Friday, January 29, 2010

Gangs of New York Remastered Blu-ray Screenshot Comparisons

Remastered Version Screenshots:

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Original Version Screenshots:

Special thanks to HighDefDiscNews for screenshots from the original release.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Serious Man Blu-ray Review

Disc Size: 37.4 GB
Film Size: 30.4 GB
Film Rating: R
Region: A

The Video
A Serious Man makes its Blu-ray debut with a 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 video presentation. The film starts in a 1:33:1 aspect ratio and opens up to a 1:85:1 aspect ratio once the introduction is over. The movie looks absolutely stunning in high-definition, much more than any screenshot could capture accurately.

The level of details is of the highest quality on Blu-ray. Whether it be a close-up or wide shot, everything stands out and looks great. There are many wide shots in particular that are jaw-dropping. Even a grocery store shot from the air captures every little detail, everything pops and everything has dimension.

The colors are nice as well, they are always rich and vibrant whenever the scene allows. Black levels are also very solid, never lacking whatsoever. The movie just has so much depth that comes with this high-def transfer.

The level of detail is so good it actually brings out a lot of issues with makeup, particularly that of lead actor Michael Stuhlbarg. Not every shot is extremely gorgeous, but there is no doubt that Universal Studios Home Entertainment has provided a very strong and very accurate to the source transfer. This is what Blu-ray is all about! 10/10.

The Audio
A 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is included, and while it’s not as impressive as the video presentation, it’s certainly a very fitting audio experience. The movie’s tone is actually fairly quiet, very little happens and very little need for sound effects actually.

Dialogue is key here and is always front and center, but always crisp and clear. The film’s sound effects are more casual and they are mostly front heavy as well, coming from the front left and right speakers for the majority of the film. There are some surround sound effects, particularly scenes outdoors, in which we will hear birds chirping lightly at times.

The film’s music is hardly impactful, but I don’t think it was intended to be. Quality wise it’s light but still comes through clearly and beautifully. I’m not particularly impressed by this track, but I’m honestly not disappointed at all. The movie really doesn’t feel like something that could have used much as far as surround use.

The mix works with what it has, and what it has is fairly basic. Everything that is in the mix is always clear and easy to understand, and I really can’t expect much more from this one. I really can’t imagine the mix sounding much better. 7.5/10.

The Extras

Becoming Serious (17:04) (HD)
Joel and Ethan Coen talk about ‘A Serious Man’, covering many aspects of production. They start off by discussing their ideas for the film’s introduction. The cast and crew involved also talk about the story and production as well. This is certainly an entertaining featurette that any fan of the film will enjoy.

Creating 1967 (13:43) (HD)
The film takes place in 1967, so they talk about all the big and little details in recreating 1967.

Hebrew and Yiddish for Goys (2:14) (HD)
A funny feature, definitions pop up for words such as ‘Bar Mitzvah’. This is jokingly intended for ‘Goys’ which are also known as ‘Non-Jews.’

My Scenes (BD-Live enabled)
Bookmark your favorite scenes and return to them later.

Extras on the disc are very basic; I did enjoy the two behind-the-scenes featurettes. I did not expect an audio commentary, as I believe the Coen brothers are known for not providing those for their films. They did provide a lot of insight in the ‘Becoming Serious’ featurette though. 6/10.

The Movie
A Serious Man is something that I have been very anxious to see, having missed it during its theatrical run. The film comes from the Academy Award winning Directors, Joel and Ethan Coen. The brothers are known for directing many acclaimed films such as Fargo and Academy Award winner for Best Picture, No Country for Old Men.

Okay, so I’ll be honest. After seeing A Serious Man, I have to say I was quite disappointed. I’ve always found amusement from any Coen brothers production, but this one is certainly one of the most disappointing I have yet to come across. They are known for their dark humor and fairly simple stories, but I just didn’t find myself caring much at all this time around.

