January 08, 2008 3:10 to Yuma (2007) (Lionsgate) (Region free)
3:10 to Yuma (2007) (Lionsgate)
Con Air (Buena Vista)
Dragon Wars (Sony)
Killing Machine/Shogun's Ninja (BCI)
Man on Fire (Fox)
The Rock (Buena Vista)
Sister Street Fighter/Sister Street Fighter 2: Hanging By a Thread (BCI)
January 06, 2008
Superhero Movie (Weinstein)
January 02, 2008
Resident Evil (Sony)
Resident Evil - The High Definition Trilogy (Sony)
Resident Evil: Extinction (Sony)
January 01, 2008
Shoot 'Em Up (New Line)
May 22, 2007
Apocalypto (Buena Vista)
Flags of Our Fathers (DreamWorks)
Freedom Writers (Paramount)
Letters from Iwo Jima (Warner)
Mission: Impossible (Paramount)
Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (Buena Vista)
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (Buena Vista)
May 15, 2007
Battle of the Bulge (Warner)
The Fountain (Warner)
The Road Warrior (Warner)
Stomp the Yard (Sony)
May 01, 2007
Happily N'Ever After (Lionsgate Entetainment)
The Lost City (Magnolia)
April 25, 2007
Living Landscapes: The World's Most Beautiful Places (HD Environments)
April 24, 2007
Deja Vu (Buena Vista)
Failure to Launch (Paramount)
Night at the Museum (Fox)
Planet Earth: The Complete BBC Series (BBC)
The Queen (Buena Vista)
Secret Window (Sony)
Ultimate Avengers Collection (Lionsgate)
April 17, 2007
The Dirty Dozen (Warner)
Enter the Dragon (Warner)
April 10, 2007
Dog Day Afternoon (Warner)
Payback: Straight Up - The Director's Cut (Paramount)
A Scanner Darkly (Warner)
April 09, 2007
Dragon's Lair (Digital Leisure)
April 03, 2007
G.I. Jane (Buena Vista)
King Arthur Director's Cut (Buena Vista)
March 27, 2007
Happy Feet (Warner)
Incubus: Alive at Red Rocks (Sony Music)
March of the Penguins (Warner)
National Geographic: Relentless Enemies (Warner)
The Pursuit of Happyness (Sony)
Warriors of Heaven and Earth (Sony)
March 20, 2007
Big Fish (Sony)
Chicken Little (Buena Vista)
Finding Neverland (Buena Vista)
Rocky Balboa (Sony)
March 13, 2007
Casino Royale (Sony)
The Holiday (2006) (Sony)
Layer Cake (Sony)
February 27, 2007
The Getaway (1972) (Warner)
Nature's Colors with the World's Greatest Music (Concert Hot Spot)
Nine Inch Nails Live: Beside You in Time (Interscope)
Stranger Than Fiction (Sony)
February 20, 2007
Destiny's Child: Live in Atlanta (Sony BMG)
The Prestige (Buena Vista)
Vertical Limit (Sony)
February 13, 2007
Broken Arrow (Fox)
Chain Reaction (Fox)
The Departed (Warner)
Ladder 49 (Buena Vista)
The Marine (Fox)
Phone Booth (Fox)
Planet of the Apes (2001) (Fox)
Reign of Fire (Buena Vista)
The Sentinel (2006) (Fox)
The Usual Suspects (Fox)
The World's Fastest Indian (Magnolia)
February 06, 2007
American Psycho (Lionsgate)
First Blood (Lionsgate)
Reservoir Dogs (Lionsgate)
Running With Scissors (Sony)
The Tailor of Panama (Sony)
Young Guns (Lionsgate)
January 30, 2007
Discovery Atlas: Australia Revealed (Discovery Channel)
Discovery Atlas: Brazil Revealed (Discovery Channel)
Discovery Atlas: China Revealed (Discovery Channel)
Discovery Atlas: Italy Revealed (Discovery Channel)
Hart's War (Fox)
Open Season (Sony)
The Wicker Man (2006) (Warner)
January 25, 2007
District B13 (Magnolia)
January 23, 2007
Alien vs. Predator (Fox)
Black Rain (Paramount)
Casanova (Buena Vista)
Chicago (Buena Vista)
Courage Under Fire (Fox)
The Guardian (2006) (Buena Vista)
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Buena Vista)
The Manchurian Candidate (2004) (Paramount)
Men of Honor (Fox)
Saw II (Lionsgate)
Saw III (Lionsgate)
Toto: Live in Amsterdam (Eagle Rock)
We Were Soldiers (Paramount)
January 16, 2007
Employee of the Month (Lionsgate)
Gridiron Gang (Sony)
Resident Evil: Apocalypse (Sony)
Scooby-Doo (2002) (Warner)
January 09, 2007
January 02, 2007
The Covenant (Sony)
December 26, 2006
The Descent (Lionsgate)
Transporter 2 (Fox)
December 19, 2006
All the King's Men (Sony)
Flightplan (Buena Vista)
Invincible (Buena Vista)
Lady in the Water (Warner)
Pearl Harbor (Buena Vista)
The Sopranos: Season Six, Part One (Warner)
December 12, 2006
The Devil Wears Prada (Fox)
Kung Fu Hustle (Sony)
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (Sony)
Tony Bennett: An American Classic (Sony Music)
World Trade Center (Paramount)
December 05, 2006
The Architect (Magnolia)
Bulletproof Monk (Fox)
A Christmas Story (Warner)
Flight of the Phoenix (2004) (Fox)
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (Warner)
Rising Sun (Fox)
November 28, 2006
The Ant Bully (Warner)
Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (Warner)
Superman Returns (Warner)
Superman: The Movie (Warner)
November 21, 2006
Annapolis (Buena Vista)
The Black Crowes: Freak N' Roll (Eagles Rock)
Enemy of the State (Buena Vista)
Goal! The Dream Begins (Buena Vista)
Ice Age: The Meltdown (Fox)
Sky High (Buena Vista)
The Wild (Buena Vista)
November 14, 2006
Behind Enemy Lines (Fox)
Black Hawk Down (Sony)
Fantastic Four (Fox)
Kingdom of Heaven: The Director's Cut (Fox)
Kiss of the Dragon (Fox)
The Last Samurai (Warner)
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Fox)
Million Dollar Baby (Warner)
The Omen (2006) (Fox)
The Transporter (Fox)
X-Men: The Last Stand (Fox)
November 07, 2006
Little Man (Sony)
Nacho Libre (Paramount)
October 31, 2006
Alice Cooper: Live in Montreux 2005 (Eagle Rock)
The Phantom of the Opera (Warner)
The Searchers (Warner)
Under Siege (Warner)
October 30, 2006
Mission: Impossible - Ultimate Missions Collection (Paramount)
Mission: Impossible III (Paramount)
October 24, 2006
The Italian Job (2003) (Paramount)
Legends of Jazz Showcase (LRS Media)
Monster House (Sony)
October 17, 2006
Brothers Grimm (Buena Vista)
Dark Water (Buena Vista)
