Articles

Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - November, 2010

ARTICLE INDEX

"Back to the Future Trilogy" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by John Johnson

Back to the Future Trilogy

Synopsis

Part I: In 1985 (when the first movie was made), Dr. Emmett Brown (Lloyd), an eccentric inventor, designs a time machine using a DeLorean automobile. Marty McFly (Fox), a high school student, gets in the car and is accidentally sent back to 1955, when the local town was just being built, and his parents were in high school but had not met each other or even dated. He meets Dr. Brown 30 years younger as well, and Brown is horrified because anything Marty does to interfere with his parents-to-be Lorraine (Thompson) and George McFly (Glover) could erase Marty's existence.

In Part II, it is 2015, and Biff Tannen (Wilson), who was the school bully when Marty was a student, has become rich based on a future race results book that Marty left in the back seat of Biff's car. Marty and Dr. Brown travel there partly because Marty's children are getting out of hand, but also Marty has to pose as his own son to keep out of prison.

Part III has Marty going back to 1885, where Dr. Brown has already travelled, and meets his grandfather. He is definitely the stranger in town, and he calls himself Clint Eastwood. "Clint" has to face Buford 'Mad Dog' Tannen (Biff's grandfather) in a gunfight in order to save Doc Brown's life. In the meantime, Brown meets a new schoolteacher, Clara Clayton (Steenburgen), and falls in love with her. Marty and Doc Brown build a mechanism to get an old railroad train up to the right speed to take them back to 1985, but Brown hesitates, because he has to leave Clara behind.


Specifications

  • Universal
  • 1985, 1989, 1990, Color, Rated PG, 1 Hr 56 min, 1 Hr 49 min, 1 Hr 59 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Mary Steenburgen, Crispin Glover, Thomas F. Wilson
  • Directed by Robert Zemeckis
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

Part I of this series was a surprisingly big hit at the box office, so naturally, sequels followed. Part II is the least entertaining of the three, partly because it is confusing as to when who is looking at whom in the future or the past. Part III is the best, in my opinion, and I remember it especially because my daughter took me to the theater to see it for my birthday. I loved every minute of it, and being a scientists myself, sort of identified with Doc Brown's preoccupation with the why and how of nature rather than just the what.

Technical

These are old films, but are transferred with loving care. Modest (my term for not enough) use of surround. Not that important though because the stories are so much fun.

Extras

This package is the 25th Anniversary Trilogy, so there is a huge compilation of extras, including Deleted Scenes, In the Beginning, Keeping Time, Behind the Scenes, Outtakes, Production Design, Making the Trilogy, Michael J. Fox Q&A, and plenty of storyboard and other photos.


"Ironman 2" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movie-november-2010-ironman-2

Synopsis

Tony Stark discloses to the world that he is the Iron Man and the senate presses him to deliver his technology for military purposes. Meanwhile, the vengeful Ivan Vanko astounds the world by attacking Iron Man in Monaco. His army friend 'Rhodey' Rhodes steals an armored suit from Tony and brings it to the military. With the world now aware of his dual life as the armored superhero, billionaire inventor Tony Stark faces pressure from the government, the press, and the public to share his technology with the military. Unwilling to let go of his invention, Stark, along with Pepper Potts and James Rhodes at his side, must forge new alliances - and confront new and powerful enemies.

Specifications

  • Paramount
  • 2010, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 24 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: MPEG-4
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Mickey Rourke, Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson
  • Directed by Jon Favreau
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

While I was dazzled by the sights and sounds, I found the plot engaging in a suspension-of-disbelief kind of way. Unlike the first film, though, I did not find the plot to be persuasive. The first film put a spin on the traditional comic book adversary; Stark had to physically fight with the power-hungry Obadiah Stane and terrorists, but his real enemies were war and injustice. This time around, it's much more by the numbers - a superhero pitted against a madman out for revenge, a fight to the finish that includes a lot of explosions, a potpourri of digital whiz-bang and highly choreographed stunts. There are a number of films that can give you pretty much the same thing. I also felt that there were too many sub-plots running around and not enough time to flesh them out. Ultimately, this movie is just a long set up for the next sequel and a prequel for the upcoming “Justice League” movie. (Did you notice Capt. America’s shield in this movie?)

Technical

Picture and sound are top notch, near demo quality. I felt that the CGI was not as exceptional as the first movie, but still, not bad. Flesh tones and contrast are spot on. Lots of rumble for the sub with plenty of action in the surrounds. Dialog was always clear and intelligible

Extras

"Making Of" and BD live extras and commentaries included.


"How To Train Your Dragon" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Stephen Hornbrook

movie-november-2010-how-train-dragon

Synopsis

How To Train Your Dragon is a story about a young Viking named Hiccup who is growing up in a village where dealing with dragons is a daily job. His father is a strong chief who has killed more than his fair share of dragons in his time. He expects his boy to become a dragon-fighting man just like himself, but Hiccup is clumsy, scrawny, and has zero fighting instincts.  After Hiccup causes trouble by attempting to take down a dragon with one of his contraptions, his father gives up on him. Hiccup, however, is convinced he hit a dragon and goes searching in the woods. Hiccup finds the elusive Night Fury has been downed by his net.  Instead of killing the dragon he sets him free.  This leads to a special bond between the two and Hiccup uses that to learn all about the dragons. He becomes, what you might call, a Dragon Whisperer.  It's up to Hiccup to convince the rest of his fellow Vikings that the dragons aren't as mean and violent as once thought.

Specifications

  • Dreamworks Animation/Paramount
  • 2010, Color, Rated PG, 1 Hr 38 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
  • English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
  • Starring Voices of: Gerard Butler, Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jonah Hill, America Ferrera, Craig Ferguson
  • Directed by Chris Sanders, Dean DeBlois
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

I really enjoyed this movie. Dreamworks has really stepped up their game in the animation department. Although my favorite of theirs is still Kung Fu Panda, How To Train Your Dragon definitely comes in a close second.   It is great entertainment for the whole family and should not be missed. I'd say worthy of a purchase for most Blu-ray fans, but surely worth a rental for anyone curious.

