DVD Talk
Release List Reviews Shop Newsletter Forum DVD Giveaways Blu-Ray Advertise
Reviews & Columns
Reviews
DVD
TV on DVD
Blu-ray
International DVDs
Theatrical
Adult
Reviews by Studio
Video Games

Features
Collector Series DVDs
Easter Egg Database
Interviews
DVD Talk Radio
Feature Articles

Columns
Anime Talk
XCritic.com
DVD Savant
HD Talk
Horror DVDs
Silent DVD

discussion forum
DVD Talk Forum

Resources
DVD Price Search
Customer Service #'s
RCE Info
Links

Columns



HD Talk
Unbiased Coverage Of All Things HD: HD-DVD, Blu-Ray and Beyond

Halloween HD Horrors
Halloween HD Horrors!

Halloween is only days away, and what better way to spend the night than curled up on the sofa watching your favorite horror flicks in a gore-soaked marathon? Luckily, 2007 has seen the release of several classic and modern horror pictures that will satisfy the most ardent genre-phile. Here's a selection to help you decide which will work best for that late-night viewing. Whether you're trying to have the living daylights scared out of you, looking for some zombie-tinged laughs, or you're just trying to get your girlfriend to cling to you in fear, we've got something for everyone. Read on!

Halloween
(Starz / Anchor Bay // $29.98 // Reviewed by Daniel Hirshleifer)

Halloween is a horror classic. But more than that, it's got some of the best filmmaking you'll ever have a chance to lay eyes on. The majority of the movie is simply breathtaking. Even if the climax doesn't live up to what's come before it, the fact is that Halloween is a must-see film that will stand the test of time. I was very impressed with the film-like image on this Blu-ray disc. It's the best Halloween has ever looked on home video. The sound isn't quite as impressive, and the disc doesn't include all the various extras Anchor Bay has produced for the film over the years, but the strong audio commentary and in-depth documentary are both excellent. Regardless of whether you're a horror fan or a fan of great cinema, you need to own this film.

Audio Features: PCM Uncompressed 5.1; Dolby Digital 5.1; Dolby Digital 1.0

Available on Blu-ray


Shaun of the Dead
(Universal // $29.98 // Reviewed by Adam Tyner)

Between the two next-gen formats, we're getting Shaun of the Dead, both the original and the remake of Dawn of the Dead, and Romero's Day of the Dead all in the space of a couple of months. Toss in last year's Land of the Dead and the kinda-sorta-not-really-zombie-flicks in the Evil Dead series on HD DVD and Blu-ray, and it's a great time to be a home theater nut who takes entirely too much pleasure in watching hordes of the undead devour the living. Shaun of the Dead is a blood-spattered valentine to George Romero, standing out not just as a hell of a comedy but one of the all-time best zombie flicks. The HD DVD looks and sounds fantastic, and even if the extras are the same as the last go-around and aren't as comprehensive as the British release, there are still plenty of bells and whistles to chew on.

Audio Features: Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

Available on HD DVD


House of 1,000 Corpses
(Lions Gate Entertainment // $29.99 // Reviewed by John Sinnott)

Though House of 1,000 Corpses wasn't a perfect movie, it is a great homage to the classic slasher films of the 70's. Though the plot isn't very intricate (or original) director Rob Zombie throws so much into his script that it's hard to stop watching. The acting was excellent too. This Blu-ray disc does a good job of recreating Zombie's freshman effort with a solid picture and very good sound.

Audio Features: DTS 7.1; Dolby Digital EX 5.1

Available on Blu-ray


An American Werewolf In London
(Universal // $34.98 // Reviewed by Adam Tyner)

An American Werewolf in London is an unconventional horror movie, boasting a wicked sense of humor and rooted around its characters rather than stock scares. It's a longtime favorite of mine and a very welcome addition to Universal's HD DVD library. Gearheads purely interested in home theater eye candy will walk away disappointed, but this is by far the best that An American Werewolf in London has ever looked on home video. It's not an essential upgrade for owners of the previous DVD release, but for everyone else, this HD DVD comes very highly recommended.

