Historical Blu-ray Release Dates

This page lists all available information for new and upcoming releases in the Blu-ray format.
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    [September 15, 2009] => Array
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                            [review_id] => 2567
                            [review_type_id] => 1
                            [review_slug] => vanhelsing
                            [review_release_date] => 1252998000
                            [review_hot] => 0
                            [review_title] => Van Helsing
                            [picture_created] => 1247762208
                            [picture_name] => helsing.jpeg
                            [manufacturer_name] => Universal
                            [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2009/07/16/120/helsing.jpeg
                            [review_url] => https://bluray.highdefdigest.com/2567/vanhelsing.html
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                                    [release_year] => 2004
                                    [run_time] => 132
                                    [list_price] => 26.98
                                    [asin] => B002HML6Y8
                                    [amazon_price] => 18.99
                                    [aspect_ratios] => Array
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                                            [0] => 1.85:1
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                                    [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array
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                                            [0] => U-Control
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                                    [video_resolutions] => Array
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                                            [0] => 1080p/AVC MPEG 4
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                                    [technical_specifications] => Array
                                        (
                                            [0] => Blu-ray
                                            [1] => BD-25 Single-Layer Disc
                                            [2] => Region Free
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                                    [audio_formats] => Array
                                        (
                                            [0] => English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
                                            [1] => Spanish DTS 5.1
                                            [2] => French DTS 5.1
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                                    [supplements] => Array
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                                            [0] => Featurettes
                                            [1] => Blooper Reel
                                            [2] => Audio commentaries
                                            [3] => Theatrical Trailer
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                                    [subtitles] => Array
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                                            [0] => English SDH
                                            [1] => French
                                            [2] => Spanish
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                                    [preview_genres] => Array
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                                            [0] => Fantasy
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                                            [0] => Hugh Jackman
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                                    [preview_plot_synopsis] => Gabriel Van Helsing is a man cursed with a past he cannot recall and driven by a mission he cannot deny. Charged by a secret organization to seek out and defeat evil the world over, his efforts to rid the world of its nightmareish creatures have been rewarded with the title that now follows him: murderer. Van Helsing roams the globe an outcast, a fugitive, a loner, himself hunted by those who don't understand the true nature of his calling. When dispatched to the shadowy world of Transylvania, Van Helsing finds a land stll mired inpast-- where legendary creatures of darkness come to life--a place ruled over by the evil, seductive and unfeatable vampire, Count Dracula. And it is Dracula that Van Helsing has been sent to terminate. Anna Valerious is one of the last of a powerful royal family, now nearly annihilated by Dracula. A fearless hunter in her own right, Anna is bent on avenging her ancestors and ending an ancient curse by killing the vampire. Joined by a common foe, Van Helsing and Anna set out to destroy Dracula along with his empire of fear. But in challenging an enemy who never dies, Van Helsing uncovers a secret he never imagined and comes face-to-face with the unresolved mysteries of his own enshrouded past.
                                    [preview_technology_specifications] => -Van Helsing: The Story, The Life, The Legend 
-Track the Adventure
-Bringing the Monsters to Life
-You Are In The Movie!
-The Music of Van Helsing
-Bloopers
-Dracula's Lair is Transformed
-The Masquerade Ball Scene "Unmasked"
-The Art of Van Helsing
-Monster Eggs
-Feature Commentary with Director Stephen Sommers and Editor/Producer Bob Ducsay
-Feature Commentary with Richard Roxburgh, Shuler Henley and Will Kemp [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => -D-Box
-BD-live [review_bottom_line] => Give it a Rent [review_forum_id] => 92582 [review_movie_stars] => 2.5 [review_movie] =>

It's as if Stephen Sommers awoke one day and said, "How can I create the most outrageously bloated monstrosity of a movie ever? Oh, I know…" Thus 'Van Helsing' was born! Well the big budget movie version anyway.

Gabriel Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) hunts monsters for the Catholic Church. His list of "victims" runs the gamut of the who's who of monster myths. He hunts everyone from Mr. Hyde to werewolves. The film also gathers together the myths of Dracula, Dracula's brides, Dr. Frankenstein, and Frankenstein's Monster. Oh, it all fits together in some semblance of a plot, but it's paper thin.

It seems Count Dracula is planning something sinister. We see him with Dr. Frankenstein on the night Frankenstein brings his creation to life. Obviously the monster that has just been brought to life by lightning figures into Dracula's plan somehow. Soon, the obligatory angry mob is trying to break down the gates to the castle. It all ends with a chase up to the famous windmill, monster holding creator, only to be burned alive by the mob.

Dracula, played by Richard Roxburgh, constantly hisses and screams his orders to his three undead brides. Most of his time is spent merely screaming painfully into the heavens. Van Helsing has been dispatched to Transylvania because an important family line is about to die out. Anna Valerious (Kate Beckinsale) and her brother are the last of the Valerious family. The end of the line after nine generations. Most importantly, the family will never find eternal rest until they have vanquished Dracula from the earth. This is all because of an oath made long ago. Dracula has been picking off the family one by one hoping to destroy the line.

From there we find out that Dracula's sinister plan may very well indeed involve finding a way to bring his dead children to life. How you give birth to something dead, well that's a mystery. Cocoons of slime hang from inside his castle, but he just can't seem to keep the little buggers alive for more than a day. There must be a better way.

'Van Helsing' continues along this path, bringing us face-to-face with every monster that's been talked about throughout the ages, except for a mummy, but that's only because Sommers already used mummies in another series of movies you may have heard of.

At over two hours 'Van Helsing' feels so bloated the campiness factor quickly wears thin. Combining all the monster myths into one is a fascinating idea, but taking too long to explain it all, really shoots the film in the foot. After about 90 minutes it isn't even "dumb" fun anymore. After 120 minutes you're lucky to still be awake.

Whats more, the movie constantly hammers away at the audience with CGI. It's hard to find a scene that doesn't contain computer animation. Unfortunately, like so many summer blockbusters before and since, 'Van Helsing' proves that all too often, showing off comes at the expense of telling a compelling story.

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 10446 [review_video] =>

If you do indeed find the film enjoyable, you'll be very happy with its extremely solid 1080p/AVC MPEG 4 transfer. Arguably the best looking part of the movie is the black and white opening when Dracula is in Frankenstein's laboratory. The blacks are at optimum levels and contrast perfectly with the lighter whites on screen. Transylvania is given a bluish hue most likely to represent the overall feeling of the town. (Being used as snacks by the various monsters about would really take a toll on the psyche.) The bluish tinge is contrasted perfectly when bright red blood is introduced. If DNR was applied it isn't noticeable. Textures and faces are maxed out in the detail department. It's a great looking transfer, but it does lend itself to exposing the CGI effect to be even more dated looking.

[review_audio_stars] => 4 [review_audio_picture_id] => 10447 [review_audio] =>

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio track is a fantastic upgrade from the DVD. Sounds are constantly moving through the channels, creating a truly omnipresent feeling. Wheels turning and creaking, wind howling, and lightning striking all are just some of the clear sound effects that pepper the audio track. The LFE is frequently engaged, but almost too much and too deep, drowning out other sounds at times. Action scenes seem to take over a little too much, hampering dialogue and other important sounds. You may find yourself turning the volume down just a tad only to have to turn it back up once the action subsides. The soundtrack engulfs with the best of them, but it's occasionally inconsistent when it comes to balancing all the parts to complement each other.

[review_supplements_stars] => 3 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 10448 [review_supplements] =>
  • Audio Commentary by Director Stephen Sommers and Editor/Producer Bob Ducsay - I recommend listening to this audio commentary so you can see how Sommers' style of directing is directly proportionate to his personality. Like an excited youngster Sommers tries to dazzle us by acknowledging what is computer animated and what isn't. Bob Ducsay does a good job at trying to keep the whole conversation level-headed, but it's as if Sommers is floating on a cloud. It's actually quite comical to listen to.
  • Audio Commentary with Richard Roxburgh, Shuler Hensley and Will Kemp - Man, I really love ensemble commentaries. Why movies don't do them more often is beyond me. Each of the men represents one of the three main monsters depicted in the movie. They have a great chemistry together and you can tell that the three of them have become friends while working on this project.
  • Van Helsing: The Story, The Life, The Legend (SD, 58 min) - This extensive feature covers a lot of the making-of information, and also provides some intriguing info about the monsters in the film.
  • Track the Adventure (SD, 34 min) - This is an in depth look at the film's sets and where it was shot. We get glimpses of the windmill, the Transylvanian village, and Dr. Frankenstein's laboratory.
  • Bringing the Monsters to Life (SD, 10 min) - This is a step-by-step on how the computer animated parts of 'Van Helsing' were created. Just a quick look at the processes that were undertaken to make some of the CGI creatures.
  • You Are in the Movie! (SD, 4 min) - Cameras were placed around the set from different points of view so we could see filming from the perspective of some of the crew.
  • The Music of Van Helsing (SD, 9 min) - Alan Silvestri, composer for 'Van Helsing,' shares insights into what it was like, and what it took to create some of the music for the film.
  • Bloopers (SD, 5 min) - Actually one of the funnier blooper reels I've seen on a film.
  • Dracula's Lair is Transformed (SD, 2 min) - This is just a short time lapse featurette that shows us exactly what it was like putting up and taking down the set that was used for Dracula's Lair.
  • The Masquerade Ball Scene "Unmasked" (SD, 25 min) - Back again, Sommers takes us on a tour of what it was like creating the masquerade ball scene. An hundred or so dancers were hired to create the scene. Sommers is his usual giddy self, in explaining how it all came to pass.
  • The Art of Van Helsing (SD, 5 min) - A still photo gallery that scrolls through artwork from the film.
  • Monster Eggs (SD, 1 min) - How does one even explain this feature or why it's called Monster Eggs? Anyway, it's just footage from on set that seems to have fallen off the blooper reel and landed here. I still don't know why, or what the aim for a feature like this is…and I've already spent more time writing about it than it takes to watch it.
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 1 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 10449 [review_bonus_content] =>
  • U-Control - Here you can control a PiP option within the movie to control whether or not you want to see interviews or behind-the-scenes footage while the movie is playing.
[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 3 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'Van Helsing' is so silly, so grandiose, so bloated that it can never be taken seriously, and maybe that's the point. Although, when it clocks in at over two hours, I think viewers in general expect much more of an epic movie, and the film just fails to deliver on that note. The strong video and audio may entice some. While it's a fairly lousy cinematic experience, as far as HD viewing goes 'Van Helsing' fares much better.

) ) [1] => Array ( [review_id] => 2510 [review_type_id] => 1 [review_slug] => varsityblues [review_release_date] => 1252998000 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Varsity Blues [picture_created] => [picture_name] => [manufacturer_name] => Paramount [picture_source] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/images/public/[email protected] [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/images/public/pop-on-amazon.png [picture_source_195] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/images/public/[email protected] [picture_source_235] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/images/public/[email protected] [picture_source_300] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/images/public/[email protected] [picture_source_660] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/images/public/[email protected] [picture_alternate] => Box coming soon [picture_title] => Box coming soon [review_url] => https://bluray.highdefdigest.com/2510/varsityblues.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1999 [run_time] => 104 [list_price] => 29.99 [asin] => B002DMJMDO [amazon_price] => 20.99 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => TBA ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => TBA ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround Sound ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio commentary [1] => Featurettes [2] => Deleted scenes [3] => Ali Larter Audition [4] => Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English, French, Portuguese, Spanish ) [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] => 2481 [review_type_id] => 1 [review_slug] => wrongturn [review_release_date] => 1252998000 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Wrong Turn [picture_created] => 1248443934 [picture_name] => wrong-turn.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => 20th Century Fox [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2009/07/24/120/wrong-turn.jpeg [review_url] => https://bluray.highdefdigest.com/2481/wrongturn.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2003 [run_time] => 84 [list_price] => 29.99 [asin] => B0029XFN94 [amazon_price] => 21.99 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => Blu-ray [1] => BD-25 Single-Layer Disc [2] => Region A ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround Sound [1] => French Dolby Digital 5.1 [2] => Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentary [1] => Featurettes [2] => Deleted Scenes [3] => Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => Spanish ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Horror ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Eliza Dushku [1] => Jeremy Sisto ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Rob Schmidt ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => An indescribably nightmare begins when a group of young friends is stranded on an isolated road deep in the Appalachian hills of West Virginia, with no hope of rescue. Desperate and fearing for their lives, the horror surges as they find themselves relentlessly pursued by a force of evil beyond their imagination! Featuring a hip ensemble of up-and-coming young stars, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Eliza Dushku, this blood curdling epic is a shock-a-minute horror rush that will leave you screaming for more! [review_bottom_line] => Give it a Rent [review_forum_id] => 95005 [review_movie_stars] => 3.5 [review_movie] =>

'Wrong Turn' is a horror film that rejoices in a subgenre not often visited by filmmakers, an underutilized category that it blends with urban legends about people from the backwoods. The story revolves around a group of young city slickers (as if there were any other kind in such movies) stranded by devious means in the Appalachian wilderness and forced to survive when chased by a clan of cannibalistic mountain folk. Come to think of it, the extent of genetic mutation caused by inbreeding in the deranged men would also qualify Rob Schmidt's picture as a creature-feature. The relentless pursuit by the redneck family of maniacs and the amount of graphic gore throughout, pushes the flick into slasher territory.

Still, genre placement issues aside, 'Wrong Turn' delivers with a very basic premise and adds a few subtle deviations. On the surface, the plot follows a group of friends on a hiking trip to cheer up recently-dumped Jessie (Eliza Dushku). When med student Chris (Desmond Harrington) crashes into them on a dirt road, they find the tires of their SUV punctured by barb wire intentionally stretched across the road. Soon after, they stumble upon an isolated family who'd love to have them for dinner. As expected, the group is soon chased through the woods, where many of them are brutally killed by the cannibals. Unexpectedly, the script involves a few clever devices.

Genre rules are adhered to throughout much of the first act, but things quickly change when the group arrives at the remote cabin of the brothers. In this very nerve-racking scene, director Rob Schmidt places his heroes in a dreadful predicament usually reserved for the end of the second act. Exposition is skillfully disclosed in these anxiety-ridden scenes, and the protagonists are made aware of what they're up against. It's a smart move on the part of the filmmakers, as it creates a slightly different formula for suspense. The instant the intruding foursome is discovered, the film turns into a combination of 'Deliverance,' 'The Hills Have Eyes,' and the classic 'The Most Dangerous Game'.

The characters and the kills are also refreshingly original for the genre. Rather than one final girl, we are given two final "persons", and both equally develop some effective survival skills. Dushku, naturally, is the individual we cheer for, and while she probably could have stepped up the game, her character is still a tough one. The sexually promiscuous youngins are handled with the same swift discrimination as other horror movies. Only here, they're immediately ousted as unlikeable and dispatched much sooner than later. This was a good call on the part of the filmmakers, as they grew pretty annoying within a minute of being introduced.

Of course, not everything is a bed of roses. Or should I say a bed of hillbilly corpses. Okay, dumb joke, but still Schmidt's direction is very workmanlike. He showed some style inside the desolate cabin, but for the rest of the pic, the cameraworl is fairly typical. If not for the writing and the gory special effects, the entire production would be incredibly dull and average. Obviously, there must have been something clever about the whole thing to grab the attention of the late Stan Winston to produce.

Don't get me wrong, this isn't top quality horror for many fans and it's not as sickly twisted as the other films it tries to conjure up, but it's not all that bad from a team with little previous experience. 'Wrong Turn' works with good old-fashioned scare tactics and a perilous atmosphere. I suppose we can add suspense to the list of other genres being mixed together.

[review_video_stars] => 2.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 11137 [review_video] =>

Fox Home Entertainment unleashes 'Wrong Turn' with a 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer (1.85:1) which is greatly underwhelming. I expected the jump into Blu-ray to be more significant, but when compared to its standard definition counterpart, the benefits are minimal.

While contrast and clarity show a clear improvement, they fall squarely on the lower end of the grayscale. Resolution is on the weaker side of what we've come to enjoy from high-def media. In fact, the majority of the picture lacks a great deal of sharpness overall and one can't help but feel they're watching an upconverted DVD.

Still, there are some improvements. Quality here displays better defined lines in distant objects and tree foliage, but it's not a lot to get excited about. The palette is accurately saturated and vibrant, exhibiting some good variance in secondary hues. Black levels are also nicely rendered, but not as rich and deep as they really should be.

On the bright side, delineation is strong, with plenty of visible details in dark shadows. In the end, the transfer is passable, but it could've been a whole lot better.

[review_audio_stars] => 4 [review_audio_picture_id] => 11138 [review_audio] =>

Even if the picture quality is a bit of a letdown, at least fans can rejoice and enjoy the much improved audio presentation.

The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack arrives with strong dialogue reproduction andis never overwhelmed by all the loud action. Fronts show great fluidity and separation, as off-screen action is delivered with credible accuracy. Pans and movement between the channels are surprisingly good and convincing, generating some great moments of atmospheric immersion. The mix also exhibits plenty of activity in the rear surrounds. The sounds of wind blowing through the trees, birds chirping in the distance, and even the echoes of Three-Finger's creepy, hyperactive laughter are clearly heard throughout and fill the room to envelop the audience. Low-frequency effects pack a heavy punch, not only giving scenes a realistic presence, but also a frightening intensity. Unlike the video, this audio track offers a fun and engaging ride through the woods.

1.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 11139 [review_supplements] =>

The special features in this Blu-ray edition of 'Wrong Turn' are the same ones found on the 2003 DVD release. There's really nothing special about them, but fans will find them an easy half-hour to waste. They're all presented in standard definition.

  • Audio Commentary - The track features director Rob Schmidt having a sit-down with his lead actors, Eliza Dushku and Desmond Harrington. Their talk is an 'MST3K' style conversation, with random anecdotes about the movie and none of it is remotely funny. Once in a while Schmidt jumps in with background info, like his desire to imitate a grindhouse approach to horror and the material, but it's none too exciting. The threesome sounds like they enjoy each other's company a great deal, and the last thing we want is interrupt their conversation with further details about the movie they worked on, right?
  • "Fresh Meat: The Wounds of 'Wrong Turn'"(SD, 9 min) - This is the best featurette in the package. The main interest is on make-up expert Stan Winston giving viewers a detailed overview of each of the in-bred hillbillies and a behind-the-scenes look at the special effects. It's all very well made and entertaining to watch. The only drawback is that it ends so quickly, especially for those interested in such information.
  • "The Making of 'Wrong Turn'"(SD, 4 min) - Even shorter than the previous segment, this piece is nothing more than promo junk. After watching the last one, this just seems completely unnecessary.
  • "Eliza Dushku: Babe in the Woods" (SD, 4 min) - While resisting the heavy urge to laugh, the filmmakers talk about the actress and attempt to give her character some depth. Again, I'm resisting the urge to laugh aloud.
  • "Stan Winston" (SD, 5 min) - One of the big names in the world of special make-up effects, the late Stan Winston talks about his career and desire to produce genre fare. It's an interesting piece, but fans, like me, will definitely enjoy it best.
  • Deleted Scenes (SD, 7 min) - This collection of three unused scenes is pretty much useless and unnecessary. All three were removed from the early part of the movie.
  • Trailer (SD) - The original preview of the flick is also included in the package.

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 11140 [review_bonus_content] =>

There are no high-def exclusives.

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

From my experience, 'Wrong Turn' is a flick enjoyed more by a discerning horror crowd. It's not all that bad, as it does accomplish what it sets out to do, taking an urban legend and giving it a straightforward slasher feel. Fans will be disappointed the picture quality is not a significant improvement from the DVD, but at least the lossless track is impressive. The supplemental package is also the same as on previous releases. Overall, hardcore fans, both of the movie and the genre, are likely to purchase this, while everyone else is safe with a rental.

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Retired military commander Colonel Dale Murphy (Henry Rollins) hosts a simulated post-apocalyptic reality show where participants are challenged to survive a remote West Virginia wasteland. But the show turns into a nightmarish showdown when each realizes they are being hunted by an inbred family of cannibals determined to make them all dinner.

[review_bottom_line] => Give it a Rent [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 95215 [review_movie_stars] => 3 [review_movie] =>

Out of all the films which have, and could have, been turned into money-making franchises, for some reason, I find the 'Wrong Turn' series one of the most surprising. Well, that and the Chucky chain, which was a real shocker as well. Strangely, what sets this series apart is the lack of a single recurring villain, or at least, one that is fully developed and expected to return with each sequel. Granted, Three Finger is the one in-bred freak consistent in all three movies, but he's more of a continual character than something the likes of Freddy, Jason, Michael, or even Chucky for that matter. He's simply a presence that gives the franchise its meat and bones -- then hacks it all up. Can you imagine that backwoods mutant becoming the official face of the series much like the other villains have?

For this follow up about a family of cannibal rednecks, Three Finger returns for the hunt of unsuspecting fodder. Only, his function in this sequel is less significant than in the previous movie. It seems as if he's been turned into the local butcher, so to speak. Though from the looks of how he maintains his work area, I'm pretty sure he's never been properly apprenticed and highly doubt a health inspector would give him a passing grade. The plot in this movie takes place four years after the events of the original, so maybe he learned a little something about old-fashioned cuisine cooking during that time. While it's possible he may not know the difference between prime cuts and flank meat, at least he loves his job, tenderizing and teasing the main dish with a knife and his shrill, cackling laugh.

At some point in the flick, an over-the-top drill sergeant, played by the incomparable Henry Rollins, is forced into a very unfortunate encounter with Three Finger at his outdoor kitchen. In my mind, Rollins will always be remembered as the lead singer of Black Flag (along with Keith Morris of course), but here he turns in an unexpectedly first-rate and funny performance. As the beefed-up, retired marine captain Dale Murphy, he hosts a reality TV show in the vein of "Survivor". Only contestants pretend the world has come to an end and must survive in the wilderness. The premise of the show is dreadfully overcomplicated and senseless. But needless to say, participants soon learn survival reality has crept into their artificial world, which is why we're watching this nonsense.

For those intimate with the genre, 'Wrong Turn 2: Dead End' follows the central ingredient of the horror sequel set forth by 'Friday the 13th Part 2' -- a higher body count, creatively gruesome kills, and more blood and guts than the original installment. Indeed, the movie opens with one of the most shocking and horrendous death sequences around, which is sure to bring a smile to the face of any gore hound. Apparently, the young lady who meets this terrible demise is Kimberly Caldwell. As for whom she is or why I should even know her name, I don't have the slightest clue. I suppose I don't watch enough television. But she was annoying enough that I enjoyed Three Finger greeting her with an axe.

Even more shocking is the fact that 'Dead End' is an entertaining follow-up to its predecessor, and the filmmakers actually give genre fans a fun, gory flick of hillbilly pandemonium. The script is structurally well organized and executed, which is quite an astonishing feat for straight-to-video fare. That's not to say, the movie is Oscar-worthy or anything. The characters are, of course, incredibly shallow and throwaway imitations of everything else we've seen before. But they serve their purpose, nonetheless, in moving the story along and leading us to the point of meeting the demented wannabe-Norman Rockwell family. It's nice to watch something where you can't guess who'll survive the unnecessary violence.

First time director Joe Lynch knows what his audience is looking for in a sequel, and he provides just that. He's also an obvious horror fanatic as he makes a clever reference to the original 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre' towards the end of the second act. Moreover, Lynch has the producer/cameraman of the faux TV show wear a t-shirt as a nod to one of the best survival films around: 'Battle Royale'. In the end, 'Wrong Turn 2: Dead End' serves as a fun, twisted genre entry to pass the time when nothing else is on the boob tube.

[review_video_stars] => 2.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 11190 [review_video] =>

Even if the picture quality of 'Wrong Turn 2' is only about average, it's still better looking than its predecessor, which isn't saying a whole lot.

Clearly taken from an HD source, the 1080p/AVC transfer debuts with poor resolution, and contrast that's all over the place. There are times when the picture looks good, especially, and most obviously, in bright daylight scenes. But more often than not, whites bloom to the point of clipping and ringing in distant objects is quite noticeable. Grain is a bit unpredictable and interiors tend to highlight this fact. Details of fine objects are nicely defined in certain spots, but they're never consistently sharp. Indeed, the majority of the pic fails to ever truly impress. Brightness levels are strong, but black crush is rampant in low-lit sequences while the image remains mostly flat from beginning to end. Primaries are vivid and bold sans artifacts, making it the transfer's best feature. Unfortunately, the other hues suffer a tad and appear rather boring. In the end, it's not one of the best presentations available.

[review_audio_stars] => 3 [review_audio_picture_id] => 11191 [review_audio] =>

The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack, on the other hand, packs a meatier punch than the video.

Although not nearly as impressive as the first feature, the front soundscape displays an open, welcoming presence with good imaging and strong dialogue reproduction. Dynamics don't show much range, but they're stable and remain somewhat well-balanced throughout. Low-frequency effects, while lacking clean refinement, are put to good use in certain scenes, but they don't make much of an impact. Activity in the surround speakers is never fully realized or consistent. However, the mix does have its moments of atmospherics, like the rustling of leaves, flies buzzing around and echoes of action inside the old mill. The musical score too bleeds lightly into the background. Still, the sound design is good for a direct-to-video product, only it's not significantly effective.

[review_supplements_stars] => 2 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 11192 [review_supplements] =>

Fox Home Entertainment delivers 'Wrong Turn 2: Dead End' with a supplemental package that matches its standard definition counterpart, except for the movie's original trailer. The material is nothing very extensive, but for fans, there's some good, meaty stuff to be found here.

  • Audio Commentary - Two separate commentary tracks are included in the package. First, director Joe Lynch sits down with actors Erica Leerhsen and Henry Rollins to talk about . . . well, I'm not really sure what they're talking about, as Lynch proves he's a fine candidate for Ritalin medication. He makes it very obvious he's a first time director, acting all hyperactive and giddy about how the production turned out, while Leerhsen is mostly silent and Rollins sporadically interjects. Funny anecdotes and quips are found here, but wow, Lynch is a very excited guy. On the second track, screenwriters Turi Meyer and Al Septein turn in a less lively but honest discussion on the movie's second-rate quality. Interestingly, their comments are quite revealing of the final product as both writers had different ideas for some of the characters and the plot. Although far from one of the best tracks around, fans might enjoy learning some of this background info.
  • "More Blood, More Guts: The Making of 'Wrong Turn 2'"(SD, 10 min) - This short segment covers some info about the shooting location, and director Joe Lynch talks about why he fell for the script and his love of all things horror. Also included are interviews with the cast about their respective characters and the things they fear the most in life. While clips of the production are shown throughout, this making-of is quick and easy to sit through.
  • "Making Gore Look Good"(SD, 12 min) - With on-set footage mixed together in the piece, this featurette is the best part of the package, with behind-the-scenes access to the movie's gruesome kills. Special effects buffs can watch how the F/X team made the opening death sequence possible, which is really cool. Fans can also get a closer look at the cannibal family and learn the tricks for making a corpse explode - entrails and all. Sadly, I still don't know who Kimberly Caldwell is.
  • On Location with P-Nut (SD, 2 min) - First question I asked myself was "who?" Second question I asked was "why?" Apparently, this guy calling himself P-Nut visited the set just when the sex-in-the-woods scene is about to be shot, and here he shows it off.
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 11193 [review_bonus_content] =>

There are no HD exclusives for this release.

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

While not as good as its predecessor, 'Wrong Turn 2: Dead End' is quite an entertaining surprise from first-time director Joe Lynch. It's two times the gory, despicable fun, and Henry Rollins becomes the highlight of the entire pic. This Blu-ray edition of the movie arrives with an average A/V presentation and the same supplemental material found on the DVD. While fans of the first installment will not be disappointed, everyone else might want to rent something else.

) ) [4] => Array ( [review_id] => 1503 [review_type_id] => 1 [review_slug] => xmenoriginswolverine [review_release_date] => 1252998000 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => X-Men Origins: Wolverine [picture_created] => 1248877319 [picture_name] => wolverine.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Fox Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2009/07/29/120/wolverine.jpeg [review_url] => https://bluray.highdefdigest.com/1503/xmenoriginswolverine.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2009 [run_time] => 107 [list_price] => 39.99 [asin] => B001GCUO16 [amazon_price] => 27.99 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.35:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => BD-Live [1] => HD Trailers ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => Blu-ray [1] => BD-50 [2] => Region Free ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround Sound [1] => French DTS 5.1 [2] => Spanish DTS 5.1 ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Featurettes [1] => Audio Commentary [2] => Digital Copy ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English [1] => French [2] => Spanish ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Action ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Hugh Jackman [1] => Ryan Reynolds [2] => Liev Schreiber ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Gavin Hood ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Leading up to the events of X-Men, X-Men Origins: Wolverine tells the story of Wolverine’s epically violent and romantic past, his complex relationship with Victor Creed and the ominous Weapon X program. Along the way, Wolverine encounters many mutants, both familiar and new, including surprise appearances by several legends of the X-Men universe whose appearances in the film have long been anticipated. [review_bottom_line] => Recommended [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 92274 [review_movie_stars] => 3 [review_movie] =>

Fox has found an entirely new way to milk the ‘X-Men’ movie franchise to death, by putting out as many origin stories for the characters as they can. The first character to get the ‘Origin’ treatment is Wolverine.

Apprehension set in before watching ‘Wolverine,’ since the catastrophe of 'The Last Stand' was still fresh in my mind. While not as bad as the third X-Men feature, ‘Wolverine’ isn’t nearly as fun or as exciting as the first two films in the series.

The opening credits are reminiscent of those found in ‘Watchmen,’ showing half-brothers Logan (Hugh Jackman) and Victor (Liev Schreiber) fighting in every major war throughout history . While not as artistically pleasing as the 'Watchmen' sequence, it does set up the story rather well for the evolution of Logan and Victor’s relationship. We quickly learn that Victor is blood-thirsty, killing for the fun of it, while Logan on the other hand has a good streak in him, something that keeps him from senselessly killing.

After Logan and Victor fail to die during a firing squad incident in Vietnam, they are recruited by an Army officer named Striker, who knows of their special abilities. Striker soon forms a team of individuals with mutant abilities, but after Logan realizes Striker is merely using the team to further his own interests, he leaves and finds a new life in Canada.

Some of the backstory about Logan becoming Wolverine is pretty interesting, but the movie often skirts those issues for the most part in order to dazzle us with special effect-laden action scenes. Some are quite cool, others are pretty corny. For the amount of special effects used in this movie, it’s astonishing to see some of the poor quality that made it into the film -- When Logan first gets his new metallic claws and looks at them in a mirror, they look so utterly fake it’s hard to believe that after three ‘X-Men’ movies they didn’t just make them look the way they have for the past three films.

Another hindrance is the film's determination to showcase so many other characters, complete with their varied mutant abilities. Every character has his own special scene in which to show us what he can do. It gets tiresome. We want to get in depth information on what makes one of our favorite characters tick, but the film is so wrapped up in showing us what other people can do, that the main story suffers.

For a pure popcorn flick, ‘Wolverine’ is fairly worthy. No thinking is required here, just stick the disc in and turn the brain off, but if you’re looking for something with a bit of substance, you're unlikely to find it here. In the end, learning more about Logan’s past life is fascinating, but the movie is so bogged down, that all the interesting material gets diluted.

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 10379 [review_video] =>

‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’ is an AVC-encoded transfer framed beautifully in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The video presentation is, for the most part, consistently stunning. The movie retains its thin layer of cinematic grain, but it never hampers the picture or distracts the eye. It gives it a great looking cinema feel. The color palette jumps off the screen, as colors are given a vibrant feel here. Blacks seem to have a bit of trouble during the dark shots at the beginning, but otherwise stay consistent throughout. The HD treatment does give plenty of extra clarity to the movie, but it also aids in making some of the special effects appear even more fake. As mentioned above, when Wolverine first sees his metallic claws in a mirror and grinds them together to make sparks, they just look like cruddy 2nd rate animation. The animation isn’t the transfer’s fault, but the precision of the transfer only helps in pointing out the bad effects.

Overall though, this is a fine transfer, not perfect but great enough to warrant showing it off to your friends. Just don’t show them that stupid claw scene.

[review_audio_stars] => 5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 10380 [review_audio] =>

Well, if the video presentation was near perfect, this 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack IS perfect. It’s one of the most engaging soundtracks I’ve listened to on Blu-ray. Every channel is engaged throughout the film. LFE rumbles from the sub. Directionality is spot on. Dialogue is clear. Panning effects work smoothly as helicopters fly by the screen. Explosions rock the room. Yet even the tiniest sounds, like birds chirping or wind blowing, can also be heard clearly through the surround channels. The surrounds also harbor a lot of the film’s music, which adds to the ambience and that engulfing feel Blu-ray watchers crave.

[review_supplements_stars] => 3.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 10381 [review_supplements] =>

  • Audio Commentary - ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’ has two audio commentaries. The first is from director Gavin Hood, who doesn’t do much other than explain what’s happening on the screen and give a few details on shooting. The other commentary is from producers Lauren Shuler Donner and Ralph Winter who provide a bit more of a personable approach to the commentary than Hood does. It always helps to have two people commenting instead of one, because conversations and banter can be had between them. While this commentary is slightly more interesting that Hood’s, it still lacks a bit in trying to keep your attention.
  • The Roots of Wolverine (HD, 16 min) - Stan Lee and comic executive Len Wein talk about how the character of Wolverine has evolved over the years, and how difficult it is to keep up with producing quality material from such an old and storied character.
  • Wolverine Unleashed: The Complete Origins Featurette (HD, 12 min) - This featurette comes across as more promotional fluff than anything else. It features most of the cast and crew discussing in short interviews what it was like working on the film and how difficult it was focusing on just one character.
  • Deleted and Alternate Scenes (HD, 9 min) - Four fairly lengthy deleted or alternate scenes are presented here. One even features a young Storm that walks into view as Logan leaves the village in Africa, it garners some unintentional laughter and was wisely cut. Each of the scenes can be viewed with commentary from director Gavin Hood.
  • Weapon X Mutant Files (HD, 54 min) - Here you can explore the ins and outs of pretty much each mutant featured in the movie. There are also discussions with the actors and what they thought about playing their characters. Ryan Reynolds explaining what it was like to play Wade/Deadpool, is pretty funny. You learn that most of the dialogue that comes out of his mouth in the movie is improvised. Each of these episodes can be watched separately or you can select play all. The 54 minute runtime applies if you play them all back to back.
  • The Thrill of the Chase: The Helicopter Sequence (HD, 6 min) - I’m sure you can figure out what this one is about. The famous helicopter sequence in the movie is glossed over here. How they did it, and the steps it took to film it. Can’t really get much in 6 minutes, but what’s here is fairly interesting.
  • Fox Movie Channel Presents: World Premiere (HD, 6 min) - This is a short featurette that shows what it was like for the world premiere of the movie that was held in Tempe, Arizona. Crazed fans, and beautiful movie stars waving to them. That’s about it.

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 2 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 10382 [review_bonus_content] =>
  • Ultimate X-Mode - This feature allows you to pick from four different U-Control PiP features to play along with the movie. "X-Connect" allows you to see director Gavin Hood and producer Lauren Shuler Donner appear occasionally offering insight into the correlations between this movie and the three other “X-Men” movies. "The Director's Chair" features Gavin Hood explaining at length the different techniques that were used to make the various scenes in the film. It also offers an extensive amount of behind-the-scenes footage. "Pre-Visualization" provides the audience with some crude CGI animation and storyboards of the special effects sequences that were later rendered in post-production. It gives a good idea of what goes into creating effects for the movie. "X-Facts" provides trivia throughout the film.
  • Live Lookup - Did you just spot someone in the movie that you recognize, but can’t quite put your finger on it? Well, as discussed earlier this week, via BD-Live, Live Lookup allows you, to look up actors and their IMDB.com references. It’s broken up by chapter with a picture of each character featured in that chapter. Simply click on their picture and the IMDB.com information will be provided.
  • Fox on Blu-Ray (HD, 3 min) - Only a few HD trailers are included here. One for the ‘X-Men’ trilogy and another for ‘Night at the Museum.’

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

For all the scathing reviews ‘Wolverine’ got, I didn’t think it was half bad. It doesn’t stand up to the first two ‘X-Men’ movies, but it does outdo ‘The Last Stand’ in every way. It’s exciting enough for a casual movie night, but if you’re looking for a more in depth story, you’ll probably be disappointed. Too much focus on the dozens of other mutants in the movie hampers the overall story of Wolverine’s origin. This Blu-ray, however, boasts strong audio and visual presentations that will truly wow HD enthusiasts.

) ) ) [reviews_hot] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 2567 [review_type_id] => 1 [review_slug] => vanhelsing [review_release_date] => 1252998000 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Van Helsing [picture_created] => 1247762208 [picture_name] => helsing.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Universal [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2009/07/16/120/helsing.jpeg [review_url] => https://bluray.highdefdigest.com/2567/vanhelsing.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2004 [run_time] => 132 [list_price] => 26.98 [asin] => B002HML6Y8 [amazon_price] => 18.99 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => U-Control ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/AVC MPEG 4 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => Blu-ray [1] => BD-25 Single-Layer Disc [2] => Region Free ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 [1] => Spanish DTS 5.1 [2] => French DTS 5.1 ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Featurettes [1] => Blooper Reel [2] => Audio commentaries [3] => Theatrical Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French [2] => Spanish ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Fantasy ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Hugh Jackman ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Gabriel Van Helsing is a man cursed with a past he cannot recall and driven by a mission he cannot deny. Charged by a secret organization to seek out and defeat evil the world over, his efforts to rid the world of its nightmareish creatures have been rewarded with the title that now follows him: murderer. Van Helsing roams the globe an outcast, a fugitive, a loner, himself hunted by those who don't understand the true nature of his calling. When dispatched to the shadowy world of Transylvania, Van Helsing finds a land stll mired inpast-- where legendary creatures of darkness come to life--a place ruled over by the evil, seductive and unfeatable vampire, Count Dracula. And it is Dracula that Van Helsing has been sent to terminate. Anna Valerious is one of the last of a powerful royal family, now nearly annihilated by Dracula. A fearless hunter in her own right, Anna is bent on avenging her ancestors and ending an ancient curse by killing the vampire. Joined by a common foe, Van Helsing and Anna set out to destroy Dracula along with his empire of fear. But in challenging an enemy who never dies, Van Helsing uncovers a secret he never imagined and comes face-to-face with the unresolved mysteries of his own enshrouded past. [preview_technology_specifications] => -Van Helsing: The Story, The Life, The Legend
-Track the Adventure
-Bringing the Monsters to Life
-You Are In The Movie!
-The Music of Van Helsing
-Bloopers
-Dracula's Lair is Transformed
-The Masquerade Ball Scene "Unmasked"
-The Art of Van Helsing
-Monster Eggs
-Feature Commentary with Director Stephen Sommers and Editor/Producer Bob Ducsay
-Feature Commentary with Richard Roxburgh, Shuler Henley and Will Kemp [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => -D-Box
-BD-live [review_bottom_line] => Give it a Rent [review_forum_id] => 92582 [review_movie_stars] => 2.5 [review_movie] =>

It's as if Stephen Sommers awoke one day and said, "How can I create the most outrageously bloated monstrosity of a movie ever? Oh, I know…" Thus 'Van Helsing' was born! Well the big budget movie version anyway.

Gabriel Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) hunts monsters for the Catholic Church. His list of "victims" runs the gamut of the who's who of monster myths. He hunts everyone from Mr. Hyde to werewolves. The film also gathers together the myths of Dracula, Dracula's brides, Dr. Frankenstein, and Frankenstein's Monster. Oh, it all fits together in some semblance of a plot, but it's paper thin.

It seems Count Dracula is planning something sinister. We see him with Dr. Frankenstein on the night Frankenstein brings his creation to life. Obviously the monster that has just been brought to life by lightning figures into Dracula's plan somehow. Soon, the obligatory angry mob is trying to break down the gates to the castle. It all ends with a chase up to the famous windmill, monster holding creator, only to be burned alive by the mob.

Dracula, played by Richard Roxburgh, constantly hisses and screams his orders to his three undead brides. Most of his time is spent merely screaming painfully into the heavens. Van Helsing has been dispatched to Transylvania because an important family line is about to die out. Anna Valerious (Kate Beckinsale) and her brother are the last of the Valerious family. The end of the line after nine generations. Most importantly, the family will never find eternal rest until they have vanquished Dracula from the earth. This is all because of an oath made long ago. Dracula has been picking off the family one by one hoping to destroy the line.

From there we find out that Dracula's sinister plan may very well indeed involve finding a way to bring his dead children to life. How you give birth to something dead, well that's a mystery. Cocoons of slime hang from inside his castle, but he just can't seem to keep the little buggers alive for more than a day. There must be a better way.

'Van Helsing' continues along this path, bringing us face-to-face with every monster that's been talked about throughout the ages, except for a mummy, but that's only because Sommers already used mummies in another series of movies you may have heard of.

At over two hours 'Van Helsing' feels so bloated the campiness factor quickly wears thin. Combining all the monster myths into one is a fascinating idea, but taking too long to explain it all, really shoots the film in the foot. After about 90 minutes it isn't even "dumb" fun anymore. After 120 minutes you're lucky to still be awake.

Whats more, the movie constantly hammers away at the audience with CGI. It's hard to find a scene that doesn't contain computer animation. Unfortunately, like so many summer blockbusters before and since, 'Van Helsing' proves that all too often, showing off comes at the expense of telling a compelling story.

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 10446 [review_video] =>

If you do indeed find the film enjoyable, you'll be very happy with its extremely solid 1080p/AVC MPEG 4 transfer. Arguably the best looking part of the movie is the black and white opening when Dracula is in Frankenstein's laboratory. The blacks are at optimum levels and contrast perfectly with the lighter whites on screen. Transylvania is given a bluish hue most likely to represent the overall feeling of the town. (Being used as snacks by the various monsters about would really take a toll on the psyche.) The bluish tinge is contrasted perfectly when bright red blood is introduced. If DNR was applied it isn't noticeable. Textures and faces are maxed out in the detail department. It's a great looking transfer, but it does lend itself to exposing the CGI effect to be even more dated looking.

[review_audio_stars] => 4 [review_audio_picture_id] => 10447 [review_audio] =>

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio track is a fantastic upgrade from the DVD. Sounds are constantly moving through the channels, creating a truly omnipresent feeling. Wheels turning and creaking, wind howling, and lightning striking all are just some of the clear sound effects that pepper the audio track. The LFE is frequently engaged, but almost too much and too deep, drowning out other sounds at times. Action scenes seem to take over a little too much, hampering dialogue and other important sounds. You may find yourself turning the volume down just a tad only to have to turn it back up once the action subsides. The soundtrack engulfs with the best of them, but it's occasionally inconsistent when it comes to balancing all the parts to complement each other.

[review_supplements_stars] => 3 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 10448 [review_supplements] =>
  • Audio Commentary by Director Stephen Sommers and Editor/Producer Bob Ducsay - I recommend listening to this audio commentary so you can see how Sommers' style of directing is directly proportionate to his personality. Like an excited youngster Sommers tries to dazzle us by acknowledging what is computer animated and what isn't. Bob Ducsay does a good job at trying to keep the whole conversation level-headed, but it's as if Sommers is floating on a cloud. It's actually quite comical to listen to.
  • Audio Commentary with Richard Roxburgh, Shuler Hensley and Will Kemp - Man, I really love ensemble commentaries. Why movies don't do them more often is beyond me. Each of the men represents one of the three main monsters depicted in the movie. They have a great chemistry together and you can tell that the three of them have become friends while working on this project.
  • Van Helsing: The Story, The Life, The Legend (SD, 58 min) - This extensive feature covers a lot of the making-of information, and also provides some intriguing info about the monsters in the film.
  • Track the Adventure (SD, 34 min) - This is an in depth look at the film's sets and where it was shot. We get glimpses of the windmill, the Transylvanian village, and Dr. Frankenstein's laboratory.
  • Bringing the Monsters to Life (SD, 10 min) - This is a step-by-step on how the computer animated parts of 'Van Helsing' were created. Just a quick look at the processes that were undertaken to make some of the CGI creatures.
  • You Are in the Movie! (SD, 4 min) - Cameras were placed around the set from different points of view so we could see filming from the perspective of some of the crew.
  • The Music of Van Helsing (SD, 9 min) - Alan Silvestri, composer for 'Van Helsing,' shares insights into what it was like, and what it took to create some of the music for the film.
  • Bloopers (SD, 5 min) - Actually one of the funnier blooper reels I've seen on a film.
  • Dracula's Lair is Transformed (SD, 2 min) - This is just a short time lapse featurette that shows us exactly what it was like putting up and taking down the set that was used for Dracula's Lair.
  • The Masquerade Ball Scene "Unmasked" (SD, 25 min) - Back again, Sommers takes us on a tour of what it was like creating the masquerade ball scene. An hundred or so dancers were hired to create the scene. Sommers is his usual giddy self, in explaining how it all came to pass.
  • The Art of Van Helsing (SD, 5 min) - A still photo gallery that scrolls through artwork from the film.
  • Monster Eggs (SD, 1 min) - How does one even explain this feature or why it's called Monster Eggs? Anyway, it's just footage from on set that seems to have fallen off the blooper reel and landed here. I still don't know why, or what the aim for a feature like this is…and I've already spent more time writing about it than it takes to watch it.
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 1 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 10449 [review_bonus_content] =>
  • U-Control - Here you can control a PiP option within the movie to control whether or not you want to see interviews or behind-the-scenes footage while the movie is playing.
[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 3 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'Van Helsing' is so silly, so grandiose, so bloated that it can never be taken seriously, and maybe that's the point. Although, when it clocks in at over two hours, I think viewers in general expect much more of an epic movie, and the film just fails to deliver on that note. The strong video and audio may entice some. While it's a fairly lousy cinematic experience, as far as HD viewing goes 'Van Helsing' fares much better.

) ) [1] => Array ( [review_id] => 2510 [review_type_id] => 1 [review_slug] => varsityblues [review_release_date] => 1252998000 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Varsity Blues [picture_created] => [picture_name] => [manufacturer_name] => Paramount [picture_source] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/images/public/[email protected] [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/images/public/pop-on-amazon.png [picture_source_195] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/images/public/[email protected] [picture_source_235] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/images/public/[email protected] [picture_source_300] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/images/public/[email protected] [picture_source_660] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/images/public/[email protected] [picture_alternate] => Box coming soon [picture_title] => Box coming soon [review_url] => https://bluray.highdefdigest.com/2510/varsityblues.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1999 [run_time] => 104 [list_price] => 29.99 [asin] => B002DMJMDO [amazon_price] => 20.99 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => TBA ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => TBA ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround Sound ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio commentary [1] => Featurettes [2] => Deleted scenes [3] => Ali Larter Audition [4] => Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English, French, Portuguese, Spanish ) [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] => 2481 [review_type_id] => 1 [review_slug] => wrongturn [review_release_date] => 1252998000 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Wrong Turn [picture_created] => 1248443934 [picture_name] => wrong-turn.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => 20th Century Fox [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2009/07/24/120/wrong-turn.jpeg [review_url] => https://bluray.highdefdigest.com/2481/wrongturn.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2003 [run_time] => 84 [list_price] => 29.99 [asin] => B0029XFN94 [amazon_price] => 21.99 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => Blu-ray [1] => BD-25 Single-Layer Disc [2] => Region A ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround Sound [1] => French Dolby Digital 5.1 [2] => Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentary [1] => Featurettes [2] => Deleted Scenes [3] => Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => Spanish ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Horror ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Eliza Dushku [1] => Jeremy Sisto ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Rob Schmidt ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => An indescribably nightmare begins when a group of young friends is stranded on an isolated road deep in the Appalachian hills of West Virginia, with no hope of rescue. Desperate and fearing for their lives, the horror surges as they find themselves relentlessly pursued by a force of evil beyond their imagination! Featuring a hip ensemble of up-and-coming young stars, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Eliza Dushku, this blood curdling epic is a shock-a-minute horror rush that will leave you screaming for more! [review_bottom_line] => Give it a Rent [review_forum_id] => 95005 [review_movie_stars] => 3.5 [review_movie] =>

'Wrong Turn' is a horror film that rejoices in a subgenre not often visited by filmmakers, an underutilized category that it blends with urban legends about people from the backwoods. The story revolves around a group of young city slickers (as if there were any other kind in such movies) stranded by devious means in the Appalachian wilderness and forced to survive when chased by a clan of cannibalistic mountain folk. Come to think of it, the extent of genetic mutation caused by inbreeding in the deranged men would also qualify Rob Schmidt's picture as a creature-feature. The relentless pursuit by the redneck family of maniacs and the amount of graphic gore throughout, pushes the flick into slasher territory.

Still, genre placement issues aside, 'Wrong Turn' delivers with a very basic premise and adds a few subtle deviations. On the surface, the plot follows a group of friends on a hiking trip to cheer up recently-dumped Jessie (Eliza Dushku). When med student Chris (Desmond Harrington) crashes into them on a dirt road, they find the tires of their SUV punctured by barb wire intentionally stretched across the road. Soon after, they stumble upon an isolated family who'd love to have them for dinner. As expected, the group is soon chased through the woods, where many of them are brutally killed by the cannibals. Unexpectedly, the script involves a few clever devices.

Genre rules are adhered to throughout much of the first act, but things quickly change when the group arrives at the remote cabin of the brothers. In this very nerve-racking scene, director Rob Schmidt places his heroes in a dreadful predicament usually reserved for the end of the second act. Exposition is skillfully disclosed in these anxiety-ridden scenes, and the protagonists are made aware of what they're up against. It's a smart move on the part of the filmmakers, as it creates a slightly different formula for suspense. The instant the intruding foursome is discovered, the film turns into a combination of 'Deliverance,' 'The Hills Have Eyes,' and the classic 'The Most Dangerous Game'.

The characters and the kills are also refreshingly original for the genre. Rather than one final girl, we are given two final "persons", and both equally develop some effective survival skills. Dushku, naturally, is the individual we cheer for, and while she probably could have stepped up the game, her character is still a tough one. The sexually promiscuous youngins are handled with the same swift discrimination as other horror movies. Only here, they're immediately ousted as unlikeable and dispatched much sooner than later. This was a good call on the part of the filmmakers, as they grew pretty annoying within a minute of being introduced.

Of course, not everything is a bed of roses. Or should I say a bed of hillbilly corpses. Okay, dumb joke, but still Schmidt's direction is very workmanlike. He showed some style inside the desolate cabin, but for the rest of the pic, the cameraworl is fairly typical. If not for the writing and the gory special effects, the entire production would be incredibly dull and average. Obviously, there must have been something clever about the whole thing to grab the attention of the late Stan Winston to produce.

Don't get me wrong, this isn't top quality horror for many fans and it's not as sickly twisted as the other films it tries to conjure up, but it's not all that bad from a team with little previous experience. 'Wrong Turn' works with good old-fashioned scare tactics and a perilous atmosphere. I suppose we can add suspense to the list of other genres being mixed together.

[review_video_stars] => 2.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 11137 [review_video] =>

Fox Home Entertainment unleashes 'Wrong Turn' with a 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer (1.85:1) which is greatly underwhelming. I expected the jump into Blu-ray to be more significant, but when compared to its standard definition counterpart, the benefits are minimal.

While contrast and clarity show a clear improvement, they fall squarely on the lower end of the grayscale. Resolution is on the weaker side of what we've come to enjoy from high-def media. In fact, the majority of the picture lacks a great deal of sharpness overall and one can't help but feel they're watching an upconverted DVD.

Still, there are some improvements. Quality here displays better defined lines in distant objects and tree foliage, but it's not a lot to get excited about. The palette is accurately saturated and vibrant, exhibiting some good variance in secondary hues. Black levels are also nicely rendered, but not as rich and deep as they really should be.

On the bright side, delineation is strong, with plenty of visible details in dark shadows. In the end, the transfer is passable, but it could've been a whole lot better.

[review_audio_stars] => 4 [review_audio_picture_id] => 11138 [review_audio] =>

Even if the picture quality is a bit of a letdown, at least fans can rejoice and enjoy the much improved audio presentation.

The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack arrives with strong dialogue reproduction andis never overwhelmed by all the loud action. Fronts show great fluidity and separation, as off-screen action is delivered with credible accuracy. Pans and movement between the channels are surprisingly good and convincing, generating some great moments of atmospheric immersion. The mix also exhibits plenty of activity in the rear surrounds. The sounds of wind blowing through the trees, birds chirping in the distance, and even the echoes of Three-Finger's creepy, hyperactive laughter are clearly heard throughout and fill the room to envelop the audience. Low-frequency effects pack a heavy punch, not only giving scenes a realistic presence, but also a frightening intensity. Unlike the video, this audio track offers a fun and engaging ride through the woods.

1.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 11139 [review_supplements] =>

The special features in this Blu-ray edition of 'Wrong Turn' are the same ones found on the 2003 DVD release. There's really nothing special about them, but fans will find them an easy half-hour to waste. They're all presented in standard definition.

  • Audio Commentary - The track features director Rob Schmidt having a sit-down with his lead actors, Eliza Dushku and Desmond Harrington. Their talk is an 'MST3K' style conversation, with random anecdotes about the movie and none of it is remotely funny. Once in a while Schmidt jumps in with background info, like his desire to imitate a grindhouse approach to horror and the material, but it's none too exciting. The threesome sounds like they enjoy each other's company a great deal, and the last thing we want is interrupt their conversation with further details about the movie they worked on, right?
  • "Fresh Meat: The Wounds of 'Wrong Turn'"(SD, 9 min) - This is the best featurette in the package. The main interest is on make-up expert Stan Winston giving viewers a detailed overview of each of the in-bred hillbillies and a behind-the-scenes look at the special effects. It's all very well made and entertaining to watch. The only drawback is that it ends so quickly, especially for those interested in such information.
  • "The Making of 'Wrong Turn'"(SD, 4 min) - Even shorter than the previous segment, this piece is nothing more than promo junk. After watching the last one, this just seems completely unnecessary.
  • "Eliza Dushku: Babe in the Woods" (SD, 4 min) - While resisting the heavy urge to laugh, the filmmakers talk about the actress and attempt to give her character some depth. Again, I'm resisting the urge to laugh aloud.
  • "Stan Winston" (SD, 5 min) - One of the big names in the world of special make-up effects, the late Stan Winston talks about his career and desire to produce genre fare. It's an interesting piece, but fans, like me, will definitely enjoy it best.
  • Deleted Scenes (SD, 7 min) - This collection of three unused scenes is pretty much useless and unnecessary. All three were removed from the early part of the movie.
  • Trailer (SD) - The original preview of the flick is also included in the package.

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 11140 [review_bonus_content] =>

There are no high-def exclusives.

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

From my experience, 'Wrong Turn' is a flick enjoyed more by a discerning horror crowd. It's not all that bad, as it does accomplish what it sets out to do, taking an urban legend and giving it a straightforward slasher feel. Fans will be disappointed the picture quality is not a significant improvement from the DVD, but at least the lossless track is impressive. The supplemental package is also the same as on previous releases. Overall, hardcore fans, both of the movie and the genre, are likely to purchase this, while everyone else is safe with a rental.

) ) [3] => Array ( [review_id] => 2482 [review_type_id] => 1 [review_slug] => wrongturn2 [review_release_date] => 1252998000 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Wrong Turn 2: Dead End [picture_created] => 1244559765 [picture_name] => wrongturn-2.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => 20th Century Fox [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2009/06/09/120/wrongturn-2.jpeg [review_url] => https://bluray.highdefdigest.com/2482/wrongturn2.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2007 [run_time] => 93 [list_price] => 29.99 [asin] => B0029XFN9E [amazon_price] => 21.99 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.78:1 ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => Blu-ray [1] => BD-25 Single-Layer Disc [2] => RegionA ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround Sound [1] => French Dolby Digital 5.1 [2] => Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentaries [1] => Featurettes ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => Spanish ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Horror ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Henry Rollins ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Joe Lynch ) [preview_plot_synopsis] =>

Retired military commander Colonel Dale Murphy (Henry Rollins) hosts a simulated post-apocalyptic reality show where participants are challenged to survive a remote West Virginia wasteland. But the show turns into a nightmarish showdown when each realizes they are being hunted by an inbred family of cannibals determined to make them all dinner.

[review_bottom_line] => Give it a Rent [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 95215 [review_movie_stars] => 3 [review_movie] =>

Out of all the films which have, and could have, been turned into money-making franchises, for some reason, I find the 'Wrong Turn' series one of the most surprising. Well, that and the Chucky chain, which was a real shocker as well. Strangely, what sets this series apart is the lack of a single recurring villain, or at least, one that is fully developed and expected to return with each sequel. Granted, Three Finger is the one in-bred freak consistent in all three movies, but he's more of a continual character than something the likes of Freddy, Jason, Michael, or even Chucky for that matter. He's simply a presence that gives the franchise its meat and bones -- then hacks it all up. Can you imagine that backwoods mutant becoming the official face of the series much like the other villains have?

For this follow up about a family of cannibal rednecks, Three Finger returns for the hunt of unsuspecting fodder. Only, his function in this sequel is less significant than in the previous movie. It seems as if he's been turned into the local butcher, so to speak. Though from the looks of how he maintains his work area, I'm pretty sure he's never been properly apprenticed and highly doubt a health inspector would give him a passing grade. The plot in this movie takes place four years after the events of the original, so maybe he learned a little something about old-fashioned cuisine cooking during that time. While it's possible he may not know the difference between prime cuts and flank meat, at least he loves his job, tenderizing and teasing the main dish with a knife and his shrill, cackling laugh.

At some point in the flick, an over-the-top drill sergeant, played by the incomparable Henry Rollins, is forced into a very unfortunate encounter with Three Finger at his outdoor kitchen. In my mind, Rollins will always be remembered as the lead singer of Black Flag (along with Keith Morris of course), but here he turns in an unexpectedly first-rate and funny performance. As the beefed-up, retired marine captain Dale Murphy, he hosts a reality TV show in the vein of "Survivor". Only contestants pretend the world has come to an end and must survive in the wilderness. The premise of the show is dreadfully overcomplicated and senseless. But needless to say, participants soon learn survival reality has crept into their artificial world, which is why we're watching this nonsense.

For those intimate with the genre, 'Wrong Turn 2: Dead End' follows the central ingredient of the horror sequel set forth by 'Friday the 13th Part 2' -- a higher body count, creatively gruesome kills, and more blood and guts than the original installment. Indeed, the movie opens with one of the most shocking and horrendous death sequences around, which is sure to bring a smile to the face of any gore hound. Apparently, the young lady who meets this terrible demise is Kimberly Caldwell. As for whom she is or why I should even know her name, I don't have the slightest clue. I suppose I don't watch enough television. But she was annoying enough that I enjoyed Three Finger greeting her with an axe.

Even more shocking is the fact that 'Dead End' is an entertaining follow-up to its predecessor, and the filmmakers actually give genre fans a fun, gory flick of hillbilly pandemonium. The script is structurally well organized and executed, which is quite an astonishing feat for straight-to-video fare. That's not to say, the movie is Oscar-worthy or anything. The characters are, of course, incredibly shallow and throwaway imitations of everything else we've seen before. But they serve their purpose, nonetheless, in moving the story along and leading us to the point of meeting the demented wannabe-Norman Rockwell family. It's nice to watch something where you can't guess who'll survive the unnecessary violence.

First time director Joe Lynch knows what his audience is looking for in a sequel, and he provides just that. He's also an obvious horror fanatic as he makes a clever reference to the original 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre' towards the end of the second act. Moreover, Lynch has the producer/cameraman of the faux TV show wear a t-shirt as a nod to one of the best survival films around: 'Battle Royale'. In the end, 'Wrong Turn 2: Dead End' serves as a fun, twisted genre entry to pass the time when nothing else is on the boob tube.

[review_video_stars] => 2.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 11190 [review_video] =>

Even if the picture quality of 'Wrong Turn 2' is only about average, it's still better looking than its predecessor, which isn't saying a whole lot.

Clearly taken from an HD source, the 1080p/AVC transfer debuts with poor resolution, and contrast that's all over the place. There are times when the picture looks good, especially, and most obviously, in bright daylight scenes. But more often than not, whites bloom to the point of clipping and ringing in distant objects is quite noticeable. Grain is a bit unpredictable and interiors tend to highlight this fact. Details of fine objects are nicely defined in certain spots, but they're never consistently sharp. Indeed, the majority of the pic fails to ever truly impress. Brightness levels are strong, but black crush is rampant in low-lit sequences while the image remains mostly flat from beginning to end. Primaries are vivid and bold sans artifacts, making it the transfer's best feature. Unfortunately, the other hues suffer a tad and appear rather boring. In the end, it's not one of the best presentations available.

[review_audio_stars] => 3 [review_audio_picture_id] => 11191 [review_audio] =>

The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack, on the other hand, packs a meatier punch than the video.

Although not nearly as impressive as the first feature, the front soundscape displays an open, welcoming presence with good imaging and strong dialogue reproduction. Dynamics don't show much range, but they're stable and remain somewhat well-balanced throughout. Low-frequency effects, while lacking clean refinement, are put to good use in certain scenes, but they don't make much of an impact. Activity in the surround speakers is never fully realized or consistent. However, the mix does have its moments of atmospherics, like the rustling of leaves, flies buzzing around and echoes of action inside the old mill. The musical score too bleeds lightly into the background. Still, the sound design is good for a direct-to-video product, only it's not significantly effective.

[review_supplements_stars] => 2 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 11192 [review_supplements] =>

Fox Home Entertainment delivers 'Wrong Turn 2: Dead End' with a supplemental package that matches its standard definition counterpart, except for the movie's original trailer. The material is nothing very extensive, but for fans, there's some good, meaty stuff to be found here.

  • Audio Commentary - Two separate commentary tracks are included in the package. First, director Joe Lynch sits down with actors Erica Leerhsen and Henry Rollins to talk about . . . well, I'm not really sure what they're talking about, as Lynch proves he's a fine candidate for Ritalin medication. He makes it very obvious he's a first time director, acting all hyperactive and giddy about how the production turned out, while Leerhsen is mostly silent and Rollins sporadically interjects. Funny anecdotes and quips are found here, but wow, Lynch is a very excited guy. On the second track, screenwriters Turi Meyer and Al Septein turn in a less lively but honest discussion on the movie's second-rate quality. Interestingly, their comments are quite revealing of the final product as both writers had different ideas for some of the characters and the plot. Although far from one of the best tracks around, fans might enjoy learning some of this background info.
  • "More Blood, More Guts: The Making of 'Wrong Turn 2'"(SD, 10 min) - This short segment covers some info about the shooting location, and director Joe Lynch talks about why he fell for the script and his love of all things horror. Also included are interviews with the cast about their respective characters and the things they fear the most in life. While clips of the production are shown throughout, this making-of is quick and easy to sit through.
  • "Making Gore Look Good"(SD, 12 min) - With on-set footage mixed together in the piece, this featurette is the best part of the package, with behind-the-scenes access to the movie's gruesome kills. Special effects buffs can watch how the F/X team made the opening death sequence possible, which is really cool. Fans can also get a closer look at the cannibal family and learn the tricks for making a corpse explode - entrails and all. Sadly, I still don't know who Kimberly Caldwell is.
  • On Location with P-Nut (SD, 2 min) - First question I asked myself was "who?" Second question I asked was "why?" Apparently, this guy calling himself P-Nut visited the set just when the sex-in-the-woods scene is about to be shot, and here he shows it off.
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 11193 [review_bonus_content] =>

There are no HD exclusives for this release.

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

While not as good as its predecessor, 'Wrong Turn 2: Dead End' is quite an entertaining surprise from first-time director Joe Lynch. It's two times the gory, despicable fun, and Henry Rollins becomes the highlight of the entire pic. This Blu-ray edition of the movie arrives with an average A/V presentation and the same supplemental material found on the DVD. While fans of the first installment will not be disappointed, everyone else might want to rent something else.

) ) [4] => Array ( [review_id] => 1503 [review_type_id] => 1 [review_slug] => xmenoriginswolverine [review_release_date] => 1252998000 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => X-Men Origins: Wolverine [picture_created] => 1248877319 [picture_name] => wolverine.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Fox Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2009/07/29/120/wolverine.jpeg [review_url] => https://bluray.highdefdigest.com/1503/xmenoriginswolverine.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2009 [run_time] => 107 [list_price] => 39.99 [asin] => B001GCUO16 [amazon_price] => 27.99 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.35:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => BD-Live [1] => HD Trailers ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => Blu-ray [1] => BD-50 [2] => Region Free ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround Sound [1] => French DTS 5.1 [2] => Spanish DTS 5.1 ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Featurettes [1] => Audio Commentary [2] => Digital Copy ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English [1] => French [2] => Spanish ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Action ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Hugh Jackman [1] => Ryan Reynolds [2] => Liev Schreiber ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Gavin Hood ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Leading up to the events of X-Men, X-Men Origins: Wolverine tells the story of Wolverine’s epically violent and romantic past, his complex relationship with Victor Creed and the ominous Weapon X program. Along the way, Wolverine encounters many mutants, both familiar and new, including surprise appearances by several legends of the X-Men universe whose appearances in the film have long been anticipated. [review_bottom_line] => Recommended [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 92274 [review_movie_stars] => 3 [review_movie] =>

Fox has found an entirely new way to milk the ‘X-Men’ movie franchise to death, by putting out as many origin stories for the characters as they can. The first character to get the ‘Origin’ treatment is Wolverine.

Apprehension set in before watching ‘Wolverine,’ since the catastrophe of 'The Last Stand' was still fresh in my mind. While not as bad as the third X-Men feature, ‘Wolverine’ isn’t nearly as fun or as exciting as the first two films in the series.

The opening credits are reminiscent of those found in ‘Watchmen,’ showing half-brothers Logan (Hugh Jackman) and Victor (Liev Schreiber) fighting in every major war throughout history . While not as artistically pleasing as the 'Watchmen' sequence, it does set up the story rather well for the evolution of Logan and Victor’s relationship. We quickly learn that Victor is blood-thirsty, killing for the fun of it, while Logan on the other hand has a good streak in him, something that keeps him from senselessly killing.

After Logan and Victor fail to die during a firing squad incident in Vietnam, they are recruited by an Army officer named Striker, who knows of their special abilities. Striker soon forms a team of individuals with mutant abilities, but after Logan realizes Striker is merely using the team to further his own interests, he leaves and finds a new life in Canada.