Technical

This will be mentioned on many audio video forums as a reference demo title and terrific subwoofer test.  There are countless scenes that will give your subs an amazing workout. Not just loud, but low and detailed as well. Like most computer generated movies, the picture quality is perfect.

Extras

Audio Commentary, Picture-in-Picture "Bonus View" commentary, several featurettes, Legend of the Boneknapper Dragon - short film.


"Moulin Rouge" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

movie-november-2010-moulin-rouge

Synopsis

The bohemian writer Christian (Ewan McGregor) sets off for the Montmarte section of Paris in 1899, obsessed by the idea of true love, despite having never experienced it himself.  Meeting up with fellow artists that inhabit his building and share has passions, he winds up at the Moulin Rouge, a wondrous home of dancing, and women of ill repute.  Here Christian meets Satine (Nicole Kidman), the star of the Moulin Rouge, and proceeds to fall instantly in love with her, despite her lifestyle.  Due to a series of circumstances, Christian winds up as the writer for the new show to be put on at the Moulin Rouge, "Spectacular, Spectacular", starring Satine and funded by the Duke (Richard Roxburugh), who agrees to do so on the condition that only he can be with Satine.

Specifications

  • 20th Century Fox
  • 2001, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 8 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
  • English DTS-HD MA 5.1
  • Starring Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor
  • Directed by Baz Luhrmann
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

Words can not really do justice to describing Moulin Rouge, Baz Luhrmann's attempt to reinvent the movie musical.  Though people seem to strongly love or hate Moulin Rouge, I fall firmly on the side of loving it.  Too often movie musicals do nothing but put a stage show on screen, without taking advantage of what you could do with film.  Moulin Rouge does not hesitate to take full advantage of this, and is a feast for the eyes and ears.  It was a film that was spectacular in theaters, but wasn't done justice by DVD, but now once again is splendid on this Blu-ray version.

Technical


Moulin Rouge is a very stylistic film, and it comes across in Blu-ray in all that visual splendor.  With great blacks, fantastic detail, and very little that I can find to take away, this is the best this film has looked outside of the theaters, and was a wonderful experience to get to watch it again.  Similarly, the soundtrack in the theater was alive and engulfing, but DVD wasn't able to bring that across to the home viewer that well, but the Blu-ray is fantastic.  With a 5.1 lossless track, the viewer is constantly assaulted from all around, as musical numbers take place all around you, with clear dialog and plenty of detail.

Extras

A commentary track with the director, production designer, DP, and co-writer that also features a PIP option, deleted and alternate scenes, featurettes, trailers, music videos, and more, and almost all presented in 1080p.


"The Maltese Falcon" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

movie-november-2010-the-maltese-falcon

Synopsis

The film opens with a scroll about The Maltese Falcon, a rare artifact that has been lost for hundreds of years now.  The film then shifts to current day San Francisco, and the private investigation firm of Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) and Miles Archer (Jerome Cowan).  Hired by Ruth Wonderly (Mary Astor) to help track down her sister and return her home, Archer winds up being killed that night with Spade as the main suspect in his case.  However, Spade will quickly discover that Miss Wonderly is not who she claimed to be at the start, and her actual intentions have nothing to do with her sister, but to attempt to discover the missing Maltese Falcon before another group can find it.  Sam Spade will now have to work to figure out who is working against whom, and how to get himself out of the trouble he's already in.

Specifications

  • Warner Brothers
  • 1941, B&W, Not Rated, 1 Hr 41 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: VC-1
  • English DTS-HD MA 1.0
  • Starring Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre
  • Directed by John Huston
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

The film that helped make Humphrey Bogart into a film star, The Maltese Falcon is a film classic, and one that is still enjoyable to this day.  Starting out quickly and moving right along, the film will keep you entertained, and wondering, the whole time and is well worth watching if you've never seen it before.

Technical

Though not as sharp as some other classic films from Warner Brothers, The Maltese Falcon does look very nice on Blu-ray.  Perhaps a little soft and missing some of the fine detail that other transfers have, but still better than the film has looked at home before.  The soundtrack is also very good for its age, with clear dialog and effects, though not much dynamic range.

Extras

The disc features a good amount of extras considering the age of the film, including commentary from a Bogart biographer, a couple featurettes, blooper reels and screen tests, and radio adaptations of the original novel.


"The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

movie-november-2010-treasure-of-the-sierra-madre

Synopsis

Fred Dobbs (Humphrey Bogart) is an American in early 20th century Mexico, trying to scrape by.  After someone tries to rip them off, he teams up with another American, Bob Curtin, and an old prospector named Howard to go out into the country in search of gold.  In their quest they'll face many obstacles, from lack of money and resources, to bandits and the weather, but what they never see coming is what winds up as their biggest threat of all.

Specifications

  • Warner Brothers
  • 1948, B&W, Not Rated, 2 Hr 6 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: VC-1
  • English DTS-HD MA 1.0
  • Starring Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston
  • Directed by John Huston
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

Before watching this film, all that I knew was that I had heard Werner Herzog say it was his favorite film during an interview on NPR.  That brought me into it with high expectations, and I have to say that those were met.  A wonderful film that I really recommend for everyone.

Technical

Shot over 60 years ago, Treasure of the Sierra Madre arrived on Blu-ray looking fantastic.  Warner Brothers has a good history with classic titles and this one doesn't hurt their reputation at all.  Grain is present of course, but there is fantastic contrast and detail in the image, and it's probably as good as this film will ever look again.  Audio is good, though the dynamic range isn't fantastic, but dialog is very easy to understand and that's about as much as you can hope for in a mono movie from this period.

Extras

Some featurettes, the original trailer, and a radio version of the film are included.


"Alien" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

Alien

Synopsis

The crew of the starship Nostromo is awakened during their return to Earth to investigate a mysterious signal emanating from a nearby planet.  After landing, they discover the source to be a derelict alien ship wrecked hundreds of years earlier.  Suddenly one of the crew is attacked by a spider-like creature that attaches itself to his face.  All efforts to remove the entity fail but it soon dies and falls off on its own.  All seems well until Cain (Hurt) has a violent seizure followed by silver-toothed creature that bursts from his chest.  The remaining crew searches the ship for the alien which quickly grows to huge proportions and becomes as deadly as it is unstoppable.

