Posts Tagged ‘Blu Ray Review’

BD Review: Surrogates

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

Surrogates Blu-Ray Box ArtMovie Info:
Writers: Michael Ferris, John D. Brancato
Director: Jonathan Mostow
Cast: Bruce Willis, Radha Mitchell, Rosamund Pike, Boris Kodjoe, James Francis Ginty, James Cromwell, Ving Rhames, Jack Noseworthy, Devin Ratray, Michael Cudlitz
Rating: PG-13
Studio: Touchstone Home Entertainment

Release Info:
Original Theatrical Release Date: September 25, 2009
DVD Release Date: January 26, 2009
Online Availability: Amazon for $23.49

Bruce Willis is good at high action, thriller-intensive movies. He’s also good at psychologically messed up Sci Fi. One of my favorite Willis movies just happens to be 12 Monkeys, which isn’t a standard Bruce Willis action flick. Willis is one of the few true blue action heroes that can actually act. Back in the day, I remember watching him on Moonlighting, which showed the guy could be funny and could act, but somehow between then and now, he’s transformed into this bad ass action flick actor who is overlooked for the true talent he has.

For fans who have been fans of Willis as long as I have, you’ve seen the evolution of his career and look forward to nearly everything he’s in. You can guarantee they’ll be action, usually a decent plot, if not, the movie is at least watchable. I knew that I would want to see Surrogates not just from the cool and intriguing trailer, but also because Bruce Willis plays the lead character. I had a feeling I’d like the story behind the movie and I was right.

Going into this review, the only thing I knew about the movie was what I learned from the trailer. I knew the movie was futuristic and I knew people had surrogates, but I had no idea the depths this story would go to, when explaining the purpose of surrogates. As someone in a wheelchair, the entire idea of having a chance to live vicariously through a healthy body is an interesting prospect. While I’d never be able to go to the lengths these people went to by constantly controlling surrogates and having no outside contact with the world, the entire idea of having my own surrogate for when I wanted to experience things I couldn’t due to my chair makes me almost giddy at the thought.

Truth be told, we have our own version of surrogates right here on the web. Online, we can be whoever and whatever we want. While we are not afforded the visual and physical connections to a surrogate, the internet still allows us to live vicariously through the persona(s) we create online. This movie takes all of that to a whole new level and shows how dangerous things could be if everyone had their own surrogate and never had to leave their homes, for anything.

Initially created with physically disabled people in mind, the concept goes out of control, and that is exactly what would happen if surrogates were real in our world. It would ruin interpersonal relationships, keep people locked up and sequestered and destroy the face of the Earth, as we know it. Surrogates would be a game changer, and not necessarily in a good way. I feel this film aptly demonstrates why, as well as why technology (in all the goodness it does provide) should not be used nefariously nor be abused.

Surrogates Blu-Ray Screenshot 1

Surrogates Plot
The year is 2017. The beginning of the movie tells, through news stories, how surrogates came to be. Originally designed to help physically disabled individuals reclaim their independence by Dr. Lionel Canter (James Cromwell), the company he worked for that created the surrogates has ousted him and made surrogates available to anyone who can afford to buy them. Pretty much the entire world is run by surrogates. The people controlling their surrogates live isolated in their homes and are able to remotely control their surrogates, who live life outside for them.

The surrogates are better looking, nearly indestructible, robots that prevent their operators from feeling any damage or pain. The people operating surrogates live a peaceful existence, or so they believe. When two surrogates are mysteriously murdered and those controlling the surrogates also die, FBI agent, Tom Greer (Bruce Willis), who is using his own surrogate, investigates the murder with his partner, Jennifer Peters (Radha Mitchell). This is the first murder to occur in years, which is puzzling to the agents.

The victim is none other than Jarod Canter, son of the original creator of surrogates. Jarod is actually using one of his father’s surrogates when he is killed, so the investigation leads Greer and Peters back to Canter. This is the first time a controller of a surrogate has died as a result of their surrogate being killed. This kind of technology could destroy the entire world that exists. The case is further complicated when multiple police officers are killed when their surrogates are murdered and Greer nearly dies himself, while pursuing a suspect who has a weapon that can kill the person controlling the surrogates it kills.

Surrogates Blu-Ray Screenshot 1

With Greer’s surrogate out of commission, the overweight, hurt Greer must leave his home and investigate everything without a surrogate. Things are further complicated when his boss at the FBI suspends him pending further investigation and he must go at the investigation on his own. Greer is led into the hostile territory of The Dreads. This is a camp where those who are against the use of surrogates live. It is a slum that is controlled by their anti-surrogates leader, The Prophet (Ving Rhames). He is allowed to leave, but is told not to return after they discover who he is and that he is looking for Miles Strickland, the man with the killing machine.

The more Greer is out in his own body, the more he realizes what surrogates have done to the world. He tries to get his wife, Maggie (Rosamund Pike), to spend time in her actual body and not her surrogate, but she is still dealing with the loss of their child and wants to hide within the fantasy world surrogates allow her to live within. Feeling his wife growing further apart from him, Greer has nothing to lose from discovering the truth about the death of the surrogates and the bigger plot behind these murders.

Storyline/Plot: [rating:4.5]
Replayability: [rating:5]
Acting: [rating:5]
Directing: [rating:4.5]

Audio/Visual:
Fans and non-fans alike should greatly enjoy this video transfer. It’s hard to argue with a well-formatted MPEG-4 AVC 1080p transfer with an aspect ratio of 2.40:1. Even though Surrogates is meant to have somewhat of a dark, dank feel to it (especially in certain parts) things always look good from a technical standpoint. The colors are good when they are in a more colorful setting, the blacks are strong, and the film is visually pleasing from a Blu-ray aspect.

The level of detail is impressive, though if you see something that isn’t supposed to be real, sometimes the amazing quality makes it look even less real. In any case, things look good here. You aren’t going to see a movie that is filled with errors. In fact, none come to mind. I don’t recall any glare, noise, or other glaring visual issues. This is a brand new movie and it looks that way.

If you like the visual quality you will love the DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix that is offered for audio purposes. The dialogue passes with flying colors, so there is no complaints from me in this area. Things get pretty exciting when it comes to the surround sound, with lots of full power special effects. Despite that the quiet moments are handled very well, too. You will hear cars whiz by and it will sound real enough that you might think you’re hearing things from outside of your house. This is just the best that Blu-Ray has to offer. In addition to standard audio there are mixes in both French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 and subtitles in English, French, and Spanish.

Visual: [rating:4.5]
Audio: [rating:5]

Bonus Features:
There are more than a couple special features here, but that doesn’t make everything here worth watching. On the whole, fans will probably ignore more than they will watch. That being said, if you’re going to buy the Blu-ray you might want to do so for the movie rather than the added bonuses.

The audio commentary includes the thoughts of the director, Jonathan Mostow. Fans of Surrogates should enjoy this commentary very much. Mostow is an interesting guy with a lot to say about the movie and his vision. He manages to remain engaging throughout the entire commentary, leaving little dead space. If you aren’t a huge fan of the movie, this will provide some insight into the goals that Mostow had for the film. If you are a big fan, this will further cement your love of the movie and the man that made it.

