Articles

Movie Renter's Guide Number 154 - January, 2008 - Part II

ARTICLE INDEX
"Zodiac" (HD DVD)

movie-zodiac.jpgSynopsis

This story is based on the actual case files of one of the most intriguing unsolved crimes in the nation's history.  A serial killer terrifies the San Francisco Bay Area and taunts police with his ciphers and letters while investigators in four jurisdictions search for the murderer. The case will become an obsession for four men as their lives and careers are built and destroyed by the endless trail of clues.

Specifications

  • Paramount Pictures
    2007, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr 42 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • English DD+ 5.1
  • Directed by David Fincher
  • Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr, Anthony Edwards, Brian Cox, Elias Koteas
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Mild
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

Paramount decided to forgo a day-and-date release of Zodiac in HD and now we are finally getting Fincher’s latest work in director’s cut form in HD. The new cut is only a few minutes longer than the original, and honestly I had a hard time telling the difference. I am a huge fan of Fincher’s previous works, so I was excited to see this one during its theatrical run. The story is engaging and the cast is spectacular. I only hope people remember it come awards time. This new cut fleshes out some details a bit more, but barely enough to notice since I saw it last time. Still a powerful and disturbing film though.

Technical

David Fincher’s films have always had a certain style to them. Sometimes that translates well on-screen and sometimes it doesn’t. The film starts off with the older Paramount and Warner logos giving you the assumption that they’ll stick with a dated look for the film, but that is definitely not the case. Fincher is a big proponent of CG and pushing the envelope in terms of realism with CG shots (see Panic Room or the Only music video for proof) and this film blends CG and real life wonderfully. The image is incredibly detailed and dimensional. Hues are slightly understated, but some of the outdoor shots are rich with detail and natural color tone. Some of the darker scenes are slightly muted compared to the hyper contrasty look of some of Fincher’s earlier works, but shadow detail is still excellent and the image never takes on a flat look. There is a touch of banding at times and I saw a bit of compression creep in on occasion, but never enough to be distracting. Overall, this is an exceptional HD transfer for a beautifully shot film.

The soundtrack is presented in 5.1 Dolby Digital Plus. I know a lot of people will complain about this and I too would like to see a bit more consistency in terms of lossless and uncompressed audio support. Aside from that though, this is still a rich and involving sound design. Dynamics are good, but this isn’t a shoot’em up or action film, so don’t expect a lot of bass or gunfire. Mood is a big part of the story, and the soundtrack does a hell of a job establishing it and lending to the tension. Dialogue is natural, with great timbre, and imaging across all channels is excellent. This soundtrack does have that open feel that you get with better sound designs.

Extras

The feature film has two separate commentaries available: one with the director and the other with cast. The second disc contains the rest of the bulk, and there are some outstanding supplements here. Without a doubt, the highlight is the documentary on the making of the film that is full of great information about the research and development of this project. There are also some production features, a split screen comparative between animatics and final sequences, a sensational documentary on the Zodiac case file, and another feature on the main suspect in the case. One of the best supplement packages I’ve seen for a theme movie.



"Resident Evil: Extinction" (Blu-ray)

movie-resident-evil-extinction.jpgSynopsis

Las Vegas means fun in the sun. Well, at least the sun is still there. Except for a few rusting landmarks, it looks pretty much like the rest of the desert - or the whole country, for that matter. The crowds are now flesh-eating zombies: the mass undead, the oozing, terrifying sludge of what remains. Here, the newly upgraded Alice, along with her crew, will make a final stand against evil - with one goal: to turn the undead dead again.

 

Specifications

  • Screen Gems
    2007, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 34 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • English/French Dolby True HD 5.1
  • Portuguese/Spanish DD 5.1
  • Directed by Russell Mulcahy
  • Starring Milla Jovovich, Oded Fehr, Ali Larter, Ashanti, Mike Epps  Starring Gaspard Ulliel, Gong Li, Dominic West, Kevin McKidd, Rhys Ifans
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Strong
  • Sex: Nudity
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

This third installment in the popular video game to screen series is quite a step up from the almost embarrassingly bad sequel. I hated the second one so much that I paid zero attention to this one during its theatrical run and was a bit reluctant to want to watch it for this review. While I don’t think it is quite as entertaining as the first film, it is a nice step up from the second film and loses a lot of the cheese that was spread a bit thick in the sequel. While I don’t think it is in the same league as some other zombie films out there (28 Weeks Later, Day of the Dead) it wasn’t a complete waste of time.