The decision is made to destroy the ship and escape in the shuttle.  Soon only Ripley and her cat Jones remain as she jettisons from the Nostromo and watches it explode through the window.  Just as she prepares for 10 months in hibernation, the alien slides out from behind a console and Ripley just manages to force it out the airlock.

Specifications

  • 20th Century Fox
  • 1979, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 56 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec:  AVC @ 25 Mbps
  • English:  DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Starring:  Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerrit, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, Yaphet Kotto, Ian Holm, John Hurt
  • Directed by Ridley Scott
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

This was the first film to successfully combine horror and science fiction.  Previous attempts are firmly in the campy B-movie genre.  Alien was a true blockbuster with fantastic production quality and the feel of a psychological thriller.  The crew is just a bunch of hard-working space jocks looking forward to their return home and their payoff.  Things aren’t what they seem of course and they soon find themselves struggling to survive a ruthless deadly monster.  The tension builds through numerous dark and damp scenes as the crew members encounter the alien one by one.  I have seen this film many times and it never fails to make me jump.

Technical

This disc is part of the just-released Alien Anthology box set which I will be reviewing in its entirety, movie by movie, for this month’s guide.  Before I talk about video and audio quality, I must mention an issue I had at my initial viewing.  When the disc loads, it offers the choice of viewing the 1979 Theatrical Version or the 2003 Director’s Cut.  I chose the Director’s cut which begins with a short into by Ridley Scott.  When the film began, the screen zoomed in to only the top left quadrant of the image.  After fumbling with the remote I found that pressing Top Menu then Play solved the problem.  This happened in my Oppo BDP-83 with the latest firmware.  From my Internet research I learned this issue does not occur on other players.

Video quality is superb in all respects.  I can’t imagine this 31-year old film looking better.  Grain is scrubbed but not to the point of softness.  In fact, most of the movie has the look of a recent release, not something from 1979.  The detail in faces and other close-ups is stunning with every pore, bead of sweat, and bit of dirt plainly visible.  Color is depicted naturally with hues appropriate to the gritty lived-in interior of the Nostromo.  Contrast is excellent with deep detailed blacks and bright un-crushed whites.  The image is film-like at all times.  This is one of the finest restorations I’ve seen to date; true reference quality.

Audio is restored to a very high standard.  I only docked one star because I thought the surrounds and sub could have been used more.  Most of the sound is at low volume and detail is excellent.  My favorite example was a scene in the cargo bay with lots of dripping water and clinking chains; very spooky.  The sense of space was fantastic and the soft sounds were rendered with the utmost clarity.  Dialog was clear at all times but occasionally sounded compressed.  I believe this is more due to the technology of 1979 than any weakness in this Blu-ray release.  The musical score by Jerry Goldsmith doesn’t play a huge part but when it’s needed to create tension or highlight action, it delivers with aplomb.  Goldsmith has earned his reputation as a Hollywood legend.

Extras

First I have to mention the packaging.  The four movies and two bonus discs come bound in a book with the discs slotted sideways on every other leaf.  Surrounding them are scenes from the films and the whole thing has a stiff cardboard cover protected by a sturdy slipcase.  It’s very elegant and well-designed.

The Alien Anthology has the largest set of bonus features I’ve ever seen.  There are over 60 hours of documentaries and featurettes, all contained on two extra discs in the box.  Each movie disc contains the original theatrical release and a director’s cut of the film.  You can also turn on commentary from directors, actors and writers.  Deleted and extended scenes are also available.  The extra discs contain so much material; I just can’t list it all here.  If you are a fan of this series, the information presented here is truly exhaustive.


"Star Wars - The Clone Wars, Season 2" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

movie-november-2010-clone-wars

Synopsis

This account of the Clone Wars takes place between Episodes 2 and 3 in the movie trilogy.  Anakin Skywalker (Lanter) and his padawan, Ahsoka Tano (Eckstein) along with Obi-Wan Kenobi (Taylor) battle the evil Separatists to save the long-standing Republic.  Through 22 serialized episodes we see the forces of darkness represented by a shifty bounty hunter, a mind-controlling Queen, a monstrous alien creature and even a young Boba Fett seeking revenge for his father’s death.  The Jedi have their hands full fighting enemies of the republic all the while trying to restore order to the hundreds of peaceful worlds caught in the conflict.

Specifications

  • Lucasfilm
  • 2010, Color, Not Rated, 8 Hr 14 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec:  Not Specified
  • English:  Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Starring:  Matt Lanter, James Arnold Taylor, Matthew Wood, Ashley Eckstein
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

I admit I’m a big Star Wars fan and yes, I do think the original movies from the seventies and eighties are the best.  I’ll still watch anything from the franchise though and I have yet to be disappointed.  When Cartoon Network premiered this series, I didn’t have their feed on my cable system in high-def so I bought the discs for Season One.  I was thoroughly entertained and buying Season Two was a no-brainer.  All the voice-acting is done superbly and the animation quality is first-rate.  It’s not quite on Pixar’s level but it’s still quite excellent.  The storylines are engaging and fun and will appeal to a wide variety of fans both young and old.  Since it’s only a little more than eight hours of material, you can watch the entire season in just a few sittings.  I like watching four or five episodes at a time for that classic serial feel.  If you’re even a casual fan of anything Star Wars, you’ll no doubt enjoy this show.

Technical

Image quality is superb and among the very best CGI animation has to offer. Rich color and detailed textures are what this show is all about.  The picture is razor sharp at all times and really pops from the screen.  Dark scenes are equally excellent with great shadow detail and consistent black levels.  Most animation tends toward the bright and bold but Clone Wars presents a nice mix of image dynamics.  You can enjoy this show equally on a television or in a theater presentation.  Even though it was created for TV, the aspect ratio is 2.35:1 cinemascope, very cool.

