Category Archives: High Definition

Latest Blu-Ray and HD News

BLU-RAY REVIEW: The Dark Knight Sparkles, Michelle’s Review

Blu-Ray Review: The Dark Knight Sparkles, Michelle Alexandria's Take
Blu-Ray Review: The Dark Knight Sparkles, Michelle Alexandria

I’m currently working on my 2008 Blu-ray Holiday Guide and my top 20 list for 2008 and it goes without saying The Dark Knight Blu-ray disc is one of the best Blu-rays of the year. It’s a true showcase title that combines an Amazing 1080P Picture, TrueHD Sound, and truly unique special features into something remarkable.  Director Christopher Nolan gives puts a lot of love into the 3 Disc special edition.  The menus make sense and all the Featurettes are filmed in beautiful HD.  The disk includes Digital Copy, which I’m really starting to get into. I would never want to want this movie on my iPod Touch – even though it looks gorgeous, but being able to watch it on my Macbook while on the go, is pretty awesome.

BD-Live

WB is doing something truly unique with BD-Live which is usually just some lame menu that includes trailers. The Dark Knight disc let’s you actually record a video commentary and share it with your friends. You can also schedule group viewing as well. Unfortunately, BD-Live wasn’t turned on last week when I was reviewing this, so I decided to wait until today to test it out and everything works really well, it takes a bit to set up but once you do it’s a pretty cool use of the technology.  In order to use BD-Live you have to first setup an account – an immediate turnoff, especially typing it on an onscreen keypad. Then after that, you still have to go to your email for a confirmation and feel out this long, intrusive form. Go back to the BD-Live and resign it. What a pain in the ass. After all of that the first thing I saw was a trailer for….The Dark Knight! How retarded is that?

Picture

The one thing that bugs me is the Aspect Ratio of the picture is harsh. I just purchased a 46 inch, Sony Bravia, I don’t want to see any freaking letterboxed black bars on my screen.  I’ve never been a fan of letterboxing and never will.  There’s a feature called Focal Points where you can watch how to sequences during the course of the film. It’s especially irritating because the navigation is broken when you are watching these clips. You can’t get back to the movie unless you stop it and restart the film. So it’s a really useless feature. You can, however watch all 18 features separately.  Most of these average about 2 – 7 minutes, some are shot in HD and others in Standard Def.

On Disc 2 you have the Features

Behind the Story

  • Batman Tech – A really cool 45 Minute feature about the technology used by Batman and close to reality all of this gear is. (HD)
  • Batman Unmasked The Psychology of The Dark Kight – Another 45 minute feature that looks into Batman’s motivations and pschye. We get to go inside the mind of a Superhero with real psychologists. As a former Psych major, I found this to be fascinating stuff. (HD)

Extras

  • Gotham Tonight – All 6 episodes of the Web Series (HD)
  • Photo Galleries
  • Nine Trailers and TV Spots (HD)

You can read my review of the movie here. As I said in the beginning, this is a ground breaking Blu-ray disk and must buy. One of the year’s best films gets the year’s best Blu-Ray.

Movie Grade – A+

Picture – A-

Audio – A

Features – A

Final Overall Grade – A+

EM Review by
Michelle Alexandria
Originally Posted
12.09.08

BLU-RAY REVIEW: Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

If you have read my reviews for any length of time you will know that one of my many film bias is an extreme dislike of talking animals in my movies. Generally, they creep me out and take me right out of the experience. The one exception to that rule was The Chronicles of Narnia. I didn’t think that was a perfect film, but I liked it well enough to go and read all of the books. I always thought Prince Caspian was a pretty weak book. It was too short, the lead character Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes) was a whiney little #$## who didn’t do much in it, but the book’s biggest sin was it didn’t really delve into what it must of been like for the Pevensie kids – High King Peter Pevensie (William Moseley), Edmund Pevensie The Just (Skandar Keynes), Lucy Pevensie – The Valiant (Georgie Henley) and Susan Pevensie (Anna Popplewell) adjusted to the idea that they were adult Kings and Queens trapped as powerless 13 – 16 year old children.