The story is about an ordinary man’s quest to become a serious man. The film stars Michael Stuhlbarg as Physics professor Larry Gopnik. Larry is an average man with lots of issues in his life, a highlight being that his wife is leaving him for his best friend. There are many more issues involving his brother, his children, his neighbors, and his career as a teacher.

In order to make sense of anything Larry ends up going to three different rabbis, each with their own bits of advice which brings the most amount of humor to the film. The ending is not so different from other Coen productions such as No Country for Old Men, only less to think about this time.

I actually think the ending will throw off many viewers, particularly those who do not care for Coen productions or unaware of their Directing style. The more and more that I watched No Country for Old Men, the more I understood its ending. In this case, I just thought it ends very abruptly and was left with no desire to watch the film again anytime soon.

For those looking for a decent viewing, you can’t go wrong with this film, there are certainly MANY worse things you could be doing with your time than watching this. It’s an entertaining film and the humor is quite good at times, but otherwise the replay value for this one is quite low in my opinion.

If you have interest in this film I would certainly recommend you give it a rent first as even Coen fans many not like this one as much as past films. I certainly don’t think the movie is bad whatsoever, but I find myself a bit more critical because the Coen brothers have done much better work in the past. 6.5/10.

Blu-news Summary
The Blu-ray release is absolutely gorgeous as far as video presentation is concerned. The audio presentation is light but fitting, and the extras are satisfying as well. The Blu-ray release is a ‘Must Own’ for fans of the film, and ‘Worth A Look’ to all others.

Additional Screenshots:

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Saw VI Blu-ray Review

Disc Size: 22.0 GB
Film Size: 16.1 GB
Film Rating: Unrated
Region: A

The Video
Saw VI comes to Blu-ray with a 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 video presentation that is good, but not quite as strong as the previous film in the series. The Saw films are known to be dark and gritty, and this sixth outing is no different.

The majority of scenes are dark and that’s when black levels become particularly important. I’m happy to report that black levels are solid for the majority of the film, although there were a few moments where I thought they could have been a bit inkier.

Fine detail is present from beginning to end, but not always brought out due to many slightly out of focus shots. Whenever the scene is in focus, detail and clarity is sharp and ever present.

Dazzling would not be the word to use for the video presentation, but fitting and pleasing would.
I think the high-def encode is pretty accurate to the source and I can’t find too many things to complain about. I don’t think the visuals are as strong as the previous film, but they are generally very strong. I’m sure most viewers will be satisfied by this high-def effort. 8/10.

The Audio
A 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is included and packs quite the punch. Lionsgate is known for providing full-fledged 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio tracks for many of their high-def releases, and are almost always very impressive. Saw VI, like the previous film, takes the 7.1 and creates a fitting and immersive experience.

The Saw films are filled with sound effects and the placement of the effects make sure to use the surround sound whenever possible and fitting. The direction of the track is very strong and will leave you on the edge of your seat. The film’s music is also extremely aggressive, although clear and impressive at all times.

Dialogue is also quite nice, sounding about as clear as one could expect from the situations. It’s definitely a very chilling and creepy mix, this is one track that will have your home theater setup working hard from beginning to end. I’m very impressed by the mix, it's not the best track you have heard or will hear on Blu-ray. But as far as this film is concerned, they took the effects and created a demo-worthy edge of your seat high-definition track that will easily impress any viewer. 9/10.

The Extras

Audio Commentary
With Producers.

Audio Commentary
With Director & Writers.

The Traps of Saw VI (8:51) (HD)
See the many traps in the film and how they were done with plenty of behind-the-scenes footage.

Jigsaw Revealed (6:01) (HD)

A Killer Maze: Making Saw: Game Over (10:41) (SD)
Go behind-the-scenes at the Saw attraction in Universal Studios.

Music Videos (15:06) (SD)
Mushroomhead - “Your Soul Is Mine”
Memphis May Fire – “Ghost in the Mirror”
Hatebreed – “In Ashes They Shall Reap”
Suicide Silence – “Genocide / Saw VI Remix”

Theatrical Trailer (:51) (HD)

BD Touch
Those with an iPhone or iPod touch and download the BD Touch app from the app store to use your phone as a remote for your Blu-ray disc.

