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Blu-ray disc release list and must-have titles. Buy the latest and best Blu-ray titles to show off in your home theater!

BLU-RAY DISC REFERENCE QUALITY TITLES
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WanMan



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PostLink    Posted: Tue Jan 20, 2009 5:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote


        Register to remove this ad. It's free!
And its $35 today on Amazon.

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PostLink    Posted: Tue Jan 20, 2009 5:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good deal! I got it for $17.99 on Boxing day. Smoking deal!
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PostLink    Posted: Tue Jan 20, 2009 5:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Two more reference discs:

Quote:
Dexter: The Complete First Season (Paramount) Video: 5/5 Audio: 5/5

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

I own the first season of ‘Dexter’ on DVD -- also presented in widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio -- and I thought that the picture quality was pretty good. After reveling in the 1080p (MPEG-4/AVC) transfer here on this Blu-ray set, however, I can only compare the experience to having my house caught up in a twister and settling down in the wonderful and colorful land of Oz. I don’t think we’re in Canada anymore, Murdock. (No, none of my dogs are named “Toto.”)

For starters, black levels are very strong, and at the other end of the spectrum, whites are bleach-white in a sterile hospital sort of way. All the colors in between -- from the lush greens of grass and tree foliage to the blood-red crimsons splattered all over crime scenes -- really pop off the screen. Detail is exceptional, especially facial detailing, with no noticeable edge enhancement, and the picture often has that three-dimensional feel to it. The overhead views of the Miami cityscape simply blow the DVD out of the harbor.

While the picture, being filmed in HD, is stunning on most accounts, there are a few minor issues that bring the rating down half a peg. In the darker scenes, there are occasional instances of mild grain and noise. It’s nothing overly distracting, similar to a few of the night shots in ’Band Of Brothers.’. Also, when the camera panned in during a couple of scenes, I picked up on a slight jerky-motion effect, which I couldn't identify as a flaw in the transfer or just a quirk in the original source material that’s accentuated on Blu-ray.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

Paramount delivers ‘Dexter’ with an English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track, as well as a stereo track in Spanish. Compared to the Dolby Digital 5.1 option found on the DVD, the lossless track is crisper and cleaner, and I noticed a significant boost from the rear channels. The music of ‘Dexter’ really suits the show well, pleasantly filling the room with plenty of hard-driving bass. Subtle sound effects -- the motor of Dexter’s boat and the creeks and squeaks of a rat infested hospital basement for example -- were very impressive.

My only real complaint is that early on, Dexter’s narration seemed slightly muffled coming through the center speaker. I really noticed this in the premiere episode on the first disc. It’s weird since in the later episodes I didn’t notice this issue at all, it just suddenly fixed itself at some point. Still, it wasn’t annoying or anything, just something worth mentioning here. There are also optional English subtitles.


Quote:
Zodiac: Director's Cut (Paramount) Video: 5/5 Audio: 4/5

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

'Zodiac' holds the honor of being the first film shot entirely in 1080p high definition with digital Thompson Viper Filmstream cameras -- the same groundbreaking cameras director Michael Mann used to film portions of 'Miami Vice' and 'Collateral.' As such, the Blu-ray edition's 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer has been minted straight from its pristine digital source, and the results are nothing less than spectacular. It's also worth noting that this domestic BD transfer appears to be virtually identical to the previously-released and reviewed HD DVD and import editions of the film.

The strengths of the transfer are not immediately apparent -- Fincher's palette is subdued to say the least and the film is cloaked in drab colors and dark shadows. However, it only takes a few scenes to send your jaw careening to the floor. Detail is extraordinary -- every sheet of paper and every letter of newspaper text is crystal clear. Skin and clothing look incredibly sharp, with textures retaining an eerie realism that makes you feel as if you could reach out and touch anything on the screen. The entire film creates a convincing picture-window effect unlike any other transfer I've seen. To top it all off, contrast is dead on, black levels are perfect, and there isn't a lick of source noise or artifacting to be found.

I did catch a few instances of faint banding, but it didn't detract from the otherwise perfect transfer. Spend some time with 'Zodiac: Director's Cut' and you'll find that it has one of the most remarkable and natural transfers on the market today. Kudos to Paramount and Fincher for delivering such an amazing technical achievement.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

You won't encounter many sonic fireworks on the Blu-ray edition of 'Zodiac,' but its Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track is completely faithful to the film’s subtly effective sound design. After a thorough comparison, it's also quite clear that the track delivers a very similar experience to the HD DVD's Dolby Digital Plus mix (despite the upgrade to lossless audio).

In the interest of creating an immersive but believable soundscape, Fincher populates 'Zodiac' with hushed conversations and an overwhelmingly natural soundscape. As such, the rear speakers are merely used for errant ambiance and significant LFE usage only occurs in a few tense scenes. Still, balance and realism is handled beautifully, allowing the track to accurately reproduce Fincher's every intention. Dialogue is crisp, perfectly prioritized, and spread nicely across the front of the soundfield. Environmental ambiance is always present, interior acoustics are impressive, and pans are swift and transparent.

More importantly, strict channel accuracy makes the best of every element in the soundfield and greatly enhances the film's already palpable tension. Listen to any scene in the Chronicle offices and you’ll notice the typewriters, the murmurs in the distance, and the shuffling of papers. It's this sort of technical proficiency that allows viewers to completely sink into any particular scene without realizing how essential the audio actually is to the experience.


Kal

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emdawgz1



Joined: 14 Mar 2006
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PostLink    Posted: Tue Jan 20, 2009 7:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dexter is, without question, my new FAVORITE SERIES!


The subject matter takes a moment to get used to, but. Its well written, and ADDICTIVE!!!!!

Well woth reference disc status!

3&1/2 Dawgz out of 4

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PostLink    Posted: Mon Feb 09, 2009 3:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Another reference quality title:

Rent: Filmed Live on Broadway (Sony) Video: 4.5/5 Audio: 4.5/5

Quote:
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

'Rent: Filmed Live on Broadway' was shot on videotape, so the image exhibits a vibrant, crisp look that really pops on big-screen, high-def displays. The drab, industrial set fades into the background, so there's little to distract us from the actors, and against the predominant blackness their facial features and costumes are often striking. The racially diverse cast sports a wide variety of fleshtones, but they're all natural and stable, with theatrical makeup never adding any artificial accents. Sweat and tears are clearly visible, and when Mimi shakes out her hair during Out Tonight, the explosion of glitter seems to burst through the screen.