“A More Perfect You: The Science of Surrogates” – This is a short, 15 minute documentary that takes you into the world of Surrogates. The majority of the cast and some crew are featured in interviews. Robotics are discussed and you get to see what a surrogate looks like if they were really made. KNB Effects is also in-house to talk about their makeup work for the movie. There are some good points here, but there isn’t anything ground breaking or that would stop you from safely skipping this.

“Breaking the Frame: A Graphic Novel Comes to Life” – This a shorter documentary, lasting about six or so minutes that deals with the comic book series that the movie was based on by Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele. The coolest thing here is the artwork that comes from the series, which is pretty awesome. Otherwise there is not a lot of stuff here worth checking out.

The only other special features included are five minutes worth of pretty useless deleted scenes and a music video for Breaking Benjamin’s “I Will Not Bow.”

Bonus Features: [rating:2.5]

Surrogates Blu-Ray Screenshot 1

Bottom Line:
Surrogates provides a unique, interesting story and it looks good while doing it. This is a perfect example of how good Blu-Ray can be. With killer audio and nearly perfect (it could always get better, but this was still amazing) visual qualities, purchasing this film in Blu-Ray is worth the extra money you’ll pay. Action, thriller, and Sci Fi films deserve movies with releases like this one. While there is plenty of action for all those hardcore, kick ass and take no prisoners Bruce Willis fans, there is just as much story to back up these high impact sequences. Don’t bother renting this, because you’ll want to own it. Save time and purchase it now that it’s out. The Surrogates Blu-Ray comes highly recommended.

[rating:overall]

[tags]Blu-Ray, Review, Surrogates, Bruce Willis, Movie, Thriller, Radha Mitchell, Sci Fi, Ving Rhames, Blu-Ray Review, Film[/tags]

BD Review: Jennifer’s Body

Saturday, January 2nd, 2010

Jennifer's Body Blu-Ray Box ArtMovie Info:
Writer: Diablo Cody
Director: Karyn Kusama
Cast: Megan Fox, Amanda Seyfried, Johnny Simmons, Adam Brody, Sal Cortez, Ryan Levine, Juan Riedinger, Kyle Gallner
Rating: R
Studio: 20th Century Fox

Release Info:
Original Theatrical Release Date: September 18, 2009
DVD Release Date: December 29, 2009
Online Availability: Amazon for $22.99

I’m just going to get this right out of the way before delving into this review. I thought that Jennifer’s Body was going to absolutely suck. I had extremely low expectations for this film. The people I knew who had seen it in the theater had said it was pretty stupid. Sure, I’m fond of the work I’ve seen of Diablo Cody in the past, but perhaps this was her “Baby’s Day Out” and like the late, great John Hughes, she ran out of good ideas, only to disappear into past Hollywood fame obscurity long before her time was up.

In this mindset, I was disappointed Amanda Seyfried, a young, talented, budding actress, wasted her time on Jennifer’s Body. Still, I thought I’d give the movie a chance for her sake and what a surprise. I actually liked Jennifer’s Body. I didn’t just like it, I thought it was a quirky, fun, dark comedy that had some rather brilliant moments amidst the high school lame-o speak the actors indulge in throughout the film. Cody redeemed herself after my unfounded doubts, and I have newfound appreciation for her warped sense of humor.

Jennifer’s Body is a dark comedy. This means it really is not meant to be scary like a traditional horror flick. As any good comedy should, Jennifer’s Body made me laugh. Some of it was at the ridiculousness of the characters, their speech and the situations they are placed in, but that is the ENTIRE POINT of Jennifer’s Body. It is supposed to be ridiculous. The teenagers use stupid slang, which makes those of us over the age of 21 cringe. That’s the way kids sound to us old folks, so no big deal there.

Megan Fox is given some meaty material she can actually sink her teeth into. Fox admits she’s not used to this kind of acting, and she tried to have fun with it. Well, it seems the girl has a bit of natural talent. Sure, she’s no Robert DeNiro, but he wouldn’t have made a very good Jennifer now would he? Fox was the eye candy in Transformers, but in Jennifer’s Body she has to rely on more than just her svelte figure (though it does play a prominent role in this film, as well) to entertain the audience. I already knew Seyfried could act, so it was no big surprise to see her perform well. Fox and Seyfried had nice chemistry and that is what really helped to make this film work.

Jennifer's Body Still 1

Jennifer’s Body isn’t going to appeal to everyone. Some won’t enjoy the comedy in this flick, insisting it should have been a straight horror affair. Others will hate the horror aspect and wish it was strictly a comedy. I like this kind of humor and I especially appreciate a horror film that can make fun of itself and the entire genre at the same time. All in all, whether you will like Jennifer’s Body will depend on whether you like Diablo Cody’s sense of humor already or not.

Jennifer’s Body Plot
It’s quite a surprise that Jennifer (Fox) and Anita “Needy” (Seyfried) are best friends. The two have absolutely nothing in common, but they have been close since they were little kids. Jennifer is a sexy, flag waver in the school’s colorguard/cheer team/band (depending on the school), while Needy appears to be a book loving, not so fashionable, dork. Jennifer is in control of the friendship, dragging Needy off wherever they go, under the guise of friendship.

Jennifer informs Needy they will be going to the local bar where Low Shoulder, an indie rock band, is playing. The lead singer, Nikolai (Adam Brody), looks hot and Jennifer hopes to conquer him. Needy’s boyfriend, Chip (Johnny Simmons), is not fond of her relationship with Jennifer, but he goes along with it because it seems to make her happy.

At the bar, Needy soon realizes Nikolai and his band are sleazy. She thinks they only want to use Jennifer for sex and tries to warn her friend of this. Needy tells Jennifer what the band said about her, but before anything can be done about it, a mysterious fire breaks out in the bar, killing several patrons. Both Needy and Jennifer escape, but Jennifer is in shock and ends up going off with the band, who take her into the woods.

Needy spends most of the night worrying about Jennifer, but when Jennifer finally shows up in her house something has changed. Jennifer is covered in blood, and though starving, she ends up puking up all of the food she eats from Needy’s refrigerator in a black, oozing substance. Unsure what has gone on, Needy is left to clean up the mess and figure out why Jennifer is acting so weird.

When teenage boys in town start showing up dead, this small town already suffering from the bar tragedy, must face the fact that a killer, who is ripping their boys apart, is on the loose. Furthering Needy’s own personal plight is the knowledge that something happened in the woods to Jennifer, and Low Shoulder, the band behind whatever went on, is taking credit for saving all the people who survived the bar incident, making them national heroes and furthering their careers, in the process.

Storyline/Plot: [rating:3.5]
Replayability: [rating:4.5]
Acting: [rating:3.5]
Directing: [rating:4]

Jennifer's Body Still 2

Audio/Visual:
Jennifer’s Body looks as good as one could hope. The 1080p, AVC MPEG-4 transfer offers an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Overall this is quite an impressive transfer. The skin tones look great, the coloring is vivid and the black levels are strong. You especially notice this with Jennifer because her skin tone and general appearance change greatly whenever she needs to eat. The black sludge and the flying blood also comes through vividly, causing no reason for complaint. The graphics are crisp and clean. Everything is highly detailed without offering too much sharpness. It’s hard to continue talking about the graphics because there really isn’t anything bad to say about them.

