well for successful completion of his mission. All the townspeople want him gone, and possibly for good reason. Many of their children have died mysteriously gruesome deaths that they blame on the titular black-clad woman whose own child was tragically sucked to his death in the muck surrounding her seaside mansion.

Specifications

  • Actors: Daniel Radcliffe, Ciarán Hinds
  • Directors: James Watkins
  • Format: DTS HD-Master Audio 5.1
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: CBS Films and Hammer Films
  • Run Time: 95 minutes
  • Video: MPEG 4/1080p
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

A fairly straight forward ghost story with lots of "jumping cat" moments that'll give you a start. Radcliffe leaves Harry Potter behind and plays a believable, melancholy character. Though no new ground is broken here, I thought the film was interesting enough to watch on a rainy day. I was pleased to see Hammer Films involvement as I fondly remember their films from the 60-70's with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. The CGI is well done and the pacing made this a ghost story worth watching. It remains to be seen if this film will launch a post-Potter career, but it looks to be a good start.

Technical

I give this film high marks for picture quality. Even the dark scenes looked good. Colors are solid, but somewhat muted by the overcast skies. Radcliffe's blue eyes are almost luminous! His stubble looks like wax in a few shots, and then highly detailed in the next. The sound field was spooky and the soundtrack added to the unease. Lots of creaky old house noises in the surrounds, too.

Extras

Audio commentary, featurettes and trailer.

 

 


"Smokey and the Bandit" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - June, 2012

Synopsis

Burt Reynolds, Sally Field and Jackie Gleason are in high gear and hot water after a cross-country road challenge to deliver a truck load of Coor's beer results in one of the wildest series of car chases and crashes ever filmed. This movie spawned several sequels and more than one "hit" TV show in the 70's. Filled with zany high speed humor, this movie stands out as being the best of the car jumping genre.

Specifications

  • Studio: Universal Studios
  • Actors: Jackie Gleason, Burt Reynolds, Sally Fields, Jerry Reed
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Rated: PG
  • Video: MPEG 4/ 1080P
  • Audio: DTS-HD MA 5.1
  • Run Time: 96 minutes
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Slapstick
  • Sex: Hot pants, baby
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

In what is arguably Burt Reynolds magnum opus, this movie showcases why he was a charmer of women and a wise-cracking hero to the common man. Fields drops her Gidget persona and gets down and dirty as an escaped bride-to-be. The real star here though is Gleason, who as Buford T. Justice, adopts a character all his own. He ad libs some of the best comedic dialog of all time and always looks like he is having the time of his life. If you grew up in the 70's, you would remember that this film came in second only to Star Wars in the box office. The sales of Trans-Ams sky rocketed after this film came out. It all seems so quaint now; the tight jeans and CB lingo…but boy, this movie brings back some great memories!

Technical

Universal gives this movie a good cleaning and crisp high resolution soundtrack. Though some scenes are bit soft, but the overall appearance is nicely detailed and  sharp. Colors are very solid and accurate with only minor crushing in the darkest scenes. Dialog is clean and clear as well. The beginning of the movie starts with a semi turning over its diesel engine and it sounds awesome in 5.1 . I can not imagine this movie looking or sounding better than presented here. Recommended.

Extras

Loaded Up and Truckin': Making Smokey and the Bandit, Snowman, What's Your 20? - The Smokey and the Bandit CB Tutorial, Two 100 Years of Universal featurettes (The Lot and The '70s).

 

 


"True Blood, Season 4" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - June, 2012

Synopsis

The cavalcade of supernaturals continues in the latest season of True Blood with our introduction to a coven of witches. Lafayette and his new partner Jesus join a coven led by Marni who communes with a 400-year-old spirit from whom she draws the power of necromancy, the raising of the dead. This poses a threat to newly crowned king Bill Compton and he dispatches Eric to investigate. The witches erase Eric's memory thus beginning a new conflict between witches and vampires. Elsewhere in Bon Temps, Jason is captured by a tribe of werepanthers, Sookie learns more about her true self as a Fairy and Sam has family troubles when his younger brother Tommy kills their mother and stepfather. Tara returns from New Orleans just in time to get mixed up in the witches' activities and Arlene's new baby has a few powers of his own. It's life as usual in Bon Temps!

