Historical HD DVD Release Dates

This page lists all available information for new and upcoming releases in the Blu-ray format.
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                            [review_id] => 2072
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                            [review_slug] => deathproof_de
                            [review_release_date] => 1229328000
                            [review_hot] => 0
                            [review_title] => Death Proof (German Import)
                            [picture_created] => 1232500305
                            [picture_name] => deathproofhddvd.jpeg
                            [manufacturer_name] => Senator Home Entertainment
                            [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2009/01/20/120/deathproofhddvd.jpeg
                            [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/2072/deathproof_de.html
                            [review_metadata_prepared] => Array
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                                    [release_year] => 2007
                                    [run_time] => 114
                                    [list_price] => 11.99
                                    [amazon_price] => 0.00
                                    [alt_commerce_link] => https://www.amazon.de/gp/product/B000Y0UZPG/
                                    [alt_commerce_text] => Ships worldwide from Amazon Germany.
                                    [aspect_ratios] => Array
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                                            [0] => 2.35:1
                                        )

                                    [video_resolutions] => Array
                                        (
                                            [0] => 1080p/VC-1
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                                    [technical_specifications] => Array
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                                            [0] => HD DVD
                                            [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc
                                        )

                                    [audio_formats] => Array
                                        (
                                            [0] => English DTS-HD High Resolution 5.1 Surround
                                            [1] => English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
                                            [2] => German DTS-HD High Resolution 5.1 Surround
                                            [3] => German Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
                                        )

                                    [subtitles] => Array
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                                            [0] => German Subtitles
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                                    [preview_genres] => Array
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                                            [0] => Drama
                                            [1] => Thriller
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                                    [preview_actors] => Array
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                                            [0] => Kurt Russell
                                            [1] => Zoe Bell
                                            [2] => Sydney Tamaii Poitier
                                            [3] => Tracie Thoms
                                        )

                                    [preview_directors] => Array
                                        (
                                            [0] => Quentin Tarantino
                                        )

                                    [review_editors_notes] => 

It's been almost a year since Toshiba conceded defeat in the High Definition format war, and more than six months since the last domestic HD DVD release. We at High-Def Digest haven't published an HD DVD review since June of 2008. Yet here we have something very surprising -- a brand new HD DVD from Germany. 'Death Proof' may very likely be the last title ever released on the HD DVD format. As such, we felt that it merits some special attention.

For more information about importing HD DVD discs, visit the HD DVD imports thread in our forums area.

Portions of this article also appear in our review of the Blu-ray edition of 'Death Proof'.

[review_bottom_line] => One For Collectors [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 77334 [review_movie_stars] => 3.5 [review_movie] =>

When they played together as part of the 'Grindhouse' double-feature in 2007, Robert Rodriguez's monster movie 'Planet Terror' and Quentin Tarantino's car chase epic 'Death Proof' divided many fans. The majority of viewers preferred the Rodriguez half, with many of them leveling some downright scathing criticism on Tarantino's entry. Part of the problem is that the two films are very tonally different. While 'Planet Terror' is a goofy B-movie that's action-packed from start to finish and never takes itself seriously, 'Death Proof' is… well… it's a Quentin Tarantino film. The picture is extremely talky, complexly structured, and takes its time building up steam. A lot of time. Conceptually, the two features were actually well-matched in 'Grindhouse'. B-movie double-features of the 1970s often paired together such radically different films that had nothing to do with one another. But there's no denying that 'Planet Terror' sets a certain expectation that 'Death Proof' more or less deflates. I wonder how audiences would have reacted had the order been re-arranged? On the other hand, 'Death Proof' builds to an incredibly rousing finale that sends the double-bill out on a high note, and seems better positioned at the back-end for that reason.

Much like 'Planet Terror', 'Death Proof' isn't really a grindhouse B-movie. It's Quentin Tarantino's interpretation of what grindhouse B-movies should have been, filtered through his own sensibilities. The film starts on a languid, hot summer night in Austin, TX. A trio of young babes led by a radio DJ and local celebrity called Jungle Julia (Sydney Tamaiia Poitier) are out on the town trawling bars, getting drunk, and smoking weed, all the while endlessly talking about the sort of things that Quentin Tarantino characters usually talk about -- in other words, pop culture touchstones that are both meaningless and deeply imbued with personal relevance at the same time. In this case, the main topic of conversation is music of the 1970s, Julia's particular expertise. At some point, Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) introduces himself. The girls sum him up pretty quickly as a middle-aged hanger-on, a little pathetic in his attempt to impress the ladies with his dubious Hollywood connections and a jacket adorned with sponsorship labels from the likes of IcyHot and Husky. Yet there's also something strangely charismatic about him, mixed with no small measure of creepiness. They don't give him a lot of thought and eventually say their good-byes expecting to never see him again, but Stuntman Mike has other plans for the evening.

This first storyline takes a long time to get going. In fact, in this Extended and Unrated version, Stuntman Mike doesn't make his intentions known until a full 45 minutes into the picture, after which the story comes to a shocking and swift conclusion, and then the movie switches gears and jumps forward more than a year in time. The second half focuses on an entirely new set of characters on break from a film shoot in Tennessee. There's the actress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), the makeup artist (Rosario Dawson), and two stuntwomen (Tracie Thoms and Zoë Bell, the latter actually playing herself). Similarly to the first act, the ladies spend a lot of time hanging out and bullshitting, primarily about famous movie car chases and Zoë's obsession with driving a "1970 Dodge Challenger with 440 engine and white paint job" just like the one in 'Vanishing Point'. Stuntman Mike is once again on the prowl, and has some ideas for a day's entertainment that the women won't be expecting.

Here's the thing about 'Death Proof'. On a first viewing, the movie can feel incredibly frustrating in the way the story is laid out. However, at the conclusion (and especially clear in repeated viewings), the structure is kind of brilliant in its way. Tarantino spends a considerable amount of time setting viewer expectations for what type of movie they're watching, only to pull the rug out halfway through. Then he sets it up again seemingly to do the exact same thing, but turns the tables in the last act with a lengthy and, to be blunt about it, fucking amazing car chase -- staged entirely without CGI or other visual effects bullshit, just real cars and real stuntpeople moving very fast -- that blows the roof off the whole movie and is quite simply the most purely enjoyable thing that Quentin Tarantino has ever directed.

Although I realize that I'm in the minority with this opinion, I liked 'Death Proof' a lot more than 'Planet Terror'. Of the two, it's also the one that holds up the best as its own movie separated from 'Grindhouse'. The Extended version adds nearly half an hour of new footage, most of it substantive changes that help to flesh out the characters and story. Among other things, Arlene's lap dance has been restored, along with a significant amount of material for the Lee character. However, Lee's storyline is still left hanging without resolution, and I remain disappointed that Tarantino missed the opportunity to cut back to it for a quick wrap-up during the end credits.

In the final analysis, 'Death Proof' is perhaps Tarantino's weakest film as director so far. The movie functions best as it was originally intended, as part of the 'Grindhouse' double-feature, which was a greater achievement than either of its parts individually. Nonetheless, it's an entertaining B-movie homage that stands up pretty well on its own.

And Zoë Bell rocks. I just had to say that.

The HD DVD: Vital Disc Stats

Rumor has it that Senator Home Entertainment in Germany originally planned to release 'Death Proof' on HD DVD in mid-2008, and pressed the discs at that time. Due to contractual red tape, the studio was prevented from releasing the movie on any High Definition format until The Weinstein Company did so in the U.S. first, which has only happened recently with the Blu-ray edition of the movie. If the story is true, these HD DVD copies were sitting in a warehouse for half a year or more, and are only now being released, essentially just for the hell of it. Senator has also released their own comparable Blu-ray edition of the movie at the same time.

If this really is to be the final HD DVD, I suppose 'Death Proof' is an ironic choice of title for the format's death throes. Unfortunately, the other half of the 'Grindhouse' double-bill (Robert Rodriguez's 'Planet Terror') is not scheduled for release on HD DVD.

For what it's worth, the 'Death Proof' HD DVD is a pretty nice collectible. The disc comes packaged in a fancy Steelbook case and has A/V quality and bonus features on par with the domestic editions of the film. The disc's menus are entirely in German, but not too difficult to navigate. Even though the movie defaults to a German dub soundtrack, the original English can also be selected from the menus. The German subtitles are optional and can be turned off entirely.

The HD DVD format has no region coding. The 'Death Proof' disc will work in any American HD DVD player.

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 7741 [review_video] =>

Although it may have been authored months earlier using a different compression codec, the 'Death Proof' HD DVD looks virtually identical to the domestic Blu-ray edition. The 1080p/VC-1 transfer (also presented in the movie's 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio) is extremely faithful to the intended style, and has a very natural, film-like appearance. Detail is strong, and a significant upgrade over the DVD edition.

Just like 'Planet Terror', 'Death Proof' has been deliberately designed to emulate a tattered theatrical print that's been run far too many times at the grindhouse theater. The picture has recurring appearances of simulated film scratches, dirt, debris, and jump cuts. However, while Robert Rodriguez really went overboard with the effect and made every single frame of his movie look like it'd been scraped off the projection room floor, Tarantino's film is more organic and natural. The film damage is often sporadic. In fact, the entire last act of the movie is virtually spotless.

In addition to the film damage effects, 'Death Proof' goes through three distinct phases in visual appearance. The first act looks a little soft and faded, with washed out contrasts that lose detail in both whites and blacks. At the transition to the second storyline, the entire picture turns black & white for an extended scene, as if the footage had to be spliced in from a b&w dupe print. At the end of the scene, the image immediately pops back into full color that's much sharper and more vibrantly saturated than before. As noted above, this entire final section of the movie is nearly devoid of the scratch and dirt effects. The big car chase makes for some splendid High Definition imagery.

[review_audio_stars] => 4 [review_audio_picture_id] => 7742 [review_audio] =>

Looking only at the technical specs, the HD DVD would seem to offer a soundtrack inferior to the domestic Blu-ray's lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio. The HD DVD uses DTS-HD High Resolution 5.1 instead, which is a lossy (but high bit-rate) compression format. However, in practical real-world terms, the two tracks are audibly indistinguishable.

That's certainly not a bad thing. In either case, the soundtrack is an excellent representation of the movie's artistic intentions. In keeping with the grindhouse spirit, audio in the first half is mainly basic stereo without much surround activity. Dialogue is sometimes a little flat, and some of the source music is shrill (like it's being played off old vinyl), but most of it sounds just fine.

Things pick up in a big way in the second half with the chase scene. The surround channels are put to much more aggressive use and the roar of revving engines will get your subwoofer rocking.

[review_supplements_stars] => 2.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 7743 [review_supplements] =>

The HD DVD also includes almost all of the same bonus features as the Blu-ray, albeit with forced German subtitles here. For convenience sake, I've listed the features by their English titles as found on the Blu-ray.

  • Stunts on Wheels: The Legendary Drivers of Death Proof (SD, 21 min.) – As Tarantino explains it, this featurette is all about "Real cars, real shit, at full fucking speed." The director has a pretty big man-crush on stuntman Buddy Joe Hooker.
  • Introducing Zoë Bell (SD, 9 min.) – An overview of the stuntwoman's career, from the documentary 'Double Dare', to getting the gig as Uma Thurman's double in 'Kill Bill', to her surprise at finding out that Tarantino had written a whole movie for her to star in.
  • Double Dare Trailer (SD, 3 min.) – A trailer for the documentary about stuntwomen featuring Zoë Bell.
  • Kurt Russell as Stuntman Mike (SD, 10 min.) – Tarantino waxes on about the actor's greatness.
  • Finding Quentin's Gals (SD, 21 min.) – A look at the casting process, writing the roles for the actresses, and re-using many of the same cast in both 'Grindhouse' features.
  • Uncut Version of "Baby, It's You" Performed by Mary Elizabeth Winstead (SD, 2 min.) – A brief extended scene.
  • The Guys of Death Proof (SD, 8 min.) – Highlighting three of the male supporting roles.
  • Quentin Tarantino's Greatest Collaborator: Editor Sally Menke (SD, 5 min.) – A video love letter to the director's longtime editor.
  • Extended Music Cues – Audio-only renditions of three music cues by Ennio Morricone, Guido & Maurizio de Angelis, and Franco Micalizzi.

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 1 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 7740 [review_bonus_content] =>

It would appear that Senator originally planned to provide 'Death Proof' with web-enabled content using the DynamicHD platform. Unfortunately, that content never went live. If you select the DynamicHD option in the disc's menus, you'll be greeted with a "Please check again later" message. Somehow, I doubt they'll update that now. To be fair about it, Weinstein's Blu-ray also offers a BD-Live option that leads nowhere.

With that said, the HD DVD does have one exclusive supplement:

  • Stunts on Wheels: The Hot Boxes (SD, 12 min.) – OK, I don't know if that's the real title, but it's the closest available translation. (I suppose "The Hot Rods" would make more sense, so perhaps that's what they meant.) This appears to be an extension of the other "Stunts on Wheels" featurette. Tarantino expounds on his favorite movie car chases.

The Cutting Room Floor: What Didn't Make the HD DVD?

The HD DVD is missing a theatrical trailer and a poster gallery found on the Blu-ray. Of course, both are missing the rest of 'Grindhouse' (i.e. 'Planet Terror' and the fake movie trailers).

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 3.5 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts] =>

Objectively speaking, there isn't much reason for an American viewer to import this 'Death Proof' HD DVD if they own a Blu-ray player. The A/V quality and bonus features are basically the same as the domestic Blu-ray release. However, as the final release on the HD DVD format, it's a pretty cool collectible, especially now that Amazon Germany has lowered the price dramatically. Interested collectors will find it worth a look.

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It's been almost a year since Toshiba conceded defeat in the High Definition format war, and more than six months since the last domestic HD DVD release. We at High-Def Digest haven't published an HD DVD review since June of 2008. Yet here we have something very surprising -- a brand new HD DVD from Germany. 'Death Proof' may very likely be the last title ever released on the HD DVD format. As such, we felt that it merits some special attention.

For more information about importing HD DVD discs, visit the HD DVD imports thread in our forums area.

Portions of this article also appear in our review of the Blu-ray edition of 'Death Proof'.

[review_bottom_line] => One For Collectors [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 77334 [review_movie_stars] => 3.5 [review_movie] =>

When they played together as part of the 'Grindhouse' double-feature in 2007, Robert Rodriguez's monster movie 'Planet Terror' and Quentin Tarantino's car chase epic 'Death Proof' divided many fans. The majority of viewers preferred the Rodriguez half, with many of them leveling some downright scathing criticism on Tarantino's entry. Part of the problem is that the two films are very tonally different. While 'Planet Terror' is a goofy B-movie that's action-packed from start to finish and never takes itself seriously, 'Death Proof' is… well… it's a Quentin Tarantino film. The picture is extremely talky, complexly structured, and takes its time building up steam. A lot of time. Conceptually, the two features were actually well-matched in 'Grindhouse'. B-movie double-features of the 1970s often paired together such radically different films that had nothing to do with one another. But there's no denying that 'Planet Terror' sets a certain expectation that 'Death Proof' more or less deflates. I wonder how audiences would have reacted had the order been re-arranged? On the other hand, 'Death Proof' builds to an incredibly rousing finale that sends the double-bill out on a high note, and seems better positioned at the back-end for that reason.

Much like 'Planet Terror', 'Death Proof' isn't really a grindhouse B-movie. It's Quentin Tarantino's interpretation of what grindhouse B-movies should have been, filtered through his own sensibilities. The film starts on a languid, hot summer night in Austin, TX. A trio of young babes led by a radio DJ and local celebrity called Jungle Julia (Sydney Tamaiia Poitier) are out on the town trawling bars, getting drunk, and smoking weed, all the while endlessly talking about the sort of things that Quentin Tarantino characters usually talk about -- in other words, pop culture touchstones that are both meaningless and deeply imbued with personal relevance at the same time. In this case, the main topic of conversation is music of the 1970s, Julia's particular expertise. At some point, Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) introduces himself. The girls sum him up pretty quickly as a middle-aged hanger-on, a little pathetic in his attempt to impress the ladies with his dubious Hollywood connections and a jacket adorned with sponsorship labels from the likes of IcyHot and Husky. Yet there's also something strangely charismatic about him, mixed with no small measure of creepiness. They don't give him a lot of thought and eventually say their good-byes expecting to never see him again, but Stuntman Mike has other plans for the evening.

This first storyline takes a long time to get going. In fact, in this Extended and Unrated version, Stuntman Mike doesn't make his intentions known until a full 45 minutes into the picture, after which the story comes to a shocking and swift conclusion, and then the movie switches gears and jumps forward more than a year in time. The second half focuses on an entirely new set of characters on break from a film shoot in Tennessee. There's the actress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), the makeup artist (Rosario Dawson), and two stuntwomen (Tracie Thoms and Zoë Bell, the latter actually playing herself). Similarly to the first act, the ladies spend a lot of time hanging out and bullshitting, primarily about famous movie car chases and Zoë's obsession with driving a "1970 Dodge Challenger with 440 engine and white paint job" just like the one in 'Vanishing Point'. Stuntman Mike is once again on the prowl, and has some ideas for a day's entertainment that the women won't be expecting.

Here's the thing about 'Death Proof'. On a first viewing, the movie can feel incredibly frustrating in the way the story is laid out. However, at the conclusion (and especially clear in repeated viewings), the structure is kind of brilliant in its way. Tarantino spends a considerable amount of time setting viewer expectations for what type of movie they're watching, only to pull the rug out halfway through. Then he sets it up again seemingly to do the exact same thing, but turns the tables in the last act with a lengthy and, to be blunt about it, fucking amazing car chase -- staged entirely without CGI or other visual effects bullshit, just real cars and real stuntpeople moving very fast -- that blows the roof off the whole movie and is quite simply the most purely enjoyable thing that Quentin Tarantino has ever directed.

Although I realize that I'm in the minority with this opinion, I liked 'Death Proof' a lot more than 'Planet Terror'. Of the two, it's also the one that holds up the best as its own movie separated from 'Grindhouse'. The Extended version adds nearly half an hour of new footage, most of it substantive changes that help to flesh out the characters and story. Among other things, Arlene's lap dance has been restored, along with a significant amount of material for the Lee character. However, Lee's storyline is still left hanging without resolution, and I remain disappointed that Tarantino missed the opportunity to cut back to it for a quick wrap-up during the end credits.

In the final analysis, 'Death Proof' is perhaps Tarantino's weakest film as director so far. The movie functions best as it was originally intended, as part of the 'Grindhouse' double-feature, which was a greater achievement than either of its parts individually. Nonetheless, it's an entertaining B-movie homage that stands up pretty well on its own.

And Zoë Bell rocks. I just had to say that.

The HD DVD: Vital Disc Stats

Rumor has it that Senator Home Entertainment in Germany originally planned to release 'Death Proof' on HD DVD in mid-2008, and pressed the discs at that time. Due to contractual red tape, the studio was prevented from releasing the movie on any High Definition format until The Weinstein Company did so in the U.S. first, which has only happened recently with the Blu-ray edition of the movie. If the story is true, these HD DVD copies were sitting in a warehouse for half a year or more, and are only now being released, essentially just for the hell of it. Senator has also released their own comparable Blu-ray edition of the movie at the same time.

If this really is to be the final HD DVD, I suppose 'Death Proof' is an ironic choice of title for the format's death throes. Unfortunately, the other half of the 'Grindhouse' double-bill (Robert Rodriguez's 'Planet Terror') is not scheduled for release on HD DVD.

For what it's worth, the 'Death Proof' HD DVD is a pretty nice collectible. The disc comes packaged in a fancy Steelbook case and has A/V quality and bonus features on par with the domestic editions of the film. The disc's menus are entirely in German, but not too difficult to navigate. Even though the movie defaults to a German dub soundtrack, the original English can also be selected from the menus. The German subtitles are optional and can be turned off entirely.

The HD DVD format has no region coding. The 'Death Proof' disc will work in any American HD DVD player.

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 7741 [review_video] =>

Although it may have been authored months earlier using a different compression codec, the 'Death Proof' HD DVD looks virtually identical to the domestic Blu-ray edition. The 1080p/VC-1 transfer (also presented in the movie's 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio) is extremely faithful to the intended style, and has a very natural, film-like appearance. Detail is strong, and a significant upgrade over the DVD edition.

Just like 'Planet Terror', 'Death Proof' has been deliberately designed to emulate a tattered theatrical print that's been run far too many times at the grindhouse theater. The picture has recurring appearances of simulated film scratches, dirt, debris, and jump cuts. However, while Robert Rodriguez really went overboard with the effect and made every single frame of his movie look like it'd been scraped off the projection room floor, Tarantino's film is more organic and natural. The film damage is often sporadic. In fact, the entire last act of the movie is virtually spotless.

In addition to the film damage effects, 'Death Proof' goes through three distinct phases in visual appearance. The first act looks a little soft and faded, with washed out contrasts that lose detail in both whites and blacks. At the transition to the second storyline, the entire picture turns black & white for an extended scene, as if the footage had to be spliced in from a b&w dupe print. At the end of the scene, the image immediately pops back into full color that's much sharper and more vibrantly saturated than before. As noted above, this entire final section of the movie is nearly devoid of the scratch and dirt effects. The big car chase makes for some splendid High Definition imagery.

[review_audio_stars] => 4 [review_audio_picture_id] => 7742 [review_audio] =>

Looking only at the technical specs, the HD DVD would seem to offer a soundtrack inferior to the domestic Blu-ray's lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio. The HD DVD uses DTS-HD High Resolution 5.1 instead, which is a lossy (but high bit-rate) compression format. However, in practical real-world terms, the two tracks are audibly indistinguishable.

That's certainly not a bad thing. In either case, the soundtrack is an excellent representation of the movie's artistic intentions. In keeping with the grindhouse spirit, audio in the first half is mainly basic stereo without much surround activity. Dialogue is sometimes a little flat, and some of the source music is shrill (like it's being played off old vinyl), but most of it sounds just fine.

Things pick up in a big way in the second half with the chase scene. The surround channels are put to much more aggressive use and the roar of revving engines will get your subwoofer rocking.

[review_supplements_stars] => 2.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 7743 [review_supplements] =>

The HD DVD also includes almost all of the same bonus features as the Blu-ray, albeit with forced German subtitles here. For convenience sake, I've listed the features by their English titles as found on the Blu-ray.

  • Stunts on Wheels: The Legendary Drivers of Death Proof (SD, 21 min.) – As Tarantino explains it, this featurette is all about "Real cars, real shit, at full fucking speed." The director has a pretty big man-crush on stuntman Buddy Joe Hooker.
  • Introducing Zoë Bell (SD, 9 min.) – An overview of the stuntwoman's career, from the documentary 'Double Dare', to getting the gig as Uma Thurman's double in 'Kill Bill', to her surprise at finding out that Tarantino had written a whole movie for her to star in.
  • Double Dare Trailer (SD, 3 min.) – A trailer for the documentary about stuntwomen featuring Zoë Bell.
  • Kurt Russell as Stuntman Mike (SD, 10 min.) – Tarantino waxes on about the actor's greatness.
  • Finding Quentin's Gals (SD, 21 min.) – A look at the casting process, writing the roles for the actresses, and re-using many of the same cast in both 'Grindhouse' features.
  • Uncut Version of "Baby, It's You" Performed by Mary Elizabeth Winstead (SD, 2 min.) – A brief extended scene.
  • The Guys of Death Proof (SD, 8 min.) – Highlighting three of the male supporting roles.
  • Quentin Tarantino's Greatest Collaborator: Editor Sally Menke (SD, 5 min.) – A video love letter to the director's longtime editor.
  • Extended Music Cues – Audio-only renditions of three music cues by Ennio Morricone, Guido & Maurizio de Angelis, and Franco Micalizzi.

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 1 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 7740 [review_bonus_content] =>

It would appear that Senator originally planned to provide 'Death Proof' with web-enabled content using the DynamicHD platform. Unfortunately, that content never went live. If you select the DynamicHD option in the disc's menus, you'll be greeted with a "Please check again later" message. Somehow, I doubt they'll update that now. To be fair about it, Weinstein's Blu-ray also offers a BD-Live option that leads nowhere.

With that said, the HD DVD does have one exclusive supplement:

  • Stunts on Wheels: The Hot Boxes (SD, 12 min.) – OK, I don't know if that's the real title, but it's the closest available translation. (I suppose "The Hot Rods" would make more sense, so perhaps that's what they meant.) This appears to be an extension of the other "Stunts on Wheels" featurette. Tarantino expounds on his favorite movie car chases.

The Cutting Room Floor: What Didn't Make the HD DVD?

The HD DVD is missing a theatrical trailer and a poster gallery found on the Blu-ray. Of course, both are missing the rest of 'Grindhouse' (i.e. 'Planet Terror' and the fake movie trailers).

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 3.5 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts] =>

Objectively speaking, there isn't much reason for an American viewer to import this 'Death Proof' HD DVD if they own a Blu-ray player. The A/V quality and bonus features are basically the same as the domestic Blu-ray release. However, as the final release on the HD DVD format, it's a pretty cool collectible, especially now that Amazon Germany has lowered the price dramatically. Interested collectors will find it worth a look.

) ) ) ) [August 20, 2008] => Array ( [reviews] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 1390 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => serpico_fr [review_release_date] => 1219215600 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Serpico (French Import) [picture_created] => 1202699422 [picture_name] => serpico-hd-dvd-box-art-french-import.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Studio Canal [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/02/10/120/serpico-hd-dvd-box-art-french-import.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1390/serpico_fr.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1973 [run_time] => 129 [list_price] => 32.95 [amazon_price] => 0.00 [alt_commerce_link] => https://xploitedcinema.com/catalog/serpico-french-release-p-11237.html [alt_commerce_text] => Ships worldwide from exploitedcinema.com [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 2.0 Stereo (48kHz/16-bit) [1] => French DTS-HD High-Resolution 1.0 Mono (192kbps) [2] => German DTS-HD High-Resolution 1.0 Mono (192kbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => None ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => French Subtitles [1] => German Subtitles ) [review_editors_notes] =>

This is a review of the French HD DVD release of 'Serpico.' This movie has not been announced for release on either high-def disc format in the United States, although domestic home entertainment rights are owned by Paramount, which is currently releasing titles on HD DVD only. (For more information about importing HD DVD discs, visit the HD DVD imports thread in our forums area.)

[review_bottom_line] => For Fans Only [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 43827 [review_movie_stars] => 4 [review_movie] =>

The film opens with Frank Serpico (Al Pacino) lying on a hospital gurney, bleeding from a gunshot wound. Through flashbacks, we'll journey back with him as he recounts his career as an undercover police officer. From green recruit to jaded veteran, Serpico moves through the ranks, his ambition surpassed only by his idealism. Aghast at the assumption that he must take bribes and bow to the internal corruption that is now de rigueur, Serpico makes more enemies than friends inside the force. Bucking every convention, from his refusal to play by the rules to sartorial insubordination (Frank would sport long hair, bell bottoms, and espouse hippie philosophy in an era when cops were still straight shooters with "Dragnet" crew cuts), he would take on nothing less than the entire system -- even at the risk of paying the ultimate price.

Directed by Sidney Lumet, 'Serpico' is a product of the early '70s and a perfect time capsule of the zeitgeist of the time. The film was warmly received by an American culture that, in the wake of Vietnam and the emerging scandal of Watergate, had been left cynical towards its own government and the integrity of its institutions. Lumet and Pacino took the real-life story of Frank Serpico and added carefully-modulated fictional elements to construct a searing portrait of a police bureaucracy out of control, one that stifles its own enforcers by turning them into the same crooks they are supposed to be putting away.

With 'Serpico,' Lumet explored territory that he would revisit throughout his career. Movies as disparate as 'Dog Day Afternoon,' the recent 'Before the Devil Knows You're Dead' and even 'The Wiz,' are united not just by the grittiness of their urban settings, but by the same thematic concerns. If not as consistently as Martin Scorsese, Lumet has reveled in exploring the underbelly of larger societal ills through the journeys of outsiders, masquerading as insiders, in order to change the system. In 'Serpico,' Lumet may have found what remains the ideal vehicle to tell his oft-told story.

Just as the mean streets are familiar terrain for Lumet, the character of Frank Serpico is a through-line to many of the most memorable figures in Pacino's formidable oeuvre. It's easy to see shades of Tony Montana, Carlito Briganti and 'Cruising's Steve Burns in this title role, but even measured against those iconic portrayals, Pacino has never have been more authentic than he is here. It's a performance (Oscar-nominated to boot) that, along with Gene Hackman in 'The French Connection,' was responsible for re-framing our culture's view of cops from the pious do-gooders popularized by '50s and 60s TV to the morally ambiguous crusaders that reign on the screen today. That Pacino is so strong here may, ironically, be one of the film’s only real flaws, as he obliterates everyone else on screen, to the point that nothing registers aside from him.

'Serpico' stumbles in the haphazard structure of its script by Waldo Salt and Norman Wexler, with the focus on Serpico as a character study often coming at the expense of the film's effectiveness as an engrossing drama, or a first-rate action film on the level of ‘The French Connection' or 'Bullitt.' 'Serpico' borders on tedium, with the meandering scenes of Serpico's backstory (which is eventually dropped with no apparent purpose), and the insights into his personal life that don't really illuminate the idealism that drives his crusade against police corruption. Lumet’s manner of dragging out many scenes also doesn't help the sometimes sluggish pacing (even by '70s standards). Witness a scene of Pacino contemplating how to cross an overpass, which goes on for so long it robs the moment of any urgency, it's a far cry from the nail-biting tension Lumet brought to even the most banal of bank scenes in 'Dog Day Afternoon' (also starring Pacino). Perhaps Lumet embraced the idea of taking his time a bit too much in 'Serpico.'

Yet the film remains a seminal genre film of the '70s. With its convention-shattering anti-hero and its willingness to expose the hypocrisy behind the very organizations that are supposed to protect and serve us, ‘Serpico’ continues to influence today's cop cinema. Recent films as disparate as 'American Gangster,' 'Narc,' and Michael Mann's entire oeuvre all share lineage with 'Serpico,' and sadly, it's relevance hasn't diminished in today's world where corruption in law enforcement is accepted as business as usual. Perhaps 'Serpico' is a film that, in retrospect, is more flawed than its pedigree might suggest, but anchored by a towering performance by Pacino, it remains a must-see.

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 5121 [review_video] =>

'Serpico' comes to HD DVD courtesy of Studio Canal, who present the film in 1.78:1 widescreen and 1080p/VC-1 video. This transfer looks close enough to the recent Paramount DVD version that I would be surprised if they weren't both taken from the same source -- which is a good thing, as 'Serpico' looked excellent on standard-def, and is nicely upgraded here.

Paramount did a fine job with the recent remaster, and what an excellent source this is. Sure, there's a bit of grain and dirt here or there, but its shockingly minor for a 1973 film. Blacks are very deep and contrast is quite slick, so the image certainly has far more punch than I expected. Colors have a dull '70s sheen, but are very well saturated and clean considering the almost sepia-toned visual style.

In terms of an upgrade, overall visible detail is boosted over the standard-def. It's not to an amazing degree of difference, but close-ups in particular reveal much better fine texture and realism. Shadow delineation also receives some uplift, with details that were murky on the standard-def here clearer and more distinct (this is especially apparent on wide shots and nighttime exteriors). The cinema verite nature of 'Serpico' prevents it from benefiting tremendously from the move to high-def, but it’s hard to imagine the film looking any better on video than it does here.

[review_audio_stars] => 2 [review_audio_picture_id] => 0 [review_audio] =>

Studio Canal offers up an English DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 2.0 Stereo track for 'Serpico' encoded at 48kHz/16-bit (German and French DTS-HD High-Resolution 1.0 tracks are also provided).

This mix is noticeably hampered by the source elements. This sounds every bit like a worn early-'70s mono soundtrack. There is little finesse or fidelity to the track, with very flat bass response and thin, reedy high-end. Dialogue is hardly helped by the limited dynamics, with low tones often obscured even at a decent volume level. As this is essentially a mono track spread out to two front channels, even stereo separation is dull (don't expect even the illusion of envelopment here). To be fair, the source is at least clean, so there are no audible dropouts or other major anomalies, but that's about the best I can say about this soundtrack.

Note: 'Serpico' includes German and French subtitle options, which are "forced" when the English soundtrack is selected, meaning that there is no way to turn them off. While I did eventually get used to the subtitles as the film progressed, this is still an irritant, and it's frustrating that Studio Canal has not allowed for better user control on a next-gen release.

[review_supplements_stars] => 0 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 0 [review_supplements] =>

There are no bonus features, other than a preview of other Studio Canal HD DVD releases (all trailers in French).

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content] =>

Nope, no high-def exclusives, either.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 2.5 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'Serpico' is a tough and gritty thriller from the great Sidney Lumet. It's a tad bit dated 35 years on, but Al Pacino's seminal performance alone makes it worth seeing. This French HD DVD import is a bit bare bones -- you get a very good transfer, but only serviceable audio and nary a single supplement. This is probably a tough sell for all but diehard Pacino fans, so you might be better off waiting for a domestic high-def release or just giving the standard-def DVD version a rent instead.

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This is a review of the French HD DVD release of 'Serpico.' This movie has not been announced for release on either high-def disc format in the United States, although domestic home entertainment rights are owned by Paramount, which is currently releasing titles on HD DVD only. (For more information about importing HD DVD discs, visit the HD DVD imports thread in our forums area.)

[review_bottom_line] => For Fans Only [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 43827 [review_movie_stars] => 4 [review_movie] =>

The film opens with Frank Serpico (Al Pacino) lying on a hospital gurney, bleeding from a gunshot wound. Through flashbacks, we'll journey back with him as he recounts his career as an undercover police officer. From green recruit to jaded veteran, Serpico moves through the ranks, his ambition surpassed only by his idealism. Aghast at the assumption that he must take bribes and bow to the internal corruption that is now de rigueur, Serpico makes more enemies than friends inside the force. Bucking every convention, from his refusal to play by the rules to sartorial insubordination (Frank would sport long hair, bell bottoms, and espouse hippie philosophy in an era when cops were still straight shooters with "Dragnet" crew cuts), he would take on nothing less than the entire system -- even at the risk of paying the ultimate price.

Directed by Sidney Lumet, 'Serpico' is a product of the early '70s and a perfect time capsule of the zeitgeist of the time. The film was warmly received by an American culture that, in the wake of Vietnam and the emerging scandal of Watergate, had been left cynical towards its own government and the integrity of its institutions. Lumet and Pacino took the real-life story of Frank Serpico and added carefully-modulated fictional elements to construct a searing portrait of a police bureaucracy out of control, one that stifles its own enforcers by turning them into the same crooks they are supposed to be putting away.

With 'Serpico,' Lumet explored territory that he would revisit throughout his career. Movies as disparate as 'Dog Day Afternoon,' the recent 'Before the Devil Knows You're Dead' and even 'The Wiz,' are united not just by the grittiness of their urban settings, but by the same thematic concerns. If not as consistently as Martin Scorsese, Lumet has reveled in exploring the underbelly of larger societal ills through the journeys of outsiders, masquerading as insiders, in order to change the system. In 'Serpico,' Lumet may have found what remains the ideal vehicle to tell his oft-told story.

Just as the mean streets are familiar terrain for Lumet, the character of Frank Serpico is a through-line to many of the most memorable figures in Pacino's formidable oeuvre. It's easy to see shades of Tony Montana, Carlito Briganti and 'Cruising's Steve Burns in this title role, but even measured against those iconic portrayals, Pacino has never have been more authentic than he is here. It's a performance (Oscar-nominated to boot) that, along with Gene Hackman in 'The French Connection,' was responsible for re-framing our culture's view of cops from the pious do-gooders popularized by '50s and 60s TV to the morally ambiguous crusaders that reign on the screen today. That Pacino is so strong here may, ironically, be one of the film’s only real flaws, as he obliterates everyone else on screen, to the point that nothing registers aside from him.

'Serpico' stumbles in the haphazard structure of its script by Waldo Salt and Norman Wexler, with the focus on Serpico as a character study often coming at the expense of the film's effectiveness as an engrossing drama, or a first-rate action film on the level of ‘The French Connection' or 'Bullitt.' 'Serpico' borders on tedium, with the meandering scenes of Serpico's backstory (which is eventually dropped with no apparent purpose), and the insights into his personal life that don't really illuminate the idealism that drives his crusade against police corruption. Lumet’s manner of dragging out many scenes also doesn't help the sometimes sluggish pacing (even by '70s standards). Witness a scene of Pacino contemplating how to cross an overpass, which goes on for so long it robs the moment of any urgency, it's a far cry from the nail-biting tension Lumet brought to even the most banal of bank scenes in 'Dog Day Afternoon' (also starring Pacino). Perhaps Lumet embraced the idea of taking his time a bit too much in 'Serpico.'

Yet the film remains a seminal genre film of the '70s. With its convention-shattering anti-hero and its willingness to expose the hypocrisy behind the very organizations that are supposed to protect and serve us, ‘Serpico’ continues to influence today's cop cinema. Recent films as disparate as 'American Gangster,' 'Narc,' and Michael Mann's entire oeuvre all share lineage with 'Serpico,' and sadly, it's relevance hasn't diminished in today's world where corruption in law enforcement is accepted as business as usual. Perhaps 'Serpico' is a film that, in retrospect, is more flawed than its pedigree might suggest, but anchored by a towering performance by Pacino, it remains a must-see.

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 5121 [review_video] =>

'Serpico' comes to HD DVD courtesy of Studio Canal, who present the film in 1.78:1 widescreen and 1080p/VC-1 video. This transfer looks close enough to the recent Paramount DVD version that I would be surprised if they weren't both taken from the same source -- which is a good thing, as 'Serpico' looked excellent on standard-def, and is nicely upgraded here.

Paramount did a fine job with the recent remaster, and what an excellent source this is. Sure, there's a bit of grain and dirt here or there, but its shockingly minor for a 1973 film. Blacks are very deep and contrast is quite slick, so the image certainly has far more punch than I expected. Colors have a dull '70s sheen, but are very well saturated and clean considering the almost sepia-toned visual style.

In terms of an upgrade, overall visible detail is boosted over the standard-def. It's not to an amazing degree of difference, but close-ups in particular reveal much better fine texture and realism. Shadow delineation also receives some uplift, with details that were murky on the standard-def here clearer and more distinct (this is especially apparent on wide shots and nighttime exteriors). The cinema verite nature of 'Serpico' prevents it from benefiting tremendously from the move to high-def, but it’s hard to imagine the film looking any better on video than it does here.

[review_audio_stars] => 2 [review_audio_picture_id] => 0 [review_audio] =>

Studio Canal offers up an English DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 2.0 Stereo track for 'Serpico' encoded at 48kHz/16-bit (German and French DTS-HD High-Resolution 1.0 tracks are also provided).

This mix is noticeably hampered by the source elements. This sounds every bit like a worn early-'70s mono soundtrack. There is little finesse or fidelity to the track, with very flat bass response and thin, reedy high-end. Dialogue is hardly helped by the limited dynamics, with low tones often obscured even at a decent volume level. As this is essentially a mono track spread out to two front channels, even stereo separation is dull (don't expect even the illusion of envelopment here). To be fair, the source is at least clean, so there are no audible dropouts or other major anomalies, but that's about the best I can say about this soundtrack.

Note: 'Serpico' includes German and French subtitle options, which are "forced" when the English soundtrack is selected, meaning that there is no way to turn them off. While I did eventually get used to the subtitles as the film progressed, this is still an irritant, and it's frustrating that Studio Canal has not allowed for better user control on a next-gen release.

[review_supplements_stars] => 0 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 0 [review_supplements] =>

There are no bonus features, other than a preview of other Studio Canal HD DVD releases (all trailers in French).

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content] =>

Nope, no high-def exclusives, either.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 2.5 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'Serpico' is a tough and gritty thriller from the great Sidney Lumet. It's a tad bit dated 35 years on, but Al Pacino's seminal performance alone makes it worth seeing. This French HD DVD import is a bit bare bones -- you get a very good transfer, but only serviceable audio and nary a single supplement. This is probably a tough sell for all but diehard Pacino fans, so you might be better off waiting for a domestic high-def release or just giving the standard-def DVD version a rent instead.

) ) ) ) [June 24, 2008] => Array ( [reviews] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 383 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => freedomvol6 [review_release_date] => 1214290800 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Freedom: 6 [picture_created] => 1205876707 [picture_name] => freedom-6-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Bandai Visual [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/03/18/120/freedom-6-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/383/freedomvol6.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2007 [run_time] => 26 [list_price] => 39.99 [amazon_price] => 0.00 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.78:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => PiP Content [1] => HDi Enhanced Content [2] => Web-Enabled Content ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD/DVD Twin-Format Disc [1] => HD-15 Single-Layer/DVD 5 Single-Layer ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => Japanese Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5 Mbps) [1] => Japanese PCM 2.0 Stereo ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => None ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Anime ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Daisuke Namikawa ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Shuhei Morita ) [preview_technology_specifications] => • Theatrical Trailer [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => • 'Freedom: 4' Digest (Web Enabled)
• 'Freedom: 5' TV Spot (Web Enabled) [preview_forum_id] => 49058 [review_bottom_line] => For Fans Only [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 58582 [review_movie_stars] => 2 [review_movie] =>

While HD DVD purists don’t have a lot to look forward to these days, the anime enthusiasts among them can still count on this penultimate episode of ‘Freedom.’ Unless you’ve spent the last year wearing Blu-tinted glasses, you probably already know the gist of Bandai Visual’s HD-exclusive series. Still, for the sake of stragglers, I’ll briefly plow through it again. “The Freedom Project” developed from a Japanese promotion of Nissin Cup Noodles’ 35th anniversary. However, instead of relying on a typical ad campaign, the company tapped design legend Katsuhiro Otomo (‘Akira,’ ‘Steamboy’) to work on a sci-fi anime series. Over the course of the last year, Bandai Visual has brought the series to the US, releasing individual episodes on HD DVD/DVD twin format discs.

I was genuinely impressed with the first three episodes of the ‘Freedom’ series. In the year 2267, a devastating climate shift has killed the majority of the planet’s population, forcing the survivors to establish a lunar colony called Eden. As the colony is revealed to be an oppressive dystopia, a teenager named Takeru stumbles across a strange photograph of a girl on Earth. His discovery threatens to unravel Eden’s deception and attracts the attention of the colony’s authoritarian security bots. In the ensuing chaos, Takeru commandeers a clunky space shuttle and makes a hasty escape to Earth to uncover the truth. Sadly, the series fell apart during its fourth and fifth outings as the young boy joins a group of traveling hippies, dons a ridiculous yellow skinsuit, finds the girl in the photograph much too quickly, and ultimately has to help his new friends weather a fierce hurricane.

Alas, ’Freedom 6’ doesn’t salvage the series. Using Ao’s flashbacks to hop between the retreat from Earth, Takeru’s present attempts to save the planet’s survivors, and a later shuttle launch that will reunite the Earthlings with their colonist brethren, this episode is all over the place. Honestly, it wouldn’t be so bad if other entries in the series had established non-linear storylines and varying plot devices, but it’s a confusing, disjointed mess that doesn’t mesh with the first five episodes. Takeru’s transformation from a boy to man is missing, essentially undermining the tale’s coming-of-age roots. His relationship with Ao is abruptly realized, without any chance to understand her function in the story. Worst of all, Eden’s deception is tossed to the back burner, leaving one to wonder what episodes 4, 5, and now 6 have to do with the overall story. I’m holding out a sliver of hope that ‘Freedom 7’ will somehow walk on water and tie it all together, but I can’t imagine how that will be possible.

I commented in my reviews of the earliest episodes that ‘Freedom’ didn’t feel like a promotional endeavor -- its characterizations and storylines were intriguing, mysterious, and full of potential. This latest entry cements my opinion that Nissin Cup Noodles really just wanted to do something different and garner some attention. There's no thematic cohesion, organic plot development, or character realization. Instead, the series has proven itself to be a parade of pretty pictures with a few absorbing ideas sprinkled in for good measure. The moment Takeru launched for Earth, I felt divorced from the tale, his quest, and his inevitable search for the truth. His motivations and, in turn, the driving momentum of the series lost its way and followed the path of least resistance.

As the ‘Freedom’ series draws to a close, I’m finally able to evaluate the overall run and augment previous opinions of various episodes. Don’t get me wrong, I still have a soft spot for the first three episodes, but in light of the most recent entries, I can’t help but feel disappointed. While I’m sure there are still folks out there who love every episode, I have to disavow the series as a whole. It’s jarring midpoint transition left me in the dust and it hasn’t been able to justify its alterations to the crucial themes of its story, characters, and central conflict.

[review_video_stars] => 4.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 6152 [review_video] =>

’Freedom 6’ is the sixth US HD DVD to be released on a dual-layer twin-format disc (following the four previous installments in the series). Unlike an HD DVD/DVD Combo Format disc, twin-format discs are single-sided -- one side has a printed label and the other looks like a standard HD DVD. A DVD player will automatically access the DVD-5 layer of the disc, while an HD DVD player will access the HD-15 layer. The end-user doesn't have to fidget with any confusing technical options - instead, the twin-format disc does all the thinking and eliminates the problems that some users have experienced with two-sided discs.

Just like every other episode released in the series, ‘Freedom 6’ boasts a phenomenal 1080p/VC-1 transfer that almost justifies the disc’s high price point. Sharp lines, a stable palette, and a vibrant eruption of colors make this series one of the most eye-catching animated releases on either high-def format. Each and every frame is incredibly clean -- aside from a few instances of inherent color banding, there isn’t any noise, encode artifacting, or soft shots to be found. Better still, perfect contrast and inky blacks create a three-dimensional picture that practically leaps off the screen. The ‘Freedom’ series may be finishing out its run on a dead format, but Bandai Visual would be wise to reference each of its HD episodes when encoding their future Blu-ray releases.

[review_audio_stars] => 4 [review_audio_picture_id] => 6153 [review_audio] =>

After a disappointing stretch of sonic boredom, the ‘Freedom’ series finally delivers a boom-n-thoom littered soundscape that lives up to the impressive mixes featured on earlier episodes. The Japanese-language Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 audio may seem like a relic in a modern era of Master Audio, but it still has no problem getting the job done. Dialogue is clean and well-prioritized, LFE support makes the shuttle launches deafening and realistic, and subtle ambience helps flesh out the episode’s quiet, conversational scenes. The rear speakers don’t have a lot to do when the focus leaves the rumbling ships, but they still pepper interiors with convincing acoustics that expand the soundfield and pull it away from the front channels.

In the end, the ‘Freedom’ series has always sounded quite good and has only faltered when its storyline has slowed to a crawl. I may not be a fan of the sixth episode, but it certainly won’t give audiophiles anything to complain about.

[review_supplements_stars] => 0 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 0 [review_supplements] =>

This episode only features exclusive content on the HD DVD layer of the disc.

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 1 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 6154 [review_bonus_content] =>

Like previous HD DVD installments of the series, the exclusive features on this release are technically impressive, but could really benefit from lengthier and more thorough content. Behind-the-scenes featurettes or commentaries would definitely help offset the disc's price.

  • Computer Graphics Simulation -- This overlay amounts to a PiP featurette of sorts that showcases the design work and production sketches that led to the completed episode. While it lasts for the entire episode, it’s merely presented in 480p (making the HDi zoom feature irrelevant since the SD video is so bland and blocky).
  • HDi Interactivity -- As the PiP video plays, the placement, size, and transparency of the overlay window can be adjusted on the fly. It's also possible to set bookmark points, access English credits, and view other storyboards via buttons on your remote.
  • Web Enabled Content -- If your player is connected to the internet, you can access downloadable content including additional trailers and TV spots.
[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 3 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 6155 [review_final_thoughts] =>

Sigh. What was once a promising series developed to contrast oppression and freedom has devolved in a lightweight blend of anime clichés and syrupy caricatures of authentic dreamers. Thankfully, Bandai Visual hasn’t allowed the technical qualities of the ‘Freedom’ series to follow suit. ‘Volume 6’ features another gorgeous video transfer and a powerful audio track. The supplemental package is still pretty weak, but it’s satisfactory considering the disc only contains a single episode of the series. Obviously, if you’re a fan of ‘Freedom,’ purchasing this penultimate entry is a no-brainer. However, if you’re new to the series this is definitely not the place to start.

) ) ) [reviews_hot] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 383 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => freedomvol6 [review_release_date] => 1214290800 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Freedom: 6 [picture_created] => 1205876707 [picture_name] => freedom-6-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Bandai Visual [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/03/18/120/freedom-6-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/383/freedomvol6.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2007 [run_time] => 26 [list_price] => 39.99 [amazon_price] => 0.00 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.78:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => PiP Content [1] => HDi Enhanced Content [2] => Web-Enabled Content ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD/DVD Twin-Format Disc [1] => HD-15 Single-Layer/DVD 5 Single-Layer ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => Japanese Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5 Mbps) [1] => Japanese PCM 2.0 Stereo ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => None ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Anime ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Daisuke Namikawa ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Shuhei Morita ) [preview_technology_specifications] => • Theatrical Trailer [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => • 'Freedom: 4' Digest (Web Enabled)
• 'Freedom: 5' TV Spot (Web Enabled) [preview_forum_id] => 49058 [review_bottom_line] => For Fans Only [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 58582 [review_movie_stars] => 2 [review_movie] =>

While HD DVD purists don’t have a lot to look forward to these days, the anime enthusiasts among them can still count on this penultimate episode of ‘Freedom.’ Unless you’ve spent the last year wearing Blu-tinted glasses, you probably already know the gist of Bandai Visual’s HD-exclusive series. Still, for the sake of stragglers, I’ll briefly plow through it again. “The Freedom Project” developed from a Japanese promotion of Nissin Cup Noodles’ 35th anniversary. However, instead of relying on a typical ad campaign, the company tapped design legend Katsuhiro Otomo (‘Akira,’ ‘Steamboy’) to work on a sci-fi anime series. Over the course of the last year, Bandai Visual has brought the series to the US, releasing individual episodes on HD DVD/DVD twin format discs.

I was genuinely impressed with the first three episodes of the ‘Freedom’ series. In the year 2267, a devastating climate shift has killed the majority of the planet’s population, forcing the survivors to establish a lunar colony called Eden. As the colony is revealed to be an oppressive dystopia, a teenager named Takeru stumbles across a strange photograph of a girl on Earth. His discovery threatens to unravel Eden’s deception and attracts the attention of the colony’s authoritarian security bots. In the ensuing chaos, Takeru commandeers a clunky space shuttle and makes a hasty escape to Earth to uncover the truth. Sadly, the series fell apart during its fourth and fifth outings as the young boy joins a group of traveling hippies, dons a ridiculous yellow skinsuit, finds the girl in the photograph much too quickly, and ultimately has to help his new friends weather a fierce hurricane.

Alas, ’Freedom 6’ doesn’t salvage the series. Using Ao’s flashbacks to hop between the retreat from Earth, Takeru’s present attempts to save the planet’s survivors, and a later shuttle launch that will reunite the Earthlings with their colonist brethren, this episode is all over the place. Honestly, it wouldn’t be so bad if other entries in the series had established non-linear storylines and varying plot devices, but it’s a confusing, disjointed mess that doesn’t mesh with the first five episodes. Takeru’s transformation from a boy to man is missing, essentially undermining the tale’s coming-of-age roots. His relationship with Ao is abruptly realized, without any chance to understand her function in the story. Worst of all, Eden’s deception is tossed to the back burner, leaving one to wonder what episodes 4, 5, and now 6 have to do with the overall story. I’m holding out a sliver of hope that ‘Freedom 7’ will somehow walk on water and tie it all together, but I can’t imagine how that will be possible.

I commented in my reviews of the earliest episodes that ‘Freedom’ didn’t feel like a promotional endeavor -- its characterizations and storylines were intriguing, mysterious, and full of potential. This latest entry cements my opinion that Nissin Cup Noodles really just wanted to do something different and garner some attention. There's no thematic cohesion, organic plot development, or character realization. Instead, the series has proven itself to be a parade of pretty pictures with a few absorbing ideas sprinkled in for good measure. The moment Takeru launched for Earth, I felt divorced from the tale, his quest, and his inevitable search for the truth. His motivations and, in turn, the driving momentum of the series lost its way and followed the path of least resistance.

As the ‘Freedom’ series draws to a close, I’m finally able to evaluate the overall run and augment previous opinions of various episodes. Don’t get me wrong, I still have a soft spot for the first three episodes, but in light of the most recent entries, I can’t help but feel disappointed. While I’m sure there are still folks out there who love every episode, I have to disavow the series as a whole. It’s jarring midpoint transition left me in the dust and it hasn’t been able to justify its alterations to the crucial themes of its story, characters, and central conflict.

[review_video_stars] => 4.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 6152 [review_video] =>

’Freedom 6’ is the sixth US HD DVD to be released on a dual-layer twin-format disc (following the four previous installments in the series). Unlike an HD DVD/DVD Combo Format disc, twin-format discs are single-sided -- one side has a printed label and the other looks like a standard HD DVD. A DVD player will automatically access the DVD-5 layer of the disc, while an HD DVD player will access the HD-15 layer. The end-user doesn't have to fidget with any confusing technical options - instead, the twin-format disc does all the thinking and eliminates the problems that some users have experienced with two-sided discs.

Just like every other episode released in the series, ‘Freedom 6’ boasts a phenomenal 1080p/VC-1 transfer that almost justifies the disc’s high price point. Sharp lines, a stable palette, and a vibrant eruption of colors make this series one of the most eye-catching animated releases on either high-def format. Each and every frame is incredibly clean -- aside from a few instances of inherent color banding, there isn’t any noise, encode artifacting, or soft shots to be found. Better still, perfect contrast and inky blacks create a three-dimensional picture that practically leaps off the screen. The ‘Freedom’ series may be finishing out its run on a dead format, but Bandai Visual would be wise to reference each of its HD episodes when encoding their future Blu-ray releases.

[review_audio_stars] => 4 [review_audio_picture_id] => 6153 [review_audio] =>

After a disappointing stretch of sonic boredom, the ‘Freedom’ series finally delivers a boom-n-thoom littered soundscape that lives up to the impressive mixes featured on earlier episodes. The Japanese-language Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 audio may seem like a relic in a modern era of Master Audio, but it still has no problem getting the job done. Dialogue is clean and well-prioritized, LFE support makes the shuttle launches deafening and realistic, and subtle ambience helps flesh out the episode’s quiet, conversational scenes. The rear speakers don’t have a lot to do when the focus leaves the rumbling ships, but they still pepper interiors with convincing acoustics that expand the soundfield and pull it away from the front channels.

In the end, the ‘Freedom’ series has always sounded quite good and has only faltered when its storyline has slowed to a crawl. I may not be a fan of the sixth episode, but it certainly won’t give audiophiles anything to complain about.

[review_supplements_stars] => 0 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 0 [review_supplements] =>

This episode only features exclusive content on the HD DVD layer of the disc.

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 1 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 6154 [review_bonus_content] =>

Like previous HD DVD installments of the series, the exclusive features on this release are technically impressive, but could really benefit from lengthier and more thorough content. Behind-the-scenes featurettes or commentaries would definitely help offset the disc's price.

  • Computer Graphics Simulation -- This overlay amounts to a PiP featurette of sorts that showcases the design work and production sketches that led to the completed episode. While it lasts for the entire episode, it’s merely presented in 480p (making the HDi zoom feature irrelevant since the SD video is so bland and blocky).
  • HDi Interactivity -- As the PiP video plays, the placement, size, and transparency of the overlay window can be adjusted on the fly. It's also possible to set bookmark points, access English credits, and view other storyboards via buttons on your remote.
  • Web Enabled Content -- If your player is connected to the internet, you can access downloadable content including additional trailers and TV spots.
[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 3 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 6155 [review_final_thoughts] =>

Sigh. What was once a promising series developed to contrast oppression and freedom has devolved in a lightweight blend of anime clichés and syrupy caricatures of authentic dreamers. Thankfully, Bandai Visual hasn’t allowed the technical qualities of the ‘Freedom’ series to follow suit. ‘Volume 6’ features another gorgeous video transfer and a powerful audio track. The supplemental package is still pretty weak, but it’s satisfactory considering the disc only contains a single episode of the series. Obviously, if you’re a fan of ‘Freedom,’ purchasing this penultimate entry is a no-brainer. However, if you’re new to the series this is definitely not the place to start.

) ) ) ) [May 27, 2008] => Array ( [reviews] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 1414 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => psiloveyou [review_release_date] => 1211871600 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => P.S. I Love You [picture_created] => 1204751157 [picture_name] => ps-i-love-you-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Video [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/03/05/120/ps-i-love-you-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1414/psiloveyou.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2007 [run_time] => 126 [list_price] => 35.98 [asin] => B0015GDVY0 [amazon_price] => 24.95 [empire_id] => 1397606 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.35:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 [1] => 1080i/480i/MPEG-2 (Supplements Only) ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround (48kHz/16-bit) [1] => French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (640kbps) [2] => Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (640kbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Featurettes [1] => Deleted Scenes [2] => Music Video ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles [2] => Spanish Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Comedy [1] => Romance ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Gina Gershon [1] => Lisa Kudrow [2] => Gerard Butler [3] => Hilary Swank ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Richard LaGravenese ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Buy a new outfit. Be a disco diva. Learn to fish. Take a chance. Travel. Laugh. Love. Sometimes all you need to start really living is a little shove in the right direction – and that’s just what Holly Kennedy gets. From the handsome, big-hearted love of her life. From a series of mysterious letters. And from gal pals who know that a friend in need is a friend in need of some laughs! Based on Cecelia Ahern’s joyful bestseller and boasting a top cast led by two-time Academy Award winner Hilary Swank and Gerard Butler (300), P.S. I Love You is your very own message full of fun, love, triumph and romance. [preview_technology_specifications] => • Featurettes: "A Conversation with Cecilia Ahern," "The Name of the Game is Snaps"
• Deleted Scenes
• Music Video by James Blunt [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 47251 [review_editors_notes] =>

Non-format-specific portions of this review were first published in our Blu-ray review of 'P.S. I Love You.'

[review_bottom_line] => Give it a Rent [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 56463 [review_movie_stars] => 3 [review_movie] =>

The old saying goes, "It is better to have loved andbl lost, than never to have loved at all." Try telling that to anyone who has suffered the premature death of a spouse, however, and you may get a different answer. There is perhaps no pain greater, and the emotional devastation can be so damaging that it's easy to understand why the one left behind would want to shut the door on love for good.

That's the central premise of 'P.S. I Love You,' a movie the marketing touted as a light romantic comedy but which is in fact far more somber than your usual entry in the chick-flick genre. Hilary Swank stars as Holly Kennedy, married to the hunky Gerry (Gerard Butler of '300,' sans CGI-enhanced chest). They're struggling, but their passion is as strong as their adverse circumstances. Then Gerry dies unexpectedly of a brain tumor at the age of 35, leaving Swank to pick up the pieces with the help of Gerry's widowed mother (Kathy Bates) and their circle of friends (including Gina Gershon, James Marsters, and Lisa Kudrow).

The hook of 'P.S. I Love You' is that Gerry had secretly written a series of notes and other instructions for Holly that are now appearing with regularity after his death. It's not supernatural, just whimsical (if still a bit credibility-straining), as Gerry directs Holly to let loose at a karaoke bar, take a pre-paid trip to Ireland etc. Holly's adventures will eventually lead to two potential suitors, a local bartender (Harry Connick, Jr.) as well an Irish pub singer (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), who bears a striking resemblance to Gerry.

The early scenes of 'P.S. I Love You' are the darkest of the film, but interestingly, the strongest. Swank is adept at conveying pain with subtlety, which brings a real sense of believability to the character that involves us in the story immediately, even after it quickly succumbs to a disorienting, jerky flashback structure that begins to irritate. It is here that the rhythms and pacing start to feel unnatural, to the point that we begin to expect yet another flashback to a grinning, philosophy-spewing Butler so regularly that it verges on the comical. (Director Richard LaGravanese also has an annoying tendency to try and pump up some thin scenes of drama by constantly cutting to close-ups -- back and forth, back and forth -- it's headache inducing).

Overlong at 127 minutes, 'P.S. I Love You' rambles a bit in its middle section. At the heart of the film is Holly's tug-of-war between holding on to her memories of Gerry, and choosing to love again with either Connick or Morgan. Unfortunately, what should have been a fairly compact story is unnecessarily stuffed with cutesy scenes of Holly falling off a stage during karaoke, fishing in Ireland etc. (all of which seem designed as money shots for the trailer). Thankfully, the third act quickly regains its footing, and is surprisingly effective -- again largely thanks to Swank's keen understanding of Holly's heartbreak. That I had a couple of tears by the end credits speaks to the story's basic power despite the film's flaws.

Ultimately, 'P.S. I Love You' is not an exemplary weepie, but having suffered through far more pedestrian entries in the romantic genre lately ('27 Dresses' comes to mind), it's boosted by a poignant core story and character, and a fine performance by Swank. If you're in the mood for a few laughs, a few tears, and some morose romance,' 'P.S. I Love You' is a note worth reading.

[review_video_stars] => 3 [review_video_picture_id] => 0 [review_video] =>

I didn't expect visual fireworks from 'P.S. I Love You,' but this 1080p/VC-1 transfer left me cold. Identical to the recent Blu-ray version, the film just looks strangely muted and oddly washed out.

As a new release, there's no problem with the source -- its clean (though there is a bit of persistent grain, which adds a film-like look). Unfortunately, blacks lack that rich, inky depth of the best transfers, giving a weirdly flat quality to the film. Colors also have some vibrant splashes, but are generally murky and lacking in purity. Detail is better, and richer scenes do have some dimension, but overall I just wasn't impressed with 'P.S. I Love You.'

[review_audio_stars] => 3 [review_audio_picture_id] => 0 [review_audio] =>

Typical of a romantic comedy, 'P.S. I Love You' sounds front-heavy, with a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround mix (48kHz/16-bit) that lacks distinction. (Also provided are French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround tracks at 640kbps, plus subtitles in English, Frencha and Spanish.)

Surrounds are meager, with even upbeat club and party scenes lacking zip. The film does make good use of a few melancholy pop songs, but even here there is little bleed to the rears. Thankfully, dynamic range has great pep, with some deep bass during a karaoke scene and a polished, clean sound. Dialogue is strong, too, and well placed front-and-center. It's just too bad that even for a romantic comedy, 'P.S. I Love You' is too restrained.

[review_supplements_stars] => 1.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 0 [review_supplements] =>

As with the Blu-ray, this HD DVD edition of 'P.S. I Love You' gets a pithy batch of supplements -- I guess the film's weak box office didn't exactly inspire Warner to cough up much dough for its high-def release. (Video is both 1080 and 480p/i resolution, and there are optional subtitles in English, French and Spanish.)

  • Featurette: "A Conversation with Cecilia Ahern" (HD, 8 minutes) - For whatever reason, Warner has not included any of the EPK materials produced for 'P.S. I Love You.' Instead, we get this one-on-one with the young and lovely Ahern, who authored the original book upon which the movie is based. It's a pleasant, relatively informative chat, but it can't help but feel like an appetizer rather than a main course.
  • Featurette: "The Name of the Game is Snaps" (HD, 6 minutes) - Wow, a featurette on how to play a game in the movie that was already stupid to begin with. Really, Warner?
  • Alternate Scenes (SD, 12 minutes) - Adding to the cheap feel of the extras, this batch of a half-dozen scenes is thrown together in one big lump (the scenes aren't even listed). The quality is also dull standard-def. The material itself isn't bad, with these alternate takes often substantially different than the scenes featured in the finished cut.
  • Music Video (SD) - Rounding out this anemic set is a clip for the James Blunt tune "Same Mistake."
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content] =>

No exclusives are included.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 2.5 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'P.S. I Love You' is a sensitive, often perceptive comedy, although one that takes one too many wrong story turns (not to mention it's way overlong at over two hours). This HD DVD is a bit of a disappointment -- I found the video lacking, the audio average, and the supplements a but understuffed. Makes a decent rental, though.

) ) [1] => Array ( [review_id] => 441 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => twister [review_release_date] => 1211871600 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Twister [picture_created] => 1189742462 [picture_name] => twister-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Video [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/09/13/120/twister-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/441/twister.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1996 [run_time] => 113 [release_date_notes] => Postponed from January 8, 2008 [list_price] => 28.99 [asin] => B000E5KJDE [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1368450 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.40:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 [1] => 480p/i/MPEG-2 (Supplements Only) ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround [1] => English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround [2] => French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentary [1] => Featurettes [2] => TV Special [3] => Music Video [4] => Theatrical Trailers ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English Subtitles [1] => French Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Action ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Jan de Bont ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => The house rips apart piece by piece. A bellowing cow spins through the air. Tractors fall like rain. A 15,000-pound gasoline tanker becomes an airborne bomb. A mile-wide, 300 miles-per-hour force of total devastation is coming at you: Twister is hitting home. In this adventure swirling with cliffhanging excitement and awesome special effects, Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton play scientists pursuing the most destructive weatherfront to sweep through mid-America's Tornado Alley in 50 years. By launching electronic sensors into the funnel, the storm chasers hope to obtain enough data to create an improved warning system. But to do so, they must intercept the twisters' deadly path. [preview_technology_specifications] => • Audio Commentary by Director Jan De Bont and Visual Effects Supervisor Stefan Fangmeir
• New Featurette “Chasing the Storm: Twister Revisited” • Additional Featurettes: "Anatomy of a Twister," "HBO First Look: The Making of Twister"
• The History Channel Documentary “Nature Tech: Tornadoes”
• Music Video: “Humans Being” by Van Halen
• Theatrical Trailers [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 18528 [review_editors_notes] => Non-format-specific portions of this review were first published in our Blu-ray review of 'Twister.' [review_bottom_line] => Worth a Look [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 57055 [review_movie_stars] => 3 [review_movie] =>

Before he reinvented himself as a director (with 2001’s overlooked horror gem ‘Frailty’) and a cable-television phenom (with HBO’s ‘Big Love’), actor Bill Paxton built his career on a string of character roles. Whether screaming “game over, man!” in ‘Aliens,’ flicking a knife at Schwarzenegger in ‘The Terminator,’ or yucking it up as a used car salesman in ‘True Lies,’ Paxton had a knack for nabbing minor roles in classic blockbusters. His transition into the spotlight began with 1996’s ‘Twister’ -- a critically defunct film from ‘Speed’ director Jan de Bont that pitted Paxton against a devastating tornado in Oklahoma.

Bill Harding (Paxton) and his soon-to-be-ex-wife Jo (Helen Hunt) set aside their differences to help a team of “storm chasers” insert a device into a tornado that will reveal the secrets of other meteorological terrors. Their hope is that it will allow them to create the perfect early-warning technology to save people and predict the path of a tornado. However, they inadvertently stumble into a race with an opposing team of scientists who have more funding, better equipment, and a similar device. Taking advantage of a particularly dangerous storm system, the Harding team rushes to find and track an F5 tornado -- one of the most destructive classes of tornado in the natural world.

Even if I didn’t already know ‘Twister’ had been an early summer blockbuster in 1996, I could’ve identified its big-dumb-fun actioner roots within the first fifteen minutes. The characters are paper thin, the actors are secondary to the CG wizardry of the tornadoes, and the sleazy scientists-in-black inject an unnecessary band of villains into the story. Admittedly, film fans who are able to suspend disbelief and shrug off faulty science will have a much easier time getting into ‘Twister’ and will likely find a lot to enjoy. There are some nasty plot holes to navigate, but a simple scan of the synopsis should clue newcomers into the fact that logic isn’t de Bont’s priority. ‘Twister’ is about slinging crazy amounts of destruction across the screen, recreating a horrifying force of nature, and pitting a helpless pair of ex-lovers against impossible odds.

Screenwriters Michael Crichton and then wife Anne-Marie Martin don’t even attempt to disguise the romantic plot at the heart of the film. Like many filmmakers of summer extravaganzas from the mid-90s, they clearly assumed “man vs. nature” couldn’t possibly provide enough conflict or tension to fill a two-hour film, so a love story, a cautionary tale on career obsession, and a diatribe about funded science were all thrown into the mix. Honestly, the film bulges from an onslaught of subplots that just don’t matter. If the script were stronger, these elements could’ve been excellent additions, but the cookie-cutter screenplay makes it all feel extraneous in light of the actual stars of the film -- the tornadoes. For all of its jabbering and flighty drama, ‘Twister’ is at its best when a tornado is plowing across the screen. If de Bont would have latched onto his CG-birthed disasters instead of the arguments and infighting of the film’s characters, the film would have been more consistently engaging.

And what of Bill Paxton? Like the rest of the performers in ‘Twister’ (which includes a rare campy appearance by Philip Seymour Hoffman), Paxton simply has nothing to work with. The human drama is weak to say the least, offering very little substance to the overall arc of the story, and it fails to create three-dimensional characters that feel authentic. The cast obviously invested as much emotion into each scene as possible, but the dialogue just didn’t cut it. When the actors focus their attention on the film’s true adversaries, the tornadoes, everything clicks together, but when they’re pitted against each other, I simply wanted to fast forwarding to the next chase.

It’s been more than ten years since ‘Twister’ leveled theaters and it still offers a lot of fun for disaster-flick junkies and fans of actioners from the mid-90s. Overall, the story is an overcrowded mess and the characters are cardboard cut-outs compared to the tornadoes themselves. I definitely didn’t despise ‘Twister’ circa 2008… I just didn’t love it as much as I did as a teenager in 1996.

[review_video_stars] => 3.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 5809 [review_video] =>

Along with 'P.S. I Love You,' 'Twister' is one of the last HD DVDs being distributed by Warner Brothers in the US. Like all of their recent HD releases, this one features the same transfer as its Blu-ray counterpart. To cut to the chase, this 1080p/VC-1 transfer will satisfy fans and keep dissenters at a distance.

The first thing I noticed was the clarity of the print -- remastered for its high-def debut, I didn’t catch any source noise, artifacting, edge enhancement, or print deficiencies. Scene to scene contrast is steady and the picture retains its filmic layer of grain without resorting to any messy post-processing effects like DNR. Details receives a healthy upgrade as well. Textures pop, hair and skin look fantastic in close-up shots, and tiny details like the flecked rust on Paxton’s truck add grit and personality to the set design that had I missed when watching the film on DVD. The palette does take an intentionally dismal turn in the second act, but colors remain bold and stable in spite of the overcast skies.

Alas, everything isn’t as incredible as it may seem on first glance. Skin tones consistently flush and fluctuate, sometimes growing pink and pale in the course of the same scene. At times, the actors look as if they’ve been running in circles when they’re actually just sitting and having a conversation. A quick scan of the 2004 SE DVD reveals instances of the same issue, but it’s far more prevalent on the HD DVD version. It doesn't help that several shots seem flat or soft compared to my ideal expectations for the transfer. On a lesser note, delineation is also a bit problematic -- background details that were clear on the DVD are occasionally cloaked in heavier shadows. My assumption is that the heavier shadows are more faithful to the original theatrical print, but there’s no way to be sure.

All in all, ‘Twister’ provides a solid catalog transfer that has a lot to offer fans of the film. It may not pack the same punch as other catalog releases on HD DVD, but it easily trumps every standard DVD on the market.