Glory Road (Buena Vista)
Gone in 60 Seconds (2000) (Buena Vista)
The Haunted Mansion (Buena Vista)
October 10, 2006
16 Blocks (Warner)
Aeon Flux (Paramount)
Bikini Destination: Triple Fantasy (Magnolia)
Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (Magnolia)
HDNet World Report Special: Shuttle Discovery's Historic Mission (Magnolia)
One Last Thing... (Magnolia)
U2: Rattle and Hum (Paramount)
The War Within (Magnolia)
October 03, 2006
New Orleans Concert: The Music of America's Soul (Concert Hot Spot)
The Pat Metheny Group: The Way Up Live (Eagle Rock)
October 02, 2006
John Legend: Live at the House of Blues (Sony Music)
September 26, 2006
Corpse Bride (Warner)
Four Brothers (Paramount)
The Fugitive (Warner)
House of Wax (2005) (Warner)
The Lake House (Warner)
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (Paramount)
Lethal Weapon 2 (Warner)
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (Paramount)
Sleepy Hollow (Paramount)
Space Cowboys (Warner)
September 19, 2006
The Big Hit (Sony)
Dinosaur (Buena Vista)
Eight Below (Buena Vista)
The Great Raid (Buena Vista)
Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (Buena Vista)
A Knight's Tale (Sony)
Tears of the Sun (Sony)
September 05, 2006
Blazing Saddles (Warner)
Full Metal Jacket (Warner)
Lethal Weapon (Warner)
August 29, 2006
The Devil's Rejects (Lionsgate)
Stir of Echoes (Lionsgate)
Total Recall (Lionsgate)
August 22, 2006
Silent Hill (Sony)
August 15, 2006
Into the Blue (Sony)
August 01, 2006
Good Night, and Good Luck (Warner)
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (Warner)
Rumor Has It... (Warner)
Training Day (Warner)
July 25, 2006
The Benchwarmers (Sony)
The Last Waltz (MGM)
July 18, 2006
A View from Space with Heavenly Music (Concert Hot Spot)
July 11, 2006
Basic Instinct 2 (Sony)
June 27, 2006
Lord of War (Lionsgate)
Muriel Anderson: A Guitarscape Planet (Concert Hot Spot)
The Punisher (Lionsgate)
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (Lionsgate)
June 20, 2006
50 First Dates (Sony)
The Fifth Element (Discontinued) (Sony)
House of Flying Daggers (Sony)
The Terminator (MGM)
Underworld: Evolution (Sony)
Really looking forward to this one... (I love mob movies). Best part is, it's cheap to boot! (hoving over the link above for the price).
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
The HD DVD edition of 'Eastern Promises' boasted one of the finest transfers on the high-def market and, I'm pleased to report, Universal has blessed Blu-ray fans with the same magnificent 1080p/VC-1 transfer. You may not expect that such a striking presentation would accompany a bleak Russian mafia flick, but Cronenberg uses vibrant reds and browns to energize his vision of London. The transfer handles his dramatic palette with panache, rendering imagery that looks exceptionally solid and three-dimensional. For such a dark film, skintones are impeccably natural, contrast is strong, and black levels are pure and unaffected by crush. Likewise, fine detail is flawless and maintains a remarkable degree of clarity in even the heaviest shadows. I could count individual bricks on distant buildings, see the tiniest specks of blood spatter, and note the skin texture beneath Mortensen's tattoos.
To top it all off, the source is pristine -- I didn’t spot any artifacting, digital noise, or edge enhancement. There is a light veil of grain present at all times, but it never spikes or becomes intrusive. As it is, the only misstep I can point to is a minuscule bit of banding in the steam clouds at the bathhouse. Even so, I'd be hard-pressed to call this filmic presentation anything but reference quality. Viewers bothered by the already intense imagery may not appreciate the unyielding picture, but fans of the film will be floored by this Blu-ray transfer's prowess.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
'Eastern Promises' features a DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track that, like its HD DVD counterpart's TrueHD mix, does an impressive job enriching the film's subtle soundscape. When violence explodes on the screen, the track's dynamics arrive in force. The LFE channel is used to full effect and the rear speakers swarm with every audible detail one could expect from each scene. Dialogue is crisp and perfectly prioritized -- whispered lines are clear, chaos never drowns out important gasps of information, and sound effects are accurately placed within the soundfield. Best of all, the quietest scenes have an ever-present, naturalistic ambiance that makes audible immersion a cinch.
Of course, even though the track easily handles everything it’s given, 'Eastern Promises' is an exceedingly quiet film that only has approximately fifteen minutes of genuinely aggressive sound design. The original sound design simply doesn't offer the sort of experience that would make this DTS HD track demo material. Still, considering how subdued the sonics are, Universal has minted an excellent audio track that couldn't conceivably be improved.
'The Ultimate Matrix Collection' hit HD DVD in 2007 with mammoth expectations. For high-def enthusiasts hungry to feed their new machines with top-quality material, nothing less than a demo disc would do. Warner did not disappoint. The transfers for all three 'Matrix' films were terrific, and in my original review, I awarded the set five stars. I'm happy to report that the studio has not messed with perfection. 'The Matrix,' 'The Matrix Reloaded' and 'The Matrix Revolutions' are each presented once again in 1080p/VC-1-encoded transfers (framed accurately in 2.40:1 widescreen) -- identical to the HD DVD.