Specifications

  • HBO
  • 2011, Color, Not Rated, 12 hrs (12 episodes)
  • Aspect ratio: 1.78:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
  • English, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Starring: Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Sam Trammell
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

This is a show I hope will last many more seasons as it just keeps getting better. My only regret is there are only 12 episodes! The blend of action, comedy and drama is nearly perfect. The acting by all talent is simply superb and the writing never fails to entertain. I'm still amazed at Alan Ball's evolution from his work on Six Feet Under to True Blood. The two shows couldn't be more different. Despite the violence and danger, the plot never gets dark and every character whether good or evil, gives you at least one reason to root for them. Though True Blood has an ensemble cast, every person has their own slice of the world allowing their own story to unfold. This is a must-own for fans of the series thus far and if you haven't seen it before, watch the first three seasons before checking out this one.

Technical

Picture quality is near-perfect. In fact the only flaw is occasionally varying black levels. I observed this in the other seasons as well. Sometimes different cameras in the same scene will show a grayish backdrop in nighttime shots. It's noticeable enough to catch my attention but probably only a video snob like me would really care. Otherwise, contrast is deep and rich with lots of punch in the brighter material. Color is beautifully saturated and natural. Some dream sequences are shot with an extra-warm or cold palette but the image is never flat.

Audio is excellent as well with a 5.1 lossless encode courtesy of DTS. Surrounds are used sparingly as is the sub. The front soundstage is alive with frequent cross-pans and lots of great ambient effects. The music is an awesome mix of blues and country songs and accompanying material. And I still have to watch the opening credits every episode so I can hear another rendition of Jace Everett's song Bad Things.

Extras

Bonus features included two making-of featurettes, an interactive guide to various character relationships, 14 character backstories and audio commentary with cast and crew members. Also in the package is the entire season on DVD, plus a digital copy. One note, the box I received had the DVDs in cardboard sleeves which scratched the discs. They were still playable but their packaging was less than ideal. The Blu-rays were in plastic trays and much better protected from damage.

 

 


"U.S. Marshals" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - June, 2012

Synopsis

Deputy Marshal Sam Gerard is once again called to action when mysterious prisoner Mark Sheridan escapes from a plane crash while being transported to New York. Joining the team, against Gerard's better judgment, is Agent John Royce. Sheridan turns out to be quite resourceful for a mere tow truck driver and Gerard quickly learns that Sheridan is a former black ops agent who is being framed for murder. The chase ensues through swamps, city streets, a cemetary, a nursing home, and finally ends in the grain bin of a cargo ship. Gerard manages to solve the mystery surrounding Sheridan's past just in the nick of time and the story concludes with a happy ending and an interesting twist.

Specifications

  • Warner Brothers
  • 1998, Color, Not Rated, 2 hrs 11 mins
  • Aspect ratio: 1.78:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
  • English, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Wesley Snipes and Robert Downey Jr.
  • Directed by: Stuart Baird
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

This is the lesser-known sequel to The Fugitive from 1993 and is an excellent film in its own right even if it is formulaic. First we have the introduction of our fugitive, a seemingly normal tow truck driver in New York City, whose life takes a downturn when he has a traffic accident and is arrested. Then we have the escape; only this time it's a plane crash instead of a bus/locomotive encounter. The chase scenes are bigger and the action more frequent than the Harrison Ford version. It's all in good fun and the plot is pretty interesting with the added element of secret agents and international espionage. Wesley Snipes isn't the endearing character that Dr. Richard Kimble was but his spy game easily makes up for that. Tommy Lee Jones is his classic self with a grumpy exterior and a heart of gold. The members of his team, same ones as the first film save L. Scott Caldwell who is replaced by a far less interesting LaTanya Richardson, are all there to provide the perfect foil for Gerard's personality. It's a masterfully created ensemble cast. Robert Downey Jr. who plays Agent Royce looks incredibly young compared to the actor we now know as Tony Stark (Iron Man). While U.S. Marshals hasn't been as critically acclaimed as its predecessor, I found it highly entertaining and an easy add to my library.

