Articles

Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - June, 2011

ARTICLE INDEX

"Sanctum" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Stephen Hornbrook

movie-june-2011-sanctum

Synopsis

Sanctum is based, very loosely, on the real-life events of writer Andrew Wight. In the movie, a giant underwater cave system in Papua New Guinea is explored by a team of professionals including a master diver Frank, his son Josh and the man funding the project, Carl.  After arriving via helicopter at the cave site, Josh, Carl, and his girlfriend rappel down into the cave to join up with Frank and a couple of his team members. While down at the base camp, a powerful rain storm hits Papua New Guinea and begins to flood the cave system.  The team makes an attempt to get out, but is blocked in by a large boulder that shifts under the power of the rushing water.  Their only hope for escape is to continue down the cave system towards the ocean.

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 2011, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 47 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring:  Richard Roxburgh, Ioan Gruffudd, Rhys Wakefield
  • Directed by Alister Grierson
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

This movie advertised its producer, James Cameron, more than the movie itself. They tried so hard to fool people into believing this was Cameron’s followup to is box office sensation, Avatar, but alas he merely produced the film.  He obviously didn’t believe too much in the project, because the movie had a cheap feel to it, as evidenced by the poorly rendered CG helicopter in the movie.  It is a decent movie, but I feel it could have really benefited from a larger budget. One thing to note however, if you are deathly afraid of drowning, I would not watch this movie!

Technical

The image quality was very inconsistent going from sharp and detailed, to soft and murky. Some shots looked very good, like the underwater scenes that were lit by glow sticks, but other shots had a flat, washed-out look. Overall, I felt the image lacked the contrast it needed to give the film more depth.  On the audio side, LF effects were very good, from the helicopter to the rushing water.  The surrounds were very active and dialog was always clear.

Extras

Audio Commentary, Sanctum: The Real Story (47 minute documentary), Nullarbor Dreaming (45 minute documentary on an old cave expedition), Deleted Scenes


"The Dilemma" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Stephen Hornbrook

movie-june-2011-dilemma

Synopsis

The Dilemma is about two long time friends, Ronny and Nick, who have built a business together designing electric “big block” engines.  When Ronny witnesses Nick’s wife cheating on him with another man, he is torn on whether or not to break the bad news to Nick.  Over the course of the movie, we learn Ronny is a recovering gambling addict and his odd behavior, attributed to the secret he is hiding from his best friend, has everyone suspecting he has returned to his gambling ways.

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 2011, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 52 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring:  Vince Vaughn, Kevin James, Jennifer Connelly, Winona Ryder
  • Directed by Ron Howard
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

Receiving a metascore of 46 over at Metacritic, this was not a well received film, especially for one directed by Ron Howard.  Given what I had heard about this movie, I had very low expectations and, as it turns out, it just barely exceeded those expectations. It wasn’t very funny, or heartfelt, or romantic, it was merely, with acting that could have been performed by your local theater group.  The movie wasn’t horrible, it just could have used a few more laughs.

Technical

Excellent image quality on this disc. This is one of the reasons I love Blu-ray so much - even when a movie is horrible, many times the image quality is so good, you can still enjoy the visuals. The audio was fairly good for a non-action adventure film.

Extras

Alternate Ending, Deleted Scenes, Gag reel


 "The Usual Suspects (Digibook)" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

movie-june-2011-the-usual-suspects-digibook

Synopsis

A deadly ship fire in Los Angeles opens one of the great films of the 1990’s.  Almost the entire crew has been killed or burned, and only one of the criminals that might be responsible has been caught.  As Verbal Kint (Kevin Spacey) takes us back to the origin of the story.  The police bring together five criminals, but criminals who were innocent of their accused crime.  After they execute a robbery to get back at the NYPD, the group takes off for LA to stay off of their radar.

Once there, the story takes more twists and turns, before leading us to the episode at the boat.  As Verbal tells the story to the police, the motives and twists in the story begin to become clear to the viewer, or do they?

Specifications

  • MGM
  • 1995, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 46 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
  • Codec: MPEG-2
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring:  Kevin Spacey, Gabriel Byrne, Benecio Del Toro
  • Directed by Brian Singer
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

In high school a teacher told me that I had to see this film, and nothing else about it.  After watching it, he was certainly correct.  A complex and engrossing story that you have to pay attention to, and an ending that will have you coming back to watch again to see what you missed the first time around.  Thankfully, my wife hasn’t seen it before so I have a good reason to watch it again on Blu-ray!

Technical

Using the same MPEG-2 encode as the previous Blu-ray release, the Usual Suspects looks far better than it did on DVD, but it’s not as detailed as the best releases today.  Black levels are decent but could be improved, and colors are generally good, but the slightly soft look to some scenes is probably due to how the film was originally shot.  Overall the image is very nice, it’s just lacking that final bit of detail that the best transfers have.

The audio was never a major focus of the film, but here it is nicely represented.  Dialogue is crisp and clear, and surrounds are used when necessary.

Extras

There are a few trailers on the disc and that’s it.  The only special feature related to the movie is the 24 page digibook case.


 "The Terminator (Digibook)" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

movie-june-2011-the-terminator-digibook

Synopsis

With the numerous sequels and TV show that it spawned, in addition to the career of James Cameron, everyone is probably somewhat familiar with the plot of Terminator.  A Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) has been sent back in time to kill Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton).  Sarah will have a son, John, who will lead the rise of humanity against machines in the future.  Also sent back from the future is a soldier named Kyle (Michael Biehn) who is to protect her, and destroy the Terminator.

Specifications

  • MGM
  • 1984, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 47 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Codec: MPEG-2
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 PCM
  • Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton
  • Directed by James Cameron
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

The film that helped launch many careers, and an incredibly successful series, got its start with a fairly low budget, slightly cheesy Sci-Fi film.  While not a perfect film, and not as good as the sequel that would come nearly a decade later, Terminator is a very enjoyable, fun action film that can stand up even decades later.