Some of the backstory about Logan becoming Wolverine is pretty interesting, but the movie often skirts those issues for the most part in order to dazzle us with special effect-laden action scenes. Some are quite cool, others are pretty corny. For the amount of special effects used in this movie, it’s astonishing to see some of the poor quality that made it into the film -- When Logan first gets his new metallic claws and looks at them in a mirror, they look so utterly fake it’s hard to believe that after three ‘X-Men’ movies they didn’t just make them look the way they have for the past three films.

Another hindrance is the film's determination to showcase so many other characters, complete with their varied mutant abilities. Every character has his own special scene in which to show us what he can do. It gets tiresome. We want to get in depth information on what makes one of our favorite characters tick, but the film is so wrapped up in showing us what other people can do, that the main story suffers.

For a pure popcorn flick, ‘Wolverine’ is fairly worthy. No thinking is required here, just stick the disc in and turn the brain off, but if you’re looking for something with a bit of substance, you're unlikely to find it here. In the end, learning more about Logan’s past life is fascinating, but the movie is so bogged down, that all the interesting material gets diluted.

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 10379 [review_video] =>

‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’ is an AVC-encoded transfer framed beautifully in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The video presentation is, for the most part, consistently stunning. The movie retains its thin layer of cinematic grain, but it never hampers the picture or distracts the eye. It gives it a great looking cinema feel. The color palette jumps off the screen, as colors are given a vibrant feel here. Blacks seem to have a bit of trouble during the dark shots at the beginning, but otherwise stay consistent throughout. The HD treatment does give plenty of extra clarity to the movie, but it also aids in making some of the special effects appear even more fake. As mentioned above, when Wolverine first sees his metallic claws in a mirror and grinds them together to make sparks, they just look like cruddy 2nd rate animation. The animation isn’t the transfer’s fault, but the precision of the transfer only helps in pointing out the bad effects.

Overall though, this is a fine transfer, not perfect but great enough to warrant showing it off to your friends. Just don’t show them that stupid claw scene.

[review_audio_stars] => 5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 10380 [review_audio] =>

Well, if the video presentation was near perfect, this 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack IS perfect. It’s one of the most engaging soundtracks I’ve listened to on Blu-ray. Every channel is engaged throughout the film. LFE rumbles from the sub. Directionality is spot on. Dialogue is clear. Panning effects work smoothly as helicopters fly by the screen. Explosions rock the room. Yet even the tiniest sounds, like birds chirping or wind blowing, can also be heard clearly through the surround channels. The surrounds also harbor a lot of the film’s music, which adds to the ambience and that engulfing feel Blu-ray watchers crave.

[review_supplements_stars] => 3.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 10381 [review_supplements] =>

  • Audio Commentary - ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’ has two audio commentaries. The first is from director Gavin Hood, who doesn’t do much other than explain what’s happening on the screen and give a few details on shooting. The other commentary is from producers Lauren Shuler Donner and Ralph Winter who provide a bit more of a personable approach to the commentary than Hood does. It always helps to have two people commenting instead of one, because conversations and banter can be had between them. While this commentary is slightly more interesting that Hood’s, it still lacks a bit in trying to keep your attention.
  • The Roots of Wolverine (HD, 16 min) - Stan Lee and comic executive Len Wein talk about how the character of Wolverine has evolved over the years, and how difficult it is to keep up with producing quality material from such an old and storied character.
  • Wolverine Unleashed: The Complete Origins Featurette (HD, 12 min) - This featurette comes across as more promotional fluff than anything else. It features most of the cast and crew discussing in short interviews what it was like working on the film and how difficult it was focusing on just one character.
  • Deleted and Alternate Scenes (HD, 9 min) - Four fairly lengthy deleted or alternate scenes are presented here. One even features a young Storm that walks into view as Logan leaves the village in Africa, it garners some unintentional laughter and was wisely cut. Each of the scenes can be viewed with commentary from director Gavin Hood.
  • Weapon X Mutant Files (HD, 54 min) - Here you can explore the ins and outs of pretty much each mutant featured in the movie. There are also discussions with the actors and what they thought about playing their characters. Ryan Reynolds explaining what it was like to play Wade/Deadpool, is pretty funny. You learn that most of the dialogue that comes out of his mouth in the movie is improvised. Each of these episodes can be watched separately or you can select play all. The 54 minute runtime applies if you play them all back to back.
  • The Thrill of the Chase: The Helicopter Sequence (HD, 6 min) - I’m sure you can figure out what this one is about. The famous helicopter sequence in the movie is glossed over here. How they did it, and the steps it took to film it. Can’t really get much in 6 minutes, but what’s here is fairly interesting.
  • Fox Movie Channel Presents: World Premiere (HD, 6 min) - This is a short featurette that shows what it was like for the world premiere of the movie that was held in Tempe, Arizona. Crazed fans, and beautiful movie stars waving to them. That’s about it.

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 2 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 10382 [review_bonus_content] =>
  • Ultimate X-Mode - This feature allows you to pick from four different U-Control PiP features to play along with the movie. "X-Connect" allows you to see director Gavin Hood and producer Lauren Shuler Donner appear occasionally offering insight into the correlations between this movie and the three other “X-Men” movies. "The Director's Chair" features Gavin Hood explaining at length the different techniques that were used to make the various scenes in the film. It also offers an extensive amount of behind-the-scenes footage. "Pre-Visualization" provides the audience with some crude CGI animation and storyboards of the special effects sequences that were later rendered in post-production. It gives a good idea of what goes into creating effects for the movie. "X-Facts" provides trivia throughout the film.
  • Live Lookup - Did you just spot someone in the movie that you recognize, but can’t quite put your finger on it? Well, as discussed earlier this week, via BD-Live, Live Lookup allows you, to look up actors and their IMDB.com references. It’s broken up by chapter with a picture of each character featured in that chapter. Simply click on their picture and the IMDB.com information will be provided.
  • Fox on Blu-Ray (HD, 3 min) - Only a few HD trailers are included here. One for the ‘X-Men’ trilogy and another for ‘Night at the Museum.’

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

For all the scathing reviews ‘Wolverine’ got, I didn’t think it was half bad. It doesn’t stand up to the first two ‘X-Men’ movies, but it does outdo ‘The Last Stand’ in every way. It’s exciting enough for a casual movie night, but if you’re looking for a more in depth story, you’ll probably be disappointed. Too much focus on the dozens of other mutants in the movie hampers the overall story of Wolverine’s origin. This Blu-ray, however, boasts strong audio and visual presentations that will truly wow HD enthusiasts.

) ) ) ) [September 8, 2009] => Array ( [reviews] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 255 [review_type_id] => 1 [review_slug] => catwoman [review_release_date] => 1252393200 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Catwoman [picture_created] => 1255308473 [picture_name] => 5104czr1xpl_sl500_aa240_.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2009/10/11/120/5104czr1xpl_sl500_aa240_.jpeg [review_url] => https://bluray.highdefdigest.com/255/catwoman.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2004 [run_time] => 104 [list_price] => 28.95 [asin] => B0021L9ME6 [amazon_price] => 20.49 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.35:1 ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => Blu-ray [1] => BD25 Single Layer Disc [2] => Region Free ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 [1] => French Dolby Digital 5.1 [2] => Portuguese Dolby Digital Stereo ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Featurettes [1] => Deleted Scenes [2] => Theatrical Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French [2] => Spanish [3] => Portuguese ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Comic Book ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Halle Berry [1] => Sharon Stone [2] => Benjamin Bratt ) [preview_technology_specifications] => • Featurettes
• Deleted Scenes
• Theatrical Trailer [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [review_bottom_line] => One to Avoid [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 94647 [review_movie_stars] => 0 [review_movie] =>

I, Nate Boss, do solemnly swear to resist making cat references in this review. I will not call the film the equivalent of a turd in a litter box. I won't say meow, not even once. Nothing will be called purr-fect. If anything, by the time I'm finished talking about 'Catwoman,' I'll have PETA sending buckets of blood my way, and I'm fine with that. Rather than be "clever" with cat analogies, brutal honesty will be the way to go.

A burlap sack and a river, that's the kind of treatment 'Catwoman' deserves. With all the big dogs in the yard, all dominated by super masculine men with rippling muscles and amazing powers dominating the superhero genre, they are the river that is raring to drown this mangy screaming animal in the bag. Comics rarely have a female heroine/anti-heroine leading the magazine, as they're often found in superhero teams, and it seems that Hollywood doesn't take super-heroines seriously, either, as they are now 0 for 2 in this regard, with 'Catwoman' and 'Elektra' showing that plot isn't as important to some as scripts full of puns and overt sexuality.

Patience Phillips (Halle Berry) is your typical good hearted but timid under-appreciated artist working for the big corporation, until she overhears the wrong information about the company's new product, and is snuffed by a really big pipe full of water. Or so they thought.

Patience washes up on an island full of felines, and is reborn with the spirit of the cats. Now, Patience hates dogs, loves catnip and sushi, is nimble, and possesses super agility and stealth. Donning a kinky leather outfit, she becomes the Catwoman, and searches out the reasons for her newfound powers, leading her to a confrontation with former model Laurel Hedare (Sharon Stone), all while toeing the line to not have her identity revealed, least of all by boyfriend/detective Tom Lone (Benjamin Bratt).

Disaster! I don't know how the film could be any worse. Berry is a disaster in the role (which earned her a Razzie award for worst actress, where she admitted how God awful the film was), laying down an odd mixture of timidness and self-assuredness, a conflicted mess that is complemented by a throng of 'Batman and Robin' level awful puns around every turn. Imagine a high school "actor" playing two roles with polar opposite personalities and you know what to expect from the Oscar winning actress here. The film wants to portray Patience/Catwoman in a sexy manner, with the super skimpy leather outfit, with multiple close quarters confrontations that border on a "rubbing" fetish. She'd honestly be much sexier if she just shut up, as every word out of her mouth is likely to induce self mutilation, which may be less painful.

Good taste is assaulted around every corner. From cat shamans with magical cat breath, to Berry rubbing up on catnip (seriously, catnip), an awkward/horrendous basketball "match" showing off her new talents, and perhaps the worst late '90's/early 00's cliche in the books: the internet search montage, there is bad scene after bad scene after worse scene that is insulting at the very least. Let's not forget the portrayal of spousal abuse in the film, played in a serious manner with Laurel being slapped by her husband George (Lambert Wilson), that reveals Laurel's powers that have been infused by her Beau-line chemicals. No matter how disgustingly awful Sharon Stone has been in film for the last decade, especially this film, I hardly think a slap to the face is justified!

The direction, by one name wonder Pitof, is epic in its ineptitude. I often wondered how many takes each scene had, considering how bad the product on screen is. The camerawork is poor, with an excessive number of swooping movements that quickly become incredibly annoying. Why did Warner Brothers even bother releasing this film? Did they never watch the dailies? There had to have been terrible test screenings results, and bad studio reception. Perhaps face had to be saved, as this film cost the studio an estimated nine digits, and at least some recoup was necessary for heads to not roll. I'd like to believe that had Warner destroyed 'Catwoman' before it hit theaters that world peace would have broken out, famine defeated, and disease cured.

Vital Stats

'Catwoman' arrives on a BD25 Single Layer disc with a bit of hilarious controversy, as it seems Warner Bros conveniently "forgot" to put the name of the film on the spine of the packaging. Could they be ashamed of the product, or are they being great wingmen by not embarrassing those who do buy the film? This is most certainly a first pressing error (that will be of no collecting value, really) to be corrected on newer pressings, but damn if it isn't funny.

[review_video_stars] => 2.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 10777 [review_video] =>

'Catwoman' the film may be an utter waste of time, energy, money, shelf space, store space, plastic, paper, and the Blu-ray disc it was pressed on, but how does it look? Well, the VC-1 encode (at 1080p) is less than stellar.

Detail can be strong, and the picture sports a nice bit of 3D pop. Colors are strong, possibly too damn strong, excessively oversaturated to the point that some give off a soft glow. The sequences that zoom in terms of time lapsed look fantastic, with great color pop and superb minute detail.

Artifacts are visible in darker shots in the opening sequence (you know, the one detailing cats in history), and most darker shots in the film have quite a bit of these nice blocks showing compression issues. The cat rebirth scene, on cat island, is one of the worst when it comes to these issues.

Perhaps listing all the issues with this transfer would be easier to do with a checklist. Edge enhancement? Present and accounted for, and it's not hard to spot. Delineation? Utterly terrible, with numerous scenes sucking all detail from around them into the abyss. Skin tones? Constantly orange or yellow, rarely accurate and natural. DNR? That's not DNR...New Line applied a layer of Beau-line to the transfer (in other words, yes, things look a bit tampered with, kinda waxy and unnatural). Digital Noise? It comes on in onslaughts. The coup de grâce? In the climactic final battle between bad actresses, teeth shine green, glowing more than the rest of the scene. It's seriously gross.

[review_audio_stars] => 3.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 10778 [review_audio] =>

No matter what, some part of this Blu-ray would have had to score higher than others, and therefore be considered the highlight of the release. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track that defaults when the film plays (after all, this is a Warner/New Line release, there's no main menu prompt) gets to take a bow by default, despite not being all that amazing.

Dialogue comes through clear, with nary a word being too low or soft to be heard, not that hearing every line of 'Catwoman' is a good thing. Honestly, it's worth considering dropping the score just for having to hear every line of this tortuous film. Patience's office is full of random ambiance and activity through every speaker, a pleasant surprise that doesn't feel forced or unnatural.

There's the occasional bit of localized sound that is soft and understated, though utilization of this effect, or movement, can be sparse at best. Bass levels were impressive, with some nice hints in the score and atmosphere, and nearly every impact in fight sequences, along with a strong rumble coming from shotgun fire in the jewelry store robbery. However, gunshots in the very same sequence were flat and had no punch whatsoever. Gunfire doesn't impress when it comes to speaker location, either. Annoyingly, the background noise, which is meant to make the film seem to be in a busy city, can overpower sequences at times, often rivaling the action.

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

While 'Catwoman' isn't that old a film, this set of extras sure does feel aged beyond belief. The fact that everything is in SD also doesn't help.

  • The Many Faces of Catwoman (SD, 29 min) - Hosted by the late Eartha Kitt. From Golden Age comic print to Halle Berry, and everything in between, we get a look at the many incarnations of the Catwoman. I laughed when the women were rolling off qualities of the character, then it cuts to men giving blurbs. It was hilarious, just bad timing. Comic luminaries and film crew discuss their thoughts of the character from her days in print to film, her character motivations, fashion senses (she can afford to adapt daily, with her loot), and the casting of the role over time. A fun look through history, better than the film. That isn't saying much, but hey.
  • HBO First Look: Behind the Scenes (SD, 13 min) - Actors give their thoughts on their characters and the inspirations (ahem) that drive them. Not a good feature, really. This isn't that old a feature, but it sure feels like it.
  • Animated Short: Chase Me (SD, 6 min) - Holy aliasing, shimmering, and jagged as hell lines, Batman! This short is neat, full of excessive mood, no dialogue, just action. Obviously animated around the same time as the 'Batman: The Animated Series' cartoon, I can't place a finger on if this is from an episode of the series or just a side project, but it's still enjoyable.
  • Additional Scenes (SD, 6 min) - A chase with a junkyard dog (really?), a sex scene, and watching paint dry (an activity more entertaining than watching this "film"). That is what we get in these extra sequences.
  • Trailers (SD) - A theatrical trailer for the film, and a teaser to boot.
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content] =>

There are no high def exclusives.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 2 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 10779 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'Catwoman' belongs in a bonfire rather than on store shelves or in personal collections. The film has no redeeming qualities whatsoever, not even unintentional comedy. This Blu-ray release of one of the worst films ever made sports average video and somewhat solid audio, and a lackluster set of extras. Batman completists may find the need to add this film to their collection, but everyone else needs to resist the cat call and avoid this title for their own good.

) ) [1] => Array ( [review_id] => 2517 [review_type_id] => 1 [review_slug] => crank2 [review_release_date] => 1252393200 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Crank 2: High Voltage [picture_created] => 1248882007 [picture_name] => crank-2.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Lionsgate [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2009/07/29/120/crank-2.jpeg [review_url] => https://bluray.highdefdigest.com/2517/crank2.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2009 [run_time] => 96 [list_price] => 39.99 [asin] => B002DYYGNS [amazon_price] => 27.99 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => Blu-ray [1] => BD-50 [2] => Two Disc Set ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 [1] => French: Dolby Digital 5.1 ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Crank'd Out Commentary [1] => Directors' Commentary [2] => Making 'Crank 2' [3] => 'Crank 2' Take 2 [4] => Gag Reel [5] => Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => English [2] => Spanish ) [review_bottom_line] => Recommended [review_forum_id] => 91391 [review_movie_stars] => 3 [review_movie] =>

'Crank 2: High Voltage' starts right where the original 'Crank' left off - with double-crossed hitman Chev Chelios (Jason Statham), poisoned by a potent Chinese toxin, falling out of a helicopter, bouncing off a car, and landing in the middle of the road, bleeding out of his eyes.

Of course, this being the turbo-charged, anything goes (even if it doesn't make a lick of sense) world of 'Crank,' Chelios' body is scooped by some Asian gangsters, transported to a filthy operating room and his heart is removed, and then replaced by a plastic model. So, whereas the first film was about Chelios getting poisoned and having to maintain a high level of adrenaline throughout the day, the sequel is about him having to maintain an electrical charge until he finds his heart and gets it replaced (just in time for 'Crank 3,' pithy subtitle forthcoming). Throughout his journey he meets up with a number of characters from the first film while trying to sort out why every gangster in Los Angeles wants to kill him and retrieve his stolen heart. In Joseph Campbell's words, the hero's journey (yeah right).

For those of you who saw the original 'Crank,' it's more of the same, er, cranked up to about a thousand, except with just as little story. Chev must travel around Los Angeles, looking for new ways to get shocked, outrunning (and outgunning) everyone else. If anything, his new adventures are even more outrageous than the first time, and even more offensive. For those who never saw 'Crank,' the writer-directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor throw every flashy music video technique at the screen, regardless of what sticks. In addition, there aren't characters so much as caricatures (sadly, David Carradine, in one of his last on-screen performances, plays a crass Chinese stereotype), and this film, even more so than the first, drifts into a kind of listless surrealism.

Clearly, the filmmakers understand how little story is going around, and they have stretched it to the breaking point. At various times in 'Crank 2' the main storyline diverges into a Toho-style giant monster battle and a 1970's talk show (among other things). While the movie moves along briskly (like a lightning bolt, really), the lack of content is more deeply felt this time around and the movie suffers from a case of the same-old, same-olds. This really is just the first movie, with a larger emphasis on pointless craziness, and by the end of it, the joke feels very, very thin.

Plus, for all the great, crazy-ass stuff they throw on screen that works, there's also a fair amount that doesn't. One character has "full body turrets," which is a joke that goes nowhere, and of course is repeated a thousand times over. Another character, played by Bi Ling, is basically the 21st century version of Short Round from 'Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom' - all screeching and 'me so sorry'. I'm not the morality police here, but even I was a little offended, not by the buckets of blood and tons of nudity, but by the film's out of control racial stereotyping.

Yet for all the pointless tangents, 'Crank 2' is still entertaining. There's really no other way to describe or intellectualize it.

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 10118 [review_video] =>

The 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 (1.85:1 aspect ratio) on this 50GB disc is actually fairly stunning, which is sort of a surprise given how the film was put together.

To explain: the directors had to bring 'Crank 2' in on a reduced budget, and they wanted to get all sorts of crazy angles, so their solution was to shoot the movie on consumer grade digital cameras (camcorders, essentially, like the kind you use to document your child's soccer game, ranging from $1000 to $3000). They employed a whole fleet of these cameras, sometimes tossing them between each other to make the shot. If they were wrecked, who cares? It didn't cost them anything.

So, here's the rundown: detail is exceptionally good (as you'd hope), with textures and patterns really standing out; colors are rich and vibrant; skin tones look great; and blacks (what little there are - this baby is shot in the harsh light of day) are deep and dark. Motion looks good for the most part, even when it's super-shaky (there are scenes where the camera is being shaken by the beating of the photographer's heart), although there are a number of technical issues that pop up and try to ruin the fun.

There are instances of aliasing, there are a few jagged edges, and in the 1970's talk show section there seems to be a burnt-out pixel or something (it had me thinking my set had a problem, mercifully that wasn't the case). But honestly, these are minor quibbles that don't detract from the exceptional quality of the image, and can all but be forgiven due to the way they filmed the movie. For what it is and how they shot it, this is outrageously awesome-looking.

[review_audio_stars] => 5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 10119 [review_audio] =>

Equally awesome is the nearly reference-quality DTS-HD MA 7.1 lossless soundtrack. Sit back, turn it up, and have your hair blown back by this wonderful presentation.

With a movie as loud and aggressive as this, in which every edit, camera zoom, and title card carries with it the thunderous woosh that used to be reserved solely for James Cameron movies, it could have been just overwhelmingly noisy. There's a difference between a mix being loud and it being good.

Thankfully, that's not an issue with this mix.

While atmospheric effects like explosions and the crunching of glass pop with dramatic intensity, and the soundtrack chugs healthily along, everything is so well-calibrated in the 7.1 sound field that nothing is shortchanged, and everything is dynamic. Dialogue, which mostly consists of shouting and F-bombs, remains crisp and easy-to-understand in even the most chaotic scenes, and subtle shifts in the soundtrack, like when it goes from the action scene to the Toho-style monster beat down, add another level of fun.

This is a mix that you can invite all your closest friends over for, crank the volume up until it can't go any further, and just listen in awe. If you don't know what kind of movie this is by now, and how a 7.1 really brings that level of nonstop outrageousness to life, then you haven't been paying attention. To briefly recap, 7.1 has rarely been used this muscularly or effectively. Well done, Lionsgate. This is an exemplary track.

Also included in the audio package is a French Dolby Digital 5.1 track and subtitles in English SDH, English, and Spanish.

[review_supplements_stars] => 3 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 10120 [review_supplements] =>

A couple of notes: First off, there is a digital copy included on a separate DVD. Where you'd be watching this, portably and in public, I'm not sure. Try viewing this on a crowded train or airplane and watch people around you pass out from the outrageousness. Also, on the main page of the menu is a sort of widget that has the time, the current temperature, and a "news" ticker that really just relates to other Lionsgate titles. The first time I popped in the disc, part of the ticker was a quote from the High Def Digest review of 'Transporter 3,' (we rock!) declaring its audio mix second-to-none (or something to that affect). Just thought that was funny. Anyway, you can access this feature while you're watching the movie, so if you want to know the time, are curious about the temperature, or are dying to hear something from the latest Lionsgate press release, this is the feature you've been waiting for!

  • Crank'd Out Commentary This "crank'd out commentary" (that's a pretty dumb name) comes in two flavors - High Voltage Mode, or Traditional Mode. The only real difference is, since this is a nifty picture-in-picture option, which takes up more of the screen - the directors, or the movie. So either the directors will take up the frame with a little box containing the movie - that'd be High Voltage Mode; or the movie takes up the frame with the directors in the little box, that'd be Traditional Mode. While this is a really interesting way to do a commentary, a lot of times the directors Neveldine and Taylor just sort of stare ahead and describe what's going on on-camera. Occasionally, it'll cut away from them to explore some aspect of the production, which is much more interesting. Also, and you'll notice this throughout the disc, the directors are always drinking. I don't mean to sound like a prude but it would be fun if there was some level of professionalism with these jokers. Overall, it's a very worthwhile watch, not quite as slick and polished as the "Maximum Movie Mode" from 'Watchmen,' but it does fit with the 'Crank 2' aesthetic of down-and-dirty, slapdash fun.
  • Directors' Commentary This is the same commentary from the "Crank'd Out" version, except audio only. Why this is even included is kind of beyond me. If given the option, opt for the "Crank'd Out" version.
  • Making of 'Crank 2' (HD, 51:32) You can split this lengthy documentary into two parts, but I watched it all in one go, and was fairly impressed. While the directors Neveldine and Taylor, take center stage and guide the documentary (while drinking), it also features interviews with much of the cast and crew. Of particular interest, of course, is how they shot the film with the little cameras, and there's a great little section where they talk about how the paparazzi were a huge pain in the ass. What's sort of disappointing is that they don't acknowledge the contribution of Mike Patton, former member of Faith No More, who contributed the propulsive musical score.
  • 'Crank 2' Take 2 (HD, 4:03) This is really interesting, but takes away from any kind of "magic" that the movie might have held for you. Due to the condensed shooting schedule and the multiple cameras, there were some goof-ups. This brief feature shows you where all those screw-ups are (reflections of lights in sunglasses, second unit shoots going on in the background of the frame, lots of cameras in the shot), even though as part of the larger documentary, the visual effects supervisor talks about all the work he did to remove cameras from certain shots. Clearly, he didn't do his work well enough.
  • Gag Reel (HD, 2:00) This is a gag real that, while mildly entertaining, was clearly something they showed at the wrap party so people involved with the shoot could be like "Oh look at how goofy so-and-so is!" This is easily the most skippable extra.
  • Trailer (HD, 2:32) The only thing exceptional about this is the length - almost three minutes to get people pumped about 'Crank 2?' I'm honestly shocked that there was three "clean" minutes that they could use for a trailer in the entire movie.

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 1 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 10121 [review_bonus_content] =>

Aside from the previously discussed picture-in-picture commentary detailed above, the only other extra for this set is the digital copy

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

'Crank 2' is an outrageous, in-your-face action movie that keeps things lively and doesn't take itself too seriously. If you're a fan of the first film, you'll probably find this enjoyable, even if the shtick runs a bit thin and there are too many iffy tangents to work as a cohesive whole. Still, you've got to give the directors credit - with a miniscule budget and a small arsenal of consumer-grade digital cameras, they've made a movie more exciting than most Hollywood mega-blockbusters. With exemplary audio and video and a nice collection of special features, this is recommended. As with most rollercoasters, it'll come with some caveats: if you have a known heart condition or are with small children, get out of line now.

) ) [2] => Array ( [review_id] => 2406 [review_type_id] => 1 [review_slug] => creepshow [review_release_date] => 1252393200 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Creepshow [picture_created] => 1242339670 [picture_name] => creepshow.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Video [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2009/05/14/120/creepshow.jpeg [review_url] => https://bluray.highdefdigest.com/2406/creepshow.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1982 [run_time] => 120 [list_price] => 28.95 [asin] => B0021L9MJG [amazon_price] => 20.49 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => Blu-ray [1] => BD-25 Single-Layer Disc [2] => Region A ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Surround ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Theatrical Trailer ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Horror ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Hal Holbrook [1] => Adrienne Barbeau [2] => Stephen King [3] => E.G. Marshall ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => George A. Romero ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Two macabre masters - writer Stephen King and director George A. Romero - conjure up five shocking yarns, each a virtuoso exercise in the ghouls-and gags style of classic '50s horror comics. A murdered man emerges from the grave for Father's Day cake. A meteor's ooze makes everything...grow. A professor selects his wife as a snack for a crated creature. A scheming husband plants two lovers up to their necks in terror. A malevolent millionaire with an insect phobia becomes the prey of a cockroach army. Add the spirited performances of a fine cast (Hal Holbrook, Adrienne Barbeau, Leslie Nielsen, Ted Danson, E.G. Marshall and King himself) and the ghoulish makeup wizardry of Tom Savini. Let the Creepshow begin! [preview_technology_specifications] => • Theatrical Trailer [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [review_bottom_line] => Worth a Look [review_forum_id] => 91908 [review_movie_stars] => 4 [review_movie] =>

At its heart, the horror-comedy anthology 'Creepshow' is a celebration and homage to the E.C. horror comics of the 1950s, such as Tales from the Crypt, The Vault of Horror and The Haunt of Fear. Bringing together two of the best-known names in the genre, George A. Romero and Stephen King, this sleeper hit from 1982 went on to spawn a sequel from a screenplay by Romero, revived interest in horror-themed comics, and made possible two television shows which followed in the same spirit, called "Tales from the Darkside" and "Monsters". The deliberately campy and kitschy movie remains a popular feature amongst fans of the genre, serving just the right ingredients of dark humor and elemental cynicism.

Weaving together five creepy tales written by King, the movie opens with a young boy (the famed author's real-life son Joe King) being punished by his abusive father for reading a horror comic. A sudden thunderstorm approaches and a howling wind picks up, rifling through the discarded comic. As the pages of the macabre book turn, the camera pushes in to reveal the first story about a deceased family patriarch exacting vengeance upon his murderous daughter Bedelia on Father's Day. That's followed by a story involving a backwoods hick engulfed by a strange plant growth from a meteor. The next is another anecdote of beyond-the-grave revenge as a husband is killed by the reanimated corpses of his cheating wife and her lover. The final two segments see a university professor use a ferocious, ancient creature locked in a crate to rid himself of his emotionally abusive wife and another in which a Howard Hughes-like business man is literally consumed by his Mysophobia. Coming full circle, the boy finally gets back at his father.

Part of what makes the film such an entertaining watch is the seriousness with which the cast members indulge their characters, of knowing just how much humanity and silliness to add to their respective roles before going over the top. These people are, after all, simple cartoon parodies, so there's plenty of room for absurdity. As with Stephen King's Jordy Verrill, a laughable performance that keeps you smiling until the grisly finale, or a young Ted Danson as the home-wrecking playboy who loses a battle of the wits to his lover's husband. Even veteran actors, Hal Holbrook and Leslie Nielson, join in on the fun as two older men only wanting to liberate themselves from those who do them wrong. But its Adrienne Barbeau's performance -- as a vicious, alcoholic wife to a demoralized and emasculated husband, who in the end, is confronted by a creature much like herself and with the same rabid mouth -- that remains memorable.

It's clear from the get-go that Romero and King approach the material with childhood abandonment and admiration for the morbid, and of the E.C. horror comics they both grew up reading as children. They spin each yarn with characters we can like and despise all at once, and with severe flaws that prove fatal. Harking back to those classic tales, their comeuppance is served on a dead, cold platter of devilish amusement and satisfaction, requiring at least a small wicked sense of humor from the audience. Be warned: poetic justice has never been so juicy, or so ghastly, as it is in these short morality plays. The caricatures of 'Creepshow' all deserve what's coming to them, including poor old Jordy Verrill, and the gruesome always tags along with the comical. Although. The Ed Harris character does seem like the odd-man out. Oh, well, it's all part of the dreadful entertainment.

The film's visuals continue the love and appreciation, with every segment commencing and ending as if culled directly from the panels of a comic book. Signaled by the use of bright colors -- chiefly reds, blues and greens -- the transition between creepy tales keeps everything amusing and easygoing. And with special make-up effects by Tom Savini, 'Creepshow' is a fun way of spending those dark, stormy nights indoors. As rumors circulate of a possible remake in the near future, horror fans ought to enjoy this classic from two masters of the genre, which made possible the reanimation of the Crypt Keeper and his weekly one-hour program of spooky stories.

[review_video_stars] => 3.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 10253 [review_video] =>

Considering its age and visual style, Warner Bros. has done a pretty good job preserving the original master, as it doesn't appear to suffer too much damage. Framed in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the VC-1 encode looks rather excellent when compared to its standard definition counterpart, giving fans the best video presentation of the horror flick available.

A thin layer of film grain unobtrusively permeates the picture, for an attractive cinematic quality. Primaries receive the biggest upgrade, looking vibrant and full-bodied, while secondary hues are cleanly and correctly rendered. Contrast and brightness levels offer plenty of visible clarity and deep, true blacks, with a surprisingly pleasant depth of field. Delineation in the shadows is equally strong, and flesh tones appear natural with nice texture, especially in close-ups.

Detailing is also noticeably improved and consistent for the most part, particularly in outdoor and well-lit scenes. The image does tend to soften during those special effects sequences which reflect the movie's comic book styling. Despite these few drawbacks, as well as the occasional specks of dirt and scratches, 'Creepshow' has never looked as good as it does on Blu-ray.

[review_audio_stars] => 3.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 10254 [review_audio] =>

Although the package indicates Dolby TrueHD 2.0, this has to be one of the best hi-rez stereo presentations I've ever heard. Faithful to the movie's original sound design, the lossless track is evenly balanced within the soundstage, exhibiting wonderful, spacious presence and cleanly rendered dynamics. The well-prioritized vocals are accompanied by discrete effects in the front channels and convincingly heard off-screen. The mix doesn't have much bass to speak of, but for the few times it's required, low frequencies provide decent weight to the action. The real surprise is the flick's musical score, which lends itself nicely into the background and creates an engagingly entertaining soundtrack for a fun movie.

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

Unfortunately, for the "hardcore" fans of this Romero/King classic, American audiences are once again hoodwinked into purchasing a subpar package of supplements. Looks like the UK 2-disc Special Edition still reigns supreme in terms of bonus features, what with its commentary track by Romero, behind-the-scenes footage, deleted scenes, and the very excellent 90-minute documentary entitled "Just Desserts: The Making of 'Creepshow'". Sadly, the folks on this side of the pond are merely given a standard definition trailer for the movie. No, fair, humph!

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 10255 [review_bonus_content] =>

If they didn't bother with any special features, why would they go out of their way to provide exclusive material.

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

Two masters of the macabre, Stephen King and George A. Romero, joined forces to bring fans five jolting tales of terror in what became the surprise sleeper hit of 1982. 'Creepshow' is a ghoulish comedy anthology celebrating the classic E.C. horror comics of the 1950s and its popularity made possible the emergence of TV shows in the same spirit, "Tales from the Darkside" and "Tales from the Crypt". This Blu-ray edition of the movie arrives with a nicely improved audio and video presentation, but a very disappointing package of supplements. While fans will want to make the jump to this hi-def upgrade, newcomers should give this horror-favorite a rent for a fun, spooky night.

All disc reviews at High-Def DVD Digest are completed using the best consumer HD home theater products currently on the market. More about our gear.

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.

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'Friday' is a "hood film" that refuses to give in to the typical rules of the subgenre, instead bringing the lighter side of neighborhood life to the big screen. It's more of a buddy comedy with a slacker twist, revealing the oddball and eccentric characters who reside in the neighborhoods of South Central. Written by Ice Cube, famed rapper from N.W.A, with long-time friend DJ Pooh, the film is an inventively hilarious ensemble piece that works as a sharp contrast to movies with negative and often violent stereotypes of inner-city life. Growing up in the streets of Los Angeles is hard enough without every other movie serving as a reminder, so 'Friday' aims to entertain its audience rather than highlight some of the setting's frequently covered troubles.

Recently fired Craig (Ice Cube) wakes up one Friday morning to find everyone in his family hassling him for managing to lose his job while on his day off. To make matters worse, his father (John Witherspoon) warns him of the consequences of not finding a new job soon. It's one of the funnier and grosser scenes, as fatherly advice comes by way of loud gastro-grunts and an aerosol air freshener, while he tells Craig to follow in his footsteps as a dog catcher. Sound effects reinforce the nauseating discussion, while dry-heaves accompany the laughter. The entire sequence conjures a traumatic image which foreshadows the raunchy toilet humor throughout the film.

It's surprisingly well balanced, however, with a fairly strong subplot about surviving the neighborhood amidst all the violence and drugs, as revealed by the father's more astute observations once out of the bathroom. And Ice Cube, in his first comedic role, performs admirably as a young man still searching for himself and his place in life, while trying to stay out of trouble. Unfortunately, and thanks in large part to his best friend Smokey (Chris Tucker) -- a character all too appropriately named -- the violence seems to find him. Through an act of guilt by association, Craig is involved in repaying a debt to local drug dealer Big Worm (Faizon Love), who also works part-time as an ice-cream dealer.

The remainder of 'Friday' is spent then figuring out ways of producing the money, meanwhile the two friends sit on the front porch and watch the comings and goings of the neighborhood. And this is where the real brilliance of the script comes through and the direction of F. Gary Gray, making his feature-length debut, keeps the narrative engaging and amusing. With the use of satirical and goofy comedy, the filmmakers subtly and skillfully deliver a social commentary on street life without feeling heavy-handed or forced. Just because the violence feels inescapable doesn't mean one has to succumb to it. Ultimately, Craig realizes that no matter the circumstance, there's always a choice.

Bringing the entire picture together is a great cast of characters. Developing a twitch after unknowingly smoking PCP, Chris Tucker's performance, of course, garners the most consideration, as he is the wildest and loudest of them all. But the bulking mass and former WWF adversary to Hulk Hogan, Tommy Lister, Jr., deserves an equal share of the attention as the neighborhood bully. Though on screen for a very short time, Bernie Mac as the clandestine Pastor is as memorable as they come. And anchoring the zaniness is the beautiful Nia Long, serving not only as the love interest but also to counterbalance the numerous depictions of women as sexual objects.

The Blu-ray release arrives as a Director's Cut, with an extra six minutes of footage. Fans are likely to notice the new additions, while those watching it for the first will be too busy laughing to even care. In either case, the film isn't greatly hindered by any of it and remains just as hilarious as ever. 'Friday' is an excellent comedy with positive intentions, portraying the hood with a genuine heart.

[review_video_stars] => 3.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 10465 [review_video] =>

On DVD, 'Friday' never received the love it really deserved. That's not to say it looked terrible, but it never appeared all that good either. Arriving on Blu-ray as a Deluxe Edition, the 1080p/VC-1 transfer (1.85:1) finally gives the Ice Cube cult favorite the video treatment it's worthy of, with a comfortably bright and nicely detailed picture.

A thin veneer of grain coats the movie throughout and furnishes the presentation with a welcomed filmic quality. Granted, there are several occurrences of poor resolution, particularly in interiors scenes, but exterior shots fare much better, as facial complexions are rendered naturally and show great textures in close-up. Blacks are solid, and contrast is well-balanced, providing the image some decent depth and plenty of visibility in the shadows. There are also some minor, even negligible, instances of black crush, but nothing that completely takes away from the film's enjoyment. The color palette clearly benefits from the upgrade, exhibiting rich saturation and vivid hues. Overall, 'Friday' has held up well over the years and looks good on Blu-ray.

[review_audio_stars] => 4 [review_audio_picture_id] => 10466 [review_audio] =>

Warner/New Line releases the comedy hit with a surprisingly energetic Dolby TrueHD soundtrack, exhibiting excellent channel separation and convincing movement throughout the soundfield. This new track feels broad and inviting, creating a fresh take on the film's original design. As dialogue reproduction conveys clear, sharp vocals, the rest of the soundstage delivers a great deal of clarity and definition, with a satisfyingly precise mid-range. For a comedy, the surround speakers are highly active, filling the room with great atmospheric effects of the streets and a thumping low-bass for the musical tracks. At times, the mix can seem a bit artificial, but engineers have done a nice job of incorporating the various sounds well, offering fans an engaging and enjoyable lossless option.

[review_supplements_stars] => 2.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 10467 [review_supplements] =>

For this Blu-ray Deluxe Edition, arriving simultaneously with the new DVD, Warner Bros./New Line offers a healthy amount of bonus material. Though nothing exclusive to the high-def format, it's an acceptable set of supplements.

  • Introduction by Ice Cube (SD, 1 min) - Exactly as it sounds, Ice Cube takes a quick minute to thank the fans and explain the film's target.
  • "'Friday': Straight Up" (HD, 24 min) - This new featurette is an interesting retrospective with interviews of cast and crew discussing the fun time everyone had during the production, as well as the film's reception and its following. It's a fairly good piece that also reminisces on the intentions of the filmmakers and their effort to depict a different kind of hood movie, while staying true to the experiences of inner-city life.
  • Deleted Scenes (SD, 15 min) - The collection of deleted scenes consists mostly of extended versions of character interactions. Many of them have also been reintegrated into this new Director's Cut, so the rest are of little value and not very funny.
  • Music Videos (SD) - Two music videos from 1995 are also carried over from the DVD release. First up is Ice Cube's now-forgotten "Friday", which he collaborated on with DJ Pooh. Second, we have Dr. Dre's still memorable "Keep Their Heads Ringin'".
  • Q&A Interviews(SD, 37 min) - It's always funny how studios break up one featurette to make it look like many. In actuality, this is part of the same thing, where director F. Gary Gray and producer Patricia Charbonnet answer a series of informative questions concerning the production. It's an interesting listen for those wanting to learn more about the movie. Questions can be viewed individually or played in sequential order.
  • Trailers(SD) - Two theatrical previews round out the package of supplements: one "Red Band" and the other for general audiences.
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 10468 [review_bonus_content] =>

Sorry, but Warner Brothers offers nothing exclusive on high-def.

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

At a time when the only films available about inner-city life were often filled with violent and negative portrayals, 'Friday' dared to show that life isn't all bad in the hood. Co-written and starring the famed rapper of N.W.A, Ice Cube, this comedy is a hilarious ensemble piece with a more endearing and positive message. The Blu-ray from Warner Brothers/New Line arrives as a Deluxe Edition with a very good audio video presentation and a nice collection of supplements. Fans looking to upgrade won't be sorely disappointed with this high-definition version.

) ) [7] => Array ( [review_id] => 2456 [review_type_id] => 1 [review_slug] => fringe_s1 [review_release_date] => 1252393200 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Fringe: The Complete First Season [picture_created] => 1243613988 [picture_name] => fringe.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Brothers [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2009/05/29/120/fringe.jpeg [review_url] => https://bluray.highdefdigest.com/2456/fringe_s1.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2009 [run_time] => 1272 [list_price] => 79.98 [asin] => B001MS7IBS [amazon_price] => 55.99 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.78:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => Fringe Pattern Recognition [1] => Audio Commentary ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => Five 50GB Blu-ray Discs ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital 5.1 ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Deciphering the Scene [1] => Casting of Fringe [2] => Roberto Orci's Production Diary [3] => Fringe Visual Effects [4] => Unusual Side Effects [5] => Gene the Cow [6] => The Massive Undertaking [7] => Dissected Files [8] => Evolution: The Genesis of Fringe [9] => Behind the Real Science of Fringe ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH ) [preview_technology_specifications] => - Evolution: The Genesis of Fringe featurette - The creators of the show discuss how the series unfolded and the qualities that make it so unique
- Behind the Real Science of Fringe featurette - From teleportation to re-animation, Fringe incorporates recent discoveries in science. Consulting experts and scientists who are the authorities in their field address the areas of science which are the inspiration for the show. vA Massive Undertaking: The Making of Fringe (on select episodes) - An in-depth exploration of how select episodes came to be made: from the frozen far reaches of shooting the pilot in Toronto, to the weekly challenges of bringing episodes to air
- The Casting of Fringe- The story, as told by producers and cast, of how Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson, John Noble and others came to be cast in the series.
- Fringe Visual Effects featurette - Goes deep into the creation of the shared dream state with some of the biggest VFX shots of the show.
- Dissected Files: Unaired Scenes
- Unusual Side Effects: Gag Reel
- Deciphering the Scene
- Roberto Orci Production Diary
- Gene the Cow montage
- Three Full-Length Commentaries from writers/producers, including J.J. Abrams, Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtman, J.R. Orci, David Goodman, Bryan Burk, Akiva Goldsman and Jeff Pinkner [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => - Fringe Pattern Analysis - Take a closer look at 6 select scenes from Season 1 with experts who dissect each scene with notes, photos, and diagrams. (BD Exclusive)
- BD-Live enabled features include Media Center, My Commentary, and commentary on Season 1 finale episode [review_bottom_line] => Recommended [review_forum_id] => 92106 [review_movie_stars] => 4 [review_movie] =>

Imagine one of your favorite prime time procedurals, one you watch year after year with unflagging loyalty (even though, between you and me, the show has become a repetitive bore). There's usually a team, and week after week they're investigating some kind of ghoulish misdeed. Now, imagine one of the members of that team is mad scientist Dr. Frankenstein… or Jeff Goldblum's deranged Seth Brundle from David Cronenberg's remake of 'The Fly.'

That's sort of what you're getting from Fox's sci-fi series 'Fringe.'

Created by 'Lost'/'Alias'/'Cloverfield' mastermind J.J. Abrams and his frequent partners in crime Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci (who wrote the script for Abrams' recent 'Star Trek' reboot), 'Fringe' borrows a rough template from Fox's other paranormal investigation show, 'The X-Files.' The members that make up the "Fringe Division" investigative team are Olivia Dunham (gorgeous Australian actress Anna Torv), a brilliant young rogue Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson) and his equally brilliant but totally insane father, Walter Bishop (John Noble, equal parts hammy and effective in the aforementioned mad scientist role).

The team is put together by a gruff Homeland Security director (played by 'Lost'/'The Wire's' Lance Riddick) after a particularly gruesome airplane disaster that's depicted in the pilot. It seems there's something going on, a global event codenamed The Pattern. The Pattern is a series of next generation science experiments, except carried out on an unsuspecting public. These incidents are almost always incredibly gooey (lots of monsters, viruses that do horrible things to your body etc.) A link has been made between the Pattern and Walter Bishop, so Bishop is sprung from the funny farm and made a part of the investigation (his son is essential, both in doting over Walter and in getting around some peskier aspects of the law).

As the first season progresses, a larger picture is revealed, and the link between Walter and the events of the Pattern are made more explicitly clear. The larger arc, which involves a terrorist plot that calls for the destruction of humanity through technology, is far more engaging than the day-to-day grotesqueries, but 'Fringe' wisely balances the two, so that one doesn't overwhelm the other (which was ultimately the downfall of once-unstoppable 'The X-Files').

'Fringe' is a construct, with borrowed bits from David Cronenberg's oeuvre (sometimes this is a bit too explicit - there's a direct rip-off of a scene from 'Videodrome'), Ken Russell's 'Altered States,' David Fincher's 'Panic Room' (where it got ideas for the "floating letters" location cards), 'The X-Files,' Rod Serling's immortal 'Twilight Zone,' and (I can't believe nobody's drawn this comparison before - maybe they have somewhere on the Interwebs), Warren Ellis and John Cassady's comic book 'Planetary.' But J.J. has always been this kind of creative force - somebody who puts his favorite bits of popular culture into a blender, hits frappe, and comes up with something completely engaging.

While the first season of 'Fringe' does have a few wobbly moments, most inaugural seasons with this kind of ambition do. (Look no further than the first season of Joss Whedon's masterful 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' to see the definition of 'shaky starts.') It is consistently entertaining, with stellar performances by all the principles and enough gross-out moments to have you squirm in your seat, week after week, even on its more 'off' episodes. And while 'Fringe' doesn't have the heady philosophical quandaries of Fox's other kick-ass sci-fi show this season (Whedon's 'Dollhouse'), it is a whole lot of fun. You'd be hard-pressed to find a more goofily provocative final image in any season all year as you'll find in the last moments of season one.

There's hope that, with its awkward baby-step behind it, season two will be even stronger. Cross your fingers and we may even get an episode written by Darin Morgan, who serves as a consulting producer on 'Fringe' and wrote some of the greatest, most intelligent and hysterical episodes of 'The X-Files' (including the freakshow town-set "Humbug" and the Emmy-winning "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose"). From here on out, 'Fringe' can only get better.

[review_video_stars] => 3.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 10315 [review_video] =>

'Fringe' is a beautiful-looking show and it doesn't look any better than on these 1080 p/VC-1 encoded transfers (1.78: 1 aspect ratio) on five 50GB discs. These discs are also region-free.

Look no further than the extra-long pilot episode, which packs more visual punch than most mainstream Hollywood movies, and involves human beings melting in an airplane, lightning zigzagging across the sky, arctic blasts of snow, a haunted mental institution, make-up and visual effects galore, and a wonderfully dynamic car chase, everything rendered in exceeding clarity.

Detail on these discs is outstanding - from the red brick and rusty machines of Walter's abandoned Harvard lab to the chrome on a bank vault where some inventive thieves are literally walking through the walls. Definition is good, textures look great, skin tones are solid, and all this despite some grain and apparent contrast boosting. These technical issues are minor (there's also some edge enhancement here and there), and never distracting from the overall visual majesty and complexity of the series.

The aforementioned final shot of the season is even more jaw-dropping thanks to this transfer. Just watch it, already!

[review_audio_stars] => 3 [review_audio_picture_id] => 10316 [review_audio] =>

Here's one of two major areas where this 'Fringe' set ultimately disappoints. Greater sticklers will have even more to complain about.

It boils down to this: Warner Brothers has decided to include a strong but far from outstanding Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track instead of a TrueHD track. Now, I know they've rightfully been lambasted for leaving TrueHD tracks off certain films (as was the case with the first go-around for 'Superman Returns' and the otherwise exemplary 'Speed Racer'), but after some minor digging online, it seems to be downright rampant on their Blu-ray television releases. ('Pushing Daisies' is supposedly one of these releases; still waiting for my review copy of season two, I'll keep you posted.)

There are two ways you can think about this: One, that this is an absolute outrage. There are far lesser films that get the TrueHD treatment. Now, this is true. There are some truly miserable movies that studios still deem TrueHD-worthy. And I can understand the desire to have the sound quality meet the video quality. This is especially true if you're going to be paying an extra $10 + for the series on Blu-ray. It doesn't make a lot of sense, really, especially for a wild and wooly show that demands the most dynamic sound system workout possible.

Then there's the other argument which is: Uh, relax, it's just a television show. After getting over your initial disappointment, you'll probably agree that, while it lacks the necessary forcefulness and punch that would have come with a TrueHD track, the 5.1 mix here is still serviceable. Is it great? No. Is it better than when you were watching the show on broadcast TV, on Hulu, or on some iffy Chinese bootleg site? Yes. Yes it is.

A nice level of atmosphere is constant throughout, thanks to some very workmanlike surround work, and while there is added oomph given to scenes of extreme terror (like the pilot's plane sequence and another where a man transforms into a spiky monster) and dialogue is always crisp and clear, it is far from the level of excellence that you would have gotten had the track actually been lossless. While watching certain scenes, like the sequence where a man, chased by razor-sharp butterflies, jumps out of a high rise window, would have really sparkled in TrueHD, here it lands with a whimper instead of a bang.

So where do I stand? Well, somewhere in between. The audio is a definite disappointment, but it is only a television show. I guess it's just hard to reconcile that it's a television show on Blu-ray, so there really are no excuses. Just working this out makes me even more disappointed.

There are also English SDH subtitles.

[review_supplements_stars] => 2 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 0 [review_supplements] =>

Major area of disappointment 2: The extras. This is twofold: One, there is only one special feature that is both in HD and exclusive to this set. The rest is in standard definition, even though on the back of the box it says, in bold typeface: "Special Features in High Definition." Except that, you know, they aren’t. Except for one. (The other Blu-ray exclusive is a writers' commentary track on the final episode, accessible via BD-Live, for some damn reason.) So, there's one aspect of the disappointment.

The second area of contention is with the special features themselves, content-wise. Anyone who watched the series knows that there are a series of hidden clues, which are dispersed throughout the episodes. While airing on television, commercial breaks were marked by a few seconds of these strange symbols (the producers call them "glyphs"), which spell out words. Recently, the code was cracked, but it would have been nice to know what, exactly, they were getting at with these words and if they'll continue for future seasons. I'm not asking for an explanation, but I just want a little bit of information - how they came to be, whose idea it was to create the code, etc.

Ditto, there are visual clues in each episode that relate to the next episode. For example, there's a butterfly sticker on a newspaper dispenser, in the episode BEFORE the episode where the guy is attacked by butterflies. This is also not addressed, anywhere, on the special features. There's a character called The Observer (played by Michael Cerveris) that shows up before particularly explosive Pattern events. Sometimes his appearance is subtle, sometimes its more blatant, but he's there in every episode and it's been like "Where's Waldo?" trying to spot him. That would have been another nice piece, especially since the Fox marketing department dropped him into other Fox shows, like 'American Idol' (I kid you not).

There's just so much missed opportunity on here. It's such a shame. I went on the 'Fringe' website recently and that had much better features than anything on the Blu-ray, including rundowns of Observer appearances, and the producers talking about the mythology, the finale, and what further seasons have in store for us.

Instead, we get a bunch of tiny features (my notebook looked like a mad scientist's journal by the time I got through all five discs), all between one and five minutes, which end up being repetitive and not much fun and focusing almost exclusively on the technical aspects of the show, without delving into its extreme weirdness or mythology.

In the section that follows, I'll rundown the groups of special features, as well as the individual features. If I went through everything bit by bit, we'd both be here all night. (This is definitely a case of quantity over quality.)

  • Audio Commentaries There are three audio commentaries on the discs and one available through BD-Live. On the super-sized pilot episode, we get commentary from series creators J.J. Abrams, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman. This easily the best commentary of the bunch, with Abrams keeping things light and informative, and his cohorts are engaging as well. They talk about what inspired them, how the show came to be, and are nice and honest about what problems they faced, both production-wise and tonally. The next commentary is by J.R. Orci (Roberto's brother and a writer on 'Fringe'), writer David Goodman and executive producer Bryan Burk for the episode "The Ghost Network," which is one of the awkward first episodes and involves psychic visions and people getting trapped in an amber like liquid while riding the bus to work. (That'd be the worst!) This commentary is far jokier and less focused than Abrams & Co.'s, but it's still fun to listen to, with everyone freely admitting that the first few episodes were far from the best. On the other side of things, we have a commentary by writer-director Akiva Goldsman (who won an Oscar for his script for the odious 'Beautiful Mind') and executive producer Jeff Pinker for late-season episode "Bad Dreams." That track goes into the mythology more, and how the series was shaped by the time the episode aired. Ditto the BD-Live accessible commentary track for the final episode, "There's More than One of Everything," with writers Jeff Pinkner, J.R. Orci, Akiva Goldsman, and Bryan Burk.
  • Deciphering the Scene (SD, less than 2 minutes each) These are located on each discs, attached to every episode, and they basically very briefly discuss one element of the show - a spectacular car chase, a particularly difficult make-up effect, etc. These are too short and offer no real insight, and with a name like "Deciphering the Scene" you'd think they'd pick apart something in the actual narrative, not just present some boring behind-the-scenes footage. You'd be wrong.
  • Dissected Files (SD, usually less than 2 minutes each) "Dissected files" is 'Fringe' speak for 'deleted scenes.' Again, these are spread across all discs and are very, very short. Nothing incredibly revelatory is here, although there are occasionally nice character beats that we cut due to pacing. Since 'Fringe' is actually longer than most network shows, with shorter commercial interruptions, it probably explains why the deleted scenes are so short.
  • The Massive Undertaking (SD, usually around 15 minutes) This feature isn't present on all episodes, but there is at least one on each disc, and basically it's a longer version of the 'Deciphering the Scene' feature, just taking a look at a logistically challenging aspect of the production, in greater detail. Again, while it is mildly interesting, it tells us nothing about the actual show, which is an incredible disappointment.
  • Evolution: The Genesis of 'Fringe' (SD, 9:07) Okay, so this is how the show got started and how the creative team came together. Interesting, right? Well, sort of. It's just that if you've listened to the commentary, all these little micro-features seem pointless and redundant.
  • Behind the Real Science of Fringe (SD, 10:28) This is actually one of the more interesting-sounding features but it turns out to be one of the more boring things on the whole set, actually. Interviews with science advisors to the show and claims that what they're doing in the series is only a couple of degrees away from reality is all you get with this, so if that's your bag, jump right in.
  • Casting of 'Fringe' (SD, 9:21) This is a so-so feature that recounts the formation of the 'Fringe' cast, including how Anna Torv was cast at the last possible minute. Again, this would have been more interesting if all this hadn't been gone over in the commentary track and elsewhere on this set.
  • Roberto Orci's Production Diary (SD, 13:06) This is about what you'd expect, with co-creator, co-executive producer, co-writer Roberto Orci taking you through his experience on 'Fringe.' Not all that noteworthy.
  • 'Fringe' Visual Effects (SD, 15:16) A slightly more in-depth look at the visual effects, but most of this stuff has been covered elsewhere. Unless you're really interested, you can skip it.
  • Unusual Side Effects (SD, 4:32) Bloopers. Yawn.
  • Gene the Cow (SD, 2:46) A look at 'Fringe's' most underappreciated cast member - Gene the Cow! (Spoiler alert: it's actually three different cows.)

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 2 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 10317 [review_bonus_content] =>

A couple of the extras are HD-exclusive.

  • Commentary track for the final episode, "There's More than One of Everything," with writers Jeff Pinkner, J.R. Orci, Akiva Goldsman, and Bryan Burk See above.
  • Fringe Pattern Analysis (HD, 25 minutes total) This is a feature where various scientific types weigh in on six select scenes in 'Fringe's' first season. The only problem is that the interface is horribly awkward, and sometimes text obscures the entire image. This is an interesting idea but horrible execution.

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

I really enjoyed 'Fringe's' first season. Despite a somewhat rocky and repetitive start, the show is a solid, smart sci-fi serial that everyone should be able to enjoy (if your tolerance for goo is high enough). Warner Brothers' set for the first season leaves something to be desired, though, with workmanlike video, a lack of TrueHD sound, and some truly lackluster extras (there's a bunch of them, but dazzling us with quantity doesn't take away from the fact that the quality just isn't there). If you've got the extra money, and love 'Fringe' that much, then go for the Blu-ray set. Everyone else is advised to exercise caution. It's still recommended.

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I thought now would be as good a time as any to circle back and cover a release that's been reduced to a budget title in many stores. This is a classic of its genre, a film whose structure and countless scenes were the main basis for the hilarious 'Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood.' Looking back at the film, one has to wonder how much has really changed almost twenty years later. Though the rage associated with the era has passed, and perhaps the race of some of the gangs still going through these pains now varies city to city, this depiction of the violent street lifestyle and its consequences remains relevant today.

'Menace II Society,' the feature film debut from the Hughes Brothers, begins with a bang, a powerful statement. As we meet our two youthful lead characters (Tyrin Turner as Caine, Larenz Tate as O-Dog), they stand toe to toe with a husband and wife who own a liquor store, who don't much appreciate the business they're being given, perhaps due to prejudice, perhaps due to problems in the past. Words are exchanged, pleasantries never enter the picture, and with one rash action, there's a crime hanging on O-Dog that will never go away, and will shape the rest of his life. As the film rolls on, we see him boasting, openly showing the videotape of the crime he stole from the security camera, in such a carefree manner that it's impossible to believe that it won't come back to haunt him. The kid feels bulletproof, and his openly criminal behavior proves as much.

Though it may seem otherwise, 'Menace II Society' isn't one of the many films glorifying the criminal lifestyle, just as 'American History X' isn't a film glorifying racism. If anything, the two films parallel each other, as their statements and methods of telling a story are quite similar, as they slap viewers in the face telling them exactly how it is, with little room for interpretation. In this film, criminal acts always catch up to those committing them; there's no get out of jail free card, no magic problem solver, or, more importantly, no escape. This film about life in the hood is all about the repercussions coming from one's actions, about respect, family, and justice.

The way the film shows a gradual desensitization to violence, and the vicious circle that it brings, is quite interesting. When we meet Caine, we see a young kid witnessing his father (Samuel L. Jackson) killing a man at a poker table, we're told this is just the first time the kid would see his father take a life before he, too, was gone. Surrounded by drugs, thugs, and death, it's hard for a kid to not be affected, leaving us with the recent high school graduate living with his religious grandparents (Marilyn Coleman, Arnold Johnson), going out all hours of the night to cruise and commit all sorts of misdeeds, a codpiece and eyeliner short of mimicking another cinematic hooligan. From here, with the influence of O-Dog, Caine falls into the never-ending cycle of violence and pain, oblivious to the consequences to his actions, not learning from his mistakes, going back time and again for more.

'Menace II Society' has a hell of a message. It shows that there's an equal and opposite reaction for every action one takes, and that one cannot outrun their past, that eventually the biggest, flashiest peacock in the flock will get clipped sooner for drawing the wrong kind of attention to itself. Sure, this film follows two young kids oblivious to all of this, not realizing their mistakes, following in the doomed footsteps of those who came before them, but what lesson is to be learned from escaping unscathed? That just preaches it's all alright! There is no easy out in life, and that's what we see here. It's all about responsibility, the burdens and consequences not just to oneself, but to those in one's immediate proximity, and as the film shows, no bad deed goes unpunished in the end.

Here, the former music video directors prove to be the right men for the job, creating a timeless depiction of the wrongs that are so easy to fall into, the pratfalls that befall those who associate with fools, innocent or not, and the different life that is readily within reach at any time. It's far too easy and ineffective to just preach what's wrong with society, but by pulling its audience in and slapping them senseless with harsh truth after harsh truth, 'Menace II Society' proves to be one of the best of its genre.

The Disc: Vital Stats

New Line Cinema brings 'Menace II Society' to Blu-ray on a BD25 disc with no packaging frills. There is no main menu screen, just a pop up, and the film begins with no menu prompt or pre-menu bullshit. This disc houses one version of the film, the 97 minute "directors' cut."

[review_video_stars] => 2.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 24509 [review_video] =>

'Menace II Society' isn't so much a catalog dump title as it is a no frills, no remastering, just throw the content on the disc and call it a day experience brought to you by New Line Cinema. Sure, this will represent a significant upgrade from DVD quality, but there's really not much going for this release other than the removal of most (but not all) of the issues that DVDs are known for.

This disc has issues from start to finish, some small, some significant, that prevented me from truly enjoying the viewing experience. I don't so much mind the random as hell grain level that would spike and plummet scene to scene, nor the miniscule amounts of dirt and debris, but the light compression issues, noise, and black crush all prove to be too much, especially when they partner up in any scene. Detail levels just aren't strong, as there are far too many scenes where skin tones exhibit no character and look slightly blurry, and I can say that I didn't spot too many sequences where faces were all that alive and sharp. Textures are up and down, with some interesting or solid moments, but again problems abound scene to scene.

Perhaps in about five years we'll see another disc of this film, and it may be a step up. As is, this is not a great disc. No sir, no way, no how.

[review_audio_stars] => 2.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 24510 [review_audio] =>

Don't get all excited looking at the technical specifications for this disc. Yes, it's a lossless 7.1 track, but there are two things it doesn't have: seven or that point one. This track has such a severe and noticeable absence of rear activity that it's almost laughable. Sure, we get the occasional tire screech or odd noise, but this may as well be called 2.0 for the amount of activity that we get in the hour and a half runtime. The channels that actually get activity show very good separation, but some moments of questionable dynamics. Bass levels are pretty poor, considering the scenes and the soundtrack barely register any rumble at all until late in the film, and even that is too light to amount to much of anything. Crowded rooms that all sound like they're only in front of you, yeah, that's exactly what I was looking for in a Blu-ray release. Sign me up!

[review_supplements_stars] => 1 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 24511 [review_supplements] =>
  • Audio Commentary - This track is compiled from interview footage from various members of the cast and crew. It's really poorly done, as it is too choppy, and the way each participant is introduced prior to an interview clip playing gets real old real fast. The era is discussed, talking about riots, violence, and crime more than actual filming aspects. The clips are sometimes so short it's embarrassing, and often times they start up talking about someone without addressing who is being discussed. This really is a poor track.
  • Interview with the Hughes Brothers (SD, 11 min) - The brothers sit down and answer a series of questions about the film, with themes and topics popping up via title cards.
  • Theatrical Trailer (SD, 1 min) - A bizarre music choice, in terms of atmosphere (the lyrics are pretty spot on), and an interesting way to advertise the film. It's almost candy coated.
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 1 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content] =>
  • Gangsta Vision: Making Of (HD, 21 min) - A look at the film from the rear view mirror, focusing on intention, development, and retrospection. There's a heavy focus on the Hughes brothers, their history and inspiration, as we delve a ton into the casting and perceptions. A nice feature.
[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 2.5 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'Menace II Society' is an almost timeless film, but this disc certainly isn't. It's only two years old, but it barely notches above the titles released in the first days of the format. With poor video, poor audio, and unimpressive extras, this is only worth a look if you can find it for cheap. Worth seeing, but a purchase depends upon the asking price.

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Oh the cheese!

'Over the Top' is a film about a dad, his estranged son, and how they learn to love each other, in the midst of adversity, a greedy rich grandpa, and the Armwrestling World Championships.

Lincoln Hawk (Stallone) is looking to reconnect with the son he left years ago to chase a dream of driving a big-rig and armwrestle big, hairy, sweaty men. Lincoln's son Michael has grown up with his wealthy grandpa, and has just finished military school. With his wife dying, Lincoln is sent to pick up his son at his graduation and drive him back home in hopes that they may rekindle their relationship.

How to rate 'Over the Top?' On one hand it's so outlandishly stupid, and the script is so poorly written, that it demands low scores (thumb down?), but on the other hand its silly story and corny dialogue will have you rolling on the floor with laughter (thumbs up?).

It's made in typical 80s fashion, with plenty of synthesized music for the soundtrack and a plethora of montages peppered throughout. When Lincoln finally gets to the Armwrestling Championship we are treated to numerous shots of men who appear to not have bathed in weeks. One of them drinks a can of motor oil and eats an entire cigar while it's still lit. You'll find yourself shaking your head in disgust, even while you're laughing at the absurdity of it all.

During the armwrestling scenes, the movie inexplicably interviews some of the contestants. When it's Lincoln's turn he simply says "When I turn the hat around it's like a switch," and when that switch is turned, people better look out.

The film is just so ridiculous that it's hard not to be charmed by it. It's one of those movies you might see on Spike TV on a Saturday afternoon. Why it got a Blu-ray release right now is anybody's guess as I'm sure it's not high on a lot of people's want lists.

There's something to be said for cheesy movies that can keep you entertained with sheer silliness. 'Over the Top' is one of those films. You won't watch this for the visceral cinematic experience, it's best approached as fodder for 'Mystery Science Theater'-style riffing with your friends.

[review_video_stars] => 3 [review_video_picture_id] => 10700 [review_video] =>

The 1080p transfer of 'Over the Top' brings the movie into a whole new realm of clarity. Taking into account the age of the source material, we're looking at a fairly strong transfer. Fine detail, for the most part, looks great. Detail goes soft on some of the scenes at that Armwrestling Championship, but otherwise we're treated to a healthy dose of consistent detail. The transfer does have its share of problems when it comes to errant dirt specks and scratches, but overall Warner seems to have spent a lot of time giving this transfer the right treatment. Blacks do hover from inky to slightly lighter tones. Flesh tones appear consistent throughout the film (Sly is one tan man, but Robert Loggia looks like he spent the last few years in a tanning booth). This is a fine transfer for a film from the 80s. It isn't over the top (har har), but it's solid and well handled.

[review_audio_stars] => 3 [review_audio_picture_id] => 10701 [review_audio] =>

The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track is slightly less impressive than its video counterpart. The dialogue is presented clearly for the most part. The rear channels, however, feature a slim helping of ambient sounds to produce that enveloping feeling we're looking for. There are a few scenes, like the contest at the end, and a bar scene, in which light ambience is heard. The 80s montage music is provided an adequate stage, but doesn't show off an HD sound system's capabilities at all. LFE rumbles when Lincoln crashes his truck through a gate, and when cars slam together during a short chase scene. It's a decent soundtrack, but it won't overly impress anyone.