Like the video for Jennifer’s Body, the audio leaves nothing to complain about. The dialogue sounds clear and is always easy to hear, but much of the important audio in this film comes from music, sound effects, and background noise. All of that passes with flying colors. The music in the bar and in other scenes offers a highly supported audio track. It is strong without being overpowering. All of the audio aspects blend perfectly, allowing you to hear each one without hearing too much or too little of any of them. The audio becomes stronger or more subtle based on the needs of each scene. Like I said, everything really sounds as perfect as it can sound. Portuguese, Spanish and French Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks have also been included. There are also subtitles in English, Chinese, Thai, Portuguese, French, and Spanish.

Visual: [rating:4.5]
Audio: [rating:5]

Bonus Features:
Before beginning with special features you get the chance to watch some trailers. The trailers included are for Gentlemen Broncos, All About Steve, Whip It, and Fame. After you’ve watched the trailers you have the option of choosing the theatrical or extended cut for Jennifer’s Body. The running times show about five additional minutes of film for the extended cut. However, I can’t state how many differences there are because I only watched the extended cut. A digital copy is also included.

Like most movies, Jennifer’s Body offers a commentary track. In fact, there are two here. There is a commentary for each version of the film. The theatrical film’s commentary includes Diablo Cody and Kathryn Kusama. Things are informal for the most part. They mention differences between the two film versions. It’s a very fun, giggle-track of a commentary. It reminds you of a girl talk kind of thing. The second track is just with the director. This is similar to the first track in the fact that the main point of this is just to point out the differences in the two tracks. It’s not really a full commentary in that sense, but it is included and it’s a vocal feature, so we’re going to call it that.

The rest of the special features are in HD so I am going to assume that most, if not all, are exclusive to the Blu-ray. This includes over thirteen minutes of deleted scenes (six in all), a five minute gag reel, and a number of featurettes which are discussed in detail below.

Jennifer’s Body: The Dead Pool” – Here you have a fourteen minute making of featurette that talks about things like shooting, production, and the indoor pool scene. It’s an interesting feature, especially when they show the various designs that didn’t make the cut.

“Video Diaries” – You get twelve or so minutes of various cast and crew diaries. I wasn’t really into the diaries myself, but some fans might enjoy them. I found them to be a little fluffy for my personal taste.

Jennifer's Body Still 3

“Megan Fox is Hot” – I know, shocking title, isn’t it? This is less than a minute in length and it’s just a bunch of shots of Fox at her best. Depending on who you are and what you like, you may or may not like this.

“Megan Fox Peer Pressure PSA” – This is another less than a minute feature. It’s reminiscent of the fake PSA’s on other movies. You will have to watch it to find out the joke.

“Fox Movie Channel Presents: Life After Film School with Diablo Cody” – Here you have a 30 minute featurette. It includes various film school students interviewing Cody, asking for advice for film school graduates. It’s pretty decent overall. Fans of Cody will find it highly entertaining.

Bonus Features: [rating:3.5]

Bottom Line:
Jennifer’s Body is a lot better than I thought it would be. Diablo Cody’s story is clever, entertaining and engaging. The acting is actually pretty good. The story is funny, as it should be, for a dark comedy, and the performances by the actors seem to be fun, not forced. In the Blu-Ray, you can expect excellent audio and visual qualities and a host of fun BD exclusive features. While you may want to rent Jennifer’s Body before purchasing it, when you decide it is worth your money, you’ll want to go Blu-Ray. It’s worth the extra money for the quality you’ll receive.

[rating:overall]

[tags]Blu-Ray Review, Jennifer’s Body, Horror, Dark Comedy, Megan Fox, Amanda Seyfried, Diablo Cody, Film, 20th Century Fox[/tags]


BD Review: Wrong Turn 3 – Left for Dead

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

Wrong Turn 3 - Left for Dead Blu-Ray Box ArtMovie Info:
Writer: Connor James Delaney
Director: Declan O’Brien
Cast: Tom Frederic, Janet Montgomery, Tamer Hassan, Gil Kolirin, Tom McKay, Christian Contreras, Jake Curran, Chucky Venice, Louise Cliffe, Emma Clifford, Jack Gordon, Borislav Iliev
Rating: R
Studio: Fox Home Entertainment

Release Info:
DVD Release Date: October 20, 2009
Online Availability: Amazon for $19.99

They just keep getting dumber and dumber. When Wrong Turn was released, I saw it because I think Eliza Dushku is hot. It wasn’t bad as far as horror goes. However, there is a long standing problem with horror movies. The creators think they have a hit on their hands and develop 800 sequels! That would be great if the sequels were any good. I find most sequels are miss with the occasional hit.

For example, Halloween and Halloween 2 are both pretty good, but 2 is a continuation of the story in the original, so it works out. The third film was a bust. Four and five were okay, only because they played off the story in 1 and 2, but the rest of the sequels sucked. I feel the same way with A Nightmare on Elm Street (1 & 3 are good, the rest suck), Friday the 13th (1, 2, and 5 are good, the rest suck), Saw (anything after 3 sucks), The Evil Dead (1 was the best), and pretty much every other horror movie with sequels out there. Wrong Turn is no different.

This series follows the same path the Pulse movies follow. The first one was okay, but making sequels never should have happened. Wrong Turn 2 was bad enough, but taking this pathetic movie series to a third film was just too much. I was done after the first film. Seriously, when your horror movie is going direct to DVD, it is a sign that it is time to quit.

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BD Review: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Two Disc Combo Packs)

Monday, October 12th, 2009

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Two Disc Box ArtMovie Info:
Writer: The Brothers Grimm and various others
Director: David Hand
Cast: Adriana Caselotti, Lucille La Verne, Roy Atwell, Eddie Collins, Pinto Colvig, Billy Gilbert, Otis Harlan, Scotty Mattraw
Rating: G
Studio: Walt Disney Home Entertainment

Release Info:
Original Theatrical Release Date: February 4, 1938
DVD Release Date: October 6, 2009
Online Availability: Amazon for $19.99

I, like many other adults my age, have been able to take for granted the fact that Disney regularly makes decent animated features. When Snow White was being developed by Walt Disney and his company, the Disney company had never made a full length, animated, feature film. This was the first Disney feature, that has made way for many, other exceptional animated movies. Without Snow White we wouldn’t have had Bambi, Lady and the Tramp, The Fox and the Hound, and many, other classic Disney films that are a part of my (and probably your) Disney collection.

At the time it was released, Snow White was revolutionary. Most animated studios focused on cartoon shorts, so a full, animated feature was a lot more work, since animation was hand drawn at that time. You can see the care taken to make this film something spectacular. It’s a beautiful film that is even more enhanced by the HD capabilities today. Not to sound cliché, but the Blu-Ray presentation of this Disney classic is absolutely gorgeous.

It is hard to dispute the worth of a film like Snow White. The story had been around since the days of the Brothers Grimm, who first told the tale of the beautiful Snow White, her wicked stepmother, and the seven, friendly dwarfs. The Disney dwarfs have become a symbol of Walt Disney and the Disney Company. You’d have to be living under a rock to not know Dopey, Grumpy, Sleepy or the other dwarfs. Of course, this just adds to the timeless nature of the film, Disney’s legacy and our longstanding recognition of the characters within it.