Technical

Unfortunately, the transfer isn’t as strong as the film itself.  Shot on a budget compared to the later ones, the print itself shows signs of damage and age.  Additionally there is a lack of fine detail in the image, and it appears to show a lot of noise reduction, probably from an older master.  The soundtrack is better, though not as dynamic as modern action films.  Is has clear dialog and decent use of the surrounds, along with reasonable LFE use for the action sequences.

Extras

There are three featurettes, all presented in standard definition, and a selection of trailers for other Blu-ray releases, and the 24-page Digibook case.


"The Manchurian Candidate" (1962) (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Clements

movie-may-2011-the-manchurian-candidate

Synopsis

A platoon of American GI's who were captured during the Korean War appear to suffer from post traumatic stress syndrome after their return to the States. The men have repeating, graphic and disturbing nightmares. Why do their dreams make them believe they were at a ladies' garden club party during the time when they were detained by the enemy? Do the other soldiers suffer similar nightmares? Major Bennett Marco (Sinatra) decides to get to the bottom of this before he loses his mind. When he goes seeking out an explanation, he starts to uncover a plot involving war hero Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey), Shaw's ruthless mother, Mrs. Iselin (Angela Lansbury) and her puppet husband, US Senator John Iselin (James Gregory).

Specifications

  • MGM
  • 1962, B&W, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 6 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.75:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, Janet Leigh and Angela Lansbury
  • Directed by John Frankenheimer
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Mild
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

This movie is an American classic, clocking in at #67 on the AFI list of America's 100 Greatest Movies. It also garnered two Oscar nominations in 1963: Lansbury for Best Supporting Actress and Ferris Webster for Best Film Editing. They were bested in both of those categories. The Oscar for Best Supporting Actress went to Patty Duke who played Hellen Keller in "The Miracle Worker" while Anne Coates picked up the Film Editing award for her work on "Lawrence of Arabia". That's a tough field to compete with! And then fate seriously derailed this movie when the very popular US President, John F. Kennedy, was assasinated by Lee Harvey Oswald a year after the movie was released. The press immediately began referring to Oswald as "The Manchurian Candidate" due to the striking parallels between the movie and the real life events. So the movie fell out of view for many years.

It is back now and better than ever. This socio-political thriler was done in the vein of Stanley Kubrik's "Dr. Strangelove" which was released two years after "The Manchurian Candidate". Like "Strangelove", "The Manchurian Candidate" requires you to submit to a number of very tenuous and nearly implausible plot elements. But I was drawn into the movie and found it to be nothing less than gripping. Lansbury's perfomance is spot on as the calm and diabolical antagonist. Sinatra, who sweats a lot in this movie, impressed me with his acting chops. He did most of his own stunt work on one particular hand to hand fight scene and he was actually injured during the filming of this scene. The movie also includes an excellent performance by Janet Leigh in the prime of her career.

Technical

The disc case says the Blu-ray is mastered at a rare aspect ratio of 1.75:1. This is interesting as the movie was originally shot in 1.85:1. In any event, the picture quality of this Blu-ray is first rate. The master source was obviously a very clean print of the film. The color temperature is subjectively spot-on and the presentation has no trace of cepia tones. The contrast is very good and the image really pops off the screen. Even the night scenes have plenty of zing. This is the best this movie has ever looked to me. I only deducted half a star because some of the scenes were a bit soft.

The audio is a little different. The DTS HD Master track has synthesized surround. The sound is dated in so far as the dynamics are subdued and the frequency extremes roll off quite a bit. But the voices and music are generally clear and intelligible. The foley effects in the big fight scene and some of the gun shots have reasonable dynamic impact. Too bad the surround mix sounds unnaturally contrived in many scenes. But the audio is a fine experience in most respects.

Extras

Extras include an interview with Frank Sinatra, George Axelrod (Writer) and John Frankenheimer. There is an audio commentary by John Frankenheimer. The disc contains three entertaining featurettes: "Queen of Diamonds", "A Little Solitaire" and "How to Get Shot". Finally, the original theatrical trailer is on the disc. The extras are in standard definition.


"I Am Number Four" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

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Synopsis

Number Four is John Smith (Pettyfer), a seemingly boy-next-door kid who just wants to be normal and blend into society.  In reality, he’s a powerful alien who is being hunted by enemies from his home planet of Lorien.  They’ve already killed three of his allies and, you guessed it, John is the last one.  Or is he?  His protector Henri (Olyphant) takes him to the town of Paradise, Ohio in hopes of eluding the brutal Mogador assassins.  When he starts school, he quickly falls for Sarah (Agron) and befriends the local science nerd.  The action isn’t long in finding him when the bad guys show up bristling with weapons and sporting two flying monsters that destroy everything in their path.  Just in the nick of time another Lorien, Number 6 (Palmer), shows up.  She shows John just how far his powers go as they narrowly avoid death.  In the end, the good guys are victorious but John must move on to avoid putting his newfound love in danger.

Specifications

  • Dreamworks
  • 2011, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 49 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Alex Pettyfer, Timothy Olyphant, Teresa Palmer, Dianna Agron
  • Directed by D. J. Caruso
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

This movie is good clean fun; a typical Disney-style adventure.  The story is nothing new; teens with powers on a difficult path fighting impossible odds and of course, a love interest.  Still it is very entertaining and I thought very highly of Dianna Agron’s understated performance.  She’s not a typical blubbering young girl which I appreciated.  So often, films like this try too hard to appeal to the younger audience.  I believe there’s something here for everyone that likes a good action flick.  When you’re looking for good popcorn fare to watch with the whole family, I Am Number Four fills the bill nicely.