Also From Lionsgate (11:11) (HD)
Trailers for other Lionsgate films

Save your favorite scenes or where you left off and return to them later.

‘Saw’ on Blu-ray
The first Saw film is included as a second Blu-ray disc, it features white disc art but identical to the original domestic Blu-ray release.

There are not many extras, but I did enjoy the audio commentaries. The look at the traps was also very neat and we got behind-the-scenes footage at how many things were done. Including Saw on Blu-ray is a plus for those who don’t own the previous films, but chances are if you are interested in the sixth film than you have already seen the previous ones. Overall I am pleased by the extras, they are informative and fun. 7/10.

The Movie
Saw VI, the sixth film in a series that seems to keep going and going and going. Thanks to one of the audio commentaries, we become informed that there are at least three more films planned, with mention of a shocking twist in the ninth movie.

I’ve been a big fan of the Saw series, despite the franchise going and going, the quality has stayed surprisingly solid all things considered. When films are given so many sequels, usually by now we would have experienced a few awful sequels.

The Saw series did hit a low point with its fourth film, but the quality has since become better and better, which is now to number six. The sixth film is definitely among the best in the series, easily competing with the quality of the first few films.

To those who are new to the Saw series, you may consider picking this release up as it does include the original film. You can start with the original and decide if it’s a series you want to continue. For those new to the series you could also start with this latest movie, a lot of it will not make sense, but as a standalone movie it’s quite solid and easy to understand overall.

The Saw series is known for bringing the gore, and this one is just as strong as any other. This movie is definitely not for those who get nauseous by the sight of blood or excruciating pain. Gory films always make me feel a bit sick to my stomach, but at the same time I can never take my eyes off the screen.

The one complaint I do have is the acting at times was a bit weak, but it’s definitely far from the worst I have seen, particularly among horror films. The story is a very solid continuation in the series, and despite this many sequels, I find myself excited for the next film in the series.

To those who have given up on Saw by now, mostly thanks to the fourth film, I definitely think the series is worth continuing as you may find yourself surprised by the redeeming quality of this film. Saw is not nor has ever been Oscar worthy material, but I’m fine with that. . I definitely enjoyed Saw VI; it’s everything a Saw film should be. It’s sick, it’s tense, and it’s a good time! 8/10.

Blu-news Summary
The Blu-ray release is great, featuring a solid video presentation and demo-worthy audio track. Extras are a bit bland, but I appreciate what is included. Overall Saw VI on Blu-ray is ‘Highly Recommended’ to fans and ‘Worth A Look’ to all others.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Invention of Lying Blu-ray Review

Disc Size: 16.3 GB
Film Size: 13.7 GB
Film Rating: PG-13
Region: ABC

The Video
The Invention of Lying comes to Blu-ray with a 1080p VC-1 video presentation. The movie looks good in high-definition, but never impresses. Yes, it’s sharper and clearer than the DVD, but detail is not particularly strong.

Many scenes feel a bit oversharpened, making me believe that at least light edge enhancement is present. I also thought the movie lacked any depth and it really feels flat and two-dimensional at times.

Luckily, DNR does not appear to be an issue with this release, yes detail is weak, but not due to Digital Noise Reduction. Grain is always present, although the intensity varies from scene to scene.

The film’s encode size bothers me a bit, yes the movie looks good, but I wonder how much better it could look if at all if provided with a bigger encode. Regardless I was pleased by the Blu-ray and it does feature many positives.

I thought colors for the most part were good; it’s definitely a fairly colorful film that is presented nicely. The colors are usually quite rich but never look oversaturated or pushed. While I didn’t think detail was always the best, there are some moments were detail really does shine.

Despite the issues I had with the transfer, not once did I feel like I was watching the DVD release of the film. The Blu-ray easily defeats the DVD in every aspect, and anyone looking to own the film must pick up the Blu-ray as there is a clear improvement from DVD. 7/10.

