In the final days of Marcus Aurelius' reign, the aging emperor angers his son Commodus by
making it known that he wants Maximus, a fearsome and respected Roman general, to be his
successor. Power-hungry Commodus kills his...
Two releases to get it right, and Paramount, we salute you!
“Gladiator” is one of those movies which is embraced by nearly all its viewers, and its various DVD releases over the years, along with the film’s immense following, have made it one of the most anticipated films slated for Blu-ray Disc, with HD-fanatics drooling over just how well this movie could re-dazzle them! Gladiator was originally released to theaters in the year 2000, and took five Academy Awards for that year, including Best Picture.
The initial Blu-ray Disc release, which came out for general sale on September 1st, 2009, is a two-disc version. Paramount Pictures calls it a “Sapphire Series” release, with both the theatrical and extended versions on disc one, and special features on disc two. I do not normally rate disc extras, but I presume that disc two contains a generous amount of bonus material. Subsequent remastering of the video led to a re-release on August 1st, 2010. Paramount Studios offered a free exchange program so that purchasers of the originally transferred Blu-ray release, with its inferior video quality, could take advantage of the nicely-done remastered version. This was very generous on Paramount's part, as they issued no offical "recall" of the originally released, first-run discs. It is the exact same, two-disc release as the first-run offering, but with the superior-quality, remastered video.
Set during the reign of the Roman Empire in the year 180 A.D., “Gladiator” is the ultra-dramatic story of how Rome's most highly respected army general, Maximus Decimus Meridius (Russell Crowe), was removed from his position upon the untimely death of Caesar Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris). Innocent, and escaping to freedom, Maximus is then crushed by the brutal murder of his family. He awakens to find himself sold to slavery as a lowly gladiator – a mock soldier used solely to fight bloody arena battles strictly for public entertainment and profit. But the wishes of his former ruler and close friend, Marcus Aurelius, along with the tragic loss of his family, steadily create in him a thirst for setting Rome’s corrupted government aright. To do this would mean somehow overthrowing its new, ego-centric emperor, Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix), son of Marcus Aurelius and successor to the empire. With Maximus steadily gaining the respect of his fellow gladiators, along with the rabid attention of the Roman spectators, the story concludes with an unavoidable confrontation between Maximus and Caesar Commodus. First-time viewers are left to wonder if good can possibly prevail, and repeat viewers simply yearn to see it all unfold once again.
Of my opinion, I can’t begin to express how well-done this movie is, from its clear character development, a perfectly-paced story, and its amazing cinematography. On DVD, this movie did not disappoint, and subsequent releases even included 6.1-channel DTS-ES audio. New viewers should be advised that there are numerous violent and bloody action sequences in this film.
- Initial release picture quality:
“Gladiator” comes visually on an interesting 1080p, AVC video-encode, with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. With such amazing cinematography comes very high expectation for its Blu-ray release. However, the theatrical release footage has been criticized heavily for overprocessing – particularly noticeable during the opening battle to conquer Germania. Scenes during this entire sequence take place in what I presume to be the dawn hours of the morning, and the overall appearance is rather dark. Just about all of the theatrical release footage suffers from some over-contrastedness, resulting in a loss of shadow detail and some color-flatness - and a desire to see more of a natural-looking picture. The extended scenes showed much more poise visually, and I longed for that level of detail and accuracy in the rest of the film. At least we get to see 16 minutes of “the good stuff” in the extended version (which lengthens the entire movie to 171 minutes).
Some cite the HD mastering process of the original theatrical footage (to accommodate downsampling to standard-definition DVD-quality) versus the more modern HD mastering process used on the extended scene footage as the reason for the picture quality difference between the two. Whatever the case may be, the difference is notable. I would love to rate the two types of scenes individually, with the theatrical being a 4/5 and the extended being 4.5/5. I chose to rate the overall movie video quality as 4/5.
All that said, I personally felt that a lot of the negative criticism surrounding the film's Blu-ray video quality was a bit overhyped. Yes, evidence of overprocessing is clearly present, but it still presents itself without a great deal of distraction. The inital Blu-ray release is a clear visual step up from the DVD, and when you factor in the audio, even more so.
- Remastered release picture quality:
What can I say? A lot, actually, but I won't beleaguer the subject. Really, for those who have wished for it, and for all the videophiles out there, the second-run, remastered Blu-ray release of “Gladiator” is simply stellar and a noticeable step up from the rougher, first-run release. Many professionals and fans have justifiably raved about the visual improvements in this release. Fine, natural colors, noticeably increased visual detail, zero visible artifacting and practically perfect contrast made me feel like I was watching the movie for the first time. Paramount Studios' decision to remaster the video with a mimimum of digital processing was right on, bringing the entire movie, visually, to a standard consummate of what Blu-ray movies are all about - high definition. Director Ridley Scott personally supervised and approved the remastered transfer, and its improvement and excellence over the first-run BD release really shows. I am giving the overall quality of the remastered video a solid 5/5.
Again, kudos to Paramount Studios for making it happen and offering the free exchange program! Anyone wishing to purchase “Gladiator” on Blu-ray disc for the first time will be purchasing the remastered version. Those in possession of this movie prior to August 1st (or thereabout) who know they have the first-run release can take advantage of Paramount Studios' free exchange program for a limited time.
The audio for the “Gladiator” Blu-ray release is a rousing, lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 channel mix which falls just below pure reference quality, but is light-years beyond the lossy DVD audio we loved for so many years prior. It falls below reference quality only because I felt that the dialog track was a bit shallow and flat at times, and I wanted a little more explosive “punch” during the battle in Germania.
But please make no mistake, you’ll love this film at reference volume levels! Never before have powerful sword and metal collisions arrived at your ears more dynamically and with such clarity – frequently! They can really surprise you, and might be menacing to your tweeters! Crowd noise fully surrounds you during the intense arena battles. Subtle and carefully mixed environmental sounds tickle your ears during passive scenes, and the movie’s gorgeous musical score (by Hans Zimmer, and Oscar-nominated for Best Original Score) is rich, well-captured, and envelopingly mixed. Sweeping sound effects dance about the surround channels actively and cleanly. LFE is neither lacking nor overblown and boomy, is solid when called for and balanced well with the rest of the mix. There is a pleasant, overall sonic clarity throughout the movie, with a distinct treble clarity which I find more pleasing, personally. I have no fear that the audio on this release does not follow the original theatrical release, and it is not short of splendid, overall.