The book missed an opportunity to explore this dichotomy. When we first see the Pevensie kids we see how they are adjusting – not well. Peter is getting into fights over the most minor slights and it’s up to Edmund to protect his back. And that’s the beautiful thing about this movie – it’s how the Pevensie family has become so close to each other and wise. In the first film they were typical one dimensional kids and the kid actors were clearly out of the element.

Here, they are very self aware and self assured as both actors and characters. There are times when you watch this movie where you can really see the duality of their personalities. You get that yes while they may look like kids, they truly are the former great Kings and Queens that they once were. It’s in their eyes, the way they move, and how they act. These kids could never had pulled this complexity of emotion off in the first film, but here it’s as if they were born to play these parts. The change in Edmund and Susan are the most pronounced. Edmund is a bad ass, calculating warrior that will do anything to protect his family, especially his brother Peter. While Susan has grown to be quite the fighter herself, the camera loves her and director Andrew Adamson showcases her perfectly, especially during the sweeping battles. When Susan breaks out the bow and arrow it’s a thing of beauty and pleasure to watch. As far as the animals go, I had the biggest concern for the noble mouse Reepicheep, I didn’t care for his character in the book, but he’s great in the film.

In one of our many emails, I think Sheldon summed up why Caspian works so well the best – it’s because the filmmakers chose to “make Caspian, naïve, rather than whiney.” And that subtle change makes all the difference in the world. Caspian comes across as stronger in the movie, more pro-active, not someone who just let’s things happen to him. He’s also self-involved at the most inopportune times. I like the fact that the film really played up the rivalry between Peter and Caspian. In the book Caspian just let Peter do everything without complaining or standing up for himself. Here Caspian calls Peter on his sometime “arrogance.” The writers Andrew Adamson (screenplay), Christopher Markus (screenplay), and Stephen McFeely took the best of C.S. Lewis’ work and expanded it to make it better. It’s a shame that Peter and Susan won’t be in the next film, because they will be missed. Everything about Prince Caspian is just right in terms of cinematography, scope and vision; the tone is dark but hopeful, and epic but intimate. While watching the battle scenes, the only thought going through my mind was, I hope the final Harry Potter film is a 10th as good as this was. Bring on Eustace and Dawn Treader!

Blu-ray Features

The 3-Disk Blu-ray includes a pristine full 1080p, 2:40:1 version of the movie, which I happily tested on my new 46 inch Bravia (I’ll be mentioning my new TV for the next few Blu-ray reviews).  The colors really pop on screen.  Audio is 7.1 DTS HD, and there are over 22 subtitle tracks. 22!

You can access all of the disc’s special features through a thing that Disney is calling Circle Vision Interactive. It’s a full look at how they created the Castle Raid and it’s in full HD. Broken up into about 10 different featurettes. It really goes deep into all aspects of creating this scene – from constructing the castle to having the costume designer talk about the costumes.   The Blu-ray has support for BD-Live but it wasn’t active when I watched the movie.

On the 2nd Disc, you get a bunch of deleted scenes, bloopers and more featurettes.

•    Inside Narnia – 35 Minutes (HD)
•    Sets of Narnia – 23 Minutes (HD)
•    Big Movie Comes to Small Town – 23 Minutes (HD)
•    Previsualizing Narnia – 10 Minutes (HD)
•    Secrets of the Duel – 7 Minutes (HD)
•    Becoming Trumpkin – 5 Minutes (HD)
•    Warwick Davis The Man Behind Nikabrik – 12 Min (HD)

And Disc 3 you get the Disney File digital copy version of the film.