[review_audio_stars] => 4.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 5807 [review_audio] =>

’Twister’ also offers the same, powerful Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track as its Blu-ray counterpart -- a mix that lives up to the sonic reputation of its highly-regarded DVD predecessor. Dynamics steal the show from the opening credits to the climactic ending and the LFE channel doesn’t just support the mix, it inhabits it. Rumbling thunder, roaring winds, and splintering wood sound perfect and will tear through your speakers with a vengeance. Likewise, the treble-pitched wheen of the high winds never sound shrill, artificial, or overwhelmed by the soundscape. The soundfield itself is spread throughout each channel, and ambiance is particularly impressive in spite of the bombastic nature of the film. Acoustics have been carefully reproduced and voices exhibit varying weights when a scene moves from the interior of a car to the wide expanse of a field. Best of all, pans are transparent, dialogue is clean, and directionality is spot on and eerily realistic.

My only hesitation comes as a result of the track’s vocal prioritization. I recognize that many lines in the film are intentionally engulfed by the raging storms, but I noticed a few unintelligible lines elsewhere as well. Whispered words have a difficult time competing with the abundant ambience in the outdoor scenes, and there were several times where I was tempted to turn on the subtitle track. Of course, fans of the film will attest to the fact that this isn’t a new problem with ‘Twister’ -- the theatrical print and the DVD suffered at times from the same issue. Regardless, I’m confident audiophiles will be pleased to experience the aggression and the resonance of ‘Twister’s high-def release.

[review_supplements_stars] => 3 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 5808 [review_supplements] =>

The HD DVD edition of ‘Twister’ includes all of the supplements that are available on the new 2-disc Special Edition DVD. The content is surprisingly thorough and provides more than the previously-released single-disc Special Edition that most fans probably have on their shelves. My general complaint about the package is that all of the video features are presented in standard definition.

  • Filmmakers’ Commentary -- Director Jan de Bont and visual effects supervisor Stefen Fangmeier discuss the production of ‘Twister’ in this four-year old commentary. The two are far too serious for my tastes (considering the tone of the film), but they offer quite a few nuggets of information about real tornados, liberties taken in the story, and the CG artisans who made a compelling villain out of wind. They also discuss casting, the on-set atmosphere, and the commitment the actors made to the then-uncommon effects process. All in all, fans might find more value in this rather technical track than casual viewers.
  • Chasing the Storm: Twister Revisited (SD, 29 minutes) -- This newly produced retrospective featurette includes fresh interviews with Bill Paxton and de Bont. While it smacks of self-congratulatory nods like most modern EPKs, it makes a fantastic case for ‘Twister’s place in Hollywood history and the heyday of early CG. The fun of the production is revealed more clearly here than in the commentary and it was easy to see why everyone was so proud of their work. This is worth a watch for anyone who even remotely enjoyed the film.
  • The Making of Twister (SD, 14 minutes) -- This production featurette is actually just an HBO “First Look” EPK that whizzes through the film with an obscene amount of film clips and surface-level details. While it does highlight other cast and crew members who don’t pop up in the rest of the supplements, they don’t offer any additional information that isn’t covered somewhere else.
  • Anatomy of a Twister (SD, 9 minutes) -- The most bizarre quality of this quick featurette is how repetitive it feels. Condensing all of the information already garnered from the other supplements, this extended trailer does little to bolster the behind-the-scenes package.
  • Nature Tech: Tornadoes (SD, 44 minutes) -- Even though ‘Twister’ isn’t featured in this History Channel documentary, it easily outclasses the other supplemental material as the most interesting extra on the disc. It explores the nature of tornadoes, their historical ravaging of towns and villages across the world, and the manner in which modern day science is helping to predict and combat such catastrophes.
  • Humans Being (SD, 4 minutes) -- A music video for Van Halen’s song of the same name.
  • Theatrical Trailers (SD, 4 minutes)
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content] =>

Nothing.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 3.5 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 5810 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'Twister' has never been the mecca of natural-disaster flicks. More than ten years after its release, it offers some fond memories and fun chases, but it fails to establish any real bond with its audience. Regardless, fans will be pleased to find that this HD DVD makes the standard DVD irrelevant. It features an above-average video transfer, a powerful Dolby TrueHD audio track, and a generous collection of supplements. While I won't offer a whole-hearted recommendation, I will say this catalog release is worth a look if you're still in the market for HD DVDs.

) ) ) [reviews_hot] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 1414 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => psiloveyou [review_release_date] => 1211871600 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => P.S. I Love You [picture_created] => 1204751157 [picture_name] => ps-i-love-you-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Video [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/03/05/120/ps-i-love-you-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1414/psiloveyou.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2007 [run_time] => 126 [list_price] => 35.98 [asin] => B0015GDVY0 [amazon_price] => 24.95 [empire_id] => 1397606 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.35:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 [1] => 1080i/480i/MPEG-2 (Supplements Only) ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround (48kHz/16-bit) [1] => French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (640kbps) [2] => Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (640kbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Featurettes [1] => Deleted Scenes [2] => Music Video ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles [2] => Spanish Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Comedy [1] => Romance ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Gina Gershon [1] => Lisa Kudrow [2] => Gerard Butler [3] => Hilary Swank ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Richard LaGravenese ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Buy a new outfit. Be a disco diva. Learn to fish. Take a chance. Travel. Laugh. Love. Sometimes all you need to start really living is a little shove in the right direction – and that’s just what Holly Kennedy gets. From the handsome, big-hearted love of her life. From a series of mysterious letters. And from gal pals who know that a friend in need is a friend in need of some laughs! Based on Cecelia Ahern’s joyful bestseller and boasting a top cast led by two-time Academy Award winner Hilary Swank and Gerard Butler (300), P.S. I Love You is your very own message full of fun, love, triumph and romance. [preview_technology_specifications] => • Featurettes: "A Conversation with Cecilia Ahern," "The Name of the Game is Snaps"
• Deleted Scenes
• Music Video by James Blunt [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 47251 [review_editors_notes] =>

Non-format-specific portions of this review were first published in our Blu-ray review of 'P.S. I Love You.'

[review_bottom_line] => Give it a Rent [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 56463 [review_movie_stars] => 3 [review_movie] =>

The old saying goes, "It is better to have loved andbl lost, than never to have loved at all." Try telling that to anyone who has suffered the premature death of a spouse, however, and you may get a different answer. There is perhaps no pain greater, and the emotional devastation can be so damaging that it's easy to understand why the one left behind would want to shut the door on love for good.

That's the central premise of 'P.S. I Love You,' a movie the marketing touted as a light romantic comedy but which is in fact far more somber than your usual entry in the chick-flick genre. Hilary Swank stars as Holly Kennedy, married to the hunky Gerry (Gerard Butler of '300,' sans CGI-enhanced chest). They're struggling, but their passion is as strong as their adverse circumstances. Then Gerry dies unexpectedly of a brain tumor at the age of 35, leaving Swank to pick up the pieces with the help of Gerry's widowed mother (Kathy Bates) and their circle of friends (including Gina Gershon, James Marsters, and Lisa Kudrow).

The hook of 'P.S. I Love You' is that Gerry had secretly written a series of notes and other instructions for Holly that are now appearing with regularity after his death. It's not supernatural, just whimsical (if still a bit credibility-straining), as Gerry directs Holly to let loose at a karaoke bar, take a pre-paid trip to Ireland etc. Holly's adventures will eventually lead to two potential suitors, a local bartender (Harry Connick, Jr.) as well an Irish pub singer (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), who bears a striking resemblance to Gerry.

The early scenes of 'P.S. I Love You' are the darkest of the film, but interestingly, the strongest. Swank is adept at conveying pain with subtlety, which brings a real sense of believability to the character that involves us in the story immediately, even after it quickly succumbs to a disorienting, jerky flashback structure that begins to irritate. It is here that the rhythms and pacing start to feel unnatural, to the point that we begin to expect yet another flashback to a grinning, philosophy-spewing Butler so regularly that it verges on the comical. (Director Richard LaGravanese also has an annoying tendency to try and pump up some thin scenes of drama by constantly cutting to close-ups -- back and forth, back and forth -- it's headache inducing).

Overlong at 127 minutes, 'P.S. I Love You' rambles a bit in its middle section. At the heart of the film is Holly's tug-of-war between holding on to her memories of Gerry, and choosing to love again with either Connick or Morgan. Unfortunately, what should have been a fairly compact story is unnecessarily stuffed with cutesy scenes of Holly falling off a stage during karaoke, fishing in Ireland etc. (all of which seem designed as money shots for the trailer). Thankfully, the third act quickly regains its footing, and is surprisingly effective -- again largely thanks to Swank's keen understanding of Holly's heartbreak. That I had a couple of tears by the end credits speaks to the story's basic power despite the film's flaws.

Ultimately, 'P.S. I Love You' is not an exemplary weepie, but having suffered through far more pedestrian entries in the romantic genre lately ('27 Dresses' comes to mind), it's boosted by a poignant core story and character, and a fine performance by Swank. If you're in the mood for a few laughs, a few tears, and some morose romance,' 'P.S. I Love You' is a note worth reading.

[review_video_stars] => 3 [review_video_picture_id] => 0 [review_video] =>

I didn't expect visual fireworks from 'P.S. I Love You,' but this 1080p/VC-1 transfer left me cold. Identical to the recent Blu-ray version, the film just looks strangely muted and oddly washed out.

As a new release, there's no problem with the source -- its clean (though there is a bit of persistent grain, which adds a film-like look). Unfortunately, blacks lack that rich, inky depth of the best transfers, giving a weirdly flat quality to the film. Colors also have some vibrant splashes, but are generally murky and lacking in purity. Detail is better, and richer scenes do have some dimension, but overall I just wasn't impressed with 'P.S. I Love You.'

[review_audio_stars] => 3 [review_audio_picture_id] => 0 [review_audio] =>

Typical of a romantic comedy, 'P.S. I Love You' sounds front-heavy, with a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround mix (48kHz/16-bit) that lacks distinction. (Also provided are French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround tracks at 640kbps, plus subtitles in English, Frencha and Spanish.)

Surrounds are meager, with even upbeat club and party scenes lacking zip. The film does make good use of a few melancholy pop songs, but even here there is little bleed to the rears. Thankfully, dynamic range has great pep, with some deep bass during a karaoke scene and a polished, clean sound. Dialogue is strong, too, and well placed front-and-center. It's just too bad that even for a romantic comedy, 'P.S. I Love You' is too restrained.

[review_supplements_stars] => 1.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 0 [review_supplements] =>

As with the Blu-ray, this HD DVD edition of 'P.S. I Love You' gets a pithy batch of supplements -- I guess the film's weak box office didn't exactly inspire Warner to cough up much dough for its high-def release. (Video is both 1080 and 480p/i resolution, and there are optional subtitles in English, French and Spanish.)

  • Featurette: "A Conversation with Cecilia Ahern" (HD, 8 minutes) - For whatever reason, Warner has not included any of the EPK materials produced for 'P.S. I Love You.' Instead, we get this one-on-one with the young and lovely Ahern, who authored the original book upon which the movie is based. It's a pleasant, relatively informative chat, but it can't help but feel like an appetizer rather than a main course.
  • Featurette: "The Name of the Game is Snaps" (HD, 6 minutes) - Wow, a featurette on how to play a game in the movie that was already stupid to begin with. Really, Warner?
  • Alternate Scenes (SD, 12 minutes) - Adding to the cheap feel of the extras, this batch of a half-dozen scenes is thrown together in one big lump (the scenes aren't even listed). The quality is also dull standard-def. The material itself isn't bad, with these alternate takes often substantially different than the scenes featured in the finished cut.
  • Music Video (SD) - Rounding out this anemic set is a clip for the James Blunt tune "Same Mistake."
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content] =>

No exclusives are included.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 2.5 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'P.S. I Love You' is a sensitive, often perceptive comedy, although one that takes one too many wrong story turns (not to mention it's way overlong at over two hours). This HD DVD is a bit of a disappointment -- I found the video lacking, the audio average, and the supplements a but understuffed. Makes a decent rental, though.

) ) [1] => Array ( [review_id] => 441 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => twister [review_release_date] => 1211871600 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Twister [picture_created] => 1189742462 [picture_name] => twister-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Video [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/09/13/120/twister-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/441/twister.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1996 [run_time] => 113 [release_date_notes] => Postponed from January 8, 2008 [list_price] => 28.99 [asin] => B000E5KJDE [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1368450 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.40:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 [1] => 480p/i/MPEG-2 (Supplements Only) ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround [1] => English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround [2] => French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentary [1] => Featurettes [2] => TV Special [3] => Music Video [4] => Theatrical Trailers ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English Subtitles [1] => French Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Action ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Jan de Bont ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => The house rips apart piece by piece. A bellowing cow spins through the air. Tractors fall like rain. A 15,000-pound gasoline tanker becomes an airborne bomb. A mile-wide, 300 miles-per-hour force of total devastation is coming at you: Twister is hitting home. In this adventure swirling with cliffhanging excitement and awesome special effects, Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton play scientists pursuing the most destructive weatherfront to sweep through mid-America's Tornado Alley in 50 years. By launching electronic sensors into the funnel, the storm chasers hope to obtain enough data to create an improved warning system. But to do so, they must intercept the twisters' deadly path. [preview_technology_specifications] => • Audio Commentary by Director Jan De Bont and Visual Effects Supervisor Stefan Fangmeir
• New Featurette “Chasing the Storm: Twister Revisited” • Additional Featurettes: "Anatomy of a Twister," "HBO First Look: The Making of Twister"
• The History Channel Documentary “Nature Tech: Tornadoes”
• Music Video: “Humans Being” by Van Halen
• Theatrical Trailers [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 18528 [review_editors_notes] => Non-format-specific portions of this review were first published in our Blu-ray review of 'Twister.' [review_bottom_line] => Worth a Look [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 57055 [review_movie_stars] => 3 [review_movie] =>

Before he reinvented himself as a director (with 2001’s overlooked horror gem ‘Frailty’) and a cable-television phenom (with HBO’s ‘Big Love’), actor Bill Paxton built his career on a string of character roles. Whether screaming “game over, man!” in ‘Aliens,’ flicking a knife at Schwarzenegger in ‘The Terminator,’ or yucking it up as a used car salesman in ‘True Lies,’ Paxton had a knack for nabbing minor roles in classic blockbusters. His transition into the spotlight began with 1996’s ‘Twister’ -- a critically defunct film from ‘Speed’ director Jan de Bont that pitted Paxton against a devastating tornado in Oklahoma.

Bill Harding (Paxton) and his soon-to-be-ex-wife Jo (Helen Hunt) set aside their differences to help a team of “storm chasers” insert a device into a tornado that will reveal the secrets of other meteorological terrors. Their hope is that it will allow them to create the perfect early-warning technology to save people and predict the path of a tornado. However, they inadvertently stumble into a race with an opposing team of scientists who have more funding, better equipment, and a similar device. Taking advantage of a particularly dangerous storm system, the Harding team rushes to find and track an F5 tornado -- one of the most destructive classes of tornado in the natural world.

Even if I didn’t already know ‘Twister’ had been an early summer blockbuster in 1996, I could’ve identified its big-dumb-fun actioner roots within the first fifteen minutes. The characters are paper thin, the actors are secondary to the CG wizardry of the tornadoes, and the sleazy scientists-in-black inject an unnecessary band of villains into the story. Admittedly, film fans who are able to suspend disbelief and shrug off faulty science will have a much easier time getting into ‘Twister’ and will likely find a lot to enjoy. There are some nasty plot holes to navigate, but a simple scan of the synopsis should clue newcomers into the fact that logic isn’t de Bont’s priority. ‘Twister’ is about slinging crazy amounts of destruction across the screen, recreating a horrifying force of nature, and pitting a helpless pair of ex-lovers against impossible odds.

Screenwriters Michael Crichton and then wife Anne-Marie Martin don’t even attempt to disguise the romantic plot at the heart of the film. Like many filmmakers of summer extravaganzas from the mid-90s, they clearly assumed “man vs. nature” couldn’t possibly provide enough conflict or tension to fill a two-hour film, so a love story, a cautionary tale on career obsession, and a diatribe about funded science were all thrown into the mix. Honestly, the film bulges from an onslaught of subplots that just don’t matter. If the script were stronger, these elements could’ve been excellent additions, but the cookie-cutter screenplay makes it all feel extraneous in light of the actual stars of the film -- the tornadoes. For all of its jabbering and flighty drama, ‘Twister’ is at its best when a tornado is plowing across the screen. If de Bont would have latched onto his CG-birthed disasters instead of the arguments and infighting of the film’s characters, the film would have been more consistently engaging.

And what of Bill Paxton? Like the rest of the performers in ‘Twister’ (which includes a rare campy appearance by Philip Seymour Hoffman), Paxton simply has nothing to work with. The human drama is weak to say the least, offering very little substance to the overall arc of the story, and it fails to create three-dimensional characters that feel authentic. The cast obviously invested as much emotion into each scene as possible, but the dialogue just didn’t cut it. When the actors focus their attention on the film’s true adversaries, the tornadoes, everything clicks together, but when they’re pitted against each other, I simply wanted to fast forwarding to the next chase.

It’s been more than ten years since ‘Twister’ leveled theaters and it still offers a lot of fun for disaster-flick junkies and fans of actioners from the mid-90s. Overall, the story is an overcrowded mess and the characters are cardboard cut-outs compared to the tornadoes themselves. I definitely didn’t despise ‘Twister’ circa 2008… I just didn’t love it as much as I did as a teenager in 1996.

[review_video_stars] => 3.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 5809 [review_video] =>

Along with 'P.S. I Love You,' 'Twister' is one of the last HD DVDs being distributed by Warner Brothers in the US. Like all of their recent HD releases, this one features the same transfer as its Blu-ray counterpart. To cut to the chase, this 1080p/VC-1 transfer will satisfy fans and keep dissenters at a distance.

The first thing I noticed was the clarity of the print -- remastered for its high-def debut, I didn’t catch any source noise, artifacting, edge enhancement, or print deficiencies. Scene to scene contrast is steady and the picture retains its filmic layer of grain without resorting to any messy post-processing effects like DNR. Details receives a healthy upgrade as well. Textures pop, hair and skin look fantastic in close-up shots, and tiny details like the flecked rust on Paxton’s truck add grit and personality to the set design that had I missed when watching the film on DVD. The palette does take an intentionally dismal turn in the second act, but colors remain bold and stable in spite of the overcast skies.

Alas, everything isn’t as incredible as it may seem on first glance. Skin tones consistently flush and fluctuate, sometimes growing pink and pale in the course of the same scene. At times, the actors look as if they’ve been running in circles when they’re actually just sitting and having a conversation. A quick scan of the 2004 SE DVD reveals instances of the same issue, but it’s far more prevalent on the HD DVD version. It doesn't help that several shots seem flat or soft compared to my ideal expectations for the transfer. On a lesser note, delineation is also a bit problematic -- background details that were clear on the DVD are occasionally cloaked in heavier shadows. My assumption is that the heavier shadows are more faithful to the original theatrical print, but there’s no way to be sure.

All in all, ‘Twister’ provides a solid catalog transfer that has a lot to offer fans of the film. It may not pack the same punch as other catalog releases on HD DVD, but it easily trumps every standard DVD on the market.

[review_audio_stars] => 4.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 5807 [review_audio] =>

’Twister’ also offers the same, powerful Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track as its Blu-ray counterpart -- a mix that lives up to the sonic reputation of its highly-regarded DVD predecessor. Dynamics steal the show from the opening credits to the climactic ending and the LFE channel doesn’t just support the mix, it inhabits it. Rumbling thunder, roaring winds, and splintering wood sound perfect and will tear through your speakers with a vengeance. Likewise, the treble-pitched wheen of the high winds never sound shrill, artificial, or overwhelmed by the soundscape. The soundfield itself is spread throughout each channel, and ambiance is particularly impressive in spite of the bombastic nature of the film. Acoustics have been carefully reproduced and voices exhibit varying weights when a scene moves from the interior of a car to the wide expanse of a field. Best of all, pans are transparent, dialogue is clean, and directionality is spot on and eerily realistic.

My only hesitation comes as a result of the track’s vocal prioritization. I recognize that many lines in the film are intentionally engulfed by the raging storms, but I noticed a few unintelligible lines elsewhere as well. Whispered words have a difficult time competing with the abundant ambience in the outdoor scenes, and there were several times where I was tempted to turn on the subtitle track. Of course, fans of the film will attest to the fact that this isn’t a new problem with ‘Twister’ -- the theatrical print and the DVD suffered at times from the same issue. Regardless, I’m confident audiophiles will be pleased to experience the aggression and the resonance of ‘Twister’s high-def release.

[review_supplements_stars] => 3 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 5808 [review_supplements] =>

The HD DVD edition of ‘Twister’ includes all of the supplements that are available on the new 2-disc Special Edition DVD. The content is surprisingly thorough and provides more than the previously-released single-disc Special Edition that most fans probably have on their shelves. My general complaint about the package is that all of the video features are presented in standard definition.

  • Filmmakers’ Commentary -- Director Jan de Bont and visual effects supervisor Stefen Fangmeier discuss the production of ‘Twister’ in this four-year old commentary. The two are far too serious for my tastes (considering the tone of the film), but they offer quite a few nuggets of information about real tornados, liberties taken in the story, and the CG artisans who made a compelling villain out of wind. They also discuss casting, the on-set atmosphere, and the commitment the actors made to the then-uncommon effects process. All in all, fans might find more value in this rather technical track than casual viewers.
  • Chasing the Storm: Twister Revisited (SD, 29 minutes) -- This newly produced retrospective featurette includes fresh interviews with Bill Paxton and de Bont. While it smacks of self-congratulatory nods like most modern EPKs, it makes a fantastic case for ‘Twister’s place in Hollywood history and the heyday of early CG. The fun of the production is revealed more clearly here than in the commentary and it was easy to see why everyone was so proud of their work. This is worth a watch for anyone who even remotely enjoyed the film.
  • The Making of Twister (SD, 14 minutes) -- This production featurette is actually just an HBO “First Look” EPK that whizzes through the film with an obscene amount of film clips and surface-level details. While it does highlight other cast and crew members who don’t pop up in the rest of the supplements, they don’t offer any additional information that isn’t covered somewhere else.
  • Anatomy of a Twister (SD, 9 minutes) -- The most bizarre quality of this quick featurette is how repetitive it feels. Condensing all of the information already garnered from the other supplements, this extended trailer does little to bolster the behind-the-scenes package.
  • Nature Tech: Tornadoes (SD, 44 minutes) -- Even though ‘Twister’ isn’t featured in this History Channel documentary, it easily outclasses the other supplemental material as the most interesting extra on the disc. It explores the nature of tornadoes, their historical ravaging of towns and villages across the world, and the manner in which modern day science is helping to predict and combat such catastrophes.
  • Humans Being (SD, 4 minutes) -- A music video for Van Halen’s song of the same name.
  • Theatrical Trailers (SD, 4 minutes)
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content] =>

Nothing.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 3.5 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 5810 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'Twister' has never been the mecca of natural-disaster flicks. More than ten years after its release, it offers some fond memories and fun chases, but it fails to establish any real bond with its audience. Regardless, fans will be pleased to find that this HD DVD makes the standard DVD irrelevant. It features an above-average video transfer, a powerful Dolby TrueHD audio track, and a generous collection of supplements. While I won't offer a whole-hearted recommendation, I will say this catalog release is worth a look if you're still in the market for HD DVDs.

) ) ) ) [May 20, 2008] => Array ( [reviews] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 416 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => oceanseleven [review_release_date] => 1211266800 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Ocean's Eleven [picture_created] => 1211266419 [picture_name] => eleven.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/05/19/120/eleven.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/416/oceanseleven.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2001 [run_time] => 116 [list_price] => 28.98 [amazon_price] => 0.00 [empire_id] => 683101 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.40:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 [1] => 480p/i/MPEG-2 (Supplements Only) ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround [1] => French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround [2] => Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 2.0 [3] => Japanese Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentaries [1] => Featurette [2] => TV Special [3] => Theatrical Trailers ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English Subtitles [1] => French Subtitles [2] => Spanish Subtitles [3] => Japanese Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Comedy [1] => Crime ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Andy Garcia [1] => Don Cheadle [2] => Matt Damon [3] => Julia Roberts [4] => Brad Pitt [5] => George Clooney ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Steven Soderbergh ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Danny Ocean likes his chances. All he asks is that his handpicked squad of 10 grifters and cons play the game like they have nothing to lose. If all goes right, the payoff will be a fat $150 million. Divided by 11. You do the math. [preview_technology_specifications] => • Audio Commentary with Steven Soderberg and Ted Griffin
• Audio Commentary with Brad Pitt, Andy Garcia and Matt Damon
• Featurette: "The Look of the Con"
• HBO FIrst Look Special
• Theatrical Trailers [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 46404 [review_editors_notes] =>

This stand-alone HD DVD edition of 'Ocean's Eleven' is identical to the version that was included in the 'Ocean's Trilogy Giftset' released in November of 2007. Fans who already own the trilogy box-set won't find any upgrades or improvements on this disc.

Portions of this review were also published in our Blu-ray review of 'Ocean's Eleven.'

[review_bottom_line] => Recommended [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 55840 [review_movie_stars] => 5 [review_movie] =>

In 2001, indie mastermind Stephen Soderbergh was at the top of his game. He had quickly risen through the Hollywood ranks with intelligent films that challenged audiences, impressed critics, and garnered the respect of his industry peers. Even a pulpy heist flick like ‘Ocean’s 11’ stood out from the crowd, receiving rave reviews and grossing more than $450 million worldwide. For once, I don't plan to argue with that consensus. There’s nothing like watching a bunch of sure-handed, quick-witted anti-heroes develop and execute an unimaginably elaborate heist.

’Ocean’s Eleven’ introduces us to Danny Ocean (George Clooney), a criminal mastermind whose unshakably cool demeanor masks a staggering intellect. Danny has emerged from a stint in prison, obsessed with robbing three of Vegas’ top casinos at once. His target? Casino owner Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), a ruthless businessman who stores the daily profits of all his casinos in a single, impenetrable vault. Danny assembles the best thieves in the business -- a close friend (Brad Pitt), a young upstart (Matt Damon), an old hand (Carl Reiner), a British demolitions expert (Don Cheadle), a loud-mouthed conman (Bernie Mac), and two bickering foot-soldiers (Scott Caan and Casey Affleck), among others. He even takes some time to reconnect with his ex-wife (Julia Roberts) in the midst of his heist plans.

Soderbergh’s first ‘Ocean’ film is easily the strongest of the trilogy -- it also happens to be one of my favorite films of all time. Ted Griffin’s light-footed screenplay is rife with stylish dialogue that the cast delivers with sharp tongues and cool wit. Better still, the interplay between Clooney and Pitt instantly imbues the pair with a classic sense of loyalty and friendship. The plot doesn’t even have to take time to fill in the origins of the supporting characters, because the lead performances make such minor backstories irrelevant. The tone of the ensemble's interactions suggests a long-running relationship between most of the thieves, allowing the imagination to simmer with thoughts of other jobs the crew have worked on in the past.

The script is supported by Soderbergh’s breezy direction, perfect pacing, and effortless editing. The director is a confident storyteller and there isn’t a single scene that doesn’t serve a purpose. His first act establishes everything a viewer needs to know, while introducing a pile of characters at breakneck speed -- it’s a testament to Soderbergh’s talent that each player receives plenty of attention without losing anyone in the shuffle. The second act loads everyone onto a rollercoaster as the bunch plan their heist. It’s an intricate setup, but Soderbergh keeps the robbery clear and concise (while still concealing every trick and turn from his audience). Everything collides in a thrilling final act that balances sleight of hand with humor to deliver a truly satisfying end to the tale. The climactic heist is epic and entertaining -- a stunning finale that’s as mesmerizing now as it was the first time I saw it.

How good is ‘Ocean’s Eleven?’ It sets the bar so high that its two sequels have a difficult time living up to its standards. Its tone and style may not be for everyone (as evidenced by a small but disgruntled crowd that doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about), but it’s the sort of flick I can throw in again and again. I adore the engaging screenplay, the clever performances, and Soderbergh’s whimsical take on the heist film. In the end, ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ is a true genre classic that everyone should see at least once.

[review_video_stars] => 4.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 5746 [review_video] =>

Even though it's the oldest film in the series, 'Ocean's Eleven' easily boasts the most impressive visual experience of the trilogy with its impressive 1080p/VC-1 transfer. The palette subtly changes throughout the film, but colors remain sturdy throughout, offering natural skintones and vibrant primaries. Detail is also exceptionally sharp -- clothing textures, individual strands of hair, and even the tiniest text on casino chips are crisp and lovingly rendered on screen. The entire image has a natural pop that makes the Vegas casinos look warm and inviting. Likewise, daytime exteriors offer excellent contrast, while nighttime interiors simmer with deep black levels. To be fair, the transfer doesn't have the same directorial hurdles to overcome as its 'Ocean' brethren. Aside from its noticeable grainfield, 'Eleven' doesn't suffer from the bizarre crush and coloring oddities Soderbergh used to craft the look of his sequels.

I did catch a few small bursts of artifacting, but I likely would have missed each instance if I hadn't specifically been looking for it. In fact, the only real nitpick I have with the picture quality of 'Ocean's Eleven' is that a few specks and scratches mar the print on occasion. Still, compared to the muddy standard DVD, this HD DVD edition is an absolute godsend. Fans will be extremely pleased to see how great 'Ocean's Eleven' looks in high definition.

[review_audio_stars] => 3.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 5747 [review_audio] =>

'Ocean's Eleven' features a standard Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 surround track (identical to the Blu-ray DD mix at 640kbps) that doesn't pack a lot of punch. The film is a dialogue driven affair in which light quips dominate the central channels and push the bulk of the soundfield forward. Conversations are always crisp and well prioritized, and I never had to strain to hear the actors speak. In fact, the most exciting element of the track is 'Eleven's jazzy score, fluttering solos, and piercing riffs. Every last note of the improv-laden music dances through the soundscape -- saxophones have a satisfying growl, trumpets pack a stable punch, and the riz-at-dat of the drums sound clearer than they did on the standard DVD.

Unfortunately, the audio mix rarely takes advantage of the rear surrounds -- the busy casinos in 'Ocean's Eleven' are shoved into the background and fail to provide the same all-encompassing bings and dings of a genuine Vegas casino. Ambiance is relegated to the bottom of the soundscape and very little attention seems to have been invested in the developing the immersive properties of the track. Add to that a series of underwhelming dynamics (with a minimal LFE presence to boot) and the track quickly amounts to a mildly disappointing experience.

Make no mistake, the DD+ track handles everything Soderbergh throws its way with relative ease. It just doesn't pack the sort of sonic wow factor you'll find on better high-def releases.

[review_supplements_stars] => 3 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 5748 [review_supplements] =>

'Ocean's Eleven' includes all of the special features that originally appeared on the standard DVD. It also has the most thorough supplemental package of the trilogy, offering fans a cast commentary in addition to the filmmakers' track. The only real disappointment here is that Clooney is MIA from the proceedings.

  • Director and Writer Commentary -- Steven Soderbergh and Ted Griffin deliver a dry but informative track that does a suitable job of describing the work that went into the film. Sadly, Griffin sucks much of the life out of the track, leaving the usually quick-witted Soderbergh to dole out boring location details and camera angles.
  • Cast Commentary -- Actors Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, and Andy Garcia sit down to deliver a hilarious chat that covers every aspect of the production. I loved listening to their anecdotes and playful barbs. Pitt is a riot, tapping into his trademark deadpan charm to provide joke after joke at the expense of his fellow cast and crew. Damon has a blast, providing a revealing glimpse into Soderbergh's directorial personality and style. Garcia feels like the old man of the group, but he mingles well enough. This is an excellent track that had me smiling from beginning to end.
  • The Look of the Con (SD, 10 minutes) -- Costume featurettes generally don't catch my attention, but this one matches the tone of the film itself. Quirky, candid, and entertaining, this segment actually gave me something new to look for next time I watch the film.
  • HBO First Look (SD, 15 minutes) -- More an extended trailer than anything else, this fluffy EPK isn't worth your time. If you've seen one "HBO First Look" segment, you've seen them all.
  • Theatrical Trailers (SD, 5 minutes) -- A collection of theatrical teasers and full length trailers for the film.
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content] =>

Nothing.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 4 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 5749 [review_final_thoughts] =>

’Ocean’s Eleven’ is a fantastic heist film in which Steven Soderbergh perfectly balances his indie sensibilities with pulpy, mainstream filmmaking. This HD DVD edition is just as appealing. It features a fairly standard Dolby Digital Plus audio track, a top notch video transfer, and generous supplemental package that makes it an easy one to recommend. If you didn’t already pick up the trilogy giftset this past holiday season, take the opportunity to nab the best of the bunch with this individual release.

) ) [1] => Array ( [review_id] => 417 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => oceanstwelve [review_release_date] => 1211266800 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Ocean's Twelve [picture_created] => 1211266891 [picture_name] => twelve.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/05/20/120/twelve.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/417/oceanstwelve.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2005 [run_time] => 125 [list_price] => 28.98 [amazon_price] => 0.00 [empire_id] => 1397222 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.40:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentary [1] => Deleted Scenes [2] => TV Special ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround [1] => French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround [2] => Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 2.0 Surround [3] => Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => None ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English Subtitles [1] => French Subtitles [2] => Spanish Subtitles [3] => Japanese Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Caper [1] => Comedy ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Catherine Zeta-Jones [1] => Brad Pitt [2] => George Clooney ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Steven Soderbergh ) [preview_technology_specifications] => • Theatrical Trailers [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 46404 [review_editors_notes] =>

The HD DVD edition of 'Ocean's Twelve' is identical to the version that was included in the 'Ocean's Trilogy Giftset' released in November of 2007. Fans who already own the trilogy box-set won't find any upgrades or improvements on this disc.

Portions of this review were also published in our Blu-ray review of 'Ocean's Twelve.'

[review_bottom_line] => Rent it First [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 55911 [review_movie_stars] => 3 [review_movie] =>

In 2001, indie wunderkind Stephen Soderbergh released his pulpy heist classic 'Ocean's Eleven' to rave reviews and more than $450 million in worldwide ticket sales. Alas, his inevitable sequel, ‘Ocean’s Twelve,’ was critically crucified, tied to Entertainment Weekly’s chariot, and dragged in the mud until it was unrecognizable. Lucky for me, I’m still able to enjoy a sequel even if it doesn’t live up to the original. Sure, Soderbergh’s second heist never reaches the heights of his crew’s first outing, but it still manages to stand out from the majority of modern heist films on the market.

'Ocean's Twelve' takes the ragtag team from ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ out of Vegas and sets them loose in Paris, Amsterdam, and Rome. Three years after their successful triple-casino robbery, a vengeful Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) tracks down the crew and forces them to earn back his stolen loot (plus interest). Doing what they do best, the team focuses on a series of intricate heists to reach their fundraising goals, but it won't be so easy this time, as they have to contend with a rival thief (Vincent Cassel), a feisty agent of the law (Catherine Zeta-Jones), and a reluctant new team member.

’Ocean’s Twelve’ was physically assaulted by critics upon its theatrical release in 2004 and, to an extent, I agree with the majority of their complaints. Although it brims with the same sort of wisecracking shenanigans as its predecessor, this sequel has a vastly different tone, one that sometimes loses its focus due to an endless number of subplots and plot twists.

The heart of the problem may stem from the fact that the screenplay wasn't originally written as 'Ocean's Twelve,' but was meant to be an entirely different film, called 'Honor Among Thieves.' After Soderbergh became interested in the script, he and writer George Nolfi altered the screenplay to make it work as the next entry in the series. The resulting film suffers from something of an identity crisis and certainly doesn't feel like a flawless extension of 'Ocean's Eleven.'

That being said, there's still a lot to enjoy in 'Ocean's Twelve'-- by my estimation, it isn't nearly as bad as many critics have made it out to be. Brad Pitt and Matt Damon sink their teeth into more centralized roles, with their clever banter with Clooney remaining as kinetic as ever. Better still, a series of larger-than-life opponents toy with each criminal and give the team a genuine challenge, even as they struggle with the difficulties of their lifestyles and face the consequences of their actions. The endgame may not be as strong as the vault robbery in 'Ocean's Eleven,' but Soderbergh still has plenty of aces up his sleeve.

I'll be the first to admit that 'Ocean's Twelve' isn't perfect. It visibly struggles to rekindle the fire of ‘Eleven’ and it has a hard time with the change in scenery. Still, clever characters and witty dialogue are the real draw here and, on that level, the sequel is quite consistent. I still enjoyed watching Soderbergh’s crew of first-rate actors having a ball. If you can turn off the overly critical portion of your brain, I’ll bet you'll find plenty of things to love scattered throughout this critically-panned sequel.

[review_video_stars] => 2.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 5754 [review_video] =>

'Ocean's Twelve' features a 1080p/VC-1 transfer that offers the worst visual experience of the trilogy. While it occasionally maintains the bright contrast of ‘Ocean’s Eleven,’ it relinquishes the first film’s crisp detailing and image depth. Soderbergh intentionally submerges the film in heavy, crushed shadows that strip faces and locations of the high definition pop I look for on every Blu-ray release. Noise is more aggressive this time around -- in some scenes I actually had trouble telling whether I was seeing heavy grain, digital noise, or some sort of technical deficiency on the disc. The transfer may have Soderbergh’s approval, but I have to say, it isn’t my flavor. Compared to the standard DVD, this transfer merely offers a fundamental upgrade.

There is an upside I suppose -- the transfer looks as good as it ever will. Soderbergh isn’t concerned with making this particular film technically attractive under close scrutiny. Those of you who bemoan low ratings which penalize director’s intent should be very happy with the soft murky mess that is ‘Ocean’s Twelve.’ Personally, I can’t help but be disappointed after watching the eye-catching presentation of the first film. Ah well, at least it isn’t plagued by the bizarre color discrepancies of ‘Ocean’s Thirteen.’

[review_audio_stars] => 3.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 5755 [review_audio] =>

'Ocean's Twelve' sounds much better than it looks, in spite of the fact that it only include a standard Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 surround track (identical to the Blu-ray at 640kbps). Like the other entries in the trilogy, Soderbergh's second shot at the heist genre is largely a conversation driven experience that doesn't offer many "wow" moments. Thankfully, dialogue is always crisp and nicely prioritized despite the fact that the soundfield is anchored to the front channels. There are a few, intentionally hushed lines that are difficult to decipher, but they rightfully add to the mystique of the plot rather than distracting as a technical deficiency of the track. Like 'Eleven' and 'Thirteen,' the most exciting element of the mix is the score and soundtrack. Evolving to incorporate its jazzy riffs with international flavors of music, 'Ocean's Twelve' features the most diverse soundtrack of the trilogy. Heavy strings, a variety of percussive beats, and the ever-present horns live up to their potential.

Unfortunately, the mix rarely take advantage of the rear soundstage, leaving the crowded streets of Europe sounding distinctly sparse. Ambiance isn't a priority and the sound designers apparently weren't tasked with creating an immersive track. Dynamics are a bit more impressive than in 'Eleven' or 'Thirteen,' but the increased LFE presence fails to make the experience stand out from the rest of the trilogy. Make no mistake, the DD+ mix handles everything Soderbergh throws its way with relative ease -- it just fails to pack the same punch as better high-def releases.

[review_supplements_stars] => 0 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 0 [review_supplements] =>

Like its standard DVD counterpart, 'Ocean's Twelve' doesn't include any non-exclusive special features save a collection of trailers.

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 2 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 5756 [review_bonus_content] =>

First released as a barebones DVD with no special features whatsoever, 'Ocean's Twelve' marks the first appearance of several special features exclusive to the critically-drubbed sequel.

  • Director and Writer Commentary -- Clearly recorded after the chilly reception to 'Ocean's Twelve' (but before the release of 'Ocean's Thirteen'), Soderbergh and screenwriter Nolfi provide a stirring defense of the film that detractors should listen to. I think it touches on many of the finer points of 'Ocean's Twelve' that were overlooked by critics and audiences when it hit theaters. This is a dense and interesting track that covers every detail about the characters, their relationships, the script, and the process of adapting Nolfi's original screenplay for the 'Ocean's' universe.
  • Additional Footage (SD, 28 minutes) -- The real draw of the supplemental package on 'Ocean's Twelve' is this half-hour's worth of deleted scenes and alternate takes. While none of these scenes would have enhanced the final film, they do give us a chance to watch the cast have fun with a few meaty scenes. I thoroughly enjoyed this collection.
  • HBO First Look (SD, 13 minutes) -- Even flashier than the "First Look" included on 'Ocean's Eleven,' this promotional short is grating. Worse still, it reveals precious few details about the international production.
[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 3 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 5757 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'Ocean's Twelve' was skewered by critics and audiences who were expecting Soderbergh to top the inventiveness of 'Ocean's Eleven.' I don't think the results are nearly as deplorable as others have stated, but I can definitely understand the roots of their disappointment. The HD DVD edition of 'Twelve' provides a middle-of-the-road experience as well. Its faithful but problematic video transfer, suitable audio track, and decent collection of supplements never seal the deal. Give this one a rent and decide for yourself.

) ) ) [reviews_hot] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 416 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => oceanseleven [review_release_date] => 1211266800 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Ocean's Eleven [picture_created] => 1211266419 [picture_name] => eleven.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/05/19/120/eleven.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/416/oceanseleven.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2001 [run_time] => 116 [list_price] => 28.98 [amazon_price] => 0.00 [empire_id] => 683101 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.40:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 [1] => 480p/i/MPEG-2 (Supplements Only) ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround [1] => French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround [2] => Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 2.0 [3] => Japanese Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentaries [1] => Featurette [2] => TV Special [3] => Theatrical Trailers ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English Subtitles [1] => French Subtitles [2] => Spanish Subtitles [3] => Japanese Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Comedy [1] => Crime ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Andy Garcia [1] => Don Cheadle [2] => Matt Damon [3] => Julia Roberts [4] => Brad Pitt [5] => George Clooney ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Steven Soderbergh ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Danny Ocean likes his chances. All he asks is that his handpicked squad of 10 grifters and cons play the game like they have nothing to lose. If all goes right, the payoff will be a fat $150 million. Divided by 11. You do the math. [preview_technology_specifications] => • Audio Commentary with Steven Soderberg and Ted Griffin
• Audio Commentary with Brad Pitt, Andy Garcia and Matt Damon
• Featurette: "The Look of the Con"
• HBO FIrst Look Special
• Theatrical Trailers [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 46404 [review_editors_notes] =>

This stand-alone HD DVD edition of 'Ocean's Eleven' is identical to the version that was included in the 'Ocean's Trilogy Giftset' released in November of 2007. Fans who already own the trilogy box-set won't find any upgrades or improvements on this disc.

Portions of this review were also published in our Blu-ray review of 'Ocean's Eleven.'

[review_bottom_line] => Recommended [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 55840 [review_movie_stars] => 5 [review_movie] =>

In 2001, indie mastermind Stephen Soderbergh was at the top of his game. He had quickly risen through the Hollywood ranks with intelligent films that challenged audiences, impressed critics, and garnered the respect of his industry peers. Even a pulpy heist flick like ‘Ocean’s 11’ stood out from the crowd, receiving rave reviews and grossing more than $450 million worldwide. For once, I don't plan to argue with that consensus. There’s nothing like watching a bunch of sure-handed, quick-witted anti-heroes develop and execute an unimaginably elaborate heist.

’Ocean’s Eleven’ introduces us to Danny Ocean (George Clooney), a criminal mastermind whose unshakably cool demeanor masks a staggering intellect. Danny has emerged from a stint in prison, obsessed with robbing three of Vegas’ top casinos at once. His target? Casino owner Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), a ruthless businessman who stores the daily profits of all his casinos in a single, impenetrable vault. Danny assembles the best thieves in the business -- a close friend (Brad Pitt), a young upstart (Matt Damon), an old hand (Carl Reiner), a British demolitions expert (Don Cheadle), a loud-mouthed conman (Bernie Mac), and two bickering foot-soldiers (Scott Caan and Casey Affleck), among others. He even takes some time to reconnect with his ex-wife (Julia Roberts) in the midst of his heist plans.

Soderbergh’s first ‘Ocean’ film is easily the strongest of the trilogy -- it also happens to be one of my favorite films of all time. Ted Griffin’s light-footed screenplay is rife with stylish dialogue that the cast delivers with sharp tongues and cool wit. Better still, the interplay between Clooney and Pitt instantly imbues the pair with a classic sense of loyalty and friendship. The plot doesn’t even have to take time to fill in the origins of the supporting characters, because the lead performances make such minor backstories irrelevant. The tone of the ensemble's interactions suggests a long-running relationship between most of the thieves, allowing the imagination to simmer with thoughts of other jobs the crew have worked on in the past.

The script is supported by Soderbergh’s breezy direction, perfect pacing, and effortless editing. The director is a confident storyteller and there isn’t a single scene that doesn’t serve a purpose. His first act establishes everything a viewer needs to know, while introducing a pile of characters at breakneck speed -- it’s a testament to Soderbergh’s talent that each player receives plenty of attention without losing anyone in the shuffle. The second act loads everyone onto a rollercoaster as the bunch plan their heist. It’s an intricate setup, but Soderbergh keeps the robbery clear and concise (while still concealing every trick and turn from his audience). Everything collides in a thrilling final act that balances sleight of hand with humor to deliver a truly satisfying end to the tale. The climactic heist is epic and entertaining -- a stunning finale that’s as mesmerizing now as it was the first time I saw it.

How good is ‘Ocean’s Eleven?’ It sets the bar so high that its two sequels have a difficult time living up to its standards. Its tone and style may not be for everyone (as evidenced by a small but disgruntled crowd that doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about), but it’s the sort of flick I can throw in again and again. I adore the engaging screenplay, the clever performances, and Soderbergh’s whimsical take on the heist film. In the end, ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ is a true genre classic that everyone should see at least once.

[review_video_stars] => 4.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 5746 [review_video] =>

Even though it's the oldest film in the series, 'Ocean's Eleven' easily boasts the most impressive visual experience of the trilogy with its impressive 1080p/VC-1 transfer. The palette subtly changes throughout the film, but colors remain sturdy throughout, offering natural skintones and vibrant primaries. Detail is also exceptionally sharp -- clothing textures, individual strands of hair, and even the tiniest text on casino chips are crisp and lovingly rendered on screen. The entire image has a natural pop that makes the Vegas casinos look warm and inviting. Likewise, daytime exteriors offer excellent contrast, while nighttime interiors simmer with deep black levels. To be fair, the transfer doesn't have the same directorial hurdles to overcome as its 'Ocean' brethren. Aside from its noticeable grainfield, 'Eleven' doesn't suffer from the bizarre crush and coloring oddities Soderbergh used to craft the look of his sequels.

I did catch a few small bursts of artifacting, but I likely would have missed each instance if I hadn't specifically been looking for it. In fact, the only real nitpick I have with the picture quality of 'Ocean's Eleven' is that a few specks and scratches mar the print on occasion. Still, compared to the muddy standard DVD, this HD DVD edition is an absolute godsend. Fans will be extremely pleased to see how great 'Ocean's Eleven' looks in high definition.

[review_audio_stars] => 3.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 5747 [review_audio] =>

'Ocean's Eleven' features a standard Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 surround track (identical to the Blu-ray DD mix at 640kbps) that doesn't pack a lot of punch. The film is a dialogue driven affair in which light quips dominate the central channels and push the bulk of the soundfield forward. Conversations are always crisp and well prioritized, and I never had to strain to hear the actors speak. In fact, the most exciting element of the track is 'Eleven's jazzy score, fluttering solos, and piercing riffs. Every last note of the improv-laden music dances through the soundscape -- saxophones have a satisfying growl, trumpets pack a stable punch, and the riz-at-dat of the drums sound clearer than they did on the standard DVD.

Unfortunately, the audio mix rarely takes advantage of the rear surrounds -- the busy casinos in 'Ocean's Eleven' are shoved into the background and fail to provide the same all-encompassing bings and dings of a genuine Vegas casino. Ambiance is relegated to the bottom of the soundscape and very little attention seems to have been invested in the developing the immersive properties of the track. Add to that a series of underwhelming dynamics (with a minimal LFE presence to boot) and the track quickly amounts to a mildly disappointing experience.

Make no mistake, the DD+ track handles everything Soderbergh throws its way with relative ease. It just doesn't pack the sort of sonic wow factor you'll find on better high-def releases.

[review_supplements_stars] => 3 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 5748 [review_supplements] =>

'Ocean's Eleven' includes all of the special features that originally appeared on the standard DVD. It also has the most thorough supplemental package of the trilogy, offering fans a cast commentary in addition to the filmmakers' track. The only real disappointment here is that Clooney is MIA from the proceedings.

  • Director and Writer Commentary -- Steven Soderbergh and Ted Griffin deliver a dry but informative track that does a suitable job of describing the work that went into the film. Sadly, Griffin sucks much of the life out of the track, leaving the usually quick-witted Soderbergh to dole out boring location details and camera angles.
  • Cast Commentary -- Actors Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, and Andy Garcia sit down to deliver a hilarious chat that covers every aspect of the production. I loved listening to their anecdotes and playful barbs. Pitt is a riot, tapping into his trademark deadpan charm to provide joke after joke at the expense of his fellow cast and crew. Damon has a blast, providing a revealing glimpse into Soderbergh's directorial personality and style. Garcia feels like the old man of the group, but he mingles well enough. This is an excellent track that had me smiling from beginning to end.
  • The Look of the Con (SD, 10 minutes) -- Costume featurettes generally don't catch my attention, but this one matches the tone of the film itself. Quirky, candid, and entertaining, this segment actually gave me something new to look for next time I watch the film.
  • HBO First Look (SD, 15 minutes) -- More an extended trailer than anything else, this fluffy EPK isn't worth your time. If you've seen one "HBO First Look" segment, you've seen them all.
  • Theatrical Trailers (SD, 5 minutes) -- A collection of theatrical teasers and full length trailers for the film.
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content] =>

Nothing.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 4 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 5749 [review_final_thoughts] =>

’Ocean’s Eleven’ is a fantastic heist film in which Steven Soderbergh perfectly balances his indie sensibilities with pulpy, mainstream filmmaking. This HD DVD edition is just as appealing. It features a fairly standard Dolby Digital Plus audio track, a top notch video transfer, and generous supplemental package that makes it an easy one to recommend. If you didn’t already pick up the trilogy giftset this past holiday season, take the opportunity to nab the best of the bunch with this individual release.

) ) [1] => Array ( [review_id] => 417 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => oceanstwelve [review_release_date] => 1211266800 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Ocean's Twelve [picture_created] => 1211266891 [picture_name] => twelve.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/05/20/120/twelve.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/417/oceanstwelve.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2005 [run_time] => 125 [list_price] => 28.98 [amazon_price] => 0.00 [empire_id] => 1397222 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.40:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentary [1] => Deleted Scenes [2] => TV Special ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround [1] => French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround [2] => Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 2.0 Surround [3] => Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => None ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English Subtitles [1] => French Subtitles [2] => Spanish Subtitles [3] => Japanese Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Caper [1] => Comedy ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Catherine Zeta-Jones [1] => Brad Pitt [2] => George Clooney ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Steven Soderbergh ) [preview_technology_specifications] => • Theatrical Trailers [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 46404 [review_editors_notes] =>

The HD DVD edition of 'Ocean's Twelve' is identical to the version that was included in the 'Ocean's Trilogy Giftset' released in November of 2007. Fans who already own the trilogy box-set won't find any upgrades or improvements on this disc.

Portions of this review were also published in our Blu-ray review of 'Ocean's Twelve.'

[review_bottom_line] => Rent it First [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 55911 [review_movie_stars] => 3 [review_movie] =>

In 2001, indie wunderkind Stephen Soderbergh released his pulpy heist classic 'Ocean's Eleven' to rave reviews and more than $450 million in worldwide ticket sales. Alas, his inevitable sequel, ‘Ocean’s Twelve,’ was critically crucified, tied to Entertainment Weekly’s chariot, and dragged in the mud until it was unrecognizable. Lucky for me, I’m still able to enjoy a sequel even if it doesn’t live up to the original. Sure, Soderbergh’s second heist never reaches the heights of his crew’s first outing, but it still manages to stand out from the majority of modern heist films on the market.

'Ocean's Twelve' takes the ragtag team from ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ out of Vegas and sets them loose in Paris, Amsterdam, and Rome. Three years after their successful triple-casino robbery, a vengeful Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) tracks down the crew and forces them to earn back his stolen loot (plus interest). Doing what they do best, the team focuses on a series of intricate heists to reach their fundraising goals, but it won't be so easy this time, as they have to contend with a rival thief (Vincent Cassel), a feisty agent of the law (Catherine Zeta-Jones), and a reluctant new team member.

’Ocean’s Twelve’ was physically assaulted by critics upon its theatrical release in 2004 and, to an extent, I agree with the majority of their complaints. Although it brims with the same sort of wisecracking shenanigans as its predecessor, this sequel has a vastly different tone, one that sometimes loses its focus due to an endless number of subplots and plot twists.

The heart of the problem may stem from the fact that the screenplay wasn't originally written as 'Ocean's Twelve,' but was meant to be an entirely different film, called 'Honor Among Thieves.' After Soderbergh became interested in the script, he and writer George Nolfi altered the screenplay to make it work as the next entry in the series. The resulting film suffers from something of an identity crisis and certainly doesn't feel like a flawless extension of 'Ocean's Eleven.'

That being said, there's still a lot to enjoy in 'Ocean's Twelve'-- by my estimation, it isn't nearly as bad as many critics have made it out to be. Brad Pitt and Matt Damon sink their teeth into more centralized roles, with their clever banter with Clooney remaining as kinetic as ever. Better still, a series of larger-than-life opponents toy with each criminal and give the team a genuine challenge, even as they struggle with the difficulties of their lifestyles and face the consequences of their actions. The endgame may not be as strong as the vault robbery in 'Ocean's Eleven,' but Soderbergh still has plenty of aces up his sleeve.

I'll be the first to admit that 'Ocean's Twelve' isn't perfect. It visibly struggles to rekindle the fire of ‘Eleven’ and it has a hard time with the change in scenery. Still, clever characters and witty dialogue are the real draw here and, on that level, the sequel is quite consistent. I still enjoyed watching Soderbergh’s crew of first-rate actors having a ball. If you can turn off the overly critical portion of your brain, I’ll bet you'll find plenty of things to love scattered throughout this critically-panned sequel.

[review_video_stars] => 2.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 5754 [review_video] =>

'Ocean's Twelve' features a 1080p/VC-1 transfer that offers the worst visual experience of the trilogy. While it occasionally maintains the bright contrast of ‘Ocean’s Eleven,’ it relinquishes the first film’s crisp detailing and image depth. Soderbergh intentionally submerges the film in heavy, crushed shadows that strip faces and locations of the high definition pop I look for on every Blu-ray release. Noise is more aggressive this time around -- in some scenes I actually had trouble telling whether I was seeing heavy grain, digital noise, or some sort of technical deficiency on the disc. The transfer may have Soderbergh’s approval, but I have to say, it isn’t my flavor. Compared to the standard DVD, this transfer merely offers a fundamental upgrade.

There is an upside I suppose -- the transfer looks as good as it ever will. Soderbergh isn’t concerned with making this particular film technically attractive under close scrutiny. Those of you who bemoan low ratings which penalize director’s intent should be very happy with the soft murky mess that is ‘Ocean’s Twelve.’ Personally, I can’t help but be disappointed after watching the eye-catching presentation of the first film. Ah well, at least it isn’t plagued by the bizarre color discrepancies of ‘Ocean’s Thirteen.’

[review_audio_stars] => 3.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 5755 [review_audio] =>

'Ocean's Twelve' sounds much better than it looks, in spite of the fact that it only include a standard Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 surround track (identical to the Blu-ray at 640kbps). Like the other entries in the trilogy, Soderbergh's second shot at the heist genre is largely a conversation driven experience that doesn't offer many "wow" moments. Thankfully, dialogue is always crisp and nicely prioritized despite the fact that the soundfield is anchored to the front channels. There are a few, intentionally hushed lines that are difficult to decipher, but they rightfully add to the mystique of the plot rather than distracting as a technical deficiency of the track. Like 'Eleven' and 'Thirteen,' the most exciting element of the mix is the score and soundtrack. Evolving to incorporate its jazzy riffs with international flavors of music, 'Ocean's Twelve' features the most diverse soundtrack of the trilogy. Heavy strings, a variety of percussive beats, and the ever-present horns live up to their potential.

Unfortunately, the mix rarely take advantage of the rear soundstage, leaving the crowded streets of Europe sounding distinctly sparse. Ambiance isn't a priority and the sound designers apparently weren't tasked with creating an immersive track. Dynamics are a bit more impressive than in 'Eleven' or 'Thirteen,' but the increased LFE presence fails to make the experience stand out from the rest of the trilogy. Make no mistake, the DD+ mix handles everything Soderbergh throws its way with relative ease -- it just fails to pack the same punch as better high-def releases.

[review_supplements_stars] => 0 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 0 [review_supplements] =>

Like its standard DVD counterpart, 'Ocean's Twelve' doesn't include any non-exclusive special features save a collection of trailers.

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 2 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 5756 [review_bonus_content] =>

First released as a barebones DVD with no special features whatsoever, 'Ocean's Twelve' marks the first appearance of several special features exclusive to the critically-drubbed sequel.

  • Director and Writer Commentary -- Clearly recorded after the chilly reception to 'Ocean's Twelve' (but before the release of 'Ocean's Thirteen'), Soderbergh and screenwriter Nolfi provide a stirring defense of the film that detractors should listen to. I think it touches on many of the finer points of 'Ocean's Twelve' that were overlooked by critics and audiences when it hit theaters. This is a dense and interesting track that covers every detail about the characters, their relationships, the script, and the process of adapting Nolfi's original screenplay for the 'Ocean's' universe.
  • Additional Footage (SD, 28 minutes) -- The real draw of the supplemental package on 'Ocean's Twelve' is this half-hour's worth of deleted scenes and alternate takes. While none of these scenes would have enhanced the final film, they do give us a chance to watch the cast have fun with a few meaty scenes. I thoroughly enjoyed this collection.
  • HBO First Look (SD, 13 minutes) -- Even flashier than the "First Look" included on 'Ocean's Eleven,' this promotional short is grating. Worse still, it reveals precious few details about the international production.
[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 3 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 5757 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'Ocean's Twelve' was skewered by critics and audiences who were expecting Soderbergh to top the inventiveness of 'Ocean's Eleven.' I don't think the results are nearly as deplorable as others have stated, but I can definitely understand the roots of their disappointment. The HD DVD edition of 'Twelve' provides a middle-of-the-road experience as well. Its faithful but problematic video transfer, suitable audio track, and decent collection of supplements never seal the deal. Give this one a rent and decide for yourself.

) ) ) ) [May 13, 2008] => Array ( [reviews] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 396 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => onemissedcall [review_release_date] => 1210662000 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => One Missed Call [picture_created] => 1204052042 [picture_name] => one-missed-call-hd-dvddvd-combo-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Video [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/02/26/120/one-missed-call-hd-dvddvd-combo-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/396/onemissedcall.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2008 [run_time] => 87 [list_price] => 35.98 [asin] => B00152RMIA [amazon_price] => 24.95 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD/DVD [1] => HD-15 Single-Layer/DVD 5 Single-Layer ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround [1] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (640kbps) [2] => French Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (640kbps) [3] => Spanish Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (640kbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => None ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English Subtitles [1] => French Subtitles [2] => Spanish Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Horror ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Edward Burns [1] => Shannyn Sossamon [2] => Azura Skye ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Eric Valette ) [preview_technology_specifications] => None [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 45791 [review_editors_notes] =>

Non-format-specific portions of this review were first published in our 'Blu-ray review of 'One Missed Call.'

[review_bottom_line] => One to Avoid [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 54930 [review_movie_stars] => 0.5 [review_movie] =>

Every once in a while, a horror flick comes along that is so empty-headed, so undecipherable, and so utterly devoid of originality, that one wonders how in the world the script ever made it onto the desk of a studio executive, let alone got produced and released. 'One Missed Call' is just such a movie -- a remake of the fairly-effective Japanese chiller 'Chakushin Ari' that takes the basic set-up of the original and turns it into such an incomprehensible mess of hoary conventions and lame cliches that it might have been enjoyable camp, if only we could have actually understood what the heck was going on.

I'll try to explain the plot, which is so badly structured and executed that it feels almost as if some production assistant forgot to Xerox a few pages of the script before bringing it to the set. The set-up is at least intriguing. Several seemingly-unrelated people start receiving voice-mails from their future selves with messages that include the date, time, and details of their deaths (these messages are usually accompanied by visions of random strangers with 'Exorcism of Emily Rose'-type creepy-faces, perhaps provided in order to have something cool to put on the movie posters). Stumbling into this nightmare is Beth Raymond (Shannyn Sossamon), whose friends begin dropping one by one, so she enlists the aid of cop Jack Andrews (Edward Burns), who, strangely, believes her. Together, they set out to solve the mystery, while the script piles one incomprehensible plot twist on top of the next as the film lumbers to its illogical, cheap-shock climax.

It's an old cliche of horror films, but it remains true -- you gotta care about the characters! Unfortunately, 'One Missed Call' only gives us caricatures. Sossamon is an actress I've admired before and one I'm sure I'll admire again, but quite frankly, she gives a terrible performance here -- stiff, uninterested, and unsexy. Burns (clearly slumming to finance his next indie flick) is just as slack-jawed, and his Jack Andrews is a composite of all the detective characters seen in the 'Saw' films. The rest of the cast is so nondescript that five minutes after turning off the movie, I couldn't even remember who had died or how!

Stylistically, the film is also bland. Director Eric Valette doesn't even try to recreate the style of Takashi Miike, who helmed the original 'Chakushin Ari.' To his credit, Valette does go for an admirably restrained tone of escalating dread, but the pacing is as slow as molasses (it's certainly a far cry from the more kinetic, overtly-violent tone utilized by Miike). This only lays bare the film's narrative deficiencies, giving us far too much time to rip apart the inconsistencies. 'One Missed Call' is also the latest casualty of the "PG-13" syndrome, where all of the film's gore and shocks have been so watered down (and choppily so -- the editing is lousy) that the film wouldn't scare your average Disney Channel tween.

Adding to the lack of adult scares, the script reduces the potent ideas of the original film to such a mass of incomprehension that 'One Missed Call' is pretentious in its very attemptto be pretentious -- it's just another body count flick masquerading as something more intelligent. The movie shamelessly rips off the death-every-ten-minutes structure of the 'Final Destination' franchise, but it's comparatively brain-dead, since at least those movies weaved some intriguing existentialist ideas into the form of a standard teen thriller. All 'One Missed Call' does is trot out its lame "creative murder" setpieces while ladling on repetitive jump scares and endless shots of creepy-faced ghosts. We've seen this all before in movies like 'The Grudge' and 'The Ring' and 'Dark Water' and (insert favorite Japanese horror remake here), and done much, much better.

Perhaps, had 'One Missed Call' at least been coherent and creepy, I could have forgiven its complete lack of originality (after all, even the best modern scare flicks like 'The Others' and 'The Orphanage' have plenty of borrowed parts), but this is a film made with so little passion, and lacking even basic respect for the audience's intelligence, that it's ultimately insulting. This is the kind of flick that gives horror movies a bad name, and I'm surprised a major studio like Warner would even bother releasing it (shouldn't Lionsgate have picked it up?) As a lover of horror movies, I beg you -- please don't answer 'One Missed Call.'

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 0 [review_video] =>

Warner presents 'One Missed Call' as an HD DVD/DVD combo, in 1080p/VC-1 video and at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. (The transfer is identical to the previously-released Blu-ray.) It's an effective presentation, one that is in fact far superior to the movie it supports.

The film has a moody, shadowy vibe, but it's not too dark. Blacks are nice and firm, and there's ample contrast so the image certainly pops. Depth is above average and quite detailed. The film uses frequent closes-ups that look great, and the use of frequent CGI meshes well with the live action. Colors are vibrant but not too strong, though the palette is skewed towards blue-green, so fleshtones don't always appear natural. While the image is sharp, I unfortunately noticed some edge enhancement, and there is also a fairly consistent level of noise, albeit slight. 'One Missed Call' isn't really top-tier demo material, but it certainly looks very good.

[review_audio_stars] => 3.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 0 [review_audio] =>

A Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround track (48kHz/16-bit) is offered in English, along with a Descriptive Video Service 5.1 mix (for the hearing impaired) and Dolby Digital 51. Surround dubs (640kbps) in French-Quebec and Spanish. I wasn't as impressed with the audio as I was with the video -- it's just OK.

For a sinister horror flick about phone calls, I expected a far better surround presence. The rears just aren't sustained in terms of ambiance, and only a few shock discrete effects really stand out. The score could also have been better presented throughout. Dynamics are better, with strong bass that's more than adequate for the material, and a clean, polished sense of realism and fidelity. Dialogue is also well-balanced. 'One Missed Call' hardly sounds bad, but it never blew me away.

[review_supplements_stars] => 0 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 0 [review_supplements] =>

'One Missed Call' bombed at the box office, so it's no surprise that Warner shows a complete lack of faith in its video release. There is nary an extra here -- not even a trailer. Talk about getting no dial tone...

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content] =>

There are no high-def exclusives.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 2 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts] =>

Wow, what a bad movie. 'One Missed Call' is not scary, not believable, and not even so-bad-it's-good. It's simply dull. This HD DVD/DVD combo release is serviceable as last month's Blu-ray release, giving us strong video, decent audio, and absolutely zippo in the way of extras. This one screams "Skip It!", and even diehard horror fans might find it a tough slog.

) ) [1] => Array ( [review_id] => 1396 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => sublime [review_release_date] => 1210662000 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Sublime [picture_created] => 1203456304 [picture_name] => sublime-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Video [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/02/19/120/sublime-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1396/sublime.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2008 [run_time] => 113 [list_price] => 28.99 [asin] => B0015XWU86 [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1394484 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.78:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 [1] => 480p/i/MPEG-2 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (640kbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentary [1] => Featurettes [2] => Music Video ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English Subtitles [1] => French Subtitles [2] => Spanish Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Horror ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Tom Cavanaugh ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Tony Krantz ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Admitted to a hospital for a routine, minimally invasive procedure, George Grieves (Tom Cavanagh) discovers that his circumstances are much more serious and complicated than originally expected. Trapped in the increasingly bizarre and dangerous world of Mt. Abaddon Hospital, George tries to maintain his sanity while uncovering the truth behind the growing number of medical misdeeds happening within the institution's East Ward. As his own fears begin to manifest all around him, he learns that this is not a place where people come to get better... this is a hospital where people come to die. [preview_technology_specifications] => • Audio Commentary by Director Tony Krantz and Writer Erik Jendresen
• Featurettes: "Surgical Exorcism," "The Shebeen Josie"
• Music Video: "Have No Fear" by Bird York [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 44437 [review_editors_notes] =>

Non-format-specific portions of this review were first published in our Blu-ray review of 'Sublime.'

[review_bottom_line] => Give It a Rent [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 54544 [review_movie_stars] => 2.5 [review_movie] =>

There are a few dependable subgenres of the horror film: the ghost story, the slasher flick, sci-fi/alien invasion, and the man-in-a-suit monster movie. Then there's the "medical terror" film, usually set in a hospital or some other sinister institution, and involving mad doctors, botched experiments, and various other grisly happenings involving sawed-off body parts. Though there have been few outright examples of RX horror doing gangbusters at the box office (save perhaps for 1979's 'Coma'), Hollywood never tires of trying out the concept, decade after decade.

Which leads us to the direct-to-video 'Sublime,' which follows in the footsteps of such forgettable medical terror flicks as 'Horror Hospital,' 'X-Ray,' 'Visiting Hours,' and the recent 'Awake.' This Raw Feed production (the second from Warner's in-house direct-to-video premiere division) combines all the hallmarks of the genre (namely, plenty of gooey gore), but it's a bit more ambitious than, say, 'Dr. Giggles.' It's got a topical theme, makes a few broad swipes at cultural relevance, and is generally more thoughtful than your typical slasher in a hospital. Unfortunately, it isn't all that scary, either, and never it quite surmounts its direct-to-video budget.

Thomas Cavanagh (TV's 'Ed') stars as George Grieves, who gets to celebrate his 40th birthday with what was supposed to be a routine colonoscopy at Abbaddon Hospital. However, George's chart gets switched with a fellow in the next bed, and (oops!), he undergoes the wrong operation. Traumatized, and his leg now amputated, George teeters on the brink of insanity as he battles bureaucratic indifference regarding the incident. Growing more and more obsessed, he plunges deep into the dark history of Abbaddon, discovering that the hospital has performed a statistically-abnormal number of botched surgeries, and that the ultimate truth is far more sinister than even he imagined.

'Sublime' is notable for its, well, sublime exploitation of bodily fears. I'm not a huge fan of the type of baroque bloodletting and shock visuals doled out in the film, but the result can be undeniably effective. Unfortunately, actual scares are in short supply, and unlike superior medical thrillers like 'Coma,' George's descent into the underbelly of Abbaddon fails to deliver the slow-simmering tension of a true, get-under-your-skin thriller. Like so many of these direct-to-video horror flicks, 'Sublime' seems torn between delivering the easy shocks and gore that the diehard genre fan base requires, and producing the more thoughtful thriller that the filmmakers are clearly gunning for.

The film's tonal identity crisis is a shame, since for good chunks of 'Sublime's overly-long 113-minute runtime, director Tony Krantz is surprisingly forceful at weaving sociopolitical commentary in with the cheap jolts. Not-so-subtle digs at the Bush Administration and our current failed health care system (not to mention an Iraqi War connection that pulls no punches) are a bit too didactic, but at least Krantz is aiming higher rather than lower. Unfortunately, the uneven tone throughout 'Sublime' is made even worse by the requisite "twist" ending, which isn't much of a twist and ultimately rather eye-rolling. The whole thing just never fully coalesces.

Given its considerable flaws, it's hard to recommend 'Sublime.' However, if you set your sights low -- this is a direct-to-video flick, after all -- there is still enough going on to at least hold your interest. The film is technically proficient, and Cavanagh's performance is strong enough that it's able to anchor the film throughout. Krantz also has something to say, however heavy-handed. 'Sublime' is probably worth a rental for genre fans, or those who just have an ax to grind with their health insurance company.

[review_video_stars] => 3 [review_video_picture_id] => 0 [review_video] =>

'Sublime' comes to HD DVD in a 1080p/VC-1 encode (framed at 2.40:1). It's identical to the previous Blu-ray version (which Warner debuted three weeks ago), and while it's an above-board transfer for a direct-to-video release, it certainly can't compare to a fresh theatrical release.

Quite frankly, 'Sublime' came across as chintzy. The image has that kinda fuzzy, overly-lit look of a high-gloss cable flick. Colors are definitely eye-catching if perhaps too saturated, with consistent noise and a lack of strong detail. Blacks are spot-on, though shadow delineation due to a heavy black crush obscures fine textures. Contrast is likewise on the hot side. Overall, depth and detail aren't bad, however, particularly in brighter-lit and close-up shots. It's not an entirely clean encode, either, with some motion artifacts and a few instances of posterization, but all in all 'Sublime' looks pretty good.

[review_audio_stars] => 3 [review_audio_picture_id] => 0 [review_audio] =>

As with the previous Blu-ray, Warner offers but a single audio option for 'Sublime': English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (640kbps), plus English, French and Spanish subtitles. It's a serviceable mix, nothing more.

