Media

Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - January, 2012

ARTICLE INDEX

"The Hangover Part II" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Clements

movie-january-2012-the-hangover-part-2

Synopsis

This is the (first) sequel to the wildly successful 2009 comedy about a group of friends who cut loose at their buddy's bachelor party.  This time, the scene of the crime is Thailand, not Las Vegas.  Just as with the inaugural movie, the members of "The Wolfpack" find themselves on the wrong end of a blacked-out night on the town and they need to piece together the events of the prior evening.  This time they need to find the bride to be's lost brother before he is "lost to Bangkok".  The cast is largely unchanged from the first movie with Ed Helms playing the groom, Stu.  Bradley Cooper is still Stu's second most irresponsible buddy while Zach Galifianakis reprises his role as the most irresponsible buddy in the pack.  Even Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) and Mike Tyson are on board again this time!

Specifications

  • Warner Brothers
  • 2011, Color, Rated R, 102 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Ken Jeong, Jeffrey Tambor and Justin Bartha
  • Directed by Todd Phillips
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

The first Hangover film was so very successful that the filmakers chose to stick with the same basic formula with this sequel.  Just like the first film, the guys wake up in an unkown location with some "interesting" evidence that paints an unseemly picture of the events from the night before.  It is a dark and raunchy comedy that will appeal to most of the people who liked the first movie.  I liked both films, but I wish there had been some fresh inspiration in the sequel.  In the end it offers nothing more than a new spin on the original plot.  It's fun, but not fresh.  I feel that the music selections are spot on, though.  My final analysis is that The Hangover Part II is good for a few laughs if you are in the mood for a little raunchiness.

Technical

The image has decent detail but is dark with subdued colors.  This appears to be a stylistic choice to complement the plot and tone of the movie.  The sound is presented in DTS HD Master 5.1 and it has average voice intelligibility, strong bass and natural environmental effects.  The eclectic music is well chosen to set the moods in the movie.  The music helps tell the story and is generally well recorded throughout.

Extras

This is another Warner Brothers two-disc Combo Pack with a Blu-ray disc and a DVD featuring an ultraviolet streaming digital copy.  Other extras include the following featurettes - "The Unauthorized Documentary", "The Comedy Rythm of Todd Phillips", "Not Your Everyday Monkey" and "Bangkok Tour with Chow".  There is also a gag reel in the set.

Beginners (Blu-ray)

"Dolphin Tale" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Clements

movie-january-2012-dolphin-tale

Synopsis

This is a true story about a very special dolphin (Winter) who gets rescued by the good people at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA) in Clearwater, Florida.  Winter gets tangled in the rigging from a crab trap and is helped by a boy named Sawyer who cuts her free from the trap.  Sawyer starts coming to the CMA facility to help with his dolphin friend's recovery and they soon form a close bond.  The injuries to Winter's tail prove to be serious and so the marine bilogist at CMA, Dr. Haskett (Harry Connick, Jr.), is forced to amputate her tail.  Winter is not likely to survive without her tail and so they enlist the help of an Army prosthetist, Dr. McCarthy (Morgan Freemen), with hopes that he can fashion a prosthetic tail for the ailing Winter.

Specifications

  • Warner Brothers
  • 2011, Color, Rated PG, 1 Hr 53 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Harry Connick, Jr., Ashley Judd, Nathan Gamble, Kris Kristofferson, Cozi Zuehlsdorff and Morgan Freeman
  • Directed by Charles Martin Smith
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

This movie has a number of subplots that speak to themes that are important to modern America.  Sawyer's cousin, Kyle, goes off to war and returns after suffering paralysis due to the injuries he incurs during battle.  There are also major thematic elements involving the economy, family, friendship and giving back.  There is also a pelican in the movie who steals a few scenes.  As a result, I found the film to be interesting and entertaining on a number of levels.  But it falls short in two key areas - it is extremely predictable and the characters are very cliche.  I also found most of the CG effects to be mechanical looking.  This is still a very good rental for kids who are animal lovers.

