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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    [November 13, 2007] => Array
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                            [review_id] => 1126
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                            [review_slug] => oceansgiftset
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                            [review_title] => Ocean's Eleven, Twelve & Thirteen Giftset
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                            [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Video
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                                    [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array
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                                            [0] => Audio Commentary
                                            [1] => Documentary
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                                            [0] => 1080p/VC-1
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                                    [technical_specifications] => Array
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                                            [0] => HD DVD/DVD
                                            [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Discs
                                            [2] => HD-30/DVD-9 Double-Sided Combo Disc
                                            [3] => Three-Disc Set
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                                    [audio_formats] => Array
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                                            [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
                                            [3] => Japanese 5.1 Surround on 'Ocean's Eleven' and 'Twelve'
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                                            [0] => Audio Commentaries
                                            [1] => Featurettes
                                            [2] => Deleted Scenes
                                            [3] => Theatrical Trailers
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                                    [subtitles] => Array
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                                            [0] => English SDH
                                            [1] => French Subtitles
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                                    [preview_genres] => Array
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                                            [0] => Steven Soderbergh
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                                    [preview_plot_synopsis] => Ocean’s 11 (2001)
Danny Ocean (George Clooney) likes taking chances. All he asks is that his handpicked squad of ten grifters and cons play the game like they have nothing to lose. If all goes right, the payoff will be a fat $150 million. 

Ocean’s 12 (2004)
They’re back. And then some. Twelve is the new eleven when Danny Ocean and pals return in a sequel to the cool caper that saw them pull off a $150 million heist. But $150 million doesn’t go as far as it used to. It’s time to pull off another stunner of a plan. Exciting locations include Amsterdam, Paris and Rome, the direction of Steven Soderbergh again and the original cast plus Catherine Zeta Jones and others.

Ocean’s 13 (2007)
Danny Ocean rounds up the boys for the most dazzling heist yet, after casino owner Willy Bank (Al Pacino) double-crosses one of the eleven, Reuben Tishkoff (Elliott Gould). George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and more reteam with director Steven Soderbergh for a split-second caper that stacks the deck with wit, style and cool. [preview_technology_specifications] => Ocean's Eleven:
• 2 Audio Commentaries: Stars Matt Damon, Andy Garcia and Brad Pitt / Director Steven Soderbergh and Screenwriter Ted Griffin
• Documentaries: "HBO First Look: The Making Of Ocean's Eleven," "The Look Of The Con"

• 3 Theatrical Trailers

Ocean's Twelve:
• None

Ocean's Thirteen:
• Documentary: "Masters of the Heist"
• Featurettes: "Vegas: An Opulent Illusion," "Jerry Weintraub Walk and Talk" [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => • Additional Footage
• Deleted Scenes
• More TBA [preview_forum_id] => 17323 [review_editors_notes] => Non-format-specific portions of this review also appear in our Blu-ray review of the 'Ocean's Giftset.' [review_bottom_line] => Worth a Look [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 28016 [review_movie_stars] => 4 [review_movie] =>

When 'Ocean's Eleven' hit theaters in 2001, it seemed that indie mastermind Steven Soderbergh could do no wrong. Having risen through the ranks making intelligent films that challenged audiences, impressed critics, and garnered the respect of his industry peers, even a pulpy heist flick like 'Ocean's Eleven' stood out from the crowd, receiving rave reviews and grossing more than $450 million worldwide. Alas, it would be Soderbergh's last indisputable hit. In 2002, the director turned his attention to a series of more experimental projects that disappointed many who had previously praised him. Even the more mainstream sequels to 'Ocean's Eleven' were met with chilly receptions -- 'Ocean's Twelve' was critically crucified, while 'Ocean's Thirteen' was pegged as more of the same.

Thankfully, I'm one of the lucky heist flick junkies who couldn't care less about critical consensus. There's nothing like watching sure-handed, quick-witted anti-heroes develop and execute an unimaginably elaborate heist. Sure, the sequels never reached the heights of 'Ocean's Eleven,' but in my opinion that's only because Soderbergh set an insurmountably high bar his first time around. I'd even argue that the low points of the series are more impressive than the majority of other heist flicks. For that reason, I'm exceedingly pleased that Warner Brothers has continued to support the series with the release of the 'Ocean's Trilogy' on HD DVD and Blu-ray.

'Ocean's Eleven' kicks things off with a bang by introducing Danny Ocean (George Clooney), a criminal mastermind whose unshakably cool demeanor masks a staggering intellect. When he's released from prison, he sets about trying to exact revenge on his nemesis, casino owner Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia). After assembling a group of the best thieves in the business (played by Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Carl Reiner, Don Cheadle, Bernie Mac, Scott Caan, and Casey Affleck), Ocean devises a plan to win back his ex (Julia Roberts) while simultaneously robbing three of Benedict's most profitable casinos.

Easily the strongest of the trilogy, 'Ocean's Eleven' 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 members deliver with sharp tongues and cool wit. The script is supported by Soderbergh's breezy direction and effortless editing, all of which combine for a thrilling final act that balances sleight of hand with humor to deliver a truly satisfying end to the tale. The climactic heist is both epic and entertaining -- a stunning finale that's as mesmerizing today as it was the first time I saw it.

'Ocean's Twelve' (released in 2004) takes the team out of Vegas and sets them loose in Paris, Amsterdam, and Rome. Three years after the triple-casino robbery, a vengeful Benedict tracks down the crew and forces them to earn back the 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.

Although it brims with the same sort of wisecracking shenanigans as its predecessor, 'Ocean's Twelve' has a vastly different tone and occasionally loses focus on an endless number of subplots and plot twists. The heart of the problems seem to stem from the fact that the screenplay wasn't originally written as 'Ocean's Twelve' -- it 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 so that it would 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,' and in my opinion 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, but their clever banter with Clooney is as kinetic as ever. Better still, a series of larger-than-life opponents toy with each criminal and give the team a genuine challenge. To top it all off, the thieves actually struggle with the difficulties of their lifestyle and have to 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.

For 'Ocean's Thirteen' (2007), Soderbergh again reunites our favorite thieves to take down a vicious casino owner named Willy Banks (Al Pacino). But rather than physically harm Banks, Ocean decides to hit him where it really hurts -- the potential cash flow of his new multi-million dollar hotel and casino.

The cast members comfortably sink back into their roles, while Pacino's villain ignites the story, with the actor given free reign to dominate the screen and play up every line. His Willy Banks is a cold-blooded Vegas old-schooler, played with ferocity and bubbling rage. 'Ocean's Thirteen' may not top the first film, but it's a definite improvement over 'Ocean's Twelve,' managing to effectively return the focus to the place where this series belongs -- Vegas. This time around, the heist is more satisfying, the plot points have more weight, and the actors are less self-referential. There are even moments of heart and genuine pathos that manage to elevate the significance of 'Ocean's Thirteen,' making it more than just a piece of regurgitated entertainment.

That's not to say that this sequel is as good as it could be. Whereas 'Ocean's Eleven' balanced the mechanics of its heist with a series of carefully plotted character dynamics, 'Oceans Thirteen' makes the heist the main focus of the story, giving the entire film the feel of an extended third act that's consumed by the details of the robbery rather than the development of the film's characters. As a result, the end product lacks some of the wonder and pure exhilaration of the first film.

I'll be the first to admit that the Ocean's trilogy isn't perfect. While 'Ocean's Eleven' is a true genre classic, Soderbergh's sequels visibly struggle to rekindle its fire. Still, clever characters and witty dialogue are the real draw here, and on that level the series is quite consistent. Likewise, even watching all three films in succession, it remains a joy to watch this crew of first-rate actors clearly having a ball with their performances. If you can turn off the overly critical portion of your brain, here's betting you'll find plenty of things to love scattered across these three fabulously funny and engaging films.

The HD DVD Disc: Vital Disc Stats

The 'Ocean's Eleven, Twelve & Thirteen Giftset' arrives on HD DVD in a slipcovered box set that houses individually packaged copies of all three films. While it may be a bit bulky for some, I personally prefer having a standard case and cover for each movie in a series (rather than a single multi-disc case).

It's also worth mentioning that as of this writing, this box set is the only way to get high definition copies of 'Ocean's Eleven' and 'Ocean's Twelve,' since Warner has yet to release stand-alone editions of either title on HD DVD or Blu-ray. The studio has, however, issued stand-alone versions of 'Ocean's Thirteen' on both next-gen formats concurrent with this release. (To read my full-length review of the 'Ocean's Thirteen' HD DVD, click here.)

[review_video_stars] => 3.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 4467 [review_video] =>

Warner presents each of the three films in this high-def box set with matching 1080p/VC-1 transfers, but the similarities between the three discs pretty much end there. In fact, taken as a whole, the wildly different visual experiences on display in the 'Ocean's Trilogy' would seem to demonstrate everything that's both exciting and perplexing about Soderbergh's down-and-dirty asthetic.

Even though it's the oldest of the three, 'Ocean's Eleven' easily boasts the most technically impressive video transfer of the bunch. 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.

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 quick pinpoints of white randomly flick on the print throughout the film. 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.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, 'Ocean's Twelve' offers the worst transfer in the trilogy. While it occasionally maintains the bright contrast of 'Ocean's Eleven,' the crisp detailing and image depth of the first film is nowhere to found. Instead, Soderbergh intentionally submerges 'Twelve' in heavy, crushed shadows that strip faces and locations of the type of pop common to the best high definition releases. Noise is also much more aggressive this time around -- in some scenes I actually had trouble telling whether I was seeing heavy grain, digital noise, or some other sort of technical deficiency. Although I'm certain this transfer reflects Soderbergh's directorial intentions, taken purely on the level of high-def eye candy, it's hard not to label this one a disappointment.

'Ocean's Thirteen' is also something less than a high-def demo disc, this time due to Soderbergh's use of glaring color discrepancies and a monsoon of heavy noise. For the majority of the film, skintones are boosted, oversaturated, and flooded with deep orange tones (even more than I remember seeing in theaters). Likewise, spiking grain and low lighting make detail a moot point at times. Although sharpness and clarity receive an impressive upgrade compared to the standard-def DVD, they make the grain sharper than the rest of the imagery, resulting in a salt and pepper fiasco that's so elevated at times that the picture can be almost entirely flat and two-dimensional.

To be fair, despite the strange choices made by its director, this high-def transfer of 'Ocean's Thirteen' does have technical merit. Crowds and pinpoints of light are crisply rendered in long shots of the casino. Black levels are deep, and contrast suits the film nicely. Some shots are even downright gorgeous -- when Soderbergh reduces his fixation on orange, the picture comes alive and looks wonderful while still retaining the director's naturalistic rejection of Hollywood shooting styles. In these moments, blues and greens really pop, while textural detail of the sets and costumes often look great.

(Note that side-by-side comparisons of each individual film on both high-def formats revealed no visible differences in picture quality between the HD DVD and Blu-ray versions of this box set.)

[review_audio_stars] => 3.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 4468 [review_audio] =>

Unlike the varied quality of the video transfers, the audio packages on each of the 'Ocean's' films share the same peaks and valleys. Once again Warner delivers matching specs, with all three discs boasting a Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 surround mix at 640 kbps. Although I'm slightly disappointed that Warner Brothers hasn't included any high-res audio options, I doubt the upgrade would have done much for the subdued soundscape of the trilogy.

Each of the films are dialogue driven affairs where light quips dominate the central channels and push the bulk of the soundfield forward. The conversations are always crisp and well prioritized, and I never had to strain to hear the characters speak (except for two intentionally hushed lines in 'Ocean's Twelve'). But the most exciting element of these audio tracks is the jazzy score of each film. 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 more clear than they did on any of the standard DVDs.

Unfortunately, the audio mixes rarely take advantage of the rear surrounds -- the busy casinos in 'Ocean's Eleven' and 'Thirteen' provide the same technical experience as the crowded streets in 'Ocean's Twelve.' Ambiance is relegated to the bottom of the soundscape and very little attention seems to have been invested in the immersive properties of the tracks. Add to that a series of underwhelming dynamics (with a minimal LFE presence to boot) and there really isn't a standout audio track in the trilogy. Make no mistake, each of these mixes handle everything Soderbergh gives them with ease, but overall they fail to pack the kind of sonic wow factor of better high-def releases on either format.

[review_supplements_stars] => 2 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 4469 [review_supplements] =>

In what's sure to be a relief for completists, Warner has ported over every last special feature from the standard DVD versions of the three individual films for this high-def box set. What's more, they've even thrown in a couple of significant high-def exclusives for 'Ocean's Twelve' and 'Ocean's Thirteen,' which I'll discuss in the next section.

Ocean's Eleven

The first film features the most substantive and exciting supplemental package of the group, benefiting from the direct presence of some key cast members. The biggest disappointment 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 and provides 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 and drive 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.

Ocean's Twelve

Like the DVD, 'Ocean's Twelve' has no non-exclusive special features save a collection of trailers.

Ocean's Thirteen

Warner has ported over the complete set of supplements from the concurrently-released stand-alone versions of 'Ocean's Thirteen,' but alas, this is a rather anemic collection.

  • An Opulent Illusion (SD, 23 minutes) -- Rather than focus on the film itself, this featurette explores the history of Las Vegas and its rise to financial prominence. It covers the psychology employed by casinos to increase gambling, the methods the casino owners use to lure in new tourists, and the careful assault of the senses that's used to draw more and more tourists to Nevada. The most surprising point in this mini-doc is that modern day Las Vegas isn't kept alive by gambling revenues, but rather by the shows and events that litter the hotels and casinos. All in all, a very good featurette, even if it's not directly related to the film.
  • Deleted Scenes (HD, 5 minutes) -- This is an interesting collection of cuts, but I can see how they might have hurt the film more than they would have helped. Fans will likely enjoy a couple of the extra character riffs and the subtle change in the reveal of heist's inner workings.
  • Jerry Weintraub Walk and Talk (SD, 2 minutes) -- In this all-too-brief featurette, the film's producer gives a tour of the Casino set used in the filming of 'Ocean's Thirteen,' which was certainly an amazing recreation of the Vegas asthetic.

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 2 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 4470 [review_bonus_content] =>

Although there are no high-def exclusives included for 'Ocean's Eleven,' we do get a couple of meaty supplements for 'Ocean's Twelve' and 'Ocean's Thirteen,' which help make up for their all-too-slim standard supplements package.

Ocean's Twelve

First released as a barebones DVD with no special features whatsoever, each high-def version of this giftset marks the first appearance of several special features specific to the critically-drubbed sequel.

  • Director and Writer Commentary -- Clearly recorded after the chily 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.

Ocean's Thirteen

Each high-def version of 'Ocean's Thirteen' (those individually packaged and those bundled in this giftset) receive the same exclusive supplements.

  • Director and Screenwriter Commentary -- This feature-length track is another win for Soderbergh who regularly provides nicely paced and informative commentaries on his films. In this case, he's joined by screenwriters David Levin and Brian Koppelman to discuss the story and its the characters. Their chat is fun and keeps moving from point to point without any annoying lulls. Yes, a commentary with the cast would have been ideal, but this one's satisfying in its own right.
  • Masters of the Heist (SD, 44 minutes) -- Alas, this is not a behind-the-scenes look at the film. Instead, it's a short documentary that focuses on the methodology of a successful real-life heist. It's a fun watch, but ultimately it doesn't contribute much to this overall package.

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

Bringing together all three films in Steven Soderbergh's Oceans trilogy, the 'Ocean's Eleven, Twelve & Thirteen Giftset' offers a trio of cool heist flicks anchored by a near-perfect opening volley of wit. Unfortunately, this HD DVD box set is a bit of a mixed bag, offering up a strange variety of video transfers, a series of subdued audio tracks, and a package of somewhat limited supplements. Die-hard fans of the trilogy will still want to pick this one up, but more casual admirers of the the first flick may want to wait until Warner eventually makes the first two films available for individual sale on HD DVD.

) ) [1] => Array ( [review_id] => 1081 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => oceansthirteen [review_release_date] => 1194940800 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Ocean's Thirteen [picture_created] => 1189448875 [picture_name] => oceans-thirteen-hd-dvddvd-combo-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Video [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/09/10/120/oceans-thirteen-hd-dvddvd-combo-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1081/oceansthirteen.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2007 [run_time] => 122 [list_price] => 39.98 [asin] => B000W1V7KE [amazon_price] => 24.95 [empire_id] => 1368421 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.35:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentary [1] => Documentary ) [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 (640kbps) [1] => Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (640kbps) [2] => French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (640kbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Featurettes [1] => Deleted Scenes ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English Subtitles [1] => Spanish Subtitles [2] => French Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Comedy [1] => Crime ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => George Clooney ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Steven Soderbergh ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => It's bolder. Riskier. The most dazzling heist yet. George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and more reteam with director Steven Soderbergh for a split-second caper that stacks the deck with wit, style and cool. Danny Ocean again runs the game, so no rough stuff. No one gets hurt. Except for double-crossing Vegas kingpin Willy Bank (Al Pacino). Ocean's crew will hit him where it hurts: in his wallet. On opening night of Bank's posh new casino tower The Bank, every turn of a card and roll of the dice will come up a winner for bettors. And they'll hit him in his pride, making sure the tower doesn't receive a coveted Five Diamond Award. That's just the start of the flimflams. The boys are out to break The Bank. Place your bets! [preview_technology_specifications] => • Documentary: "Masters of the Heist"
• Featurettes: "Vegas: An Opulent Illusion," "Jerry Weintraub Walk and Talk" [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => TBA [preview_forum_id] => 17322 [review_editors_notes] => Non-format-specific portions of this review also appear in our Blu-ray review of 'Ocean's 13.' [review_bottom_line] => Worth a Look [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 25879 [review_movie_stars] => 4 [review_movie] =>

Since bursting on the scene in 1989 with the seminal indie 'Sex, Lies and Videotape,' Steven Soderbergh has built a career delivering naturalistic dramas that reject Hollywood convention and replace it with raw glimpses into humanity. With an eclectic filmmography that includes such high-profile and critically-acclaimed hits as 'Erin Brokovich' and 'Traffic,' Soderbergh's film choices are tend to be anything but predictable. That is, except when it comes to his 2001 heist remake 'Oceans 11,' which has spawned an unlikely franchise for the iconoclastic director.

In this third film in the series, master thief Danny Ocean (George Clooney) reunites his team in order to take down a vicious casino owner named Willy Banks (Al Pacino). It seems Banks nearly killed a dear friend and financier (Elliot Gould) of our loveable criminals, leaving the crew looking for revenge. But rather than physically harm Banks, the group decides to hit him where it really hurts -- the potential cash flow of his new multi-million dollar casino. What follows is a complicated heist the relies on clever trickery and fascinating sleight of hand. Julia Roberts and Catherine Zeta Jones never appear on screen this time around -- instead, the action centers around a reduced ensemble that features the likes of Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, Scott Caan, Don Cheadle, Casey Affleck, Bernie Mac, and Eddie Izzard.

The result is a fun jaunt through a world where our heroes are always one step ahead of the bad guys. The cast comfortably sinks back into their roles and effortlessly inhabit their characters. Egg-shelled barbs and light-footed dialogue brings the ensemble to life and provide plenty of laughs throughout the film. Pacino's villain ignites the story, with the actor given free reign to dominate the screen and play up every line. Where Garcia's casino boss was a dry and calculating thinker, Pacino's Willy Banks is a cold-blooded Vegas old-schooler, played to great effect. Clooney and Pitt's characters, meanwhile, continue to exude cool in every scene they're in, and remain as magnetic as they are engaging.

I have to admit that I'm an absolute sucker for this series -- I was one of the few people who even had a decent time watching the critically drubbed 'Ocean's 12.' Even so, I can see that 'Ocean's 13' is a definite improvement over the second film, managing to effectively return the focus to the place where this series belongs -- Vegas. This time around, the heist is more satisfying, the plot points have more weight, and the actors are less self-referential. There are even moments of heart and genuine pathos that manage to elevate the significance of 'Ocean's 13,' making it more than just a piece of pulpy entertainment.

That's not to say that this sequel is as good as it could be. Whereas 'Ocean's 11' balanced the mechanics of its heist with a series of carefully plotted character dynamics, 'Oceans 13' makes the heist the main focus of the story, giving the entire film the feel of an extended third act that's consumed by the details of the robbery rather than the development of the film's characters. Simply put, everyone is the same as they were in previous movies -- there are references to substantial life changes for Clooney, Pitt, and Damon's characters, but their behaviors and personalities seem unaffected. As a result, the end product lacks some of the wonder and pure exhilaration of the first film.

That being said, 'Ocean's 13' is still a blast and captures the breezy tone of the best heist flicks out there. It's clear that the cast is having a great time and Soderbergh seems to have taken many of the criticisms of 'Ocean's 12' to heart. Fans will find plenty to love and will take an immediate liking to the ensemble performances. Newcomers to the series should check out 'Ocean's 11' first.

[review_video_stars] => 3 [review_video_picture_id] => 4326 [review_video] =>

'Ocean's 13' hits both HD DVD and Blu-ray with identical encodes. Unfortunately, while I'm quite sure the look of this 1080p/VC-1 transfer reflects Soderbergh's directorial intentions, a series of glaring color discrepancies, heavy noise, and rough detail conspire to make this something less than a high-def demo disc.

Soderbergh's camera makes Las Vegas an overwhelming mish mash of neon lights and artificial personalities that the transfer matches with subtle visual cues. For the majority of the film, skintones are boosted, oversaturated, and flooded with deep orange tones (even more than I remember seeing in theaters). Likewise, spiking grain and low lighting can make detail a moot point at times. And although sharpness and clarity receive an impressive upgrade compared to the standard-def DVD, they only make the grain sharper than the rest of the imagery -- the resulting salt and pepper fiasco is so elevated at times that the picture seems almost entirely flat and two-dimensional.

In spite of the strange choices made by its director, 'Ocean's 13' does have technical merit. Crowds and pinpoints of light are crisply rendered in long shots of the casino. Black levels are deep, and contrast suits the film nicely. Some shots are even downright gorgeous -- when Soderbergh reduces his fixation on orange, the picture comes alive and looks wonderful while still retaining the director's naturalistic rejection of Hollywood shooting styles. In these moments, blues and greens pop and really deliver an impressive image. I also found myself engaged by the textural detail of the sets and costumes -- fabrics, wood grains, and the etchings on tables often look great.

Fans will likely debate at length as to whether the transfer of 'Ocean's 13' is an ugly mess or an artistic declaration of substance. It certainly seems reflective of Soderbergh's established cinematic asthetic, and I have no doubt that this is how the director wants us to see his film. Just be warned -- 'Ocean's 13' is not the sort of disc you'll want to pull out to sell your friends and neighbors on the benefits of high definition.

[review_audio_stars] => 3.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 4327 [review_audio] =>

This HD DVD edition of 'Ocean's 13' features an Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 surround mix (640 kbps) that's identical to the DD track on the Blu-ray (also 640 kbps).

Although film itself is populated by hushed conversations, dialogue is always crisp and well-prioritized within the soundscape, and I never found myself straining to hear lines. Likewise, the soundtrack is light and jazzy, flittering across the front channels with ease -- I wouldn't say there are any standout moments per se, but decent dynamics keep the score at the forefront of the mix.

The most disappointing aspect of the audio package is that the surrounds are rarely engaged and the LFE channel is fairly muted throughout the film. Pans are too subtle, directionality is nill, and ambiance is insignificant. This is by no means a reflection of the technical quality of the audio track itself, but rather a weakness in the sound design. I was initially disappointed to see a standard Dolby mix on this release, but a high-end track would've likely sounded exactly the same in this instance. In the end, the track handles everything Soderbergh throws its way with ease, but not unlike the video, it simply doesn't pack the wow factor of better high-def releases on either format.

[review_supplements_stars] => 1 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 4328 [review_supplements] =>

Warner has ported over the complete set of supplements from the concurrently-released standard-def DVD, but unfortunately this is a rather anemic collection. (The good news for high-def fans is that we get a whole other set of high-def exclusives, which I'll discuss in the next section.)

  • An Opulent Illusion (SD, 23 minutes) -- Rather than focus on the film itself, this featurette explores the history of Las Vegas and its rise to financial prominence. It covers the psychology employed by casinos to increase gambling, the methods the casino owners use to lure in new tourists, and the careful assault of the senses that's used to draw more and more tourists to Nevada. The most surprising point in this mini-doc is that modern day Las Vegas isn't kept alive by gambling revenues, but rather by the shows and events that litter the hotels and casinos. All in all, a very good featurette, even if it's not directly related to the film.
  • Deleted Scenes (HD, 5 minutes) -- This is an interesting collection of cuts, but I can see how they might have hurt the film more than they would have helped. Fans will likely enjoy a couple of the extra character riffs and the subtle change in the reveal of heist's inner workings.
  • Jerry Weintraub Walk and Talk (SD, 2 minutes) -- In this all-too-brief featurette, the film's producer gives a tour of the Casino set used in the filming of 'Ocean's 13,' which was certainly an amazing recreation of the Vegas asthetic.

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 1.5 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 4329 [review_bonus_content] =>

Here's a rare case where the studio seems to saved something more than simply crumbs for high-def, granting both the HD DVD and Blu-ray editions of 'Oceans 13' with an exclusive commentary track and a documentary.

  • Director and Screenwriter Commentary -- This feature-length track is another win for Soderbergh who regularly provides nicely paced and informative commentaries on his films. In this case, he's joined by screenwriters David Levin and Brian Koppelman to discuss the story and its the characters. Their chat is fun and keeps moving from point to point without any annoying lulls. Yes, a commentary with the cast would have been amazing, but this one's still satisying in its own right.
  • Masters of the Heist (SD, 44 minutes) -- Alas, this is not a behind-the-scenes look at the film. Instead, it's a short documentary that focuses on the methodology of a successful real-life heist. It's a fun watch, but it doesn't contribute much to the film at all.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 3 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 4330 [review_final_thoughts] =>

Although it fails to reach the same heights as 'Ocean's 11,' Soderbergh's third film in the series is definitely better than the second, and I personally had a lot of fun watching the actors play verbal chess. This HD DVD is a tough one to call. Given the aesthetics of the source material, it's hard to imagine the video or audio looking or sounding much better than they do here, but neither come close to the best high-def discs out there. A slim supplements package doesn't help matters (although at least we get an HD exclusive director's commentary). All things considered, fans of the film who know what to expect will likely still enjoy this presentation, but newcomers may end up wondering why the experience doesn't pack more punch.

) ) [2] => Array ( [review_id] => 667 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => prideandprejudice2005 [review_release_date] => 1194940800 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Pride & Prejudice (2005) [picture_created] => 1191984535 [picture_name] => pride-and-prejudice.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Universal Studios Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/10/09/120/pride-and-prejudice.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/667/prideandprejudice2005.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2005 [run_time] => 129 [list_price] => 29.98 [asin] => B000VBP38C [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1363640 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.35:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => Featurette [1] => 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/2.2Mbps) [1] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (448kbps) [2] => French Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (448kbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentary [1] => Featurettes ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => French Subtitles [1] => English SDH [2] => English Subtitles [3] => French Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Drama ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Jena Malone [1] => Donald Sutherland [2] => Rosamund Pike [3] => Keira Knightley ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Joe Wright ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => One of the greatest love stories of all time, Pride & Prejudice, comes to the screen in a glorious new adaptation starring Keira Knightley. When Elizabeth Bennet (Knightley) meets handsome Mr. Darcy (Matthew Macfadyen), she believes he is the last man on earth she could ever marry. But as their lives become intertwined in an unexpected adventure, she finds herself captivated by the very person she swore to loathe for all eternity. Based on the beloved masterpiece by Jane Austen, it is the classic tale of love and misunderstanding that sparkles with romance, wit and emotional force. Critics are calling it "Exhilarating. A joy from start to finish." (Carina Chocano, Los Angeles Times). [preview_technology_specifications] => • Audio Commentary with Director Joe Wright
• Featurettes: "Conversations with the Cast," "Jane Austen, Ahead of Her Time," "A Bennet Family Portrait," "HBO First Look: Pride & Prejudice," "The Politics of Dating," "The Stately Homes of Pride & Prejudice" [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => • MyScenes [preview_forum_id] => 15806 [review_bottom_line] => Recommended [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 26441 [review_movie_stars] => 4.5 [review_movie] =>

It may not carry the obvious appeal to high-def early adopters of a 'Pirates of the Caribbean,' or a 'Matrix,' but don't let the eighteenth century trappings of 'Pride and Prejudice' fool you. Yes, this one's initially likely to be of more interest to your wife or girlfriend, but 'Pride and Prejudice' is actually the rare romantic period piece that's likely to ultimately leave male viewers as satisfied as the females.

Adapted from the classic novel by Jane Austin, 'Pride & Prejudice' tells the quaint tale of Mr. & Mrs. Bennet (Donald Sutherland and Brenda Blethyn) and their five daughters -- Jane (Rosamund Pike), Elizabeth (Keira Knightley), Mary (Talulah Riley), Kitty (Carey Mulligan), and Lydia (Jena Malone). As the story opens, Mrs. Bennet is desperate to marry off her daughters to men of wealth and leisure before her husband inevitably passes away. To her dismay, the feisty, strong-willed Elizabeth refuses to marry any man unless the union is motivated by true love. When two wealthy bachelors come to stay with the family -- the carefree Mr. Bingley (Simon Woods) and his obnoxious companion Mr. Darcy (Matthew Macfadyen) -- Elizabeth hunkers down and refuses to consider either one. But before long, Mr. Darcy strikes a particular chord in this most spirited Bennet and she finds herself falling for a man she loathes in every way.

Based on a plot description alone, I can't fault anyone who might think 'Pride & Prejudice' sounds like the period equivalent of a cliché-ridden romantic comedy, but tucked beneath its rather generic setup is an intelligent story about a woman trapped by her instincts, her society, and her stubbornness. This isn't a stuffy romp that relies on period manners or high-court dialogue. Nor is it a forced and modernized tale of liberation or empowerment. And it certainly isn't a clumsy farce about awkward, plutonic love in a bygone era. Instead, 'Pride & Prejudice' is a surprisingly fast-paced, universal exploration of inconvenient love -- the sort of love that develops naturally, instead of the the miraculous, instantaneous love Hollywood has tried to sell audiences for a century.

I also wouldn't describe the film as a "chick flick." Guys, there's no need to suck up that manly pride to trudge through this one. I found as much to love here as my wife. I laughed out loud on more than one occasion and caught myself grinning every time the relationships in the film hit surprisingly close to home. The plot develops naturally and the actors masterfully match the fluidity of the story at every turn. Prior to seeing the film, I wasn't a huge fan of Keira Knightley, but her sharp face and harsh delivery instantly make Elizabeth a force to be reckoned with, and when she finally begins to reveal her character's softer side, the initial standoffishness of her performance pays off masterfully. Not only did she deserve her nomination for Best Actress, but she deserved to win (Reese Witherspoon took home the prize instead for 'Walk the Line').

Director Joe Wright ('The End,' 'Atonement') doesn't just rely on a faithful adaptation and the strong performances of his cast -- his vision of 18th century England is convincing and his attention to detail is really quite extraordinary. I loved his sweeping shots that track from room to room, exploring the busy bustle of Elizabeth's home. The vivid cinematography adds to the experience and flawlessly transports the audience to another time. While I can't say his adaptation is perfect (there are a few scenes that feel repetitive and a some others that seem a tad aimless), his film is extremely entertaining and exquisitely produced.

A wonderful adaptation of a beloved classic, this is the rare period romance that has near-universal appeal.

[review_video_stars] => 4.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 4356 [review_video] =>

Universal brings 'Pride & Prejudice' to HD DVD with a stunning 1080p/VC-1 transfer that genuinely surprised me. Although the standard-def DVD suffered from average color reproduction, plasticized skin, and obvious edge enhancement, this HD DVD transfer brings the film to life with natural fleshtones, crisp textures, and truly gorgeous landscapes. The palette is lush and warm, soaked in soft sunsets and candlelight that still allow the sharpest details to grace the screen. Individual blades of grass, leaves, and the stitching on hand-sewn dresses are perfectly rendered on the screen. Skin and fabric textures pop and provide the image with an authenticity that was sorely lacking on the standard DVD.

Contrast is exactly as it should be -- it never hinders the clarity of elements cloaked in shadow and it doesn't overindulge itself to create an artificial sense of depth. Black levels are deep and free from noise and spiking grain. In fact, overall the print is in excellent shape and I didn't detect any blemishes, artifacting, or edge enhancement. A handful of shots are a bit soft compared to the majority of the scenes, but they rarely detract from the overall image quality. Simply put, this is a wonderfully filmic transfer that offers a substantial upgrade over its standard definition counterpart.

[review_audio_stars] => 4.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 4357 [review_audio] =>

'Pride & Prejudice' features a robust Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track (48 kHz/16-Bit/2.2 Mbps) that has more to offer than you might expect from a period romance. Although the film is dominated by quiet conversations, the rear channels are frequently used to develop a thoroughly convincing soundfield. I found myself constantly surrounded by everything from heavy crowd chatter to the soft rustle of leaves in the distance. Ambiance is a consistently strong element in the soundscape -- tinkling silverware, clinking glasses, and the shuffle of footsteps give scenes a realism that more aggressive sound mixes often overlook. Likewise, the impressive acoustics of each scene are a testament to the diligence and effort of all those responsible for the film's sound design.

Dialogue is clean and comfortably distributed across the front of the soundfield -- to my relief, even the quietest lines are prominently placed in the soundscape. As you might expect, the film doesn't have a strong LFE presence, but the its score shows off some respectable dynamics. Crisp, hearty strings flutter across the entirety of the soundfield to create an immersive lyrical experience. I did note a few moments where I felt the crescendo of the music overshadowed important lines of dialogue, but this is more a matter of personal taste than it is a technical complaint. In the end, the audio on this HD DVD was just as much of a surprise as the video and fans will be extremely pleased with the result.

[review_supplements_stars] => 2.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 4358 [review_supplements] =>

Although this HD DVD edition of 'Pride & Prejudice' ports over all of the supplemental content from the concurrently-released "Deluxe Two-Disc" standard DVD, unfortunately I found the contents of this package to be mostly underwhelming.

  • Director's Commentary -- Joe Wright delivers a candid track in which he criticizes his film as much as he compliments it. I enjoyed listening to his honest and biting commentary at first, but it grew old after a while. He provides plenty of information, but he isn't engaging enough to make the production details entirely interesting. Less technical chit chat and a few more anecdotes would likely have made this blunt commentary extraordinary.
  • Conversations with the Cast (SD, 6 minutes) -- The cast members on hand for this featurette obviously had a good time, but unlike Wright, they spend most of their time patting each other on the back. The end result doesn't add much insight into the production of the film and felt too promotional to resonate with me.
  • Jane Austen: Ahead of Her Time (SD, 8 minutes) -- This all-too-brief featurette attempts to whittle the significance of the author down to a few blurbs that everyone should've learned in High School English. Worst still, the cast and crew are the one supplying the information and they merely scratch the surface of Austen's writing. I'm surprised there isn't a meatier documentary included here about the author and the influence of her enduring work.
  • HBO First Look (SD, 13 minutes) -- Ugh. What do you get when you add complimentary interviews with random film clips and set it all to rousing music? Your typical HBO First Look. This is promotional fluff through and through.
  • A Bennet Family Portrait (6 minutes) -- The only extra I thoroughly enjoyed, this one includes interviews with the cast as they examine the motivations of each character. It's over far too quickly, but it offers some excellent info that's missing from the rest of this mostly fluffy supplemental package.
  • The Stately Homes -- Framed in an interactive map that highlights several locations in the film, clicking on any of five individual hot spots allows you to jump to short featurettes with production details, behind-the-scenes footage, and photos of each location:
    • Groombridge Place -- (SD, 4 minutes)
    • Basildon Park -- (SD, 2 minutes)
    • Chatsworth House -- (SD, 3 minutes)
    • Wilton House -- (SD, 3 minutes)
    • Burghley -- (SD, 4 minutes)
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content] =>

None, except Universal's standard MyScenes bookmarking feature.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 4 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 4359 [review_final_thoughts] =>

I wasn't expecting to praise this HD DVD edition of 'Pride & Prejudice,' but here I am. This release features an excellent cinematic adaptation of the classic novel, a beautiful video transfer, and a surprisingly strong Dolby TrueHD audio track. The only downside to the entire package is a weak set of supplements that fail to do the movie or its source justice. All in all, an easy recommend. Don't believe me? Just give it a try -- there's a good chance you'll find yourself roped in with the rest of us.

) ) [3] => Array ( [review_id] => 1139 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => shrekthethird [review_release_date] => 1194940800 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Shrek the Third [picture_created] => 1190924373 [picture_name] => shrek-the-third.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => DreamWorks Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/09/27/120/shrek-the-third.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1139/shrekthethird.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2007 [run_time] => 92 [list_price] => 39.98 [asin] => B000W4RV1A [amazon_price] => 27.95 [empire_id] => 1368024 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => Picture-in-Picture Commentary [1] => Video Jukebox [2] => Bookmarks [3] => Web-Enabled Features ) [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 (1.5mbps) [1] => French Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (448kbps) [2] => Spanish Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (448kbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Featurettes [1] => Deleted Scenes [2] => Outtakes ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles [2] => Spanish Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Animation [1] => Comedy [2] => Family [3] => Fantasy [4] => Romance ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Antonio Banderas [1] => Eddie Murphy [2] => Cameron Diaz [3] => Mike Myers ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Raman Hui [1] => Chris Miller ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => When Shrek married Fiona the last thing he had in mind was becoming the next King of Far Far Away. But when Shrek’s father-in-law, King Harold, suddenly croaks, that is exactly what he faces. Recruiting Donkey and Puss In Boots for a new quest, Shrek sets out to bring back the rightful heir to the throne. Meanwhile back in the kingdom, Fiona's jilted Prince Charming storms the city with an army of fairy tale villains to seize the throne. Fiona and a band of princesses must stop him to ensure there will be a kingdom left to rule! [preview_technology_specifications] => • Featurettes: "Meet the Cast," "The Fauxly Grail," "Hot Lunch," "Cyrano De Artie," "Doppelgangers," "Tech of Shrek," "Donkey Dance," "Big Green Goofs," "Shrek's Guide to Parenthood," "Merlin's Magic Crystal Ball," "Learn the Donkey Dance," "How to Be Green"
• Lost Scenes
• Theatrical Trailers: 'Bee Movie,' 'Kung Fu Panda' [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => • Picture-in-Picture: "The Animators’ Corner" experience featuring storyboards, deleted scene pitches and technical goofs
• Dreamworks Animation Video Jukebox
• "My Menu" customizable character menu skins
• Web Enabled Features: Shrek’s Trivia Track (available on street date), The World of Shrek, Donkey’s Digital Coloring Book [preview_forum_id] => 18875 [review_editors_notes] => Non-format specific portions of this review also appear in our Blu-ray review of 'Shrek the Third.' [review_bottom_line] => Recommended [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 25781 [review_movie_stars] => 2.5 [review_movie] =>

Movie sequels have it tough. They only exist because the public's love for the original film was so great that they want more of the same, yet at the same time a sequel must also deliver at least something a little bit different, or risk boring its audience to death with repetition. 'Shrek the Third' is a classic example of a movie that never quite successfully solves this dilemma, offering up too much of what we've seen before and too little of what we haven't.

Of course, the original 'Shrek' wasn't all that blazingly original to begin with, with a story that borrowed liberally from classic fairy tales, and mixed it up with hip humor and a seemingly endless supply of pop culture references. 'Shrek 2' continued this approach, so I suppose it's no huge surprise that 'Shrek the Third' again plays it safe, delivering another narrative pastiche of other movies. You might think of this one as the 'Three Ogres and a Baby' meets 'The Lion King' installment in the franchise, where Shrek learns he's gonna be a papa, while at the same time struggles with the responsibility of being ruler of his kingdom. Unfortunately, the film adds little else of substance to this familiar thematic equation, and has so many returning characters and loose ends to tie up from the earlier movies that the story never gets much of a chance to live and breathe on its own. Simply put, there is a curious sense of obligation to the whole affair.

The basics of the plot are amusing enough. When his frog-in-law suddenly croaks (har har, get it?), Shrek (Mike Myers) discovers he's the next in line to assume the throne. This doesn't go down so well with the big ogre, however, who just wants to hang around the swamp with his faithful sidekicks Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and Puss 'n' Boots (Antonio Banderas). Complicating matters is the news from Fiona (Cameron Diaz) that she's pregnant, which throws Shrek into a major daddy-to-be panic -- especially when the size of her bulging belly would seem to suggest that more than one little bundle of joy is on the way.

Then, suddenly, Shrek gets a break when he learns that there is actually another potential heir to the throne, a supposedly noble knight named Arthur (who actually turns out to be a gangly teen named Artie, voiced by Justin Timberlake). So Shrek sets off with Donkey and Boots to entice Artie to take the job, which leads to another whirlwind adventure and run-ins with various colorful fairytale characters. But there's danger, too, when the evil Prince Charming (Rupert Everett) learns of Shrek's quest, and pledges to stop at nothing in order to snag the crown for himself -- even if it means offing Artie, Fiona and anyone else who gets in his path.

Ultimately 'Shrek the Third' feels more like a sketch show than a story. The burden of delivering a relentless parade of ironic zingers and satiric homages is crushing, and the narrative of the movie seems to be in constant danger of collapsing like a post-modern house of cards. The sheer desperation of the film's need to please overwhelms all, and any grown-up themes it attempts to explore are squashed by all the cynical cleverness. Although I have to admit a begrudging admiration for any movie that can somehow find a way to use the James Bond tune "Live and Let Die" as an appropriate funeral song for a dying frog, then only minutes later quote the ultimate '70s pity-party power ballad "I've Never Been to Me" as the theme for its villain, even with a slim runtime of barely 87 minutes, in the end I left the film more exhausted than I was exhilarated.

The word "magic" is thrown around a lot when it comes to movies in this genre, but it's true -- the best animated family movies are able to appeal to all age groups, marrying universal stories with great visuals and truly inspired humor. Unfortunately there's nothing magical about 'Shrek the Third' -- instead, it simply distracts with soulless pastiche, eventually leaving us with only the illusion of having been entertained. Still, judging by the flick's healthy box office returns, it seems that the joyous residue left by the original film is enough to carry yet another installment. As such, I'm going to go out on a limb and recommend this HD DVD for fans of the franchise, even if only for a rental. 'Shrek the Third' may have all the resonance of a commercial for the original 'Shrek,' but, for many, it seems that may be enough.

[review_video_stars] => 5 [review_video_picture_id] => 3691 [review_video] =>

Man, I'm getting really spoiled. Only just last week, I had the pleasure to review two CGI animated titles, 'Cars' and 'Ratatouille,' both from Pixar and both boasting what I thought were absolute five-star transfers. Although I still think that the Pixar team is untouchable in terms of the visual wit and stylistic brilliance they bring to their best animated features, 'Shrek the Third' on HD DVD proves that no one studio has a monopoly on fantastic high-def video presentations -- 'Shrek the Third' looks every bit as good as the best animated titles I've seen on either next-gen format.

A direct digital-to-digital presentation, DreamWorks offers up a 1080/VC-1 encode in the film's original 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio. Unlike a string of more recent animated films that have attempted to simulate a more "film-like" look (making background elements appear out of focus, adding grain, etc.), DreamWorks goes the opposite route, with everything appearing so incredibly sharp that it's almost creepy. 'Shrek the Third' is incredibly dimensional, and is about as close to 3-D as you're going to get without a pair of red and blue glasses. The level of detail and fine textures can be astounding, and just about any scene in the film is easily demo material.

The rest of the presentation is just as impressive. Colors are bold (particularly the striking icky green of ogre skin, and the fiery purples and oranges of the dragon) but never oversaturated. The image also avoids an over-processed look, with well-modulated contrast across the entire grayscale and deep, rich blacks that are free of heavy crush. I detected no problems with compression or other artifacts, and edge enhancement appears to be completely absent. Simply put, this HD DVD edition of 'Shrek the Third' boasts a marvelous transfer that easily holds it own with the best animated presentations I've seen so far on high-def. That's high praise indeed.

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

The audio on 'Shrek the Third' is a comparative disappointment, if only because the film's engaging sound design deserves better than the Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround track (at 1.5mbps) that Paramount/DreamWorks provides here. Why the studio continues to eschew high-res audio on such major releases as this and the recent 'Transformers' remains a complete mystery to me.

That said, what we do get here is perfectly fine and capable in its own right. All of the 'Shrek' films are lively sonic affairs, with plenty of discrete effects to go along with all the zany action on the screen. Activity in the rear channels is almost constant, with nice directionality to the mix, well-done panning and a good deal of bleed to the score. Atmosphere is also nicely sustained during the few quieter bits, with everything from minute drops of rain to wind in the trees subtle but noticeable in the surrounds.

Like most animated films, 'Shrek the Third' is an entirely studio-constructed soundtrack, so the caliber of the source is top drawer. It's clear, well-attenuated and quite realistic, and feels neither too bright nor too bland in terms. I did think the bass was a tad bit weaker than it might have been, but otherwise this mix is quite dynamic. Dialogue is also perfectly balanced, so no volume-matching problems here.

It's impossible to know how much better this soundtrack might have been if Paramount had opted for high-res audio, but on its own terms this is still a fine presentation.

[review_supplements_stars] => 2.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 3692 [review_supplements] =>

Historically DreamWorks has done a pretty good job of providing well-balanced supplemental packages for its family titles, recognizing the needs of both kids and adults alike. 'Shrek the Third' continues that approach, although I can't say I found it to be their most successful effort. It just doesn't provide much of substance for either demographic, with the majority of the shallow bonus features feeling like they were constructed simply to add another bulletpoint to the back of the box.

This HD DVD edition of the flick ports over all of the extras from the concurrently-released standard-def DVD, with each upgraded to 1080p/i. Note that this is also another one of those crazy discs that seem to use every codec imaginable -- the main feature and menus are presented in VC-1, while all of the video-based extras are encoded in either AVC MPEG-4 or MPEG-2. Regardless, the material looks great, and I was impressed with the consistent level of quality throughout.

Let's start by looking at the more adult-oriented fare, which can all be found under the "Special Features" tab.

  • Meet the Cast (11 minutes) - First up is a fun little featurette that introduces us to all of the main voice talent. Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas, Eddie Murphy and Justin Timberlake all contribute a few comments, and there is some nice behind-the-scenes footage of the voice recording sessions. No great shakes here, but fairly informative nonetheless.
  • Shrek Tech (10 minutes) - Dissecting the film's basic animation approach and techniques, this one features lots of quick cuts of all of the main characters in various stages of rendering, but little that goes beneath the surface. At least the snappy pace keeps things from getting boring.
  • Lost Scenes (25 minutes) - There are four "lost scenes" in all, although the title of this feature is a bit misleading as these are not actual scenes but actually excerpts from "pitch meetings" with filmmakers Dave Smith and Hamish Grieve. They describe each scene, and there are some pencil sketches shown via split-screen, but no final renderings were ever produced.
  • Big Green Goofs(2 minute) - This one's your standard blooper reel. Of course, all of this material is animated, so it's hardly "spontaneous," with various forced gags and intentionally "missed" lines. The animation is also all over the place, with most clips not up to the quality of the finished film, but rather rough renderings and the like.
  • Shrek's Guide to Parenthood - Comprised of four 1-minute segments, this one provides exactly what the title suggests -- acerbic child-rearing tips that no parent would actually follow. Strangely, Shrek himself doesn't even participate. Instead, we get only Donkey, Puss in Boots, Pinocchio and Gingy.
  • Donkey Dance (1 minute) - This mock music video features Donkey doing a routine to the old '80s chestnut "The Safety Dance" by Men Without Hats. Super slight, and not as cute as it sounds.
  • DreamWorks Animation Jukebox - This isn't even really a feature -- it's just a commercial machine. Select from among six other DreamWorks titles ('Flushed Away,' 'Shrek,' 'Shrek 2,' 'Over the Hedge,' 'Shark's Tale' or 'Madagascar') and watch a musical clip from the movie. Presented in full 1080p video, all look great, so at least we have something to look forward to... (Note that as of this writing, none of the above titles have yet been announced for high-def release.)
  • Theatrical Trailers - Sadly, there are none provided for any of the 'Shrek' movies, only two DreamWorks Animation releases, 'Bee Movie' and 'Kung Fu Panda.'

Next up are several extras that live outside of the "Special Features" tab, most specifically geared to the tots.

  • Merlin's Magic Crystal Ball - Although it's dubbed as an interactive "game," this one's essentially an electronic magic 8-ball. Activate it, and you're asked to think of a Yes or No question. Then hit enter, and Merlin will give you one of a few canned responses. That's it.
  • Learn the Donkey Dance - Builds upon the aforementioned faux-music video, only adding instructions on how to learn all of Donkey's red-hot moves.
  • How to Be Green (4 minutes) - This one's essentially a PSA for kids, with about a dozen tips on how to combat global warming, and other environmentally-conscious ideas.
  • My Menus - This one's actually pretty neat. Here, you can select between six different menu designs: the default menu, or five alternates each based around a particular character in the movie (Shrek, Donkey, Boots, Gingy and the Gingerbread Man). Nifty.

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 2.5 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 3693 [review_bonus_content] =>

DreamWorks Animation has pulled out all the stops for its maiden high-def voyage, piling on several additional features exclusive to the HD DVD. While there aren't a slew of features here, they do help to flesh out the somewhat blah batch of standard extras outlined above.

  • The Animators Corner - The most highly-touted of the bunch, this one presents the entire film in storyboard form. Interesting in concept, it's hard to imagine anyone wanting to sit through 'Shrek the Third' all over again just to see it as a series of B&W pencil drawings. Note that to help stave off boredom, DreamWorks has added seamless branching to the mix, and at pre-programmed points in the flick, an icon will appear that allows you to access the "Lost Scenes" mentioned in the Supplements section above.

There are also some web-enabled extras. If you have your HD DVD player connected to the Internet, there are two downloadable features available as of this writing, with one more due to arrive soon.

  • The World of Shrek - Here you can pull up imaginary bios, history and facts for each of the main characters, as well as the real-life voice talent behind them. DreamWorks says the actor info provided here will be updated in the future, so this feature should stay current.
  • Shrek's Trivia Track - This one's a well-executed pop-up text commentary. Story notes, character asides, production info and other fun facts are shown in an easy-to-read manner, and it's all nicely paced. A bit too kid-friendly for my taste (it's all pretty basic stuff), but a nice little bonus nonetheless.
  • Donkey's Coloring Book -- This one didn't seem to be available when I tried out the disc, but it promises to be pretty much what the title says. Hopefully it will be online soon...

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 4 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts] =>

The fairy tale-meets-post-modern formula wears pretty thin with 'Shrek the Third,' but there's still enough here recommend it to fans of the franchise. It's also the kind of film kids will watch over and over again, so parents will certainly get their money's worth. Although I found the seemingly over-stuffed supplemental package on this HD DVD a bit fluffy and I remain baffled that DreamWorks continues to eschew high-res audio on A-list titles like this, the terrific five-star video transfer and a decent set of HD exclusives help earn this release an overall recommend.

) ) [4] => Array ( [review_id] => 1009 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => ultimateforce [review_release_date] => 1194940800 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Ultimate Force [picture_created] => 1197351839 [picture_name] => ultimate-force-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => BCI Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/12/10/120/ultimate-force-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1009/ultimateforce.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2006 [run_time] => 90 [list_price] => 19.95 [asin] => B000WC38QO [amazon_price] => 13.95 [empire_id] => 1374435 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080i/MPEG-2 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-15 Single-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (192kbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Featurette [1] => Interview [2] => Theatrical Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => None ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Action [1] => Crime ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Igor Galo [1] => Ruza Madarevic [2] => Mirko Cro Cop Filipovic ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Mark Burson ) [preview_technology_specifications] => • Making-of Featurette
• Interview with Mirko Filipovic
• Theatrical Trailer [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [review_editors_notes] => Non-format-specific portions of this review also appear in our Blu-ray review of 'Ultimate Force.' [review_bottom_line] => One to Avoid [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 38602 [review_movie_stars] => 1 [review_movie] =>

I don't understand why Hollywood seems to think that big, hulking body-builders, wrestlers and martial artists spouting monosyllabic sentences will somehow translate into box office gold. Okay, so Arnold Schwarzenegger was one of the biggest draws of the '80s and '90s, and more recently, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson has carved out quite a nice celluloid career for himself. But for every Schwarzenegger or Johnson, there are a dozen other Steve "Stone Cold" Austins and John Cenas, who've done nothing but marginal B-films and made-for-cable atrocities destined to play at 2am on TBS.

Now we can add Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic to that more unfortunate list. A one-time championship kickboxer turned mixed martial artist, Filipovic tried his hand at Hollywood with 'Ultimate Force,' a 2005 thrift-store military action thriller that didn't even make it to theaters. Languishing on the shelf for over a year, the film finally found distribution via a direct-to-video release on DVD last year, and now BCI has brought the magic to high-def, choosing 'Ultimate Force' to be their first-ever HD DVD release (the title also hit Blu-ray day-and-date).

Typical of most third-tier action films (which seem equate confusion with complexity), the plot of 'Ultimate Force' is quite convoluted. Filipovic plays Axon Rey, a heavily decorated war hero and former tactical police officer who has been recruited by a covert government organization to fight enemies of the State. Schooled in martial arts and the latest high-tech weapons, Rey (now code-named "Sphinx") is an elite member of the Sanction Division of SATO (State Anti-Terrorist Organization), a clandestine collective of assassins under the direct control of SIN (State Intelligence Network).

Sphinx failed his last assassination mission, and though normally that would prompt the state to simply execute him, since Sphinx is their top assassin, his "controller" decides not to eliminate him -- at least not immediately. Instead, he sends him to a rehabilitation island called Gulag 7 where Sphinx must face five other government operatives who have been sent to the island for various reasons. Refusal to fight means death, so now it's kill or be killed as Sphinx must fight his way off the island.

'Ultimate Force' is the kind of silly, wholly unbelievable action farce that Cannon Films might have produced back in the '80s (it probably would have starred Chuck Norris or Jean-Claude Van Damme). Written and directed by Mark Burson (also responsible for the direct-to-video disasters 'Bullethead' and 'The Courier'), unfortunately it's woefully inept on virtually every level. There are only two types of scenes in 'Ultimate Force' -- characters spouting endless exposition (required to explain the ridiculous plot), or poorly executed action that's so jumbled and incoherent that it's nearly impossible to tell what is going on.

To be fair, 'Ultimate Force' deserves meager props for at least aspiring to ape legitimate films like the Jason Bourne series, but that still can't compensate for the fact that the film's construction is shockingly incompetent. Burson doesn't seem to understand basic screen direction, so Filipovic seems to magically morph all around a scene, and we get so many fast-cut inserts of limbs, weapons, etc., that viewers are almost guaranteed to walk away from the film with a headache. To Burson's credit, he does adequately hide the clear acting deficiencies of Filipovic and the rest of the cast, if only by not requiring them to say much. But even when he's just busting heads, Filipovic has nowhere near the charisma of The Rock, or even Steven Seagal on a bad day.

I'm sure there will be some readers who will refuse to believe any film can be this bad, and will insist that there must be some modicum of entertainment value to even the most worthless, derivative piece of celluloid. But trust me on this one -- I love a good camp-fest as much as the next guy, but this ain't it. The true definition of a time-waster, 'Ultimate Force' doesn't even have the decency to be unintentionally funny.

[review_video_stars] => 2 [review_video_picture_id] => 0 [review_video] =>

'Ultimate Force' was indie distributor BCI's first-ever high-def release, and they've released the low-budget actioner on both HD DVD and Blu-ray with identical 1080i/MPEG-2 encodes. To be fair to BCI, it doesn't appear they had much to work with, as the source is hardly in tip-top shape. Unfortunately, whatever the case, the result is a high-def presentation that's not even passable.

The source material is weak, with a very grainy and noisy image and slight instances of dirt and blemishes. Blacks are pretty solid, but contrast often feels either a bit flat, or suffers from blooming in shots with very harsh lighting. The film's colors are bumped up, which gives them some fuzziness although they don't bleed too terribly. Likewise, detail is average at best -- medium and wide shots are lacking in sharpness and depth, and although close-ups fare a little better, they don't come close to what I normally expect from HD. Finally, the encode holds up okay considering the circumstances, but there is obvious noise and some posterization during slow fades and dissolves.

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

As with the video, the audio elements utilized by BCI for 'Ultimate Force' are underwhelming to say the least. This is Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (192kbps) presentation only, and given the action-oriented nature of the film, that's a real liability.

There is obviously no surround presence. The mix is all from the front, but even here, stereo separation is lacking. There is a bit of distinction to action effects (loud bursts of gunfire, etc.), but the rest of the mix, including the bland score, all mushes together. Dynamics are hardly notable, with a flat low end and no real spark to the rest of the frequency spectrum. Typical of cheaper productions, the whole affair has a tiresome brittleness, as well. Dialogue reproduction is nothing more than serviceable, with low tones often sounding muffled even at high volumes. Don't expect very much here at all.

[review_supplements_stars] => 1 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 0 [review_supplements] =>

BCI has carried over all of the extras from the he standard DVD edition of 'Ultimate Force' for their first high-def port, but it's a hollow trophy in this case, as there isn't much here beyond the overtly promotional.

  • Featurette: "The Making of Ultimate Force" (SD, 7 minutes) - This one's your standard EPK, with everyone but Cro Cop looking a little bit embarrassed to be a part of the project.
  • Footage of Mirko Training (SD, 4 minutes) - This montage of the Man in training gives new meaning to the phrase, "gives good pump."
  • Interview with Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic (SD, 5 minutes) - A one-on-one with the star, this one offers a bit more "insight" on his character and approach to acting.
  • Theatrical Trailer (SD) - The film's enjoyably cheesy trailer, which looks like something straight out of the glory days of Cannon films. Alas, like all of the extras here, it's presented in standard-def only.
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content] =>

There are no HD DVD exclusives.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 1.5 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'Ultimate Force' is another generic rip-off of the action flick glory days of Schwarzenegger and Stallone, only coming about twenty years too late. That might have given the film a certain camp appeal, but even in that regard I found it unwatchable. This debut HD DVD release from BCI is probably what you would expect for a flick like this. The video and audio are limited by the source material, while the extras are all surface. If you happen to be interested in this title, the relatively cheap $19.95 list price is just about all it has going for it.

) ) ) [reviews_hot] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 1126 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => oceansgiftset [review_release_date] => 1194940800 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Ocean's Eleven, Twelve & Thirteen Giftset [picture_created] => 1190740815 [picture_name] => oceans-giftset-hd.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Video [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/09/25/120/oceans-giftset-hd.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1126/oceansgiftset.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2007 [run_time] => 363 [list_price] => 79.98 [asin] => B000W9MMPU [amazon_price] => 55.95 [empire_id] => 1368536 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.40:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentary [1] => Documentary ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD/DVD [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Discs [2] => HD-30/DVD-9 Double-Sided Combo Disc [3] => Three-Disc Set ) [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 [3] => Japanese 5.1 Surround on 'Ocean's Eleven' and 'Twelve' ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentaries [1] => Featurettes [2] => Deleted Scenes [3] => Theatrical Trailers ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles [2] => Spanish Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Comedy [1] => Crime ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Matt Damon [1] => Julia Roberts [2] => Brad Pitt [3] => George Clooney ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Steven Soderbergh ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Ocean’s 11 (2001) Danny Ocean (George Clooney) likes taking chances. All he asks is that his handpicked squad of ten grifters and cons play the game like they have nothing to lose. If all goes right, the payoff will be a fat $150 million.

Ocean’s 12 (2004)
They’re back. And then some. Twelve is the new eleven when Danny Ocean and pals return in a sequel to the cool caper that saw them pull off a $150 million heist. But $150 million doesn’t go as far as it used to. It’s time to pull off another stunner of a plan. Exciting locations include Amsterdam, Paris and Rome, the direction of Steven Soderbergh again and the original cast plus Catherine Zeta Jones and others.

Ocean’s 13 (2007)
Danny Ocean rounds up the boys for the most dazzling heist yet, after casino owner Willy Bank (Al Pacino) double-crosses one of the eleven, Reuben Tishkoff (Elliott Gould). George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and more reteam with director Steven Soderbergh for a split-second caper that stacks the deck with wit, style and cool. [preview_technology_specifications] => Ocean's Eleven:
• 2 Audio Commentaries: Stars Matt Damon, Andy Garcia and Brad Pitt / Director Steven Soderbergh and Screenwriter Ted Griffin
• Documentaries: "HBO First Look: The Making Of Ocean's Eleven," "The Look Of The Con"

• 3 Theatrical Trailers

Ocean's Twelve:
• None

Ocean's Thirteen:
• Documentary: "Masters of the Heist"
• Featurettes: "Vegas: An Opulent Illusion," "Jerry Weintraub Walk and Talk" [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => • Additional Footage
• Deleted Scenes
• More TBA [preview_forum_id] => 17323 [review_editors_notes] => Non-format-specific portions of this review also appear in our Blu-ray review of the 'Ocean's Giftset.' [review_bottom_line] => Worth a Look [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 28016 [review_movie_stars] => 4 [review_movie] =>

When 'Ocean's Eleven' hit theaters in 2001, it seemed that indie mastermind Steven Soderbergh could do no wrong. Having risen through the ranks making intelligent films that challenged audiences, impressed critics, and garnered the respect of his industry peers, even a pulpy heist flick like 'Ocean's Eleven' stood out from the crowd, receiving rave reviews and grossing more than $450 million worldwide. Alas, it would be Soderbergh's last indisputable hit. In 2002, the director turned his attention to a series of more experimental projects that disappointed many who had previously praised him. Even the more mainstream sequels to 'Ocean's Eleven' were met with chilly receptions -- 'Ocean's Twelve' was critically crucified, while 'Ocean's Thirteen' was pegged as more of the same.

Thankfully, I'm one of the lucky heist flick junkies who couldn't care less about critical consensus. There's nothing like watching sure-handed, quick-witted anti-heroes develop and execute an unimaginably elaborate heist. Sure, the sequels never reached the heights of 'Ocean's Eleven,' but in my opinion that's only because Soderbergh set an insurmountably high bar his first time around. I'd even argue that the low points of the series are more impressive than the majority of other heist flicks. For that reason, I'm exceedingly pleased that Warner Brothers has continued to support the series with the release of the 'Ocean's Trilogy' on HD DVD and Blu-ray.

'Ocean's Eleven' kicks things off with a bang by introducing Danny Ocean (George Clooney), a criminal mastermind whose unshakably cool demeanor masks a staggering intellect. When he's released from prison, he sets about trying to exact revenge on his nemesis, casino owner Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia). After assembling a group of the best thieves in the business (played by Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Carl Reiner, Don Cheadle, Bernie Mac, Scott Caan, and Casey Affleck), Ocean devises a plan to win back his ex (Julia Roberts) while simultaneously robbing three of Benedict's most profitable casinos.

Easily the strongest of the trilogy, 'Ocean's Eleven' 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 members deliver with sharp tongues and cool wit. The script is supported by Soderbergh's breezy direction and effortless editing, all of which combine for a thrilling final act that balances sleight of hand with humor to deliver a truly satisfying end to the tale. The climactic heist is both epic and entertaining -- a stunning finale that's as mesmerizing today as it was the first time I saw it.

'Ocean's Twelve' (released in 2004) takes the team out of Vegas and sets them loose in Paris, Amsterdam, and Rome. Three years after the triple-casino robbery, a vengeful Benedict tracks down the crew and forces them to earn back the 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.

Although it brims with the same sort of wisecracking shenanigans as its predecessor, 'Ocean's Twelve' has a vastly different tone and occasionally loses focus on an endless number of subplots and plot twists. The heart of the problems seem to stem from the fact that the screenplay wasn't originally written as 'Ocean's Twelve' -- it 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 so that it would 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,' and in my opinion 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, but their clever banter with Clooney is as kinetic as ever. Better still, a series of larger-than-life opponents toy with each criminal and give the team a genuine challenge. To top it all off, the thieves actually struggle with the difficulties of their lifestyle and have to 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.

For 'Ocean's Thirteen' (2007), Soderbergh again reunites our favorite thieves to take down a vicious casino owner named Willy Banks (Al Pacino). But rather than physically harm Banks, Ocean decides to hit him where it really hurts -- the potential cash flow of his new multi-million dollar hotel and casino.

The cast members comfortably sink back into their roles, while Pacino's villain ignites the story, with the actor given free reign to dominate the screen and play up every line. His Willy Banks is a cold-blooded Vegas old-schooler, played with ferocity and bubbling rage. 'Ocean's Thirteen' may not top the first film, but it's a definite improvement over 'Ocean's Twelve,' managing to effectively return the focus to the place where this series belongs -- Vegas. This time around, the heist is more satisfying, the plot points have more weight, and the actors are less self-referential. There are even moments of heart and genuine pathos that manage to elevate the significance of 'Ocean's Thirteen,' making it more than just a piece of regurgitated entertainment.

That's not to say that this sequel is as good as it could be. Whereas 'Ocean's Eleven' balanced the mechanics of its heist with a series of carefully plotted character dynamics, 'Oceans Thirteen' makes the heist the main focus of the story, giving the entire film the feel of an extended third act that's consumed by the details of the robbery rather than the development of the film's characters. As a result, the end product lacks some of the wonder and pure exhilaration of the first film.

I'll be the first to admit that the Ocean's trilogy isn't perfect. While 'Ocean's Eleven' is a true genre classic, Soderbergh's sequels visibly struggle to rekindle its fire. Still, clever characters and witty dialogue are the real draw here, and on that level the series is quite consistent. Likewise, even watching all three films in succession, it remains a joy to watch this crew of first-rate actors clearly having a ball with their performances. If you can turn off the overly critical portion of your brain, here's betting you'll find plenty of things to love scattered across these three fabulously funny and engaging films.

The HD DVD Disc: Vital Disc Stats

The 'Ocean's Eleven, Twelve & Thirteen Giftset' arrives on HD DVD in a slipcovered box set that houses individually packaged copies of all three films. While it may be a bit bulky for some, I personally prefer having a standard case and cover for each movie in a series (rather than a single multi-disc case).

It's also worth mentioning that as of this writing, this box set is the only way to get high definition copies of 'Ocean's Eleven' and 'Ocean's Twelve,' since Warner has yet to release stand-alone editions of either title on HD DVD or Blu-ray. The studio has, however, issued stand-alone versions of 'Ocean's Thirteen' on both next-gen formats concurrent with this release. (To read my full-length review of the 'Ocean's Thirteen' HD DVD, click here.)

[review_video_stars] => 3.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 4467 [review_video] =>

Warner presents each of the three films in this high-def box set with matching 1080p/VC-1 transfers, but the similarities between the three discs pretty much end there. In fact, taken as a whole, the wildly different visual experiences on display in the 'Ocean's Trilogy' would seem to demonstrate everything that's both exciting and perplexing about Soderbergh's down-and-dirty asthetic.

Even though it's the oldest of the three, 'Ocean's Eleven' easily boasts the most technically impressive video transfer of the bunch. 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.

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 quick pinpoints of white randomly flick on the print throughout the film. 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.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, 'Ocean's Twelve' offers the worst transfer in the trilogy. While it occasionally maintains the bright contrast of 'Ocean's Eleven,' the crisp detailing and image depth of the first film is nowhere to found. Instead, Soderbergh intentionally submerges 'Twelve' in heavy, crushed shadows that strip faces and locations of the type of pop common to the best high definition releases. Noise is also much more aggressive this time around -- in some scenes I actually had trouble telling whether I was seeing heavy grain, digital noise, or some other sort of technical deficiency. Although I'm certain this transfer reflects Soderbergh's directorial intentions, taken purely on the level of high-def eye candy, it's hard not to label this one a disappointment.

'Ocean's Thirteen' is also something less than a high-def demo disc, this time due to Soderbergh's use of glaring color discrepancies and a monsoon of heavy noise. For the majority of the film, skintones are boosted, oversaturated, and flooded with deep orange tones (even more than I remember seeing in theaters). Likewise, spiking grain and low lighting make detail a moot point at times. Although sharpness and clarity receive an impressive upgrade compared to the standard-def DVD, they make the grain sharper than the rest of the imagery, resulting in a salt and pepper fiasco that's so elevated at times that the picture can be almost entirely flat and two-dimensional.

To be fair, despite the strange choices made by its director, this high-def transfer of 'Ocean's Thirteen' does have technical merit. Crowds and pinpoints of light are crisply rendered in long shots of the casino. Black levels are deep, and contrast suits the film nicely. Some shots are even downright gorgeous -- when Soderbergh reduces his fixation on orange, the picture comes alive and looks wonderful while still retaining the director's naturalistic rejection of Hollywood shooting styles. In these moments, blues and greens really pop, while textural detail of the sets and costumes often look great.

(Note that side-by-side comparisons of each individual film on both high-def formats revealed no visible differences in picture quality between the HD DVD and Blu-ray versions of this box set.)

[review_audio_stars] => 3.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 4468 [review_audio] =>

Unlike the varied quality of the video transfers, the audio packages on each of the 'Ocean's' films share the same peaks and valleys. Once again Warner delivers matching specs, with all three discs boasting a Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 surround mix at 640 kbps. Although I'm slightly disappointed that Warner Brothers hasn't included any high-res audio options, I doubt the upgrade would have done much for the subdued soundscape of the trilogy.

Each of the films are dialogue driven affairs where light quips dominate the central channels and push the bulk of the soundfield forward. The conversations are always crisp and well prioritized, and I never had to strain to hear the characters speak (except for two intentionally hushed lines in 'Ocean's Twelve'). But the most exciting element of these audio tracks is the jazzy score of each film. 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 more clear than they did on any of the standard DVDs.

Unfortunately, the audio mixes rarely take advantage of the rear surrounds -- the busy casinos in 'Ocean's Eleven' and 'Thirteen' provide the same technical experience as the crowded streets in 'Ocean's Twelve.' Ambiance is relegated to the bottom of the soundscape and very little attention seems to have been invested in the immersive properties of the tracks. Add to that a series of underwhelming dynamics (with a minimal LFE presence to boot) and there really isn't a standout audio track in the trilogy. Make no mistake, each of these mixes handle everything Soderbergh gives them with ease, but overall they fail to pack the kind of sonic wow factor of better high-def releases on either format.

[review_supplements_stars] => 2 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 4469 [review_supplements] =>

In what's sure to be a relief for completists, Warner has ported over every last special feature from the standard DVD versions of the three individual films for this high-def box set. What's more, they've even thrown in a couple of significant high-def exclusives for 'Ocean's Twelve' and 'Ocean's Thirteen,' which I'll discuss in the next section.

Ocean's Eleven

The first film features the most substantive and exciting supplemental package of the group, benefiting from the direct presence of some key cast members. The biggest disappointment 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 and provides 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 and drive 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.

Ocean's Twelve

Like the DVD, 'Ocean's Twelve' has no non-exclusive special features save a collection of trailers.

Ocean's Thirteen

Warner has ported over the complete set of supplements from the concurrently-released stand-alone versions of 'Ocean's Thirteen,' but alas, this is a rather anemic collection.

  • An Opulent Illusion (SD, 23 minutes) -- Rather than focus on the film itself, this featurette explores the history of Las Vegas and its rise to financial prominence. It covers the psychology employed by casinos to increase gambling, the methods the casino owners use to lure in new tourists, and the careful assault of the senses that's used to draw more and more tourists to Nevada. The most surprising point in this mini-doc is that modern day Las Vegas isn't kept alive by gambling revenues, but rather by the shows and events that litter the hotels and casinos. All in all, a very good featurette, even if it's not directly related to the film.
  • Deleted Scenes (HD, 5 minutes) -- This is an interesting collection of cuts, but I can see how they might have hurt the film more than they would have helped. Fans will likely enjoy a couple of the extra character riffs and the subtle change in the reveal of heist's inner workings.
  • Jerry Weintraub Walk and Talk (SD, 2 minutes) -- In this all-too-brief featurette, the film's producer gives a tour of the Casino set used in the filming of 'Ocean's Thirteen,' which was certainly an amazing recreation of the Vegas asthetic.

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 2 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 4470 [review_bonus_content] =>

Although there are no high-def exclusives included for 'Ocean's Eleven,' we do get a couple of meaty supplements for 'Ocean's Twelve' and 'Ocean's Thirteen,' which help make up for their all-too-slim standard supplements package.

