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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(
    [July 31, 2007] => Array
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            [reviews] => Array
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                    [0] => Array
                        (
                            [review_id] => 888
                            [review_type_id] => 3
                            [review_slug] => seaoflove
                            [review_release_date] => 1185865200
                            [review_hot] => 0
                            [review_title] => Sea of Love
                            [picture_created] => 1179262930
                            [picture_name] => sea-of-love-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg
                            [manufacturer_name] => Universal Studios Home Entertainment
                            [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/05/15/120/sea-of-love-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg
                            [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/888/seaoflove.html
                            [review_metadata_prepared] => Array
                                (
                                    [release_year] => 1989
                                    [run_time] => 113
                                    [list_price] => 29.95
                                    [asin] => B000QUEPRI
                                    [amazon_price] => 19.95
                                    [empire_id] => 1329660
                                    [aspect_ratios] => Array
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                                            [0] => 1.85:1
                                        )

                                    [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array
                                        (
                                            [0] => MyScenes
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                                    [video_resolutions] => Array
                                        (
                                            [0] => 1080p/VC-1
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                                    [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 2.0 Stereo (448kbps)
                                        )

                                    [supplements] => Array
                                        (
                                            [0] => Audio Commentary
                                            [1] => Featurette
                                            [2] => Deleted Scenes
                                            [3] => Theatrical Trailer
                                        )

                                    [subtitles] => Array
                                        (
                                            [0] => English SDH
                                            [1] => French Subtitles
                                        )

                                    [preview_genres] => Array
                                        (
                                            [0] => Drama
                                            [1] => Mystery
                                            [2] => Romance
                                            [3] => Thriller
                                        )

                                    [preview_actors] => Array
                                        (
                                            [0] => Al Pacino
                                            [1] => Ellen Barkiin
                                            [2] => John Goodman
                                        )

                                    [preview_directors] => Array
                                        (
                                            [0] => Harold Becker
                                        )

                                    [preview_plot_synopsis] => Al Pacino gives a powerful, critically acclaimed performance in this highly charged erotic thriller. Veteran New York City police detective Frank Keller (Pacino) is a workaholic cop living on the edge. Joining forces with detective Sherman Touhey (John Goodman) to track down a bizarre serial killer, he encounters a beautiful suspect (Ellen Barkin). Convinced of her innocence, Keller enters into a passionate affair, despite hard evidence linking her to the murders. Mounting suspense leads to a surprising conclusion as Keller finds himself caught in an undercurrent of deception, seduction and betrayal.
                                    [preview_technology_specifications] => • Audio Commentary with Director Harold Becker
• Featurette: "The Creation of Sea of Love"
• Deleted Scenes
• Theatrical Trailer [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [review_bottom_line] => Skip It [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] => 14009 [review_movie_stars] => 2.5 [review_movie] =>

After impressing critics and audiences alike throughout the '70s with his roles in such seminal flicks as 'The Godfather,' 'Serpico,' and 'Dog Day Afternoon,' Al Pacino's film career hit a fairly well-publicized dry spell during the '80s. Appearing in only five mostly-forgettable films throughout the decade ('Scarface' being the only true notable among them), the actor seemed to retreat further and further into theater with each passing year. At one point, he was even quoted questioning the likelihood of his return to film.

Thankfully, that crisis was averted thanks to an under-the-radar flick that's been widely credited as the film that pulled Pacino out of his '80s slump -- the 1989 thriller, 'Sea of Love.' The story follows detective Frank Keller (Pacino), a New York City cop hot on the trail of a female serial killer. When he can't make any headway with the case, Keller teams up with a detective named Sherman from another precinct (John Goodman).

After realizing that the killer is placing personal ads in local newspapers and murdering the men that respond, the detectives place their own ad and set up an undercover sting to try to catch her before she can strike again. That's when Keller meets Helen Cruger (Ellen Barkin), a classic '80s femme fatale who answers the ad, and conveniently finds her way into his personal life. Lovestruck, Keller must keep his emotions in check while he attempts to determine whether or not Helen is who she claims to be.

I'd never seen 'Sea of Love' before, but after reading through the largely positive critical response to the film, I thought I was in for a genre treat that would keep me guessing. Unfortunately, 'Sea of Love' failed to impress and I ultimately found myself wondering why it was so held in such high esteem.

Don't get me wrong, the film is certainly decent -- Pacino sells a washed-up alcoholic better than anyone, and both he and Goodman deliver a pair of performances that kept me engaged from beginning to end. But I just couldn't buy the script or Barkin's character for a second. While the dialogue itself is notable, the plot developments generally feel too contrived and overly complicated. Barkin seems both oblivious and mysterious at the same time -- competing characteristics that maintain the film's mystery but ultimately fall flat. Worst of all, the ending literally comes out of nowhere and is clearly meant to shock rather than make sense.

As a newcomer to 'Sea of Love', the other thing that kept me from fully immersing myself in the film is that it hasn't completely stood the test of time. Simply put, there are key moments where costumes and details so distractingly date the film that I honestly had a hard time holding back laughter. The costuming on Barkin's character in particular is often laughable, as is the soundtrack, which seems to borrow a page from the late-night Cinemax guide book.

Overall, I'm guessing fans of 'Sea of Love' won't find these quirks to be a problem -- in fact, if my own personal experience with old favorites is any indication, such elements can often surround movies like this with a warm glow of nostalgia that may even serve to enhance the experience. Having no such relationship to the film myself, however, 'Sea of Love' generally struck me as a below-average film with some above-average performances from Pacino and Goodman.

[review_video_stars] => 2 [review_video_picture_id] => 3241 [review_video] =>

In all its years on DVD, 'Sea of Love' has never been gifted with a remaster, and alas the same appears to be true here, with Universal delivering an HD DVD transfer that's all over the place.

Presented in its high-def debut with a 1080p/VC-1 transfer, at least all of the upgrades inherent to the increased resolution and disc space are here -- detail is improved, edges are sharper, and the picture isn't plagued by artifacting like the standard DVD. But the overall impact of the image is underwhelming to say the least.

The transfer has drab colors, average contrast levels, and dark gray shadows that fail to reach complete darkness -- in fact, the entire image feels flat and lacks any convincing depth. Long shots are murky, skintones are unnatural, and grain clouds tend to spike at random. Worst of all, fine object detail is severely limited in interior shots and delineation is arguably as poor as it is on the standard DVD.

It really pains me to see Universal release a visual dud like this -- in a week where a title like 'Hot Fuzz' can look so amazing, the poor transfer of this aging catalog title really shows its wrinkles.

[review_audio_stars] => 2 [review_audio_picture_id] => 3242 [review_audio] =>

As if the picture quality wasn't bad enough, 'Sea of Love' features a dead-on-arrival Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 surround mix (1.5 Mbps) that fails to impress on any level. To be honest, there's precious little difference between this track and the standard DVD mix beyond the fact that the dialogue is a tad crisper and the subwoofer has a little more oomph.

Prioritization is the first of many fundamental problems -- dialogue is lost beneath effects, the soundtrack rarely chooses a consistent volume, and sounds that should be weighty are quite thin. Channel movement is also practically non-existent because a majority of the mix is pumped through the center channel only. The rear speakers rarely make a peep until the third act -- as such, ambiance and acoustics are stagey and unrealistic. If I didn't know better, I could have easily mistaken this mix for a stereo track.

The film's musical soundtrack is the only audio element brave enough to venture beyond the center channel, but sadly it too suffers from empty bass tones and tinny trebles that constantly waver. I'd have to say this is probably the most disappointing sound mix I've heard since 'Excalibur' graced my HD DVD player.

[review_supplements_stars] => 1.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 3243 [review_supplements] =>

Happily, this edition of 'Sea of Love' on HD DVD retains all of the features available on the previous standard DVD. As you might expect for a film of this vintage, this is a fairly slim package, but there are a few items here worth a spin.

Despite my disappointment with the film itself, I actually quite enjoyed the commentary track with director Harold Becker. He has a friendly tone and provides a variety of tidbits that made me appreciate the film slightly more than I had before. Becker discusses coming on board as a last-minute replacement, working with the actors, preparing the sets, filming in Toronto, and other more technical details. I always love it when a commentary explores the motivations and development of the characters and Becker doesn't disappoint. His commentary was easily my favorite part of this release.

"The Creation of Sea of Love" (14 minutes) doesn't fare as well. Featuring generally bland interviews with producer Martin Bergman and Becker, this one's particularly repetitive after listening to the commentary. A group of "Deleted Scenes" (7 minutes) is worth a watch if you enjoyed the film -- they tie together a few loose ends and expound on some of the supporting characters.

Rounding things out is the film's theatrical trailer, which (like all of the other video-based extras on this release) is presented in 480i/p video only.

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

No exclusive content, but Universal has includes its HD DVD standard MyScenes function, which allows you to bookmark your favorite chapters for instant access even after you remove the disc from your player.

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

While fans of 'Sea of Love' will likely enjoy revisiting an old favorite, as a newcomer to the film I found Pacino and Goodman's performances to be the only things of note in this otherwise typical '80s thriller. Regardless of your opinion of the film itself, the poor video transfer and lackluster audio mix on this HD DVD should make for an extremely tough sell. Offering only a marginal upgrade over the standard-def DVD, I'm sorry to report that this one's a true high-def dud.

) ) [1] => Array ( [review_id] => 803 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => shaunofthedead [review_release_date] => 1185865200 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Shaun of the Dead [picture_created] => 1186090970 [picture_name] => shaun-of-the-dead.gif [manufacturer_name] => Universal Studios Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/08/02/120/shaun-of-the-dead.gif [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/803/shaunofthedead.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2004 [run_time] => 100 [list_price] => 29.98 [asin] => B000R8YC3G [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1331041 [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 [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 (1.5mpbs) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentaries [1] => Featurettes [2] => Deleted Scenes [3] => Outtakes [4] => Storyboard Comparison [5] => Screen Tests [6] => Trivia Track [7] => Promotional Materials [8] => Theatrical Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Comedy [1] => Horror ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Bill Nighy [1] => Edgar Wright [2] => Simon Pegg ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Edgar Wright ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => There comes a day in every man's life when he has to get off the couch...and kill some zombies. When flesh-eating zombies are on the hunt for a bite to eat, it's up to slacker Shaun (Simon Pegg) and his best pal to save their friends and family from becoming the next entree. Satisfy your bloodthirsty appetite with the movie that masters of horror and film critics alike are hailing as the funniest and scariest movie of the year. Novelist Stephen King gushes "it's a 10 on the fun meter and destined to be a cult classic." and Newsweek calls Shaun Of The Dead "a bloody hoot!" It's a screamingly hilarious zomedy that will have you dying with laughter. [preview_technology_specifications] => • Audio commentary
• Subtitle fact track
• Deleted Scenes
• Outtakes
• Director Video Diary
• Screen Tests
• Photo gallery [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 8164 [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] => 13982 [review_movie_stars] => 5 [review_movie] =>

In 1968, George Romero changed the face of horror with the sharp satire and tense characterizations of 'Night of the Living Dead.' Produced on a shoe-string budget of $114,000, the cult hit went on to gross an estimated $30 million worldwide over the ten years following its original release. As you might expect, such commercial success begot a string of imitators, but none were able to top Romero's original vision.

Except for Romero himself. His 1978 horror masterpiece 'Dawn of the Dead' set the bar even higher -- terrifying audiences, while still taking the time to comment on American consumer culture. In fact, it was so good that it unintentionally put a cap on the zombie subgenre, simply because nothing else could top it. For more than twenty years, scores of filmmakers (including Romero himself) worked hard to reinvigorate this classic staple of horror cinema, but failed at every turn.

Leave it to the Brits. Writer/director Edgar Wright and writer/actor Simon Pegg had just wrapped up the run of their British television series "Spaced" when they decided to bring their own unique blend of satire to the zombie subgenre. The resulting love-letter to George Romero -- 'Shaun of the Dead' -- did what others had been unable to do for so many years, despite the fact that their film was a comedy instead of a straight horror flick.

As the story goes, Shaun (Simon Pegg) is a sad-sack salesman who would rather hang out at the pub with his best mate Ed (Nick Frost) than invest quality time in his career or his romantic relationships. After a night of heavy drinking, Shaun decides to get his life on track and win back his ex-girlfriend, Liz (Kate Ashfield). Unfortunately, Shaun wakes up to a world engulfed by a zombie plague.

He rises to the challenge and resolves to avoid old routines and instead embrace the new reality of a world in crisis. Working to become a new man, he fights to save his friends and family including his naïve mother (Penelope Wilton), his domineering stepfather (Bill Nighy), his ex-girlfriend, and a couple with marital issues (Dylan Moran and Lucy Davis). But his newfound motivation comes to an abrupt halt after he packs everyone in his favorite pub for safe-keeping, and he begins to realize he has no clue what to do next.

The thing that makes 'Shaun of the Dead' so instantly endearing is that it avoids direct parody and instead concentrates on finding genuine humor in the midst of its zombie-infested set-up. The film never settles for easy laughs and instead layers each scene with smart references and subtle nods that combine for quite the impact. Pegg and Wright's satire is sharp and witty, and they've crafted a script to match it. When the film ultimately shifts gears and drifts into hard-edged horror in the third act, the writers have somehow managed to make this transition seem so inevitable that it doesn't feel disjointed in the least.

The performances are top notch as well -- Pegg is hilarious and the supporting cast could hold the movie on their own. In particular, Bill Nighy and Nick Frost play two characters at opposite extremes of the spectrum, but each one brings an extraordinary level of charisma to the screen.

Of course, I have to mention the zombies. As portrayed in 'Shaun of the Dead,' they're shambling, slow, and dumb, but that's the point. The slowness of the zombies lulls the film's characters into a false sense of confidence and security and make the resulting scares incredibly effective. Picture yourself in a crowded mall and imagine you had to walk through it without touching anyone. Now imagine every person trying to grab you at the same time. 'Shaun of the Dead' embraces this idea by showing Shaun and Ed's fascination with the immobility of the zombies. But when they're trapped in the pub with a horde of lumbering creatures outside, the film creates an a tension that sells the horror of the situation to great effect.

Every so often a film comes along that revitalizes its genre -- 'Shaun of the Dead' brought originality and freshness back to the zombie flick. It's both funny and tense, and will likely continue to entertain audiences for years to come. Fans of horror and British comedy are sure lap up everything the film offers. The only debate that remains is whether 'Shaun of the Dead' is better than Pegg and Wright's follow-up, 'Hot Fuzz' -- for me, it is.

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 3233 [review_video] =>

Presented in 1080p using the VC-1 codec, 'Shaun of the Dead' looks very impressive considering its limited budget. Detail is one of the most notable assets of the transfer and remains strong throughout the film. There are a few shots when softness creeps in, but I was happy to see that Universal didn't pack the film full of edge enhancement to compensate. Since the sun rarely shines in the film, colors are occasionally washed out, but they still pop every chance they get. Reds are especially vibrant and come into play over and over throughout the film. By the time Shaun is holed up in the pub, the screen is ablaze with intense oranges as fire and destruction takes center stage.

Unfortunately, the pub scenes at night falter due to average delineation and black levels that the transfer never completely resolves. While the rest of the film boasts a high visibility in the shadows, the final battle features a reduction in contrast, detail, and color in the dim lighting.

Overall, 'Shaun of the Dead' includes an eye-pleasing transfer that isn't as beautiful or consistent as the HD DVD transfer of 'Hot Fuzz,' but on its own merits, this one still looks quite good in high definition, and is sure to leave fans of the film happy.

[review_audio_stars] => 4 [review_audio_picture_id] => 3234 [review_audio] =>

'Shaun of the Dead' features a Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 surround track (1.5 Mbps) that's technically proficient and has a startling heft to its presence. Dialogue and effects are crisp, stable, and well prioritized within the soundscape and make it easy to immerse yourself in Shaun's quest. Zombie sounds have been distributed around the soundfield and the mix makes good use of the rear speakers in crowded scenes. Slamming doors, accelerating cars, and the satisfying "thunk" of metal on zombie-skulls are all nicely rendered with the rumbling support of the subwoofer.

As you might expect, the final battle packs the most audible punch, but the remainder of the film is meant to be quiet and droll (aside from the punctuated disruptions caused by the heightened scene transition effects). Zombie chaos rarely happens on screen and the mix is left to deal with the main characters encountering relatively minor situations. As such, this is the sort of track that certainly catches your attention at key moments, but doesn't make for the best easy-access demo material.

[review_supplements_stars] => 3 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 3235 [review_supplements] =>

While 'Shaun of the Dead' hit standard-def DVD in the UK in an 2-disc release over-stuffed with extras, the 2005 US DVD included only a portion of those supplements, and this HD DVD edition follows suit. Granted, it's too bad Universal didn't see fit to super-size this HD DVD release (as they did with 'Hot Fuzz,' but both the sheer number and the quality of the supplements included here is still impressive.

Up first is a mixed bag of commentaries. The best commentary features Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright in an engaging, fascinating track that highlights their friendship, careers, and talent. I loved listening to their thoughts concerning the television run of "Spaced," Shaun's origin in a particular episode, and the film's many hidden references to Romero and other horror greats. Fans of their commentary track on 'Hot Fuzz' will feel right at home as the two friends discuss the ever-changing script for 'Shaun of the Dead,' the various stages of its development, and the filming process.

The lesser commentary includes Pegg, Dylan Moran, Nick Frost, Lucy Davis, and Kate Ashfield. Everyone seems to be having a good time and there are certainly some laughs to be had, but like many group commentaries of this sort, ultimately this track lacks focus and becomes a bit repetitive and annoying.

A section called "Raw Meat" includes a group of generally interesting and amusing supplements that detail the film's pre-production phase. First up, "Simon Pegg's Video Diary" (8 minutes) captures Pegg's interactions with a variety of cast members. "Edgar and Simon's Flip Chart" (13 minutes) allows the writers to discuss thoughts they recorded in their notebooks before the script even existed. A series of "Casting Tapes" (5 minutes) includes videos of Ashfield, Moran, Davis, and Peter Serafinowicz auditioning with Pegg. Some fairly standard "Special Effects Comparisons" (2 minutes) and "Makeup Tests" (2 minutes) showcase before-and-after glimpses of the effects. Finally, a promotional short imaginitively titled "EPK Featurette" (7 minutes) registers as the only boring supplement in the bunch.

Next comes a section called "Missing Bits," which is highlighted by a series of extended scenes (14 minutes) and outtakes (11 minutes). The extensions add a few laughs here and there, but otherwise seem to be wise trims from the final film. The outtakes are genuinely funny and show the cast having a blast together. Also included in this section is a video called "Funky Pete" that includes scenes from the film that have been ridiculously edited for broadcast television. Topping off the "Missing Bits" is another video called "The Man Who Would Be Shaun" (1 minute) that highlights the incredibly funny Pegg being incredibly funny.

My favorite supplement on this release, though, has to be the examination of the film's "Plot Holes." At only three minutes long, this one's relatively brief, but uses storyboards and voiceovers to connect the dots and explain a few of the film's errors. I love that Wright and Pegg acknowledge these mistakes and make fun of themselves with the inclusion of this supplement.

This disc also includes a group of "TV Bits" that feature complete versions of several faux-television broadcasts and news reports that are briefly seen in the film. "T4 and Coldplay" (4 minutes) is an improvised humanitarian interview with the band, "Fun Dead" (1 minute) is a clip from a fictional reality show, and "Nine Lives Are Up" (2 minutes) and "I Married a Monster" (1 minute) are clips from a British talk show.

Rounding out this HD DVD release is a "Zomb-O-Meter Trivia Track" that plays overtop the film, "Storyboard Comparisons," a "Zombie Photo Gallery," a series of poster designs, and -- last but not least -- the US theatrical trailer.

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

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

No exclusive content per se, but this disc does include Universal's now-standard MyScenes feature which allows you to bookmark your favorite scenes from the film.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 4 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 3236 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'Shaun of the Dead' is both hilarious and tense -- sometimes both within a single scene -- and it holds a special place in my top ten comedies. This HD DVD release boasts an impressive transfer, a booming Digital-Plus track, and all of the supplements from its US-released DVD counterpart. As an overall package, this one can't keep up with the astounding HD DVD release for Pegg and Wright's 'Hot Fuzz,' but it's definitely worth picking up all the same.

) ) [2] => Array ( [review_id] => 896 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => shooter [review_release_date] => 1185865200 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Shooter [picture_created] => 1184544560 [picture_name] => shooter-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Paramount Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/07/15/120/shooter-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/896/shooter.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2007 [run_time] => 124 [list_price] => 34.95 [asin] => B000QUEQBI [amazon_price] => 27.95 [empire_id] => 1332590 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.40:1 ) [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 Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5mbps) [1] => French Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (768 kbps) [2] => Spanish Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (768 kbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentary [1] => Featurettes [2] => Deleted Scenes [3] => Theatrical Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => English Subtitles [2] => French Subtitles [3] => Spanish Subtitles [4] => Portuguese Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Action [1] => Drama [2] => Thriller ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Danny Glover [1] => Michael Pena [2] => Mark Wahlberg ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Antoine Fuqua ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => A marksman (Wahlberg) living in exile is coaxed back into action after learning of a plot to kill the president. Ultimately double-crossed and framed for the attempt, he goes on the run to track the real killer and find out who exactly set him up, and why. [preview_technology_specifications] => TBA [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => TBA [review_editors_notes] => Non format-specific portions of this review also appear in our Blu-ray review of 'Shooter.' [review_bottom_line] => Worth a Look [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 12051 [review_movie_stars] => 3 [review_movie] =>

What if John Rambo were re-invented for the Dubya era, only without a Vietnam War to fight, and looking a lot like Mark Wahlberg? That's the premise of 'Shooter,' a modern updating of Stephen Hunter's 1993 cult novel "Point of Impact."

The story itself is nothing if not ambitious, grafting a conspiracy thriller with socio political commentary, and throwing in a little lone-gunslinger-riding-in-on-white-horse-to-kick-ass attitude for good measure. The result is a mishmash that feels oddly retro, but stills packs a few modern twists.

Wahlberg stars as Bob Lee Swagger, a highly-respected but now cynical retired Marine who has banished himself to what's left of the American frontier. Pressed back into service as a sniper to help stop an assassination attempt against the President, Swagger soon finds himself double-crossed with two bullet holes in his chest, and framed for a murder he didn't commit.

Determined to prove his innocence, Swagger goes on the run, inadvertently enlisting the aid of his partner's widow (Kara Mara) and a rookie detective (Michael Pena) who may be the only person in the nation who believes him. Swagger will have to evade both the authorities and the shadow organization that wants him dead if he's to clear his name and come out alive.

As directed by Antoine Fuqua ('Training Day,' 'King Arthur'), 'Shooter' is certainly is unique. Updating Hunter's Vietnam-era story to present day brings a promising new subtext to the film in our post-9/11 world, but at the same time it turns its hero into somewhat of a relic. Compared to the post-Vietnam era, our culture's attitude towards our soldiers has changed dramatically, leaving Swagger's anti-establishment bent ringing hollow, and at times bordering on some sort of parody.

Wahlberg's lackluster performance doesn't help matters. Failing to find the dark, wounded heart of his character, and instead playing up the stoic action-hero qualities -- Wahlberg comes off like the bastard child of John Rambo and John McClane, with a little bit of 'In the Line of Fire'-era Clint Eastwood thrown in for good measure.

Yet while 'Shooter' never truly coalesces as the hybrid of '70s political thriller, action film and detective story it strives for, it is refreshingly unpredictable. Fuqua nicely balances the main story of Swagger on the lam with Pena's pursuit, as well as the slow-building reveal of the true nature of the shadow conspiracy, creating a genuinely suspenseful and intriguing film with a pace that never lags. Only a routine mountain-top climax deflates the tension, but it arrives too late to be truly fatal.

In the final analysis, 'Shooter' is certainly not a classic on par with such seminal '70s political thrillers as 'Day of the Condor,' 'Parallax View' or 'Targets,' but for most of its 125-minute runtime, its intelligent design makes it an admirable, intriguing and compulsively watchable entry in the genre.

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 2601 [review_video] =>

Paramount brings 'Shooter' to both HD DVD and Blu-ray about a month after the standard-def DVD, and (as is commonplace today with new releases), all are minted from the same high-def master. This HD DVD edition receives an 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode, while its Blu-ray counterpart gets the MPEG-2 treatment. Both transfers looked identical to me.

I have to admit to being a bit disappointed with the visual design of 'Shooter.' I really enjoyed the look of some of director Antoine Fuqua's previous work (particularly 'Training Day'), but it seems like lately his films have become a bit more nondescript -- it's as if he's taken a page out of the Tony Scott playbook ('Deja Vu,' 'Enemy of the State') with a glossy, high-contrast look that's certainly slick, but lacks any discernible personality or uniqueness. It's a particularly surprising choice for 'Shooter,' as a tougher, grittier style of photography likely would have suited the subject matter far better.

That said, technically this is a fine transfer. Befitting a new release, the source is pristine, with all blemishes and film grain white-washed out of existence (along with any sense of realism or naturalness). Contrast is hot, with the highs clearly tweaked, and blacks crushed down a bit. There is also frequent use of color filtering (especially on wide shots of cityscapes, horizons, etc.) which adds an additional artifact cast over the whole image.

Visually, Fuqua seems to favor tight close-ups, which reveal excellent detail. Every pore on Mark Wahlberg's sweaty mug is clearly visible, and even wider shots enjoy nice depth. Colors are quite stylized, with a tendency for blues to be most prominent in the palette, and reds and oranges to be more subdued. Fleshtones generally look a bit weird as a result, with everyone a pasty shade of orange, but hues remain fairly solid and don't bleed or fuzz out. Only some noise in the most high-contrast, low-light scenes is an irritant. Otherwise, 'Shooter' is a upper-tier, four-star transfer.

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

Forgive the rant, but at this point Paramount should really be offering high-resolution audio (PCM, Dolby TrueHD, DTS-MA -- take your pick) across the board on its high-def new releases. Instead, the studio continues to offer unequal standard audio specs across its dual-format releases, giving this HD DVD edition of 'Shooter' a 1.5mbps Dolby Digital-Plus mix, while the Blu-ray gets a Dolby Digital surround track at a measly 640kbps.

Although the extra bits for this HD DVD do result in a slightly improved sense of envelopment and power, neither next-gen version blew me away.

A strange amalgam of genres, surround presence in 'Shooter' tends to vary scene-to-scene. Action sequences (such as the opener and the pivotal assassination scene) are generally first-rate. Gunshots, crowd noise, score bleed, etc., fill the rears nicely, while imaging is tight and defined, and placement of discrete effects is achieved with pin point accuracy.

The rest of 'Shooter' is a bit more dull. Ambiance is often lacking in quieter dialogue scenes, with only outdoor and nature scenes featuring a bit of atmosphere -- neither the HD DVD nor the Blu-ray provide much excitement here. Dynamics are bolstered slightly on the Dolby Digital-Plus track, with a bit heavier bass and a little better clarity. Dialogue is excellent on both tracks, with volume balance pitch perfect.

[review_supplements_stars] => 2.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 2602 [review_supplements] =>

'Shooter' features identical extras on each of its HD DVD, Blu-ray and standard-def DVD editions.

First up are two featurettes. "Survival of the Fittest" (21 minutes) departs from the usual making-of by not focusing on the usual plot recap, movie clips and on-set footage. Instead, the majority of this piece is a manual on snipers and the training and technology required to portray them accurately on-screen. The film's technical advisor, ex-Gunnery Sergeant Patrick Garrity takes center stage, as we see him take the film's supporting cast (including Michael Pena and Kate Mara) through their paces. MIA from this featurette is the film's star Mark Wahlberg, but director Antoine Fuqua, producer Ric Kidney, screenwriter Jonathan Lemkin and novelist Stephen Hunter all weigh in to praise the film's realism.

"Independence Hall" (7 minutes) is much more focused, devoted exclusively to dissecting how the film's centerpiece assassination scene was staged and created.

There are also eight Deleted Scenes (11 minutes). Nothing here adds significantly to the film's already long 125 minutes, although there is one rather amusing sequence featuring Wahlberg attempting to buy a handgun at a Southern general store.

Finally, the last major extra is Fuqua's solo screen-specific audio commentary. I've always enjoyed the tracks on his previous films, as he is a strong, eloquent speaker. Here he speaks directly to his passion for the original novel "Point of Impact" and updating its Vietnam-era concerns for the post-9/11 age. Though I wish more of this subtext made it into the film, Fuqua's track speaks well to the intent. There is also a little bit of overlap with the featurettes, as Fuqua again dives in on the film's technical challenges, as well as the staging of the key sequences, including the Independence Hall assassination.

Rounding things out is the film's Theatrical Trailer.

(Note that all of the above bonus materials are presented in full 1080p video. While some of the on-set material looks like a 480 blow-up, overall the quality is excellent.)

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 2603 [review_bonus_content] =>

There are no HD DVD exclusives.

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

'Shooter' is an interesting amalgam of material and eras. Based on the cult novel "Point of Impact," the story's Vietnam-era concerns have been updated to the post-9/11 world with interesting results. Part action film, part political drama, part cop-detective story, it is not entirely successful on any of these fronts, but it does offer an unusual twist and perspective on routine assassination thrillers.

As an HD DVD release, this one's quite strong -- the video transfer earns four stars, the solid but unspectacular audio track edges out its Blu-ray counterpart, and the insightful supplements package is well presented in 1080p video. Well worth a look for fans of the genre and/or Mark Wahlberg.

) ) ) [reviews_hot] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 888 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => seaoflove [review_release_date] => 1185865200 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Sea of Love [picture_created] => 1179262930 [picture_name] => sea-of-love-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Universal Studios Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/05/15/120/sea-of-love-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/888/seaoflove.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1989 [run_time] => 113 [list_price] => 29.95 [asin] => B000QUEPRI [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1329660 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => MyScenes ) [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 2.0 Stereo (448kbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentary [1] => Featurette [2] => Deleted Scenes [3] => Theatrical Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Drama [1] => Mystery [2] => Romance [3] => Thriller ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Al Pacino [1] => Ellen Barkiin [2] => John Goodman ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Harold Becker ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Al Pacino gives a powerful, critically acclaimed performance in this highly charged erotic thriller. Veteran New York City police detective Frank Keller (Pacino) is a workaholic cop living on the edge. Joining forces with detective Sherman Touhey (John Goodman) to track down a bizarre serial killer, he encounters a beautiful suspect (Ellen Barkin). Convinced of her innocence, Keller enters into a passionate affair, despite hard evidence linking her to the murders. Mounting suspense leads to a surprising conclusion as Keller finds himself caught in an undercurrent of deception, seduction and betrayal. [preview_technology_specifications] => • Audio Commentary with Director Harold Becker
• Featurette: "The Creation of Sea of Love"
• Deleted Scenes
• Theatrical Trailer [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [review_bottom_line] => Skip It [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] => 14009 [review_movie_stars] => 2.5 [review_movie] =>

After impressing critics and audiences alike throughout the '70s with his roles in such seminal flicks as 'The Godfather,' 'Serpico,' and 'Dog Day Afternoon,' Al Pacino's film career hit a fairly well-publicized dry spell during the '80s. Appearing in only five mostly-forgettable films throughout the decade ('Scarface' being the only true notable among them), the actor seemed to retreat further and further into theater with each passing year. At one point, he was even quoted questioning the likelihood of his return to film.

Thankfully, that crisis was averted thanks to an under-the-radar flick that's been widely credited as the film that pulled Pacino out of his '80s slump -- the 1989 thriller, 'Sea of Love.' The story follows detective Frank Keller (Pacino), a New York City cop hot on the trail of a female serial killer. When he can't make any headway with the case, Keller teams up with a detective named Sherman from another precinct (John Goodman).

After realizing that the killer is placing personal ads in local newspapers and murdering the men that respond, the detectives place their own ad and set up an undercover sting to try to catch her before she can strike again. That's when Keller meets Helen Cruger (Ellen Barkin), a classic '80s femme fatale who answers the ad, and conveniently finds her way into his personal life. Lovestruck, Keller must keep his emotions in check while he attempts to determine whether or not Helen is who she claims to be.

I'd never seen 'Sea of Love' before, but after reading through the largely positive critical response to the film, I thought I was in for a genre treat that would keep me guessing. Unfortunately, 'Sea of Love' failed to impress and I ultimately found myself wondering why it was so held in such high esteem.

Don't get me wrong, the film is certainly decent -- Pacino sells a washed-up alcoholic better than anyone, and both he and Goodman deliver a pair of performances that kept me engaged from beginning to end. But I just couldn't buy the script or Barkin's character for a second. While the dialogue itself is notable, the plot developments generally feel too contrived and overly complicated. Barkin seems both oblivious and mysterious at the same time -- competing characteristics that maintain the film's mystery but ultimately fall flat. Worst of all, the ending literally comes out of nowhere and is clearly meant to shock rather than make sense.

As a newcomer to 'Sea of Love', the other thing that kept me from fully immersing myself in the film is that it hasn't completely stood the test of time. Simply put, there are key moments where costumes and details so distractingly date the film that I honestly had a hard time holding back laughter. The costuming on Barkin's character in particular is often laughable, as is the soundtrack, which seems to borrow a page from the late-night Cinemax guide book.

Overall, I'm guessing fans of 'Sea of Love' won't find these quirks to be a problem -- in fact, if my own personal experience with old favorites is any indication, such elements can often surround movies like this with a warm glow of nostalgia that may even serve to enhance the experience. Having no such relationship to the film myself, however, 'Sea of Love' generally struck me as a below-average film with some above-average performances from Pacino and Goodman.

[review_video_stars] => 2 [review_video_picture_id] => 3241 [review_video] =>

In all its years on DVD, 'Sea of Love' has never been gifted with a remaster, and alas the same appears to be true here, with Universal delivering an HD DVD transfer that's all over the place.

Presented in its high-def debut with a 1080p/VC-1 transfer, at least all of the upgrades inherent to the increased resolution and disc space are here -- detail is improved, edges are sharper, and the picture isn't plagued by artifacting like the standard DVD. But the overall impact of the image is underwhelming to say the least.

The transfer has drab colors, average contrast levels, and dark gray shadows that fail to reach complete darkness -- in fact, the entire image feels flat and lacks any convincing depth. Long shots are murky, skintones are unnatural, and grain clouds tend to spike at random. Worst of all, fine object detail is severely limited in interior shots and delineation is arguably as poor as it is on the standard DVD.

It really pains me to see Universal release a visual dud like this -- in a week where a title like 'Hot Fuzz' can look so amazing, the poor transfer of this aging catalog title really shows its wrinkles.

[review_audio_stars] => 2 [review_audio_picture_id] => 3242 [review_audio] =>

As if the picture quality wasn't bad enough, 'Sea of Love' features a dead-on-arrival Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 surround mix (1.5 Mbps) that fails to impress on any level. To be honest, there's precious little difference between this track and the standard DVD mix beyond the fact that the dialogue is a tad crisper and the subwoofer has a little more oomph.

Prioritization is the first of many fundamental problems -- dialogue is lost beneath effects, the soundtrack rarely chooses a consistent volume, and sounds that should be weighty are quite thin. Channel movement is also practically non-existent because a majority of the mix is pumped through the center channel only. The rear speakers rarely make a peep until the third act -- as such, ambiance and acoustics are stagey and unrealistic. If I didn't know better, I could have easily mistaken this mix for a stereo track.

The film's musical soundtrack is the only audio element brave enough to venture beyond the center channel, but sadly it too suffers from empty bass tones and tinny trebles that constantly waver. I'd have to say this is probably the most disappointing sound mix I've heard since 'Excalibur' graced my HD DVD player.

[review_supplements_stars] => 1.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 3243 [review_supplements] =>

Happily, this edition of 'Sea of Love' on HD DVD retains all of the features available on the previous standard DVD. As you might expect for a film of this vintage, this is a fairly slim package, but there are a few items here worth a spin.

Despite my disappointment with the film itself, I actually quite enjoyed the commentary track with director Harold Becker. He has a friendly tone and provides a variety of tidbits that made me appreciate the film slightly more than I had before. Becker discusses coming on board as a last-minute replacement, working with the actors, preparing the sets, filming in Toronto, and other more technical details. I always love it when a commentary explores the motivations and development of the characters and Becker doesn't disappoint. His commentary was easily my favorite part of this release.

"The Creation of Sea of Love" (14 minutes) doesn't fare as well. Featuring generally bland interviews with producer Martin Bergman and Becker, this one's particularly repetitive after listening to the commentary. A group of "Deleted Scenes" (7 minutes) is worth a watch if you enjoyed the film -- they tie together a few loose ends and expound on some of the supporting characters.

Rounding things out is the film's theatrical trailer, which (like all of the other video-based extras on this release) is presented in 480i/p video only.

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

No exclusive content, but Universal has includes its HD DVD standard MyScenes function, which allows you to bookmark your favorite chapters for instant access even after you remove the disc from your player.

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

While fans of 'Sea of Love' will likely enjoy revisiting an old favorite, as a newcomer to the film I found Pacino and Goodman's performances to be the only things of note in this otherwise typical '80s thriller. Regardless of your opinion of the film itself, the poor video transfer and lackluster audio mix on this HD DVD should make for an extremely tough sell. Offering only a marginal upgrade over the standard-def DVD, I'm sorry to report that this one's a true high-def dud.

) ) [1] => Array ( [review_id] => 803 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => shaunofthedead [review_release_date] => 1185865200 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Shaun of the Dead [picture_created] => 1186090970 [picture_name] => shaun-of-the-dead.gif [manufacturer_name] => Universal Studios Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/08/02/120/shaun-of-the-dead.gif [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/803/shaunofthedead.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2004 [run_time] => 100 [list_price] => 29.98 [asin] => B000R8YC3G [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1331041 [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 [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 (1.5mpbs) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentaries [1] => Featurettes [2] => Deleted Scenes [3] => Outtakes [4] => Storyboard Comparison [5] => Screen Tests [6] => Trivia Track [7] => Promotional Materials [8] => Theatrical Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Comedy [1] => Horror ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Bill Nighy [1] => Edgar Wright [2] => Simon Pegg ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Edgar Wright ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => There comes a day in every man's life when he has to get off the couch...and kill some zombies. When flesh-eating zombies are on the hunt for a bite to eat, it's up to slacker Shaun (Simon Pegg) and his best pal to save their friends and family from becoming the next entree. Satisfy your bloodthirsty appetite with the movie that masters of horror and film critics alike are hailing as the funniest and scariest movie of the year. Novelist Stephen King gushes "it's a 10 on the fun meter and destined to be a cult classic." and Newsweek calls Shaun Of The Dead "a bloody hoot!" It's a screamingly hilarious zomedy that will have you dying with laughter. [preview_technology_specifications] => • Audio commentary
• Subtitle fact track
• Deleted Scenes
• Outtakes
• Director Video Diary
• Screen Tests
• Photo gallery [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 8164 [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] => 13982 [review_movie_stars] => 5 [review_movie] =>

In 1968, George Romero changed the face of horror with the sharp satire and tense characterizations of 'Night of the Living Dead.' Produced on a shoe-string budget of $114,000, the cult hit went on to gross an estimated $30 million worldwide over the ten years following its original release. As you might expect, such commercial success begot a string of imitators, but none were able to top Romero's original vision.

Except for Romero himself. His 1978 horror masterpiece 'Dawn of the Dead' set the bar even higher -- terrifying audiences, while still taking the time to comment on American consumer culture. In fact, it was so good that it unintentionally put a cap on the zombie subgenre, simply because nothing else could top it. For more than twenty years, scores of filmmakers (including Romero himself) worked hard to reinvigorate this classic staple of horror cinema, but failed at every turn.

Leave it to the Brits. Writer/director Edgar Wright and writer/actor Simon Pegg had just wrapped up the run of their British television series "Spaced" when they decided to bring their own unique blend of satire to the zombie subgenre. The resulting love-letter to George Romero -- 'Shaun of the Dead' -- did what others had been unable to do for so many years, despite the fact that their film was a comedy instead of a straight horror flick.

As the story goes, Shaun (Simon Pegg) is a sad-sack salesman who would rather hang out at the pub with his best mate Ed (Nick Frost) than invest quality time in his career or his romantic relationships. After a night of heavy drinking, Shaun decides to get his life on track and win back his ex-girlfriend, Liz (Kate Ashfield). Unfortunately, Shaun wakes up to a world engulfed by a zombie plague.

He rises to the challenge and resolves to avoid old routines and instead embrace the new reality of a world in crisis. Working to become a new man, he fights to save his friends and family including his naïve mother (Penelope Wilton), his domineering stepfather (Bill Nighy), his ex-girlfriend, and a couple with marital issues (Dylan Moran and Lucy Davis). But his newfound motivation comes to an abrupt halt after he packs everyone in his favorite pub for safe-keeping, and he begins to realize he has no clue what to do next.

The thing that makes 'Shaun of the Dead' so instantly endearing is that it avoids direct parody and instead concentrates on finding genuine humor in the midst of its zombie-infested set-up. The film never settles for easy laughs and instead layers each scene with smart references and subtle nods that combine for quite the impact. Pegg and Wright's satire is sharp and witty, and they've crafted a script to match it. When the film ultimately shifts gears and drifts into hard-edged horror in the third act, the writers have somehow managed to make this transition seem so inevitable that it doesn't feel disjointed in the least.

The performances are top notch as well -- Pegg is hilarious and the supporting cast could hold the movie on their own. In particular, Bill Nighy and Nick Frost play two characters at opposite extremes of the spectrum, but each one brings an extraordinary level of charisma to the screen.

Of course, I have to mention the zombies. As portrayed in 'Shaun of the Dead,' they're shambling, slow, and dumb, but that's the point. The slowness of the zombies lulls the film's characters into a false sense of confidence and security and make the resulting scares incredibly effective. Picture yourself in a crowded mall and imagine you had to walk through it without touching anyone. Now imagine every person trying to grab you at the same time. 'Shaun of the Dead' embraces this idea by showing Shaun and Ed's fascination with the immobility of the zombies. But when they're trapped in the pub with a horde of lumbering creatures outside, the film creates an a tension that sells the horror of the situation to great effect.

Every so often a film comes along that revitalizes its genre -- 'Shaun of the Dead' brought originality and freshness back to the zombie flick. It's both funny and tense, and will likely continue to entertain audiences for years to come. Fans of horror and British comedy are sure lap up everything the film offers. The only debate that remains is whether 'Shaun of the Dead' is better than Pegg and Wright's follow-up, 'Hot Fuzz' -- for me, it is.

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 3233 [review_video] =>

Presented in 1080p using the VC-1 codec, 'Shaun of the Dead' looks very impressive considering its limited budget. Detail is one of the most notable assets of the transfer and remains strong throughout the film. There are a few shots when softness creeps in, but I was happy to see that Universal didn't pack the film full of edge enhancement to compensate. Since the sun rarely shines in the film, colors are occasionally washed out, but they still pop every chance they get. Reds are especially vibrant and come into play over and over throughout the film. By the time Shaun is holed up in the pub, the screen is ablaze with intense oranges as fire and destruction takes center stage.

Unfortunately, the pub scenes at night falter due to average delineation and black levels that the transfer never completely resolves. While the rest of the film boasts a high visibility in the shadows, the final battle features a reduction in contrast, detail, and color in the dim lighting.

Overall, 'Shaun of the Dead' includes an eye-pleasing transfer that isn't as beautiful or consistent as the HD DVD transfer of 'Hot Fuzz,' but on its own merits, this one still looks quite good in high definition, and is sure to leave fans of the film happy.

[review_audio_stars] => 4 [review_audio_picture_id] => 3234 [review_audio] =>

'Shaun of the Dead' features a Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 surround track (1.5 Mbps) that's technically proficient and has a startling heft to its presence. Dialogue and effects are crisp, stable, and well prioritized within the soundscape and make it easy to immerse yourself in Shaun's quest. Zombie sounds have been distributed around the soundfield and the mix makes good use of the rear speakers in crowded scenes. Slamming doors, accelerating cars, and the satisfying "thunk" of metal on zombie-skulls are all nicely rendered with the rumbling support of the subwoofer.

As you might expect, the final battle packs the most audible punch, but the remainder of the film is meant to be quiet and droll (aside from the punctuated disruptions caused by the heightened scene transition effects). Zombie chaos rarely happens on screen and the mix is left to deal with the main characters encountering relatively minor situations. As such, this is the sort of track that certainly catches your attention at key moments, but doesn't make for the best easy-access demo material.

[review_supplements_stars] => 3 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 3235 [review_supplements] =>

While 'Shaun of the Dead' hit standard-def DVD in the UK in an 2-disc release over-stuffed with extras, the 2005 US DVD included only a portion of those supplements, and this HD DVD edition follows suit. Granted, it's too bad Universal didn't see fit to super-size this HD DVD release (as they did with 'Hot Fuzz,' but both the sheer number and the quality of the supplements included here is still impressive.

Up first is a mixed bag of commentaries. The best commentary features Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright in an engaging, fascinating track that highlights their friendship, careers, and talent. I loved listening to their thoughts concerning the television run of "Spaced," Shaun's origin in a particular episode, and the film's many hidden references to Romero and other horror greats. Fans of their commentary track on 'Hot Fuzz' will feel right at home as the two friends discuss the ever-changing script for 'Shaun of the Dead,' the various stages of its development, and the filming process.

The lesser commentary includes Pegg, Dylan Moran, Nick Frost, Lucy Davis, and Kate Ashfield. Everyone seems to be having a good time and there are certainly some laughs to be had, but like many group commentaries of this sort, ultimately this track lacks focus and becomes a bit repetitive and annoying.

A section called "Raw Meat" includes a group of generally interesting and amusing supplements that detail the film's pre-production phase. First up, "Simon Pegg's Video Diary" (8 minutes) captures Pegg's interactions with a variety of cast members. "Edgar and Simon's Flip Chart" (13 minutes) allows the writers to discuss thoughts they recorded in their notebooks before the script even existed. A series of "Casting Tapes" (5 minutes) includes videos of Ashfield, Moran, Davis, and Peter Serafinowicz auditioning with Pegg. Some fairly standard "Special Effects Comparisons" (2 minutes) and "Makeup Tests" (2 minutes) showcase before-and-after glimpses of the effects. Finally, a promotional short imaginitively titled "EPK Featurette" (7 minutes) registers as the only boring supplement in the bunch.

Next comes a section called "Missing Bits," which is highlighted by a series of extended scenes (14 minutes) and outtakes (11 minutes). The extensions add a few laughs here and there, but otherwise seem to be wise trims from the final film. The outtakes are genuinely funny and show the cast having a blast together. Also included in this section is a video called "Funky Pete" that includes scenes from the film that have been ridiculously edited for broadcast television. Topping off the "Missing Bits" is another video called "The Man Who Would Be Shaun" (1 minute) that highlights the incredibly funny Pegg being incredibly funny.

My favorite supplement on this release, though, has to be the examination of the film's "Plot Holes." At only three minutes long, this one's relatively brief, but uses storyboards and voiceovers to connect the dots and explain a few of the film's errors. I love that Wright and Pegg acknowledge these mistakes and make fun of themselves with the inclusion of this supplement.

This disc also includes a group of "TV Bits" that feature complete versions of several faux-television broadcasts and news reports that are briefly seen in the film. "T4 and Coldplay" (4 minutes) is an improvised humanitarian interview with the band, "Fun Dead" (1 minute) is a clip from a fictional reality show, and "Nine Lives Are Up" (2 minutes) and "I Married a Monster" (1 minute) are clips from a British talk show.

Rounding out this HD DVD release is a "Zomb-O-Meter Trivia Track" that plays overtop the film, "Storyboard Comparisons," a "Zombie Photo Gallery," a series of poster designs, and -- last but not least -- the US theatrical trailer.

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

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

No exclusive content per se, but this disc does include Universal's now-standard MyScenes feature which allows you to bookmark your favorite scenes from the film.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 4 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 3236 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'Shaun of the Dead' is both hilarious and tense -- sometimes both within a single scene -- and it holds a special place in my top ten comedies. This HD DVD release boasts an impressive transfer, a booming Digital-Plus track, and all of the supplements from its US-released DVD counterpart. As an overall package, this one can't keep up with the astounding HD DVD release for Pegg and Wright's 'Hot Fuzz,' but it's definitely worth picking up all the same.

) ) [2] => Array ( [review_id] => 896 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => shooter [review_release_date] => 1185865200 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Shooter [picture_created] => 1184544560 [picture_name] => shooter-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Paramount Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/07/15/120/shooter-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/896/shooter.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2007 [run_time] => 124 [list_price] => 34.95 [asin] => B000QUEQBI [amazon_price] => 27.95 [empire_id] => 1332590 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.40:1 ) [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 Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5mbps) [1] => French Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (768 kbps) [2] => Spanish Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (768 kbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentary [1] => Featurettes [2] => Deleted Scenes [3] => Theatrical Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => English Subtitles [2] => French Subtitles [3] => Spanish Subtitles [4] => Portuguese Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Action [1] => Drama [2] => Thriller ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Danny Glover [1] => Michael Pena [2] => Mark Wahlberg ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Antoine Fuqua ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => A marksman (Wahlberg) living in exile is coaxed back into action after learning of a plot to kill the president. Ultimately double-crossed and framed for the attempt, he goes on the run to track the real killer and find out who exactly set him up, and why. [preview_technology_specifications] => TBA [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => TBA [review_editors_notes] => Non format-specific portions of this review also appear in our Blu-ray review of 'Shooter.' [review_bottom_line] => Worth a Look [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 12051 [review_movie_stars] => 3 [review_movie] =>

What if John Rambo were re-invented for the Dubya era, only without a Vietnam War to fight, and looking a lot like Mark Wahlberg? That's the premise of 'Shooter,' a modern updating of Stephen Hunter's 1993 cult novel "Point of Impact."

The story itself is nothing if not ambitious, grafting a conspiracy thriller with socio political commentary, and throwing in a little lone-gunslinger-riding-in-on-white-horse-to-kick-ass attitude for good measure. The result is a mishmash that feels oddly retro, but stills packs a few modern twists.

Wahlberg stars as Bob Lee Swagger, a highly-respected but now cynical retired Marine who has banished himself to what's left of the American frontier. Pressed back into service as a sniper to help stop an assassination attempt against the President, Swagger soon finds himself double-crossed with two bullet holes in his chest, and framed for a murder he didn't commit.

Determined to prove his innocence, Swagger goes on the run, inadvertently enlisting the aid of his partner's widow (Kara Mara) and a rookie detective (Michael Pena) who may be the only person in the nation who believes him. Swagger will have to evade both the authorities and the shadow organization that wants him dead if he's to clear his name and come out alive.

As directed by Antoine Fuqua ('Training Day,' 'King Arthur'), 'Shooter' is certainly is unique. Updating Hunter's Vietnam-era story to present day brings a promising new subtext to the film in our post-9/11 world, but at the same time it turns its hero into somewhat of a relic. Compared to the post-Vietnam era, our culture's attitude towards our soldiers has changed dramatically, leaving Swagger's anti-establishment bent ringing hollow, and at times bordering on some sort of parody.

Wahlberg's lackluster performance doesn't help matters. Failing to find the dark, wounded heart of his character, and instead playing up the stoic action-hero qualities -- Wahlberg comes off like the bastard child of John Rambo and John McClane, with a little bit of 'In the Line of Fire'-era Clint Eastwood thrown in for good measure.

Yet while 'Shooter' never truly coalesces as the hybrid of '70s political thriller, action film and detective story it strives for, it is refreshingly unpredictable. Fuqua nicely balances the main story of Swagger on the lam with Pena's pursuit, as well as the slow-building reveal of the true nature of the shadow conspiracy, creating a genuinely suspenseful and intriguing film with a pace that never lags. Only a routine mountain-top climax deflates the tension, but it arrives too late to be truly fatal.

In the final analysis, 'Shooter' is certainly not a classic on par with such seminal '70s political thrillers as 'Day of the Condor,' 'Parallax View' or 'Targets,' but for most of its 125-minute runtime, its intelligent design makes it an admirable, intriguing and compulsively watchable entry in the genre.

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 2601 [review_video] =>

Paramount brings 'Shooter' to both HD DVD and Blu-ray about a month after the standard-def DVD, and (as is commonplace today with new releases), all are minted from the same high-def master. This HD DVD edition receives an 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode, while its Blu-ray counterpart gets the MPEG-2 treatment. Both transfers looked identical to me.

I have to admit to being a bit disappointed with the visual design of 'Shooter.' I really enjoyed the look of some of director Antoine Fuqua's previous work (particularly 'Training Day'), but it seems like lately his films have become a bit more nondescript -- it's as if he's taken a page out of the Tony Scott playbook ('Deja Vu,' 'Enemy of the State') with a glossy, high-contrast look that's certainly slick, but lacks any discernible personality or uniqueness. It's a particularly surprising choice for 'Shooter,' as a tougher, grittier style of photography likely would have suited the subject matter far better.

That said, technically this is a fine transfer. Befitting a new release, the source is pristine, with all blemishes and film grain white-washed out of existence (along with any sense of realism or naturalness). Contrast is hot, with the highs clearly tweaked, and blacks crushed down a bit. There is also frequent use of color filtering (especially on wide shots of cityscapes, horizons, etc.) which adds an additional artifact cast over the whole image.

Visually, Fuqua seems to favor tight close-ups, which reveal excellent detail. Every pore on Mark Wahlberg's sweaty mug is clearly visible, and even wider shots enjoy nice depth. Colors are quite stylized, with a tendency for blues to be most prominent in the palette, and reds and oranges to be more subdued. Fleshtones generally look a bit weird as a result, with everyone a pasty shade of orange, but hues remain fairly solid and don't bleed or fuzz out. Only some noise in the most high-contrast, low-light scenes is an irritant. Otherwise, 'Shooter' is a upper-tier, four-star transfer.

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

Forgive the rant, but at this point Paramount should really be offering high-resolution audio (PCM, Dolby TrueHD, DTS-MA -- take your pick) across the board on its high-def new releases. Instead, the studio continues to offer unequal standard audio specs across its dual-format releases, giving this HD DVD edition of 'Shooter' a 1.5mbps Dolby Digital-Plus mix, while the Blu-ray gets a Dolby Digital surround track at a measly 640kbps.

Although the extra bits for this HD DVD do result in a slightly improved sense of envelopment and power, neither next-gen version blew me away.

A strange amalgam of genres, surround presence in 'Shooter' tends to vary scene-to-scene. Action sequences (such as the opener and the pivotal assassination scene) are generally first-rate. Gunshots, crowd noise, score bleed, etc., fill the rears nicely, while imaging is tight and defined, and placement of discrete effects is achieved with pin point accuracy.

The rest of 'Shooter' is a bit more dull. Ambiance is often lacking in quieter dialogue scenes, with only outdoor and nature scenes featuring a bit of atmosphere -- neither the HD DVD nor the Blu-ray provide much excitement here. Dynamics are bolstered slightly on the Dolby Digital-Plus track, with a bit heavier bass and a little better clarity. Dialogue is excellent on both tracks, with volume balance pitch perfect.

[review_supplements_stars] => 2.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 2602 [review_supplements] =>

'Shooter' features identical extras on each of its HD DVD, Blu-ray and standard-def DVD editions.

First up are two featurettes. "Survival of the Fittest" (21 minutes) departs from the usual making-of by not focusing on the usual plot recap, movie clips and on-set footage. Instead, the majority of this piece is a manual on snipers and the training and technology required to portray them accurately on-screen. The film's technical advisor, ex-Gunnery Sergeant Patrick Garrity takes center stage, as we see him take the film's supporting cast (including Michael Pena and Kate Mara) through their paces. MIA from this featurette is the film's star Mark Wahlberg, but director Antoine Fuqua, producer Ric Kidney, screenwriter Jonathan Lemkin and novelist Stephen Hunter all weigh in to praise the film's realism.

"Independence Hall" (7 minutes) is much more focused, devoted exclusively to dissecting how the film's centerpiece assassination scene was staged and created.

There are also eight Deleted Scenes (11 minutes). Nothing here adds significantly to the film's already long 125 minutes, although there is one rather amusing sequence featuring Wahlberg attempting to buy a handgun at a Southern general store.

Finally, the last major extra is Fuqua's solo screen-specific audio commentary. I've always enjoyed the tracks on his previous films, as he is a strong, eloquent speaker. Here he speaks directly to his passion for the original novel "Point of Impact" and updating its Vietnam-era concerns for the post-9/11 age. Though I wish more of this subtext made it into the film, Fuqua's track speaks well to the intent. There is also a little bit of overlap with the featurettes, as Fuqua again dives in on the film's technical challenges, as well as the staging of the key sequences, including the Independence Hall assassination.

Rounding things out is the film's Theatrical Trailer.

(Note that all of the above bonus materials are presented in full 1080p video. While some of the on-set material looks like a 480 blow-up, overall the quality is excellent.)

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 2603 [review_bonus_content] =>

There are no HD DVD exclusives.

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

'Shooter' is an interesting amalgam of material and eras. Based on the cult novel "Point of Impact," the story's Vietnam-era concerns have been updated to the post-9/11 world with interesting results. Part action film, part political drama, part cop-detective story, it is not entirely successful on any of these fronts, but it does offer an unusual twist and perspective on routine assassination thrillers.

As an HD DVD release, this one's quite strong -- the video transfer earns four stars, the solid but unspectacular audio track edges out its Blu-ray counterpart, and the insightful supplements package is well presented in 1080p video. Well worth a look for fans of the genre and/or Mark Wahlberg.

) ) ) ) [July 24, 2007] => Array ( [reviews] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 817 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => deeppurple_theyallcamedown [review_release_date] => 1185260400 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Deep Purple: Live at Montreux 2006 [picture_created] => 1179610954 [picture_name] => deep-purple.gif [manufacturer_name] => Eagle Rock Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/05/19/120/deep-purple.gif [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/817/deeppurple_theyallcamedown.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2006 [run_time] => 186 [release_date_notes] => Postponed from June 26, 2007 [list_price] => 24.95 [asin] => B000QCS2UC [amazon_price] => 16.95 [empire_id] => 1330761 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.78:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080i/VC-1 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD 30GB ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English PCM 2.0 Stereo [1] => English DTS-HD 5.1 Surround (1.5 Mbps) [2] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5 Mbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Second Live Performance [1] => Interviews ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Music ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Few bands are more closely associated with Montreux than Deep Purple and there was simply no other contender when it came to choosing the act to headline the closing night of the 40th Montreux Festival in 2006. The band duly delivered one of their finest live performances, sprinkling songs from their latest album “Rapture Of The Deep” through a set chock full of their classic tracks. There was even a brand new song “Too Much Fun” written especially for the occasion and, of course, a show-stopping performance of “Smoke On The Water." [preview_technology_specifications] => • Band interviews
• Bonus tracks recorded at the Hard Rock London [review_bottom_line] => For Fans Only [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] => 18461 [review_movie_stars] => 2.5 [review_movie] =>

One of the earliest and most influential heavyweights of hard rock, Deep Purple is a band haunted by dysfunction and dissatisfaction. Since the group's founding in 1968, it has survived a multitude of member changes, an eight-year hiatus, and decades of binge drinking and substance abuse. The band's most notorious lead guitarist, the ego-centric Ritchie Blackmore, was an overwhelming source of conflict and fled and rejoined the band on numerous occasions. Other band members who thought themselves irreplaceable soon learned they were simply cogs in this fan-driven machine.

But despite the ever-evolving line-up, Deep Purple has managed to retain a tonal consistency that continues to keep the band in the public eye to this today. Over the years, the group has sold 100 million records worldwide, and their latest major performance -- 'Deep Purple: Live at Montreux 2006' -- has made its way to HD DVD, bringing with it a nice amount of fan anticipation and excitement.

The band has appeared at Montreux many times in the past, but this show marks a blend of old favorites and new songs from their acclaimed 18th studio album, 2005's "Rapture of the Deep." In its latest incarnation, the band's lineup features lead vocalist Ian Gillian, guitarist Steve Morse (who joined the band in 1994), newly appointed keyboardist Don Airey, original bassist Roger Glover, and drummer Ian Paice.

The group certainly doesn't waste any time in Montreux -- the set list includes classics like "Pictures of Home," "Strange Kind of Woman," "When A Blind Man Cries," "Lazy," "Space Truckin," "Highway Star," "Smoke on the Water," "Hush, "Too Much Fun," and "Black Night." It also includes songs from their newer albums like "Things I Never Said," "The Well Dressed Guitar," "Rapture of the Deep," "Wrong Man," and "Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye." My only complaint with the selections is that there are just too many favorites (both old and new) that didn't make the cut. Of course, this also isn't a four hour concert so it's a minor quibble -- the songs on tap cover a broad range that gives a nice overview of the band's musical history.

In terms of the band's performance, I can't deny the pure charisma that erupts on stage in front of the Montreux audience. The vocals are so intense that singer Gillian strains his voice and the band simply rolls with it. This is a live performance at its purest where technical mishaps and the limitations of the artists don't affect the musicians in the slightest.

The trade-off is at times the music becomes so frenetic and unchecked that it fails to provide a certain familiarity to many of the band's best songs. In particular, fans who adore the early Blackmore hits will be disappointed to hear distinctly different versions of their favorite songs. While I could still recognize each rendition, I longed for the safety of a studio recording that would allow me to engage in the music, rather than just the energy of the performers on stage. Worse still, some of the guitar riffs and solos on the most revered classics sound like bar-stool imitations and I winced at the clumsiness of the more involving fret work.

All things considered, as a longtime fan of the band, I had mixed feelings about 'Deep Purple: Live at Montreux 2006.' On one hand, the latest incarnation of the band certainly puts their all into the performance, and their renditions of the group's newer songs are quite enjoyable. Hits from the band's classic era, however, don't fare nearly as well. Given the band's inner turmoil and the egos of keystone members like Blackmore, I suppose the Deep Purple concert of my dreams is impossible, but I found myself shaking my head on too many occasions to give this one an enthusiastic recommendation.

[review_video_stars] => 3.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 3365 [review_video] =>

Presented in 1080i with the VC-1 codec, 'Deep Purple: Live at Montreux 2006' handles its on-screen imagery without any major technical problems. The palette is vibrant and blacks are deep, injecting the picture with a convincing level of depth. However, this is another high-def concert recording that sees its featured band bathed in highly-contrasted colors that continually cloak the sharp details of the stage. When the lights come up, the image is crisp and impressive with natural fleshtones, but these moments are brief and infrequent.

There aren't any major compression issues or clouds of source noise, but hints of artifacting still appear in the shadowy corners of the platform and in the bright stage lights. I was happy to see that there wasn't any distracting bleeding or pixilation (as I found in Eagle Vision's presentation of 'Yes: Live at Montreux 2003'), but this transfer just doesn't have the polish or substance of better live performances available on high-def disc.

[review_audio_stars] => 3 [review_audio_picture_id] => 3366 [review_audio] =>

'Deep Purple: Live at Montreux 2006' features three audio tracks -- DTS-HD 5.1 surround (1.5 Mbps), Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 surround (1.5 Mbps), and an Uncompressed PCM stereo track. All of the audio tracks represent the source material decently enough, and I couldn't pick a clear favorite. The PCM track has the best sound quality, but the DTS and Dolby mixes immersed me more effectively in the soundfield of the live performance. Ultimately, I really would've liked to see an uncompressed surround track -- instead, fans are forced to choose between high fidelity or feeling like they're more a part of the concert.

The PCM track has respectable dynamics that handle the crunching guitar strums with ease. The drum beats sound a bit thin, but the bass guitar helps to make up for the lackluster low end presence. The Dolby and DTS tracks are akin to a solid audio CD, but are technically more problematic, essentially distributing the sound to each of the channels at different volume levels. The result is a lazy track that tricks the listener into believing they're getting surround sound when the rear speakers are simply rehashing the same audio as the boisterous front channels.

In short, while each of the tracks are certainly acceptable, none deliver the kind of exceptional audio you hope for in high-def concert releases of this sort.

[review_supplements_stars] => 1.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 3367 [review_supplements] =>

Both of the special features found on the standard DVD edition of of 'Deep Purple: Live at Montreux 2006' have been ported over to this HD DVD release, and combined they comprise a nice package for a live concert disc of this sort.

The most impressive extra is a full recording of a second Deep Purple performance at a British Hard Rock Cafe in 2005 (59 minutes). The show is arguably more rewarding than the main Montreux concert, with the band sounding more precise and on key as they barrel through spirited renditions of "Fireball," "I Got Your Number," "Strange Kind of Woman," "Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye," "Lazy," "Rapture of the Deep," "Wrong Man," "Perfect Strangers," "Highway Star," and "Smoke on the Water." Granted, the audio quality leaves a lot to be desired (the setting is small and the acoustics are ugly), but it was proficient enough to keep me listening.

Next up is a collection of "Interviews" (24 minutes) in which the current band members discuss a variety of topics, including the song "Smoke on the Water," the change-over from keyboardist John Lord to Airey, their personal history with Montreux, and their fans. The best bits involve Gillian and their candid/feisty comments on Blackmore's exit from the band.

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

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

Nothing.

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

'Deep Purple: Live at Montreux 2006' is a mixed bag performance from a band that has survived decades of turmoil. Fans will have a good time with this disc, but it's not likely to win over any newcomers to the band's classic hard rock. As an HD DVD release, this one's generally strong, boasting an above-average transfer and a nice supplements package, although unfortunately the available audio tracks force listeners to choose between quality and immersion.

) ) [1] => Array ( [review_id] => 1103 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => americanjourney_vol1_dreamingarizona [review_release_date] => 1185260400 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Dreaming Arizona [picture_created] => 1188337655 [picture_name] => american-journey-volume-1-dreaming-arizona.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => The Picture Company [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/08/28/120/american-journey-volume-1-dreaming-arizona.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1103/americanjourney_vol1_dreamingarizona.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2004 [run_time] => 530 [list_price] => 16.95 [asin] => B000R34WDG [amazon_price] => 0.00 [empire_id] => 0 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.78:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => Multiple Music Selections [1] => Map Movie Mode ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080i/VC-1 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-15 Single-Layer ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => None ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => None ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Nature ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Escape the ordinary and soar like an eagle across the paradise of our Southwest. This Music Scenic HD DVD transports you into a world of spectacular vistas of extraordinary beauty. Feel the sensation of helicopter flight, boat ride and road trip. Immerse yourself in a visual symphony of musical themes and perpetual motion. [preview_technology_specifications] => None [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => • Two musical selections: "New Age Native American," "Cinematic Orchestral"
• "Map Movie" mode: juxtaposing animated maps with clips from the presentation. Follow the journey of the filmmakers and see where every sequence was filmed [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] => 809 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => ingoodcompany [review_release_date] => 1185260400 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => In Good Company [picture_created] => 1178992481 [picture_name] => in-good-company.gif [manufacturer_name] => Universal Studios Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/05/12/120/in-good-company.gif [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/809/ingoodcompany.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2005 [run_time] => 110 [list_price] => 29.95 [asin] => B000QEIOTY [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1328090 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85.1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => MyScenes ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-30 ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5mbps) [1] => French Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5mbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentary [1] => Featurettes [2] => Deleted Scenes ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Comedy [1] => Drama [2] => Romance ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Dennis Quaid [1] => Scarlet Johansson [2] => Topher Grace ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Chris Weitz ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Dan Foreman (Dennis Quaid) is a loving husband, caring father and star ad executive. But now, life is putting him through the ultimate test. Carter Duryea (Topher Grace), a young hotshot half his age, has just become his boss. And to complicate matters, Dan discovers Carter is dating his daughter (Scarlett Johansson). [preview_technology_specifications] => • Audio Commentary with Director Paul Weitz and Star Topher Grace
• Five-Part Documentary
• Deleted Scenes [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 7359 [review_bottom_line] => Worth a Look [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] => 13461 [review_movie_stars] => 4 [review_movie] =>

Historically, films falling in the romantic comedy genre haven't exactly been full of surprises. Thankfully, however, a new breed of romantic comedy has emerged over the last decade that has revitalized the genre by bringing to it a newfound credibility.

At first glance, 'In Good Company' may seem like a bit of a throwback. The film tells the story of an aging ad executive named Dan Foreman (Dennis Quaid), who is forced to to report an up-and-coming young supervisor named Carter (Topher Grace) as part of a corporate shakeup. What follows is a comedy of errors that would seem to touch on every cliché in the book -- Carter falls in love with Dan's college-aged daughter Alex (Scarlett Johansson), Dan finds out his wife (Marg Helgenberger) is pregnant, and Carter desperately latches onto Dan for guidance and friendship.

But while 'In Good Company' seems to revel in introducing clichéd situations, its plotting and story development is anything but predictable. Power changes hands so often in the film that I gave up trying to anticipate what was going to happen and I just sat back and enjoyed the ride. Similarly, the seemingly typical romantic subplot ultimately takes a sharp left turn away from convention and delivers a refreshing take on the naiveté of young love. Even the relationship between older Dan and the younger Carter takes on a unique life of its own that defies what romantic comedy fans have come to expect.

Truth be told, perhaps it's unfair to label this film a romantic comedy at all -- there are laughs to be sure, but strictly speaking, 'In Good Company' isn't exactly a comedy or a romance. The majority of the film focuses on a serious examination of the mentality that accompanies age and youth. Dennis Quaid is the focal point of the story -- Grace and Johansson are just foils by which he comes to terms with his life and priorities.

Still, while the film constantly breaks expectations, its coherent and believable storyline manages to tap into genuine emotion. I felt as if I recognized each of these characters and I could identify myself and other people from my life in each of their actions and reactions. It ends up becoming a decidedly personal film that touches on acceptance, independence, fear, and (yes) love.

The film does have its flaws -- writer/director Paul Weitz occasionally seems to have a hard time choosing between the opposing tones he's set in his earlier films, including 'American Pie' and 'About A Boy.' The supporting actors often feel as if they've stepped out of the former, while the main characters seem to exist in the latter. But while the film can sometimes seem disjointed, thankfully Weitz recovers quickly and generally keeps things on track. Fans of 'About A Boy' may also be disappointed to find that 'In Good Company' fails to reveal any questionable darkness in its well-intentioned main characters. The film's villains are comically vain, and serve as the only counterpoint to the flawed compassion of the central protagonists.

Still, despite these issues, 'In Good Company' is certainly an entertaining way to spend an evening, offering up an intriguing satire on business, relationships, and aging. If you haven't seen this one yet, do yourself a favor and check it out.

[review_video_stars] => 2 [review_video_picture_id] => 3162 [review_video] =>

What a disappointment. Right from the opening scenes of the 'In Good Company' on HD DVD, this 1080p/VC-1 transfer's two most primary problems are immediately evident -- poor color saturation and over-indulgent edge enhancement.

To be sure, the film's color palette wasn't meant to be vivid, but as presented in this transfer, the picture is is muddled with sepia tones that weren't apart of the film's look in theaters. The high-def palette zaps the life out of even the strongest primary colors -- the office (where the majority of the film takes place) is appropriately decorated with wood-grain textures, but rather than standing out from the image, fleshtones inexplicably blend in with the walls. This is not the first film to hit high-def with a washed-out palette, but while others still have select hues that pop off the screen, 'In Good Company' feels unintentionally dull and muted.

Even worse, this transfer's edge enhancement is so obvious at times that actors appear digitally inserted into the frame. It's heavy, clumsy, and adds annoying halos around objects that don't belong anywhere near a high-def release. Viewers with large projection screens will almost certainly wince when they see how bad the enhancement is, but even those with smaller displays will notice the ugliness of the effect on this release.