Technical

I continue to be impressed with the increasing quality of catalog title transfers. This Blu-ray is superb. The original film is a tad soft and grainy but it's obvious an effort was made to do the best job possible. Color is rich, saturated and natural. Contrast is nice and deep and detail is the best it can be. There is no evidence of the dreaded edge enhancement; or any other artifacts for that matter. The only flaw I saw in the disc was occasionally elevated black levels. This was quite sporadic however. The image had lots of depth and pop and the 1.78 aspect made for a very immersive presentation. A note on that, the box says 1.85:1 but the disc is indeed 1.78:1.

Audio is decent but falls a bit short of reference quality. Surrounds are used well (one helicopter flyover was particularly tasty) but I really missed the basso profundo from my sub during the action scenes. Explosions and gunshots sounded compressed and almost sibilant. Dialog was nice and clear and properly placed on the screen. The music sounded awesome as well during transitional scenes. I especially enjoyed a flyover of Chicago during an orchestral interlude. Kudos goes to legendary film composer Jerry Goldsmith for another fantastic score.

Extras

Bonus features are fair with a featurette about the plane crash scene, a documentary on the U.S. Marshal's Service, director commentary and a theatrical trailer.

 

 


"The Dead" (DVD) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - June, 2012

Synopsis

An American mercenary, the sole survivor of a plane crash, has to run the gauntlet across Africa battling with the living dead. With the help of a reluctant local, he must make his way to the nearest airport and hopefully get back home to the States. Unfortunately, the zombie plague is spreading across the globe and time is running out.

Specifications

  • Starring: Rob Freeman, Prince David Oseia
  • Directed by: Howard J. Ford, Jonathan Ford
  • Runtime: 1 hour 45 minutes
  • Video: DVD 1.78:1 aspect ratio
  • Audio: DD 5.1
  • Studio: Anchor Bay
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

When I first heard about this flick by the Ford brothers, I had high expectations. I love horror movies as a genre and rumor had it that this was one of the best zombie movies in years. Alas, I was greatly disappointed. The realist in me says that a zombie can only last a week, two at the tops, in the heat of Africa . After that, they would totally decay into a pile of bones. Yet, those pesky zombies just keep on coming, day after day. Speaking of walking dead, the actors in this flick showed so little emotion; I thought they too might be zombies as well. Some of the make-up is quit good, but the clichés just keep coming: like the car is stuck in mud (in dry Africa, no less) and the zombies are coming, or you have to change a flat tire and the zombies are coming, or, "I wonder if there is a zombie hiding in this pitch dark room at the airport?". Still, even if no new ground is broken here, if you are really into zombies and are tired of Walking Dead re-runs, this movie might tie you over till the fall.

Technical

Since this is a DVD review, the picture can exhibit some crush in the shadow details. The overall movie is watchable, but it suffers from a soft picture most of the time. Skin tones tend toward orange in some of the out door scenes. It is hard to find, but the BD version is the way to go if really want the most from this film. Sound is mostly front heavy with little use for the subwoofer. Dialog is clear (including the monolog from the wise African chief who says the zombie plague is a product of man's greed and wanton destruction of Mother Nature…again with the clichés!).

Extras

Bare bones: audio commentary, deleted scenes and a featurrette.

 

 


"Cat Run" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim MIlton

Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - June, 2012

Synopsis

Hilarious, gritty and fully loaded with intense action, Cat Run stars Paz Vega (Spanglish) as a high-end call girl on the run for her life. With key evidence to the scandalous government cover-up of a shockingly horrific crime, she must rely on two bumbling private detectives to be her unlikely protectors from a deadly combination of the Mob, a corrupt US senator and a ruthlessly sadistic female assassin - all of whom will stop at nothing to hide the truth.

Specifications

  • Actors: Paz Vega, Scott Mechlowicz, Alphonso McAuley
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • DTS MA 5.1
  • Video: MPEG 4 1080P
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Universal Studios
  • Director: John Stockwell
  • Run Time: 107 minutes
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

Ugh! What a mess of a movie! A US Senator kills a prostitute at a party, so to cover up the "mishap", all dozen hookers are executed…except the one who somehow steals the tape evidence and escapes with it. How'd she know where the tape recorders are located in a mansion and has the time to think about stealing it is beyond me. The rest of the movie tries to play out like a very bad Tarantino flick with elements of brutality, nudity and unrealistic action sequences. Wait, that IS a Tarantino flick. I know that the intent was to mix humor into all of this mix as well, but believe me, it ain't funny at all. There is plenty of full frontal nudity, but that doesn't make this any easier to watch. I did like Janet McTeer as the assassin sent to kill Cat. She reminded me of Helen Mirren…only Mirren would never be caught dead in this flick.

