Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Drag Me To Hell Blu-ray Review

Disc Size: 45.6 GB
Film Size: 19.6 GB/20.6 GB
Film Rating: PG-13/Unrated
Region: A

Video
Drag Me To Hell comes to Blu-ray with two 1080p VC-1 video presentations that are sure to impress. From the beginning of the film you will realize just how great this presentation looks, featuring a sharp and extremely detailed look. The textures of clothing, the detail in the environments, and the bad effects all come to life in high-definition.

Colors were rich and vibrant, and very fitting to the film. Black levels also held up nicely, and I never found them to be weak during the film. The presentation always leaps off the screen, never looking flat or muted. There is also no sign of edge enhancement or DNR present.

The film's effects were generally solid, but there were a few times where perhaps the Blu-ray release did bring out a little too much detail in them, making them look extremely fake. There was a hand going into a mouth example that was definitely brought out by the high-def quality.

I'm very impressed with the look though, making this one close to perfect video presentation. Universal provided very good encodes for both versions of the film. 9/10.

Audio
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is nothing short of perfection. This certainly ranks among my favorite horror film tracks, which include The Orphanage and The Strangers. Surround use is fantastic, and amazingly fitting to the film. To those who have seen the film, you know this is the type of film that could make fantastic use of the surround speakers as things are always coming out of the most unexpected places, and the DTS-HD Master Audio track succeeds at creating a perfect experience.

Dialogue was crisp and clear, usually staying within the front of the room. The film's music and effects come through the surround speakers, with the effects being creepy and terrifically used. It's audio tracks like these that totally immerse you into the film, and rather than just watching a movie, you really get to experience it.

Bass use can also get quite active, waking up to make you feel like the ground is shaking and opening, getting ready to drag you to hell. I can't get over how great the audio track is for this release, there is no way one could expect any more. 10/10.

Extras

MyScenes (BD-Live enabled)
Save your favorite scenes, and share them with your friends over BD-Live.

Production Video Diaries (35:08) (HD)
Available in a play all feature, or a specific section. Featuring an introduction by Justin Long, this is a very good look behind-the-scenes of the film, it does a good job at including many aspects. From specific characters and objects, to stunts and environments. it's a must watch bonus feature for anyone who loved the film.

BD-Live Menu
If you have a BD-Live enabled player, the main menu will automatically update to reflect new title announcements and features. Current ones include Battlestar Galactica: The Plan, as well as Funny People (which touts exclusive Blu-ray iPhone features).

D-Box Motion Code

Unrated Digital Copy (Compatible with iTunes and Windows Media)

Blu-news Summary
Drag Me To Hell was certainly predictable, but wow was it an experience. Being a PG-13 film, with an unrated cut added (although not too much more, it features the same ending as well) I didn't know what to expect. Previous PG-13 horror affairs have been generally weak to say the least, but Drag Me To Hell is terrifying and horror at it's best.

The characters in the film are actually very likeable, and you really get immersed into the film. It doesn't rely on cheap kills, etc. The film also has a lot of mystery, and some very scary scenes, this is one I would not recommend missing.

The Blu-ray release is strong, featuring demo level video and audio. Extras are weak, but what is featured is DEFINITELY enjoyable. I want to say this release is a must own, but like many horror films, I can see how people may dislike. Ultimately this Blu-ray release is 'Highly Recommended.'

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Ghosts Of Girlfriends Past Blu-ray Review

Disc Size: 19.4 GB
Film Size: 16.7 GB
Film Rating: PG-13
Region: Free

Video
Ghosts Of Girlfriends Past comes to Blu-ray from New Line Home Entertainment, sporting a 1080p VC-1 video presentation. There is one issue I want to bring up with this transfer, which has also been present on other new releases from the past few months.

