Friday, February 26, 2010

Ponyo Blu-ray Review

Film Rating: G
Runtime: 103 minutes
Region: ABC
The Video
Ponyo debuts on Blu-ray with a 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 video presentation. There are no technical issues to be found with the animation or the transfer itself, something that is very nice to see. Some may claim to see banding during certain moments in the sky, but the bigger the screen the more you realize it is the animation itself and not a technical issue.

It is no surprise that the animation lends itself well to high-definition. The colors are rich and beautiful and the black outlines are solid and without a flaw. Everything about the presentation just looks dazzling. The little details in the animation are a nice touch and add to the overall high-def look.

I watched this high-def release on a 1080p projector which made for a very impressive experience. Everything about this Blu-ray release just pops and ranks among the best Blu-ray releases on the format. Those who don’t believe that an animated release like Ponyo won’t benefit much from a Blu-ray release will soon believe otherwise.

The DVD copy included does look very good as well upconverted, which is expected. But there is a great amount of upgrade that comes with the Blu-ray version that makes it very hard for even average consumers to not see the difference.

Ponyo is a thing of beauty, the animation itself is very strong which adds so much more to the presentation than just a solid encode. The combination of a Studio Ghibli film and Blu-ray is a match made in Heaven. Fans as well as those new to the film will be dazzled from beginning to end by this high-def release. 10/10.

The Audio
An English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is included, which of course is a dub featuring many U.S. celebrities as vocals. Unfortunately the original Japanese audio track is included with only a 5.1 lossy Dolby Digital audio track.

While I am glad the Japanese track is included, it’s a shame it was not presented with lossless audio. The differences in quality can be quite drastic and in this case the English lossless track is of clear superior quality when comparing the two.

I definitely hope Disney includes original lossless mixes for upcoming Studio Ghibli releases, but to be honest I enjoy the dubs that Disney provides for U.S. release. The all-star cast is quite impressive with Ponyo and they all add a nice touch to the movie.

The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is stunning in every aspect. Surround use is magnificent and features fantastic direction. The sound effects make great use of your entire surround setup and are always crisp and clear. The storm scenes could have had a bit more impact, but that is a minor complaint. The film’s dialogue is front focused as expected but is always easy to understand and the clarity is beautiful.

The film’s music also manages to make a strong surround use and can be quiet and soothing as well as loud and aggressive. The mixing team definitely provided a fantastic mix that will dazzle all viewers. The lossy Dolby Digital track is also quite good being an animated film, but definitely lacks the overall pop that comes with a lossless track.

While the English mix is perfectly mixed, I can’t give the audio a higher score due to the original language getting the lossless shaft. Hopefully this is not an issue with future U.S. Studio Ghibli releases as the audio gets a clear boost from DTS-HD Master Audio. 8.5/10.

The Extras

Disc 1:

Disc Introduction – Meet Ponyo (3:22) (HD)
This is a short introduction which talks about Miyazaki as well as Ponyo specifically.

Original Japanese Storyboards PiP Video Track
This is a Picture-in-Picture video track which allows you to watch the film with the original storyboards on the upper right corner of the screen.

A Conversation (3:33) (HD)
With Hayao Myazaki & John Lasseter.

Creating Ponyo (3:58) (HD)
Hayao Miyazaki talks about his inspiration for the film Ponyo.

Ponyo & Fujimoto (2:59) (HD)
This is a feature all about the name ‘Ponyo’ and the inspiration for the father character.

The Nursery (2:00) (HD)
Producer Toshio Suzuki talks about the nursery setting for the film as well as creating a real Studio Ghibli nursery.

Producer’s Perspective: Telling The Story (2:28) (HD)
Producer Toshio Suzuki talks about Miyazaki’s storyboard method.

The Locations of Ponyo (9:35) (HD)
This is an excerpt from ‘The Scenery in Ghibli,’ a Japanese documentary.

Scoring Miyazaki (7:19) (HD)
This is a feature with composer Joe Hisaishi, the man who composes all the music in Miyazaki’s films.

Original Japanese Trailers (3:22) (HD)
Two Japanese trailers are included and presented in high-definition.