Audio is merely average mainly due to the inexplicable decision to include only a compressed Dolby Digital soundtrack.  These Blu-rays are excellent in every other respect so I can’t imagine why Lucasfilm would not deliver a lossless codec.  The sound quality is certainly clean and clear but dynamics and detail could be far better.  The sub and surrounds won’t have much work to do as the majority of the audio comes from the front.  Dialog is clear and well-placed.  The music maintains the feel of John Williams’ iconic score even though it’s penned by others, well done.

Extras

Bonus features are a bit thin but the included art book somewhat makes up for it.  On disc there are four featurettes with cast and crew interviews and a database of concept artwork.  The included book is a production journal with 68 pages of original sketches and artist notes.


"The Bridge on the River Kwai" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

movie-november-2010-bridge-on-the-river-kwai

Synopsis

Set during WWII, a British unit led by Col. Nicholson (Alec Guinness) is captured  by the Japanese and held in a camp run by Col. Saito (Sessue Hayakawa), and ordered to help build a bridge over the river Kwai.  Nicholson is steadfastly rooted in a belief that society and order must exist, even in war, much to the opposition of Col. Saito, who seeks to throw out the rules of society in times like this.  An American who is also being held in the camp, Shears (William Holden) manages to escape the camp shortly after Nicholson arrives, enabling him to alert the Allies to the plan of Saito to construct the bridge.  Shears must then return to stop Nicholson and Saito from being able to complete their task.

Specifications

  • Sony
  • 1957, Color, Rated PG, 2 Hr 42 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.55:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
  • English DTS-HD MA 5.1
  • Starring Alec Guinness, William Holden
  • Directed by David Lean
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

Anchored by a wonderful performance from Alec Guinness, Bridge over the River Kwai explores the coexistance of society and order in times of war, and the issues with following those rules and orders without thinking about the real world consequences of those actions.  I'm a huge David Lean fan, but I still can't recommend the movie enough to everyone, as the nearly 3 hour run time just flew by.

Technical

A wonderful new transfer from the Technicolor original, Bridge on the River Kwai looks amazing.  No longer the drab, washed out image that I have been used to seeing, the image is full of detail, with a bit of fine grain structure that is almost always visible.  The Technicolor image has the wonderful, warm feeling that the technology brings, and the Blu-ray brings that out.  The soundtrack, presented in surround, sounds wonderful with clear, easy to understand dialog, good use of the surround channels, but you can tell the lack of dynamic range on the original elements during certain sound effects.

Extras

The box set includes a book with on-the-set photos, reproductions of original lobby cards for the film, a TV appearance with Alec Guinness and William Holden, a copy of the film on DVD, and some additional featurettes.


"The Last of the Mohicans" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

movie-november-2010-last-of-the-mochicans

Synopsis

In Colonial America, during the French-Indian War, Cora Munro (Madeline Stoew) and her party are ambushed by a group of Huron Indians.  Most of their party is killed but she and a few others are saved by a group of Mohicans, including Hawkeye (Daniel Day Lewis) who isn't a native Mohican, but has been raised by them his whole life.  As they lead Cora and her party to safety, the become entangled in a battle that they want nothing to do with, but will have to choose a side in.

Specifications

  • 20th Century Fox
  • 1992, Color, Unrated, 1 Hr 54 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
  • English DTS-HD MA 5.1
  • Starring Daniel Day Lewis, Madeline Stowe
  • Directed by Michael Mann
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

Though I've been a huge Michael Mann fan since I first saw Heat in theaters, I had never gone back to see Last of the Mohicans until now.  I have to say that I really enjoyed the film more than I had expected to.  The one issue I'd really have with it, and it's one that applies to many other films, is I'd like to see a period movie where the lead female isn't the free thinking rebel of the time that doesn't want to go along with marriage and having a husband selected for her, and wants to think for herself.  Yes, I know these people existed, and they are probably far more interesting characters than those who don't fit into that mold, but it seems that every lead female character now fits into that exact role.

Technical

The opening shots of Mohicans had me worried as the shot of the mountains looks a bit soft, but once that was past, I was continually impressed with the image.  The red coats of the English soldiers were a dark, deep red, with detailed gold trim that really stood out.  Shadow detail was good, which is important as a lot of the film was naturally lit and so scenes in the forest can be very dark compared to your average film.  It isn't the sharpest film, but it is probably how it was originally shot.  The soundtrack left a little bit more to be desired unfortunately.  Battles scenes contained great bass from cannon shots, and a wonderful front soundstage, but virtually no use of the surrounds at all.  When I should have been completely envelloped in the action, I was left a passive spectator by having all the action confined to in front of me.  However, the score from the film was marvelous and sounded wonderful on the Blu-ray.

Extras

Commentary from Michael Mann, a Making Of featurette, and the original trailer.

The box set includes a book with on-the-set photos, reproductions of original lobby cards for the film, a TV appearance with Alec Guinness and William Holden, a copy of the film on DVD, and some additional featurettes.


"The Girl Who Played With Fire" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movie-november-2010-girl-fire

Synopsis

Lisbeth Salander is a wanted woman. A researcher and a Millennium journalist about to expose the truth about the sex trade in Sweden are brutally murdered, and Salander's prints are on the weapon. Her history of unpredictable and violent behavior makes her an official danger to society. Mikael Bloomkvist, Salander's friend and Millennium's plublisher is alone in his belief of Salander's innocence. Digging deeper Bloomkvist unearths evidence implicating highly placed members of Swedish Society-as well as shocking details about Salander's past. He is desperate to get to her before she is cornered-but no one can find her anywhere.

 

Specifications

  • Music Box Films Home Entertainment
  • 2010, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr 9 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
  • Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Swedish
  • Starring Noomi Rapace, Michael Nyqvist
  • Directed by Daniel Alfredson
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

The second installment after The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, this film begins with Mikael Blomkvist (well-acted by Michael Nyqvist), publisher of the muckraking magazine Millennium, has hired a free lancer to write an article about sex traffickers and the johns that are involved in the trade. He intends to out some of the prominent johns. The two parallel stories are like by-the-numbers crime stories, that eventually intersect. There's violence, sex, gore, fires, spies, car chases, torture scenes, and suspense as we follow the protagonists. Lisbeth always seems to be immersed in intrigue, and her physiological profile slowly emerges as the film progresses. There's some computer hacking in this one, but not as much as in the first film. She's forced to be on the run from the law because she's accused of three murders. Lisbeth's cruel father whom she had set afire as a child comes back to haunt her in this sequel. It ends in a cliffhanger that will entice viewers into seeing the third film in the series this fall, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest.