Technical

The movie was shot in digital and as a result, the picture quality is clean and grain free.  I appreciated that the whites were never blown out and the shadow detail was very good throughout.  I deducted half a star because the colors were oversaturated and due to the mechanical lookiong CG effects.  The audio is top notch with clean and clear dialog, effects that are properly localized and good bass in the scenes that call for it (hurricane).  I also liked the sound of the dolphins' pops and squeaks.

Extras

This is a two-disc Combo Pack with a Blu-ray disc and a DVD featuring an ultraviolet streaming digital copy.  Other extras include these featurettes - "The Hutash Rainbow Bridge", "At Home with Winter", "Dolphin Tale: Spotlight on a Scene", "Winter's Inspiration" and "Ormie and the Cookie Jar".  There are also deleted scenes and a gag reel.


"Final Destination 5" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

movie-january-2012-final-destination-5

Synopsis

In "Final Destination 5," Death is just as omnipresent as ever, first revealing its menacing reality to a group of coworkers headed for a corporate retreat. During the bus ride, Sam (Nicholas D'Agosto) has a premonition in which he and most of his friends, as well as numerous others, die in a horrific bridge collapse. When his vision ends, events begin to mirror what he had seen, and he frantically ushers as many of his colleagues?including his friend, Peter (Miles Fisher), and girlfriend, Molly (Emma Bell)?away from the disaster before Death can claim them. But these unsuspecting souls were never supposed to survive and, in a terrifying race against time, the ill-fated group tries to discover a way to escape Death's sinister agenda. No matter where you run, no matter where you hide...you can't cheat death. Or can you?

Specifications

  • Warner Brothers
  • 2011, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 42 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Nicholas D'Agosto, Emma Bell, Miles Fisher, Ellen Wroe
  • Directed by Steven Quale
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

I’ve seen the first Final Destination film, but none of the films since then.  With the same premise as the previous films, this one continues in the same basic premise: People avoid death, death comes looking for them, and they all start to die and become paranoid as it happens.  It is safe to say that if you enjoyed the first movies, you will find this one enjoyable as well, and it manages to wrap them all together well so this is likely the last.

What was a bit confusing to me was that there was a long credits sequence at the start with objects breaking glass that confused me for a bit, until I realized it was meant to be seen in 3D just for the effect.  Many of the deaths were designed to be seen in 3D as well, but I only had the 2D version of the film.  It was shot in native 3D and not a post-processing conversion from 2D, so the 3D quality should be better than most films, but I can’t attest to that since I only saw it in 2D.  It’s good that they designed it with 3D in mind instead of converting it afterwards to be able to charge more.

Technical

The image quality was often good with periods of great, but not as consistently great as some titles are.  It was still a very good transfer, with nice shadow detail and textures that often were very detailed, but some shots were a little softer than others.  The audio was good, but didn’t take full advantage of the surrounds I felt.  The opening bridge collapse should have really been a spectacle that really sucked you in, but it didn’t seem to do that as well as it could.

Extras

Alternate Death Scenes, Visual Effects of Death and Circle of Death featurettes, DVD and UltraViolet Digital Copy.


"1911 Revolution" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movie-january-2012-1911

Synopsis

Dexterous martial arts legend Jackie Chan reaches his 100th film milestone with this historical drama set in the year 1911, as the Chinese public begins to revolt against the Qing Dynasty that has ruled the country for 250 years. As the child emperor takes the throne and his mother, Empress Dowager Longyu (Joan Chen), clings to power, famine sweeps the land and warring factions clash in battle. Meanwhile, the "New Army" beings targeting rebels and the desperate leaders of the Qing Dynasty begin putting the country's future at risk through rampant trading with foreign countries. When Huang Xing (Chan) returns home from studying modern warfare in Japan, he finds his homeland consumed by strife. Realizing that the only hope for the future is for China to take up arms and topple the Qing Dynasty, Huang enters into an epic battle that threatens devastating consequences for the common people.