Technical

Sony has delivered a gorgeous HD presentation with this one and continues its track record of solid A/V presentations. Detail is stellar throughout, with some of the best fine object detail I’ve seen. The only time the picture drops the ball a bit is in the beginning when they use some stock footage from the original film. Colors are naturally rendered and contrast is excellent without being too pumped up. One other complaint is Milla’s face, which looks like it was either touched up with CG or completely caked with make-up because it looked like complete plastic compared to everyone else in the film.

Sony delivers a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack for this one, and it’s quite good. My only real complaint is the overall level, which is a bit high. I had to turn the volume down a bit compared to standard playback levels, and I like my movies loud. Dynamic range is excellent, and there is plenty of action in this to get things going. The surround soundstage is wide open, with great discrete effects and nice panning. Bass is deep with some decent infrasonics. Dialogue always sounds natural and is balanced well with the soundtrack, but there was some distracting ADR issues at times.

Extras

This is the first Blu-ray disc to use a secondary video stream for its picture-in-picture feature. This is a feature we’ve seen for quite some time from the HD DVD camp, but unfortunately it has required dual encodes of the film so far with Blu-ray. The only issue is, you need a new Profile 1.1 player to take advantage of the feature. Right now the Playstation 3 and Panasonic DMP-BD30K are the only 1.1 players on the market that I know of. We used the Panasonic for this review and had no issue whatsoever with the PiP functions. Sony includes storyboards, on-set footage, commentary, and interviews for the PiP content. This disc also includes a Blu-Wizard feature similar to what we saw with Black Hawk Down where you can tailor the special features to the film by selecting what you want to see and when. There are also deleted scenes, a feature commentary, a trailer for the upcoming CGI Resident Evil feature, and some production features. Kudos to Sony for delivering the first 1.1 Blu-ray disc!



"David Gilmour: Live at the Royal Albert Hall" (Blu-ray)

movie-david-gilmour.jpgSynopsis

The disc features a live version of On An Island, David's long-awaited third and best selling solo album, in its entirety, Pink Floyd classics, guest appearances from Crosby & Nash, Robert Wyatt, as well as David Bowie on "Comfortably Numb" and the Syd Barrett 1967 cut "Arnold Layne".

 

Specifications

  • Sony/BMG Columbia Music
    2007, Color, Unrated, 5 Hr 13 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • 1080p
  • English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
  • English 5.1
  • English PCM 2.0
  • Directed by David Mallet
  • Starring David Gilmour, Richard Wright, Phil Manzanera, Jon Carin, Guy Pratt, Steve DiStanislao, Dick Parry, David Crosby, Graham Nash, David Bowie, Robert Wyatt
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

I’ve long been a fan of Pink Floyd (really who in the A/V business isn’t?) I was excited to see David Gilmour releasing a concert in high definition, especially one done at The Royal Albert Hall. The concert starts with a few Floyd classics and then covers David’s newest album. The second act rehashes more Floyd classics and includes a few guests such as David Bowie. From a musical standpoint, this is an amazing concert, though I’m a bigger fan of the Floyd tunes than David’s solo work. The production is outstanding, and you really get a sense of how great this show would have been live. If you’re a fan of Gilmour’s solo work or Floyd in general, this is a must have.

Technical

This is one of the more disappointing Blu-ray concerts I’ve seen so far from a visual standpoint. Consistency seems to be the biggest issue. All of the footage shot up near the stage is excellent in terms of detail and dimension, but longer shots don’t look much better than what we find on most standard DVDs, and in some cases, worse. The lighting definitely took its toll on the photography. The darker moments are full of grain, and it appears that some noise reduction techniques were used in the transfer because the image tends to have a “swimmy” appearance at times. The intense colored lights hurt detail and come off gimmicky at times, but I bet they were a sight to see if you were there live.

The audio is presented at 24 bit/48 kHz resolution in 5.1 via Dolby TrueHD and the same resolution in stereo with the PCM track. The production value here is outstanding, and the audio presentation is terrific. The soundtrack does a great job of capturing the nuances of Gilmour’s performance and reproducing all of the great instrument work of the whole crew. Dynamic range is great, but not quite as satisfying as some of the other HD presentations I’ve see. The balance of the crowd noise is also a bit distracting as it ramps up to ear splitting levels between each track, creating the need to adjust volume on occasion to save your eardrums.