The Audio
A 5.1 Dolby TrueHD audio track is included and is fairly fitting. The movie is a romantic comedy so I was not expecting to be dazzled with this one. It’s just one of those tracks where the quality is nice, but there’s no way you can score a perfect 10 when it just does not compare to the best audio tracks out there.

Dialogue is the highlight of the film and to no surprise is presented as clear and crisp as can be from beginning to end. The film’s effects are generally front heavy, but at the same time were well placed. The film’s score is light but effective, presented clearly from the front left and right speakers.

The track is great at presenting everything thrown at it, but it’s not a demo material track. It’s never going to be demo material unless you completely change the film. This track is satisfying and definitely sounds as good as it will ever sound, just set your expectations appropriately. 7/10.

The Extras

Prequel: The Dawn of Lying (6:31) (SD)
A dull ‘prequel’ to the Invention of Lying, featuring cavemen.

Meet Karl Pilkington (17:48) (SD)
Ricky’s best friend and co-host of The Ricky Gervais Show travels to Boston to be an extra.

A Truly “Honest” Making-of Featurette with Ricky Gervais (7:17) (HD)
A making of featurette featuring a great amount of behind-the-scenes footage and interviews, it is also quite humorous.

Additional Scenes (7:12) (SD)
Five additional scenes are included and are presented in standard-definition.

Ricky and Matt’s Video Podcasts (10:00) (SD)
Ricky at Home in Boston
Office Scouting
What’s in the Local News
Jake Attack

More Laughter: Corpsing and Outtakes (5:34) (SD)
A very enjoyable gag reel.

Digital Copy
Compatible with iTunes and Windows Media.

It was a bit underwhelming that all the extras except for one are in standard-definition. There was definitely room on the disc to provide many more of these features in high-definition. I can understand the podcasts being in standard-definition, but the additional scenes definitely needed could have in high-definition. 6/10.

The Movie
I was very excited to see The Invention of Lying, I mean it comes from the fantastic comedian that is Ricky Gervais. If you have not seen Gervais in the UK version of The Office or Ghost Town, I definitely recommend you do so. Gervais is very funny and he’s not the typical person you may imagine being put in as the male lead in romantic comedies such as Ghost Town and even this film.

This Blu-ray release was my first opportunity to see the film, so my expectations were fairly high based on previous work. Does the film deliver? For the most part, I believe it does. The movie is about a world where nobody can tell a lie, it just doesn’t exist. People are honest with how they feel, how they see one another.

Now let’s bring Mark (Gervais) into the picture, a fat man with a stubby nose as many would describe him. He’s really having his share of bad luck and things go from bad to worse when it’s time to pay his rent after losing his job. He goes to the bank to take out all the money from his account in order to hire a moving truck to help him take all his things out of his apartment.

Once at the bank he is told that the computers are down but that they would still get him his money. Mark only has $300 in his account, but in a perfect world he would have $800 to pay his monthly rent. With the computers down, something begins to stir in Mark’s head, the idea of saying he had $800 as no one would be able to know if that is correct or not.

After he claims that he has $800 in his account, the computer s all begin to work just fine again. The woman beings to check his account and sees he only has $300 in his account, she instantly claims that there must be some mistake and hands him his $800.

That’s where The Invention of Lying truly takes off. Mark begins to use his newly discovered ability to his advantage; turning his bad luck completely around. Little does he realize that those little lies will soon have big affect on his world.

The movie isn’t just about the invention of lying; it’s also about really seeing people and not just judging someone by their appearance. It’s about looking past the hurtful things and looking at the positive things in everyone and everything.

The film also stars the likable Jennifer Garner, Rob Lowe, Louis C.K., and Tina Fey in a comedy that is very easy to enjoy. At the beginning I was not quite sure what to expect as it starts off a bit odd, but you will quickly be thrown into this alternate reality and may find yourself surprised. The humor is great and I find the ending very satisfying. 8/10.