[review_supplements_stars] => 0.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 10703 [review_supplements] =>

Well, you can't have it all. The only feature on this Blu-ray is a SD trailer for the movie.

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

You want it? You don't got it. What? Stallone's bronzed epidermis isn't enough HD magic for you?

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

'Over the Top' is a laugh riot with a good heart. It's not so excruciatingly bad that you'll hate yourself for watching it, it's just ridiculous enough to love. It's a fantastic film for a movie night with a bunch of friends. It may be made even better with alcohol, that's your call though. I enjoyed the cheesiness of 'Over the Top,' but its middle-of-the-road video and audio really only warrant a rental.

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'Requiem for a Dream' was Darren Aronofsky's ('The Fountain', 'The Wrestler') follow-up to the highly-original and ingenious paranoid thriller 'Pi', his feature debut in which he created an alarming scenario involving the obsession over a mathematical equation. In 'Requiem', he again constructs that same frightening setting for a different kind of obsession.

Adapted from the novel of the same name by Hubert Selby, Jr., who also wrote Last Exit to Brooklyn, the film follows four interrelated people in a spiral of voluntary self-delusion and addiction to dreams of success, which are eventually overwhelmed and defeated by reality.

Chronicling three seasons in the lives of these characters, the film commences with what appears to be a recurring problem. Harry (Jared Leto) is unchaining a TV set that belongs to his mother, Sara (Ellen Burstyn). Along with his best friend, Tyrone (Marlan Wayans), he intends to pawn it and use the money to buy heroin. Later, Sara, as always, buys back her TV because she can't live without it. When she receives a phone call in relation to competing on a game show, she develops a dependency on diet pills in order to wear her favorite red dress. Meanwhile, Harry, Tyrone, and Harry's girlfriend, Marion (Jennifer Connelly), devise a plan to start a business, but they can't seem to conquer their cravings for dope.

Unlike most "drug movies", 'Requiem for a Dream' goes beyond basic depictions of narcotic use and delves deeper into questions of where addiction originates. It's made quite clear that the Harry-Tyrone-Marion storyline is about drug addicts. But contrasted with the Sara subplot, the viewer is forced to ponder the origins of addiction in the simple desire for happiness. By way of conversation, the plot reveals three optimistic friends with a plan to escape their lot and live a worry-free lifestyle, while through daydreams, we learn of Sara's aspirations of achieving acceptance and ridding herself of the loneliness which surrounds her.

Stylistically, the film is stunning and harrowing, as Aronofsky makes several risky photographic choices to suggest various ideas within the narrative, some of which were quite unique and original at the time. First is the use of the split-screen, where two characters appear to occupy the same space in which they communicate, implying that though together in the same room, they are still distant and alone. In other scenes, the film alternates between a frenetic pace and sluggishness, visually imitating the feeling of a drug rush and the sudden low which follows. The director also makes intelligent use of extreme close-ups, fast edits, and montages to depict the surreal and hallucinatory state of the characters, and the distorted fine line between reality and fantasy.

As with Selby's novel, Aronofsky aims to express the addiction of these characters as allegory for a graver and more problematic issue within the "American Dream," as well as its intangibility and elusiveness. The characters' downward spirals into states of lost hope and desperation mirror the degradation of the soul due to false and unattainable pursuits of happiness. Aronofsky's 'Requiem' is a bleak but remarkable achievement in storytelling, and he pushes his cast to give it their all in some very challenging roles. Connelly and Burstyn (who later received an Oscar nomination) stand out as two lonely women caught up in their self-deceptions and ultimately devastated by them.

With the support of Matthew Libatiques's beautiful cinematography and a gripping musical score by Clint Mansell and the Kronos Quartet, 'Requiem for a Dream' is a chilling and distressing nightmare of addiction, whether it be narcotics or unrealistic dreams. In its original theatrical-run, Aronofsky's film garnered serious controversy for its graphic depictions of sex and drug use, earning the doomed NC-17 rating. Detractors argued the images glamorized the use of drugs and bordered on pornographic when Marion performs at a stag party in exchange for heroin. Nonetheless, the film was released to theaters unedited, as the scenes are integral to the storyline, and the film is presented on Blu-ray as an unrated Director's Cut.

[review_video_stars] => 3.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 10294 [review_video] =>

Filmed with a certain visual style and flair, this Blu-ray edition of 'Requiem for a Dream' benefits nicely from the higher resolution format, though it doesn't quite make it as one of the best catalog releases we've seen. Nonetheless, the 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer, in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, is a good upgrade from its DVD equivalent and pleasantly captures Matthew Libatique's cinematography.

With the use of diffusion filters, white levels are highlighted and appear more prominent to the point of blooming, but contrast is fairly stable throughout and allows for plenty of visibility in the image. The grain structure starts off very light and barely noticeable for an appreciably filmic quality. But as the story progresses, it deliberately becomes more pronounced to reflect the decline of each character's lifestyle. Fine object details are affected somewhat by this stylized photography, but it's nothing too detrimental or garish and close-ups expose an attractive amount of texture in the complexion of actors. The palette lacks some vibrancy and energy, which are also likely planned, but they're also accurate and consistently well-balanced, while flesh tones can waver between natural and slightly flushed. Blacks appear precise and deep, with delineation in low-lit sequences permitting background info to be clearly perceptible. All things considered, this is a satisfyingly strong presentation of one of Aronofsky's best works.

[review_audio_stars] => 4 [review_audio_picture_id] => 10295 [review_audio] =>

The first time I watched the film in theaters, I thought the original musical score by Clint Mansell working with the Kronos Quartet was one of the most beautiful pieces of music I had ever heard for a motion picture. It's no wonder, then, that expectations were set high for this DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack, wanting to relive the experience of listening to the music as if for the first time.

Successfully satisfying those hopes is a terrific lossless track, utilizing the entire system to wonderful effect and immersing the listener with great emotional impact. The mix delivers the sort of dramatic impression the film's creators wish to relate and creates a beautifully transparent presence that engages the viewer. The front soundstage is wide and welcoming, with cleanly rendered vocals and an expansive mid-range. Imaging is persuasive with random sounds frequently heard off-screen, movement between the channels is seamless, and discrete effects are non-directional and create a convincing soundfield. Although low-bass is mostly reserved for the various musical choices, it supplies the sound design with winning depth and realism. For a drama about characters on the losing end of their hallucinations, the soundtrack is very impressive indeed.

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For the supplemental package, Lionsgate Home Entertainment ports over most of the bonus material from the DVD, presented here in standard definition. Missing is the "Anatomy of a Scene" featurette, cast & crew bios, and production notes. It's not a great loss, but it wouldn't have hurt to have included them on this edition.

  • Audio Commentary - Director/co-writer Darren Aronofsky sits down for a pleasant and insightful chat about the "war" that went into making his vision of the Hubert Selby, Jr. book a reality. Aronofsky has an affable and forthcoming tone in his conversation, as he discloses his appreciation of the author, difficulties during the filming, artistic choices and alterations made from the novel, and other random bits and pieces about 'Requiem for a Dream'.
  • Audio Commentary - For the second commentary track, cinematographer Matthew Libatique offers fans his take on the artistic choices that went into the film's visuals. This is also another nice listen, especially for those interested in the photography and other technical aspects. It consists mostly of Libatique talking about capturing the right light within different environments and creating the right hue for each scene.
  • "The Making of 'Requiem for a Dream'" (SD, 35 min) - This short doc takes viewers into the hard work that goes into a film's production and features a great deal of behind-the-scenes footage. It's a surprisingly entertaining piece, as we learn how some key scenes were made and watch Ellen Burstyn exert herself to give such a winning performance.
  • Deleted Scenes (SD, 11 min) - With optional commentary track by the director, this collection of nine wisely-removed scenes are the same as on the DVD. While it's clear they wouldn't add much to the overall narrative, they are still somewhat interesting to watch, especially those in which Selby reads to Burstyn.
  • "Memories, Dreams, & Addictions: Ellen Burstyn Interviews Hubert Selby, Jr." (SD, 20 min) - Exactly as the title implies, this conversation between Burstyn and Selby has the popular writer reminiscing his life in New York and the inspirations that led to his becoming an author. Those familiar with the novel or its creator, or even with a general interest in writing, will find the dialogue very enjoyable and highly gratifying.
  • Trailers(SD) - Bringing the package to a close is a series of previews, which include one teaser, one theatrical trailer, and two TV spots.

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The only exclusive on this Blu-ray edition is the interactive Bookmarks feature, which allows fans to save their favorite scenes.

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Darren Aronofsky's follow-up to his darkly brilliant 'Pi' is the melanchy nightmare 'Requiem for a Dream', another exhilarating work from a visionary filmmaker. Conveying the bleak realities of drug use with graphic imagery, superb performances by Burstyn and Connelly, and an invigorating soundtrack, the film is a stylized hallucinatory trip into the self-destructive behavior of four people struggling with addiction. The Blu-ray version of the film from Lionsgate arrives with a good picture quality, a very impressive lossless track, and a decent supplemental package, making the upgrade to the hi-def format worthwhile mostly for fans. For everyone else, the film comes highly recommended.

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The western always seems to be on the verge of a comeback every few years, usually spurred on by a director who was shaped by the genre in their youth. Most recently this was on the verge of happening back in 2007, when a whole host of westerns, both literally and "spiritually" turned out to be the best films of the year. But even the mighty line-up of '3:10 to Yuma,' 'The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,' 'There Will Be Blood' and 'No Country for Old Men' couldn't stir the western genre up from its cinematic purgatory. (Just ask Ed Harris, whose woefully underrated western 'Appaloosa' was released the following year.)

In 1985, Lawrence Kasdan, screenwriter of 'Raiders of the Lost Ark,' 'The Empire Strikes Back,' and 'Return of the Jedi,' and writer-director of thriller 'Body Heat' and the drama 'The Big Chill,' traded on all the goodwill he had in Hollywood to attempt a western revival. That attempt was 'Silverado,' a spunky and fun comic western in the classical tradition.

The film opens with Emmett (Scott Glenn), fending off several assassins while hiding inside a small shack. After taking off on his horse, Emmett runs into Paden (Kevin Kline), a man who has been left objectless in the middle of the desert, double-crossed and left for dead by his partners. The two make haste for the titular town of Silverado, stopping in the town of Turley to bust Emmett's brother Jake (Kevin Costner) out of prison and out of the clutches of a snooty English sheriff (John Cleese, stealing every scene). The trio finally escapes Turley, along with a new friend, sharpshooter Mal (Danny Glover).

The foursome, once they reach the town of Silverado, go their separate ways, and are knocked down a peg or two by various forces. (Hey, that's the narrative rule - get your hero up into a tree, throw rocks at him for two hours, and get him out of the tree as smoothly as possible.) But eventually our heroes are reunited and band together to rid the town of its tyrannical sheriff (professional scenery chewer Brian Dennehy).

There isn't a whole lot of plot weighing down 'Silverado,' which is sort of refreshing. With a cast as universally superb as the one assembled here, Kasdan has chosen to make a shaggy, character-based western, which is content to hit the familiar western beats, but only if there's an equally powerful character moment to go along with it. Everybody is just great. I haven't even mentioned Linda Hunt as a Silverado barmaid, Jeff Goldblum as a morally ambiguous card shark, and Jeff Fahey as a goon. Costner (who played the corpse in 'The Big Chill'), in particular, gives a livewire performance the likes of which haven't been seen from the actor before or since.

As a writer of brilliant genre screenplays, Kasdan is clearly having a ball with 'Silverado.' Far removed from the grim, humorless, post-'Unforgiven' westerns of more recent years, it's a bubbly, wonderful entertainment. If you haven't seen 'Silverado' in a number of years (as I hadn't), then now is a perfect time to revisit it. It's a whole lot of fun. Is it flawless? No. It's 127 running time seems like it could be shaved by at least twenty minutes, and even at its bloated length there seems to be a number of subplots that were left either dangling (like the purpose of Patricia Arquette's character) or entirely on the cutting room floor. Still, for a popcorn movie this long, it rides along swiftly, with an abundance of thrills, chills, and spills (as they say). And at PG-13, it's fun the whole family can enjoy, violent but not excessively so. While 'Silverado' didn't rejuvenate the western any more than the crop of 2007 films did, it still remains a wonderfully fun, timeless western.

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 11286 [review_video] =>

The MPEG-4 AVC 1080p transfer (2.40:1 aspect ratio) on this 50GB disc is really, truly great. Even though the movie isn't terribly old (it was released in 1985), as far as older movies go, this is a really wonderful transfer.

There's a fair amount of grain, but never a distracting amount. There's just a fine layer, one that makes it look like an actual movie and not a hologram.

The first thing you'll notice is the level of detail. This being a western, every bit of production-designed minutiae (the stitching on Danny Glover's gloves, the different gloves, the saddles - everything) really stands out. It just looks like a million bucks and undoubtedly offers a marked improvement over previous home video iterations.

Colors pop, skin tones look great, and there aren't any technical glitches or DNR-related nonsense. This is just a great, natural-looking presentation and probably the best the movie's looked since it arrived in theaters.

[review_audio_stars] => 3.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 11287 [review_audio] =>

Just as good as the video on this disc is its lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 sound mix. This being a western, horse hooves gallop, bullets ricochet, and debris flies through the dusty air - and this is all lovingly, exactingly recreated in a truly dynamic surround mix. These effects, with superb directionality, really bring the movie to life.

Additionally, Bruce Broughton's Oscar-nominated score really soars on this track. It's a classic western-type score, at times optimistic, at times filled with dread, but always impressive. Hearing it boom out of this mix is nothing short of grand, while never overwhelming the effects or dialogue contained within a given scene.

Speaking of dialogue - the many quips the characters make all sound marvelous here. It's clear and crisp and well prioritized and is always audible, no matter what the effects or score are doing. As I've said before, the characters are just as important (if not more so) as any of the western conventions, and this sound mix does a great service to this.

As far as hiss, glitches, pops, or any of the other technical issues, well, they're just not present. Instead, you get a wonderfully full and atmospheric sound mix that will do any surround sound setup, big or small, justice.

Other audio tracks included are in French Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, and Portuguese: Dolby TrueHD 5.1. Subtitles included are in English SDH, English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish.

[review_supplements_stars] => 3.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 0 [review_supplements] =>

'Silverado' is packaged in the digi-book format, a la 'The Green Mile,' with a little booklet full of glossy photos, a little essay and cast bios, and original posters (like the awesome, Drew Struzan-style illustrated poster by Bob Peak).

Also, this disc is Region "free." Order away, Australian readers!

  • Along the Western Trail: Western Historians' Commentary This track features noted western historians Frank Thompson, Paul Hutton, and Steve Aaron. I know what you're thinking - wow, a commentary by a bunch of western nerds and not one with the dude that wrote 'Empire Strikes Back.' I hear you, too, and was skeptical when I chose this special feature. About two seconds afterwards, all my fears vanished. This is one of the best, funniest, most entertaining and informative commentary tracks I have heard in a long, long time. These guys know a lot about westerns and even more about the actual old west, but they're also incredibly savvy. One of the guys worked on Ron Howard's 'The Missing,' another worked on the ill-fated 'Alamo' movie from a few years ago. And as astute as they are about the historical inaccuracies they're just as on-point about the movie's narrative shortcomings. This commentary is a few years old (one of them mentions that "the first great gay western is being filmed right now"), but is seriously one of the better commentaries I have heard in a long time. I loved it. Highly recommended.
  • A Return to Silverado with Kevin Costner
  • The Making of Silverado (SD, 37:01) This feature combines talking head interviews with from the time of 'Silverado's original theatrical release, as well as later, retrospective interviews. All the principles are accounted for here, from both the cast and crew (you've got to love Kasdan's laconic, mumbled delivery), but this little doc lacks some much-needed zing. As it stands, it's a kind of awkward, half-hearted tribute to a much beloved film, but if you're a diehard fan, you could do worse than waste 40 minutes on this.

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0.5 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 11288 [review_bonus_content] =>

There is one HD extra. And that HD extra is terrible.

  • Movie IQ I'm going to go ahead and quote my review from 'Quick & the Dead' to describe this dumb-ass new BD-Live feature. The only difference between 'Quick & the Dead' and 'Silverado' is that there are more anecdotes and fun facts for 'Silverado' because people actually like this movie. Anyway, what I said before: This is a brand new special feature that is debuting on a host of Sony releases and is really, very dumb. According to the box, it's "real time-in movie information about the cast, crew, music and production via BD-Live." Yes, this is a BD-Live feature, and from the BD-Live menu you can watch a little preview of how the system works, but it's so simplistic I will just explain it here. It's kind of like a U-Control thing. There's a small icon in the right hand corner. When you hit it, you can access various information that's scene specific - who is in the scene you're watching, what the music cue is called, and any trivia they throw your way. The "trivia" is asinine and can be brought up on any fan site and the most annoying thing is that they don't tell you when there are new facts available in the little widget, so you just have to keep checking it, like you're checking your email, until you read something that you find remotely interesting. These moments are few and far between and this dopey special feature does nothing for the BD-Live cause. It's just a waste of time and not recommended in the slightest.

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

'Silverado' remains a charming and beguiling comedic western. It's full of wonderful actors (Scott Glenn, Kevin Costner, Kevin Kline, Danny Glover, Jeff Goldblum - it's an embarrassment of riches!) playing really great characters, in a classic tale of good versus evil in the old west. If you're a fan of the film, this is a no-brainer. The A/V is superb, and a solid collection of extras, anchored by a ridiculously awesome western historians' commentary track, are great. (One lousy BD-Live feature won't sink the whole ship.) If you haven't seen the film, or have kids that are too old for animated flicks, this is a gamble worth taking too. Highly Recommended, all the way around.

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• Featurette
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Please welcome Kevin Yeoman to High-Def Digest. Kevin is an entertainment journalist who also writes about television for Screenrant.com. An avid film enthusiast, who is always looking for a new or exciting film to add to his collection, Kevin enjoys rewatching films almost as much as discovering them for the first time. When he's not writing about or watching something, Kevin can usually be found walking around the various national forests in Washington State.

[review_bottom_line] => Recommended [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 126247 [review_movie_stars] => 4.5 [review_movie] =>

Back in 2005, seven years removed from his last feature film, the World War II drama 'The Thin Red Line,' director Terrence Malick had earned himself a reputation not unlike the equally hard to photograph Thomas Pynchon. Well thought of in the filmmaking industry, the enigmatic filmmaker had previously managed to go two decades between features – those being his 1978 film 'Days of Heaven,' and the aforementioned 'The Thin Red Line' in 1998 – so it came as a bit of a surprise when news spread of a new Malick film, 'The New World,' starring the likes of Christian Bale and Colin Farrell, which aimed to retell the story of Pocahontas and her relationship with Captain Smith.

Questions regarding the validity of such historical fiction aside, the notion of Malick re-treading territory once handled by Disney animators certainly caused the ears of those tuning in to prick up. Suffice to say, with a talent like Malick behind the lens, 'The New World' would be mercifully free of Mel Gibson-voiced show tunes.

As can sometimes be the case when a Malick film hits theaters, mainstream audiences largely ignored 'The New World,' despite the relatively high profile of two of its stars. While the box office proved something of a disappointment, the film did manage to attract a fair number of viewers who were particularly struck by the film's meditative style and loosely structured narrative. The result was one of the director's finest films, one that played with a story many Americans should be quite familiar with.

However, we must also remember that this review is dealing with 'The New World: Extended Cut,' which sees the film's already generous runtime balloon to an extraordinary 172 minutes – allowing for nearly an hour of material on each of the film's three… chapters, we'll say.

Like 'The Thin Red Line,' 'The New World' introduces us, via an ambling voiceover, to the main character (in this case, Collin Ferrell as John Smith), who finds himself questioning his role in the world, after coming into contact with a different way of life. Perhaps this is why Smith is so taken by the Powhatan tribe he and the rest of the explorers encounter. The Powhatans appear to have been stuck in time, apparently untouched by the world's progress and unfettered from the ills that the film suggests accompany such modern movements. Well, that and his fondness for the beautiful Pocahontas – played here with subtle charm by Q'Orianka Kilcher.

Chapter two largely concerns Smith's consequent banishment from paradise (for lack of a better word) and the colonists growing conflict with the tribe – one that sees them at the mercy of the Powhatans, even while they plan to seek the colonists' end. As that passes, the final segment revolves around Pocahontas' eventual marriage to John Rolfe (played here by a low-key Christian Bale), which sees her journey to England to enter what would be the final stage of her life: a transformation into an English woman.

Malick is able to pull effective performances from his three central characters – Farrell is particularly engaging – but as is often the case in his films, it’s the voiceovers that really carry the central narrative. Even when the internalization of the world around them is nothing but questions, Malick's intent comes through as a sort of eternal wonder at the beauty that exists everywhere.

The film never sets out to directly question the moral implications surrounding the events that saw Pocahontas removed from her home and the only life she'd ever known. Instead, it offers more of a meditation on what constitutes a natural life, and the film's central ethos, which is posed by the characters themselves in asking, "Shall we not take what we are given?"

Viewers will not find an answer to that question, and in fact, 'The New World' seems to offer them, as it does its characters, both sides of the coin, so as to encourage rumination on the nature of things, both given and taken.

The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats

'The New World: Extended Cut' is distributed by New Line Cinema (i.e. Warner Bros.) and comes on a 50GB Blu-ray, in the standard keepcase with a slipcover featuring new art, likely intended to set it apart from the standard version released on DVD sometime earlier. Contained inside is a single, region free disc containing both the film as well as all of the supplemental material.

[review_video_stars] => 4.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 31533 [review_video] =>

It's expected that the typically exquisite cinematography featured in the films of Terrence Malick would be the central focus of a format like Blu-ray, and this disc does not disappoint. The 1080p/VC-1 transfer captures the stunning beauty on display with a distinct and refined effectiveness. Colors are vivid, whether they are in the stark light of day, or otherwise concealed in shadow. Exterior scenes (which comprise most of the film) are consistently even; whites are never washed or blown out, lending a truly authentic and naturalistic representation of the world that rests at the core of the film.

Black levels are robust and effective, especially in the rare indoor scenes, which appear to have been lit sparingly. Remarkably, even in such dimly lit settings, fine detail remains strong throughout, highlighting the presence of a full color range with striking contrast. Fine detail in clothing and faces is superb, an attribute of high value when dealing with cinematography of this nature. Detail otherwise borders on spotless, though there are some very brief banding elements that will only be found by those nitpicking the video. Elsewhere viewers may find a few soft focus issues that likely have more to do with the director's original vision of the film.

All in all, for a catalog release, 'The New World' stands as strong evidence that Blu-ray can offer additional depth to films of this nature.

[review_audio_stars] => 4 [review_audio_picture_id] => 31534 [review_audio] =>

'The New World' boasts a vigorous Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track that sees lengthy scenes, enveloped entirely by composer James Horner's beautiful score, come to life. Despite what would seem to be a heavily favored musical score, the disc displays a wonderful sense of balance, between score, voiceovers, and scenes with dialogue. Voices comes through clean and distinguished, against both the musical score and the sound effects, thanks to the lossless improvement made here to the film's audio. Imaging is incredibly clear and aids in immersing the viewer in the film's environment. Consisting mainly of background noises created by unseen animals and the natural movement of things (grass blowing in the breeze, leaves rustling, etc.), directionality on the disc properly conveys the images represented on the screen.

Additionally, the occasional LFE is energetic and effective without rattling the windows. In essence, the film's audio is as dynamic, yet understated, as the film itself – which is almost certainly what Malick had in mind.

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  • "Making of The New World"(HD, 82 min) - A comprehensive 10-part documentary that offers an exhaustive look into the production of the film, starting from the casting process through the production itself. This rare peek behind the scenes of a Malick production is a must for any fan of the filmmaker. The documentary breaks the segments down into the following chunks: 'Making the New World,' 'Core Training,' 'Finding Pocahontas,' 'Recreating the Powhatan,' 'Along the Chickahominy River,' 'Jamestown,' 'Werowocomoco,' 'The John Rolfe Plantation,' 'The Battle,' and 'England.'
  • Trailers (HD) – Two theatrical trailers for the film are included as well.
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There are no HD exclusives.

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'The New World: Extended Cut' is some of Terence Malick's finest work. It stands as a signifier of both his past efforts and those to come; namely, the wildly lyrical and ponderous 'The Tree of Life,' which would continue the devolution of narrative structure that was largely reinserted into this extended cut. What makes The New World such a marvelous film, though, is unequivocally Malick. Here men encased in metal are nearly swallowed whole by blades of grass standing a head taller; minutes go by without a single word being spoken; hearts are broken, but continue to soldier on. The command of central allegory is some of the strongest Malick has displayed in his films, and for those open to seeing the romantic beauty of it, 'The New World: Extended Cut' is well worth three hours of your time.

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After three near perfect seasons, 'The Office' hit a snag in the fourth run, with characters acting nothing like they had before, with a few in particular becoming excessively unlikable. With that season's finale opening a new door full of possibilities and storylines, utilizing background characters in brilliant ways, I had great expectations for the fifth season.

I've never been a slave to television, to sit down on a certain day at a certain time every week to see a new installment of a program. I had only ever seen 'The Office' when the show would hit the home video market, gobble up a season in two to three days, and then hunger for nearly a year, every year. Would Michael (Steve Carrell) change from his own nastiness and self loathing that reached a head in the previous season? Would the "special" Kevin (Brian Baumgartner) story continue? Would Ryan (B.J. Novak) return to the show? What about Jim (John Krasinski) and Pam's (Jenna Fischer) engagement plans? Would Phyllis (Phyllis Smith) rat on Dwight (Rainn Wilson) and Angela (Angela Martin) after learning of their affair? With so many unresolved/teased ideas, this year's wait for home video was a killer.

Praise whatever deity you wish, as the wait was well worth it this time.

Andy (Ed Helms) and Dwight battle for the love of Angela, only Andy doesn't realize it. Pam finds art school tougher than she had imagined. While Michael and Holly (Amy Ryan) learn what corporate finds acceptable or not. After years of tension, pivotal employees will leave the company to seek out the respect they felt they never received, and every other employee will find things less secure than before. Relationships both blossom and wither, inter-office allegiances form and break, unacceptable/dysfunctional behavior abounds from every corner, and paper is sold. Just another year at the Scranton branch of Dunder-Mifflin.

I've always found 'The Office' to be a show whose seasons can be run through in a day or two without any difficulty, and this season doesn't break that pattern. The 26 episodes (one of which was double length) fly right by, flowing perfectly together, yet as with past seasons, missing an episode won't render the rest of the season's plot incomprehensible or ruin the fun.

While Michael was the obvious negative Nancy in the previous season, with his former flame Jan (Melora Hardin) attempting to usurp his throne, this season Michael is back to being the warm, lovelorn, sweet puppy dog that made him so realistic in all his flaws, much like Carrell's role in 'The 40-Year-Old Virgin.' Jan is still an evil, evil woman, with her only appearances this season being utterly vile and disgusting. Ryan has obviously not learned his lesson, continuing his slimy ways, while Stanley's rage, Meredith's (Kate Flannery) addiction issues, Kelly's (Mindy Kaling) co-dependancy, and Creed's (Creed Bratton) creepiness are all more of what we've seen in the past from these supporting characters. Charles Miner (Idris Elba, 'Obsessed') comes in as a character that is near impossible to love, the polar opposite of Michael in terms of leadership and personality.

Never before has Michael's ineptitude reached such heights, with the opening episode of this season obviously acting as the high point in his complete inanity. Relating the Stay Puft Marshmellow Man, Elvis, Jabba the Hutt, and Martin Lawrence from 'Big Mama's House' to overweight employees, calling each example beautiful, was just a roll on the floor kind of moment, possibly far too early a peak for this season, but a welcome gut buster nonetheless. Dwight has a fun confrontation with a stroller ("Watch out, barbed wire!!!"), and an even better battle of the wits with Andy, calling the unknowing cuckold a cuckold to his face, begging to be caught with his excessive bravado. Hell, Dwight is the star of the show this season, with countless hilarious bits, including the dismemberment of a resuscitation dummy ("This is why we have training. We start with the dummy and learn from our mistakes. And now, Dwight knows not to cut the face off of a real person."). Of course, Dwight is worthless without the constant psychological warfare from Jim, and while it is much lower key than usual, it still pops up from time to time, thankfully.

Pam's costume (Charlie Chaplin, or Hitler with the hat removed) at the Corporate branch is the embodiment of the borderline delusional crew at Scranton, as she didn't think twice about dressing up for the holiday, unaware of the consequences of her own costume choices. Whether they're making a knife with another knife, racing each other with a radar display, or aging like Benjamin Button in reverse, they're still having fun after all these years.

'Season Five' isn't the best of 'The Office,' but it's far from the worst. What it is, for sure, is a bad starting point for those new to the series. Despite even the introduction of ceiling cat ("Save Bandit!"), this set of episodes just falls a bit short of the perfection that the second and third runs brought.

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 10223 [review_video] =>

The fifth season of 'The Office' just so happens to be the first to arrive on Blu-ray, with all 26 episodes being treated to a 1080p transfer in the VC-1 encode. The video qualities are good enough to make me even more anxious as to any word of the first four seasons hitting the format.

Skin tones are superb throughout, with a fantastic amount of detail and quirks present in every cast member's face. Details on sets, like walls or door frames are great, with smears, clumps, and wood patterns all popping right off the surface. Stray hairs for every actor (especially Fischer) leap away from the rest of their manes. Contrast is sharp, while blacks are solid, and whites are sometimes a bit too bright.

Edges are clean and natural, and there doesn't appear to be any significant post-production tweaking like DNR evident. Grain levels are virtually non-existent. There are some light color banding issues occasionally, while some colors seemingly glow from time to time. Jim's stubble looks blurry occasionally, as well, but this is possibly due to being too light to be convincing. My biggest complaint would be the random fuzzy shots thrown in, especially in shots involving vehicles, that stand out like sore thumbs, jumping back and forth in quality. Season Five of 'The Office' is still a great upgrade from the previous four home video releases, and one hell of a tease for fans of the show.

[review_audio_stars] => 2.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 10224 [review_audio] =>

Season Five of 'The Office' sports a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix on each of the 26 episodes as the only audio option whatsoever. English SDH and Spanish subs are also available.

'The Office' isn't exactly a show one could expect jaw dropping audio from, being that it's a show about working....in an office...with paper. Needless to say, I went in with little to no expectations, and I still left a bit disappointed.

Dialogue, the obvious driving point of the show, is always prioritized, clean over little bits of ambiance or soundtrack, but it's often not clear. There are a few muddled lines, and many that have a fuzzy or feedback laden undertone to them that can be quite distracting.

There is a massive amount of background noise in the office, with body movement, footsteps, clothes shuffling, clanging of office supplies and moving copy machines, but these effects often feel amazingly forced and unnatural, as most of the workers are wasting time rather than getting that busy. This isn't a crew of overachievers, yet these noises would lead us to believe otherwise. Strangely enough, when the camera jumps to different angles (mostly for reaction shots), the noises all stay from the direction they were originating from in the previous shot.

Rears are often quiet, or bustling with activity, with little distinction between the two extremes. They come alive for an outdoor rain sequence, in crowded restaurants, or a few party sequences, but are for the most part just accents. Bass is, for the most part, as non-existant as the grain in the video. Every episode teases the LFE with a bit of thump in the theme song, then it seems the bass just goes to work like it were Toby or Kevin, just staying out of the way, out of sight. In the next to last episode, with the cafe disco sequences, the bass goes absolutely nuts, but it's quite a bit too little, too late. A troubling issue in this release that cannot go without mention is the constant humming/buzzing that underlies sequences in nearly every episode, cutting in and out at random, creating a very uneven feel.

It's been a year since I've sat down to 'The Office' in any way, shape, or form, so I'd be hard pressed to say how active or clean previous seasons sounded in standard Dolby Digital, but this lossless mix is far from awe-inspiring.

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  • Audio Commentary - Weight Loss - With Randy Cordray, Ben Patrick, Michael Gallenburg, Brian Wittle, Nick Carbone, Kelly Cantley, Alysia Raycraft, and Jake Aust. This track has about five minutes of introduction, but since it is a double length episode, this isn't that big a deal, save for the whole "being interesting" factor. For as many contributors there are on this mix, there is no excuse for any gaps, let alone prolonged ones.
  • Audio Commentary - Business Ethics - With B.J. Novak, Peter & Vartan (Craft Services) and Sergio & Alan (Catering). A behind the scenes commentary related to the show in general, not just this episode, which sucks, as this episode has a few great storylines. There is nothing worth mentioning here, as I doubt anyone really gives a rat's ass about the food served to the crew. They can be cannibals for all I care, so long as the show stays as good as it has been up to now.
  • Audio Commentary - Employee Transfer - With Dave Rogers, Anthony Farrell, Veda Semarne, Chuck Canzoneri, Kyle Alexander, and Phil Shea. Halloween costumes and the process involved in creating them are discussed, as are the fun combination of filming and extreme heat, and quite a few production/behind the scenes notes are analyzed, in rapid succession. Not a bad commentary at all.
  • Audio Commentary- Customer Survey - With Stephen Merchant, Paul Lieberstein, and Mindy Kaling. The improv in the show is discussed, the real life cost of what the super small Bluetooth headsets is analyzed (Pam and Jim would spend thousands on a prank, though), and the Buttlicker story is compared to an anecdote with the crew. "We got the Buttlicker account!" would have been a great addition to this episode.
  • Audio Commentary - Moroccan Christmas - With Kate Flannery, Angela Kinsey, and Brian Baumgartner. It is quite weird to hear Baumgartner talk as anyone but Kevin, after five seasons of incredibly slow speech. There are many lapses in coverage for this track to be of any worth, and it is the opposite of the actor tracks from 'Heroes: Season Three:' flat uninteresting.
  • Audio Commentary - The Duel - With Rainn Wilson, Rusty Mahmood, Jennifer Celotta, and Dean Holland. The inspiration for the amazing radar race intro is explained, while the contributors mention their favorite scenes, some behind the scenes elements and anecdotes, and generally have a rapid fire back and forth, free from falling into any of the commentary pratfalls that the previous track did. A good listen.
  • Audio Commentary - Dream Team - With B.J. Novak, Aaron Shure, Charlie Grandy, and Matt Sohn. Bo-ring. Lots of back patting, though some good character analysis can be found. One of my least favorite tracks on this set. br>
  • Audio Commentary - Sorry, not revealing the episode name, as it is a massive spoiler. With Jenna Fischer, Gene Stupnitsky, Lee Eisenberg, and Justin Spitzer. Thoughts on the faux new opening sequence, geographical backgrounds, the ever changing fish in the bowl, and random production ideas. Not a bad track.
  • Audio Commentary - Casual Friday - With Creed Bratton, Mindy Kaling, Ellie Kemper, Brent Forrester, and Claire Scanlon. Not one mention of the disgusting chili opening with Kevin. Fail. Analyzation of character relationships (of the non-romantic assortment), a hint at an upcoming webisode, and the ability to mention particular deities on camera. This track is more of a conversation between the participants than a commentary for the episode.
  • Audio Commentary - Company Picnic - With Paul Lieberstein, Ken Kwapis, and Jennifer Celotta. The 100th episode! The awful, awful volleyball action is dissed (it is true: these actors absolutely suck at the sport), while random crew are pointed out that are called "important" that one could obviously not care less about.
  • Deleted Scenes: Disc One (HD, 62 min) - Holy..this is a lot of deleted scenes! Plenty more inappropriate office situations abound. This collection of scenes contains an explanation of Meredith's facial burns in the first episode (a big WTF from the broadcast), a heartless Jan email, Ryan showing emotion, a rant straight out of 'What the Bleep?' concerning perception vs reality, a comparison between Meredith and a child in their sleeping patterns, more Dwight vs stroller, and Dwight's (flawed) retirement plan.
  • Deleted Scenes: Disc Two (HD, 67 min) - We get to see Andy trying to get Oscar (Oscar Nunez) laid more, so that story in Canada makes more sense. There's tons more decision making between the new copier or new chairs, more Andy stepping in manure, Angela's thoughts on the 'Sex and the City' girls (a must see), the entire office avoiding Andy, who seems oblivious to the situation, Dwight explains more of his varied family history, the crew's thoughts on the new president, and some more harsh roasting.
  • Deleted Scenes: Disc Three (HD, 24 min) - More Angela and the cats, Dwight's definition of irony and his mad lady killing skills, what Michael does when he's pretending to be pooping (seriously), a mention of 'A League of Their Own' on Laserdisc, and some looting.
  • Deleted Scenes: Disc Four (HD, 40 min) - More soccer, water delivery, bacterial diarrhea, reimbursement rejections, secret meetings, urine soaked messages, island gifts, Meredith punishing her son, and the finale of the volleyball tournament. Added up, there's about nine episodes worth of footage deleted through these scenes!
  • Gag Reel (HD, 14 min) - Standard flubs and laughter outbursts. It is kind of interesting watching some of the more serious performers busting out in laughter, totally the opposite of their character.
  • 100 Episodes, 100 Moments (HD, 8 min) - As if we needed any more teasing. 100 short clips from the show play, reminding us of some of the fun scenes from earlier seasons, in high def (and they look quite nice), making the first four seasons of the show all that more necessary to release on Blu-ray.
  • Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Present 'The Office (SD, 30 min) - An extremely low quality interview (in video, audio, moderation, and content) with the cast and crew of the show. Such important information is presented in a matter that can turn off even a hardcore fan. Do yourself a favor and skip this extra.
  • 'The Office' Promos (HD, 4 min) - A few short promotional spots that aired over the last year, including Michael with a protective cup, and ass grabbing for the Super Bowl, while the Beijing Olympics got a few sports related promos, with random sports/events that could be in an Olympics named off (hamster hiding?!?), trademarking a new Olympic sport, and a pencil/javelin hybrid. Some funny spots, but for the most part, passable.
  • Webisodes (HD, 20 min) - A few short episodic side-tales from 'The Office.' In Kevin's Loan, a silly short series that covers Kevin and his gambling habits and debts, ice cream related projects, and a constant barrage of Kevin related failure. In The Outburst, centered on the under-utilized Oscar character after he flips out on the phone on a personal call, and the other workers hovering around him trying to figure it out.
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0.5 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 10226 [review_bonus_content] =>
  • One-Liner Soundboard - This feature is a hell of a lot of fun, loaded with short sound clips from nearly every character on the show to play 'till one's heart is content. Or for ten minutes or so.
  • My Scenes - Bookmark your favorite scenes!
  • BD-Live - Accessible on Disc One only, under the "What's New" tab. There are no 'The Office' exclusive extras here, just the generic Universal portal.

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

"The KGB will wait for no one!" You shouldn't wait either. Buy this set, and let Universal know that 'The Office' will sell well on Blu-ray, so as to get them moving on bringing us the first four seasons. The video upgrade is worth the minimal price difference vs the DVD, while sadly the pack-ins from Best Buy and Target are not available with this version of the set. But once you see 'The Office' in high def, it's hard to go back.

All disc reviews at High-Def DVD Digest are completed using the best consumer HD home theater products currently on the market. More about our gear.

) ) [17] => Array ( [review_id] => 2410 [review_type_id] => 1 [review_slug] => postman [review_release_date] => 1252393200 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => The Postman [picture_created] => 1255828789 [picture_name] => 5318b502037a0.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Video [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2009/10/17/120/5318b502037a0.jpeg [review_url] => https://bluray.highdefdigest.com/2410/postman.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1996 [run_time] => 178 [list_price] => 28.95 [asin] => B001993Y4K [amazon_price] => 20.49 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.39:1 ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => TBA ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => Blu-ray ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 [1] => French: Dolby Digital 5.1 [2] => Portuguese: Dolby Digital 2.0 ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Trailer [1] => Featurettte ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French [2] => Portuguese [3] => Spanish ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Drama [1] => Science Fiction ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Kevin Costner ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Kevin Costner ) [preview_technology_specifications] => • Audio Commentary [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [review_bottom_line] => Skip it [review_forum_id] => 94175 [review_movie_stars] => 1.5 [review_movie] =>

What a complete miscalculation in filmmaking! 'The Postman,' has got to be one of the most ill-timed, unintentionally funny epics in the history of cinema. Kevin Costner's 'The Postman' plays out more like a spoof of a spaghetti western than a heart-wrenching post apocalyptic tale. Didn't Costner learn his lesson with another little turkey like this? It's just so silly that it's impossible to take serious.

Civilization is rebuilding itself after a worldwide nuclear war. Groups of people have formed colonies throughout the United States, although curiously, the movie only gives us a glimpse at the Pacific Northwest. This nuclear war apparently was so bad that it wiped out every form of technology (except for guns of course). The people ride horses (thank heavens all the horses survived). Along with the various colonies that have popped up, a renegade militia has taken hold of the countryside.

Led by General Bethlehem the militia rides from town to town taking young, able-bodied men to recruit and stealing supplies for his army. Costner plays a man who wanders the countryside doing Shakespeare for the townsfolk with his mule(?!?) and just so happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when General Bethlehem's squad comes trotting in on their horses looking for new conscripts.

After Costner escapes Bethlehem's band of not-so-merry men, he ends up finding an old mail truck in the middle of the forest, and in that truck...he finds...wait for it...a certain uniform. BOOM! Disguising himself as a mailman, he walks to a nearby town hoping to find food. He tells the people that the United States Government has been restored, and that there's a new president. From that point on he's simply known as The Postman.

At a whopping 178 minutes 'The Postman' follows each and every epic movie cliché to a "T." The Postman falls in love and gets a fair young lady pregnant. Of course, as in any such movie, he'll encounter Tom Petty as once famous rocker... Tom Petty (Wait! What?!!). And we all know at some point during the movie The Postman and General Bethlehem will have a showdown. When that showdown happens "anti-climactic" doesn't begin to describe the scene.

'The Postman' is chock full of sincere yet absurd moments, with one of the most famous being The Postman riding past a child to take a letter. It's hard not to laugh as The Postman turns to see a little boy, arm held aloft, and in his out-stretched hand, a letter. At full gallop The Postman rips the letter from the boy's hand, all in slow motion. Instead of the tears that scene was supposed to create, you'll most likely be bursting with laughter. Not good laughter though, because at that point you realize that there's really no hope for this movie.

What more is there to say? All these characters might just as well have been wiped out by nukes, because there's nothing going on here that warrants a film like this, let alone one that run three minutes longer than The Godfather!!!

[review_video_stars] => 3 [review_video_picture_id] => 10882 [review_video] =>

Accompanying a lackluster movie is a comparably disappointing video transfer. The 1080p/VC-1-encoded transfer is average at best. The biggest complaint here is the copious amounts of noticeable edge enhancement used throughout the film. Skin tones don't fare well either, as they take on a pinkish hue. Delineation, during night scenes, is also rough; obscuring faces and objects. Grain is never overbearing, but does become overly troublesome in a few scenes throughout the film. Errant noise and specks pop up from time to time. Fine detail, however, comes out ahead of anything else. Clothing, facial features such as hair and stubble, lush Pacific Northwest vegetation, and intricate patterns are all fully rendered and for the most part beautiful. Colors are presented well here also. The greens of the lush forests are perfectly contrasted with the drab browns and earth tones worn by all of the characters. This catalogue title isn't winning any awards for video presentation, but it is a substantial upgrade from its murky DVD counterpart.

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

The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack is fairly underwhelming. 'The Postman' presents itself as a film of epic stature, but it fails to sound that way. Dialogue, while offered clearly most of the time, does occasionally get overpowered during some sequences. Ambient noise is the real problem for this audio track. The surrounds are far too often silent, or muted. Streets of towns can be full of people, yet the surround channels don't let us in on that. LFE booms during explosions of cannon fire, and during hoof beats of Calvary moving in. The musical score is handled nicely and is piped through the front and surround channels, which is the most encompassing anything really gets here.

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

Pretty sparse on special features. A Theatrical trailer is available, along with one other special feature.

  • The Postman's CGI Route (HD, 11 min) - The special effects artists offer a voiceover as we look at storyboards from the film. This feature basically covers the set that was built for the dam city, and the CGI work that went into the completely pointless shot of Costner zooming down a zip line in a metal box.
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content] =>

Guess it got lost in the mail. Har har.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 2 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 10883 [review_final_thoughts] =>

"Guilty pleasure" gets thrown around a bit with this title. While I think it could be categorized as such for some people, the mere fact that the movie weighs in at a bloated 178 minutes pretty much negates the ability to watch it over and over as the "pleasure" part of the picture is all but absent. The disappointing video and audio presentations only push this title farther into the post-apocalyptic realm of skiiiiiiiiip it!

) ) [18] => Array ( [review_id] => 2388 [review_type_id] => 1 [review_slug] => quickdead [review_release_date] => 1252393200 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => The Quick and the Dead [picture_created] => 1254174190 [picture_name] => qdcov.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Sony Pictures Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2009/09/28/120/qdcov.jpeg [review_url] => https://bluray.highdefdigest.com/2388/quickdead.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1992 [run_time] => 107 [list_price] => 28.95 [asin] => B0024FAG5I [amazon_price] => 22.99 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => Movie IQ ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => Blu-ray [1] => Region A Locked ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 [1] => French Dolby TrueHD 5.1 ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English [1] => English SDH [2] => French ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Western ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Leonardo DiCaprio [1] => Russell Crowe [2] => Sharon Stone [3] => Gene Hackman ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Sam Raimi ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => In this edgy and darkly humorous Western, a mysterious young woman rides into the lawless town of Redemption to settle an old score that has haunted her since she was a child. She becomes swept up ina deadly quick-draw tournament and, in order to win her revenge, must compete in a contest in whichgunslingers from all over put their lives on the line for fame and fortune. [review_bottom_line] => Recommended [review_forum_id] => 92952 [review_movie_stars] => 4 [review_movie] =>

Sam Raimi's career has been largely characterized as that of a horror director ('Evil Dead 2,' Army of Darkness') who was somehow handed the keys to a huge studio franchise in the form of the 'Spider-man' films. But his oeuvre (yeah, I used that word) shows the work of a director restless and eager to put his stylistic mark on a number of genres - from the family crime drama of 'Simple Plan' to the Tennessee Williams-y Southern Gothic of 'The Gift' to the superhero farce of 'Darkman' to the heartwarming slice of baseball Americana 'For the Love of the Game.'

But Raimi's weirdest, wildest foray into genre-hopping has got to be the criminally underrated gonzo western 'The Quick and the Dead.'

The film's story is simple, it's a western stripped of any pretense or artifice. The story concerns The Lady (Sharon Stone), as she travels to a town called Redemption (subtle, I know) to take part in a gun-fighting contest and settle an old score. You see, the tyrannical sheriff of Redemption, Herod (Gene Hackman), was responsible for the death of The Lady's father when she was a young girl.

The other contestants in the competition are predictably colorful and cartoonish, and the outstanding cast brings them to vivid life - Cort (Russell Crowe), the peaceful prisoner; The Kid (Leonardo DiCaprio), a charismatic young gunslinger and Herod's son; Sgt. Clay Cantrell (Keith David), a former soldier hired by the scared townsfolk to kill Herod; Ace (Lance Henriksen), a flamboyant trick shot; and Dred (Kevin Conway), a lecherous pedophile.

Even more fun than the actors and the set-up (the film is structured around the various gunfights, which escalate in murderous intensity) is the way Raimi shoots the showdowns. You can definitely tell he has seen every Western ever made while simultaneously creating his own visual language. His use of zooms, whip pans, close-ups, and sound would make Sergio Leone stand up and applaud. The amount of sheer velocity with which he shoots this is amazing.

Sharon Stone, as The Lady, isn't what you would classify as "particularly good." She's more or less wooden, working with a paper-thin revenge plot that isn't exactly brought to robust life by the power of her performance. Even more distressing is the fact that she's surrounded by wonderful character actors and superstars-to-be (Russell Crowe, in the most "Bruce Campbellian" role, particularly shines), who all seem to know that they're in some kind of zany, comic book version of the old west, while she seems to think it's a "serious drama," making her final performance come across like upscale dinner theater.

Still, 'The Quick and the Dead' is one of my favorite Sam Raimi movies, and those doubtful of the director's verisimilitude just need to check this out. The whip-crackle-pop of the movie's pacing, combined with Raimi's keen photographic and editorial eye, and a host of awesome secondary actors, make for a ton of lowbrow fun. If you're a fan of westerns, or Raimi, or have an odd appreciation for the singular, leaden acting style of Sharon Stone, then this is for you. It's a double-barrel treat.

[review_video_stars] => 3.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 10572 [review_video] =>

The transfer on this disc isn't going to take home any awards for AV excellence, but it's still quite good. The 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 transfer (1.85:1 aspect ratio) starts out shaky, with an almost obscene amount of grain coating the image. This lessens, however, as the movie goes on, and by the time the main thrust of the plot kicks in, you should be genuinely impressed with the image quality.

All the hallmarks of a solid transfer are here. There's strong detail, skin tones look realistic, black levels could be better but aren't bad (there's a certain amount of muddiness to shadows), and the image posesses a sense of overall depth that approaches 3-D. (Seriously - those gunfights have never looked better.) There aren't technical issues to speak of, really, save for some mild edge enhancement.

While it doesn't approach the greatness of some of the other westerns out on high-definition (I'm thinking of the fun '3:10 to Yuma'), most of those are more recent releases. As far as an catalog upgrade from previous releases, this is a marked improvement.

[review_audio_stars] => 3.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 10573 [review_audio] =>

Like the video on this disc, the audio is acceptable but not outstanding. The English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix is mostly strong. The surround field is used to a dynamic degree, without ever sounding too loud or overbearing. The gunfights come to life like never before, with every zinging bullet sounding like it's in the room with you.

Dialogue too, which is almost a secondary concern for the movie itself, is always crisp and clear and well prioritize (the expressiveness of the more robust elements never overwhelms the dialogue).

Alan Silvestri's sharp, sophisticated score, which I must mention(!), shares the same knowingness and fun as the rest of the movie. It sounds amazing here, cementing its place as one of the most underrated orchestral scores of the 1990's.

There's not much else to report on the audio side of things. Again, it's above average and probably sounds better than it did in the theater, but it's not the cream of the crop by any stretch of the imagination. Still: if you're a fan of the movie and have owned previous home video editions, you'll notice the improvement.

Also included is an French Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track and English, English SDH, and French subtitles.

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

There aren't any extras, really, except for a "Blu-ray Exclusive Special Feature" that's advertised on the box, so that's what I'll talk about below.

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0.5 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 10574 [review_bonus_content] =>
  • Movie IQ This is a brand new special feature that is debuting on a host of Sony releases and is really pretty dumb. According to the box, it's "real time in-movie information about the cast, crew, music and production via BD-Live." Yes, this is a BD-Live feature, and from the BD-Live menu you can watch a little preview of how the system works, but it's so simplistic I will just explain it here. There's a small icon in the right hand corner. When you hit it, you can access various information that's scene specific - who is in the scene you're watching, what the music cue is called, and any trivia they throw your way. The "trivia" is asinine and can be brought up on any fan site, and the most annoying thing is that they don't tell you when there are new facts available in the little widget, so you just have to keep checking it, like you're checking your email, until you read something that you find remotely interesting. These moments are few and far between and this dopey special feature does nothing for the BD-Live cause. It's just a waste of time and not recommended in the slightest.

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

'The Quick and the Dead' is a great, weird little western, directed by the chameleon known as Sam Raimi. This Blu-ray is a decided improvement over previous home video iterations. but it won't blow anybody's socks off their feet. With improved audio and video, and a lone, truly lame HD extra, this probably won't sway anyone who isn't a fan. However, if you love this movie lots, then you should buy it without hesitation. Let's split the difference and say that it's recommended.

) ) ) [reviews_hot] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 255 [review_type_id] => 1 [review_slug] => catwoman [review_release_date] => 1252393200 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Catwoman [picture_created] => 1255308473 [picture_name] => 5104czr1xpl_sl500_aa240_.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2009/10/11/120/5104czr1xpl_sl500_aa240_.jpeg [review_url] => https://bluray.highdefdigest.com/255/catwoman.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2004 [run_time] => 104 [list_price] => 28.95 [asin] => B0021L9ME6 [amazon_price] => 20.49 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.35:1 ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => None ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => Blu-ray [1] => BD25 Single Layer Disc [2] => Region Free ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 [1] => French Dolby Digital 5.1 [2] => Portuguese Dolby Digital Stereo ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Featurettes [1] => Deleted Scenes [2] => Theatrical Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French [2] => Spanish [3] => Portuguese ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Comic Book ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Halle Berry [1] => Sharon Stone [2] => Benjamin Bratt ) [preview_technology_specifications] => • Featurettes
• Deleted Scenes
• Theatrical Trailer [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [review_bottom_line] => One to Avoid [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 94647 [review_movie_stars] => 0 [review_movie] =>

I, Nate Boss, do solemnly swear to resist making cat references in this review. I will not call the film the equivalent of a turd in a litter box. I won't say meow, not even once. Nothing will be called purr-fect. If anything, by the time I'm finished talking about 'Catwoman,' I'll have PETA sending buckets of blood my way, and I'm fine with that. Rather than be "clever" with cat analogies, brutal honesty will be the way to go.

A burlap sack and a river, that's the kind of treatment 'Catwoman' deserves. With all the big dogs in the yard, all dominated by super masculine men with rippling muscles and amazing powers dominating the superhero genre, they are the river that is raring to drown this mangy screaming animal in the bag. Comics rarely have a female heroine/anti-heroine leading the magazine, as they're often found in superhero teams, and it seems that Hollywood doesn't take super-heroines seriously, either, as they are now 0 for 2 in this regard, with 'Catwoman' and 'Elektra' showing that plot isn't as important to some as scripts full of puns and overt sexuality.

Patience Phillips (Halle Berry) is your typical good hearted but timid under-appreciated artist working for the big corporation, until she overhears the wrong information about the company's new product, and is snuffed by a really big pipe full of water. Or so they thought.

Patience washes up on an island full of felines, and is reborn with the spirit of the cats. Now, Patience hates dogs, loves catnip and sushi, is nimble, and possesses super agility and stealth. Donning a kinky leather outfit, she becomes the Catwoman, and searches out the reasons for her newfound powers, leading her to a confrontation with former model Laurel Hedare (Sharon Stone), all while toeing the line to not have her identity revealed, least of all by boyfriend/detective Tom Lone (Benjamin Bratt).

Disaster! I don't know how the film could be any worse. Berry is a disaster in the role (which earned her a Razzie award for worst actress, where she admitted how God awful the film was), laying down an odd mixture of timidness and self-assuredness, a conflicted mess that is complemented by a throng of 'Batman and Robin' level awful puns around every turn. Imagine a high school "actor" playing two roles with polar opposite personalities and you know what to expect from the Oscar winning actress here. The film wants to portray Patience/Catwoman in a sexy manner, with the super skimpy leather outfit, with multiple close quarters confrontations that border on a "rubbing" fetish. She'd honestly be much sexier if she just shut up, as every word out of her mouth is likely to induce self mutilation, which may be less painful.

Good taste is assaulted around every corner. From cat shamans with magical cat breath, to Berry rubbing up on catnip (seriously, catnip), an awkward/horrendous basketball "match" showing off her new talents, and perhaps the worst late '90's/early 00's cliche in the books: the internet search montage, there is bad scene after bad scene after worse scene that is insulting at the very least. Let's not forget the portrayal of spousal abuse in the film, played in a serious manner with Laurel being slapped by her husband George (Lambert Wilson), that reveals Laurel's powers that have been infused by her Beau-line chemicals. No matter how disgustingly awful Sharon Stone has been in film for the last decade, especially this film, I hardly think a slap to the face is justified!

The direction, by one name wonder Pitof, is epic in its ineptitude. I often wondered how many takes each scene had, considering how bad the product on screen is. The camerawork is poor, with an excessive number of swooping movements that quickly become incredibly annoying. Why did Warner Brothers even bother releasing this film? Did they never watch the dailies? There had to have been terrible test screenings results, and bad studio reception. Perhaps face had to be saved, as this film cost the studio an estimated nine digits, and at least some recoup was necessary for heads to not roll. I'd like to believe that had Warner destroyed 'Catwoman' before it hit theaters that world peace would have broken out, famine defeated, and disease cured.

Vital Stats

'Catwoman' arrives on a BD25 Single Layer disc with a bit of hilarious controversy, as it seems Warner Bros conveniently "forgot" to put the name of the film on the spine of the packaging. Could they be ashamed of the product, or are they being great wingmen by not embarrassing those who do buy the film? This is most certainly a first pressing error (that will be of no collecting value, really) to be corrected on newer pressings, but damn if it isn't funny.

[review_video_stars] => 2.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 10777 [review_video] =>

'Catwoman' the film may be an utter waste of time, energy, money, shelf space, store space, plastic, paper, and the Blu-ray disc it was pressed on, but how does it look? Well, the VC-1 encode (at 1080p) is less than stellar.

Detail can be strong, and the picture sports a nice bit of 3D pop. Colors are strong, possibly too damn strong, excessively oversaturated to the point that some give off a soft glow. The sequences that zoom in terms of time lapsed look fantastic, with great color pop and superb minute detail.

Artifacts are visible in darker shots in the opening sequence (you know, the one detailing cats in history), and most darker shots in the film have quite a bit of these nice blocks showing compression issues. The cat rebirth scene, on cat island, is one of the worst when it comes to these issues.

Perhaps listing all the issues with this transfer would be easier to do with a checklist. Edge enhancement? Present and accounted for, and it's not hard to spot. Delineation? Utterly terrible, with numerous scenes sucking all detail from around them into the abyss. Skin tones? Constantly orange or yellow, rarely accurate and natural. DNR? That's not DNR...New Line applied a layer of Beau-line to the transfer (in other words, yes, things look a bit tampered with, kinda waxy and unnatural). Digital Noise? It comes on in onslaughts. The coup de grâce? In the climactic final battle between bad actresses, teeth shine green, glowing more than the rest of the scene. It's seriously gross.

[review_audio_stars] => 3.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 10778 [review_audio] =>

No matter what, some part of this Blu-ray would have had to score higher than others, and therefore be considered the highlight of the release. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track that defaults when the film plays (after all, this is a Warner/New Line release, there's no main menu prompt) gets to take a bow by default, despite not being all that amazing.

Dialogue comes through clear, with nary a word being too low or soft to be heard, not that hearing every line of 'Catwoman' is a good thing. Honestly, it's worth considering dropping the score just for having to hear every line of this tortuous film. Patience's office is full of random ambiance and activity through every speaker, a pleasant surprise that doesn't feel forced or unnatural.

There's the occasional bit of localized sound that is soft and understated, though utilization of this effect, or movement, can be sparse at best. Bass levels were impressive, with some nice hints in the score and atmosphere, and nearly every impact in fight sequences, along with a strong rumble coming from shotgun fire in the jewelry store robbery. However, gunshots in the very same sequence were flat and had no punch whatsoever. Gunfire doesn't impress when it comes to speaker location, either. Annoyingly, the background noise, which is meant to make the film seem to be in a busy city, can overpower sequences at times, often rivaling the action.

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

While 'Catwoman' isn't that old a film, this set of extras sure does feel aged beyond belief. The fact that everything is in SD also doesn't help.

  • The Many Faces of Catwoman (SD, 29 min) - Hosted by the late Eartha Kitt. From Golden Age comic print to Halle Berry, and everything in between, we get a look at the many incarnations of the Catwoman. I laughed when the women were rolling off qualities of the character, then it cuts to men giving blurbs. It was hilarious, just bad timing. Comic luminaries and film crew discuss their thoughts of the character from her days in print to film, her character motivations, fashion senses (she can afford to adapt daily, with her loot), and the casting of the role over time. A fun look through history, better than the film. That isn't saying much, but hey.
  • HBO First Look: Behind the Scenes (SD, 13 min) - Actors give their thoughts on their characters and the inspirations (ahem) that drive them. Not a good feature, really. This isn't that old a feature, but it sure feels like it.
  • Animated Short: Chase Me (SD, 6 min) - Holy aliasing, shimmering, and jagged as hell lines, Batman! This short is neat, full of excessive mood, no dialogue, just action. Obviously animated around the same time as the 'Batman: The Animated Series' cartoon, I can't place a finger on if this is from an episode of the series or just a side project, but it's still enjoyable.
  • Additional Scenes (SD, 6 min) - A chase with a junkyard dog (really?), a sex scene, and watching paint dry (an activity more entertaining than watching this "film"). That is what we get in these extra sequences.
  • Trailers (SD) - A theatrical trailer for the film, and a teaser to boot.
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content] =>

There are no high def exclusives.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 2 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 10779 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'Catwoman' belongs in a bonfire rather than on store shelves or in personal collections. The film has no redeeming qualities whatsoever, not even unintentional comedy. This Blu-ray release of one of the worst films ever made sports average video and somewhat solid audio, and a lackluster set of extras. Batman completists may find the need to add this film to their collection, but everyone else needs to resist the cat call and avoid this title for their own good.

) ) [1] => Array ( [review_id] => 2517 [review_type_id] => 1 [review_slug] => crank2 [review_release_date] => 1252393200 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Crank 2: High Voltage [picture_created] => 1248882007 [picture_name] => crank-2.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Lionsgate [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2009/07/29/120/crank-2.jpeg [review_url] => https://bluray.highdefdigest.com/2517/crank2.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2009 [run_time] => 96 [list_price] => 39.99 [asin] => B002DYYGNS [amazon_price] => 27.99 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => Blu-ray [1] => BD-50 [2] => Two Disc Set ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 [1] => French: Dolby Digital 5.1 ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Crank'd Out Commentary [1] => Directors' Commentary [2] => Making 'Crank 2' [3] => 'Crank 2' Take 2 [4] => Gag Reel [5] => Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => English [2] => Spanish ) [review_bottom_line] => Recommended [review_forum_id] => 91391 [review_movie_stars] => 3 [review_movie] =>

'Crank 2: High Voltage' starts right where the original 'Crank' left off - with double-crossed hitman Chev Chelios (Jason Statham), poisoned by a potent Chinese toxin, falling out of a helicopter, bouncing off a car, and landing in the middle of the road, bleeding out of his eyes.

Of course, this being the turbo-charged, anything goes (even if it doesn't make a lick of sense) world of 'Crank,' Chelios' body is scooped by some Asian gangsters, transported to a filthy operating room and his heart is removed, and then replaced by a plastic model. So, whereas the first film was about Chelios getting poisoned and having to maintain a high level of adrenaline throughout the day, the sequel is about him having to maintain an electrical charge until he finds his heart and gets it replaced (just in time for 'Crank 3,' pithy subtitle forthcoming). Throughout his journey he meets up with a number of characters from the first film while trying to sort out why every gangster in Los Angeles wants to kill him and retrieve his stolen heart. In Joseph Campbell's words, the hero's journey (yeah right).

For those of you who saw the original 'Crank,' it's more of the same, er, cranked up to about a thousand, except with just as little story. Chev must travel around Los Angeles, looking for new ways to get shocked, outrunning (and outgunning) everyone else. If anything, his new adventures are even more outrageous than the first time, and even more offensive. For those who never saw 'Crank,' the writer-directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor throw every flashy music video technique at the screen, regardless of what sticks. In addition, there aren't characters so much as caricatures (sadly, David Carradine, in one of his last on-screen performances, plays a crass Chinese stereotype), and this film, even more so than the first, drifts into a kind of listless surrealism.

Clearly, the filmmakers understand how little story is going around, and they have stretched it to the breaking point. At various times in 'Crank 2' the main storyline diverges into a Toho-style giant monster battle and a 1970's talk show (among other things). While the movie moves along briskly (like a lightning bolt, really), the lack of content is more deeply felt this time around and the movie suffers from a case of the same-old, same-olds. This really is just the first movie, with a larger emphasis on pointless craziness, and by the end of it, the joke feels very, very thin.

Plus, for all the great, crazy-ass stuff they throw on screen that works, there's also a fair amount that doesn't. One character has "full body turrets," which is a joke that goes nowhere, and of course is repeated a thousand times over. Another character, played by Bi Ling, is basically the 21st century version of Short Round from 'Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom' - all screeching and 'me so sorry'. I'm not the morality police here, but even I was a little offended, not by the buckets of blood and tons of nudity, but by the film's out of control racial stereotyping.

Yet for all the pointless tangents, 'Crank 2' is still entertaining. There's really no other way to describe or intellectualize it.

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 10118 [review_video] =>

The 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 (1.85:1 aspect ratio) on this 50GB disc is actually fairly stunning, which is sort of a surprise given how the film was put together.

To explain: the directors had to bring 'Crank 2' in on a reduced budget, and they wanted to get all sorts of crazy angles, so their solution was to shoot the movie on consumer grade digital cameras (camcorders, essentially, like the kind you use to document your child's soccer game, ranging from $1000 to $3000). They employed a whole fleet of these cameras, sometimes tossing them between each other to make the shot. If they were wrecked, who cares? It didn't cost them anything.

So, here's the rundown: detail is exceptionally good (as you'd hope), with textures and patterns really standing out; colors are rich and vibrant; skin tones look great; and blacks (what little there are - this baby is shot in the harsh light of day) are deep and dark. Motion looks good for the most part, even when it's super-shaky (there are scenes where the camera is being shaken by the beating of the photographer's heart), although there are a number of technical issues that pop up and try to ruin the fun.

There are instances of aliasing, there are a few jagged edges, and in the 1970's talk show section there seems to be a burnt-out pixel or something (it had me thinking my set had a problem, mercifully that wasn't the case). But honestly, these are minor quibbles that don't detract from the exceptional quality of the image, and can all but be forgiven due to the way they filmed the movie. For what it is and how they shot it, this is outrageously awesome-looking.

[review_audio_stars] => 5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 10119 [review_audio] =>

Equally awesome is the nearly reference-quality DTS-HD MA 7.1 lossless soundtrack. Sit back, turn it up, and have your hair blown back by this wonderful presentation.

With a movie as loud and aggressive as this, in which every edit, camera zoom, and title card carries with it the thunderous woosh that used to be reserved solely for James Cameron movies, it could have been just overwhelmingly noisy. There's a difference between a mix being loud and it being good.

Thankfully, that's not an issue with this mix.