Surrounds are active in a few key scare moments, in which they are loud and stinger-ish. Don't expect much subtlety, however, with little sustained atmosphere. At least the score is nice and robust (it's probably the highlight of the mix), and dynamic range ain't bad. 'Sublime' does have that slightly cheap feel of a direct-to-video flick, with low bass that can lack bite and lots of looped-in dialogue. Things are generally intelligible, however, so I can't say there are any major problems with the soundtrack -- nor can I say there's anything all that exciting about it.

[review_supplements_stars] => 1.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 0 [review_supplements] =>

Warner carries over the goodies found on the Blu-ray and standard DVD version of 'Sublime' (and even throws in a couple of exclusives -- see below), though the material is presented 480p/i/MPEG-2 video only. It's a solid package.

  • Audio Commentary - The track features director Tony Krantz and writer Erik Jendresen, and it's quite the technical discussion. With a runtime of 113 minutes, it becomes a bit much to listen to such extensive dissection of the photography, effects, locations, editing etc. Thankfully, there are bursts of insight on the casting and story, but for me it was too few and far between. Truth be told, I got rather bored...
  • Featurette: "Surgical Exorcism" (SD, 6 minutes) - This six-minute piece is supposed to be "sociocultural anthropologist" Dr. Falk's webcast of a live surgical exorcism in the mountains of Peru." What a bunch of hooey!
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 1 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content] =>

Nothing major, but Warner has tossed in a couple of exclusives.

  • "The Shebeen Josie" (SD, 9 minutes) - This bizarre bit takes you inside an "African Juke Joint," where we eavesdrop on a conversation between a social worker and a... demon. Though not labeled a deleted scene, it sure feels like one.
  • Music Video (SD) - A clip for the Bird York tune "Have No Fear."
[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 3 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'Sublime' is a pretty typical direct-to-video horror film. It's gleefully unrated, with plenty of gratuitous violence and nudity, but comes up short on real scares or creativity. At least there's an ambitious message beneath the carnage, but will it be enough to entice diehard horror hounds? This HD DVD is, like its Blu-ray cousin, solid if unspectacular, with pretty-good video and audio, and fairly extensive supplements. 'Sublime' is worth a rent if you're a fan of the genre, but likely nothing more.

) ) ) [reviews_hot] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 396 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => onemissedcall [review_release_date] => 1210662000 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => One Missed Call [picture_created] => 1204052042 [picture_name] => one-missed-call-hd-dvddvd-combo-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Video [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/02/26/120/one-missed-call-hd-dvddvd-combo-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/396/onemissedcall.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2008 [run_time] => 87 [list_price] => 35.98 [asin] => B00152RMIA [amazon_price] => 24.95 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD/DVD [1] => HD-15 Single-Layer/DVD 5 Single-Layer ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround [1] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (640kbps) [2] => French Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (640kbps) [3] => Spanish Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (640kbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => None ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English Subtitles [1] => French Subtitles [2] => Spanish Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Horror ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Edward Burns [1] => Shannyn Sossamon [2] => Azura Skye ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Eric Valette ) [preview_technology_specifications] => None [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 45791 [review_editors_notes] =>

Non-format-specific portions of this review were first published in our 'Blu-ray review of 'One Missed Call.'

[review_bottom_line] => One to Avoid [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 54930 [review_movie_stars] => 0.5 [review_movie] =>

Every once in a while, a horror flick comes along that is so empty-headed, so undecipherable, and so utterly devoid of originality, that one wonders how in the world the script ever made it onto the desk of a studio executive, let alone got produced and released. 'One Missed Call' is just such a movie -- a remake of the fairly-effective Japanese chiller 'Chakushin Ari' that takes the basic set-up of the original and turns it into such an incomprehensible mess of hoary conventions and lame cliches that it might have been enjoyable camp, if only we could have actually understood what the heck was going on.

I'll try to explain the plot, which is so badly structured and executed that it feels almost as if some production assistant forgot to Xerox a few pages of the script before bringing it to the set. The set-up is at least intriguing. Several seemingly-unrelated people start receiving voice-mails from their future selves with messages that include the date, time, and details of their deaths (these messages are usually accompanied by visions of random strangers with 'Exorcism of Emily Rose'-type creepy-faces, perhaps provided in order to have something cool to put on the movie posters). Stumbling into this nightmare is Beth Raymond (Shannyn Sossamon), whose friends begin dropping one by one, so she enlists the aid of cop Jack Andrews (Edward Burns), who, strangely, believes her. Together, they set out to solve the mystery, while the script piles one incomprehensible plot twist on top of the next as the film lumbers to its illogical, cheap-shock climax.

It's an old cliche of horror films, but it remains true -- you gotta care about the characters! Unfortunately, 'One Missed Call' only gives us caricatures. Sossamon is an actress I've admired before and one I'm sure I'll admire again, but quite frankly, she gives a terrible performance here -- stiff, uninterested, and unsexy. Burns (clearly slumming to finance his next indie flick) is just as slack-jawed, and his Jack Andrews is a composite of all the detective characters seen in the 'Saw' films. The rest of the cast is so nondescript that five minutes after turning off the movie, I couldn't even remember who had died or how!

Stylistically, the film is also bland. Director Eric Valette doesn't even try to recreate the style of Takashi Miike, who helmed the original 'Chakushin Ari.' To his credit, Valette does go for an admirably restrained tone of escalating dread, but the pacing is as slow as molasses (it's certainly a far cry from the more kinetic, overtly-violent tone utilized by Miike). This only lays bare the film's narrative deficiencies, giving us far too much time to rip apart the inconsistencies. 'One Missed Call' is also the latest casualty of the "PG-13" syndrome, where all of the film's gore and shocks have been so watered down (and choppily so -- the editing is lousy) that the film wouldn't scare your average Disney Channel tween.

Adding to the lack of adult scares, the script reduces the potent ideas of the original film to such a mass of incomprehension that 'One Missed Call' is pretentious in its very attemptto be pretentious -- it's just another body count flick masquerading as something more intelligent. The movie shamelessly rips off the death-every-ten-minutes structure of the 'Final Destination' franchise, but it's comparatively brain-dead, since at least those movies weaved some intriguing existentialist ideas into the form of a standard teen thriller. All 'One Missed Call' does is trot out its lame "creative murder" setpieces while ladling on repetitive jump scares and endless shots of creepy-faced ghosts. We've seen this all before in movies like 'The Grudge' and 'The Ring' and 'Dark Water' and (insert favorite Japanese horror remake here), and done much, much better.

Perhaps, had 'One Missed Call' at least been coherent and creepy, I could have forgiven its complete lack of originality (after all, even the best modern scare flicks like 'The Others' and 'The Orphanage' have plenty of borrowed parts), but this is a film made with so little passion, and lacking even basic respect for the audience's intelligence, that it's ultimately insulting. This is the kind of flick that gives horror movies a bad name, and I'm surprised a major studio like Warner would even bother releasing it (shouldn't Lionsgate have picked it up?) As a lover of horror movies, I beg you -- please don't answer 'One Missed Call.'

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 0 [review_video] =>

Warner presents 'One Missed Call' as an HD DVD/DVD combo, in 1080p/VC-1 video and at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. (The transfer is identical to the previously-released Blu-ray.) It's an effective presentation, one that is in fact far superior to the movie it supports.

The film has a moody, shadowy vibe, but it's not too dark. Blacks are nice and firm, and there's ample contrast so the image certainly pops. Depth is above average and quite detailed. The film uses frequent closes-ups that look great, and the use of frequent CGI meshes well with the live action. Colors are vibrant but not too strong, though the palette is skewed towards blue-green, so fleshtones don't always appear natural. While the image is sharp, I unfortunately noticed some edge enhancement, and there is also a fairly consistent level of noise, albeit slight. 'One Missed Call' isn't really top-tier demo material, but it certainly looks very good.

[review_audio_stars] => 3.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 0 [review_audio] =>

A Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround track (48kHz/16-bit) is offered in English, along with a Descriptive Video Service 5.1 mix (for the hearing impaired) and Dolby Digital 51. Surround dubs (640kbps) in French-Quebec and Spanish. I wasn't as impressed with the audio as I was with the video -- it's just OK.

For a sinister horror flick about phone calls, I expected a far better surround presence. The rears just aren't sustained in terms of ambiance, and only a few shock discrete effects really stand out. The score could also have been better presented throughout. Dynamics are better, with strong bass that's more than adequate for the material, and a clean, polished sense of realism and fidelity. Dialogue is also well-balanced. 'One Missed Call' hardly sounds bad, but it never blew me away.

[review_supplements_stars] => 0 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 0 [review_supplements] =>

'One Missed Call' bombed at the box office, so it's no surprise that Warner shows a complete lack of faith in its video release. There is nary an extra here -- not even a trailer. Talk about getting no dial tone...

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content] =>

There are no high-def exclusives.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 2 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts] =>

Wow, what a bad movie. 'One Missed Call' is not scary, not believable, and not even so-bad-it's-good. It's simply dull. This HD DVD/DVD combo release is serviceable as last month's Blu-ray release, giving us strong video, decent audio, and absolutely zippo in the way of extras. This one screams "Skip It!", and even diehard horror fans might find it a tough slog.

) ) [1] => Array ( [review_id] => 1396 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => sublime [review_release_date] => 1210662000 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Sublime [picture_created] => 1203456304 [picture_name] => sublime-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Video [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/02/19/120/sublime-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1396/sublime.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2008 [run_time] => 113 [list_price] => 28.99 [asin] => B0015XWU86 [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1394484 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.78:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 [1] => 480p/i/MPEG-2 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (640kbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentary [1] => Featurettes [2] => Music Video ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English Subtitles [1] => French Subtitles [2] => Spanish Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Horror ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Tom Cavanaugh ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Tony Krantz ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Admitted to a hospital for a routine, minimally invasive procedure, George Grieves (Tom Cavanagh) discovers that his circumstances are much more serious and complicated than originally expected. Trapped in the increasingly bizarre and dangerous world of Mt. Abaddon Hospital, George tries to maintain his sanity while uncovering the truth behind the growing number of medical misdeeds happening within the institution's East Ward. As his own fears begin to manifest all around him, he learns that this is not a place where people come to get better... this is a hospital where people come to die. [preview_technology_specifications] => • Audio Commentary by Director Tony Krantz and Writer Erik Jendresen
• Featurettes: "Surgical Exorcism," "The Shebeen Josie"
• Music Video: "Have No Fear" by Bird York [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 44437 [review_editors_notes] =>

Non-format-specific portions of this review were first published in our Blu-ray review of 'Sublime.'

[review_bottom_line] => Give It a Rent [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 54544 [review_movie_stars] => 2.5 [review_movie] =>

There are a few dependable subgenres of the horror film: the ghost story, the slasher flick, sci-fi/alien invasion, and the man-in-a-suit monster movie. Then there's the "medical terror" film, usually set in a hospital or some other sinister institution, and involving mad doctors, botched experiments, and various other grisly happenings involving sawed-off body parts. Though there have been few outright examples of RX horror doing gangbusters at the box office (save perhaps for 1979's 'Coma'), Hollywood never tires of trying out the concept, decade after decade.

Which leads us to the direct-to-video 'Sublime,' which follows in the footsteps of such forgettable medical terror flicks as 'Horror Hospital,' 'X-Ray,' 'Visiting Hours,' and the recent 'Awake.' This Raw Feed production (the second from Warner's in-house direct-to-video premiere division) combines all the hallmarks of the genre (namely, plenty of gooey gore), but it's a bit more ambitious than, say, 'Dr. Giggles.' It's got a topical theme, makes a few broad swipes at cultural relevance, and is generally more thoughtful than your typical slasher in a hospital. Unfortunately, it isn't all that scary, either, and never it quite surmounts its direct-to-video budget.

Thomas Cavanagh (TV's 'Ed') stars as George Grieves, who gets to celebrate his 40th birthday with what was supposed to be a routine colonoscopy at Abbaddon Hospital. However, George's chart gets switched with a fellow in the next bed, and (oops!), he undergoes the wrong operation. Traumatized, and his leg now amputated, George teeters on the brink of insanity as he battles bureaucratic indifference regarding the incident. Growing more and more obsessed, he plunges deep into the dark history of Abbaddon, discovering that the hospital has performed a statistically-abnormal number of botched surgeries, and that the ultimate truth is far more sinister than even he imagined.

'Sublime' is notable for its, well, sublime exploitation of bodily fears. I'm not a huge fan of the type of baroque bloodletting and shock visuals doled out in the film, but the result can be undeniably effective. Unfortunately, actual scares are in short supply, and unlike superior medical thrillers like 'Coma,' George's descent into the underbelly of Abbaddon fails to deliver the slow-simmering tension of a true, get-under-your-skin thriller. Like so many of these direct-to-video horror flicks, 'Sublime' seems torn between delivering the easy shocks and gore that the diehard genre fan base requires, and producing the more thoughtful thriller that the filmmakers are clearly gunning for.

The film's tonal identity crisis is a shame, since for good chunks of 'Sublime's overly-long 113-minute runtime, director Tony Krantz is surprisingly forceful at weaving sociopolitical commentary in with the cheap jolts. Not-so-subtle digs at the Bush Administration and our current failed health care system (not to mention an Iraqi War connection that pulls no punches) are a bit too didactic, but at least Krantz is aiming higher rather than lower. Unfortunately, the uneven tone throughout 'Sublime' is made even worse by the requisite "twist" ending, which isn't much of a twist and ultimately rather eye-rolling. The whole thing just never fully coalesces.

Given its considerable flaws, it's hard to recommend 'Sublime.' However, if you set your sights low -- this is a direct-to-video flick, after all -- there is still enough going on to at least hold your interest. The film is technically proficient, and Cavanagh's performance is strong enough that it's able to anchor the film throughout. Krantz also has something to say, however heavy-handed. 'Sublime' is probably worth a rental for genre fans, or those who just have an ax to grind with their health insurance company.

[review_video_stars] => 3 [review_video_picture_id] => 0 [review_video] =>

'Sublime' comes to HD DVD in a 1080p/VC-1 encode (framed at 2.40:1). It's identical to the previous Blu-ray version (which Warner debuted three weeks ago), and while it's an above-board transfer for a direct-to-video release, it certainly can't compare to a fresh theatrical release.

Quite frankly, 'Sublime' came across as chintzy. The image has that kinda fuzzy, overly-lit look of a high-gloss cable flick. Colors are definitely eye-catching if perhaps too saturated, with consistent noise and a lack of strong detail. Blacks are spot-on, though shadow delineation due to a heavy black crush obscures fine textures. Contrast is likewise on the hot side. Overall, depth and detail aren't bad, however, particularly in brighter-lit and close-up shots. It's not an entirely clean encode, either, with some motion artifacts and a few instances of posterization, but all in all 'Sublime' looks pretty good.

[review_audio_stars] => 3 [review_audio_picture_id] => 0 [review_audio] =>

As with the previous Blu-ray, Warner offers but a single audio option for 'Sublime': English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (640kbps), plus English, French and Spanish subtitles. It's a serviceable mix, nothing more.

Surrounds are active in a few key scare moments, in which they are loud and stinger-ish. Don't expect much subtlety, however, with little sustained atmosphere. At least the score is nice and robust (it's probably the highlight of the mix), and dynamic range ain't bad. 'Sublime' does have that slightly cheap feel of a direct-to-video flick, with low bass that can lack bite and lots of looped-in dialogue. Things are generally intelligible, however, so I can't say there are any major problems with the soundtrack -- nor can I say there's anything all that exciting about it.

[review_supplements_stars] => 1.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 0 [review_supplements] =>

Warner carries over the goodies found on the Blu-ray and standard DVD version of 'Sublime' (and even throws in a couple of exclusives -- see below), though the material is presented 480p/i/MPEG-2 video only. It's a solid package.

  • Audio Commentary - The track features director Tony Krantz and writer Erik Jendresen, and it's quite the technical discussion. With a runtime of 113 minutes, it becomes a bit much to listen to such extensive dissection of the photography, effects, locations, editing etc. Thankfully, there are bursts of insight on the casting and story, but for me it was too few and far between. Truth be told, I got rather bored...
  • Featurette: "Surgical Exorcism" (SD, 6 minutes) - This six-minute piece is supposed to be "sociocultural anthropologist" Dr. Falk's webcast of a live surgical exorcism in the mountains of Peru." What a bunch of hooey!
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 1 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content] =>

Nothing major, but Warner has tossed in a couple of exclusives.

  • "The Shebeen Josie" (SD, 9 minutes) - This bizarre bit takes you inside an "African Juke Joint," where we eavesdrop on a conversation between a social worker and a... demon. Though not labeled a deleted scene, it sure feels like one.
  • Music Video (SD) - A clip for the Bird York tune "Have No Fear."
[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 3 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'Sublime' is a pretty typical direct-to-video horror film. It's gleefully unrated, with plenty of gratuitous violence and nudity, but comes up short on real scares or creativity. At least there's an ambitious message beneath the carnage, but will it be enough to entice diehard horror hounds? This HD DVD is, like its Blu-ray cousin, solid if unspectacular, with pretty-good video and audio, and fairly extensive supplements. 'Sublime' is worth a rent if you're a fan of the genre, but likely nothing more.

) ) ) ) [April 22, 2008] => Array ( [reviews] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 1348 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => freedomvol5 [review_release_date] => 1208847600 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Freedom: 5 [picture_created] => 1201036819 [picture_name] => freedom-5-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Bandai Visual [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/01/22/120/freedom-5-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1348/freedomvol5.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2007 [run_time] => 27 [list_price] => 39.99 [amazon_price] => 0.00 [empire_id] => 1401332 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.78:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => PiP Featurette [1] => HDi Enhanced Content [2] => Web-Enabled Content ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD/DVD Twin-Format Disc [1] => HD-15 Single-Layer/DVD 5 Single-Layer ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => Japanese Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5 Mbps) [1] => Japanese Linear PCM 2.0 Stereo ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Anime ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Daisuke Namikawa ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Shuhei Morita ) [preview_technology_specifications] => • Theatrical Trailer [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => • 'Freedom: 4' Digest (Web Enabled)
• 'Freedom: 5' TV Spot (Web Enabled) [preview_forum_id] => 38444 [review_editors_notes] => This disc contains several HDi-enhanced extras which may require a firmware upgrade to your HD DVD player. If you experience playback issues, consult your player's manual for instructions on how to download the latest firmware update. [review_bottom_line] => For Fans Only [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 53117 [review_movie_stars] => 2 [review_movie] =>

If you haven't already been hooked in by the 'Freedom' series from Bandai Visual, this fifth volume is not the place to start. "The Freedom Project" was born as a Japanese promotion designed to celebrate Nissin Cup Noodles' 35th anniversary. Instead of pumping out a promotional campaign centered around noodles, the company hired design legend Katsuhiro Otomo ('Akira,' 'Steamboy') to work on this sci-fi series detailing the roots of a dystopian society and its young characters. Over the last year, Bandai Visual has brought the series to the US, releasing each individual episode on HD DVD/DVD twin format discs.

The first three episodes of the 'Freedom' series were fantastic. In the year 2267, a devastating climate shift killed the majority of the planet's population. The survivors of this disaster colonized the moon and created Eden, a utopia that quickly devolved into a crime-ridden amalgamation of disenchanted citizenry and legions of street gangs. Out of this oppressive dystopia rose a young man named Takeru, a bumbling dreamer who stumbled onto a strange photograph which threatened to unravel Eden's house of cards. Without a solid plan, Takeru avoided the authorities, commandeered a clunky space shuttle, and made a hasty exit for Earth to uncover the truth for himself. Unfortunately, the series imploded with its fourth outing -- a plodding filler episode that didn't retain any of the tension or intrigue that allowed the series to resonate with fans across the globe.

I'm sad to report that the fifth episode is even more disappointing. After landing on Earth, donning the most ridiculous yellow outfit imaginable, and hitching a ride with a busload of post-apocalyptic hippies, Takeru conveniently arrives at the home of the mysterious girl in the photograph, Ao. As he finally gets a chance to talk to the girl he has dreamed of, he learns that her people have developed a society where dreams are encouraged rather than stifled. Each year, the survivors of Earth launch a rocket loaded with correspondence to the moon in an attempt to reestablish communication with their homeworld's "lost" colony. While Takeru learns about their yearly ritual, Biz tracks down the radio DJ who kept his hope alive during their cross-country journey to find Ao, but just as Takeru and Biz become acquainted with an Earth long thought deserted, an alarm warns everyone of an approaching hurricane that threatens the launch of the shuttle and the life of a young child in Ao's care.

My emotional divorce from 'Freedom' can be traced back to Takeru's anti-climactic arrival on Earth. I know the survivors are meant to provide a thematic counterpoint to the government of Eden, but they're so naïve and childlike that they failed to grab hold of my imagination. Whereas the political intrigue of the Eden segments held me in constant suspense, the revelations in the last two installments make the government's cover-up seem largely hollow and unnecessary. With the rug of logic yanked out from under my feet, I no longer have any real investment in the characters or the story. Personally, I don't care about Takeru's quest anymore; he's proven himself to be a hormonal teen looking for a cute girl rather than a dreamer undermining a vast conspiracy. I don't care about the survivors on Earth; they're free floating simpletons who don't provide the intensity their characters deserve. I don't really even care how the series ends; it's become a predictable mess that hasn't engaged me for two full episodes. With the series quickly wrapping up, I doubt it has sufficient time to win back my affections.

In my review of 'Freedom 1,' I mentioned how difficult it was to evaluate a series based on one episode alone. I was worried that I'd become attached to early episodes, only to be disappointed by future installments. Sadly, my fears had merit. The 'Freedom' series made an admittedly bold left turn at its midway mark, but it did so at the expense of its characters, plot, and overall appeal. By my estimation, 'Freedom 5' is a complete letdown that continues to crush the high hopes I had for the series. Here's hoping 'Freedom 6' turns water into wine.

[review_video_stars] => 4.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 5682 [review_video] =>

'Freedom 5' is the fifth US HD DVD to be released on a dual-layer twin-format disc (following the four previous installments in the series). Unlike an HD DVD/DVD Combo Format disc, twin-format discs are single-sided -- one side has a printed label and the other looks like a standard HD DVD. A DVD player will automatically access the DVD-5 layer of the disc, while an HD DVD player will access the HD-15 layer. The end-user doesn't have to fidget with any confusing technical options - instead, the twin-format disc does all the thinking and eliminates the problems that some users have experienced with two-sided discs.

Despite my annoyance with its rapidly decaying plot, 'Freedom 5' features a 1080p/VC-1 transfer that's as striking as every other entry in the series. Once again, crisp lines, stable color fills, sharp details, and a bold palette make the series one of the most impressive high-def anime titles on the market. More importantly, you won't find any noise, as every frame is incredibly clean. The animated precision makes for an impressive demo disc and it easily outclasses the DVD version included on the disc. As an added bonus, fans of the series will notice this particular episode doesn't have as many instances of color banding. While it was always a negligible problem, the blue and green gradients of Earth look a bit smoother than the reds and purples of Eden.

Like the previous four episodes, there are a few instances of artifacting and pixilation. However, these static discrepancies are present on the original background graphic files used in the animation. It's mildly distracting (since the majority of the picture is so clean), but it shouldn't be attributed to the HD DVD transfer. All in all, the transfer on 'Freedom 5' doesn't disappoint.

[review_audio_stars] => 3.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 5683 [review_audio] =>

'Freedom 5' includes a Japanese language Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 surround track (1.5 Mbps) that handles the episode's conversational soundfield with ease. Dialogue is crystal clear, prioritization is spot on, and a collection of transparent pans keep the surround presentation clean and natural. Although the beginning of the episode is centered around expositional chats, LFE presence is as strong as ever, supporting the most mundane effects with solid low-end extension and healthy thooms. Better still, treble tones are stable and the whiz and whine of clunky machinery doesn't suffer from peaking or errant noise.

My lone complaint is that the DD+ track just doesn't boast enough power to warrant a higher score. While a violent storm front allows the soundfield to come alive for three or four minutes, there just isn't a lot to get excited about in this episode. The rear channels mainly provide hushed ambient support, interior acoustics are unconvincing, and immersive surround effects are random and rare. To be clear, I have no significant technical qualms with the mix itself -- the audio simply provides an underwhelming experience that doesn't live up to the fantastic tunnel races and mech assaults of the first three episodes.

[review_supplements_stars] => 0 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 0 [review_supplements] =>

The only bonus that appears on both the HD DVD and DVD layers of 'Freedom 5' is a high definition trailer for the next episode.

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 1 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 5684 [review_bonus_content] =>

Like previous HD DVD installments of the series, the exclusive features on this release are technically impressive, but could really benefit from lengthier and more thorough content. Behind-the-scenes featurettes or commentaries would definitely help offset the disc's price.

  • Computer Graphics Simulation -- This overlay amounts to a PiP featurette of sorts that showcases the design work and production sketches that led to the completed episode. While it lasts for the entire episode, it's merely presented in 480p (making the HDi zoom feature irrelevant since the SD video is so bland and blocky).
  • HDi Interactivity -- As the PiP video plays, the placement, size, and transparency of the overlay window can be adjusted on the fly. It's also possible to set bookmark points, access English credits, and view other storyboards via buttons on your remote.
  • Freedom 4 Digest -- A montage of scenes from the previous volume.
  • Web Enabled Content -- If your player is connected to the internet, you can access downloadable content, including additional trailers and TV spots.
[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 2.5 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 5685 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'Freedom 5' continues to waste time focusing on the survivors of Earth -- what was once a uniquely dystopian cautionary tale has become a strange mish-mash of anime clichés and follow-your-dreams rhetoric. On the technical front, Bandai Visual has held up their end of the deal. This episode is presented with a stunning video transfer, a solid DD+ audio track, and a comparable supplemental package. While I do wish there was more bonus content to dig through, the real disappointment with this release is that it comes at the same high price as every other 'Freedom' episode. Rent this one before you drop much more cash on what's quickly becoming an anti-climactic letdown.

) ) ) [reviews_hot] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 1348 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => freedomvol5 [review_release_date] => 1208847600 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Freedom: 5 [picture_created] => 1201036819 [picture_name] => freedom-5-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Bandai Visual [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/01/22/120/freedom-5-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1348/freedomvol5.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2007 [run_time] => 27 [list_price] => 39.99 [amazon_price] => 0.00 [empire_id] => 1401332 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.78:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => PiP Featurette [1] => HDi Enhanced Content [2] => Web-Enabled Content ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD/DVD Twin-Format Disc [1] => HD-15 Single-Layer/DVD 5 Single-Layer ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => Japanese Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5 Mbps) [1] => Japanese Linear PCM 2.0 Stereo ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Anime ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Daisuke Namikawa ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Shuhei Morita ) [preview_technology_specifications] => • Theatrical Trailer [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => • 'Freedom: 4' Digest (Web Enabled)
• 'Freedom: 5' TV Spot (Web Enabled) [preview_forum_id] => 38444 [review_editors_notes] => This disc contains several HDi-enhanced extras which may require a firmware upgrade to your HD DVD player. If you experience playback issues, consult your player's manual for instructions on how to download the latest firmware update. [review_bottom_line] => For Fans Only [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 53117 [review_movie_stars] => 2 [review_movie] =>

If you haven't already been hooked in by the 'Freedom' series from Bandai Visual, this fifth volume is not the place to start. "The Freedom Project" was born as a Japanese promotion designed to celebrate Nissin Cup Noodles' 35th anniversary. Instead of pumping out a promotional campaign centered around noodles, the company hired design legend Katsuhiro Otomo ('Akira,' 'Steamboy') to work on this sci-fi series detailing the roots of a dystopian society and its young characters. Over the last year, Bandai Visual has brought the series to the US, releasing each individual episode on HD DVD/DVD twin format discs.

The first three episodes of the 'Freedom' series were fantastic. In the year 2267, a devastating climate shift killed the majority of the planet's population. The survivors of this disaster colonized the moon and created Eden, a utopia that quickly devolved into a crime-ridden amalgamation of disenchanted citizenry and legions of street gangs. Out of this oppressive dystopia rose a young man named Takeru, a bumbling dreamer who stumbled onto a strange photograph which threatened to unravel Eden's house of cards. Without a solid plan, Takeru avoided the authorities, commandeered a clunky space shuttle, and made a hasty exit for Earth to uncover the truth for himself. Unfortunately, the series imploded with its fourth outing -- a plodding filler episode that didn't retain any of the tension or intrigue that allowed the series to resonate with fans across the globe.

I'm sad to report that the fifth episode is even more disappointing. After landing on Earth, donning the most ridiculous yellow outfit imaginable, and hitching a ride with a busload of post-apocalyptic hippies, Takeru conveniently arrives at the home of the mysterious girl in the photograph, Ao. As he finally gets a chance to talk to the girl he has dreamed of, he learns that her people have developed a society where dreams are encouraged rather than stifled. Each year, the survivors of Earth launch a rocket loaded with correspondence to the moon in an attempt to reestablish communication with their homeworld's "lost" colony. While Takeru learns about their yearly ritual, Biz tracks down the radio DJ who kept his hope alive during their cross-country journey to find Ao, but just as Takeru and Biz become acquainted with an Earth long thought deserted, an alarm warns everyone of an approaching hurricane that threatens the launch of the shuttle and the life of a young child in Ao's care.

My emotional divorce from 'Freedom' can be traced back to Takeru's anti-climactic arrival on Earth. I know the survivors are meant to provide a thematic counterpoint to the government of Eden, but they're so naïve and childlike that they failed to grab hold of my imagination. Whereas the political intrigue of the Eden segments held me in constant suspense, the revelations in the last two installments make the government's cover-up seem largely hollow and unnecessary. With the rug of logic yanked out from under my feet, I no longer have any real investment in the characters or the story. Personally, I don't care about Takeru's quest anymore; he's proven himself to be a hormonal teen looking for a cute girl rather than a dreamer undermining a vast conspiracy. I don't care about the survivors on Earth; they're free floating simpletons who don't provide the intensity their characters deserve. I don't really even care how the series ends; it's become a predictable mess that hasn't engaged me for two full episodes. With the series quickly wrapping up, I doubt it has sufficient time to win back my affections.

In my review of 'Freedom 1,' I mentioned how difficult it was to evaluate a series based on one episode alone. I was worried that I'd become attached to early episodes, only to be disappointed by future installments. Sadly, my fears had merit. The 'Freedom' series made an admittedly bold left turn at its midway mark, but it did so at the expense of its characters, plot, and overall appeal. By my estimation, 'Freedom 5' is a complete letdown that continues to crush the high hopes I had for the series. Here's hoping 'Freedom 6' turns water into wine.

[review_video_stars] => 4.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 5682 [review_video] =>

'Freedom 5' is the fifth US HD DVD to be released on a dual-layer twin-format disc (following the four previous installments in the series). Unlike an HD DVD/DVD Combo Format disc, twin-format discs are single-sided -- one side has a printed label and the other looks like a standard HD DVD. A DVD player will automatically access the DVD-5 layer of the disc, while an HD DVD player will access the HD-15 layer. The end-user doesn't have to fidget with any confusing technical options - instead, the twin-format disc does all the thinking and eliminates the problems that some users have experienced with two-sided discs.

Despite my annoyance with its rapidly decaying plot, 'Freedom 5' features a 1080p/VC-1 transfer that's as striking as every other entry in the series. Once again, crisp lines, stable color fills, sharp details, and a bold palette make the series one of the most impressive high-def anime titles on the market. More importantly, you won't find any noise, as every frame is incredibly clean. The animated precision makes for an impressive demo disc and it easily outclasses the DVD version included on the disc. As an added bonus, fans of the series will notice this particular episode doesn't have as many instances of color banding. While it was always a negligible problem, the blue and green gradients of Earth look a bit smoother than the reds and purples of Eden.

Like the previous four episodes, there are a few instances of artifacting and pixilation. However, these static discrepancies are present on the original background graphic files used in the animation. It's mildly distracting (since the majority of the picture is so clean), but it shouldn't be attributed to the HD DVD transfer. All in all, the transfer on 'Freedom 5' doesn't disappoint.

[review_audio_stars] => 3.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 5683 [review_audio] =>

'Freedom 5' includes a Japanese language Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 surround track (1.5 Mbps) that handles the episode's conversational soundfield with ease. Dialogue is crystal clear, prioritization is spot on, and a collection of transparent pans keep the surround presentation clean and natural. Although the beginning of the episode is centered around expositional chats, LFE presence is as strong as ever, supporting the most mundane effects with solid low-end extension and healthy thooms. Better still, treble tones are stable and the whiz and whine of clunky machinery doesn't suffer from peaking or errant noise.

My lone complaint is that the DD+ track just doesn't boast enough power to warrant a higher score. While a violent storm front allows the soundfield to come alive for three or four minutes, there just isn't a lot to get excited about in this episode. The rear channels mainly provide hushed ambient support, interior acoustics are unconvincing, and immersive surround effects are random and rare. To be clear, I have no significant technical qualms with the mix itself -- the audio simply provides an underwhelming experience that doesn't live up to the fantastic tunnel races and mech assaults of the first three episodes.

[review_supplements_stars] => 0 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 0 [review_supplements] =>

The only bonus that appears on both the HD DVD and DVD layers of 'Freedom 5' is a high definition trailer for the next episode.

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 1 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 5684 [review_bonus_content] =>

Like previous HD DVD installments of the series, the exclusive features on this release are technically impressive, but could really benefit from lengthier and more thorough content. Behind-the-scenes featurettes or commentaries would definitely help offset the disc's price.

  • Computer Graphics Simulation -- This overlay amounts to a PiP featurette of sorts that showcases the design work and production sketches that led to the completed episode. While it lasts for the entire episode, it's merely presented in 480p (making the HDi zoom feature irrelevant since the SD video is so bland and blocky).
  • HDi Interactivity -- As the PiP video plays, the placement, size, and transparency of the overlay window can be adjusted on the fly. It's also possible to set bookmark points, access English credits, and view other storyboards via buttons on your remote.
  • Freedom 4 Digest -- A montage of scenes from the previous volume.
  • Web Enabled Content -- If your player is connected to the internet, you can access downloadable content, including additional trailers and TV spots.
[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 2.5 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 5685 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'Freedom 5' continues to waste time focusing on the survivors of Earth -- what was once a uniquely dystopian cautionary tale has become a strange mish-mash of anime clichés and follow-your-dreams rhetoric. On the technical front, Bandai Visual has held up their end of the deal. This episode is presented with a stunning video transfer, a solid DD+ audio track, and a comparable supplemental package. While I do wish there was more bonus content to dig through, the real disappointment with this release is that it comes at the same high price as every other 'Freedom' episode. Rent this one before you drop much more cash on what's quickly becoming an anti-climactic letdown.

) ) ) ) [April 15, 2008] => Array ( [reviews] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 1270 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => bonnieandclyde [review_release_date] => 1208242800 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Bonnie & Clyde [picture_created] => 1208329200 [picture_name] => bonnie-clyde-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Video [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/04/16/120/bonnie-clyde-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1270/bonnieandclyde.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1967 [run_time] => 111 [release_date_notes] => Rescheduled from March 25, 2008 [list_price] => 28.98 [asin] => B0010YVCIO [amazon_price] => 23.95 [empire_id] => 1382064 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 [1] => 480p/i/MPEG2 (Supplements Only) ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (192kbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Documentary [1] => Featurettes [2] => Deleted Scenes ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English Subtitles [1] => French Subtitles [2] => Spanish Subtitles [3] => Korean Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Crime [1] => Drama ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Warren Beatty [1] => Faye Dunaway [2] => Estelle Parsons ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Arthur Penn ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway are the legendary Depression-era bandits and lovers in this landmark film that won two Academy Awards and triggered a revolution in screen violence. [preview_technology_specifications] => • Documentary: "Revolution! The Making of Bonnie & Clyde"
• TV Special: "The History Channels: Love and Death: The Story of Bonnie and Clyde"
• Deleted scenes
• Wardrobe tests
• Collectible Booklet & Packaging [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 28110 [review_editors_notes] =>

Non-format-specific portions of this review were first published in our review of the Blu-ray version of 'Bonnie & Clyde.'

[review_bottom_line] => Recommended [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 52992 [review_movie_stars] => 5 [review_movie] =>

Arguably the most influential film of the '60s, 'Bonnie & Clyde' redefined the visual grammar and language of modern Hollywood filmmaking. Freed from the rigid constraints of the Hayes Code that had previously anesthetized the "gangster" genre, 'Bonnie & Clyde' lifted the restrictions on graphic on-screen violence and overt sexuality, ushering in a new era of hard-hitting realism. More than just a taboo-breaking footnote, however, 'Bonnie & Clyde' is a masterful examination of violence, infamy, and the American mystique. The film has barely aged in the forty years since it first rocked moviegoers expecting just another rollicking caper flick, and it may in fact be more terrifying in its current cultural implications than it was upon its initial release.

The world's first tabloid superstars, Clyde Barrow (Warren Beatty) and Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway) embarked upon a crime spree that made headline news in 1930s, Depression-era America. Both came from meager means and small rural towns. Parker sought a life of romance and excitement, and the handsome and charming Barrow was only too happy to accommodate. Like a lit match to a tumbleweed, their chemistry was immediate and combustible, and the pair quickly became involved in the runaway life of bank heists, car chases and bloody, random violence.

The story is a well-known piece of revisionist history, but what makes 'Bonnie & Clyde' masterful is not how its plot unfolds (we already know the fate awaiting these thrill-seeking degenerates), but rather the manner in which the film observes Barrow and Parker's amoral behavior and the cultural situation from which it was born. The inevitability of the conclusion generates an almost unbearable tension that would not have been present had the narrative been constructed as something unexpected -- the frequent shots of the couple careening at breakneck speed in their stolen car (just one of the film's many spellbinding visual motifs) become all too symbolic as we wait with bated breath for the collision between their juvenile fantasies and the crushing reality that we know is in store for them.

Written with tremendous precision by Robert Benton and David Newman (not a single word is wasted), 'Bonnie & Clyde' tells a very American tale about the yearning to lift ordinary lives to mythic levels. Barrow and Parker may have been psychopaths, but they shared an unquestionable determination to "leave their mark" on the world, and ultimately attain immortality. That they did it by being cop killers and bank robbers was simply due to the fact that they had no other apparent options available to them. That the pair were quickly hailed as misunderstood folk heroes by some (a perception Barrow and Parker were only too happy to foster, by ingeniously stealing only from "rich" banks and refusing to rob from the poor ) only speaks to the way our society has always rewarded ambition over accomplishment no matter what the consequence.

'Bonnie & Clyde' is also a prescient indictment of our culture's continued inability to separate fame from infamy. Barrow and Parker would follow their story in the newspapers with zeal, obsessed with their own notoriety. Their "success" was derived from sheer narcissism, with Bonnie at one point writing a bio of their violent lives that the press was only too happy to publish. (It's no surprise that Clyde makes love to Bonnie for the first time after she writes her opus, directly linking the violence with sexual release -- another taboo the film shattered in 1967).

Even more pathetic, the couple's fame would attract their own circle of sycophants. As Bonnie and Clyde became such a hot commodity, their stature would bear "offspring," some who acted as accomplices, some as bystanders, and some who were simply too terrified to turn them in. In just three of the film's many terrific supporting performances, Michael J. Pollard creates one of the most chilling portraits of inept idolatry ever seen on film, while Gene Hackman is indelible as Clyde's brother, and as his long-suffering wife, Estelle Parsons took home an Oscar.

Considerable criticism has been leveled at 'Bonnie & Clyde' for Arthur Penn's use of slapstick comedy and often arresting, beautiful imagery to tell his story. Yet that is precisely the point -- Bonnie and Clyde don't exist in the real world, they inhabit an idealized, mythic vision of an America of their own making (never has Depression-era America looked so beautiful). As they rob and plunder, spilling blood across the gorgeous, sun-drenched landscapes, the film achieves a startling and uncompromising thematic contrast. The real and the fantasy worlds collide, unfolding in a comedy of errors that's blacker than black. It's a gritty, complex, and poignant statement, laced with irony, yet never dismissive of the lives lost while Parker and Barrow wasted their own.

'Bonnie & Clyde' continues to probe such incongruities right up to its final, shattering scene. The film's operatic denounement is now legendary, with the lovers gunned down in a hail of bullets aimed at them by the "right" side of the law. That their execution was actually unjust -- they were ambushed by revenge-seeking cops that had no intention of capture, much less a trial by jury -- so muddles the moral ambiguity that it's sublime. Such bold, audacious filmmaking choices elevate 'Bonnie & Clyde' far above the plateau of grand entertainment (which it is) to the that of a seminal landmark. Fiercely intelligent, expertly directed and wonderfully performed, 'Bonnie & Clyde' is one of the must-see films of modern cinema.

[review_video_stars] => 4.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 2627 [review_video] =>

'Bonnie & Clyde' had the distinction of being among the first twenty-five DVDs Warner released back in March 1997. Although it was a fairly good presentation for the time, the film has certainly cried out for the kind of top-shelf remaster Warner has doled out for other classics of its stature. I'm glad to say this long-awaited remaster met my expectations, and easily surpasses any previous video version of 'Bonnie & Clyde.'

Minted from a new high-definition master, Warner presents 'Bonnie & Clyde' in 1080p/VC-1 video (framed at its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1). It is also an identical encode to the recently-issued Blu-ray version. Although the film is certainly of its time, the source has been meticulously restored -- I wasn't expecting such a clean, dirt-free image. Grain is apparent and consistent, but even in dark scenes it's never excessive, adding a gritty, film-like look that is well-suited to the subject matter. While the transfer is not as sharp as a modern film, it's also not "soft," nor is there any irritating edge enhancement.

Most improved over past video releases, however, is the color palette. Hues are much more vibrant and smooth (Faye Dunaway's lips look delicious), and fleshtones are wonderfully natural. Detail also exhibits more readily-apparent fine textures, and there is considerable depth for a film from 1967. This new version of 'Bonnie & Clyde' is also a test case for how far the art of digital compression has come in the ten years since the DVD format debuted -- just check out that old disc if you want to see an example of horrible MPEG-2 artifacts and noise, then compare it to this very smooth, very clean VC-1 encode.

Needless to say, those weaned only on today's modern CGI spectacles will probably find the look of this transfer archaic. Which is their loss, as even among the already-high standards Warner has set with its past remasters of vintage titles, 'Bonnie & Clyde' looks pretty terrific.

[review_audio_stars] => 2 [review_audio_picture_id] => 0 [review_audio] =>

Due to the unavailability of the original source elements for 'Bonnie & Clyde,' Warner has not produced a new surround remaster for the film. The HD DVD again mirrors the Blu-ray, and offers only an English Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono track (192kbps). There's little noteworthy about it.

As there is no surround presence or even stereo separation to speak of, the action is all from the front. At least the source that Warner did have to work with sounds rather good for a 1967 film, with a decent sense of realism and warmth. I expected worse -- high-end isn't nearly as brittle as other tracks of this vintage that I've heard, and there is a decent amount of low bass. Dialogue can suffer a bit, however, with some low tunes muffled, while louder scenes can grate on the eardrums. All things considered, however, this is a perfectly fine mono track.

[review_supplements_stars] => 3 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 0 [review_supplements] =>

Warner's original DVD release of 'Bonnie & Clyde' was a bare-bones affair, and the title has long been one of the most requested in the studio's library to receive the special edition treatment. Now, at last, Warner has heeded the call of the film buff, and produced a worthy batch of newly-produced supplements for the film's next-gen editions. Although all of the extras here are presented in 480p/i/VC-1 video only (with optional English, French, Spanish, and Korean subtitles), it's still a fine line-up that should satisfy fans.

  • TV Special: "Love and Death: The True Story of Bonnie & Clyde" (SD, 43 minutes) - Things kick off in somewhat bland fashion with this 1992 History Channel documentary, which really doesn't touch upon the movie much at all. Rather, it's a talking-heads piece with various historians, authors and long-removed relatives to the real Bonnie & Clyde. It provides a good bit of background on the pair (some of which departs significantly from what's in the film), but the pace is rather slow.
  • Documentary: "Revolution! The Making of Bonnie & Clyde' (SD, 61 minutes) - Clocking in at over an hour, the three-part "Revolution!" goes a long way towards making up for the absence of an audio commentary. All of the principals we want to hear from are here, including fresh interviews with director Arthur Penn, screenwriter Robert Benton, creative consultant (aka script doctor) Robert Towne, filmmaker Curtis Hanson, stars Faye Dunaway, Gene Hackman, Michael J. Pollard and Estelle Parsons, and even star/producer Warren Beatty (who in the past has been reticent to take part in DVD extras). There is a noticeable lack of any on-set footage and a limited number of still images, but rather than overload us with film clips Warner focuses on the interviews, which are well cut and informative -- everything from conception to casting to production to release is covered. "Revolution!" is a meat and potatoes doc in terms of form, but it definitely delivers the goods.
  • Deleted Scenes (SD, 13 minutes) - There are only two scenes here, and both without any usable production sound (optional subtitles are provided). But for a film that has been as dissected as 'Bonnie & Clyde' over the years, they are a real find. Also included here are some "Wardrobe Tests with Warren Beatty," which run 8 minutes.
  • Theatrical Trailers (SD) - A teaser and full theatrical trailer are included, both in 480p/VC-1 video and Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono.
  • Collectible Booklet - Finally, 'Bonnie & Clyde' earns an additional note of distinction for being the first of Warner's new line of "Book" special edition high-def releases. Instead of the usual blue keepcase, the disc comes housed in a matted book-like cover, which opens up to reveal 24 full-color pages containing production notes, cast bios, rare photographs, and excerpts from the original theatrical press kit. Although I think the casing itself could be a bit more sturdy (handle this one with care), I did quite like the booklet, which adds a classy, collectible touch. I think Warner is onto something here, and look forward to their future "book" releases.
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content] =>

There are no high-def exclusives.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 3.5 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'Bonnie & Clyde' is one of the best films produced by Hollywood in the '60s, which is more than just high praise -- it makes it a landmark of the medium and a must-see for any serious student of American cinema history. This first-ever high-def release easily does the film justice, with a terrific remaster and a worthwhile package of retrospective extras. Sure, the soundtrack is only mono, but it still sounds as good as it probably could. 'Bonnie & Clyde' is a must addition to your HD DVD library.

) ) ) [reviews_hot] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 1270 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => bonnieandclyde [review_release_date] => 1208242800 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Bonnie & Clyde [picture_created] => 1208329200 [picture_name] => bonnie-clyde-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Video [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/04/16/120/bonnie-clyde-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1270/bonnieandclyde.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1967 [run_time] => 111 [release_date_notes] => Rescheduled from March 25, 2008 [list_price] => 28.98 [asin] => B0010YVCIO [amazon_price] => 23.95 [empire_id] => 1382064 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 [1] => 480p/i/MPEG2 (Supplements Only) ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (192kbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Documentary [1] => Featurettes [2] => Deleted Scenes ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English Subtitles [1] => French Subtitles [2] => Spanish Subtitles [3] => Korean Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Crime [1] => Drama ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Warren Beatty [1] => Faye Dunaway [2] => Estelle Parsons ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Arthur Penn ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway are the legendary Depression-era bandits and lovers in this landmark film that won two Academy Awards and triggered a revolution in screen violence. [preview_technology_specifications] => • Documentary: "Revolution! The Making of Bonnie & Clyde"
• TV Special: "The History Channels: Love and Death: The Story of Bonnie and Clyde"
• Deleted scenes
• Wardrobe tests
• Collectible Booklet & Packaging [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 28110 [review_editors_notes] =>

Non-format-specific portions of this review were first published in our review of the Blu-ray version of 'Bonnie & Clyde.'

[review_bottom_line] => Recommended [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 52992 [review_movie_stars] => 5 [review_movie] =>

Arguably the most influential film of the '60s, 'Bonnie & Clyde' redefined the visual grammar and language of modern Hollywood filmmaking. Freed from the rigid constraints of the Hayes Code that had previously anesthetized the "gangster" genre, 'Bonnie & Clyde' lifted the restrictions on graphic on-screen violence and overt sexuality, ushering in a new era of hard-hitting realism. More than just a taboo-breaking footnote, however, 'Bonnie & Clyde' is a masterful examination of violence, infamy, and the American mystique. The film has barely aged in the forty years since it first rocked moviegoers expecting just another rollicking caper flick, and it may in fact be more terrifying in its current cultural implications than it was upon its initial release.

The world's first tabloid superstars, Clyde Barrow (Warren Beatty) and Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway) embarked upon a crime spree that made headline news in 1930s, Depression-era America. Both came from meager means and small rural towns. Parker sought a life of romance and excitement, and the handsome and charming Barrow was only too happy to accommodate. Like a lit match to a tumbleweed, their chemistry was immediate and combustible, and the pair quickly became involved in the runaway life of bank heists, car chases and bloody, random violence.

The story is a well-known piece of revisionist history, but what makes 'Bonnie & Clyde' masterful is not how its plot unfolds (we already know the fate awaiting these thrill-seeking degenerates), but rather the manner in which the film observes Barrow and Parker's amoral behavior and the cultural situation from which it was born. The inevitability of the conclusion generates an almost unbearable tension that would not have been present had the narrative been constructed as something unexpected -- the frequent shots of the couple careening at breakneck speed in their stolen car (just one of the film's many spellbinding visual motifs) become all too symbolic as we wait with bated breath for the collision between their juvenile fantasies and the crushing reality that we know is in store for them.

Written with tremendous precision by Robert Benton and David Newman (not a single word is wasted), 'Bonnie & Clyde' tells a very American tale about the yearning to lift ordinary lives to mythic levels. Barrow and Parker may have been psychopaths, but they shared an unquestionable determination to "leave their mark" on the world, and ultimately attain immortality. That they did it by being cop killers and bank robbers was simply due to the fact that they had no other apparent options available to them. That the pair were quickly hailed as misunderstood folk heroes by some (a perception Barrow and Parker were only too happy to foster, by ingeniously stealing only from "rich" banks and refusing to rob from the poor ) only speaks to the way our society has always rewarded ambition over accomplishment no matter what the consequence.

'Bonnie & Clyde' is also a prescient indictment of our culture's continued inability to separate fame from infamy. Barrow and Parker would follow their story in the newspapers with zeal, obsessed with their own notoriety. Their "success" was derived from sheer narcissism, with Bonnie at one point writing a bio of their violent lives that the press was only too happy to publish. (It's no surprise that Clyde makes love to Bonnie for the first time after she writes her opus, directly linking the violence with sexual release -- another taboo the film shattered in 1967).

Even more pathetic, the couple's fame would attract their own circle of sycophants. As Bonnie and Clyde became such a hot commodity, their stature would bear "offspring," some who acted as accomplices, some as bystanders, and some who were simply too terrified to turn them in. In just three of the film's many terrific supporting performances, Michael J. Pollard creates one of the most chilling portraits of inept idolatry ever seen on film, while Gene Hackman is indelible as Clyde's brother, and as his long-suffering wife, Estelle Parsons took home an Oscar.

Considerable criticism has been leveled at 'Bonnie & Clyde' for Arthur Penn's use of slapstick comedy and often arresting, beautiful imagery to tell his story. Yet that is precisely the point -- Bonnie and Clyde don't exist in the real world, they inhabit an idealized, mythic vision of an America of their own making (never has Depression-era America looked so beautiful). As they rob and plunder, spilling blood across the gorgeous, sun-drenched landscapes, the film achieves a startling and uncompromising thematic contrast. The real and the fantasy worlds collide, unfolding in a comedy of errors that's blacker than black. It's a gritty, complex, and poignant statement, laced with irony, yet never dismissive of the lives lost while Parker and Barrow wasted their own.

'Bonnie & Clyde' continues to probe such incongruities right up to its final, shattering scene. The film's operatic denounement is now legendary, with the lovers gunned down in a hail of bullets aimed at them by the "right" side of the law. That their execution was actually unjust -- they were ambushed by revenge-seeking cops that had no intention of capture, much less a trial by jury -- so muddles the moral ambiguity that it's sublime. Such bold, audacious filmmaking choices elevate 'Bonnie & Clyde' far above the plateau of grand entertainment (which it is) to the that of a seminal landmark. Fiercely intelligent, expertly directed and wonderfully performed, 'Bonnie & Clyde' is one of the must-see films of modern cinema.

[review_video_stars] => 4.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 2627 [review_video] =>

'Bonnie & Clyde' had the distinction of being among the first twenty-five DVDs Warner released back in March 1997. Although it was a fairly good presentation for the time, the film has certainly cried out for the kind of top-shelf remaster Warner has doled out for other classics of its stature. I'm glad to say this long-awaited remaster met my expectations, and easily surpasses any previous video version of 'Bonnie & Clyde.'

Minted from a new high-definition master, Warner presents 'Bonnie & Clyde' in 1080p/VC-1 video (framed at its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1). It is also an identical encode to the recently-issued Blu-ray version. Although the film is certainly of its time, the source has been meticulously restored -- I wasn't expecting such a clean, dirt-free image. Grain is apparent and consistent, but even in dark scenes it's never excessive, adding a gritty, film-like look that is well-suited to the subject matter. While the transfer is not as sharp as a modern film, it's also not "soft," nor is there any irritating edge enhancement.

Most improved over past video releases, however, is the color palette. Hues are much more vibrant and smooth (Faye Dunaway's lips look delicious), and fleshtones are wonderfully natural. Detail also exhibits more readily-apparent fine textures, and there is considerable depth for a film from 1967. This new version of 'Bonnie & Clyde' is also a test case for how far the art of digital compression has come in the ten years since the DVD format debuted -- just check out that old disc if you want to see an example of horrible MPEG-2 artifacts and noise, then compare it to this very smooth, very clean VC-1 encode.

Needless to say, those weaned only on today's modern CGI spectacles will probably find the look of this transfer archaic. Which is their loss, as even among the already-high standards Warner has set with its past remasters of vintage titles, 'Bonnie & Clyde' looks pretty terrific.

[review_audio_stars] => 2 [review_audio_picture_id] => 0 [review_audio] =>

Due to the unavailability of the original source elements for 'Bonnie & Clyde,' Warner has not produced a new surround remaster for the film. The HD DVD again mirrors the Blu-ray, and offers only an English Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono track (192kbps). There's little noteworthy about it.

As there is no surround presence or even stereo separation to speak of, the action is all from the front. At least the source that Warner did have to work with sounds rather good for a 1967 film, with a decent sense of realism and warmth. I expected worse -- high-end isn't nearly as brittle as other tracks of this vintage that I've heard, and there is a decent amount of low bass. Dialogue can suffer a bit, however, with some low tunes muffled, while louder scenes can grate on the eardrums. All things considered, however, this is a perfectly fine mono track.

[review_supplements_stars] => 3 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 0 [review_supplements] =>

Warner's original DVD release of 'Bonnie & Clyde' was a bare-bones affair, and the title has long been one of the most requested in the studio's library to receive the special edition treatment. Now, at last, Warner has heeded the call of the film buff, and produced a worthy batch of newly-produced supplements for the film's next-gen editions. Although all of the extras here are presented in 480p/i/VC-1 video only (with optional English, French, Spanish, and Korean subtitles), it's still a fine line-up that should satisfy fans.

  • TV Special: "Love and Death: The True Story of Bonnie & Clyde" (SD, 43 minutes) - Things kick off in somewhat bland fashion with this 1992 History Channel documentary, which really doesn't touch upon the movie much at all. Rather, it's a talking-heads piece with various historians, authors and long-removed relatives to the real Bonnie & Clyde. It provides a good bit of background on the pair (some of which departs significantly from what's in the film), but the pace is rather slow.
  • Documentary: "Revolution! The Making of Bonnie & Clyde' (SD, 61 minutes) - Clocking in at over an hour, the three-part "Revolution!" goes a long way towards making up for the absence of an audio commentary. All of the principals we want to hear from are here, including fresh interviews with director Arthur Penn, screenwriter Robert Benton, creative consultant (aka script doctor) Robert Towne, filmmaker Curtis Hanson, stars Faye Dunaway, Gene Hackman, Michael J. Pollard and Estelle Parsons, and even star/producer Warren Beatty (who in the past has been reticent to take part in DVD extras). There is a noticeable lack of any on-set footage and a limited number of still images, but rather than overload us with film clips Warner focuses on the interviews, which are well cut and informative -- everything from conception to casting to production to release is covered. "Revolution!" is a meat and potatoes doc in terms of form, but it definitely delivers the goods.
  • Deleted Scenes (SD, 13 minutes) - There are only two scenes here, and both without any usable production sound (optional subtitles are provided). But for a film that has been as dissected as 'Bonnie & Clyde' over the years, they are a real find. Also included here are some "Wardrobe Tests with Warren Beatty," which run 8 minutes.
  • Theatrical Trailers (SD) - A teaser and full theatrical trailer are included, both in 480p/VC-1 video and Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono.
  • Collectible Booklet - Finally, 'Bonnie & Clyde' earns an additional note of distinction for being the first of Warner's new line of "Book" special edition high-def releases. Instead of the usual blue keepcase, the disc comes housed in a matted book-like cover, which opens up to reveal 24 full-color pages containing production notes, cast bios, rare photographs, and excerpts from the original theatrical press kit. Although I think the casing itself could be a bit more sturdy (handle this one with care), I did quite like the booklet, which adds a classy, collectible touch. I think Warner is onto something here, and look forward to their future "book" releases.
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content] =>

There are no high-def exclusives.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 3.5 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'Bonnie & Clyde' is one of the best films produced by Hollywood in the '60s, which is more than just high praise -- it makes it a landmark of the medium and a must-see for any serious student of American cinema history. This first-ever high-def release easily does the film justice, with a terrific remaster and a worthwhile package of retrospective extras. Sure, the soundtrack is only mono, but it still sounds as good as it probably could. 'Bonnie & Clyde' is a must addition to your HD DVD library.

) ) ) ) [April 8, 2008] => Array ( [reviews] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 1337 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => iamlegend [review_release_date] => 1207638000 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => I Am Legend [picture_created] => 1202099996 [picture_name] => i-am-legend-hd-dvddvd-combo-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Video [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/02/03/120/i-am-legend-hd-dvddvd-combo-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1337/iamlegend.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2007 [run_time] => 104 [list_price] => 35.98 [asin] => B0013FBTHO [amazon_price] => 24.95 [empire_id] => 1391003 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.35:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 [1] => 480p/i/MPEG-2 (Supplements Only) ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD/DVD Combo [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc/HD-15 Single-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround (48kHz/16-bit) [1] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (640kbps) [2] => French Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (640kbps) [3] => Spanish Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (640kbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Alternate Version [1] => Interactive Comics ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles [2] => Spanish Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Action [1] => Horror [2] => Thriller ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Charlie Tahan [1] => Alice Braga [2] => Will Smith ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Francis Lawrence ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Robert Neville (Will Smith) is a brilliant scientist, but even he could not contain the terrible virus that was unstoppable, incurable, and man-made. Somehow immune, Neville is now the last human survivor in what is left of New York City and maybe the world. For three years, Neville has faithfully sent out daily radio messages, desperate to find any other survivors who might be out there. But he is not alone. Mutant victims of the plague—The Infected—lurk in the shadows…watching Neville´s every move…waiting for him to make a fatal mistake. Perhaps mankind´s last, best hope, Neville is driven by only one remaining mission: to find a way to reverse the effects of the virus using his own immune blood. But he knows he is outnumbered…and quickly running out of time. [preview_technology_specifications] => • Alternative Theatrical Version with a Controversial Ending
• 4 Interactive Comics: "Death As a Gift," "Isolation," "Sacrificing the Few for the Many," "Shelter" [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 37054 [review_editors_notes] =>

Non-format-specific portions of this review were first published in our review of the Blu-ray version of 'I Am Legend.'

[review_bottom_line] => Give it a Rent [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 52394 [review_movie_stars] => 2.5 [review_movie] =>

Richard Matheson's 1954 science fiction classic 'I Am Legend' has endured one of the most torturous cinematic gestations of any novel in memory. The story has been adapted twice before (first as "The Last Man on Earth' in 1964, then as 1971's campy 'The Omega Man,' starring Charleton Heston), but neither version was particularly successful, as both departed greatly from Matheson's original story. Although a long-rumored "faithful" update of 'I Am Legend' percolated in the decades that followed (with everyone from Tom Cruise to Arnold Schwarzenegger to Vin Diesel circling the project), it wasn't until writer-producer Akiva Goldsmith ('A Beautiful Mind') acquired the rights to the property and attached Will Smith to star, that Warner finally greenlit the project. At last, Matheson fans could rejoice, it seemed the writer's original vision was headed for the big screen.

Indeed, this latest redux of 'I Am Legend' hews closest to the seminal sci-fi novel, preserving the basic post-apocalyptic template set down by Matheson. The opening scenes of the film are initially startling, resisting the temptation of most of today's big sci-fi spectacles to overwhelm us with pummeling action and numbing sadism. Instead, the first forty-five minutes are unnerving in their depiction of a future world decimated by a deadly virus. The film moves methodically, slowly revealing the predicament of its lead character (Will Smith), the lone survivor of a bacterial holocaust. 'I Am Legend' feels almost "European" in its willingness to undermine the commercial expectations of its genre -- if it hadn't been for Smith's name above the marquee, I might have thought I'd stumbled into an art film.

Smith stars as Dr. Robert Neville, a military virologist and literally the last man on Earth. Three years earlier, a group of scientists (led by an uncredited Emma Thompson) proclaimed to discover a cure for cancer via a re-engineered strain of the measles virus, but the experiment went awry, creating a deadly airborne infection that wiped out 99 percent of humanity, leaving the rest as mutated zombies. Now Neville, who was miraculously immune to the virus, must race to find a cure before the flesh-eaters (who he calls the "Dark Seekers") find him. Along with his canine companion, Samantha, Neville spends his days wandering the city, searching for signs of human life, while delving deeper into the virus' deadly secrets.

The first two acts of 'I Am Legend' are quite compelling. This is Smith's one-man show, and like Tom Hanks in 'Cast Away,' he manages to command our attention and elicit our sympathies with very little dialogue. Smith articulates Neville's daily routines (from hunting antelope in the bombed-out streets of New York, to watching old newscasts in his apartment) with subtlety and precision, and via a few tersely-depicted flashbacks, he strikes just the right emotional notes of loss and regret. Smith's haunting performance, combined with some well-executed photographic effects, create an atmosphere of dread and oppression that rings authentic.

Unfortunately, while 'I Am Legend' is initially a laudable attempt to realize the world Matheson imagined back in 1954, the movie again tampers with the source for the third act. The deviations are for the worse. Screenwriter Goldsmith brings in two other survivors, a woman named Anna (Alice Braga) and a young boy named Ethan (Charlie Tahan), but because we've spent so much screen time with Neville, their introduction is jarring. Even worse is the intrusion of the inevitable villain (Dash Mihok), the leader of the Dark Seekers. What follows is the requisite cavalcade of action, noisy explosions, and increasingly lame CGI. The result of all these third act shenanigans is not a mess as disastrous as, say, 'The Invasion,' but there is still a palpable sense of deflation as we realize that the challenging first two-thirds of 'I Am Legend' are being thrown away, apparently for the sake of commercial considerations.

However -- and almost like jury objection in defense of the filmmakers -- Warner has included a much-ballyhoo'd Alternate Version of 'I Am Legend' on this HD DVD, containing four minutes of added footage, including a "controversial" new ending. The amount of material is not extensive (about a minute is added into the beginning of the third act, with the rest grafted onto the climax), but it does impart the viewer with a considerably different emotional mood than the theatrical version. The new ending is more upbeat, yet more satisfying, and the Dark Seekers are also better established, making the action-heavy final scenes more bearable. The Alternate Version does not rectify the basic structural flaws of 'I Am Legend,' but it is an improvement.

Regardless of which version you ultimately decide to watch, 'I Am Legend' is a film with many strong parts, but one that ultimately fails to come off as the sci-fi epic it hoped to be. It's impossible to fully express my disappointment with the film without revealing too many of its plot twists, other than to say that the fascinating spiritual themes which coalesced so memorably in Matheson's original novel are largely jettisoned in favor of action and visual effects. It's to Smith's credit that 'I Am Legend' is as riveting as it is for such a long period of time, but he's let down by a muddled script. 'I Am Legend' is still worth seeing thanks to its first two acts, but I can't eradicate the lingering feeling that it's a disappointment.

[review_video_stars] => 5 [review_video_picture_id] => 0 [review_video] =>

One of Warner's top-grossers of 2007, 'I Am Legend's mix of sci-fi, action, and big-ticket special effects makes it ideal high-def material. This 1080p/VC-1 encode (identical to the Blu-ray version) doesn't disappoint, with a terrific, highly-detailed image that's up there with the best high-def presentations that I've seen from the studio yet. (Note that 'I Am Legend' includes both the Theatrical and Alternate Version of the movie available via seamless branching on the HD DVD side of this HD DVD/DVD combo disc. You are given the option of which cut of the film you want to watch as soon as the disc fires up, and the alternate footage is perfectly integrated -- I couldn't detect a bit of difference in terms of video quality between the two versions.)

Right from the opening sequence depicting a decimated New York City, the transfer exhibits a clarity and sense of depth that is first-rate. The source is absolutely tip-top, with perfect blacks and (for once) contrast that's well modulated across the entire grayscale and without the usual blown-up whites. Colors are vibrant and saturated but not overdone, which further enhances detail. The close-ups of Will Smith's face (and there are many) are typical of the ultra-fine texturing, with every pore and bead of sweat visible. Sharpness is equally excellent, with the image never faltering, yet free from edge enhancement and other trickery. Finally, shadow delineation is likewise superior, with even the darkest scenes finely nuanced.

Though it is technically not a complaint, there is a great deal of CGI in 'I Am Legend' (particularly involving various animals, as well as many of the vast tracking shots of the obviously phony New York cityscapes) that is marred by much motion blur. Thus there can be a "soft' look to many of these effects, particularly on fast action. This is indicative of the source however, and just the way it goes with today's CGI, so I can't fault this superlative transfer for that -- it is top tier high-def, and easily rates five stars.

[review_audio_stars] => 5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 0 [review_audio] =>

Warner offers a number of audio options on 'I Am Legend,' including English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround (48kHz/16-bit) on both the theatrical and alternate versions, as well as English, French and Spanish Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround dubs (640kbps) on the theatrical version only. The Dolby TrueHD track is certainly the way to go, as it's pretty fantastic and sure to become a choice demo disc for HD DVD enthusiasts.

Although 'I Am Legend' certainly has its share of action and thriller elements, it's not an over-the-top film in terms of sound design. There are many long (some might say drawn-out) sequences involving Will Smith stalking around New York while being chased by all manner of strange critters, which is where this mix really impresses in terms of subtlety. Right from the opening sequence involving antelope and some vicious lions, the attention to fine detail and minor atmospheric sounds is outstanding -- the balance of ambiance, score integration, and the occasional stinger is reference quality for a home theater mix. The clarity of individual sounds, as well as the expansiveness of the entire frequency spectrum, is equally stunning.

The more aggressive elements of the mix are equally noteworthy. The subwoofer exhibits some of the deepest low bass extension I've heard on a TrueHD track. Imaging is also transparent, and there were often moments when I couldn't localize a specific sound in the rear channels as it darted about, indicating a truly successful and immersive "wall of sound" effect. 'I Am Legend' is also a first-rate example of the kind of classy and polished recording that only a major studio can buy -- the quality and realism of recorded sounds is impeccable. Volume balance is also spot on, as I had no trouble understanding dialogue, even in the most action-fueled sequences. 'I Am Legend' earns another five stars for audio.

[review_supplements_stars] => 0.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 0 [review_supplements] =>

Much to the chagrin of HD DVD fans, Warner has announced that the next-gen versions of 'I Am Legend' are not created equal, and the Blu-ray edition comes to disc with a few more extras than the HD DVD (namely a documentary and featurette). That said, I wasn't completely blown away by the "full" extras package for 'I Am Legend' (as I noted in my orignal Blu-ray review), so in any configuration this hardly qualifies as a truly top-flight special edition. (Note that all of the extras on this HD DVD/DVD combo can found on the DVD side only, and in standard-definition.)

  • Animated Comics (SD, 22 minutes) - A bit of a throwaway for me, these four animated comics really don't have anything at all do to with 'I Am Legend.' Sure, they are very nicely rendered, but they're rather irrelevant to the film at hand. The four segments are: "Death as a Gift," "Isolation," "Sacrificing the Few for the Many," and "Shelter."
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content] =>

There are no HD DVD exclusives.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 3 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'I Am Legend' is a more faithful re-telling of Richard Matheson's novel than 1971's 'The Omega Man,' but it's still problematic. I liked the effects, the performance by Will Smith, and some of the cool zombies, but the end is a pretty big letdown. This HD DVD is anything but, however, with absolutely fantastic video and audio. Unfortunately, the disc is piss-poor when it comes to extras (lacking the documentary and featurette found on the Blu-ray version), although the inclusion of an alternate version scores some big points for Warner. Even if you're not a big fan of the movie, 'I Am Legend' is well worth giving a rent, if only to see how great an HD DVD can look and sound.

) ) [1] => Array ( [review_id] => 1305 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => ufo_showtime [review_release_date] => 1207638000 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => UFO: Showtime [picture_created] => 1204513222 [picture_name] => ufo-showtime-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => SPV Records [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/03/02/120/ufo-showtime-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1305/ufo_showtime.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2006 [run_time] => 96 [list_price] => 29.98 [asin] => B000TM048M [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1397589 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.78:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => Picture-in-Picture ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 [1] => 1080p/MPEG-2 (Supplements Only) ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround (48kHz/24-bit) [1] => English DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 Surround (48kHz/24-bit) [2] => English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (640kbps) [3] => English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (192kbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Featurettes [1] => Bonus Performances [2] => Still Gallery [3] => Discography ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English Subtitles (Supplements Only) ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Music ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => With the recording of their live DVD, "Showtime", at the Pumpwerk in Wilhelmshaven on May 13, 2005, the British band UFO repeated music history, so to speak. For the second time since 1979, when the group brought out their legendary live album, "Strangers In The Night", the band members left no doubt that their shows count among the best in the whole rock circus. Then as now, press and fans were unanimously impressed, and the band established a reputation that remains unchallenged to this day: UFO are unbeatable live! Now their sensational film document, "Showtime", has been scheduled for release on state-of-the-art HD-DVD, including, along with the extras from the regular release, additional bonus material, an "on the fly" menu which can be operated while y [preview_technology_specifications] => • 2 Documentaries
• Band interviews
• 6 Bonus Performances
• Slideshow
• Discography [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => • Documentary on the band's 2004 American tour
• Additional interviews
• Additional studio recordings [preview_forum_id] => 31207 [review_bottom_line] => For Fans Only [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 48341 [review_movie_stars] => 3 [review_movie] =>

Has there ever been a music subgenre stupider than "space rock?" For those unfamiliar with this short-lived musical fad, it originated in the early '70s, and combined a growing cultural fascination with all things sci-fi (inspired, no doubt, by the success of Stanley Kubrick's '2001,' and reaching nuclear meltdown levels with the release of 'Star Wars' in 1977) with the worst excesses of pretentious British heavy metal. Bands such as Hawkwind, Pink Floyd, UFO and even The Carpenters began to merge new-fangled synthesizers and unusual song structures into ridiculous "concept" epics (often running ten or twenty minutes long), with the result producing some of the most interminable music ever created. (Luckily, by the end of the '70s, "space rock" was dead -- may it rest in peace.)