There are at least two other releases that I remember off the top of my head with the exact same look video wise as this one, they include 17 Again and He's Just Not That Into You. They all sport a goldish tone overall, and while they do sport a great amount of depth at times, they all look like they had some filter put over them. It could be how they were filmed, but I just found it a strange coincidence that no other studios have had their Blu-ray releases sport this look. I also felt colors were rich, but everything looks overly dark when compared to the average new release.

Another issue that came with the goldish tone of the film is a strange glow present in general that does look to take away potential detail at times. Everything just looks overly processed, despite it being sharp and clearly high-definition material. I can't knock the whole presentation, as there is definitely a lot to enjoy about the transfer as well, for all I know the look could just be how it was filmed.

Detail was generally solid, and I found the transfer to have amazing moments of depth to it. I just didn't love the way it looked in high-def, something felt very off. I could have thought it was the Director's intention for the look, but it's three times that I see the same exact look and noted it each time I did. Perhaps another factor is their surprisingly small encode sizes for these films. This release may please fans of the film, but I don't think it ranks anywhere near the best looking new releases. 6.5/10.

Audio
A 5.1 Dolby TrueHD audio track is included, and is better than I had imagined. Dialogue was clear and always easy to understand, while the film's music and effects were surprisingly aggressive. Being a romantic comedy, I didn't expect too much, but this track really does have good direction and use. Surround use isn't amazing, but it's certainly used when necessary, and quite nicely at that.

The whole ghost situation also allowed for good bass use as well, keeping this release from having a potentially dull audio mix. Fans and newcomers will certainly be more than happy with the audio included. 8/10.

Extras

Recreating The Past, Imagining The Future (8:39) (HD)
All about the bringing A Christmas Carol into a romantic comedy.

It's All About Connor (4:05) (HD)
A feature all about Matthew McConaughey, which basically features his co-stars gushing over him and what a great guy he is. Next.

The Legends, The Lessons And The Ladies (8:00) (HD)
About characters Connor Mead and uncle Wayne, and their ladies man personalities. It also talks about casting and how they each fit the part.

Additional Scenes (9:32) (SD)
There is an alternate opening, two deleted scenes, as well as an extended scene included.

Digital Copy (Compatible with iTunes and Windows Media)

Blu-news Summary
Ghosts Of Girlfriends Past has one of the worst trailers I have ever seen, it actually annoyed me when it would play or air on both internet ads and television. Normally it should be the other way around, with the trailer looking good or decent and using the film's only good parts. After viewing the film though, I can say it was nowhere near as bad as I remember the commercials made it look.

McConaughey has been in quite disastrous films lately, and he has slightly redeemed himself in this film. The trailers make the film look like a very generic romantic comedy, which it certainly can be at times. But in actuality the ghosts of girlfriends past idea worked very well, providing a unique aspect for this romantic comedy. The film was definitely not as cheesy as I had imagined it to be, and it was ultimately a nice and fun film that's easy to watch.

The Blu-ray release is disappointing to me in a way, as the look itself turned me off quite a bit. That being said it does have a lot to like, and it's certainly not terrible either. Audio was good, and extras were decent. Interested in the film? This is 'A Solid Rental.'

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Wallace & Gromit: The Complete Collection Blu-ray Review

Disc Size: 31.7 GB
Rating: Not Rated
Region: A

Video
Each film comes to Blu-ray with a 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 video presentation, and they have never looked better. The four included films are 'A Grand Day Out', 'The Wrong Trousers', 'A Close Shave' and 'A Matter of Loaf and Death.' The quality of each is generally solid throughout, each looking very good considering the budgets, technology and time. The earlier shorts definitely look much duller in comparison to 'A Matter of Loaf and Death' but that doesn't keep them from having their moments.

Instantly you will notice the much sharper look present on this collection, the textures of the characters, objects, and environments all really become clear as well. Thanks to Blu-ray we can really get a more detailed look at the Wallace & Gromit world, and we can truly see just how much work is put into these films. There are little details throughout you may have not really noticed before that will be much more clear on Blu-ray.