Ocean's Twelve

First released as a barebones DVD with no special features whatsoever, each high-def version of this giftset marks the first appearance of several special features specific to the critically-drubbed sequel.

  • Director and Writer Commentary -- Clearly recorded after the chily 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.

Ocean's Thirteen

Each high-def version of 'Ocean's Thirteen' (those individually packaged and those bundled in this giftset) receive the same exclusive supplements.

  • Director and Screenwriter Commentary -- This feature-length track is another win for Soderbergh who regularly provides nicely paced and informative commentaries on his films. In this case, he's joined by screenwriters David Levin and Brian Koppelman to discuss the story and its the characters. Their chat is fun and keeps moving from point to point without any annoying lulls. Yes, a commentary with the cast would have been ideal, but this one's satisfying in its own right.
  • Masters of the Heist (SD, 44 minutes) -- Alas, this is not a behind-the-scenes look at the film. Instead, it's a short documentary that focuses on the methodology of a successful real-life heist. It's a fun watch, but ultimately it doesn't contribute much to this overall package.

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

Bringing together all three films in Steven Soderbergh's Oceans trilogy, the 'Ocean's Eleven, Twelve & Thirteen Giftset' offers a trio of cool heist flicks anchored by a near-perfect opening volley of wit. Unfortunately, this HD DVD box set is a bit of a mixed bag, offering up a strange variety of video transfers, a series of subdued audio tracks, and a package of somewhat limited supplements. Die-hard fans of the trilogy will still want to pick this one up, but more casual admirers of the the first flick may want to wait until Warner eventually makes the first two films available for individual sale on HD DVD.

) ) [1] => Array ( [review_id] => 1081 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => oceansthirteen [review_release_date] => 1194940800 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Ocean's Thirteen [picture_created] => 1189448875 [picture_name] => oceans-thirteen-hd-dvddvd-combo-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Video [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/09/10/120/oceans-thirteen-hd-dvddvd-combo-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1081/oceansthirteen.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2007 [run_time] => 122 [list_price] => 39.98 [asin] => B000W1V7KE [amazon_price] => 24.95 [empire_id] => 1368421 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.35:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentary [1] => Documentary ) [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 (640kbps) [1] => Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (640kbps) [2] => French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (640kbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Featurettes [1] => Deleted Scenes ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English Subtitles [1] => Spanish Subtitles [2] => French Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Comedy [1] => Crime ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => George Clooney ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Steven Soderbergh ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => It's bolder. Riskier. The most dazzling heist yet. George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and more reteam with director Steven Soderbergh for a split-second caper that stacks the deck with wit, style and cool. Danny Ocean again runs the game, so no rough stuff. No one gets hurt. Except for double-crossing Vegas kingpin Willy Bank (Al Pacino). Ocean's crew will hit him where it hurts: in his wallet. On opening night of Bank's posh new casino tower The Bank, every turn of a card and roll of the dice will come up a winner for bettors. And they'll hit him in his pride, making sure the tower doesn't receive a coveted Five Diamond Award. That's just the start of the flimflams. The boys are out to break The Bank. Place your bets! [preview_technology_specifications] => • Documentary: "Masters of the Heist"
• Featurettes: "Vegas: An Opulent Illusion," "Jerry Weintraub Walk and Talk" [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => TBA [preview_forum_id] => 17322 [review_editors_notes] => Non-format-specific portions of this review also appear in our Blu-ray review of 'Ocean's 13.' [review_bottom_line] => Worth a Look [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 25879 [review_movie_stars] => 4 [review_movie] =>

Since bursting on the scene in 1989 with the seminal indie 'Sex, Lies and Videotape,' Steven Soderbergh has built a career delivering naturalistic dramas that reject Hollywood convention and replace it with raw glimpses into humanity. With an eclectic filmmography that includes such high-profile and critically-acclaimed hits as 'Erin Brokovich' and 'Traffic,' Soderbergh's film choices are tend to be anything but predictable. That is, except when it comes to his 2001 heist remake 'Oceans 11,' which has spawned an unlikely franchise for the iconoclastic director.

In this third film in the series, master thief Danny Ocean (George Clooney) reunites his team in order to take down a vicious casino owner named Willy Banks (Al Pacino). It seems Banks nearly killed a dear friend and financier (Elliot Gould) of our loveable criminals, leaving the crew looking for revenge. But rather than physically harm Banks, the group decides to hit him where it really hurts -- the potential cash flow of his new multi-million dollar casino. What follows is a complicated heist the relies on clever trickery and fascinating sleight of hand. Julia Roberts and Catherine Zeta Jones never appear on screen this time around -- instead, the action centers around a reduced ensemble that features the likes of Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, Scott Caan, Don Cheadle, Casey Affleck, Bernie Mac, and Eddie Izzard.

The result is a fun jaunt through a world where our heroes are always one step ahead of the bad guys. The cast comfortably sinks back into their roles and effortlessly inhabit their characters. Egg-shelled barbs and light-footed dialogue brings the ensemble to life and provide plenty of laughs throughout the film. Pacino's villain ignites the story, with the actor given free reign to dominate the screen and play up every line. Where Garcia's casino boss was a dry and calculating thinker, Pacino's Willy Banks is a cold-blooded Vegas old-schooler, played to great effect. Clooney and Pitt's characters, meanwhile, continue to exude cool in every scene they're in, and remain as magnetic as they are engaging.

I have to admit that I'm an absolute sucker for this series -- I was one of the few people who even had a decent time watching the critically drubbed 'Ocean's 12.' Even so, I can see that 'Ocean's 13' is a definite improvement over the second film, managing to effectively return the focus to the place where this series belongs -- Vegas. This time around, the heist is more satisfying, the plot points have more weight, and the actors are less self-referential. There are even moments of heart and genuine pathos that manage to elevate the significance of 'Ocean's 13,' making it more than just a piece of pulpy entertainment.

That's not to say that this sequel is as good as it could be. Whereas 'Ocean's 11' balanced the mechanics of its heist with a series of carefully plotted character dynamics, 'Oceans 13' makes the heist the main focus of the story, giving the entire film the feel of an extended third act that's consumed by the details of the robbery rather than the development of the film's characters. Simply put, everyone is the same as they were in previous movies -- there are references to substantial life changes for Clooney, Pitt, and Damon's characters, but their behaviors and personalities seem unaffected. As a result, the end product lacks some of the wonder and pure exhilaration of the first film.

That being said, 'Ocean's 13' is still a blast and captures the breezy tone of the best heist flicks out there. It's clear that the cast is having a great time and Soderbergh seems to have taken many of the criticisms of 'Ocean's 12' to heart. Fans will find plenty to love and will take an immediate liking to the ensemble performances. Newcomers to the series should check out 'Ocean's 11' first.

[review_video_stars] => 3 [review_video_picture_id] => 4326 [review_video] =>

'Ocean's 13' hits both HD DVD and Blu-ray with identical encodes. Unfortunately, while I'm quite sure the look of this 1080p/VC-1 transfer reflects Soderbergh's directorial intentions, a series of glaring color discrepancies, heavy noise, and rough detail conspire to make this something less than a high-def demo disc.

Soderbergh's camera makes Las Vegas an overwhelming mish mash of neon lights and artificial personalities that the transfer matches with subtle visual cues. For the majority of the film, skintones are boosted, oversaturated, and flooded with deep orange tones (even more than I remember seeing in theaters). Likewise, spiking grain and low lighting can make detail a moot point at times. And although sharpness and clarity receive an impressive upgrade compared to the standard-def DVD, they only make the grain sharper than the rest of the imagery -- the resulting salt and pepper fiasco is so elevated at times that the picture seems almost entirely flat and two-dimensional.

In spite of the strange choices made by its director, 'Ocean's 13' does have technical merit. Crowds and pinpoints of light are crisply rendered in long shots of the casino. Black levels are deep, and contrast suits the film nicely. Some shots are even downright gorgeous -- when Soderbergh reduces his fixation on orange, the picture comes alive and looks wonderful while still retaining the director's naturalistic rejection of Hollywood shooting styles. In these moments, blues and greens pop and really deliver an impressive image. I also found myself engaged by the textural detail of the sets and costumes -- fabrics, wood grains, and the etchings on tables often look great.

Fans will likely debate at length as to whether the transfer of 'Ocean's 13' is an ugly mess or an artistic declaration of substance. It certainly seems reflective of Soderbergh's established cinematic asthetic, and I have no doubt that this is how the director wants us to see his film. Just be warned -- 'Ocean's 13' is not the sort of disc you'll want to pull out to sell your friends and neighbors on the benefits of high definition.

[review_audio_stars] => 3.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 4327 [review_audio] =>

This HD DVD edition of 'Ocean's 13' features an Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 surround mix (640 kbps) that's identical to the DD track on the Blu-ray (also 640 kbps).

Although film itself is populated by hushed conversations, dialogue is always crisp and well-prioritized within the soundscape, and I never found myself straining to hear lines. Likewise, the soundtrack is light and jazzy, flittering across the front channels with ease -- I wouldn't say there are any standout moments per se, but decent dynamics keep the score at the forefront of the mix.

The most disappointing aspect of the audio package is that the surrounds are rarely engaged and the LFE channel is fairly muted throughout the film. Pans are too subtle, directionality is nill, and ambiance is insignificant. This is by no means a reflection of the technical quality of the audio track itself, but rather a weakness in the sound design. I was initially disappointed to see a standard Dolby mix on this release, but a high-end track would've likely sounded exactly the same in this instance. In the end, the track handles everything Soderbergh throws its way with ease, but not unlike the video, it simply doesn't pack the wow factor of better high-def releases on either format.

[review_supplements_stars] => 1 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 4328 [review_supplements] =>

Warner has ported over the complete set of supplements from the concurrently-released standard-def DVD, but unfortunately this is a rather anemic collection. (The good news for high-def fans is that we get a whole other set of high-def exclusives, which I'll discuss in the next section.)

  • An Opulent Illusion (SD, 23 minutes) -- Rather than focus on the film itself, this featurette explores the history of Las Vegas and its rise to financial prominence. It covers the psychology employed by casinos to increase gambling, the methods the casino owners use to lure in new tourists, and the careful assault of the senses that's used to draw more and more tourists to Nevada. The most surprising point in this mini-doc is that modern day Las Vegas isn't kept alive by gambling revenues, but rather by the shows and events that litter the hotels and casinos. All in all, a very good featurette, even if it's not directly related to the film.
  • Deleted Scenes (HD, 5 minutes) -- This is an interesting collection of cuts, but I can see how they might have hurt the film more than they would have helped. Fans will likely enjoy a couple of the extra character riffs and the subtle change in the reveal of heist's inner workings.
  • Jerry Weintraub Walk and Talk (SD, 2 minutes) -- In this all-too-brief featurette, the film's producer gives a tour of the Casino set used in the filming of 'Ocean's 13,' which was certainly an amazing recreation of the Vegas asthetic.

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 1.5 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 4329 [review_bonus_content] =>

Here's a rare case where the studio seems to saved something more than simply crumbs for high-def, granting both the HD DVD and Blu-ray editions of 'Oceans 13' with an exclusive commentary track and a documentary.

  • Director and Screenwriter Commentary -- This feature-length track is another win for Soderbergh who regularly provides nicely paced and informative commentaries on his films. In this case, he's joined by screenwriters David Levin and Brian Koppelman to discuss the story and its the characters. Their chat is fun and keeps moving from point to point without any annoying lulls. Yes, a commentary with the cast would have been amazing, but this one's still satisying in its own right.
  • Masters of the Heist (SD, 44 minutes) -- Alas, this is not a behind-the-scenes look at the film. Instead, it's a short documentary that focuses on the methodology of a successful real-life heist. It's a fun watch, but it doesn't contribute much to the film at all.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 3 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 4330 [review_final_thoughts] =>

Although it fails to reach the same heights as 'Ocean's 11,' Soderbergh's third film in the series is definitely better than the second, and I personally had a lot of fun watching the actors play verbal chess. This HD DVD is a tough one to call. Given the aesthetics of the source material, it's hard to imagine the video or audio looking or sounding much better than they do here, but neither come close to the best high-def discs out there. A slim supplements package doesn't help matters (although at least we get an HD exclusive director's commentary). All things considered, fans of the film who know what to expect will likely still enjoy this presentation, but newcomers may end up wondering why the experience doesn't pack more punch.

) ) [2] => Array ( [review_id] => 667 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => prideandprejudice2005 [review_release_date] => 1194940800 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Pride & Prejudice (2005) [picture_created] => 1191984535 [picture_name] => pride-and-prejudice.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Universal Studios Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/10/09/120/pride-and-prejudice.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/667/prideandprejudice2005.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2005 [run_time] => 129 [list_price] => 29.98 [asin] => B000VBP38C [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1363640 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.35:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => Featurette [1] => 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/2.2Mbps) [1] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (448kbps) [2] => French Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (448kbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentary [1] => Featurettes ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => French Subtitles [1] => English SDH [2] => English Subtitles [3] => French Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Drama ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Jena Malone [1] => Donald Sutherland [2] => Rosamund Pike [3] => Keira Knightley ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Joe Wright ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => One of the greatest love stories of all time, Pride & Prejudice, comes to the screen in a glorious new adaptation starring Keira Knightley. When Elizabeth Bennet (Knightley) meets handsome Mr. Darcy (Matthew Macfadyen), she believes he is the last man on earth she could ever marry. But as their lives become intertwined in an unexpected adventure, she finds herself captivated by the very person she swore to loathe for all eternity. Based on the beloved masterpiece by Jane Austen, it is the classic tale of love and misunderstanding that sparkles with romance, wit and emotional force. Critics are calling it "Exhilarating. A joy from start to finish." (Carina Chocano, Los Angeles Times). [preview_technology_specifications] => • Audio Commentary with Director Joe Wright
• Featurettes: "Conversations with the Cast," "Jane Austen, Ahead of Her Time," "A Bennet Family Portrait," "HBO First Look: Pride & Prejudice," "The Politics of Dating," "The Stately Homes of Pride & Prejudice" [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => • MyScenes [preview_forum_id] => 15806 [review_bottom_line] => Recommended [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 26441 [review_movie_stars] => 4.5 [review_movie] =>

It may not carry the obvious appeal to high-def early adopters of a 'Pirates of the Caribbean,' or a 'Matrix,' but don't let the eighteenth century trappings of 'Pride and Prejudice' fool you. Yes, this one's initially likely to be of more interest to your wife or girlfriend, but 'Pride and Prejudice' is actually the rare romantic period piece that's likely to ultimately leave male viewers as satisfied as the females.

Adapted from the classic novel by Jane Austin, 'Pride & Prejudice' tells the quaint tale of Mr. & Mrs. Bennet (Donald Sutherland and Brenda Blethyn) and their five daughters -- Jane (Rosamund Pike), Elizabeth (Keira Knightley), Mary (Talulah Riley), Kitty (Carey Mulligan), and Lydia (Jena Malone). As the story opens, Mrs. Bennet is desperate to marry off her daughters to men of wealth and leisure before her husband inevitably passes away. To her dismay, the feisty, strong-willed Elizabeth refuses to marry any man unless the union is motivated by true love. When two wealthy bachelors come to stay with the family -- the carefree Mr. Bingley (Simon Woods) and his obnoxious companion Mr. Darcy (Matthew Macfadyen) -- Elizabeth hunkers down and refuses to consider either one. But before long, Mr. Darcy strikes a particular chord in this most spirited Bennet and she finds herself falling for a man she loathes in every way.

Based on a plot description alone, I can't fault anyone who might think 'Pride & Prejudice' sounds like the period equivalent of a cliché-ridden romantic comedy, but tucked beneath its rather generic setup is an intelligent story about a woman trapped by her instincts, her society, and her stubbornness. This isn't a stuffy romp that relies on period manners or high-court dialogue. Nor is it a forced and modernized tale of liberation or empowerment. And it certainly isn't a clumsy farce about awkward, plutonic love in a bygone era. Instead, 'Pride & Prejudice' is a surprisingly fast-paced, universal exploration of inconvenient love -- the sort of love that develops naturally, instead of the the miraculous, instantaneous love Hollywood has tried to sell audiences for a century.

I also wouldn't describe the film as a "chick flick." Guys, there's no need to suck up that manly pride to trudge through this one. I found as much to love here as my wife. I laughed out loud on more than one occasion and caught myself grinning every time the relationships in the film hit surprisingly close to home. The plot develops naturally and the actors masterfully match the fluidity of the story at every turn. Prior to seeing the film, I wasn't a huge fan of Keira Knightley, but her sharp face and harsh delivery instantly make Elizabeth a force to be reckoned with, and when she finally begins to reveal her character's softer side, the initial standoffishness of her performance pays off masterfully. Not only did she deserve her nomination for Best Actress, but she deserved to win (Reese Witherspoon took home the prize instead for 'Walk the Line').

Director Joe Wright ('The End,' 'Atonement') doesn't just rely on a faithful adaptation and the strong performances of his cast -- his vision of 18th century England is convincing and his attention to detail is really quite extraordinary. I loved his sweeping shots that track from room to room, exploring the busy bustle of Elizabeth's home. The vivid cinematography adds to the experience and flawlessly transports the audience to another time. While I can't say his adaptation is perfect (there are a few scenes that feel repetitive and a some others that seem a tad aimless), his film is extremely entertaining and exquisitely produced.

A wonderful adaptation of a beloved classic, this is the rare period romance that has near-universal appeal.

[review_video_stars] => 4.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 4356 [review_video] =>

Universal brings 'Pride & Prejudice' to HD DVD with a stunning 1080p/VC-1 transfer that genuinely surprised me. Although the standard-def DVD suffered from average color reproduction, plasticized skin, and obvious edge enhancement, this HD DVD transfer brings the film to life with natural fleshtones, crisp textures, and truly gorgeous landscapes. The palette is lush and warm, soaked in soft sunsets and candlelight that still allow the sharpest details to grace the screen. Individual blades of grass, leaves, and the stitching on hand-sewn dresses are perfectly rendered on the screen. Skin and fabric textures pop and provide the image with an authenticity that was sorely lacking on the standard DVD.

Contrast is exactly as it should be -- it never hinders the clarity of elements cloaked in shadow and it doesn't overindulge itself to create an artificial sense of depth. Black levels are deep and free from noise and spiking grain. In fact, overall the print is in excellent shape and I didn't detect any blemishes, artifacting, or edge enhancement. A handful of shots are a bit soft compared to the majority of the scenes, but they rarely detract from the overall image quality. Simply put, this is a wonderfully filmic transfer that offers a substantial upgrade over its standard definition counterpart.

[review_audio_stars] => 4.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 4357 [review_audio] =>

'Pride & Prejudice' features a robust Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track (48 kHz/16-Bit/2.2 Mbps) that has more to offer than you might expect from a period romance. Although the film is dominated by quiet conversations, the rear channels are frequently used to develop a thoroughly convincing soundfield. I found myself constantly surrounded by everything from heavy crowd chatter to the soft rustle of leaves in the distance. Ambiance is a consistently strong element in the soundscape -- tinkling silverware, clinking glasses, and the shuffle of footsteps give scenes a realism that more aggressive sound mixes often overlook. Likewise, the impressive acoustics of each scene are a testament to the diligence and effort of all those responsible for the film's sound design.

Dialogue is clean and comfortably distributed across the front of the soundfield -- to my relief, even the quietest lines are prominently placed in the soundscape. As you might expect, the film doesn't have a strong LFE presence, but the its score shows off some respectable dynamics. Crisp, hearty strings flutter across the entirety of the soundfield to create an immersive lyrical experience. I did note a few moments where I felt the crescendo of the music overshadowed important lines of dialogue, but this is more a matter of personal taste than it is a technical complaint. In the end, the audio on this HD DVD was just as much of a surprise as the video and fans will be extremely pleased with the result.

[review_supplements_stars] => 2.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 4358 [review_supplements] =>

Although this HD DVD edition of 'Pride & Prejudice' ports over all of the supplemental content from the concurrently-released "Deluxe Two-Disc" standard DVD, unfortunately I found the contents of this package to be mostly underwhelming.

  • Director's Commentary -- Joe Wright delivers a candid track in which he criticizes his film as much as he compliments it. I enjoyed listening to his honest and biting commentary at first, but it grew old after a while. He provides plenty of information, but he isn't engaging enough to make the production details entirely interesting. Less technical chit chat and a few more anecdotes would likely have made this blunt commentary extraordinary.
  • Conversations with the Cast (SD, 6 minutes) -- The cast members on hand for this featurette obviously had a good time, but unlike Wright, they spend most of their time patting each other on the back. The end result doesn't add much insight into the production of the film and felt too promotional to resonate with me.
  • Jane Austen: Ahead of Her Time (SD, 8 minutes) -- This all-too-brief featurette attempts to whittle the significance of the author down to a few blurbs that everyone should've learned in High School English. Worst still, the cast and crew are the one supplying the information and they merely scratch the surface of Austen's writing. I'm surprised there isn't a meatier documentary included here about the author and the influence of her enduring work.
  • HBO First Look (SD, 13 minutes) -- Ugh. What do you get when you add complimentary interviews with random film clips and set it all to rousing music? Your typical HBO First Look. This is promotional fluff through and through.
  • A Bennet Family Portrait (6 minutes) -- The only extra I thoroughly enjoyed, this one includes interviews with the cast as they examine the motivations of each character. It's over far too quickly, but it offers some excellent info that's missing from the rest of this mostly fluffy supplemental package.
  • The Stately Homes -- Framed in an interactive map that highlights several locations in the film, clicking on any of five individual hot spots allows you to jump to short featurettes with production details, behind-the-scenes footage, and photos of each location:
    • Groombridge Place -- (SD, 4 minutes)
    • Basildon Park -- (SD, 2 minutes)
    • Chatsworth House -- (SD, 3 minutes)
    • Wilton House -- (SD, 3 minutes)
    • Burghley -- (SD, 4 minutes)
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content] =>

None, except Universal's standard MyScenes bookmarking feature.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 4 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 4359 [review_final_thoughts] =>

I wasn't expecting to praise this HD DVD edition of 'Pride & Prejudice,' but here I am. This release features an excellent cinematic adaptation of the classic novel, a beautiful video transfer, and a surprisingly strong Dolby TrueHD audio track. The only downside to the entire package is a weak set of supplements that fail to do the movie or its source justice. All in all, an easy recommend. Don't believe me? Just give it a try -- there's a good chance you'll find yourself roped in with the rest of us.

) ) [3] => Array ( [review_id] => 1139 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => shrekthethird [review_release_date] => 1194940800 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Shrek the Third [picture_created] => 1190924373 [picture_name] => shrek-the-third.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => DreamWorks Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/09/27/120/shrek-the-third.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1139/shrekthethird.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2007 [run_time] => 92 [list_price] => 39.98 [asin] => B000W4RV1A [amazon_price] => 27.95 [empire_id] => 1368024 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => Picture-in-Picture Commentary [1] => Video Jukebox [2] => Bookmarks [3] => Web-Enabled Features ) [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 (1.5mbps) [1] => French Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (448kbps) [2] => Spanish Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (448kbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Featurettes [1] => Deleted Scenes [2] => Outtakes ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles [2] => Spanish Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Animation [1] => Comedy [2] => Family [3] => Fantasy [4] => Romance ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Antonio Banderas [1] => Eddie Murphy [2] => Cameron Diaz [3] => Mike Myers ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Raman Hui [1] => Chris Miller ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => When Shrek married Fiona the last thing he had in mind was becoming the next King of Far Far Away. But when Shrek’s father-in-law, King Harold, suddenly croaks, that is exactly what he faces. Recruiting Donkey and Puss In Boots for a new quest, Shrek sets out to bring back the rightful heir to the throne. Meanwhile back in the kingdom, Fiona's jilted Prince Charming storms the city with an army of fairy tale villains to seize the throne. Fiona and a band of princesses must stop him to ensure there will be a kingdom left to rule! [preview_technology_specifications] => • Featurettes: "Meet the Cast," "The Fauxly Grail," "Hot Lunch," "Cyrano De Artie," "Doppelgangers," "Tech of Shrek," "Donkey Dance," "Big Green Goofs," "Shrek's Guide to Parenthood," "Merlin's Magic Crystal Ball," "Learn the Donkey Dance," "How to Be Green"
• Lost Scenes
• Theatrical Trailers: 'Bee Movie,' 'Kung Fu Panda' [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => • Picture-in-Picture: "The Animators’ Corner" experience featuring storyboards, deleted scene pitches and technical goofs
• Dreamworks Animation Video Jukebox
• "My Menu" customizable character menu skins
• Web Enabled Features: Shrek’s Trivia Track (available on street date), The World of Shrek, Donkey’s Digital Coloring Book [preview_forum_id] => 18875 [review_editors_notes] => Non-format specific portions of this review also appear in our Blu-ray review of 'Shrek the Third.' [review_bottom_line] => Recommended [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 25781 [review_movie_stars] => 2.5 [review_movie] =>

Movie sequels have it tough. They only exist because the public's love for the original film was so great that they want more of the same, yet at the same time a sequel must also deliver at least something a little bit different, or risk boring its audience to death with repetition. 'Shrek the Third' is a classic example of a movie that never quite successfully solves this dilemma, offering up too much of what we've seen before and too little of what we haven't.

Of course, the original 'Shrek' wasn't all that blazingly original to begin with, with a story that borrowed liberally from classic fairy tales, and mixed it up with hip humor and a seemingly endless supply of pop culture references. 'Shrek 2' continued this approach, so I suppose it's no huge surprise that 'Shrek the Third' again plays it safe, delivering another narrative pastiche of other movies. You might think of this one as the 'Three Ogres and a Baby' meets 'The Lion King' installment in the franchise, where Shrek learns he's gonna be a papa, while at the same time struggles with the responsibility of being ruler of his kingdom. Unfortunately, the film adds little else of substance to this familiar thematic equation, and has so many returning characters and loose ends to tie up from the earlier movies that the story never gets much of a chance to live and breathe on its own. Simply put, there is a curious sense of obligation to the whole affair.

The basics of the plot are amusing enough. When his frog-in-law suddenly croaks (har har, get it?), Shrek (Mike Myers) discovers he's the next in line to assume the throne. This doesn't go down so well with the big ogre, however, who just wants to hang around the swamp with his faithful sidekicks Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and Puss 'n' Boots (Antonio Banderas). Complicating matters is the news from Fiona (Cameron Diaz) that she's pregnant, which throws Shrek into a major daddy-to-be panic -- especially when the size of her bulging belly would seem to suggest that more than one little bundle of joy is on the way.

Then, suddenly, Shrek gets a break when he learns that there is actually another potential heir to the throne, a supposedly noble knight named Arthur (who actually turns out to be a gangly teen named Artie, voiced by Justin Timberlake). So Shrek sets off with Donkey and Boots to entice Artie to take the job, which leads to another whirlwind adventure and run-ins with various colorful fairytale characters. But there's danger, too, when the evil Prince Charming (Rupert Everett) learns of Shrek's quest, and pledges to stop at nothing in order to snag the crown for himself -- even if it means offing Artie, Fiona and anyone else who gets in his path.

Ultimately 'Shrek the Third' feels more like a sketch show than a story. The burden of delivering a relentless parade of ironic zingers and satiric homages is crushing, and the narrative of the movie seems to be in constant danger of collapsing like a post-modern house of cards. The sheer desperation of the film's need to please overwhelms all, and any grown-up themes it attempts to explore are squashed by all the cynical cleverness. Although I have to admit a begrudging admiration for any movie that can somehow find a way to use the James Bond tune "Live and Let Die" as an appropriate funeral song for a dying frog, then only minutes later quote the ultimate '70s pity-party power ballad "I've Never Been to Me" as the theme for its villain, even with a slim runtime of barely 87 minutes, in the end I left the film more exhausted than I was exhilarated.

The word "magic" is thrown around a lot when it comes to movies in this genre, but it's true -- the best animated family movies are able to appeal to all age groups, marrying universal stories with great visuals and truly inspired humor. Unfortunately there's nothing magical about 'Shrek the Third' -- instead, it simply distracts with soulless pastiche, eventually leaving us with only the illusion of having been entertained. Still, judging by the flick's healthy box office returns, it seems that the joyous residue left by the original film is enough to carry yet another installment. As such, I'm going to go out on a limb and recommend this HD DVD for fans of the franchise, even if only for a rental. 'Shrek the Third' may have all the resonance of a commercial for the original 'Shrek,' but, for many, it seems that may be enough.

[review_video_stars] => 5 [review_video_picture_id] => 3691 [review_video] =>

Man, I'm getting really spoiled. Only just last week, I had the pleasure to review two CGI animated titles, 'Cars' and 'Ratatouille,' both from Pixar and both boasting what I thought were absolute five-star transfers. Although I still think that the Pixar team is untouchable in terms of the visual wit and stylistic brilliance they bring to their best animated features, 'Shrek the Third' on HD DVD proves that no one studio has a monopoly on fantastic high-def video presentations -- 'Shrek the Third' looks every bit as good as the best animated titles I've seen on either next-gen format.

A direct digital-to-digital presentation, DreamWorks offers up a 1080/VC-1 encode in the film's original 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio. Unlike a string of more recent animated films that have attempted to simulate a more "film-like" look (making background elements appear out of focus, adding grain, etc.), DreamWorks goes the opposite route, with everything appearing so incredibly sharp that it's almost creepy. 'Shrek the Third' is incredibly dimensional, and is about as close to 3-D as you're going to get without a pair of red and blue glasses. The level of detail and fine textures can be astounding, and just about any scene in the film is easily demo material.

The rest of the presentation is just as impressive. Colors are bold (particularly the striking icky green of ogre skin, and the fiery purples and oranges of the dragon) but never oversaturated. The image also avoids an over-processed look, with well-modulated contrast across the entire grayscale and deep, rich blacks that are free of heavy crush. I detected no problems with compression or other artifacts, and edge enhancement appears to be completely absent. Simply put, this HD DVD edition of 'Shrek the Third' boasts a marvelous transfer that easily holds it own with the best animated presentations I've seen so far on high-def. That's high praise indeed.

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

The audio on 'Shrek the Third' is a comparative disappointment, if only because the film's engaging sound design deserves better than the Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround track (at 1.5mbps) that Paramount/DreamWorks provides here. Why the studio continues to eschew high-res audio on such major releases as this and the recent 'Transformers' remains a complete mystery to me.

That said, what we do get here is perfectly fine and capable in its own right. All of the 'Shrek' films are lively sonic affairs, with plenty of discrete effects to go along with all the zany action on the screen. Activity in the rear channels is almost constant, with nice directionality to the mix, well-done panning and a good deal of bleed to the score. Atmosphere is also nicely sustained during the few quieter bits, with everything from minute drops of rain to wind in the trees subtle but noticeable in the surrounds.

Like most animated films, 'Shrek the Third' is an entirely studio-constructed soundtrack, so the caliber of the source is top drawer. It's clear, well-attenuated and quite realistic, and feels neither too bright nor too bland in terms. I did think the bass was a tad bit weaker than it might have been, but otherwise this mix is quite dynamic. Dialogue is also perfectly balanced, so no volume-matching problems here.

It's impossible to know how much better this soundtrack might have been if Paramount had opted for high-res audio, but on its own terms this is still a fine presentation.

[review_supplements_stars] => 2.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 3692 [review_supplements] =>

Historically DreamWorks has done a pretty good job of providing well-balanced supplemental packages for its family titles, recognizing the needs of both kids and adults alike. 'Shrek the Third' continues that approach, although I can't say I found it to be their most successful effort. It just doesn't provide much of substance for either demographic, with the majority of the shallow bonus features feeling like they were constructed simply to add another bulletpoint to the back of the box.

This HD DVD edition of the flick ports over all of the extras from the concurrently-released standard-def DVD, with each upgraded to 1080p/i. Note that this is also another one of those crazy discs that seem to use every codec imaginable -- the main feature and menus are presented in VC-1, while all of the video-based extras are encoded in either AVC MPEG-4 or MPEG-2. Regardless, the material looks great, and I was impressed with the consistent level of quality throughout.

Let's start by looking at the more adult-oriented fare, which can all be found under the "Special Features" tab.

  • Meet the Cast (11 minutes) - First up is a fun little featurette that introduces us to all of the main voice talent. Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas, Eddie Murphy and Justin Timberlake all contribute a few comments, and there is some nice behind-the-scenes footage of the voice recording sessions. No great shakes here, but fairly informative nonetheless.
  • Shrek Tech (10 minutes) - Dissecting the film's basic animation approach and techniques, this one features lots of quick cuts of all of the main characters in various stages of rendering, but little that goes beneath the surface. At least the snappy pace keeps things from getting boring.
  • Lost Scenes (25 minutes) - There are four "lost scenes" in all, although the title of this feature is a bit misleading as these are not actual scenes but actually excerpts from "pitch meetings" with filmmakers Dave Smith and Hamish Grieve. They describe each scene, and there are some pencil sketches shown via split-screen, but no final renderings were ever produced.
  • Big Green Goofs(2 minute) - This one's your standard blooper reel. Of course, all of this material is animated, so it's hardly "spontaneous," with various forced gags and intentionally "missed" lines. The animation is also all over the place, with most clips not up to the quality of the finished film, but rather rough renderings and the like.
  • Shrek's Guide to Parenthood - Comprised of four 1-minute segments, this one provides exactly what the title suggests -- acerbic child-rearing tips that no parent would actually follow. Strangely, Shrek himself doesn't even participate. Instead, we get only Donkey, Puss in Boots, Pinocchio and Gingy.
  • Donkey Dance (1 minute) - This mock music video features Donkey doing a routine to the old '80s chestnut "The Safety Dance" by Men Without Hats. Super slight, and not as cute as it sounds.
  • DreamWorks Animation Jukebox - This isn't even really a feature -- it's just a commercial machine. Select from among six other DreamWorks titles ('Flushed Away,' 'Shrek,' 'Shrek 2,' 'Over the Hedge,' 'Shark's Tale' or 'Madagascar') and watch a musical clip from the movie. Presented in full 1080p video, all look great, so at least we have something to look forward to... (Note that as of this writing, none of the above titles have yet been announced for high-def release.)
  • Theatrical Trailers - Sadly, there are none provided for any of the 'Shrek' movies, only two DreamWorks Animation releases, 'Bee Movie' and 'Kung Fu Panda.'

Next up are several extras that live outside of the "Special Features" tab, most specifically geared to the tots.

  • Merlin's Magic Crystal Ball - Although it's dubbed as an interactive "game," this one's essentially an electronic magic 8-ball. Activate it, and you're asked to think of a Yes or No question. Then hit enter, and Merlin will give you one of a few canned responses. That's it.
  • Learn the Donkey Dance - Builds upon the aforementioned faux-music video, only adding instructions on how to learn all of Donkey's red-hot moves.
  • How to Be Green (4 minutes) - This one's essentially a PSA for kids, with about a dozen tips on how to combat global warming, and other environmentally-conscious ideas.
  • My Menus - This one's actually pretty neat. Here, you can select between six different menu designs: the default menu, or five alternates each based around a particular character in the movie (Shrek, Donkey, Boots, Gingy and the Gingerbread Man). Nifty.

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 2.5 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 3693 [review_bonus_content] =>

DreamWorks Animation has pulled out all the stops for its maiden high-def voyage, piling on several additional features exclusive to the HD DVD. While there aren't a slew of features here, they do help to flesh out the somewhat blah batch of standard extras outlined above.

  • The Animators Corner - The most highly-touted of the bunch, this one presents the entire film in storyboard form. Interesting in concept, it's hard to imagine anyone wanting to sit through 'Shrek the Third' all over again just to see it as a series of B&W pencil drawings. Note that to help stave off boredom, DreamWorks has added seamless branching to the mix, and at pre-programmed points in the flick, an icon will appear that allows you to access the "Lost Scenes" mentioned in the Supplements section above.

There are also some web-enabled extras. If you have your HD DVD player connected to the Internet, there are two downloadable features available as of this writing, with one more due to arrive soon.

  • The World of Shrek - Here you can pull up imaginary bios, history and facts for each of the main characters, as well as the real-life voice talent behind them. DreamWorks says the actor info provided here will be updated in the future, so this feature should stay current.
  • Shrek's Trivia Track - This one's a well-executed pop-up text commentary. Story notes, character asides, production info and other fun facts are shown in an easy-to-read manner, and it's all nicely paced. A bit too kid-friendly for my taste (it's all pretty basic stuff), but a nice little bonus nonetheless.
  • Donkey's Coloring Book -- This one didn't seem to be available when I tried out the disc, but it promises to be pretty much what the title says. Hopefully it will be online soon...

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 4 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts] =>

The fairy tale-meets-post-modern formula wears pretty thin with 'Shrek the Third,' but there's still enough here recommend it to fans of the franchise. It's also the kind of film kids will watch over and over again, so parents will certainly get their money's worth. Although I found the seemingly over-stuffed supplemental package on this HD DVD a bit fluffy and I remain baffled that DreamWorks continues to eschew high-res audio on A-list titles like this, the terrific five-star video transfer and a decent set of HD exclusives help earn this release an overall recommend.

) ) [4] => Array ( [review_id] => 1009 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => ultimateforce [review_release_date] => 1194940800 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Ultimate Force [picture_created] => 1197351839 [picture_name] => ultimate-force-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => BCI Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/12/10/120/ultimate-force-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1009/ultimateforce.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2006 [run_time] => 90 [list_price] => 19.95 [asin] => B000WC38QO [amazon_price] => 13.95 [empire_id] => 1374435 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080i/MPEG-2 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-15 Single-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (192kbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Featurette [1] => Interview [2] => Theatrical Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => None ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Action [1] => Crime ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Igor Galo [1] => Ruza Madarevic [2] => Mirko Cro Cop Filipovic ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Mark Burson ) [preview_technology_specifications] => • Making-of Featurette
• Interview with Mirko Filipovic
• Theatrical Trailer [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [review_editors_notes] => Non-format-specific portions of this review also appear in our Blu-ray review of 'Ultimate Force.' [review_bottom_line] => One to Avoid [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 38602 [review_movie_stars] => 1 [review_movie] =>

I don't understand why Hollywood seems to think that big, hulking body-builders, wrestlers and martial artists spouting monosyllabic sentences will somehow translate into box office gold. Okay, so Arnold Schwarzenegger was one of the biggest draws of the '80s and '90s, and more recently, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson has carved out quite a nice celluloid career for himself. But for every Schwarzenegger or Johnson, there are a dozen other Steve "Stone Cold" Austins and John Cenas, who've done nothing but marginal B-films and made-for-cable atrocities destined to play at 2am on TBS.

Now we can add Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic to that more unfortunate list. A one-time championship kickboxer turned mixed martial artist, Filipovic tried his hand at Hollywood with 'Ultimate Force,' a 2005 thrift-store military action thriller that didn't even make it to theaters. Languishing on the shelf for over a year, the film finally found distribution via a direct-to-video release on DVD last year, and now BCI has brought the magic to high-def, choosing 'Ultimate Force' to be their first-ever HD DVD release (the title also hit Blu-ray day-and-date).

Typical of most third-tier action films (which seem equate confusion with complexity), the plot of 'Ultimate Force' is quite convoluted. Filipovic plays Axon Rey, a heavily decorated war hero and former tactical police officer who has been recruited by a covert government organization to fight enemies of the State. Schooled in martial arts and the latest high-tech weapons, Rey (now code-named "Sphinx") is an elite member of the Sanction Division of SATO (State Anti-Terrorist Organization), a clandestine collective of assassins under the direct control of SIN (State Intelligence Network).

Sphinx failed his last assassination mission, and though normally that would prompt the state to simply execute him, since Sphinx is their top assassin, his "controller" decides not to eliminate him -- at least not immediately. Instead, he sends him to a rehabilitation island called Gulag 7 where Sphinx must face five other government operatives who have been sent to the island for various reasons. Refusal to fight means death, so now it's kill or be killed as Sphinx must fight his way off the island.

'Ultimate Force' is the kind of silly, wholly unbelievable action farce that Cannon Films might have produced back in the '80s (it probably would have starred Chuck Norris or Jean-Claude Van Damme). Written and directed by Mark Burson (also responsible for the direct-to-video disasters 'Bullethead' and 'The Courier'), unfortunately it's woefully inept on virtually every level. There are only two types of scenes in 'Ultimate Force' -- characters spouting endless exposition (required to explain the ridiculous plot), or poorly executed action that's so jumbled and incoherent that it's nearly impossible to tell what is going on.

To be fair, 'Ultimate Force' deserves meager props for at least aspiring to ape legitimate films like the Jason Bourne series, but that still can't compensate for the fact that the film's construction is shockingly incompetent. Burson doesn't seem to understand basic screen direction, so Filipovic seems to magically morph all around a scene, and we get so many fast-cut inserts of limbs, weapons, etc., that viewers are almost guaranteed to walk away from the film with a headache. To Burson's credit, he does adequately hide the clear acting deficiencies of Filipovic and the rest of the cast, if only by not requiring them to say much. But even when he's just busting heads, Filipovic has nowhere near the charisma of The Rock, or even Steven Seagal on a bad day.

I'm sure there will be some readers who will refuse to believe any film can be this bad, and will insist that there must be some modicum of entertainment value to even the most worthless, derivative piece of celluloid. But trust me on this one -- I love a good camp-fest as much as the next guy, but this ain't it. The true definition of a time-waster, 'Ultimate Force' doesn't even have the decency to be unintentionally funny.

[review_video_stars] => 2 [review_video_picture_id] => 0 [review_video] =>

'Ultimate Force' was indie distributor BCI's first-ever high-def release, and they've released the low-budget actioner on both HD DVD and Blu-ray with identical 1080i/MPEG-2 encodes. To be fair to BCI, it doesn't appear they had much to work with, as the source is hardly in tip-top shape. Unfortunately, whatever the case, the result is a high-def presentation that's not even passable.

The source material is weak, with a very grainy and noisy image and slight instances of dirt and blemishes. Blacks are pretty solid, but contrast often feels either a bit flat, or suffers from blooming in shots with very harsh lighting. The film's colors are bumped up, which gives them some fuzziness although they don't bleed too terribly. Likewise, detail is average at best -- medium and wide shots are lacking in sharpness and depth, and although close-ups fare a little better, they don't come close to what I normally expect from HD. Finally, the encode holds up okay considering the circumstances, but there is obvious noise and some posterization during slow fades and dissolves.

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

As with the video, the audio elements utilized by BCI for 'Ultimate Force' are underwhelming to say the least. This is Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (192kbps) presentation only, and given the action-oriented nature of the film, that's a real liability.

There is obviously no surround presence. The mix is all from the front, but even here, stereo separation is lacking. There is a bit of distinction to action effects (loud bursts of gunfire, etc.), but the rest of the mix, including the bland score, all mushes together. Dynamics are hardly notable, with a flat low end and no real spark to the rest of the frequency spectrum. Typical of cheaper productions, the whole affair has a tiresome brittleness, as well. Dialogue reproduction is nothing more than serviceable, with low tones often sounding muffled even at high volumes. Don't expect very much here at all.

[review_supplements_stars] => 1 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 0 [review_supplements] =>

BCI has carried over all of the extras from the he standard DVD edition of 'Ultimate Force' for their first high-def port, but it's a hollow trophy in this case, as there isn't much here beyond the overtly promotional.

  • Featurette: "The Making of Ultimate Force" (SD, 7 minutes) - This one's your standard EPK, with everyone but Cro Cop looking a little bit embarrassed to be a part of the project.
  • Footage of Mirko Training (SD, 4 minutes) - This montage of the Man in training gives new meaning to the phrase, "gives good pump."
  • Interview with Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic (SD, 5 minutes) - A one-on-one with the star, this one offers a bit more "insight" on his character and approach to acting.
  • Theatrical Trailer (SD) - The film's enjoyably cheesy trailer, which looks like something straight out of the glory days of Cannon films. Alas, like all of the extras here, it's presented in standard-def only.
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content] =>

There are no HD DVD exclusives.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 1.5 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'Ultimate Force' is another generic rip-off of the action flick glory days of Schwarzenegger and Stallone, only coming about twenty years too late. That might have given the film a certain camp appeal, but even in that regard I found it unwatchable. This debut HD DVD release from BCI is probably what you would expect for a flick like this. The video and audio are limited by the source material, while the extras are all surface. If you happen to be interested in this title, the relatively cheap $19.95 list price is just about all it has going for it.

) ) ) ) [November 10, 2007] => Array ( [reviews] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 1429 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => underworld_ec_gr [review_release_date] => 1194681600 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Underworld: Extended Cut (German Import) [picture_created] => 1207864533 [picture_name] => undrewodefdg2.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Concorde Video [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/04/10/120/undrewodefdg2.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1429/underworld_ec_gr.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2003 [run_time] => 133 [list_price] => 33.95 [amazon_price] => 0.00 [alt_commerce_link] => https://xploitedcinema.com/catalog/underworld-extended-german-release-p-12664.html [alt_commerce_text] => Ships worldwide from xploitedcinema.com [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.35:1 ) [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 High Resolution 5.1 Surround [1] => German DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => None ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => German Subtitles ) [review_editors_notes] => This is a review of the German HD DVD release of the extended cut of 'Underworld.' Non-format-specific portions of this review were also published in our reviews of the 'Underworld (Dutch Import) HD DVD and the domestic Blu-ray edition.

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

[review_bottom_line] => Worth a Look [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 52180 [review_movie_stars] => 3 [review_movie] =>

When I was just a budding, twelve-year-old horror aficionado (sneaking gory scares over the weekend at friends houses), I remember imagining a cinematic clash between vampires and werewolves. Obviously, a generation of fans for flicks like 'Near Dark' and 'The Howling' shared the same imagination. But while dozens of tooth-and-claw screenplays swamped Hollywood throughout the '80s and '90s, sadly most of the projects fell apart before a reel of film was shot. As fate would have it, a decent incarnation of this pairing never received a legitimate treatment and the idea continued to fly under the radar for decades.

That is, until 'The Matrix' stormed theaters in 1999. Bizarrely enough, the insatiable desire for lead-flinging, leather-clad super freaks was the key to finally greenlighting Hollywood's first big budget, vampires-n-werewolves feature. Rookie writer/director Len Wiseman was the lucky gambler who hit triple sevens, as he just so happened to be selling a project that borrowed plenty of elements from 'The Matrix,' while also managing to pit horror's greatest heavyweights against each other. The result was a 2003 action-horror flick called 'Underworld.'

The film itself focuses on Selene (Kate Beckinsale), an icy, vampiric Death Dealer caught in a centuries-old war of deception and propaganda. Over the years, the war has evolved beyond the claw-to-claw battles of the past -- instead, modern technology and firepower has made this a war of distance and convenience. It doesn't hurt that a hibernating vampire named Viktor (Bill Nighy) has ensured his aristocratic coven with plenty of toys and riches to fuel their war with the werewolves. His chief lieutenant, Kraven (Shane Brolly), leads the clan's Death Dealers into the thick of battle with the thuggish Lycans, who dwell in the sewers and plot attacks against the vampires.

Meanwhile, Lucian (Michael Sheen), the central canine baddie, is attempting to genetically manufacture a strain of vampirism that can successfully create a werewolf/vampire hybrid. As it is, any time either creature tries to turn the other, the victim dies since their system can't integrate both diseases. Lucian is tracking a human named Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman), a young man who is oblivious to the raging war in his backyard. When Selene discovers their plot, she must stop the Lycans, discover the truth about their conflict, and strike a balance between the two clans.

On the surface, 'Underworld' has a lot to offer action-horror fiends -- it features plenty of shootouts and tussles, stuntwork galore, and a nice dose of seamless effects work. The storyline is well developed and keeps things clipping along at a welcome pace, while the script itself isn't weighed down by heavy-handed dialogue. Last but not least, its lead actors are engaging (particuarly Nighy and Beckinsale), and the film's visual asthetic provides an eye pleasing, post-modern take on gothic designs through and through.

Unfortunately, a number of issues undermine these selling points, at least for a hardcore genre fan like myself. First off, in its most obvious nod to 'The Matrix,' most of the action in 'Underworld' is disappointingly limited to bullets and other weapons. While this would arguably be fine if there were a glut of vampire-vs-werewolf films already out there, I personally felt robbed of the opportunity to finally see a big-budgeted toe-to-toe clash that involved the natural abilities of both creatures. On the few occasions where the beasts fight do hand-to-hand, the results are short and uninspiring.

Speaking of uninspiring, the film's predictable use of a successful vampire/werewolf hybrid is surprisingly boring. Everyone comments on how much more powerful he is, but the on-screen action never seems to live up to its promise.

Then there's the film's average ending that blatantly leaves major plotlines unresolved until a sequel can settle them. In fact, by the time the credits roll, the entire film begins to feel like an extended prologue for Wiseman's eventual follow-up, 2006's 'Underworld: Evolution.'

But of all these issues, my biggest problem with the film is that despite all appearances, it really isn't a horror flick in any shape or form. Instead of focusing on a human stumbling on to a frightening conflict, we're forced to immediately side with one of the creatures. As a result, the tension and fear factor deflates long before the first act has run its course, and the film devolves into a pseudo-telling of Romeo and Juliet that places more emphasis on a contrived love story than on the war itself.

In the end, 'Underworld' is entertaining enough and certainly well-produced, but with so much promise, it's hard not to be disappointed by its merely average results. Although this one has a better story than its poorly conceived sequel, it still doesn't give horror fans the true titan clash we've been looking for.

(Note that the version of the film included on this HD DVD import is the unrated Extended Cut, featuring an additional 13 minutes of footage. There is an extension to the film's finale that gives this cut some value, but otherwise most of the extra beats are character-based and add little to the overall story.)

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 5624 [review_video] =>

This German HD DVD import features a 1080p/VC-1 transfer matches the Dutch HD DVD import and domestic Blu-ray edition shot for shot. The only minor difference I noticed between the three releases is that both HD DVD imports display a bit more grain in the darkest scenes. However, the grainfield discrepency is so negligible, that it doesn't hinder the picture quality on either import edition in any way.

Thankfully, like the domestic Blu-ray, color fidelity is excellent and the picture exhibits a level of stability that rivals the best transfers on the market. Fine objects and texture details are astounding at times -- bristled hairs on the back of an actor's neck, tiny chips in a werewolf's claws, and brickwork on distant buildings all provide a surreal level of clarity that occasionally make the picture feel like instant high-def demo material. High end whites aren't overblown and source noise is never a problem. As it stands, this transfer even outshines the Blu-ray release of 'Underworld: Evolution' since it's not held back by the bothersome instability, noise, or softness that Peter noted in his review of the MPEG-2 encoded sequel.

Sadly, the presentation still stumbles in a few key areas, although to be fair, many of the problems I have with the video can be traced back to the cinematography and the abundance of correction work applied to the final footage. Black levels become bottomless pits where objects suddenly disappear and the oft-two-tone palette sometimes absorbs details and textures rather than bringing them to light. While the oppressive black levels help the filmmakers achieve their desired effect -- a comic book like experience -- the crushing makes the resulting comic book feel over-inked and undersaturated. Adding to the problem is an obtrusive level of grain that spikes in darker scenes. Again, these issues seem to be the result of directorial decisions and can't fairly be attributed to this transfer, but they nonetheless prevent 'Underworld' from standing toe-to-toe alongside true high-def demo transfers that have more to offer the viewer.

Still, compared to all three previous DVD releases of the film (a fuzzy R-rated release, a highly compressed unrated release, and a much improved Superbit edition), this HD DVD import is a clear upgrade, and fans of the film aren't likely to be disappointed with its very strong high-def presentation.

[review_audio_stars] => 4 [review_audio_picture_id] => 3647 [review_audio] =>

Unlike the Dutch import and the domestic Blu-ray, this German import merely offers an English DTS-HD High Resolution 5.1 surround track (not to be confused with the DTS HD Master Audio mix found on the Dutch import). However, while the results don't quite live up to the reference quality tracks on the other two high-def releases, the audio quality still blows all available standard DVD editions out of the water.

Dynamics still take center stage, demonstrating the raw power and dexterity of the film's soundscape. Bass booms are resonant and earthy, adding real depth to gunfire and roars, while treble tones are clean and steady, injecting a welcome clarity to dialogue and environmental elements like water. The confident use of the surround channels creates a suitably convincing soundfield -- directionality and accuracy are spot on, and I found it relatively easy to immerse myself in the soudscape. While the track is aggressive, even the film's quieter scenes impress. Channel movement is natural, conversations are nicely prioritized, and there's a palpable acoustic atmosphere that fills the soundfield.

The most noticeable issue is that the entire track feels a bit thin when compared directly to the domestic PCM track or the Dutch import DTS HD MA mix. Even once I bumped up my volume levels (higher than usual), I still felt that low-end LFE support didn't pack the gut punch of the other two experiences. Even so, fans who own any of the previous DVD editions will be extremely pleased with the bombastic and obvious upgrade.

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

The German HD DVD import doesn't have any special features. Missing is a cast and crew commentary, a lengthy series of featurettes, and a host of other worthwhile content. By contrast, the Dutch import includes the majority of the video supplements from the domestic Blu-ray edition.

[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] => 5625 [review_final_thoughts] =>

HD DVD importers have two choices when it comes to 'Underworld' -- a Dutch version that includes a pile of features and the theatrical cut of the film, or this German edition which includes the extended cut of the film, but a veritable wasteland of supplemental content. For the record, both imports feature the same excellent transfer as the domestic Blu-ray, but each will appeal to a different type of fan. If you want a reference level audio track, a nice package of bonus content, and don't mind the shorter theatrical cut, go with the Dutch HD DVD. If you want the director's cut, are willing to take a slight hit in audio quality, and don't care about special features, go with this German import. It's a shame that importers can't get the best of both worlds on one disc, but either version will make a worthy addition to your collection.

) ) ) [reviews_hot] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 1429 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => underworld_ec_gr [review_release_date] => 1194681600 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Underworld: Extended Cut (German Import) [picture_created] => 1207864533 [picture_name] => undrewodefdg2.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Concorde Video [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/04/10/120/undrewodefdg2.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1429/underworld_ec_gr.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2003 [run_time] => 133 [list_price] => 33.95 [amazon_price] => 0.00 [alt_commerce_link] => https://xploitedcinema.com/catalog/underworld-extended-german-release-p-12664.html [alt_commerce_text] => Ships worldwide from xploitedcinema.com [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.35:1 ) [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 High Resolution 5.1 Surround [1] => German DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => None ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => German Subtitles ) [review_editors_notes] => This is a review of the German HD DVD release of the extended cut of 'Underworld.' Non-format-specific portions of this review were also published in our reviews of the 'Underworld (Dutch Import) HD DVD and the domestic Blu-ray edition.

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

[review_bottom_line] => Worth a Look [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 52180 [review_movie_stars] => 3 [review_movie] =>

When I was just a budding, twelve-year-old horror aficionado (sneaking gory scares over the weekend at friends houses), I remember imagining a cinematic clash between vampires and werewolves. Obviously, a generation of fans for flicks like 'Near Dark' and 'The Howling' shared the same imagination. But while dozens of tooth-and-claw screenplays swamped Hollywood throughout the '80s and '90s, sadly most of the projects fell apart before a reel of film was shot. As fate would have it, a decent incarnation of this pairing never received a legitimate treatment and the idea continued to fly under the radar for decades.

That is, until 'The Matrix' stormed theaters in 1999. Bizarrely enough, the insatiable desire for lead-flinging, leather-clad super freaks was the key to finally greenlighting Hollywood's first big budget, vampires-n-werewolves feature. Rookie writer/director Len Wiseman was the lucky gambler who hit triple sevens, as he just so happened to be selling a project that borrowed plenty of elements from 'The Matrix,' while also managing to pit horror's greatest heavyweights against each other. The result was a 2003 action-horror flick called 'Underworld.'

The film itself focuses on Selene (Kate Beckinsale), an icy, vampiric Death Dealer caught in a centuries-old war of deception and propaganda. Over the years, the war has evolved beyond the claw-to-claw battles of the past -- instead, modern technology and firepower has made this a war of distance and convenience. It doesn't hurt that a hibernating vampire named Viktor (Bill Nighy) has ensured his aristocratic coven with plenty of toys and riches to fuel their war with the werewolves. His chief lieutenant, Kraven (Shane Brolly), leads the clan's Death Dealers into the thick of battle with the thuggish Lycans, who dwell in the sewers and plot attacks against the vampires.

Meanwhile, Lucian (Michael Sheen), the central canine baddie, is attempting to genetically manufacture a strain of vampirism that can successfully create a werewolf/vampire hybrid. As it is, any time either creature tries to turn the other, the victim dies since their system can't integrate both diseases. Lucian is tracking a human named Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman), a young man who is oblivious to the raging war in his backyard. When Selene discovers their plot, she must stop the Lycans, discover the truth about their conflict, and strike a balance between the two clans.

On the surface, 'Underworld' has a lot to offer action-horror fiends -- it features plenty of shootouts and tussles, stuntwork galore, and a nice dose of seamless effects work. The storyline is well developed and keeps things clipping along at a welcome pace, while the script itself isn't weighed down by heavy-handed dialogue. Last but not least, its lead actors are engaging (particuarly Nighy and Beckinsale), and the film's visual asthetic provides an eye pleasing, post-modern take on gothic designs through and through.

Unfortunately, a number of issues undermine these selling points, at least for a hardcore genre fan like myself. First off, in its most obvious nod to 'The Matrix,' most of the action in 'Underworld' is disappointingly limited to bullets and other weapons. While this would arguably be fine if there were a glut of vampire-vs-werewolf films already out there, I personally felt robbed of the opportunity to finally see a big-budgeted toe-to-toe clash that involved the natural abilities of both creatures. On the few occasions where the beasts fight do hand-to-hand, the results are short and uninspiring.

Speaking of uninspiring, the film's predictable use of a successful vampire/werewolf hybrid is surprisingly boring. Everyone comments on how much more powerful he is, but the on-screen action never seems to live up to its promise.

Then there's the film's average ending that blatantly leaves major plotlines unresolved until a sequel can settle them. In fact, by the time the credits roll, the entire film begins to feel like an extended prologue for Wiseman's eventual follow-up, 2006's 'Underworld: Evolution.'

But of all these issues, my biggest problem with the film is that despite all appearances, it really isn't a horror flick in any shape or form. Instead of focusing on a human stumbling on to a frightening conflict, we're forced to immediately side with one of the creatures. As a result, the tension and fear factor deflates long before the first act has run its course, and the film devolves into a pseudo-telling of Romeo and Juliet that places more emphasis on a contrived love story than on the war itself.

In the end, 'Underworld' is entertaining enough and certainly well-produced, but with so much promise, it's hard not to be disappointed by its merely average results. Although this one has a better story than its poorly conceived sequel, it still doesn't give horror fans the true titan clash we've been looking for.

(Note that the version of the film included on this HD DVD import is the unrated Extended Cut, featuring an additional 13 minutes of footage. There is an extension to the film's finale that gives this cut some value, but otherwise most of the extra beats are character-based and add little to the overall story.)

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 5624 [review_video] =>

This German HD DVD import features a 1080p/VC-1 transfer matches the Dutch HD DVD import and domestic Blu-ray edition shot for shot. The only minor difference I noticed between the three releases is that both HD DVD imports display a bit more grain in the darkest scenes. However, the grainfield discrepency is so negligible, that it doesn't hinder the picture quality on either import edition in any way.

Thankfully, like the domestic Blu-ray, color fidelity is excellent and the picture exhibits a level of stability that rivals the best transfers on the market. Fine objects and texture details are astounding at times -- bristled hairs on the back of an actor's neck, tiny chips in a werewolf's claws, and brickwork on distant buildings all provide a surreal level of clarity that occasionally make the picture feel like instant high-def demo material. High end whites aren't overblown and source noise is never a problem. As it stands, this transfer even outshines the Blu-ray release of 'Underworld: Evolution' since it's not held back by the bothersome instability, noise, or softness that Peter noted in his review of the MPEG-2 encoded sequel.

Sadly, the presentation still stumbles in a few key areas, although to be fair, many of the problems I have with the video can be traced back to the cinematography and the abundance of correction work applied to the final footage. Black levels become bottomless pits where objects suddenly disappear and the oft-two-tone palette sometimes absorbs details and textures rather than bringing them to light. While the oppressive black levels help the filmmakers achieve their desired effect -- a comic book like experience -- the crushing makes the resulting comic book feel over-inked and undersaturated. Adding to the problem is an obtrusive level of grain that spikes in darker scenes. Again, these issues seem to be the result of directorial decisions and can't fairly be attributed to this transfer, but they nonetheless prevent 'Underworld' from standing toe-to-toe alongside true high-def demo transfers that have more to offer the viewer.

Still, compared to all three previous DVD releases of the film (a fuzzy R-rated release, a highly compressed unrated release, and a much improved Superbit edition), this HD DVD import is a clear upgrade, and fans of the film aren't likely to be disappointed with its very strong high-def presentation.

[review_audio_stars] => 4 [review_audio_picture_id] => 3647 [review_audio] =>

Unlike the Dutch import and the domestic Blu-ray, this German import merely offers an English DTS-HD High Resolution 5.1 surround track (not to be confused with the DTS HD Master Audio mix found on the Dutch import). However, while the results don't quite live up to the reference quality tracks on the other two high-def releases, the audio quality still blows all available standard DVD editions out of the water.

Dynamics still take center stage, demonstrating the raw power and dexterity of the film's soundscape. Bass booms are resonant and earthy, adding real depth to gunfire and roars, while treble tones are clean and steady, injecting a welcome clarity to dialogue and environmental elements like water. The confident use of the surround channels creates a suitably convincing soundfield -- directionality and accuracy are spot on, and I found it relatively easy to immerse myself in the soudscape. While the track is aggressive, even the film's quieter scenes impress. Channel movement is natural, conversations are nicely prioritized, and there's a palpable acoustic atmosphere that fills the soundfield.

The most noticeable issue is that the entire track feels a bit thin when compared directly to the domestic PCM track or the Dutch import DTS HD MA mix. Even once I bumped up my volume levels (higher than usual), I still felt that low-end LFE support didn't pack the gut punch of the other two experiences. Even so, fans who own any of the previous DVD editions will be extremely pleased with the bombastic and obvious upgrade.

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

The German HD DVD import doesn't have any special features. Missing is a cast and crew commentary, a lengthy series of featurettes, and a host of other worthwhile content. By contrast, the Dutch import includes the majority of the video supplements from the domestic Blu-ray edition.

[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] => 5625 [review_final_thoughts] =>

HD DVD importers have two choices when it comes to 'Underworld' -- a Dutch version that includes a pile of features and the theatrical cut of the film, or this German edition which includes the extended cut of the film, but a veritable wasteland of supplemental content. For the record, both imports feature the same excellent transfer as the domestic Blu-ray, but each will appeal to a different type of fan. If you want a reference level audio track, a nice package of bonus content, and don't mind the shorter theatrical cut, go with the Dutch HD DVD. If you want the director's cut, are willing to take a slight hit in audio quality, and don't care about special features, go with this German import. It's a shame that importers can't get the best of both worlds on one disc, but either version will make a worthy addition to your collection.

) ) ) ) [November 6, 2007] => Array ( [reviews] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 1165 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => bestofhddvd_action [review_release_date] => 1194336000 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Best of HD DVD, Action [picture_created] => 1190774053 [picture_name] => best-of-hd-dvd-action-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Video [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/09/25/120/best-of-hd-dvd-action-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1165/bestofhddvd_action.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2007 [run_time] => 0 [list_price] => 84.99 [asin] => B000VWYJ7C [amazon_price] => 58.95 [empire_id] => 1368767 [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => Four-Disc Bundle ) [preview_plot_synopsis] =>

'The Best of HD DVD, Action' is the latest in Warner's continuing series of high-def compilations. Each volume bundles a collection of previously-released HD DVD releases in a discounted box set.

Included in this collection are: 'Alexander: Revisited,' 'Troy: Director's Cut,' 'Blood Diamond ' and 'Wyatt Earp .'

(Note that all four movies are presented on individual discs, and are identical to the previously-released stand-alone editions. For High-Def Digest's complete reviews of each individual release, click the linked movie titles above.)

[preview_forum_id] => 19639 [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] => 1166 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => bestofhddvd_family [review_release_date] => 1194336000 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Best of HD DVD, Family [picture_created] => 1190774561 [picture_name] => best-of-hd-dvd-family-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Video [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/09/25/120/best-of-hd-dvd-family-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1166/bestofhddvd_family.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2007 [run_time] => 0 [list_price] => 84.99 [asin] => B000VWYJ7W [amazon_price] => 76.49 [empire_id] => 1368746 [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => Four-Disc Bundle ) [preview_plot_synopsis] =>

'The Best of Blu-ray, Action' is the latest in Warner's continuing series of high-def compilations. Each volume bundles a collection of previously-released Blu-ray releases in a discounted box set.

Included in this collection are: 'Happy Feet,' 'Tim Burton's Corpse Bride,' 'Scooby-Doo' and 'The Ant Bully.'

(Note that all four movies are presented on individual discs, and are identical to the previously-released stand-alone editions. For High-Def Digest's complete reviews of each individual release, click the linked movie titles above.)

[preview_forum_id] => 19639 [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] => 1106 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => inowpronounceyouchuckandlarry [review_release_date] => 1194336000 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry [picture_created] => 1189707027 [picture_name] => i-now-pronounce-you-chuck-larry-hd-dvddvd-combo-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Universal Studios Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/09/13/120/i-now-pronounce-you-chuck-larry-hd-dvddvd-combo-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1106/inowpronounceyouchuckandlarry.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2007 [run_time] => 116 [list_price] => 39.98 [asin] => B000VXWX7Y [amazon_price] => 27.95 [empire_id] => 1367137 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => Interactive Game [1] => Web-Enabled Content ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 [1] => 480p/i/MPEG-2 (Supplements Only) ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD/DVD [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc/DVD-9 Dual-Layer Disc [2] => U-Control Enhanced ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround (48kHz/24-bit) [1] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (448kbps) [2] => French Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (448kbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentary [1] => Featurettes [2] => Deleted Scenes ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Comedy ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Adam Sandler [1] => Kevin James [2] => Jessica Biel [3] => Dan Aykroyd ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Denis Dugan ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Chuck Levine and Larry Valentine are the pride of their fire station: two guy's guys always side-by-side and willing to do anything for each other. Grateful Chuck owes Larry for saving his life in a fire, and Larry calls in that favor big time when civic red tape prevents him from naming his own two kids as his life insurance beneficiaries. But when an overzealous, spot-checking bureaucrat becomes suspicious, the new couple's arrangement becomes a citywide issue and goes from confidential to front-page news. [preview_technology_specifications] => • Audio commentaries: Director Dennis Dugan, Adam Sandler and Kevin James / Director Dennis Dugan
• Featurettes: "Laughing Is Contagious," "I Now Pronounce You Husband and...Husband?", "Look Who Stopped By," "Stop, Drop, and Roll," "Dugan: The Hands on Director"
• Deleted Scenes (with optional commentary"
[preview_exclusive_hd_content] => • Interactive Game: "Friendship Test" [preview_forum_id] => 18467 [review_bottom_line] => Give it a Rent [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 24863 [review_movie_stars] => 1 [review_movie] =>

'I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry' is a film that wants to have its cake and it eat, too. It panders to the lowest common denominator of homophobic humor and offensive gay stereotypes, while at the same time hoisting the rainbow flag sky high in a self-serving (and condescending) plea for tolerance. It is both the worst nightmare of the religious right, and one lame "don't drop the soap!" joke away from a boycott by GLAAD. Perhaps if 'I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry' had actually been clever or witty enough, it might have miraculously succeeded in its goal, but instead it's just lame-brained, unfunny and almost non-stop cringe-inducing.

I have to wonder how much of the final draft of 'Chuck & Larry' actually came from the pen of credited screenwriter Alexander Payne (the wonderful 'Citizen Ruth,' 'Election' and 'Sideways'). The film bears little trace of genuine smarts he's displayed in his previous work -- in fact, with the exception of the treacly sermon at the end, the film may as well be the 'Happy Gilmore: I'm So Gay!' edition, with Sandler again playing another of his man-child buffoons, and the filmmakers piling on another string of sophomoric jokes.

To be fair, the movie's premise -- while typically Hollywood high-concept -- does have promise. Sandler stars as Chuck, an uber-macho New York firefighter who agrees to "play gay" to help out his rotund buddy and co-worker Larry (Kevin James), who was so grief-stricken after the unexpected death of his wife that he forgot to claim her life insurance policy before the cut-off date. Now, unless Chuck and Larry become domestic partners, Larry and his two children will be left destitute. Of course, the government soon smells a fraud, and in enters mousy inspector Clinton Fitzer (Steve Buscemi), who's determined to bring down our happy newlyweds. So Larry, fearing serious jail time, employs the services of sympathetic lawyer Alex McDonough (Jessica Biel), who takes on their case, and strikes up a particularly close, er, "friendship" with Chuck.

Unfortunately, all of this is handled like the worst sitcom imaginable. The film seems to take every step wrong. Nothing -- not the characters, the situation, the "slice of life" depictions of the firefighting or gay communities -- rings even remotely authentic. I don't know if the filmmakers were going through some sort of homoerotic panic of their own (Sandler, James, Payne and director Denis Dugan are all resolutely straight), but the film so tiptoes around the genuine feelings Chuck and Larry might be having about their predicament that nearly every frame is painful to watch. Unable to truly embrace its own supposed message of tolerance, the film instead wallows in gay-baiting humor, then "turns it around" by suddenly empowering all of the characters it just humiliated. It's a mixed message: we're asked to howl like hyenas at a string of hateful jokes, only to later be castigated for laughing in the first place.

The kind of humor the makers of 'Chuck & Larry' apparently find timely was already out of date back in 1984. Couldn't they have done better than getting beefy Ving Rhames to play a closeted firefighter, who after being inspired to come out by Chuck and Larry, immediately turns into a mincing queen? Or having Rob Schneider, as the fey reverend who officiates Chuck and Larry's commitment ceremony, do the worst "Asian" impersonation since Mickey Rooney in 'Breakfast at Tiffany's'? And c'mon now, an entire shower sequence with Chuck and Larry's co-workers, who are all afraid to bend over and grab the soap!? Just about the only cliche this movie is missing is having "It's Raining Men" play over the end credits of the movie, but I'm guessing that's only because they couldn't get the rights.

It's hard to tell who among the cast looks more embarrassed. Sandler, despite efforts to balance his better known manic persona with more dramatic fare (see 'Click' or 'Reign Over Me') seems uncomfortable when he's not doing his usual shtick, as if he's just not prepared to deal with any scene of "straight" emotion. James is stuck in the sidekick role, but at least seems more earnest (if still not funny). Only Biel, as the gay-rights crusading lawyer, seems to believe in what she's saying, even if the film itself seems more interested in ogling her body than it is in giving her dialogue of any import. Finally, vying for the "I'm just cashing a paycheck" award are both Buscemi (who appears to want to be anywhere but making this film) and Dan Aykroyd, who plays Chuck and Larry's boss. Aykroyd's big P-FLAG speech at the film's end is so utterly and jaw-droppingly misguided as a supposed rallying cry for acceptance that it's hard to imagine it ever getting past the first draft stage, much less being committed to celluloid.

Did 'Chuck & Larry' ever make me laugh? A few times, yes, which is why I'm even bothering to give the flick one star. And to be fair, I don't think the filmmakers themselves are truly homophobic. But good intentions will only get you so far, and 'Chuck & Larry' is the kind of film that I suspect all those involved will look back on twenty years from now and shudder. Insensitive, inept and in many ways unforgiveable, 'Chuck & Larry' is a reminder of just how far we still have to go.

[review_video_stars] => 3.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 3528 [review_video] =>

Universal presents 'I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry' in 1080p/VC-1 video, at the film's original 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio, and most aspects of the presentation are quite strong.

To be sure, the source is pristine, blacks spot on, and contrast nice and supple. Colors are generally vibrant and pleasing, though I found them edging towards oversaturation (oddly, this is most distracting during scenes with more natural lighting, which look a bit plugged up). Fleshtones are fairly accurate, if a bit digital-looking. Befitting a new release, 'Chuck & Larry' has a generous sense of depth and detail, with even far shots nice and sharp. Though the film's comedic setpieces don't allow for much in the way of visual fireworks, the "high-def effect" is in full force, and the image is frequently three-dimensional. Too bad Universal still can't lay off the edge enhancement, as halos are noticeable. All in all, this certainly isn't a bad transfer, but I wasn't blown away, either.