If it's unfair to call UFO strictly a "space rock" band (with the group largely dispensing with the sci-fi musical trappings after their first couple of early-'70s LPs), it's also hard to deny that they've never quite surmounted their reputation as a poor man's Pink Floyd. Releasing seven mildly-popular studio albums by the end of the '70s (plus the live set "Strangers in the Night," which remains their biggest US seller), before quickly fading into obscurity in the '80s, UFO never achieved the status of a true arena-rock band in the States, at least not compared to their more radio-friendly rock contemporaries such as Boston, Kansas, and Pink Floyd. It's true that UFO may have been "big in Japan" (or, rather, Britain, where they were huge), but it's hard to argue that this group ranks as anything more than a footnote in the history of hard rock.

Of course, like most of the now-irrelevant bands from the '70s are wont to do, UFO would dust off the bad perms and attempt to stage the inevitable reunion for the new millennium. 'Showtime' documents a stop on the band's 2005 comeback tour (following tepidly-received revivals in 1995 and 2000), which saw the reformed quintet playing mostly small clubs. Composed of original band members Phil Moog (vocals), Pete Way (bass) and Paul Raymond (guitar), plus drafted colleagues Jason Bonham (drums) and Vinnie Moore (also guitar), it's a line-up that's a bit more rotund around the middle, but musically, pretty tight.

Indeed, 'Showtime' finds the band in fine fighting form. The multiple-riffing of Raymond and Moore is energetic and organic (if all still a little bit Spinal Tap), while the often-underestimated Bonham (recently seen backing up the reunion of some little band called Led Zeppelin) nearly steals the show with his propulsive rhythms. Only Moog seems to falter -- while his vocals are surprisingly polished for a singer pushing into his '60s, his stage presence is lethargic and uninvolving, and he comes off more like the backing singer for his own band.

Unfortunately, where 'Showtime' truly suffers is in presentation. The small club atmosphere (with a "sold out" crowd that looks to number about 150) just does not lend itself to a dynamic live document. The stage is cramped, which prohibits the band from moving about, while the "lightshow" consists of a few spots and a backdrop of the UFO logo on a cheap curtain. While the camerawork is professionally done, and the show is finely cut, there just isn't much to look at here -- every song pretty much comes off the same.

However, diehard UFO fans will probably be thrilled by this release. 'Showtime' was first issued on standard DVD last year, and is just now hitting HD DVD. The band plays all of its big hits (presenting the entirety of "Strangers in the Night" in fact), and their musical chops are up to snuff. I can't say anyone will probably find any thrills in the lackluster visual component of the show, but for the faithful, 'Showtime' delivers what it promises.

The 16-track setlist includes: 01. Intro / 02. Mother Mary / 03. When Daylight Goes to Town / 04. Out on the Streets / 05. This Kidds / 06. The Wild One / 07. Fighting Man / 08. Only You Can Rock Me / 09. Baby Blue / 10. Mr. Freeze / 11. Love to Love / 12. Too Hot Too Handle / 13. Lights Out / 14. Rock Bottom / 15. Doctor Doctor / 16. Shoot Shoot

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 0 [review_video] =>

'Showtime' is the first HD DVD title I've reviewed from indie label SPV, and it's a strong initial effort. The company presents the show in 1080p/VC-1 video, and despite the rather thrifty nature of the production (the disc's supplements are upfront about the band's limited resources) it looks quite good.

I have seen better HD source material before, but overall all of the elements are up to snuff. Blacks are nice and deep, contrast is well modulated, and colors are vibrant. 'Showtime' is not a visual feast, but the primary use of red and green lighting on most of the songs is cleanly reproduced. There is obvious visual depth and strong detail, and the transfer is never less than sharp as a tack.

The major problem here is shadow delineation. The image breaks up in the darkest areas, with visible video noise and very poor detail. Colors also pale out. Luckily, the majority of the footage of the band is vibrant and well-lit, so it is usually crowd shots and the like that suffer. All in all, though, 'Showtime' hits the mark.

[review_audio_stars] => 4 [review_audio_picture_id] => 0 [review_audio] =>

SPV offers up a wealth of audio options (all in English): Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround and DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 Surround (both 48kHz/24-bit), plus Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (640kbps) and Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (192kbps). Both high-res audio tracks deliver the real deal, with an expansive sound despite the intimate nature of the gig.

'Showtime' hasn't been overtorqued, so the DTS and TrueHD tracks have kick but won't result in earbleeds. I was impressed with the very tight bass, and the nice clarity of the ringing guitar riffs. Stereo separation is also well done, with a natural and organic feel to the spatial placement of instruments and vocals. It's also a well-balanced presentation (although I did feel the crowd could have been a bit more prominent in the mix and the surrounds). Truth be told, neither of the high-res mixes ever really deliver that out-of-body feeling I've enjoyed with the best high-def audio presentations, but then quite frankly 'Showtime' was recorded on much more modest means than, say, the latest Justin Timberlake extravaganza. In any case, fans of the band shouldn't be disappointed.

[review_supplements_stars] => 2.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 0 [review_supplements] =>

For their debut HD DVD release, SPV has done a very fine job presenting the extras from the DVD version by making full use of the next-gen format's interactive capabilities. There is a nice variety of material here (both ported over and exclusive to the high-def version), accessible via very well-designed menus and with the video-based footage encoded in 1080p/MPEG-2 video (note that much does appear to be upconverted 480, but at least SPV formatted for HD). Let's start with the material taken directly from the DVD:

  • Studio Songs (HD) - Presented here as rehearsal footage, the band tear through six tracks from their then-latest album, "You Are Here." Audio is Dolby Digital 5.1 The six tracks are: "Pack It Up and Go," "Try Me," "Love to Love," "Slipping Away," "Cherry" and "Profession of Violence" (which features a lovely string section).
  • Featurette: "Making of the DVD " (HD, 7 minutes) - This is a quickie, and features interviews with the technical crew. Its kinda bland, and it doesn't help that they freely admit to how cheap the shoot was. Note that much of these interviews are in German ('Showtime' was recorded at the Pumpwerks Club in Copenhagen), with optional English subtitles.
  • Featurette: "Rockboat" (HD, 13 minutes) - A series of band interviews, shot mostly on a boat. Oh-so-very Spinal Tap.
  • Featurette: "USA 2004 " (HD, 9 minutes) - More band interviews, plus some "spontaneous" tour footage of the band in airports, hotels etc.
  • Slideshow (HD, 3 minutes) - Simple, but nicely edited montage with about 25 live shots of the band. There are no manual controls, however, so you'll have to use your remote's "Pause" button if you want to further investigate any individual still.
  • Band Biography (HD, 3 minutes) - A simple animated text crawl. (Perhaps SPV should have hired a proofer, as there are some glaring grammatical errors.)
  • Discography - Text-based, this is quite substantial, with listings for each of the band's LPs and detailed tracklistings, production info, and liner notes
  • Booklet - Also included is a 16-page, full color booklet. However, this is the actual liner notes from the DVD (no mention is made of the HD DVD), and its also identical to the band biography word-for-word.
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 1 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content] =>

SPV has gone above and beyond the DVD release for 'Showtime's high-def debut. The exclusives are not extravagant, but kudos to the label for offering anything at all.

  • Picture-in-Picture (HD) - Culling from the band and making-of-the-DVD interviews, this picture-in-picture track is very nicely done. There are on-screen options to change the size and reposition the location of the PIP box, adjust the levels between the main feature and PIP audio, and activate subtitles. The only bummer is that the track does not run for the entire length of the concert, so there are considerable gaps of dead space. Still, a nice addition.
[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 3.5 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'Showtime' presents a comeback of sorts for UFO, who were not one of the leading '70s hard rock bands. I personally found the concert a bit lackluster on the visual side of the things, though the group does sound quite tight musically. This HD DVD is a very fine first effort from SPV, however, with very good video and audio, plenty of extras, and an exclusive picture-in-picture track. Non-fans of the band won't be won over by 'Showtime,' but then this release isn't for them, now is it?

) ) ) [reviews_hot] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 1337 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => iamlegend [review_release_date] => 1207638000 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => I Am Legend [picture_created] => 1202099996 [picture_name] => i-am-legend-hd-dvddvd-combo-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Video [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/02/03/120/i-am-legend-hd-dvddvd-combo-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1337/iamlegend.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2007 [run_time] => 104 [list_price] => 35.98 [asin] => B0013FBTHO [amazon_price] => 24.95 [empire_id] => 1391003 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.35:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 [1] => 480p/i/MPEG-2 (Supplements Only) ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD/DVD Combo [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc/HD-15 Single-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround (48kHz/16-bit) [1] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (640kbps) [2] => French Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (640kbps) [3] => Spanish Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (640kbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Alternate Version [1] => Interactive Comics ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles [2] => Spanish Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Action [1] => Horror [2] => Thriller ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Charlie Tahan [1] => Alice Braga [2] => Will Smith ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Francis Lawrence ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Robert Neville (Will Smith) is a brilliant scientist, but even he could not contain the terrible virus that was unstoppable, incurable, and man-made. Somehow immune, Neville is now the last human survivor in what is left of New York City and maybe the world. For three years, Neville has faithfully sent out daily radio messages, desperate to find any other survivors who might be out there. But he is not alone. Mutant victims of the plague—The Infected—lurk in the shadows…watching Neville´s every move…waiting for him to make a fatal mistake. Perhaps mankind´s last, best hope, Neville is driven by only one remaining mission: to find a way to reverse the effects of the virus using his own immune blood. But he knows he is outnumbered…and quickly running out of time. [preview_technology_specifications] => • Alternative Theatrical Version with a Controversial Ending
• 4 Interactive Comics: "Death As a Gift," "Isolation," "Sacrificing the Few for the Many," "Shelter" [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 37054 [review_editors_notes] =>

Non-format-specific portions of this review were first published in our review of the Blu-ray version of 'I Am Legend.'

[review_bottom_line] => Give it a Rent [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 52394 [review_movie_stars] => 2.5 [review_movie] =>

Richard Matheson's 1954 science fiction classic 'I Am Legend' has endured one of the most torturous cinematic gestations of any novel in memory. The story has been adapted twice before (first as "The Last Man on Earth' in 1964, then as 1971's campy 'The Omega Man,' starring Charleton Heston), but neither version was particularly successful, as both departed greatly from Matheson's original story. Although a long-rumored "faithful" update of 'I Am Legend' percolated in the decades that followed (with everyone from Tom Cruise to Arnold Schwarzenegger to Vin Diesel circling the project), it wasn't until writer-producer Akiva Goldsmith ('A Beautiful Mind') acquired the rights to the property and attached Will Smith to star, that Warner finally greenlit the project. At last, Matheson fans could rejoice, it seemed the writer's original vision was headed for the big screen.

Indeed, this latest redux of 'I Am Legend' hews closest to the seminal sci-fi novel, preserving the basic post-apocalyptic template set down by Matheson. The opening scenes of the film are initially startling, resisting the temptation of most of today's big sci-fi spectacles to overwhelm us with pummeling action and numbing sadism. Instead, the first forty-five minutes are unnerving in their depiction of a future world decimated by a deadly virus. The film moves methodically, slowly revealing the predicament of its lead character (Will Smith), the lone survivor of a bacterial holocaust. 'I Am Legend' feels almost "European" in its willingness to undermine the commercial expectations of its genre -- if it hadn't been for Smith's name above the marquee, I might have thought I'd stumbled into an art film.

Smith stars as Dr. Robert Neville, a military virologist and literally the last man on Earth. Three years earlier, a group of scientists (led by an uncredited Emma Thompson) proclaimed to discover a cure for cancer via a re-engineered strain of the measles virus, but the experiment went awry, creating a deadly airborne infection that wiped out 99 percent of humanity, leaving the rest as mutated zombies. Now Neville, who was miraculously immune to the virus, must race to find a cure before the flesh-eaters (who he calls the "Dark Seekers") find him. Along with his canine companion, Samantha, Neville spends his days wandering the city, searching for signs of human life, while delving deeper into the virus' deadly secrets.

The first two acts of 'I Am Legend' are quite compelling. This is Smith's one-man show, and like Tom Hanks in 'Cast Away,' he manages to command our attention and elicit our sympathies with very little dialogue. Smith articulates Neville's daily routines (from hunting antelope in the bombed-out streets of New York, to watching old newscasts in his apartment) with subtlety and precision, and via a few tersely-depicted flashbacks, he strikes just the right emotional notes of loss and regret. Smith's haunting performance, combined with some well-executed photographic effects, create an atmosphere of dread and oppression that rings authentic.

Unfortunately, while 'I Am Legend' is initially a laudable attempt to realize the world Matheson imagined back in 1954, the movie again tampers with the source for the third act. The deviations are for the worse. Screenwriter Goldsmith brings in two other survivors, a woman named Anna (Alice Braga) and a young boy named Ethan (Charlie Tahan), but because we've spent so much screen time with Neville, their introduction is jarring. Even worse is the intrusion of the inevitable villain (Dash Mihok), the leader of the Dark Seekers. What follows is the requisite cavalcade of action, noisy explosions, and increasingly lame CGI. The result of all these third act shenanigans is not a mess as disastrous as, say, 'The Invasion,' but there is still a palpable sense of deflation as we realize that the challenging first two-thirds of 'I Am Legend' are being thrown away, apparently for the sake of commercial considerations.

However -- and almost like jury objection in defense of the filmmakers -- Warner has included a much-ballyhoo'd Alternate Version of 'I Am Legend' on this HD DVD, containing four minutes of added footage, including a "controversial" new ending. The amount of material is not extensive (about a minute is added into the beginning of the third act, with the rest grafted onto the climax), but it does impart the viewer with a considerably different emotional mood than the theatrical version. The new ending is more upbeat, yet more satisfying, and the Dark Seekers are also better established, making the action-heavy final scenes more bearable. The Alternate Version does not rectify the basic structural flaws of 'I Am Legend,' but it is an improvement.

Regardless of which version you ultimately decide to watch, 'I Am Legend' is a film with many strong parts, but one that ultimately fails to come off as the sci-fi epic it hoped to be. It's impossible to fully express my disappointment with the film without revealing too many of its plot twists, other than to say that the fascinating spiritual themes which coalesced so memorably in Matheson's original novel are largely jettisoned in favor of action and visual effects. It's to Smith's credit that 'I Am Legend' is as riveting as it is for such a long period of time, but he's let down by a muddled script. 'I Am Legend' is still worth seeing thanks to its first two acts, but I can't eradicate the lingering feeling that it's a disappointment.

[review_video_stars] => 5 [review_video_picture_id] => 0 [review_video] =>

One of Warner's top-grossers of 2007, 'I Am Legend's mix of sci-fi, action, and big-ticket special effects makes it ideal high-def material. This 1080p/VC-1 encode (identical to the Blu-ray version) doesn't disappoint, with a terrific, highly-detailed image that's up there with the best high-def presentations that I've seen from the studio yet. (Note that 'I Am Legend' includes both the Theatrical and Alternate Version of the movie available via seamless branching on the HD DVD side of this HD DVD/DVD combo disc. You are given the option of which cut of the film you want to watch as soon as the disc fires up, and the alternate footage is perfectly integrated -- I couldn't detect a bit of difference in terms of video quality between the two versions.)

Right from the opening sequence depicting a decimated New York City, the transfer exhibits a clarity and sense of depth that is first-rate. The source is absolutely tip-top, with perfect blacks and (for once) contrast that's well modulated across the entire grayscale and without the usual blown-up whites. Colors are vibrant and saturated but not overdone, which further enhances detail. The close-ups of Will Smith's face (and there are many) are typical of the ultra-fine texturing, with every pore and bead of sweat visible. Sharpness is equally excellent, with the image never faltering, yet free from edge enhancement and other trickery. Finally, shadow delineation is likewise superior, with even the darkest scenes finely nuanced.

Though it is technically not a complaint, there is a great deal of CGI in 'I Am Legend' (particularly involving various animals, as well as many of the vast tracking shots of the obviously phony New York cityscapes) that is marred by much motion blur. Thus there can be a "soft' look to many of these effects, particularly on fast action. This is indicative of the source however, and just the way it goes with today's CGI, so I can't fault this superlative transfer for that -- it is top tier high-def, and easily rates five stars.

[review_audio_stars] => 5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 0 [review_audio] =>

Warner offers a number of audio options on 'I Am Legend,' including English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround (48kHz/16-bit) on both the theatrical and alternate versions, as well as English, French and Spanish Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround dubs (640kbps) on the theatrical version only. The Dolby TrueHD track is certainly the way to go, as it's pretty fantastic and sure to become a choice demo disc for HD DVD enthusiasts.

Although 'I Am Legend' certainly has its share of action and thriller elements, it's not an over-the-top film in terms of sound design. There are many long (some might say drawn-out) sequences involving Will Smith stalking around New York while being chased by all manner of strange critters, which is where this mix really impresses in terms of subtlety. Right from the opening sequence involving antelope and some vicious lions, the attention to fine detail and minor atmospheric sounds is outstanding -- the balance of ambiance, score integration, and the occasional stinger is reference quality for a home theater mix. The clarity of individual sounds, as well as the expansiveness of the entire frequency spectrum, is equally stunning.

The more aggressive elements of the mix are equally noteworthy. The subwoofer exhibits some of the deepest low bass extension I've heard on a TrueHD track. Imaging is also transparent, and there were often moments when I couldn't localize a specific sound in the rear channels as it darted about, indicating a truly successful and immersive "wall of sound" effect. 'I Am Legend' is also a first-rate example of the kind of classy and polished recording that only a major studio can buy -- the quality and realism of recorded sounds is impeccable. Volume balance is also spot on, as I had no trouble understanding dialogue, even in the most action-fueled sequences. 'I Am Legend' earns another five stars for audio.

[review_supplements_stars] => 0.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 0 [review_supplements] =>

Much to the chagrin of HD DVD fans, Warner has announced that the next-gen versions of 'I Am Legend' are not created equal, and the Blu-ray edition comes to disc with a few more extras than the HD DVD (namely a documentary and featurette). That said, I wasn't completely blown away by the "full" extras package for 'I Am Legend' (as I noted in my orignal Blu-ray review), so in any configuration this hardly qualifies as a truly top-flight special edition. (Note that all of the extras on this HD DVD/DVD combo can found on the DVD side only, and in standard-definition.)

  • Animated Comics (SD, 22 minutes) - A bit of a throwaway for me, these four animated comics really don't have anything at all do to with 'I Am Legend.' Sure, they are very nicely rendered, but they're rather irrelevant to the film at hand. The four segments are: "Death as a Gift," "Isolation," "Sacrificing the Few for the Many," and "Shelter."
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content] =>

There are no HD DVD exclusives.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 3 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'I Am Legend' is a more faithful re-telling of Richard Matheson's novel than 1971's 'The Omega Man,' but it's still problematic. I liked the effects, the performance by Will Smith, and some of the cool zombies, but the end is a pretty big letdown. This HD DVD is anything but, however, with absolutely fantastic video and audio. Unfortunately, the disc is piss-poor when it comes to extras (lacking the documentary and featurette found on the Blu-ray version), although the inclusion of an alternate version scores some big points for Warner. Even if you're not a big fan of the movie, 'I Am Legend' is well worth giving a rent, if only to see how great an HD DVD can look and sound.

) ) [1] => Array ( [review_id] => 1305 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => ufo_showtime [review_release_date] => 1207638000 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => UFO: Showtime [picture_created] => 1204513222 [picture_name] => ufo-showtime-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => SPV Records [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/03/02/120/ufo-showtime-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1305/ufo_showtime.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2006 [run_time] => 96 [list_price] => 29.98 [asin] => B000TM048M [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1397589 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.78:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => Picture-in-Picture ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 [1] => 1080p/MPEG-2 (Supplements Only) ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround (48kHz/24-bit) [1] => English DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 Surround (48kHz/24-bit) [2] => English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (640kbps) [3] => English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (192kbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Featurettes [1] => Bonus Performances [2] => Still Gallery [3] => Discography ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English Subtitles (Supplements Only) ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Music ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => With the recording of their live DVD, "Showtime", at the Pumpwerk in Wilhelmshaven on May 13, 2005, the British band UFO repeated music history, so to speak. For the second time since 1979, when the group brought out their legendary live album, "Strangers In The Night", the band members left no doubt that their shows count among the best in the whole rock circus. Then as now, press and fans were unanimously impressed, and the band established a reputation that remains unchallenged to this day: UFO are unbeatable live! Now their sensational film document, "Showtime", has been scheduled for release on state-of-the-art HD-DVD, including, along with the extras from the regular release, additional bonus material, an "on the fly" menu which can be operated while y [preview_technology_specifications] => • 2 Documentaries
• Band interviews
• 6 Bonus Performances
• Slideshow
• Discography [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => • Documentary on the band's 2004 American tour
• Additional interviews
• Additional studio recordings [preview_forum_id] => 31207 [review_bottom_line] => For Fans Only [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 48341 [review_movie_stars] => 3 [review_movie] =>

Has there ever been a music subgenre stupider than "space rock?" For those unfamiliar with this short-lived musical fad, it originated in the early '70s, and combined a growing cultural fascination with all things sci-fi (inspired, no doubt, by the success of Stanley Kubrick's '2001,' and reaching nuclear meltdown levels with the release of 'Star Wars' in 1977) with the worst excesses of pretentious British heavy metal. Bands such as Hawkwind, Pink Floyd, UFO and even The Carpenters began to merge new-fangled synthesizers and unusual song structures into ridiculous "concept" epics (often running ten or twenty minutes long), with the result producing some of the most interminable music ever created. (Luckily, by the end of the '70s, "space rock" was dead -- may it rest in peace.)

If it's unfair to call UFO strictly a "space rock" band (with the group largely dispensing with the sci-fi musical trappings after their first couple of early-'70s LPs), it's also hard to deny that they've never quite surmounted their reputation as a poor man's Pink Floyd. Releasing seven mildly-popular studio albums by the end of the '70s (plus the live set "Strangers in the Night," which remains their biggest US seller), before quickly fading into obscurity in the '80s, UFO never achieved the status of a true arena-rock band in the States, at least not compared to their more radio-friendly rock contemporaries such as Boston, Kansas, and Pink Floyd. It's true that UFO may have been "big in Japan" (or, rather, Britain, where they were huge), but it's hard to argue that this group ranks as anything more than a footnote in the history of hard rock.

Of course, like most of the now-irrelevant bands from the '70s are wont to do, UFO would dust off the bad perms and attempt to stage the inevitable reunion for the new millennium. 'Showtime' documents a stop on the band's 2005 comeback tour (following tepidly-received revivals in 1995 and 2000), which saw the reformed quintet playing mostly small clubs. Composed of original band members Phil Moog (vocals), Pete Way (bass) and Paul Raymond (guitar), plus drafted colleagues Jason Bonham (drums) and Vinnie Moore (also guitar), it's a line-up that's a bit more rotund around the middle, but musically, pretty tight.

Indeed, 'Showtime' finds the band in fine fighting form. The multiple-riffing of Raymond and Moore is energetic and organic (if all still a little bit Spinal Tap), while the often-underestimated Bonham (recently seen backing up the reunion of some little band called Led Zeppelin) nearly steals the show with his propulsive rhythms. Only Moog seems to falter -- while his vocals are surprisingly polished for a singer pushing into his '60s, his stage presence is lethargic and uninvolving, and he comes off more like the backing singer for his own band.

Unfortunately, where 'Showtime' truly suffers is in presentation. The small club atmosphere (with a "sold out" crowd that looks to number about 150) just does not lend itself to a dynamic live document. The stage is cramped, which prohibits the band from moving about, while the "lightshow" consists of a few spots and a backdrop of the UFO logo on a cheap curtain. While the camerawork is professionally done, and the show is finely cut, there just isn't much to look at here -- every song pretty much comes off the same.

However, diehard UFO fans will probably be thrilled by this release. 'Showtime' was first issued on standard DVD last year, and is just now hitting HD DVD. The band plays all of its big hits (presenting the entirety of "Strangers in the Night" in fact), and their musical chops are up to snuff. I can't say anyone will probably find any thrills in the lackluster visual component of the show, but for the faithful, 'Showtime' delivers what it promises.

The 16-track setlist includes: 01. Intro / 02. Mother Mary / 03. When Daylight Goes to Town / 04. Out on the Streets / 05. This Kidds / 06. The Wild One / 07. Fighting Man / 08. Only You Can Rock Me / 09. Baby Blue / 10. Mr. Freeze / 11. Love to Love / 12. Too Hot Too Handle / 13. Lights Out / 14. Rock Bottom / 15. Doctor Doctor / 16. Shoot Shoot

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 0 [review_video] =>

'Showtime' is the first HD DVD title I've reviewed from indie label SPV, and it's a strong initial effort. The company presents the show in 1080p/VC-1 video, and despite the rather thrifty nature of the production (the disc's supplements are upfront about the band's limited resources) it looks quite good.

I have seen better HD source material before, but overall all of the elements are up to snuff. Blacks are nice and deep, contrast is well modulated, and colors are vibrant. 'Showtime' is not a visual feast, but the primary use of red and green lighting on most of the songs is cleanly reproduced. There is obvious visual depth and strong detail, and the transfer is never less than sharp as a tack.

The major problem here is shadow delineation. The image breaks up in the darkest areas, with visible video noise and very poor detail. Colors also pale out. Luckily, the majority of the footage of the band is vibrant and well-lit, so it is usually crowd shots and the like that suffer. All in all, though, 'Showtime' hits the mark.

[review_audio_stars] => 4 [review_audio_picture_id] => 0 [review_audio] =>

SPV offers up a wealth of audio options (all in English): Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround and DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 Surround (both 48kHz/24-bit), plus Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (640kbps) and Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (192kbps). Both high-res audio tracks deliver the real deal, with an expansive sound despite the intimate nature of the gig.

'Showtime' hasn't been overtorqued, so the DTS and TrueHD tracks have kick but won't result in earbleeds. I was impressed with the very tight bass, and the nice clarity of the ringing guitar riffs. Stereo separation is also well done, with a natural and organic feel to the spatial placement of instruments and vocals. It's also a well-balanced presentation (although I did feel the crowd could have been a bit more prominent in the mix and the surrounds). Truth be told, neither of the high-res mixes ever really deliver that out-of-body feeling I've enjoyed with the best high-def audio presentations, but then quite frankly 'Showtime' was recorded on much more modest means than, say, the latest Justin Timberlake extravaganza. In any case, fans of the band shouldn't be disappointed.

[review_supplements_stars] => 2.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 0 [review_supplements] =>

For their debut HD DVD release, SPV has done a very fine job presenting the extras from the DVD version by making full use of the next-gen format's interactive capabilities. There is a nice variety of material here (both ported over and exclusive to the high-def version), accessible via very well-designed menus and with the video-based footage encoded in 1080p/MPEG-2 video (note that much does appear to be upconverted 480, but at least SPV formatted for HD). Let's start with the material taken directly from the DVD:

  • Studio Songs (HD) - Presented here as rehearsal footage, the band tear through six tracks from their then-latest album, "You Are Here." Audio is Dolby Digital 5.1 The six tracks are: "Pack It Up and Go," "Try Me," "Love to Love," "Slipping Away," "Cherry" and "Profession of Violence" (which features a lovely string section).
  • Featurette: "Making of the DVD " (HD, 7 minutes) - This is a quickie, and features interviews with the technical crew. Its kinda bland, and it doesn't help that they freely admit to how cheap the shoot was. Note that much of these interviews are in German ('Showtime' was recorded at the Pumpwerks Club in Copenhagen), with optional English subtitles.
  • Featurette: "Rockboat" (HD, 13 minutes) - A series of band interviews, shot mostly on a boat. Oh-so-very Spinal Tap.
  • Featurette: "USA 2004 " (HD, 9 minutes) - More band interviews, plus some "spontaneous" tour footage of the band in airports, hotels etc.
  • Slideshow (HD, 3 minutes) - Simple, but nicely edited montage with about 25 live shots of the band. There are no manual controls, however, so you'll have to use your remote's "Pause" button if you want to further investigate any individual still.
  • Band Biography (HD, 3 minutes) - A simple animated text crawl. (Perhaps SPV should have hired a proofer, as there are some glaring grammatical errors.)
  • Discography - Text-based, this is quite substantial, with listings for each of the band's LPs and detailed tracklistings, production info, and liner notes
  • Booklet - Also included is a 16-page, full color booklet. However, this is the actual liner notes from the DVD (no mention is made of the HD DVD), and its also identical to the band biography word-for-word.
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 1 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content] =>

SPV has gone above and beyond the DVD release for 'Showtime's high-def debut. The exclusives are not extravagant, but kudos to the label for offering anything at all.

  • Picture-in-Picture (HD) - Culling from the band and making-of-the-DVD interviews, this picture-in-picture track is very nicely done. There are on-screen options to change the size and reposition the location of the PIP box, adjust the levels between the main feature and PIP audio, and activate subtitles. The only bummer is that the track does not run for the entire length of the concert, so there are considerable gaps of dead space. Still, a nice addition.
[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 3.5 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'Showtime' presents a comeback of sorts for UFO, who were not one of the leading '70s hard rock bands. I personally found the concert a bit lackluster on the visual side of the things, though the group does sound quite tight musically. This HD DVD is a very fine first effort from SPV, however, with very good video and audio, plenty of extras, and an exclusive picture-in-picture track. Non-fans of the band won't be won over by 'Showtime,' but then this release isn't for them, now is it?

) ) ) ) [April 1, 2008] => Array ( [reviews] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 1260 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => appleseedexmachina [review_release_date] => 1207033200 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Appleseed Ex Machina [picture_created] => 1196103159 [picture_name] => appleseed-ex-machina-hd-dvddvd-combo-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Video [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/11/26/120/appleseed-ex-machina-hd-dvddvd-combo-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1260/appleseedexmachina.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2007 [run_time] => 104 [release_date_notes] => Rescheduled from March 11, 2008 [list_price] => 34.99 [asin] => B0010358EE [amazon_price] => 16.95 [empire_id] => 1380381 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD Combo Disc [1] => HD DVD 30GB Dual Layer ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround [1] => Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround [2] => French Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo [3] => Cantonese Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo [4] => Dutch Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (HD Side Only) [5] => German Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (HD Side Only) [6] => Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (SD Side Only) [7] => Portuguese Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (SD Side Only) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentary [1] => Featurettes ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English Subtitles [1] => Korean Subtitles [2] => Chinese Subtitles [3] => French Subtitles (HD Side Only) [4] => Dutch Subtitles (HD Side Only) [5] => German Subtitles (HD Side Only) [6] => Spanish Subtitles (SD Side Only) [7] => Portuguese Subtitles (SD Side Only) ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Anime ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Shinji Aramaki ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Produced by John Woo and Directed by Shinji Aramaki, and featuring next generation CG technology, Appleseed: Ex Machina is back bigger and badder! Based on the manga from reknown creator Shirow Masamune, in this movie, Deunan and Briareos are both partners and lovers. As members of ESWAT, the elite forces serving Olympus, they are deployed everywhere trouble strikes. The two fighters find their partnership tested in a new way by the arrival of Tereus who uncannily resembles Briareos before the wartime injuries that led to his becoming a cyborg. At the same time, Olympus finds itself under a stealth attack . Cyborg terrorism, deadly nanotech zealots, and rioting citizens are just some of the threats that Deunan must contend with as she fights to save Olympus. [preview_technology_specifications] => TBA [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => TBA [preview_forum_id] => 27417 [review_editors_notes] => Non-format-specific portions of this review also appear in our Blu-ray review of 'Appleseed Ex Machina.' [review_bottom_line] => Rent it First [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 51274 [review_movie_stars] => 3 [review_movie] =>

Manga may comprise a relatively new and profitable chunk of the comic book industry in the US, but these fascinating graphic novels have been an increasingly crucial component of Japanese culture since the end of World War II. In Japan, manga publications gross more than $4 billion annually and appeal to fans of all genres and readers of all ages. You may even be surprised to learn that some legendary manga artists enjoy the same level of fame that movie stars generate in the States. Author Masamune Shirow is one such manga icon. He's responsible for several popular manga properties that have subsequently been adapted for the big screen. Fan favorites like 'Ghost in the Shell,' 'Dominion: Tank Police,' and 'Appleseed' can all trace their origins to his pen.

'Appleseed: Ex Machina' is director Shinji Aramaki's sequel to his 2004 CG-animated feature, 'Appleseed' (neither of which should be confused or connected with Bandai Visual's 1988 OVA of the same name). The film continues the 22nd century story of a female E.S.W.A.T. officer named Deunan and her partner and lover, Briareos. A veteran of the great war, Briareos became a metal-clad cyborg after his body sustained massive, life-threatening injuries in the line of duty. As Deunan struggles to adapt to her relationship with Briareos, she's forced to take on a new partner, a bioroid (genetically engineered humanoid) named Tereus that's being tested for active combat. Problem is, the bioroid has been developed from Briareos's own DNA and subsequently looks and sounds exactly like him. But Deunan doesn't have time to get caught in a pseudo-love-triangle -- it seems a series of mysterious mobs are attacking targets across the city, forcing Deunan, Briareos, and Tereus to uncover the source of the strange violence and face an enemy more dangerous than anything they've encountered before.

'Ex Machina' is packed with tense action scenes that make the CG-animated utopia a feast for the imagination. Mechs, robots, cyborgs, bioroids, humans... it's all a bit complicated to follow the first time through, but the fighting factions help the filmmakers create an intriguing story packed with conspiracy, tragedy, and political ambition. The presence of executive producer John Woo also seems to have inspired the animators. 'Ex Machina' surpasses 2004's CG-animated 'Appleseed' without looking back -- slow motion leaps, intricate battle choreography, and exciting gun ballets truly invigorate the action.

Alas, as a fan of Shirow's original manga, I couldn't help but feel a bit bored by the characters in Aramaki's computer generated world. 'Ex Machina' is populated with dead-faced models that lack the humanity of traditionally animated characters as well as the expressiveness of other CG characters from larger 3D animation studios (i.e. Pixar). Deunan and Tereus are loaded with the same limited emotions regardless of the situation -- their faces stretch in surprise, soften in smiles, and tense in anger. Unfortunately, it all looks too artificial for its own good, leaving the film to rely on its action scenes alone. As a result, watching 'Ex Machina' is a lot like sitting through a series of action-packed videogame cutscenes. When the film erupts with missile firing mechs, it works, but when it settles down to explore the characters and their struggles, it lacks soul.

All in all, 'Appleseed Ex Machina' is a stirring piece of feature-length animation that has a lot to offer fans of hyperactive anime. I'm sure anyone who enjoyed Aramaki's original CG-animated 'Appleseed' will be enraptured to see how he's upped the ante with this sequel. Unfortunately, if you're looking for genuine characters in your futuristic anime, you may find that this one comes up short. I really wanted to enjoy 'Ex Machina,' but in the end, it just felt too empty and shallow.

[review_video_stars] => 3 [review_video_picture_id] => 5345 [review_video] =>

I may not have fallen in love with the flick itself, but I was more than willing to put aside my personal misgivings to soak up 104 minutes of glorious, 5-star animation. Unfortunately, just like the problematic transfer on the Blu-ray edition of 'Appleseed Ex Machina,' this HD DVD release was host to a series of visual flaws that made this title one of the more average animated experiences I've reviewed.

In my estimation, the 1080p/VC-1 transfer featured on this Warner Blu-ray release is merely a descendant of its immaculate digital source. The picture lacks the refined detailing and crisp resolution I've come to expect from high definition CG -- the picture is consistently hazy, random nighttime scenes are a bit blurry, and several shots are completely out of focus. As it stands, linework and edges are dull, clothing textures lack definition, and smaller objects look only marginally better than they do on the standard DVD side of the disc. While daytime exterior scenes are vastly improved, they still exhibit a mild softness that robs the transfer of the three-dimensional pop found in top tier releases like 'Ratatouille' and 'TMNT.' The transfer's flaws smack of overindulgent DNR and compression inadequacies.

Less problematic (but equally distracting) are a series of light artifacts, minor aliasing issues, and heavy color bands that litter the image from beginning to end. Look no further than the opening assault on the cathedral to catch a dozen examples of each (as well as the rampant softness I mentioned earlier). The banding becomes so brazen at times that it stretches across the entire width of the screen -- some shots are plagued by rows of bands that shoot through the sky, lay across the character models, and drape along every element in the foreground. The effect is bizarre to say the least and occasionally makes the image look as if it's being projected on a set of closed window blinds.

Thankfully, the experience isn't an absolute wash -- a vibrant palette and a fine spread of bold colors keep the image lush and lively. Despite its issues, the HD DVD transfer still has the clear stability and swagger of a high definition release, boasting a fresh image and a healthy bit rate. Even the squishiest details are more crisply rendered here than they are on the underwhelming standard DVD side. At the end of the day, the high-def editions are the version to beat. Just be warned that a proper 1080p transfer straight from the digital source would make this current high-def release irrelevant.

My Blu-ray review of 'Ex Machina' stirred up quite a bit of disagreement between readers who agreed with my findings and those who thought I was being too harsh. However, keep in mind that a CG tranfer doesn't have the same hurdles to overcome that traditional films do when they're minted for a high-def release. In my opinion, a flick like 'Appleseed Ex Machina' should look virtually perfect. Yet if you compare any scene in 'Ex Machina' to any scene in 'Ratatouille,' 'TMNT,' or other CG anime features like 'SOS! Tokyo Metro Explorers: The Next,' the shortcomings of this average transfer become all too apparent. If you ask me, Warner really dropped the ball on this one.

[review_audio_stars] => 4 [review_audio_picture_id] => 5346 [review_audio] =>

Anime enthusiasts can breathe a sigh of relief. Despite the information presented in the tech specs on the back cover, the HD DVD edition of 'Appleseed Ex Machina' features two surround tracks -- an English Dolby Digital 5.1 track and a Japanese language Dolby Digital 5.1 track. While they aren't the pair of TrueHD mixes Warner promised fans once upon a time, the results are nonetheless impressive.

Dialogue is clean, spread across the central channels, and well prioritized within the soundscape -- explosions and screeching thrusters never overwhelm mid-action character banter. Better still, LFE support is heavy and aggressive, imbuing the mechs that frequently populate 'Ex Machina' with a convincing sense of weight. The rear channels are busy as well, providing more than the usual background ambiance of other anime titles. The sound designers launch objects across the well-defined soundfield and manage to create a sense of genuine space. Surprise gunfire came from over my shoulder, doves flew over my head, and ships rumbled through my home theater. The entire experience was deeper and more satisfying than most high-def anime releases.

My lone complaint? I could actually hear the compression limitations bogging down the crowded soundscape -- the entire experience begged for a TrueHD track. The Dolby Digital mixes sound great, but they lack the clarity and fidelity of a lossless mix. Voices could have been crisper, effects could have had more punch, and ambiance could have been richer. I wish Warner would really embrace the possibilities and tap into the power of high definition. What could easily have been a pair of 5-star lossless tracks is merely a pair of cutting edge standard mixes.

(Note the quality of this audio package is identical to the Blu-ray edition of 'Ex Machina.' However, the standard definition side of this HD DVD combo disc features Spanish and Portuguese audio tracks and subtitles that aren't included on the Blu-ray edition.)

[review_supplements_stars] => 2.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 5347 [review_supplements] =>

The HD DVD edition of 'Appleseed: Ex Machina' packs in all of the extra features that appear on the 2-disc Special Edition DVD (minus a few trailers from other unrelated Warner films). While the supplemental package occasionally leaves finer points of the production to the imagination, it definitely offers up more information than many other anime releases. Both the commentary and the featurettes are English language productions and light on on-screen subtitles.

  • Filmmaker Commentary -- To my surprise, this commentary track doesn't feature director Shinji Aramaki, executive producer John Woo, or the original manga author Masamune Shirow. Instead animation guru Jerry Beck sits down to interview producer Joseph Chu about the development and creation of the film. However, despite the lack of production heavyweights, Chu (fluent in the English language) provides a candid and engaging chat that reveals endless details about the CG animation, the motion capture performances, and the art direction and design decisions which appear in the final film. Chu even covers the cultural significance of the imagery, characters, and plot points that may have escaped Western viewers. The track does get a bit quiet at times when the two get distracted by the animation, but Beck usually pops out another question before the silence drags on for too long. Ultimately, this is a welcome and informative track that should answer any question fans might have about the film.
  • Team Up: John Woo and Shinji Aramaki (16 minutes) -- This fun little featurette feels slightly overproduced, but it does a great job of exploring Woo's involvement in 'Ex Machina,' Aramaki's directorial decision making processes, and the vision the duo had for the latest 'Appleseed' film. It includes interviews with animators, producers, and historians, pre-production footage from story meetings with Woo and Aramaki, early storyboards, rough animatics, and finalized footage to give a sweeping (albeit surface-level) glimpse behind the scenes.
  • Revolution: Animating Ex Machina (19 minutes) -- While the information in this production featurette may be redundant in the wake of Chu's audio commentary, the visuals helps showcase the techniques used to energize the fluidity and kineticism of the CG animation. As an added bonus, the mini-doc even looks into the casting and recording of the English dub track.
  • The Appleseed Chronicles (20 minutes) -- This is a dense exploration of Shirow's original "Appleseed" manga and the manners in which it influenced the two CG-animated 'Appleseed' features. Shirow's still nowhere to be found, but the featurette explains his reclusive nature and offers up quotes from other interviews on the author's behalf. This featurette includes an array of comments from industry pros, anime production staff, and 'Appleseed' crew members edited together with pages from Shirow's manga and finalized animation from 'Ex Machina.' It feels a tad long-winded, but it covers a lot of ground. Fans will certainly appreciate this thorough exploration of such classic source material.
  • East Meets West (19 minutes) -- Whether you're new to anime or a frequent flier, this short is a decent examination of Western interest in Eastern animation. It's pretty entry level to satisfy long-time anime buffs, but newcomers will find it to be an interesting, sometimes enlightening extra.
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content] =>

Nothing.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 3 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 5348 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'Appleseed: Ex Machina' may be brimming with ambitious CG animation, but it lacks soul. The HD DVD edition is even more of a mixed bag. While the video transfer bests the standard DVD, it suffers from softness, banding, and compression issues. The standard audio tracks are quite impressive, but lack the refined clarity of lossless tracks. To top it all off, the supplemental package, while informative, lacks the input of key players like Shirow, Aramaki, and Woo. There's quite a debate on message boards between people who are happy with Warner's effort and those who find it underwhelming. I would strongly suggest that you give this one a rent and decide for yourself.

) ) [1] => Array ( [review_id] => 1345 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => augustrush [review_release_date] => 1207033200 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => August Rush [picture_created] => 1200683688 [picture_name] => august-rush-hd-dvddvd-combo-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Video [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/01/18/120/august-rush-hd-dvddvd-combo-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1345/augustrush.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2007 [run_time] => 112 [list_price] => 35.98 [asin] => B00133KHCO [amazon_price] => 24.95 [empire_id] => 1389185 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.40:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 [1] => 480p/i/MPEG-2 (Supplements Only) ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD/DVD Combo [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc/DVD-9 Dual-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround [1] => French (Quebec) Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (640kbps) [2] => Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (640kbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Deleted Scenes ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles [2] => Spanish Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Drama [1] => Family ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Jonathan Rhys Meyers [1] => Keri Russell [2] => Freddie Highmore ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Kirsten Sheridan ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => The story of a charismatic young Irish guitarist and a sheltered young cellist who have a chance encounter one magical night above New York's Washington Square, but are soon torn apart, leaving in their wake an infant, August Rush, orphaned by circumstance. Now performing on the streets of New York and cared for by a mysterious stranger, August uses his remarkable musical talent to seek the parents from whom he was separated at birth. [preview_technology_specifications] => • Deleted & Alternate Scenes [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 37721 [review_editors_notes] =>

Non-format-specific portions of this review were first published in our Blu-ray review of 'August Rush.'

[review_bottom_line] => Give it a Rent [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 53318 [review_movie_stars] => 2 [review_movie] =>

'August Rush' is nothing if not ambitious. It attempts, through the visual language of film, to convey that wonderful, immersive feeling one gets when caught up in the intangible rapture of a great piece of music. Unfortunately, this is an almost impossible task for any piece of mainstream commercial cinema to accomplish, must less one that mires itself down in narrative coincidences and soggy sentimentality. I do admire the sheer chutzpah of 'August Rush,' but it doesn't quite hit the right notes.

On paper, the fable-like qualities of the script read even more cliched than they play out on-screen (if that's possible). Freddie Highmore stars as an orphan named (God help us) August Rush. Long ago separated from his parents, he's constantly bullied at his prison-like orphanage, with his only means of emotional survival to escape into a magical world of music. Blessed with the ability to "imagine" sounds, he can create a symphony out of ordinary surroundings, from a gentle gust of wind to a ray of bright sunshine on a warm summer day. Eventually drawn to the distant musical sounds of the big city, August winds up penniless and alone, and soon to fall under the auspices of a strange local pied piper (Robin Williams), who runs a makeshift halfway house for other underage musical charges.

In the film's parallel "flashback" story, we go back eleven years to meet famous cellist Lyla Novacek (Keri Russell). After she wanders out onto an empty rooftop after a particularly unrewarding show, she spots famous Irish singer-songwriter Louis Connell (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers). They have a meet cute, make love on the roof, and decide the next morning that they are soulmates. But Lyla's big bad father (William Sadler) thinks any potential romance will ruin her career, so he becomes the iceberg to her Titanic. Unfortunately, a freak accident (or is it fate?) puts Lyla in a coma, and it is discovered that she's pregnant -- wonder what's gonna become of that baby?

If the film's story sounds absolutely insufferable, it is. 'August Rush' is movie that never met a contrivance it didn't like, and writer-director Kristen Sheridan trots out each and every one 'em as if she was Christopher Columbus discovering America. What is most cloying and precious about 'August Rush' is it's absolute refusal to even give us a knowing wink about its own obvious manipulation of our emotions, and it's this kind of shameless pandering that I just find condescending. I suspect that less forgiving viewers than myself will probably be throwing their remotes at the screen within the first ten minutes.

But, as Sheridan proved with her Oscar-nominated screenplay for 'In America' (which was directed by her father, acclaimed filmmaker Jim Sheridan), she does have a knack for placing real, three-dimensional characters in make-believe world. Lyla, Louis and August may be stuck in a fairy tale that is annoying and contrived, but I have to admit that they soon grew on me. Sheridan is helped immeasurably by the casting, especially the very likeable Russell (who proved herself a very fine, capable actress with last year's indie smash 'Waitress'), and little Highmore, who is certainly one of the least grating child actors currently working. (Only Williams is completely wrong for his role, and delivers some cringe-inducing moments of pure ickiness -- the last act turns of the script, where the character's intentions turn darker, is an obvious and phony attempt to shoehorn in some last-minute dramatic tension.)

Another saving grace of 'August Rush' is Sheridan's fine eye for visual composition. Ironically, the film works best when it simply drops all pretense of a coherent, engaging story and meander into wordless fantasy sequences. Though there is no CGI or obvious 'Harry Potter'-like magic here, Sheridan's fine use of oblique images, and a unique merging of atmospheric effects and score with Highmore's narration, hint at the movie might of been. Perhaps Sheridan just needed to be ballsier, and gone the Julie Taymor route -- perhaps, had she just let her imagination run wild and dispensed with the stupid story, she might have delivered a film of true visual poetry.

Alas, despite its few good points, 'August Rush' just is not a very good movie. I liked most of the performances, and it is well-directed in spots. But it reeks of pretentiousness, and for most of its runtime it is just plain corny. Add to that a conclusion that's quite unsatisfying the poorly-conceived Williams character, and you have a bit of a mess. Fans of overt sentimentality might still find something to connect with in 'August Rush,' but all others, you've been warned.

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 5283 [review_video] =>

'August Rush' comes to HD DVD as a DVD combo edition, and three weeks after the Blu-ray. Both share the same 1080p/VC-1 encode (at 2.40:1), and though 'August Rush' may not be a visually spectacular film, it is a very good-looking one.

The source is as pristine as you would expect from a new release. There is slight grain but it keeps 'August Rush' film-like, which is a benefit. The cinematography makes nice use of well-saturated colors that are not overtorqued, and the palette of warm oranges, browns, and blues is very attractive. Fleshtones also remain natural (particularly close-ups, which excel). The image is always detailed, with strong depth, so I was always aware that I was watching high-def and not a standard DVD.

Unfortunately, I was bugged by a tendency to lighten up the film in the mid-range, making the transfer appear slightly washed out. Blacks are still consistent, but I longed for a bit more punch -- it's prominent enough that I was frequently distracted. To Warner's credit, there is no edge enhancement, so the image retains a pleasing realism without looking too soft. This is also a good VC-1 encode, and I noticed no major artifacts.

[review_audio_stars] => 4 [review_audio_picture_id] => 0 [review_audio] =>

Befitting a film about music, Warner has not chintzed with the sound. This HD DVD mirrors the previous Blu-ray, offering up a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround track (48kHz/16-bit), plus French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (640kbps) options.

The film's sound design is subtle, but effective. The approach is clear from the first scene, a serene montage of naturalistic scenes, narration and lilting underscore. It doesn't hit you over the head, but the use of surrounds is well-modulated -- I could hear the sound of a slight breeze directed to specific rear speakers, and it was all nicely blended with the score. The rest of the film continues this approach, so at a decent volume level, 'August Rush' is really quite sublime.

[review_supplements_stars] => 0.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 5284 [review_supplements] =>

Given 'August Rush's poor box office showing, it's little surprise that Warner has done next to nothing to celebrate the film's video release -- this supplement package is about as paltry as they get.

  • Additional Scenes (SD, 14 minutes) - There are seven scenes included here, all extended character interactions. They're just as pleasant as the film, though there's nothing here that should have remained in the final cut. Warner presents all of the material in 480i/MPEG-2 video, with optional English SDH, English, French, and Spanish subtitles. Although there is no optional filmmaker commentary, the studio does provide short descriptions of each scene, as well as scene marker tags describing where they would have gone had they stayed in the film.
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content] =>

There are no high-def exclusives.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 2.5 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'August Rush' is a kind-hearted, well-meaning little weepy, but dang if it isn't too precious for its own good. However, fans of movies like 'Music of the Heart' and (the far superior) 'Once' might still be inclined to check it out. As an HD DVD release this is a mixed bag, with solid video and audio offset by a very weak supplements package. For all but the biggest music lovers, 'August Rush' is a rental at best.

) ) ) [reviews_hot] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 1260 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => appleseedexmachina [review_release_date] => 1207033200 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Appleseed Ex Machina [picture_created] => 1196103159 [picture_name] => appleseed-ex-machina-hd-dvddvd-combo-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Video [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/11/26/120/appleseed-ex-machina-hd-dvddvd-combo-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1260/appleseedexmachina.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2007 [run_time] => 104 [release_date_notes] => Rescheduled from March 11, 2008 [list_price] => 34.99 [asin] => B0010358EE [amazon_price] => 16.95 [empire_id] => 1380381 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD Combo Disc [1] => HD DVD 30GB Dual Layer ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround [1] => Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround [2] => French Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo [3] => Cantonese Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo [4] => Dutch Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (HD Side Only) [5] => German Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (HD Side Only) [6] => Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (SD Side Only) [7] => Portuguese Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (SD Side Only) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentary [1] => Featurettes ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English Subtitles [1] => Korean Subtitles [2] => Chinese Subtitles [3] => French Subtitles (HD Side Only) [4] => Dutch Subtitles (HD Side Only) [5] => German Subtitles (HD Side Only) [6] => Spanish Subtitles (SD Side Only) [7] => Portuguese Subtitles (SD Side Only) ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Anime ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Shinji Aramaki ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Produced by John Woo and Directed by Shinji Aramaki, and featuring next generation CG technology, Appleseed: Ex Machina is back bigger and badder! Based on the manga from reknown creator Shirow Masamune, in this movie, Deunan and Briareos are both partners and lovers. As members of ESWAT, the elite forces serving Olympus, they are deployed everywhere trouble strikes. The two fighters find their partnership tested in a new way by the arrival of Tereus who uncannily resembles Briareos before the wartime injuries that led to his becoming a cyborg. At the same time, Olympus finds itself under a stealth attack . Cyborg terrorism, deadly nanotech zealots, and rioting citizens are just some of the threats that Deunan must contend with as she fights to save Olympus. [preview_technology_specifications] => TBA [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => TBA [preview_forum_id] => 27417 [review_editors_notes] => Non-format-specific portions of this review also appear in our Blu-ray review of 'Appleseed Ex Machina.' [review_bottom_line] => Rent it First [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 51274 [review_movie_stars] => 3 [review_movie] =>

Manga may comprise a relatively new and profitable chunk of the comic book industry in the US, but these fascinating graphic novels have been an increasingly crucial component of Japanese culture since the end of World War II. In Japan, manga publications gross more than $4 billion annually and appeal to fans of all genres and readers of all ages. You may even be surprised to learn that some legendary manga artists enjoy the same level of fame that movie stars generate in the States. Author Masamune Shirow is one such manga icon. He's responsible for several popular manga properties that have subsequently been adapted for the big screen. Fan favorites like 'Ghost in the Shell,' 'Dominion: Tank Police,' and 'Appleseed' can all trace their origins to his pen.

'Appleseed: Ex Machina' is director Shinji Aramaki's sequel to his 2004 CG-animated feature, 'Appleseed' (neither of which should be confused or connected with Bandai Visual's 1988 OVA of the same name). The film continues the 22nd century story of a female E.S.W.A.T. officer named Deunan and her partner and lover, Briareos. A veteran of the great war, Briareos became a metal-clad cyborg after his body sustained massive, life-threatening injuries in the line of duty. As Deunan struggles to adapt to her relationship with Briareos, she's forced to take on a new partner, a bioroid (genetically engineered humanoid) named Tereus that's being tested for active combat. Problem is, the bioroid has been developed from Briareos's own DNA and subsequently looks and sounds exactly like him. But Deunan doesn't have time to get caught in a pseudo-love-triangle -- it seems a series of mysterious mobs are attacking targets across the city, forcing Deunan, Briareos, and Tereus to uncover the source of the strange violence and face an enemy more dangerous than anything they've encountered before.

'Ex Machina' is packed with tense action scenes that make the CG-animated utopia a feast for the imagination. Mechs, robots, cyborgs, bioroids, humans... it's all a bit complicated to follow the first time through, but the fighting factions help the filmmakers create an intriguing story packed with conspiracy, tragedy, and political ambition. The presence of executive producer John Woo also seems to have inspired the animators. 'Ex Machina' surpasses 2004's CG-animated 'Appleseed' without looking back -- slow motion leaps, intricate battle choreography, and exciting gun ballets truly invigorate the action.

Alas, as a fan of Shirow's original manga, I couldn't help but feel a bit bored by the characters in Aramaki's computer generated world. 'Ex Machina' is populated with dead-faced models that lack the humanity of traditionally animated characters as well as the expressiveness of other CG characters from larger 3D animation studios (i.e. Pixar). Deunan and Tereus are loaded with the same limited emotions regardless of the situation -- their faces stretch in surprise, soften in smiles, and tense in anger. Unfortunately, it all looks too artificial for its own good, leaving the film to rely on its action scenes alone. As a result, watching 'Ex Machina' is a lot like sitting through a series of action-packed videogame cutscenes. When the film erupts with missile firing mechs, it works, but when it settles down to explore the characters and their struggles, it lacks soul.

All in all, 'Appleseed Ex Machina' is a stirring piece of feature-length animation that has a lot to offer fans of hyperactive anime. I'm sure anyone who enjoyed Aramaki's original CG-animated 'Appleseed' will be enraptured to see how he's upped the ante with this sequel. Unfortunately, if you're looking for genuine characters in your futuristic anime, you may find that this one comes up short. I really wanted to enjoy 'Ex Machina,' but in the end, it just felt too empty and shallow.

[review_video_stars] => 3 [review_video_picture_id] => 5345 [review_video] =>

I may not have fallen in love with the flick itself, but I was more than willing to put aside my personal misgivings to soak up 104 minutes of glorious, 5-star animation. Unfortunately, just like the problematic transfer on the Blu-ray edition of 'Appleseed Ex Machina,' this HD DVD release was host to a series of visual flaws that made this title one of the more average animated experiences I've reviewed.

In my estimation, the 1080p/VC-1 transfer featured on this Warner Blu-ray release is merely a descendant of its immaculate digital source. The picture lacks the refined detailing and crisp resolution I've come to expect from high definition CG -- the picture is consistently hazy, random nighttime scenes are a bit blurry, and several shots are completely out of focus. As it stands, linework and edges are dull, clothing textures lack definition, and smaller objects look only marginally better than they do on the standard DVD side of the disc. While daytime exterior scenes are vastly improved, they still exhibit a mild softness that robs the transfer of the three-dimensional pop found in top tier releases like 'Ratatouille' and 'TMNT.' The transfer's flaws smack of overindulgent DNR and compression inadequacies.

Less problematic (but equally distracting) are a series of light artifacts, minor aliasing issues, and heavy color bands that litter the image from beginning to end. Look no further than the opening assault on the cathedral to catch a dozen examples of each (as well as the rampant softness I mentioned earlier). The banding becomes so brazen at times that it stretches across the entire width of the screen -- some shots are plagued by rows of bands that shoot through the sky, lay across the character models, and drape along every element in the foreground. The effect is bizarre to say the least and occasionally makes the image look as if it's being projected on a set of closed window blinds.

Thankfully, the experience isn't an absolute wash -- a vibrant palette and a fine spread of bold colors keep the image lush and lively. Despite its issues, the HD DVD transfer still has the clear stability and swagger of a high definition release, boasting a fresh image and a healthy bit rate. Even the squishiest details are more crisply rendered here than they are on the underwhelming standard DVD side. At the end of the day, the high-def editions are the version to beat. Just be warned that a proper 1080p transfer straight from the digital source would make this current high-def release irrelevant.

My Blu-ray review of 'Ex Machina' stirred up quite a bit of disagreement between readers who agreed with my findings and those who thought I was being too harsh. However, keep in mind that a CG tranfer doesn't have the same hurdles to overcome that traditional films do when they're minted for a high-def release. In my opinion, a flick like 'Appleseed Ex Machina' should look virtually perfect. Yet if you compare any scene in 'Ex Machina' to any scene in 'Ratatouille,' 'TMNT,' or other CG anime features like 'SOS! Tokyo Metro Explorers: The Next,' the shortcomings of this average transfer become all too apparent. If you ask me, Warner really dropped the ball on this one.

[review_audio_stars] => 4 [review_audio_picture_id] => 5346 [review_audio] =>

Anime enthusiasts can breathe a sigh of relief. Despite the information presented in the tech specs on the back cover, the HD DVD edition of 'Appleseed Ex Machina' features two surround tracks -- an English Dolby Digital 5.1 track and a Japanese language Dolby Digital 5.1 track. While they aren't the pair of TrueHD mixes Warner promised fans once upon a time, the results are nonetheless impressive.

Dialogue is clean, spread across the central channels, and well prioritized within the soundscape -- explosions and screeching thrusters never overwhelm mid-action character banter. Better still, LFE support is heavy and aggressive, imbuing the mechs that frequently populate 'Ex Machina' with a convincing sense of weight. The rear channels are busy as well, providing more than the usual background ambiance of other anime titles. The sound designers launch objects across the well-defined soundfield and manage to create a sense of genuine space. Surprise gunfire came from over my shoulder, doves flew over my head, and ships rumbled through my home theater. The entire experience was deeper and more satisfying than most high-def anime releases.

My lone complaint? I could actually hear the compression limitations bogging down the crowded soundscape -- the entire experience begged for a TrueHD track. The Dolby Digital mixes sound great, but they lack the clarity and fidelity of a lossless mix. Voices could have been crisper, effects could have had more punch, and ambiance could have been richer. I wish Warner would really embrace the possibilities and tap into the power of high definition. What could easily have been a pair of 5-star lossless tracks is merely a pair of cutting edge standard mixes.

(Note the quality of this audio package is identical to the Blu-ray edition of 'Ex Machina.' However, the standard definition side of this HD DVD combo disc features Spanish and Portuguese audio tracks and subtitles that aren't included on the Blu-ray edition.)

[review_supplements_stars] => 2.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 5347 [review_supplements] =>

The HD DVD edition of 'Appleseed: Ex Machina' packs in all of the extra features that appear on the 2-disc Special Edition DVD (minus a few trailers from other unrelated Warner films). While the supplemental package occasionally leaves finer points of the production to the imagination, it definitely offers up more information than many other anime releases. Both the commentary and the featurettes are English language productions and light on on-screen subtitles.

  • Filmmaker Commentary -- To my surprise, this commentary track doesn't feature director Shinji Aramaki, executive producer John Woo, or the original manga author Masamune Shirow. Instead animation guru Jerry Beck sits down to interview producer Joseph Chu about the development and creation of the film. However, despite the lack of production heavyweights, Chu (fluent in the English language) provides a candid and engaging chat that reveals endless details about the CG animation, the motion capture performances, and the art direction and design decisions which appear in the final film. Chu even covers the cultural significance of the imagery, characters, and plot points that may have escaped Western viewers. The track does get a bit quiet at times when the two get distracted by the animation, but Beck usually pops out another question before the silence drags on for too long. Ultimately, this is a welcome and informative track that should answer any question fans might have about the film.
  • Team Up: John Woo and Shinji Aramaki (16 minutes) -- This fun little featurette feels slightly overproduced, but it does a great job of exploring Woo's involvement in 'Ex Machina,' Aramaki's directorial decision making processes, and the vision the duo had for the latest 'Appleseed' film. It includes interviews with animators, producers, and historians, pre-production footage from story meetings with Woo and Aramaki, early storyboards, rough animatics, and finalized footage to give a sweeping (albeit surface-level) glimpse behind the scenes.
  • Revolution: Animating Ex Machina (19 minutes) -- While the information in this production featurette may be redundant in the wake of Chu's audio commentary, the visuals helps showcase the techniques used to energize the fluidity and kineticism of the CG animation. As an added bonus, the mini-doc even looks into the casting and recording of the English dub track.
  • The Appleseed Chronicles (20 minutes) -- This is a dense exploration of Shirow's original "Appleseed" manga and the manners in which it influenced the two CG-animated 'Appleseed' features. Shirow's still nowhere to be found, but the featurette explains his reclusive nature and offers up quotes from other interviews on the author's behalf. This featurette includes an array of comments from industry pros, anime production staff, and 'Appleseed' crew members edited together with pages from Shirow's manga and finalized animation from 'Ex Machina.' It feels a tad long-winded, but it covers a lot of ground. Fans will certainly appreciate this thorough exploration of such classic source material.
  • East Meets West (19 minutes) -- Whether you're new to anime or a frequent flier, this short is a decent examination of Western interest in Eastern animation. It's pretty entry level to satisfy long-time anime buffs, but newcomers will find it to be an interesting, sometimes enlightening extra.
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content] =>

Nothing.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 3 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 5348 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'Appleseed: Ex Machina' may be brimming with ambitious CG animation, but it lacks soul. The HD DVD edition is even more of a mixed bag. While the video transfer bests the standard DVD, it suffers from softness, banding, and compression issues. The standard audio tracks are quite impressive, but lack the refined clarity of lossless tracks. To top it all off, the supplemental package, while informative, lacks the input of key players like Shirow, Aramaki, and Woo. There's quite a debate on message boards between people who are happy with Warner's effort and those who find it underwhelming. I would strongly suggest that you give this one a rent and decide for yourself.

) ) [1] => Array ( [review_id] => 1345 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => augustrush [review_release_date] => 1207033200 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => August Rush [picture_created] => 1200683688 [picture_name] => august-rush-hd-dvddvd-combo-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Video [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/01/18/120/august-rush-hd-dvddvd-combo-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1345/augustrush.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2007 [run_time] => 112 [list_price] => 35.98 [asin] => B00133KHCO [amazon_price] => 24.95 [empire_id] => 1389185 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.40:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 [1] => 480p/i/MPEG-2 (Supplements Only) ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD/DVD Combo [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc/DVD-9 Dual-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround [1] => French (Quebec) Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (640kbps) [2] => Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (640kbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Deleted Scenes ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles [2] => Spanish Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Drama [1] => Family ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Jonathan Rhys Meyers [1] => Keri Russell [2] => Freddie Highmore ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Kirsten Sheridan ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => The story of a charismatic young Irish guitarist and a sheltered young cellist who have a chance encounter one magical night above New York's Washington Square, but are soon torn apart, leaving in their wake an infant, August Rush, orphaned by circumstance. Now performing on the streets of New York and cared for by a mysterious stranger, August uses his remarkable musical talent to seek the parents from whom he was separated at birth. [preview_technology_specifications] => • Deleted & Alternate Scenes [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 37721 [review_editors_notes] =>

Non-format-specific portions of this review were first published in our Blu-ray review of 'August Rush.'

[review_bottom_line] => Give it a Rent [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 53318 [review_movie_stars] => 2 [review_movie] =>

'August Rush' is nothing if not ambitious. It attempts, through the visual language of film, to convey that wonderful, immersive feeling one gets when caught up in the intangible rapture of a great piece of music. Unfortunately, this is an almost impossible task for any piece of mainstream commercial cinema to accomplish, must less one that mires itself down in narrative coincidences and soggy sentimentality. I do admire the sheer chutzpah of 'August Rush,' but it doesn't quite hit the right notes.

On paper, the fable-like qualities of the script read even more cliched than they play out on-screen (if that's possible). Freddie Highmore stars as an orphan named (God help us) August Rush. Long ago separated from his parents, he's constantly bullied at his prison-like orphanage, with his only means of emotional survival to escape into a magical world of music. Blessed with the ability to "imagine" sounds, he can create a symphony out of ordinary surroundings, from a gentle gust of wind to a ray of bright sunshine on a warm summer day. Eventually drawn to the distant musical sounds of the big city, August winds up penniless and alone, and soon to fall under the auspices of a strange local pied piper (Robin Williams), who runs a makeshift halfway house for other underage musical charges.

In the film's parallel "flashback" story, we go back eleven years to meet famous cellist Lyla Novacek (Keri Russell). After she wanders out onto an empty rooftop after a particularly unrewarding show, she spots famous Irish singer-songwriter Louis Connell (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers). They have a meet cute, make love on the roof, and decide the next morning that they are soulmates. But Lyla's big bad father (William Sadler) thinks any potential romance will ruin her career, so he becomes the iceberg to her Titanic. Unfortunately, a freak accident (or is it fate?) puts Lyla in a coma, and it is discovered that she's pregnant -- wonder what's gonna become of that baby?

If the film's story sounds absolutely insufferable, it is. 'August Rush' is movie that never met a contrivance it didn't like, and writer-director Kristen Sheridan trots out each and every one 'em as if she was Christopher Columbus discovering America. What is most cloying and precious about 'August Rush' is it's absolute refusal to even give us a knowing wink about its own obvious manipulation of our emotions, and it's this kind of shameless pandering that I just find condescending. I suspect that less forgiving viewers than myself will probably be throwing their remotes at the screen within the first ten minutes.

But, as Sheridan proved with her Oscar-nominated screenplay for 'In America' (which was directed by her father, acclaimed filmmaker Jim Sheridan), she does have a knack for placing real, three-dimensional characters in make-believe world. Lyla, Louis and August may be stuck in a fairy tale that is annoying and contrived, but I have to admit that they soon grew on me. Sheridan is helped immeasurably by the casting, especially the very likeable Russell (who proved herself a very fine, capable actress with last year's indie smash 'Waitress'), and little Highmore, who is certainly one of the least grating child actors currently working. (Only Williams is completely wrong for his role, and delivers some cringe-inducing moments of pure ickiness -- the last act turns of the script, where the character's intentions turn darker, is an obvious and phony attempt to shoehorn in some last-minute dramatic tension.)

Another saving grace of 'August Rush' is Sheridan's fine eye for visual composition. Ironically, the film works best when it simply drops all pretense of a coherent, engaging story and meander into wordless fantasy sequences. Though there is no CGI or obvious 'Harry Potter'-like magic here, Sheridan's fine use of oblique images, and a unique merging of atmospheric effects and score with Highmore's narration, hint at the movie might of been. Perhaps Sheridan just needed to be ballsier, and gone the Julie Taymor route -- perhaps, had she just let her imagination run wild and dispensed with the stupid story, she might have delivered a film of true visual poetry.

Alas, despite its few good points, 'August Rush' just is not a very good movie. I liked most of the performances, and it is well-directed in spots. But it reeks of pretentiousness, and for most of its runtime it is just plain corny. Add to that a conclusion that's quite unsatisfying the poorly-conceived Williams character, and you have a bit of a mess. Fans of overt sentimentality might still find something to connect with in 'August Rush,' but all others, you've been warned.

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 5283 [review_video] =>

'August Rush' comes to HD DVD as a DVD combo edition, and three weeks after the Blu-ray. Both share the same 1080p/VC-1 encode (at 2.40:1), and though 'August Rush' may not be a visually spectacular film, it is a very good-looking one.

The source is as pristine as you would expect from a new release. There is slight grain but it keeps 'August Rush' film-like, which is a benefit. The cinematography makes nice use of well-saturated colors that are not overtorqued, and the palette of warm oranges, browns, and blues is very attractive. Fleshtones also remain natural (particularly close-ups, which excel). The image is always detailed, with strong depth, so I was always aware that I was watching high-def and not a standard DVD.

Unfortunately, I was bugged by a tendency to lighten up the film in the mid-range, making the transfer appear slightly washed out. Blacks are still consistent, but I longed for a bit more punch -- it's prominent enough that I was frequently distracted. To Warner's credit, there is no edge enhancement, so the image retains a pleasing realism without looking too soft. This is also a good VC-1 encode, and I noticed no major artifacts.

[review_audio_stars] => 4 [review_audio_picture_id] => 0 [review_audio] =>

Befitting a film about music, Warner has not chintzed with the sound. This HD DVD mirrors the previous Blu-ray, offering up a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround track (48kHz/16-bit), plus French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (640kbps) options.

The film's sound design is subtle, but effective. The approach is clear from the first scene, a serene montage of naturalistic scenes, narration and lilting underscore. It doesn't hit you over the head, but the use of surrounds is well-modulated -- I could hear the sound of a slight breeze directed to specific rear speakers, and it was all nicely blended with the score. The rest of the film continues this approach, so at a decent volume level, 'August Rush' is really quite sublime.

[review_supplements_stars] => 0.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 5284 [review_supplements] =>

Given 'August Rush's poor box office showing, it's little surprise that Warner has done next to nothing to celebrate the film's video release -- this supplement package is about as paltry as they get.

  • Additional Scenes (SD, 14 minutes) - There are seven scenes included here, all extended character interactions. They're just as pleasant as the film, though there's nothing here that should have remained in the final cut. Warner presents all of the material in 480i/MPEG-2 video, with optional English SDH, English, French, and Spanish subtitles. Although there is no optional filmmaker commentary, the studio does provide short descriptions of each scene, as well as scene marker tags describing where they would have gone had they stayed in the film.
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content] =>

There are no high-def exclusives.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 2.5 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'August Rush' is a kind-hearted, well-meaning little weepy, but dang if it isn't too precious for its own good. However, fans of movies like 'Music of the Heart' and (the far superior) 'Once' might still be inclined to check it out. As an HD DVD release this is a mixed bag, with solid video and audio offset by a very weak supplements package. For all but the biggest music lovers, 'August Rush' is a rental at best.