Behind The Microphone: The Voices of Ponyo (6:04) (HD)
See the all-star cast behind the English dub of Ponyo.

Enter the Lands (HD)
Learn about other Miyazaki films through an interactive map.

Other Ghibli Worlds Preview (HD)
My Neighbor Totoro: Creating My Neighbor Totoro
Kiki’s Delivery Service: Creating Kiki’s Delivery Service
Castle in The Sky: Character Sketches

Disney BD-Live Network
If you are using a BD-Live enabled player, connect to view the latest Disney trailers in both SD and HD viewing options.

Disc 2:

DVD Copy of the film.

The back of the case does not make it look like many special features are included, but there are definitely many to be seen. I love that everything is presented in high-definition and looks great. The main features are very informative and we get a very informative look at the production of Ponyo.

Each feature is fairly short but pack quite the punch. The bonus features are very good for a debut release on home video. The Included DVD is both a smart and appreciated addition, hopefully more families will begin to learn about the Blu-ray/DVD Combo packs when making purchasing decisions. 9/10.

The Movie
Ponyo is the latest film from Studio Ghibli, the same studio which has brought us many classics such as Spirit Away and more. Disney has a deal with Studio Ghibli in which they release their titles in the U.S. theatrically and on home video.

In a smart move to avoid alienating family audiences with children, Disney got an all-star cast to dub the film and provide the film with an English audio track as if it were originally produced this way. Unlike many dubs, I do commend Disney for the good job they do on these animated titles.

The film is a fairy-tale aimed at younger audiences, but easily appeals to audiences of all ages. The movie is about a young boy named Sosuke who rescues a goldfish who he calls Ponyo. Ponyo begins to form a connection with the boy and wants to be a human just like him.

Ponyo’s father is a sorcerer who wants her to stay as she is. Ponyo being unhappy manages to escape and heads towards land but accidentally releases her father’s magical Water of Life which begins to have negative effects on the world they all know.

The film is definitely not as dark as some previous Miyazaki films, but this is definitely refreshing and something I welcome into my collection with open arms. The animation and characters are all very charming and the film has some great replay value.

While I did not love it as much as I love Spirited Away, it definitely ranks high among previous Miyazaki films. Miyazaki is magical to be honest, he has that magic touch and everything he creates becomes memorable to audiences all over the world. Ponyo is definitely one of his most kid-friendly productions yet, but Miyazaki still manages to make it extremely enjoyable for adults of all ages as well. 9/10.

The Blu-news Summary
Ponyo on Blu-ray is magical. The video presentation is just stunning, the lossless audio is strong and there are many great bonus features. The Blu-ray release is a ‘Must Own’ for fans and ‘Highly Recommended’ to all others.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths Blu-ray Review

Disc Size: 19.2 GB
Film Size: 9.30 GB
Film Rating: PG-13
Region: ABC
The Video
Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths comes to Blu-ray with a 1080p VC-1 video presentation. Right from beginning we get that typical beautiful high-definition look, everything just pops and looks very natural. That being said, the encode size of the film did bug me quite a bit and this time around the presentation did have some negative effects due to size.

Generally the animation held strong, featuring rich vibrant colors and sharp black outlines. At times though there are some noticeable moments of colors crushing and pixilation. I’m not sure if the DVD also has this issue but it could have definitely been avoided.

Regardless I am sure this is definitely an improvement over a DVD; there is just no confusing it with standard definition. The animation style is fairly simple, but there is still a lot to love about it in high-definition. Overall the encode issues do bug me, this is not different from previous WB animated releases, but previous efforts were less problematic with results.

The issue is not something big enough to consider the product defect; it just is annoying when the issue does happen from time to time. Those on the fence between DVD and Blu-ray should still get the high-def release as the film definitely benefits. 7/10.

The Audio
A 5.1 Dolby Digital audio track is included for this release. Yes you read that right, Dolby Digital lossy audio. This is very annoying as most recent DCU animated releases (aside from the last one) all came with Dolby TrueHD lossless audio.

Anyway, you can’t change what’s done. I went with the track without any bias, its annoying yes, but Dolby Digital can still be somewhat good at times. Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths is an action filled film and the mix is decent for the most part.