As you can see, “Gladiator” on Blu-ray does come with a fair amount of technical merit. Add to this its riveting story, with its progressive build-up of intensity, awe-inspiring action, romantic undertones, and Russell Crowe’s outstanding performance, and you have a winner of a release. Other supporting roles, such as those played by Connie Nielsen (Lucilla), Oliver Reed (Proximo), Djimon Hounsou (Juba), and Derek Jacobi (Gracchus) are solid performances as well, taking nothing away from the film. “Gladiator” is also one of those movies which brings a good dose of re-watch value. I watch it a few times a year.
Curiously, I noticed that even with the disc re-release, Maximus' full name is misspelled on both the case insert and slipcover. His last name is “Meridius,” and it was spelled “Meridas” in print.
In conclusion, I think fans of “Gladiator” will find the second-run, remastered release a joy to watch. We have definitely learned that sometimes less is more, and in the case of this movie (and likely many others), the lesson here is that the stronger use of digital noise reduction and edge enhancement, for all the “pop” if often gives to the visuals, can also rob the overall image of detail and natural appearance. Now, you can enjoy this movie as it is truly meant to be seen, with a director-approved video transfer wrapped together with such a finely portrayed story. The remastered version has catapaulted itself into “must-own” Blu-ray status for action/adventure/drama fanatics!
Universal Music | 2009 | 251 min | Not rated | Region free
| Jun 03, 2010
U2360° At The Rose Bowl was the penultimate gig of last year's U2360° Tour in support of their Grammy nominated album No Line on The Horizon. The Rose Bowl performance was the band's biggest show of 2009 and U2's biggest ever US...
Hmmm... Somewhere around my house is my vinyl copy of "The Joshua Tree."
Picked up the U2: 360° at the Rose Bowl BD yesterday and was pumped to check it out. Best Buy had it for $16.99. I bought the last copy at the store I went to.
The 360° tour was a massive achievement for U2, and viewers of this disc will find the content enjoyable, but those of us expecting reference-quality video and audio (a-la The Police: Certifiable, for instance) should be warned that this disc may not produce as much as anticipated or hoped for from a band who insists on greatness as much as U2 tends to deliver.
Picture quality shows a great deal of grain/noise typical of a natural, low-light capture, but the negative effects of boosted contrast and image sharpening are evident. Colors are often flat (with some noteworthy exception, but I'm sure actually being there was quite a bit more spectacular overall in terms of color), and visual detail is most definitely withheld. Video is AVC at 1080i, to be sure. Every now and then, the picture shows more visual poise, but these moments are more rare than common. I would give the video a rating of 3.5 (occasionally 4) out of 5.
Audio is impressive, but not overly so. With the lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, much of the show is "center-heavy" and although the fidelity is there, I longed for a wider, more "spatial" soundstage. I actually enjoyed the 2-channel LPCM track over the lossless multichannel track (a first for me). In fact, the 2-channel LPCM track, when played through my receiver's THX PLIIx Music algorithm sounded surprisingly good, and I don't prefer the use of "matrixed" surround (another first for me). Bono's vocals are exquisite and clear on the lossless multichannel track. However, his vocals deteriorate just a bit on the 2-channel LPCM track, but are still good. The Edge's "boom mic" revealed considerably less vocal quality than Bono's stage mic. I longed for more "punch" on the low-end. Some parts of the program were better with LFE than others, but overall, the LFE felt a touch lacking. I would give the audio quality a rating of 4 out of 5.
All in all, U2: 360° at the Rose Bowl is still a must-own Blu-ray for die hard U2 fans, and it's an impressive show. Some 97,000 people were in attendance at the Rose Bowl for this, which was U2's largest show to date, and the stage setup is completely unprecedented in concept and size. Anyone who knows anything about U2 knows that they have been together 30+ years, and have managed to transcend the changing times and musical trends we have heard since then. U2 is as talented now as they have ever been! Oh, if only the disc matched up the greatness of this tour!
"I was born under unusual circumstances." And so begins 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,' adapted from the 1920s story by F. Scott Fitzgerald about a man who is born in his eighties and ages backwards: a man, like any of us,...
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" a long film, but a very good, long film. I was glad that I didn't read anything on it or saw a whole lot on it. Brad Pitt is not one of my favorites, but every now and then he's in a gem of a film (cases in point, the gorgeous "A River Runs Through It" or the visceral "Fight Club"). I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and would highly recommend it, especially if the viewer enjoys movies taking place over a great deal of time. Essentially, a lifetime.
Agree that fans of "Forrest Gump" will embrace this movie fully, no doubt in large part to Eric Roth's participation as a screenwriter. Those who cannot put aside a sense of disbelief will have more difficulty enjoying this film. The film was directed by David Fincher (who, interestingly, also directed "Fight Club").
Picture quality was phenomenal - essentially flawless - and delivers the Blu-ray video quality you expect in a movie shot mostly digitally. The 5.1-channel lossless DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack, though rarely edgy (save for the brief WWII scene), was some of the cleanest I have ever heard throughout the entire film. Music was beautifully recorded and mixed, and is absolutely divine sounding. Brad Pitt's narrative vocals were among the most clearly recorded dialog I have ever heard in a movie. There were times when I had trouble understanding what the aged Daisy (Cate Blanchett) was saying, but that's only because she was barely able to talk beyond a refined mumble most of the time, while in a weakened character condition, combined with a strong southern accent - an easily forgivable aspect of the audio.
Criterion gave this movie a director-approved and truly proper Blu-ray release. Again, highly recommended.
78-year-old balloon salesman Carl Fredricksen finally fulfills his lifelong dream of a
great adventure when he ties thousands of balloons to his house and flies away to the
wilds of South America. But he discovers all too...
The release of "Up" on Blu-ray Disc is one of the most anticipated of 2009, and if you are a fan of family-friendly, animated feature films, then get ready for another fine production. Disney and Pixar Animation Studios once again team up for a fantastic, original story which, as always, heartfully teaches us about the most important things in life, in the most compelling ways. Why is that? Is it because we are watching completely fabricated characters, and not real actors? Is it the ability to put these characters into impossible, but believable situations and stories? Is it because it's easier to reserve judgment with animated characters? Whatever the case may be, "Up" constantly reminds us about what's important in life, with a healthy dose of humor.
"Up" centers around the stubborn life of Carl Fredrickson (Ed Asner), whose fascination with adventure as a young boy results in a life-long relationship and marriage with Ellie. Now an elderly man, with the world closing in on him, he decides to leave it all behind (well, all but his house) to chase the adventure he promised to his wife. Unexpectedly accompanied by a young boy, Russel (Jordan Nagai), they embark on the adventure together. Get ready for a perfect blend of adventure, laughs, and heartwarming moments!
