Thursday, August 25, 2011

Upcoming Blu-ray releases: August 28 - September 1



US Blu-ray releases

August 30

The 5th Quarter
The 10th Victim
All About Eve
Angie
The Ant Bully
Batman
Bereavement
BKO: Bangkok Knockout
Blood Simple
Boys
The Brave One
Carmen
The Cemetery Club
Children of the Corn: Genesis

The Coen Brothers Collection:
Blood Simple / Miller’s Crossing / Raising Arizona / Fargo

The Complete Jean Vigo (Criterion Collection):
À propos de Nice / Taris / Zéro de conduite / L’Atalante

Counting Crows: August and Everything After
Crossing the Bridge
Daniel Tosh: Completely Serious
Deadgirl
Final Destination 2
Final Destination 3
Forks Over Knives
Fracture
Funny Bones
Gantz
The Gauntlet
Good Will Hunting
Heartbreak Hotel
House: Season Seven
If…. (Criterion Collection)
In a Better World
Journey to the Center of the Earth
Latter Days
Madea’s Big Happy Family
Maillot, Jean-Christophe: Le Songe
The Mummy Trilogy
Mussorgsky: Boris Godunov
The Nightmare Before Christmas 3D
Nikita: The Complete First Season
Ocean’s Twelve
Orpheus (Criterion Collection)
The Perfect Host
Point of No Return
Prom
Radley Metzger’s Erotica Psychedelia
Raising Arizona
Rio 3D
Rumor Has It…
Rush Hour 3
Semi-Pro
Set It Off
Shoot ‘Em Up
Shrek
Shrek 2
Shrek the Third
Skateland
Sons of Anarchy: Season Three
Spice and Wolf: Season One
Spice and Wolf: Season Two
Strike
Swordfish
Tango & Cash
Top Gun
Torso
Tributes - Pulse
The Twilight Zone: Season 5
UFC: Bad Blood
Under Siege
The Vampire Diaries: The Complete Second Season
Various: Eastern Voices
Various: Salzburg Festival Opening Concert
We Are Marshall
The Wild Bunch
Wonders of the Universe
Wrecked
The Wrong Guy


Canadian Blu-ray releases

August 29

Counting Crows: August and Everything After

August 30

The 5th Quarter
Alien
All About Eve
Alvin and the Chipmunks
An Affair To Remember
Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend
Bereavement
Best of Travel: South Africa
The Big Bang
Blood Simple
The Borgias
Bulletproof Monk

The Coen Brothers Collection:
Blood Simple / Miller’s Crossing / Raising Arizona / Fargo

The Complete Jean Vigo (Criterion Collection):
À propos de Nice / Taris / Zéro de conduite / L’Atalante

The Conspirator
Daniel Tosh: Completely Serious
The Devil Wears Prada
Eden of the East: Paradise Lost
Edward Scissorhands
Ernest Goes to Jail
Gantz
Holy Matrimony
House: Season Seven
Ice Age
If….
In a Better World
Last Dance
Madea’s Big Happy Family
Miami Rhapsody
Miller’s Crossing
Mussorgsky: Boris Godunov
Night at the Museum
The Nightmare Before Christmas 3D
Nikita: The Complete First Season
Orpheus
Perfect Host
Play It to the Bone
Prom
Radley Metzger’s Erotica Psychedelia
Raising Arizona
Ring of Fire
Scenes From a Mall
Shrek
Shrek 2
Shrek the Third
Sons of Anarchy: Season Three
Spice and Wolf: Season One
Spice and Wolf: Season Two
Strike
The Tie That Binds
Top Gun
Tributes - Pulse
Tropical Rainforest
The Twilight Zone: Season 5
UFC Bad Blood: Liddell vs. Ortiz
Ultimate Jordan
The Vampire Diaries: The Complete Second Season
Various: Eastern Voices
Various: Salzburg Festival Opening Concert
The War at Home
The Ward
X-Cross


UK Blu-ray releases

August 29

Beastly
Counting Crows: August and Everything After
Dark Star
Dylan Dog: Dead of Night
Europe: Live at Shepherd’s Bush, London
Farewell
The Founding of a Republic
Hanna
Hanna (Steelbook)
Hatchet II
High School of the Dead
Hop
Miller’s Crossing
The Other Woman
Outside the Law
Something Borrowed
Wrecked