While atmospheric effects like explosions and the crunching of glass pop with dramatic intensity, and the soundtrack chugs healthily along, everything is so well-calibrated in the 7.1 sound field that nothing is shortchanged, and everything is dynamic. Dialogue, which mostly consists of shouting and F-bombs, remains crisp and easy-to-understand in even the most chaotic scenes, and subtle shifts in the soundtrack, like when it goes from the action scene to the Toho-style monster beat down, add another level of fun.

This is a mix that you can invite all your closest friends over for, crank the volume up until it can't go any further, and just listen in awe. If you don't know what kind of movie this is by now, and how a 7.1 really brings that level of nonstop outrageousness to life, then you haven't been paying attention. To briefly recap, 7.1 has rarely been used this muscularly or effectively. Well done, Lionsgate. This is an exemplary track.

Also included in the audio package is a French Dolby Digital 5.1 track and subtitles in English SDH, English, and Spanish.

[review_supplements_stars] => 3 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 10120 [review_supplements] =>

A couple of notes: First off, there is a digital copy included on a separate DVD. Where you'd be watching this, portably and in public, I'm not sure. Try viewing this on a crowded train or airplane and watch people around you pass out from the outrageousness. Also, on the main page of the menu is a sort of widget that has the time, the current temperature, and a "news" ticker that really just relates to other Lionsgate titles. The first time I popped in the disc, part of the ticker was a quote from the High Def Digest review of 'Transporter 3,' (we rock!) declaring its audio mix second-to-none (or something to that affect). Just thought that was funny. Anyway, you can access this feature while you're watching the movie, so if you want to know the time, are curious about the temperature, or are dying to hear something from the latest Lionsgate press release, this is the feature you've been waiting for!

  • Crank'd Out Commentary This "crank'd out commentary" (that's a pretty dumb name) comes in two flavors - High Voltage Mode, or Traditional Mode. The only real difference is, since this is a nifty picture-in-picture option, which takes up more of the screen - the directors, or the movie. So either the directors will take up the frame with a little box containing the movie - that'd be High Voltage Mode; or the movie takes up the frame with the directors in the little box, that'd be Traditional Mode. While this is a really interesting way to do a commentary, a lot of times the directors Neveldine and Taylor just sort of stare ahead and describe what's going on on-camera. Occasionally, it'll cut away from them to explore some aspect of the production, which is much more interesting. Also, and you'll notice this throughout the disc, the directors are always drinking. I don't mean to sound like a prude but it would be fun if there was some level of professionalism with these jokers. Overall, it's a very worthwhile watch, not quite as slick and polished as the "Maximum Movie Mode" from 'Watchmen,' but it does fit with the 'Crank 2' aesthetic of down-and-dirty, slapdash fun.
  • Directors' Commentary This is the same commentary from the "Crank'd Out" version, except audio only. Why this is even included is kind of beyond me. If given the option, opt for the "Crank'd Out" version.
  • Making of 'Crank 2' (HD, 51:32) You can split this lengthy documentary into two parts, but I watched it all in one go, and was fairly impressed. While the directors Neveldine and Taylor, take center stage and guide the documentary (while drinking), it also features interviews with much of the cast and crew. Of particular interest, of course, is how they shot the film with the little cameras, and there's a great little section where they talk about how the paparazzi were a huge pain in the ass. What's sort of disappointing is that they don't acknowledge the contribution of Mike Patton, former member of Faith No More, who contributed the propulsive musical score.
  • 'Crank 2' Take 2 (HD, 4:03) This is really interesting, but takes away from any kind of "magic" that the movie might have held for you. Due to the condensed shooting schedule and the multiple cameras, there were some goof-ups. This brief feature shows you where all those screw-ups are (reflections of lights in sunglasses, second unit shoots going on in the background of the frame, lots of cameras in the shot), even though as part of the larger documentary, the visual effects supervisor talks about all the work he did to remove cameras from certain shots. Clearly, he didn't do his work well enough.
  • Gag Reel (HD, 2:00) This is a gag real that, while mildly entertaining, was clearly something they showed at the wrap party so people involved with the shoot could be like "Oh look at how goofy so-and-so is!" This is easily the most skippable extra.
  • Trailer (HD, 2:32) The only thing exceptional about this is the length - almost three minutes to get people pumped about 'Crank 2?' I'm honestly shocked that there was three "clean" minutes that they could use for a trailer in the entire movie.

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 1 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 10121 [review_bonus_content] =>

Aside from the previously discussed picture-in-picture commentary detailed above, the only other extra for this set is the digital copy

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

'Crank 2' is an outrageous, in-your-face action movie that keeps things lively and doesn't take itself too seriously. If you're a fan of the first film, you'll probably find this enjoyable, even if the shtick runs a bit thin and there are too many iffy tangents to work as a cohesive whole. Still, you've got to give the directors credit - with a miniscule budget and a small arsenal of consumer-grade digital cameras, they've made a movie more exciting than most Hollywood mega-blockbusters. With exemplary audio and video and a nice collection of special features, this is recommended. As with most rollercoasters, it'll come with some caveats: if you have a known heart condition or are with small children, get out of line now.

) ) [2] => Array ( [review_id] => 2406 [review_type_id] => 1 [review_slug] => creepshow [review_release_date] => 1252393200 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Creepshow [picture_created] => 1242339670 [picture_name] => creepshow.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Video [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2009/05/14/120/creepshow.jpeg [review_url] => https://bluray.highdefdigest.com/2406/creepshow.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1982 [run_time] => 120 [list_price] => 28.95 [asin] => B0021L9MJG [amazon_price] => 20.49 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => Blu-ray [1] => BD-25 Single-Layer Disc [2] => Region A ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Surround ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French Subtitles ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Theatrical Trailer ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Horror ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Hal Holbrook [1] => Adrienne Barbeau [2] => Stephen King [3] => E.G. Marshall ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => George A. Romero ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Two macabre masters - writer Stephen King and director George A. Romero - conjure up five shocking yarns, each a virtuoso exercise in the ghouls-and gags style of classic '50s horror comics. A murdered man emerges from the grave for Father's Day cake. A meteor's ooze makes everything...grow. A professor selects his wife as a snack for a crated creature. A scheming husband plants two lovers up to their necks in terror. A malevolent millionaire with an insect phobia becomes the prey of a cockroach army. Add the spirited performances of a fine cast (Hal Holbrook, Adrienne Barbeau, Leslie Nielsen, Ted Danson, E.G. Marshall and King himself) and the ghoulish makeup wizardry of Tom Savini. Let the Creepshow begin! [preview_technology_specifications] => • Theatrical Trailer [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [review_bottom_line] => Worth a Look [review_forum_id] => 91908 [review_movie_stars] => 4 [review_movie] =>

At its heart, the horror-comedy anthology 'Creepshow' is a celebration and homage to the E.C. horror comics of the 1950s, such as Tales from the Crypt, The Vault of Horror and The Haunt of Fear. Bringing together two of the best-known names in the genre, George A. Romero and Stephen King, this sleeper hit from 1982 went on to spawn a sequel from a screenplay by Romero, revived interest in horror-themed comics, and made possible two television shows which followed in the same spirit, called "Tales from the Darkside" and "Monsters". The deliberately campy and kitschy movie remains a popular feature amongst fans of the genre, serving just the right ingredients of dark humor and elemental cynicism.

Weaving together five creepy tales written by King, the movie opens with a young boy (the famed author's real-life son Joe King) being punished by his abusive father for reading a horror comic. A sudden thunderstorm approaches and a howling wind picks up, rifling through the discarded comic. As the pages of the macabre book turn, the camera pushes in to reveal the first story about a deceased family patriarch exacting vengeance upon his murderous daughter Bedelia on Father's Day. That's followed by a story involving a backwoods hick engulfed by a strange plant growth from a meteor. The next is another anecdote of beyond-the-grave revenge as a husband is killed by the reanimated corpses of his cheating wife and her lover. The final two segments see a university professor use a ferocious, ancient creature locked in a crate to rid himself of his emotionally abusive wife and another in which a Howard Hughes-like business man is literally consumed by his Mysophobia. Coming full circle, the boy finally gets back at his father.

Part of what makes the film such an entertaining watch is the seriousness with which the cast members indulge their characters, of knowing just how much humanity and silliness to add to their respective roles before going over the top. These people are, after all, simple cartoon parodies, so there's plenty of room for absurdity. As with Stephen King's Jordy Verrill, a laughable performance that keeps you smiling until the grisly finale, or a young Ted Danson as the home-wrecking playboy who loses a battle of the wits to his lover's husband. Even veteran actors, Hal Holbrook and Leslie Nielson, join in on the fun as two older men only wanting to liberate themselves from those who do them wrong. But its Adrienne Barbeau's performance -- as a vicious, alcoholic wife to a demoralized and emasculated husband, who in the end, is confronted by a creature much like herself and with the same rabid mouth -- that remains memorable.

It's clear from the get-go that Romero and King approach the material with childhood abandonment and admiration for the morbid, and of the E.C. horror comics they both grew up reading as children. They spin each yarn with characters we can like and despise all at once, and with severe flaws that prove fatal. Harking back to those classic tales, their comeuppance is served on a dead, cold platter of devilish amusement and satisfaction, requiring at least a small wicked sense of humor from the audience. Be warned: poetic justice has never been so juicy, or so ghastly, as it is in these short morality plays. The caricatures of 'Creepshow' all deserve what's coming to them, including poor old Jordy Verrill, and the gruesome always tags along with the comical. Although. The Ed Harris character does seem like the odd-man out. Oh, well, it's all part of the dreadful entertainment.

The film's visuals continue the love and appreciation, with every segment commencing and ending as if culled directly from the panels of a comic book. Signaled by the use of bright colors -- chiefly reds, blues and greens -- the transition between creepy tales keeps everything amusing and easygoing. And with special make-up effects by Tom Savini, 'Creepshow' is a fun way of spending those dark, stormy nights indoors. As rumors circulate of a possible remake in the near future, horror fans ought to enjoy this classic from two masters of the genre, which made possible the reanimation of the Crypt Keeper and his weekly one-hour program of spooky stories.

[review_video_stars] => 3.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 10253 [review_video] =>

Considering its age and visual style, Warner Bros. has done a pretty good job preserving the original master, as it doesn't appear to suffer too much damage. Framed in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the VC-1 encode looks rather excellent when compared to its standard definition counterpart, giving fans the best video presentation of the horror flick available.

A thin layer of film grain unobtrusively permeates the picture, for an attractive cinematic quality. Primaries receive the biggest upgrade, looking vibrant and full-bodied, while secondary hues are cleanly and correctly rendered. Contrast and brightness levels offer plenty of visible clarity and deep, true blacks, with a surprisingly pleasant depth of field. Delineation in the shadows is equally strong, and flesh tones appear natural with nice texture, especially in close-ups.

Detailing is also noticeably improved and consistent for the most part, particularly in outdoor and well-lit scenes. The image does tend to soften during those special effects sequences which reflect the movie's comic book styling. Despite these few drawbacks, as well as the occasional specks of dirt and scratches, 'Creepshow' has never looked as good as it does on Blu-ray.

[review_audio_stars] => 3.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 10254 [review_audio] =>

Although the package indicates Dolby TrueHD 2.0, this has to be one of the best hi-rez stereo presentations I've ever heard. Faithful to the movie's original sound design, the lossless track is evenly balanced within the soundstage, exhibiting wonderful, spacious presence and cleanly rendered dynamics. The well-prioritized vocals are accompanied by discrete effects in the front channels and convincingly heard off-screen. The mix doesn't have much bass to speak of, but for the few times it's required, low frequencies provide decent weight to the action. The real surprise is the flick's musical score, which lends itself nicely into the background and creates an engagingly entertaining soundtrack for a fun movie.

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

Unfortunately, for the "hardcore" fans of this Romero/King classic, American audiences are once again hoodwinked into purchasing a subpar package of supplements. Looks like the UK 2-disc Special Edition still reigns supreme in terms of bonus features, what with its commentary track by Romero, behind-the-scenes footage, deleted scenes, and the very excellent 90-minute documentary entitled "Just Desserts: The Making of 'Creepshow'". Sadly, the folks on this side of the pond are merely given a standard definition trailer for the movie. No, fair, humph!

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 10255 [review_bonus_content] =>

If they didn't bother with any special features, why would they go out of their way to provide exclusive material.

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

Two masters of the macabre, Stephen King and George A. Romero, joined forces to bring fans five jolting tales of terror in what became the surprise sleeper hit of 1982. 'Creepshow' is a ghoulish comedy anthology celebrating the classic E.C. horror comics of the 1950s and its popularity made possible the emergence of TV shows in the same spirit, "Tales from the Darkside" and "Tales from the Crypt". This Blu-ray edition of the movie arrives with a nicely improved audio and video presentation, but a very disappointing package of supplements. While fans will want to make the jump to this hi-def upgrade, newcomers should give this horror-favorite a rent for a fun, spooky night.

All disc reviews at High-Def DVD Digest are completed using the best consumer HD home theater products currently on the market. More about our gear.

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.

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'Friday' is a "hood film" that refuses to give in to the typical rules of the subgenre, instead bringing the lighter side of neighborhood life to the big screen. It's more of a buddy comedy with a slacker twist, revealing the oddball and eccentric characters who reside in the neighborhoods of South Central. Written by Ice Cube, famed rapper from N.W.A, with long-time friend DJ Pooh, the film is an inventively hilarious ensemble piece that works as a sharp contrast to movies with negative and often violent stereotypes of inner-city life. Growing up in the streets of Los Angeles is hard enough without every other movie serving as a reminder, so 'Friday' aims to entertain its audience rather than highlight some of the setting's frequently covered troubles.

Recently fired Craig (Ice Cube) wakes up one Friday morning to find everyone in his family hassling him for managing to lose his job while on his day off. To make matters worse, his father (John Witherspoon) warns him of the consequences of not finding a new job soon. It's one of the funnier and grosser scenes, as fatherly advice comes by way of loud gastro-grunts and an aerosol air freshener, while he tells Craig to follow in his footsteps as a dog catcher. Sound effects reinforce the nauseating discussion, while dry-heaves accompany the laughter. The entire sequence conjures a traumatic image which foreshadows the raunchy toilet humor throughout the film.

It's surprisingly well balanced, however, with a fairly strong subplot about surviving the neighborhood amidst all the violence and drugs, as revealed by the father's more astute observations once out of the bathroom. And Ice Cube, in his first comedic role, performs admirably as a young man still searching for himself and his place in life, while trying to stay out of trouble. Unfortunately, and thanks in large part to his best friend Smokey (Chris Tucker) -- a character all too appropriately named -- the violence seems to find him. Through an act of guilt by association, Craig is involved in repaying a debt to local drug dealer Big Worm (Faizon Love), who also works part-time as an ice-cream dealer.

The remainder of 'Friday' is spent then figuring out ways of producing the money, meanwhile the two friends sit on the front porch and watch the comings and goings of the neighborhood. And this is where the real brilliance of the script comes through and the direction of F. Gary Gray, making his feature-length debut, keeps the narrative engaging and amusing. With the use of satirical and goofy comedy, the filmmakers subtly and skillfully deliver a social commentary on street life without feeling heavy-handed or forced. Just because the violence feels inescapable doesn't mean one has to succumb to it. Ultimately, Craig realizes that no matter the circumstance, there's always a choice.

Bringing the entire picture together is a great cast of characters. Developing a twitch after unknowingly smoking PCP, Chris Tucker's performance, of course, garners the most consideration, as he is the wildest and loudest of them all. But the bulking mass and former WWF adversary to Hulk Hogan, Tommy Lister, Jr., deserves an equal share of the attention as the neighborhood bully. Though on screen for a very short time, Bernie Mac as the clandestine Pastor is as memorable as they come. And anchoring the zaniness is the beautiful Nia Long, serving not only as the love interest but also to counterbalance the numerous depictions of women as sexual objects.

The Blu-ray release arrives as a Director's Cut, with an extra six minutes of footage. Fans are likely to notice the new additions, while those watching it for the first will be too busy laughing to even care. In either case, the film isn't greatly hindered by any of it and remains just as hilarious as ever. 'Friday' is an excellent comedy with positive intentions, portraying the hood with a genuine heart.

[review_video_stars] => 3.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 10465 [review_video] =>

On DVD, 'Friday' never received the love it really deserved. That's not to say it looked terrible, but it never appeared all that good either. Arriving on Blu-ray as a Deluxe Edition, the 1080p/VC-1 transfer (1.85:1) finally gives the Ice Cube cult favorite the video treatment it's worthy of, with a comfortably bright and nicely detailed picture.

A thin veneer of grain coats the movie throughout and furnishes the presentation with a welcomed filmic quality. Granted, there are several occurrences of poor resolution, particularly in interiors scenes, but exterior shots fare much better, as facial complexions are rendered naturally and show great textures in close-up. Blacks are solid, and contrast is well-balanced, providing the image some decent depth and plenty of visibility in the shadows. There are also some minor, even negligible, instances of black crush, but nothing that completely takes away from the film's enjoyment. The color palette clearly benefits from the upgrade, exhibiting rich saturation and vivid hues. Overall, 'Friday' has held up well over the years and looks good on Blu-ray.

[review_audio_stars] => 4 [review_audio_picture_id] => 10466 [review_audio] =>

Warner/New Line releases the comedy hit with a surprisingly energetic Dolby TrueHD soundtrack, exhibiting excellent channel separation and convincing movement throughout the soundfield. This new track feels broad and inviting, creating a fresh take on the film's original design. As dialogue reproduction conveys clear, sharp vocals, the rest of the soundstage delivers a great deal of clarity and definition, with a satisfyingly precise mid-range. For a comedy, the surround speakers are highly active, filling the room with great atmospheric effects of the streets and a thumping low-bass for the musical tracks. At times, the mix can seem a bit artificial, but engineers have done a nice job of incorporating the various sounds well, offering fans an engaging and enjoyable lossless option.

[review_supplements_stars] => 2.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 10467 [review_supplements] =>

For this Blu-ray Deluxe Edition, arriving simultaneously with the new DVD, Warner Bros./New Line offers a healthy amount of bonus material. Though nothing exclusive to the high-def format, it's an acceptable set of supplements.

  • Introduction by Ice Cube (SD, 1 min) - Exactly as it sounds, Ice Cube takes a quick minute to thank the fans and explain the film's target.
  • "'Friday': Straight Up" (HD, 24 min) - This new featurette is an interesting retrospective with interviews of cast and crew discussing the fun time everyone had during the production, as well as the film's reception and its following. It's a fairly good piece that also reminisces on the intentions of the filmmakers and their effort to depict a different kind of hood movie, while staying true to the experiences of inner-city life.
  • Deleted Scenes (SD, 15 min) - The collection of deleted scenes consists mostly of extended versions of character interactions. Many of them have also been reintegrated into this new Director's Cut, so the rest are of little value and not very funny.
  • Music Videos (SD) - Two music videos from 1995 are also carried over from the DVD release. First up is Ice Cube's now-forgotten "Friday", which he collaborated on with DJ Pooh. Second, we have Dr. Dre's still memorable "Keep Their Heads Ringin'".
  • Q&A Interviews(SD, 37 min) - It's always funny how studios break up one featurette to make it look like many. In actuality, this is part of the same thing, where director F. Gary Gray and producer Patricia Charbonnet answer a series of informative questions concerning the production. It's an interesting listen for those wanting to learn more about the movie. Questions can be viewed individually or played in sequential order.
  • Trailers(SD) - Two theatrical previews round out the package of supplements: one "Red Band" and the other for general audiences.
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 10468 [review_bonus_content] =>

Sorry, but Warner Brothers offers nothing exclusive on high-def.

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

At a time when the only films available about inner-city life were often filled with violent and negative portrayals, 'Friday' dared to show that life isn't all bad in the hood. Co-written and starring the famed rapper of N.W.A, Ice Cube, this comedy is a hilarious ensemble piece with a more endearing and positive message. The Blu-ray from Warner Brothers/New Line arrives as a Deluxe Edition with a very good audio video presentation and a nice collection of supplements. Fans looking to upgrade won't be sorely disappointed with this high-definition version.

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- Behind the Real Science of Fringe featurette - From teleportation to re-animation, Fringe incorporates recent discoveries in science. Consulting experts and scientists who are the authorities in their field address the areas of science which are the inspiration for the show. vA Massive Undertaking: The Making of Fringe (on select episodes) - An in-depth exploration of how select episodes came to be made: from the frozen far reaches of shooting the pilot in Toronto, to the weekly challenges of bringing episodes to air
- The Casting of Fringe- The story, as told by producers and cast, of how Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson, John Noble and others came to be cast in the series.
- Fringe Visual Effects featurette - Goes deep into the creation of the shared dream state with some of the biggest VFX shots of the show.
- Dissected Files: Unaired Scenes
- Unusual Side Effects: Gag Reel
- Deciphering the Scene
- Roberto Orci Production Diary
- Gene the Cow montage
- Three Full-Length Commentaries from writers/producers, including J.J. Abrams, Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtman, J.R. Orci, David Goodman, Bryan Burk, Akiva Goldsman and Jeff Pinkner [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => - Fringe Pattern Analysis - Take a closer look at 6 select scenes from Season 1 with experts who dissect each scene with notes, photos, and diagrams. (BD Exclusive)
- BD-Live enabled features include Media Center, My Commentary, and commentary on Season 1 finale episode [review_bottom_line] => Recommended [review_forum_id] => 92106 [review_movie_stars] => 4 [review_movie] =>

Imagine one of your favorite prime time procedurals, one you watch year after year with unflagging loyalty (even though, between you and me, the show has become a repetitive bore). There's usually a team, and week after week they're investigating some kind of ghoulish misdeed. Now, imagine one of the members of that team is mad scientist Dr. Frankenstein… or Jeff Goldblum's deranged Seth Brundle from David Cronenberg's remake of 'The Fly.'

That's sort of what you're getting from Fox's sci-fi series 'Fringe.'

Created by 'Lost'/'Alias'/'Cloverfield' mastermind J.J. Abrams and his frequent partners in crime Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci (who wrote the script for Abrams' recent 'Star Trek' reboot), 'Fringe' borrows a rough template from Fox's other paranormal investigation show, 'The X-Files.' The members that make up the "Fringe Division" investigative team are Olivia Dunham (gorgeous Australian actress Anna Torv), a brilliant young rogue Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson) and his equally brilliant but totally insane father, Walter Bishop (John Noble, equal parts hammy and effective in the aforementioned mad scientist role).

The team is put together by a gruff Homeland Security director (played by 'Lost'/'The Wire's' Lance Riddick) after a particularly gruesome airplane disaster that's depicted in the pilot. It seems there's something going on, a global event codenamed The Pattern. The Pattern is a series of next generation science experiments, except carried out on an unsuspecting public. These incidents are almost always incredibly gooey (lots of monsters, viruses that do horrible things to your body etc.) A link has been made between the Pattern and Walter Bishop, so Bishop is sprung from the funny farm and made a part of the investigation (his son is essential, both in doting over Walter and in getting around some peskier aspects of the law).

As the first season progresses, a larger picture is revealed, and the link between Walter and the events of the Pattern are made more explicitly clear. The larger arc, which involves a terrorist plot that calls for the destruction of humanity through technology, is far more engaging than the day-to-day grotesqueries, but 'Fringe' wisely balances the two, so that one doesn't overwhelm the other (which was ultimately the downfall of once-unstoppable 'The X-Files').

'Fringe' is a construct, with borrowed bits from David Cronenberg's oeuvre (sometimes this is a bit too explicit - there's a direct rip-off of a scene from 'Videodrome'), Ken Russell's 'Altered States,' David Fincher's 'Panic Room' (where it got ideas for the "floating letters" location cards), 'The X-Files,' Rod Serling's immortal 'Twilight Zone,' and (I can't believe nobody's drawn this comparison before - maybe they have somewhere on the Interwebs), Warren Ellis and John Cassady's comic book 'Planetary.' But J.J. has always been this kind of creative force - somebody who puts his favorite bits of popular culture into a blender, hits frappe, and comes up with something completely engaging.

While the first season of 'Fringe' does have a few wobbly moments, most inaugural seasons with this kind of ambition do. (Look no further than the first season of Joss Whedon's masterful 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' to see the definition of 'shaky starts.') It is consistently entertaining, with stellar performances by all the principles and enough gross-out moments to have you squirm in your seat, week after week, even on its more 'off' episodes. And while 'Fringe' doesn't have the heady philosophical quandaries of Fox's other kick-ass sci-fi show this season (Whedon's 'Dollhouse'), it is a whole lot of fun. You'd be hard-pressed to find a more goofily provocative final image in any season all year as you'll find in the last moments of season one.

There's hope that, with its awkward baby-step behind it, season two will be even stronger. Cross your fingers and we may even get an episode written by Darin Morgan, who serves as a consulting producer on 'Fringe' and wrote some of the greatest, most intelligent and hysterical episodes of 'The X-Files' (including the freakshow town-set "Humbug" and the Emmy-winning "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose"). From here on out, 'Fringe' can only get better.

[review_video_stars] => 3.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 10315 [review_video] =>

'Fringe' is a beautiful-looking show and it doesn't look any better than on these 1080 p/VC-1 encoded transfers (1.78: 1 aspect ratio) on five 50GB discs. These discs are also region-free.

Look no further than the extra-long pilot episode, which packs more visual punch than most mainstream Hollywood movies, and involves human beings melting in an airplane, lightning zigzagging across the sky, arctic blasts of snow, a haunted mental institution, make-up and visual effects galore, and a wonderfully dynamic car chase, everything rendered in exceeding clarity.

Detail on these discs is outstanding - from the red brick and rusty machines of Walter's abandoned Harvard lab to the chrome on a bank vault where some inventive thieves are literally walking through the walls. Definition is good, textures look great, skin tones are solid, and all this despite some grain and apparent contrast boosting. These technical issues are minor (there's also some edge enhancement here and there), and never distracting from the overall visual majesty and complexity of the series.

The aforementioned final shot of the season is even more jaw-dropping thanks to this transfer. Just watch it, already!

[review_audio_stars] => 3 [review_audio_picture_id] => 10316 [review_audio] =>

Here's one of two major areas where this 'Fringe' set ultimately disappoints. Greater sticklers will have even more to complain about.

It boils down to this: Warner Brothers has decided to include a strong but far from outstanding Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track instead of a TrueHD track. Now, I know they've rightfully been lambasted for leaving TrueHD tracks off certain films (as was the case with the first go-around for 'Superman Returns' and the otherwise exemplary 'Speed Racer'), but after some minor digging online, it seems to be downright rampant on their Blu-ray television releases. ('Pushing Daisies' is supposedly one of these releases; still waiting for my review copy of season two, I'll keep you posted.)

There are two ways you can think about this: One, that this is an absolute outrage. There are far lesser films that get the TrueHD treatment. Now, this is true. There are some truly miserable movies that studios still deem TrueHD-worthy. And I can understand the desire to have the sound quality meet the video quality. This is especially true if you're going to be paying an extra $10 + for the series on Blu-ray. It doesn't make a lot of sense, really, especially for a wild and wooly show that demands the most dynamic sound system workout possible.

Then there's the other argument which is: Uh, relax, it's just a television show. After getting over your initial disappointment, you'll probably agree that, while it lacks the necessary forcefulness and punch that would have come with a TrueHD track, the 5.1 mix here is still serviceable. Is it great? No. Is it better than when you were watching the show on broadcast TV, on Hulu, or on some iffy Chinese bootleg site? Yes. Yes it is.

A nice level of atmosphere is constant throughout, thanks to some very workmanlike surround work, and while there is added oomph given to scenes of extreme terror (like the pilot's plane sequence and another where a man transforms into a spiky monster) and dialogue is always crisp and clear, it is far from the level of excellence that you would have gotten had the track actually been lossless. While watching certain scenes, like the sequence where a man, chased by razor-sharp butterflies, jumps out of a high rise window, would have really sparkled in TrueHD, here it lands with a whimper instead of a bang.

So where do I stand? Well, somewhere in between. The audio is a definite disappointment, but it is only a television show. I guess it's just hard to reconcile that it's a television show on Blu-ray, so there really are no excuses. Just working this out makes me even more disappointed.

There are also English SDH subtitles.

[review_supplements_stars] => 2 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 0 [review_supplements] =>

Major area of disappointment 2: The extras. This is twofold: One, there is only one special feature that is both in HD and exclusive to this set. The rest is in standard definition, even though on the back of the box it says, in bold typeface: "Special Features in High Definition." Except that, you know, they aren’t. Except for one. (The other Blu-ray exclusive is a writers' commentary track on the final episode, accessible via BD-Live, for some damn reason.) So, there's one aspect of the disappointment.

The second area of contention is with the special features themselves, content-wise. Anyone who watched the series knows that there are a series of hidden clues, which are dispersed throughout the episodes. While airing on television, commercial breaks were marked by a few seconds of these strange symbols (the producers call them "glyphs"), which spell out words. Recently, the code was cracked, but it would have been nice to know what, exactly, they were getting at with these words and if they'll continue for future seasons. I'm not asking for an explanation, but I just want a little bit of information - how they came to be, whose idea it was to create the code, etc.

Ditto, there are visual clues in each episode that relate to the next episode. For example, there's a butterfly sticker on a newspaper dispenser, in the episode BEFORE the episode where the guy is attacked by butterflies. This is also not addressed, anywhere, on the special features. There's a character called The Observer (played by Michael Cerveris) that shows up before particularly explosive Pattern events. Sometimes his appearance is subtle, sometimes its more blatant, but he's there in every episode and it's been like "Where's Waldo?" trying to spot him. That would have been another nice piece, especially since the Fox marketing department dropped him into other Fox shows, like 'American Idol' (I kid you not).

There's just so much missed opportunity on here. It's such a shame. I went on the 'Fringe' website recently and that had much better features than anything on the Blu-ray, including rundowns of Observer appearances, and the producers talking about the mythology, the finale, and what further seasons have in store for us.

Instead, we get a bunch of tiny features (my notebook looked like a mad scientist's journal by the time I got through all five discs), all between one and five minutes, which end up being repetitive and not much fun and focusing almost exclusively on the technical aspects of the show, without delving into its extreme weirdness or mythology.

In the section that follows, I'll rundown the groups of special features, as well as the individual features. If I went through everything bit by bit, we'd both be here all night. (This is definitely a case of quantity over quality.)

  • Audio Commentaries There are three audio commentaries on the discs and one available through BD-Live. On the super-sized pilot episode, we get commentary from series creators J.J. Abrams, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman. This easily the best commentary of the bunch, with Abrams keeping things light and informative, and his cohorts are engaging as well. They talk about what inspired them, how the show came to be, and are nice and honest about what problems they faced, both production-wise and tonally. The next commentary is by J.R. Orci (Roberto's brother and a writer on 'Fringe'), writer David Goodman and executive producer Bryan Burk for the episode "The Ghost Network," which is one of the awkward first episodes and involves psychic visions and people getting trapped in an amber like liquid while riding the bus to work. (That'd be the worst!) This commentary is far jokier and less focused than Abrams & Co.'s, but it's still fun to listen to, with everyone freely admitting that the first few episodes were far from the best. On the other side of things, we have a commentary by writer-director Akiva Goldsman (who won an Oscar for his script for the odious 'Beautiful Mind') and executive producer Jeff Pinker for late-season episode "Bad Dreams." That track goes into the mythology more, and how the series was shaped by the time the episode aired. Ditto the BD-Live accessible commentary track for the final episode, "There's More than One of Everything," with writers Jeff Pinkner, J.R. Orci, Akiva Goldsman, and Bryan Burk.
  • Deciphering the Scene (SD, less than 2 minutes each) These are located on each discs, attached to every episode, and they basically very briefly discuss one element of the show - a spectacular car chase, a particularly difficult make-up effect, etc. These are too short and offer no real insight, and with a name like "Deciphering the Scene" you'd think they'd pick apart something in the actual narrative, not just present some boring behind-the-scenes footage. You'd be wrong.
  • Dissected Files (SD, usually less than 2 minutes each) "Dissected files" is 'Fringe' speak for 'deleted scenes.' Again, these are spread across all discs and are very, very short. Nothing incredibly revelatory is here, although there are occasionally nice character beats that we cut due to pacing. Since 'Fringe' is actually longer than most network shows, with shorter commercial interruptions, it probably explains why the deleted scenes are so short.
  • The Massive Undertaking (SD, usually around 15 minutes) This feature isn't present on all episodes, but there is at least one on each disc, and basically it's a longer version of the 'Deciphering the Scene' feature, just taking a look at a logistically challenging aspect of the production, in greater detail. Again, while it is mildly interesting, it tells us nothing about the actual show, which is an incredible disappointment.
  • Evolution: The Genesis of 'Fringe' (SD, 9:07) Okay, so this is how the show got started and how the creative team came together. Interesting, right? Well, sort of. It's just that if you've listened to the commentary, all these little micro-features seem pointless and redundant.
  • Behind the Real Science of Fringe (SD, 10:28) This is actually one of the more interesting-sounding features but it turns out to be one of the more boring things on the whole set, actually. Interviews with science advisors to the show and claims that what they're doing in the series is only a couple of degrees away from reality is all you get with this, so if that's your bag, jump right in.
  • Casting of 'Fringe' (SD, 9:21) This is a so-so feature that recounts the formation of the 'Fringe' cast, including how Anna Torv was cast at the last possible minute. Again, this would have been more interesting if all this hadn't been gone over in the commentary track and elsewhere on this set.
  • Roberto Orci's Production Diary (SD, 13:06) This is about what you'd expect, with co-creator, co-executive producer, co-writer Roberto Orci taking you through his experience on 'Fringe.' Not all that noteworthy.
  • 'Fringe' Visual Effects (SD, 15:16) A slightly more in-depth look at the visual effects, but most of this stuff has been covered elsewhere. Unless you're really interested, you can skip it.
  • Unusual Side Effects (SD, 4:32) Bloopers. Yawn.
  • Gene the Cow (SD, 2:46) A look at 'Fringe's' most underappreciated cast member - Gene the Cow! (Spoiler alert: it's actually three different cows.)

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 2 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 10317 [review_bonus_content] =>

A couple of the extras are HD-exclusive.

  • Commentary track for the final episode, "There's More than One of Everything," with writers Jeff Pinkner, J.R. Orci, Akiva Goldsman, and Bryan Burk See above.
  • Fringe Pattern Analysis (HD, 25 minutes total) This is a feature where various scientific types weigh in on six select scenes in 'Fringe's' first season. The only problem is that the interface is horribly awkward, and sometimes text obscures the entire image. This is an interesting idea but horrible execution.

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

I really enjoyed 'Fringe's' first season. Despite a somewhat rocky and repetitive start, the show is a solid, smart sci-fi serial that everyone should be able to enjoy (if your tolerance for goo is high enough). Warner Brothers' set for the first season leaves something to be desired, though, with workmanlike video, a lack of TrueHD sound, and some truly lackluster extras (there's a bunch of them, but dazzling us with quantity doesn't take away from the fact that the quality just isn't there). If you've got the extra money, and love 'Fringe' that much, then go for the Blu-ray set. Everyone else is advised to exercise caution. It's still recommended.

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I thought now would be as good a time as any to circle back and cover a release that's been reduced to a budget title in many stores. This is a classic of its genre, a film whose structure and countless scenes were the main basis for the hilarious 'Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood.' Looking back at the film, one has to wonder how much has really changed almost twenty years later. Though the rage associated with the era has passed, and perhaps the race of some of the gangs still going through these pains now varies city to city, this depiction of the violent street lifestyle and its consequences remains relevant today.

'Menace II Society,' the feature film debut from the Hughes Brothers, begins with a bang, a powerful statement. As we meet our two youthful lead characters (Tyrin Turner as Caine, Larenz Tate as O-Dog), they stand toe to toe with a husband and wife who own a liquor store, who don't much appreciate the business they're being given, perhaps due to prejudice, perhaps due to problems in the past. Words are exchanged, pleasantries never enter the picture, and with one rash action, there's a crime hanging on O-Dog that will never go away, and will shape the rest of his life. As the film rolls on, we see him boasting, openly showing the videotape of the crime he stole from the security camera, in such a carefree manner that it's impossible to believe that it won't come back to haunt him. The kid feels bulletproof, and his openly criminal behavior proves as much.

Though it may seem otherwise, 'Menace II Society' isn't one of the many films glorifying the criminal lifestyle, just as 'American History X' isn't a film glorifying racism. If anything, the two films parallel each other, as their statements and methods of telling a story are quite similar, as they slap viewers in the face telling them exactly how it is, with little room for interpretation. In this film, criminal acts always catch up to those committing them; there's no get out of jail free card, no magic problem solver, or, more importantly, no escape. This film about life in the hood is all about the repercussions coming from one's actions, about respect, family, and justice.

The way the film shows a gradual desensitization to violence, and the vicious circle that it brings, is quite interesting. When we meet Caine, we see a young kid witnessing his father (Samuel L. Jackson) killing a man at a poker table, we're told this is just the first time the kid would see his father take a life before he, too, was gone. Surrounded by drugs, thugs, and death, it's hard for a kid to not be affected, leaving us with the recent high school graduate living with his religious grandparents (Marilyn Coleman, Arnold Johnson), going out all hours of the night to cruise and commit all sorts of misdeeds, a codpiece and eyeliner short of mimicking another cinematic hooligan. From here, with the influence of O-Dog, Caine falls into the never-ending cycle of violence and pain, oblivious to the consequences to his actions, not learning from his mistakes, going back time and again for more.

'Menace II Society' has a hell of a message. It shows that there's an equal and opposite reaction for every action one takes, and that one cannot outrun their past, that eventually the biggest, flashiest peacock in the flock will get clipped sooner for drawing the wrong kind of attention to itself. Sure, this film follows two young kids oblivious to all of this, not realizing their mistakes, following in the doomed footsteps of those who came before them, but what lesson is to be learned from escaping unscathed? That just preaches it's all alright! There is no easy out in life, and that's what we see here. It's all about responsibility, the burdens and consequences not just to oneself, but to those in one's immediate proximity, and as the film shows, no bad deed goes unpunished in the end.

Here, the former music video directors prove to be the right men for the job, creating a timeless depiction of the wrongs that are so easy to fall into, the pratfalls that befall those who associate with fools, innocent or not, and the different life that is readily within reach at any time. It's far too easy and ineffective to just preach what's wrong with society, but by pulling its audience in and slapping them senseless with harsh truth after harsh truth, 'Menace II Society' proves to be one of the best of its genre.

The Disc: Vital Stats

New Line Cinema brings 'Menace II Society' to Blu-ray on a BD25 disc with no packaging frills. There is no main menu screen, just a pop up, and the film begins with no menu prompt or pre-menu bullshit. This disc houses one version of the film, the 97 minute "directors' cut."

[review_video_stars] => 2.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 24509 [review_video] =>

'Menace II Society' isn't so much a catalog dump title as it is a no frills, no remastering, just throw the content on the disc and call it a day experience brought to you by New Line Cinema. Sure, this will represent a significant upgrade from DVD quality, but there's really not much going for this release other than the removal of most (but not all) of the issues that DVDs are known for.

This disc has issues from start to finish, some small, some significant, that prevented me from truly enjoying the viewing experience. I don't so much mind the random as hell grain level that would spike and plummet scene to scene, nor the miniscule amounts of dirt and debris, but the light compression issues, noise, and black crush all prove to be too much, especially when they partner up in any scene. Detail levels just aren't strong, as there are far too many scenes where skin tones exhibit no character and look slightly blurry, and I can say that I didn't spot too many sequences where faces were all that alive and sharp. Textures are up and down, with some interesting or solid moments, but again problems abound scene to scene.

Perhaps in about five years we'll see another disc of this film, and it may be a step up. As is, this is not a great disc. No sir, no way, no how.

[review_audio_stars] => 2.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 24510 [review_audio] =>

Don't get all excited looking at the technical specifications for this disc. Yes, it's a lossless 7.1 track, but there are two things it doesn't have: seven or that point one. This track has such a severe and noticeable absence of rear activity that it's almost laughable. Sure, we get the occasional tire screech or odd noise, but this may as well be called 2.0 for the amount of activity that we get in the hour and a half runtime. The channels that actually get activity show very good separation, but some moments of questionable dynamics. Bass levels are pretty poor, considering the scenes and the soundtrack barely register any rumble at all until late in the film, and even that is too light to amount to much of anything. Crowded rooms that all sound like they're only in front of you, yeah, that's exactly what I was looking for in a Blu-ray release. Sign me up!

[review_supplements_stars] => 1 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 24511 [review_supplements] =>
  • Audio Commentary - This track is compiled from interview footage from various members of the cast and crew. It's really poorly done, as it is too choppy, and the way each participant is introduced prior to an interview clip playing gets real old real fast. The era is discussed, talking about riots, violence, and crime more than actual filming aspects. The clips are sometimes so short it's embarrassing, and often times they start up talking about someone without addressing who is being discussed. This really is a poor track.
  • Interview with the Hughes Brothers (SD, 11 min) - The brothers sit down and answer a series of questions about the film, with themes and topics popping up via title cards.
  • Theatrical Trailer (SD, 1 min) - A bizarre music choice, in terms of atmosphere (the lyrics are pretty spot on), and an interesting way to advertise the film. It's almost candy coated.
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 1 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content] =>
  • Gangsta Vision: Making Of (HD, 21 min) - A look at the film from the rear view mirror, focusing on intention, development, and retrospection. There's a heavy focus on the Hughes brothers, their history and inspiration, as we delve a ton into the casting and perceptions. A nice feature.
[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 2.5 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'Menace II Society' is an almost timeless film, but this disc certainly isn't. It's only two years old, but it barely notches above the titles released in the first days of the format. With poor video, poor audio, and unimpressive extras, this is only worth a look if you can find it for cheap. Worth seeing, but a purchase depends upon the asking price.

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Oh the cheese!

'Over the Top' is a film about a dad, his estranged son, and how they learn to love each other, in the midst of adversity, a greedy rich grandpa, and the Armwrestling World Championships.

Lincoln Hawk (Stallone) is looking to reconnect with the son he left years ago to chase a dream of driving a big-rig and armwrestle big, hairy, sweaty men. Lincoln's son Michael has grown up with his wealthy grandpa, and has just finished military school. With his wife dying, Lincoln is sent to pick up his son at his graduation and drive him back home in hopes that they may rekindle their relationship.

How to rate 'Over the Top?' On one hand it's so outlandishly stupid, and the script is so poorly written, that it demands low scores (thumb down?), but on the other hand its silly story and corny dialogue will have you rolling on the floor with laughter (thumbs up?).

It's made in typical 80s fashion, with plenty of synthesized music for the soundtrack and a plethora of montages peppered throughout. When Lincoln finally gets to the Armwrestling Championship we are treated to numerous shots of men who appear to not have bathed in weeks. One of them drinks a can of motor oil and eats an entire cigar while it's still lit. You'll find yourself shaking your head in disgust, even while you're laughing at the absurdity of it all.

During the armwrestling scenes, the movie inexplicably interviews some of the contestants. When it's Lincoln's turn he simply says "When I turn the hat around it's like a switch," and when that switch is turned, people better look out.

The film is just so ridiculous that it's hard not to be charmed by it. It's one of those movies you might see on Spike TV on a Saturday afternoon. Why it got a Blu-ray release right now is anybody's guess as I'm sure it's not high on a lot of people's want lists.

There's something to be said for cheesy movies that can keep you entertained with sheer silliness. 'Over the Top' is one of those films. You won't watch this for the visceral cinematic experience, it's best approached as fodder for 'Mystery Science Theater'-style riffing with your friends.

[review_video_stars] => 3 [review_video_picture_id] => 10700 [review_video] =>

The 1080p transfer of 'Over the Top' brings the movie into a whole new realm of clarity. Taking into account the age of the source material, we're looking at a fairly strong transfer. Fine detail, for the most part, looks great. Detail goes soft on some of the scenes at that Armwrestling Championship, but otherwise we're treated to a healthy dose of consistent detail. The transfer does have its share of problems when it comes to errant dirt specks and scratches, but overall Warner seems to have spent a lot of time giving this transfer the right treatment. Blacks do hover from inky to slightly lighter tones. Flesh tones appear consistent throughout the film (Sly is one tan man, but Robert Loggia looks like he spent the last few years in a tanning booth). This is a fine transfer for a film from the 80s. It isn't over the top (har har), but it's solid and well handled.

[review_audio_stars] => 3 [review_audio_picture_id] => 10701 [review_audio] =>

The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track is slightly less impressive than its video counterpart. The dialogue is presented clearly for the most part. The rear channels, however, feature a slim helping of ambient sounds to produce that enveloping feeling we're looking for. There are a few scenes, like the contest at the end, and a bar scene, in which light ambience is heard. The 80s montage music is provided an adequate stage, but doesn't show off an HD sound system's capabilities at all. LFE rumbles when Lincoln crashes his truck through a gate, and when cars slam together during a short chase scene. It's a decent soundtrack, but it won't overly impress anyone.

[review_supplements_stars] => 0.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 10703 [review_supplements] =>

Well, you can't have it all. The only feature on this Blu-ray is a SD trailer for the movie.

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

You want it? You don't got it. What? Stallone's bronzed epidermis isn't enough HD magic for you?

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

'Over the Top' is a laugh riot with a good heart. It's not so excruciatingly bad that you'll hate yourself for watching it, it's just ridiculous enough to love. It's a fantastic film for a movie night with a bunch of friends. It may be made even better with alcohol, that's your call though. I enjoyed the cheesiness of 'Over the Top,' but its middle-of-the-road video and audio really only warrant a rental.

) ) ) [1] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 643 [review_type_id] => 1 [review_slug] => requiemforadream [review_release_date] => 1252393200 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Requiem for a Dream [picture_created] => 1252619666 [picture_name] => req.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Lionsgate Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2009/09/10/120/req.jpeg [review_url] => https://bluray.highdefdigest.com/643/requiemforadream.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2003 [run_time] => 102 [list_price] => 29.99 [asin] => B00284BNKC [amazon_price] => 20.99 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => Interactive Bookmark Function ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => Blu-ray [1] => BD-50 Dual-Layer Disc [2] => Region Free ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 Surround Sound ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentaries [1] => Deleted Scenes [2] => Featurettes [3] => Trailers ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => English [2] => Spanish ) [review_bottom_line] => Highly Recommended [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 92007 [review_movie_stars] => 4.5 [review_movie] =>

'Requiem for a Dream' was Darren Aronofsky's ('The Fountain', 'The Wrestler') follow-up to the highly-original and ingenious paranoid thriller 'Pi', his feature debut in which he created an alarming scenario involving the obsession over a mathematical equation. In 'Requiem', he again constructs that same frightening setting for a different kind of obsession.

Adapted from the novel of the same name by Hubert Selby, Jr., who also wrote Last Exit to Brooklyn, the film follows four interrelated people in a spiral of voluntary self-delusion and addiction to dreams of success, which are eventually overwhelmed and defeated by reality.

Chronicling three seasons in the lives of these characters, the film commences with what appears to be a recurring problem. Harry (Jared Leto) is unchaining a TV set that belongs to his mother, Sara (Ellen Burstyn). Along with his best friend, Tyrone (Marlan Wayans), he intends to pawn it and use the money to buy heroin. Later, Sara, as always, buys back her TV because she can't live without it. When she receives a phone call in relation to competing on a game show, she develops a dependency on diet pills in order to wear her favorite red dress. Meanwhile, Harry, Tyrone, and Harry's girlfriend, Marion (Jennifer Connelly), devise a plan to start a business, but they can't seem to conquer their cravings for dope.

Unlike most "drug movies", 'Requiem for a Dream' goes beyond basic depictions of narcotic use and delves deeper into questions of where addiction originates. It's made quite clear that the Harry-Tyrone-Marion storyline is about drug addicts. But contrasted with the Sara subplot, the viewer is forced to ponder the origins of addiction in the simple desire for happiness. By way of conversation, the plot reveals three optimistic friends with a plan to escape their lot and live a worry-free lifestyle, while through daydreams, we learn of Sara's aspirations of achieving acceptance and ridding herself of the loneliness which surrounds her.

Stylistically, the film is stunning and harrowing, as Aronofsky makes several risky photographic choices to suggest various ideas within the narrative, some of which were quite unique and original at the time. First is the use of the split-screen, where two characters appear to occupy the same space in which they communicate, implying that though together in the same room, they are still distant and alone. In other scenes, the film alternates between a frenetic pace and sluggishness, visually imitating the feeling of a drug rush and the sudden low which follows. The director also makes intelligent use of extreme close-ups, fast edits, and montages to depict the surreal and hallucinatory state of the characters, and the distorted fine line between reality and fantasy.

As with Selby's novel, Aronofsky aims to express the addiction of these characters as allegory for a graver and more problematic issue within the "American Dream," as well as its intangibility and elusiveness. The characters' downward spirals into states of lost hope and desperation mirror the degradation of the soul due to false and unattainable pursuits of happiness. Aronofsky's 'Requiem' is a bleak but remarkable achievement in storytelling, and he pushes his cast to give it their all in some very challenging roles. Connelly and Burstyn (who later received an Oscar nomination) stand out as two lonely women caught up in their self-deceptions and ultimately devastated by them.

With the support of Matthew Libatiques's beautiful cinematography and a gripping musical score by Clint Mansell and the Kronos Quartet, 'Requiem for a Dream' is a chilling and distressing nightmare of addiction, whether it be narcotics or unrealistic dreams. In its original theatrical-run, Aronofsky's film garnered serious controversy for its graphic depictions of sex and drug use, earning the doomed NC-17 rating. Detractors argued the images glamorized the use of drugs and bordered on pornographic when Marion performs at a stag party in exchange for heroin. Nonetheless, the film was released to theaters unedited, as the scenes are integral to the storyline, and the film is presented on Blu-ray as an unrated Director's Cut.

[review_video_stars] => 3.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 10294 [review_video] =>

Filmed with a certain visual style and flair, this Blu-ray edition of 'Requiem for a Dream' benefits nicely from the higher resolution format, though it doesn't quite make it as one of the best catalog releases we've seen. Nonetheless, the 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer, in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, is a good upgrade from its DVD equivalent and pleasantly captures Matthew Libatique's cinematography.

With the use of diffusion filters, white levels are highlighted and appear more prominent to the point of blooming, but contrast is fairly stable throughout and allows for plenty of visibility in the image. The grain structure starts off very light and barely noticeable for an appreciably filmic quality. But as the story progresses, it deliberately becomes more pronounced to reflect the decline of each character's lifestyle. Fine object details are affected somewhat by this stylized photography, but it's nothing too detrimental or garish and close-ups expose an attractive amount of texture in the complexion of actors. The palette lacks some vibrancy and energy, which are also likely planned, but they're also accurate and consistently well-balanced, while flesh tones can waver between natural and slightly flushed. Blacks appear precise and deep, with delineation in low-lit sequences permitting background info to be clearly perceptible. All things considered, this is a satisfyingly strong presentation of one of Aronofsky's best works.

[review_audio_stars] => 4 [review_audio_picture_id] => 10295 [review_audio] =>

The first time I watched the film in theaters, I thought the original musical score by Clint Mansell working with the Kronos Quartet was one of the most beautiful pieces of music I had ever heard for a motion picture. It's no wonder, then, that expectations were set high for this DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack, wanting to relive the experience of listening to the music as if for the first time.

Successfully satisfying those hopes is a terrific lossless track, utilizing the entire system to wonderful effect and immersing the listener with great emotional impact. The mix delivers the sort of dramatic impression the film's creators wish to relate and creates a beautifully transparent presence that engages the viewer. The front soundstage is wide and welcoming, with cleanly rendered vocals and an expansive mid-range. Imaging is persuasive with random sounds frequently heard off-screen, movement between the channels is seamless, and discrete effects are non-directional and create a convincing soundfield. Although low-bass is mostly reserved for the various musical choices, it supplies the sound design with winning depth and realism. For a drama about characters on the losing end of their hallucinations, the soundtrack is very impressive indeed.

[review_supplements_stars] => 2.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 10296 [review_supplements] =>

For the supplemental package, Lionsgate Home Entertainment ports over most of the bonus material from the DVD, presented here in standard definition. Missing is the "Anatomy of a Scene" featurette, cast & crew bios, and production notes. It's not a great loss, but it wouldn't have hurt to have included them on this edition.

  • Audio Commentary - Director/co-writer Darren Aronofsky sits down for a pleasant and insightful chat about the "war" that went into making his vision of the Hubert Selby, Jr. book a reality. Aronofsky has an affable and forthcoming tone in his conversation, as he discloses his appreciation of the author, difficulties during the filming, artistic choices and alterations made from the novel, and other random bits and pieces about 'Requiem for a Dream'.
  • Audio Commentary - For the second commentary track, cinematographer Matthew Libatique offers fans his take on the artistic choices that went into the film's visuals. This is also another nice listen, especially for those interested in the photography and other technical aspects. It consists mostly of Libatique talking about capturing the right light within different environments and creating the right hue for each scene.
  • "The Making of 'Requiem for a Dream'" (SD, 35 min) - This short doc takes viewers into the hard work that goes into a film's production and features a great deal of behind-the-scenes footage. It's a surprisingly entertaining piece, as we learn how some key scenes were made and watch Ellen Burstyn exert herself to give such a winning performance.
  • Deleted Scenes (SD, 11 min) - With optional commentary track by the director, this collection of nine wisely-removed scenes are the same as on the DVD. While it's clear they wouldn't add much to the overall narrative, they are still somewhat interesting to watch, especially those in which Selby reads to Burstyn.
  • "Memories, Dreams, & Addictions: Ellen Burstyn Interviews Hubert Selby, Jr." (SD, 20 min) - Exactly as the title implies, this conversation between Burstyn and Selby has the popular writer reminiscing his life in New York and the inspirations that led to his becoming an author. Those familiar with the novel or its creator, or even with a general interest in writing, will find the dialogue very enjoyable and highly gratifying.
  • Trailers(SD) - Bringing the package to a close is a series of previews, which include one teaser, one theatrical trailer, and two TV spots.

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0.5 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 10297 [review_bonus_content] =>

The only exclusive on this Blu-ray edition is the interactive Bookmarks feature, which allows fans to save their favorite scenes.

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

Darren Aronofsky's follow-up to his darkly brilliant 'Pi' is the melanchy nightmare 'Requiem for a Dream', another exhilarating work from a visionary filmmaker. Conveying the bleak realities of drug use with graphic imagery, superb performances by Burstyn and Connelly, and an invigorating soundtrack, the film is a stylized hallucinatory trip into the self-destructive behavior of four people struggling with addiction. The Blu-ray version of the film from Lionsgate arrives with a good picture quality, a very impressive lossless track, and a decent supplemental package, making the upgrade to the hi-def format worthwhile mostly for fans. For everyone else, the film comes highly recommended.

) ) [1] => Array ( [review_id] => 2465 [review_type_id] => 1 [review_slug] => setitoff [review_release_date] => 1252393200 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Set It Off: Deluxe Edition [picture_created] => 1244394149 [picture_name] => set-it-off.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Brothers [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2009/06/07/120/set-it-off.jpeg [review_url] => https://bluray.highdefdigest.com/2465/setitoff.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1996 [run_time] => 123 [list_price] => 28.99 [asin] => B002CA68NY [amazon_price] => 19.95 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.35:1 ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => TBA ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround Sound ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Featurette [1] => Music video ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => TBA ) [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] => 2389 [review_type_id] => 1 [review_slug] => silverado [review_release_date] => 1252393200 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Silverado [picture_created] => 1257892805 [picture_name] => silver.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Sony Pictures Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2009/11/10/120/silver.jpeg [review_url] => https://bluray.highdefdigest.com/2389/silverado.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1989 [run_time] => 132 [list_price] => 28.95 [asin] => B0024FAG62 [amazon_price] => 22.99 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.40:1 ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => Blu-ray [1] => BD-50 Dual-Layer Disc [2] => Region Free ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 [1] => French: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 [2] => Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1 [3] => Portuguese: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Along the Silverado Trail: A Western Historians' Commentary [1] => The Making of Silverado [2] => A Return to Silverado with Kevin Costner [3] => Movie IQ ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => English [2] => French [3] => Portuguese [4] => Spanish ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Western ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Kevin Costner [1] => Helen Hunt [2] => Danny Glover [3] => Kevin Kline ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Lawrence Kasdan ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Get ready for some horse-ridin', gun-totin', whiskey-drinkin' fun in this digitally remastered collector's edition of Lawrence Kasdan's SILVERADO, featuring a never-before-seen featurette with interviews from the cast and the filmmakers! The spirited Western stars Kevin Kline, Scott Glenn, Kevin Costner, and Danny Glover as four unwitting heroes who cross paths on their journey to the sleepy townof Silverado. Little do they know the town where their family and friends reside has been taken over by a corrupt sheriff and a murderous posse. It's up to the sharp-shooting foursome to save the day, but first they have to break each other out of jail, and learn who their real friends are. Thanks to its authentic look and spectacular cast, which also includes Rosanna Arquette, John Cleese, BrianDennehy, Jeff Goldblum, and Oscar(r)-winner Linda Hunt (1983 Best Supporting Actress, The Year of Living Dangerously), this exciting Old West adventure created a whole new generation of Western fans and earned its "modern classic" status. [review_bottom_line] => Highly Recommended [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 95777 [review_movie_stars] => 4 [review_movie] =>

The western always seems to be on the verge of a comeback every few years, usually spurred on by a director who was shaped by the genre in their youth. Most recently this was on the verge of happening back in 2007, when a whole host of westerns, both literally and "spiritually" turned out to be the best films of the year. But even the mighty line-up of '3:10 to Yuma,' 'The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,' 'There Will Be Blood' and 'No Country for Old Men' couldn't stir the western genre up from its cinematic purgatory. (Just ask Ed Harris, whose woefully underrated western 'Appaloosa' was released the following year.)

In 1985, Lawrence Kasdan, screenwriter of 'Raiders of the Lost Ark,' 'The Empire Strikes Back,' and 'Return of the Jedi,' and writer-director of thriller 'Body Heat' and the drama 'The Big Chill,' traded on all the goodwill he had in Hollywood to attempt a western revival. That attempt was 'Silverado,' a spunky and fun comic western in the classical tradition.

The film opens with Emmett (Scott Glenn), fending off several assassins while hiding inside a small shack. After taking off on his horse, Emmett runs into Paden (Kevin Kline), a man who has been left objectless in the middle of the desert, double-crossed and left for dead by his partners. The two make haste for the titular town of Silverado, stopping in the town of Turley to bust Emmett's brother Jake (Kevin Costner) out of prison and out of the clutches of a snooty English sheriff (John Cleese, stealing every scene). The trio finally escapes Turley, along with a new friend, sharpshooter Mal (Danny Glover).

The foursome, once they reach the town of Silverado, go their separate ways, and are knocked down a peg or two by various forces. (Hey, that's the narrative rule - get your hero up into a tree, throw rocks at him for two hours, and get him out of the tree as smoothly as possible.) But eventually our heroes are reunited and band together to rid the town of its tyrannical sheriff (professional scenery chewer Brian Dennehy).

There isn't a whole lot of plot weighing down 'Silverado,' which is sort of refreshing. With a cast as universally superb as the one assembled here, Kasdan has chosen to make a shaggy, character-based western, which is content to hit the familiar western beats, but only if there's an equally powerful character moment to go along with it. Everybody is just great. I haven't even mentioned Linda Hunt as a Silverado barmaid, Jeff Goldblum as a morally ambiguous card shark, and Jeff Fahey as a goon. Costner (who played the corpse in 'The Big Chill'), in particular, gives a livewire performance the likes of which haven't been seen from the actor before or since.

As a writer of brilliant genre screenplays, Kasdan is clearly having a ball with 'Silverado.' Far removed from the grim, humorless, post-'Unforgiven' westerns of more recent years, it's a bubbly, wonderful entertainment. If you haven't seen 'Silverado' in a number of years (as I hadn't), then now is a perfect time to revisit it. It's a whole lot of fun. Is it flawless? No. It's 127 running time seems like it could be shaved by at least twenty minutes, and even at its bloated length there seems to be a number of subplots that were left either dangling (like the purpose of Patricia Arquette's character) or entirely on the cutting room floor. Still, for a popcorn movie this long, it rides along swiftly, with an abundance of thrills, chills, and spills (as they say). And at PG-13, it's fun the whole family can enjoy, violent but not excessively so. While 'Silverado' didn't rejuvenate the western any more than the crop of 2007 films did, it still remains a wonderfully fun, timeless western.

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 11286 [review_video] =>

The MPEG-4 AVC 1080p transfer (2.40:1 aspect ratio) on this 50GB disc is really, truly great. Even though the movie isn't terribly old (it was released in 1985), as far as older movies go, this is a really wonderful transfer.

There's a fair amount of grain, but never a distracting amount. There's just a fine layer, one that makes it look like an actual movie and not a hologram.

The first thing you'll notice is the level of detail. This being a western, every bit of production-designed minutiae (the stitching on Danny Glover's gloves, the different gloves, the saddles - everything) really stands out. It just looks like a million bucks and undoubtedly offers a marked improvement over previous home video iterations.

Colors pop, skin tones look great, and there aren't any technical glitches or DNR-related nonsense. This is just a great, natural-looking presentation and probably the best the movie's looked since it arrived in theaters.

[review_audio_stars] => 3.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 11287 [review_audio] =>

Just as good as the video on this disc is its lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 sound mix. This being a western, horse hooves gallop, bullets ricochet, and debris flies through the dusty air - and this is all lovingly, exactingly recreated in a truly dynamic surround mix. These effects, with superb directionality, really bring the movie to life.

Additionally, Bruce Broughton's Oscar-nominated score really soars on this track. It's a classic western-type score, at times optimistic, at times filled with dread, but always impressive. Hearing it boom out of this mix is nothing short of grand, while never overwhelming the effects or dialogue contained within a given scene.

Speaking of dialogue - the many quips the characters make all sound marvelous here. It's clear and crisp and well prioritized and is always audible, no matter what the effects or score are doing. As I've said before, the characters are just as important (if not more so) as any of the western conventions, and this sound mix does a great service to this.

As far as hiss, glitches, pops, or any of the other technical issues, well, they're just not present. Instead, you get a wonderfully full and atmospheric sound mix that will do any surround sound setup, big or small, justice.

Other audio tracks included are in French Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, and Portuguese: Dolby TrueHD 5.1. Subtitles included are in English SDH, English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish.

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'Silverado' is packaged in the digi-book format, a la 'The Green Mile,' with a little booklet full of glossy photos, a little essay and cast bios, and original posters (like the awesome, Drew Struzan-style illustrated poster by Bob Peak).

Also, this disc is Region "free." Order away, Australian readers!

  • Along the Western Trail: Western Historians' Commentary This track features noted western historians Frank Thompson, Paul Hutton, and Steve Aaron. I know what you're thinking - wow, a commentary by a bunch of western nerds and not one with the dude that wrote 'Empire Strikes Back.' I hear you, too, and was skeptical when I chose this special feature. About two seconds afterwards, all my fears vanished. This is one of the best, funniest, most entertaining and informative commentary tracks I have heard in a long, long time. These guys know a lot about westerns and even more about the actual old west, but they're also incredibly savvy. One of the guys worked on Ron Howard's 'The Missing,' another worked on the ill-fated 'Alamo' movie from a few years ago. And as astute as they are about the historical inaccuracies they're just as on-point about the movie's narrative shortcomings. This commentary is a few years old (one of them mentions that "the first great gay western is being filmed right now"), but is seriously one of the better commentaries I have heard in a long time. I loved it. Highly recommended.
  • A Return to Silverado with Kevin Costner
  • The Making of Silverado (SD, 37:01) This feature combines talking head interviews with from the time of 'Silverado's original theatrical release, as well as later, retrospective interviews. All the principles are accounted for here, from both the cast and crew (you've got to love Kasdan's laconic, mumbled delivery), but this little doc lacks some much-needed zing. As it stands, it's a kind of awkward, half-hearted tribute to a much beloved film, but if you're a diehard fan, you could do worse than waste 40 minutes on this.

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0.5 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 11288 [review_bonus_content] =>

There is one HD extra. And that HD extra is terrible.

  • Movie IQ I'm going to go ahead and quote my review from 'Quick & the Dead' to describe this dumb-ass new BD-Live feature. The only difference between 'Quick & the Dead' and 'Silverado' is that there are more anecdotes and fun facts for 'Silverado' because people actually like this movie. Anyway, what I said before: This is a brand new special feature that is debuting on a host of Sony releases and is really, very dumb. According to the box, it's "real time-in movie information about the cast, crew, music and production via BD-Live." Yes, this is a BD-Live feature, and from the BD-Live menu you can watch a little preview of how the system works, but it's so simplistic I will just explain it here. It's kind of like a U-Control thing. There's a small icon in the right hand corner. When you hit it, you can access various information that's scene specific - who is in the scene you're watching, what the music cue is called, and any trivia they throw your way. The "trivia" is asinine and can be brought up on any fan site and the most annoying thing is that they don't tell you when there are new facts available in the little widget, so you just have to keep checking it, like you're checking your email, until you read something that you find remotely interesting. These moments are few and far between and this dopey special feature does nothing for the BD-Live cause. It's just a waste of time and not recommended in the slightest.

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

'Silverado' remains a charming and beguiling comedic western. It's full of wonderful actors (Scott Glenn, Kevin Costner, Kevin Kline, Danny Glover, Jeff Goldblum - it's an embarrassment of riches!) playing really great characters, in a classic tale of good versus evil in the old west. If you're a fan of the film, this is a no-brainer. The A/V is superb, and a solid collection of extras, anchored by a ridiculously awesome western historians' commentary track, are great. (One lousy BD-Live feature won't sink the whole ship.) If you haven't seen the film, or have kids that are too old for animated flicks, this is a gamble worth taking too. Highly Recommended, all the way around.

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Please welcome Kevin Yeoman to High-Def Digest. Kevin is an entertainment journalist who also writes about television for Screenrant.com. An avid film enthusiast, who is always looking for a new or exciting film to add to his collection, Kevin enjoys rewatching films almost as much as discovering them for the first time. When he's not writing about or watching something, Kevin can usually be found walking around the various national forests in Washington State.

[review_bottom_line] => Recommended [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 126247 [review_movie_stars] => 4.5 [review_movie] =>

Back in 2005, seven years removed from his last feature film, the World War II drama 'The Thin Red Line,' director Terrence Malick had earned himself a reputation not unlike the equally hard to photograph Thomas Pynchon. Well thought of in the filmmaking industry, the enigmatic filmmaker had previously managed to go two decades between features – those being his 1978 film 'Days of Heaven,' and the aforementioned 'The Thin Red Line' in 1998 – so it came as a bit of a surprise when news spread of a new Malick film, 'The New World,' starring the likes of Christian Bale and Colin Farrell, which aimed to retell the story of Pocahontas and her relationship with Captain Smith.