Conclusion

Disney really knows how to put together Blu-ray Discs Narnia is another great addition to their recent efforts. When I do my year’s best list this year, several Disney titles will be there. This is one of the top 5 Blu-ray releases of the year.; fantastic film, amazing extras, and Digital copy to seal the deal. Narnia on Blu-rar retails for $39.99 and will hit the streets on Blu-ray and DVD, Dec. 2, 08.

Features Grade – A

Movie Grade – A+

Final Overall – A+

EM Review by
Michelle Alexandria
Originally Posted, 12.02.08

Blu-Ray News_ The Day The Earth Stood Still is coming Dec 2

day

What the hell? Do these studios think we’re made of money? Dec. 2nd is shaping up to be a huge day for Blu-Ray releases. We have The Dark Knight, Prince Caspian, X-Files and now this, one of the all time great Sci-Fi flicks The Day The Earth Stood Still. Just in time to remind us how the upcoming Christmas Keanu remake will inevitably fail by comparison. Whooaaa…. The new Blu-ray version looks like an nice package. It’ll contain, as the press release says, “two amazing new Blu-ray games,” (can you smell the suckage?)  Gort Command!,” an arcade-style shooting gallery game and “Interactive Theremin: Create Your Own Score,” where viewers can re-score the film’s opening sequence.  Both the BD and DVD versions of THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL Special Edition feature all-new and exclusive bonus materials including legendary composer and Academy Award®-winner*** Bernard Herrmann’s isolated score; film and sci-fi featurettes – including a “Making Of The Day The Earth Stood Still” and “Decoding Klaatu Barada Nikto: Science Fiction As A Metaphor” – an audio presentation of the original short story; commentaries from Robert Wise and other film and music historians; and more.  I will say, DVD games suck, but the Create Your Own Score thing, intrigues me. The Blu-ray and DVD versions will also include:

•    New:  Exclusive First Look At The New Movie The Day The Earth Stood Still Starring
Keanu Reeves And Jennifer Connelly
•    New & Exclusive To BD:  Interactive Theremin:  Create Your Own Score
•    New & Exclusive To BD:  Gort Command!:  Interactive Game
•    Commentary by Robert Wise and Nicholas Meyer
•    New:  Commentary by Film & Music Historians John Morgan, Steven Smith, William Stromberg and Nick                         Redman
•    New:  Isolated Score Track
•    New:  The Mysterious, Melodious Theremin
•    New: The Day The Earth Stood Still Main Title Live Performance By Peter Pringle
•    New:  The Making of The Day the Earth Stood Still
•    New:  Decoding “Klaatu Barada Nikto”: Science Fiction as Metaphor Featurette
•    New:  A Brief History of Flying Saucers Featurette
•    New: The Astounding Harry Bates Featurette
•    New: Edmund North: The Man Who Made the Earth Stand Still Featurette
•    New To Disc:  Race To Oblivion:  A Documentary Short Written And Produced By Edmund North
•    New To Disc: Farewell To The Master:  A Reading By Jamieson K. Price Of The Original
Harry Bates Short Story; Audio Only
•    New:  Interactive Pressbook
•    Fox Movietonews from 1951
•    Original Theatrical Trailer & Teaser Trailer
•    Advertising Gallery
•    Behind-The Scenes Gallery
•    Portrait Gallery
•    Production Gallery
•    Spaceship Construction Blueprints
•    Shooting Script