Dialogue is presented front and center and is easy to understand, it helps that it is an animated film. Surround use is there although hardly as immersive as I would have hoped. The effects were good but lacked that added kick that comes with a lossless track.

There is nothing very wrong about the track, it definitely sounds weaker than a lossless track, but that is to be expected. The film is presented with a decent Dolby Digital track; just don’t go in expecting to be very impressed. 5/10.

The Extras

DC Showcase – The Spectre (11:51) (HD)
A brand-new animated short featuring The Spectre.

Bonus Episodes (1:30:59) (SD)
A Better World, Part 1
A Better World, Part 2
Twilight, Part 1
Twilight, Part 2

DCU Live-Action Pilots (113:52) (SD)
Wonder Woman

DCU: The New World (33:14) (SD)
A half hour feature regarding the changes in what it means to be a superhero.

A First Look at Batman: Under the Red Hood (13:47) (SD)
This is a preview of the next DCU animated movie.

A First Look at Green Lantern: First Flight (10:12) (SD)
Maybe a first look for some of you, but it has been on Blu-ray for quite some time.

A First Look at Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (7:50) (SD)
Also available on Blu-ray.

Wonder Woman: The Amazon Princess (10:26) (SD)
This is a promotional piece for the animated Wonder Woman film, which is also available on Blu-ray.

Digital Copy
Compatible with Windows Media only.

I wasn’t very impressed by a few of the bonus features, especially since a lot of it is just promotion for other Blu-ray releases. The bonus episodes are a nice addition, but ‘The Spectre’ short is definitely the most welcome thing included and is in high-definition. ‘The Spectre’ short may be short, but it packs quite the punch and is definitely worth watching. 5/10.

The Movie
Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths is just the latest DCU animated release and is actually very solid. The film is written by Dwayne McDuffie and I think he did a fantastic job and definitely exceeded the past few releases quality-wise.

The film like previous films features a PG-13 rating, which does allow the story to be somewhat darker and a bit more violent. The story itself is definitely on the darker side but at the same time always feels slightly held back story-wise as if it still wants to target to even the younger superhero audiences.

The film includes all of the Justice League, with some characters having much bigger parts than others, although some just feel a bit thrown in just to be included. The voice talent behind the characters is also quite good and I do like the slight redesign of some of the characters.

The story is mostly about the Justice League discovering their evil counterparts in a battle of good vs. evil. So the theme may not be extremely original, but the writing and the animation definitely help give it an edge.

This is definitely one of the stronger animated superhero films that I have seen and I definitely enjoyed it much more than I expected. Fans of previous DCU animated films such as Wonder Woman, The Green Lantern and others should definitely find some quality entertainment from this film.

If you are not a fan of previous DCU animated titles, I don’t think this film will exactly change your mind. I have never considered myself a big fan, but I do enjoy them. Comparing this to previous efforts, this one is definitely very solid in my book. 8/10.

The Blu-news Summary
The Blu-ray release is slightly problematic with Blu-ray encode issues and lossy audio. Despite the issues this is clearly an improvement from DVD; the film looks extremely good in high-definition despite the few issues. The extras on this release are a bit bland, but ‘The Spectre’ short adds a surprisingly good added value. Overall this release is ‘Recommended’ to fans and ‘Worth a Look’ to all others.

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Grumpy Old Men/Grumpier Old Men Blu-ray Review

Disc Size: 38.1 GB
Grumpy Old Men Film Size: 19.6 GB
Grumpier Old Men Film Size: 18.3 GB
Film Ratings: PG-13
Region: ABC
The Video
Both Grumpy Old Men and Grumpier Old Men come to Blu-ray with 1080p VC-1 video presentations. Grumpy Old Men is available on Blu-ray as a standalone release which I had the opportunity to review last year, a slightly bigger encode is provided for this release, so slight that there are no differences to be found.

Last year I found the results of Grumpy Old Men in high-definition to be a mixed bag. The film starts off looking quite rough with dirt and specks and some very soft scenes. As we progress the transfer gets significantly more impressive and scenes actually feature a pleasant amount of detail.