Technical

The video quality is excellent though a little short of reference level.  Detail was good but lacked the last degree of razor-sharpness found in the very best transfers.  Color was good but not great.  Most scenes show a cool palette which is just outside the realm of natural.  Dark scene contrast was excellent with rich detail and deep blacks.  Bright scenes are punchy with a good 3D look.

Audio is also excellent though I did observe minor flaws.  Though the LFE channel is used aggressively, I thought it could have been even stronger in the most intense action scenes.  Surrounds were also used a little too sparingly.  The sonic image was excellent at all times with a broad soundstage across the front.  Dialog was crisp except for the lines delivered by Kevin Durand as the Mogadorian Commander which were quite muddy and difficult to understand.  It was also obvious when the actors overdubbed their lines in post-production.

Extras

Bonus features are a bit thin including only a 3-minute blooper reel, a single making-of featurette and 19 minutes of deleted scenes.  Also included are trailers for other Dreamworks features.  The package I received has not only the Blu-ray but a DVD and digital copy version of the film.


"Dead Man Walking" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

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Synopsis

Sister Helen Prejean (Sarandon) receives a letter from death-row inmate Matthew Poncelet (Penn) requesting spiritual and legal assistance.  She has never met with a convict before but she decides to visit him.  What follows is a spiritual journey for both parties as he struggles to come to grips with what he’s done and that he is about to die for his crimes.  Sister Helen has her faith tested as she not only gets to know Poncelet but also the parents of the two victims of the crime.  When the appeals run out and the execution becomes inevitable, he finally repents for his sins.

Specifications

  • Metro Goldwyn Mayer
  • 1995, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr 2 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Susan Sarandon, Sean Penn
  • Directed by Tim Robbins
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

To say this film is emotionally charged would be a gross understatement.  Not only is the subject matter intense, the performances given by Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn are simply breathtaking.  Though I never sympathized for the killer, I couldn’t help but react to the final scenes of his life when he confesses the truth to Sister Helen and she gives him the full measure of her love and faith.  Dead Man Walking was nominated for Oscars in the Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director and Best Original Song categories with a win going to Susan Sarandon.  Though the violence is depicted in short bursts, the brutality of the rape and murder are fairly graphic, especially near the end.  The movie is based on a book written by the real Sister Helen Prejean.  The material is dark but I highly recommend Dead Man Walking to anyone who wants to see great actors at the top of the craft.

Technical

Picture quality is superb with a nice film-like quality throughout.  There is just the right amount of grain, and lo and behold – no edge enhancement!  Detail is just right for the subject matter and color is very natural.  Occasionally flesh tones have an ever-so-slight reddish cast but it only caused me to dock a half star.  Contrast is quite good though there is almost no dark material to really judge black levels by.  Lighting is done extremely well during interior scenes which make up the bulk of the film.

Audio is decent with good clarity and detail.  The vast majority of the DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack consists of dialog and it is presented well.  My only complaint is Sean Penn was sometimes difficult to understand in his thick Southern drawl.  This may be as much the fault of the actor as the sound reproduction.  Music is used sparsely but I did enjoy Bruce Springsteen’s Oscar-nominated song “Dead Man Walking” during the ending credits.

Extras

The only bonus features are director commentary from Tim Robbins and a theatrical trailer.


"True Blood Season 3" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

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Synopsis

Season 3 picks right up where Season 2 ended with Bill Compton’s kidnapping.  As it turns out; he’s been “summoned” by the King of Mississippi.  We also see a new species as werewolves reveal themselves.  An insane vampire falls for Tara.  Sam finds his real family and learns the meaning of “be careful what you wish for.”  Arlene discovers she’s pregnant.  Bill goes from victim to becoming a member of King Russell’s court though all is not as it seems there.  Sookie, in her attempts to find him, learns of Russell’s plot and gets in deep as always.  Jason Stackhouse, after dealing with the tremendous guilt of accidentally killing Tara’s boyfriend, Eggs, becomes a Sheriff’s Deputy and falls for a mysterious girl who wafts into town.  Just as in Seasons 1 and 2, things descend into chaos and residents of Bon Temps, Louisiana are once again at the center of a world full of super-natural characters.

Specifications

  • HBO
  • 2010, Color, Not rated, 12 hrs 10 min (12 episodes)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Anna Paquin, Steven Moyer, Sam Trammell, Ryan Kwanten, Rutina Wesley
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

True Blood is one of my favorite shows and Season 3 is awesome though not quite as strong as the first two.  I felt it took too long for the story arc to really present itself.  Though I enjoyed every episode, it wasn’t until almost halfway through that the plot really began to move forward.  Sookie is the same fearless, passionate girl she’s always been although now she has a pack of werewolves to deal with on top of a bunch of crazy vampires.  Sam, the shifter, meets his real family for the first time and wonders if he shouldn’t have left well enough alone.  The season’s story arc deals with the nefarious plans of King Russell of Mississipi and his intent to take over vampire politics once and for all.  The second half is much better as things are finally revealed, several new super-naturals are introduced, and we end at the inevitable cliffhanger.

Technical

Video quality is among the best I’ve seen for a TV show on Blu-ray.  Color is rich and natural with consistent quality and no attempts to tint the palette for art’s sake.  There are a few instances of edge enhancement but it is sparingly done.  Contrast is mostly good but some dark scenes have obviously elevated black levels.  Sometimes it changes during a scene depending on which camera is active.  This is something I’ve seen with other TV shows including the benchmark Blu-rays of Lost.  It doesn’t ruin the presentation by any means but I do find it distracting.

Audio is also on par with the best of TV with clean clear dialog, crisply detailed ambient effects and a great music track.  My surrounds and sub didn’t get much of a workout but the front soundstage is very wide and three-dimensional.  Since the action takes place in the Deep South, the score is full of blues guitar and gritty country tunes.  I especially like the title song, “Bad Things” by country singer Jace Everett, though the rest of the show’s music is written by talented composer and performer, Nathan Barr.