Extras

This two-disc set has some great supplements on the second disc, including over a dozen bonus tracks, tour documentaries covering everything from production to interviews, two music videos, and a photo gallery.



"Freedom Vol. 3" (HD DVD Hybr8id)

movie-freedom-3.jpgSynopsis

What do you do when you discover everything you believe is a lie and your freedom an illusion? Entering forbidden territory, Takeru has uncovered Eden's most closely guarded secret -- and finds himself being hunted by the Guidance Council. Shattered and disillusioned, Takeru recklessly attempts to escape to the only place he can discover the truth -- and secure his freedom.

 

Specifications

  • Bandai Visual
    2006, Color, Unrated, 26 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • 1080p
  • Japanes DD+ 5.1
  • Japanese PCM 2.0
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

The third installment of the Freedom series picks up right where the last one left off. This series has been quite the surprise so far and has held my interest fully. I only wish they would have decided to release all six episodes at once as it’s a bit frustrating to cut out of the action every 30 minutes and have to wait for the next part. Fans of Anime would be remiss to not check this series out though; I am looking forward to the next 3 volumes!

Technical

Volume 3 is identical to the first two in terms of video quality, which is expected. The mixture of CG and traditional hand drawn animation is excellent here and nearly the level you’d expect from a high budget feature film. There is some light twitter in some of the fine detail from time to time, but nothing too distracting. Dimension is excellent, and the blending of animation styles is seamless. Colors are very punchy and remind me of some of the cell animation used in some video games nowadays.

The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital Plus in its original Japanese dialect. For a series used to promote Cup O’ Noodles you can’t beat it. Dynamics are aggressive with ample use of the low end and some nice tactile response. Surrounds are active but not quite as aggressive this time around compared with the last volume. Imaging is excellent all around, and the dialogue sounds like every other Anime film I’ve watched: a bit high in balance, but not too distracting.

Extras

Extras are about the same as the last two. There is a picture-in-picture feature that shows the animation in different forms which is quite cool. You get to see what is hand drawn and what is CG while the main feature is running. There is also a trailer for the next episode. There is a storyboard-to-film comparison and network function that allows you to download more content including artwork and production features.

 



"Sunshine" (Blu-ray)

movie-sunshine.jpgSynopsis

Fifty years into the future, a team of astronauts are sent to deploy a device to reignite the dying sun.

 

Specifications

  • Fox Searchlight
    2007, Color, 1 Hr 40 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • English DTS Master Audio 5.1
  • English/French/Spanish DD 5.1
  • Directed by Danny Boyle
  • Starring: Starring Cliff Curtis, Cillian Murphy, Michelle Yeoh, Chipo Chung, Hiroyuki Sanada
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Nudity
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

This is one of those films that I truly felt the studio completely dropped the ball on. Science Fiction films have been really hit or miss this last decade, and it is a rare opportunity when we get one that is not only gorgeously produced, but intellectually satisfying. Sunshine is one of those films. Unfortunately someone at Fox didn’t think it would appeal to the mass market (despite the success of director Danny Boyle’s previous works) and released it to a VERY limited number of theaters. Thankfully, the powers that be saw it fit to release this little known gem to Blu-ray. I don’t want to say anything about the plot line, as this is a film best seen with no real knowledge, but I will say it is a must-see and one of the best sci-fi movies I’ve seen in quite some time. Highly Recommended!!

Technical

I was a bit worried when I looked at the back cover and saw that Fox had listed this one as an AVC transfer with an average bitrate of only 16 Mbps. That is a number I would expect to see from a HD DVD release but not what we normally get from Fox on their Blu-ray releases. Not to worry though, Fox has done a tremendous job on this transfer. I must say I was most impressed with the level of shadow detail in this film. Some of the effects work on the outside of the ship has some really low light levels, but the transfer shows every little detail even in the darkest scenes. Fine detail is impeccable, and dimension is as good as anything else I’ve seen out there. Fine film grain is obvious from time to time, but overall this is a very clean transfer that is incredibly sharp.