Specifications

  • Well Go USA
  • 2011, Color, Rated R, 6 Hr
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Codec: AVC MPEG 4
  • 1080p
  • English and Mandarin 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Jackie Chan, Bingbing Li, Joan Chen, Winston Chao
  • Directed by Jackie Chan, Li Zhang
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

I laud Jackie Chan for attempting to propel his acting career into the more serious side, but this propaganda film fails to achieve “epic” stature because the narrative line bounces around too much. Due to the large amounts of dialog, I was unable to follow the story completely because the subtitles consumed my eyes instead of the grand picture. It also failed to capture my emotional interest. There was a 60 second “gratuitous” Kung-Fu scene thrown in for Jackie, but in the end, the story shuffled back and forth and leaves the viewer wondering if they should have just watched “The Last Emperor” in stead. America's eyes were turned toward the growing European conflict in 1911, so this films historical references may be new to many. Ironically, people will get this film thinking Jackie is the main character, but he plays a secondary role at best.

Technical

The picture quality was quite good with plenty of details. Colors were well saturated and dark scenes looked detailed. The CGI boats came  off as rather crude, especially the ships wake as it cruised through the sea. As a technical point, the German flag displayed in the movie used the wrong color for that time period and the lifeboats had internal engines (I know...I'm anal). Sound was well presented with lots of gun fire and cannon explosions throughout the battle scenes. The English speaking actors sounded somewhat stilted, but clear.

Extras

Nothing revolutionary here: Featurettes, interviews, deleted scenes and a trailer and a DVD copy.


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

movie-january-2012-the-rocketeer

Synopsis

Based on a retro-styled comic book hit of the '80s, this Disney film was meant to launch a whole line of Rocketeer films--but the series began and ended with this one. That's too bad, because this underrated Joe Johnston film has a certain loopy charm. The story centers on a pre-World War II stunt pilot (Campbell) who accidentally comes into possession of a rocket-propelled backpack built by Howard Hughes. With the aid of his mechanic pal (Arkin), he gets it up and running, then uses it to foil a plot by a gang of vicious Nazi spies led by an Eroll Flynn-type bad guy, Timothy Dalton. Jennifer Connelly is on hand as the love interest, but the real fun here is when the Rocketeer takes off.

Specifications

  • Disney Studios
  • 2011, Color, Rated PG, 1 Hr 48 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Codec: AVC MPEG 4
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Timothy Dalton, Jennifer Connelly, Bill Campbell
  • Directed by Joe Johnston
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

Joe Johnson perfectly captures the look and feel of Hollywood during the 1930s. Great casting with Bill Campbell right on target as Cliff Secord, Jennifer Connelly as his best girl, Alan Arkin as Cliff's mentor and mechanic/inventor friend, and Timothy Dalton as the deliciously wicked Nazi spy/movie star, Neville Sinclair. With plenty of action and some fairly good “gee whiz” effects, this little gem is perfect for a wholesome family movie night in the home theater. I loved the tongue in cheek humor, especially with the iconic Hollywood sign. This is the 20th Anniversary Edition and what it lacks in extras, it delivers in a clean transfer that will please most viewers.

Technical

This film is presented with full rich colors, accurate skin tones and no evidence of spots, blemishes or digital artifacts. Film grain is mild to moderate with the overall clarity much better than the DVD counterpart, though, as mentioned, some scenes are a bit soft. This is likely due to the original nature of the film processing and not so much the transfer onto blu-ray. The real revelation for me was the sound. Horner’s musical score is broad and detailed. For instance, the scene where Cliff is idling in his Gee Bee. The plane’s engine is dead center in the foreground, yet the music swells across the front of the room behind the TV screen. What depth of (audio) field! Surrounds and sub are used generously, though perhaps a little more "boom" was needed in the climactic zeppelin scene near the end. Too bad a sequel was not in the offering.