Warner's work on the high-def masters minted for the original HD DVD release were a clear step up from the standard-def DVD, which received mixed notices from critics at the time of its release. A direct compare with the original DVDs makes the results immediately obvious. One of the many impressive aspects of the set as a whole is its consistency -- despite the four-year gap between 'The Matrix' and its two sequels, I could scarcely tell any difference between them. Cue up any sequence of any of the flicks, and prepare to be suitably wowed.
The most immediately noticeable upgrade is detail. Though I felt the previous DVDs certainly looked good, all the black-on-black of the 'Matrix's trend-setting visual aesthetic often faded into inky mush in standard-def. Not so in high-def, where fine texture is a revelation. For example, during the scene in the first 'Matrix' when Neo and Trinity blast their way into the bank, the supple details of the clothes and the shiny black leather is so good I wanted to freeze-frame and just revel in its ultra-realism. One other compare was particularly revealing -- there is a push-in shot through a grill that the cops are ensconced behind, and on the DVD, it looks pixilated and jagged -- but on the Blu-ray, I never saw a single moment where the image broke up or looked stair-stepped. This is the kind of three-dimensional, picture-perfect image high-def is all about.
The colors of 'The Matrix' films have always been controversial. The dominant hue is clearly green. Though there are many uses of deep purple and occasional splashes of incredibly vivid reds, the transfers have been obviously skewed. Yet I was impressed with the level of detail and "naturalism" (albeit highly stylized) that remained despite the tint shift. And all things considered, fleshtones are as accurate as possible. I was also relieved that Warner did not overpump or oversaturate the transfers -- there's no bleeding or chroma noise, and again, consistency is excellent.
Finally, compression artifacts are not an issue. There isn't a moment of macroblocking or any noise, even on the many flat surfaces and static shots, which often hold on a particular image for what seems like minutes. And the source itself is beautifully maintained -- there is a bit of grain here or there, but it is clearly part of the intended effect and there are no instances of dirt or blemishes. This is really fantastic stuff -- 'The Matrix' trilogy easily earns an exemplary five-star video rating.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
As with the video, Warner isn't messing with a good thing, and the audio here again replicates the previous HD DVD release of 'The Ultimate Matrix Trilogy.' We receive identical Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround tracks (48kHz/16-bit) for each film, as well as optional 640kbps Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 surround mixes. I was just as impressed -- these soundtracks are superlative.
All three 'Matrix' are naturals for high-resolution audio. Sure, there are plenty of long, talky bits in each installment, but there's also a long list of top-flight action sequences to choose from when you want to drive your home theater rig into the ground. My favorites are the office break-in from the first film, both the humongous car chase and extended rave scenes about mid-way through 'Reloaded,' and the sheer aural delight of the climax in the otherwise-silly 'Revolutions.' The aggressiveness of the surrounds is phenomenal throughout -- imaging is seamless between channels, and the "wall of sound" the emanates from the rears is incredibly forceful. These are the kind of sequences you go back and rewind over and over again, just to revel in their effectiveness.
Dynamics are also top-notch. Just as "bullet time" revolutionized modern special effects, the sound design here is also pioneering. In hindsight, it shouldn't have been a surprise that the original 'Matrix' swept most of the 1999 Oscars given for tech categories over 'Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.' The use of extended low bass, and the way the mingling of natural and mechanical effects and tones to create a chilling, suspended-animation-like aural effect is fantastic.
The Dolby TrueHD easily handles such a complex presentation, with airtight low bass extension all the way down to the lowest frequencies. Mid- and high-range is also wonderfully clear and free from irritating harshness. As loud as this soundtrack gets, I never felt bombarded with treble, which is can be a problem with high-impact soundtracks, where it often seems like the sound mixers simply crank everything up to eleven. Dialogue also is accurately balanced in the mix -- Keanu Reeves' now-famous utterance of "Whoa!" is (for better or for worse) perfectly intelligible. For that reason alone, 'The Ultimate Matrix Collection' earns yet another five-stars for audio.
Joined: 06 Mar 2006 Posts: 16031 Location: Ottawa, Canada
TV/Projector: JVC DLA-RS56
Link Posted: Fri Oct 10, 2008 6:44 pm Post subject:
The "Hot Pre-orders" list has been updated. It's a short list of the most popular movies due out in the next few months. See below.
Also worth mentioning is that Amazon has just recently changed their shipping policies for pre-orders. Pre-order a movie and you're guaranteed the LOWEST price between the time you order and when it ships. Even if the price goes down momentarily for a 1-day sale, you get that low price! I saved a bunch off my last batch of movies from Amazon because of this (the $24 price drop of 'The Godfather Collection' between the time I ordered and the time it shipped is a good example).
To make things even more interesting: Amazon is now breaking up orders of multiple items and shipping them in separate orders at no extra cost to the buyer. It used to be that to save money the smartest thing to do was to tell Amazon to wait until all items are on hand and then ship them all together (this is what I always did). That option no longer exists, and Amazon now ships items as they become available at no extra cost to you!
I just placed an order for a bunch of movies myself that are coming out over the next 4 weeks. I was told that I'd be receiving 5 shipments. Excellent! No more waiting!
These two features means that there's basically NO reason to not pre-order. Smart move on Amazon's part. This is of course what they want!
The Blu-ray edition of ‘Kung Fu Panda’ boasts an unequivocally gorgeous 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer that is, simply put, as perfect as they come. Vibrant colors leap off the screen, deep blacks inject depth and dimension into the picture, and bright contrast keeps it all looking just as clean and clear as it must look on the animation staff’s computers. Detail is breathtaking as well. From the stitching on Po’s pants to the fur on his flipping companions, from backdrops cloaked in shadow to the flickering flames spilling from Tai Lung’s paws, this is one of the finest CG productions I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing. To top it all off, the image isn’t disrupted by any significant artifacting, banding, noise, or post-production meddling of any kind. It’s quite simply a flawless picture that effortlessly renders its animators’ every intention.