Questions regarding the validity of such historical fiction aside, the notion of Malick re-treading territory once handled by Disney animators certainly caused the ears of those tuning in to prick up. Suffice to say, with a talent like Malick behind the lens, 'The New World' would be mercifully free of Mel Gibson-voiced show tunes.

As can sometimes be the case when a Malick film hits theaters, mainstream audiences largely ignored 'The New World,' despite the relatively high profile of two of its stars. While the box office proved something of a disappointment, the film did manage to attract a fair number of viewers who were particularly struck by the film's meditative style and loosely structured narrative. The result was one of the director's finest films, one that played with a story many Americans should be quite familiar with.

However, we must also remember that this review is dealing with 'The New World: Extended Cut,' which sees the film's already generous runtime balloon to an extraordinary 172 minutes – allowing for nearly an hour of material on each of the film's three… chapters, we'll say.

Like 'The Thin Red Line,' 'The New World' introduces us, via an ambling voiceover, to the main character (in this case, Collin Ferrell as John Smith), who finds himself questioning his role in the world, after coming into contact with a different way of life. Perhaps this is why Smith is so taken by the Powhatan tribe he and the rest of the explorers encounter. The Powhatans appear to have been stuck in time, apparently untouched by the world's progress and unfettered from the ills that the film suggests accompany such modern movements. Well, that and his fondness for the beautiful Pocahontas – played here with subtle charm by Q'Orianka Kilcher.

Chapter two largely concerns Smith's consequent banishment from paradise (for lack of a better word) and the colonists growing conflict with the tribe – one that sees them at the mercy of the Powhatans, even while they plan to seek the colonists' end. As that passes, the final segment revolves around Pocahontas' eventual marriage to John Rolfe (played here by a low-key Christian Bale), which sees her journey to England to enter what would be the final stage of her life: a transformation into an English woman.

Malick is able to pull effective performances from his three central characters – Farrell is particularly engaging – but as is often the case in his films, it’s the voiceovers that really carry the central narrative. Even when the internalization of the world around them is nothing but questions, Malick's intent comes through as a sort of eternal wonder at the beauty that exists everywhere.

The film never sets out to directly question the moral implications surrounding the events that saw Pocahontas removed from her home and the only life she'd ever known. Instead, it offers more of a meditation on what constitutes a natural life, and the film's central ethos, which is posed by the characters themselves in asking, "Shall we not take what we are given?"

Viewers will not find an answer to that question, and in fact, 'The New World' seems to offer them, as it does its characters, both sides of the coin, so as to encourage rumination on the nature of things, both given and taken.

The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats

'The New World: Extended Cut' is distributed by New Line Cinema (i.e. Warner Bros.) and comes on a 50GB Blu-ray, in the standard keepcase with a slipcover featuring new art, likely intended to set it apart from the standard version released on DVD sometime earlier. Contained inside is a single, region free disc containing both the film as well as all of the supplemental material.

[review_video_stars] => 4.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 31533 [review_video] =>

It's expected that the typically exquisite cinematography featured in the films of Terrence Malick would be the central focus of a format like Blu-ray, and this disc does not disappoint. The 1080p/VC-1 transfer captures the stunning beauty on display with a distinct and refined effectiveness. Colors are vivid, whether they are in the stark light of day, or otherwise concealed in shadow. Exterior scenes (which comprise most of the film) are consistently even; whites are never washed or blown out, lending a truly authentic and naturalistic representation of the world that rests at the core of the film.

Black levels are robust and effective, especially in the rare indoor scenes, which appear to have been lit sparingly. Remarkably, even in such dimly lit settings, fine detail remains strong throughout, highlighting the presence of a full color range with striking contrast. Fine detail in clothing and faces is superb, an attribute of high value when dealing with cinematography of this nature. Detail otherwise borders on spotless, though there are some very brief banding elements that will only be found by those nitpicking the video. Elsewhere viewers may find a few soft focus issues that likely have more to do with the director's original vision of the film.

All in all, for a catalog release, 'The New World' stands as strong evidence that Blu-ray can offer additional depth to films of this nature.

[review_audio_stars] => 4 [review_audio_picture_id] => 31534 [review_audio] =>

'The New World' boasts a vigorous Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track that sees lengthy scenes, enveloped entirely by composer James Horner's beautiful score, come to life. Despite what would seem to be a heavily favored musical score, the disc displays a wonderful sense of balance, between score, voiceovers, and scenes with dialogue. Voices comes through clean and distinguished, against both the musical score and the sound effects, thanks to the lossless improvement made here to the film's audio. Imaging is incredibly clear and aids in immersing the viewer in the film's environment. Consisting mainly of background noises created by unseen animals and the natural movement of things (grass blowing in the breeze, leaves rustling, etc.), directionality on the disc properly conveys the images represented on the screen.

Additionally, the occasional LFE is energetic and effective without rattling the windows. In essence, the film's audio is as dynamic, yet understated, as the film itself – which is almost certainly what Malick had in mind.

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  • "Making of The New World"(HD, 82 min) - A comprehensive 10-part documentary that offers an exhaustive look into the production of the film, starting from the casting process through the production itself. This rare peek behind the scenes of a Malick production is a must for any fan of the filmmaker. The documentary breaks the segments down into the following chunks: 'Making the New World,' 'Core Training,' 'Finding Pocahontas,' 'Recreating the Powhatan,' 'Along the Chickahominy River,' 'Jamestown,' 'Werowocomoco,' 'The John Rolfe Plantation,' 'The Battle,' and 'England.'
  • Trailers (HD) – Two theatrical trailers for the film are included as well.
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There are no HD exclusives.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 4 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 31535 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'The New World: Extended Cut' is some of Terence Malick's finest work. It stands as a signifier of both his past efforts and those to come; namely, the wildly lyrical and ponderous 'The Tree of Life,' which would continue the devolution of narrative structure that was largely reinserted into this extended cut. What makes The New World such a marvelous film, though, is unequivocally Malick. Here men encased in metal are nearly swallowed whole by blades of grass standing a head taller; minutes go by without a single word being spoken; hearts are broken, but continue to soldier on. The command of central allegory is some of the strongest Malick has displayed in his films, and for those open to seeing the romantic beauty of it, 'The New World: Extended Cut' is well worth three hours of your time.

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After three near perfect seasons, 'The Office' hit a snag in the fourth run, with characters acting nothing like they had before, with a few in particular becoming excessively unlikable. With that season's finale opening a new door full of possibilities and storylines, utilizing background characters in brilliant ways, I had great expectations for the fifth season.

I've never been a slave to television, to sit down on a certain day at a certain time every week to see a new installment of a program. I had only ever seen 'The Office' when the show would hit the home video market, gobble up a season in two to three days, and then hunger for nearly a year, every year. Would Michael (Steve Carrell) change from his own nastiness and self loathing that reached a head in the previous season? Would the "special" Kevin (Brian Baumgartner) story continue? Would Ryan (B.J. Novak) return to the show? What about Jim (John Krasinski) and Pam's (Jenna Fischer) engagement plans? Would Phyllis (Phyllis Smith) rat on Dwight (Rainn Wilson) and Angela (Angela Martin) after learning of their affair? With so many unresolved/teased ideas, this year's wait for home video was a killer.

Praise whatever deity you wish, as the wait was well worth it this time.

Andy (Ed Helms) and Dwight battle for the love of Angela, only Andy doesn't realize it. Pam finds art school tougher than she had imagined. While Michael and Holly (Amy Ryan) learn what corporate finds acceptable or not. After years of tension, pivotal employees will leave the company to seek out the respect they felt they never received, and every other employee will find things less secure than before. Relationships both blossom and wither, inter-office allegiances form and break, unacceptable/dysfunctional behavior abounds from every corner, and paper is sold. Just another year at the Scranton branch of Dunder-Mifflin.

I've always found 'The Office' to be a show whose seasons can be run through in a day or two without any difficulty, and this season doesn't break that pattern. The 26 episodes (one of which was double length) fly right by, flowing perfectly together, yet as with past seasons, missing an episode won't render the rest of the season's plot incomprehensible or ruin the fun.

While Michael was the obvious negative Nancy in the previous season, with his former flame Jan (Melora Hardin) attempting to usurp his throne, this season Michael is back to being the warm, lovelorn, sweet puppy dog that made him so realistic in all his flaws, much like Carrell's role in 'The 40-Year-Old Virgin.' Jan is still an evil, evil woman, with her only appearances this season being utterly vile and disgusting. Ryan has obviously not learned his lesson, continuing his slimy ways, while Stanley's rage, Meredith's (Kate Flannery) addiction issues, Kelly's (Mindy Kaling) co-dependancy, and Creed's (Creed Bratton) creepiness are all more of what we've seen in the past from these supporting characters. Charles Miner (Idris Elba, 'Obsessed') comes in as a character that is near impossible to love, the polar opposite of Michael in terms of leadership and personality.

Never before has Michael's ineptitude reached such heights, with the opening episode of this season obviously acting as the high point in his complete inanity. Relating the Stay Puft Marshmellow Man, Elvis, Jabba the Hutt, and Martin Lawrence from 'Big Mama's House' to overweight employees, calling each example beautiful, was just a roll on the floor kind of moment, possibly far too early a peak for this season, but a welcome gut buster nonetheless. Dwight has a fun confrontation with a stroller ("Watch out, barbed wire!!!"), and an even better battle of the wits with Andy, calling the unknowing cuckold a cuckold to his face, begging to be caught with his excessive bravado. Hell, Dwight is the star of the show this season, with countless hilarious bits, including the dismemberment of a resuscitation dummy ("This is why we have training. We start with the dummy and learn from our mistakes. And now, Dwight knows not to cut the face off of a real person."). Of course, Dwight is worthless without the constant psychological warfare from Jim, and while it is much lower key than usual, it still pops up from time to time, thankfully.

Pam's costume (Charlie Chaplin, or Hitler with the hat removed) at the Corporate branch is the embodiment of the borderline delusional crew at Scranton, as she didn't think twice about dressing up for the holiday, unaware of the consequences of her own costume choices. Whether they're making a knife with another knife, racing each other with a radar display, or aging like Benjamin Button in reverse, they're still having fun after all these years.

'Season Five' isn't the best of 'The Office,' but it's far from the worst. What it is, for sure, is a bad starting point for those new to the series. Despite even the introduction of ceiling cat ("Save Bandit!"), this set of episodes just falls a bit short of the perfection that the second and third runs brought.

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 10223 [review_video] =>

The fifth season of 'The Office' just so happens to be the first to arrive on Blu-ray, with all 26 episodes being treated to a 1080p transfer in the VC-1 encode. The video qualities are good enough to make me even more anxious as to any word of the first four seasons hitting the format.

Skin tones are superb throughout, with a fantastic amount of detail and quirks present in every cast member's face. Details on sets, like walls or door frames are great, with smears, clumps, and wood patterns all popping right off the surface. Stray hairs for every actor (especially Fischer) leap away from the rest of their manes. Contrast is sharp, while blacks are solid, and whites are sometimes a bit too bright.

Edges are clean and natural, and there doesn't appear to be any significant post-production tweaking like DNR evident. Grain levels are virtually non-existent. There are some light color banding issues occasionally, while some colors seemingly glow from time to time. Jim's stubble looks blurry occasionally, as well, but this is possibly due to being too light to be convincing. My biggest complaint would be the random fuzzy shots thrown in, especially in shots involving vehicles, that stand out like sore thumbs, jumping back and forth in quality. Season Five of 'The Office' is still a great upgrade from the previous four home video releases, and one hell of a tease for fans of the show.

[review_audio_stars] => 2.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 10224 [review_audio] =>

Season Five of 'The Office' sports a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix on each of the 26 episodes as the only audio option whatsoever. English SDH and Spanish subs are also available.

'The Office' isn't exactly a show one could expect jaw dropping audio from, being that it's a show about working....in an office...with paper. Needless to say, I went in with little to no expectations, and I still left a bit disappointed.

Dialogue, the obvious driving point of the show, is always prioritized, clean over little bits of ambiance or soundtrack, but it's often not clear. There are a few muddled lines, and many that have a fuzzy or feedback laden undertone to them that can be quite distracting.

There is a massive amount of background noise in the office, with body movement, footsteps, clothes shuffling, clanging of office supplies and moving copy machines, but these effects often feel amazingly forced and unnatural, as most of the workers are wasting time rather than getting that busy. This isn't a crew of overachievers, yet these noises would lead us to believe otherwise. Strangely enough, when the camera jumps to different angles (mostly for reaction shots), the noises all stay from the direction they were originating from in the previous shot.

Rears are often quiet, or bustling with activity, with little distinction between the two extremes. They come alive for an outdoor rain sequence, in crowded restaurants, or a few party sequences, but are for the most part just accents. Bass is, for the most part, as non-existant as the grain in the video. Every episode teases the LFE with a bit of thump in the theme song, then it seems the bass just goes to work like it were Toby or Kevin, just staying out of the way, out of sight. In the next to last episode, with the cafe disco sequences, the bass goes absolutely nuts, but it's quite a bit too little, too late. A troubling issue in this release that cannot go without mention is the constant humming/buzzing that underlies sequences in nearly every episode, cutting in and out at random, creating a very uneven feel.

It's been a year since I've sat down to 'The Office' in any way, shape, or form, so I'd be hard pressed to say how active or clean previous seasons sounded in standard Dolby Digital, but this lossless mix is far from awe-inspiring.

[review_supplements_stars] => 4 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 10225 [review_supplements] =>
  • Audio Commentary - Weight Loss - With Randy Cordray, Ben Patrick, Michael Gallenburg, Brian Wittle, Nick Carbone, Kelly Cantley, Alysia Raycraft, and Jake Aust. This track has about five minutes of introduction, but since it is a double length episode, this isn't that big a deal, save for the whole "being interesting" factor. For as many contributors there are on this mix, there is no excuse for any gaps, let alone prolonged ones.
  • Audio Commentary - Business Ethics - With B.J. Novak, Peter & Vartan (Craft Services) and Sergio & Alan (Catering). A behind the scenes commentary related to the show in general, not just this episode, which sucks, as this episode has a few great storylines. There is nothing worth mentioning here, as I doubt anyone really gives a rat's ass about the food served to the crew. They can be cannibals for all I care, so long as the show stays as good as it has been up to now.
  • Audio Commentary - Employee Transfer - With Dave Rogers, Anthony Farrell, Veda Semarne, Chuck Canzoneri, Kyle Alexander, and Phil Shea. Halloween costumes and the process involved in creating them are discussed, as are the fun combination of filming and extreme heat, and quite a few production/behind the scenes notes are analyzed, in rapid succession. Not a bad commentary at all.
  • Audio Commentary- Customer Survey - With Stephen Merchant, Paul Lieberstein, and Mindy Kaling. The improv in the show is discussed, the real life cost of what the super small Bluetooth headsets is analyzed (Pam and Jim would spend thousands on a prank, though), and the Buttlicker story is compared to an anecdote with the crew. "We got the Buttlicker account!" would have been a great addition to this episode.
  • Audio Commentary - Moroccan Christmas - With Kate Flannery, Angela Kinsey, and Brian Baumgartner. It is quite weird to hear Baumgartner talk as anyone but Kevin, after five seasons of incredibly slow speech. There are many lapses in coverage for this track to be of any worth, and it is the opposite of the actor tracks from 'Heroes: Season Three:' flat uninteresting.
  • Audio Commentary - The Duel - With Rainn Wilson, Rusty Mahmood, Jennifer Celotta, and Dean Holland. The inspiration for the amazing radar race intro is explained, while the contributors mention their favorite scenes, some behind the scenes elements and anecdotes, and generally have a rapid fire back and forth, free from falling into any of the commentary pratfalls that the previous track did. A good listen.
  • Audio Commentary - Dream Team - With B.J. Novak, Aaron Shure, Charlie Grandy, and Matt Sohn. Bo-ring. Lots of back patting, though some good character analysis can be found. One of my least favorite tracks on this set. br>
  • Audio Commentary - Sorry, not revealing the episode name, as it is a massive spoiler. With Jenna Fischer, Gene Stupnitsky, Lee Eisenberg, and Justin Spitzer. Thoughts on the faux new opening sequence, geographical backgrounds, the ever changing fish in the bowl, and random production ideas. Not a bad track.
  • Audio Commentary - Casual Friday - With Creed Bratton, Mindy Kaling, Ellie Kemper, Brent Forrester, and Claire Scanlon. Not one mention of the disgusting chili opening with Kevin. Fail. Analyzation of character relationships (of the non-romantic assortment), a hint at an upcoming webisode, and the ability to mention particular deities on camera. This track is more of a conversation between the participants than a commentary for the episode.
  • Audio Commentary - Company Picnic - With Paul Lieberstein, Ken Kwapis, and Jennifer Celotta. The 100th episode! The awful, awful volleyball action is dissed (it is true: these actors absolutely suck at the sport), while random crew are pointed out that are called "important" that one could obviously not care less about.
  • Deleted Scenes: Disc One (HD, 62 min) - Holy..this is a lot of deleted scenes! Plenty more inappropriate office situations abound. This collection of scenes contains an explanation of Meredith's facial burns in the first episode (a big WTF from the broadcast), a heartless Jan email, Ryan showing emotion, a rant straight out of 'What the Bleep?' concerning perception vs reality, a comparison between Meredith and a child in their sleeping patterns, more Dwight vs stroller, and Dwight's (flawed) retirement plan.
  • Deleted Scenes: Disc Two (HD, 67 min) - We get to see Andy trying to get Oscar (Oscar Nunez) laid more, so that story in Canada makes more sense. There's tons more decision making between the new copier or new chairs, more Andy stepping in manure, Angela's thoughts on the 'Sex and the City' girls (a must see), the entire office avoiding Andy, who seems oblivious to the situation, Dwight explains more of his varied family history, the crew's thoughts on the new president, and some more harsh roasting.
  • Deleted Scenes: Disc Three (HD, 24 min) - More Angela and the cats, Dwight's definition of irony and his mad lady killing skills, what Michael does when he's pretending to be pooping (seriously), a mention of 'A League of Their Own' on Laserdisc, and some looting.
  • Deleted Scenes: Disc Four (HD, 40 min) - More soccer, water delivery, bacterial diarrhea, reimbursement rejections, secret meetings, urine soaked messages, island gifts, Meredith punishing her son, and the finale of the volleyball tournament. Added up, there's about nine episodes worth of footage deleted through these scenes!
  • Gag Reel (HD, 14 min) - Standard flubs and laughter outbursts. It is kind of interesting watching some of the more serious performers busting out in laughter, totally the opposite of their character.
  • 100 Episodes, 100 Moments (HD, 8 min) - As if we needed any more teasing. 100 short clips from the show play, reminding us of some of the fun scenes from earlier seasons, in high def (and they look quite nice), making the first four seasons of the show all that more necessary to release on Blu-ray.
  • Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Present 'The Office (SD, 30 min) - An extremely low quality interview (in video, audio, moderation, and content) with the cast and crew of the show. Such important information is presented in a matter that can turn off even a hardcore fan. Do yourself a favor and skip this extra.
  • 'The Office' Promos (HD, 4 min) - A few short promotional spots that aired over the last year, including Michael with a protective cup, and ass grabbing for the Super Bowl, while the Beijing Olympics got a few sports related promos, with random sports/events that could be in an Olympics named off (hamster hiding?!?), trademarking a new Olympic sport, and a pencil/javelin hybrid. Some funny spots, but for the most part, passable.
  • Webisodes (HD, 20 min) - A few short episodic side-tales from 'The Office.' In Kevin's Loan, a silly short series that covers Kevin and his gambling habits and debts, ice cream related projects, and a constant barrage of Kevin related failure. In The Outburst, centered on the under-utilized Oscar character after he flips out on the phone on a personal call, and the other workers hovering around him trying to figure it out.
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0.5 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 10226 [review_bonus_content] =>
  • One-Liner Soundboard - This feature is a hell of a lot of fun, loaded with short sound clips from nearly every character on the show to play 'till one's heart is content. Or for ten minutes or so.
  • My Scenes - Bookmark your favorite scenes!
  • BD-Live - Accessible on Disc One only, under the "What's New" tab. There are no 'The Office' exclusive extras here, just the generic Universal portal.

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

"The KGB will wait for no one!" You shouldn't wait either. Buy this set, and let Universal know that 'The Office' will sell well on Blu-ray, so as to get them moving on bringing us the first four seasons. The video upgrade is worth the minimal price difference vs the DVD, while sadly the pack-ins from Best Buy and Target are not available with this version of the set. But once you see 'The Office' in high def, it's hard to go back.

All disc reviews at High-Def DVD Digest are completed using the best consumer HD home theater products currently on the market. More about our gear.

) ) [7] => Array ( [review_id] => 2410 [review_type_id] => 1 [review_slug] => postman [review_release_date] => 1252393200 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => The Postman [picture_created] => 1255828789 [picture_name] => 5318b502037a0.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Home Video [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2009/10/17/120/5318b502037a0.jpeg [review_url] => https://bluray.highdefdigest.com/2410/postman.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1996 [run_time] => 178 [list_price] => 28.95 [asin] => B001993Y4K [amazon_price] => 20.49 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.39:1 ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => TBA ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => Blu-ray ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 [1] => French: Dolby Digital 5.1 [2] => Portuguese: Dolby Digital 2.0 ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Trailer [1] => Featurettte ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French [2] => Portuguese [3] => Spanish ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Drama [1] => Science Fiction ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Kevin Costner ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Kevin Costner ) [preview_technology_specifications] => • Audio Commentary [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => None [review_bottom_line] => Skip it [review_forum_id] => 94175 [review_movie_stars] => 1.5 [review_movie] =>

What a complete miscalculation in filmmaking! 'The Postman,' has got to be one of the most ill-timed, unintentionally funny epics in the history of cinema. Kevin Costner's 'The Postman' plays out more like a spoof of a spaghetti western than a heart-wrenching post apocalyptic tale. Didn't Costner learn his lesson with another little turkey like this? It's just so silly that it's impossible to take serious.

Civilization is rebuilding itself after a worldwide nuclear war. Groups of people have formed colonies throughout the United States, although curiously, the movie only gives us a glimpse at the Pacific Northwest. This nuclear war apparently was so bad that it wiped out every form of technology (except for guns of course). The people ride horses (thank heavens all the horses survived). Along with the various colonies that have popped up, a renegade militia has taken hold of the countryside.

Led by General Bethlehem the militia rides from town to town taking young, able-bodied men to recruit and stealing supplies for his army. Costner plays a man who wanders the countryside doing Shakespeare for the townsfolk with his mule(?!?) and just so happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when General Bethlehem's squad comes trotting in on their horses looking for new conscripts.

After Costner escapes Bethlehem's band of not-so-merry men, he ends up finding an old mail truck in the middle of the forest, and in that truck...he finds...wait for it...a certain uniform. BOOM! Disguising himself as a mailman, he walks to a nearby town hoping to find food. He tells the people that the United States Government has been restored, and that there's a new president. From that point on he's simply known as The Postman.

At a whopping 178 minutes 'The Postman' follows each and every epic movie cliché to a "T." The Postman falls in love and gets a fair young lady pregnant. Of course, as in any such movie, he'll encounter Tom Petty as once famous rocker... Tom Petty (Wait! What?!!). And we all know at some point during the movie The Postman and General Bethlehem will have a showdown. When that showdown happens "anti-climactic" doesn't begin to describe the scene.

'The Postman' is chock full of sincere yet absurd moments, with one of the most famous being The Postman riding past a child to take a letter. It's hard not to laugh as The Postman turns to see a little boy, arm held aloft, and in his out-stretched hand, a letter. At full gallop The Postman rips the letter from the boy's hand, all in slow motion. Instead of the tears that scene was supposed to create, you'll most likely be bursting with laughter. Not good laughter though, because at that point you realize that there's really no hope for this movie.

What more is there to say? All these characters might just as well have been wiped out by nukes, because there's nothing going on here that warrants a film like this, let alone one that run three minutes longer than The Godfather!!!

[review_video_stars] => 3 [review_video_picture_id] => 10882 [review_video] =>

Accompanying a lackluster movie is a comparably disappointing video transfer. The 1080p/VC-1-encoded transfer is average at best. The biggest complaint here is the copious amounts of noticeable edge enhancement used throughout the film. Skin tones don't fare well either, as they take on a pinkish hue. Delineation, during night scenes, is also rough; obscuring faces and objects. Grain is never overbearing, but does become overly troublesome in a few scenes throughout the film. Errant noise and specks pop up from time to time. Fine detail, however, comes out ahead of anything else. Clothing, facial features such as hair and stubble, lush Pacific Northwest vegetation, and intricate patterns are all fully rendered and for the most part beautiful. Colors are presented well here also. The greens of the lush forests are perfectly contrasted with the drab browns and earth tones worn by all of the characters. This catalogue title isn't winning any awards for video presentation, but it is a substantial upgrade from its murky DVD counterpart.

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

The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack is fairly underwhelming. 'The Postman' presents itself as a film of epic stature, but it fails to sound that way. Dialogue, while offered clearly most of the time, does occasionally get overpowered during some sequences. Ambient noise is the real problem for this audio track. The surrounds are far too often silent, or muted. Streets of towns can be full of people, yet the surround channels don't let us in on that. LFE booms during explosions of cannon fire, and during hoof beats of Calvary moving in. The musical score is handled nicely and is piped through the front and surround channels, which is the most encompassing anything really gets here.

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

Pretty sparse on special features. A Theatrical trailer is available, along with one other special feature.

  • The Postman's CGI Route (HD, 11 min) - The special effects artists offer a voiceover as we look at storyboards from the film. This feature basically covers the set that was built for the dam city, and the CGI work that went into the completely pointless shot of Costner zooming down a zip line in a metal box.
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content] =>

Guess it got lost in the mail. Har har.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 2 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 10883 [review_final_thoughts] =>

"Guilty pleasure" gets thrown around a bit with this title. While I think it could be categorized as such for some people, the mere fact that the movie weighs in at a bloated 178 minutes pretty much negates the ability to watch it over and over as the "pleasure" part of the picture is all but absent. The disappointing video and audio presentations only push this title farther into the post-apocalyptic realm of skiiiiiiiiip it!

) ) [8] => Array ( [review_id] => 2388 [review_type_id] => 1 [review_slug] => quickdead [review_release_date] => 1252393200 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => The Quick and the Dead [picture_created] => 1254174190 [picture_name] => qdcov.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Sony Pictures Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2009/09/28/120/qdcov.jpeg [review_url] => https://bluray.highdefdigest.com/2388/quickdead.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1992 [run_time] => 107 [list_price] => 28.95 [asin] => B0024FAG5I [amazon_price] => 22.99 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => Movie IQ ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => Blu-ray [1] => Region A Locked ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 [1] => French Dolby TrueHD 5.1 ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English [1] => English SDH [2] => French ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Western ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Leonardo DiCaprio [1] => Russell Crowe [2] => Sharon Stone [3] => Gene Hackman ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Sam Raimi ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => In this edgy and darkly humorous Western, a mysterious young woman rides into the lawless town of Redemption to settle an old score that has haunted her since she was a child. She becomes swept up ina deadly quick-draw tournament and, in order to win her revenge, must compete in a contest in whichgunslingers from all over put their lives on the line for fame and fortune. [review_bottom_line] => Recommended [review_forum_id] => 92952 [review_movie_stars] => 4 [review_movie] =>

Sam Raimi's career has been largely characterized as that of a horror director ('Evil Dead 2,' Army of Darkness') who was somehow handed the keys to a huge studio franchise in the form of the 'Spider-man' films. But his oeuvre (yeah, I used that word) shows the work of a director restless and eager to put his stylistic mark on a number of genres - from the family crime drama of 'Simple Plan' to the Tennessee Williams-y Southern Gothic of 'The Gift' to the superhero farce of 'Darkman' to the heartwarming slice of baseball Americana 'For the Love of the Game.'

But Raimi's weirdest, wildest foray into genre-hopping has got to be the criminally underrated gonzo western 'The Quick and the Dead.'

The film's story is simple, it's a western stripped of any pretense or artifice. The story concerns The Lady (Sharon Stone), as she travels to a town called Redemption (subtle, I know) to take part in a gun-fighting contest and settle an old score. You see, the tyrannical sheriff of Redemption, Herod (Gene Hackman), was responsible for the death of The Lady's father when she was a young girl.

The other contestants in the competition are predictably colorful and cartoonish, and the outstanding cast brings them to vivid life - Cort (Russell Crowe), the peaceful prisoner; The Kid (Leonardo DiCaprio), a charismatic young gunslinger and Herod's son; Sgt. Clay Cantrell (Keith David), a former soldier hired by the scared townsfolk to kill Herod; Ace (Lance Henriksen), a flamboyant trick shot; and Dred (Kevin Conway), a lecherous pedophile.

Even more fun than the actors and the set-up (the film is structured around the various gunfights, which escalate in murderous intensity) is the way Raimi shoots the showdowns. You can definitely tell he has seen every Western ever made while simultaneously creating his own visual language. His use of zooms, whip pans, close-ups, and sound would make Sergio Leone stand up and applaud. The amount of sheer velocity with which he shoots this is amazing.

Sharon Stone, as The Lady, isn't what you would classify as "particularly good." She's more or less wooden, working with a paper-thin revenge plot that isn't exactly brought to robust life by the power of her performance. Even more distressing is the fact that she's surrounded by wonderful character actors and superstars-to-be (Russell Crowe, in the most "Bruce Campbellian" role, particularly shines), who all seem to know that they're in some kind of zany, comic book version of the old west, while she seems to think it's a "serious drama," making her final performance come across like upscale dinner theater.

Still, 'The Quick and the Dead' is one of my favorite Sam Raimi movies, and those doubtful of the director's verisimilitude just need to check this out. The whip-crackle-pop of the movie's pacing, combined with Raimi's keen photographic and editorial eye, and a host of awesome secondary actors, make for a ton of lowbrow fun. If you're a fan of westerns, or Raimi, or have an odd appreciation for the singular, leaden acting style of Sharon Stone, then this is for you. It's a double-barrel treat.

[review_video_stars] => 3.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 10572 [review_video] =>

The transfer on this disc isn't going to take home any awards for AV excellence, but it's still quite good. The 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 transfer (1.85:1 aspect ratio) starts out shaky, with an almost obscene amount of grain coating the image. This lessens, however, as the movie goes on, and by the time the main thrust of the plot kicks in, you should be genuinely impressed with the image quality.

All the hallmarks of a solid transfer are here. There's strong detail, skin tones look realistic, black levels could be better but aren't bad (there's a certain amount of muddiness to shadows), and the image posesses a sense of overall depth that approaches 3-D. (Seriously - those gunfights have never looked better.) There aren't technical issues to speak of, really, save for some mild edge enhancement.

While it doesn't approach the greatness of some of the other westerns out on high-definition (I'm thinking of the fun '3:10 to Yuma'), most of those are more recent releases. As far as an catalog upgrade from previous releases, this is a marked improvement.

[review_audio_stars] => 3.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 10573 [review_audio] =>

Like the video on this disc, the audio is acceptable but not outstanding. The English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix is mostly strong. The surround field is used to a dynamic degree, without ever sounding too loud or overbearing. The gunfights come to life like never before, with every zinging bullet sounding like it's in the room with you.

Dialogue too, which is almost a secondary concern for the movie itself, is always crisp and clear and well prioritize (the expressiveness of the more robust elements never overwhelms the dialogue).

Alan Silvestri's sharp, sophisticated score, which I must mention(!), shares the same knowingness and fun as the rest of the movie. It sounds amazing here, cementing its place as one of the most underrated orchestral scores of the 1990's.

There's not much else to report on the audio side of things. Again, it's above average and probably sounds better than it did in the theater, but it's not the cream of the crop by any stretch of the imagination. Still: if you're a fan of the movie and have owned previous home video editions, you'll notice the improvement.

Also included is an French Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track and English, English SDH, and French subtitles.

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

There aren't any extras, really, except for a "Blu-ray Exclusive Special Feature" that's advertised on the box, so that's what I'll talk about below.

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0.5 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 10574 [review_bonus_content] =>
  • Movie IQ This is a brand new special feature that is debuting on a host of Sony releases and is really pretty dumb. According to the box, it's "real time in-movie information about the cast, crew, music and production via BD-Live." Yes, this is a BD-Live feature, and from the BD-Live menu you can watch a little preview of how the system works, but it's so simplistic I will just explain it here. There's a small icon in the right hand corner. When you hit it, you can access various information that's scene specific - who is in the scene you're watching, what the music cue is called, and any trivia they throw your way. The "trivia" is asinine and can be brought up on any fan site, and the most annoying thing is that they don't tell you when there are new facts available in the little widget, so you just have to keep checking it, like you're checking your email, until you read something that you find remotely interesting. These moments are few and far between and this dopey special feature does nothing for the BD-Live cause. It's just a waste of time and not recommended in the slightest.

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

'The Quick and the Dead' is a great, weird little western, directed by the chameleon known as Sam Raimi. This Blu-ray is a decided improvement over previous home video iterations. but it won't blow anybody's socks off their feet. With improved audio and video, and a lone, truly lame HD extra, this probably won't sway anyone who isn't a fan. However, if you love this movie lots, then you should buy it without hesitation. Let's split the difference and say that it's recommended.

) ) ) ) ) [September 1, 2009] => Array ( [reviews] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 2470 [review_type_id] => 1 [review_slug] => braveheart [review_release_date] => 1251788400 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Braveheart [picture_created] => 1245679355 [picture_name] => braveheart-small.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Paramount Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2009/06/22/120/braveheart-small.jpeg [review_url] => https://bluray.highdefdigest.com/2470/braveheart.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1995 [run_time] => 177 [list_price] => 39.99 [asin] => B000NQRE0K [amazon_price] => 35.99 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.35:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => Interactive Timelines [1] => Interactive Map ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => Blu-ray [1] => BD-50 [2] => Region A [3] => Sapphire Series ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround Sound [1] => French Dolby Digital 5.1 [2] => Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Featurette [1] => Audio Commentary [2] => Theatrical Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English [1] => English SDH [2] => French [3] => Spanish ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Mel Gibson ) [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => • Interactive Timelines—Three distinct timelines featuring a combination of video, images, text and audio that can be accessed linearly or randomly.

o Production: A comprehensive chronology of the motion picture from conception through theatrical release, from a behind-the-scenes point of view.

o Historical: Chronological modules feature Scotland’s greatest patriot, along with historical places, figures and events surrounding his life and struggle.

o Fiction: A comprehensive timeline identifying the chronological events of the film.

• Braveheart: A Look Back— Features new interviews with members of the cast and crew reminiscing about their experiences making the film and its enduring impact on cinema.

• Smithfield: Medieval Killing Fields—Relates the remarkable history of Smithfield, which for centuries was regularly filled with the roars of crowds, regal fanfares and rowdy games. Smithfield is also known as the site of William Wallace’s execution, along with other terrifying spectacles when heretics, rebels and criminals were put to death.

• Battlefields of the Scottish Rebellion— Two major Scottish battlefields, Falkirk and Bannockburn, will be presented as 3D models that can be explored for further investigation into the military strategies and timetables employed in each. Topography, weapons, troop movements, and leadership data can also be accessed. An alternate playing mode will allow the story of each battle to unfold in an “automated” fashion, much like the interactive dioramas displayed at historical site museums around the world. [review_bottom_line] => Must Own [review_forum_id] => 91530 [review_movie_stars] => 5 [review_movie] =>

'Braveheart' endures in the hearts of filmgoers not because of its relentless and at times remarkable action scenes, or because of Mel Gibson's fine acting and directing. It lives on in our collective hearts because of the message it so boldly embodies. Freedom comes at a cost, at the risk of cliché; freedom isn't free at all. Blood is shed and lives are lost for the cause of something greater. That's why 'Braveheart,' the story of a man who united a nation against tyranny, packs as much punch today as it did the year it was released.

By and large we enjoy stories about the underdog, especially if they're based in truth. Film can transport us to a time when people fought against all odds for something they believed in. William Wallace (Mel Gibson) actually did exist. While the movie takes artistic liberties with the story, the core details are there. Mankind can do great things, even seemingly impossible things, if we just believe and act.

As the film opens, the British empire is in disarray. King Longshanks (Patrick McGoohan) is facing tough times in trying to quell the Scots up North, who do nothing but cause him trouble. He claims the right of "primae noctis," which allows the nobleman of the township to take a bride to his own bed on the her wedding night. Longshanks has decided that if he can't get rid of them, he'll slowly breed them out with English blood.

It is under these circumstance that young William Wallace falls in love with his childhood sweetheart and they are married in secret so she won't be defiled by the local nobleman. Yet after they are found out, and she is killed, Wallace goes on a rampage killing any and every Englishman that comes near him.

In watching 'Braveheart,' it's interesting to note the transition of Wallace's goal. At first his need for revenge consumes him, he's purely killing the English because they killed his wife, but a slow transformation occurs, and his quest for revenge turns into something more broadly meaningful, something that can actually change lives for entire nations.

'Braveheart' is not only a marvelous action film, it's also a tender love story. I'm not just talking about the love story between Wallace and Murron (Catherine McCormac), but the love story between Wallace and his people. Even though most of the times his own people conspire against him because of greed and self-interest, Wallace still fights for them. He still hopes to gain their allegiance, and it's heartbreaking when he is denied this time and time again.

Message and story aside, 'Braveheart' excels on technical merits as well. The direction and cinematography are top-notch. The color palette is blended well to capture the lushness of the English and Scottish countryside. That such bloody battles could take place in such an intrinsically gorgeous place is beyond comprehension. Wars are fought everywhere, but nowadays we picture those wars being fought against dusty, desert-like backdrops. Britain is green and strikingly beautiful. When fighting isn't going on, the countryside seems so serene and peaceful it's hard to believe it was home to such blood-spattered battles.

'Braveheart,' winner of the 1995 Academy Award for Best Picture, still has its detractors, but I'm not one of them. Every time I watch this film I'm still moved by its message and touched by its tenderness.

[review_video_stars] => 4.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 10169 [review_video] =>

Filmed in the mid-90s, 'Braveheart' bursts onto Blu-ray with an HD transfer as spectacular as the rolling green hills of Northern England. The 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer of 'Braveheart' is as near perfect as you can get for a catalog title. Sure, the transfer suffers from the occasional white specks and dust, but that's to be expected from a film approaching its fifteenth anniversary. The specks seem to become a bit more noticeable during the second hour of the film, but they calm down again toward the end. Some shots do appear a bit soft, like the quick shots of Longshanks lying in his bed towards the end of the film.

Yet other than these few, and minor complaints, this transfer scores top marks in every category. It's as close to reference material as you can get with a catalog title. The color palette is rich. Deep shades of green are in abundance, and the transfer handles every shade perfectly. The scene of Wallace hunting in the forest is one of the most richly detailed and colorful parts of the film. Everything from strands of hair blowing in the wind, to the fine links on chainmail are clear and concise. Technical anomalies like aliasing, macro-blocking, and noticeable edge enhancement weren't detected. This is a clean, beautiful transfer that reflects quite well the beauty of the cinematography and the film itself.

[review_audio_stars] => 5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 10170 [review_audio] =>

The superiority of this disc doesn't stop with the video. The uncompressed 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack shines in its own way. Truthfully, I could not find one fault with this track. It's engrossing not only in the stirring action sequences, but also in the more subdued instances. The surrounds work magnificently in creating an all encompassing effect during even the quietest moments. Birds chirping, clanging of armor and metal off in the distance, and the rustling of the trees from the wind provide a wonderful ambient atmosphere.

The action sequences do provide the soundtrack with some stellar effects though. The subwoofer shakes the room when hordes of calvary hoof it across the battlefield. It rumbles as fire engulfs straw huts. The surround channels spring to life during the action, making us feel like we're right in the middle of the battle. Swords clang, shields splinter, and warriors moan. James Horner's rousing score blares throughout the room, coming alive, a character unto itself. This high-def soundtrack makes watching 'Braveheart' a truly absorbing experience.

[review_supplements_stars] => 3 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 0 [review_supplements] =>

'Braveheart' comes in a 2-disc special set. Disc one contains the film and two special features: an audio commentary and a Timelines feature. Disc two contains the rest of the supplemental material.

  • Audio Commentary - 'Braveheart' actor/director Mel Gibson is the sole commentator here. Fans will want to listen to this commentary since he gives some great, spot on insight about the film. Though the commentary is interesting and Gibson does share a few secrets about the filming, casual viewers might not be willing to give up another three hours to hear the commentary.
  • Tales of William Wallace (SD, 29 min) - This feature is taken from the 2007 Collector's Edition release of the DVD. It separates fact from fiction when talking about William Wallace and his life.
  • A Writer's Journey (SD, 21 min) - Also taken from the earlier DVD release, this feature cover the story of Randall Wallace, author of the script for 'Braveheart.' The last name is no coincidence, Randall is a direct descendent of William Wallace.
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 2 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 10171 [review_bonus_content] =>
  • 'Braveheart' Timelines - This feature gives you access to three different timelines. You get the stone cold facts about the real William Wallace, the fictional account that comes from the film, and a film production timeline that chronicles bringing the story of William Wallace to the big screen. It's exciting to compare the real-life William Wallace to the fictionalized version.
  • Battlefields of the Scottish Rebellion - This is an interactive map that allows the user to learn more about the famous battles depicted in the film and where they took place. The Battle of Stirling Bridge, the Battle of Falkirk, the capture of William Wallace, and the Battle of Bannockburn are all represented. The battles of Falkirk and Bannockburn are represented with computer generated animations of what may have happened during the fighting. They take on kind of a History Channel feeling, but are informative nonetheless.
  • Braveheart: A Look Back (HD, 1hr) - This is a three part look back at the making of 'Braveheart' and why it became such a storied piece of cinematic history. Part one is called 'A Company of Equals' (20 min), which tells the behind-the-scenes story of the production of the film. There are interviews with cast and crew. They describe the pure scope of putting together a project like this and the enormous amount of work that went into getting 'Braveheart' ready for the big screen. Part two, 'The Sound of Laughter' (19 min), is a sort of respite in between two heavily informative bookend pieces. It talks about Mel Gibson's war makeup, his fine abilities as a director, and covers some of the more jovial times that were had on set by the cast and crew. Part three, 'The Measure of a Film' (20 min), delves back into the film in a big way. It covers quite a lot about the film, everything from shooting the battle sequences to the editing of the film. The three parts make for a fantastically all-around enlightening piece about how the film came to be and what has kept it such a strong piece of cinema after all these years.
  • Trailers (HD) - Two trailers for the film are presented here, one teaser and one theatrical.
[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 4.5 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts] =>

One of the most anticipated Blu-ray releases is finally here. Fans have been clamoring for years to see one of their most beloved films finally get the high-def treatment, and what a treatment it is! Everything about this Blu-ray shines. Co-debuting Paramount's “Sapphire Series,” 'Braveheart' lives up to our HD expectations. It's a must own for any collection.

All disc reviews at High-Def DVD Digest are completed using the best consumer HD home theater products currently on the market. More about our gear.

) ) [1] => Array ( [review_id] => 2490 [review_type_id] => 1 [review_slug] => csi_s9 [review_release_date] => 1251788400 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => CSI: Crime Scene Investigation - The Ninth Season [picture_created] => 1244559053 [picture_name] => 5318b3e74a0ff.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Paramount [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2009/06/09/120/5318b3e74a0ff.jpeg [review_url] => https://bluray.highdefdigest.com/2490/csi_s9.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2008 [run_time] => 0 [list_price] => 99.99 [asin] => B002CLKV5Y [amazon_price] => 61.99 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.78:1 ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080/VC-1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => Investigative Mode [1] => CSI Mode ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => 6 50GB Blu-ray discs ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 Surround Sound [1] => Spanish: DTS 2.0 ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English, Spanish ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentaries [1] => Crime Scene Initiation [2] => Rats in Space [3] => From Zero to 200 in Nine Seconds [4] => Goodbye Grissom [5] => Deleted Scenes ) [review_bottom_line] => Recommended [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 106888 [review_movie_stars] => 3.5 [review_movie] =>

For years now the original 'CSI' has been lumbering along as a continuous ratings juggernaut, pulling in viewers like nobody's business. It has been one of the most consistent shows out there over such a long period of time. The ninth season shows no signs of slowing down, because this is the season where everything changes. Season eight ended with the death of Warrick. Season nine picks up with the investigation into Warrick's death and Grissom's continuing dislike for the job.

We all knew at the beginning of this season that Grissom was finally going to step aside and let someone else take the reigns. About half-way through the season Grissom is replaced, during a two episode arc, by a medical doctor/college professor played by Laurence Fishburne.

If you've spent your life watching this show, seeing Grissom go is one of the more emotional moments of the series, along with Warrick's death. Fishburne fills in nicely, but he's just no Grissom, that's for sure.

By this time you either know you really like 'CSI' or you don't. 'CSI' does have its fair share of stand alone episodes, so following along with storylines isn't that hard to do. There are some story threads and well-known characters that pop up every so often, but for the most part 'CSI' is one of those shows that you can sit down and watch with minimal knowledge about the show itself.

The ninth season has much of the same stuff we've come to expect from the franchise. Murders abound in Sin City and it's up to the CSI Las Vegas squad to solve them. I'm always constantly surprised at what 'CSI' gets away with on network television. From explicit episodes centering on sexual bondage, to extremely graphic slow-motion violence, it's hard to see how this thing doesn't have a mature audiences rating. The bondage episode alone houses enough questionable content that one could see a movie with the same content getting an R. Perhaps because we're dealing with "science" here, CBS gets away with airing some of the stuff they do.

Speaking of the science behind the show, I'm nowhere near qualified to say what is believable and what's not, but I'm pretty sure that most laboratories out there testing blood samples aren't lit up like a neon dance club. Those are the types of things that just make you have to laugh at the show. The quick cutting, neon lit montages of them testing various substances are among my favorite scenes. Only 'CSI' can make testing hair follicles look as exciting as a rave.

After nine years 'CSI' is still going strong, pandering to its already large fan base. This 'CSI' has already spun off so many spin-offs I've lost count. People love the forensics I guess. I'm sure real-life CSI techs don't actually do as much as the TV people do, as they question suspects, get confessions, and even arrest people. Scientists with guns and power!

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 15293 [review_video] =>

If you've been buying up the 'CSI' seasons on Blu-ray you'll remember that the first season of the show came to Blu-ray with a 1080i presentation. The ninth season, however, is given the full 1080p treatment featuring a VC-1 encode.

I'm just going to come out and say it, this is one of the best looking TV shows out there, no matter how corny some of the laboratory set dressings are. 'CSI's signature smooth, neon look is intact. The entire season features nicely detailed shadows and wonderfully deep blacks. The nighttime Las Vegas flybys that help transition from scene to scene are a wonder to look at (although aliasing does pop up every now and then). Detail is crisp and clear, almost too clear. There are times, like with the guy who was tied to the bottom of a car and had his face rubbed off, where I was hoping that the detail wouldn't be very clear, but it was. Contrast is starkly defined, giving 'CSI' that dark, gloomy effect that works so well with the series. Daytime scenes burst with color and vibrancy. It's true that the CG effects that zoom the camera into the body to look at something like blood cells still look rather silly, but credit to the show for sticking with what has worked for them and playing it up.

While throughout its 24 episodes the picture isn't always consistently striking, this is a great looking transfer and in the world of TV on Blu-ray, one of the best.

[review_audio_stars] => 4.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 15294 [review_audio] =>

From the opening theme song of "Who Are You?" to the closing credits, this DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 presentation is booming with life.

Loud, is one word to describe it. The theme song hits you like a ton of bricks when it starts. The LFE rumbles, the lyrics screech. The rear speakers are almost constantly engaged in producing and ambient soundfield that engulfs you. From crowded crime scenes, to the lively streets of Las Vegas, the ambient sound provided here is top-notch. Dialogue is always clear, and isn't even drowned out by the booming soundtrack. Flashbacks feature great effects and some stellar bass. When the camera dives into the human body and starts floating around the blood stream to show us exactly what happened, your entire sound system is transformed. Like you're actually shooting down blood vessel with sounds that may make you grimace. Although, if you grimace easily 'CSI' probably isn't the show for you anyway.

The video on this release offers a remarkable example of high-definition, but the sound here just might outdo it.

[review_supplements_stars] => 3 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 15295 [review_supplements] =>
  • Audio Commentaries – Located on discs four and five, the episodes with commentary are episode 16 called "Turn, Turn, Turn," and episode 20 called "A Space Oddity." Commentaries would have been nice to have on every episode, especially with 24 episodes it's a little disappointing to only see two episodes turn up with them. What's even more disappointing is that these commentaries take place after Grissom is gone. If any episodes needed commentary it was the two episodes in which Grissom comes to the end of working with CSI. Those would have been much more insightful and meaningful commentaries.
  • Crime Scene Initiation (HD, 15 min.) – Located on disc one, Laurence Fishburne and Lauren Lee Smith talk about being new to the show, how they fit in, and how it was different when Petersen left the set.
  • Rats in Space (HD, 27 min.) – A look behind the scenes at the episode "Lab Rat." You'll find this feature on disc five.
  • From Zero to 200 in Nine Seconds (HD, 19 min.) – That's right 'CSI' has reached 200 episodes. Here the feat is lightly chronicled featuring director William Friedkin and how the entire show reached such a landmark point. This can also be found on disc five.
  • Goodbye Grissom (HD, 18 min.) – Even though I'm not the biggest 'CSI' fan in the world, Grissom leaving is quite the event, even I know that. Here we're given a look back at the character and how Petersen was instrumental in creating the final story arc for Grissom. It was pretty neat to see the admiration everyone has for Petersen and his character and the trust he was given to send off Grissom on the right note. Found on disc six.
  • Deleted Scenes (SD, 8 min.) – Spread across most of the discs are deleted scenes here and there that aren't really worth watching.

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 2.5 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 15296 [review_bonus_content] =>
  • Investigative Mode (HD) - Investigative Mode can be found on 2 different episodes on two different discs. "Let it Bleed" on disc one and "Kill Me if You Can" on disc four. Investigative Mode is a picture-in-picture track that pops up with helpful trivia, information on how certain scenes were filmed, and interviews from the cast and crew. It's a nice addition to the supplements, but it would have been nice to see something like this added to each and every episode, to make it feel more like a complete thought process rather than just something thrown in on two episodes.
  • CSI Mode (HD) - Another pop-up feature that focuses on the hard science of the show and fiction versus fact. It's interesting that this pop-up feature actually points out times where characters in the show aren't doing exactly what investigators in real-life would be doing. It also points out scientific procedures and methods and how they relate to real-life crime solving. Again, this isn't something found on every episode sadly, just on the episodes housed on disc three.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 4 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 15297 [review_final_thoughts] =>

By the ninth season you know if you're a fan of 'CSI' or not. If you've gotten this far in the review, I'd say you're pretty interested in the show, and I don't have to convince you further that this is indeed a set that should be in your collection. The video and audio are just about as good as it gets on TV Blu-rays, while the supplements package gives a lot of information for loyal fans as well as providing some insightful, albeit sparse, Blu-ray exclusive PiP features. This set comes recommended for fans, but anyone who wants a likable show on Blu-ray might think of picking this one up as well.

) ) [2] => Array ( [review_id] => 2501 [review_type_id] => 1 [review_slug] => earth [review_release_date] => 1251788400 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Earth [picture_created] => 1244920502 [picture_name] => earth.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Disneynature [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2009/06/13/120/earth.jpeg [review_url] => https://bluray.highdefdigest.com/2501/earth.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2008 [run_time] => 0 [list_price] => 39.99 [asin] => B001UV4XWE [amazon_price] => 27.95 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.78:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => Picture-in-Picture Commentary [1] => Interactive Menu ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => Blu-ray [1] => BD-25 Single-Layer Disc [2] => Region Free ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround Sound [1] => French: Dolby Digital 5.1 [2] => Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1 [3] => Italian: DTS 5.1 [4] => Portuguese: Dolby Digital 5.1 [5] => Spanish (Mexico): Dolby Digital 5.1 [6] => Spanish (Argentina): Dolby Digital 5.1 ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Featurette ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => French [2] => Spanish [3] => Italian [4] => Portuguese ) [review_bottom_line] => Recommended [review_forum_id] => 91860 [review_movie_stars] => 4 [review_movie] =>

Disneynature's 'Earth' amounts to a 90-minute trailer for the 550-minute BBC series 'Planet Earth.' Every bit of it is footage taken from the popular nature series and edited down to an hour and a half. Narration has switched from Sir David Attenborough to James Earl Jones. The film has been spliced together, more or less, to tell three stories of three separate animal families – elephants, polar bears, and humpback whales.

Walt Disney was fascinated by the animals that inhabited our planet. From 1948 – 1960 Disney produced a series of shorts and features called 'True-Life Adventures.' When the Disney Company announced its plans to go forward with an entirely new line of films that would be presented under the Disneynature label, they carried on the wishes and dreams of Walt.

As we follow the three animal families around the world in their quests for survival it's interesting to note that Disney has left in a lot of the "depressing" parts from 'Planet Earth.' For something geared more toward children, they sure retained many of the harsh realities of the animal kingdom. Sure they put the cute stuff in too, like the fuzzy ducklings throwing themselves out of a tree when they still can't fly, only to hit the ground with a comical bounce and be fine. Juxtapose that with the kill or die scenario the father Polar Bear finds himself in. The heart wrenching story finds a Polar Bear swimming the open ocean because the polar ice caps have melted sooner than he's used to. Finding an island after an exhausting swim, he tries to find food, but all he finds is a group of cranky walruses that aren't eager to become dinner. It's a terrible situation the Polar Bear finds himself in, but it does provide a springboard for parents to talk about the facts of life with their children.

'Earth' also keeps the elements of 'Planet Earth' related to the warming climate, which is another topic that can be brought up when watching this with your children. The most exciting parts of 'Planet Earth' such as the high speed footage of the Great White Sharks leaping out of the water to catch passing sea lions, or the slow motion attack of a Cheeta, are kept in for the "Wow" factor. I was excited that much of the mind-bending time lapse footage was preserved as well.

The ocean lover in me was disappointed that there was really no mention of coral reefs or their roles in the ecosystem. The spectacular Caves portion of 'Planet Earth' is also left out. I don't envy the person that had to decide what to keep and what to do without.

Overall, this more condensed version of one of the greatest nature shows is a lot more kid friendly. It abstains from the gore of the animal kingdom and really only gives the viewer glimpses of what it would be like. It does feel rushed, but that's expected considering the source material an this shorter runtime.

All in all, it's a decent presentation that encompasses the main messages that 'Planet Earth' portrays. The fragile nature of life, conservation, and protecting the environment are all presented here. 'Planet Earth' is one of my all-time favorite TV series, and I felt Disney did the series justice with the time allotted for this kid-friendly abbreviated version

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 10239 [review_video] =>

Seeing that all of the video here comes from the stellar source material 'Earth's MPEG-4 AVC – encoded 1080p transfer is nothing but miraculous. 'Planet Earth' had some of the best visuals ever featured on HD, and 'Earth' is no exception. This transfer is every bit as perfect as we'd expect. Colors are bright and vibrant, blacks are perfectly balanced, and even the dreaded night-cam footage – that's usually is full of grain and noise in other productions – is stunningly clear here.

Technical problems do arise on a few minor occasions. Slight banding and noise appear during some of the ultra-slow motion scenes. White specks and errant noise come into view during some of the waterfall scenes. These problems are minor, and never really detract from the beauty on the screen. Everything else is presented with the crystal clarity befitting of such fantastic source material.

[review_audio_stars] => 4 [review_audio_picture_id] => 10240 [review_audio] =>

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 gives this presentation an astounding lossless soundtrack. Mr. James Earl Jones' voice is featured front and center in all its deep, booming glory. One of the most memorable voices in all of cinema is given a grand stage to narrate with authority. Likewise, the surrounds do their work with efficiency, creating an ambient atmosphere with noises like howling monkeys, chirping birds, and rolling thunder. Whether it be the roar of a lion or the song of a humpback whale, 'Earth's soundtrack is clear, concise, and utterly engulfing in its effect.

[review_supplements_stars] => 1 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 10243 [review_supplements] =>
  • Earth Diaries (HD, 43 min) - These are snippets taken from the hour-long diary episodes that would air after each episode of 'Planet Earth.' Cut down, this behind-the-scenes footage still provides the viewer with some knowledge of how hard it was to take on such an undertaking as this series.

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 2 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 10244 [review_bonus_content] =>

Disney has put some thought into these special features. Interactivity is at the top of the list for the Blu-ray exclusive features.

  • Filmmaker Annotations - Remember how I said I wouldn’t have wanted to be the person who had to decide what stayed and what was cut? Well, you get to meet those people in this picture-in-picture presentation. They actually talk about the difficulty in deciding exactly what would go into this film and what would be left out. This is a must see feature. It's informative and fun.
  • Living Menus Content - Maybe I'm just impressed by simplistic yet informative features, but there's no other word to describe this feature other than "cool." The Living Menu is found on the main menu of the Blu-ray. You'll see a picture of the earth that you're able to rotate with your remote. Tiny white, pulsating dots represent hotspots on the globe. If you navigate over to them you'll see that sometimes text information pops up and sometimes and entire video. You get to learn about different places and wildlife wherever the spot is located. That isn't it, because in the bottom-left corner you'll notice that the time and date have been synced to your time. After you've explored all the Living Menu hotspots don't worry, because next month a new batch will appear!

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

I never thought that the size and scope of the 'Planet Earth' series could be cut down to a meager 90 minutes and still retain the awe and majesty that we've adored. Even though Disney does leave out a lot of material, the inherent message is still there. We must conserve and protect our environment. It’s a beautiful film, with wondrous images, and a good heart. Kids will be able to enjoy it with their short attention spans, Disney sees fit to leave out the animal kingdom blood and guts in order to keep it family friendly. Boasting some great video and audio, this title comes recommended.

All disc reviews at High-Def DVD Digest are completed using the best consumer HD home theater products currently on the market. More about our gear.

) ) [3] => Array ( [review_id] => 2565 [review_type_id] => 1 [review_slug] => escaflownethemovie [review_release_date] => 1251788400 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Escaflowne: The Movie [picture_created] => [picture_name] => [manufacturer_name] => Bandai Entertainment [picture_source] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/images/public/[email protected] [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/images/public/pop-on-amazon.png [picture_source_195] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/images/public/[email protected] [picture_source_235] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/images/public/[email protected] [picture_source_300] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/images/public/[email protected] [picture_source_660] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/images/public/[email protected] [picture_alternate] => Box coming soon [picture_title] => Box coming soon [review_url] => https://bluray.highdefdigest.com/2565/escaflownethemovie.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2000 [run_time] => 120 [list_price] => 39.98 [asin] => B002GNOLYU [amazon_price] => 27.99 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => TBA ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => TBA ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround Sound [1] => English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround Sound ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Cast and staff interviews [1] => Bandai trailers ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Anime ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Hitomi Kanzaki is tired of life. Depressed and despondent she wishes that she could just fade away, to make the pain of living stop hurting. Her pain resonates with another on the world of Gaea, and when her wish is granted, she finds herself in a strange land. She is greeted as the Wing Goddess, who possesses the power to summon the legendary Escaflowne. Hitomi's fate is intertwined with the brash young warrior king Van, who also feels that life has lost its meaning. Sworn to strike back at the Black Dragon Clan which destroyed his kingdom, he fights to exist and he exists to fight. The arrival of the Wing Goddess marks the final turning point in Van's battle, as she holds an entire world's destiny in her heart. By summoning Escaflowne, the Wing Goddess will choose that path of Gaea's future. But is her heart's desire salvation... or destruction? [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 ) ) [4] => Array ( [review_id] => 2524 [review_type_id] => 1 [review_slug] => gladiator [review_release_date] => 1251788400 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Gladiator [picture_created] => 1245679923 [picture_name] => gladiator-small.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Paramount [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2009/06/22/120/gladiator-small.jpeg [review_url] => https://bluray.highdefdigest.com/2524/gladiator.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2000 [run_time] => 171 [list_price] => 39.99 [asin] => B000NU2CY4 [amazon_price] => 27.99 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.39:1 ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => Blu-ray [1] => BD-50 Dual Layer Discs [2] => 2-Disc Set [3] => Theatrical Version and Extended Version of film ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround [1] => French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround [2] => Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentaries [1] => Documentaries [2] => Featurettes [3] => Still Galleries [4] => Deleted Scenes [5] => Storyboard Comparisons ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English Subtitles [1] => English SDH [2] => French Subtitles [3] => Spanish Subtitles [4] => Korean Subtitles ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Russell Crowe ) [preview_technology_specifications] => • Audio Commentary—Two separate commentaries accompany the original theatrical version and extended version of the film.

• The Scrolls of Knowledge—The original trivia track has been newly enhanced with focus points allowing viewers to access a series of new behind-the-scenes featurettes exploring key scenes and how they relate to the historical accuracy depicted in the film. The extended version of the film also includes a deleted scene marker.

• Visions From Elysium: Topic Marker—Viewers can tag moments of interest throughout either version of the film, allowing them to create “shopping lists” of topics to learn more about. Thanks to the Blu-ray player’s memory, the topics will automatically be loaded when Disc 2 is inserted, giving viewers immediate access to featurettes and galleries of interest.

• Strength And Honor: Creating The World of Gladiator—The definitive documentary on the origin, production and impact of the Oscar®-winning classic. The documentary includes an all-new Enhanced Viewing Mode allowing viewers access to additional interviews and behind-the-scenes material.

• The Making of Gladiator—HBO First Look special.

• Gladiator Games: The Roman Bloodsport—Learning Channel special.

• Hans Zimmer: Scoring Gladiator—An exploration of the rousing soundtrack.

• My Gladiator Journal—Personal diary of the young actor who played Lucius.

• Image & Design—Featurettes and galleries covering the production design, storyboards, costumes and more.

• Abandoned Sequences & Deleted Scenes

• VFX Explorations: Germania & Rome—Shot deconstruction with the visual effects artists. [review_bottom_line] => Recommended [review_forum_id] => 91634 [review_movie_stars] => 5 [review_movie] =>

Roman epics are as much a part of cinematic history as Lassie and John Wayne. Ever since the silent era and on through such mammoth works as 'Quo Vadis,' 'The Robe,' 'Ben-Hur,' and 'Cleopatra,' studios and audiences have been hopelessly seduced by the ancient empire's intoxicating blend of decadence, intrigue, and grandeur. Yet for every iconic Roman film produced, Hollywood has churned out at least one colossal dud, often swallowing a bitter box office pill when flat receipts proved time and again that spectacle alone isn't enough to keep a sword-and-sandal saga from sinking into the dust.

The genre's inherent traps have sandbagged many a lofty director, but Ridley Scott navigated the minefield well, and 'Gladiator' is the glorious result – a film rich with passion and narrative drive that both followed a timeworn blueprint and blazed its own trail. With a masterful sense of rhythm and timing, Scott combined old school elements with contemporary technique to produce a riveting, often thrilling work that redefined the Hollywood epic and earned five well-deserved Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor (Russell Crowe). Though he didn't hesitate to pull the trigger and go for broke visually, Scott shrewdly picked his moments, and never loosened his grip on the tenuous emotional thread that keeps the movie grounded. 'Gladiator,' unlike many blockbusters, has heart and more than a little soul, and that, along with Crowe's brawny, brooding presence, is what makes this movie a modern classic.

After defeating a holdout tribe of Germanic barbarians in 180 A.D., Rome's most decorated general, Maximus Meridas (Crowe), wants nothing more than to retreat to his country farm and commune with his wife and young son. But Emperor Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris) has other ideas. The dying despot abhors the direction in which Rome is heading, and longs to end the "crippling corruption" he fears will one day destroy the empire. Giving power back to the people and returning to a republican form of government is Marcus' last wish, and he anoints Maximus, a symbol of honor, morality, and strength, the caretaker of his dream. Under Marcus' plan, Maximus will become "Protector of Rome," and maintain order until the Senate is strong enough to rule again. "You are the son I should have had," Marcus tells him, and though the emperor's real son, the neglected and insatiably ambitious Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix), doesn't hear the comment, he still senses he's fallen out of his father's favor.

Sadly, Marcus doesn't live long enough to implement his plan. The unstable Commodus succeeds him, and almost at once he and Maximus clash. Tragedy ensues, and Maximus is captured by Proximo (Oliver Reed), an entrepreneurial slave trader who recognizes and exploits the fury burning within him. To gain his freedom, the noble Maximus becomes a gladiator, a one-man killing machine who thrills bloodthirsty crowds by viciously vanquishing any foe. And though his heroic deeds in the ring turn him into a sensation, he lives only to take brutal revenge on the society that betrayed him and the twisted emperor who took from him his most precious possessions.

It's rare to call a 155-minute film tight, but 'Gladiator' (even in its 171-minute extended edition) enthralls throughout. Like its hero, the movie's pacing is lean and mean, and no dead scenes drag it down. Scott's arresting style and the picture's top-flight production values keep the eye engaged, yet the veteran director knows when to tone down the stimuli and let the story unfold on its own. Oh sure, the opening battle and violent Coliseum sequences dazzle our senses, but the proof of Scott's pudding lies in its quieter moments, and with a wonderful narrative structure that seamlessly weaves Freudian undertones, political skullduggery, and sexual tension into its fabric, there's enough meat on 'Gladiator's' bulky frame to make the time fly by.

The actors help, too. Crowe, in his first collaboration with Scott (they would later team up for 'A Good Year,' 'American Gangster,' 'Body of Lies,' and the upcoming 'Robin Hood'), commands the screen, making Maximus much more than a big lug obsessed with revenge. Subtle touches abound in his deceptively simplistic interpretation, fleshing out the human qualities that fuel the gladiator's rage and torture his spirit. In a far juicier role, Phoenix tries his best to wrestle the picture away, and almost succeeds with an alternately heartbreaking and repugnant portrait of insecurity, anguish, cruelty, and perversion. Equally compelling performances from Harris, Reed, Connie Nielsen, Derek Jacobi, and Djimon Hounsou enhance the film, and their trained voices add mellifluous luster to the literate, Oscar-nominated screenplay.

Some sagas are stuffy, bloated, and empty. 'Gladiator' is none of those things. Its meticulous attention to detail, riveting performances, and breathtaking spectacle all combine to produce a powerful and memorable film that improves with each viewing. Reinventing and revitalizing an extinct genre is no easy task, yet by blending the best elements of the past and present, Scott succeeds brilliantly. In Hollywood's new epic competition, 'Gladiator' is the one to beat, and in the decade since its initial release, this bold yet poetic blockbuster has knocked off all challengers with the same snarling swagger as its hero.