August 30

Chopin: Piano Concertos
Handel: Alcina
Maillot, Jean-Christophe: Le Songe
Prokofiev: Peter and the Wolf
Schumann: Scènes Du Faust De Goethe
Szymanowski: Symphonies No. 3 Et No. 4
Tributes - Pulse
Various: Eastern Voices
Various: Salzburg Festival Opening Concert
Verdi: Les Vepres Siciliennes


Australian Blu-ray releases

August 28

Hybrid 3D

August 31

Battle: Los Angeles
The Blues Brothers
Blues Brothers 2000
The Curse of the Golden Flower
Johnny English
The Leopard
Scarface
Spartacus: Gods of the Arena
Stargate Atlantis: The Complete Series 1-5

September 1

Barb Wire
Billy Elliot
Born on the Fourth of July
Candyman
The Faculty
Freddy vs. Jason
The Ladykillers
Middle Men


French Blu-ray releases

August 27

Beethoven / Mendelssohn: Violin Concertos
Ravel: Bolero
Vivaldi: The Four Seasons, Concertos for Double Orchestra

August 29

Puccini: Turandot
Verdi: Aida

August 30

Counting Crows: August and Everything After
Harry Brown

August 31

AC/DC: Let There Be Rock
Scream 4

September 1

5 Days of War
Mogadiscio
Toi, moi, les autres

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Upcoming Blu-ray releases: August 20-24



US Blu-ray releases

August 23

Bambi II
The Beaver
Blitz
Burial Ground
Eden of the East: Paradise Lost
Emerson, Lake & Palmer: 40th Anniversary Reunion Concert
The Greatest Movie Ever Sold
Henry’s Crime
Hostage
Little Big Soldier
My Dog Tulip
Poetry
Road to Nowhere
Rounders
Samurai Girls: Complete Collection
Secret Sunshine (Criterion Collection)
Super Hybrid
Swingers
Sympathy for Delicious
Tom and Jerry & The Wizard of Oz
Trollhunter
Win Win
The Women in Cages Collection
WWE: OMG! The Top 50 Incidents in WWE History
X-Cross


Canadian Blu-ray releases

August 23

Accidents Happen 
Across the Hall
Amy Winehouse: I Told You I Was Trouble – Live in London
Bambi II
The Beaver
Beneath Hill 60
Bikini Girls on Ice
Blitz
Don McKay
Franklyn
Freeway Killer
Good Will Hunting
The Greatest Movie Ever Sold
Hairspray
Henry’s Crime
Knut & Friends
Lucky Number Slevin
Mortal Kombat: Annihilation
Samurai Girls: Complete Collection
Sex and the City: The Movie
Shoot ‘Em Up
Super Hybrid
Swingers
Tactical Force
Tom and Jerry & The Wizard of Oz
Trollhunter
The Wedding Singer
Win Win
The Women in Cages Collection
WWE: OMG! The Top 50 Incidents in WWE History


UK Blu-ray releases

August 22

Before the Revolution
The Big Lebowski
The Blues Brothers
Blues Brothers 2000
Brotherhood of the Wolf
Dolphins
Final Destination 2
Final Destination 3
Final Destination Quadrilogy
Fun at St. Fanny’s / You Lucky People
The Hour
Little White Lies
The Living Sea
Our Day Will Come
Red Riding Hood
The Revelation of the Pyramids
Scream 4
Supernatural: The Complete First Season
Supernatural: The Complete Second Season
Tomorrow When the War Began
The Vampire Diaries: The Complete Second Season
The Vampire Diaries: Seasons 1-2 Complete


 
Australian Blu-ray releases

August 23

The Lost Bladesman

August 24

Arthur
Fast & Furious 5
Fast & Furious: The Complete Collection
Sons of Anarchy: Season One


French Blu-ray releases

August 20

Stanley Kubrick Collection

August 22

Donizetti: Don Pasquale
Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier

August 23

Clash of Empires
Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame
Devil
Ice Twisters
Ma part du gateau
Sea Monsters 3D
Venus & Vegas
The World of the Dead: The Zombie Diaries

August 24

Bleach Film 2: The Diamond Dust Rebellion
Bonobos
Conviction
Fargo
Final Destination 4
The Final Destination Tetralogie
Janacek: Jenufa
Les femmes du 6ème étage
The Lion King
The Lion King 3D
The Lion King Trilogy
Miller’s Crossing
Morning Glory
Mussgorsky: Boris Godunov
Naruto Shippuden: The Lost Tower
Once Upon a Time in America
One Piece
Raising Arizona
Red Riding Hood
Turnage: Anna Nicole