) ) ) ) [March 25, 2008] => Array ( [reviews] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 1077 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => digitalvideoessentials_hdbasics [review_release_date] => 1206428400 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Digital Video Essentials: HD Basics [picture_created] => 1202166502 [picture_name] => dve-hd.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => DVD International [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/02/04/120/dve-hd.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1077/digitalvideoessentials_hdbasics.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2007 [run_time] => 0 [release_date_notes] => Postponed from October 30, 2007 [list_price] => 29.98 [asin] => B000V6LTG2 [amazon_price] => 22.49 [empire_id] => 1364213 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.78:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => TBA ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/TBA ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => TBA ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentary ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => TBA ) [preview_editors_notes] => To read our review of the previously released HD DVD edition of 'Digital Video Essentials,' click here. [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Instructional ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Joe Kane ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Joe Kane ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => The HD Basics “Setting Up My HDTV” section includes six essential calibration test patterns that can dramatically improve a high definition image after only a few minutes of use. Simple audio instructions allow the user to follow along until the optimal settings are achieved. The “Advanced Video Test Patterns” section includes many of the test patterns found in the Professional version of DVE while other parts of the program contain a trove of background materials on how HDTV works. [preview_technology_specifications] => • Audio commentary track recorded by Joe Kane, describing what to look for in the demonstration materials, and Allen Daviau, (cinematographer, on color grading film for high definition presentation. [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => TBA [preview_forum_id] => 15233 [review_gear] => default [review_video_picture_id] => 0 [review_audio_picture_id] => 0 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 ) ) [1] => Array ( [review_id] => 1318 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => myfavoritebrunette_sonofpaleface [review_release_date] => 1206428400 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => My Favorite Brunette/Son of Paleface [picture_created] => 1199521208 [picture_name] => bob-hope.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => BCI Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/01/05/120/bob-hope.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1318/myfavoritebrunette_sonofpaleface.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1947 [run_time] => 185 [list_price] => 19.98 [asin] => B0011YZVOE [amazon_price] => 13.95 [empire_id] => 1388904 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.37:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080i/MPEG-2 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (192kbps0 ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => None ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => None ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Comedy ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Bob Hope ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => My Favorite Brunette (1947) / 90 minutes

Bob Hope's hilarious comedy that pokes fun at detective movies of yesteryear. Ronnie Jackson is your average happy-go-lucky photographer. Naturally, Ronnie doesn't even think twice when he happily volunteers to take care of his neighbor's private-eye office. That is until a beautiful brunette walks into his office begging Ronnie to find her missing husband. Soon Ronnie finds himself on a wild goose chase that leads to murder.

Son of Paleface (1952) / 95 minutes

Four years after his hit comedy The Paleface, Bob Hope returned to the screen as Junior Potter, son of Painless Peter Potter, the hapless hero of the first film. The Harvard-bred Junior heads out west to claim his father's inheritance. Returning for the sequel, but in a different role, is Jane Russell (The Outlaw) as an outlaw named Mike who continually has to save our hapless hero. Also starring in the sequel is the King of the Cowboys himself, Roy Rogers and his horse Trigger, who portray themselves. Hope teams with the pair to help get to the sequel is the Oscar-winning song "Buttons and Bows." Co-writer and director Frank Tashlin, a former cartoonist and screenwriter of the first Paleface, also worked with Hope on The Private Navy of Sgt O'Farrell and wrote and directed several Jerry Lewis films such as Cinderfella and The Geisha Boy. [preview_technology_specifications] => None [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 568740 [review_bottom_line] => Worth a Look [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 52011 [review_movie_stars] => 3 [review_movie] =>

BCI presents its latest HD DVD double feature (and, in light of the death of the format, apparently its last) with 'My Favorite Brunette/Son of Paleface.' This one pairs a couple of gems from Bob Hope, and for me its a pair that's a hair more entertaining than BCI's last Hope two-for-one, 'The Road to Rio/The Road to Bali.' Neither 'Brunette' nor 'Paleface' are great cinema, but Hope is agile with the one-liners, and the dated plots are quite enjoyable.

'My Favorite Brunette' (1954) is a film rarity -- a noir-spoof. Hope stars as Ronnie Jackson, a baby photographer who dreams of being a private eye (seriously, I'm not making this up). He gets his chance when Baroness Carlotta Montay (Dorothy Lamour) arrives on his door seeking assistance, but of course this a film noir, and every one needs a femme fatale. Soon Ronnie gets mixed up in a complicated, comedic plot of double-crosses and mystery-intrigue. Also popping up are Peter Lorre and Lon Chaney, who may -- or may not -- be killers.

'Son of Paleface' (1952) is a sequel to 'The Paleface,' and again stars Hope as Peter "Junior" Potter. This time he returns to collect on his late father's inheritance, which he thinks is going to be a tidy sum of cash and property. Unfortunately for Junior, dear old pops also left a legacy of bad debt, not to mention the return of Mike "The Torch" (Jane Russell) and her gang of thieves. And on top of that, Roy Rogers joins the show as Federal Agent, who's chasing Torch, bringing along his mischievous horse Trigger to steal the show.

The plots of 'Brunette' and 'Paleface' are beside the point. The former, in particular, falls quite flat on its own, unless you are a true noir connoisseur -- it's certainly only there to hang Hope's jokes off of, but despite the dated aspects of both films, Hope reminds us why he was such a star. Even such vanilla, play-it-safe comedy has real zest in his hands, and some of his mimicry is hilarious (in particular his impersonation of Rogers). I was also impressed with the physicality of the stunts and various chase scenes in both pictures, which are quite well done and in some ways even trump today's CGI-assisted action flicks, as at least here we know all of the actors/stunt people are really doing these crazy gags.

Marring 'Paleface' in particular, however, is a unseemly underbelly of racism, with the caricatures so blatant that it leaves a bitter aftertaste in the mouth. I was still able to enjoy both features enough that I could ignore the insulting humor and a couple of jaw-droppingly awful songs in light of the ignorance of the time, but I suspect many of you might be less accommodating. There is still enough good-natured tomfoolery on display here to make this set worth watching (it's certainly a must-see for Hope fans), even if neither 'Son of Paleface' or 'My Favorite Brunette' are true comedy classics. Put this one in your Netflix queue, and mark as a "rainy day nostalgia" rental.

[review_video_stars] => 2.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 0 [review_video] =>

BCI presents both 'My Favorite Brunette' and 'Son of Paleface' on a single HD-30 dual-layer disc. Each film has an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 (pillarboxed in a 16:9 frame for HD) and is encoded in 1080i/MPEG-2, with 'Brunette' in black & white and 'Paleface' in glorious Technicolor (ironic, considering its title).

The source on 'Brunette' is fine if a bit spotty. There is the expected grain (which is only occasionally distracting), but dirt and speckles can be frequent. Blacks look a bit bright at times, and contrast certainly could have used some improvement. The image is also soft. However, as 'Brunette' was produced in 1947 and long ago fell into the public domain, it's hard to be too critical. Detail is still better than I would have expected, and there were a few isolated moments when the image had enough visible depth and texture that I was superior to any cable broadcast or DVD presentation I've seen of similar vintage material. No, this is no Warner-level remaster, but it's certainly watchable.

'Paleface' was the better of the two. Not only is the color vibrant and surprisingly clean (though Technicolor registration errors still abound), but blacks are more consistent. Contrast still wobbles, but it's bright enough to give the image a decent amount of pop. As with 'Brunette,' however, the print suffers from brightness fluctuations, a good deal of grain and some blemishes. There is also obvious edge enhancement, and the boost in sharpness was for me outweighed by the intrusive halos. All in all, though, for a public domain flick I expected a lot worse. (Individual Video scores: 'My Favorite Brunette' 2.5 / 'Son of Paleface' 3.0)

[review_audio_stars] => 1.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 0 [review_audio] =>

BCI/Eclipse offers only Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (192kbps) audio on both 'My Favorite Brunette' and 'Son of Paleface.' Don't expect much, here.

Envelopment and stereo presence are not an issue. The source is in decent shape with no major pops or dropouts, but dynamic range is hardly pleasing. Low bass is about nil, and I certainly wasn't enamored by the brittle feel to dialogue and music. A low-grade white noise source is also sometimes present during the songs in 'Son of Paleface.' I'm inclined to give both films a break considering they are now over a half-century old, but I can't say there is anything noteworthy about these mono tracks. (Individual Audio scores: 'My Favorite Brunette' 1.5 / 'Son of Paleface' 1.5)

[review_supplements_stars] => 0 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 0 [review_supplements] =>

Typical of most of BCI's double-feature discs, there are no extras here. Even the menus are just a rehash of the static navigation found on the standard DVD versions.

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content] =>

There are no high-def exclusives.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 2.5 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'My Favorite Brunette' and 'Son of Paleface' are both amusing little comedies, notable more for the presence of Bob Hope (and a few good tunes) than anything else. This BCI double-feature disc is perfectly fine, with pleasant video and audio but nary a single extra. However, you do get two fun vintage flicks for the price of one, and you certainly can't beat the cheap $19.98 MSRP.

) ) [2] => Array ( [review_id] => 425 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => guiseppeverdiiltrovatore [review_release_date] => 1206428400 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Verdi: Il Trovatore [picture_created] => 1206219906 [picture_name] => guiseppe-verdi-il-trovatore-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Opus Arte [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/03/22/120/guiseppe-verdi-il-trovatore-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/425/guiseppeverdiiltrovatore.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2008 [run_time] => 173 [list_price] => 39.99 [amazon_price] => 0.00 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.78:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080i/TBA ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby TrueHD 5.0 Surround [1] => English Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Stereo ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Featurettes ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Music ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => José Cura [1] => Dmitri Hvorostovsky [2] => Yvonne Naef ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Elijah Moshinsky ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => José Cura and Dmitri Hvorostovsky lead the star cast of Verdi’s blazingly passionate opera, in Elijah Moshinsky’s Royal Opera House production co-produced with Teatro Real Madrid, with sets by the noted Italian film designer Dante Ferretti. [preview_technology_specifications] => • Featurette: "Meet the Cast," "All About Schläger," "Designing Il Trovatore" [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 49626 [review_gear] => default [review_video_picture_id] => 0 [review_audio_picture_id] => 0 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 ) ) ) [reviews_hot] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 1077 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => digitalvideoessentials_hdbasics [review_release_date] => 1206428400 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Digital Video Essentials: HD Basics [picture_created] => 1202166502 [picture_name] => dve-hd.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => DVD International [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/02/04/120/dve-hd.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1077/digitalvideoessentials_hdbasics.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2007 [run_time] => 0 [release_date_notes] => Postponed from October 30, 2007 [list_price] => 29.98 [asin] => B000V6LTG2 [amazon_price] => 22.49 [empire_id] => 1364213 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.78:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => TBA ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/TBA ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => TBA ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentary ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => TBA ) [preview_editors_notes] => To read our review of the previously released HD DVD edition of 'Digital Video Essentials,' click here. [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Instructional ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Joe Kane ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Joe Kane ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => The HD Basics “Setting Up My HDTV” section includes six essential calibration test patterns that can dramatically improve a high definition image after only a few minutes of use. Simple audio instructions allow the user to follow along until the optimal settings are achieved. The “Advanced Video Test Patterns” section includes many of the test patterns found in the Professional version of DVE while other parts of the program contain a trove of background materials on how HDTV works. [preview_technology_specifications] => • Audio commentary track recorded by Joe Kane, describing what to look for in the demonstration materials, and Allen Daviau, (cinematographer, on color grading film for high definition presentation. [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => TBA [preview_forum_id] => 15233 [review_gear] => default [review_video_picture_id] => 0 [review_audio_picture_id] => 0 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 ) ) [1] => Array ( [review_id] => 1318 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => myfavoritebrunette_sonofpaleface [review_release_date] => 1206428400 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => My Favorite Brunette/Son of Paleface [picture_created] => 1199521208 [picture_name] => bob-hope.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => BCI Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/01/05/120/bob-hope.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1318/myfavoritebrunette_sonofpaleface.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1947 [run_time] => 185 [list_price] => 19.98 [asin] => B0011YZVOE [amazon_price] => 13.95 [empire_id] => 1388904 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.37:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080i/MPEG-2 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (192kbps0 ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => None ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => None ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Comedy ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Bob Hope ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => My Favorite Brunette (1947) / 90 minutes

Bob Hope's hilarious comedy that pokes fun at detective movies of yesteryear. Ronnie Jackson is your average happy-go-lucky photographer. Naturally, Ronnie doesn't even think twice when he happily volunteers to take care of his neighbor's private-eye office. That is until a beautiful brunette walks into his office begging Ronnie to find her missing husband. Soon Ronnie finds himself on a wild goose chase that leads to murder.

Son of Paleface (1952) / 95 minutes

Four years after his hit comedy The Paleface, Bob Hope returned to the screen as Junior Potter, son of Painless Peter Potter, the hapless hero of the first film. The Harvard-bred Junior heads out west to claim his father's inheritance. Returning for the sequel, but in a different role, is Jane Russell (The Outlaw) as an outlaw named Mike who continually has to save our hapless hero. Also starring in the sequel is the King of the Cowboys himself, Roy Rogers and his horse Trigger, who portray themselves. Hope teams with the pair to help get to the sequel is the Oscar-winning song "Buttons and Bows." Co-writer and director Frank Tashlin, a former cartoonist and screenwriter of the first Paleface, also worked with Hope on The Private Navy of Sgt O'Farrell and wrote and directed several Jerry Lewis films such as Cinderfella and The Geisha Boy. [preview_technology_specifications] => None [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 568740 [review_bottom_line] => Worth a Look [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 52011 [review_movie_stars] => 3 [review_movie] =>

BCI presents its latest HD DVD double feature (and, in light of the death of the format, apparently its last) with 'My Favorite Brunette/Son of Paleface.' This one pairs a couple of gems from Bob Hope, and for me its a pair that's a hair more entertaining than BCI's last Hope two-for-one, 'The Road to Rio/The Road to Bali.' Neither 'Brunette' nor 'Paleface' are great cinema, but Hope is agile with the one-liners, and the dated plots are quite enjoyable.

'My Favorite Brunette' (1954) is a film rarity -- a noir-spoof. Hope stars as Ronnie Jackson, a baby photographer who dreams of being a private eye (seriously, I'm not making this up). He gets his chance when Baroness Carlotta Montay (Dorothy Lamour) arrives on his door seeking assistance, but of course this a film noir, and every one needs a femme fatale. Soon Ronnie gets mixed up in a complicated, comedic plot of double-crosses and mystery-intrigue. Also popping up are Peter Lorre and Lon Chaney, who may -- or may not -- be killers.

'Son of Paleface' (1952) is a sequel to 'The Paleface,' and again stars Hope as Peter "Junior" Potter. This time he returns to collect on his late father's inheritance, which he thinks is going to be a tidy sum of cash and property. Unfortunately for Junior, dear old pops also left a legacy of bad debt, not to mention the return of Mike "The Torch" (Jane Russell) and her gang of thieves. And on top of that, Roy Rogers joins the show as Federal Agent, who's chasing Torch, bringing along his mischievous horse Trigger to steal the show.

The plots of 'Brunette' and 'Paleface' are beside the point. The former, in particular, falls quite flat on its own, unless you are a true noir connoisseur -- it's certainly only there to hang Hope's jokes off of, but despite the dated aspects of both films, Hope reminds us why he was such a star. Even such vanilla, play-it-safe comedy has real zest in his hands, and some of his mimicry is hilarious (in particular his impersonation of Rogers). I was also impressed with the physicality of the stunts and various chase scenes in both pictures, which are quite well done and in some ways even trump today's CGI-assisted action flicks, as at least here we know all of the actors/stunt people are really doing these crazy gags.

Marring 'Paleface' in particular, however, is a unseemly underbelly of racism, with the caricatures so blatant that it leaves a bitter aftertaste in the mouth. I was still able to enjoy both features enough that I could ignore the insulting humor and a couple of jaw-droppingly awful songs in light of the ignorance of the time, but I suspect many of you might be less accommodating. There is still enough good-natured tomfoolery on display here to make this set worth watching (it's certainly a must-see for Hope fans), even if neither 'Son of Paleface' or 'My Favorite Brunette' are true comedy classics. Put this one in your Netflix queue, and mark as a "rainy day nostalgia" rental.

[review_video_stars] => 2.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 0 [review_video] =>

BCI presents both 'My Favorite Brunette' and 'Son of Paleface' on a single HD-30 dual-layer disc. Each film has an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 (pillarboxed in a 16:9 frame for HD) and is encoded in 1080i/MPEG-2, with 'Brunette' in black & white and 'Paleface' in glorious Technicolor (ironic, considering its title).

The source on 'Brunette' is fine if a bit spotty. There is the expected grain (which is only occasionally distracting), but dirt and speckles can be frequent. Blacks look a bit bright at times, and contrast certainly could have used some improvement. The image is also soft. However, as 'Brunette' was produced in 1947 and long ago fell into the public domain, it's hard to be too critical. Detail is still better than I would have expected, and there were a few isolated moments when the image had enough visible depth and texture that I was superior to any cable broadcast or DVD presentation I've seen of similar vintage material. No, this is no Warner-level remaster, but it's certainly watchable.

'Paleface' was the better of the two. Not only is the color vibrant and surprisingly clean (though Technicolor registration errors still abound), but blacks are more consistent. Contrast still wobbles, but it's bright enough to give the image a decent amount of pop. As with 'Brunette,' however, the print suffers from brightness fluctuations, a good deal of grain and some blemishes. There is also obvious edge enhancement, and the boost in sharpness was for me outweighed by the intrusive halos. All in all, though, for a public domain flick I expected a lot worse. (Individual Video scores: 'My Favorite Brunette' 2.5 / 'Son of Paleface' 3.0)

[review_audio_stars] => 1.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 0 [review_audio] =>

BCI/Eclipse offers only Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (192kbps) audio on both 'My Favorite Brunette' and 'Son of Paleface.' Don't expect much, here.

Envelopment and stereo presence are not an issue. The source is in decent shape with no major pops or dropouts, but dynamic range is hardly pleasing. Low bass is about nil, and I certainly wasn't enamored by the brittle feel to dialogue and music. A low-grade white noise source is also sometimes present during the songs in 'Son of Paleface.' I'm inclined to give both films a break considering they are now over a half-century old, but I can't say there is anything noteworthy about these mono tracks. (Individual Audio scores: 'My Favorite Brunette' 1.5 / 'Son of Paleface' 1.5)

[review_supplements_stars] => 0 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 0 [review_supplements] =>

Typical of most of BCI's double-feature discs, there are no extras here. Even the menus are just a rehash of the static navigation found on the standard DVD versions.

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content] =>

There are no high-def exclusives.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 2.5 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'My Favorite Brunette' and 'Son of Paleface' are both amusing little comedies, notable more for the presence of Bob Hope (and a few good tunes) than anything else. This BCI double-feature disc is perfectly fine, with pleasant video and audio but nary a single extra. However, you do get two fun vintage flicks for the price of one, and you certainly can't beat the cheap $19.98 MSRP.

) ) [2] => Array ( [review_id] => 425 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => guiseppeverdiiltrovatore [review_release_date] => 1206428400 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Verdi: Il Trovatore [picture_created] => 1206219906 [picture_name] => guiseppe-verdi-il-trovatore-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Opus Arte [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/03/22/120/guiseppe-verdi-il-trovatore-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/425/guiseppeverdiiltrovatore.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2008 [run_time] => 173 [list_price] => 39.99 [amazon_price] => 0.00 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.78:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080i/TBA ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby TrueHD 5.0 Surround [1] => English Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Stereo ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Featurettes ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Music ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => José Cura [1] => Dmitri Hvorostovsky [2] => Yvonne Naef ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Elijah Moshinsky ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => José Cura and Dmitri Hvorostovsky lead the star cast of Verdi’s blazingly passionate opera, in Elijah Moshinsky’s Royal Opera House production co-produced with Teatro Real Madrid, with sets by the noted Italian film designer Dante Ferretti. [preview_technology_specifications] => • Featurette: "Meet the Cast," "All About Schläger," "Designing Il Trovatore" [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 49626 [review_gear] => default [review_video_picture_id] => 0 [review_audio_picture_id] => 0 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 ) ) ) ) [March 20, 2008] => Array ( [reviews] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 681 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => terminator2_ge [review_release_date] => 1205996400 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Terminator 2: Judgment Day (German Import) [picture_created] => 1205719456 [picture_name] => terminator-2-judgment-day-hd-dvd-box-art-german.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Kinowelt [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/03/16/120/terminator-2-judgment-day-hd-dvd-box-art-german.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/681/terminator2_ge.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1991 [run_time] => 137 [list_price] => 39.95 [amazon_price] => 0.00 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.35:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => Interactive Viewing Modes [1] => Web-Enabled Content ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 [1] => 480p/i/MPEG-2 (Supplements Only) ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English DTS-HD High-Resolution Audio 7.1 Surround (48kHz/16-bit) [1] => German DTS-HD High-Resolution Audio 7.1 Surround (48kHz/16-bit) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentaries [1] => Deleted Scenes [2] => Still Galleries ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => German Subtitles [1] => Turkish Subtitles ) [review_editors_notes] =>

This is a review of the German HD DVD release of 'Terminator 2: Judgment Day.' Non-format-specific portions of this review were first published in our review of Lionsgate's Blu-ray release of 'Terminator 2: Judgment Day.'

Note that this disc is not region-coded and will play in any HD DVD player. For more information about importing HD DVD discs, visit the HD DVD imports thread in our forums area.

[review_bottom_line] => Highly Recommended [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 49903 [review_movie_stars] => 3.5 [review_movie] =>

Many cite 'Terminator 2: Judgment Day' as one of the greatest sequels ever, with even diehard fans of the franchise rating it higher than 1984's cult classic 'The Terminator.' I would never try to persuade them otherwise, but I'm not convinced. 'T2' doesn't work quite as well as the original, if only because the first two 'Terminator' films are really very different from each other. Much like director James Cameron managed to do with 1986's 'Aliens' -- namely take Ridley Scott's dark, more-horror-than-sci-fi opus 'Alien' and transform it into a non-stop action film -- 'T2' doesn't so much replicate the scrappy B-movie thrills of the first 'Terminator' as morph its chintzy charms into a bombastic, special-effects-laden morality play. 'T2' pumps up the best qualities of 'The Terminator' and grafts them onto a family drama while adding fable-like qualities. I still find it all a little bit weird.

I suppose I could recap the story of 'T2' for the three people who have yet to see the film, but then they probably know it already. Let's just say that Cameron wisely doesn't try to revert his main characters -- Linda Hamilton's Sarah Connor, and of course the Terminator -- back to the state in which we left them at the end of the first film, as most sequels-slash-remakes would. Rather, he turns Sarah into a nutjob who has effectively abandoned her son and turned herself into the martyr to end all martyrs, allowing the story to expand naturally into new directions. Even better, Cameron inverts the Terminator himself -- it is no secret to reveal that the mean ol' Arnie of 'Terminator' is all soft and cuddly in 'T2,' now the protector of the young John Connor (Edward Furlong). So not only does that give 'T2' a great spin on the original, but it allows for the introduction of a brand-new villain, the morphing T-1000 (Robert Patrick, still the best android-creature ever seen on screen).

Let's just say that had Cameron simply restaged the Sarah-Terminator battles from the first film only with more money, we wouldn't still be talking about 'T2' today. Unfortunately, that brings me to my biggest gripe about 'T2' -- which ironically, has cemented its status as such an influential blockbuster. Quite frankly, the film's once-cutting edge CGI effects have quickly become outdated. Even back in 1991, I thought the film's effects coup, the "liquid metal" T-1000, looked lame. I know, I know, it unleashed the monstrosity that is "morphing" unto the world, but even by the rules and structure of the fantasy world Cameron created, the effect feels like a cheat. While in the framework of the film I could believe that a liquid metal Mr. Roboto could goop all around and kill people, I'm still confused as to how his clothes and skin miraculously reappear at a moment's notice. Are they liquid metal, too? And where is his CPU central processing unit located? How are all the individual molecules bound together? And how come whenever the T-1000 gets split apart or blown up, all the pieces can still function? And if the machine is supposed to be liquid metal by Earth standards (this is still, after all, supposed to be a "realistic future"), how does the metal heat itself up and cool itself off so quickly?

Perhaps I'm asking too many questions. Because strip away all the post-apocalyptic talk, all the Sarah-John intra-family melodramatics, and the numerous time-travel plot holes (though to be fair, time travel itself is one big plot hole), and 'T2' still works like gangbusters. It's one great big action spectacle full of explosions, car chases, lots of cyborg fighting and Edward Furlong spouting lines like "Affirmative" in his mini-Keanu Reeves baritone. So what's not to love, even if I miss some of the low-budget charm and inventiveness of the original? And really, can any movie that features a Terminator asking, "Why do you cry?" be all bad?

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 346 [review_video] =>

German distributor Kinowelt is giving 'Terminator 2' the deluxe treatment on HD DVD, dubbing this German import the 'Ultimate HD-Edition.' According to the supplied press materials, the production house behind the disc (Imagion AG) utilized the best sources available to create this 1080p/VC-1 encode, including access to the HD masters used for both Lionsgate's domestic Blu-ray release and Studio Canal's French HD DVD. On top of that, Kinowelt/Imagion present 'T2' on this HD DVD in the director's cut version (which utilizes material from both the theatrical cut and extended version masters) so this is truly a "hodgepodge" of a release. (Note: The disc's menus are confusing -- there is an option on the disc to select the "Director's Cut", implying that not selecting the option would result in playback of the theatrical cut of 'T2." However, as most of descriptive text on the disc is in German, we've since receive confirmation from Kinowelt that the disc in fact only contains the Director's Cut.)

The result is that I slightly preferred the transfer of this 'Ultimate HD-Edition' to the domestic Blu-ray, with the major caveat that the differences are minor enough that few will notice without doing side-by-side comparisons. These differences are also a matter of subjective taste, so some may just as easily disagree with me and prefer the Lionsgate edition. In other words, don't expect any real upgrade with this 'Ultimate HD-Edition' -- it's pretty dang close to the Blu-ray you probably already have.

The source certainly looks like the 'T2' we're already used to. Most aspects of this presentation are just as good as before -- great blacks, clean and consistent contrast (aside from the Linda Hamilton character's post-apocalyptic flashbacks, which are intentionally blown-out). The print is close to pristine, with a few minor specks and dirt that rarely distract. There is still grain visible, and sometimes it can be more distracting than on the standard DVD, simply because HD's finer resolution makes it more apparent.

The main improvement for me with this HD DVD version over the previous Blu-ray are colors. Certainly, they are quite close, but I felt saturation was just a hair superior, with better stability (particularly reds and the intense steel blues) and a smidgen less chroma noise. Conversely, the transfer is a bit brighter, which improves shadow delineation but lessens contrast (again, this is my personal preference for an image with heightened visible textures in darker areas over the increased apparent depth that results from a higher-contrast image). I also thought the VC-1 encode here was superior to the Blu-ray. While this HD DVD is a tad softer, it lessens visible grain, and there are also less motion artifacts.

Ultimately, these differences are small enough that most probably won't even notice them without a side-by-side compare. Also a factor are the calibration differences that may be inherent in one's Blu-ray and HD DVD equipment chain. Given these discrepancies, and my own subjective tastes, I'm giving this 'Ultimate HD-Edition' the same four-star Video rating I gave Lionsgate's domestic Blu-ray edition -- they really are pretty dang close.

[review_audio_stars] => 5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 0 [review_audio] =>

Looking back at my original June 2006 review of Lionsgate's 'Terminator 2' domestic Blu-ray, I certainly wouldn't rate the audio score as highly today. It was an era before high-res audio really became the norm, so that disc's plain jane Dolby Digital EX mix still seemed pretty cool. That's certainly not the case anymore, as this DTS-HD High-Resolution 7.1 Surround track (48kHz/16-bit, offered in both English and German) easily proves -- it's noticeably superior to the Blu-ray by a considerable degree.

'T2' really raised the bar in terms of surround sound when it was first released in 1992 and I can still remember seeing the film in the theater and just being amazed at the sound that was coming out of the speakers all around me. The film's sound design still sounds quite aggressive seventeen years later, with very active use of the rear channels for both loud action as well as minor atmospheric details. This 7.1 mix makes effective use of the rear soundstage, with the added two channels boasting improved transparency and panning over the Dolby EX mix on the Blu-ray. Impact of discrete effects is heightened as well, with improved clarity and better dispersion of atmospheric effects. Bleed of Brad Fiedel's memorable score is also stronger, which further improves the "wall of sound" effect.

Raw dynamics are also better than the Blu-ray. While the source does not sound like it has been given any sort of major restoration, low bass extension is a tad better during many scenes, particularly the extended truck/motorcycle chase after the Terminator first intercepts John Connor, as well as the massive invasion of Cyberdyne that begins the film's last act. High end also had a slightly more robust presence, especially on dialogue (which is also louder in the mix, which for me is an improvement). There are likewise no balance issues, so even at high volumes the DTS-HD mix is superb in its clarity. Kinowelt/Imagion has done a very fine job here.

[review_supplements_stars] => 4 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 347 [review_supplements] =>

I could be wrong, but I bet 'Terminator 2' holds the record for the most number of video releases of any title in history. I've lost count of how many times Lionsgate/Artisan/LIVE re-issued the title over the past seventeen years, so by the time we got to the "'Oh, Shit, Not Another Edition!' Edition," it had really reached the point of absurdity.

Now, thanks to Kinowelt/Imagion, we can add the 'Ultimate HD-Edition' to that esteemed list. In their defense, I will say that the company really has rolled out the red carpet for this release and made a valiant attempt to give fans most of what's come before, plus a good deal that's exclusive -- while much of the video material that graced Lionsgate's previous DVD editions at first appears to be missing, in fact Kinowelt has either renamed it or repurposed much of it as HD DVD interactive extras (see the next section). They've even included the audio commentaries from Lionsgate's domestic Blu-ray as well.

Note that the only problem I had with this HD DVD is that all of the descriptive text is in German, so the introductions to most of the features I couldn't actually understand. (However, I'm told by Kinowelt/Imagion that because this disc is web-enabled, there is the possibility that English-language text-based content could be "updated" in the future via a download. We'll see.)

  • Audio Commentaries - Two "archival" tracks included here are both very good. Director James Cameron recorded his first-ever audio commentary for the 'T2' "Extreme Edition," along with co-writer William Wysher, and it is a very strong effort indeed. Say what you want about the one-time "King of the World!", but he is a very intelligent, articulate, passionate guy, and along with Wysher he imparts a great deal of detail on all aspects of the film's development, production and release. Definitely a must listen.

    The second track is just as good, even if it's just an assemblage of audio interview extracts with a bunch of cast and crew, and the participants do not address directly what is onscreen. However, with 26(!) major players represented -- including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong, and most of the main technical team -- how could it not succeed? I really like these compiled, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink tracks, because they are so informative and no one person gets to dominate. Plus, this one is very, very well edited by longtime Cameron DVD producer Van Ling. So I'm afraid along with the Cameron and Wysher track, you're going to have to watch 'T2' yet again.
  • Departments - Despite the unusual name, these are really extensive video and still galleries with tons of bonus material. Fans of the previous DVD 'Ultimate Edition' will recognize this stuff, so while the interface that presents it is unique to this HD DVD, the content really isn't. What you'll find here are six different areas -- "Marketing," "Planning & Design," "Research & Development," "Construction," "manufacturing" and "Customer Service" -- each with a pop-up interface that includes descriptive text (again, in German only) plus a little window box that shows either the corresponding still or video program. Note that aside from the "Marketing" section (which includes stand-alone, full-screen featurettes and trailers, which I detail separately below), the rest of this stuff is just about all stills. And it's huge -- I counted well over a 1,000 stills in these various sections, which offer detailed images on every aspect of the production, from stunts to make-up to costumes to locations to the CGI. If that isn't enough, you'll find storyboards, as well as the complete shooting script! It's really a treasure trove for any 'T2' fan.'
  • Marketing Featurettes (SD, 116 minutes) - Found in the "Departments" section explained above, this is a suite of five promotional featurettes and additional content created for the 'Ultimate Edition' DVD. "The Making of Terminator 2" (30 minutes) and "Terminator 2: More Than Meets the Eye" (26 minutes) are both slick extended commercials (the latter produced for Showtime) that now feel quite dated. "No Fate But What We Make" (28 minutes) is better, as it least includes some newer interviews with Cameron, Wysher and a few other crew (all of the cast, however, only appear via old footage). "T2: On the Set" (8 minutes) is exactly what the name implies -- a montage of behind-the-scenes footage. Finally, "Breaking the Screen Barrier" (23 minutes) is really a featurette on the making of the 'Terminator 2: 3:D' ride at Universal Studios.
  • Deleted Scenes (HD, 6 minutes) - Two scenes are included: "T-1000 Searches John's Room" (with optional audio commentary by Cameron and star Robert Patrick) and "The Future Coda" (with optional commentary by Cameron, Stan Winston and Linda Hamilton), which is an alternate ending to the film that previously was only available as an easter egg on the original 'Ultimate Edition' DVD. These two scenes are presented in full 1080p/VC-1 video. Finally, there are even "More Deleted Scenes," which are actually script excerpts, as these scenes were never actually filmed.
  • Theatrical Trailers (SD) - Finally, there is a theatrical teaser and two trailers for 'Terminator 2,' plus a promo spot for the 'T2' Special Edition DVD. These are all found in the "Marketing" Department section described above.
  • Steelbook Casing - It's worth mentioning that 'T2' comes in a special matte-metallic take on the traditional red keepcase. This is certainly the sturdiest HD DVD package I've ever seen, and it's quite spiffy. Only the lack of a collectible booklet seems like a bit of an oversight, not that I'm complaining...
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 4 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 348 [review_bonus_content] =>

As if the terrific standard supplements weren't enough, Kinowelt/Imagion has added a wealth of exclusive content, too. This truly is one kick-ass, fully-loaded HD DVD that puts most previous studio efforts to shame. There is also a variety of web-enabled extras that launched on the disc's street date of March 20, 2008 -- and Kinowelt promises even more updates to come. (Alas, much of the text-based material here is in German only, which is a problem! Again however, Kinowelt/Imagion says they may offer an English version in a future download.)

  • Inside T2 Mode - The first of three "Special Modes" available on the disc proper. Essentially, this is a picture-in-picture track. Kinowelt/Imagion has repurposed much of the video-based archival interview and making-of material from past DVD versions of 'T2' to create the commentary. Of course, I would have liked something new (as much of this stuff will be quite familiar to diehard fans), but it's still a very nicely done and well-paced track.
  • Quiz Mode - More than seventy questions pop-up as text trivia throughout the film. Unfortunately, this one is currently in German only. Kinowelt also says this feature is "updatable," meaning that future questions are planned to be available in download (hopefully with an English option) at a future date.
  • Spy Mode - The last mode sounds interesting -- a pop-up trivia track revealing all the bloopers and mistakes throughout 'T2.' Unfortunately, this one is in German only, too.
  • Interactive Mode - Only the first of what Kinowelt says will be many future web-enabled additional playback modes. If you're player is connected to the internet, activate the Interactive Mode, and you can access no less than 80 minutes of additional branching content. Similar to a U-Control or "Following the White Rabbit" type of feature, when in this playback mode, an icon will appear at pre-selected intervals during the film. Hit your remote, and you will seamlessly branch to content coming direct from the web. There's even more interviews with the cast and crew of 'T2' and other archival making-of material. Again, nothing specifically new to this release (versus past DVD incarnations), but still pretty cool.
  • TuneHD.net - If all of this isn't enough, web-enabled users can also access the www.tunehd.net web destination. After a one-time (free) registration, there are a variety of features currently planned to "expand" the disc even further. Users will be able to add quizzes (to enhance Quiz Mode) and flubs (for Spy Mode), as well as pictures and even their own commentaries. Such homemade goodies can either be uploaded (to share) or downloaded (to view). Pretty crazy!
  • Bookmarks - Finally, the disc offers a bookmarking function, so you can save your favorite scenes for instant access even after you eject the disc from your player.
[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 4.5 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts] =>

I wouldn't rate 'Terminator 2' as highly as the original 'Terminator,' but then there are just as many (if not more) fans of the cyborg saga that would. But no matter -- 'Terminator 2' is a great action flick that's tailor-made for high-def. Kinowelt/Imagion's 'Ultimate HD-Edition' is easily the best version I've seen on disc yet, and tops Lionsgate's Blu-ray version. We get the extended cut of the film of the film, tons of supplemental material, and video and audio that (for me) outranked the domestic version. It's a shame that HD DVD is dead, if only because we won't get great discs like this anymore that boast so many interactive bells and whistles. But if you want to pick up a great last hurrah of an HD DVD disc, 'Terminator 2' is certainly worth considering.

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This is a review of the German HD DVD release of 'Terminator 2: Judgment Day.' Non-format-specific portions of this review were first published in our review of Lionsgate's Blu-ray release of 'Terminator 2: Judgment Day.'

Note that this disc is not region-coded and will play in any HD DVD player. For more information about importing HD DVD discs, visit the HD DVD imports thread in our forums area.

[review_bottom_line] => Highly Recommended [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 49903 [review_movie_stars] => 3.5 [review_movie] =>

Many cite 'Terminator 2: Judgment Day' as one of the greatest sequels ever, with even diehard fans of the franchise rating it higher than 1984's cult classic 'The Terminator.' I would never try to persuade them otherwise, but I'm not convinced. 'T2' doesn't work quite as well as the original, if only because the first two 'Terminator' films are really very different from each other. Much like director James Cameron managed to do with 1986's 'Aliens' -- namely take Ridley Scott's dark, more-horror-than-sci-fi opus 'Alien' and transform it into a non-stop action film -- 'T2' doesn't so much replicate the scrappy B-movie thrills of the first 'Terminator' as morph its chintzy charms into a bombastic, special-effects-laden morality play. 'T2' pumps up the best qualities of 'The Terminator' and grafts them onto a family drama while adding fable-like qualities. I still find it all a little bit weird.

I suppose I could recap the story of 'T2' for the three people who have yet to see the film, but then they probably know it already. Let's just say that Cameron wisely doesn't try to revert his main characters -- Linda Hamilton's Sarah Connor, and of course the Terminator -- back to the state in which we left them at the end of the first film, as most sequels-slash-remakes would. Rather, he turns Sarah into a nutjob who has effectively abandoned her son and turned herself into the martyr to end all martyrs, allowing the story to expand naturally into new directions. Even better, Cameron inverts the Terminator himself -- it is no secret to reveal that the mean ol' Arnie of 'Terminator' is all soft and cuddly in 'T2,' now the protector of the young John Connor (Edward Furlong). So not only does that give 'T2' a great spin on the original, but it allows for the introduction of a brand-new villain, the morphing T-1000 (Robert Patrick, still the best android-creature ever seen on screen).

Let's just say that had Cameron simply restaged the Sarah-Terminator battles from the first film only with more money, we wouldn't still be talking about 'T2' today. Unfortunately, that brings me to my biggest gripe about 'T2' -- which ironically, has cemented its status as such an influential blockbuster. Quite frankly, the film's once-cutting edge CGI effects have quickly become outdated. Even back in 1991, I thought the film's effects coup, the "liquid metal" T-1000, looked lame. I know, I know, it unleashed the monstrosity that is "morphing" unto the world, but even by the rules and structure of the fantasy world Cameron created, the effect feels like a cheat. While in the framework of the film I could believe that a liquid metal Mr. Roboto could goop all around and kill people, I'm still confused as to how his clothes and skin miraculously reappear at a moment's notice. Are they liquid metal, too? And where is his CPU central processing unit located? How are all the individual molecules bound together? And how come whenever the T-1000 gets split apart or blown up, all the pieces can still function? And if the machine is supposed to be liquid metal by Earth standards (this is still, after all, supposed to be a "realistic future"), how does the metal heat itself up and cool itself off so quickly?

Perhaps I'm asking too many questions. Because strip away all the post-apocalyptic talk, all the Sarah-John intra-family melodramatics, and the numerous time-travel plot holes (though to be fair, time travel itself is one big plot hole), and 'T2' still works like gangbusters. It's one great big action spectacle full of explosions, car chases, lots of cyborg fighting and Edward Furlong spouting lines like "Affirmative" in his mini-Keanu Reeves baritone. So what's not to love, even if I miss some of the low-budget charm and inventiveness of the original? And really, can any movie that features a Terminator asking, "Why do you cry?" be all bad?

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 346 [review_video] =>

German distributor Kinowelt is giving 'Terminator 2' the deluxe treatment on HD DVD, dubbing this German import the 'Ultimate HD-Edition.' According to the supplied press materials, the production house behind the disc (Imagion AG) utilized the best sources available to create this 1080p/VC-1 encode, including access to the HD masters used for both Lionsgate's domestic Blu-ray release and Studio Canal's French HD DVD. On top of that, Kinowelt/Imagion present 'T2' on this HD DVD in the director's cut version (which utilizes material from both the theatrical cut and extended version masters) so this is truly a "hodgepodge" of a release. (Note: The disc's menus are confusing -- there is an option on the disc to select the "Director's Cut", implying that not selecting the option would result in playback of the theatrical cut of 'T2." However, as most of descriptive text on the disc is in German, we've since receive confirmation from Kinowelt that the disc in fact only contains the Director's Cut.)

The result is that I slightly preferred the transfer of this 'Ultimate HD-Edition' to the domestic Blu-ray, with the major caveat that the differences are minor enough that few will notice without doing side-by-side comparisons. These differences are also a matter of subjective taste, so some may just as easily disagree with me and prefer the Lionsgate edition. In other words, don't expect any real upgrade with this 'Ultimate HD-Edition' -- it's pretty dang close to the Blu-ray you probably already have.

The source certainly looks like the 'T2' we're already used to. Most aspects of this presentation are just as good as before -- great blacks, clean and consistent contrast (aside from the Linda Hamilton character's post-apocalyptic flashbacks, which are intentionally blown-out). The print is close to pristine, with a few minor specks and dirt that rarely distract. There is still grain visible, and sometimes it can be more distracting than on the standard DVD, simply because HD's finer resolution makes it more apparent.

The main improvement for me with this HD DVD version over the previous Blu-ray are colors. Certainly, they are quite close, but I felt saturation was just a hair superior, with better stability (particularly reds and the intense steel blues) and a smidgen less chroma noise. Conversely, the transfer is a bit brighter, which improves shadow delineation but lessens contrast (again, this is my personal preference for an image with heightened visible textures in darker areas over the increased apparent depth that results from a higher-contrast image). I also thought the VC-1 encode here was superior to the Blu-ray. While this HD DVD is a tad softer, it lessens visible grain, and there are also less motion artifacts.

Ultimately, these differences are small enough that most probably won't even notice them without a side-by-side compare. Also a factor are the calibration differences that may be inherent in one's Blu-ray and HD DVD equipment chain. Given these discrepancies, and my own subjective tastes, I'm giving this 'Ultimate HD-Edition' the same four-star Video rating I gave Lionsgate's domestic Blu-ray edition -- they really are pretty dang close.

[review_audio_stars] => 5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 0 [review_audio] =>

Looking back at my original June 2006 review of Lionsgate's 'Terminator 2' domestic Blu-ray, I certainly wouldn't rate the audio score as highly today. It was an era before high-res audio really became the norm, so that disc's plain jane Dolby Digital EX mix still seemed pretty cool. That's certainly not the case anymore, as this DTS-HD High-Resolution 7.1 Surround track (48kHz/16-bit, offered in both English and German) easily proves -- it's noticeably superior to the Blu-ray by a considerable degree.

'T2' really raised the bar in terms of surround sound when it was first released in 1992 and I can still remember seeing the film in the theater and just being amazed at the sound that was coming out of the speakers all around me. The film's sound design still sounds quite aggressive seventeen years later, with very active use of the rear channels for both loud action as well as minor atmospheric details. This 7.1 mix makes effective use of the rear soundstage, with the added two channels boasting improved transparency and panning over the Dolby EX mix on the Blu-ray. Impact of discrete effects is heightened as well, with improved clarity and better dispersion of atmospheric effects. Bleed of Brad Fiedel's memorable score is also stronger, which further improves the "wall of sound" effect.

Raw dynamics are also better than the Blu-ray. While the source does not sound like it has been given any sort of major restoration, low bass extension is a tad better during many scenes, particularly the extended truck/motorcycle chase after the Terminator first intercepts John Connor, as well as the massive invasion of Cyberdyne that begins the film's last act. High end also had a slightly more robust presence, especially on dialogue (which is also louder in the mix, which for me is an improvement). There are likewise no balance issues, so even at high volumes the DTS-HD mix is superb in its clarity. Kinowelt/Imagion has done a very fine job here.

[review_supplements_stars] => 4 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 347 [review_supplements] =>

I could be wrong, but I bet 'Terminator 2' holds the record for the most number of video releases of any title in history. I've lost count of how many times Lionsgate/Artisan/LIVE re-issued the title over the past seventeen years, so by the time we got to the "'Oh, Shit, Not Another Edition!' Edition," it had really reached the point of absurdity.

Now, thanks to Kinowelt/Imagion, we can add the 'Ultimate HD-Edition' to that esteemed list. In their defense, I will say that the company really has rolled out the red carpet for this release and made a valiant attempt to give fans most of what's come before, plus a good deal that's exclusive -- while much of the video material that graced Lionsgate's previous DVD editions at first appears to be missing, in fact Kinowelt has either renamed it or repurposed much of it as HD DVD interactive extras (see the next section). They've even included the audio commentaries from Lionsgate's domestic Blu-ray as well.

Note that the only problem I had with this HD DVD is that all of the descriptive text is in German, so the introductions to most of the features I couldn't actually understand. (However, I'm told by Kinowelt/Imagion that because this disc is web-enabled, there is the possibility that English-language text-based content could be "updated" in the future via a download. We'll see.)

  • Audio Commentaries - Two "archival" tracks included here are both very good. Director James Cameron recorded his first-ever audio commentary for the 'T2' "Extreme Edition," along with co-writer William Wysher, and it is a very strong effort indeed. Say what you want about the one-time "King of the World!", but he is a very intelligent, articulate, passionate guy, and along with Wysher he imparts a great deal of detail on all aspects of the film's development, production and release. Definitely a must listen.

    The second track is just as good, even if it's just an assemblage of audio interview extracts with a bunch of cast and crew, and the participants do not address directly what is onscreen. However, with 26(!) major players represented -- including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong, and most of the main technical team -- how could it not succeed? I really like these compiled, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink tracks, because they are so informative and no one person gets to dominate. Plus, this one is very, very well edited by longtime Cameron DVD producer Van Ling. So I'm afraid along with the Cameron and Wysher track, you're going to have to watch 'T2' yet again.
  • Departments - Despite the unusual name, these are really extensive video and still galleries with tons of bonus material. Fans of the previous DVD 'Ultimate Edition' will recognize this stuff, so while the interface that presents it is unique to this HD DVD, the content really isn't. What you'll find here are six different areas -- "Marketing," "Planning & Design," "Research & Development," "Construction," "manufacturing" and "Customer Service" -- each with a pop-up interface that includes descriptive text (again, in German only) plus a little window box that shows either the corresponding still or video program. Note that aside from the "Marketing" section (which includes stand-alone, full-screen featurettes and trailers, which I detail separately below), the rest of this stuff is just about all stills. And it's huge -- I counted well over a 1,000 stills in these various sections, which offer detailed images on every aspect of the production, from stunts to make-up to costumes to locations to the CGI. If that isn't enough, you'll find storyboards, as well as the complete shooting script! It's really a treasure trove for any 'T2' fan.'
  • Marketing Featurettes (SD, 116 minutes) - Found in the "Departments" section explained above, this is a suite of five promotional featurettes and additional content created for the 'Ultimate Edition' DVD. "The Making of Terminator 2" (30 minutes) and "Terminator 2: More Than Meets the Eye" (26 minutes) are both slick extended commercials (the latter produced for Showtime) that now feel quite dated. "No Fate But What We Make" (28 minutes) is better, as it least includes some newer interviews with Cameron, Wysher and a few other crew (all of the cast, however, only appear via old footage). "T2: On the Set" (8 minutes) is exactly what the name implies -- a montage of behind-the-scenes footage. Finally, "Breaking the Screen Barrier" (23 minutes) is really a featurette on the making of the 'Terminator 2: 3:D' ride at Universal Studios.
  • Deleted Scenes (HD, 6 minutes) - Two scenes are included: "T-1000 Searches John's Room" (with optional audio commentary by Cameron and star Robert Patrick) and "The Future Coda" (with optional commentary by Cameron, Stan Winston and Linda Hamilton), which is an alternate ending to the film that previously was only available as an easter egg on the original 'Ultimate Edition' DVD. These two scenes are presented in full 1080p/VC-1 video. Finally, there are even "More Deleted Scenes," which are actually script excerpts, as these scenes were never actually filmed.
  • Theatrical Trailers (SD) - Finally, there is a theatrical teaser and two trailers for 'Terminator 2,' plus a promo spot for the 'T2' Special Edition DVD. These are all found in the "Marketing" Department section described above.
  • Steelbook Casing - It's worth mentioning that 'T2' comes in a special matte-metallic take on the traditional red keepcase. This is certainly the sturdiest HD DVD package I've ever seen, and it's quite spiffy. Only the lack of a collectible booklet seems like a bit of an oversight, not that I'm complaining...
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 4 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 348 [review_bonus_content] =>

As if the terrific standard supplements weren't enough, Kinowelt/Imagion has added a wealth of exclusive content, too. This truly is one kick-ass, fully-loaded HD DVD that puts most previous studio efforts to shame. There is also a variety of web-enabled extras that launched on the disc's street date of March 20, 2008 -- and Kinowelt promises even more updates to come. (Alas, much of the text-based material here is in German only, which is a problem! Again however, Kinowelt/Imagion says they may offer an English version in a future download.)

  • Inside T2 Mode - The first of three "Special Modes" available on the disc proper. Essentially, this is a picture-in-picture track. Kinowelt/Imagion has repurposed much of the video-based archival interview and making-of material from past DVD versions of 'T2' to create the commentary. Of course, I would have liked something new (as much of this stuff will be quite familiar to diehard fans), but it's still a very nicely done and well-paced track.
  • Quiz Mode - More than seventy questions pop-up as text trivia throughout the film. Unfortunately, this one is currently in German only. Kinowelt also says this feature is "updatable," meaning that future questions are planned to be available in download (hopefully with an English option) at a future date.
  • Spy Mode - The last mode sounds interesting -- a pop-up trivia track revealing all the bloopers and mistakes throughout 'T2.' Unfortunately, this one is in German only, too.
  • Interactive Mode - Only the first of what Kinowelt says will be many future web-enabled additional playback modes. If you're player is connected to the internet, activate the Interactive Mode, and you can access no less than 80 minutes of additional branching content. Similar to a U-Control or "Following the White Rabbit" type of feature, when in this playback mode, an icon will appear at pre-selected intervals during the film. Hit your remote, and you will seamlessly branch to content coming direct from the web. There's even more interviews with the cast and crew of 'T2' and other archival making-of material. Again, nothing specifically new to this release (versus past DVD incarnations), but still pretty cool.
  • TuneHD.net - If all of this isn't enough, web-enabled users can also access the www.tunehd.net web destination. After a one-time (free) registration, there are a variety of features currently planned to "expand" the disc even further. Users will be able to add quizzes (to enhance Quiz Mode) and flubs (for Spy Mode), as well as pictures and even their own commentaries. Such homemade goodies can either be uploaded (to share) or downloaded (to view). Pretty crazy!
  • Bookmarks - Finally, the disc offers a bookmarking function, so you can save your favorite scenes for instant access even after you eject the disc from your player.
[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 4.5 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts] =>

I wouldn't rate 'Terminator 2' as highly as the original 'Terminator,' but then there are just as many (if not more) fans of the cyborg saga that would. But no matter -- 'Terminator 2' is a great action flick that's tailor-made for high-def. Kinowelt/Imagion's 'Ultimate HD-Edition' is easily the best version I've seen on disc yet, and tops Lionsgate's Blu-ray version. We get the extended cut of the film of the film, tons of supplemental material, and video and audio that (for me) outranked the domestic version. It's a shame that HD DVD is dead, if only because we won't get great discs like this anymore that boast so many interactive bells and whistles. But if you want to pick up a great last hurrah of an HD DVD disc, 'Terminator 2' is certainly worth considering.

) ) ) ) [March 18, 2008] => Array ( [reviews] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 1287 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => aquariumimpressions [review_release_date] => 1205823600 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Aquarium Impressions [picture_created] => 1197400457 [picture_name] => aquarium-impressions-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Navarre Corporation [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/12/11/120/aquarium-impressions-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1287/aquariumimpressions.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2006 [run_time] => 60 [release_date_notes] => Originally scheduled for March 4, 2008 [list_price] => 16.98 [asin] => B001139ZJM [amazon_price] => 11.85 [empire_id] => 1385275 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.78:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080i/TBA ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-15 Single-Layer ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => TBA ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => None ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => None ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Nature ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => This program brings a soothing, lively aquarium into any living room, letting viewers take in a variety of ocean life and beautiful tropical colors while listening to relaxing mediation music. [preview_technology_specifications] => None [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 29780 [review_gear] => default [review_video_picture_id] => 0 [review_audio_picture_id] => 0 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 ) ) [1] => Array ( [review_id] => 1376 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => atonement [review_release_date] => 1205823600 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Atonement [picture_created] => 1204223906 [picture_name] => atonement-hd-dvddvd-combo.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Universal Studios Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/02/28/120/atonement-hd-dvddvd-combo.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1376/atonement.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2007 [run_time] => 123 [list_price] => 39.98 [asin] => B00140PL9U [amazon_price] => 27.95 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 [1] => 480p/i/MPEG-2 (Supplements Only) ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD/DVD Combo [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Discs/DVD-9 Dual-Layer Discs ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5mbps) [1] => French Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5mbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentary [1] => Featurettes [2] => Deleted Scenes ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Drama [1] => Romance ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Keira Knightley [1] => James McAvoy [2] => Saorise Ronan ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Joe Wright ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => In 1935, 13-year-old fledgling writer Briony Tallis (Saoirse Ronan) and her family live a life of wealth and privilege in their enormous mansion. On the warmest day of the year, the country estate takes on an unsettling hothouse atmosphere, stoking Briony´s vivid imagination. Robbie Turner (Mr. McAvoy), the educated son of the family´s housekeeper, carries a torch for Briony´s headstrong older sister Cecilia (Ms. Knightley). Cecilia, he hopes, has comparable feelings; all it will take is one spark for this relationship to combust. When it does, Briony – who has a crush on Robbie – is compelled to interfere, going so far as accusing Robbie of a crime he did not commit. Cecilia and Robbie declare their love for each other, but he is arrested – and with Briony bearing false witness, the course of three lives is changed forever. [preview_technology_specifications] => • Audio Commentary with Director Joe Wright
• Featurettes: "The Making of Atonement," "Novel to the Screen"
• Deleted Scenes with Commentary by Director Joe Wright [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 45020 [review_bottom_line] => Worth a Look [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 49114 [review_movie_stars] => 3 [review_movie] =>

'Atonement' is a magnificently-mounted, achingly romantic epic. It has everything one would expect from this type of grand, melodramatic Hollywood weepie, one designed from the first frame to incite critical euphoria and win a bucket-load of Academy Awards. It's based on an acclaimed literary novel, it's filled with good-looking British actors, it's set against the backdrop of a historical event (in this case WWII), and it is, of course, tragic. For most of its runtime the film is thoroughly engaging, emotionally gripping and, at times, profoundly moving. Indeed, if great movies are the stuff of intangible magic, 'Atonement' seems to possess it in spades.

Unfortunately, where 'Atonement' departs from the established 'English Patient' formula for Oscar success is in its last act denouement, which comes so far out of left-field that I defy even the most astute viewers to see it coming. This is not a compliment. 'Atonement' is a potentially great film marred by what I felt was a bit of a narrative cheat. I would not, of course, dare to spoil the eventual surprise, but this is a film that ultimately fails to earn the big emotions it wants to elicit from the audience, because it is not upfront about its motives from the beginning. The final scene of this movie is an easy, manipulative, and rather shameless ploy to bring added gravity to a story that already had enough on its own.

Based on Ian McEwan's best-selling book, 'Atonement' is structured in three fairly tight acts before the aforementioned coda. I found the first act to be the most compelling. It introduces us to three characters who are immediately fascinating. Sisters Cecilia (Keira Knightley) and Briony (Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan) are children of great privilege and wealth. While the war rages, Briony writes inventive mini-plays, often roping in Cecilia and other visitors to their pastoral British estate just for the fun of it. Then one day the handsome Robbie (James McAvoy) arrives. The son of the estate’s housekeeper (Brenda Blethyn), Robbie is well educated but lower class, and Cecilia is immediately attracted to his roguish sexual energy (and, we will learn in one of the film's most erotic scenes, his penchant for writing vulgar love notes).

Briony, however, is not amused by Cecilia and Robbie's amorous encounters, she's utterly bewildered. Misunderstanding the complications of mature sexual attraction, Briony makes a catastrophic decision, and embroils Robbie in the attempted rape of a visiting relative. Briony's campaign of misinformation proves disastrous and quickly separates the would-be couple, with Robbie forced to join the British Army, while Cecilia also makes a series of fateful decisions in the hopes of reconnecting with her great love.

This set-up is fantastic. Key to the subsequent story will be our uncertainty regarding Briony's true motives. Ronan is extraordinary here, conveying both child-like confusion and adult cunning with a single glance. Knightley likewise impresses with her ability to plumb hidden depths in the newly-eroticized Cecilia, while McAvoy is rakish and aggressive without being smug. As directed by Joe Wright ('Pride & Prejudice'), 'Atonement' is also beautifully shot and paced, experimenting with time and place in a way that, if at first disorienting, pays handsome dividends in keeping us absolutely in thrall as the story unfolds. Like another character in the movie, Dario Marianelli's Oscar-winning score is simply beautiful -- evocative, propulsive, and haunting.

The film's second and third acts don't quite have the same sense of urgency as the characters' stories fragment and intertwine. Wright still commands an excellent sense of time and place, but I began to lose a little faith in the narrative. The film meanders in fits and starts, focusing a bit too much on Robbie (Cecilia begins to feel like a bystander), and the slow burn of Briony's growing realization as to the full affect her juvenile decision has had on her sister could have been better modulated. Yet, I still couldn't look away -- 'Atonement's first two hours felt like half that, and as the three characters finally re-converged in the third act to meet their fates, I braced myself for a gangbusters resolution.

Unfortunately, the end of 'Atonement' was so sudden for me that I almost couldn't believe the film was over. I lay the blame on McEwan's source -- an overrated novel that, while well-written, bites off more than it can chew. I simply can't spoil the ending, but the attempt to re-frame our entire understanding of the story in one single scene left me frustrated, not by the thematic point McEwan was making, but by the unfair manner in which he was making it. Had we known of his intended story conceit from the beginning (all I'll say is that a main character reveals a startling secret in the last scene) it would not have allowed for a big "twist,' but would have been more emotionally satisfying. As it is, it just feels like a curve ball, thrown in to get people talking and to sell more books.

Yet, despite my utter disappointment with the concluding scenes, the film is so strong in most other respects that it remains well worth seeing. Perhaps you will have an entirely different reaction to the ending than I did (indeed, some found great pleasure in McEwan's audacious surprises). Certainly, 'Atonement' is a beauty to behold, with gorgeous imagery, wonderful performances and a stirring score. There are also moments so perfectly realized that it's easy to see why the film managed to snag seven Oscar noms (including the coveted Best Picture) despite such widely divergent reactions to its narrative revelations. For me, the film is less than the sum of its parts... but oh, what parts they are.

[review_video_stars] => 4.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 5277 [review_video] =>

This HD DVD/DVD Combo release presents 'Atonement' in 1080p/VC-1 video (on the HD DVD side of the disc), framed at the original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. It is a restrained but often visually arresting film, and it looks superb in high-def.

The film's color palette runs a gamut of expressions, specific to the narrative. This transfer handles the stylistic shifts with ease, veering from a more saturated, lush feel in the earlier passages towards a desaturated sheen during the wartime sequences. Hues always remain stable and clean, and fleshtones (if sometimes drained of orange) are still appropriate. Visible detail is usually terrific, with excellent depth and sharpness. Universal also seems to have finally put an embargo on edge enhancement (at least on their new releases), and this is a wonderfully textured image free of visible artifacts. The print is also pristine, with rich blacks and contrast that only occasionally runs on the hot side. Certainly, 'Atonement' looks smashing.

[review_audio_stars] => 3.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 0 [review_audio] =>

'Atonement' enjoys only Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5mbps) audio, in English and French. The lack of a high-res option is my major disappointment with this disc.

Dario Marianelli's Oscar-winning score is fantastic (my favorite of the year, in fact), and though it is presented serviceably here, it could have sounded so much better. The film's sound design is really quite aggressive and creative, with an effective blend of score and effects, and some bass-heavy moments during the wartime middle half. Alas, the Dolby Digital track just doesn't quite cut it. Envelopment is decent throughout, but the intensity of the surrounds fails to satisfy. Dynamic range certainly sounds polished and professional, but neither the low bass extension nor the clarity of the high-end approaches the best high-res tracks I've heard. Dialogue is well recorded and balanced, so thank goodness for small favors. I just expected more out of the audio on this disc.

[review_supplements_stars] => 2.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 5278 [review_supplements] =>

Hitting HD DVD day-and-date with the DVD version, 'Atonement' has a well-stocked if far from overflowing package of extras. All material is presented in 480p/i/MPEG-2 video only, and there are no subtitles on any of the extras.

  • Audio Commentary - Director Joe Wright flies solo, and this is an excellent commentary -- by far the best extra on the disc. He's enthusiastic, informative, and detailed, covering all aspects of adapting the original novel, the casting, the production, and the editing. The film's much-vaunted centerpiece sequence -- an unbroken five-minute tracking shot -- is also discussed at length, and the mechanics are fascinating. Wright's intelligence is also clearly on display as the film concludes, and his arguments about the literary revelations almost won me over. Indeed, this is a great track.
  • Featurette: "Bringing the Past to Life: The Making of 'Atonement'" (SD, 27 minutes) - Your standard EPK. Wright, screenwriter Christopher Hampton, novelist Ian McEwan and stars James McAvoy, Keira Knightley, Vanessa Redgrave and Saorise Ronan all appear, talking in surface banalities about the story, its grand epic sweep, and the extensive shoot. Unfortunately, there is an overabundance of film clips and obvious statements about the plot, so don't expect more than the merely promotional.
  • Featurette: "From Novel to Screen: Adapting a Classic" (SD, 6 minutes) - Despite its short length, I actually preferred this featurette to the main making-of, since we at least we get more than surface insight. Wright, McEwan, and Hampton re-appear to discuss adapting the novel. There is redundancy here compared to the commentary, but if you don't want to spend another two hours with 'Atonement,' this is a quick, worthy watch.
  • Deleted Scenes (SD, 8 minutes) - There are seven scenes here, all in decent-quality video. I expected a bit more weight here, but the runtime is so short that these come off more as scene extensions and plodding character bits rather than anything that truly expands the narrative.
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 5279 [review_bonus_content] =>

There are no high-def exclusives.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 3.5 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'Atonement' is a complex, intelligent, and sometimes quite effective romantic epic. It's also disjointed and a bit of a cheat, with an ending that tries too hard for relevance that it just hasn't earned. Still, this is such a well-mounted and finely-acted film that this HD DVD is worth a look. The video is quite good, the audio is a disappointment (due to the lack of a TrueHD track), and the supplements package is fairly standard (though the audio commentary is excellent). If you don't mind a romantic weepie stabbed in the heart by a fatal narrative flaw, 'Atonement' is worth a look.

) ) [2] => Array ( [review_id] => 1288 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => fireplaceimpressions [review_release_date] => 1205823600 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Fireplace Impressions [picture_created] => 1197402473 [picture_name] => fireplace-impressions-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Navarre Corporation [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/12/11/120/fireplace-impressions-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1288/fireplaceimpressions.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2006 [run_time] => 60 [release_date_notes] => Originally scheduled for March 4, 2008 [list_price] => 16.98 [asin] => B001139ZJW [amazon_price] => 11.85 [empire_id] => 1385273 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.78:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080i/TBA ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-15 Single-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => TBA ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => None ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => None ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Nature ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => This program brings a crackling, cozy fire into any living room, letting viewers curl up while listening to either an hour of classic, stirring Mozart compositions or the German-language audio book "Die Reisen und Abenteuer des Barons Münchhausen." [preview_technology_specifications] => None [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 29780 [review_gear] => default [review_video_picture_id] => 0 [review_audio_picture_id] => 0 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 ) ) [3] => Array ( [review_id] => 1267 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => justiceleaguenewfrontier [review_release_date] => 1205823600 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Justice League: The New Frontier [picture_created] => 1200432876 [picture_name] => justice-league-the-new-frontier-hd-dvddvd-combo-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Video [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/01/15/120/justice-league-the-new-frontier-hd-dvddvd-combo-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1267/justiceleaguenewfrontier.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2008 [run_time] => 75 [release_date_notes] => Postponed from February 26, 2008 [list_price] => 29.99 [asin] => B0010AEPH8 [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1382339 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.78:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD/DVD Combo [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc/DVD-9 Dual-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround (48kHz/16-Bit) [1] => English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (DVD Side Only) [2] => Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (DVD Side Only) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentaries [1] => Documentaries [2] => Featurettes [3] => Bonus TV Episodes ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English Subtitles [1] => Portuguese Subtitles (DVD Side Only) ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Action [1] => Animation [2] => Comic Book ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Neil Patrick Harris [1] => Brooke Shields [2] => David Boreanaz ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Dave Bullock ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => The New Frontier takes viewers on an action-packed adventure, exploring the origins of the Justice League. DC Comics legends Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are all featured in the film as well as Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter and The Flash – as they band together to form the legendary super team. Strangers at first, these very different heroes must overcome fear and suspicion to forge an alliance against a monster so formidable, even the mighty Superman cannot stop it alone. If they fail, the entire planet will be cleansed of humanity. [preview_technology_specifications] => • 2 Audio Commentaries: Comic Book Writer and Artist Darwyn Cooke / Filmmakers & Cast (participants TBA)
• Documentaries: "The Legion of Doom: The Pathology of the Super Villain," "Comic Book Commentary: Homage to the New Frontier"
• Super Heroes United!: The Complete Justice League History
• Sneak Peak: Batman: Gotham Knight
• Justice League Unlimited Bonus Episodes: "Dark Heart," "To Another Shore," "Task Force X" [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 27775 [review_editors_notes] =>

Non-format-specific portions of this review were first published in our Blu-ray review of 'Justice League: The New Frontier.'

[review_bottom_line] => Recommended [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 49148 [review_movie_stars] => 3.5 [review_movie] =>

Comic fandom has always incited raging debates amongst the most passionate followers. Which publisher produces the greatest material: Marvel or DC? Who has the best stable of characters: Marvel's Avengers or DC's Justice League of America? Who boasts the most relevant icons: DC with Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, or Marvel with Captain America, the Hulk, and Wolverine? Take my word for it dear readers, none of these arguments is as intense or widespread as the fight over which era is the greatest in comics' history. I've seen people get into shouting matches over the relative superiority/inferiority of the Golden Age (the 1930s through the late '40s), Silver Age (1950s through the late '60s), Bronze Age (the early '70s through the early '80s), and the Modern Age of comics.

Enter award-winning writers like Mark Waid and Darwyn Cooke. In 1996, Waid successfully developed a DC Comics mini-series called "Kingdom Come," an allegory that explored the gap between Golden Aged heroes and modern sensibilities. For a brief moment, multi-generational readers understood their older and younger brethren a bit better -- his deft storytelling had effectively bridged the gap between fans of multiple eras. In 2003, Cooke followed in Waid's footsteps with a mini-series called "DC: The New Frontier," a tale of Golden Age heroes entering the Silver Age amidst the socioeconomic and political uncertainty of the Cold War. His work went on to win top prizes at the Harvey, Shuster, and Eisner Awards.

'Justice League: The New Frontier' is a direct-to-video animated adaptation of the award-winning series that features an impressive cast of voice actors. With the emergence of the Cold War and with it, global paranoia, the help of legendary heroes like Superman (Kyle MacLachlan), Batman (Jeremy Sisto), Wonder Woman (Lucy Lawless), and The Flash (Neil Patrick Harris) isn't as welcome as it once was. As they struggle to find their places in the new world, a prehistoric forced referred to as the Centre (Keith David) appears and threatens to destroy mankind. In response, Earth's Golden Age heavyweights must draw on the talents and abilities of new heroes like Green Lantern (David Boreanaz) and the Martian Manhunter (Miguel Ferrer), and further employ the powers of an eclectic group of freedom fighting humans like Lois Lane (Kyra Sedgwick), Carol Ferris (Brooke Shields), King Faraday (Phil Morris), and Ace Morgan (John Heard). These diverse heroes of the '40s, '50s, and '60s must put aside their differences and work together if they have any hope of saving the world.

'The New Frontier' works for two major reasons -- the gorgeous animation perfectly evokes Cooke's original art, and the screenplay really manages to nail the personalities and interactions of its iconic characters. Some may write-off the character animation as stocky, but I think the animators have tapped into a style that blends Jack Kirby's classic, squared design work with the explosive fluidity of Bruce Timm's "Batman: The Animated Series." The screenplay heightens the tone even further with sharp origin stories and fantastic introductions to the characters. Martian Manhunter arrives on the scene with an air of humanity about him, Wonder Woman perches atop a table like a warrior queen, Hal Jordan gets caught in a dogfight, Batman goes toe to toe with more than two dozen swarming cultists -- to be blunt, 'The New Frontier' really knows how to get a fan's attention. There are so many visually thrilling "yeah!" moments that I simply lost count.

Unfortunately, the excitement fades as it becomes clear that the experience is fairly hollow. Despite the rousing action scenes, the story has been reduced to its bare essentials, effectively neutering the nuanced, layered power and political intrigue of Cooke's original series. Entire subplots have been mercilessly left on the cutting room floor (the racially charged story of John Henry, the Dinosaur Island intro, and the Suicide Squad's backstory, just to name a few) and the film never feels as epic as its cataclysmic events would suggest. It also feels stilted -- by the time Hal Jordan became Green Lantern, I had lost complete interest in the character. I hate to continually compare the film to its source, but Cooke really understood pacing. In turn, he allowed the heroes to develop one at a time before they banded together to fight the Centre. 'The New Frontier,' on the other hand, takes forever to introduce the characters, leaving a few, short minutes to bring them together. Don't get me wrong, I love the first half of 'The New Frontier'... I just wish the producers had added an extra 15 minutes onto the middle of the 75-minute runtime to give the story some much-needed, second-act breathing room.

It also doesn't help that some of the actors sound bored out of their skulls. My hat is off to David Boreanaz, Phil Morris, Kyra Sedgwick, and Keith David, all of whom seem to inhabit their characters and enjoy their time in the sound booth. I was especially pleased with the performances of Miguel Ferrer and Neil Patrick Harris, both of whom turn in genuinely convincing portrayals of their characters. Sadly, Lucy Lawless sounds as if she's taking a nap, Kyle MacLachlan doesn't inject enough soul into Supes, and Jeremy Sisto sounds like a kid skipping class, rather than a crime fighting detective. In the worst instances, Cooke's original dialogue usually swoops in to save the day, but I can only imagine how much more I would have enjoyed the film if the Big Three actually sounded like the Big Three.

All in all, 'The New Frontier' is a fun little diamond in the rough that's worth your time. Fans of the original Cooke graphic novel may be disappointed with the changes made to the story itself, but, like me, they'll probably still find plenty to enjoy. Have no fear DC fans... this is a decent offering and a quality production that makes me excited to see what else Warner Brothers Animation has up its sleeve.