Technical

This film is as well filmed as the first. Some of the night scenes show a bit of noise, but it doesn’t distract. Colors are vibrant and well saturated. Flesh tones are natural. The sound is in DD only and it wasn’t until minute 26 that my sub stirred from its slumber.

Extras

Commentary and several trailers.


"Toy Story 3" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Adrian Wittenberg

movie-november-2010-toy-story-3

Synopsis

When Andy, (voiced by John Morris) decides to take his favorite toy, Sheriff Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks) with him to college and store the rest of his toys in the attic, Andy’s mom mistakenly throws the rest of the toys out for the garbage.  Sheriff Woody comes to the rescue and helps his toy friends barely escape a life of refuse.  The group then decides to make new lives for themselves by making their way to the Sunnyside Day Care.  Sunnyside seems like it will be a great place for the toys, but the group soon finds out that it’s a place of ruin led by the oppressive cold hearted teddy bear named Lotso Bear (voiced by Ned Beatty) and his gang of thug toys.  Only by working together, can the group of toys hope to escape the Sunnyside Day Care and possibly find a better life for themselves.

Specifications

  • Disney Pixar
  • 2010, Animated, Color, Rated G, 1 Hr 43 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
  • DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 7.1 Dolby Digital 5.1 EX French, Spanish
  • Starring Tom Hanks, Tim Allen
  • Directed by Lee Unkrich
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Cartoon Violence
  • Sex: None
  • Language: Family

Commentary

I had originally seen this film in 3D when it was in the theaters and I thought that the story was so captivating that the 3D effects were more of a distraction then a benefit.  Pixar has a good track record for producing top notch animation with engaging, heartfelt storylines.  While Toy Story 1 and 2 had light-hearted stories, this third chapter seems to have a much darker overtone to it.  Lotso and Big Baby in particular are probably two of the creepiest characters that Pixar has ever generated.  There are parts of the story that revolve around the themes of moving on, abandonment, friendship, and betrayal.  As heavy as that sounds, it is afterall an animation and while it was a tad superficial, I'm sure the film will strike a few chords with younger viewers.  Like most Pixar films, Toy Story 3 is filled with good wit and humor that is brought to life by the exceptional cast of voice actors which includes Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Don Rickles, Michael Keaton, Estelle Harris, and John Ratzenberger to name a few.  This is a film that the whole family can enjoy together and is one I can see people revisiting from time to time.

Technical

Toy Story 3 can easily be used as reference material for both audio and video presentation.  On the video side, Toy Story 3 has a rich and vibrant color presentation that covers a very wide gamut of color.  There are plenty of scenes that have a large amount of detail in both bright and dark content.  Pixar has come a long way technically from Toy Story 1 and the amount of detail in characters such as Lotso Bear is quite a spectacle.   I can see myself using Toy Story 3 as sample material to verify how accurately a device is producing color or bright and dark material.  On the audio side, Toy Story 3 leaves nothing to disappointment and one can choose between a DTS-HD 7.1 or DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio lossless track as well as Dolby Digital 5.1 EX.  Having the story centered around small toys, gives the filmmakers no shortage of opportunities to assault a sound system with a barrage of LFE and surround sound effects.  Toy Story 3 also features a wonderful soundtrack that makes a very good connection with the story and the characters.  Pixar always seems to make excellent choices when it comes to incorporating meaningful music into their animations.

Extras

More studios should take example from Pixar and Disney when it comes to including extras for Blu-ray releases.  For starters, the Day and Night theatrical short is included.  Day and Night makes very intelligent and creative use of 3D however, we will have to wait for a 3D version of Toy Story 3 to be released to enjoy it in the way it was designed for.  Extras also include Toy Story Trivia Dash, Cine-Explore with Director Lee Unkrich and Producer Darla Anderson, Beginnings: Setting A Story in Motion, Bonnie’s Playtime-A Story Roundtable With Director Lee Unkrich, Roundin’ Up A Western Opening, Beyond The Toy Box: An Alternative Commentary Track, Paths to Pixar: Editorial, 3 Studio Stories, and more content available through BD-Live.


"Aliens" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

movie-november-2010-alien-anthology

Synopsis

57 years have passed since the events of Alien and Ripley has been floating through space in hyper-sleep the entire time.  She is rescued and immediately accused of destroying the Nostromo without cause.  No one will believe her story about the alien creature.  Meanwhile a terraformer on LV-426 discovers the ancient shipwreck and becomes infected with the monster.  All contact is lost with the colony.  A company man, Carter Burke (Reiser) and a marine combat unit are sent to rescue the colonists.  They arrive to discover the human population cocooned in an alien nest and being used as breeding hosts for more creatures.  The marines are quickly dispatched by dozens of monsters leaving only Ripley, a little girl named Newt (Henn), and a few marines as survivors.  With the help of the android Bishop (Henrikson), they manage to escape from the colony just before their fusion reactor goes critical.  In a final showdown, the alien queen gets on board the mother ship and has an epic battle with Ripley before finally being ejected into space.

Specifications

  • 20th Century Fox
  • 1986, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr 7 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec:  AVC @ 26 Mbps
  • English, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Starring:  Sigourney Weaver, Carrie Henn, Michael Biehn, Lance Henriksen, Paul Reiser, Bill Paxton
  • Directed by James Cameron
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

There are some films that can produce a response similar to a good roller coaster ride.  Aliens is one of those films.  It made my heart race, and my breathing quicken; it’s that intense.  The action is pretty much non-stop for over two hours.  I’ve seen this movie many times including at its release in 1986 and I still break out in a cold sweat during the sequence when Ripley goes into the alien nest to save Newt.  There aren’t many rides better than this one, lemme tell ya’.  James Cameron is in full blockbuster mode with some of his best direction, even compared to more recent work.  Sigourney Weaver as Lt. Ripley is the ultimate survivor as the shows the marines a thing or two about fighting.  The marines are the quintessential Hollywood jarheads; completely over-the-top.  Bill Paxton comes out with some choice lines as he laments on how little time he has left in the corps.  It’s too bad he meets an unfortunate end.  Paul Reiser plays the ultimate corporate slimeball, Carter Burke.  His desire to capture the alien to earn the ultimate percentage is pure evil personified.  For me, this film has no negatives.  It’s my favorite of the four and gets my highest recommendation.