Unfortunately, the transfer's issues don't end there. Artifacting is a consistent problem -- dark areas of the screen are relatively noise-free, but brighter textures display a terribly obtrusive level of noise. Skip to the beginning of chapter 7 and watch the office door in the center of the shot -- a shifting blockiness is apparent and comes back to haunt the picture again and again. There's also an infrequent waver to the contrast during some of the scenes in the office. Again, watch the wood paneling and you'll catch it every time it happens. Finally, there are several few instances where scenes are softer than they should be (particuarly when compared to their edge-enhanced foreground objects).

To be fair, there are few areas where the transfer does its job well. In a direct compare with the standard-def DVD, textures receive a bump in clarity, skin and hair are well defined, and black levels are deep while still allowing an acceptable level of visibility.

But while these are basic and inherent upgrades you'd expect from an HD DVD upgrade, overall this transfer fails to live up to its high-def potential. There's really no reason why a relatively recent release like 'In Good Company' should have a picture that's so severely plagued by these kinds of fundamental problems.

[review_audio_stars] => 3.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 3163 [review_audio] =>

At least the audio is more impressive than the video. 'In Good Company' features a Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 surround mix (1.5 Mbps) that presents crisp dialogue, a well prioritized soundscape, and effects that are nicely distributed across the channels. Ambiance is subtle and immersive, and despite the fact that this is a conversation-heavy flick, busier scenes set on city streets have a sudden and welcome presence in the rears. Lastly, while the musical soundtrack is packed with quieter Indie Rock fare that won't turn any heads, it does effectively waft in and out of the soundscape with smooth fades and suitable dynamics.

All in all, while the film itself won't give your home theater enough of a workout to stand out among other more go-to high-def audio packages, this Digital Plus mix handles everything tossed its way without any technical mishaps.

[review_supplements_stars] => 2 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 3164 [review_supplements] =>

As has become customary on its HD DVD releases, Universal has included all of the extras from the original standard DVD release of the film.

First up is a group of featurettes dubbed "SYNERGY" (24 minutes). Comprised of seven smaller pieces -- "Real Life," "New York Locations," "Stars," "Youth," "Getting Older," "Editing," and "Story," together they provide a glimpse behind-the-scenes that stretches from the script's pre-production through to the film's release. The two videos named on the back of the case (the others aren't mentioned at all), "Real Life" and "New York Locations," are actually the two driest selections of the bunch. My favorites were the "Editing" and "Story" segments -- each one details how the tone of the film came to be, from the perspective of the director and the cast.

A group of "Deleted Scenes" (15 minutes) are worth checking out. While they likely would've slowed down the pace of the film, they're amusing in their own right and highlight some of the quirkiness in the film's key relationships.

Last but certainly not least is a feature commentary with Paul Weitz and Topher Grace. I had a blast listening to this track, which benefits from the fact that the two men clearly become close friends over the course of shooting the film. Lots of great anecdotes here, but they also take the time to explore the deeper themes in the film. I laughed out loud more than once and would definitely recommend this commentary to any fan who hasn't already tried it out.

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

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

No exclusive content, but Universal has included its MyScenes function, which allows you to bookmark your favorite segments for easy access even after you eject the disc out of the player.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 3 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 3165 [review_final_thoughts] =>

I thoroughly enjoyed 'In Good Company' -- one in a new breed of romantic comedies, the film has a distinctive voice that's warm, funny and true to life. Unfortunately, this disc offers only a moderate improvement over the standard DVD -- the audio is strong, and the supplements are identical, but the video transfer is stifled by glaring fundamental problems. If you don't already own the DVD, the overall package here is still strong enough to recommend, just don't expect much from the video...

) ) [3] => Array ( [review_id] => 811 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => nuttyprofessor2 [review_release_date] => 1185260400 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Nutty Professor 2: The Klumps [picture_created] => 1178992726 [picture_name] => klumps.gif [manufacturer_name] => Universal Studios Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/05/12/120/klumps.gif [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/811/nuttyprofessor2.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2000 [run_time] => 109 [list_price] => 29.95 [asin] => B000QEIOUI [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1328101 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 [1] => 480p/i/MPEG-2 (Supplements Only) ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-30 Dual Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround (48kHz/16-bit) [1] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5mbps) [2] => French Dolby Digital-Plus 2.0 Surround (640kbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentary [1] => Featurettes [2] => Deleted Scenes [3] => Storyboards [4] => Music Video [5] => Outtakes ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Comedy [1] => Science Fiction ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Dave Chappelle [1] => Janet Jackson [2] => Eddie Murphy ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Tom Shadyac ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => America's funniest family back for seconds! Eddie Murphy is hilarious when he stars as the entire Klump family in this enormous comedy blockbuster. The hilarity begins when professor Sherman Klump finds romance with fellow DNA specialist, Denise Gaines (Janet Jackson), and discovers a brilliant formula that reverses aging. But Sherman's thin and obnoxious alter ego, Buddy Love, wants out… and a big piece of the action. And when Buddy gets loose, things get seriously nutty. Now, it's up to Mama, Papa, Ernie and Granny Klump to throw their weight around and save the day. [preview_technology_specifications] => TBA [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => TBA [preview_forum_id] => 7359 [review_editors_notes] => For more high-def fun with the Klumps clan, read our HD DVD review of 'The Nutty Professor (1996).' [review_bottom_line] => Worth a Look [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 12915 [review_movie_stars] => 2.5 [review_movie] =>

When last we left chubby professor Sherman Klump (Eddie Murphy) in 1996's 'The Nutty Professor,' he had disowned the magic elixir that allowed him to transform into the hip, sexy Buddy Love (also Murphy). Life seemed to be complete for Sherman -- he may not have won the heart of his true love Carla Purty, but he did regain his self-esteem, and nothing could ever entice to again drink from the fountain of false illusions. Of course, that was before 'The Nutty Professor' grossed nearly $100 million at the domestic box office and gave Murphy his biggest hit in over a decade...

In Hollywood, where there is a till there is a way, and so for 2000's 'The Klumps,' Sherman would again find himself drinking a life-altering potion in his continued search for true love. Buddy Love is back, too, trying to woo the heart of brilliant DNA specialist Dr. Denise Gaines (Janet Jackson) who, it seems, has discovered her own secret formula to prevent aging. The hook this time, though, is that Denise is already in love with Sherman -- and it's Buddy who is the one crashing the party. Add in the entire Klump clan (all played by Murphy in various get-ups), who all have their own ideas on how Sherman and Denise's pending nuptials should come off, and you've got a recipe for comedy of epic proportions.

Like many sequels, 'The Klumps' is not so much a continuation of the original story but rather a regurgitation of its best moments. It was obvious that what worked for audiences about the first film was not the pathos inherent in the dueling-identities of Sherman Klump/Buddy Love, but rather Murphy playing a bunch of different trashy characters under tons of latex. In fact, the entire plot of 'The Nutty Professor' was secondary to its success -- audiences turned out in droves to see Murphy do his shtick, make fart jokes and generally overact to the heavens.

So we get plenty more of all of the above in 'The Klumps' -- only louder, brasher and more vulgar. There remains a sweetness to poor Sherman Klump's looking for (and in this case finding) true love, but the Denise character is all but tossed aside like a narrative annoyance. Jackson is a very likable on screen presence, but she's given little to do here but smile and react to Murphy's outrageousness -- it's a completely thankless role. And even Buddy Love often seems pushed to the sidelines in favor of new side characters or subplots that allow Murphy to summon a new creation.

In the end, of course, none of this really matters so long as 'The Klumps' can be funnier than 'The Nutty Professor.' Alas, it isn't. The first Klumps flick was never a great movie (or even a consistently hilarious one), but at least it felt fresh and invigorated. This sequel, by comparison, offers little more than a showcase for Eddie Murphy's cavalcade of latex. Admittedly, I did laugh more than a few times during the film's best moments, but with a better, sharper script and a more coherent story, 'The Klumps' could have improved upon its predecessor instead of just feeling like an inferior Xerox.

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 3151 [review_video] =>

'Nutty Professor 2: The Klumps' was made four years after the first 'Nutty Professor,' and though the two films do not share any of the main creative personnel (beyond Murphy himself), the visual style of both films is surprising similar. Big, bright and flush with rich primary colors, 'Nutty Professor 2' is arguably even better looking than its predecessor.

Universal provides a 1080p/VC-1 transfer in the film's original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, and as was the case with the first film, the most impressive attribute of the presentation is the vivid colors. Primaries are loud and brash, almost to the point of eye strain. Yet oversaturation is not a problem, with hues rock solid and free of bleeding or noise. Fleshtones are an improvement over the original, however, with no red tint or other inconsistencies. Detail and sharpness are also first-rate, with the image displaying generally excellent depth and clarity. The source is also just about pristine, with only the rarest hint of dirt, and only a speckle or two, to distract. Compression artifacts are also not a problem.

All in all, a solid four star video presentation.

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

For 'The Klumps' audio, Universal also goes one better than the original 'Nutty Professor' by providing a Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 surround mix (1.5mbps), plus a full-blown Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track (48kHz/16-bit).

Unfortunately, despite the generous specs, this comedy flick predictably doesn't get much in the way of exciting, inventive sound design. The only real standouts are the film's music and score, plus a few instances of strong discrete effects. Otherwise, the rear soundfield is inconsistently employed, and ambiance is never sustained or particularly strong.

Still, this is a perfectly fine soundtrack for a comedy, boasting a bright, clean presentation, with lots of lively sound effects (usually of the disgusting variety, such as burps and farts). Dynamics are very lively on the TrueHD mix in particular, with punchy bass and clean, smooth highs. Dialogue is also placed front and center, with no volume balance problems.

[review_supplements_stars] => 3 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 3152 [review_supplements] =>

The original 'Nutty Professor' came without a single extra on any of its releases (DVD and HD DVD included). That certainly changed for the sequel, with 'The Klumps' enjoying a host of bonuses on its initial disc release that have all been ported over for its high-def debut.

First we have a screen-specific audio commentary with director Peter Segal. Since 'The Klumps,' he's gone on to carve an impressive career in A-list Hollywood comedies ('50 First Dates,' 'The Longest Yard'), but here he's just appreciative to have gotten a significant break into the big leagues. Of course, he has plenty of kudos for Eddie Murphy and his ability to create believable characters under mounds of latex, but otherwise he focuses almost exclusively on the film's production challenges. That limits the scope of the track, but Segal certainly seems to be a lively guy, so fans at least will enjoy this one.

Interestingly, this disc also has a second audio commentary track -- sort of. Billed as "A Conversation with Director Peter Segal and Producer Brian Grazer," it actually runs only about one-third of the way into the film and then just stops abruptly. Weird, to say the least, but it's an interesting enough discussion that I wish it had run longer. (Note that the same thing happened on the DVD version of 'The Klumps,' so it's not a glitch with the HD DVD.)

The disc includes only a single featurette, "Spotlight on Location: The Making of 'Nutty Professor 2: The Klumps.'" Running 24 minutes, the first half is your usual banal extended commercial, with on-set chats with the main cast and crew, and an avalanche of film clips. Luckily, the second half is better, featuring a lot of behind-the-scenes footage of makeup guru Rick Baker and his crew turning Murphy into a zillion different characters. It's pretty interesting stuff, and saves the featurette from being a total waste. There are also two Make-Up Application Shorts included, which run less than a couple of minutes and simply offer time-lapse footage of Murphy being transformed.

Next we have two Additional Scenes: "Extended Dinner Scene" and "Deleted House Fantasy Scene." The former is where the real laughs are, with Murphy being even cruder (and funnier) than what could pass by the MPAA Ratings Board in the theatrical cut of the film. There is also a 4-minute reel of Outtakes that are only marginally amusing.

Next are four Storyboard to Final Feature Comparisons. The storyboards for each are shown in the upper part of the screen, while the finished version runs in sync in the lower half.

Rounding things out is a music video for Janet Jackson's "Doesn't Really Matter," plus the film's original Theatrical Trailer.

(Note that all of the video-based supplements included on the disc are presented in only 480p/i/MPEG-2 video.)

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 3153 [review_bonus_content] =>

There are no genuine HD DVD exclusives. Only Universal's "My Scenes" bookmark function, allowing you to access your favorite chapters even after you eject the disc out of the player.

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

It's not a superior sequel, nor is it even as funny as the original, but 'Nutty Professor 2' still delivers its share of comedic zingers. The same basic premise is reworked just enough to provide some fresh laughs, and Eddie Murphy proves himself once again able to wring some truly inspired parody out of multiple roles.

This HD DVD release certainly delivers on the bottom line. The transfer is eye-popping and colorful, and Universal has thrown in a full-blown Dolby TrueHD track plus plenty of supplements. To be sure, 'The Klumps' won't give your home theater much of a workout, but for fans of the film this HD DVD is an easy recommend.

) ) [4] => Array ( [review_id] => 920 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => outforjustice [review_release_date] => 1185260400 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Out for Justice [picture_created] => 1181418856 [picture_name] => out-for-justice.gif [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Video [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/06/09/120/out-for-justice.gif [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/920/outforjustice.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1991 [run_time] => 91 [list_price] => 28.99 [asin] => B000RL6GBY [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1334059 [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-15 Single-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5 Mbps) [1] => French Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (192 kbps) [2] => Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (192 kbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Theatrical Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English Subtitles [1] => French Subtitles [2] => Spanish Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Action ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Jerry Orbach [1] => William Forsythe [2] => Steven Seagal ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => John Flynn ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Out for action? You found it! Steven Seagal hits the target like nobody else in this pounding police thriller. Brooklyn-born cop Gino (Seagal) has seen many changes in “the neighborhood.” One sad one is that boyhood adversary-turned-criminal scum Richie (William Forsythe) has turned local streets into war zones. He’s a mad dog unleashed and Gino and his world-weary partner (Law and Order’s Jerry Orbach) must hunt him down before the body count multiplies. [preview_technology_specifications] => • 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 'Out For Justice.' [review_bottom_line] => Skip It [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] => 12740 [review_movie_stars] => 2 [review_movie] =>

Nobody seems to understand Steven Seagal anymore. Is he an actor? A martial artist? A singer? An environmental activist? His bizarre Hollywood career seems to have run the gamut, making him more of an inside joke than a legitimate performer. But once upon a time, Seagal dominated the box office with action flicks that brought his dry-delivery of justice to the masses. He first arrived on the scene with 'Above the Law' and subsequently released three films that opened at number-one at the box office -- 'Hard to Kill,' 'Marked for Death,' and 'Out for Justice.'

'Out for Justice' tells the straight-forward story of Gino Felino (Seagal), a hard-faced NYPD detective who works to keep the streets safe from scumbags like his childhood nemesis, Richie Madano (William Forsythe). Felino plays by the rules until Madano kills his partner and best friend, Bobby (Joe Spataro). With no other avenue for justice, Felino takes matters into his own hands and becomes determined to kill Madano no matter what the cost.

I was obsessed with films like this when I was a teenager. When it came down to scheduling reviews for this month, I specifically requested 'Out for Justice' to be added to my list -- what better way to relive the nostalgia of former favorites than to review them?

Much to my dismay, the years haven't been kind, and a lot has changed in cinema since this film was released in 1991. The last time I watched 'Out for Justice,' the martial artistry was impressive, the gunplay was tense, and the dialogue brought cheers from me and my friends. Watching it today, the fight scenes are underwhelming and stocky, the gunplay is overdone and laughable, and the dialogue made me cringe at almost every turn.

Fans of '80s action flicks will find more of what they love here -- but 'Out for Justice' hardly qualifies as one the era's classics. In fact, much of the movie plays like a low-budget straight-to-video release, simply boiling down to an adolescent's revenge fantasy where base morality defines behavior and the protagonist never pauses to seriously consider the implications of his actions. Needless to say, the violence is gratuitous and Seagal's performance fails to stir up any empathy for his character.

With that in mind, 'Out for Justice' can be certainly be enjoyed as a relic of its genre, but little else. More than fifteen years later, I found it to be predictable, plodding, and mind-numbingly mediocre compared to better actioners from the same time period.

So, consider yourself warned: fans of 'Out for Justice' should be wary if they haven't seen this one in a while, as they may find (as I did) that it's not everything you remember. Newcomers should probably just steer clear of this one altogether and find better classic catalogue titles on high-def.

[review_video_stars] => 2.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 3121 [review_video] =>

Even hardcore fans who enjoy 'Out for Justice' for what it is are likely to agree that the picture quality on this disc takes a disappointing left turn after the film's first act. Presented in a 1080p/VC-1 transfer, things look respectable as 'Out for Justice' gets rolling -- colors are above average, the contrast is fairly stable, and fine object detail is impressive (especially compared to the hazy 1999 standard-def DVD). The print does show some wear and the film suffers from light softness, but I was ready to give this one an above-average rating since it looked quite good for a film of its era.

Unfortunately, the video quality declines dramatically as the film moves to nighttime shots and scenes with lower lighting, exhibiting poor shadow delineation, crushing, and consistently distracting bouts of heavy noise. As the noise increases, detail and depth decrease, with the end result being an unattractive picture that has severe technical problems. I acknowledge that the daytime scenes look pretty good, but their attributes only serve to highlight the deficiencies in the rest of the presentation.

The film comes on a single layer, 15GB HD DVD disc and could probably have benefited from more disc space and/or a more thorough remastering for high-def. Why studios continue to drop catalogue titles like this on either HD format without properly preparing them for the visual scrutiny of high definition is beyond me.

[review_audio_stars] => 2.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 3122 [review_audio] =>

The audio on this HD DVD isn't much better than the video, although it does sound a tad crisper than its standard DVD counterpart. However, the Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 mix (1.5 Mbps) featured on 'Out for Justice' just doesn't have the audible punch to match its on-screen violence. Dialogue is clear, but isn't very well prioritized within the soundscape (a hindrance particuarly noticeable in gun battles). Making matters worse, sound effects are stagey and lack proper support from the subwoofer -- shotguns sound hollow, explosions sound watery, and splintering wood occasionally sounds like plastic. Everything sounds as if it's being bottle-necked by its dependence on the center channel, and dynamics falter as a result.

Granted, most of these issues can be blamed squarely on the film's poorly constructed sound design. I doubt anyone will be expecting a more impressive track considering the source material. However, the promise of high-def audio is to improve the overall aural experience with significant upgrades in addition to an increase in the bit-rate, and on that count unfortunately this HD DVD edition of 'Out for Justice' fails to deliver.

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

Nothing of substance to report here. Like its standard DVD predecessor, this HD DVD release of 'Out for Justice' includes just one supplement -- the film's original theatrical trailer, presented in standard definition

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

Nothing.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 1.5 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 3123 [review_final_thoughts] =>

My hopes of reliving a "classic" from my childhood were dashed within the first half-hour of 'Out for Justice.' It was painful to realize that this is what passed for great cinema when I was a freshman in high school. Sadly, even hardcore fans of the film are likely to be disappointed with this HD DVD's mediocre video, basic audio package, and lack of supplemental features. Unfortunately this one seems to have been plopped onto high-def without much consideration for the technology or the film itself.

) ) [5] => Array ( [review_id] => 918 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => purplerain [review_release_date] => 1185260400 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Purple Rain [picture_created] => 1181071278 [picture_name] => purple-rain-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Video [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/06/05/120/purple-rain-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/918/purplerain.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1984 [run_time] => 111 [list_price] => 28.99 [asin] => B000QFW6RY [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1334057 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 [1] => 480p/i/MPEG-2 (Supplements Only) ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-30 Dual Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround (48kHz/16-bit) [1] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (640kbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentary [1] => Featurettes [2] => Music Videos [3] => Theatrical Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles [2] => Spanish Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Drama [1] => Musical ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Morris Day [1] => Apollonia Kotero [2] => Prince ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Albert Magnoli ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => A young man (Prince) with a talent for music has begun a career with much promise. He meets an aspiring singer, Apollonia, and finds that talent alone isn't all that he needs. A complicated tale of his repeating his father's self destructive behavior, losing Apollonia to another singer (Morris Day), and his coming to grips with his own connection to other people ensues. [preview_technology_specifications] => • Featurettes
• MTV Premiere Footage
• 8 Music Videos
• Theatrical Trailer [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 9017 [review_editors_notes] => Non format-specific portions of this review also appear in our Blu-ray review of 'Purple Rain.' [review_bottom_line] => Worth a Look [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 11867 [review_movie_stars] => 3.5 [review_movie] =>

Every once in a while, there are rare moments in pop culture when the stars align, and for a brief glorious moment, an artist and his audience fuse into one. Like a fly in amber, the zeitgeist is captured, and the moment becomes permanently etched in our collective consciousness.

One such moment came in 1984, when Prince captivated the world with 'Purple Rain.' More than just an album, more than just a movie, and more than just a gargantuan tour, 'Purple Rain' signaled a seismic shift in music, fashion, film and celebrity. Just as when the Beatles first appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, or Michael Jackson moonwalked on the Motown 50th Anniversary Special, even at the time, you had a distinct sense that lightning had just been caught in a bottle.

'Purple Rain' is perhaps the one semi-modern movie that's impossible to talk about without talking about the songs -- in fact, just about every single one of the ten compositions Prince created for 'Purple Rain' is a classic. Number one hits like "When Doves Cry," "Let's Go Crazy," "I Would Die 4 U," "Take Me With U," and of course "Purple Rain" turned the movie an unstoppable force of nature. The box office was huge, and the album reigned the top of the Billboard charts for an astonishing 24 weeks.

But 'Purple Rain' was more than just commercial synergy. Creatively, it was a watershed in merging genres, demographics and musical ideologies -- from rock to funk to pop to new wave. It was as if the creative heavens opened for Prince -- the riffs, the melodies and the lyrics all seemed to effortlessly fit together like some cosmic jigsaw puzzle, as if the artist was channeling some sort of higher musical power that said "if you build it, they will come." It's hard to define that elusive thing called magic, but in 1984 Prince had it in spades.

The story of the film (loosely played out in the songs themselves) adheres to the typical tradition of the rock movie -- autobiographical enough that the artist and his character are doppelgangers, yet with enough fiction inserted to avoid lawsuits. Prince stars as The Kid, and boy is he funky. Jamming with his band The Revolution every night at the local First Avenue Club in Minneapolis, he has big dreams, and an even bigger ego. His abusive home life (particularly his gun-toting dad, played by 'Mod Squad's Clarence Williams III) is threatening to crash the party, especially after new girl in town Apollonia (Apollonia Kotero) can't decide between The Kid or his musical rival (Morris Day). Can The Kid overcome his demons and find redemption in music, or will he self-destruct?

Ironically, 'Purple Rain' the film may be the weakest link in what became Prince's pop culture trifecta. Subtract the music and blistering concert sequences (which are still so hot that they threatened to melt the disc right in my player), and the movie is narratively clunky and dramatically slapdash. Shot like a two-hour music video by Albert Magnoli in his directorial debut, Magnoli doesn't so much construct scenes as string together cool shots and give them a beat. The acting is also limp. Almost everyone -- Prince included -- is simply playing themselves, and it shows with line readings so stilted that it may as well be Amateur Night at the Apollo.

Worse, 'Purple Rain' is an often unabashedly misogynist film. What should one make of such "comic" scenes as Day, after being confronted by a date he blew off, throws her in a dumpster to the sound of uproarious laughter? Then there is Apollonia, a creation that could have come from the mind of adolescent male fantasy. Despite being repeatedly slapped, beaten and publicly humiliated by The Kid, she only seems to grow more infatuated and aroused by him as the film wears on. This bizarre pop psychology reaches its zenith in the climax, where the moral of the story seems to boil down to the redemptive power of music -- as long as you can belt out a number as beautiful as "Purple Rain," apparently you can cure misogyny, domestic violence and self-possessed rage all in one fell swoop.

Having said all that, it is the passionate frisson between the artist and his myth-making fiction that ignites 'Purple Rain.' From inner turmoil and ugliness came more than great music, but ground zero in a new chapter in modern music. It is no overstatement to say that with 'Purple Rain,' Prince truly blazed new avenues in modern music. Mixing funk, rock, pop, new wave, soul and gospel, there were few young Americans who didn't love Prince in 1984. He was not only in sync with the times with 'Purple Rain,' he simultaneously defined an era and propelled it into the future. Whatever highs and lows his career may have reached since, one need only look back at 'Purple Rain' to know that Prince will always reign.

[review_video_stars] => 3 [review_video_picture_id] => 2704 [review_video] =>

Warner Home Video presents 'Purple Rain' in 1080p/VC-1 video, and in its original theatrical matted aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The studio previously remastered the film back in 2004 for a two-disc standard-def DVD version, and this HD DVD appears to be from that master. The good news is that what was a nice overhaul three years ago remains so. The bad news is that this high-def version doesn't offer much of an appreciable upgrade over what has come before.

'Purple Rain' had suffered over the years on video, largely due to poor pan & scan transfers with muddy visuals and weak colors, so this recent remaster is certainly a great improvement, even it isn't quite a revelation. Due to the film's fairly low-budget and largely dim-light photography, grain is rampant and often varies wildly from scene-to-scene, but the source is pretty clean, with only some sporadic dirt and a speckle or two present. Colors are vivid, especially the deep reds, blues and -- of course -- purple. Detail is also fairly good, with long shots now sharper and fine details more apparent in darker scenes.

However, in judging this high-def version of the remaster with its standard-def counterpart, it was only via direct comparison that I was able to detect much difference between the two. The high-def version just doesn't deliver anything close to the upgrade I've become accustomed to, especially from Warner -- the image is still fairly flat and soft, colors have punch but don't leap off the screen, and contrast similarly just doesn't have much pop.

Make no mistake, 'Purple Rain' looks fine and is certainly easy on the eyes. But in terms of an upgrade, it's among the least notable catalog titles in Warner's next-gen library so far.

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

Although the inclusion of a full-blown Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround mix (48kHz/16-bit) raised hopes that this would be one killer soundtrack, like the video, 'Purple Rain's recently remastered audio is also comparatively disappointing.

As we learn in the included supplements, 'Purple Rain's "song score" included both traditional studio recordings (including "When Doves Cry") as well as tracks that were recorded live to backing tapes. This was also in the age before digital recording was commonplace. The result is that even remastered, 'Purple Rain's classic songs still sound dated in fidelity, and limited in sonic scope. It's particularly unfortunate, because who wouldn't want to crank up this HD DVD and blow out the speakers with earth-shaking rock?

Flipping back and forth between the included Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Digital-Plus (640kbps) tracks yielded little of the appreciable upgrade I had hoped for. Bass still sounds '80s flat, and upper ranges are also flat and compressed. As the film takes place primarily at clubs and in other loud environments, the dialogue was mostly looped, and it sounds like it. Finer subtleties are often lost, to the point where dialogue is obscured and volume boosting was required. Surround use is also poor, with only processed bleed to the rears and no true sonic separation of instruments in the mix.

To be sure, 'Purple Rain' doesn't sound bad -- it's a clean mix, at least -- but compared to some of the truly phenomenal 5.1 surround music remixes I've heard over the years (some for albums far older than this one), 'Purple Rain' fails to deliver the wallop I'd hoped for.

[review_supplements_stars] => 3 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 2706 [review_supplements] =>

Warner finally gave 'Purple Rain' the deluxe treatment on standard-def DVD back in 2004, and happily the studio has seen fit to port over all of the major extras from that two-disc set over to this high-def edition.

The bad news, however, is that the always-reclusive Prince decided not to take part. Still, to the credit of the studio as well as production team at New Wave Entertainment, these features include such an extensive assortment of filmmakers, ex-bandmates and other music contemporaries that the omission of the man himself is far from fatal. In fact, Prince's absence in some ways makes these extras even more interesting, as we get an honest, 'Rashomon'-like multiple-perspective look at the artist and the music that transformed him into a legend.

First up, we have a screen-specific audio commentary with director Albert Magnoli, producer Robert Cavallo and cinematographer Donald Thorin. Unfortunately, this is the weakest of the main extras. Despite boasting three participants, the track is marred by frequent dead patches and dull meandering. For some reason, the trio decided to focus almost exclusively on tech details (how cold it was, where this scene was shot, etc.) and not the stuff most of really want to know about -- i.e., Prince and his music. Luckily, the video-based supplements pick up the slack on this count, but as is, I can't imagine anyone but the most diehard fans making it all the way through this one.

The three-part, 48-minute documentary is where the real meat is. Again, there is no Prince (nor Morris Day or Apollonia, for that matter), but no fewer than two dozen collaborators, bandmates, local musicians and journalists weigh in on the 'Purple Rain' phenomenon, among them Revolution members Wendy & Lisa, Matt Fink and Bobby Z., fellow Time bandmates Jellybean Johnson, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, actress Jill Jones, Prince's managers (at the time) Craig Rice and Alan Leeds, screenwriter William Blinn, MTV's Kurt Loder, Magnoli and Cavallo, and even Macy Gray.

Part one of the doc, "First Avenue: The Road to Pop Royalty" (12 minutes) wisely dissects not just where Prince was at musically in 1983 as he was developing 'Purple Rain,' but also the whole Minneapolis scene that served as the incubator for the pop culture maelstrom to come. It was a movement that was organic and inclusive, straddling all races, genders, orientations and tastes, mixing funk, rock, pop and punk in a way that even MTV (at the time) never dared.

Part two, "Purple Rain: Backstage Pass" (26 minutes) is a more straightforward making-of, but it also has some excellent insights into key songs, as well as the more autobiographical moments in the film. From Prince writing and composing "When Doves Cry" in an evening (after Magnoli simply suggested the film may need a lead-off hit single to fill out the soundtrack) to Wendy & Lisa revealing the gestation of the song "Purple Rain" itself, this is a must-see for Prince fans. Magnoli and Blinn are also frank about which aspects of the film mirror Prince's off-screen life, as well as the film's casting, the low-budget shoot and some incredibly oppressive production conditions.

Finally, "Riffs, Ruffles and a Revolution: The Impact and Influence of Purple Rain" (10 minutes) is a fun wrap-up. After the one-two punch of the album and the movie, the eventual sold-out arena and stadium tour was a masterstroke. If today this whole "Purple Rain hysteria" comes off as mere mythmaking or hyperbole, having lived through the time, I can assure you that Prince was indeed the hottest thing in the summer of 1984.

Wrapping things up is a large assortment of promotional materials. The 28 minutes of "MTV Premiere Party" footage is thrillingly nostalgic -- and hilarious. The hair! The clothes! The '80s superstars! The original MTV VJs! The only mystery is why the guest of honor is in such a bad mood: when Prince finally does arrive, he looks so glum you'd think 'Purple Rain' was the funeral of his career, not the coronation. (Geesh, cheer up dude, you're about to become a legend!)

Next up are eight music videos. Prince gets five ("When Doves Cry," "Let's Go Crazy," "I Would Die 4 U," "Take Me With U" and "Purple Rain"), The Time get two ("Jungle Love," "The Bird"), and then of course there is Apollonia 6's immortal "Sex Shooter." Wonderful '80s cheese, these amount to an overload of huge hair, fishnet stockings and enough purple eye shadow for a week-long Prince convention.

Finally, Warner includes three Theatrical Trailers for the complete Prince filmography: "Purple Rain,' it's woeful sequel 'Graffiti Bridge' and 'Under the Cherry Moon.'

Note that the three-part doc has been upconverted to 1080i/MPEG-2 video, though the quality is still comparable to standard-def (kudos to Warner anyway for at least reformatting for 16:9 screens). The rest of the video-based material is presented in 4:3 windowboxed 480i/MPEG-2 video only.

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 2705 [review_bonus_content] =>

There are no HD DVD exclusives.

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

'Purple Rain' has transcended all barriers to emerge as more than a movie, more than an album -- it's a snapshot of a phenomenal moment in pop culture history. Every single song is a classic, and if the film itself has long become overshadowed by the mystique that is Prince, it still holds up as blistering combination of live performance, music video aesthetic and autobiography.

This HD DVD release, however, is slightly disappointing. While the newly produced supplements are quite strong, neither the video nor the audio offer the level of upgrade that one hopes for with a high-def catalog release of this caliber. Still, as an all-around package, 'Purple Rain' is certainly a solid release, and worth considering as an addition to your collection.

) ) [6] => Array ( [review_id] => 818 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => santana_hymnsforpeace [review_release_date] => 1185260400 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Santana: Hymns for Peace - Live at Montreux 2004 [picture_created] => 1179611236 [picture_name] => santana.gif [manufacturer_name] => Eagle Vision [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/05/19/120/santana.gif [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/818/santana_hymnsforpeace.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2004 [run_time] => 181 [release_date_notes] => Postponed from June 26, 2007 [list_price] => 24.95 [asin] => B000QCS2UM [amazon_price] => 16.95 [empire_id] => 1330763 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.78:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080i/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 (1.5mbps) [1] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5mbps) [2] => English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (448kbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Bonus Tracks [1] => Featurette ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English Subtitles [1] => French Subtitles [2] => Spanish Subtitles [3] => German Subtitles [4] => Italian Subtitles [5] => Portuguese Subtitles [6] => Dutch Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Music ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Robbie Coltrane [1] => Herbie Hancock [2] => Carlos Santana ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => On July 15, 2004, Santana took to the stage in Montreux accompanied by a stunning line-up of guests to perform a concert of songs about peace and understanding that they dubbed “Hymns For Peace”. Joining the regular Santana line-up in the band were Chick Corea, John McLaughlin, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Ravi Coltrane and Idrissa Diop with further guest appearances through the night from Angelique Kidjo, Barbara Morrison, Patti Austin, Sylver Sharp, Steve Winwood and Nile Rodgers. [preview_technology_specifications] => • Three bonus tracks
• Behind-the-scenes footage
• Interview with Santana [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [review_bottom_line] => Worth a Look [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 13859 [review_movie_stars] => 3 [review_movie] =>

In late 2003, Montreux Jazz Festival director Claude Nobs approached Carlos Santana about doing something special to honor the annual event's 37th year. Over the next six months, the pair would conceive a one-of-a-kind performance that would bring together a few dozen of Santana's "closest friends' for a three-hour jam session honoring the best protest songs of the last fifty years.

The result was 'Hymns for Peace.' Staged in front of a sold-out crowd for one night only on July 15, 2004, the guest list featured a virtual who's who of rock legends. Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Patti Austen, Steve Winwood, Nile Rodgers and a host of other master musicians all joined Santana for a three-hour performance that was the equivalent of the biggest musical block party ever thrown -- well, if your block happens to be Montreux...

At first glance, some may disappointed by the setlist. This is no Santana solo show, and you won't find any recent hits such as "Smooth" anywhere among the 18 peace-lovin' tunes here. But where 'Hymns for Peace' excels is in the looseness of its performances. Simply put, this group cranks. Sure, there are plenty of incredibly talented guitarists fronting popular bands today, but Santana is -- without argument -- a true guitar god. I don't think I recognized more than a couple of the songs on 'Hymns for Peace,' but I was never less than mesmerized by his playing. The man truly can captivate with a flick of the finger.

This is also a long show. Spanning 181 minutes, the average song runs a good 8 minutes. Improvs and extended jams are frequent, with the band simply awe-inspiring in what they seem to be dreaming up out of thin air, as if guided by some higher force. And what fun they seem to be having -- the sheer joy displayed on stage was clearly contagious, and by mid-set the band and audience seem to become one, everyone swaying to the same universal groove.

Visually, 'Hymns for Peace' is a straightforward show. There are no pyrotechnics, no cavalcade of dancers -- just a bunch of musicians up on stage, jamming for three hours in support of a cause they believe in passionately. And perhaps it is, at times, a tad self-indulgent. But when you have artists as mesmerizing and talented as this, who cares?

The 18-song setlist features the following songs: 01. Intro / 02. Afro Blue / 03. Adouma / 04. Redemption Song / 05. Exodus / Get Up Stand Up / 06. Blowin’ In The Wind / A Place In The Sun / 07. Just Like A Woman / 08. What’s Going On / 09. Peace On Earth / Boogie Woman / 10. Why Can’t We Live Together / 11. Light At The Edge Of The World / 12. Let Us Go Into The House Of The Lord / 13.Banana Boat Song / 14. Day Of Celebration / 15. Ah Sweet Dancer / In A Silent Way / 16. Jingo / 17. A Love Supreme / 18. Ode To Joy

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

'Santana: Hymns for Peace' was recorded entirely with HD cameras, and is presented here in its native 1080i (1.78:1 widescreen) as a VC-1 encode. As with most shot-on-high-def live presentations, it generally looks excellent, with a three-dimensional level of clarity that doesn't disappoint.

Though the photography and stageset are no-frills (don't expect any jumbo-sized video screens or bombastic lighting), it's definitely colorful. The band and special guests wear some, um, rather cheesy, '60s-meets-'80s hippie-esque clothing, resulting in some very vivid hues that always remain nice, clean and stable. Typical of shot-on-HD material, detail is excellent, with only some fuzziness in the darkest areas of the picture. The picture is generally sharp, although a fair amount of fog is used during the performance which sometimes gives a soft and flat look. The picture is generally sharp, although a fair amount of fog is used during the performance which can flatten out apparent depth in the transfer. It is the only real problem area of the presentation -- fine details in the shadows can be lost in a soft haze, making the darkest areas of the picture appear impenetrable. However, such small nitpicks aside, 'Hymns for Peace' looks quite nice.

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

Eagle Vision provides three flavors of audio for 'Hymns for Peace' -- two DTS-HD High-Resolution and Dolby Digital-Plus mixes (both 5.1 surround and 1.5mbps), plus a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo option (at 448kbps). While the quality of the recording is clearly high, the lack of a true high-resolution track (such as PCM or Dolby TrueHD) ultimately results in a sound presentation that never truly soars.

Bass has some strength, but it never really delivers those deep, power low tones that can challenge the subwoofer. Similarly, highs don't have that truly bright, realistic quality of the best live recordings I've heard on high-def. Surrounds are also not fully employed, with only very slight crowd noise and little in the way of exciting, creative placement of instrumentation.

To be sure, purely in terms of clarity and sheer listen-ability, 'Hymns for Peace' sounds just fine. But compared to some of the truly exceptional high-resolution mixes available on HD DVD and Blu-ray, this one is decidedly average.

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

Typical of the slim supplemental packages found on most music releases, Eagle Vision has included only a couple of extras on 'Santana: Hymns for Peace,' each of which originally appeared on the standard DVD edition of this title, which was first released as a two-disc set in May 2007.

First up are three bonus songs: "One Love," "Imagine" and "Give Peace a Chance." Given that the main program already runs a lengthy 181 minutes, I can't help but wonder why they just didn't add these three tracks in, but regardless these three songs look great in 1080i, and the audio options are identical to the feature.

Also included is a 8-minute featurette, "An Interview with Carlos Santana," which incorporates a good amount of behind-the-scenes footage and rehearsal clips with Santana talking about what drew him to stage the concert and choosing his collaborators.

(Note that like the main feature, all supplements are presented in 1080i/MPEG-2 video and of very high quality.)

[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] =>

'Santana: Hymns for Peace' is a lively one-off concert celebrating some of the best political power anthems of all time. Though fans won't find any of Santana's biggest hits in the setlist, a strong group of collaborators and some intense, extended jams still make 'Hymns for Peace' a must-see for the faithful.

This HD DVD release from Eagle Vision is a solid high-def music release. The video transfer is typical of live concert recordings with a very vivid presentation, plus there are a good couple of supplements. However, while the included Dolby Digital and DTS tracks are perfectly fine in their own right, they just can't compare to the true high-resolution audio on similar releases. Worth a look for even the most casual Santana fans.

) ) [7] => Array ( [review_id] => 812 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => scentofawoman [review_release_date] => 1185260400 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Scent of a Woman [picture_created] => 1178992275 [picture_name] => scnet-of-a-woman.gif [manufacturer_name] => Universal Studios Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/05/12/120/scnet-of-a-woman.gif [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/812/scentofawoman.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1990 [run_time] => 157 [list_price] => 29.95 [asin] => B000QEIOUS [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1328106 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-30 Dual Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5mbps) [1] => French Dolby Digital-Plus 2.0 ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => None ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Al Pacino won his first "Best Actor" Oscar for his brilliant portrayal of an overbearing, blind retired Lieutenant Colonel who hires a young guardian (Chris O'Donnell), to assist him. It's a heart-wrenching and heartwarming tale of opposites attracting when they embark on a wild weekend trip that will change the lives of both men forever. [preview_technology_specifications] => TBA [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => TBA [preview_forum_id] => 7359 [review_bottom_line] => Worth a Look [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] => 13017 [review_movie_stars] => 4.5 [review_movie] =>

Pop quiz: For which of the following movies did Al Pacino take home his first Academy Award -- 'The Godfather,' 'Serpico,' 'The Godfather Part II,' 'Dog Day Afternoon,' 'Glengarry Glen Ross,' or 'Scent of a Woman'? If you answered it was his portrayal of a tortured blind army officer in 'Scent of a Woman' that finally led the Academy to bestow Pacino with its highest honor, you answered right.

Pacino plays Frank Slade, a retired, middle-aged military man who's lost touch with his family and his former self. Embittered by his blindness, he enlists a young student named Charlie (Chris O' Donnell) to help him visit New York over a Thanksgiving break, and live life to its fullest for one day. Slade has reserved the most expensive hotel, and lined up a trail of amenities to make his twenty-four hour vacation one to remember, but he also has a secret reason behind the trip -- one that will put he and his young caregiver at odds.

But Charlie isn't just along for the ride -- he's haunted by the knowledge that a tough decision awaits him when he returns to prep school. Before he went on break, a group of students pulled a prank and the administration has discovered that Charlie and another student named George (Philip Seymour Hoffman) know the vandals identities. Under the threat of expulsion, Charlie must choose between the future of his education and betraying his ethics.

With a set-up so ripe with clichés, you might expect that 'Scent of a Woman' would sink under the weight of its own sentimentality, but director Martin Brest ('Meet Joe Black,' 'Beverly Hills Cop,' and 'Midnight Run') and Al Pacino are better than that. Crafting Slade into a complex creature who hides more beneath his rantings than simple anger, he becomes one of the most endearingly gruff characters of modern cinema. Pacino doesn't merely emote -- he inhabits Slade and makes his both his physical and emotional blindness truly heart wrenching.

The screenplay by Bo Goldman is also top notch, unfolding its intentions and plotting with finesse that helps vault the film into another league. For every genuinely funny moment (and the film provides a good number of laughs), there's a scene when I'm hushed to silence because the pressure of its circumstances are so palpable. Yes, 'Scent of a Woman' loses some momentum when Pacino is off camera, but the supporting actors do their best to match his talent and keep things interesting, and even in the movie's weaker moments, its clear that each scene is leading somewhere as the film barrels toward its tense final act.

At the end of the day, 'Scent of a Woman' is an easy recommend. Enjoyed by audiences and critics alike, the only people who should steer clear of this one are Pacino detractors (a vocal minority of film fans who feel he overacts when he's on screen). For everyone else, 'Scent of a Woman' is a shockingly introspective film that you'll be able to revisit again and again.

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 3155 [review_video] =>

If you just heard a sound, it was me breathing a huge sigh of relief. To be honest, considering Universal's recent track record with its older HD DVD catalogue titles, I didn't expect 'Scent of a Woman' to look all that great. Happily, however, this 1080p/VC-1 encode looks great, especially for a now fifteen year-old film.

Colors and contrast are bold, the New York City street scenes are crisp, and detail, skintones, and sharpness are all as they should be. To be fair, the film's 2003 DVD remaster was already quite good, but in a direct compare, this HD DVD clearly improves upon it, cleaning up the majority of artifacting, crushing, and noise that plagued that earlier release. In fact, the picture quality reminded me a lot of the recently released HD DVD of 'Born on the Fourth of July' which also benefited from a prior remastering for DVD.

Granted, there are still some trailing issues common to most catalogue titles that haven't been remastered specifically for their move to high-def. A few shots are a bit soft, and I randomly caught a few glimpses of minor edge enhancement. Black levels also sometimes level out at a dark gray, and the depth of field in the image occasionally wavers. Finally, there were a handful of instances where I noticed a smattering of noise and faint color banding, but it was never distracting.

In short, despite some minor issues, 'Scent of a Woman' looks better than ever and ranks among the best recent catalogue releases from Universal.

[review_audio_stars] => 3.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 3156 [review_audio] =>

Featuring a Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 surround mix (1.5 Mbps), unfortunately 'Scent of a Woman' is another title that just doesn't boast the type of material that might make it a go-to audio mix.

Still, this track certainly handles what it's given with technical prowess, delivering clear dialogue and subtle ambiance across the channels. And while the audio on this HD DVD edition of 'Scent of a Woman' doesn't blow the most recent standard DVD mix out of the water, it is more exact and alleviates some of the peaking problems in the standard release.

In short, fans won't find any major problems here to distract them from immersing themselves in the film. Just don't expect much in the way of a bombastic soundscape.

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

Strangely, 'Scent of a Woman' has never received the Special Edition treatment on DVD here in the US, and this HD DVD edition continues the tradition with absolutely no special features. No woo-ha for you, Universal...

[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] => 3157 [review_final_thoughts] =>

Featuring an Academy Award-winning performance from Al Pacino, 'Scent of a Woman' is a favorite of audiences and reviewers alike. Boasting a surprisingly strong video transfer and an audio mix that makes the most of what it's given, the overall grade for this one takes a hit due to its lack of supplements, but make no mistake -- 'Scent of a Woman' has never looked (or sounded) better.

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'Streets of Fire' was supposed to be one of the biggest hits of 1985, but instead it turned out to be one of the year's biggest bombs. Despite an avalanche of advance buzz (a supposedly guaranteed hit soundtrack, a lavish MTV premiere party, etc.), the kids of America just shrugged, rejecting the movie's merging of a retro-'50s aesthetic with an '80s music video sensibility.

The plot itself is so simplistic it almost seems like a joke. Against a "brooding rock & roll landscape," Raven Shaddock (Willem Dafoe) and his Bombers motorcycle gang decide to kidnap reigning rock diva Ellen Aim (Diane Lane). Her only hope for rescue lies with some unlikely heroes: soldier of fortune Tom Cody (Michael Pare) -- who also happens to be her ex-lover -- and his sidekick, the two-fisted beer-guzzling, McCoy (Amy Madigan). Joined by Ellen's manager, Billy Fish (Rick Moranis) and a sycophantic fan (E.G. Daily), the motley crew plunges headfirst into a world of rain-splattered streets, hot cars and deadly assassins.

Dubbed a "Rock & Roll Fable" by the film's marketing campaign, it's clear in hindsight why 'Streets of Fire' failed. Teens of 1985 were simply more interested in New Wave and Madonna than rockabilly and ducktail haircuts straight out of 'Grease 3.' The film's sock-hop throwback style just doesn't mesh with neon fashions and synth-rock, yet it panders far too much to the MTV crowd. Teenagers want to believe that they are discovering their own fads, and 'Streets of Fire' was just too desperate to be cool.

However, when it comes to off-the-wall cult movies, no bizarre deed goes unpunished -- or unrewarded -- and somehow over the years, this wacky, pre-fabricated mishmash has managed to find a small but appreciative audience on video. Indeed, I have to admit that there is a perverse pleasure to be had in watching Lane do a full-on Pat Benatar impression to a soundtrack comprised of majestic tunes composed by Stevie Nicks, the Fixx and Jim Steinman (of Meat Loaf "Bat Out of Hell" fame). And who in their right mind could have thought that dressing up Dafoe in a giant rubber pair of overalls (no joke) and having him attack Pare with a pick-axe was a good idea for the climax of an action movie? It's bizarre "touches" like this that give 'Streets of Fire' a quirky, cheesy charm all these years later.

And to be fair, the film does achieve some giddy heights when it stops trying so hard to be hip. While ultimately it may be less than the sum of its parts, there is no one element of 'Streets of Fire' that doesn't work on its own terms. The songs are aces, the cast looks great (especially Lane and Pare, who have genuine chemistry) and director Walter Hill ('The Warriors,' '48 Hrs.') certainly knows how to stage action.

Make no mistake, 'Streets of Fire' is so silly and obvious that many audiences are likely to hate it outright. But if you happen to have a penchant for weird cross-genre cinema pollinations (or just Willem Dafoe in rubber), you may just find 'Streets of Fire' to be an enjoyable, ridiculously stylish artifact of misguided '80s excess.

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

'Streets of Fire' was originally released on standard-def DVD way back in the early days of the format in 1998. It was presented in a non-anamorphic transfer (remember those?), and for the time, it wasn't bad. By today's standards, however, that disc is riddled with artifacts and the print is way too dark and soft, making 'Streets of Fire' a very worthy candidate for a high-def upgrade.

Thankfully, Universal appears to have struck up a new master for the film's HD DVD debut, as this 1080p/VC-1 encode is certainly an improvement. Gone is all the horrendous artifacting, and though the film is still somewhat grainy and gritty in spots (as it should be) it looks remarkably vibrant for a twenty-odd year-old flick. 'Streets of Fire' always shined due to its wonderful colors, and they look fantastic here. From the opening concert sequence to neon-splashed cityscapes, hues leap off the screen with excellent saturation and cleanliness.

Blacks and contrast also hold up very well, with only a bit of slight fading during some of the optical "wipes" that frame the film. The print still suffers from a bit of black crush in the shadows, but this appears to be largely a result of the original photography. There are also still some dirt and specks remaining on the master, but nothing severe. All in all, 'Streets of Fire' is far from a perfect remaster, but it looks pretty darn good for an '80s catalog title.

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

Adding to the MTV mystique of 'Streets of Fire' is its soundtrack. Though perhaps a bit too rockabilly in sensibility for its time (the sountrack's only big hit was its sole pop-oriented track, Dan Hartman's now-classic prom anthem "I Can Dream About You"), 'Streets of Fire' definitely cranks at high volumes. This Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 surround mix (1.5mbps) probably could have been better if it had been given the Dolby TrueHD or PCM audio treatment, but considering the limited appeal of a title like this, I suppose such a move wouldn't have been cost effective.

In any case, dynamics are pretty hot, even if the almost wall-to-wall rock songs make this largely a stereo mix. I was impressed by how much better the track sounded in terms of fidelity and depth compared to another recent mid-'80s pop-tactular release, Warner's 'Purple Rain' -- and that was presented in Dolby TrueHD. 'Streets of Fire' has tighter bass and punchier highs, and even the vocals sound clearer. At a decent volume, this disc definitely delivers some solid rock 'n' roll.

As a film soundtrack, however, envelopment is lacking. Aside from crowd noise during the concert sequences, etc., there is little in the way of sustained ambiance. The best it can muster up are some occasional straightforward if still prominent discrete effects, most during the couple of action sequences (most notably the raid on Raven's den, which has lots of explosions and gunshots) plus the aforementioned visual "wipes," which are accompanied by some wonderfully retro-cheesy '80s synth sounds.

All in all, 'Streets of Fire' definitely doesn't offer much of a surround experience, but fans probably only care about the tunes, and on that level this one delivers relatively well.

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

Universal has not included a single extra on 'Streets of Fire.' Seeing as Walter Hill contributed so extensively to the recent 'Warriors' remaster, I was hoping he might be up for some recollections here, but sadly, this cult film remains in desperate need of the special edition treatment.

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

There are no HD DVD content exclusives, either. However, Universal has included its MyScenes function, which allows you to bookmark your favorite segments for easy access even after you eject the disc out of the player.

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

'Streets of Fire' is a tremendously silly "rock 'n' roll fable," but it's got some great tunes, good action and an attractive cast. Plus, the sight of Diane Lane rocking out in a Pat Benatar-esque red leotard is worth the price of admission alone.

Boasting a nice remastered transfer and good Dolby Digital-Plus audio, this HD DVD delivers on the bottom line, but its deficiencies left me longing for a true special edition of this underrated guilty pleasure. Diehard fans will still want to pick this one up, but all others are probably best served saving this as a rental.

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In 1980, Robert Ludlum published 'The Bourne Identity,' the first in a series of popular spy novels that would ultimately be loosely adapted for the big screen. The series tells the story of David Webb, a career foreign service officer and a specialist in Far Eastern affairs. Once a devout family man, tragedy leaves him with nothing, and so (thanks to the CIA and a bit of internal deception), Webb is reborn (get it?) as double agent Jason Charles Bourne. With its own mythology, devious villains and breathless plotting, 'Bourne Identity' spawned four subsequent best-sellers, with Ludlum joining James Bond author Ian Fleming as one of the most elite names in spy fiction.

When 'The Bourne Identity' finally hit movie theaters in 2002 (a year after Ludlum's death), it had an instant leg up over the aging James Bond movie series. Like Bond, Jason Bourne came with a built-in fanbase, but unlike Bond he was free from the shackles of a then-aging film franchise. Gone were the stale quips, campy villains, and ridiculous gadgets and special effects that strained Bond's modern-day credibility. Instead, by going back to basics and concentrating on what we all love about spy flicks (actual spying!) 'The Bourne Identity' may not have exactly re-invented the formula, but it did bring a seriousness and sense of purpose back to the genre.

As directed by Doug Liman ('Go,' 'Mr. & Mrs. Smith') and adapted by Tony Gilroy ('Dolores Claiborne,' 'Proof of Life'), 'Bourne Identity' is expertly plotted as a dramatic thriller, yet makes no sacrifices when it comes to top-notch action. Liman and Gilroy adroitly interweave Bourne's regaining of his memory with what he must do to stay alive, upping both the nail-biting suspense and the human drama -- we're on the edge of our seat not just to see if Bourne will make it out alive, but also to see which new secret of his past he'll unravel next.

No spy flick would be any good, of course, without a great spy, and Damon was an unlikely but very smart casting choice as Jason Bourne. Usually best suited for introspective, dramatic characters, Damon's understated approach works surprisingly well here, expressing his character's full arc of emotions (from bewilderment to anger to remorse) often with just a simple facial expression. Unlike the superheroes that pass for super-agents in some spy flicks (Tom Cruise in 'Mission: Impossible,' anyone?), Damon does not seem superhuman, yet at the same time he's no dainty, tea-sipping James Bond (sorry Pierce Brosnan). Fallible -- fragile, even -- Jason Bourne always seems to be in real danger, which only raises the stakes.

Perhaps best of all, 'The Bourne Identity' works just as well as a stand-alone adventure as it does the first chapter in a franchise. Though it seems unlikely that Jason Bourne will still be gracing cinema screens decades from now (Bond has little to worry about), it's rare to find a spy film that really leaves you eagerly awaiting the next chapter. As I wrote in my review of 'The Bourne Supremacy,' I thought the film's 2004 sequel was even better than the original, and the buzz swirling around the upcoming 'Bourne Ultimatum' is that it's just as strong. So if you've been waiting to catch up with the cinematic adventures Jason Bourne (or just want a quick refresher on the eve of the next sequel) 'The Bourne Identity' is one flick all spy fans are likely to enjoy deciphering.

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 2122 [review_video] =>

'The Bourne Identity' makes its HD DVD debut in a 2.35:1 widescreen 1080p/VC-1 transfer. Unusual for a film series (where different directors and intents often result in wildly disparate visual styles), both 'Bourne Identity' and its sequel 'The Bourne Supremacy' form a fairly well-matched pair.

While it seems doubtful that Universal has struck a new master since 'The Bourne Identity' first debuted on standard-def DVD in 2003, the source is clean and consistent, with the film's somewhat grainy texture looking film-like instead of irritating. The transfer does have a somewhat tweaked feel, with whites often on the verge of blowing out and a heavy black crush which can eradicate the finest details in the shadows. As a result, contrast seems exaggerated, though the sense of depth gets a boost.

Colors tend to be a bit muted, but that's due more to the film's style than it is any actual desaturation during the telecine. Blues, greens and some of the reds do have vibrancy (though don't expect any shiny pastels here) and are not noisy or smeared. The transfer is also sharp and above-average in terms of detail, and compression artifacts are not apparent.

All things considered, this one rates an appealing four-star video presentation.

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

Universal has produced a new Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 surround track (1.5mbps) for 'Bourne Identity,' although it's not a huge huge leap over the Dolby Digital and DTS tracks found on the previous standard-def DVD releases. An aggressive action flick like this really needs a new Dolby TrueHD or some other high-res audio track to truly excel, but for whatever reason, Universal didn't bother to create one.

That said, with a sound design that really highlights the depth and impact of its sound effects, 'The Bourne Identity' would probably sound great on any audio format. This track in particular boasts some very deep, killer low bass -- you'll feel every car crash, gunshot and explosion. Even the driving, hybrid techno score by John Powell (featuring contributions by Moby) is not only dispersed throughout the soundfield, but seems to accent its relentless percussive elements. At even decent volume, it often feels like a sonic juggernaut. Just as effective, the rears really light up during action scenes. Localization of discrete effects is excellent, with pinpoint accuracy of even minor sounds clear and distinct.

Unfortunately,'The Bourne Identity' is not wall-to-wall action, and it's in the more chatty stretches where this track disappoints, with relatively weak sustained atmosphere, and a flat soundfield that does little to support the film's cold and chilly locations.

While I'm still disappointed that Universal didn't spring for high-resolution on this HD DVD release, overall the Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 track still delivers the aural goods. Turn it up!

[review_supplements_stars] => 3.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 2123 [review_supplements] =>

It's hard to imagine a studio could milk a movie for standard-def DVD more times than Universal has this one. 'The Bourne Identity' has hit DVD three times over the last six years, first as a "Collector's Edition," then as a slightly retooled "Explosive Edition," and now (coinciding with this HD DVD release) as part of a dual-set release of both Jason Bourne films in a box set with a bonus disc thrown in of even more extras, dubbed "The Bourne Files."

Thankfully, Universal has culled extras from all three DVD releases for this next-gen edition, and thrown it all together with great high-def video and audio to create a single definitive HD DVD version of 'The Bourne Identity.' Aside from the forgettable text extras on the previous DVD releases, nothing seems to be missing here.

First we have a collection of eight featurettes pulled from the "Collector's Edition" and the "Explosive Edition." The 14-minute "The Birth of 'The Bourne Identity'" is standard-issue EPK fare, including on-set interviews with executive producer Frank Marshall, screenwriter Tony Gilroy, stars Matt Damon, Franke Potente and Clive Owen, plus more cast and crew members. Filled with the usual basic overview and plot recap, this one's pretty useless for anyone with more than a remedial knowledge of the Jason Bourne character.

The next batch of vignettes serve to acquaint us a bit more intimately with key personnel. "From Identity to Supremacy: Jason & Marie" (5 minutes) offers thoughts from Damon and Potente on their characters, as well as what's to come in 'Bourne Supremacy.' Far too short and commercial to be of much interest. "Access Granted: An Interview with Screenwriter Tony Gilroy" (4 minutes) sees the writer explain the challenges in adapting Ludlum's original novel to screen, particularly the (controversial) removal of a key character in the book. Finally, "The Bourne Mastermind" (6 minutes) introduces us to the late author Robert Ludlum via his two friends, editor Martin Greenberg and actor James Karen. Less about the creation of Jason Bourne, and more about Ludlum himself, this one offers much needed context on how the project came to be. (As you'll see below, some new features go even more in-depth on Ludlum.)

Two additional featurettes focus on the production. "The Speed of Sound" (4 minutes) interviews four of the film's sound designers. Too bad this is so basic that it never touches upon any particular scenes or effects at all. "Inside a Fight Sequence" (5 minutes) features some on-set production footage of director Doug Liman as he constructs a key scene with Damon and stunt coordinator Nick Powell.

Another two featurettes offer some background on the film's subject matter. "Cloak and Dagger: Covert Ops" (6 minutes) features one-time CIA agent Chase Brandon giving a very brief history of the organization, plus thoughts on just how realistic a character Jason Bourne is. "The Bourne Diagnosis" (3 minutes) is a quick chat with UCLA psychiatrist Reef Karim, who suggests that Bourne's amnesia in the film stretches the bounds of realism just a little.

Much better than all this rehashed older stuff is a fresh documentary on author Robert Ludlum taken from the "Bourne Files" disc included in the brand new standard-def DVD set. Running about 40 minutes and divided into three parts -- "The Ludlum Identity," "The Ludlum Supremacy" and "The Ludlum Ultimatum" -- this doc tells a very compact, fascinating story of Ludlum's rise as an author, through the success of the Jason Bourne novels, to how the Ludlum Estate was instrumental in guiding the production of the first two films. For any serious Jason Bourne fan, this three-parter offers some great background on the origins of this film franchise.

Next up is some excised material culled from both the "Collector's Edition" and the "Explosive Edition." Dubbed "Declassified Information," this section kicks off with four main Deleted Scenes totaling 7 minutes: "Private Jet," "Bourne and Marie by the Side of the Road," "Psychologist Discusses Bourne" and "Bourne and Marie Practice on Subway." None of these scenes are particularly interesting or enlightening, and were all arguably wise cuts. There is also a "Extended Farmhouse Sequence" that also doesn't offer much beyond what's in the flick. Finally, we have the Alternate Opening and Ending, which were much-touted on the "Explosive Edition." Shot in response to 9/11, the opener turns the whole flick into a flashback(!), while the ending is all touchy-feely and pretty bad. Offering a fresh 4-minute Introduction to this new material are Marshall, Gilroy and actor Brian Cox.

Rounding out the video goodies are two promotional items: the Moby music video for "Extreme Ways," plus the film's original Theatrical Trailer.

Saving the best for last, we have what is probably still the highlight all of the 'Bourne Identity' disc releases, the screen-specific audio commentary with director Doug Liman. Universal inexplicably dropped this track from the "Explosive Edition" (in fact, Liman doesn't appear on any of that set's extras), so it is great to see it return here. Though Liman has gained a reputation in Hollywood lately for being "difficult," he certainly gives great commentary. Precise, thoughtful and highly-informative, he talks extensively about just about every aspect of the film that a fan would want, from adapting the book to casting, throughout the tough shoot in foreign locales (complete with challenging, non-English-speaking crews) and complex effects scenes, to Liman's holistic approach to achieving the proper tone and feel of the movie via all its formal elements. A truly excellent track.

(Note that all of the above video-based material is presented in 480p/i/MPEG-2 video and it's generally pretty mediocre. Only the "Ludlum Chronicles" material is reformatted in 16:9, but it still looks like an 480 upconvert.)

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 2.5 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 2124 [review_bonus_content] =>

As was the case with its sequel, 'The Bourne Supremacy' (which, for whatever reason, Universal decided to release on HD DVD first), 'The Bourne Identity' contains several high-def exclusives.

The highlight is certainly the Picture-in-Picture commentary, which features a good portion of the interviews and behind-the-scenes footage already seen in the standard-def features listed above, plus some material that apparently hit the cutting room floor the first time around. While there's definitely some redundancy with what has come before (and the presence of director Doug Liman is painfully thin), this is such a well-edited track that I found it far preferable to watch this "digest version" of the supplements than going through the hassle of accessing them all individually. All the main points of the production are covered, the track is almost always screen-specific and there is rarely a moment of dead space. It may feel a bit like deja vu to diehard Bourne fans who've already watched much of this material on previous DVD releases, but this is exactly what a picture-in-picture commentary should be.

The second exclusive is "The Treadstone Files." Here, according to the disc's promotional materials, you can "explore the characters through nine interactive dossiers, track the action with GPS-enhanced satellite views of all the film's locations, and view top-secret Treadstone training material." In other words, you can read fakebios for all of the main characters, as well as pull up basic geographical information on the various cities in the movie. The "top-secret" Treadstone material is equally bland, and basically just feels like the synopses you can read on the back of any of Ludlum's books. At least the graphics are nice, but quite frankly, for me this kind of exclusive extra is pretty useless.

Note that 'The Bourne Identity' is enhanced with Universal's "U-Control," meaning that after activating the function, you can toggle either the Picture-in-Picture or "Treadstone Files" features (or both) on or off at anytime during playback of the main feature.

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

'The Bourne Identity' is a smart, mature and believable thriller that rejuvenated the spy movie genre for modern audiences. With Jason Bourne soon to make his third trip to the big screen with 'The Bourne Ultimatum,' now is a great time to re-live his first adventure on high-def.

Happily, Universal has put together a great HD DVD for this one. The transfer and soundtrack are four-stars all the way, and the studio has culled every major extra from all the various standard-def DVD releases into one nifty package. Following the already-released (and highly rated) HD DVD edition of 'Bourne Supremacy,' Universal is batting two for two with Jason Bourne.

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• Still Gallery
• Theatrical Trailer [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => • "First Look Inside Look" picture-in-picture video commentary [preview_forum_id] => 5833 [review_editors_notes] =>

Non-format specific portions of this review appear in our Blu-ray review of 'The Contract.'

[review_bottom_line] => Skip It [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] => 14247 [review_movie_stars] => 2 [review_movie] =>

Ah, the straight-to-video release. They're usually host to low budget sequels, post-grad film school projects, or films otherwise gone awry. For movie fans, they're often the equivalent to dropping your life savings on a losing roulette spin in Vegas. But when a straight-to-video release features lead actors like John Cusack and Morgan Freeman, it would immediately seem to have a little more credibility -- after all, that sort of star power has to make a better movie... right? Think again.

'The Contract' focuses on a struggling single-father named Ray Keene (John Cusack), who also happens to be an ex-cop. Desperately seeking to reconnect with his son Chris (Jamie Anderson), Ray arranges a camping trip for the two in the mountains. While hiking, the father and son come across two men struggling in the river -- one is a dying federal agent, and the other is his prisoner Frank (Morgan Freeman) who was being transported to a government facility before a rescue attempt sent their vehicle into the river. The agent gives Ray his gun and instructs him to bring Frank to the authorities, thus setting the rest of the plot in motion. Ray must now contend with Frank, patch up his relationship with his son, avoid a team of mercenaries hot on his tail, baby-sit some new campers who join them along the way, and squeeze in time for a budding love interest. If that sounds like a lot for one film, take note that that's just a summary of the film's main plot points.

While you might think that an A-level cast would be able to save an over-crowded and poorly conceived screenplay from becoming an awful film, 'The Contract' unfortunately loses all of its promise within the first ten minutes. Granted, Cusack and Freeman do a commendable-enough job with what they're given, but its not enough to credibly sell the film's characters or its situations. Actor-turned-director Bruce Beresford even fumbles key fundamentals like continuity, infusing the film with the tone and aesthetic of a cheap cable-television flick.

Rounding out the patchy experience are stale character beats (one of the villains continually pauses to play online chess in the forest on his laptop), aimless plot developments (the contrived introduction of a newly single-woman for our single-father), and generally clumsy action scenes -- a decent helicopter assault brought me out of my cinematic coma, but the car chases are the worst I've seen since the original 'Saw.' The only interesting moments in the film revolve around Frank's unexpected kindness to Ray and his son -- there's really a great film in this idea and I wish the entire story focused on this one aspect more coherently.

Most depressing of all is the fact that 'The Contract' blatantly rips scenes directly from other movies (the most transparent of which involves two mercs commandeering the helicopter -- a sequence that's nearly a shot for shot recreation of the same moment in 'Cliffhanger'). This sort of scene-plagiarism goes far beyond the realm of homage as it is repeated over and over again to the point of absurdity -- at one point, I found myself having a mildly good time just identifying the better films at the root of a majority of the scenes.

Unfortunately small pleasures like these are are the exception to the rule in 'The Contract,' as even hardcore fans of Cusack or Freeman's work are likely to struggle to find much to enjoy in this one. A cinematic dud on almost all counts, ultimately the only viewers that 'The Contract' may remotely appeal to are those with a fond sense of nostalgia for weaker '80s action.

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 3195 [review_video] =>

At least 'The Contract' offers a solid video presentation. The debut HD DVD release from indie distributor First Look Pictures, the technical quality of this 1080p/VC-1 transfer is a lot better than a lot of other high-def titles sitting next to it on store shelves. Colors are rich, blacks are inky, and the film has a nice three dimensional appearance in spite of inconsistent grain levels. Detail is impeccable and sharp enough to see every pore, hair, and leaf on the screen. There is a bit of noise that pops up in a handful of the nighttime scenes (watch the shots of the forest as Cusack stares out of the cabin window near the end of the film), but it isn't prevalent enough to be a distraction. In fact, at first glance, 'The Contract' seems to be doing everything right.

Alas, there are a few directorial decisions that are likely to make viewers see this as a less stunning presentation than it might have been. It appears as if the film was shot using a variety of different film stocks and lighting techniques, which leads to a somewhat disjointed visual experience -- some scenes have overblown contrast, a few are underexposed, and others are more naturalistic. Again, none of these issues appear to a reflection on the technical proficiency of the transfer itself, but they do make for an inconsistent and sometimes amateurish look. Still, overall, this is definitely an impressive first showing for First Look.

[review_audio_stars] => 2.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 0 [review_audio] =>

Featuring both a DTS 5.1 surround track and a Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 mix. the audio package also seems to suffer from the limitations of the production itself. Although the DTS mix is slightly louder, after some volume matching both tracks sounded identical to my ear.

On the plus side, dialogue is crisp and layered nicely in the soundscape, the bass is boomy and natural, and the dynamics don't have any major issues.

On the not-so-good side, effects and atmosphere generally sound unnatural, with gunfire and explosions clanging as if they were taken from a consumer-level sound effects CD, and ambiance reduced to obvious cracks and crackles that seem trapped in the rear channels alone. Most noticeably, channel movement is generic and pans slap from one speaker to the next without any subtlety or realism. While not a complete disaster, each of these issues made it progressively harder for me to immerse myself in the track as the film wore on, ultimately delivering an only mediocre sound presentation.

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

Porting over all of the extras from its concurrently-released standard DVD counterpart, this HD DVD release includes both a 22-minute featurette called "Inside the Contract" and a Photo Gallery.

Sadly, neither feature is terribly worthwhile -- the photos are nothing you won't find on the web, and the featurette is just your typical talking heads piece. Freeman and Cusack pop up once in a while, but their overwhelming absence suggested to me that they realized what sort of film the production was going to birth. Each actor names the other as the main reason for their involvement and I imagine them giving each other sidelong glances of regret as the shoot proceeded.

(Note that the featurette is presented in 480i/p only.)

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0.5 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 3196 [review_bonus_content] =>

Exclusive to this HD DVD release is First Look's "Inside Look," a picture-in-picture commentary feature of the sort that usually earns praise from me regardless of my thoughts on the film itself.

Unfortunately, in this case, it seems like the PiP commentary has been tossed together at the last minute and is comprised solely of repetitive material from the already-weak featurette. As such, there's very little content here, and, even worse, what is included rarely lines up with the on-screen scene -- discussions of action scenes take place during quiet moments, while comments about actors overlay completely different actors. The absolute worst of its kind, this supplement is PiP commentary is an absolute mess that isn't worth your time.

The disc also comes with a "Bookmarking" feature (which functions the same way Universal's "MyScenes" feature does) and a collection of high-def trailers for several other upcoming "First Look Releases."

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

Don't be fooled by the presence of John Cusack and Morgan Freeman in 'The Contract' -- even two actors of their caliber can't save this sinking ship. The video transfer on this debut high-def release from First Look Pictures is surprising good, but the audio and the supplemental packages both leave a lot to be desired. If you just can't resist seeing these two actors on screen, be sure to rent this one long before you consider buying it.