Black levels are dense, and the theatrical lighting creates gorgeous contrast. Even in dim scenes (such as Light My Candle), fine details are visible. Colors are bright and vivid, but never look pushed, and fabric textures are very discernible. All this clarity adds force to the emotional gut punches 'Rent' often throws and rivets our eyes to the screen. This is truly top-notch stuff that will thrill both the musical's fans and serious videophiles.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

Part of me wishes the 5.1 Dolby TrueHD audio was more explosive, but it accurately represents the capabilities of the show's small band and provides clean, dynamic, well-modulated sound. Again, we're watching a live theatrical performance, not something that's been recorded and remixed and enhanced, and considering the scenario's limitations, this track pumps out a strong yet nuanced mix. Vocals are well prioritized, so the lyrics remain understandable even during such frenetic numbers as La Vie Bohème, and stereo separation across the front speakers can be deliciously distinct, as in Roger's opening solo, One Song Glory. The surrounds are mostly reserved for applause, but kick in occasionally when the phone rings and voicemail messages are left. Subtle use also can be detected during most musical numbers, and helps the track produce a nice immersive feel. Unfortunately, bass frequencies don't dig quite deep enough to meet the needs of a rock musical, but overall, this track gives us all we could ask for and serves 'Rent' well.


Kal

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emdawgz1



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PostLink    Posted: Mon Feb 09, 2009 3:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

kal wrote:
Another reference quality title:

Rent: Filmed Live on Broadway (Sony) Video: 4.5/5 Audio: 4.5/5

Quote:
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

'Rent: Filmed Live on Broadway' was shot on videotape, so the image exhibits a vibrant, crisp look that really pops on big-screen, high-def displays. The drab, industrial set fades into the background, so there's little to distract us from the actors, and against the predominant blackness their facial features and costumes are often striking. The racially diverse cast sports a wide variety of fleshtones, but they're all natural and stable, with theatrical makeup never adding any artificial accents. Sweat and tears are clearly visible, and when Mimi shakes out her hair during Out Tonight, the explosion of glitter seems to burst through the screen.

Black levels are dense, and the theatrical lighting creates gorgeous contrast. Even in dim scenes (such as Light My Candle), fine details are visible. Colors are bright and vivid, but never look pushed, and fabric textures are very discernible. All this clarity adds force to the emotional gut punches 'Rent' often throws and rivets our eyes to the screen. This is truly top-notch stuff that will thrill both the musical's fans and serious videophiles.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

Part of me wishes the 5.1 Dolby TrueHD audio was more explosive, but it accurately represents the capabilities of the show's small band and provides clean, dynamic, well-modulated sound. Again, we're watching a live theatrical performance, not something that's been recorded and remixed and enhanced, and considering the scenario's limitations, this track pumps out a strong yet nuanced mix. Vocals are well prioritized, so the lyrics remain understandable even during such frenetic numbers as La Vie Bohème, and stereo separation across the front speakers can be deliciously distinct, as in Roger's opening solo, One Song Glory. The surrounds are mostly reserved for applause, but kick in occasionally when the phone rings and voicemail messages are left. Subtle use also can be detected during most musical numbers, and helps the track produce a nice immersive feel. Unfortunately, bass frequencies don't dig quite deep enough to meet the needs of a rock musical, but overall, this track gives us all we could ask for and serves 'Rent' well.


Kal


I saw this on Broadway w/ the original cast. It was AMAZING!!!

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PostLink    Posted: Tue Feb 10, 2009 9:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Another reference title... for the kids!:

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (Paramount) Video: 4.5/5 Audio: 4.5/5

Quote:
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

'Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa' comes to Blu-ray in a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer (1.85:1). DreamWorks has done a splendid job bringing the film to high-def, with a wonderfully lush and vivid presentation.

Perhaps this is not Pixar-level animation, but 'Escape 2 Africa' boasts some very sharp and detailed characters and locations. Detail is superior, with excellent visible textures and depth to the image throughout. Colors are splendid, with just about perfect saturation and consistency. A direct-to-digital transfer, blacks are rock solid and contrast supple but not overdone. If anything, 'Escape 2 Africa' can appear too digital, with some noise and edge enhancement visible (if slight). Otherwise, this is first-rate video.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

A Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround track (48kHz/24-bit) is provided for 'Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa.' It's equal to the video, with lovely, immersive sound design that brings the film's animated fun to life.

Surround use is the highlight -- there is rarely a dull moment to this soundtrack. Discrete effects are pronounced and well directed in the rears, and subtle atmosphere is almost always engaged. Particularly effective is the full-bodied soundfield during action scenes, as well as a few nighttime exteriors, which truly make one feel that Africa is alive in your home theater. The rest of this studio-constructed mix is also top-notch, with deep low bass, clean highs and well-balanced dialogue. 'Escape 2 Africa' sounds great.


Kal

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PostLink    Posted: Mon Feb 23, 2009 5:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Two new reference quality discs:

Body of Lies (Warner) Video: 4.5/5 Audio: 4.5/5

Quote:
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

Warner has fashioned a spectacularly film-like 1080p/VC-1 transfer that faithfully honors Scott's intentions. The breathtaking image clarity brings the dust and grime of the Middle Eastern locales into our living room, occasionally providing a striking multi-dimensional feel (check out the 'copters), while grittier handheld video sequences exhibit just the right amount of grain. Fleshtones always look natural, and close-ups lock securely onto fine facial details, such as pores, scars, and hair. The inky blacks resemble bottomless dark pools and add palpable tension to various scenes, and shadow delineation remains solid even in the trickiest conditions. Whites are also stable and true, and only blow out for cinematic effect.

Colors are fairly muted, even when the action shifts to the greener pastures of D.C. The film often flaunts a warm golden or cool blue cast, but there are nice brown gradients in the rocky desert landscapes and the azure sky adds splashes of welcome tint without any banding. A slight bit of edge enhancement can be detected, but you really have to look for it, and DNR seems utterly absent. This thrilling transfer just misses a reference quality rating, but still greatly enhances the film's mood and impact. Terrific job, Warner.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track matches the video in quality, offering up a highly immersive, surround-heavy experience. Though the sound field is quite active, it never seems cluttered. Imaging is excellent, with lots of subtle atmospherics and distinct accents emanating from the rears, while the front channels benefit from finely tuned separation that never feels mechanical. Details are crisp, from footsteps crunching in the sand to the whistle of a rocket propelled grenade, and Marc Streitenfeld's excellent score enjoys great tonal depth, especially in the low end. For the most part, dialogue is well prioritized and understandable; a few lines are muffled, but that may be due more to mumbling and Middle Eastern accents than an imbalanced mix.