The release isn't all perfect, at times I noticed a bit of aliasing in the older films, possibly making them upconverts from 1080i, despite this issue, it was actually very subtle and not so easy to notice. I was still left very pleased, and I'm sure fans of the films will be pleased as well. 8/10.

Audio
An uncompressed 5.1 PCM audio track is included for each film, which was a nice surprise, as the original announcement made no mention of the lossless audio. You will notice the track improve from film to film due to release order, but each one was very fitting and very nice.

I didn't and don't expect a film like 'A Grand Day Out' to sound like 'A Matter of Loaf and Death' simply because of the clear differences in budget and time. I found the surround use on all four films to be active and when aggressive when necessary. The sound effects were solid, particularly on the latter two films, featuring very immersive audio experiences.

Dialogue was crisp and clear, especially when compared to the included Dolby Digital tracks as well. The music present is also very beautiful, and will have your surround speakers delivering as clear as can be. Like mentioned earlier, each one improves upon the other. 8/10.

Extras

Audio Commentaries
An audio commentary is included for each film in the collection, and I sampled about 10 minutes from each. The commentaries were fun and informative, discussing each scene quite in depth. From the effects to the inspiration behind certain things.

How they Donut: The Making of "A Matter of Loaf and Death" (20:21) (SD)
All about the latest Wallace & Gromit adventure, the story is explained, and we also get a very in-depth look behind-the-scenes of the film and sets. It's clearly the latest produced, and by far the most informative.

"A Close Shave" How It Was Done (5:05) (SD)
See how the effects in 'A Close Shave' were done, this feature could be interesting to some, but I personally found it rather dull.

Inside the Wrong Trousers (24:19) (SD)
A featurette dedicated to the included film 'The Wrong Trousers', it also features behind-the-scenes on the set with Nick Park.

The Amazing Adventures of Wallace & Gromit (15:24) (SD)
An overall look of Wallace & Gromit, their origin and how far the series has come.

Scrap Book
Includes a gallery of invention blueprints, as well as a gallery of Wallace & Gromit in general.

Cracking Contraptions (25:22) (SD)
Shorts about all many different contraptions in the Wallace & Gromit world.

Shaun The Sheep (7:05) (SD)
The episode 'Off The Baa!' is included.

Game Demo
A demo for a Wallace & Gromit video game, you must have a Blu-ray drive on your PC to play.

Trailers (1:33) (SD)
Shaun The Sheep and Thomas The Train trailers are included.

Blu-news Summary
I was completely surprised when we saw a Wallace & Gromit: Complete Collection Blu-ray announcement, and while this release isn't totally complete (missing Curse Of The Wererabbit due to different studio ownership), it's about as complete as we will get without multi-studio involvement.

These films are classic, and who hasn't come to love the hilarious duo on their several adventures? I have seen the first three films in the collection before, but Matter of Loaf and Death was new to me. To be honest I really enjoyed them all, they each had great storylines, and each brought their own unique charm. This release is fantastic for those with children, there's something to be enjoyed by everyone in the family.

The Blu-ray release is very good, featuring overall impressive video, and beautiful audio mixes. The extas are all in standard definition, but there are some must see features included. The Blu-ray release is a great package and a great price, it's hard to not want this release in your collection. Overall this release is 'Highly Recommended.'

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Monsters vs. Aliens Blu-ray Review

Disc Size: 37.8 GB
Film Size: 23.5 GB
Film Rating: PG
Region: Free

Video
Monsters vs. Aliens comes to Blu-ray with a 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 video presentation. No surprise the film looks terrific, with the presentation leaping off the screen from beginning to end. Detail was fantastic, colors were vibrant and detail was about as strong as it could get.

The animation is very impressive, reaching texture levels seen on Pixar Blu-ray releases such as Monsters, Inc. The textures and flow in the animation really did impress, and they really gave characters a very detailed look. They clearly worked hard on hair, facial, and skin details.

This is a top notch high-def release, and fans of the film will be very pleased with this marvelous Blu-ray release. 10/10.