) ) [11] => Array ( [review_id] => 857 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => host [review_release_date] => 1185260400 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => The Host [picture_created] => 1179864374 [picture_name] => the-host-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Magnolia Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/05/22/120/the-host-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/857/host.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2006 [run_time] => 119 [list_price] => 34.98 [asin] => B000PKG8UG [amazon_price] => 24.49 [empire_id] => 1328134 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => HD Trailers ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD 30GB ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => Korean DTS-HD 5.1 Surround (1.5 Mbps) [1] => English DTS-HD 5.1 Surround (1.5 Mbps) [2] => Korean Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (448 kbps) [3] => English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (448 kbps) ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => English Subtitles [2] => Spanish Subtitles ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentary [1] => Featurettes [2] => Deleted Scenes [3] => Gag Reel [4] => Theatrical Trailer ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Action [1] => Horror [2] => Thriller ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Kang-ho Song [1] => Hie-bong Byeon [2] => Hae-il Park ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Joon-ho Bong ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => A mutant emerges from Seoul's Han River and focuses its attention on attacking people. [preview_technology_specifications] => TBA [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => TBA [preview_forum_id] => 6607 [review_editors_notes] => Non format-specific portions of this review also appear in our Blu-ray review of 'The Host.' [review_easter_eggs] =>

For a quick easter egg, go to the Special Features section and highlight the trailers button. Press right one time and click on the bloody handprint that appears. What comes next may go down as one of the most underwhelming easter eggs of all time -- it simply features Eamonn Bowles, the president of Magnolia Pictures giving his ten-second opinion of the film after a screening. Surprise! He loves the film his company paid to distribute.

Our thanks to Bababaloo for sending this one in.

[review_easter_eggs_added] => 1186588222 [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] => 13399 [review_movie_stars] => 4 [review_movie] =>

South Korean cinema has exploded over the last few years, with several of the country's young filmmakers consistently turning out top tier films that continue to surprise audiences on every continent. After premiering at the Cannes Film Festival in 2006, horror flick 'The Host' went on to smash box office records in its native country and remains the highest grossing South Korean film of all time.

The film tells the story of a family in South Korea whose lives are turned upside down when a mutant creature emerges from the Han River and begins attacking everyone in sight. The dysfunctional clan consists of Gang-du (Kang-ho Song), his young daughter Hyun-seo (Ah-sung Ko), his elderly father (Hie-bong Byeon), his uptight brother (Hae-il Park), and his sister (Du-na Bae), a masterclass archery champion. As the creature retreats with a full belly, it snatches Gang-du's daughter and takes her back to its home in the sewers. When the family discovers that Hyun-seo is still alive, they stage a daring rescue in the face of the creature and a panicking government agency.

In spite of its genre-bending tone, surprisingly, 'The Host' manages to maintain a steady, innate flow to its story. The performances are endearing and hilarious at the same time. The film seems to pride itself in the one thing that so many other horror flicks have forgotten in this age of CG realism -- credible character development. I found myself legitimately attached to this family of misfits, hoping against all odds that they would survive. When the creature lumbered their way, I grabbed the arms of my chair and held my breath -- no small feat for a horror junkie like myself.

Quieter moments between the family members are equally believable and charming -- so much so that I even found myself wondering if some of the actors were related. Their chemistry is wonderful and I was reminded of the love evident amidst the dysfunction in 'Little Miss Sunshine.' To its slight detriment, the script for 'The Host' does follow a few tangential sub-plots a bit too far for my taste, but generally the film stays quite focused despite everything that's going on.

So what about the creature? In a word, it's intimidating. The film's lower budget CG doesn't always hold up to the pristine standards of Hollywood effects, but the filmmakers fill in the technical gaps with a logical realism that's really quite breathtaking. When the beast first launches onto the screen -- attacking every fleeing pedestrian in its reach -- it moves so naturally and effortlessly that it becomes intrinsically frightening simply because it feels so authentic. When the creature slows to a crawl, its expressive face lets the audience know that it's thinking and deciding what to do next. And every time it exploded into a run, the beast seemed so inescapable that the resulting tension was enough to distract me from any visible seams in the special effects.

Critical praise for 'The Host' has been overwhelmingly positive -- it currently boasts a whopping 92% on Rotten Tomatoes and has received an avalanche of good press and audience word-of-mouth. Here's hoping that the film's success might serve as a wake-up call to American horror filmmakers -- despite its limited budget and seemingly insurmountable production trials, 'The Host' easily eclipses the vast majority of horror films that have been released in the States over the last decade.

I should mention that there has been a minor backlash against the film from those who feel that it is anti-American (American pollution and neglect is what causes the mutation). Director Bong Joon-Ho has gone on the record on several occasions to say that while the film does level mild criticisms against US policies, it's not intended to be anti-American in any way. For my own part, I don't think it's offensively critical at all and I probably wouldn't have even thought of this if I hadn't read about it first.

At the end of the day, I wouldn't go so far as to say that 'The Host' is "on par with 'Jaws'" (a Harry Knowles quote slapped on the front of the case), but fans of horror, comedy, and foreign films are sure to find a lot to love in the dark confines of this creature's sewers. If you didn't have a chance to see 'The Host' in theaters, don't miss the opportunity in high-def.

[review_video_stars] => 4.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 3173 [review_video] =>

Hitting both HD DVD and Blu-ray concurrently, Magnolia Home Entertainment has granted both high-def editions of 'The Host' with identical 1080p/VC-1 transfers, and both look extremely good.

A palette of bold colors immediately caught my attention and bring the film's South Korean locations to life. Black levels are also deep and add a welcome depth to the image. But it's the impeccable fine object detail that really wowed me -- you can see every facial pore, every misplaced hair, and the texture of every grimy smear on the actors. The picture is impressive from beginning to end and even stands tall when the lumbering CG creation is on-screen in the bright sun. The HD presentation does make the creature look slightly disjointed from the natural elements on screen (think of the way the CG sometimes stands out in 'King Kong'), but it's only because of the increased scrutiny the sharpness brings.

The only minor issues I had with the transfer were the result of directorial decisions and/or limitations of the production -- contrast is intentionally overexposed during day-lit scenes and there is some noise on a few fleshtones in dark shots (an effect that appears on Gang-du's face at one point when he shines a flashlight around the sewer near the end of the film -- but it's a result of the cameras used, not the transfer itself).

But never mind those nitpicks -- 'The Host' has a great picture that is sure to excite fans and that will hopefully attract some newcomers to the film in its high-def debut.

[review_audio_stars] => 4 [review_audio_picture_id] => 3174 [review_audio] =>

Unfortunately all things are not equal in the audio department. While the Blu-ray edition of 'The Host' boasts three sound mixes, this HD DVD only gets two -- and unfortunately it's the superior uncompressed PCM 5.1 surround mix that didn't make the cut.

The remaining two tracks are included on both high-def editions of 'The Host' -- a DTS-HD 5.1 surround track (1.5 Mbps) and a standard Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix (448 kbps).

In a direct comparison of all three tracks, the Blu-ray's PCM track clearly takes the prize, delivering crisper voices, deeper ambiance, and boomier bass than either of two tracks included here. That said, the DTS-HD track included here puts up a strong fight, and judged on its own merits is a very strong track. By contrast, the standard Dolby Digital track is definite let down, with tinny voices and peaking issues. (Note that both tracks included on this disc come in two flavors an English dub and an original Korean language mix.)

Looking at the DTS-HD track, dialogue is natural and only falters in the English dub (where the sound is clearly limited by the studio recording). The surround channels get a nice workout and create a suitably convincing soundfield that allowed me to immerse myself in the chaos and enjoy the crunching bones, shattering glass, and mingled screams typical of a horror film audio mix. Likewise, the sound effects used during the creature attacks are very impressive -- you can hear its skin squishing against the ground, and its feet crushing through a variety of materials.

Channel movement is occasionally stocky, but it's rarely a blaring distraction. In fact, the only major downside here has more to do with the quality of the sound design than the technical prowess of this DTS-HD track -- some of the effects sound canned and drift intentionally towards the comical.

Still, all things considered -- even with the missing PCM track -- this is an above average audio offering that should satisfy most fans, except perhaps audiophiles who insist on the best bells and whistles available.

[review_supplements_stars] => 2.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 3175 [review_supplements] =>

Although there are a good deal of supplements included in this HD DVD edition of 'The Host,' sadly Magnolia didn't see fit to port over all of the content from the previously released 2-disc Collector's Edition DVD.

Missing in action are a massive list of featurettes -- "Bong Joon-Ho's Direction," "Set Design," "Sound Effects," "Composing the Music," "Conceptual Artwork: The Birth," "Building the Creature: The WETA Workshop," "Why Did It Do That?," "The Crew," "The Staff," "The Production Team," "Film Production in Korea," "Casting Tapes," "The Extras Behind the Scenes," "Monster Appeal," "Additional Cast Interviews," "Extras Casting Tapes," and "Saying Goodbye."

With so much additional content available, it's really irksome that Magnolia didn't see fit to add a second disc to this HD DVD release. I just don't understand the justification behind punishing fans for picking the film up on high-def -- especially since it's more expensive than the 2-disc DVD.

On the bright side, all of the main supplements from the 2-disc Collector's Edition DVD have made it to this HD DVD edition, and on their own merits they still add up to an above average supplements package.

First up is an engaging English-language commentary from director Bong Joon-Ho, where he candidly discusses many different elements of the film and displays a likeable fascination with cinema. He talks about the difficulties behind the production, the limited budget, and the challenges of South Korean filmmaking. An uncredited friend in the room keeps the director moving when he gets stuck on one subject for too long, but also inadvertently adds a welcome conversational air to the commentary. All in all, Bong Joon-Ho provides an interesting glimpse into foreign productions outside of the Hollywood system and really gained my respect for his vision, his perseverance, and his ultimate accomplishment.

The first video-based supplement is "The Making of the Host" (28 minutes), which is divided into four sections -- a standard production featurette called "Making of the Host with Director Bong Joon-Ho" (10 minutes), an entertaining look at a tough shoot called "Memories of the Sewer" (10 minutes), a series of "Storyboards" (3 minutes) set to music from the film, and a glimpse at the "Physical Special Effects" (5 minutes). All of these featurettes are worth your time, but "Memories of the Sewer" was easily my favorite. The cast and crew received tetanus shots, but were also secretly slipped a cocktail inoculation to prevent them from getting dangerous tapeworms in the sewer.

After that you'll find another collection of featurettes dedicated to "The Creature" (50 minutes). This one is comprised of four sections that chart the creation of the monster -- "Designing the Creature" (12 minutes), "Animating the Creature" (10 minutes), "Puppet Animatronics" (7 minutes), and "Bringing the Creature to Life" (21 minutes). The section is thorough, but not exhaustive -- unfortunately key elements are missing from the standard DVD that leave out a lot of interesting information.

"The Cast" is separated into two featurettes -- "The Family: Main Cast Interviews" (4 minutes) and "Training the Actors" (5 minutes). Based on what we see of them here, it seems the film's actors are as endearing as their on-screen personas.

A lengthy "Gag Reel" (8 minutes) is more than the usual assortment of bad takes -- it includes altered special effects, post production interview bloopers, and more fun from the CG department.

A group of "Deleted Scenes" (8 minutes) is above average as well, and I thought each could have easily been retained in the film. Some of the cut scenes at the end even feature extra shots of the creature.

Finally, the film's "Korean Trailer" is also available. Like all of the other video-based features listed above, it is presented in 480i/p only.

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

The only exclusive content on this disc is a series of HD trailers for other previously-released Magnolia HD DVD titles, including 'District B13,' 'The Lost City,' and 'The World's Fastest Indian.'

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 4 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 3176 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'The Host' is a truly original take on the tired-and-true creature feature. Handling its characters and story with a balance of compasion and humor, it manages to be both a scary and affecting flick at the same time. This HD DVD edition of the film features an excellent video transfer and a solid DTS-HD track. The only real disappointment here is that Magnolia hasn't ported over the full suite of supplements originally included on the 2-disc Collector's Edition DVD. Still, the remaining extras are quite strong, and as an overall package this is still a great release.

) ) [12] => Array ( [review_id] => 816 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => yes_liveatmontreux [review_release_date] => 1185260400 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Yes: Live at Montreux [picture_created] => 1179611097 [picture_name] => yes.gif [manufacturer_name] => Rhino Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/05/19/120/yes.gif [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/816/yes_liveatmontreux.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2003 [run_time] => 138 [release_date_notes] => Postponed from June 26, 2007 [list_price] => 24.95 [asin] => B000QCS2U2 [amazon_price] => 16.95 [empire_id] => 1330759 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.78:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080i/VC-1 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD 30GB ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English DTS-HD 5.1 Surround (1.5 Mbps) [1] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5 Mbps) [2] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 2.0 Stereo ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => None ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Music ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Yes is one of the most innovative and successful rock bands of all time with a career that now spans five decades. In 2003 the band made their first appearance at the Montreux Festival, despite having a long association with the town itself (they recorded there frequently in the seventies). It was a triumphant night and is regarded by both the band members and fans as probably the finest Yes gig ever to be filmed. It has been much in demand and is now finally cleared for release. [preview_technology_specifications] => None [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [review_bottom_line] => Skip it [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] => 17646 [review_movie_stars] => 2.5 [review_movie] =>

London, 1968. England had started to turn away from the pop-track sounds of its home brewed version of rock n' roll as new, progressive rock bands emerged on the scene. Progressive rock had been developing since the early '60s, but had only gained notoriety with the birth of bands like Pink Floyd. These bands weren't interested in three minute radio songs that would catch the common ear -- instead, they wanted to challenge listeners with something unique.

It was under this backdrop that singer Jon Anderson teamed with bass guitarist Chris Squire to form what would become the legendary rock group, Yes. While the band went through a series of supporting musicians in its early years, by 1972 Anderson and Squire had assembled a powerhouse lineup comprised of blues guitarist Steve Howe, keyboardist Rick Wakeman, and former John Lennon drummer Alan White.

Throughout the '70s, the five members of Yes refused to settle for music that recording labels considered a sure bet -- instead, they used a combination of classically-influenced suites and bizarre rhythm shifts to highlight their personal blend of musical styles. Their music was complex, their lyrics were cryptic, and their attitude was one of brazen stylistic rebellion. The classic lineup remained more or less intact over the next decade, until the band formally split up in 1981 to pursue individual projects and pursuits.

As rock n' roll breakups go, however, Yes's proved short lived. Over the next two decades, the band re-formed in a multitude of different configurations with a mix of both new and old members, each attempting to reignite the flame that had so propelled it in its creative heydey of the '70s. In 2002, the band's classic lineup reunited for a world tour, and in 2003, all five classic members -- Anderson, Squire, Howe, Wakeman, and White -- took the stage at the Montreux Jazz Festival.

Captured with high-def cameras, this HD DVD edition of 'Yes: Live at Montreux 2003' presents that performance from the Montreux Jazz Festival.

I have to admit upfront to not being a huge fan of these sorts of cash-out performances from the reunited greats of rock 'n roll. While I recognize their appeal for die-hard fans, viewed outside of the warm glow of nostalgia, it's hard not to view them as a cynical exercise.

Watching 'Yes: Live at Montreux 2003,' I still had those feelings, although it would be hard to argue that the concert doesn't deliver on the bottom line. The 17-song setlist includes a long list of recognizable favorites from the band's classic era, including the tonally disjointed "Siberian Khatru," the multi-staged "And You and I," the ridiculously popular "Heart of the Sunrise," and the harmonic masterpiece, "Roundabout." And to their great credit (unlike the grimacing reunions of other rock greats), at least all of the band members seem to be enjoying themselves.

But while all the pieces may be in place for a great concert, there just isn't an on-stage chemistry linking the five band members. Anderson seems to sing in a haze and the songs are slower and more obvious than they were in their original recordings. Wakeman hardly looks up, Howe is happy to be left to his own solos, and White seems to spend more time smiling than he does pounding out the rhythms the band is known for.

Perhaps it's impossible for a seminal band like Yes to live up to the heightened expectations of a reunion concert two decades past their prime, but watching this disc, I couldn't help but feel that the intervening years had robbed the quintet of the passion that had made their music so groundbreaking. I can't deny a superficial satisfaction in seeing the classic members of Yes playing their greatest hits, but all things considered, this disc is likely to be of limited appeal to all but the band's most devoted fans.

The complete tracklist is as follows:

1) Siberian Khatru
2) Magnification
3) Don’t Kill The Whale
4) In The Presence Of
5) We Have Heaven
6) South Side Of The Sky
7) And You And I
8) To Be Over
9) Clap
10) Show Me
11) Rick Wakeman Solo Medley
12) Heart Of The Sunrise
13) Long Distance Runaround
14) The Fish
15) Awaken
16) I’ve Seen All Good People
17) Roundabout

[review_video_stars] => 3 [review_video_picture_id] => 3362 [review_video] =>

'Yes: Live at Montreux 2003' is presented in 1080i with the VC-1 codec. At first glance, like most shot-on-HD video, the colorful picture is lush and packed with plenty of sharp detail -- beads of sweat, textures in the clothing, and glints of light are crisply rendered on the screen. But as I watched the concert, I began to notice a number of issues that continued to degrade the picture throughout the performance.

Banding was the first problem to pop up and it's almost immediately followed by digital noise in the bright spotlights, pixilation on band members, and artifacting in the darkest corners of the stage. None of these hiccups are terribly distracting until Chapter 8 when the lights kick up, the primaries begin to bleed, and substantial crushing issues appear. Just watch the edges of Steven Howe's head and guitar throughout Chapters 8 and 9 -- at times, his skin seems as if it's made of Legos and the transfer has a difficult time distinguishing between his hair and the spotlight. The resulting mess is blocky and unbearably distracting.

To be sure, I've seen worse concert presentations, but I've also seen much better -- this one is decidedly middle of the road.

[review_audio_stars] => 2.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 3363 [review_audio] =>

Sadly, the audio quality on this disc is also a disappointment. 'Yes: Live at Montreux 2003' features three tracks -- DTS-HD 5.1 surround (1.5 Mbps), Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 surround (1.5 Mbps), and a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo mix. The clear winner between the three is the Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 mix -- it not only adds an increased stability to the treble ranges and guitar twangs, but it gives Jon Anderson's voice a fuller presence in the central channels.

Still, all three tracks rely far too heavily on the front three speakers, and fail to create any convincing level of immersiveness in the soundfield. The mix seems to pump the same sound out of each channel (albeit at different volumes) and there isn't any subtlety or nuanced design to the distribution of the music. The subwoofer is also particularly subdued compared to most concert releases. In the end, the sound package should be the most impressive element on a concert disc -- unfortunately, this HD DVD doesn't sound much better or more complex than a low-budget audio CD.

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

Mirroring the standard-def DVD release that preceded it, this HD DVD includes zero supplements.

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

Nothing.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 2 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 3364 [review_final_thoughts] =>

As a huge fan of early progressive rock, I was really hoping for a high-def winner with 'Yes: Live from Montreux 2003.' Unfortunately, I found the concert itself a passionless affair, and this HD DVD shares the same fate. The video presentation is technically problematic, the audio lacks punch, and there isn't a single supplement to be found. This one's for hardcore completists only.

) ) ) [reviews_hot] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 817 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => deeppurple_theyallcamedown [review_release_date] => 1185260400 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Deep Purple: Live at Montreux 2006 [picture_created] => 1179610954 [picture_name] => deep-purple.gif [manufacturer_name] => Eagle Rock Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/05/19/120/deep-purple.gif [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/817/deeppurple_theyallcamedown.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2006 [run_time] => 186 [release_date_notes] => Postponed from June 26, 2007 [list_price] => 24.95 [asin] => B000QCS2UC [amazon_price] => 16.95 [empire_id] => 1330761 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.78:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080i/VC-1 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD 30GB ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English PCM 2.0 Stereo [1] => English DTS-HD 5.1 Surround (1.5 Mbps) [2] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5 Mbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Second Live Performance [1] => Interviews ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Music ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Few bands are more closely associated with Montreux than Deep Purple and there was simply no other contender when it came to choosing the act to headline the closing night of the 40th Montreux Festival in 2006. The band duly delivered one of their finest live performances, sprinkling songs from their latest album “Rapture Of The Deep” through a set chock full of their classic tracks. There was even a brand new song “Too Much Fun” written especially for the occasion and, of course, a show-stopping performance of “Smoke On The Water." [preview_technology_specifications] => • Band interviews
• Bonus tracks recorded at the Hard Rock London [review_bottom_line] => For Fans Only [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] => 18461 [review_movie_stars] => 2.5 [review_movie] =>

One of the earliest and most influential heavyweights of hard rock, Deep Purple is a band haunted by dysfunction and dissatisfaction. Since the group's founding in 1968, it has survived a multitude of member changes, an eight-year hiatus, and decades of binge drinking and substance abuse. The band's most notorious lead guitarist, the ego-centric Ritchie Blackmore, was an overwhelming source of conflict and fled and rejoined the band on numerous occasions. Other band members who thought themselves irreplaceable soon learned they were simply cogs in this fan-driven machine.

But despite the ever-evolving line-up, Deep Purple has managed to retain a tonal consistency that continues to keep the band in the public eye to this today. Over the years, the group has sold 100 million records worldwide, and their latest major performance -- 'Deep Purple: Live at Montreux 2006' -- has made its way to HD DVD, bringing with it a nice amount of fan anticipation and excitement.

The band has appeared at Montreux many times in the past, but this show marks a blend of old favorites and new songs from their acclaimed 18th studio album, 2005's "Rapture of the Deep." In its latest incarnation, the band's lineup features lead vocalist Ian Gillian, guitarist Steve Morse (who joined the band in 1994), newly appointed keyboardist Don Airey, original bassist Roger Glover, and drummer Ian Paice.

The group certainly doesn't waste any time in Montreux -- the set list includes classics like "Pictures of Home," "Strange Kind of Woman," "When A Blind Man Cries," "Lazy," "Space Truckin," "Highway Star," "Smoke on the Water," "Hush, "Too Much Fun," and "Black Night." It also includes songs from their newer albums like "Things I Never Said," "The Well Dressed Guitar," "Rapture of the Deep," "Wrong Man," and "Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye." My only complaint with the selections is that there are just too many favorites (both old and new) that didn't make the cut. Of course, this also isn't a four hour concert so it's a minor quibble -- the songs on tap cover a broad range that gives a nice overview of the band's musical history.

In terms of the band's performance, I can't deny the pure charisma that erupts on stage in front of the Montreux audience. The vocals are so intense that singer Gillian strains his voice and the band simply rolls with it. This is a live performance at its purest where technical mishaps and the limitations of the artists don't affect the musicians in the slightest.

The trade-off is at times the music becomes so frenetic and unchecked that it fails to provide a certain familiarity to many of the band's best songs. In particular, fans who adore the early Blackmore hits will be disappointed to hear distinctly different versions of their favorite songs. While I could still recognize each rendition, I longed for the safety of a studio recording that would allow me to engage in the music, rather than just the energy of the performers on stage. Worse still, some of the guitar riffs and solos on the most revered classics sound like bar-stool imitations and I winced at the clumsiness of the more involving fret work.

All things considered, as a longtime fan of the band, I had mixed feelings about 'Deep Purple: Live at Montreux 2006.' On one hand, the latest incarnation of the band certainly puts their all into the performance, and their renditions of the group's newer songs are quite enjoyable. Hits from the band's classic era, however, don't fare nearly as well. Given the band's inner turmoil and the egos of keystone members like Blackmore, I suppose the Deep Purple concert of my dreams is impossible, but I found myself shaking my head on too many occasions to give this one an enthusiastic recommendation.

[review_video_stars] => 3.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 3365 [review_video] =>

Presented in 1080i with the VC-1 codec, 'Deep Purple: Live at Montreux 2006' handles its on-screen imagery without any major technical problems. The palette is vibrant and blacks are deep, injecting the picture with a convincing level of depth. However, this is another high-def concert recording that sees its featured band bathed in highly-contrasted colors that continually cloak the sharp details of the stage. When the lights come up, the image is crisp and impressive with natural fleshtones, but these moments are brief and infrequent.

There aren't any major compression issues or clouds of source noise, but hints of artifacting still appear in the shadowy corners of the platform and in the bright stage lights. I was happy to see that there wasn't any distracting bleeding or pixilation (as I found in Eagle Vision's presentation of 'Yes: Live at Montreux 2003'), but this transfer just doesn't have the polish or substance of better live performances available on high-def disc.

[review_audio_stars] => 3 [review_audio_picture_id] => 3366 [review_audio] =>

'Deep Purple: Live at Montreux 2006' features three audio tracks -- DTS-HD 5.1 surround (1.5 Mbps), Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 surround (1.5 Mbps), and an Uncompressed PCM stereo track. All of the audio tracks represent the source material decently enough, and I couldn't pick a clear favorite. The PCM track has the best sound quality, but the DTS and Dolby mixes immersed me more effectively in the soundfield of the live performance. Ultimately, I really would've liked to see an uncompressed surround track -- instead, fans are forced to choose between high fidelity or feeling like they're more a part of the concert.

The PCM track has respectable dynamics that handle the crunching guitar strums with ease. The drum beats sound a bit thin, but the bass guitar helps to make up for the lackluster low end presence. The Dolby and DTS tracks are akin to a solid audio CD, but are technically more problematic, essentially distributing the sound to each of the channels at different volume levels. The result is a lazy track that tricks the listener into believing they're getting surround sound when the rear speakers are simply rehashing the same audio as the boisterous front channels.

In short, while each of the tracks are certainly acceptable, none deliver the kind of exceptional audio you hope for in high-def concert releases of this sort.

[review_supplements_stars] => 1.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 3367 [review_supplements] =>

Both of the special features found on the standard DVD edition of of 'Deep Purple: Live at Montreux 2006' have been ported over to this HD DVD release, and combined they comprise a nice package for a live concert disc of this sort.

The most impressive extra is a full recording of a second Deep Purple performance at a British Hard Rock Cafe in 2005 (59 minutes). The show is arguably more rewarding than the main Montreux concert, with the band sounding more precise and on key as they barrel through spirited renditions of "Fireball," "I Got Your Number," "Strange Kind of Woman," "Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye," "Lazy," "Rapture of the Deep," "Wrong Man," "Perfect Strangers," "Highway Star," and "Smoke on the Water." Granted, the audio quality leaves a lot to be desired (the setting is small and the acoustics are ugly), but it was proficient enough to keep me listening.

Next up is a collection of "Interviews" (24 minutes) in which the current band members discuss a variety of topics, including the song "Smoke on the Water," the change-over from keyboardist John Lord to Airey, their personal history with Montreux, and their fans. The best bits involve Gillian and their candid/feisty comments on Blackmore's exit from the band.

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

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

Nothing.

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

'Deep Purple: Live at Montreux 2006' is a mixed bag performance from a band that has survived decades of turmoil. Fans will have a good time with this disc, but it's not likely to win over any newcomers to the band's classic hard rock. As an HD DVD release, this one's generally strong, boasting an above-average transfer and a nice supplements package, although unfortunately the available audio tracks force listeners to choose between quality and immersion.

) ) [1] => Array ( [review_id] => 1103 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => americanjourney_vol1_dreamingarizona [review_release_date] => 1185260400 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Dreaming Arizona [picture_created] => 1188337655 [picture_name] => american-journey-volume-1-dreaming-arizona.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => The Picture Company [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/08/28/120/american-journey-volume-1-dreaming-arizona.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/1103/americanjourney_vol1_dreamingarizona.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2004 [run_time] => 530 [list_price] => 16.95 [asin] => B000R34WDG [amazon_price] => 0.00 [empire_id] => 0 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.78:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => Multiple Music Selections [1] => Map Movie Mode ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080i/VC-1 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-15 Single-Layer ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => None ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => None ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Nature ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Escape the ordinary and soar like an eagle across the paradise of our Southwest. This Music Scenic HD DVD transports you into a world of spectacular vistas of extraordinary beauty. Feel the sensation of helicopter flight, boat ride and road trip. Immerse yourself in a visual symphony of musical themes and perpetual motion. [preview_technology_specifications] => None [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => • Two musical selections: "New Age Native American," "Cinematic Orchestral"
• "Map Movie" mode: juxtaposing animated maps with clips from the presentation. Follow the journey of the filmmakers and see where every sequence was filmed [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] => 809 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => ingoodcompany [review_release_date] => 1185260400 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => In Good Company [picture_created] => 1178992481 [picture_name] => in-good-company.gif [manufacturer_name] => Universal Studios Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/05/12/120/in-good-company.gif [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/809/ingoodcompany.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2005 [run_time] => 110 [list_price] => 29.95 [asin] => B000QEIOTY [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1328090 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85.1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => MyScenes ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-30 ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5mbps) [1] => French Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5mbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentary [1] => Featurettes [2] => Deleted Scenes ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Comedy [1] => Drama [2] => Romance ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Dennis Quaid [1] => Scarlet Johansson [2] => Topher Grace ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Chris Weitz ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Dan Foreman (Dennis Quaid) is a loving husband, caring father and star ad executive. But now, life is putting him through the ultimate test. Carter Duryea (Topher Grace), a young hotshot half his age, has just become his boss. And to complicate matters, Dan discovers Carter is dating his daughter (Scarlett Johansson). [preview_technology_specifications] => • Audio Commentary with Director Paul Weitz and Star Topher Grace
• Five-Part Documentary
• Deleted Scenes [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 7359 [review_bottom_line] => Worth a Look [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] => 13461 [review_movie_stars] => 4 [review_movie] =>

Historically, films falling in the romantic comedy genre haven't exactly been full of surprises. Thankfully, however, a new breed of romantic comedy has emerged over the last decade that has revitalized the genre by bringing to it a newfound credibility.

At first glance, 'In Good Company' may seem like a bit of a throwback. The film tells the story of an aging ad executive named Dan Foreman (Dennis Quaid), who is forced to to report an up-and-coming young supervisor named Carter (Topher Grace) as part of a corporate shakeup. What follows is a comedy of errors that would seem to touch on every cliché in the book -- Carter falls in love with Dan's college-aged daughter Alex (Scarlett Johansson), Dan finds out his wife (Marg Helgenberger) is pregnant, and Carter desperately latches onto Dan for guidance and friendship.

But while 'In Good Company' seems to revel in introducing clichéd situations, its plotting and story development is anything but predictable. Power changes hands so often in the film that I gave up trying to anticipate what was going to happen and I just sat back and enjoyed the ride. Similarly, the seemingly typical romantic subplot ultimately takes a sharp left turn away from convention and delivers a refreshing take on the naiveté of young love. Even the relationship between older Dan and the younger Carter takes on a unique life of its own that defies what romantic comedy fans have come to expect.

Truth be told, perhaps it's unfair to label this film a romantic comedy at all -- there are laughs to be sure, but strictly speaking, 'In Good Company' isn't exactly a comedy or a romance. The majority of the film focuses on a serious examination of the mentality that accompanies age and youth. Dennis Quaid is the focal point of the story -- Grace and Johansson are just foils by which he comes to terms with his life and priorities.

Still, while the film constantly breaks expectations, its coherent and believable storyline manages to tap into genuine emotion. I felt as if I recognized each of these characters and I could identify myself and other people from my life in each of their actions and reactions. It ends up becoming a decidedly personal film that touches on acceptance, independence, fear, and (yes) love.

The film does have its flaws -- writer/director Paul Weitz occasionally seems to have a hard time choosing between the opposing tones he's set in his earlier films, including 'American Pie' and 'About A Boy.' The supporting actors often feel as if they've stepped out of the former, while the main characters seem to exist in the latter. But while the film can sometimes seem disjointed, thankfully Weitz recovers quickly and generally keeps things on track. Fans of 'About A Boy' may also be disappointed to find that 'In Good Company' fails to reveal any questionable darkness in its well-intentioned main characters. The film's villains are comically vain, and serve as the only counterpoint to the flawed compassion of the central protagonists.

Still, despite these issues, 'In Good Company' is certainly an entertaining way to spend an evening, offering up an intriguing satire on business, relationships, and aging. If you haven't seen this one yet, do yourself a favor and check it out.

[review_video_stars] => 2 [review_video_picture_id] => 3162 [review_video] =>

What a disappointment. Right from the opening scenes of the 'In Good Company' on HD DVD, this 1080p/VC-1 transfer's two most primary problems are immediately evident -- poor color saturation and over-indulgent edge enhancement.

To be sure, the film's color palette wasn't meant to be vivid, but as presented in this transfer, the picture is is muddled with sepia tones that weren't apart of the film's look in theaters. The high-def palette zaps the life out of even the strongest primary colors -- the office (where the majority of the film takes place) is appropriately decorated with wood-grain textures, but rather than standing out from the image, fleshtones inexplicably blend in with the walls. This is not the first film to hit high-def with a washed-out palette, but while others still have select hues that pop off the screen, 'In Good Company' feels unintentionally dull and muted.

Even worse, this transfer's edge enhancement is so obvious at times that actors appear digitally inserted into the frame. It's heavy, clumsy, and adds annoying halos around objects that don't belong anywhere near a high-def release. Viewers with large projection screens will almost certainly wince when they see how bad the enhancement is, but even those with smaller displays will notice the ugliness of the effect on this release.

Unfortunately, the transfer's issues don't end there. Artifacting is a consistent problem -- dark areas of the screen are relatively noise-free, but brighter textures display a terribly obtrusive level of noise. Skip to the beginning of chapter 7 and watch the office door in the center of the shot -- a shifting blockiness is apparent and comes back to haunt the picture again and again. There's also an infrequent waver to the contrast during some of the scenes in the office. Again, watch the wood paneling and you'll catch it every time it happens. Finally, there are several few instances where scenes are softer than they should be (particuarly when compared to their edge-enhanced foreground objects).

To be fair, there are few areas where the transfer does its job well. In a direct compare with the standard-def DVD, textures receive a bump in clarity, skin and hair are well defined, and black levels are deep while still allowing an acceptable level of visibility.

But while these are basic and inherent upgrades you'd expect from an HD DVD upgrade, overall this transfer fails to live up to its high-def potential. There's really no reason why a relatively recent release like 'In Good Company' should have a picture that's so severely plagued by these kinds of fundamental problems.

[review_audio_stars] => 3.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 3163 [review_audio] =>

At least the audio is more impressive than the video. 'In Good Company' features a Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 surround mix (1.5 Mbps) that presents crisp dialogue, a well prioritized soundscape, and effects that are nicely distributed across the channels. Ambiance is subtle and immersive, and despite the fact that this is a conversation-heavy flick, busier scenes set on city streets have a sudden and welcome presence in the rears. Lastly, while the musical soundtrack is packed with quieter Indie Rock fare that won't turn any heads, it does effectively waft in and out of the soundscape with smooth fades and suitable dynamics.

All in all, while the film itself won't give your home theater enough of a workout to stand out among other more go-to high-def audio packages, this Digital Plus mix handles everything tossed its way without any technical mishaps.

[review_supplements_stars] => 2 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 3164 [review_supplements] =>

As has become customary on its HD DVD releases, Universal has included all of the extras from the original standard DVD release of the film.

First up is a group of featurettes dubbed "SYNERGY" (24 minutes). Comprised of seven smaller pieces -- "Real Life," "New York Locations," "Stars," "Youth," "Getting Older," "Editing," and "Story," together they provide a glimpse behind-the-scenes that stretches from the script's pre-production through to the film's release. The two videos named on the back of the case (the others aren't mentioned at all), "Real Life" and "New York Locations," are actually the two driest selections of the bunch. My favorites were the "Editing" and "Story" segments -- each one details how the tone of the film came to be, from the perspective of the director and the cast.

A group of "Deleted Scenes" (15 minutes) are worth checking out. While they likely would've slowed down the pace of the film, they're amusing in their own right and highlight some of the quirkiness in the film's key relationships.

Last but certainly not least is a feature commentary with Paul Weitz and Topher Grace. I had a blast listening to this track, which benefits from the fact that the two men clearly become close friends over the course of shooting the film. Lots of great anecdotes here, but they also take the time to explore the deeper themes in the film. I laughed out loud more than once and would definitely recommend this commentary to any fan who hasn't already tried it out.

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

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

No exclusive content, but Universal has included its MyScenes function, which allows you to bookmark your favorite segments for easy access even after you eject the disc out of the player.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 3 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 3165 [review_final_thoughts] =>

I thoroughly enjoyed 'In Good Company' -- one in a new breed of romantic comedies, the film has a distinctive voice that's warm, funny and true to life. Unfortunately, this disc offers only a moderate improvement over the standard DVD -- the audio is strong, and the supplements are identical, but the video transfer is stifled by glaring fundamental problems. If you don't already own the DVD, the overall package here is still strong enough to recommend, just don't expect much from the video...

) ) [3] => Array ( [review_id] => 811 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => nuttyprofessor2 [review_release_date] => 1185260400 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Nutty Professor 2: The Klumps [picture_created] => 1178992726 [picture_name] => klumps.gif [manufacturer_name] => Universal Studios Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/05/12/120/klumps.gif [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/811/nuttyprofessor2.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2000 [run_time] => 109 [list_price] => 29.95 [asin] => B000QEIOUI [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1328101 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 [1] => 480p/i/MPEG-2 (Supplements Only) ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-30 Dual Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround (48kHz/16-bit) [1] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5mbps) [2] => French Dolby Digital-Plus 2.0 Surround (640kbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentary [1] => Featurettes [2] => Deleted Scenes [3] => Storyboards [4] => Music Video [5] => Outtakes ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Comedy [1] => Science Fiction ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Dave Chappelle [1] => Janet Jackson [2] => Eddie Murphy ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Tom Shadyac ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => America's funniest family back for seconds! Eddie Murphy is hilarious when he stars as the entire Klump family in this enormous comedy blockbuster. The hilarity begins when professor Sherman Klump finds romance with fellow DNA specialist, Denise Gaines (Janet Jackson), and discovers a brilliant formula that reverses aging. But Sherman's thin and obnoxious alter ego, Buddy Love, wants out… and a big piece of the action. And when Buddy gets loose, things get seriously nutty. Now, it's up to Mama, Papa, Ernie and Granny Klump to throw their weight around and save the day. [preview_technology_specifications] => TBA [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => TBA [preview_forum_id] => 7359 [review_editors_notes] => For more high-def fun with the Klumps clan, read our HD DVD review of 'The Nutty Professor (1996).' [review_bottom_line] => Worth a Look [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 12915 [review_movie_stars] => 2.5 [review_movie] =>

When last we left chubby professor Sherman Klump (Eddie Murphy) in 1996's 'The Nutty Professor,' he had disowned the magic elixir that allowed him to transform into the hip, sexy Buddy Love (also Murphy). Life seemed to be complete for Sherman -- he may not have won the heart of his true love Carla Purty, but he did regain his self-esteem, and nothing could ever entice to again drink from the fountain of false illusions. Of course, that was before 'The Nutty Professor' grossed nearly $100 million at the domestic box office and gave Murphy his biggest hit in over a decade...

In Hollywood, where there is a till there is a way, and so for 2000's 'The Klumps,' Sherman would again find himself drinking a life-altering potion in his continued search for true love. Buddy Love is back, too, trying to woo the heart of brilliant DNA specialist Dr. Denise Gaines (Janet Jackson) who, it seems, has discovered her own secret formula to prevent aging. The hook this time, though, is that Denise is already in love with Sherman -- and it's Buddy who is the one crashing the party. Add in the entire Klump clan (all played by Murphy in various get-ups), who all have their own ideas on how Sherman and Denise's pending nuptials should come off, and you've got a recipe for comedy of epic proportions.

Like many sequels, 'The Klumps' is not so much a continuation of the original story but rather a regurgitation of its best moments. It was obvious that what worked for audiences about the first film was not the pathos inherent in the dueling-identities of Sherman Klump/Buddy Love, but rather Murphy playing a bunch of different trashy characters under tons of latex. In fact, the entire plot of 'The Nutty Professor' was secondary to its success -- audiences turned out in droves to see Murphy do his shtick, make fart jokes and generally overact to the heavens.

So we get plenty more of all of the above in 'The Klumps' -- only louder, brasher and more vulgar. There remains a sweetness to poor Sherman Klump's looking for (and in this case finding) true love, but the Denise character is all but tossed aside like a narrative annoyance. Jackson is a very likable on screen presence, but she's given little to do here but smile and react to Murphy's outrageousness -- it's a completely thankless role. And even Buddy Love often seems pushed to the sidelines in favor of new side characters or subplots that allow Murphy to summon a new creation.

In the end, of course, none of this really matters so long as 'The Klumps' can be funnier than 'The Nutty Professor.' Alas, it isn't. The first Klumps flick was never a great movie (or even a consistently hilarious one), but at least it felt fresh and invigorated. This sequel, by comparison, offers little more than a showcase for Eddie Murphy's cavalcade of latex. Admittedly, I did laugh more than a few times during the film's best moments, but with a better, sharper script and a more coherent story, 'The Klumps' could have improved upon its predecessor instead of just feeling like an inferior Xerox.

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 3151 [review_video] =>

'Nutty Professor 2: The Klumps' was made four years after the first 'Nutty Professor,' and though the two films do not share any of the main creative personnel (beyond Murphy himself), the visual style of both films is surprising similar. Big, bright and flush with rich primary colors, 'Nutty Professor 2' is arguably even better looking than its predecessor.

Universal provides a 1080p/VC-1 transfer in the film's original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, and as was the case with the first film, the most impressive attribute of the presentation is the vivid colors. Primaries are loud and brash, almost to the point of eye strain. Yet oversaturation is not a problem, with hues rock solid and free of bleeding or noise. Fleshtones are an improvement over the original, however, with no red tint or other inconsistencies. Detail and sharpness are also first-rate, with the image displaying generally excellent depth and clarity. The source is also just about pristine, with only the rarest hint of dirt, and only a speckle or two, to distract. Compression artifacts are also not a problem.

All in all, a solid four star video presentation.

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

For 'The Klumps' audio, Universal also goes one better than the original 'Nutty Professor' by providing a Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 surround mix (1.5mbps), plus a full-blown Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track (48kHz/16-bit).

Unfortunately, despite the generous specs, this comedy flick predictably doesn't get much in the way of exciting, inventive sound design. The only real standouts are the film's music and score, plus a few instances of strong discrete effects. Otherwise, the rear soundfield is inconsistently employed, and ambiance is never sustained or particularly strong.

Still, this is a perfectly fine soundtrack for a comedy, boasting a bright, clean presentation, with lots of lively sound effects (usually of the disgusting variety, such as burps and farts). Dynamics are very lively on the TrueHD mix in particular, with punchy bass and clean, smooth highs. Dialogue is also placed front and center, with no volume balance problems.

[review_supplements_stars] => 3 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 3152 [review_supplements] =>

The original 'Nutty Professor' came without a single extra on any of its releases (DVD and HD DVD included). That certainly changed for the sequel, with 'The Klumps' enjoying a host of bonuses on its initial disc release that have all been ported over for its high-def debut.

First we have a screen-specific audio commentary with director Peter Segal. Since 'The Klumps,' he's gone on to carve an impressive career in A-list Hollywood comedies ('50 First Dates,' 'The Longest Yard'), but here he's just appreciative to have gotten a significant break into the big leagues. Of course, he has plenty of kudos for Eddie Murphy and his ability to create believable characters under mounds of latex, but otherwise he focuses almost exclusively on the film's production challenges. That limits the scope of the track, but Segal certainly seems to be a lively guy, so fans at least will enjoy this one.

Interestingly, this disc also has a second audio commentary track -- sort of. Billed as "A Conversation with Director Peter Segal and Producer Brian Grazer," it actually runs only about one-third of the way into the film and then just stops abruptly. Weird, to say the least, but it's an interesting enough discussion that I wish it had run longer. (Note that the same thing happened on the DVD version of 'The Klumps,' so it's not a glitch with the HD DVD.)

The disc includes only a single featurette, "Spotlight on Location: The Making of 'Nutty Professor 2: The Klumps.'" Running 24 minutes, the first half is your usual banal extended commercial, with on-set chats with the main cast and crew, and an avalanche of film clips. Luckily, the second half is better, featuring a lot of behind-the-scenes footage of makeup guru Rick Baker and his crew turning Murphy into a zillion different characters. It's pretty interesting stuff, and saves the featurette from being a total waste. There are also two Make-Up Application Shorts included, which run less than a couple of minutes and simply offer time-lapse footage of Murphy being transformed.

Next we have two Additional Scenes: "Extended Dinner Scene" and "Deleted House Fantasy Scene." The former is where the real laughs are, with Murphy being even cruder (and funnier) than what could pass by the MPAA Ratings Board in the theatrical cut of the film. There is also a 4-minute reel of Outtakes that are only marginally amusing.

Next are four Storyboard to Final Feature Comparisons. The storyboards for each are shown in the upper part of the screen, while the finished version runs in sync in the lower half.

Rounding things out is a music video for Janet Jackson's "Doesn't Really Matter," plus the film's original Theatrical Trailer.

(Note that all of the video-based supplements included on the disc are presented in only 480p/i/MPEG-2 video.)

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 3153 [review_bonus_content] =>

There are no genuine HD DVD exclusives. Only Universal's "My Scenes" bookmark function, allowing you to access your favorite chapters even after you eject the disc out of the player.

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

It's not a superior sequel, nor is it even as funny as the original, but 'Nutty Professor 2' still delivers its share of comedic zingers. The same basic premise is reworked just enough to provide some fresh laughs, and Eddie Murphy proves himself once again able to wring some truly inspired parody out of multiple roles.

This HD DVD release certainly delivers on the bottom line. The transfer is eye-popping and colorful, and Universal has thrown in a full-blown Dolby TrueHD track plus plenty of supplements. To be sure, 'The Klumps' won't give your home theater much of a workout, but for fans of the film this HD DVD is an easy recommend.

) ) [4] => Array ( [review_id] => 920 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => outforjustice [review_release_date] => 1185260400 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Out for Justice [picture_created] => 1181418856 [picture_name] => out-for-justice.gif [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Video [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/06/09/120/out-for-justice.gif [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/920/outforjustice.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1991 [run_time] => 91 [list_price] => 28.99 [asin] => B000RL6GBY [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1334059 [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-15 Single-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5 Mbps) [1] => French Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (192 kbps) [2] => Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (192 kbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Theatrical Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English Subtitles [1] => French Subtitles [2] => Spanish Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Action ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Jerry Orbach [1] => William Forsythe [2] => Steven Seagal ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => John Flynn ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Out for action? You found it! Steven Seagal hits the target like nobody else in this pounding police thriller. Brooklyn-born cop Gino (Seagal) has seen many changes in “the neighborhood.” One sad one is that boyhood adversary-turned-criminal scum Richie (William Forsythe) has turned local streets into war zones. He’s a mad dog unleashed and Gino and his world-weary partner (Law and Order’s Jerry Orbach) must hunt him down before the body count multiplies. [preview_technology_specifications] => • 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 'Out For Justice.' [review_bottom_line] => Skip It [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] => 12740 [review_movie_stars] => 2 [review_movie] =>

Nobody seems to understand Steven Seagal anymore. Is he an actor? A martial artist? A singer? An environmental activist? His bizarre Hollywood career seems to have run the gamut, making him more of an inside joke than a legitimate performer. But once upon a time, Seagal dominated the box office with action flicks that brought his dry-delivery of justice to the masses. He first arrived on the scene with 'Above the Law' and subsequently released three films that opened at number-one at the box office -- 'Hard to Kill,' 'Marked for Death,' and 'Out for Justice.'

'Out for Justice' tells the straight-forward story of Gino Felino (Seagal), a hard-faced NYPD detective who works to keep the streets safe from scumbags like his childhood nemesis, Richie Madano (William Forsythe). Felino plays by the rules until Madano kills his partner and best friend, Bobby (Joe Spataro). With no other avenue for justice, Felino takes matters into his own hands and becomes determined to kill Madano no matter what the cost.

I was obsessed with films like this when I was a teenager. When it came down to scheduling reviews for this month, I specifically requested 'Out for Justice' to be added to my list -- what better way to relive the nostalgia of former favorites than to review them?

Much to my dismay, the years haven't been kind, and a lot has changed in cinema since this film was released in 1991. The last time I watched 'Out for Justice,' the martial artistry was impressive, the gunplay was tense, and the dialogue brought cheers from me and my friends. Watching it today, the fight scenes are underwhelming and stocky, the gunplay is overdone and laughable, and the dialogue made me cringe at almost every turn.

Fans of '80s action flicks will find more of what they love here -- but 'Out for Justice' hardly qualifies as one the era's classics. In fact, much of the movie plays like a low-budget straight-to-video release, simply boiling down to an adolescent's revenge fantasy where base morality defines behavior and the protagonist never pauses to seriously consider the implications of his actions. Needless to say, the violence is gratuitous and Seagal's performance fails to stir up any empathy for his character.

With that in mind, 'Out for Justice' can be certainly be enjoyed as a relic of its genre, but little else. More than fifteen years later, I found it to be predictable, plodding, and mind-numbingly mediocre compared to better actioners from the same time period.

So, consider yourself warned: fans of 'Out for Justice' should be wary if they haven't seen this one in a while, as they may find (as I did) that it's not everything you remember. Newcomers should probably just steer clear of this one altogether and find better classic catalogue titles on high-def.

[review_video_stars] => 2.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 3121 [review_video] =>

Even hardcore fans who enjoy 'Out for Justice' for what it is are likely to agree that the picture quality on this disc takes a disappointing left turn after the film's first act. Presented in a 1080p/VC-1 transfer, things look respectable as 'Out for Justice' gets rolling -- colors are above average, the contrast is fairly stable, and fine object detail is impressive (especially compared to the hazy 1999 standard-def DVD). The print does show some wear and the film suffers from light softness, but I was ready to give this one an above-average rating since it looked quite good for a film of its era.

Unfortunately, the video quality declines dramatically as the film moves to nighttime shots and scenes with lower lighting, exhibiting poor shadow delineation, crushing, and consistently distracting bouts of heavy noise. As the noise increases, detail and depth decrease, with the end result being an unattractive picture that has severe technical problems. I acknowledge that the daytime scenes look pretty good, but their attributes only serve to highlight the deficiencies in the rest of the presentation.

The film comes on a single layer, 15GB HD DVD disc and could probably have benefited from more disc space and/or a more thorough remastering for high-def. Why studios continue to drop catalogue titles like this on either HD format without properly preparing them for the visual scrutiny of high definition is beyond me.

[review_audio_stars] => 2.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 3122 [review_audio] =>

The audio on this HD DVD isn't much better than the video, although it does sound a tad crisper than its standard DVD counterpart. However, the Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 mix (1.5 Mbps) featured on 'Out for Justice' just doesn't have the audible punch to match its on-screen violence. Dialogue is clear, but isn't very well prioritized within the soundscape (a hindrance particuarly noticeable in gun battles). Making matters worse, sound effects are stagey and lack proper support from the subwoofer -- shotguns sound hollow, explosions sound watery, and splintering wood occasionally sounds like plastic. Everything sounds as if it's being bottle-necked by its dependence on the center channel, and dynamics falter as a result.

Granted, most of these issues can be blamed squarely on the film's poorly constructed sound design. I doubt anyone will be expecting a more impressive track considering the source material. However, the promise of high-def audio is to improve the overall aural experience with significant upgrades in addition to an increase in the bit-rate, and on that count unfortunately this HD DVD edition of 'Out for Justice' fails to deliver.

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

Nothing of substance to report here. Like its standard DVD predecessor, this HD DVD release of 'Out for Justice' includes just one supplement -- the film's original theatrical trailer, presented in standard definition

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

Nothing.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 1.5 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 3123 [review_final_thoughts] =>

My hopes of reliving a "classic" from my childhood were dashed within the first half-hour of 'Out for Justice.' It was painful to realize that this is what passed for great cinema when I was a freshman in high school. Sadly, even hardcore fans of the film are likely to be disappointed with this HD DVD's mediocre video, basic audio package, and lack of supplemental features. Unfortunately this one seems to have been plopped onto high-def without much consideration for the technology or the film itself.

) ) ) [reviews_slices] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 918 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => purplerain [review_release_date] => 1185260400 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Purple Rain [picture_created] => 1181071278 [picture_name] => purple-rain-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Video [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/06/05/120/purple-rain-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/918/purplerain.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1984 [run_time] => 111 [list_price] => 28.99 [asin] => B000QFW6RY [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1334057 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 [1] => 480p/i/MPEG-2 (Supplements Only) ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-30 Dual Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround (48kHz/16-bit) [1] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (640kbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentary [1] => Featurettes [2] => Music Videos [3] => Theatrical Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles [2] => Spanish Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Drama [1] => Musical ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Morris Day [1] => Apollonia Kotero [2] => Prince ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Albert Magnoli ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => A young man (Prince) with a talent for music has begun a career with much promise. He meets an aspiring singer, Apollonia, and finds that talent alone isn't all that he needs. A complicated tale of his repeating his father's self destructive behavior, losing Apollonia to another singer (Morris Day), and his coming to grips with his own connection to other people ensues. [preview_technology_specifications] => • Featurettes
• MTV Premiere Footage
• 8 Music Videos
• Theatrical Trailer [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 9017 [review_editors_notes] => Non format-specific portions of this review also appear in our Blu-ray review of 'Purple Rain.' [review_bottom_line] => Worth a Look [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 11867 [review_movie_stars] => 3.5 [review_movie] =>

Every once in a while, there are rare moments in pop culture when the stars align, and for a brief glorious moment, an artist and his audience fuse into one. Like a fly in amber, the zeitgeist is captured, and the moment becomes permanently etched in our collective consciousness.

One such moment came in 1984, when Prince captivated the world with 'Purple Rain.' More than just an album, more than just a movie, and more than just a gargantuan tour, 'Purple Rain' signaled a seismic shift in music, fashion, film and celebrity. Just as when the Beatles first appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, or Michael Jackson moonwalked on the Motown 50th Anniversary Special, even at the time, you had a distinct sense that lightning had just been caught in a bottle.

'Purple Rain' is perhaps the one semi-modern movie that's impossible to talk about without talking about the songs -- in fact, just about every single one of the ten compositions Prince created for 'Purple Rain' is a classic. Number one hits like "When Doves Cry," "Let's Go Crazy," "I Would Die 4 U," "Take Me With U," and of course "Purple Rain" turned the movie an unstoppable force of nature. The box office was huge, and the album reigned the top of the Billboard charts for an astonishing 24 weeks.

But 'Purple Rain' was more than just commercial synergy. Creatively, it was a watershed in merging genres, demographics and musical ideologies -- from rock to funk to pop to new wave. It was as if the creative heavens opened for Prince -- the riffs, the melodies and the lyrics all seemed to effortlessly fit together like some cosmic jigsaw puzzle, as if the artist was channeling some sort of higher musical power that said "if you build it, they will come." It's hard to define that elusive thing called magic, but in 1984 Prince had it in spades.

The story of the film (loosely played out in the songs themselves) adheres to the typical tradition of the rock movie -- autobiographical enough that the artist and his character are doppelgangers, yet with enough fiction inserted to avoid lawsuits. Prince stars as The Kid, and boy is he funky. Jamming with his band The Revolution every night at the local First Avenue Club in Minneapolis, he has big dreams, and an even bigger ego. His abusive home life (particularly his gun-toting dad, played by 'Mod Squad's Clarence Williams III) is threatening to crash the party, especially after new girl in town Apollonia (Apollonia Kotero) can't decide between The Kid or his musical rival (Morris Day). Can The Kid overcome his demons and find redemption in music, or will he self-destruct?

Ironically, 'Purple Rain' the film may be the weakest link in what became Prince's pop culture trifecta. Subtract the music and blistering concert sequences (which are still so hot that they threatened to melt the disc right in my player), and the movie is narratively clunky and dramatically slapdash. Shot like a two-hour music video by Albert Magnoli in his directorial debut, Magnoli doesn't so much construct scenes as string together cool shots and give them a beat. The acting is also limp. Almost everyone -- Prince included -- is simply playing themselves, and it shows with line readings so stilted that it may as well be Amateur Night at the Apollo.

Worse, 'Purple Rain' is an often unabashedly misogynist film. What should one make of such "comic" scenes as Day, after being confronted by a date he blew off, throws her in a dumpster to the sound of uproarious laughter? Then there is Apollonia, a creation that could have come from the mind of adolescent male fantasy. Despite being repeatedly slapped, beaten and publicly humiliated by The Kid, she only seems to grow more infatuated and aroused by him as the film wears on. This bizarre pop psychology reaches its zenith in the climax, where the moral of the story seems to boil down to the redemptive power of music -- as long as you can belt out a number as beautiful as "Purple Rain," apparently you can cure misogyny, domestic violence and self-possessed rage all in one fell swoop.

Having said all that, it is the passionate frisson between the artist and his myth-making fiction that ignites 'Purple Rain.' From inner turmoil and ugliness came more than great music, but ground zero in a new chapter in modern music. It is no overstatement to say that with 'Purple Rain,' Prince truly blazed new avenues in modern music. Mixing funk, rock, pop, new wave, soul and gospel, there were few young Americans who didn't love Prince in 1984. He was not only in sync with the times with 'Purple Rain,' he simultaneously defined an era and propelled it into the future. Whatever highs and lows his career may have reached since, one need only look back at 'Purple Rain' to know that Prince will always reign.

[review_video_stars] => 3 [review_video_picture_id] => 2704 [review_video] =>

Warner Home Video presents 'Purple Rain' in 1080p/VC-1 video, and in its original theatrical matted aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The studio previously remastered the film back in 2004 for a two-disc standard-def DVD version, and this HD DVD appears to be from that master. The good news is that what was a nice overhaul three years ago remains so. The bad news is that this high-def version doesn't offer much of an appreciable upgrade over what has come before.

'Purple Rain' had suffered over the years on video, largely due to poor pan & scan transfers with muddy visuals and weak colors, so this recent remaster is certainly a great improvement, even it isn't quite a revelation. Due to the film's fairly low-budget and largely dim-light photography, grain is rampant and often varies wildly from scene-to-scene, but the source is pretty clean, with only some sporadic dirt and a speckle or two present. Colors are vivid, especially the deep reds, blues and -- of course -- purple. Detail is also fairly good, with long shots now sharper and fine details more apparent in darker scenes.

However, in judging this high-def version of the remaster with its standard-def counterpart, it was only via direct comparison that I was able to detect much difference between the two. The high-def version just doesn't deliver anything close to the upgrade I've become accustomed to, especially from Warner -- the image is still fairly flat and soft, colors have punch but don't leap off the screen, and contrast similarly just doesn't have much pop.

Make no mistake, 'Purple Rain' looks fine and is certainly easy on the eyes. But in terms of an upgrade, it's among the least notable catalog titles in Warner's next-gen library so far.

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

Although the inclusion of a full-blown Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround mix (48kHz/16-bit) raised hopes that this would be one killer soundtrack, like the video, 'Purple Rain's recently remastered audio is also comparatively disappointing.

As we learn in the included supplements, 'Purple Rain's "song score" included both traditional studio recordings (including "When Doves Cry") as well as tracks that were recorded live to backing tapes. This was also in the age before digital recording was commonplace. The result is that even remastered, 'Purple Rain's classic songs still sound dated in fidelity, and limited in sonic scope. It's particularly unfortunate, because who wouldn't want to crank up this HD DVD and blow out the speakers with earth-shaking rock?

Flipping back and forth between the included Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Digital-Plus (640kbps) tracks yielded little of the appreciable upgrade I had hoped for. Bass still sounds '80s flat, and upper ranges are also flat and compressed. As the film takes place primarily at clubs and in other loud environments, the dialogue was mostly looped, and it sounds like it. Finer subtleties are often lost, to the point where dialogue is obscured and volume boosting was required. Surround use is also poor, with only processed bleed to the rears and no true sonic separation of instruments in the mix.

To be sure, 'Purple Rain' doesn't sound bad -- it's a clean mix, at least -- but compared to some of the truly phenomenal 5.1 surround music remixes I've heard over the years (some for albums far older than this one), 'Purple Rain' fails to deliver the wallop I'd hoped for.

[review_supplements_stars] => 3 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 2706 [review_supplements] =>

Warner finally gave 'Purple Rain' the deluxe treatment on standard-def DVD back in 2004, and happily the studio has seen fit to port over all of the major extras from that two-disc set over to this high-def edition.

The bad news, however, is that the always-reclusive Prince decided not to take part. Still, to the credit of the studio as well as production team at New Wave Entertainment, these features include such an extensive assortment of filmmakers, ex-bandmates and other music contemporaries that the omission of the man himself is far from fatal. In fact, Prince's absence in some ways makes these extras even more interesting, as we get an honest, 'Rashomon'-like multiple-perspective look at the artist and the music that transformed him into a legend.

First up, we have a screen-specific audio commentary with director Albert Magnoli, producer Robert Cavallo and cinematographer Donald Thorin. Unfortunately, this is the weakest of the main extras. Despite boasting three participants, the track is marred by frequent dead patches and dull meandering. For some reason, the trio decided to focus almost exclusively on tech details (how cold it was, where this scene was shot, etc.) and not the stuff most of really want to know about -- i.e., Prince and his music. Luckily, the video-based supplements pick up the slack on this count, but as is, I can't imagine anyone but the most diehard fans making it all the way through this one.

The three-part, 48-minute documentary is where the real meat is. Again, there is no Prince (nor Morris Day or Apollonia, for that matter), but no fewer than two dozen collaborators, bandmates, local musicians and journalists weigh in on the 'Purple Rain' phenomenon, among them Revolution members Wendy & Lisa, Matt Fink and Bobby Z., fellow Time bandmates Jellybean Johnson, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, actress Jill Jones, Prince's managers (at the time) Craig Rice and Alan Leeds, screenwriter William Blinn, MTV's Kurt Loder, Magnoli and Cavallo, and even Macy Gray.

Part one of the doc, "First Avenue: The Road to Pop Royalty" (12 minutes) wisely dissects not just where Prince was at musically in 1983 as he was developing 'Purple Rain,' but also the whole Minneapolis scene that served as the incubator for the pop culture maelstrom to come. It was a movement that was organic and inclusive, straddling all races, genders, orientations and tastes, mixing funk, rock, pop and punk in a way that even MTV (at the time) never dared.

Part two, "Purple Rain: Backstage Pass" (26 minutes) is a more straightforward making-of, but it also has some excellent insights into key songs, as well as the more autobiographical moments in the film. From Prince writing and composing "When Doves Cry" in an evening (after Magnoli simply suggested the film may need a lead-off hit single to fill out the soundtrack) to Wendy & Lisa revealing the gestation of the song "Purple Rain" itself, this is a must-see for Prince fans. Magnoli and Blinn are also frank about which aspects of the film mirror Prince's off-screen life, as well as the film's casting, the low-budget shoot and some incredibly oppressive production conditions.

Finally, "Riffs, Ruffles and a Revolution: The Impact and Influence of Purple Rain" (10 minutes) is a fun wrap-up. After the one-two punch of the album and the movie, the eventual sold-out arena and stadium tour was a masterstroke. If today this whole "Purple Rain hysteria" comes off as mere mythmaking or hyperbole, having lived through the time, I can assure you that Prince was indeed the hottest thing in the summer of 1984.

Wrapping things up is a large assortment of promotional materials. The 28 minutes of "MTV Premiere Party" footage is thrillingly nostalgic -- and hilarious. The hair! The clothes! The '80s superstars! The original MTV VJs! The only mystery is why the guest of honor is in such a bad mood: when Prince finally does arrive, he looks so glum you'd think 'Purple Rain' was the funeral of his career, not the coronation. (Geesh, cheer up dude, you're about to become a legend!)

Next up are eight music videos. Prince gets five ("When Doves Cry," "Let's Go Crazy," "I Would Die 4 U," "Take Me With U" and "Purple Rain"), The Time get two ("Jungle Love," "The Bird"), and then of course there is Apollonia 6's immortal "Sex Shooter." Wonderful '80s cheese, these amount to an overload of huge hair, fishnet stockings and enough purple eye shadow for a week-long Prince convention.

Finally, Warner includes three Theatrical Trailers for the complete Prince filmography: "Purple Rain,' it's woeful sequel 'Graffiti Bridge' and 'Under the Cherry Moon.'

Note that the three-part doc has been upconverted to 1080i/MPEG-2 video, though the quality is still comparable to standard-def (kudos to Warner anyway for at least reformatting for 16:9 screens). The rest of the video-based material is presented in 4:3 windowboxed 480i/MPEG-2 video only.

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 2705 [review_bonus_content] =>

There are no HD DVD exclusives.

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

'Purple Rain' has transcended all barriers to emerge as more than a movie, more than an album -- it's a snapshot of a phenomenal moment in pop culture history. Every single song is a classic, and if the film itself has long become overshadowed by the mystique that is Prince, it still holds up as blistering combination of live performance, music video aesthetic and autobiography.

This HD DVD release, however, is slightly disappointing. While the newly produced supplements are quite strong, neither the video nor the audio offer the level of upgrade that one hopes for with a high-def catalog release of this caliber. Still, as an all-around package, 'Purple Rain' is certainly a solid release, and worth considering as an addition to your collection.

) ) [1] => Array ( [review_id] => 818 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => santana_hymnsforpeace [review_release_date] => 1185260400 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Santana: Hymns for Peace - Live at Montreux 2004 [picture_created] => 1179611236 [picture_name] => santana.gif [manufacturer_name] => Eagle Vision [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/05/19/120/santana.gif [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/818/santana_hymnsforpeace.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2004 [run_time] => 181 [release_date_notes] => Postponed from June 26, 2007 [list_price] => 24.95 [asin] => B000QCS2UM [amazon_price] => 16.95 [empire_id] => 1330763 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.78:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080i/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 (1.5mbps) [1] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5mbps) [2] => English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (448kbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Bonus Tracks [1] => Featurette ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English Subtitles [1] => French Subtitles [2] => Spanish Subtitles [3] => German Subtitles [4] => Italian Subtitles [5] => Portuguese Subtitles [6] => Dutch Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Music ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Robbie Coltrane [1] => Herbie Hancock [2] => Carlos Santana ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => On July 15, 2004, Santana took to the stage in Montreux accompanied by a stunning line-up of guests to perform a concert of songs about peace and understanding that they dubbed “Hymns For Peace”. Joining the regular Santana line-up in the band were Chick Corea, John McLaughlin, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Ravi Coltrane and Idrissa Diop with further guest appearances through the night from Angelique Kidjo, Barbara Morrison, Patti Austin, Sylver Sharp, Steve Winwood and Nile Rodgers. [preview_technology_specifications] => • Three bonus tracks
• Behind-the-scenes footage
• Interview with Santana [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [review_bottom_line] => Worth a Look [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 13859 [review_movie_stars] => 3 [review_movie] =>

In late 2003, Montreux Jazz Festival director Claude Nobs approached Carlos Santana about doing something special to honor the annual event's 37th year. Over the next six months, the pair would conceive a one-of-a-kind performance that would bring together a few dozen of Santana's "closest friends' for a three-hour jam session honoring the best protest songs of the last fifty years.

The result was 'Hymns for Peace.' Staged in front of a sold-out crowd for one night only on July 15, 2004, the guest list featured a virtual who's who of rock legends. Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Patti Austen, Steve Winwood, Nile Rodgers and a host of other master musicians all joined Santana for a three-hour performance that was the equivalent of the biggest musical block party ever thrown -- well, if your block happens to be Montreux...

At first glance, some may disappointed by the setlist. This is no Santana solo show, and you won't find any recent hits such as "Smooth" anywhere among the 18 peace-lovin' tunes here. But where 'Hymns for Peace' excels is in the looseness of its performances. Simply put, this group cranks. Sure, there are plenty of incredibly talented guitarists fronting popular bands today, but Santana is -- without argument -- a true guitar god. I don't think I recognized more than a couple of the songs on 'Hymns for Peace,' but I was never less than mesmerized by his playing. The man truly can captivate with a flick of the finger.

This is also a long show. Spanning 181 minutes, the average song runs a good 8 minutes. Improvs and extended jams are frequent, with the band simply awe-inspiring in what they seem to be dreaming up out of thin air, as if guided by some higher force. And what fun they seem to be having -- the sheer joy displayed on stage was clearly contagious, and by mid-set the band and audience seem to become one, everyone swaying to the same universal groove.

Visually, 'Hymns for Peace' is a straightforward show. There are no pyrotechnics, no cavalcade of dancers -- just a bunch of musicians up on stage, jamming for three hours in support of a cause they believe in passionately. And perhaps it is, at times, a tad self-indulgent. But when you have artists as mesmerizing and talented as this, who cares?

The 18-song setlist features the following songs: 01. Intro / 02. Afro Blue / 03. Adouma / 04. Redemption Song / 05. Exodus / Get Up Stand Up / 06. Blowin’ In The Wind / A Place In The Sun / 07. Just Like A Woman / 08. What’s Going On / 09. Peace On Earth / Boogie Woman / 10. Why Can’t We Live Together / 11. Light At The Edge Of The World / 12. Let Us Go Into The House Of The Lord / 13.Banana Boat Song / 14. Day Of Celebration / 15. Ah Sweet Dancer / In A Silent Way / 16. Jingo / 17. A Love Supreme / 18. Ode To Joy

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

'Santana: Hymns for Peace' was recorded entirely with HD cameras, and is presented here in its native 1080i (1.78:1 widescreen) as a VC-1 encode. As with most shot-on-high-def live presentations, it generally looks excellent, with a three-dimensional level of clarity that doesn't disappoint.

Though the photography and stageset are no-frills (don't expect any jumbo-sized video screens or bombastic lighting), it's definitely colorful. The band and special guests wear some, um, rather cheesy, '60s-meets-'80s hippie-esque clothing, resulting in some very vivid hues that always remain nice, clean and stable. Typical of shot-on-HD material, detail is excellent, with only some fuzziness in the darkest areas of the picture. The picture is generally sharp, although a fair amount of fog is used during the performance which sometimes gives a soft and flat look. The picture is generally sharp, although a fair amount of fog is used during the performance which can flatten out apparent depth in the transfer. It is the only real problem area of the presentation -- fine details in the shadows can be lost in a soft haze, making the darkest areas of the picture appear impenetrable. However, such small nitpicks aside, 'Hymns for Peace' looks quite nice.

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

Eagle Vision provides three flavors of audio for 'Hymns for Peace' -- two DTS-HD High-Resolution and Dolby Digital-Plus mixes (both 5.1 surround and 1.5mbps), plus a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo option (at 448kbps). While the quality of the recording is clearly high, the lack of a true high-resolution track (such as PCM or Dolby TrueHD) ultimately results in a sound presentation that never truly soars.

Bass has some strength, but it never really delivers those deep, power low tones that can challenge the subwoofer. Similarly, highs don't have that truly bright, realistic quality of the best live recordings I've heard on high-def. Surrounds are also not fully employed, with only very slight crowd noise and little in the way of exciting, creative placement of instrumentation.

To be sure, purely in terms of clarity and sheer listen-ability, 'Hymns for Peace' sounds just fine. But compared to some of the truly exceptional high-resolution mixes available on HD DVD and Blu-ray, this one is decidedly average.

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

Typical of the slim supplemental packages found on most music releases, Eagle Vision has included only a couple of extras on 'Santana: Hymns for Peace,' each of which originally appeared on the standard DVD edition of this title, which was first released as a two-disc set in May 2007.

First up are three bonus songs: "One Love," "Imagine" and "Give Peace a Chance." Given that the main program already runs a lengthy 181 minutes, I can't help but wonder why they just didn't add these three tracks in, but regardless these three songs look great in 1080i, and the audio options are identical to the feature.

Also included is a 8-minute featurette, "An Interview with Carlos Santana," which incorporates a good amount of behind-the-scenes footage and rehearsal clips with Santana talking about what drew him to stage the concert and choosing his collaborators.

(Note that like the main feature, all supplements are presented in 1080i/MPEG-2 video and of very high quality.)

[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] =>

'Santana: Hymns for Peace' is a lively one-off concert celebrating some of the best political power anthems of all time. Though fans won't find any of Santana's biggest hits in the setlist, a strong group of collaborators and some intense, extended jams still make 'Hymns for Peace' a must-see for the faithful.

This HD DVD release from Eagle Vision is a solid high-def music release. The video transfer is typical of live concert recordings with a very vivid presentation, plus there are a good couple of supplements. However, while the included Dolby Digital and DTS tracks are perfectly fine in their own right, they just can't compare to the true high-resolution audio on similar releases. Worth a look for even the most casual Santana fans.