Reference level? Oh yes. An unbelievable upgrade from the standard DVD? Without a doubt. One of the best transfers on the market? Absolutely. ‘Kung Fu Panda’ joins ‘Ratatouille’ and ‘Cars’ as one of the most stunning animated presentations available on home video. I apologize for using so many glowing superlatives, but I can’t praise this transfer enough.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
’Kung Fu Panda’ rounds out its powerful presentation with a jaw-dropping Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track that easily matches its striking video transfer blow for blow. Dialogue is crisp, well balanced, and perfectly prioritized, the LFE channel is aggressive and booming, and the rear speakers are continually populated with intricate environmental ambience and convincing interior acoustics. More importantly, the track is dynamic and weighty. Low-end thooms are earthy and resonant, adding genuine heft to the various punches and kicks, and treble tones are clear and stable. Best of all, the soundfield itself is instantly inviting and full immersion is a cinch. ‘Kung Fu Panda’ may be an animated film, but it rivals the best lossless tracks on the market when it comes to its increasingly credible soundscape and faultless sonic delivery.
If the film’s video transfer alone isn’t enough to rocket you to Amazon or Best Buy, ‘Kung Fu Panda’s TrueHD wonder will hopefully seal the deal. It’s an involving, reference quality mix that shouldn’t be missed.
'Wall•E' is a wonderful film. It's majestic, emotional, thought-provoking, and wildly imaginative. It's also quite a risk for Pixar, as it mingles existential mediations on human existence with the lightness and whimsy the studio is so well known for, and it all pays off. This Blu-ray is a stunner, too, with five stars across the board for video and audio. Throw in a Digital Copy of the film on a third disc and a host of supplemental and exclusive content, and you have a new reference-standard Blu-ray. This is a must-own.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
Pixar and Walt Disney Studios have been hyping the Blu-ray of 'Wall•E' for weeks now via press releases and an extensive marketing campaign, and with good reason. This is a stupendous high-def presentation, one guaranteed to rank as a new demo disc of choice. This is easily one of the best examples of an animated film I've seen on Blu-ray, and stands head-to-head with previous Pixar Blu-ray releases 'Cars' and 'Ratatouille.'
'Wall•E' gets a direct-to-digital transfer presented in 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 video at 2.35:1. Pixar has crowed that there is not a pixel out of place, and the hyperbole is justified. 'Wall•E' is a visual masterpiece, and the sparkling surfaces are as sharp and clean as any high-def image your are going to see. Much of the animation is photo-realistic, and the level of detail to the picture is five-star. A good portion of 'Wall•E' takes place on dusty planet surfaces, so there is some intentional diffusing of the picture, but it's absolutely appropriate to the intended look of the film. Shadow delineation is also superb, with even the darkest areas of the picture revealing the finest of textures still visible.
The color palette is expansive, and one of the best examples I've seen yet of the improvements high-def offers over standard-def. Comparing the Blu-ray and standard DVD editions of 'Wall•E' (Disney was kind enough to supply us with both), it's clear how much smoother fine gradients of color are in high-def. Hues are also richer, especially primary colors. Fleshtones, as they are, are also accurate. But most impressive about 'Wall•E' is the sense of depth to the picture. This is as close to 3-D as you are going to get without wearing glasses, and on a large screen the effect is magnificent. Predictably, the encode is rock solid, with no artifacts, edginess or moire patterns, and an absence of noise. For my money, 'Wall•E' is the new reference standard for an animated presentation on Blu-ray.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
A DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio track is offered for 'Wall•E,' in 6.1 Surround (48kHz/24-bit). (Note: The track is incorrectly labeled as 5.1 Surround on the packaging.) There are no other mixes offered (not even standard Dolby Digital or any other foreign language dubs or subtitles. The audio is superb, delivering a fully immersive experience that is sure to dazzle.
Animated films are always a treat to enjoy on high-def because their soundtracks are constructed wholly in the studio, from the ground up. Every element sounds in the right place, with an expert balance of effects, music and dialogue. The added surround channel helps open up the rear soundstage wonderfully, with excellent seamless pans between all channels. Discrete effects are numerous, and subtle ambiance is almost always sustained. The score is also perfectly integrated and bled throughout.
Dynamic range is rich and robust, with excellent clarity and attenuation across the entire frequency spectrum. Low bass is as tight as a drum and never overpowering to the rest of the mix. Though 'Wall•E' is surprisingly light on dialogue (particularly the first half of the film), the spoken word isn't given short thrift and the mix is always perfectly balanced. Finally, it's no surprise, given that this is a Pixar film, how well-recorded 'Wall•E' is. The mix never sounds artificial or processed, and the source is as clean and slick as a newly-waxed floor. 'Wall•E' sounds as good as it looks.
Anyone who hasn’t seen a trailer for writer/director/actor Ben Stiller’s ‘Tropic Thunder’ has either been stranded on a mysterious island eluding smoke monsters or living in a high-altitude Tibetan monastery abstaining from technology altogether. Scratch that… even reclusive Tibetan monks have probably seen Robert Downey Jr. spout the words, “What do you mean, you people?” Unfortunately for some, watching the film’s trailer is akin to watching the entire film -- it gives away the best gags and outlines nearly every aspect of the plot. Fortunately for most, even when the best laughs have already been had and the story becomes distractingly predictable, ‘Tropic Thunder’ still has plenty to offer fans of comedy, satire, and war flicks in general.
Miraculously combining an outrageous farce, a Hollywood satire, and a genre spoof into one cohesive film, ‘Tropic Thunder’ tells the tongue-in-cheek tale of three arrogant and unbalanced actors – action superstar Tugg Speedman (Ben Stiller), low-brow funnyman Jeff Portnoy (Jack Black), and five-time Academy Award winner Kirk Lazarus (the similarly gifted Robert Downey Jr.) -- co-starring in a sprawling Vietnam War epic. Problem is, Speedman is a pompous failure trying to rejuvenate his career, Portnoy is a heroin-addicted attention junkie who has a hard time being taken seriously, and Lazarus is a mentally unstable method actor who undergoes a controversial pigmentation procedure to prepare for his role as an African American.