I would not always describe the colors as rich or vibrant but are certainly improved from the DVD versions. Another big upgrade with the high-def release is that we are finally getting both movies in their original aspect ratio, with widescreen presentations for both movies.

The results of Grumpier Old Men are also quite pleasing. The film does have some rough moments like Grumpy Old Men and looks a bit muddy from time to time, but is overall a good upgrade from the standard DVD release.

The movies have always been on the softer side so it isn’t really a surprise that the Blu-ray release is also quite soft. The video presentations may not be particularly impressive, but are about as good as one could expect without a proper cleanup in the future. The proper aspect ratio of both films is reason enough for fans to upgrade to this high-def release. 7/10.

The Audio
A 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio track is included for Grumpy Old Men while Grumpier Old Men includes a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. Neither track will knock your socks off at all, but luckily Warner Bros. has provided a lossless track for each.

Both mixes are extremely front heavy with most noises coming from the center speaker, about as crisp and clear as one could expect from these films. The fact that the films are so front-heavy do make both mixes sound quite dated, but they were never meant to be surround sound experiences so it’s fine.

Nobody will be impressed by the quality of these films, but I really didn’t expect much out of either track to be honest. The quality of both tracks is about as good as I can ever imagine them sounding. Surround use really is not necessary for either film. 7/10.

The Extras
There no extras to be found on this release unfortunately, a sacrifice that is not necessary but is done for these double feature releases. The original Blu-ray release of Grumpy Old Men included a standard-definition theatrical trailer, but nothing else. The DVD versions of these movies did not feature any extras either and are presented in fullscreen. Not much of a loss here to be honest. 0/10.

The Movies
Grumpy Old Men and Grumpier Old Men are now available on Blu-ray on one BD50 Blu-ray disc. This is a perfect pair and it’s great to have both films available for one great low price. I’ve always liked both films and it is one of those rare occasions where the sequel is just as enjoyable as the first.

Both films star Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau as ice-fishing pals. Ann-Margaret also stars in both films and is the main target of the original. The sequel adds the very talented and very funny Sophia Loren as the new woman in town who plans to turn the town’s bait shop into a chichi ristorante.

It’s a rare occasion when two actors can have such fantastic comedic chemistry, but Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau have just that. When the two are on-screen together it is impossible not to laugh, they are an absolute riot and add to what would likely be very mediocre films without both of them involved.

Chances are most you reading have already seen both films if not one or the other. I love that both films are included on the same disc as they actually would have been the same size encode-wise had they been released separately.

This is the type of movie where a double features makes perfect sense and if you have time it’s something you will likely watch back to back. The stories of both films are far from special, but the actors involved definitely add a lot making these hard to resist. 8/10.

The Blu-news Summary
Overall I am very satisfied by this Double Feature Blu-ray release. Both films receive proper encodes and satisfying lossless audio tracks. Extras are lacking, but they have always been for these films. A missing standard-definition trailer is not enough for me to care about. Overall this double feature is ‘Recommended.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

2012: 2-Disc Special Edition Blu-ray Review

Disc 1 Size: 38.8 GB
Disc 2 Size: 16.9 GB
Film Size: 35.2 GB
Film Rating: PG-13
Region: ABC
The Video
2012 comes to Blu-ray with a 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 video presentation. The video presentation appears to be of the highest quality, but does not make for a very impressive visual experience. The film looks quite muted overall, colors never feel particularly rich or vibrant. Black levels while solid perhaps could have been a bit inkier at times.

The film’s special effects are breathtaking and are certainly enhanced by this high-def transfer and look truly beautiful in motion. The special effects are not particularly sharp, but about as impressive as one could expect and so much is happening on screen to focus on just one thing.

There are a few scenes in which I was underwhelmed by the black levels and looked very flat. Of course there are not many scenes this way, but they are definitely worth mentioning. Luckily the transfer appears to be of free of any real technical issues and appears to present the intent accurately.

Regardless of the scene, this release will never be one that could be confused with a DVD. Everything is much improved from DVD and fans of the film should go with the Blu-ray release without question. The video presentation may not be among the best, but it all appears to be true to the source and is mostly impressive. 8.5/10.