Blu-news Summary
The Blu-ray release is a bit average, featuring a decent video and audio presentation. Extras are a bit bland but the making-of featurette is enjoyable. Overall The Invention of Lying on Blu-ray is ‘Recommended.

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Michael Jackson's This Is It Blu-ray Review

Disc Size: 39.4 GB
Film Size: 23.3 GB
Film Rating: PG
Region: A

Michael Jackson’s This Is It comes to Blu-ray with a 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 video presentation. This Is It was put together with many different sources of footage, the majority from high-def cameras but also a lot from low-end standard definition cameras.

High-def moments take up the entire screen, while standard-def moments are letterboxed typically in the very center of the screen, and the quality difference is extremely drastic. I watched the film on a high-def projector setup and I thought it was a great idea that they letterboxed the standard-def footage as the quality definitely is lacking.

The high-def moments are always beautiful and easy to appreciate, especially when they are mixed with the standard-def moments. Don’t be worried, the transitions between high-def and standard-def are not annoying, it’s all well placed and it actually makes you appreciate being able to see the movie in high-definition that much more.

Detail is never super sharp but the upgrade in clarity is, everything pops and features a great amount of depth. At times we can get a good sense of fine details, particularly textures of clothing and sets, but never the quality to be able to notice skin blemishes and count hairs.

Colors on the high-def release are rich, vibrant and pop whenever they are given the opportunity to. Black levels are also extremely satisfying, there was never a moment where they fell apart or suffered. This Is It is a high-def treat, it’s not the very best high-def footage, but we are talking rehearsal footage here.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has provided a top notch encode that will impress any viewer. The limitations come with the source and not the Blu-ray transfer. If you want to watch Michael Jackson’s This Is It in the best quality available, this is it. 9/10.

A 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is included for Michael Jackson’s This Is It and sounds very good. I have to say I wasn’t completely sure what to expect audio-wise, as Michael did not always use his full vocal ability for these rehearsals, which is to be expected.

What I can say is that this track is actually quite aggressive and satisfying, but mind-blowing would be a bit of an exaggeration. Everything is presented about as clear as one could expect, the most impressive thing about the mix is the clarity of the music itself. Dialogue is also generally very clear and features that upgrade in quality that is always expected with lossless audio.

The mix is also quite exciting, the mix is definitely more front-heavy, but the effects in the music are well-placed and it really makes the presentation come alive. The mix will never knock you out of your seat, but for rehearsal footage, I could not have expected much better to be honest.

Had this been actual full-fledged performances, I definitely would have been disappointed at times by the mix. It’s not the amazing quality that we come to expect with the typical concert Blu-ray release as the source itself is just not up to that level unfortunately.

To be honest though, I can’t imagine This Is It sounding much better unless they expand surround sound use a bit more. Aside from a few minor issues it doesn’t get any better as far as clarity and power goes. I’m definitely pleased and quite impressed and I’m sure you will be as well. 9/10.


MovieIQ (In-Movie BD-Live)
If you have a BD-Live enabled/connected Blu-ray player, you can play the movie with MovieIQ, which includes the “This Is It” playlist.

Thriller Vignette with 5.1 Audio (3:52) (HD)
This was to be shown on the giant LCD screen as a prelude to the live performance. This is presented with a 5.1 Dolby Digital audio track.

Smooth Criminal Vignette with 5.1 Audio (3:57) (HD)
This was to be shown on the giant LCD screen before the live performance of “Smooth Criminal.” This is presented with a 5.1 Dolby Digital audio track.

Making Smooth Criminal (11:09) (HD)
The crew talks about how they all got involved in the making of “Smooth Criminal.” Kenny Ortega talks about Michael’s idea to refresh Smooth Criminal but still be true to the original. I absolutely loved this featurette, providing lots of behind-the-scenes footage.

Staging the Return (40:47) (HD)
‘The Adventure Begins’ and ‘Beyond the Show.’ The crew talks about Michael Jackson’s return to performing. This is an extremely extensive behind-the-scenes look at Michael’s return, the stories are absolutely great and any fan will love this.