After the production begins to spiral out of control and a hip-hop lovin’ studio executive named Les Grossman (Tom Cruise) demands results, consultant John Tayback (Nick Nolte), a Vietnam veteran on whose memoirs the film is based, convinces squirrely first-time director Damien Cockburn (Steve Coogan) to take his cast into the jungle, set-up hidden cameras, and shoot the pampered Hollywood elites performing “in the sh*t.” However, when this guerilla-style shoot goes terribly wrong, the actors are left unsure of what’s real and what’s simply an illusion. Struggling with their identities, fighting to overcome their pasts, and working to make the best war film of all time, Speedman, Portnoy, and Lazarus have to choose between death and action.
For those of you hoping ’Tropic Thunder’ will be a laugh-out-loud juggernaut that will leave you in stitches, you may want to realign your expectations. Sure, there are plenty of gut-busters to be had, but the real source of the film’s comedy comes in the form of grin-inducing wit from the expressions, line delivery, and various interactions of the cast members. As it stands, even the story’s ever-shifting tone, pacing, and atmosphere helps Stiller keep things fresh and entertaining. While the writer/director pulls heavily from both his Zoolander and Focker personas to create Speedman, his actors are continually challenged to parody their own pursuits and respective talents. Black gets a chance to explore the depths of a sad-clown, Cruise (in one of the standout performance of the film) jumps into the shoes of the very executives who seem intent to crucify him in the real world, and Nolte plays the frazzled fraud some have painted him to be. Stiller even includes a hilarious series of industry-skewering cameos from the likes of Danny McBride, Matthew McConaughey, Jason Bateman, Sean Penn, and SNL’s Bill Hader (among many others).
But it’s Robert Downey Jr’s turn as a fumbling Oscar-winner lost in himself that proves the best addition to the film. While the rest of the cast keeps things light by turning a rather sharp spotlight on their own exploits and weaknesses, the would-be Iron Man earns the most laughs, the most sympathy, and takes the time to create the most believable loser of the bunch. From his early appearance in a mock-trailer with Tobey Maguire to his race-bending trifecta near the end of the film, Downey Jr. is in full control of his repertoire, crafting a unique character the likes of which has never been seen. Without him, the movie would be a mediocre heap of one-liners and slapstick action. With him, the film is transformed into a classic, layering truth on top of humor to produce a surreal and witty farce that boasts some truly memorable scenes.
Problems? Sure. The in-fighting amongst the actors wears out its welcome, Black’s role doesn’t effectively peel back the skin of similar comedians, Coogan is disappointingly underused, and a few cameos feel stilted and awkward (Tyra Banks and Lance Bass?). Still, each is a minor detriment that only prevents ‘Tropic Thunder’ from reaching the subtle heights of comedic satires like ‘Wag the Dog’ or ‘State and Main.’ Ultimately, ‘Tropic Thunder’ is a thoroughly entertaining, occasionally riotous comedy that accomplishes most of what it sets out to do.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture 4.5/5
’Tropic Thunder’ arrives on Blu-ray in a gorgeous 1080p/AVC-encoded wonder that showcases the benefits of high definition from beginning to end. Colors are lush, vibrant, and stable contrast is bright and lively, black levels are incredibly deep, and skintones are convincing and natural. As it stands, comparisons to the film’s concurrently released standard DVD reveal a significant upgrade in image clarity and fine detail, resulting in a remarkably improved picture. Clothing and fabric textures are crisp, tiny smoke tendrils wisp toward the sky, and weathered patches of skin, hair, and wrinkles are flawless. Furthermore, the transfer doesn’t suffer from artifacting, banding, source noise, or edge enhancement. There is a light grain present overtop of the image, but it never becomes a distraction and only serves to increase the filmic qualities of the transfer.
If I have any gripe it’s that contrast comes on a bit strong, resulting in overblown whites, oppressive shadows, and somewhat limited delineation. I think it reflects Stiller’s directorial intention, but it seems to be more of an issue than I remember it being when I saw the film in theaters. Ah well, it’s a small nitpick. Paramount has really stepped up to the plate since they made the switch to Blu-ray earlier this year and ‘Tropic Thunder’ solidifies their reputation as one of the most reliable high-def studios in the industry.
The Audio: Rating the Sound 4.5/5
’Tropic Thunder’ definitely won’t win any points for subtlety, but its full-throttle Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track will certainly turn heads and wake up any unfortunate soul in your home who’s trying to sleep. Dialogue is clean and distinct, perfectly prioritized amidst the most frenzied firefights and explosions, and nicely distributed throughout the soundfield. Rear speaker support is impressive as well, hurling splintered wood, debris, and ricocheting bullets across the battlefield that quickly sets up shop in your home theater. Ambience is consistent and strong, immersion is a cinch, and most of the effects sound eerily realistic. Better still, the LFE channel makes its presence known, delivering earthy, resonant low-end pulses that add weight to the on-screen chaos, heft to the choppers and soldiers who populate Stiller’s opus, and life to the various songs and music that litter the film. It’s also worth noting that every element of the soundscape is clean, polished, and well defined. Pans are smooth and transparent, and directionality is extremely precise (particularly during the action that erupts in the third act).
Don’t get me wrong, ‘Tropic Thunder’s original sound design isn’t the sort of mix anyone will call a nuanced award winner, but this thoroughly amazing and arguably reference quality TrueHD track will thrill and wow fans of the film.
Don't worry -- 'The Dark Knight' does not disappoint. Easily Warner's flagship title for the year -- if not the most highly-anticipated Blu-ray of all-time -- this is a superlative 1080p/VC-1 encode that is guaranteed to be the new demo disc of choice in home theaters around the world. Aside from one caveat, I found nothing to complain about here.