The soundtrack is presented in lossless DTS-HD Master Audio and is a sonic powerhouse. I would give this one a 5+ if I could! Dynamic range is incredible, and the bass response is some of the deepest and most enveloping I’ve heard in quite some time. They didn’t skimp at all on the production value of this movie and the soundtrack is as good as some of the best sci-fi movies I’ve heard. I also loved the musical selections which add a lot to the intensity of the film. Surrounds are used aggressively to put you in the action, and it never felt like a single part of the soundtrack was unbalanced. A superb 5.1 presentation from Fox.

Extras

This is the first profile 1.1 disc from Fox on Blu-ray. The release includes a full picture-in-picture feature that features commentary, interviews, and production insight on the film. There is also a surround sound feature that allows you to change the location of the ship’s voice, but I thought it was a bit gimmicky. All of the PiP content is also available on its own for those of you without a 1.1 compliant Blu-ray player. Also included are deleted scenes, two short films from director Danny Boyle, two commentaries, and the trailer in HD. Overall, a great supplement package from Fox.



"3:10 to Yuma" (Blu-ray)

movie-3-10-to-yuma.jpgSynopsis

In Arizona in the late 1800s, infamous outlaw Ben Wade and his vicious gang of thieves and murderers have plagued the Southern Railroad. When Wade is captured, Civil War veteran Dan Evans, struggling to survive on his drought-plagued ranch, volunteers to deliver him alive to the "3:10 To Yuma", a train that will take the killer to trial. On the trail, Evans and Wade, each from very different worlds, begin to earn each other's respect. But with Wade's outfit on their trail - and dangers at every turn - the mission soon becomes a violent, impossible journey toward each man's destiny.

 

Specifications

  • Lionsgate
    2007, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr 2 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • 1080p
  • English PCM 7.1
  • English DD EX 5.1
  • Directed by James Mangold
  • Starring Christian Bale, Russell Crowe, Peter Fonda, Gretchen Mol, Ben Foster
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Themes
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

It’s rare these days to get a Western out of Hollywood, and even when we do it seems even harder to get a really good one. Thankfully 3:10 delivers. One of the best this genre has seen since Unforgiven in my opinion, and cast perfectly. Crowe and Bale play off each other beautifully, and set up a dynamic interplay that is rare in this genre. Ben Foster also turns in an award worthy performance as Crowe’s henchman and all around bad guy. Easily one of the most enjoyable films I saw in 2007 and highly recommended.

Technical

Lionsgate has been doing a great job with their day-and-date titles in terms of presentation, and this is no exception. The HD transfer is sharp and beautifully rendered. Fine detail is excellent throughout, and the image has a very dimensional look with lots of depth. Blacks are slightly elevated at times but shadow detail is still quite strong. Colors are a bit confusing though. At times some of the hues in the desert landscapes take on an oversaturated look, especially in some of the orange and yellows. I don’t remember this during the theatrical presentation, so it is hard to call whether it was intentional. It wasn’t really bothersome, but I did notice it from time to time. Overall though, this is a great looking HD transfer.

Lionsgate delivers a full 7.1 discrete PCM soundtrack for this one. This track has some serious range to it, with intense bass response and great dynamics. Atmosphere is almost spooky at times, especially during the night scenes out in the desert. The gunfights are quite good and liven up the soundstage, but they don’t quite have the dynamics of some other Western favorites such as Open Range. Still, I didn’t find much lacking in this presentation.

Extras

There are plenty of extras on this release, including a feature commentary, quite a few production features, interviews, documentaries on the west and its outlaws, deleted scenes, lots of trailers, and an interactive look at the film.



"Cat People" (HD DVD)

movie-cat-people.jpgSynopsis

Irena, a beautiful young woman on the bridge of sexuality, discovers love for the first time only to find that the explosive experience brings with it tragic consequences. The tremendous passion of this girl's first romantic love is so strong, however, it bypasses the chaos around her - including her brother's extraordinary demands - as it pushes her on to her own bizarre destiny. With a style as timeless as myth, Cat People is an erotic fantasy of the passion and terror that surround a girl's first love. Desire... passion... blood, her lust transforms her into one of the "Cat People."