Blu-Ray News: New Blu-Ray Announcements

Caspian

The Chronicle’s of Narnia: Prince Caspian was one of my top five favorite films of this year, I saw it twice in the theater and watched it again when I flew to London. It holds up well to repeat viewing. And as a general rule I hate talking animal movies. The Blu-ray version in will include enhanced BD-Live functionality (have I said recently how much I think BD-Live is a waste of time?), a DisneyFile (A digital copy of the movie so you can copy the movie to your iPod), something called Circle Vision which will give you a 360-degree look behind the scenes of the castle raid sequence and get unique access to the secrets of how this latest adventure to Narnia was pulled off.  It’s all a part of CIRCLE-VISION INTERACTIVE: CREATING THE CASTLE RAID.  First, start off in the CIRCLE-VISION preview lobby, and choose to get a private tour of the castle raid from Director Andrew Adamson, Producer Mark Johnson, or a number of other key filmmakers and artists who brought the latest adventure to NARNIA to life.  Then, select one of the exclusive CIRCLE-VISION experiences to be virtually transported to the set in the Czech Republic.  The moment you enter these panoramic worlds, you will be able to turn in any direction, and fully-explore how this compelling sequence was painstakingly created.  Discover a myriad of progression reels, developmental animatics, 13 audio commentaries, pop-up facts, slide shows, and a treasure trove of behind-the-scenes footage with cast and crew that is revealing, interesting, compelling, funny and exclusively accessed through this new-reimagining of a classic idea. The Blu-ray will come in a 2 Disc or 3 Disc version and hit the streets December 2, 2008  $35- 40.  The complete Press Release is after the break. 

Continue reading Blu-Ray News: New Blu-Ray Announcements

BLU-RAY NEWS: Dark Knight Blu-Ray details

TheDarkKnightBlu-Ray

I talked about the Dark Knight Blu-ray release a few months ago, the folks at Warner’s sent over another Press Release regarding the Dec 9th launch. In a shameless move to make sure I get my free copy. Here’s the official press release. All kidding and kissing up aside, this release does look pretty amazing. The 2 Disk Blu-ray includes a Digital Copy of the film, BD-Live (which is usually a complete waste of time), and several featurettes. But there are no deleted scenes or any commentary tracks (if there are, they aren’t listed in the Press Release.)  The Blu-ray streets Dec 9 for 35.99. 

Continue reading BLU-RAY NEWS: Dark Knight Blu-Ray details

BLU-ray REVIEW: The Godfather Trilogy

Godfather Blu-ray

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve never been much of a fan of the Godfather Trilogy. I don’t know why, it is an amazing film on almost every level, but it never connected with me. Probably because by the time I finally saw it, I had heard all the signature lines over and over and over again, that it’s become a joke me. Also by the time I finally watched it, I had already seen Casino, Goodfellas, et all, so the movie felt like a cliche. And yes, I don’t want to get into the circular argument that Godfather came first and set the bar. Then there was the fact that Italian Gangsters are always glorified in films, while black criminals are, rightly, vilified. Always thought there was a double standard and didn’t like it. When Paramount finally put Godfather on DVD a few years ago, many people complained about the quality of the transfer. It always looked ok to me.  Now we have the long awaited Coppola Restoration on Blu-ray.

The beginning of The Godfather looks pristine. The colors are once again vibrant and beautiful. The Dolby TrueHD audio is crisp – even on my Sony Soundbar. It gives the movie a whole new feel to it. The problem is, this quality isn’t consistent, when it works it’s brilliant, but the night scenes are where the problem lies. The scenes that are grainy, washed out and fuzzy. Especially around the faces. It looks like everyone has a 3’oclock fuzzy shadow. One of the most famous scenes from the first Godfather Film – the restaurant shootout, there are a lot of dark, grainy shadows around the face. It makes it really hard to watch.  The other issue I found, especially when watching Godfather III is that the blacks are now so richly detailed and, um, black that it’s a really dark film and the dark burgundy rooms don’t help. I can barely see anything.

I switched between the Dolby to the Coppola commentary track.  It’s interesting hearing his comments about the film, but his delivery is really dry. He’s intensely proud of his family and his ability to force them on us. He points them out almost every time they appear in a scene. It’s also why Godfather III is such a horrible and barely watchable film. Sophia Coppola is awful. She has the anti- "It" factor.  Story wise, Godfather III is a beautiful coda – except for the Vatican stuff, to the Saga. But the casting, cinematography and acting was so over the top bad. Then there is the whole cousins in Love thing that is just sick. Coppola said this relationship makes him want to cry, it makes me want to barf. When I was younger, I liked Godfather III, but I think this HD Restoration enhances the negatives of this film.