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BD Review: The Hannibal Lecter Collection

Saturday, September 26th, 2009

The Hannibal Lecter Collection Blu-Ray Box ArtMovie Info:
Writers: Michael Mann, David Mamet, Ted Tally, Steven Zaillian, Thomas Harris
Directors: Ridley Scott, Michael Mann, Jonathan Demme
Cast: Scott Glenn, Ted Levine, Giancarlo Giannini, Dennis Farina, Stephen Lang, Tom Noonan, Kim Greist, Julianne Moore, Jodie Foster, Joan Allen, Francesca Neri, Anthony Hopkins, Brian Cox, Ray Liotta, Frankie Faison, William Petersen
Rating: R
Studio: Fox Home Entertainment/MGM

Release Info:
DVD Release Date: September 15, 2009
Online Availability: Amazon for $44.49

I am a huge fan of films involving Hannibal Lecter. I’m also a huge fan of William Petersen, Jodie Foster, Joan Allen, and Anthony Hopkins. That means I was pretty anxious to get my hands on a copy of the Hannibal Lecter Collection. This collection consists of Manhunter, Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal. While I had seen Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal, as well as Red Dragon (the feature film version of Manhunter), I had never before seen the TV movie, Manhunter. I knew it followed pretty much the same storyline as Red Dragon does, I knew it had an excellent cast, and I had heard only good things about it. This made me very curious about seeing Manhunter.

Out of this set of three movies, the best is Silence of the Lambs. It’s hard to beat the story. In fact, Silence has been one of my favorite movies of all time for years. I can’t discount Manhunter, though. While I enjoyed Red Dragon, I have to say that William Petersen really made Manhunter worth watching. While it was weird to see Brian Cox in the role of Hannibal Lecter, considering I’ve only seen Hopkins play the role prior to watching Manhunter, I don’t think Cox did too bad a job. His Lecter was quite different from the one portrayed by Hopkins. While I find Hopkins is the definitive Lecter, I can’t dislike Cox’s portrayal too much, especially since it is so different from the one by Hopkins.

The only dead weight in this set is Hannibal. The biggest problem is that Jodie Foster isn’t in this. While Julianne Moore took over the role of Clarice Starling, and I generally like Moore, I just can’t see anyone else in the role but Foster. I am of the firm belief that for a sequel to exist, it needs to be a strong extension of the first film and I don’t feel that is what Hannibal offered. It wasn’t just about replacing Foster with Moore. The story just didn’t feel as connected to Silence as I feel it should have. That being said, for what the actors are given to work with, I don’t feel they did a horrible job. It’s rather mediocre, which is expected considering the expectations a sequel has after following a movie like Silence of the Lambs.

The big question I had when receiving this set was how worthy a purchase this Blu-ray set would be. All three movies have had multiple DVD releases, so if you own a past release it may not be worth it to upgrade. This review should shed light on how decent the Blu-ray quality is, how good the bonuses are, and whether it is going to be worth the upgrade. For those who do not own these movies, I’ll also try to make it clear whether it is good to purchase this three film collection just to have these movies.

The Hannibal Lecter Collection Plot
There are three discs, one for each movie. Manhunter is the first movie in the set. The second is Silence of the Lambs and the third is Hannibal.

Manhunter begins with Will Graham (played by Petersen). Graham used to be an FBI agent, but the trauma of capturing and almost being killed by the serial killer Hannibal Lecter (Lecktor) is nearly unbearable. This is what leads to his retirement from the FBI. Jack Crawford (Dennis Farina), asks him to come out of retirement to help with a new case. The case involves a killer known as The Tooth Fairy, who is killing entire families.

Graham, who has retired to a tranquil setting, is reluctant to come out of retirement and leave his family, but the profiler within him still exists. Graham is one of the best at what he does, especially since he has a very special ability. He is able to enter the mind of the killer, which has helped him to catch many, including Lecktor (Cox). This process is very hard on Will and has taken its toll on him physically. As Lektor points out, it was easy for Will to catch him because they are ‘alike,’ which is something Will would never admit about himself.

Graham tries to get into the mind of The Tooth Fairy, but there are many obstacles standing in his way; his own conscience, Lecktor’s smugness. and the interference by sleaze bucket reporter, Freddy Lounds (Stephen Lang). With Freddy revealing that Graham has come out of retirement to work on the case, he also has to constantly worry about his family, who are now at risk. With Hannibal intent on making his own rules and so many complications in the Tooth Fairy case, it looks as though Graham has the chance to lose everything, including himself, as he attempts to find one of the most elusive killers he’s had to track.

Silence of the Lambs takes place after the events in Manhunter. A trainee at the FBI academy, Clarice Starling (Foster), is asked by BSU head Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn) to interview the cannibal serial killer, Hannibal Lecter (Hopkins). Starling assumes that the FBI wants the former psychologist to help with the capture of a serial killer known as Buffalo Bill, though her suspicions of this aren’t immediately confirmed.

Lecter is being kept at the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, under the care of a sadistic doctor, Frederick Chilton (Anthony Heald). Lecter is smart enough to figure out why Starling is there. He immediately tries to get into her head, something Crawford warned her he would try to do. Unwilling to give her the information she seeks, Lecter sends Clarice out of the hospital. However, as she is leaving, another prisoner throws semen on her. The proper Lecter follows his own set of rules, and to make up for what he considers such a tasteless act, he gives her a major hint into the Bill case. He also, later, offers to provide a profile of Bill for the FBI and Starling, but only if he can be transferred out of Chilton’s hospital.

As this is unfolding, Bill abducts his next victim, Catherine Martin (Brooke Smith), the daughter of a U.S. Senator. With the stakes raised, he must force Starling to continue, but trusting a psychopath such as Lecter proves to be as much trouble as it is assisting. With no time to spare, Clarice must solve the case, and get to Catherine before she becomes the next part of the delusional Bill’s woman suit.

Hannibal is set ten years after The Silence of the Lambs. It is based on a book by Thomas Harris, as are the previous two films in this set. Starling (Julianne Moore), a full fledged FBI agent, as seen happening at the end of the last film, has lost all credibility with the FBI after a drug raid goes wrong. She had tried to stop the raid, but another officer went in without approval, and Starling is forced to take the blame for such actions. It doesn’t help that she had rejected going out with Paul Krendler (Ray Liotta), who is handling the investigation into the matter for the Justice Department.

The downfall of Clarice catches the eye of Mason Verger (Gary Oldman), the only one of Lecter’s victims to survive. Linking Starling to Lecter, a man he wants to exact revenge upon, Mason, who also happens to be a disgustingly harsh pedophile, wants to get her back involved in Lecter’s life, particularly so he can manipulate the situation and get even with Lecter. The wealthy yet disfigured and disabled Mason has Starling assigned to the Lecter case, again. Mason claims to have new information on Lecter, but will only let Starling come to assist him, hoping Lecter’s feelings for her will make him get sloppy and reveal himself.