 

Specifications

  • Universal
    1982, Color, Rated R, 1 hr 59 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • 1080p
  • English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
  • English DD+ 5.1
  • Directed by Paul Schrader
  • Starring Starring Nastassia Kinski, Malcolm McDowell, John Heard, Annette O’Toole
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

I always confuse this film with another 80’s sensual thriller, The Hunger. I don’t know why though. Both have completely different themes. I guess it is the similarities in production style. Both have that 80’s sex thriller feel. Plenty of synth based mood music, lots of naked girls and thin plotlines. Not to say this film is horrible or anything, but it doesn’t tread new ground and seems a bit too cookie cutter. If you’re a fan of the sexy horror films of that decade though, this is one not to miss.

Technical

Universal has been really hit or miss when it comes to their catalog releases. We’ve seen some horrible noise reduction and edge enhancement from some of their titles, so I was a bit reluctant going into this one. Thankfully, it isn’t too bad. The print has definitely been cleaned up a bit, and noise reduction is obvious during some parts, but edge enhancement isn’t nearly as intrusive as some of their other titles. Some of the effects shots don’t hold up real well, but most of the film looks better than I would expect from a production like this. Detail is generally good, with only a small amount of fine detail missing from longer shots. Colors are natural and well balanced, and I was impressed with the dimension of the image. Contrast is good and shadow detail is preserved well. Overall this is quite a good transfer for a film of this age.

The 5.1 soundtrack is presented in Dolby TrueHD, but even the lossless encoding can’t overcome the limitations of the production. The soundtrack is on the thin side. Bass response is weak, and dialogue always sounds a bit too forward. The soundtrack does try to take advantage of the surround soundstage, but most of the surround activity comes off a bit forced. Atmosphere isn’t too bad though. There is generally good imaging across the main channels.

Extras

Universal has included most of the supplements found on the DVD release. There’s a feature commentary, some production features, a retrospective on the film with the director, and a photo gallery.

 



"Dragon Wars" (Blu-ray)

movie-dragon-wars.jpgSynopsis

 

Meet Buraki, the vicious, 200-meter long Imoogi serpent from ancient Korea. His army includes giant lizards with missile launchers, flying dragons, soldiers bred for evil, and mega-intelligent dinosaurs. Together, they will destroy Los Angeles and possibly the world unless reincarnated warriors Ethan and Sarah can outrun them and resurrect the Good Imoogi, Buraki's ancient nemesis.

Specifications

  • Sony Pictures
    2007, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 30 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • 1080p
  • English/French Dolby TrueHD 5.1
  • Directed by Hyung Rae Shim
  • Starring Jason Behr, Amanda Brooks, Craig Robinson, Elizabeth Pena, Robert Forster
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

This could very well be the worst movie I saw in 2007. I wasn’t expecting much from it going in, but I am really surprised this film got wide release in US theaters when films like Sunshine and There Will Be Blood don’t. This film reminded me more of something I would see from a cable station original movie rather than an actual theatrical release. Most of the action feels borrowed from popular fantasy films of the last few years, and the acting is almost painful to watch. Even fans of B-Movies should tread with caution on this one.

Technical

While the film may not be that good, Sony has done a great job with what they had to work with here. You can tell that the production didn’t have a huge budget, and most of it went to the special effects. Live shots are on the softer side, but color and dimension are still quite good. It’s fine detail that seems to be missing for the most part. The image has that slight sheen to it that takes away the fine layer of detail that the best film prints provide. The CG varies in quality, but the fine detail is actually better than what we see from the live action footage most of the time. This makes for a mixed experience when they blend the two together. Contrast is good and dimension overall is solid. Considering the quality of the production this transfer is quite good.

The audio is presented in lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1. This is an energetic mix that is quite heavy in the low end. Nothing wrong with that but the bass response did seem a bit loose and on the bloated side. Surround activity is quite heavy, with some decent panning effects and discrete action. Dialogue sounds okay in balance and timbre, but the same can’t be said for the actual lines.

Extras

Extras include a production feature, a storyboard-to-film comparison and an art gallery. Some trailers are also included.



"The Rock" (Blu-ray)

movie-the-rock.jpgSynopsis

 

All of San Francisco is taken hostage when a vengeful General seizes control of Alcatraz Island, threatening to launch missiles loaded with deadly poison gas! With time running out, only a young FBI chemical weapons expert and a notorious federal prisoner have the skills to penetrate the island fortress and defuse the lethal situation!