Audio Features: Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

Available on HD DVD


Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn
(Starz / Anchor Bay // $29.98 // Reviewed by Daniel Hirshleifer)

Watching Evil Dead II is some of the most fun you can ever have legally. Sam Raimi's absolutely exhilarating style of filmmaking blends perfectly with Bruce Campbell's campy acting to create the definition of a cult classic. This Blu-ray disc only offers a minor improvement in picture quality, but the sound is excellent, and the supplements include the best commentary ever recorded. If you own a Blu-ray player and don't own either of the previous two editions of the film on DVD, then you should run out and purchase this right away. If you have previously bought Evil Dead II on DVD, the improvements may not be major enough to warrant getting it yet again.

Audio Features: PCM Uncompressed 5.1; Dolby Digital 5.1

Available on Blu-ray


Twilight Zone: The Movie
(Warner Bros. // $28.99 // Reviewed by John Sinnott)

Twilight Zone is half really good movie, half not so good one. The first two segments aren't that great, and honestly the movie would have been a lot better if they had just cut the first story altogether. The second half is well worth watching however, and based on the strength of those the disc is worth picking up.

Audio Features: Dolby True HD 5.1; Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

Available on HD DVD


Dawn of the Dead (1978)
(Starz / Anchor Bay // $29.98 // Reviewed by Adam Tyner)

George Romero's Dawn of the Dead defined the template for what a zombie movie is. Even close to thirty years later, it not only remains the best of the undead films but is easily among the best horror as a whole has to offer. Epic, ambitious, frightening, thrilling, and hopelessly engaging, Dawn of the Dead has long been one of my favorite films of any genre, and I'm floored that Anchor Bay saw fit to issue it as part of their first wave of high definition releases. My unending enthusiasm for the movie doesn't quite carry over to this Blu-ray disc, though, thanks to its passable but uninspired video and audio. Still, this high definition release is a dramatic improvement over previous DVDs, enough to warrant an upgrade for fans of the movie as well as marking a great starting point for those who haven't had a chance to see it before.

Audio Features: PCM Uncompressed 5.1; Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Digital 1.0

Available on Blu-ray


Land of the Dead
(Universal // $34.98 // Reviewed by Adam Tyner)

Land of the Dead -- a gory but otherwise surprisingly straightforward action movie -- ranks somewhere in the middle of George Romero's four zombie films. It's not and will never be recognized as the classic that Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead are, but despite its many flaws, I've still found myself watching it again and again. My appreciation for Land of the Dead inches forward every time I see it, and the movie's grisly make-up effects and breakneck pace should make for a great popcorn flick this coming Halloween. Although the HD DVD doesn't offer anything new to zombiephiles who already bought the unrated DVD last year, I personally found the boost in image and sound quality to make Land of the Dead worth picking up again.

Audio Features: Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

Available on HD DVD


Day of the Dead (1978)
(Starz/Anchor Bay // $29.98 // Reviewed by Adam Tyner)

Day of the Dead is by far the weakest of Romero's zombie tetralogy, but I enjoy enough of its bloody final reel and a few other moments scattered throughout to find the movie worth picking up again. The 1080p video looks nice enough, and although the multichannel remixes are still partially censored and not all that technically impressive besides, the original monaural audio helps make up for that. This Blu-ray release of Day of the Dead is purely for established fans, though; this would be a poor starting place for Romero neophytes, and viewers with more of a casual interest should probably consider opting for a rental first.

Audio Features: PCM Uncompressed 5.1; Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Digital 1.0

Available on Blu-ray


Army of Darkness
(Universal // $34.98 // Reviewed by Adam Tyner)

Kind of a tough sell, really. When I buy a movie on HD DVD, I want it to be semi-quasi-definitive; I don't want to feel like I have to hold onto any older DVDs or wonder if something better's lurking in the pipeline. With Army of Darkness, it's not a matter of if a beefier special edition is coming out so much as when. Army...'s an all-time fav, but with a kinda hefty sticker price and no extras to speak of, this HD DVD is really only for collectors 'n completists.