It's a no-brainer for the picture quality. As with any movie of such digitally animated magnitude, there are really no transfer-issues. The 1080p, high-definition quality of the picture is top-notch. Under an AVC video encode, you are treated to the robust color tones and abundant realism which are the earmark of Pixar's work, and you get everything just as it should be - environmentally accurate daytime and nighttime scenes, soft and subtle tones, and gorgeous, bold colors. Check out how Kevin, the quirky and hilarious 13-foot tall flightless bird, visually leaps right off the screen, along with the mind-boggling myriad of multicolored balloons above Carl's house. Attention to fine, visual detail abounds throughout the movie, and perfectly rendered skin tones anchor the wide palette of colors, grounding realism within all the dazzle.
As usual with Disney on their most recent Pixar movie Blu-ray releases, audio is handled under a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 channel mix. It's tight, accurate, and completely natural-sounding. Like WALL·E's movie audio, it's carefully mixed, not overproduced, and delivers excellent dynamics in all the right places. Loud LFE is not particularly frequent, but the soundtrack does promise moments of low-frequency bliss, perfectly blended. Ed Asner's vocals are gritty and elderly, and representative of the kind of dialog detail hoped for in any well-produced recording effort - and what we hope for in a lossless listening environment. All vocal dialog is clean, with excellent clarity and intelligibility. We are also treated to the vocal talents of Christopher Plummer and, of course, Pixar regular John Ratzenberger. The musical score is a wonderful treat from this film, and highly moving.
I don't normally rate disc extras, but with the Cine-Explore viewing option on the feature film, and a separate, exclusive Bonus Features BD (which contains, among other things, an 8-part movie documentary), I'm sure that fans, eager to learn more about the film and its production, will be quite satisfied. There is also a DVD movie copy and Digtal Copy disc, rounding out all four discs in this initial Disney Blu-ray release.
I often wonder what life will be like for me when I'm elderly - looking back on a lifetime of memories - all the achievements and all the failures. "Up" has a way of making us realize how significant our present lives are - that even the mundane of now can be powerful when looked back upon later on in life. Yeah, my personal thoughts for sure - maybe not everyone will see it that way, but that's all right. I'm not above admitting that parts of the film made me really misty-eyed. Whatever our age, it's never too late to pursue our dreams. "Up" is fantastic family entertainment, and among Pixar's finest cinemagraphic achievements. It falls nothing short of my highest recommendation.
The battle for Earth continues in this action-packed blockbuster from director Michael
executive producer Steven Spielberg. When college-bound Sam Witwicky (Shia
learns the truth about the ancient...
Following up on Michael Bay’s first "Transformers" live-action movie from 2007, "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" is his even more intense sequel. On release day, I purchased the two-disc "Big Screen Edition" which is a Walmart store exclusive, and features screen-filling IMAX scenes (just like "The Dark Knight” Blu-ray release). I was glad I chose this release version. A little more on that further down.
Once again, the Decepticons and the Autobots go at it, but this time, it's to save Earth from a certain destruction promised from thousands of years ago. Shia LaBeouf (as Sam Witwicky) and Megan Fox (as Mikaela Banes) again join together in the lead parts, and I found it refreshing that they pulled it off much better than in the first movie, with much more cohesive character roles. Sam is a little less of the "aloof teenager" and more serious, but still as comically quirky as ever. Mikaela is a bit more "grown up," but still finicky and true to self. Even the Autobots’ personalities are more refined - an improvement as well. The film’s action is, of course, its centerpiece, and it’s as intense as it gets - I can’t say enough about the intensity of the combat sequences - and the visual and sonic effects will absolutely blow you away! Yes, those are hyped words, but this is one truly hyped movie, and it's home theater demo-material from start to finish. The overall plot is more complex than the first film, and requires more attention be paid to those details. Don’t snooze between the action scenes!
"Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" is visually delivered to you in a spectacular 1080p, AVC-encoded picture. Of particular mention are the several IMAX scenes on the Walmart exclusive "Big Screen Edition," which bring the aspect ratio up from 2:39:1 to a screen-filling 1.78:1. These scenes were filmed using the IMAX 70mm film process, and yield significantly increased resolution. Although sprinkled in during various action sequences of the movie, two parts in particular are highly notable. The forest battle sequence in Chapter 9 is stunning and dramatic - note the ironic beauty of the trees and their incredible level of detail, amidst the chaos of fighting. Chapter 16 boasts the almost unbelievable transformation of Devastator, and all the extra resolution, combined with jaw-dropping CGI, make it a jewel of visual effects and detail. Whether you're watching IMAX scenes or not, excellent visual detail is present throughout the movie, along with some sweeping cinematography, all combined with the one-two punch of excellent contrast/black levels and accurate color. Your eyes will find the visuals pleasing throughout the film.
Michael Bay puts as much into sound as he does into visuals. There are few movies which offer as much sound design as the two Transformers films. Uniquely crafted and unexpected sound effects surprise you, such as weapons fire and the sound of robotic transformation. It’s all carried on an explosive 5.1-channel lossless DTS-HD Master Audio mix which is hard to turn low enough to keep your neighbors from a rumble! At reference-levels, you are perfectly placed in a perfectly mixed soundstage, with directional sounds, such as rocket fire, emanating to and from all the proper areas around you. LFE is abundant and high-frequency effects are crystal clear. I love the metallic clash of hand-to-hand (or rather, bot-to-bot) combat! The movie culminates into a climactic and relentless battle in Egyptian desert - get ready for truly blistering sound! Vocal dialog quality carries significant importance, and dialog clarity on this movie is solid and intelligible throughout. It’s a terrific mix in every way, and as good as the visuals are, the audio is easily half the experience of this film.
As an aside, I was pleased to notice that they chose to film one scene in my old hometown of Tucson, AZ, at Davis Monthan AFB aircraft boneyard. I grew up just outside this area of the base. The scene in particular is in Chapter 12, where Jetfire breaks out of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. Maybe we aren’t supposed to know our geography that well (Washington, D.C. vs. Tucson), and for me, it made for a little nostalgia. I simply recognized the rugged and personally familiar Catalina Mountains, just north of Tucson, in the distance during that scene. It also made me chuckle a bit - Washington, D.C. surrounded by desert…
I don't normally rate disc extras, but I'm sure that the 3+ hours of bonus features offer plenty for even the highest order of Transformers movie enthusiasts to enjoy.