The only area of the track that's a little lacking is the bass frequency, which doesn't pump out the room-shaking rumbles we crave. Explosions are surprisingly anemic, and in a film like this, that's a shame. Luckily, TNT doesn't play a starring role in 'Body of Lies,' so the issue isn't a deal breaker. In all other respects, however, this is a top-tier track that will shine on a good system.


Live From Abbey Road: Best Of Season One Video: 5/5 Audio: 4.5/5

Quote:
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

Shot in 1.78:1, the 1080i/AVC encoded transfer is a fine piece of work. Free of artifacts or random noise the feature is clear of any irritable enhancements. Close-ups reveal lots of details in the artists attire, skin, complexion, and every curve of the brass instruments. The composition of each shot is carefully composed, the lush colors and hues all look bright and vivid, not garish. Each performer got their own set design, and while some just need a few spotlights, others like the The Good, the Bad, & The Queen, or Corinne Bailey Rae, are drenched in a monochromatic scheme and are not overly saturated at all. In addition to the varying tempo of the camera work, the array of lens filters and camera styles changes for each act. Norah Jones has a lot of blur effects, Wynton Marsalis has a lot of grainy and de-saturated filters in his segment. Throughout all of the variation, a comfortable level of grain is present. Blacks are rock-solid and deep. Fleshtones appear accurate. As a result, contrast and depth are equally pleasant. Shadows on the wall are well-deliniated and don't appear washed out. When the camera roves around you get an appreciation for how large Abbey Road is, especially during Iron Maiden's segment, where nearly every member is pacing around. Live From Abbey Road has an overall soft appearance, as if it's been shot with a hand-held 35mm SLR rather than a video camera, a smart artistic choice by the filmmakers that lets the viewer feel as if they are standing in the studio in what seemed like a underground club. It de-emphasized the extra junk in the studio and kept the focus on the musicians and their instruments.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

There are two audio tracks to choose from, the 5.1 Dolby TrueHD track and the 5.1 DTS-HD lossless master audio track. Both are extremely close to each other. I prefer the DTS-HD track because to my ear it resonates ever so slightly more. The Dolby TrueHD track rides a little brighter at the higher end, but I'm really picking through hairs here. Again all of the instruments are well represented here. Voices aren't overblown and they don't dominate, they are in fact, like another instrument in each band. Sound in the center channel is reserved for the interviews which may disappoint some, but I think that allows for some balance rather than poorly forcing the voice to the center specifically. Although a little bit of vocals directed to the center wouldn't have been bad. Hopefully in time and with confidence, the center channel will be used more in these musical blu-rays. Low bass has a decent punch but is held at a complementary level to each song. The dynamic range is good in that the brass instruments don't pierce at a loud level. Every arrangement for each specific song has a superb mix. I do think the audio could have been better during the bonus interviews in the extras, as some aren't necessarily just at low levels, but there's a lot going on instead of going to a quiet room to speak, but that charm of being "in the studio" is what makes the disc unique.


Kal

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PostLink    Posted: Tue Mar 10, 2009 8:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Another must-have!

Pinocchio (1940) (Walt Disney) Video: 5/5 Audio: 4.5/5


Quote:
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

This first-ever high-def presentation of 'Pinocchio' easily blows away any past video version. Disney is releasing the Blu-ray day-and-date with a 70th anniversary DVD re-issue, most fans will only be familiar with the previous DVD, and a myriad of other laserdisc and VHS versions. This is another restoration on par with absolute Disney triumphs such as 'Snow White' -- 'Pinocchio' looks fantastic by any measure for a 70 year-old film. It continues to amaze me how good Disney can make their animated treasures look. (Note: This transfer is presented in the original aspect ratio of 1.33:1, pillarboxed to fill the 16:9 frame. However, Disney provides an option to "paint in" the pillarbox with patterned color. I found it gave an odd, distracting effect, but it's your choice.)

First, the film's color palette -- there's been some controversy that Disney has altered or tweaked the film's original stylistic intent. Comparing this Blu-ray to the previous DVD (not the new 70th anniversary edition), the Blu-ray indeed looks less "vibrant," at least in terms of saturation. But the old DVD was plugged up and noisy -- I vastly preferred this version of 'Pinocchio,' which is smoother, cleaner and far more textured. Though there remains some film grain -- thankfully -- there is none of the noise, and colors are far more pleasing and rich. (Disney has made no official comment on any of these online complaints, but I'm certainly happy with the results and will say I think they know what they are doing.)

The remaining aspects of the transfer are exceptional. The quality of the source is terrific seven decades on. Details are sharp and defined, with strong shadow delineation that reveals great fine texture and depth. I saw no obvious print flaws that can plague classic remasters -- there is no discernible variance to contrast, or muddy/fluctuating blacks. Gone is the annoying edge enhancement that crippled the previous DVD, and the lack of noise and artifacts is much welcome. Maybe I was not completely blown away by 'Pinocchio' as I have been by other, revelatory Disney remasters, but that may be more due to 'Pinocchio's lack of visual razzle-dazzle on par with a 'Snow White' or 'Cinderella.' But I can't fault this transfer for that -- it's hard to imagine 'Pinocchio' looking any better than it does here.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

Disney offers two audio choices for 'Pinocchio,' a remixed DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 7.1 Surround track (48kHz/-24-bit) as well as the original monaural via a restored Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (192kbps) option. For once, I enjoyed the remix, as it expanded the sonic scope of the film without resorting to an overly processed or artificial feel.

Comparing the DTS-MA with the restored Mono, the surrounds are fairly active. I was impressed that effects felt discrete, with a full-bodied dynamic range rare for a remix of this vintage. The rear channels are not always sustained, and minor ambiance is present but strongest with typical score bleed -- but it's still a strong effort. The source has been nicely cleaned-up, too, with no audio dropouts or other anomalies. I did find the mix still on the brash and bright side -- it's likely thankful that Disney didn't go overboard and whitewash the sound and remove any uniqueness, but this remix still can't quite overcome the limitations of the film's era. But no matter -- 'Pinocchio' sounds very, very good, either in DTS-MA or traditional mono.


