Articles

Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - June, 2013

ARTICLE INDEX

"Identity Thief" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movies-jun-2013-Thief

Synopsis

Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy lead an all-star cast in this hilarious comedy. Unlimited funds have allowed Diana (McCarthy) to live it up on the outskirts of Orlando. There's only one glitch: she's financing her shopping sprees with an ID stolen from Sandy Patterson (Bateman), an accounts rep who lives halfway across the U.S in Denver. With only one week to hunt down the con artist before his world implodes, the real Sandy Patterson is forced to extreme measures to clear his name.

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • Color, 2013,  Rated R, 1 hour 41 minutes
  • DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • MPEG 4 /1080p 2.35:1 ratio
  • Starring: Jason Bateman, Melissa McCarthy and John Cho
  • Directed by: Seth Gordon
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Yes, but not pleasant
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

My problem with this comedy is during the first 20 minutes. I find the subject of identity theft to be about as humorous as cancer. Watching Bateman’s character get destroyed, even if by his own hand, was not very funny to me. Once the characters meet and “hit it off” (pun intended), the movie picked up some steam. I liked the idea of a single-minded bounty hunter chasing them, with comic results, but the storyline with the drug dealer and his henchmen in pursuit seemed tacked on and added nothing to the story. The only thing that saved this movie from being another “Tommy Boy” road trip was the chemistry of the two leads. Bateman has the naïve, honest guy down pat. McCarthy provides some funny physical comedy to the mix. She can also make a trucker blush with the “F-bombs” she slings. Ultimately, this is a quick rental that would never require repeat viewing.

Technical

I found little to fault here. Picture quality and sound are very good. Using an Arri Alexa camera, the colors just pop. Fine details are evident throughout. Contrasts are good and solid and the surrounds and sub have some decent material to work with. Even the most mundane movies are just looking great on Blu-ray these days, and this one is no exception.

Extras

Extras include: Gag reel, “making of” documentary, Skip Tracer’s van tour and Scene Stealing; “Capturing the humor of Identity Thief”.


"Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movies-jun-2013-Hansel

Synopsis

After getting a taste for blood as children, Hansel (Renner) and Gretel (Arterton) have become the ultimate vigilantes, hell-bent on retribution. Now, unbeknownst to them, Hansel and Gretel have become the hunted, and must face an evil far greater than witches...their past.

Specifications

  • Paramount
  • Color, 2013,  Unrated, 1 hour 37 minutes
  • Dolby True-HD 5.1
  • MPEG 4 /1080p 1.85:1 ratio
  • Starring: Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke Janssen, Peter Stormare, Thomas Mann
  • Directed by: Tommy Wirkola
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Brief Nudity
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

With tongue planted in check, this fairy tale is packed with action and wicked humor. It reminded me somewhat of Cabin in the Woods, but with even more action. I loved the humorous parts that include Hansel taking insulin because he was forced to eat too much candy as a child, the milk bottles with missing kids faces on them, Edward (Twilight?) the non-CGI troll…the list goes on. Lots of gore with decapitations and exploding bodies throughout the movie. The witches look like something Sam Raimi would come up with, too. This is a fast paced, FUN romp from beginning to end. A sequel is already in the works, too. WARNING: this is NOT for the young kiddies as swearing and nudity keep this fairy tale geared for the adult viewers only!

Technical

The picture is nothing short of stunning. Deep blacks and wonderful use of color are seen throughout. Sharp details can be seen in the textiles and wrinkley skin of the witches. Seriously, this a demo worthy flick…and the SOUND! Very active in all channels at all times. Even the “quiet” scenes had active ambient sounds like birds, wind and voices going on all around you. The explosive scenes are very boisterous, yet remain completely clear and coherent. Turn this film up and hold on. You are in for a fun ride... like a witch on a broom stick!

Extras

The enchanting extras include: Movies trailers, Reinventing Hansel & Gretel, The Witching Hours, and Meet Edward the Troll.


"Jack the Giant Slayer" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movies-jun-2013-Jack

Synopsis

Jack the Giant Slayer tells the story of an ancient war that is reignited when a young farmhand unwittingly opens a gateway between our world and a fearsome race of giants. Unleashed on the Earth for the first time in centuries, the giants strive to reclaim the land they once lost, forcing the young man, Jack, into the battle of his life to stop them. Fighting for a kingdom, its people, and the love of a brave princess, he comes face to face with the unstoppable warriors he thought only existed in legend—and gets the chance to become a legend himself.