Extras

Disney fails to ignite: Only a theatrical trailer in SD.


"Contagion" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

movie-january-2012-contagion

Synopsis

Beth Emhoff (Gweneth Paltrow) returns home to Minneapolis from a business trip to Hong Kong, and feels under the weather from what she suspects is jet lag.  Just a couple of days later she collapses from a seizure in her kitchen and her husband Mitch (Matt Damon) rushes her to the hospital but she dies from an unknown cause.  He returns home from the hospital to find his stepson, Clark, has died suddenly after feeling ill as well.

As the disease starts to spread with no known cause or cure, the CDC tries to maintain order and keep people healthy while the World Health Organization and others try to track down the root cause and origin of the virus to discover how to fight it.  The social order starts to collapse as everyone begins to do anything they can to survive, while a blogger (Jude Law) fans the flames with his own posts questioning the role of the government in the outbreak.

Specifications

  • Warner Brothers
  • 2011, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 46 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Matt Damon, Marion Cotillard, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Kate Winslet
  • Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Implied
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

As a big Soderbergh fan I was hoping that Contagion would be enjoyable, but it was much better than I expected.  The film really flies by, as the tension and drama build quickly, and the soundtrack does a fantastic job of ratcheting that up even more.  It can be easy to lose track of how much time has passed, as the story progresses very quickly, but is never confusing or hard to follow.  There is really so much going on that it could have been an extra hour to fill in even more details and would probably still be fantastic, though some of the tension might fade if it was drawn out that long.  Really recommended, as long as the idea of a lethal virus running around doesn’t scare you.

Technical

Contagion looked very good, though often a bit muted in its palette.  Detail is usually good but not extraordinary, though shadows and contrast were very good.  It was shot with a Red One camera, so there is no hint of grain or other film qualities, though the digital image looked very film-like in viewing.  Not a perfect image, but very good.  The soundtrack was what I found to be extraordinary.  While not a tour-de-force as an action film might be, the use of surrounds and music to pull you into the environment and mood was absolutely fantastic, and dialogue was clear and detailed throughout.  A wonderful example of using the audio to really enhance what is happening on screen.

Extras

A couple featurettes about the reality of a super virus, as well as a DVD copy and an Ultraviolet digital copy for watching on your computer or other device.


"Colombiana" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movie-january-2012-colombiana

Synopsis

From writer/producer Luc Besson (The Fifth Element, Leon: The Professional ) comes Colombiana. Zoe Saldana plays a young woman who has grown up to be an assassin after witnessing the murder of her parents as a child. Turning herself into a professional killer, she remains focused on her ultimate goal: to hunt down and get revenge on the mobster responsible for her parents’ deaths.

Specifications

  • Sony Pictures
  • 2011, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 51 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Zoe Saldana, Lennie James
  • Directed by Olivier Megaton
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Brief nudity
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

This film falls into the realm of action escapism. Generally I love Besson’s oeuvre, especially Leon, but this one was pretty much a “by the numbers” revenge flick. Saldana does well in the role of an action heroine (a far cry from her role in Star Trek), but the middle parts of the flick slowed the pace of the movie down a bit too much. The shark scene is reminiscent of James Bond:Thunderball, except more silly than thrilling. I was able to predict the ending with the dogs, too. I hate predicting the ending of a movie! However, if action, violence and a sexy screen presence is your cup of tea, be sure to check this one out.

Technical

Colors and details remain consistent throughout. Some of the outdoors scenes have that blown out contrast that seems to pervade action movies these days. Dark scenes remain detailed with great depth. The sound is exemplary with deep penetrating bass and lots of action in the surround speakers. The music sounded great, too, with lots of techno-funk and deep bass rhythms pulsing throughout. Kudos for the ending song from the late, great Johnny Cash. He sounded so good that that I was transfixed to my set as the credits rolled.