(Note this film is rated PG-13 and has quite a few blood-n-gore moments that I would consider inappropriate for young children. Parents should approach with a bit of caution.)

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 5299 [review_video] =>

As many readers have pointed out, DC Comics' first foray into high-def, straight-to-video animation warrants a direct comparison to animated Marvel Comics' flicks like 'The Ultimate Avengers Collection' and 'Doctor Strange.' The verdict? 'Justice League: The New Frontier' not only boasts higher quality animation, its technical presentation is stronger and more stable.

The vibrant palette and vivid colors that frequent this 1080p/VC-1 encode (identical to the Blu-ray transfer) are apparent from the opening seconds of 'The New Frontier' straight through to the final moments of the epilogue. To my relief, the animators were able to strike a perfect balance between the subdued, Golden Age hues of Cooke's graphic novel and the blazing intensity of Superman's flight trail, the Centre's death rays, and Martian Manhunter's glowing eyes. Inky blacks preserve the tone of the original artwork and flawless contrast makes the image three dimensional despite its 2D source. Every last detail in the animated stills has been cleanly rendered in the final transfer -- the dials of the Gotham City Observatory, the debris from Hal Jordan's shuttle explosion, and the tiniest winged creature are comprised of crisply defined linework and solid color fills.

Of course, the very nature of high definition subjects the animated source to a serious amount of scrutiny that uncovers some minor flaws. Color banding seems to be a consistent blight on 2D animation and it makes a fair number of appearances in 'The New Frontier.' While it isn't nearly as prevalent or distracting as it is in the Marvel Comics' animated films, banding still manages to make the transfer appear antiquated at times. To top it all off, the increased resolution also reveals random pixelation amidst the tight linework -- especially around the characters' eyes.

Even so, 'The New Frontier' looks fantastic on HD DVD and bests the dull standard DVD by leaps and bounds. Anyone still convinced that 2D animation doesn't benefit from the upgrade to high definition should take a look at this superior 1080p release.

[review_audio_stars] => 4 [review_audio_picture_id] => 5300 [review_audio] =>

While it may seem like overkill for a 2D animated film, Warner graces 'The New Frontier' with a bombastic Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track (48 kHz/ 16-Bit) that really delivers an impressive sonic experience. The voice cast's crisp dialogue is mainly contained in the front of the soundfield, but aggressive rear channel support is utilized to convey a convincing sense of dimensionality and space. Explosions erupt from every direction, demonic screeches bound around the soundfield, and superheroes swoosh from channel to channel without a hitch. Best of all, the subwoofer gets an intense workout from an onslaught of LFE-enhanced rumbles and booms. Compared to the muffled Dolby Digital mix on the standard DVD, this lossless high-def track is an absolute revelation.

Alas, despite its remarkable strides, the sheer nature of low-budget 2D animation keeps 'The New Frontier' from achieving its full potential. Sound effects are sometimes flat and centralized, accuracy is occasionally hit or miss, and environmental ambiance is often non-existent. While the blame lies squarely on the sound designers' shoulders, these shortcomings prevent the TrueHD track from being the 5-star powerhouse that it could be.

Despite its minor sound design hiccups, the technical tenacity and fidelity of this lossless mix will surprise a lot of fans and catch the attention of anyone in the immediate vicinity. Once again, high-def is clearly the way to go with this release.

(Note the Dolby TrueHD track featured on this HD DVD is the same as the TrueHD track included on the Blu-ray edition.)

[review_supplements_stars] => 4.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 5301 [review_supplements] =>

The HD DVD edition of 'Justice League: The New Frontier' ports over all of the robust extras from the standard DVD and all I can say is "wow." I never expected to be so utterly entranced by the supplemental package of a straight-to-video, comic-inspired animated flick. Regardless of your ultimate opinion on the film itself, any serious comic junkie should have this release on their shelf for the special features alone.

  • Filmmakers Commentary -- First up is an informative, neatly organized commentary packed to the brim with engaging speakers like director David Bullock, executive producer Bruce Timm, supervising producer Mike Goguen, voice director Andrea Romano, screenwriter Stand Berkowitz, and DC Comics Senior VP Gregory Noveck. The room never devolves into chaotic, tangential conversation and the track sounds more like a business meeting than a roundtable commentary. Believe me, that's a good thing. The filmmakers cover everything -- the pre-production meetings, the adaptation of the original graphic novel, the casting decisions, the animation process, and the end result. I found the whole thing to be an excellent addition to this release and actually wished the group had more time to speak.
  • Commentary with Darwyn Cooke -- One upping a room full of passionate filmmakers is the well-spoken writer of 'The New Frontier' graphic novel, Darwyn Cooke, who provides a fascinating commentary in which the award winning writer must balance his excitement at the things that made it to the screen with his disappointment at the subplots that had to be cut. It's almost brutal to hear him stifle his sadness at truncated side stories like his John Henry tragedy, but Cooke handles it in stride. He understands the needs and sacrifices required to create an adaptation of a written work. Beyond this initial struggle, Cooke gives a wonderful discussion on his intentions and vision with the graphic novel, the emotional threads he tried to carry through the story, and the characterizations and nods to DC history that he embedded in his work. Best of all, he gets genuinely excited when his ideas are completely realized in final animation on the screen. I can't recommend this excellent track enough.
  • Super Heroes United: The Complete Justice League History (SD, 39 minutes) -- Since I grew up a Marvel Comics kid, I never understood the full breadth of the Justice League mythology. This compelling documentary provides a fine introduction to the characters, their comic appearances, and the differences between their original and modern characterizations. A literal avalanche of comic heavyweights (from DC and Marvel) appear in interviews to discuss the JLA and I found their thoughts incredibly interesting. The filmmakers show up as well, but I itched for the camera to return its focus to the Stan Lees and Joe Kellys of the documentary. Even JLA aficionados will probably learn something they didn't know before. While it will mainly appeal to fanboys and comic geeks, this is an intriguing compendium of DC history.
  • Homage to the New Frontier (SD, 10 minutes) -- While the information in this comparative featurette feels a bit repetitive after listening to the Darwyn Cooke commentary, it's a real treat to see the original comic panels next to the finalized animation. Narrated by Cooke, this mini-doc explores the exorcised subplots of the graphic novel and highlights key similarities and differences in the film.
  • The Legion of Doom: Pathology of the Super Villain (SD, 34 minutes) -- This fun documentary is actually a companion piece to the "Super Heroes United" special. This time, the comic heavyweights look into classic baddies and the events that created their unique psychological dispositions. Like the "Heroes" doc, my favorite parts involved the examination of the parallels between a decade's conflicts and the nature of its comic villains. The creators and writers offer brilliant dissections of the relevance of comics over the years, as well as the manner in which comics became a source of social commentary and satire.
  • Batman Gotham Knight Sneak Peak (SD, 9 minutes) -- Tapping into my love of comics and anime is this wonderful extended trailer that has me chomping at the bit for the straight-to-video release of 'Batman Gotham Knight.' Intercut with interviews from creators, animators, and DC bigwigs, this preview features concept art, finalized animation, and plenty of teasers to make you just as excited as I am about this summer release.
  • Bonus Justice League Episodes (SD, 54 minutes) -- The only shrug-inducing addition to the supplemental package is a collection of three episodes of the "Justice League" cartoon series. Still, while I consider the poorly transferred shorts to be entirely skippable, I'm sure they'll still please DC animation fanatics. Perhaps if they were presented in high definition, the studio would have caught my attention.
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content] =>

Nothing.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 4 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 5302 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'Justice League: The New Frontier' has something for everyone. While the film's story doesn't pack the punch of Darwyn Cooke's original series, it does muster up plenty of thrilling animated action that capture the essence of the characters. Even if you don't entirely enjoy the flick, don't write-off this HD DVD release just yet. It features a striking video transfer, a bombastic TrueHD audio track, and a wealth of supplements that are worth the cost of admission alone. Despite the fact that I have a few reservations with the film itself, I'm really impressed with the total package. Comic fans should definitely consider picking this one up -- especially since Amazon is offering it at the exact same price as the standard DVD.

) ) [4] => Array ( [review_id] => 1024 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => songremainsthesame [review_release_date] => 1205823600 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Led Zeppelin: The Song Remains the Same [picture_created] => 1190014272 [picture_name] => 5318b0b970496.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Video [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/09/17/120/5318b0b970496.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1024/songremainsthesame.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1976 [run_time] => 138 [release_date_notes] => Postponed from December 11, 2007 [list_price] => 28.99 [asin] => B000UR9TRS [amazon_price] => 26.09 [empire_id] => 1359208 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 [1] => 480p/i/MPEG-2 (Supplements Only) ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround (48kHz/16-bit) [1] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (640kbps) [2] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 2.0 Stereo (192kbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Deleted Scenes [1] => Interviews [2] => TV Excerpt [3] => Theatrical Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => Korean Subtitles [2] => Thai Subtitles [3] => Dannish Subtitles [4] => Finnish Subtitles [5] => German Subtitles [6] => Italian Subtitles [7] => Norwegian Subtitles [8] => Swedish Subtitles [9] => French Subtitles [10] => Spanish Subtitles [11] => Portuguese Subtitles [12] => Chinese Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Music ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Jimmy Page [1] => Robert Plant ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Joe Massot [1] => Peter Clifton ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => The best of Led Zeppelin's legendary 1973 appearances at Madison Square Garden. Interspersed throughout the concert footage are behind-the-scenes moments with the band. THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME is Led Zeppelin at Madison Square Garden in NYC concert footage colorfully enhanced by sequences which are supposed to reflect each band member's individual fantasies and hallucinations. Includes blistering live renditions of "Black Dog," "Dazed and Confused," "Stairway to Heaven," "Whole Lotta Love," "The Song Remains the Same," and "Rain Song" among others [preview_technology_specifications] => • 40 minutes of added bonus material, including never-before-released performance footage of "Over The Hills And Far Away" and "Celebration Day"
• Performances of "Misty Mountain Hop" and "The Ocean"
• Rare 1976 BBC interview with Robert Plant and Jimmy Page
• Vintage TV footage from the Drake Hotel robbery during the New York concert stand
• Theatrical Trailer [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 13193 [review_editors_notes] =>

This is a review of the officially-released HD DVD edition of 'The Song Remains the Same.' The original version of the disc had been scheduled to hit stores in November 2007, but was recalled only days before its planned release due to rights issues involving one of the disc's bonus features. Although that original edition never officially hit shelves, the disc was leaked to many retailers, and widely made available for sale to consumers (both online and at traditional storefronts).

On March 18, Warner officially released 'The Song Remains the Same' on HD DVD, with the said bonus feature (a radio interview by Cameron Crowe with Led Zeppelin) omitted. The disc's video and audio, and other extras, remain identical.

Non-format-specific portions of this review were first published in our Blu-ray review of 'Led Zeppelin: The Song Remains the Same.'

[review_bottom_line] => Worth a Look [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 49761 [review_movie_stars] => 3 [review_movie] =>

For lovers or big-screen rock excess, the late '70s was the absolute golden era. For whatever reason, during that period Hollywood became obsessed with bringing music to the box office masses, and unleashed an avalanche of ridiculously conceived pop spectacles starring a bizarre cross-section of performers that had no business getting anywhere near the silver screen. On any given weekend, bumping shoulders (and grinding pelvises) at the local multiplex were acts as disparate as the Village People ('Can't Stop the Music'), ELO ('Xanadu'), the Bee-Gees and Peter Frampton ('Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band') and even Sweden's biggest music export, ABBA (the immortal 'ABBA: The Movie'). It was a virtual cinematic car crash, with one spectacular disaster after another going down in flames.

It's surprising in hindsight, but rock gods Led Zeppelin somehow got caught up in all of this hysteria, and in 1976 they released their own big-screen epic 'The Song Remains the Same.' Part concert movie, part "dramatic interpretation' of their music, it's not jaw-droppingly awful on the level of, say, a 'Xanadu' (this is the Zeppelin, after all, not ELO), but the movie is ill-conceived enough that you have to wonder what the Led boys were thinking. Were rock egos that big in the '70s that a top act like this thought it prudent to appear in something this grandiose and pretentious?

According to the film's original promotional materials, 'The Song Remains the Same' was intended to be "...the band's special way of giving their millions of friends what they had been clamoring for -- a personal and private tour of Led Zeppelin." The end product, however, turned out just a little bit different. Originally conceived as a straight-ahead concert film, the bulk of the movie was shot during a three-night stint at Madison Square Garden during the band's hugely successful 1973 world tour. Unfortunately, much of the material turned out so poorly that it was virtually unusable, and the band was also unhappy with many of its performances. So the the film's producers hastily came up with a solution -- scrap most of the movie (including firing the original director, Joe Massot, and replacing him with Peter Clifton) and reconfigure it from top to bottom as a more traditional narrative, albeit with some concert performances spliced in.

Suffering from all of the bloated pomposity of the '70s "prog-rock" era, the "dramatic" segueways added to 'The Song Remains the Same' are virtually interminable. After a long opening sequence of the band arriving by plane (that sets up some forgettable plot about a robbery -- yawn), we're treated to a series of downright loony "fantasy" interludes that are supposed to give us insight into the personalities of each of the band members. There's John Paul Jones, reading "Jack and the Beanstalk" to his daughters. John Bonham drag racing to the tune of "Moby Dick." Jimmy Page climbing a snow-capped mountain in search of a hermit (seriously, I'm not kidding). And Robert Plant getting to ride a horse across a wind-swept landscape, his flowing locks making him look like a lost hippie Prince from an abandoned Disney theme park ride. It's all meant to "symbolize" something, but in such an overt and heavy-handed way that it inspires laughter more than profundity.

Thankfully, 'The Song Remains the Same' also features concert performances of nearly a dozen classic Led Zeppelin tunes, and that's the reason to see the film. Although the band would subsequently reshoot some of the close-ups and other insert shots on a soundstage (leading to a few glaring continuity errors), it is these scenes that prove without a doubt that Zeppelin is arguably the greatest hard rock band in history. During the 1973 tour the were often at the peak of their powers, and indeed few other acts can touch them even now. The interaction of the band members achieves an intensity that borders on the orgiastic at times, and moments in "Black Dog," Whole Lotta Love" and of course "Stairway to Heaven" deliver genuine goosebumps.

Unfortunately, one must still endure a great deal of self-indulgent dreck in order to enjoy those moments of musical nirvana. Die hard Zeppelin fans won't need any arm-twisting, of course, but if you're only a casual admirer of the band -- or you're still confused as to what all the fuss is about -- you may find your finger twitching on the remote's fast-forward button through a good portion of the film's runtime. Watched as a greatest hits collection of concert performances, 'The Song Remains the Same' is absolutely essential. As a piece of rock cinema, however, it's a pretty miserable failure.

[review_video_stars] => 3.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 3194 [review_video] =>

Considering the fact that 'The Song Remains the Same' has been delayed on HD DVD, oh, about 1,543 times now, a healthy amount of anticipation has built up around this release. After such a long wait, fans will be expecting a top-flight remaster, which this 1080p/VC-1 encode almost achieves. Like the film itself, the concert scenes rule, but the rest is a bit more suspect. (Note that this VC-1 encode is identical to the Blu-ray version Warner released on February 26, 2008.)

The hokey interlude material can be dodgy. Blacks are never rock solid, and there is some noticeable variance in contrast. The print is also not pristine, with uneven grain and a few speckles (though nothing severe). The image always lacks depth and the kind of fine-textured detail that high-def can showcase even on a film that's as old as this one.

That said, the concert scenes fare much better. Though blacks are never sensational, contrast is more consistent and colors bolder. Stage and lighting design in the '70s is certainly archaic by today's standards, but the nice use of strong reds and blues on key songs is rendered with nice stability. The more dynamic visuals also help create apparent depth, with the image sometimes boasting nice dimensionality for a 1976 film. This is also a solid VC-1 encode, with surprisingly little in the way of banding or noise issues.

[review_audio_stars] => 4 [review_audio_picture_id] => 0 [review_audio] =>

Warner offers three audio choices (again identical to the Blu-ray): Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround (48kHz/16-bit), Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (640kbps) and Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (192kbps). Like the video, this is a very impressive remaster of elements now past their third decade -- if only all concert films from 1976 sounded this good.

I was most impressed by the hefty dynamics of the TrueHD mix. I wasn't expecting this much kick from the subwoofer, nor the clarity and realism of the higher ranges of the spectrum. Instruments are forceful in the mix, particularly the lead guitars and drums, which are very pronounced. Warner has also clearly spent some money to spiff up the original elements, for there are none of the audible hiss, harshness, or dropouts one usually expects on live recordings of the era.

Surround use is a bit more sporadic, however. There is no real use of the complete soundfield during the concert sequences, aside from crowd noise. Better represented are the dramatic interstitials, which at least boast some discrete effects for things like location sounds and the like. Dialogue here is serviceably reproduced, with decent stereo separation and some quieter passages a bit muffled. But all in all, 'The Song Remains the Same' sounds far better than I expected.

(Note: Some readers who have managed to snag early Blu-ray copies of 'The Song Remains the Same' have reported issues with audio dropouts on the TrueHD track. However, there have been no such reports with this HD DVD version. Indeed, the audio played flawlessly, and I encountered no hiccups, dropouts, or other anomalies.)

[review_supplements_stars] => 2 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 0 [review_supplements] =>

Warner offers a supplement package that, at first glance, looks quite substantial. Unfortunately, the runtime of all of these bulletpoints is actually rather slim, so you'll be able to get through all of it in less than an hour. (Note that all of the video-based material is 480p/i/MPEG-2 only, and no subtitle options are offered.)

  • Bonus Songs (SD, 20 minutes) - Four are included (all never-or-rarely seen before in video form): "Over the Hills and Far Away," "Celebration Day," "Misty Mountain Hop" and "The Ocean." All of the songs offer Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround and Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo audio.
  • Featurette: "The Robbery" (SD, 4 minutes) - This oddity is a vintage fake documentary on the $200M supposedly ripped off from the safe deposit box in the Drake Hotel that features in the film. I'm sure this is best understood after smoking lots of hash.
  • TV Excerpt : "Boating Down the Thames: Robert Plant and Peter Grant" (SD, 8 minutes) - You younger readers probably won't remember "The Old Grey Whistle Test," but it was an old music-themed show featuring hot personalities of the day. This except features Plant and Grant being interviewed as they float down the Thames on the Swanage Queen, talking about the the film, and the craziness of the tour it documents. Amusing.
  • TV Report (SD, 3 minutes) - A brief clip from a 1973 TV report on Led Zeppelin's show at the Tampa Stadium.
  • Theatrical Trailer (SD) - The film's original theatrical trailer is presented in only decent-quality video, but if nothing else, it serves to illuminate how well-mastered the feature film on this HD DVD actually is.
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content] =>

There are no high-def exclusives.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 3 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'Led Zeppelin: The Song Remains the Same' is typical of rock 'n' roll movies of the '70s -- the concert scenes crank, but the "dramatic" interludes are utterly dreadful. So be prepared to have the fast-forward button handy because the only reason to watch 'The Song Remains the Same' is the music. This HD DVD is every as solid a release as the recent Blu-ray edition, however, with well-mastered video and audio (even if it is not revelatory), and a few vintage extras. This is of course a must for Led Zeppelin disciples, and worth a rental for those who don't mind a little cheese with their classic rock.

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[preview_technology_specifications] => None [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 29780 [review_gear] => default [review_video_picture_id] => 0 [review_audio_picture_id] => 0 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 ) ) [1] => Array ( [review_id] => 1376 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => atonement [review_release_date] => 1205823600 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Atonement [picture_created] => 1204223906 [picture_name] => atonement-hd-dvddvd-combo.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Universal Studios Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/02/28/120/atonement-hd-dvddvd-combo.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1376/atonement.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2007 [run_time] => 123 [list_price] => 39.98 [asin] => B00140PL9U [amazon_price] => 27.95 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 [1] => 480p/i/MPEG-2 (Supplements Only) ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD/DVD Combo [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Discs/DVD-9 Dual-Layer Discs ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5mbps) [1] => French Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5mbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentary [1] => Featurettes [2] => Deleted Scenes ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Drama [1] => Romance ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Keira Knightley [1] => James McAvoy [2] => Saorise Ronan ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Joe Wright ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => In 1935, 13-year-old fledgling writer Briony Tallis (Saoirse Ronan) and her family live a life of wealth and privilege in their enormous mansion. On the warmest day of the year, the country estate takes on an unsettling hothouse atmosphere, stoking Briony´s vivid imagination. Robbie Turner (Mr. McAvoy), the educated son of the family´s housekeeper, carries a torch for Briony´s headstrong older sister Cecilia (Ms. Knightley). Cecilia, he hopes, has comparable feelings; all it will take is one spark for this relationship to combust. When it does, Briony – who has a crush on Robbie – is compelled to interfere, going so far as accusing Robbie of a crime he did not commit. Cecilia and Robbie declare their love for each other, but he is arrested – and with Briony bearing false witness, the course of three lives is changed forever. [preview_technology_specifications] => • Audio Commentary with Director Joe Wright
• Featurettes: "The Making of Atonement," "Novel to the Screen"
• Deleted Scenes with Commentary by Director Joe Wright [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 45020 [review_bottom_line] => Worth a Look [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 49114 [review_movie_stars] => 3 [review_movie] =>

'Atonement' is a magnificently-mounted, achingly romantic epic. It has everything one would expect from this type of grand, melodramatic Hollywood weepie, one designed from the first frame to incite critical euphoria and win a bucket-load of Academy Awards. It's based on an acclaimed literary novel, it's filled with good-looking British actors, it's set against the backdrop of a historical event (in this case WWII), and it is, of course, tragic. For most of its runtime the film is thoroughly engaging, emotionally gripping and, at times, profoundly moving. Indeed, if great movies are the stuff of intangible magic, 'Atonement' seems to possess it in spades.

Unfortunately, where 'Atonement' departs from the established 'English Patient' formula for Oscar success is in its last act denouement, which comes so far out of left-field that I defy even the most astute viewers to see it coming. This is not a compliment. 'Atonement' is a potentially great film marred by what I felt was a bit of a narrative cheat. I would not, of course, dare to spoil the eventual surprise, but this is a film that ultimately fails to earn the big emotions it wants to elicit from the audience, because it is not upfront about its motives from the beginning. The final scene of this movie is an easy, manipulative, and rather shameless ploy to bring added gravity to a story that already had enough on its own.

Based on Ian McEwan's best-selling book, 'Atonement' is structured in three fairly tight acts before the aforementioned coda. I found the first act to be the most compelling. It introduces us to three characters who are immediately fascinating. Sisters Cecilia (Keira Knightley) and Briony (Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan) are children of great privilege and wealth. While the war rages, Briony writes inventive mini-plays, often roping in Cecilia and other visitors to their pastoral British estate just for the fun of it. Then one day the handsome Robbie (James McAvoy) arrives. The son of the estate’s housekeeper (Brenda Blethyn), Robbie is well educated but lower class, and Cecilia is immediately attracted to his roguish sexual energy (and, we will learn in one of the film's most erotic scenes, his penchant for writing vulgar love notes).

Briony, however, is not amused by Cecilia and Robbie's amorous encounters, she's utterly bewildered. Misunderstanding the complications of mature sexual attraction, Briony makes a catastrophic decision, and embroils Robbie in the attempted rape of a visiting relative. Briony's campaign of misinformation proves disastrous and quickly separates the would-be couple, with Robbie forced to join the British Army, while Cecilia also makes a series of fateful decisions in the hopes of reconnecting with her great love.

This set-up is fantastic. Key to the subsequent story will be our uncertainty regarding Briony's true motives. Ronan is extraordinary here, conveying both child-like confusion and adult cunning with a single glance. Knightley likewise impresses with her ability to plumb hidden depths in the newly-eroticized Cecilia, while McAvoy is rakish and aggressive without being smug. As directed by Joe Wright ('Pride & Prejudice'), 'Atonement' is also beautifully shot and paced, experimenting with time and place in a way that, if at first disorienting, pays handsome dividends in keeping us absolutely in thrall as the story unfolds. Like another character in the movie, Dario Marianelli's Oscar-winning score is simply beautiful -- evocative, propulsive, and haunting.

The film's second and third acts don't quite have the same sense of urgency as the characters' stories fragment and intertwine. Wright still commands an excellent sense of time and place, but I began to lose a little faith in the narrative. The film meanders in fits and starts, focusing a bit too much on Robbie (Cecilia begins to feel like a bystander), and the slow burn of Briony's growing realization as to the full affect her juvenile decision has had on her sister could have been better modulated. Yet, I still couldn't look away -- 'Atonement's first two hours felt like half that, and as the three characters finally re-converged in the third act to meet their fates, I braced myself for a gangbusters resolution.

Unfortunately, the end of 'Atonement' was so sudden for me that I almost couldn't believe the film was over. I lay the blame on McEwan's source -- an overrated novel that, while well-written, bites off more than it can chew. I simply can't spoil the ending, but the attempt to re-frame our entire understanding of the story in one single scene left me frustrated, not by the thematic point McEwan was making, but by the unfair manner in which he was making it. Had we known of his intended story conceit from the beginning (all I'll say is that a main character reveals a startling secret in the last scene) it would not have allowed for a big "twist,' but would have been more emotionally satisfying. As it is, it just feels like a curve ball, thrown in to get people talking and to sell more books.

Yet, despite my utter disappointment with the concluding scenes, the film is so strong in most other respects that it remains well worth seeing. Perhaps you will have an entirely different reaction to the ending than I did (indeed, some found great pleasure in McEwan's audacious surprises). Certainly, 'Atonement' is a beauty to behold, with gorgeous imagery, wonderful performances and a stirring score. There are also moments so perfectly realized that it's easy to see why the film managed to snag seven Oscar noms (including the coveted Best Picture) despite such widely divergent reactions to its narrative revelations. For me, the film is less than the sum of its parts... but oh, what parts they are.

[review_video_stars] => 4.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 5277 [review_video] =>

This HD DVD/DVD Combo release presents 'Atonement' in 1080p/VC-1 video (on the HD DVD side of the disc), framed at the original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. It is a restrained but often visually arresting film, and it looks superb in high-def.

The film's color palette runs a gamut of expressions, specific to the narrative. This transfer handles the stylistic shifts with ease, veering from a more saturated, lush feel in the earlier passages towards a desaturated sheen during the wartime sequences. Hues always remain stable and clean, and fleshtones (if sometimes drained of orange) are still appropriate. Visible detail is usually terrific, with excellent depth and sharpness. Universal also seems to have finally put an embargo on edge enhancement (at least on their new releases), and this is a wonderfully textured image free of visible artifacts. The print is also pristine, with rich blacks and contrast that only occasionally runs on the hot side. Certainly, 'Atonement' looks smashing.

[review_audio_stars] => 3.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 0 [review_audio] =>

'Atonement' enjoys only Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5mbps) audio, in English and French. The lack of a high-res option is my major disappointment with this disc.

Dario Marianelli's Oscar-winning score is fantastic (my favorite of the year, in fact), and though it is presented serviceably here, it could have sounded so much better. The film's sound design is really quite aggressive and creative, with an effective blend of score and effects, and some bass-heavy moments during the wartime middle half. Alas, the Dolby Digital track just doesn't quite cut it. Envelopment is decent throughout, but the intensity of the surrounds fails to satisfy. Dynamic range certainly sounds polished and professional, but neither the low bass extension nor the clarity of the high-end approaches the best high-res tracks I've heard. Dialogue is well recorded and balanced, so thank goodness for small favors. I just expected more out of the audio on this disc.

[review_supplements_stars] => 2.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 5278 [review_supplements] =>

Hitting HD DVD day-and-date with the DVD version, 'Atonement' has a well-stocked if far from overflowing package of extras. All material is presented in 480p/i/MPEG-2 video only, and there are no subtitles on any of the extras.

  • Audio Commentary - Director Joe Wright flies solo, and this is an excellent commentary -- by far the best extra on the disc. He's enthusiastic, informative, and detailed, covering all aspects of adapting the original novel, the casting, the production, and the editing. The film's much-vaunted centerpiece sequence -- an unbroken five-minute tracking shot -- is also discussed at length, and the mechanics are fascinating. Wright's intelligence is also clearly on display as the film concludes, and his arguments about the literary revelations almost won me over. Indeed, this is a great track.
  • Featurette: "Bringing the Past to Life: The Making of 'Atonement'" (SD, 27 minutes) - Your standard EPK. Wright, screenwriter Christopher Hampton, novelist Ian McEwan and stars James McAvoy, Keira Knightley, Vanessa Redgrave and Saorise Ronan all appear, talking in surface banalities about the story, its grand epic sweep, and the extensive shoot. Unfortunately, there is an overabundance of film clips and obvious statements about the plot, so don't expect more than the merely promotional.
  • Featurette: "From Novel to Screen: Adapting a Classic" (SD, 6 minutes) - Despite its short length, I actually preferred this featurette to the main making-of, since we at least we get more than surface insight. Wright, McEwan, and Hampton re-appear to discuss adapting the novel. There is redundancy here compared to the commentary, but if you don't want to spend another two hours with 'Atonement,' this is a quick, worthy watch.
  • Deleted Scenes (SD, 8 minutes) - There are seven scenes here, all in decent-quality video. I expected a bit more weight here, but the runtime is so short that these come off more as scene extensions and plodding character bits rather than anything that truly expands the narrative.
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 5279 [review_bonus_content] =>

There are no high-def exclusives.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 3.5 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'Atonement' is a complex, intelligent, and sometimes quite effective romantic epic. It's also disjointed and a bit of a cheat, with an ending that tries too hard for relevance that it just hasn't earned. Still, this is such a well-mounted and finely-acted film that this HD DVD is worth a look. The video is quite good, the audio is a disappointment (due to the lack of a TrueHD track), and the supplements package is fairly standard (though the audio commentary is excellent). If you don't mind a romantic weepie stabbed in the heart by a fatal narrative flaw, 'Atonement' is worth a look.

) ) [2] => Array ( [review_id] => 1288 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => fireplaceimpressions [review_release_date] => 1205823600 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Fireplace Impressions [picture_created] => 1197402473 [picture_name] => fireplace-impressions-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Navarre Corporation [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/12/11/120/fireplace-impressions-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1288/fireplaceimpressions.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2006 [run_time] => 60 [release_date_notes] => Originally scheduled for March 4, 2008 [list_price] => 16.98 [asin] => B001139ZJW [amazon_price] => 11.85 [empire_id] => 1385273 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.78:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080i/TBA ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-15 Single-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => TBA ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => None ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => None ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Nature ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => This program brings a crackling, cozy fire into any living room, letting viewers curl up while listening to either an hour of classic, stirring Mozart compositions or the German-language audio book "Die Reisen und Abenteuer des Barons Münchhausen." [preview_technology_specifications] => None [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 29780 [review_gear] => default [review_video_picture_id] => 0 [review_audio_picture_id] => 0 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 ) ) [3] => Array ( [review_id] => 1267 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => justiceleaguenewfrontier [review_release_date] => 1205823600 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Justice League: The New Frontier [picture_created] => 1200432876 [picture_name] => justice-league-the-new-frontier-hd-dvddvd-combo-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Video [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/01/15/120/justice-league-the-new-frontier-hd-dvddvd-combo-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1267/justiceleaguenewfrontier.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2008 [run_time] => 75 [release_date_notes] => Postponed from February 26, 2008 [list_price] => 29.99 [asin] => B0010AEPH8 [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1382339 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.78:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD/DVD Combo [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc/DVD-9 Dual-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround (48kHz/16-Bit) [1] => English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (DVD Side Only) [2] => Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (DVD Side Only) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentaries [1] => Documentaries [2] => Featurettes [3] => Bonus TV Episodes ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English Subtitles [1] => Portuguese Subtitles (DVD Side Only) ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Action [1] => Animation [2] => Comic Book ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Neil Patrick Harris [1] => Brooke Shields [2] => David Boreanaz ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Dave Bullock ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => The New Frontier takes viewers on an action-packed adventure, exploring the origins of the Justice League. DC Comics legends Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are all featured in the film as well as Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter and The Flash – as they band together to form the legendary super team. Strangers at first, these very different heroes must overcome fear and suspicion to forge an alliance against a monster so formidable, even the mighty Superman cannot stop it alone. If they fail, the entire planet will be cleansed of humanity. [preview_technology_specifications] => • 2 Audio Commentaries: Comic Book Writer and Artist Darwyn Cooke / Filmmakers & Cast (participants TBA)
• Documentaries: "The Legion of Doom: The Pathology of the Super Villain," "Comic Book Commentary: Homage to the New Frontier"
• Super Heroes United!: The Complete Justice League History
• Sneak Peak: Batman: Gotham Knight
• Justice League Unlimited Bonus Episodes: "Dark Heart," "To Another Shore," "Task Force X" [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 27775 [review_editors_notes] =>

Non-format-specific portions of this review were first published in our Blu-ray review of 'Justice League: The New Frontier.'

[review_bottom_line] => Recommended [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 49148 [review_movie_stars] => 3.5 [review_movie] =>

Comic fandom has always incited raging debates amongst the most passionate followers. Which publisher produces the greatest material: Marvel or DC? Who has the best stable of characters: Marvel's Avengers or DC's Justice League of America? Who boasts the most relevant icons: DC with Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, or Marvel with Captain America, the Hulk, and Wolverine? Take my word for it dear readers, none of these arguments is as intense or widespread as the fight over which era is the greatest in comics' history. I've seen people get into shouting matches over the relative superiority/inferiority of the Golden Age (the 1930s through the late '40s), Silver Age (1950s through the late '60s), Bronze Age (the early '70s through the early '80s), and the Modern Age of comics.

Enter award-winning writers like Mark Waid and Darwyn Cooke. In 1996, Waid successfully developed a DC Comics mini-series called "Kingdom Come," an allegory that explored the gap between Golden Aged heroes and modern sensibilities. For a brief moment, multi-generational readers understood their older and younger brethren a bit better -- his deft storytelling had effectively bridged the gap between fans of multiple eras. In 2003, Cooke followed in Waid's footsteps with a mini-series called "DC: The New Frontier," a tale of Golden Age heroes entering the Silver Age amidst the socioeconomic and political uncertainty of the Cold War. His work went on to win top prizes at the Harvey, Shuster, and Eisner Awards.

'Justice League: The New Frontier' is a direct-to-video animated adaptation of the award-winning series that features an impressive cast of voice actors. With the emergence of the Cold War and with it, global paranoia, the help of legendary heroes like Superman (Kyle MacLachlan), Batman (Jeremy Sisto), Wonder Woman (Lucy Lawless), and The Flash (Neil Patrick Harris) isn't as welcome as it once was. As they struggle to find their places in the new world, a prehistoric forced referred to as the Centre (Keith David) appears and threatens to destroy mankind. In response, Earth's Golden Age heavyweights must draw on the talents and abilities of new heroes like Green Lantern (David Boreanaz) and the Martian Manhunter (Miguel Ferrer), and further employ the powers of an eclectic group of freedom fighting humans like Lois Lane (Kyra Sedgwick), Carol Ferris (Brooke Shields), King Faraday (Phil Morris), and Ace Morgan (John Heard). These diverse heroes of the '40s, '50s, and '60s must put aside their differences and work together if they have any hope of saving the world.

'The New Frontier' works for two major reasons -- the gorgeous animation perfectly evokes Cooke's original art, and the screenplay really manages to nail the personalities and interactions of its iconic characters. Some may write-off the character animation as stocky, but I think the animators have tapped into a style that blends Jack Kirby's classic, squared design work with the explosive fluidity of Bruce Timm's "Batman: The Animated Series." The screenplay heightens the tone even further with sharp origin stories and fantastic introductions to the characters. Martian Manhunter arrives on the scene with an air of humanity about him, Wonder Woman perches atop a table like a warrior queen, Hal Jordan gets caught in a dogfight, Batman goes toe to toe with more than two dozen swarming cultists -- to be blunt, 'The New Frontier' really knows how to get a fan's attention. There are so many visually thrilling "yeah!" moments that I simply lost count.

Unfortunately, the excitement fades as it becomes clear that the experience is fairly hollow. Despite the rousing action scenes, the story has been reduced to its bare essentials, effectively neutering the nuanced, layered power and political intrigue of Cooke's original series. Entire subplots have been mercilessly left on the cutting room floor (the racially charged story of John Henry, the Dinosaur Island intro, and the Suicide Squad's backstory, just to name a few) and the film never feels as epic as its cataclysmic events would suggest. It also feels stilted -- by the time Hal Jordan became Green Lantern, I had lost complete interest in the character. I hate to continually compare the film to its source, but Cooke really understood pacing. In turn, he allowed the heroes to develop one at a time before they banded together to fight the Centre. 'The New Frontier,' on the other hand, takes forever to introduce the characters, leaving a few, short minutes to bring them together. Don't get me wrong, I love the first half of 'The New Frontier'... I just wish the producers had added an extra 15 minutes onto the middle of the 75-minute runtime to give the story some much-needed, second-act breathing room.

It also doesn't help that some of the actors sound bored out of their skulls. My hat is off to David Boreanaz, Phil Morris, Kyra Sedgwick, and Keith David, all of whom seem to inhabit their characters and enjoy their time in the sound booth. I was especially pleased with the performances of Miguel Ferrer and Neil Patrick Harris, both of whom turn in genuinely convincing portrayals of their characters. Sadly, Lucy Lawless sounds as if she's taking a nap, Kyle MacLachlan doesn't inject enough soul into Supes, and Jeremy Sisto sounds like a kid skipping class, rather than a crime fighting detective. In the worst instances, Cooke's original dialogue usually swoops in to save the day, but I can only imagine how much more I would have enjoyed the film if the Big Three actually sounded like the Big Three.

All in all, 'The New Frontier' is a fun little diamond in the rough that's worth your time. Fans of the original Cooke graphic novel may be disappointed with the changes made to the story itself, but, like me, they'll probably still find plenty to enjoy. Have no fear DC fans... this is a decent offering and a quality production that makes me excited to see what else Warner Brothers Animation has up its sleeve.

(Note this film is rated PG-13 and has quite a few blood-n-gore moments that I would consider inappropriate for young children. Parents should approach with a bit of caution.)

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 5299 [review_video] =>

As many readers have pointed out, DC Comics' first foray into high-def, straight-to-video animation warrants a direct comparison to animated Marvel Comics' flicks like 'The Ultimate Avengers Collection' and 'Doctor Strange.' The verdict? 'Justice League: The New Frontier' not only boasts higher quality animation, its technical presentation is stronger and more stable.

The vibrant palette and vivid colors that frequent this 1080p/VC-1 encode (identical to the Blu-ray transfer) are apparent from the opening seconds of 'The New Frontier' straight through to the final moments of the epilogue. To my relief, the animators were able to strike a perfect balance between the subdued, Golden Age hues of Cooke's graphic novel and the blazing intensity of Superman's flight trail, the Centre's death rays, and Martian Manhunter's glowing eyes. Inky blacks preserve the tone of the original artwork and flawless contrast makes the image three dimensional despite its 2D source. Every last detail in the animated stills has been cleanly rendered in the final transfer -- the dials of the Gotham City Observatory, the debris from Hal Jordan's shuttle explosion, and the tiniest winged creature are comprised of crisply defined linework and solid color fills.

Of course, the very nature of high definition subjects the animated source to a serious amount of scrutiny that uncovers some minor flaws. Color banding seems to be a consistent blight on 2D animation and it makes a fair number of appearances in 'The New Frontier.' While it isn't nearly as prevalent or distracting as it is in the Marvel Comics' animated films, banding still manages to make the transfer appear antiquated at times. To top it all off, the increased resolution also reveals random pixelation amidst the tight linework -- especially around the characters' eyes.

Even so, 'The New Frontier' looks fantastic on HD DVD and bests the dull standard DVD by leaps and bounds. Anyone still convinced that 2D animation doesn't benefit from the upgrade to high definition should take a look at this superior 1080p release.

[review_audio_stars] => 4 [review_audio_picture_id] => 5300 [review_audio] =>

While it may seem like overkill for a 2D animated film, Warner graces 'The New Frontier' with a bombastic Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track (48 kHz/ 16-Bit) that really delivers an impressive sonic experience. The voice cast's crisp dialogue is mainly contained in the front of the soundfield, but aggressive rear channel support is utilized to convey a convincing sense of dimensionality and space. Explosions erupt from every direction, demonic screeches bound around the soundfield, and superheroes swoosh from channel to channel without a hitch. Best of all, the subwoofer gets an intense workout from an onslaught of LFE-enhanced rumbles and booms. Compared to the muffled Dolby Digital mix on the standard DVD, this lossless high-def track is an absolute revelation.

Alas, despite its remarkable strides, the sheer nature of low-budget 2D animation keeps 'The New Frontier' from achieving its full potential. Sound effects are sometimes flat and centralized, accuracy is occasionally hit or miss, and environmental ambiance is often non-existent. While the blame lies squarely on the sound designers' shoulders, these shortcomings prevent the TrueHD track from being the 5-star powerhouse that it could be.

Despite its minor sound design hiccups, the technical tenacity and fidelity of this lossless mix will surprise a lot of fans and catch the attention of anyone in the immediate vicinity. Once again, high-def is clearly the way to go with this release.

(Note the Dolby TrueHD track featured on this HD DVD is the same as the TrueHD track included on the Blu-ray edition.)

[review_supplements_stars] => 4.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 5301 [review_supplements] =>

The HD DVD edition of 'Justice League: The New Frontier' ports over all of the robust extras from the standard DVD and all I can say is "wow." I never expected to be so utterly entranced by the supplemental package of a straight-to-video, comic-inspired animated flick. Regardless of your ultimate opinion on the film itself, any serious comic junkie should have this release on their shelf for the special features alone.

  • Filmmakers Commentary -- First up is an informative, neatly organized commentary packed to the brim with engaging speakers like director David Bullock, executive producer Bruce Timm, supervising producer Mike Goguen, voice director Andrea Romano, screenwriter Stand Berkowitz, and DC Comics Senior VP Gregory Noveck. The room never devolves into chaotic, tangential conversation and the track sounds more like a business meeting than a roundtable commentary. Believe me, that's a good thing. The filmmakers cover everything -- the pre-production meetings, the adaptation of the original graphic novel, the casting decisions, the animation process, and the end result. I found the whole thing to be an excellent addition to this release and actually wished the group had more time to speak.
  • Commentary with Darwyn Cooke -- One upping a room full of passionate filmmakers is the well-spoken writer of 'The New Frontier' graphic novel, Darwyn Cooke, who provides a fascinating commentary in which the award winning writer must balance his excitement at the things that made it to the screen with his disappointment at the subplots that had to be cut. It's almost brutal to hear him stifle his sadness at truncated side stories like his John Henry tragedy, but Cooke handles it in stride. He understands the needs and sacrifices required to create an adaptation of a written work. Beyond this initial struggle, Cooke gives a wonderful discussion on his intentions and vision with the graphic novel, the emotional threads he tried to carry through the story, and the characterizations and nods to DC history that he embedded in his work. Best of all, he gets genuinely excited when his ideas are completely realized in final animation on the screen. I can't recommend this excellent track enough.
  • Super Heroes United: The Complete Justice League History (SD, 39 minutes) -- Since I grew up a Marvel Comics kid, I never understood the full breadth of the Justice League mythology. This compelling documentary provides a fine introduction to the characters, their comic appearances, and the differences between their original and modern characterizations. A literal avalanche of comic heavyweights (from DC and Marvel) appear in interviews to discuss the JLA and I found their thoughts incredibly interesting. The filmmakers show up as well, but I itched for the camera to return its focus to the Stan Lees and Joe Kellys of the documentary. Even JLA aficionados will probably learn something they didn't know before. While it will mainly appeal to fanboys and comic geeks, this is an intriguing compendium of DC history.
  • Homage to the New Frontier (SD, 10 minutes) -- While the information in this comparative featurette feels a bit repetitive after listening to the Darwyn Cooke commentary, it's a real treat to see the original comic panels next to the finalized animation. Narrated by Cooke, this mini-doc explores the exorcised subplots of the graphic novel and highlights key similarities and differences in the film.
  • The Legion of Doom: Pathology of the Super Villain (SD, 34 minutes) -- This fun documentary is actually a companion piece to the "Super Heroes United" special. This time, the comic heavyweights look into classic baddies and the events that created their unique psychological dispositions. Like the "Heroes" doc, my favorite parts involved the examination of the parallels between a decade's conflicts and the nature of its comic villains. The creators and writers offer brilliant dissections of the relevance of comics over the years, as well as the manner in which comics became a source of social commentary and satire.
  • Batman Gotham Knight Sneak Peak (SD, 9 minutes) -- Tapping into my love of comics and anime is this wonderful extended trailer that has me chomping at the bit for the straight-to-video release of 'Batman Gotham Knight.' Intercut with interviews from creators, animators, and DC bigwigs, this preview features concept art, finalized animation, and plenty of teasers to make you just as excited as I am about this summer release.
  • Bonus Justice League Episodes (SD, 54 minutes) -- The only shrug-inducing addition to the supplemental package is a collection of three episodes of the "Justice League" cartoon series. Still, while I consider the poorly transferred shorts to be entirely skippable, I'm sure they'll still please DC animation fanatics. Perhaps if they were presented in high definition, the studio would have caught my attention.
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content] =>

Nothing.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 4 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 5302 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'Justice League: The New Frontier' has something for everyone. While the film's story doesn't pack the punch of Darwyn Cooke's original series, it does muster up plenty of thrilling animated action that capture the essence of the characters. Even if you don't entirely enjoy the flick, don't write-off this HD DVD release just yet. It features a striking video transfer, a bombastic TrueHD audio track, and a wealth of supplements that are worth the cost of admission alone. Despite the fact that I have a few reservations with the film itself, I'm really impressed with the total package. Comic fans should definitely consider picking this one up -- especially since Amazon is offering it at the exact same price as the standard DVD.

) ) [4] => Array ( [review_id] => 1024 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => songremainsthesame [review_release_date] => 1205823600 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Led Zeppelin: The Song Remains the Same [picture_created] => 1190014272 [picture_name] => 5318b0b970496.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Video [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/09/17/120/5318b0b970496.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1024/songremainsthesame.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1976 [run_time] => 138 [release_date_notes] => Postponed from December 11, 2007 [list_price] => 28.99 [asin] => B000UR9TRS [amazon_price] => 26.09 [empire_id] => 1359208 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 [1] => 480p/i/MPEG-2 (Supplements Only) ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround (48kHz/16-bit) [1] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (640kbps) [2] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 2.0 Stereo (192kbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Deleted Scenes [1] => Interviews [2] => TV Excerpt [3] => Theatrical Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => Korean Subtitles [2] => Thai Subtitles [3] => Dannish Subtitles [4] => Finnish Subtitles [5] => German Subtitles [6] => Italian Subtitles [7] => Norwegian Subtitles [8] => Swedish Subtitles [9] => French Subtitles [10] => Spanish Subtitles [11] => Portuguese Subtitles [12] => Chinese Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Music ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Jimmy Page [1] => Robert Plant ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Joe Massot [1] => Peter Clifton ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => The best of Led Zeppelin's legendary 1973 appearances at Madison Square Garden. Interspersed throughout the concert footage are behind-the-scenes moments with the band. THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME is Led Zeppelin at Madison Square Garden in NYC concert footage colorfully enhanced by sequences which are supposed to reflect each band member's individual fantasies and hallucinations. Includes blistering live renditions of "Black Dog," "Dazed and Confused," "Stairway to Heaven," "Whole Lotta Love," "The Song Remains the Same," and "Rain Song" among others [preview_technology_specifications] => • 40 minutes of added bonus material, including never-before-released performance footage of "Over The Hills And Far Away" and "Celebration Day"
• Performances of "Misty Mountain Hop" and "The Ocean"
• Rare 1976 BBC interview with Robert Plant and Jimmy Page
• Vintage TV footage from the Drake Hotel robbery during the New York concert stand
• Theatrical Trailer [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 13193 [review_editors_notes] =>

This is a review of the officially-released HD DVD edition of 'The Song Remains the Same.' The original version of the disc had been scheduled to hit stores in November 2007, but was recalled only days before its planned release due to rights issues involving one of the disc's bonus features. Although that original edition never officially hit shelves, the disc was leaked to many retailers, and widely made available for sale to consumers (both online and at traditional storefronts).

On March 18, Warner officially released 'The Song Remains the Same' on HD DVD, with the said bonus feature (a radio interview by Cameron Crowe with Led Zeppelin) omitted. The disc's video and audio, and other extras, remain identical.

Non-format-specific portions of this review were first published in our Blu-ray review of 'Led Zeppelin: The Song Remains the Same.'

[review_bottom_line] => Worth a Look [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 49761 [review_movie_stars] => 3 [review_movie] =>

For lovers or big-screen rock excess, the late '70s was the absolute golden era. For whatever reason, during that period Hollywood became obsessed with bringing music to the box office masses, and unleashed an avalanche of ridiculously conceived pop spectacles starring a bizarre cross-section of performers that had no business getting anywhere near the silver screen. On any given weekend, bumping shoulders (and grinding pelvises) at the local multiplex were acts as disparate as the Village People ('Can't Stop the Music'), ELO ('Xanadu'), the Bee-Gees and Peter Frampton ('Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band') and even Sweden's biggest music export, ABBA (the immortal 'ABBA: The Movie'). It was a virtual cinematic car crash, with one spectacular disaster after another going down in flames.

It's surprising in hindsight, but rock gods Led Zeppelin somehow got caught up in all of this hysteria, and in 1976 they released their own big-screen epic 'The Song Remains the Same.' Part concert movie, part "dramatic interpretation' of their music, it's not jaw-droppingly awful on the level of, say, a 'Xanadu' (this is the Zeppelin, after all, not ELO), but the movie is ill-conceived enough that you have to wonder what the Led boys were thinking. Were rock egos that big in the '70s that a top act like this thought it prudent to appear in something this grandiose and pretentious?

According to the film's original promotional materials, 'The Song Remains the Same' was intended to be "...the band's special way of giving their millions of friends what they had been clamoring for -- a personal and private tour of Led Zeppelin." The end product, however, turned out just a little bit different. Originally conceived as a straight-ahead concert film, the bulk of the movie was shot during a three-night stint at Madison Square Garden during the band's hugely successful 1973 world tour. Unfortunately, much of the material turned out so poorly that it was virtually unusable, and the band was also unhappy with many of its performances. So the the film's producers hastily came up with a solution -- scrap most of the movie (including firing the original director, Joe Massot, and replacing him with Peter Clifton) and reconfigure it from top to bottom as a more traditional narrative, albeit with some concert performances spliced in.

Suffering from all of the bloated pomposity of the '70s "prog-rock" era, the "dramatic" segueways added to 'The Song Remains the Same' are virtually interminable. After a long opening sequence of the band arriving by plane (that sets up some forgettable plot about a robbery -- yawn), we're treated to a series of downright loony "fantasy" interludes that are supposed to give us insight into the personalities of each of the band members. There's John Paul Jones, reading "Jack and the Beanstalk" to his daughters. John Bonham drag racing to the tune of "Moby Dick." Jimmy Page climbing a snow-capped mountain in search of a hermit (seriously, I'm not kidding). And Robert Plant getting to ride a horse across a wind-swept landscape, his flowing locks making him look like a lost hippie Prince from an abandoned Disney theme park ride. It's all meant to "symbolize" something, but in such an overt and heavy-handed way that it inspires laughter more than profundity.

Thankfully, 'The Song Remains the Same' also features concert performances of nearly a dozen classic Led Zeppelin tunes, and that's the reason to see the film. Although the band would subsequently reshoot some of the close-ups and other insert shots on a soundstage (leading to a few glaring continuity errors), it is these scenes that prove without a doubt that Zeppelin is arguably the greatest hard rock band in history. During the 1973 tour the were often at the peak of their powers, and indeed few other acts can touch them even now. The interaction of the band members achieves an intensity that borders on the orgiastic at times, and moments in "Black Dog," Whole Lotta Love" and of course "Stairway to Heaven" deliver genuine goosebumps.

Unfortunately, one must still endure a great deal of self-indulgent dreck in order to enjoy those moments of musical nirvana. Die hard Zeppelin fans won't need any arm-twisting, of course, but if you're only a casual admirer of the band -- or you're still confused as to what all the fuss is about -- you may find your finger twitching on the remote's fast-forward button through a good portion of the film's runtime. Watched as a greatest hits collection of concert performances, 'The Song Remains the Same' is absolutely essential. As a piece of rock cinema, however, it's a pretty miserable failure.

[review_video_stars] => 3.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 3194 [review_video] =>

Considering the fact that 'The Song Remains the Same' has been delayed on HD DVD, oh, about 1,543 times now, a healthy amount of anticipation has built up around this release. After such a long wait, fans will be expecting a top-flight remaster, which this 1080p/VC-1 encode almost achieves. Like the film itself, the concert scenes rule, but the rest is a bit more suspect. (Note that this VC-1 encode is identical to the Blu-ray version Warner released on February 26, 2008.)

The hokey interlude material can be dodgy. Blacks are never rock solid, and there is some noticeable variance in contrast. The print is also not pristine, with uneven grain and a few speckles (though nothing severe). The image always lacks depth and the kind of fine-textured detail that high-def can showcase even on a film that's as old as this one.

That said, the concert scenes fare much better. Though blacks are never sensational, contrast is more consistent and colors bolder. Stage and lighting design in the '70s is certainly archaic by today's standards, but the nice use of strong reds and blues on key songs is rendered with nice stability. The more dynamic visuals also help create apparent depth, with the image sometimes boasting nice dimensionality for a 1976 film. This is also a solid VC-1 encode, with surprisingly little in the way of banding or noise issues.

[review_audio_stars] => 4 [review_audio_picture_id] => 0 [review_audio] =>

Warner offers three audio choices (again identical to the Blu-ray): Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround (48kHz/16-bit), Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (640kbps) and Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (192kbps). Like the video, this is a very impressive remaster of elements now past their third decade -- if only all concert films from 1976 sounded this good.

I was most impressed by the hefty dynamics of the TrueHD mix. I wasn't expecting this much kick from the subwoofer, nor the clarity and realism of the higher ranges of the spectrum. Instruments are forceful in the mix, particularly the lead guitars and drums, which are very pronounced. Warner has also clearly spent some money to spiff up the original elements, for there are none of the audible hiss, harshness, or dropouts one usually expects on live recordings of the era.

Surround use is a bit more sporadic, however. There is no real use of the complete soundfield during the concert sequences, aside from crowd noise. Better represented are the dramatic interstitials, which at least boast some discrete effects for things like location sounds and the like. Dialogue here is serviceably reproduced, with decent stereo separation and some quieter passages a bit muffled. But all in all, 'The Song Remains the Same' sounds far better than I expected.

(Note: Some readers who have managed to snag early Blu-ray copies of 'The Song Remains the Same' have reported issues with audio dropouts on the TrueHD track. However, there have been no such reports with this HD DVD version. Indeed, the audio played flawlessly, and I encountered no hiccups, dropouts, or other anomalies.)

[review_supplements_stars] => 2 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 0 [review_supplements] =>

Warner offers a supplement package that, at first glance, looks quite substantial. Unfortunately, the runtime of all of these bulletpoints is actually rather slim, so you'll be able to get through all of it in less than an hour. (Note that all of the video-based material is 480p/i/MPEG-2 only, and no subtitle options are offered.)

  • Bonus Songs (SD, 20 minutes) - Four are included (all never-or-rarely seen before in video form): "Over the Hills and Far Away," "Celebration Day," "Misty Mountain Hop" and "The Ocean." All of the songs offer Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround and Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo audio.
  • Featurette: "The Robbery" (SD, 4 minutes) - This oddity is a vintage fake documentary on the $200M supposedly ripped off from the safe deposit box in the Drake Hotel that features in the film. I'm sure this is best understood after smoking lots of hash.
  • TV Excerpt : "Boating Down the Thames: Robert Plant and Peter Grant" (SD, 8 minutes) - You younger readers probably won't remember "The Old Grey Whistle Test," but it was an old music-themed show featuring hot personalities of the day. This except features Plant and Grant being interviewed as they float down the Thames on the Swanage Queen, talking about the the film, and the craziness of the tour it documents. Amusing.
  • TV Report (SD, 3 minutes) - A brief clip from a 1973 TV report on Led Zeppelin's show at the Tampa Stadium.
  • Theatrical Trailer (SD) - The film's original theatrical trailer is presented in only decent-quality video, but if nothing else, it serves to illuminate how well-mastered the feature film on this HD DVD actually is.
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content] =>

There are no high-def exclusives.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 3 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'Led Zeppelin: The Song Remains the Same' is typical of rock 'n' roll movies of the '70s -- the concert scenes crank, but the "dramatic" interludes are utterly dreadful. So be prepared to have the fast-forward button handy because the only reason to watch 'The Song Remains the Same' is the music. This HD DVD is every as solid a release as the recent Blu-ray edition, however, with well-mastered video and audio (even if it is not revelatory), and a few vintage extras. This is of course a must for Led Zeppelin disciples, and worth a rental for those who don't mind a little cheese with their classic rock.

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• Theatrical Trailer [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => • MyScenes [preview_forum_id] => 31018 [review_bottom_line] => For Fans Only [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 48952 [review_movie_stars] => 3 [review_movie] =>

Maybe it was more than twenty years of hype that left me feeling disappointed in 'Fletch.' I'm a child of the '80s, but I somehow missed this Chevy Chase classic during its original theatrical release, not to mention its endless subsequent cable airings (if you ever had USA or TBS, then you know what I mean), but over the years, I kept hearing from folks who said the film was hilarious, a classic of the era, and that Chase had never been better, yadda yadda yadda. So now that I've finally seen the film, I have to be honest and say that I was underwhelmed. 'Fletch' is cute, but really, where's the comedic greatness?

Chase stars as Gregory McDonald's paperback hero Irwin "Fletch" Fletcher, aka "the only guy who changes his identity more than his underwear." He's a wisecracking newspaperman who cons his way through an investigation of a drug ring by assuming false identities and exuding an unflappable cool, even in the most incongruent situations. At the heart of the story is Alan Stanwyk (Tim Matheson), an aviation executive who offers Fletch $50,000 to perform a rather unusual job -- he wants Fletch to kill him. This leads to all manner of complications, as Fletch finds himself adopting different identities in odd locations (a tennis club, a pig farm etc.), as well as falling in love with Stanwyk's beautiful wife Gail (Dana Wheeler Nicholson).

'Fletch' is bouncy and breezy and filled with some great lines, but I didn't find it truly hilarious, because it's wholly unbelievable. The characters act in a manner that defies any plausible semblance of sanity, and neither Chase nor director Michael Ritchie seem at all concerned with gleaning any sort of insight into human behaviors through Fletch's exploits. The story is simply a one-joke concept (if a funny one) that exists solely to provide a series of cute opportunities for Chase to don various disguises and make everyone else look stupid. (I kept thinking I was watching Chase in one of those Charlie Chan flicks from the '30s and '40s, only without the Fu Manchu make-up.) There's little excitement to the main mystery as we could care less about Matheson's villain, and ditto for the female characters, with Wheeler-Nicholson and future Oscar-winner Geena Davis (as "Larry," a cohort to Fletch) both wasted in accessory roles.

What I did get excited about in 'Fletch' was the hint of a subversive streak that kept threatening to elevate the film to the level of the truly sublime. Ritchie manages to paint at least a few wide strokes of biting satire, particularly the very '80s brand of anti-authority comedy. There's a residual anarchistic spirit that still possesses classics like 'Animal House,' enough that Chase seems to be channeling his smart-ass 'Saturday Night Live' days and sticking up his middle finger at the establishment in such scenes as when Fletch impersonates a Legionnaire and proceeds to upend a hall full of VFWs. It's the film's funniest moment, precisely because Fletch isn't just a party crasher but a genuine threat to the status quo. Unfortunately, most of the rest of the movie is Chase merely tricking folks into buying his shtick.

Given 'Fletch's status to some as a true comedy classic, I'm surprised it's such an innocuous film. I do agree that it showcases one of Chase's most committed performances, as he seems to revel in his assumed personas and is adept with the multitude of disguises he's asked to wear. I just wish the script had been a bit more biting and witty, and that any of the characters other than Fletch had mattered one whit to the plot. Such flaws don't prevent 'Fletch' from being rather enjoyable (I'm still giving it a barely-passable three stars), but it hardly seems more than an amusing time-waster. I must admit to remaining mystified at its continued cult appeal.

[review_video_stars] => 3.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 4671 [review_video] =>

'Fletch' was remastered back in 2006 for the"Jane Doe" DVD edition, and Universal has mined that same source for this first-ever HD DVD version (and, given the imminent death of the format, the last). It's a perfectly nice catalog release, if not particularly exceptional.

Typical of mid-'80s material, there is pervasive grain throughout 'Fletch,' but it's kept in check, and the resulting image is nice and film-like. The source is also quite tidy, with very little dirt and no major blemishes. Colors are certainly improved over past video versions if not exactly bursting with saturation -- the film has a nice, even tone, with accurate fleshtones and little smearing or noise. Shadow delineation is perhaps the weak element here, with the transfer flattening out in darker scenes, where there is some loss of fine detail in the blacks and middling contrast. I also find Universal's tendency to over edge-enhancement their titles continually annoying, and if 'Fletch' is not as bad as some of their other recent efforts, there is enough ringing that I was distracted on more than one occasion. All in all, though, 'Fletch' looks pretty good.

[review_audio_stars] => 2.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 0 [review_audio] =>

Universal offers a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround (48kHz/16-bit) high-res track for 'Fletch,' along with English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 surround (1.5mbps) and French Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (192kbps) options. Quite frankly, the studio shouldn't have bothered, for this is a pretty dreadful "surround" mix that's about as lifeless as Chevy Chase's career these days.

This mix is poorly balanced. There is next to no surround action at all, except for a couple of action-y scenes involving loud, blaring '80s tunes that horribly overpower the rest of the mix (have your remote's volume control ready).

Aside from that ear-sore, the rest of the mix is typical of the period. Dynamic range feels a bit cramped, with little oomph delivered to the subwoofer and an edge of harshness to the rest of the spectrum. Dialogue is decent, but it certainly doesn't pop. Again, there is about zero envelopment, so this might as well be a stereo mix. I'd probably rate the Audio a little higher considering Universal went to the trouble of giving us a TrueHD track, but given the obnoxious volume levels, I'm rating it lower.

[review_supplements_stars] => 1 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 0 [review_supplements] =>

Let the supplements on 'Fletch' be a warning to all future DVD producers -- don't make yourself the star of the show. This is a supremely irritating batch of "extras" that I really quite hated. (All the material is presented in 480p/i/MPEG-2 video only, and there are no subtitle options.)

  • Featurette: "Just Charge it to the Umbrella: Making and Remembering 'Fletch'" (SD, 26 minutes) - DVD producer Jason Hillhouse commits two cardinal sins -- he inserts himself as the "star" of this self-conscious doc, and then goes on to ram home to us the fact that he couldn't land an interview with Chevy Chase (or Geena Davis and George Wendt, for that matter) because he just plain forgot. Har har. So what we do get is a very lame attempt to replicate the film's comic narration and jokey style as Hillhouse attempts to find his "inner Fletch" over the course of making the doc. The interviews with stars Tim Matheson, Dana Wheeler-Nicholson, Richard Libertini and M. Emmet Walsh are perfectly fine, but over-congratulatory. Plus, there are too many film clips and shout-outs to the late director Michael Ritchie, who we learn (over and over) was a really, really nice guy. Boy, does this doc suck.
  • Featurette: "From John Cocktoastin to Harry S. Truman: The Disguises " (SD, 6 minutes) - Make-up artist Ken Chase recalls working on the various get-ups that Chevy Chase (the pair have no relation) wore throughout 'Fletch.' The lack of any behind-the-scenes footage or stills hurts, as there is no illustration of the process, so this is really more of stroking session for the actor's ego.
  • Featurette: "Famous 'Fletch' Moments" (SD, 4 minutes) - Not a featurette at all, but just a montage of funny Chase bits from the movie (and not even the best lines!) Utterly shameless filler.
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content] =>

Woo-hoo! We got bookmarks!

  • MyScenes - Universal's custom bookmarking function, which allows you to pick your favorite 'Fletch' moments for access even after you eject the disc from your player.
[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 2.5 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'Fletch' is considered by some to be a seminal '80s comedy, but having missed the film the first time around, it seemed a bit dated to my fresh eyes. Chevy Chase still has some funny moments, and I was always entertained, but a classic? Really? This HD DVD is a mixed bag. The video is nice, the audio hard on the ears, and the supplements insufferably smug. I guess 'Fletch' fans should run out and pick it up, but quite frankly this HD DVD only made me long for Warner to release the first 'Vacation' flick in high-def...

) ) [1] => Array ( [review_id] => 412 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => girlsgonewild_sexrace [review_release_date] => 1205218800 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Girls Gone Wild: Sex Race [picture_created] => 1206573164 [picture_name] => girls-gone-wild-sex-race-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Mantra [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/03/26/120/girls-gone-wild-sex-race-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/412/girlsgonewild_sexrace.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2008 [run_time] => 0 [list_price] => 24.95 [amazon_price] => 0.00 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.33;1 [1] => 1.33;1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None [1] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080i/480i/MPEG-2 (Supplements Only) [1] => 1080i/480i/MPEG-2 (Supplements Only) ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD DVD [2] => HD-15 Single-Layer Disc [3] => HD-15 Single-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo [1] => English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => None [1] => None ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => None [1] => None ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Erotic ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Hop on board the Girls Gone Wild Bus and join 4 of our sexiest spokeswomen, as they tour the country in search for the hottest girls in America! The search is on! It’s Girls Gone Wild: Sex Race!

What’s more ideal than this 19 year-old blondie, whose got the perfect 34C’s to match her flawless figure! If that one doesn’t get you hot, then these 4 openly sexual friends should do the trick. Watch as this orgy gets messy when they bring out the whipped cream. And if that’s not enough, we have two of our hottest GGW spokeswomen in their sexy little race suits, who will definitely get you hot and bothered, when they get down to just the "bare" essentials. These girls are perfect! [preview_technology_specifications] => None [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [review_gear] => default [review_video_picture_id] => 0 [review_audio_picture_id] => 0 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 ) ) [2] => Array ( [review_id] => 1309 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => inthevalleyofelah [review_release_date] => 1205218800 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => In the Valley of Elah [picture_created] => 1201206487 [picture_name] => in-the-valley-of-elah-hd-dvddvd-combo-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Video [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/01/24/120/in-the-valley-of-elah-hd-dvddvd-combo-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1309/inthevalleyofelah.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2007 [run_time] => 121 [release_date_notes] => Rescheduled from February 19, 2008 [list_price] => 35.98 [asin] => B0011VIOEG [amazon_price] => 24.95 [empire_id] => 1383883 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.40:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD/DVD Combo [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc/DVD-9 Dual-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround (48kHz/16-Bit) [1] => English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround [2] => French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround [3] => Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Featurettes [1] => Additional Scenes ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English Subtitles [1] => French Subtitles [2] => Spanish Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Drama [1] => War ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Tommy Lee Jones [1] => Charlize Theron [2] => Jason Patric [3] => Susan Sarandon ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Paul Haggis ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => A career officer (Jones) and his wife (Sarandon) work with a police detective (Theron) to uncover the truth behind their son's disappearance following his return from a tour of duty in Iraq. [preview_technology_specifications] => • Featurettes: "After Iraq" and "Coming Home"
• Additional Scene [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 31232 [review_editors_notes] =>

Non-format-specific portions of this review were first published in our Blu-ray review of 'In the Valley of Elah.'

[review_bottom_line] => Worth a Look [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 47223 [review_movie_stars] => 3.5 [review_movie] =>

Paul Haggis is one of the more polarizing filmmakers working in Hollywood today -- he tackled racism in 'Crash,' euthanasia in his screenplay for 'Million Dollar Baby,' and, most recently, post-war trauma with his Oscar nominated 'In the Valley of Elah.' To be fair, nearly every wartime drama was unfairly ostracized in 2007, but Haggis's quiet procedural managed to offend conservative sensibilities and get labeled in some circles as "lefty propaganda."

Tommy Lee Jones plays Hank Deerfield, a Vietnam vet and former military police investigator, who gets a tip that his son Mike (Jonathan Tucker) has returned from Iraq and gone AWOL. Hank packs up his truck, kisses his wife (Susan Sarandon) goodbye, and heads for New Mexico to find Mike before he can be dishonorably discharged from the military. However, a simple search for his son soon leads him to a group of soldiers with something to hide, a commanding officer (Jason Patric) desperate to keep the investigation in-house, and a less-than-enthusiastic police chief (Josh Brolin) looking to keep his crime stats down. With the help of a shunned detective named Emily Sanders (Charlize Theron), Hank sets about uncovering what has really happened and finding out why everyone is so intent on keeping it a secret.

Personally, I didn't find anything offensive about 'In the Valley of Elah.' I simply think it's a particularly effective character study that might drift a bit too close to some viewers' comfort zones -- it offends by its proximity to controversial subjects (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, torture, drug use, abuse of power etc.) rather than through a deplorable message regarding these subjects. For all of the accusations leveled at the film for being an attack on the war, the current administration, or the military, I thought it was simply an examination of the frailty of human nature. Haggis focuses his criticism on a system that uses a group of soldiers for war, then abandons them the minute the battle is done. He asks his audience, "What about the ongoing psychological side effects? What about the ongoing impact such a violent experience will have on their home lives? What about their families, friends, and communities?"

The film is anchored by Tommy Lee Jones' performance, and it's easy to see why such a divisive film still scored the legendary actor an Oscar nomination. The scenes between Jones and Sarandon are powerful, to say the least, and quite literally brought tears to my eyes. Even separated by distance (her character is stuck in Tennessee for all but one major scene), their phone conversations and individual reactions tore me apart. Each time Jones shared the screen with another performer, the movie soared. While his character's gruff exterior seems to rub everyone the wrong way, we're given a few, simple glimpses into his inner turmoil that allow us to understand how poignant and authentic this aging Everyman actually is.

Unfortunately, when Jones isn't the center of attention, the film tends to slow down dramatically and lose its momentum. I also found myself disappointed by the predictable answers waiting at the end of Deerfield's investigation, by the deflating reaction Deerfield has to the truth, and with the overall anticlimactic conclusion to the mystery. 'In the Valley of Elah' sets the stage for a startling revelation, but provides an ending that's as ordinary and boring as I could possibly imagine. Despite the excellent performances, the film collapses during its third act. An especially pitiful closing scene is the only truly offensive part of the picture -- not because it does anything controversial, but because it's so contrived and eye-gougingly sappy that I couldn't believe it was attached to the film I had just watched.

'In the Valley of Elah' is an actor's film, full of great performances and resonant scenes that will stick in my brain for some time. Sadly, the story can't maintain its own promise, fizzling out when it should have ended with a bang. Considering the fact that Haggis fans adore his third act gut-punches, I was surprised to feel so little when the credits rolled. For all of my emotional investment in the first two acts, I felt nothing in the end but the sting of hollow disappointment.

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 5199 [review_video] =>

Like its identically encoded Blu-ray counterpart, I doubt the HD DVD edition of 'In the Valley of Elah' will turn any heads. However, its 1080p/VC-1 transfer is a technical testament to Haggis's directorial intentions and considerably outclasses the standard DVD. The word "color" feels like a bit of a misnomer when discussing a film that completely strips its palette of primary vibrancy -- as it stands, the only element that isn't faded or washed out here is the American flag. Still, fleshtones are incredibly accurate (in spite of the natural lighting schemes) and contrast is, dare I say, perfect. Detail is also impressive considering the shadowy nature of this procedural. I caught every crease in the military uniforms, was able to read the smallest words on cluttered paperwork, and could literally count the budding whiskers on Tommy Lee Jones' wrinkled face. Better still, black levels are strong, and the frequent nighttime shots aren't hindered by crushing, noise, or artifacting.