I have to admit that I expected "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" to fall straight into the typical, lackluster sophomoredom which plagues so many follow-up movies (and the original "Transformers" already needed a lot of help in the scripting department). In the case of this, I enjoyed it more than the original. It was serious, funny, dramatic, well-paced, and intense enough, but the visual and aural aspects of this movie are what truly steal the show. I mean it in the most sincere way in saying that I love it when low expectation is exceeded! I highly recommend Walmart’s "Big Screen Edition" for those who want maximum visual impact from the movie. Hats off to Michael Bay and Paramount for bettering the original.
Dorothy Gale and her dog Toto are swept away by a tornado from their home in Kansas to the
magical land of Oz. They set off on a quest down a yellow brick road to see the Wizard, who
can help them return home. Along the way,...
(I moved my original review to this page, as the single-disc release is now represented.)
I have to admit that I have not watched “The Wizard of Oz” all the way through since sometime in the 1980s, and consequently, I never added it to any collection of movies, either VHS or DVD, which I had amassed. It’s rather funny, because few movies in all of cinematic history are as unforgettable and universally iconic as “The Wizard of Oz,” and besides my utter fascination with this movie while I was growing up, I also tend to be attracted to movies of such importance nowadays.
Today (release day), I picked up the single-disc release from Walmart, and I found myself rather giddy about it. I could just feel the memories of being a child flooding back from the nether-regions of my memory. As a child with my family, we greatly anticipated any television broadcast day of this rarely presented movie. It was a time for families to come together and watch TV in a way we rarely, if at all, see nowadays. With today’s DVRs, net-streaming, pay-per-view, movie rentals, and the ease of purchasing favorite movies, those special, family-centered TV times have gone the way of the dodo.
However, today I welcomed the unexpected return of all those locked-away memories, like I was a child all over again, ready to experience the adventure of this movie once again. That feeling alone was driving me, more than any other reason, for making sure I picked up this Blu-ray release today. What can I say? For me, it’s like a time machine and an added personal bonus for owning this movie on Blu-ray Disc.
“The Wizard of Oz” was no spring chicken of a movie back in the ‘80s. In fact, it was well over 40 years old at that time, but its rarely-broadcast occurrence always made it a special time. The movie was originally released to theaters in 1939, and it was a marvel of special effects and its beautiful use of color and striking cinematography. The ultra-creative use of color is all the more appreciated by way of the film’s bookend scenes, which were filmed in black-and-white.
This classic, adventurous tale centers around a young farm girl named Dorothy (Judy Garland) and her little dog, Toto, who enter into the colorful and fantastic world of Oz after her Kansas farmhouse is blown into the sky by a tornado. Wanting to return home to Kansas, she is given a pair of ruby slippers and the advice of the Good Witch of the North (Billie Burke). Dorothy is told to go to Emerald City by way of the Yellow Brick Road, where the Wizard of Oz himself could help her return home. Along the way, she comes across three unusual, but endearing characters. The first is Scarecrow (Ray Bolger), who wants so badly to have a brain, followed by Tin Man (Jack Haley), who longs to have a heart, and lastly, the cowardly Lion, who wishes he had courage. Dorothy invites them all to accompany her to see the Wizard of Oz, but it is not an easy journey, with the Wicked Witch of the West doing her best to foil Dorothy’s success in order to obtain the ruby slippers, and their magical powers, for herself. All four of them must overcome their greatest fears to succeed and be rewarded with the granting of their most heartfelt desires. Although just about everyone knows how the movie goes, I’ll continue to follow my preferred trend and not spoil the story’s (well-known) details.
“The Wizard of Oz” appears in its original 1.37:1 aspect ratio on Blu-ray (ever-slightly wider than 1.33:1), in the form of a 1080p, VC-1 encoded video presentation. It’s commendable that Warner Brothers made no effort to crop the original frames into a more contemporary widescreen format. We are given everything from the original release, and it is as “film-like” as it gets. It’s not going to dazzle you with the kind of optical detail HD-enthusiasts have come to find as the norm , but it is, unequivocally, the finest presentation ever released, completely re-defining past experiences of viewing this movie masterpiece (remembered by many as being seen over analog television OTA broadcast with an interlaced, standard-definition signal). Colors on the Blu-ray release are beautifully restored, and not at all overdriven in an effort to boost visual impact. Grain is heavy at times and exists during every frame of this presentation, revealing what is likely the true nature of the original film. There are moments when the movie shows more visual poise than at others. Note details of Dorothy’s face often vacillate from practically invisible to moments when freckles are numerous. I can only assume that this transfer is highly representative of the original film. I paused the film several times for a closer inspection, and I delighted in the natural transfer, appearing free of visual artificial enhancement, and inspiring me to rate it very high.
Lossless audio comes via a “manufactured” 5.1 channel Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. A Dolby Digital 1.0 mono track is also included. I chose the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 option, and found it to be completely enjoyable. There is not a great deal of profound fabrication to the surround channels. LFE is practically non-existent. Probably 90% of the audio emanates from the center channel, including sound-effects and music. Mostly, musical score is gently mixed away from the center channel, and the overall effect is rather subtle, but just enough to make the audio enveloping without being overpowering. The 5.1 channel Dolby TrueHD mix does not sound artificial at all, and I’m glad that it was mixed the way it is. Keep in mind that the recording technology of the 1930s is in no way comparable to today’s standards. With this in mind, you’ll find the dialog is highly intelligible for the era it was originally recorded, with only a few moments where other sounds disrupt its clarity. I noticed no noticeable attempt to boost the higher frequencies to give more presence to the audio. Like the video, it appears to be very faithful in fidelity to the original movie, and this fact was given priority in my very high rating of the audio.
Celebrating its 70th anniversary, “The Wizard of Oz” reminds us that razor-perfect visual effects and massive, multichannel audio do not a complete movie experience make. Its softer visuals and older sound add priceless charm to the movie - charm which can still carry generation after generation of its viewers even now, in our current era of high-technology – and cinematic expectation. “Faithful and true” is the single best expression to describe the Blu-ray release of this film.
I do not normally rate disc extras, but the single-disc release I purchased did have several items to look at in the menu. This however, is nowhere near the four-disc Ultimate Collector’s Edition release (over 16-hours of extras), and which also features a 52-page commemorative book.
“The Wizard of Oz” is one of the rare and sweet films which conjures up the most magical parts of ourselves, especially if we grew up on it. From childhood memories to the potential we all feel inside, it’s a timeless classic with a beautiful heritage. It might even be the perfect family film. Delightfully acted and well-produced, it will make you laugh and it can make you cry. I found myself misty-eyed during various parts of the movie. I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting it, and it is a valued addition to my personal Blu-ray movie collection.