The Audio
Both English and French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio tracks are included for this release. I of course went with the original English language and was certainly impressed by the results. The film itself is filled with disaster scenes from beginning to end so I figured the audio mix would be something to talk about, and it definitely is.

The mix is extremely aggressive (in a good way) and everything is presented in a very crisp and clear manner. The mix features great direction and the mix pays attention to your entire surround sound setup. This is a very loud track, but dialogue is never overpowered by the aggressive effects.

The mix of course is lucky to have such an active film which allows it to truly impress. There are moments in which bass could have been a bit stronger, but that is a small complaint for a very impressive audio track that could certainly qualify as demo material. 9.5/10.

The Extras

Disc 1:

Connect to real-time information on the cast, music, trivia and more while watching the movie. You must have a BD-Live connected Blu-ray player to use MovieIQ.

Picture-In-Picture: Roland’s Vision
A Picture-in-Picture track is included for this release and is quite enjoyable. I did not watch the entire thing, but from what I saw it is fairly active and features behind-the-scenes footage and interviews that relate to the scene in one way or another.

Audio Commentary
With Writer/Director Roland Emmerich and Co-Writer Harald Kloser.

Alternate Ending (3:39) (HD)
An alternate ending is included, which reveals the survival of one additional character.

Previews (HD)

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

Disc 2:

Interactive Mayan Calendar
This is an interactive feature which includes ‘Mysteries of the Mayan Calendar’ (also included as a standalone feature), ‘Mayan Personality Profile’, ‘Mayan Horoscope’ and ‘Legend.'

Mysteries of the Mayan Calendar (3:53) (HD)
A short featurette which explains the Mayan Calendar and features high-def footage from the Chichen Itza ruins, a place which I had the opportunity to visit several years ago.

Deleted Scenes (4:56) (HD)
Five deleted scenes are included and are presented in high-definition.

Designing the End of the World (26:04) (HD)
Go behind-the-scenes and see how many of the epic disaster scenes in the film were done. This is a very neat featurette that any fan of the film will enjoy.

Roland Emmerich: The Master of the Modern Epic (9:31) (HD)
Cast and crew talk about working with Roland Emmerich, a man known for his share of disaster films.

Science behind the Destruction (13:19) (HD)
This is a pretty self-explanatory feature, which is all about the disasters in the film and the science behind them.

The End of the World: The Actor’s Perspective (7:34) (HD)
This is a feature all about the cast of the film, featuring behind-the-scenes footage and interviews.

Adam Lambert – “Time for Miracles” Music Video (4:19) (HD)
The full video for Adam Lambert’s “Time for Miracles” is included in high-definition.

Making the Music Video “Time for Miracles” (2:43) (HD)
Go behind-the-scenes and see how the music video for Adam Lambert’s “Time for Miracles” was made. Fans of the singer will love this featurette.

Countdown to the Future (22:03) (HD)
This talks about the Mayan Calendar and possibilities of the world actually ending in the year 2012.

Digital Copy
Compatible with the Sony PSP.

Previews (HD)

Disc 3:

Digital Copy
Compatible with iTunes and Windows Media.

The 2-disc special edition really is a 3-disc edition, including an additional disc which features an iTunes and Windows Media compatible Digital Copy. The features on this 2-disc set are quite impressive and Sony made sure to include a pleasing amount of Blu-ray exclusive features to add to the overall value.

The behind-the-scenes footage on a film like this is even more appreciated and something that is very cool to see. Best of all the features are all presented in high-definition, something I am sure we can all appreciate. 8/10.

The Movie
Director Roland Emmerich is known for disaster films so it was only fitting that he take on the year 2012 and turn it into a two and a half hour disaster movie. The 2012 speculation has been growing strong since the year 2000 came and went and we needed another year to worry about. 2012 is of course very interesting as it is based on the Mayan calendar which shows that December 21st, 2012 is the end of a cycle and the beginning of a new one.

2012 focuses on several people and their friends and family. The main focus of the film is on a man named Jackson Curtis (played by John Cusack), father of two who shares custody with his ex-wife and a plastic surgeon in which she is in a relationship with.