Kal

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PostLink    Posted: Fri Mar 13, 2009 5:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Two more reference titles - hover over the title for pricing or to order:

Quote:
The Chronicles of Riddick (Universal) Video: 4.5/5 Audio: 4.5/5

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

'The Chronicles of Riddick' debuted on HD DVD back in 2006, and it was a winner -- a terrific transfer that was about as close to reference quality as the format could allow. Universal has repurposed that master for this Blu-ray, giving us a 1080p/VC-1 encode (2.40:1) that remains pretty stellar.

Though shot on film, 'Riddick's transfer was created from a digital intermediate scanned from the original film negative, so this Blu-ray transfer was minted direct from the digital master. As you would except, the image looks flawless -- absolutely clean as can be, with pitch-perfect blacks and terrific contrast. The level of detail is also often breathtaking (and boy, do I hate using such a cliched term) -- there really are moments that look as photo-real as a video image possibly could. Sharpness is also as good as it gets, with no softness to speak of even during the film's extensive CGI sequences. Colors are also very bold, rich, and smooth, with no apparent noise or inconsistencies. 'The Chronicles of Riddick' looks pretty darn fine.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

The audio on the 'Chronicles of Riddick' HD DVD was a disappointment -- a Dolby Digital-Plus track that, while good, cried out for the high-res audio treatment. Universal has heeded that call, and given us a DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 Surround track (48kHz/24-bit). The uptick is noticeable, and in some aspects, quite substantial.

The sound design of 'Riddick' is top-flight. Though the film did not perform as hoped, it delivers the kind of sonic wallop only a $100 million budget can allow. Surround use is intense during the action scenes with excellent imaging throughout, with even more seamless pans. I could rarely localize rear sounds -- the mix has that kind of floating feel of the best 360-degree soundtracks. I also like some of the subtle atmospheric effects employed during the films quieter, more talky passages, which in DTS-MA reveal more subtle textures and sounds.

Dynamic range remains sterling, with sounds emanating from the rears and fronts sounding equal in their authenticity and fullness. Low bass is superior as well in DTS-MA, with my subwoofer delivering tighter and punchier vibrations. Dialogue is better balanced than on the 'Pitch Black' Blu-ray, where the action sometimes overwhelmed. Here, the mix is always in proportion. 'The Chronicles of Riddick' sounds great.


Quote:
Australia (Fox) Video: 4.5/5 Audio: 4.5/5

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

A film like 'Australia' is a Blu-ray natural, and ever since I saw it at my local multiplex, I've been anxiously awaiting its high-def debut. Fox's 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC rendering almost hits a bulls-eye, but a couple of missteps keep it from earning a perfect rating.

First, the good stuff. The crystal clear image is free of any dirt or debris, and possesses a marvelous depth of field that serves the expansive vistas well. Colors are true, but not overly saturated, so the landscapes maintain their rugged, sandy look. Fleshtones occasionally take on a faint rosy tint, but for the most part accurately represent the varied hues of the multi-racial cast. Black levels are rich and deep, shadow detail is good, and no edge enhancement, banding, or DNR is present.

Though at times the transfer dazzles, with moments of 3-D pop, I expected a bit more dimensionality throughout. Luhrmann loves to shoot extreme close-ups, but the tight shots exude a disappointing flatness that often dulls fine details like facial hair and skin pores. I also found many exteriors to be overly bright, almost to the extent of looking washed out. Luhrmann gives us a good feel for the white hot desert and blistering Aussie sun, but the bleachy look, which I didn't notice in the theater, ever so slightly distracts. 'Australia' also employs a bucket load of CGI effects, which are, unfortunately, much easier to spot in 1080p.

All that said, this is still a superb effort that brings the breathtaking land Down Under to life.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

'Australia' benefits from a balanced, nuanced DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that enhances the film without overpowering it. The often stirring musical score makes full use of all the channels as it fashions an immersive feel that adds power and emotion to many scenes. Atmospherics are subtly employed but effective, and distinct sonic accents, such as horse hooves and the chunks of dirt and rock kicked up by the stampeding cattle, are crisp and full-bodied. The subwoofer gets quite a workout with all the galloping horses, cattle rushing, and Japanese bombs, but the bass is well modulated, providing realistic rumbles that never obscure the track's competing elements. Dialogue is always well prioritized, so even in scenes with heavy effects and scoring, conversations come through clearly.

Action sequences enjoy marvelous directionality – the Japanese planes swooping in from behind and cutting across the screen really put us in the thick of battle, and the rampaging cattle feel like they're going to run roughshod right over us – yet seamless imaging unites all the speakers so the audio never sounds choppy.

There's a lot to this track, but it's so well mixed it often runs under our radar and simply complements the drama on screen - which is what really good audio should do.


Kal

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PostLink    Posted: Wed Mar 18, 2009 4:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Couple of new REFERENCE TITLES for you...

Bolt comes out in 4 days - looking forward to watching this one with my son as it's not only a five-star rating on the audio /video side but is also a good movie. 100% due to the fact that John Lasseter from Pixar took over the Walt Disney Animation Studios chief creative office.

Quote:
Bolt (Walt Disney) Video: 5/5 Audio: 5/5


The Video: Sizing Up the Picture


Walt Disney presents 'Bolt' in 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 video (1.78:1). It's a terrific presentation -- pixel perfect, in fact. I'd be hard-pressed to find a better Blu-ray released so far this year. (Note that Disney released 'Bolt' in 3-D for some theatrical showings. Only a 2-D version is offered here.)

I found the image flawless. A direct digital-to-digital conversion, the source is pristine, with excellent blacks and bold contrast. The color palette is incredibly bright and well-saturated, with striking primaries and great clarity to even the finest gradations. Typical of great CGI animation, the image is wonderfully detailed, dripping depth and sharp as a tack. The encode also suffers no arrows, with a smooth and noise-free appearance and no obvious artifacts or edge enhancement. I simply could not find anything wrong with this transfer -- it's 5 out of 5.


The Audio: Rating the Sound


Easily matching the video, this DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 Surround is wonderfully alive and aggressive.

'Bolt' comes alive from the first frame, with wonderfully active surrounds that deliver a nicely sustained, 360-degree soundfield almost throughout. Pans are excellent in their tightness and seamlessness, and even minor atmosphere and score bleed is near-constant. Action scenes are as nicely done as the exterior locales,immersive, well-designed and executed. A wholly studio-constructed soundtrack, dynamic range is wide and full-bodied across the entire spectrum. Low bass reaches deep. This is a terrific, five-star soundtrack.