The Gloved One (15:14) (HD)
Costume Designer Zaldy talks about creating costumes for Michael Jackson’s tour specifically for Michael. He shows off sketches and prototype and final versions of costumes planned.

Memories of Michael (16:20) (HD)
The crew remembers Michael Jackson in a very touching feature. They all share their stories meeting and working with him.

Auditions: Searching For the World’s Best Dancers (9:50) (HD)
Get a deeper look at the dance audition process, everyone there is extremely talented, see how they narrowed it down to such a small number. This is a very cool feature, with a few notable faces from previous Kenny Ortega productions such as High School Musical 1-3.

Theatrical Trailer (2:32) (HD)

Previews (HD)

BD-Live Portal (Currently unavailable)
Download the latest trailers for upcoming Sony Pictures theatrical and Blu-ray releases.

Extras on this release are very satisfying, there is definitely plenty to see, and it's all presented in beautiful high-definition. I loved the featurettes, they are all very informative and feature a great amount of behind-the-scenes footage. 8.5/10.

Blu-news Summary
The past year was a shocking one; we lost one of the greatest performers of all time, the one and only Michael Jackson. The man was an icon to those all around the world, his music inspired and touched so many, and still does to this very day.

I understand not everyone likes Michael Jackson, but there is no denying his impact. Michael Jackson has had his extreme share of bad publicity the last 15 years of his life, but we was planning a major return to music and performing with This Is It.

This Is It was a series of planned sold-out concerts at London’s O2 Arena. Everyone was anxious to see if those concerts would actually happen, many doubting and many with strong excitement. Unfortunately Michael Jackson did not end up performing there as his life came to a shocking end on June 25th, 2009.

Michael Jackson’s This Is It went from a series of planned concerts to a rehearsal concert film directed by choreographer Kenny Ortega. Having worked with Kenny Ortega two years ago, I definitely got to see what a perfectionist he is. He likes to get things done, but he’s never rude or gets upset. He’s just filled with such great energy and positive vibes, it’s no surprise he would become choreographer for This Is It.

This Is It is features footage shot from April to June 2009, really documenting everything about production of the concert. This Is It is not just about the performances, it’s everything that went on behind-the-scenes.

There were new vignettes shot specifically for This Is It, including Thriller and Smooth Criminal. We see how everything was filmed and how they shot the 3D Thriller. We see the dancers in the casting process, we see technical issues that arise, and we really get to see just how much Michael Jackson was involved.

Michael was there for everything; whether it be casting or filming sequences that did not even feature him directly. He wanted a say in every creative process, he had a clear vision for everything and he wanted everything done a certain way. It was clear from beginning to end he was putting his all into these planned concerts.

We also get to see the final performances from the King of Pop. Whether you are a fan or not, you have to admit the man has such a talent when it comes to performing. His music and dancing make you want to dance and sing-along with him. We get to see him in many stages of rehearsal, whether it is casual or dress rehearsals.

It’s almost insane to think that a man of his age still has so much energy. His dancing is still so great and his movements are quick and smooth. His vocals are also quite impressive, featuring great range and everything looks like it still comes natural to him.

This film is beautiful in every way and will leave any Michael Jackson fan in awe. This Is It really does a great job at showing so many levels of production and we get a better realization at what a talent Michael Jackson was.

Michael Jackson may be dead, but his legend will never be dead. He’s left such an impact on this Earth with his music and his message. If a Michael Jackson song comes on, I always have to listen to it, it just shows how great his music holds up and will hold up for future generations. If there is anything that could bring peace on Earth, it’s Michael Jackson’s music. I loved Michael Jackson's This Is It theatrically and I love it even more on Blu-ray. 10/10.

The Blu-ray release is great, featuring strong video and audio presentations. Extras are also very satisfying and actually quite extensive. The Blu-ray release is a ‘Must Own’ for any Michael Jackson fan and ‘Highly Recommended' to all others.

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