All of the extra features are on a stand alone disk and include over 3 hours of stuff.  All of the features from the previous release plus several
additional ones.  The menu is designed really nice. All of the old DVD features are grouped under the 2001 menu. In here there are 9 Behind the Scenes featurettes, Galleries, Cast and Crew Bios and a boatload of deleted scenes. The new stuff is all in HD and look amazing. There’s a 30 minute documentary on how the Godfather almost didn’t get made called "The Masterpiece that almost wasn’t."

  • The Godfather World 
    11 Minute feature with celebrities discussing the impact of the films
  • Emulsional Rescue – Revealing the Godfather
    19 Minutes about the Cinematographer, Gordon Lewis and the process of Restoring the film
  • When the shooting stops – 14 minutes on the post production process
  • The Godfather on the Red Carpet – 4 minutes of pointlessness
  • Four short films on the Godfather – Not sure the point of these 4, 2 minute shorts, it’s more interview footage. People really can talk incessantly about this movie.
  • There’s a Family Tree but it’s weirdly laid out and hard to figure out the connections.  Instead of going from top to bottom, this one goes from bottom to the top. It’s very strange looking.

Overall, this Blu-ray release is a mixed bag. You are getting two classic/masterpiece films, and one so-so one  in perhaps the best format possible. But the blacks in this are almost too black. The extra features are plentiful and the new ones for the Blu-ray release are excellent and packed with lots of information all in HD.  I’m on the fence here. If you don’t already own The Godfather Trilogy, this is probably the definitive edition to get. If you already own the previous DVDs, I don’t think it’s worth the upgrade.

Genre – Drama

Movie Grade – B+ (this factors in pt. III)

Audio – A

Picture – C

Features – A

Final Overall Grade – B

EM Review by
Michelle Alexandria
Originally Posted 10.27.08

BLU-ray News: Pineapple Express goes Blu, Jan 6th

Pinapple Express is coming to Blu-ray, January 6, 2009. It’s going to be full featured disk with an unrated version, deleted scenes, fifteen behind-the-scenes featurettes and a bonus Digital Copy of the movie for playback on PC, PSP™ and iTunes. Also coming with BD Live functionality. Which at this point I could care less about, has there ever been an implimentation of BD Live that wasn’t craptastic? What I want to know is why doesn’t any of the studios support the picture in picture stuff? This why I always thought HD-DVD was a better format, there were actually standards, you always knew what you were getting.  Anyhoo, on paper this seems like it’ll be a pretty nice package. The full press release is after the jumpity jump. 

Continue reading BLU-ray News: Pineapple Express goes Blu, Jan 6th

BLU-ray Review: James Bond Collection

James Bond Blu-ray DVD Collection

I’m not a fan of triple dips, but MGM and Fox Home Video have done an amazing job on the newly released James Bond Blu-ray set. I was generally skeptical about this dip because I already own three different versions of all the Bond films. But these Blu-ray versions are the definitive set. The picture transfer/upgrade is beautiful. I put on Dr. No and it was an eye-opening experience. The colors were deep, reach and sharp. There is so much more depth now it’s hard to believe this film is over 30 years old. It looks like it was shot on HD last week. The blacks are black which make the colors pop on my Vizio HDTV set. The hours and hours of extra features (in Standard Def) are the same ones from the Ultimate Collection from a few years ago with some neat little Blu-ray additions like a 42 Minute HD Feature called Inside Dr. No and a 18 minute feature on Terrance Young, the director of Dr. No.