Extras

Colombiana PS3 Wallpaper/Theme, Colombiana: The Making Of, Cataleya's Journey, Assassins, Training A Killer, Take The Ride.


"Fright Night 3D" (Blu-ray 3D) - Reviewed by Adrian Wittenberg

movie-january-2012-fright-night-3d

Synopsis

When Charlie (Anton Yelchin) is asked by his geeky friend Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) to investigate the absence of their friend, Charlie doesn't believe Ed's idea that their friend was killed by vampires.  Furthermore Charlie doesn't believe Ed when Ed tells him that his new neighbor Jerry (Colin Farrell) is a very strong vampire.  Charlie soon starts seeing clues that perhaps Ed's idea was true and his curiosity leads him to his own investigation.  When Charlie learns that Jerry is in fact a vampire, he seeks out master of all things macabre specialist Peter Vincent (David Tennant) to help him come up with a plan to kill the vampire.

Specifications

  • Disney
  • 2011, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 46 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Codec: MPEG-4 MVC
  • 1080p
  • English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell, Imogen Poots, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, David Tennant
  • Directed by Craig Gillespie
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Suggestive
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

Fright Night 3D is more humorous than it is scary and I'd say that the choices made for the cast play a large part in it.  Anytime a film uses self deprecating but realistic humor like the kind you'll find in Superbad or Role Models, the humor will go a long way in watering down any kind of a frightening element.  Therefore, I would have liked to see this film play more to the strengths of the actors and be more of a comedy with a horror theme than be a gory vampire flick that barely pushes on the gas pedal.  I did enjoy the acting of Anton Yelchin, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Imogen Poots, and David Tennant quite a bit though, and they all worked very well together.  Fright Night 3D uses the 3D element most of the time to add depth to the scenes, which is pretty decent, but at times throws some flashy effects at the audience with effects such as vampires exploding into dust and some arrows flying out at the screen.  The 3D implementation in this film wasn't strong enough to make it a necessary part of the movie watching experience though.  This film will probably be received best by teenagers looking to see massloads of blood late at night with some snazzy special effects and somewhat entertaining performances by trendy actors.

Technical

This film's visuals are a little bit on the weak side with a lack in overall contrast.  Flesh tones are lacking in warmth and people look rather pale.  There are many dark scenes and none are very subtle as to create any kind of dramatic visuals.  The special effects in this film are done fairly well with some stylistic shots using variations in frame rate as well as some really nice vampire specific effects.  The 3D elements in this movie are often suffering from ghosting and at times look completely out of focus.  In the scenes where Charlie is in the classroom the students in the right corner of the screen almost have a full double image.  This film's 7.1 DTS Master Audio track is definitely one of the strong suits of the film and it is probably the most convincing element of making this movie one bit scary.  The audio makes excellent use of spaciousness as well as the LFE channel in this film. 

Extras

Extras include deleted and extra scenes, a muisc video by Kid Cudi called "No One Believes Me", a short featurette on making a comedy horror movie, a silly advertising clip for Peter Vincent's tv show that is very Spinal Tapesque, and some bloopers.  The extras in this film are geared more towards the comedy element of the film and I found some of them to be amusing.


"Killer Elite" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movie-january-2012-killer-elite

Synopsis

When two of the world's most elite operatives -- Danny, a retired contract killer (Statham), and Hunter, his longtime mentor (De Niro) -- go up against the cunning leader of a secret military society (Owen), their hunt takes them around the globe from Australia to Paris, London, and the Middle East. As the stakes rise along with the body count, Danny and Hunter are soon plunged into an action-packed game of cat-and-mouse where no one is what they seem. Based on a true story, it's an explosive, no-mercy thrill ride where the predator ultimately becomes the prey.