) ) ) [1] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 812 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => scentofawoman [review_release_date] => 1185260400 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Scent of a Woman [picture_created] => 1178992275 [picture_name] => scnet-of-a-woman.gif [manufacturer_name] => Universal Studios Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/05/12/120/scnet-of-a-woman.gif [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/812/scentofawoman.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1990 [run_time] => 157 [list_price] => 29.95 [asin] => B000QEIOUS [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1328106 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-30 Dual Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5mbps) [1] => French Dolby Digital-Plus 2.0 ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => None ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Al Pacino won his first "Best Actor" Oscar for his brilliant portrayal of an overbearing, blind retired Lieutenant Colonel who hires a young guardian (Chris O'Donnell), to assist him. It's a heart-wrenching and heartwarming tale of opposites attracting when they embark on a wild weekend trip that will change the lives of both men forever. [preview_technology_specifications] => TBA [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => TBA [preview_forum_id] => 7359 [review_bottom_line] => Worth a Look [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] => 13017 [review_movie_stars] => 4.5 [review_movie] =>

Pop quiz: For which of the following movies did Al Pacino take home his first Academy Award -- 'The Godfather,' 'Serpico,' 'The Godfather Part II,' 'Dog Day Afternoon,' 'Glengarry Glen Ross,' or 'Scent of a Woman'? If you answered it was his portrayal of a tortured blind army officer in 'Scent of a Woman' that finally led the Academy to bestow Pacino with its highest honor, you answered right.

Pacino plays Frank Slade, a retired, middle-aged military man who's lost touch with his family and his former self. Embittered by his blindness, he enlists a young student named Charlie (Chris O' Donnell) to help him visit New York over a Thanksgiving break, and live life to its fullest for one day. Slade has reserved the most expensive hotel, and lined up a trail of amenities to make his twenty-four hour vacation one to remember, but he also has a secret reason behind the trip -- one that will put he and his young caregiver at odds.

But Charlie isn't just along for the ride -- he's haunted by the knowledge that a tough decision awaits him when he returns to prep school. Before he went on break, a group of students pulled a prank and the administration has discovered that Charlie and another student named George (Philip Seymour Hoffman) know the vandals identities. Under the threat of expulsion, Charlie must choose between the future of his education and betraying his ethics.

With a set-up so ripe with clichés, you might expect that 'Scent of a Woman' would sink under the weight of its own sentimentality, but director Martin Brest ('Meet Joe Black,' 'Beverly Hills Cop,' and 'Midnight Run') and Al Pacino are better than that. Crafting Slade into a complex creature who hides more beneath his rantings than simple anger, he becomes one of the most endearingly gruff characters of modern cinema. Pacino doesn't merely emote -- he inhabits Slade and makes his both his physical and emotional blindness truly heart wrenching.

The screenplay by Bo Goldman is also top notch, unfolding its intentions and plotting with finesse that helps vault the film into another league. For every genuinely funny moment (and the film provides a good number of laughs), there's a scene when I'm hushed to silence because the pressure of its circumstances are so palpable. Yes, 'Scent of a Woman' loses some momentum when Pacino is off camera, but the supporting actors do their best to match his talent and keep things interesting, and even in the movie's weaker moments, its clear that each scene is leading somewhere as the film barrels toward its tense final act.

At the end of the day, 'Scent of a Woman' is an easy recommend. Enjoyed by audiences and critics alike, the only people who should steer clear of this one are Pacino detractors (a vocal minority of film fans who feel he overacts when he's on screen). For everyone else, 'Scent of a Woman' is a shockingly introspective film that you'll be able to revisit again and again.

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 3155 [review_video] =>

If you just heard a sound, it was me breathing a huge sigh of relief. To be honest, considering Universal's recent track record with its older HD DVD catalogue titles, I didn't expect 'Scent of a Woman' to look all that great. Happily, however, this 1080p/VC-1 encode looks great, especially for a now fifteen year-old film.

Colors and contrast are bold, the New York City street scenes are crisp, and detail, skintones, and sharpness are all as they should be. To be fair, the film's 2003 DVD remaster was already quite good, but in a direct compare, this HD DVD clearly improves upon it, cleaning up the majority of artifacting, crushing, and noise that plagued that earlier release. In fact, the picture quality reminded me a lot of the recently released HD DVD of 'Born on the Fourth of July' which also benefited from a prior remastering for DVD.

Granted, there are still some trailing issues common to most catalogue titles that haven't been remastered specifically for their move to high-def. A few shots are a bit soft, and I randomly caught a few glimpses of minor edge enhancement. Black levels also sometimes level out at a dark gray, and the depth of field in the image occasionally wavers. Finally, there were a handful of instances where I noticed a smattering of noise and faint color banding, but it was never distracting.

In short, despite some minor issues, 'Scent of a Woman' looks better than ever and ranks among the best recent catalogue releases from Universal.

[review_audio_stars] => 3.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 3156 [review_audio] =>

Featuring a Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 surround mix (1.5 Mbps), unfortunately 'Scent of a Woman' is another title that just doesn't boast the type of material that might make it a go-to audio mix.

Still, this track certainly handles what it's given with technical prowess, delivering clear dialogue and subtle ambiance across the channels. And while the audio on this HD DVD edition of 'Scent of a Woman' doesn't blow the most recent standard DVD mix out of the water, it is more exact and alleviates some of the peaking problems in the standard release.

In short, fans won't find any major problems here to distract them from immersing themselves in the film. Just don't expect much in the way of a bombastic soundscape.

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

Strangely, 'Scent of a Woman' has never received the Special Edition treatment on DVD here in the US, and this HD DVD edition continues the tradition with absolutely no special features. No woo-ha for you, Universal...

[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] => 3157 [review_final_thoughts] =>

Featuring an Academy Award-winning performance from Al Pacino, 'Scent of a Woman' is a favorite of audiences and reviewers alike. Boasting a surprisingly strong video transfer and an audio mix that makes the most of what it's given, the overall grade for this one takes a hit due to its lack of supplements, but make no mistake -- 'Scent of a Woman' has never looked (or sounded) better.

) ) [1] => Array ( [review_id] => 810 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => streetsoffire [review_release_date] => 1185260400 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Streets of Fire [picture_created] => 1178992604 [picture_name] => streets-of-fire.gif [manufacturer_name] => Universal Studios Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/05/12/120/streets-of-fire.gif [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/810/streetsoffire.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1984 [run_time] => 94 [list_price] => 29.95 [asin] => B000QEIOU8 [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1328100 [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-15 Single-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5mbps) [1] => French Dolby Digital-Plus 2.0 Stereo (448kbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => None ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Action [1] => Adventure [2] => Music [3] => Romance ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Amy Madigan [1] => Willem Dafoe [2] => Diane Lane [3] => Michael Pare ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Walter Hill ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Amid a brooding rock & roll landscape, the Bombers motorcycle gang, led by the vicious Raven Shaddock (Willem Dafoe), kidnap diva Ellen Aim (Diane Lane). Her hope for rescue lies with unlikely heroes: soldier of fortune Tom Cody (Michael Pare) and his sidekick, the two-fisted beer-guzzling, McCoy (Amy Madigan). Joined by Ellen's manager, Billy Fish (Rick Moranis), the trio plunge headfirst into a world of rain-splattered streets, hot cars and deadly assassins. [preview_technology_specifications] => • Theatrical Trailer [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 7359 [review_bottom_line] => For Fans Only [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 12717 [review_movie_stars] => 3 [review_movie] =>

'Streets of Fire' was supposed to be one of the biggest hits of 1985, but instead it turned out to be one of the year's biggest bombs. Despite an avalanche of advance buzz (a supposedly guaranteed hit soundtrack, a lavish MTV premiere party, etc.), the kids of America just shrugged, rejecting the movie's merging of a retro-'50s aesthetic with an '80s music video sensibility.

The plot itself is so simplistic it almost seems like a joke. Against a "brooding rock & roll landscape," Raven Shaddock (Willem Dafoe) and his Bombers motorcycle gang decide to kidnap reigning rock diva Ellen Aim (Diane Lane). Her only hope for rescue lies with some unlikely heroes: soldier of fortune Tom Cody (Michael Pare) -- who also happens to be her ex-lover -- and his sidekick, the two-fisted beer-guzzling, McCoy (Amy Madigan). Joined by Ellen's manager, Billy Fish (Rick Moranis) and a sycophantic fan (E.G. Daily), the motley crew plunges headfirst into a world of rain-splattered streets, hot cars and deadly assassins.

Dubbed a "Rock & Roll Fable" by the film's marketing campaign, it's clear in hindsight why 'Streets of Fire' failed. Teens of 1985 were simply more interested in New Wave and Madonna than rockabilly and ducktail haircuts straight out of 'Grease 3.' The film's sock-hop throwback style just doesn't mesh with neon fashions and synth-rock, yet it panders far too much to the MTV crowd. Teenagers want to believe that they are discovering their own fads, and 'Streets of Fire' was just too desperate to be cool.

However, when it comes to off-the-wall cult movies, no bizarre deed goes unpunished -- or unrewarded -- and somehow over the years, this wacky, pre-fabricated mishmash has managed to find a small but appreciative audience on video. Indeed, I have to admit that there is a perverse pleasure to be had in watching Lane do a full-on Pat Benatar impression to a soundtrack comprised of majestic tunes composed by Stevie Nicks, the Fixx and Jim Steinman (of Meat Loaf "Bat Out of Hell" fame). And who in their right mind could have thought that dressing up Dafoe in a giant rubber pair of overalls (no joke) and having him attack Pare with a pick-axe was a good idea for the climax of an action movie? It's bizarre "touches" like this that give 'Streets of Fire' a quirky, cheesy charm all these years later.

And to be fair, the film does achieve some giddy heights when it stops trying so hard to be hip. While ultimately it may be less than the sum of its parts, there is no one element of 'Streets of Fire' that doesn't work on its own terms. The songs are aces, the cast looks great (especially Lane and Pare, who have genuine chemistry) and director Walter Hill ('The Warriors,' '48 Hrs.') certainly knows how to stage action.

Make no mistake, 'Streets of Fire' is so silly and obvious that many audiences are likely to hate it outright. But if you happen to have a penchant for weird cross-genre cinema pollinations (or just Willem Dafoe in rubber), you may just find 'Streets of Fire' to be an enjoyable, ridiculously stylish artifact of misguided '80s excess.

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

'Streets of Fire' was originally released on standard-def DVD way back in the early days of the format in 1998. It was presented in a non-anamorphic transfer (remember those?), and for the time, it wasn't bad. By today's standards, however, that disc is riddled with artifacts and the print is way too dark and soft, making 'Streets of Fire' a very worthy candidate for a high-def upgrade.

Thankfully, Universal appears to have struck up a new master for the film's HD DVD debut, as this 1080p/VC-1 encode is certainly an improvement. Gone is all the horrendous artifacting, and though the film is still somewhat grainy and gritty in spots (as it should be) it looks remarkably vibrant for a twenty-odd year-old flick. 'Streets of Fire' always shined due to its wonderful colors, and they look fantastic here. From the opening concert sequence to neon-splashed cityscapes, hues leap off the screen with excellent saturation and cleanliness.

Blacks and contrast also hold up very well, with only a bit of slight fading during some of the optical "wipes" that frame the film. The print still suffers from a bit of black crush in the shadows, but this appears to be largely a result of the original photography. There are also still some dirt and specks remaining on the master, but nothing severe. All in all, 'Streets of Fire' is far from a perfect remaster, but it looks pretty darn good for an '80s catalog title.

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

Adding to the MTV mystique of 'Streets of Fire' is its soundtrack. Though perhaps a bit too rockabilly in sensibility for its time (the sountrack's only big hit was its sole pop-oriented track, Dan Hartman's now-classic prom anthem "I Can Dream About You"), 'Streets of Fire' definitely cranks at high volumes. This Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 surround mix (1.5mbps) probably could have been better if it had been given the Dolby TrueHD or PCM audio treatment, but considering the limited appeal of a title like this, I suppose such a move wouldn't have been cost effective.

In any case, dynamics are pretty hot, even if the almost wall-to-wall rock songs make this largely a stereo mix. I was impressed by how much better the track sounded in terms of fidelity and depth compared to another recent mid-'80s pop-tactular release, Warner's 'Purple Rain' -- and that was presented in Dolby TrueHD. 'Streets of Fire' has tighter bass and punchier highs, and even the vocals sound clearer. At a decent volume, this disc definitely delivers some solid rock 'n' roll.

As a film soundtrack, however, envelopment is lacking. Aside from crowd noise during the concert sequences, etc., there is little in the way of sustained ambiance. The best it can muster up are some occasional straightforward if still prominent discrete effects, most during the couple of action sequences (most notably the raid on Raven's den, which has lots of explosions and gunshots) plus the aforementioned visual "wipes," which are accompanied by some wonderfully retro-cheesy '80s synth sounds.

All in all, 'Streets of Fire' definitely doesn't offer much of a surround experience, but fans probably only care about the tunes, and on that level this one delivers relatively well.

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

Universal has not included a single extra on 'Streets of Fire.' Seeing as Walter Hill contributed so extensively to the recent 'Warriors' remaster, I was hoping he might be up for some recollections here, but sadly, this cult film remains in desperate need of the special edition treatment.

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

There are no HD DVD content exclusives, either. However, Universal has included its MyScenes function, which allows you to bookmark your favorite segments for easy access even after you eject the disc out of the player.

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

'Streets of Fire' is a tremendously silly "rock 'n' roll fable," but it's got some great tunes, good action and an attractive cast. Plus, the sight of Diane Lane rocking out in a Pat Benatar-esque red leotard is worth the price of admission alone.

Boasting a nice remastered transfer and good Dolby Digital-Plus audio, this HD DVD delivers on the bottom line, but its deficiencies left me longing for a true special edition of this underrated guilty pleasure. Diehard fans will still want to pick this one up, but all others are probably best served saving this as a rental.

) ) [2] => Array ( [review_id] => 835 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => bourneidentity [review_release_date] => 1185260400 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => The Bourne Identity [picture_created] => 1178992843 [picture_name] => bourne-identity.gif [manufacturer_name] => Universal Studios Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/05/12/120/bourne-identity.gif [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/835/bourneidentity.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2001 [run_time] => 119 [list_price] => 29.99 [asin] => B000QEIOTO [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1328084 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.35:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => Picture-in-Picture Commentary [1] => Production Notes ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 [1] => 480p/i/MPEG-2 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc [2] => U-Control Enhanced ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5mbps) [1] => French Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (640kbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentary [1] => Featurettes [2] => Deleted Scenes ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Action [1] => Mystery [2] => Spy [3] => Thriller ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Brian Cox [1] => Chris Cooper [2] => Franke Potente [3] => Matt Damon ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Doug Liman ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => A man is picked up by a fishing boat, bullet-riddled and without memory, then races to elude assassins and recover from amnesia. [preview_technology_specifications] => TBA [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => TBA [review_editors_notes] => For more Jason Bourne in high-def, check out our HD DVD review of 'The Bourne Supremacy.' [review_bottom_line] => Recommended [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 12793 [review_movie_stars] => 3.5 [review_movie] =>

In 1980, Robert Ludlum published 'The Bourne Identity,' the first in a series of popular spy novels that would ultimately be loosely adapted for the big screen. The series tells the story of David Webb, a career foreign service officer and a specialist in Far Eastern affairs. Once a devout family man, tragedy leaves him with nothing, and so (thanks to the CIA and a bit of internal deception), Webb is reborn (get it?) as double agent Jason Charles Bourne. With its own mythology, devious villains and breathless plotting, 'Bourne Identity' spawned four subsequent best-sellers, with Ludlum joining James Bond author Ian Fleming as one of the most elite names in spy fiction.

When 'The Bourne Identity' finally hit movie theaters in 2002 (a year after Ludlum's death), it had an instant leg up over the aging James Bond movie series. Like Bond, Jason Bourne came with a built-in fanbase, but unlike Bond he was free from the shackles of a then-aging film franchise. Gone were the stale quips, campy villains, and ridiculous gadgets and special effects that strained Bond's modern-day credibility. Instead, by going back to basics and concentrating on what we all love about spy flicks (actual spying!) 'The Bourne Identity' may not have exactly re-invented the formula, but it did bring a seriousness and sense of purpose back to the genre.

As directed by Doug Liman ('Go,' 'Mr. & Mrs. Smith') and adapted by Tony Gilroy ('Dolores Claiborne,' 'Proof of Life'), 'Bourne Identity' is expertly plotted as a dramatic thriller, yet makes no sacrifices when it comes to top-notch action. Liman and Gilroy adroitly interweave Bourne's regaining of his memory with what he must do to stay alive, upping both the nail-biting suspense and the human drama -- we're on the edge of our seat not just to see if Bourne will make it out alive, but also to see which new secret of his past he'll unravel next.

No spy flick would be any good, of course, without a great spy, and Damon was an unlikely but very smart casting choice as Jason Bourne. Usually best suited for introspective, dramatic characters, Damon's understated approach works surprisingly well here, expressing his character's full arc of emotions (from bewilderment to anger to remorse) often with just a simple facial expression. Unlike the superheroes that pass for super-agents in some spy flicks (Tom Cruise in 'Mission: Impossible,' anyone?), Damon does not seem superhuman, yet at the same time he's no dainty, tea-sipping James Bond (sorry Pierce Brosnan). Fallible -- fragile, even -- Jason Bourne always seems to be in real danger, which only raises the stakes.

Perhaps best of all, 'The Bourne Identity' works just as well as a stand-alone adventure as it does the first chapter in a franchise. Though it seems unlikely that Jason Bourne will still be gracing cinema screens decades from now (Bond has little to worry about), it's rare to find a spy film that really leaves you eagerly awaiting the next chapter. As I wrote in my review of 'The Bourne Supremacy,' I thought the film's 2004 sequel was even better than the original, and the buzz swirling around the upcoming 'Bourne Ultimatum' is that it's just as strong. So if you've been waiting to catch up with the cinematic adventures Jason Bourne (or just want a quick refresher on the eve of the next sequel) 'The Bourne Identity' is one flick all spy fans are likely to enjoy deciphering.

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 2122 [review_video] =>

'The Bourne Identity' makes its HD DVD debut in a 2.35:1 widescreen 1080p/VC-1 transfer. Unusual for a film series (where different directors and intents often result in wildly disparate visual styles), both 'Bourne Identity' and its sequel 'The Bourne Supremacy' form a fairly well-matched pair.

While it seems doubtful that Universal has struck a new master since 'The Bourne Identity' first debuted on standard-def DVD in 2003, the source is clean and consistent, with the film's somewhat grainy texture looking film-like instead of irritating. The transfer does have a somewhat tweaked feel, with whites often on the verge of blowing out and a heavy black crush which can eradicate the finest details in the shadows. As a result, contrast seems exaggerated, though the sense of depth gets a boost.

Colors tend to be a bit muted, but that's due more to the film's style than it is any actual desaturation during the telecine. Blues, greens and some of the reds do have vibrancy (though don't expect any shiny pastels here) and are not noisy or smeared. The transfer is also sharp and above-average in terms of detail, and compression artifacts are not apparent.

All things considered, this one rates an appealing four-star video presentation.

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

Universal has produced a new Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 surround track (1.5mbps) for 'Bourne Identity,' although it's not a huge huge leap over the Dolby Digital and DTS tracks found on the previous standard-def DVD releases. An aggressive action flick like this really needs a new Dolby TrueHD or some other high-res audio track to truly excel, but for whatever reason, Universal didn't bother to create one.

That said, with a sound design that really highlights the depth and impact of its sound effects, 'The Bourne Identity' would probably sound great on any audio format. This track in particular boasts some very deep, killer low bass -- you'll feel every car crash, gunshot and explosion. Even the driving, hybrid techno score by John Powell (featuring contributions by Moby) is not only dispersed throughout the soundfield, but seems to accent its relentless percussive elements. At even decent volume, it often feels like a sonic juggernaut. Just as effective, the rears really light up during action scenes. Localization of discrete effects is excellent, with pinpoint accuracy of even minor sounds clear and distinct.

Unfortunately,'The Bourne Identity' is not wall-to-wall action, and it's in the more chatty stretches where this track disappoints, with relatively weak sustained atmosphere, and a flat soundfield that does little to support the film's cold and chilly locations.

While I'm still disappointed that Universal didn't spring for high-resolution on this HD DVD release, overall the Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 track still delivers the aural goods. Turn it up!

[review_supplements_stars] => 3.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 2123 [review_supplements] =>

It's hard to imagine a studio could milk a movie for standard-def DVD more times than Universal has this one. 'The Bourne Identity' has hit DVD three times over the last six years, first as a "Collector's Edition," then as a slightly retooled "Explosive Edition," and now (coinciding with this HD DVD release) as part of a dual-set release of both Jason Bourne films in a box set with a bonus disc thrown in of even more extras, dubbed "The Bourne Files."

Thankfully, Universal has culled extras from all three DVD releases for this next-gen edition, and thrown it all together with great high-def video and audio to create a single definitive HD DVD version of 'The Bourne Identity.' Aside from the forgettable text extras on the previous DVD releases, nothing seems to be missing here.

First we have a collection of eight featurettes pulled from the "Collector's Edition" and the "Explosive Edition." The 14-minute "The Birth of 'The Bourne Identity'" is standard-issue EPK fare, including on-set interviews with executive producer Frank Marshall, screenwriter Tony Gilroy, stars Matt Damon, Franke Potente and Clive Owen, plus more cast and crew members. Filled with the usual basic overview and plot recap, this one's pretty useless for anyone with more than a remedial knowledge of the Jason Bourne character.

The next batch of vignettes serve to acquaint us a bit more intimately with key personnel. "From Identity to Supremacy: Jason & Marie" (5 minutes) offers thoughts from Damon and Potente on their characters, as well as what's to come in 'Bourne Supremacy.' Far too short and commercial to be of much interest. "Access Granted: An Interview with Screenwriter Tony Gilroy" (4 minutes) sees the writer explain the challenges in adapting Ludlum's original novel to screen, particularly the (controversial) removal of a key character in the book. Finally, "The Bourne Mastermind" (6 minutes) introduces us to the late author Robert Ludlum via his two friends, editor Martin Greenberg and actor James Karen. Less about the creation of Jason Bourne, and more about Ludlum himself, this one offers much needed context on how the project came to be. (As you'll see below, some new features go even more in-depth on Ludlum.)

Two additional featurettes focus on the production. "The Speed of Sound" (4 minutes) interviews four of the film's sound designers. Too bad this is so basic that it never touches upon any particular scenes or effects at all. "Inside a Fight Sequence" (5 minutes) features some on-set production footage of director Doug Liman as he constructs a key scene with Damon and stunt coordinator Nick Powell.

Another two featurettes offer some background on the film's subject matter. "Cloak and Dagger: Covert Ops" (6 minutes) features one-time CIA agent Chase Brandon giving a very brief history of the organization, plus thoughts on just how realistic a character Jason Bourne is. "The Bourne Diagnosis" (3 minutes) is a quick chat with UCLA psychiatrist Reef Karim, who suggests that Bourne's amnesia in the film stretches the bounds of realism just a little.

Much better than all this rehashed older stuff is a fresh documentary on author Robert Ludlum taken from the "Bourne Files" disc included in the brand new standard-def DVD set. Running about 40 minutes and divided into three parts -- "The Ludlum Identity," "The Ludlum Supremacy" and "The Ludlum Ultimatum" -- this doc tells a very compact, fascinating story of Ludlum's rise as an author, through the success of the Jason Bourne novels, to how the Ludlum Estate was instrumental in guiding the production of the first two films. For any serious Jason Bourne fan, this three-parter offers some great background on the origins of this film franchise.

Next up is some excised material culled from both the "Collector's Edition" and the "Explosive Edition." Dubbed "Declassified Information," this section kicks off with four main Deleted Scenes totaling 7 minutes: "Private Jet," "Bourne and Marie by the Side of the Road," "Psychologist Discusses Bourne" and "Bourne and Marie Practice on Subway." None of these scenes are particularly interesting or enlightening, and were all arguably wise cuts. There is also a "Extended Farmhouse Sequence" that also doesn't offer much beyond what's in the flick. Finally, we have the Alternate Opening and Ending, which were much-touted on the "Explosive Edition." Shot in response to 9/11, the opener turns the whole flick into a flashback(!), while the ending is all touchy-feely and pretty bad. Offering a fresh 4-minute Introduction to this new material are Marshall, Gilroy and actor Brian Cox.

Rounding out the video goodies are two promotional items: the Moby music video for "Extreme Ways," plus the film's original Theatrical Trailer.

Saving the best for last, we have what is probably still the highlight all of the 'Bourne Identity' disc releases, the screen-specific audio commentary with director Doug Liman. Universal inexplicably dropped this track from the "Explosive Edition" (in fact, Liman doesn't appear on any of that set's extras), so it is great to see it return here. Though Liman has gained a reputation in Hollywood lately for being "difficult," he certainly gives great commentary. Precise, thoughtful and highly-informative, he talks extensively about just about every aspect of the film that a fan would want, from adapting the book to casting, throughout the tough shoot in foreign locales (complete with challenging, non-English-speaking crews) and complex effects scenes, to Liman's holistic approach to achieving the proper tone and feel of the movie via all its formal elements. A truly excellent track.

(Note that all of the above video-based material is presented in 480p/i/MPEG-2 video and it's generally pretty mediocre. Only the "Ludlum Chronicles" material is reformatted in 16:9, but it still looks like an 480 upconvert.)

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 2.5 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 2124 [review_bonus_content] =>

As was the case with its sequel, 'The Bourne Supremacy' (which, for whatever reason, Universal decided to release on HD DVD first), 'The Bourne Identity' contains several high-def exclusives.

The highlight is certainly the Picture-in-Picture commentary, which features a good portion of the interviews and behind-the-scenes footage already seen in the standard-def features listed above, plus some material that apparently hit the cutting room floor the first time around. While there's definitely some redundancy with what has come before (and the presence of director Doug Liman is painfully thin), this is such a well-edited track that I found it far preferable to watch this "digest version" of the supplements than going through the hassle of accessing them all individually. All the main points of the production are covered, the track is almost always screen-specific and there is rarely a moment of dead space. It may feel a bit like deja vu to diehard Bourne fans who've already watched much of this material on previous DVD releases, but this is exactly what a picture-in-picture commentary should be.

The second exclusive is "The Treadstone Files." Here, according to the disc's promotional materials, you can "explore the characters through nine interactive dossiers, track the action with GPS-enhanced satellite views of all the film's locations, and view top-secret Treadstone training material." In other words, you can read fakebios for all of the main characters, as well as pull up basic geographical information on the various cities in the movie. The "top-secret" Treadstone material is equally bland, and basically just feels like the synopses you can read on the back of any of Ludlum's books. At least the graphics are nice, but quite frankly, for me this kind of exclusive extra is pretty useless.

Note that 'The Bourne Identity' is enhanced with Universal's "U-Control," meaning that after activating the function, you can toggle either the Picture-in-Picture or "Treadstone Files" features (or both) on or off at anytime during playback of the main feature.

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

'The Bourne Identity' is a smart, mature and believable thriller that rejuvenated the spy movie genre for modern audiences. With Jason Bourne soon to make his third trip to the big screen with 'The Bourne Ultimatum,' now is a great time to re-live his first adventure on high-def.

Happily, Universal has put together a great HD DVD for this one. The transfer and soundtrack are four-stars all the way, and the studio has culled every major extra from all the various standard-def DVD releases into one nifty package. Following the already-released (and highly rated) HD DVD edition of 'Bourne Supremacy,' Universal is batting two for two with Jason Bourne.

) ) [3] => Array ( [review_id] => 844 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => contract_2006 [review_release_date] => 1185260400 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => The Contract [picture_created] => 1181330980 [picture_name] => the-contract.gif [manufacturer_name] => First Look Studios [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/06/08/120/the-contract.gif [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/844/contract_2006.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2006 [run_time] => 96 [list_price] => 32.98 [asin] => B000P0I4OY [amazon_price] => 24.69 [empire_id] => 1331020 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.35:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => Picture-in-Picture Commentary [1] => Bookmarking [2] => HD Trailers ) [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 5.1 Surround [1] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Featurette [1] => Still Gallery ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English Subtitles [1] => Spanish Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Crime [1] => Drama [2] => Thriller ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Morgan Freeman [1] => John Cusack [2] => Ned Bellamy [3] => Alice Krige ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Bruce Beresford ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => On a family outing, a grandfather, his son, and his grandson encounter a hired killer. [preview_technology_specifications] => • Featurette: "Inside 'The Contract'"
• Still Gallery
• Theatrical Trailer [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => • "First Look Inside Look" picture-in-picture video commentary [preview_forum_id] => 5833 [review_editors_notes] =>

Non-format specific portions of this review appear in our Blu-ray review of 'The Contract.'

[review_bottom_line] => Skip It [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] => 14247 [review_movie_stars] => 2 [review_movie] =>

Ah, the straight-to-video release. They're usually host to low budget sequels, post-grad film school projects, or films otherwise gone awry. For movie fans, they're often the equivalent to dropping your life savings on a losing roulette spin in Vegas. But when a straight-to-video release features lead actors like John Cusack and Morgan Freeman, it would immediately seem to have a little more credibility -- after all, that sort of star power has to make a better movie... right? Think again.

'The Contract' focuses on a struggling single-father named Ray Keene (John Cusack), who also happens to be an ex-cop. Desperately seeking to reconnect with his son Chris (Jamie Anderson), Ray arranges a camping trip for the two in the mountains. While hiking, the father and son come across two men struggling in the river -- one is a dying federal agent, and the other is his prisoner Frank (Morgan Freeman) who was being transported to a government facility before a rescue attempt sent their vehicle into the river. The agent gives Ray his gun and instructs him to bring Frank to the authorities, thus setting the rest of the plot in motion. Ray must now contend with Frank, patch up his relationship with his son, avoid a team of mercenaries hot on his tail, baby-sit some new campers who join them along the way, and squeeze in time for a budding love interest. If that sounds like a lot for one film, take note that that's just a summary of the film's main plot points.

While you might think that an A-level cast would be able to save an over-crowded and poorly conceived screenplay from becoming an awful film, 'The Contract' unfortunately loses all of its promise within the first ten minutes. Granted, Cusack and Freeman do a commendable-enough job with what they're given, but its not enough to credibly sell the film's characters or its situations. Actor-turned-director Bruce Beresford even fumbles key fundamentals like continuity, infusing the film with the tone and aesthetic of a cheap cable-television flick.

Rounding out the patchy experience are stale character beats (one of the villains continually pauses to play online chess in the forest on his laptop), aimless plot developments (the contrived introduction of a newly single-woman for our single-father), and generally clumsy action scenes -- a decent helicopter assault brought me out of my cinematic coma, but the car chases are the worst I've seen since the original 'Saw.' The only interesting moments in the film revolve around Frank's unexpected kindness to Ray and his son -- there's really a great film in this idea and I wish the entire story focused on this one aspect more coherently.

Most depressing of all is the fact that 'The Contract' blatantly rips scenes directly from other movies (the most transparent of which involves two mercs commandeering the helicopter -- a sequence that's nearly a shot for shot recreation of the same moment in 'Cliffhanger'). This sort of scene-plagiarism goes far beyond the realm of homage as it is repeated over and over again to the point of absurdity -- at one point, I found myself having a mildly good time just identifying the better films at the root of a majority of the scenes.

Unfortunately small pleasures like these are are the exception to the rule in 'The Contract,' as even hardcore fans of Cusack or Freeman's work are likely to struggle to find much to enjoy in this one. A cinematic dud on almost all counts, ultimately the only viewers that 'The Contract' may remotely appeal to are those with a fond sense of nostalgia for weaker '80s action.

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 3195 [review_video] =>

At least 'The Contract' offers a solid video presentation. The debut HD DVD release from indie distributor First Look Pictures, the technical quality of this 1080p/VC-1 transfer is a lot better than a lot of other high-def titles sitting next to it on store shelves. Colors are rich, blacks are inky, and the film has a nice three dimensional appearance in spite of inconsistent grain levels. Detail is impeccable and sharp enough to see every pore, hair, and leaf on the screen. There is a bit of noise that pops up in a handful of the nighttime scenes (watch the shots of the forest as Cusack stares out of the cabin window near the end of the film), but it isn't prevalent enough to be a distraction. In fact, at first glance, 'The Contract' seems to be doing everything right.

Alas, there are a few directorial decisions that are likely to make viewers see this as a less stunning presentation than it might have been. It appears as if the film was shot using a variety of different film stocks and lighting techniques, which leads to a somewhat disjointed visual experience -- some scenes have overblown contrast, a few are underexposed, and others are more naturalistic. Again, none of these issues appear to a reflection on the technical proficiency of the transfer itself, but they do make for an inconsistent and sometimes amateurish look. Still, overall, this is definitely an impressive first showing for First Look.

[review_audio_stars] => 2.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 0 [review_audio] =>

Featuring both a DTS 5.1 surround track and a Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 mix. the audio package also seems to suffer from the limitations of the production itself. Although the DTS mix is slightly louder, after some volume matching both tracks sounded identical to my ear.

On the plus side, dialogue is crisp and layered nicely in the soundscape, the bass is boomy and natural, and the dynamics don't have any major issues.

On the not-so-good side, effects and atmosphere generally sound unnatural, with gunfire and explosions clanging as if they were taken from a consumer-level sound effects CD, and ambiance reduced to obvious cracks and crackles that seem trapped in the rear channels alone. Most noticeably, channel movement is generic and pans slap from one speaker to the next without any subtlety or realism. While not a complete disaster, each of these issues made it progressively harder for me to immerse myself in the track as the film wore on, ultimately delivering an only mediocre sound presentation.

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

Porting over all of the extras from its concurrently-released standard DVD counterpart, this HD DVD release includes both a 22-minute featurette called "Inside the Contract" and a Photo Gallery.

Sadly, neither feature is terribly worthwhile -- the photos are nothing you won't find on the web, and the featurette is just your typical talking heads piece. Freeman and Cusack pop up once in a while, but their overwhelming absence suggested to me that they realized what sort of film the production was going to birth. Each actor names the other as the main reason for their involvement and I imagine them giving each other sidelong glances of regret as the shoot proceeded.

(Note that the featurette is presented in 480i/p only.)

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0.5 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 3196 [review_bonus_content] =>

Exclusive to this HD DVD release is First Look's "Inside Look," a picture-in-picture commentary feature of the sort that usually earns praise from me regardless of my thoughts on the film itself.

Unfortunately, in this case, it seems like the PiP commentary has been tossed together at the last minute and is comprised solely of repetitive material from the already-weak featurette. As such, there's very little content here, and, even worse, what is included rarely lines up with the on-screen scene -- discussions of action scenes take place during quiet moments, while comments about actors overlay completely different actors. The absolute worst of its kind, this supplement is PiP commentary is an absolute mess that isn't worth your time.

The disc also comes with a "Bookmarking" feature (which functions the same way Universal's "MyScenes" feature does) and a collection of high-def trailers for several other upcoming "First Look Releases."

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

Don't be fooled by the presence of John Cusack and Morgan Freeman in 'The Contract' -- even two actors of their caliber can't save this sinking ship. The video transfer on this debut high-def release from First Look Pictures is surprising good, but the audio and the supplemental packages both leave a lot to be desired. If you just can't resist seeing these two actors on screen, be sure to rent this one long before you consider buying it.

) ) [4] => Array ( [review_id] => 857 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => host [review_release_date] => 1185260400 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => The Host [picture_created] => 1179864374 [picture_name] => the-host-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Magnolia Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/05/22/120/the-host-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/857/host.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2006 [run_time] => 119 [list_price] => 34.98 [asin] => B000PKG8UG [amazon_price] => 24.49 [empire_id] => 1328134 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => HD Trailers ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD 30GB ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => Korean DTS-HD 5.1 Surround (1.5 Mbps) [1] => English DTS-HD 5.1 Surround (1.5 Mbps) [2] => Korean Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (448 kbps) [3] => English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (448 kbps) ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => English Subtitles [2] => Spanish Subtitles ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentary [1] => Featurettes [2] => Deleted Scenes [3] => Gag Reel [4] => Theatrical Trailer ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Action [1] => Horror [2] => Thriller ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Kang-ho Song [1] => Hie-bong Byeon [2] => Hae-il Park ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Joon-ho Bong ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => A mutant emerges from Seoul's Han River and focuses its attention on attacking people. [preview_technology_specifications] => TBA [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => TBA [preview_forum_id] => 6607 [review_editors_notes] => Non format-specific portions of this review also appear in our Blu-ray review of 'The Host.' [review_easter_eggs] =>

For a quick easter egg, go to the Special Features section and highlight the trailers button. Press right one time and click on the bloody handprint that appears. What comes next may go down as one of the most underwhelming easter eggs of all time -- it simply features Eamonn Bowles, the president of Magnolia Pictures giving his ten-second opinion of the film after a screening. Surprise! He loves the film his company paid to distribute.

Our thanks to Bababaloo for sending this one in.

[review_easter_eggs_added] => 1186588222 [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] => 13399 [review_movie_stars] => 4 [review_movie] =>

South Korean cinema has exploded over the last few years, with several of the country's young filmmakers consistently turning out top tier films that continue to surprise audiences on every continent. After premiering at the Cannes Film Festival in 2006, horror flick 'The Host' went on to smash box office records in its native country and remains the highest grossing South Korean film of all time.

The film tells the story of a family in South Korea whose lives are turned upside down when a mutant creature emerges from the Han River and begins attacking everyone in sight. The dysfunctional clan consists of Gang-du (Kang-ho Song), his young daughter Hyun-seo (Ah-sung Ko), his elderly father (Hie-bong Byeon), his uptight brother (Hae-il Park), and his sister (Du-na Bae), a masterclass archery champion. As the creature retreats with a full belly, it snatches Gang-du's daughter and takes her back to its home in the sewers. When the family discovers that Hyun-seo is still alive, they stage a daring rescue in the face of the creature and a panicking government agency.

In spite of its genre-bending tone, surprisingly, 'The Host' manages to maintain a steady, innate flow to its story. The performances are endearing and hilarious at the same time. The film seems to pride itself in the one thing that so many other horror flicks have forgotten in this age of CG realism -- credible character development. I found myself legitimately attached to this family of misfits, hoping against all odds that they would survive. When the creature lumbered their way, I grabbed the arms of my chair and held my breath -- no small feat for a horror junkie like myself.

Quieter moments between the family members are equally believable and charming -- so much so that I even found myself wondering if some of the actors were related. Their chemistry is wonderful and I was reminded of the love evident amidst the dysfunction in 'Little Miss Sunshine.' To its slight detriment, the script for 'The Host' does follow a few tangential sub-plots a bit too far for my taste, but generally the film stays quite focused despite everything that's going on.

So what about the creature? In a word, it's intimidating. The film's lower budget CG doesn't always hold up to the pristine standards of Hollywood effects, but the filmmakers fill in the technical gaps with a logical realism that's really quite breathtaking. When the beast first launches onto the screen -- attacking every fleeing pedestrian in its reach -- it moves so naturally and effortlessly that it becomes intrinsically frightening simply because it feels so authentic. When the creature slows to a crawl, its expressive face lets the audience know that it's thinking and deciding what to do next. And every time it exploded into a run, the beast seemed so inescapable that the resulting tension was enough to distract me from any visible seams in the special effects.

Critical praise for 'The Host' has been overwhelmingly positive -- it currently boasts a whopping 92% on Rotten Tomatoes and has received an avalanche of good press and audience word-of-mouth. Here's hoping that the film's success might serve as a wake-up call to American horror filmmakers -- despite its limited budget and seemingly insurmountable production trials, 'The Host' easily eclipses the vast majority of horror films that have been released in the States over the last decade.

I should mention that there has been a minor backlash against the film from those who feel that it is anti-American (American pollution and neglect is what causes the mutation). Director Bong Joon-Ho has gone on the record on several occasions to say that while the film does level mild criticisms against US policies, it's not intended to be anti-American in any way. For my own part, I don't think it's offensively critical at all and I probably wouldn't have even thought of this if I hadn't read about it first.

At the end of the day, I wouldn't go so far as to say that 'The Host' is "on par with 'Jaws'" (a Harry Knowles quote slapped on the front of the case), but fans of horror, comedy, and foreign films are sure to find a lot to love in the dark confines of this creature's sewers. If you didn't have a chance to see 'The Host' in theaters, don't miss the opportunity in high-def.

[review_video_stars] => 4.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 3173 [review_video] =>

Hitting both HD DVD and Blu-ray concurrently, Magnolia Home Entertainment has granted both high-def editions of 'The Host' with identical 1080p/VC-1 transfers, and both look extremely good.

A palette of bold colors immediately caught my attention and bring the film's South Korean locations to life. Black levels are also deep and add a welcome depth to the image. But it's the impeccable fine object detail that really wowed me -- you can see every facial pore, every misplaced hair, and the texture of every grimy smear on the actors. The picture is impressive from beginning to end and even stands tall when the lumbering CG creation is on-screen in the bright sun. The HD presentation does make the creature look slightly disjointed from the natural elements on screen (think of the way the CG sometimes stands out in 'King Kong'), but it's only because of the increased scrutiny the sharpness brings.

The only minor issues I had with the transfer were the result of directorial decisions and/or limitations of the production -- contrast is intentionally overexposed during day-lit scenes and there is some noise on a few fleshtones in dark shots (an effect that appears on Gang-du's face at one point when he shines a flashlight around the sewer near the end of the film -- but it's a result of the cameras used, not the transfer itself).

But never mind those nitpicks -- 'The Host' has a great picture that is sure to excite fans and that will hopefully attract some newcomers to the film in its high-def debut.

[review_audio_stars] => 4 [review_audio_picture_id] => 3174 [review_audio] =>

Unfortunately all things are not equal in the audio department. While the Blu-ray edition of 'The Host' boasts three sound mixes, this HD DVD only gets two -- and unfortunately it's the superior uncompressed PCM 5.1 surround mix that didn't make the cut.

The remaining two tracks are included on both high-def editions of 'The Host' -- a DTS-HD 5.1 surround track (1.5 Mbps) and a standard Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix (448 kbps).

In a direct comparison of all three tracks, the Blu-ray's PCM track clearly takes the prize, delivering crisper voices, deeper ambiance, and boomier bass than either of two tracks included here. That said, the DTS-HD track included here puts up a strong fight, and judged on its own merits is a very strong track. By contrast, the standard Dolby Digital track is definite let down, with tinny voices and peaking issues. (Note that both tracks included on this disc come in two flavors an English dub and an original Korean language mix.)

Looking at the DTS-HD track, dialogue is natural and only falters in the English dub (where the sound is clearly limited by the studio recording). The surround channels get a nice workout and create a suitably convincing soundfield that allowed me to immerse myself in the chaos and enjoy the crunching bones, shattering glass, and mingled screams typical of a horror film audio mix. Likewise, the sound effects used during the creature attacks are very impressive -- you can hear its skin squishing against the ground, and its feet crushing through a variety of materials.

Channel movement is occasionally stocky, but it's rarely a blaring distraction. In fact, the only major downside here has more to do with the quality of the sound design than the technical prowess of this DTS-HD track -- some of the effects sound canned and drift intentionally towards the comical.

Still, all things considered -- even with the missing PCM track -- this is an above average audio offering that should satisfy most fans, except perhaps audiophiles who insist on the best bells and whistles available.

[review_supplements_stars] => 2.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 3175 [review_supplements] =>

Although there are a good deal of supplements included in this HD DVD edition of 'The Host,' sadly Magnolia didn't see fit to port over all of the content from the previously released 2-disc Collector's Edition DVD.

Missing in action are a massive list of featurettes -- "Bong Joon-Ho's Direction," "Set Design," "Sound Effects," "Composing the Music," "Conceptual Artwork: The Birth," "Building the Creature: The WETA Workshop," "Why Did It Do That?," "The Crew," "The Staff," "The Production Team," "Film Production in Korea," "Casting Tapes," "The Extras Behind the Scenes," "Monster Appeal," "Additional Cast Interviews," "Extras Casting Tapes," and "Saying Goodbye."

With so much additional content available, it's really irksome that Magnolia didn't see fit to add a second disc to this HD DVD release. I just don't understand the justification behind punishing fans for picking the film up on high-def -- especially since it's more expensive than the 2-disc DVD.

On the bright side, all of the main supplements from the 2-disc Collector's Edition DVD have made it to this HD DVD edition, and on their own merits they still add up to an above average supplements package.

First up is an engaging English-language commentary from director Bong Joon-Ho, where he candidly discusses many different elements of the film and displays a likeable fascination with cinema. He talks about the difficulties behind the production, the limited budget, and the challenges of South Korean filmmaking. An uncredited friend in the room keeps the director moving when he gets stuck on one subject for too long, but also inadvertently adds a welcome conversational air to the commentary. All in all, Bong Joon-Ho provides an interesting glimpse into foreign productions outside of the Hollywood system and really gained my respect for his vision, his perseverance, and his ultimate accomplishment.

The first video-based supplement is "The Making of the Host" (28 minutes), which is divided into four sections -- a standard production featurette called "Making of the Host with Director Bong Joon-Ho" (10 minutes), an entertaining look at a tough shoot called "Memories of the Sewer" (10 minutes), a series of "Storyboards" (3 minutes) set to music from the film, and a glimpse at the "Physical Special Effects" (5 minutes). All of these featurettes are worth your time, but "Memories of the Sewer" was easily my favorite. The cast and crew received tetanus shots, but were also secretly slipped a cocktail inoculation to prevent them from getting dangerous tapeworms in the sewer.

After that you'll find another collection of featurettes dedicated to "The Creature" (50 minutes). This one is comprised of four sections that chart the creation of the monster -- "Designing the Creature" (12 minutes), "Animating the Creature" (10 minutes), "Puppet Animatronics" (7 minutes), and "Bringing the Creature to Life" (21 minutes). The section is thorough, but not exhaustive -- unfortunately key elements are missing from the standard DVD that leave out a lot of interesting information.

"The Cast" is separated into two featurettes -- "The Family: Main Cast Interviews" (4 minutes) and "Training the Actors" (5 minutes). Based on what we see of them here, it seems the film's actors are as endearing as their on-screen personas.

A lengthy "Gag Reel" (8 minutes) is more than the usual assortment of bad takes -- it includes altered special effects, post production interview bloopers, and more fun from the CG department.

A group of "Deleted Scenes" (8 minutes) is above average as well, and I thought each could have easily been retained in the film. Some of the cut scenes at the end even feature extra shots of the creature.

Finally, the film's "Korean Trailer" is also available. Like all of the other video-based features listed above, it is presented in 480i/p only.

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

The only exclusive content on this disc is a series of HD trailers for other previously-released Magnolia HD DVD titles, including 'District B13,' 'The Lost City,' and 'The World's Fastest Indian.'

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 4 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 3176 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'The Host' is a truly original take on the tired-and-true creature feature. Handling its characters and story with a balance of compasion and humor, it manages to be both a scary and affecting flick at the same time. This HD DVD edition of the film features an excellent video transfer and a solid DTS-HD track. The only real disappointment here is that Magnolia hasn't ported over the full suite of supplements originally included on the 2-disc Collector's Edition DVD. Still, the remaining extras are quite strong, and as an overall package this is still a great release.

) ) [5] => Array ( [review_id] => 816 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => yes_liveatmontreux [review_release_date] => 1185260400 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Yes: Live at Montreux [picture_created] => 1179611097 [picture_name] => yes.gif [manufacturer_name] => Rhino Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/05/19/120/yes.gif [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/816/yes_liveatmontreux.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2003 [run_time] => 138 [release_date_notes] => Postponed from June 26, 2007 [list_price] => 24.95 [asin] => B000QCS2U2 [amazon_price] => 16.95 [empire_id] => 1330759 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.78:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080i/VC-1 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD 30GB ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English DTS-HD 5.1 Surround (1.5 Mbps) [1] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5 Mbps) [2] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 2.0 Stereo ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => None ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Music ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Yes is one of the most innovative and successful rock bands of all time with a career that now spans five decades. In 2003 the band made their first appearance at the Montreux Festival, despite having a long association with the town itself (they recorded there frequently in the seventies). It was a triumphant night and is regarded by both the band members and fans as probably the finest Yes gig ever to be filmed. It has been much in demand and is now finally cleared for release. [preview_technology_specifications] => None [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [review_bottom_line] => Skip it [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] => 17646 [review_movie_stars] => 2.5 [review_movie] =>

London, 1968. England had started to turn away from the pop-track sounds of its home brewed version of rock n' roll as new, progressive rock bands emerged on the scene. Progressive rock had been developing since the early '60s, but had only gained notoriety with the birth of bands like Pink Floyd. These bands weren't interested in three minute radio songs that would catch the common ear -- instead, they wanted to challenge listeners with something unique.

It was under this backdrop that singer Jon Anderson teamed with bass guitarist Chris Squire to form what would become the legendary rock group, Yes. While the band went through a series of supporting musicians in its early years, by 1972 Anderson and Squire had assembled a powerhouse lineup comprised of blues guitarist Steve Howe, keyboardist Rick Wakeman, and former John Lennon drummer Alan White.

Throughout the '70s, the five members of Yes refused to settle for music that recording labels considered a sure bet -- instead, they used a combination of classically-influenced suites and bizarre rhythm shifts to highlight their personal blend of musical styles. Their music was complex, their lyrics were cryptic, and their attitude was one of brazen stylistic rebellion. The classic lineup remained more or less intact over the next decade, until the band formally split up in 1981 to pursue individual projects and pursuits.

As rock n' roll breakups go, however, Yes's proved short lived. Over the next two decades, the band re-formed in a multitude of different configurations with a mix of both new and old members, each attempting to reignite the flame that had so propelled it in its creative heydey of the '70s. In 2002, the band's classic lineup reunited for a world tour, and in 2003, all five classic members -- Anderson, Squire, Howe, Wakeman, and White -- took the stage at the Montreux Jazz Festival.

Captured with high-def cameras, this HD DVD edition of 'Yes: Live at Montreux 2003' presents that performance from the Montreux Jazz Festival.

I have to admit upfront to not being a huge fan of these sorts of cash-out performances from the reunited greats of rock 'n roll. While I recognize their appeal for die-hard fans, viewed outside of the warm glow of nostalgia, it's hard not to view them as a cynical exercise.

Watching 'Yes: Live at Montreux 2003,' I still had those feelings, although it would be hard to argue that the concert doesn't deliver on the bottom line. The 17-song setlist includes a long list of recognizable favorites from the band's classic era, including the tonally disjointed "Siberian Khatru," the multi-staged "And You and I," the ridiculously popular "Heart of the Sunrise," and the harmonic masterpiece, "Roundabout." And to their great credit (unlike the grimacing reunions of other rock greats), at least all of the band members seem to be enjoying themselves.

But while all the pieces may be in place for a great concert, there just isn't an on-stage chemistry linking the five band members. Anderson seems to sing in a haze and the songs are slower and more obvious than they were in their original recordings. Wakeman hardly looks up, Howe is happy to be left to his own solos, and White seems to spend more time smiling than he does pounding out the rhythms the band is known for.

Perhaps it's impossible for a seminal band like Yes to live up to the heightened expectations of a reunion concert two decades past their prime, but watching this disc, I couldn't help but feel that the intervening years had robbed the quintet of the passion that had made their music so groundbreaking. I can't deny a superficial satisfaction in seeing the classic members of Yes playing their greatest hits, but all things considered, this disc is likely to be of limited appeal to all but the band's most devoted fans.

The complete tracklist is as follows:

1) Siberian Khatru
2) Magnification
3) Don’t Kill The Whale
4) In The Presence Of
5) We Have Heaven
6) South Side Of The Sky
7) And You And I
8) To Be Over
9) Clap
10) Show Me
11) Rick Wakeman Solo Medley
12) Heart Of The Sunrise
13) Long Distance Runaround
14) The Fish
15) Awaken
16) I’ve Seen All Good People
17) Roundabout

[review_video_stars] => 3 [review_video_picture_id] => 3362 [review_video] =>

'Yes: Live at Montreux 2003' is presented in 1080i with the VC-1 codec. At first glance, like most shot-on-HD video, the colorful picture is lush and packed with plenty of sharp detail -- beads of sweat, textures in the clothing, and glints of light are crisply rendered on the screen. But as I watched the concert, I began to notice a number of issues that continued to degrade the picture throughout the performance.

Banding was the first problem to pop up and it's almost immediately followed by digital noise in the bright spotlights, pixilation on band members, and artifacting in the darkest corners of the stage. None of these hiccups are terribly distracting until Chapter 8 when the lights kick up, the primaries begin to bleed, and substantial crushing issues appear. Just watch the edges of Steven Howe's head and guitar throughout Chapters 8 and 9 -- at times, his skin seems as if it's made of Legos and the transfer has a difficult time distinguishing between his hair and the spotlight. The resulting mess is blocky and unbearably distracting.

To be sure, I've seen worse concert presentations, but I've also seen much better -- this one is decidedly middle of the road.

[review_audio_stars] => 2.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 3363 [review_audio] =>

Sadly, the audio quality on this disc is also a disappointment. 'Yes: Live at Montreux 2003' features three tracks -- DTS-HD 5.1 surround (1.5 Mbps), Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 surround (1.5 Mbps), and a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo mix. The clear winner between the three is the Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 mix -- it not only adds an increased stability to the treble ranges and guitar twangs, but it gives Jon Anderson's voice a fuller presence in the central channels.

Still, all three tracks rely far too heavily on the front three speakers, and fail to create any convincing level of immersiveness in the soundfield. The mix seems to pump the same sound out of each channel (albeit at different volumes) and there isn't any subtlety or nuanced design to the distribution of the music. The subwoofer is also particularly subdued compared to most concert releases. In the end, the sound package should be the most impressive element on a concert disc -- unfortunately, this HD DVD doesn't sound much better or more complex than a low-budget audio CD.

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

Mirroring the standard-def DVD release that preceded it, this HD DVD includes zero supplements.

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

Nothing.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 2 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 3364 [review_final_thoughts] =>

As a huge fan of early progressive rock, I was really hoping for a high-def winner with 'Yes: Live from Montreux 2003.' Unfortunately, I found the concert itself a passionless affair, and this HD DVD shares the same fate. The video presentation is technically problematic, the audio lacks punch, and there isn't a single supplement to be found. This one's for hardcore completists only.

) ) ) ) ) [July 10, 2007] => Array ( [reviews] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 804 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => billymadison [review_release_date] => 1184050800 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Billy Madison [picture_created] => 1178993286 [picture_name] => billy-madison.gif [manufacturer_name] => Universal Studios Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/05/12/120/billy-madison.gif [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/804/billymadison.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1995 [run_time] => 90 [list_price] => 28.95 [asin] => B000Q66QBA [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1326883 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => My Scenes ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 [1] => 480p/i/MPEG-2 (Supplements Only) ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5mbps) [1] => French Dolby Digital-Plus 2.0 Surround (640kpbs) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentary [1] => Deleted Scenes [2] => Outtakes ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Comedy [1] => Sport ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Bridgette Wilson [1] => Darren McGavin [2] => Adam Sandler ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Tamra Davis ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => He s the heir to the Madison Hotel millions but in order to win his father s respect, and his Fortune 500 company, grown-up goof-off Billy must repeat all 12 grades of school in just 24 weeks! Comedy superstar Adam Sandler stars in this laugh-a-minute hit. [preview_technology_specifications] => TBA [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => TBA [preview_forum_id] => 7004 [review_bottom_line] => Give It a Rent [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 11641 [review_movie_stars] => 3 [review_movie] =>

Perhaps more than any other comedian in film history, Adam Sandler has mined a lucrative career out of acting completely idiotic. Though there have been glimmers of intelligence and humanity in some of his work (particularly 'Punch-Drunk Love' and 'Click'), he's largely made his name being a doofus hero.

The pinnacle (or nadir, depending on your point of view) of Sandler's early cinematic efforts, 'Billy Madison' literally asks the question, "Are you smarter than a fifth grader"? Sandler stars as the titular low-IQ simpleton about to become the heir to the Madison Hotel millions. But one of the conglomerate's evil minions, Eric Gordon (Bradley Whitford) has other ideas, and fixes it so that in order for Billy to inherit his share of father's (Darren McGavin) fortune, he must to repeat all twelve grades of school. Can Billy earn his high school diploma in only 24 weeks, thwarting Eric's plot and finally winning the respect of dear old dad?

Though a little Sandler usually goes a long way for me, I will admit that I laughed a few times during 'Billy Madison' -- sometimes heartily. Sandler definitely has a knack for making even the lamest, most low-brow humor seem charmingly fun, just by the sheer innocence of his delivery. The grade school milieu is also a perfect playpen for his juvenile hijinks -- Sandler brings a sweetness to the material and wisely avoids most of the "retard jokes," etc. that often mar these types of flicks. 'Billy Madison' is certainly a one-joke premise, but Sandler manages to stretch it pretty successfully for 89 minutes.

Srill, I never found 'Billy Madison' to be genuinely clever or inspired. As strange as it may sound, there's an art to making smart satire out of cultural dumbness (see 'Pee-Wee's Big Adventure' or 'National Lampoon's Animal House'), but 'Billy Madison' never aims above the groin area. This is really the fault of the script, which pretty much wastes most of the supporting players and subplots. Though Whitford and especially McGavin (who was so memorable as the grumpy dad in 'A Christmas Story') are talented comic actors, they're given little to do here beyond overact in an effort to keep pace with Sandler. And the go-nowhere romance with Billy's hot teacher Veronica (Bridgette Wilson) seems like a deleted scene from another movie.

But bottom line, Sandler is pretty funny throughout most of 'Billy Madison.' If the sight of him doing a spastic dance to Culture Club's "I'll Tumble 4 Ya," or going postal on a group of fourth graders and pummeling them with dodgeballs is your idea of uproarious comedy, then this is your flick. I personally wish 'Billy Madison' was a little bit smarter, but as far as dumb, dumb, dumb movies go, you certainly could do a lot worse.

[review_video_stars] => 3.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 3035 [review_video] =>

Universal offers up a 1080p/VC-1 encode of 'Billy Madison,' presented in the film's original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen, and this is relatively solid catalog effort.

The main visual attraction here is the film's very colorful and kid-like design style. The photography is almost always bright and bold, with vivid primary hues that nearly assault the eyes. There is certainly more pop here on HD DVD than on the standard-def DVD, with colors quite robust (if occasionally noisy). The clean, bright whites also pump up apparent depth, while detail is fairly strong in daylight scenes.

This transfer lags, however, when it comes to shadow delineation. Fine details seem to get eaten by a harsh crush in the blacks, and film grain and noise tend to be exacerbated in darker scenes. The print is also not pristine, with a fairly consistent amount of dirt and white speckles evident. All in all, though, a decent catalog showing from Universal.

[review_audio_stars] => 2.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 0 [review_audio] =>

The audio on 'Billy Madison' is definitely nothing to write home about, even for a catalog release. Typical for a '90s comedy, the movie's sound design is flat and uninspired, and packs no surprises.

Surround use is meager. I counted about a handful of barely noticeable discrete effects, and the score's presence in the mix is also unimaginative. In fact, there's so little heft to the rear soundfield that this mix may as well be stereo. Dynamic range is serviceable, with flat bass and slightly cramped highs. Dialogue sounds fine enough, though much of the dialogue has that canned, looped feel. Decidedly mediocre.

[review_supplements_stars] => 1.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 3036 [review_supplements] =>

As usuall, Universal ports overall all of the standard-def extras to this 'Billy Madison' HD DVD, but in this case it's pretty slim package.

Both the 20 minutes worth of Deleted Scenes and the 4-minute reel of Outtakes are forgettable. Most of the scenes are extensions or alternate versions of existing material, while the bloopers are your standard flubbed lines and Sandler mugging for the crew. I think I giggled about one and a half times.

The best extra is certainly the screen-specific audio commentary with director Tamra Davis. I've always liked Davis, a filmmaker whose earlier indie efforts such as 'Guncrazy' seemed to suggest an edgier sensibility than she's been able to show in such more generic comedies like 'Billy Madison,' 'Half Baked' and the dreaded Britney Spears vehicle 'Crossroads.' She's relatively engaging here, but I was hoping for more insight into her tastes and approach to filmmaking. Instead, there are some boring dry patches, and lots of the typical props to Sandler and the kid actors. An inoffensive, but ultimately unmemorable, commentary.

(Note that all of the video material listed above is presented in 480i/MPEG-2 only.)

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

There are no HD DVD exclusives. Universal has, however, included its My Scenes function, which allows you to bookmark your favorite scenes for easy access even after you eject the disc from the player.

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

'Billy Madison' is a juvenile comedy in the grand tradition of 'National Lampoon's Animal House,' 'Caddyshack' and 'Christmas Vacation.' Although it is kind of sweet, I didn't find it to be as funny as most of Sandler's other comedies. This HD DVD is about as good as can be expected for a catalog release of this caliber. The video and audio are both fine, and the supplements generic. Sandler fans can probably pick this up with confidence, but otherwise this one's probably best confined to a rental.

) ) [1] => Array ( [review_id] => 806 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => dantespeak [review_release_date] => 1184050800 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Dante's Peak [picture_created] => 1178992950 [picture_name] => dantes-peak.gif [manufacturer_name] => Universal Studios Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/05/12/120/dantes-peak.gif [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/806/dantespeak.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1997 [run_time] => 109 [list_price] => 29.95 [asin] => B000Q66QAG [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 683065 [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 [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5mbps) [1] => French Dolby Digital-Plus 2.0 Surround (640kpbs) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentary [1] => Documentary [2] => Theatrical Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Action [1] => Disaster ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Charles Hallahan [1] => Linda Hamilton [2] => Pierce Brosnan ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Roger Donaldson ) [preview_technology_specifications] => TBA [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => TBA [preview_forum_id] => 7004 [review_bottom_line] => Worth a Look [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 11483 [review_movie_stars] => 3 [review_movie] =>

Following the runaway success of 'Twister' in early 1996, the late 1990s saw the first earnest Hollywood resurgence of the disaster flick since the genre's heyday in the '70s. Hits like 'Armageddon' and 'Deep Impact' would light up the box office through the rest of the decade, while of course James Cameron's epic 'Titanic' had steamrolled its way into the history books by the end 1997. Sandwiched somewhere between all these sinking ships and runaway tornados were two movies featuring gigantic amounts of scorching lava: the aptly-titled 'Volcano,' and first out of the gate, 'Dante's Peak.'

While 'Volcano' may have ultimately scored slightly more notoriety and a larger worldwide gross, 'Dante's Peak' is probably the better movie of the two. That's not saying much, of course, when you're dealing with an idea that in and of itself is completely inane. Given today's early-warning detection, the concept of any sort of "surprise" volcano eruption is a pretty tough one to get any audience to swallow. But while 'Volcano' simply wallowed in watching famous Los Angeles locations get toasted, 'Dante's Peak' takes its ludicrous premise seriously, exploiting the sheer stupidity of its situation and characters not for laughs but trumped-up pathos, and it's actually kind of endearing.

The plot itself is fairly straight-forward. Although the town of Dante's Peak was once dubbed the "second most desirable place to live in America," the arrival of geologist Dr. Harry Dalton (Pierce Brosnan) would seem to signal otherwise. Much to the dismay of mayor Rachel Wando (Linda Hamilton), Dalton believes the long-dormant volcano underneath the town is about to wake up -- and it's not going to be in a very good mood. With a none-too-subtle nod to the old 'Jaws' plotline of, "Hey, we're not gonna close the beaches!", most of the townsfolk are not too keen on seeing their livelihoods go up in smoke, but denial ceases to be an option as things get hot, oozy and deadly real quick.

I will freely admit to knowing next to nothing about geology, and to be fair, the filmmakers behind 'Dante's Peak' claim have consulted real-life volcanologists to ensure "scientific accuracy" in terms of what the movie's titular volcano could and couldn't do. Yet it seems to me that lava has only two speeds -- it either explodes out of the ground and instantly obliterates everything in its path, or it slowly oozes down a mountain at such a snail's pace that only the tourists taking pictures run any risk of injury. Still, time and time again, 'Dante's Peak' sets up situations that turn lava into a killer with more malevolent intelligence than Hannibal Lecter.

Needless to say, all of this makes just about every scene in 'Dante's Peak' pretty hilarious. Just don't tell that to director Roger Donaldson ('The World's Fastest Indian,' 'Species,' 'The Getaway'), who plays it all absolutely straight. In fact, he invests even the lamest cliches in the script with a craftsman-like approach that continually balances the action with its "realistic" plot -- as if we cared. But to his credit, he does know how to stage action well, and always keeps the sense of geography between the film's characters, locations and big ol' Dante well-organized and coherent (which is surprisingly rare in many of these more modern disaster flicks, which usually just throw a bunch of bad CGI up on the screen and see what sticks). The film's effects, too, hold up quite well despite a subsequent decade of major advancements, thanks to Donaldson's reliance on largely practical effects rather than computer-generated wizardry.

I also enjoyed the earnest performances. Although she never quite hit the A-list as she should have following her success in the 'Terminator' flicks, Linda Hamilton always attacks her roles (even the silly ones like this) with gusto and intelligence. Brosnan, too, is particularly impressive in a role that you have to think he took simply to cash the check. Acting in big-budget, impersonal action films like 'Dante's Peak' is usually a thankless task, so that fact that we even care one iota about either Brosnan or Hamilton is perhaps as big an accomplishment as all those special effects.

Ultimately, however, the key selling point of 'Dante's Peak' is that it works purely and simply on the level of good disaster porn. Anyone going into a flick like this only cares about seeing stuff explode and burn and melt -- especially stupid characters with all but the words "victim" stamped to their forehead. The plot is only there to get us to care enough so that by the time of the big fire and brimstone at the show's climax, we've suspended our disbelief long enough to think any of this actually matters. Sure, such a feat amounts to little more than a cinematic hat trick, but 'Dante's Peak' pulls it off with great efficiency.

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

'Dante's Peak' is the latest catalog HD DVD release from Universal, and is part of a recent spate of older titles that the studio seems to have dusted off to fill its next-gen pipeline. That said, this one is probably among the best of Universal's recent output. 'Dante's Peak' is a good-looking movie, with a dark but rich visual style highlighted by some decent special effects.

This 2.35:1 widescreen 1080p/VC-1 transfer comes from a solid source. There are no obvious print flaws, and if grain is more prevalent than a modern film it's important to note that 'Dante's Peak' was made right before the CGI boom, when even non-special effects are often whitewashed in post. Hence we get a film-like look, with vivid if natural colors. Hues aren't incredibly impactful, but they are clean -- especially the reds which hold tight. Contrast offers some nice depth, but is not over-the-top, and blacks are also rock solid. Note, however, that the transfer can be quite dark, so brigher scenes are what delivers the biggest punch. Detail is quite nice even by modern standards, and only a bit of edge enhancement gives the transfer a digital cast. All things considered, 'Dante's Peak' is a solid four-star catalog effort.

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

At the time of its original release on standard-def DVD almost ten years ago, 'Dante's Peak' boasted what was considered state-of-the-art sound. The source elements have of course aged a bit in the interim, with the kind of intense discrete action common on today's mixes lacking here. But nicely bumped up to Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 surround (at 1.5mbps), this HD DVD still delivers its fair share of sonic thrills.

'Dante's Peak' actually is more of a talky picture than you might think, hence the mix often feels a bit quiet and lacking in envelopment. That leaves it to the action scenes to pick up the slack, but thankfully they're pretty lively. Nature sounds and the studio-constructed lava/explosions are most prominent, with a nice overall heft to the rears and some near-seamless panning. The somewhat cheesy orchestral score by John Frizzell isn't as prominent in the mix as I would like, but there is enough expanse to the dynamic range to give a soaring quality to the highs and some real oomph to low bass. 'Dante's Peak' may not be demo quality by today's standards, but it will more than do.

[review_supplements_stars] => 2 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 0 [review_supplements] =>

When 'Dante's Peak' hit standard-def DVD in early 1998, it bore the distinction of being Universal's first-ever Collector's Edition release on the format, and I found watching these extras today a charmingly nostalgic experience.

"Getting Close to the Show: The Making of 'Dante's Peak'" is a rather lengthy 59-minute documentary covering the complete production. Sure, the making-of footage and especially the interviews have a cheesy look to them and the editing is kinda clunky, but without the snazzy, rapid-fire pacing of today's docs, there is an amicable, you-are-there kind of feel that's more intimate. Most of the major participants are featured, including Roger Donaldson, Pierce Brosnan Linda Hamilton and various tech folk, so this is a pretty solid overview for fans of the film.

A bit more dry is the audio commentary with Donaldson and production designer Dennis Washington. Concerned primarily with the "scientific accuracy" of the film and the effects, this fairly technical discussion includes some fascinating details about what real-life volcanoes are really capable of. I suppose I should be grateful that Donaldson didn't dig too deep into the "story" and characters (other than to give the usual props to the actors), as 'Dante's Peak' is about as deep as a lump of coal.

Rounding out the extras is the film's Theatrical Trailer, which like the rest of the video material is presented in 480p/i/MPEG-2 video only.

Note that Universal has trimmed several extras that were originally included on the standard-def DVD. Gone on this HD DVD edition are some additional cast interviews and making-of footage, storyboard comparisons, and all of the text-based extras, which included production notes and some (now terribly outdated) cast and crew bios.

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

There are no HD DVD exclusives. However, Universal has included its now-standard "MyScenes" function, which allows you to bookmark your favorite scenes for easy access even after you eject the disc from the player.

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

However inane it may be, 'Dante's Peak' is a fun movie that delivers enough action and meteoric melodrama to make it an easy recommend for disaster movie fans. As for this HD DVD release, while Universal clearly didn't put a great deal of effort into offering anything new, the video and audio hold up remarkably well. This is certainly one of the best of the studio's recent catalog releases, with the only real disappointment being the loss of several supplements from the previous DVD edition. All in all, though, not a bad deal, especially if you can get it at a discount.

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- 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] => 11736 [review_movie_stars] => 3.5 [review_movie] =>

I have to admit that at first I was surprised to see 'The War' released on HD DVD this early on in the format's existence. Having never seen the film, I assumed that the mid '90s niche drama had long been forgotten, but a quick web search proved my assumptions to be completely wrong. In fact, it seems 'The War' has relatively large and adoring fanbase -- and it's not without reason.

Set in 1970, the film stars Kevin Costner as Stephen Simmons, a veteran of the Vietnam War who returns to Mississippi in emotional shambles. He can't shake what he saw in the war and has a hard time keeping a job and caring for his children. His son, Stu (Elijah Wood), is a ten year old boy thrust into a rickety world who only wants to feel in control of his young life. Over the course of the film, young Stu will confront a variety of adult issues disguised in childhood trappings while coming to grips with his father's situation.

Although Kevin Costner turns in an impressive performance, 'The War' is really a coming of age story at its core, and its young actors generally show up the adults. In particular, Elijah Wood's portrayal of Stu is one of the most believable and emotionally genuine performances I've ever seen from a young actor.

Unfortunately, the film tends to lose ground when it pulls its focus away from Wood and his relationship with his father or his young companions. I couldn't help but be reminded of 'Stand By Me,' a similar film in tone and tale that rightly keeps its camera focused on the kids and their hardships. 'The War,' by comparison, can't seem to decide what it wants to spotlight -- a boy fighting against all odds, a father torn by war, a town split by racism, or a multitude of other things.