Specifications

  • New Line Home Video
  • Color, 2013,  Rated PG-13, 1 hour 34 minutes
  • DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • MPEG 4 /1080p 1.77:1 ratio
  • Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Eleanor Tomlinson, Stanley Tucci, Ewen McGregor
  • Directed by: Bryan Singer
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

Continuing on my fairy-tale reviews this month, we have the re-imagining of “Jack and the Beanstalk.” Overall, a safe family film with occasional scary moments (like giants biting heads off and stomping people into the ground). The CGI is fairly good, but the story gets mired in some frantic action sequences reminiscent of Van Helsing. I found the titular hero to be a little flat as an actor, but a younger audience may not mind too much. This movie was costly to produce and did not do well in the box office, but it is certainly entertaining enough to warrant an evening rental. Just be aware that the two-headed giant drops the "F-bomb" once…and another giant picks his nose and eats the contents thereof!

Technical

The picture is remarkably colorful and detailed, thanks to 90% of it being green screen CGI. That said, the overall appearance of the giants and scenery are fairly good, with lots of detail in the textures of their clothing and lumpy, grimy, warty skin. No banding or aliasing were ever noted. The surround speakers are quite busy during the action scenes and the sub will pack a punch with every giant footstep and tree that smashes into the castle walls. The music score is well presented throughout the movie as well.

Extras

Becoming a Giant Slayer, an interactive extra, was amusing…but strictly for the kids. Also included were some deleted scenes and a small gag reel.


"Oz the Great and Powerful" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movies-jun-2013-OZ

Synopsis

Disney’s fantastical adventure follows Oscar Diggs (Franco), a small-time circus magician with dubious ethics. When Diggs is hurled away to the vibrant Land of Oz, he thinks he’s hit the jackpot — until he meets three witches (Kunis, Weisz and Williams), who aren’t convinced he’s the great wizard everyone’s expecting. Reluctantly drawn into epic problems facing Oz and its inhabitants, Oscar must find out who is good and who is evil before it’s too late. Putting his magical arts to use through illusion, ingenuity — and even some wizardry — Oscar transforms himself into the great wizard and a better man as well.

Specifications

  • Disney Studios
  • Color, 2013,  Rated PG-13, 1 hour 40 minutes
  • DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1
  • MPEG 4 /1080p 2.40:1 ratio
  • Starring: James Franco, Michelle Williams Mila Kunis, Rachel Wiesz
  • Directed by: Sam Raimi
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

Though the movies starts off in black and white (not sepia, like the original), it quickly devolves into “Oz the Dull, Meets Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland’. Other than some spectacular visuals and heavy amounts of CGI, this “prequel” lacks the wit and charm of the original. When you make a prequel to one of the best loved kid's movies of all time, you set the bar pretty high. The population of Oz is so politically correct (racially diverse), and the witches so catty, that you wonder as the credits roll what the point of the movie was: Oscar is a womanizer and an ego-centric jerk that finally finds redemption at the end? Wow, never seen that done in a movie before.That people can’t control their destiny without some trickster coming from Kansas to lead the way? Come on people, have some pride in yourselves. Well, whatever the ultimate message, your kids will most likely be entertained by all of the technicolor. However, the Flying Baboons will likely scare them  as they are a bit over-the-top with fangs and claws. And Kunis, as the witch, was a bit too malicious as well. Nothing exudes warmth and charm like her screaming, “Kill them! Kill them all!”.

So, click your heels together and repeat after me, "There's no place like the original."

Technical

Some of the CGI was a bit too artificial for my tastes, but in all fairness, this is the land of OZ and some of the effects could be considered “normal’. The colors and details will astound your kids. Shadow details remain intact, especially during the night time finale in the Emerald City. The 7.1 audio is excellent, with plenty of effects and deep bass rumblings to keep a Munchkin giddy. Curiously, the movie defaults to DD 2.0. Be sure to go into the setup and select the hi-rez 7.1 audio. All of this technical (ahem) wizardry makes for a great looking/sounding movie, but ultimately it collapses under its own weight due to a flimsy story line.

Extras

Bloopers, featurettes and an App that connects to several more on-line extras: The Magic of 'Oz The Great and Powerful' (Second Screen Experience). A DVD is also included.