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

Enjoying the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround (48kHz/24-bit) treatment, 'I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry' sounds better than you might expect. This may not be a big action movie, but for a comedy it's actually quite boisterous, and typical of an A-list studio picture, it's expertly produced.

Although the film itself is largely dialogue driven, there are a good number of scenes that take place in various New York exteriors and other lively locations, providing for lots of engaging surround action. Discrete effects are numerous, and sustained ambiance is surprisingly consistent. I didn't find the score (by Rupert Gregson-Williams) particularly memorable, but it too is nicely bled to the rears, so there's rarely a dull spot in the mix.

Tech specs are sprightly as well, with dynamic range that's both expansive and clean. Although the subwoofer rarely gets much of a workout, the non-intrusive low bass is just right for the material. Music is also impressively rendered, with the few pop/rock tunes that pop up sounding hefty but never overpowering. Finally, dialogue is crystal clear, and I encountered no volume level issues. Considering the material, it's hard to imagine this one sounding much better.

[review_supplements_stars] => 2 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 3529 [review_supplements] =>

Having raked in a total domestic gross of over $100 million, 'I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry' is a hit by any measure. Fittingly enough, Universal has not skimped on the number of extras. Unfortunately, it's all extremely fluffy, with the avoidance of any discussion of the film's "gay" themes so pronounced that it's hard to imagine it wasn't intentional. At least the quality of all the video material is sharp, with the entire assortment presented here in full 1080p/VC-1 video.

First up are not one but two screen-specific audio commentaries: director Dennis Dugan flies solo on the first track, while the second is a big group hug with Dugan and stars Adam Sandler and Kevin James. Unfortunately, neither commentary is very good. It's frustrating that after sitting through both of these tracks (that's four hours totals) I still know next to nothing about the making of the movie. The group track is all jokes and banalities (Sandler either makes sexual innuendos, or says nothing), and Dugan isn't much better on his own, either simply narrating what we're seeing on-screen or offering surface-level insights on the film's casting and locations. Was I wrong to hope that at least somebody was actually going to talk about the movie's subject matter? Instead, this trio spends more time ogling Jessica Biel than saying anything meaningful.

Next up is a quartet of featurettes. "I Now Pronounce You Husband and... Husband?" (6 minutes) is your typical lightning-fast EPK, with lots of film clips, plot recap and on-set promo interviews with cast and crew. Sandler, James and Dugan appear again, as do Biel, Dan Aykroyd and Ving Rhames. Of course all anyone has to say is how fantastically funny Sandler and James are, and all the behind-the-scenes clips are just congenial goofing about. Likewise, don't expect much more from "Look Who Dropped By" (6 minutes), which is just a rundown of the various cameos peppered throughout the movie; "Stop, Drop and Roll" (5 minutes) details the flick's big stunts, but really, that's the last thing anyone cares about in a movie like this; and finally "Dugan: The Hands-On Director" (4 minutes) is a fawning profile of a filmmaker who has yet to make a single decent movie.

Also included is a 9-minute montage of Deleted Scenes (Universal hasn't provided individual access, so you have to watch the whole thing as one big lump). There are eight scenes in all, about half of which are extensions of existing material. There is a funny encounter for James in a bathroom stall, plus a very good scene with Steve Buscemi that hints at what the movie might have been had it attempted something a little more serious. Dugan provides optional commentary for all of the scenes, but once again his remarks aren't particularly informative.

The last major extra is "Laughing is Contagious," a 5-minute reel of "hilarious" bloopers. Alas, they aren't really that hilarious, featuring mostly Sandler and James flubbing lines, staging mock fights on the set, and doing lots of extra-manly things, if only to prove that, yes, they really are straight.

For whatever reason, there are no trailers included on the disc at all -- not even one for 'I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry.'

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0.5 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 3530 [review_bonus_content] =>

Universal has added a few bonus features exclusive to the HD DVD of 'I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry,' but quite frankly they needn't have bothered. There's nothing her that's particularly compelling, and it all feels quite throwaway.

The "big" feature here is the "Friendship Test" interactive game, which is accessible via Universal's U-Control interface (it's also the only U-Control feature on the disc). As the movie plays, about three dozen questions will pop up at various intervals, each inspired by what's happening in the flick. It's all pretty lame, which such queries as "Would you kiss your best friend to win a bet" as good as it gets. At the end of the quiz, you'll get a score telling you how good of a friend you'd be. Woo-hoo!

Also included on the disc are some web-enabled features, but as of now, there's nothing available that's actually unique to the movie -- just Universal's growing stable of standard web functions, including the ability to share your favorite scenes with other online users (via the disc's MyScenes feature), trailers for other Universal flicks, and the option to be alerted about future updates. That's it.

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

'I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry' is a "gay movie" for straight people. Amazingly, it recycles the same old homophobic jokes we all heard back in high school, yet does so under the guise of promoting tolerance. This might have qualified as cutting-edge back in 1982, but today it's just tired. This HD DVD/DVD combo release features solid-enough video and audio, but the extras are wafer-thin, and the HD exclusives are lame, too. On the bottom line, this one delivers well enough, but I still can't bring myself to recommend it for anything more than a rental.

) ) [3] => Array ( [review_id] => 1124 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => aviator [review_release_date] => 1194336000 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => The Aviator [picture_created] => 1190193783 [picture_name] => aviator.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Video [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/09/19/120/aviator.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1124/aviator.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2004 [run_time] => 170 [list_price] => 28.98 [asin] => B000VZGK4O [amazon_price] => 26.09 [empire_id] => 1366366 [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 [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (640kbps) [1] => Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (640kbps) [2] => French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (640kbps) [3] => Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentary [1] => TV Special [2] => Deleted Scene [3] => Featurettes [4] => Still Gallery [5] => Theatrical Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English Subtitles [1] => French Subtitles [2] => Spanish Subtitles [3] => Portugese Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Biography [1] => Drama ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Leonardo DiCaprio [1] => Cate Blanchett [2] => Alec Baldwin ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Martin Scorsese ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => An epic biopic depicting the early years of legendary director and aviator Howard Hughes' career, from the late 1920's to the mid-1940's. [preview_technology_specifications] => • Audio commentary with director Martin Scorsese
• TV Special: History Channel Documentary
• Deleted Scene
• Stil Gallery
• Theatrical Trailer [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 18099 [review_editors_notes] => Non-format-specific portions of this review also appear in our Blu-ray review of 'The Aviator.' [review_bottom_line] => Recommended [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 24627 [review_movie_stars] => 4 [review_movie] =>

Legendary director Martin Scorsese seems to have turned an interesting corner in his career over the last few years. While his early work explored the behavior of morally questionable characters felled by their own ambition, his more recent films have focused on characters who rise and fall in the face of noble challenges greater than themselves. 'The Departed,' 'Gangs of New York,' and 'The Aviator' each received widespread critical acclaim and countless award nominations and wins, but 'The Aviator' arguably emerges from the pack as Scorsese's most tragic and complex tale to date.

Based on the book by Richard Hack, 'The Aviator' tells the true story of Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio) -- the legendary aviation pioneer and film director ('Hells Angels,' 'Scarface') who slowly succumbed to a debilitating case of obsessive compulsive disorder. The film follows Hughes through the 1920s as he gains notoriety in Hollywood, into the '30s as he struggles against immense pressure from Pan Am Airlines owner Juan Trippe (Alec Baldwin) and US Senator Owen Brewster (Alan Alda), and ends with his seclusion in the '40s as OCD completely destroys his mind. Over the course of his descent into madness, he inspires the advancement of technology, influences film history, and falls in love with a virtual who's who of famous starlets including Katherine Hepburn (Cate Blanchett) and Ava Gardner (Kate Beckinsale).

'The Aviator' is a film filled with thematic complexities and a lack of concrete answers. Hughes is a fascinating character, but the nature of his drive and eventual descent into madness keep him at an arm's length from the audience. His behavior is arrogant and fraught with the inconsistencies inherent to his mental illness. It's tough to follow his thought process and he never becomes a comfortable main character -- he just seems too foreign to the imagination. I personally found it nearly impossible to feel anything but pity for the decaying monster hidden behind Hughes' successful persona.

But somehow, this very conundrum kept me enthralled from beginning to end. 'The Aviator' is a character study through and through -- it doesn't concern itself with explaining Hughes because there isn't an explanation. Instead, the film spends its time exploring power and its ability to corrupt. The more successful Hughes becomes, the more unhinged from reality he becomes. The implications of this process are taken to the extreme but ring true as the story barrels toward its inevitable conclusion. By the time the credits rolled, the film had me in a disquieted stupor -- I was disturbed by Hughes' sheer madness, saddened by his utter desperation, and reflective about the nature of pride and the human ego.

The actors do an amazing job bringing each of their characters to life. DiCaprio's disciplined portrayal of Hughes is simply breathtaking -- he lets go of himself entirely, sacrificing his Hollywood looks for the purity of his performance. Even better are his tense scenes with Alda and Baldwin (my favorite scenes in the film are those that encompass the legal chess match between TWA, Pan Am, and the US government). DiCaprio doesn't just switch his OCD on and off -- he retains the mannerisms that remind us of his affliction, but hides them from the other characters on screen. The result is subtle, but downright creepy.

The film may not work for everyone, but it's hard to deny the sure-handedness of Scorsese's direction. In my opinion, the film's only major weakness is the abruptness of the its ending. The first two acts have a palpable momentum that screeches to a halt as Hughes finally steps over his last line of sanity. The final minutes are empty and left me wondering what came next.

Still, 'The Aviator' is a film that everyone should watch. Yes, it's problematic at times and some have argued that it bites off more than it can chew in three hours, but it stands as a brilliant biopic that documents the life of an influential madman whose efforts continue to echo into the 21st century.

[review_video_stars] => 4.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 4256 [review_video] =>

Warner presents 'The Aviator' on HD DVD and Blu-ray with identical 1080p/VC-1 transfers that render Scorsese's dense character study with confidence. Just one word of warning -- don't scramble to check your video connections when the film begins. The first hour of 'The Aviator' was shot to emulate the appearance of early two-tone cinema. While this process produces a variety of interesting visuals, it most notably elevates reds and causes greens to shift toward cyan blue. The result is a sepia-toned picture that bleaches plantlife of health and bronzes skintones. As the story approaches the '40s, however, Scorsese dramatically switches his technique to emulate the highly saturated glow of three-strip Technicolor films. The sudden changeover is an initial shock to the system as colors flourish and warm the screen.

Regardless of one's opinion of Scorsese's particular visual style, color reproduction on this HD DVD is gorgeous and vivid. The palette is stable and I didn't detect any of the contrast wavering or bleeding that occasionally crop up on the standard-def DVD. Color saturation in general is much more pleasing to the eye and doesn't stumble at any point in the presentation. The print and the source are immaculate -- there aren't any distracting bouts of blemishes, noise, or artifacting. Fine detail is excellent and reveals the tiniest nuances of the cinematography. Even the darkest scenes are packed with crisp detail -- when Hughes begins locking himself away, his cluttered spaces are treasure troves of small legible text, sharp textures, and other elements cloaked in the shadows.

In fact, the only complaint I have about the entire picture is that the first hour of the film is softer than the rest. While this is a direct product of Scorsese's filming methods, it still keeps the high definition transfer from packing the punch of the last half of the film. For that reason alone, 'The Aviator' isn't likely to become a quick, go-to demo disc. Still, fans of the film will find little to complain about and are almost sure to put forth a convincing argument that this is a five star transfer.

[review_audio_stars] => 3 [review_audio_picture_id] => 4257 [review_audio] =>

Unfortunately, the audio package is less impressive. 'The Aviator' HD DVD features a decent Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 surround mix (640 kbps) that's indistinguishable from the Dolby Digital 5.1 track (also 640 kbps) on the Blu-ray edition. Dialogue is crisp and well prioritized, but the entirety of the film resides across the front channels. The rear speakers are rarely engaged and the only noteworthy use of the surrounds came during the plane crash. Ambiance and acoustics are hindered by the limited soundfield and the track doesn't have the immersive characteristics of better high definition audio offerings. Directionality can be questionable at times, and I encountered several instances when sounds appeared in the front of the soundscape that should have been relegated to the back.

Despite the rather two-dimensional soundfield, the LFE channel has some bassy standout moments and the overall dynamics are above average. Pans are smooth, treble stability makes the film score sound wonderful, and subtle effects mingle nicely in the soundscape. At the end of the day, this track is a mixed bag that doesn't allow listeners to sink into the film like other high scoring audio packages available on HD DVD.

[review_supplements_stars] => 4 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 4258 [review_supplements] =>

'The Aviator' was released as a 2-disc DVD in 2005 that included a wealth of special features which meticulously detailed the entire production. Thankfully, that package remains intact on this HD DVD edition, with every feature making a repeat appearance.

  • Audio Commentary -- While the back cover only mentions Martin Scorsese, this track also includes separately recorded comments from producer Michael Mann and editor Thelma Schoonmaker. I appreciated the addition of their perspectives, but Scorsese is the main draw here and he delivers without question. In fact, Scorsese is so passionate and engaging that I immediately found myself wanting to dive back into the film. His rapid-fire anecdotes bolster his recreation of early 20th century America, and his thoughts on Hughes and the man's faltering mind are fascinating. Don't skip this excellent commentary track.
  • Deleted Scene (2 minutes, SD) -- A brief deletion involves Hughes telling Ava about his car accident. I can't imagine why it was cut, but I'm happy to see it appear somewhere on this disc.
  • A Life Without Limits: The Making of The Aviator (12 minutes, SD) -- This behind-the-scenes kick-off is a syrupy, complimentary collection of cast and crew interviews. We hear from the director, the actors, the screenwriter and the producers, but this featurette focuses on the merits of the film rather than on the methods that brought it to life.
  • The Role of Howard Hughes in Aviation History (15 minutes, SD) -- A fascinating look at the life of the real Howard Hughes, this one includes interviews with DiCaprio and Scorsese, but it also features commentary from those more intimately familiar with Hughes' life, includingbiographers Don Bartlett, George Marrett, and James Steele. It even gathers the perspectives of aviation enthusiasts, pilots, and aviation Hall of Fame inductee Robert Hoover, and ultimately stands as a testament to the incredible level of detail and accuracy Scorsese employed in the film itself.
  • Modern Marvels: Howard Hughes (42 minutes, SD) -- Although the structure of This History Channel documentary is somewhat annoying (with its repeated teases in and out of commercial breaks), the meat of this feature really dissects Hughes, his life, and his contributions to aviation and many other institutions that would flourish in the latter half of the 20th century. It portrays Hughes as a flawed innovator whose disabling OCD limited his ultimate potential. This is a candid exploration that shouldn't be missed.
  • The Affliction of Howard Hughes: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (14 minutes, SD) -- Hughes biographers Bartlett and Steele lead this examination of the actual affliction that renders people helpless. It includes interviews with doctors, experts, and actual patients diagnosed with OCD in a chilling look at the illness.
  • OCD Panel Discussion (15 minutes, SD) -- Just as interesting is this featurette that documents a panel discussion at UCLA between Scorsese, DiCaprio, and Hughes' widow Terry Moore. It's a somewhat somber affair with plenty of detail. Particularly interesting is the revealtion of DiCaprio's determination to replicate the tics and gestures of Hughes as the illness consumed him.
  • An Evening with Leonardo DiCaprio and Alan Alda (28 minutes, SD) -- This discussion is a tad repetitive when viewed alongside the other included features, but it still functions as a nice addition as it fleshes out the behind-the-scenes atmosphere on the set of the film. More than anything, the two actors describe Scorsese's own obsession with detail, set dressing, and character development. Alda and DiCaprio may be an unlikely pair, but they have a warm rapport that keeps the discussion moving.
  • The Visual Effects of The Aviator (12 minutes, SD) -- Visual Effects Supervisor Robert Legato happily leads this featurette that explores the eerily realistic effects used in the film. While I expected to see coverage of the plane crash and other wow moments, I was surprised to instead witness subtle tricks that I didn't register as special effects when I watched the film. This is a fun featurette that stands out from the pack with a unique, airy tone.
  • Constructing The Aviator: The Work of Dante Ferretti (6 minutes, SD) -- This one was a bit dry for my taste, but it does cover an important aspect of the production: recreating the Hollywood of another era. The comments from production designer Dante Ferretti are decent enough and provide plenty to look for in later viewings of the film. Producer Graham King appears as well, but I wish this supplement featured a more engaging lead voice.
  • Costuming The Aviator: The Work of Sandy Powell (4 minutes, SD) -- This particular featurette just isn't my thing. I appreciate the careful planning and effective execution of Powell's work, but I couldn't get past the feeling that I had seen this extra a thousand times before. She certainly did a great job, but she doesn't add much to the overall discussion of 'The Aviator' that I hadn't heard or considered before.
  • The Age of Glamour: The Hair and Makeup of The Aviator (8 minutes, SD) -- I found myself glancing at the clock as this short featurette trudged through the transformation lead actors and actresses went through on a daily basis. Again, the work is exceptional -- it's just not that all that engaging in the form of a featurette.
  • Scoring The Aviator: The Work of Howard Shore (7 minutes, SD) -- Why is it that featurettes about composers and their work are always so surface-level? Just once I would love to find an hour-long documentary covering the complete scope of the work that goes into scoring a feature film such as this. Still, this standard featurette is compelling enough considering its limited vantage point. I especially enjoyed Shore's descriptions of his process and the genesis of his melodic themes.
  • The Wainwright Family: Loudon, Rufus, and Martha (5 minutes, SD) -- This is arguably the one complete throw away in the bunch. It merely covers the participation of The Wainwright Family in shots that allowed them to portray lounge singers from the early part of the century. Meh.

Rounding out the package is a "Stills Gallery" and the film's "Theatrical Trailer" presented in high definition.

[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] => 4259 [review_final_thoughts] =>

While everyone may not personally respond to the story of 'The Aviator,' this release is still an easy one recommend. It features an excellent video transfer and a thorough series of supplements that include a three hour commentary and a detailed collection of featurettes and documentaries. The front heavy audio track is less thrilling, but does its job well enough. All in all, fans won't be disappointed with this HD DVD release and will likely find 'The Aviator' to be a very respectable addition to their collection.

) ) [4] => Array ( [review_id] => 1406 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => tideland_de [review_release_date] => 1194336000 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Tideland (German Import) [picture_created] => 1204484722 [picture_name] => tideland_cover.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Concorde Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/03/02/120/tideland_cover.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1406/tideland_de.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2005 [run_time] => 123 [list_price] => 31.95 [amazon_price] => 0.00 [alt_commerce_link] => https://xploitedcinema.com/catalog/tideland-german-release-p-13059.html [alt_commerce_text] => Ships worldwide from xploitedcinema.com [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.35:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => Behind-the-Scenes Footage [1] => Interviews [2] => Photo Gallery ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 [1] => 480i/p/VC-1 (Supplements Only) ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English DTS-HD High Resolution 5.1 Surround [1] => German DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentary [1] => Deleted Scenes [2] => Featurettes [3] => Interviews [4] => Trailers ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => German Subtitles [1] => German SDH ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Drama [1] => Fantasy [2] => Horror ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Jeff Bridges [1] => Jodelle Ferland [2] => Janet McTeer [3] => Jennifer Tilly [4] => Brendan Fletcher ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Terry Gilliam ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Jeliza-Rose, a young girl (Jodelle Ferland) is forced to live in a terrifying and gruesome world. After her mother dies, her father (Four-Time Oscar-Nominee Jeff Bridges) takes her away to a desolate farmhouse. In order to escape the harsh reality of her childhood, she drifts into a bizarre fantasy world where only her dolls' heads keep her company. The line between her imagination and reality quickly disappears when she meets a mentally damaged man and a tall ghost-like woman who share in her adventures. Tideland is a spine-chilling tale from the visionary mind of acclaimed director Terry Gilliam. [review_editors_notes] =>

This is a review of the German HD DVD release of 'Tideland'. For more information about importing HD DVD discs, visit the HD DVD imports thread in our forums area.

[review_bottom_line] => Worth It For Fans [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 50695 [review_movie_stars] => 3.5 [review_movie] =>

Terry Gilliam, the notorious perfectionist with a reputation for feuding with his producers, had just come out from a knock-down, drag-out fight with the Weinsteins over his last picture, 'The Brothers Grimm', an unwatchable mess and by far his worst film to date. Attempting to recover from that debacle, the director decided to bypass the studio system entirely for his next project, an independently financed adaptation of Mitch Cullin's dark fantasy novel 'Tideland'. Produced off the Hollywood grid in rural Canada with just a few sets, a handful of actors, and free reign to do whatever he wanted, the finished product is certainly one of Gilliam's most focused and consistent movies in years, 100% his vision without compromise. It's also his most difficult film to watch, and has been decried as a disaster by many critics and even some of his staunchest fans.

The movie opens with the introduction of Noah (Jeff Bridges), a washed up rocker turned paranoid and irrational druggie, his horrible shrew wife (Jennifer Tilly, doing a freakshow impersonation of Courtney Love), and their beatific 9-year-old daughter Jeliza-Rose (Jodelle Ferland, the child-in-danger from 'Silent Hill'). The parents, if you could accurately use that term, have no regard for their own lives, much less the little girl's. Having known no other way of life, Jeliza-Rose blithely preps the heroin needles to help daddy go on his "vacations" and massages momma's gnarled feet while listening to her manic verbal tirades. It isn't long before the mother drops dead and Noah, fearing imminent police intervention, hightails it out of town with daughter in tow on a bus ride to grandmother's house.

Located precisely in the middle of nowhere, the ramshackle old building they arrive at is spookily isolated on a vast prairie (horror fans will recognize it as the same setting recently seen in 'The Messengers'). Of course, grandma is long since dead, and Noah himself checks out soon after arrival, settling down for a vacation from which he won't return. Though she doesn't exactly comprehend the predicament, this leaves young Jeliza-Rose to fend for herself while daddy's corpse decomposes in the living room. Ick. Fortunately, she's brought along her four best friends, a set of disembodied doll heads she converses with regularly. Lacking any other form of support, Jeliza-Rose's active fantasy imagination is her only protection from the many adversities she faces, including abandonment, hunger, boredom, and her run-ins with the batshit-crazy lady from a neighboring property, whose mentally-retarded teenage brother will become the girl's closest living friend, as well as possibly a dangerous physical threat.

'Tideland' is a film with obvious artistic merit that is nonetheless extremely unpleasant to watch. Making the same mistake he did in 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas', Gilliam falls into the trap of wallowing in over-the-top filth, ugliness, and despair, hoping that the few shining moments of beauty he extracts will lead to transcendence. He almost gets there, almost entirely by virtue of the fact that Jeliza-Rose is a much more sympathetic character than those in 'Fear and Loathing'. Once Jeff Bridges leaves the scene (which isn't very far into the picture), the rest of the movie is practically a one-girl show for Jodelle Ferland, every scene told from her character's perspective. The young actress delves into dark areas that no one her age should ever be asked to go. Although Jeliza-Rose is never actually physically abused, she's put into many uncomfortable situations, some of her own doing and some not, involving emotional abuse, death, and sexuality, one after another in a constant stream of horrors she doesn't recognize or understand, but the audience certainly does. Ferland delivers a strong performance, but it's one that the material almost cynically demands be described as "brave."

For Gilliam, the film is clearly intended as a dark fairy tale, and he layers in many references to past works of the genre: mirrors, rabbit holes, a journey to grandmother's house, a wardrobe in the attic, etc. The trips through Jeliza-Rose's imagination allow him to indulge in the type of surreal fantasy set-pieces he's famous for, and there are many moments of true lyrical genius in the movie. But it keeps coming back to one central problem, which is that Gilliam has designed the picture as an affront on the audience's sensibilities, without ever making a case for why it's necessary. What is the point of putting this child into such harrowing circumstances? What is the message of the movie -- that children are resilient and fantasies help us to escape the unpleasantness of reality? Is that all, and if so is that really a sufficiently worthy goal that couldn't have been reached any other way? I think I could have gotten that message without needing to see Jeff Bridges' corpse taxidermied and propped up in bed for his daughter to snuggle with, thank you very much.

Seriously, ick.

The HD DVD: Vital Disc Stats

The North American distribution rights for 'Tideland' are held by TH!NKFilm, a studio not yet committed to High Definition, and whose DVD edition of the movie was mastered at an incorrect aspect ratio in any case. Happily, Concorde Home Entertainment in Germany has treated the film with more respect, releasing it on both HD DVD and Blu-ray with an excellent transfer. The region coding of the Blu-ray is unconfirmed at present, but the HD DVD is region free (as are all discs from the format) and will function in any American HD DVD player.

The disc opens with a skippable anti-piracy ad, followed by a video introduction from the director that played before the film in theaters. The soundtrack here defaults to a German overdub (a narrator translating on top of Gilliam's speaking voice) that can be disabled by using the Audio button on the remote to hear the original English. After this, the movie starts immediately without a main menu page. Once again, the movie defaults to a German dub soundtrack until manually changed to the correct English. Although no pop-up menus were available during the intro, they are available once the movie starts. All menu text is written in German, but the organization is fairly straightforward and should be easy enough for an English speaker to navigate. Frustratingly, the menus disappear from the screen after barely a few seconds unless you actively move around in them and choose your selections quickly. Also, the disc automatically triggers German subtitles on screen and closes the menu when you select English audio, forcing you to re-open the menu to turn off the subtitles. It's a minor nuisance, but annoying all the same.

Inside the HD DVD case is a small booklet with some photos and notes (in German) about the movie.

[review_video_stars] => 4.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 5304 [review_video] =>

The history of 'Tideland' on home video is practically a comedy of errors. The movie was shot using the Super35 format and projected at a 2.35:1 aspect ratio in theaters. Director Terry Gilliam felt that the framing was a hair too tight and instructed that the DVD releases open the mattes off the top and bottom slightly to 2.25:1. Somehow, this simple instruction was misinterpreted in a variety of ways. The UK DVD release from Revolver Entertainment left the top and bottom mattes in place as is, and instead cropped some picture off the sides, for a ratio of about 2.10:1. Later, the American DVD from TH!NKFilm mastered the movie with a screen-filling 16:9 transfer that completely lifted all of the vertical mattes and yet also retained the horizontal cropping from the UK disc. The result was a picture visibly missing information from the sides while exposing far too much unintended image above and below the active frame.

The Dreams web site (a Terry Gilliam fanzine) has an excellent article about the aspect ratio controversy with photos comparing the various DVDs to the cinema image and the original camera negative.

After all this, Concorde released the film on DVD and High Definition in Germany with a brand new transfer that restores the original 2.35:1 theatrical ratio. The following photo was taken from the same shot used for the Dreams comparison, and clearly matches the cinema framing (note that this picture is a camera snapshot pointed at a TV screen, and is not intended to represent any facet of the disc's picture quality other than the aspect ratio).


While it's true that Terry Gilliam never got the 2.25:1 ratio that he wanted, the German transfer is an accurate presentation of the theatrical framing and most closely captures his artistic intent. Further, it should be said that the 2.35:1 ratio looks perfectly balanced, and to my eye never seemed overly tight as Gilliam may feel about it.

In other respects, the quality of the transfer is pretty terrific. The picture is very sharp and detailed throughout, with no edge enhancement ringing to distract. There are many moments of truly breathtaking clarity once the action moves to the brightly lit, wide open fields on the prairie. The movie's color palette was digitally manipulated by the filmmakers in a number of ways and sometimes looks a little artificial, but is undoubtedly faithful. A mild amount of film grain is present in some scenes, well compressed and not noisy. The only negative thing I have to say about the picture quality is that a few of the darker scenes have elevated, washed out black levels. Whether this was present in the original photography or is an artifact of the disc transfer, I'm not sure. Regardless, the HD DVD has a wonderful, film-like image and looks great.

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The DTS-HD High Resolution 5.1 soundtrack is also quite good. The track has pleasing fidelity, especially in the musical score. There generally isn't much low end activity, but the few moments that require heavy bass deliver as promised. Surround usage is a little schizophrenic. For the most part, the mix doesn't have much going on in the rear channels, until the fantasy sequences that become decidedly more aggressive and immersive.

The soundtrack has no problems with incorrect pitch, as has occurred on some other European releases (primarily from Studio Canal). The audio on the disc may not have wowed me, but I have no complaints either. It's a solid, satisfying presentation.

Frustratingly, the disc also has a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, but only for the German dub, not the original language. Subtitle options are limited to German subtitles or German Captions for the Hearing Impaired.

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Amazingly, Concorde has provided almost all of the bonus features found on the 2-disc TH!NKFilm DVD.

  • Introduction by Terry Gilliam (SD, 1 min.) – This grainy, black & white, 4:3 clip in which the director warns audiences that many of them will actively hate the movie they're about to see played before the feature in theaters, but really shouldn't have. It comes across as defensive and condescending. The piece automatically runs prior to the start of the movie, but fortunately can be skipped.
  • Audio Commentary – Speaking of defensive, Gilliam and screenwriter Tony Grisoni spend a lot of time in their commentary track whining about the negative critical reaction the film received. They eventually get over it and move on, but it takes a while. Once you get past that, Gilliam is an old pro at the commentary format and pulls himself together. The rest of the track is pretty interesting. Topics of discussion include the Mitch Cullin novel, the difficulties in financing the movie, casting and working with a young child on such dark subject matter, their artistic intentions, and the symbolism used.
  • Getting Gilliam (SD, 43 min.) – Director Vincenzo Natali ('Cube') was brought in during production to document the making of the film. His nasally narration is incredibly annoying and filled with grating hero-worship, but the featurette does provide a decent overview of Gilliam's career, working methods, and the "curse" that seems to haunt all of his movies. Amazingly, despite many problems with weather, destroyed footage, and a bug bite that caused Jodelle Ferland's lip to swell to three times its normal size, 'Tideland' is one of the few Gilliam features to come in on time and budget. While "Getting Gilliam" is better-than-average for the making-of genre, it doesn't hold a candle to the outstanding documentaries found on discs for 'Brazil' and '12 Monkeys', nor the superlative 'Lost in La Mancha' feature documentary about Gilliam's aborted Don Quixote movie. [Note that the HD DVD is missing the extra commentary track from the DVD that Gilliam and Natali delivered over this featurette.]
  • The Making of Tideland (SD, 5 min.) – EPK fluff with the usual talking-head interviews and clips from the movie.
  • Deleted Scenes (SD, 6 min.) – Five short scenes are presented with forced Gilliam commentary. It might have been nice to hear the original dialogue, especially on the flashback where Jeliza-Rose first meets her doll head friends. None of the scenes really needed to be in the movie, however.
  • Filming Green Screen (SD, 3 min.) – The underwater and rabbit hole fantasy sequences are analyzed.
  • Interviews (SD, 25 min.) – Gilliam speaks for 15 minutes and producer Jeremy Thomas for 10 minutes in these additional talking-head clips.
  • Trailers (SD, 4 min.) – A German trailer is presented in decent-quality anamorphic widescreen, but the audio is dubbed and the piece misleadingly tries to sell the movie as a trashy horror thriller. The original English language trailer is much better, but is here presented in awful quality 4:3 video.

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 1 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content] =>

New to the German disc are the following:

  • More Interviews (SD, 5 min.) – In addition those by Gilliam and Thomas, further EPK interviews with Jeff Bridges, Jodelle Ferland, and Jennifer Tilly are available.
  • B-Roll (SD, 21 min.) – Raw behind-the-scenes footage of the production, without structure or narration. This sort of thing gets pretty dull after just a few minutes.
  • Photo Gallery (HD, 2 min.) – An animated montage of production photos.

Also included are some trailers for unrelated movies, all dubbed into German.

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

Missing from the DVD is a commentary track by Terry Gilliam and Vincenzo Natali over the "Getting Gilliam" featurette. Everything else is present.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 4 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 5307 [review_final_thoughts] =>

I can see why many viewers develop a strong and almost instantaneous adverse reaction to 'Tideland', but I am not so quick to write it off. I recognize the artistry in the film, even if I don't have a compelling desire to watch it again right away.

This isn't the type of movie one recommends as a blind purchase. For Terry Gilliam fans who've already seen the movie or feel sufficiently prepared for it, the German import HD DVD has excellent picture, very good sound, and a decent selection of bonus features. It merits a qualified recommendation.

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'The Best of HD DVD, Action' is the latest in Warner's continuing series of high-def compilations. Each volume bundles a collection of previously-released HD DVD releases in a discounted box set.

Included in this collection are: 'Alexander: Revisited,' 'Troy: Director's Cut,' 'Blood Diamond ' and 'Wyatt Earp .'

(Note that all four movies are presented on individual discs, and are identical to the previously-released stand-alone editions. For High-Def Digest's complete reviews of each individual release, click the linked movie titles above.)

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'The Best of Blu-ray, Action' is the latest in Warner's continuing series of high-def compilations. Each volume bundles a collection of previously-released Blu-ray releases in a discounted box set.

Included in this collection are: 'Happy Feet,' 'Tim Burton's Corpse Bride,' 'Scooby-Doo' and 'The Ant Bully.'

(Note that all four movies are presented on individual discs, and are identical to the previously-released stand-alone editions. For High-Def Digest's complete reviews of each individual release, click the linked movie titles above.)

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• Featurettes: "Laughing Is Contagious," "I Now Pronounce You Husband and...Husband?", "Look Who Stopped By," "Stop, Drop, and Roll," "Dugan: The Hands on Director"
• Deleted Scenes (with optional commentary"
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'I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry' is a film that wants to have its cake and it eat, too. It panders to the lowest common denominator of homophobic humor and offensive gay stereotypes, while at the same time hoisting the rainbow flag sky high in a self-serving (and condescending) plea for tolerance. It is both the worst nightmare of the religious right, and one lame "don't drop the soap!" joke away from a boycott by GLAAD. Perhaps if 'I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry' had actually been clever or witty enough, it might have miraculously succeeded in its goal, but instead it's just lame-brained, unfunny and almost non-stop cringe-inducing.

I have to wonder how much of the final draft of 'Chuck & Larry' actually came from the pen of credited screenwriter Alexander Payne (the wonderful 'Citizen Ruth,' 'Election' and 'Sideways'). The film bears little trace of genuine smarts he's displayed in his previous work -- in fact, with the exception of the treacly sermon at the end, the film may as well be the 'Happy Gilmore: I'm So Gay!' edition, with Sandler again playing another of his man-child buffoons, and the filmmakers piling on another string of sophomoric jokes.

To be fair, the movie's premise -- while typically Hollywood high-concept -- does have promise. Sandler stars as Chuck, an uber-macho New York firefighter who agrees to "play gay" to help out his rotund buddy and co-worker Larry (Kevin James), who was so grief-stricken after the unexpected death of his wife that he forgot to claim her life insurance policy before the cut-off date. Now, unless Chuck and Larry become domestic partners, Larry and his two children will be left destitute. Of course, the government soon smells a fraud, and in enters mousy inspector Clinton Fitzer (Steve Buscemi), who's determined to bring down our happy newlyweds. So Larry, fearing serious jail time, employs the services of sympathetic lawyer Alex McDonough (Jessica Biel), who takes on their case, and strikes up a particularly close, er, "friendship" with Chuck.

Unfortunately, all of this is handled like the worst sitcom imaginable. The film seems to take every step wrong. Nothing -- not the characters, the situation, the "slice of life" depictions of the firefighting or gay communities -- rings even remotely authentic. I don't know if the filmmakers were going through some sort of homoerotic panic of their own (Sandler, James, Payne and director Denis Dugan are all resolutely straight), but the film so tiptoes around the genuine feelings Chuck and Larry might be having about their predicament that nearly every frame is painful to watch. Unable to truly embrace its own supposed message of tolerance, the film instead wallows in gay-baiting humor, then "turns it around" by suddenly empowering all of the characters it just humiliated. It's a mixed message: we're asked to howl like hyenas at a string of hateful jokes, only to later be castigated for laughing in the first place.

The kind of humor the makers of 'Chuck & Larry' apparently find timely was already out of date back in 1984. Couldn't they have done better than getting beefy Ving Rhames to play a closeted firefighter, who after being inspired to come out by Chuck and Larry, immediately turns into a mincing queen? Or having Rob Schneider, as the fey reverend who officiates Chuck and Larry's commitment ceremony, do the worst "Asian" impersonation since Mickey Rooney in 'Breakfast at Tiffany's'? And c'mon now, an entire shower sequence with Chuck and Larry's co-workers, who are all afraid to bend over and grab the soap!? Just about the only cliche this movie is missing is having "It's Raining Men" play over the end credits of the movie, but I'm guessing that's only because they couldn't get the rights.

It's hard to tell who among the cast looks more embarrassed. Sandler, despite efforts to balance his better known manic persona with more dramatic fare (see 'Click' or 'Reign Over Me') seems uncomfortable when he's not doing his usual shtick, as if he's just not prepared to deal with any scene of "straight" emotion. James is stuck in the sidekick role, but at least seems more earnest (if still not funny). Only Biel, as the gay-rights crusading lawyer, seems to believe in what she's saying, even if the film itself seems more interested in ogling her body than it is in giving her dialogue of any import. Finally, vying for the "I'm just cashing a paycheck" award are both Buscemi (who appears to want to be anywhere but making this film) and Dan Aykroyd, who plays Chuck and Larry's boss. Aykroyd's big P-FLAG speech at the film's end is so utterly and jaw-droppingly misguided as a supposed rallying cry for acceptance that it's hard to imagine it ever getting past the first draft stage, much less being committed to celluloid.

Did 'Chuck & Larry' ever make me laugh? A few times, yes, which is why I'm even bothering to give the flick one star. And to be fair, I don't think the filmmakers themselves are truly homophobic. But good intentions will only get you so far, and 'Chuck & Larry' is the kind of film that I suspect all those involved will look back on twenty years from now and shudder. Insensitive, inept and in many ways unforgiveable, 'Chuck & Larry' is a reminder of just how far we still have to go.

[review_video_stars] => 3.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 3528 [review_video] =>

Universal presents 'I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry' in 1080p/VC-1 video, at the film's original 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio, and most aspects of the presentation are quite strong.

To be sure, the source is pristine, blacks spot on, and contrast nice and supple. Colors are generally vibrant and pleasing, though I found them edging towards oversaturation (oddly, this is most distracting during scenes with more natural lighting, which look a bit plugged up). Fleshtones are fairly accurate, if a bit digital-looking. Befitting a new release, 'Chuck & Larry' has a generous sense of depth and detail, with even far shots nice and sharp. Though the film's comedic setpieces don't allow for much in the way of visual fireworks, the "high-def effect" is in full force, and the image is frequently three-dimensional. Too bad Universal still can't lay off the edge enhancement, as halos are noticeable. All in all, this certainly isn't a bad transfer, but I wasn't blown away, either.

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

Enjoying the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround (48kHz/24-bit) treatment, 'I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry' sounds better than you might expect. This may not be a big action movie, but for a comedy it's actually quite boisterous, and typical of an A-list studio picture, it's expertly produced.

Although the film itself is largely dialogue driven, there are a good number of scenes that take place in various New York exteriors and other lively locations, providing for lots of engaging surround action. Discrete effects are numerous, and sustained ambiance is surprisingly consistent. I didn't find the score (by Rupert Gregson-Williams) particularly memorable, but it too is nicely bled to the rears, so there's rarely a dull spot in the mix.

Tech specs are sprightly as well, with dynamic range that's both expansive and clean. Although the subwoofer rarely gets much of a workout, the non-intrusive low bass is just right for the material. Music is also impressively rendered, with the few pop/rock tunes that pop up sounding hefty but never overpowering. Finally, dialogue is crystal clear, and I encountered no volume level issues. Considering the material, it's hard to imagine this one sounding much better.

[review_supplements_stars] => 2 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 3529 [review_supplements] =>

Having raked in a total domestic gross of over $100 million, 'I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry' is a hit by any measure. Fittingly enough, Universal has not skimped on the number of extras. Unfortunately, it's all extremely fluffy, with the avoidance of any discussion of the film's "gay" themes so pronounced that it's hard to imagine it wasn't intentional. At least the quality of all the video material is sharp, with the entire assortment presented here in full 1080p/VC-1 video.

First up are not one but two screen-specific audio commentaries: director Dennis Dugan flies solo on the first track, while the second is a big group hug with Dugan and stars Adam Sandler and Kevin James. Unfortunately, neither commentary is very good. It's frustrating that after sitting through both of these tracks (that's four hours totals) I still know next to nothing about the making of the movie. The group track is all jokes and banalities (Sandler either makes sexual innuendos, or says nothing), and Dugan isn't much better on his own, either simply narrating what we're seeing on-screen or offering surface-level insights on the film's casting and locations. Was I wrong to hope that at least somebody was actually going to talk about the movie's subject matter? Instead, this trio spends more time ogling Jessica Biel than saying anything meaningful.

Next up is a quartet of featurettes. "I Now Pronounce You Husband and... Husband?" (6 minutes) is your typical lightning-fast EPK, with lots of film clips, plot recap and on-set promo interviews with cast and crew. Sandler, James and Dugan appear again, as do Biel, Dan Aykroyd and Ving Rhames. Of course all anyone has to say is how fantastically funny Sandler and James are, and all the behind-the-scenes clips are just congenial goofing about. Likewise, don't expect much more from "Look Who Dropped By" (6 minutes), which is just a rundown of the various cameos peppered throughout the movie; "Stop, Drop and Roll" (5 minutes) details the flick's big stunts, but really, that's the last thing anyone cares about in a movie like this; and finally "Dugan: The Hands-On Director" (4 minutes) is a fawning profile of a filmmaker who has yet to make a single decent movie.

Also included is a 9-minute montage of Deleted Scenes (Universal hasn't provided individual access, so you have to watch the whole thing as one big lump). There are eight scenes in all, about half of which are extensions of existing material. There is a funny encounter for James in a bathroom stall, plus a very good scene with Steve Buscemi that hints at what the movie might have been had it attempted something a little more serious. Dugan provides optional commentary for all of the scenes, but once again his remarks aren't particularly informative.

The last major extra is "Laughing is Contagious," a 5-minute reel of "hilarious" bloopers. Alas, they aren't really that hilarious, featuring mostly Sandler and James flubbing lines, staging mock fights on the set, and doing lots of extra-manly things, if only to prove that, yes, they really are straight.

For whatever reason, there are no trailers included on the disc at all -- not even one for 'I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry.'

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0.5 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 3530 [review_bonus_content] =>

Universal has added a few bonus features exclusive to the HD DVD of 'I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry,' but quite frankly they needn't have bothered. There's nothing her that's particularly compelling, and it all feels quite throwaway.

The "big" feature here is the "Friendship Test" interactive game, which is accessible via Universal's U-Control interface (it's also the only U-Control feature on the disc). As the movie plays, about three dozen questions will pop up at various intervals, each inspired by what's happening in the flick. It's all pretty lame, which such queries as "Would you kiss your best friend to win a bet" as good as it gets. At the end of the quiz, you'll get a score telling you how good of a friend you'd be. Woo-hoo!

Also included on the disc are some web-enabled features, but as of now, there's nothing available that's actually unique to the movie -- just Universal's growing stable of standard web functions, including the ability to share your favorite scenes with other online users (via the disc's MyScenes feature), trailers for other Universal flicks, and the option to be alerted about future updates. That's it.

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

'I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry' is a "gay movie" for straight people. Amazingly, it recycles the same old homophobic jokes we all heard back in high school, yet does so under the guise of promoting tolerance. This might have qualified as cutting-edge back in 1982, but today it's just tired. This HD DVD/DVD combo release features solid-enough video and audio, but the extras are wafer-thin, and the HD exclusives are lame, too. On the bottom line, this one delivers well enough, but I still can't bring myself to recommend it for anything more than a rental.

) ) [3] => Array ( [review_id] => 1124 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => aviator [review_release_date] => 1194336000 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => The Aviator [picture_created] => 1190193783 [picture_name] => aviator.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Video [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/09/19/120/aviator.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1124/aviator.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2004 [run_time] => 170 [list_price] => 28.98 [asin] => B000VZGK4O [amazon_price] => 26.09 [empire_id] => 1366366 [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 [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (640kbps) [1] => Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (640kbps) [2] => French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (640kbps) [3] => Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentary [1] => TV Special [2] => Deleted Scene [3] => Featurettes [4] => Still Gallery [5] => Theatrical Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English Subtitles [1] => French Subtitles [2] => Spanish Subtitles [3] => Portugese Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Biography [1] => Drama ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Leonardo DiCaprio [1] => Cate Blanchett [2] => Alec Baldwin ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Martin Scorsese ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => An epic biopic depicting the early years of legendary director and aviator Howard Hughes' career, from the late 1920's to the mid-1940's. [preview_technology_specifications] => • Audio commentary with director Martin Scorsese
• TV Special: History Channel Documentary
• Deleted Scene
• Stil Gallery
• Theatrical Trailer [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 18099 [review_editors_notes] => Non-format-specific portions of this review also appear in our Blu-ray review of 'The Aviator.' [review_bottom_line] => Recommended [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 24627 [review_movie_stars] => 4 [review_movie] =>

Legendary director Martin Scorsese seems to have turned an interesting corner in his career over the last few years. While his early work explored the behavior of morally questionable characters felled by their own ambition, his more recent films have focused on characters who rise and fall in the face of noble challenges greater than themselves. 'The Departed,' 'Gangs of New York,' and 'The Aviator' each received widespread critical acclaim and countless award nominations and wins, but 'The Aviator' arguably emerges from the pack as Scorsese's most tragic and complex tale to date.

Based on the book by Richard Hack, 'The Aviator' tells the true story of Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio) -- the legendary aviation pioneer and film director ('Hells Angels,' 'Scarface') who slowly succumbed to a debilitating case of obsessive compulsive disorder. The film follows Hughes through the 1920s as he gains notoriety in Hollywood, into the '30s as he struggles against immense pressure from Pan Am Airlines owner Juan Trippe (Alec Baldwin) and US Senator Owen Brewster (Alan Alda), and ends with his seclusion in the '40s as OCD completely destroys his mind. Over the course of his descent into madness, he inspires the advancement of technology, influences film history, and falls in love with a virtual who's who of famous starlets including Katherine Hepburn (Cate Blanchett) and Ava Gardner (Kate Beckinsale).

'The Aviator' is a film filled with thematic complexities and a lack of concrete answers. Hughes is a fascinating character, but the nature of his drive and eventual descent into madness keep him at an arm's length from the audience. His behavior is arrogant and fraught with the inconsistencies inherent to his mental illness. It's tough to follow his thought process and he never becomes a comfortable main character -- he just seems too foreign to the imagination. I personally found it nearly impossible to feel anything but pity for the decaying monster hidden behind Hughes' successful persona.

But somehow, this very conundrum kept me enthralled from beginning to end. 'The Aviator' is a character study through and through -- it doesn't concern itself with explaining Hughes because there isn't an explanation. Instead, the film spends its time exploring power and its ability to corrupt. The more successful Hughes becomes, the more unhinged from reality he becomes. The implications of this process are taken to the extreme but ring true as the story barrels toward its inevitable conclusion. By the time the credits rolled, the film had me in a disquieted stupor -- I was disturbed by Hughes' sheer madness, saddened by his utter desperation, and reflective about the nature of pride and the human ego.

The actors do an amazing job bringing each of their characters to life. DiCaprio's disciplined portrayal of Hughes is simply breathtaking -- he lets go of himself entirely, sacrificing his Hollywood looks for the purity of his performance. Even better are his tense scenes with Alda and Baldwin (my favorite scenes in the film are those that encompass the legal chess match between TWA, Pan Am, and the US government). DiCaprio doesn't just switch his OCD on and off -- he retains the mannerisms that remind us of his affliction, but hides them from the other characters on screen. The result is subtle, but downright creepy.

The film may not work for everyone, but it's hard to deny the sure-handedness of Scorsese's direction. In my opinion, the film's only major weakness is the abruptness of the its ending. The first two acts have a palpable momentum that screeches to a halt as Hughes finally steps over his last line of sanity. The final minutes are empty and left me wondering what came next.

Still, 'The Aviator' is a film that everyone should watch. Yes, it's problematic at times and some have argued that it bites off more than it can chew in three hours, but it stands as a brilliant biopic that documents the life of an influential madman whose efforts continue to echo into the 21st century.

[review_video_stars] => 4.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 4256 [review_video] =>

Warner presents 'The Aviator' on HD DVD and Blu-ray with identical 1080p/VC-1 transfers that render Scorsese's dense character study with confidence. Just one word of warning -- don't scramble to check your video connections when the film begins. The first hour of 'The Aviator' was shot to emulate the appearance of early two-tone cinema. While this process produces a variety of interesting visuals, it most notably elevates reds and causes greens to shift toward cyan blue. The result is a sepia-toned picture that bleaches plantlife of health and bronzes skintones. As the story approaches the '40s, however, Scorsese dramatically switches his technique to emulate the highly saturated glow of three-strip Technicolor films. The sudden changeover is an initial shock to the system as colors flourish and warm the screen.

Regardless of one's opinion of Scorsese's particular visual style, color reproduction on this HD DVD is gorgeous and vivid. The palette is stable and I didn't detect any of the contrast wavering or bleeding that occasionally crop up on the standard-def DVD. Color saturation in general is much more pleasing to the eye and doesn't stumble at any point in the presentation. The print and the source are immaculate -- there aren't any distracting bouts of blemishes, noise, or artifacting. Fine detail is excellent and reveals the tiniest nuances of the cinematography. Even the darkest scenes are packed with crisp detail -- when Hughes begins locking himself away, his cluttered spaces are treasure troves of small legible text, sharp textures, and other elements cloaked in the shadows.

In fact, the only complaint I have about the entire picture is that the first hour of the film is softer than the rest. While this is a direct product of Scorsese's filming methods, it still keeps the high definition transfer from packing the punch of the last half of the film. For that reason alone, 'The Aviator' isn't likely to become a quick, go-to demo disc. Still, fans of the film will find little to complain about and are almost sure to put forth a convincing argument that this is a five star transfer.

[review_audio_stars] => 3 [review_audio_picture_id] => 4257 [review_audio] =>

Unfortunately, the audio package is less impressive. 'The Aviator' HD DVD features a decent Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 surround mix (640 kbps) that's indistinguishable from the Dolby Digital 5.1 track (also 640 kbps) on the Blu-ray edition. Dialogue is crisp and well prioritized, but the entirety of the film resides across the front channels. The rear speakers are rarely engaged and the only noteworthy use of the surrounds came during the plane crash. Ambiance and acoustics are hindered by the limited soundfield and the track doesn't have the immersive characteristics of better high definition audio offerings. Directionality can be questionable at times, and I encountered several instances when sounds appeared in the front of the soundscape that should have been relegated to the back.

Despite the rather two-dimensional soundfield, the LFE channel has some bassy standout moments and the overall dynamics are above average. Pans are smooth, treble stability makes the film score sound wonderful, and subtle effects mingle nicely in the soundscape. At the end of the day, this track is a mixed bag that doesn't allow listeners to sink into the film like other high scoring audio packages available on HD DVD.

[review_supplements_stars] => 4 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 4258 [review_supplements] =>

'The Aviator' was released as a 2-disc DVD in 2005 that included a wealth of special features which meticulously detailed the entire production. Thankfully, that package remains intact on this HD DVD edition, with every feature making a repeat appearance.

  • Audio Commentary -- While the back cover only mentions Martin Scorsese, this track also includes separately recorded comments from producer Michael Mann and editor Thelma Schoonmaker. I appreciated the addition of their perspectives, but Scorsese is the main draw here and he delivers without question. In fact, Scorsese is so passionate and engaging that I immediately found myself wanting to dive back into the film. His rapid-fire anecdotes bolster his recreation of early 20th century America, and his thoughts on Hughes and the man's faltering mind are fascinating. Don't skip this excellent commentary track.
  • Deleted Scene (2 minutes, SD) -- A brief deletion involves Hughes telling Ava about his car accident. I can't imagine why it was cut, but I'm happy to see it appear somewhere on this disc.
  • A Life Without Limits: The Making of The Aviator (12 minutes, SD) -- This behind-the-scenes kick-off is a syrupy, complimentary collection of cast and crew interviews. We hear from the director, the actors, the screenwriter and the producers, but this featurette focuses on the merits of the film rather than on the methods that brought it to life.
  • The Role of Howard Hughes in Aviation History (15 minutes, SD) -- A fascinating look at the life of the real Howard Hughes, this one includes interviews with DiCaprio and Scorsese, but it also features commentary from those more intimately familiar with Hughes' life, includingbiographers Don Bartlett, George Marrett, and James Steele. It even gathers the perspectives of aviation enthusiasts, pilots, and aviation Hall of Fame inductee Robert Hoover, and ultimately stands as a testament to the incredible level of detail and accuracy Scorsese employed in the film itself.
  • Modern Marvels: Howard Hughes (42 minutes, SD) -- Although the structure of This History Channel documentary is somewhat annoying (with its repeated teases in and out of commercial breaks), the meat of this feature really dissects Hughes, his life, and his contributions to aviation and many other institutions that would flourish in the latter half of the 20th century. It portrays Hughes as a flawed innovator whose disabling OCD limited his ultimate potential. This is a candid exploration that shouldn't be missed.
  • The Affliction of Howard Hughes: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (14 minutes, SD) -- Hughes biographers Bartlett and Steele lead this examination of the actual affliction that renders people helpless. It includes interviews with doctors, experts, and actual patients diagnosed with OCD in a chilling look at the illness.
  • OCD Panel Discussion (15 minutes, SD) -- Just as interesting is this featurette that documents a panel discussion at UCLA between Scorsese, DiCaprio, and Hughes' widow Terry Moore. It's a somewhat somber affair with plenty of detail. Particularly interesting is the revealtion of DiCaprio's determination to replicate the tics and gestures of Hughes as the illness consumed him.
  • An Evening with Leonardo DiCaprio and Alan Alda (28 minutes, SD) -- This discussion is a tad repetitive when viewed alongside the other included features, but it still functions as a nice addition as it fleshes out the behind-the-scenes atmosphere on the set of the film. More than anything, the two actors describe Scorsese's own obsession with detail, set dressing, and character development. Alda and DiCaprio may be an unlikely pair, but they have a warm rapport that keeps the discussion moving.
  • The Visual Effects of The Aviator (12 minutes, SD) -- Visual Effects Supervisor Robert Legato happily leads this featurette that explores the eerily realistic effects used in the film. While I expected to see coverage of the plane crash and other wow moments, I was surprised to instead witness subtle tricks that I didn't register as special effects when I watched the film. This is a fun featurette that stands out from the pack with a unique, airy tone.
  • Constructing The Aviator: The Work of Dante Ferretti (6 minutes, SD) -- This one was a bit dry for my taste, but it does cover an important aspect of the production: recreating the Hollywood of another era. The comments from production designer Dante Ferretti are decent enough and provide plenty to look for in later viewings of the film. Producer Graham King appears as well, but I wish this supplement featured a more engaging lead voice.
  • Costuming The Aviator: The Work of Sandy Powell (4 minutes, SD) -- This particular featurette just isn't my thing. I appreciate the careful planning and effective execution of Powell's work, but I couldn't get past the feeling that I had seen this extra a thousand times before. She certainly did a great job, but she doesn't add much to the overall discussion of 'The Aviator' that I hadn't heard or considered before.
  • The Age of Glamour: The Hair and Makeup of The Aviator (8 minutes, SD) -- I found myself glancing at the clock as this short featurette trudged through the transformation lead actors and actresses went through on a daily basis. Again, the work is exceptional -- it's just not that all that engaging in the form of a featurette.
  • Scoring The Aviator: The Work of Howard Shore (7 minutes, SD) -- Why is it that featurettes about composers and their work are always so surface-level? Just once I would love to find an hour-long documentary covering the complete scope of the work that goes into scoring a feature film such as this. Still, this standard featurette is compelling enough considering its limited vantage point. I especially enjoyed Shore's descriptions of his process and the genesis of his melodic themes.
  • The Wainwright Family: Loudon, Rufus, and Martha (5 minutes, SD) -- This is arguably the one complete throw away in the bunch. It merely covers the participation of The Wainwright Family in shots that allowed them to portray lounge singers from the early part of the century. Meh.

Rounding out the package is a "Stills Gallery" and the film's "Theatrical Trailer" presented in high definition.

[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] => 4259 [review_final_thoughts] =>

While everyone may not personally respond to the story of 'The Aviator,' this release is still an easy one recommend. It features an excellent video transfer and a thorough series of supplements that include a three hour commentary and a detailed collection of featurettes and documentaries. The front heavy audio track is less thrilling, but does its job well enough. All in all, fans won't be disappointed with this HD DVD release and will likely find 'The Aviator' to be a very respectable addition to their collection.

) ) [4] => Array ( [review_id] => 1406 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => tideland_de [review_release_date] => 1194336000 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Tideland (German Import) [picture_created] => 1204484722 [picture_name] => tideland_cover.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Concorde Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/03/02/120/tideland_cover.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1406/tideland_de.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2005 [run_time] => 123 [list_price] => 31.95 [amazon_price] => 0.00 [alt_commerce_link] => https://xploitedcinema.com/catalog/tideland-german-release-p-13059.html [alt_commerce_text] => Ships worldwide from xploitedcinema.com [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.35:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => Behind-the-Scenes Footage [1] => Interviews [2] => Photo Gallery ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 [1] => 480i/p/VC-1 (Supplements Only) ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English DTS-HD High Resolution 5.1 Surround [1] => German DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentary [1] => Deleted Scenes [2] => Featurettes [3] => Interviews [4] => Trailers ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => German Subtitles [1] => German SDH ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Drama [1] => Fantasy [2] => Horror ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Jeff Bridges [1] => Jodelle Ferland [2] => Janet McTeer [3] => Jennifer Tilly [4] => Brendan Fletcher ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Terry Gilliam ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Jeliza-Rose, a young girl (Jodelle Ferland) is forced to live in a terrifying and gruesome world. After her mother dies, her father (Four-Time Oscar-Nominee Jeff Bridges) takes her away to a desolate farmhouse. In order to escape the harsh reality of her childhood, she drifts into a bizarre fantasy world where only her dolls' heads keep her company. The line between her imagination and reality quickly disappears when she meets a mentally damaged man and a tall ghost-like woman who share in her adventures. Tideland is a spine-chilling tale from the visionary mind of acclaimed director Terry Gilliam. [review_editors_notes] =>

This is a review of the German HD DVD release of 'Tideland'. For more information about importing HD DVD discs, visit the HD DVD imports thread in our forums area.

[review_bottom_line] => Worth It For Fans [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 50695 [review_movie_stars] => 3.5 [review_movie] =>

Terry Gilliam, the notorious perfectionist with a reputation for feuding with his producers, had just come out from a knock-down, drag-out fight with the Weinsteins over his last picture, 'The Brothers Grimm', an unwatchable mess and by far his worst film to date. Attempting to recover from that debacle, the director decided to bypass the studio system entirely for his next project, an independently financed adaptation of Mitch Cullin's dark fantasy novel 'Tideland'. Produced off the Hollywood grid in rural Canada with just a few sets, a handful of actors, and free reign to do whatever he wanted, the finished product is certainly one of Gilliam's most focused and consistent movies in years, 100% his vision without compromise. It's also his most difficult film to watch, and has been decried as a disaster by many critics and even some of his staunchest fans.

The movie opens with the introduction of Noah (Jeff Bridges), a washed up rocker turned paranoid and irrational druggie, his horrible shrew wife (Jennifer Tilly, doing a freakshow impersonation of Courtney Love), and their beatific 9-year-old daughter Jeliza-Rose (Jodelle Ferland, the child-in-danger from 'Silent Hill'). The parents, if you could accurately use that term, have no regard for their own lives, much less the little girl's. Having known no other way of life, Jeliza-Rose blithely preps the heroin needles to help daddy go on his "vacations" and massages momma's gnarled feet while listening to her manic verbal tirades. It isn't long before the mother drops dead and Noah, fearing imminent police intervention, hightails it out of town with daughter in tow on a bus ride to grandmother's house.

Located precisely in the middle of nowhere, the ramshackle old building they arrive at is spookily isolated on a vast prairie (horror fans will recognize it as the same setting recently seen in 'The Messengers'). Of course, grandma is long since dead, and Noah himself checks out soon after arrival, settling down for a vacation from which he won't return. Though she doesn't exactly comprehend the predicament, this leaves young Jeliza-Rose to fend for herself while daddy's corpse decomposes in the living room. Ick. Fortunately, she's brought along her four best friends, a set of disembodied doll heads she converses with regularly. Lacking any other form of support, Jeliza-Rose's active fantasy imagination is her only protection from the many adversities she faces, including abandonment, hunger, boredom, and her run-ins with the batshit-crazy lady from a neighboring property, whose mentally-retarded teenage brother will become the girl's closest living friend, as well as possibly a dangerous physical threat.

'Tideland' is a film with obvious artistic merit that is nonetheless extremely unpleasant to watch. Making the same mistake he did in 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas', Gilliam falls into the trap of wallowing in over-the-top filth, ugliness, and despair, hoping that the few shining moments of beauty he extracts will lead to transcendence. He almost gets there, almost entirely by virtue of the fact that Jeliza-Rose is a much more sympathetic character than those in 'Fear and Loathing'. Once Jeff Bridges leaves the scene (which isn't very far into the picture), the rest of the movie is practically a one-girl show for Jodelle Ferland, every scene told from her character's perspective. The young actress delves into dark areas that no one her age should ever be asked to go. Although Jeliza-Rose is never actually physically abused, she's put into many uncomfortable situations, some of her own doing and some not, involving emotional abuse, death, and sexuality, one after another in a constant stream of horrors she doesn't recognize or understand, but the audience certainly does. Ferland delivers a strong performance, but it's one that the material almost cynically demands be described as "brave."

For Gilliam, the film is clearly intended as a dark fairy tale, and he layers in many references to past works of the genre: mirrors, rabbit holes, a journey to grandmother's house, a wardrobe in the attic, etc. The trips through Jeliza-Rose's imagination allow him to indulge in the type of surreal fantasy set-pieces he's famous for, and there are many moments of true lyrical genius in the movie. But it keeps coming back to one central problem, which is that Gilliam has designed the picture as an affront on the audience's sensibilities, without ever making a case for why it's necessary. What is the point of putting this child into such harrowing circumstances? What is the message of the movie -- that children are resilient and fantasies help us to escape the unpleasantness of reality? Is that all, and if so is that really a sufficiently worthy goal that couldn't have been reached any other way? I think I could have gotten that message without needing to see Jeff Bridges' corpse taxidermied and propped up in bed for his daughter to snuggle with, thank you very much.

Seriously, ick.

The HD DVD: Vital Disc Stats

The North American distribution rights for 'Tideland' are held by TH!NKFilm, a studio not yet committed to High Definition, and whose DVD edition of the movie was mastered at an incorrect aspect ratio in any case. Happily, Concorde Home Entertainment in Germany has treated the film with more respect, releasing it on both HD DVD and Blu-ray with an excellent transfer. The region coding of the Blu-ray is unconfirmed at present, but the HD DVD is region free (as are all discs from the format) and will function in any American HD DVD player.

The disc opens with a skippable anti-piracy ad, followed by a video introduction from the director that played before the film in theaters. The soundtrack here defaults to a German overdub (a narrator translating on top of Gilliam's speaking voice) that can be disabled by using the Audio button on the remote to hear the original English. After this, the movie starts immediately without a main menu page. Once again, the movie defaults to a German dub soundtrack until manually changed to the correct English. Although no pop-up menus were available during the intro, they are available once the movie starts. All menu text is written in German, but the organization is fairly straightforward and should be easy enough for an English speaker to navigate. Frustratingly, the menus disappear from the screen after barely a few seconds unless you actively move around in them and choose your selections quickly. Also, the disc automatically triggers German subtitles on screen and closes the menu when you select English audio, forcing you to re-open the menu to turn off the subtitles. It's a minor nuisance, but annoying all the same.

Inside the HD DVD case is a small booklet with some photos and notes (in German) about the movie.

[review_video_stars] => 4.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 5304 [review_video] =>

The history of 'Tideland' on home video is practically a comedy of errors. The movie was shot using the Super35 format and projected at a 2.35:1 aspect ratio in theaters. Director Terry Gilliam felt that the framing was a hair too tight and instructed that the DVD releases open the mattes off the top and bottom slightly to 2.25:1. Somehow, this simple instruction was misinterpreted in a variety of ways. The UK DVD release from Revolver Entertainment left the top and bottom mattes in place as is, and instead cropped some picture off the sides, for a ratio of about 2.10:1. Later, the American DVD from TH!NKFilm mastered the movie with a screen-filling 16:9 transfer that completely lifted all of the vertical mattes and yet also retained the horizontal cropping from the UK disc. The result was a picture visibly missing information from the sides while exposing far too much unintended image above and below the active frame.

The Dreams web site (a Terry Gilliam fanzine) has an excellent article about the aspect ratio controversy with photos comparing the various DVDs to the cinema image and the original camera negative.

After all this, Concorde released the film on DVD and High Definition in Germany with a brand new transfer that restores the original 2.35:1 theatrical ratio. The following photo was taken from the same shot used for the Dreams comparison, and clearly matches the cinema framing (note that this picture is a camera snapshot pointed at a TV screen, and is not intended to represent any facet of the disc's picture quality other than the aspect ratio).


While it's true that Terry Gilliam never got the 2.25:1 ratio that he wanted, the German transfer is an accurate presentation of the theatrical framing and most closely captures his artistic intent. Further, it should be said that the 2.35:1 ratio looks perfectly balanced, and to my eye never seemed overly tight as Gilliam may feel about it.

In other respects, the quality of the transfer is pretty terrific. The picture is very sharp and detailed throughout, with no edge enhancement ringing to distract. There are many moments of truly breathtaking clarity once the action moves to the brightly lit, wide open fields on the prairie. The movie's color palette was digitally manipulated by the filmmakers in a number of ways and sometimes looks a little artificial, but is undoubtedly faithful. A mild amount of film grain is present in some scenes, well compressed and not noisy. The only negative thing I have to say about the picture quality is that a few of the darker scenes have elevated, washed out black levels. Whether this was present in the original photography or is an artifact of the disc transfer, I'm not sure. Regardless, the HD DVD has a wonderful, film-like image and looks great.

[review_audio_stars] => 3.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 5305 [review_audio] =>

The DTS-HD High Resolution 5.1 soundtrack is also quite good. The track has pleasing fidelity, especially in the musical score. There generally isn't much low end activity, but the few moments that require heavy bass deliver as promised. Surround usage is a little schizophrenic. For the most part, the mix doesn't have much going on in the rear channels, until the fantasy sequences that become decidedly more aggressive and immersive.

The soundtrack has no problems with incorrect pitch, as has occurred on some other European releases (primarily from Studio Canal). The audio on the disc may not have wowed me, but I have no complaints either. It's a solid, satisfying presentation.

Frustratingly, the disc also has a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, but only for the German dub, not the original language. Subtitle options are limited to German subtitles or German Captions for the Hearing Impaired.

[review_supplements_stars] => 3 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 5306 [review_supplements] =>

Amazingly, Concorde has provided almost all of the bonus features found on the 2-disc TH!NKFilm DVD.

  • Introduction by Terry Gilliam (SD, 1 min.) – This grainy, black & white, 4:3 clip in which the director warns audiences that many of them will actively hate the movie they're about to see played before the feature in theaters, but really shouldn't have. It comes across as defensive and condescending. The piece automatically runs prior to the start of the movie, but fortunately can be skipped.
  • Audio Commentary – Speaking of defensive, Gilliam and screenwriter Tony Grisoni spend a lot of time in their commentary track whining about the negative critical reaction the film received. They eventually get over it and move on, but it takes a while. Once you get past that, Gilliam is an old pro at the commentary format and pulls himself together. The rest of the track is pretty interesting. Topics of discussion include the Mitch Cullin novel, the difficulties in financing the movie, casting and working with a young child on such dark subject matter, their artistic intentions, and the symbolism used.
  • Getting Gilliam (SD, 43 min.) – Director Vincenzo Natali ('Cube') was brought in during production to document the making of the film. His nasally narration is incredibly annoying and filled with grating hero-worship, but the featurette does provide a decent overview of Gilliam's career, working methods, and the "curse" that seems to haunt all of his movies. Amazingly, despite many problems with weather, destroyed footage, and a bug bite that caused Jodelle Ferland's lip to swell to three times its normal size, 'Tideland' is one of the few Gilliam features to come in on time and budget. While "Getting Gilliam" is better-than-average for the making-of genre, it doesn't hold a candle to the outstanding documentaries found on discs for 'Brazil' and '12 Monkeys', nor the superlative 'Lost in La Mancha' feature documentary about Gilliam's aborted Don Quixote movie. [Note that the HD DVD is missing the extra commentary track from the DVD that Gilliam and Natali delivered over this featurette.]
  • The Making of Tideland (SD, 5 min.) – EPK fluff with the usual talking-head interviews and clips from the movie.
  • Deleted Scenes (SD, 6 min.) – Five short scenes are presented with forced Gilliam commentary. It might have been nice to hear the original dialogue, especially on the flashback where Jeliza-Rose first meets her doll head friends. None of the scenes really needed to be in the movie, however.
  • Filming Green Screen (SD, 3 min.) – The underwater and rabbit hole fantasy sequences are analyzed.
  • Interviews (SD, 25 min.) – Gilliam speaks for 15 minutes and producer Jeremy Thomas for 10 minutes in these additional talking-head clips.
  • Trailers (SD, 4 min.) – A German trailer is presented in decent-quality anamorphic widescreen, but the audio is dubbed and the piece misleadingly tries to sell the movie as a trashy horror thriller. The original English language trailer is much better, but is here presented in awful quality 4:3 video.

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 1 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content] =>

New to the German disc are the following:

  • More Interviews (SD, 5 min.) – In addition those by Gilliam and Thomas, further EPK interviews with Jeff Bridges, Jodelle Ferland, and Jennifer Tilly are available.
  • B-Roll (SD, 21 min.) – Raw behind-the-scenes footage of the production, without structure or narration. This sort of thing gets pretty dull after just a few minutes.
  • Photo Gallery (HD, 2 min.) – An animated montage of production photos.

Also included are some trailers for unrelated movies, all dubbed into German.

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

Missing from the DVD is a commentary track by Terry Gilliam and Vincenzo Natali over the "Getting Gilliam" featurette. Everything else is present.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 4 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 5307 [review_final_thoughts] =>

I can see why many viewers develop a strong and almost instantaneous adverse reaction to 'Tideland', but I am not so quick to write it off. I recognize the artistry in the film, even if I don't have a compelling desire to watch it again right away.

This isn't the type of movie one recommends as a blind purchase. For Terry Gilliam fans who've already seen the movie or feel sufficiently prepared for it, the German import HD DVD has excellent picture, very good sound, and a decent selection of bonus features. It merits a qualified recommendation.

) ) ) ) [October 31, 2007] => Array ( [reviews] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 1426 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => tripletsofbelleville_fr [review_release_date] => 1193814000 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => The Triplets of Belleville (French Import) [picture_created] => 1206143585 [picture_name] => tripletscover.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => France Télévisions Distribution [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/03/21/120/tripletscover.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1426/tripletsofbelleville_fr.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2003 [run_time] => 0 [list_price] => 36.95 [amazon_price] => 0.00 [alt_commerce_link] => https://xploitedcinema.com/catalog/triplettes-belleville-french-release-p-13167.html [alt_commerce_text] => Ships worldwide from xploitedcinema.com [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.66:1 ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 [1] => 480i/p/VC-1 (Supplements Only) ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-15 Single-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Featurettes [1] => Selected-Scenes Commentary [2] => Music Video [3] => Still Gallery [4] => Trailers ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => None ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Animation [1] => Comedy [2] => Musical ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Béatrice Bonifassi [1] => Lina Boudreau [2] => Mari-Lou Gauthier ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Sylvain Chomet ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => You've never seen anything like The Triplets Of Belleville, a wildly inventive and highly original animated feature crowded with colorful characters and fantastic imagery. Kidnapped by mysterious square-shouldered henchmen, a Tour de France cyclist named Champion is spirited across the ocean to the teeming metropolis of Belleville. His grandmother and faithful dog follow his trail and are taken in by a trio of eccentric jazz-era divas. The motley sleuths follow the clues to an underground betting parlor and now the chase is on! [review_editors_notes] =>

This is a review of the French HD DVD release of 'The Triplets of Belleville'. For more information about importing HD DVD discs, visit the HD DVD imports thread in our forums area.