Universal Studios | 2006 | 110 min | Rated R | Region free
| May 26, 2009
A futuristic society faces extinction when no children are born and the human race has lost the
ability to reproduce. England has descended into chaos, until an iron-handed warden is brought
in to institute martial law. The...
In a most believable fashion, writer, director and editor Alfonzo Cuarón has created an outstanding vision of the not-so-distant future. His 2006 motion picture, "Children of Men," is one of most uniquely portrayed futuristic visions of a dystopic world - our world. A world without newborn children for over eighteen years. Thus, a world overwhelmingly devoid of hope.
Gradual infertility among women after the turn of the 21st century had put the entire world on the fast track to depression, angst, and apathy. Internationally, governments collapsed, and uncertainly and anarchy have become the rule. The only remaining working government in the world, Britain, "soldiers on" to keep a semblance of order, but it is far from a peaceful place to exist. Rather, it had become the global haven for multitudinous international refugees seeking better lives for themselves. The government's number one priority is to expunge England of these "fugees," and the zero-tolerance treatment of them is often violent and even fatal. Propaganda for their removal is ever-present in daily British life.
The date is November 16th, 2027. Former bureaucrat Theo Faron (Clive Owen) is just like any other working-class citizen of England - fighting disillusionment and carrying on without hope. Theo's only friend is the aged, happy-go-lucky Jasper (Michael Caine), who offers him frequent tidbits of wisdom laced with humor. In an unexpected turn of events, Theo is called upon by his ex-wife, Julian (Julianne Moore), a leading activist seeking equal rights for all the refugees, to assist in the transport of Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey) to safety. Kee is the first woman to become pregnant in nearly two decades, and is herself a refugee. Her discovery by the English government could lead to an unsurpassed and extremely violent uprising by those opposed to its treatment of refugees.
"Children of Men" will not conflict its deeply implicated plot with an unrealistic future world and a lot of visual glitz. It does not ask you to suspend disbelief. Rather, it is, in essence, the passionate story of one man's rise from an idle of despair to have a purpose in a world where the only remaining government has gone as far as offering suicide pills for those who don't wish to live anymore, and the only people to find any sort of happiness at all are those who "don't think about it" when it comes to the pending extinction of humanity. Sure, the film shows evidence that technology has improved by the year 2027, but not so in unbelievable ways. Life is very much still a daily grind, but without any hope for the future.
With an impressive 1080p, VC-1 encode, "Children of Men" comes to Blu-ray in a great way. The grittiness of a broken London and gloominess of the rural, countryside landscapes match the emotion of the movie perfectly. Color on this movie is not particularly intense. In fact, it's rather drab most of the time, but this fact is not a matter of poor production. It has a more seductive feel to it, drawing viewers into Alfonzo Cuarón's dystopic vision. Some of the most amazing "single-shot"scene sequences ever created are a major feature of this movie. Toward the film's climactic end, you'll be treated to one single-shot military sequence over seven minutes in length! With amazing digital compositing, viewers will be treated to special effects which have never previously been done so well.
There is fairly good visual detail on this release, but it never allows you to look for long, for the movie is nearly completely shot with a "moving camera," which provides an important "documentary-like" or "live-action" feel to the film. Oh, how I was hoping to be able to give this movie a perfect 5.0 rating on video, but it does fall short of reference quality. It is, however noticeably more visually stunning than its DVD release counterpart, and a worthy upgrade!
Speaking the DVD release, I always enjoyed the particularly dynamic Dolby Digital 5.1 audio on it, and anticipated jaw-dropping lossless audio on Blu-ray. The Blu-ray release of "Children of Men" completely delivered on my hopes, riding on a solid 5.1-channel DTS-HD Master Audio mix. The dynamics on gunfire and ricochet sound effects are provided with such a sense of speed and clarity that I must warn viewers listening at reference-levels to beware of them. Battle sequences fill the soundfield with dynamic, head-turning localized effects. Vocals and on-screen dialog are clear, solidly centered, and highly intelligible, save for some strong accents on the part of some of the characters.
The whole soundtrack has a clean, bright sound to it, providing heightened dimension throughout the surround soundfield, but especially in action sequences. More ambient, environmental sounds are delicately placed, but quite perceivable, during the passive moments of the movie. Accuracy of effects location is very high. Note the dinner table conversation scene between Theo and his cousin, Nigel. Nigel's son is playing a videogame and the sound of his fingers moving the controls pan from left to right as the visuals cut between Theo and Nigel, who are sitting opposite from each other at the table. Many parts of the movie follow the same attention to detail, and are worthy of praise for doing so. LFE is extremely potent when called for. Explosions will rattle your back, transporting you right into the action.
Probably the most noteworthy aspect of this film is its haunting score, exquisitely recorded and mixed into this movie, among other music, such as the progressive sound of "Court of the Crimson King" by King Crimson. Listening to the music alone reminds discerning viewers why they chose the beauty of lossless audio playback, and the overall audio improvement over the DVD release is greater than the improvement on the video for this Blu-ray release.
I generally don't rate disc extras, but I had watched the DVD extras, and it looks as though the Blu-ray release has them in completion. They are excellent.
"Children of Men" is far from your average sci-fi movie, and is one of those titles which tends to polarize its viewers. The future happenings of a world without children are speculative at best, but this movie conceptualizes that possibility well, and the plot and story are presented convincingly. With the casting trifecta of Clive Owen, Julienne Moore, and Michael Caine, it is excellently portrayed, and never dull, and through Alfonzo Cuarón's painstaking attention to detail in this film, those prone to deeper themes can be moved immensely. It has come to be one of my all-time favorite films, and highly recommended.
Lionsgate Films | 2000 | 102 min | Unrated | Region A (locked) | Feb 06, 2007
Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) is a Wall Street yuppie, obsessed with success, status, and
style, with a stunning fianceé (Reese Witherspoon). He is also a psychotic killer who rapes,
murders and dismembers both strangers...
Although I'm not a big fan of horror-type films, "American Psycho" seems less like a horror film in lieu of being more of a twisted comedy. Hopefully, viewers who don't normally take to horror-type films may be able to see it that way as well. Make no mistake, though. This movie is rife with blood and violence.
Set in the 1980s, Christian Bale plays a perfection-obsessed, 27 year-old Patrick Bateman, who by day is a highly successful Wall Street executive, and by night is a psychopathic killer. From the movie's start, you are invited into the intricacies of Bateman's head, for he narrates his thoughts frequently enough to keep you in the loop. However, suffice it to say that enough is left for you to figure out on your own, which is a nice aspect of this film.