Extras

There is a full complement of bonus features included not only on each disc of episodes but on a fifth disc which contains all the documentaries.  Users can turn on a picture-in-picture feature which has commentary from both actors and creators.  Additionally there is audio commentary available for six episodes.  The bonus disc has character perspectives, a behind-the-scenes featurette and an interactive guide to the world of True Blood.  Also, tagged onto each episode is a short called Post Mortem which has a bit of background on the episode plus some insights into future storylines.


"Le Mans" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

movie-june-2011-lemans

Synopsis

Le Mans is a close-up look at one of the world’s great races.  For 24 hours, 55 cars battle to cross the finish line first.  During the grueling test, drivers must endure fatigue, mechanical troubles, deadly accidents and their own personal demons.  Porsche driver Michael Delaney (McQueen) returns to the race one year after an accident that killed another driver determined to bring home the checkered flag for his team.  He encounters the widow of Belgetti, the driver he watched burn to death and the memories come flooding back.  The drama plays out on the track as Porsche and Ferrari duke it out for the entire 24 hours to end in one of the closest finishes ever.  The footage is incredible and the film is a non-stop ride until the credits roll!

Specifications

  • Paramount Pictures
  • 1971, Color, Rated G, 1 Hr 48 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Codec: VC1
  • 1080p
  • English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Steve McQueen
  • Directed by Lee H. Katzin
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

There are really only two properly done racing films, Grand Prix, which I’ll cover in the next review and Le Mans.  Racing was a far different sport in 1971 than it is today.  When an accident happened the best you could hope for is serious injury.  More often, drivers were killed.  It truly was a blood sport.  One line that stands out for me is said by Belgetti’s widow, “If men risk their lives, shouldn’t it be for something important?”  The real drama here is the passion men have for motor racing and the lengths they’re willing to go to to win.  There is virtually no dialog in the entire film.  Only a brief conversation between Delaney and Ms. Belgetti and a few words uttered in the pits break up the film’s landscape.  The real star here is the stunning cinematography.  The shots of the spectators, the support personnel, the drivers and of course the amazing on-track camera-work are like no other movie.  This is long before CGI made the impossible possible.  45 star drivers of the day were utilized to create all the shots and the filming was done entirely on the Le Mans circuit in France.  Even music is barely a factor.  The ambient sound creates such a realistic environment; it would just be a distraction.  Race fan will not fail to enjoy this film and for them, it’s a must-own.

Technical

The restoration is superbly done in all respects.  Film grain is evident but entirely appropriate and never distracting.  Color is the real star with rich bold hues throughout.  Flesh tones were entirely natural and the super-colorful race cars just popped from the screen.  There isn’t much dark material but black levels are deep and uniform.  There is no evidence of edge enhancement or digital scrubbing which I appreciated.  The look and feel of a 1971 film is beautifully preserved.

The DTS-HD Master Audio track is presented here in a 7.1 mix, converted from the original six-channel one used in the 70mm version of the film.  Detail is stunning with some of the best ambient sound effects I’ve ever heard.  Explosions sound a bit hollow and light on bass but this is undoubtedly due to the source material.  Like the video, the audio restoration couldn’t be any better.  The sparsely-used music by Michel Legrand is typical seventies fare, sounding a bit like muzak, but again, appropriate to the feel of the movie.

Extras

Bonus features include a 23-minute documentary on the making of the film hosted by Steve McQueen’s son Chad and a theatrical trailer.


"Grand Prix" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

movie-june-2011-grand-prix

Synopsis

Grand Prix is the story of an entire season of Formula 1 racing beginning with the famous street race at Monaco.  For the Jordan/BRM team we have drivers Scott Stoddard (Bedford) and Pete Aron (Garner).  Piloting the Ferraris are Jean-Pierre Sarti (Montano) and Nino Barlini (Sabato).  The story of their lives unfolds not only during the races but off the track as well.  A terrible crash at the very first event puts Stoddard in the hospital and Aron out of a job.  Sarti is the seasoned veteran looking for his fourth championship and perhaps an end to his career.  Barlini is the fearless young Italian looking to make his mark.  Joining in the traveling circus of F1 is Louise (Saint), a reporter from the US; Stoddard’s wife Pat (Walter) who can’t stand the stress of watching her husband risk his life every week any longer; and Barlini’s mysterious girlfriend, Lisa (Hardy).  By the last race, all four men are vying for the championship and the winner will take the ultimate prize.  Grand Prix is an intimate look at the men, the cars and the people for whom winning is the only thing that matters.

Specifications

  • Metro Goldwyn Mayer
  • 1966, Color, Not Rated, 2 Hr 56 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.20:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: James Garner, Eva Marie Saint, Yves Montano, Toshiro Mifune, Brian Bedford, Jessica Walter, Antonio Sabato, Francoise Hardy
  • Directed by John Frankenheimer
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

Grand Prix is without a doubt the greatest racing movie ever made, bar none.  The story is a fascinating one.  The on-track footage is breathtaking.  Race fans will see recognize real drivers of the day in many scenes.  Phil Hill, one of only two Americans ever to win the F1 championship, even gets to deliver a few lines of dialog as one of the Japanese team drivers.  And the cars!  There are so many beauty shots of era race cars both parked and in their element, I lost count.  The track footage never gets old and of course, it’s all real.  Watching the excellent documentaries will show you what lengths director John Frankenheimer was willing to go to to get a shot.  Another technique that gets a fair amount of play is the split screen shots.  They are especially effective during the build-up to the start of a race.  The camera zooms in on some detail like an exhaust pipe or throttle linkage.  Then the screen splits in progressively more frames creating a kaleidoscope feel.  Truly groundbreaking for 1966!  Grand Prix gets my highest recommendation and should be a must-own for any racing enthusiast.