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Punisher: War Zone (Lionsgate) Video: 4.5/5 Audio: 5/5


The Video: Sizing Up the Picture


Lionsgate locks and loads ‘Punisher: War Zone’ onto a BD-50 utilizing a very impressive 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC encode retaining its original theatrical 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio.

What we have isn’t a very colorful picture by any means, but as noted in the commentary as well as one of the featurettes, the goal was to use a palette that essentially mirrored the comics. To do this, the filmmakers made an effort to use only three colors on screen at any given time, and the end result is a dark and moody picture that reminded me of ’The Crow.’ Black levels are among the strongest I’ve seen yet, staying rock solid from start to finish. There’s what appears to be a bit of natural grain, but digital noise (that can often be a distraction in films set predominantly at night) is nonexistent.

There are a few minor nitpicks keeping me from giving the transfer a perfect score, though. For one, I did catch the odd white speckle here and there—particularly during the funeral scene to give an example—and I noticed a slight softness to the picture in places. Skin tones occasionally seem a bit golden at times, but I believe that’s a product of the lighting used in some scenes.

The U.S. version of the Blu-ray is also region-locked, so it will only play on Region A compatible PlayStation 3 and standalone players.


The Audio: Rating the Sound


The Blu-ray for 'Punisher: War Zone' packs a powerful and aggressive lossless English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track that takes a page from Frank Castle and pretty much blows the competition to kingdom come.

Even though Frank himself doesn't actually say a word until over twenty minutes into the movie, the dialogue is still perfectly balanced with the rest of the picture. Likewise, the surrounds are highly active with bullets whizzing by from all angles, and I loved the chilling atmosphere they provided in the asylum. The background chatter at the police station even sounded great. Completing the explosive package is rip-roaring bass that works overtime between the hard-driving music and cascade of explosions. It’s a loud and chaotic track to be sure, but we wouldn’t want it any other way.

Also available is a French Dolby Digital 5.1 track, as well as optional English SDH, English, and Spanish subtitles.

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PostLink    Posted: Mon Mar 23, 2009 6:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

3 more reference quality Blu-ray titles! Hover over the links for pricing/more info!

Quote:
Quantum of Solace (MGM) Video: 4.5/5 Audio: 5/5

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture


'Quantum of Solace' looks a little bit better to me than 'Casino Royale,' if still not quite achieving five-star video. MGM/Fox presents the film in 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 video (2.39:1), and it accurately captures the film's rough-and-tough visual style.

'Quantum of Solace' is more hard-edged than 'Casino Royale,' which is immediately evident right out of the gate. The source, while clean, is deliberately grainy, and contrast pushed to accent depth at the expense of the finest details. However, there is great dimensionality to the image, and much of it looks fantastic. Colors are a bit all over the place -- some exteriors look more natural, while other scenes are intentionally desaturated or processed. The palette is clean, however, and only a few shots look too saturated and overbearing. Fleshtones holds about as firm as is possible. I did detect some noise mixed in with the grain (though it is not as noticeable as I found with 'Casino Royale'), but no major compression artifacts. 'Quantum of Solace' falls a tad short of perfection, but for most of its runtime it looks pretty darn good.


The Audio: Rating the Sound


This DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 Surround track (48kHz/24-bit) is first-rate. It's easily one of the finest action soundtracks I've heard on Blu-ray in a very long while.

Prepare to have your speakers blasted the minute the studio logo fades. 'Quantum of Solace' bowls you over -- dynamic range is top-tier, from the crystal clear highs right down to the driving, subwoofer-pummeling low bass. This is as expansive and powerful a soundtrack as you're going to find, especially at a high volume. Surround use is great and the action scenes boast some aggressive pans. Highlights are the opener, the avant garde opera sequence, and the fiery climax -- these are all likely to be demo scenes for many a month to come. Though 'Quantum of Solace' is hardly a talky picture (does Daniel Craig say more than a few lines in the whole picture?), dialogue is perfectly balanced and always clear and distinct. Only some of the thick accents gave me trouble. Otherwise, 'Quantum of Solace' rocks on Blu-ray.



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Transporter 3 (Lionsgate) Video: 4.5/5 Audio: 5/5

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture


Lionsgate wraps up the ‘Transporter 3’ package on a BD-50 with a 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC (2.35:1 aspect ratio) transfer that’s nearly as spiffy as the paint job on Frank Martin’s Audi.

The picture is exceptionally clear with a rich and bold color palette that's very easy on the eyes. The image has strong depth and details pop off the screen. There are many close-ups of Frank and Valentina on their road trip, and skin textures are so impressive you can count every one of the young lady’s freckles. Black levels are also very solid, and there’s a small amount of natural grain present to give it a film look.

Even though I was very pleased with this transfer overall, there are a few minimal issues to bring up here. I noticed the odd white speckle and only two instances of very mild bouts of noise on the image, but both of these were really hard to see unless you’re specifically scrutinizing the transfer. The other thing was a slight crushing to shadows that obscured some detailing, but again these cases were very few and far between. That being said, while the image has a few tiny flaws, it’s still hard not to call this one eye-candy.

The U.S. version of the ‘Transporter 3’ Blu-ray is also region-locked and therefore will only function in Region A compatible PS3s and standalone players.


The Audio: Rating the Sound


Lionsgate delivers another top-notch lossless English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track that, to put it mildly, simply rocks.

Here we have a very aggressive sound mix that’ll keep all you action junkies grinning from ear to ear. Next to Statham, the bass is clearly the star of the show, rarely having a chance to wind down between the rip-roaring music and revved up engines. Every shifting gear can be felt through the floorboards, not to mention a few crashes and explosions thrown in for good measure. Surrounds are also fantastic, as even subtle background noises can be heard with clarity—like during the casual fishing scenes with Frank and Tarconi for example. Of course, dialog takes a backseat to the rest of the sounds in these types of films, but it still comes through clear without any noticeable issues. I wish some of the other studios would follow in Lionsgate’s footsteps in the audio department since they sure do seem to be on a roll lately.

Also included on the disc is a French Dolby Digital 5.1 track, as well as optional English and Spanish subtitles.