Presented theatrically in both standard 35mm and IMAX formats, 'The Dark Knight' is framed here in alternating aspect ratios. The majority of the film is 2.40:1, while the IMAX-filmed segments open up to 1.78:1. Personally, I found the flip-flopping at times slightly distracting. While the jump between compositions isn't that jarring when it comes after long scenes (such as the opening, which is 1.78:1), there are times when a single shot will be presented in its own aspect ratio (such as the beginning of the "love boat" sequence), and that can irritate. The upside is that the IMAX material does display a noticeable uptick in clarity and resolution. The 35mm-based footage is certainly no slouch, but there is an added sharpness and depth to the IMAX-originated footage that raises the bar for what Blu-ray is capable of.
That said, the whole of the transfer is excellent. The source is absolutely spotless, with no defects and a smooth, clean veneer. Blacks are quite simply the richest I think I've seen on a Blu-ray, and contrast is never too hot or too flat. The image pops with wonderful depth -- it is never less than three-dimensional -- yet remains natural and appealing. Color saturation is likewise rich, with splashes of deep primaries and not a hint of chroma noise, bleeding or smearing. Fleshtones are also accurate, except in situations of intentional stylization. Shadow delineation is also exemplary, with even the darkest areas brimming with fine textures and detail.
Unfortunately, my caveat is that there is edge enhancement that results in visible edge halos. While the encode is otherwise rock solid -- I found no artifacts, such as aliasing or pixelization -- the edge enhancement, if slight, is clearly visible in longer shots (such as the parade sequence). It is the only element of this presentation that deserves any knocks, though hardly a fatal flaw. In all other respects, 'The Dark Knight' is a stunner.
The Audio: Rating the Sound 5/5
Warner provides a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround (48kHz/16-bit) track for 'The Dark Knight,' which is also sure to please. This is first-rate audio and also surely a new demo-worthy soundtrack.
'The Dark Knight' is unusual for a comic book movie in that it avoids over-the-top, wall-to-wall sonic gimmicks. The score is almost subliminal at times in its use of low tones, rumbling bass, and ominous cues. The subwoofer really gets a workout here, with some of the most effective low bass I've heard on a Blu-ray. The centerpiece action scene with the Batmobile is a stand-out, and will likely be playing in Best Buy showrooms for months. Surround use is finely-tuned both for discrete effects (the rear soundstage is active and engaging) and subtle, sustained ambiance.
Tech specs are easily up to par, with expansive dynamics. Low bass is again as tight as a drum, and depth of sound and spatiality across the front soundstage is top-notch. Dialogue is perfectly balanced and always intelligible (even the oddly-modulated voice of Batman is clear here, which wasn't always the case during theatrical showings). The source is, of course, as clean and polished as you would expect from a major studio film. There isn't a note out of place on this TrueHD mix.
’Wanted’ features an arresting 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer that renders every bead of sweat, strand of hair, and spatter of blood that litters the screen with clarity and precision. From the opening gunfight to Wesley’s suicidal third-act assault, the high definition image boasts impressive fine detailing, realistic textures, and sharp edges (achieved without a hint of intrusive edge enhancement). The film’s vibrant colors are spectacular as well -- reds are warm and bold, skintones are natural, and blues, in particular, are a sight to behold. More importantly, contrast is comfortable, delineation is revealing, and black levels are deep and inky. Despite a thin veil of steady grain, I didn’t detect any significant source noise, artifacting, or DNR to speak of. In fact, the transfer’s attributes come together to create a clean, three-dimensional image that produces the coveted picture-window effect on more than one occasion.
The only scenes that tax the transfer a bit are those set in the Fraternity’s textile mill -- the fine threads running from floor to ceiling look hazy at times and shimmer at others. Considering a few errant shots are soft and a pair of night scenes aren’t as well resolved as the rest, ‘Wanted’ isn’t quite the flawless demo material I had hoped for. Nevertheless, it still offers a stunning presentation that, aside from a handful of minor distractions, stands up to the best transfers on the market.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
It’s a rare treat when I’m forced to find time in the middle of the day to review a film simply because its audio presentation would otherwise wake up everyone in my house. ‘Wanted’ arrives on Blu-ray with a reference-level DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track that had a tussle with my sound system and won. Dialogue is crystal clear, perfectly prioritized, and deftly spread across the front speakers. LFE support is outstanding, injecting hearty thooms and bottomless rumbles into an already hyperactive soundscape. Gunshots, explosions, and careening metal hit with palpable force, while subtle environmental ambience, immersive interior acoustics, and transparent pans make the sonics startlingly believable. When time slows, an implosion of sound convincingly drowns out Wesley’s surroundings. When it speeds up, the chaos erupts into every channel with oh-so-accurate directionality and pitch-perfect fidelity. And dynamics… ah, I could go on and on and still fail to explain how engrossing and enthralling the audible experience actually is.
Suffice to say, ‘Wanted’ is one of the best sounding discs on the market and a front-runner for best high-def audio track of the year. It not only enhances every scene of a bombastic actioner, it does so with refinement, precision, and aggression. Even those who hate the film itself will be suitably bowled over by this DTS HD MA track. Kudos Universal.
This is MPI's third attempt to do justice to the beautiful 70mm visuals of 'Baraka' on home video. An early DVD released back in 2000 recycled an old non-anamorphic laserdisc transfer. A later Special Collector's Edition DVD sported an anamorphic widescreen remaster that was less disappointing, but still seemed a little soft and flat. For their latest go-round, MPI retransferred the 70mm film elements from an "8K UltraDigital HD" scan that was designed to draw out more detail from the photography before downsampling the results to regular HD resolution. The outcome is quite impressive.
The 1080p/VC-1 transfer is framed at the original 2.20:1 aspect ratio of its 70mm source. The image is very sharp and detailed, often breathtakingly so. Even the widest of master shots exhibit a tremendous clarity throughout the frame. Facial expressions can be read on individuals within a huge crowd. Colors are vivid, yet always natural, without looking digitally manipulated. Some light film grain is present, but the 70mm format is fine-grained by nature so the grain is rarely noticeable and not at all distracting. Shadow detail in dark parts of the frame is well rendered, though the black levels rarely achieve an inky depth. The contrast as a whole is just a little flat, but that's possibly inherent to the photography and not a serious complaint.