In Italy, the curator of the Capponi Library disappears, and his replacement, Dr. Fell, is actually Lecter. Hearing of Starling’s trouble in the states, as Mason predicted, Lecter gets back in touch with her. Somehow, Starling is able to trace the letter back to Italy, and she looks for a connection to Lecter there. An investigator in Florence, Pazzi (Giancarlo Giannini) has seen Lecter, as Fell, while investigating the old museum curator’s disappearance. Using the FBI database, he learns who Lector really is. He also learns about the $3 million that Mason is offering to those who can help capture Lecter for him. As greed overwhelms the Chief Inspector, and Hannibal’s location is being compromised, Starling is sure this can only turn out badly, but how badly is anyone’s guess.

Storyline/Plot: [rating:4]
Replayability: [rating:4.5]
Acting: [rating:4.5]
Directing: [rating:4]

Audio/Visual:
All three movies offer similar aspect ratios and visual stats, but the quality is all somewhat different. Manhunter strays the most where the stats are concerned, with 1080p and an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Silence and Hannibal also offer 1080p, but the aspect ratios here are 1.85:1. All of the visuals offer some positives and negatives.

None of them are brand new movies and as they weren’t highly remastered none of them are going to appear as if they were the best that Blu-ray has to offer. Manhunter suffers from plenty of grain and a fair amount of softness that doesn’t completely distract but is always noticeable. The detail is not always horrible, but sadly it is nowhere near where it would need to be in order to impress. When you consider that I have nothing to compare it to in terms of previous DVD versions I suppose it’s not horrible. The quality wouldn’t stop me from watching this a second time, so it must not be a complete waste in any case.

Silence of the Lambs offers a better picture quality with more detail and a better color palette. Again, this movie fails to truly stun with its graphics, but it manages to be suitable enough to stop the fans from revolting. Finally, Hannibal is similar to the others, in the fact that it fails to impress. As it is the newest of the three movies it’s sad that the quality is as flat as it really is. The detail is bland, the colors are inconsistent and it’s just a sad affair all around. Again, it won’t stop a fan from watching but Blu-ray is capable of offering so much more than you get here.

All three movies offer a DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, though not all qualities are similar. Manhunter suffers from a front speaker, inconsistent track that goes from loud to louder or too soft in an instant. The sound effects and music are occasionally effective and hearing the dialogue is usually not a problem, it’s just not the most stable track for something in the Blu-ray genre of films.

Silence of the Lambs offers a more stable track, but it’s not the most exciting track either. Some of the effects could stand to be clearer, but that’s the big complaint. Many of the other issues are so small they just blend together to make an unforgettable audio. That being said, it’s good enough that fans shouldn’t notice too many problems. Even with basic audio, the story is good enough to keep you occupied assuming you can hear.

Hannibal offers a more dynamic track, surprisingly enough. The sound effects pop when you hear them and that’s not meant in a bad way. The dialogue is always on par with what is necessary to hear a clear track and everything else while much more basic, is good enough to pass. The movies also offer French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks and Spanish and English subtitles.

Visual: [rating:3.5]
Audio: [rating:3.5]

Bonus Features:
The special features section is where this set really lets fans down. Both Manhunter and Hannibal are devoid of special features, unless you count previews, which I don’t. Silence of the Lambs differs from the other two movies by offering a plethora of special features. The largest feature here is “Breaking the Silence.” Lasting for the entire movie, this serves as a picture in picture featurette, similar to a commentary, but better. Instead of just hearing others talk you get to hear from the cast and crew as they talk about working on the film and show various clips about their experiences. This is followed up by “Understanding the Madness,” which is an interesting featurette that discusses the BSU of the FBI and what is necessary for them to solve crimes.

“Inside the Labyrinth: Making of The Silence of the Lambs lasts for just over an hour. This is an in depth look back at the movie after ten years. Some of the more interesting topics touched upon include America’s interest with serial killers, the overall cast, the thoughts of the media concerning the film, and even information on the design aspects of the film. Of course, with an hour on the table you can expect that those involved in this feature talk about much more than all of this. Fans will really enjoy this featurette.

The final extended featurette is “The Silence of the Lambs: Page to Screen. While not as long as some of the others, at over 41 minutes, it’s still quite long. Peter Gallagher is the host for nearly an hour. He takes on the topic of Thomas Harris and how he wrote a novel that would make a movie that would be talked about for years to come. Some time is also spent on actors transforming into the characters and numerous other interesting topics.

The final two, smaller featurettes include “Scoring the Silence” and the original, 1991, Making Of. “Scoring” is all about the music in the film and the work that was done by the composer, Howard Shore. In the Making Of, you get to see about eight minutes worth of information about making the film. The new making of is definitely more superior on all levels, though it is fun to see what featurettes used to be like. Still, the information available here is not repeated elsewhere so that is a plus.

The special features come to an end with a mix of around 20 deleted scenes which total around 21 minutes worth of additional footage, a couple minutes worth of outtakes, some television spots, a teaser, a trailer, and a phone message from Anthony Hopkins.

If I was rating Silence alone, this rating would have been a 4.5, but when you consider that two out of the three movies here had absolutely no features the rating had to be suited to all three movies in this set.

Bonus Features: [rating:3]

Bottom Line:
The Hannibal Lecter Collection has two out of three really awesome films. I recommend this collection on Blu-ray for those who are fans of the Hannibal Lecter series of movies, but only if you don’t already own these films. While the Blu-ray quality is a little better than average, it isn’t so stand out that this is a must have upgrade to Blu-ray. This collection was released in a DVD set in 2007, though I’m not sure how that quality compares to this one. When it comes to the movies, I recommend watching them, even Hannibal, at least once. You should own Silence if you don’t, and check out Manhunter. You won’t be disappointed.

[rating:overall]

[tags]Fox Home Entertainment, MGM, Cannibal, Hannibal Lecter, Silence of the Lambs, Manhunter, Hannibal, Julianne Moore, Jodi Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Blu-Ray, Blu-Ray Review, Movie Review, Horror, BD Box Set[/tags]


BD Review: Misery

Saturday, September 19th, 2009

Misery Blu-Ray Box ArtMovie Info:
Writer: Stephen King, William Goldman
Director: Rob Reiner
Cast: James Caan, Kathy Bates, Richard Farnsworth, Frances Sternhagen, Lauren Bacall, Graham Jarvis
Rating: R
Studio: MGM

Release Info:
DVD Release Date: September 15, 2009
Online Availability: Amazon for $15.99

I love the movie Misery. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen this movie, but I just can’t seem to get enough of it. Kathy Bates plays the ultimate psycho and does it well. Annie Wilkes scares me. As someone who relies on caregivers for my daily living needs, I can imagine how terrifying it is for someone stuck in a wheelchair to be in the position that Paul Sheldon is in.

When I heard that Misery was coming to Blu-Ray, I was elated. I am starting to get all the movies I own on DVD in Blu-Ray. I like the quality of Blu-Ray better, anyway, which is the entire point of this newer system. The big question that needed to be answered, for me, is whether the quality of the Blu-Ray is better than the quality of the standard DVD, and whether it is worth it to upgrade to the Blu-Ray version.

When it comes to Stephen King books, I’m usually all in. Save for some of the last books he’s written, I’m a huge King fan. It’s fairly easy to see why he’s called the Master of Horror. In the late 70s, 80s and 90s, he owned the genre. I have found the movie adaptations of his works to be hit or miss. I am especially disappointed in the remakes for movies like Carrie. When a King movie is done well, it is awesome. When it isn’t, (Dreamcatcher, for example) the whole movie falls apart. Misery falls in the hit category. In fact, this movie is one of my all time, favorite, Stephen King adaptations.