The film also stars Chiwetel Ejiofor who plays Dr. Adrian Helmsley who also plays a big part in the film. He is a truly respectable and admirable character in the movie and adds a bit more depth to the film as a whole.

The movie is of course about the year 2012 and the disaster that comes with it. The governments of our world are well aware of the disaster and we see that they have planned for this disaster, but only plan to save a certain amount of humans along with animals in order to rebuild and restart when the disasters begin.

Jackson Curtis and his family are not among those who are set to board the ship once the world disaster begins, but they will not give up without a fight. We follow the entire family as they encounter many of the disasters and cheat death a few times too many.

Dr. Adrian Helmsley on the other hand is secure and is set to board one of the ships. It is not easy for him to hear that the government does not plan to tell the people of the disaster until it is too late for them to try to save themselves somehow.

So did I like this film? Well I can say upon second viewing that I definitely enjoyed it much more this time around. The movie is far from realistic, but the special effects definitely make many things believable and are truly impressive at times.

The movie is extremely fun and you will be dazzled by the footage on-screen at a constant rate. The film is a wild and fun ride from beginning to end and despite its longer runtime, this film is far from boring.

Certain moments are a bit cheesy and you do have to dispense reality for a lot of the movie, but I think that is what is admirable about it. The movie does not take itself too seriously and just makes for an action filled popcorn flick, something I am sure many can appreciate form time to time.

If you disliked previous films such as Day After Tomorrow (which I personally did not like at all) I definitely recommend you give 2012 a chance still. Not everyone will love 2012 or maybe not even like it, but I do think this is a very fun and very thrilling action film that is less preachy than previous disaster movies.

This is the type of movie where you can throw away all sense of reality and still believe everything happening on screen, the special effects on this release are some of the most impressive I have ever seen and they definitely help create a very enjoyable experience on top of a very enjoyable storyline. The film is far from perfect, but I definitely enjoyed it for what it was. 7/10.

The Blu-news Summary
The 2-disc special edition Blu-ray release of 2012 is a fantastic release. The video and audio presentations are very good and there are plenty of bonus features to be seen. 2012 on Blu-ray is a ‘Must Own’ for fans of the film and ‘Worth a Look’ to all others.

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Monday, February 22, 2010

The Box Blu-ray Review

Disc Size: 20.1 GB
Film Size: 17.6 GB
Film Rating: PG-13
Region: ABC
The Video
The Box comes to Blu-ray with a 1080p VC-1 video presentation. The film has a very distinct look to it, always featuring a soft glow from beginning to end. Past the glow, the film features a pleasing level of clarity and detail.

I don’t particularly love the look of the film and it doesn’t help create a stunning visual presentation, but at least it gives it a look to be remembered. The movie definitely has an authentic aged look to it and you can tell it’s all intentional.

The Blu-ray release is not particularly impressive because of this, but at least presents the Director’s intention accurately and improves upon the included DVD. Colors on this release are usually very strong and black levels are definitely satisfying.

I was thinking of rating the video presentation slightly lower than what I have listed now, but I can’t knock a video presentation due to intention. There were no technical issues which I found with the high-def transfer and it will certainly satisfy most if not all viewers. 8/10.

The Audio
A 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is included and is quite average to be honest. I definitely expected more from the thriller and it ultimately fails to deliver. The mix is not particularly immersive and at times tends to sound a bit dull and flat.

The audio is improved from the DVD which makes me think perhaps dialogue was not captured as clearly as it could have been. Regardless, there is upgrade to be had when you compare the mix from the Blu-ray and included DVD.

The film features some good surround use from time to time, adding a sense of environment, but those moments are few and far between. The film’s music is aggressive in a good way and comes through clearly from the front left and right surrounds speakers.

Overall I do think the mix could have been at least a bit better. Dialogue was generally easy to understand, but suffered a little during more aggressive scenes. Regardless, I think fans will be pleased by this lossless audio mix. 7/10.