[review_bottom_line] => Worth A Look [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 50097 [review_movie_stars] => 3.5 [review_movie] =>

'The Triplets of Belleville', Sylvain Chomet's deliriously warped animated musical, is a movie whose artistry is easy to admire even if the film as a whole doesn't quite live up to its potential. Since first seeing it a few years ago, I was left with very mixed feelings. While I quickly fell in love with its style and design, as well as its endearing main characters, the plot chosen to hold all of its elements together left me cold. Rewatching now, the picture holds up a little better after a repeat viewing, where I was able to catch many little details missed the first time around, but I still feel that the Chomet's deliberately weird affectations overwhelm the movie and leave it, in the end, more strange than really enjoyable.

Things begin brilliantly, with a black & white prologue designed like an old-timey cartoon, complete with dirt and scratches on the print. Here we're introduced to the title characters, a trio of flapper-era dance hall singers at the height of their popularity, playing to an enthusiastic sold-out crowd. We're also given our first taste of the movie's tone, a mix of outrageous surrealism and slapstick humor propelled to rollicking jazz beat. The scene is fantastic. Soon we jump forward several decades to meet Madame Souza, a diminutive old French lady raising her portly grandson. The boy doesn't take to her attempts to introduce him to music, but after buying him a tricycle, an obsession is born. Jumping ahead again, we find the now-grown grandson a dedicated cyclist training day and night for the Tour de France.

Unfortunately, his entry in that race sets in motion a bizarre subplot in which the boy is kidnapped right off the course by mobsters and whisked across the ocean in a freight steamer. Mme. Souza and her very fat dog Bruno follow, trailing the kidnappers by paddleboat to the metropolis of Belleville (an amalgamation of New York, Paris, and Montreal with buildings shaped like wine bottles dotting the skyline). Once there, she enlists the help of the elderly Triplets to rescue her grandson and break up the crime ring that has been snatching cyclists for an exclusive betting racket.

Throughout, the story is told with no dialogue, just pure physical comedy and the occasional musical interlude. Chomet has an idiosyncratic visual style, made up of distorted caricatures and silly stereotypes. Mme. Souza is about two feet tall, with legs of uneven lengths. As an adult, her grandson the cyclist is gangly and rail thin, with absurdly bulging leg muscles that cause him to trot like a horse. Peripheral characters include obnoxious and obese Americans, snooty frog-eating French, and a mechanic who looks and squeaks almost exactly like a mouse. Chomet's world is cluttered with layers of intricate background detail that may take several viewings to fully absorb, and the Rube Goldberg-like logic that drives even the simplest of scenes is often hilarious.

For quite a while, the movie is extremely entertaining, but it falls apart when the caper plot takes over. Even by the strange rules previously laid down, the last act strains credibility, with some uncomfortable violence that feels out of place and a final chase scene among the dopiest ever put to celluloid. Though it runs barely 80 minutes, the film runs out of steam, as if it started as a clever short subject that's been padded out to feature length.

With all that said, 'The Triplets of Belleville' may not be a perfect movie, but it's a wholly unique vision whose breezy humor and snappy musical numbers are worthy of revisiting from time to time.

The HD DVD: Vital Disc Stats

The North American distribution rights to 'The Triplets of Belleville' are held by Sony, who haven't made any High-Def plans for it yet. However, the movie was released on HD DVD in France by a studio called France Télévisions Distribution. The disc has no region coding and should function fine in any American HD DVD player.

The HD DVD offers no English audio or subtitle options, but with next to no dialogue, the movie itself can be enjoyed by viewers of any language without the need for translation.

[review_video_stars] => 5 [review_video_picture_id] => 5459 [review_video] =>

By obvious design, the film opens like a ratty old print of an early talkie from the 1920s, in black & white and a 4:3 aspect ratio (pillarboxed in the center of the frame), with scratches and nicks drawn on for good measure. At the jump forward in time, the picture changes to full color and expands outward to a wider 1.66:1 European theatrical ratio. Even this is less wide than the 16:9 High Definition frame, and small pillarbox bars remain on the sides for the rest of the movie.

The 1080p/VC-1 transfer is extraordinary. The animated image has very crisp lines, with rich colors and excellent detail. Even individual pencil strokes in the artwork are visible. The background plates in scenes often have fascinating textures. This is definitely the type of movie where you'll want to savor the details, and they're all here on clear display. The picture has no edge enhancement or compression artifacts (despite being authored on a single-layer disc). In fact, I could find nothing wrong with it at all. As far as I'm concerned, this disc rates a perfect video score.

[review_audio_stars] => 4 [review_audio_picture_id] => 5460 [review_audio] =>

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is also very strong. With no dialogue of any consequence in the movie, the sound design takes an even more prominent role. The mix is extremely directional across all channels, but not in a gimmicky way. Discrete surround effects help to create a convincing, immersive soundspace. Individual sounds in the mix are rendered with admirable clarity.

The bouncy musical score has nice separation and fidelity, filling a broad soundstage. I did however wish for better distinction from the strumming cello, which doesn't seem to hit the low notes as effectively as it should. On the other hand, bass does come out at the end of the movie during the big chase scene.

Only the original French language track has been provided, with no alternate language or subtitle options. Given the almost total absence of dialogue, this shouldn't be a concern. Even the English dub track on the American DVD left most of the background chatter (radio and TV announcers, voices in the crowd, etc.) in French without translation, and the few lines of actual dialogue make no real impact to the story.

[review_supplements_stars] => 2.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 5461 [review_supplements] =>

The HD DVD carries over all of the supplements from the 2-disc Édition Spéciale DVD released in France, which had more bonus features than the domestic DVD from Sony. Unfortunately, aside from a few brief moments in the featurettes where particular interviewees happened to be speaking English, most of the bonus content on the disc is presented only in French audio without subtitles. Nevertheless, there are a few things that an English speaking viewer may find interesting even without translation.

All of the following are found on the Region 1 DVD, should an interested viewer wish to seek them out with English subtitles:

  • The Making of The Triplets of Belleville (SD, 36 min.) – Sylvain Chomet and his animators explain their hard work creating the film. [Note that the Region 1 DVD contains only a 16-minute excerpt of this piece.]
  • Music Video by –M– (SD, 3 min.) – An exceedingly weird music video by the French singer Mathieu Chedid, who goes by the stage name of –M–. The video varies between clips from the movie, into which an animated version of Chedid has been inserted, and black & white live action footage staged like a surreal silent film made by someone on hallucinogens. No English translation is required to get the gist of this one. It must be seen to be believed.
  • The Cartoon According to Sylvain Chomet (SD, 5 min.) – The director demonstrates how he designed the characters.
  • Selected-Scenes Commentary (SD, 7 min.) – Three scenes from the movie are replayed with commentary (in untranslated French) by Chomet.
  • Trailers (SD, 3 min.) – One theatrical trailer and one teaser are offered in sub-standard quality SD video. The main trailer pretty much gives away the entire plot of the movie.

The rest of the bonus features were previously exclusive to the French DVD:

  • The Making of the Music Video by –M– (SD, 3 min.) – Behind-the-scenes footage from the production of the video. Subtitles aren't really necessary to understand what's happening.
  • Le Temps d'un Tournage (SD, 6 min.) – The closest translation of this piece's title is "The Time of a Shooting," whatever that's supposed to mean. It appears to be a TV interview with Chomet, with a look at some of his earlier work and his animation studio.
  • The Triplets Seen By… (SD, 15 min.) – French comedian and cyclist Antoine de Caunes, French singer –M–, French animator Michel Ocelot, and American animator Bill Plympton are interviewed about their appreciation of the film. Plympton's section is spoken in English with French subtitles.
  • Slideshow (HD, 2 min.) – A short animated still gallery montage.
  • Disc Credits (HD, 1 min.)

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 5462 [review_bonus_content] =>

There are no HD DVD exclusives.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 4 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts] =>

I'm still not completely in love with 'The Triplets of Belleville' as a whole, but the film is packed with individual elements so idiosyncratic and unique that it earns a visit every once in a while. The HD DVD looks about as flawless as the movie can, and sounds pretty great too. The bonus features on this French import disc don't offer English translation, but a couple of them (like the music video) are interesting anyway.

) ) ) [reviews_hot] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 1426 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => tripletsofbelleville_fr [review_release_date] => 1193814000 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => The Triplets of Belleville (French Import) [picture_created] => 1206143585 [picture_name] => tripletscover.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => France Télévisions Distribution [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/03/21/120/tripletscover.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1426/tripletsofbelleville_fr.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2003 [run_time] => 0 [list_price] => 36.95 [amazon_price] => 0.00 [alt_commerce_link] => https://xploitedcinema.com/catalog/triplettes-belleville-french-release-p-13167.html [alt_commerce_text] => Ships worldwide from xploitedcinema.com [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.66:1 ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 [1] => 480i/p/VC-1 (Supplements Only) ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-15 Single-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Featurettes [1] => Selected-Scenes Commentary [2] => Music Video [3] => Still Gallery [4] => Trailers ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => None ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Animation [1] => Comedy [2] => Musical ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Béatrice Bonifassi [1] => Lina Boudreau [2] => Mari-Lou Gauthier ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Sylvain Chomet ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => You've never seen anything like The Triplets Of Belleville, a wildly inventive and highly original animated feature crowded with colorful characters and fantastic imagery. Kidnapped by mysterious square-shouldered henchmen, a Tour de France cyclist named Champion is spirited across the ocean to the teeming metropolis of Belleville. His grandmother and faithful dog follow his trail and are taken in by a trio of eccentric jazz-era divas. The motley sleuths follow the clues to an underground betting parlor and now the chase is on! [review_editors_notes] =>

This is a review of the French HD DVD release of 'The Triplets of Belleville'. For more information about importing HD DVD discs, visit the HD DVD imports thread in our forums area.

[review_bottom_line] => Worth A Look [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 50097 [review_movie_stars] => 3.5 [review_movie] =>

'The Triplets of Belleville', Sylvain Chomet's deliriously warped animated musical, is a movie whose artistry is easy to admire even if the film as a whole doesn't quite live up to its potential. Since first seeing it a few years ago, I was left with very mixed feelings. While I quickly fell in love with its style and design, as well as its endearing main characters, the plot chosen to hold all of its elements together left me cold. Rewatching now, the picture holds up a little better after a repeat viewing, where I was able to catch many little details missed the first time around, but I still feel that the Chomet's deliberately weird affectations overwhelm the movie and leave it, in the end, more strange than really enjoyable.

Things begin brilliantly, with a black & white prologue designed like an old-timey cartoon, complete with dirt and scratches on the print. Here we're introduced to the title characters, a trio of flapper-era dance hall singers at the height of their popularity, playing to an enthusiastic sold-out crowd. We're also given our first taste of the movie's tone, a mix of outrageous surrealism and slapstick humor propelled to rollicking jazz beat. The scene is fantastic. Soon we jump forward several decades to meet Madame Souza, a diminutive old French lady raising her portly grandson. The boy doesn't take to her attempts to introduce him to music, but after buying him a tricycle, an obsession is born. Jumping ahead again, we find the now-grown grandson a dedicated cyclist training day and night for the Tour de France.

Unfortunately, his entry in that race sets in motion a bizarre subplot in which the boy is kidnapped right off the course by mobsters and whisked across the ocean in a freight steamer. Mme. Souza and her very fat dog Bruno follow, trailing the kidnappers by paddleboat to the metropolis of Belleville (an amalgamation of New York, Paris, and Montreal with buildings shaped like wine bottles dotting the skyline). Once there, she enlists the help of the elderly Triplets to rescue her grandson and break up the crime ring that has been snatching cyclists for an exclusive betting racket.

Throughout, the story is told with no dialogue, just pure physical comedy and the occasional musical interlude. Chomet has an idiosyncratic visual style, made up of distorted caricatures and silly stereotypes. Mme. Souza is about two feet tall, with legs of uneven lengths. As an adult, her grandson the cyclist is gangly and rail thin, with absurdly bulging leg muscles that cause him to trot like a horse. Peripheral characters include obnoxious and obese Americans, snooty frog-eating French, and a mechanic who looks and squeaks almost exactly like a mouse. Chomet's world is cluttered with layers of intricate background detail that may take several viewings to fully absorb, and the Rube Goldberg-like logic that drives even the simplest of scenes is often hilarious.

For quite a while, the movie is extremely entertaining, but it falls apart when the caper plot takes over. Even by the strange rules previously laid down, the last act strains credibility, with some uncomfortable violence that feels out of place and a final chase scene among the dopiest ever put to celluloid. Though it runs barely 80 minutes, the film runs out of steam, as if it started as a clever short subject that's been padded out to feature length.

With all that said, 'The Triplets of Belleville' may not be a perfect movie, but it's a wholly unique vision whose breezy humor and snappy musical numbers are worthy of revisiting from time to time.

The HD DVD: Vital Disc Stats

The North American distribution rights to 'The Triplets of Belleville' are held by Sony, who haven't made any High-Def plans for it yet. However, the movie was released on HD DVD in France by a studio called France Télévisions Distribution. The disc has no region coding and should function fine in any American HD DVD player.

The HD DVD offers no English audio or subtitle options, but with next to no dialogue, the movie itself can be enjoyed by viewers of any language without the need for translation.

[review_video_stars] => 5 [review_video_picture_id] => 5459 [review_video] =>

By obvious design, the film opens like a ratty old print of an early talkie from the 1920s, in black & white and a 4:3 aspect ratio (pillarboxed in the center of the frame), with scratches and nicks drawn on for good measure. At the jump forward in time, the picture changes to full color and expands outward to a wider 1.66:1 European theatrical ratio. Even this is less wide than the 16:9 High Definition frame, and small pillarbox bars remain on the sides for the rest of the movie.

The 1080p/VC-1 transfer is extraordinary. The animated image has very crisp lines, with rich colors and excellent detail. Even individual pencil strokes in the artwork are visible. The background plates in scenes often have fascinating textures. This is definitely the type of movie where you'll want to savor the details, and they're all here on clear display. The picture has no edge enhancement or compression artifacts (despite being authored on a single-layer disc). In fact, I could find nothing wrong with it at all. As far as I'm concerned, this disc rates a perfect video score.

[review_audio_stars] => 4 [review_audio_picture_id] => 5460 [review_audio] =>

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is also very strong. With no dialogue of any consequence in the movie, the sound design takes an even more prominent role. The mix is extremely directional across all channels, but not in a gimmicky way. Discrete surround effects help to create a convincing, immersive soundspace. Individual sounds in the mix are rendered with admirable clarity.

The bouncy musical score has nice separation and fidelity, filling a broad soundstage. I did however wish for better distinction from the strumming cello, which doesn't seem to hit the low notes as effectively as it should. On the other hand, bass does come out at the end of the movie during the big chase scene.

Only the original French language track has been provided, with no alternate language or subtitle options. Given the almost total absence of dialogue, this shouldn't be a concern. Even the English dub track on the American DVD left most of the background chatter (radio and TV announcers, voices in the crowd, etc.) in French without translation, and the few lines of actual dialogue make no real impact to the story.

[review_supplements_stars] => 2.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 5461 [review_supplements] =>

The HD DVD carries over all of the supplements from the 2-disc Édition Spéciale DVD released in France, which had more bonus features than the domestic DVD from Sony. Unfortunately, aside from a few brief moments in the featurettes where particular interviewees happened to be speaking English, most of the bonus content on the disc is presented only in French audio without subtitles. Nevertheless, there are a few things that an English speaking viewer may find interesting even without translation.

All of the following are found on the Region 1 DVD, should an interested viewer wish to seek them out with English subtitles:

  • The Making of The Triplets of Belleville (SD, 36 min.) – Sylvain Chomet and his animators explain their hard work creating the film. [Note that the Region 1 DVD contains only a 16-minute excerpt of this piece.]
  • Music Video by –M– (SD, 3 min.) – An exceedingly weird music video by the French singer Mathieu Chedid, who goes by the stage name of –M–. The video varies between clips from the movie, into which an animated version of Chedid has been inserted, and black & white live action footage staged like a surreal silent film made by someone on hallucinogens. No English translation is required to get the gist of this one. It must be seen to be believed.
  • The Cartoon According to Sylvain Chomet (SD, 5 min.) – The director demonstrates how he designed the characters.
  • Selected-Scenes Commentary (SD, 7 min.) – Three scenes from the movie are replayed with commentary (in untranslated French) by Chomet.
  • Trailers (SD, 3 min.) – One theatrical trailer and one teaser are offered in sub-standard quality SD video. The main trailer pretty much gives away the entire plot of the movie.

The rest of the bonus features were previously exclusive to the French DVD:

  • The Making of the Music Video by –M– (SD, 3 min.) – Behind-the-scenes footage from the production of the video. Subtitles aren't really necessary to understand what's happening.
  • Le Temps d'un Tournage (SD, 6 min.) – The closest translation of this piece's title is "The Time of a Shooting," whatever that's supposed to mean. It appears to be a TV interview with Chomet, with a look at some of his earlier work and his animation studio.
  • The Triplets Seen By… (SD, 15 min.) – French comedian and cyclist Antoine de Caunes, French singer –M–, French animator Michel Ocelot, and American animator Bill Plympton are interviewed about their appreciation of the film. Plympton's section is spoken in English with French subtitles.
  • Slideshow (HD, 2 min.) – A short animated still gallery montage.
  • Disc Credits (HD, 1 min.)

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 5462 [review_bonus_content] =>

There are no HD DVD exclusives.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 4 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts] =>

I'm still not completely in love with 'The Triplets of Belleville' as a whole, but the film is packed with individual elements so idiosyncratic and unique that it earns a visit every once in a while. The HD DVD looks about as flawless as the movie can, and sounds pretty great too. The bonus features on this French import disc don't offer English translation, but a couple of them (like the music video) are interesting anyway.

) ) ) ) [October 30, 2007] => Array ( [reviews] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 870 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => faceoff [review_release_date] => 1193727600 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Face/Off [picture_created] => 1181760580 [picture_name] => faceoff-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Paramount Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/06/13/120/faceoff-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/870/faceoff.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1997 [run_time] => 140 [release_date_notes] => Postponed from September 11, 2007 [list_price] => 29.95 [asin] => B000RZIGYU [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1342991 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.35:1 ) [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/HD-15 Single-Layer Disc [2] => Two-Disc Set ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English DTS ES 6.1 Surround (1.5Mbps) [1] => English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5Mbps) [2] => Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (768kbps) [3] => French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (768kbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Commentary Tracks [1] => Documentary [2] => Featurette [3] => Deleted Scenes [4] => Alternate Ending [5] => Theatrical Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => English Subtitles [2] => Spanish Subtitles [3] => French Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Action [1] => Science Fiction [2] => Thriller ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Nicolas Cage [1] => John Travolta [2] => Joan Allen ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => John Woo ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => FBI Special Agent Sean Archer (Travolta) tries to find a biological weapon placed in Los Angeles by a sadistic terrorist-for-hire and criminal mastermind named Castor Troy (Cage). Archer has hunted Troy for the last 8 years, and is consumed by revenge because Troy is responsible for the death of Archer's son. To do this, Archer must "borrow" Troy's face using a surgical procedure to go undercover as Troy, but things go wrong when Troy assumes the identity of Archer. [preview_technology_specifications] => TBA [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => TBA [preview_forum_id] => 7013 [review_editors_notes] =>

Portions of this review were also published in our Blu-ray review of 'Face/Off.'

[review_bottom_line] => Recommended [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 23383 [review_movie_stars] => 4 [review_movie] =>

You can't talk about Hong Kong action flicks without discussing the contributions of legendary director John Woo. Cult classics like 'A Better Tomorrow,' 'The Killer' and 'Hard Boiled' transformed the blunt conventions of Asian shooters into violent ballets of death and destruction, making Woo a cultural phenomenon who eventually attracted the attention of Hollywood. Although his first two US actioners ('Hard Target' and 'Broken Arrow') would suffer at the hands of overbearing studio execs, Woo finally made his mark on Western cinema with 1997's 'Face/Off.'

When FBI antiterrorism agent Sean Archer (John Travolta) takes down his nemesis Castor Troy (Nicolas Cage), he has reason to celebrate. Years ago, Troy killed the agent's young son during an assassination attempt on Archer's life. But even in a coma, Troy remains a grave threat, as the terrorist recently armed a massive explosive in an unknown location that threatens to kill thousands if detonated. Archer seems to be out of options until a secret government surgical procedure allows him to literally switch faces, voices, and identities with Troy. Everything seems to be going well until Troy comes out of his coma, forces the medical staff to give him Archer's face, and kills everyone with any knowledge of Archer's undercover operation. Before long, Archer is forced to become the head of a criminal organization, while Troy embraces his new job as leader of the FBI counterterrorism task force.

From the moment 'Face/Off' rolls out its bizarre setup, its clear that this is a film that requires its audience to suspend its disbelief in a big way. Indeed, the film's plot holes and contrivances would seem to threaten to derail the entire experience if taken at face value (pardon the pun). But like a tale from classic Greek mythology, the story in 'Face/Off' utilizes a strange series of unlikely events to explore the psyche and the human condition. It doesn't concern itself with logic and neither should its audience.

In a departure from most Western action flicks, Woo doesn't use his character beats simply as an excuse to get from one action scene to the next. Instead, they're part of a carefully constructed exploration of the mental and psychological states of two men pushed to the extreme.

Travolta and Cage are both arguably at the top of their game. Instead of being limited to one character, they're given the opportunity to play two completely different men on opposite ends of the moral spectrum. It's easy to see that each actor studied the other as their performances are layered with the other actor's ticks, gestures, and speech patterns. But it's more than mere mimicry -- Cage really inhabits the inner torture Travolta establishes in Archer, while Travolta unleashes the wild child Cage creates in his eccentric take on Troy.

The action showcases Woo in top form as well. Bullets tear through the environment and explosions create rainstorms of debris. Woo has an amazing eye for cinematic composition and nearly every frame of film is a movie poster in the making. His fluid action scenes are molded into a heightened reality that somehow enhance the momentum of the story. By the same token, quiet character-driven scenes contain an authentic emotional core that makes them as exciting and intriguing as the film's more chaotic moments.

'Face/Off' is one of the most unique action films of the '90s -- it abandons convention and embraces John Woo's signature style without compromise. Fans of modern actioners may not be as wowed as audiences were back in 1997 (since the new wave of genre blockbusters have blatantly cribbed from Woo's playbook), but nearly every viewer is likely to find something to love in this wonderfully complex film.

[review_video_stars] => 4.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 4181 [review_video] =>

'Face/Off' arrives on HD DVD with a 1080p/VC-1 transfer that delivers everything fans have wanted and more. Colors are vibrant, black levels are deep, and contrast is perfectly balanced -- the previously-released DVD looks like an aging VHS tape by comparison. There's a convincing illusion of depth and I found myself noting background details for the first time since I saw the film in theaters. I didn't catch any artifacting or crush issues and I was pleased to see that Woo's quick camera never took a toll on the smooth and stable image. Facial textures, on-screen text, and the sparks in the high-rise gun battle are crisply rendered without a hint of pixelation. Best of all, fire and explosions are invigorating, splashing the screen with color and life. By the time I noted the individual feathers on the director's trademark slow-motion doves, I was convinced this transfer was something special.

There are some minor issues worth mentioning. First off, I noticed some noise in darker scenes, as well as a trace amount of edge enhancement in a few shots. The effect isn't entirely obvious, but viewers with larger screens will likely spot it. I also have to gripe for a second about the seams revealed by this high-def transfer, as wires, stunt doubles, and squib packs are more painfully obvious than ever before. Although these hiccups can't be blamed on the video transfer, they're still worth noting for newcomers who aren't familiar with the film's more amusing on-screen flubs. Even so, 'Face/Off' shows how amazing a catalog title can look in high definition. Simply put, I can't imagine this film looking any better.

[review_audio_stars] => 5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 4182 [review_audio] =>

Believe it or not, the audio package is even stronger than the video transfer. 'Face/Off' features a bombastic DTS ES 6.1 surround track (1.5 Mbps) and a confident Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 mix (1.5 Mbps), neither of which disappoint. While the additional channel in the DTS track makes rear pans more transparent, it didn't enhance the experience enough to praise one over the other after some volume matching.

Both tracks use intense dynamics to augment the on-screen insanity -- bass tones are particularly impressive and regularly sent rumbles and pulses stampeding through my home theater. LFE support hits with a palpable punch and gunfire is appropriately blaring. Likewise, treble whines are reliable, solid, and crisp. I could hear the heavy breathing of nervous background characters, the varied tip tap of footsteps on an assortment of flooring, and each tinkle of falling glass. The sound designers clearly worked overtime on this one and both the DTS and DD tracks showcase their efforts.

'Face/Off' isn't a quiet movie by any stretch of the imagination, but I was happy to find that the chaotic soundscape never muffled important lines or key effects. More importantly, the soundfield genuinely transports the listener into the film. Directionality is amazing and sounds whiz and streak between the channels naturally. I can't praise these tracks enough -- these aren't just impressive catalog mixes, they go toe-to-toe with the top tier tracks available on HD DVD.

[review_supplements_stars] => 3 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 4183 [review_supplements] =>

Although 'Face/Off' had languished on DVD for years without any significant supplements, in September of this year Paramount finally issued a Special Collector's Edition DVD chock full of extras. Thankfully the studio has ported them all over to this 2-disc HD DVD, presenting them here in full high definition.

  • Commentary with John Woo and Writers Mike Werb and Michael Colleary -- This track features a fairly interesting discussion that focuses on the early production of 'Face/Off.' The presence of Werb and Colleary helps Woo establish a flow and momentum to his comments, but as you might expect, they tend to keep the commentary focused on the story rather than the actors and the final edit. Woo throws in his two cents when it comes to the action and the on set choreography, but he seems like a supporting voice in a writer-driven conversation. Considering the fact that the writers have their own separate commentary track, I would have preferred to hear a lot more from the director on this one.


  • Commentary with Werb and Colleary -- This second commentary with the same writers as above ends up feeling repetitive and pointless. I appreciate their inclusion, but their outlook on the film is just too limited to sustain a second commentary. Two hours is a long time to listen to a series of seemingly endless lectures on a handful of subjects.


  • Deleted Scenes with Alternate Ending (9 minutes, HD) -- These excised scenes are intriguing in their own right, but were wisely cut since they tend to dwell on elements that are already extensively covered in the film's final cut. Likewise, the highly-touted alternate ending is a frightening glimpse of an idea that could've sucked the air out of the last minutes of the film. As it stands, the only thing that makes each scene worth watching is the presence of optional commentary from Woo.


  • The Light and Dark: Making Face/Off (64 minutes, HD) -- This is a full-length documentary divided into five featurettes that can be watched individually or all at once. Some of the information feels repetitive after listening to Woo and the writers, but the overall effort is much more sweeping than the commentaries.

    "Science Fiction/Human Emotion" (10 minutes) is a worthwhile look at an early sci-fi treatment of the film that elevated plot over the emotional resonance of the theatrical version. "Cast/Characters" (17 minutes) explores the actors and their performances with plenty of engaging interviews and behind-the-scenes footage. "Woo/Hollywood" (22 minutes) hones in on the director and his global career. "Practical/Visual Effects" (10 minutes) is a pretty standard look at the art of hands-on SFX. Finally, "Future/Past" (6 minutes) ties up the proceedings with a quick look at the end result.


  • John Woo: A Life in Pictures (26 minutes, HD) -- This featurette almost makes up for the fact that Woo doesn't have his own commentary track. It examines the director's career, his canon of films, and his reputation on both sides of the Pacific. The best part is that the entire featurette is narrated by Woo himself. As a longtime fan, it was incredibly rewarding to listen to the director humbly discuss his life and his films.


  • Theatrical Trailer (2 minutes, HD)


[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] => 4184 [review_final_thoughts] =>

Your enjoyment of 'Face/Off' will ultimately come down to how easily you can overlook its occasionally outlandish plot. Thankfully, this HD DVD release doesn't require any technical leaps of faith. It includes an excellent video transfer, a set of powerful audio tracks, and a healthy collection of supplements. This is a noteworthy treatment of a classic catalog actioner that's sure to make fans extremely happy.

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• Additional Scenes [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 17328 [review_editors_notes] => Non-format-specific portions of this review also appear in our Blu-ray review of 'License to Wed.' [review_bottom_line] => For Fans Only [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 23181 [review_movie_stars] => 1.5 [review_movie] =>

Anyone who's ever been to a wedding likely knows "that guy" -- the one who's loud, obnoxious and inebriated well before dessert. Inevitably, neither the bride nor the groom's side of the family will admit to inviting him, yet no wedding would be complete without him.

Promising in concept, 'License to Wed' is a comedy about that guy. Unfortunately, the film makes one truly fatal mistake, as the guy in question isn't just some random drunk, but is instead the bride and groom's priest. The result is a nightmare of such jaw-droppingly grotesque proportions that I don't think I've ever seen a mainstream Hollywood comedy so completely misunderstand the difference between edgy satire, and just plain ickiness.

The plot concerns itself with Rev. Frank Highland (Robin Williams), a one-man wrecking ball of marriage. Under the guise of promoting marital harmony, he aims to "lower the divorce rate" by busting up incompatible twosomes before the rice hits the ground. Falling prey to his perverse form of matrimonial bootcamp are Sadie Jones (Mandy Moore) and Ben Murphy (John Krasinski), who both are so eager to get hitched that they're rushing down the aisle in only three weeks, and will do anything Frank advises to ensure the approval of Sadie's conservative family. From giving up sex, to caring for two screaming, slobbering, creepy-looking robot babies, to forcing Sadie to drive through downtown Chicago blindfolded (don't ask), there's no challenge too bizarre -- or too humiliating -- that the Reverend won't subject them to in order to ensure the sanctimony of their union.

'License to Wed' is guilty of so many offenses that it's hard to know where to begin. It's readily apparent that the film seeks to combine the taboo-breaking vulgarity of a 'Wedding Crashers' with the the insightful family comedy of a 'Meet the Fockers,' but film's script, direction and performances never find the correct tone, and there is no real heart to the story. Instead, all we get is scene after unfunny scene of the Reverend humiliating poor Sadie and Ben with escalating forms of torture.

Not to take things too literally, but one can't help but question the sanity of every character in the movie. Why would an otherwise perfectly reasonable couple like Sadie and Ben submit to Frank's repeated intrusions? He berates them in church, spies on them in the bedroom, antagonizes them at family functions to instigate betrayal. If the film's characters had been drawn with any sort of complexity, perhaps 'License to Wed' might have been able to wring some truths out of such unpleasant situations. But every character is so one-dimensional that their behavior doesn't just ring false, it makes absolutely no sense.

As a result, the actors are left stranded. Moore and Krasinski are both extremely likable, but they can't save a script that would rather embarrass their characters than illuminate them. And though I don't wish to make light of Williams' much-publicized, recent declaration of alcohol addiction, his performance is so lazy and phoned-in that I have to wonder if he wasn't in rehab during the whole production. The supporting cast is equally wasted, from the underrated Christine Taylor as Sadie's beautiful but vapid sister, to little Josh Flitter as the "Choir Boy," the Reverend's even more destructive sidekick and one of the more unpleasant child characters seen in a recent movie.

On the surface, 'License to Wed' may seem like the perfect date-night rental, but I strongly urge you to resist the temptation. Suffering through even the nastiest divorce is preferable to enduring such a tepid and misguided comedy as this.

[review_video_stars] => 4.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 3548 [review_video] =>

Well, at least the picture quality is good. Great, even. Boasting a 1080p/VC-1 encode (identical to the Blu-ray), this HD DVD edition of 'License to Wed' is another fine looking new release from Warner.

Typical of a fresh theatrical title, the source is absolutely pristine. Blacks have an inky, pleasing quality, and color reproduction is above average. Though the film is not overtly stylized, there are some very nice uses of color in the set design and costumes, from Sadie's strange obsession with wearing the color green, to the beautiful stained glass designs of Reverend Frank's church. Hues have a nicely saturated look without appearing fuzzy or noisy. Detail ranges from very good to exceptional, and the picture is sharp throughout. My only criticism is that contrast is a bit dull in the higher ends of the grayscale, which flattens out depth ever so slightly. Still, this is a minor nitpick. Overall, 'License to Wed' looks downright heavenly in 1080p.

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

Another casualty of "comedy soundtrack-itis," 'License to Wed' is typical of films where the subject matter apparently precludes any imaginative use of surround sound. Even with Warner providing a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track (at 48kHz/24-bit), this sounds like a stereo mix and nothing more. (Note that the Blu-ray version includes a comparable PCM track, also at 48kHz/24-bit.)

Granted, 'License to Wed' isn't an action movie, but there are still some things that could have been benefited from some immersion. From the frequent scenes in the expansive church location (complete with gospel choir) to one very loud pair of animatronic twins, the mix cries out for some surround action, but alas we get none. At least tech specs are up to snuff, with pitch-perfect dialogue reproduction, and a pleasing, spacious sound to the complete frequency range. There are also no obvious defects to the elements, so on the bottom line this is a decent enough presentation -- it's just completely unmemorable.

[review_supplements_stars] => 1 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 3549 [review_supplements] =>

Given the failings of the film itself, I suppose it shouldn't surprise that Warner has produced scant few extras for the cross-format video premiere of 'License to Wed.'

The centerpiece of this package is a collection of five Deleted Scenes. Running about 13 minutes total, most are even more forgettable than the feature film itself. The "highlights" are an alternate opening with some poorly-executed animation, and an extended ending featuring Robin Williams and that smarmy choir boy kid. Both were wisely cut.

The "Ask Choir Boy" interactive game features the cherubic little brat actually doling out "relationship advice." Select one of the twelve questions, and it's followed by a simple clip of the character giving his answer on one of those call-in radio shows. Not funny at all.

Perfectly summing up the chintzy feel of this supplements package, Warner has not even bothered to include a theatrical trailer for 'License to Wed,' nor any other Warner Blu-ray titles.

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 3550 [review_bonus_content] =>

There are no HD DVD exclusives -- though Warner does provide their now-standard live timeline, custom bookmark and image pan-and-zoom functions. Woo-hoo!

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

'License to Wed' is an irritating and unfunny comedy that seems three times as long as its scant 91 minutes. Add to that a career-worst performance by Robin Williams, and you have one truly bad flick. As an HD DVD release, this one is slightly more respectable, boasting a strong video transfer and decent audio. Still, in all good conscience, I can't recommend this title unless you happen to be a huge fan of 'License to Wed.'

) ) [2] => Array ( [review_id] => 1171 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => mozartdiezauberflote [review_release_date] => 1193727600 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Mozart: Die Zauberflote [picture_created] => 1191300061 [picture_name] => mozart.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Opus Arte [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/10/01/120/mozart.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1171/mozartdiezauberflote.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2003 [run_time] => 182 [list_price] => 39.98 [asin] => B000V78BOY [amazon_price] => 32.15 [empire_id] => 1369951 [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 ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English PCM 5.1 Surround ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Illustrated Synopsis [1] => Featurette [2] => Interview with Sir Colin Davis [3] => Cast Gallery ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English Subtitles [1] => French Subtitiles [2] => Spanish Subtiltes [3] => German Subtitles [4] => Italian Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Music ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Diana Damrau [1] => Dorothea Roschmann [2] => Will Hartmann ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => David McVicar ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => The internationally renowned Mozart interpreter Sir Colin Davis conducts the chorus and orchestra of the Royal Opera House and a glittering cast in David McVicar’s 2003 production of Mozart’s last opera recorded, in sumptuous surround sound, live at Covent Garden.

Tamino: Will Hartmann
Pamina: Dorothea Röschmann
Queen of Night: Diana Damrau
Sarastro: Franz-Josef Selig
Papageno: Simon Keenlyside
Papagena: Ailish Tynan
Monostatos: Adrian Thompson

The Royal Opera Chorus
The Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
Musical Director: Colin Davis
Stage Director: David McVicar
[preview_technology_specifications] => - Illustrated Synopsis
- Cast Gallery
- BBC feature looks behind the scenes at this production
- Conductor Sir Colin Davis talks about Die Zauberflöte [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 20110 [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] => 1098 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => talktome [review_release_date] => 1193727600 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Talk to Me [picture_created] => 1190789292 [picture_name] => talk-to-me.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Universal Studios Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/09/25/120/talk-to-me.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1098/talktome.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2007 [run_time] => 119 [list_price] => 39.98 [asin] => B000VNMMWK [amazon_price] => 27.95 [empire_id] => 1365165 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.35:1 ) [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/DVD [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer/DVD-9 Dual-Layer Combo Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround (48kHz/24-bit) [1] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (448kbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Featurettes [1] => Deleted Scenes ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Drama ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Don Cheadle [1] => Chiwetel Ejiofor [2] => Martin Sheen ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Kasi Lemmons ) [preview_technology_specifications] => • Featurettes: "Who Is Petey Greene?", "Recreating P-Town"
• Deleted Scenes [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => • MyScenes [preview_forum_id] => 16440 [review_bottom_line] => Give it a Rent [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 24403 [review_movie_stars] => 2 [review_movie] =>

The Hollywood biopic is a strange beast. No matter how terrific the writing, direction, cinematography or attention to historical detail, it seems what we remember most about films like 'Ray,' 'Nixon' or 'Capote' are their lead performances. Boasting a fantastic, award-worthy star turn by Don Cheadle, 'Talk to Me' demonstrates that this phenomenon can work both ways, with the strengths of Cheadle's performance distracting from a woefully uneven and mediocre production.

The film itself tells the true story Ralph "Petey" Greene (played by Cheadle), an ex-con who defied the odds to emerge as one of the most powerful and influential radio/TV commentators of his generation. But while Green's life would seem to make for fascinating biopic material, in the hands of Director Kasi Lemmons ('Caveman's Valentine,' 'Eve's Bayou') unfortunately this film fails on almost every level.

The film's core issue is that its tone never quite gels. The filmmakers seem to be aiming their sights on the same mainstream audiences that embraced flicks like 'Ray' and 'Dreamgirls,' but in their quest for commercial viability, they dull all of film's more interesting rough edges. Soft when it should be gritty, toothless when it should be biting, the movie portrays Greene as a big teddy bear with a foul mouth, and not the edgy character who gave a voice to a generation and helped to salve the deep wounds inflicted on our country during the civil rights movement.

Confined to a fairly short period in Greene's career, 'Talk to Me' concentrates on his exit from prison and rise to stardom in the mid-'60s, through the apex of his popularity by the beginning of the next decade. His early life is completely avoided, so we know nothing of the man as the film begins, while the subsequent timeline is so condensed that it plays fast and loose with the facts (multiple events are condensed into one, while some characters are composites of several different real-life figures). That gives 'Talk to Me' the feel of one of those Time-Life specials -- it hits all the correct historical beats, but never quite gets the music right.

It's frustrating that so many of the more fascinating aspects of Greene's life are glossed over, or mishandled. Even his time as a "miscreant" (where he was an exemplary prisoner, saving the life of a fellow inmate in a botched suicide attempt) is bulldozed through in the film's prologue, which inexplicably paints him as a loser buffoon. Even more bizarre, the film's screenwriters treat Greene's two pivotal personal relationships as slapstick melodrama. Taraji P. Henson is first-rate as Greene's long-suffering wife Vernell (with whom he would have four children), but these comedic scenes feel so disconnected from the serious tone of the rest of the film that they come off as needless soap opera. The film's real missed shot at greatness, however, lies in Greene's relationship with Dewey Hughes (Chiwetel Ejiofor). Hughes was an "assimilationist," an African-American who believed that the key to civil rights (and upward mobility) was through the sublimination of an ethnic identity, a world view that clashed with Greene's far more politicized activism. Here too, 'Talk to Me' largely goes for easy laughs -- wasting time on such scenes as when Greene, after being kicked out yet again by Vernell for cheating, shows up buck-naked at Hughes door, ruining his blind date. With such a vivid, colorful life to draw from, this is the kind of fluff the filmmakers' chose?

The film's historical authenticity is further hampered by a limited budget, which shows through in its shoddy production values. The costume design is too clean (everyone looks as if they shopped at "'60s Day" at Urban Outfitters), while the locations are so clearly limited to interiors that none of the film's big setpieces ring true. This is most clear in the pivotal moment when Greene reacts to the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Lemmons obviously had no money to re-create the fiery riots that gripped Washington, leaving it to Cheadle to single-handedly convey the emotion and danger of that pivotal moment. "They got him, y'all. They got him!" Cheadle anguishes, and his words are affecting. But there is still no getting around the fact that the film's limitations have forced events that should have been dramatized on-screen into mere exposition.

At the end of the day, 'Talk to Me' is a poor biopic that fails to illuminate the life of a man truly deserving of some much-needed recognition. Having said that, I still think it's worth seeing, if only to witness a great actor at the top of his game. Cheadle is absolutely terrific in the lead role, and is the film's saving grace. If only the rest of 'Talk to Me' rose to his level.

[review_video_stars] => 3.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 3474 [review_video] =>

Judging the video quality of 'Talk to Me' is a tough call. The filmmakers have deliberately given the movie a soft-focus look that adequately invokes the '70s, yet it also has an overly-slick, polished look that's far from gritty. Unfortunately, the results don't quite balance out to create a fantastic high-def presentation.

Universal offers up a 1080p/VC-1 encode in the film's original 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio. The source is certainly clean, with a consistent film-like thin veneer of grain throughout. As mentioned above, it looks as if a diffusion filter was used for just about every shot, which flattens out edges, and blows out contrast a tad. Interestingly, although the film's sets and costumes are garish (hey, it was the '70s), colors seem to be intentionally subdued. The result is a somewhat middle of the road color field that never truly pops.

On the plus side, detail is generally strong, black levels are pure, and the image generally has plenty of depth. There are also no compression artifacts to speak of, and I was grateful this wasn't another of Universal's edge enhancement horrors, with halos all over the place. It's certainly not a top-tier presentation, but overall this is still an above-average transfer that's as smooth and silky as one of Petey Greene's monologues.

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

Universal provides both Dolby TrueHD (48kHz/24-bit) and Dolby Digital-Plus (1.5mbps) 5.1 surround mixes for 'Talk to Me,' but truth be told both tracks are so subdued that they may as well be stereo.

From the film's many musical montages to the big riot scene, there are a good number of sequences that just scream out for some envelopment. Alas, the soundtrack just doesn't come alive. Discrete effects are minimal, and even the music is weakly rendered. Dialogue is cleanly recorded if slightly flat in the mix. I had to adjust volume on a couple of occasions, though to be fair it was nothing severe. Dynamics are average, with some sense of heft and depth, but I was certainly never blown away. For what it is, 'Talk to Me' is listenable enough, but for a film so much about words and music, this one really deserves a more adventurous soundtrack.

[review_supplements_stars] => 1 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 3475 [review_supplements] =>

'Talk to Me' barely rated a blip at the box office, so I suppose it's no surprise that Universal didn't go all-out with the supplements for its video release. Still, it's hard not to be disappointed by this slim package.

First up are couple of featurettes. "Who is Petey Greene?" (10 minutes) may sound intriguing, but despite what its title may imply, this is not a doc on the real guy. Instead, it's just a bunch of happy-happy on-set interviews with Don Cheadle, Kasi Lemmons, Cedric the Entertainer and other cast members. All go on and on about how great the flick is gonna be, but there's precious little substance between all the film clips. "Recreating P-Town" (11 minutes) is a nice little look at how the period costumes, locations and props were created, but that's all it is -- nice.

Next up is a collection of seven Deleted Scenes that runs about 9 minutes. There's actually some good stuff here (most notably an "Oscar moment" for Martin Sheen, breaking down after hearing the news of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination).

Alas, that's it. No commentary, no real doc, not even a trailer. At least the video is pretty good, with the featurettes in 1080i/VC-1, while the deleted scenes are 480p/MPEG-2 only (and 4:3 pillarboxed to boot).

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 3476 [review_bonus_content] =>

There are no HD DVD exclusives, aside from Universal's now-standard MyScenes bookmark function.

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

'Talk to Me' is a heartfelt period piece about a cult radio figure who lived his life far outside the mainstream. Though I don't think director Kasi Lemmons captured the appropriate tone, the film is worth seeing if only for another terrific performance from Don Cheadle. As an HD DVD/DVD combo release, this one's equally middle of the road. The video and audio are fine but not spectacular, and the extras too thin. Unless you happen to be a fan of the film, this one's a rental at best.

) ) ) [reviews_hot] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 870 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => faceoff [review_release_date] => 1193727600 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Face/Off [picture_created] => 1181760580 [picture_name] => faceoff-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Paramount Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/06/13/120/faceoff-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/870/faceoff.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1997 [run_time] => 140 [release_date_notes] => Postponed from September 11, 2007 [list_price] => 29.95 [asin] => B000RZIGYU [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1342991 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.35:1 ) [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/HD-15 Single-Layer Disc [2] => Two-Disc Set ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English DTS ES 6.1 Surround (1.5Mbps) [1] => English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5Mbps) [2] => Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (768kbps) [3] => French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (768kbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Commentary Tracks [1] => Documentary [2] => Featurette [3] => Deleted Scenes [4] => Alternate Ending [5] => Theatrical Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => English Subtitles [2] => Spanish Subtitles [3] => French Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Action [1] => Science Fiction [2] => Thriller ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Nicolas Cage [1] => John Travolta [2] => Joan Allen ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => John Woo ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => FBI Special Agent Sean Archer (Travolta) tries to find a biological weapon placed in Los Angeles by a sadistic terrorist-for-hire and criminal mastermind named Castor Troy (Cage). Archer has hunted Troy for the last 8 years, and is consumed by revenge because Troy is responsible for the death of Archer's son. To do this, Archer must "borrow" Troy's face using a surgical procedure to go undercover as Troy, but things go wrong when Troy assumes the identity of Archer. [preview_technology_specifications] => TBA [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => TBA [preview_forum_id] => 7013 [review_editors_notes] =>

Portions of this review were also published in our Blu-ray review of 'Face/Off.'

[review_bottom_line] => Recommended [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 23383 [review_movie_stars] => 4 [review_movie] =>

You can't talk about Hong Kong action flicks without discussing the contributions of legendary director John Woo. Cult classics like 'A Better Tomorrow,' 'The Killer' and 'Hard Boiled' transformed the blunt conventions of Asian shooters into violent ballets of death and destruction, making Woo a cultural phenomenon who eventually attracted the attention of Hollywood. Although his first two US actioners ('Hard Target' and 'Broken Arrow') would suffer at the hands of overbearing studio execs, Woo finally made his mark on Western cinema with 1997's 'Face/Off.'

When FBI antiterrorism agent Sean Archer (John Travolta) takes down his nemesis Castor Troy (Nicolas Cage), he has reason to celebrate. Years ago, Troy killed the agent's young son during an assassination attempt on Archer's life. But even in a coma, Troy remains a grave threat, as the terrorist recently armed a massive explosive in an unknown location that threatens to kill thousands if detonated. Archer seems to be out of options until a secret government surgical procedure allows him to literally switch faces, voices, and identities with Troy. Everything seems to be going well until Troy comes out of his coma, forces the medical staff to give him Archer's face, and kills everyone with any knowledge of Archer's undercover operation. Before long, Archer is forced to become the head of a criminal organization, while Troy embraces his new job as leader of the FBI counterterrorism task force.

From the moment 'Face/Off' rolls out its bizarre setup, its clear that this is a film that requires its audience to suspend its disbelief in a big way. Indeed, the film's plot holes and contrivances would seem to threaten to derail the entire experience if taken at face value (pardon the pun). But like a tale from classic Greek mythology, the story in 'Face/Off' utilizes a strange series of unlikely events to explore the psyche and the human condition. It doesn't concern itself with logic and neither should its audience.

In a departure from most Western action flicks, Woo doesn't use his character beats simply as an excuse to get from one action scene to the next. Instead, they're part of a carefully constructed exploration of the mental and psychological states of two men pushed to the extreme.

Travolta and Cage are both arguably at the top of their game. Instead of being limited to one character, they're given the opportunity to play two completely different men on opposite ends of the moral spectrum. It's easy to see that each actor studied the other as their performances are layered with the other actor's ticks, gestures, and speech patterns. But it's more than mere mimicry -- Cage really inhabits the inner torture Travolta establishes in Archer, while Travolta unleashes the wild child Cage creates in his eccentric take on Troy.

The action showcases Woo in top form as well. Bullets tear through the environment and explosions create rainstorms of debris. Woo has an amazing eye for cinematic composition and nearly every frame of film is a movie poster in the making. His fluid action scenes are molded into a heightened reality that somehow enhance the momentum of the story. By the same token, quiet character-driven scenes contain an authentic emotional core that makes them as exciting and intriguing as the film's more chaotic moments.

'Face/Off' is one of the most unique action films of the '90s -- it abandons convention and embraces John Woo's signature style without compromise. Fans of modern actioners may not be as wowed as audiences were back in 1997 (since the new wave of genre blockbusters have blatantly cribbed from Woo's playbook), but nearly every viewer is likely to find something to love in this wonderfully complex film.

[review_video_stars] => 4.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 4181 [review_video] =>

'Face/Off' arrives on HD DVD with a 1080p/VC-1 transfer that delivers everything fans have wanted and more. Colors are vibrant, black levels are deep, and contrast is perfectly balanced -- the previously-released DVD looks like an aging VHS tape by comparison. There's a convincing illusion of depth and I found myself noting background details for the first time since I saw the film in theaters. I didn't catch any artifacting or crush issues and I was pleased to see that Woo's quick camera never took a toll on the smooth and stable image. Facial textures, on-screen text, and the sparks in the high-rise gun battle are crisply rendered without a hint of pixelation. Best of all, fire and explosions are invigorating, splashing the screen with color and life. By the time I noted the individual feathers on the director's trademark slow-motion doves, I was convinced this transfer was something special.

There are some minor issues worth mentioning. First off, I noticed some noise in darker scenes, as well as a trace amount of edge enhancement in a few shots. The effect isn't entirely obvious, but viewers with larger screens will likely spot it. I also have to gripe for a second about the seams revealed by this high-def transfer, as wires, stunt doubles, and squib packs are more painfully obvious than ever before. Although these hiccups can't be blamed on the video transfer, they're still worth noting for newcomers who aren't familiar with the film's more amusing on-screen flubs. Even so, 'Face/Off' shows how amazing a catalog title can look in high definition. Simply put, I can't imagine this film looking any better.

[review_audio_stars] => 5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 4182 [review_audio] =>

Believe it or not, the audio package is even stronger than the video transfer. 'Face/Off' features a bombastic DTS ES 6.1 surround track (1.5 Mbps) and a confident Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 mix (1.5 Mbps), neither of which disappoint. While the additional channel in the DTS track makes rear pans more transparent, it didn't enhance the experience enough to praise one over the other after some volume matching.

Both tracks use intense dynamics to augment the on-screen insanity -- bass tones are particularly impressive and regularly sent rumbles and pulses stampeding through my home theater. LFE support hits with a palpable punch and gunfire is appropriately blaring. Likewise, treble whines are reliable, solid, and crisp. I could hear the heavy breathing of nervous background characters, the varied tip tap of footsteps on an assortment of flooring, and each tinkle of falling glass. The sound designers clearly worked overtime on this one and both the DTS and DD tracks showcase their efforts.

'Face/Off' isn't a quiet movie by any stretch of the imagination, but I was happy to find that the chaotic soundscape never muffled important lines or key effects. More importantly, the soundfield genuinely transports the listener into the film. Directionality is amazing and sounds whiz and streak between the channels naturally. I can't praise these tracks enough -- these aren't just impressive catalog mixes, they go toe-to-toe with the top tier tracks available on HD DVD.

[review_supplements_stars] => 3 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 4183 [review_supplements] =>

Although 'Face/Off' had languished on DVD for years without any significant supplements, in September of this year Paramount finally issued a Special Collector's Edition DVD chock full of extras. Thankfully the studio has ported them all over to this 2-disc HD DVD, presenting them here in full high definition.

  • Commentary with John Woo and Writers Mike Werb and Michael Colleary -- This track features a fairly interesting discussion that focuses on the early production of 'Face/Off.' The presence of Werb and Colleary helps Woo establish a flow and momentum to his comments, but as you might expect, they tend to keep the commentary focused on the story rather than the actors and the final edit. Woo throws in his two cents when it comes to the action and the on set choreography, but he seems like a supporting voice in a writer-driven conversation. Considering the fact that the writers have their own separate commentary track, I would have preferred to hear a lot more from the director on this one.


  • Commentary with Werb and Colleary -- This second commentary with the same writers as above ends up feeling repetitive and pointless. I appreciate their inclusion, but their outlook on the film is just too limited to sustain a second commentary. Two hours is a long time to listen to a series of seemingly endless lectures on a handful of subjects.


  • Deleted Scenes with Alternate Ending (9 minutes, HD) -- These excised scenes are intriguing in their own right, but were wisely cut since they tend to dwell on elements that are already extensively covered in the film's final cut. Likewise, the highly-touted alternate ending is a frightening glimpse of an idea that could've sucked the air out of the last minutes of the film. As it stands, the only thing that makes each scene worth watching is the presence of optional commentary from Woo.


  • The Light and Dark: Making Face/Off (64 minutes, HD) -- This is a full-length documentary divided into five featurettes that can be watched individually or all at once. Some of the information feels repetitive after listening to Woo and the writers, but the overall effort is much more sweeping than the commentaries.

    "Science Fiction/Human Emotion" (10 minutes) is a worthwhile look at an early sci-fi treatment of the film that elevated plot over the emotional resonance of the theatrical version. "Cast/Characters" (17 minutes) explores the actors and their performances with plenty of engaging interviews and behind-the-scenes footage. "Woo/Hollywood" (22 minutes) hones in on the director and his global career. "Practical/Visual Effects" (10 minutes) is a pretty standard look at the art of hands-on SFX. Finally, "Future/Past" (6 minutes) ties up the proceedings with a quick look at the end result.


  • John Woo: A Life in Pictures (26 minutes, HD) -- This featurette almost makes up for the fact that Woo doesn't have his own commentary track. It examines the director's career, his canon of films, and his reputation on both sides of the Pacific. The best part is that the entire featurette is narrated by Woo himself. As a longtime fan, it was incredibly rewarding to listen to the director humbly discuss his life and his films.


  • Theatrical Trailer (2 minutes, HD)


[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] => 4184 [review_final_thoughts] =>

Your enjoyment of 'Face/Off' will ultimately come down to how easily you can overlook its occasionally outlandish plot. Thankfully, this HD DVD release doesn't require any technical leaps of faith. It includes an excellent video transfer, a set of powerful audio tracks, and a healthy collection of supplements. This is a noteworthy treatment of a classic catalog actioner that's sure to make fans extremely happy.

) ) [1] => Array ( [review_id] => 1108 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => licensetowed [review_release_date] => 1193727600 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => License to Wed [picture_created] => 1193617904 [picture_name] => license-to-wed-hd-dvddvd-combo-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Video [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/10/28/120/license-to-wed-hd-dvddvd-combo-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1108/licensetowed.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2007 [run_time] => 91 [list_price] => 39.98 [asin] => B000VE4UGU [amazon_price] => 27.95 [empire_id] => 1366292 [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 [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer/DVD-9 Dual-Layer Combo Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround (48kHz/24-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] => Deleted Scenes [1] => Interactive Trivia Game ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => English Subtitles [2] => French Subtitles [3] => Spanish Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Comedy ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Robin Williams [1] => Mandy Moore [2] => Jon Kraninski ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Ken Kwapis ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Newly engaged, Ben Murphy (John Krasinski) and Sadie Jones (Mandy Moore) can't wait to start their life together and live happily ever after. The problem is that Sadie's family church, St. Augustine's, is run by Reverend Frank (Robin Williams), who won't bless Ben and Sadie's union until they pass his patented, "foolproof" marriage-prep course. Consisting of outrageous classes, outlandish homework assignments and some outright invasion of privacy, Reverend Frank's rigorous curriculum puts Ben and Sadie's relationship to the test. Forget happily ever after--do they even have what it takes to make it to the altar? [preview_technology_specifications] => ª Featurette: "Ask Choir Boy" - Interactive Relationship Advice from the Film's Hilarious Junior Pastor-in-Training
• Additional Scenes [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 17328 [review_editors_notes] => Non-format-specific portions of this review also appear in our Blu-ray review of 'License to Wed.' [review_bottom_line] => For Fans Only [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 23181 [review_movie_stars] => 1.5 [review_movie] =>

Anyone who's ever been to a wedding likely knows "that guy" -- the one who's loud, obnoxious and inebriated well before dessert. Inevitably, neither the bride nor the groom's side of the family will admit to inviting him, yet no wedding would be complete without him.

Promising in concept, 'License to Wed' is a comedy about that guy. Unfortunately, the film makes one truly fatal mistake, as the guy in question isn't just some random drunk, but is instead the bride and groom's priest. The result is a nightmare of such jaw-droppingly grotesque proportions that I don't think I've ever seen a mainstream Hollywood comedy so completely misunderstand the difference between edgy satire, and just plain ickiness.

The plot concerns itself with Rev. Frank Highland (Robin Williams), a one-man wrecking ball of marriage. Under the guise of promoting marital harmony, he aims to "lower the divorce rate" by busting up incompatible twosomes before the rice hits the ground. Falling prey to his perverse form of matrimonial bootcamp are Sadie Jones (Mandy Moore) and Ben Murphy (John Krasinski), who both are so eager to get hitched that they're rushing down the aisle in only three weeks, and will do anything Frank advises to ensure the approval of Sadie's conservative family. From giving up sex, to caring for two screaming, slobbering, creepy-looking robot babies, to forcing Sadie to drive through downtown Chicago blindfolded (don't ask), there's no challenge too bizarre -- or too humiliating -- that the Reverend won't subject them to in order to ensure the sanctimony of their union.

'License to Wed' is guilty of so many offenses that it's hard to know where to begin. It's readily apparent that the film seeks to combine the taboo-breaking vulgarity of a 'Wedding Crashers' with the the insightful family comedy of a 'Meet the Fockers,' but film's script, direction and performances never find the correct tone, and there is no real heart to the story. Instead, all we get is scene after unfunny scene of the Reverend humiliating poor Sadie and Ben with escalating forms of torture.

Not to take things too literally, but one can't help but question the sanity of every character in the movie. Why would an otherwise perfectly reasonable couple like Sadie and Ben submit to Frank's repeated intrusions? He berates them in church, spies on them in the bedroom, antagonizes them at family functions to instigate betrayal. If the film's characters had been drawn with any sort of complexity, perhaps 'License to Wed' might have been able to wring some truths out of such unpleasant situations. But every character is so one-dimensional that their behavior doesn't just ring false, it makes absolutely no sense.

As a result, the actors are left stranded. Moore and Krasinski are both extremely likable, but they can't save a script that would rather embarrass their characters than illuminate them. And though I don't wish to make light of Williams' much-publicized, recent declaration of alcohol addiction, his performance is so lazy and phoned-in that I have to wonder if he wasn't in rehab during the whole production. The supporting cast is equally wasted, from the underrated Christine Taylor as Sadie's beautiful but vapid sister, to little Josh Flitter as the "Choir Boy," the Reverend's even more destructive sidekick and one of the more unpleasant child characters seen in a recent movie.

On the surface, 'License to Wed' may seem like the perfect date-night rental, but I strongly urge you to resist the temptation. Suffering through even the nastiest divorce is preferable to enduring such a tepid and misguided comedy as this.

[review_video_stars] => 4.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 3548 [review_video] =>

Well, at least the picture quality is good. Great, even. Boasting a 1080p/VC-1 encode (identical to the Blu-ray), this HD DVD edition of 'License to Wed' is another fine looking new release from Warner.

Typical of a fresh theatrical title, the source is absolutely pristine. Blacks have an inky, pleasing quality, and color reproduction is above average. Though the film is not overtly stylized, there are some very nice uses of color in the set design and costumes, from Sadie's strange obsession with wearing the color green, to the beautiful stained glass designs of Reverend Frank's church. Hues have a nicely saturated look without appearing fuzzy or noisy. Detail ranges from very good to exceptional, and the picture is sharp throughout. My only criticism is that contrast is a bit dull in the higher ends of the grayscale, which flattens out depth ever so slightly. Still, this is a minor nitpick. Overall, 'License to Wed' looks downright heavenly in 1080p.

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

Another casualty of "comedy soundtrack-itis," 'License to Wed' is typical of films where the subject matter apparently precludes any imaginative use of surround sound. Even with Warner providing a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track (at 48kHz/24-bit), this sounds like a stereo mix and nothing more. (Note that the Blu-ray version includes a comparable PCM track, also at 48kHz/24-bit.)

Granted, 'License to Wed' isn't an action movie, but there are still some things that could have been benefited from some immersion. From the frequent scenes in the expansive church location (complete with gospel choir) to one very loud pair of animatronic twins, the mix cries out for some surround action, but alas we get none. At least tech specs are up to snuff, with pitch-perfect dialogue reproduction, and a pleasing, spacious sound to the complete frequency range. There are also no obvious defects to the elements, so on the bottom line this is a decent enough presentation -- it's just completely unmemorable.

[review_supplements_stars] => 1 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 3549 [review_supplements] =>

Given the failings of the film itself, I suppose it shouldn't surprise that Warner has produced scant few extras for the cross-format video premiere of 'License to Wed.'

The centerpiece of this package is a collection of five Deleted Scenes. Running about 13 minutes total, most are even more forgettable than the feature film itself. The "highlights" are an alternate opening with some poorly-executed animation, and an extended ending featuring Robin Williams and that smarmy choir boy kid. Both were wisely cut.

The "Ask Choir Boy" interactive game features the cherubic little brat actually doling out "relationship advice." Select one of the twelve questions, and it's followed by a simple clip of the character giving his answer on one of those call-in radio shows. Not funny at all.

Perfectly summing up the chintzy feel of this supplements package, Warner has not even bothered to include a theatrical trailer for 'License to Wed,' nor any other Warner Blu-ray titles.

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 3550 [review_bonus_content] =>

There are no HD DVD exclusives -- though Warner does provide their now-standard live timeline, custom bookmark and image pan-and-zoom functions. Woo-hoo!

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

'License to Wed' is an irritating and unfunny comedy that seems three times as long as its scant 91 minutes. Add to that a career-worst performance by Robin Williams, and you have one truly bad flick. As an HD DVD release, this one is slightly more respectable, boasting a strong video transfer and decent audio. Still, in all good conscience, I can't recommend this title unless you happen to be a huge fan of 'License to Wed.'

) ) [2] => Array ( [review_id] => 1171 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => mozartdiezauberflote [review_release_date] => 1193727600 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Mozart: Die Zauberflote [picture_created] => 1191300061 [picture_name] => mozart.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Opus Arte [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/10/01/120/mozart.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1171/mozartdiezauberflote.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2003 [run_time] => 182 [list_price] => 39.98 [asin] => B000V78BOY [amazon_price] => 32.15 [empire_id] => 1369951 [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 ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English PCM 5.1 Surround ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Illustrated Synopsis [1] => Featurette [2] => Interview with Sir Colin Davis [3] => Cast Gallery ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English Subtitles [1] => French Subtitiles [2] => Spanish Subtiltes [3] => German Subtitles [4] => Italian Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Music ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Diana Damrau [1] => Dorothea Roschmann [2] => Will Hartmann ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => David McVicar ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => The internationally renowned Mozart interpreter Sir Colin Davis conducts the chorus and orchestra of the Royal Opera House and a glittering cast in David McVicar’s 2003 production of Mozart’s last opera recorded, in sumptuous surround sound, live at Covent Garden.

Tamino: Will Hartmann
Pamina: Dorothea Röschmann
Queen of Night: Diana Damrau
Sarastro: Franz-Josef Selig
Papageno: Simon Keenlyside
Papagena: Ailish Tynan
Monostatos: Adrian Thompson

The Royal Opera Chorus
The Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
Musical Director: Colin Davis
Stage Director: David McVicar
[preview_technology_specifications] => - Illustrated Synopsis
- Cast Gallery
- BBC feature looks behind the scenes at this production
- Conductor Sir Colin Davis talks about Die Zauberflöte [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 20110 [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] => 1098 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => talktome [review_release_date] => 1193727600 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Talk to Me [picture_created] => 1190789292 [picture_name] => talk-to-me.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Universal Studios Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/09/25/120/talk-to-me.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1098/talktome.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2007 [run_time] => 119 [list_price] => 39.98 [asin] => B000VNMMWK [amazon_price] => 27.95 [empire_id] => 1365165 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.35:1 ) [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/DVD [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer/DVD-9 Dual-Layer Combo Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround (48kHz/24-bit) [1] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (448kbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Featurettes [1] => Deleted Scenes ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Drama ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Don Cheadle [1] => Chiwetel Ejiofor [2] => Martin Sheen ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Kasi Lemmons ) [preview_technology_specifications] => • Featurettes: "Who Is Petey Greene?", "Recreating P-Town"
• Deleted Scenes [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => • MyScenes [preview_forum_id] => 16440 [review_bottom_line] => Give it a Rent [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 24403 [review_movie_stars] => 2 [review_movie] =>

The Hollywood biopic is a strange beast. No matter how terrific the writing, direction, cinematography or attention to historical detail, it seems what we remember most about films like 'Ray,' 'Nixon' or 'Capote' are their lead performances. Boasting a fantastic, award-worthy star turn by Don Cheadle, 'Talk to Me' demonstrates that this phenomenon can work both ways, with the strengths of Cheadle's performance distracting from a woefully uneven and mediocre production.

The film itself tells the true story Ralph "Petey" Greene (played by Cheadle), an ex-con who defied the odds to emerge as one of the most powerful and influential radio/TV commentators of his generation. But while Green's life would seem to make for fascinating biopic material, in the hands of Director Kasi Lemmons ('Caveman's Valentine,' 'Eve's Bayou') unfortunately this film fails on almost every level.

The film's core issue is that its tone never quite gels. The filmmakers seem to be aiming their sights on the same mainstream audiences that embraced flicks like 'Ray' and 'Dreamgirls,' but in their quest for commercial viability, they dull all of film's more interesting rough edges. Soft when it should be gritty, toothless when it should be biting, the movie portrays Greene as a big teddy bear with a foul mouth, and not the edgy character who gave a voice to a generation and helped to salve the deep wounds inflicted on our country during the civil rights movement.

Confined to a fairly short period in Greene's career, 'Talk to Me' concentrates on his exit from prison and rise to stardom in the mid-'60s, through the apex of his popularity by the beginning of the next decade. His early life is completely avoided, so we know nothing of the man as the film begins, while the subsequent timeline is so condensed that it plays fast and loose with the facts (multiple events are condensed into one, while some characters are composites of several different real-life figures). That gives 'Talk to Me' the feel of one of those Time-Life specials -- it hits all the correct historical beats, but never quite gets the music right.

It's frustrating that so many of the more fascinating aspects of Greene's life are glossed over, or mishandled. Even his time as a "miscreant" (where he was an exemplary prisoner, saving the life of a fellow inmate in a botched suicide attempt) is bulldozed through in the film's prologue, which inexplicably paints him as a loser buffoon. Even more bizarre, the film's screenwriters treat Greene's two pivotal personal relationships as slapstick melodrama. Taraji P. Henson is first-rate as Greene's long-suffering wife Vernell (with whom he would have four children), but these comedic scenes feel so disconnected from the serious tone of the rest of the film that they come off as needless soap opera. The film's real missed shot at greatness, however, lies in Greene's relationship with Dewey Hughes (Chiwetel Ejiofor). Hughes was an "assimilationist," an African-American who believed that the key to civil rights (and upward mobility) was through the sublimination of an ethnic identity, a world view that clashed with Greene's far more politicized activism. Here too, 'Talk to Me' largely goes for easy laughs -- wasting time on such scenes as when Greene, after being kicked out yet again by Vernell for cheating, shows up buck-naked at Hughes door, ruining his blind date. With such a vivid, colorful life to draw from, this is the kind of fluff the filmmakers' chose?

The film's historical authenticity is further hampered by a limited budget, which shows through in its shoddy production values. The costume design is too clean (everyone looks as if they shopped at "'60s Day" at Urban Outfitters), while the locations are so clearly limited to interiors that none of the film's big setpieces ring true. This is most clear in the pivotal moment when Greene reacts to the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Lemmons obviously had no money to re-create the fiery riots that gripped Washington, leaving it to Cheadle to single-handedly convey the emotion and danger of that pivotal moment. "They got him, y'all. They got him!" Cheadle anguishes, and his words are affecting. But there is still no getting around the fact that the film's limitations have forced events that should have been dramatized on-screen into mere exposition.

At the end of the day, 'Talk to Me' is a poor biopic that fails to illuminate the life of a man truly deserving of some much-needed recognition. Having said that, I still think it's worth seeing, if only to witness a great actor at the top of his game. Cheadle is absolutely terrific in the lead role, and is the film's saving grace. If only the rest of 'Talk to Me' rose to his level.

[review_video_stars] => 3.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 3474 [review_video] =>

Judging the video quality of 'Talk to Me' is a tough call. The filmmakers have deliberately given the movie a soft-focus look that adequately invokes the '70s, yet it also has an overly-slick, polished look that's far from gritty. Unfortunately, the results don't quite balance out to create a fantastic high-def presentation.

Universal offers up a 1080p/VC-1 encode in the film's original 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio. The source is certainly clean, with a consistent film-like thin veneer of grain throughout. As mentioned above, it looks as if a diffusion filter was used for just about every shot, which flattens out edges, and blows out contrast a tad. Interestingly, although the film's sets and costumes are garish (hey, it was the '70s), colors seem to be intentionally subdued. The result is a somewhat middle of the road color field that never truly pops.

On the plus side, detail is generally strong, black levels are pure, and the image generally has plenty of depth. There are also no compression artifacts to speak of, and I was grateful this wasn't another of Universal's edge enhancement horrors, with halos all over the place. It's certainly not a top-tier presentation, but overall this is still an above-average transfer that's as smooth and silky as one of Petey Greene's monologues.

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

Universal provides both Dolby TrueHD (48kHz/24-bit) and Dolby Digital-Plus (1.5mbps) 5.1 surround mixes for 'Talk to Me,' but truth be told both tracks are so subdued that they may as well be stereo.

From the film's many musical montages to the big riot scene, there are a good number of sequences that just scream out for some envelopment. Alas, the soundtrack just doesn't come alive. Discrete effects are minimal, and even the music is weakly rendered. Dialogue is cleanly recorded if slightly flat in the mix. I had to adjust volume on a couple of occasions, though to be fair it was nothing severe. Dynamics are average, with some sense of heft and depth, but I was certainly never blown away. For what it is, 'Talk to Me' is listenable enough, but for a film so much about words and music, this one really deserves a more adventurous soundtrack.

[review_supplements_stars] => 1 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 3475 [review_supplements] =>

'Talk to Me' barely rated a blip at the box office, so I suppose it's no surprise that Universal didn't go all-out with the supplements for its video release. Still, it's hard not to be disappointed by this slim package.

First up are couple of featurettes. "Who is Petey Greene?" (10 minutes) may sound intriguing, but despite what its title may imply, this is not a doc on the real guy. Instead, it's just a bunch of happy-happy on-set interviews with Don Cheadle, Kasi Lemmons, Cedric the Entertainer and other cast members. All go on and on about how great the flick is gonna be, but there's precious little substance between all the film clips. "Recreating P-Town" (11 minutes) is a nice little look at how the period costumes, locations and props were created, but that's all it is -- nice.

Next up is a collection of seven Deleted Scenes that runs about 9 minutes. There's actually some good stuff here (most notably an "Oscar moment" for Martin Sheen, breaking down after hearing the news of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination).

Alas, that's it. No commentary, no real doc, not even a trailer. At least the video is pretty good, with the featurettes in 1080i/VC-1, while the deleted scenes are 480p/MPEG-2 only (and 4:3 pillarboxed to boot).

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 3476 [review_bonus_content] =>

There are no HD DVD exclusives, aside from Universal's now-standard MyScenes bookmark function.

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

'Talk to Me' is a heartfelt period piece about a cult radio figure who lived his life far outside the mainstream. Though I don't think director Kasi Lemmons captured the appropriate tone, the film is worth seeing if only for another terrific performance from Don Cheadle. As an HD DVD/DVD combo release, this one's equally middle of the road. The video and audio are fine but not spectacular, and the extras too thin. Unless you happen to be a fan of the film, this one's a rental at best.