Technical

The restoration is of reference quality.  Film grain is tight to the point of being almost non-existent.  This is no doubt due to the excellent 70mm original used for this Blu-ray.  I did occasionally see dirt and slight discoloration but this is not the fault of the transfer.  This is easily among the very best-looking vintage movies on disc today.  Color was beautifully saturated.  Combined with razor-sharp detail and a complete lack of edge enhancement, foreground objects popped out with a truly 3D effect.  The lighting is always bright, which I appreciate.  There is one tough nighttime scene when Pete Aron’s race car is fished out of the sea.  Every bit of shadow detail was perfectly preserved.  You will be hard-pressed to find a better-looking Blu-ray, period.

Audio is also of reference quality, exceeding that of any other movie of the era in my experience.  The sound of different race cars both at idle and at speed will not fail to get your heart pounding.  Dialog is clean and clear at all times.  The only downside is it becomes very obvious when actors looped their lines on a soundstage.  I’m not sure Yves Montano had a single word that wasn’t overdubbed.  Still, I can’t fault the transfer.  It could not have been done better.  Music is somewhat trite in style but the fidelity is superb.  Maurice Jarre’s orchestral score was originally presented in a six-channel mix and the wide soundstage and deep imaging is perfectly preserved in the 5.1 soundtrack.

Extras

There is a nice set of bonus features; perfect for fans of this classic film.  Five documentaries on both F1 racing and the making of the movie total nearly 90 minutes.  The only bummer is they’re all in SD.  Also included is the original theatrical trailer.


"True Grit" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Stephen Hornbrook

movie-june-2011-true-grit

Synopsis

True Grit is the story of a daughter seeking vengeance for the unjust murder of her father.  
At just 14 years of age, Mattie Ross (Steinfeld) seeks to hire a man to help hunt down Chaney, the man who killed her father.  Mattie finds the help of the toughest US Marshall in town, Rooster Cogburn (Bridges), a man she was told possessed “true grit.”  A Texas Ranger named LaBoeuf (Damon) joins them in their hunt as he has business with Chaney as well.

Specifications

  • Paramount
  • 2010, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 50 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Barry Pepper
  • Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

Like most Coen Brothers movies, True Grit is funny at times, but always with a dark cloud of Coenism looming above. I very much enjoyed this movie and all the fuss about Hailee’s performance is well deserved. The movie is worth watching just for the sake of seeing her and Bridge’s performances.  Sorry Matt Damon, didn’t mean to leave you out as your character was very good as well! There isn’t too much to the story, and it isn’t going to leave you wanting to discuss it like some of their other movies such as No Country for Old Men, but True Grit is entertaining and fun.  I for one, am happy to add this to my collection of movies.

Technical

Paramount gave us a beautiful Blu-ray with this release of True Grit. Image quality is top notch and will not disappoint. The audio on the disc is a treat for your ears, Carter Burwell’s western-inspired score has a wide soundstage that will really fill up your home theater. The gun shots are some of the best I have heard and really pack a punch.

Extras

Theatrical Trailer, A look at the Cast, Feature on author Charles Portis, Interview with Steinfeld. Fairly weak in the extras department.


"Rocky" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by John Johnson

movie-june-2011-rocky

Synopsis

The Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the World, Apollo Creed (Weathers), decides to create a little publicity by having someone local in Philadelphia join him in an exhibition boxing match. They see Rocky Balboa on TV working as a meat packer, and ask him to participate. Of course, Rocky accepts, but he takes the whole thing very seriously, when it is supposed to be just some fun for everyone.

Rocky's girlfriend Adrian Pennino (Shire), her brother Paulie (Young), and even the Priest at Rocky's church are supportive. Rocky gets the manager of the gym, Mickey Goldmill (Meredith), to train him.

Although everyone who attends and watches the fight (except for Rocky et al.) think they are going to be entertained by a friendly evening, Rocky goes at Creed with the intent of taking the World Championship away from him. Creed scoffs at first, but then Rocky knocks him down, and the champion finds himself on his back in the boxing ring for the first time in his career. So, from that point on, all hell breaks loose, and the exhibition match turns into the fight of the century.

Specifications

  • MGM
  • 1976, Color, Rated PG, 1 Hr 59 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Codec: MPEG-2 @ 18 Mbps
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Burt Young, Carl Weathers, Burgess Meredith
  • Directed by John G. Avildsen
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Mild
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

Sylvester Stallone wrote the screenplay for the movie by locking himself in his bedroom for three days straight, with all the windows painted black. He had been in a few B movies, and wanted more. He persisted with the studio to have him star as Rocky Balboa in the movie, and they finally said yes. The results were Best Picture®, Best Direction®, and Best Film Editing® at the Academy Awards® for 1976. Stallone had been nominated as Best Actor®, and I remember the look of disappointment on his face when he didn't win. Nevertheless, Rocky is one of the best - some might say the best - fight film ever made.

Technical

The image quality is very disappointing, with grain and mosquito noise all over the place. The reason is that it was encoded only at 18 Mbps, when the maximum could have been nearly twice that number. Why encode a Best Picture at that low rate? The sound has some stereo to it, but no real surround effects.

Extras

None on the disc, but it does come with a book that describes how Stallone created the story.


"Platoon" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by John Johnson

movie-june-2011-platoon

Synopsis

It's the late 1960's, and the Viet Nam War is going full force. Young Chris Taylor (Sheen) decides that the war may be more interesting than going to college, so he signs up, arrives in Nam, and the first thing he sees when getting off the troop carrier jet is a pile of body bags, being used for their intended purpose. It's hotter than blazes, the bugs are ferocious, and digging fox holes and trenches just isn't as much fun as he imagined. Now, all he can think of is getting through the year on the front line without ending up in a bag himself.

To the other soldiers, Chris is just another inexperienced recruit, whose life expectancy is short. So, they don't want to get to know him. Sgt. Barnes (Berenger) is as bad as the heat and insects, and to him, the soldiers are expendable tools; when killed, more will replace them. They are nothing to him. Chris is nothing to him. He is dead already.