Audio
A 5.1 Dolby TrueHD audio track is included, and it really shines. I expected a great audio track to begin with, considering the theme of the film itself, but I didn't expect such an active track like this.

The film's dialogue was crisp and clear, comparing with the best animated releases on the format. Sound effects and music were lively and aggressive, and made much use of the surround speakers. I felt everything in the track had fantastic direction, and it really did enhance the viewing experience.

The track will have your room shaking with some good bass involvement as well. I was left very surprised by just how good the track was, it rivals the quality of Kung Fu Panda and Monsters Inc on Blu-ray. 9.5/10.

Extras

Filmmakers' Commentary
With Producer Lisa Stewart and Directors Rob Letterman and Conrad Vernon.

The Animators' Corner (PiP)
A Picture-in-Picture track which features video commentary from animators, early animation footage, as well as some recycled bonus features.

Trivia Track
A standard trivia track, featuring trivia about the crew and cast involved, the environments, and the characters.

B.O.B.'s Big Break (13:20) (HD)
Included in both 2D and 3D versions, which is why four standard 3D glasses are included with the release.

Paddle Ball Game 3D
The 3D glasses also support an included Paddle Ball game, as seen in the beginning of the film.

Karaoke Music Party (HD)
Ginormica, B.O.B., Dr Cockroach & The Missing Link are all selectable, and each character sings a popular karaoke song. For example, Ginormica sings 'I Will Survive' with lyrics on screen for you to sing-along.

Deleted Scenes (5:29) (HD)
Mostly in sketch form, but the latter part in animated form. So all different stages of development scenes.

Moden Monster Movie-Making (17:29) (HD)
Jeffrey Katzenberg, the CEO of Dreamworks Animation talks about how Monsters vs. Aliens was the perfect 3D title. It also serves as a making of featurette, with cast and crew interviews on each character.

Tech Of MVA (6:19) (HD)
A featurette also featuring Jeffrey Katzenberg, discussing the InTru 3D technology used in the film. It's a shame we didn't even get basic 3D for this release. This feature also felt very sell out, constantly mentioning the Intel and HP products.

Dreamworks Animation Video Jukebox
A feature present on all Dreamworks Blu-ray releases, which allows you to view a music video in high-def from every other Dreamworks animated release. From Kung Fu Panda, Shrek, to Over The Hedge.

Blu-news Summary
Monsters vs. Aliens is definitely not going to be a favorite for everyone, but I did enjoy it very much. The characters were very unique and fun, and the story was generally solid. I certainly enjoyed it more than other previous Dreamwork releases.

The Blu-ray release is very good, featuring impressive video and audio, as well as good amount of bonus features. There is clearly a lot of effort put into this release, making this one certainly 'Recommended' when you consider the film quality as well. Those just looking for animated demo material or don't really care what I think about the film, you can't go wrong with this release, 'Highly Recommended' in that aspect.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Misery Blu-ray Review

Disc Size: 33.8 GB
Film Size: 33.4 GB
Film Rating: R
Region: A

Video
Misery comes to Blu-ray with a 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 video presentation, the release looks very good, and I am happy to report MGM left the high-def presentation alone, and allowed it to retain it's grainy look. There are no signs of DNR or edge enhancement present on this release, allowing this release to look natural and filled with fantastic detail.

The release also features a good upgrade from the DVD included with the release, sporting a drastic improvement in sharpness and detail when compared. Colors also felt a bit richer and just more solid in general than the DVD.

The film looks much better than I had anticipated to be honest, and fans of the film will be very pleased with the high-def release and improvement. 8.5/10.

Audio
A 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is included that is quite aggressive and fitting. The mix is quiet like the film, but when the film gets aggressive the track certainly gets aggressive as well.

I love when tracks truly enhance the experience, and I feel Misery's DTS-HD MA track did just that. Dialogue was front and center, crisp and clear. The film's effects used the front left and right speakrs, while the film's beautiful and creepy music expands into the surround area.