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Big Lebowski: Classic slightly disappoints on Blu-ray

The Big Lebowski (Comedy, Crime)
Directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Starring Jeff Bridges, John Goodman and Steve Buscemi

Universal Studios | 1998 | 119 min | Rated R | Released Aug 16, 2011

Video:
Video codec: VC-1
Video resolution: 1080p
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
French: DTS 5.1
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
French: DTS 5.1 (less)

Subtitles:
English SDH, French, Spanish
English SDH, French, Spanish (less)

Disc:
Single 50GB Blu-ray Disc
Digital Copy
BD-Live

The Film 4/5

The Big Lebowski is essentially about mistaken identity if you care about the plot. Jeffrey Lebowski is known to his friends as The Dude (Bridges) and a gang of criminals pay him a visit thinking that he’s another Lebowski who happens to be a millionaire. After they urinate on his rug, he seeks out the millionaire to claim compensation.

The millionaire’s wife goes missing and the gang asks for a million dollars in ransom. The Dude is chosen as the courier.

That’s about it. The plot is incidental; this is a movie about a way of life.

The Dude hangs out with two of his bowling buddies, Walter (Goodman) and Donny (Buscemi). Walter is a Vietnam veteran who has anger management issues; Donny hardly says a word and is told to shut up every time he tries to make a comment.


The Dude is a mellow kind of a guy. He shops in his robe, gets high, and talks like he's permanently stoned. Walter is a mystery to him because he is so easily annoyed. When a competing team puts a toe over the line during a bowling game, Walter pulls out a gun and insists that it is marked down as a zero. It’s a league game after all.


The movie doesn’t take itself too seriously and can be classed as a comedy more than anything, but the style of comedy may be different to the type you are used to. Many of the jokes are clever and subtle, and it’s rare for the humor to be aimed too low.

Watching The Big Lebowski is an experience. You’re never quite sure what it is or where it is going. The plot elements aren’t very important, but everything adds up and provides a reason for the characters to do what they do. It’s the sort of movie where nothing happens, but you find yourself thinking about it days later.


Fargo and No Country for Old Men are exceptional movies from the Coen Brothers, but many fans would argue that The Big Lebowski is better. I’m not among them, but it amuses me and I’m glad to finally own it on Blu-ray.

Video Quality 3.5/5
Although the Blu-ray is a vast upgrade over the DVD, I’m a little disappointed with the overall look. Colors are much improved and everything looks brighter and cleaner, but the VC-1 presentation could have been better. Fine detail is present in a few scenes, but is lacking for the most part. Faces in particular seem badly defined. It just about earns a passing grade, but don’t expect to be dazzled.

Audio Quality 4.5/5
The English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track sounds great. The songs carry a lot more weight than in previous releases. Dialogue is clear throughout and the predominantly front-heavy mix blends well with the action. No complaints about the sound.

Special Features 4/5

Worthy Adversaries: What's My Line Trivia – A game for one or two players in which you have to supply missing dialogue from The Dude and Walter.

An Exclusive Introduction (4:40, SD)

The Dude’s Life (10:08, HD)

The Dude Abides: The Big Lebowski Ten Years Later (10:26, HD)

Making of The Big Lebowski (24:35, SD)

The Lebowski Fest: An Achiever’s Story (13:53, SD)

Flying Carpets and Bowling Pin Dreams: The Dream Sequences of The Dude (4:20, HD)

Interactive Map

Jeff Bridges Photo Book (17:30, HD) – Bridges took shots while filming and explains them here.