Bale's performance is, in my opinion, brilliant. His poignant, self-absorbed dialog is full of swift wit and smarts, as are most of the conversations with his Wall Street colleagues. Most of the time, they are primarily concerned with one-upping each other on various fronts, such as who has the superior business card quality. Although these conversations are often highly conceited in nature, the screenwriting and performances are so fluid and frequently intellectual that you find yourself drawn into them. You may also find yourself laughing at some of the most obscure or even distasteful subject matter throughout the movie (A discussion centering around "Ed Gein" comes to mind).
The MPEG-2, 1080p video transfer of this film is sub-par. There is frequent dirt and other physical artifacts which show up, and film's color is a bit on the drab side. Image detail is relaxed, with few moments of elevated image quality, and the movie lacks the "pop" of a clean transfer. Such facts seem to be more forgivable on this title only because "American Psycho" is not a visually rooted film. I still wish that there was more attention paid to its transfer, though.
The highest quality audio on this Blu-ray is handled through 6.1-channel DTS-HD High Resolution Audio. Though still lossy in nature, this movie really doesn't have strong audio elements to begin with. It could have had some improved clarity in the dialog, however, especially since the story is largely dialog-based. Scenes featuring background music (Huey Lewis and the News, and Phil Collins/Genesis) showed some poise, but overall, the soundtrack was equally as bland as the video, even given its 6.1-channel treatment.
Thank goodness that high picture and audio quality are not prerequisites to make "American Psycho" entertaining on Blu-ray. Its clever marriage of scripting and screenplay may very well remind you of "A Clockwork Orange," and thankfully, "American Psycho" also dwells well above being a cheesy slasher flick. Never boring and ever-interesting, with solid supporting performances by Reese Witherspoon and Willem Dafoe, it's a title very much worth obtaining to fill an important gap in a movie-enthusiast's well-rounded collection. Definitely not a title for those who dislike violence, violent characters, or who are faint of heart.
Sony Pictures | 1997 | 129 min | Rated R | Region free
| Aug 05, 2008
From the bridge of the Fleet Battlestation Ticonderoga, with its sweeping galactic views, to the desolate terrain of planet Klendathu, teeming with shrieking, fire-spitting, brain-sucking special effects creatures, acclaimed...
Looking for something a little more original for your sci-fi enjoyment? "Starship Troopers" delivers! Bringing intense action, witty comedy, and a dose of romance, all with a strong underpinning of political-military satire, there's a good chance that you can get drawn into this film.
The futuristic story centers around Johnny Rico (Casper Van Dien), a young recruit into the Federation's Mobile Infantry, whose purpose is to defend planet Earth from large, alien "arachnids." More commonly referred to as "bugs," their violent, unrelenting onslaughts are too-often overwhelming, costing the lives (and often limbs) of many soldiers with each battle. Rico faces many challenges on his way up the ranks of the Mobile Infantry, overcoming personal obstacles and gaining the respect of his fellow troops, all while coping with the distance between himself and the love of his life, Carmen Ibanez (Denise Richards).
Early on, you might feel like the story is more of a run-of-the-mill teen romance, complete with locker-room type jokes, but it quickly becomes more dramatic with the development of the main characters and a thickening of the movie plot. "Starship Troopers" is one of the most openly gory and violent sci-fi movies out there, but it's never overboard in doing so. In fact, it's very realistic in its use of CGI effects and realism. The "bugs" don't simply collapse with a single, perfectly-shot Hollywood good-guy bullet. In fact, it usually takes many rounds just to begin to subdue one of them. Not unlike "Aliens" in its portrayal of how difficult fighting an alien enemy can be, you never feel as though the fight scenes are not important, or boring. Just be prepared for a lot of "blood and guts" during the battle scenes.
By far, the satirical nature of "Starship Troopers" is the movie's main characteristic. With futuristic "first person" computerized news drama visualizations and Federation recruitment ads sprinkled throughout the film, they set the story's tone. If you are prone to enjoying such things, then you'll find them a draw-in, and often comical. If you are not given to enjoy satire, you'll find them annoying and nonsensical. The pace of the movie is steady, always engaging, and never boring. There were two follow-up films made which, to be sure, did not fare so well.
The picture quality for this movie is commendable, with a 1080p transfer under an AVC encode. Image details are crisp, but not oversharpened, with very natural color tones, saturation and contrast. Once in awhile, the image quality drops a notch, but I attribute that to the source material. For the greatest part, "Starship Troopers" is exceptionally enjoyable to watch. The "bug plasma" space scenes are quite stirring, and excellent attention to the visual effects throughout the movie make it very convincing, especially considering that it came out in 1997.
Lossless audio is handled under a 5.1-channel Dolby TrueHD encode. With lively use of the surround channels and plentiful LFE, you'll be completely immersed in the action scenes. Dialog is clean and clearly centered. Most notable is the fullness of sound during machine gun rounds. Home theater viewers will want to make sure that DRC (Dynamic Range Control) is shut off to maximize the strong audio dynamics present in the soundtrack. Combined with the movie's thematic and inspiring musical score, the sound of "Starship Troopers" lies just beneath reference quality.
"Starship Troopers" is a more rare gem of sci-fi originality and execution. Fans of sci-fi may find this the most appealing aspect of this movie. For me, it was definitely the case! Enjoy!
Lionsgate Films | 2006 | 87 min | Rated R | Region A (locked) | Jan 09, 2007
There are a thousand ways to raise your adrenaline, and today hit man Chev Chelios (Jason
Statham) will need every one! He has one hour to settle the score and say good-bye to his girl
and go out with a little style! The only...
If you are in need an entertainment thrill ride and don't have two hours to kill, "Crank" is the perfect prescription for you. It's Jason Statham. It's Los Angeles. It's a story which begs you to suspend disbelief for just ninety minutes!
Starring Jason Statham as Chev Chelios, he goes on a mission to find the man who orchestrated a hit on him that left him with just an hour to live. Stricken with a drug which will kill him if he allows himself to relax, he tears through the bustling streets of Los Angeles, finding often inconceivable ways to elevate his heart rate, all while gathering clues to find his assailant. Staunch realists may not enjoy this movie, and it's definitely not a family film, but if you enjoy strap-yourself-in raw action and can put aside some of its cheesy scripting and acting, this movie packs a solid punch and has its share of funny lines and dramatic moments.
Some regard "Crank" as the finest Blu-ray video transfer they have ever seen. Critics of MPEG-2 encodes may not realize that Crank is one, and it shines with a nearly constant excellence in video clarity and detail. Facial details are startlingly discernible nearly all the time, as are the sharply focused details of the buildings and skyline of Los Angeles. It's total eye-candy in 1080p!