If the image lacks anything, it is consistent clarity. While this is most likely the result of the 35mm stock, several shots are conspicuously soft compared to the rest of the film. While it never feels out of place with the cinematography and the frequent, low-res videos Deerfield watches via e-mail, these hiccups managed to distract me from the overall quality of the transfer.

In the end, 'In the Valley of Elah' is a fine looking high definition release that makes its DVD counterpart irrelevant. Haggis fans will be more than pleased with the results and will likely refer to the errant softness as "filmic."

[review_audio_stars] => 4 [review_audio_picture_id] => 5200 [review_audio] =>

Although 'In the Valley of Elah' is a quiet, conversation-driven film, it provides an excellent opportunity to realize the countless, subtle luxuries that a proper, uncompressed audio track can bring to the table. Take a moment and compare the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround mix (48kHz/16-Bit) to the standard Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 track (640kbps) -- dynamics are more robust, ambience is more defined, and dialogue is more stable. Sure, the standard audio is decent and does its job well, but the high-end mix simply creates a more believable space for the film to inhabit.

The TrueHD track is home to crystal clear dialogue that sounds natural and unprocessed -- regardless of the locale, prioritization is spot-on and shifts between the sorts of authentic environmental acoustics I'd expect when characters move from a dusty police station to a morgue or military base. LFE support is prevalent throughout the experience and builds a firm foundation for each element in the soundscape. 'In the Valley of Elah' is by no means a bombastic actioner, but it does have its fair share of standout low-end pulses. Add to that a particularly thrilling car chase that takes momentary advantage of the rear speakers and it becomes clear that the sound designers took their time in several key scenes.

If I have any nitpick, it's that the film still rests on its laurels in the front channels more often than it should. The immediate soundfield may be convincing, but it lacks depth and distance when it comes to the rear speakers. When Deerfield and Sanders survey a murder scene late at night, where are the sounds of the nearby military base, the buzz of the street lights, or the rustle of the underbrush in the wind? Minor elements come and go depending on the scene, holding this TrueHD mix back from its full potential.

(Note after several comparisons, I'm confident that the audio package included on the HD DVD edition is identical to the Blu-ray version.)

[review_supplements_stars] => 1 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 5201 [review_supplements] =>

Moviegoers who thought 'In the Valley of Elah' was a preachy bore will find themselves equally embittered by its slim and serious supplemental offerings. While it ports over all of the features from the standard DVD, the package doesn't try to be objective and tends to pound its point home. What this controversial release really needed was a thorough commentary that allowed Haggis to address the film's criticisms and his perceived directorial agenda.

  • After Iraq and Coming Home (SD, 43 minutes) -- This two part documentary digs into Haggis's adaptation of the news story that inspired 'In the Valley of Elah,' and explores real life stories from soldiers who've returned from the battle field. It gets a tad repetitive at times, but it ultimately complements the film with a heart wrenching look at the unavoidable side effects of war. The best bits were interviews with some of the supporting actors -- to my surprise, many of them are actual soldiers and veterans who were determined to portray their brethren with dignity and compassion. This is a candid, fly-on-the-wall perspective, and I was intrigued by every minute.
  • Additional Scene (SD, 6 minutes) -- Despite its singular title, this is actually a collection of half a dozen deleted scenes that really should have been left in the film. Their inclusion certainly wouldn't have improved the film's pacing, but the cuts would have expanded the characters and provided a more intimate glimpse into Deerfield's emotional turmoil.
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content] =>

Nothing.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 3 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 5202 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'In the Valley of Elah' solidifies director Paul Haggis' reputation as a polarizing filmmaker who splits audiences and critics with his controversial subjects. Unfortunately, the most polarizing aspect of this film hinges on its inability to maintain its power. This HD DVD release fares a bit better, with a decidedly strong video transfer and TrueHD audio track. The only real downside is that the disc isn't packed with more revealing supplements. At the end of the day, this film is likely to provoke a variety of reactions -- some people will find it mesmerizing, some will find it offensive, and others will find it wholly unsatisfying. Give it a look and see where you fall.

) ) [3] => Array ( [review_id] => 1314 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => michaelclayton [review_release_date] => 1205218800 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Michael Clayton [picture_created] => 1201206185 [picture_name] => michael-clayton-hd-dvddvd-combo-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/01/24/120/michael-clayton-hd-dvddvd-combo-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1314/michaelclayton.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2007 [run_time] => 120 [release_date_notes] => Rescheduled from February 19, 2008 [list_price] => 35.99 [asin] => B00123C7SM [amazon_price] => 25.15 [empire_id] => 1385062 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.40:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD/DVD Combo [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc/DVD-9 Dual-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (640kbps) [1] => French Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround [2] => Spanish Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Deleted Scenes [1] => Audio Commentary ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English Subtitles [1] => French Subtitles [2] => Spanish Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Drama [1] => Thriller ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Sydney Pollack [1] => Tilda Swinton [2] => Tom Wilkinson [3] => George Clooney ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Tony Gilroy ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Michael Clayton (George Clooney) is an in-house 'fixer' at one of the largest corporate law firms in New York. At the behest of the firm's co-founder Marty Bach (Sydney Pollack), Clayton takes care of Kenner, Bach & Ledeen's dirtiest work. Clayton cleans up clients' messes, handling anything from hit-and-runs and damaging stories in the press to shoplifting wives and crooked politicians. Though burned out and discontented in his job, Clayton is inextricably tied to Kenner, Bach & Ledeen; divorce, a crippling gambling habit and a failed business venture have left him with mounting debt. At the agrichemical company U/North, the career of in-house counsel chief Karen Crowder (Tilda Swinton) rests on the multi-million dollar settlement of a class action suit that Clayton's firm is leading to a seemingly successful conclusion. When Kenner, Bach & Ledeen's top litigator, the brilliant Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson), has an apparent breakdown and subsequently tries to sabotage the entire U/North case, Michael Clayton is sent to tackle this unprecedented disaster and in doing so comes face-to-face with the reality of who he has become... [preview_technology_specifications] => - Deleted scenes
- Audio commentary with writer/director Tony Gilroy and editor John Gilroy [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 32371 [review_editors_notes] =>

Non-format-specific portions of this review were first published in our Blu-ray review of 'Michael Clayton.'

[review_bottom_line] => Recommended [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 47470 [review_movie_stars] => 5 [review_movie] =>

There's a scene in the opening moments of 'Michael Clayton' in which George Clooney's title character visibly flinches at being called a "miracle worker." As a "fixer" for a prestigious law firm in New York City, it's Clayton's job to clean up the legal messes that other attorneys lack the time, patience, or talent to handle. When hit with such a messianic descriptor, Clayton snaps at his client, instead referring to himself as a "janitor." Less than ten minutes into this Oscar dark horse, the self-loathing revealed in this resentful declaration makes it clear that 'Michael Clayton' is no ordinary legal thriller.

For six years, legendary attorney Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson) has represented U-North, an agricultural chemical company facing a class action lawsuit. The plaintiffs' accusation is that the massive conglomerate knowingly sold and distributed cancer-causing products to farmers across the nation. As the case nears a favorable settlement for U-North, Edens stops taking his medication and has a mental breakdown (arguably an awakening), threatening the livelihood of his firm, the reputation of his client, and the likelihood that U-North will survive the release of any information he leaks to the public about what the company is hiding. Enter Michael Clayton (George Clooney). Sent to find and control Edens, Clayton must also contend with the chief council from U-North, Karen Crowder (Tilda Swinton), a pair of calculating corporate thugs (Terry Serpico and Robert Prescott), and the lead partner at his firm, Marty Bach (Sydney Pollack).

Clayton is not your average fixer -- he's a middle-aged recovering gambler who hates his job, his talents, and the career they've led him to. He is constantly at odds with his brothers (one a police officer, the other a struggling addict), desperately trying to prepare his young son for the real world, and distraught at his inability to become a decent person. To his great credit, Clooney handles every turn and nuance of Clayton's personality with ease. His subtle expressions reveal more than his words, allowing Clayton to emerge as a complex, complicated character, with no allegiances or loyalties.

Thankfully, even when Clooney drifts off screen, the film retains its drive and momentum with a series of fascinating supporting characters. Wilkinson is quickly becoming one of the most reliable actors in Hollywood, with consistently powerful performances that elevate every film he appears in. His Arthur Edens is a jumble of madness and sudden clarity, who ultimately emerges as one of the only pure souls in the film. Despite his mental instability, he seems to be the only person undeterred by U-North's deep pockets. On the opposing side, Tilda Swinton delivers one of the most human villains in recent memory. She doesn't simply make evil decisions, she struggles with her own morality, slowly drifting into a morally questionable world that seems to grow more comfortable with each decision. I actually found myself feeling for this career-driven woman gone bad.

Performances aside, it's the incredibly tight screenplay from first-time director Tony Gilroy (previously credited with writing the 'Bourne' films, 'The Devil's Advocate,' and 'Extreme Measures') that steals the show. Every line of dialogue in this twisting plot is smart, realistic, and essential to the development of the characters. There isn't a single scene that the film could do without. To top it all off, the film has one of the most satisfying endings of any of this years Best Picture nominees. It's brutal and succinct, and I couldn't imagine it ending any other way. Even the scene laid over the end credits is ingenious and I sat watching the entire shot until the screen went black.

'Michael Clayton' is a powerful experience that easily nabbed a spot in my top five films of 2007. I'm hard pressed to think of a single criticism, and found the story and characters even more involving the second time I watched the film. If you haven't seen 'Michael Clayton,' don't waste any more time, track this one down now.

[review_video_stars] => 3.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 5228 [review_video] =>

Like the identically encoded Blu-ray, the HD DVD edition of 'Michael Clayton' features a restrained 1080p/VC-1 transfer that does a great job rendering the dark, murky world of U-North and their lawyers. The palette has been bleached of vibrancy, but the film's blues and silvers never undermine the stability of the remaining primaries. Blacks are inky, contrast is comfortably stark, and detail is occasionally impeccable. This HD DVD edition trounces its standard DVD counterpart, but it doesn't quite stand head and shoulders above the rest of the high-def crowd.

Intentional crushing is a frequent hindrance, and shadow delineation is all over the place. At times, objects are clearly defined in the darkness, while in other scenes the most obvious elements of a shot can be completely engulfed in black. Compression artifacts aren't ever a problem, but digital noise and a bit of minor edge enhancement pop up at random moments to pick away at the presentation. More troublesome is the limited presence of fine texture -- likely a result of the original stock used to shoot the film. There are a handful of shots where pores and hair are crisply rendered on the screen, but most scenes feature disappointingly defined skin and flat clothing. The overall image has a stunning level of depth, but ultimately fails to create much dimension.

All in all, the majority of the visual inconsistencies in 'Michael Clayton' should not be blamed on technical deficiencies in the transfer. Most likely they're the result of a visual tone that doesn't allow the image to reach significant visual highs. At the end of the day, fans of the film should be pleased with this HD DVD presentation -- it not only bests the standard DVD, but replicates the theatrical experience.

[review_audio_stars] => 3.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 5229 [review_audio] =>

Warner Brothers has faced criticism lately for abstaining from lossless or uncompressed audio on several hotly anticipated titles. To be honest, I'm shocked to see a lesser title like 'In the Valley of Elah' receive a TrueHD track, while 'Michael Clayton,' a film nominated for seven Oscars, is left with a standard Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 mix (640 kbps). Comparing the two conversation driven audio experiences, the benefits a lossless mix brings to even a quiet film become quite evident. The low-end tones in 'Michael Clayton' sound more bulbous, with high-end pitches slightly less stable. The soundscape just isn't as crisp as it could be.

Even so, the front-heavy track is commendable for what it accomplishes. Dialogue is clean and well prioritized, convincing (but light) ambiance populates the rear channels, and dynamics are strong and bold. When Arthur blares a U-North commercial in his loft, the soundfield releases deep LFE booms that punctuate the shrill hiss of his television. Scenes in the streets of New York hum with traffic and passing noise, while distant phones and fax machines bleed through the walls of Clayton's offices. Shocking developments in the story (like an exploding car in the first act of the film) are as audibly jarring as they are thematically and visually effective.

In the end, the Dolby Digital Plus mix doesn't boast the aggressive tenacity or crystal clear soundscape of a TrueHD track, but it comes pretty close. Fans should be adequately pleased with the results.

(Note that after several comparisons, I'm confident that the Dolby Digital Plus track on this HD DVD is identical to the Dolby Digital mix included on the Blu-ray edition.)

[review_supplements_stars] => 1 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 5230 [review_supplements] =>

Warner Brothers has ported over all of the standard DVD extras to the HD DVD edition of 'Michael Clayton.' Sadly, it only amounts to a smattering of forgettable supplements that don't do the film justice.

  • Audio Commentary -- Yawn. I thought a film as thought provoking and powerful as 'Michael Clayton' would provide its filmmakers with an endless source of interesting tidbits about their material. Unfortunately, this commentary with director Tony Gilroy and editor John Gilroy practically put me to sleep. Tony tends to ramble on and on about how proud he is of the film, but rarely explains why. He spends the majority of his time complimenting everyone involved instead of diving into the real meat of the production. John then agrees and follows with verbal nods and dry explanations of what we're seeing on screen. While I adored the film itself, I expected this commentary to be far more engaging.
  • Deleted Scenes (SD, 6 minutes) -- Three short deleted scenes don't help the supplemental package very much. Each one was wisely cut (especially the scene with Clayton's unnecessary love interest) and would have detracted from the final film. The Gilroy brothers are back with an optional commentary track, but they merely state the obvious about each deletion.
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content] =>

Nothing.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 3.5 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 5231 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'Michael Clayton' took me by surprise. I expected either an intimate character study or a twisted corporate thriller -- but somehow the filmmakers delivered both in one deftly scripted film. Alas, this HD DVD edition isn't a clear cut winner. It features a faithful video transfer (that won't turn many heads) and an impressive audio mix (that really should have been presented with a lossless or uncompressed track). A slim set of lackluster supplements doesn't help matters. On the technical level, this release is strong enough to warrant a look. On a movie level, this, my second favorite film of 2007, is whole-heartedly recommended.

) ) ) [reviews_hot] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 1300 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => fletch [review_release_date] => 1205218800 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Fletch [picture_created] => 1203639539 [picture_name] => fletch-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Universal Studios Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/02/21/120/fletch-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1300/fletch.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1985 [run_time] => 98 [list_price] => 29.98 [asin] => B00120LPJM [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1383261 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => MyScenes ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 [1] => 480p/i/MPEG-2 (Supplements Only) ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround (48kHz/16-bit) [1] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5mbps) [2] => French Dolby Digital-Plus 2.0 Stereo (192kbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Featurettes ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Comedy ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Tim Matheson [1] => Joe Don Baker [2] => Chevy Chase ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Michael Ritchie ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Fletch is an ace reporter. While working on a story on Drug sales, he is approached by Alan Stanwyck who wants Fletch to murder him to save him from a lingering cancer death. Fletch begins to nose around and finds irregularities in Stanwyck's past and Underhill's Visa Number [preview_technology_specifications] => • Featurettes: "Just Charge It To The Underhills: Making and Remembering Fletch," "From John Cocktoastin To Harry S. Truman: The Disguises," "Favorite Fletch Moments"
• Theatrical Trailer [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => • MyScenes [preview_forum_id] => 31018 [review_bottom_line] => For Fans Only [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 48952 [review_movie_stars] => 3 [review_movie] =>

Maybe it was more than twenty years of hype that left me feeling disappointed in 'Fletch.' I'm a child of the '80s, but I somehow missed this Chevy Chase classic during its original theatrical release, not to mention its endless subsequent cable airings (if you ever had USA or TBS, then you know what I mean), but over the years, I kept hearing from folks who said the film was hilarious, a classic of the era, and that Chase had never been better, yadda yadda yadda. So now that I've finally seen the film, I have to be honest and say that I was underwhelmed. 'Fletch' is cute, but really, where's the comedic greatness?

Chase stars as Gregory McDonald's paperback hero Irwin "Fletch" Fletcher, aka "the only guy who changes his identity more than his underwear." He's a wisecracking newspaperman who cons his way through an investigation of a drug ring by assuming false identities and exuding an unflappable cool, even in the most incongruent situations. At the heart of the story is Alan Stanwyk (Tim Matheson), an aviation executive who offers Fletch $50,000 to perform a rather unusual job -- he wants Fletch to kill him. This leads to all manner of complications, as Fletch finds himself adopting different identities in odd locations (a tennis club, a pig farm etc.), as well as falling in love with Stanwyk's beautiful wife Gail (Dana Wheeler Nicholson).

'Fletch' is bouncy and breezy and filled with some great lines, but I didn't find it truly hilarious, because it's wholly unbelievable. The characters act in a manner that defies any plausible semblance of sanity, and neither Chase nor director Michael Ritchie seem at all concerned with gleaning any sort of insight into human behaviors through Fletch's exploits. The story is simply a one-joke concept (if a funny one) that exists solely to provide a series of cute opportunities for Chase to don various disguises and make everyone else look stupid. (I kept thinking I was watching Chase in one of those Charlie Chan flicks from the '30s and '40s, only without the Fu Manchu make-up.) There's little excitement to the main mystery as we could care less about Matheson's villain, and ditto for the female characters, with Wheeler-Nicholson and future Oscar-winner Geena Davis (as "Larry," a cohort to Fletch) both wasted in accessory roles.

What I did get excited about in 'Fletch' was the hint of a subversive streak that kept threatening to elevate the film to the level of the truly sublime. Ritchie manages to paint at least a few wide strokes of biting satire, particularly the very '80s brand of anti-authority comedy. There's a residual anarchistic spirit that still possesses classics like 'Animal House,' enough that Chase seems to be channeling his smart-ass 'Saturday Night Live' days and sticking up his middle finger at the establishment in such scenes as when Fletch impersonates a Legionnaire and proceeds to upend a hall full of VFWs. It's the film's funniest moment, precisely because Fletch isn't just a party crasher but a genuine threat to the status quo. Unfortunately, most of the rest of the movie is Chase merely tricking folks into buying his shtick.

Given 'Fletch's status to some as a true comedy classic, I'm surprised it's such an innocuous film. I do agree that it showcases one of Chase's most committed performances, as he seems to revel in his assumed personas and is adept with the multitude of disguises he's asked to wear. I just wish the script had been a bit more biting and witty, and that any of the characters other than Fletch had mattered one whit to the plot. Such flaws don't prevent 'Fletch' from being rather enjoyable (I'm still giving it a barely-passable three stars), but it hardly seems more than an amusing time-waster. I must admit to remaining mystified at its continued cult appeal.

[review_video_stars] => 3.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 4671 [review_video] =>

'Fletch' was remastered back in 2006 for the"Jane Doe" DVD edition, and Universal has mined that same source for this first-ever HD DVD version (and, given the imminent death of the format, the last). It's a perfectly nice catalog release, if not particularly exceptional.

Typical of mid-'80s material, there is pervasive grain throughout 'Fletch,' but it's kept in check, and the resulting image is nice and film-like. The source is also quite tidy, with very little dirt and no major blemishes. Colors are certainly improved over past video versions if not exactly bursting with saturation -- the film has a nice, even tone, with accurate fleshtones and little smearing or noise. Shadow delineation is perhaps the weak element here, with the transfer flattening out in darker scenes, where there is some loss of fine detail in the blacks and middling contrast. I also find Universal's tendency to over edge-enhancement their titles continually annoying, and if 'Fletch' is not as bad as some of their other recent efforts, there is enough ringing that I was distracted on more than one occasion. All in all, though, 'Fletch' looks pretty good.

[review_audio_stars] => 2.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 0 [review_audio] =>

Universal offers a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround (48kHz/16-bit) high-res track for 'Fletch,' along with English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 surround (1.5mbps) and French Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (192kbps) options. Quite frankly, the studio shouldn't have bothered, for this is a pretty dreadful "surround" mix that's about as lifeless as Chevy Chase's career these days.

This mix is poorly balanced. There is next to no surround action at all, except for a couple of action-y scenes involving loud, blaring '80s tunes that horribly overpower the rest of the mix (have your remote's volume control ready).

Aside from that ear-sore, the rest of the mix is typical of the period. Dynamic range feels a bit cramped, with little oomph delivered to the subwoofer and an edge of harshness to the rest of the spectrum. Dialogue is decent, but it certainly doesn't pop. Again, there is about zero envelopment, so this might as well be a stereo mix. I'd probably rate the Audio a little higher considering Universal went to the trouble of giving us a TrueHD track, but given the obnoxious volume levels, I'm rating it lower.

[review_supplements_stars] => 1 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 0 [review_supplements] =>

Let the supplements on 'Fletch' be a warning to all future DVD producers -- don't make yourself the star of the show. This is a supremely irritating batch of "extras" that I really quite hated. (All the material is presented in 480p/i/MPEG-2 video only, and there are no subtitle options.)

  • Featurette: "Just Charge it to the Umbrella: Making and Remembering 'Fletch'" (SD, 26 minutes) - DVD producer Jason Hillhouse commits two cardinal sins -- he inserts himself as the "star" of this self-conscious doc, and then goes on to ram home to us the fact that he couldn't land an interview with Chevy Chase (or Geena Davis and George Wendt, for that matter) because he just plain forgot. Har har. So what we do get is a very lame attempt to replicate the film's comic narration and jokey style as Hillhouse attempts to find his "inner Fletch" over the course of making the doc. The interviews with stars Tim Matheson, Dana Wheeler-Nicholson, Richard Libertini and M. Emmet Walsh are perfectly fine, but over-congratulatory. Plus, there are too many film clips and shout-outs to the late director Michael Ritchie, who we learn (over and over) was a really, really nice guy. Boy, does this doc suck.
  • Featurette: "From John Cocktoastin to Harry S. Truman: The Disguises " (SD, 6 minutes) - Make-up artist Ken Chase recalls working on the various get-ups that Chevy Chase (the pair have no relation) wore throughout 'Fletch.' The lack of any behind-the-scenes footage or stills hurts, as there is no illustration of the process, so this is really more of stroking session for the actor's ego.
  • Featurette: "Famous 'Fletch' Moments" (SD, 4 minutes) - Not a featurette at all, but just a montage of funny Chase bits from the movie (and not even the best lines!) Utterly shameless filler.
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content] =>

Woo-hoo! We got bookmarks!

  • MyScenes - Universal's custom bookmarking function, which allows you to pick your favorite 'Fletch' moments for access even after you eject the disc from your player.
[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 2.5 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'Fletch' is considered by some to be a seminal '80s comedy, but having missed the film the first time around, it seemed a bit dated to my fresh eyes. Chevy Chase still has some funny moments, and I was always entertained, but a classic? Really? This HD DVD is a mixed bag. The video is nice, the audio hard on the ears, and the supplements insufferably smug. I guess 'Fletch' fans should run out and pick it up, but quite frankly this HD DVD only made me long for Warner to release the first 'Vacation' flick in high-def...

) ) [1] => Array ( [review_id] => 412 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => girlsgonewild_sexrace [review_release_date] => 1205218800 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Girls Gone Wild: Sex Race [picture_created] => 1206573164 [picture_name] => girls-gone-wild-sex-race-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Mantra [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/03/26/120/girls-gone-wild-sex-race-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/412/girlsgonewild_sexrace.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2008 [run_time] => 0 [list_price] => 24.95 [amazon_price] => 0.00 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.33;1 [1] => 1.33;1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None [1] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080i/480i/MPEG-2 (Supplements Only) [1] => 1080i/480i/MPEG-2 (Supplements Only) ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD DVD [2] => HD-15 Single-Layer Disc [3] => HD-15 Single-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo [1] => English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => None [1] => None ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => None [1] => None ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Erotic ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Hop on board the Girls Gone Wild Bus and join 4 of our sexiest spokeswomen, as they tour the country in search for the hottest girls in America! The search is on! It’s Girls Gone Wild: Sex Race!

What’s more ideal than this 19 year-old blondie, whose got the perfect 34C’s to match her flawless figure! If that one doesn’t get you hot, then these 4 openly sexual friends should do the trick. Watch as this orgy gets messy when they bring out the whipped cream. And if that’s not enough, we have two of our hottest GGW spokeswomen in their sexy little race suits, who will definitely get you hot and bothered, when they get down to just the "bare" essentials. These girls are perfect! [preview_technology_specifications] => None [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [review_gear] => default [review_video_picture_id] => 0 [review_audio_picture_id] => 0 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 ) ) [2] => Array ( [review_id] => 1309 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => inthevalleyofelah [review_release_date] => 1205218800 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => In the Valley of Elah [picture_created] => 1201206487 [picture_name] => in-the-valley-of-elah-hd-dvddvd-combo-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Video [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/01/24/120/in-the-valley-of-elah-hd-dvddvd-combo-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1309/inthevalleyofelah.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2007 [run_time] => 121 [release_date_notes] => Rescheduled from February 19, 2008 [list_price] => 35.98 [asin] => B0011VIOEG [amazon_price] => 24.95 [empire_id] => 1383883 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.40:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD/DVD Combo [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc/DVD-9 Dual-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround (48kHz/16-Bit) [1] => English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround [2] => French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround [3] => Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Featurettes [1] => Additional Scenes ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English Subtitles [1] => French Subtitles [2] => Spanish Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Drama [1] => War ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Tommy Lee Jones [1] => Charlize Theron [2] => Jason Patric [3] => Susan Sarandon ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Paul Haggis ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => A career officer (Jones) and his wife (Sarandon) work with a police detective (Theron) to uncover the truth behind their son's disappearance following his return from a tour of duty in Iraq. [preview_technology_specifications] => • Featurettes: "After Iraq" and "Coming Home"
• Additional Scene [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 31232 [review_editors_notes] =>

Non-format-specific portions of this review were first published in our Blu-ray review of 'In the Valley of Elah.'

[review_bottom_line] => Worth a Look [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 47223 [review_movie_stars] => 3.5 [review_movie] =>

Paul Haggis is one of the more polarizing filmmakers working in Hollywood today -- he tackled racism in 'Crash,' euthanasia in his screenplay for 'Million Dollar Baby,' and, most recently, post-war trauma with his Oscar nominated 'In the Valley of Elah.' To be fair, nearly every wartime drama was unfairly ostracized in 2007, but Haggis's quiet procedural managed to offend conservative sensibilities and get labeled in some circles as "lefty propaganda."

Tommy Lee Jones plays Hank Deerfield, a Vietnam vet and former military police investigator, who gets a tip that his son Mike (Jonathan Tucker) has returned from Iraq and gone AWOL. Hank packs up his truck, kisses his wife (Susan Sarandon) goodbye, and heads for New Mexico to find Mike before he can be dishonorably discharged from the military. However, a simple search for his son soon leads him to a group of soldiers with something to hide, a commanding officer (Jason Patric) desperate to keep the investigation in-house, and a less-than-enthusiastic police chief (Josh Brolin) looking to keep his crime stats down. With the help of a shunned detective named Emily Sanders (Charlize Theron), Hank sets about uncovering what has really happened and finding out why everyone is so intent on keeping it a secret.

Personally, I didn't find anything offensive about 'In the Valley of Elah.' I simply think it's a particularly effective character study that might drift a bit too close to some viewers' comfort zones -- it offends by its proximity to controversial subjects (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, torture, drug use, abuse of power etc.) rather than through a deplorable message regarding these subjects. For all of the accusations leveled at the film for being an attack on the war, the current administration, or the military, I thought it was simply an examination of the frailty of human nature. Haggis focuses his criticism on a system that uses a group of soldiers for war, then abandons them the minute the battle is done. He asks his audience, "What about the ongoing psychological side effects? What about the ongoing impact such a violent experience will have on their home lives? What about their families, friends, and communities?"

The film is anchored by Tommy Lee Jones' performance, and it's easy to see why such a divisive film still scored the legendary actor an Oscar nomination. The scenes between Jones and Sarandon are powerful, to say the least, and quite literally brought tears to my eyes. Even separated by distance (her character is stuck in Tennessee for all but one major scene), their phone conversations and individual reactions tore me apart. Each time Jones shared the screen with another performer, the movie soared. While his character's gruff exterior seems to rub everyone the wrong way, we're given a few, simple glimpses into his inner turmoil that allow us to understand how poignant and authentic this aging Everyman actually is.

Unfortunately, when Jones isn't the center of attention, the film tends to slow down dramatically and lose its momentum. I also found myself disappointed by the predictable answers waiting at the end of Deerfield's investigation, by the deflating reaction Deerfield has to the truth, and with the overall anticlimactic conclusion to the mystery. 'In the Valley of Elah' sets the stage for a startling revelation, but provides an ending that's as ordinary and boring as I could possibly imagine. Despite the excellent performances, the film collapses during its third act. An especially pitiful closing scene is the only truly offensive part of the picture -- not because it does anything controversial, but because it's so contrived and eye-gougingly sappy that I couldn't believe it was attached to the film I had just watched.

'In the Valley of Elah' is an actor's film, full of great performances and resonant scenes that will stick in my brain for some time. Sadly, the story can't maintain its own promise, fizzling out when it should have ended with a bang. Considering the fact that Haggis fans adore his third act gut-punches, I was surprised to feel so little when the credits rolled. For all of my emotional investment in the first two acts, I felt nothing in the end but the sting of hollow disappointment.

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 5199 [review_video] =>

Like its identically encoded Blu-ray counterpart, I doubt the HD DVD edition of 'In the Valley of Elah' will turn any heads. However, its 1080p/VC-1 transfer is a technical testament to Haggis's directorial intentions and considerably outclasses the standard DVD. The word "color" feels like a bit of a misnomer when discussing a film that completely strips its palette of primary vibrancy -- as it stands, the only element that isn't faded or washed out here is the American flag. Still, fleshtones are incredibly accurate (in spite of the natural lighting schemes) and contrast is, dare I say, perfect. Detail is also impressive considering the shadowy nature of this procedural. I caught every crease in the military uniforms, was able to read the smallest words on cluttered paperwork, and could literally count the budding whiskers on Tommy Lee Jones' wrinkled face. Better still, black levels are strong, and the frequent nighttime shots aren't hindered by crushing, noise, or artifacting.

If the image lacks anything, it is consistent clarity. While this is most likely the result of the 35mm stock, several shots are conspicuously soft compared to the rest of the film. While it never feels out of place with the cinematography and the frequent, low-res videos Deerfield watches via e-mail, these hiccups managed to distract me from the overall quality of the transfer.

In the end, 'In the Valley of Elah' is a fine looking high definition release that makes its DVD counterpart irrelevant. Haggis fans will be more than pleased with the results and will likely refer to the errant softness as "filmic."

[review_audio_stars] => 4 [review_audio_picture_id] => 5200 [review_audio] =>

Although 'In the Valley of Elah' is a quiet, conversation-driven film, it provides an excellent opportunity to realize the countless, subtle luxuries that a proper, uncompressed audio track can bring to the table. Take a moment and compare the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround mix (48kHz/16-Bit) to the standard Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 track (640kbps) -- dynamics are more robust, ambience is more defined, and dialogue is more stable. Sure, the standard audio is decent and does its job well, but the high-end mix simply creates a more believable space for the film to inhabit.

The TrueHD track is home to crystal clear dialogue that sounds natural and unprocessed -- regardless of the locale, prioritization is spot-on and shifts between the sorts of authentic environmental acoustics I'd expect when characters move from a dusty police station to a morgue or military base. LFE support is prevalent throughout the experience and builds a firm foundation for each element in the soundscape. 'In the Valley of Elah' is by no means a bombastic actioner, but it does have its fair share of standout low-end pulses. Add to that a particularly thrilling car chase that takes momentary advantage of the rear speakers and it becomes clear that the sound designers took their time in several key scenes.

If I have any nitpick, it's that the film still rests on its laurels in the front channels more often than it should. The immediate soundfield may be convincing, but it lacks depth and distance when it comes to the rear speakers. When Deerfield and Sanders survey a murder scene late at night, where are the sounds of the nearby military base, the buzz of the street lights, or the rustle of the underbrush in the wind? Minor elements come and go depending on the scene, holding this TrueHD mix back from its full potential.

(Note after several comparisons, I'm confident that the audio package included on the HD DVD edition is identical to the Blu-ray version.)

[review_supplements_stars] => 1 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 5201 [review_supplements] =>

Moviegoers who thought 'In the Valley of Elah' was a preachy bore will find themselves equally embittered by its slim and serious supplemental offerings. While it ports over all of the features from the standard DVD, the package doesn't try to be objective and tends to pound its point home. What this controversial release really needed was a thorough commentary that allowed Haggis to address the film's criticisms and his perceived directorial agenda.

  • After Iraq and Coming Home (SD, 43 minutes) -- This two part documentary digs into Haggis's adaptation of the news story that inspired 'In the Valley of Elah,' and explores real life stories from soldiers who've returned from the battle field. It gets a tad repetitive at times, but it ultimately complements the film with a heart wrenching look at the unavoidable side effects of war. The best bits were interviews with some of the supporting actors -- to my surprise, many of them are actual soldiers and veterans who were determined to portray their brethren with dignity and compassion. This is a candid, fly-on-the-wall perspective, and I was intrigued by every minute.
  • Additional Scene (SD, 6 minutes) -- Despite its singular title, this is actually a collection of half a dozen deleted scenes that really should have been left in the film. Their inclusion certainly wouldn't have improved the film's pacing, but the cuts would have expanded the characters and provided a more intimate glimpse into Deerfield's emotional turmoil.
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content] =>

Nothing.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 3 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 5202 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'In the Valley of Elah' solidifies director Paul Haggis' reputation as a polarizing filmmaker who splits audiences and critics with his controversial subjects. Unfortunately, the most polarizing aspect of this film hinges on its inability to maintain its power. This HD DVD release fares a bit better, with a decidedly strong video transfer and TrueHD audio track. The only real downside is that the disc isn't packed with more revealing supplements. At the end of the day, this film is likely to provoke a variety of reactions -- some people will find it mesmerizing, some will find it offensive, and others will find it wholly unsatisfying. Give it a look and see where you fall.

) ) [3] => Array ( [review_id] => 1314 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => michaelclayton [review_release_date] => 1205218800 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Michael Clayton [picture_created] => 1201206185 [picture_name] => michael-clayton-hd-dvddvd-combo-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/01/24/120/michael-clayton-hd-dvddvd-combo-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1314/michaelclayton.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2007 [run_time] => 120 [release_date_notes] => Rescheduled from February 19, 2008 [list_price] => 35.99 [asin] => B00123C7SM [amazon_price] => 25.15 [empire_id] => 1385062 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.40:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD/DVD Combo [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc/DVD-9 Dual-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (640kbps) [1] => French Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround [2] => Spanish Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Deleted Scenes [1] => Audio Commentary ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English Subtitles [1] => French Subtitles [2] => Spanish Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Drama [1] => Thriller ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Sydney Pollack [1] => Tilda Swinton [2] => Tom Wilkinson [3] => George Clooney ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Tony Gilroy ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Michael Clayton (George Clooney) is an in-house 'fixer' at one of the largest corporate law firms in New York. At the behest of the firm's co-founder Marty Bach (Sydney Pollack), Clayton takes care of Kenner, Bach & Ledeen's dirtiest work. Clayton cleans up clients' messes, handling anything from hit-and-runs and damaging stories in the press to shoplifting wives and crooked politicians. Though burned out and discontented in his job, Clayton is inextricably tied to Kenner, Bach & Ledeen; divorce, a crippling gambling habit and a failed business venture have left him with mounting debt. At the agrichemical company U/North, the career of in-house counsel chief Karen Crowder (Tilda Swinton) rests on the multi-million dollar settlement of a class action suit that Clayton's firm is leading to a seemingly successful conclusion. When Kenner, Bach & Ledeen's top litigator, the brilliant Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson), has an apparent breakdown and subsequently tries to sabotage the entire U/North case, Michael Clayton is sent to tackle this unprecedented disaster and in doing so comes face-to-face with the reality of who he has become... [preview_technology_specifications] => - Deleted scenes
- Audio commentary with writer/director Tony Gilroy and editor John Gilroy [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 32371 [review_editors_notes] =>

Non-format-specific portions of this review were first published in our Blu-ray review of 'Michael Clayton.'

[review_bottom_line] => Recommended [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 47470 [review_movie_stars] => 5 [review_movie] =>

There's a scene in the opening moments of 'Michael Clayton' in which George Clooney's title character visibly flinches at being called a "miracle worker." As a "fixer" for a prestigious law firm in New York City, it's Clayton's job to clean up the legal messes that other attorneys lack the time, patience, or talent to handle. When hit with such a messianic descriptor, Clayton snaps at his client, instead referring to himself as a "janitor." Less than ten minutes into this Oscar dark horse, the self-loathing revealed in this resentful declaration makes it clear that 'Michael Clayton' is no ordinary legal thriller.

For six years, legendary attorney Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson) has represented U-North, an agricultural chemical company facing a class action lawsuit. The plaintiffs' accusation is that the massive conglomerate knowingly sold and distributed cancer-causing products to farmers across the nation. As the case nears a favorable settlement for U-North, Edens stops taking his medication and has a mental breakdown (arguably an awakening), threatening the livelihood of his firm, the reputation of his client, and the likelihood that U-North will survive the release of any information he leaks to the public about what the company is hiding. Enter Michael Clayton (George Clooney). Sent to find and control Edens, Clayton must also contend with the chief council from U-North, Karen Crowder (Tilda Swinton), a pair of calculating corporate thugs (Terry Serpico and Robert Prescott), and the lead partner at his firm, Marty Bach (Sydney Pollack).

Clayton is not your average fixer -- he's a middle-aged recovering gambler who hates his job, his talents, and the career they've led him to. He is constantly at odds with his brothers (one a police officer, the other a struggling addict), desperately trying to prepare his young son for the real world, and distraught at his inability to become a decent person. To his great credit, Clooney handles every turn and nuance of Clayton's personality with ease. His subtle expressions reveal more than his words, allowing Clayton to emerge as a complex, complicated character, with no allegiances or loyalties.

Thankfully, even when Clooney drifts off screen, the film retains its drive and momentum with a series of fascinating supporting characters. Wilkinson is quickly becoming one of the most reliable actors in Hollywood, with consistently powerful performances that elevate every film he appears in. His Arthur Edens is a jumble of madness and sudden clarity, who ultimately emerges as one of the only pure souls in the film. Despite his mental instability, he seems to be the only person undeterred by U-North's deep pockets. On the opposing side, Tilda Swinton delivers one of the most human villains in recent memory. She doesn't simply make evil decisions, she struggles with her own morality, slowly drifting into a morally questionable world that seems to grow more comfortable with each decision. I actually found myself feeling for this career-driven woman gone bad.

Performances aside, it's the incredibly tight screenplay from first-time director Tony Gilroy (previously credited with writing the 'Bourne' films, 'The Devil's Advocate,' and 'Extreme Measures') that steals the show. Every line of dialogue in this twisting plot is smart, realistic, and essential to the development of the characters. There isn't a single scene that the film could do without. To top it all off, the film has one of the most satisfying endings of any of this years Best Picture nominees. It's brutal and succinct, and I couldn't imagine it ending any other way. Even the scene laid over the end credits is ingenious and I sat watching the entire shot until the screen went black.

'Michael Clayton' is a powerful experience that easily nabbed a spot in my top five films of 2007. I'm hard pressed to think of a single criticism, and found the story and characters even more involving the second time I watched the film. If you haven't seen 'Michael Clayton,' don't waste any more time, track this one down now.

[review_video_stars] => 3.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 5228 [review_video] =>

Like the identically encoded Blu-ray, the HD DVD edition of 'Michael Clayton' features a restrained 1080p/VC-1 transfer that does a great job rendering the dark, murky world of U-North and their lawyers. The palette has been bleached of vibrancy, but the film's blues and silvers never undermine the stability of the remaining primaries. Blacks are inky, contrast is comfortably stark, and detail is occasionally impeccable. This HD DVD edition trounces its standard DVD counterpart, but it doesn't quite stand head and shoulders above the rest of the high-def crowd.

Intentional crushing is a frequent hindrance, and shadow delineation is all over the place. At times, objects are clearly defined in the darkness, while in other scenes the most obvious elements of a shot can be completely engulfed in black. Compression artifacts aren't ever a problem, but digital noise and a bit of minor edge enhancement pop up at random moments to pick away at the presentation. More troublesome is the limited presence of fine texture -- likely a result of the original stock used to shoot the film. There are a handful of shots where pores and hair are crisply rendered on the screen, but most scenes feature disappointingly defined skin and flat clothing. The overall image has a stunning level of depth, but ultimately fails to create much dimension.

All in all, the majority of the visual inconsistencies in 'Michael Clayton' should not be blamed on technical deficiencies in the transfer. Most likely they're the result of a visual tone that doesn't allow the image to reach significant visual highs. At the end of the day, fans of the film should be pleased with this HD DVD presentation -- it not only bests the standard DVD, but replicates the theatrical experience.

[review_audio_stars] => 3.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 5229 [review_audio] =>

Warner Brothers has faced criticism lately for abstaining from lossless or uncompressed audio on several hotly anticipated titles. To be honest, I'm shocked to see a lesser title like 'In the Valley of Elah' receive a TrueHD track, while 'Michael Clayton,' a film nominated for seven Oscars, is left with a standard Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 mix (640 kbps). Comparing the two conversation driven audio experiences, the benefits a lossless mix brings to even a quiet film become quite evident. The low-end tones in 'Michael Clayton' sound more bulbous, with high-end pitches slightly less stable. The soundscape just isn't as crisp as it could be.

Even so, the front-heavy track is commendable for what it accomplishes. Dialogue is clean and well prioritized, convincing (but light) ambiance populates the rear channels, and dynamics are strong and bold. When Arthur blares a U-North commercial in his loft, the soundfield releases deep LFE booms that punctuate the shrill hiss of his television. Scenes in the streets of New York hum with traffic and passing noise, while distant phones and fax machines bleed through the walls of Clayton's offices. Shocking developments in the story (like an exploding car in the first act of the film) are as audibly jarring as they are thematically and visually effective.

In the end, the Dolby Digital Plus mix doesn't boast the aggressive tenacity or crystal clear soundscape of a TrueHD track, but it comes pretty close. Fans should be adequately pleased with the results.

(Note that after several comparisons, I'm confident that the Dolby Digital Plus track on this HD DVD is identical to the Dolby Digital mix included on the Blu-ray edition.)

[review_supplements_stars] => 1 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 5230 [review_supplements] =>

Warner Brothers has ported over all of the standard DVD extras to the HD DVD edition of 'Michael Clayton.' Sadly, it only amounts to a smattering of forgettable supplements that don't do the film justice.

  • Audio Commentary -- Yawn. I thought a film as thought provoking and powerful as 'Michael Clayton' would provide its filmmakers with an endless source of interesting tidbits about their material. Unfortunately, this commentary with director Tony Gilroy and editor John Gilroy practically put me to sleep. Tony tends to ramble on and on about how proud he is of the film, but rarely explains why. He spends the majority of his time complimenting everyone involved instead of diving into the real meat of the production. John then agrees and follows with verbal nods and dry explanations of what we're seeing on screen. While I adored the film itself, I expected this commentary to be far more engaging.
  • Deleted Scenes (SD, 6 minutes) -- Three short deleted scenes don't help the supplemental package very much. Each one was wisely cut (especially the scene with Clayton's unnecessary love interest) and would have detracted from the final film. The Gilroy brothers are back with an optional commentary track, but they merely state the obvious about each deletion.
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content] =>

Nothing.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 3.5 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 5231 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'Michael Clayton' took me by surprise. I expected either an intimate character study or a twisted corporate thriller -- but somehow the filmmakers delivered both in one deftly scripted film. Alas, this HD DVD edition isn't a clear cut winner. It features a faithful video transfer (that won't turn many heads) and an impressive audio mix (that really should have been presented with a lossless or uncompressed track). A slim set of lackluster supplements doesn't help matters. On the technical level, this release is strong enough to warrant a look. On a movie level, this, my second favorite film of 2007, is whole-heartedly recommended.

) ) ) ) [March 4, 2008] => Array ( [reviews] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 1253 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => intothewild [review_release_date] => 1204617600 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Into the Wild [picture_created] => 1199901786 [picture_name] => into-the-wild.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Paramount Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/01/09/120/into-the-wild.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1253/intothewild.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2007 [run_time] => 148 [release_date_notes] => Postponed from February 12, 2008 [list_price] => 39.98 [asin] => B000ZN803G [amazon_price] => 27.95 [empire_id] => 1379733 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.35:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 [1] => 480i/p/MPEG-2 (Supplements Only) ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround [1] => French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround [2] => Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Featurettes [1] => Theatrical Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English Subtitles [1] => English SDH [2] => French Subtitles [3] => Spanish Subtitles [4] => Portugese Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Biography [1] => Drama ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Kristen Stewart [1] => Jena Malone [2] => Marcia Gay Harden [3] => Hal Holbrook [4] => Emile Hirsch [5] => William Hurt [6] => Catherine Keener [7] => Vince Vaughn ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Sean Penn ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => This is the true story of Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch). Freshly graduated from college with a promising future ahead, McCandless instead walked out of his privileged life and into the wild in search of adventure. What happened to him on the way transformed this young wanderer into an enduring symbol for countless people -- a fearless risk-taker who wrestled with the precarious balance between man and nature. [preview_technology_specifications] => • Featurettes: "The Story, The Characters," "The Experience"
• Theatrical Trailer [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 26644 [review_bottom_line] => Recommended [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 48848 [review_movie_stars] => 4 [review_movie] =>

Before Sean Penn decided to adapt it to film, prompting its reissue with one of those obnoxious "Now a Major Motion Picture" tie-in editions (is there ever a Minor Motion Picture?), published copies of Jon Krakauer's non-fiction bestseller 'Into the Wild', which was based on a widely publicized true story, freely divulged the fate of its main character right on the front cover. With that in mind, I don't consider it a plot spoiler to mention that the movie's hero dies before the end credits. Structured non-linearly with many flash-forwards to his final days, the film makes no pretense of hiding this fact as any sort of surprise twist, and indeed knowledge of the inevitable outcome gives the story its greatest emotional resonance.

After graduating from college in the Spring of 1990, Christopher McCandless, a young man from a wealthy but dysfunctional family, went out to dinner with his parents and discussed his plans for law school. They ended the evening on polite, encouraging terms. The next day, McCandless withdrew all of his savings and donated it to Oxfam, cut up his IDs, burned his cash, and headed west in his aging Datsun for an intended spiritual journey. The Datsun didn't make it very far. Rechristening himself as Alexander Supertramp, the boy hitchhiked across the country for the next two years, never contacting anyone from his old life again. An intellectual with a fondness for the writings of Thoreau, Tolstoy, and the adventure stories of Jack London, "Alex" had grown increasingly disillusioned with what he considered modern society's materialistic and hypocritical values. Heeding romantic notions of living a solitary existence communing with nature, he sought to flee from the poisons of civilization, retreating to the wilds of Alaska where he could enthusiastically test his mettle and push his body and mind to their limits. He eventually made it there in April of 1992 and lived for the next four months in an abandoned bus in the woods that had previously been used as a hunters' shelter. He spent the time foraging for edible plants and small game, talking to himself a lot, and keeping a journal of his quest for enlightenment. His dead body was found by moose hunters in September of that year, emaciated to 67 pounds.

As depicted in the book and film, McCandless wasn't an antisocial Unabomber hermit, but rather an idealistic, somewhat confused, and frankly naïve kid trying to find his place in life. During his cross-country trip, he spent a great deal of time in the company of people whose forthrightness or free-spirited natures he admired, including a pair of traveling hippies (played by Catherine Keener and Brian Dierker), a gregarious South Dakota wheat farmer (Vince Vaughn), and a lonely retiree (Hal Holbrook). Alex became part of each of their families, but in the end his mission pushed him away from them, driving him to spend the rest of his life alone.

Ever since Krakauer's book was published, it's been surrounded by accusations of needlessly romanticizing Christopher McCandless and the events leading to his death. Sean Penn's adaptation will no doubt polarize some viewers as well. The author and director clearly believe McCandless to be a sympathetic character, worthy of an audience's emotional involvement. On the other hand, many familiar with the story, especially those that understand a thing or two about wilderness survival, consider him just a stupid kid who threw his life away, essentially committing suicide through his own reckless ignorance. In truth, both points of view have their merits, and are not necessarily opposed to each other. Like many his age, the boy's youthful arrogance fostered a sense of invulnerability, strengthened further after surviving a dangerous kayaking adventure down the Colorado River despite having no experience. Bringing nothing but a bag of rice, a book on local plants, and a .22 caliber rifle, he was certain that he'd be able to sustain himself for an extended duration alone. Obviously, he was wrong, and if he'd taken the time to properly prepare might have survived the ordeal. But it's precisely these flaws in his character, and his inability to recognize them until it was too late to save himself, that makes his story a genuine tragedy. If McCandless had walked out of those woods alive, would there even be a story worth telling?

Setting aside his own public personality as a loud-mouth political activist, Penn has a highly regarded reputation as both an actor and a director, and treats the material with respect and sensitivity. He wisely underplays the potentially melodramatic aspects of the story and draws strong performances from his cast. Although backed by a stellar list of co-stars (Hal Holbrook scored an Oscar nomination for his role), the main burden of the movie falls on the shoulders of Emile Hirsch, the young actor from 'The Girl Next Door' and 'Alpha Dog', who spends much of his screen time completely alone on camera, doing a remarkable job of drawing the audience into the mind of the character. Lovely photography and an understated musical score enhance the sense of atmosphere, as do an assortment of new songs by Eddie Vedder, whose grizzled ballads of alienation and rebellion are exactly the sort of thing that McCandless would have considered personal anthems. Penn has taken a fascinating story and crafted it into a beautiful tone poem, an elegy for lost innocence, and a heartbreaking motion picture.

The HD DVD: Vital Disc Stats

'Into the Wild' comes to HD DVD as one of Paramount Home Entertainment's final releases on the format, available simultaneously with 'Things We Lost in the Fire'. Almost immediately after announcing its intention to transition High Definition production back to the Blu-ray format, the studio cancelled the remainder of its previously announced HD DVD slate. In all likelihood, the only reason this title made it to retailer shelves is that the discs were already in the distribution chain at the time of the decision and couldn't be conveniently recalled.

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 5411 [review_video] =>

At least there's no faulting the technical quality of the presentation. 'Into the Wild' has beautiful photography shot in a variety of scenic locations, and Penn artfully exploits the scope 2.35:1 aspect ratio, frequently placing important information at the extreme edges of the frame and occasionally even indulging in split-screen montages. The 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer is rich and film-like, with a strong representation of fine object detail and a nicely balanced contrast range. The naturalistic colors appear accurate, if not always showy.

The photography is sometimes grainy, and the picture is a little soft here and there (razor sharpness wasn't necessarily desired). There are moments where it looks like the studio may have applied some Digital Noise Reduction to tame film grain, but generally speaking the image has wonderful filmic textures.

[review_audio_stars] => 4 [review_audio_picture_id] => 0 [review_audio] =>

The Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 soundtrack is more notable for its use of quietness than sonic bombast. The mix is a study in understatement, consisting largely of production audio and filled with scenes where subtle ambient cues dominate the soundscape. Dialogue and sound effects are always reproduced with effective clarity. The surround channels are reserved for environmental envelopment, with almost no attention-grabbing directional effects. The score by Michael Brook and songs by Eddie Vedder are both delivered with pleasing fidelity and breadth.

[review_supplements_stars] => 2 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 5413 [review_supplements] =>

Technically, content on the HD DVD is a duplication of the "2-Disc Collector's Edition" DVD release of the film, which only makes it all the more disappointing to discover how sparse the bonus features are.

  • Into the Wild: The Story, The Characters (SD, 22 min.) – Produced by Laurent Bouzereau, this half-documentary features interviews with Sean Penn, author John Krakauer, Emile Hirsch, Hal Holbrook, Eddie Vedder, William Hurt, Jena Malone, and Kristen Stewart. All discuss their fascination and connection with the material.
  • Into the Wild: The Experience (SD, 17 min.) – A continuation of the above (this was clearly intended as a single documentary that's been broken into halves to reduce the participants' royalty payments), here we get a look at the production of the film. Topics include Hirsch's scary weight loss (he went from 156 to 115 pounds), shooting in the wilderness, locations, the bus, photography, costumes, sound design, editing, the musical score, and Vedder's songs.
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD, 3 min.)

Seriously, that's all. If you think that's disappointing enough for an HD DVD, consider that Paramount had the gall to issue two separate DVD editions: one with no bonus content at all, and a more expensive version that needlessly placed these measly 40 minutes of featurettes onto a second disc to make it seem more "collectible."

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 5412 [review_bonus_content] =>

There are no HD DVD exclusives.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 3.5 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts] =>

As the HD DVD format winds down production, worthy titles are still finding release even at the end. 'Into the Wild' is a moving film presented with terrific High Definition picture and sound, though the bonus features are pretty slim. Recommended.

) ) [1] => Array ( [review_id] => 1237 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => noreservations [review_release_date] => 1204617600 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => No Reservations [picture_created] => 1194637386 [picture_name] => no-reservations-hd-dvddvd-combo-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/11/09/120/no-reservations-hd-dvddvd-combo-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1237/noreservations.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2007 [run_time] => 104 [release_date_notes] => Rescheduled from February 12, 2008 [list_price] => 39.98 [asin] => B0010HOZX0 [amazon_price] => 25.15 [empire_id] => 1382212 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.40:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => TV Special ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD/DVD [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc/DVD-9 Dual-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (640kbps) [1] => French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround [2] => Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => TV Special ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English Subtitles [1] => French Subtitles [2] => Spanish Subtitles ) [review_editors_notes] => Non-format-specific portions of this review were first published in our Blu-ray review of 'No Reservations.' [review_bottom_line] => Rent it First [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 46310 [review_movie_stars] => 2.5 [review_movie] =>

An undiscovered talent in the kitchen. A brash head chef who can't see past appearances to acknowledge a gifted new cook. A budding love affair developing amidst the creation of exciting new dishes. A tale of joy and heart ache that culminates in a climactic showdown of willpower and determination. Sigh... 'Ratatouille' is an amazing film. 'No Reservations' on the other hand, is a trite exercise in heartstring cliches and audience manipulation.

Kate Armstrong (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is a tough-as-nails career chef who runs the kitchen at a high-brow restaurant in New York City. When she reveals a penchant for Gordon Ramsey-style tantrums after insulting several customers, her boss (Patricia Clarkson) orders her to seek psychiatric help. As Kate's life begins to unravel, her sister dies in a tragic accident and leaves her daughter Zoe (Abigail Breslin from 'Little Miss Sunshine') in the feisty chef's care. But wait... there's more! When Kate returns to work, she has to contend with a new sous chef named Nick (Aaron Eckhart) who grates away at her very last nerve. With every aspect of her life in limbo, Kate slowly but surely learns a thing or two about life, love, and happiness.

My major gripe with 'No Reservations' is that it suffers from identity crisis. The first act sets the stage for a dark drama involving an unlikable lead character struggling with the death of a sister, the responsibilities of caring for a child, and the total upheaval of her career. The second act takes a sharp left turn, suddenly becoming a comedy of errors as Kate fights against the inevitable changes in her life. Then the third act again jumps the genre ship, becoming a romantic comedy as Kate and Nick are suddenly attracted to each other for no apparent reason. I would have liked 'No Reservations' a lot more if it had picked a tone and stuck with it. I have to admit, I did enjoy the three separate acts, I just disliked how disjointed they were from each other. What could have been a uniquely dark drama, comedy, or romantic comedy, simply became an exercise in cinematic hopscotch.

Making matters worse, the cast is underused and pigeonholed in predictable, unappealing roles. Zeta-Jones is limited by the intensity of her anger and the extreme nature of her character, while Eckhart's only purpose seems to be to snap Kate out of her fun. Breslin is also wasted in a part that charges her with the task of looking sad. The trio don't develop their relationships naturally, and awakenings in their personalities occur at random, rather than for logical reasons. In short, the characters are at the mercy of the story. The entire film feels scripted and predictable, lacking both the bounce of better romantic comedies and the edge of darker dramas.

'Ratatouille' may be an animated movie, but its filmmakers really understood the careful balance needed to pull off drastic tonal shifts while producing authentic character development. 'No Reservations' merely feels like a live action copycat, one that pulls disjointed elements from better films, crams them together, and prays that they stick. The filmmakers took an interesting risk, but the ends fail to justify the means. I know there's an audience out there who will enjoy this film despite its faults, but I thought it was an middle-of-the-road, melting-pot experiment that never managed to weave its individual pieces into a compelling whole.

[review_video_stars] => 3 [review_video_picture_id] => 5152 [review_video] =>

'No Reservations' is presented with a soft-focus 1080p/VC-1 transfer (identical to the Blu-ray encode) that ultimately fails to distinguish itself from the standard DVD. Make no mistake, in a quick comparison to the flipside of this combo disc, it's pretty easy to see the distinct resolution and stability upgrades inherent to the HD DVD -- the high definition colors are more vibrant, details are crisper, and contrast is steadier. However, I was really surprised to see how many scenes didn't have the three dimensional pop I've come to expect from a new release. If I didn't know better, I would think I was watching a ten-year-old catalog film. Fine details are hit-or-miss, long shots are often fuzzy, and on-screen text is sometimes as difficult to make out as it is on the standard DVD. Black levels are also inconsistent -- sometimes producing gorgeous shadows, while at other times barely dropping below charcoal gray.

As it stands, the biggest upgrade on display centers around the condition of the source. The HD DVD version doesn't suffer from the artifacting and source noise that appear from time to time on the DVD. Devotees of 'No Reservations' will certainly want to pick up the HD DVD edition as it has the edge, but casual fans should hold their wallets and wait for this to go on sale.

[review_audio_stars] => 3 [review_audio_picture_id] => 5153 [review_audio] =>

A romantic comedy isn't the sort of film I usually throw in to wow friends, and 'No Reservations' doesn't change that. The HD DVD version includes a Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 surround track, but don't be fooled by the "Plus" tag -- this is the same 640kbps mix that appears on the Blu-ray edition. Regardless, even though I expected a disappointment, this little-mix-that-could is more than capable of handling such an insignificant soundscape. While dialogue may be clear and nicely prioritized, the remainder of the soundfield is practically trapped in a vacuum. The rear channels are particularly silent, and the front channels rarely engage the listener -- for a busy kitchen, the soundfield lacks proper acoustics and background details. Dynamics are decent, but uninspired LFE support makes the entire track fall flat.

Don't get me wrong, the audio track isn't a technical bust -- it just sounds far too similar to the audio track on the standard DVD to earn much praise. Aside from a noticeable boost in fidelity, I had a difficult time telling the two apart.

[review_supplements_stars] => 0.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 0 [review_supplements] =>

The HD DVD edition of 'No Reservations' includes the lone supplement that appears on the standard DVD -- an episode of a 23-minute Food Network show called "Unwrapped," hosted by Marc Summers, in which Zeta-Jones, Eckhart, and the real chefs who were consulted by the filmmakers, generally blather on about nothing of significant interest. My wife and I are hopelessly addicted to cooking shows, but this one gets a big "meh" from me.

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0.5 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content] =>

Warner attempts to sweeten the supplemental pot by offering up an exclusive addition to the high-def editions of 'No Reservations' -- a 45-minute episode of "Emeril Live" with special guests Aaron Eckhart and the young Abigail Breslin. The trio work to produce several dishes that appear in the film, but essentially participate in some fairly heavy-handed self-promotion that spoils the fun. This is certainly better than the episode of "Unwrapped," but still left me wondering why a pair of cooking shows were the best features Warner could drum up.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 2.5 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 5154 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'No Reservations' has more to offer than a typical romantic comedy, but it still falls short of its potential, ultimately drowning in a debilitating identity crisis. The HD DVD disc doesn't help matters, as it features a soft transfer, an underwhelming audio track, and an anemic pair of supplemental TV episodes. While I think the movie itself is decent enough to warrant a look for genre fans, the average HD production values should convince you that a rental is a safer bet.

) ) [2] => Array ( [review_id] => 1294 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => thingswelostinthefire [review_release_date] => 1204617600 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Things We Lost in the Fire [picture_created] => 1199901859 [picture_name] => things-we-lost.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => DreamWorks Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/01/09/120/things-we-lost.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1294/thingswelostinthefire.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2007 [run_time] => 118 [release_date_notes] => Postponed from February 12, 2008 [list_price] => 39.98 [asin] => B00112GBHW [amazon_price] => 27.95 [empire_id] => 1382614 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.35:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD 30GB Dual Layer ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround [1] => Spanish Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround [2] => French Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Featurette [1] => Deleted Scenes [2] => Theatrical Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => English Subtitles [2] => Spanish Subtitles [3] => French Subtitles [4] => Portuguese Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Drama ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => David Duchovony [1] => Benecio Del Toro [2] => Halle Berry ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Susanne Bier ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => A recent widow invites her husband's troubled best friend to live with her and her two children. As he gradually turns his life around, he helps the family cope and confront their loss. [preview_technology_specifications] => • "A Discussion About Things We Lost In The Fire" Audio Commentary with Cast & Crew
• Deleted Scenes (HD)
• Theatrical Trailer (HD) [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 30227 [review_editors_notes] =>

Non-format specific portions of this review also appear in our Blu-ray review of 'Things We Lost in the Fire.'

[review_bottom_line] => Give it a Rent [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 49415 [review_movie_stars] => 3 [review_movie] =>

Dramas come in two flavors: associative and manipulative. Associative dramas allow any viewer to bring their personal experiences into the theater and incorporate their own emotions into the story. On the opposite end of the spectrum are manipulative dramas, which live and die on the shoulders of their director's agenda. These films are designed from the ground up to elicit specific emotions, convey particular beliefs, and convert the masses. Cry on cue! Feel sympathy! Despise her! Endear yourself to him! From the moment I saw the trailer for 'Things We Lost in the Fire,' I knew it would either be a compelling character study that said something about the human condition or a cinematic rails-shooter out to yank my heart strings.

When Audrey Burke (Halle Berry) answers a late night knock at her door, she comes face to face with the news that her husband Brian (David Duchovny) has been shot and killed. Struggling to piece together her life and still function as a mother to her two children, Audrey takes solace in the company of Jerry (Benicio Del Toro), a heroin addict Brian had been helping overcome his addiction. Audrey invites Jerry into her life and he seems to thrive -- he grows close to her children, helps her deal with crushing grief, and lends a helping hand where it's needed. But every day introduces a new internal battle for Jerry as he has to decide if resisting his old lifestyle is worth so much pain.

'Things We Lost in the Fire' has a lot of potential. Benicio Del Toro is magnificent as Jerry, injecting layer upon layer of nuanced emotion into his performance. He doesn't just play an addict, he inhabits an addict; taking on the physical yearning, deep seeded depression, and volatile desperation that haunts those who have recently abused heroin. I'll also give the film a lot of credit for avoiding a stereotypical third-act love story between Jerry and Audrey. Theirs is a platonic relationship, in which each person is merely searching for companionship while dealing with their struggles. Both characters are plagued by memories of their recent pasts, but neither crosses the line into romance or lust. By that token, 'Things We Lost in the Fire' registers as a real story about real people while dodging the clichés of its genre brethren -- there is no bright and happy ending, there is no replacement for such great loss, there are no quick fixes for broken hearts.

Alas, director Susanne Bier has a blatant agenda in store for her viewers. She doesn't simply tug at heart strings, she wraps her fists around 'em and drags the entire audience around like a pack of lost puppies. Close-ups of Jerry let us know when we're supposed to connect with his pain, closer close-ups of Audrey let us know that she feels vulnerable, and skewed shots of the children let us know that the Burke family is in danger of being consumed by its own grief. Every scene leads succinctly to the next, but the results feel scripted and plotted to extract very specific emotional responses. As such, people inclined to feel Bier's intended emotions will probably enjoy 'Things We Lost in the Fire' quite a bit, while those who experience different feelings from the director's pre-programmed responses (like me) will encounter a palpable disconnect from the characters and the story.

My wife really responded to 'Things We Lost in the Fire' -- so much so that she was more than a little perturbed with me when I expressed my disappointment. It seems she tapped into Bier's intentions and, as a result, connected with the film and its characters. Personally, I enjoyed Del Toro's performance and the director's rejection of genre schlock, but I couldn't get past the feeling that I was being readily manipulated for no apparent reason.

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 5436 [review_video] =>

To be honest, I wasn't expecting to be wowed by the 1080p/AVC-encoded HD DVD release of 'Things We Lost in the Fire.' When I caught the film in theaters last year, its muted palette and grainy inconsistencies left me feel indifferent, but while the film's colors still adhere to the story's drab tone, Paramount's high-def spitshine has really improved the clarity and depth of the image, allowing it to surpass both the theatrical print and the standard DVD. Director Susanne Bier frequently relies on close-ups, and the transfer does a fantastic job showcasing every wrinkle and pore in Benicio Del Toro's face. In fact, detail is outstanding across the board -- aside from a few soft, filmic shots here and there, the transfer renders naturalistic skin, textured faces, and believable clothing. I didn't notice any intrusive artifacting, distracting source noise, or pesky edge enhancement. Aside from a moderate veneer of grain, the image is stable and clean.

My only complaint is that the film's contrast levels are over indulgent, crushing heavy shadows and overheating whites on a regular basis. Delineation is average and fleshtones often look as if they're being barraged with light. While the stark cinematography is certainly intentional, it makes for a less-than-attractive experience, one that heightens the tone of the film, but detracts from technical consistency and tonal authenticity. Even so, I can't imagine 'Things We Lost in the Fire' looking much better than it does here.

[review_audio_stars] => 2 [review_audio_picture_id] => 5437 [review_audio] =>

Unfortunately, the Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 surround track included with 'Things We Lost in the Fire' is utterly underwhelming and far too similar to the basic Dolby mix found on the standard DVD. The soundfield is as front heavy as they come -- the rear surrounds toss out a few ambient noises, but ultimately remain silent throughout the film. Even the interior scenes don't seem to benefit from the acoustic realism other quiet films have created on their surround tracks. The LFE channel is asleep at the wheel as well, piping up during a handful of occasions to deliver mediocre low-end support. Making matters worse, dialogue sometimes falls to inaudible levels that forced me to turn on the subtitle track to compensate. As it stands, I can't tell if the mix suffers from lazy design, an apathetic director, or a series of technical inadequacies.

I didn't expect 'Things We Lost in the Fire' to hit me in the face with sonic trickery -- I knew it was a quiet film going in. However, I've heard plenty of subtle tracks on other HD DVD releases that have managed to craft intricate soundscapes and develop a believable ambient presence. Sadly, this centralized, amateur hour mix is a complete disappointment and I wouldn't be surprised if people had a difficult time discerning the difference between the standard DVD audio and this high-def offering.

[review_supplements_stars] => 1 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 5438 [review_supplements] =>

The HD DVD edition of 'Things We Lost in the Fire' includes all of the supplements from the standard DVD. Alas, it doesn't amount to much. Considering the distinct tone and direction of the film, I'm surprised there isn't a director's commentary to elaborate on the information presented in the main featurette.

  • A Discussion About Things We Lost in the Fire (SD, 20 minutes) -- This fairly low key featurette worked hard to gain my favor, rejecting the usual EPK mannerisms and delivering an abundance of interesting information and film analysis. Director Susanne Bier is on hand throughout the mini-doc to explain the earliest work on the script, the shoot, and her goals for the production. I have to admit, it made me appreciate the film a bit more than I originally did in theaters. This may be cinematically blasphemous, but you may want to consider watching this intriguing featurette before you check out the flick itself.
  • Deleted Scenes (SD, 9 minutes) -- The seven cuts included in this collection are good for a quick watch, but wouldn't have helped the film's pacing. Slow and plodding, the only thing I really enjoyed was the extra time devoted to Benicio Del Toro's performance as Jerry.
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2 minutes)
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content] =>

Nothing.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 2.5 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 5439 [review_final_thoughts] =>

In a week where Paramount released a phenomenal biopic like 'Into the Wild' on HD DVD, a plodding drama like 'Things We Lost in the Fire' doesn't have a lot to offer straggling format purists. It boasts a remarkable video transfer, but it can't recover from a lackluster Dolby Digital Plus audio track and an anemic collection of supplements. If you can find the HD DVD edition of 'Things We Lost in the Fire' in a rental store, plop down your four bucks and give it a rent. Otherwise, track down the standard DVD long before you consider blind buying this one.

) ) ) [reviews_hot] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 1253 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => intothewild [review_release_date] => 1204617600 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Into the Wild [picture_created] => 1199901786 [picture_name] => into-the-wild.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Paramount Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/01/09/120/into-the-wild.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1253/intothewild.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2007 [run_time] => 148 [release_date_notes] => Postponed from February 12, 2008 [list_price] => 39.98 [asin] => B000ZN803G [amazon_price] => 27.95 [empire_id] => 1379733 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.35:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 [1] => 480i/p/MPEG-2 (Supplements Only) ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround [1] => French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround [2] => Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Featurettes [1] => Theatrical Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English Subtitles [1] => English SDH [2] => French Subtitles [3] => Spanish Subtitles [4] => Portugese Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Biography [1] => Drama ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Kristen Stewart [1] => Jena Malone [2] => Marcia Gay Harden [3] => Hal Holbrook [4] => Emile Hirsch [5] => William Hurt [6] => Catherine Keener [7] => Vince Vaughn ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Sean Penn ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => This is the true story of Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch). Freshly graduated from college with a promising future ahead, McCandless instead walked out of his privileged life and into the wild in search of adventure. What happened to him on the way transformed this young wanderer into an enduring symbol for countless people -- a fearless risk-taker who wrestled with the precarious balance between man and nature. [preview_technology_specifications] => • Featurettes: "The Story, The Characters," "The Experience"
• Theatrical Trailer [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 26644 [review_bottom_line] => Recommended [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 48848 [review_movie_stars] => 4 [review_movie] =>

Before Sean Penn decided to adapt it to film, prompting its reissue with one of those obnoxious "Now a Major Motion Picture" tie-in editions (is there ever a Minor Motion Picture?), published copies of Jon Krakauer's non-fiction bestseller 'Into the Wild', which was based on a widely publicized true story, freely divulged the fate of its main character right on the front cover. With that in mind, I don't consider it a plot spoiler to mention that the movie's hero dies before the end credits. Structured non-linearly with many flash-forwards to his final days, the film makes no pretense of hiding this fact as any sort of surprise twist, and indeed knowledge of the inevitable outcome gives the story its greatest emotional resonance.

After graduating from college in the Spring of 1990, Christopher McCandless, a young man from a wealthy but dysfunctional family, went out to dinner with his parents and discussed his plans for law school. They ended the evening on polite, encouraging terms. The next day, McCandless withdrew all of his savings and donated it to Oxfam, cut up his IDs, burned his cash, and headed west in his aging Datsun for an intended spiritual journey. The Datsun didn't make it very far. Rechristening himself as Alexander Supertramp, the boy hitchhiked across the country for the next two years, never contacting anyone from his old life again. An intellectual with a fondness for the writings of Thoreau, Tolstoy, and the adventure stories of Jack London, "Alex" had grown increasingly disillusioned with what he considered modern society's materialistic and hypocritical values. Heeding romantic notions of living a solitary existence communing with nature, he sought to flee from the poisons of civilization, retreating to the wilds of Alaska where he could enthusiastically test his mettle and push his body and mind to their limits. He eventually made it there in April of 1992 and lived for the next four months in an abandoned bus in the woods that had previously been used as a hunters' shelter. He spent the time foraging for edible plants and small game, talking to himself a lot, and keeping a journal of his quest for enlightenment. His dead body was found by moose hunters in September of that year, emaciated to 67 pounds.