As a result, 'The War' ends up being something of a mixed bag. While the scenes centered around Stu have great energy and momentum, most of the rest of the film feels like it's treading water. Aside from Stephen's turmoil, the majority of the adult drama tends to drift toward sappy sentimentality. I know if I'd seen this film when it first hit theaters, I would have been the perfect age to soak it in and probably would have loved every minute. As it stands, I see too many of the thematic seams, making it difficult at times for me to fully enjoy the strokes of brilliance buried underneath.

All in all, 'The War' is certainly worth watching. Fans of the film will surely be more forgiving of its faults and will enjoy revisiting this familiar story about growing up. Newcomers may face a somewhat more uphill battle, but ultimately Wood's groundbreaking performance forgives the film of its sins. In either case, I doubt you'll regret spending two hours of your life with this one.

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 3038 [review_video] =>

'The War' is presented with a 1080p/VC-1 transfer that demonstrates a real knack for color saturation with the sun drenched palette of the film. Greens and reds are particularly vivid, and skintones have a natural southern warmth to them. Detail ranges from decent to excellent and tends to only falter with fine background elements like tree leaves and underbrush -- whereas skin, pores, freckles, and textures really shine and pop off the screen. There's a real stability to the picture that creates a nice illusion of depth that seems to really capture the feel of a summer spent in 1970s Mississippi.

However, there are several minor inconsistencies that combine to make this one slighly less than perfect. First off, the picture occasionally drifts between two extremes of sharpness -- some shots are too soft and others are haunted by edge enhancement. Secondly, nighttime scenes are sometimes tinted a dark gray instead of black, and seem to prone to bursts of noise (watch the scene with the fireworks at the tree-house to get a taste of both). Likewise, while grain levels remain pleasant during the majority of the daytime shots, they amp up when the sun goes down. Most noticeably, while the contrast is generally nice and three dimensional, there are a handful of occasions where contrast levels are faulty, resulting in murky whites and blacks that fail to make the entire picture as compelling as its better scenes.

When comparing this HD DVD to its standard DVD counterpart (an early disc that was heavily hindered by saturation issues, poor shadow delineation, and bouts of artifacting), this high-def release offers a significant visual upgrade for fans. So, if you've been looking forward to this release, you're likely to be pleased with the results.

[review_audio_stars] => 4 [review_audio_picture_id] => 3039 [review_audio] =>

Catalog titles of this vintage usually aren't blessed with the latest and greatest in audio mixes, but Universal has graciously granted this HD DVD edition of 'The War' with two audio mixes -- a more standard Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 track (1.5 Mbps), plus a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track.

Both tracks feature a credible soundfield that eerily recreates the sounds of summertime -- crickets and insects hum in the fields and every snapping twig and crunching leaf sounds genuine. Channel movement is soft and simple (making it a cinch to just sit back and enjoy the soundscape), and accuracy is impressive for such a small character-driven film.

Comparing the TrueHD to the Digital-Plus 5.1 track, the TrueHD mix showcases crisper dialogue, stronger ambiance, and richer musical tones in the soundtrack, but the film's relatively limited sound design just doesn't provide enough oomph to really demonstrate the full potential of a TrueHD mix. For the majority of the film, conversations, music, and ambient noises are the only things populating the soundscape.

Fans considering this HD DVD as an upgrade to the standard-def DVD won't be disappointed -- the audibly intricate details and the quality of both the TrueHD and Digital-Plus mixes easily trump the standard DVD.

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

Not a thing. Granted, the standard DVD (released in 1999) was a barebones edition as well, but at least it contained bios, production notes, and the film's theatrical trailer.

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

There aren't any content exclusives, but this HD DVD release of 'The War' does include Universal's standard "My Scenes" feature, allowing you to bookmark scenes for easy access (even after you eject the disc from the player).

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 3 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 3040 [review_final_thoughts] =>

Although 'The War' is far from a perfect film, an excellent performance by Elijah Wood keeps this one afloat. This HD DVD is even more barren of supplements than the earlier standard DVD, but fans of the film should be more than satisfied with the above average transfer and a great duo of audio mixes. At the end of the day, this one's certainly worth a rent and you can decide for yourself from there.

) ) [3] => Array ( [review_id] => 872 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => weddingdate [review_release_date] => 1184050800 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => The Wedding Date [picture_created] => 1178993063 [picture_name] => wedding-date.gif [manufacturer_name] => Universal Studios Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/05/12/120/wedding-date.gif [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/872/weddingdate.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2005 [run_time] => 90 [list_price] => 29.95 [asin] => B000Q66QAQ [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1326886 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => My Scenes ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080/VC-1 [1] => 480p/i/MPEG-2 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-15 Single-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5mbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentary [1] => Featurette [2] => Deleted Scenes ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Comedy [1] => Romance ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Amy Adams [1] => Dermont Mulroney [2] => Debra Messing ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Claire Kilner ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Single-girl anxiety causes Kat Ellis (Messing) to hire a male escort (Mulroney) to pose as her boyfriend at her sister's wedding. Her plan, an attempt to dupe her ex-fiancé, who dumped her a couple years prior, proves to be her undoing. [preview_technology_specifications] => TBA [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => tBA [preview_forum_id] => 7004 [review_bottom_line] => One to Avoid [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 11536 [review_movie_stars] => 2 [review_movie] =>

Proving once again that in the mind of Hollywood, there is nothing that gets a woman more excited than sex with a dollar value attached, 'The Wedding Date' is the latest big-studio produced light romantic comedy to use prostitution in its premise. Sort of a 'Pretty Woman' in reverse, this time it's the guy who is doing the hustling.

Debra Messing stars as Kat Ellis, another in a long line of beautiful and successful female movie characters who are unlucky in love. Despite just being dumped by her fiancee (Jeremy Sheffield), Kat must attend the wedding of her younger sister Amy (Amy Adams) to Edward (Jack Davenport). Rather than face the ridicule of her family and to get back at her ex-fiancee, she does what any sensible, modern woman would do -- she thumbs through the Yellow Pages to find a last-minute, "top drawer" male escort, Nick (Dermont Mulroney) to accompany her.

Of course it's right at this moment that 'The Wedding Date' loses any credibility it might have had. This is another one of those archaic movies that assumes that any single woman is a.) miserable without a man, and b.) deserving of scorn by society for being without a man. Rather than challenge such outdated notions, 'The Wedding Date' revels in them. Are we really to belive that the only cure for a failed relationship in modern America is to hire a hot gigolo who looks like Dermont Mulroney?

But despite its icky premise, 'The Wedding Date' avoids being patently offensive thanks to the quirky appeal of its star. Debra Messing is certainly the only real reason to see this film -- as she proved on eight seasons of "Will & Grace," she has an uncanny knack for making highly neurotic behavior seem absolutely charming. It is no small accomplishment to make this petty, insecure and often just plain whiny character seem likable, but Messing pulls off her first starring big-screen role with great aplomb. Even though she's given some of the most mundane lines of the film, she manages to make even the most cringe-inducing situations in 'The Wedding Date' seem whiplash smart.

Alas, the rest of the film doesn't equal her. While Mulroney has a rascally presence that works well in quirky indie films or when he plays a villain, as a romantic lead he comes up blank. He was the weakest part of the love triangle in his only real hit, 'My Best Friend's Wedding,' and here he just seems uninterested, leaving Messing to carry their romantic scenes on her own. For such a relatively dark character, Mulroney is also strangely neutered in this role -- all the rough edges seem polished off. His Nick is a hustler with the heart of a puppy dog.

Still, I didn't entirely dislike 'The Wedding Date.' As with so many modern romantic comedies, the leads are shoehorned into such a cliched, by-the-numbers plot that it's the supporting characters that shine. Oscar nominee Amy Adams in particular brings some real dimension to her role, while both Davenport and Sheffield might actually have been far better choices to give Nick the smoldering danger that Mulroney lacks.

Still, quirky ensemble and a few good scenes aside, Messing remains the only thing that keeps 'The Wedding Date' from completely evaporating into thin air. If you've ever wondered what would have happened if 'Pretty Woman' met "Will & Grace," here's your answer.

[review_video_stars] => 1.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 2444 [review_video] =>

Having grown accustomed to generally impressive high-def transfers for newer titles, the shockingly poor quality of The Wedding Date' really surprised me. The image was so grainy, noisy and jittery that for the first few minutes I thought I had a defective disc or something. This is easily one of the weakest major studio new releases I've yet seen on either HD DVD or Blu-ray.

What happened? Is it because Universal has crammed the feature and extras on a mere HD-15 single-layer disc? I don't know, but I haven't seen horizontal jitter and edge enhancement this noticeable on a high-def release on the 500-plus next-gen titles I've reviewed. There is also plenty of obvious noise throughout, and even some dirt. Blech.

On the bright side, the actual source material seems to be in good shape -- at least there are no major print defects, tears, etc. Blacks, too, are nice and firm, suggesting that it was somewhere along the telecine process where the major hiccups occurred.

And if this release proves anything, it's that even bad high-def can look better than good standard-def. Ignore the awful edge enhancement, and you'll find some decent depth to the image -- heck, a few shots even look quite good. Colors are also robust, especially reds. However, because the transfer is so tweaked, hues look a bit unreal and the whole affair suffers from a bad case of digital-itus. Fleshtones, too, are rather pink.

A few meager perks aside, all in all, 'The Wedding Date' is a date for high-def disaster.

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

Compared to the bad video, the audio on this HD DVD edition of 'The Wedding Date' seems like a million bucks, although of course that's not saying much. This English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 surround track (1.5mbps) is a perfectly fine affair, but the movie's dull sound design doesn't do it any favors.

Tech specs are fine, with solid low bass and nice-sound high-end. Dialogue is a bit shrill at times, though that may just be the acting style (Debra Messing in particular tends to screech a lot of her lines, so you may want to keep the volume down a notch or risk hearing loss). As you might expect from a romantic comedy, surrounds are flat -- there is barely any ambiance here, even during lively crowd scenes. Otherwise, the generic score is well-balanced in the mix, and there are no major audio problems to speak of (dropouts, wonky volume levels, etc.)

[review_supplements_stars] => 1.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 2445 [review_supplements] =>

Universal has drafted over all of the same extras on 'The Wedding Date' from the standard-def DVD, although it's not particularly hefty package, and is pretty myopic -- you may as well just call this The Debra Messing Show.

"A Date with Debra" is a personable 7-minute chat with the actress, although since she also contributes a full-length commentary for the film, this clip seems a bit redundant. Don't expect any special or unusual insights here, unless hearing Messing discuss the use of the word "oral" really floats your boat.

Next is a collection of eight Deleted Scenes, which run short at only about 10 minutes. Nothing here is particularly revelatory, with most just extraneous character bits wisely cut out of the film.

Finally, we have that screen-specific audio commentary with Messing. I don't think I've ever heard a track like this that didn't also feature at least someone on the filmmaking team, but apparently the only person important enough to 'The Wedding Date' was its star. To her credit, Messing is clearly intelligent and often quite insightful on this track. Oddly, though, it appears that most of the darker elements that drew her to the script were eventually cut out by the studio in order to make the movie more commercial. Messing also falls into the trap of lapsing into silence and simply watching the movie, which makes this one a bit of a slog at times. But when she brightens up, Ms. Debra is certainly appealing.

Note that all of the above video-based extras are presented in only 480i/MPEG-2 video.

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 2446 [review_bonus_content] =>

There are no HD DVD exclusives. However, Universal has included its "MyScenes" function, which allows you to bookmark your favorite scenes for easy access even after you eject the disc from the player.

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

'The Wedding Date' is a somewhat flawed lighthearted romantic comedy, but it gets by on the charm of its star Debra Messing. Unfortunately this HD DVD edition of the film is pretty bad. The video is perhaps the worst I've seen on a recent studio release, with loads of noise, jitter and edge enhancement. The audio and supplements are also no great shakes. If you want to see what bad high-def looks like, give this a rent -- otherwise, this is one to avoid.

) ) ) [reviews_hot] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 804 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => billymadison [review_release_date] => 1184050800 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Billy Madison [picture_created] => 1178993286 [picture_name] => billy-madison.gif [manufacturer_name] => Universal Studios Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/05/12/120/billy-madison.gif [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/804/billymadison.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1995 [run_time] => 90 [list_price] => 28.95 [asin] => B000Q66QBA [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1326883 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => My Scenes ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 [1] => 480p/i/MPEG-2 (Supplements Only) ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5mbps) [1] => French Dolby Digital-Plus 2.0 Surround (640kpbs) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentary [1] => Deleted Scenes [2] => Outtakes ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Comedy [1] => Sport ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Bridgette Wilson [1] => Darren McGavin [2] => Adam Sandler ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Tamra Davis ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => He s the heir to the Madison Hotel millions but in order to win his father s respect, and his Fortune 500 company, grown-up goof-off Billy must repeat all 12 grades of school in just 24 weeks! Comedy superstar Adam Sandler stars in this laugh-a-minute hit. [preview_technology_specifications] => TBA [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => TBA [preview_forum_id] => 7004 [review_bottom_line] => Give It a Rent [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 11641 [review_movie_stars] => 3 [review_movie] =>

Perhaps more than any other comedian in film history, Adam Sandler has mined a lucrative career out of acting completely idiotic. Though there have been glimmers of intelligence and humanity in some of his work (particularly 'Punch-Drunk Love' and 'Click'), he's largely made his name being a doofus hero.

The pinnacle (or nadir, depending on your point of view) of Sandler's early cinematic efforts, 'Billy Madison' literally asks the question, "Are you smarter than a fifth grader"? Sandler stars as the titular low-IQ simpleton about to become the heir to the Madison Hotel millions. But one of the conglomerate's evil minions, Eric Gordon (Bradley Whitford) has other ideas, and fixes it so that in order for Billy to inherit his share of father's (Darren McGavin) fortune, he must to repeat all twelve grades of school. Can Billy earn his high school diploma in only 24 weeks, thwarting Eric's plot and finally winning the respect of dear old dad?

Though a little Sandler usually goes a long way for me, I will admit that I laughed a few times during 'Billy Madison' -- sometimes heartily. Sandler definitely has a knack for making even the lamest, most low-brow humor seem charmingly fun, just by the sheer innocence of his delivery. The grade school milieu is also a perfect playpen for his juvenile hijinks -- Sandler brings a sweetness to the material and wisely avoids most of the "retard jokes," etc. that often mar these types of flicks. 'Billy Madison' is certainly a one-joke premise, but Sandler manages to stretch it pretty successfully for 89 minutes.

Srill, I never found 'Billy Madison' to be genuinely clever or inspired. As strange as it may sound, there's an art to making smart satire out of cultural dumbness (see 'Pee-Wee's Big Adventure' or 'National Lampoon's Animal House'), but 'Billy Madison' never aims above the groin area. This is really the fault of the script, which pretty much wastes most of the supporting players and subplots. Though Whitford and especially McGavin (who was so memorable as the grumpy dad in 'A Christmas Story') are talented comic actors, they're given little to do here beyond overact in an effort to keep pace with Sandler. And the go-nowhere romance with Billy's hot teacher Veronica (Bridgette Wilson) seems like a deleted scene from another movie.

But bottom line, Sandler is pretty funny throughout most of 'Billy Madison.' If the sight of him doing a spastic dance to Culture Club's "I'll Tumble 4 Ya," or going postal on a group of fourth graders and pummeling them with dodgeballs is your idea of uproarious comedy, then this is your flick. I personally wish 'Billy Madison' was a little bit smarter, but as far as dumb, dumb, dumb movies go, you certainly could do a lot worse.

[review_video_stars] => 3.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 3035 [review_video] =>

Universal offers up a 1080p/VC-1 encode of 'Billy Madison,' presented in the film's original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen, and this is relatively solid catalog effort.

The main visual attraction here is the film's very colorful and kid-like design style. The photography is almost always bright and bold, with vivid primary hues that nearly assault the eyes. There is certainly more pop here on HD DVD than on the standard-def DVD, with colors quite robust (if occasionally noisy). The clean, bright whites also pump up apparent depth, while detail is fairly strong in daylight scenes.

This transfer lags, however, when it comes to shadow delineation. Fine details seem to get eaten by a harsh crush in the blacks, and film grain and noise tend to be exacerbated in darker scenes. The print is also not pristine, with a fairly consistent amount of dirt and white speckles evident. All in all, though, a decent catalog showing from Universal.

[review_audio_stars] => 2.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 0 [review_audio] =>

The audio on 'Billy Madison' is definitely nothing to write home about, even for a catalog release. Typical for a '90s comedy, the movie's sound design is flat and uninspired, and packs no surprises.

Surround use is meager. I counted about a handful of barely noticeable discrete effects, and the score's presence in the mix is also unimaginative. In fact, there's so little heft to the rear soundfield that this mix may as well be stereo. Dynamic range is serviceable, with flat bass and slightly cramped highs. Dialogue sounds fine enough, though much of the dialogue has that canned, looped feel. Decidedly mediocre.

[review_supplements_stars] => 1.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 3036 [review_supplements] =>

As usuall, Universal ports overall all of the standard-def extras to this 'Billy Madison' HD DVD, but in this case it's pretty slim package.

Both the 20 minutes worth of Deleted Scenes and the 4-minute reel of Outtakes are forgettable. Most of the scenes are extensions or alternate versions of existing material, while the bloopers are your standard flubbed lines and Sandler mugging for the crew. I think I giggled about one and a half times.

The best extra is certainly the screen-specific audio commentary with director Tamra Davis. I've always liked Davis, a filmmaker whose earlier indie efforts such as 'Guncrazy' seemed to suggest an edgier sensibility than she's been able to show in such more generic comedies like 'Billy Madison,' 'Half Baked' and the dreaded Britney Spears vehicle 'Crossroads.' She's relatively engaging here, but I was hoping for more insight into her tastes and approach to filmmaking. Instead, there are some boring dry patches, and lots of the typical props to Sandler and the kid actors. An inoffensive, but ultimately unmemorable, commentary.

(Note that all of the video material listed above is presented in 480i/MPEG-2 only.)

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

There are no HD DVD exclusives. Universal has, however, included its My Scenes function, which allows you to bookmark your favorite scenes for easy access even after you eject the disc from the player.

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

'Billy Madison' is a juvenile comedy in the grand tradition of 'National Lampoon's Animal House,' 'Caddyshack' and 'Christmas Vacation.' Although it is kind of sweet, I didn't find it to be as funny as most of Sandler's other comedies. This HD DVD is about as good as can be expected for a catalog release of this caliber. The video and audio are both fine, and the supplements generic. Sandler fans can probably pick this up with confidence, but otherwise this one's probably best confined to a rental.

) ) [1] => Array ( [review_id] => 806 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => dantespeak [review_release_date] => 1184050800 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Dante's Peak [picture_created] => 1178992950 [picture_name] => dantes-peak.gif [manufacturer_name] => Universal Studios Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/05/12/120/dantes-peak.gif [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/806/dantespeak.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1997 [run_time] => 109 [list_price] => 29.95 [asin] => B000Q66QAG [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 683065 [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 [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5mbps) [1] => French Dolby Digital-Plus 2.0 Surround (640kpbs) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentary [1] => Documentary [2] => Theatrical Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Action [1] => Disaster ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Charles Hallahan [1] => Linda Hamilton [2] => Pierce Brosnan ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Roger Donaldson ) [preview_technology_specifications] => TBA [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => TBA [preview_forum_id] => 7004 [review_bottom_line] => Worth a Look [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 11483 [review_movie_stars] => 3 [review_movie] =>

Following the runaway success of 'Twister' in early 1996, the late 1990s saw the first earnest Hollywood resurgence of the disaster flick since the genre's heyday in the '70s. Hits like 'Armageddon' and 'Deep Impact' would light up the box office through the rest of the decade, while of course James Cameron's epic 'Titanic' had steamrolled its way into the history books by the end 1997. Sandwiched somewhere between all these sinking ships and runaway tornados were two movies featuring gigantic amounts of scorching lava: the aptly-titled 'Volcano,' and first out of the gate, 'Dante's Peak.'

While 'Volcano' may have ultimately scored slightly more notoriety and a larger worldwide gross, 'Dante's Peak' is probably the better movie of the two. That's not saying much, of course, when you're dealing with an idea that in and of itself is completely inane. Given today's early-warning detection, the concept of any sort of "surprise" volcano eruption is a pretty tough one to get any audience to swallow. But while 'Volcano' simply wallowed in watching famous Los Angeles locations get toasted, 'Dante's Peak' takes its ludicrous premise seriously, exploiting the sheer stupidity of its situation and characters not for laughs but trumped-up pathos, and it's actually kind of endearing.

The plot itself is fairly straight-forward. Although the town of Dante's Peak was once dubbed the "second most desirable place to live in America," the arrival of geologist Dr. Harry Dalton (Pierce Brosnan) would seem to signal otherwise. Much to the dismay of mayor Rachel Wando (Linda Hamilton), Dalton believes the long-dormant volcano underneath the town is about to wake up -- and it's not going to be in a very good mood. With a none-too-subtle nod to the old 'Jaws' plotline of, "Hey, we're not gonna close the beaches!", most of the townsfolk are not too keen on seeing their livelihoods go up in smoke, but denial ceases to be an option as things get hot, oozy and deadly real quick.

I will freely admit to knowing next to nothing about geology, and to be fair, the filmmakers behind 'Dante's Peak' claim have consulted real-life volcanologists to ensure "scientific accuracy" in terms of what the movie's titular volcano could and couldn't do. Yet it seems to me that lava has only two speeds -- it either explodes out of the ground and instantly obliterates everything in its path, or it slowly oozes down a mountain at such a snail's pace that only the tourists taking pictures run any risk of injury. Still, time and time again, 'Dante's Peak' sets up situations that turn lava into a killer with more malevolent intelligence than Hannibal Lecter.

Needless to say, all of this makes just about every scene in 'Dante's Peak' pretty hilarious. Just don't tell that to director Roger Donaldson ('The World's Fastest Indian,' 'Species,' 'The Getaway'), who plays it all absolutely straight. In fact, he invests even the lamest cliches in the script with a craftsman-like approach that continually balances the action with its "realistic" plot -- as if we cared. But to his credit, he does know how to stage action well, and always keeps the sense of geography between the film's characters, locations and big ol' Dante well-organized and coherent (which is surprisingly rare in many of these more modern disaster flicks, which usually just throw a bunch of bad CGI up on the screen and see what sticks). The film's effects, too, hold up quite well despite a subsequent decade of major advancements, thanks to Donaldson's reliance on largely practical effects rather than computer-generated wizardry.

I also enjoyed the earnest performances. Although she never quite hit the A-list as she should have following her success in the 'Terminator' flicks, Linda Hamilton always attacks her roles (even the silly ones like this) with gusto and intelligence. Brosnan, too, is particularly impressive in a role that you have to think he took simply to cash the check. Acting in big-budget, impersonal action films like 'Dante's Peak' is usually a thankless task, so that fact that we even care one iota about either Brosnan or Hamilton is perhaps as big an accomplishment as all those special effects.

Ultimately, however, the key selling point of 'Dante's Peak' is that it works purely and simply on the level of good disaster porn. Anyone going into a flick like this only cares about seeing stuff explode and burn and melt -- especially stupid characters with all but the words "victim" stamped to their forehead. The plot is only there to get us to care enough so that by the time of the big fire and brimstone at the show's climax, we've suspended our disbelief long enough to think any of this actually matters. Sure, such a feat amounts to little more than a cinematic hat trick, but 'Dante's Peak' pulls it off with great efficiency.

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

'Dante's Peak' is the latest catalog HD DVD release from Universal, and is part of a recent spate of older titles that the studio seems to have dusted off to fill its next-gen pipeline. That said, this one is probably among the best of Universal's recent output. 'Dante's Peak' is a good-looking movie, with a dark but rich visual style highlighted by some decent special effects.

This 2.35:1 widescreen 1080p/VC-1 transfer comes from a solid source. There are no obvious print flaws, and if grain is more prevalent than a modern film it's important to note that 'Dante's Peak' was made right before the CGI boom, when even non-special effects are often whitewashed in post. Hence we get a film-like look, with vivid if natural colors. Hues aren't incredibly impactful, but they are clean -- especially the reds which hold tight. Contrast offers some nice depth, but is not over-the-top, and blacks are also rock solid. Note, however, that the transfer can be quite dark, so brigher scenes are what delivers the biggest punch. Detail is quite nice even by modern standards, and only a bit of edge enhancement gives the transfer a digital cast. All things considered, 'Dante's Peak' is a solid four-star catalog effort.

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

At the time of its original release on standard-def DVD almost ten years ago, 'Dante's Peak' boasted what was considered state-of-the-art sound. The source elements have of course aged a bit in the interim, with the kind of intense discrete action common on today's mixes lacking here. But nicely bumped up to Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 surround (at 1.5mbps), this HD DVD still delivers its fair share of sonic thrills.

'Dante's Peak' actually is more of a talky picture than you might think, hence the mix often feels a bit quiet and lacking in envelopment. That leaves it to the action scenes to pick up the slack, but thankfully they're pretty lively. Nature sounds and the studio-constructed lava/explosions are most prominent, with a nice overall heft to the rears and some near-seamless panning. The somewhat cheesy orchestral score by John Frizzell isn't as prominent in the mix as I would like, but there is enough expanse to the dynamic range to give a soaring quality to the highs and some real oomph to low bass. 'Dante's Peak' may not be demo quality by today's standards, but it will more than do.

[review_supplements_stars] => 2 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 0 [review_supplements] =>

When 'Dante's Peak' hit standard-def DVD in early 1998, it bore the distinction of being Universal's first-ever Collector's Edition release on the format, and I found watching these extras today a charmingly nostalgic experience.

"Getting Close to the Show: The Making of 'Dante's Peak'" is a rather lengthy 59-minute documentary covering the complete production. Sure, the making-of footage and especially the interviews have a cheesy look to them and the editing is kinda clunky, but without the snazzy, rapid-fire pacing of today's docs, there is an amicable, you-are-there kind of feel that's more intimate. Most of the major participants are featured, including Roger Donaldson, Pierce Brosnan Linda Hamilton and various tech folk, so this is a pretty solid overview for fans of the film.

A bit more dry is the audio commentary with Donaldson and production designer Dennis Washington. Concerned primarily with the "scientific accuracy" of the film and the effects, this fairly technical discussion includes some fascinating details about what real-life volcanoes are really capable of. I suppose I should be grateful that Donaldson didn't dig too deep into the "story" and characters (other than to give the usual props to the actors), as 'Dante's Peak' is about as deep as a lump of coal.

Rounding out the extras is the film's Theatrical Trailer, which like the rest of the video material is presented in 480p/i/MPEG-2 video only.

Note that Universal has trimmed several extras that were originally included on the standard-def DVD. Gone on this HD DVD edition are some additional cast interviews and making-of footage, storyboard comparisons, and all of the text-based extras, which included production notes and some (now terribly outdated) cast and crew bios.

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

There are no HD DVD exclusives. However, Universal has included its now-standard "MyScenes" function, which allows you to bookmark your favorite scenes for easy access even after you eject the disc from the player.

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

However inane it may be, 'Dante's Peak' is a fun movie that delivers enough action and meteoric melodrama to make it an easy recommend for disaster movie fans. As for this HD DVD release, while Universal clearly didn't put a great deal of effort into offering anything new, the video and audio hold up remarkably well. This is certainly one of the best of the studio's recent catalog releases, with the only real disappointment being the loss of several supplements from the previous DVD edition. All in all, though, not a bad deal, especially if you can get it at a discount.

) ) [2] => Array ( [review_id] => 871 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => war [review_release_date] => 1184050800 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => The War [picture_created] => 1178993169 [picture_name] => the-war.gif [manufacturer_name] => Universal Studios Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/05/12/120/the-war.gif [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/871/war.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1994 [run_time] => 124 [list_price] => 29.95 [asin] => B000Q66QB0 [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1326885 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => My Scenes ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD 30GB ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround [1] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5mbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => None ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Drama [1] => War ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Kevin Costner [1] => Elijah Wood [2] => Mare Winningham ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Jon Avnet ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => A Vietnam War vet(Kevin Costner) must deal with a war of a different sort between his son and their friends, and a rival group of children. [preview_technology_specifications] => TBA [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => TBA [preview_forum_id] => 7004 [review_bottom_line] => Worth a Look [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] => 11736 [review_movie_stars] => 3.5 [review_movie] =>

I have to admit that at first I was surprised to see 'The War' released on HD DVD this early on in the format's existence. Having never seen the film, I assumed that the mid '90s niche drama had long been forgotten, but a quick web search proved my assumptions to be completely wrong. In fact, it seems 'The War' has relatively large and adoring fanbase -- and it's not without reason.

Set in 1970, the film stars Kevin Costner as Stephen Simmons, a veteran of the Vietnam War who returns to Mississippi in emotional shambles. He can't shake what he saw in the war and has a hard time keeping a job and caring for his children. His son, Stu (Elijah Wood), is a ten year old boy thrust into a rickety world who only wants to feel in control of his young life. Over the course of the film, young Stu will confront a variety of adult issues disguised in childhood trappings while coming to grips with his father's situation.

Although Kevin Costner turns in an impressive performance, 'The War' is really a coming of age story at its core, and its young actors generally show up the adults. In particular, Elijah Wood's portrayal of Stu is one of the most believable and emotionally genuine performances I've ever seen from a young actor.

Unfortunately, the film tends to lose ground when it pulls its focus away from Wood and his relationship with his father or his young companions. I couldn't help but be reminded of 'Stand By Me,' a similar film in tone and tale that rightly keeps its camera focused on the kids and their hardships. 'The War,' by comparison, can't seem to decide what it wants to spotlight -- a boy fighting against all odds, a father torn by war, a town split by racism, or a multitude of other things.

As a result, 'The War' ends up being something of a mixed bag. While the scenes centered around Stu have great energy and momentum, most of the rest of the film feels like it's treading water. Aside from Stephen's turmoil, the majority of the adult drama tends to drift toward sappy sentimentality. I know if I'd seen this film when it first hit theaters, I would have been the perfect age to soak it in and probably would have loved every minute. As it stands, I see too many of the thematic seams, making it difficult at times for me to fully enjoy the strokes of brilliance buried underneath.

All in all, 'The War' is certainly worth watching. Fans of the film will surely be more forgiving of its faults and will enjoy revisiting this familiar story about growing up. Newcomers may face a somewhat more uphill battle, but ultimately Wood's groundbreaking performance forgives the film of its sins. In either case, I doubt you'll regret spending two hours of your life with this one.

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 3038 [review_video] =>

'The War' is presented with a 1080p/VC-1 transfer that demonstrates a real knack for color saturation with the sun drenched palette of the film. Greens and reds are particularly vivid, and skintones have a natural southern warmth to them. Detail ranges from decent to excellent and tends to only falter with fine background elements like tree leaves and underbrush -- whereas skin, pores, freckles, and textures really shine and pop off the screen. There's a real stability to the picture that creates a nice illusion of depth that seems to really capture the feel of a summer spent in 1970s Mississippi.

However, there are several minor inconsistencies that combine to make this one slighly less than perfect. First off, the picture occasionally drifts between two extremes of sharpness -- some shots are too soft and others are haunted by edge enhancement. Secondly, nighttime scenes are sometimes tinted a dark gray instead of black, and seem to prone to bursts of noise (watch the scene with the fireworks at the tree-house to get a taste of both). Likewise, while grain levels remain pleasant during the majority of the daytime shots, they amp up when the sun goes down. Most noticeably, while the contrast is generally nice and three dimensional, there are a handful of occasions where contrast levels are faulty, resulting in murky whites and blacks that fail to make the entire picture as compelling as its better scenes.

When comparing this HD DVD to its standard DVD counterpart (an early disc that was heavily hindered by saturation issues, poor shadow delineation, and bouts of artifacting), this high-def release offers a significant visual upgrade for fans. So, if you've been looking forward to this release, you're likely to be pleased with the results.

[review_audio_stars] => 4 [review_audio_picture_id] => 3039 [review_audio] =>

Catalog titles of this vintage usually aren't blessed with the latest and greatest in audio mixes, but Universal has graciously granted this HD DVD edition of 'The War' with two audio mixes -- a more standard Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 track (1.5 Mbps), plus a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track.

Both tracks feature a credible soundfield that eerily recreates the sounds of summertime -- crickets and insects hum in the fields and every snapping twig and crunching leaf sounds genuine. Channel movement is soft and simple (making it a cinch to just sit back and enjoy the soundscape), and accuracy is impressive for such a small character-driven film.

Comparing the TrueHD to the Digital-Plus 5.1 track, the TrueHD mix showcases crisper dialogue, stronger ambiance, and richer musical tones in the soundtrack, but the film's relatively limited sound design just doesn't provide enough oomph to really demonstrate the full potential of a TrueHD mix. For the majority of the film, conversations, music, and ambient noises are the only things populating the soundscape.

Fans considering this HD DVD as an upgrade to the standard-def DVD won't be disappointed -- the audibly intricate details and the quality of both the TrueHD and Digital-Plus mixes easily trump the standard DVD.

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

Not a thing. Granted, the standard DVD (released in 1999) was a barebones edition as well, but at least it contained bios, production notes, and the film's theatrical trailer.

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

There aren't any content exclusives, but this HD DVD release of 'The War' does include Universal's standard "My Scenes" feature, allowing you to bookmark scenes for easy access (even after you eject the disc from the player).

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 3 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 3040 [review_final_thoughts] =>

Although 'The War' is far from a perfect film, an excellent performance by Elijah Wood keeps this one afloat. This HD DVD is even more barren of supplements than the earlier standard DVD, but fans of the film should be more than satisfied with the above average transfer and a great duo of audio mixes. At the end of the day, this one's certainly worth a rent and you can decide for yourself from there.

) ) [3] => Array ( [review_id] => 872 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => weddingdate [review_release_date] => 1184050800 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => The Wedding Date [picture_created] => 1178993063 [picture_name] => wedding-date.gif [manufacturer_name] => Universal Studios Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/05/12/120/wedding-date.gif [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/872/weddingdate.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2005 [run_time] => 90 [list_price] => 29.95 [asin] => B000Q66QAQ [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1326886 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => My Scenes ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080/VC-1 [1] => 480p/i/MPEG-2 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-15 Single-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5mbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentary [1] => Featurette [2] => Deleted Scenes ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Comedy [1] => Romance ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Amy Adams [1] => Dermont Mulroney [2] => Debra Messing ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Claire Kilner ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Single-girl anxiety causes Kat Ellis (Messing) to hire a male escort (Mulroney) to pose as her boyfriend at her sister's wedding. Her plan, an attempt to dupe her ex-fiancé, who dumped her a couple years prior, proves to be her undoing. [preview_technology_specifications] => TBA [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => tBA [preview_forum_id] => 7004 [review_bottom_line] => One to Avoid [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 11536 [review_movie_stars] => 2 [review_movie] =>

Proving once again that in the mind of Hollywood, there is nothing that gets a woman more excited than sex with a dollar value attached, 'The Wedding Date' is the latest big-studio produced light romantic comedy to use prostitution in its premise. Sort of a 'Pretty Woman' in reverse, this time it's the guy who is doing the hustling.

Debra Messing stars as Kat Ellis, another in a long line of beautiful and successful female movie characters who are unlucky in love. Despite just being dumped by her fiancee (Jeremy Sheffield), Kat must attend the wedding of her younger sister Amy (Amy Adams) to Edward (Jack Davenport). Rather than face the ridicule of her family and to get back at her ex-fiancee, she does what any sensible, modern woman would do -- she thumbs through the Yellow Pages to find a last-minute, "top drawer" male escort, Nick (Dermont Mulroney) to accompany her.

Of course it's right at this moment that 'The Wedding Date' loses any credibility it might have had. This is another one of those archaic movies that assumes that any single woman is a.) miserable without a man, and b.) deserving of scorn by society for being without a man. Rather than challenge such outdated notions, 'The Wedding Date' revels in them. Are we really to belive that the only cure for a failed relationship in modern America is to hire a hot gigolo who looks like Dermont Mulroney?

But despite its icky premise, 'The Wedding Date' avoids being patently offensive thanks to the quirky appeal of its star. Debra Messing is certainly the only real reason to see this film -- as she proved on eight seasons of "Will & Grace," she has an uncanny knack for making highly neurotic behavior seem absolutely charming. It is no small accomplishment to make this petty, insecure and often just plain whiny character seem likable, but Messing pulls off her first starring big-screen role with great aplomb. Even though she's given some of the most mundane lines of the film, she manages to make even the most cringe-inducing situations in 'The Wedding Date' seem whiplash smart.

Alas, the rest of the film doesn't equal her. While Mulroney has a rascally presence that works well in quirky indie films or when he plays a villain, as a romantic lead he comes up blank. He was the weakest part of the love triangle in his only real hit, 'My Best Friend's Wedding,' and here he just seems uninterested, leaving Messing to carry their romantic scenes on her own. For such a relatively dark character, Mulroney is also strangely neutered in this role -- all the rough edges seem polished off. His Nick is a hustler with the heart of a puppy dog.

Still, I didn't entirely dislike 'The Wedding Date.' As with so many modern romantic comedies, the leads are shoehorned into such a cliched, by-the-numbers plot that it's the supporting characters that shine. Oscar nominee Amy Adams in particular brings some real dimension to her role, while both Davenport and Sheffield might actually have been far better choices to give Nick the smoldering danger that Mulroney lacks.

Still, quirky ensemble and a few good scenes aside, Messing remains the only thing that keeps 'The Wedding Date' from completely evaporating into thin air. If you've ever wondered what would have happened if 'Pretty Woman' met "Will & Grace," here's your answer.

[review_video_stars] => 1.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 2444 [review_video] =>

Having grown accustomed to generally impressive high-def transfers for newer titles, the shockingly poor quality of The Wedding Date' really surprised me. The image was so grainy, noisy and jittery that for the first few minutes I thought I had a defective disc or something. This is easily one of the weakest major studio new releases I've yet seen on either HD DVD or Blu-ray.

What happened? Is it because Universal has crammed the feature and extras on a mere HD-15 single-layer disc? I don't know, but I haven't seen horizontal jitter and edge enhancement this noticeable on a high-def release on the 500-plus next-gen titles I've reviewed. There is also plenty of obvious noise throughout, and even some dirt. Blech.

On the bright side, the actual source material seems to be in good shape -- at least there are no major print defects, tears, etc. Blacks, too, are nice and firm, suggesting that it was somewhere along the telecine process where the major hiccups occurred.

And if this release proves anything, it's that even bad high-def can look better than good standard-def. Ignore the awful edge enhancement, and you'll find some decent depth to the image -- heck, a few shots even look quite good. Colors are also robust, especially reds. However, because the transfer is so tweaked, hues look a bit unreal and the whole affair suffers from a bad case of digital-itus. Fleshtones, too, are rather pink.

A few meager perks aside, all in all, 'The Wedding Date' is a date for high-def disaster.

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

Compared to the bad video, the audio on this HD DVD edition of 'The Wedding Date' seems like a million bucks, although of course that's not saying much. This English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 surround track (1.5mbps) is a perfectly fine affair, but the movie's dull sound design doesn't do it any favors.

Tech specs are fine, with solid low bass and nice-sound high-end. Dialogue is a bit shrill at times, though that may just be the acting style (Debra Messing in particular tends to screech a lot of her lines, so you may want to keep the volume down a notch or risk hearing loss). As you might expect from a romantic comedy, surrounds are flat -- there is barely any ambiance here, even during lively crowd scenes. Otherwise, the generic score is well-balanced in the mix, and there are no major audio problems to speak of (dropouts, wonky volume levels, etc.)

[review_supplements_stars] => 1.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 2445 [review_supplements] =>

Universal has drafted over all of the same extras on 'The Wedding Date' from the standard-def DVD, although it's not particularly hefty package, and is pretty myopic -- you may as well just call this The Debra Messing Show.

"A Date with Debra" is a personable 7-minute chat with the actress, although since she also contributes a full-length commentary for the film, this clip seems a bit redundant. Don't expect any special or unusual insights here, unless hearing Messing discuss the use of the word "oral" really floats your boat.

Next is a collection of eight Deleted Scenes, which run short at only about 10 minutes. Nothing here is particularly revelatory, with most just extraneous character bits wisely cut out of the film.

Finally, we have that screen-specific audio commentary with Messing. I don't think I've ever heard a track like this that didn't also feature at least someone on the filmmaking team, but apparently the only person important enough to 'The Wedding Date' was its star. To her credit, Messing is clearly intelligent and often quite insightful on this track. Oddly, though, it appears that most of the darker elements that drew her to the script were eventually cut out by the studio in order to make the movie more commercial. Messing also falls into the trap of lapsing into silence and simply watching the movie, which makes this one a bit of a slog at times. But when she brightens up, Ms. Debra is certainly appealing.

Note that all of the above video-based extras are presented in only 480i/MPEG-2 video.

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 2446 [review_bonus_content] =>

There are no HD DVD exclusives. However, Universal has included its "MyScenes" function, which allows you to bookmark your favorite scenes for easy access even after you eject the disc from the player.

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

'The Wedding Date' is a somewhat flawed lighthearted romantic comedy, but it gets by on the charm of its star Debra Messing. Unfortunately this HD DVD edition of the film is pretty bad. The video is perhaps the worst I've seen on a recent studio release, with loads of noise, jitter and edge enhancement. The audio and supplements are also no great shakes. If you want to see what bad high-def looks like, give this a rent -- otherwise, this is one to avoid.

) ) ) ) [July 3, 2007] => Array ( [reviews] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 602 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => blooddiamond [review_release_date] => 1183446000 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Blood Diamond [picture_created] => 1177401609 [picture_name] => blood-diamond-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/04/24/120/blood-diamond-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/602/blooddiamond.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2006 [run_time] => 143 [list_price] => 28.99 [asin] => B000MZHW1S [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1323955 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.35:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => In-Movie Experience [1] => Web-Enabled Content ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 [1] => 1080p/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] => Featurettes [2] => Music Video [3] => Theatrical Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => English Subtitles [2] => French Subtitles [3] => Spanish Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Drama [1] => Political [2] => Thriler ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Djimon Hounsou [1] => Jennifer Connelly [2] => Leonardo DiCaprio ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Edward Zwick ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => A fisherman, a smuggler, and a syndicate of businessmen match wits over the possession of a priceless diamond. [preview_technology_specifications] => • Audio Commentary by director Edward Zwick
• Documentary: "Blood on the Stone"
• Featurettes: "Becoming Archer," "Journalism on the Front Line," "Inside the Siege of Freetown"
• Music video: "Shine On Em" by Nas
• Theatrical trailer [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => • In-Movie Experience • Focus Points: Featurettes and Production Diaries • Web-Enabled Content [review_editors_notes] => Some non format-specific portions of this review originally appeared in our Blu-ray review of 'Blood Diamond.' [review_bottom_line] => Recommended [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 10870 [review_introduction] =>

Hitting HD DVD a full month after its Blu-ray debut, Warner's release strategy for 'Blood Diamond' is nothing if not unique.

As I originally wrote in my Blu-ray review of 'Blood Diamond,' Warner has been the most aggressive among its peers in releasing HD DVD titles with interactive features over the last year, but due to what the format-neutral studio has described as technical differences between the two next-gen formats, it has been unable to match those features on its Blu-ray releases. As a result, the studio has generally opted to hold off on releasing titles with such functionality to Blu-ray until it can provide those releases on the format with like-features.

Needless to say, leaving such high-def releases as 'Batman Begins' and 'The Ultimate Matrix Collection' as HD DVD-only titles, this strategy has led to some discontent among Blu-ray fans. With 'Blood Diamond' however, Warner took a different approach. While this HD DVD version of the title includes one of the studio's interactive "In Movie Experience" (IME) picture-in-picture tracks, as well as the studio's first web-enabled content to be included on a next gen disc, rather than holding off on the Blu-ray release as they've done in the past, the studio instead decided to release a pared-down Blu-ray edition of this title a month ahead of its HD DVD counterpart.

And so, as Blu-ray's thirty-day headstart comes to a close, and as this feature-packed HD DVD edition of 'Blood Diamond' finally hits stores, the question of the day for HD DVD fans is this: was it worth the wait? Read on...

[review_movie_stars] => 3 [review_movie] =>

It's probably safe to say that the big Hollywood "message movie" has fallen out of favor with most modern cinema-going audiences. The trend appeared to have peaked in the '80s, when extravagant epics with grand political aspirations were all the rage -- films like 'Gandhi,' 'Out of Africa,' 'Reds,' 'A Soldier's Story' and 'Dances with Wolves' earned countless Oscars, critical hosannas and big box office. But ultimately, a string of commercial disappointments ('Cry Freedom,' 'The Power of One,' 'Malcolm X' among them) seemed to put a damper on Hollywood's ambitions to tell sweeping political stories. As filmmakers turned to ever-more-fanciful stories and comic book adaptations to dazzle audiences, Hollywood all but abandoned what was once its bread and butter, and there doesn't seem to have been a major A-list message flick seen in theaters in years.

So it was with high hopes for a rejuvenation of this lost genre that 'Blood Diamond' first hit theaters last Christmas. Produced on a budget of over $100 million, it had all the earmarks of the kind of prestigious, high-minded epic that Hollywood used to consider a sure-fire blockbuster. Tackling the controversial topic of the lucrative blood diamond trade that left Africa on the brink of a civil war, it featured an all-star, Oscar-decorated cast (Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Connelly, Djimon Hounsou), shepherded by a director, Edward Zwick ('Courage Under Fire,' 'Last Samurai') famed for taking tough subject matter and making it palatable for the masses. But for whatever reason, 'Blood Diamond' failed to truly captivate critics and audiences, turning in a still-decent but unspectacular $56 million in domestic box office receipts.

'Blood Diamond' is certainly an ambitious effort, and is as much an intense (and unremittingly violent) thriller as it is a political polemic. Danny Archer (DiCaprio, with a thick Zimbabwian accent) is a mercenary, aware of the blood-stained trails of the diamond trade but simply too cynical to care. Soloman Vandy (Hounsou, again one of the most commanding screen presences around) is a farmer who will watch as his wife and child are kidnapped by one of the many bands of opportunistic local rebels who, covertly funded by the corporations behind the diamond trade, have no compunction against the robbing, raping and murdering of thousands in the name of profit. But after Vandy stumbles upon a fabled "blood diamond" worth millions, Archer will soon get wind of it and attempt to strike a deal. In exchange for the rescue of Vandy's family, Archer will be led to the location of the valuable gem.

In the middle of all this comes American photo-journalistic Maddy Bowen (Connelly). She's noble and ambitious, of course, but also a bit naive -- virtues that Archer immediately pounces upon. Bowen's journey will become a travelogue of atrocity, as she bravely endeavors to cover both the ravages the blood diamond trade is having on families like Soloman's, and the inter-workings of the mercenary trade that Archer reluctantly agrees to expose to her. The optimistic climax, if wholly unbelievable, is probably all that Hollywood could get away with considering the grim subject matter.

The script and Zwick are most successful in the use of parallel to heighten the drama between the three main characters. Soloman will do anything to rescue the family that was torn away from him; Archer watched his family be butchered at a young age and now avoids any emotional attachment at all; while Maddy has completely forsaken the very idea of a family unit to pursue nobility in her career. Likewise, the film gets great mileage out of using their opposing ideologies (or lack thereof) to craftily straddle all political viewpoints on the blood diamond conflict, thus (potentially) deflecting any critical charges of bias. DiCaprio and Connelly in particular shine best when their characters' butt heads with dialogue as warfare, tearing into each other like members of a high school debate team. Hounsou, conversely, seems to relish Solomon's innate belief that honor comes not from political affiliation but from the simple charge to take action. It is when the film tackles these thorny topics in fiercely human terms that it manages to genuinely stir our passions and hint at resonance.

'Blood Diamond,' however, eventually feels narratively constricted by its over-reaching intentions. The movie is at once overlong at 143 minutes and thus too sprawling to work as a crackerjack thriller, yet not long enough to achieve the grandeur and scope of the best political epics. It's a bit like a two-headed bulldozer that pummels you with intensely violent action cliches while trying to placate you with heavy-handed, didactic moralizing. Ironically, 'Blood Diamond' ultimately works best when it tones down the bombastic and tells, in simple terms, the story of a man trying to rescue his family. Perhaps had Zwick and 'Blood Diamond' tried a little less hard to tackle such a huge issue from all angles and just focused on its effects on one man, it might have achieved true greatness.

[review_video_stars] => 3 [review_video_picture_id] => 2322 [review_video] =>

'Blood Diamond's 2.40:1 transfer is presented in 1080p/VC-1 video, and predictably, it's an identical encode to the Blu-ray version released last month.

As I wrote in my review of the Blu-ray edition, despite some strong moments, this is a somewhat problematic presentation. Dark scenes have a gritty quality with plenty of obvious grain, which would be perfectly fine (it certainly mirrors the theatrical presentation I saw), however blacks appear to have been lightened up, which severely flattens depth. Noise can be quite intrusive as well, and some banding of fine gradients is also apparent. Colors, too, seem to vary, looking somewhat washed out in darker scenes but wonderfully vivid and lush in the film's many bright exteriors. Detail and sharpness are also clearly superior in outdoor scenes.

To be sure, there are some moments here that deliver a high-def experience as good as I've ever seen. And the print itself is in great shape -- in fact, it's just about pristine. Just don't expect a consistently stellar experience, as the video presentation on 'Blood Diamond' is uneven to say the least.

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

'Blood Diamond' enjoyed an excellent PCM presentation (48kHz/16-bit/4.6mbps) on the Blu-ray, and this HD DVD boasts a comparable Dolby TrueHD track (48kHz/16-bit). Though in the past I've found PCM tracks to get the slightest of edges in comparison with Dolby TrueHD, in this case I was hard-pressed to tell any difference. The HD DVD easily holds its own against the big Blu, with the film's loud, bustling sound design delivering an impeccable display of sonic fireworks on both next-gn editions.

As much an action film as it is a political drama, 'Blood Diamond' boasts plenty of gunfire and explosions throughout, plus a very percussive, African-flavored score by James Newton Howard that helps keep the energy level high. Low bass is terrific, with a deep and powerful but at the same time tight quality that excels at high volumes. Dynamic range is also very expansive, with a realism that's truly palpable. Dialogue is expertly recorded and perfectly balanced -- I was able to crank 'Blood Diamond' throughout without ever having to reach for the volume knob.

Surrounds, too, are very active. The wall of sound effect from the rears during action scenes is up there with the best soundtracks currently on high-def disc, even if the film doesn't maintain quite the level of sustained atmosphere on the level of, say, 'Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest.' Still, imaging is just about transparent, with discrete sounds directed to specific channels with pinpoint accuracy. When it comes to its audio presentation, 'Blood Diamond' certainly doesn't disappoint.

[review_supplements_stars] => 2.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 2323 [review_supplements] =>

'Blood Diamond' hit standard-def DVD earlier in 2007 as a two-disc set with a fairly sizable collection of extras. Both this HD DVD and the earlier Blu-ray mirror that experience with all of the standard-def extras, although both next-gen editions also deliver some notable high-def exclusives (see below).

Among the standard supplements, the highlight for me was the 50-minute documentary "Blood On the Stone." Having nothing directly to do with the production, it is instead a very disturbing expose by journalist Sorious Samura, who lost his brother to the blood diamond conflict. It's not for the faint of heart, with often horrendous images of the violence and bloodshed, as well as an unapologetically critical voice of the corruptive governmental and business forces that allowed a verifiable civil war to continue for so long. Even harder-hitting and often more moving than 'Blood Diamond' itself, this is the one must-watch on the disc. (Note that "Blood On the Stone" is the only extra on this entire set presented in 1080p video. However, much of the shot-on-DV footage looks like a 480 upconvert, so don't expect pristine quality.)

The three production featurettes pale by comparison. "Becoming Archer" (8 minutes) is a kissy-poo love-in for actor Leonardo DiCaprio; "Journalism on the Front Line" (5 min.) offers some light background on the Jennifer Connelly character; and "Inside the Siege of Freetown" (10 min.) dissects the film's most harrowing sequence. Unfortunately, all of these vignettes are too short to offer much more than banal insight, and the on-set interviews are the typical promotional fluff, off-set by way too many film clips.

Thankfully, the very strong screen-specific audio commentary with director Edward Zwick picks up the slack. It's really the only extra here where you'll learn anything of substance about the making of 'Blood Diamond.' I haven't always been a fan of Zwick's studied, even dour style when it comes to commentaries, but here he is clearly emboldened by a passion for the project that elevates the track. Though he can lapse into production minuate that gets a bit monotonous after a while, it's his clear understanding of the dynamics of the action and political threads of his storytelling that is most illuminating. Along with "Blood On the Stone," this is the other highlight of the set.

Wrapping things up are a full-screen music video for Nas' "Shine On 'Em," plus a single Theatrical Trailer, also in 480i/MPEG-2 video only.

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 4 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 2324 [review_bonus_content] =>

In comparing this HD DVD release to last month's Blu-ray, here's where things get a bit more interesting. Not only does this disc get an exclusive "In-Movie Experience" track, but it also features Warner's first-ever inclusion of web-enabled content on a next-gen disc.

First up: the IME. While the Blu-ray edition included 47 minutes worth of short (1- to 3-minute) "Focus Points" vignettes as a linear supplement, this HD DVD integrates that content into a new feature-length picture-in-picture video commentary track, which also includes additional behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with cast and crew.

This is a very strong track -- perhaps the best I've seen from Warner since 'Poseidon' (which may have been a bad movie, but it gave great IME). Director Ed Zwick has recorded brand-new video segments specific to the IME, and also included are new chats with producer Marshall Herskovitz, screenwriter Charles Leavitt and journalist Sorious Samura, plus on-set discussions with Leonardo DiCaprio, Djimon Hounsou and Jennifer Connelly. Zwick in particular is quite impassioned, and there is a wealth of information included here that builds very nicely upon his audio commentary.

The only oddity here is how Warner has chosen to integrate the Focus Points material. While all of the other content on the track is presented in typical IME fashion (simply activate the feature, sit back, and watch the commentary unfold along with the movie), whenever it comes time for one of the Focus Points segments, the IME picture-in-picture boxes fade out and a disc icon appears in the upper left corner of the screen. Clicking the "Enter" button on your remote will start the clip as a full screen branched video segment (encoded as full 1080p/VC-1). Once the respective vignette is done, you'll be returned back to the movie and the standard IME interface continues. While in terms of functionality this all works fine, I did find it a bit cumbersome to have to activate these segments each time. Note that if you chose not to activate a given Focus Point, the disc icon will disappear, and the other IME material resumes.

Now on to the web-enabled content. While we got a first taste of this from Bandai's release of the anime title 'Freedom 1' on HD DVD, this edition of 'Blood Diamond' marks the first time a major studio has included web-based content as part of one of their next-gen releases. (Note that you'll need a working Ethernet connection to enjoy the disc's live extras, as well as the latest firmware upgrade for your player.)

To start the fun, go to the web-enabled content option on the disc's Extras menu, hit the "Launch" button and (assuming your internet connection is working properly) you'll be taken to the Online Menu page, where there are four content options to peruse:

"Maps of Conflict" is really the only feature with any unique content about the movie itself, allowing you to interface with maps of Africa to see locations of current conflicts, diamond resources and child soldiers.

"'Blood Diamond' Polling" is basically a message board for the movie where you can connect with an online community to share your thoughts and feelings about the movie.

"WB Polling" is another message board-like feature where you can share your thoughts on current HD DVD titles from Warner, as well as what you'd like to see in the future. Hopefully, the studio itself will actually read the feedback!

Finally, "Now Available" is simply an announcement list of all current and officially confirmed Warner HD DVD titles.

Taken as a whole, while the interface is certainly nice and slick, there really is nothing included among these web-enabled extras that couldn't work just as well (or better) on the film's official website. The only clear bonus is that you can access this material directly from the comfort of your couch (although many of us have laptops with wireless connections, rendering the appeal of this moot). For me, what's more exciting is the potential of having this kind web-enabled content available as part of an IME-like feature. For example, being able to pull up the "Maps of Conflict" while watching the movie itself would really be something.

Still, Warner certainly gets points for effort, and hopefully 'Blood Diamond' is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to showing off the true potential of next-gen interactivity.

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

Part message movie, part action thriller, 'Blood Diamond' suffers from a bit of a split personality, but it still manages enough bracing emotional highs to make it worth the experience. It also features highly impassioned performances by Leonardo DiCaprio and Djimon Hounsou (both Oscar nominees) which are not to be missed.

The big news for HD DVD fans, though, isn't the movie but the disc. Though I wasn't all that pleased with the identical video transfer shared by both editions, the audio is great and so are the standard-def supplements. But where the HD DVD clearly outdistances its rival is with a great IME track (featuring additional content not included in the Blu-ray) and Warner's first-ever web-enabled content on a next-gen disc. While 'Blood Diamond' may only scratch the surface in terms of what's technically possible on a next-gen disc, even as is, it's a real gem.

) ) [1] => Array ( [review_id] => 788 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => untouchables [review_release_date] => 1183446000 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => The Untouchables [picture_created] => 1175668728 [picture_name] => the-untouchables-1987-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Paramount Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/04/03/120/the-untouchables-1987-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/788/untouchables.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1987 [run_time] => 119 [list_price] => 29.95 [asin] => B000OONQBC [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1317174 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.35:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 [1] => 480p/i/MPEG-2 (Supplements Only) ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English DTS-HD High Resolution 6.1 Matrixed Surround (1.5mpbs) [1] => English Dolby Digital Surround EX (1.5mbps) [2] => French Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (448kbps) [3] => Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (448kpbs) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Featurettes [1] => Theatrical Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles [2] => Spanish Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Crime [1] => Drama ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Kevin Costner [1] => Andy Garcia [2] => Sean Connery [3] => Robert DeNiro ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Brian De Palma ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => In THE UNTOUCHABLES, federal agent Elliot Ness leads a group of mob fighters with the intent of taking out the infamous Al Capone in 1930's Prohibition-era Chicago. Realizing that practical methods will not work in securing Capone's capture, Ness and his men resort to using even more force in order to take down the Chicago mob boss once and for all. [preview_technology_specifications] => • Featurettes: "The Script, The Cast," "Production Stories," "Reinventing the Genre," "The Classic"
• Vintage Featurette: "The Men"
• Theatrical Trailer [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 4687 [review_editors_notes] => Non format-specific portions of this review also appear in our Blu-ray review of 'The Untouchables.' [review_bottom_line] => Worth a Look [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 10187 [review_movie_stars] => 3.5 [review_movie] =>

By 1987, Brian De Palma had toiled for two decades in the lucrative (but critically derided) "ghetto" of low-and mid-budget genre filmmaking -- directing such films as 'Sisters,' 'Dressed to Kill,' 'Blow Out' and 'Scarface.' But while many of his films generated their fair share of attention, none were particularly profitable by Hollywood standards, and most were widely derided by critics as being far-too-derivative of Alfred Hitchcock.

So when Paramount announced it had signed De Palma to helm 'The Untouchables,' the news was met with more than a few raised eyebrows -- not only was De Palma an unproven choice for such a big-budgeted epic, but the political cynicism of his earlier works ('Blow Out' and 'Scarface' being prime examples) seemed out of whack with this most American of stories, set to be produced at the height of Reagan-era patriotism.

But defying all expectations, 'The Untouchables' turned out to be the director's first sure-fire crowd-pleaser, and the film would ultimately catapult him to the ranks of other bankable, A-list directors. As a fan of De Palma's darker, less commercial movies, I've always regarded 'The Untouchables' with some disdain, because (for me) it represents a softening of the director's sensibilities. Still, it's hard not to be left highly entertained by his Barnum & Bailey-esque cinematic showmanship in this film.

The story is likely familiar to most. Dectective Elliot Ness (Kevin Costner) is the new sheriff in town, brought in to clean up the seedier element of prohibition-era Chicago. Of course, only an arrow as straight as Ness would be courageous (or naive) enough to eventually pick notorious crime lord Al Capone (Robert De Niro) as his main target, but while the odds may be stacked against him, Ness has the American Way of law and order on his side. He also wisely enlists two veteran crime-stoppers as his right-hand men, Jim Malone (Sean Connery) and George Stone (Andy Garcia), plus the somewhat bumbling (but endearing) Agent Oscar Wallace (Charles Martin Smith). Needlesstosay, it will be a bloody battle between good and evil, but never underestimate the men riding in on the white horse.

While it's easy to draw visual parallels between 'The Untouchables' and other De Palma films, the most surprising departure for the director in this film is the tone he chooses to take -- rather than challenging the idealism of his characters (or of his story), for the first time in his career, he pumps it up to such heightened excess that there may as well be an American flag waving in the background of every scene.

Borrowing a page from the Francis Ford Coppola 'Godfather' playbook, De Palma also frequently infuses his scenes with melodramatic visual and aural excess. Connery's big, Oscar-winning exit as Malone is the kissing cousin of the original 'Godfather's climatic orgy of bloodshed and opera, while 'The Untouchables' piece de resistance -- the duel between Ness and Capone's minions at Union Station -- was famously patterned after the "Odessa Steps" sequence in 'The Battleship Potemkin.' While such filmmaking prowess places this film a million miles away from the original 1959 TV series "the Untouchables," a core sense of the show's '50s values remains, and perhaps that's why the big-budget movie version so resonated with '80s audiences.

Two decades on, 'The Untouchables' remains a great thrill ride. Though I find De Palma's filming techniques in the film a bit too showy at times -- they rarely serve the narrative, only themselves -- the script by David Mamet is literate and sharp as a tack. And while the film is "based" on Ness's own autobiography, the way it's written, shot and acted (particularly by Costner), makes it idealized, rosy and nostalgic. Extremely rare for a mob picture, 'The Untouchables' leaves the audience feeling hopeful and uplifted by a story that is riddled with bullets and brutal killings. Though I remain slighly uncomfortable seeing a hardcore crime story turned into nostalgic pastiche, I can't deny that it works, and that 'The Untouchables' remains great, great fun.

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

'The Untouchables' is the latest addition to Paramount's growing library of next-gen catalog titles, and as has been typical of the studio, it follows a recent standard-def remaster. 'The Untouchables' hit DVD back in 2003 as a souped-up two-disc special edition, and this HD DVD version appears to be minted from the same high-def master made for that release.

Holding up very well next to other recent Paramount remastered releases such as 'The Warriors' and 'Trading Places,' this 1080p/VC-1 encode (AVC MPEG-4 on the Blu-ray) looks pretty spiffy. The master is in very nice shape, and nearly pristine (only some very minor bits of dirt are visible, plus slight grain typical of the period). Blacks and contrast are a clear improvement over previous video versions, even the standard-def DVD re-issue, which was already strong. Detail similarly offers more readily visible fine textures, and the film's generally bright visual style lends itself to excellent depth and clarity. Colors are also more vibrant than the DVD, and though some of the deepest reds and darker interiors may stumble every so with a bit of fuzziness, in general saturation is very vivid.

What ultimately keeps this transfer from rating even more highly is that it has clearly been tweaked, and suffers from some edge enhancement as a result. Any film from 1987 is likely to be naturally softer than a modern transfer, but unfortunately, that seems to be a no-no these days when it comes to remaster catalog titles. There are consistent edge halos visible, as well as shimmering. Certainly, 'The Untouchables' looks wonderfully sharp throughout, but the cost is an artificial cast. Still, this is a four-star transfer, so caveats aside it's likely most fans will be more than pleased.

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

This HD DVD edition of 'The Untouchables' features two audio tracks -- the Dolby Digital Surround EX remaster from the 2003 two-disc DVD, plus an unannounced DTS-HD High-Resolution 6.1 Surround track (matrixed, not discrete). In atypical Paramount fashion, the bitrates on the HD DVD and the Blu-ray DTS tracks actually match this time at 1.5mbps (although the Dolby Digital on the Blu-ray still gets demoted to 640kbps, versus 1.5mbps for this HD DVD).

The mix is quite lively for its vintage, which allows for the difference between the DTS and Dolby EX tracks to be more noticeable than it would be on other older catalogue titles. The matrixed-in extra surround channel, combined with more dynamic sound design, leaves the DTS the clear winner over the Dolby EX mix.

Less gimmicky and obvious than most tracks of its era, 'The Untouchables' was state-of-the-art in 1987. Granted, surrounds are only sporadically engaged for action, but when they do kick in they're quite effective. The most obvious example is the Union Station sequence, which features some relly nice use of discrete effects. It is not as continually engaging as a modernaction blockbuster, but pans are fairly seamless between rear channels, and there is a nice sense of tonal realism to the sounds.

The excellent score by Ennio Morricone is wonderfully bled to the rears, and its swelling strings and deep percussive are certainly a highlight of this track. Dynamic range is impressive for a 1987 picture -- the explosion that anchors the first act features surprisingly hefty low bass, and similarly the rest of the also frequency range has a more open and spacious quality than most tracks of its era, with clean dialogue and a warm, airy feel to the high-end.

[review_supplements_stars] => 2 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 0 [review_supplements] =>

Long one of Paramount's most highly-requested titles to receive the Special Edition treatment on standard-def DVD, the studio finally gave fans what they wanted in 2004 with a well-received Special Collector's Edition. Paramount has ported over all those extras to the high-def versions, although purely in terms of quantity, the set is limited.

Alongside Steven Spielberg, Woody Allen and Warren Beatty, Brian De Palma is one of a handful of well-known directors who refuse to record audio commentaries -- hence, there is no such track included on this disc. Instead, longtime De Palma documentarian Laurent Bouzereau (who seems to do about 75 percent of all DVD supplements these days) has crafted another of his reverential, very classy full-docs on the making of 'The Untouchables.'

Running nearly 60 minutes, the doc is broken into four main parts. "The Script, The Cast" breaks down the film's conception and casting, and includes (relatively) new interviews with De Palma and producer Art Linson. Interesting tidbits included here are the fact that Robert De Niro was not the actor originally cast in his now-famous role of Al Capone, while Sean Connery surprisingly took some enticing to take the part that eventually won him an Oscar. "Production Stories" turns out to be focused primarily on the work of Director of Photography Stephen H. Burum, who also contributes a new chat. Though it's hard to imagine the film now as being in anything but vivid color, we learn in this peice that originally he wanted shoot the movie in black and white.

Next is "Reinventing The Genre," which may be the most interesting section. The bravura deaths of Connery and Charles Martin Smith are dissected, as is the setpiece Union Station sequence. But true fans will be most excited to hear about the deleted scenes cut from the movie (although sadly not presented as a stand-alone supplement), including a sequence with the four leads in a Canadian border raid, plus an alternate ending involving Capone. Lastly, "The Classic" is a tribute to the score by Ennio Morricone. The composer needs no introduction, and his work on 'The Untouchables' is undoubtedly a modern classic.

While all of the above featurettes excel in terms of presentation, with a well-paced balance of new interviews, film clips and rare production and still material, unfortunately, the number of participants is crippingly limited. Aside from De Palma, Linson and Burum, there are no other members of the main cast and crew present -- De Niro, Connery, Smith, Andy Garcia and Kevin Costner all only appear in old interview clips and footage. Their presence is sorely, sorely missed, making this set feels more like an extended director interview than a full-fledged documentary.

Rounding out this package is a lone vintage 1987 featurette, titled appropriately enough "Original Featurette: The Men." This dated 8-minute piece interviews all the main cast, including Costner, Connery and Garcia. Unfortunately, it was shot before the movie came out so is of interest only as a historical artifact.

Note that all of the above content is presented in 480i/MPEG-2 video only. The only full HD extra on the disc is the film's Theatrical Trailer, which is presented as a 1080p/VC-1 encode.

[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] =>

'The Untouchables' holds up as a very commercial, very entertaining mob picture, and this HD DVD release is a solid catalog effort from Paramount. Though I don't think the transfer provides as impressive an upgrade as recent studio titles like 'The Warriors' or 'Trading Places,' there is the surprise inclusion of a DTS 6.1 soundtrack, plus a nice batch of recycled making-of featurettes that are quite strong. 'The Untouchables' may not a top-tier HD DVD catalog release, but fans of the film should still be pleased with this one.

) ) [2] => Array ( [review_id] => 785 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => warriorsudc [review_release_date] => 1183446000 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => The Warriors: Ultimate Director's Cut [picture_created] => 1175668676 [picture_name] => the-warriors-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Paramount Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/04/03/120/the-warriors-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/785/warriorsudc.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1979 [run_time] => 93 [list_price] => 29.95 [asin] => B000OONQBM [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1317176 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 [1] => 480p/i/MPEG-2 (Supplements Only) ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5mbps) [1] => French Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (192kbps) [2] => Spanish Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (192kbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Director Introduction [1] => Featurettes [2] => Theatrical Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles [2] => Spanish Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Action [1] => Crime [2] => Thriller ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Michael Beck [1] => Deborah Van Valkenberg [2] => David Patrick Kelly [3] => James Remar ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Walter Hill ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => A gang called The Warriors are framed for killing a gang leader trying to unite all the gangs in the area. With other gangs gunning for them they must get back to the home turf of Coney Island... Alive. [preview_technology_specifications] => • Introduction by Walter Hill
• 4 Featurettes
• Deleted scene
• 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 Warriors: Ultimate Director's Cut.' [review_bottom_line] => Recommended [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 9764 [review_movie_stars] => 3.5 [review_movie] =>

'The Warriors' may be the only movie with a poster that's as notorious as the film it promoted. The image is now a classic -- a shot of a thousand gang members under a tagline that reads, "These are the Armies of The Night. They are 100,000 strong. They outnumber the cops five to one. They could run New York City." The resulting uproar over what effect the poster might have on impressionable young adults was so strong that the one-sheet would ultimately be pulled by Paramount, and replaced by a new poster that simply had the words "The Warriors" spray-painted on a subway wall.

Upon its original release in 1979, the film itself was no less controversial. Its mix of stylized mayhem, coarse language and seemingly wanton disregard for authority made it not just infamous, but downright dangerous. Violence broke out in a number of urban cinemas showing the movie, inciting the Moral Majority to call for the heads of the powers that be in Hollywood. All this for an essentially silly movie about gang members in funny costumes, hitting each other with plastic baseball bats. Ah, the good old days...

'The Warriors: The Ultimate Director's Cut' begins with a prologue informing us that what we are about to see is a retelling of classic Greek myth Anabasis, only updated to modern times. When prophet Cyrus (Roger Hill) calls all of the gangs of New York to a meeting in Central Park, it seems peace may at last be restored to the city's warn-torn streets. That is, until Cyrus is killed by the psychopathic Luther (David Patrick Kelly), who then frames one of the city's gangs -- the Warriors -- for the murder.

What follows for the Warriors is all-night, cross-city trek back to their home base in Coney Island. Along the way, an unlikely leader of the pack named Swan (Michael Beck) will emerge, guiding our anti-heroes through a series of misadventures and battles with rival gangs. Also on board for the ride is a local prostitute, Mercy (Deborah Van Valkenburgh), whose big mouth only serves to get the Warriors into more trouble. Can the gang make it back to Coney Island alive, save their reputation, and bring Luther to justice?

Watching it today, 'The Warriors' is, of course, horribly dated. The music, the clothes, the dialogue -- if any of these silly gang members with their painted faces and Xanadu hair were to walk the streets of New York today they'd almost surely get their asses whupped in thirty seconds. But that's what's so much fun about revisiting the film three decades on -- its cynical, world-weary attitude that at one time seemed so dangerous, now seems quaint and nostalgic. It's like watching a bunch of videogame characters bopping their way through an animated, stylized two-dimensional world, complete with a cheesy Casio synth-rock soundtrack.

The passage of time also allows us to better appreciate director Walter Hill's thematic goals for the film. With 'The Warriors' now impossible to take seriously as some sort of subversive call to violent rebellion, it can be seen as the stylized fantasy it was always intended to be.