) ) ) ) [October 23, 2007] => Array ( [reviews] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 241 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => 2001aspaceodyssey [review_release_date] => 1193122800 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => 2001: A Space Odyssey [picture_created] => 1190142700 [picture_name] => 2001.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Video [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/09/18/120/2001.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/241/2001aspaceodyssey.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1968 [run_time] => 148 [list_price] => 28.99 [asin] => B000I0RR62 [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1356874 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.20:1 ) [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 Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround (48kHz/24-Bit/3.0MBps) [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] => Commentary Track [1] => Audio Interview [2] => Documentary [3] => Featurettes [4] => Theatrical Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English Subtitles [1] => French Subtitles [2] => Spanish Subtitles [3] => Chinese Subtitles [4] => Portuguese Subtitles [5] => Korean Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Science Fiction ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Keir Dullea ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Stanley Kubrick ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => 2001: A Space Odyssey is a countdown to tomorrow, a road map to human destiny, a quest for the infinite. It is dazzling, Academy Award®-winning visual achievement, a compelling drama of man vs. machine, a stunning meld of music and motion. It may be the masterwork of director Stanley Kubrick (who co-wrote the screenplay with Arthur C. Clarke)… and it will likely excite, inspire and enthrall for generations. [preview_technology_specifications] => • Audio commentary with stars Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood
• Audio-only interview with Kubrick
• Channel 4 Documentary: "2001: The Making of a Myth"
• Featurettes: "Standing on the Shoulders of Kubrick: The Legacy of 2001," "Vision of a Future Passed: The Prophecy of 2001," "2001: A Space Odyssey - A Look Behind the Future," "2001: FX and Early Conceptual Artwork," "Look: Stanley Kubrick!"
• Theatrical trailer [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [review_editors_notes] => Non-format-specific portions of this review also appear in our Blu-ray review of '2001: A Space Odyssey.' [review_bottom_line] => Highly Recommended [review_gear] => Review Components:
- 52" Sony Bravia XBR3 1080p Flat-Panel LCD
- Toshiba HD-XA2 HD DVD Player [via HDMI]
- Yamaha 7.1 (840w) with Klipsch Synergy series 7.1 speakers
- HDMI connections

Puzzled by the technical jargon in our reviews, or wondering how we assess and rate HD DVD and Blu-ray discs? Learn about our review methodology.

[review_forum_id] => 22746 [review_movie_stars] => 5 [review_movie] =>

I first experienced '2001: A Space Odyssey' during my senior year in high school. I was on a Kubrick-kick, and had invited a bunch of friends over to watch the sci-fi classic I'd heard so much about. Watching the film, there was a palpable sense of excitement in the room as each of us found ourselves completely taken by some of the most arresting visions that have ever been committed to film. By the time the credits rolled, each of us were almost dumbstruck with same feeling that we'd just seen something truly special.

Developed by writer Arthur C. Clarke and director Stanley Kubrick, '2001: A Space Odyssey' begins with an extended vignette about human evolution. A bestial group of pre-humans live their daily lives in fear until they stumble upon a black, rectangular monolith. After encountering this otherworldly device, one of the creatures inexplicably invents the first tool and uses it as a club to protect his tribe. The film suddenly leaps forward to the future where man inhabits space in ships and orbiting stations. On the surface of the moon, a dig uncovers a deliberately buried monolith that's identical to the one the man-apes found at the beginning of the film.

Two years later, two pilots -- Dave Bowman (Keir Dullea) and Frank Poole (Gary Lockwood) -- escort three scientists to Jupiter on the spaceship Discovery One. The ship is run by HAL 9000 (voiced by Douglas Rain), a supercomputer that represents the pinnacle in human-created artificial intelligence. Treated like any other crew member, HAL talks to the pilots and mimics human behavior and intelligence. Everything is seemingly routine until HAL stumbles upon information on the secret excavation on the moon. When Dave questions HAL's reliability, the computer stages a mutiny.

Like many Kubrick films, '2001: A Space Odyssey' is best approached as a cerebral endeavor rather than as outright entertainment, as Kubrick uses the trappings of the sci-fi genre to pose genuine questions of sentience, existence, and intelligence. Action fans won't find any gunfights or explosions here; instead, this is a deliberately paced adventure of the mind that requires patience, thought, and introspection. The director famously refused to explain his interpretation of the film, preferring that his audience draw their own conclusions. To be blunt, the film demands a level of engagement and intelligence from its audience that's truly rare in modern filmmaking.

It's safe to say that almost everything about '2001: A Space Odyssey' is challenging and atypical. The characters are painfully naturalistic, relationships are cold and unnerving, and the ending is vague and experimental. Kubrick decided early on that he wanted the film to be a primarily non-verbal experience, and the result is an eerily quiet film. The silence is punctuated by classical music, technical banter between the astronauts, the hums and rumbles of the ship, and HAL's soothing voice.

In fact, the only segment of the film that relies on a familiar genre scenario (HAL's mutiny) doesn't gain momentum until the final act. But even then, this classic clash of wills doesn't constitute the climax of the story -- that comes a bit later as Dave is confronted with a metaphysical journey across time and space that makes for a most intriguing twist in the story.

Kubrick is the only director who makes me feel like a puppet on strings, and this is the only film that manages to leave my head spinning no matter how many times I watch it. Every time I think I've got my finger on the pulse of Kubrick's methodical madness, I realize there are ideas in this film that I'll probably never completely wrap my head around. It astounds me in our age of technological advancement that a futuristic film made in 1968 remains one of the most compelling cinematic labyrinths of all time.

Years ago, I gave up trying to argue the merits of the film with those who find it tedious or plodding. I've come to accept the fact that '2001' is a definitive love-it-or-hate-it flick that will forever split audiences. Still, whatever you may ultimately think of the film itself, '2001: A Space Odyssey' will literally haunt your brain after you watch it. In my opinion, every film fan owes it to themselves to experience '2001' at least once in their lives.

[review_video_stars] => 5 [review_video_picture_id] => 4141 [review_video] =>

Presented with identical 1080p/VC-1 transfers on HD DVD and Blu-ray, this remastered release of '2001: A Space Odyssey' features a revelatory upgrade in picture quality that's likely to leave fans buzzing with excitement. Colors are magnificent, rich, and stable from beginning to end -- skintones are perfectly saturated and primary hues are bold and vibrant. Blues and reds receive the most noticeable improvement from past DVD editions, but the entire palette is striking. I'm also happy to report that contrast is dead-on, black levels are inky, and shadow delineation reveals a variety of elements formerly cloaked in darkness.

Fine detail sets a new bar for high definition catalog releases. Facial imperfections are a cinch to spot, hair is crisply defined, and the star fields are flawless. I paused on several occasions to note actors' naturally splotchy skin and chipped fingernails. There are even scenes in this transfer that I completely re-watched just to have another chance to explore the intricacies of the sets and props. For the first time, I was able to read all of the small text Kubrick strategically placed across the film. Call me obsessed, but I found myself completely fascinated by these minor details that I'd previously been unable to enjoy. Pay close attention to the barren wilderness in the opening scenes, the space station electronics, and the slightest etchings on the ships floating above Earth. My apologies for sounding like Captain Adjective, but this transfer is just that beautiful.

The print is in excellent condition and isn't marred by softness, edge enhancement, scratches, or any distracting instances of source noise. There isn't a hint of the blockiness that haunts 'A Clockwork Orange' and the transfer easily surpasses the new 2-disc Special Edition DVD (as well as every other previous home video release of the film). As I watched this HD DVD, I searched for something to complain about, but I'm happy to report that I failed to find a single thing. '2001: A Space Odyssey' has set a new bar for catalog transfers in high definition. For a film that's nearly forty years old, this high-def release is nothing short of a godsend.

[review_audio_stars] => 4 [review_audio_picture_id] => 4142 [review_audio] =>

This HD DVD edition of '2001: A Space Odyssey' features a Dolby TrueHD surround track (48 kHz/24-Bit/3.0 Mbps) and a standard Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Mix (640 kbps). While I didn't notice much of a difference between the two tracks, both sound better than ever and provide a a faithful experience that still manages to enhance Kubrick's original vision.

The classical music in the film opens up the soundfield and resonates with solid bass and stable trebles. Dialogue is crisp and perfectly prioritized, with HAL's soothing tones dominating the soundscape to good effect. Sharp sounds like bestial grunts and mechanical hisses have a distinct impact, while quiet scenes on the ship are layered with a careful level of naturalistic ambiance. This was the first time I'd noticed the subtle and comprehensive intricacies of the sound design -- small whirs, echoes through the ship, and the cooling fans inside the heavy space machinery were new to my ears. Like the clarity of fine elements in the video transfer, this high definition audio package revealed details that had escaped me so many times before on home video. I was also pleased to hear that the tracks sound much fuller than the mix on the newly released 2-disc Special Edition DVD.

The only thing that modern film fans may be disappointed by is the generally front-heavy soundfield. The original 6-channel stereo sound track has been remixed for 5.1 surround, but the rear channels have a limited presence that bolsters acoustics more than anything. The tone of the sound design is a clear product of the '60s -- particularly evident in the tenor of the voices (which can be attributed to the original recording more than anything else). Having said all that, it's hard to fathom that '2001: A Space Odyssey' could ever sound much better than it does here.

[review_supplements_stars] => 4 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 4143 [review_supplements] =>

Porting over the entire array of extras that appear on the concurrently-released 2-disc Special Edition DVD, this HD DVD edition of '2001: A Space Odyssey' is a veritable cornucopia of supplemental content. It may not give purists the "absolute" experience they were hoping for (many were praying for a technical commentary or a track that contained a critical dissection of the film), but it's hard to imagine any fan being truly disappointed.

First up is a friendly commentary with actors Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood. They avoid diving headlong into discussions about the cultural ramifications of the film or its interpretations, but instead have an engaging conversation about Kubrick, the production, the on-set atmosphere, and reaction to the film. They share plenty of fun anecdotes and prove themselves to be generally affable gents. I didn't really learn anything new about the film per se, but it was interesting to hear their personal accounts from the trenches. The only downside is that the two actors clarly aren't old hands at recorded commentaries, and as a result seem to skip over some obvious scenes and topics that I would have loved to hear them discuss.

The best feature on this release in my opinion is an audio-only bonus that documents a "1966 Kubrick Interview Conducted by Jeremy Bernstein" (77 minutes). The notoriously elusive director remains true to form, but Bernstein (a physicist and veteran writer for the "New Yorker") keeps Kubrick chatting. I was surprised to find that Kubrick doesn't come off anything like the blowhard he would be accused of being in later years. His answers are thoughtful and polite for the most part, and he divulges a bit more information than I expected. This is a true gem for Kubrick fans that shouldn't be missed.

"2001: The Making of a Myth" (43 minutes) is a Channel Four documentary that includes extensive interviews with the film's cast and crew, author Arthur C. Clarke, and numerous leading industry directors, producers, and professionals. This is a compelling glimpse into the impact the film has made in Hollywood and the world over the decades. It documents the initial critical reaction, the eventual declaration of '2001' as a masterpiece, and a hodge podge of other facts that kept me riveted from beginning to end.

"Standing on the Shoulders of Kubrick: The Legacy of 2001" (21 minutes) concentrates solely on the influence the film has had on countless directors and filmmakers. It includes interviews with notable filmmakers like George Lucas and Stephen Speilburg. This is a tight journey through a cult phenomenon that James Cameron calls "a film that shouldn't work, but does."

Rounding out the exploration of the film are three more featurettes. "Vision of a Future Passed: The Prophecy of 2001" (22 minutes) is an entertaining look at the technologies that the film predicted (or inspired) and the visions that have yet to transpire. "A Look Behind the Future" (23 minutes) is an archive bonus that examines the sets used during production. "What is Out There?" (21 minutes) includes a discussion about space and the possibility of intelligent life existing somewhere other than Earth. While each of these three featurettes are cute, overall they didn't strike me as particularly worth the time. Completists will appreciate their inclusion, but I found them to be dry and a bit repetitive.

Finally, we come to a featurette that looks at the film's "FX and Early Conceptual Artwork" (10 minutes), a photo montage of Kubrick's photography called "Look: Stanley Kubrick!" (4 minutes), and the film's theatrical trailer.

(Note that all of the video features listed above are presented in 480i/p video only.)

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

Nothing.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 4.5 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 4144 [review_final_thoughts] =>

Admittedly, '2001: A Space Odyssey' isn't for everyone -- but in my opinion it's the single most important science fiction film in the history of cinema. It has influenced film as we know it and deserves all of the clout and recognition that can be heaped on its silent shoulders. Likewise, this HD DVD edition is a must-have release, featuring a jaw-droppingly gorgeous transfer, an elaborate TrueHD audio track, and a wealth of supplemental features. It's an upgrade in every sense of the word and may just be the easiest twenty dollars I'll ever spend.

) ) [1] => Array ( [review_id] => 364 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => clockworkorange [review_release_date] => 1193122800 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => A Clockwork Orange [picture_created] => 1190740918 [picture_name] => clockwork-orange.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Video [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/09/25/120/clockwork-orange.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/364/clockworkorange.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1971 [run_time] => 137 [list_price] => 28.99 [asin] => B000I2IZHK [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1356876 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.66:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Discs ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround (48kHz/24-Bit/3.0Mbps) [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] => Commentary Track [1] => Documentaries [2] => Featurette [3] => Theatrical Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English Subtitles [1] => French Subtitles [2] => Spanish Subtitles [3] => Chinese Subtitles [4] => Portuguese Subtitles [5] => Japanese Subtitles [6] => Korean Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Crime [1] => Science Fiction ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Malcolm McDowell ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Stanley Kubrick ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Alex's journey from amoral punk to brainwashed proper citizen forms the dynamic arc of Stanley Kubrick's future-shock vision of Anthony Burgess' novel. Unforgettable images startling musical counterpoints, the fascinating language used by Alex and his pals - Kubrick shapes them into a shattering whole. Hugely controversial when first released, A Clockwork Orange won the New York Film Critics Best Picture and Director honors and earned four Academy Award® nominations, including best picture. The power of its art is such that it still entices, shocks and holds us in its grasp. [preview_technology_specifications] => • Audio commentary by Malcolm McDowell and historian Nick Redman
• Channel 4 documentary: "Still Tickin’: The Return of Clockwork Orange"
• Featurettes: "Great Bolshy Yarblockos!: Making A Clockwork Orange," "O Lucky Malcolm!"
• Theatrical trailer [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [review_editors_notes] => Non-format-specific portions of this review also appear in our Blu-ray review of 'A Clockwork Orange.' [review_bottom_line] => Rent it First [review_gear] => Review Components:
- 52" Sony Bravia XBR3 1080p Flat-Panel LCD
- Toshiba HD-XA2 HD DVD Player
- Yamaha 7.1 (840w) with Klipsch Synergy series 7.1 speakers
- HDMI connections

Puzzled by the technical jargon in our reviews, or wondering how we assess and rate HD DVD and Blu-ray discs? Learn about our review methodology.

[review_forum_id] => 23224 [review_movie_stars] => 4.5 [review_movie] =>

To call Stanley Kubrick's 'A Clockwork Orange' controversial would be an understatement. When it was originally released in 1971, its graphic depictions of sex and violence caused an uproar both stateside and abroad. The film was heavily protested, received the most restrictive ratings available (including an X-rating in the US), and was ultimately blamed for a series of copycat crimes that occured in the UK. Kubrick even barred his film from UK distribution after he began to receive death threats (the film was not officially banned by the British courts as has been frequently reported). Through it all, perhaps the most shocking thing about the film is that it still manages to offend and disturb viewers thirty-five years later.

The film itself is set in a neutered, futuristic London that's plagued by roving street gangs. Alex DeLarge (Malcolm McDowell) is a teenage boy obsessed with rape, ultra-violence, and Beethoven. He also leads a particularly savage band of droogs who love nothing more than to follow their mad leader into trouble, whether it be assault, robbery, or murder. When two of his thugs decide they're tired of Alex's brand of tyranny, they knock him unconscious at the scene of a vicious crime. Arrested and sent to prison, Alex is offered freedom if he participates in a painful form of experimental aversion therapy. As his mind is normalized by the government, Alex is forced to question his nature, his morality, and his desires.

It took Kubrick eight months to complete filming of 'A Clockwork Orange' -- quite an accomplishment for a notoriously obsessive director who had a reputation for torturing his actors with dozens of takes. In fact, 'A Clockwork Orange' the fastest production Kubrick ever set his hands to, arguably contributing to the film's rapid-fire insanity that serves as an appropriate match with thematic intensity of Anthony Burgess's original novel.

Although opinions on the film itself vary wildly, I've always found 'A Clockwork Orange' to be a future-dystopian masterpiece. Yes it's incredibly dark and twisted, yes it depicts some of the most vile acts ever set to film, and yes it does have questionable messages tucked beneath its surface. But at the same time it brilliantly explores the depths of human darkness and our instinctual love of violence. I'm personally convinced that viewers aren't disturbed by the nudity and bizarre imagery in 'A Clockwork Orange' -- instead, they're bothered by the authenticity of what they're watching. I find my stomach turning at the sheer joy the droogs take in ultraviolence, not at the ultraviolence itself. Kubrick uses extreme imagery with precision and in doing so forces us to question our own beliefs and virtues. In a sense, he shows us the very things we don't want to see in ourselves.

The second half of the film (Alex's "rehabilitation") has received the harshest criticism over the years, and admittedly Kubrick risks glorifying Alex's actions by transforming him from a monster into a victim. But if you look closer, the director is in fact questioning society itself. Are we willing to degrade our own decency to combat the monsters in our midst? Are we willing to exact revenge to achieve justice? Are we willing to rape the mind of a rapist? Regardless of how you answer those questions, the fact that Kubrick challenges viewers to consider the debate elevates 'A Clockwork Orange' to a level that transcends the its sci-fi/future dystopian trappings to become something much more universal and relevant.

Philosophy aside, it's impossible to deny Kubrick's talent at the peak of his career. He pulls deep performances from his actors and sets them against uniquely unsettling cinematography. Say what you will about his stories or thematic interests, but Kubrick was an amazing filmmaker, and he played every trump card he had in 'A Clockwork Orange.' Even people who can't stand the cynical tone of the film or its disturbing imagery should at least be able to appreciate the art of it all.

'A Clockwork Orange' is a dense and demanding examination of humanity's darkest desires. I can't guarantee you'll enjoy the film as much as I do, but here's betting that it will engage your intellect and leave you thinking about a variety of heavy subjects for weeks to come.

[review_video_stars] => 2.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 4132 [review_video] =>

'A Clockwork Orange' makes its high definition debut with identical 1080p/VC-1 transfers on HD DVD and Blu-ray. This release also marks the first time the film has been available in the US in its original 1.66:1 ratio. But while this HD DVD offers a mild upgrade from the concurrently-released 2-disc Special Edition DVD, the image quality isn't nearly as striking as the remastered HD DVD releases of 'The Shining' or '2001: A Space Odyssey.'

First the good. Color saturation receives a decent boost overall and Kubrick's mishmash palette is nice and vibrant for an older film. Primary hues look healthy and blood has a tangibly visceral impact. I'm happy to report black levels are deep, contrast is impressive, and fine detail looks a bit sharper than it does on the newly released DVD.

Alas, all is not rosey here. Close-ups are generally improved, but more distant shots struggle to retain their clarity. There are even a few bizarre shots that drift completely out of focus (despite the fact that the same shots appear to be much crisper on previous DVD releases). The overall image is softer than I've come to expect from high definition catalog releases and I even found scenes that merely matched the quality of an upscaled DVD presentation. With that being said, I recognize that a portion of the softness present in the transfer appears in every release of the film and is a product of the age of the original print.

More disappointing is the amount of digital noise and artifacting evident throughout 'A Clockwork Orange.' While the film is naturally grainy, this high-def transfer reveals technical inadequacies on a regular basis. Blockiness and crushing are frequent problems (issues that certainly weren't Kubrick's intent), and I noticed arbitrary pixelation and banding as well.

In the end, I was disheartened to see Kubrick's bleak masterpiece wasn't enhanced very much by its move to high definition. If this is the best 'A Clockwork Orange' can possibly look in 1080p, than allow me to shed a justifiable tear.

[review_audio_stars] => 3.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 4133 [review_audio] =>

The video may be disappointing, but at least the audio package redeems things a bit. This HD DVD edition of 'A Clockwork Orange' features a solid Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track (48 kHz/24-Bit/3.0 Mbps) and an equally impressive Dolby Digital 5.1 mix (640 kbps).

The music receives the most noticeable improvement over earlier DVD versions of the film, with the synthesized Beethoven symphonies dancing across the soundfield with a renewed stability and confidence. I even felt low-end subtleties in the music that I hadn't noticed before. Dialogue is clear and well prioritized, sound effects are clean, and dynamics are respectable for a thirty-five year old film. I didn't notice any distracting problems with the original elements of the recording, and overall these tracks sound quite good.

Having said all that, I should warn that like the majority of older tracks remixed for surround sound, the rear channels in 'A Clockwork Orange' seem to be more of a novelty here than they are a genuine element of the soundfield. As such, for the most part, the soundscape in 'A Clockwork Orange' has the decidedly shallow resonance of a '70s film, and doesn't compare well with more aggressive catalog releases on the market.

Still, this is a fine overall audio effort and I appreciate the care that went into this audio package. It's the best audio presentation of 'A Clockwork Orange' I've heard -- just don't expect an awful lot of oomph from this one.

[review_supplements_stars] => 3.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 4134 [review_supplements] =>

Although previous DVD editions of 'A Clockwork Orange' have been starved for extras, this HD DVD edition comes jam-packed, porting over all of the new content from the currently-released 2-disc Special Edition DVD.

  • Commentary with Malcolm McDowell and historian Nick Redman -- This track features an engaging McDowell who's an incredibly interesting speaker (perhaps only because he's so blunt). Providing a balanced overview of the production, the experience, and the film's notorious reputation, McDowell's candid comments and keen observations kept me hooked from beginning to end. Redman can only pale in comparison, offering up only general facts and diluted cinematic analysis.


  • Still Tickin': The Return of Clockwork Orange (44 minutes, SD) -- This smart documentary looks at the controversy and cultural impact of the film. While it's mainly comprised of interview segments with the cast, crew, other directors, and industry commentators, this one's no dry lecture on how "wonderful" Kubrick was. Instead, it's fast paced dissertation on Kubrick's fascination with human depravity. To my surprse, I found this one almost as engaging as the commentary track.


  • Great Bolshy Yarblockos!: Making A Clockwork Orange (28 minutes, SD) -- A tidy featurette that examines the shoot and the film's theatrical release. This one's a more standard behind-the-scenes account of the film, but it's certainly a well made featurette that has a pleasant tone and good pacing.


  • O Lucky Malcolm! (86 minutes, HD) -- Rounding out the supplemental package is this massive high-def documentary that explores the life and career of actor Malcolm McDowell. Although its scope is not limited to 'A Clockwork Orange,' I really enjoyed watching this one. Included are interviews and recollections from McDowell and an assortment of friends and industry pros that have worked with him over the years. I can't recommend this documentary enough.


  • Theatrical Trailer (2 minutes, HD)

(Note that this HD DVD edition of 'A Clockwork Orange' splits the film and the video supplements across two HD-30 discs, while both are included on a single BD-50 disc for the Blu-ray edition. The content on both releases is identical.)

[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] => 4135 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'A Clockwork Orange' is a stunning piece of cinema that remains controversial even thirty-five years after its original release. Sadly, this new HD DVD edition is something of a mixed bag. Although it boasts a strong audio package and an onslaught of top notch supplements, unfortunately the video transfer is problematic, failing to offer a significant upgrade over the concurrently-released standard-def DVD. Although I personally think the good overwhelms the bad, you may want to give this one a rent before making a purchase decision.

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• Deleted Scenes
• Photo and Poster Gallery
• Theatrical Trailer [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 13563 [review_bottom_line] => Highly Recommended [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 23090 [review_movie_stars] => 4.5 [review_movie] =>

There's a scene early in 'Carlito's Way' that effectively encapsulates Brian De Palma's career as a filmmaker. The lead character Carlito Brigante visits a seedy pool hall to accompany his naïve young cousin on a drug deal with some shady local thugs. Sensing that something is amiss, Carlito tries to play it cool while scoping out the environment, analyzing the positions of everyone in the room and plotting their next moves. Claiming that he wants to demonstrate a trick shot at the pool table, he carefully rearranges the details of the scene -- the balls on the table, the pool cue he's holding, the people he's talking to -- and lines everything up perfectly so that he can use the reflection off one person's sunglasses to view what's happening behind him. And then, just as the baddies launch the attack he anticipated, Carlito reveals the true purpose of his "trick shot" and leaps into action using all of the elements he's prepared. The sequence is staged with elegance, precision, and nail-biting suspense. In it, Carlito becomes Brian De Palma, directing the scene like a delicate game of dominoes, laying out his pieces with nervous tension and watching them fall into place exactly as he planned. Any tiny misstep would cause the entire thing to fall apart, but when executed properly it becomes a moment of exquisite beauty.

This is the nature of all of De Palma's films. He adores the set-up of a scene and the anticipation of something happening just as much as the payoff when it finally comes. At times, the director proves himself more game master than storyteller. All too often, especially when he writes his own scripts for movies like 'Body Double' or 'Raising Cain', the result is a dopey plot that serves only to deliver a handful of brilliant set-pieces. Taken on their own, these scenes are cinematic genius, but when viewed in context aren't enough to save dumb movies from their other failings. When matched with the proper material, however, De Palma's technical proficiency, grand showmanship, and artistic sensibilities unite into a perfect formula for rousing populist entertainment, as they did in his greatest commercial and critical success with 'The Untouchables'.

Though it has seldom received the same level of respect as 'The Untouchables', as far as I'm concerned 'Carlito's Way' is Brian De Palma's best film to date. Al Pacino reunites with the director for the first time since their cult hit 'Scarface' a decade earlier. At the time of the film's release in 1993, the pair were accused in critical circles of merely retreading familiar ground, as if putting the two together in another story about Hispanic gangsters automatically made it the same movie. While it's true that they were revisiting some of the same themes, the newer film is clearly a more mature and contemplative effort, positing the notion of what would happen to a young thug like Tony Montana had he lived to be a little older, a little wiser, and had time to reflect on the mistakes of his life.

Pacino's character Carlito Brigante is a former two-bit street hustler recently released from prison and trying to straighten out his life, but who winds up falling back into old circles despite trying to climb his way out. He isn't helped much at all in his attempts by lawyer Davey Kleinfeld (Sean Penn in a transformative performance), an old childhood friend now an unstable, paranoid coke fiend who demands that Carlito help him sort out some trouble he's gotten into with the Mob. Yes, it's true that the One Last Job plot is a familiar staple of the crime genre. At times, you expect to hear Pacino deliver his "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!" line from 'The Godfather Part III'. Nevertheless, a story that could have easily devolved into rote formula hackery is skillfully kept on track by its attention to atmosphere, detail, and nuances of character. Based on a pair of novels by author Edwin Torres and adapted seamlessly by screenwriter David Koepp, 'Carlito's Way' is one of the few De Palma movies that not only plays clever mind games, but also has a genuine soul.

Set in Spanish Harlem during the late 1970s, the film thrives on the specificity of its environment, each location and character personality vividly sketched. De Palma has enormous fun recreating the street life and disco nightclub scenes of the era, but doesn't play them for camp. The soundtrack is filled with familiar oldies (carefully selected by music producer Jellybean Benitez) such as disco hits "Got to Be Real" and "(Shake Shake Shake) Shake Your Booty", all played without irony. When Joe Cocker croons "You Are So Beautiful", the song is at that moment an honest reflection of the characters' emotions. And somehow it works, never turning into the ridiculous parody you'd expect.

Pacino delivers a terrific performance, surprisingly restrained in comparison to his over-the-top flamboyance in 'Scarface', or for that matter the grating showboating that won him an undeserved Oscar for 'Scent of a Woman' the year before. He's matched beat-for-beat by Sean Penn, practically unrecognizable beneath frizzy "Jewfro" hair and oversized glasses. Also turning up for supporting turns are Luis Guzman, Adrian Pasdar, and Viggo Mortensen, among others. John Leguizamo's "Benny Blanco from the Bronx" is an indelibly memorable character.

On equal standing as a character in itself is De Palma's filmmaking. The director has an unparalleled mastery of film language and widescreen photography, typically keeping every inch of the frame cluttered with important visual information. His restless camera glides through scenes, seductively floating and drifting from character to character in a playful dance, at every moment revealing just precisely the right bit of detail exactly when it needs to appear. During his famous action set-pieces, he has perfectionist control over every element on screen, where, when, and how they're revealed to the characters and to the viewers. Not just the technique, but the viewers' growing cognizance of the technique and how it's employed, works flawlessly to maximize suspense and excitement in a way few other living directors can match.

Even so, during its release in 1993, 'Carlito's Way' was met with critical indifference and disappointing box office. At the time, De Palma had been riding a string of flops, including the notorious disaster 'The Bonfire of the Vanities', and his stock in Hollywood was at an ebb. Critics accused him not only of repeating 'Scarface', but of recycling many of his other familiar films. Indeed, there's a subway chase in the movie that restages a similar sequence from 'Dressed to Kill', and a huge action scene set on an escalator at Grand Central Station that clearly calls back to the climax of 'The Untouchables' (itself an allusion to Sergei Eisenstein's 'Battleship Potemkin'). In the eyes of some, this was De Palma simply reaching into an old bag of tricks, seemingly out of desperation.

Personally, I've never understood that view. De Palma has often used his movies to make explicit references to his favorite directors and films, be it the numerous Hitchcockian elements in his suspense thrillers of the '70s and '80s, that 'Potemkin' scene in 'The Untouchables', or practically the entirety of 'Blow Out', a tribute to both Michelangelo Antonioni's 'Blow-Up' and Francis Coppola's 'The Conversation' (he would also later borrow a scene from 'Topkapi' for his 1996 'Mission: Impossible', and lift extensively from '2001' during the dreadful 'Mission to Mars'). De Palma's cinematic vocabulary is one that consists in large part of homage. To me, I see these parts of 'Carlito's Way' as a self-reflexive commentary on his own career and his directorial technique. More importantly, the scenes in question simply work in the new context, never feeling forced, stagy, or in any way inorganic to the movie.

'Carlito's Way' runs 2 1/2 hours but never feels long. It's perfectly paced, the suspense set-pieces effectively measured to punctuate the already compelling dramatic scenes. It's a rich and rewarding work from a filmmaker who has admittedly been very uneven over the years, but who is here at the top of his game. The film may not have been appreciated enough in its day, but deserves recognition for the scope of its achievement.

The HD DVD: Vital Disc Stats

Universal Studios Home Entertainment has released 'Carlito's Way' on HD DVD. The disc has the studio's usual generic menus with annoying beeping sounds that can be turned off if you'd like (who would want them on?), but only by scrolling through a bunch of other beeping options to get to that setting. The case art features Universal's standard ugly swoosh borders.

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 5705 [review_video] =>

Stephen Burum's glorious 2.35:1 cinematography is replicated beautifully by this 1080p/VC-1 transfer. The opening black & white prologue sequence is marred by a disappointing amount of dirt and specks, but the source materials clear up after that. After the first scene, this is a very colorful movie, and the disc reproduces the rich, vivid colors (witness the deep reds of the pool hall walls) with precision. Black levels are also solid and have good shadow detail, lending the image an excellent sense of depth.

The photography can be a little on the soft side, owing to the choice of lenses used. As a result, the picture isn't always necessarily razor sharp, however it does have a satisfying amount of detail, far better than the DVD edition. Only on the HD DVD, for example, can you read the tiny initials sewn into Kleinfeld's shirt cuffs. The disc has next to no edge ringing artifacts (perhaps a miniscule amount in one or two individual shots) or distracting digital compression issues. The CGI fog effect used during the Taglialucci rescue scene is a little dated, but don't mistake the smeariness present there as a transfer flaw.

Although Universal has a hit-or-miss track record for catalog titles, this one is a "hit".

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

Offered in Dolby Digital Plus or lossless Dolby TrueHD options, the 'Carlito's Way' soundtrack has never had a particularly showy mix in terms of zinging surround effects or slamming bass action. However, it has nice musical fidelity in both Patrick Doyle's score and all of the period songs, as wells as clear dialogue and crisp sound effects. Gunshots have a clean pop with a little bit of satisfying low-end thump. While the soundtrack may not be an action movie rollercoaster that will shake the foundation of anyone's house, it impresses in the clarity of subtle audio details, such as the convincing ambient atmosphere that envelops the room during scenes inside the disco or strip club. I probably wouldn't pull this disc out as an audio showcase to demo for friends, but the sound quality is consistently engaging and suits the movie well.

[review_supplements_stars] => 2.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 5706 [review_supplements] =>

All of the bonus features from the 2005 "Ultimate Edition" DVD release have been carried over to the HD DVD. You'd think there might be more of them for something supposedly "ultimate".

  • Brian De Palma on Carlito's Way (5 min., SD) – This short introduction consists of interview sound bites in which the director, a man who's built a career out of imitating his idol Alfred Hitchcock and paying deliberate homage to his favorite old movies time and again, hypocritically complains about the new generation of filmmakers whose movies are pastiches of other movies. He also lashes out like a prima donna at all the film critics, especially web critics, who've ever written anything unkind about him.
  • Deleted Scenes (8 min., SD) – A series of 9 short scenes or scene extensions presented in awful workprint quality. None of them were really essential to the story (a scene of Carlito and Davey stumbling around drunk doesn't work at all), but it's nice to see a little extra footage of Luis Guzman in some of these bits.
  • The Making of Carlito's Way (35 min., SD) – A very good documentary by Laurent Bouzereau that features interviews with De Palma, author Edwin Torres, producer Martin Bregman, and screenwriter David Koepp. Torres discusses the autobiographical aspects to his novels. Bregman mentions that an early script draft (not by Koepp) was awful, but Pacino was drawn to the character anyway. And Koepp describes the difficulties of adapting two separate books into one coherent movie (the finished product borrows more from the second novel, 'After Hours').
  • Original Promotional Featurette (5 min., SD) – A thick slice of vintage Electronic Press Kit cheese.
  • Theatrical Trailer (2 min., SD) – This is a decent enough trailer (extensively lifting the musical score from 'Born on the Fourth of July') that recaps the essentials of the movie's plot, but is not the Pacino-focused teaser that I remember quite vividly from 1993.
  • Photo & Poster Gallery – Technically, the still images here have been re-encoded into a High Definition resolution using VC-1. However, the images themselves only occupy a tiny portion of the screen, thus negating that advantage.

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 5707 [review_bonus_content] =>

There are no HD DVD exclusives.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 4 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'Carlito's Way' is an excellent movie, perhaps the best in Brian De Palma's career. The HD DVD has very nice picture and sound, even if the bonus features don't amount to much. The disc comes highly recommended.

) ) [3] => Array ( [review_id] => 1036 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => carlitoswayrisetopower [review_release_date] => 1193122800 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Carlito's Way: Rise to Power [picture_created] => 1188091625 [picture_name] => carlitos-way-2.gif [manufacturer_name] => Universal Studios Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/08/25/120/carlitos-way-2.gif [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1036/carlitoswayrisetopower.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2005 [run_time] => 94 [list_price] => 29.98 [asin] => B000ULPFHC [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1359014 [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 5.1 Surround (768kbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Featurettes [1] => Deleted Scenes [2] => Gag Reel [3] => Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Crime [1] => Drama ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Jay Hernandez [1] => Mario Van Peebles [2] => Luis Guzman ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Michael Bregman ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => From the producer of Scarface and Carlito's Way comes the action thriller Carlito's Way: Rise to Power. Jay Hernandez (Friday Night Lights), Mario Van Peebles (Ali), Luis Guzman (Carlito's Way) and Sean Combs (Monster's Ball) star in the gripping tale of the early years of gangster legend Carlito Brigante. Seduced by the power of the brutal New York underworld, he enters a deadly circle of greed and retribution. Assisted by his two brothers in crime, Carlito is on the fast track to becoming Spanish Harlem's ultimate kingpin. He quickly learns, however, that the only way to survive at the top is through loyalty to his friends and respect for the rules of the street. [preview_technology_specifications] => • Featurettes: "The Making of 'Carlito's Way: Rise to Power,'" "Got Your Back: Carlito's Brothers in Crime," "Bringing the 'Hood to Life,'" "Set Tour with Earl"
• Deleted Scenes
• Gag Reel
• Theatrical Trailer [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 13563 [review_bottom_line] => Skip it [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 32323 [review_movie_stars] => 2 [review_movie] =>

In the late '70s, New York State Supreme Court judge Edwin Torres published two novels about a fictional drug lord named Carlito Brigante. The first book, 1975's "Carlito's Way," followed the kingpin's rise to power and eventual arrest. His second book, 1979's "After Hours," followed Carlito's struggle with reform after his release from prison. In 1993, director Brian De Palma adapted "After Hours," nabbed Al Pacino and Sean Penn, and released the resulting film under the title 'Carlito's Way.' Despite the fact that it was a critical disaster, I remain a big fan of De Palma's violent morality tale. I only wish he’d filmed both halves of the story.

'Carlito's Way: Rise to Power' is a straight-to-video adaptation of Torres' first novel, directed by producer Michael Bregman ('The Bone Collector,' 'The Adventures of Pluto Nash'). The film follows the early '70s exploits of young Carlito Brigante (played by Jay Hernandez) as he works to build a successful heroin business. Taking advantage of the connections garnered by fellow ex-convicts Earl (Mario Van Peebles) and Rocco (Michael Kelly), Carlito and his crew fight to take control of the drug trade in Harlem. Standing in their way is a gangster named Hollywood Nicky (Sean "Puffy" Combs), the NYPD's best officers, and mob boss Artie Bottolota (Burt Young).

The original 'Carlito's Way' may not have been the best film to begin with, but without De Palma, Pacino and Penn on board, its prequel doesn’t stand a chance. In fact, sitting through 'Rise to Power,' I struggled to find a component of this project that compared favorably with the original.

The story certainly isn’t as strong -- Bergman only adapts the anti-climactic first half of Torres' novel, inadvertently killing the narrative flow (I can only assume the studio has another screenplay waiting in the wings that tells the next part of the story). As for the acting, Hernandez is the lone standout, but he doesn't have the fire or experience to match Pacino's performance. Finally, when it comes to action, 'Rise to Power' is a tease that flashes a lot of firearms, but rarely gets its gun off. In my opinion, there just isn't a single aspect of 'Rise to Power' that comes close to matching 'Carlito's Way.' .

'Rise to Power' is a bizarre release. It doesn't adapt the complete novel on which it’s based, it doesn't feature the original heavy hitters, and fans weren't exactly chomping at the bit for a 'Carlito's Way' prequel/sequel in the first place. I can only imagine it was greenlit in the hopes that fans of De Palma's film would be curious enough to pick up anything with "Carlito" in the title. Unfortunately, 'Rise to Power' is nothing more than the bastardized stepchild of a much better film.

[review_video_stars] => 3 [review_video_picture_id] => 4693 [review_video] =>

'Carlito's Way: Rise to Power' is presented with a serviceable 1080p/VC-1 transfer that handles the film's rough-n-tumble aesthetic well for the most part. Unfortunately, the filmmakers purposefully suppress the palette and amp up grain in an attempt to predate the look of the original 'Carlito's Way.' In my eyes, the result is a failure that only serves to distract the viewer from the movie itself. 'Rise to Power' still looks like a modern film -- just a poorly produced one.

The transfer does a decent job rendering the film's visual muck. Colors are stable, uses of red are respectably bold, and skintones are by and large natural (if a bit sickly at times). Detail is above average, as well -- pores, hair, clothing texture, and the fine print on money are suitably crisp despite the picture's faux-grit. I didn't catch any edge enhancement, artifacting, or source noise, but it would be nearly impossible to discern this sort of clutter from the picture's spiking grain field. I did catch a few other bothersome issues, however. Contrast is stark, but it still wavers from time to time. Black levels are deep, but crushed on a regular basis. In fact, after stumbling across a few shots with soft details and focus issues, I started to wonder how many of the transfer's "mistakes" were the product of the director's intention.

All in all, while this transfer may represent the filmmakers’ desired look and tone, I'm not a fan of the film's look at all. This HD DVD may be a step up from the poorly compressed standard DVD, but the upgrade isn't significant enough to impress.

[review_audio_stars] => 3 [review_audio_picture_id] => 4694 [review_audio] =>

The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track (48 kHz/ 16-Bit) on this HD DVD release is less obviously flawed than the video, but it ultimately suffers from the film’s straight-to-video, bargain-bin sound design. This may be a gangster flick, but there's relatively little gunfire or low-end elements on hand to take advantage of the LFE channel. When bass tones are utilized, they're strong, confident, and engaging. However, impressive dynamics require suitably dynamic scenes, and unfortunately 'Rise to Power' doesn't offer many showcase moments that allow this TrueHD track to truly demonstrate its power.

Although I struggled to hear two or three whispered lines, overall the film's dialogue is crisp and well balanced. Effects are clean, channel pans are transparent, and the soundstage is evenly distributed across the front of the soundfield. The rear surrounds are used from time to time, but mainly for street-level ambiance and crowded acoustics. I have to admit I expected a cash-in sequel like 'Rise to Power' to be inflated with extraneous violence for the sake of increasing its appeal, but as it stands this is a surprisingly quiet film that doesn't offer much to pump through your sound system.

[review_supplements_stars] => 1 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 4695 [review_supplements] =>

This HD DVD edition of 'Carlito's Way: Rise to Power' includes the same meager collection of supplements that appeared on the standard definition DVD. I know it's a straight-to-video release, but a commentary or a more thorough making-of documentary would have gone a long way to fleshing out the purpose and the timing of the prequel.

  • Making-Of Documentary (SD, 12 minutes) -- This "documentary" is actually a basic featurette that packs in more footage from the film than genuine behind-the-scenes information. There are a few tidbits to be garnered from the interviews sprinkled throughout, but this is EPK promotional fluff through and through.
  • Bringing the Hood to Life (SD, 8 minutes) -- This quick hit is a lot better, as it trades in most of the self-promotion to give the cast and crew a chance to discuss their thoughts on making a prequel to De Palma’s original. They also talk sets, locations, and the story itself.
  • Got Your Back: Carlito's Brothers in Crime (SD, 6 minutes) -- Another improvement here. This all-too-short featurette gives the actors further opportunities to talk about casting, the shoot, and the on-set atmosphere.
  • Deleted Scenes (SD, 7 minutes) -- While these generic scenes would have added very little to the film, I'm surprised to see a 94 minute film excise anything... especially considering the scope of the original 'Carlito's Way.' Still, if you happen to dig the film, these are more of the same.
  • Set Tour with Earl (SD, 5 minutes) -- A set tour with actor Mario Van Peebles. Pretty boring stuff all things considered, but worth a quick look if you've hit everything else on the disc.
  • Gag Reel (SD, 6 minutes) – It’s hard to imagine a gag reel for the original 'Carlito's Way.' Likewise, its inclusion here seems like a strange addition for such a heavy film. At least the cast obviously had a good time on set.
  • Trailer (SD , 2 minutes)
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content] =>

Only Universal's now-standard custom bookmarking function, allowing you to save your favorite chapters for playback even after you eject the disc.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 2.5 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 4696 [review_final_thoughts] =>

It's been a long time since I slapped a "Skip it" on a flick, but 'Carlito's Way: Rise to Power' fits the very definition of a cash-in project. To make matters worse, this HD DVD is hindered by an average transfer, an underwhelming TrueHD track, and a collection of weak supplements. Unless you’re desperate for a rental or unable to suppress your morbid curiosity, this one is best avoided.

) ) [4] => Array ( [review_id] => 378 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => eyeswideshut [review_release_date] => 1193122800 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Eyes Wide Shut [picture_created] => 1190741017 [picture_name] => eyes-wide-shut.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/09/25/120/eyes-wide-shut.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/378/eyeswideshut.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1999 [run_time] => 159 [list_price] => 28.99 [asin] => B000I2J0VK [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1356977 [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 (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 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) [4] => Japanese Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (640kbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Documentary [1] => Featurette [2] => Interviews [3] => Theatrical Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => English Subtitles [2] => French Subtitles [3] => Latin-Spanish Subtitles [4] => Japanese Subtitles [5] => Portuguese Subtitles [6] => Chinese Subtitles [7] => Korean Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Drama [1] => Erotic ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Tom Cruise [1] => Nicole Kidman [2] => Sydney Pollack ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Stanley Kubrick ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Stanley Kubrick's daring last film is many things. It is a compelling psychosexual journey. A haunting dreamscape. A riveting tale of suspense. A major milestone in the careers of stars Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. And "a worthy final chapter to a great director's career" (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times). Cruise plays Dr. William Hartford, who plunges into an erotic foray that threatens his marriage - and may even ensnare him in a lurid murder mystery - after his wife's (Kidman) admission of sexual longings. As the story sweeps from doubt and fear to self-discovery and reconciliation, Kubrick orchestrates it with masterful flourishes. Graceful tracking shots, controlled pacing, rich colors, startling images: bravura traits that make Kubrick a filmmaker for the ages are here to keep everyone's eyes wide open. [preview_technology_specifications] => • Audio commentary by Sydney Pollack and historian Peter Loewenberg
• Channel 4 documentary: "The Last Movie: Stanley Kubrick and Eyes Wide Shut"
• Featurette: "Lost Kubrick: The Unfinished Films of Stanley Kubrick"
• Kubrick's 1998 DGA D.W. Griffith Award acceptance speech
• Interview gallery featuring Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman and Steven Spielberg
• Theatrical trailer
• TV spots [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [review_editors_notes] => Non-format-specific portions of this review also appear in our Blu-ray review of 'Eyes Wide Shut.' [review_bottom_line] => Worth a Look [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 22582 [review_movie_stars] => 3 [review_movie] =>

By 1996, Stanley Kubrick had been called many things throughout his legendary forty-plus career in film, but "sexy" wasn't one of them. So when it was announced that he would adapt the erotic novella "Traumnovelle" by Arthur Schnitzler for his next film project (and that it would star Hollywood's then-hottest couple, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman), more than a few eyebrows were raised. How would the sensibilities of Kubrick, cinema's most notorious control freak, mesh with the dream-like, naturalistic tone of Schnitzler's novella, the pages of which which oozed with sexual impulse and unbridled, erotic passion?

If the subsequent critical and commercial reaction to 'Eyes Wide Shut' is anything to go by, the answer is not very well. Despite an almost unheard-of level of advance buzz, audiences were cool, and critics surprisingly dismissive of what was supposed to be Kubrick's final masterpiece (the director passed away shortly before its release). In fact, 'Eyes Wide Shut' wasn't just poorly received, it was eviscerated.

Luckily for me, diminished expectations can be a godsend. I didn't see 'Eyes Wide Shut' until it first hit DVD, and by that point I had been bombarded by so many negative reactions that I expected a disaster of epic proportions. Instead, I was rather pleasantly surprised. Is 'Eyes Wide Shut' flawed? Certainly. But it is it a train wreck devoid of any and all merit? Hardly.

Running 159 minutes, 'Eyes Wide Shut' is certainly the most epic piece of erotica ever committed to mainstream celluloid. It may also be the most menacing. Consistent with his approach to other literary adaptations, Kubrick took great liberties with Schnitzler's original story, extracting the simple kernel of the idea and largely dispensing with the particulars. In this case, those particulars include all traces of sexiness, romance and warmth. Instead, Kubrick's convoluted yet intimate narrative transforms the life-affirming sexual odyssey of the book's Dr. William Harford (Cruise) into a descent into a netherworld of jealously, infidelity and betrayal. Never has passion seemed so dangerous.

The opening scenes of 'Eyes Wide Shut' are the best, and are quite tantalizing. William and his wife Alice (Kidman) are nearing their tenth year of marriage, and enjoying a life of privilege on New York's upper west side. They would seem to have it all -- wealth, influence, powerful friends and a beautiful 7 year-old daughter. But as Kubrick will so slyly reveal in the opening subtle passages of the film as the couple goes about their daily bits of business in preparation for a fancy cocktail party, there are cracks in the veneer. By the time the night is through, Alice will admit to once having the mere fleeting thought of infidelity, a casual little admission that is more than enough to send William spiraling into obsession.

Had Kubrick made 'Eyes Wide Shut's opening act the entire film, it might have been brilliant. Instead, he dispenses with the Kidman character for most of the rest of the film, and the long, agonizing slog that follows is a largely unsuccessful, phony treatise on male anxiety. As Cruise roams the late-night New York streets (actually a soundstage in merry old England, and the substitution is distracting), he mingles with all manner of temptations, some amusing (including a run-in with a young prostitute) and some deadly serious. It all culminates in the movie's now-infamous "orgy" scene, where Cruise is invited to a gothic old mansion to experience something out of a big-budget episode of "Red Shoe Diaries."

Depending on your point of view, it is here that Kubrick either dares to push boundaries like never before in a mainstream American film, or goes completely off the rails. It's not that the material is all that graphic (though it is explicit, particularly in its unrated form as presented on this HD DVD), it is that it so over-the-top theatrical that it teeters precariously on the edge of camp. By the time Cruise is wandering around the silent corridors of the mansion, wearing what looks like a clown mask, it's hard not to stifle a few giggles. If Kubrick meant for this material to titillate, it fails miserably.

Thankfully, when Kidman returns on the scene, the film regains its footing. Kubrick finally brings the themes he so carefully set up in the first act to fruition, as the questions Alice dares to ask of William will strike at the very core of our Western notions of marriage. To the credit of Kubrick (a lifelong, dedicated monogamist) he may have failed at depicting erotic passion with any degree of authenticity, but he certainly would seem to have walked in the shoes of his fictional Dr. William Harford. It is in these concluding scenes that the true value of 'Eyes Wide Shut' lies; whatever its missteps, at least it is brave enough to ask truly provocative, complex questions.

Having said all that, most will probably never warm to 'Eyes Wide Shut.' As is so often the case with Kubrick, the director seems so hell-bent on not catering to expectations that his film lacks any and all mainstream appeal. Of course, this is what earned the director the label of iconoclastic auteur -- in an industry that's often obsessed with the bottom line, Kubrick refused to shape his film to be mere "products." Although 'Eyes Wide Shut' may not succeed anywhere near the level of the director's most revered classics, like all of his work, its vision is uncompromising.

(Note: The back packaging of both the HD DVD and Blu-ray versions of 'Eyes Wide Shut' appears to contain one major gaffe. The box claims that the film's R-rated and Unrated versions are both included on the disc, each selectable before the film begins. However, so far as I've been able to determine, there's no such option anywhere on the disc. Instead, this release seems to contain only the Unrated version of the film. Given the outcry that greeted the censored R-rated version upon the film's theatrical release in the US, here's guessing few will complain about its apparent absence here.)

[review_video_stars] => 3 [review_video_picture_id] => 4122 [review_video] =>

Of the five films that Warner is issuing on high-def as part of its Kubrick collection (which also includes '2001: A Space Odyssey,' 'A Clockwork Orange,' 'Full Metal Jacket' and 'The Shining'), 'Eyes Wide Shut' may be the most recent, but ironically it's also probably the one that benefits the least from the upgrade to high-def. A bit of the odd-man-out visually among Kubrick's other works, 'Eyes Wide Shut' is bold in its use of obvious fake sets, oversaturated colors and high-key, diffused lighting, creating an effect that is highly theatrical, and one that just doesn't translate all that well to video.

Presented for the first time in 1.78:1 widescreen in the US, this 1080p/VC-1 encode (identical on both the HD DVD and Blu-ray) looks only marginally better than standard-def. Black levels fluctuate, ranging from wonderfully deep and dark to sometimes washed-out, which flattens the image considerably. Colors are intense, often blurring out and suffering from excessive noise. Given the fact that almost the entire movie looks like it was lit through giant sheets of gauze, it's easy to forget that 'Eyes Wide Shut' was shot in 1999, and not 1979. The image is never sharp and rarely packs any sense of depth. At least there are no obvious compression artifacts, though with the consistently heavy level of grain and noise, that's not a huge plus.

To be fair, given the film's stylistic intentions, this is far from a bad transfer of 'Eyes Wide Shut.' But compared to the more revelatory remasters in the Kubrick collection, particularly 'The Shining' and the absolutely stunning '2001,' the picture quality on 'Eyes Wide Shut' is likely to disappoint.

[review_audio_stars] => 3 [review_audio_picture_id] => 4123 [review_audio] =>

Warner has granted each of the films in its new Kubrock collection with high-res audio, and this HD DVD edition of 'Eyes Wide Shut' is no exception, sporting a new Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround mix at 48kHz/24-bit (the Blu-ray features a comparable PCM 5.1 track). Unfortunately, the film's sound design is so bland that if it didn't say PCM on the back of the box, I never would have believed it.

The late Kubrick was famous for his disinterest in surround presentations of his films, and as such, 'Eyes Wide Shut' may as well be mono. I counted nary a single discrete effect through the whole film, and only a meager amount of atmosphere and score bleed. There is no sense of envelopment at all, which is a particular shame because a bit of sonic excitement could have added whole new layer of effectiveness to what's essentially erotic thriller.

The quality of the recording is better, but also far from noteworthy. There's little real sense of dynamics to the mix, with the subwoofer often left with little to do, and a thin, reedy sound to the upper ranges. Even Kubrick's use of classical compositions and a few modern songs (most notably Chris Isaak's "Baby's Done a Bad, Bad Thing") are rendered with little life. Dialogue is generally intelligible, but it's somewhat recessed in the mix, which I found required a bit of volume adjustment. At least there are no source problems, such as hiss or distortion.

[review_supplements_stars] => 3 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 4124 [review_supplements] =>

As 'Eyes Wide Shut' was Stanley Kubrick's last film, it's not entirely surprising that the film is rarely discussed on its own terms, but instead as an epitaph to Kubrick's larger, more highly-regarded body of work.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the 42-minute, three-part documentary "The Last Movie: Stanley Kubrick and Eyes Wide Shut." Originally produced for the UK's Channel Four, the title is a bit of a misnomer, as it spends much more time giving us an overview of Kubrick's body of work and dissecting his "lost" 'A.I.' project (eventually filmed by Steven Spielberg) than it does looking at 'Eyes Wide Shut.' Although that may be a bit disappointing for fans hoping to get a truly in-depth examination of Kubrick's last movie, it doesn't make this doc any less fascinating.

What's groundbreaking about "The Last Movie" is that, for the first time, the Kubrick estate allowed cameras into their private sanctuary. The entire remaining Kubrick clan is interviewed, and we also get a glimpse at his private working space, including the famed cutting room where he edited the majority of his later pictures. Warner has clearly shared a good deal of the raw interview material across each of the supplemental packages on their new Kubrick re-issues, because the same impressive line-up of participants again appear in "The Last Movie," among them directors Spielberg, Sydney Pollack and John Boorman, Warner's ex-CEO Terry Semel, and countless other collaborators. Also included are archival interviews with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. The only things that hamper "The Last Movie" is a reliance on cutesy graphics and transitions, and somewhat haphazard pacing. Still, this one is a must-watch for any Kubrick fan.

Next up is the 20-minute featurette "Lost Kubrick: The Unfinished Films of Stanley Kubrick," which is narrated by 'Clockwork Orange' star Malcolm McDowell. This is an extension of "The Last Movie" that specifically chronicles a number of films Kubrick had planned or developed at one point, but then later abandoned. Though projects such as a Napoleon biopic and an unnamed, long-in-development film about the Holocaust may already be well-known by Kubrick fans, the details provided by his collaborators here (including all of the same participants seen in the "Last Movie" doc) will likely be fresh. Again, fascinating.

(As I first noted in my earlier review of 'The Shining,' this new content is presented in 16:9 widescreen but encoded at 480p/MPEG-2 video only. While the quality is above average, it's a surprise and a disappointment that fresh material like this wasn't presented in true high-definition.)

The remaining supplements will be familiar to those who owned the previous 'Eyes Wide Shut' DVD release. First up is a trio of 1999 interviews with Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman and Steven Spielberg, running about 28 minutes total. Though now dated, these are still worth checking out if you've never seen them, particularly for Kidman's comments, which are particularly emotional and poignant. As these were originally shot for 4:3 screens back in the day, the material is presented here in 480i/MPEG-2 video.

Rounding things out is a short D.W. Griffith Award Acceptance Speech that Kubrick gave right before his death, as well as two TV Spots and a Theatrical Trailer for Eyes Wide Shut.' All are presented in 480i/MPEG-2 video only.

[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] => 4125 [review_final_thoughts] =>

A flawed but still fascinating film, 'Eyes Wide Shut' generally isn't considered to be among Stanley Kubrick's finer efforts. You might say the same about the film's first-ever HD DVD release. Yes, it at last gives US audiences the chance to see the film in its unrated form, but the transfer is still a bit noisy, oversaturated and washed-out, and the TrueHD track is simply bland. On the bright side, at least a nice selection of fresh extras provide some welcome context. It's not likely that this HD DVD will inspire any sort of widespread reappraisal of 'Eyes Wide Shut,' but it's certainly the best treatment the film's seen on home video yet.

) ) [5] => Array ( [review_id] => 1032 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => fullmetaljacket_de [review_release_date] => 1193122800 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Full Metal Jacket: Deluxe Edition [picture_created] => 1192898036 [picture_name] => full-metal-jacket.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Video [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/10/20/120/full-metal-jacket.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1032/fullmetaljacket_de.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1987 [run_time] => 116 [list_price] => 28.99 [asin] => B000UJ48V8 [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1356935 [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 (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] => French Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (640kpbs) [3] => Spanish Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (640kbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentary [1] => Featurette [2] => Theatrical Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles [2] => Spanish Subtitles ) [preview_editors_notes] => Although Warner originally released 'Full Metal Jacket' on HD DVD in May of 2006, the studio has announced that it plans to discontinue that earlier HD DVD edition, and instead release this new 'Full Metal Jacket: Deluxe Edition' on October 23, 2007. To read our full review of Warner's original HD DVD release of this title, click here. [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Drama [1] => War ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Matthew Modine ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Stanley Kubrick ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => The story of an 18-year-old marine recruit named Private Joker - from his carnage-and-machismo boot camp to his climactic involvement in the heavy fighting in Hue during the 1968 Tet Offensive. [preview_technology_specifications] => • Audio commentary by Adam Baldwin, Vincent D'Onofrio, R. Lee Ermey and Jay Cocks
• Featurette: "Full Metal Jacket: Between Good and Evil"
• Theatrical trailer. [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 13490 [review_editors_notes] => Non-format-specific portions of this review also appear in our Blu-ray review of 'Full Metal Jacket: Deluxe Edition.'

[review_bottom_line] => Worth a Look [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 23486 [review_introduction] =>

In June of 2006, Warner first released 'Full Metal Jacket' on HD DVD. A bare bones release, the disc was poorly received by reviewers and fans alike for its weak video transfer. A year later, Warner announced that it would release the film on HD DVD once again in a new 'Deluxe Edition,' as part of a new collection of five Kubrick classics. Remastered with new picture, sound, and a raft of bonus features, has Warner finally hit the high-def bull's-eye with this new version of 'Full Metal Jacket?' Read on...

[review_movie_stars] => 3 [review_movie] =>

I've said before that there seem to be two different kinds of war movies -- those that rub our noses in the grisly reality of combat ('Saving Private Ryan,' 'Platoon'), and those that examine everything else around it, whether it be soldiers suffering the dehumanizing effects of boot camp or the cost of war on those back home ('Tigerland,' 'Gardens of Stone'). Leave it to master director Stanley Kubrick to again flout convention and fuse the two together in his 1987 Vietnam war movie, 'Full Metal Jacket.' Essentially a two-act play, Kubrick's would-be epic is often as frustrating in its incongruity as it is fascinating in its complexity.

In the film's first act, we meet Gomer (Vincent D'Onofrio), who may just be the most lovable slob of a grunt in movie history. Of course, being a Kubrick film, boot camp won't go so well for poor Gomer. Relentlessly tormented by his fellow soldiers and his "leatherlung" drill instructor (R. Lee Ermey, in a performance that became an instant classic), Gomer is always one step away from mental and physical collapse. I won't spoil the first act climax, but Gomer's Jack Torrance-esque disintegration will be internalized by Joker (Matthew Modine) who, as Act Two begins, is plunged into the heart and hell of war. Assigned to the front lines of battle as a combat journalist, Joker will at first attempt to remove himself from the mass atrocities he witnesses through the safety of his pen, but ultimately the realities prove too ugly to ignore, making his own descent into violence seemingly unavoidable.

I know I am not the first viewer to say as much, but 'Full Metal Jacket' leaves me split right down the middle. Given the film's structure, it's almost impossible not to take sides, and I personally found myself far more drawn in by the first half. The plight of D'Onofrio's poor Gomer is often mesmerizing, and is perfectly suited to Kubrick's sterile visual style. Kubrick has never been a particularly warm filmmaker, but here he seems to find a perfect thematic foil -- the military's systemic and unforgiving process of dehumanization. Kubrick's methodical pace and completely unsentimental worldview rips Gomer apart, and is an apt microcosm for brutal toll war takes on the human soul. Combined with director of photography Douglas Milsome's sterile visuals and a droning, unsettling score by Vivian Kubrick, the first half of 'Jacket' is its own mini-masterpiece.

By comparison, Act Two feels a bit more generic. Part of the problem is that Joker (though played earnestly by Modine) is simply less riveting a protagonist than Gomer. And thematically, Kubrick seems to simply be restating the same themes he so breathtakingly depicted in Act One, except in this case he's refashioned them out of war movie cliches (the grunts, the sniper, the injured screaming and dying all around). I've also never felt that Kubrick quite got a lock on how to stage the action, especially the film's climax, which is too much of an exercise in existentialism to be really gripping as a visceral experience.

Make no mistake, I still think 'Full Metal Jacket' is well worth seeing. The second half may not measure up the powerful first 45 minutes, but arguably the film's contrasts and jarring inconsistencies are what make it so intriguing almost twenty years later. 'Full Metal Jacket' may be a flawed film, but it remains one of the most challenging, unconventional war movies ever made.

[review_video_stars] => 3.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 153 [review_video] =>

First released on HD DVD back in June 2006, 'Full Metal Jacket' has become almost legendary as one of the worst high-def catalog releases to hit either format. I was not at all fond of the video transfer on that release, and gave it quite harsh marks in my original HD DVD review. The source was poor, colors were off, and the image so soft it hardly looked like high-def at all. Thankfully, Warner seems to have taken the criticism to heart, and hasn't skimped on this new 'Deluxe Edition,' offering up a newly remastered transfer that's a clear and welcome improvement over the previous version.

I've never been a huge fan of the look of 'Full Metal Jacket' in general, so no matter how nice of an upgrade this new 1.85:1 widescreen 1080p/VC-1 encode may be (identical to the concurrently-released Blu-ray, by the way), I suppose I would be somewhat predisposed against it. That said, the film's naturalistic style of photography comes across much better here than on the previous HD DVD. Blacks are a bit richer, and contrast a bit bolder, which helps depth. While still not pristine, the print has been cleaned up a bit, reducing dirt and blemishes. Happily, visible detail is also heightened, with close-ups in particular revealing a good deal of texture, while wide shots are a bit sharper.

Most improved is color reproduction. I hated fleshtones on the earlier releases, which were so skewed towards red that everyone looked pig-faced. This new transfer is much more natural, if still not absolutely spot-on. Hues are a tad cleaner, and a bit more robust (most noticeably the deep blues of the infamous bathroom scene between Vincent D'Onofrio and R. Lee Ermey). Finally, compression artifacts are no longer issue, with the annoying banding of the previous release gone, and no other defects visible.

Does 'Full Metal Jacket' look like a million bucks? No, not even this second time around. This is still a twenty year-old catalog title that doesn't have an amazingly clean source. But this new transfer is a clear improvement, finally making 'Full Metal Jacket' a title you don't have to be embarrassed to have in your high-def collection.

[review_audio_stars] => 3 [review_audio_picture_id] => 160 [review_audio] =>

Last time 'Full Metal Jacket' hit HD DVD, all Warner could muster up was a meager Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 track (at 640kbps). Though that same track is included on this disc as well, Warner has also added an uncompressed Dolby TrueHD surround option (48k/16-bit/4.6mbps, comparable to the PCM 5.1 track on the Blu-ray). Unfortunately, while I'll always give props to a studio for supporting high-res audio, it's clear that the source is the same, and this track is obviously limited by the source material.

The mix is almost entirely front-heavy, especially the first half. The technology limitations of the time come through in the lack of heft to the frequency range. Highs and lows just aren't there to any discernible degree, with that flat, dull sound typical of soundtracks of the era. The songs included on the soundtrack are also weakly rendered, barely sounding like they have been remixed for stereo.

As before, the only time the mix comes alive at all is during the battle scenes during the film's second half, where there are occasional instances of effective surround use, and some interesting atmospheric trickery with Vivian Kubrick's atonal score. Still, even in uncompressed form, 'Full Metal Jacket' feels dated -- movement of sounds from channel to channel is pretty obvious, and I never felt truly engulfed in the action. Dialogue is also weakly rendered, and I was frequently frustrated that even at decent volume levels I had trouble understanding characters' speech. Although Warner still deserves some kudos for adding a TrueHD track, in all honestly it doesn't help much.

[review_supplements_stars] => 2 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 161 [review_supplements] =>

Of the five titles Warner has included in its new wave of Kubrick high-def releases (a list that also includes '2001: A Space Odyssey,' 'A Clockwork Orange,' 'Eyes Wide Shut' and 'The Shining'), 'Full Metal Jacket' has received the least attention in terms of supplements. This isn't a bad package per se, but it's not all that extensive, either.

First up is a screen-specific audio commentary that reunites cast members Adam Baldwin, Vincent D'Onofrio and R. Lee Ermey, plus historian and writer Jay Cocks. I was particularly looking forward to listening to this one, as the on-set animosity between D'Onofrio and Kubrick is said to be legendary. Alas, this is not a dirt-dishing track, although there are a few moments when a suddenly disquieted D'Onofrio recalls a shoot that was clearly quite physically demanding (due in part to the actor's intense weight gain for the role). Ermey is, as always, an irascible often hilarious presence, and alongside Baldwin clearly has an unusual level of respect and affection for Kubrick. Unfortunately, both Ermey and D'Onofrio disappear about halfway through, and so does much of the energy of this track. Baldwin's character is just not integral enough to the story to be of much interest, and Cocks' insights are all second-hand. Not unlike the film itself, this track has a split personality.

The only other major feature is the newly-produced featurette "Full Metal Jacket: Between Good and Evil." Running 31 minutes, this one features the above participants, plus Matthew Modine (sorely missed on the commentary) and authors John Baxter ("Stanley Kubrick: A Biography") and David Hughes ("The Complete Kubrick"). Though not all that substantial in terms of length, I preferred this featurette to the commentary. It better encapsulates the basic gist of the film's conception, casting and shoot, as well as it's place in the Kubrick canon.

Rounding things out is the film's Theatrical Trailer, which, like the "Between Good and Evil" featurette above, is presented in 4:3 full screen 480i/MPEG-2 video only.

[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] =>

Following a dismal initial HD DVD outing for 'Full Metal Jacket' back in 2006, the video transfer on this 'Deluxe Edition' is an appreciable improvement. Likewise, the included TrueHD track is probably as good it's going to get, and we even get a couple of worthwhile supplements, a first for 'Full Metal Jacket' on any format. Alas, even in upgraded form, I still can't give this one an unqualified rave, but it is a perfectly respectable effort that's no longer a rotten apple in Warner's high-def library.

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• Featurettes: "THe Making of 'Inside Man,'" "Number 4"
• Deleted Scenes [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 13641 [review_bottom_line] => Recommended [review_gear] =>
Review Components:
- 52" Sony Bravia XBR3 1080p Flat-Panel LCD
- Toshiba HD-XA2 HD DVD Player
- Yamaha 7.1 (840w) with Klipsch Synergy series 7.1 speakers
- HDMI and optical audio connections

Puzzled by the technical jargon in our reviews, or wondering how we assess and rate HD DVD and Blu-ray discs? Learn about our review methodology.

[review_forum_id] => 22181 [review_movie_stars] => 4.5 [review_movie] =>

Known primarily for his work directing flicks that tackle controversial social issues, it’s always a surprise when Spike Lee’s name is attached to more traditional material. But while ‘Inside Man’ may not focus on the same sort of hot-button issues as a ‘Do the Right Thing’ or a ‘Malcolm X,’ the director’s imprint remains clearly evident in this cops-n-robbers genre flick.

The film itself tells the story of three opposing forces: brilliant thief Dalton Russell (Clive Owen), stubborn detective Keith Frazier (Denzel Washington), and headstrong power broker Madeleine White (Jodie Foster). When Russell makes the employees and customers of a New York City bank his hostages during a robbery, Frazier and his partner (Chiwetel Ejiofor) arrive on the scene to bring the thief down. The volatile situation is made even more complicated when White arrives with instructions from the wealthy owner of a safety deposit box (Christopher Plummer) and a hidden agenda of her own. Before the chips have fallen in this non-linear action-drama, loyalties will be questioned, discoveries will be made, and Russell may just pull off the perfect crime.

’Inside Man’ may rely on a typical genre setup, but the end result is far from predictable or ordinary. Indeed, even from the film’s opening scenes, it’s clear that Lee has grand plans for what might otherwise have been a typical heist film, infusing his characters with complexity, enhancing the dialogue with an usually authentic rhythm, and adding a unique visual twist to the film's aesthetic. The director's confident voice and vision permeates every frame, and I never felt as if the story was in the hands of anyone but a master craftsman.

The performances are equally exceptional. Washington brings his usual commanding presence to the screen and seems to obviously be enjoying the chance to work on another "Spike Lee Joint." Playing off Washington's headstrong detective can’t be easy, but impressively, Ejiofor manages to upstage his leading man on more than one occasion. His portrayal is measured yet explosive, with the actor delivering what is arguably the most convincing performance in the film. Foster and Plummer also turn in suitably juicy performances, but it’s Owen who seems to having the most fun. His character is violent and unforgiving, yet he injects him with a likeability that leaves the audience rooting for him to get away with it all. Last but not least, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Willem Dafoe’s supporting role as a police captain. Although his part in the film is small, Dafoe’s commitment to his role is yet another strong performance from a truly extraordinary cast.

Without giving away any of the film’s secrets, a flick like ‘Inside Man’ wouldn't work without a proper ending, and here too Lee delivers the goods. A puzzle that only comes together at the film’s conclusion, it is both surprising and wholly satisfying, demonstrating an impressive cohesiveness and an impeccable attention to detail that may make the film even better on its second viewing.

Atypical for a heist film, ‘Inside Man’ pairs an intricate plot with strong character development for a one-two punch that’s not only engaging, but thought-provoking as well. Even if you’re not a Spike Lee fan, here’s betting you’ll enjoy this highly effective flick.

[review_video_stars] => 4.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 4052 [review_video] =>

'Inside Man' boasts a striking 1080p/VC-1 transfer that’s a substantial step up from the standard-def DVD. As usual, colors receive the most noticeable upgrade, with a strong palette and impeccable fleshtone saturation. Contrast is stark but comfortable, blacks are deep, and the image has a convincing level of depth. On the whole, detail is deftly rendered -- skin textures are naturalistic, brickwork and sidewalk cracks are crisp, and background elements inside the large police RVs (such as papers and coffee cups) are as clear as they were in the theater.

Grain density varies slightly from shot to shot, but I never found the fluctuations to be distracting. The source itself is also beautiful; I didn't catch any artifacting, noise, or edge enhancement. In fact, my only minor issue came as a byproduct of Lee's intentionally high contrast, which often leads to crushing and hot whites. While it clearly matches the film’s aesthetic, it does drown out visibility and details in the shadows.

Small complaints aside, 'Inside Man' remains a visual winner from Universal. Fans and newcomers alike are likely to be wowed by this disc’s overall picture quality.

[review_audio_stars] => 4.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 4053 [review_audio] =>

The hits just keep oncoming. 'Inside Man' features a robust Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround mix (48 kHz/16-Bit/2.3 Mbps) that dwarfs recent audio offerings from other high-def dramas. Although the film itself is primarily conversation-driven, the environments are packed with realistic acoustics, impressive ambiance, and active surrounds. Just listen to any scene that takes place in the streets of the city. Hear the cars in the distance? The rambling officers in the background? The quiet footfalls of people rushing by? This isn't sound design -- it's sound illusion.