The one area where they dropped the ball is on the Menu navigation system. It reminds me of the early days of DVD where the one thing you could always count on was Fox Home Video totally screwing up the menu. This is one of the ugliest and most unfriendly systems I’ve seen in awhile. It took me a few minutes to figure out how to play the movie and access the special features.  The Pop Up/Menu button doesn’t work once you select a feature. If you select a feature to watch, while viewing the film, it kicks you out and doesn’t return to the point you left off.  Each film are on a 50 GB Dual Layer disk, is in Widescreen 1.66:1 (No letter boxing!) and Lossless Audio. The movie sounds amazing on my Sony Crossbar.  I sampled a few of the other titles in this collection and it’s safe to say all six of these releases and must own.  The Six disk set includes Dr. No, From Russia With Love, Thunderball, For Your Eyes Only, Die Another Day and Live and Let Die. I’m not going to bother reviewing the movies or giving you the TPS, come on it’s Bond! You’ve all see these a million times. My only, minor complaint with this set, beyond the menu system is the lack of Profile 1.1 or BD-Live support. Yeah BD-Live sucks, but I would still like to see them implemented as standard features in all Blu-ray releases.  After watching a slew of lackluster Blu-ray releases (I’m looking at you Iron-Man!) this release restores my faith.

Movie Grade (All 6 Films, except Thunderball) – A

Features – A

Picture – A

Audio – A

Final Overall – A

EM Review by
Michelle Alexandria
Originally Posted 10.21.08

BLU-ray Releases – The Incredible Hulk

The Incredible Hulk is out on DVD and Blu-ray this week in a super dooper 3 disk special edition and it includes digital copy. I actually kind of liked this version. I thought it was a solid, no brainer, popcorn flick with a horrible last act. I’m actually going to be speaking with the SFX honcho from this sometime in the next few days. Here are a couple of clips from the extras.

Making of the Opening Chase Scene.

Becoming the Abomination

HIGH DEFINITION: Bond goes Blu next Week

James Bond on Blu-ray

I’m such a freaking sucker for Bond that I’ve purchased almost all of MGM’s triple dip set of Bond films – I have three versions of all 21 movies. There was the regular non-restored collection, then the ultimate restored collection, then the super dooper ooper special edition collection and like a moron get suckered in, I refuse to buy into the hype on this new Blu-ray set, but this one looks so tasty…. But no, I’m going to turn away this time.  But wait, for a change MGM is going to send me a set for review, so I don’t have to shell out my own dollars. But still…. This set is packed to the gills with features – all of the ones from the S.D.O.S.E. set from two years ago and some Blu-ray exclusives.  The initial set includes Dr. No, From Russia With Love, Thunderball, Live and Let Die, For Your Eyes Only and Die Another Day. Not bad at all (except the unwatchable Thunderball).  I wish MGM would release these things in chronological order though. I understand their need to do a sampling of all the Bonds – but where’s poor Timothy Dalton? As an added bonus you get a free ticket to the new Bond flick. This set hits the street next week for $89.98. Which isn’t bad, that’s less than $20 a flick and considering the individual retail price is $35 dollars, it’s obvious you get the set.  But really, what Bond fan doesn’t already own one of the previous sets? You can read the full press release after the break.

Continue reading HIGH DEFINITION: Bond goes Blu next Week

HIGH DEFINITION: Netflix Blu-ray Charge Official

Netflix

Normally something like this bit of news really annoys me, but I can understand Netflix wanting to increase fees for people wanting Blu-ray disks. I called this way back in January when the HD-DVD group threw in the towel. I ranted about how consumers will louse, about how Sony wouldn’t lower the price on their players or discs. How the lack of competition would drive prices up, that paying $40 for freaking Super Bad on Blu-ray is disgusting. My rant was widely picked up on the interwebs and I was soundly lambasted in the AV Forums and other popular boards. But everything I said turned out to be true and now it’s infected my Netflix.  But I’m not outraged because they are only charging $1 extra month. If was more than $5 I would have vented my spleen. I got the official notice yesterday.