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The Fast and the Furious Trilogy (Universal) Video: 4.5/5 Audio: 5/5

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture


For whatever reason, Universal has decided to mix up the codecs on the three 'Fast and the Furious' flicks -- 'The Fast and the Furious' is VC-1, while '2 Fast 2 Furious' and 'The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift' are AVC MPEG-4. In any case, there is nothing new here fans of the HD DVD versions will find -- these appear to be from identical masters as the VC-1 encodes on the previous releases. That is not a bad thing, however, as these transfers remain excellent, and it's hard to improve upon what didn't need much improvement in the first place.

The Fast and the Furious

Universal delivers a rather stunning encode for the first, and still best, film in the series. The source material is pristine, with no blemishes, dirt or other anomalies present. Film grain is present if you look hard enough, though the source material appears to have been heavily processed during post-production. Blacks and contrast are excellent, giving the transfer a great sense of depth and pop, but without overtweaked whites and annoying edge enhancements. Color reproduction is about as vivid as is imaginable -- I'd call it overbearing -- with very strong hues that look like they're about to explode.

Most of the daylight scenes have obvious filter effects on them, such as those fake-looking color gradations in skies. Fleshtones are very orange to me throughout, as if they were overtweaked in post-production. I wonder how much better detail might have been had the transfer been less processed -- as it stands, the transfer has an unreal gloss that, while striking, teeters on the brink of appearing soft. (It's definitely in keeping with the MTV-aesthetic of the film, but such a processed sheen hardly looks natural.) Detail can, at times, be spectacular, with such subtleties as reflections on metallic surfaces and stubble on faces clearly visible. Indeed, 'The Fast and the Furious' remains one of the more three-dimensional high-def presentations around. (Video rating: 4.5/5.0)

2 Fast 2 Furious

'2 Fast 2 Furious' maintains the visual tradition upheld by the other two flicks in the franchise. The cinematic equivalent of day-glo vomit, you're not likely to see colors as unreal as this in any other movie. The incredibly vivid palette is the most dominant feature of the presentation. I don't think I've ever seen hues this unreal, and they are reproduced even more solidly than the first 'Furious' flick. Teetering on the edge of being overpumped, bleeding and chroma noise are miraculously kept in check. The film looks like a rainbow, yet it's the most natural of the three 'Furious' flicks.

All other aspects of the transfer are excellent. The source material is very clean, with not even the slight veil of film grain. Blacks are rock solid and contrast just about perfect. There is nary a shot in the film that does not look wonderfully detailed and three-dimensional. If nothing else, nighttime scenes can look a tad bit softer, but they can match the best Blu-ray presentation out there. I was also impressed by the "picture window" effect of the image -- this is another of those transfers that sometimes looks so real it doesn't feel like video. Topping it all off is a lack of any compression artifacts or posterization. Even the heavy filter effects used in some scenes don't result in any anomalies -- color gradations always look smooth and natural, and even the most fast-action scenes are free from macroblocking. (Video rating: 4.5/5.0)

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift

'The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift' is another day-glo confection. Color reproduction is excellent, with hues vivid yet free from burn-out or oversaturation. Cleanliness of the source material is superb, with not a single blemish noticeable. Blacks are spot-on and contrast is terrific. I was quite impressed with how well this transfer handles all the shiny chrome and metallic surfaces -- the image is always very sharp but not overly-edgy, and artifacts such as jaggies and halos are not an issue. Depth and detail to the picture is almost uniformly stunning, with that "you are there," picture perfect quality that high-def is all about. It's a close race, but 'Tokyo Drift' ties with '2 Fast 2 Furious' as the best transfer in the set, with 'Fast and the Furious' right behind. (Video rating 4.5/5.0)


The Audio: Rating the Sound


Universal dropped the high-res ball with the previous HD DVD releases of the 'Fast and the Furious' trilogy, and opted only for Dolby Digital-Plus tracks on all three stand-alone releases. This Blu-ray set receives a nice upgrade, with new DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 Surround tracks (48kHz/24-bit) on all three films. They are first-rate, demo-ready audio presentations.

The Fast and the Furious

This is a truly enveloping, fully 360-degree aural experience. Surrounds are fully engaged throughout, with discrete effects among the most realistic I've ever heard in a home theater environment. I thought the Dolby Digital-Plus tracks on the HD DVD were great, but the DTS-MA is slightly more open and expansive -- the rear soundfield is stronger in terms of clarity and overall breadth of impact. I could rarely tell where a sound was emanating from, with excellent, seamless pans.

Improved as well is dynamic range. The DD-Plus track offered a step up over the DVD, but here mid- and high-range is even more robust, and low bass tighter. The near-constant rumblings of engines, etc., as well as the pop/rock songs on the soundtrack all benefit from heftier, punchier low bass. Explosions and other bombastic car crash effects also deliver s stronger vibrations, which is quite thrilling. Dialogue is expertly reproduced, with no volume balance issues. (Audio rating 5.0/5.0)

2 Fast 2 Furious

The sound design of '2 Fast' is on par with both 'The Fast and the Furious' and Tokyo Drift.' There is nary a dull moment when the surrounds are not somehow engaged. The racing scenes are, predictably, way over the top. Motors rev, metal clanks and characters scream at each other -- all blaring from all five channels. Imaging is just about perfect -- movement and pans are transparent, and the tiniest aural detail sharp and clean.

Improved on the DTS-MA is more subtle details. Rob Cohen, who helmed the original, smothered even simple dialogue scenes in R&B/industrial music, so '2 Fast 2 Furious' seemed a bit subdued by comparison. Small sonic details are more audible here, however, with the expanded rear channels enjoying better ambiance. The meager score is no longer as muted in the mix. Even in DTS-MA the movie still feels on/off -- it's either over-the-top loud, or not-so-loud, but at least consistency is improved. Dialogue remains well proportioned, and this is nothing if a not a slick mix. (Audio rating: 4.5/5.0)

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift

The previous HD DVD of 'Tokyo Drift' sounded pretty fierce, but it gets an appreciable upgrade here. Again, it is all about the cars and the crashes. The heft and depth to the dynamic range across the entire frequency spectrum during these scenes is a stand-out -- just about any racing scene in the film is demo-worthy. Fine sonic details and shadings to individual effects are even more distinct and clear in the surrounds -- I could readily make out individual sounds, such as a brake being pushed, or a character changing gears, even amid all the other sounds and the score. Discrete sounds are deployed to the rear channels almost constantly, from the roar of the tires and the crowd noise, to standout uses of dialogue and more score. Pans are predictably excellent with seamless imaging. Dialogue remains perfectly balanced. There are no flaws I could find anywhere with this mix. (Audio rating: 5.0/5.0)

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PostLink    Posted: Tue Apr 07, 2009 5:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Another must-have title with nearly perfect audio/video, and last year's Best Picture Oscar winner to boot!