[review_video_stars] => 3.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 10188 [review_video] =>

'Gladiator' has been hands down one of the most hotly anticipated high-def releases since the dawn of the Blu-ray format. The wait has been long, but when Paramount announced Ridley Scott's masterwork would be one of the inaugural titles in the studio's new top-of-the-line Sapphire Series, fans hoped their Job-like patience would be well rewarded. Expectations for a super-deluxe transfer rose to stratospheric heights, and then, like a bolt from the blue, came the screenshots-heard-'round-the-world, and enthusiasm plummeted. Several days before the disc's street date, videophiles showered isolated frames from the transfer across many internet forums (including ours), and decried the heavy use of edge enhancement and digital noise reduction, as well as excessive dirt and scratch removal filtering, that supposedly plagued the film. As a result, the 'Gladiator' controversy has become quite the Blu-ray cause célèbre, and the debate continues to rage. So, has this beloved title been irrevocably ruined by shoddy workmanship, cost-cutting, and a shameful disregard for both the film itself and the fundamental principles of present-day high-def transfer methods? Or, with apologies to Mark Twain, have the reports of 'Gladiator's' demise been greatly exaggerated?

I hate to be a fence straddler, but the answer lies somewhere in between. While I can't pretend to be the ultimate authority on this issue – no one (except maybe Ridley Scott) can – my particular set of eyes found the transfer to possess many of the faults described above, but nowhere near to the extent some of the more vociferous posters have stated. Yes, there's edge enhancement. Yes, there's DNR. I noticed both, but neither destroyed my viewing experience. On the whole, I found 'Gladiator' to be a very worthy upgrade from the previous DVD editions and a fine addition to the Blu-ray catalogue. Clarity is much improved, colors are brighter and bolder, the print is cleaner, and the picture possesses a much greater degree of depth and dimensionality. No, it is not the breathtaking, gasp-inducing effort many fans (including myself) expected, and Paramount promised with the silly Sapphire Series label. But casual viewers who just want to enjoy the drama and spectacle of this Oscar-winning epic with enhanced video and sound should be delighted. Diehard aficionados seeking perfection, however, undoubtedly will be frustrated.

So let's talk specifics. I watched portions of the extended edition of 'Gladiator' on two different displays – a 57-inch Mitsubishi DLP and a 46-inch Mitsubishi LCD. (My TV of choice is the DLP, as I feel the technology provides a more theatrical viewing experience.) The "smaller" screen sizes probably somewhat diminish the offensive digital doctoring, but whether one views the film on a 40-inch or 100-inch display, there's no denying the transfer possesses a definite processed look. Film-like warmth comes at a premium. While light grain lends the picture welcome, necessary texture, a sterile coldness often prevails. At its worst, the transfer makes some images appear almost superimposed on the screen, as excessive sharpening ever-so-slightly detaches figures from their backgrounds and gives certain scenes an artificial layered look. The DLP display was much more adept at masking such deficiencies (although they were still noticeable) and replicating the look and feel of true celluloid. The LCD display, on the other hand, was more unforgiving. Noise was much more visible in solid colors, the image adopted a harsher sheen, loss of detail was more apparent in panoramic shots, and print imperfections (such as errant white dots) were easier to spot. On both displays, however, the Blu-ray still beat upconverted DVD by a wide margin.

Perhaps the biggest problem with the 'Gladiator' transfer is that it's not a consistent effort. Rumor has it the bulk of the film was struck from a 2000 HD master (approved by Scott) in which digital enhancements were made, while the extended scenes are taken from a 2005 HD master that reflects today's more natural transfer standards. As I watched the movie via seamless branching, I really couldn't distinguish between the two per se. Yet upon reexamination, I noticed that while the extended scenes do flaunt a slightly more realistic, film-like look, they're not head-and-shoulders above every sequence in the theatrical cut. In fact, many stretches of the theatrical version rival the extended scenes.

Which brings me to my next point. At times, 'Gladiator' looks spectacularly good, with moments of jaw-dropping dimensionality, terrific detail, and sumptuous color. Though the first third of the film is awash in blue tones or a golden haze, both of which slightly mute contrast, vibrancy perks up measurably when Maximus is captured by the slave traders. The blue sky, green fields, red blood, and clay-colored earth all enjoy marvelous saturation. Fabric details and uniform adornments come through quite well, fleshtones look stable and natural, and black levels and shadow delineation are both stellar.

Much has been made about the scratch removal process defacing the image, especially with regard to arrows and fireballs that disappear and reappear in varying degrees of intensity from one frame to the next during the opening battle sequence. If you'd like to take the time to watch the film in slow-motion to find these instances, be my guest, but you won't see them at normal speed. (That doesn't excuse their existence, but it shouldn't keep anyone from purchasing this disc.) As far as DNR goes, it's there, but not employed so excessively that the actors look like wax figures moving through a Roman tableau at Madame Tussaud's. Facial features can look a bit smooth and at times lack the striking detail we expect from Blu-ray, but plenty of close-ups are razor sharp and absolutely stunning.

All in all, I have to say I've made my peace with this 'Gladiator' transfer. Could it better? Absolutely. Would I trade my copy if a replacement disc was pressed? In a New York minute. Will I toss this Blu-ray in a corner and forget about it until a better version is released? No. While it's far from the knock-my-socks-off, died-and-gone-to-heaven effort for which I and many others had hoped, it's also equally far from the sky-is-falling disaster others have claimed. Until a revamped version comes along, this one will certainly suffice.

[review_audio_stars] => 5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 10189 [review_audio] =>

Thankfully, no controversies swirl about the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, and only one word describes it: supreme! From the moment the first strains of Hans Zimmer and Lisa Gerrard's score flood the sound field during the movie's opening sequence, we know we're in for a thrilling sonic experience. Crisp, clear, well modulated, sweepingly dynamic, and discreetly mixed, this track is as muscular as Maximus himself, and complements the action with power, style, and nuance. Front channel separation is impeccable, with seamless pans creating a fluid and immersive audio environment, while the rears are almost constantly in play, adding palpable ambience to practically every scene. Some of the rear activity is so faint, it's almost imperceptible – a neighing horse, bits of scoring, hushed murmurs – yet the effects are so finely rendered they add immeasurable life to the drama.

Details shine, from cranking gears and clanking swords to the whir of shooting arrows and gentle breathing of a sleeping child. And when the track lets loose, it pummels us with the clamor of battle – exploding fireballs, the whoosh of a twirling flail, the slicing of human flesh – all expertly balanced and featuring the highest level of purity. The roaring crowd envelops with ease, and hefty bass adds weight to thunderous horse hooves and snarling tigers. Even when the audio is pushed to the limit, distortion is never an issue, as highs and lows seem limitless. This is truly you-are-there sound that makes us feel as if we're in the thick of the action with the characters – wandering a crowded bazaar, fighting to the death in the gladiator ring, flirting with an old flame, or frantically galloping home.

Dialogue is always perfectly prioritized, never yielding to other overlapping elements. The rich voices of Harris, Reed, and Jacobi come through with strength and authority, even during quiet scenes, as do Crowe's booming baritone and Phoenix's boyish tenor. Music is also expertly woven into the mix, and the robust tones possess excellent clarity and tonal depth as they alternately massage and punctuate the narrative.

Video buffs may be disappointed by 'Gladiator,' but audiophiles should cheer this reference quality track.

[review_supplements_stars] => 5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 10190 [review_supplements] =>

'Gladiator' arrives on Blu-ray as part of Paramount's new Sapphire Series, and the two-disc set features hours upon hours of absorbing supplements, allowing fans to truly get lost in production minutia. All of the extras from the film's previous DVD editions are included, as well as two new interactive options that offer fresh material on a variety of fascinating topics. When you pop in Disc One, you'll be asked to choose between the original 2000 theatrical version and 2005 extended version of 'Gladiator.' If you select the theatrical version, the 15 minutes of additional material from the extended version is still available to view as deleted scenes, and accessible via the extras menu. If you choose the extended version, the extra scenes will be inserted into the presentation via seamless branching. (The extended version also includes a brief, rather pointless introduction by Scott.)

Disc One

  • Audio Commentaries – The disc contains two commentary tracks, one for each version of the film. Director Ridley Scott and actor Russell Crowe settle in for an analysis of the extended version, and it's a compelling, substantive discussion that hits the ground running. Both men articulate their thoughts in an intelligent, enthusiastic manner, and although they sprinkle in plenty of lively anecdotes, their discussion remains focused and serious throughout. The two touch upon almost every topic imaginable that relates to the film, including the rigors of the shooting schedule, various locations, character motivations, individual performances, and creative differences. You name it, it's here. Best of all, Scott and Crowe enjoy a relaxed, symbiotic rapport that makes this lengthy track an easy listen. The theatrical cut commentary also features Scott, along with cinematographer John Mathieson and editor Pietro Scalia. This is a far more technical presentation and a little harder to slog through. The subdued tone isn't as engaging, though the information conveyed is always interesting. Topics include the challenges of recreating ancient history, untraditional filming and narrative methods, CGI effects, the movie's operatic tone, and the production's intense collaborative spirit, to name but a few.
  • "The Scrolls of Knowledge" – This three-pronged interactive feature employs a series of collapsible windows on your display that provide links to a wealth of information to enhance your viewing experience. As the movie plays, clickable links that correspond to the action on screen pop up; on the left side is a history window with more than 40 mini-featurettes about ancient Rome (which also can be accessed en masse from a separate menu), while on the right side, a production window lets you select dozens upon dozens of links to material concerning the making of 'Gladiator.' The production content resides on Disc Two, but if you click the save option when you are finished, your Blu-ray player will remember your choices, and display them when you load the second disc. (Yes, it really will.) Across the bottom of the screen runs a trivia track that provides a steady stream of interesting nuggets on a wide variety of subjects. Tidbits about the cast and crew, production methods, historical facts, and other useful and useless information reside here. All in all, it's a pretty slick engine, and well worth checking out.
  • "Visions from Elysium: Topic Portal" – Here is a complete listing of all the topics from the production window of The Scrolls of Knowledge. Almost 300 "pods" are available to choose covering every imaginable aspect of the production. Once again, the actual content resides on Disc Two, but if you save your choices before exiting, your Blu-ray player will recall them when you insert the second disc.

Disc Two

The second disc houses the bulk of supplements and opens with the "Visions from Elysium: Topic Portal," which imports selections made on the previous disc for viewing here. You can also watch items immediately from this location, or select and save them to view later. The clips vary in length from 30 seconds to several minutes.

  • Documentary: "Strength and Honor: Creating the World of 'Gladiator'" (SD, 197 minutes) – Longer than the film itself, this exhaustive documentary may be too much to digest in a single sitting, but it provides a fascinating insider's look at the making of this massive epic. Interviews with Scott, Crowe, and a host of other actors and technical personnel detail the production's intense collaborations and on-set creative battles, while behind-the-scenes footage gives us a glimpse of various craftsmen at work. Segments include story development, weapons, costume design, production journals, and visual effects, among others. There's even an enhanced viewing option – much like The Scrolls of Knowledge – which provides more than 60 (that's right, 60!) pop-up "production pods" during the documentary that lead to further video material that's exclusive to this Blu-ray release. This content can also be accessed separately for convenience.
  • "Image and Design" – This five-part section examines production and costume design, storyboarding, and weapons, and includes two photo galleries. "Production Design Primer: Arthur Max" (SD, 10 minutes) analyzes the film's logistical challenges, the influence classic paintings had on the movie's look, and the recreation of the Coliseum, while two subsequent galleries provide illustrations of various concepts and set designs. The Storyboarding section includes a fascinating demonstration of the process by Sylvain Despretz (SD, 13 minutes), who also talks about working with Scott and the drawings' function. Three multi-angle comparisons follow, featuring both the original storyboards and storyboard/final shot comparisons, along with optional commentary by Despretz. Storyboard Archive includes 10 collections of drawings of various scenes. The Costume Design Gallery features extensive sketches for both principals and extras, and is divided into six sections, while two Photo Galleries include stills from various locations and particular scenes, as well as a portfolio of promotional portraits. (There are 11 headings in all.) Finally, the very entertaining "Weapons Primer: Simon Atherton" (SD, 5 minutes) offers up a colorfully presented rundown of the various instruments of torture used in the film, both authentic and "made up."
  • "Abandoned Sequences and Deleted Scenes" (SD, 23 minutes) – Four scenes are presented, but two are composed of a combination of storyboards, computer animation, and silent footage. (The same two also offer optional audio commentary.) Of special interest is the Alternate Title Design, which includes a featurette as well as the abandoned opening title sequence, and a montage of "unused, leftover footage" called the Treasure Chest.
  • "The Aurelian Archives" – Divided into nine parts, this massive section includes another behind-the-scenes featurette, "The Making of 'Gladiator'" (SD, 25 minutes), along with the documentary "Gladiator Games: The Roman Bloodsport" (SD, 50 minutes), which examines the brutal form of entertainment that captivated the Romans, and compares it to today's spectator sports. (Crowe, Phoenix, Harris, and Scott also weigh in on the movie during the piece.) "Hans Zimmer: Scoring 'Gladiator'" (SD, 21 minutes) allows the composer the opportunity to express his love for the movie, as well as discuss the creative process, how he develops themes, and how music is a simpler, more powerful language than words, while "An Evening with Russell Crowe" (SD, 27 minutes) finds the actor fielding audience questions on a wide variety of topics. "Maximus Uncut: Between Takes with Russell Crowe" (SD, 8 minutes) is a typical goof reel filled with all sorts of clowning; "My 'Gladiator' Journal by Spencer Treat Clark" is a diary (with photos) of the film's shoot by the young actor who portrayed Connie Nielsen's son; and "VFX Explorations: Germania and Rome" (SD, 24 minutes) examines computer generated effects in many scenes. Two theatrical trailers and a whopping 20 TV spots round out this area's material.
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 10191 [review_bonus_content] =>

There are no high-def exclusives.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 4.5 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts] =>

There's no denying 'Gladiator' is a great movie. Ridley Scott's masterfully directed, impeccably mounted epic never fails to thrill the senses, and even with a controversial video transfer, it's still an exhilarating Blu-ray experience. If digital enhancements annoy you like nails on a chalkboard, it might be best to rent 'Gladiator' and see whether the transfer's imperfections exceed your tolerance level before plunking down cash for a purchase. But if you're someone who regards EE and DNR as mere technical acronyms and nothing more, you shouldn't hesitate to pick up this disc. In its current state, 'Gladiator' is still highly watchable and a big improvement from upconverted DVD. Couple that with state-of-the-art audio and a massive supplemental package, and it's difficult not to endorse this release. 'Gladiator' on Blu-ray may not go to the head of the class, but it certainly makes the grade.

All disc reviews at High-Def DVD Digest are completed using the best consumer HD home theater products currently on the market. More about our gear.

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Picture-in-picture cast & crew commentaries
Hero connections: biographies and character profiles
• Audio commentaries
• Deleted scenes
• Alternate stories:
Heroes: Going Postal webisodes
Nowhere Man webisodes
Pinehearst commercial
• The Superpowers of Heroes: Stunt Coordinator Tim Gilbert gives insight to designing the hard hitting stunts of 'Heroes'
• Completing the Scene: An overall look at the visual style of 'Heroes: Season 3
• The Prop Box: Introduction to the "Gold Room" where all of the props used for 'Heroes' are stored. Relics from the first season to the present are shown and the methods of a prop master are revealed
• Tim Sale Gallery of Screen Art
• Genetics of a Scene: An ongoing service in which the episode's director and cast give an in-depth look at the production process:
Exploring Claire's Mind: This segment reveals the graphic scene of the 'Heroes Season 3' opener
Speedster Steals the Formula: Allan Arkush highlights directing the Speedsters' speed effects and the time-stopping qualities of Hiro
Throwing Thoughts: A quick look at the shooting style used to create a specific scene from Episode 322
• Lights, Camera, Beeman: This segment features George Beeman working on set; fun on-set footage is used to demonstrate the sometimes-frantic shooting schedule of 'Heroes'
• The Writers' Forum: Creator Tim Kring and selected writers/producers discuss the story-lines of Season 3, outlining inspirations for character developments, story plots and the changes that took place along the way [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => • Heroes: The Recruit webisodes (BD exclusive)
• Building Coyote Sands: a segment revealing the complete building and shooting of the Coyote Sands Internment camp featured in Episode 321 "1961" (BD exclusive)
• Season Four Sneak Peek (BD exclusive)
• BD-Live (BD exclusive) [review_bottom_line] => For Fans Only [review_forum_id] => 91428 [review_movie_stars] => 2 [review_movie] =>

NBC's 'Heroes' has been an "interesting" ride so far. The stellar, gripping first season, featuring ordinary people discovering their extraordinary powers, was both intelligent and entertaining, putting the viewers in the shoes of those few facing life changing discoveries. The writer's strike-shortened second season was everything that the first season wasn't, and since season one was all that, this was a very, very bad thing.

New heroes (with new powers) began popping up, but their tales seemed amazingly forced together by the most ridiculous of cheats, rather than connected naturally and seamlessly. The climax felt rushed, and was massively underdeveloped, the byproduct of merely a few episodes worth of build up. We didn't have an obvious villain, rather, half a season handling the fall out from the previous events, concluding with a bullshit "dramatic" new threat that was less than riveting. 'Season Two' ended with a cliffhanger assassination attempt, and from there, 'Season Three' begins, with the identity and motives of the shooter still unknown.

The fine line between family and familiarity has been drawn, as the Petrelli family seems to have expanded, and rifts between the family have hit new highs/lows, while the Bennet clan fractures after years of deception. A familiar face returns, but she isn't who she seems. The most powerful hero, turned powerless, is again on a rampage, but he isn't the most dangerous man the world has to face. Heroes will hunt heroes, while villains will hunt heroes and villains alike.

This season of 'Heroes' takes a new path, as the show is divided into two volumes, with the first half of the season following a story concerning the proliferation of villains in the world (aptly titled Villains), while the latter half of the season covers the hunt for those with powers, making them fugitives (in the also aptly titled Fugitives). The entire season turns on a dime when the volumes change, as the second season showed that taking a full 24 to 26 episodes to tell a tale would apparently be too strenuous to write cohesively.

After the second season of 'Heroes' paraded around like Hannibal Lecter in the first season's mutilated skin, I had nothing but high hopes for this season. Afterall, I thought, things certainly couldn't get any worse, they were almost certain to rebound. Alas, this latest full length season is no better than the previous, occasionally teasing us with great ideas, only to fall back into the same tired rhythms.

Where to begin? The never ending drama of who is actually dead takes on a life of its own, as it seems the show cannot maintain a level of continuity, keeping the dead dead. Long presumed dead characters such as Linderman (Malcolm McDowell) and Arthur Petrelli (Robert Forster) have roles requiring lives that were thought to no longer exist. The return of dead characters is nowhere near as troubling as the continued writing off of characters, as if the world cannot survive having too many living super powered individuals at any given time, much like an X-Men "House of M" storyline.

The entire season falls on its face, due the constant changes, and the immediate undoing of said changes within an episode. In fact, the rallying point (and most famous line) from the first season is utterly negated in the very first episode, leading to the entire Sylar (Zachary Quinto) character lacking accessibility simply by being too damn powerful. The motivations of nearly every character can turn on a dime (as do their powers), and the two seasons worth of character development gets thrown out the window in many of these about-faces. Many likable characters become utterly despicable!

In this season of 'Heroes,' the characters who never had real powers before gain and/or unveil them, while many popular heroes have their abilities conveniently removed when they need them most. The use of prophets using art to tell the future has come full circle, as the talent once used by a junkie, then the power leach, now is used by an African seer (Ntare Mwine as the awesome Usutu), who apparently passes his powers on to the mind-controlling Matt Parkman (Greg Grunberg), not to mention the cranky Arthur Petrelli. Is this power cursed, or just that damn common?

'Heroes' also makes no attempt to follow the patterns of comic book hero convention. In every comic, the super powered character seems to have a job, another life to maintain, a secret to keep, while in 'Heroes,' characters have their jobs, but then disappear from them for what can seem like months at a time, only to go back for a week or two like nothing ever happened, waiting for their next super-extended vacation. How can they save the world when they can't even maintain a schedule? How do they never get fired? Do they all have the greatest benefit packages in the history of the world? Is that a super power they all share?

Not everything in this season is a disaster, though disasters do greatly outnumber non-disasters . The shapeshifting found in the late episodes was fun, at first, until it became overused and abused. Sylar comes to grips with being labeled what he is: a serial killer, and he receives the same odd treatment real life killers get in Luke Campbell (Dan Byrd), a powered teen who idolizes the villain. This parallel made the show have a better subconscious reality to it, made it more rooted and accessible. Lastly, Matt Parkman and Daphne Millbrook (Brea Grant) have a very fun crossing story that had me pulling for them, much like fans had pulled for Jim and Pam from 'The Office' to get together for season after season (fans, stay tuned for that review!).

While 'Heroes' was quite awful the second time around, at least it kept the pain short and sweet, with a mere 11 episodes, while this season again creates a massive headache, which it sustains for 25 full length episodes, and the very beginning of the fifth volume: Redemption. After this season, 'Heroes' certainly needs said redemption badly.

[review_video_stars] => 3.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 10123 [review_video] =>

What is this strange sense of familiarity? It's like I've seen this before...

'Heroes: Season Three' is much akin to the previous two Blu-ray releases, in terms of video quality. Presented in 1080p with the VC-1 encode (at 1.78:1, the same ratio as the television presentation), this season isn't a powerful leap ahead of previous seasons, nor is it left in the dust. It's just more of the same.

Contrast is utterly superb. Colors are very accurate, with skin tones staying true and natural through the entire season. There are some striking primaries. Detail is consistently on the higher end of the dial, with finer facial details always on display, along with some very deeply accented fore(and back)grounds. Stray hairs fly boldly away from nearly every character's mane, and the random reflections in vehicles are stunning. Edges are utterly clean, detail doesn't smear from noise reduction, blacks are rich, and, in late episodes in the season, there are black and white sequences that are fan-freaking-tastic.

Not all is good here, though, as I found a laundry list of detrimental issues that pop up repeatedly throughout the season. While the grain level for the show isn't intrusive, it tends to fluctuate at times, with darker scenes possessing a somewhat overbearing sprinkling. Delineation is far less than respectable; in fact, it's one of the worst parts of this transfer. Motion blur pops up in slow motion sequences, banding rears its ugly head (blatantly) more than a couple times, and due to the enhanced clarity, flimsy special effects look disastrous, with cuts that move around a surface, shaking ever so slightly, with a neon appearance. This list of issues wouldn't be that massive if they were one-time deals, but the fact that they all happen numerous times is telling. One thing to consider, though, is the massive run time of the show (clocking in at just short of 18 hours), so there are far more opportunities for disaster to be had, and since this season doesn't reach that level of negativity, the good somewhat outweighs the bad.

[review_audio_stars] => 3.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 10124 [review_audio] =>

Universal provides an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track for each and every episode of 'Heroes: Season Three.' Just like the video, it's more of the same.

Dialogue is clean, clearly prioritized over every bit of action, score, or special effect, and is very much front and center, with little rear localized dialogue or moving conversations. Surround usage is constant, though slightly underwhelming, as sequences in the Fugitives chapter have wonderful motion effects (and fades) from helicopters moving across the room, but few other effects come close to this amount of activity.

The score is a bit quiet, just like 'Season Two,' easily overpowered by the action and dialogue. High ends scream, while bass provides some nice accents (though no real powerful rumbles or roars), creating a very pleasing, respectable amount of range on display. One thing that really bothered me about this sound mix was a high pitched audio squeal that was present in a few of the 1961 flashbacks, as it was more obvious than the ringing in the Blu-ray of 'Sin City,' and was even possibly intentional for those sequences. All in all, though, these DTS-HD-MA mixes were respectable, though not extraordinary.

[review_supplements_stars] => 2 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 10125 [review_supplements] =>

There are extras on all five of the BD50 discs that 'Heroes: Season Three' is spread out on. Some features are on every disc, unique to their episodes, while featurettes are spread out randomly throughout the season.

  • Deleted Scenes: Disc 1 (SD, 13 min) - Many deleted scenes include unfinished special effects, and text notes as to what to add to them. On the first disc's worth of deleted scenes, we get a sneak peak at Mohinder playing with his new powers, Micah getting all emo, more Linderman (yay!), and most importantly, Mr. Muggles getting powned.
  • Deleted Scenes: Disc 2 (SD, 12 min) - Close up shots of taco production (yummy), while the Knox (Jamie Hector) character is fleshed out like he were a main character, with a nice origin story.
  • Deleted Scenes: Disc 3 (SD, 4 min) - Mohinder whining about his self-infliction, more shots of the soldiers, Molly is attacked by a monster of sorts, and Hiro and Ando discuss their trip to India.
  • Deleted Scenes: Disc 4 (SD, 1 min) - This section should have been labeled singular "scene," rather than plural "scenes." A throwaway line of dialogue. Whoop de doo!
  • Deleted Scenes: Disc 5 (SD, 6 min) - Micah and HRG chill and discuss ethics, Hiro and Ando fiddle fart around with miniature Matt Parkman, and Mohinder has a talk about his father. To sum up the deleted scenes, as a whole: a whole 'lotta nothin' goin' on!
  • The Super Powers of 'Heroes' (HD, 8 min) - Stunt coordinator Tim Gilbert discusses the excessive amount of powers, and the real filming elements needed to create the effects and stunts. Nothing is sacred, or secret, as Gilbert provides colorful commentary for some pre-effects shots, and behind the scenes looks at the filming of these sequences. A fun filled little ditty.
  • Completing the Scene (HD, 8 min) - A look at the special effects, told through numerous members of the production team, in interviews and meetings. How the 3D effects are made is lightly touched on, while plenty of CG use is discussed. There is a great look at the future annihilation sequence shown in this season as well, a great thing, as this was one of the best sequences of this season.
  • Alternate Stories (HD) - These short stories that tie into the show are from the series webisodes. While they are secluded to the point that they do not integrate into the main show, they are a pretty nice series of side plots. The Recruit (18 min) is a neat look at some of the soldiers from the end of the Villains chapter, while Going Postal (10 min) was a fun, though repetitive, origin story for a mailman gone evil. Scary. Lastly, Nowhere Man (18 min) is the continuation of the tale of one of the creepiest characters in this new season, Doyle (David H. Lawrence XVII ), who could control people like they were his puppets. This story is a bit silly, as Doyle showed how powerful he was before, and now he's doing such petty things. A complete waste of a character. The downside to these stories is the constant credits that come with every few minutes worth of footage, as they get annoying after the first couple.
  • Pinehearst Commercial (HD, 1 min) - A silly little mock Pinehurst commercial for their cover company. Totally lame and skippable.
  • The Prop Box (HD, 5 min) - The prop guys take us on a trip into the "gold room," which is loaded with random props from the show. I cannot begin to say how much money this pile of trinkets would be worth, especially the original paintings.
  • Tim Sale Gallery of Screen Art (HD, 1 min) - A quick moving montage of the paintings used in this season of 'Heroes,' including many that were painted into rocks.
  • Genetics of a Scene (HD, 20 min) - A four part segment, with a play all option. First up is a behind the scenes look at a few sequences, including the Claire brain sequence and the deformed test subject prosthetics. Then a look at the Daphne/Speedster character, and a really fun glimpse at how her powers were created on set and through CG. Then the hunter/hunted sequence between Matt and Danko is analyzed, with a look at how a few particular shots were made. Lastly, a silly little music video like look/instructional on the direction of an episode is shown, and is massively annoying.
  • The Writer's Forum (HD, 13 min) - Also known as the people to blame for 'Season Three:' Tim Kring, Adam Armus, and Aron Eli Coleite. I had a hard time really giving a damn as to what they said, having sat through nearly 18 hours worth of horrific plot holes, lame "twists," and actions not becoming of nearly every character's past. For those who don't want to bust out the pitchforks and torches due to these gentlemen, the trio discuss the themes they wanted to portray, and the new turns they wanted to take the show through.
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 3.5 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 10126 [review_bonus_content] =>

The above list of extras doesn't look all that deep, and that's because many of the features on this release are exclusive to Blu-ray (some are enhanced from their DVD incarnations, while others were completely omitted from the last gen release.

  • U-Control- Picture in Picture Commentary - Each episode of this season has an accompanying commentary track, enhanced through U-Control. Even with the PIP commentary volume on high (there are three volume settings for this feature), the conversations are still very quiet, so to hear them clearly, one has to crank up the volume, and then get boomed when there's a gap in coverage. A lose-lose situation.

    The picture-in-picture takes up approximately 1/6th of the visible screen (bottom right corner), is not movable, and often overlaps the Hiro/Ando subtitles. They consist of cast and crew sitting down in cliche movie chairs, and having a conversation in the middle of a random set from the show, nothing less, nothing more.

    Episode 1- Alan Arkush, Adrian Pasdar (Nathan), and Tim Kring. At one point Pasdar mentions on this track he can't hear the people on screen. Irony. Also worth noting: Kring mentions "the never ending quest to figure out new ways to bring dead people back onto the show." My suggestion: leave them fucking dead for crying out loud, unless they come back as zombies.

    Episode 2- Greg Beeman, James Kyson Lee (Ando), and Brea Grant (Daphne). A lovely echo accompanies this commentary, due to the hallway set (which wasn't a very good idea...). They discuss the entire future storyline involving Hiro and Ando, as if Ando were to know where that story will go, the strike and how it affected a few episodes, and they get spellbound by the show...often.

    Episode 3- Christine Rose (Angela) and Milo Ventimiglia (Peter). The duo discuss the Sylar/Petrelli storyline, the back of HRG's head (so exciting!), and fall prey to describing the ongoing action on screen, like we were blind. Christine says "so beautiful" a few times too many to not be annoying.

    Episode 4- Greg Grunberg (Matt) and Jamie Hector (Knox). After seeing the deleted scenes between these two characters, I was looking forward to a very good conversation. Unfortunately, that's not what I got. Greg shows his real life superpower...shaking his eyes. Astonishing. They freak out over Peter's facial scar (calling him assface), and make fun of Adrian's channeling invisible actors.

    Episode 5- Anthony Hemmingway, Adam Armus, and Kay Foster. No actors this time, which sucks, as I enjoy their insight far more than crew. They acknowledge how damn dark this season/show is (in appearance at times, not in tone), and seem to enjoy the show more than they care to talk about the show. A very dull track.

    Episode 6 - Sendhil Ramamurthy (Mohinder), Christopher Zatta, and Chuck Kim. They discuss Robert Forster's gift giving habits, Masi Oka's punch taking ability, praise my favorite line in this season (see the final thoughts section for that), and do a nice job interpreting situations, rather than just describing them. Ramamurthy is a great commentator, as he's full of insights and anecdotes, and is never dry.

    Episode 7- Charlie Lieberman and Scott Boyd. Boyd has to be the worst guest up to this point, as he makes stupid faces, repeats lines from the episodes he's watching, and gives off uninteresting anecdotes that I honestly couldn't have cared less about. Unprofessionalism ("is that a spoiler?"), and a complete lack of intriguing information makes this track akin to torture.

    Episode 8- Allan Arkush and Jack Coleman (HRG). I would have enjoyed some details on when the flashbacks were filmed, as Peter's hair is massively different here than it has been in later seasons. Arkush makes nice references to 'Eyes Wide Shut,' his inspiration for the party sequence, while Coleman is more the second banana, replying to stories rather than telling them.

    Episode 9- Blake Shields (Flint), Charlie Lieberman, and Don Aron. We get informed on what a recap is, as if we hadn't figured them out in the 40 some odd episodes before this one. We get some production anecdotes on set design, while Shields provides some light insights into playing his character. The conversation here is less than interesting, a trend that is happening quite often in these commentaries.

    Episode 10- Greg Beeman and Sendhil Ramamurthy. Sylar's human side is briefly examined, Sendhil talks about his slimy, gooey makeup, along with projectile vomit, and the duo discuss their favorite sequences in the episode, laughing along with the action, and interpreting eye movements of Angela Petrelli as meaning "beotch!"

    Episode 11- Christine Rose (Angela) and Greg Grunberg (Matt). Goodness gracious, watching the PIP on top of the eclipse makes the dull colors and muted tone look even worse. It's an absolute wreck! Greg mentions company sponsored crotches, and goes so far as to describe Christine's crotch. The odd couple also get all hot when the show gets hot and heavy, and I was fearful of what might ensue next. These two sure are comfy with each other, and the fact that Christine says she's played Greg's mom in a past show makes their sexual banter all that more creepy. A humorous track, as these two have good chemistry...possibly too good.

    Episode 12- Masi Oka (Hiro) and Brea Grant (Daphne). These two carry on the good chemistry, much like they had on screen (as Hiro and Ando are the first to encounter Daphne). They discuss shooting logistics due to going back in time to a very similar scene from 'Season One,' baby wrangling and on set baby actor experiences. These two have a very lively, rapid fire back and forth conversation that is a fun listen.

    Episode 13- Zachary Quinto (Sylar) and Gary D'Amico. The conversation unnaturally heads towards stunts, D'Amico's background, despite none happening on screen. Quinto naturally leads the conversation, while D'Amico is a bit of a clunky talker here. The guys act like they just called out the wrong name in bed or something, as there are countless awkward silences, far more than any other commentary. Possibly one of the worst commentaries on this set that includes an actor.

    Episode 14- Milo Ventimiglia (Peter), Tim Kring, and Greg Yaitanes. There's not a single mention of Ali Larter topless, as the guys just talk over her changing clothes. Yeah, these are guys on a mission. The discussion is very analytical, rather than descriptive, and no one man dominates the track (though Milo is a bit of the odd man out, not getting many words in edgewise). A respectable, deep track for a very important episode.

    Episode 15- Allan Arkush and Mark Verheiden. The analogy of the escape sequence to a prison movie is interesting (and obvious), while Nathan's actions are analyzed and interpreted. The camera homage to 'Full Metal Jacket' is fun, and the wide range of restaurants one set has portrayed is absolutely astonishing, and flat out hilarious. How one set can be a waffle house/bowling alley, bar, and ramen joint, with no similarities, is really neat.

    Episode 16- Sandy Getzler and Ruth Ammon. The ladies talk about the logistics of sets and locations in the show (while keeping track of who's where), cannot pronounce Sylar correctly, and ramble on and on about scouting and building locations and dressing them. A poor track, that adds nothing to the package.

    Episode 17- Jack Coleman (HRG) and Sendhil Ramamurthy (Mohinder). Kidnapper and kidnapee converse! Jack is entertaining in a very dry manner (that was Indian food...), while Sendhil throws his voice a bit, rather than staying constant. Jack also talks about turning black and white for the flashback sequences, so perhaps HRG *does* have a power. A very entertaining and informative track, full of rapid fire conversation and fun anecdotes. One of the best commentaries in this release.

    Episode 18- Milo Ventimiglia (Peter) and Greg Grunberg (Matt). The duo joke around about the episode introductions, hint at a contest where they watch the show in random teenage girl's bedrooms, mention an all-nude episode of 'Heroes,' and discuss torturing Mr. Muggles with gallons of ranch dressing. Another good track.

    Episode 19- David H. Lawrence XVII (Doyle) and Oliver Grigsby. The black and white with one color sticking out effect is pondered (something I've always been curious about, I'll admit), they smooch some producer derriere, explain writing deadlines, provide Rebel conjecture, and out the Unabomber cabin.

    Episode 20- Masi Oki (Hiro) and Bryan Fuller. The pair discuss the Fugitives storyline and the issues that it presented for writing and production, some neat original ideas for the Building 26 "coma" room, Masa's thoughts on the use of Hiro/Ando as comic relief between dramatic sequences, plot holes, and Fuller's previous works with the show.

    Episode 21- Nate Goodman and Joe Pokaski. Joe and Nate talk about fleshing out Danko's character and the Nathan/Claire relationship that has been widely ignored since the first season, when they're not universally praising anyone and everyone.

    Episode 22- Mark Verheiden and Rob Fresco. This pair mostly discuss the shapeshifting themes that started in these late episodes, while hitting on how some characters are undertaking darker changes. Most of this commentary covers how they toe the line in this late episode as to not give away the twists to come.

    Episode 23- Jon Koslowsky and Adam Kane. Again we get told what an intro is by these men who must think us viewers are utterly ignorant. The transitions between black and white are focused on, as are the differences in 1961 and current day Coyote Sands. For the most part, this track is uninteresting, and dead serious to a flaw.

    Episode 24- Nate Goodman, Kay Foster, and Adam Armus. An interesting point is brought up: The extended Petrelli family see Nathan talking on television live, and instantly suspect that Nathan as the fraud. Why don't they accuse the Nathan in their midst, even a single iota? Other than this early puzzling though, this track is absolutely dull, full of conversation, but nothing informative, interesting, anything.

    Episode 25- Charlie Lieberman and Donn Aron. They certainly saved the best for last! These guys speak in a sleep inducing monotone, sit nearly perfectly still, and have long gaps at times. The only thing worth a damn here is the changing computer graphic behind the guys full of random 'Heroes' art and character designs and sketches. One of the worst commentaries I've ever tried to sit through.

  • Hero Connections- Network - Accessible on the DVD set, this feature is enhanced through U-Control on this Blu-ray disc. A map, much like the one found in the future episode of 'Season One,' where characters pictures are linked with string to show their connections, while a brief, brief bio is included for each. There is nothing here that is new or exciting, or really even informative, as the info provided here wasn't exactly difficult to figure out in the episodes. The neat thing about this feature, found on each disc, is that the content in the bios changes, like a progress meter, to show what the viewer has seen so far in the season. Oh, how quickly the red x's designating someone dies add up...ugh.
  • Building Coyote Sands (HD, 10 min) - The last feature on the set, a look at the fantastic Coyote Sands Internment Camp location. From the building of the barracks, to the logistics of camera placement in concerns to creating the camp, the difficulties and battle plans the construction crew had making the area and the decoration of these "dorms," nothing isn't thought of in this very thorough feature, which was possibly my favorite extra on this release.
  • BD-Live - Hop online with BD-Live! The portal includes the generic trailers and whatnot on the mainpage, but in the exclusive content tab, there is a 'Heroes: Season Four' sneak peak, presented in SD. Some questions about the finale of 'Season Three' are answered, while the upcoming plot themes for many characters are hinted at. The Hiro and Ando hints look very fun, new characters are introduced (including Robert Knepper from 'Prison Break' fame, and Ray "don't call me Darth Maul" Park), while the rest looks like more of the same.
  • My Scenes - Bookmark your favorite scenes, and share them with friends!
  • D-Box - Each episode of 'Heroes' is D-Box Motion Enabled, giving those who have the equipment more punch.
[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 3 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 10127 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'Heroes' was once an amazing show, but for the last two years, it's been a shell of its former self. What fans were left after the unsatisfactory 'Season Two' may finally find the reason to jump ship with this 25 episode disaster. Shark jumping appears to be a weekly affair, and those not convinced have one thing to consider: Seth friggin' Green ('Robot Chicken') appears for two episodes as a comic jockey, with the super power of being massively annoying, as always. The video and audio for this release are more of the same, but the extras, my goodness, are they extensive! I wanted, ever so much, to be able to steal this season's best line (High five, Turtle!) to describe the season, but really, the only difference between this show and the corpses Sylar leaves behind is the fact that the corpses still have their brains.

All disc reviews at High-Def DVD Digest are completed using the best consumer HD home theater products currently on the market. More about our gear.

) ) [6] => Array ( [review_id] => 2452 [review_type_id] => 1 [review_slug] => highcrimes [review_release_date] => 1251788400 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => High Crimes [picture_created] => 1246390734 [picture_name] => high-crimes.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => 20th Century Fox [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2009/06/30/120/high-crimes.jpeg [review_url] => https://bluray.highdefdigest.com/2452/highcrimes.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2002 [run_time] => 115 [list_price] => 29.99 [asin] => B0029XFN8K [amazon_price] => 21.99 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.35:1 ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/AVC MPEG 4 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => Blu-ray [1] => BD-25 Single-Layer Disc [2] => Region Free ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround Sound [1] => Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 [2] => French Dolby Digital 5.1 ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentary [1] => Theatrical Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English [1] => French [2] => Spanish ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Crime Drama ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Morgan Freeman [1] => Ashley Judd ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Carl Franklin ) [preview_plot_synopsis] =>

"Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd are sensational" (WFLD-TV) in this "head snapping chiller" (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) filled with nonstop twists and nail-biting suspense.

Judd stars as Claire Kubik, a smart and sexy attorney whose perfect world comes crashing down when the FBI charges her husband Tom (Jim Caviezel) with the murder of innocent civilians during a covert Army operation fifteen years earlier. Aided by shrewd ex-military lawyer (Freeman), Claire fights to clear Tom's name, but gets too close to exposing a government cover up in the process. Now she must risk her career - and even her life - to find the truth.

[review_bottom_line] => Give it a Rent [review_forum_id] => 92714 [review_movie_stars] => 2 [review_movie] =>

'High Crimes' would be a wholly competent thriller if it weren't for the plot holes that you could drive an army issue humvee through. Starring Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman, 'High Crimes' is an almost forgotten product of mediocrity from 2002.

Judd plays Claire Kubik, a big city lawyer who has just been informed that her husband, Tom (Jim Caviezel) isn't who he says he is. When he's apprehended in the middle of the street by an FBI task force and taken to a military prison, marital suspicions are rightly aroused. Tom, or whoever he is, has been accused of killing nine civilians in South America during a military operation. How he completely escaped custody, fled back to the United States undetected, changed his identity, and married Claire is conveniently left out of the plot. Mix in the fact that it seems Tom didn't see fit to move away from the base to which he's taken and tried, and you've got some curious developments that don't help the credibility of the movie. When Tom's entire platoon begins to testify that they saw him commit the murder, rumors of conspiracy abound.

Throwing caution to the wind Claire puts her pending partnership in her law firm, along with her career, on the line to defend her husband, because she's adamant that he didn't do it. She tracks down a local lawyer named Charles Grimes -- Freeman as his usually nonchalant, but cocky self here -- who has tried military cases before. The acting by the main parties is all fairly solid. Judd is great at looking scared, Freeman is a fantastic drunk. And we all know how sympathetic Caviezel can appear.

'High Crimes' is full of false scares. Like the equivalent of the cat jumping out of the closet in a horror movie: A truck slowly follows her down a street or a man outside her house approaches her, only to disappear when Grimes arrives. Hooligans dump oil on her car causing her to wreck. But these events are never ever explained. When the "twist" that's advertised on the box happens, well those guys with the oil make no sense at all.

The side characters, the ones who "know" what is going on, act completely the opposite of how they should act. The movie pushes you intentionally in one direction, like slight of hand. Keep looking over here… keep looking…still looking? BAM! Bet you didn't see that coming. Well, no we didn't because when that happens the rest of the movie doesn't make any sense.

The film serves as an exercise in making a suspenseful thriller when you completely disregard anything that might lead the plot into a place of believability. It's a silly movie, but it does pack in the suspense. This might make a good date movie, there are plenty of jump out and scare you moments to be had, but if you're looking for an intriguing thriller you won't find it here.

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 10268 [review_video] =>

This 1080p/AVC MPEG 4 transfer shines. There's a small snippet of amateur video footage at the very beginning, but that's meant to look grainy and over-saturated. The rest of the film looks clear and concise. Even on a 25GB disc, 'High Crimes' shows off the power of Blu-ray. The Blacks are deep and distinguishable. Delineation works well in darker scenes, never muddling faces into obscurity. The lines and freckles on Freeman's face are detailed to perfection. Even with an older film, errant noise like specks of dirt are absent for the most part. A few scenes feature white specks, but nothing that detracts from the overall quality of this presentation. Contrast is consistent throughout the film, treating skin tones with dignity. This is a great transfer for an older catalog title.

[review_audio_stars] => 4 [review_audio_picture_id] => 10269 [review_audio] =>

The solid HD presentation doesn't stop with the video. It's carried right on over to the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. Realistic sounds pepper the surround channels – military personnel jogging for morning drills, the hustle and bustle of a busy city street, and the chatting of a cocktail party - creating an ambient atmosphere. Panning effects are solid, with car crashes and helicopters receiving expert treatment. While dialogue dominates much of the film, it does contain a few raucous explosions that will jolt you. LFE is constantly present throughout, and proves to be especially effective during explosions and vicious car wrecks. All in all, this is one solid, solid track.

[review_supplements_stars] => 2 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 10270 [review_supplements] =>

Now I know why there was so much room for the video and audio to shine. Not one HD special feature in sight.

  • A Military Mystery (SD, 7 min) - 'High Crimes' is based on a novel by author Joe Finder. Finder explains what it took to get his book adapted into a film and the different challenges involved in that sort of undertaking.
  • FBI Takedown in Union Square (SD, 3 min) - The FBI scene is discussed very briefly. Too brief to be at all interesting.
  • A Different Kind of Justice (SD, 4 min) - This feature gives a very short overview of what is different between civilian and military law.
  • Liar Liar: How to Beat a Polygraph with Sue Doucette (SD, 5 min) - Now here's a feature I can get behind. While the systems for actually beating a polygraph could be discussed in a one hour special on the Discovery Channel, this is pretty interesting. Sue gives a very concise overview of what types of talent and training it takes to beat the lie detector.
  • The Car Crash (SD, 2 min) - The big (pointless) car crash is explained here. How they did it, and the various film magic that was used.
  • Together Again (SD, 7 min) - Having previously worked together on a different film ('Kiss the Girls') Judd and Freeman discuss what it's like to be back together on screen again.
  • Theatrical Trailer (SD, 2 min) - The trailer is included, but the powers that be didn't see fit to give it the HD treatment.
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 10271 [review_bonus_content] =>

There is no new content for this release.

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

'High Crimes' is a trickery of the highest order. It should be thrown in the brig for the deception it pulls over the audience's eyes. It's intentionally misleading, since there's no way that if played out believably the audience wouldn't have seen the ending coming a mile away. The video and audio do, however, bump it up into "rent it" territory.

All disc reviews at High-Def DVD Digest are completed using the best consumer HD home theater products currently on the market. More about our gear.

) ) [7] => Array ( [review_id] => 2275 [review_type_id] => 1 [review_slug] => mash [review_release_date] => 1251788400 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => M*A*S*H [picture_created] => 1246389776 [picture_name] => mash.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => 20th Century Fox [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2009/06/30/120/mash.jpeg [review_url] => https://bluray.highdefdigest.com/2275/mash.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1970 [run_time] => 115 [list_price] => 34.99 [asin] => B0024HH32A [amazon_price] => 24.49 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.35:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => BD+ BD Live ready bootstrap ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/TBA ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => TBA ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround Sound [1] => Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 [2] => French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => The Complete Interactive Guide to M*A*S*H [1] => Audio commentary by director Robert Altman [2] => Theatrical trailer [3] => AMC Backstory – M*A*S*H Enlisted: The Story of M*A*S*H Through the Lens [4] => M*A*S*H Reunion [5] => Still gallery ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English, French, Spanish ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Comedy ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Donald Sutherland [1] => Elliott Gould [2] => Tom Skerritt [3] => Robert Duvall ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Robert Altman ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => One of the world's most acclaimed comedies, M*A*S*H focuses on three Korean War Army surgeons brilliantly brought to life by Donald Sutherland, Tom Skerritt and Elliott Gould. Though highly skilled and deeply dedicated, they adopt a hilarious, lunatic lifestyle as an antidote to the tragedies of their Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, and in the process infuriate Army bureaucrats. Robert Duvall, Gary Burghoff and Sally Kellerman co-star as a sanctimonious Major, an other-worldly corporal, and a self-righteous yet lusty nurse. [review_video_picture_id] => 0 [review_audio_picture_id] => 0 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 ) ) [8] => Array ( [review_id] => 2434 [review_type_id] => 1 [review_slug] => monster [review_release_date] => 1251788400 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Monster [picture_created] => 1242920450 [picture_name] => monster.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => First Look Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2009/05/21/120/monster.jpeg [review_url] => https://bluray.highdefdigest.com/2434/monster.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2003 [run_time] => 109 [list_price] => 19.98 [asin] => B0029Z8K7E [amazon_price] => 12.99 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/MPEG-2 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => Blu-ray [1] => BD-25 Single-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 [1] => English Dolby Digital Stereo ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Featurettes [1] => Trailers ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => Spanish ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Drama ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Charlize Theron ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Charlize Theron exploded in a magnetic Oscar-winning (Best Actress 2003) performance as convicted killer Aileen Wuornos. Severely abused and unloved Aileen immersed herself in the dangerous world of highway prostitution...until she met Selby Wall (Christina Ricci), a naive girl who was Aileen's last chance at a normal life. Ultimately, all Aileen understood was violence and nobody imagined the nightmare that awaited the seven men standing in the way of her happiness. A critically acclaimed film from writer/director Patty Jenkins. [review_bottom_line] => For Fans Only [review_forum_id] => 93224 [review_movie_stars] => 3 [review_movie] =>

I know this will sound bizarre, but I've always found serial killers to be incredibly interesting. From the issues in their lives that lead to their decision to take lives, how they select their victims, how they go about covering their trails, and how long they stay active before getting caught, their entire twisted tales are massively intriguing, both in modern days where the media seems to turn them into celebrities, and historically, where many cruel men became legend by making a living out of killing.

Key word in that sentence? Men. Female serial killers are a whole different breed, a far more exclusive club. They think and kill differently than men, with the notable exception of Aileen Wuornos. The result of an extremely broken home, the prostitute turned petty criminal turned murderer turned serial killer acted in patterns very similar to the historical male killers, rather than female, creating a somewhat unique profile.

The film about her killings, 'Monster' (a title which doesn't lend one to believe the film would be impartial), disregards her criminal past, presenting Wuornos (Charlize Theron) as a depressed prostitute living day to day, John to John. After a chance meeting with Selby (Christina Ricci, though the historical counterpart was Tyria Moore), an awkward, young lesbian, Wuornos seems to turn her life around, until a job leaves her bludgeoned and nearly killed, only surviving by killing her assaulter. Now paranoid and delusional, Wuornos will leave a trail of bodies behind, some from those soliciting her for sex, others just trying to help her.

'Monster' doesn't truly delve into what created the "Damsel of Death," ignoring her childhood save for a brief glimpse, and completely avoiding her past convictions for assault, armed robbery, and grand theft auto. It begins in the short time before the slayings began, and chooses to also not create a timeline for her slayings, which in real life lasted nearly a year. Rather than bog itself down with facts, 'Monster' wants to go the route of portraying a woman alienated, abused, and neglected, a victim herself who turns the tables and goes off the deep end.

'Monster' is just barely better than those direct-to-video serial killer chronicles, and the only reason it is a step above is due to the amazing performance by Theron, who is unrecognizable, hidden beneath layers of prosthetics and makeup. The Academy Award winning performance (Best Actress, 2003) is absolutely amazing, as the appearance is not the only thing different from her past (and future) works. Ricci doesn't share this fate, as her performance doesn't ever allow one to forget she's "that girl from the 'Addams Family' movies."

I would have much preferred a tale full of Wuornos' tragic life, as there is more to be told than just from the first killing to the trial. Her arrest records and history as a child would set up the character quite well, to understand the actions that happen later in life, while the trial itself would have been interesting, due to the fact that there were five separate trials, all of which found Wuornos guilty. The situations involving her fitness for trial (psychiatric tests), and the fact that her first victim did, indeed, have a rape conviction in the past would also have created much more drama than what we get here. 'Monster' is just a brief, shallow glance at a woman's life, rather than a real in depth look at what created a true monster.

[review_video_stars] => 3 [review_video_picture_id] => 10286 [review_video] =>

'Monster' arrives on Blu-ray with a 1080p MPEG-2 encode from First Look Studios that is far from eye candy, but it isn't bad, either.

The most obvious element of the video is the strong grain leve, that occasionally spikes...to a stronger grain level! While it isn't quite as prevalent as 'Burn Notice,' it does deter finer detail quite a bit.

Blacks are soft, with pretty poor shadow delineation qualities. Colors in the film are drab, with only a few sequences showing a bright, vibrant palette. Skin tones are often quite nice, but tend to lean towards the orangish side. There were a few flashes of digital noise that were a bit distracting, some minor splotches of dirt (that got extreme in the closing shots), and some shots that were blurry to the point that the Florida license plates were not legible. On the bright side, edges are very clean, and there do not appear to be any DNR issues.

[review_audio_stars] => 3 [review_audio_picture_id] => 10287 [review_audio] =>

'Monster' has two audio options: a lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix (default), or a Dolby Digital Stereo track.

After the credits, we are bombarded with a strong downpour of rain, that drops in volume when dialogue begins, and soon disappears, and, along with it, so does the best moment of activity in the film. While spoken words are clear, they often don't seem to line up with lip movement whatsoever, resulting in a peculiar watch.

There were a few bits of motion through the surrounds in the final bits of the film, but for the most part, surround effects are minimal, with some random ambiance at times, and nothing else. Gunfire has a soft pop, with no bass presence. The 1980's soundtrack has a very soft bass presence, as well. There were a few moments (screams) where the high end of the mix was utilized nicely, but for the most part, this film stays on the middle ground, never really flexing its audio muscles.

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

All of the extras from the original DVD are in attendance on this Blu-ray release, and they've all aged horribly.

  • Making Of (SD, 14 min) - A look at Wuornos through news coverage, with interviews on the film's themes from the cast and crew, and from real life acquaintances. Real life locations from the story are visited, the makeup procedure is exposed, and the connections of the film to the true story are delved into. Not a bad feature, at all.
  • Mixing Demo (SD, 2 min) - A scene from the film that can be tinkered with, as three elements (music, effects, and dialogue) can be turned on and off, to demonstrate how a sound mix is created. This may have been innovative when the film first hit DVD, but this is quite a relic here.
  • Interview with Patty Jenkins and BT (SD, 15 min) - Initially titled Evolution of the Score, this feature discusses the music in the film with the director and composer. If I had to rank all the elements in the film that deserved an in depth look, the score would have been just barely above the catering. There are so many intriguing elements to this story and film that get ignored on the supplement package, and we get this. Wow, we get to hear about the difficulties placing microphones for the surround sound effect. Again, archaic.
  • Trailers (SD) - Two trailers are available for 'Monster:' both a domestic and international version. There are also trailers for a few other First Look films, including the heist film 'The Code,' the abominable 'Labor Pains,' and 'Direct Contact,' one of the most ridiculously over the top (possibly in a good way) films ever made.

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 10288 [review_bonus_content] =>

There are no high-def exclusives.

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

'Monster' is a tough cookie, since it has very little replay value. Who wants to sit through a downer of a film, repeatedly, showing how much it took for one person to go over the edge? Add in the fact that this Blu-ray doesn't sport the best audio or video, and the supplement package is as lame as the one found on the DVD release, and this release isn't an easy recommendation.

All disc reviews at High-Def DVD Digest are completed using the best consumer HD home theater products currently on the market. More about our gear.

) ) [9] => Array ( [review_id] => 2616 [review_type_id] => 1 [review_slug] => overbc [review_release_date] => 1251788400 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Over British Columbia [picture_created] => [picture_name] => [manufacturer_name] => Topics Entertainment [picture_source] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/images/public/[email protected] [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/images/public/pop-on-amazon.png [picture_source_195] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/images/public/[email protected] [picture_source_235] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/images/public/[email protected] [picture_source_300] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/images/public/[email protected] [picture_source_660] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/images/public/[email protected] [picture_alternate] => Box coming soon [picture_title] => Box coming soon [review_url] => https://bluray.highdefdigest.com/2616/overbc.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2009 [run_time] => 58 [list_price] => 19.99 [asin] => B002D3KLK6 [amazon_price] => 19.99 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => TBA ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => TBA ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => TBA ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => TBA ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => TBA ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Documentary ) [preview_plot_synopsis] =>

Over British Columbia is a spectacular scenic tour of Canada's Pacific province. Savor the grandeur of British Columbia as you join a helicopter adventure from elegant Victoria to rugged Fort Nelson, from the ski slopes of Whistler to the sun-drenched Okanagan shores, from the razor spine of Mount Robson to the primeval coast of the Queen Charlotte Islands.

Expert cinematography from one of the world's most accomplished aerial production teams and an original music score make Over British Columbia a breathtaking experience you will never forget.

Over British Columbia is part of the Emmy award-winning Over series created for airing by PBS Television.

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Politics and journalism make terrific bedfellows, and if you add murder and conspiracy to the mix, you've got all the ingredients for a combustible cinematic brew. 'State of Play' may not explode with as much force as some might like, but this slow-burn, intelligent thriller keeps the brain engaged with a complex, tightly-knit yarn and the senses stimulated with top-notch production values and riveting performances by a high-voltage cast. Though Kevin Macdonald's film can't compete with 'All the President's Men,' it's still a credit to its class and one of the better popcorn mysteries of the past year.

Remember the Gary Condit/Chandra Levy scandal that rocked Washington several years back? Bright young intern found brutally killed in a D.C. park, and soon after romantically linked to a middle-aged, married congressman who confessed to the affair but denied any criminal involvement? It was quite a story and ended up ruining Condit's political career, even though he was never formally charged with anything except boneheaded judgment. 'State of Play' jumps all over this juicy premise, yet clouds the waters with added intrigue worthy of the TV series '24' and plenty of topical references to Iraq and Afghanistan.

When dashing U.S. Representative Stephen Collins (Ben Affleck) announces at a congressional hearing that his research assistant, Sonia Baker (Maria Thayer), has been found dead in the D.C. metro, everyone – including intrepid Washington Globe reporter and Collins' former college roommate, Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe) – assumes she committed suicide. Collins, however, suspects foul play, and fears PointCorp, the company his office has been investigating as part of a defense department military outsourcing probe, may be involved. Like a salivating pit bull, Cal sinks his teeth into this incendiary nugget. Cub reporter Della Frye (Rachel McAdams) jumps in to help, and before you can say Woodward and Bernstein, the pair begins digging into what soon becomes a bombshell story. Yet will Cal allow his intimacy with Collins to slant his journalistic perspective and compromise his principles? And does Collins, like most ambitious politicians, know more than he's telling?

Based on a wildly popular and critically acclaimed BBC miniseries, 'State of Play' is packed with thought-provoking and relevant themes. Veteran screenwriter Tony Gilroy (along with Matthew Michael Carnahan and Billy Ray) expertly outlines the codependent relationship between cagey government officials and a hungry press under constant deadline pressure. In addition, he taps into corporate conspiracy (which he examined in 'Michael Clayton') and the shocking lengths a company may go to in order to further its agenda and protect its political clout. The film also questions the sanctity of journalistic ethics and cogently depicts the challenging economic and competitive climate facing today's newspapers, which wage an uphill battle against both electronic media and hardline corporate parents.

It's actually this last angle of 'State of Play' that intrigued me most. As a journalism junkie, I'm fascinated by the inner workings of a bustling metropolitan daily, and even though the film often glosses over the drudgery and frustration that pervade the business (aspects David Fincher explored so well in 'Zodiac'), it crisply captures the cynicism, cockiness, and adrenaline-fueled energy of the newsroom organism. And just as our government must deal with big companies trying to wield their influence on Capitol Hill, financially-strapped newspapers must endure more editorial meddling by corporate suits than ever before, as well as intense pressure to turn a profit. The Globe's tough, impassioned editor (undoubtedly modeled on legendary Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham and played with salty fervor by the ever regal, always brilliant Helen Mirren) presents this exasperating master-and-slave relationship well, and the whole subplot gives the film an extra layer of texture.

Macdonald is no stranger to political thrillers, having helmed 'The Last King of Scotland' back in 2006, but it's his experience as an acclaimed documentarian that really helps him here. 'State of Play' is a no-nonsense picture that relies on its story's nuts and bolts to propel it forward, and the director maintains its integrity throughout. Rapt attention is mandatory to follow the various narrative threads, and though twists and turns abound, they're subtly presented and rooted within the plot's stringent parameters. The movie still gets a bit bogged down during its middle section, losing some of its steam and tautness, but Macdonald doesn't take his foot off the gas for long.

Crowe, as usual, fully embodies his character, and his unkempt, tubby appearance and sloppy habits nicely complement his old-school reporter. McAdams impresses, too, as the wide-eyed blogger and symbol of "new" journalism who earns her stripes as Cal's gal Friday. The two develop a warm, professional rapport, and thankfully no hint of romance mucks it up. Smartly abandoning hunky leading man roles in favor of smaller, choicer parts in ensemble casts, Affleck shows some excellent range and sensitivity, while Robin Wright Penn is tender and affecting as his long-suffering wife. Terrific supporting work from Jeff Daniels as an arrogant senior congressman and especially Jason Bateman as a sleazy wheeler-dealer further fuel the film's engine.

Macdonald wins my vote as one of the best directors working today, and though 'State of Play' may never be regarded as one of his defining works, it's nevertheless a smart, absorbing, multi-faceted film that's sure to enthrall almost any audience.

[review_video_stars] => 4.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 10051 [review_video] =>

'State of Play' arrives on Blu-ray sporting a high quality 1080p/VC-1 transfer that juggles different shooting styles and film stock without any jarring transitions. Cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto used both anamorphic and digital cameras during production, and alternated between handheld and stationary methods depending upon which character was in the frame. (Crowe's grungy journalist often was photographed with the jumpy anamorphic camera, while Affleck's slick politician received the crisper, more glamorous digital treatment.) Differences between the two are barely noticeable – although the handheld sequences become tiresome over time – due to excellent contrast, vibrant colors, and rich black levels, all of which lend the image marvelous depth and presence.

Depending on the camera used, grain levels fluctuate, but they never distract. Most of the time, a faint smattering of texture enhances the picture quality and adds welcome dimension to many scenes. Though the picture rarely jumps out and grabs the viewer, lines are well defined, background objects stand out (it's amazing how many elements can be discerned in the cluttered cubicles of various reporters), and even scenes shot in low light look solid and clear. Close-ups are terrific; hair and facial features possess striking details, from Crowe's scraggly mane to Affleck's faint stubble, and the transfer also flatters the regal Mirren, fresh-faced McAdams, and still stunning Robin Wright Penn. Fleshtones are spot-on, with the actors' various complexions all appearing natural and lifelike, and the gritty exteriors of lower-income Washington neighborhoods thrust us into the thick of the action. Best of all, no banding, digital noise, or other anomalies disrupt this smooth, well-balanced presentation.

[review_audio_stars] => 4 [review_audio_picture_id] => 10052 [review_audio] =>

The DTS-HD Master Audio track rivals the video, thanks to surprisingly dynamic sound that adds a wealth of nuance to this largely dialogue-driven film. Subtle ambience – from the din of activity in the cavernous newsroom to the urban street noise of bustling D.C. – nicely envelops, while distinct stereo separation across the front channels makes the action feel more immediate. Accents like gunfire, screeching tires, and the rapid fluttering of news camera shutters are palpably crisp, and dialogue, even when muttered under one's breath, comes across clearly. Bass frequencies are especially good, supplying welcome rumbles several times throughout the course of the film.

Music takes a back seat, but the somber score sounds warm and full bodied. Balance is also properly modulated, so all the elements fit snugly into the mix. Rarely does a film of this sort make one prick up their ears, but Universal has done an excellent job maximizing the sonic components of 'State of Play.'

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Not too much in the way of standard extras, especially for such a star-studded, big money film. Thankfully, though, Universal makes up for the skimpy offerings in the HD exclusives (see below).

  • Featurette: "The Making of 'State of Play'" (HD, 19 minutes) – This slickly produced and absorbing featurette includes appearances by most of the major cast members and behind-the-scenes personnel, but director Kevin Macdonald dominates the piece, and his charisma and enthusiasm help maintain interest. The filmmaker discusses how he re-imagined the BBC miniseries on which the project is based, and how almost every fine actor in Hollywood sought a part in the picture. We also learn about the challenges of shooting on location in Washington, D.C., the mountain of pre-production work the film required, the meticulous construction of the massive newsroom set, and the different styles of cinematography that were employed.
  • Deleted Scenes (SD, 4 minutes) – Only two excised sequences are included, though I gotta believe there were more lying around. Both are well done and add just a hint of extra substance. Political TV junkies will spot veteran CBS journalist Bob Schieffer and BBC reporter Katty Kay in the first clip.
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 3 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 10054 [review_bonus_content] =>

Here's where we get the bang for our Blu-ray buck – a lot of great material that really takes advantage of the technology's supplemental and interactive capabilities.

  • U-Control (Profile 1.1) – Universal provides two interesting in-movie experiences, and viewers can toggle between them using their remotes. Without question, the most absorbing option is the simply titled "Picture in Picture," a series of short, scene-specific featurettes that pop up periodically in a decent-sized window at the bottom of the screen. Segments focus on the film's timeless themes, various cast members, set and costume design, the movie's technical advisor, the power and responsibility of journalists, and location shooting in Washington, D.C., among other fascinating topics. Plenty of on-set footage, production stills, and comments from cast and crew dress up these vignettes, which really add a lot to 'State of Play.' The second option, "Washington, D.C. Locations," employs Google Earth to pinpoint the actual sites where the movie was shot. Bits of printed historical trivia accompany the visuals, giving us a better feel for such landmarks as the Kennedy Center, congressional office buildings, and Ben's Chili Bowl.
  • My Scenes – Create bookmarks for favorite scenes or compile your own clips to replay later or share with friends, all using the color-coded keys on your Blu-ray or universal remote.
  • Tutorials (HD, 4 minutes) – Step-by-step instructions for getting the most out of U-Control, My Scenes, Registration, and BD-Live.
  • BD-Live (Profile 2.0) – With Internet connectivity and a Profile 2.0 player, you can link up with Universal's homepage and access a teaser-trailer for 'State of Play,' as well as previews for upcoming releases and current Blu-ray offerings. Optional registration expands the experience, allowing you to share your My Scenes clips and join an online community of film fans.
[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 4 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'State of Play' is one of the year's most satisfying thrillers, a cerebral mix of political skullduggery, ethical queries, and expert storytelling presented with style and grit. Terrific performances across the board raise the stakes, while a striking transfer, solid audio, and some nifty supplements loft this disc into the recommended realm.

All disc reviews at High-Def DVD Digest are completed using the best consumer HD home theater products currently on the market. More about our gear.