Pans are swift and directionality is spot on. When gunshots or action scenes pop up, solid dynamics follow suit, generating earthy bass rumbles and sharp treble tones. My only complaint is that the music score can overwhelm the mix at times; dialogue in the film is prioritized until the music swells and sometimes muffles conversations. Even so, this powerful and meticulously produced TrueHD track will impress even the most-hardened audiophiles.

[review_supplements_stars] => 2 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 4054 [review_supplements] =>

This HD DVD edition of 'Inside Man' carries over all of the supplemental content from its standard DVD counterpart, and although it’s a somewhat slim package, it least what we do get is worth watching.

First up is an intriguing commentary track with Spike Lee that gives the outspoken director over two hours to weigh in on everything from the American moviegoer to studio system politics. Oh yeah -- he also manages to throw in his extensive thoughts on the film itself. While some may find his tangents a bit frustrating, there's an engaging logic to his comments, and he never comes across as unfocused. He does fall silent a bit too often for my tastes (especially when the third act rolls around), but overall this is a fine track that's worth your time.

Next comes a decent collection of "Deleted Scenes" (20 minutes), which add some nice character beats, as well as a few alternate takes (specifically of the post-robbery interviews) that will be of interest to fans.

Rounding out the package are two featurettes: a promotional segment titled "The Making of ‘Inside Man’" (10 minutes), and an engaging interview called "Number 4" (10 minutes). While the first is pure studio fluff, the second is a great chat between Spike Lee and Denzel Washington. Sure, the two are good friends who pat each other on the backs freely, but they also discuss the four films on which they've worked together. I really dug the candid tone of the conversation and found myself wishing that this featurette had been longer.

(Note that all of the video features list above are presented in 480i/p video only.)

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

There’s no exclusive content, but this disc does include Universal's My Scenes feature, which allows you to bookmark your favorite scenes for instant access even after you eject the disc from the player.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 4 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 4055 [review_final_thoughts] =>

This HD DVD edition of ’Inside Man’ pulls off a rare high-def trifecta, pairing a strong film with an excellent video transfer, and a superb TrueHD audio track. Although a somewhat slim supplements package (an exact match with the standard-def DVD) is a slight drag on the overall grade, don’t let that stop you from picking this disc up. This one’s an easy recommend for fans and newcomers alike.

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• Hula Segment
• 12 page booklet of background info, concert introduction, credits and concert pics [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 19140 [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 ) ) [8] => Array ( [review_id] => 1144 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => motorhead_stagefright [review_release_date] => 1193122800 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Motorhead: Stage Fright [picture_created] => 1190254849 [picture_name] => motorhead-stage-fright-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => SPV Records [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/09/19/120/motorhead-stage-fright-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1144/motorhead_stagefright.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2006 [run_time] => 0 [list_price] => 29.98 [asin] => B000TM048C [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1369245 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.78:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => Picture-in-Picture Commentary [1] => Custom Setlist [2] => Snapshot Feature [3] => Web-Enabled Content ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/TBA [1] => 480p/i/TBA (Supplements Only) ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc [2] => Web-Enabled ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 Surround ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentary [1] => Featurette [2] => Interviews [3] => Still Gallery [4] => Discography ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => None ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Music ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Upon the occasion of Motorhead's 30th anniversary, this release stands as a testament to the band's enduring power, charisma, and hard-rock chops. The record of a show held at Phillipshalle in Düsseldorf on December 7, 2004, the set list includes songs from throughout the band's long career, including "Overkill," "Iron Fist," and "Ace of Spades." Shot with 23 cameras orchestrated by Sven Offen, who has worked with such bands as Papa Roach, Heather Nova, Grönemeyer, and Die Toten Hosen, the lighting was done by Rammstein regular Gert Hof. STAGE FRIGHT is also chock-full of interviews with everyone from Motorhead members to their cook and roadies. Motorhead mastermind Lemmy Kilmister explains his longtime devotion to the band, and guitarist Phil Campbell and drummer Mikkey Dee provide insight into the group, and the rock & roll life in general. [preview_technology_specifications] => • Audio commentary with the band
• Band interviews
• Fan Testimonial featurette
• Slide show
• Discography [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => • Picture-in-picture video commentary with the band
• "On the fly" menus during playback
• Snapshot feature
• "Create setlist" feature
• Web-enabled content [preview_forum_id] => 18753 [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 ) ) [9] => Array ( [review_id] => 1038 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => seedofchucky [review_release_date] => 1193122800 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Seed of Chucky [picture_created] => 1187766434 [picture_name] => seed-of-chucky.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Universal Studios Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/08/22/120/seed-of-chucky.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1038/seedofchucky.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2004 [run_time] => 87 [list_price] => 29.98 [asin] => B000ULPFHM [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1359029 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.78:1 ) [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) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentaries [1] => Featurettes [2] => Trivia Track [3] => Deleted Scene [4] => Storyboard Comparisons ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Comedy [1] => Horror ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Jennifer Tilly [1] => Redmon [2] => John Waters [3] => Brad Dourif ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Don Mancini ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Everyone's favorite killer doll returns - as the Chucky legacy continues with the introduction of an all-new family member! This time around, Chucky (voiced again by Brad Dourif) and his homicidal honey, Tiffany, are brought back to life by their orphan offspring, Glen. Then, the outrageous action goes Hollywood, as Chucky and his bride take Tinseltown by storm, unleashing a wild new rampage of murderous mayhem! Featuring Academy Award nominee Jennifer Tilly (as herself and the voice of Tiffany) and hip-hop star Redman, it's all about family values, Chucky-style! [preview_technology_specifications] => • Audio Commentary with writer/director Don Mancini and puppet master Tony Gardner
• Subtitle Trivia Track: "Chucky's Insider Facts on Demand"
• Featurettes: "Conceiving 'Seed of Chucky,'" "Heeeere's Chucky," "Jennifer Tilly's Video Diary," "Fuzion up close with The Seed of Chucky Stars"
• Deleted Scene
• Family Hell-iday Slide Show [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 13629 [review_bottom_line] => Worth a Look [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 22774 [review_movie_stars] => 3 [review_movie] =>

Most franchise horror sequels are creative voids. They either simply remake the original film, or succumb to an ever-more-desperate series of gimmicks in hopes of wringing a few more bucks out of a stale premise. For that reason alone, I have to hand it to the Chucky films -- nearly twenty years since the original 'Child's Play' in 1988, they've managed to stay surprisingly fresh, witty and inventive. Never was that more the case than with 1998's 'Bride of Chucky' (the fourth film in the series), which brought the franchise completely into the realm of parody, yet was so stylishly satiric that even the genre's harshest critics were forced to begrudgingly admire its cleverness and audacity. 'Bride' was also a big hit at the box office, which of course almost guaranteed another follow-up.

Ironically, the only folks not laughing all the way to the bank after 'Bride of Chucky' was Universal itself. 1998 was a dismal year for the studio, so much so that even with 'Bride's fairly meager gross of $32 million (meager by blockbuster standards, anyway), it was their biggest hit of the season. The fact that a film called 'Bride of Chucky' had been the studio's biggest hit apparently caused Universal so much embarrassment, that -- as Chucky creators Don Mancini and Don Kirshner would loudly complain to the press -- Universal sat on a sequel to 'Bride' for years. That is, until finally in 2004, 'Seed of Chucky' was dropped on the doorsteps of theaters like a bastard stepchild.

Which, thank god, it is. The one good thing about the traditional indifference of the major studios to genre projects is that they usually leave their filmmakers alone. In this case it would seem to be the only explanation for how Kirshner and Mancini were able to spawn such a thoroughly demented, utterly twisted cinematic creation. While the first three 'Child's Play' flicks were straight-ahead horror yarns, and 'Bride' a send-up of classic Universal monster flicks like 'Bride of Frankenstein,' 'Seed' is a motion picture first -- a homage to the Douglas Sirk melodramas of the '50s, masquerading as a slasher-comedy. Throw in a huge heaping of self-referential in-jokes, a dash of post-modern irony, and one fearless performance by a returning Jennifer Tilly, and you have a largely unsuccessful yet utterly fascinating abortion of a movie.

'Seed of Chucky' is certainly the first movie to base its entire premise around doll sperm. Seems Chucky and Tiffany, after the events in 'Bride,' have given birth to their own little bouncing bundle of joy. But when their androgynous spawn doesn't seem to have either boy or girl doll parts, Chucky dubs him "Shitface," and tosses him off to a traveling carnival freakshow. Once the little tyke grows into an adolescent and begins questioning his gender, he/she renames himself/herself Glen/Glenda (just like the Ed Wood movie, get it?). The confusion continues when little Glen(da) escapes, hustles back to Hollywood, and discovers his parents on the set of their own hit slasher movie.

If this sounds complicated, writer-director Mancini tosses off all the exposition in a matter of minutes. His real goal in 'Seed of Chucky' seems to be sending up Hollywood self-importance, and ripping a page right out of 'Wes Craven's New Nightmare,' he has much of his cast playing themselves. Jennifer Tilly returns as... Jennifer Tilly, playing a washed-up B-movie actress stuck playing second fiddle to a puppet. There is also a turn by rapper Redmon playing... a rapper casting his latest opus, a horror flick to star Tilly. And Mancini even has the gumption to have schlock icon John Waters playing an unscrupulous tabloid reporter who will stop at nothing to catch his celebrity prey. (Okay, so it isn't an exactly case of art imitating life, but it's brilliant casting nonetheless.)

Somehow through all of this, Mancini manages to weave all his wildly disparate influences to create a linear, mostly comprehensible film. Tonally, however, 'Seed' does not flow nearly as effortlessly as 'Bride' did, in part because Mancini seems to overestimate the appeal of Glen/Glenda. The creepy looking doll is the real star of the show, not Chucky or Tiffany, both of whom are forced to take back seat during much of the film's first half. It is only when Glen/Glenda's murderous genetic lineage begins to surface -- and Chucky's paternal impulses finally awaken -- that the film gets back on track. Unfortunately, by this point, the whole post-modern thing with Tilly and Redmon feels like a distraction, and the ending, though resolute, isn't particularly satisfying. Although I quite admired Mancini's ambition with this film, ultimately he piles on too many complexities and the whole thing collapses like a house of cards.

Still, despite its considerable flaws, 'Seed of Chucky' remains fun -- especially for film buffs. Mancini's pastiche may be wholly obvious, it's so far-ranging and obscure at times that it's a kick to try to spot the myriad of pop culture references. His clear love for his puppets is also endearing, and the combination of witty dialogue and expert mechanical effects transform Chucky, Tiffany and Glen/Glenda into surprisingly memorable, fully three-dimensional flesh-and-blood characters (sorry, couldn't resist). And while a little Jennifer Tilly goes a long way for most people, she is so game to parody herself (the level of humiliation Mancini gleefully puts her through would certainly make most other celebrities blanche) that it's hard not to admire her gutsiness. 'Seed of Chucky' is no match for 'Bride,' but in today's current horror climate of endless remakes and unimaginative sequels, at least it's a breath of fresh air.

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 4119 [review_video] =>

Odd for horror flick (even a satirical one), 'Seed of Chucky' bucks just about every visual convention of the genre and is lit like a '50s melodrama. Rather than being bathed in darkness, 'Seed of Chucky' is bright and bold, which may not offer much in the way of the heebie-jeebies, but does deliver a punchy high-def image.

Universal presents 'Seed of Chucky' in a matted 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio, and the studio's standard 1080p/VC-1 encode. I thought the previous standard-def DVD looked a bit muted and bland, but this HD DVD bumps up the colors nicely. They're more vibrant yet still solid, particularly in the more garish scenes (Santa with his throat slashed never looked so... red). The bright lighting also helps the illusion of depth, with detail generally excellent even in the shadows despite some heavy grain. Granted, all things are not perfect -- there's some softness evident, and Universal's tendency to over-enhance their transfers remains a bummer, with edge halos and some shimmering during pans visible. Still, all in all, this is a four-star presentation. Chucky is certainly ready for his close-up.

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

No, it doesn't make sense -- Universal routinely disses their big A-list titles like 'Knocked Up' and 'Evan Almighty' with no high-res audio, but a title like 'Seed of Chucky' gets a Dolby TrueHD track? Steve Carell should fire his agent (it's sad when you're upstaged by a puppet), but in the meantime, Chucky fans will just have to enjoy the fruits of Universal's bizarre decisions.

More a parody of a horror film than it is a horror itself, 'Seed of Chucky' allows the filmmakers to have a lot of fun with the usual sonic cliches of the genre. The film's intentions are made clear right up front during the gothic, 'Psycho'-inspired prologue. As the lightning crashes and the wind howls, the surrounds are nice and alive with discrete effects. Pino Donaggio's baroque score is also nicely bled throughout the soundfield, swelling up in the rears at the most appropriate moments. The non-action moments are a bit more subdued, but there's still a nice sense of spaciousness to the stereo effect throughout, making 'Seed of Chucky' feel more expansive than it actually is. Dialogue is handled nicely as well, and is balanced appropriately with the rest of the mix.

[review_supplements_stars] => 3 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 4120 [review_supplements] =>

'Seed of Chucky' comes to HD DVD with the same extensive smorgasbord of extras that graced the previous DVD edition. In fact, there are more bonus features here than you're likely to find on the discs for most Oscar winners, which is either a testament to the iconic pop culture status of Chucky, or another sign of the downfall of our civilization. In any case, the cheeky and self-referential tone of the movie is carried over to the supplements, and it's a most entertaining package.

The tone is set by the first of two audio commentaries, with writer-director Don Mancini and star Jennifer Tilly. You know you're in for a ride when, only seconds in, Tilly comments that the film's opening credits "look like the inside of my vagina." She doesn't let up for the next 86 minutes, riffing on everything from an embarrassing on-set slip in a pool of blood to an off-screen spat with Brad Dourif that forced a complete rewrite of a monologue for Chucky. By comparison, the second commentary with Mancini and puppeteer Tony Gardener is a bit staid. As you would expect, the art of animatronic puppets is outlined in excruciating detail, although the moment where Mancini and Gardener discuss the scene where Chucky, um, perfects the art of self-pleasure is priceless.

Just as humorous is "Chucky's Insider Facts on Demand," a pop-up trivia track filled with production nuggets, casting tidbits and notations on the various homages and in-jokes scattered about the film. Simply put, this is one of the best tracks of its sort that I've ever seen.

Next up are a series of publicity vignettes, all of which are entirely tongue-in-cheek. "Heeeere's Chucky" (4 minutes) is a one-on-one interview with the Chuckster, who apparently thinks he's a big star. "Chucky Unsheathed" (2 minutes) confronts him with fake screen tests for all of the big roles he missed out on, including parts in 'American Pie' and 'Scarface' (Chucky as Tony Montana? Now that I would pay to see.)

"Family Hell-Iday Slideshow" (3 minutes) features Chucky, Tiffany and Glen/Glenda reminiscing over a slideshow of a recent family vacation, complete with many corpses. "FuZion" (6 minutes) features an interview with Tilly, Tiffany and Chucky during the film's press junket. Their insightful and probing chat is presented here in full, but it's not as funny as it may sound.

By far the best of this material is Tilly's appearance on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" to promote the film's release. The mock 2-minute "video diary" she presents is hysterical, documenting her stay in "luxurious" Romania, where she arrives by broken-down cargo plane. The actress details her experience on 'Seed of Chucky' in even greater detail in the entirely text-based "Jennifer Tilly's Diary." These extensive pages recall Mancini's arduous, six-year fight to get 'Seed' to screen, including extensive detail on who everyone was sleeping with on the set. Of course, the fact that most of this is likely completely fabricated only adds to the fun.

Rounding things out is some excised footage. There is a single Deleted Scene, the first part of a self-referential subplot involving Debbie Carrington (the little person who played the part of the Tiffany doll) and a plot by Tilly to kill her. Unfortunately, the bloody payoff to the storyline was never filmed. Finally, there are Storyboard-to-Screen Comparisons of five different sequences, totaling 13 minutes.

Alas, seeing as the trailers for the Chucky movies are often funnier than the flicks themselves, it's a shame that Universal hasn't included any of them on this disc.

(Note that all of the video-based supplementary material list above is presented in 480p/i/MPEG-2 video only.)

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 4121 [review_bonus_content] =>

There's exclusive content per se, but once again Universal has included its standard MyScenes bookmark function.

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

At last -- a Chucky film in 1080p! Although it's criminal that Universal decided to release 'Seed' before the superior 'Bride of Chucky,' at least they're getting the killer doll party started. This HD DVD is a strong overall package, with the video, audio and supplements each delivering plenty of bang for your high buck. Yes, I realize that a film about doll semen (even in high-def) is probably not everyone's cup of tea, but Chucky fans won't be disappointed with this release.

) ) [10] => Array ( [review_id] => 432 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => shining1980 [review_release_date] => 1193122800 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => The Shining (1980) [picture_created] => 1190193893 [picture_name] => shining.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Video [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/09/19/120/shining.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/432/shining1980.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1980 [run_time] => 144 [list_price] => 28.99 [asin] => B000I2J0W4 [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1356916 [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 (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] => French Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (640kbps) [3] => Latin-Spanish Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (640kbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentary [1] => Documentary [2] => Featurettes ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English Subtitles [1] => French Subtitles [2] => Latin-Spanish Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Horror ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Scatman Crothers [1] => Shelley Duvall [2] => Jack Nicholson ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Stanley Kubrick ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Think of the greatest terror imaginable. Is it a monstrous alien? A lethal epidemic? Or, as in this harrowing masterpiece from Stanley Kubrick, is it fear of murder by someone who should love and protect you - a member of your own family? From a script he co-adapted from the Stephen King novel, Kubrick melds vivid performances, menacing setting, dreamlike tracking shots and shock after shock into a milestone of the macabre. In a signature role, Jack Nicholson plays Jack Torrance, who's come to the elegant, isolated Overlook Hotel as off-season caretaker with his wife and son. Torrance has never been there before - or has he? The answer lies in a ghostly time warp of madness and murder. [preview_technology_specifications] => • Audio commentary by Garrett Brown and John Baxter
• Documentary: "The Making of the Shining" (with optional commentary by Vivian Kubrick)
• Featurettes: "View from the Overlook: Crafting the Shining," "The Visions of Stanley Kubrick," "Wendy Carlos, Composer"
• Theatrical trailer [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [review_editors_notes] => Non-format-specific portions of this review also appear in our Blu-ray review of 'The Shining (1980).' [review_bottom_line] => Recommended [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 22429 [review_movie_stars] => 4 [review_movie] =>

Although Stanley Kubrick's 'The Shining' is now considered a horror classic, back at the time of its original 1980 theatrical release, it was something of a bust. Arriving that June amidst an almost breathless level of anticipation, audiences and critics alike were ultimately underwhelmed, complaining about the film's slow pace, lack of traditional horror movie shocks, and an over-the-top, scene-chewing star turn by Jack Nicholson. Despite a strong opening weekend, box office quickly plummeted, and 'The Shining' soon became known as the "bummer of the summer."

Funny, then, that just as the ghostly apparitions of the film's fictional Overlook Hotel would play tricks on the mind of poor Jack Torrance, so too has the passage time changed the perception of 'The Shining' itself. Many of the same reviewers who lambasted the film for "not being scary" enough back in 1980 now rank it among the most effective horror films ever made, while audiences who hated the film back then now vividly recall being "terrified" by the experience. 'The Shining' has somehow risen from the ashes of its own bad press to redefine itself not only as a seminal work of the genre, but perhaps the most stately, artful horror ever made.

By now, most everyone knows the story. Based (very loosely) on the novel by Stephen King, over the course of a few snowbound weeks at the Overlook Hotel, aspiring novelist Torrance (Nicholson) will give new meaning to the phrase "dying for your art." Expecting to finish his "Great American Novel," Jack drags his long-suffering wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and young son Danny (Danny Lloyd) to spend a relaxing winter at the cavernous Overlook, but the hotel's previous guests have something else in mind. Haunted by escalating visions of the macabre, Jack's dark impulses will erupt, eventually spiraling into madness (and a fondness for axes). With the oblivious Wendy unable (or unwilling) to see Jack's emerging psychosis, it is only young Danny -- who possess a latent psychic ability, or a "shining" -- who will be able to open her eyes to the evil around them and rescue the family.

I love 'The Shining,' but many of the criticisms initially leveled at the film are valid. The pace is as slow as molasses, with Kubrick bucking the rhythms and shocks that traditionally make for an effective horror film. He stretches scenes out well beyond their breaking point (often deflating tension), and misses several golden opportunities for the kind of heart-in-the-mouth scares that a more commercially-minded filmmaker would have spoon-fed to his audience. One imagines that if Kubrick has directed 'Jaws,' right before the big moment where the shark jumps out at Roy Scheider on the boat, he would have cut to a ten-minute shot of the sun setting.

Ironically, it's precisely because Kubrick took such an unconventional approach to the traditional machinery of a horror film that 'The Shining' is able to cast such a unique, compelling spell. The film's 148-minute runtime feels twice as long, but because it's such a slow burn, by the time Kubrick springs his climactic succession of shocks on us, they pack that much more of a wallop. Given the none-too-subtle sexual undercurrents in all of his films, it's arguably fair to say that the last 30 minutes of 'The Shining' are orgasmic. Jack's unleashing of fury on his wife and child is so ferociously rendered that it's primal and oozing with palpable subtext. Nowhere is this more evident than when Kubrick slyly reveals his "money shot" in full -- the now-iconic image of a hallway filling with a tidal wave of blood -- a "release" that's so visceral it rises to the level of the operatic. As always, Kubrick is frustrating in his methodical, rigid pacing with 'The Shining,' but he still rightfully earns the title of master manipulator because, like Hitchcock, when he finally rewards our patience it's well worth the wait.

Despite a renewed appreciation over the years, not everyone loves 'The Shining.' Stephen King himself remains one of the film's most vocal detractors, routinely slagging off Kubrick's take as a near-desecration of the novel (King would even go so far as to produce his own version of 'The Shining' as a mini-series for television in 1997). Certainly, Kubrick has jettisoned most of the novel's most overt supernatural underpinnings, and his casting choices are also quite a departure from King's vision (particularly Duvall's Wendy, who is far removed from the blonde beauty of the book). Kubrick can also be so oblique in his use of visual metaphor that at times it renders the story nearly incomprehensible. Nowhere is this more evident that during the film's final ten minutes, as the scope of the hotel's past perversity is finally revealed to Wendy (and the audience) in images that have now become legendary in their unintentional hilarity. (If anyone out there knows just what the heck Wendy's vision of two guys dressed in bunny costumes going down on each other has to do with anything, please send me an email). As such, it's not surprising that so many fans of the novel shared King's outrage. Indeed, as a strict adaptation, Kubrick's 'The Shining' is undoubtedly a failure.

Still, 'The Shining' remains fascinating in spite of -- or perhaps precisely because of -- its "flaws." It's a grand, ornate and intelligent horror film -- one far less concerned about delivering the expected shocks and scares than it is in painting an intentionally obtuse portrait of the American family in the grips of madness. Yes, Kubrick is a cold filmmaker who often seems to delight in thwarting our expectations just for the thrill of it, and 'The Shining' is often off-putting. But it's also unmistakably menacing, provocative and filled with enough unforgettable images for ten other movies. The rare genre film that's truly challenging in its complexity, 'The Shining' is a journey that every horror fan simply must take at least once.

[review_video_stars] => 4.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 4101 [review_video] =>

The Shining' may not be the best of Stanley Kubrick's films, but it is my personal favorite, and I think I've owned every single version released on video (both the good and the god-awful). The best of the previous releases was Warner's remastered DVD from 2001, which at last saw the film's picture quality spruced up to something approaching its original glory. Unfortunately, that release was full frame only, and a widescreen 'Shining' that faithfully approximated the film's theatrical exhibition remained elusive.

Finally, Warner has delivered the goods, presenting 'The Shining' here in a matted 1.78:1 transfer that's slightly opened up versus the original 1.85:1 theatrical exhibition. Both the HD DVD and Blu-ray feature identical 1080p/VC-1 encodes, and they are both excellent. Although there is still the occasional blemish, this transfer is such a clear improvement over the old, dirty, speckled prints that it's hard to complain. 'The Shining' was always a rather soft film, with considerable use of diffuse lighting, but it's crisp here, offering a level of visible detail that's impressive for a film that's nearly thirty years old. Warner has also wisely not over-sharpened the source, so it remains natural and film-like.

Appropriate to the cold and oppressive mood Kubrick intended, the color palette here is muted, but most impressive to me about this new transfer is that, for the first time, the film's visual aesthetic finally comes to life, with subtle uses of select hues now seeming intentional rather than random. From the striking greens and purples of "Room 237," to the intense blue-white floodlights of the climactic hedge maze chase, to the crimson reds Kubrick selectively deploys with clothing, set design and (of course) blood, 'The Shining' at last looks vibrant instead of drab. To be sure, this is still a "'70s film" in feel, but the clarity and richness of hues (not to mention fleshtones that are finally accurate) make this transfer border on the revelatory.

[review_audio_stars] => 2.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 4105 [review_audio] =>

'The Shining' is the latest in a series of recent Warner catalog titles to be graced with high-res audio, boasting a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track (48kHz/16-bit) for the HD DVD, as well as a companion PCM mix for the Blu-ray. Unfortunately, even after doing some A/B comparisons, I felt that the source material was quite frankly a bit too dated to really benefit much from the boost.

As Warner has not included the film's original mono track as an option, purists will likely bemoan the 5.1 remix, as it has clearly been post-processed to achieve a surround-like effect. Unfortunately, truly discrete effects are non-existent. The fantastically eerie opening credits establishes the approach, with a limited bleed of Wendy Carlos' terrific score to the rears, and that's just about it. As the movie progresses, bleed is expanded to include very minor ambiance, but rarely is there any noticeable presence to the rears and atmosphere never delivers in the way the movie clearly cries out for.

Dynamics range from decent to anemic. Bass never extends deep enough, while high-end feels compressed and flat. Although there are no source issues or obvious harshness, the mix never feels particularly realistic or expansive. Dialogue is generally well produced, but at quieter volumes I had trouble hearing some of the characters, so if you can't turn up the level to a decent degree, you may find yourself flicking on the subtitles from time to time.

[review_supplements_stars] => 3 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 4103 [review_supplements] =>

Given the late Stanley Kubrick's disdain for DVD supplementary material (add him to the hater's club alongside Woody Allen), most of Warner's earlier Kubrick DVD releases haven't boasted much in the way of extras.

However, 'The Shining' was unique, in that Kubrick's daughter Vivian Kubrick, herself a documentary filmmaker, shot a 35-minute making-of special for the BBC at the time of the film's release. Included here, "The Making of 'The Shining'" is a somewhat haphazard but nonetheless fascinating time capsule. Obviously, the younger Kubrick had complete access to the set, which gives a you-are-there intimacy quite rare for even the best behind-the-scenes documentaries. We get the rare chance to see Kubrick at work, both behind the camera and staging a few of the film's most famous scenes. Most revealingly, we also see evidence of the famed on-set tension between Kubrick and Shelley Duvall, with the director at one point berating the harried actress in front of the whole crew for failing to open a door properly. Duvall seems to both delight in and resent Kubrick's perfectionism, and it's this kind of candidness that makes "The Making of 'The Shining'" a must-watch. (Note that as the doc was originally shot on 16mm film for television, it is presented here in 4:33 full screen 480p/MPEG-2 video only. Vivian Kubrick also provides optional audio commentary throughout the duration of the entire doc, and offers a few more revealing recollections about her father's work on the film.)

Rather than simply regurgitating what was on the previous DVD, Warner has also produced a new suite of three featurettes for this release, which is hitting standard-def DVD concurrently. Although I was bracing myself for a bunch of stodgy scholars rehashing the same tired old Kubrick theories, instead Warner has assembled a pretty impressive line-up of talent to discuss the film. Included are new interviews with screenwriter Diane Johnson, composer Wendy Carlos and Mr. Jack Nicholson himself, plus comments from a series of A-list directors, including Steven Spielberg, John Boorman, William Friedkin and frequent Kubrick collaborator Sydney Pollack. Finally, lest you think the featurettes would skimp on the scholarly, also present are authors John Baxter ("Stanley Kubrick: A Biography") and David Hughes ("The Complete Kubrick").

"View from the Overlook: Crafting 'The Shining'" is the longest at 26 minutes. It's a well-rounded overview of the project from conception through production to release. At just under a half hour, this one was a bit too short for my taste, glossing over major aspects of the film, but Nicholson and Johnson in particular impart some fascinating insight into Kubrick's approach to 'The Shining.'

"Wendy Carlos, Composer" runs 7 minutes, and is basically a sit-down chat with the legendary electronic composer. She talks specifically about her approach to the material, and affectionately recounts her warm relationship with Kubrick.

Finally, "The Visions of Stanley Kubrick" runs 15 minutes, but it's largely an overview of Kubrick's films, and not really specific to 'The Shining.' It also feels a bit like a digest version of the more substantial documentary found on the 'Eyes Wide Shut' Blu-ray, so if you're picking up all the Kubrick titles, you may find some redundancy.

(Note that all three featurettes are formatted in 16:9 widescreen but encoded at 480p/MPEG-2 video only. While the quality is above average, it's a surprise and a disappointment that fresh material like this wasn't presented in true high-definition.)

Warner has not stopped at just the featurettes, however. They've also included a real surprise: a full-length audio commentary featuring the film's original Steadicam operator Garrett Brown, and Baxter. I was a bit fearful that this one would be completely dry and boring. But for a film lasting 146 minutes, I was amazed that Brown and Baxter never run out of things to say. Brown is articulate and insightful about working with Kubrick day after day, and provides great detail on some of the film's best sequences -- particularly the climactic hedge maze, as well as the iconic "wall of blood" shot. Baxter is more illuminating on the narrative, though his take on Kubrick's intentions will certainly cause some debate. All in all, a fine commentary.

Rounding out the extras is the film's original Theatrical Trailer (more of a teaser, really), presented in 4:3 full screen and 480i/MPEG-2 video.

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

There are no HD DVD exclusives.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 3.5 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 4104 [review_final_thoughts] =>

Nearly thirty years later, 'The Shining' still casts a cold, creepy spell that's sure to send a shiver down the spine. Although I was underwhelmed by the remixed high-res audio, otherwise the film's long-anticipated high-def debut is first-rate. The transfer is the best I've ever seen the movie look, and the extras ain't too shabby, either. As a long-time fan of the film, this release lived up to my heightened expectations, so I can recommend it here without reservation.

) ) [11] => Array ( [review_id] => 1029 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => sopranoss6p2 [review_release_date] => 1193122800 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => The Sopranos: Season Six, Part Two [picture_created] => 1186120958 [picture_name] => sopranos-hd.gif [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Video [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/08/02/120/sopranos-hd.gif [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1029/sopranoss6p2.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2007 [run_time] => 540 [list_price] => 129.95 [asin] => B000ROCJEY [amazon_price] => 90.95 [empire_id] => 1359223 [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 [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Discs [2] => Four-Disc Set ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround [1] => Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentaries [1] => Featurettes ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English Subtitles [1] => Spanish Subtitles [2] => French Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Crime [1] => Drama [2] => Television ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Michael Imperioli [1] => Edie Falco [2] => James Gandolfini ) [preview_technology_specifications] => • Four Audio Commentaries with cast members Dominic Chainese, Robert Iler, Arthur Nascarella, Steven R. Schirripa and Stevie Van Zandt
• Featurettes: "The Music of 'The Sopranos,'" "Making 'Cleaver'" [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 13412 [review_editors_notes] => Non format-specific portions of this review also appear in our Blu-ray review of 'The Sopranos: Season Six, Part Two.' [review_bottom_line] => Give it a Rent [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 23734 [review_movie_stars] => 2.5 [review_movie] =>

Series finales have a long history of disappointing their viewers -- who can forget the controversy and debate that followed the bows of 'Quantum Leap,' 'Seinfeld,' and 'M*A*S*H'? This summer, 'The Sopranos' six-season run enraged fans when it ended with a bang -- not from a gun as most expected, but from the sudden silence of a blank screen.

As I discussed in my HD DVD review of 'The Sopranos: Season Six, Part One,' the first part of the final season concluded with a veritable calm before the storm. The Soprano clan had a brief moment of peace around a warm holiday dinner and things seemed as if they could turn out well for our loveable criminals from Jersey. Tony (James Gandolfini) had emerged from his coma, Christopher (Michael Imperioli) was working to fix his life, and Carmela (Edie Falco) was finally coming to terms with the consequences of her husband's actions.

As 'The Sopranos: Season Six, Part Two' begins, the family's glimpse of happiness shatters and leaves them reeling. AJ (Robert Iler) is slowly succumbing to depression, Meadow (Jamie Lynn Singer) begins to realize the danger of her father's lifestyle, and Uncle Junior (Dominic Chianese) is fading away in a nursing home. As if these personal dramas weren't enough, Tony has to deal with the war between the Soprano organization and the New York mafia, frustrations with his psychiatrist (Lorraine Bracco), and the disloyalty of key captains in his inner circle.

Let me begin by addressing the final episode, which has proven itself to be a love-it or hate-it affair that clearly disappointed many viewers. I have to admit to being furious about it myself at first, but upon further reflection I've come to believe that it was the perfect way to end the series.

That's not to say that I loved this half-season. In fact, overall I found it quite disappointing. Not only is it inconsistently paced, but plot threads aren't just left open, they're mostly ignored, with many of the storylines and character arcs left up in the air. I'm not naive; I know it would be impossible to tie up every loose end, but is it too much to ask for some sort of thematic resolution to the ideas weaved throughout the series? 'The Sopranos' spent six seasons posing intriguing questions about morality, family, and the things that separate men from monsters. In its final season, the series offers precious few answers, a handful of theories, and mostly just surface-level observations about the very questions it had raised for so many years.

But the thing that bothered me most was that the majority of deaths in these nine final episodes feel more like a chore for creator David Chase than they do shocking, logical beats in the overall story. Only one death managed to register with me as both brilliant and heartbreaking (an assassination in a certain hobby store). Another murder (when Tony chooses to dispatch a close friend with his own hands) should have hit me square in the chest, but it occurs so early on that it lacked any substantial emotional core.

And those are just two of the main characters. Chase spent six tireless seasons developing his actors and molding their individual arcs. So how does he send out fan favorite supporting characters? In the most clichéd ways imaginable. There are no surprises, no twists, and no unseen demises -- everything is obvious and inevitable. I could sense Chase placing the crosshairs on a character a half an hour before they died. Likewise, the mob war fizzles out without much oomph as most of the characters spend a large part of the "war" in hiding. I can't help but get the impression that Chase simply ran out of steam this season -- the final episodes feel like a mid-season collection rather than a methodically plotted climax for a series.

Having said all that, I should mention that many fans and critics alike feel differently, and thoroughly enjoyed it all. I think one possible source of my distaste may be that I watched Part One months before I got to Part Two. Whereas Part One felt like a complete season to me, Part Two failed to stand on its own. Perhaps if I'd watched all twenty episodes back to back for the first time, I would have felt a greater crescendo in the latter part of the story. As it stands, I didn't feel any proper build up to heavy-hitting moments -- they seemed to come too early and arrive with too little fanfare to impress. I'm definitely interested in hearing the opinions of viewers who are able to watch the two parts of this season for the first time as an uninterrupted whole.

To my eyes, 'The Sopranos: Season Six, Part Two' is a weak farewell for a groundbreaking criminal epic. Although I ultimately came to appreciate the series' controversial final scene, I just wasn't thrilled by the plotting and meandering character development that preceded the show's famous cut to black.

('The Sopranos: Season Six, Part Two' includes nine episodes -- "Soprano Home Movies," "Stage 5," "Remember When," "Chasing It," "Walk Like a Man," "Kennedy and Heidi," "The Second coming," "The Blue Comet," and "Made in America.")

[review_video_stars] => 4.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 4201 [review_video] =>

Warner continues to give 'The Sopranos' the royal treatment in high definition as the second half of season six arrives on HD DVD and Blu-ray with identical 1080p/VC-1 transfers that put other television presentations to shame. Color vibrancy and saturation receive the most noticeable boost over the HBO HD cablecast -- skintones are natural, black levels are heavy and contrast is comfortably stark. Fine detail is exquisite and crisp textures make the criminal underworld of New Jersey and New York feel appropriately earthy. Low-lit scenes (of which there are plenty) don't hinder the image, and shadow delineation reveals details that were lost during the show's original run on HBO.

Daytime shots on the streets or in Tony's backyard look phenomenal. As I wrote in my review of the first half of the season, the illusion of depth in long shots is particularly impressive -- words on distant billboards are crisp, clothing details on background extras are sharp and hordes of leaves are perfectly rendered. In one memorable scene set at the family pool, notice the tiny ripples in the water, the textured edges of the diving board, and the individual blades of grass around the concrete patio. It's simply flawless.

That's not to say that other aspects of these episodes are without minor problems. As was the case with the first half of the season, darker locales (including Tony's "Bada Bing" strip club) are occasionally haunted by hazy pixelation. I also caught slight instances of artifacting during random flashes of gunfire. Neither of these issues are a distraction, but more sensitive viewers will spot each problem once or twice per episode. That being said, this remains an excellent transfer that reaches technical heights other series have only imagined.

[review_audio_stars] => 4.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 4202 [review_audio] =>

The final episodes of 'The Sopranos' arrive on HD DVD with an impressive Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track that's indistinguishable from the equally formidable Blu-ray PCM mix. Dialogue is crisp, the soundfield is wonderfully prioritized, and the audio is faithful to the natural recording methods of its source. Music (especially the songs that appear at the end of each episode) once again opens up the soundfield with stability and intensity.

Boasting sound design that more closely resembles a film than it does a typical television show, I found myself caught off guard on more than one occasion by sudden dynamic bursts in the soundscape. Gunfire and blunt impacts resonate deep within the soundfield and add weight to the on screen drama. Bass booms are hearty, natural, and firmly rooted in the LFE channel, and I never encountered any effects or dialogue that sounded shallow or hollow. Likewise, interior acoustics, environmental effects and ambiance all help establish the authenticity of each scene.

My only minor complaint is that the rear channels aren't used as thoroughly as they were in previous seasons. While I'm guessing this has more to do with content of this half season than anything else, the result is fewer standout audio pieces in this release. That being said, this audio package remains technically superior to most other television shows released on either format and is sure to please fans of the series.

[review_supplements_stars] => 1.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 4203 [review_supplements] =>

This HD DVD edition ports over all of the supplements from the concurrently-released standard DVD set. Alas, those expecting a grand supplemental send off for the groundbreaking series will be disappointed. Though we do get a handful of treats, none explore the show's impact in any significant way.

  • Four Audio Commentaries -- Although series creator David Chase has contributed commentaries to previous 'Sopranos' DVD releases, he's curiously absent from this half season. Instead we get actor commentaries for four of the season's episodes: Steve Shirripa covers "Soprano Home Movies," Steven Van Zandt and Arthur Nascarella discuss "The Blue Comet," Dominic Chianese hits "Remember When," and Robert Iler comments on "The Second Coming." Promising in concept, unfortunately the majority of the participants here are dry and offer very little to the overall discussion of the series.


  • The Music of the Sopranos (17 minutes, SD) -- This all-too-brief featurette discusses an aspect of the series that could easily be the subject of a full-length documentary. The interviews and tidbits here are interesting enough to justify the runtime of the featurette, but the creative process behind the music selection could have been more thoroughly explored.


  • Making Cleaver (8 minutes, SD) -- This tongue-in-cheek short explores the behind-the-scenes filming of 'Cleaver,' the fictional movie Christopher creates over the course of the sixth season of 'The Sopranos.' The exaggerated nature of this featurette is fun and reveals a lighter side of the show's cast members.

[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] => 4204 [review_final_thoughts] =>

Though opinions differ on the concluding episodes of 'The Sopranos,' one thing's for sure -- if you haven't experienced earlier seasons of the groundbreaking series, this isn't the place to start.

As an HD DVD release, this one certainly delivers on the bottom line, boasting a gorgeous video transfer and a robust TrueHD audio mix. I personally found the slim supplements package to be a bit arbitrary, but more disappointing than that is the high cost of this release. At a suggested retail price of $129.95 for just eight episodes, it's hard not to feel that fans are being fleeced with this release.

) ) ) [reviews_hot] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 241 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => 2001aspaceodyssey [review_release_date] => 1193122800 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => 2001: A Space Odyssey [picture_created] => 1190142700 [picture_name] => 2001.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Video [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/09/18/120/2001.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/241/2001aspaceodyssey.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1968 [run_time] => 148 [list_price] => 28.99 [asin] => B000I0RR62 [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1356874 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.20:1 ) [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 Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround (48kHz/24-Bit/3.0MBps) [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] => Commentary Track [1] => Audio Interview [2] => Documentary [3] => Featurettes [4] => Theatrical Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English Subtitles [1] => French Subtitles [2] => Spanish Subtitles [3] => Chinese Subtitles [4] => Portuguese Subtitles [5] => Korean Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Science Fiction ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Keir Dullea ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Stanley Kubrick ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => 2001: A Space Odyssey is a countdown to tomorrow, a road map to human destiny, a quest for the infinite. It is dazzling, Academy Award®-winning visual achievement, a compelling drama of man vs. machine, a stunning meld of music and motion. It may be the masterwork of director Stanley Kubrick (who co-wrote the screenplay with Arthur C. Clarke)… and it will likely excite, inspire and enthrall for generations. [preview_technology_specifications] => • Audio commentary with stars Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood
• Audio-only interview with Kubrick
• Channel 4 Documentary: "2001: The Making of a Myth"
• Featurettes: "Standing on the Shoulders of Kubrick: The Legacy of 2001," "Vision of a Future Passed: The Prophecy of 2001," "2001: A Space Odyssey - A Look Behind the Future," "2001: FX and Early Conceptual Artwork," "Look: Stanley Kubrick!"
• Theatrical trailer [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [review_editors_notes] => Non-format-specific portions of this review also appear in our Blu-ray review of '2001: A Space Odyssey.' [review_bottom_line] => Highly Recommended [review_gear] => Review Components:
- 52" Sony Bravia XBR3 1080p Flat-Panel LCD
- Toshiba HD-XA2 HD DVD Player [via HDMI]
- Yamaha 7.1 (840w) with Klipsch Synergy series 7.1 speakers
- HDMI connections

Puzzled by the technical jargon in our reviews, or wondering how we assess and rate HD DVD and Blu-ray discs? Learn about our review methodology.

[review_forum_id] => 22746 [review_movie_stars] => 5 [review_movie] =>

I first experienced '2001: A Space Odyssey' during my senior year in high school. I was on a Kubrick-kick, and had invited a bunch of friends over to watch the sci-fi classic I'd heard so much about. Watching the film, there was a palpable sense of excitement in the room as each of us found ourselves completely taken by some of the most arresting visions that have ever been committed to film. By the time the credits rolled, each of us were almost dumbstruck with same feeling that we'd just seen something truly special.

Developed by writer Arthur C. Clarke and director Stanley Kubrick, '2001: A Space Odyssey' begins with an extended vignette about human evolution. A bestial group of pre-humans live their daily lives in fear until they stumble upon a black, rectangular monolith. After encountering this otherworldly device, one of the creatures inexplicably invents the first tool and uses it as a club to protect his tribe. The film suddenly leaps forward to the future where man inhabits space in ships and orbiting stations. On the surface of the moon, a dig uncovers a deliberately buried monolith that's identical to the one the man-apes found at the beginning of the film.

Two years later, two pilots -- Dave Bowman (Keir Dullea) and Frank Poole (Gary Lockwood) -- escort three scientists to Jupiter on the spaceship Discovery One. The ship is run by HAL 9000 (voiced by Douglas Rain), a supercomputer that represents the pinnacle in human-created artificial intelligence. Treated like any other crew member, HAL talks to the pilots and mimics human behavior and intelligence. Everything is seemingly routine until HAL stumbles upon information on the secret excavation on the moon. When Dave questions HAL's reliability, the computer stages a mutiny.

Like many Kubrick films, '2001: A Space Odyssey' is best approached as a cerebral endeavor rather than as outright entertainment, as Kubrick uses the trappings of the sci-fi genre to pose genuine questions of sentience, existence, and intelligence. Action fans won't find any gunfights or explosions here; instead, this is a deliberately paced adventure of the mind that requires patience, thought, and introspection. The director famously refused to explain his interpretation of the film, preferring that his audience draw their own conclusions. To be blunt, the film demands a level of engagement and intelligence from its audience that's truly rare in modern filmmaking.

It's safe to say that almost everything about '2001: A Space Odyssey' is challenging and atypical. The characters are painfully naturalistic, relationships are cold and unnerving, and the ending is vague and experimental. Kubrick decided early on that he wanted the film to be a primarily non-verbal experience, and the result is an eerily quiet film. The silence is punctuated by classical music, technical banter between the astronauts, the hums and rumbles of the ship, and HAL's soothing voice.

In fact, the only segment of the film that relies on a familiar genre scenario (HAL's mutiny) doesn't gain momentum until the final act. But even then, this classic clash of wills doesn't constitute the climax of the story -- that comes a bit later as Dave is confronted with a metaphysical journey across time and space that makes for a most intriguing twist in the story.

Kubrick is the only director who makes me feel like a puppet on strings, and this is the only film that manages to leave my head spinning no matter how many times I watch it. Every time I think I've got my finger on the pulse of Kubrick's methodical madness, I realize there are ideas in this film that I'll probably never completely wrap my head around. It astounds me in our age of technological advancement that a futuristic film made in 1968 remains one of the most compelling cinematic labyrinths of all time.

Years ago, I gave up trying to argue the merits of the film with those who find it tedious or plodding. I've come to accept the fact that '2001' is a definitive love-it-or-hate-it flick that will forever split audiences. Still, whatever you may ultimately think of the film itself, '2001: A Space Odyssey' will literally haunt your brain after you watch it. In my opinion, every film fan owes it to themselves to experience '2001' at least once in their lives.

[review_video_stars] => 5 [review_video_picture_id] => 4141 [review_video] =>

Presented with identical 1080p/VC-1 transfers on HD DVD and Blu-ray, this remastered release of '2001: A Space Odyssey' features a revelatory upgrade in picture quality that's likely to leave fans buzzing with excitement. Colors are magnificent, rich, and stable from beginning to end -- skintones are perfectly saturated and primary hues are bold and vibrant. Blues and reds receive the most noticeable improvement from past DVD editions, but the entire palette is striking. I'm also happy to report that contrast is dead-on, black levels are inky, and shadow delineation reveals a variety of elements formerly cloaked in darkness.

Fine detail sets a new bar for high definition catalog releases. Facial imperfections are a cinch to spot, hair is crisply defined, and the star fields are flawless. I paused on several occasions to note actors' naturally splotchy skin and chipped fingernails. There are even scenes in this transfer that I completely re-watched just to have another chance to explore the intricacies of the sets and props. For the first time, I was able to read all of the small text Kubrick strategically placed across the film. Call me obsessed, but I found myself completely fascinated by these minor details that I'd previously been unable to enjoy. Pay close attention to the barren wilderness in the opening scenes, the space station electronics, and the slightest etchings on the ships floating above Earth. My apologies for sounding like Captain Adjective, but this transfer is just that beautiful.

The print is in excellent condition and isn't marred by softness, edge enhancement, scratches, or any distracting instances of source noise. There isn't a hint of the blockiness that haunts 'A Clockwork Orange' and the transfer easily surpasses the new 2-disc Special Edition DVD (as well as every other previous home video release of the film). As I watched this HD DVD, I searched for something to complain about, but I'm happy to report that I failed to find a single thing. '2001: A Space Odyssey' has set a new bar for catalog transfers in high definition. For a film that's nearly forty years old, this high-def release is nothing short of a godsend.

[review_audio_stars] => 4 [review_audio_picture_id] => 4142 [review_audio] =>

This HD DVD edition of '2001: A Space Odyssey' features a Dolby TrueHD surround track (48 kHz/24-Bit/3.0 Mbps) and a standard Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Mix (640 kbps). While I didn't notice much of a difference between the two tracks, both sound better than ever and provide a a faithful experience that still manages to enhance Kubrick's original vision.

The classical music in the film opens up the soundfield and resonates with solid bass and stable trebles. Dialogue is crisp and perfectly prioritized, with HAL's soothing tones dominating the soundscape to good effect. Sharp sounds like bestial grunts and mechanical hisses have a distinct impact, while quiet scenes on the ship are layered with a careful level of naturalistic ambiance. This was the first time I'd noticed the subtle and comprehensive intricacies of the sound design -- small whirs, echoes through the ship, and the cooling fans inside the heavy space machinery were new to my ears. Like the clarity of fine elements in the video transfer, this high definition audio package revealed details that had escaped me so many times before on home video. I was also pleased to hear that the tracks sound much fuller than the mix on the newly released 2-disc Special Edition DVD.

The only thing that modern film fans may be disappointed by is the generally front-heavy soundfield. The original 6-channel stereo sound track has been remixed for 5.1 surround, but the rear channels have a limited presence that bolsters acoustics more than anything. The tone of the sound design is a clear product of the '60s -- particularly evident in the tenor of the voices (which can be attributed to the original recording more than anything else). Having said all that, it's hard to fathom that '2001: A Space Odyssey' could ever sound much better than it does here.

[review_supplements_stars] => 4 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 4143 [review_supplements] =>

Porting over the entire array of extras that appear on the concurrently-released 2-disc Special Edition DVD, this HD DVD edition of '2001: A Space Odyssey' is a veritable cornucopia of supplemental content. It may not give purists the "absolute" experience they were hoping for (many were praying for a technical commentary or a track that contained a critical dissection of the film), but it's hard to imagine any fan being truly disappointed.

First up is a friendly commentary with actors Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood. They avoid diving headlong into discussions about the cultural ramifications of the film or its interpretations, but instead have an engaging conversation about Kubrick, the production, the on-set atmosphere, and reaction to the film. They share plenty of fun anecdotes and prove themselves to be generally affable gents. I didn't really learn anything new about the film per se, but it was interesting to hear their personal accounts from the trenches. The only downside is that the two actors clarly aren't old hands at recorded commentaries, and as a result seem to skip over some obvious scenes and topics that I would have loved to hear them discuss.

The best feature on this release in my opinion is an audio-only bonus that documents a "1966 Kubrick Interview Conducted by Jeremy Bernstein" (77 minutes). The notoriously elusive director remains true to form, but Bernstein (a physicist and veteran writer for the "New Yorker") keeps Kubrick chatting. I was surprised to find that Kubrick doesn't come off anything like the blowhard he would be accused of being in later years. His answers are thoughtful and polite for the most part, and he divulges a bit more information than I expected. This is a true gem for Kubrick fans that shouldn't be missed.

"2001: The Making of a Myth" (43 minutes) is a Channel Four documentary that includes extensive interviews with the film's cast and crew, author Arthur C. Clarke, and numerous leading industry directors, producers, and professionals. This is a compelling glimpse into the impact the film has made in Hollywood and the world over the decades. It documents the initial critical reaction, the eventual declaration of '2001' as a masterpiece, and a hodge podge of other facts that kept me riveted from beginning to end.

"Standing on the Shoulders of Kubrick: The Legacy of 2001" (21 minutes) concentrates solely on the influence the film has had on countless directors and filmmakers. It includes interviews with notable filmmakers like George Lucas and Stephen Speilburg. This is a tight journey through a cult phenomenon that James Cameron calls "a film that shouldn't work, but does."

Rounding out the exploration of the film are three more featurettes. "Vision of a Future Passed: The Prophecy of 2001" (22 minutes) is an entertaining look at the technologies that the film predicted (or inspired) and the visions that have yet to transpire. "A Look Behind the Future" (23 minutes) is an archive bonus that examines the sets used during production. "What is Out There?" (21 minutes) includes a discussion about space and the possibility of intelligent life existing somewhere other than Earth. While each of these three featurettes are cute, overall they didn't strike me as particularly worth the time. Completists will appreciate their inclusion, but I found them to be dry and a bit repetitive.

Finally, we come to a featurette that looks at the film's "FX and Early Conceptual Artwork" (10 minutes), a photo montage of Kubrick's photography called "Look: Stanley Kubrick!" (4 minutes), and the film's theatrical trailer.

(Note that all of the video features listed above are presented in 480i/p video only.)

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

Nothing.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 4.5 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 4144 [review_final_thoughts] =>

Admittedly, '2001: A Space Odyssey' isn't for everyone -- but in my opinion it's the single most important science fiction film in the history of cinema. It has influenced film as we know it and deserves all of the clout and recognition that can be heaped on its silent shoulders. Likewise, this HD DVD edition is a must-have release, featuring a jaw-droppingly gorgeous transfer, an elaborate TrueHD audio track, and a wealth of supplemental features. It's an upgrade in every sense of the word and may just be the easiest twenty dollars I'll ever spend.

) ) [1] => Array ( [review_id] => 364 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => clockworkorange [review_release_date] => 1193122800 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => A Clockwork Orange [picture_created] => 1190740918 [picture_name] => clockwork-orange.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Video [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/09/25/120/clockwork-orange.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/364/clockworkorange.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1971 [run_time] => 137 [list_price] => 28.99 [asin] => B000I2IZHK [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1356876 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.66:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Discs ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround (48kHz/24-Bit/3.0Mbps) [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] => Commentary Track [1] => Documentaries [2] => Featurette [3] => Theatrical Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English Subtitles [1] => French Subtitles [2] => Spanish Subtitles [3] => Chinese Subtitles [4] => Portuguese Subtitles [5] => Japanese Subtitles [6] => Korean Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Crime [1] => Science Fiction ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Malcolm McDowell ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Stanley Kubrick ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Alex's journey from amoral punk to brainwashed proper citizen forms the dynamic arc of Stanley Kubrick's future-shock vision of Anthony Burgess' novel. Unforgettable images startling musical counterpoints, the fascinating language used by Alex and his pals - Kubrick shapes them into a shattering whole. Hugely controversial when first released, A Clockwork Orange won the New York Film Critics Best Picture and Director honors and earned four Academy Award® nominations, including best picture. The power of its art is such that it still entices, shocks and holds us in its grasp. [preview_technology_specifications] => • Audio commentary by Malcolm McDowell and historian Nick Redman
• Channel 4 documentary: "Still Tickin’: The Return of Clockwork Orange"
• Featurettes: "Great Bolshy Yarblockos!: Making A Clockwork Orange," "O Lucky Malcolm!"
• Theatrical trailer [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [review_editors_notes] => Non-format-specific portions of this review also appear in our Blu-ray review of 'A Clockwork Orange.' [review_bottom_line] => Rent it First [review_gear] => Review Components:
- 52" Sony Bravia XBR3 1080p Flat-Panel LCD
- Toshiba HD-XA2 HD DVD Player
- Yamaha 7.1 (840w) with Klipsch Synergy series 7.1 speakers
- HDMI connections

Puzzled by the technical jargon in our reviews, or wondering how we assess and rate HD DVD and Blu-ray discs? Learn about our review methodology.

[review_forum_id] => 23224 [review_movie_stars] => 4.5 [review_movie] =>

To call Stanley Kubrick's 'A Clockwork Orange' controversial would be an understatement. When it was originally released in 1971, its graphic depictions of sex and violence caused an uproar both stateside and abroad. The film was heavily protested, received the most restrictive ratings available (including an X-rating in the US), and was ultimately blamed for a series of copycat crimes that occured in the UK. Kubrick even barred his film from UK distribution after he began to receive death threats (the film was not officially banned by the British courts as has been frequently reported). Through it all, perhaps the most shocking thing about the film is that it still manages to offend and disturb viewers thirty-five years later.

The film itself is set in a neutered, futuristic London that's plagued by roving street gangs. Alex DeLarge (Malcolm McDowell) is a teenage boy obsessed with rape, ultra-violence, and Beethoven. He also leads a particularly savage band of droogs who love nothing more than to follow their mad leader into trouble, whether it be assault, robbery, or murder. When two of his thugs decide they're tired of Alex's brand of tyranny, they knock him unconscious at the scene of a vicious crime. Arrested and sent to prison, Alex is offered freedom if he participates in a painful form of experimental aversion therapy. As his mind is normalized by the government, Alex is forced to question his nature, his morality, and his desires.

It took Kubrick eight months to complete filming of 'A Clockwork Orange' -- quite an accomplishment for a notoriously obsessive director who had a reputation for torturing his actors with dozens of takes. In fact, 'A Clockwork Orange' the fastest production Kubrick ever set his hands to, arguably contributing to the film's rapid-fire insanity that serves as an appropriate match with thematic intensity of Anthony Burgess's original novel.

Although opinions on the film itself vary wildly, I've always found 'A Clockwork Orange' to be a future-dystopian masterpiece. Yes it's incredibly dark and twisted, yes it depicts some of the most vile acts ever set to film, and yes it does have questionable messages tucked beneath its surface. But at the same time it brilliantly explores the depths of human darkness and our instinctual love of violence. I'm personally convinced that viewers aren't disturbed by the nudity and bizarre imagery in 'A Clockwork Orange' -- instead, they're bothered by the authenticity of what they're watching. I find my stomach turning at the sheer joy the droogs take in ultraviolence, not at the ultraviolence itself. Kubrick uses extreme imagery with precision and in doing so forces us to question our own beliefs and virtues. In a sense, he shows us the very things we don't want to see in ourselves.

The second half of the film (Alex's "rehabilitation") has received the harshest criticism over the years, and admittedly Kubrick risks glorifying Alex's actions by transforming him from a monster into a victim. But if you look closer, the director is in fact questioning society itself. Are we willing to degrade our own decency to combat the monsters in our midst? Are we willing to exact revenge to achieve justice? Are we willing to rape the mind of a rapist? Regardless of how you answer those questions, the fact that Kubrick challenges viewers to consider the debate elevates 'A Clockwork Orange' to a level that transcends the its sci-fi/future dystopian trappings to become something much more universal and relevant.

Philosophy aside, it's impossible to deny Kubrick's talent at the peak of his career. He pulls deep performances from his actors and sets them against uniquely unsettling cinematography. Say what you will about his stories or thematic interests, but Kubrick was an amazing filmmaker, and he played every trump card he had in 'A Clockwork Orange.' Even people who can't stand the cynical tone of the film or its disturbing imagery should at least be able to appreciate the art of it all.

'A Clockwork Orange' is a dense and demanding examination of humanity's darkest desires. I can't guarantee you'll enjoy the film as much as I do, but here's betting that it will engage your intellect and leave you thinking about a variety of heavy subjects for weeks to come.

[review_video_stars] => 2.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 4132 [review_video] =>

'A Clockwork Orange' makes its high definition debut with identical 1080p/VC-1 transfers on HD DVD and Blu-ray. This release also marks the first time the film has been available in the US in its original 1.66:1 ratio. But while this HD DVD offers a mild upgrade from the concurrently-released 2-disc Special Edition DVD, the image quality isn't nearly as striking as the remastered HD DVD releases of 'The Shining' or '2001: A Space Odyssey.'

First the good. Color saturation receives a decent boost overall and Kubrick's mishmash palette is nice and vibrant for an older film. Primary hues look healthy and blood has a tangibly visceral impact. I'm happy to report black levels are deep, contrast is impressive, and fine detail looks a bit sharper than it does on the newly released DVD.

Alas, all is not rosey here. Close-ups are generally improved, but more distant shots struggle to retain their clarity. There are even a few bizarre shots that drift completely out of focus (despite the fact that the same shots appear to be much crisper on previous DVD releases). The overall image is softer than I've come to expect from high definition catalog releases and I even found scenes that merely matched the quality of an upscaled DVD presentation. With that being said, I recognize that a portion of the softness present in the transfer appears in every release of the film and is a product of the age of the original print.

More disappointing is the amount of digital noise and artifacting evident throughout 'A Clockwork Orange.' While the film is naturally grainy, this high-def transfer reveals technical inadequacies on a regular basis. Blockiness and crushing are frequent problems (issues that certainly weren't Kubrick's intent), and I noticed arbitrary pixelation and banding as well.

In the end, I was disheartened to see Kubrick's bleak masterpiece wasn't enhanced very much by its move to high definition. If this is the best 'A Clockwork Orange' can possibly look in 1080p, than allow me to shed a justifiable tear.

[review_audio_stars] => 3.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 4133 [review_audio] =>

The video may be disappointing, but at least the audio package redeems things a bit. This HD DVD edition of 'A Clockwork Orange' features a solid Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track (48 kHz/24-Bit/3.0 Mbps) and an equally impressive Dolby Digital 5.1 mix (640 kbps).

The music receives the most noticeable improvement over earlier DVD versions of the film, with the synthesized Beethoven symphonies dancing across the soundfield with a renewed stability and confidence. I even felt low-end subtleties in the music that I hadn't noticed before. Dialogue is clear and well prioritized, sound effects are clean, and dynamics are respectable for a thirty-five year old film. I didn't notice any distracting problems with the original elements of the recording, and overall these tracks sound quite good.

Having said all that, I should warn that like the majority of older tracks remixed for surround sound, the rear channels in 'A Clockwork Orange' seem to be more of a novelty here than they are a genuine element of the soundfield. As such, for the most part, the soundscape in 'A Clockwork Orange' has the decidedly shallow resonance of a '70s film, and doesn't compare well with more aggressive catalog releases on the market.

Still, this is a fine overall audio effort and I appreciate the care that went into this audio package. It's the best audio presentation of 'A Clockwork Orange' I've heard -- just don't expect an awful lot of oomph from this one.

[review_supplements_stars] => 3.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 4134 [review_supplements] =>

Although previous DVD editions of 'A Clockwork Orange' have been starved for extras, this HD DVD edition comes jam-packed, porting over all of the new content from the currently-released 2-disc Special Edition DVD.

  • Commentary with Malcolm McDowell and historian Nick Redman -- This track features an engaging McDowell who's an incredibly interesting speaker (perhaps only because he's so blunt). Providing a balanced overview of the production, the experience, and the film's notorious reputation, McDowell's candid comments and keen observations kept me hooked from beginning to end. Redman can only pale in comparison, offering up only general facts and diluted cinematic analysis.


  • Still Tickin': The Return of Clockwork Orange (44 minutes, SD) -- This smart documentary looks at the controversy and cultural impact of the film. While it's mainly comprised of interview segments with the cast, crew, other directors, and industry commentators, this one's no dry lecture on how "wonderful" Kubrick was. Instead, it's fast paced dissertation on Kubrick's fascination with human depravity. To my surprse, I found this one almost as engaging as the commentary track.


  • Great Bolshy Yarblockos!: Making A Clockwork Orange (28 minutes, SD) -- A tidy featurette that examines the shoot and the film's theatrical release. This one's a more standard behind-the-scenes account of the film, but it's certainly a well made featurette that has a pleasant tone and good pacing.


  • O Lucky Malcolm! (86 minutes, HD) -- Rounding out the supplemental package is this massive high-def documentary that explores the life and career of actor Malcolm McDowell. Although its scope is not limited to 'A Clockwork Orange,' I really enjoyed watching this one. Included are interviews and recollections from McDowell and an assortment of friends and industry pros that have worked with him over the years. I can't recommend this documentary enough.


  • Theatrical Trailer (2 minutes, HD)

(Note that this HD DVD edition of 'A Clockwork Orange' splits the film and the video supplements across two HD-30 discs, while both are included on a single BD-50 disc for the Blu-ray edition. The content on both releases is identical.)

[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] => 4135 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'A Clockwork Orange' is a stunning piece of cinema that remains controversial even thirty-five years after its original release. Sadly, this new HD DVD edition is something of a mixed bag. Although it boasts a strong audio package and an onslaught of top notch supplements, unfortunately the video transfer is problematic, failing to offer a significant upgrade over the concurrently-released standard-def DVD. Although I personally think the good overwhelms the bad, you may want to give this one a rent before making a purchase decision.

) ) [2] => Array ( [review_id] => 1035 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => carlitosway [review_release_date] => 1193122800 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Carlito's Way [picture_created] => 1188091771 [picture_name] => carlitos-way.gif [manufacturer_name] => Universal Studios Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/08/25/120/carlitos-way.gif [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1035/carlitosway.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1993 [run_time] => 145 [list_price] => 28.99 [asin] => B000ULPFH2 [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1359005 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.35:1 ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 [1] => 480p/i/MPEG-2 (Supplements Only) ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [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 ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Director's Introduction [1] => Deleted Scenes [2] => 2 Featurettes [3] => Theatrical Trailer [4] => Photo and Poster Gallery ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Crime [1] => Drama ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Penelope Ann Miller [1] => Sean Penn [2] => Al Pacino ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Brian De Palma ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => From the director of Scarface comes the critically acclaimed crime thriller Carlito's Way. Oscar winner Al Pacino gives on electrifying performance as former drug kingpin Carlito Brigante, who is sprung from prison by his high-powered attorney (Sean Penn). He stuns the New York underworld by vowing to go straight from a history of violence, but his plans are undermined by misguided loyalties and an outmoded code of honor. In a life-or-death battle, Carlito takes on the relentless forces that refuse to let him go. Co-starring John Leguizamo and Luis Guzman, Carlito's Way is a powerful, action-packed ride all the way to its explosive conclusion. [preview_technology_specifications] => • Featurettes: "Brain De Palma on Carlito's Way," "The Making of Carlito's Way," "Original Promotional Featurette"
• Deleted Scenes
• Photo and Poster Gallery
• Theatrical Trailer [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 13563 [review_bottom_line] => Highly Recommended [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 23090 [review_movie_stars] => 4.5 [review_movie] =>

There's a scene early in 'Carlito's Way' that effectively encapsulates Brian De Palma's career as a filmmaker. The lead character Carlito Brigante visits a seedy pool hall to accompany his naïve young cousin on a drug deal with some shady local thugs. Sensing that something is amiss, Carlito tries to play it cool while scoping out the environment, analyzing the positions of everyone in the room and plotting their next moves. Claiming that he wants to demonstrate a trick shot at the pool table, he carefully rearranges the details of the scene -- the balls on the table, the pool cue he's holding, the people he's talking to -- and lines everything up perfectly so that he can use the reflection off one person's sunglasses to view what's happening behind him. And then, just as the baddies launch the attack he anticipated, Carlito reveals the true purpose of his "trick shot" and leaps into action using all of the elements he's prepared. The sequence is staged with elegance, precision, and nail-biting suspense. In it, Carlito becomes Brian De Palma, directing the scene like a delicate game of dominoes, laying out his pieces with nervous tension and watching them fall into place exactly as he planned. Any tiny misstep would cause the entire thing to fall apart, but when executed properly it becomes a moment of exquisite beauty.

This is the nature of all of De Palma's films. He adores the set-up of a scene and the anticipation of something happening just as much as the payoff when it finally comes. At times, the director proves himself more game master than storyteller. All too often, especially when he writes his own scripts for movies like 'Body Double' or 'Raising Cain', the result is a dopey plot that serves only to deliver a handful of brilliant set-pieces. Taken on their own, these scenes are cinematic genius, but when viewed in context aren't enough to save dumb movies from their other failings. When matched with the proper material, however, De Palma's technical proficiency, grand showmanship, and artistic sensibilities unite into a perfect formula for rousing populist entertainment, as they did in his greatest commercial and critical success with 'The Untouchables'.

Though it has seldom received the same level of respect as 'The Untouchables', as far as I'm concerned 'Carlito's Way' is Brian De Palma's best film to date. Al Pacino reunites with the director for the first time since their cult hit 'Scarface' a decade earlier. At the time of the film's release in 1993, the pair were accused in critical circles of merely retreading familiar ground, as if putting the two together in another story about Hispanic gangsters automatically made it the same movie. While it's true that they were revisiting some of the same themes, the newer film is clearly a more mature and contemplative effort, positing the notion of what would happen to a young thug like Tony Montana had he lived to be a little older, a little wiser, and had time to reflect on the mistakes of his life.

Pacino's character Carlito Brigante is a former two-bit street hustler recently released from prison and trying to straighten out his life, but who winds up falling back into old circles despite trying to climb his way out. He isn't helped much at all in his attempts by lawyer Davey Kleinfeld (Sean Penn in a transformative performance), an old childhood friend now an unstable, paranoid coke fiend who demands that Carlito help him sort out some trouble he's gotten into with the Mob. Yes, it's true that the One Last Job plot is a familiar staple of the crime genre. At times, you expect to hear Pacino deliver his "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!" line from 'The Godfather Part III'. Nevertheless, a story that could have easily devolved into rote formula hackery is skillfully kept on track by its attention to atmosphere, detail, and nuances of character. Based on a pair of novels by author Edwin Torres and adapted seamlessly by screenwriter David Koepp, 'Carlito's Way' is one of the few De Palma movies that not only plays clever mind games, but also has a genuine soul.

Set in Spanish Harlem during the late 1970s, the film thrives on the specificity of its environment, each location and character personality vividly sketched. De Palma has enormous fun recreating the street life and disco nightclub scenes of the era, but doesn't play them for camp. The soundtrack is filled with familiar oldies (carefully selected by music producer Jellybean Benitez) such as disco hits "Got to Be Real" and "(Shake Shake Shake) Shake Your Booty", all played without irony. When Joe Cocker croons "You Are So Beautiful", the song is at that moment an honest reflection of the characters' emotions. And somehow it works, never turning into the ridiculous parody you'd expect.

Pacino delivers a terrific performance, surprisingly restrained in comparison to his over-the-top flamboyance in 'Scarface', or for that matter the grating showboating that won him an undeserved Oscar for 'Scent of a Woman' the year before. He's matched beat-for-beat by Sean Penn, practically unrecognizable beneath frizzy "Jewfro" hair and oversized glasses. Also turning up for supporting turns are Luis Guzman, Adrian Pasdar, and Viggo Mortensen, among others. John Leguizamo's "Benny Blanco from the Bronx" is an indelibly memorable character.

On equal standing as a character in itself is De Palma's filmmaking. The director has an unparalleled mastery of film language and widescreen photography, typically keeping every inch of the frame cluttered with important visual information. His restless camera glides through scenes, seductively floating and drifting from character to character in a playful dance, at every moment revealing just precisely the right bit of detail exactly when it needs to appear. During his famous action set-pieces, he has perfectionist control over every element on screen, where, when, and how they're revealed to the characters and to the viewers. Not just the technique, but the viewers' growing cognizance of the technique and how it's employed, works flawlessly to maximize suspense and excitement in a way few other living directors can match.

Even so, during its release in 1993, 'Carlito's Way' was met with critical indifference and disappointing box office. At the time, De Palma had been riding a string of flops, including the notorious disaster 'The Bonfire of the Vanities', and his stock in Hollywood was at an ebb. Critics accused him not only of repeating 'Scarface', but of recycling many of his other familiar films. Indeed, there's a subway chase in the movie that restages a similar sequence from 'Dressed to Kill', and a huge action scene set on an escalator at Grand Central Station that clearly calls back to the climax of 'The Untouchables' (itself an allusion to Sergei Eisenstein's 'Battleship Potemkin'). In the eyes of some, this was De Palma simply reaching into an old bag of tricks, seemingly out of desperation.

Personally, I've never understood that view. De Palma has often used his movies to make explicit references to his favorite directors and films, be it the numerous Hitchcockian elements in his suspense thrillers of the '70s and '80s, that 'Potemkin' scene in 'The Untouchables', or practically the entirety of 'Blow Out', a tribute to both Michelangelo Antonioni's 'Blow-Up' and Francis Coppola's 'The Conversation' (he would also later borrow a scene from 'Topkapi' for his 1996 'Mission: Impossible', and lift extensively from '2001' during the dreadful 'Mission to Mars'). De Palma's cinematic vocabulary is one that consists in large part of homage. To me, I see these parts of 'Carlito's Way' as a self-reflexive commentary on his own career and his directorial technique. More importantly, the scenes in question simply work in the new context, never feeling forced, stagy, or in any way inorganic to the movie.

'Carlito's Way' runs 2 1/2 hours but never feels long. It's perfectly paced, the suspense set-pieces effectively measured to punctuate the already compelling dramatic scenes. It's a rich and rewarding work from a filmmaker who has admittedly been very uneven over the years, but who is here at the top of his game. The film may not have been appreciated enough in its day, but deserves recognition for the scope of its achievement.