Photo Gallery (3:25, SD)

U-Control: Three features with PiP, text and a profanity counter.
Scene Companion
The Music of The Big Lebowski
Mark It, Dude

28-page digibook

The Big Lebowski is a typically quirky effort from the Coen Brothers. While not their very best work, it deserves a place in your collection. Bridges and Goodman excel in their roles and hold the whole thing together. The Blu-ray presentation enhances the experience, but not quite as much as I had hoped. The packaging is good and there’s plenty of behind the scenes information if The Big Lebowski is your kind of film.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Upcoming Blu-ray releases August 10-18

 
US Blu-ray releases

August 10

Darr
Hum Tum

August 12

Wacken – Live at Wacken Open Air

August 16

Agent 8 3/4
Armed and Dangerous
Assassins
The Bang Bang Club
The Big Lebowski
Breaking Glass
Campbell’s Kingdom
Cobra
The Conspirator
Cul-de-Sac (Criterion Collection)
David Holzman’s Diary
Demolition Man
Dexter: The Complete Seasons 1-5
Dexter: The Fifth Season
Friday the 13th
Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil
Hostage
Hush
Jane Eyre
The Killing / Killer’s Kiss (Criterion Collection)
Marley and Me: The Puppy Years
Meet Monica Velour
Muppets from Space
The Muppets Take Manhattan
Night Raid 1931: Complete Collection
Outcasts: Season One
Priest
Priest 3D
Something Borrowed
The Specialist
Subspecies
The Tenant
That’s What I Am
The Twelve Kingdoms, Part 1: Shadow of the Moon, The Sea of Shadow
Two Can Play That Game
The Ward

Canadian Blu-ray releases

August 16

Assassins
Babe 
Backdraft
The Bang Bang Club
Barb Wire
The Big Lebowski
Black Dahlia 
Blue Crush 2
Brick
Bring It On: Fight to the Finish
Bruce Almighty 
Cirque Du Freak
Cobra
Cul-de-Sac
Darkman
David Holzman’s Diary
Death Race 
Demolition Man
Dexter: The Complete Seasons 1-5
Dexter: The Fifth Season
Doom 
End of Days
Executive Decision
The Final Destination 3D
Flash Gordon
Fletch
Grand Canyon Serenade
Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil
The Jackal
Jane Eyre
The Killing / Killer’s Kiss
The Kingdom
Land of the Dead
The Last Starfighter
Love Happens
Marley and Me: The Puppy Years
Meet Monica Velour
Mercury Rising
Miami Vice
Muppets from Space
The Muppets Take Manhattan
Night Raid 1931: Complete Collection
Outcasts: Season One
Priest
Priest 3D
Puccini: Turandot
Red Dragon
The Rundown
Sands of the Kalahari
Skeleton Key
Something Borrowed
Spy Game
Spy Kids
Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams
Spy Kids 3: Game Over
The Specialist
The Unborn 
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
Verdi: Aida

UK Blu-ray releases

August 12

Wacken – Live at Wacken Open Air

August 15

Curse of the Golden Flower
Deep Sea 3D
Earth and Space
The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec
The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec Steelbook

Legendary Warriors Box Set
Troy / 10,000 BC / Clash of the Titans / 300

Source Code
Source Code (Play.com Exclusive Steelbook)
Spy Kids
Spy Kids 1-3 Collection
Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams
Spy Kids 3: Game Over

Australian Blu-ray releases

August 17

The Big Lebowski
Brighton Rock
Dance in the Vampire Bund Series Collection
Diary of a Wimpy Kid
High School of the Dead Collection
It’s Kind of a Funny Story
Paul
TO

August 18

Dexter: The Fifth Season
Dog Pound
Justin Bieber: Never Say Never

French Blu-ray releases

August 12

Wacken – Live at Wacken Open Air

August 16

The Fighter
The Mechanic
Solitary Man

August 17

A Better Tomorrow
The Brest Fortress
The Company Men
Conan the Barbarian
Conan the Barbarian / Conan the Destroyer
Easy Money
Ice
La Proie
Legitime Defense
Les yeux de sa mere
Mr. Nice
Rabbit Hole
Rio
Rio 3D
Slipstream
Sucker Punch
Winx 3D

August 18

Battle of Los Angeles

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Green Mile: Another perfect Stephen King adaptation from Darabont

The Green Mile (Drama, Fantasy)
Directed by Frank Darabont
Starring Tom Hanks, Michael Clarke Duncan, Jeffrey DeMunn and David Morse

Warner Bros. | 1999 | 188 min | Rated R | Released Dec 01, 2009

Video:
Video codec: VC-1
Video resolution: 1080p
Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

Audio:
English: Dolby TrueHD 5.1
English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1
Turkish: Dolby Digital 2.0

Subtitles:
English SDH, Cantonese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German SDH, Greek, Italian, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, Thai, Turkish

Disc:
Single 50GB Blu-ray Disc

The Film 5/5


If you read my Top 20 Drama articles, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of Frank Darabont’s Stephen King adaptations. The Shawshank Redemption ranks second and The Green Mile is just behind in fourth.

