April 24, 2007. This week’s blu-ray movie review includes the following releases: Deja Vu, Failure to Launch, Night at the Museum, Planet Earth: The Complete BBC Series, Secret Window, The Queen, and the Ultimate Avengers Collection.
Deja Vu (Buena Vista) (Blu-ray)
Featuring: Denzel Washington, Bruce Greenwood, Erika Alexander, Val Kilmer and Jim Caviezel
Denzel stars as ATF agent Doug Carlin who is called in to investigate and recover evidence in a ferry bombing and uncovers a terrorism plot through the use of a futurist device developed by the FBI. The device allows the user to view any event, anywhere, but only four days and six hours into the past. Though the plot’s a bit absurd, and not well executed (as science fiction, it’s lame, as an annoying action film, it works), Denzel is in top form in his third outing with director Tony Scott. The transfer is a sharp looking MPEG-4 AVC at 1080p resolution in widescreen 2.35. The audio is offered in an rich sounding uncompressed PCM 5.1 format (English) and in Dolby Digital 5.1 (English/French/Spanish). Subtitles are in
English, French and Spanish. This is a feature-rich Blu-ray release with Surveillance Window, a feature that allows you to “go back in time” and experience behind-the-scenes moments with the filmmakers as the film goes along… in a seamless pop up window.
On the whole, this is a good addition your hi-def action film library. It has much in common with Scott’s recent films (with and without Denzel) and aside from a rather shake plot and shakier SF plot devices, the film is a fairly good actioneer with sound that rocks the living room to its foundations.
Failure to Launch (Paramount) (Blu-ray)
Featuring: Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew McConaughey, Kathy Bates, Zooey Deschanel and Terry Bradshaw
One of those star-driven chick-flicks that’s almost embarrassing to pop into a Blu-ray player. I believe the reason for some films is to exist as pure filler, as it’s a long calendar year and a studio has gotta make the money during those lean months by churning out anything to turn a quick buck. Failure to Launch is just such time-waster, and if you can get past the lame premise, the obnoxious characterizations that exist purely outside the realm of reality, and the lukewarm comedic performances, then what you end up with is a pretty crisp look at Terry Bradshaw’s naked ass in MPEG-2 compressed, 1080p resolution which is good for a laugh while you’re peeking between your fingers. May I add that it’s a widescreen 2.35 ratio ass? Audio is dialog dynamic in Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French and Spanish as are the subtitles), but most everything else sounds flat. The disc has plenty of trash—er, um… special features, that include Casting Off: The Making of Failure to Launch, The Failure to Launch Phenomenon and Dating in the new Millennium. You also get an interview featurette called Moviefone.com Unscripted with Matthew McConaughey and Terry Bradshaw and the film’s theatrical trailer (trailer’s in hi-def, other features are standard-def).
Night at the Museum (Fox) (Blu-ray)
Featuring: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Dick Van Dyke, Carla Gugino, Mickey Rooney, Robin Williams and Ricky Gervais
In many ways this Ben Stiller family film is a throwback to the days of Disney’s live action films like The Absent-Minded Professor or The Apple Dumpling Gang, the plot is simple and family-friendly (divorced father seeks his son’s acceptance and awe so that he feels like less of a good-hearted loser than he actually is), the acting is as broad as possible to appeal to those who favor slapstick over nuance, and the overall result is a forgettable, lightweight affair that’s re-playable mostly for the kiddies on a rainy day or a long car trip. The big highlight for me was watching Ricky Gervais mince around, but in the overall analysis, this one wasn’t made to please critics or film-goers seeking out more than a slapfight with a cute, small monkey. The film’s special effects are one reason to pick this up on Blu-ray, since the CGI work is here very convincing (the T-Rex skeleton has a weight and physical look that astonishes the eye). The very colorful and deeply saturated transfer retains the warm glow of the museum setting from the theatrical release, the resolution is nearly pristine at https://hd-report.com/hd-glossary/1080p, with an aspect ratio in widescreen 2.35. The audio is above-par with a very well balanced DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround mix. French and Spanish languages are offered in Dolby Digital 5.1 with subtitles in English and Spanish. Though the look of the Blu-ray disc is pretty fantastic and reason enough to own it, the reason to leave it at the checkout counter is the utter lack of features by Fox Home Entertainment. There’s two audio commentary by director Shawn Levy and commentary by writers, Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon
Aside from the film’s theatrical trailer and some coming attraction trailers, the only other feature is a Blu-ray only Trivia Track that offers a text strip on the screen regarding tidbits of info about the film during it’s running time.
Planet Earth: The Complete Collection (BBC) (Blu-ray)
Featuring: Original narration by Sir David Attenborough
Folks, I’ll put it plain and simple: THIS IS WHAT HIGH DEFINITION HOME THEATER SYSTEMS WERE MADE FOR! Run out now for Tuesday’s dual release in Blu-ray and HD DVD and plunk down the $50+ bucks you’ll find it for at most retailers, then run home and pop in the first disc in this collection and be simply astounded by the breathtaking detail and jaw-dropping clarity of this acclaimed production. This is the full, 11-part BBC series and not the Discovery Channel version that aired in the US with narration by Sigourney Weaver (which was widely panned despite the visual brilliance), rather this is the more thorough version that aired in Britain and Europe with each episode ends with 10-minute Planet Earth Diaries and includes 90 minutes not shown on the Discovery Channel version as well as a bonus movie: The Dream Is Alive.