The Extras

Disc 1:
Audio Commentary
By Director Richard Kelly.
The Box: Grounded in Reality (10:43) (HD)
Director Richard Kelly talks about contacting Richard Matheson (writer of the short story) about turning the short story into a film. We get a lot of behind-the-scenes footage included and it’s all in high-definition.
Richard Matheson: In His Own Words (4:54) (HD)
Writer Richard Matherson talks about when he began writing and what launched his writing career. This is a very informative and nice feature to be included.
Visual Effects Revealed (3:55) (HD)
Visual Effects Editor Dylan Highsmith talks about some specific special effects in the film, fans of the visual effects will definitely enjoy this behind-the-scenes look.
Music Video Prequels (9:14) (HD)
Includes ‘Exhibit A’, ‘Exhibit B’ and ‘Exhibit C.’

Disc 2:
DVD Copy of the film
Warner Bros. plans to bring all new release films with a DVD copy included, The Box is one of the first to be packaged as a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack.
Digital Copy of the film.
Also included on disc 2 is a Digital Copy, which is compatible with iTunes and Windows Media. The Digital Copy expires on February 22nd, 2011.

There are not many extras on this release, but I loved what was included. I loved the featurette which features Richard Matheson and the behind-the-scenes look of production is just great. The inclusion of a DVD and Digital Copy of the film is a very welcome addition and something I hope more studios begin to embrace. The Blu-ray release really is the ultimate value in all aspects for those looking to purchase this film for their collection. 7/10.

The Movie
The Box has always interested me since the very first theatrical trailer was released; learning that it was from Richard Kelly (Director of Donnie Darko) had me even more intrigued. The film received a fairly negative response from critics upon its theatrical release, one reviewer I remember calling the movie ‘laughable.’

Regardless of critic reviews, I went into the film with an open mind but set my expectations at an average level. The film starts and I am immediately thrown out of the film, I have no problem with Cameron Diaz in most film, but her attempt of an accent in this film was a bit ridiculous and unbelievable.

The movie does leave you interested from beginning to end and I never found myself bored. I do think the film is significantly stronger during the first half than it is during the latter though.

The film starts off in December, a little before six in the morning. We are at the home of a married couple played by Cameron Diaz and James Marsden. They are asleep but are awaken by their doorbell ringing, only to find a car driving away and a box unattended at their doorstep.

The box is very simple, featuring only a red button in the center. Included with the box is a letter stating that they would receive a call at 5:00 PM. At 5:00 PM a man comes to the home, missing half of his face and asking to come in. He explains that the box features a button, which if pressed will have two things happen.

If the button is pressed, the first thing to happen is someone in the world, someone they do not know will die. The second thing to happen is they will receive a cash payment of one million dollars. The money becomes all the more tempting when they both learn of very disappointing news at both of their jobs. They have 24 hours to press the button and earn the money or else he will come back and offer the reward to another couple.

So do they press the box or don’t they? Are there consequences for pressing the button or not pressing the button? That is where the film really begins to dig deeper and where I will stop talking about the story for those who would like to avoid spoilers.

The movie is a bit strange, in typical Richard Kelly style, but I did not find it as bad as many originally said. Sure there are some dumb moments, but overall I think this is a very interesting and intriguing film that is at least worth a rental and your time.

Richard Kelly is a Director that not everyone loves; his films are definitely on the stranger side and are not always well received. I personally am a big fan of Donnie Darko, but at the same time I absolutely hated Southland Tales. This film has some great and effective moments, but overall is still very far from a great film.

I think it is a satisfying thriller, but I do wish some things particularly towards the end where changed for the better. Overall I think the movie is quite average, but at least it’s entertaining from beginning to end. 6/10.

The Blu-news Summary
The Box is a decent thriller, but not one that many will love. The Blu-ray release is fairly good, featuring nice detail and a good audio mix. Extras on this release are also quite satisfying. The Blu-ray release is ‘Recommend’ to fans and ‘Worth A Look’ to all others.

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Miss Congeniality/Miss Congeniality 2 Blu-ray Review

Disc Size: 37.3 GB
Miss Congeniality Film Size: 18.3 GB
Miss Congeniality 2 Film Size: 18.8 GB
Film Ratings: PG-13
Region: ABC

The Video
Miss Congeniality and Miss Congeniality 2 come to Blu-ray with 1080p VC-1 video presentations. Both films feature slightly lower bitrates, but this is something that is common among all Warner Bros. Blu-ray releases.