Audio Features: Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

Available on HD DVD


Masters of Horror: Season 1, Vol. 2
(Starz / Anchor Bay // $29.98 // Reviewed by Daniel Hirshleifer)

Masters of Horror is a fun but uneven show. This anthology offers three episodes from the first season, and this time around they chose three of the better ones. "Jenifer" in particular is a stunner, the best work Dario Argento has done in years. But all three episodes have something worth watching, and the commentaries are also a good time (although I would have liked to get the rest of the extras from the DVD's). The image and sound quality both seem slightly improved from the first volume, and when you add it all up, this disc becomes recommended.

Audio Features: PCM Uncompressed 5.1; Dolby Digital 5.1

Available on Blu-ray


The Frighteners (Director's Cut)
(Universal // $29.98 // Reviewed by Adam Tyner)

Ambitious, offbeat, but wildly uneven, The Frighteners is a dated visual effects spectacle and Peter Jackson's most disappointing film to date. It's appreciated that Universal would release The Frighteners in its director's preferred cut with a comprehensive set of extras, but much like the movie itself, the disc's high-definition visuals and multichannel remix are fairly mediocre. Recommended for fans of the movie, especially those who haven't already picked up the director's cut on DVD, but otherwise, I'd suggest giving this HD DVD a rental first.

Audio Features: Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

Available on HD DVD


Underworld
(Sony Pictures // $28.95 // Reviewed by Daniel Hirshleifer)

A guilty pleasure is still a pleasure, and Underworld is one of the best. Kate Beckinsale, Michael Sheen, and Bill Nighy make this silly action movie a whole lot of fun. And if you're a fan, you owe it to yourself to buy this Blu-ray disc, which features reference quality sound and picture of the unrated cut of the film. And with all of the features from the unrated DVD ported over, this disc is easily highly recommended.

Audio Features: Dolby Digital 5.1; PCM Uncompressed 5.1

Available on Blu-ray


Pitch Black (Director's Cut)
(Universal // $34.98 // Reviewed by Joshua Zyber)

A hugely entertaining B-movie that holds up much better than its overly-ambitious sequel, Pitch Black comes to HD DVD with a just plain amazing video transfer. The audio is pretty good though not great, and the bonus features are mostly junk, but the disc still easily rates a high recommendation.

Audio Features: Dolby Digital Plus 5.1

Available on HD DVD


As you can see, the blood flows in high definition. And this is just the tip of the iceberg; be sure to check out our Complete List of HD DVD and Blu-ray Reviews for further suggestions. And remember, no matter how crystal clear the monsters may look, it's only a movie. Or...is it?

-Daniel "Rotting Bones" Hirshleifer


Spider-Man: The Works

As our venerable staff writer Adam Tyner notes about Spider-Man 3: "The effects work is astonishing, boasting a set of groundbreaking digital effects and dazzling aerial acrobatics. Many of the key fight sequences have Spidey tumbling hundreds of feet, leaping off crumbling walls as they spin and plummet towards the ground, diving through the latticework of a tumbling crane, and deftly navigating a gauntlet of sewer pipes as he squares off against the Sandman." Yes, the effects in the film were certainly worth taking a gander at, and the Blu-ray has several features dedicated to the making of them.

I got to do one better, though. I went to Sony Imageworks in Culver City, CA for a firsthand look at how the effects were put together. The day began with a presentation that featured a lot of previz and development footage, most of which has ended up on the Blu-ray. While interesting, this didn't feel any more in-depth than what we might see on disc two of a special edition. But when we got the chance to talk to the team behind the effects, well, that was the real treat.

We got a chance to speak with Spencer Cook, Peter Nofz, and Jonathan Cohen, who, under the direction of Scott Stokdyk, were responsible for almost all of the effects in the film. After spending almost an hour learning about Venom and the Sandman, my first question was if any attention was paid to improving the animations of Spider-Man himself. Spencer was eager to point out that he had developed a program to check the physics of all the acrobatic stunts Spider-Man goes through, but sometimes the reality of physics had to be set aside in order to better tell the story and make the action more dynamic.