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 2011, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 57 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Codec: MPEG-4 BD50
  • 1080p
  • English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Jason Statham, Clive Owen, Robert De Nero
  • Directed by Gary McKendry
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Some nudity
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

Based on a true story (how much is based on actuality, is anyone’s guess), a wealthy Omani ex-king in exile, forces a retired contract killer Danny (Statham) to kill the SAS soldiers who executed his 3 sons. A private organization of ex SAS men (known as “Feathermen” for their light touch in geo-political affairs) assigns Spike (Owen) with protecting the super-secret organizations identity. The plotting is "above average" with some nice twists and turns. More than just an action flick, you'll have to pay attention or get left behind in the plot. Though it takes place in the 1980’s, the film has certain immediacy to it and also contains one of the best fight scenes I have seen in a long time between Owen and Statham. I love De Niro, but his talents were not well invested here.

Technical

The picture quality is very good in this film, though somewhat stylized. The desert scenes are bright and slightly overblown, while the London scenes have a steely blue tint to them. Details are very sharp. Every crag in De Niro's face shows up in remarkable detail. Why do hitmen always sport 3 days worth of facial hair (I'm talking to you, Statham!)? The sound is also quite detailed. Listen to the fly buzzing around the surround speakers in the opening scene. Explosions are deep and punchy, the way they should be. The machine guns exhibit a nice metallic clattering sound when they go off. This flick is certain to entertain and you will not regret your 2 hours of viewing this with the boys. Recommended.

Extras

Extras included with the Combo Pack: the BD, DVD, digital copy, Ultra-violet, & BD Live with a pocket BLU app. Deleted/extended scenes are also included.


"Rise of the Planet of the Apes" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movie-january-2012-apes

Synopsis

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a revolution; an action-packed epic featuring stunning visual effects and creatures unlike anything ever seen before. At the story's heart is Caesar (Andy Serkis), a chimpanzee who gains human-like intelligence and emotions from an experimental drug. Raised like a child by the drug's creator (James Franco), Caesar ultimately finds himself taken from the humans he loves and imprisoned. Seeking justice, Caesar assembles a simian army and escapes -- putting man and primate on a collision course that could change the planet forever.

Specifications

  • 20th Century Fox
  • 2011, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 45 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Codec: MPEG-4
  • 1080p
  • English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: James Franco, Andy Serkis, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow
  • Directed by Rupert Wyatt
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

I admit, I did not have high hopes for this installment of Apes as the Tim Burton film did nothing for me. Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised. The story centers around a potential cure for Alzheimer’s via a drug that boosts mental ability. Eventually, the apes become self aware and rebel against their human captors. In many ways the movie is based on the original, only in mirror image. Nods to the original include quotes like, “It’s a madhouse!” and “Get your hands off me you damned dirty ape!”, which makes the juxtaposition work so well. There is even a very brief shot of Heston on TV doing his Moses thing. Clever. Did the CGI apes look good? Yeah, but even with Serkis at the wheel, they still lacked that final ounce of realism. And the movies ending with the apes hiding in a redwood forest still makes you wonder how they will eventually change the earth into the planet of the apes…I mean, an apes got to eat…and that ain’t the rainforest.

Technical

The PQ comes off very well with fine contrast, detail and depth. Blacks are deep, but never murky. Details are very good, like the fine fur details of the apes and their green colored irises look very nice indeed. Surrounds and sub come into play throughout, but most noticeably in the Golden Gate finale. All-in-all, these apes rock and the film as a whole will entertain and inpress your friends. Recommended.

Extras

No monkeying around with the extras: Theatrical Feature Blu-ray, deleted scenes, Mythology of the Apes, The Genius of Andy Serkis, A New Generation of Apes, Scene Breakdown, Character Concept Art Gallery, Breaking Motion Capture Boundaries, Composing the Score with Patrick Doyle, The Great Apes, Audio Commentary by Director Rupert Wyatt, Audio Commentary by Writers Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver and Theatrical Trailers. Also included is a DVD and digital copy.