Technical

Picture and sound are both very good. Plenty a solid color and details. The nights scenes are never murky or flat. Some of the CGI is a bit primitive, but passable. Surrounds and sub are used extensively throughout, but fail to salvage the script.

Extras

Deleted scenes, commentary and theatrical trailers.

 

 


"Act of Vengeance" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - June, 2012

Synopsis

After an unsuccessful and bloody raid in Istanbul , two Turkish anti-terrorist agents are sent to New York City on a mission to capture a notorious terrorist known only as ''Dejjal'' (Arabic for Anti-Christ). Working with the FBI and NYPD, the agents orchestrate the arrest of a suspect who may or not be the notorious Dejjal, but when events escalate, the foreign agents must take things in their own hands to avert disaster.

Specifications

  • Actors: Gina Gershon, Danny Glover, Robert Patrick
  • Directors: Mashun Kirmizigul
  • Video: MPEG 4
  • Audio: DTS-HD MA 5.1
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Rated: R
  • Studio: Millennium Entertainment
  • Run Time: 97 minutes
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

I quickly realized that the 3 American actors in this movie are basically tools used to help promote this Turkish produced film which ham-fistedly tries to show that Islam can be good or bad, depending how you use it. O.K….I get that. What I don't get is how this sluggish plot developement leaves you with any opinion other than "ho-hum". Acts of terrorism are followed by words of benevolence so you the viewer can understand that there are two sides to any assumption. (I wonder why there is an Arabic word for anti-Christ? Would it not be an anti-Mohammed?). The ending was not the wicked shocker the director was hoping for, because I knew that the peace loving guy would be eventually killed in an "act of vengeance". Rodney King was right to ask, "Can't we all just get along?". The answer is…not today.

Technical

The picture quality has a few moments of clarity, but like the script, most of the scenes appear out of focus. The cinematography seems to favor a single object in the foreground, while the rest of the shot is out of focus. I also suspect that this was not shot digitally as flecks and spots would appear from time to time. Not a lot, but it was noticeable. Sound quality was mediocre too. An occasional explosion would move the sub around, but not often enough. This flick has the look and sound of a "made for TV" show.

Extras

Trailers and commentary.

 

 

 


“Sherlock Holmes A Game of Shadows" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Stephen Hornbrook

Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - June, 2012

Synopsis

Sherlock Holmes and the always dependable Dr. Watson face off against the surreptitious Prof. Moriarty.  In A Game of Shadows, the beautiful Irene Alder, someone Sherlock has come to quite fancy, is poisoned by Moriarty after he determines her spoiled by her love for Sherlock.  Watson makes a visit to Holmes and discovers and intricate map of events, deaths and bombings, all seemingly unrelated, but tying back to one man- Prof. Moriarty. A letter taken from Alder leads them to a gypsy named Simza who eventually joins their hunt for the Professor. After Watson’s wedding, Holmes meets Moriarty and discovers he was indeed the one who killed Alder and the hunt is officially on. 

Specifications

  • Actors: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Noomi Rapace
  • Directors: Guy Ritchie
  • Video: AVC
  • Audio: DTS-HDMA 5.1
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Studio: Warner Bros.
  • Run Time: 129 minutes
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

I’ve always been a Guy Ritche fan. I know many people who can’t stand his movies.  At times they seem like an ADHD kid in a room full of a thousand toys, but he keeps the adrenaline pumping and has a visually creative mind.  His first Sherlock Holmes movie was a lot of fun and overall, a much better film than A Game of Shadows.  There just isn’t as much excitement and wonder in this one.  However, it is certainly worth watching so I suggest a rental.

Technical

The overall look to the film is a bit drab and muddy. Details were there but it didn’t have the sharpness for a 5/5 on the video scale.

I enjoyed the audio for Game of Shadows, especially the score by Hans Zimmer. It’s full of life and really fills your room.  Some great surround effects during a forest scene with shards of wood flying everywhere.

Extras

Maximum Movie picture-in-picture track
Movie app for smart phones and tablets for extra info as you watch the movie
Focus Points (35min) a collection of featurettes