) ) [11] => Array ( [review_id] => 2543 [review_type_id] => 1 [review_slug] => sugar [review_release_date] => 1251788400 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Sugar [picture_created] => 1251781333 [picture_name] => 51pys6bk2bsl__sl500_aa240_.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Sony Pictures [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2009/08/31/120/51pys6bk2bsl__sl500_aa240_.jpeg [review_url] => https://bluray.highdefdigest.com/2543/sugar.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2008 [run_time] => 114 [list_price] => 39.95 [asin] => B002E01LPM [amazon_price] => 35.99 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.78:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => BD-Live ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => Blu-ray [1] => BD-50 Dual Layer Disc [2] => BD-Live (Profile 2.0) ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => Spanish Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround [1] => Portuguese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Featurettes [1] => Deleted Scenes [2] => Theatrical Trailers ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => English Subtitles [2] => French Subtitles [3] => Portuguese Subtitles [4] => Spanish Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Drama [1] => Sports ) [review_bottom_line] => Recommended [review_forum_id] => 91453 [review_movie_stars] => 4 [review_movie] =>

Formula reigns supreme when it comes to American sports movies, so when a film goes against the grain and shucks predictable, crowd-pleasing clichés in favor of honesty and authenticity, it's an especially nice surprise. 'Sugar' is that needle in the haystack, the kind of picture that sneaks up on its viewers and takes them on an unexpected yet rewarding journey. On the surface, this quiet, thoughtful chronicle of a Dominican pitcher's pursuit of a major league career possesses all the elements of a classic against-all-odds tale. But directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, who also co-wrote the original screenplay, steer the story in a different direction, focusing its gaze on the struggles, self-doubt, pressure, fear, and myriad other obstacles athletes must confront and conquer in order to succeed at the highest level. The end result is a penetrating and inspiring character portrait with rare insights into both the mechanics of baseball's unforgiving farm system and the difficulties immigrants face as they try to adjust to a foreign environment and assimilate into a complex society.

Miguel Santos (Algenis Perez Soto) earns the nickname Sugar thanks to his sweet knuckle curveball and reputation as a ladies' man. His blazing heater sends his stock soaring at the Kansas City Knights' baseball academy he attends with a host of other young prospects in the Dominican Republic. And like his teammates, Miguel sees the sport as a one-way ticket out of the poverty and squalor that pervade his underdeveloped country. (The cocksure pitcher even tells his girlfriend he plans to buy a Cadillac with his first MLB paycheck.) Big league success seems just around the corner when the Knights tap Miguel for a tryout at their spring training camp in Phoenix, but he's quickly humbled by the first-rate talent the club has assembled. Not yet ready for prime time, Miguel gets shipped off to the Knights' single-A farm team in Bridgetown, Iowa for some much-needed seasoning, and it's there that the impressionable 20-year-old comes to realize he's no longer the golden boy, and learns some tough life lessons.

Fitting in is a daunting task for Miguel, a black man living in the heart of the white-bread Midwest Bible Belt who can't speak more than a few words of English (most of which relate directly to baseball) and is unfamiliar with the customs and culture of his new home. He boards with a kind yet strict elderly couple, and feels the pressure his gruff manager quietly exerts upon him. Miguel knows full well if he doesn't meet the team's expectations – and meet them quick – he'll be back in Santo Domingo hawking stolen goods on a street corner before he knows it.

Much like the authority figures depicted in the film, Boden and Fleck direct 'Sugar' with a sensitive yet firm hand, never sugar-coating the issues Miguel faces or providing him with easy answers. The duo's use of non-actors in key baseball roles enhances realism, and provides a whole new perspective on the minor league experience, where performance is everything, and only the most disciplined and dedicated survive. For a pitcher, one or two bad outings or a minor injury can end a dream before it really begins, and when Miguel realizes how tough it is to stay on top of his game and how many guys are chomping at the bit to take his place, his confidence begins to waver.

'Sugar,' however, is much more than a sports story. With subtle grace, it also examines the plight of poor Hispanic immigrants who try to scratch out an existence in an alien land. Struggling with language, discrimination, a lack of education, and a feeling of disorientation, the young men of 'Sugar' must learn how to play by new rules and adapt to new situations, all while trying to keep ahead of the next guy on the field. The choice to cast Dominican actors and allow them to use their native tongue heightens this sense of insecurity and confusion, and emphasizes the social barriers immigrants must break down.

Soto does a terrific job conveying Miguel's conflicting emotions. His winning smile and easygoing manner make him a magnetic presence, and for an amateur actor, he tackles the demands of the role well. The other unknowns are equally effective, and lend the film extra authenticity and a stronger universal feel.

'Sugar' is sweet but not saccharine, a well-constructed, simply told story laced with wit, heart, and soul. Young athletes of any nationality can learn from this fine film, and the lessons it teaches – perseverance, tolerance, independence – apply to everyone. Though it may not quite knock the ball out of the park, 'Sugar' comes close, and its fresh take on a tired genre deserves some hearty cheers.

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 10129 [review_video] =>

'Sugar' benefits from a natural-looking transfer that provides crisp, pleasing visuals, while remaining true to the story's gritty spirit. Too much glamour and gloss would detract from the picture's narrative power, and this 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode keeps all its elements properly balanced. Grain levels fluctuate, depending on lighting and camera setup, but a nice film-like feel predominates. Though a few scenes err on the soft side, most enjoy excellent delineation. Colors are bold and well saturated (the Caribbean Sea is especially beautiful), but never look artificial, and the ballpark scenes flaunt all the vibrant hues we expect, from the blue-black uniforms to the lush outfield greens.

Details show up well; beads of sweat glisten on the ballplayers' brows, and skin textures and tones are well rendered. Close-ups often pop off the screen, and great contrast lends wide shots lovely depth and a subtle but distinct dimensionality. Thankfully, noise, banding, and other such annoyances are altogether absent, so we can fully appreciate this smooth, quality presentation.

[review_audio_stars] => 3.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 10130 [review_audio] =>

The Spanish Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track is solid but unspectacular. All the audio comes across clearly, with fine fidelity and expansive dynamic range. Not surprisingly, the mix favors the front channels, but surround activity filters in now and then. Bugs and crickets flit about the rears during a summer night scene, and dance tunes enliven the track, adding a sprinkling of faint but welcome bass when the players blow off steam at a local bar. Michael Brook's music score also enjoys good presence and clarity, especially early in the film when it adopts a bouncy Caribbean flavor. Details, though, are rather muted, and the stadium ambience isn't as palpable as one might hope.

If you're not a fan of foreign language films, don't fret. English dialogue abounds, and even when muttered uncertainly by the Dominican players, it's always easy to understand. (Unfortunately, the subtitles don't turn off when English is spoken, which is mildly distracting.) Though the audio may not be as fine as the video, it still serves 'Sugar' well.

[review_supplements_stars] => 2 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 10131 [review_supplements] =>

For an indie production, 'Sugar' comes well equipped with a few interesting supplements that further flesh out the film and enhance the viewing experience. An audio commentary would have been icing on the cake, but one is not included. All material is in standard definition.

  • Featurette: "Making 'Sugar': Run the Bases" (SD, 14 minutes) – This typical behind-the-scenes piece allows filmmakers and co-writers Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck the opportunity to express their thoughts about 'Sugar' and its unique sports movie perspective. The duo discusses casting an unknown, non-actor in the lead role, their decision to use real coaches and players, and how cultural and linguistic differences made shooting in the Dominican Republic such a challenge. Cinematographer Andrij Parekh also talks about his photographic philosophy in this brisk, easygoing featurette.
  • Featurette: "Play Béisbol! The Dominican Dream" (SD, 13 minutes) – For many, baseball is the only way out of the poverty and despair that's so prevalent in the Dominican Republic, and this featurette provides a cursory examination of the country's sports-crazy climate. In addition, such baseball superstars as pitcher Pedro Martinez and slugger Sammy Sosa share their views about the film's level of truth, and how they personally relate to and identify with the story.
  • Featurette: "Casting 'Sugar': Interview with Algenis Perez Soto" (SD, 4 minutes) – This brief chat with Soto, in which he talks about his previous odd jobs, relationship with his brother, and love of the movie 'Scarface' undoubtedly put him in strong contention for the film's leading role. Not much substance here, but Soto's relaxed charm shines through.
  • Deleted Scenes (SD, 7 minutes) – Five cut sequences add a few character beats, but nothing essential was shaved away in the editing room.
  • Theatrical Trailers (HD) – Sony includes the original theatrical trailer for 'Sugar,' as well as a plethora of other previews: 'Tyson,' 'Rudo Y Cursi,' 'Moon,' 'A River Runs Through It,' 'Soul Power,' 'Whatever Works,' and 'Ghostbusters.'
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0.5 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 10132 [review_bonus_content] =>

A BD-Live link takes you to Sony's online portal, where – surprise, surprise – there's absolutely no exclusive content for 'Sugar.'

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

'Sugar' refuses to follow Hollywood's well-worn sports film blueprint and is all the better as a result. This insightful study of self-discovery and assimilation against a baseball backdrop hits the strike zone often enough to merit attention, as well as a recommendation. Solid video, good audio, and a fair array of supplements sweeten the deal for this surprising independent production.

All disc reviews at High-Def DVD Digest are completed using the best consumer HD home theater products currently on the market. More about our gear.

) ) [12] => Array ( [review_id] => 2471 [review_type_id] => 1 [review_slug] => supernatural_s4 [review_release_date] => 1251788400 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Supernatural: The Complete Fourth Season [picture_created] => 1244038567 [picture_name] => supernatural.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Brothers [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2009/06/03/120/supernatural.jpeg [review_url] => https://bluray.highdefdigest.com/2471/supernatural_s4.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2008 [run_time] => 0 [list_price] => 79.98 [asin] => B001FB4W0M [amazon_price] => 55.99 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.78:1 ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => 4 BD-50 Blu-ray Discs ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound [1] => Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround Sound [2] => French Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround Sound ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => The Mythologies of Supernatural: From Heaven to Hell [1] => Key Mythological Precepts [2] => Creator commentary for three episodes [3] => Extended/unaired scenes [4] => Gag reel ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => French, Japanese ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Thriller, Fantasy ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Jensen Ackles [1] => Jared Padalecki ) [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 ) ) [13] => Array ( [review_id] => 2459 [review_type_id] => 1 [review_slug] => girlnextdoor [review_release_date] => 1251788400 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => The Girl Next Door: Unrated [picture_created] => 1246392011 [picture_name] => girl-next-door.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => 20th Century Fox [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2009/06/30/120/girl-next-door.jpeg [review_url] => https://bluray.highdefdigest.com/2459/girlnextdoor.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2004 [run_time] => 109 [list_price] => 29.99 [asin] => B0029XFN8A [amazon_price] => 21.99 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/AVC MPEG 4 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => Blu-ray [1] => BD-50 [2] => Region Free ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround Sound [1] => Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 [2] => French Dolby Digital 5.1 ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentary [1] => Deleted and Extended Scenes [2] => Featurettes [3] => Gag reel ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English [1] => French [2] => Spanish ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Sex Comedy ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Elisha Cuthbert [1] => Emile Hirsch ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Luke Greenfield ) [preview_plot_synopsis] =>

Get ready for more skin...more sex...and more laughs in this all-new unrated version of The Girl Next Door - packed with raunchy added scenes and hours of steamy special features!

Eighteen year old Matthew Kidman (Emile Hirsch) is a straight-laced overachiever who has never really lived life-until he falls for his hot new neighbor (Elisha Cuthbert). When Matthew discovers his perfect "girl next door" is a former porn star, his sheltered existence spins out of control. "It's Risky Business meets American Pie" (Premiere Radio Networks) in this "witty, wickedly sexy (Access Hollywood) comedy about growing up fast and going all the way...with The Girl Next Door.

[review_bottom_line] => Worth a Look [review_forum_id] => 92356 [review_movie_stars] => 3 [review_movie] =>

I don't know what it is, but I keep reviewing titles that were marketed all wrong. 'Adventureland' was billed as the next 'Superbad' just because it had the same director. 'The Soloist' wasn't marketed at all. And now we have 'The Girl Next Door,' a 2004 film from Fox that has been marketed like it's the next 'American Pie' or 'Road Trip.' It's sad when the studios don't believe that a movie can do well on its own merits and therefore it's compared to other movies that it clearly is not.

'The Girl Next Door' owes more to the John Hughes teenage comedies of the 80's than it does the raunchy teen sex-romps of the 90's. With a scantily clad Elisha Cuthbert ('24') on the cover and “Unrated Version” written in the shape of smudged lipstick on the front cover, you'd think you were getting another gross-out teen comedy churned out by the same factory that released 'Miss March,' (a porn star blowing up a condom like a balloon on the back cover doesn't help matters any either).

In fact 'The Girl Next Door' has quite a different, more meaningful feeling to it than the raunchy teen fare it's being compared to. Emile Hirsch ('Into the Wild') is cleanly shaven for a change and actually plays a straight-laced youth perfectly. I was getting so used to seeing him as the same type of hippie character I forgot the true scope of his acting ability. Here he plays social outcast Matthew Kidman. He's ostracized because he's smart, nerdy, and the high school president. He gets kicked out of parties, booed off stage when he's trying to rally the school to raise funds to help a South Korean genius come their to study, and worst of all the pretty girls completely ignore him.

One day Matthew watches as a gorgeous girl, Danielle, moves in next door. That night he catches her undressing. She undresses the way beautiful girls only undress in movies, you know with all the lights on, curtains open, pretty much every young man's dream that never happens. She catches him. The doorbell rings, it's her. She doesn't tell Matthew's parents though, instead she invites Matthew to take a ride with her. She's got to see him naked now, makes perfect sense. So Matthew strips in the middle of the road, she drives by, yoinks his undies off the pavement and zooms out of sight.

It's not long before Matthew's sexually charged friend finds a porn movie starring the new girl. Yes, she's a porn star. Matthew tries desperately to keep his life together while courting the girl next door. His schooling suffers and his fundraising for the South Korean kid hits a snag, but he'll do anything for love. That also means putting up with his girlfriend's porn producer played by Timothy Olyphant ('Live Free or Die Hard'), a vindictive, manipulative man.

'The Girl Next Door' has its problems. Danielle is convenient in her feelings. Sometimes she's a saucy vixen who plays with the hearts of young men, and at other times she's a vulnerable young girl who's just been caught up in the wrong kind of business. Contrary to the title, Danielle really spends a minimal amount of time on screen, and most of that screen time is spent giggling at lines from other actors.

The film's ambiance, however, is its saving grace. If it played out like 'Miss March' and went solely for the gross-out humor it would be a failure. Here, it has the feeling of an old 80s teen romp and ultimately, that's what makes it interesting.

[review_video_stars] => 2.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 10275 [review_video] =>

This film was made in 2004? With this transfer you could've fooled me. The AVC-encoded 1080p transfer is all sorts of washed-out. Colors aren't vibrant or flashy, instead for the most part they're dull. Skin tones are all over the map, sometimes perfect and other times completely overtaken by burning white when the light hits them wrong. There's a heavy helping of grain too, but that doesn't really distract from the overall viewing experience. It's actually about the only thing that helps the transfer resemble anything film-like.

Crispness and clarity are also muted and soft. There's never a point during the entire film where the power of HD wows or amazes. Blacks are never especially deep either. The transfer looks terribly dated. While it's still an upgrade from its DVD counterpart, it's by a mighty slim margin. It just isn't what you'd expect from a newer movie on Blu-ray.

[review_audio_stars] => 3.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 10276 [review_audio] =>

The DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio track fares quite a bit better than the video transfer, but in this talky film there's never much of a chance for it to show off. Voices are never muffled, and the directionality comes across nicely. The soundtrack of the film -- which features artists like N.E.R.D. and Marvin Gaye -- is treated well, with a heavy helping of LFE when called upon. The surrounds, for the most part, are silent, except when called upon at public venues like the Adult Film Convention and a strip club that Matthew visits with Danielle and her producer. While it's not going to blow any socks off, it's a competent audio presentation that does what is asked of it.

[review_supplements_stars] => 2.5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 10277 [review_supplements] =>

  • Audio Commentary - Director Luke Greenfield offers up a commentary on 'The Girl Next Door.' Fans of the film will have already heard this commentary on the previous DVD release. There's nothing new here. Greenfield talks about how casting really made the movie what it is, the difficulties in getting across the kind of teen sex comedy he wanted to make, and what stages the script went through to get to its final product. It's not dull, but not overly exciting either. It lies somewhere in the middle on a list from best to worst commentaries.
  • The Eli Experience (SD, 7 min) - The only relevancy that this has to the movie is that it is filmed at the Adult Film Expo, the one that Matthew goes to, to win Danielle back. Some pranks are pulled on people who don't expect them, and you're left wondering why in the world this feature was ever conceived and included.
  • A Look Next Door (SD, 9 min) - This is a set of fluffy promotional interviews with the cast of the show. Greenfield cuts in now and then with tidbits on how the casting was done. All of the main actors are featured, but only briefly, to say a few words about the characters they play. This is most likely something you'd see on 'Entertainment Tonight.'
  • Gag Reel (SD, 2 min) - Being a movie focused on the adult film business I'm glad that no special liberties were taken with this. Whew! Instead it is your standard brief clip of flubs and mess-ups with lines, and actors laughing when you have no idea why they're laughing.
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes (SD, 10 min) - There are 16 deleted scenes in all. Most of them, according to Greenfield's commentary, were cut because of pacing problems. When you watch them you'll see why. An interesting scene, that is supposedly the “original” ending is shown here too, but it was cut because it was too confusing to the audience. I won't spoil it here for those of you that want to know why it was so confusing.
  • Scene Specific Commentary by Emile Hirsch (SD, 8 min) - Emile Hirsch gives a brief commentary on five specific scenes from the film. If they think this gets them off the hook for not providing a commentary with Greenfield, Hirsch, and Cuthbert all together then they're mistaken.
  • Scene Specific Commentary by Elisha Cuthbert (SD, 12 min) - Like Hirsch, Elisha Cuthbert is asked to comment on a few of her scenes in the film. If you'd like to know what went through Elisha's mind when she was deciding on whether to do the partial nude scene then this is the feature for you.
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 10278 [review_bonus_content] =>

There is no new content for this release.

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

'The Girl Next Door' is an oddly entertaining flick that isn't without its flaws. I commend the film for trying to rise above the formulaic battlegrounds of teen sex comedies. It certainly has the influence of John Hughes running around within it. On the other hand I am annoyed by the marketing team that saw fit to promote this film as another 'American Pie' thereby alienating a fan base that may like the film while attracting a fan base who will most likely not enjoy it at all. Ridiculous!

It's a shame that the PQ here is a disappointment. It had so much potential, but it seems to have been squandered a bit. I'm still recommending this title because it really is original and deserves to be seen by a different audience that may have missed it the first time, thinking it was something else.

) ) ) [reviews_hot] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 2470 [review_type_id] => 1 [review_slug] => braveheart [review_release_date] => 1251788400 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Braveheart [picture_created] => 1245679355 [picture_name] => braveheart-small.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Paramount Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2009/06/22/120/braveheart-small.jpeg [review_url] => https://bluray.highdefdigest.com/2470/braveheart.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1995 [run_time] => 177 [list_price] => 39.99 [asin] => B000NQRE0K [amazon_price] => 35.99 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.35:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => Interactive Timelines [1] => Interactive Map ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => Blu-ray [1] => BD-50 [2] => Region A [3] => Sapphire Series ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround Sound [1] => French Dolby Digital 5.1 [2] => Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Featurette [1] => Audio Commentary [2] => Theatrical Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English [1] => English SDH [2] => French [3] => Spanish ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Mel Gibson ) [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => • Interactive Timelines—Three distinct timelines featuring a combination of video, images, text and audio that can be accessed linearly or randomly.

o Production: A comprehensive chronology of the motion picture from conception through theatrical release, from a behind-the-scenes point of view.

o Historical: Chronological modules feature Scotland’s greatest patriot, along with historical places, figures and events surrounding his life and struggle.

o Fiction: A comprehensive timeline identifying the chronological events of the film.

• Braveheart: A Look Back— Features new interviews with members of the cast and crew reminiscing about their experiences making the film and its enduring impact on cinema.

• Smithfield: Medieval Killing Fields—Relates the remarkable history of Smithfield, which for centuries was regularly filled with the roars of crowds, regal fanfares and rowdy games. Smithfield is also known as the site of William Wallace’s execution, along with other terrifying spectacles when heretics, rebels and criminals were put to death.

• Battlefields of the Scottish Rebellion— Two major Scottish battlefields, Falkirk and Bannockburn, will be presented as 3D models that can be explored for further investigation into the military strategies and timetables employed in each. Topography, weapons, troop movements, and leadership data can also be accessed. An alternate playing mode will allow the story of each battle to unfold in an “automated” fashion, much like the interactive dioramas displayed at historical site museums around the world. [review_bottom_line] => Must Own [review_forum_id] => 91530 [review_movie_stars] => 5 [review_movie] =>

'Braveheart' endures in the hearts of filmgoers not because of its relentless and at times remarkable action scenes, or because of Mel Gibson's fine acting and directing. It lives on in our collective hearts because of the message it so boldly embodies. Freedom comes at a cost, at the risk of cliché; freedom isn't free at all. Blood is shed and lives are lost for the cause of something greater. That's why 'Braveheart,' the story of a man who united a nation against tyranny, packs as much punch today as it did the year it was released.

By and large we enjoy stories about the underdog, especially if they're based in truth. Film can transport us to a time when people fought against all odds for something they believed in. William Wallace (Mel Gibson) actually did exist. While the movie takes artistic liberties with the story, the core details are there. Mankind can do great things, even seemingly impossible things, if we just believe and act.

As the film opens, the British empire is in disarray. King Longshanks (Patrick McGoohan) is facing tough times in trying to quell the Scots up North, who do nothing but cause him trouble. He claims the right of "primae noctis," which allows the nobleman of the township to take a bride to his own bed on the her wedding night. Longshanks has decided that if he can't get rid of them, he'll slowly breed them out with English blood.

It is under these circumstance that young William Wallace falls in love with his childhood sweetheart and they are married in secret so she won't be defiled by the local nobleman. Yet after they are found out, and she is killed, Wallace goes on a rampage killing any and every Englishman that comes near him.

In watching 'Braveheart,' it's interesting to note the transition of Wallace's goal. At first his need for revenge consumes him, he's purely killing the English because they killed his wife, but a slow transformation occurs, and his quest for revenge turns into something more broadly meaningful, something that can actually change lives for entire nations.

'Braveheart' is not only a marvelous action film, it's also a tender love story. I'm not just talking about the love story between Wallace and Murron (Catherine McCormac), but the love story between Wallace and his people. Even though most of the times his own people conspire against him because of greed and self-interest, Wallace still fights for them. He still hopes to gain their allegiance, and it's heartbreaking when he is denied this time and time again.

Message and story aside, 'Braveheart' excels on technical merits as well. The direction and cinematography are top-notch. The color palette is blended well to capture the lushness of the English and Scottish countryside. That such bloody battles could take place in such an intrinsically gorgeous place is beyond comprehension. Wars are fought everywhere, but nowadays we picture those wars being fought against dusty, desert-like backdrops. Britain is green and strikingly beautiful. When fighting isn't going on, the countryside seems so serene and peaceful it's hard to believe it was home to such blood-spattered battles.

'Braveheart,' winner of the 1995 Academy Award for Best Picture, still has its detractors, but I'm not one of them. Every time I watch this film I'm still moved by its message and touched by its tenderness.

[review_video_stars] => 4.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 10169 [review_video] =>

Filmed in the mid-90s, 'Braveheart' bursts onto Blu-ray with an HD transfer as spectacular as the rolling green hills of Northern England. The 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer of 'Braveheart' is as near perfect as you can get for a catalog title. Sure, the transfer suffers from the occasional white specks and dust, but that's to be expected from a film approaching its fifteenth anniversary. The specks seem to become a bit more noticeable during the second hour of the film, but they calm down again toward the end. Some shots do appear a bit soft, like the quick shots of Longshanks lying in his bed towards the end of the film.

Yet other than these few, and minor complaints, this transfer scores top marks in every category. It's as close to reference material as you can get with a catalog title. The color palette is rich. Deep shades of green are in abundance, and the transfer handles every shade perfectly. The scene of Wallace hunting in the forest is one of the most richly detailed and colorful parts of the film. Everything from strands of hair blowing in the wind, to the fine links on chainmail are clear and concise. Technical anomalies like aliasing, macro-blocking, and noticeable edge enhancement weren't detected. This is a clean, beautiful transfer that reflects quite well the beauty of the cinematography and the film itself.

[review_audio_stars] => 5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 10170 [review_audio] =>

The superiority of this disc doesn't stop with the video. The uncompressed 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack shines in its own way. Truthfully, I could not find one fault with this track. It's engrossing not only in the stirring action sequences, but also in the more subdued instances. The surrounds work magnificently in creating an all encompassing effect during even the quietest moments. Birds chirping, clanging of armor and metal off in the distance, and the rustling of the trees from the wind provide a wonderful ambient atmosphere.

The action sequences do provide the soundtrack with some stellar effects though. The subwoofer shakes the room when hordes of calvary hoof it across the battlefield. It rumbles as fire engulfs straw huts. The surround channels spring to life during the action, making us feel like we're right in the middle of the battle. Swords clang, shields splinter, and warriors moan. James Horner's rousing score blares throughout the room, coming alive, a character unto itself. This high-def soundtrack makes watching 'Braveheart' a truly absorbing experience.

[review_supplements_stars] => 3 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 0 [review_supplements] =>

'Braveheart' comes in a 2-disc special set. Disc one contains the film and two special features: an audio commentary and a Timelines feature. Disc two contains the rest of the supplemental material.

  • Audio Commentary - 'Braveheart' actor/director Mel Gibson is the sole commentator here. Fans will want to listen to this commentary since he gives some great, spot on insight about the film. Though the commentary is interesting and Gibson does share a few secrets about the filming, casual viewers might not be willing to give up another three hours to hear the commentary.
  • Tales of William Wallace (SD, 29 min) - This feature is taken from the 2007 Collector's Edition release of the DVD. It separates fact from fiction when talking about William Wallace and his life.
  • A Writer's Journey (SD, 21 min) - Also taken from the earlier DVD release, this feature cover the story of Randall Wallace, author of the script for 'Braveheart.' The last name is no coincidence, Randall is a direct descendent of William Wallace.
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 2 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 10171 [review_bonus_content] =>
  • 'Braveheart' Timelines - This feature gives you access to three different timelines. You get the stone cold facts about the real William Wallace, the fictional account that comes from the film, and a film production timeline that chronicles bringing the story of William Wallace to the big screen. It's exciting to compare the real-life William Wallace to the fictionalized version.
  • Battlefields of the Scottish Rebellion - This is an interactive map that allows the user to learn more about the famous battles depicted in the film and where they took place. The Battle of Stirling Bridge, the Battle of Falkirk, the capture of William Wallace, and the Battle of Bannockburn are all represented. The battles of Falkirk and Bannockburn are represented with computer generated animations of what may have happened during the fighting. They take on kind of a History Channel feeling, but are informative nonetheless.
  • Braveheart: A Look Back (HD, 1hr) - This is a three part look back at the making of 'Braveheart' and why it became such a storied piece of cinematic history. Part one is called 'A Company of Equals' (20 min), which tells the behind-the-scenes story of the production of the film. There are interviews with cast and crew. They describe the pure scope of putting together a project like this and the enormous amount of work that went into getting 'Braveheart' ready for the big screen. Part two, 'The Sound of Laughter' (19 min), is a sort of respite in between two heavily informative bookend pieces. It talks about Mel Gibson's war makeup, his fine abilities as a director, and covers some of the more jovial times that were had on set by the cast and crew. Part three, 'The Measure of a Film' (20 min), delves back into the film in a big way. It covers quite a lot about the film, everything from shooting the battle sequences to the editing of the film. The three parts make for a fantastically all-around enlightening piece about how the film came to be and what has kept it such a strong piece of cinema after all these years.
  • Trailers (HD) - Two trailers for the film are presented here, one teaser and one theatrical.
[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 4.5 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts] =>

One of the most anticipated Blu-ray releases is finally here. Fans have been clamoring for years to see one of their most beloved films finally get the high-def treatment, and what a treatment it is! Everything about this Blu-ray shines. Co-debuting Paramount's “Sapphire Series,” 'Braveheart' lives up to our HD expectations. It's a must own for any collection.

All disc reviews at High-Def DVD Digest are completed using the best consumer HD home theater products currently on the market. More about our gear.

) ) [1] => Array ( [review_id] => 2490 [review_type_id] => 1 [review_slug] => csi_s9 [review_release_date] => 1251788400 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => CSI: Crime Scene Investigation - The Ninth Season [picture_created] => 1244559053 [picture_name] => 5318b3e74a0ff.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Paramount [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2009/06/09/120/5318b3e74a0ff.jpeg [review_url] => https://bluray.highdefdigest.com/2490/csi_s9.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2008 [run_time] => 0 [list_price] => 99.99 [asin] => B002CLKV5Y [amazon_price] => 61.99 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.78:1 ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080/VC-1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => Investigative Mode [1] => CSI Mode ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => 6 50GB Blu-ray discs ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 Surround Sound [1] => Spanish: DTS 2.0 ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English, Spanish ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentaries [1] => Crime Scene Initiation [2] => Rats in Space [3] => From Zero to 200 in Nine Seconds [4] => Goodbye Grissom [5] => Deleted Scenes ) [review_bottom_line] => Recommended [review_gear] => default [review_forum_id] => 106888 [review_movie_stars] => 3.5 [review_movie] =>

For years now the original 'CSI' has been lumbering along as a continuous ratings juggernaut, pulling in viewers like nobody's business. It has been one of the most consistent shows out there over such a long period of time. The ninth season shows no signs of slowing down, because this is the season where everything changes. Season eight ended with the death of Warrick. Season nine picks up with the investigation into Warrick's death and Grissom's continuing dislike for the job.

We all knew at the beginning of this season that Grissom was finally going to step aside and let someone else take the reigns. About half-way through the season Grissom is replaced, during a two episode arc, by a medical doctor/college professor played by Laurence Fishburne.

If you've spent your life watching this show, seeing Grissom go is one of the more emotional moments of the series, along with Warrick's death. Fishburne fills in nicely, but he's just no Grissom, that's for sure.

By this time you either know you really like 'CSI' or you don't. 'CSI' does have its fair share of stand alone episodes, so following along with storylines isn't that hard to do. There are some story threads and well-known characters that pop up every so often, but for the most part 'CSI' is one of those shows that you can sit down and watch with minimal knowledge about the show itself.

The ninth season has much of the same stuff we've come to expect from the franchise. Murders abound in Sin City and it's up to the CSI Las Vegas squad to solve them. I'm always constantly surprised at what 'CSI' gets away with on network television. From explicit episodes centering on sexual bondage, to extremely graphic slow-motion violence, it's hard to see how this thing doesn't have a mature audiences rating. The bondage episode alone houses enough questionable content that one could see a movie with the same content getting an R. Perhaps because we're dealing with "science" here, CBS gets away with airing some of the stuff they do.

Speaking of the science behind the show, I'm nowhere near qualified to say what is believable and what's not, but I'm pretty sure that most laboratories out there testing blood samples aren't lit up like a neon dance club. Those are the types of things that just make you have to laugh at the show. The quick cutting, neon lit montages of them testing various substances are among my favorite scenes. Only 'CSI' can make testing hair follicles look as exciting as a rave.

After nine years 'CSI' is still going strong, pandering to its already large fan base. This 'CSI' has already spun off so many spin-offs I've lost count. People love the forensics I guess. I'm sure real-life CSI techs don't actually do as much as the TV people do, as they question suspects, get confessions, and even arrest people. Scientists with guns and power!

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 15293 [review_video] =>

If you've been buying up the 'CSI' seasons on Blu-ray you'll remember that the first season of the show came to Blu-ray with a 1080i presentation. The ninth season, however, is given the full 1080p treatment featuring a VC-1 encode.

I'm just going to come out and say it, this is one of the best looking TV shows out there, no matter how corny some of the laboratory set dressings are. 'CSI's signature smooth, neon look is intact. The entire season features nicely detailed shadows and wonderfully deep blacks. The nighttime Las Vegas flybys that help transition from scene to scene are a wonder to look at (although aliasing does pop up every now and then). Detail is crisp and clear, almost too clear. There are times, like with the guy who was tied to the bottom of a car and had his face rubbed off, where I was hoping that the detail wouldn't be very clear, but it was. Contrast is starkly defined, giving 'CSI' that dark, gloomy effect that works so well with the series. Daytime scenes burst with color and vibrancy. It's true that the CG effects that zoom the camera into the body to look at something like blood cells still look rather silly, but credit to the show for sticking with what has worked for them and playing it up.

While throughout its 24 episodes the picture isn't always consistently striking, this is a great looking transfer and in the world of TV on Blu-ray, one of the best.

[review_audio_stars] => 4.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 15294 [review_audio] =>

From the opening theme song of "Who Are You?" to the closing credits, this DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 presentation is booming with life.

Loud, is one word to describe it. The theme song hits you like a ton of bricks when it starts. The LFE rumbles, the lyrics screech. The rear speakers are almost constantly engaged in producing and ambient soundfield that engulfs you. From crowded crime scenes, to the lively streets of Las Vegas, the ambient sound provided here is top-notch. Dialogue is always clear, and isn't even drowned out by the booming soundtrack. Flashbacks feature great effects and some stellar bass. When the camera dives into the human body and starts floating around the blood stream to show us exactly what happened, your entire sound system is transformed. Like you're actually shooting down blood vessel with sounds that may make you grimace. Although, if you grimace easily 'CSI' probably isn't the show for you anyway.

The video on this release offers a remarkable example of high-definition, but the sound here just might outdo it.

[review_supplements_stars] => 3 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 15295 [review_supplements] =>
  • Audio Commentaries – Located on discs four and five, the episodes with commentary are episode 16 called "Turn, Turn, Turn," and episode 20 called "A Space Oddity." Commentaries would have been nice to have on every episode, especially with 24 episodes it's a little disappointing to only see two episodes turn up with them. What's even more disappointing is that these commentaries take place after Grissom is gone. If any episodes needed commentary it was the two episodes in which Grissom comes to the end of working with CSI. Those would have been much more insightful and meaningful commentaries.
  • Crime Scene Initiation (HD, 15 min.) – Located on disc one, Laurence Fishburne and Lauren Lee Smith talk about being new to the show, how they fit in, and how it was different when Petersen left the set.
  • Rats in Space (HD, 27 min.) – A look behind the scenes at the episode "Lab Rat." You'll find this feature on disc five.
  • From Zero to 200 in Nine Seconds (HD, 19 min.) – That's right 'CSI' has reached 200 episodes. Here the feat is lightly chronicled featuring director William Friedkin and how the entire show reached such a landmark point. This can also be found on disc five.
  • Goodbye Grissom (HD, 18 min.) – Even though I'm not the biggest 'CSI' fan in the world, Grissom leaving is quite the event, even I know that. Here we're given a look back at the character and how Petersen was instrumental in creating the final story arc for Grissom. It was pretty neat to see the admiration everyone has for Petersen and his character and the trust he was given to send off Grissom on the right note. Found on disc six.
  • Deleted Scenes (SD, 8 min.) – Spread across most of the discs are deleted scenes here and there that aren't really worth watching.

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 2.5 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 15296 [review_bonus_content] =>
  • Investigative Mode (HD) - Investigative Mode can be found on 2 different episodes on two different discs. "Let it Bleed" on disc one and "Kill Me if You Can" on disc four. Investigative Mode is a picture-in-picture track that pops up with helpful trivia, information on how certain scenes were filmed, and interviews from the cast and crew. It's a nice addition to the supplements, but it would have been nice to see something like this added to each and every episode, to make it feel more like a complete thought process rather than just something thrown in on two episodes.
  • CSI Mode (HD) - Another pop-up feature that focuses on the hard science of the show and fiction versus fact. It's interesting that this pop-up feature actually points out times where characters in the show aren't doing exactly what investigators in real-life would be doing. It also points out scientific procedures and methods and how they relate to real-life crime solving. Again, this isn't something found on every episode sadly, just on the episodes housed on disc three.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 4 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 15297 [review_final_thoughts] =>

By the ninth season you know if you're a fan of 'CSI' or not. If you've gotten this far in the review, I'd say you're pretty interested in the show, and I don't have to convince you further that this is indeed a set that should be in your collection. The video and audio are just about as good as it gets on TV Blu-rays, while the supplements package gives a lot of information for loyal fans as well as providing some insightful, albeit sparse, Blu-ray exclusive PiP features. This set comes recommended for fans, but anyone who wants a likable show on Blu-ray might think of picking this one up as well.

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Disneynature's 'Earth' amounts to a 90-minute trailer for the 550-minute BBC series 'Planet Earth.' Every bit of it is footage taken from the popular nature series and edited down to an hour and a half. Narration has switched from Sir David Attenborough to James Earl Jones. The film has been spliced together, more or less, to tell three stories of three separate animal families – elephants, polar bears, and humpback whales.

Walt Disney was fascinated by the animals that inhabited our planet. From 1948 – 1960 Disney produced a series of shorts and features called 'True-Life Adventures.' When the Disney Company announced its plans to go forward with an entirely new line of films that would be presented under the Disneynature label, they carried on the wishes and dreams of Walt.

As we follow the three animal families around the world in their quests for survival it's interesting to note that Disney has left in a lot of the "depressing" parts from 'Planet Earth.' For something geared more toward children, they sure retained many of the harsh realities of the animal kingdom. Sure they put the cute stuff in too, like the fuzzy ducklings throwing themselves out of a tree when they still can't fly, only to hit the ground with a comical bounce and be fine. Juxtapose that with the kill or die scenario the father Polar Bear finds himself in. The heart wrenching story finds a Polar Bear swimming the open ocean because the polar ice caps have melted sooner than he's used to. Finding an island after an exhausting swim, he tries to find food, but all he finds is a group of cranky walruses that aren't eager to become dinner. It's a terrible situation the Polar Bear finds himself in, but it does provide a springboard for parents to talk about the facts of life with their children.

'Earth' also keeps the elements of 'Planet Earth' related to the warming climate, which is another topic that can be brought up when watching this with your children. The most exciting parts of 'Planet Earth' such as the high speed footage of the Great White Sharks leaping out of the water to catch passing sea lions, or the slow motion attack of a Cheeta, are kept in for the "Wow" factor. I was excited that much of the mind-bending time lapse footage was preserved as well.

The ocean lover in me was disappointed that there was really no mention of coral reefs or their roles in the ecosystem. The spectacular Caves portion of 'Planet Earth' is also left out. I don't envy the person that had to decide what to keep and what to do without.

Overall, this more condensed version of one of the greatest nature shows is a lot more kid friendly. It abstains from the gore of the animal kingdom and really only gives the viewer glimpses of what it would be like. It does feel rushed, but that's expected considering the source material an this shorter runtime.

All in all, it's a decent presentation that encompasses the main messages that 'Planet Earth' portrays. The fragile nature of life, conservation, and protecting the environment are all presented here. 'Planet Earth' is one of my all-time favorite TV series, and I felt Disney did the series justice with the time allotted for this kid-friendly abbreviated version

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 10239 [review_video] =>

Seeing that all of the video here comes from the stellar source material 'Earth's MPEG-4 AVC – encoded 1080p transfer is nothing but miraculous. 'Planet Earth' had some of the best visuals ever featured on HD, and 'Earth' is no exception. This transfer is every bit as perfect as we'd expect. Colors are bright and vibrant, blacks are perfectly balanced, and even the dreaded night-cam footage – that's usually is full of grain and noise in other productions – is stunningly clear here.

Technical problems do arise on a few minor occasions. Slight banding and noise appear during some of the ultra-slow motion scenes. White specks and errant noise come into view during some of the waterfall scenes. These problems are minor, and never really detract from the beauty on the screen. Everything else is presented with the crystal clarity befitting of such fantastic source material.

[review_audio_stars] => 4 [review_audio_picture_id] => 10240 [review_audio] =>

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 gives this presentation an astounding lossless soundtrack. Mr. James Earl Jones' voice is featured front and center in all its deep, booming glory. One of the most memorable voices in all of cinema is given a grand stage to narrate with authority. Likewise, the surrounds do their work with efficiency, creating an ambient atmosphere with noises like howling monkeys, chirping birds, and rolling thunder. Whether it be the roar of a lion or the song of a humpback whale, 'Earth's soundtrack is clear, concise, and utterly engulfing in its effect.

[review_supplements_stars] => 1 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 10243 [review_supplements] =>
  • Earth Diaries (HD, 43 min) - These are snippets taken from the hour-long diary episodes that would air after each episode of 'Planet Earth.' Cut down, this behind-the-scenes footage still provides the viewer with some knowledge of how hard it was to take on such an undertaking as this series.

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 2 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 10244 [review_bonus_content] =>

Disney has put some thought into these special features. Interactivity is at the top of the list for the Blu-ray exclusive features.

  • Filmmaker Annotations - Remember how I said I wouldn’t have wanted to be the person who had to decide what stayed and what was cut? Well, you get to meet those people in this picture-in-picture presentation. They actually talk about the difficulty in deciding exactly what would go into this film and what would be left out. This is a must see feature. It's informative and fun.
  • Living Menus Content - Maybe I'm just impressed by simplistic yet informative features, but there's no other word to describe this feature other than "cool." The Living Menu is found on the main menu of the Blu-ray. You'll see a picture of the earth that you're able to rotate with your remote. Tiny white, pulsating dots represent hotspots on the globe. If you navigate over to them you'll see that sometimes text information pops up and sometimes and entire video. You get to learn about different places and wildlife wherever the spot is located. That isn't it, because in the bottom-left corner you'll notice that the time and date have been synced to your time. After you've explored all the Living Menu hotspots don't worry, because next month a new batch will appear!

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

I never thought that the size and scope of the 'Planet Earth' series could be cut down to a meager 90 minutes and still retain the awe and majesty that we've adored. Even though Disney does leave out a lot of material, the inherent message is still there. We must conserve and protect our environment. It’s a beautiful film, with wondrous images, and a good heart. Kids will be able to enjoy it with their short attention spans, Disney sees fit to leave out the animal kingdom blood and guts in order to keep it family friendly. Boasting some great video and audio, this title comes recommended.

All disc reviews at High-Def DVD Digest are completed using the best consumer HD home theater products currently on the market. More about our gear.

) ) [3] => Array ( [review_id] => 2565 [review_type_id] => 1 [review_slug] => escaflownethemovie [review_release_date] => 1251788400 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Escaflowne: The Movie [picture_created] => [picture_name] => [manufacturer_name] => Bandai Entertainment [picture_source] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/images/public/[email protected] [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/images/public/pop-on-amazon.png [picture_source_195] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/images/public/[email protected] [picture_source_235] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/images/public/[email protected] [picture_source_300] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/images/public/[email protected] [picture_source_660] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/images/public/[email protected] [picture_alternate] => Box coming soon [picture_title] => Box coming soon [review_url] => https://bluray.highdefdigest.com/2565/escaflownethemovie.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2000 [run_time] => 120 [list_price] => 39.98 [asin] => B002GNOLYU [amazon_price] => 27.99 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => TBA ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => TBA ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround Sound [1] => English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround Sound ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Cast and staff interviews [1] => Bandai trailers ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Anime ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Hitomi Kanzaki is tired of life. Depressed and despondent she wishes that she could just fade away, to make the pain of living stop hurting. Her pain resonates with another on the world of Gaea, and when her wish is granted, she finds herself in a strange land. She is greeted as the Wing Goddess, who possesses the power to summon the legendary Escaflowne. Hitomi's fate is intertwined with the brash young warrior king Van, who also feels that life has lost its meaning. Sworn to strike back at the Black Dragon Clan which destroyed his kingdom, he fights to exist and he exists to fight. The arrival of the Wing Goddess marks the final turning point in Van's battle, as she holds an entire world's destiny in her heart. By summoning Escaflowne, the Wing Goddess will choose that path of Gaea's future. But is her heart's desire salvation... or destruction? [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 ) ) [4] => Array ( [review_id] => 2524 [review_type_id] => 1 [review_slug] => gladiator [review_release_date] => 1251788400 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Gladiator [picture_created] => 1245679923 [picture_name] => gladiator-small.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Paramount [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2009/06/22/120/gladiator-small.jpeg [review_url] => https://bluray.highdefdigest.com/2524/gladiator.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2000 [run_time] => 171 [list_price] => 39.99 [asin] => B000NU2CY4 [amazon_price] => 27.99 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.39:1 ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => Blu-ray [1] => BD-50 Dual Layer Discs [2] => 2-Disc Set [3] => Theatrical Version and Extended Version of film ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround [1] => French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround [2] => Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentaries [1] => Documentaries [2] => Featurettes [3] => Still Galleries [4] => Deleted Scenes [5] => Storyboard Comparisons ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English Subtitles [1] => English SDH [2] => French Subtitles [3] => Spanish Subtitles [4] => Korean Subtitles ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Russell Crowe ) [preview_technology_specifications] => • Audio Commentary—Two separate commentaries accompany the original theatrical version and extended version of the film.

• The Scrolls of Knowledge—The original trivia track has been newly enhanced with focus points allowing viewers to access a series of new behind-the-scenes featurettes exploring key scenes and how they relate to the historical accuracy depicted in the film. The extended version of the film also includes a deleted scene marker.

• Visions From Elysium: Topic Marker—Viewers can tag moments of interest throughout either version of the film, allowing them to create “shopping lists” of topics to learn more about. Thanks to the Blu-ray player’s memory, the topics will automatically be loaded when Disc 2 is inserted, giving viewers immediate access to featurettes and galleries of interest.

• Strength And Honor: Creating The World of Gladiator—The definitive documentary on the origin, production and impact of the Oscar®-winning classic. The documentary includes an all-new Enhanced Viewing Mode allowing viewers access to additional interviews and behind-the-scenes material.

• The Making of Gladiator—HBO First Look special.

• Gladiator Games: The Roman Bloodsport—Learning Channel special.

• Hans Zimmer: Scoring Gladiator—An exploration of the rousing soundtrack.

• My Gladiator Journal—Personal diary of the young actor who played Lucius.

• Image & Design—Featurettes and galleries covering the production design, storyboards, costumes and more.

• Abandoned Sequences & Deleted Scenes

• VFX Explorations: Germania & Rome—Shot deconstruction with the visual effects artists. [review_bottom_line] => Recommended [review_forum_id] => 91634 [review_movie_stars] => 5 [review_movie] =>

Roman epics are as much a part of cinematic history as Lassie and John Wayne. Ever since the silent era and on through such mammoth works as 'Quo Vadis,' 'The Robe,' 'Ben-Hur,' and 'Cleopatra,' studios and audiences have been hopelessly seduced by the ancient empire's intoxicating blend of decadence, intrigue, and grandeur. Yet for every iconic Roman film produced, Hollywood has churned out at least one colossal dud, often swallowing a bitter box office pill when flat receipts proved time and again that spectacle alone isn't enough to keep a sword-and-sandal saga from sinking into the dust.

The genre's inherent traps have sandbagged many a lofty director, but Ridley Scott navigated the minefield well, and 'Gladiator' is the glorious result – a film rich with passion and narrative drive that both followed a timeworn blueprint and blazed its own trail. With a masterful sense of rhythm and timing, Scott combined old school elements with contemporary technique to produce a riveting, often thrilling work that redefined the Hollywood epic and earned five well-deserved Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor (Russell Crowe). Though he didn't hesitate to pull the trigger and go for broke visually, Scott shrewdly picked his moments, and never loosened his grip on the tenuous emotional thread that keeps the movie grounded. 'Gladiator,' unlike many blockbusters, has heart and more than a little soul, and that, along with Crowe's brawny, brooding presence, is what makes this movie a modern classic.

After defeating a holdout tribe of Germanic barbarians in 180 A.D., Rome's most decorated general, Maximus Meridas (Crowe), wants nothing more than to retreat to his country farm and commune with his wife and young son. But Emperor Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris) has other ideas. The dying despot abhors the direction in which Rome is heading, and longs to end the "crippling corruption" he fears will one day destroy the empire. Giving power back to the people and returning to a republican form of government is Marcus' last wish, and he anoints Maximus, a symbol of honor, morality, and strength, the caretaker of his dream. Under Marcus' plan, Maximus will become "Protector of Rome," and maintain order until the Senate is strong enough to rule again. "You are the son I should have had," Marcus tells him, and though the emperor's real son, the neglected and insatiably ambitious Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix), doesn't hear the comment, he still senses he's fallen out of his father's favor.

Sadly, Marcus doesn't live long enough to implement his plan. The unstable Commodus succeeds him, and almost at once he and Maximus clash. Tragedy ensues, and Maximus is captured by Proximo (Oliver Reed), an entrepreneurial slave trader who recognizes and exploits the fury burning within him. To gain his freedom, the noble Maximus becomes a gladiator, a one-man killing machine who thrills bloodthirsty crowds by viciously vanquishing any foe. And though his heroic deeds in the ring turn him into a sensation, he lives only to take brutal revenge on the society that betrayed him and the twisted emperor who took from him his most precious possessions.

It's rare to call a 155-minute film tight, but 'Gladiator' (even in its 171-minute extended edition) enthralls throughout. Like its hero, the movie's pacing is lean and mean, and no dead scenes drag it down. Scott's arresting style and the picture's top-flight production values keep the eye engaged, yet the veteran director knows when to tone down the stimuli and let the story unfold on its own. Oh sure, the opening battle and violent Coliseum sequences dazzle our senses, but the proof of Scott's pudding lies in its quieter moments, and with a wonderful narrative structure that seamlessly weaves Freudian undertones, political skullduggery, and sexual tension into its fabric, there's enough meat on 'Gladiator's' bulky frame to make the time fly by.

The actors help, too. Crowe, in his first collaboration with Scott (they would later team up for 'A Good Year,' 'American Gangster,' 'Body of Lies,' and the upcoming 'Robin Hood'), commands the screen, making Maximus much more than a big lug obsessed with revenge. Subtle touches abound in his deceptively simplistic interpretation, fleshing out the human qualities that fuel the gladiator's rage and torture his spirit. In a far juicier role, Phoenix tries his best to wrestle the picture away, and almost succeeds with an alternately heartbreaking and repugnant portrait of insecurity, anguish, cruelty, and perversion. Equally compelling performances from Harris, Reed, Connie Nielsen, Derek Jacobi, and Djimon Hounsou enhance the film, and their trained voices add mellifluous luster to the literate, Oscar-nominated screenplay.

Some sagas are stuffy, bloated, and empty. 'Gladiator' is none of those things. Its meticulous attention to detail, riveting performances, and breathtaking spectacle all combine to produce a powerful and memorable film that improves with each viewing. Reinventing and revitalizing an extinct genre is no easy task, yet by blending the best elements of the past and present, Scott succeeds brilliantly. In Hollywood's new epic competition, 'Gladiator' is the one to beat, and in the decade since its initial release, this bold yet poetic blockbuster has knocked off all challengers with the same snarling swagger as its hero.

[review_video_stars] => 3.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 10188 [review_video] =>

'Gladiator' has been hands down one of the most hotly anticipated high-def releases since the dawn of the Blu-ray format. The wait has been long, but when Paramount announced Ridley Scott's masterwork would be one of the inaugural titles in the studio's new top-of-the-line Sapphire Series, fans hoped their Job-like patience would be well rewarded. Expectations for a super-deluxe transfer rose to stratospheric heights, and then, like a bolt from the blue, came the screenshots-heard-'round-the-world, and enthusiasm plummeted. Several days before the disc's street date, videophiles showered isolated frames from the transfer across many internet forums (including ours), and decried the heavy use of edge enhancement and digital noise reduction, as well as excessive dirt and scratch removal filtering, that supposedly plagued the film. As a result, the 'Gladiator' controversy has become quite the Blu-ray cause célèbre, and the debate continues to rage. So, has this beloved title been irrevocably ruined by shoddy workmanship, cost-cutting, and a shameful disregard for both the film itself and the fundamental principles of present-day high-def transfer methods? Or, with apologies to Mark Twain, have the reports of 'Gladiator's' demise been greatly exaggerated?

I hate to be a fence straddler, but the answer lies somewhere in between. While I can't pretend to be the ultimate authority on this issue – no one (except maybe Ridley Scott) can – my particular set of eyes found the transfer to possess many of the faults described above, but nowhere near to the extent some of the more vociferous posters have stated. Yes, there's edge enhancement. Yes, there's DNR. I noticed both, but neither destroyed my viewing experience. On the whole, I found 'Gladiator' to be a very worthy upgrade from the previous DVD editions and a fine addition to the Blu-ray catalogue. Clarity is much improved, colors are brighter and bolder, the print is cleaner, and the picture possesses a much greater degree of depth and dimensionality. No, it is not the breathtaking, gasp-inducing effort many fans (including myself) expected, and Paramount promised with the silly Sapphire Series label. But casual viewers who just want to enjoy the drama and spectacle of this Oscar-winning epic with enhanced video and sound should be delighted. Diehard aficionados seeking perfection, however, undoubtedly will be frustrated.

So let's talk specifics. I watched portions of the extended edition of 'Gladiator' on two different displays – a 57-inch Mitsubishi DLP and a 46-inch Mitsubishi LCD. (My TV of choice is the DLP, as I feel the technology provides a more theatrical viewing experience.) The "smaller" screen sizes probably somewhat diminish the offensive digital doctoring, but whether one views the film on a 40-inch or 100-inch display, there's no denying the transfer possesses a definite processed look. Film-like warmth comes at a premium. While light grain lends the picture welcome, necessary texture, a sterile coldness often prevails. At its worst, the transfer makes some images appear almost superimposed on the screen, as excessive sharpening ever-so-slightly detaches figures from their backgrounds and gives certain scenes an artificial layered look. The DLP display was much more adept at masking such deficiencies (although they were still noticeable) and replicating the look and feel of true celluloid. The LCD display, on the other hand, was more unforgiving. Noise was much more visible in solid colors, the image adopted a harsher sheen, loss of detail was more apparent in panoramic shots, and print imperfections (such as errant white dots) were easier to spot. On both displays, however, the Blu-ray still beat upconverted DVD by a wide margin.

Perhaps the biggest problem with the 'Gladiator' transfer is that it's not a consistent effort. Rumor has it the bulk of the film was struck from a 2000 HD master (approved by Scott) in which digital enhancements were made, while the extended scenes are taken from a 2005 HD master that reflects today's more natural transfer standards. As I watched the movie via seamless branching, I really couldn't distinguish between the two per se. Yet upon reexamination, I noticed that while the extended scenes do flaunt a slightly more realistic, film-like look, they're not head-and-shoulders above every sequence in the theatrical cut. In fact, many stretches of the theatrical version rival the extended scenes.

Which brings me to my next point. At times, 'Gladiator' looks spectacularly good, with moments of jaw-dropping dimensionality, terrific detail, and sumptuous color. Though the first third of the film is awash in blue tones or a golden haze, both of which slightly mute contrast, vibrancy perks up measurably when Maximus is captured by the slave traders. The blue sky, green fields, red blood, and clay-colored earth all enjoy marvelous saturation. Fabric details and uniform adornments come through quite well, fleshtones look stable and natural, and black levels and shadow delineation are both stellar.

Much has been made about the scratch removal process defacing the image, especially with regard to arrows and fireballs that disappear and reappear in varying degrees of intensity from one frame to the next during the opening battle sequence. If you'd like to take the time to watch the film in slow-motion to find these instances, be my guest, but you won't see them at normal speed. (That doesn't excuse their existence, but it shouldn't keep anyone from purchasing this disc.) As far as DNR goes, it's there, but not employed so excessively that the actors look like wax figures moving through a Roman tableau at Madame Tussaud's. Facial features can look a bit smooth and at times lack the striking detail we expect from Blu-ray, but plenty of close-ups are razor sharp and absolutely stunning.

All in all, I have to say I've made my peace with this 'Gladiator' transfer. Could it better? Absolutely. Would I trade my copy if a replacement disc was pressed? In a New York minute. Will I toss this Blu-ray in a corner and forget about it until a better version is released? No. While it's far from the knock-my-socks-off, died-and-gone-to-heaven effort for which I and many others had hoped, it's also equally far from the sky-is-falling disaster others have claimed. Until a revamped version comes along, this one will certainly suffice.

[review_audio_stars] => 5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 10189 [review_audio] =>

Thankfully, no controversies swirl about the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, and only one word describes it: supreme! From the moment the first strains of Hans Zimmer and Lisa Gerrard's score flood the sound field during the movie's opening sequence, we know we're in for a thrilling sonic experience. Crisp, clear, well modulated, sweepingly dynamic, and discreetly mixed, this track is as muscular as Maximus himself, and complements the action with power, style, and nuance. Front channel separation is impeccable, with seamless pans creating a fluid and immersive audio environment, while the rears are almost constantly in play, adding palpable ambience to practically every scene. Some of the rear activity is so faint, it's almost imperceptible – a neighing horse, bits of scoring, hushed murmurs – yet the effects are so finely rendered they add immeasurable life to the drama.

Details shine, from cranking gears and clanking swords to the whir of shooting arrows and gentle breathing of a sleeping child. And when the track lets loose, it pummels us with the clamor of battle – exploding fireballs, the whoosh of a twirling flail, the slicing of human flesh – all expertly balanced and featuring the highest level of purity. The roaring crowd envelops with ease, and hefty bass adds weight to thunderous horse hooves and snarling tigers. Even when the audio is pushed to the limit, distortion is never an issue, as highs and lows seem limitless. This is truly you-are-there sound that makes us feel as if we're in the thick of the action with the characters – wandering a crowded bazaar, fighting to the death in the gladiator ring, flirting with an old flame, or frantically galloping home.

Dialogue is always perfectly prioritized, never yielding to other overlapping elements. The rich voices of Harris, Reed, and Jacobi come through with strength and authority, even during quiet scenes, as do Crowe's booming baritone and Phoenix's boyish tenor. Music is also expertly woven into the mix, and the robust tones possess excellent clarity and tonal depth as they alternately massage and punctuate the narrative.

Video buffs may be disappointed by 'Gladiator,' but audiophiles should cheer this reference quality track.

[review_supplements_stars] => 5 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 10190 [review_supplements] =>

'Gladiator' arrives on Blu-ray as part of Paramount's new Sapphire Series, and the two-disc set features hours upon hours of absorbing supplements, allowing fans to truly get lost in production minutia. All of the extras from the film's previous DVD editions are included, as well as two new interactive options that offer fresh material on a variety of fascinating topics. When you pop in Disc One, you'll be asked to choose between the original 2000 theatrical version and 2005 extended version of 'Gladiator.' If you select the theatrical version, the 15 minutes of additional material from the extended version is still available to view as deleted scenes, and accessible via the extras menu. If you choose the extended version, the extra scenes will be inserted into the presentation via seamless branching. (The extended version also includes a brief, rather pointless introduction by Scott.)

Disc One

  • Audio Commentaries – The disc contains two commentary tracks, one for each version of the film. Director Ridley Scott and actor Russell Crowe settle in for an analysis of the extended version, and it's a compelling, substantive discussion that hits the ground running. Both men articulate their thoughts in an intelligent, enthusiastic manner, and although they sprinkle in plenty of lively anecdotes, their discussion remains focused and serious throughout. The two touch upon almost every topic imaginable that relates to the film, including the rigors of the shooting schedule, various locations, character motivations, individual performances, and creative differences. You name it, it's here. Best of all, Scott and Crowe enjoy a relaxed, symbiotic rapport that makes this lengthy track an easy listen. The theatrical cut commentary also features Scott, along with cinematographer John Mathieson and editor Pietro Scalia. This is a far more technical presentation and a little harder to slog through. The subdued tone isn't as engaging, though the information conveyed is always interesting. Topics include the challenges of recreating ancient history, untraditional filming and narrative methods, CGI effects, the movie's operatic tone, and the production's intense collaborative spirit, to name but a few.
  • "The Scrolls of Knowledge" – This three-pronged interactive feature employs a series of collapsible windows on your display that provide links to a wealth of information to enhance your viewing experience. As the movie plays, clickable links that correspond to the action on screen pop up; on the left side is a history window with more than 40 mini-featurettes about ancient Rome (which also can be accessed en masse from a separate menu), while on the right side, a production window lets you select dozens upon dozens of links to material concerning the making of 'Gladiator.' The production content resides on Disc Two, but if you click the save option when you are finished, your Blu-ray player will remember your choices, and display them when you load the second disc. (Yes, it really will.) Across the bottom of the screen runs a trivia track that provides a steady stream of interesting nuggets on a wide variety of subjects. Tidbits about the cast and crew, production methods, historical facts, and other useful and useless information reside here. All in all, it's a pretty slick engine, and well worth checking out.
  • "Visions from Elysium: Topic Portal" – Here is a complete listing of all the topics from the production window of The Scrolls of Knowledge. Almost 300 "pods" are available to choose covering every imaginable aspect of the production. Once again, the actual content resides on Disc Two, but if you save your choices before exiting, your Blu-ray player will recall them when you insert the second disc.

Disc Two

The second disc houses the bulk of supplements and opens with the "Visions from Elysium: Topic Portal," which imports selections made on the previous disc for viewing here. You can also watch items immediately from this location, or select and save them to view later. The clips vary in length from 30 seconds to several minutes.

  • Documentary: "Strength and Honor: Creating the World of 'Gladiator'" (SD, 197 minutes) – Longer than the film itself, this exhaustive documentary may be too much to digest in a single sitting, but it provides a fascinating insider's look at the making of this massive epic. Interviews with Scott, Crowe, and a host of other actors and technical personnel detail the production's intense collaborations and on-set creative battles, while behind-the-scenes footage gives us a glimpse of various craftsmen at work. Segments include story development, weapons, costume design, production journals, and visual effects, among others. There's even an enhanced viewing option – much like The Scrolls of Knowledge – which provides more than 60 (that's right, 60!) pop-up "production pods" during the documentary that lead to further video material that's exclusive to this Blu-ray release. This content can also be accessed separately for convenience.
  • "Image and Design" – This five-part section examines production and costume design, storyboarding, and weapons, and includes two photo galleries. "Production Design Primer: Arthur Max" (SD, 10 minutes) analyzes the film's logistical challenges, the influence classic paintings had on the movie's look, and the recreation of the Coliseum, while two subsequent galleries provide illustrations of various concepts and set designs. The Storyboarding section includes a fascinating demonstration of the process by Sylvain Despretz (SD, 13 minutes), who also talks about working with Scott and the drawings' function. Three multi-angle comparisons follow, featuring both the original storyboards and storyboard/final shot comparisons, along with optional commentary by Despretz. Storyboard Archive includes 10 collections of drawings of various scenes. The Costume Design Gallery features extensive sketches for both principals and extras, and is divided into six sections, while two Photo Galleries include stills from various locations and particular scenes, as well as a portfolio of promotional portraits. (There are 11 headings in all.) Finally, the very entertaining "Weapons Primer: Simon Atherton" (SD, 5 minutes) offers up a colorfully presented rundown of the various instruments of torture used in the film, both authentic and "made up."
  • "Abandoned Sequences and Deleted Scenes" (SD, 23 minutes) – Four scenes are presented, but two are composed of a combination of storyboards, computer animation, and silent footage. (The same two also offer optional audio commentary.) Of special interest is the Alternate Title Design, which includes a featurette as well as the abandoned opening title sequence, and a montage of "unused, leftover footage" called the Treasure Chest.
  • "The Aurelian Archives" – Divided into nine parts, this massive section includes another behind-the-scenes featurette, "The Making of 'Gladiator'" (SD, 25 minutes), along with the documentary "Gladiator Games: The Roman Bloodsport" (SD, 50 minutes), which examines the brutal form of entertainment that captivated the Romans, and compares it to today's spectator sports. (Crowe, Phoenix, Harris, and Scott also weigh in on the movie during the piece.) "Hans Zimmer: Scoring 'Gladiator'" (SD, 21 minutes) allows the composer the opportunity to express his love for the movie, as well as discuss the creative process, how he develops themes, and how music is a simpler, more powerful language than words, while "An Evening with Russell Crowe" (SD, 27 minutes) finds the actor fielding audience questions on a wide variety of topics. "Maximus Uncut: Between Takes with Russell Crowe" (SD, 8 minutes) is a typical goof reel filled with all sorts of clowning; "My 'Gladiator' Journal by Spencer Treat Clark" is a diary (with photos) of the film's shoot by the young actor who portrayed Connie Nielsen's son; and "VFX Explorations: Germania and Rome" (SD, 24 minutes) examines computer generated effects in many scenes. Two theatrical trailers and a whopping 20 TV spots round out this area's material.
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 10191 [review_bonus_content] =>

There are no high-def exclusives.

[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 4.5 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts] =>

There's no denying 'Gladiator' is a great movie. Ridley Scott's masterfully directed, impeccably mounted epic never fails to thrill the senses, and even with a controversial video transfer, it's still an exhilarating Blu-ray experience. If digital enhancements annoy you like nails on a chalkboard, it might be best to rent 'Gladiator' and see whether the transfer's imperfections exceed your tolerance level before plunking down cash for a purchase. But if you're someone who regards EE and DNR as mere technical acronyms and nothing more, you shouldn't hesitate to pick up this disc. In its current state, 'Gladiator' is still highly watchable and a big improvement from upconverted DVD. Couple that with state-of-the-art audio and a massive supplemental package, and it's difficult not to endorse this release. 'Gladiator' on Blu-ray may not go to the head of the class, but it certainly makes the grade.

All disc reviews at High-Def DVD Digest are completed using the best consumer HD home theater products currently on the market. More about our gear.