"The Scorpion King 3: Battle for Redemption" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Tyler Stripko

movie-january-2012-scorpion-king

Synopsis

After the fall of his kingdom and the death of his queen, Scorpion King Mathayus (Victor Webster) once again finds himself a mercenary, killing for gold.  Now employed by King Horus (Ron Perlman), Mathayus is sent out to thwart the evil plans of Horus’ younger brother Talus (Billy Zane).

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 2012, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 46 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Codec: VC1
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Victor Webster, Ron Perlman, Billy Zane, Bostin Christopher, and Temeura Morrison
  • Directed by Roel Reine
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Suggestive behavior
  • Language: None

Commentary

Where do I start with this one?  The story is terrible, the dialogue cheesy, and the acting is even worse.  Victor Webster has none of the charisma of The Rock (who played the Scorpion King in the original film) and can scarcely manage a hint of inflection when delivering his lines.  Billy Zane acts like he is starring in a bad Broadway comedy/musical instead of portraying the part of a supposedly “evil” conqueror.  Frankly, there is no cause to even believe that Talus is bad, shy of him wanting to get his hands on the Book of the Dead.   If this was a great action movie, I could probably let all of the aforementioned issues slide, but the action sequences are almost as weak as the rest of the film.  Unless you are a big fan of the series, I'd skip this one.

Technical

The picture and sound on this disc do little to make up for the overall mess that is this movie.  The picture is inconsistent in its sharpness, with many shots having a slightly fuzzy look.  Colors are decent, but black levels appear to be elevated (everything is a dull grey instead of black) and there is a distinct lack of details in dark areas of the picture indicative of black crush.  The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is merely average, with lots of punch and bass during action sequences, but some issues with dialogue intelligibility.  Surround use is pretty heavy, but not necessarily effective.  There is no subtlety to the mix; it almost sounds like someone took a 2-channel soundtrack and unskillfully added the surrounds in.

Extras

Included on this disc are deleted/extended scenes (not worth your time), a making-of featurette, a segment on the fight training for the movie, some bloopers, and a commentary with director Roel Reine.   The disc also includes a digital copy and is pocket BLU, UltraViolet, D-BOX, and BD-Live enabled.


"Midnight in Paris" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movie-january-2012-paris

Synopsis

This is a romantic comedy set in Paris about a family that goes there because of business, and two young people who are engaged to be married in the fall have experiences there that change their lives. Midnight in Paris is Allen's charming reverie about just that quality, with a screenwriter hero named Gil (Owen Wilson) who strolls the lanes of Paris with his head in the clouds and walks right into his own best fantasy. Sure enough, a midnight encounter draws him into the jazzy world of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Picasso and Dali, and an intense Ernest Hemingway, who promises to bring Gil's manuscript to Gertrude Stein for review. Gil wakes up every morning back in the real world, but returning to his enchanted Paris proves fairly easy. The question is, does he want to come back.

Specifications

  • Sony Entertainment
  • 2012, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 34 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Codec: MPEG 4
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Adrien Brody, Carla Bruni, Marion Cotillard
  • Directed by Woody Allen
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: None

Commentary

Remember the saying that things were better in the “good old days”? Well, that’s the premise of this film. Of course, it also begs the question, what did people in the “good old days” long for? This film is one of Allen’s best works, well, since the good old days of Allen’s film making career. Wilson plays his part perfectly as a dreamer that just does not fit into his present state of being. Meeting characters from the past really makes one think about the direction ones life is heading and what one can do to change their own course. How refreshing to review a film that makes you ponder your life! Perhaps there is no better time than the present, afterall.

Technical

Purposefully shot by Allen to have a nostalgic feel, the film palette was tuned to burnished golds and earth tones. Some of the details were blurred in the street scenes at night, with the dark shadows taking on a fuzzy dark grey quality. As in all Allen films, the sound is dialog driven with few effects for the surrounds and sub. My sub only came to life 2-3 times during the entire movie, but, that’s the type of film this is, and not a dig on the overall sound engineering. Dialog was always clear and centered on the screen. On the plus side, this film definitely makes me want to experience Paris by night.