As depicted in the book and film, McCandless wasn't an antisocial Unabomber hermit, but rather an idealistic, somewhat confused, and frankly naïve kid trying to find his place in life. During his cross-country trip, he spent a great deal of time in the company of people whose forthrightness or free-spirited natures he admired, including a pair of traveling hippies (played by Catherine Keener and Brian Dierker), a gregarious South Dakota wheat farmer (Vince Vaughn), and a lonely retiree (Hal Holbrook). Alex became part of each of their families, but in the end his mission pushed him away from them, driving him to spend the rest of his life alone.

Ever since Krakauer's book was published, it's been surrounded by accusations of needlessly romanticizing Christopher McCandless and the events leading to his death. Sean Penn's adaptation will no doubt polarize some viewers as well. The author and director clearly believe McCandless to be a sympathetic character, worthy of an audience's emotional involvement. On the other hand, many familiar with the story, especially those that understand a thing or two about wilderness survival, consider him just a stupid kid who threw his life away, essentially committing suicide through his own reckless ignorance. In truth, both points of view have their merits, and are not necessarily opposed to each other. Like many his age, the boy's youthful arrogance fostered a sense of invulnerability, strengthened further after surviving a dangerous kayaking adventure down the Colorado River despite having no experience. Bringing nothing but a bag of rice, a book on local plants, and a .22 caliber rifle, he was certain that he'd be able to sustain himself for an extended duration alone. Obviously, he was wrong, and if he'd taken the time to properly prepare might have survived the ordeal. But it's precisely these flaws in his character, and his inability to recognize them until it was too late to save himself, that makes his story a genuine tragedy. If McCandless had walked out of those woods alive, would there even be a story worth telling?

Setting aside his own public personality as a loud-mouth political activist, Penn has a highly regarded reputation as both an actor and a director, and treats the material with respect and sensitivity. He wisely underplays the potentially melodramatic aspects of the story and draws strong performances from his cast. Although backed by a stellar list of co-stars (Hal Holbrook scored an Oscar nomination for his role), the main burden of the movie falls on the shoulders of Emile Hirsch, the young actor from 'The Girl Next Door' and 'Alpha Dog', who spends much of his screen time completely alone on camera, doing a remarkable job of drawing the audience into the mind of the character. Lovely photography and an understated musical score enhance the sense of atmosphere, as do an assortment of new songs by Eddie Vedder, whose grizzled ballads of alienation and rebellion are exactly the sort of thing that McCandless would have considered personal anthems. Penn has taken a fascinating story and crafted it into a beautiful tone poem, an elegy for lost innocence, and a heartbreaking motion picture.

The HD DVD: Vital Disc Stats

'Into the Wild' comes to HD DVD as one of Paramount Home Entertainment's final releases on the format, available simultaneously with 'Things We Lost in the Fire'. Almost immediately after announcing its intention to transition High Definition production back to the Blu-ray format, the studio cancelled the remainder of its previously announced HD DVD slate. In all likelihood, the only reason this title made it to retailer shelves is that the discs were already in the distribution chain at the time of the decision and couldn't be conveniently recalled.

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 5411 [review_video] =>

At least there's no faulting the technical quality of the presentation. 'Into the Wild' has beautiful photography shot in a variety of scenic locations, and Penn artfully exploits the scope 2.35:1 aspect ratio, frequently placing important information at the extreme edges of the frame and occasionally even indulging in split-screen montages. The 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer is rich and film-like, with a strong representation of fine object detail and a nicely balanced contrast range. The naturalistic colors appear accurate, if not always showy.

The photography is sometimes grainy, and the picture is a little soft here and there (razor sharpness wasn't necessarily desired). There are moments where it looks like the studio may have applied some Digital Noise Reduction to tame film grain, but generally speaking the image has wonderful filmic textures.

[review_audio_stars] => 4 [review_audio_picture_id] => 0 [review_audio] =>

The Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 soundtrack is more notable for its use of quietness than sonic bombast. The mix is a study in understatement, consisting largely of production audio and filled with scenes where subtle ambient cues dominate the soundscape. Dialogue and sound effects are always reproduced with effective clarity. The surround channels are reserved for environmental envelopment, with almost no attention-grabbing directional effects. The score by Michael Brook and songs by Eddie Vedder are both delivered with pleasing fidelity and breadth.

[review_supplements_stars] => 2 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 5413 [review_supplements] =>

Technically, content on the HD DVD is a duplication of the "2-Disc Collector's Edition" DVD release of the film, which only makes it all the more disappointing to discover how sparse the bonus features are.

  • Into the Wild: The Story, The Characters (SD, 22 min.) – Produced by Laurent Bouzereau, this half-documentary features interviews with Sean Penn, author John Krakauer, Emile Hirsch, Hal Holbrook, Eddie Vedder, William Hurt, Jena Malone, and Kristen Stewart. All discuss their fascination and connection with the material.
  • Into the Wild: The Experience (SD, 17 min.) – A continuation of the above (this was clearly intended as a single documentary that's been broken into halves to reduce the participants' royalty payments), here we get a look at the production of the film. Topics include Hirsch's scary weight loss (he went from 156 to 115 pounds), shooting in the wilderness, locations, the bus, photography, costumes, sound design, editing, the musical score, and Vedder's songs.
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD, 3 min.)

Seriously, that's all. If you think that's disappointing enough for an HD DVD, consider that Paramount had the gall to issue two separate DVD editions: one with no bonus content at all, and a more expensive version that needlessly placed these measly 40 minutes of featurettes onto a second disc to make it seem more "collectible."

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 5412 [review_bonus_content] =>

There are no HD DVD exclusives.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 3.5 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts] =>

As the HD DVD format winds down production, worthy titles are still finding release even at the end. 'Into the Wild' is a moving film presented with terrific High Definition picture and sound, though the bonus features are pretty slim. Recommended.

) ) [1] => Array ( [review_id] => 1237 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => noreservations [review_release_date] => 1204617600 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => No Reservations [picture_created] => 1194637386 [picture_name] => no-reservations-hd-dvddvd-combo-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/11/09/120/no-reservations-hd-dvddvd-combo-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1237/noreservations.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2007 [run_time] => 104 [release_date_notes] => Rescheduled from February 12, 2008 [list_price] => 39.98 [asin] => B0010HOZX0 [amazon_price] => 25.15 [empire_id] => 1382212 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.40:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => TV Special ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD/DVD [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc/DVD-9 Dual-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (640kbps) [1] => French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround [2] => Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => TV Special ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English Subtitles [1] => French Subtitles [2] => Spanish Subtitles ) [review_editors_notes] => Non-format-specific portions of this review were first published in our Blu-ray review of 'No Reservations.' [review_bottom_line] => Rent it First [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 46310 [review_movie_stars] => 2.5 [review_movie] =>

An undiscovered talent in the kitchen. A brash head chef who can't see past appearances to acknowledge a gifted new cook. A budding love affair developing amidst the creation of exciting new dishes. A tale of joy and heart ache that culminates in a climactic showdown of willpower and determination. Sigh... 'Ratatouille' is an amazing film. 'No Reservations' on the other hand, is a trite exercise in heartstring cliches and audience manipulation.

Kate Armstrong (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is a tough-as-nails career chef who runs the kitchen at a high-brow restaurant in New York City. When she reveals a penchant for Gordon Ramsey-style tantrums after insulting several customers, her boss (Patricia Clarkson) orders her to seek psychiatric help. As Kate's life begins to unravel, her sister dies in a tragic accident and leaves her daughter Zoe (Abigail Breslin from 'Little Miss Sunshine') in the feisty chef's care. But wait... there's more! When Kate returns to work, she has to contend with a new sous chef named Nick (Aaron Eckhart) who grates away at her very last nerve. With every aspect of her life in limbo, Kate slowly but surely learns a thing or two about life, love, and happiness.

My major gripe with 'No Reservations' is that it suffers from identity crisis. The first act sets the stage for a dark drama involving an unlikable lead character struggling with the death of a sister, the responsibilities of caring for a child, and the total upheaval of her career. The second act takes a sharp left turn, suddenly becoming a comedy of errors as Kate fights against the inevitable changes in her life. Then the third act again jumps the genre ship, becoming a romantic comedy as Kate and Nick are suddenly attracted to each other for no apparent reason. I would have liked 'No Reservations' a lot more if it had picked a tone and stuck with it. I have to admit, I did enjoy the three separate acts, I just disliked how disjointed they were from each other. What could have been a uniquely dark drama, comedy, or romantic comedy, simply became an exercise in cinematic hopscotch.

Making matters worse, the cast is underused and pigeonholed in predictable, unappealing roles. Zeta-Jones is limited by the intensity of her anger and the extreme nature of her character, while Eckhart's only purpose seems to be to snap Kate out of her fun. Breslin is also wasted in a part that charges her with the task of looking sad. The trio don't develop their relationships naturally, and awakenings in their personalities occur at random, rather than for logical reasons. In short, the characters are at the mercy of the story. The entire film feels scripted and predictable, lacking both the bounce of better romantic comedies and the edge of darker dramas.

'Ratatouille' may be an animated movie, but its filmmakers really understood the careful balance needed to pull off drastic tonal shifts while producing authentic character development. 'No Reservations' merely feels like a live action copycat, one that pulls disjointed elements from better films, crams them together, and prays that they stick. The filmmakers took an interesting risk, but the ends fail to justify the means. I know there's an audience out there who will enjoy this film despite its faults, but I thought it was an middle-of-the-road, melting-pot experiment that never managed to weave its individual pieces into a compelling whole.

[review_video_stars] => 3 [review_video_picture_id] => 5152 [review_video] =>

'No Reservations' is presented with a soft-focus 1080p/VC-1 transfer (identical to the Blu-ray encode) that ultimately fails to distinguish itself from the standard DVD. Make no mistake, in a quick comparison to the flipside of this combo disc, it's pretty easy to see the distinct resolution and stability upgrades inherent to the HD DVD -- the high definition colors are more vibrant, details are crisper, and contrast is steadier. However, I was really surprised to see how many scenes didn't have the three dimensional pop I've come to expect from a new release. If I didn't know better, I would think I was watching a ten-year-old catalog film. Fine details are hit-or-miss, long shots are often fuzzy, and on-screen text is sometimes as difficult to make out as it is on the standard DVD. Black levels are also inconsistent -- sometimes producing gorgeous shadows, while at other times barely dropping below charcoal gray.

As it stands, the biggest upgrade on display centers around the condition of the source. The HD DVD version doesn't suffer from the artifacting and source noise that appear from time to time on the DVD. Devotees of 'No Reservations' will certainly want to pick up the HD DVD edition as it has the edge, but casual fans should hold their wallets and wait for this to go on sale.

[review_audio_stars] => 3 [review_audio_picture_id] => 5153 [review_audio] =>

A romantic comedy isn't the sort of film I usually throw in to wow friends, and 'No Reservations' doesn't change that. The HD DVD version includes a Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 surround track, but don't be fooled by the "Plus" tag -- this is the same 640kbps mix that appears on the Blu-ray edition. Regardless, even though I expected a disappointment, this little-mix-that-could is more than capable of handling such an insignificant soundscape. While dialogue may be clear and nicely prioritized, the remainder of the soundfield is practically trapped in a vacuum. The rear channels are particularly silent, and the front channels rarely engage the listener -- for a busy kitchen, the soundfield lacks proper acoustics and background details. Dynamics are decent, but uninspired LFE support makes the entire track fall flat.

Don't get me wrong, the audio track isn't a technical bust -- it just sounds far too similar to the audio track on the standard DVD to earn much praise. Aside from a noticeable boost in fidelity, I had a difficult time telling the two apart.

[review_supplements_stars] => 0.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 0 [review_supplements] =>

The HD DVD edition of 'No Reservations' includes the lone supplement that appears on the standard DVD -- an episode of a 23-minute Food Network show called "Unwrapped," hosted by Marc Summers, in which Zeta-Jones, Eckhart, and the real chefs who were consulted by the filmmakers, generally blather on about nothing of significant interest. My wife and I are hopelessly addicted to cooking shows, but this one gets a big "meh" from me.

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0.5 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content] =>

Warner attempts to sweeten the supplemental pot by offering up an exclusive addition to the high-def editions of 'No Reservations' -- a 45-minute episode of "Emeril Live" with special guests Aaron Eckhart and the young Abigail Breslin. The trio work to produce several dishes that appear in the film, but essentially participate in some fairly heavy-handed self-promotion that spoils the fun. This is certainly better than the episode of "Unwrapped," but still left me wondering why a pair of cooking shows were the best features Warner could drum up.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 2.5 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 5154 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'No Reservations' has more to offer than a typical romantic comedy, but it still falls short of its potential, ultimately drowning in a debilitating identity crisis. The HD DVD disc doesn't help matters, as it features a soft transfer, an underwhelming audio track, and an anemic pair of supplemental TV episodes. While I think the movie itself is decent enough to warrant a look for genre fans, the average HD production values should convince you that a rental is a safer bet.

) ) [2] => Array ( [review_id] => 1294 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => thingswelostinthefire [review_release_date] => 1204617600 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Things We Lost in the Fire [picture_created] => 1199901859 [picture_name] => things-we-lost.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => DreamWorks Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/01/09/120/things-we-lost.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1294/thingswelostinthefire.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2007 [run_time] => 118 [release_date_notes] => Postponed from February 12, 2008 [list_price] => 39.98 [asin] => B00112GBHW [amazon_price] => 27.95 [empire_id] => 1382614 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.35:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD 30GB Dual Layer ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround [1] => Spanish Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround [2] => French Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Featurette [1] => Deleted Scenes [2] => Theatrical Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => English Subtitles [2] => Spanish Subtitles [3] => French Subtitles [4] => Portuguese Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Drama ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => David Duchovony [1] => Benecio Del Toro [2] => Halle Berry ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Susanne Bier ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => A recent widow invites her husband's troubled best friend to live with her and her two children. As he gradually turns his life around, he helps the family cope and confront their loss. [preview_technology_specifications] => • "A Discussion About Things We Lost In The Fire" Audio Commentary with Cast & Crew
• Deleted Scenes (HD)
• Theatrical Trailer (HD) [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 30227 [review_editors_notes] =>

Non-format specific portions of this review also appear in our Blu-ray review of 'Things We Lost in the Fire.'

[review_bottom_line] => Give it a Rent [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 49415 [review_movie_stars] => 3 [review_movie] =>

Dramas come in two flavors: associative and manipulative. Associative dramas allow any viewer to bring their personal experiences into the theater and incorporate their own emotions into the story. On the opposite end of the spectrum are manipulative dramas, which live and die on the shoulders of their director's agenda. These films are designed from the ground up to elicit specific emotions, convey particular beliefs, and convert the masses. Cry on cue! Feel sympathy! Despise her! Endear yourself to him! From the moment I saw the trailer for 'Things We Lost in the Fire,' I knew it would either be a compelling character study that said something about the human condition or a cinematic rails-shooter out to yank my heart strings.

When Audrey Burke (Halle Berry) answers a late night knock at her door, she comes face to face with the news that her husband Brian (David Duchovny) has been shot and killed. Struggling to piece together her life and still function as a mother to her two children, Audrey takes solace in the company of Jerry (Benicio Del Toro), a heroin addict Brian had been helping overcome his addiction. Audrey invites Jerry into her life and he seems to thrive -- he grows close to her children, helps her deal with crushing grief, and lends a helping hand where it's needed. But every day introduces a new internal battle for Jerry as he has to decide if resisting his old lifestyle is worth so much pain.

'Things We Lost in the Fire' has a lot of potential. Benicio Del Toro is magnificent as Jerry, injecting layer upon layer of nuanced emotion into his performance. He doesn't just play an addict, he inhabits an addict; taking on the physical yearning, deep seeded depression, and volatile desperation that haunts those who have recently abused heroin. I'll also give the film a lot of credit for avoiding a stereotypical third-act love story between Jerry and Audrey. Theirs is a platonic relationship, in which each person is merely searching for companionship while dealing with their struggles. Both characters are plagued by memories of their recent pasts, but neither crosses the line into romance or lust. By that token, 'Things We Lost in the Fire' registers as a real story about real people while dodging the clichés of its genre brethren -- there is no bright and happy ending, there is no replacement for such great loss, there are no quick fixes for broken hearts.

Alas, director Susanne Bier has a blatant agenda in store for her viewers. She doesn't simply tug at heart strings, she wraps her fists around 'em and drags the entire audience around like a pack of lost puppies. Close-ups of Jerry let us know when we're supposed to connect with his pain, closer close-ups of Audrey let us know that she feels vulnerable, and skewed shots of the children let us know that the Burke family is in danger of being consumed by its own grief. Every scene leads succinctly to the next, but the results feel scripted and plotted to extract very specific emotional responses. As such, people inclined to feel Bier's intended emotions will probably enjoy 'Things We Lost in the Fire' quite a bit, while those who experience different feelings from the director's pre-programmed responses (like me) will encounter a palpable disconnect from the characters and the story.

My wife really responded to 'Things We Lost in the Fire' -- so much so that she was more than a little perturbed with me when I expressed my disappointment. It seems she tapped into Bier's intentions and, as a result, connected with the film and its characters. Personally, I enjoyed Del Toro's performance and the director's rejection of genre schlock, but I couldn't get past the feeling that I was being readily manipulated for no apparent reason.

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 5436 [review_video] =>

To be honest, I wasn't expecting to be wowed by the 1080p/AVC-encoded HD DVD release of 'Things We Lost in the Fire.' When I caught the film in theaters last year, its muted palette and grainy inconsistencies left me feel indifferent, but while the film's colors still adhere to the story's drab tone, Paramount's high-def spitshine has really improved the clarity and depth of the image, allowing it to surpass both the theatrical print and the standard DVD. Director Susanne Bier frequently relies on close-ups, and the transfer does a fantastic job showcasing every wrinkle and pore in Benicio Del Toro's face. In fact, detail is outstanding across the board -- aside from a few soft, filmic shots here and there, the transfer renders naturalistic skin, textured faces, and believable clothing. I didn't notice any intrusive artifacting, distracting source noise, or pesky edge enhancement. Aside from a moderate veneer of grain, the image is stable and clean.

My only complaint is that the film's contrast levels are over indulgent, crushing heavy shadows and overheating whites on a regular basis. Delineation is average and fleshtones often look as if they're being barraged with light. While the stark cinematography is certainly intentional, it makes for a less-than-attractive experience, one that heightens the tone of the film, but detracts from technical consistency and tonal authenticity. Even so, I can't imagine 'Things We Lost in the Fire' looking much better than it does here.

[review_audio_stars] => 2 [review_audio_picture_id] => 5437 [review_audio] =>

Unfortunately, the Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 surround track included with 'Things We Lost in the Fire' is utterly underwhelming and far too similar to the basic Dolby mix found on the standard DVD. The soundfield is as front heavy as they come -- the rear surrounds toss out a few ambient noises, but ultimately remain silent throughout the film. Even the interior scenes don't seem to benefit from the acoustic realism other quiet films have created on their surround tracks. The LFE channel is asleep at the wheel as well, piping up during a handful of occasions to deliver mediocre low-end support. Making matters worse, dialogue sometimes falls to inaudible levels that forced me to turn on the subtitle track to compensate. As it stands, I can't tell if the mix suffers from lazy design, an apathetic director, or a series of technical inadequacies.

I didn't expect 'Things We Lost in the Fire' to hit me in the face with sonic trickery -- I knew it was a quiet film going in. However, I've heard plenty of subtle tracks on other HD DVD releases that have managed to craft intricate soundscapes and develop a believable ambient presence. Sadly, this centralized, amateur hour mix is a complete disappointment and I wouldn't be surprised if people had a difficult time discerning the difference between the standard DVD audio and this high-def offering.

[review_supplements_stars] => 1 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 5438 [review_supplements] =>

The HD DVD edition of 'Things We Lost in the Fire' includes all of the supplements from the standard DVD. Alas, it doesn't amount to much. Considering the distinct tone and direction of the film, I'm surprised there isn't a director's commentary to elaborate on the information presented in the main featurette.

  • A Discussion About Things We Lost in the Fire (SD, 20 minutes) -- This fairly low key featurette worked hard to gain my favor, rejecting the usual EPK mannerisms and delivering an abundance of interesting information and film analysis. Director Susanne Bier is on hand throughout the mini-doc to explain the earliest work on the script, the shoot, and her goals for the production. I have to admit, it made me appreciate the film a bit more than I originally did in theaters. This may be cinematically blasphemous, but you may want to consider watching this intriguing featurette before you check out the flick itself.
  • Deleted Scenes (SD, 9 minutes) -- The seven cuts included in this collection are good for a quick watch, but wouldn't have helped the film's pacing. Slow and plodding, the only thing I really enjoyed was the extra time devoted to Benicio Del Toro's performance as Jerry.
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2 minutes)
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content] =>

Nothing.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 2.5 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 5439 [review_final_thoughts] =>

In a week where Paramount released a phenomenal biopic like 'Into the Wild' on HD DVD, a plodding drama like 'Things We Lost in the Fire' doesn't have a lot to offer straggling format purists. It boasts a remarkable video transfer, but it can't recover from a lackluster Dolby Digital Plus audio track and an anemic collection of supplements. If you can find the HD DVD edition of 'Things We Lost in the Fire' in a rental store, plop down your four bucks and give it a rent. Otherwise, track down the standard DVD long before you consider blind buying this one.

) ) ) ) [February 26, 2008] => Array ( [reviews] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 1304 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => beowulf2007 [review_release_date] => 1204012800 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Beowulf: The Director's Cut (2007) [picture_created] => 1200510349 [picture_name] => beowulf-2007-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Paramount Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/01/16/120/beowulf-2007-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1304/beowulf2007.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2007 [run_time] => 114 [list_price] => 39.98 [asin] => B0011QC9U6 [amazon_price] => 27.95 [empire_id] => 1383618 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.35:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => PiP Featurette [1] => Interactive Featurette [2] => Featurettes [3] => Web Enabled Content ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround [1] => French Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround [2] => Spanish Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Featurettes [1] => Deleted Scenes [2] => Theatrical Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => English Subtitles [2] => French Subtitles [3] => Spanish Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Adventure [1] => Animation [2] => Fantasy ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Anthony Hopkins [1] => Angelina Jolie [2] => Ray Winstone ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Robert Zemeckis ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => The warrior Beowulf must fight and defeat the monster Grendel who is terrorizing towns, and later, Grendel's mother, who begins killing out of revenge. [preview_technology_specifications] => TBA [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => TBA [preview_forum_id] => 31095 [review_editors_notes] =>

Non-format specific portions of this review also appear in our Blu-ray review of 'Beowulf: The Director's Cut.'

[review_easter_eggs] =>

For a quick, one-minute bonus called "A Coffee Break with John Malkovich," highlight "A Hero's Journey" and press left on your remote. Click on the icon that appears and enjoy some more mo-cap shennanigans. Thanks to both "Liqwid" and Eddie Feng ("Posters5") for the tip!

[review_easter_eggs_added] => 1204299820 [review_bottom_line] => Recommended [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 45762 [review_movie_stars] => 3.5 [review_movie] =>

Blame it on the dusty literature degree in my closet or my lingering love of epic poems, but "Beowulf" remains one of my favorite tales. Its characters are simple and its monsters abhorrently evil, but its language is ethereal despite its brutality. So it was with great trepidation and excitement that I tromped out to the theater to see director Robert Zemeckis' computer animated adaptation. Sure, I wanted more characterization than the ancient poem provided, but I still wanted to see a certain faithfulness to the original text. Honestly, I had lofty expectations.

When a lavish banquet is interrupted by a murderous beast named Grendel (voiced by Crispin Glover), King Hrothgar (Anthony Hopkins) seals the blood-soaked dining hall and offers half the gold in his kingdom to any hero who can kill the monster. Answering this call to arms, a legendary hero named Beowulf (Ray Winstone) arrives and slays the creature. The kingdom celebrates until the monster's mother, a sultry, aquatic demon (Angelina Jolie), descends and kills Beowulf's men. The hero then sets out for revenge, ultimately discovering more than he anticipated in the cavernous dwelling of the siren.

After Beowulf returns with word that Grendel and its mother have been slain, Hrothgar declares that, upon his death, Beowulf should be crowned king and marry the Queen (Robin Wright-Penn). The film then jumps decades into the future, revealing Beowulf as king of a very prosperous kingdom. Unfortunately, mistakes from Beowulf's past come back to haunt him as a fire dragon begins to ravage the countryside. Beowulf has to muster his strength and fight another monster to preserve his legacy and save his kingdom.

Sound simple? Believe me, it's not. Writers Roger Avery and Neil Gaiman make several fascinating departures from the classic text, uniting the punctuated vignettes of the original epic by making Beowulf into the flawed hero in a classic tragedy. Grendel's family tree, Beowulf's encounter with Grendel's mother, and the origins of the fire dragon have been drastically changed. More importantly, Beowulf is no longer a confident braggart, but rather a man wrapped in his own lies and exaggerations. He seems to believe he won't be respected if his tale isn't grand enough, and seem to resort to deception more often than the creatures he so mercilessly dispatches. Surprisingly, these changes work extremely well, allowing the filmmakers to deconstruct Beowulf as a character while exploring the contrast between truth and legend.

Unlike the grim and gritty realist take on the poem found in 'Beowulf & Grendel,' Zemeckis expands the fantastical elements of the story even further -- Grendel is now a tormented behemoth, his mother is a seductive siren, and the fire dragon is a shape-shifting demon with revenge in his heart. Even so, these alterations never neuter the beasts, but rather make them more threatening than they've been before. Grendel's rage is no longer animalistic, his mother's attack isn't a simplistic response, and the fire dragon isn't merely a creature of chance.

If anything, Zemeckis's 'Beowulf' manages to fill in the gaps that have allowed people to peg this epic poem as an irrelevant tale of mythological heroes and monsters. By deftly humanizing the protagonists and antagonists, the struggles between the men and monsters have a lasting psychological relevance. As such, the story becomes an allegory for the misunderstandings and miscommunications that have plagued real-world conflicts throughout history. 'Beowulf' emerges as a tale of pride that forces a seemingly impervious hero to come to terms with his own fallacies and inadequacies. Each time Beowulf is confronted by the truth of his decisions, his face reflects his shame. His ability to overcome that shame makes his actions more heroic than if we were simply portrayed as a classic mythological hero.

Unfortunately, I still have a few major issues with specific design hiccups that yanked me out of the experience. To start, Grendel's final look just doesn't sit well with me. I appreciate the representation of unbearable suffering in his gnarled form, but I think his rubbery face and clumsy strides rob his attacks of their sheer horror. More troublesome are several 'Austin Power'-style gags Zemeckis uses to cloak Beowulf's nudity in his fight with Grendel -- a dropped sword, a cloud of smoke, and plenty of conveniently placed forearms are cheap and laughable tricks that interrupt the tone of the film. If Beowulf decides to face Grendel's mother in a pair of boxer-briefed loincloths, why resort to comical cover-ups in the hero's showdown with Grendel?

Worst of all, Zemeckis's motion captured faces lack the nuanced expressiveness of his cast's live-action performances. The PiP feature included on this HD DVD release reveals dozens of these subtle shortcomings. Robin Wright-Penn is more haunting and effective in person, Anthony Hopkins uses his eyes more than the animators could capture, and Ray Winstone imbues Beowulf with more visual vulnerability than the stoic hero who appears on screen. I found myself growing more and more disenchanted with the animation -- by the end of the film, it was clear that Zemeckis's vision would have been better realized if 'Beowulf' had been shot as a live action epic in the vein of 'The Lord of the Rings.'

'Beowulf' isn't a perfect film by any means, but it is an exceptionally interesting retelling of a classic epic poem. I really found myself getting into the complexities of the tale and the manner in which Avery and Gaiman reworked the central characters. Zemeckis's computer animation techniques still have a long way to go before he can capture all of the facial subtleties of live-action performances, but the CGI does provides plenty of thrilling action scenes and battle sequences. In the end, 'Beowulf' is as flawed as its hero, but it's still worth the investment of your time.

Note that this HD DVD edition contains the "Director's Cut" of 'Beowulf.' It's the same length as the theatrical cut, but packs in a noticeably elevated level of blood and gore. Personally, I prefer the "Director's Cut" simply because it doesn't pull as many punches, but it doesn't make a significant difference in the story itself.

[review_video_stars] => 5 [review_video_picture_id] => 5244 [review_video] =>

Straight from the digital source, Paramount has put together a bold, crisp 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer that is, by my estimation, flawless. The palette simmers with warm golds and soft oranges, leaving skintones intentionally bronzed in firelight and quite naturalistic beneath cloudy skies. The colors are never overwhelming, but lend a certain otherworldliness to the creatures that fill the tale. Contrast is dead on and blacks are deep without leaving much to the imagination -- Hrothgar's dark kingdom is teeming with subtle details in the shadows, and delineation is exactly as I remember it in the theater. Want to be impressed? Skip to the scene where Grendel's mother confronts Beowulf and scan the corpses and trinkets discarded throughout the cave. Pay particular attention to the individual, phosphorescent dots in the water that shoot outward with each of the hero's steps. Then head for the fire dragon attack and note the individual scales, the teeth, and the crumbling debris from the castle walls.

Best of all, there isn't a hint of artifacting, noise, or compression issues to hinder the proceedings -- I didn't even spot significant color banding despite the fact that some scenes take place underwater and others beneath gray skies. All in all, this is a spectacular, reference quality transfer that makes for a great demo disc.

[review_audio_stars] => 5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 5245 [review_audio] =>

Pound for pound, the Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 surround track included on the HD DVD edition of 'Beowulf' is out for blood. Dynamics literally shake the room with powerful LFE support, booming low-end thooms, and crystal clear treble tones. From the opening credits, the '300'-esque soundtrack hit me square in the chest and refused to relent -- by the time Beowulf found himself fighting sea monsters in the midst of a storm, I was convinced this mix could do no wrong. Rear support was shockingly aggressive and provided some of the most involving immersive qualities I've encountered in a soundfield. Listen to Grendel's initial attack -- soldiers are flung across the room, chairs shatter and skitter across the floor, and the creature's screams echo around the hall perfectly. Better still, head for the scene in which the fire dragon attacks and pay attention to his thunderous wings, the roar of his flames, and the cries of his victims. I went back and watched this sequence two times just to enjoy the audio experience alone.

To top it all off, dialogue was crystal clear and nicely prioritized within the chaos. I didn't have problems deciphering lines or instinctually understanding the placement of every object and character in the soundfield. If I have any nitpick, it's that Paramount didn't see fit to up the ante with an uncompressed or TrueHD mix. Still, the DD Plus track is reference quality through and through, and an easy frontrunner for best HD audio in 2008.

[review_supplements_stars] => 2 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 5246 [review_supplements] =>

'Beowulf' is being released simultaneously in three editions -- a single disc standard DVD, a single disc Unrated DVD, and a two disc Unrated HD DVD. The HD DVD retains all of the features that appear on both standard versions and presents them in full high definition. Paramount has even thrown in a massive helping of exclusive content (discussed in the next section) to sweeten the deal. The only thing noticeably absent from the supplemental package (both regular and exclusive) is an audio commentary from Robert Zemeckis -- a surprise considering how vocal he's become on the merits of his motion captured performances.

  • A Hero's Journey: The Making of Beowulf (HD, 24 minutes) -- This intriguing featurette begins as Zemeckis introduces the cast to the motion capture studio. He explains the technology, the interactive objects, and the process they should expect with the shoot. From there, a group of fly-on-the-wall cameras follow Winstone and crew as the motion capture devices are applied to their faces, as they interact on set, and as they experience Zemeckis's shooting method for the first time. The featurette even documents visits from writer (and comics legend) Neil Gaiman, actor Tom Hanks, and a few other surprise guests. The film's cast members are incredibly amicable in spite of the challenges and frustrations presented by the abnormal shoot and I found myself laughing quite a few times. This is an excellent behind-the-scenes featurette that thoroughly explores every aspect of the pre-animated production.
  • Deleted Scenes (HD, 12 minutes) -- A collection of cuts, most of which are presented as unfinished animatics. I don't think any of the cuts would have enhanced the film or the story, but it's tough to tell when the animation hasn't been completed. Also of note, five of the deleted scenes are exclusive to the HD DVD edition.
  • Beasts of Burden: Designing the Creatures of Beowulf (HD, 7 minutes) -- Artist interviews, concept art, storyboards, and animatics are brought together to explore the creation of the sea serpents, the mermaid, Grendel, his mother, and the fire dragon. This featurette blazes by rather quickly, but it's certainly worth your time. It reveals just enough details to give a nice overview of the majority of the creature design decisions used in the film.
  • The Origins of Beowulf (HD, 5 minutes) -- Writers Roger Avery and Neil Gaiman join Zemeckis in a discussion of the original story and their adaptation. They talk about the changes they made from the early text, the inferences they made about Grendel's family tree (as well as the origin of the fire dragon), and a major change they brought to Beowulf's encounter with Grendel's mother.
  • Creating the Ultimate Beowulf (HD, 2 minutes) -- This featurette finally answers why Ray Winstone was cast in the film if Zemeckis's hero was meant to look like a completely different person. It's a bit too short, but it answers most of the questions I had and continues to make me appreciate the director's ultimate goals with his motion capture endeavors.
  • The Art of Beowulf (HD, 5 minutes) -- I really enjoyed this detailed look at the art direction in the film. It explores the sketches, concept art, models, color tests, and historical research that led to Beowulf's stylized palette.
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2 minutes)
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 3 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 5247 [review_bonus_content] =>

The exclusive content Paramount has put together for 'Beowulf' comes in a variety of flavors -- PiP features, interactive featurettes, and additional surprises, all presented in high definition.

  • Beowulf In the Volume -- This fascinating video commentary places a fairly steady Picture-in-Picture overlay in the bottom right corner of the film. As the movie plays, the small window displays storyboards, animatics, and, most interestingly, footage of the cast members recording their parts in a 25' by 25' motion capture studio. I really enjoyed watching the actors interact with each other and I ended up watching the entire track from beginning to end. Strangely, the overlay disappears anytime Grendel's mother graces the screen -- since she appears as a nearly-nude demon in the film, I'm surprised Jolie took issue with her motion capture footage being used in the supplemental content.
    Still, the only major problem with this PiP presentation is that it serves as both a blessing and a curse to the film itself. On one hand, the motion capture footage showcases how much of the actors' expressiveness was retained and utilized by the animators. On the other hand, it shines an unforgiving light on the gap between the nuanced, live action performances and the animated end results.
  • A Hero's Journey: Interactive Version (HD, 44 minutes) -- As an added bonus, this HD DVD release offers fans an interactive version of the main behind-the-scenes featurette. It's not only packed with interesting pop-up factoids, but it also uses a crest icon to give viewers optional access to a series of brief tech videos. In all, these videos comprise an additional 20 minutes of in-depth content. The mini-featurettes include "Volume," "EOG," "Sets," "Props," "Scanning," "Stunts," "The Attack," "Blocking," and "Crew Antics."
  • The Journey Continues (HD, 20 minutes) -- Don't feel like sitting through the full behind-the-scenes featurette to access the mini-docs? This section of the disc allows you to dig through them one at a time or view the bulk of them with a "play all" option.
  • A Conversation with Robert Zemeckis (HD, 10 minutes) -- A group of students from the University of Southern California toss questions at Zemeckis about the production. It's decent, but ultimately feels a bit repetitive since the director covers a lot of the material found elsewhere in the supplemental package.
  • Web Enabled Content -- Access a selection of mini-featurettes, bios, production details, and trailers.
[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 4.5 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 5248 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'Beowulf: The Director's Cut' is a thrilling animated actioner that expands the classic tale with intriguing additions to the story and the characters. Zemeckis's changes may not always work as intended, but the film soars more often than it stumbles. But regardless of your take on the film itself, the triple threat of a five-star video transfer, audio experience, and supplemental package makes for an incredibly impressive HD DVD release. It's a shame that the death of the HD DVD format will cause many fans to abandon this eleventh hour, technical masterpiece. Hopefully, 'Beowulf: The Director's Cut' will be one of the first titles announced by Paramount when they begin releasing Blu-ray discs later this year.

) ) [1] => Array ( [review_id] => 1353 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => ceciliaandbrynatglyndebourne [review_release_date] => 1204012800 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Cecilia & Bryn At Glyndebourne [picture_created] => 1201201747 [picture_name] => cecilia-bryn-at-glyndebourne.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Opus Arte [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/01/24/120/cecilia-bryn-at-glyndebourne.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1353/ceciliaandbrynatglyndebourne.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2007 [run_time] => 90 [list_price] => 39.99 [asin] => B00118DR14 [amazon_price] => 27.95 [empire_id] => 1388840 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.78:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/TBA ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => TBA ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => None ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English Subtitles [1] => French Subtitles [2] => Dutch Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Music ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => The celebrated Cecilia Bartoli joins Bryn Terfel for a recital of arias and duets recorded at the beautifully refurbished Glyndebourne Opera House. The programme features favourite pieces from Mozart, Rossini and Donizetti, with the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Myung-Whun Chung. [preview_technology_specifications] => None [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 38855 [review_gear] => default [review_video_picture_id] => 0 [review_audio_picture_id] => 0 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 ) ) [2] => Array ( [review_id] => 1400 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => freedomgiftset [review_release_date] => 1204012800 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Freedom: 1-3 Giftset [picture_created] => 1203769776 [picture_name] => freedom-giftset.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Bandai Visual [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/02/23/120/freedom-giftset.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1400/freedomgiftset.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2007 [run_time] => 77 [list_price] => 150.00 [amazon_price] => 0.00 [alt_commerce_link] => https://www.dot-anime.us/mall/shop/dvd?EcLogicName=catalog.detail&item_no=FDMFIGSET [alt_commerce_text] => Buy now from dot-Anime.us [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.78:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => PiP Featurettes [1] => PiP Storyboards [2] => PiP CG Renders [3] => HDi Enhanced Content [4] => Web-Enabled Content ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => 3-Disc Set [2] => HD DVD/DVD Twin-Format Discs [3] => HD-15 Single-Layer/DVD 5 Single-Layer ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => Japanese Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5 Mbps) [1] => Japanese PCM 2.0 Stereo ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Trailers ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Anime ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Daisuke Namikawa ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Shuhei Morita ) [preview_plot_synopsis] =>

Special giftset of 'Freedom' volumes 1 - 3 with Takeru figure and 6-inch vehicle.

FREEDOM 1
What do you do when you discover everything you believe is a lie... and your freedom an illusion? Entering forbidden territory, Takeru has uncovered Eden's most closely guarded secret -- and finds himself being hunted by the Guidance Council. Shattered and disillusioned, Takeru recklessly attempts to escape to the only place he can discover the truth -- and secure his freedom.

FREEDOM 2
During routine maintenance on the lunar surface, Takeru finds a strange capsule containing a single photograph. Captivated by the enigmatic girl in the photo, he scours the city in vain for clues to her identity. In desperation, Takeru and friends turn to old man Alan ? and are shocked by what he reveals. In search of the truth, Takeru and Kazuma escape Eden, but are soon pursued by mysterious robots. Will they head back to safety ? or speed past the point of no return?

FREEDOM 3
In the 23rd century, mankind has fled earth and emigrated to the moon. The last outpost of civilization is the Lunar Republic of Eden, where the omnipresent Citizens Administration Council grants residents everything they need?except their freedom. His mandatory education complete, 15-year-old Takeru is in a six-month period of freedom while the Council determines his social status. Uneasy about the future, Takeru and friends decide to race their customized Lunar Terrain Vehicle in the ultimate tube race!

[review_gear] => default [review_video_picture_id] => 0 [review_audio_picture_id] => 0 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 ) ) [3] => Array ( [review_id] => 1155 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => freedomvol4 [review_release_date] => 1204012800 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Freedom: 4 [picture_created] => 1200987351 [picture_name] => freedom-4-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Bandai Visual [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/01/21/120/freedom-4-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1155/freedomvol4.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2006 [run_time] => 25 [list_price] => 39.99 [amazon_price] => 0.00 [empire_id] => 1391707 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.78:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => PiP Featurette [1] => HDi Enhanced Content [2] => Web-Enabled Content ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD/DVD Twin-Format Disc [1] => HD-15 Single-Layer/DVD 5 Single-Layer ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => Japanese Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5 Mbps) [1] => Japanese PCM 2.0 Stereo ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Anime ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Daisuke Namikawa ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Shuhei Morita ) [preview_technology_specifications] => • Theatrical Trailer [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => • 'Freedom: 3' Digest (Web Enabled)
• 'Freedom: 4' TV Spot (Web Enabled) [preview_forum_id] => 38321 [review_editors_notes] => This disc contains several HDi-enhanced extras which may require a firmware upgrade to your HD DVD player. If you experience playback issues, consult your player's manual for instructions on how to download the latest firmware update. [review_bottom_line] => Rent it First [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 47374 [review_movie_stars] => 2.5 [review_movie] =>

As a guy looking for new ways to say the same thing for the fourth time, I hope you don't mind this inevitable swing at a very dead horse. "The Freedom Project" began as a Japanese promotion by Nissin Cup Noodles to celebrate their 35th anniversary. Commissioning a six-episode anime series called 'Freedom,' the company tapped design legend Katsuhiro Otomo ('Akira,' 'Steamboy') to add a classy flare to what could easily have devolved into an extended commercial for noodles. Bandai Visual has brought the series to the US, dropping each episode on individual HD DVD/DVD twin format discs.

The last three episodes have been a blast. The year is 2267 and the surface of Earth has been ravaged by a devastating climate shift that killed the majority of the planet's population. The survivors colonized the moon, coming together to create Eden, a utopia that quickly devolved into a crime-ridden civilization of street gangs and disenchanted citizens. Rising from the ashes of this oppressive dystopia, a young dreamer named Takeru (voiced by Daisuke Namikawa) stumbled onto a secret that threatened to unravel Eden's web of deceit. With a photograph of a mysterious girl in hand and a horde of war mechs on his trail, Takeru and his friends managed to escape Eden. When last we left them, the gang was in a clunky shuttle headed for Earth, the one place where Takeru could finally uncover the truth.

Unfortunately, the series takes a dramatic downshift in its fourth outing. Instead of following the pace established in the first three volumes, this episode practically pauses all plot development upon Takeru's crash to Earth. Emerging in the remnants of desert-swept Las Vegas, he and his friends initially believe the planet has been completely obliterated. It would be a moment of incredible despair if the episode didn't open with a shot of the girl from the photograph watching the ship descend through the atmosphere. This single shot nearly ruins the entire episode -- it tells us she's alive and well, living in a thriving community, and will definitely be found by Takeru. The rest of the episode plods along as Takeru meets a band of hippies on a post-apocalyptic bus and makes his way to the home of the girl in the photograph. There isn't any plot progression, no meaty character development, and very little to make this a crucial episode in the series.

Don't get me wrong, if the 'Freedom' series was bundled as a single, six-episode release, a slow mid-stream episode wouldn't be so painful, but when only given 22 minutes of material at a time (when you don't include the opening and closing credits), every episode really needs to have an impact. 'Freedom 4' is a letdown that makes me worry about the amount of material that must be resolved in the last two episodes. In my review of each of the previous installments, I complained that the minimal runtimes on the 'Freedom' releases made each episode feel much too short for the sales price. Ironically, volume 4 is my least favorite installment and drags on for what seemed an eternity, despite running the same length as the other episodes.

It's also troubling that the series takes a break to introduce a band of nomadic hippies; an annoying group of survivors that felt like a waste of space. They essentially exist to propel Takeru from point A to point B while filling in as much of the series' expositional void as they possibly can. This cheap shortcut in storytelling feels out of place and, frankly, beneath the tightly scripted plot that's been established throughout the first three episodes. The characters didn't register as whimsical or funny to me -- in fact, their brash gags get old as soon as their rickety bus pulls into view.

Worst of all, the minor developments that do occur in 'Freedom 4' changed my perception of Takeru. Before now, he was a budding hero of sorts, defying authority to get to the bottom of a conspiracy everyone else in Eden was more than happy to ignore, but in this fourth episode, his character takes a comical turn and suddenly acts his age, whining and flailing about in stereotypical anime teen fashion. The last climactic moments of the episode have him parading about in a skintight, yellow jump suit that completely undermines his pre-credits discovery. What was once an intriguing young character has quickly become a troublesome focal point of a story teetering on the edge of losing my interest.

Still, I hold out hope for the remaining episodes. It's entirely possible that my harsh reaction to this specific episode has more to do with viewing it as an individual release than if I were viewing all six episodes back-to-back. So consider yourself warned, 'Freedom 4' slams on the breaks and risks undoing everything that's come before it. I really hope the next two volumes have something special up their sleeves to make up for this lumbering bore.

(Note that Bandai Visual has confirmed it will release the final two volumes of the 'Freedom' series as planned. Fans can breathe a sigh of relief that the recent demise of the HD DVD format hasn't changed BV's plans.)

[review_video_stars] => 4.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 5232 [review_video] =>

'Freedom 4' is the fourth US HD DVD to be released on a dual-layer twin-format disc (following the three previous installments in the series). Unlike an HD DVD/DVD Combo Format disc, twin-format discs are single-sided -- one side has a printed label and the other looks like a standard HD DVD. A DVD player will automatically access the DVD-5 layer of the disc, while an HD DVD player will access the HD-15 layer. The end-user doesn't have to fidget with any confusing technical options - instead, the twin-format disc does all the thinking and eliminates the problems that some users have experienced with two-sided discs.

The one consistent element 'Freedom 4' brings to the series as a whole is yet another stunning 1080p/VC-1 transfer. 2D animation simply looks spectacular in high definition -- crisp linework, sharp details, and solid color fills make this series one of the best looking anime titles on the market. Better still, the picture isn't plagued by noise or artifacting, and each frame is extremely clean. This overall precision allows 'Freedom 4' to emerge as a remarkable demo disc, while making the impressive standard DVD presentation look bland by comparison.

Like the previous HD DVD episodes, the only hitch in the presentation is the original source. Static banding and artifacts appear on background images (suggesting these blemishes were present in the graphic files used on the animation cells) and fine linework is a bit pixelated at times (look to the thin lines around characters' eyes and lips). Thankfully, these minor nuisances are relatively insignificant when viewing the presentation as a whole. 'Freedom 4' looks as good as the first three volumes and gives me one thing to feel confident about when it comes to future episodes.

[review_audio_stars] => 3.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 5233 [review_audio] =>

'Freedom 4' features a Japanese language Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 surround track (1.5 Mbps) that does a decent job with this episode's limited soundfield. While the audio tracks on the first three volumes of the 'Freedom' series were afforded plenty of aggressive scenes, the fourth episode is largely driven by front-heavy conversations. Aside from the shuttle crash and a few, brief rides on a bus, the rear channels are silent and unsupportive.

Even so, one can hardly fault the audio track. In spite of the underwhelming sonic experience, the soundscape has obviously received an appropriate amount of attention. Crisp dialogue, great prioritization, and subtle channel movement keep things sounding good regardless of how quiet the episode gets. Sound effects occasionally drift over the top, but dynamics are strong when called upon -- to their credit, the sound designers still know how to tap into the LFE channel, using it from time to time to liven up the proceedings. All in all, 'Freedom 4' sounds as impressive as possible given the circumstances.

[review_supplements_stars] => 0 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 0 [review_supplements] =>

The only bonus that appears on both the HD DVD and DVD layers of 'Freedom 4' is a high definition trailer for the fifth episode.

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 1 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 5234 [review_bonus_content] =>

Like previous HD DVD installments of the series, the exclusive features on this release are presented in a classy manner, but would really benefit from more significant content. Additional behind-the-scenes featurettes or commentaries would certainly help offset the sting of the disc's high cost.

  • Picture-in-Picture Computer Graphics Simulation -- This overlay presents the design work and production sketches that comprised the third volume's creation. It lasts the entire length of the episode and is generally interesting to watch, but the PiP content is merely presented in standard definition.
  • HDi Interactivity -- As the PiP video plays, the placement, size, and transparency of the overlay window can be adjusted on the fly. It's also possible to access English credits and other storyboards via buttons on your remote, but the extra options fail to hide the fact that there isn't a lot of content on the disc to dig through.
  • Web Enabled Content -- If your player is connected to the internet, it's possible to access downloadable content including additional trailers and TV spots.
[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 2.5 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 5235 [review_final_thoughts] =>

The 'Freedom' series continues to be haunted by the limitations of Bandai Visual's single-episode release strategy -- it truncates the available amount of supplemental material, it's far too expensive for the average consumer ($39.99 for each episode), and it makes a slower installment like 'Freedom 4' feel like an underwhelming disappointment. A technically solid audio track and a gorgeous video transfer keep things mildly reasonable, but they can't possibly overcome the shortcomings of this release. 'Freedom 4' is impossible to outright recommend -- if you don't already own previous volumes, give this one a rent long before you consider shelling out any cash.

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Undaunted by his complete lack of knowledge about those ways, he drags his son on a quest to reclaim the past. Failing miserably, Eric begins to think that the modern world with its modern conveniences is the real enemy, and his antics soon leave him on the run from the authorities. [preview_technology_specifications] => TBA [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => TBA [preview_forum_id] => 25419 [review_gear] => default [review_video_picture_id] => 0 [review_audio_picture_id] => 0 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 ) ) [6] => Array ( [review_id] => 1307 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => assassinationofjessejames [review_release_date] => 1204012800 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford [picture_created] => 1198896600 [picture_name] => jesse-james.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Video [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/12/28/120/jesse-james.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1307/assassinationofjessejames.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2007 [run_time] => 160 [release_date_notes] => Rescheduled from February 5, 2008 [list_price] => 35.98 [asin] => B0010V616U [amazon_price] => 24.99 [empire_id] => 1384418 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.40:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => Documentary ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD/DVD Combo [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc/DVD-9 Dual-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (640kbps) [1] => French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (640kbps) [2] => Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (640kbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => None ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English Subtitles [1] => French Subtitles [2] => Spanish Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Drama [1] => Historical [2] => Western ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Brad Pitt [1] => Casey Affleck [2] => Mary-Louise Parker ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Andrew Dominik ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Robert Ford, who's idolized Jesse James since childhood, tries hard to join the reforming gang of the Missouri outlaw, but gradually becomes resentful of the bandit leader. [preview_technology_specifications] => • Documentary: "The Assassination of Jesse James: Death of an Outlaw"
• Theatrical Trailer [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 31218 [review_editors_notes] => Non-format-specific portions of this review were first published in our Blu-ray review of 'The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.' [review_bottom_line] => Worth a Look [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 44723 [review_movie_stars] => 4.5 [review_movie] =>

I have a soft spot for challenging films that defy expectations to deliver truly unique experiences. One look at the 2007 Best Picture Oscar nominees tells me that the Academy is finally beginning to feel the same way. Not to undermine any of the films up for an Oscar, but my sole disappointment with this year's nominees has been the exclusion of 'The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford' from a majority of the major categories.

The end of the Civil War left ex-Confederate brothers Jesse (Brad Pitt) and Frank James (Sam Shepard) determined to continue their fight against the North. Within a few years, they formed a notorious gang that hit Union-owned businesses, banks, and trains, making the men legends in their own time. The film begins in 1881 as the James gang begins to disband and return to their families. Unfortunately, Jesse has a tempting price over his head, and his former friends begin conspiring behind his back. As he uncovers their deceit and punishes those intent on betraying him, a confident upstart named Robert Ford (Casey Affleck) desperately works to earn Jesse's respect. Yet to Robert's frustration, Jesse is constantly looking over his shoulder, unable to trust anyone. As the relationship between the two men takes an adversarial turn, Robert decides to take matters in his own hands and strike first.

Critical hype had given me high expectations when I caught 'The Assassination of Jesse James' in theaters late last year. Unfortunately, my heart sank for the first half hour, as the film seemed to be everything I didn’t want it to be -- aimless, meandering, and temperamental. I couldn't wrap my head around the point of the story or the depiction of its characters. Even more puzzling to me was the way the film had amassed a small army of ardent fans. In my eyes, Jesse was a fuming dolt, Robert was little more than the coward suggested by the film’s title, and the James gang was an insufferable crew of uneducated screw-ups and outcasts. But at some point things changed -- the film began to explore the men hiding behind each facade. Jesse became a calculating genius wearing a mask of Tyler-Durden-esque anarchy and unhinged ruthlessness; a self-loathing family-man torn between loyalty and self preservation. Robert was revealed as a scorned dreamer looking for a place to belong; lost in the void of hero worship and the desire to be something more. The James gang was suddenly a pack of domesticated wolves, scurrying beneath Jesse's table to nab scraps on his floor; dim-witted, self interested men that unwittingly brought about their own demise. Jesse James wasn't just a good shot -- he was a skilled strategist who merged greed and talent to become one of the most notorious gunmen in history.

The cast does an amazing job with every nuanced line and tick. Pitt is on fire, delivering one of the most focused and evocative performances of his career. Casey Affleck continues to upstage his older brother with an Oscar-nominated performance; his portrayal of Robert is both touching and demented, making "coward" a tragic label that doesn't do his character justice. The supporting cast is packed with solid performances as well -- Sam Rockwell, Sam Shepard, Paul Schneider, and Jeremy Renner all deliver the goods. Even minor parts make an impact -- Mary-Louise Parker is haunting as Jesse's wife, Zooey Deschanel makes the most of a late appearance, and Washington power-player James Carville even pops up to make Governor Crittenden a memorable force of vengeance.

The brilliance of 'The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford' is in its title. With the story's ending presented as an inevitability, my first-act boredom gave way to curiosity as I watched the gang interact. How would Robert best Jesse? How would Jesse's relationships splinter apart? What fatal error would bring about his undoing? These questions slowly gave way to an immense sense of dread as Jesse and Robert came closer to their unavoidable confrontation, and even when that moment finally arrived, it still hit me with an unexpected jolt. Despite the outcome being clear for more than two hours, the endgame unfolded in such a poignant manner that I simply never saw the events of the third act coming, and was ultimately left in stunned silence as the end credits crawled up the screen.

Some people will have legitimate issues with the film -- the story develops at a slow pace, and the ending ultimately hinges on audience expectations. People looking for a traditional Western and exciting gunplay will be sorely disappointed, but those with patience and an eye for character study will be enthralled by the results. 'The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford' is a remarkable film, one that I'll revisit again and again.

[review_video_stars] => 3 [review_video_picture_id] => 5102 [review_video] =>

Unfortunately, the HD DVD edition of 'The Assassination of Jesse James' is presented with a steady 1080p/VC-1 transfer that's identical to the problematic Blu-ray encode. While the transfer does the intended look of the film justice (especially when compared to its murky, standard DVD counterpart), you may find yourself underwhelmed, since there isn't much eye candy on tap. Colors are muted and draped in sepia overtones that amp up the tone, but dull the pop of the picture. Black levels are deep, but darkness often functions as an impenetrable cloak that hides the intricacies of the nighttime set pieces. Detail is incredibly revealing at times, but intentional camera techniques leave many shots soft, unfocused, or distinctly warped.

Even so, I would have given the video a much higher score based on its faithfulness to the filmmakers' intentions if the transfer wasn't hindered by several technical issues. First off, compression issues continually creep into the image, giving the impression of a lazy presentation. It doesn't help that the transfer's contrast levels are fairly average, leaving the film's beautiful cinematography looking like a flat, uninspiring series of still photographs. To top it all off, blacks sometimes crushed, whites randomly bloomed, and noise intruded on more than one occasion.

Worst of all, I couldn't take my eyes of one flaw that evolved into a constant distraction -- the picture is plagued by some of the most obvious edge enhancement I've seen on a new release. Actors occasionally look superimposed onto the screen, dark hats appear disjointed from the rest of the image, and buildings on the horizon look as if they've been etched in against the bright skies. As an experiment, I ejected the disc and trotted to our guest bedroom to see how apparent the EE would be on a small, 27" LCD screen. Sure enough, the transfer's gangly halos still stuck out like a sore thumb -- as such, it's easy to imagine how ugly the edge enhancement is on a larger screen. This is a high definition release... does it really need such an artificial boost to its clarity?

All things considered, 'The Assassination of Jesse James' looks fairly good in high definition, but its flat dimensionality and offensive edge enhancement really spoil the party.

[review_audio_stars] => 4 [review_audio_picture_id] => 5103 [review_audio] =>

After my disappointment with the film's transfer, I was relieved that the Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 surround track (640 kbps) turned out to be a competent attribute of this release. Identical to the regular Dolby Digital mix on the Blu-ray edition, dialogue is crisp and well prioritized, pans are swift and transparent, and the rear channels provide a great deal of subtle ambiance to the outdoor environments. Interiors sound great as well -- echoes and acoustics are natural and it's very clear that the designers injected a lot of detail into the soundscape. Dynamics snap to attention when called upon, with strong LFE support and stable treble tones. The overall experience may not have thumped my chest, but it drew me in and allowed me to immerse myself in the on-screen world.

If I have any complaint, it's that gunshots are a bit hit-or-miss (pardon the pun). Some bullets pack a tremendous punch, while other similar firearms sound weak. I would attribute it to historical accuracy, but Jesse's gun sounds decidedly different even when its fired in the same environment. But don't get me wrong, this minor hiccup certainly won't hinder the track for anyone but the most stringent audiophiles.

Honestly, this is one of the few reviews where I didn't yearn for a lossless track. Aside from the obvious boost in fidelity, I doubt a TrueHD upgrade would have significantly increased the impact of this particular film. This is a quiet track that unfolds as softly as the story -- fans may balk at its lower bitrate, but the mix does its job and does it well.

[review_supplements_stars] => 0 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 0 [review_supplements] =>

The standard DVD release of 'The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,' doesn't include any special features. Despite the missed opportunity for a fascinating commentary, Warner has at least seen fit to include an exclusive documentary on the HD DVD release.

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0.5 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 5104 [review_bonus_content] =>

"The Assassination of Jesse James: Death of an Outlaw" is a plodding documentary (SD, 32 minutes) that mostly skips over the production of the film to focus on the life and times of the James gang. It thankfully features interviews with the cast and crew, but the results are quite disappointing, as the documentary is merely a redundant rehash of the facts covered more effectively by the film itself. Boring, repetitive, and trite -- skip this lame tack-on and spend your time with something more worthwhile.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 3 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 5105 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" is a challenging film. The acting is superb, the script is surprising, and the film has an undeniable sense of doom that keeps the story compelling. Sadly, this HD DVD release is a mixed bag. While it features a great audio track, it has to rely on a troublesome transfer and a lack of real supplemental meat. This is still a no-brainer for fans, as it bests the DVD in every way. However, newcomers should definitely approach with caution before blind buying this buzz-worthy film.

) ) [7] => Array ( [review_id] => 1242 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => braveone [review_release_date] => 1204012800 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => The Brave One [picture_created] => 1195154519 [picture_name] => the-brave-one-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Video [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/11/15/120/the-brave-one-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1242/braveone.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2007 [run_time] => 122 [release_date_notes] => Rescheduled from February 5, 2008 [list_price] => 35.98 [asin] => B0010HOZWG [amazon_price] => 25.15 [empire_id] => 1378801 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.40:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD/DVD [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc/DVD-9 Dual-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround (48kHz/16-bit) [1] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (640kbps) [2] => French Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (640kbps) [3] => Spanish Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (640kbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Featurette [1] => Deleted Scenes ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles [2] => Spanish Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Action [1] => Crime [2] => Thriller ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Jodie Foster [1] => Terence Howard [2] => Zoe Kravitz ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Neil Jordan ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => "Why don’t they stop me?" Erica Bain wonders. Bain, a popular N.Y radio host, watched her fiancé die and nearly lost her own life to a vicious, random attack. Now she discovers a stranger within herself, an armed wanderer in the urban night, out for vengeance and at war with her own soul. Two-time Academy Award winner Jodie Foster, as Erica, joins Oscar nominee Terrence Howard, as a determined cop hot on her trail. Erica’s future is uncertain, but one thing is not: THE BRAVE ONE is a high- tension thriller that packs a visceral and emotional punch. [preview_technology_specifications] => • Featurette: "I Walk the Streets"
• Deleted Scenes [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 25958 [review_editors_notes] =>

Non-format-specific portions of this review were first published in our Blu-ray review of 'The Brave One.'

[review_bottom_line] => Give it a Rent [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 42879 [review_movie_stars] => 2.5 [review_movie] =>

Judging by the poster and trailers for 'The Brave One,' was I wrong to expect a truly subversive, kick-ass vigilante movie? Hyped as a distaff twist on 'Death Wish,' the promotional images of Jodie Foster, gun in hand as she mows down bad guys, got me jazzed up for a film that might do something interesting with a long-disreputable genre. Too bad the final product is a tonal mess and morally suspect. This is another A-list studio picture that's really just C-grade trash tarted up with big-names and snazzy production values. 'The Brave One' is as exploitative as any cynical grindhouse flick, but it lacks the courage to be honest about its motives.

Had Charles Bronson starred, it would be hard to distinguish the plot of the ‘The Brave One’ from that of any of the 'Death Wish' pictures. Foster plays Erica Bain, the host of a successful New York radio talk show. When she and her fiancee David (Naveen Andrews of “Lost”) are brutally attacked by a gang of thugs in Central Park, resulting in David’s death, Erica retreats into a spiral of unrelenting fear. Then, only weeks later (in the first of many coincidences), Erica witnesses a brutal murder at a convenience store and totally snaps. Whipping out her shiny new gun, she mows down the perpetrator, then takes to the streets -- like Bronson, she is now an avenging angel, protecting the helpless and wasting any bad guys that get in her way.

As the press reports on the actions of New York's apparent new savior, idealistic Detective Mercer (Terrence Howard) takes notice of the reign of terror. Digging deeper into the crimes, and realizing that the killer may be a woman, Mercer quickly suspects that Erica may be the likely culprit. As the plot grows more and more improbable, a final, shocking "twist" brings the pair together, leaving Mercer to act as Erica's judge, jury, and possible executioner.

The early scenes of 'The Brave One' didn’t gel for me. Director Neil Jordan ('The Crying Game,' 'Interview with the Vampire') never nails the proper tone. He paints the Erica-David romance in completely one-note, gooey-romantic terms, but frankly, Foster and Andrews have zero chemistry. Still, I could potentially buy into such mawkishness had Jordan and screenwriters Roderick & Bruce Taylor properly developed Erica's descent into madness, but her change is so rapid and so contrived that there is simply no emotional foundation for her sudden impulse to declare war on all low-lifes. With Foster never able to create a believable, three-dimensional character, all of the film's subsequent efforts to make resonant cultural statements ring hollow.

'The Brave One' also wallows in the stuff it is supposedly rallying against. To his credit, Jordan doesn't linger on the gore, but he subtly stokes the audience's hunger for brutality by staging Erica's vigilante activities as crowd-pleasing moments. The effect is morally bothersome. It's fine that the film asks us to decide if Erica is a hero or a villain, and lets us debate the sanctity of her actions, but to do it by creating rah-rah moments, with Foster shooting hoods on subways, while other characters deliver long, laborious speeches decrying the very same violence, just feels false.

I won’t ruin the film’s surprise by discussing it’s plot twist resolution, but I will say that it really pissed me off. It's a total cheat. The decision Mercer makes in the final minute runs so completely contrary to how his character has been set up that it violates the basics of cohesive storytelling. In hindsight, the filmmakers obviously shoehorned most of the plot developments into the script to serve its "ambiguous" ending, rather than letting the concluding events naturally unfold from what came before. What a crock!

With its A-list cast, fine production values, and smattering of effective setpieces, 'The Brave One' is not a "bad" movie in the traditional sense, but it's certainly not a good one. The film squanders a great premise, as well as the opportunity to explore the hot-button issues of violence, justice, and vigilantism, while failing to work on any level -- not as a tragic romance, not as an action flick, and not even as a lurid little B-movie. As compelling cinema, 'The Brave One' is hardly brave at all.

[review_video_stars] => 4.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 5038 [review_video] =>

Warner presents 'The Brave One' in 1080p/VC-1 video (on the HD DVD side of the combo), framed at 2.40:1. (Note that this encode is identical to the previously-released Blu-ray.) It's not as gritty a transfer as you might think, but a very polished and good-looking presentation that is sure to please.

Funny enough, the photography of 'The Brave One' may actually be too slick for its own good. There is a slight bit of graininess to the picture, but otherwise it's so glossy that I longed for more of the exploitation-flick feel of a 'Death Wish.' Colors are vivid and clean, with a noticeable skew towards blues -- the film is bathed in them. Fleshtones are as good as possible considering the overt stylization. Given the film's big budget, even nighttime scenes are quite well-lit, so shadow delineation is thus superior and detail is generally strong. Only occasionally did image depth seem a tad less dimensional than the absolute best high-def I've seen, but that's a small complaint. This is a very, very nice transfer from Warner.

[review_audio_stars] => 4 [review_audio_picture_id] => 0 [review_audio] =>

'The Brave One' includes a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround track (48kHz/16-bit), along with Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (640kbps) and subtitle tracks in English, French and Spanish (again, audio options mirror the previous Blu-ray). As with the video, this is a very slick-sounding movie, with an intriguing mix of almost ethereal music and narration along with rougher action elements.

The unusual tonal shifts of the soundtrack are evident right from the get-go. Jodie Foster's narration fills the speakers, underscored by a somber bit of electronic melancholy that will anchor most of the picture. As the film grows darker (and the bullets ring out), the surround channels become more alert and alive. There are nicely directed (but relatively underplayed) uses of loud discrete effects, but otherwise, the rears only hum with subtle ambiance, and rarely rumble.

Fans of the vigilante genre will probably be underwhelmed by such a restrained mix, but this is still a first-rate technical presentation. The clarity, smoothness, and warmth across the entire dynamic range are very inviting. Low bass is appropriately tight and forceful, but again, never overbearing. As the narration is like a whole separate character in 'The Brave One,' dialogue is rendered with great fidelity, and is always prominent in the center channel. The source is also impeccable, with no aural deficiencies. A very strong, if often subtle presentation.

[review_supplements_stars] => 1 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 5039 [review_supplements] =>

Considering the fact that 'The Brave One' is an A-list Jodie Foster vehicle, it's surprising that Warner hasn't done more for the film's video release. This is a pretty anemic set of extras that offers little beyond the promotional material. (Note: Subtitles on the featurette only include English, French and Spanish.)

  • Featurette: "I Walk the City " (SD, 22 minutes) - As there is no audio commentary on the disc, I hoped to get more than just surface banalities out of "I Walk the City," but that's all we get. This is another fairly generic extended commercial, with way too many film clips and only brief snippets of press kit interviews with director Neil Jordan, stars Jodie Foster and Terrence Howard, and producers Joel Silver and Susan Downey. It's all fine and dandy -- at least we get the basics behind the conception of the movie, and the usual cast backpatting -- but its all about as nutritious as a Twinkie. C'mon, Warner -- you can do better than this.
  • Deleted Scenes (SD, 12 minutes) - This montage of scene extensions and a few extra character bits is decent, but far from revelatory. The presentation has a thrifty, slap-it-on-a-disc-quickly feel, with no optional commentary, no text introduction, and not even chapter stops for each scene -- it's just one long, big lump of a montage. On top of that, none of the video extras on the disc are in HD -- only mediocre 480p/MPEG-2 video. Bah.
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 5040 [review_bonus_content] =>

There are no high-def exclusives.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 3 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'The Brave One' should have been a knock-out -- Jodie Foster as a pissed-off vigilante with a gun, wiping out hoods in New York?!! Sign me up! Unfortunately, the result is a muddled, morally suspect exploitation flick posing as classy Oscar bait. This HD DVD release looks and sounds great, however, so at least the film is presented well. The supplements are certainly lame, but if you are only interested in giving this flick a rent, then definitely don't hesitate. But Jodie, you can do better than 'The Brave One.'

) ) ) [reviews_hot] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 1304 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => beowulf2007 [review_release_date] => 1204012800 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Beowulf: The Director's Cut (2007) [picture_created] => 1200510349 [picture_name] => beowulf-2007-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Paramount Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/01/16/120/beowulf-2007-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1304/beowulf2007.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2007 [run_time] => 114 [list_price] => 39.98 [asin] => B0011QC9U6 [amazon_price] => 27.95 [empire_id] => 1383618 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.35:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => PiP Featurette [1] => Interactive Featurette [2] => Featurettes [3] => Web Enabled Content ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround [1] => French Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround [2] => Spanish Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Featurettes [1] => Deleted Scenes [2] => Theatrical Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => English Subtitles [2] => French Subtitles [3] => Spanish Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Adventure [1] => Animation [2] => Fantasy ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Anthony Hopkins [1] => Angelina Jolie [2] => Ray Winstone ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Robert Zemeckis ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => The warrior Beowulf must fight and defeat the monster Grendel who is terrorizing towns, and later, Grendel's mother, who begins killing out of revenge. [preview_technology_specifications] => TBA [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => TBA [preview_forum_id] => 31095 [review_editors_notes] =>

Non-format specific portions of this review also appear in our Blu-ray review of 'Beowulf: The Director's Cut.'

[review_easter_eggs] =>

For a quick, one-minute bonus called "A Coffee Break with John Malkovich," highlight "A Hero's Journey" and press left on your remote. Click on the icon that appears and enjoy some more mo-cap shennanigans. Thanks to both "Liqwid" and Eddie Feng ("Posters5") for the tip!

[review_easter_eggs_added] => 1204299820 [review_bottom_line] => Recommended [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 45762 [review_movie_stars] => 3.5 [review_movie] =>

Blame it on the dusty literature degree in my closet or my lingering love of epic poems, but "Beowulf" remains one of my favorite tales. Its characters are simple and its monsters abhorrently evil, but its language is ethereal despite its brutality. So it was with great trepidation and excitement that I tromped out to the theater to see director Robert Zemeckis' computer animated adaptation. Sure, I wanted more characterization than the ancient poem provided, but I still wanted to see a certain faithfulness to the original text. Honestly, I had lofty expectations.

When a lavish banquet is interrupted by a murderous beast named Grendel (voiced by Crispin Glover), King Hrothgar (Anthony Hopkins) seals the blood-soaked dining hall and offers half the gold in his kingdom to any hero who can kill the monster. Answering this call to arms, a legendary hero named Beowulf (Ray Winstone) arrives and slays the creature. The kingdom celebrates until the monster's mother, a sultry, aquatic demon (Angelina Jolie), descends and kills Beowulf's men. The hero then sets out for revenge, ultimately discovering more than he anticipated in the cavernous dwelling of the siren.

After Beowulf returns with word that Grendel and its mother have been slain, Hrothgar declares that, upon his death, Beowulf should be crowned king and marry the Queen (Robin Wright-Penn). The film then jumps decades into the future, revealing Beowulf as king of a very prosperous kingdom. Unfortunately, mistakes from Beowulf's past come back to haunt him as a fire dragon begins to ravage the countryside. Beowulf has to muster his strength and fight another monster to preserve his legacy and save his kingdom.

Sound simple? Believe me, it's not. Writers Roger Avery and Neil Gaiman make several fascinat