The HD DVD: Vital Disc Stats

Universal Studios Home Entertainment has released 'Carlito's Way' on HD DVD. The disc has the studio's usual generic menus with annoying beeping sounds that can be turned off if you'd like (who would want them on?), but only by scrolling through a bunch of other beeping options to get to that setting. The case art features Universal's standard ugly swoosh borders.

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 5705 [review_video] =>

Stephen Burum's glorious 2.35:1 cinematography is replicated beautifully by this 1080p/VC-1 transfer. The opening black & white prologue sequence is marred by a disappointing amount of dirt and specks, but the source materials clear up after that. After the first scene, this is a very colorful movie, and the disc reproduces the rich, vivid colors (witness the deep reds of the pool hall walls) with precision. Black levels are also solid and have good shadow detail, lending the image an excellent sense of depth.

The photography can be a little on the soft side, owing to the choice of lenses used. As a result, the picture isn't always necessarily razor sharp, however it does have a satisfying amount of detail, far better than the DVD edition. Only on the HD DVD, for example, can you read the tiny initials sewn into Kleinfeld's shirt cuffs. The disc has next to no edge ringing artifacts (perhaps a miniscule amount in one or two individual shots) or distracting digital compression issues. The CGI fog effect used during the Taglialucci rescue scene is a little dated, but don't mistake the smeariness present there as a transfer flaw.

Although Universal has a hit-or-miss track record for catalog titles, this one is a "hit".

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

Offered in Dolby Digital Plus or lossless Dolby TrueHD options, the 'Carlito's Way' soundtrack has never had a particularly showy mix in terms of zinging surround effects or slamming bass action. However, it has nice musical fidelity in both Patrick Doyle's score and all of the period songs, as wells as clear dialogue and crisp sound effects. Gunshots have a clean pop with a little bit of satisfying low-end thump. While the soundtrack may not be an action movie rollercoaster that will shake the foundation of anyone's house, it impresses in the clarity of subtle audio details, such as the convincing ambient atmosphere that envelops the room during scenes inside the disco or strip club. I probably wouldn't pull this disc out as an audio showcase to demo for friends, but the sound quality is consistently engaging and suits the movie well.

[review_supplements_stars] => 2.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 5706 [review_supplements] =>

All of the bonus features from the 2005 "Ultimate Edition" DVD release have been carried over to the HD DVD. You'd think there might be more of them for something supposedly "ultimate".

  • Brian De Palma on Carlito's Way (5 min., SD) – This short introduction consists of interview sound bites in which the director, a man who's built a career out of imitating his idol Alfred Hitchcock and paying deliberate homage to his favorite old movies time and again, hypocritically complains about the new generation of filmmakers whose movies are pastiches of other movies. He also lashes out like a prima donna at all the film critics, especially web critics, who've ever written anything unkind about him.
  • Deleted Scenes (8 min., SD) – A series of 9 short scenes or scene extensions presented in awful workprint quality. None of them were really essential to the story (a scene of Carlito and Davey stumbling around drunk doesn't work at all), but it's nice to see a little extra footage of Luis Guzman in some of these bits.
  • The Making of Carlito's Way (35 min., SD) – A very good documentary by Laurent Bouzereau that features interviews with De Palma, author Edwin Torres, producer Martin Bregman, and screenwriter David Koepp. Torres discusses the autobiographical aspects to his novels. Bregman mentions that an early script draft (not by Koepp) was awful, but Pacino was drawn to the character anyway. And Koepp describes the difficulties of adapting two separate books into one coherent movie (the finished product borrows more from the second novel, 'After Hours').
  • Original Promotional Featurette (5 min., SD) – A thick slice of vintage Electronic Press Kit cheese.
  • Theatrical Trailer (2 min., SD) – This is a decent enough trailer (extensively lifting the musical score from 'Born on the Fourth of July') that recaps the essentials of the movie's plot, but is not the Pacino-focused teaser that I remember quite vividly from 1993.
  • Photo & Poster Gallery – Technically, the still images here have been re-encoded into a High Definition resolution using VC-1. However, the images themselves only occupy a tiny portion of the screen, thus negating that advantage.

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 5707 [review_bonus_content] =>

There are no HD DVD exclusives.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 4 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'Carlito's Way' is an excellent movie, perhaps the best in Brian De Palma's career. The HD DVD has very nice picture and sound, even if the bonus features don't amount to much. The disc comes highly recommended.

) ) [3] => Array ( [review_id] => 1036 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => carlitoswayrisetopower [review_release_date] => 1193122800 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Carlito's Way: Rise to Power [picture_created] => 1188091625 [picture_name] => carlitos-way-2.gif [manufacturer_name] => Universal Studios Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/08/25/120/carlitos-way-2.gif [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1036/carlitoswayrisetopower.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2005 [run_time] => 94 [list_price] => 29.98 [asin] => B000ULPFHC [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1359014 [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 5.1 Surround (768kbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Featurettes [1] => Deleted Scenes [2] => Gag Reel [3] => Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Crime [1] => Drama ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Jay Hernandez [1] => Mario Van Peebles [2] => Luis Guzman ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Michael Bregman ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => From the producer of Scarface and Carlito's Way comes the action thriller Carlito's Way: Rise to Power. Jay Hernandez (Friday Night Lights), Mario Van Peebles (Ali), Luis Guzman (Carlito's Way) and Sean Combs (Monster's Ball) star in the gripping tale of the early years of gangster legend Carlito Brigante. Seduced by the power of the brutal New York underworld, he enters a deadly circle of greed and retribution. Assisted by his two brothers in crime, Carlito is on the fast track to becoming Spanish Harlem's ultimate kingpin. He quickly learns, however, that the only way to survive at the top is through loyalty to his friends and respect for the rules of the street. [preview_technology_specifications] => • Featurettes: "The Making of 'Carlito's Way: Rise to Power,'" "Got Your Back: Carlito's Brothers in Crime," "Bringing the 'Hood to Life,'" "Set Tour with Earl"
• Deleted Scenes
• Gag Reel
• Theatrical Trailer [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 13563 [review_bottom_line] => Skip it [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 32323 [review_movie_stars] => 2 [review_movie] =>

In the late '70s, New York State Supreme Court judge Edwin Torres published two novels about a fictional drug lord named Carlito Brigante. The first book, 1975's "Carlito's Way," followed the kingpin's rise to power and eventual arrest. His second book, 1979's "After Hours," followed Carlito's struggle with reform after his release from prison. In 1993, director Brian De Palma adapted "After Hours," nabbed Al Pacino and Sean Penn, and released the resulting film under the title 'Carlito's Way.' Despite the fact that it was a critical disaster, I remain a big fan of De Palma's violent morality tale. I only wish he’d filmed both halves of the story.

'Carlito's Way: Rise to Power' is a straight-to-video adaptation of Torres' first novel, directed by producer Michael Bregman ('The Bone Collector,' 'The Adventures of Pluto Nash'). The film follows the early '70s exploits of young Carlito Brigante (played by Jay Hernandez) as he works to build a successful heroin business. Taking advantage of the connections garnered by fellow ex-convicts Earl (Mario Van Peebles) and Rocco (Michael Kelly), Carlito and his crew fight to take control of the drug trade in Harlem. Standing in their way is a gangster named Hollywood Nicky (Sean "Puffy" Combs), the NYPD's best officers, and mob boss Artie Bottolota (Burt Young).

The original 'Carlito's Way' may not have been the best film to begin with, but without De Palma, Pacino and Penn on board, its prequel doesn’t stand a chance. In fact, sitting through 'Rise to Power,' I struggled to find a component of this project that compared favorably with the original.

The story certainly isn’t as strong -- Bergman only adapts the anti-climactic first half of Torres' novel, inadvertently killing the narrative flow (I can only assume the studio has another screenplay waiting in the wings that tells the next part of the story). As for the acting, Hernandez is the lone standout, but he doesn't have the fire or experience to match Pacino's performance. Finally, when it comes to action, 'Rise to Power' is a tease that flashes a lot of firearms, but rarely gets its gun off. In my opinion, there just isn't a single aspect of 'Rise to Power' that comes close to matching 'Carlito's Way.' .

'Rise to Power' is a bizarre release. It doesn't adapt the complete novel on which it’s based, it doesn't feature the original heavy hitters, and fans weren't exactly chomping at the bit for a 'Carlito's Way' prequel/sequel in the first place. I can only imagine it was greenlit in the hopes that fans of De Palma's film would be curious enough to pick up anything with "Carlito" in the title. Unfortunately, 'Rise to Power' is nothing more than the bastardized stepchild of a much better film.

[review_video_stars] => 3 [review_video_picture_id] => 4693 [review_video] =>

'Carlito's Way: Rise to Power' is presented with a serviceable 1080p/VC-1 transfer that handles the film's rough-n-tumble aesthetic well for the most part. Unfortunately, the filmmakers purposefully suppress the palette and amp up grain in an attempt to predate the look of the original 'Carlito's Way.' In my eyes, the result is a failure that only serves to distract the viewer from the movie itself. 'Rise to Power' still looks like a modern film -- just a poorly produced one.

The transfer does a decent job rendering the film's visual muck. Colors are stable, uses of red are respectably bold, and skintones are by and large natural (if a bit sickly at times). Detail is above average, as well -- pores, hair, clothing texture, and the fine print on money are suitably crisp despite the picture's faux-grit. I didn't catch any edge enhancement, artifacting, or source noise, but it would be nearly impossible to discern this sort of clutter from the picture's spiking grain field. I did catch a few other bothersome issues, however. Contrast is stark, but it still wavers from time to time. Black levels are deep, but crushed on a regular basis. In fact, after stumbling across a few shots with soft details and focus issues, I started to wonder how many of the transfer's "mistakes" were the product of the director's intention.

All in all, while this transfer may represent the filmmakers’ desired look and tone, I'm not a fan of the film's look at all. This HD DVD may be a step up from the poorly compressed standard DVD, but the upgrade isn't significant enough to impress.

[review_audio_stars] => 3 [review_audio_picture_id] => 4694 [review_audio] =>

The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track (48 kHz/ 16-Bit) on this HD DVD release is less obviously flawed than the video, but it ultimately suffers from the film’s straight-to-video, bargain-bin sound design. This may be a gangster flick, but there's relatively little gunfire or low-end elements on hand to take advantage of the LFE channel. When bass tones are utilized, they're strong, confident, and engaging. However, impressive dynamics require suitably dynamic scenes, and unfortunately 'Rise to Power' doesn't offer many showcase moments that allow this TrueHD track to truly demonstrate its power.

Although I struggled to hear two or three whispered lines, overall the film's dialogue is crisp and well balanced. Effects are clean, channel pans are transparent, and the soundstage is evenly distributed across the front of the soundfield. The rear surrounds are used from time to time, but mainly for street-level ambiance and crowded acoustics. I have to admit I expected a cash-in sequel like 'Rise to Power' to be inflated with extraneous violence for the sake of increasing its appeal, but as it stands this is a surprisingly quiet film that doesn't offer much to pump through your sound system.

[review_supplements_stars] => 1 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 4695 [review_supplements] =>

This HD DVD edition of 'Carlito's Way: Rise to Power' includes the same meager collection of supplements that appeared on the standard definition DVD. I know it's a straight-to-video release, but a commentary or a more thorough making-of documentary would have gone a long way to fleshing out the purpose and the timing of the prequel.

  • Making-Of Documentary (SD, 12 minutes) -- This "documentary" is actually a basic featurette that packs in more footage from the film than genuine behind-the-scenes information. There are a few tidbits to be garnered from the interviews sprinkled throughout, but this is EPK promotional fluff through and through.
  • Bringing the Hood to Life (SD, 8 minutes) -- This quick hit is a lot better, as it trades in most of the self-promotion to give the cast and crew a chance to discuss their thoughts on making a prequel to De Palma’s original. They also talk sets, locations, and the story itself.
  • Got Your Back: Carlito's Brothers in Crime (SD, 6 minutes) -- Another improvement here. This all-too-short featurette gives the actors further opportunities to talk about casting, the shoot, and the on-set atmosphere.
  • Deleted Scenes (SD, 7 minutes) -- While these generic scenes would have added very little to the film, I'm surprised to see a 94 minute film excise anything... especially considering the scope of the original 'Carlito's Way.' Still, if you happen to dig the film, these are more of the same.
  • Set Tour with Earl (SD, 5 minutes) -- A set tour with actor Mario Van Peebles. Pretty boring stuff all things considered, but worth a quick look if you've hit everything else on the disc.
  • Gag Reel (SD, 6 minutes) – It’s hard to imagine a gag reel for the original 'Carlito's Way.' Likewise, its inclusion here seems like a strange addition for such a heavy film. At least the cast obviously had a good time on set.
  • Trailer (SD , 2 minutes)
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content] =>

Only Universal's now-standard custom bookmarking function, allowing you to save your favorite chapters for playback even after you eject the disc.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 2.5 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 4696 [review_final_thoughts] =>

It's been a long time since I slapped a "Skip it" on a flick, but 'Carlito's Way: Rise to Power' fits the very definition of a cash-in project. To make matters worse, this HD DVD is hindered by an average transfer, an underwhelming TrueHD track, and a collection of weak supplements. Unless you’re desperate for a rental or unable to suppress your morbid curiosity, this one is best avoided.

) ) [4] => Array ( [review_id] => 378 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => eyeswideshut [review_release_date] => 1193122800 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Eyes Wide Shut [picture_created] => 1190741017 [picture_name] => eyes-wide-shut.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/09/25/120/eyes-wide-shut.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/378/eyeswideshut.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1999 [run_time] => 159 [list_price] => 28.99 [asin] => B000I2J0VK [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1356977 [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 (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 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) [4] => Japanese Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (640kbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Documentary [1] => Featurette [2] => Interviews [3] => Theatrical Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => English Subtitles [2] => French Subtitles [3] => Latin-Spanish Subtitles [4] => Japanese Subtitles [5] => Portuguese Subtitles [6] => Chinese Subtitles [7] => Korean Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Drama [1] => Erotic ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Tom Cruise [1] => Nicole Kidman [2] => Sydney Pollack ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Stanley Kubrick ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Stanley Kubrick's daring last film is many things. It is a compelling psychosexual journey. A haunting dreamscape. A riveting tale of suspense. A major milestone in the careers of stars Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. And "a worthy final chapter to a great director's career" (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times). Cruise plays Dr. William Hartford, who plunges into an erotic foray that threatens his marriage - and may even ensnare him in a lurid murder mystery - after his wife's (Kidman) admission of sexual longings. As the story sweeps from doubt and fear to self-discovery and reconciliation, Kubrick orchestrates it with masterful flourishes. Graceful tracking shots, controlled pacing, rich colors, startling images: bravura traits that make Kubrick a filmmaker for the ages are here to keep everyone's eyes wide open. [preview_technology_specifications] => • Audio commentary by Sydney Pollack and historian Peter Loewenberg
• Channel 4 documentary: "The Last Movie: Stanley Kubrick and Eyes Wide Shut"
• Featurette: "Lost Kubrick: The Unfinished Films of Stanley Kubrick"
• Kubrick's 1998 DGA D.W. Griffith Award acceptance speech
• Interview gallery featuring Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman and Steven Spielberg
• Theatrical trailer
• TV spots [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [review_editors_notes] => Non-format-specific portions of this review also appear in our Blu-ray review of 'Eyes Wide Shut.' [review_bottom_line] => Worth a Look [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 22582 [review_movie_stars] => 3 [review_movie] =>

By 1996, Stanley Kubrick had been called many things throughout his legendary forty-plus career in film, but "sexy" wasn't one of them. So when it was announced that he would adapt the erotic novella "Traumnovelle" by Arthur Schnitzler for his next film project (and that it would star Hollywood's then-hottest couple, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman), more than a few eyebrows were raised. How would the sensibilities of Kubrick, cinema's most notorious control freak, mesh with the dream-like, naturalistic tone of Schnitzler's novella, the pages of which which oozed with sexual impulse and unbridled, erotic passion?

If the subsequent critical and commercial reaction to 'Eyes Wide Shut' is anything to go by, the answer is not very well. Despite an almost unheard-of level of advance buzz, audiences were cool, and critics surprisingly dismissive of what was supposed to be Kubrick's final masterpiece (the director passed away shortly before its release). In fact, 'Eyes Wide Shut' wasn't just poorly received, it was eviscerated.

Luckily for me, diminished expectations can be a godsend. I didn't see 'Eyes Wide Shut' until it first hit DVD, and by that point I had been bombarded by so many negative reactions that I expected a disaster of epic proportions. Instead, I was rather pleasantly surprised. Is 'Eyes Wide Shut' flawed? Certainly. But it is it a train wreck devoid of any and all merit? Hardly.

Running 159 minutes, 'Eyes Wide Shut' is certainly the most epic piece of erotica ever committed to mainstream celluloid. It may also be the most menacing. Consistent with his approach to other literary adaptations, Kubrick took great liberties with Schnitzler's original story, extracting the simple kernel of the idea and largely dispensing with the particulars. In this case, those particulars include all traces of sexiness, romance and warmth. Instead, Kubrick's convoluted yet intimate narrative transforms the life-affirming sexual odyssey of the book's Dr. William Harford (Cruise) into a descent into a netherworld of jealously, infidelity and betrayal. Never has passion seemed so dangerous.

The opening scenes of 'Eyes Wide Shut' are the best, and are quite tantalizing. William and his wife Alice (Kidman) are nearing their tenth year of marriage, and enjoying a life of privilege on New York's upper west side. They would seem to have it all -- wealth, influence, powerful friends and a beautiful 7 year-old daughter. But as Kubrick will so slyly reveal in the opening subtle passages of the film as the couple goes about their daily bits of business in preparation for a fancy cocktail party, there are cracks in the veneer. By the time the night is through, Alice will admit to once having the mere fleeting thought of infidelity, a casual little admission that is more than enough to send William spiraling into obsession.

Had Kubrick made 'Eyes Wide Shut's opening act the entire film, it might have been brilliant. Instead, he dispenses with the Kidman character for most of the rest of the film, and the long, agonizing slog that follows is a largely unsuccessful, phony treatise on male anxiety. As Cruise roams the late-night New York streets (actually a soundstage in merry old England, and the substitution is distracting), he mingles with all manner of temptations, some amusing (including a run-in with a young prostitute) and some deadly serious. It all culminates in the movie's now-infamous "orgy" scene, where Cruise is invited to a gothic old mansion to experience something out of a big-budget episode of "Red Shoe Diaries."

Depending on your point of view, it is here that Kubrick either dares to push boundaries like never before in a mainstream American film, or goes completely off the rails. It's not that the material is all that graphic (though it is explicit, particularly in its unrated form as presented on this HD DVD), it is that it so over-the-top theatrical that it teeters precariously on the edge of camp. By the time Cruise is wandering around the silent corridors of the mansion, wearing what looks like a clown mask, it's hard not to stifle a few giggles. If Kubrick meant for this material to titillate, it fails miserably.

Thankfully, when Kidman returns on the scene, the film regains its footing. Kubrick finally brings the themes he so carefully set up in the first act to fruition, as the questions Alice dares to ask of William will strike at the very core of our Western notions of marriage. To the credit of Kubrick (a lifelong, dedicated monogamist) he may have failed at depicting erotic passion with any degree of authenticity, but he certainly would seem to have walked in the shoes of his fictional Dr. William Harford. It is in these concluding scenes that the true value of 'Eyes Wide Shut' lies; whatever its missteps, at least it is brave enough to ask truly provocative, complex questions.

Having said all that, most will probably never warm to 'Eyes Wide Shut.' As is so often the case with Kubrick, the director seems so hell-bent on not catering to expectations that his film lacks any and all mainstream appeal. Of course, this is what earned the director the label of iconoclastic auteur -- in an industry that's often obsessed with the bottom line, Kubrick refused to shape his film to be mere "products." Although 'Eyes Wide Shut' may not succeed anywhere near the level of the director's most revered classics, like all of his work, its vision is uncompromising.

(Note: The back packaging of both the HD DVD and Blu-ray versions of 'Eyes Wide Shut' appears to contain one major gaffe. The box claims that the film's R-rated and Unrated versions are both included on the disc, each selectable before the film begins. However, so far as I've been able to determine, there's no such option anywhere on the disc. Instead, this release seems to contain only the Unrated version of the film. Given the outcry that greeted the censored R-rated version upon the film's theatrical release in the US, here's guessing few will complain about its apparent absence here.)

[review_video_stars] => 3 [review_video_picture_id] => 4122 [review_video] =>

Of the five films that Warner is issuing on high-def as part of its Kubrick collection (which also includes '2001: A Space Odyssey,' 'A Clockwork Orange,' 'Full Metal Jacket' and 'The Shining'), 'Eyes Wide Shut' may be the most recent, but ironically it's also probably the one that benefits the least from the upgrade to high-def. A bit of the odd-man-out visually among Kubrick's other works, 'Eyes Wide Shut' is bold in its use of obvious fake sets, oversaturated colors and high-key, diffused lighting, creating an effect that is highly theatrical, and one that just doesn't translate all that well to video.

Presented for the first time in 1.78:1 widescreen in the US, this 1080p/VC-1 encode (identical on both the HD DVD and Blu-ray) looks only marginally better than standard-def. Black levels fluctuate, ranging from wonderfully deep and dark to sometimes washed-out, which flattens the image considerably. Colors are intense, often blurring out and suffering from excessive noise. Given the fact that almost the entire movie looks like it was lit through giant sheets of gauze, it's easy to forget that 'Eyes Wide Shut' was shot in 1999, and not 1979. The image is never sharp and rarely packs any sense of depth. At least there are no obvious compression artifacts, though with the consistently heavy level of grain and noise, that's not a huge plus.

To be fair, given the film's stylistic intentions, this is far from a bad transfer of 'Eyes Wide Shut.' But compared to the more revelatory remasters in the Kubrick collection, particularly 'The Shining' and the absolutely stunning '2001,' the picture quality on 'Eyes Wide Shut' is likely to disappoint.

[review_audio_stars] => 3 [review_audio_picture_id] => 4123 [review_audio] =>

Warner has granted each of the films in its new Kubrock collection with high-res audio, and this HD DVD edition of 'Eyes Wide Shut' is no exception, sporting a new Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround mix at 48kHz/24-bit (the Blu-ray features a comparable PCM 5.1 track). Unfortunately, the film's sound design is so bland that if it didn't say PCM on the back of the box, I never would have believed it.

The late Kubrick was famous for his disinterest in surround presentations of his films, and as such, 'Eyes Wide Shut' may as well be mono. I counted nary a single discrete effect through the whole film, and only a meager amount of atmosphere and score bleed. There is no sense of envelopment at all, which is a particular shame because a bit of sonic excitement could have added whole new layer of effectiveness to what's essentially erotic thriller.

The quality of the recording is better, but also far from noteworthy. There's little real sense of dynamics to the mix, with the subwoofer often left with little to do, and a thin, reedy sound to the upper ranges. Even Kubrick's use of classical compositions and a few modern songs (most notably Chris Isaak's "Baby's Done a Bad, Bad Thing") are rendered with little life. Dialogue is generally intelligible, but it's somewhat recessed in the mix, which I found required a bit of volume adjustment. At least there are no source problems, such as hiss or distortion.

[review_supplements_stars] => 3 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 4124 [review_supplements] =>

As 'Eyes Wide Shut' was Stanley Kubrick's last film, it's not entirely surprising that the film is rarely discussed on its own terms, but instead as an epitaph to Kubrick's larger, more highly-regarded body of work.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the 42-minute, three-part documentary "The Last Movie: Stanley Kubrick and Eyes Wide Shut." Originally produced for the UK's Channel Four, the title is a bit of a misnomer, as it spends much more time giving us an overview of Kubrick's body of work and dissecting his "lost" 'A.I.' project (eventually filmed by Steven Spielberg) than it does looking at 'Eyes Wide Shut.' Although that may be a bit disappointing for fans hoping to get a truly in-depth examination of Kubrick's last movie, it doesn't make this doc any less fascinating.

What's groundbreaking about "The Last Movie" is that, for the first time, the Kubrick estate allowed cameras into their private sanctuary. The entire remaining Kubrick clan is interviewed, and we also get a glimpse at his private working space, including the famed cutting room where he edited the majority of his later pictures. Warner has clearly shared a good deal of the raw interview material across each of the supplemental packages on their new Kubrick re-issues, because the same impressive line-up of participants again appear in "The Last Movie," among them directors Spielberg, Sydney Pollack and John Boorman, Warner's ex-CEO Terry Semel, and countless other collaborators. Also included are archival interviews with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. The only things that hamper "The Last Movie" is a reliance on cutesy graphics and transitions, and somewhat haphazard pacing. Still, this one is a must-watch for any Kubrick fan.

Next up is the 20-minute featurette "Lost Kubrick: The Unfinished Films of Stanley Kubrick," which is narrated by 'Clockwork Orange' star Malcolm McDowell. This is an extension of "The Last Movie" that specifically chronicles a number of films Kubrick had planned or developed at one point, but then later abandoned. Though projects such as a Napoleon biopic and an unnamed, long-in-development film about the Holocaust may already be well-known by Kubrick fans, the details provided by his collaborators here (including all of the same participants seen in the "Last Movie" doc) will likely be fresh. Again, fascinating.

(As I first noted in my earlier review of 'The Shining,' this new content is presented in 16:9 widescreen but encoded at 480p/MPEG-2 video only. While the quality is above average, it's a surprise and a disappointment that fresh material like this wasn't presented in true high-definition.)

The remaining supplements will be familiar to those who owned the previous 'Eyes Wide Shut' DVD release. First up is a trio of 1999 interviews with Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman and Steven Spielberg, running about 28 minutes total. Though now dated, these are still worth checking out if you've never seen them, particularly for Kidman's comments, which are particularly emotional and poignant. As these were originally shot for 4:3 screens back in the day, the material is presented here in 480i/MPEG-2 video.

Rounding things out is a short D.W. Griffith Award Acceptance Speech that Kubrick gave right before his death, as well as two TV Spots and a Theatrical Trailer for Eyes Wide Shut.' All are presented in 480i/MPEG-2 video only.

[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] => 4125 [review_final_thoughts] =>

A flawed but still fascinating film, 'Eyes Wide Shut' generally isn't considered to be among Stanley Kubrick's finer efforts. You might say the same about the film's first-ever HD DVD release. Yes, it at last gives US audiences the chance to see the film in its unrated form, but the transfer is still a bit noisy, oversaturated and washed-out, and the TrueHD track is simply bland. On the bright side, at least a nice selection of fresh extras provide some welcome context. It's not likely that this HD DVD will inspire any sort of widespread reappraisal of 'Eyes Wide Shut,' but it's certainly the best treatment the film's seen on home video yet.

) ) ) [reviews_slices] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 1032 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => fullmetaljacket_de [review_release_date] => 1193122800 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Full Metal Jacket: Deluxe Edition [picture_created] => 1192898036 [picture_name] => full-metal-jacket.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Video [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/10/20/120/full-metal-jacket.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1032/fullmetaljacket_de.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1987 [run_time] => 116 [list_price] => 28.99 [asin] => B000UJ48V8 [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1356935 [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 (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] => French Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (640kpbs) [3] => Spanish Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (640kbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentary [1] => Featurette [2] => Theatrical Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles [2] => Spanish Subtitles ) [preview_editors_notes] => Although Warner originally released 'Full Metal Jacket' on HD DVD in May of 2006, the studio has announced that it plans to discontinue that earlier HD DVD edition, and instead release this new 'Full Metal Jacket: Deluxe Edition' on October 23, 2007. To read our full review of Warner's original HD DVD release of this title, click here. [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Drama [1] => War ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Matthew Modine ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Stanley Kubrick ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => The story of an 18-year-old marine recruit named Private Joker - from his carnage-and-machismo boot camp to his climactic involvement in the heavy fighting in Hue during the 1968 Tet Offensive. [preview_technology_specifications] => • Audio commentary by Adam Baldwin, Vincent D'Onofrio, R. Lee Ermey and Jay Cocks
• Featurette: "Full Metal Jacket: Between Good and Evil"
• Theatrical trailer. [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 13490 [review_editors_notes] => Non-format-specific portions of this review also appear in our Blu-ray review of 'Full Metal Jacket: Deluxe Edition.'

[review_bottom_line] => Worth a Look [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 23486 [review_introduction] =>

In June of 2006, Warner first released 'Full Metal Jacket' on HD DVD. A bare bones release, the disc was poorly received by reviewers and fans alike for its weak video transfer. A year later, Warner announced that it would release the film on HD DVD once again in a new 'Deluxe Edition,' as part of a new collection of five Kubrick classics. Remastered with new picture, sound, and a raft of bonus features, has Warner finally hit the high-def bull's-eye with this new version of 'Full Metal Jacket?' Read on...

[review_movie_stars] => 3 [review_movie] =>

I've said before that there seem to be two different kinds of war movies -- those that rub our noses in the grisly reality of combat ('Saving Private Ryan,' 'Platoon'), and those that examine everything else around it, whether it be soldiers suffering the dehumanizing effects of boot camp or the cost of war on those back home ('Tigerland,' 'Gardens of Stone'). Leave it to master director Stanley Kubrick to again flout convention and fuse the two together in his 1987 Vietnam war movie, 'Full Metal Jacket.' Essentially a two-act play, Kubrick's would-be epic is often as frustrating in its incongruity as it is fascinating in its complexity.

In the film's first act, we meet Gomer (Vincent D'Onofrio), who may just be the most lovable slob of a grunt in movie history. Of course, being a Kubrick film, boot camp won't go so well for poor Gomer. Relentlessly tormented by his fellow soldiers and his "leatherlung" drill instructor (R. Lee Ermey, in a performance that became an instant classic), Gomer is always one step away from mental and physical collapse. I won't spoil the first act climax, but Gomer's Jack Torrance-esque disintegration will be internalized by Joker (Matthew Modine) who, as Act Two begins, is plunged into the heart and hell of war. Assigned to the front lines of battle as a combat journalist, Joker will at first attempt to remove himself from the mass atrocities he witnesses through the safety of his pen, but ultimately the realities prove too ugly to ignore, making his own descent into violence seemingly unavoidable.

I know I am not the first viewer to say as much, but 'Full Metal Jacket' leaves me split right down the middle. Given the film's structure, it's almost impossible not to take sides, and I personally found myself far more drawn in by the first half. The plight of D'Onofrio's poor Gomer is often mesmerizing, and is perfectly suited to Kubrick's sterile visual style. Kubrick has never been a particularly warm filmmaker, but here he seems to find a perfect thematic foil -- the military's systemic and unforgiving process of dehumanization. Kubrick's methodical pace and completely unsentimental worldview rips Gomer apart, and is an apt microcosm for brutal toll war takes on the human soul. Combined with director of photography Douglas Milsome's sterile visuals and a droning, unsettling score by Vivian Kubrick, the first half of 'Jacket' is its own mini-masterpiece.

By comparison, Act Two feels a bit more generic. Part of the problem is that Joker (though played earnestly by Modine) is simply less riveting a protagonist than Gomer. And thematically, Kubrick seems to simply be restating the same themes he so breathtakingly depicted in Act One, except in this case he's refashioned them out of war movie cliches (the grunts, the sniper, the injured screaming and dying all around). I've also never felt that Kubrick quite got a lock on how to stage the action, especially the film's climax, which is too much of an exercise in existentialism to be really gripping as a visceral experience.

Make no mistake, I still think 'Full Metal Jacket' is well worth seeing. The second half may not measure up the powerful first 45 minutes, but arguably the film's contrasts and jarring inconsistencies are what make it so intriguing almost twenty years later. 'Full Metal Jacket' may be a flawed film, but it remains one of the most challenging, unconventional war movies ever made.

[review_video_stars] => 3.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 153 [review_video] =>

First released on HD DVD back in June 2006, 'Full Metal Jacket' has become almost legendary as one of the worst high-def catalog releases to hit either format. I was not at all fond of the video transfer on that release, and gave it quite harsh marks in my original HD DVD review. The source was poor, colors were off, and the image so soft it hardly looked like high-def at all. Thankfully, Warner seems to have taken the criticism to heart, and hasn't skimped on this new 'Deluxe Edition,' offering up a newly remastered transfer that's a clear and welcome improvement over the previous version.

I've never been a huge fan of the look of 'Full Metal Jacket' in general, so no matter how nice of an upgrade this new 1.85:1 widescreen 1080p/VC-1 encode may be (identical to the concurrently-released Blu-ray, by the way), I suppose I would be somewhat predisposed against it. That said, the film's naturalistic style of photography comes across much better here than on the previous HD DVD. Blacks are a bit richer, and contrast a bit bolder, which helps depth. While still not pristine, the print has been cleaned up a bit, reducing dirt and blemishes. Happily, visible detail is also heightened, with close-ups in particular revealing a good deal of texture, while wide shots are a bit sharper.

Most improved is color reproduction. I hated fleshtones on the earlier releases, which were so skewed towards red that everyone looked pig-faced. This new transfer is much more natural, if still not absolutely spot-on. Hues are a tad cleaner, and a bit more robust (most noticeably the deep blues of the infamous bathroom scene between Vincent D'Onofrio and R. Lee Ermey). Finally, compression artifacts are no longer issue, with the annoying banding of the previous release gone, and no other defects visible.

Does 'Full Metal Jacket' look like a million bucks? No, not even this second time around. This is still a twenty year-old catalog title that doesn't have an amazingly clean source. But this new transfer is a clear improvement, finally making 'Full Metal Jacket' a title you don't have to be embarrassed to have in your high-def collection.

[review_audio_stars] => 3 [review_audio_picture_id] => 160 [review_audio] =>

Last time 'Full Metal Jacket' hit HD DVD, all Warner could muster up was a meager Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 track (at 640kbps). Though that same track is included on this disc as well, Warner has also added an uncompressed Dolby TrueHD surround option (48k/16-bit/4.6mbps, comparable to the PCM 5.1 track on the Blu-ray). Unfortunately, while I'll always give props to a studio for supporting high-res audio, it's clear that the source is the same, and this track is obviously limited by the source material.

The mix is almost entirely front-heavy, especially the first half. The technology limitations of the time come through in the lack of heft to the frequency range. Highs and lows just aren't there to any discernible degree, with that flat, dull sound typical of soundtracks of the era. The songs included on the soundtrack are also weakly rendered, barely sounding like they have been remixed for stereo.

As before, the only time the mix comes alive at all is during the battle scenes during the film's second half, where there are occasional instances of effective surround use, and some interesting atmospheric trickery with Vivian Kubrick's atonal score. Still, even in uncompressed form, 'Full Metal Jacket' feels dated -- movement of sounds from channel to channel is pretty obvious, and I never felt truly engulfed in the action. Dialogue is also weakly rendered, and I was frequently frustrated that even at decent volume levels I had trouble understanding characters' speech. Although Warner still deserves some kudos for adding a TrueHD track, in all honestly it doesn't help much.

[review_supplements_stars] => 2 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 161 [review_supplements] =>

Of the five titles Warner has included in its new wave of Kubrick high-def releases (a list that also includes '2001: A Space Odyssey,' 'A Clockwork Orange,' 'Eyes Wide Shut' and 'The Shining'), 'Full Metal Jacket' has received the least attention in terms of supplements. This isn't a bad package per se, but it's not all that extensive, either.

First up is a screen-specific audio commentary that reunites cast members Adam Baldwin, Vincent D'Onofrio and R. Lee Ermey, plus historian and writer Jay Cocks. I was particularly looking forward to listening to this one, as the on-set animosity between D'Onofrio and Kubrick is said to be legendary. Alas, this is not a dirt-dishing track, although there are a few moments when a suddenly disquieted D'Onofrio recalls a shoot that was clearly quite physically demanding (due in part to the actor's intense weight gain for the role). Ermey is, as always, an irascible often hilarious presence, and alongside Baldwin clearly has an unusual level of respect and affection for Kubrick. Unfortunately, both Ermey and D'Onofrio disappear about halfway through, and so does much of the energy of this track. Baldwin's character is just not integral enough to the story to be of much interest, and Cocks' insights are all second-hand. Not unlike the film itself, this track has a split personality.

The only other major feature is the newly-produced featurette "Full Metal Jacket: Between Good and Evil." Running 31 minutes, this one features the above participants, plus Matthew Modine (sorely missed on the commentary) and authors John Baxter ("Stanley Kubrick: A Biography") and David Hughes ("The Complete Kubrick"). Though not all that substantial in terms of length, I preferred this featurette to the commentary. It better encapsulates the basic gist of the film's conception, casting and shoot, as well as it's place in the Kubrick canon.

Rounding things out is the film's Theatrical Trailer, which, like the "Between Good and Evil" featurette above, is presented in 4:3 full screen 480i/MPEG-2 video only.

[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] =>

Following a dismal initial HD DVD outing for 'Full Metal Jacket' back in 2006, the video transfer on this 'Deluxe Edition' is an appreciable improvement. Likewise, the included TrueHD track is probably as good it's going to get, and we even get a couple of worthwhile supplements, a first for 'Full Metal Jacket' on any format. Alas, even in upgraded form, I still can't give this one an unqualified rave, but it is a perfectly respectable effort that's no longer a rotten apple in Warner's high-def library.

) ) [1] => Array ( [review_id] => 662 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => insideman [review_release_date] => 1193122800 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Inside Man [picture_created] => 1187466570 [picture_name] => inside-man.gif [manufacturer_name] => Universal Studios Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/08/18/120/inside-man.gif [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/662/insideman.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2006 [run_time] => 129 [list_price] => 29.98 [asin] => B000ULPFGS [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1358996 [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/2.3Mbps) [1] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (384kbps) [2] => French Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (384kbps) [3] => English DVS Dolby Digital 2.0 (192kbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentary [1] => Featurettes [2] => Deleted Scenes ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Crime [1] => Drama [2] => Thriller ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Denzel Washington [1] => Clive Owen [2] => Jodie Foster ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Spike Lee ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Academy Award winner Denzel Washington, Academy Award nominee Clive Owen and Academy Award winner Jodie Foster star in this intense and explosive crime thriller. The perfect bank robbery quickly spirals into an unstable and deadly game of cat-and-mouse between a criminal mastermind (Owen), a determined detective (Washington), and a power broker with a hidden agenda (Foster). As the minutes tick by and the situation becomes increasingly tense, one wrong move could mean disaster for any one of them. From acclaimed director Spike Lee comes the edge-of-your-seat, action-packed thriller. [preview_technology_specifications] => • Audio Commentary with Director Spike Lee
• Featurettes: "THe Making of 'Inside Man,'" "Number 4"
• Deleted Scenes [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 13641 [review_bottom_line] => Recommended [review_gear] =>
Review Components:
- 52" Sony Bravia XBR3 1080p Flat-Panel LCD
- Toshiba HD-XA2 HD DVD Player
- Yamaha 7.1 (840w) with Klipsch Synergy series 7.1 speakers
- HDMI and optical audio connections

Puzzled by the technical jargon in our reviews, or wondering how we assess and rate HD DVD and Blu-ray discs? Learn about our review methodology.

[review_forum_id] => 22181 [review_movie_stars] => 4.5 [review_movie] =>

Known primarily for his work directing flicks that tackle controversial social issues, it’s always a surprise when Spike Lee’s name is attached to more traditional material. But while ‘Inside Man’ may not focus on the same sort of hot-button issues as a ‘Do the Right Thing’ or a ‘Malcolm X,’ the director’s imprint remains clearly evident in this cops-n-robbers genre flick.

The film itself tells the story of three opposing forces: brilliant thief Dalton Russell (Clive Owen), stubborn detective Keith Frazier (Denzel Washington), and headstrong power broker Madeleine White (Jodie Foster). When Russell makes the employees and customers of a New York City bank his hostages during a robbery, Frazier and his partner (Chiwetel Ejiofor) arrive on the scene to bring the thief down. The volatile situation is made even more complicated when White arrives with instructions from the wealthy owner of a safety deposit box (Christopher Plummer) and a hidden agenda of her own. Before the chips have fallen in this non-linear action-drama, loyalties will be questioned, discoveries will be made, and Russell may just pull off the perfect crime.

’Inside Man’ may rely on a typical genre setup, but the end result is far from predictable or ordinary. Indeed, even from the film’s opening scenes, it’s clear that Lee has grand plans for what might otherwise have been a typical heist film, infusing his characters with complexity, enhancing the dialogue with an usually authentic rhythm, and adding a unique visual twist to the film's aesthetic. The director's confident voice and vision permeates every frame, and I never felt as if the story was in the hands of anyone but a master craftsman.

The performances are equally exceptional. Washington brings his usual commanding presence to the screen and seems to obviously be enjoying the chance to work on another "Spike Lee Joint." Playing off Washington's headstrong detective can’t be easy, but impressively, Ejiofor manages to upstage his leading man on more than one occasion. His portrayal is measured yet explosive, with the actor delivering what is arguably the most convincing performance in the film. Foster and Plummer also turn in suitably juicy performances, but it’s Owen who seems to having the most fun. His character is violent and unforgiving, yet he injects him with a likeability that leaves the audience rooting for him to get away with it all. Last but not least, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Willem Dafoe’s supporting role as a police captain. Although his part in the film is small, Dafoe’s commitment to his role is yet another strong performance from a truly extraordinary cast.

Without giving away any of the film’s secrets, a flick like ‘Inside Man’ wouldn't work without a proper ending, and here too Lee delivers the goods. A puzzle that only comes together at the film’s conclusion, it is both surprising and wholly satisfying, demonstrating an impressive cohesiveness and an impeccable attention to detail that may make the film even better on its second viewing.

Atypical for a heist film, ‘Inside Man’ pairs an intricate plot with strong character development for a one-two punch that’s not only engaging, but thought-provoking as well. Even if you’re not a Spike Lee fan, here’s betting you’ll enjoy this highly effective flick.

[review_video_stars] => 4.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 4052 [review_video] =>

'Inside Man' boasts a striking 1080p/VC-1 transfer that’s a substantial step up from the standard-def DVD. As usual, colors receive the most noticeable upgrade, with a strong palette and impeccable fleshtone saturation. Contrast is stark but comfortable, blacks are deep, and the image has a convincing level of depth. On the whole, detail is deftly rendered -- skin textures are naturalistic, brickwork and sidewalk cracks are crisp, and background elements inside the large police RVs (such as papers and coffee cups) are as clear as they were in the theater.

Grain density varies slightly from shot to shot, but I never found the fluctuations to be distracting. The source itself is also beautiful; I didn't catch any artifacting, noise, or edge enhancement. In fact, my only minor issue came as a byproduct of Lee's intentionally high contrast, which often leads to crushing and hot whites. While it clearly matches the film’s aesthetic, it does drown out visibility and details in the shadows.

Small complaints aside, 'Inside Man' remains a visual winner from Universal. Fans and newcomers alike are likely to be wowed by this disc’s overall picture quality.

[review_audio_stars] => 4.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 4053 [review_audio] =>

The hits just keep oncoming. 'Inside Man' features a robust Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround mix (48 kHz/16-Bit/2.3 Mbps) that dwarfs recent audio offerings from other high-def dramas. Although the film itself is primarily conversation-driven, the environments are packed with realistic acoustics, impressive ambiance, and active surrounds. Just listen to any scene that takes place in the streets of the city. Hear the cars in the distance? The rambling officers in the background? The quiet footfalls of people rushing by? This isn't sound design -- it's sound illusion.

Pans are swift and directionality is spot on. When gunshots or action scenes pop up, solid dynamics follow suit, generating earthy bass rumbles and sharp treble tones. My only complaint is that the music score can overwhelm the mix at times; dialogue in the film is prioritized until the music swells and sometimes muffles conversations. Even so, this powerful and meticulously produced TrueHD track will impress even the most-hardened audiophiles.

[review_supplements_stars] => 2 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 4054 [review_supplements] =>

This HD DVD edition of 'Inside Man' carries over all of the supplemental content from its standard DVD counterpart, and although it’s a somewhat slim package, it least what we do get is worth watching.

First up is an intriguing commentary track with Spike Lee that gives the outspoken director over two hours to weigh in on everything from the American moviegoer to studio system politics. Oh yeah -- he also manages to throw in his extensive thoughts on the film itself. While some may find his tangents a bit frustrating, there's an engaging logic to his comments, and he never comes across as unfocused. He does fall silent a bit too often for my tastes (especially when the third act rolls around), but overall this is a fine track that's worth your time.

Next comes a decent collection of "Deleted Scenes" (20 minutes), which add some nice character beats, as well as a few alternate takes (specifically of the post-robbery interviews) that will be of interest to fans.

Rounding out the package are two featurettes: a promotional segment titled "The Making of ‘Inside Man’" (10 minutes), and an engaging interview called "Number 4" (10 minutes). While the first is pure studio fluff, the second is a great chat between Spike Lee and Denzel Washington. Sure, the two are good friends who pat each other on the backs freely, but they also discuss the four films on which they've worked together. I really dug the candid tone of the conversation and found myself wishing that this featurette had been longer.

(Note that all of the video features list above are presented in 480i/p video only.)

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

There’s no exclusive content, but this disc does include Universal's My Scenes feature, which allows you to bookmark your favorite scenes for instant access even after you eject the disc from the player.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 4 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 4055 [review_final_thoughts] =>

This HD DVD edition of ’Inside Man’ pulls off a rare high-def trifecta, pairing a strong film with an excellent video transfer, and a superb TrueHD audio track. Although a somewhat slim supplements package (an exact match with the standard-def DVD) is a slight drag on the overall grade, don’t let that stop you from picking this disc up. This one’s an easy recommend for fans and newcomers alike.

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• Featurettes: "Conceiving 'Seed of Chucky,'" "Heeeere's Chucky," "Jennifer Tilly's Video Diary," "Fuzion up close with The Seed of Chucky Stars"
• Deleted Scene
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Most franchise horror sequels are creative voids. They either simply remake the original film, or succumb to an ever-more-desperate series of gimmicks in hopes of wringing a few more bucks out of a stale premise. For that reason alone, I have to hand it to the Chucky films -- nearly twenty years since the original 'Child's Play' in 1988, they've managed to stay surprisingly fresh, witty and inventive. Never was that more the case than with 1998's 'Bride of Chucky' (the fourth film in the series), which brought the franchise completely into the realm of parody, yet was so stylishly satiric that even the genre's harshest critics were forced to begrudgingly admire its cleverness and audacity. 'Bride' was also a big hit at the box office, which of course almost guaranteed another follow-up.

Ironically, the only folks not laughing all the way to the bank after 'Bride of Chucky' was Universal itself. 1998 was a dismal year for the studio, so much so that even with 'Bride's fairly meager gross of $32 million (meager by blockbuster standards, anyway), it was their biggest hit of the season. The fact that a film called 'Bride of Chucky' had been the studio's biggest hit apparently caused Universal so much embarrassment, that -- as Chucky creators Don Mancini and Don Kirshner would loudly complain to the press -- Universal sat on a sequel to 'Bride' for years. That is, until finally in 2004, 'Seed of Chucky' was dropped on the doorsteps of theaters like a bastard stepchild.

Which, thank god, it is. The one good thing about the traditional indifference of the major studios to genre projects is that they usually leave their filmmakers alone. In this case it would seem to be the only explanation for how Kirshner and Mancini were able to spawn such a thoroughly demented, utterly twisted cinematic creation. While the first three 'Child's Play' flicks were straight-ahead horror yarns, and 'Bride' a send-up of classic Universal monster flicks like 'Bride of Frankenstein,' 'Seed' is a motion picture first -- a homage to the Douglas Sirk melodramas of the '50s, masquerading as a slasher-comedy. Throw in a huge heaping of self-referential in-jokes, a dash of post-modern irony, and one fearless performance by a returning Jennifer Tilly, and you have a largely unsuccessful yet utterly fascinating abortion of a movie.

'Seed of Chucky' is certainly the first movie to base its entire premise around doll sperm. Seems Chucky and Tiffany, after the events in 'Bride,' have given birth to their own little bouncing bundle of joy. But when their androgynous spawn doesn't seem to have either boy or girl doll parts, Chucky dubs him "Shitface," and tosses him off to a traveling carnival freakshow. Once the little tyke grows into an adolescent and begins questioning his gender, he/she renames himself/herself Glen/Glenda (just like the Ed Wood movie, get it?). The confusion continues when little Glen(da) escapes, hustles back to Hollywood, and discovers his parents on the set of their own hit slasher movie.

If this sounds complicated, writer-director Mancini tosses off all the exposition in a matter of minutes. His real goal in 'Seed of Chucky' seems to be sending up Hollywood self-importance, and ripping a page right out of 'Wes Craven's New Nightmare,' he has much of his cast playing themselves. Jennifer Tilly returns as... Jennifer Tilly, playing a washed-up B-movie actress stuck playing second fiddle to a puppet. There is also a turn by rapper Redmon playing... a rapper casting his latest opus, a horror flick to star Tilly. And Mancini even has the gumption to have schlock icon John Waters playing an unscrupulous tabloid reporter who will stop at nothing to catch his celebrity prey. (Okay, so it isn't an exactly case of art imitating life, but it's brilliant casting nonetheless.)

Somehow through all of this, Mancini manages to weave all his wildly disparate influences to create a linear, mostly comprehensible film. Tonally, however, 'Seed' does not flow nearly as effortlessly as 'Bride' did, in part because Mancini seems to overestimate the appeal of Glen/Glenda. The creepy looking doll is the real star of the show, not Chucky or Tiffany, both of whom are forced to take back seat during much of the film's first half. It is only when Glen/Glenda's murderous genetic lineage begins to surface -- and Chucky's paternal impulses finally awaken -- that the film gets back on track. Unfortunately, by this point, the whole post-modern thing with Tilly and Redmon feels like a distraction, and the ending, though resolute, isn't particularly satisfying. Although I quite admired Mancini's ambition with this film, ultimately he piles on too many complexities and the whole thing collapses like a house of cards.

Still, despite its considerable flaws, 'Seed of Chucky' remains fun -- especially for film buffs. Mancini's pastiche may be wholly obvious, it's so far-ranging and obscure at times that it's a kick to try to spot the myriad of pop culture references. His clear love for his puppets is also endearing, and the combination of witty dialogue and expert mechanical effects transform Chucky, Tiffany and Glen/Glenda into surprisingly memorable, fully three-dimensional flesh-and-blood characters (sorry, couldn't resist). And while a little Jennifer Tilly goes a long way for most people, she is so game to parody herself (the level of humiliation Mancini gleefully puts her through would certainly make most other celebrities blanche) that it's hard not to admire her gutsiness. 'Seed of Chucky' is no match for 'Bride,' but in today's current horror climate of endless remakes and unimaginative sequels, at least it's a breath of fresh air.

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 4119 [review_video] =>

Odd for horror flick (even a satirical one), 'Seed of Chucky' bucks just about every visual convention of the genre and is lit like a '50s melodrama. Rather than being bathed in darkness, 'Seed of Chucky' is bright and bold, which may not offer much in the way of the heebie-jeebies, but does deliver a punchy high-def image.

Universal presents 'Seed of Chucky' in a matted 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio, and the studio's standard 1080p/VC-1 encode. I thought the previous standard-def DVD looked a bit muted and bland, but this HD DVD bumps up the colors nicely. They're more vibrant yet still solid, particularly in the more garish scenes (Santa with his throat slashed never looked so... red). The bright lighting also helps the illusion of depth, with detail generally excellent even in the shadows despite some heavy grain. Granted, all things are not perfect -- there's some softness evident, and Universal's tendency to over-enhance their transfers remains a bummer, with edge halos and some shimmering during pans visible. Still, all in all, this is a four-star presentation. Chucky is certainly ready for his close-up.

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

No, it doesn't make sense -- Universal routinely disses their big A-list titles like 'Knocked Up' and 'Evan Almighty' with no high-res audio, but a title like 'Seed of Chucky' gets a Dolby TrueHD track? Steve Carell should fire his agent (it's sad when you're upstaged by a puppet), but in the meantime, Chucky fans will just have to enjoy the fruits of Universal's bizarre decisions.

More a parody of a horror film than it is a horror itself, 'Seed of Chucky' allows the filmmakers to have a lot of fun with the usual sonic cliches of the genre. The film's intentions are made clear right up front during the gothic, 'Psycho'-inspired prologue. As the lightning crashes and the wind howls, the surrounds are nice and alive with discrete effects. Pino Donaggio's baroque score is also nicely bled throughout the soundfield, swelling up in the rears at the most appropriate moments. The non-action moments are a bit more subdued, but there's still a nice sense of spaciousness to the stereo effect throughout, making 'Seed of Chucky' feel more expansive than it actually is. Dialogue is handled nicely as well, and is balanced appropriately with the rest of the mix.

[review_supplements_stars] => 3 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 4120 [review_supplements] =>

'Seed of Chucky' comes to HD DVD with the same extensive smorgasbord of extras that graced the previous DVD edition. In fact, there are more bonus features here than you're likely to find on the discs for most Oscar winners, which is either a testament to the iconic pop culture status of Chucky, or another sign of the downfall of our civilization. In any case, the cheeky and self-referential tone of the movie is carried over to the supplements, and it's a most entertaining package.

The tone is set by the first of two audio commentaries, with writer-director Don Mancini and star Jennifer Tilly. You know you're in for a ride when, only seconds in, Tilly comments that the film's opening credits "look like the inside of my vagina." She doesn't let up for the next 86 minutes, riffing on everything from an embarrassing on-set slip in a pool of blood to an off-screen spat with Brad Dourif that forced a complete rewrite of a monologue for Chucky. By comparison, the second commentary with Mancini and puppeteer Tony Gardener is a bit staid. As you would expect, the art of animatronic puppets is outlined in excruciating detail, although the moment where Mancini and Gardener discuss the scene where Chucky, um, perfects the art of self-pleasure is priceless.

Just as humorous is "Chucky's Insider Facts on Demand," a pop-up trivia track filled with production nuggets, casting tidbits and notations on the various homages and in-jokes scattered about the film. Simply put, this is one of the best tracks of its sort that I've ever seen.

Next up are a series of publicity vignettes, all of which are entirely tongue-in-cheek. "Heeeere's Chucky" (4 minutes) is a one-on-one interview with the Chuckster, who apparently thinks he's a big star. "Chucky Unsheathed" (2 minutes) confronts him with fake screen tests for all of the big roles he missed out on, including parts in 'American Pie' and 'Scarface' (Chucky as Tony Montana? Now that I would pay to see.)

"Family Hell-Iday Slideshow" (3 minutes) features Chucky, Tiffany and Glen/Glenda reminiscing over a slideshow of a recent family vacation, complete with many corpses. "FuZion" (6 minutes) features an interview with Tilly, Tiffany and Chucky during the film's press junket. Their insightful and probing chat is presented here in full, but it's not as funny as it may sound.

By far the best of this material is Tilly's appearance on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" to promote the film's release. The mock 2-minute "video diary" she presents is hysterical, documenting her stay in "luxurious" Romania, where she arrives by broken-down cargo plane. The actress details her experience on 'Seed of Chucky' in even greater detail in the entirely text-based "Jennifer Tilly's Diary." These extensive pages recall Mancini's arduous, six-year fight to get 'Seed' to screen, including extensive detail on who everyone was sleeping with on the set. Of course, the fact that most of this is likely completely fabricated only adds to the fun.

Rounding things out is some excised footage. There is a single Deleted Scene, the first part of a self-referential subplot involving Debbie Carrington (the little person who played the part of the Tiffany doll) and a plot by Tilly to kill her. Unfortunately, the bloody payoff to the storyline was never filmed. Finally, there are Storyboard-to-Screen Comparisons of five different sequences, totaling 13 minutes.

Alas, seeing as the trailers for the Chucky movies are often funnier than the flicks themselves, it's a shame that Universal hasn't included any of them on this disc.

(Note that all of the video-based supplementary material list above is presented in 480p/i/MPEG-2 video only.)

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 4121 [review_bonus_content] =>

There's exclusive content per se, but once again Universal has included its standard MyScenes bookmark function.

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

At last -- a Chucky film in 1080p! Although it's criminal that Universal decided to release 'Seed' before the superior 'Bride of Chucky,' at least they're getting the killer doll party started. This HD DVD is a strong overall package, with the video, audio and supplements each delivering plenty of bang for your high buck. Yes, I realize that a film about doll semen (even in high-def) is probably not everyone's cup of tea, but Chucky fans won't be disappointed with this release.

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• Documentary: "The Making of the Shining" (with optional commentary by Vivian Kubrick)
• Featurettes: "View from the Overlook: Crafting the Shining," "The Visions of Stanley Kubrick," "Wendy Carlos, Composer"
• Theatrical trailer [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [review_editors_notes] => Non-format-specific portions of this review also appear in our Blu-ray review of 'The Shining (1980).' [review_bottom_line] => Recommended [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 22429 [review_movie_stars] => 4 [review_movie] =>

Although Stanley Kubrick's 'The Shining' is now considered a horror classic, back at the time of its original 1980 theatrical release, it was something of a bust. Arriving that June amidst an almost breathless level of anticipation, audiences and critics alike were ultimately underwhelmed, complaining about the film's slow pace, lack of traditional horror movie shocks, and an over-the-top, scene-chewing star turn by Jack Nicholson. Despite a strong opening weekend, box office quickly plummeted, and 'The Shining' soon became known as the "bummer of the summer."

Funny, then, that just as the ghostly apparitions of the film's fictional Overlook Hotel would play tricks on the mind of poor Jack Torrance, so too has the passage time changed the perception of 'The Shining' itself. Many of the same reviewers who lambasted the film for "not being scary" enough back in 1980 now rank it among the most effective horror films ever made, while audiences who hated the film back then now vividly recall being "terrified" by the experience. 'The Shining' has somehow risen from the ashes of its own bad press to redefine itself not only as a seminal work of the genre, but perhaps the most stately, artful horror ever made.

By now, most everyone knows the story. Based (very loosely) on the novel by Stephen King, over the course of a few snowbound weeks at the Overlook Hotel, aspiring novelist Torrance (Nicholson) will give new meaning to the phrase "dying for your art." Expecting to finish his "Great American Novel," Jack drags his long-suffering wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and young son Danny (Danny Lloyd) to spend a relaxing winter at the cavernous Overlook, but the hotel's previous guests have something else in mind. Haunted by escalating visions of the macabre, Jack's dark impulses will erupt, eventually spiraling into madness (and a fondness for axes). With the oblivious Wendy unable (or unwilling) to see Jack's emerging psychosis, it is only young Danny -- who possess a latent psychic ability, or a "shining" -- who will be able to open her eyes to the evil around them and rescue the family.

I love 'The Shining,' but many of the criticisms initially leveled at the film are valid. The pace is as slow as molasses, with Kubrick bucking the rhythms and shocks that traditionally make for an effective horror film. He stretches scenes out well beyond their breaking point (often deflating tension), and misses several golden opportunities for the kind of heart-in-the-mouth scares that a more commercially-minded filmmaker would have spoon-fed to his audience. One imagines that if Kubrick has directed 'Jaws,' right before the big moment where the shark jumps out at Roy Scheider on the boat, he would have cut to a ten-minute shot of the sun setting.

Ironically, it's precisely because Kubrick took such an unconventional approach to the traditional machinery of a horror film that 'The Shining' is able to cast such a unique, compelling spell. The film's 148-minute runtime feels twice as long, but because it's such a slow burn, by the time Kubrick springs his climactic succession of shocks on us, they pack that much more of a wallop. Given the none-too-subtle sexual undercurrents in all of his films, it's arguably fair to say that the last 30 minutes of 'The Shining' are orgasmic. Jack's unleashing of fury on his wife and child is so ferociously rendered that it's primal and oozing with palpable subtext. Nowhere is this more evident than when Kubrick slyly reveals his "money shot" in full -- the now-iconic image of a hallway filling with a tidal wave of blood -- a "release" that's so visceral it rises to the level of the operatic. As always, Kubrick is frustrating in his methodical, rigid pacing with 'The Shining,' but he still rightfully earns the title of master manipulator because, like Hitchcock, when he finally rewards our patience it's well worth the wait.

Despite a renewed appreciation over the years, not everyone loves 'The Shining.' Stephen King himself remains one of the film's most vocal detractors, routinely slagging off Kubrick's take as a near-desecration of the novel (King would even go so far as to produce his own version of 'The Shining' as a mini-series for television in 1997). Certainly, Kubrick has jettisoned most of the novel's most overt supernatural underpinnings, and his casting choices are also quite a departure from King's vision (particularly Duvall's Wendy, who is far removed from the blonde beauty of the book). Kubrick can also be so oblique in his use of visual metaphor that at times it renders the story nearly incomprehensible. Nowhere is this more evident that during the film's final ten minutes, as the scope of the hotel's past perversity is finally revealed to Wendy (and the audience) in images that have now become legendary in their unintentional hilarity. (If anyone out there knows just what the heck Wendy's vision of two guys dressed in bunny costumes going down on each other has to do with anything, please send me an email). As such, it's not surprising that so many fans of the novel shared King's outrage. Indeed, as a strict adaptation, Kubrick's 'The Shining' is undoubtedly a failure.

Still, 'The Shining' remains fascinating in spite of -- or perhaps precisely because of -- its "flaws." It's a grand, ornate and intelligent horror film -- one far less concerned about delivering the expected shocks and scares than it is in painting an intentionally obtuse portrait of the American family in the grips of madness. Yes, Kubrick is a cold filmmaker who often seems to delight in thwarting our expectations just for the thrill of it, and 'The Shining' is often off-putting. But it's also unmistakably menacing, provocative and filled with enough unforgettable images for ten other movies. The rare genre film that's truly challenging in its complexity, 'The Shining' is a journey that every horror fan simply must take at least once.

[review_video_stars] => 4.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 4101 [review_video] =>

The Shining' may not be the best of Stanley Kubrick's films, but it is my personal favorite, and I think I've owned every single version released on video (both the good and the god-awful). The best of the previous releases was Warner's remastered DVD from 2001, which at last saw the film's picture quality spruced up to something approaching its original glory. Unfortunately, that release was full frame only, and a widescreen 'Shining' that faithfully approximated the film's theatrical exhibition remained elusive.

Finally, Warner has delivered the goods, presenting 'The Shining' here in a matted 1.78:1 transfer that's slightly opened up versus the original 1.85:1 theatrical exhibition. Both the HD DVD and Blu-ray feature identical 1080p/VC-1 encodes, and they are both excellent. Although there is still the occasional blemish, this transfer is such a clear improvement over the old, dirty, speckled prints that it's hard to complain. 'The Shining' was always a rather soft film, with considerable use of diffuse lighting, but it's crisp here, offering a level of visible detail that's impressive for a film that's nearly thirty years old. Warner has also wisely not over-sharpened the source, so it remains natural and film-like.

Appropriate to the cold and oppressive mood Kubrick intended, the color palette here is muted, but most impressive to me about this new transfer is that, for the first time, the film's visual aesthetic finally comes to life, with subtle uses of select hues now seeming intentional rather than random. From the striking greens and purples of "Room 237," to the intense blue-white floodlights of the climactic hedge maze chase, to the crimson reds Kubrick selectively deploys with clothing, set design and (of course) blood, 'The Shining' at last looks vibrant instead of drab. To be sure, this is still a "'70s film" in feel, but the clarity and richness of hues (not to mention fleshtones that are finally accurate) make this transfer border on the revelatory.

[review_audio_stars] => 2.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 4105 [review_audio] =>

'The Shining' is the latest in a series of recent Warner catalog titles to be graced with high-res audio, boasting a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track (48kHz/16-bit) for the HD DVD, as well as a companion PCM mix for the Blu-ray. Unfortunately, even after doing some A/B comparisons, I felt that the source material was quite frankly a bit too dated to really benefit much from the boost.

As Warner has not included the film's original mono track as an option, purists will likely bemoan the 5.1 remix, as it has clearly been post-processed to achieve a surround-like effect. Unfortunately, truly discrete effects are non-existent. The fantastically eerie opening credits establishes the approach, with a limited bleed of Wendy Carlos' terrific score to the rears, and that's just about it. As the movie progresses, bleed is expanded to include very minor ambiance, but rarely is there any noticeable presence to the rears and atmosphere never delivers in the way the movie clearly cries out for.

Dynamics range from decent to anemic. Bass never extends deep enough, while high-end feels compressed and flat. Although there are no source issues or obvious harshness, the mix never feels particularly realistic or expansive. Dialogue is generally well produced, but at quieter volumes I had trouble hearing some of the characters, so if you can't turn up the level to a decent degree, you may find yourself flicking on the subtitles from time to time.

[review_supplements_stars] => 3 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 4103 [review_supplements] =>

Given the late Stanley Kubrick's disdain for DVD supplementary material (add him to the hater's club alongside Woody Allen), most of Warner's earlier Kubrick DVD releases haven't boasted much in the way of extras.

However, 'The Shining' was unique, in that Kubrick's daughter Vivian Kubrick, herself a documentary filmmaker, shot a 35-minute making-of special for the BBC at the time of the film's release. Included here, "The Making of 'The Shining'" is a somewhat haphazard but nonetheless fascinating time capsule. Obviously, the younger Kubrick had complete access to the set, which gives a you-are-there intimacy quite rare for even the best behind-the-scenes documentaries. We get the rare chance to see Kubrick at work, both behind the camera and staging a few of the film's most famous scenes. Most revealingly, we also see evidence of the famed on-set tension between Kubrick and Shelley Duvall, with the director at one point berating the harried actress in front of the whole crew for failing to open a door properly. Duvall seems to both delight in and resent Kubrick's perfectionism, and it's this kind of candidness that makes "The Making of 'The Shining'" a must-watch. (Note that as the doc was originally shot on 16mm film for television, it is presented here in 4:33 full screen 480p/MPEG-2 video only. Vivian Kubrick also provides optional audio commentary throughout the duration of the entire doc, and offers a few more revealing recollections about her father's work on the film.)

Rather than simply regurgitating what was on the previous DVD, Warner has also produced a new suite of three featurettes for this release, which is hitting standard-def DVD concurrently. Although I was bracing myself for a bunch of stodgy scholars rehashing the same tired old Kubrick theories, instead Warner has assembled a pretty impressive line-up of talent to discuss the film. Included are new interviews with screenwriter Diane Johnson, composer Wendy Carlos and Mr. Jack Nicholson himself, plus comments from a series of A-list directors, including Steven Spielberg, John Boorman, William Friedkin and frequent Kubrick collaborator Sydney Pollack. Finally, lest you think the featurettes would skimp on the scholarly, also present are authors John Baxter ("Stanley Kubrick: A Biography") and David Hughes ("The Complete Kubrick").

"View from the Overlook: Crafting 'The Shining'" is the longest at 26 minutes. It's a well-rounded overview of the project from conception through production to release. At just under a half hour, this one was a bit too short for my taste, glossing over major aspects of the film, but Nicholson and Johnson in particular impart some fascinating insight into Kubrick's approach to 'The Shining.'

"Wendy Carlos, Composer" runs 7 minutes, and is basically a sit-down chat with the legendary electronic composer. She talks specifically about her approach to the material, and affectionately recounts her warm relationship with Kubrick.

Finally, "The Visions of Stanley Kubrick" runs 15 minutes, but it's largely an overview of Kubrick's films, and not really specific to 'The Shining.' It also feels a bit like a digest version of the more substantial documentary found on the 'Eyes Wide Shut' Blu-ray, so if you're picking up all the Kubrick titles, you may find some redundancy.

(Note that all three featurettes are formatted in 16:9 widescreen but encoded at 480p/MPEG-2 video only. While the quality is above average, it's a surprise and a disappointment that fresh material like this wasn't presented in true high-definition.)

Warner has not stopped at just the featurettes, however. They've also included a real surprise: a full-length audio commentary featuring the film's original Steadicam operator Garrett Brown, and Baxter. I was a bit fearful that this one would be completely dry and boring. But for a film lasting 146 minutes, I was amazed that Brown and Baxter never run out of things to say. Brown is articulate and insightful about working with Kubrick day after day, and provides great detail on some of the film's best sequences -- particularly the climactic hedge maze, as well as the iconic "wall of blood" shot. Baxter is more illuminating on the narrative, though his take on Kubrick's intentions will certainly cause some debate. All in all, a fine commentary.

Rounding out the extras is the film's original Theatrical Trailer (more of a teaser, really), presented in 4:3 full screen and 480i/MPEG-2 video.

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

There are no HD DVD exclusives.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 3.5 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 4104 [review_final_thoughts] =>

Nearly thirty years later, 'The Shining' still casts a cold, creepy spell that's sure to send a shiver down the spine. Although I was underwhelmed by the remixed high-res audio, otherwise the film's long-anticipated high-def debut is first-rate. The transfer is the best I've ever seen the movie look, and the extras ain't too shabby, either. As a long-time fan of the film, this release lived up to my heightened expectations, so I can recommend it here without reservation.

) ) [4] => Array ( [review_id] => 1029 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => sopranoss6p2 [review_release_date] => 1193122800 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => The Sopranos: Season Six, Part Two [picture_created] => 1186120958 [picture_name] => sopranos-hd.gif [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Video [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/08/02/120/sopranos-hd.gif [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1029/sopranoss6p2.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2007 [run_time] => 540 [list_price] => 129.95 [asin] => B000ROCJEY [amazon_price] => 90.95 [empire_id] => 1359223 [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 [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Discs [2] => Four-Disc Set ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround [1] => Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentaries [1] => Featurettes ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English Subtitles [1] => Spanish Subtitles [2] => French Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Crime [1] => Drama [2] => Television ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Michael Imperioli [1] => Edie Falco [2] => James Gandolfini ) [preview_technology_specifications] => • Four Audio Commentaries with cast members Dominic Chainese, Robert Iler, Arthur Nascarella, Steven R. Schirripa and Stevie Van Zandt
• Featurettes: "The Music of 'The Sopranos,'" "Making 'Cleaver'" [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 13412 [review_editors_notes] => Non format-specific portions of this review also appear in our Blu-ray review of 'The Sopranos: Season Six, Part Two.' [review_bottom_line] => Give it a Rent [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 23734 [review_movie_stars] => 2.5 [review_movie] =>

Series finales have a long history of disappointing their viewers -- who can forget the controversy and debate that followed the bows of 'Quantum Leap,' 'Seinfeld,' and 'M*A*S*H'? This summer, 'The Sopranos' six-season run enraged fans when it ended with a bang -- not from a gun as most expected, but from the sudden silence of a blank screen.

As I discussed in my HD DVD review of 'The Sopranos: Season Six, Part One,' the first part of the final season concluded with a veritable calm before the storm. The Soprano clan had a brief moment of peace around a warm holiday dinner and things seemed as if they could turn out well for our loveable criminals from Jersey. Tony (James Gandolfini) had emerged from his coma, Christopher (Michael Imperioli) was working to fix his life, and Carmela (Edie Falco) was finally coming to terms with the consequences of her husband's actions.

As 'The Sopranos: Season Six, Part Two' begins, the family's glimpse of happiness shatters and leaves them reeling. AJ (Robert Iler) is slowly succumbing to depression, Meadow (Jamie Lynn Singer) begins to realize the danger of her father's lifestyle, and Uncle Junior (Dominic Chianese) is fading away in a nursing home. As if these personal dramas weren't enough, Tony has to deal with the war between the Soprano organization and the New York mafia, frustrations with his psychiatrist (Lorraine Bracco), and the disloyalty of key captains in his inner circle.

Let me begin by addressing the final episode, which has proven itself to be a love-it or hate-it affair that clearly disappointed many viewers. I have to admit to being furious about it myself at first, but upon further reflection I've come to believe that it was the perfect way to end the series.

That's not to say that I loved this half-season. In fact, overall I found it quite disappointing. Not only is it inconsistently paced, but plot threads aren't just left open, they're mostly ignored, with many of the storylines and character arcs left up in the air. I'm not naive; I know it would be impossible to tie up every loose end, but is it too much to ask for some sort of thematic resolution to the ideas weaved throughout the series? 'The Sopranos' spent six seasons posing intriguing questions about morality, family, and the things that separate men from monsters. In its final season, the series offers precious few answers, a handful of theories, and mostly just surface-level observations about the very questions it had raised for so many years.

But the thing that bothered me most was that the majority of deaths in these nine final episodes feel more like a chore for creator David Chase than they do shocking, logical beats in the overall story. Only one death managed to register with me as both brilliant and heartbreaking (an assassination in a certain hobby store). Another murder (when Tony chooses to dispatch a close friend with his own hands) should have hit me square in the chest, but it occurs so early on that it lacked any substantial emotional core.