Extras

Midnight in Cannes, with interviews from Woody, Owen and Brody. Also a Photo Gallery.


"Real Steel" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movie-january-2012-steel

Synopsis

Charlie Kenton is a washed-up fighter who lost his chance at a title when 2000-pound, 8-foot-tall steel robots took over the ring. Now nothing but a small-time promoter, Charlie earns just enough money piecing together low-end bots from scrap metal to get from one underground boxing venue to the next. When Charlie hits rock bottom, he reluctantly teams up with his estranged son Max to build and train a robot that will defy the odds and win it all. In doing so, perhaps it will also make Charlie the father and champion that he should have been.

Specifications

  • Disney/Touchstone Entertainment
  • 2012, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 7 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Codec: MPEG 4
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Hugh Jackman, Evangeline Lilly, Dakota Goyo
  • Directed by Shawn Levy
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Rock 'em, Sock 'em
  • Sex: No
  • Language: None

Commentary

I grew up on Robbie the Robot, Tobor the Great, Gort and the Lost In Space bot, so I know a thing or two about robots. The robots in this flick ranged from junk-yard mean to hi-tech sophistication and are a robot lover's dream. They exhibited individual personalities, too. Jackman played a down and out jerk of a father who ultimately changes his ways and wins back his son (Wow...I've never seen this plot device before). Goyo did a good job for a kid actor and had just enough defiance and wonder to make him work. The dancing robot scene was a bit silly for an adult, but since this movie is geared toward the adolescent crowd, I can not really object. Overall, no new ground was broken with this story (you know how it will end), but it is sure to entertain your kids with plenty of loud action scenes and a Rocky-type ending that’ll make cheer. I hope the sequel has football playing robots…that would be cool!

Technical

The production used motion capture technology used in Avatar and had boxing star Sugar-Ray Leonard choreograph the fight scenes. The robots work because they looked interesting…and real. Each robot had an actual life-sized mock that was used during many of the scenes and that enhanced the organic look and feel of the film. You really can't tell the CGI from the real one. As with almost all Disney films, this one looks pristine and detailed. Colors, such as the neon lit robots, looked great. Let's get ready to rumble- as the sound is aggressive in the robot fight scenes with lots of deep blasts and crowd noise all around. Dark scenes never got swallowed into the murkiness. I still can’t figure how Atom never got his fencing-mask face smashed in, but that’s Hollywood for you.

Extras

Includes four featurettes, deleted and extended scenes, and of course some bloopers.


"Blackthorn" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

movie-january-2012-blackthorn

Synopsis

It’s been said (but unsubstantiated) that Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were killed in a standoff with the Bolivian military in 1908. In BLACKTHORN, Cassidy (Shepard) survived, and is quietly living out his years under the name James Blackthorn in a secluded Bolivian village. Tired of his long exile from the US and hoping to see his family again before he dies, Cassidy sets out on the long journey home. But when an unexpected encounter with an ambitious young criminal (Eduardo Noriega) derails his plans, he is thrust into one last adventure, the likes of which he hasn’t experienced since his glory days with the Sundance Kid.

Specifications

  • Magnolia
  • 2011, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 42 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Sam Shepherd, Eduardo Noriega
  • Directed by Gil Mateo
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

I found Blackthorne to be an overall enjoyable film when I watched.  I have not seen Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, so perhaps coming in with more knowledge of that would have provided a better basis for having knowledge of the characters, but overall it was still a well done film.

Technical

Blackthone typically looked good, though a little bit soft overall.  Fine details and textures sometimes looked great, and sometimes were a bit soft.  It was inconsistent though there was good shadow detail in the nighttime scenes.  The soundtrack was relatively sparse but dialog was clear, though surrounds were not used as much as they could be.  Scenes of horses galloping across the plateau were trapped in the front of the room, instead of surrounding you all around and really pulling you into the film.

Extras

Deleted scenes, featurettes on the making of the film and the director, short films by the director, and the trailer.