Sound like a good alternative to college, sitting on the steps of the library, sipping a cola with your girlfriend?

It was a war filled with horror, misery, and death, as all wars are. This movie shows it like it really was. Not like the John Wayne versions. Best Picture® , and well deserved. Also, Best Directing®, Best Film Editing®, and Best Sound® (although that did not come through so well in the 5.1 surround sound for some reason).

Specifications

  • MGM
  • 1986, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Codec: AVC @ 28 Mbps
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Charlie Sheen, Willem Dafoe, Tom Berenger, Keith David, Forest Whitaker
  • Directed by Oliver Stone
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Graphic
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

Very few war movies show the conflict not only between one army and their enemy, but the inner battle with one's own sense of morality. The illegal (war crime) killings in the village portray this vividly. Soldiers come home as different people. Recent studies indicate a huge number of them (the current war in the Middle East) suffer from PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), and that they have a higher rate of eventual heart disease and psychiatric disorders.

Technical

The image quality is very good, but not quite as sharp as I would have hoped. For a movie that won an Academy Award®for Best Sound, I didn't hear much of a surround sound experience.

Extras

These include the Director's Commentary, Deleted and Extended Scenes, Creating the 'Nam, One Way - Many Stories, and Vignettes.


"Hotel Rwanda" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Tyler Stripko

movie-june-2011-hotel-rwanda

Synopsis

In 1994, the long-simmering tensions between the Hutu and Tutsi people in Rwanda came to a head.  The Hutus began systematically exterminating the Tutsis in what can only be construed as genocide.  Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle) is a Hutu who married a Tutsi and fears for the life of his wife and children.  Using his position as a high-class hotel manager, Paul opens up his hotel to over 1000 Tutsi refugees and must use every skill at his disposal to keep them safe throughout the crisis.

Specifications

  • MGM
  • 2004, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 2 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Codec: AVC @ 40 Mbps
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Don Cheadle, Sophie Okondedo, Joaquin Phoenix, and Nick Nolte
  • Directed by Terry George
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Graphic
  • Sex: Nudity
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

“Hotel Rwanda” is based off of the real-life story of Paul Rusesabagina.   Early on in the crisis, Paul realized that the UN was doing little to stop the killings, so he decided to protect his family and as many Tutsis as possible from genocide.  The story is very character driven; focusing primarily on the extraordinary efforts Paul took to keep his “guests” safe from harm.  Fortunately, Don Cheadle’s performance was outstanding and rightfully earned him an Oscar nomination for best actor.  The tightly-woven plot moves along briskly and remains focused on Paul’s struggle.  The supporting cast members are strong and help add even more emotion to the film.   On a moral level, this film is incredibly powerful and shows how ordinary people can become true heroes when called upon.  When I first saw this film back in 2004, I remember being shocked that even though almost one million Tutsis (and Hutus) were slaughtered, there had been almost zero media coverage of these events here in the United States.  Besides being an excellent film “Hotel Rwanda” recalls an important historical event, one that hopefully won’t be repeated any time soon.  An absolute must-see.

Technical

“Hotel Rwanda” looked pretty good on DVD when it was initially released but this Blu-ray looks even better.  Overall, the image is very sharp with vibrant, yet natural color.  There is a bit of film grain, but it does nothing to spoil the overall clarity of the picture.  Contrast is good, with many scenes that show good black levels.  I did notice one or two scenes where the overall picture brightness seemed to fluctuate a bit, but most people probably won’t even notice this.  The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack can best be summed up as subtle, but effective.  All dialogue is perfectly clear, with nary a scene where a viewer struggles to make out the words.   Surrounds are used sparingly, but add some nice atmospheric effects and kick in nicely when the bullets start flying.   The LFE channel is also used sparingly, but offers some nice punch in a few of the more action-driven scenes.

Extras

Included on this disc are a making-of documentary, the “Return to Rwanda” featurette, select scene commentary by Don Cheadle, and an audio commentary with directory Terry George, Paul Rusesabagina, and musician Wyclef Jean.


"American Graffiti" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Tyler Stripko

movie-june-2011-american-graffiti

Synopsis

Set over a single late summer night in 1962, “American Graffiti” tells the tale of four young men at a crossroad in their lives.  Curt (Richard Dreyfuss) and Steve (Ron Howard) are struggling with their decision to leave home and head off to college.  Terry (Charles Martin Smith) is the odd-man-out of the group, always trying to keep up with the others.  John (Paul Le Mat) is the uber-cool drag-racer, whose canary yellow deuce-coupe has never been beat.  Over the course of a long night spent cruising the strip, hanging out at the drive-in, searching for love, and listening to tunes spun by radio DJ Wolfman Jack, the four boys each make their decision over how to spend the rest of their lives.

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 1973, Color, Rated PG, 1 Hr 53 Min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Codec: VC-1
  • 1080p
  • English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Richard Dreyfuss, Ronny Howard, Paul Le Mat, Charlie Martin Smith, Candy Clark, Mackenzie Philips, Cindy Williams, and Wolfman Jack
  • Directed by George Lucas
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: None
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

For years I’ve heard about how great this film was but up until now had never seen it for myself.  Perhaps this film resonates more with those who spent their teenage years in the 1960’s but I was left scratching my head on this one.  First of all, the story moves along extremely slowly.  The one hour, 53 minute run time felt more like three hours to me.  While it was interesting to see how a teenager of the 60’s spent their nights, this story is character-driven and the character development really fell flat.  I felt absolutely no empathy for the characters of Steve and Laurie.  Ron Howard’s dialogue and acting were poor and his scenes added nothing of value to the film.  The fact that he decides to abandon his college dreams to stay with a girl of such little personality further confuses things. Curt’s character gets a bit better development (and better acting by Dreyfuss), but we don’t get a satisfying explanation for why he changes his mind and decides to head off to college after his evening.  Terry’s character is more entertaining and felt far more realistic to me.  I think we all knew guys in high school like him.  The best character development came with John’s character.  Having the cool drag racer get stuck spending the entire evening with a whiny 13-year old is probably the highlight of the film.  There was some great dialogue between John and young Carol which gave the scenes realism and great heart.   The big drag race to conclude the film is absolutely anti-climactic in my book and had me uttering “That’s all?”