Watching a Darabont movie is like entering another world. He takes his time with the story and the development of the characters. Don’t expect fast cuts and short scenes; each film is a work of art that is meant to be savored.

Before I talk about the film, I have to mention a funny story. Stephen King decided to write the book in a series of six installments. King was inspired by Charles Dickens, who also liked the serial novel format. I found the first installment in a supermarket and kept the receipt. A scan of it is shown opposite. See if you can spot the unusual item (five items from the top). It’s amazing what you can buy in supermarkets these days. I guess I was low on junk food that week? What a terrible diet I had back then.

The Green Mile is set in a Louisiana prison, but, unlike The Shawshank Redemption, the inmates can only interact by talking and never leave their cells to mingle. Each prisoner is condemned to death and is awaiting a meeting with Old Sparky, the electric chair.

The story is narrated by Paul Edgecomb (Dabbs Greer and Tom Hanks), the head warder, and the vast majority of the story is told through the use of flashback and is set in 1935. He explains how he met a huge black prisoner named John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan). Coffey is a simple man and seemingly gentle despite his size, but he was found guilty of murdering two little girls. His behavior doesn’t do anything to suggest that he was capable of such an act.

Coffey has a secret, but I can’t reveal it here without ruining the movie. His nature becomes apparent about an hour into the film and it changes everything.

The story revolves around Edgecomb’s role in running the prison and how he reacts when he finds out Coffey’s true nature. Prison life is fairly quiet, but Edgecomb has to deal with an annoying warder called Percy Wetmore. We are told that Wetmore has connections and so the other warders have to tolerate him or risk losing their jobs. Another thing that upsets Edgecomb’s routine is the addition of a new prisoner, 'Wild Bill' Wharton (Sam Rockwell), who likes to make as much trouble as possible.


One part of the story concerns the appearance of a mouse. The reaction of the individual warders reveals something about their own nature and it’s a brilliant plot device. Unfortunately, I can’t say anything more about the mouse without ruining the story.

The Green Mile isn’t what it seems. It begins like a hard-hitting drama, but things change as we discover more about the characters. In the end, the story is about trust and belief. It’s very powerful and some of the characters do extraordinary things. The warders, with the exception of Percy, are a close-knit group. They demonstrate the kind of trust that can only occur between close friends. The stakes are high and the story is compelling.

I’ll say no more about the plot other than that the conclusion is very satisfying.


Darabont draws strong performances from every member of the cast. Hanks is superb as usual, but the story wouldn’t work without Michael Clarke Duncan’s performance and his Oscar nomination was well deserved. I could mention at least 15 actors who played their role to perfection. Darabont was nominated for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay and the film deserved all of the recognition it received. The mouse should have won an Oscar.

The film has a couple of disturbing scenes, such as one of the executions, but is generally a series of character studies. You’ll be sucked into the story because of what the characters do, rather than for any special effects or shocking scenes. The story has a lot of heart and will stay with you long after the credits roll. At 189-minutes, many will be wary of watching the film. Don’t let that put you off. Good films never feel too long, and this is a very good film.

Video Quality 4/5
The VC-1 transfer looks very good for the most part. Detail in close-ups is exceptional and, apart from a few soft scenes, detail is generally strong throughout. Black levels are problematic on occasion. Darabont uses plenty of dark shots using blacks, grays and browns. Sometimes, shadows obscure some of the detail. I’m very happy with the upgrade, but it could have been slightly better. Owners of the DVD will be relieved that the Blu-ray comfortably contains the entire film, so you won’t have to flip the disc over as you did with the DVD.

Audio Quality 4/5
The English: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix is quiet and I found myself increasing the volume by 10 decibels over my normal level. Once that adjustment was made, everything sounded clear. It’s a dialogue-driven film, but the surrounds do play a part when required. Listen to the sound of the mouse running across the floor and you’ll hear the fine detail in the mix. One electrocution is particularly noisy and you’ll feel like it’s happening right in front of you. I couldn’t detect any imperfections in the track at all.