For the most part, both films look very good in high-definition. There are certain scenes which did appear a bit waxy, but for the most part featured good depth and clarity. Both films look significantly better than their original DVD releases.

Colors were generally very vibrant and improved from the muddy DVDs, black levels in particular stayed inky and deep throughout. The waxy moments do make me question if DNR was applied at least during certain scenes, but if it was I am not too upset as the issue is relatively minor.

Both films can look a bit dated at times, but you have to remember the first film is now 10 years old and the sequel is now 5 years old. On the other hand there are many scenes which look brand new and feature an impressive amount of depth. If you set your expectations accordingly, you should be very satisfied and pleased by the high-def results. 8/10.

The Audio
Both films include 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio tracks. The quality of both tracks is actually very good. I could not remember how active the audio experiences were on DVD, but a quick comparison featured a significant upgrade in overall quality and clarity.

Dialogue in particular feels much more crisp and clear than the DVDs do and is never difficult to understand. Both mixes also feature a strong amount of surround sound use and feature impressive direction.

There were certain music moments which felt a bit more front-heavy than I had hoped, but are still very good overall. Considering both films are comedies, I didn’t expect too much out of either track. I find myself very satisfied by the quality of both tracks.

Neither mix is demo material whatsoever, but it’s certainly the best the films have ever sounded or will ever sound for that matter. The mixes are about as active as one can expect, and most importantly there is upgrade to be heard by both. 8/10.

The Extras
There no extras to be found on this release unfortunately, a sacrifice that is not necessary but is done for these double feature releases. Not that either had particularly impressive features, but it still is a major bummer to not see them included.

Frankly I don’t see either film getting another Blu-ray release in the future, so I would not recommend waiting for a re-release. For a limited time a slip cover is included with this double feature and of course the other WB double feature releases as well. 0/10.

The Movies
I was excited to see Miss Congeniality receive a Blu-ray release as I’ve always found it to be very entertaining and humorous. The sequel is one which I remember seeing, but completely forgot about. It was great to revisit both films in high-definition and memories quickly come back.

I’ve always found Sandra Bullock to be a very strong actress, yes she’s not known for very many dramas or award-worthy performances, but she is very likable. This past year she did a marvelous performance in ‘The Blindside’, which I very much enjoyed. This past year she also did ‘All about Steve’, which was among the worst reviewed films of the year. She’s literally up for best actress and worst actress this year.

Both Miss Congeniality and its sequel are not films that are meant to be taken seriously at all. The stories of both are far from realistic or thrilling; they are both comedies which are enjoyable for the most part. I have no problem admitting my love for certain chick-flicks and Miss Congeniality is one of them.

I really enjoyed watching Miss Congeniality again. Sandra Bullock is perfectly cast as FBI agent Gracie Hart who poses as a beauty contestant to unmask a criminal at the Miss United States pageant. Co-starring with her are Michael Caine, Benjamin Bratt, William Shatner and Candice Bergen.

The sequel was inevitable after the success of the first film, but revisiting the film reminded me why I forgot all about it. The sequel includes the return of Sandra Bullock as Gracie Hart, as well as the addition of actress Regina King.

The sequel really is disappointing in comparison, featuring some very pointless and goofy scenes that try to be funny but ultimately fall flat. The sequel does relate to the original story-wise, but perhaps it is one story that didn’t really need to be continued.

I don’t think the film is absolutely terrible, but I don’t like it anywhere as much as I do Miss Congeniality. The sequel is very weak and really does give sequels a bad name. It definitely feels much more like a cash-in than anything.

If you enjoyed the first movie you may find yourself liking the sequel, but ultimately I don’t think anyone prefers the sequel in this case. ‘Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous’ definitely knocks this double feature score down quite a bit. 6.5/10.

The Blu-news Summary
Both films on one BD-50 for one great low price is something that is hard not to recommend. The lack of extras on these double features is disappointing, but ultimately something I can live with. Both high-def encodes on this release are quite healthy though. The Miss Congeniality Double Feature is ‘Recommended’ to fans and ‘Worth A Look’ to all others.

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