Technical

For a film shot in 1973, the picture doesn’t look too bad.  Close ups are fairly sharp, but other shots are a bit soft.  I noticed some edge enhancement, which causes occasional ringing and haloing.  Black levels are elevated a bit, but overall colors are vibrant.  Film grain is moderate, which helps give the movie a more period-correct look.  The 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack was pretty good considering that it was only 2.0 channels.  Dialogue is very clear and natural sounding and Wolfman Jack’s tunes carry decent weight.  The soundtrack is a literal who’s who of rock and roll history and as such is very enjoyable.  While I would have preferred a cleaner presentation of the music, the filmmakers did a good job of making it sound like the songs were being played through the car stereos.

Extras

There is a full-length “making of” documentary plus screen tests of some of the stars from the film.  The “U-Control” enabled disc also includes a new commentary from director George Lucas and a “music identification” game that you can play.


"Once Upon A Time In The West" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movie-june-2011-once-west

Synopsis

The unholy trinity of Italian cinema--Sergio Leone, Bernardo Bertolucci, and Dario Argento--concocted the story about a woman (Claudia Cardinale) hanging onto her land in hopes that the transcontinental railroad would reach her before a steely-eyed, black-hearted killer (Fonda) does. Meanwhile, Leone shoots his stars' faces as if they were expansive Western landscapes, and their towering bodies as if they were looming rock formations in John Ford's Monument Valley. Considered by many to be one of the best Westerns ever filmed, this movie is a must own classic for those who like their Westerns wild.

Specifications

  • Paramount
  • 1968, Color, Rated PG, 2 Hr 46 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Codec: MPEG 4
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Henry Fonda, Jason Robards, Charles Bronson, Claudia Cardinale
  • Directed by Sergio Leone
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Mild
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

Fonda is the steeliest blue eyed gunslinger you will ever meet, Cardinale is everyman’s dream, Robards is one tough hombe and Charles Bronson is…well, Bronson. Superb acting and wonderful cinematography make this story great to watch on the big screen or in your home cinema. The details: dirt, sweat and stubble, all just jump off the screen at you.Wonderful cinematography includes vistas from Monument Valley and stunning close-ups of faces. Much of the "dialog" of this movie is conveyed by the eyes of the characters. If you enjoyed Clint Eastwood in Fist Full of Dollars and High Plains Drifter, this movie is right up your alley.

Technical

The picture has been painstakingly remastered and looks very good, indeed. Grain is present, but gives the movie a nice film-like quality. Colors are vibrant and details are aplenty. The facial details in particular are amazing! Who would have thought to cast Fonda as a heartless villain? All the dust and sweat never looked this good in SD. The music by Morricone is beautiful, with each character having their own theme music. The sound track really adds a finishing touch to a film that is as compelling as it is entertaining. Gun shots sound like howitzers, with enough kick to get your subwoofer hopping.

Extras

Included are Opera of Violence, Wages of Sin, Something to do with Death, audio commentary, trailer in SD and photo gallery (Then and Now). Also as a side note, Paramount also throws in a cool hidden featurette in the "Extras" section of the main menu. With the commentary track highlighted, scroll to the left and a black horseshoe appears in the top right corner of the banner. When pressing "Enter" on the remote, we get a fun montage that works much like a contemporary preview for the film.


"The Horse Soldiers" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movie-june-2011-horsesoldiers

Synopsis

A Union Cavalry outfit is sent behind confederate lines in strength to destroy a rail/supply centre. Along with them is sent a doctor who causes instant antipathy between him and the commander. The secret plan for the mission is overheard by a southern belle who must be taken along to assure her silence. The Union officers each have different reasons for wanting to be on the mission. Based on actual events from the Civil War, this John Ford tale offers action, honor, passion and a nostalgic look at past glories.

Specifications

  • MGM
  • Color, Not Rated, 2 Hr 26 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
  • Codec: V1
  • 1080p
  • English 1.0 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: John Wayne, William Holden, Constance Towers
  • Directed by John Ford
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

This is a retelling of a true-life episode from the Civil War. In 1863 a Union colonel named Grierson (Marlowe in the film led his cavalry several hundred miles behind Confederate lines to cut the railroad between Newton Station and soon-to-be-embattled Vicksburg. Grierson's Raid was as successful as it was daring, and remarkably bloodless. Holden plays a wonderful foil to Wayne, as the doctor. Constance Towers does her part as the Southern Belle in distress and has good chemistry with Wayne. In spite of the raid being “bloodless”, there is enough action to keep things moving right along. All-in-all, a great cavalry flick.

Technical

Picture quality is good, but not outstanding. Due to the wonders of HD, you can actually see some power lines overhead in one shot and some jet contrails in the sky. Most scenes are in sharp focus, but some of the long shots are a bit soft. Occasionally the picture is marred with some specks and white spots, but they are not too distracting. Not a lot of work went into restoring this classic, but it does look about as good as it ever will. Sound is clear with well anchored dialog, with the sound stage being decidedly front heavy mono. Skin tones and outdoor scenes look lush and natural. Contrast, even in dimly lit scenes, is generally good. Grain is present and adds to the vintage look of this film.

Extras

SD trailer. That's all folks.