Technical

I encountered the same glitch with this disc as I did with Alien.  When the film begins, the aspect ratio is zoomed to only the upper left quadrant.  Pressing Top Menu then Play solves the problem.  This happened in my Oppo BDP-83 with the latest firmware.  From my Internet research I learned this issue does not occur on other players.

Like Alien, the image is reference quality.  Detail is razor-sharp and color meets my definition of perfect – natural all the way.  Contrast is amazingly deep with fantastic shadow detail and bright punchy highlights.  Even the darkest scenes are perfectly rendered with no hint of crushing or murkiness.  There is nothing to suggest this film is 24 years old except the youth of the actors.  This truly is as good as it gets.  If you want a better picture, you’ll need a holodeck.

Audio was better than Alien but still short of stupendous.  Detail and clarity were excellent but again the surrounds and sub were under-utilized.  All the action took place on an extremely wide and deep front sound stage.  I was never really enveloped with sound.  There are lots of opportunities given the fast-paced action but I found myself a little wanting.  The music is awesome with a pounding score that really gets the juices flowing.  James Horner had very little time to write for Aliens so he adapted material from the second and third Star Trek films as well as borrowing a little from Khachaturian’s Gayane Ballet Suite; superb.

Extras

This disc contains both the theatrical version and the 1991 director’s cut of the film.  The bonus features are shared by the entire Alien Anthology set.  To see my comments, please check out my review of Alien a few pages back.


"Alien 3" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

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Synopsis

The story picks up right after Aliens with Ripley crash-landing on distant world in her sleep pod.  The other survivors of LV-426 are dead.  The planet turns out to be a penal colony with 25 extremely brutal criminals in residence.  Ripley is rescued by the medical officer, Clemens (Dance) and brought back to health.  Unfortunately the alien monster has survived yet again and manages to implant itself in a dog (or ox if you watch the special edition version).  The monster that emerges is smaller and faster than before making it even more deadly.  The hapless inmates have no weapons and the body count begins to grow rapidly.  The warden dispatches a message to the company requesting rescue before he is pulled through the ceiling to his death.  Then Ripley discovers she has an alien growing inside her.  She and lead inmate Dillon (Dutton) devise a plan to lure the monster into a lead mold to kill it and her along with the queen she is carrying.  Just as they succeed the company arrives hoping to capture Ripley and bring the queen back to their bio-weapons lab.  She decides instead to make the ultimate sacrifice and jumps into the furnace ending her life and any chance of the alien’s escape.

Specifications

  • 20th Century Fox
  • 1992, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 55 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec:  AVC @ 20 Mbps
  • English, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Starring:  Sigourney Weaver, Charles S. Dutton, Charles Dance, Ralph Brown
  • Directed by David Fincher
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Implied
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

For me, this film starts a decline in the franchise.  Although it is enjoyable, the first two are just really hard to top.  It’s basically a suspenseful story wrapped up in a slasher flick with a heavy dose of grime and nutty prison inmates.  I will say I prefer the special edition version to the original.  Some plot elements were altered slightly and about 30 minutes added to the runtime.  These are positive changes and I think it raises the excitement level a bit which is a good thing as there are sections that drag.  Charles S. Dutton as the lead inmate almost steals the show here with an intense performance.  Charles Dance is equally engaging as the cool-headed doctor.  I was sad to see him munched by the monster.  The shots actually showing the alien look very fake, like most early attempts at CGI.  It’s still a fun movie; just a little weaker than the first two.  Were the Blu-rays available separately, I would still add it to my library.

Technical

The picture quality is equal to the previous two discs.  My previous comment about the crude CGI effects only refer to the film itself, not the Blu-ray transfer.  I doubt this image could look better.  The gritty interior of the prison is wonderfully presented and made me want to grab a mop and bucket.  Color is natural with rich warm hues in the furnace scenes and cold tones during the outdoor sequences.  A horror flick wouldn’t be complete without lots of dark content and it looks fantastic here.  Blacks are nearly infinite and detail is superb no matter what the light level.

Audio is a little better than in Alien and Aliens thanks to better use of the subwoofer.  Explosions had far more depth and slam and music was very dynamic.  I would have given five stars if the surrounds had been used more effectively.  Pans during action sequences were excellent but restricted to the very wide front sound stage.  I really enjoyed the score by composer Elliot Goldenthal.  I had not heard of him before but it turns out he has written for many films and even won an Oscar for the movie Frida in 2002.

Extras

This disc contains both the theatrical cut and the 2003 special edition version of the film.  The bonus features are shared by the entire Alien Anthology set.  To see my comments, please check out my review of Alien a few pages back.


"Alien Resurrection" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

movie-november-2010-alien-anthology

Synopsis

200 years have passed since Ripley’s death in the furnace on Fiorina 161.  Scientists working on a remote space station have successfully cloned her and the alien queen inside her.  They remove the queen keeping Ripley alive and begin breeding more of the monsters.  Somehow, her DNA mixes with the queen’s creating a hybrid super-being.  This is fortunate because the aliens get loose in the space station almost immediately wiping out every living thing in their path and triggering the station’s failsafe auto-destruct.  Soon the only survivors are a small band of pirates, Ripley and one of the scientists.  Their only chance to avoid blowing up with the station is to get to their ship and fly away.  Despite losing a few people along they make it to the ship and escape.  Naturally, a monster makes it onto the ship and Ripley just manages to suck it out into space moments before the ship enters Earth’s atmosphere.