The mix we get with this release is the same one present on the DVD, and while the difference doesn't always sound drastic it's certainly improved from the lossy track found on the DVD. I never found the DTS-HD MA mix underwhelming, and it kept me immersed in the film from beginning to end, which is the most important part of a surround track. 8/10.

Extras

Blu-ray Note: Unfortunately the Blu-ray disc itself does not have any extras, not even a theatrical trailer.

DVD Copy of the film
MGM has included a DVD copy of the film though, which does include all the extras that are missing on the Blu-ray release. So it's not a total loss, as the extras would have been standard definition regardless of format. The DVD inclusion is a welcome bonus that I hope studios begin to include more and more.

Blu-news Summary
Misery is finally on Blu-ray, and I couldn't be happier about this. I have always enjoyed Misery, I could go as far as saying I loved the film. Kathy Bates provides a performance that will not be soon forgotten as the terror of the film, Annie Wilkes.

I can't rave enough about the acting though, it was terrific, and created a scary film out of a less than scary situation. The film doesn't depend on mysterious kills throughout the film, demons and/or killer dolls, it's just a woman filled with obsession. Something that could have been so underwhelming turned into your worst fear.

The Blu-ray release itself is very good, featuring a very nice video and audio experience. Extras are included on the bonus DVD disc, saving the overall score. Misery is such a great film, and the Blu-ray does not disappoint, 'Highly Recommended.'

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Wizard of Oz: 70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

Disc 1 Size: 38.3 GB
Disc 2 Size: 17.1 GB
Film Size: 21.1 GB
Film Rating: G
Region: Free

Video
The Wizard of Oz comes to Blu-ray with a 1080p VC-1 video presentation that is spectacular on all levels, the detail can be quite incredible. There are so many things in the film I never noticed, particularly facial details that just weren't possible before a high-def format. The colors were beautiful, never looking over saturated or off.

The film is also clean as can be, without the use of any noticeable DNR or edge enhancement. Dirt and specks are no where to be found, and the differences in that alone are drastic. There is also a natural grain present throughout the film, which is never excessive and actually quite light overall.

The film can have a soft focus at times, but fans of the film ultimately know what to expect as far as the overall look of the film. Watching the Blu-ray release really had me thinking 'there is no way this is 70 years old', the quality is stunning and will leave you in denial too. You haven't experienced the Wizard of Oz until you have experienced it on Blu-ray, making this a contender for one of the best looking films on the format. 10/10.

Audio
5.1 Dolby TrueHD audio is included, as well as the original mono track. The Dolby TrueHD audio track was much better than I had anticipated, sporting a more active experience, without taking away from the original mono experience we have all come to know. They never used cheesy surround use just for the sake of making a surround track, they clearly put a lot of effort in staying true to the original film, with putting certain effects in very fitting areas.

For example, The wicked witch now comes out from the ground with some serious bass, it actually worked very well in the film. Dialogue was also very clear and beautiful, with no hissing elements present, although at times you can hear the limitations of the audio with Judy Garland's high notes.

This track was very beautiful, it's never sounded so great, and fans will appreciate the quality upgrade from the very beginning of the film. For a film of it's age, it just doesn't get much better than this. 9/10.

Extras

Disc 1:


Audio Commentary
by John Fricke with Barbara Freed-Saltzman, Margaret Hamilton, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, John Lahr, Jane Lahr, Hamilton Meserve, Dona Massin, William Tuttle, Buddy Ebsen, Mervyn LeRoy and Jerry Maren.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: The Making of a Movie Classic (50:49) (SD)

The Art of Imagination: A Tribute to Oz (29:46) (SD)

Because of the Wonderful Things It Does: The Legacy of Oz (25:06) (SD)

Memories of Oz (27:40) (SD)
Stories from relatives of the actors and memories from the film.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Storybook (10:28) (SD)
Reading from the book 'The Wonderful Wizard of Oz'.