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Picture-in-picture cast & crew commentaries
Hero connections: biographies and character profiles
• Audio commentaries
• Deleted scenes
• Alternate stories:
Heroes: Going Postal webisodes
Nowhere Man webisodes
Pinehearst commercial
• The Superpowers of Heroes: Stunt Coordinator Tim Gilbert gives insight to designing the hard hitting stunts of 'Heroes'
• Completing the Scene: An overall look at the visual style of 'Heroes: Season 3
• The Prop Box: Introduction to the "Gold Room" where all of the props used for 'Heroes' are stored. Relics from the first season to the present are shown and the methods of a prop master are revealed
• Tim Sale Gallery of Screen Art
• Genetics of a Scene: An ongoing service in which the episode's director and cast give an in-depth look at the production process:
Exploring Claire's Mind: This segment reveals the graphic scene of the 'Heroes Season 3' opener
Speedster Steals the Formula: Allan Arkush highlights directing the Speedsters' speed effects and the time-stopping qualities of Hiro
Throwing Thoughts: A quick look at the shooting style used to create a specific scene from Episode 322
• Lights, Camera, Beeman: This segment features George Beeman working on set; fun on-set footage is used to demonstrate the sometimes-frantic shooting schedule of 'Heroes'
• The Writers' Forum: Creator Tim Kring and selected writers/producers discuss the story-lines of Season 3, outlining inspirations for character developments, story plots and the changes that took place along the way [preview_exclusive_hd_content] => • Heroes: The Recruit webisodes (BD exclusive)
• Building Coyote Sands: a segment revealing the complete building and shooting of the Coyote Sands Internment camp featured in Episode 321 "1961" (BD exclusive)
• Season Four Sneak Peek (BD exclusive)
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NBC's 'Heroes' has been an "interesting" ride so far. The stellar, gripping first season, featuring ordinary people discovering their extraordinary powers, was both intelligent and entertaining, putting the viewers in the shoes of those few facing life changing discoveries. The writer's strike-shortened second season was everything that the first season wasn't, and since season one was all that, this was a very, very bad thing.

New heroes (with new powers) began popping up, but their tales seemed amazingly forced together by the most ridiculous of cheats, rather than connected naturally and seamlessly. The climax felt rushed, and was massively underdeveloped, the byproduct of merely a few episodes worth of build up. We didn't have an obvious villain, rather, half a season handling the fall out from the previous events, concluding with a bullshit "dramatic" new threat that was less than riveting. 'Season Two' ended with a cliffhanger assassination attempt, and from there, 'Season Three' begins, with the identity and motives of the shooter still unknown.

The fine line between family and familiarity has been drawn, as the Petrelli family seems to have expanded, and rifts between the family have hit new highs/lows, while the Bennet clan fractures after years of deception. A familiar face returns, but she isn't who she seems. The most powerful hero, turned powerless, is again on a rampage, but he isn't the most dangerous man the world has to face. Heroes will hunt heroes, while villains will hunt heroes and villains alike.

This season of 'Heroes' takes a new path, as the show is divided into two volumes, with the first half of the season following a story concerning the proliferation of villains in the world (aptly titled Villains), while the latter half of the season covers the hunt for those with powers, making them fugitives (in the also aptly titled Fugitives). The entire season turns on a dime when the volumes change, as the second season showed that taking a full 24 to 26 episodes to tell a tale would apparently be too strenuous to write cohesively.

After the second season of 'Heroes' paraded around like Hannibal Lecter in the first season's mutilated skin, I had nothing but high hopes for this season. Afterall, I thought, things certainly couldn't get any worse, they were almost certain to rebound. Alas, this latest full length season is no better than the previous, occasionally teasing us with great ideas, only to fall back into the same tired rhythms.

Where to begin? The never ending drama of who is actually dead takes on a life of its own, as it seems the show cannot maintain a level of continuity, keeping the dead dead. Long presumed dead characters such as Linderman (Malcolm McDowell) and Arthur Petrelli (Robert Forster) have roles requiring lives that were thought to no longer exist. The return of dead characters is nowhere near as troubling as the continued writing off of characters, as if the world cannot survive having too many living super powered individuals at any given time, much like an X-Men "House of M" storyline.

The entire season falls on its face, due the constant changes, and the immediate undoing of said changes within an episode. In fact, the rallying point (and most famous line) from the first season is utterly negated in the very first episode, leading to the entire Sylar (Zachary Quinto) character lacking accessibility simply by being too damn powerful. The motivations of nearly every character can turn on a dime (as do their powers), and the two seasons worth of character development gets thrown out the window in many of these about-faces. Many likable characters become utterly despicable!

In this season of 'Heroes,' the characters who never had real powers before gain and/or unveil them, while many popular heroes have their abilities conveniently removed when they need them most. The use of prophets using art to tell the future has come full circle, as the talent once used by a junkie, then the power leach, now is used by an African seer (Ntare Mwine as the awesome Usutu), who apparently passes his powers on to the mind-controlling Matt Parkman (Greg Grunberg), not to mention the cranky Arthur Petrelli. Is this power cursed, or just that damn common?

'Heroes' also makes no attempt to follow the patterns of comic book hero convention. In every comic, the super powered character seems to have a job, another life to maintain, a secret to keep, while in 'Heroes,' characters have their jobs, but then disappear from them for what can seem like months at a time, only to go back for a week or two like nothing ever happened, waiting for their next super-extended vacation. How can they save the world when they can't even maintain a schedule? How do they never get fired? Do they all have the greatest benefit packages in the history of the world? Is that a super power they all share?

Not everything in this season is a disaster, though disasters do greatly outnumber non-disasters . The shapeshifting found in the late episodes was fun, at first, until it became overused and abused. Sylar comes to grips with being labeled what he is: a serial killer, and he receives the same odd treatment real life killers get in Luke Campbell (Dan Byrd), a powered teen who idolizes the villain. This parallel made the show have a better subconscious reality to it, made it more rooted and accessible. Lastly, Matt Parkman and Daphne Millbrook (Brea Grant) have a very fun crossing story that had me pulling for them, much like fans had pulled for Jim and Pam from 'The Office' to get together for season after season (fans, stay tuned for that review!).

While 'Heroes' was quite awful the second time around, at least it kept the pain short and sweet, with a mere 11 episodes, while this season again creates a massive headache, which it sustains for 25 full length episodes, and the very beginning of the fifth volume: Redemption. After this season, 'Heroes' certainly needs said redemption badly.

[review_video_stars] => 3.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 10123 [review_video] =>

What is this strange sense of familiarity? It's like I've seen this before...

'Heroes: Season Three' is much akin to the previous two Blu-ray releases, in terms of video quality. Presented in 1080p with the VC-1 encode (at 1.78:1, the same ratio as the television presentation), this season isn't a powerful leap ahead of previous seasons, nor is it left in the dust. It's just more of the same.

Contrast is utterly superb. Colors are very accurate, with skin tones staying true and natural through the entire season. There are some striking primaries. Detail is consistently on the higher end of the dial, with finer facial details always on display, along with some very deeply accented fore(and back)grounds. Stray hairs fly boldly away from nearly every character's mane, and the random reflections in vehicles are stunning. Edges are utterly clean, detail doesn't smear from noise reduction, blacks are rich, and, in late episodes in the season, there are black and white sequences that are fan-freaking-tastic.

Not all is good here, though, as I found a laundry list of detrimental issues that pop up repeatedly throughout the season. While the grain level for the show isn't intrusive, it tends to fluctuate at times, with darker scenes possessing a somewhat overbearing sprinkling. Delineation is far less than respectable; in fact, it's one of the worst parts of this transfer. Motion blur pops up in slow motion sequences, banding rears its ugly head (blatantly) more than a couple times, and due to the enhanced clarity, flimsy special effects look disastrous, with cuts that move around a surface, shaking ever so slightly, with a neon appearance. This list of issues wouldn't be that massive if they were one-time deals, but the fact that they all happen numerous times is telling. One thing to consider, though, is the massive run time of the show (clocking in at just short of 18 hours), so there are far more opportunities for disaster to be had, and since this season doesn't reach that level of negativity, the good somewhat outweighs the bad.

[review_audio_stars] => 3.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 10124 [review_audio] =>

Universal provides an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track for each and every episode of 'Heroes: Season Three.' Just like the video, it's more of the same.

Dialogue is clean, clearly prioritized over every bit of action, score, or special effect, and is very much front and center, with little rear localized dialogue or moving conversations. Surround usage is constant, though slightly underwhelming, as sequences in the Fugitives chapter have wonderful motion effects (and fades) from helicopters moving across the room, but few other effects come close to this amount of activity.

The score is a bit quiet, just like 'Season Two,' easily overpowered by the action and dialogue. High ends scream, while bass provides some nice accents (though no real powerful rumbles or roars), creating a very pleasing, respectable amount of range on display. One thing that really bothered me about this sound mix was a high pitched audio squeal that was present in a few of the 1961 flashbacks, as it was more obvious than the ringing in the Blu-ray of 'Sin City,' and was even possibly intentional for those sequences. All in all, though, these DTS-HD-MA mixes were respectable, though not extraordinary.

[review_supplements_stars] => 2 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 10125 [review_supplements] =>

There are extras on all five of the BD50 discs that 'Heroes: Season Three' is spread out on. Some features are on every disc, unique to their episodes, while featurettes are spread out randomly throughout the season.

  • Deleted Scenes: Disc 1 (SD, 13 min) - Many deleted scenes include unfinished special effects, and text notes as to what to add to them. On the first disc's worth of deleted scenes, we get a sneak peak at Mohinder playing with his new powers, Micah getting all emo, more Linderman (yay!), and most importantly, Mr. Muggles getting powned.
  • Deleted Scenes: Disc 2 (SD, 12 min) - Close up shots of taco production (yummy), while the Knox (Jamie Hector) character is fleshed out like he were a main character, with a nice origin story.
  • Deleted Scenes: Disc 3 (SD, 4 min) - Mohinder whining about his self-infliction, more shots of the soldiers, Molly is attacked by a monster of sorts, and Hiro and Ando discuss their trip to India.
  • Deleted Scenes: Disc 4 (SD, 1 min) - This section should have been labeled singular "scene," rather than plural "scenes." A throwaway line of dialogue. Whoop de doo!
  • Deleted Scenes: Disc 5 (SD, 6 min) - Micah and HRG chill and discuss ethics, Hiro and Ando fiddle fart around with miniature Matt Parkman, and Mohinder has a talk about his father. To sum up the deleted scenes, as a whole: a whole 'lotta nothin' goin' on!
  • The Super Powers of 'Heroes' (HD, 8 min) - Stunt coordinator Tim Gilbert discusses the excessive amount of powers, and the real filming elements needed to create the effects and stunts. Nothing is sacred, or secret, as Gilbert provides colorful commentary for some pre-effects shots, and behind the scenes looks at the filming of these sequences. A fun filled little ditty.
  • Completing the Scene (HD, 8 min) - A look at the special effects, told through numerous members of the production team, in interviews and meetings. How the 3D effects are made is lightly touched on, while plenty of CG use is discussed. There is a great look at the future annihilation sequence shown in this season as well, a great thing, as this was one of the best sequences of this season.
  • Alternate Stories (HD) - These short stories that tie into the show are from the series webisodes. While they are secluded to the point that they do not integrate into the main show, they are a pretty nice series of side plots. The Recruit (18 min) is a neat look at some of the soldiers from the end of the Villains chapter, while Going Postal (10 min) was a fun, though repetitive, origin story for a mailman gone evil. Scary. Lastly, Nowhere Man (18 min) is the continuation of the tale of one of the creepiest characters in this new season, Doyle (David H. Lawrence XVII ), who could control people like they were his puppets. This story is a bit silly, as Doyle showed how powerful he was before, and now he's doing such petty things. A complete waste of a character. The downside to these stories is the constant credits that come with every few minutes worth of footage, as they get annoying after the first couple.
  • Pinehearst Commercial (HD, 1 min) - A silly little mock Pinehurst commercial for their cover company. Totally lame and skippable.
  • The Prop Box (HD, 5 min) - The prop guys take us on a trip into the "gold room," which is loaded with random props from the show. I cannot begin to say how much money this pile of trinkets would be worth, especially the original paintings.
  • Tim Sale Gallery of Screen Art (HD, 1 min) - A quick moving montage of the paintings used in this season of 'Heroes,' including many that were painted into rocks.
  • Genetics of a Scene (HD, 20 min) - A four part segment, with a play all option. First up is a behind the scenes look at a few sequences, including the Claire brain sequence and the deformed test subject prosthetics. Then a look at the Daphne/Speedster character, and a really fun glimpse at how her powers were created on set and through CG. Then the hunter/hunted sequence between Matt and Danko is analyzed, with a look at how a few particular shots were made. Lastly, a silly little music video like look/instructional on the direction of an episode is shown, and is massively annoying.
  • The Writer's Forum (HD, 13 min) - Also known as the people to blame for 'Season Three:' Tim Kring, Adam Armus, and Aron Eli Coleite. I had a hard time really giving a damn as to what they said, having sat through nearly 18 hours worth of horrific plot holes, lame "twists," and actions not becoming of nearly every character's past. For those who don't want to bust out the pitchforks and torches due to these gentlemen, the trio discuss the themes they wanted to portray, and the new turns they wanted to take the show through.
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 3.5 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 10126 [review_bonus_content] =>

The above list of extras doesn't look all that deep, and that's because many of the features on this release are exclusive to Blu-ray (some are enhanced from their DVD incarnations, while others were completely omitted from the last gen release.

  • U-Control- Picture in Picture Commentary - Each episode of this season has an accompanying commentary track, enhanced through U-Control. Even with the PIP commentary volume on high (there are three volume settings for this feature), the conversations are still very quiet, so to hear them clearly, one has to crank up the volume, and then get boomed when there's a gap in coverage. A lose-lose situation.

    The picture-in-picture takes up approximately 1/6th of the visible screen (bottom right corner), is not movable, and often overlaps the Hiro/Ando subtitles. They consist of cast and crew sitting down in cliche movie chairs, and having a conversation in the middle of a random set from the show, nothing less, nothing more.

    Episode 1- Alan Arkush, Adrian Pasdar (Nathan), and Tim Kring. At one point Pasdar mentions on this track he can't hear the people on screen. Irony. Also worth noting: Kring mentions "the never ending quest to figure out new ways to bring dead people back onto the show." My suggestion: leave them fucking dead for crying out loud, unless they come back as zombies.

    Episode 2- Greg Beeman, James Kyson Lee (Ando), and Brea Grant (Daphne). A lovely echo accompanies this commentary, due to the hallway set (which wasn't a very good idea...). They discuss the entire future storyline involving Hiro and Ando, as if Ando were to know where that story will go, the strike and how it affected a few episodes, and they get spellbound by the show...often.

    Episode 3- Christine Rose (Angela) and Milo Ventimiglia (Peter). The duo discuss the Sylar/Petrelli storyline, the back of HRG's head (so exciting!), and fall prey to describing the ongoing action on screen, like we were blind. Christine says "so beautiful" a few times too many to not be annoying.

    Episode 4- Greg Grunberg (Matt) and Jamie Hector (Knox). After seeing the deleted scenes between these two characters, I was looking forward to a very good conversation. Unfortunately, that's not what I got. Greg shows his real life superpower...shaking his eyes. Astonishing. They freak out over Peter's facial scar (calling him assface), and make fun of Adrian's channeling invisible actors.

    Episode 5- Anthony Hemmingway, Adam Armus, and Kay Foster. No actors this time, which sucks, as I enjoy their insight far more than crew. They acknowledge how damn dark this season/show is (in appearance at times, not in tone), and seem to enjoy the show more than they care to talk about the show. A very dull track.

    Episode 6 - Sendhil Ramamurthy (Mohinder), Christopher Zatta, and Chuck Kim. They discuss Robert Forster's gift giving habits, Masi Oka's punch taking ability, praise my favorite line in this season (see the final thoughts section for that), and do a nice job interpreting situations, rather than just describing them. Ramamurthy is a great commentator, as he's full of insights and anecdotes, and is never dry.

    Episode 7- Charlie Lieberman and Scott Boyd. Boyd has to be the worst guest up to this point, as he makes stupid faces, repeats lines from the episodes he's watching, and gives off uninteresting anecdotes that I honestly couldn't have cared less about. Unprofessionalism ("is that a spoiler?"), and a complete lack of intriguing information makes this track akin to torture.

    Episode 8- Allan Arkush and Jack Coleman (HRG). I would have enjoyed some details on when the flashbacks were filmed, as Peter's hair is massively different here than it has been in later seasons. Arkush makes nice references to 'Eyes Wide Shut,' his inspiration for the party sequence, while Coleman is more the second banana, replying to stories rather than telling them.

    Episode 9- Blake Shields (Flint), Charlie Lieberman, and Don Aron. We get informed on what a recap is, as if we hadn't figured them out in the 40 some odd episodes before this one. We get some production anecdotes on set design, while Shields provides some light insights into playing his character. The conversation here is less than interesting, a trend that is happening quite often in these commentaries.

    Episode 10- Greg Beeman and Sendhil Ramamurthy. Sylar's human side is briefly examined, Sendhil talks about his slimy, gooey makeup, along with projectile vomit, and the duo discuss their favorite sequences in the episode, laughing along with the action, and interpreting eye movements of Angela Petrelli as meaning "beotch!"

    Episode 11- Christine Rose (Angela) and Greg Grunberg (Matt). Goodness gracious, watching the PIP on top of the eclipse makes the dull colors and muted tone look even worse. It's an absolute wreck! Greg mentions company sponsored crotches, and goes so far as to describe Christine's crotch. The odd couple also get all hot when the show gets hot and heavy, and I was fearful of what might ensue next. These two sure are comfy with each other, and the fact that Christine says she's played Greg's mom in a past show makes their sexual banter all that more creepy. A humorous track, as these two have good chemistry...possibly too good.

    Episode 12- Masi Oka (Hiro) and Brea Grant (Daphne). These two carry on the good chemistry, much like they had on screen (as Hiro and Ando are the first to encounter Daphne). They discuss shooting logistics due to going back in time to a very similar scene from 'Season One,' baby wrangling and on set baby actor experiences. These two have a very lively, rapid fire back and forth conversation that is a fun listen.

    Episode 13- Zachary Quinto (Sylar) and Gary D'Amico. The conversation unnaturally heads towards stunts, D'Amico's background, despite none happening on screen. Quinto naturally leads the conversation, while D'Amico is a bit of a clunky talker here. The guys act like they just called out the wrong name in bed or something, as there are countless awkward silences, far more than any other commentary. Possibly one of the worst commentaries on this set that includes an actor.

    Episode 14- Milo Ventimiglia (Peter), Tim Kring, and Greg Yaitanes. There's not a single mention of Ali Larter topless, as the guys just talk over her changing clothes. Yeah, these are guys on a mission. The discussion is very analytical, rather than descriptive, and no one man dominates the track (though Milo is a bit of the odd man out, not getting many words in edgewise). A respectable, deep track for a very important episode.

    Episode 15- Allan Arkush and Mark Verheiden. The analogy of the escape sequence to a prison movie is interesting (and obvious), while Nathan's actions are analyzed and interpreted. The camera homage to 'Full Metal Jacket' is fun, and the wide range of restaurants one set has portrayed is absolutely astonishing, and flat out hilarious. How one set can be a waffle house/bowling alley, bar, and ramen joint, with no similarities, is really neat.

    Episode 16- Sandy Getzler and Ruth Ammon. The ladies talk about the logistics of sets and locations in the show (while keeping track of who's where), cannot pronounce Sylar correctly, and ramble on and on about scouting and building locations and dressing them. A poor track, that adds nothing to the package.

    Episode 17- Jack Coleman (HRG) and Sendhil Ramamurthy (Mohinder). Kidnapper and kidnapee converse! Jack is entertaining in a very dry manner (that was Indian food...), while Sendhil throws his voice a bit, rather than staying constant. Jack also talks about turning black and white for the flashback sequences, so perhaps HRG *does* have a power. A very entertaining and informative track, full of rapid fire conversation and fun anecdotes. One of the best commentaries in this release.

    Episode 18- Milo Ventimiglia (Peter) and Greg Grunberg (Matt). The duo joke around about the episode introductions, hint at a contest where they watch the show in random teenage girl's bedrooms, mention an all-nude episode of 'Heroes,' and discuss torturing Mr. Muggles with gallons of ranch dressing. Another good track.

    Episode 19- David H. Lawrence XVII (Doyle) and Oliver Grigsby. The black and white with one color sticking out effect is pondered (something I've always been curious about, I'll admit), they smooch some producer derriere, explain writing deadlines, provide Rebel conjecture, and out the Unabomber cabin.

    Episode 20- Masi Oki (Hiro) and Bryan Fuller. The pair discuss the Fugitives storyline and the issues that it presented for writing and production, some neat original ideas for the Building 26 "coma" room, Masa's thoughts on the use of Hiro/Ando as comic relief between dramatic sequences, plot holes, and Fuller's previous works with the show.

    Episode 21- Nate Goodman and Joe Pokaski. Joe and Nate talk about fleshing out Danko's character and the Nathan/Claire relationship that has been widely ignored since the first season, when they're not universally praising anyone and everyone.

    Episode 22- Mark Verheiden and Rob Fresco. This pair mostly discuss the shapeshifting themes that started in these late episodes, while hitting on how some characters are undertaking darker changes. Most of this commentary covers how they toe the line in this late episode as to not give away the twists to come.

    Episode 23- Jon Koslowsky and Adam Kane. Again we get told what an intro is by these men who must think us viewers are utterly ignorant. The transitions between black and white are focused on, as are the differences in 1961 and current day Coyote Sands. For the most part, this track is uninteresting, and dead serious to a flaw.

    Episode 24- Nate Goodman, Kay Foster, and Adam Armus. An interesting point is brought up: The extended Petrelli family see Nathan talking on television live, and instantly suspect that Nathan as the fraud. Why don't they accuse the Nathan in their midst, even a single iota? Other than this early puzzling though, this track is absolutely dull, full of conversation, but nothing informative, interesting, anything.

    Episode 25- Charlie Lieberman and Donn Aron. They certainly saved the best for last! These guys speak in a sleep inducing monotone, sit nearly perfectly still, and have long gaps at times. The only thing worth a damn here is the changing computer graphic behind the guys full of random 'Heroes' art and character designs and sketches. One of the worst commentaries I've ever tried to sit through.

  • Hero Connections- Network - Accessible on the DVD set, this feature is enhanced through U-Control on this Blu-ray disc. A map, much like the one found in the future episode of 'Season One,' where characters pictures are linked with string to show their connections, while a brief, brief bio is included for each. There is nothing here that is new or exciting, or really even informative, as the info provided here wasn't exactly difficult to figure out in the episodes. The neat thing about this feature, found on each disc, is that the content in the bios changes, like a progress meter, to show what the viewer has seen so far in the season. Oh, how quickly the red x's designating someone dies add up...ugh.
  • Building Coyote Sands (HD, 10 min) - The last feature on the set, a look at the fantastic Coyote Sands Internment Camp location. From the building of the barracks, to the logistics of camera placement in concerns to creating the camp, the difficulties and battle plans the construction crew had making the area and the decoration of these "dorms," nothing isn't thought of in this very thorough feature, which was possibly my favorite extra on this release.
  • BD-Live - Hop online with BD-Live! The portal includes the generic trailers and whatnot on the mainpage, but in the exclusive content tab, there is a 'Heroes: Season Four' sneak peak, presented in SD. Some questions about the finale of 'Season Three' are answered, while the upcoming plot themes for many characters are hinted at. The Hiro and Ando hints look very fun, new characters are introduced (including Robert Knepper from 'Prison Break' fame, and Ray "don't call me Darth Maul" Park), while the rest looks like more of the same.
  • My Scenes - Bookmark your favorite scenes, and share them with friends!
  • D-Box - Each episode of 'Heroes' is D-Box Motion Enabled, giving those who have the equipment more punch.
[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 3 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 10127 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'Heroes' was once an amazing show, but for the last two years, it's been a shell of its former self. What fans were left after the unsatisfactory 'Season Two' may finally find the reason to jump ship with this 25 episode disaster. Shark jumping appears to be a weekly affair, and those not convinced have one thing to consider: Seth friggin' Green ('Robot Chicken') appears for two episodes as a comic jockey, with the super power of being massively annoying, as always. The video and audio for this release are more of the same, but the extras, my goodness, are they extensive! I wanted, ever so much, to be able to steal this season's best line (High five, Turtle!) to describe the season, but really, the only difference between this show and the corpses Sylar leaves behind is the fact that the corpses still have their brains.

All disc reviews at High-Def DVD Digest are completed using the best consumer HD home theater products currently on the market. More about our gear.

) ) [1] => Array ( [review_id] => 2452 [review_type_id] => 1 [review_slug] => highcrimes [review_release_date] => 1251788400 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => High Crimes [picture_created] => 1246390734 [picture_name] => high-crimes.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => 20th Century Fox [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2009/06/30/120/high-crimes.jpeg [review_url] => https://bluray.highdefdigest.com/2452/highcrimes.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2002 [run_time] => 115 [list_price] => 29.99 [asin] => B0029XFN8K [amazon_price] => 21.99 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.35:1 ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/AVC MPEG 4 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => Blu-ray [1] => BD-25 Single-Layer Disc [2] => Region Free ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround Sound [1] => Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 [2] => French Dolby Digital 5.1 ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentary [1] => Theatrical Trailer ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English [1] => French [2] => Spanish ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Crime Drama ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Morgan Freeman [1] => Ashley Judd ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Carl Franklin ) [preview_plot_synopsis] =>

"Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd are sensational" (WFLD-TV) in this "head snapping chiller" (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) filled with nonstop twists and nail-biting suspense.

Judd stars as Claire Kubik, a smart and sexy attorney whose perfect world comes crashing down when the FBI charges her husband Tom (Jim Caviezel) with the murder of innocent civilians during a covert Army operation fifteen years earlier. Aided by shrewd ex-military lawyer (Freeman), Claire fights to clear Tom's name, but gets too close to exposing a government cover up in the process. Now she must risk her career - and even her life - to find the truth.

[review_bottom_line] => Give it a Rent [review_forum_id] => 92714 [review_movie_stars] => 2 [review_movie] =>

'High Crimes' would be a wholly competent thriller if it weren't for the plot holes that you could drive an army issue humvee through. Starring Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman, 'High Crimes' is an almost forgotten product of mediocrity from 2002.

Judd plays Claire Kubik, a big city lawyer who has just been informed that her husband, Tom (Jim Caviezel) isn't who he says he is. When he's apprehended in the middle of the street by an FBI task force and taken to a military prison, marital suspicions are rightly aroused. Tom, or whoever he is, has been accused of killing nine civilians in South America during a military operation. How he completely escaped custody, fled back to the United States undetected, changed his identity, and married Claire is conveniently left out of the plot. Mix in the fact that it seems Tom didn't see fit to move away from the base to which he's taken and tried, and you've got some curious developments that don't help the credibility of the movie. When Tom's entire platoon begins to testify that they saw him commit the murder, rumors of conspiracy abound.

Throwing caution to the wind Claire puts her pending partnership in her law firm, along with her career, on the line to defend her husband, because she's adamant that he didn't do it. She tracks down a local lawyer named Charles Grimes -- Freeman as his usually nonchalant, but cocky self here -- who has tried military cases before. The acting by the main parties is all fairly solid. Judd is great at looking scared, Freeman is a fantastic drunk. And we all know how sympathetic Caviezel can appear.

'High Crimes' is full of false scares. Like the equivalent of the cat jumping out of the closet in a horror movie: A truck slowly follows her down a street or a man outside her house approaches her, only to disappear when Grimes arrives. Hooligans dump oil on her car causing her to wreck. But these events are never ever explained. When the "twist" that's advertised on the box happens, well those guys with the oil make no sense at all.

The side characters, the ones who "know" what is going on, act completely the opposite of how they should act. The movie pushes you intentionally in one direction, like slight of hand. Keep looking over here… keep looking…still looking? BAM! Bet you didn't see that coming. Well, no we didn't because when that happens the rest of the movie doesn't make any sense.

The film serves as an exercise in making a suspenseful thriller when you completely disregard anything that might lead the plot into a place of believability. It's a silly movie, but it does pack in the suspense. This might make a good date movie, there are plenty of jump out and scare you moments to be had, but if you're looking for an intriguing thriller you won't find it here.

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 10268 [review_video] =>

This 1080p/AVC MPEG 4 transfer shines. There's a small snippet of amateur video footage at the very beginning, but that's meant to look grainy and over-saturated. The rest of the film looks clear and concise. Even on a 25GB disc, 'High Crimes' shows off the power of Blu-ray. The Blacks are deep and distinguishable. Delineation works well in darker scenes, never muddling faces into obscurity. The lines and freckles on Freeman's face are detailed to perfection. Even with an older film, errant noise like specks of dirt are absent for the most part. A few scenes feature white specks, but nothing that detracts from the overall quality of this presentation. Contrast is consistent throughout the film, treating skin tones with dignity. This is a great transfer for an older catalog title.

[review_audio_stars] => 4 [review_audio_picture_id] => 10269 [review_audio] =>

The solid HD presentation doesn't stop with the video. It's carried right on over to the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. Realistic sounds pepper the surround channels – military personnel jogging for morning drills, the hustle and bustle of a busy city street, and the chatting of a cocktail party - creating an ambient atmosphere. Panning effects are solid, with car crashes and helicopters receiving expert treatment. While dialogue dominates much of the film, it does contain a few raucous explosions that will jolt you. LFE is constantly present throughout, and proves to be especially effective during explosions and vicious car wrecks. All in all, this is one solid, solid track.

[review_supplements_stars] => 2 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 10270 [review_supplements] =>

Now I know why there was so much room for the video and audio to shine. Not one HD special feature in sight.

  • A Military Mystery (SD, 7 min) - 'High Crimes' is based on a novel by author Joe Finder. Finder explains what it took to get his book adapted into a film and the different challenges involved in that sort of undertaking.
  • FBI Takedown in Union Square (SD, 3 min) - The FBI scene is discussed very briefly. Too brief to be at all interesting.
  • A Different Kind of Justice (SD, 4 min) - This feature gives a very short overview of what is different between civilian and military law.
  • Liar Liar: How to Beat a Polygraph with Sue Doucette (SD, 5 min) - Now here's a feature I can get behind. While the systems for actually beating a polygraph could be discussed in a one hour special on the Discovery Channel, this is pretty interesting. Sue gives a very concise overview of what types of talent and training it takes to beat the lie detector.
  • The Car Crash (SD, 2 min) - The big (pointless) car crash is explained here. How they did it, and the various film magic that was used.
  • Together Again (SD, 7 min) - Having previously worked together on a different film ('Kiss the Girls') Judd and Freeman discuss what it's like to be back together on screen again.
  • Theatrical Trailer (SD, 2 min) - The trailer is included, but the powers that be didn't see fit to give it the HD treatment.
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 10271 [review_bonus_content] =>

There is no new content for this release.

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

'High Crimes' is a trickery of the highest order. It should be thrown in the brig for the deception it pulls over the audience's eyes. It's intentionally misleading, since there's no way that if played out believably the audience wouldn't have seen the ending coming a mile away. The video and audio do, however, bump it up into "rent it" territory.

All disc reviews at High-Def DVD Digest are completed using the best consumer HD home theater products currently on the market. More about our gear.

) ) [2] => Array ( [review_id] => 2275 [review_type_id] => 1 [review_slug] => mash [review_release_date] => 1251788400 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => M*A*S*H [picture_created] => 1246389776 [picture_name] => mash.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => 20th Century Fox [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2009/06/30/120/mash.jpeg [review_url] => https://bluray.highdefdigest.com/2275/mash.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 1970 [run_time] => 115 [list_price] => 34.99 [asin] => B0024HH32A [amazon_price] => 24.49 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 2.35:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => BD+ BD Live ready bootstrap ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/TBA ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => TBA ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround Sound [1] => Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 [2] => French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => The Complete Interactive Guide to M*A*S*H [1] => Audio commentary by director Robert Altman [2] => Theatrical trailer [3] => AMC Backstory – M*A*S*H Enlisted: The Story of M*A*S*H Through the Lens [4] => M*A*S*H Reunion [5] => Still gallery ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English, French, Spanish ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Comedy ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Donald Sutherland [1] => Elliott Gould [2] => Tom Skerritt [3] => Robert Duvall ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Robert Altman ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => One of the world's most acclaimed comedies, M*A*S*H focuses on three Korean War Army surgeons brilliantly brought to life by Donald Sutherland, Tom Skerritt and Elliott Gould. Though highly skilled and deeply dedicated, they adopt a hilarious, lunatic lifestyle as an antidote to the tragedies of their Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, and in the process infuriate Army bureaucrats. Robert Duvall, Gary Burghoff and Sally Kellerman co-star as a sanctimonious Major, an other-worldly corporal, and a self-righteous yet lusty nurse. [review_video_picture_id] => 0 [review_audio_picture_id] => 0 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 ) ) ) [1] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [review_id] => 2434 [review_type_id] => 1 [review_slug] => monster [review_release_date] => 1251788400 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Monster [picture_created] => 1242920450 [picture_name] => monster.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => First Look Home Entertainment [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2009/05/21/120/monster.jpeg [review_url] => https://bluray.highdefdigest.com/2434/monster.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2003 [run_time] => 109 [list_price] => 19.98 [asin] => B0029Z8K7E [amazon_price] => 12.99 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/MPEG-2 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => Blu-ray [1] => BD-25 Single-Layer Disc ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 [1] => English Dolby Digital Stereo ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Featurettes [1] => Trailers ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => Spanish ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Drama ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Charlize Theron ) [preview_plot_synopsis] => Charlize Theron exploded in a magnetic Oscar-winning (Best Actress 2003) performance as convicted killer Aileen Wuornos. Severely abused and unloved Aileen immersed herself in the dangerous world of highway prostitution...until she met Selby Wall (Christina Ricci), a naive girl who was Aileen's last chance at a normal life. Ultimately, all Aileen understood was violence and nobody imagined the nightmare that awaited the seven men standing in the way of her happiness. A critically acclaimed film from writer/director Patty Jenkins. [review_bottom_line] => For Fans Only [review_forum_id] => 93224 [review_movie_stars] => 3 [review_movie] =>

I know this will sound bizarre, but I've always found serial killers to be incredibly interesting. From the issues in their lives that lead to their decision to take lives, how they select their victims, how they go about covering their trails, and how long they stay active before getting caught, their entire twisted tales are massively intriguing, both in modern days where the media seems to turn them into celebrities, and historically, where many cruel men became legend by making a living out of killing.

Key word in that sentence? Men. Female serial killers are a whole different breed, a far more exclusive club. They think and kill differently than men, with the notable exception of Aileen Wuornos. The result of an extremely broken home, the prostitute turned petty criminal turned murderer turned serial killer acted in patterns very similar to the historical male killers, rather than female, creating a somewhat unique profile.

The film about her killings, 'Monster' (a title which doesn't lend one to believe the film would be impartial), disregards her criminal past, presenting Wuornos (Charlize Theron) as a depressed prostitute living day to day, John to John. After a chance meeting with Selby (Christina Ricci, though the historical counterpart was Tyria Moore), an awkward, young lesbian, Wuornos seems to turn her life around, until a job leaves her bludgeoned and nearly killed, only surviving by killing her assaulter. Now paranoid and delusional, Wuornos will leave a trail of bodies behind, some from those soliciting her for sex, others just trying to help her.

'Monster' doesn't truly delve into what created the "Damsel of Death," ignoring her childhood save for a brief glimpse, and completely avoiding her past convictions for assault, armed robbery, and grand theft auto. It begins in the short time before the slayings began, and chooses to also not create a timeline for her slayings, which in real life lasted nearly a year. Rather than bog itself down with facts, 'Monster' wants to go the route of portraying a woman alienated, abused, and neglected, a victim herself who turns the tables and goes off the deep end.

'Monster' is just barely better than those direct-to-video serial killer chronicles, and the only reason it is a step above is due to the amazing performance by Theron, who is unrecognizable, hidden beneath layers of prosthetics and makeup. The Academy Award winning performance (Best Actress, 2003) is absolutely amazing, as the appearance is not the only thing different from her past (and future) works. Ricci doesn't share this fate, as her performance doesn't ever allow one to forget she's "that girl from the 'Addams Family' movies."

I would have much preferred a tale full of Wuornos' tragic life, as there is more to be told than just from the first killing to the trial. Her arrest records and history as a child would set up the character quite well, to understand the actions that happen later in life, while the trial itself would have been interesting, due to the fact that there were five separate trials, all of which found Wuornos guilty. The situations involving her fitness for trial (psychiatric tests), and the fact that her first victim did, indeed, have a rape conviction in the past would also have created much more drama than what we get here. 'Monster' is just a brief, shallow glance at a woman's life, rather than a real in depth look at what created a true monster.

[review_video_stars] => 3 [review_video_picture_id] => 10286 [review_video] =>

'Monster' arrives on Blu-ray with a 1080p MPEG-2 encode from First Look Studios that is far from eye candy, but it isn't bad, either.

The most obvious element of the video is the strong grain leve, that occasionally spikes...to a stronger grain level! While it isn't quite as prevalent as 'Burn Notice,' it does deter finer detail quite a bit.

Blacks are soft, with pretty poor shadow delineation qualities. Colors in the film are drab, with only a few sequences showing a bright, vibrant palette. Skin tones are often quite nice, but tend to lean towards the orangish side. There were a few flashes of digital noise that were a bit distracting, some minor splotches of dirt (that got extreme in the closing shots), and some shots that were blurry to the point that the Florida license plates were not legible. On the bright side, edges are very clean, and there do not appear to be any DNR issues.

[review_audio_stars] => 3 [review_audio_picture_id] => 10287 [review_audio] =>

'Monster' has two audio options: a lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix (default), or a Dolby Digital Stereo track.

After the credits, we are bombarded with a strong downpour of rain, that drops in volume when dialogue begins, and soon disappears, and, along with it, so does the best moment of activity in the film. While spoken words are clear, they often don't seem to line up with lip movement whatsoever, resulting in a peculiar watch.

There were a few bits of motion through the surrounds in the final bits of the film, but for the most part, surround effects are minimal, with some random ambiance at times, and nothing else. Gunfire has a soft pop, with no bass presence. The 1980's soundtrack has a very soft bass presence, as well. There were a few moments (screams) where the high end of the mix was utilized nicely, but for the most part, this film stays on the middle ground, never really flexing its audio muscles.

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

All of the extras from the original DVD are in attendance on this Blu-ray release, and they've all aged horribly.

  • Making Of (SD, 14 min) - A look at Wuornos through news coverage, with interviews on the film's themes from the cast and crew, and from real life acquaintances. Real life locations from the story are visited, the makeup procedure is exposed, and the connections of the film to the true story are delved into. Not a bad feature, at all.
  • Mixing Demo (SD, 2 min) - A scene from the film that can be tinkered with, as three elements (music, effects, and dialogue) can be turned on and off, to demonstrate how a sound mix is created. This may have been innovative when the film first hit DVD, but this is quite a relic here.
  • Interview with Patty Jenkins and BT (SD, 15 min) - Initially titled Evolution of the Score, this feature discusses the music in the film with the director and composer. If I had to rank all the elements in the film that deserved an in depth look, the score would have been just barely above the catering. There are so many intriguing elements to this story and film that get ignored on the supplement package, and we get this. Wow, we get to hear about the difficulties placing microphones for the surround sound effect. Again, archaic.
  • Trailers (SD) - Two trailers are available for 'Monster:' both a domestic and international version. There are also trailers for a few other First Look films, including the heist film 'The Code,' the abominable 'Labor Pains,' and 'Direct Contact,' one of the most ridiculously over the top (possibly in a good way) films ever made.

[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 10288 [review_bonus_content] =>

There are no high-def exclusives.

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

'Monster' is a tough cookie, since it has very little replay value. Who wants to sit through a downer of a film, repeatedly, showing how much it took for one person to go over the edge? Add in the fact that this Blu-ray doesn't sport the best audio or video, and the supplement package is as lame as the one found on the DVD release, and this release isn't an easy recommendation.

All disc reviews at High-Def DVD Digest are completed using the best consumer HD home theater products currently on the market. More about our gear.

) ) [1] => Array ( [review_id] => 2616 [review_type_id] => 1 [review_slug] => overbc [review_release_date] => 1251788400 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Over British Columbia [picture_created] => [picture_name] => [manufacturer_name] => Topics Entertainment [picture_source] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/images/public/[email protected] [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/images/public/pop-on-amazon.png [picture_source_195] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/images/public/[email protected] [picture_source_235] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/images/public/[email protected] [picture_source_300] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/images/public/[email protected] [picture_source_660] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/images/public/[email protected] [picture_alternate] => Box coming soon [picture_title] => Box coming soon [review_url] => https://bluray.highdefdigest.com/2616/overbc.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2009 [run_time] => 58 [list_price] => 19.99 [asin] => B002D3KLK6 [amazon_price] => 19.99 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => TBA ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => TBA ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => TBA ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => TBA ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => TBA ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Documentary ) [preview_plot_synopsis] =>

Over British Columbia is a spectacular scenic tour of Canada's Pacific province. Savor the grandeur of British Columbia as you join a helicopter adventure from elegant Victoria to rugged Fort Nelson, from the ski slopes of Whistler to the sun-drenched Okanagan shores, from the razor spine of Mount Robson to the primeval coast of the Queen Charlotte Islands.

Expert cinematography from one of the world's most accomplished aerial production teams and an original music score make Over British Columbia a breathtaking experience you will never forget.

Over British Columbia is part of the Emmy award-winning Over series created for airing by PBS Television.

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Politics and journalism make terrific bedfellows, and if you add murder and conspiracy to the mix, you've got all the ingredients for a combustible cinematic brew. 'State of Play' may not explode with as much force as some might like, but this slow-burn, intelligent thriller keeps the brain engaged with a complex, tightly-knit yarn and the senses stimulated with top-notch production values and riveting performances by a high-voltage cast. Though Kevin Macdonald's film can't compete with 'All the President's Men,' it's still a credit to its class and one of the better popcorn mysteries of the past year.

Remember the Gary Condit/Chandra Levy scandal that rocked Washington several years back? Bright young intern found brutally killed in a D.C. park, and soon after romantically linked to a middle-aged, married congressman who confessed to the affair but denied any criminal involvement? It was quite a story and ended up ruining Condit's political career, even though he was never formally charged with anything except boneheaded judgment. 'State of Play' jumps all over this juicy premise, yet clouds the waters with added intrigue worthy of the TV series '24' and plenty of topical references to Iraq and Afghanistan.

When dashing U.S. Representative Stephen Collins (Ben Affleck) announces at a congressional hearing that his research assistant, Sonia Baker (Maria Thayer), has been found dead in the D.C. metro, everyone – including intrepid Washington Globe reporter and Collins' former college roommate, Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe) – assumes she committed suicide. Collins, however, suspects foul play, and fears PointCorp, the company his office has been investigating as part of a defense department military outsourcing probe, may be involved. Like a salivating pit bull, Cal sinks his teeth into this incendiary nugget. Cub reporter Della Frye (Rachel McAdams) jumps in to help, and before you can say Woodward and Bernstein, the pair begins digging into what soon becomes a bombshell story. Yet will Cal allow his intimacy with Collins to slant his journalistic perspective and compromise his principles? And does Collins, like most ambitious politicians, know more than he's telling?

Based on a wildly popular and critically acclaimed BBC miniseries, 'State of Play' is packed with thought-provoking and relevant themes. Veteran screenwriter Tony Gilroy (along with Matthew Michael Carnahan and Billy Ray) expertly outlines the codependent relationship between cagey government officials and a hungry press under constant deadline pressure. In addition, he taps into corporate conspiracy (which he examined in 'Michael Clayton') and the shocking lengths a company may go to in order to further its agenda and protect its political clout. The film also questions the sanctity of journalistic ethics and cogently depicts the challenging economic and competitive climate facing today's newspapers, which wage an uphill battle against both electronic media and hardline corporate parents.

It's actually this last angle of 'State of Play' that intrigued me most. As a journalism junkie, I'm fascinated by the inner workings of a bustling metropolitan daily, and even though the film often glosses over the drudgery and frustration that pervade the business (aspects David Fincher explored so well in 'Zodiac'), it crisply captures the cynicism, cockiness, and adrenaline-fueled energy of the newsroom organism. And just as our government must deal with big companies trying to wield their influence on Capitol Hill, financially-strapped newspapers must endure more editorial meddling by corporate suits than ever before, as well as intense pressure to turn a profit. The Globe's tough, impassioned editor (undoubtedly modeled on legendary Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham and played with salty fervor by the ever regal, always brilliant Helen Mirren) presents this exasperating master-and-slave relationship well, and the whole subplot gives the film an extra layer of texture.

Macdonald is no stranger to political thrillers, having helmed 'The Last King of Scotland' back in 2006, but it's his experience as an acclaimed documentarian that really helps him here. 'State of Play' is a no-nonsense picture that relies on its story's nuts and bolts to propel it forward, and the director maintains its integrity throughout. Rapt attention is mandatory to follow the various narrative threads, and though twists and turns abound, they're subtly presented and rooted within the plot's stringent parameters. The movie still gets a bit bogged down during its middle section, losing some of its steam and tautness, but Macdonald doesn't take his foot off the gas for long.

Crowe, as usual, fully embodies his character, and his unkempt, tubby appearance and sloppy habits nicely complement his old-school reporter. McAdams impresses, too, as the wide-eyed blogger and symbol of "new" journalism who earns her stripes as Cal's gal Friday. The two develop a warm, professional rapport, and thankfully no hint of romance mucks it up. Smartly abandoning hunky leading man roles in favor of smaller, choicer parts in ensemble casts, Affleck shows some excellent range and sensitivity, while Robin Wright Penn is tender and affecting as his long-suffering wife. Terrific supporting work from Jeff Daniels as an arrogant senior congressman and especially Jason Bateman as a sleazy wheeler-dealer further fuel the film's engine.

Macdonald wins my vote as one of the best directors working today, and though 'State of Play' may never be regarded as one of his defining works, it's nevertheless a smart, absorbing, multi-faceted film that's sure to enthrall almost any audience.

[review_video_stars] => 4.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 10051 [review_video] =>

'State of Play' arrives on Blu-ray sporting a high quality 1080p/VC-1 transfer that juggles different shooting styles and film stock without any jarring transitions. Cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto used both anamorphic and digital cameras during production, and alternated between handheld and stationary methods depending upon which character was in the frame. (Crowe's grungy journalist often was photographed with the jumpy anamorphic camera, while Affleck's slick politician received the crisper, more glamorous digital treatment.) Differences between the two are barely noticeable – although the handheld sequences become tiresome over time – due to excellent contrast, vibrant colors, and rich black levels, all of which lend the image marvelous depth and presence.

Depending on the camera used, grain levels fluctuate, but they never distract. Most of the time, a faint smattering of texture enhances the picture quality and adds welcome dimension to many scenes. Though the picture rarely jumps out and grabs the viewer, lines are well defined, background objects stand out (it's amazing how many elements can be discerned in the cluttered cubicles of various reporters), and even scenes shot in low light look solid and clear. Close-ups are terrific; hair and facial features possess striking details, from Crowe's scraggly mane to Affleck's faint stubble, and the transfer also flatters the regal Mirren, fresh-faced McAdams, and still stunning Robin Wright Penn. Fleshtones are spot-on, with the actors' various complexions all appearing natural and lifelike, and the gritty exteriors of lower-income Washington neighborhoods thrust us into the thick of the action. Best of all, no banding, digital noise, or other anomalies disrupt this smooth, well-balanced presentation.

[review_audio_stars] => 4 [review_audio_picture_id] => 10052 [review_audio] =>

The DTS-HD Master Audio track rivals the video, thanks to surprisingly dynamic sound that adds a wealth of nuance to this largely dialogue-driven film. Subtle ambience – from the din of activity in the cavernous newsroom to the urban street noise of bustling D.C. – nicely envelops, while distinct stereo separation across the front channels makes the action feel more immediate. Accents like gunfire, screeching tires, and the rapid fluttering of news camera shutters are palpably crisp, and dialogue, even when muttered under one's breath, comes across clearly. Bass frequencies are especially good, supplying welcome rumbles several times throughout the course of the film.

Music takes a back seat, but the somber score sounds warm and full bodied. Balance is also properly modulated, so all the elements fit snugly into the mix. Rarely does a film of this sort make one prick up their ears, but Universal has done an excellent job maximizing the sonic components of 'State of Play.'

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Not too much in the way of standard extras, especially for such a star-studded, big money film. Thankfully, though, Universal makes up for the skimpy offerings in the HD exclusives (see below).

  • Featurette: "The Making of 'State of Play'" (HD, 19 minutes) – This slickly produced and absorbing featurette includes appearances by most of the major cast members and behind-the-scenes personnel, but director Kevin Macdonald dominates the piece, and his charisma and enthusiasm help maintain interest. The filmmaker discusses how he re-imagined the BBC miniseries on which the project is based, and how almost every fine actor in Hollywood sought a part in the picture. We also learn about the challenges of shooting on location in Washington, D.C., the mountain of pre-production work the film required, the meticulous construction of the massive newsroom set, and the different styles of cinematography that were employed.
  • Deleted Scenes (SD, 4 minutes) – Only two excised sequences are included, though I gotta believe there were more lying around. Both are well done and add just a hint of extra substance. Political TV junkies will spot veteran CBS journalist Bob Schieffer and BBC reporter Katty Kay in the first clip.
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 3 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 10054 [review_bonus_content] =>

Here's where we get the bang for our Blu-ray buck – a lot of great material that really takes advantage of the technology's supplemental and interactive capabilities.

  • U-Control (Profile 1.1) – Universal provides two interesting in-movie experiences, and viewers can toggle between them using their remotes. Without question, the most absorbing option is the simply titled "Picture in Picture," a series of short, scene-specific featurettes that pop up periodically in a decent-sized window at the bottom of the screen. Segments focus on the film's timeless themes, various cast members, set and costume design, the movie's technical advisor, the power and responsibility of journalists, and location shooting in Washington, D.C., among other fascinating topics. Plenty of on-set footage, production stills, and comments from cast and crew dress up these vignettes, which really add a lot to 'State of Play.' The second option, "Washington, D.C. Locations," employs Google Earth to pinpoint the actual sites where the movie was shot. Bits of printed historical trivia accompany the visuals, giving us a better feel for such landmarks as the Kennedy Center, congressional office buildings, and Ben's Chili Bowl.
  • My Scenes – Create bookmarks for favorite scenes or compile your own clips to replay later or share with friends, all using the color-coded keys on your Blu-ray or universal remote.
  • Tutorials (HD, 4 minutes) – Step-by-step instructions for getting the most out of U-Control, My Scenes, Registration, and BD-Live.
  • BD-Live (Profile 2.0) – With Internet connectivity and a Profile 2.0 player, you can link up with Universal's homepage and access a teaser-trailer for 'State of Play,' as well as previews for upcoming releases and current Blu-ray offerings. Optional registration expands the experience, allowing you to share your My Scenes clips and join an online community of film fans.
[review_final_thoughts_stars] => 4 [review_final_thoughts_picture_id] => 0 [review_final_thoughts] =>

'State of Play' is one of the year's most satisfying thrillers, a cerebral mix of political skullduggery, ethical queries, and expert storytelling presented with style and grit. Terrific performances across the board raise the stakes, while a striking transfer, solid audio, and some nifty supplements loft this disc into the recommended realm.

All disc reviews at High-Def DVD Digest are completed using the best consumer HD home theater products currently on the market. More about our gear.

) ) [3] => Array ( [review_id] => 2543 [review_type_id] => 1 [review_slug] => sugar [review_release_date] => 1251788400 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Sugar [picture_created] => 1251781333 [picture_name] => 51pys6bk2bsl__sl500_aa240_.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Sony Pictures [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2009/08/31/120/51pys6bk2bsl__sl500_aa240_.jpeg [review_url] => https://bluray.highdefdigest.com/2543/sugar.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2008 [run_time] => 114 [list_price] => 39.95 [asin] => B002E01LPM [amazon_price] => 35.99 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.78:1 ) [exclusive_hd_contents] => Array ( [0] => BD-Live ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => Blu-ray [1] => BD-50 Dual Layer Disc [2] => BD-Live (Profile 2.0) ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => Spanish Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround [1] => Portuguese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Featurettes [1] => Deleted Scenes [2] => Theatrical Trailers ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English SDH [1] => English Subtitles [2] => French Subtitles [3] => Portuguese Subtitles [4] => Spanish Subtitles ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Drama [1] => Sports ) [review_bottom_line] => Recommended [review_forum_id] => 91453 [review_movie_stars] => 4 [review_movie] =>

Formula reigns supreme when it comes to American sports movies, so when a film goes against the grain and shucks predictable, crowd-pleasing clichés in favor of honesty and authenticity, it's an especially nice surprise. 'Sugar' is that needle in the haystack, the kind of picture that sneaks up on its viewers and takes them on an unexpected yet rewarding journey. On the surface, this quiet, thoughtful chronicle of a Dominican pitcher's pursuit of a major league career possesses all the elements of a classic against-all-odds tale. But directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, who also co-wrote the original screenplay, steer the story in a different direction, focusing its gaze on the struggles, self-doubt, pressure, fear, and myriad other obstacles athletes must confront and conquer in order to succeed at the highest level. The end result is a penetrating and inspiring character portrait with rare insights into both the mechanics of baseball's unforgiving farm system and the difficulties immigrants face as they try to adjust to a foreign environment and assimilate into a complex society.

Miguel Santos (Algenis Perez Soto) earns the nickname Sugar thanks to his sweet knuckle curveball and reputation as a ladies' man. His blazing heater sends his stock soaring at the Kansas City Knights' baseball academy he attends with a host of other young prospects in the Dominican Republic. And like his teammates, Miguel sees the sport as a one-way ticket out of the poverty and squalor that pervade his underdeveloped country. (The cocksure pitcher even tells his girlfriend he plans to buy a Cadillac with his first MLB paycheck.) Big league success seems just around the corner when the Knights tap Miguel for a tryout at their spring training camp in Phoenix, but he's quickly humbled by the first-rate talent the club has assembled. Not yet ready for prime time, Miguel gets shipped off to the Knights' single-A farm team in Bridgetown, Iowa for some much-needed seasoning, and it's there that the impressionable 20-year-old comes to realize he's no longer the golden boy, and learns some tough life lessons.

Fitting in is a daunting task for Miguel, a black man living in the heart of the white-bread Midwest Bible Belt who can't speak more than a few words of English (most of which relate directly to baseball) and is unfamiliar with the customs and culture of his new home. He boards with a kind yet strict elderly couple, and feels the pressure his gruff manager quietly exerts upon him. Miguel knows full well if he doesn't meet the team's expectations – and meet them quick – he'll be back in Santo Domingo hawking stolen goods on a street corner before he knows it.

Much like the authority figures depicted in the film, Boden and Fleck direct 'Sugar' with a sensitive yet firm hand, never sugar-coating the issues Miguel faces or providing him with easy answers. The duo's use of non-actors in key baseball roles enhances realism, and provides a whole new perspective on the minor league experience, where performance is everything, and only the most disciplined and dedicated survive. For a pitcher, one or two bad outings or a minor injury can end a dream before it really begins, and when Miguel realizes how tough it is to stay on top of his game and how many guys are chomping at the bit to take his place, his confidence begins to waver.

'Sugar,' however, is much more than a sports story. With subtle grace, it also examines the plight of poor Hispanic immigrants who try to scratch out an existence in an alien land. Struggling with language, discrimination, a lack of education, and a feeling of disorientation, the young men of 'Sugar' must learn how to play by new rules and adapt to new situations, all while trying to keep ahead of the next guy on the field. The choice to cast Dominican actors and allow them to use their native tongue heightens this sense of insecurity and confusion, and emphasizes the social barriers immigrants must break down.

Soto does a terrific job conveying Miguel's conflicting emotions. His winning smile and easygoing manner make him a magnetic presence, and for an amateur actor, he tackles the demands of the role well. The other unknowns are equally effective, and lend the film extra authenticity and a stronger universal feel.

'Sugar' is sweet but not saccharine, a well-constructed, simply told story laced with wit, heart, and soul. Young athletes of any nationality can learn from this fine film, and the lessons it teaches – perseverance, tolerance, independence – apply to everyone. Though it may not quite knock the ball out of the park, 'Sugar' comes close, and its fresh take on a tired genre deserves some hearty cheers.

[review_video_stars] => 4 [review_video_picture_id] => 10129 [review_video] =>

'Sugar' benefits from a natural-looking transfer that provides crisp, pleasing visuals, while remaining true to the story's gritty spirit. Too much glamour and gloss would detract from the picture's narrative power, and this 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode keeps all its elements properly balanced. Grain levels fluctuate, depending on lighting and camera setup, but a nice film-like feel predominates. Though a few scenes err on the soft side, most enjoy excellent delineation. Colors are bold and well saturated (the Caribbean Sea is especially beautiful), but never look artificial, and the ballpark scenes flaunt all the vibrant hues we expect, from the blue-black uniforms to the lush outfield greens.

Details show up well; beads of sweat glisten on the ballplayers' brows, and skin textures and tones are well rendered. Close-ups often pop off the screen, and great contrast lends wide shots lovely depth and a subtle but distinct dimensionality. Thankfully, noise, banding, and other such annoyances are altogether absent, so we can fully appreciate this smooth, quality presentation.

[review_audio_stars] => 3.5 [review_audio_picture_id] => 10130 [review_audio] =>

The Spanish Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track is solid but unspectacular. All the audio comes across clearly, with fine fidelity and expansive dynamic range. Not surprisingly, the mix favors the front channels, but surround activity filters in now and then. Bugs and crickets flit about the rears during a summer night scene, and dance tunes enliven the track, adding a sprinkling of faint but welcome bass when the players blow off steam at a local bar. Michael Brook's music score also enjoys good presence and clarity, especially early in the film when it adopts a bouncy Caribbean flavor. Details, though, are rather muted, and the stadium ambience isn't as palpable as one might hope.

If you're not a fan of foreign language films, don't fret. English dialogue abounds, and even when muttered uncertainly by the Dominican players, it's always easy to understand. (Unfortunately, the subtitles don't turn off when English is spoken, which is mildly distracting.) Though the audio may not be as fine as the video, it still serves 'Sugar' well.

[review_supplements_stars] => 2 [review_supplements_picture_id] => 10131 [review_supplements] =>

For an indie production, 'Sugar' comes well equipped with a few interesting supplements that further flesh out the film and enhance the viewing experience. An audio commentary would have been icing on the cake, but one is not included. All material is in standard definition.

  • Featurette: "Making 'Sugar': Run the Bases" (SD, 14 minutes) – This typical behind-the-scenes piece allows filmmakers and co-writers Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck the opportunity to express their thoughts about 'Sugar' and its unique sports movie perspective. The duo discusses casting an unknown, non-actor in the lead role, their decision to use real coaches and players, and how cultural and linguistic differences made shooting in the Dominican Republic such a challenge. Cinematographer Andrij Parekh also talks about his photographic philosophy in this brisk, easygoing featurette.
  • Featurette: "Play Béisbol! The Dominican Dream" (SD, 13 minutes) – For many, baseball is the only way out of the poverty and despair that's so prevalent in the Dominican Republic, and this featurette provides a cursory examination of the country's sports-crazy climate. In addition, such baseball superstars as pitcher Pedro Martinez and slugger Sammy Sosa share their views about the film's level of truth, and how they personally relate to and identify with the story.
  • Featurette: "Casting 'Sugar': Interview with Algenis Perez Soto" (SD, 4 minutes) – This brief chat with Soto, in which he talks about his previous odd jobs, relationship with his brother, and love of the movie 'Scarface' undoubtedly put him in strong contention for the film's leading role. Not much substance here, but Soto's relaxed charm shines through.
  • Deleted Scenes (SD, 7 minutes) – Five cut sequences add a few character beats, but nothing essential was shaved away in the editing room.
  • Theatrical Trailers (HD) – Sony includes the original theatrical trailer for 'Sugar,' as well as a plethora of other previews: 'Tyson,' 'Rudo Y Cursi,' 'Moon,' 'A River Runs Through It,' 'Soul Power,' 'Whatever Works,' and 'Ghostbusters.'
[review_bonus_content_stars] => 0.5 [review_bonus_content_picture_id] => 10132 [review_bonus_content] =>

A BD-Live link takes you to Sony's online portal, where – surprise, surprise – there's absolutely no exclusive content for 'Sugar.'

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

'Sugar' refuses to follow Hollywood's well-worn sports film blueprint and is all the better as a result. This insightful study of self-discovery and assimilation against a baseball backdrop hits the strike zone often enough to merit attention, as well as a recommendation. Solid video, good audio, and a fair array of supplements sweeten the deal for this surprising independent production.

All disc reviews at High-Def DVD Digest are completed using the best consumer HD home theater products currently on the market. More about our gear.

) ) [4] => Array ( [review_id] => 2471 [review_type_id] => 1 [review_slug] => supernatural_s4 [review_release_date] => 1251788400 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => Supernatural: The Complete Fourth Season [picture_created] => 1244038567 [picture_name] => supernatural.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => Warner Brothers [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2009/06/03/120/supernatural.jpeg [review_url] => https://bluray.highdefdigest.com/2471/supernatural_s4.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2008 [run_time] => 0 [list_price] => 79.98 [asin] => B001FB4W0M [amazon_price] => 55.99 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.78:1 ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/VC-1 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => 4 BD-50 Blu-ray Discs ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound [1] => Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround Sound [2] => French Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround Sound ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => The Mythologies of Supernatural: From Heaven to Hell [1] => Key Mythological Precepts [2] => Creator commentary for three episodes [3] => Extended/unaired scenes [4] => Gag reel ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => French, Japanese ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Thriller, Fantasy ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Jensen Ackles [1] => Jared Padalecki ) [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 ) ) [5] => Array ( [review_id] => 2459 [review_type_id] => 1 [review_slug] => girlnextdoor [review_release_date] => 1251788400 [review_hot] => 0 [review_title] => The Girl Next Door: Unrated [picture_created] => 1246392011 [picture_name] => girl-next-door.jpeg [manufacturer_name] => 20th Century Fox [picture_source_120] => https://cdn.highdefdigest.com/uploads/2009/06/30/120/girl-next-door.jpeg [review_url] => https://bluray.highdefdigest.com/2459/girlnextdoor.html [review_metadata_prepared] => Array ( [release_year] => 2004 [run_time] => 109 [list_price] => 29.99 [asin] => B0029XFN8A [amazon_price] => 21.99 [aspect_ratios] => Array ( [0] => 1.85:1 ) [video_resolutions] => Array ( [0] => 1080p/AVC MPEG 4 ) [technical_specifications] => Array ( [0] => Blu-ray [1] => BD-50 [2] => Region Free ) [audio_formats] => Array ( [0] => English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround Sound [1] => Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 [2] => French Dolby Digital 5.1 ) [supplements] => Array ( [0] => Audio Commentary [1] => Deleted and Extended Scenes [2] => Featurettes [3] => Gag reel ) [subtitles] => Array ( [0] => English [1] => French [2] => Spanish ) [preview_genres] => Array ( [0] => Sex Comedy ) [preview_actors] => Array ( [0] => Elisha Cuthbert [1] => Emile Hirsch ) [preview_directors] => Array ( [0] => Luke Greenfield ) [preview_plot_synopsis] =>

Get ready for more skin...more sex...and more laughs in this all-new unrated version of The Girl Next Door - packed with raunchy added scenes and hours of steamy special features!

Eighteen year old Matthew Kidman (Emile Hirsch) is a straight-laced overachiever who has never really lived life-until he falls for his hot new neighbor (Elisha Cuthbert). When Matthew discovers his perfect "girl next door" is a former porn star, his sheltered existence spins out of control. "It's Risky Business meets American Pie" (Premiere Radio Networks) in this "witty, wickedly sexy (Access Hollywood) comedy about growing up fast and going all the way...with The Girl Next Door.

[review_bottom_line] => Worth a Look [review_forum_id] => 92356 [review_movie_stars] => 3 [review_movie] =>

I don't know what it is, but I keep reviewing titles that were marketed all wrong. 'Adventureland' was billed as the next 'Superbad' just because it had the same director. 'The Soloist' wasn't marketed at all. And now we have 'The Girl Next Door,' a 2004 film from Fox that has been marketed like it's the next 'American Pie' or 'Road Trip.' It's sad when the studios don't believe that a movie can do well on its own merits and therefore it's compared to other movies that it clearly is not.

'The Girl Next Door' owes more to the John Hughes teenage comedies of the 80's than it does the raunchy teen sex-romps of the 90's. With a scantily clad Elisha Cuthbert ('24') on the cover and “Unrated Version” written in the shape of smudged lipstick on the front cover, you'd think you were getting another gross-out teen comedy churned out by the same factory that released 'Miss March,' (a porn star blowing up a condom like a balloon on the back cover doesn't help matters any either).

In fact 'The Girl Next Door' has quite a different, more meaningful feeling to it than the raunchy teen fare it's being compared to. Emile Hirsch ('Into the Wild') is cleanly shaven for a change and actually plays a straight-laced youth perfectly. I was getting so used to seeing him as the same type of hippie character I forgot the true scope of his acting ability. Here he plays social outcast Matthew Kidman. He's ostracized because he's smart, nerdy, and the high school president. He gets kicked out of parties, booed off stage when he's trying to rally the school to raise funds to help a South Korean genius come their to study, and worst of all the pretty girls completely ignore him.

One day Matthew watches as a gorgeous girl, Danielle, moves in next door. That night he catches her undressing. She undresses the way beautiful girls only undress in movies, you know with all the lights on, curtains open, pretty much every young man's dream that never happens. She catches him. The doorbell rings, it's her. She doesn't tell Matthew's parents though, instead she invites Matthew to take a ride with her. She's got to see him naked now, makes perfect sense. So Matthew strips in the middle of the road, she drives by, yoinks his undies off the pavement and zooms out of sight.

It's not long before Matthew's sexually charged friend finds a porn movie starring the new girl. Yes, she's a porn star. Matthew tries desperately to keep his life together while courting the girl next door. His schooling suffers and his fundraising for the South Korean kid hits a snag, but he'll do anything for love. That also means putting up with his girlfriend's porn producer played by Timothy Olyphant ('Live Free or Die Hard'), a vindictive, manipulative man.

'The Girl Next Door' has its problems. Danielle is convenient in her feelings. Sometimes she's a saucy vixen who plays with the hearts of young men, and at other times she's a vulnerable young girl who's just been caught up in the wrong kind of business. Contrary to the title, Danielle really spends a minimal amount of time on screen, and most of that screen time is spent giggling at lines from other actors.

The film's ambiance, however, is its saving grace. If it played out like 'Miss March' and went solely for the gross-out humor it would be a failure. Here, it has the feeling of an old 80s teen romp and ultimately, that's what makes it interesting.

[review_video_stars] => 2.5 [review_video_picture_id] => 10275 [review_video] =>

This film was made in 2004? With this transfer you could've fooled me. The AVC-encoded 1080p transfer is all sorts of washed-out. Colors aren't vibrant or flashy, instead for the most part they're dull. Skin tones are all over the map, sometimes perfect and other times completely overtaken by burning white when the light hits them wrong. There's a heavy helping of grain too, but that doesn't really distract from the overall viewing experience. It's actually about the only thing that helps the transfer resemble an