The Blu-ray video is offered at https://hd-report.com/hd-glossary/1080p resolution in widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio. No word on the compression codec used, but I’m assuming from what I’ve seen that it’s the highest quality codecs for both hi-def formats. Blu-ray audio is offered with MLP Lossless sound compression in PCM 5.1 surround.
The Queen (Buena Vista) (Blu-ray)
Featuring: Helen Mirren, James Cromwell, Sylvia Syms, Michael Sheen and Helen McCrory
Stephen Frears’s remarkable drama would have made a great made-for-TV movie simply due to the nature of its premise: how the British royal family deals with its subjects and a changing world amidst the media-driven, 24-hour news cycles and internal politics that surround the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. This small film tells a big story and gains remarkable theatrical stature from its performances, chiefly those of Dame Helen Mirren (who won the Best Actress Oscar®) as Queen Elizabeth II and Michael Sheen as Tony Blair. The film offers an astonishing reconstruction of events from 1997-98 during a time when the public’s relationship and perception of the British monarchy (and vice versa) was to take a drastic change. This is a film of truly accomplished performances (Sheen’s Blair is spot-on without being an outright impersonation or caricature) and Mirren is at the top of her skills (after having played a British queen twice before), making us care deeply about a sheltered, but awfully shrewd woman facing a fast-paced and newly emotive world that threatens to make her life, her family and everything they stand for irrelevant. The film looks wonderful in this Blu-ray transfer at https://hd-report.com/hd-glossary/1080p resolution in 1.85 widescreen. Although the film relies primarily on dialog laden scenes, the audio is clean sounding and well balanced in a choice of PCM 5.1 surround (English) and Dolby Digital 5.1 surround (English or French). There’s a Dolby Digital Stereo track in Spanish while subtitles are offered in English, French and Spanish. For features there’s The Making of The Queen, as well as two feature commentaries, one with director Stephen Frears and writer Peter Morgan and another with British historian and royal Expert Robert Lacey, author of the book Majesty.
Secret Window (Sony) (Blu-ray)
Featuring: Johnny Depp, Maria Bello, John Turturro, Timothy Hutton, Charles Dutton and Ving Rhames
Another actor’s film comes out on Blu-ray and if you already own a standard-def copy or considered this one only worth the rental, you must be asking yourself if it’s worth the $20+ bucks for the hi-def release. I’d say that for nearly every release for this week save for Planet Earth. The release is unremarkable… just how unremarkable can be seen in the number of subtitle tracks they’ve crammed onto disc. You’ll find this, and many others at the checkout stand at Target: impulse-buy bait. The performances and David Koepp’s direction (as well as his adaptation) let this one rise above the usual Stephen King adaptations, but the film just bogs down in spots and isn’t really worth the time. Depp’s quirky enough, as is Turturro, but overall it’s hard to see the point of this less than thrilling thriller. The film retains its dark theatrical look with an MPEG-2 compression and https://hd-report.com/hd-glossary/1080p resolution. It’s widescreen 2.40 and features a nice sounding PCM 5.1 surround mix (English and German) and another fairly decent sounding mix in Dolby Digital 5.1 (also with German/French tracks). Features include four deleted scenes (with optional director’s commentary) and three behind-the-scenes featurettes: From Book To Film, A Look Through It, Secrets Revealed. There are some interactive animated storyboards and an audio track devoted to writer/director David Koepp’s commentary. Some other Sony titles are previewed, and last but certainly not least there’s an amazing list of subtitle choices which are in English, Spanish, German, Portuguese, Mandarin, Korean, Thai, Hebrew, Arabic, Dutch, Swedish, Hungarian, Czech, Norwegian, Danish, Hindi, Polish, Greek, Icelandic, Finnish, Turkish, Slovenian, Bulgarian, Croatian and Romanian! Imagine the hi-def viewing party possibilities: It’d be like a League of Nations meeting.
Ultimate Avengers Collection (Lionsgate) (Blu-ray)
Featuring: Justin Gross, Nan McNamara, Olivia D’Abo, Grey Delisle, and Michael Massee
Based on the Marvel comic book The Ultimates, this one disc, two movie set includes Ultimate Avengers: The Movie and Ultimate Avengers 2 and special features: Avengers Assemble featurette, The Ultimates Featurette, The Ultimate Voice Talent Search, The Ultimate Gag Reel, First Look at Doctor Strange and an advanced trivia track. The image quality is at https://hd-report.com/hd-glossary/1080p resolution with a theatrical aspect ratio of 1.77 (16:9). Audio is crisp in a wonderfully defined Dolby Digital 5.1 EX mix (English/Spanish). Subtitles are in English and Spanish.