Special Features 5/5

The extras all appear in standard definition:

Commentary by Director Frank Darabont

Walking the Mile: The Making of The Green Mile (25:30)

Miracles and Mystery: Creating The Green Mile (1:42:54) – If the commentary and “Making Of” features weren’t enough, here’s an in-depth look at every aspect of making the film. It’s split into six parts if the running time seems daunting:

Stephen King: Storyteller
The Art of Adaptation
Acting on the Mile
Designing the Mile
The Magic of the Mile
The Tail of Mr. Jingles

Deleted Scenes (3:38) – Two scenes which didn’t make it into the film.

Michael Clarke Duncan's Screen Test (8:26)

Tom Hanks' Makeup Tests (5:30)

Trailers

The Green Mile is a film about hope, trust, friendship and the power of belief. It’s a stunning achievement and the story never feels boring despite the long running time. I give it a spin every three months or so and am always glad to visit that world once again. Anyone who enjoys good acting, master storytelling and emotional drama would probably find a lot to like in this film.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Adjustment Bureau: An unconventional love story

The Adjustment Bureau (Romance, Sci-Fi, Thriller)
Directed by George Nolfi
Starring Matt Damon, Emily Blunt and Anthony Mackie

Universal Studios | 2011 | 106 min | Rated PG-13 | Released Jun 21, 2011

Video:
Video codec: VC-1
Video resolution: 1080p
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
French: DTS 5.1
Spanish: DTS 5.1

Subtitles:
English SDH, French, Spanish

Discs:
50GB Blu-ray Disc
DVD copy
Digital copy (on disc)

The Film 4/5

I almost went to see The Adjustment Bureau at the theater, but generally negative reviews made me decide to wait for the Blu-ray release. The same was true of Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter, also starring Matt Damon. I’m going to have to trust my instincts more because I found both movies entertaining.

So why the negative reviews?

What do you expect from a Matt Damon movie? His biggest role was as Jason Bourne in the hugely successful trilogy and I think he’s expected to be an action hero in every role he plays. That’s simply not the case. The man can act and he has a lot more to offer than some give him credit for. The marketing for The Adjustment Bureau is selling it as an action movie, but it’s actually a love story with a science fiction element. The front cover shows Damon and Blunt running. They do run in the movie, but that’s not the point of the story.

This is not an action movie.


David Norris (Damon) is running for Senate and he’s losing. He meets Elise (Blunt) in a bathroom and they kiss. A brief conversation influences his concession speech and he decides to be completely honest with the assembled crowd. This is not typical behavior for a politician. The entire meeting was arranged without his knowledge just for the purpose of influencing his speech.

We are introduced to four men in suits and hats. They look like the Men in Black. What is their origin and why and how are they trying to influence events? One has an assignment to delay Norris by making him spill coffee on his shirt, but he fails to intervene in time. As a result, Norris walks into his office and sees the men altering the memories of his colleagues. He runs, but is quickly caught. They make him promise to keep their secret. They also demand that he drops any interest in Elise as the two aren’t supposed to be together.


Norris isn’t ready to give up on Elise and feels strongly attracted to her. He searches for years and eventually tracks her down. The Adjustment Bureau fails to anticipate his resourcefulness and level of determination. In order to prevent the relationship, other methods are tried to tear the two apart. Norris is given some strong reasons to walk away from Elise. Will they be enough, or will his attraction toward her prove to be too strong?

Philip K. Dick wrote the short story on which the movie is based. He was also responsible for Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, which resulted in Blade Runner being made. I’m not saying that the Adjustment Bureau is on the same level, but it’s certainly a thought-provoking story worthy of your time.

Think about fate and predestination for a moment. Do you live your life thinking that every step has been mapped out? If that were the case, why bother to do anything? Do you think that your overall destination has been decided, but it’s up to you how you get there? That would at least give your actions some meaning. Or do you think that everything is random and there’s no reason or purpose behind anything we do? The Adjustment Bureau raises similar questions. You might be able to predict how the movie ends, but the fun is experiencing the journey.

Emily Blunt has good chemistry with Damon and the casting was spot on. She had to learn how to look like a ballet dancer for the part and she was utterly convincing in the role.  

I love the Bourne movies, but I’m a fan of Damon’s acting in general. It dates back to Good Will Hunting and Rounders. In fact, I’ve rarely seen Damon disappoint. Hereafter and The Adjustment Bureau will stay in my collection and I’m happy to own them. If you give The Adjustment Bureau a try without expecting an action movie, you might end up enjoying it as much as I did.