Holding the disc just a bit back from perfection is the presence of some minor edge ringing. It's not a constant problem, but does recur regularly enough to be distracting. I also have to say that, as impressive as the High-Def transfer may be in most respects, it still doesn't hold a candle to the original 70mm theatrical release.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
The movie's soundtrack is almost entirely music and ambient environmental sounds. There is no dialogue at all. The disc packaging claims that the audio was "digitally restored and remixed @ 96k/24-bits by Michael Stearns." MPI offers the soundtrack in either standard Dolby Digital 5.1 or lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 formats. The lossless track is incredibly spacious and enveloping. It fills the room with a broad front soundstage and quite a bit of surround activity. Subtle auditory details in the music are resolved with clarity and precision. The music is deep and resonant.
My only complaint is that the pan flute used at the beginning of the movie (and a few places later as well) distorts at the high end. This was also a problem with the earlier Special Collector's Edition DVD. Given that the Blu-ray's audio was supervised by the movie's composer, I'd be inclined to assume that the issue is a limitation of the original recording. However, the old laserdisc edition had a stereo PCM track without any distortion at the same places, leaving me to believe that the new remaster's levels are too hot. Fortunately, this isn't really noticeable anywhere except during the pan flute.
’Horton Hears a Who’ arrives on Blu-ray with a stunning 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer minted directly from the digital source. The film’s vibrant palette will instantly grab your attention as it floods the screen with bold primaries, lush splashes of color, and deep blacks. Contrast is spot on and detail is incredible as well. While the painterly aesthetics don’t provide the sort of eye-gouging textures you might find in other CG-animated features, elements like fur, skin, hair, grass, and rock facial features are lovingly rendered and perfectly sharp. A brief appearance of 2D animation looks just as good, boasting crisp lineart, stable colorfills, and unhindered bursts of bright light. More importantly, I didn’t detect any substantial artifacting, noise, edge enhancement, or meddling post-production nonsense that might spoil the gorgeous visuals.
The film’s less-demanding style may not lend itself to Pixar's high standards, but the transfer is nevertheless flawless. Videophiles, casual fans, and even the most discerning kids won’t be disappointed with the results.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
Think a Seussian adventure couldn’t possibly excite your sonic sensibilities? Think again. ‘Horton Hears a Who’ features an unexpectedly involving DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track that drew me into both its worlds with a truly impressive soundfield. Dialogue is clean and well-prioritized, LFE support is robust and aggressive, and the film’s bouncy score is precise, dynamic, and nicely balanced across every channel. The rear speakers pipe up continually as well, infusing each room and environment with convincing acoustics and natural ambience. Furthermore, pans are transparent, directionality is dead on, and the characters’ many bumbles and stumbles fill the soundfield with rich, highly-detailed effects that sound fantastic. Sure, the quick crashes and tattering junk is overplayed and exaggerated, but it’s for comedic effect rather than the product of a technical deficiency in the track.
The lone complaint I’ll level at the lossless track is that the soundfield is occasionally so busy that subtle but imperative elements are slightly buried in the mix. Look no further than Kangaroo’s third-act witch hunt to hear exactly what I mean. Thankfully, such short-lived instances of a minor shortcoming are never a huge distraction and rarely detract from the otherwise top-notch track.
Universal offers a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode (2.40:1), and it's excellent. Of all three of the 'Mummy' movies I have reviewed on Blu-ray, I found this one to be the best of the bunch.
'The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor' is one of the finest new releases I've seen out of Universal in a while. The source is pristine, with incredibly rich blacks and strong, supple contrast. The image pops with great depth and noticeable fine detail, with even the wide, expansive shots finely-textured. (Only some of the effect-heavy scenes suffer from softness, though this is indicative of CGI.) Shadow delineation is also generally superb. Colors are nicely saturated and clean, though the film is intentionally stylized to sometimes appear skewered to a drier, paler sheen. Finally, the encode is rock solid, with no noticeable artifacts or other issues. 'The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor' ranks as one very fine Blu-ray transfer.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
Every bit the equal of the video is this DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 Surround track (48kHz/24-bit).
Enjoying aggressive sound design, 'The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor' crackles with lively surrounds. The soundfield is quite immersive, with excellent panning between channels and robust dynamics. Low bass is powerful, with my subwoofer getting quite a workout. As expected for a major studio film with a huge budget, the mix is incredibly slick and polished, and dialogue is perfectly recorded and balanced. The score by Randy Edelman is somewhat bombastic, but certainly booms and swells across the entire soundscape. 'The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor' is an aural treat.
'King Kong' first arrived on HD DVD in a 2.40:1 widescreen 1080p/VC-1 transfer, which featured the film's 187-minute version only. It was a highly-anticipated release, and as I noted in my original review, a five-star, reference-quality high-def presentation. The film now arrives on Blu-ray over two years later, and nothing much has changed. We now get the option of either the 187 or 200-minute versions (accessible via seamless branching and spread across a BD-50 dual-layer disc), and the source is the same. The additional footage is seamlessly integrated, making watching either cut a pleasure.
My personal feelings about the CGI notwithstanding, 'King Kong' is a visually sumptuous film. The production design, costumes and physical locations are simply some of the finest Hollywood has produced in recent memory (I guess when you have a $200 million production budget you can afford the best). I remain tremendously impressed by the cinematography by Andrew Lesnie. He gives the film a supple, rich and textured look that is both pristine yet realistic, modern and timeless. The film's luscious color scheme comes through wonderfully on high-def. Hues are perfectly saturated and fleshtones dead-on. There is a slight softness to the image that is consistent with Lesnie and Peter Jackson's use of filters and diffused lighting, but it does not affect this transfer's wonderful sense of depth and three-dimensionality. Sure, it is a cliche, but there are moments during 'King Kong' that are picture perfect, where your home theater screen becomes a window.