I guess it is the relate-ability factor that really gets to me. Annie Wilkes isn’t some craze zombie that’s going to eat Paul’s flesh. She’s not a Michael Meyer’s type of serial killer who can be shot and shot and shot and shot and still come back to life. She’s a human being. I hate to call her average, because she’s about as fruit loopy as it gets. Still, there are people as nutty as Annie and anything could set them off. Being as I’m in a wheelchair, the reality of a nutso caregiver keeps me from hiring just anyone for my care. I do fear that there are Annie Wilkes out there, and that’s the true horror of a movie like Misery.

Misery Plot
“I’m your number one fan.”

That line alone says it all. I can’t help but mention that every time I hear it, I laugh as I imagine Stewie Griffin in an Annie Wilkes outfit, during the Family Guy spoof of Misery. That, of course, has little to do with the plot of the movie, so I digress.

Paul Sheldon is a famous author known for his Victorian romance novels, the Misery series, about his well received protagonist, Misery Chastaine. He has just finished his first novel since ending the Misery series, at the same place he writes all his books, a private lodge in Silver Creek, Colorado. After finishing his novel, he decides to drive back to New York, where he lives, but he doesn’t realize that a huge storm is hitting the roads he’ll have to head down to get home.

When his car skids off the road and down an embankment, Paul is miraculously saved by Annie Wilkes, who lives in the area, and takes him to her home. Annie used to be a nurse, so she has the skills to nurse him back to health. At first, Annie seems very sweet and nice. She is Paul’s number one fan. She’s read all his books, named her prized pig, Misery, and looks up to Misery, the character. However, looks can be deceiving.

Paul learns this after he lets Annie read his new novel, an untitled story that Annie says is filled with profanity. Annie is furious with this. Paul is a “Dirty Bird” who swears too much and it ruins the book for Annie. After going nuts and revealing her true psychotic side to Paul, she calms down and things go back to her nursing him with relative niceness.

In town, Annie buys the latest book in the Misery series, which has just been released, Misery’s Child. What she doesn’t know is that “Mister Man” aka Paul has killed off her beloved Misery, so that he can devote time to other projects. When she realizes what he’s done, she informs him that nobody knows where he is, she makes him burn the only copy of his latest novel, and forces him to write another Misery novel, bringing her back from the dead.

The small sheriff station in Silver Creek is looking for Paul since his publicist called them, worried. The sheriff starts reading Paul’s books to gain insight into him, and asking questions at the local store. When Paul’s car is discovered in the snow, down the embankment, everyone but the sheriff assumes that he’s dead. What none of them realize is Paul is left in the unmerciful care of a psychotic, former nurse that likes to drug him, hurt him, and imprison him, while he’s confined to a wheelchair.

Storyline/Plot: [rating:5]
Replayability: [rating:5]
Acting: [rating:5]
Directing: [rating:5]

Audio/Visual:
Fans of Misery will not be disappointed in this Blu-ray transfer. The 1080p and AVC encode offer one of the best transfers that you will find for this must own movie. Despite the slightly older age, Misery looks like it’s brand new. The level of detail and clarity shown here are quite impressive. The little things are amplified to make a pristine picture quality. Compression errors are not a problem and things like softness or glare are a rare occurrence. When grain occurs it is also rare. It does happen, but it’s so light it shouldn’t bother the majority of people. The colors are right on track and the black levels are strong.

There are three audio tracks here. Being an English speaker, I opted for the English DTS HD/MA 5.1 track and it sounded good. The visual quality manages to amaze, but the audio is very good, also.

Misery is mainly a dialogue driven affair. The dialogue is always easy to hear and is a step above what you might remember from the DVD presentation. The background sounds are what really add a nice element to the movie, though. Things like creaking floorboards, moving wheelchairs, and the occasional banging of Paul’s hands when he pushes across the floor are well placed. The ding of the typewriter offers nice sound quality, as well. Minor surround sound elements are used when appropriate. Beyond the English track there are Spanish and French Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks and subtitles in all three languages.

Visual: [rating:4.5]
Audio: [rating:4.5]

Bonus Features:
Misery comes with a DVD copy, as well as the Blu-ray. While the quality is definitely worthy of Blu-ray recognition, the special features have been heavily sloughed over. Rather than porting over the special features from the DVD or whipping up some new ones, Fox decided to avoid the special features on the Blu-ray and let the features on the DVD go it alone. If you don’t already own the DVD this might be acceptable if you plan to watch the provided DVD here. Otherwise, if you’re looking to upgrade, like most Misery fans are, you won’t find a reason to do so when it comes to the special features.

If you don’t own the DVD or didn’t before this, you will find two audio commentaries (one by Rob Reiner and one by William Goldman) and seven featurettes that range in quality and topic, from stalkers (and stalking) to the infamous Annie Wilkes.

Bonus Features: [rating:0]

Bottom Line:
Misery in Blu-Ray looks so good, if you already own a previous DVD release, I recommend the upgrade. I am not fond of the lack of new supplements, but the upgrade visually and audio-wise is so great, and the price of the Blu-Ray is reasonable enough that I feel buying the Blu-Ray is a must. If you don’t own the DVD, get this movie. It comes highly recommended, though if I have to name my favorite transfer, to date, its this Blu-Ray release.

[rating:overall]

[tags]Misery, Blu-Ray, Blu-Ray Review, Movie Review, Dirty Bird, Mister Man, Annie Wilkes, Stephen King, James Caan, Kathy Bates, Horror[/tags]

BD Review: Wrong Turn 2: Dead End

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

Wrong Turn 2: Dead End Blu-Ray Box ArtMovie Info:
Writer: Alan B. McElroy, Turi Meyer
Director: Joe Lynch
Cast: Erica Leerhsen, Henry Rollins, Texas Battle, Daniella Alonso, Steve Braun, Aleksa Palladino, Matthew Currie Holmes, Crystal Lowe, Ken Kirzinger, Ashlea Earl, Clint Carleton, Rorelee Tio, Jeff Scrutton
Rating: R
Studio: Fox Home Entertainment

Release Info:
DVD Release Date: September 15, 2009
Online Availability: Amazon for $18.49

Horror sequels usually suffer a fate far worse than that of their film predecessors. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but in this case, it is my job. Wrong Turn 2: Dead End was definitely one of those movies I did not enjoy. I found the original to be decent though not exceptional. Since the original wasn’t so stand out it deserved a sequel, I’m not exactly sure why the powers that be behind this project made one, other than to try to profit off the series.

In the first movie, Wrong Turn, the freaky, genetic mutant, incest loving cannibals are creepy, but it doesn’t take long for them to get old. By the time the action begins in Wrong Turn 2: Dead End, I was over the cannibals. Add in the fact that they become ten times more annoying and Wrong Turn 2: Dead End is already a miss with me. I was ready for the movie to end with the first viewing of the cannibals, which now includes females. And don’t get me started on the nasty, cannibals/incest sex scene. Seriously, the implications they were sleeping together was gross enough. Seeing it wasn’t gross in a cool horror kind of way. It was flat out disgusting and stupid.