Specifications

  • Hollywood Pictures
    1996, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr 16 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • English PCM 5.1
  • English/French/Spanish DD 5.1
  • Directed by Michael Bay
  • Starring Sean Connery, Nicolas Cage, Ed Harris, Michael Biehn, William Forsythe
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Strong
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

Easily one of my favorite films from director Michael Bay, The Rock is a high octane edge of your seat action thriller that is relentless in pace. Sure it has some plot holes and a bit too much testosterone, but it’s a lot of fun. This Blu-ray release seems to be pretty much identical to the UK version that I reviewed last year. I was hoping that Disney might fix a few issues, but unfortunately that didn’t happen. Fans will probably still be quite happy with this presentation though, and I’m glad to see it finally hitting shelves here in the US.

Technical

The video transfer is a bit of an inconsistent ride. Quality wavers so much from scene to scene it is almost hard to rate. At times the image is very clean with nice detail and dimension, only to jump to another locale and have a lot of film grain and a loss of fine detail. Most of the image issues revolve around lighting, with low light situations coming out a bit soft and grainy. Whites are clipped at times, and noise is obvious in some of the brighter sequences. I’m not sure if this was intentional or not, since the image is stylized most of the time. Detail can be fantastic at times though, especially in close-ups. While not perfect by any means, it is still a solid HD presentation of the film.

The audio is similar to the video in terms of consistency. This is an aggressive mix ,and since the film has so many action sequences, be prepared for an all out assault on the soundstage. Bass is heavy and at times a bit too thick. Compared to more recent soundtracks, the bass seems a bit overdriven in relation to the mix and lacks the detail of some reference soundtracks out there. Dynamics are also a bit spotty. Sure the mix is loud, but it also sounds slightly compressed in nature. The score and on-screen action seem a bit held back at times and even locked in the front soundstage more than I would expect. There are some nice panning effects though. While I don’t think this is a bad soundtrack by any means, it just doesn’t have the chops to be called a reference presentation.

Extras

Lots of extras on this Blu-ray release. A feature commentary, quite a few production features, a look at the premiere, a look at the Navy SEALs, Outtakes, interviews, trailers, and a look at Alcatraz.



"Battlestar Galactica: Season One" (HD DVD)

movie-battlestar-galactica.jpgSynopsis

 

When a surprise Cylon attack scatters the remnants of humanity throughout the galaxy, it's up to steely President Laura Roslin and battle-hardened Commander William Adama to unite the desperate survivors and seek mankind's only chance for a future, a mythical planet called Earth.

Specifications

  • Universal
    2004, Color, Unrated, 755 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • 1080p
  • English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
  • English DD+ 5.1
  • Starring Mary McDonnell, Edward James Olmos
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Mild
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

Easily one of the best TV shows I’ve seen in the last few years. I reviewed this series on DVD back when it was first released and thoroughly enjoyed it. I was overjoyed when Universal announced its release on HD, and the fact that they were starting from Season One despite having the second season available. Any fan of sci-fi would be remiss if they didn’t check this one out. Can’t wait to see further installments down the line.

Technical

I gave this a pretty low score for video. The problem is, this show was never meant to look real good. It is grainy, a bit washed out, and lacks fine detail. It has always looked this way. With more shows appearing in HD, people going in unprepared might be in for a shock if they were used to the more polished HD shows on the market. Depth of image is still quite good though, and detail isn’t too bad. Fine object detail is a bit veiled though and contrast wavers. Color is on the bleaker side and appears a bit washed out at times. Grain is heavy throughout and will probably be the biggest complaint from most viewers, but fans of the TV series know this is the intentional look by the creators.

The audio is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1. I was surprised that Universal opted for the lossless audio but glad to see it. The sound design of this show is good and takes advantage of the 5.1 soundstage, but don’t expect the full blown quality of a sci-fi film. There is some nice dynamic range, and bass is there when it needs to be. Definition could be a bit tighter though. Surrounds are used nicely to add to the atmosphere and kick in a bit more when the action picks up. Dialogue sounds slightly compressed in presence at times, and the front soundstage isn’t quite as open as some of the better soundtracks out there.

Extras

Universal pretty much set the bar for extras for a TV release with Heroes and continues that trend here. They took full advantage of the potential of the format with their U-Control options, Picture-in-Picture, and even web enabled content. You get interviews, commentary, character files, production features, set design, and an interactive guide to the ships and locales. Outside of that are deleted scenes, tons of production features, and feature commentaries for each episode. An outstanding supplemental package.