Slumdog Millionare (Fox) Video: 4.5/5 Audio: 5/5

Quote:
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

Danny Boyle employed a number of different camera types and film stocks when shooting 'Slumdog Millionaire,' making Fox's task of producing a cohesive transfer somewhat challenging. But this 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC effort for the most part accurately reflects his cinematic intentions, while providing an image that's always pleasing and often stunning. At their best, various shots flaunt all the breathtaking clarity, enhanced depth of field, and vibrant color that distinguish the finest HD transfers. Beads of sweat, downy facial hairs, and clothing textures are all superbly rendered, colors possess lovely saturation, and contrast is pushed, so we get several palpable moments of 3-D pop. (If you've never been to the Taj Mahal, you'll feel as if you have after watching this film.) But depending on Boyle's camera choices, many crisp scenes also contain shots that exhibit plenty of grain, and the effect can be a bit jarring. Everything, though, remains true to Boyle's vision, which walks a fine line between gritty realism and lush romanticism, and honors both approaches well.

Black levels are quite strong, and nocturnal scenes possess great amounts of detail. Whites, though, tend to run hot, and the high contrast forces a few instances of blooming. A smattering of video noise creeps in from time to time, and there's some break-up of fine details in long shots, but neither deficiency detracts from the overall quality of this transfer. Not a single nick or scratch mucks up the image, and no edge sharpening, DNR, or other digital tinkering alters the original look of this film. This is really a terrific presentation, one that thrusts us into the action and keeps us on a tether throughout. Whether you're one of the film's diehard devotees or preparing for your first viewing, this top-notch effort is sure to dazzle your senses.


The Audio: Rating the Sound

I never thought I would put reference quality audio and 'Slumdog Millionaire' in the same sentence, but this incredibly immersive, in-your-face (or should I say in-your-ears?) DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround track gives me no choice. Yes, the sound is that good. From the movie's opening moments, the sonic power of this active mix hits you like a sledgehammer, and it took me a few minutes of feverish volume tweaking before I found a comfortable level. There's no denying the track is loud, but its subtleties still shine through. The surrounds are almost constantly in use, providing vital ambiance that really hurls us into the teeming atmosphere of crowds, car horns, and street noise that defines the Mumbai slums. Dynamic range is superb, and effects are so distinct they often had me jumping as if I was watching a horror movie. Airplanes and helicopters flying overhead supply notable rumbles, and there's a faint undercurrent of bass throughout the film that lends the track marvelous depth.

Seamless pans heighten the realism, and dialogue is nicely integrated into the mix. Thick accents make some of the lines unintelligible, but on the whole, conversations are clear. A.R. Rahman's music score enjoys fine presence and fidelity as it makes full use of the expansive sound field, and the rousing Bollywood number that closes the film pumps out an enveloping stream of joyful tones.

This is a track that will really show off your audio equipment, and make this fine motion picture more immediate, involving, and exciting. Reference quality, indeed.


Kal

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PostLink    Posted: Fri Apr 17, 2009 8:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Some new pre-orders coming up!

X-Men Apr 21, 2009
The Wrestler Apr 21, 2009
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button May 5, 2009
Fargo May 12, 2009
Star Trek: Original Motion Picture Collection May 12, 2009
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly May 12, 2009
Ran May 12, 2009
Valkyrie May 19, 2009
Defiance Jun 2, 2009
The International Jun 9, 2009
M*A*S*H Jul 14, 2009
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Oct 6, 2009
A Bug's Life May 19, 2009
Monsters Inc. Date TBD
Lord of the Rings Trilogy Date TBD

Kal

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PostLink    Posted: Sat Apr 18, 2009 12:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Good, the Bad and te Ugly... ooooOOOoooh! That will be cool. Great scenes in that movie.
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PostLink    Posted: Sat Apr 18, 2009 2:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

RAN!!! WOOOH HOOO! I think this is one of my all time favorites, it will be spectacular on the big screen.
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PostLink    Posted: Sat Apr 18, 2009 3:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ran on DVD has never been great - got my fingers crossed on this one!

Kal

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PostLink    Posted: Sat Apr 18, 2009 4:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

So I'm looking on Amazon and I see "Flight 666" to be released in July. Come on Kal, that's a must have.
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PostLink    Posted: Sat Apr 18, 2009 4:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

kal wrote:
Some new pre-orders coming up!

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly May 12, 2009

Kal


Now we're talking good movies!!!! Thumbs Up

One of my all time favorites.

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PostLink    Posted: Thu Apr 30, 2009 9:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Three new reference quality discs!

Quote:
Sin City (Buena Vista) Video: 5/5 Audio: 5/5

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

One of the more interesting aspects of the Blu Ray explosion is seeing how black-and-white films translate into high definition. So far there have only been a handful of black-and-white releases (I’m thinking specifically of “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” “The Third Man” and the black-and-white version of “The Mist”), but each one has been pretty stunning in its own right.

But what makes “Sin City” different is the fact that director Robert Rodriguez was fully aware of the preconceived notions of black-and-white and what black-and-white could accomplish. In one of the many bonus features on the second disc of this set, he talks about how black-and-white before wasn’t really black-and-white but many, many shades of grey. So what he wanted to do was push the limits, having the blacks be super black and the whites be super white, and to sneak in color, as other movies have done (I’m thinking of Kurosawa’s “High & Low” with the pink smoke, or the red jacket in Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List”) in new and interesting ways.

That said, he really knocks it out of the park. The blacks are blacker-than-black, the whites are bleached out (in the best possible way), and the way that colors are introduced, with subtlety and grace, are also stunning. Watching it on Blu Ray is like watching it for the first time. It really is something.

The 1080 p MPEG-4 AVC Video transfer (aspect ratio 1.85:1) is transferred directly from the digital source, so it's totally flawless. There is no noticeable grain or noise, no artifacts, and the picture really comes alive – shadows and black spaces (remember, Rodriguez was emulating Miller’s stark vision to an insane degree) feel positively bottomless. Whites shine, textures and colors (like the sick puke yellow of The Yellow Bastard) pop off the screen (page?), and the whole thing looks like a million bucks. Really, this is one of the best high-definition transfers I’ve seen.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

Initially, there was concern that, given the bombastic nature of “Sin City” (lots of gunshots, knife swings, crunching heads etc.), it would be a very two sided mix – the front and rear channels getting a workout but the middle channels left sadly inert. This isn’t the case, thankfully.