Video Quality 4/5
While most recent releases use the MPEG-4 AVC codec, The Adjustment Bureau uses VC-1. The result isn’t bad, but I’ve seen more striking presentations. Grain is moderately thick and detail is average. Many of the scenes have an intentional blue tint, but colors are otherwise accurate. I wouldn’t complain about the picture quality, but it’s far from exceptional.

Audio Quality 4/5
The English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix does a good job for the most part. Dialogue is clear, apart from in noisy settings when it’s not supposed to be. When Norris is talking to the crowds of people, the atmosphere seems realistic and sounds are separated well. There are no gunshots or explosions, but the sound quality is good throughout.

Special Features 2.5/5

Audio Commentary by Writer/Director George Nolfi.

Deleted and Extended Scenes (6:54)

Labyrinth of Doors – A Google Map allowing you to explore various parts of New York. Each door offers a small feature; normally under a minute long. It’s a lot of work to navigate through everything and the reward doesn’t seem worth it.

Leaping Through New York (7:36) – Showing the wide range of locations used during the shoot.

Destined to Be (4:51) – Damon and Blunt talk about the casting process and their characters.

Becoming Elise (7:08) – How Blunt learned how to become a dancer for the role. Acting can be hard!

The Adjustment Bureau asks some interesting questions. It’s well-acted and kept my interest for the 106-minute duration. The mystery element and slow exposition have the effect of placing the viewer in the same situation as David Norris, and it works effectively. If you go in with the right expectations (not anticipating explosions and constant action), the story has a lot to offer.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Rio: Predictable, but the presentation enhances the experience

Rio (Animation, Adventure, Comedy)
Directed by Carlos Saldanha
Starring the voices of Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway and George Lopez

20th Century Fox | 2011 | 96 min | Rated G | Released Aug 02, 2011

Video:
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Video resolution: 1080p
Aspect ratio: 2.40:1

Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
English: Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 5.1
French, Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1

Subtitles:
English SDH, Spanish

Discs:
50GB Blu-ray Disc
DVD copy
Digital copy

The Film 3.5/5

After seeing a trailer for Rio, I wasn’t expecting much when I finally sat down to watch the movie. The trailer consisted of animals shrieking or screaming and performing stupid moves such as dancing. I also dislike that every scene has to be punctuated with a blast from the subwoofer. I chose to watch your trailer and you’re going to hold my attention for two minutes, so you don’t have to blast noise at me to keep me watching. I'll decide whether something is interesting or dramatic by myself, thanks. That’s becoming a huge annoyance.

Anyway, let’s get back to the movie.

I love the way Rio opens. There are birds everywhere and they are happily dancing. The colors are very striking and I don’t think I have ever seen a more colorful movie. Birds and other animals seem to cover most of the colors in the spectrum and the look of the movie is appealing throughout.


Blu (Eisenberg) is a tiny young macaw and he’s captured during the opening scene. We see him rescued by a girl named Linda (Leslie Mann), and he’s completely happy as her pet for the next 15 years. The two share a bond and it’s a heartwarming relationship. Their world is turned upside down when an ornithologist begs her to take Blu to Brazil as he’s thought to be the last male of his species. Linda is reluctant, but eventually agrees.

The two fly to Rio and Blu is introduced to Jewel (Hathaway), his prospective mate. Jewel is more concerned about escape and can’t understand why Blu tolerates humans. The two are left overnight to begin their courtship, but a boy steals them and sells them to a gang which deals in rare birds. 


The remainder of the story shows what happens as Linda tries to find Blu. She initially rescued him before he learned how to fly and it becomes clear that he still hasn’t discovered how it’s done. Blu is aided by a variety of other birds as he attempts to find Linda. The gang enlists minions to find Blu and Jewel, resulting in a number of fights and chase scenes.

Rio lacks the heart of Pixar movies, but it does have some redeeming qualities. The story is far from original and it’s not difficult to guess the entire plot after a few minutes. Despite that, some of the scenes are quite charming. It’s fast-paced and doesn’t contain any dull moments. I imagine younger children being captivated by Blu’s adventures and the color scheme and ever-present Brazilian music is more than enough to hold their attention. 


I enjoyed the story. Yes, I knew what was going to happen, but I found the characters quite likable. The animation becomes more detailed as the story progresses and some of the scenes contain incredible detail. The music is catchy and will be burned into your brain if you’re not careful. This movie won’t change your life, but it’s an enjoyable way to spend 90 minutes.