Given the film's extensive computer-generated imagery, some may find fault with the effects-heavy scenes that sometimes look a bit flatter and less sharp. In particular, the heavy motion blur applied to Kong and his various nemeses -- such as the dinosaurs -- does give those scenes a more muted and fuzzy look. But that's the way it goes with today's heavily-processed visual effects extravaganzas, and even the "worst" shots of 'Kong' still hold up with the best I've seen on Blu-ray. 'King Kong' didn't disappoint the first time around on HD DVD, and it doesn't disappoint now.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
Universal has greatly improved 'King Kong's audio on Blu-ray, giving us a DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 Surround track (48kHz/24-bit) versus the Dolby Digital-Plus track on the HD DVD. The improvement is clear, and 'King Kong' roars even louder.
The majority of 'King Kong' sounds demo-worthy. The many bombastic fight scenes and Kong rampages are sonic nirvana. The Kong vs. Dinos scene remains my highlight, as is the extended climax on top of the Empire State Building. The 360-degree soundfield that is created is simply flawless and incredibly immersive as the bi-planes whiz around Kong's head. It's clear the sound designers outdid themselves in having fun with the mix -- transparency, pans and the sense of detail and realism to the discrete effects is second-to-none ('King Kong' didn't win the Oscar for Best Sound for nothing). Dynamics are also incredibly powerful, with low bass some of the best I've heard in recent months.
'King Kong' can be subtle, too. The sense of atmosphere is first-rate. The early scenes with Jack Black and company near the jungle island are alive with ambience and intricate sound effects. And when the crew is first surrounded by the island savages, the wall of sound that envelopes is quite effective. Dialogue is perfectly balanced in the mix. I never once had to adjust my volume control, which is a true rarity for a film like 'King Kong.' I didn't love the film, but I loved this soundtrack.
’Band of Brothers’ boasts an impressive 1080p/VC-1 encoded transfer that effortlessly outshines the miniseries’ DVDs and HD broadcasts in every regard. The washed out palette features an unexpected selection of vibrant primaries and stark splashes of color, crisp (albeit hot) whites and deep blacks inject depth and dimension into the stark battlegrounds, and fine object detail is nearly perfect. Fleshtones are natural, gray skies are smooth (aside from a few instances of banding), and grass and other environmental touches are convincingly-three dimensional. While an unnecessary (but light) application of Digital Noise Reduction leaves skin and clothing textures looking a bit dull at times, distant soldiers, flying debris, and plumes of smoke still look fantastic. Why DNR was even used is beyond me -- grain is still an integral element of the picture and the original source appears to be in excellent shape. Honestly, I probably would not have noticed the minor loss in detail had I not been doing a side-by-side comparison between the domestic Blu-ray edition and its previously-released HD DVD import counterpart.
Ah well. I wish Warner had remained as faithful as possible to the presentation, but the relatively minimal DNR in question fails to ruin the otherwise exceptional transfer. Fans will hopefully be pleased to learn that the discs’ don’t suffer from any significant artifacting, crush, digital noise, or edge enhancement. All things considered, ‘Band of Brothers’ looks great and will satisfy most anyone who picks it up.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
The video transfer may not be entirely perfect, but each episode’s DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is subtle, stirring, and extremely effective. Dialogue is crystal clear and nicely prioritized, even in the midst of the most chaotic action and intense battles. Explosions, careening metal, gunfire, and sudden shouts have distinct presence and weight, relying on pinpoint directionality and silky smooth pans to enhance the already authentic and immersive soundfield. More importantly, Low-end support is bombastic and strong, the rear speakers are aggressive and persistent, and delicate ambiance and flawless acoustics allow even the quietest conversations to sound realistic and convincing.
Ultimately, I had a tough time critiquing the lossless tracks simply because there isn’t anything to complain about. I’m sure someone will point out negligible inconsistencies between the episodes, but this is easily one of the best television audio presentations I’ve reviewed. Even though Warner Brothers has habitually settled for tossing standard Dolby Digital tracks onto their releases, their efforts here are commendable and worth serious praise.
Paramount offers a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode (2.39:1) for 'Eagle Eye.' It's a razor-sharp and very good-looking transfer.
'Eagle Eye' is quite a stylized film, which if hardly "natural," certainly looks dazzling. Colors are intentionally oversaturated at times but the transfer holds tight, with the many deep blues never bleeding or hampering detail. Depth is generally excellent, with only a sharp black crush sometimes obscuring the finest of textures. Contrast runs hot, but it hews to the visual style of the film and again doesn't usually lessen detail. Fleshtones are not usually "accurate," but surprisingly, the actors still look like people and not digitized robots. Finally, the encode is sharp as a tack, and there are no artifacts that I could detect. A very fine presentation.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
'Eagle Eye' gets the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround treatment (48kHz/24-bit), and this is a quite aggressive and always-immersive soundtrack.
I was impressed by the depth and heft of the rear soundfield. Even minor ambiance is well-attenuated and creatively dispersed. Imaging is excellent, and I could rarely localize sounds. Dynamic range is very forceful, with terrific spaciousness and quite tight low bass. This mix constantly chugs along, and seems to delight in ramping up to the highs then pounding down to the lows -- it's quite fun. Dialogue is well balanced throughout, and I had no intelligibility problems. Only score integration is a bit flat -- it's often lost in the mix -- but then I can't even remember the music five minutes after watching the movie anyway. As with the video, the audio here is very good.
Link Posted: Tue Jan 20, 2009 10:24 am Post subject:
I have Band of Brothers on Blu-ray. Already watched them and enjoyed them greatly. Highly recommended. About to give my DVD box set to a friend. I would also recommend Season 1 of Pushing Daisies. The quality of the production was something else. Heck, I enjoyed the Blu-rays more than I enjoyed the OTA airing. _________________ Trust no one. Absolutely no one. Advice of the board.
Joined: 08 Mar 2006 Posts: 25628 Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
TV/Projector: Sony 1252Q, AMPRO 4000G
Link Posted: Tue Jan 20, 2009 3:57 pm Post subject:
I'll second the Band of Brothers. Excellent series, looks much better than the TV airing. Great production. I need Saving Private Ryan on BluRay to go with it. _________________ Tech support for nothing
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