Another big concern was whether or not practical effects still had use in today's CGI-intensive world. Everyone there assured us that they prefer physical effects before computer effects, both because it looks more real but also because it gives them more data with which to work. Sam Raimi is also very good at using live stunts and in-camera effects whenever possible. Then, to our surprise, the man himself arrived, delivering a short speech in which he expressed his gratitude to the men who helped make his vision come to life. Then, just like that, Mr. Raimi was gone, but we weren't done.

We each split into groups and went with a different member of the team. To me, the most interesting part of the day took place as we walked through the inner sanctum of Imageworks, seeing people working hard at the business of making movies. Spencer Cook took us into his office and we immediately noticed his autographed Ray Harryhausen poster. Not surprisingly, Cook was a big fan of Harryhausen's work. He showed us copies of some of the conceptual drawings for the film, including a jaw-droppingly excellent rendition of Venom.

From there we were escorted into an editing suite, where Peter Nofz showed us some of the trickery they used to create seemingly simple shots, such as Spider-Man swinging Mary Jane down from a construction site. While the shot lasts only 20 seconds or so, the amount of work that went into it was considerable, and included taking reference shots of the actors in studios that replicated the location lighting, and then even more digital trickery and massaging to get it to look natural.

The whole event took about half a day, and gave us all a deeper appreciation of the work that goes into the kind of big budget extravaganzas that we take for granted these days. So when Adam says the film has "some exceptional, groundbreaking visual effects," we should all take a moment to consider just how much time that meant for a small but dedicated group of artists.

-Daniel Hirshleifer


High Definition News

In just a few days, Blu-ray Profile 1.1 will be finalized. This upgrade allows for dual-video processing (which makes PiP supplements possible), among other options. However, all of the current Blu-ray players are not compatible with 1.1, and most will not or cannot be updated to allow for it. The PS3 is a notable exception, as it has all the necessary hardware to be 1.1 compliant, and could be made so with a firmware update. Currently there is no date on when such an update might be forthcoming. There are a few players on the horizon that are 1.1 ready, although for many the final prices are yet to be determined.

So what does this mean for you? Well, not too much right now. Just because the spec is finalized does not mean that the studios will release content to take advantage of it immediately. On the contrary, I don't think we'll be seeing any 1.1 content until 2008 (although if someone has news on a title that comes out in 2007, please let me know). Some studios are reticent to use 1.1 until more players are available that offer compatibility. However, in the long run, this will diminish the usability of 1.0 players, as these features will not work on the older decks once they're introduced. If you currently have a standalone player, you will have to face the issue of upgrading or losing features. If you don't yet own a player, you will probably want to wait for a 1.1 player, or even better, buy a PS3, as 1.1 players are going to go through the same issues when Profile 2.0 becomes a reality (and yes, Profile 2.0 has been announced already).

Personally, I feel that this poses an issue for Blu-ray that should be addressed. While HD DVD faces potential compatibility problems should triple-layer discs come to pass (currently they only exist in the lab and it's uncertain whether or not they will work with current players), Blu-ray is looking at a compatibility issue right now. How do you deal with consumers who have purchased players that cost over $1,000 that now cannot play all the features available on a disc? How do you counter the customer confusion that will come to pass from people who don't follow these developments and just buy the cheapest player they can find? They will expect all discs to work on their system. I'm not certain what the BDA plans to do, but I'm hoping they find a solution that will have the consumer's best interests in mind.