Audio-wise, the uncompressed PCM 7.1 audio of "Crank" is flat-out spectacular. Although the package states it as 6.1-channel PCM, all 7 channels are used. There is a mixed debate that a single surround-back channel is simply "doubled," and this could be the case. Regardless, if you have surround-back channels, they'll get fair use. Everything is in perfect balance with the sound on this title, from its pulse-pounding thematic music (and some surprising pop music choices), beautifully clear treble, clean dialog, ultra-dynamic sound effects, and solid LFE (note the "heartbeat" pieces during the film). Perfect score for a perfect mix!
For all of this film's shortage of solid scripting and occasional lackluster acting, "Crank" has so much vying to make you forget it. First and foremost, there's the non-stop, frenetic action (right from the start, I might add). Then, there's its stellar picture and audio. Lastly, the entire story is presented in a very stylistic way, with ever-interesting camera angles and highly creative editing and special effects work. It's a must-own Blu-ray title for action movie fanatics, and if you are inclined to films of this sort, you won't want to miss a second of it!
Overall, it's a quality release from Lionsgate Films.
20th Century Fox | 2009 | 120 min | Not rated | Region A (locked) | Jun 05, 2009
Experience the wonderment of our world in Yann Arthus-Bertrand's documentary about
home, the Earth.
<br><br>Award-winning aerial photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand and narrator Glenn
take you on
"HOME" is a 2-hour documentary covering the history of humankind on Earth - most notably the recent decades - and how the presence of mankind has impacted the planet's climate, natural resources, and global society. It passionately speculates the future of the planet and mankind based on the recent trends of resource consumption.
Although it's not quite up to "Baraka" in terms of benchmark, reference-quality visuals, the screen-filling, 1.78:1, AVC video encode of "HOME" is as close as one might get to it. Superb cinematography, nonetheless - enough to earn the 5.0 rating for picture quality. Like the "Planet Earth" documentary, a gyro-stabilized Cineflex HD camera was used for maximum image stability during camera motion. Without such a measure, the clarity of the video would have suffered immensely from aircraft vibration and other effects.
A capable and decent 5.1-channel DTS-HD Master Audio mix is present on the disc. The narrative voice of actress Glenn Close is rock-solid, except for a noticeable "tape-hiss" type noise which accompanies it each time it's mixed in. Fortunately, the noise becomes easier to ignore as the documentary moves on. The mostly-somber musical score is nicely balanced, but I longed for just a little more clarity and detail in it.
Don't expect a lot of soundfield-specific sound effects. Remember, this is a documentary. However, a nearly constant, but not over-emphasized LFE adds tremendous substance to the background music and environmental sounds.
Despite its message being a touch "doom-and-gloomy" at times, I don't believe that one can overstate the need to be conscientious about the planet's future. It was good to watch, and a fine production overall. "HOME" can make us think a little bit more about what we can do in small ways to be less wasteful and less harmful to our world.
DreamWorks | 2008 | 92 min | Rated PG | Region free
| Nov 08, 2008
Kung Fu Panda features Po the Panda, a lowly waiter in a noodle restaurant, who is a kung fu fanatic but whose shape doesn't exactly lend itself to kung fu fighting. That's a problem because powerful enemies are at the gates, and...
"Reference quality entertainment" from Dreamworks Animation!
I'll admit it. I saw the previews, had my doubts, and didn't see the movie until its Blu-ray release.
All I can say now is that animation of this level of creativity is pretty hard to beat, and for pure entertainment value for people of all ages, this title's a home run!
Right away, fans of Jack Black easily see that he totally immersed himself into the movie's main character, "Po" - an overweight panda bear with a passion for kung fu. He works in his father's noodle restaurant by day, but dreams of becoming a kung fu master. He also idolizes "The Furious Five" - five students of kung fu under the tutelage of Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman). In an amazing turn of events, Po must unravel the mysteries of kung fu to face a formidable foe, and his own personal fears. Sure, it sounds like a run-of-the-mill plot, but it's a run-of-the-mill plot which is done exceptionally well, without a lot of the cliché so rampant in many animated movie offerings.
Does this movie promise comedy that only Jack Black can bring? Yes! And he is helped along greatly by a star-studded cast in the classic fashion of animated feature films. Dustin Hoffman, Jackie Chan, Angelina Jolie, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, James Hong and host of other voices come together to make you go from giggles to laughter repeatedly. You'll also find smart dialog and excellent character development, completing an otherwise well-rounded, highly entertaining movie!
The picture quality of "Kung Fu Panda" is in a league all of its own. In the movie's top-notch, 1080p AVC encode, there is an abundant use of subtle colors, graceful, yet dazzling movements, fantastic editing, and incredible image detail. The movie opens with a less persuasive (but still exciting) 2D-esque animated sequence, which doesn't prepare you for the quality of the rest of the film! As of this writing, I have not seen a computer-animated film which reaches Kung Fu Panda in terms of creative flow. As seasoned fans of computer-generated animated movies have come to expect, every frame is reference-perfect on this release. At times, the image detail rivals live-action film. Pure eye candy for the HD fanatic!
The audio on the "Kung Fu Panda" Blu-ray is as titillating as its video. I can't say enough about how well this film's audio was produced and mixed! It comes to you as 5.1-channel Dolby TrueHD in all its lossless glory, and it shines so well that you may consider this title to be one of your reference discs. Dialog is well-captured, clear and centered, always easily discernible and understood. The musical score is enveloping, and percussive elements of the music come through with both delicate detail at subtle moments, and hard-hitting dynamics when called for. Effects and environmental sounds flow about the surround soundfield with a substantial deftness and astonishing clarity. Fantastic LFE will rattle your bones. There are several action scenes which you'll want to watch over and over again (such as Tai Lung's escape in Chapter 10), just for the "feel" of the LFE! From your subwoofer to your tweeters, your ears will be given an all-you-can-eat buffet of sound. It's the perfect marriage of audio and video!
I don't usually rate the extras, but I'll mention that for BD-Live users, the kung fu documentary, based on real students of kung fu, is no longer present. Filmed at the Shaolin Temple in China, this lengthy documentary was both entertaining and highly educational. It was was present when I first viewed the disc several months prior to this review, but has since disappeared. Perhaps its bandwidth usage was too high. We can only hope for its return.
In finality, "Kung Fu Panda" is a must-have title for Blu-ray audio/video fanatics. It showcases the real possibilities of computer animation and audio production, and delivers excellent voice-over character work as well. It's really trifecta of reference quality pure picture, audio and entertainment! The movie never loses its pace, has a very high re-watch value, and is suitable for the entire family. Nice job, Dreamworks Animation and cast!