Specifications

  • 20th Century Fox
  • 1997, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 49 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec:  AVC @ 30 Mbps
  • English, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Starring:  Sigourney Weaver, Winona Ryder, Dominque Pinon, Ron Perlman
  • Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Implied
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

This film seems more about cashing in on a popular franchise than advancing or even tying up the story arc of the first three movies.  It’s pretty formulaic:  scientists want to study the aliens, they get loose, they kill people in various grisly ways and Ripley escapes by a hair’s breadth.  There’s nothing new here and premise for resurrecting Ripley by cloning, and thereby reproducing an alien queen is ridiculously far-fetched.  There are a few gems here however.  Brad Dourif as one of the scientists is simply brilliant – as he is every time he steps onto the screen in any movie.  I only wished he had lived longer as his role is far too short.  Sigourney Weaver is superb again as Ripley, or should I say Queen Ripley.  Since her DNA is partially alien, she takes on a new dark sarcasm that I found very entertaining.  I also enjoyed Ron Perlman as the goon-mercenary-pirate character.  It’s something he does very well.  The dialog is also well-written thanks to the efforts of Joss Whedon, creator of Firefly and Buffy the Vampire Slayer among others.

Technical

The aspect ratio glitch I encountered on discs 1 and 2 of the set cropped up again on Alien Resurrection.  To restore the proper sizing, simply press Top Menu and choose Play.

Image quality has taken a step backward with this disc.  Where the first three were sharp and vibrant, the picture here is soft and murky.  Some of it is due to the lighting style which can be summed up in one word – dark.  Every scene is lit by the most minimal sources like wall sconces or control panels.  You can barely make out the details.  The color palette is fairly warm with natural flesh tones.  Everything else is either black or very dark gray.  Contrast is excellent but with so much of the scenery in shadow, a highlight feels like a long-lost puppy returning home.  This film is grainer than the others which I suspect is by design but it serves more to soften the image rather than create a mood.

Audio is reasonably dynamic with good use of the sub and front soundstage.  I still wished for more activity in the surrounds though.  There were plenty of strong pans across the front and dialog was clear though a little flat in spatiality.  The musical score by composer John Frizzel adds an appropriate amount of foreboding and tension when necessary and is easily the best part of the lossless sound track.

Extras

This disc contains both the theatrical cut and the 2003 special edition version of the film.  I watched the special edition which had a different ending.  It’s certainly worth a look.  The bonus features are shared by the entire Alien Anthology set.  To see my comments, please check out my review of Alien a few pages back.


"Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Stephen Hornbrook

movie-november-2010-scott-pilgrim

Synopsis

Scott Pilgrim is an average Torontonian who plays bass in a band called Sex Bobomb and is dating an underage chinese girl named Knives Chau.  He recently had a tough breakup with his ex and is having a hard time moving on. That is, until he has a dream about a pink-haired girl on rollerblades and soon after see's this same girl delivering packages. After some sleuthing, he discovers she works for Amazon.ca and so he orders a package hoping she would deliver it. Fortunately for Scott, she does and he begs her, Ramona Flowers, for a date.  Romana caves in and they meet for a walk. They seem to hit it off and Scott is overwhelmed with joy. However, he is too weak to break up with his current girlfriend, Knives, but goes ahead with seeing Ramona.  Scott soon finds out he has to battle, and defeat, all seven of Ramona's ex's. Each battle plays out in a video game style.

Specifications

  • Universal
  • 2010, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 52 min
  • Aspect Ratio:  1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec:  AVC MPEG4
  • English, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Starring:  Michael Cera, Alison Pill, Mark Webber, Johnny Simmons, Ellen Wong, Kieran Culkin, Anna Kendrick, Mary Elizabeth Winstead
  • Directed by Edgar Wright
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

Anyone of my age who grew up in the era of 8-bit video games must see- nay, OWN this movie. It's the best "video game" movie made to date. Yes, it's even better than Super Mario Brothers starring Bob Hoskins.  There are so many nods to classic video games, like Zelda, and Street Fighter, that I can't wait to watch it again to find even more goodies.  The style may not be for everyone, as its quite comical and in-your-face, but I found it worked quite well for this movie. When watching a movie by Edgar Wright, I often wonder if he has ADD, since his movies can move very quickly from one thing to another.

Technical

I have read a couple reviews of this Blu-ray indicating less than stellar video quality, and I honestly have no clue what they are seeing! The video quality is absolutely top notch with a very natural, sharp, and detailed feel.  The audio track is also superb and warrants cranking the volume up as loud as your system will go.

Extras

Four commentaries, Deleted Scenes, Several Documentaries, Alternate Footage, and U Control PiP storyboards. This Blu-ray is jam packed with goodies.


"The Karate Kid" (2010) (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Adrian Wittenberg

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Synopsis

Dre Parker (Jaden Smith), lives alone with his mother (Taraji P. Henson) after his father died several years ago.  The mother moves the family to China for her career and together they start a new life.  Dre tries to fit in at school and makes a couple friends including Mei Ying (Wen Wen Han) a girl who he is particularly fond of.   The friendship doesn't fare well for Dre because the girl is also friends with a schoolyard bully named Cheng (Zhenwei Wang), who is an exceptional fighter.  Dre gets routinely beat up by the bully and his gang as he tries to date Mei Ying, until one day a handyman from Dre's apartment complex named Mr. Han (Jackie Chan) intervenes in the beating and teaches the gang a lesson.  Dre asks Mr. Han to teach him Kung Fu so he can fend for himself and Mr. Han reluctantly agrees after accidentally committing Dre to compete against his rivals at a big Kung Fu tournament.  With little time to spare, Mr. Han and Dre work together to better Dre's fighting skill so he can avoid a public beating at the tournament.