HD DVD and Blu-ray Reviews

  • Spider-Man 3 (Blu-ray) by Adam Tyner. Recommended. - "Spider-Man 3 knows its a summer effects spectacle, shrugging off the strong characterization and emotional resonance that helped make the previous film stand out as among the best...if not the best...comic book adaptations of the past thirty years. Spider-Man 3 only bothers with a script as an excuse to string together a bunch of truly dazzling action sequences and some exceptional, groundbreaking visual effects, and even if the writing and story are weak, at least they don't get in the way. As far as the video and audio go, Spider-Man 3 is a reference quality Blu-ray release, bolstered by a reasonably strong set of extras, nearly all of which are offered in high definition."
  • Face/Off (HD DVD) by Ian Jane. Highly Recommended. - "Face/Off might be ridiculous and it might suffer from some massive logic gaps but that doesn't change the fact that this movie remains a whole lot of fun. Woo loads the film with plenty of style and some fantastic action scenes while Cage and Travolta ham it up as best they can resulting in a big budget B-movie that entertains from start to finish. Paramount's HD-DVD doesn't give us anything we haven't already seen in terms of extra features but the upgraded audio and video are definitely impressive."
  • The Day After Tomorrow (Blu-ray) by John Sinnott. Rent It. - "The Day After Tomorrow was 2004's Deep Impact. It joins other disaster movies like The Core as being mindless entertainment. Its fun enough to watch once, but there's not a lot of replay value. Added to that is the fact that the Blu-ray disc while not bad isn't as impressive as it could be. Make this one a rental."
  • Elizabeth (HD DVD) by Daniel Hirshleifer. Recommended. - "Elizabeth is a film that has aged like a fine wine, getting only better with time. Cate Blanchett shines as the Virgin Queen, and Geoffrey Rush matches her pound for pound. The HD DVD has decent picture and sound, but nothing that can compare to the best available. Still, the movie is so good, and the A/V quality and extras are good enough that it's very easy for me to suggest a purchase of this disc."
  • Fantastic Four - Rise of the Silver Surfer (Blu-ray) by Adam Tyner. Rent It. - "I'm all for doofy, family-friendly popcorn action flicks, but Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer really didn't do anything for me at all. At least the Blu-ray disc looks and sounds nice enough, even if it doesn't approach the reference quality audio and video of this month's other Marvel superhero slugfest, Spider-Man 3. The Blu-ray release carries over a considerably stronger than average set of extras from the DVD, and Fox has also gone to the extra effort of included a couple of BD-exclusive games. Rise of the Silver Surfer isn't exactly the worst movie I've ever seen, but there's not much about it that screams out for any sort of recommendation."
  • The Last Starfighter (HD DVD) by Daniel Hirshleifer. Rent It. - "The Last Starfighter probably brings back warm memories of weekend mornings spent at home watching low quality cable broadcasts. But take off the rose-colored glasses and the film does not hold up well at all. Universal does the picture no favors by tossing it on a disc with a terrible video transfer and audio mix. The extras aren't bad, but aren't enough to make this worth buying, and there's nothing new for this release."
  • Hostel: Director's Cut (Blu-ray) by Adam Tyner. Recommended. - "I have to admit that being subjected to a couple of years' worth of gushing fanboy posts on message boards and an inhuman amount of hype skewed my expectations once I got around to watching Hostel. No movie could ever realistically hope to live up to that, but Hostel is still a hell of a horror flick, with the slow burn and moral bent of a vintage slasher flick coupled with the gruesome bent of this latest wave of horror. Hostel's release on Blu-ray may not be showcase material, but it boasts a reasonably strong video and audio presentation, and the nine hours and change of extras -- a couple of which are even in high-def -- should more than give fans of the film their money's worth."
  • Top Gun (HD DVD) by Ian Jane. Rent It. - "The audio and video for Top Gun are strong but certainly leave room for improvement. That coupled with the complete lack of supplements has to make you wonder if there won't be a true special edition release of the film once the format war is settled. Until then, time has not been kind to Top Gun though as an artifact of excessive eighties cinema, it's still a fun watch. Consider this one a solid rental."

Index of All HD DVD Reviews
Index of All Blu-ray Reviews


Want to discuss this column with others? Join the conversation in the HD Talk Forum.

Archives


Advertise With Us

Review Staff | About DVD Talk | Newsletter Subscribe | Join DVD Talk Forum
Copyright © DVDTalk.com All rights reserved | Privacy Policy | Terms of Use

Release List Reviews Shop Newsletter Forum DVD Giveaways Blu-Ray Advertise