The writer of the script for Wrong Turn 2: Dead End didn’t do himself any favors. I blame the director for the annoying aspects added to the cannibals and their performances, but I blame the writer for character development (or lack thereof) and writing one helluva dumb story. The characters are atrocious. I feel absolutely no sympathy for any of them. All of them, on both sides, deserved to die, except for maybe Henry Rollins’ character, though, he too, was annoying in his own way. I ask for so little in horror movies these days, but a horror movie cannot fit true horror convention if it has not one character worth sympathizing with…and that is the first place Wrong Turn 2: Dead End fails.

I could honestly end my review of Wrong Turn 2: Dead End here, by telling you not to bother with this film, but I know some of my readers are gluttons for punishment. That’s okay, I am as curious about seeing how truly ‘bad’ a movie is, so I will sometimes watch badly rated films, just for the shits and giggles aspect of it. If you heed my words wisely, you can stop reading. The film isn’t worth it. However, if you want to find out how truly horrible Wrong Turn 2: Dead End is, keep reading. This review will give you enough information on whether renting this film, to laugh at it, is worth it or not.

The Wrong Turn 2: Dead End Plot
It has been a few years since the end of the first wrong Turn. Back in West Virginia, a bitchy celebrity by the name of Kimberly is driving down the back roads. Calling her agent, she is quite peevish as she explains she is lost. Kimberly is on her way to the middle of nowhere, to compete in a backwoods version of a survivor kind of reality series. As Kimberly complains about having to even participate in this show, she finds that the reception on her phone keeps going out. Trying to find her way to meet the rest of the cast and the film crew, she accidentally hits someone. When she gets out of the car, she is attacked by cannibal mutants, is murdered, and the credits begin to roll.

After the credits, the rest of the cast has all made it to the filming location. Each character has a gimmick. There is the jock, Jake, the emo, goth, Nina, the ho, Elena, the former military badass, Amber, and the annoying ass, Jonesy. These are the contestants on “Apocalypse: Ultimate Survivalist.” All of them take part on a series hosted by Dale Murphy, a former military man, with the chance to win shitload of money.

When Kimberly, the diva, is a no show, the cast and crew aren’t surprised. However, the producer of the show, Mara, a shy girl with very little confidence or outdoor skills, must take Kimberly’s place at the insistence of her boyfriend, Michael, who is the creator/cameraman of the show. It doesn’t take long for the cannibals to show up. They kill a crew member and capture Dale. In the meantime, the ho, Elena, gives head to Michael, which Mara happens to stumble upon (without them knowing).

Hurt by the betrayal, Mara decides to leave. She is accompanied by Nina, who helps her find a cabin. The two search for a phone, but are interrupted by a Ma cannibal giving birth to a nasty mutant, cannibal baby. The shock of the girls allows them to be spotted. They are chased into the woods, and one of them is killed. The other goes off to find the others and warn them, but for some, it will be too late. As the cannibals take back their woods, it is up to the contestants of the survival show to truly survive or die trying.

Storyline/Plot: [rating:1]
Replayability: [rating:1]
Acting: [rating:2]
Directing: [rating:1]

Audio/Visual:
The previous Wrong Turn did not offer a visual quality befitting of its time, so to assume that the second installment, a direct to DVD flick, would be any better might be assuming far too much. The two films were shot in different mediums, but the actual quality ends up with the same results. The fact is, this is not a highly detailed, clear transfer. Instead it is soft and bland like the first film. It appears that some of the shots were cleaned up to the best of the filmmakers’ ability, but it didn’t do much for the end result of the film. The colors have their share of issues, but the blacks are more on level, which is a brief improvement. Sadly, some of the most detailed scenes are the ones that most will want to skip. In any case, this is hardly representative of the best (or even the middle ground) of what Blu-ray is capable of offering.

Wrong Turn 2 features a DTS HD MA 5.1 track, but it doesn’t manage to offer a strong audio mix at all. I really don’t expect much from horror movies, but this is just bland. The screaming is loud and the inbred mutants make you want to smash them with a stick from all that grunting and sex noises, but otherwise things are just plain. The dialogue is easy to hear for the most part and the music is manageable, but nothing here is worth bragging about. It could be much worse though, so I will try and keep my complaints to a minimum. Like the first Wrong Turn you also receive Spanish and French Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks and subtitles in English and Spanish.

Visual: [rating:2.5]
Audio: [rating:2.5]

Bonus Features:
After watching a movie this bad, a reviewer silently hopes for no special features because that means that they will be forced to stomach the movie that much longer. Unfortunately, in this case, my prayers were not answered because there are more bonuses here than I wanted to even consider watching. Even one featurette would have been bad enough, but having a few with two commentaries on top of them was just too much.

The first commentary is with the director Joe Lynch and two of the actors from the film, Henry Rollins and Erica Leerhsen. There really lacks a point of having three people in this commentary. Leerhsen rarely talks and Lynch talks enough for everyone. It’s nice to see a first time director enthusiastic about his projects, but with work like this I’m hopeful that he’s not hired too often from now on. Fans of the movie will like this, but don’t expect anything earth shattering. The second commentary is with Turi Meyer and Al Septien. This is another useless track. It’s easy to listen to, but it’s just not important or even overly necessary. They talk rather blandly, so expect them to pick apart the plot (as they think there is one) and to talk about the characters.

The Making Of for the film is called “More Blood, More Guts: The Making of Wrong Turn 2” and it lasts for just over nine minutes. The things discussed include the characters according to the cast that plays them, the mental issues of the director, and decisions concerning casting. This is pretty cut and dry and not incredibly exciting.

“On Location with P-Nut” is a short, two minute featurette filmed by P-Nut. He was visiting the set during the scene where the inbreds were getting it on. Don’t expect anything amazing here, because if you are expecting it, you’ll be disappointed.

The final featurette on the list is “Making Gore Look Good” and it’s one of the longest of the featurettes coming in at around eleven minutes. This was probably the best that the special features had to offer. This talks about the special effects that were used in the film. Effects fans will enjoy this, but everyone else will safely be able to take it or leave it.

Bonus Features: [rating:2]

Bottom Line:
I hated watching Wrong Turn 2: Dead End. If I didn’t have to review this film, I would have turned it off before the end. My biggest problem is with the cannibals. They drove me nuts. I wanted them out of the movie. Add in a lack of sympathetic characters and a shoddy plot and this movie was a total miss for me. In Blu-Ray, Wrong Turn 2: Dead End leaves much to be desired. Though relatively cheap for Blu-Ray, I recommend renting a standard release if you absolutely must see this film (especially to laugh at it). Otherwise, I recommend not bothering. Rent the original Wrong Turn instead.

[rating:overall]

[tags]Fox Home Entertainment, Wrong Turn, Horror Franchise, Bad Film, Inbred, Wrong Turn 2, Dead End, Blu-Ray, Blu-Ray Review, Movie Review, Horror[/tags]

BD Review: Child’s Play

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

Child's Play Blu-Ray Box ArtMovie Info:
Writer: Don Mancini
Director: Tom Holland
Cast: Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon, Alex Vincent, Brad Dourif, Dinah Manoff, Tommy Swerdlow, Jack Colvin, Neil Giuntoli
Rating: R
Studio: Fox

Release Info:
Theatrical Release Date: November 9, 1988
DVD Release Date: September 15, 2009
Online Availability: Amazon for $14.49

The horror franchise I remember most from my childhood is Child’s Play. We weren’t really allowed to watch horror movies growing up, but Child’s Play was a film I remember seeing. Apparently, a demonic doll isn’t as scary as a dude with a face mask. Honestly, I think a demonic child’s play toy is a lot more scary than a face masked dude, especially if you are a kid, like I was the first time I saw this.