Prettier Than Ever: The Restoration of Oz (11:28) (SD)
See what it took to restore The Wizard Of Oz, as well as how they created the 5.1 surround track. This is definitely one of the most interesting for those curious about the presentation of the film.

We Haven't Really Met Properly... (21:23) (SD)
All about the stars of the film, about them in their personal lives, professional lives, and connections before and after Oz.

Music And Effects Track
Listen to the film with just the music and effects present in Mono audio.

Original Mono Track
The original mono track is also included.

Jukebox
Select your favorite songs from the film, and listen to them while in rehearsal. There are mess-ups included as well, such as Judy Garland stopping to cough and restarting. Very neat feature to be included.

Leo Is on the Air Radio Promo (12:27)

Good News of 1939 Radio Show (1:01:03)

12/25/1950 Lux Radio Theater Broadcast (1:00:50)

Sing-Along with the movie
Select a specific song, or have it play throughout the film.

Another Romance of Celluloid: Electrical Power (10:32) (SD)

Cavalcade of the Academy Awards Excerpt (2:14) (SD)
Footage from the Academy Awards, in which Judy Garland among others was honored.

Texas Contest Winners (1:26) (SD)

Off to See the Wizard Excerpts (3:57)
During the 1967 television season, ABC had a primetime hour called 'Off to See the Wizard'. Included are four cartoon segments during the show, as well as segments promoting the next movie.

Stills Galleries

Trailers (SD)
Includes 1939, 1940, two 1949, 1970, and 1998 trailers for the film.

Harold Arlen's Home Movies (4:40) (SD)
Footage from Harold Arlen during portrait sittings and visits to the set, this is very neat to see.

Outtakes And Deleted Scenes (SD)
Includes If I Only Had a Brain, If I Only Had a Heart, Triumphal Return to Emerald City, Over the Rainbow and The Jitterbug.

It's a Twister! It's a Twister! The Tornado Tests (8:17) (SD)
Raw footage shot for the tornado sequences in the film.

Disc 2:

Victor Fleming: Master Craftsman (34:07) (SD)
All about the fantastic Director Victor Fleming and all his fantastic works, from The Wizard Of Oz to Gone With The Wind.

L. Frank Baum: The Man Behind the Curtain (27:46) (SD)

Hollywood Celebrates It's Biggest Little Stars! (10:24) (SD)
All about the Munchkins, including the star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

The Dreamer of Oz (1:32:48) (SD)

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1910) (13:19) (SD)

His Majesty, The Scarecrow of Oz (1914) (59:07) (SD)

The Magic Cloak of Oz (1914) (43:15) (SD)

The Patchwork Girl of Oz (1914) (50:43) (SD)

The Wizard of Oz (1925) (1:11:53) (SD)

The Wizard of Oz (1933) (8:13) (SD)

Disc 3 (Double-sided DVD):

MGM: When The Lion Roars
6-hour Award Winning Studio Chronicle

Disc 4:


Digital Copy of the film
Compatible with iTunes and Windows Media.


The PackagingBlu-news Summary
I cannot describe the excitement and anticipation I had for this release, and to be honest it lived up to all the high expectations I had set for it. I was not disappointed at all with the Blu-ray presentation, in fact I was surprised at how much more amazing it looked than I had expected. The restoration for this release is absolutely stunning and you can tell how much work was put into making the film look this clean.

The audio is also quite the revelation, never sounding so good until now. The lossless audio brings an added clarity that just wasn't there before. This release is also packed with so many extras and footage, making this truly the ultimate Wizard Of Oz release.

The Wizard Of Oz is one of my favorite films, and the film holds up extremely well for a 70 year old film. I also have to commend Warner for proving once again that older films benefit just as much as a new release film. To those who think the Wizard Of Oz won't benefit from a high-def transfer simply because of it's age, prepare to be proven wrong once you put in this beautiful disc.

The Wizard of Oz: Ultimate Collector's Edition is a 'Must Own' for any film or high-def enthusiast.

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