It's worth noting that this Blu-ray edition of 'The Warriors' presents the 'Ultimate Director's Cut' of the film, which was originally released to DVD in 2005. Only about a minute longer than the original theatrical cut of the film, this edition includes several newly-animated transitional elements, in addition to the aforementioned prologue, all designed by Hill to drive home the point that 'The Warriors' was never intended to present a documentary realism.

[review_video_stars] => 4.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 2829 [review_video] =>

The original theatrical version of 'The Warriors' first hit DVD in the late '90s as a bare-bones disc release. I thought that transfer was quite good for a catalog title, but Paramount's 2003 'Ultimate Director's Cut' remaster was even better. Now, we have two high-def versions, with the studio re-issuing the film on both HD DVD and Blu-ray simultaneously. Happily, both high-def editions (each presented in 1080p/AVC MPEG-4) are truly excellent -- it's rare that I see a nearly thirty year-old film that looks this darn good.

The source has been cleaned up impressively -- just about every speck of dirt has been swept away, for a very slick, smooth look. Even the darkest scenes don't suffer from heavy grain, which is rare for a film of this vintage. Blacks are uniformly excellent, and contrast consistent -- the film really enjoys a newfound sense of depth and detail lacking in previous standard-def versions.

Colors are also superior, with a nice and vivid look that avoids any smearing or noticeable noise. Fleshtones, too, are surprisingly good -- gone is most of the pale, pink skin that marred the first DVD and certainly the horrid old VHS tape. Granted, 'The Warriors' still has a more natural use of light without a lot of the post-production processing common to a modern release, so detail and depth can flatten out in the shadows. Still, impressively for a title this old, fine texture is visible in even the darkest scenes, and black crush is not too harsh. To be sure, 'The Warriors' won't ever rival a fresh new release in picture quality, nor will it serve as the ultimate in high-def demo material, but for what it is, it's pretty awesome.

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

Though not as impressive as the video, the remastered Dolby Digital 5.1 track included here for 'The Warriors' isn't bad at all. In typical Paramount fashion, this HD DVD edition gets a 1.5mbps encode (versus 640kbps for the Blu-ray), although due to the limitations of the original source, the higher bitrate doesn't seem to make much of an audible difference in this case.

As such, both tracks share the same set of plusses and minuses. On the good side, dynamics are quite healthy for a flick this old. Low bass certainly doesn't rival 'Batman Begins,' but it does have enough punch to keep the energy level up. I was also impressed by how clean the high-end is -- gone are the hiss and flatness that so marred old video versions. Dialogue is also clear, and I didn't have any trouble understanding any of the New Yawk accents.

On the not-so-good side, the mix is still very front-directed. Rears are all but silent -- in fact, save for some obvious, digitally-processed whooshes (such as during the opening credit sequence) this may as well be a stereo mix. At least stereo separation is fairly wide, with clean pans between channels.

[review_supplements_stars] => 2.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 2835 [review_supplements] =>

'The Warriors' comes to high-def with the same extras as the 2005 standard-def 'Ultimate Directors Cut' release, and this is a straightforward but very informative package.

Since Walter Hill doesn't do audio commentaries, none are included here. Instead, famed documentarian Laurent Bouzereau (producer of choice for most Steven Spielberg and Alfred Hitchcock classics, among hundreds of others) was corralled to produce a new four-part overview of 'The Warriors.' Simple and lacking in flash, this one still delivers where it counts -- content.

There are four parts to the 62-minute doc. "The Beginning" (15 min.) chronicles the development through casting; "Battleground" (16 min.) covers the production and New York location shooting; "The Way Home" (18 min.) takes an in-depth look at the film's climax and its stylized violence and costumes; and "The Phenomenon" wraps it all up with some discussion of the film's legacy and parting thoughts from cast and crew.

As presented, the doc is quite thorough, and really benefits from a great cross-section of participants, including fresh interviews with Hill, producers Larry Gordon and Frank Marshall, castmembers Michael Beck, David Harris, James Remar, David Patrick Kelly and Deborah Van Valkenburgh, plus some key members of the tech crew. All are well-spoken and passionate about their involvement, citing very specific and memorable on-set stories as well as favorite scenes. Hill also provides some reasoning behind the animated additions to the 'Ultimate Director's Cut.' The only disappointment is that there is some talk about a whole deleted subplot involving a secondary character that was Mercy's original love interest -- unfortunately there are no deleted scenes on the disc, and our only glimpse of the material comes through some very brief stills. Still, this doc is aces.

The only other extra included is the aforementioned Theatrical Trailer, presented here in full high-def resolution. (Note that all of the documentary material is in 480p/MPEG-2 only. Bummer.)

[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] => 0 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'The Warriors' is an action-packed time capsule from a more innocent time when feathered-haired guys wearing burgundy leather vests could still be considered dangerous. It's still a great, high-octane ride, with a surprising amount of depth if you can see past its dated exterior. Paramount has done a fine job with this HD DVD release -- particularly the excellent video transfer. Granted, the audio is a bit more limited, but an excellent documentary helps ease the pain. This one is well recommended for any fan of gritty '70s flicks, street gangs or bad fashion.

) ) ) [reviews_hot] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 602 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => blooddiamond [review_release_date] => 1183446000 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Blood Diamond [picture_created] => 1177401609 [picture_name] => blood-diamond-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/04/24/120/blood-diamond-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/602/blooddiamond.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2006 [run_time] => 143 [list_price] => 28.99 [asin] => B000MZHW1S [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1323955 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.35:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => In-Movie Experience [1] => Web-Enabled Content ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 [1] => 1080p/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] => Featurettes [2] => Music Video [3] => Theatrical Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => English Subtitles [2] => French Subtitles [3] => Spanish Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Drama [1] => Political [2] => Thriler ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Djimon Hounsou [1] => Jennifer Connelly [2] => Leonardo DiCaprio ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Edward Zwick ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => A fisherman, a smuggler, and a syndicate of businessmen match wits over the possession of a priceless diamond. [preview_technology_specifications] => • Audio Commentary by director Edward Zwick
• Documentary: "Blood on the Stone"
• Featurettes: "Becoming Archer," "Journalism on the Front Line," "Inside the Siege of Freetown"
• Music video: "Shine On Em" by Nas
• Theatrical trailer [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => • In-Movie Experience • Focus Points: Featurettes and Production Diaries • Web-Enabled Content [review_editors_notes] => Some non format-specific portions of this review originally appeared in our Blu-ray review of 'Blood Diamond.' [review_bottom_line] => Recommended [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 10870 [review_introduction] =>

Hitting HD DVD a full month after its Blu-ray debut, Warner's release strategy for 'Blood Diamond' is nothing if not unique.

As I originally wrote in my Blu-ray review of 'Blood Diamond,' Warner has been the most aggressive among its peers in releasing HD DVD titles with interactive features over the last year, but due to what the format-neutral studio has described as technical differences between the two next-gen formats, it has been unable to match those features on its Blu-ray releases. As a result, the studio has generally opted to hold off on releasing titles with such functionality to Blu-ray until it can provide those releases on the format with like-features.

Needless to say, leaving such high-def releases as 'Batman Begins' and 'The Ultimate Matrix Collection' as HD DVD-only titles, this strategy has led to some discontent among Blu-ray fans. With 'Blood Diamond' however, Warner took a different approach. While this HD DVD version of the title includes one of the studio's interactive "In Movie Experience" (IME) picture-in-picture tracks, as well as the studio's first web-enabled content to be included on a next gen disc, rather than holding off on the Blu-ray release as they've done in the past, the studio instead decided to release a pared-down Blu-ray edition of this title a month ahead of its HD DVD counterpart.

And so, as Blu-ray's thirty-day headstart comes to a close, and as this feature-packed HD DVD edition of 'Blood Diamond' finally hits stores, the question of the day for HD DVD fans is this: was it worth the wait? Read on...

[review_movie_stars] => 3 [review_movie] =>

It's probably safe to say that the big Hollywood "message movie" has fallen out of favor with most modern cinema-going audiences. The trend appeared to have peaked in the '80s, when extravagant epics with grand political aspirations were all the rage -- films like 'Gandhi,' 'Out of Africa,' 'Reds,' 'A Soldier's Story' and 'Dances with Wolves' earned countless Oscars, critical hosannas and big box office. But ultimately, a string of commercial disappointments ('Cry Freedom,' 'The Power of One,' 'Malcolm X' among them) seemed to put a damper on Hollywood's ambitions to tell sweeping political stories. As filmmakers turned to ever-more-fanciful stories and comic book adaptations to dazzle audiences, Hollywood all but abandoned what was once its bread and butter, and there doesn't seem to have been a major A-list message flick seen in theaters in years.

So it was with high hopes for a rejuvenation of this lost genre that 'Blood Diamond' first hit theaters last Christmas. Produced on a budget of over $100 million, it had all the earmarks of the kind of prestigious, high-minded epic that Hollywood used to consider a sure-fire blockbuster. Tackling the controversial topic of the lucrative blood diamond trade that left Africa on the brink of a civil war, it featured an all-star, Oscar-decorated cast (Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Connelly, Djimon Hounsou), shepherded by a director, Edward Zwick ('Courage Under Fire,' 'Last Samurai') famed for taking tough subject matter and making it palatable for the masses. But for whatever reason, 'Blood Diamond' failed to truly captivate critics and audiences, turning in a still-decent but unspectacular $56 million in domestic box office receipts.

'Blood Diamond' is certainly an ambitious effort, and is as much an intense (and unremittingly violent) thriller as it is a political polemic. Danny Archer (DiCaprio, with a thick Zimbabwian accent) is a mercenary, aware of the blood-stained trails of the diamond trade but simply too cynical to care. Soloman Vandy (Hounsou, again one of the most commanding screen presences around) is a farmer who will watch as his wife and child are kidnapped by one of the many bands of opportunistic local rebels who, covertly funded by the corporations behind the diamond trade, have no compunction against the robbing, raping and murdering of thousands in the name of profit. But after Vandy stumbles upon a fabled "blood diamond" worth millions, Archer will soon get wind of it and attempt to strike a deal. In exchange for the rescue of Vandy's family, Archer will be led to the location of the valuable gem.

In the middle of all this comes American photo-journalistic Maddy Bowen (Connelly). She's noble and ambitious, of course, but also a bit naive -- virtues that Archer immediately pounces upon. Bowen's journey will become a travelogue of atrocity, as she bravely endeavors to cover both the ravages the blood diamond trade is having on families like Soloman's, and the inter-workings of the mercenary trade that Archer reluctantly agrees to expose to her. The optimistic climax, if wholly unbelievable, is probably all that Hollywood could get away with considering the grim subject matter.

The script and Zwick are most successful in the use of parallel to heighten the drama between the three main characters. Soloman will do anything to rescue the family that was torn away from him; Archer watched his family be butchered at a young age and now avoids any emotional attachment at all; while Maddy has completely forsaken the very idea of a family unit to pursue nobility in her career. Likewise, the film gets great mileage out of using their opposing ideologies (or lack thereof) to craftily straddle all political viewpoints on the blood diamond conflict, thus (potentially) deflecting any critical charges of bias. DiCaprio and Connelly in particular shine best when their characters' butt heads with dialogue as warfare, tearing into each other like members of a high school debate team. Hounsou, conversely, seems to relish Solomon's innate belief that honor comes not from political affiliation but from the simple charge to take action. It is when the film tackles these thorny topics in fiercely human terms that it manages to genuinely stir our passions and hint at resonance.

'Blood Diamond,' however, eventually feels narratively constricted by its over-reaching intentions. The movie is at once overlong at 143 minutes and thus too sprawling to work as a crackerjack thriller, yet not long enough to achieve the grandeur and scope of the best political epics. It's a bit like a two-headed bulldozer that pummels you with intensely violent action cliches while trying to placate you with heavy-handed, didactic moralizing. Ironically, 'Blood Diamond' ultimately works best when it tones down the bombastic and tells, in simple terms, the story of a man trying to rescue his family. Perhaps had Zwick and 'Blood Diamond' tried a little less hard to tackle such a huge issue from all angles and just focused on its effects on one man, it might have achieved true greatness.

[review_video_stars] => 3 [review_video_picture_id] => 2322 [review_video] =>

'Blood Diamond's 2.40:1 transfer is presented in 1080p/VC-1 video, and predictably, it's an identical encode to the Blu-ray version released last month.

As I wrote in my review of the Blu-ray edition, despite some strong moments, this is a somewhat problematic presentation. Dark scenes have a gritty quality with plenty of obvious grain, which would be perfectly fine (it certainly mirrors the theatrical presentation I saw), however blacks appear to have been lightened up, which severely flattens depth. Noise can be quite intrusive as well, and some banding of fine gradients is also apparent. Colors, too, seem to vary, looking somewhat washed out in darker scenes but wonderfully vivid and lush in the film's many bright exteriors. Detail and sharpness are also clearly superior in outdoor scenes.

To be sure, there are some moments here that deliver a high-def experience as good as I've ever seen. And the print itself is in great shape -- in fact, it's just about pristine. Just don't expect a consistently stellar experience, as the video presentation on 'Blood Diamond' is uneven to say the least.

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

'Blood Diamond' enjoyed an excellent PCM presentation (48kHz/16-bit/4.6mbps) on the Blu-ray, and this HD DVD boasts a comparable Dolby TrueHD track (48kHz/16-bit). Though in the past I've found PCM tracks to get the slightest of edges in comparison with Dolby TrueHD, in this case I was hard-pressed to tell any difference. The HD DVD easily holds its own against the big Blu, with the film's loud, bustling sound design delivering an impeccable display of sonic fireworks on both next-gn editions.

As much an action film as it is a political drama, 'Blood Diamond' boasts plenty of gunfire and explosions throughout, plus a very percussive, African-flavored score by James Newton Howard that helps keep the energy level high. Low bass is terrific, with a deep and powerful but at the same time tight quality that excels at high volumes. Dynamic range is also very expansive, with a realism that's truly palpable. Dialogue is expertly recorded and perfectly balanced -- I was able to crank 'Blood Diamond' throughout without ever having to reach for the volume knob.

Surrounds, too, are very active. The wall of sound effect from the rears during action scenes is up there with the best soundtracks currently on high-def disc, even if the film doesn't maintain quite the level of sustained atmosphere on the level of, say, 'Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest.' Still, imaging is just about transparent, with discrete sounds directed to specific channels with pinpoint accuracy. When it comes to its audio presentation, 'Blood Diamond' certainly doesn't disappoint.

[review_supplements_stars] => 2.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 2323 [review_supplements] =>

'Blood Diamond' hit standard-def DVD earlier in 2007 as a two-disc set with a fairly sizable collection of extras. Both this HD DVD and the earlier Blu-ray mirror that experience with all of the standard-def extras, although both next-gen editions also deliver some notable high-def exclusives (see below).

Among the standard supplements, the highlight for me was the 50-minute documentary "Blood On the Stone." Having nothing directly to do with the production, it is instead a very disturbing expose by journalist Sorious Samura, who lost his brother to the blood diamond conflict. It's not for the faint of heart, with often horrendous images of the violence and bloodshed, as well as an unapologetically critical voice of the corruptive governmental and business forces that allowed a verifiable civil war to continue for so long. Even harder-hitting and often more moving than 'Blood Diamond' itself, this is the one must-watch on the disc. (Note that "Blood On the Stone" is the only extra on this entire set presented in 1080p video. However, much of the shot-on-DV footage looks like a 480 upconvert, so don't expect pristine quality.)

The three production featurettes pale by comparison. "Becoming Archer" (8 minutes) is a kissy-poo love-in for actor Leonardo DiCaprio; "Journalism on the Front Line" (5 min.) offers some light background on the Jennifer Connelly character; and "Inside the Siege of Freetown" (10 min.) dissects the film's most harrowing sequence. Unfortunately, all of these vignettes are too short to offer much more than banal insight, and the on-set interviews are the typical promotional fluff, off-set by way too many film clips.

Thankfully, the very strong screen-specific audio commentary with director Edward Zwick picks up the slack. It's really the only extra here where you'll learn anything of substance about the making of 'Blood Diamond.' I haven't always been a fan of Zwick's studied, even dour style when it comes to commentaries, but here he is clearly emboldened by a passion for the project that elevates the track. Though he can lapse into production minuate that gets a bit monotonous after a while, it's his clear understanding of the dynamics of the action and political threads of his storytelling that is most illuminating. Along with "Blood On the Stone," this is the other highlight of the set.

Wrapping things up are a full-screen music video for Nas' "Shine On 'Em," plus a single Theatrical Trailer, also in 480i/MPEG-2 video only.

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 4 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 2324 [review_bonus_content] =>

In comparing this HD DVD release to last month's Blu-ray, here's where things get a bit more interesting. Not only does this disc get an exclusive "In-Movie Experience" track, but it also features Warner's first-ever inclusion of web-enabled content on a next-gen disc.

First up: the IME. While the Blu-ray edition included 47 minutes worth of short (1- to 3-minute) "Focus Points" vignettes as a linear supplement, this HD DVD integrates that content into a new feature-length picture-in-picture video commentary track, which also includes additional behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with cast and crew.

This is a very strong track -- perhaps the best I've seen from Warner since 'Poseidon' (which may have been a bad movie, but it gave great IME). Director Ed Zwick has recorded brand-new video segments specific to the IME, and also included are new chats with producer Marshall Herskovitz, screenwriter Charles Leavitt and journalist Sorious Samura, plus on-set discussions with Leonardo DiCaprio, Djimon Hounsou and Jennifer Connelly. Zwick in particular is quite impassioned, and there is a wealth of information included here that builds very nicely upon his audio commentary.

The only oddity here is how Warner has chosen to integrate the Focus Points material. While all of the other content on the track is presented in typical IME fashion (simply activate the feature, sit back, and watch the commentary unfold along with the movie), whenever it comes time for one of the Focus Points segments, the IME picture-in-picture boxes fade out and a disc icon appears in the upper left corner of the screen. Clicking the "Enter" button on your remote will start the clip as a full screen branched video segment (encoded as full 1080p/VC-1). Once the respective vignette is done, you'll be returned back to the movie and the standard IME interface continues. While in terms of functionality this all works fine, I did find it a bit cumbersome to have to activate these segments each time. Note that if you chose not to activate a given Focus Point, the disc icon will disappear, and the other IME material resumes.

Now on to the web-enabled content. While we got a first taste of this from Bandai's release of the anime title 'Freedom 1' on HD DVD, this edition of 'Blood Diamond' marks the first time a major studio has included web-based content as part of one of their next-gen releases. (Note that you'll need a working Ethernet connection to enjoy the disc's live extras, as well as the latest firmware upgrade for your player.)

To start the fun, go to the web-enabled content option on the disc's Extras menu, hit the "Launch" button and (assuming your internet connection is working properly) you'll be taken to the Online Menu page, where there are four content options to peruse:

"Maps of Conflict" is really the only feature with any unique content about the movie itself, allowing you to interface with maps of Africa to see locations of current conflicts, diamond resources and child soldiers.

"'Blood Diamond' Polling" is basically a message board for the movie where you can connect with an online community to share your thoughts and feelings about the movie.

"WB Polling" is another message board-like feature where you can share your thoughts on current HD DVD titles from Warner, as well as what you'd like to see in the future. Hopefully, the studio itself will actually read the feedback!

Finally, "Now Available" is simply an announcement list of all current and officially confirmed Warner HD DVD titles.

Taken as a whole, while the interface is certainly nice and slick, there really is nothing included among these web-enabled extras that couldn't work just as well (or better) on the film's official website. The only clear bonus is that you can access this material directly from the comfort of your couch (although many of us have laptops with wireless connections, rendering the appeal of this moot). For me, what's more exciting is the potential of having this kind web-enabled content available as part of an IME-like feature. For example, being able to pull up the "Maps of Conflict" while watching the movie itself would really be something.

Still, Warner certainly gets points for effort, and hopefully 'Blood Diamond' is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to showing off the true potential of next-gen interactivity.

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

Part message movie, part action thriller, 'Blood Diamond' suffers from a bit of a split personality, but it still manages enough bracing emotional highs to make it worth the experience. It also features highly impassioned performances by Leonardo DiCaprio and Djimon Hounsou (both Oscar nominees) which are not to be missed.

The big news for HD DVD fans, though, isn't the movie but the disc. Though I wasn't all that pleased with the identical video transfer shared by both editions, the audio is great and so are the standard-def supplements. But where the HD DVD clearly outdistances its rival is with a great IME track (featuring additional content not included in the Blu-ray) and Warner's first-ever web-enabled content on a next-gen disc. While 'Blood Diamond' may only scratch the surface in terms of what's technically possible on a next-gen disc, even as is, it's a real gem.

) ) [1] => Array ( [review_id] => 788 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => untouchables [review_release_date] => 1183446000 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => The Untouchables [picture_created] => 1175668728 [picture_name] => the-untouchables-1987-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Paramount Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/04/03/120/the-untouchables-1987-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/788/untouchables.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1987 [run_time] => 119 [list_price] => 29.95 [asin] => B000OONQBC [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1317174 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.35:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 [1] => 480p/i/MPEG-2 (Supplements Only) ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English DTS-HD High Resolution 6.1 Matrixed Surround (1.5mpbs) [1] => English Dolby Digital Surround EX (1.5mbps) [2] => French Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (448kbps) [3] => Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (448kpbs) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Featurettes [1] => Theatrical Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles [2] => Spanish Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Crime [1] => Drama ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Kevin Costner [1] => Andy Garcia [2] => Sean Connery [3] => Robert DeNiro ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Brian De Palma ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => In THE UNTOUCHABLES, federal agent Elliot Ness leads a group of mob fighters with the intent of taking out the infamous Al Capone in 1930's Prohibition-era Chicago. Realizing that practical methods will not work in securing Capone's capture, Ness and his men resort to using even more force in order to take down the Chicago mob boss once and for all. [preview_technology_specifications] => • Featurettes: "The Script, The Cast," "Production Stories," "Reinventing the Genre," "The Classic"
• Vintage Featurette: "The Men"
• Theatrical Trailer [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 4687 [review_editors_notes] => Non format-specific portions of this review also appear in our Blu-ray review of 'The Untouchables.' [review_bottom_line] => Worth a Look [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 10187 [review_movie_stars] => 3.5 [review_movie] =>

By 1987, Brian De Palma had toiled for two decades in the lucrative (but critically derided) "ghetto" of low-and mid-budget genre filmmaking -- directing such films as 'Sisters,' 'Dressed to Kill,' 'Blow Out' and 'Scarface.' But while many of his films generated their fair share of attention, none were particularly profitable by Hollywood standards, and most were widely derided by critics as being far-too-derivative of Alfred Hitchcock.

So when Paramount announced it had signed De Palma to helm 'The Untouchables,' the news was met with more than a few raised eyebrows -- not only was De Palma an unproven choice for such a big-budgeted epic, but the political cynicism of his earlier works ('Blow Out' and 'Scarface' being prime examples) seemed out of whack with this most American of stories, set to be produced at the height of Reagan-era patriotism.

But defying all expectations, 'The Untouchables' turned out to be the director's first sure-fire crowd-pleaser, and the film would ultimately catapult him to the ranks of other bankable, A-list directors. As a fan of De Palma's darker, less commercial movies, I've always regarded 'The Untouchables' with some disdain, because (for me) it represents a softening of the director's sensibilities. Still, it's hard not to be left highly entertained by his Barnum & Bailey-esque cinematic showmanship in this film.

The story is likely familiar to most. Dectective Elliot Ness (Kevin Costner) is the new sheriff in town, brought in to clean up the seedier element of prohibition-era Chicago. Of course, only an arrow as straight as Ness would be courageous (or naive) enough to eventually pick notorious crime lord Al Capone (Robert De Niro) as his main target, but while the odds may be stacked against him, Ness has the American Way of law and order on his side. He also wisely enlists two veteran crime-stoppers as his right-hand men, Jim Malone (Sean Connery) and George Stone (Andy Garcia), plus the somewhat bumbling (but endearing) Agent Oscar Wallace (Charles Martin Smith). Needlesstosay, it will be a bloody battle between good and evil, but never underestimate the men riding in on the white horse.

While it's easy to draw visual parallels between 'The Untouchables' and other De Palma films, the most surprising departure for the director in this film is the tone he chooses to take -- rather than challenging the idealism of his characters (or of his story), for the first time in his career, he pumps it up to such heightened excess that there may as well be an American flag waving in the background of every scene.

Borrowing a page from the Francis Ford Coppola 'Godfather' playbook, De Palma also frequently infuses his scenes with melodramatic visual and aural excess. Connery's big, Oscar-winning exit as Malone is the kissing cousin of the original 'Godfather's climatic orgy of bloodshed and opera, while 'The Untouchables' piece de resistance -- the duel between Ness and Capone's minions at Union Station -- was famously patterned after the "Odessa Steps" sequence in 'The Battleship Potemkin.' While such filmmaking prowess places this film a million miles away from the original 1959 TV series "the Untouchables," a core sense of the show's '50s values remains, and perhaps that's why the big-budget movie version so resonated with '80s audiences.

Two decades on, 'The Untouchables' remains a great thrill ride. Though I find De Palma's filming techniques in the film a bit too showy at times -- they rarely serve the narrative, only themselves -- the script by David Mamet is literate and sharp as a tack. And while the film is "based" on Ness's own autobiography, the way it's written, shot and acted (particularly by Costner), makes it idealized, rosy and nostalgic. Extremely rare for a mob picture, 'The Untouchables' leaves the audience feeling hopeful and uplifted by a story that is riddled with bullets and brutal killings. Though I remain slighly uncomfortable seeing a hardcore crime story turned into nostalgic pastiche, I can't deny that it works, and that 'The Untouchables' remains great, great fun.

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

'The Untouchables' is the latest addition to Paramount's growing library of next-gen catalog titles, and as has been typical of the studio, it follows a recent standard-def remaster. 'The Untouchables' hit DVD back in 2003 as a souped-up two-disc special edition, and this HD DVD version appears to be minted from the same high-def master made for that release.

Holding up very well next to other recent Paramount remastered releases such as 'The Warriors' and 'Trading Places,' this 1080p/VC-1 encode (AVC MPEG-4 on the Blu-ray) looks pretty spiffy. The master is in very nice shape, and nearly pristine (only some very minor bits of dirt are visible, plus slight grain typical of the period). Blacks and contrast are a clear improvement over previous video versions, even the standard-def DVD re-issue, which was already strong. Detail similarly offers more readily visible fine textures, and the film's generally bright visual style lends itself to excellent depth and clarity. Colors are also more vibrant than the DVD, and though some of the deepest reds and darker interiors may stumble every so with a bit of fuzziness, in general saturation is very vivid.

What ultimately keeps this transfer from rating even more highly is that it has clearly been tweaked, and suffers from some edge enhancement as a result. Any film from 1987 is likely to be naturally softer than a modern transfer, but unfortunately, that seems to be a no-no these days when it comes to remaster catalog titles. There are consistent edge halos visible, as well as shimmering. Certainly, 'The Untouchables' looks wonderfully sharp throughout, but the cost is an artificial cast. Still, this is a four-star transfer, so caveats aside it's likely most fans will be more than pleased.

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

This HD DVD edition of 'The Untouchables' features two audio tracks -- the Dolby Digital Surround EX remaster from the 2003 two-disc DVD, plus an unannounced DTS-HD High-Resolution 6.1 Surround track (matrixed, not discrete). In atypical Paramount fashion, the bitrates on the HD DVD and the Blu-ray DTS tracks actually match this time at 1.5mbps (although the Dolby Digital on the Blu-ray still gets demoted to 640kbps, versus 1.5mbps for this HD DVD).

The mix is quite lively for its vintage, which allows for the difference between the DTS and Dolby EX tracks to be more noticeable than it would be on other older catalogue titles. The matrixed-in extra surround channel, combined with more dynamic sound design, leaves the DTS the clear winner over the Dolby EX mix.

Less gimmicky and obvious than most tracks of its era, 'The Untouchables' was state-of-the-art in 1987. Granted, surrounds are only sporadically engaged for action, but when they do kick in they're quite effective. The most obvious example is the Union Station sequence, which features some relly nice use of discrete effects. It is not as continually engaging as a modernaction blockbuster, but pans are fairly seamless between rear channels, and there is a nice sense of tonal realism to the sounds.

The excellent score by Ennio Morricone is wonderfully bled to the rears, and its swelling strings and deep percussive are certainly a highlight of this track. Dynamic range is impressive for a 1987 picture -- the explosion that anchors the first act features surprisingly hefty low bass, and similarly the rest of the also frequency range has a more open and spacious quality than most tracks of its era, with clean dialogue and a warm, airy feel to the high-end.

[review_supplements_stars] => 2 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 0 [review_supplements] =>

Long one of Paramount's most highly-requested titles to receive the Special Edition treatment on standard-def DVD, the studio finally gave fans what they wanted in 2004 with a well-received Special Collector's Edition. Paramount has ported over all those extras to the high-def versions, although purely in terms of quantity, the set is limited.

Alongside Steven Spielberg, Woody Allen and Warren Beatty, Brian De Palma is one of a handful of well-known directors who refuse to record audio commentaries -- hence, there is no such track included on this disc. Instead, longtime De Palma documentarian Laurent Bouzereau (who seems to do about 75 percent of all DVD supplements these days) has crafted another of his reverential, very classy full-docs on the making of 'The Untouchables.'

Running nearly 60 minutes, the doc is broken into four main parts. "The Script, The Cast" breaks down the film's conception and casting, and includes (relatively) new interviews with De Palma and producer Art Linson. Interesting tidbits included here are the fact that Robert De Niro was not the actor originally cast in his now-famous role of Al Capone, while Sean Connery surprisingly took some enticing to take the part that eventually won him an Oscar. "Production Stories" turns out to be focused primarily on the work of Director of Photography Stephen H. Burum, who also contributes a new chat. Though it's hard to imagine the film now as being in anything but vivid color, we learn in this peice that originally he wanted shoot the movie in black and white.

Next is "Reinventing The Genre," which may be the most interesting section. The bravura deaths of Connery and Charles Martin Smith are dissected, as is the setpiece Union Station sequence. But true fans will be most excited to hear about the deleted scenes cut from the movie (although sadly not presented as a stand-alone supplement), including a sequence with the four leads in a Canadian border raid, plus an alternate ending involving Capone. Lastly, "The Classic" is a tribute to the score by Ennio Morricone. The composer needs no introduction, and his work on 'The Untouchables' is undoubtedly a modern classic.

While all of the above featurettes excel in terms of presentation, with a well-paced balance of new interviews, film clips and rare production and still material, unfortunately, the number of participants is crippingly limited. Aside from De Palma, Linson and Burum, there are no other members of the main cast and crew present -- De Niro, Connery, Smith, Andy Garcia and Kevin Costner all only appear in old interview clips and footage. Their presence is sorely, sorely missed, making this set feels more like an extended director interview than a full-fledged documentary.

Rounding out this package is a lone vintage 1987 featurette, titled appropriately enough "Original Featurette: The Men." This dated 8-minute piece interviews all the main cast, including Costner, Connery and Garcia. Unfortunately, it was shot before the movie came out so is of interest only as a historical artifact.

Note that all of the above content is presented in 480i/MPEG-2 video only. The only full HD extra on the disc is the film's Theatrical Trailer, which is presented as a 1080p/VC-1 encode.

[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] =>

'The Untouchables' holds up as a very commercial, very entertaining mob picture, and this HD DVD release is a solid catalog effort from Paramount. Though I don't think the transfer provides as impressive an upgrade as recent studio titles like 'The Warriors' or 'Trading Places,' there is the surprise inclusion of a DTS 6.1 soundtrack, plus a nice batch of recycled making-of featurettes that are quite strong. 'The Untouchables' may not a top-tier HD DVD catalog release, but fans of the film should still be pleased with this one.

) ) [2] => Array ( [review_id] => 785 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => warriorsudc [review_release_date] => 1183446000 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => The Warriors: Ultimate Director's Cut [picture_created] => 1175668676 [picture_name] => the-warriors-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Paramount Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/04/03/120/the-warriors-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/785/warriorsudc.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1979 [run_time] => 93 [list_price] => 29.95 [asin] => B000OONQBM [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1317176 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 [1] => 480p/i/MPEG-2 (Supplements Only) ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5mbps) [1] => French Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (192kbps) [2] => Spanish Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (192kbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Director Introduction [1] => Featurettes [2] => Theatrical Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles [2] => Spanish Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Action [1] => Crime [2] => Thriller ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Michael Beck [1] => Deborah Van Valkenberg [2] => David Patrick Kelly [3] => James Remar ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Walter Hill ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => A gang called The Warriors are framed for killing a gang leader trying to unite all the gangs in the area. With other gangs gunning for them they must get back to the home turf of Coney Island... Alive. [preview_technology_specifications] => • Introduction by Walter Hill
• 4 Featurettes
• Deleted scene
• 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 Warriors: Ultimate Director's Cut.' [review_bottom_line] => Recommended [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 9764 [review_movie_stars] => 3.5 [review_movie] =>

'The Warriors' may be the only movie with a poster that's as notorious as the film it promoted. The image is now a classic -- a shot of a thousand gang members under a tagline that reads, "These are the Armies of The Night. They are 100,000 strong. They outnumber the cops five to one. They could run New York City." The resulting uproar over what effect the poster might have on impressionable young adults was so strong that the one-sheet would ultimately be pulled by Paramount, and replaced by a new poster that simply had the words "The Warriors" spray-painted on a subway wall.

Upon its original release in 1979, the film itself was no less controversial. Its mix of stylized mayhem, coarse language and seemingly wanton disregard for authority made it not just infamous, but downright dangerous. Violence broke out in a number of urban cinemas showing the movie, inciting the Moral Majority to call for the heads of the powers that be in Hollywood. All this for an essentially silly movie about gang members in funny costumes, hitting each other with plastic baseball bats. Ah, the good old days...

'The Warriors: The Ultimate Director's Cut' begins with a prologue informing us that what we are about to see is a retelling of classic Greek myth Anabasis, only updated to modern times. When prophet Cyrus (Roger Hill) calls all of the gangs of New York to a meeting in Central Park, it seems peace may at last be restored to the city's warn-torn streets. That is, until Cyrus is killed by the psychopathic Luther (David Patrick Kelly), who then frames one of the city's gangs -- the Warriors -- for the murder.

What follows for the Warriors is all-night, cross-city trek back to their home base in Coney Island. Along the way, an unlikely leader of the pack named Swan (Michael Beck) will emerge, guiding our anti-heroes through a series of misadventures and battles with rival gangs. Also on board for the ride is a local prostitute, Mercy (Deborah Van Valkenburgh), whose big mouth only serves to get the Warriors into more trouble. Can the gang make it back to Coney Island alive, save their reputation, and bring Luther to justice?

Watching it today, 'The Warriors' is, of course, horribly dated. The music, the clothes, the dialogue -- if any of these silly gang members with their painted faces and Xanadu hair were to walk the streets of New York today they'd almost surely get their asses whupped in thirty seconds. But that's what's so much fun about revisiting the film three decades on -- its cynical, world-weary attitude that at one time seemed so dangerous, now seems quaint and nostalgic. It's like watching a bunch of videogame characters bopping their way through an animated, stylized two-dimensional world, complete with a cheesy Casio synth-rock soundtrack.

The passage of time also allows us to better appreciate director Walter Hill's thematic goals for the film. With 'The Warriors' now impossible to take seriously as some sort of subversive call to violent rebellion, it can be seen as the stylized fantasy it was always intended to be.

It's worth noting that this Blu-ray edition of 'The Warriors' presents the 'Ultimate Director's Cut' of the film, which was originally released to DVD in 2005. Only about a minute longer than the original theatrical cut of the film, this edition includes several newly-animated transitional elements, in addition to the aforementioned prologue, all designed by Hill to drive home the point that 'The Warriors' was never intended to present a documentary realism.

[review_video_stars] => 4.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 2829 [review_video] =>

The original theatrical version of 'The Warriors' first hit DVD in the late '90s as a bare-bones disc release. I thought that transfer was quite good for a catalog title, but Paramount's 2003 'Ultimate Director's Cut' remaster was even better. Now, we have two high-def versions, with the studio re-issuing the film on both HD DVD and Blu-ray simultaneously. Happily, both high-def editions (each presented in 1080p/AVC MPEG-4) are truly excellent -- it's rare that I see a nearly thirty year-old film that looks this darn good.

The source has been cleaned up impressively -- just about every speck of dirt has been swept away, for a very slick, smooth look. Even the darkest scenes don't suffer from heavy grain, which is rare for a film of this vintage. Blacks are uniformly excellent, and contrast consistent -- the film really enjoys a newfound sense of depth and detail lacking in previous standard-def versions.

Colors are also superior, with a nice and vivid look that avoids any smearing or noticeable noise. Fleshtones, too, are surprisingly good -- gone is most of the pale, pink skin that marred the first DVD and certainly the horrid old VHS tape. Granted, 'The Warriors' still has a more natural use of light without a lot of the post-production processing common to a modern release, so detail and depth can flatten out in the shadows. Still, impressively for a title this old, fine texture is visible in even the darkest scenes, and black crush is not too harsh. To be sure, 'The Warriors' won't ever rival a fresh new release in picture quality, nor will it serve as the ultimate in high-def demo material, but for what it is, it's pretty awesome.

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

Though not as impressive as the video, the remastered Dolby Digital 5.1 track included here for 'The Warriors' isn't bad at all. In typical Paramount fashion, this HD DVD edition gets a 1.5mbps encode (versus 640kbps for the Blu-ray), although due to the limitations of the original source, the higher bitrate doesn't seem to make much of an audible difference in this case.

As such, both tracks share the same set of plusses and minuses. On the good side, dynamics are quite healthy for a flick this old. Low bass certainly doesn't rival 'Batman Begins,' but it does have enough punch to keep the energy level up. I was also impressed by how clean the high-end is -- gone are the hiss and flatness that so marred old video versions. Dialogue is also clear, and I didn't have any trouble understanding any of the New Yawk accents.

On the not-so-good side, the mix is still very front-directed. Rears are all but silent -- in fact, save for some obvious, digitally-processed whooshes (such as during the opening credit sequence) this may as well be a stereo mix. At least stereo separation is fairly wide, with clean pans between channels.

[review_supplements_stars] => 2.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 2835 [review_supplements] =>

'The Warriors' comes to high-def with the same extras as the 2005 standard-def 'Ultimate Directors Cut' release, and this is a straightforward but very informative package.

Since Walter Hill doesn't do audio commentaries, none are included here. Instead, famed documentarian Laurent Bouzereau (producer of choice for most Steven Spielberg and Alfred Hitchcock classics, among hundreds of others) was corralled to produce a new four-part overview of 'The Warriors.' Simple and lacking in flash, this one still delivers where it counts -- content.

There are four parts to the 62-minute doc. "The Beginning" (15 min.) chronicles the development through casting; "Battleground" (16 min.) covers the production and New York location shooting; "The Way Home" (18 min.) takes an in-depth look at the film's climax and its stylized violence and costumes; and "The Phenomenon" wraps it all up with some discussion of the film's legacy and parting thoughts from cast and crew.

As presented, the doc is quite thorough, and really benefits from a great cross-section of participants, including fresh interviews with Hill, producers Larry Gordon and Frank Marshall, castmembers Michael Beck, David Harris, James Remar, David Patrick Kelly and Deborah Van Valkenburgh, plus some key members of the tech crew. All are well-spoken and passionate about their involvement, citing very specific and memorable on-set stories as well as favorite scenes. Hill also provides some reasoning behind the animated additions to the 'Ultimate Director's Cut.' The only disappointment is that there is some talk about a whole deleted subplot involving a secondary character that was Mercy's original love interest -- unfortunately there are no deleted scenes on the disc, and our only glimpse of the material comes through some very brief stills. Still, this doc is aces.

The only other extra included is the aforementioned Theatrical Trailer, presented here in full high-def resolution. (Note that all of the documentary material is in 480p/MPEG-2 only. Bummer.)

[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] => 0 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'The Warriors' is an action-packed time capsule from a more innocent time when feathered-haired guys wearing burgundy leather vests could still be considered dangerous. It's still a great, high-octane ride, with a surprising amount of depth if you can see past its dated exterior. Paramount has done a fine job with this HD DVD release -- particularly the excellent video transfer. Granted, the audio is a bit more limited, but an excellent documentary helps ease the pain. This one is well recommended for any fan of gritty '70s flicks, street gangs or bad fashion.

) ) ) ) [June 26, 2007] => Array ( [reviews] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 768 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => americanme [review_release_date] => 1182841200 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => American Me [picture_created] => 1174777612 [picture_name] => american-me.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Universal Studios Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/03/24/120/american-me.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/768/americanme.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1992 [run_time] => 125 [list_price] => 29.98 [asin] => B000OHZL3U [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1315920 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 [1] => 480p/i/MPEG-2 (Supplements Only) ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5mbps) [1] => French Dolby Digital-Plus 2.0 Surround (640kpbs) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Documentary [1] => Theatrical Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Crime [1] => Drama ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Vira Montes [1] => Sal Lopez [2] => Roberto Martinez ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Edward James Olmos ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => This epic depiction of thirty years of Chicano gang life in Los Angeles focuses on a teen named Santana who, with his friends Mundo and the Caucasian-but-acting-Hispanic J.D., form their own gang and are soon arrested for a break-in. Santana gets into trouble again and goes straight from reform school to prison, spending eighteen year there, and becoming leader of a powerful gang, both inside and outside the prison, while there. When he is finally released, he tries to make sense of the violence in his life, in a world much changed from when last he was in it. [preview_technology_specifications] => TBA [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => TBA [review_bottom_line] => Give It a Rent [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 11706 [review_movie_stars] => 3.5 [review_movie] =>

What is it about drug lords, vicious gangs and bloody mob violence that proves so alluring? I have to admit to being a bit mystified by it all, if not at times repulsed. Whether it's the hero-worship lauded upon the fictional Corleone clan of the 'Godfather' series, or the continued, phenomenal cult appeal of camp-fests like 'Scarface, or even video games like "Grand Theft Auto" -- I just can't warm to this whole "mob mentality."

But then every once in a while a picture comes along like acor-turned-director Edward James Olmos' 'American Me.' It's rare to see a flick that mythologizes the violent cliches of its genre, only to ultimately subvert the expectations of its audience. If 'American Me' is not be entirely successful in its lofty goals, at least it aims far higher than your run-of-the-mill exploitative gang flick.

As a story, 'American Me' is formulaic (and more than just a bit similar to Brian De Palma's 'Carlito's Way'). Though inspired by the award-winning documentary "Lives in Hazard," which chronicled the hard lives of Latino criminals beyond bars, Olmos uses the milieu only as a backdrop to tell the thirty-year rise and fall of fictional drug lord Pedro Santana. After a misspent youth on the streets of Los Angeles running petty crimes, Santana (played by Olmos himself) is busted and incarcerated in Folsom Prison, yet only grows more powerful behind bars by becoming the leader of the Mexican Mafia (or "La eMe"), the the first prison gang in California. Eventually released, Santana will find a harsh reality in attempting to go clean, as his blood-stained past doesn't give him the chance to turn his back on his former way of life.

What works best in 'American Me' is its sense of realism. Olmos clearly knows this world, if not necessarily from the criminal end but his own experiences. Just like you can't take New York out of a Martin Scorsese picture, so too does Olmos' depiction of a sweltering, uncompromising Los Angeles feel utterly authentic, with its neighborhoods and ethnic customs rendered with what would appear to be great precision and perceptiveness. Olmos' obvious passion for his tale also seems to have fired up his cast, which, though made up almost entirely of young up-and-comers (and even a few real ex-cons in to smaller roles) etch out believable, three-dimensional characters.

'American Me' eventually falters, however, both under the weight of its own didacticism and Olmos' lack of directorial prowess. The film can get heavy-handed, especially during its last third, practically hitting audiences over the head with its anti-gang and anti-drug message. And though 'American Me' is an impressive directorial debut for Olmos (it remains his only full-length theatrical feature), his sometimes flat staging of scenes and bland, static camera moves often resemble a TV melodrama rather than reaching the operatic heights of a Scorsese, Coppola or even second-rate De Palma.

Earnest to a fault, 'American Me' still offers a vivid window into a world rarely seen on film. Although attempting to bring grand cinematic excess of such bloody American crime epics as 'The Godfather,' 'GoodFellas' and 'Carlito's Way' to what is essentially a low-budget Latino independent feature sometimes exceeds Olmos' artistic grasp, 'American Me' still elevates itself far beyond most of its brethren with a strength of conviction that can't be denied.

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

'American Me' is the latest in a recent cycle of catalog releases from Universal that seem to have been pulled out of the closet, dusted off, and slapped on some HD DVDs to quickly feed the next-gen pipeline. Picture quality-wise, the results have been mixed, with a few titles looking rather good ('Big Lebowski,' 'Daylight') and most others middling ('Sneakers,' 'Bulletproof'). Unfortunately, 'American Me' may be the weakest of the bunch, with a dated master of a transfer that didn't look particularly good on standard-def DVD in the first place.

Presented here in 1.85:1 widescreen and 1080p/VC-1 video, the film was shot on a low budget and often looks it. The source is in OK shape, with some minor dirt and speckles, and fairly consistent (if thin) grain throughout. Blacks are fine, but sometimes a bit flat -- darker interiors tend to look washed-out with poor shadow delineation. Brighter scenes, however, often look quite good, with strong depth and fairly good detail.

Colors, meanwhile, are merely average in saturation and consistency, while noise can distract. Fleshtones also veer a bit towards the reds. There is also some edge enhancement visible in an apparent effort to boost sharpness (needless to say, it doesn't work all that well). Granted, in comparison to the standard-def version this is still an improvement, but when it comes to high-def, average just isn't good enough. To be sure, I've seen a few transfers worse than 'American Me' ('Army of Darkness' and 'Full Metal Jacket' come to mind), but that's hardly a compliment.

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

Universal provides a standard Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 surround track (1.5mbps) for 'American Me,' and the film's low budget is again evident, with restrained sound design that hardly wows.

Though technically a gang picture, 'American Me' isn't really an action film. Discrete effects are contained to some bleeds on outdoor noise (traffic, etc.) and gunshots. Dynamic range feels a bit limited all the way around the soundfield -- high end is free of major anomalies (such as distortion) but sounds clipped nonetheless. Low bass is also rather flat by today's standards. The minimal use of music is also not particularly strong in the mix. Dialogue is fairly well recorded and rendered, although some of the offscreen voices in particularly lost in the mix (some volume boosting may be in order if you're watching at a low level).

[review_supplements_stars] => 2 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 0 [review_supplements] =>

Like the standard-def DVD, this HD DVD edition of 'American Me' includes only one major supplement, but at least it's a good one.

The award-winning, 40-minute documentary that inspired 'American Me,' "Lives in Hazard" is a tough, straight-arrow look at the Hispanic gang culture. In fact, this doc is arguably more hard-hitting and moving than the film itself as it tracks various young inmates at Folsom Prison as they wind their way through a world that can be much harsher than the streets the came from. There are a few rays of hope as, in some cases, prisoners prepare for life outside. "Lives in Hazard" offers excellent context for 'American Me,' and on its own is a sobering reminder of how many lives are wasted by a system that, quite frankly, discards the "undesirables" and only gives lip service to the idea of rehabilitation. Simply put, it's an American tragedy.

The only other extra is the film's Theatrical Trailer, which like "Lives in Hazard," is 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] => 2.5 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'American Me' is an honorable attempt to create a gritty, younger-skewing version of 'Godfather'-type mob movies, set in the world of Hispanic gangs. Director and actor Edward James Olmos sometimes lays on the myth a bit too thick, but 'American Me' is still worth a look for fans of these types of movies.

This HD DVD release, however, isn't really up to snuff. The transfer and soundtrack are only average high-def -- which, compared to standard-def isn't bad, but is that really enough these days? This one's a rental at best.

) ) [1] => Array ( [review_id] => 821 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => armyofdarkness_nc [review_release_date] => 1182841200 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Army of Darkness (Re-issue) [picture_created] => 1179803725 [picture_name] => army-of-darkness.gif [manufacturer_name] => Universal Studios Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/05/21/120/army-of-darkness.gif [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/821/armyofdarkness_nc.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1993 [run_time] => 81 [list_price] => 29.98 [asin] => B000P0J05G [amazon_price] => 26.99 [empire_id] => 1319390 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-15 Single-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5mbps) [1] => Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (192kbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Theatrical Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles [2] => Spanish Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Action [1] => Comedy [2] => Horror [3] => Sci-Fi ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Marcus Gilbert [1] => Ian Ambercrombie [2] => Embeth Davidtz [3] => Bruce Campbell ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Sam Raimi ) [preview_plot_synopsis] =>

Note that this movie was previously released as an HD DVD/DVD combo disc in October 2006 (read our review of that disc). For more information about why this disc is being re-issued as a non-combo disc, click here.

In this sequel to the Evil Dead films, a discount-store employee ("Name's Ash. Housewares.") is time-warped to a medieval castle beset by monstrous forces. Initially mistaken for an enemy, he is soon revealed as the prophecised savior who can quest for the Necronomicon, a book which can dispel the evil. Unfortunately, he screws up the magic words while collecting the tome, and releases an army of skeletons, led by his own Deadite counterpart. What follows is a thrilling, yet tongue-in-cheek battle between Ash's 20th Century tactics and the minions of darkness.

[preview_technology_specifications] => • Theatrical Trailer [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [review_editors_notes] => Portions of this review were originally published in our review of the 'Army of Darkness' HD DVD/DVD combo edition. [review_bottom_line] => For Fans Only [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 10973 [review_introduction] =>

The second of two HD DVD re-issues to hit store shelves last week, 'Army of Darkness' was originally released in October of 2006 as an HD DVD/DVD combo disc.

As I discussed at length in my recent review of 'Unleashed,' the HD DVD/DVD combo format has long been a source of contention among HD DVD early adopters, and while Universal Studios Home Entertainment had traditionally been the hybrid format's largest supporter, more recently they've appeared to shift their strategy, reserving more expensive two-sided discs for only their more recent theatrical titles released day and date with the standard-def DVD.

In March of this year, the studio went one step further, announcing (in a high-def first) that it would discontinue production of the HD DVD/DVD combo editions of 'Unleashed' and 'Army of Darkness,' and would instead re-issue both films on HD DVD without their standard-def flipsides.

But while news of this move seemed to be music to the ears of combo-haters, unfortunately in revisiting both titles, we found that these first-ever high-def re-issues are not without their trade-offs...

[review_movie_stars] => 2 [review_movie] =>

It's no secret that genre fans generally have a strong distate for the mixing of horror and comedy. Films like 'Scream,' 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2,' 'Return of the Living Dead,' and the recent rash of PG-13-rated spook-fests have all come under heavy fire from the horror community for watering down the genre for mainstream tastes to the point where hardcore, balls-to-the-wall terror is an endangered species. But oddly, while Sam Raimi's 'Evil Dead' films would seem to represent everything that these fans despise, somehow it remains a beloved franchise.

To be sure, the first 'Evil Dead' in 1981 was no joke. But by the time 1987's 'Evil Dead 2' rolled around, the series was already a total parody of itself, an approach taken to almost absurd extremes with 1992's 'Army of Darkness.' All three films feature the character of Ash (Bruce Campbell), the lone survivor of a demonic attack on a group of friends in an isolated cabin in the woods. As told in 'Evil Dead,' Ash and his buddies mistakenly unearth "The Book of the Dead," which invokes some very ill-tempered, oozy monstrosities hellbent on human destruction. Though 'Evil Dead 2' was essentially a comedic remake of the first film, 'Army of Darkness' spins a new tale, as Ash is plunked down in medieval times, and must continue to do battle with The Book of the Dead if he hopes to save mankind and return back to present day.

In all reality, of course, the plot is beside the point of the 'Evil Dead' films. In this film in particular, Raimi seems less interested in telling a coherent story than he is in staging a series of slapstick setpieces that are no more frightening than a carnival funhouse ride. And he found the perfect collaborator in Campbell, who with the 'Dead' films has proven himself to be one of the most accomplished -- and underrated -- physical comedians in movies today. Campbell flails about as chainsaws whirl, zombies cackle and Raimi stages camera moves so intricate and outlandish that by the time we get a point-of-view shot of an eyeball flying into a victim's mouth, it all seems commonplace.

But truth be told -- and I know this is sacrilege to say -- as accomplished and audacious as Raimi and Campbell have been with the 'Evil Dead' films, there seems to be not one iota of personal feeling invested. It seems Raimi cares little about anything outside of pummeling Ash with all manner of camera tricks. The story in 'Army of Darkness' doesn't really exist as such, the human dimension is nil, and the film's damsel-in-distress (Embeth Daviditz, trying the best she can) is pure window dressing.

In the end, I'm not sure there's ever been a series of film as visually inspired and visceral as 'Evil Dead' that mean so little. Rather than playing effectively as horror films, they seem more like the modern equivalent of a Charlie Chaplin or Three Stooges comedy, only without the humanity. I know this may cause me to lose my honorary membership in the horror movie fanclub, but after trying over and over again to "get it," the 'Evil Dead' films continue to leave me feeling absolutely nothing at all.

(Note that this HD DVD release of 'Army of Darkness' features the 81-minute, theatrical cut version of the film, not the 96-minute expanded version that has long been available on standard-def DVD.)

[review_video_stars] => 2.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 337 [review_video] =>

'Army of Darkness' made its original next-gen debut on a HD-15/DVD-5 double-sided combo disc. And while this re-issue drops the DVD side of the platter, the video transfer and its tech specs remain identical, with the disc sporting only its original HD-15 single-layer.

As I wrote in my original review of the combo edition the transfer itself is a hit or miss affair. Though it is nice to see the film in full 1080p/VC-1 video, the source material is inconsistent, and time has certainly not done the film's pre-CGI special effects any favors. To be sure, there's no major print damage (such as rips, tears or excessive dropouts), but dirt is noticeable (particularly in shots involving optical effects, which are numerous) and grain is rampant. Darker scenes fare the worst, with the image often looking flat and fuzzy. Colors also suffer from a dated appearance, but the transfer appears to have been pumped up to compensate, with hues oversaturated and smeary at times. At least fleshtones are more or less accurate, although some of the more stylized segments have a reddish tint (especially the film's present-day bookend segments, which are pretty dreadful).

There are some plusses, however. Daylight scenes fare the best, with Ash's arrival at the medieval castle boasting a rather detailed image and a nice sense of depth. The vivid colors also work better here, and don't look quite as artificial. Still, this transfer is all over the place -- the aged source material combined with the film's limited budget, an abundance of darkly-lit scenes, and extensive opticals makes for one of the weakest HD DVD releases I've seen from Universal. Considering the material, I'll give this one a few extra charity points, but as I wrote my original review of this transfer, 'Army of Darkness' could really use a from-the-ground-up, full-on remastering.

[review_audio_stars] => 3 [review_audio_picture_id] => 339 [review_audio] =>

Again a direct match with its combo disc predecessor, this HD DVD re-issue of 'Army of Darkness' gets the Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 surround/1.5mbps treatment. As I wrote in my original review, this is a pretty nice soundtrack, although the film's sound design is what you'd expect from a mid-budgeted genre film from 1992 -- surround use is sporadic and fairly obvious, and envelopment inconsistent.

'Army of Darkness' sports a surprising amount of dialogue for a horror film. Though some ADR is obvious, dialogue is always clear and well-balanced in the mix. Surround use is limited to the score throughout most of the film, except for a random discrete effect here and there, such as a galloping horse or a shotgun blast. The rears only really come alive during the climactic fortress battle (the 'Evil Dead' version of Helm's Deep), which contains some nice split surround activity, although it's nothing compared to a film like 'Terminator 3.' Otherwise, dynamic range is solid, boasting fairly deep low bass and reltively natural and spacious mid-range. Still, despite the Dolby Digital-Plus upgrade, there's little-to-no audible difference between this track and the Dolby Digital track on the most recent standard-def DVD.

[review_supplements_stars] => 0 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 338 [review_supplements] =>

Once again, here's where this re-issue differs from the old HD DVD/DVD combo. As was the case with 'Unleashed,' Universal's combo disc release of 'Army of Darkness' only included supplements on the DVD side of the disc. Since the DVD portion of the release has been dropped from this re-issue (and since Universal apparently couldn't be bothered to re-do the HD DVD side), we get nothing in the way of supplements on this one.

Granted, we're not missing much, at least compared to the combo release. While DVD editions of 'Army of Darkness' have included an alternate ending, deleted scenes, audio commentary, storyboards, etc., the flipside of the combo disc included only the film's Theatrical Trailer. Still, if you thought the supplements package on this one couldn't get any worse, it has.

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

Nothing.

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

'Army of Darkness' is arguably the least effective of the three 'Evil Dead' films, and it's certainly the most jokey. But if you're a fan (and you know who you are), you gotta have the whole trilogy no matter what.

Unfortunately, this new HD DVD-only re-issue of the film does not right any of the wrongs of the previous HD DVD/DVD combo released by Universal last year. The good news is that, at $5 cheaper, at least it's a better bargain. The bad news is that Universal has lost the only meager extra on the old combo version -- the film's theatrical trailer. If a $5 discount and no trailer appeal to you, then by all means pick this one up. Otherwise, cross your fingers and hope Universal issues a better, more deluxe special edition on HD DVD in the future.

) ) [2] => Array ( [review_id] => 769 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => beingjohnmalkovich [review_release_date] => 1182841200 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Being John Malkovich [picture_created] => 1174524382 [picture_name] => malkovich.gif [manufacturer_name] => Universal Studios Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/03/21/120/malkovich.gif [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/769/beingjohnmalkovich.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1999 [run_time] => 113 [list_price] => 29.98 [asin] => B000OHZL44 [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1315872 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD 30GB ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5 Mbps) [1] => French Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5 Mbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Featurettes [1] => Interview [2] => TV Spots [3] => Photo Gallery [4] => Theatrical Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Comedy [1] => Drama [2] => Sci-Fi ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => John Malkovich [1] => Catherine Keener [2] => Cameron Diaz [3] => John Cusack ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Spike Jonze ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => A puppeteer discovers a portal that leads literally into the head of the movie star, John Malkovich. [preview_technology_specifications] => TBA [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => TBA [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] => 11114 [review_movie_stars] => 4.5 [review_movie] =>

There aren't many screenwriters working in Hollywood today whose work is so distinctive that their association with a project is as much of a draw to audiences as a director or a star. The literary force behind such unusual and inventive films as 'Adaptation' and 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,' Charlie Kaufman is one such writer.

Kaufman's first collaboration with the equally inventive director Spike Jonze, the 1999 film 'Being John Malkovich' introduced both the writer and the director into the mainstream consciousness, and set an unusually surreal tone for an American comedy.

John Cusack stars as Craig Schwartz, an unsuccessful puppeteer stuck in a floundering marriage with his neurotic wife Lotte (played by a nearly unrecognizable Cameron Diaz). Giving up on his puppeteering dream, Schwartz takes a job as a filing clerk at an office complex, where, during his orientation, he meets Maxine (Catherine Keener), a cold-hearted wretch to whom he is instantly attracted. Strangely enough, his orientation also introduces him to the seven-and-a-halfth floor -- a literal half floor in between the seventh and eighth floors of the building.

Left on his own to file papers, Schwartz discovers a seemingly-endless tunnel behind one of the filing cabinets on that half floor. When he crawls inside, he's suddenly pulled forward into actor John Malkovich's consciousness. It is here that the film dives headfirst into the world of surrealist cinema.

Seeing the world through Malkovich's eyes, Schwartz watches as the actor (played by Malkovich himself) goes about his daily routine. While this initial experience lasts only fifteen minutes before Schwartz is dropped from the sky alongside a busy highway, in return visits he will learn to control Malkovich in the much the way he controls his own puppets. Ultimately, he will share the experience with both Lotte and Maxine, who will seize upon the opportunity to get inside the Oscar-winning actor's head in distinctly different ways.

Critics showered 'Being John Malkovich' with praise when it was first released in theaters, and I can't help but agree. As odd as the film tends to be, Kaufman and Jonze are truly remarkable in their ability to craft a familiar world in the middle of this insane reality. Each character in the film is relatable, and their desire for control over Malkovich is both troubling and revealing.

The film's performances are equally impressive. Layered with genius ticks and obscure expressions that completely sell his character, Cusack's quiet portrayal of the unhinged puppeteer is particularly winning, while Diaz, Keener, and Malkovich all turn in award-caliber performances, as well. No matter how detestable any character's actions become, its hard not to find yourself understanding their motivations and feeling genuine empathy for their situation. There aren't any heroes or villains -- just a group of insecure people trying to find their way through a tough life with no answers.

A bizarre dark comedy that explores the complex desires found in the darkest corners of the human mind, 'Being John Malkovich' is jaw-droppingly unique, challenging, and rewarding. Fans of 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind' will feel right at home with this one, but everyone should take the opportunity to check out this winning film from the mind of Charlie Kaufman.

[review_video_stars] => 3.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 2946 [review_video] =>

Presented in 1080p using the VC-1 codec, 'Being John Malkovich' looks quite good. While the film's washed out palette and grainy texture could have been stumbling blocks, this transfer handles them in stride. Instances of bold colors are vivid, blacks are deep, and despite a moderate amount of grain, there's a nice depth to the image. I was pleased to see clean textures, natural skintones, and good contrast, and I couldn't find any instances of artifacting, black crush, mosquito noise, or other problems that made the film's initial release on DVD a bit mediocre.

There are, however, a few problem areas. My biggest issue was with fine object detail, which is often inconsistent from shot to shot. While some scenes boast extraordinary detail (such as the one where Cusack flips through a newspaper), others are quite soft. In a direct compare with the standard-def DVD, detailing in these scenes is certainly improved, but still not enough to bring this transfer up to its full potential. To a lesser extent, I was also disappointed to see this print marred by a few flecks and scratches. All in all though, this is still a pretty good transfer and I think fans of the film will be excited to see the inherent upgrade it has received in its move to high-def.

[review_audio_stars] => 4 [review_audio_picture_id] => 2947 [review_audio] =>

'Being John Malkovich' features a surprisingly strong Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 surround mix (1.5 Mbps). While the track on the standard DVD tended to sound a bit muffled at times, the mix on this HD DVD boasts crisp dialogue, robust music, and a well-prioritized soundscape.

Even though this is dialogue-heavy flick, the surround channels still get a good workout. Scenes inside Malkovich's consciousness have excellent acoustic density, the portal features a rush of swift channel movement, and the muffled vacuum of the puppeteering scenes are eerie. For perfect example of this mix at its best, head to the scene in which John Malkovich goes through his own portal. The resulting sonic chaos is a testament to the film's sound design and this audio track's prowess.

Likewise, the musical soundtrack is noticeably improved over the standard DVD; treble tones like violin strings are more stable, and bass is more resonant and natural without ever sounding throaty or artificial.

Having said all that, there are some downsides to this Digital-Plus mix. The biggest problem I found was that the dynamics aren't widespread and tend to limit the track's ability to feel alive. Other minor issues include some murky acoustics in Cusack's apartment, some brief but questionable channel accuracy in some of the post-portal scenes, and a few instances where dialogue is lost beneath other effects. Still, overall (and not unlike the video) 'Being John Malkovich' has never sounded better on home video than it does in this HD DVD edition, and fans are sure to be pleased.

[review_supplements_stars] => 1 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 2948 [review_supplements] =>

The features on 'Being John Malkovich' are as peculiar as the film itself, and while they're not as comprehensive as I'd like, they do an effective job of enhancing the mood of the overall experience.

First up are a couple of featurettes that cover some unsung heroes of the film's production. "An Intimate Portrait of the Art of Puppeteering" (6 minutes) is a straight forward featurette about the puppeteer who designed the marionette scenes in the film. Likewise, "An Intimate Portrait of the Art of Background Driving" (5 minutes) focuses on a random extra who drives her car in the background of scenes where Cusack is dropped beside the highway.

Next you'll find two sequences that appeared only in partial form in the film itself. "American Arts Culture Presents: John Horatio Malkovich, Dance of Despair and Disillusionment" (4 minutes) is the pseudo-documentary seen on a television in the film that documents John Malkovich's rise to puppeteer stardom. "Seven-and-a-Half Floor Orientation" (3 minutes) is the video Craig watches when he's first hired as a filing clerk.

"An Interview with Spike Jonze" (3 minutes) captures the notoriously interview-phobic director driving his car to work. While it's somewhat amusing, predictably there isn't much useful information conveyed.

Rounding out the package is a feature called "Don't Enter Here, There is Nothing Here" that literally take you to a blank page, a series of four "TV Spots," a "Theatrical Trailer," and "Spike's Photo Album" which collects thirty on-set photographs of the film's cast and crew.

(Note that all of the included supplements are presented in 480i/p and all were ported from the standard-def DVD, first released in 2000.)

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

No exclusive content here per se, but this HD DVD edition of 'Being John Malkovich' does feature Universal's high-def exclusive "My Scenes" feature, which allows the viewer to label scenes as favorites on the fly. These favorites can then be played back at any time from the main menu.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 3.5 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 2949 [review_final_thoughts] =>

The film that put both Charlie Kaufman and Spike Jonze on the cinematic map, 'Being John Malkovich' is a masterwork of modern surrealist cinema. This HD DVD edition quite strong for a catalogue release, featuring upgraded video and audio, plus a bulletpoint-for-bulletpoint port of all the standard DVD supplements (as pointless as they may be).

) ) [3] => Array ( [review_id] => 868 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => blacksnakemoan [review_release_date] => 1182841200 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Black Snake Moan [picture_created] => 1178993486 [picture_name] => black-snake-moan.gif [manufacturer_name] => Paramount Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/05/12/120/black-snake-moan.gif [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/868/blacksnakemoan.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2007 [run_time] => 115 [list_price] => 39.98 [asin] => B000Q6GUWU [amazon_price] => 27.95 [empire_id] => 1326866 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.35:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD 30GB ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5 Mbps) [1] => French Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5 Mbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Commentary Track [1] => Documentary [2] => Featurettes [3] => Deleted Scenes ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => English Subtitles [2] => French Subtitles [3] => Spanish Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Drama ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Samuel L. Jackson [1] => Christina Ricci [2] => Justin Timberlake ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Craig Brewer ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => When ex-blues musician Lazarus (Samuel L. Jackson) finds the town nymphomaniac Rae (Christina Ricci) left for dead on the side of the road, he vows to nurse her back to health…and cure her of her wickedness. Until then, she’ll be chained to the immovable radiator in his home. But Lazarus has demons of his own: his wife just left him for his own brother. While Lazarus and Rae struggle to fix their broken lives, the situation threatens to explode as Rae's boyfriend Ronnie (Justin Timberlake) — a roughneck soldier just back from Iraq — comes searching for his missing lover. [preview_technology_specifications] => TBA [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => TBA [preview_forum_id] => 6991 [review_editors_notes] => Non format-specific portions of this review also appear in our Blu-ray review of 'Black Snake Moan.' [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] => 10409 [review_movie_stars] => 3.5 [review_movie] =>

How does an up-and-coming director follow a breakout flick about a middle-aged pimp with career aspirations of hip-hop superstardom? Apparently with a controversial landmine of a film that juggles issues of race, abuse, addiction, and morality. Loosely based on a George Eliot novel from the 1860s ("Silas Marner"), writer/director Craig Brewer's second film (after his critically acclaimed 'Hustle & Flow') is an unusual film, to say the least.

'Black Snake Moan' tells the story of Lazarus (Samuel L. Jackson), a religious blues musician whose wife runs off with his brother. Stuck in a tailspin, Lazarus withdraws from his tight-knit community and attempts to deal with his wife's betrayal at the bottom of a bottle. After a heavy night of drinking, he wakes up to find a young woman named Rae (Christina Ricci) lying alongside the road, beaten and left for dead. He nurses her back to health, but soon discovers that she's a nymphomaniac with an abusive past who can't control her sexual urges. Chaining her to a radiator in his house, he decides to cure her of her "sickness" with his Bible and a stern bout of tough love.

I can't imagine what 'Black Snake Moan' must have seemed like to those who read the screenplay before the film was shot. On paper, the story would appear to be a gauntlet of pitfalls, featuring overtones of slavery, rape, and an inflammatory portrayal of female sexuality. On screen, (to their great credit) Jackson and Ricci offer up challenging performances that negate most of these potential dangers, although in the end, I still couldn't help but feel a little let down.

For the first half of the film, 'Black Snake Moan' could easily be a third entry in Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez's 'Grindhouse' -- it has a tonal darkness and a heightened reality that makes it work quite well as a trashy morality tale. The characters are complex, the plot is provoking, and the pacing unpredictable. When Ricci first wakes up with a chain around her waist, the film generates an immediate sense of momentum. Even better, the soundtrack drenches the film in a thick atmosphere that permeates every corner of Lazarus's world, driving each scene and perfectly matching every moment with the chilling croon of aching melodies.

But then things start to unravel -- characters unexpectedly shift priorities, emotional healing happens off camera, seemingly deep-rooted impulses are abruptly under control, and the last ten minutes are wrapped up with such a nice bow that the film would seem to share more in common with a Sandra-Bullock romantic comedy than the edgy masterpiece that 'Black Snake Moan' at first appeared to be. It almost feels as if large chunks of the movie have been cut out -- Lazarus and Rae don't have any defining moments or revelations, they just suddenly change without explanation when it suits the direction of the story.

By the time the credits rolled, I was more shocked by the film's sugar-coated wrap-up than all of the earlier controversial scenes put together. What began as an immensely intriguing exploration of flawed individuals ended as a shallow study of redemption. As devastating as her performance was, Ricci's on-screen sexuality suddenly seemed more like a gratuitous gimmick than a necessary plot device. Likewise, Jackson's troubled will seemed to reveal itself as simply a scripted crutch for an undeveloped plot.

Don't get me wrong, 'Black Snake Moan' certainly isn't a bad film, and I don't regret the two hours of my life I spent with it. The movie certainly boasts an original concept, and some A-list critics have even called it one of their favorite films of the year. But while I wanted to love this film, ultimately I couldn't help but be a bit disappointed by it. This really could have been a classic pulp masterpiece -- instead, for me, it's a one-trick pony that doesn't have the courage to follow through on its obscure setup.

[review_video_stars] => 5 [review_video_picture_id] => 2893 [review_video] =>

Presented in 1080p using the AVC MPEG-4 codec, this HD DVD edition of 'Black Snake Moan' is simply stunning. I wasn't expecting anything to floor me after viewing the problematic video quality of 'Hustle & Flow,' but the picture quality on this disc is in an entirely different league.

The first thing that struck me were the bold and stable colors, which are perfectly saturated with convincing textures that leap off the screen. Skintones are natural and vibrant, while clothing is intentionally drab, stained, and wrinkled. Fine object detail is astounding and every blade of grass and speck of grime is visible in the background. I could clearly see the earthy texture of rose petals, the flecks of rust on Lazarus's truck, and even the frayed stitching on Ricci's half-shirt. When Jackson first appears on screen, I literally paused the film just to marvel at the well-rendered lines in the skin of his face. Better still, grain is practically non-existent, black levels are deep, and shadows are deftly delineated. The dimension and depth in every shot sent me searching for any imperfection I could possibly find.

So did I find anything wrong? It's a stretch, but there are a couple of shots that looked slightly washed out compared to the rest of the ideally-contrasted picture. First, there's a slight haze over a quick shot of Lazarus turning toward Rae when she's first discovers her chain. The second shot has the same issue and occurs when Ricci first tries on her new green dress. Both of these, however, are blink-and-you'll-miss-em examples that probably have more to do with on-set lighting than the technical merits of this transfer.