In the grand scheme of things, Chucky really is one of the more mild horror villains. Yeah, he is a nasty little doll, but he is not as scary as Michael Myers or even Freddy. Still, Child’s Play is a fun horror series, and it’s one of the classics of my generation. If you do not know who Chucky is, then you have been living under a rock for the past 20+ years. Granted, the series has steadily declined with the more sequels that have been made, but the original Child’s Play is a must watch for any horror fan.

The success of Child’s Play is, in large part, due to the non-mechanical acting. Little Andy (Alex Vincent) is so innocent and adorable you do not want anything to happen to him. He is the pawn in the game of a serial killer turned doll. Before she was married to a preacher on Seventh Heaven, Catherine Hicks was Andy’s mom who would defend her little boy to the death and Chris Sarandon is good in pretty much everything he’s in. Hicks and Sarandon have decent chemistry and both play their parts well. Even Dinah Manoff is good as Aunt Maggie, who has one of the most hilarious looking/sounding deaths in horror history.

You can’t go into watching any horror film with a realist’s point of view, but especially not Child’s Play. It’s about a doll that comes to life and tries to kill people. If you can look past everything to the silly, fun story Child’s Play has to tell, then you are going to enjoy this movie. Otherwise, I recommend not watching this and suggest you develop an imagination.

The Child’s Play Plot
Charles Lee “Chucky” Ray (Brad Dourif) is The Lakeshore Strangler. He has been pursued by the police and now, Detective Mike Norris (Chris Sarandon) has him cornered inside a toy store. When Chucky is mortally shot, he opens up a package of the store’s Good Guy Dolls, says a voodoo incantation and transfers his soul into the doll. The ritual creates a storm and the store is hit with lightening, burning down in the process.

It’s Andy Barclay’s (Alex Vincent) birthday and all he wants is a Good Guy doll. Andy’s mom, Karen (Catherine Hicks) has been scrimping and saving, but as a widow, her department store job isn’t enough to do much more than support Andy and herself. Desperate to buy a Good Guy Doll since Andy has been so good this year, she is willing to do nearly whatever she can to get one.

When Maggie (Dinah Manoff), who works with Karen and often babysit’s Andy, finds a Good Guy doll, Karen is willing to buy it from a smelly street vendor. However, this doll is no ordinary doll. It was taken from the burnt down store and contains the soul of Chucky. Strange things start to happen and it seems like Andy is to blame. When Aunt Maggie ends up dead, Andy becomes the prime suspect, especially when little good guy footprints are found on the counter top.

When Andy skips school and is at the scene of an explosion, the police want to have Andy’ committed, despite Karen’s protestations. However, when Karen takes Chucky home with her, she soon realizes that he has been moving and talking with no batteries and discovers that Andy is telling the truth. Now, all she has to do is convince the police her son is not crazy before more people end up dead. especially Andy.

Storyline/Plot: [rating:4]
Replayability: [rating:5]
Acting: [rating:4]
Directing: [rating:5]

Audio/Visual:
Child’s Play does not look like a perfect Blu-ray transfer. In many ways it does not even look as if it was remastered for the experience. Don’t get me wrong, at times, it is easy to see the improvement in the visual transfer. You won’t find anything as impressive as you will with Misery, but this transfer is a step up from the DVD version that fans probably already own. The detail can be rather hit or miss. Occasionally you’re dealing with a nicely detailed movie and at other times it feels like you’re watching the DVD and the quality has not changed. The issues and complaints aren’t major, but they are present and they are noticeable. The colors are more than acceptable even if the blacks sometime need work. You might have better luck and be more impressed with the visuals than I am, but even though I was not wowed, it managed to get the job done even if the quality was not that of a new release.

The audio kicks the visuals ass and then some. It’s funny to think how much work they would put into renewing the audio, especially since the visuals often felt half-assed. The surround sound is used as effectively as possible. The dialogue is stellar, but it is the pitter patter of Chucky’s little feet that really stands out. The same can be said for the other background noises that the film uses to make things more interesting. In addition to the main, English DTS HD-MA 5.1 track there are English, Spanish, and French tracks in Dolby Digital 5.1. Subtitles are available in English and Spanish.

Visual: [rating:3]
Audio: [rating:4]

Bonus Features:
There are a few special features on this new Child’s Play Blu-ray. I can’t say that I am wowed by any of them, but some are certainly better than others. The commentaries (yes, there are two of them) are just what I mean. The first commentary features Kevin Yagher, Catherine Hicks (Karen) and Alex Vincent (Andy). The biggest problem with this commentary is that the three are not in the same room and it’s badly mixed. Catherine and Kevin are together and having a normal enough conversation. Alex is not in the room and his comments are thrown in here and there as the opportunity presents itself. It ends up feeling broken and there are certainly issues with flow as a result. The next commentary is with David Kirschner and Don Mancini. This is the commentary to listen to if you’re looking for something more technical.

The “Chucky Commentary” is one of the more amusing featurettes on the disc. This commentary mainly occurs during any of the action/murder/attack scenes and Chucky has plenty to say. This is purely for entertainment sake. It’s worth listening to, especially if you’re a Chucky fan. Of course, once you’ve heard it once you probably won’t have a reason to hear it a second time.

“Evil Comes in Small Packages” offers all of the behind the scenes information that you might want to learn. Here you have information about the production, the development of the story, and various interviews with cast and crew. There is a good amount of technical talk here, which separates it from a lot of other behind the scenes featurettes.

“Chucky: Building a Nightmare” is definitely the best featurette available for Child’s Play. Kevin Yagher offers up how he brought Chucky to life using animatronics. It’s quite interesting, especially considering this is when things were done by hand, without things like CGI and other enhancements.

“A Monster Convention” includes the Monster Mania 2007 panel that includes Chris Sarandon, Alex Vincent, and Catherine Hicks. This only lasts for around five minutes, so there isn’t much to chew on here. Only one or two questions make it worth listening to.

“The Making of Child’s Play” is not so much a making of, as it is a making of Chucky. This deals with the animatronics, much like “Chucky Building a Nightmare” does.

The special features finish up with a photo gallery and a trailer presented in standard definition.

Bonus Features: [rating:3]

Bottom Line:
Child’s Play is a must watch/must own for true horror buffs. However, the quality and bonus offerings on Blu-Ray are just okay, and not spectacular. It would be a safe bet to say you will enjoy this as much on DVD as you will Blu-Ray. So, until a better BD release comes out, save a few bucks and buy this on DVD, or if you already own it, don’t feel compelled to upgrade just yet. There’s bound to be another Blu-ray upgrade attempt for Child’s Play soon enough.

[rating:overall]

[tags]Child’s Play, Doll, Voodoo, Blu Ray, Horror, Fox Home Video, Movie Review, Blu Ray Review, psychopath[/tags]