And those are just two of the main characters. Chase spent six tireless seasons developing his actors and molding their individual arcs. So how does he send out fan favorite supporting characters? In the most clichéd ways imaginable. There are no surprises, no twists, and no unseen demises -- everything is obvious and inevitable. I could sense Chase placing the crosshairs on a character a half an hour before they died. Likewise, the mob war fizzles out without much oomph as most of the characters spend a large part of the "war" in hiding. I can't help but get the impression that Chase simply ran out of steam this season -- the final episodes feel like a mid-season collection rather than a methodically plotted climax for a series.

Having said all that, I should mention that many fans and critics alike feel differently, and thoroughly enjoyed it all. I think one possible source of my distaste may be that I watched Part One months before I got to Part Two. Whereas Part One felt like a complete season to me, Part Two failed to stand on its own. Perhaps if I'd watched all twenty episodes back to back for the first time, I would have felt a greater crescendo in the latter part of the story. As it stands, I didn't feel any proper build up to heavy-hitting moments -- they seemed to come too early and arrive with too little fanfare to impress. I'm definitely interested in hearing the opinions of viewers who are able to watch the two parts of this season for the first time as an uninterrupted whole.

To my eyes, 'The Sopranos: Season Six, Part Two' is a weak farewell for a groundbreaking criminal epic. Although I ultimately came to appreciate the series' controversial final scene, I just wasn't thrilled by the plotting and meandering character development that preceded the show's famous cut to black.

('The Sopranos: Season Six, Part Two' includes nine episodes -- "Soprano Home Movies," "Stage 5," "Remember When," "Chasing It," "Walk Like a Man," "Kennedy and Heidi," "The Second coming," "The Blue Comet," and "Made in America.")

[review_video_stars] => 4.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 4201 [review_video] =>

Warner continues to give 'The Sopranos' the royal treatment in high definition as the second half of season six arrives on HD DVD and Blu-ray with identical 1080p/VC-1 transfers that put other television presentations to shame. Color vibrancy and saturation receive the most noticeable boost over the HBO HD cablecast -- skintones are natural, black levels are heavy and contrast is comfortably stark. Fine detail is exquisite and crisp textures make the criminal underworld of New Jersey and New York feel appropriately earthy. Low-lit scenes (of which there are plenty) don't hinder the image, and shadow delineation reveals details that were lost during the show's original run on HBO.

Daytime shots on the streets or in Tony's backyard look phenomenal. As I wrote in my review of the first half of the season, the illusion of depth in long shots is particularly impressive -- words on distant billboards are crisp, clothing details on background extras are sharp and hordes of leaves are perfectly rendered. In one memorable scene set at the family pool, notice the tiny ripples in the water, the textured edges of the diving board, and the individual blades of grass around the concrete patio. It's simply flawless.

That's not to say that other aspects of these episodes are without minor problems. As was the case with the first half of the season, darker locales (including Tony's "Bada Bing" strip club) are occasionally haunted by hazy pixelation. I also caught slight instances of artifacting during random flashes of gunfire. Neither of these issues are a distraction, but more sensitive viewers will spot each problem once or twice per episode. That being said, this remains an excellent transfer that reaches technical heights other series have only imagined.

[review_audio_stars] => 4.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 4202 [review_audio] =>

The final episodes of 'The Sopranos' arrive on HD DVD with an impressive Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track that's indistinguishable from the equally formidable Blu-ray PCM mix. Dialogue is crisp, the soundfield is wonderfully prioritized, and the audio is faithful to the natural recording methods of its source. Music (especially the songs that appear at the end of each episode) once again opens up the soundfield with stability and intensity.

Boasting sound design that more closely resembles a film than it does a typical television show, I found myself caught off guard on more than one occasion by sudden dynamic bursts in the soundscape. Gunfire and blunt impacts resonate deep within the soundfield and add weight to the on screen drama. Bass booms are hearty, natural, and firmly rooted in the LFE channel, and I never encountered any effects or dialogue that sounded shallow or hollow. Likewise, interior acoustics, environmental effects and ambiance all help establish the authenticity of each scene.

My only minor complaint is that the rear channels aren't used as thoroughly as they were in previous seasons. While I'm guessing this has more to do with content of this half season than anything else, the result is fewer standout audio pieces in this release. That being said, this audio package remains technically superior to most other television shows released on either format and is sure to please fans of the series.

[review_supplements_stars] => 1.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 4203 [review_supplements] =>

This HD DVD edition ports over all of the supplements from the concurrently-released standard DVD set. Alas, those expecting a grand supplemental send off for the groundbreaking series will be disappointed. Though we do get a handful of treats, none explore the show's impact in any significant way.

  • Four Audio Commentaries -- Although series creator David Chase has contributed commentaries to previous 'Sopranos' DVD releases, he's curiously absent from this half season. Instead we get actor commentaries for four of the season's episodes: Steve Shirripa covers "Soprano Home Movies," Steven Van Zandt and Arthur Nascarella discuss "The Blue Comet," Dominic Chianese hits "Remember When," and Robert Iler comments on "The Second Coming." Promising in concept, unfortunately the majority of the participants here are dry and offer very little to the overall discussion of the series.


  • The Music of the Sopranos (17 minutes, SD) -- This all-too-brief featurette discusses an aspect of the series that could easily be the subject of a full-length documentary. The interviews and tidbits here are interesting enough to justify the runtime of the featurette, but the creative process behind the music selection could have been more thoroughly explored.


  • Making Cleaver (8 minutes, SD) -- This tongue-in-cheek short explores the behind-the-scenes filming of 'Cleaver,' the fictional movie Christopher creates over the course of the sixth season of 'The Sopranos.' The exaggerated nature of this featurette is fun and reveals a lighter side of the show's cast members.

[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] => 4204 [review_final_thoughts] =>

Though opinions differ on the concluding episodes of 'The Sopranos,' one thing's for sure -- if you haven't experienced earlier seasons of the groundbreaking series, this isn't the place to start.

As an HD DVD release, this one certainly delivers on the bottom line, boasting a gorgeous video transfer and a robust TrueHD audio mix. I personally found the slim supplements package to be a bit arbitrary, but more disappointing than that is the high cost of this release. At a suggested retail price of $129.95 for just eight episodes, it's hard not to feel that fans are being fleeced with this release.

) ) ) ) ) [October 22, 2007] => Array ( [reviews] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 1324 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => residentevilapocalypse_de [review_release_date] => 1193036400 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Resident Evil: Apocalypse - Extended Version (German Import) [picture_created] => 1199664722 [picture_name] => re2hddvd.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Constantin Film [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/01/06/120/re2hddvd.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1324/residentevilapocalypse_de.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2004 [run_time] => 0 [list_price] => 42.99 [amazon_price] => 0.00 [alt_commerce_link] => https://www.hdmoviesource.com/catalog/product_info.php?cPath=60_81&products_id=1257 [alt_commerce_text] => Ships worldwide from HDMovieSource.com [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.40:1 ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/MPEG-2 [1] => 480p/i/MPEG-2 (Supplements Only) ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => Promotional Featurette ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English DTS-HD High Resolution 5.1 Surround [1] => German DTS-HD High Resolution 5.1 Surround ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => German Subtitles ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Documentary [1] => Featurettes [2] => Deleted Scenes ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Action [1] => Horror ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Mike Epps [1] => Oded Fehr [2] => Sienna Guillory [3] => Milla Jovovich ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Alexander Witt ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => After narrowly escaping the horrors of the underground Hive facility, Alice (Milla Jovovich) is quickly thrust back into a war raging above ground between the living and the Undead. It's a heart-pounding race against time as the group faces off against hordes of blood-thirsty zombies, stealthy Lickers, mutant canines and the most sinister foe yet. [review_editors_notes] => This is a review of the German import edition of 'Resident Evil: Apocalypse.' Domestic rights to this movie are owned by Blu-ray exclusive studio Sony, who released the title in January of 2007. To read Kenneth Brown's review of the US Blu-ray release, click here. [review_bottom_line] => For Fans Only [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 36976 [review_movie_stars] => 2.5 [review_movie] =>

Let's get this out of the way up front: Measured objectively, 'Resident Evil: Apocalypse' isn't a very good movie. Not that the original 'Resident Evil' was a cinematic masterpiece by any means, but it was fun and exciting, and gave horror fans as much action and gore as they could hope for. It was a little dopey but not excessively stupid, and Milla Jovovich looked incredibly hot running around in cramped corridors wearing a sexy red dress and kicking zombie ass. That picture earned a tidy profit, so a sequel was inevitable. Thus we have 'Apocalypse'. The second film doesn't work nearly as well, but on the guilty pleasure scale it has some merit.

Here are some of the things I enjoyed about the first 'Resident Evil':

  • Hot chicks kicking ass
  • Zombies
  • Guns
  • Gore
  • Zombies (it's worth repeating)
  • Milla teasing us with some brief nudity

Here are some of the things I enjoyed about 'Resident Evil: Apocalypse':

  • Hot chicks kicking ass
  • More zombies
  • More guns
  • Explosions
  • Gore
  • Milla teasing us with brief nudity

Frankly, when it comes to this type of movie, my standards just aren't all that high.

'Apocalypse' picks up immediately after the final scene of the last picture, and makes a valiant attempt to expand the parameters of the concept by taking the action outside of "The Hive" (the underground research facility where zombies and mutant beasts ran rampant through the halls) and letting all hell break loose on the streets of Raccoon City. As we learned in the prior film's finale, the T-Virus had gotten loose and begun spreading a plague that turned anyone infected into undead flesh-eating monsters. In response, the evil Umbrella Corporation responsible for this mess has attempted to contain the disaster by walling off the city and leaving anyone trapped inside to fend for themselves. The problem they face is that our girl Alice is in there, as well as a few well-armed cops, a fast-talking hustler, a nosy journalist, and the daughter of one of Umbrella's chief research scientists, and they all want out. That scientist also really wants his daughter back. Sadly for them, the less ethical members of the Umbrella board have not only decided to screw them all, but to use Raccoon City as a testing ground for their latest biological experiment, a nasty mutant beastie that has ties to Alice.

While the first movie was only loosely based on the 'Resident Evil' video game series (the character of Alice is nowhere to be found in any of the games), 'Apocalypse' makes a token effort to incorporate elements taken mainly from 'Resident Evil 3: Nemesis'. We're introduced to game characters Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory), Carlos Olivera (Oded Fehr), the S.T.A.R.S. Special Tactics and Rescue Squad, and the Nemesis monster. Guillory is almost as smoking hot as Jovovich, and is a dead ringer for the animated version of her character. Certain sequences in the movie are taken directly out of the games, and much of the action is shot in a "run-and-gun" style gamers will find familiar.

The problem is that the script for the movie (written by Paul W.S. Anderson again) is really dumb, more so than the last time. The attempts to add comic relief with annoying sidekick characters (specifically the bimbo reporter and the goofy pimp) are miscalculated, and the plot has some serious lapses in basic logic. In its worst scene, our heroes run through a cemetery and are attacked by zombies bursting from the graves, a direct contradiction of the rules established in the first film, which stated that the T-Virus could only reanimate the recently deceased. Despite being directed by Alexander Witt, an accomplished 2nd Unit Director on countless huge Hollywood action movies ('Black Hawk Down', 'The Bourne Identity', 'The Italian Job', 'Casino Royale', and more), many of the fight scenes are incoherently staged and shot. Worst of all, the big baddie Nemesis monster is just incredibly cheesy and lame.

On the plus side, the movie opens with a really cool recap sequence of the previous picture, and the first ten minutes or so begin the action with a nice jolt. The zombie dogs are back and still awesome. We're also given some zombie hookers and, in an inspired bit of depravity, a gaggle of zombie schoolgirls who provide a much-deserved comeuppance to one of the more irritating characters.

No, 'Resident Evil: Apocalypse' is not a great movie, or even a particularly good one. But once you've lowered your expectations sufficiently, it offers some legitimate entertainment value.

The HD DVD: Vital Disc Stats

The North American rights to 'Resident Evil: Apocalypse' are held by Sony, who have released it exclusively on Blu-ray here. However, a company called Constantin Film holds the distribution rights in Germany, and have released it and the first film on both Blu-ray and HD DVD in that country. The HD DVD has no region coding and will function fine in an American HD DVD player.

The disc starts with an anti-piracy ad and trailer before the main menu, which are annoying but can thankfully be skipped. All of the disc's menus are in German, but aren't difficult to navigate. Unfortunately, the HD DVD has no pop-up menus available during the feature.

Unlike the domestic Blu-ray, the German disc contains an Extended Version of the movie that runs 98 minutes, in comparison to the 94-minute theatrical cut. The extended cut incorporates about half of the footage found in the Deleted Scenes section of the Sony Blu-ray release, but also removes some footage from the theatrical version. The changes are unlikely to radically affect a viewer's opinion of the film, neither helping nor hurting it in any significant measure. My first time through, I had a hard time telling the difference. Perhaps the biggest improvement is the removal of some of the flashbacks to the first movie. After seeing the theatrical cut of 'Apocalypse', I commented to a friend that Eric Mabius should have received an above-the-title credit on movie posters for the number of times the film reused clips from his role in the previous picture. That isn't the case in this version; he's only shown once or twice now.

[review_video_stars] => 3 [review_video_picture_id] => 1848 [review_video] =>

The 1080p/MPEG-2 transfer on this German 'Apocalypse' HD DVD looks largely similar to the domestic Blu-ray release of the film, which is to say not all that impressive. The 2.40:1 picture is rather soft, with only fair but not exceptional detail. It appears that a lot of Noise Reduction has been applied. Colors are often exaggerated, and the contrast range is dull. The result of all this is a flat image without much depth or dimensionality. The first movie looks a lot better.

I compared to the Blu-ray and found the picture on that disc a tad sharper and clearer, but not dramatically so.

Another problem that American viewers will find is that all on-screen text such as location identifiers are presented in German text in this version of the movie. It's a minor nuisance, but one that can be rather distracting.

Important Notice: This German 'Resident Evil: Apocalypse' disc is one of the first HD DVDs to be flagged with an Image Constraint Token. If your HD DVD player is connected by HDMI to your display, there should be no issue in viewing the movie at its full 1080p resolution. Unfortunately, viewers connected by Component Video will find the image downconverted to 480p Standard Definition. This is extremely disappointing, to say the least.

[review_audio_stars] => 3.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 4838 [review_audio] =>

Whereas the domestic Blu-ray provides the movie's English-language soundtrack in uncompressed PCM 5.1 format, the German HD DVD uses a DTS-HD High Resolution encoding. DTS-HD HR is not a lossless or uncompressed format, but the results are nonetheless nearly equivalent.

The movie's soundtrack features punishingly deep bass, and a lot of it. There are many sharply recorded gunshots and stinger scares. The car crash at the beginning is sure to grab your attention. Surrounds are used aggressively, but not as creatively as the first film. Overall fidelity is also merely OK. Dialogue and music sound a bit dull, which is largely factor of the sound design continually layering louder and louder noises on top of each other. Subtlety was not on anyone's agenda here. It sounds fine, and will likely impress those who measure sound quality by how much their subwoofer rattles the windows, but I've listened to many superior soundtracks on other High-Def discs.

Unlike some import HD DVDs from Europe (the problem seems to be confined to releases from Studio Canal), 'Resident Evil: Apocalypse' has no issues with increased pitch.

Optional German subtitles can be disabled in the main menu.

[review_supplements_stars] => 3 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 4839 [review_supplements] =>

The German HD DVD includes most of the bonus features from the original DVD release of the movie and the Blu-ray. Unlike the HD DVD for the first film, all of the supplements default to German subtitles that I could not manage to turn off.

  • Filmmaker Commentary – Director Alexander Witt is joined by producers Jeremy Bolt and Robert Kulzer for a discussion of the development of the project. The track is OK but rather pretentious. None of the participants seem to realize how lame the movie turned out.
  • Cast Commentary – Milla Jovovich and Oded Fehr babble on about nothing, while Sienna Guillory (recorded separately) takes her role in the movie way too seriously.
  • Writer and Producer Commentary – The most interesting of the three tracks features Paul Anderson and Jeremy Bolt talking about the themes of the series, such as they are.
  • Game Over: Resident Evil Re-Animated (SD, 50 min.) – A thorough making-of documentary that covers topics such as keeping the movie true to the game, expanding beyond the scope of the first film, the action and stunts, creating the zombies, production design, weaponry, and visual effects.
  • Symphony of Evil (SD, 8 min.) – A montage of stunts and behind-the-scenes footage, as well as before-and-after comparisons of the visual effects shots.
  • Game Babes (SD, 11 min.) – EPK drivel about the trend of women taking over action movie roles.
  • Corporate Malfeasance (SD, 3 min.) – A lame explanation of the Umbrella Corporation story.
  • Deleted Scenes (SD, 7 min.) – The DVD and Blu-ray have 12 minutes of brief deleted scenes, but the German HD DVD has only 7 minutes. The difference is that the missing pieces were all incorporated into this extended version of the movie.

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0.5 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 4840 [review_bonus_content] =>

Exclusive the German disc are the following:

  • The Evolution of Resident Evil: Bridge to Extinction (SD, 4 min.) – A long-winded EPK promo for the third film featuring clips from all three franchise entries. Not terribly exciting.
  • Teaser Trailer (SD, 1 min.) – This clever teaser trailer starts off as a fake Umbrella commercial. Unfortunately, the piece is dubbed into German here.

Also included are a handful of other German-dubbed trailers, including those for all three 'Resident Evil' films. A printed booklet provides a chapter listing and filmographies for the cast, all in German.

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

Missing from the DVD are some outtakes, a poster gallery, and more trailers.

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

'Resident Evil: Apocalypse' is a decided step down from the first film, but once you lower your standards it offers some fun. The main attraction of this German HD DVD is the extended cut of the movie, which is an interesting variation but not dramatically different. The HD DVD otherwise offers only fair picture and decent sound. Die-hard fans of the series will want to scoop it up, but I expect that most viewers will be satisfied with the domestic Blu-ray or even the DVD.

) ) ) [reviews_hot] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 1324 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => residentevilapocalypse_de [review_release_date] => 1193036400 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Resident Evil: Apocalypse - Extended Version (German Import) [picture_created] => 1199664722 [picture_name] => re2hddvd.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Constantin Film [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/01/06/120/re2hddvd.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1324/residentevilapocalypse_de.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2004 [run_time] => 0 [list_price] => 42.99 [amazon_price] => 0.00 [alt_commerce_link] => https://www.hdmoviesource.com/catalog/product_info.php?cPath=60_81&products_id=1257 [alt_commerce_text] => Ships worldwide from HDMovieSource.com [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.40:1 ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/MPEG-2 [1] => 480p/i/MPEG-2 (Supplements Only) ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => Promotional Featurette ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English DTS-HD High Resolution 5.1 Surround [1] => German DTS-HD High Resolution 5.1 Surround ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => German Subtitles ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Documentary [1] => Featurettes [2] => Deleted Scenes ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Action [1] => Horror ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Mike Epps [1] => Oded Fehr [2] => Sienna Guillory [3] => Milla Jovovich ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Alexander Witt ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => After narrowly escaping the horrors of the underground Hive facility, Alice (Milla Jovovich) is quickly thrust back into a war raging above ground between the living and the Undead. It's a heart-pounding race against time as the group faces off against hordes of blood-thirsty zombies, stealthy Lickers, mutant canines and the most sinister foe yet. [review_editors_notes] => This is a review of the German import edition of 'Resident Evil: Apocalypse.' Domestic rights to this movie are owned by Blu-ray exclusive studio Sony, who released the title in January of 2007. To read Kenneth Brown's review of the US Blu-ray release, click here. [review_bottom_line] => For Fans Only [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 36976 [review_movie_stars] => 2.5 [review_movie] =>

Let's get this out of the way up front: Measured objectively, 'Resident Evil: Apocalypse' isn't a very good movie. Not that the original 'Resident Evil' was a cinematic masterpiece by any means, but it was fun and exciting, and gave horror fans as much action and gore as they could hope for. It was a little dopey but not excessively stupid, and Milla Jovovich looked incredibly hot running around in cramped corridors wearing a sexy red dress and kicking zombie ass. That picture earned a tidy profit, so a sequel was inevitable. Thus we have 'Apocalypse'. The second film doesn't work nearly as well, but on the guilty pleasure scale it has some merit.

Here are some of the things I enjoyed about the first 'Resident Evil':

  • Hot chicks kicking ass
  • Zombies
  • Guns
  • Gore
  • Zombies (it's worth repeating)
  • Milla teasing us with some brief nudity

Here are some of the things I enjoyed about 'Resident Evil: Apocalypse':

  • Hot chicks kicking ass
  • More zombies
  • More guns
  • Explosions
  • Gore
  • Milla teasing us with brief nudity

Frankly, when it comes to this type of movie, my standards just aren't all that high.

'Apocalypse' picks up immediately after the final scene of the last picture, and makes a valiant attempt to expand the parameters of the concept by taking the action outside of "The Hive" (the underground research facility where zombies and mutant beasts ran rampant through the halls) and letting all hell break loose on the streets of Raccoon City. As we learned in the prior film's finale, the T-Virus had gotten loose and begun spreading a plague that turned anyone infected into undead flesh-eating monsters. In response, the evil Umbrella Corporation responsible for this mess has attempted to contain the disaster by walling off the city and leaving anyone trapped inside to fend for themselves. The problem they face is that our girl Alice is in there, as well as a few well-armed cops, a fast-talking hustler, a nosy journalist, and the daughter of one of Umbrella's chief research scientists, and they all want out. That scientist also really wants his daughter back. Sadly for them, the less ethical members of the Umbrella board have not only decided to screw them all, but to use Raccoon City as a testing ground for their latest biological experiment, a nasty mutant beastie that has ties to Alice.

While the first movie was only loosely based on the 'Resident Evil' video game series (the character of Alice is nowhere to be found in any of the games), 'Apocalypse' makes a token effort to incorporate elements taken mainly from 'Resident Evil 3: Nemesis'. We're introduced to game characters Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory), Carlos Olivera (Oded Fehr), the S.T.A.R.S. Special Tactics and Rescue Squad, and the Nemesis monster. Guillory is almost as smoking hot as Jovovich, and is a dead ringer for the animated version of her character. Certain sequences in the movie are taken directly out of the games, and much of the action is shot in a "run-and-gun" style gamers will find familiar.

The problem is that the script for the movie (written by Paul W.S. Anderson again) is really dumb, more so than the last time. The attempts to add comic relief with annoying sidekick characters (specifically the bimbo reporter and the goofy pimp) are miscalculated, and the plot has some serious lapses in basic logic. In its worst scene, our heroes run through a cemetery and are attacked by zombies bursting from the graves, a direct contradiction of the rules established in the first film, which stated that the T-Virus could only reanimate the recently deceased. Despite being directed by Alexander Witt, an accomplished 2nd Unit Director on countless huge Hollywood action movies ('Black Hawk Down', 'The Bourne Identity', 'The Italian Job', 'Casino Royale', and more), many of the fight scenes are incoherently staged and shot. Worst of all, the big baddie Nemesis monster is just incredibly cheesy and lame.

On the plus side, the movie opens with a really cool recap sequence of the previous picture, and the first ten minutes or so begin the action with a nice jolt. The zombie dogs are back and still awesome. We're also given some zombie hookers and, in an inspired bit of depravity, a gaggle of zombie schoolgirls who provide a much-deserved comeuppance to one of the more irritating characters.

No, 'Resident Evil: Apocalypse' is not a great movie, or even a particularly good one. But once you've lowered your expectations sufficiently, it offers some legitimate entertainment value.

The HD DVD: Vital Disc Stats

The North American rights to 'Resident Evil: Apocalypse' are held by Sony, who have released it exclusively on Blu-ray here. However, a company called Constantin Film holds the distribution rights in Germany, and have released it and the first film on both Blu-ray and HD DVD in that country. The HD DVD has no region coding and will function fine in an American HD DVD player.

The disc starts with an anti-piracy ad and trailer before the main menu, which are annoying but can thankfully be skipped. All of the disc's menus are in German, but aren't difficult to navigate. Unfortunately, the HD DVD has no pop-up menus available during the feature.

Unlike the domestic Blu-ray, the German disc contains an Extended Version of the movie that runs 98 minutes, in comparison to the 94-minute theatrical cut. The extended cut incorporates about half of the footage found in the Deleted Scenes section of the Sony Blu-ray release, but also removes some footage from the theatrical version. The changes are unlikely to radically affect a viewer's opinion of the film, neither helping nor hurting it in any significant measure. My first time through, I had a hard time telling the difference. Perhaps the biggest improvement is the removal of some of the flashbacks to the first movie. After seeing the theatrical cut of 'Apocalypse', I commented to a friend that Eric Mabius should have received an above-the-title credit on movie posters for the number of times the film reused clips from his role in the previous picture. That isn't the case in this version; he's only shown once or twice now.

[review_video_stars] => 3 [review_video_picture_id] => 1848 [review_video] =>

The 1080p/MPEG-2 transfer on this German 'Apocalypse' HD DVD looks largely similar to the domestic Blu-ray release of the film, which is to say not all that impressive. The 2.40:1 picture is rather soft, with only fair but not exceptional detail. It appears that a lot of Noise Reduction has been applied. Colors are often exaggerated, and the contrast range is dull. The result of all this is a flat image without much depth or dimensionality. The first movie looks a lot better.

I compared to the Blu-ray and found the picture on that disc a tad sharper and clearer, but not dramatically so.

Another problem that American viewers will find is that all on-screen text such as location identifiers are presented in German text in this version of the movie. It's a minor nuisance, but one that can be rather distracting.

Important Notice: This German 'Resident Evil: Apocalypse' disc is one of the first HD DVDs to be flagged with an Image Constraint Token. If your HD DVD player is connected by HDMI to your display, there should be no issue in viewing the movie at its full 1080p resolution. Unfortunately, viewers connected by Component Video will find the image downconverted to 480p Standard Definition. This is extremely disappointing, to say the least.

[review_audio_stars] => 3.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 4838 [review_audio] =>

Whereas the domestic Blu-ray provides the movie's English-language soundtrack in uncompressed PCM 5.1 format, the German HD DVD uses a DTS-HD High Resolution encoding. DTS-HD HR is not a lossless or uncompressed format, but the results are nonetheless nearly equivalent.

The movie's soundtrack features punishingly deep bass, and a lot of it. There are many sharply recorded gunshots and stinger scares. The car crash at the beginning is sure to grab your attention. Surrounds are used aggressively, but not as creatively as the first film. Overall fidelity is also merely OK. Dialogue and music sound a bit dull, which is largely factor of the sound design continually layering louder and louder noises on top of each other. Subtlety was not on anyone's agenda here. It sounds fine, and will likely impress those who measure sound quality by how much their subwoofer rattles the windows, but I've listened to many superior soundtracks on other High-Def discs.

Unlike some import HD DVDs from Europe (the problem seems to be confined to releases from Studio Canal), 'Resident Evil: Apocalypse' has no issues with increased pitch.

Optional German subtitles can be disabled in the main menu.

[review_supplements_stars] => 3 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 4839 [review_supplements] =>

The German HD DVD includes most of the bonus features from the original DVD release of the movie and the Blu-ray. Unlike the HD DVD for the first film, all of the supplements default to German subtitles that I could not manage to turn off.

  • Filmmaker Commentary – Director Alexander Witt is joined by producers Jeremy Bolt and Robert Kulzer for a discussion of the development of the project. The track is OK but rather pretentious. None of the participants seem to realize how lame the movie turned out.
  • Cast Commentary – Milla Jovovich and Oded Fehr babble on about nothing, while Sienna Guillory (recorded separately) takes her role in the movie way too seriously.
  • Writer and Producer Commentary – The most interesting of the three tracks features Paul Anderson and Jeremy Bolt talking about the themes of the series, such as they are.
  • Game Over: Resident Evil Re-Animated (SD, 50 min.) – A thorough making-of documentary that covers topics such as keeping the movie true to the game, expanding beyond the scope of the first film, the action and stunts, creating the zombies, production design, weaponry, and visual effects.
  • Symphony of Evil (SD, 8 min.) – A montage of stunts and behind-the-scenes footage, as well as before-and-after comparisons of the visual effects shots.
  • Game Babes (SD, 11 min.) – EPK drivel about the trend of women taking over action movie roles.
  • Corporate Malfeasance (SD, 3 min.) – A lame explanation of the Umbrella Corporation story.
  • Deleted Scenes (SD, 7 min.) – The DVD and Blu-ray have 12 minutes of brief deleted scenes, but the German HD DVD has only 7 minutes. The difference is that the missing pieces were all incorporated into this extended version of the movie.

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0.5 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 4840 [review_bonus_content] =>

Exclusive the German disc are the following:

  • The Evolution of Resident Evil: Bridge to Extinction (SD, 4 min.) – A long-winded EPK promo for the third film featuring clips from all three franchise entries. Not terribly exciting.
  • Teaser Trailer (SD, 1 min.) – This clever teaser trailer starts off as a fake Umbrella commercial. Unfortunately, the piece is dubbed into German here.

Also included are a handful of other German-dubbed trailers, including those for all three 'Resident Evil' films. A printed booklet provides a chapter listing and filmographies for the cast, all in German.

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

Missing from the DVD are some outtakes, a poster gallery, and more trailers.

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

'Resident Evil: Apocalypse' is a decided step down from the first film, but once you lower your standards it offers some fun. The main attraction of this German HD DVD is the extended cut of the movie, which is an interesting variation but not dramatically different. The HD DVD otherwise offers only fair picture and decent sound. Die-hard fans of the series will want to scoop it up, but I expect that most viewers will be satisfied with the domestic Blu-ray or even the DVD.

) ) ) ) [October 19, 2007] => Array ( [reviews] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 1273 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => artmannpresentscrazyness [review_release_date] => 1192777200 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Art Mann Presents: Crazyness in Austin [picture_created] => 1196668518 [picture_name] => art-mann-presents-crazyness-in-austin-box-cover.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => HDNet [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/12/02/120/art-mann-presents-crazyness-in-austin-box-cover.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1273/artmannpresentscrazyness.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2007 [run_time] => 0 [list_price] => 24.95 [asin] => B000XJJYZA [amazon_price] => 0.00 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.78:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => TBA ) [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] => TBA ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => TBA ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => The show travels to Devil's Cove in Austin, Texas for an amazing annual party of beer, boats, and beautiful people. [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] => 1273 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => artmannpresentscrazyness [review_release_date] => 1192777200 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Art Mann Presents: Crazyness in Austin [picture_created] => 1196668518 [picture_name] => art-mann-presents-crazyness-in-austin-box-cover.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => HDNet [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/12/02/120/art-mann-presents-crazyness-in-austin-box-cover.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1273/artmannpresentscrazyness.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2007 [run_time] => 0 [list_price] => 24.95 [asin] => B000XJJYZA [amazon_price] => 0.00 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.78:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => TBA ) [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] => TBA ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => TBA ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => The show travels to Devil's Cove in Austin, Texas for an amazing annual party of beer, boats, and beautiful people. [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 ) ) ) ) [October 18, 2007] => Array ( [reviews] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 1323 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => residentevil_de [review_release_date] => 1192690800 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Resident Evil (German Import) [picture_created] => 1199659561 [picture_name] => rehddvd.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Constantin Film [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/01/06/120/rehddvd.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1323/residentevil_de.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2002 [run_time] => 0 [list_price] => 38.95 [amazon_price] => 0.00 [alt_commerce_link] => https://www.hdmoviesource.com/catalog/product_info.php?cPath=60_81&products_id=1246 [alt_commerce_text] => Ships worldwide from HDMoviesource.com [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => Behind-the-Scenes Footage [1] => Promotional Featurette ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/MPEG-2 [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 5.1 Surround [1] => German DTS-HD High Resolution 5.1 Surround ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => 4 Featurettes [1] => Camera Tests ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => German Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Action [1] => Horror ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Milla Jovovich [1] => Michelle Rodriguez [2] => Eric Mabius [3] => Colin Salmon ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Paul W.S. Anderson ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => A special military unit fights a powerful, out-of-control supercomputer and hundreds of scientists who have mutated into flesh-eating creatures after a laboratory accident. [review_editors_notes] =>

Non-format-specific portions of this article also appear in our 'Resident Evil' and 'Resident Evil Trilogy' Blu-ray reviews.

[review_bottom_line] => Recommended [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 38383 [review_movie_stars] => 3.5 [review_movie] =>

Considering how liberally many video games lift their ideas from movies, I suppose it should come as no surprise that, when experiencing a drought of creative inspiration, the movies return the favor by lifting ideas from video games. It's a self-perpetuating cycle of cinematic cannibalism. The history of the films-based-on-games genre has not been particularly distinguished, with most falling to hack directors working from incompetent scripts and tiny budgets (see: the complete works of Boll, Uwe). Somehow, Paul W.S. Anderson seems to have had the best run at it, making unexpected hits out of game-based pictures 'Mortal Kombat', 'Alien vs. Predator', and of course 'Resident Evil'. None of these are good movies, per se (in fact, 'AVP' is pretty damn awful), but they're all slick and efficient, relatively coherent, and pander to horror and action junkies successfully enough to turn a profit.

'Resident Evil' began life as a survival horror game for the first Playstation console whose original title in Japan was 'Biohazard'. When importing the game to North America, apparently someone at the Capcom corporation with a limited vocabulary assumed that "biohazard" was a Japanese word and changed it to 'Resident Evil', a meaningless phrase that doesn't make much linguistic sense but sounds cool enough. Borrowing extensively from George Romero's famous 'Living Dead' movies, the game involved a paramilitary squad exploring a large mansion and the secret underground laboratory beneath it while fending off hordes of flesh-eating zombies. It was an extremely fun actioner with clever puzzles and mazes, a very moody atmosphere, and even some legitimate scares (anyone who's played the game will admit to jumping out of their chair after first encountering the zombie dogs). It was a massive hit and spawned a string of follow-ups that have extended to several subsequent game consoles.

Enter director Anderson, who hadn't made a profitable picture since 'Mortal Kombat' and was eager to return to the game-movie genre. Casting a pair of hot babes (Milla Jovovich and Michelle Rodriguez) and working loosely from the structure of the game, Anderson crafted a gloriously silly fright flick with exciting action sequences and plenty of juicy gore. High art this ain't, but the result is a lot of fun.

The stunningly beautiful Jovovich stars as a mysterious woman who wakes up sprawled in a shower with no idea who she is or why she's there. The character doesn't even have a name in this first movie, but it's no spoiler to reveal that she's called Alice in the sequels. With barely enough time to put on a sexy red dress and combat boots (an outfit that would soon become iconic), poor Alice is almost immediately swept up by a team of badass commandoes, who inform her that she's a highly-skilled security operative and drag her along on their mission to infiltrate "The Hive", the secret high-tech research station beneath the mansion where she awoke. Once inside, they discover the aftermath of a horrible genetic experiment gone awry that turned everyone inside the facility into undead brain-munchers intent on ripping the squad limb from limb. In other words, just a typical Monday at the office.

As Alice recovers bits and pieces of her memory, the audience learns the backstory of the corrupt Umbrella Corporation and her role in their plans, a clever narrative device that provides a convenient excuse to explain the plot. It also allows the main character to develop new skills and combat techniques along the way, mirroring the progression of the game. Refreshing for the genre, none of the characters are bumbling idiots going places they shouldn't go or doing stupid things that get them killed. They're all competent and motivated individuals, and they mostly remain collected and focused on their tasks even as members of team are quickly killed off by the lab's computer defenses or the freaky monsters roaming the halls.

Anderson directs with a maximum of efficiency and a minimum of pretension. Although the lumbering zombies owe plenty of debt to the rules of George Romero's universe, 'Resident Evil' doesn't pretend to offer any important social commentary. This is a movie about a hot chick who kicks zombie ass, end of story. The movie has sleek visuals, impressive production design, very effective makeup and gore effects, some particularly inventive death scenes (the elevator sequence and laser grid are rightly fan favorites), and an unsettling musical score by Marco Beltrami and Marilyn Manson. Milla is also considerate enough to offer fans a glimpse of side-boob action at the beginning, plus a little something more if you look closely at the end, and honestly that's exactly what a movie like this needs.

The picture turns a little dopey with the introduction of a mutated, tongue-lashing monster called a "Licker." That's taken straight from the game, but the CGI is poor and the idea frankly should have been scrapped. On the other hand, Anderson remembered the zombie dogs, and they work great. 'Resident Evil' isn't the type of movie to watch with critical film aficionado standards. It's a guilty pleasure, but it's a pleasure all the same.

The HD DVD: Vital Disc Stats

The North American rights to 'Resident Evil' are held by Sony, who have released it exclusively on Blu-ray here. However, a company called Constantin Film holds the distribution rights in Germany, and have released it and the second film on both Blu-ray and HD DVD in that country. The HD DVD has no region coding and will function fine in an American HD DVD player.

The disc starts with an anti-piracy ad and trailer before the main menu, which are annoying but can thankfully be skipped. All of the disc's menus are in German, but aren't difficult to navigate. Unfortunately, the HD DVD has no pop-up menus available during the feature.

[review_video_stars] => 3.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 4832 [review_video] =>

Despite its low budget, 'Resident Evil' has pretty stylish photography, emphasizing the sleek, metallic interiors of the high-tech laboratory sets. This 1080p/MPEG-2 transfer, presented in the movie's original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, is very similar in quality to the AVC MPEG-4 transfer on the domestic Blu-ray. The picture is sharp and detailed, with vivid colors (especially reds and blues), rich black levels, and excellent shadow detail. The improvement over standard DVD is immediately apparent during the security camera footage at the beginning of the film. The small text overlays are mostly illegible on DVD but perfectly crisp and clear here.

Being a horror movie, the photography is naturally a little grainy, but not overwhelmingly so. The HD DVD does look a bit grainier than the Blu-ray, yet the grain remains well-compressed without turning noisy until the deliberately stylized ending. There's a shot at the 5:23 mark where the grain freezes in its tracks for a few seconds, but that has been part of every previous edition of the movie and appears to be an artifact of the production (the shot must have been artificially frozen to extend the beat), not a digital compression problem. One of the movie's final sequences features super-hot contrasts and an extreme amount of grain and noise, but the effect there is clearly intentional. This disc looks pretty good indeed.

Important Notice: This German 'Resident Evil' disc is one of the first HD DVDs to be flagged with an Image Constraint Token. If your HD DVD player is connected by HDMI to your display, there should be no issue in viewing the movie at its full 1080p resolution. Unfortunately, viewers connected by Component Video will find the image downconverted to 480p Standard Definition. This is extremely disappointing, to say the least.

[review_audio_stars] => 4 [review_audio_picture_id] => 4831 [review_audio] =>

Whereas the domestic Blu-ray provides the movie's English-language soundtrack in lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1, the German HD DVD uses a DTS-HD High Resolution encoding. DTS-HD HR is not a lossless format, but at least in this case the results are nearly indistinguishable, which is to say that they're both very nice.

The 'Resident Evil' soundtrack is extremely loud and aggressive, with throbbing bass and jolting stinger scares. The surround channels are used creatively, notably when the Red Queen computer's dialogue cycles from speaker to speaker around the soundstage. At least for the first half hour or so, sound effects are all crisply recorded and the score is delivered with excellent fidelity. Around the time of the first major gun battle, however, things start to turn muddy. After that point, the mix keeps piling on masses of noise, each competing in loudness against the rest, and the effect is a lot of aural overkill. Don't get me wrong, this is still a very satisfying and entertaining track, but clarity isn't always its strong point.

Unlike some import HD DVDs from Europe (the problem seems to be confined to releases from Studio Canal), 'Resident Evil' has no issues with increased pitch.

Optional German subtitles can be disabled in the main menu.

[review_supplements_stars] => 2.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 4829 [review_supplements] =>

The German HD DVD includes most of the bonus features from the original DVD release of the film, plus one from the later Deluxe Edition. All of the supplements default to German subtitles that can be turned off by the remote.

  • Cast and Filmmaker Commentary – This notorious commentary features Milla Jovovich and Michelle Rodriguez behaving like drunken idiots. They're joined by director Paul Anderson, producer Jeremy Bolt, and actor Jason Isaacs when any of them can get a word in edgewise. This is a very jokey, obnoxious track that's frankly embarrassing to listen to.
  • The Making of Resident Evil (SD, 27 min.) – A lengthy EPK piece with the usual cast and filmmaker interviews, as well as brief time spent with the Capcom game developers. The first half is devoted to boring plot and character recaps. Things get more interesting when we're given a behind-the-scenes look at the commando and fight training, stunt choreography, production design, zombie makeup, and visual effects. It's also funny to note that, in these interviews at least, Anderson looks a lot like Andy Samberg.
  • Scoring Resident Evil (SD, 11 min.) – Marco Beltrami and Marilyn Mason are interviewed separately about their collaboration on the score. Manson in particular has some surprisingly intelligent things to say about what he was trying to achieve. The piece is actually quite interesting.
  • Playing Dead: Resident Evil – From Game to Screen (SD, 15 min.) – An overview of the history of the game series and Anderson's success with his 'Mortal Kombat' adaptation. The actors interviewed make a number of comments about being impressed by the "silence" of the game, which is ironic considering how abrasively noisy the movie turned out to be. Anderson describes the movie as a "prequel" to the first game and justifies the story changes he imposed.
  • Storyboarding Resident Evil (SD, 7 min.) – Anderson briefly introduces a series of storyboard-to-screen comparisons. Boring.
  • Zombie Camera Tests (SD, 1 min.) – Actors pose for the camera in full monster makeup.
  • Milla Jovovich Camera Test (SD, 2 min.) – Milla poses in various action stances.

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 1 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 4830 [review_bonus_content] =>

Exclusive the German disc are the following:

  • Behind the Scenes (SD, 16 min.) – Raw production footage of Milla shooting the train scene, Michelle Rodriguez learning her stunts, and Anderson directing a zombie attack. With no structure or narration to describe what's going on, these clips are rather dull.
  • The Evolution of Resident Evil: Bridge to Extinction (SD, 4 min.) – A long-winded EPK promo for the third film featuring clips from all three franchise entries. Not terribly exciting either.

Also included are a handful of German-dubbed trailers, including those for all three 'Resident Evil' films. A printed booklet provides a chapter listing and filmographies for the cast, all in German.

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

The Deluxe Edition DVD and the domestic Blu-ray release contain another audio commentary, eight short featurettes, an alternate ending, and a music video that didn't make it to this German HD DVD.

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

'Resident Evil' may not appeal to the film snob side of many viewers, but sometimes you just want to watch a hot chick killing zombies for 100 minutes. To that end, the movie is great fun. The German import HD DVD has very good picture and sound. Dual-format owners will probably be better off buying the domestic Blu-ray release, which has slightly better picture, a lot more supplements, and is less expensive. However, this disc does still come recommended for 'Resident Evil' fans currently only supporting HD DVD.

) ) [1] => Array ( [review_id] => 1430 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => underworld_nl [review_release_date] => 1192690800 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Underworld (Dutch Import) [picture_created] => 1207892605 [picture_name] => inlay_hd_underworld.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Dutch Filmworks [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/04/10/120/inlay_hd_underworld.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1430/underworld_nl.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2003 [run_time] => 121 [list_price] => 26.95 [amazon_price] => 0.00 [alt_commerce_link] => https://xploitedcinema.com/catalog/underworld-theatrical-version-dutch-release-p-13236.html [alt_commerce_text] => Ships worldwide from xploitedcinema.com [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 [1] => HD-30 Dual Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround [1] => English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Documentary [1] => Featurettes [2] => Music Video [3] => Theatrical Trailer [4] => TV Spots ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => Dutch Subtitles ) [review_editors_notes] => This is a review of the Dutch HD DVD release of the theatrical cut of 'Underworld.' Non-format-specific portions of this review were originally published in our reviews of the Underworld: Extended Cut (German Import) HD DVD and the domestic Blu-ray edition.

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

[review_bottom_line] => Worth a Look [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 52179 [review_movie_stars] => 3 [review_movie] =>

When I was just a budding, twelve-year-old horror aficionado (sneaking gory scares over the weekend at friends houses), I remember imagining a cinematic clash between vampires and werewolves. Obviously, a generation of fans for flicks like 'Near Dark' and 'The Howling' shared the same imagination. But while dozens of tooth-and-claw screenplays swamped Hollywood throughout the '80s and '90s, sadly most of the projects fell apart before a reel of film was shot. As fate would have it, a decent incarnation of this pairing never received a legitimate treatment and the idea continued to fly under the radar for decades.

That is, until 'The Matrix' stormed theaters in 1999. Bizarrely enough, the insatiable desire for lead-flinging, leather-clad super freaks was the key to finally greenlighting Hollywood's first big budget, vampires-n-werewolves feature. Rookie writer/director Len Wiseman was the lucky gambler who hit triple sevens, as he just so happened to be selling a project that borrowed plenty of elements from 'The Matrix,' while also managing to pit horror's greatest heavyweights against each other. The result was a 2003 action-horror flick called 'Underworld.'

The film itself focuses on Selene (Kate Beckinsale), an icy, vampiric Death Dealer caught in a centuries-old war of deception and propaganda. Over the years, the war has evolved beyond the claw-to-claw battles of the past -- instead, modern technology and firepower has made this a war of distance and convenience. It doesn't hurt that a hibernating vampire named Viktor (Bill Nighy) has ensured his aristocratic coven with plenty of toys and riches to fuel their war with the werewolves. His chief lieutenant, Kraven (Shane Brolly), leads the clan's Death Dealers into the thick of battle with the thuggish Lycans, who dwell in the sewers and plot attacks against the vampires.

Meanwhile, Lucian (Michael Sheen), the central canine baddie, is attempting to genetically manufacture a strain of vampirism that can successfully create a werewolf/vampire hybrid. As it is, any time either creature tries to turn the other, the victim dies since their system can't integrate both diseases. Lucian is tracking a human named Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman), a young man who is oblivious to the raging war in his backyard. When Selene discovers their plot, she must stop the Lycans, discover the truth about their conflict, and strike a balance between the two clans.

On the surface, 'Underworld' has a lot to offer action-horror fiends -- it features plenty of shootouts and tussles, stuntwork galore, and a nice dose of seamless effects work. The storyline is well developed and keeps things clipping along at a welcome pace, while the script itself isn't weighed down by heavy-handed dialogue. Last but not least, its lead actors are engaging (particuarly Nighy and Beckinsale), and the film's visual asthetic provides an eye pleasing, post-modern take on gothic designs through and through.

Unfortunately, a number of issues undermine these selling points, at least for a hardcore genre fan like myself. First off, in its most obvious nod to 'The Matrix,' most of the action in 'Underworld' is disappointingly limited to bullets and other weapons. While this would arguably be fine if there were a glut of vampire-vs-werewolf films already out there, I personally felt robbed of the opportunity to finally see a big-budgeted toe-to-toe clash that involved the natural abilities of both creatures. On the few occasions where the beasts fight do hand-to-hand, the results are short and uninspiring.

Speaking of uninspiring, the film's predictable use of a successful vampire/werewolf hybrid is surprisingly boring. Everyone comments on how much more powerful he is, but the on-screen action never seems to live up to its promise.

Then there's the film's average ending that blatantly leaves major plotlines unresolved until a sequel can settle them. In fact, by the time the credits roll, the entire film begins to feel like an extended prologue for Wiseman's eventual follow-up, 2006's 'Underworld: Evolution.'

But of all these issues, my biggest problem with the film is that despite all appearances, it really isn't a horror flick in any shape or form. Instead of focusing on a human stumbling onto a frightening conflict, we're forced to immediately side with one of the creatures. As a result, the tension and fear factor deflates long before the first act has run its course, and the film devolves into a pseudo-telling of Romeo and Juliet that places more emphasis on a contrived love story than on the war itself.

In the end, 'Underworld' is entertaining enough and certainly well-produced, but with so much promise, it's hard not to be disappointed by its merely average results. Although this one has a better story than its poorly conceived sequel, it still doesn't give horror fans the true titan clash we've been looking for.

(Note that the version of the film included on this HD DVD import is the R-rated Theatrical Cut -- a version that is a full 13 minutes shorter than the Director's Cut.)

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 5624 [review_video] =>

This Dutch HD DVD import features a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer that matches the German HD DVD import and domestic Blu-ray edition shot for shot. The only minor difference I noticed between the three releases is that both HD DVD import displays a bit more grain in the darkest scenes. However, the grainfield discrepency is so negligible that it doesn't hinder the picture quality on either import edition in any way.

Thankfully, like the domestic Blu-ray, color fidelity is excellent and the picture exhibits a level of stability that rivals the best transfers on the market. Fine objects and texture details are astounding at times -- bristled hairs on the back of an actor's neck, tiny chips in a werewolf's claws, and brickwork on distant buildings all provide a surreal level of clarity that occasionally makes the picture feel like instant high-def demo material. High end whites aren't overblown and source noise is never a problem. As it stands, this transfer even outshines the Blu-ray release of 'Underworld: Evolution' since it's not held back by the bothersome instability, noise, or softness that Peter noted in his review of the MPEG-2 encoded sequel.

Sadly, the presentation still stumbles in a few key areas, although to be fair, many of the problems I have with the video can be traced back to the cinematography and the abundance of correction work applied to the final footage. Black levels become bottomless pits where objects suddenly disappear and the oft-two-tone palette sometimes absorbs details and textures rather than bringing them to light. While the oppressive black levels help the filmmakers achieve their desired effect -- a comic book like experience -- the crushing makes the resulting comic book feel over-inked and undersaturated. Adding to the problem is an obtrusive level of grain that spikes in darker scenes. Again, these issues seem to be the result of directorial decisions and can't fairly be attributed to this transfer, but they nonetheless prevent 'Underworld' from standing toe-to-toe alongside true high-def demo transfers that have more to offer the viewer.

Still, compared to all three previous DVD releases of the film (a fuzzy R-rated release, a highly compressed unrated release, and a much improved Superbit edition), this HD DVD import is a clear upgrade, and fans of the film aren't likely to be disappointed with its very strong high-def presentation.

[review_audio_stars] => 5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 3647 [review_audio] =>

Fortunately, this Dutch import features a lossless DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track that lives up to the quality of the uncompressed PCM mix on the domestic Blu-ray release. Right from the opening scene, dynamics take center stage, demonstrating the raw power and dexterity of the film's soundscape. Bass booms are resonant and earthy, adding real depth to gunfire and roars, while treble tones are clean and steady, injecting a welcome clarity to dialogue and environmental elements like water.

The constant barrage of sound from every channel creates a wholly convincing soundfield -- directionality and accuracy are spot on, and I had a great time closing my eyes and immersing myself in the soundscape. While the track is largely aggressive, even the film's quieter scenes impress. Channel movement is natural, conversations are nicely prioritized, and there's a palpable acoustic atmosphere that fills the soundfield. All in all, fans who own any of the previous DVD editions will be extremely pleased with this bombastic and instantly noticeable upgrade.

[review_supplements_stars] => 2.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 3649 [review_supplements] =>

Unlike the German HD DVD import, this Dutch import includes most of the significant supplements that appear on the domestic Blu-ray edition. The only major component missing from the collection is a cast and crew audio commentary, but such tracks are frequently missing on import HD DVDs.

  • Fang vs. Fiction (SD, 48 minutes) -- An AMC network documentary about the genesis of werewolf and vampire legends over the centuries. This one's mildly intriguing until it suddenly veers into promotional territory and loses its steam. Also frustrating, the structure of this made-for-TV doc includes a number of repetitive information bits structured around its original commercial breaks, which not only slow down the proceedings, but hinder the playful tone the documentary is attempting to create.
  • Original Featurettes (SD, 45 minutes) -- This clump of featurettes form a documentary that covers the shoot, the practical creature effects, and the music and sound that brought it all together. While the featurettes do delve into the script and the characters, they basically form a standard EPK that throws tons of talking heads at the screen to compliment every aspect of the production. The experience was decent enough, but ultimately left me shrugging my shoulders.
  • The Look of Underworld (SD, 19 minutes) -- From the icy blue tones employed in the final edit to the shadow cloaked corners of the sets, this featurette takes a look at the design decisions and the aesthetic choices used to make 'Underworld' look so bleak. Even though it bordered on being overly technical, this was actually my favorite featurette of the bunch. It was informative, revealing, and quite interesting.
  • Designing Underworld (SD, 11 minutes) -- This straight forward featurette explores the sets, environments, and ambiance used to bring the world of the film to life. I was relieved to find a more down-to-earth examination of the production, but I didn't learn anything that I didn't already assume simply from watching the film.
  • The Visual Effects of Underworld (SD, 10 minutes) -- After watching every other featurette on the disc, this detailed rehash comes off as a bit redundant. It delves into the creation of the werewolf suits, the look of the vampires, and the final design of the hybrid creature.
  • B-Roll (SD, 12 minutes) -- This secondary, fly-on-the-wall featurette includes candid, on-set interviews with the cast, make-up application footage, and some general information about several scenes.
  • Outtakes (SD, 4 minutes) -- A short collection of moderately amusing flubs and gags that really don't add a lot of value to the package. The outtakes will mainly appeal to completists and 'Underworld' fanatics.
  • Film Clips (SD, 4 minutes) -- This pointless "bonus" offers a group of scenes in a promotional montage that made little sense to me.
  • Music Video (SD, 3 minutes) -- A yawn inducing vid for Finch's "Worms of Earth" that feels like something you'd find during an aimless, latenight YouTube session.
  • TV Spots (SD, 2 minutes) -- Two television spots advertising the film.
  • Theatrical Trailer (SD, 2 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] => 5625 [review_final_thoughts] =>

HD DVD importers have two choices when it comes to 'Underworld' -- a German edition that removes the supplemental content but includes the extended cut of the film, or this Dutch edition that includes a pile of features and the theatrical cut of the film. For the record, both imports feature the same excellent transfer as the domestic Blu-ray, but each will appeal to a different type of fan. If you want the director's cut of the film, are willing to take a slight hit in audio quality, and don't care about special features, go with the German HD DVD. However, if you're looking for a reference quality audio track, a nice package of bonus content, and don't mind owning the shorter theatrical cut, go with this Dutch import. It's a shame that importers can't get the best of both worlds on one disc, but either version will make a worthy addition to your collection.

) ) ) [reviews_hot] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 1323 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => residentevil_de [review_release_date] => 1192690800 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Resident Evil (German Import) [picture_created] => 1199659561 [picture_name] => rehddvd.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Constantin Film [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/01/06/120/rehddvd.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1323/residentevil_de.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2002 [run_time] => 0 [list_price] => 38.95 [amazon_price] => 0.00 [alt_commerce_link] => https://www.hdmoviesource.com/catalog/product_info.php?cPath=60_81&products_id=1246 [alt_commerce_text] => Ships worldwide from HDMoviesource.com [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => Behind-the-Scenes Footage [1] => Promotional Featurette ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/MPEG-2 [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 5.1 Surround [1] => German DTS-HD High Resolution 5.1 Surround ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => 4 Featurettes [1] => Camera Tests ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => German Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Action [1] => Horror ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Milla Jovovich [1] => Michelle Rodriguez [2] => Eric Mabius [3] => Colin Salmon ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Paul W.S. Anderson ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => A special military unit fights a powerful, out-of-control supercomputer and hundreds of scientists who have mutated into flesh-eating creatures after a laboratory accident. [review_editors_notes] =>

Non-format-specific portions of this article also appear in our 'Resident Evil' and 'Resident Evil Trilogy' Blu-ray reviews.

[review_bottom_line] => Recommended [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 38383 [review_movie_stars] => 3.5 [review_movie] =>

Considering how liberally many video games lift their ideas from movies, I suppose it should come as no surprise that, when experiencing a drought of creative inspiration, the movies return the favor by lifting ideas from video games. It's a self-perpetuating cycle of cinematic cannibalism. The history of the films-based-on-games genre has not been particularly distinguished, with most falling to hack directors working from incompetent scripts and tiny budgets (see: the complete works of Boll, Uwe). Somehow, Paul W.S. Anderson seems to have had the best run at it, making unexpected hits out of game-based pictures 'Mortal Kombat', 'Alien vs. Predator', and of course 'Resident Evil'. None of these are good movies, per se (in fact, 'AVP' is pretty damn awful), but they're all slick and efficient, relatively coherent, and pander to horror and action junkies successfully enough to turn a profit.

'Resident Evil' began life as a survival horror game for the first Playstation console whose original title in Japan was 'Biohazard'. When importing the game to North America, apparently someone at the Capcom corporation with a limited vocabulary assumed that "biohazard" was a Japanese word and changed it to 'Resident Evil', a meaningless phrase that doesn't make much linguistic sense but sounds cool enough. Borrowing extensively from George Romero's famous 'Living Dead' movies, the game involved a paramilitary squad exploring a large mansion and the secret underground laboratory beneath it while fending off hordes of flesh-eating zombies. It was an extremely fun actioner with clever puzzles and mazes, a very moody atmosphere, and even some legitimate scares (anyone who's played the game will admit to jumping out of their chair after first encountering the zombie dogs). It was a massive hit and spawned a string of follow-ups that have extended to several subsequent game consoles.

Enter director Anderson, who hadn't made a profitable picture since 'Mortal Kombat' and was eager to return to the game-movie genre. Casting a pair of hot babes (Milla Jovovich and Michelle Rodriguez) and working loosely from the structure of the game, Anderson crafted a gloriously silly fright flick with exciting action sequences and plenty of juicy gore. High art this ain't, but the result is a lot of fun.

The stunningly beautiful Jovovich stars as a mysterious woman who wakes up sprawled in a shower with no idea who she is or why she's there. The character doesn't even have a name in this first movie, but it's no spoiler to reveal that she's called Alice in the sequels. With barely enough time to put on a sexy red dress and combat boots (an outfit that would soon become iconic), poor Alice is almost immediately swept up by a team of badass commandoes, who inform her that she's a highly-skilled security operative and drag her along on their mission to infiltrate "The Hive", the secret high-tech research station beneath the mansion where she awoke. Once inside, they discover the aftermath of a horrible genetic experiment gone awry that turned everyone inside the facility into undead brain-munchers intent on ripping the squad limb from limb. In other words, just a typical Monday at the office.

As Alice recovers bits and pieces of her memory, the audience learns the backstory of the corrupt Umbrella Corporation and her role in their plans, a clever narrative device that provides a convenient excuse to explain the plot. It also allows the main character to develop new skills and combat techniques along the way, mirroring the progression of the game. Refreshing for the genre, none of the characters are bumbling idiots going places they shouldn't go or doing stupid things that get them killed. They're all competent and motivated individuals, and they mostly remain collected and focused on their tasks even as members of team are quickly killed off by the lab's computer defenses or the freaky monsters roaming the halls.

Anderson directs with a maximum of efficiency and a minimum of pretension. Although the lumbering zombies owe plenty of debt to the rules of George Romero's universe, 'Resident Evil' doesn't pretend to offer any important social commentary. This is a movie about a hot chick who kicks zombie ass, end of story. The movie has sleek visuals, impressive production design, very effective makeup and gore effects, some particularly inventive death scenes (the elevator sequence and laser grid are rightly fan favorites), and an unsettling musical score by Marco Beltrami and Marilyn Manson. Milla is also considerate enough to offer fans a glimpse of side-boob action at the beginning, plus a little something more if you look closely at the end, and honestly that's exactly what a movie like this needs.

The picture turns a little dopey with the introduction of a mutated, tongue-lashing monster called a "Licker." That's taken straight from the game, but the CGI is poor and the idea frankly should have been scrapped. On the other hand, Anderson remembered the zombie dogs, and they work great. 'Resident Evil' isn't the type of movie to watch with critical film aficionado standards. It's a guilty pleasure, but it's a pleasure all the same.

The HD DVD: Vital Disc Stats

The North American rights to 'Resident Evil' are held by Sony, who have released it exclusively on Blu-ray here. However, a company called Constantin Film holds the distribution rights in Germany, and have released it and the second film on both Blu-ray and HD DVD in that country. The HD DVD has no region coding and will function fine in an American HD DVD player.

The disc starts with an anti-piracy ad and trailer before the main menu, which are annoying but can thankfully be skipped. All of the disc's menus are in German, but aren't difficult to navigate. Unfortunately, the HD DVD has no pop-up menus available during the feature.

[review_video_stars] => 3.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 4832 [review_video] =>

Despite its low budget, 'Resident Evil' has pretty stylish photography, emphasizing the sleek, metallic interiors of the high-tech laboratory sets. This 1080p/MPEG-2 transfer, presented in the movie's original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, is very similar in quality to the AVC MPEG-4 transfer on the domestic Blu-ray. The picture is sharp and detailed, with vivid colors (especially reds and blues), rich black levels, and excellent shadow detail. The improvement over standard DVD is immediately apparent during the security camera footage at the beginning of the film. The small text overlays are mostly illegible on DVD but perfectly crisp and clear here.

Being a horror movie, the photography is naturally a little grainy, but not overwhelmingly so. The HD DVD does look a bit grainier than the Blu-ray, yet the grain remains well-compressed without turning noisy until the deliberately stylized ending. There's a shot at the 5:23 mark where the grain freezes in its tracks for a few seconds, but that has been part of every previous edition of the movie and appears to be an artifact of the production (the shot must have been artificially frozen to extend the beat), not a digital compression problem. One of the movie's final sequences features super-hot contrasts and an extreme amount of grain and noise, but the effect there is clearly intentional. This disc looks pretty good indeed.

Important Notice: This German 'Resident Evil' disc is one of the first HD DVDs to be flagged with an Image Constraint Token. If your HD DVD player is connected by HDMI to your display, there should be no issue in viewing the movie at its full 1080p resolution. Unfortunately, viewers connected by Component Video will find the image downconverted to 480p Standard Definition. This is extremely disappointing, to say the least.

[review_audio_stars] => 4 [review_audio_picture_id] => 4831 [review_audio] =>

Whereas the domestic Blu-ray provides the movie's English-language soundtrack in lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1, the German HD DVD uses a DTS-HD High Resolution encoding. DTS-HD HR is not a lossless format, but at least in this case the results are nearly indistinguishable, which is to say that they're both very nice.

The 'Resident Evil' soundtrack is extremely loud and aggressive, with throbbing bass and jolting stinger scares. The surround channels are used creatively, notably when the Red Queen computer's dialogue cycles from speaker to speaker around the soundstage. At least for the first half hour or so, sound effects are all crisply recorded and the score is delivered with excellent fidelity. Around the time of the first major gun battle, however, things start to turn muddy. After that point, the mix keeps piling on masses of noise, each competing in loudness against the rest, and the effect is a lot of aural overkill. Don't get me wrong, this is still a very satisfying and entertaining track, but clarity isn't always its strong point.

Unlike some import HD DVDs from Europe (the problem seems to be confined to releases from Studio Canal), 'Resident Evil' has no issues with increased pitch.

Optional German subtitles can be disabled in the main menu.

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The German HD DVD includes most of the bonus features from the original DVD release of the film, plus one from the later Deluxe Edition. All of the supplements default to German subtitles that can be turned off by the remote.

  • Cast and Filmmaker Commentary – This notorious commentary features Milla Jovovich and Michelle Rodriguez behaving like drunken idiots. They're joined by director Paul Anderson, producer Jeremy Bolt, and actor Jason Isaacs when any of them can get a word in edgewise. This is a very jokey, obnoxious track that's frankly embarrassing to listen to.
  • The Making of Resident Evil (SD, 27 min.) – A lengthy EPK piece with the usual cast and filmmaker interviews, as well as brief time spent with the Capcom game developers. The first half is devoted to boring plot and character recaps. Things get more interesting when we're given a behind-the-scenes look at the commando and fight training, stunt choreography, production design, zombie makeup, and visual effects. It's also funny to note that, in these interviews at least, Anderson looks a lot like Andy Samberg.
  • Scoring Resident Evil (SD, 11 min.) – Marco Beltrami and Marilyn Mason are interviewed separately about their collaboration on the score. Manson in particular has some surprisingly intelligent things to say about what he was trying to achieve. The piece is actually quite interesting.
  • Playing Dead: Resident Evil – From Game to Screen (SD, 15 min.) – An overview of the history of the game series and Anderson's success with his 'Mortal Kombat' adaptation. The actors interviewed make a number of comments about being impressed by the "silence" of the game, which is ironic considering how abrasively noisy the movie turned out to be. Anderson describes the movie as a "prequel" to the first game and justifies the story changes he imposed.
  • Storyboarding Resident Evil (SD, 7 min.) – Anderson briefly introduces a series of storyboard-to-screen comparisons. Boring.
  • Zombie Camera Tests (SD, 1 min.) – Actors pose for the camera in full monster makeup.
  • Milla Jovovich Camera Test (SD, 2 min.) – Milla poses in various action stances.

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 1 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 4830 [review_bonus_content] =>

Exclusive the German disc are the following:

  • Behind the Scenes (SD, 16 min.) – Raw production footage of Milla shooting the train scene, Michelle Rodriguez learning her stunts, and Anderson directing a zombie attack. With no structure or narration to describe what's going on, these clips are rather dull.
  • The Evolution of Resident Evil: Bridge to Extinction (SD, 4 min.) – A long-winded EPK promo for the third film featuring clips from all three franchise entries. Not terribly exciting either.

Also included are a handful of German-dubbed trailers, including those for all three 'Resident Evil' films. A printed booklet provides a chapter listing and filmographies for the cast, all in German.

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

The Deluxe Edition DVD and the domestic Blu-ray release contain another audio commentary, eight short featurettes, an alternate ending, and a music video that didn't make it to this German HD DVD.

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

'Resident Evil' may not appeal to the film snob side of many viewers, but sometimes you just want to watch a hot chick killing zombies for 100 minutes. To that end, the movie is great fun. The German import HD DVD has very good picture and sound. Dual-format owners will probably be better off buying the domestic Blu-ray release, which has slightly better picture, a lot more supplements, and is less expensive. However, this disc does still come recommended for 'Resident Evil' fans currently only supporting HD DVD.

) ) [1] => Array ( [review_id] => 1430 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => underworld_nl [review_release_date] => 1192690800 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Underworld (Dutch Import) [picture_created] => 1207892605 [picture_name] => inlay_hd_underworld.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Dutch Filmworks [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2008/04/10/120/inlay_hd_underworld.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1430/underworld_nl.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2003 [run_time] => 121 [list_price] => 26.95 [amazon_price] => 0.00 [alt_commerce_link] => https://xploitedcinema.com/catalog/underworld-theatrical-version-dutch-release-p-13236.html [alt_commerce_text] => Ships worldwide from xploitedcinema.com [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 [1] => HD-30 Dual Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround [1] => English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Documentary [1] => Featurettes [2] => Music Video [3] => Theatrical Trailer [4] => TV Spots ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => Dutch Subtitles ) [review_editors_notes] => This is a review of the Dutch HD DVD release of the theatrical cut of 'Underworld.' Non-format-specific portions of this review were originally published in our reviews of the Underworld: Extended Cut (German Import) HD DVD and the domestic Blu-ray edition.

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

[review_bottom_line] => Worth a Look [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 52179 [review_movie_stars] => 3 [review_movie] =>

When I was just a budding, twelve-year-old horror aficionado (sneaking gory scares over the weekend at friends houses), I remember imagining a cinematic clash between vampires and werewolves. Obviously, a generation of fans for flicks like 'Near Dark' and 'The Howling' shared the same imagination. But while dozens of tooth-and-claw screenplays swamped Hollywood throughout the '80s and '90s, sadly most of the projects fell apart before a reel of film was shot. As fate would have it, a decent incarnation of this pairing never received a legitimate treatment and the idea continued to fly under the radar for decades.

That is, until 'The Matrix' stormed theaters in 1999. Bizarrely enough, the insatiable desire for lead-flinging, leather-clad super freaks was the key to finally greenlighting Hollywood's first big budget, vampires-n-werewolves feature. Rookie writer/director Len Wiseman was the lucky gambler who hit triple sevens, as he just so happened to be selling a project that borrowed plenty of elements from 'The Matrix,' while also managing to pit horror's greatest heavyweights against each other. The result was a 2003 action-horror flick called 'Underworld.'

The film itself focuses on Selene (Kate Beckinsale), an icy, vampiric Death Dealer caught in a centuries-old war of deception and propaganda. Over the years, the war has evolved beyond the claw-to-claw battles of the past -- instead, modern technology and firepower has made this a war of distance and convenience. It doesn't hurt that a hibernating vampire named Viktor (Bill Nighy) has ensured his aristocratic coven with plenty of toys and riches to fuel their war with the werewolves. His chief lieutenant, Kraven (Shane Brolly), leads the clan's Death Dealers into the thick of battle with the thuggish Lycans, who dwell in the sewers and plot attacks against the vampires.

Meanwhile, Lucian (Michael Sheen), the central canine baddie, is attempting to genetically manufacture a strain of vampirism that can successfully create a werewolf/vampire hybrid. As it is, any time either creature tries to turn the other, the victim dies since their system can't integrate both diseases. Lucian is tracking a human named Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman), a young man who is oblivious to the raging war in his backyard. When Selene discovers their plot, she must stop the Lycans, discover the truth about their conflict, and strike a balance between the two clans.

On the surface, 'Underworld' has a lot to offer action-horror fiends -- it features plenty of shootouts and tussles, stuntwork galore, and a nice dose of seamless effects work. The storyline is well developed and keeps things clipping along at a welcome pace, while the script itself isn't weighed down by heavy-handed dialogue. Last but not least, its lead actors are engaging (particuarly Nighy and Beckinsale), and the film's visual asthetic provides an eye pleasing, post-modern take on gothic designs through and through.

Unfortunately, a number of issues undermine these selling points, at least for a hardcore genre fan like myself. First off, in its most obvious nod to 'The Matrix,' most of the action in 'Underworld' is disappointingly limited to bullets and other weapons. While this would arguably be fine if there were a glut of vampire-vs-werewolf films already out there, I personally felt robbed of the opportunity to finally see a big-budgeted toe-to-toe clash that involved the natural abilities of both creatures. On the few occasions where the beasts fight do hand-to-hand, the results are short and uninspiring.

Speaking of uninspiring, the film's predictable use of a successful vampire/werewolf hybrid is surprisingly boring. Everyone comments on how much more powerful he is, but the on-screen action never seems to live up to its promise.

Then there's the film's average ending that blatantly leaves major plotlines unresolved until a sequel can settle them. In fact, by the time the credits roll, the entire film begins to feel like an extended prologue for Wiseman's eventual follow-up, 2006's 'Underworld: Evolution.'

But of all these issues, my biggest problem with the film is that despite all appearances, it really isn't a horror flick in any shape or form. Instead of focusing on a human stumbling onto a frightening conflict, we're forced to immediately side with one of the creatures. As a result, the tension and fear factor deflates long before the first act has run its course, and the film devolves into a pseudo-telling of Romeo and Juliet that places more emphasis on a contrived love story than on the war itself.

In the end, 'Underworld' is entertaining enough and certainly well-produced, but with so much promise, it's hard not to be disappointed by its merely average results. Although this one has a better story than its poorly conceived sequel, it still doesn't give horror fans the true titan clash we've been looking for.

(Note that the version of the film included on this HD DVD import is the R-rated Theatrical Cut -- a version that is a full 13 minutes shorter than the Director's Cut.)

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 5624 [review_video] =>

This Dutch HD DVD import features a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer that matches the German HD DVD import and domestic Blu-ray edition shot for shot. The only minor difference I noticed between the three releases is that both HD DVD import displays a bit more grain in the darkest scenes. However, the grainfield discrepency is so negligible that it doesn't hinder the picture quality on either import edition in any way.

Thankfully, like the domestic Blu-ray, color fidelity is excellent and the picture exhibits a level of stability that rivals the best transfers on the market. Fine objects and texture details are astounding at times -- bristled hairs on the back of an actor's neck, tiny chips in a werewolf's claws, and brickwork on distant buildings all provide a surreal level of clarity that occasionally makes the picture feel like instant high-def demo material. High end whites aren't overblown and source noise is never a problem. As it stands, this transfer even outshines the Blu-ray release of 'Underworld: Evolution' since it's not held back by the bothersome instability, noise, or softness that Peter noted in his review of the MPEG-2 encoded sequel.

Sadly, the presentation still stumbles in a few key areas, although to be fair, many of the problems I have with the video can be traced back to the cinematography and the abundance of correction work applied to the final footage. Black levels becom