The 24-bit DTS-HD Master Audio is really something else. Not only are the front and rear channels utilized vigorously, but they're also pitch perfect. Dialogue (there’s lots of Raymond Chandler-esque voiceover) booms over the soundtrack but is never overbearing. Sometimes the dialogue is spread over all the channels, to give a more immersive experience. (It’s really neat.)

All the more surround sound-y elements, like the zooming cars and gunshots and action sequences, sound even better. They're sharp and well placed and really add a throbbing heart to the sound mix. But more than that, maybe most surprisingly, is the level of immersive ambience in the mix. You are IN “Sin City” while watching this desk, aware of the minor details (a twinkling of shot glass in a bar, for instance), just as much as the sucker punch of a particularly violent castration. And the score, by Rodriguez, John Debney, and Graeme Revell, sounds really wonderful too – all smoky horns and atmosphere.

In short: the sound mix is just as perfect as the video.

In addition, there is a Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 dub, a Portuguese dub, and subtitles in English (SDH), Spanish, Portuguese, and Chinese. It’s also equipped with D-Box technology, so if you have a chair that can shake and shimmy, you’re in for a treat.


Quote:
X-Men: The Last Stand (Special Edition) (Fox) Video: 4/5 Audio: 5/5

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

X-Men: The Last Stand' hit Blu-ray in late 2006 as one of Fox's flagship luanch titles. It came in a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode (2.40:1 widescreen), stuffed on a BD-25 single-layer disc. This new three-disc set sees the feature film getting it's own BD-50 dual-layer disc to spread its wings across, but don't expect any change in video quality. The average bitrate of this new version is generally higher throughout the film's runtime, but I had to squint just to see the slightest of upgrade in visible detail. I suspect Fox took the same master and simply did a re-encode.

That said, 'The Last Stand' remains a very fine-looking Blu-ray presentation. Brett Ratner has been a vocal proponent of the Super35 process, which tends to increase visible film grain. Indeed, 'X-Men 3' does look grainy here, with a thin veil covering just about every scene, and some shots veer on the excessive. But that's indicative of the source, and video noise isn't really a problem (more on that below). This is certainly the least slick of the 'X-Men' movies. Colors are well-saturated, yet not too overdone. The X-films always looked a bit more naturalistic to me than, say, the 'Spider-Man' movies, which is again evident here. Blacks are rock solid and contrast is eye-popping but not tweaked to hell. Whites don't suffer from harshness or blooming (the exception being that damn bald kid again and his all-white room, which seems intentionally diffused).

Detail is above-average. Though I thought some of the large-scale effects shots (such as Magneto moving the bridge for the film's climactic battle) appear a bit soft and flat, medium and close-up shots are often extraordinary. Is this new encode any sharper or more detailed? Not to the naked eye. I did quite a few A/B compares, and on a few shots -- such as a cool moment where Angel opens his wings, and a very CGI-laden death scene -- I thought I saw a very slight increase in the finest textures. But this is nowhere near an appreciable upgrade. The only other improvement is the lack of artifacts -- the original Blu-ray suffered from moments of noise, and banding. None of that is present here -- I noticed nary a problem. Those hoping for a remaster may be disappointed here, but 'The Last Stand' looks so good there seems to be no reason to complain.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

At the time of Fox's original Bu-ray release of 'The Last Stand,' there were no DTS-MA decoders on the market, so few fans, if any, could enjoy the DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio track that Fox included on the disc. They've repurposed the same audio here, giving us a super sweet 6.1 Surround mix (48kHz/24-bit) that still shines very brightly.

The sound design of 'The Last Stand' is as superb as you'd expect for a movie with a reported budget of nearly $150 million. Surround use can be incredibly aggressive; just about every action scene in the film could serve as demo material. My favorites were Magneto's attempted rescue of Mystique, Storm creating a tornado, and the big climactic X-fight. Imaging is excellent, with near transparent pans between channels a wholly immersive 360-degree soundfield. The clarity of individual sounds in the mix, and the ability to locate them easily, is what high-def home theater audio is all about.

Dynamics are predictably top-notch, with crystal-clear clarity in sound effects and dialogue. Bass extension is also very powerful, with some serious vibrations delivered by the subwoofer. The extended action of the film is a whopper, and this is one of those Blu-rays that is so fun to crank up and listen to it almost compensates for the deficiences of the movie itself. 'The Last Stand' seems to sound even better than it did two years ago.


Quote:
X2: X-Men United (Fox) Video: 4.5/5 Audio: 5/5

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

'X2: X-Men United' gets a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode (2.35:1) and it looks pretty spiffy. This is the best of 'X-Men' Blu-ray releases, boasting a bold, bright, clean and detailed transfer that can be quite grand.

Overcoming the dour blandness of the first 'X-Men' and the Brett Ratner visual-isms of the dreaded 'X-Men: The Last Stand,' 'X2' is polished, slick and classy. I love the steely color palette, which looks shiny but not washed out or overly-contrasted. Hues are rich and striking. Detail is excellent, with only slightly crushed shadow delineation to rub out some of the finest textures in the shadows. The image is always sharp, and depth is among the best I've seen on any recent Blu-ray catalog release. There are no encode issues, either, with excellent reproduction of fine color gradations and no posterization or motion artifacts. There is a bit of fine noise visible, usually on large patches of solid color, and slight grain to the print, but this is indicative of the source. 'X2' is sure to please.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

Fox also rocks 'X2: X-Men United' with a DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 Surround track (48kHz/24-bit). All of the 'X-Men' movies sound good on Blu-ray, and this is easily on par with the other installments.

'X2' blasts off from the beginning, with wonderfully-engaged surrounds. Particularly impressive are scenes with Nightcrawler, with great uses of discrete effects as he materializes in and out. Transparency is first-rate, and the full "wall of sound" feel is frequently in effect. Dynamics are likewise reference quality, with the highest peaks and lowest valleys always tightly rendered. The subwoofer never fails to deliver, and dialogue is balanced just fine. No complaints here -- 'X2' is a five-star audio winner.


Kal

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