Boasting superb visuals equal to 'The Ultimate Matrix Collection,' 'Black Snake Moan' features reference quality video that quite simply has to be seen to be believed. The HD DVD and Blu-ray versions are identical to my eye and fans of both formats should be ecstatic with this release.

[review_audio_stars] => 4.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 2894 [review_audio] =>

'Black Snake Moan' a dialogue-heavy film, so at first I didn't expect much from its audio package. But that was before the guttural moan of a blues guitar flooded my speakers for the first time. To cut to the chase, the music on this Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 surround mix (1.5 Mbps) sounds amazing -- the guitar plucks are twangy and the singing voices fill the front channels. Best of all, the drums don't seem poppy and they retain the boomy bass that blues and southern jazz are known for. When Samuel L. Jackson sings and plays the guitar, his voice moans throughout the soundfield and his strings flutter in every speaker.

Dialogue is crisp and sound prioritization is top notch. Each time Rae loses control of herself, the soundscape erupts with the cries of summer insects that eerily immersed me in her mind. Ambiance is also very good and the rear channels get a surprisingly heavy workload. The track's dynamic range is also impressive -- listen each time Rae drags the heavy chain across Lazarus's wood floor. The dull echo and harsh scuffing sounds of the chain are particuarly convincing and the acoustics of his house are frighteningly realistic.

There were, however, a few problems. Some moments suffer from hollow treble ranges (listen to S. Epatha Merkerson's voice when she speaks to Jackson outside of the pharmacy), the audio quality of the classic recordings is predictably inconsistent, and a few sound effects are both repetitive and stagey (such as the thunder when Lazarus plays his guitar for Rae).

Comparing the audio package on this HD DVD release to its Blu-ray counterpart, once again Paramount has gifted HD DVD fans with a 1.5mbps Dolby Digital-Plus track, while the Blu-ray gets a slightly demoted 640 kbps Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix. In a direct compare, there's an audible difference between the two tracks, with the HD DVD sounding a bit fuller and more robust than the Blu-ray version (you can really tell the difference when Lazarus plays his guitar and in the aforementioned sound of the dragging chain).

All things considered, this HD DVD mix excels and provides a great listening experience.

[review_supplements_stars] => 3 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 2895 [review_supplements] =>

Porting over all of the features from the standard DVD, this HD DVD edition of 'Black Snack Moan' boasts a solid (but somewhat modest) set of supplements.

First up is a feature commentary with Craig Brewer. He jumps around quite a bit, but his track is arguably more interesting because of his kinetic descriptions. The writer/director discusses his early treatments of the script, the parallels to the George Eliot novel, Samuel L. Jackson's close involvement (and his six-month training in blues guitar), and Ricci's brave performance. Brewer's anecdotes and script explanations routed some of my initial criticisms of the film, and I'm guesssing I'll have a greater appreciation for 'Black Snake Moan' next time I see it.

Having said that, my favorite part of this track was listening to Brewer discuss the relationship between the cast and the crew -- he talks about the potential exploitive nature of Ricci's performance and how everyone on set worked to keep things comfortable for her. His comments on this topic provided a captivating glimpse into the human side of a Hollywood production that I've never heard investigated quite so deeply in a commentary of this sort. Kudos to Brewer.

"Conflicted: The Making of Black Snake Moan" (31 minutes) is a behind-the-scenes documentary that examines the production and includes a ton of interviews with cast and crew. Granted, there's some repetition here with Brewer's commentary, but this one's still informative with a lot of solid analysis from Jackson and Ricci on their characters. Best of all, the documentary never feels promotional and there is a welcome abundance of on-set footage.

Next up are two musical featurettes -- "Rooted in the Blues" (12 minutes) and "The Black Snake Moan" (9 minutes). The first takes a look at Brewer's musical selections, while the second specifically explores the inspiration of Blind Lemon Jefferson's classic song, "Black Snake Moan." As a blues fan, I personally found these two supplements to be the most interesting of the bunch, but alas they're entirely too short for my taste.

Wrapping things up are the film's Theatrical Trailer, a collection of Production Stills and six Deleted Scenes (totaling about 14 minutes) featuring optional commentary from Brewer. None of the excised scenes really stood out, but they did flesh out the story and the characters a little more.

(Note that while the trailer and the deleted scenes are presented in 1080i, all of the other video supplements are in 480i/p only.)

[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] => 2896 [review_final_thoughts] =>

While I personally had some issues with the film itself, there's no denying that for most of its 115-minute runtime, 'Black Snake Moan' is a crazy ride. Better still, this HD DVD edition of the film features one of the best visual transfers I've seen, very impressive audio, and a nice set of supplements that ultimately increased my appreciation of the film.


) ) [4] => Array ( [review_id] => 770 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => bulletproof [review_release_date] => 1182841200 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Bulletproof [picture_created] => 1174777400 [picture_name] => bulletproof.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Universal Studios Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/03/24/120/bulletproof.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/770/bulletproof.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1999 [run_time] => 84 [list_price] => 29.98 [asin] => B000OHZL3A [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1315949 [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-15 Single-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5mbps) [1] => French Dolby Digital-Plus 2.0 Surround (640kpbs) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => None ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Action [1] => Adventure [2] => Comedy [3] => Crime ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => James Caan [1] => Adam Sandler [2] => Damon Wayans ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Ernest Dickerson ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Rock Keats and Archie Moses are the best of friends and have spent the past year together performing various small time criminal acts. This all changes when they become involved in a major drug smuggling operation. Rock Keats turns out to be Jack Carter, an undercover police officer and tries to arrest Moses during a failed attempt to catch criminal mastermind Frank Colton. However, Moses ends up shooting Carter and makes an escape. Moses is later caught and agrees to turn state's evidence on Colton with one condition, Carter escorts him in. When they meet, both are bitter towards each other. Unknown to them, Colton's men have orders to take out Moses and arrive to shoot down the transport plane. Carter and Moses end up by themselves in the countryside with Colton's men closing in. Will they survive?...will their friendship? [preview_technology_specifications] => TBA [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => TBA [review_bottom_line] => For Fans Only [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 11137 [review_movie_stars] => 1.5 [review_movie] =>

I've always considered the mid-'90s to be the elephant graveyard of modern cinema. From aging slasher flick icons stuck in sequel purgatory to the countless buddy-cop movie rip-offs of 'Lethal Weapon,' this was the era where old movie genres went to die. For a perfect example of the latter, one need look no further than 'Bulletproof,' a "mismatched buddies on the run" flick so played-out that it makes Sylvester Stallone's oeuvre look good.

Once inseparable pals, Archie Moses (Adam Sandler) and Rock Keats (Damon Wayans) are now on opposite sides of the law, each feeling betrayed by the other. The only person who seems to hate them more than they hate each other is ruthless drug kingpin Frank Colton (James Caan), who wants to put them both six feet under. And so, through a strange twist of fate, Moses and Keats are back together, and on the run. With a little bit of luck, the bungling boys just might get out of this one alive -- that is, if they don't kill each other first.

'Bulletproof' swipes from just about every buddy-cop flick of the '80s -- and badly, at that. Every action scene, every plot twist and every canned joke can easily be spotted as a lift from either '48 Hrs.', Beverly Hills Cop,' 'Lethal Weapon' or 'The Last Boy Scout' (also starring Wayans). Of course, such obvious "homage" wouldn't be so bad if 'Bulletproof' were witty or exciting, but it's neither. Instead, it's just tired, forced and unfunny.

Given the talent involved, the film's failures are particularly shocking. Sandler and Wayans are usually such powerful performers, but neither really lets loose in this movie -- not Wayans, who seems lost without a strong screen presence like Bruce Willis to play off of, nor Sandler, who seems completely out of his league in thus one. Though I've never been a huge fan of Sandler's Forrest Gump style of dumb comedy, he's never been as tone-deaf as he is here. He yells every line, over-emoting to the point where it doesn't come across as cocky bravado (a la the young Eddie Murphy in '48 Hrs.'), but simply fear. And director Ernest Dickerson brings no unique style to the proceedings -- this is rote action-movie banality, staged and executed with little flair or precision.

Is there anything to recommend in 'Bulletproof?' Only the fun of reveling in nostalgia, as the film seems like it was shot in 1986, not 1996. It's amazing how badly the film has aged, from the lame soundtrack tunes by such acts as Salt-N-Pepa and (I kid you not) Mr. Cheeks and Freaky Tah, to the dorky fashions that make Sandler look like Vanilla Ice's older brother. (Wayans even at one point wears 'Breakin'-inspired suspenders-over-T-shirt getup -- priceless.) Such sartorial pleasures aside, you'd be better off passing on 'Bulletproof' and instead just watching 'Lethal Weapon' for the zillionth time.

[review_video_stars] => 3.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 0 [review_video] =>

'Bulletproof' is the latest in a series of middling Universal catalog releases -- the kind a studio usually tosses out when it's trying to launch a new format but doesn't want to waste its big guns on the earliest of early adopters. Though this is another case of an old master being repurposed for high-def, 'Bulletproof' is slightly above average compared to other recent Universal HD DVD catalog titles like 'Daylight,' 'The Watcher' and 'Mystery Men.'

Simply put, the source in this case has held up better than most. There is a film-like grain permeating throughout, but little in the way of dirt, speckles or other blemishes. Blacks are good if not exceptional, and while contrast doesn't have the pop of a modern transfer at least it is pretty smooth across the entire grayscale. The image is somewhat soft, but colors are fairly vivid for a 1996 film, although there is some noise and a bit of bleeding on the most saturated hues. Depth and detail are above average for a flick of this vintage, but again the presentation is not incredibly eye-popping. All in all, a solid triple.

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

Hardly an earth-shaker, 'Bulletproof' is your typical mid-'90s soundtrack. Sound design is only fairly aggressive and there are enough cheesy pop/rock/hip hop-lite songs on the soundtrack to rival ten 'Beverly Hills Cop' movies. I half expected Bob Seger to make a cameo appearance.

In base tech terms, this Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 track (1.5mbps) sounds okay. Low bass is solid but doesn't deliver anything truly powerful. Surrounds kick in fairly frequently, though discrete effects are reserved largely for bleed on loud sounds, such as explosions and gunfire. The score and songs fill out the front soundstage nicely, but again the rears are somewhat anemic in comparison. Dialogue is balanced pretty well, with only the loudest scenes somewhat overwhelming.

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

As was the case with the standard-def DVD version, there are no extras at all on 'Bulletproof' -- not even a theatrical trailer.

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

There are no genuine HD DVD exclusives. However, Universal has included their "MyScenes" feature, which allows you to bookmark your favorite scenes for easy access even after you eject the disc from your player.

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

A pretty lousy buddy-cop flick from the mid-'90s, 'Bulletproof' is only notable because it features a pre-superstar Adam Sandler and Damon Wayans. This middling HD DVD release is rather fitting -- the transfer and soundtrack are obviously dated goods, and there are zero extras included. All but the most diehard Sandler and Wayns fans should steer clear of this one

) ) [5] => Array ( [review_id] => 851 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => deadsilence [review_release_date] => 1182841200 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Dead Silence [picture_created] => 1178993634 [picture_name] => dead-silence.gif [manufacturer_name] => Universal Studios Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/05/12/120/dead-silence.gif [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/851/deadsilence.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2007 [run_time] => 91 [list_price] => 39.98 [asin] => B000PMLJN0 [amazon_price] => 35.99 [empire_id] => 1324358 [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 Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5mbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Featurettes [1] => Deleted Scenes [2] => Music Video ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Horror [1] => Thriller ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Donnie Wahlberg [1] => Bob Gunton ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => James Wan ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => There is an old ghost story in the sleepy town of Ravens Fair about Mary Shaw, a ventriloquist who went mad. Accused of the murder of a young boy, she was hunted down by vengeful townspeople who cut out her tongue and killed her. They buried her along with her "children," a hand-made collection of vaudeville dolls. Since that time, Ravens Fair has been plagued by death. The ghastly dolls from Mary Shaw's collection have gone missing from the grave and reappeared over the decades. In the dead of night--wherever they are glimpsed--families are found gruesomely murdered... with their tongues torn out. Far from the pall of their hometown, newlyweds Jamie and Lisa Ashen thought they had established a fresh start. But when his wife is grotesquely killed, Jamie reluctantly returns to Ravens Fair for the funeral, intent on unraveling the mystery of her death. Once reunited with his ill father and his father's new young bride, Jamie must dig into the town's bloody past to find out who killed his wife and why. As he uncovers the legend of Mary Shaw, Jamie unlocks the story of her curse and the truth behind the song from his childhood: if you see her and scream, you will never speak again. [preview_technology_specifications] => • "The Making of Dead Silence," "Mary Shaw's Secrets," "Evolution of Visual FX"
• Deleted scenes including Alternate Opening and Alternate Ending
• Music video: "We Sleep Forever" by Aiden [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 6604 [review_bottom_line] => For Fans Only [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 10389 [review_movie_stars] => 1.5 [review_movie] =>

In 1984, a low-budget little fright flick called 'A Nightmare on Elm Street' appeared out of nowhere to revitalize the dying slasher genre. Spawning over six sequels and turning its demonic villain Freddy Krueger into a pop culture superstar, Wes Craven's inventive sleeper launched a franchise whose iconographic brand of dream-inspired horror remains seminal to the genre. Surprisingly, however, there were few overt rip-offs to follow -- perhaps because Freddy himself was the logical conclusion of nearly a decade's worth of cinematic slashers that had preceded him.

Well, it took nearly twenty-five years, but we finally have our first unofficial 'Nightmare on Elm Street' remake: 'Dead Silence.' This oddity of a horror flick from 'Saw' creators James Wan and Leigh Whannel so clearly lifts its core villain and central premise from the 'Elm Street' series that it's hard to believe it was released earlier this year and not back in Freddy's heydey. Unfortunately, 'Dead Silence' isn't an effective Xerox, so any thrill of nostalgia the film initially provides is short-lived.

As the plot is so dependent on its twists and turns, I'll keep the recap to a minimum. Our story begins when Jamie (Ryan Kwanten) finds an old ventriloquist dummy that has been dropped on his doorstep, with no note attached. Only minutes later, his poor fiancee Ella (Amber Valletta) ends up dead, her face contorted in a grotesque parody and her tongue ripped out. With the suspicious Detective Lipton (Donnie Wahlberg) hot on his trail, Jamie tracks the doll back to a creepy, abandoned old New England town that makes the one in 'Silent Hill' look like a thriving metropolis.

Here the story heats up, as we slowly discover the backstory behind the town's resident bogeywoman, Mary Shaw. Seems she was once a local ventriloquist with a fondness for the macabre who was believed responsible for several missing children -- "Beware the stare of Mary Shaw," the Krueger-esque nursery rhyme goes. After being tracked down and executed for her apparent misdeeds, she has haunted generations of townspeople from beyond the grave by wreaking havoc on the town. Needless to say, Jamie will have to fight the unimaginable if he hopes to solve her riddles and finally end her curse once and for all.

Mary Shaw's backstory is, of course, so similar to the death and rebirth of Freddy Krueger that she may as well be his twin sister. But visually speaking, 'Dead Silence' is a departure from 'Elm Street' flicks. Seemingly inspired by the classic Universal monster movies of the '30s (with their gothic art direction and deep black & white photography), director Wan ladles on the cobwebs and decaying mansions, and so desaturates his image that 'Dead Silence' almost looks monochromatic. Unfortunately, such visual pizzazz is no substitute for a coherent story and likable characters.

Quite frankly, 'Dead Silence' is a boring, plodding, unfocused mess -- the story has more holes than Freddy Krueger razoring his finger-claws through a mound of Swiss cheese. Character motivation is either non-existent or nonsensical, while most scenes feel pieced-together and randomly constructed, as if Wan threw up the pages of the script and filmed them in the order that they hit the ground. Even more disappointing, the film's marketing hook of scary puppets is pretty much tossed out the window, as Mary herself takes center stage most of the time.

Then there are the film's performances. No offense to Kwaten, but he appears to have been cast more for looks than talent. His line readings are incredibly stilted, and he just can't seem to hold his own against the enormous production design and a narrative that's often incomprehensible. Among the supporting players, Wahlberg at least seems to have some fun with a character that is straight out of Movie Detective Cliches 101, while the underrated Bob Gunton ('Shawshank Redemption,' TV's 'Desperate Housewives') shines in a far-too-limited role as Jamie's mean old daddy.

Ultimately, had 'Dead Silence' been really scary, it could still have been fun regardless of how poorly constructed it may be. But unfortunately, here too, the film fails. The over-the-top set design is distancing, rather than enveloping (that abandoned old town is about as believable as a leftover set from Universal Studios' yearly "Fright Fest"), while the dead-eyed dummies are only creepy to a point. In the end, without a truly terrifying villain, an engaging story or decent characters, 'Dead Silence' rings as hollow as its puppets.

(Note that this HD DVD comes billed as an "Unrated" version, boasting one minute of additional footage deemed too shocking for the R-rated theatrical version. Having seen both, I can say that the added material is slightly gorier, but adds nothing to the film's overall effectiveness.)

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 2346 [review_video] =>

I had the misfortune of originally seeing 'Dead Silence' in a near-empty theater on a rainy Sunday afternoon (a fate seemingly destined for go-nowhere horror flicks like this), and while I can't say I love the film's visual look, this 1080p/VC-1 encode does accurately match the experience I had that day at the cinema.

Presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, 'Dead Silence' certainly makes nice use of its wide frame, as director of photography John R. Leonetti uses every inch of the space he has. The print itself is also in excellent shape, as are blacks, which remain rock solid.

Colors, on the other hand, are a bit more troubling. Purposefully desaturated with only splashes of intensity, the effect results in some chroma noise and some slight bleeding. Contrast also tends to vary, with some dark scenes looking very flattened out while others are very harsh and high-key, resulting in blooming whites. Detail follows suit -- some shots are very three-dimensional (particularly the effective end sequence), while others look more akin to a good standard-def DVD.

Again, since these issues seem to stem from the source, and not the transfer, I can't fault this HD DVD too much (hence the high score), but the visual inconsistencies of the movie itself make this a tough one to love.

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

The sound design for 'Dead Silence' almost seems schizophrenic. It's as if the filmmakers couldn't decide between a low-key soundtrack that harkens back to the moody, minimal classics of Universal's monster movie era, and a loud, neo-heavy metal stinger soundtrack more common to horror movies today, so they just did both. Unfortuntely neither approach soars in this Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 surround track (1.5mbps) track.

On one side of the coin, the film's atmosphere moments (usually involving very looooong, spooky shots of immobile puppets) are too restrained, and lack any sustained presence in the surrounds. Conversely, the jarring stingers that punctuate the "shock" moments in the movie are too bombastic As presented here, they're not scary -- they're just obnoxious.

Dialogue, meanwhile, struggles to find its place in between these two extremes. I found myself wanting to throw my remote at the screen on more than a few occasions, after cranking the volume up to hear what the actors were saying, only to be have my eardrums assaulted by screaming stingers a moment later.

Again, to be fair -- not unlike the video -- my issues with the audio on this disc stem largely from the source material. In fact, technically speaking, this track is more or less up to snuff, boasting tight bass and solid dynamic range. Still, I think most will find the sound design on this one way too self-conscious to be truly effective.

[review_supplements_stars] => 2 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 2347 [review_supplements] =>

Seeing as 'Dead Silence' failed to do much business at the box office, it shouldn't surprise that Universal hasn't created much in the way of impressive supplements for the film's disc debut. Arriving on standard-def and high-def formats simultaneously, this is certainly an acceptable package, but it's hardly memorable.

First up are three featurettes. All are of the EPK variety, featuring a series of production interviews with the main cast and crew.

"The Making of 'Dead Silence'" (12 minutes) is the funniest of the bunch, as various producers and executives wax idealistic about harkening back to the classic horror films of eons past. Of course, no one mentions Freddy Krueger or every other slasher/ghost story 'Dead Silence' so blatantly rips off.

"Mary Shaw's Secrets" (7 minutes) examines the backstory of the film's central character. I found this one the most interesting of the three featurettes, although I'm a bit of a sucker for hokey horror movie villain mythology, even one as derivative as this.

Finally, "Evolution of a Visual FX" (4 minutes) dissects a specific scary sequence from pre-production mock-up to final shot. This one's standard making-of stuff, but be sure not to watch it before you see the movie, as it's something of a spoiler.

Next are nearly 19 minutes worth of Deleted Scenes, including an Alternate Opening and an Alternate Ending. Most are dull scene extensions or character/plot bits that add nothing to the movie, but the Alternate Opening does generate some interest by better fleshing out the backstory of Mary Shaw. Note that many of these scenes are rough, with large sections missing effects or key post-production sound.

Rounding out the set is a music video for Aiden's "We Sleep Forever," which, in the grand tradition of movie-inspired videos, is a bunch of film clips intercut with the performance.

Note tht Universal has not provided any theatrical trailers for 'Dead Silence,' and that all of the video-based extras outlined above are provided in 480p/i/MPEG-2 video only.

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 2348 [review_bonus_content] =>

There are no HD DVD exclusives.

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

As a life-long horror buff, I was disappointed by 'Dead Silence.' While the film hints at a back-to-basics approach to the genre, ultimately it's just a plodding 'Nightmare on Elm Street' rip-off, only twenty years too late. As an HD DVD release, this one fares somewhat better. While the source elements have their issues, both the video transfer and the sound accurately reproduce the film's theatrical presentation, and there's a slim but solid package of supplements.

) ) [6] => Array ( [review_id] => 789 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => freedomvol1 [review_release_date] => 1182841200 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Freedom: 1 [picture_created] => 1181766994 [picture_name] => cover.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Bandai Visual [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/06/13/120/cover.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/789/freedomvol1.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2006 [run_time] => 25 [list_price] => 39.95 [asin] => B000P6XQ0A [amazon_price] => 27.95 [empire_id] => 1323588 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.78:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => Featurettes [1] => Storyboards [2] => HD-i Technology [3] => Downloadable Content [4] => Trailer ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD Single Layer 15GB [1] => DVD Layer 4.6GB [2] => Twin Format Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => Japanese Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5 Mbps) [1] => Japanese PCM 2.0 Stereo ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Anime [1] => Fantasy [2] => Sci-Fi ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => “Freedom” is a science fiction anime series whose use in Nissin instant noodle TV ads created much attention in Japan. The drama unfolds on the moon’s surface in the city of Eden, the last human settlement, and focuses on a youth whose actions threaten to shake the freedom and peace of Eden. The scale of the story and the dynamic action have earned the series high marks. Bandai Visual is confident that this work, which uses the latest concepts and technology to combine 3DCGI with the 2D animation that has long been a key strength of Japan’s anime industry, is ideal as a technology development source for the next generation medium of HD DVD. [preview_technology_specifications] => TBA [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => TBA [preview_forum_id] => 4815 [review_editors_notes] => This disc contains several HDi-enhanced extras which may require a firmware upgrade to your HD DVD player. If you experience playback issues, consult your player's manual for instructions on how to download the latest firmware update. [review_bottom_line] => Give it a Rent [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] => 9887 [review_introduction] =>

This HD DVD release of 'Freedom 1' is unique in several ways: not only is it the first anime title to be released on HD DVD in the US, but it's also the first US-release of a "Twin-Format" HD DVD/DVD disc. Not to be confused with double-sided HD DVD/DVD combo discs, twin-format discs can contain up to three layers of recorded content on a single-sided disc. 'Freedom 1' uses two of those layers -- a 15GB HD DVD layer, and a 4.6GB standard-def DVD layer.

As if that weren't enough, 'Freedom 1' also boasts a tweaked VC-1 encode that was reportedly co-developed by both Microsoft and Bandai (the disc's distributor). To top things off, the disc includes several never-before seen advanced HDi-enhanced extras, including a customizable picture-in-picture track, and several supplementary features accessible only through your HD DVD player's internet connection.

So, we've established that this is a most unusual HD DVD release -- but is it any good? Read on...

[review_movie_stars] => 4 [review_movie] =>

The anime series 'The Freedom Project' is the result of a unique marketing manuever commissioned by Nissin Cup Noodles in Japan that has evolved into a six part Original Video Animation (OVA). Normally I would shrug off this kind of production as simply a corporate gimmick, but this one is intriguing in that it boasts Katsuhiro Otomo ('Akira,' 'Steamboy') as its lead character and mech designer. For those new to anime, Otomo's involvement with Nissin on 'Freedom' is the equivalent of Martin Scorsese working on a television show commissioned by Campbell's Soup.

The direct-to-DVD series itself is being released one half-hour episode at a time every few months in its native Japan, backed by a publicity blitz that has littered streets and subways with posters, banners, and character art for over a year now. Given the onslaught of awareness that has surrounded the series in Japan, US anime fans (myself included) have been clamoring to get a look at what all the fuss is about. Uniquely, 'Freedom 1' makes its U.S.-based home video debut *only* as a twin-format HD DVD release, meaning that this is the only edition of the disc currently being released in the U.S.

As the series opens, we learn that in the middle of the 21st century, Earth was devastated by a dramatic climate shift that killed billions. The survivors colonized the moon and formed a new society called Eden, which was built as a series of lunar cities meant to form a utopia, but it's become a grimy neo-Tokyo with abundant problems. The year is 2267 and Eden educates its children until the age of fifteen. At that point, they're granted a brief period of freedom before they're reintegrated into the system to serve in a pre-assigned position in the workforce.

Takeru (voiced by Daisuke Namikawa) has just graduated and wants to race in a dangerous series of tunnels with a shoddy vehicle (Lunar Terrain Vehicle or LTD) of his own design. His friends Kazuma (Shotaro Morikubo) and Bis (Kappei Yamaguchi) support the young dreamer and help him with his LTD's mechanical problems, but the direction of the series is set when Takeru stumbles upon a secret that threatens to call Earth's fate and Eden's livelihood into question.

Before I jump into my critique, I should mention that my biggest disappointment with 'Freedom 1' was its length. In following with the Japanese DVD release scheme, this disc includes only the first episode of the series, which (subtracting the opening credits and the end credits) only lasts a little over twenty minutes. As a result, it's tough to get much of a feel for the story or the characters.

That complaint aside, I'm an absolute sucker for Otomo's artwork and I was really struck by the expressiveness of his characters. With so many near-photo quality CG films in theaters these days, I'd almost forgotten how much I love the quaint realism applied to the screen with quality traditional animation. Thanks to a solid script, colorful characters, and emotive dialogue, I had an easy time immersing myself in Takeru's underground subculture.

I also quite enjoyed the rough line art of the production and the painted backdrops used to frame the character animation. Character lines are crisp, but the backgrounds look as if they've been reprinted from a manga comic. This disjointed look is appealing because it has such strong roots in graphic novel artwork -- the resulting effect is like flipping through a manga and watching as it comes to life on the page. The addition of CG animation (even when its used for the main characters) isn't distracting, and generally blends well with the 2D animation. The only hiccup is consistent with every anime that uses this blend of old and new -- the CG animation has noticeably more frames per second than the hand drawn elements.

Even though this disc only contains the first episode, the story does have a nice setup. Once I've seen the entire series, I may end up reversing my thoughts, but taken on its own, 'Freedom 1' does everything an opening volley should -- it develops tension, introduces endearing and sympathetic characters, and sets the stage for more epic events to transpire. The city feels intentionally dead and the despair inherent in the survivors of humanity is immediately apparent, creating a really nice contrast that propels the rebellious Takeru forward -- his dreams and aspirations are more believable because Eden is so superficial.

I suppose I should mention the cringe-inducing theme song ("This is Love") by Japanese pop singer Utada Hikaru. I dig all of the eccentricities Japanese culture sprinkles into anime -- it's part of the appeal for a fan from the US, but I cannot, for the life of me, understand the continual use of pop songs that seem to contradict the tone of the anime they accompany. The end credits of 'Freedom' feature a percussion-heavy score that (in my opinion) is far superior and more fitting.

As it stands, I'm really looking forward to seeing future installments of 'The Freedom Project.' I wish more episodes were available at once so I could get more of an overall feel for the series, but the fantastic art and the intriguing story are enough to get my initial buy-in. Hopefully this series will continue to impress and not fall into the clichés of the genre.

[review_video_stars] => 4.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 2821 [review_video] =>

As I mentioned in the introduction to this review, 'Freedom 1' is the first twin-format HD DVD/DVD to hit the US market, although from looking at the disc itself, you'd never guess it's anything special. Unlike combo discs, one side has a printed label, while the other side looks just like a normal HD DVD disc. Pop it in an HD DVD player or a standard-def player, however, and the twin-format disc starts to work its magic, auto-detecting the player format and hopping to the proper layer without the user having to make any selection.

Presented in 1080p with the VC-1 codec, the HD DVD presentation of 'Freedom 1' is a vibrant wonder that looks very good all around. The standard-def DVD transfer included on this disc (encoded with MPEG-2) looks good as well, but in a direct compare, it doesn't come close to the high-def presentation.

Bandai has said that it worked with Microsoft to optimize the VC-1 codec for anime, and the results are quite impressive -- the HD DVD layer boasts vivid colors, perfect black levels, and crisply detailed linework. Most impressively, the textures in the background paintings are phenomenal. Just look at the lunar surface and the industrial imperfections of distant buildings -- you can see the brush strokes of the hand-painted elements. I was also pleased to see that the color fills fit snuggly into the linework -- there aren't any instances where the seams of the animation show through the high-def presentation.

There are a few problems, but most can be attributed to the master print rather than the HD DVD transfer. Slight color banding is present in places like the orange sky during the first street race, as well as on the visors of the spacesuits later in the episode. However, the banding doesn't shift with movement which leads me to believe it was present in the original coloring of these elements. Likewise, when the bikers first confront each other on the street, the orange sky has slight compression artifacts littered across the expanse. Again though, when the shot pans, the compression artifacts are unaffected -- leading me to conclude that the compression is an element of the original graphic file used in the background, rather than the HD DVD transfer.

The only issue that seems to be presented by the VC-1 encode itself is a slight pixilation to thin lines (particuarly around the eyes of the characters). This isn't distracting per se, but does pop up quite frequently once you start looking for it. All things considered, however, these issues are so insignificant that most fans won't even notice -- the picture is gorgeous, and only makes me excited to see more 2D animation released in high-def in the future.

[review_audio_stars] => 4 [review_audio_picture_id] => 2822 [review_audio] =>

Unfortuntely, the audio package on this HD DVD forces fans to make an annoying choice -- either you go with a full Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 surround mix (1.5 Mbps) or a front-heavy uncompressed Linear PCM 2.0 track. The use of surround channels on the Dolby mix provides the best overall audio experience, but the PCM track provides the best sound clarity. Because the bike races are more exhilarating when they fill the soundfield, I personally recommend the Dolby mix.

Both tracks are presented in Japanese with optional English subtitles. Each mix boasts clear dialogue, good prioritization, and subtle channel movement. Sound effects are typical for anime (occasionally drifting over the top), but explosions and crashes are authentic and convincing. Treble tones don't waver and the bass ranges boom and rumble (just listen when Takeru fires his boost rocket near the end of the episode). Even better, the Dolby surround mix features an impressive soundfield that feels full and rich -- the racers whiz across the entire soundscape and eerily move from the rear channels, to the front, and back to the rear channels in half a second.

Like most 2D animation, the sound design tends to explode during action beats, but feels a bit empty during character interactions and dialogue scenes. There doesn't seem to be many varying room acoustics in 'Freedom 1' except for moments where an auditory discrepancy would be painfully obvious (inside a spacesuit or a tunnel for example). Overall though, the sound design seems to have received a lot of attention and it feels weightier than some of the soundwork I've heard with other anime series.

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

The only supplement included on both the HD DVD and DVD layers of 'Freedom 1' is a trailer for the next episode of the series. There are, however, several additional HD DVD-only supplements...

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 1.5 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 2823 [review_bonus_content] =>

The HD DVD-exclusive supplements on this edition of 'Freedom 1' are the result of a partnership between Microsoft and Memory-Tech. The disc uses HD-i technology to add an extra layer of customization to your experience, and while it does offer some intriguing ideas, overall this package feels a bit more like a tech demo than it does a solid offering of supplemental material.

Here's how it works: when activated, you can choose from several features that appear alongside the screen that contains the episode itself. Pressing "A" on the remote displays the show's production credits on the right side of the screen. In this case, the effect is choppy and mildly pointless, but if used for something other than credits, this option would seem to have great potential. Pressing "B" shows ongoing storyboards for the entire episode on the left side of the screen. This is an excellent use of the technology -- being able to watch a progression of storyboards side-by-side with the episode is quite enticing (especially for manga fans). The only technical downside to these two options is that it's not possible to have both supplemental windows open at once.

Pressing "C", meanwhile, will bookmark up to seven scenes that can be accessed later from a disc menu. This isn't anything new or exciting, but it seems to be popping up on more and more high-def releases so someone must be using it.

The other significant feature included on the disc is a "3DCG Simulation Video" that shows the framing of the CG elements in the tunnel race. Displayed in a picture-in-picture window overtop the finished scene, this one is also fairly standard but it does feature some nice customization options. Again, these make for an impressive tech demo, but don't really enhance this particular supplement.

Pressing "A" on your remote allows you to change the size of the PiP window (there are seven different size options provided), pressing "B" adjusts the transparency of the PiP window (with 4 levels of opacity), pressing "C" swaps the main windo video with the PiP window video, while pressing "D" resets all of your changes to the default settings. Pressing the directional arrows, it's also possible to move the PiP window anywhere on the screen. The only hiccup to these welcome options is that the video content in the PiP video isn't presented in high definition -- when I popped it into the main window, the picture was pixilated and flooded with noise.

Finally, there is an option to access locked content and to download additional content if your HD DVD player is connected online. You can download the original Japanese TV commercial in standard definition, access the series' Prologue, and watch the trailer for the first episode.

Unfortunately, as I reviewed this disc the host server that houses the supplemental content for 'Freedom 1' was offline -- it's not scheduled to go live until the disc is released to the public. But even though I can't access the material yet, I still have some complaints.

My major issue is that if there is content already loaded on the disc, a user shouldn't have to acquire an online access key to view it. You've already shelled out your money and now you have to jump through hoops to get your money's worth -- it's not a process that respects our positions as fans.

Secondly, I have a lesser complaint. While tech savvy consumers will be able to keep the content they download on external hard drives, most fans will have to download the content, watch it, and then delete it in order make room for future content on this or other releases.

All in all, while the added features in this HD DVD edition of 'Freedom 1' are certainly a novelty, and demonstrate great potential for future releases, unfortunately there isn't enough quality content included here to really show them off.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 3.5 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 2824 [review_final_thoughts] =>

Groundbreaking in more ways than one, I really enjoyed this first episode of 'The Freedom Project' on HD DVD, and I have every intention of checking out the rest of the series -- the picture was beautiful and the audio package was full of life. And while the advanced technical features on this disc don't add much to the overall presentation, they're certainly impressive and fun to play with. Having said that, given the fact that the main feature on this disc is only twenty-five minutes long, the list price of $39.99 ($27.25 at Amazon) is likely to be a tough sell for all but the most dedicated anime fan. If you're not already a fan of the 'The Freedom Project,' your best bet may be to try to find this one as a rental before you buy.

) ) [7] => Array ( [review_id] => 796 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => hustleandflow [review_release_date] => 1182841200 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Hustle & Flow [picture_created] => 1175668579 [picture_name] => hustle-flow-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Paramount Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/04/03/120/hustle-flow-hd-dvd-box-art.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/796/hustleandflow.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2005 [run_time] => 115 [list_price] => 29.95 [asin] => B000OONQB2 [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1317170 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => Theatrical Trailers ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD 30GB ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5 Mbps) [1] => French Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5 Mbps) [2] => Spanish Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5 Mbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Commentary Track [1] => Featurettes [2] => Extended Scenes [3] => Promotional Spots ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => English Subtitles [2] => French Subtitles [3] => Spanish Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Crime [1] => Drama [2] => Urban ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Terence Howard [1] => Anthony Anderson [2] => Taryn Manning ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Craig Brewer ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Aspiring emcee DJay works the angles to get his first record made with help from assorted people in his Memphis 'hood. And when he hears that hip-hop superstar Skinny Black is heading to his area, he throws together a supreme hustle to grab Skinny's attention. [preview_technology_specifications] => TBA [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => TBA [review_editors_notes] => Non format-specific portions of this review also appear in our Blu-ray review of 'Hustle & Flow.' [review_bottom_line] => Worth a Look [review_gear] => defaultReview 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] => 10506 [review_movie_stars] => 4.5 [review_movie] =>

Writer/director Craig Brewer's hip-hop drama 'Hustle & Flow' might well be called "the little movie that could." Seemingly plucked from obscurity to debut at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival, the critically-praised film enjoyed a surprisingly strong theatrical run, and went on to earn a scad of award nods (including, most famously, an Oscar win for the Three 6 Mafia song "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp").

The film itself focuses on a hard-working pimp named DJay (Terrence Howard), who finds himself in the midst of a mid-life crisis. As the city street corners become more and more dangerous, he can't help but feel that he was meant to do something greater in life. And so, with the help of his sound technician friend Key (Anthony Anderson), DJay begins to lay down rap tracks in the hopes of impressing a famous hip-hop artist coming to town named Skinny Black (Ludacris). Along the way, he'll also receive help from two hookers in his employ (Taraji P. Henson and Taryn Manning), and a mixer friend of Key's named Shelby (D.J. Qualls).

It may sound like the set-up for a comedy, but 'Hustle & Flow' is actually a dark drama about the struggles of poverty and inner city life in the south. Terrence Howard is downright revelatory in this role, evolving DJay from an exploitive thug to a guy with a dream, and in turn, a character the audience can genuinely root for. Never settling for the obvious choices, Howard instead presents a challenging performance that adds a several layers of humanity to a character that might otherwise be perceived as a monster.

The supporting cast is top notch as well -- Anderson follows up his appearances on the FX original series "The Shield" with another astounding performance that suggests he should never turn to cheap comedies again. Likewise, the often type-cast D.J. Qualls also proves he deserves better material.

But the real brilliance of the film lies in its ability to shatter expectations. Some viewers may hesitate to give 'Hustle & Flow' a try simply because of its thematic elements and investigation of hip-hop culture, but if they make the leap, they'll discover a character study that examines a wide range of social issues. I not only felt for DJay, I felt a genuine sympathy for anyone trapped by their environment and their upbringing. Equally as powerful, Brewer's lens drifts through the streets of Memphis, focusing on unexpected elements like residential housing conditions, the climate, and the clash of races.

In short, while it may not be to everyone's taste, 'Hustle & Flow' is an undeniably accomplished work. With excellent performances and a pulsing script, the film is both distinctive and taxing. Between this film and his follow-up, 'Black Snake Moan' (which is being released on high-def concurrent to this release), writer/director Craig Brewer has clearly established himself as one to watch -- I, for one, can't wait to see what else he's got in his brain.

[review_video_stars] => 2 [review_video_picture_id] => 2914 [review_video] =>

'Hustle & Flow' is presented on HD DVD in 1080p using the VC-1 codec. Sadly, the video is the weakest part of this release -- a heavy hurricane of grain covers the image and the fine object detail is lacking. To be fair, the film was shot on 16mm so heavier grain is to be expected. However, the grain is so intrusive at times that it severely flattens the image, pulling background elements into the same field of view as the foreground. In high definition, the effect is jarring. Each dot of grain is sharper than any of the textures rendered on the screen and the entire picture lacks dimension and depth.

If grain were the only problem, I'd chalk it up to the film stock and give the video a higher score. However, edges are soft and the print is speckled with damage and scratches. Contrast levels also occasionally waver and fail to establish any sort of consistency throughout the production. If this was the director's intention, it's a big misstep -- compared to the image quality of 'Black Snake Moan' (Brewer's follow-up film, released simultaneously to high-def), the video quality is from another era. 'Black Snake Moan' retained a gritty feel without sacrificing the picture -- 'Hustle & Flow' is simply a messy disappointment.

If you look past its flaws, colors are generally well saturated, skintones are natural, and black levels are good. Compared to the standard DVD, this HD DVD transfer of 'Hustle & Flow' offers a decent upgrade in resolution and fidelity -- but the high definition presentation works against the video quality and calls too much attention to the on-screen grit. Some may argue that the print enhances the mood, but I'd personally much rather immerse myself in the film on its own merits.

Note that while the HD DVD and Blu-ray editions of 'Hustle & Flow' sport different encodes (this HD DVD gets a VC-1 transfer, while the Blu-ray gets AVC MPEG-4), a direct compare between the two transfers yielded identical results.

[review_audio_stars] => 4 [review_audio_picture_id] => 2915 [review_audio] =>

Happily, the audio package is much more impressive than the video. Featuring a Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 surround mix (1.5 Mbps), the 'Hustle & Flow' HD DVD boasts great dynamics that highlight the intricacies of the music. Bass beats are solid, synthesized treble blips are stable, and the rappers voices flow within the music across the front channels. The music relly sounds amazing and I felt like I was listening to a high quality audio CD instead of watching a movie.

Channel accuracy is dead on and the sound design includes a convincing layer of ambiance distributed nicely across all the channels. The soundfield has presence and rings true regardless of what's happening on screen. Channel movement is subtle and I only noticed two instances where effect pans seemed choppy. Also of note, the audio tracks on the HD DVD and Blu-ray versions of 'Hustle & Flow' (while once again unequal in bitrate) sound nearly identical to me -- if you listen for it, the HD DVD mix has a slightly broader dynamic range, but it doesn't create enough of an impact to effect the audio ratings.

My only major complaint is that the dialog on this track, while clear and well-prioritized, tends to lack the crispness of other high-def releases. Scenes will suddenly be host to hollow voices or murky speech and it's instantly apparent when it happens. It's a consistent problem and will distract audiophiles, but it isn't enough to ruin this otherwise above average sound mix.

[review_supplements_stars] => 3 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 2916 [review_supplements] =>

'Hustle & Flow' comes with a healthy package of supplements, all of which were first made available on the standard DVD, and all of which are presented in 480i/p only.

The most notable and exciting extra is the commentary track with writer/director Craig Brewer. His passion for 'Hustle & Flow' is obvious from the start and he seems hardly able contain his enthusiasm. As he does on the excellent commentary on 'Black Snake Moan,' Brewer discusses the actors, the crew, the performances, the script (in all its various forms), as well as all the various little details about Memphis that he massaged into the film. The best bits include stories from Brewer's past and his own experiences in the deep south. His engaging tone and entertaining anecdotes make this commentary well worth the time.

Next up are a series of top quality featurettes. "Behind the Hustle" (28 minutes) is a behind-the-scenes video that includes rehearsal footage, cast & crew interviews, and fly-on-the-wall moments behind the cameras. The information presented is slightly repetitive to Brewer's commentary, but it never makes the featurette feel dry. "By Any Means Necessary" (15 minutes) focuses on the process of getting 'Hustle & Flow' onto the big screen. It details the struggles, the script changes, the production meetings, and the frustrating ends to which the filmmakers worked to drum up funding for the film. Finally, "Creating Crunk" (14 minutes) is a great addition that I wish was much longer. It examines the music in the film, the original songs, and the way they were written and produced. I could watch this kind of featurette for hours and I was really impressed with the level of effort that went into the production of the soundtrack.

Rounding out the disc are a few odds-and-ends that will mostly appeal to completists and/or hardcore fans of the film. There's stark audition footage of the "Paula Jay Parker Audition" (3 minutes), amusing "Ludacris and Terrence Howard" rehearsal footage (3 minutes), an MTV-styled look at the "Memphis Hometown Premiere" (5 minutes), and two Extended Scenes (5 minutes) that are good enough that they should have been kept in the film.

There's also an amusing rendition of "Hard Out Here for a Pimp" (3 minutes) which features the cast and crew singing on-set while someone plays an acoustic guitar. Lastly, there are a collection of "Promotional Spots" (4 minutes).

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0.5 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content] =>

For whatever reason, Paramount didn't include the film's two original theatrical trailers in its orginal standard-def DVD, making their appearance on the HD DVD and Blu-ray editions a genuine high-def exclusive -- and unlike the supplements listed above, these are presented in full high-definition. Strangely, the high-def trailers look a tad better than the transfer of the main feature. It's bizarre to say the least -- I did side-by-side comparisons of the same shots in both the trailers and the film itself and found there to be slightly less grain and greater sharpness in the trailers than in the main feature.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 3.5 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 2917 [review_final_thoughts] =>

It doesn't matter if you're a fan of rap or hip-hop culture or not -- 'Hustle & Flow' is a brilliant character study that resonates on many different levels. Fans will be happy to find a great audio package and a nice collection of special features, but unfortunately the video on 'Hustle & Flow' is one of the worst transfers I've seen. For those considering replacing their standard-def edition with this one, this HD DVD still offers an upgrade, but the trade-offs may not justify spending your hard-earned money all over again.

) ) [8] => Array ( [review_id] => 771 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => mallrats [review_release_date] => 1182841200 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Mallrats [picture_created] => 1174777504 [picture_name] => mallrats.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Universal Studios Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/03/24/120/mallrats.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/771/mallrats.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1995 [run_time] => 96 [list_price] => 29.98 [asin] => B000OHZL2Q [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1315965 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => My Scenes ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD 30GB ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5 Mbps) [1] => French Dolby Digital-Plus 2.0 ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Commentary Track [1] => Featurettes [2] => Reunion Documentary [3] => Deleted Scenes [4] => Outtakes [5] => Music Video [6] => Theatrical Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Comedy [1] => Romanc ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Shannon Doherty [1] => Jason Lee [2] => Ben Affleck [3] => Jeremy London ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Kevin Smith ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Brodie Bruce, a Sega and comic book obsessed college student, and his best friend, TS Quint, are both dumped by their girlfriends on the same day, and to deal with their loss, they both go to the local mall. Along the way, they meet up with some friends, including Willam, a guy who stares at Magic Eye pictures, desprately trying to see the hidden image; Gwen, one of TS's ex-girlfriends; and Jay & Silent Bob, of Clerks fame. Eventually, they decide to try and win back their significant others, and take care of their respective nemesises (TS's girlfriend's father, and a store clerk who hates the two for not having any shopping agenda). [preview_technology_specifications] => TBA [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => TBA [review_easter_eggs] =>

Kevin Smith releases were notorious on standard DVD for easter eggs and secret goodies, and the trend continues in high definition. There are no fewer than six easter eggs on the 'Mallrats' HD DVD. The only downside is that they're all presented in extremely poor 480i. Thanks to Bob, Topweasel and others for tipping us off to these extra tidbits!

First up, head for the Setup menu and highlight the English SDH option -- press right and click on the WHOOSH! icon for a clip of Kevin Smith talking about adjusting to make-up artists following him around set.

Next, go to the main menu, highlight the "My Scenes" button and press down two times to highlight another BAM! icon. Click on it to watch a dozen or so takes of Jason Mewes throwing out the "do it doug" line from the final act of the film.

Want a few more? Drop by the Chapters menu -- highlight either chapter 6 or chapter 14, press up, and click on the resulting icons. The Snoochie Boochies! icon leads to an alternate take of Jay's pet store dance and the BAM! icon leads to a funny tongue-in-cheek interview with Stan Lee. Then highlight the Return button at the bottom of the screen, press down, and select the WHOOSH icon that appears. This easter egg is the only dud in the bunch and simply features a series of takes from the usually brilliant Jason Lee as he delivers a boring line again and again.

Last but not least is the best of the bunch -- Kevin Smith being the hilarious merchandise whore that he is! This is one of my favorite easter eggs of all times just because it's so self-aware. Easter egg junkies will get a good laugh at themselves on this one.

Still MIA are two other easter eggs that appeared on the Collector's Edition DVD: an additional shameless plug of Kevin Smith's Secret Stash merchandise and stores (with Smith, Mewes, Lee, Mooby, and the Golgothan) and Mewes interviewing Lee about his role in 'Mallrats.' If anyone finds these elsewhere on this HD DVD, be sure to let us know so we can post them here!

[review_easter_eggs_added] => 1184275057 [review_bottom_line] => Worth a Look [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] => 11218 [review_movie_stars] => 4 [review_movie] =>

Writer/director Kevin Smith burst onto the indie scene in 1994 with 'Clerks,' an irreverent ode to his years of over-the-counter service at a local convenience store. Since then, he's continued to draw upon his own life to create a mini-universe of New Jersey angst spread across seven films. His career has proven to be a critical rollercoaster that speeds between immense praise ('Chasing Amy') and outright scorn ('Jersey Girl'). But none of his films have split audiences and critics more harshly than his 1995 sophomore effort, 'Mallrats.'

When an uptight romantic named T.S. (Jeremy London) is dumped by his girlfriend Brandi (Claire Forlani), his best friend Brodie (Jason Lee) decides to cheer him up with a day at the local mega-mall. But Brodie's attempts to ease his friend's pain are soon thwarted by a group of mall-dwellers, including Brodie's ex-girlfriend Rene (Shannen Doherty), an angry sales clerk (Ben Affleck), the stoned dynamic duo Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Smith himself), an underage sex-documentarian (Renee Humphrey), and one of T.S.'s ex-flames (Joey Lauren Adams). Over the course of the day, the boys will each declare their love for Brandi and Rene, win a battle of wits with Brandi's father (Michael Rooker), and avoid being kicked out of Brodie's favorite mall.

To be honest, 'Mallrats' on its own isn't likely to win Kevin Smith any new fans. In fact, Smith himself seems to have had a hard time deciding what he thinks of the film -- when it was first released to a backlash from fans, he apologized and blamed the film's failures on studio interference. But over time, as the film gained a stronger cult following on DVD, he has referred to his initial apology as a joke.

Personally, I'm a huge fan of Smith's films and I think 'Mallrats' has a lot to offer. Though his rapid-fire dialogue occasionally feels like it's being recited rather than delivered, more often than not it's gut-bustlingly funny and incredibly clever. Smith has a brilliant insight into what makes young minds tick and each character adds another layer of amusement to the mix. The performances are generally on target as well. Jason Lee's Brodie is a posturing powder keg of fury and his scenes steal the movie at every turn. His scene with a mugging Stan Lee is wonderful -- hilarious, sweet, and revealing all at the same moment.

The film also has a surprisingly strong undercurrent of hope and romanticism bubbling under the surface. Smith's ability to portray authentic friendships and relationships is perhaps unparalleled, and at its heart, 'Mallrats' is about good friends and the lengths to which they'll go to help each other out.

Having said all that, objectively 'Mallrats' is not without its faults. It does sometimes falter when it focuses on juvenile humor and visual gags, and it also feels dated, both by the mid '90s pop culture references, and by the occasionally stilted performances by his then-less experienced cast (London is particularly painful to watch and a few cameos from Smith alumni don't go as well as planned).

In the end, your opinion of 'Mallrats' is likely to parallel your opinion of the director's work in general. If you love everything that drips from Smith's pen onto his lens, you'll be in heaven when you have the chance to catch up with 'Mallrats' again. If you think Smith's films are trite and repetitive, you'll absolutely hate this flick and I'd advise you avoid it at all cost.

For my own part, as a Kevin Smith fan, I think 'Mallrats' is worth every penny. Granted, it's not my favorite of his films (that honor bobbles between 'Chasing Amy' and 'Clerks II'), but it's a fun flick that I've watched and laughed at countless times over the years.

[review_video_stars] => 3 [review_video_picture_id] => 2941 [review_video] =>

Presented in 1080p using the VC-1 codec, 'Mallrats' clearly hasn't been remastered for its release to high definition, although this HD DVD edition is certainly a nice step up from the previously released Anniversary Edition DVD.

Colors are vivid, skintones are natural, and black levels are deep. The palette is purposefully washed out at times, but there are instances of strong primaries that drench the screen in mood and life (just watch the last fifteen minutes of the film). Source noise and artifacting have been eliminated from previous releases -- the only remaining noise is a moderate veneer of grain that showcases the film's lower budget roots.

I did had some issues that are relatively minor on their own, but cumulatively knock this transfer down a couple of notches. My biggest problem was the softness of fine details, which is most obvious when looking at background elements like book covers and street signs -- there's a slight murkiness present over the entire transfer, which lacks the pop and vitality of other films released to high-def. I also caught several glaring examples of edge enhancement, random print scratches, surfaces that lack convincing texture, and average shadow delineation. All of the visual problems are most obvious in the early stages of the film and improve slightly when T.S. and Brodie reach the mall, but the transfer never achieves greatness.

[review_audio_stars] => 3 [review_audio_picture_id] => 2942 [review_audio] =>

The 'Mallrats' HD DVD features a solid Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 surround mix (1.5 Mbps) that's compares quite favorably to the standard DVD. The film's music soundtrack receives the most noticeable improvement -- lead guitars are more stable, drums are more earthy, and the bass guitars pulse with bravado. When Weezer crescendos into the rock-ballad "Suzanne" at the end of the film, it sounds as full and spirited as it should. The sound effects also receive a bump and are less stagey at a higher bitrate. Just compare the Jay and Silent Bob sabotage scenes on the HD DVD to the Anniversary Edition DVD -- the difference is obvious. Kevin Smith films are always packed with dialogue and this Digital-Plus track renders each word crisply in a well prioritized soundscape. There are a few moments when the actors' post-dubbing is obvious, but of course that's an issue with the original sound editing and not the technical mix.

Sadly, the soundfield is still shallow and front heavy -- other than the robust rock songs, there are only a few instances where the rear speakers make their presence known. As mentioned above, dialogue is certainly crisp, but it sounds hollow and is devoid of resonance. For the most part, the entire track pulls the soundscape forward and leaves it squarely on the same plain as the image. The remaining issues I found are relatively minor -- channel movement is a bit stilted, accuracy is sometimes questionable, and the ambient atmosphere is somewhat sparse. To be sure, this audio track does an acceptable job -- it just doesn't have a lot to do.

[review_supplements_stars] => 3.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 2943 [review_supplements] =>

Kevin Smith fans will be pleased to see this HD DVD version of 'Mallrats' carry over all of the extras originally included on supplement-packed 10th Anniversary Edition DVD released in 2005. Each of the video features are presented in 480i/p, and (surprisingly) the contrast levels of the standard definition supplements appear more vibrant and normalized than the transfer of the feature presentation.

First up is an audio commentary featuring Kevin Smith, Ben Affleck, Jason Lee, Jason Mewes, producer Scott Mosier, and production assistant Vincent Pereira. This track is great for laughs and Affleck's merciless ribbing of Smith is worth every second you spend listening. The two hurl insult after insult at each other, gradually increasing their friendly rivalry as the rest of the room disintegrates into laughter. But the best parts of the track are the fantastic anecdotes shared by nearly every participant. Make no mistake, this is a boys-night-out commentary that loses focus on the film and follows hundreds of random tangents, but it's a guaranteed good time and Smith fans shouldn't hesitate to give it a try.

"Mallrats: The Reunion" (49 minutes) is just as entertaining. Reminiscent of 'An Evening with Kevin Smith' and its sequel, an audience tosses questions out at Smith and the entire cast and waits for hilarity to ensue. As always, Smith is brilliant at handling a live crowd and you'll find yourself in stitches as he relishes and abuses the audience at the same time. The only downside is that there are few more frivolous questions that fall flat and waste time, but Smith and the cast do a great job of recovering from mediocrity and generally putting on a great show.

Next up are three featurettes that examine the initial failure and eventual cult following of 'Mallrats.' "A Brief Q&A with Kevin Smith" (9 minutes) includes more of the director's cynical thoughts on the film, "The Erection of an Epic" (22 minutes) is packed with brutal cast and crew interviews, and "View Askew's Look Back At Mallrats" (21 minutes) features Smith, Affleck, Lee, and Mewes candidly discussing the film's performance in theaters and on DVD. All three of these featurettes are unusually blunt and honest, and are really refreshing compared to the self-promotional tone of most special features released today.

But even 'Mallrats' can't escape the inevitable studio promo. "Cast Interviews from the Original Set" (9 minutes) is a studio puff-piece that feels like it belongs on an entirely different disc. The actors appear in interviews discussing their characters, the story's throwback roots to classic R-rated teen cinema like 'Porkys,' and Smith's directorial prowess. Skip this one.

Rounding out the extras are a mildly amusing collection of "Outtakes" (8 minutes), a lengthy group of droll "Deleted Scenes" from the original cut of the film, a Kevin Smith-directed music video for "Build Me Up Buttercup" as covered by The Goops (4 minutes), and the film's "Theatrical Trailer."

All in all, this is a solid series of features that could take a full weekend to dig through and enjoy.

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

Not content per se, but 'Mallrats' does feature Universal's HD DVD-exclusive "My Scenes" feature which allows the viewer to label scenes as favorites on the fly. These favorites can then be played back at any time from the main menu.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 3.5 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 2944 [review_final_thoughts] =>

Kevin Smith is irreverent, witty, and a master of comedic dialogue. 'Mallrats' may not have the polish of his later work, but it still offers a lot of laughs for fans and newcomers alike. The video transfer and audio mix on this HD DVD edition are both slightly above average, but fail to live up to more well-rounded catalogue presentations. The packed-to-the-gills supplements package, on the other hand, doesn't disappoint.

) ) [9] => Array ( [review_id] => 772 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => meetjoeblack [review_release_date] => 1182841200 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Meet Joe Black [picture_created] => 1174777751 [picture_name] => meet-joe-black.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Universal Studios Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/03/24/120/meet-joe-black.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/772/meetjoeblack.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1998 [run_time] => 181 [list_price] => 29.98 [asin] => B000OHZL1C [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1315858 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => My Scenes ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD 30GB ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5 Mbps) [1] => French Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5 Mbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Featurette [1] => Photo Montage [2] => Theatrical Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Drama [1] => Fantasy [2] => Romance ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Brad Pitt [1] => Anthony Hopkins [2] => Claire Forlani ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Martin Brest ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => A media mogul acts as a guide to Death, who takes the form of a young man to learn about life on Earth and in the process, fall in love with his guide's daughter. [preview_technology_specifications] => TBA [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => TBA [review_bottom_line] => Worth a Look [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] => 10908 [review_movie_stars] => 4 [review_movie] =>

Perception rules the day when it comes to movies -- one man's 'Godfather' is another man's 'House of the Dead.' Your individual cinematic taste is relative to your experiences, background, and lifestyle and it's impossible to disown a guilty-pleasure-flick that strikes all the right chords in your brain. Every film fan has at least one movie they enjoy despite the fact that it's reviled by a majority of audiences and critics. For me, 'Meet Joe Black' is just such a film.

A remake of a remake (the original 1934 flick was called 'Death Takes a Holiday' and it was remade under the same title in 1971), 'Meet Joe Black' tells the story of William Parrish (Anthony Hopkins), a wealthy businessman at the twilight of his life. During a near heart attack, Death visits William and offers to allow him to live. The catch is that William must serve as a tour guide of sorts and show Death what it's like to live as a human being. Taking the form of a man that William names Joe Black (Brad Pitt), Death discovers a world of the senses for the first time. At the same time, William must keep his family from falling apart, save his company from a greedy employee (Jake Weber), and prevent Death from falling in love with his daughter, Susan (Claire Forlani).

A box office disappointment upon its original release in 1998, the film was equally unpopular among critics and audiences alike. Everyone seems to point to the same problems -- its slow pacing, its three hour runtime, its romantic subplot, and what one critic called director Martin Brest's "self-infatuation with his own material."

The most common criticism of 'Meet Joe Black' has to do with the film's plotting. But while many have described it as unbearable, I personally find the pacing to be akin to Robert DeNiro's 'The Good Shepherd' or Terrence Malick's 'A New World.' Yes, each of these films could have been shorter, but that would lessen their ability to portray a certain sense of normalcy. Life isn't always an exciting whirlwind of events and experiences -- it's often a trite and mundane affair with family drama and problematic emotional issues springing up casually as time goes by.

In the case of 'Meet Joe Black' in particular, the performances are so rich and convincing that I was happy to follow the characters through the ups and downs of their lives. Anthony Hopkins is sobering as a man who knows his time is coming and the screen crackles with his inner-turmoil. He makes William the kind of man that everyone would wish they knew. Brad Pitt is also top notch in another performance that keeps the material varied and fresh. Over the course of his career, he could've easily settled into pretty-boy roles that the industry so seems to want him in, but films like 'Meet Joe Black' showcase a vast and quirky talent that lies beneath his Hollywood exterior.

To be clear, I don't think this is a perfect film, but I do think it's well structured with a surreal and poetic script that packs real lyrical punch. To be fair, I should disclose that I'm a sucker for two of the major themes in 'Meet Joe Black' -- love dangling just out of reach and the looming death of a father trying to reconcile his life. This flick taps into everything that gets my man-tears flowing and I fall for it every time. My wife calls it a chick-flick, but I think it's too dark and focuses on too many male-centric issues (falling for a girl for the first time, the passing of a father, the loss of control, being stripped of power) to be lumped into that category.

In the end, my higher-than-average rating for 'Meet Joe Black' comes with a warning -- as a fan of this film, I'm part of a very small minority. Simply put, this is a film that most people don't seem to enjoy. That being said, if (like me) you're the type of person who enjoys a slower character study, then you should certainly give this one a try.

[review_video_stars] => 4.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 2950 [review_video] =>

Now this is what I expect from a high definition catalogue title. For anyone who doubts the average video ratings we've been handing out for some of Universal's other recent catalogue HD DVD releases, just watch those films immediately after watching 'Meet Joe Black.' It's a night and day difference.

Presented in 1080p using the VC-1 codec, 'Meet Joe Black' looks great and if I didn't know better, I would think it was a newer film. To be fair, the standard DVD already looked very good, but the move to high-def has upped the impact of this print to new heights. Colors are lush and gorgeous, blacks are deep and stable, and fine object detail is extremely well rendered for a film that's nearly ten years old. Textures, skin, and hair pop off the screen and shadow delineation is excellent. Even better, sharp edges and a vivid contrast give the picture a welcome depth and dimension. There's a light cloud of grain atop the entire film, but it's not intrusive. More importantly, I didn't detect any artifacting, noise, or crush issues.

There are a couple of minor problems. While skintones are generally dead on, faces do occasionally drift slightly pink (watch when Parrish confronts Drew in his office at the end of the film). I also noticed some edge enhancement left over from the original transfer to DVD -- it isn't too distracting, but viewers with larger-than-average screens will certainly notice the effect in some key shots. Luckily, both of these issues aren't enough to rob the image of its impact and I remained thoroughly impressed by the prowess of this high-def transfer.

[review_audio_stars] => 3.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 2951 [review_audio] =>

'Meet Joe Black' is an extremely quiet film with soft conversations and even softer piano music lingering in the background of most scenes. As such, while the Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 surround mix (1.5 Mbps) on this HD DVD sounds quite good, there really isn't much here that will turn any heads or catch anyone's attention.

To be sure, there's nothing wrong with the technical quality of this mix. Featuring nice dynamics, crisp dialogue, and subtle channel movements, every room and hall has distinctly different acoustics and there are a number of scenes that take advantage of the rear speakers for some nifty surround effects. And on the few occasions where the mix needs to spring to life, it does -- listen to the moments when Pitt is hit by a car, scenes with the helicopter, and the argument between the Parrishes at dinner. Even better, jump to the end of the film and listen to the fireworks and the mingling crowd. In each of these cases, the soundscape is well prioritized, each of the channels receive a solid workout, and the ambiance is both authentic and immersive.

Again, nothing to write home about here, but this mix handles what it's given with great confidence.

[review_supplements_stars] => 0.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 2952 [review_supplements] =>

In yet another head-scratcher for Universal, this HD DVD edition of 'Meet Joe Black' ports over some -- but not all -- of the features from the 2001 Ultimate Edition DVD. Included are a dry "Spotlight on Location" (9 minutes) featurette, a "Photo Montage," and the film's theatrical trailer, all presented in 480i/p only.

Previously included in the Ultimate Edition DVD, but inexplicably missing from this HD DVD edition are the original 'Death Takes a Holiday' feature film from 1934, an online script-to-scene comparison, and some more minor material like bios and production notes. Color me disappointed.

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

No exclusive content, per se, but this HD DVD edition of 'Meet Joe Black' does include Universal's "My Scenes" feature, which allows the viewer to label scenes as favorites on the fly. These favorites can then be played back at any time from the main menu.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 3.5 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 2953 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'Meet Joe Black' has more than its fair share of detractors, but I've always had a sweet spot for the film, and I think fans of films like 'The Good Shepherd' or 'A New World' might feel the same way. As an HD DVD release, this one certainly delivers on the bottom line, boasting a beautiful video presentation and a solid audio package, although unfortunately it drops several of the supplements from the previous Ultimate Edition DVD release.

) ) [10] => Array ( [review_id] => 773 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => mysterymen [review_release_date] => 1182841200 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Mystery Men [picture_created] => 1174776418 [picture_name] => mystery-men.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Universal Studios Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/03/24/120/mystery-men.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/773/mysterymen.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1999 [run_time] => 122 [list_price] => 29.98 [asin] => B000OHZL1M [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1315886 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 [1] => 480p/i/MPEG-2 (Supplements Only) ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5mbps) [1] => French Dolby Digital-Plus 2.0 Surround (640kpbs) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentary [1] => Featurettes [2] => Deleted Scenes [3] => Theatrical Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Comedy [1] => Comic Book [2] => Fantasy ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Ben Stiller [1] => William H. Macy [2] => Janeane Garfalo [3] => Hank Azaria ) [preview_technology_specifications] => TBA [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => TBA [review_bottom_line] => Give It a Rent [review_gear] => default [review_movie_stars] => 3 [review_movie] =>

With the extraordinary popularity of big screen comic book adaptations in recent years (and with 'Heroes' one of the biggest hits of the 2006-2007 television season), is it time for a reappraisal of 'Mystery Men'? Almost completely overlooked during its original theatrical run, this 1999 box office dud certainly hasn't had benefited from much of a renaissance on home video, but perhaps this HD DVD release is just what the doctor ordered...

Based on the cult Dark Horse comic of the same name, 'Mystery Men' tells the tale of the most, um, unique (or just plain pathetic) band of superheroes you've ever seen. There's Mr. Furious (Ben Stiller), whose power comes from his boundless rage; The Shoveler (William H. Macy), a father who shovels "better than anyone"; The Blue Raja (Hank Azaria), a fork-flinging mama's boy; The Bowler (Janeane Garofalo), who fights crime with the help of her father's skull; The Spleen (Paul Reubens), whose power is pure flatulence; The Sphinx (Wes Studi), a cliche-spewing philosopher; and (my personal favorite) Invisible Boy (Kel Mitchell), who's only invisible when no one's watching.

How and why The Mystery Men got their superpowers is never particularly elaborated upon in the film. Equally surprising, the plot itself is fairly irrelevant (the amateur superheroes will eventually have to face off against "supervillain" Casanova Frankenstein, played by Geoffrey Rush). Instead, the real raison de entre of 'Mystery Men' is to watch it parody all the tired cliches of comic book flicks as it presents each of these bumbling goofs attempting to use their silly superpowers.

One needs only to have sat through one 'Batman' flick where Bruce Wayne scowls through the whole movie, or to have suffered the endless whining of Peter Parker over the "curse" of his superpowers in order to appreciate the pathos of the Mystery Men. It may have been a bummer for Superman to be stuck with that Clark Kent alter-ego, but try being The Spleen -- or The Blue Raja, whose costume consists of a bathrobe and a pair of forks. There are moments of truly inspired character satire in 'Mystery Men' that go far beyond the usual slapstick and lame one-liners of the spoof genre.

Still, as fun as it can be at times, much of 'Mystery Men' simply does not work. Like any of those Zucker Brothers parodies ('Airplane,' the 'Scary Movie' flicks), there as many misses here as there are hits. The direction by Kinka Usher (who doesn't seem to have done anything of note before or since) is as flat as a TV movie, and the film's overlong 122 minutes suffers from dull pacing and boring narrative dead-ends.

All things considered, it's hard to imagine that 'Mystery Men' will suddenly be rediscovered on HD DVD. Still, there is an underlying sweetness to the film that's the perfect antidote to the uber-serious tone of most comic book movies. A flawed but nifty little sleeper, 'Mystery Men' deserves a second look.

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

Universal seems to have been dusting off a lot of old masters for its recent spate of HD DVD catalog releases (including 'Daylight,' 'The Watcher' and 'Bruce Almighty'), and unfortunately 'Mystery Men' joins the list. The film first hit standard-def DVD way back in late 1999, and it doesn't look like the source has been upgraded at any point since.

To be sure, this 1080p/VC-1 encode isn't bad, it just shows it age. The print itself is in quite nice shape, with no blemishes or dirt or other such problems. Blacks hold firm throughout, and contrast has a normal, film-like consistency rare in today's age of pumped-up artifice. However, colors look dull and a bit fuzzy, especially more vivid hues. Most disappointingly, the upgrade to high-def just doesn't offer a huge boost over the standard DVD, with depth and detail only moderately improved. Softness is also apparent, with some edge enhancement visible, stemming from an apparent bid to increase sharpness. The transfer also looks somewhat dark, with shadow delineation poor at times. At least compression artifacts are not a problem, with no macroblocking or other anomalies present.

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

A bit better than the video is the audio, which is both lively and engaging. Granted, it can't hold up to a modern, gangbusters action mix, but for a 1999 flick, this one's not too shabby.

Universal serves up its usual English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 surround track (at 1.5mbps), and surrounds are frequently active, with nicely dispersed discrete effects and well-executed pans between channels. Sustained ambiance isn't intense, but there is some nice minor atmosphere and decent bleed of the score. Dynamics hold up pretty well, with fairly tight bass and no issues with wacky high-end. Dialogue is a bit quiet at times, but that's somewhat typical of older mixes -- I had to adjust my volume to compensate once or twice, but nothing particularly irritating.

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

'Mystery Men' on HD DVD features the same set of supplements as the 1999 DVD release, and unfortunately this is a collection that clearly shows its age.

"Spotlight on Location: The Making of 'Mystery Men'" in particular shows just how far the art of featurette-making has come. More cheesy and obvious than usual, this piece features plenty of film clips and cast and crew interviews regurgitating plot points, but little else. Running 18 minutes, this one is only worth watching if you want to remember how lame making-of's could be back in early days of DVD.

Better is the screen-specific audio commentary with director Kinka Usher. To be frank, I'd never heard of Usher before 'Mystery Men' (and I'm not aware of anything he's done since), but he seems to be an amiable if somewhat dull fellow. At least the track is fairly comprehensive, covering the complete cast of characters, as well as the usual insight on the film's visual look, production design and effects. Solid, but dry.

The only other major extra is an assortment of ten Deleted Scenes. Seeing as the film is already way overlong at 122 minutes, all of these were wisely cut from the finished film. No uncovered gems here.

Next up are a couple of promotional items. "Soundtrack Presentation" is really the music video for the song "Who Are Those Mystery Men" by M.A.F.T. Emcees, plus a soundtrack CD tracklisting. There is also the film's Theatrical Trailer, which (like all of the video extras here) is presented in 480p/i/MPEG-2 video only.

Note that the original standard-def DVD contained a few text-based extras, but most were just dated production notes and cast info, which you can get easily over at the IMDB. Of those supplements, the only one Universal has retained is the "Origins of the Mystery Men Comic Book Characters," which details how each character was introduced in the original comic book series.

[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] =>

'Mystery Men' is definitely an uneven ride, but it has enough laughs to make it worth seeking out for comic book movie fans (or haters). This HD DVD, however, is a bit creaky -- another in a string of recent Universal rehashes from aged masters, 'Mystery Men' just doesn't offer enough of an upgrade over the standard-def DVD to warrant a purchase. Still, if you've never seen it before (and if it sounds like your cup of tea), this one's certainly worth adding to your Netflix queue.