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

movies-june-2011-mechanic

Synopsis

Arthur Bishop (Jason Statham) is a 'mechanic' - an elite assassin with a strict code and unique talent for cleanly eliminating targets. It's a job that requires professional perfection and total detachment, and Bishop is the best in the business. But when his mentor and close friend Harry (Donald Sutherland) is murdered, Bishop is anything but detached. His next assignment is self-imposed - he wants those responsible dead. His mission grows complicated when Harry's son Steve (Ben Foster) approaches him with the same vengeful goal and a determination to learn Bishop's trade. A methodical hit man takes an impulsive student deep into his world and a deadly partnership is born. But while in pursuit of their ultimate mark, deceptions threaten to surface and those hired to fix problems become problems themselves.

Specifications

  • Sony Pictures
  • Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 33 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Codec: MPEG 4
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Jason Statham, Ben Foster, Donald Sutherland
  • Directed by Simon West
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

The 1972 version of The Mechanic was a tough action film that reflected the times. Though it was flawed, it did get points for having a cool Charles Bronson who begins teaching the tricks of the trade to a young apprentice, played by Jan Michael Vincent. So the idea of a remake isn't outrageous and handing the title role to tough guy Statham is a logical choice; Statham's got the looks and moves. However, this flick fades away from the edginess of the original and settles for a typical guns and explosions vs. character development approach. Statham stays in his silent and smoldering mode throughout, while Foster plays things recklessly. Donald Sutherland successfully adds flavor as the old teacher who gets wrongfully whacked, but alas, he appears only briefly in the film. Though a reasonable action flick, I would not sit through it a second time. This is a rental at best, for me

Technical

Very good sound and picture. Some of the outdoors scenes have the latest trend of over saturation and blown out contrasts, but that is a style choice and not the fault of the medium. Guns and explosions have plenty of impact. There is plenty of work for the surrounds and sub during most of this movie.

Extras

Deleted scenes, Feature: Tools of the Trade.


Nightmare in Las Cruces" (DVD) - Reviewed by Adrian Wittenberg

movie-july-2011-nightmare-at-las-cruces

Synopsis

On the morning of February 10, 1990, two gunmen entered into the Las Cruces bowling alley located in New Mexico and shot seven people leaving four dead and three wounded.  After the safe was robbed and the office was lit on fire, the gunmen fled the scene.  Among the people that were murdered, execution style, were two very young girls, ages two and six.  One of the victims, while severely wounded was able to contact 911 for help.  The murderers were never caught and the case has not yet been solved.

Specifications

  • Lionsgate
  • Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 43 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Codec: AC-3
  • 480p
  • English 5.1 Dolby digital
  • Actors: Hafid Abdelmoula, Shannon Caruso, Charles Comer, Dora Cothern, Howard Cothern
  • Directed by Charlie Minn
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Extreme
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

This film is a documentary and should not be confused with a horror genre film.  The manner in which the described event took place highlights an absolute low in humanity and the crime that was committed has devastated the lives and families of the survivors. The main intent of this documentary is to make people aware of this horrific crime, that has gone unsolved for twenty years, and possibly inspire some people to call in and offer clues or leads so that the murderers can be brought to justice. The documentary is well put together and highlights the personal suffering that the survivors and families of the victims endure.  This documentary will give the viewer a chance to feel a sliver of the trauma that the atrocious crime has caused.

Technical

Average video quality for a documentary series.  Audio was of average quality.

Extras

Director commentary.


"Gnome & Juliet" (3D Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Adrian Wittenberg

movie-june-2011-gnomeo-and-juliet-3d

Synopsis

Two neighbors both share a passion for decorating their gardens with clay gnome statues.  The gnomes come alive when humans aren't looking.  The gnomes, which are colored red or blue, dislike the opposing colored gnomes and are constantly fighting with each other.  Gnomeo, (voiced by James McAvoy) one of the heroes of the blue colored faction is on a mission to defile the other gnome's camp and accidentally runs into an red colored gnome named Juliet, (voiced by Emily Blunt).  The two clay gnome statues instantly fall in love and they are then challenged by the beliefs of their respective clay gnome factions.

Specifications

  • Disney Studios
  • 2011, Color, Rated G, 1 Hr 24 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Codec: MPEG 4 MVC
  • 1080p
  • English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Maggie Smith, Ashley Jensen, Michael Caine
  • Directed by Kelly Asbury
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Cartoon Violence
  • Sex: None
  • Language: No

Commentary

I watched this film on a 2D display at first and I was baffled as to why the kind of clay gnomes you could find at a craft store were picked as a character to develop a story around.  The film came off as a mediocre children's cartoon and I wasn't impressed.  When I rewatched this film in 3D I was instantly drawn into the world that the animators created and was entertained throughout the duration of the picture.  This highlights that the story on its own is not that inspiring but the 3D on the other hand is a technical showcase where viewers are drawn into observing and exploring the 3D world that has been created.  While the voice acting talents only do a moderate job at making the characters likeable, with a few scenes invoking laughter, the 3D effects on the other hand, do a spectacular job at giving personality and charisma to the characters.  Animators are likely the ones that will lead the way in how 3D will be implemented in modern films as they have unlimited angles and effects to experiment with.  In this film there were interesting and creative effects with a large variety of depth and spaciousness in the scenes.  I would have rated this film much lower for entertainment value if not for the 3D implementation.

Technical

On the video side, Gnomeo & Juliet as about as good as you can get when it comes to a transfer.  The level of detail in every scene is superb.  There is a robust color palette that is very rich in the primary colors.  The 3D effects in the film are excellent and every scene shows a sense of depth and adds uncanny realism to the clay gnome statues.  Some of the detail in the film really comes alive when it is viewed in 3D.  The DTS 7.1 Master Audio track for this film is very good and breathes life into the enviroment.  The sound track for Gnomeo & Juliet is upbeat and fun.

Extras

Extras include Fawn of Darkness, Crocodile Rock, Frog Talk with Ashley Jensen, Deleted Scenes, Alternate Endings, and Elton Builds a Garden.  Extras are the kind of routine additions seen in a Blu-ray release and unfortunately there are no 3D specific features included.