Video Quality 5/5
The most obvious thing about the picture quality is the excellent use of color. The transfer boasts a variety of appealing colors and will capture your attention. The backgrounds seem a little unfinished in the opening scenes, but that’s a stylistic choice and not a fault of the presentation. Later scenes, such as those in the Carnaval, are full of detail. You can clearly make out feathers and hairs on the various animals, and some of the scenery looks spectacular. This is a feast for the eyes and shouldn’t disappoint anyone.

Audio Quality 5/5
The English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix matches the excellent video quality. The opening scene hints at what is to come and features a pounding Brazilian beat with a multitude of birds singing and squawking. Dialogue is clear throughout the movie and background sounds are frequently worked into the mix.

Special Features 4/5

The extras are all presented in full HD:

The Fruit Stand (1:29) – A deleted scene in which the animation is unfinished.

Explore the World of Rio – An interactive map with four locations to explore.

Saving the Species: One Voice at a Time (24:49) – The best of the features includes comments from the cast and crew.

The Making of Hot Wings (8:02) – Talking about some of the music used in the movie.

Boom-Boom Tish-Tish: The Sounds of Rio (13:30) – A more in-depth look at the music.

Carnival Dance-o-Rama – Learn various dance moves.

Welcome to Rio Music Video (1:37)

Taio Cruz – Telling the World Music Video (1:54)

Rio de Jam-eiro Jukebox (8:34) – Includes five songs from the movie.

Postcards from Rio – Create your own postcards.

The Real Rio (9:31) – Cast and crew comment on the real place.

Theatrical Trailer (2:26)

Digital Copy “How To” (3:35)

Angry Birds:
Trailer (1:32), Nigel Mashup (2:17) and Exclusive Clue Video (0:28)

BD-Live

Rio is fun to experience at least once. It’s suitable for the whole family, but children will probably get the most from it. The Blu-ray presentation is wonderful and makes a slightly above average story a lot easier to enjoy. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Upcoming Blu-ray releases August 7-10




US Blu-ray releases

August 7

Captain America (Director’s Cut 1990)

August 9

The Battle of Algiers (Criterion Collection)
Bikini Girls on Ice
Cameraman: The Life & Work of Jack Cardiff
Dazed and Confused
Dead Man
Fast Times at Ridgemont High
The Fox and the Hound / The Fox and the Hound 2
Jumping the Broom
The Lookout
Mars Needs Moms
Mars Needs Moms 3D
Paul
The Prophecy 3: The Ascent
Soul Eater: The Weapon Collection
Super
Tactical Force
Top Gear: The Complete Season 16
Twin Dragons
Venom
Your Highness
Yu Yu Hakusho: Season Two


Canadian Blu-ray releases

August 9

The Battle of Algiers
Cameraman: The Life & Work of Jack Cardiff
Casshern Sins: Complete Series 
Dazed and Confused
Fast Times at Ridgemont High
The Fox and the Hound / The Fox and the Hound 2
Grand Canyon Serenade
Jumping the Broom
Kit Kittredge: An American Girl
The Man Who Could Cheat Death / Skull
Mars Needs Moms
Paul
Soul Eater: Part 3 & 4 - The Complete Box Set
Student Bodies / Jekyll & Hyde: Together Again
Super
Tony Curtis in Houdini and The Daring Young Men in their Jaunty Jalopies
Top Gear: The Complete Season 16
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
Waiting for Forever
Your Highness
Yu Yu Hakusho: Season Two


UK Blu-ray releases

August 8

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
Chocolat
Deep Sea 3D
Kill the Irishman
Lock Up
The Lost Bladesman
Stand By Me
Sucker Punch
Whisky Galore!
Your Highness


Australian Blu-ray releases

August 10

Biutiful
Cronos
Death Note Movie Collection
Eastbound & Down: The Complete Second Season
Red Riding Hood
Secretariat
Sex & Zen: Extreme Ecstasy
Sucker Punch
Sucker Punch / 300


 
French Blu-ray releases

August 9

Ip Man / Ip Man 2
Ip Man 2
Kung Fu Master
Pathfinders: In the Company of Strangers
Sex & Zen

August 10

Never Let Me Go
Zebraman 2: Attack on Zebra City