) ) [11] => Array ( [review_id] => 743 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => biglebowski [review_release_date] => 1182841200 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => The Big Lebowski [picture_created] => 1173641893 [picture_name] => lebowski.gif [manufacturer_name] => Universal Studios Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/03/11/120/lebowski.gif [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/743/biglebowski.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1998 [run_time] => 118 [release_date_notes] => Postponed from May 29, 2007 [list_price] => 28.95 [asin] => B000O179EK [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1310521 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-30 Dual Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5 Mbps) [1] => French Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5 Mpbs) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Featurettes [1] => Photo Gallery ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Comedy ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Jeff Bridges [1] => Julianne Moore [2] => John Goodman [3] => John Turturro ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Joel Coen ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => The Coen brothers' irreverent cult hit comes to DVD as a Collector's Edition, with all-new bonus material. The hilariously twisted comedy-thriller stars Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi and Julianne Moore. Join the "Dude" and his bowling buddies on their journey that blends unforgettable characters, kidnapping, a case of mistaken identity and White Russians. Enter the visually unique and entertaining world from the creative minds of the Coen brothers and remember: the Dude abides. [preview_technology_specifications] => • xclusive introduction featuring Mortimer Young, a practitioner of "non-uptight" film preservation
• Featurette: "The Making-Of 'The Big Lebowski'"
• Still gallery, photographed by Jeff Bridges [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [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] => 10689 [review_movie_stars] => 4.5 [review_movie] =>

Writing/directing/producing partners Joel and Ethan Coen (The Coen Brothers) have earned a strong and loyal fan base over the last two decades thanks to films like 'Raising Arizona,' 'Miller's Crossing,' 'Fargo,' and 'O Brother, Where Art Thou.' But arguably their biggest cult phenomenon is 'The Big Lebowski,' an off-beat comedy that's been hailed as one of the greatest comedies of all time.

Jeff Bridges plays Jeffrey Lebowski ("The Dude"), a stoned slacker who spends the majority of his time at the local bowling alley, where he hangs out with a gun-toting bipolar powerhouse named Walter (John Goodman), a thick-headed stooge named Donny (Steve Buscemi), and a strange sexual-deviant named Jesus (John Turturro). One night, The Dude comes home to find a pair of thugs who have mistaken him for an elderly millionaire with the same name. They threaten his life, demand he pay a debt he supposedly owes, and urinate on his rug.

After consulting his bowling league friends, The Dude decides to ask the wealthier Lebowski to settle the debt and replace his rug. The resulting chaos drops The Dude and his cohorts in the middle of a kidnapping plot that introduces them to a slew of new peculiar characters, including the asexual Maude (Julianne Moore), the millionaire's assistant (Philip Seymour Hoffman), and a group of self-proclaimed Nihilists. Befuddled at every turn, The Dude bumbles his way through an unforgettable plot that never stops to take a breath.

With a top notch screenplay and a series of pitch-perfect performances, I've always found 'The Big Lebowski' an absolute joy to watch. Goodman is a riot of rage, Turturro hams it up in one of his best roles ever, and Bridges plays Lebowski with an aloof air of humility that makes him an enduring pseudo-hero. The cast's chemistry seems to come naturally and makes each exchange of rapid-fire dialogue a genuine treat.

With such a complex script, the Coen Brothers must balance an onslaught of characters and subplots -- yet, to their great credit, the resulting film feels effortless and relaxed. While The Dude and Walter are strange when we first meet them, they quickly seem to become the most normal characters in the film. The comedy is dry, the punchlines are revolutionary, and each development in the plot is out of left field.

Having said all that, the tone of 'The Big Lebowski' definitely isn't for everyone -- you have to like this particular style of comedy to benefit from the setup and payoff of each scene. There aren't any jokes or slapstick per se, but instead a rather carefully constructed series of increasingly-absurd events that push each character to the extreme.

In the end, 'The Big Lebowski' is a film that everyone should at least try -- its rabid fanbase should be proof enough that there's something unique and special to be found here. As a longtime fan of the film, I personally never pass up an opportunity to watch it again, and revisiting it once more on HD DVD certainly didn't disappoint.

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 2935 [review_video] =>

Presented in 1080p utilizing the VC-1 codec, 'The Big Lebowski' hits HD DVD with some noticeable upgrades compared to the most recent the 2005 remastered Collector's Edition DVD. The most apparent improvement is the colors, which are bold and stable, bolstering the casual palette of the film without feeling artificial. Just watch any scene in the bowling alley and pay particular attention to the sheen of the bowling balls, the warmth of the lanes, and the inkiness of the background shadows. This increases the illusion of depth considerably and I was really impressed with how healthy the picture looked. Fine object detail is very good -- I could read the small print on book covers, see the stitching in Lebowski's rug, and all of the individual hairs in John Goodman's beard.

There are a few technical issues, but nothing overly distracting. I caught some slight edge enhancement, a few shots that displayed minor crushing in the dark sky, and (as is the case with most catalogue titles) some scenes that were softer than the rest of the film. The picture also randomly had a slight waver in the contrast, although this problem was infrequent and minimal.

The biggest downside here is the fact that 'The Big Lebowski' just isn't the sort of film that really shines on high-def. It would be easy to glance at this transfer and shrug your shoulders -- the cinematography is intentionally ordinary and, unless you were to pick one of just a few scenes with visual oomph (like the dream sequence), it wouldn't convince anyone to make the switch. However, in a side-by-side comparison with the DVD, this HD DVD is clearly the way to go -- fans will be ecstatic to see how good the film looks.

[review_audio_stars] => 3.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 2936 [review_audio] =>

'The Big Lebowski' is a largely dialogue-centric film, so there really aren't many sonic fireworks to be enjoyed here. That said, like the video, the Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 surround mix (1.5 Mbps) on this HD DVD edition is a clear improvement over previous DVD editions.

In a direct compare with the Collector's Edition standard-def DVD release (which was quite solid in its own right), the dialogue on this HD DVD is more crisp, channel movement is smoother, and the dynamics are pushed further to each extreme. Again, the film isn't loud or boisterous on most occasions, but simply hop to a scene set in the bowling alley, and the bowling balls swish across the channels, crowd chatter creates a nice atmosphere in the rear speakers, while the overall sound design enhances the presence of the effects with the subwoofer.

I did have a few issues, however. There are a few instances where treble tones inexplicably flatten out, leaving voices hollow and acoustics empty. There are also prioritization problems in scenes with shouting -- the arguments between The Dude and Walter could use a bit of tweaking (while still retaining their chaotic tone).

All things considered, this mix does a good job handling what little it's given, but bottom line there just isn't enough here to make this a truly memorable HD track.

[review_supplements_stars] => 1 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 2937 [review_supplements] =>

While this HD DVD ports over all of the extras from the 2005 Collector's Edition DVD, unfortunately that's not saying much, as that release was woefully lacking in substantive features. A commentary, a full documentary, or even a featurette on the cultural response to the film would have increased the value of this package exponentially.

The first thing you'll find is a "Special Introduction" (3 minutes) by a fictitious film preservationalist named Mortimer Young. I won't ruin the setup for anyone who hasn't seen it, but it's a cute tongue-in-cheek extra that should give you a laugh.

"The Making of The Big Lebowski" (24 minutes) is a production featurette that notably includes interviews with the often reclusive Coen Brothers, but unfortunately this one is surprisingly ordinary and doesn't really offer much in the way of interesting information or entertaining anecdotes. The camerawork appears to have been done by someone who was suffering from seizures and I found the entire featurette to be a dry waste of time.

Finally, we get "Photographs by Jeff Bridges" (3 minutes) set to music from the film. Aside from an annoying song, this montage is a nice treat -- Bridges clearly has an eye for composition, and his images are quirky and off-beat.

(Note that all of the above-listed video supplements are simple ports presented in 480i/p only.)

[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] => 2938 [review_final_thoughts] =>

Count me among the many passionate fans of 'The Big Lebowski.' Showcasing a complex series of eccentric characters, it seems no matter how many times I see this film it just gets better. Happily, this HD DVD release from Universal delivers on the bottom line with an above average audio mix and a great video transfer that's been noticeably enhanced by the move to high-def. Unfortunately, a a lackluster series of repeat features drags down the overall score a bit, but still this is a no-brainer for those who already love the flick and a great rental for those who haven't yet experienced the bizarre world of 'The Big Lebowski.'

) ) [12] => Array ( [review_id] => 774 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => watcher [review_release_date] => 1182841200 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => The Watcher [picture_created] => 1174808716 [picture_name] => the-watcher.gif [manufacturer_name] => Universal Studios Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/03/25/120/the-watcher.gif [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/774/watcher.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1999 [run_time] => 98 [list_price] => 29.98 [asin] => B000OHZL12 [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1315946 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85;1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-15 Single-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5mbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => None ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Crime [1] => Thriller ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Marisa Tomei [1] => Keanu Reeves [2] => James Spader ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Joe Charbanic ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => A detective (James Spader) tracking a serial killer (Keanu Reeves) gives up all hope of solving the crimes and moves to another city. After he's settled in the old acquaintance he makes himself known. The serial killer has resurrected and resumes sending him pictures of his next victim. [preview_technology_specifications] => TBA [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => TBA [review_bottom_line] => For Fans Only [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 10536 [review_movie_stars] => 2 [review_movie] =>

While slasher movies dominated the horror genre in the '80s, the '90s were all about serial killers. Following the monster success of 'The Silence of the Lambs' in 1992 (which grossed over $100 million at the domestic box office and snagged five Oscars including Best Picture), Hollywood quickly moved on from Freddy, Jason and Leatherface. Hannibal Lecter was now the go-to guy with the knife. Out went naked teenagers in the woods, and in came big-name stars holding flashlights and the kind of shiny, high-gloss production values previously reserved for only A-list Hollywood blockbusters.

Coming far too late in the post-'Lambs' serial killer sweepstakes was 2000's 'The Watcher,' a film that has all the hallmarks of a cash-in made by people with no understanding for the genre they're exploiting. Directed by Joe Charbanic (a music video wunderkind who hasn't been heard from since), with a by-the-numbers script that recycles every cliche from the 'Lambs' playbook, and lifting the dark visual style from David Fincher's trend-setting 'Se7en,' 'The Watcher' doesn't have a single original bone in its empty (but good-looking) head.

The plot: James Spader stars as Joel Campbell, a detective who has been tracking a serial killer David Allen Griffin (Keanu Reeves) for months with no success. Before you can say, "Hey, didn't Morgan Freeman play this exact same character in 'Se7en?'", Campbell moves to a different city in hopes of starting of a new life. But Griffin has other ideas, and slowly begins to insinuate himself into Campbell's new life, taunting him with pictures of a woman who the detective fears may be his next victim -- the pretty Dr. Polly Beilman (Marisa Tomei). Needless to say, it's going to be a cat and mouse game with deadly consequences if Campbell can't finally catch his killer.

'The Watcher' is one of those movies that is so formulaic that you have to wonder what the actors involved were thinking when they accepted the role. Spader has played this straight-laced, overgrown yuppie character a million times before, and adds nothing to the resume here. Tomei's name on the marquee is a particular surprise, especially since she did 'The Watcher' only a few years after winning her Oscar for 'My Cousin Vinny' -- was she really that desperate that she took a role that requires her to do little more than scream and look terrified? But the biggest miscasting is Reeves, who is just not at all scary as a serial killer. Sparing you any Bill & Ted jokes, he just doesn't have the menace or physical stature to turn Griffin into a truly memorable bad guy.

Had 'The Watcher' at least been suspenseful, it might have ranked as a guilty pleasure. But neither the hackneyed script by newcomers David Elliot and Darcy Meyers, nor Charbanic's listless direction bring anything new to the genre. We've seen all of this before -- and better. Heck, there isn't even a twist ending (now all but required in the post-'Sixth Sense' era). Hannibal Lecter would, quite frankly, eat David Allen Griffin for breakfast.

[review_video_stars] => 3.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 2918 [review_video] =>

Universal first released 'The Watcher' on standard-def DVD back in 2001, and this HD DVD version appears to be another one of the studio's recent rehashes of an old master -- there doesn't appear to have been much care or concern put into upgrading this one for high-def.

For a six-odd year-old source, 'The Watcher' is admittedly not terrible. Print defects, such as dirt or speckles or excessive grain are not an issue. However, this 1080p/VC-1 encode still looks rather soft, at least by today's standards. There is some slight edginess to the image, the byproduct of an apparent attempt to improve sharpness. Making matters worse, the majority of 'The Watcher' was filmed at night or in exceedingly dark interiors, so shadow delineation is far from superlative. Fine textures are often lost to the murk, while detail is okay, but never anything to write home about.

Colors, meanwhile, have that "Let's rip-off of 'Se7en'" look, with select hues veering towards oversaturation while others look undernourished. Murkiness abounds, as does some slight bleed on the harshest hues. Contrast also has a hot cast common to films of its era, which doesn't help lessen noise or improve depth.

In short, 'The Watcher' isn't a terrible transfer, but it seems pretty clear that Universal had little interest in the film beyond simply churning it out quickly to prime the HD DVD pump.

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

Like the video, 'The Watcher's audio is fine but nothing more. Universal provides its usual Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 track (at 1.5mbps), and it does a perfectly decent job of preserving the film's rote sound design.

Typical of '90s serial killer flicks, there is a lot of sturm and drang on the soundtrack, i.e., many "eerie" ambient sounds and loud bursts of shock music stingers. Dynamics hold up just fine, with average low bass and clean high-end. Dialogue is sometimes a bit too soft in the mix for my taste, especially Spader, who I had trouble understanding (granted, the actor mumbles constantly, but whatever). Surrounds are fairly engaged throughout, though discrete effects are usually pronounced in the mix with little sustained ambiance to support them, so I found the soft/loud contrast a bit obnoxious after awhile. Otherwise, there is nothing all that aurally remarkable about 'The Watcher.'

[review_supplements_stars] => 0 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 2919 [review_supplements] =>

There are absolutely zero supplements on 'The Watcher.' To be fair, the same was the case with the standard-def DVD -- I guess everyone involved with this film was too embarrassed to talk about it afterward?

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

There are no HD DVD exclusives.

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

'The Watcher' is a high-gloss but rote '90s slasher flick. It likely would have been completely forgotten by now if it wasn't for the rather ridiculous casting of Keanu Reeves as a serial killer. It would seem that the only reason Universal has dusted it off for HD DVD is that needs to fill that quota of 100 high-def titles by the end of 2007, but with middling video and audio and no supplements, it's hard to imagine anyone but diehard fans of serial killer movies finding 'The Watcher' even worth a rental.

) ) [13] => Array ( [review_id] => 822 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => unleashed_nc [review_release_date] => 1182841200 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Unleashed (Re-issue) [picture_created] => 1179803675 [picture_name] => unleashed.gif [manufacturer_name] => Universal Studios Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/05/21/120/unleashed.gif [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/822/unleashed_nc.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2005 [run_time] => 102 [list_price] => 29.95 [asin] => B000P0J05Q [amazon_price] => 26.99 [empire_id] => 1319383 [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-15 Single-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5mbps) [1] => Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => None ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles [2] => Spanish Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Action [1] => Drama [2] => Martial Arts ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Jet Li [1] => Bob Hoskins [2] => Morgan Freeman ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Louis Leterrier ) [preview_plot_synopsis] =>

Note that this movie was previously released as an HD DVD/DVD combo disc in August 2006 (read our review of that disc). For more information about why this disc is being re-issued as a non-combo disc, click here.

Martial arts superstar Jet Li stars as Danny, raised by a gangster (Bob Hoskins) to be a violent fighting machine. When Danny has a chance encounter with a blind piano tuner (Morgan Freeman), he experiences true compassion for the first time.

[preview_technology_specifications] => • Featurettes: "The Collar Comes Off: Behind the Scenes of "Unleashed,'" "Director Louis Leterrier: 'Unleashed'"
• Music Videos: The RZA "Unleash Me," Massive Attack "Atta Boy" [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [review_editors_notes] => Portions of this review were originally published in our review of the 'Unleashed' HD DVD/DVD combo edition. [review_bottom_line] => Give it a Rent [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 10469 [review_introduction] =>

As any frequent visitor to our forums area is probably well aware, the HD DVD/DVD combo format has long been a source of contention among HD DVD early adopters. Introduced by the studios as a way to ease standard-def DVD consumers into buying high-def discs ("future-proof your DVD collection!"), the double-sided combo discs sport a standard DVD on one side, and an HD DVD on the other.

But while combos may be intruiging to consumers who haven't yet made the leap to high-def, the higher pricetag for these releases (combined with the fact that no HD DVD-only alternative is offered) has left many HD DVD fans feeling burned as they've had no other option other than to pay more for a standard-def flipside they'll never use.

As recently as January of this year, things looked pretty bleak for the anti-combo camp when Universal Studios Home Entertainment pledged that 90% of its 2007 HD DVD releases would take the form of combo discs.

But then, in an abrupt about-face only two months later, Universal appeared to change its combo strategy, announcing that it would discontinue production of the HD DVD/DVD combo editions of 'Unleashed' and 'Army of Darkness,' and would re-issue both films on HD DVD without their standard-def flipsides. Since then, the studio has stopped releasing any of its catalog titles as combo discs, and has instead reserved the hybrid format only for more recent theatrical titles released day and date with the standard-def DVD.

So now, with this week's re-issues of 'Unleashed' and 'Army of Darkness,' the combo-haters finally get what they've been asking for. But as we found while revisiting both titles, these first-ever high-def re-issues are not without their trade-offs...

[review_movie_stars] => 2.5 [review_movie] =>

'Unleashed' is nothing if not unusual -- the original title of the film outside of the U.S. was 'Danny the Dog,' and that just about sums it up. Jet Li stars as a man raised as a canine (complete with hi-tech dog collar around his neck) and trained to be the ultimate fighting machine. Bob Hoskins co-stars as his spit-spewing, scene-chewing captor, along with Morgan Freeman as a blind piano teacher slash Mr. Miyagi mentor.

Released theatrically in 2005, it seems no one quite knew what to make of 'Unleashed.' Its plot is obviously absurd, but it never quite crosses over to 'Showgirls'-style camp; meanwhile, by focusing more on its dramatic elements than on pure action, the film failed to a score a lasting appeal with what should have been its core audience of die-hard action fans.

But while 'Unleashed' may be something of a rudderless production, it's not one without its positive attributes.

The first, and most obvious is Jet Li himself. Though he's displayed a remarkable, riveting intensity in such epics as 'Hero,' 'Romeo Must Die' and 'Kiss of the Dragon,' Li has largely suffered in the US from the misconception that he is little more than a humorless Jackie Chan. 'Unleashed' is perhaps Li's finest work to date, as he grounds what could have easily been a completely ridiculous character with a genuine pathos that's made all the more impressive by his extremely limited use of dialogue in the film, leaving only his physical mannerisms and facial expressions to do the talking.

And while the film may disappoint action fans who demand non-stop pyrotechnics, 'Unleashed' does boast a couple of impressive, over-the-top sequences that truly stretch the boundaries of genre -- the film's opening five minutes set the bar from the get-go, with Li's virtuoso choreography and pure physicality always a wonder to behold. (Even when I could scarcely believe what was happening onscreen, I was never less than riveted by Li's amazing abilities.)

Of course, none of these factors make 'Unleashed' a great film (or even a good one), but to its credit, at least it's different, and I'd much rather praise a film that aims high and misses than one that shoots for the lowest common denominator and scores. So if you are looking for a more unusual example of the martial arts/action genre, 'Unleashed' might be worth a try. Just remember: you've been warned.

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 571 [review_video] =>

'Unleashed' received a very pleasing 2.35:1 widescreen transfer on its previous HD DVD combo version, and the same 1080p/VC-1 presentation is included on this re-issue. As I noted in my earlier review, this transfer is very a nice improvement over the standard DVD version, with superior detail and bolder colors.

Matching its unusual premise, 'Unleashed' also boasts an interesting visual aesthetic. The dominant colors are an acidic yellow and a rich cyan, which makes for a consistently eye-popping picture. Sure, the image is rather blown-out with blazing whites, and mid-tones somewhat compressed to give an intentionally somber, confined look, but I liked how colors are very vibrant and unreal, yet not too processed to cause smearing, noise or a loss of detail. Despite its many obstacles, this transfer manages to retain a sharp and three-dimensional look, with fine details visible even in long shots and in the darkest scenes. The film's frequent bursts of fast-cut action also pose no compression problems, nor any noticeable instances of artifacts, blocking or pixelization. Again, a very solid, eye-popping transfer all around.

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

Like the video transfer, The Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 surround track (1.5mbps) on this disc is exactly the same as the one that appeared on the earlier combo edition. (Note, however, that only the standard-def DVD side of the combo disc contained a DTS track. That track is now absent on this re-issue.)

As I wrote in my review of combo disc, the Dolby Digital-Plus mix included here clearly bests the previous DVD release, with very full mid- and high-range that gives the track considerable pop. Surrounds enjoy imaging that is nicely transparent between channels, and subtle atmospherics come through with fine clarity. However, the film's sound design tends to be uneven, with action scenes benefiting from a nice 360-degree soundfield but everything else paling in comparison. Also distracting to me (although common to martial arts soundtracks), any sound effect relating to a karate move or crunching bones is so obviously pumped up in the mix that it becomes rather humorous. But if you're a fan of the genre, you probably wouldn't have it any other way.

[review_supplements_stars] => 0 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 573 [review_supplements] =>

It's here where the original 'Unleashed' HD DVD/DVD combo release and this re-issue differ, and unfortunately the news is not good.

Alongside 'National Lampoon's Animal House,' 'Unleashed' was one Universal's first two HD DVD/DVD combo releases, and as early HD DVD fans will remember, the studio's initial combo efforts tended to give short thrift to HD DVD fans by putting most (if not all) of the disc's extras on the DVD side of the platter. To the studio's credit, they rectified this problem on later combo releases, but that doesn't seem to help this HD DVD-only re-issue of 'Unleashed.' Gone is the DVD side, and gone, too, are all the extras.

Yep, there's nothing here. Not either of the two featurettes that graced the combo release, nor the two promotional music videos. To be fair, the material was hardly that exciting, but still -- how hard would it have been for Universal to re-press this HD DVD to include the extras? Even better, if they really wanted to make things right with HD DVD fans, Universal could have included the extended cut of the film, which was previously released on standard-def DVD, but not offered on the HD DVD combo release -- that really would have made a nice extra for this re-issue.

Alas, we get nothing.

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

Uh, no.

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

While Jet Li gives a surprisingly emotional performance, 'Unleashed' is a strange movie that's probably destined to languish on the back shelf at the video store.

Combo-haters will be happy to see this HD DVD-only re-issue of the film, which boasts the same great video and audio as the original release, although unfortunately Universal didn't bother to port over any of the standard-def extras when it dropped the DVD side from this edition. On the bright side, this edition is $5 cheaper than the combo, so in terms of value for the money, things more or less net out.

) ) ) [reviews_hot] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 768 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => americanme [review_release_date] => 1182841200 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => American Me [picture_created] => 1174777612 [picture_name] => american-me.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Universal Studios Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/03/24/120/american-me.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/768/americanme.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1992 [run_time] => 125 [list_price] => 29.98 [asin] => B000OHZL3U [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1315920 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 [1] => 480p/i/MPEG-2 (Supplements Only) ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5mbps) [1] => French Dolby Digital-Plus 2.0 Surround (640kpbs) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Documentary [1] => Theatrical Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Crime [1] => Drama ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Vira Montes [1] => Sal Lopez [2] => Roberto Martinez ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Edward James Olmos ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => This epic depiction of thirty years of Chicano gang life in Los Angeles focuses on a teen named Santana who, with his friends Mundo and the Caucasian-but-acting-Hispanic J.D., form their own gang and are soon arrested for a break-in. Santana gets into trouble again and goes straight from reform school to prison, spending eighteen year there, and becoming leader of a powerful gang, both inside and outside the prison, while there. When he is finally released, he tries to make sense of the violence in his life, in a world much changed from when last he was in it. [preview_technology_specifications] => TBA [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => TBA [review_bottom_line] => Give It a Rent [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 11706 [review_movie_stars] => 3.5 [review_movie] =>

What is it about drug lords, vicious gangs and bloody mob violence that proves so alluring? I have to admit to being a bit mystified by it all, if not at times repulsed. Whether it's the hero-worship lauded upon the fictional Corleone clan of the 'Godfather' series, or the continued, phenomenal cult appeal of camp-fests like 'Scarface, or even video games like "Grand Theft Auto" -- I just can't warm to this whole "mob mentality."

But then every once in a while a picture comes along like acor-turned-director Edward James Olmos' 'American Me.' It's rare to see a flick that mythologizes the violent cliches of its genre, only to ultimately subvert the expectations of its audience. If 'American Me' is not be entirely successful in its lofty goals, at least it aims far higher than your run-of-the-mill exploitative gang flick.

As a story, 'American Me' is formulaic (and more than just a bit similar to Brian De Palma's 'Carlito's Way'). Though inspired by the award-winning documentary "Lives in Hazard," which chronicled the hard lives of Latino criminals beyond bars, Olmos uses the milieu only as a backdrop to tell the thirty-year rise and fall of fictional drug lord Pedro Santana. After a misspent youth on the streets of Los Angeles running petty crimes, Santana (played by Olmos himself) is busted and incarcerated in Folsom Prison, yet only grows more powerful behind bars by becoming the leader of the Mexican Mafia (or "La eMe"), the the first prison gang in California. Eventually released, Santana will find a harsh reality in attempting to go clean, as his blood-stained past doesn't give him the chance to turn his back on his former way of life.

What works best in 'American Me' is its sense of realism. Olmos clearly knows this world, if not necessarily from the criminal end but his own experiences. Just like you can't take New York out of a Martin Scorsese picture, so too does Olmos' depiction of a sweltering, uncompromising Los Angeles feel utterly authentic, with its neighborhoods and ethnic customs rendered with what would appear to be great precision and perceptiveness. Olmos' obvious passion for his tale also seems to have fired up his cast, which, though made up almost entirely of young up-and-comers (and even a few real ex-cons in to smaller roles) etch out believable, three-dimensional characters.

'American Me' eventually falters, however, both under the weight of its own didacticism and Olmos' lack of directorial prowess. The film can get heavy-handed, especially during its last third, practically hitting audiences over the head with its anti-gang and anti-drug message. And though 'American Me' is an impressive directorial debut for Olmos (it remains his only full-length theatrical feature), his sometimes flat staging of scenes and bland, static camera moves often resemble a TV melodrama rather than reaching the operatic heights of a Scorsese, Coppola or even second-rate De Palma.

Earnest to a fault, 'American Me' still offers a vivid window into a world rarely seen on film. Although attempting to bring grand cinematic excess of such bloody American crime epics as 'The Godfather,' 'GoodFellas' and 'Carlito's Way' to what is essentially a low-budget Latino independent feature sometimes exceeds Olmos' artistic grasp, 'American Me' still elevates itself far beyond most of its brethren with a strength of conviction that can't be denied.

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

'American Me' is the latest in a recent cycle of catalog releases from Universal that seem to have been pulled out of the closet, dusted off, and slapped on some HD DVDs to quickly feed the next-gen pipeline. Picture quality-wise, the results have been mixed, with a few titles looking rather good ('Big Lebowski,' 'Daylight') and most others middling ('Sneakers,' 'Bulletproof'). Unfortunately, 'American Me' may be the weakest of the bunch, with a dated master of a transfer that didn't look particularly good on standard-def DVD in the first place.

Presented here in 1.85:1 widescreen and 1080p/VC-1 video, the film was shot on a low budget and often looks it. The source is in OK shape, with some minor dirt and speckles, and fairly consistent (if thin) grain throughout. Blacks are fine, but sometimes a bit flat -- darker interiors tend to look washed-out with poor shadow delineation. Brighter scenes, however, often look quite good, with strong depth and fairly good detail.

Colors, meanwhile, are merely average in saturation and consistency, while noise can distract. Fleshtones also veer a bit towards the reds. There is also some edge enhancement visible in an apparent effort to boost sharpness (needless to say, it doesn't work all that well). Granted, in comparison to the standard-def version this is still an improvement, but when it comes to high-def, average just isn't good enough. To be sure, I've seen a few transfers worse than 'American Me' ('Army of Darkness' and 'Full Metal Jacket' come to mind), but that's hardly a compliment.

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

Universal provides a standard Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 surround track (1.5mbps) for 'American Me,' and the film's low budget is again evident, with restrained sound design that hardly wows.

Though technically a gang picture, 'American Me' isn't really an action film. Discrete effects are contained to some bleeds on outdoor noise (traffic, etc.) and gunshots. Dynamic range feels a bit limited all the way around the soundfield -- high end is free of major anomalies (such as distortion) but sounds clipped nonetheless. Low bass is also rather flat by today's standards. The minimal use of music is also not particularly strong in the mix. Dialogue is fairly well recorded and rendered, although some of the offscreen voices in particularly lost in the mix (some volume boosting may be in order if you're watching at a low level).

[review_supplements_stars] => 2 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 0 [review_supplements] =>

Like the standard-def DVD, this HD DVD edition of 'American Me' includes only one major supplement, but at least it's a good one.

The award-winning, 40-minute documentary that inspired 'American Me,' "Lives in Hazard" is a tough, straight-arrow look at the Hispanic gang culture. In fact, this doc is arguably more hard-hitting and moving than the film itself as it tracks various young inmates at Folsom Prison as they wind their way through a world that can be much harsher than the streets the came from. There are a few rays of hope as, in some cases, prisoners prepare for life outside. "Lives in Hazard" offers excellent context for 'American Me,' and on its own is a sobering reminder of how many lives are wasted by a system that, quite frankly, discards the "undesirables" and only gives lip service to the idea of rehabilitation. Simply put, it's an American tragedy.

The only other extra is the film's Theatrical Trailer, which like "Lives in Hazard," is 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] => 2.5 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'American Me' is an honorable attempt to create a gritty, younger-skewing version of 'Godfather'-type mob movies, set in the world of Hispanic gangs. Director and actor Edward James Olmos sometimes lays on the myth a bit too thick, but 'American Me' is still worth a look for fans of these types of movies.

This HD DVD release, however, isn't really up to snuff. The transfer and soundtrack are only average high-def -- which, compared to standard-def isn't bad, but is that really enough these days? This one's a rental at best.

) ) [1] => Array ( [review_id] => 821 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => armyofdarkness_nc [review_release_date] => 1182841200 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Army of Darkness (Re-issue) [picture_created] => 1179803725 [picture_name] => army-of-darkness.gif [manufacturer_name] => Universal Studios Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/05/21/120/army-of-darkness.gif [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/821/armyofdarkness_nc.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1993 [run_time] => 81 [list_price] => 29.98 [asin] => B000P0J05G [amazon_price] => 26.99 [empire_id] => 1319390 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD [1] => HD-15 Single-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5mbps) [1] => Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (192kbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Theatrical Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles [2] => Spanish Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Action [1] => Comedy [2] => Horror [3] => Sci-Fi ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Marcus Gilbert [1] => Ian Ambercrombie [2] => Embeth Davidtz [3] => Bruce Campbell ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Sam Raimi ) [preview_plot_synopsis] =>

Note that this movie was previously released as an HD DVD/DVD combo disc in October 2006 (read our review of that disc). For more information about why this disc is being re-issued as a non-combo disc, click here.

In this sequel to the Evil Dead films, a discount-store employee ("Name's Ash. Housewares.") is time-warped to a medieval castle beset by monstrous forces. Initially mistaken for an enemy, he is soon revealed as the prophecised savior who can quest for the Necronomicon, a book which can dispel the evil. Unfortunately, he screws up the magic words while collecting the tome, and releases an army of skeletons, led by his own Deadite counterpart. What follows is a thrilling, yet tongue-in-cheek battle between Ash's 20th Century tactics and the minions of darkness.

[preview_technology_specifications] => • Theatrical Trailer [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [review_editors_notes] => Portions of this review were originally published in our review of the 'Army of Darkness' HD DVD/DVD combo edition. [review_bottom_line] => For Fans Only [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 10973 [review_introduction] =>

The second of two HD DVD re-issues to hit store shelves last week, 'Army of Darkness' was originally released in October of 2006 as an HD DVD/DVD combo disc.

As I discussed at length in my recent review of 'Unleashed,' the HD DVD/DVD combo format has long been a source of contention among HD DVD early adopters, and while Universal Studios Home Entertainment had traditionally been the hybrid format's largest supporter, more recently they've appeared to shift their strategy, reserving more expensive two-sided discs for only their more recent theatrical titles released day and date with the standard-def DVD.

In March of this year, the studio went one step further, announcing (in a high-def first) that it would discontinue production of the HD DVD/DVD combo editions of 'Unleashed' and 'Army of Darkness,' and would instead re-issue both films on HD DVD without their standard-def flipsides.

But while news of this move seemed to be music to the ears of combo-haters, unfortunately in revisiting both titles, we found that these first-ever high-def re-issues are not without their trade-offs...

[review_movie_stars] => 2 [review_movie] =>

It's no secret that genre fans generally have a strong distate for the mixing of horror and comedy. Films like 'Scream,' 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2,' 'Return of the Living Dead,' and the recent rash of PG-13-rated spook-fests have all come under heavy fire from the horror community for watering down the genre for mainstream tastes to the point where hardcore, balls-to-the-wall terror is an endangered species. But oddly, while Sam Raimi's 'Evil Dead' films would seem to represent everything that these fans despise, somehow it remains a beloved franchise.

To be sure, the first 'Evil Dead' in 1981 was no joke. But by the time 1987's 'Evil Dead 2' rolled around, the series was already a total parody of itself, an approach taken to almost absurd extremes with 1992's 'Army of Darkness.' All three films feature the character of Ash (Bruce Campbell), the lone survivor of a demonic attack on a group of friends in an isolated cabin in the woods. As told in 'Evil Dead,' Ash and his buddies mistakenly unearth "The Book of the Dead," which invokes some very ill-tempered, oozy monstrosities hellbent on human destruction. Though 'Evil Dead 2' was essentially a comedic remake of the first film, 'Army of Darkness' spins a new tale, as Ash is plunked down in medieval times, and must continue to do battle with The Book of the Dead if he hopes to save mankind and return back to present day.

In all reality, of course, the plot is beside the point of the 'Evil Dead' films. In this film in particular, Raimi seems less interested in telling a coherent story than he is in staging a series of slapstick setpieces that are no more frightening than a carnival funhouse ride. And he found the perfect collaborator in Campbell, who with the 'Dead' films has proven himself to be one of the most accomplished -- and underrated -- physical comedians in movies today. Campbell flails about as chainsaws whirl, zombies cackle and Raimi stages camera moves so intricate and outlandish that by the time we get a point-of-view shot of an eyeball flying into a victim's mouth, it all seems commonplace.

But truth be told -- and I know this is sacrilege to say -- as accomplished and audacious as Raimi and Campbell have been with the 'Evil Dead' films, there seems to be not one iota of personal feeling invested. It seems Raimi cares little about anything outside of pummeling Ash with all manner of camera tricks. The story in 'Army of Darkness' doesn't really exist as such, the human dimension is nil, and the film's damsel-in-distress (Embeth Daviditz, trying the best she can) is pure window dressing.

In the end, I'm not sure there's ever been a series of film as visually inspired and visceral as 'Evil Dead' that mean so little. Rather than playing effectively as horror films, they seem more like the modern equivalent of a Charlie Chaplin or Three Stooges comedy, only without the humanity. I know this may cause me to lose my honorary membership in the horror movie fanclub, but after trying over and over again to "get it," the 'Evil Dead' films continue to leave me feeling absolutely nothing at all.

(Note that this HD DVD release of 'Army of Darkness' features the 81-minute, theatrical cut version of the film, not the 96-minute expanded version that has long been available on standard-def DVD.)

[review_video_stars] => 2.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 337 [review_video] =>

'Army of Darkness' made its original next-gen debut on a HD-15/DVD-5 double-sided combo disc. And while this re-issue drops the DVD side of the platter, the video transfer and its tech specs remain identical, with the disc sporting only its original HD-15 single-layer.

As I wrote in my original review of the combo edition the transfer itself is a hit or miss affair. Though it is nice to see the film in full 1080p/VC-1 video, the source material is inconsistent, and time has certainly not done the film's pre-CGI special effects any favors. To be sure, there's no major print damage (such as rips, tears or excessive dropouts), but dirt is noticeable (particularly in shots involving optical effects, which are numerous) and grain is rampant. Darker scenes fare the worst, with the image often looking flat and fuzzy. Colors also suffer from a dated appearance, but the transfer appears to have been pumped up to compensate, with hues oversaturated and smeary at times. At least fleshtones are more or less accurate, although some of the more stylized segments have a reddish tint (especially the film's present-day bookend segments, which are pretty dreadful).

There are some plusses, however. Daylight scenes fare the best, with Ash's arrival at the medieval castle boasting a rather detailed image and a nice sense of depth. The vivid colors also work better here, and don't look quite as artificial. Still, this transfer is all over the place -- the aged source material combined with the film's limited budget, an abundance of darkly-lit scenes, and extensive opticals makes for one of the weakest HD DVD releases I've seen from Universal. Considering the material, I'll give this one a few extra charity points, but as I wrote my original review of this transfer, 'Army of Darkness' could really use a from-the-ground-up, full-on remastering.

[review_audio_stars] => 3 [review_audio_picture_id] => 339 [review_audio] =>

Again a direct match with its combo disc predecessor, this HD DVD re-issue of 'Army of Darkness' gets the Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 surround/1.5mbps treatment. As I wrote in my original review, this is a pretty nice soundtrack, although the film's sound design is what you'd expect from a mid-budgeted genre film from 1992 -- surround use is sporadic and fairly obvious, and envelopment inconsistent.

'Army of Darkness' sports a surprising amount of dialogue for a horror film. Though some ADR is obvious, dialogue is always clear and well-balanced in the mix. Surround use is limited to the score throughout most of the film, except for a random discrete effect here and there, such as a galloping horse or a shotgun blast. The rears only really come alive during the climactic fortress battle (the 'Evil Dead' version of Helm's Deep), which contains some nice split surround activity, although it's nothing compared to a film like 'Terminator 3.' Otherwise, dynamic range is solid, boasting fairly deep low bass and reltively natural and spacious mid-range. Still, despite the Dolby Digital-Plus upgrade, there's little-to-no audible difference between this track and the Dolby Digital track on the most recent standard-def DVD.

[review_supplements_stars] => 0 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 338 [review_supplements] =>

Once again, here's where this re-issue differs from the old HD DVD/DVD combo. As was the case with 'Unleashed,' Universal's combo disc release of 'Army of Darkness' only included supplements on the DVD side of the disc. Since the DVD portion of the release has been dropped from this re-issue (and since Universal apparently couldn't be bothered to re-do the HD DVD side), we get nothing in the way of supplements on this one.

Granted, we're not missing much, at least compared to the combo release. While DVD editions of 'Army of Darkness' have included an alternate ending, deleted scenes, audio commentary, storyboards, etc., the flipside of the combo disc included only the film's Theatrical Trailer. Still, if you thought the supplements package on this one couldn't get any worse, it has.

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

Nothing.

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

'Army of Darkness' is arguably the least effective of the three 'Evil Dead' films, and it's certainly the most jokey. But if you're a fan (and you know who you are), you gotta have the whole trilogy no matter what.

Unfortunately, this new HD DVD-only re-issue of the film does not right any of the wrongs of the previous HD DVD/DVD combo released by Universal last year. The good news is that, at $5 cheaper, at least it's a better bargain. The bad news is that Universal has lost the only meager extra on the old combo version -- the film's theatrical trailer. If a $5 discount and no trailer appeal to you, then by all means pick this one up. Otherwise, cross your fingers and hope Universal issues a better, more deluxe special edition on HD DVD in the future.

) ) [2] => Array ( [review_id] => 769 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => beingjohnmalkovich [review_release_date] => 1182841200 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Being John Malkovich [picture_created] => 1174524382 [picture_name] => malkovich.gif [manufacturer_name] => Universal Studios Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/03/21/120/malkovich.gif [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/769/beingjohnmalkovich.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1999 [run_time] => 113 [list_price] => 29.98 [asin] => B000OHZL44 [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1315872 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD 30GB ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5 Mbps) [1] => French Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5 Mbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Featurettes [1] => Interview [2] => TV Spots [3] => Photo Gallery [4] => Theatrical Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Comedy [1] => Drama [2] => Sci-Fi ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => John Malkovich [1] => Catherine Keener [2] => Cameron Diaz [3] => John Cusack ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Spike Jonze ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => A puppeteer discovers a portal that leads literally into the head of the movie star, John Malkovich. [preview_technology_specifications] => TBA [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => TBA [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] => 11114 [review_movie_stars] => 4.5 [review_movie] =>

There aren't many screenwriters working in Hollywood today whose work is so distinctive that their association with a project is as much of a draw to audiences as a director or a star. The literary force behind such unusual and inventive films as 'Adaptation' and 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,' Charlie Kaufman is one such writer.

Kaufman's first collaboration with the equally inventive director Spike Jonze, the 1999 film 'Being John Malkovich' introduced both the writer and the director into the mainstream consciousness, and set an unusually surreal tone for an American comedy.

John Cusack stars as Craig Schwartz, an unsuccessful puppeteer stuck in a floundering marriage with his neurotic wife Lotte (played by a nearly unrecognizable Cameron Diaz). Giving up on his puppeteering dream, Schwartz takes a job as a filing clerk at an office complex, where, during his orientation, he meets Maxine (Catherine Keener), a cold-hearted wretch to whom he is instantly attracted. Strangely enough, his orientation also introduces him to the seven-and-a-halfth floor -- a literal half floor in between the seventh and eighth floors of the building.

Left on his own to file papers, Schwartz discovers a seemingly-endless tunnel behind one of the filing cabinets on that half floor. When he crawls inside, he's suddenly pulled forward into actor John Malkovich's consciousness. It is here that the film dives headfirst into the world of surrealist cinema.

Seeing the world through Malkovich's eyes, Schwartz watches as the actor (played by Malkovich himself) goes about his daily routine. While this initial experience lasts only fifteen minutes before Schwartz is dropped from the sky alongside a busy highway, in return visits he will learn to control Malkovich in the much the way he controls his own puppets. Ultimately, he will share the experience with both Lotte and Maxine, who will seize upon the opportunity to get inside the Oscar-winning actor's head in distinctly different ways.

Critics showered 'Being John Malkovich' with praise when it was first released in theaters, and I can't help but agree. As odd as the film tends to be, Kaufman and Jonze are truly remarkable in their ability to craft a familiar world in the middle of this insane reality. Each character in the film is relatable, and their desire for control over Malkovich is both troubling and revealing.

The film's performances are equally impressive. Layered with genius ticks and obscure expressions that completely sell his character, Cusack's quiet portrayal of the unhinged puppeteer is particularly winning, while Diaz, Keener, and Malkovich all turn in award-caliber performances, as well. No matter how detestable any character's actions become, its hard not to find yourself understanding their motivations and feeling genuine empathy for their situation. There aren't any heroes or villains -- just a group of insecure people trying to find their way through a tough life with no answers.

A bizarre dark comedy that explores the complex desires found in the darkest corners of the human mind, 'Being John Malkovich' is jaw-droppingly unique, challenging, and rewarding. Fans of 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind' will feel right at home with this one, but everyone should take the opportunity to check out this winning film from the mind of Charlie Kaufman.

[review_video_stars] => 3.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 2946 [review_video] =>

Presented in 1080p using the VC-1 codec, 'Being John Malkovich' looks quite good. While the film's washed out palette and grainy texture could have been stumbling blocks, this transfer handles them in stride. Instances of bold colors are vivid, blacks are deep, and despite a moderate amount of grain, there's a nice depth to the image. I was pleased to see clean textures, natural skintones, and good contrast, and I couldn't find any instances of artifacting, black crush, mosquito noise, or other problems that made the film's initial release on DVD a bit mediocre.

There are, however, a few problem areas. My biggest issue was with fine object detail, which is often inconsistent from shot to shot. While some scenes boast extraordinary detail (such as the one where Cusack flips through a newspaper), others are quite soft. In a direct compare with the standard-def DVD, detailing in these scenes is certainly improved, but still not enough to bring this transfer up to its full potential. To a lesser extent, I was also disappointed to see this print marred by a few flecks and scratches. All in all though, this is still a pretty good transfer and I think fans of the film will be excited to see the inherent upgrade it has received in its move to high-def.

[review_audio_stars] => 4 [review_audio_picture_id] => 2947 [review_audio] =>

'Being John Malkovich' features a surprisingly strong Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 surround mix (1.5 Mbps). While the track on the standard DVD tended to sound a bit muffled at times, the mix on this HD DVD boasts crisp dialogue, robust music, and a well-prioritized soundscape.

Even though this is dialogue-heavy flick, the surround channels still get a good workout. Scenes inside Malkovich's consciousness have excellent acoustic density, the portal features a rush of swift channel movement, and the muffled vacuum of the puppeteering scenes are eerie. For perfect example of this mix at its best, head to the scene in which John Malkovich goes through his own portal. The resulting sonic chaos is a testament to the film's sound design and this audio track's prowess.

Likewise, the musical soundtrack is noticeably improved over the standard DVD; treble tones like violin strings are more stable, and bass is more resonant and natural without ever sounding throaty or artificial.

Having said all that, there are some downsides to this Digital-Plus mix. The biggest problem I found was that the dynamics aren't widespread and tend to limit the track's ability to feel alive. Other minor issues include some murky acoustics in Cusack's apartment, some brief but questionable channel accuracy in some of the post-portal scenes, and a few instances where dialogue is lost beneath other effects. Still, overall (and not unlike the video) 'Being John Malkovich' has never sounded better on home video than it does in this HD DVD edition, and fans are sure to be pleased.

[review_supplements_stars] => 1 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 2948 [review_supplements] =>

The features on 'Being John Malkovich' are as peculiar as the film itself, and while they're not as comprehensive as I'd like, they do an effective job of enhancing the mood of the overall experience.

First up are a couple of featurettes that cover some unsung heroes of the film's production. "An Intimate Portrait of the Art of Puppeteering" (6 minutes) is a straight forward featurette about the puppeteer who designed the marionette scenes in the film. Likewise, "An Intimate Portrait of the Art of Background Driving" (5 minutes) focuses on a random extra who drives her car in the background of scenes where Cusack is dropped beside the highway.

Next you'll find two sequences that appeared only in partial form in the film itself. "American Arts Culture Presents: John Horatio Malkovich, Dance of Despair and Disillusionment" (4 minutes) is the pseudo-documentary seen on a television in the film that documents John Malkovich's rise to puppeteer stardom. "Seven-and-a-Half Floor Orientation" (3 minutes) is the video Craig watches when he's first hired as a filing clerk.

"An Interview with Spike Jonze" (3 minutes) captures the notoriously interview-phobic director driving his car to work. While it's somewhat amusing, predictably there isn't much useful information conveyed.

Rounding out the package is a feature called "Don't Enter Here, There is Nothing Here" that literally take you to a blank page, a series of four "TV Spots," a "Theatrical Trailer," and "Spike's Photo Album" which collects thirty on-set photographs of the film's cast and crew.

(Note that all of the included supplements are presented in 480i/p and all were ported from the standard-def DVD, first released in 2000.)

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

No exclusive content here per se, but this HD DVD edition of 'Being John Malkovich' does feature Universal's high-def exclusive "My Scenes" feature, which allows the viewer to label scenes as favorites on the fly. These favorites can then be played back at any time from the main menu.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 3.5 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 2949 [review_final_thoughts] =>

The film that put both Charlie Kaufman and Spike Jonze on the cinematic map, 'Being John Malkovich' is a masterwork of modern surrealist cinema. This HD DVD edition quite strong for a catalogue release, featuring upgraded video and audio, plus a bulletpoint-for-bulletpoint port of all the standard DVD supplements (as pointless as they may be).

) ) [3] => Array ( [review_id] => 868 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => blacksnakemoan [review_release_date] => 1182841200 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Black Snake Moan [picture_created] => 1178993486 [picture_name] => black-snake-moan.gif [manufacturer_name] => Paramount Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/05/12/120/black-snake-moan.gif [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/868/blacksnakemoan.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2007 [run_time] => 115 [list_price] => 39.98 [asin] => B000Q6GUWU [amazon_price] => 27.95 [empire_id] => 1326866 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.35:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => HD DVD 30GB ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5 Mbps) [1] => French Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5 Mbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Commentary Track [1] => Documentary [2] => Featurettes [3] => Deleted Scenes ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => English Subtitles [2] => French Subtitles [3] => Spanish Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Drama ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Samuel L. Jackson [1] => Christina Ricci [2] => Justin Timberlake ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Craig Brewer ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => When ex-blues musician Lazarus (Samuel L. Jackson) finds the town nymphomaniac Rae (Christina Ricci) left for dead on the side of the road, he vows to nurse her back to health…and cure her of her wickedness. Until then, she’ll be chained to the immovable radiator in his home. But Lazarus has demons of his own: his wife just left him for his own brother. While Lazarus and Rae struggle to fix their broken lives, the situation threatens to explode as Rae's boyfriend Ronnie (Justin Timberlake) — a roughneck soldier just back from Iraq — comes searching for his missing lover. [preview_technology_specifications] => TBA [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => TBA [preview_forum_id] => 6991 [review_editors_notes] => Non format-specific portions of this review also appear in our Blu-ray review of 'Black Snake Moan.' [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] => 10409 [review_movie_stars] => 3.5 [review_movie] =>

How does an up-and-coming director follow a breakout flick about a middle-aged pimp with career aspirations of hip-hop superstardom? Apparently with a controversial landmine of a film that juggles issues of race, abuse, addiction, and morality. Loosely based on a George Eliot novel from the 1860s ("Silas Marner"), writer/director Craig Brewer's second film (after his critically acclaimed 'Hustle & Flow') is an unusual film, to say the least.

'Black Snake Moan' tells the story of Lazarus (Samuel L. Jackson), a religious blues musician whose wife runs off with his brother. Stuck in a tailspin, Lazarus withdraws from his tight-knit community and attempts to deal with his wife's betrayal at the bottom of a bottle. After a heavy night of drinking, he wakes up to find a young woman named Rae (Christina Ricci) lying alongside the road, beaten and left for dead. He nurses her back to health, but soon discovers that she's a nymphomaniac with an abusive past who can't control her sexual urges. Chaining her to a radiator in his house, he decides to cure her of her "sickness" with his Bible and a stern bout of tough love.

I can't imagine what 'Black Snake Moan' must have seemed like to those who read the screenplay before the film was shot. On paper, the story would appear to be a gauntlet of pitfalls, featuring overtones of slavery, rape, and an inflammatory portrayal of female sexuality. On screen, (to their great credit) Jackson and Ricci offer up challenging performances that negate most of these potential dangers, although in the end, I still couldn't help but feel a little let down.

For the first half of the film, 'Black Snake Moan' could easily be a third entry in Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez's 'Grindhouse' -- it has a tonal darkness and a heightened reality that makes it work quite well as a trashy morality tale. The characters are complex, the plot is provoking, and the pacing unpredictable. When Ricci first wakes up with a chain around her waist, the film generates an immediate sense of momentum. Even better, the soundtrack drenches the film in a thick atmosphere that permeates every corner of Lazarus's world, driving each scene and perfectly matching every moment with the chilling croon of aching melodies.

But then things start to unravel -- characters unexpectedly shift priorities, emotional healing happens off camera, seemingly deep-rooted impulses are abruptly under control, and the last ten minutes are wrapped up with such a nice bow that the film would seem to share more in common with a Sandra-Bullock romantic comedy than the edgy masterpiece that 'Black Snake Moan' at first appeared to be. It almost feels as if large chunks of the movie have been cut out -- Lazarus and Rae don't have any defining moments or revelations, they just suddenly change without explanation when it suits the direction of the story.

By the time the credits rolled, I was more shocked by the film's sugar-coated wrap-up than all of the earlier controversial scenes put together. What began as an immensely intriguing exploration of flawed individuals ended as a shallow study of redemption. As devastating as her performance was, Ricci's on-screen sexuality suddenly seemed more like a gratuitous gimmick than a necessary plot device. Likewise, Jackson's troubled will seemed to reveal itself as simply a scripted crutch for an undeveloped plot.

Don't get me wrong, 'Black Snake Moan' certainly isn't a bad film, and I don't regret the two hours of my life I spent with it. The movie certainly boasts an original concept, and some A-list critics have even called it one of their favorite films of the year. But while I wanted to love this film, ultimately I couldn't help but be a bit disappointed by it. This really could have been a classic pulp masterpiece -- instead, for me, it's a one-trick pony that doesn't have the courage to follow through on its obscure setup.

[review_video_stars] => 5 [review_video_picture_id] => 2893 [review_video] =>

Presented in 1080p using the AVC MPEG-4 codec, this HD DVD edition of 'Black Snake Moan' is simply stunning. I wasn't expecting anything to floor me after viewing the problematic video quality of 'Hustle & Flow,' but the picture quality on this disc is in an entirely different league.

The first thing that struck me were the bold and stable colors, which are perfectly saturated with convincing textures that leap off the screen. Skintones are natural and vibrant, while clothing is intentionally drab, stained, and wrinkled. Fine object detail is astounding and every blade of grass and speck of grime is visible in the background. I could clearly see the earthy texture of rose petals, the flecks of rust on Lazarus's truck, and even the frayed stitching on Ricci's half-shirt. When Jackson first appears on screen, I literally paused the film just to marvel at the well-rendered lines in the skin of his face. Better still, grain is practically non-existent, black levels are deep, and shadows are deftly delineated. The dimension and depth in every shot sent me searching for any imperfection I could possibly find.

So did I find anything wrong? It's a stretch, but there are a couple of shots that looked slightly washed out compared to the rest of the ideally-contrasted picture. First, there's a slight haze over a quick shot of Lazarus turning toward Rae when she's first discovers her chain. The second shot has the same issue and occurs when Ricci first tries on her new green dress. Both of these, however, are blink-and-you'll-miss-em examples that probably have more to do with on-set lighting than the technical merits of this transfer.

Boasting superb visuals equal to 'The Ultimate Matrix Collection,' 'Black Snake Moan' features reference quality video that quite simply has to be seen to be believed. The HD DVD and Blu-ray versions are identical to my eye and fans of both formats should be ecstatic with this release.

[review_audio_stars] => 4.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 2894 [review_audio] =>

'Black Snake Moan' a dialogue-heavy film, so at first I didn't expect much from its audio package. But that was before the guttural moan of a blues guitar flooded my speakers for the first time. To cut to the chase, the music on this Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 surround mix (1.5 Mbps) sounds amazing -- the guitar plucks are twangy and the singing voices fill the front channels. Best of all, the drums don't seem poppy and they retain the boomy bass that blues and southern jazz are known for. When Samuel L. Jackson sings and plays the guitar, his voice moans throughout the soundfield and his strings flutter in every speaker.

Dialogue is crisp and sound prioritization is top notch. Each time Rae loses control of herself, the soundscape erupts with the cries of summer insects that eerily immersed me in her mind. Ambiance is also very good and the rear channels get a surprisingly heavy workload. The track's dynamic range is also impressive -- listen each time Rae drags the heavy chain across Lazarus's wood floor. The dull echo and harsh scuffing sounds of the chain are particuarly convincing and the acoustics of his house are frighteningly realistic.

There were, however, a few problems. Some moments suffer from hollow treble ranges (listen to S. Epatha Merkerson's voice when she speaks to Jackson outside of the pharmacy), the audio quality of the classic recordings is predictably inconsistent, and a few sound effects are both repetitive and stagey (such as the thunder when Lazarus plays his guitar for Rae).

Comparing the audio package on this HD DVD release to its Blu-ray counterpart, once again Paramount has gifted HD DVD fans with a 1.5mbps Dolby Digital-Plus track, while the Blu-ray gets a slightly demoted 640 kbps Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix. In a direct compare, there's an audible difference between the two tracks, with the HD DVD sounding a bit fuller and more robust than the Blu-ray version (you can really tell the difference when Lazarus plays his guitar and in the aforementioned sound of the dragging chain).

All things considered, this HD DVD mix excels and provides a great listening experience.

[review_supplements_stars] => 3 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 2895 [review_supplements] =>

Porting over all of the features from the standard DVD, this HD DVD edition of 'Black Snack Moan' boasts a solid (but somewhat modest) set of supplements.

First up is a feature commentary with Craig Brewer. He jumps around quite a bit, but his track is arguably more interesting because of his kinetic descriptions. The writer/director discusses his early treatments of the script, the parallels to the George Eliot novel, Samuel L. Jackson's close involvement (and his six-month training in blues guitar), and Ricci's brave performance. Brewer's anecdotes and script explanations routed some of my initial criticisms of the film, and I'm guesssing I'll have a greater appreciation for 'Black Snake Moan' next time I see it.

Having said that, my favorite part of this track was listening to Brewer discuss the relationship between the cast and the crew -- he talks about the potential exploitive nature of Ricci's performance and how everyone on set worked to keep things comfortable for her. His comments on this topic provided a captivating glimpse into the human side of a Hollywood production that I've never heard investigated quite so deeply in a commentary of this sort. Kudos to Brewer.

"Conflicted: The Making of Black Snake Moan" (31 minutes) is a behind-the-scenes documentary that examines the production and includes a ton of interviews with cast and crew. Granted, there's some repetition here with Brewer's commentary, but this one's still informative with a lot of solid analysis from Jackson and Ricci on their characters. Best of all, the documentary never feels promotional and there is a welcome abundance of on-set footage.

Next up are two musical featurettes -- "Rooted in the Blues" (12 minutes) and "The Black Snake Moan" (9 minutes). The first takes a look at Brewer's musical selections, while the second specifically explores the inspiration of Blind Lemon Jefferson's classic song, "Black Snake Moan." As a blues fan, I personally found these two supplements to be the most interesting of the bunch, but alas they're entirely too short for my taste.

Wrapping things up are the film's Theatrical Trailer, a collection of Production Stills and six Deleted Scenes (totaling about 14 minutes) featuring optional commentary from Brewer. None of the excised scenes really stood out, but they did flesh out the story and the characters a little more.

(Note that while the trailer and the deleted scenes are presented in 1080i, all of the other video supplements are in 480i/p only.)

[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] => 2896 [review_final_thoughts] =>

While I personally had some issues with the film itself, there's no denying that for most of its 115-minute runtime, 'Black Snake Moan' is a crazy ride. Better still, this HD DVD edition of the film features one of the best visual transfers I've seen, very impressive audio, and a nice set of supplements that ultimately increased my appreciation of the film.


) ) [4] => Array ( [review_id] => 770 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => bulletproof [review_release_date] => 1182841200 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Bulletproof [picture_created] => 1174777400 [picture_name] => bulletproof.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Universal Studios Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/03/24/120/bulletproof.jpeg [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/770/bulletproof.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1999 [run_time] => 84 [list_price] => 29.98 [asin] => B000OHZL3A [amazon_price] => 19.95 [empire_id] => 1315949 [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-15 Single-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5mbps) [1] => French Dolby Digital-Plus 2.0 Surround (640kpbs) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => None ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Action [1] => Adventure [2] => Comedy [3] => Crime ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => James Caan [1] => Adam Sandler [2] => Damon Wayans ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Ernest Dickerson ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Rock Keats and Archie Moses are the best of friends and have spent the past year together performing various small time criminal acts. This all changes when they become involved in a major drug smuggling operation. Rock Keats turns out to be Jack Carter, an undercover police officer and tries to arrest Moses during a failed attempt to catch criminal mastermind Frank Colton. However, Moses ends up shooting Carter and makes an escape. Moses is later caught and agrees to turn state's evidence on Colton with one condition, Carter escorts him in. When they meet, both are bitter towards each other. Unknown to them, Colton's men have orders to take out Moses and arrive to shoot down the transport plane. Carter and Moses end up by themselves in the countryside with Colton's men closing in. Will they survive?...will their friendship? [preview_technology_specifications] => TBA [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => TBA [review_bottom_line] => For Fans Only [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 11137 [review_movie_stars] => 1.5 [review_movie] =>

I've always considered the mid-'90s to be the elephant graveyard of modern cinema. From aging slasher flick icons stuck in sequel purgatory to the countless buddy-cop movie rip-offs of 'Lethal Weapon,' this was the era where old movie genres went to die. For a perfect example of the latter, one need look no further than 'Bulletproof,' a "mismatched buddies on the run" flick so played-out that it makes Sylvester Stallone's oeuvre look good.

Once inseparable pals, Archie Moses (Adam Sandler) and Rock Keats (Damon Wayans) are now on opposite sides of the law, each feeling betrayed by the other. The only person who seems to hate them more than they hate each other is ruthless drug kingpin Frank Colton (James Caan), who wants to put them both six feet under. And so, through a strange twist of fate, Moses and Keats are back together, and on the run. With a little bit of luck, the bungling boys just might get out of this one alive -- that is, if they don't kill each other first.

'Bulletproof' swipes from just about every buddy-cop flick of the '80s -- and badly, at that. Every action scene, every plot twist and every canned joke can easily be spotted as a lift from either '48 Hrs.', Beverly Hills Cop,' 'Lethal Weapon' or 'The Last Boy Scout' (also starring Wayans). Of course, such obvious "homage" wouldn't be so bad if 'Bulletproof' were witty or exciting, but it's neither. Instead, it's just tired, forced and unfunny.

Given the talent involved, the film's failures are particularly shocking. Sandler and Wayans are usually such powerful performers, but neither really lets loose in this movie -- not Wayans, who seems lost without a strong screen presence like Bruce Willis to play off of, nor Sandler, who seems completely out of his league in thus one. Though I've never been a huge fan of Sandler's Forrest Gump style of dumb comedy, he's never been as tone-deaf as he is here. He yells every line, over-emoting to the point where it doesn't come across as cocky bravado (a la the young Eddie Murphy in '48 Hrs.'), but simply fear. And director Ernest Dickerson brings no unique style to the proceedings -- this is rote action-movie banality, staged and executed with little flair or precision.

Is there anything to recommend in 'Bulletproof?' Only the fun of reveling in nostalgia, as the film seems like it was shot in 1986, not 1996. It's amazing how badly the film has aged, from the lame soundtrack tunes by such acts as Salt-N-Pepa and (I kid you not) Mr. Cheeks and Freaky Tah, to the dorky fashions that make Sandler look like Vanilla Ice's older brother. (Wayans even at one point wears 'Breakin'-inspired suspenders-over-T-shirt getup -- priceless.) Such sartorial pleasures aside, you'd be better off passing on 'Bulletproof' and instead just watching 'Lethal Weapon' for the zillionth time.

[review_video_stars] => 3.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 0 [review_video] =>

'Bulletproof' is the latest in a series of middling Universal catalog releases -- the kind a studio usually tosses out when it's trying to launch a new format but doesn't want to waste its big guns on the earliest of early adopters. Though this is another case of an old master being repurposed for high-def, 'Bulletproof' is slightly above average compared to other recent Universal HD DVD catalog titles like 'Daylight,' 'The Watcher' and 'Mystery Men.'

Simply put, the source in this case has held up better than most. There is a film-like grain permeating throughout, but little in the way of dirt, speckles or other blemishes. Blacks are good if not exceptional, and while contrast doesn't have the pop of a modern transfer at least it is pretty smooth across the entire grayscale. The image is somewhat soft, but colors are fairly vivid for a 1996 film, although there is some noise and a bit of bleeding on the most saturated hues. Depth and detail are above average for a flick of this vintage, but again the presentation is not incredibly eye-popping. All in all, a solid triple.

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

Hardly an earth-shaker, 'Bulletproof' is your typical mid-'90s soundtrack. Sound design is only fairly aggressive and there are enough cheesy pop/rock/hip hop-lite songs on the soundtrack to rival ten 'Beverly Hills Cop' movies. I half expected Bob Seger to make a cameo appearance.

In base tech terms, this Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 track (1.5mbps) sounds okay. Low bass is solid but doesn't deliver anything truly powerful. Surrounds kick in fairly frequently, though discrete effects are reserved largely for bleed on loud sounds, such as explosions and gunfire. The score and songs fill out the front soundstage nicely, but again the rears are somewhat anemic in comparison. Dialogue is balanced pretty well, with only the loudest scenes somewhat overwhelming.

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

As was the case with the standard-def DVD version, there are no extras at all on 'Bulletproof' -- not even a theatrical trailer.

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

There are no genuine HD DVD exclusives. However, Universal has included their "MyScenes" feature, which allows you to bookmark your favorite scenes for easy access even after you eject the disc from your player.

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

A pretty lousy buddy-cop flick from the mid-'90s, 'Bulletproof' is only notable because it features a pre-superstar Adam Sandler and Damon Wayans. This middling HD DVD release is rather fitting -- the transfer and soundtrack are obviously dated goods, and there are zero extras included. All but the most diehard Sandler and Wayns fans should steer clear of this one

) ) ) [reviews_slices] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 851 [review_type_id] => 3 [review_slug] => deadsilence [review_release_date] => 1182841200 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Dead Silence [picture_created] => 1178993634 [picture_name] => dead-silence.gif [manufacturer_name] => Universal Studios Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2007/05/12/120/dead-silence.gif [review_url] => https://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/851/deadsilence.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2007 [run_time] => 91 [list_price] => 39.98 [asin] => B000PMLJN0 [amazon_price] => 35.99 [empire_id] => 1324358 [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 Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5mbps) ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Featurettes [1] => Deleted Scenes [2] => Music Video ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Horror [1] => Thriller ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Donnie Wahlberg [1] => Bob Gunton ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => James Wan ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => There is an old ghost story in the sleepy town of Ravens Fair about Mary Shaw, a ventriloquist who went mad. Accused of the murder of a young boy, she was hunted down by vengeful townspeople who cut out her tongue and killed her. They buried her along with her "children," a hand-made collection of vaudeville dolls. Since that time, Ravens Fair has been plagued by death. The ghastly dolls from Mary Shaw's collection have gone missing from the grave and reappeared over the decades. In the dead of night--wherever they are glimpsed--families are found gruesomely murdered... with their tongues torn out. Far from the pall of their hometown, newlyweds Jamie and Lisa Ashen thought they had established a fresh start. But when his wife is grotesquely killed, Jamie reluctantly returns to Ravens Fair for the funeral, intent on unraveling the mystery of her death. Once reunited with his ill father and his father's new young bride, Jamie must dig into the town's bloody past to find out who killed his wife and why. As he uncovers the legend of Mary Shaw, Jamie unlocks the story of her curse and the truth behind the song from his childhood: if you see her and scream, you will never speak again. [preview_technology_specifications] => • "The Making of Dead Silence," "Mary Shaw's Secrets," "Evolution of Visual FX"
• Deleted scenes including Alternate Opening and Alternate Ending
• Music video: "We Sleep Forever" by Aiden [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [preview_forum_id] => 6604 [review_bottom_line] => For Fans Only [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 10389 [review_movie_stars] => 1.5 [review_movie] =>

In 1984, a low-budget little fright flick called 'A Nightmare on Elm Street' appeared out of nowhere to revitalize the dying slasher genre. Spawning over six sequels and turning its demonic villain Freddy Krueger into a pop culture superstar, Wes Craven's inventive sleeper launched a franchise whose iconographic brand of dream-inspired horror remains seminal to the genre. Surprisingly, however, there were few overt rip-offs to follow -- perhaps because Freddy himself was the logical conclusion of nearly a decade's worth of cinematic slashers that had preceded him.

Well, it took nearly twenty-five years, but we finally have our first unofficial 'Nightmare on Elm Street' remake: 'Dead Silence.' This oddity of a horror flick from 'Saw' creators James Wan and Leigh Whannel so clearly lifts its core villain and central premise from the 'Elm Street' series that it's hard to believe it was released earlier this year and not back in Freddy's heydey. Unfortunately, 'Dead Silence' isn't an effective Xerox, so any thrill of nostalgia the film initially provides is short-lived.

As the plot is so dependent on its twists and turns, I'll keep the recap to a minimum. Our story begins when Jamie (Ryan Kwanten) finds an old ventriloquist dummy that has been dropped on his doorstep, with no note attached. Only minutes later, his poor fiancee Ella (Amber Valletta) ends up dead, her face contorted in a grotesque parody and her tongue ripped out. With the suspicious Detective Lipton (Donnie Wahlberg) hot on his trail, Jamie tracks the doll back to a creepy, abandoned old New England town that makes the one in 'Silent Hill' look like a thriving metropolis.

Here the story heats up, as we slowly discover the backstory behind the town's resident bogeywoman, Mary Shaw. Seems she was once a local ventriloquist with a fondness for the macabre who was believed responsible for several missing children -- "Beware the stare of Mary Shaw," the Krueger-esque nursery rhyme goes. After being tracked down and executed for her apparent misdeeds, she has haunted generations of townspeople from beyond the grave by wreaking havoc on the town. Needless to say, Jamie will have to fight the unimaginable if he hopes to solve her riddles and finally end her curse once and for all.

Mary Shaw's backstory is, of course, so similar to the death and rebirth of Freddy Krueger that she may as well be his twin sister. But visually speaking, 'Dead Silence' is a departure from 'Elm Street' flicks. Seemingly inspired by the classic Universal monster movies of the '30s (with their gothic art direction and deep black & white photography), director Wan ladles on the cobwebs and decaying mansions, and so desaturates his image that 'Dead Silence' almost looks monochromatic. Unfortunately, such visual pizzazz is no substitute for a coherent story and likable characters.

Quite frankly, 'Dead Silence' is a boring, plodding, unfocused mess -- the story has more holes than Freddy Krueger razoring his finger-claws through a mound of Swiss cheese. Character motivation is either non-existent or nonsensical, while most scenes feel pieced-together and randomly constructed, as if Wan threw up the pages of the script and filmed them in the order that they hit the ground. Even more disappointing, the film's marketing hook of scary puppets is pretty much tossed out the window, as Mary herself takes center stage most of the time.

Then there are the film's performances. No offense to Kwaten, but he appears to have been cast more for looks than talent. His line readings are incredibly stilted, and he just can't seem to hold his own against the enormous production design and a narrative that's often incomprehensible. Among the supporting players, Wahlberg at least seems to have some fun with a character that is straight out of Movie Detective Cliches 101, while the underrated Bob Gunton ('Shawshank Redemption,' TV's 'Desperate Housewives') shines in a far-too-limited role as Jamie's mean old daddy.

Ultimately, had 'Dead Silence' been really scary, it could still have been fun regardless of how poorly constructed it may be. But unfortunately, here too, the film fails. The over-the-top set design is distancing, rather than enveloping (that abandoned old town is about as believable as a leftover set from Universal Studios' yearly "Fright Fest"), while the dead-eyed dummies are only creepy to a point. In the end, without a truly terrifying villain, an engaging story or decent characters, 'Dead Silence' rings as hollow as its puppets.

(Note that this HD DVD comes billed as an "Unrated" version, boasting one minute of additional footage deemed too shocking for the R-rated theatrical version. Having seen both, I can say that the added material is slightly gorier, but adds nothing to the film's overall effectiveness.)

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 2346 [review_video] =>

I had the misfortune of originally seeing 'Dead Silence' in a near-empty theater on a rainy Sunday afternoon (a fate seemingly destined for go-nowhere horror flicks like this), and while I can't say I love the film's visual look, this 1080p/VC-1 encode does accurately match the experience I had that day at the cinema.

Presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, 'Dead Silence' certainly makes nice use of its wide frame, as director of photography John R. Leonetti uses every inch of the space he has. The print itself is also in excellent shap