Specifications

  • Sony Pictures
  • 2010, Color, Rated PG, 2 Hr 20 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2:40:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: MPEG4-AVC
  • English, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Starring: Jackie Chan, Jaden Smith, Taraji P. Henson, Wenwen Han, Rongguang Yu
  • Directed by Harald Zwart
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Martial Arts
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

This film is tied down to being a remake of a classic to leverage risk and I think it was a terrible mistake because the movie didn't need any such connection for it to work.  Jaden is obviously talented at both acting as well as martial arts and this movie could have been considerably better if they started with a clean slate that featured Jackie Chan as a teacher and Jaden Smith as a student of Kung Fu and a story that didn't have to parallel the original Karate Kid.  In fact after watching this, I am interested to see if Jaden continues with martial arts training and does future films with Jackie Chan or any other martial artists.  I did enjoy this film quite a bit however.  The scenery is amazing and Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith have really good synergy together. Jaden Smith plays the part really well and the fighting in the film is technical and enjoyable to watch.   I'd say the film develops slowly and isn't as magical as the original but it's an entertaining film nonetheless and is great for the whole family.

Technical

The video presentation of the film was excellent.  Scenery looks realistic without being over saturated.  There are some vivid color scenes such as the opening sequence of the Kung Fu school and the scenes at the Chinese festival.  The transfer of this film to Blu-ray was done impeccably and there is excellent detail throughout.  For the audio, The Karate Kid features a 5.1 DTS-HD 5.1 Master audio track.  This movie is a drama more than it is an action film so it's not loaded with surround sound effects.  The sound is good however and what brings it to life is James Horner's musical score.  The film is geared towards younger pop culture so the soundtrack is filled with Horner and hip-hop which brings energy to the whole production.

Extras

The extras on this disc really look like they were all part of a big "making of" featurette and were chopped up into the relative pieces.  The alternate ending is definitely worth watching as it features a fight scene between Jackie Chan's character and the wicked Kung Fu instructor.  I enjoyed watching the extras because I think the extra scenery and background about China is interesting.  Extras include On Location: The Karate Kid Interactive Map of China, Alternate Ending, Production Diaries Hosted by Jackie Chan, Chinese Lessons, a music video by Justin Bieber, The Making of The Karate Kid, and additional BD-Live content.


"The Kids Are All Right" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

movie-november-2010-the-kids-are-all-right

Synopsis

Laser and Joni are the two teenage children of a a lesbian couple, Jules (Julianne Moore) and Nic (Annette Benning).  Joni has recently turned 18 and is soon going to be heading off to college, which Laser is a 15-year-old that doesn't really have much direction for his life currently.  Under some pressure from Laser, Joni contacts the sperm bank that their mom's used to conceive them and manage to track down their biological father, Paul (Mark Ruffalo).  While the meeting is a bit akward for everyone, both Laser and Joni manage to connect with Paul and want to keep seeing him, while both Jules and Nic worry about what this says about them as parents and about the structure of their family.

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 2010, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 46 min
  • Aspect Ratio:1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: VC-1
  • English DTS-HD MA 5.1
  • Starring Annette Benning, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo
  • Directed by Lisa Cholodenko
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

Based on the trailer, I was expecting a film more in line with Juno, where there is a serious plot and message, but mostly a fun, good time.  However, this wound up being a far more serious film that I had assumed, but it was also a better film that I assumed.  Annette Benning and Julianne Moore pull off their roles perfectly, and Mark Ruffalo seems to have found his niche with the slightly irresponsible, not-quite-ready to grow up guy.  Overall, I thought it was a very enjoyable film, with a good amount of humor, but a lot of serious discussion as well.  Both Benning and Moore really deserve any awards nominations that they managed to pick up this year as well.

Technical

There is a fine grain visible for the whole film, but otherwise it looks great.  Not as detailed as a true reference quality title, but still very detailed, with great color and contrast, and never anything at all to distract me.  The soundtrack is mostly dialog focused, with the mix really opening up more when the soundtrack picks up, or Paul goes off on his motorcycle.  One scene in particular where we are supposed to be hearing the world from inside of Nic's head is particularly effective with the surrounds.

Extras

There is a directors commentary and a few featurettes.


"Charlie St. Cloud" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Tyler Stripko

movie-november-2010-charlie-st-cloud

Synopsis

Charlie St. Cloud (Zac Efron) is a high school senior with a bright future ahead of him.  His sailing prowess has earned him a scholarship to Stanford University and Charlie has a wonderful relationship with his younger brother Sam (Charlie Tahan).  Shortly after high school graduation, an automobile accident takes Sam’s life and nearly kills Charlie.   Upon recovery, Charlie learns that he can see the spirit of his brother.   He makes a promise to meet the ghost of Sam in the woods every day at sunset for a game of catch.   Unable to let go of his little brother, Charlie abandons his future plans to remain nearby to the woods where he can be with Sam every evening.  Once Charlie meets a daring young woman, he is forced to rethink the promise he made to his younger brother.

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 2010, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 40 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English DTS-HD MA 5.1
  • Starring Annette Benning, Zac Efron, Charlie Tahan, Amanda Crew, Ray Liotta, Kim Basinger
  • Directed by Burr Steers
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: Suggestive
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

This movie simply fell short of its potential in my opinion.   The plot was very intriguing, but just wasn’t fully fleshed out.  There is little explanation given for Charlie’s ability to see the dead (and almost-dead), nor do any of the ghosts do much to explain things either.  Character development is surprisingly thin for a movie designed to make an emotional connection with the viewer.  On the flip side, Zac Efron does a fairly good acting job, making you care about his character despite the poor script and lines.  Efron is certainly starting to branch out from the teeny-bopper movies that made him famous and I look forward to seeing what he can do with a better script.  Ray Liotta has a few supporting moments as the paramedic who revives Charlie at the crash scene, but his presence in the film seems like little more than an afterthought.  With a better screenplay this film could have been really powerful.

Technical

There is little to complain about here.  The picture quality is good, with the stunning outdoor scenery (Vancouver???) taking the starring role.  Colors are fairly accurate, with good depth to the image and solid contrast.  The image is sharp, yet still retains a film-like quality.  The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack suits the movie well.  Dialogue is clear and intelligible.  The soundtrack is very light on surround and LFE usage, with only the sailing scenes offering much in the way of surround effects.  These scenes also tended to be a bit loud, so you may find yourself jockeying with the volume control throughout this film.

Extras

Key extras on this disc are a director’s commentary, some deleted scenes (with optional director commentary), an “on location” featurette, and a featurette on Zac Efron. The disc is also BD-Live and pocket BLU enabled.