A few weeks ago the folks at Fox Home Video finally put out the complete X-Men Trilogy on the good old Blu-ray. I checked out the X2: X-Men United Blu-ray and came away feeling mixed. If you have Blu-ray and don’t own the DVDs then this is a must buy set as X-Men and X2: X-Men united are two of the best comic book films of all time. X2 is epic, while watching it this weekend I was forced me to think of last week’s X-Men: Wolverine and how much better it should have and could have been. Wolverine actually affected my enjoyment of X2 because I kept going, wait a second Wolverine totally screwed up a lot of stuff and didn’t even bother to try and remain consistent with the current trilogy. Technically Fox considers Wolverine a reboot of the franchise but if that’s the case then they shouldn’t have had Patrick Stuart do his cameo at the end which, um,,, Hello? Linked the Wolverine film to this trilogy! Anyway, X2 is an almost perfect movie. Watching it on Blu-ray, I didn’t notice much of an improvement in picture or audio quality over the already pristine DVD version. But it is a nice 1080p, 2.40:1-framed transfer.
I’ve never met him, but David Fincher is one dark guy. This is the man who did Seven, which I loved, Fight Club, which I loathed, Zodiac. No wonder he followed that up with the Oscar nominated The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button. But this review isn’t about his latest epic; it’s about his last one Zodiac about the unsolved, 1969, San Francisco Serial Killings. When I first saw this a few years ago, I thought it was dull, primarily because I don’t like Jake Gyllenhaal but on this second viewing it works for me. And hey, it starts with Lee “Mouth from One Tree Hill” Norris getting shot up, you can’t go wrong with that. Mark Ruffalo is great as Inspector David Toschi. The cinematography in this film is beautiful. I’m not sure it’s enhanced any by the HD transfer. But the lighting really shines and you can see the depth the shadows. It’s actually a beautiful transfer, so I’ll contradict myself and say that yeah it adds depth to the film. I still hate Jake though. Continue reading Blu-ray Review: Michelle looks at Zodiac!
I watched High School Musical in 2006 when it first came out on The Disney Channel. I’m a sucker for musicals and the teen romance. At the time, I was, meh, about it. It was fine for what it was, but I had no idea it would explode into the phenomena that it has. It’s a testament to Disney’s marketing power. They still know how to tap in the tween demo. The thing that makes the High School Musical series work is the energy of the cast. You can’t help but get swept up in their exuberance. Musically, it pretty much sucks. Especially in High School Musical 3: Senior year. Zac Efron (Troy Bolton) has a terrible voice it’s very weak and timid, as is the music itself. But there is undeniable chemistry between Zac and Vanessa Hudgens (Gabriella Montez).
This time out, the kids are in their Senior Year and have to put on a Play about their lives. They find out that Julliard has one scholarship available and everyone starts fighting over it. The non-musical moments with the evil Sharpay Evans (Ashley Tisdale) and her brother Ryan (Lucas Grabeel) are great. Disney felt the need to shoehorn new, younger characters into this film. And they are horrible, it’s clear they want to do a 4th film with these new characters, just don’t. You have a great cast in the original don’t soil their memories with these awful new people.
I keep saying this and it’s true. Disney Home Video knows how to put together a Blu-ray package. The Deluxe edition of High-School Musical 3: Senior Year. Is tasty, tasty, tasty. This package includes the Extended Version of the Film, Disney’s Digital File, and if that’s not good enough, they even throw in a DVD copy of the film. Now that’s service! Of course the picture is full 1080pm, 1:85:1 aspect ratio with English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. There are two audio and subtitle tracks – English and Spanish. I think I’m going to have to set up my 7.1 surround system and get rid of my Sony Soundbar. Continue reading Blu-Ray Review: Michelle looks at High School Musical 3: Senior Year, Deluxe Extended Edition!
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!
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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.
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
Originally Posted, 12.02.08
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
Originally Posted 10.27.08