Sony Pictures | 1984 | 105 min | Rated PG | Region free
| Jun 16, 2009
Three university parapsychologists lose a research grant when their experiment methodology is proven
to be bogus. The team decides to go into business for themselves as "Ghostbusters", a ghost removal service. After struggling...
Entertaining beyond the capacity for rational thought!
I remember clearly when "Ghostbusters" came out back in June of 1984. It solidly merged comedy with sci-fi in a way not really seen since. Today (6-16-2009), the movie was released for sale on Blu-ray disc, and I didn't hesitate to pick it up and view it immediately, replacing my aged 1999 DVD release.
Of course, you get all the witty, comedic chemistry of Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray and Harold Ramis. It's really a perfect blend of screenwriting and performance which will get you laughing unexpectedly throughout the entire movie!
Picture quality was not exceptionally strong, but solid. There was a fair amount of graininess, some flickering and occasional color-flatness, but remembering that this movie was filmed in 1984, and utilized the special effects compositing techniques of the time, helps us to realize that this movie's look is a matter of being faithful to the original. I always hope for the sharpest and cleanest looking video, but I'll take a faithful transfer over an artificially enhanced/processed one, and all the more so when it comes to older films. I noticed things I never noticed before, such as Dana's (Sigourney Weaver) and Louis' (Rick Moranis) skeletons flashing through during her bodily transfiguration, and the parts of the Central Park West building shaking loose just before Gozer re-appears to settle the choosing of "the destructor." Overall, the Blu-ray release is a move up from the DVD versions.
The Dolby TrueHD 5.1-channel audio is also faithful to the original, and the lossless sound reveals the age and recording technology of the movie's era. It sounds as though the music and score of the movie were carefully re-dubbed, because they are noticeably cleaner than the dialog, environmental sounds and other effects. The overall audio volume is somewhat lower than average - I had to punch up the volume on my Pioneer Elite SC-05 receiver appreciably to really get the juice going. Center channel dialog sounded a bit low through most of the movie, and I longed for it to be a little more present. Not a lot of surround activity, but present at certain, important points. There is solid LFE when its needed, and this is especially noticeable during the second half of the movie, and especially at its climactic conclusion. To be sure, the second half of the movie is more sonically present than the first half.
"Ghostbusters" is one of the consummate '80s blockbuster super-hits. It's worthy of a place in anyone's collection, as fans of comedy, sci-fi, action, and even romantic comedy will find all of the above in abundance. Lighthearted and funny, it's quality entertainment for the whole family. Its merits as a cinematic achievement far outweigh all picture quality and audio quality shortfalls. "Who you gonna call?"
Born to race cars, Speed Racer is aggressive, instinctive and, most of all, fearless. His only
real competition is the memory of the brother he idolized - the legendary Rex Racer, whose
death in a race has left behind a...
Come on, Warner Bros. - breathe some new life into this movie's sound!
"Speed Racer" is one of those movies which provides a bit of sensory overload, delivering incredible, high definition visual goods on its Blu-ray release. Filmed digitally from start to finish with a ton of skillful compositing and art-direction, the movie's glamorous colors, deep contrast, natural sharpness and depth can stumble 1080p naysayers into reconsidering their stance. Stunning as a picture quality descriptor for this title is not enough. It's truly jaw-dropping!
That said, the "Speed Racer" Blu-ray is clearly an unparalleled study in contrasts. For all the raving accolades about its video quality, the lackluster lossy Dolby Digital 5.1-channel mix is a remarkable letdown. Although robust at the 640kbps maximum bandwidth, the sound still lacks the presence, detail and spacial quality of lossless or uncompressed audio, and this title desperately needs a lossless treatment!
Warner Brothers opted to place this movie on a 25GB disc instead of 50GB, which may explain their avoidance of lossless sound. However, just as they did with "Superman Returns," Warner Brothers could end their reproach on "Speed Racer" by reissuing this title with a highly deserved lossless soundtrack. I can only imagine what this would do for this title, and I imagine a whole lot. I would not hesitate to purchase this title once again if it were to reappear with upgraded audio.
Although of the action/sci-fi/comedy sort of blend, "Speed Racer" also has its moments of drama, and the Wachowski brothers come through with well-developed characters and a generally cohesive story. Parts of the movie's special effects have a definite "Matrix-esque" look to them, and the racing sequences are astonishing and hyped to the max! Overall, the creative atmosphere of the movie is on a level occupied by few films.
The "Racer" family cast is star-studded, and endearing to watch throughout the entire movie. Emile Hirsch was cast in the story's lead role as Speed Racer, and performs solidly. Not necessarily a movie for the youngest children, it can still be classified as a family film. It's a bit lengthy, going for over two hours, so if you are watching this movie with a group of people, be prepared for staggered restroom breaks!
Overall, a decent and very unique Blu-ray to own, save for its lossy soundtrack. There's not a good reason to avoid lossless or uncompressed audio on Blu-ray these days, and this movie is at the pinnacle of that notion. Hopefully Warner Brothers will step up and give "Speed Racer" the proper sound to match its stellar picture!
Sony Music | 2006 | 89 min | Not rated | Region free
| May 29, 2007
December 2005. Los Angeles, California. Trumpeter Chris Botti, on the heels of his break-
through gold certified album "When I Fall In Love", and the record-breaking follow up "To
Love Again", plays two triumphant shows at the...
Chris Botti is committed to the trumpet, and the Blu-ray presentation of this show, shot in Los Angeles, will both exite and warm you. A fine array of special guests, each bringiing something very special to the show. If you are a fan of live jazz music, but have not seen this disc before, it will make a fine blind buy for you.
Video is 1080i/60, but very solid. The entire presentation is rather dark, but colorful, with little grain or other artifacts associated with video capture in low light. Excellent videography and editing work.
The audio is the shining star of this disc - absolutely superb. The 5.1-channel uncompressed PCM audio is also 24-bit/96KHz, and the mix is both robustly and delicately reproduced. Incredibly enveloping - you'll feel like you're there. Solid lows and sparkling, greatly detailed highs. The microphone used for vocals is, in my opinion, a bit flat, but that was likely more a matter of show circumstance, and not the post-production.
Although the video is done well, I like the audio more. I've turned the TV off just to play the music as background.
I, too, disagree that the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1-channel audio is better than the 5.1-channel uncompressed PCM audio. Typical of Dolby Digital, the minute and most delicate nuances of sound are just not as present, or gone altogether. Could hear a bit of artifacting on certain notes of Botti's trumpet in the Dolby Digital audio as well.
On the concert Blu-ray level, I give this release the highest overall recommendation.